Friday, July 13, 2007

Weekend reading assingments...

A lot is going on out there, meaning there's a lot to read if you want to be up to speed and know what is in fact happening! Your assignment: Find a cool spot this weekend. Get your beverage of choice (margaritas anyone?). And start reading. Cheers!

Progress in Iraq! Capitulation in Congress?:
1. All we are saying is "Give Peace a Chance by giving Petraeus a chance". Charles Krauthammer with a must read article on the good news from Iraq and the threat here at home to pull the plug just as things are going right. Read Give Petraeus This Chance... the stakes are too high not to.
2. The nature of the enemy al Qaeda and how they are on the defensive as our troops surge ahead... via another dispatch from Michael Yon entitled "Al Qaeda on the Run: Feasting on the moveable beast."
3. From the top news/commntary blog in the Middle East, Iraq The Model comes this commentary via The Wall Street Journal editorial page...
The Surge Is Working

July 13, 2007; Page A13
For nearly three-and-a-half years, the two most dangerous enemies of the American mission in Iraq -- and of the majority of Iraqis who want to build a stable democracy -- had been growing in terms of their capacity to inflict damage. This despite the losses they suffered in battles with Iraqi and American security forces.
Moqtada al-Sadr, on the one hand, grew from a small annoyance as a gang leader in Najaf in April 2003 to become the leader of a monstrous militia that, with the spark al Qaeda provided by bombing the Askari shrine in Samarra, created the sectarian bloodbath we witnessed throughout 2006.
On the other side, al Qaeda's network in Iraq grew from a few dozen infiltrators, supported by disgruntled locals, to an entity that was until recently bragging about establishing Islamic rule on the soil of at least two Iraqi provinces east and west of Baghdad.
And so this country was going through the worst times ever as we moved towards the end of 2006. Iraq was being torn apart by these two terror networks and Iraq was said to be on the verge of "civil war," if it wasn't actually there already.
But the situation looks quite different now.
Last year's crisis made Washington and Baghdad realize that urgent measures needed to be taken to stop the deterioration, and ultimately reverse it. So Washington decided to send in thousands of additional troops. And Baghdad agreed to move its lazy bones and mobilize more Iraqi troops to the capital and coordinate a joint crackdown with the American forces on all outlaw groups, Sunni and Shiite alike.
The big question these days is, did it actually work? Even partially?
First I think we need to remember that states and their traditional armies need to be judged by different metrics than gangs and terror organizations. The latter don't need to win the majority of their battles with American and Iraqi forces. The strength of terrorists and militias is simply their ability to subjugate the civilian populace with fear.
Here is exactly where the American surge and Iraqi plan have proven effective in Baghdad.
The combined use of security walls, the heavy security-force presence in the streets, and an overwhelming number of checkpoints have highly restricted the movement of terrorists and militias inside Baghdad and led to separation. Not a separation of ordinary Sunnis from ordinary Shiites but a separation of both Sunni and Shiite terrorists from their respective priority targets, i.e., civilians of the other sect.
With their movement restricted and their ability to perform operations reduced, they had to look for other targets that are easier to reach. After all, when the goal is to defeat America in Iraq and undermine the democratic political process any target is a good target.
Just look at the difference between the aftermath of the first Samarra bombing in February of 2006 and that of the second bombing in June of 2007. Days after the 2006 bombing more than a hundred Sunni mosques were hit in retaliatory attacks, and thousands of Sunnis were executed by militias in the months that followed. This time only four or five mosques were attacked, none of them in Baghdad proper that I know of.
Sadr's militias have moved the main battlefield south to cities like Samawah, Nasiriyah and Diwaniyah where there's no American surge of troops, and from which many Iraqi troops were recalled to serve in Baghdad. But over there, too, the Iraqi security forces and local administrations did not show the weakness that Sadr was hoping to see. As a result, Sadr's representatives have been forced to accept "truces."
I know this may make things sound as if Sadr has the upper hand, that he can force a truce on the state. But the fact that is missing from news reports is that, with each new eruption of clashes, Sadr's position becomes weaker as tribes and local administrations join forces to confront his outlaw militias.
Al Qaeda hasn't been any luckier than Sadr, and the tide began to turn even before the surge was announced. The change came from the most unlikely city and unlikely people, Ramadi and its Sunni tribes.
In Baghdad the results have been just as spectacular so far. The district where al Qaeda claimed to have established its Islamic emirate is exactly where al Qaeda is losing big now, and at the hands of its former allies who have turned on al Qaeda and are slowly reaching out to the government.
While al Qaeda and Sadr are by no means finished off militarily, what has changed is that both of them are fighting their former public base of support. That course can't lead them to success in fomenting the sectarian war they had bet their money on.
It would be unrealistic to expect political progress to take place along the same timeline as this military progress. The obvious reason is that Iraqi politics tend to be affected by developments on the battlefield. Anyone familiar with the basics of negotiations should understand this.
First things first. Let's allow our troops to finish their job. And when that is done nation-building will follow, and that's where diplomats and politicians will have to do the fighting in their own way while American soldiers can finally enjoy a well-deserved rest.
Backing off now is not an option. The light at the end of the tunnel faded for a whole dark year, but we can see it again now and it's getting brighter. It's our duty to keep walking towards it.
Mr. Fadhil co-writes a blog,, from Baghdad.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

