War archives, etc.
Iraq War chronology
February, 2022 X
December, 2020 X
November, 2020 X
October, 2020 X
April, 2020 X
March, 2020 X
February, 2020 X
January, 2020 X
May, 2018 X
April, 2018 X
May, 2014 X
November, 2013 X
U.S. war fatalities
* so far
NOTE: Includes all deaths, caused by enemy forces or not. Excludes military personnel (currently 72) whose names have not been released because their next of kin have not yet been contacted.
Washington Post, Sept. 8, 2004
February 20, 2006 [LINK]
F-14 is retired from service!?
I was certainly aware that air superiority is no longer a high priority task of U.S. Air Force and Navy pilots, but I had no idea that the Navy's F-14 "Tomcat" was going to be taken out of service so soon. Yes, the very same futuristic, supersonic plane that Tom Cruise made famous in Top Gun is now officially obsolete! Man, does that make me feel old. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, some F-14s were modified to run bombing missions, since there was no enemy air force to speak of, but they really weren't designed for that mission. The fact that the Mach 2+ fighter jets are so expensive to maintain (partly because of their variable-geometry wings) makes the Navy's decision understandable. Donald Sensing reports this sad news and adds some comments about SPADs, Fokkers, and other fighters from World War I, when "dogfighting" was invented.
I got to peek into an F-14 cockpit at one of the annual air shows at Andrews (!) Air Force base outside Washington, D.C. This would have been in the early 1980s. I asked one of the pilots what the maximum range of the Phoenix air-to-air missiles carried by the F-14s was, and he coyly said he wasn't sure. I knew the precise range was a big secret (estimates ranged from 40 to 50 miles), since that was one of the main weapons in the Cold War, and knowing the range of the Phoenix would have helped the Soviets plan an attack against NATO.
Here's another little-known fact about F-14s: The Nixon administration sold a batch of 80 or so of them to the Shah of Iran, and when he was overthrown by the Mullahs in 1978-1979, those top-of-the-line jets fell into enemy hands. In the end, it didn't matter much, because we were the only source for spare parts, and very few F-14s were available for service in the Iran-Iraq war, as Iran's fleet of Tomcats was depleted through "cannibalization." It's another example of how alliances are prone to shift from time to time in world politics, and yet many critics today seem totally unaware of that basic fact.
February 16, 2006 [LINK]
Whither Iraqi WMDs? Try Syria.
The recently-released tapes of Saddam Hussein's telephone conversations regarding a possible terrorist attack on the United States really don't prove anything one way or the other. To me it sounds like he was speaking in contrived fashion "for posterity," like when Nixon said "But it would be wrong."
What is more significant are the recent revelations by former Iraqi generals that Saddam's weapons of mass destruction were transfered to Syria just before the U.S. invasion in March 2003. According to former Iraqi Air Force General George Sada, the neighboring Baathist regimes reached an ageement in the 1980s that if either of them was under threat of foreign occupation, it would transfer WMDs and other strategic assets to the other. In an interview with Sean Hannity at foxnews.com in late January, Sada explained this arrangement in great detail. There have been similar reports in the past, but not many from such a highly placed source. This has since been corroborated by another former Iraqi military commander, Ali Ibrahim al-Tikriti, as explained by The American Thinker, via Barcepundit.
As such evidence accumulates, it would seem that the day of reckoning for the two other mideastern "rogue regimes" -- Syria and Iran -- is fast approaching. I'm inclined to believe that the confrontation will involve more covert, cloak-and-dagger tactics than outright military invasion.
3rd ACR & counterinsurgency
Today's Washington Post describes how the U.S. Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment has shown marked improvement in its counterinsurgency tactics since its first deployment to Iraq in 2003, when its performance was below expectations. Now that it pays more attention to understanding what motivates the enemy, and treating prisoners with dignity, the 3rd ACR has become a much more effective fighting force. This is a good example of one of the seldom-recognized strong points of the American armed forces: the eagerness of our soldiers to apply themselves in a never-ending search for new and better ways to outwit and defeat the enemy. During the Cold War, U.S. military planners counted on the superior quality of U.S. personnel to offset the superior quantity of Soviet Bloc forces, improvising and adapting to rapidly changing battlefield conditions.