al Qaeda at pre-9/11 Strength...

Associated Press reports:

WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded al-Qaida has rebuilt its operating capability to a level not seen since just before the 2001 terrorist attacks, The Associated Press has learned...

... Al-Qaida is "considerably operationally stronger than a year ago" and has "regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001," the official said, paraphrasing the report's conclusions. "They are showing greater and greater ability to plan attacks in Europe and the United States."

As a side note, Al-Qaeda had attacked 25 countries, many of them not involved in Iraq or Afghanistan, over the last 15 years.

This thing isn't going away...

When I started this blog I had no intention of spending so much time commenting on the Islamic jihad against the west commonly called the war on terror. Yet I find it difficult to avoid the conclusion that this thing isn't going away easily or soon and in all likelihood is going to get worse. And no matter how some would like to define this war (Iraq is a diversion, it's only an intelligence problem, etc.) it has been and is being defined by the enemy. The radical jihadists of al Qaeda have been waging war against the U.S. (and others) for years, both in word and in deed. As a country we came to that sobering realization on September 11, 2001. Since then, with the war in Iraq, we have come to the point where many even question whether there really is a war on terror. I am not going to wade into that argument right now. Suffice to say, I believe the evidence is overwhelming for those willing to see it. I believe the still rising and real threat by radical Islam against the west is 'the' singular issue of today. And as of now, we are far from a consensus as to how to respond to that threat.

Many in Congress want to precipitously pull out of the war in Iraq. Major media news reporting on events there is woefully inadequate, leaving the impression that nothing happens there except car bombings, IED bombings, and general mayhem. Conventional wisdom has it that Iraq is some kind of "civil war," or sectarian battleground that the U.S. military has no business in. This blog has provided numerous links to sources that show otherwise. And as this debate again boils up in Congress, I find myself distressed at the dearth of reporting about what is at stake and what progress is occurring in Iraq. I find myself distressed at the fecklessness of those opposing this war effort.

In today's Wall Street Journal, Kimberly Kagan (an affiliate of Harvard's John M. Olin Institute of Strategic Studies and executive director of the Institute for the Study of War in Washington) does her part to divide the perception of failure from the actual very real progress being accomplish militarily in Iraq. The article is Moving Forward In Iraq... The "surge" is working. Will Washington allow the current progress to continue? There is a war being waged against this country by radical Islamics (AQ, Iran). Here is a recent news item from the AP regarding al Qaeda in Iraq: Al-Qaeda’s deputy leader sought to bolster the terror network’s main arm in Iraq in a new video released Thursday, calling on Muslims to rally behind it at a time when the group is on the defensive, faced with U.S. offensives and splits with other insurgent groups.

The main battle ground is in Iraq according to the very words of that enemy... from other news reports:

"Ayman Al-Zawahiri defended the Islamic State of Iraq — the insurgent umbrella group headed by Al Qaeda — against critics among Islamic militant groups, saying it was a vanguard for fighting off the U.S. military and eventually establishing a “caliphate” of Islamic rule across the region."

"Al-Zawahiri, the top deputy of Usama bin Laden, called on Muslims to follow a two-pronged strategy: work at home to topple “corrupt” Arab regimes and join Al Qaeda’s “jihad,” or holy war, in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia to fight and train “to prepare for the next jihad."

"Al Qaeda’s declaration of the Islamic State of Iraq last year was a dramatic move aimed at staking out its leadership of Iraq’s insurgency. Allying itself with several smaller Iraqi Sunni insurgent groups, it presented the Islamic State as an alternative government within Iraq, claiming to hold territory."

Check out the excellent reporting being done by Michael Yon to get further details on what the situation is on the ground in Iraq.

This thing isn't going away by itself.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

McCain, back from Iraq, weighs in...

Today from the floor of the Senate, having just returned from Iraq Senator McCain spells out the stakes:
"If we leave Iraq prematurely, jihadists around the world will interpret the withdrawal as their great victory against our great power. Their movement thrives in an atmosphere of perceived victory; we saw this in the surge of men and money flowing to al Qaeda following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. If they defeat the United States in Iraq, they will believe that anything is possible, that history is on their side, that they really can bring their terrible rule to lands the world over. Recall the plan laid out in a letter from Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, before his death. That plan is to take shape in four stages: establish a caliphate in Iraq, extend the “jihad wave” to the secular countries neighboring Iraq, clash with Israel – none of which shall commence until the completion of stage one: expel the Americans from Iraq. Mr. President, the terrorists are in this war to win it. The question is: Are we?"

Monday, July 9, 2007

Don't go wobbly....

William Kristol, over at The Weekly Standard, writes about President Bush's Moment of Truth, as some within his administration and in the Republican Party call for a "bipartisan compromise" with the Democrats to begin phasing out of Iraq. In a nutshell... "bad idea jeans" (old SNL skit).

Well it's like this... the Bush administration has been trying to play nice with the Dems much too often on too many big issues... going all the way back to "going along" and signing off on the "who named Plame" investigation due to the barking demands of the the "loyal" opposition. The Dems are NOT looking for merely concessions or bipartisanship. They ARE looking to discredit, delegitimize, and defeat Bush, Republicans, and conservatives in general at every point they can. That is the game they are playing. Bush, by staying on the defensive and remaining passively "bipartisan" in his responses to these guys, allows the Dems to choose the playing field, set and then change the rules, be on the offensive politically, and dominate the spin for the fans in the stands.

The Dems come to these fights with a club, Bush brings an olive branch... By not wanting to look like a "bad guy" Bush then ends up becoming the weak guy.

If you have to choose between someone respecting you or liking you... choose respect.

Iraq has been and still is a mucky situation for the U.S., but one that is difficult to imagine becoming better if we pull out. In fact, it is entirely reasonable to conclude that the long term threat to this country will dramatically increase if we just leave.

I'd like to see Bush and his people to begin again strongly defining to the American people what is at stake in Iraq and the war against the radical Islamists... to publicize weekly the progress by General Petraeus... and generally go on the offensive PR-wise to justly match the new military effort that is being undertaken on the ground in Iraq.

Update: By the way I don't think Bush is entertaining ideas that would compromise the current military strategy. Nor do I believe that he is predisposed to begin deemphasizing the importance of a defeated AQ/Jihadists in Iraq (and world-wide). But I do think he is predisposed to avoid taking the policy battle to the Democrats and to the American people. Aand by avoiding the "ideas" battle he may inadvertently compromise the military goals in Iraq. There needs to be a renewed, steady and strong public defense and explanation of our goals and interests in this war. I think it is essential for The Bush administration to gear up for a strong finish to his presidency over these next 18 months by getting this issue right.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Summer weekend reading...

The War, the Unreported Progress, and Perspective:
Michael Yon, embedded reporter, has a new installment of photos and reporting on the Battle for Baqubah and Operation “Arrowhead Ripper." There are some "graphic" descriptions but it is well worth reading.

Escape From New York by Brendan Miniter reflecting back on the rough goings during the Revolutionary War for our troops and General Washington.

Immigration, Democracy, and Language:
We Need To Talk by Peggy Noonan on the English language and its central place in America. An excerpt:
... "We speak English here. It's a great language, luckily, a rich one. It's how we do government and business. It's the language of the official life, the outer life, in America. As for the inner life of America, the language of the family, it would be just as odd to change longtime tradition there, which has always been: Anything goes. You speak what you came over speaking, and you learn the new language. Italian immigrants knew two languages, English and Italian. They enriched the first with the second--this was a great gift to all of us--and wound up with greater opportunities for personal communication to boot. Talk about win-win. And so with every group, from every place.

But in a deeper sense, we should never consider devolving from one national language down into two, or three, because if we do we won't understand each other. And we're confused enough as it is."

This is Democracy by Thomas Sowell... his reflections on the latest immigration legislation wars and the vital role of the voice of the people.