February 4, 2006 [LINK]
Progress in the Mosul sector
The fragility of local security forces in the Kurdish sector of Iraq was exposed last year when insurgents seized large parts of the northern city of Mosul, where Kurds and Arab Iraqis both reside. Saddam Hussein expelled many Kurds from the oil-rich city during his reign, for obvious strategic reasons, and there is constant friction as the Kurds gradually move back in. Friday's Washington Post reported some good news that the local police forces are now much stronger, and that order in the streets is gradually prevailing over chaos.
You can't triangulate war
Notwithstanding the cartoon from sacredcowburgers.com cited yesterday, not all Democrats are irresponsible or verging on treason when it comes to dissenting on the Bush administration's war policy. Indeed, many of them have staked out a clear position in favor of U.S. victory, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Nevertheless, there remains a strong inclination among most such Democrats to promote a "centrist" alternative war policy, which as Mark Steyn (via Baseball Crank) points out, is completely oxymoronic:
You think how ludicrous it would be if people were to talk about people crafting a centrist position on World War II, or World War I, or the Civil War...
As I have often said, there is nothing wrong with frank, open debate over the best approach to pursue in this war, but political considerations should have nothing to do with the formulation of military strategy.
UPDATE: In the same interview, Steyn makes another interesting observation about the strange silence from the folks at "S.A.N.E." who used to protest against the U.S. nuclear weapons program:
You know, we're both of the generation that kind of grew up with all the sort of nuclear armageddon hanging over us, big mushroom clouds on the front of movie posters, and novels, and TV films and all the rest of it. And that was when five relatively sane countries had nuclear weapons. Now, any guy whose got the right Pakistani phone number in his rolodex can get ahold of nukes, and the left, who've spent the 50's, 60's, 70's, and 80's raging hysterically about nuclear armageddon, couldn't care less about it.
It's as though they actually believe that the Pentagon is more dangerous than Al Qaeda...
February 3, 2006 [LINK]
Debates over U.S. force structure
In preparation for the relase of the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review this afternoon, Donald Rumsfeld emphasized to the National Press Club the long-term nature of the war against Islamic terrorism. Coming to grips with this drawn-out conflict means rethinking how our armed forces are organized and equipped. Not surprisingly, the Pentagon has responded to intense political pressure from the states, and has partly backed down from a plan to cut back the National Guard. The authorized manpower will remain at 350,000, but they will still cut the number of combat brigades from 34 to 28. [It is expected that there will be less reliance upon the Guard for patrol duty in Iraq.] See Washington Post.
Dutch Army to Afghanistan
After some anxious debate, the Netherlands has decided to send a force of 1,700 troops to aid in stabilizing Afghanistan. See Washington Post. The Netherlands has a strong reputation as being the most liberal and open society in Europe, tolerating all sorts of vices. Recent acts of intimidation by the Muslim immigrant community toward the Dutch natives have galvanized a long-dormant sense of self-preservation, however, which may explain their increased willingness to join with other Western countries in turning back the tide of Islamofascism. It was nearly four years ago that the Dutch political leader Pim Fortune, one of the first to speak out on the growing immigration crisis, was assassinated by a left-wing animal rights activist; my very first blog post dealt with that.
Cartoonist Tom Toles was sternly rebuked in a letter to the Washington Post editor signed by Gen. Peter Pace (USMC), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the other five members: "Using the likeness of a service member who has lost his arms and legs in war as the central theme of a cartoon was beyond tasteless." Toles is usually pretty good with satire, but he got carried away with his animosity toward the Bush administration in this case, and his attempt to portray Donald Rumsfeld as callously indifferent to the suffering of our troops backfired badly.
Where are the Bill Mauldins of today? Why don't we see more newspaper cartoons that dramatize and humanize the hardships of our military personnel who are serving right now in Iraq and Afghanistan? Speaking of the touchy subject of humor in wartime, do you ever wonder how leading Democrats would respond if Pearl Harbor happened today? The folks at sacredcowburgers.com speculate on that. (Hat tip to Patrick Carne.)
January 31, 2006 [LINK]
Second (& third) thoughts on Iran
In his State of the Union speech tonight (more on that tomorrow), President Bush rightly stated that the world cannot tolerate the acquisition of nuclear arms by Iran. Indeed, if the most "roguish" regime of all gets its hands on nukes, then who is to stop any other country from following suit? The Nonproliferation Treaty, which is already riddled with tacit "asterisks," would lie in complete tatters. As in the confrontation with Iraq in 2002-2003, however, the United States is left without any truly good options in the showdown with Iran right now. In Monday's Washington Post, Jackson Diehl discusses the "ugly question" of what to do about Iran. Since the government in Tehran has made it plain since last summer that it has no reason whatsoever to make a deal, the U.S. government has hardly any leverage against them. Deciding how to proceed now therefore depends on our ultimate intent: to contain Iran, or to attack it. I am skeptical of the utility of the former course (see Jan. 20), but there may be some purpose to be served if Iran's acquisition of a nuclear arsenal can be delayed long enough for political reform movement to get restarted in Iran. Otherwise, I frankly don't see the point. Even many of the liberal opponents of the theocrats in Tehran favor the nuclear weapons program, unfortunately. National pride runs deep in the homeland of ancient Persia, and President Bush was wise to pay respect to the people of Iran in his speech tonight. Diehl seems to lean toward following through with the military threat, if need be, and he complains that the Bush administration does not seem to be acting in a consistent way in this showdown. Diehl correctly observes that Iranian leaders believe that we need relations with them more than they need us, which is why sanctions are unlikely to have any real effect. (Of course, economic measures hardly ever achieve their stated objectives; they merely serve to "send a message" and make the people of the sanctioning country feel better.)
It is interesting that Ivo Daalder and Philip Gordon expressed similar trepidation about the unpleasant choices we face in the January 22 Washington Post Outlook section. Not surprisingly, since they are part of the Brookings Institution crowd, they come down on the side of sanctions rather than a military strike on Iran. Like all good liberal internationalists, they believe that rallying the world community is the highest priority. I would not deny that would be a desirable intermediate goal in this situation, especially if Iran does succeed in crossing the nuclear threshhold, in which case world peace would be in grave danger. From an analytical standpoint, however, their piece is marred by exaggerating the role of international agreements and regimes in constraining the nuclear ambitions of ambitious middle-size countries such as Sweden, South Korea, Brazil, or the Ukraine. In each case, I would argue the decision to shun nukes had much more to do with the regional security situation (i.e., the local balance of power), and the enormous economic costs that would be entailed by proceeding. From a realist perspective, international rules play a secondary role in determining foreign policy behavior; power is what it's all about.
The real underlying problem in this showdown is that democracies are simply not well-suited for waging a war of wills, especially democracies with deep internal divisions such as ours is at present. In my mind, debating our best course of action toward a rogue regime such as Iran is unlikely to yield a satisfactory solution. It is far more important for leaders of both parties to reach a consensus on how to proceed, because without a minimal degree of national unity, the threat of U.S. military action will carry little weight as seen from Tehran. Our two countries have been at loggerheads for most of a generation, and the theocrats have become adept at taking advantage of our internal divisions. You can be sure they were paying rapt attention to the sharply divided U.S. Congress as President Bush spoke tonight. Whatever we do, it is important to remember what both articles emphasized: That the government of Iran believes it has the initiative, and this will not change until the United States takes some very serious action. That is why what President Bush had to say about energy independence in his speech this evening was so important. Were the American people listening? Are they truly prepared for yet another U.S.-led war in the Middle East, and the possibility of further sacrifices and energy price hikes?