The Scriptures and finding Christ:
Michael Horton, on reading and understanding the Bible, presents an insightful and helpful article. Jesus Christ's own words on the topic set the stage: ... Jesus declared, "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life" (John 5:40)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Econ 101: Inflation, world currencies, gold...

Up until April of 1933 the U.S. dollar was as good as gold. The two pictures are of the two sides of a $20 gold piece that was in circulation up until that date when FDR ordered the confiscation of all privately held gold money. That "Saint Gauden's" $20 coin contained about an once of pure gold. Today a troy once of gold sells for about $650. Gold isn't worth more. The dollar is worth less. The dollar, in fact, has been rapidly losing value against gold since 2001 when gold was selling for about $300 per ounce. Inflation is coming back ala the 1970's. That is when President Nixon officially unlinked the dollar from gold, the last of the world's currencies to fall to that fate. Never before have all the currencies of the world been merely fiat paper promises with no anchor to gold and thus nothing to keep governments from inflating away.

From The Wall Street Journal Online (subscription required) David Ranson and Penny Russell diagnose the ills of the dollar, as well as the rest of the world's currencies. Gold is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to inflation... meaning much more is ahead. Here are some excerpts from their article:

"Interest rates are on the rise in the Eurozone, Great Britain and Japan, as well as in India and China. But the Federal Reserve has again elected to keep its target rate on hold despite repeated assertions that inflation risk is still its predominant concern. Are central banks abroad recognizing a threat that their American counterpart has yet to acknowledge?..."

"What's more, the recent rise in the euro and sterling relative to the dollar has obscured the fact that the world economy has embarked on another classic "run" on paper currencies that is driving inflation up everywhere. For several years now, as was the case in the 1970s, all the world's currencies have been depreciating relative to stable benchmarks such as gold. Since the end of 2001, these declines have ranged from 38% (in the case of the euro) to nearly 60% (in the case of the dollar)..."

"Why then has the pace of consumer-price inflation to date been so much less noteworthy than the pace of currency depreciation against gold? The answer lies in the timing: Gold is a fast-moving leading indicator, whereas consumer-price indices are slow-moving indicators that lag far behind. We all learned in the period between 1975 and 1985 that consumer prices do eventually catch up. It is the size of the move in the gold price, rather than in the consumer price index, that is a true and timely indicator of the magnitude of the inflation problem..."

"In the U.S., for example, cumulative consumer-price inflation was zero from 1820 to 1913, just prior to World War I..."

"Inflation is not intrinsically global -- it is obvious that some countries experience more inflation than others. But currencies depreciating against gold across the board is a sign of world-wide inflation -- and it has begun to set off alarm bells in many major economic capitals. But in Washington, our own central bankers remain placidly confident that everything will turn out all right..."

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Independence Day... July 4, 1776

An awesome thing, the benefits of which we are the recipients. And now two hundred thirty-one years later... let us not take for granted what was accomplished then and what we therefore have today as a nation.

Looking back at that moment in our history, our birth as a nation what those men and women put at risk, sacrificed; and they, through their deeply held principles, insight into human nature, and moral integrity did established a great nation. We are both the beneficiaries of their accomplishments and those to whom the torch has been passed... to hold to those same self-evident truths, to be vigilant to protect and defend what they did establish; continuing to build upon the foundation they laid with materials consistent with those high ideals.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

More on London/Glasgow Airport Car bombings...


"None of the five people arrested day after terrorist attack on Glasgow airport Saturday and two car bombs in London Friday was British, say UK police sources"

"This strengthens the international dimension of the series of attacks in Scotland and London. British PM Gordon Brown holds “people associated with al Qaeda” responsible for all three car attacks. Scotland Yard says they were “totally coordinated.” At least one key suspect is still at large.

Britain went on the highest security level of “critical” after two terrorists smashed a blazing jeep into the Scottish arrivals terminal Saturday, the day after two bomb cars were disabled in central London. This level indicates further attacks are expected.

DEBKAfile cites international counter-terror experts as noting that the three attacks, atypically of al Qaeda, caused no loss of life, only major disruptions and confusion. Some sources suspect the two failed London bomb car episodes Friday may have been a diversion from a broader terrorist campaign organized by al Qaeda in the UK or other countries. It is not clear if the detained suspects were illegal immigrants or al Qaeda operatives who managed to sneak into Great Britain. In either case, they would have needed the support of a local network to locate targets and reach them. The greatest danger is that the London-Glasgow incidents are part of a larger scenario which is still to come."