January 30, 2006 [LINK]
Journalists on the front line
The severe head injury suffered by ABC co-anchorman Bob Woodruff in Iraq yesterday was a major shock, but we were probably due for such a shock. By all accounts, he is held in high esteem by his colleagues, and is a great guy all around. This latest roadside bomb attack also reminds us how important the information aspect is in this war. I was surprised to learn that more journalists have died in the war in Iraq than in the entire Vietnam war, even though battlefield deaths have been far lower. The two journalists who died during the initial liberation phase, NBC's David Bloom and The Atlantic Monthly's Michael Kelly were both superb at what they did. Even when journalists report the ugly side of war (such as Abu Ghraib), it still serves the purpose of keeping the American public better informed and therefore in a better position to render an opinion. There are very few "blind patriots" in this war; we went into this conflict with our "eyes wide open."
Prompted by this jarring piece of news, journalistic blogger Joe Gandelman (via Instapundit) writes about the high pressure in his profession to get to THE STORY, often at high risk. Network anchormen have been ridiculed for being pompous and aloof at least as far back as the movie Broadcast News [1987; see imdb.com] (one of my favorites, starring William Hurt, Holly Hunter, and Albert Brooks), which is why ABC executives wanted Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas to be "roving correspondents."... In one of those terrible, fateful coincidences, Howard Kurtz had a feature story on Woodruff and Vargas in yesterday's Washington Post, and their new on-the-scene style of news anchoring.
January 24, 2006 [LINK]
Canada's military: in decline?
Austin Bay remembers training with the Canadian Army during the "REFORGER" exercises in West Germany during the 1980s, and laments that its training level and equipment have been allowed to decline in recent years. He believes this has diminished Canada's international influence. Even though Paul Martin's Liberal government was sharply critical of the Bush administration, about one thousand Canadian troops remain deployed in Afghanistan. One Canadian civilian was killed and three soldiers were wounded in a suicide bomb attack in Kandahar last week. Among the various contingents stationed at trouble spots around the world are 190 Canadian troops in the Golan Heights, keeping peace between Israel and Syria. See Canada's Department of National Defense.
January 20, 2006 [LINK]
Iran: invasion or containment?
As suggested yesterday, military options to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons cannot be ruled out. But land war?? It sounds like imperial overstretch run amuck, but that's what Thomas Holsinger suggests at Winds of Change. He refers to a war plan outlined in the December 2004 Atlantic Monthly (not exactly "recent," contrary to what he wrote) that foresaw an invasion force of three U.S. divisions aiming to topple the Islamic regime and destroy Iran's nuclear facilities. They would not wait around to police the aftermath, however. Indeed, Iran's population is nearly three times that of Iraq, far beyond our capacity to manage. Even my gung-ho buddy Chris Green grants the possibility that such an operation may be going "a country too far." Holsinger believes that Iran must have acquired some additional capability very recently to warrant President Ahmadinejad's escalation of rhetorical defiance. Sales of nuclear components or fully assembled bombs from North Korea? His estimate that Iran will have deployable nuclear weapons by the end of the year may be unduly alarmist, but the thrust of his argument that there is a fast-closing "window of vulnerability," after which Iran will have a deterrent capacity, is certainly correct. He is also right to say that the danger is not that Iran would necessarily use its bombs, but that it would keep them as a reserve deterrent against the United States while it escalates its campaign of fomenting international terrorism. In that case, "The invasion of Iraq will have been a complete waste of effort, and our dead in Iraq will have died in vain."
In today's Washington Post, David Ignatius discusses options for "Containing Tehran." In one sense, the analogy of containment of the Soviet Union during the Cold War is appropriate: In neither case was direct military confrontation desirable, but backing down was not a workable option either. Hence, the prudent middle option of containment: applying steady political-economic pressure to resist the Soviet Union's geopolitical advances, giving free societies time to develop and waiting for the enemy's totalitarian system to rot, while making preparations for all-out war if worse came to worse. There is a huge, obvious difference between the situation in 1950 and today, however: time is not on our side. Iran would benefit by dragging things out, which puts the pressure on our side to act right away. But toward what end? I seriously doubt that "bend[ing] Iranian radicalism back toward an acceptable norm," as Ignatius puts it, is a realistic goal, but I would agree with him that the Bush administration should "look ... before they leap."
Since we don't have any good options, the key is to pick the least bad option. The point is to avoid rash actions. As long as we keep in mind the nature of Iran's theocratic government -- in which the president's power is limited, while top mullahs on the "Revolutionary Council" reign supreme in the background -- we can avoid panicking over the belligerent rhetoric of Ahmadinejad, which may be just for show. As with Iraq, the U.S. goal must be regime change, and the Bush administration must make crystal clear the connection between the fascist aspirations of the "rogue" theocracy in Tehran and their promotion of terrorism and pursuit of a nuclear arsenal. The first step should be to encourage pacifist, reform-minded forces in Iran, who were on the rise until a year or two ago. They are our best hope for avoiding the nightmare scenario. Given the shaky political situation in this country, it would also be useful to get all of our legalistic cards in order by issuing formal demands to the government of Iran, with carbon copies to the U.N. Security Council. If Iran fails to meet those demands, the President should ask Congress for a formal declaration of war; such a gesture alone would have a greater effect than sending 100,000 more troops to the Persian Gulf. Don't muck it up with ambiguous resolutions as we did during the showdown with Saddam Hussein in late 2002.
Bin Laden's "truce"
Apart from the appeasement-minded minority, hardly anyone in this country takes Osama bin Laden's offer of a truce at face value. The real question is what to make of his threat to attack us again. I don't dismiss the possibility that Al Qaeda may have infilitrated another terrorist attack cell into the United States, but I think his message is more likely a sign that he is desperate to rebuild his fading prestige within the Muslim world. Donald Sensing interprets that message by referring to the de-limbed defeated knight in Monty Python's Holy Grail: "All right then, we'll call it a draw!" The fact that the tape recording from Ayman Zawahiri released today was not recent suggests he may have been killed or wounded in last week's missile attack on the Pakistan border after all. Either that, or he is hiding in some rat hole.
January 19, 2006 [LINK]
Views on Iran's nuclear ambitions
The recent defiant words and actions by the government of Iran on its plans to resume nuclear development are a chilling reminder that the civilized world remains in dire peril, notwithstanding the progress underway in Iraq. This is one of the rare occasions where the vain phrase "international community" actually has some concrete meaning. After some foot-dragging, Russia and China realized that a global crisis sparked by Iran would not serve their interests, and agreed to take this matter up at the U.N. Security Council. Barring some diplomatic miracle, however, collective security action cannot be counted on. That leads us to the uncomfortable question of, What should the United States do about it?
In the Daily Telegraph, John Keegan applies cold, hard Machiavellian logic, reminding us of the useful role that Saddam Hussein played in contaning Iranian expansion in the 1980s. That, of course, is why George Bush The Elder refrained from toppling the Baath regime after liberating Kuwait in 1991. It was called the strategy of "balancing," as described by former NSC official Raymond Tanter in his book Rogue Regimes: playing Iran and Iraq off against each other, tilting toward one or the other, as circumstances warranted. Because such a cynical posture rubbed American sensibilities the wrong way, however, at times during the 1980s and 1990s, the United States tried "dual containment" of both Iraq and Iran. Trying to do so for a prolonged period of time was beyond our resource capabilities, however. Keegan goes on to explain why economic sanctions would be futile, and possibly counterproductive, in this situation:
Sanctions would interfere with the Western lifestyle of Iran's educated young people. The ayatollahs, however, have little interest in supporting that lifestyle, indeed, rather the opposite, while Iran's educated youth have given heavy proofs that their national pride weighs heavier than their access to Western luxuries.
That is why, Keegan concludes, that military action must be considered as an option, if all else fails. Israel is not in a position to do to Iran what it did to Iraq in 1981, which is probably just as well. (I always like to remind those who claim that Iraq was a U.S. "ally" during the 1980s how the destruction of the Osirak nuclear reactor was widely, if tacitly, cheered by Washington.) Those who cringe at the thought of a new front opening in the war against Islamo-fascism must understand one essential fact: Much of the terrorist insurgency in Iraq is being orchestrated and funded by the mullahs in Iran. Like it or not, we are already at war with Iran.
That unpleasant fact does not automatically mean that our people or government are prepared to carry such a war forward, however. Wretchard at Belmont Club puts it well:
The ayatollah's fundamental defense lies in the well-founded belief that the United States has expended too much political capital in deposing Saddam to undertake another regime change operation in Teheran.
One could justifiably fault the Bush administration for failing to prepare the American people for the long, arduous road ahead in this conflict. The rhetoric of "Mission Accomplished" turns out to have been grossly overoptimistic.
Austin Bay weighs in on what various experts have written on this subject. Timothy Garton Ash, a leading scholar of the transition from communism in Eastern Europe, is utterly "fixated" on following the correct "process" in confronting Iran, ignoring the need for political courage and risk-taking by leaders in the West. Daniel Pipes observed the serene glee of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after bragging about how Iran would pursue its own destiny when speaking to the United Nations recently. He and other Iranian leaders are in a state of delusion that Allah has bequeathed upon them destiny for remaking world order, restoring the Caliphate via nuclear weaponry. Yikes.
Daniel Drezner respond to some of the sillier arguments made about the Iran situation by the leading leftist bloggers: Josh Marshall and Kos. (Weary from their incessant, mindless bile, I've almost stopped visiting those sites in recent months.) Moderate liberal Kevin Drum makes more sense. If the situation is as dire as John Keegan and others think it is, the time for derisive mockery of U.S. government policy will quickly end. People will start to realize that this is war. More than that, it may well become a global war.
Not all of the foolishness is on the left, however. In her analysis of what Iran is up to, Carol Devine-Molin at gopusa.com veers toward the "hysterical" view of terrorists, that they are despicable vermin that must be exterminated. This is the opposite of the "sentimental" stereotype, whereby terrorists are regarded as misguided reformers, as described by Conor Cruise O'Brien in his book Passion and Cunning: Essays on Nationalism, Terrorism, and Revolution. Both of these extreme views fail to consider the political nature of the violent tactics the terrorists use. Ms. Devine-Molin goes on to deride the "worthless apparatchiks and terrorist sympathizers at the UN," and the "European socialists." Personally, I would not waste one second defending the U.N. bureaucrats or European diplomats, but one does not accomplish things in international relations by gratuitously insulting potential allies -- even the unreliable ones. They do have their use, from time to time, and more importantly, they usually act according to their own interests, which sometimes coincide with ours. It's true! Ms. Devine-Molin is on firmer ground, however, when describing Iran's thuggish President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is a menace.
My take, FWIW:
Many people would like to ignore Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for saying he wants to "wipe Israel from the map," but the ayatollahs who control him from behind the scenes give every indication of being deadly serious about using their power for precisely that objective. All this must be seen in the context of the theocratic regime's ongoing effort to turn back the domestic tide of liberal democratic reform by the technique of "defiant foreign policy," one of the main themes in my dissertation. Most academics and policy experts regard the pathologies of the contemporary Middle East as sui generis, but I remain convinced that there is a fundamental structural imbalance in the way the current global political economy operates (hint: World Bank-IMF), which practically impels Third World governments toward "irrational," extreme provocations that undermine international security whenever economic setbacks undermine their political support at home. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is the best example of this tendency, but he is hardly alone. There are no quick solutions to dealing with regimes that pursue defiant foreign policies. The point of my research is to detect patterns across countries, and across time within individual countries, and to scrutinize international institutions that may prevent the "natural" workings of the market and the balance of power from working properly, giving rise to policy pathologies such as "diversionary war."
Meanwhile, back in Iraq
Suicide bombers continue to pound away, even as hostilities between religious extremists and the Sunni ethnic group have escalated into outright violence in some sectors in Iraq. Even though there are only scant crude petroleum deposits in the regions of Iraq where they dominate, the Sunnis have the advantage of possessing the vital refineries at the heart of the pipeline network. The biggest refinery is in the Sunni town of Bayji, north of Baghdad, and the U.S. 101st Airborne Division is currently trying to clear insurgents out of that dangerous town. See Washington Post. The war often does look like a case of the proverbial bump in the carpet popping up somewhere else whenever you push it down in one place, which lends credence to those who argue we simply don't have enough ground forces to pacify Iraq.
Perhaps more worrisome is the growing reliance on private security guards, which will presumably increase as the United States, Britain, and Italy gradually withdraw combat forces over the next year. On Nov. 17 I drew attention to the use of former military personnel from Latin America, including Peru. I learned about that from Latin news sources, but I have not seen in mentioned in the mainstream media. The PBS Frontline program recently addressed this problem of "quasi-mercenaries," which are often untrained and unaccountable, undermining the legitimacy of the new democratic government in Baghdad. The use of such guards is not necessarily fatal, as businesses in many countries such as Peru and Colombia learned to cope in this way with low-level terrorist campaigns in the 1980s, but pro-war folks do need to face up to this weak spot in the Iraq security situation.
One of the "pure realists" who opposed the liberation of Iraq as being contrary to the U.S. goal of maintaining a stable balance of power in the Persian Gulf, was Brent Scowcroft. He wrote a Washington Post op-ed piece ("Focusing on 'Success' In Iraq") that takes a step back from the harsh criticism of the war he has expressed, turning his attention to achieving the best possible outcome. Well, that's at least a sign of some progress toward consensus on the domestic front.
Cutback in National Guard
The Army announced that the number of National Guard combat brigades will be cut from 28 to 34 over the next few years, to facilitate a shift in emphasis from fighting wars to handling abrupt emergencies such as hurricanes. Plans to expand the size of the regular Army are going ahead, but the goal has been cut from 43 brigades to 42. Because the National Guard enjoys strong political support in many states, however, implementing this plan may be difficult. See Washington Post.
The war on the home front
Congressman Bob Goodlatte had a meeting last night with constitutents in Stuarts Draft, about ten miles from Staunton. A dozen or so people from the Augusta Coalition for Peace and Justice showed up to protest the war in Iraq, but Goodlatte held his ground:
To withdraw troops in a rapid fashion would be unconscionable. It would endanger U.S. citizens; it would endanger Iraqi citizens. (SOURCE: Staunton News Leader.)
It's always good to hear a politician take a strong, principled stand on a controversial issue, rather than hemming and hawing for the sake of a few extra votes. Rhonda Winfield, mother of Cpl. Jason Redifer, who was killed in Iraq one year ago, spoke out in favor of finishing the mission, while expressing hope for national unity and mutual understanding between pro-war and anti-war factions. She is a true national treasure.
UPDATE: Steve Kijak attended the Goodlatte meeting, and provides some in-depth coverage of what went on with the protesters. (via Chad Dotson) I might have gone myself, but did not become aware of the meeting until it was already underway.
January 8, 2006 [LINK] *
Soldiers of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Hood, Texas, have begun arriving in Kuwait, where they are getting desert combat training in preparation for deployment to Iraq. See the 4th ID Web site. It will replace the 3rd Infantry Division, which is completing a one-year rotation in the zone around Baghdad. Some may recall that the 4th ID was sent to Turkey in March 2003, as part of a plan to invade Iraq from the north, which probably would have won the war more quickly, and possibly have prevented the escape of Saddam Hussein and other top Baathist leaders. After going back and forth, Turkey finally decided it didn't want to be part of the war, so the 4th ID was rerouted through the Persian Gulf, and did not arrive until after Iraq was liberated. When it returns to the U.S.A. at the end of the year, it will take up residence at its new/old home base in Fort Carson, Colorado, where it had been based from 1970 to 1995.
One year ago, the 4th Infantry Division became "modularized," meaning that it now has four (rather than three) combat brigades, each of which can operate independently if needed. To accomplish this transformation, divisional "assets" (i.e., specialized logistical, engineering, and medical units, among others) are apportioned to the separate brigades. This is part of the Army's long-term restructuring program which is aimed at greater flexibility in fighting low-intensity irregular wars, such as Iraq. Brigades (usually 4,000 - 5,000 troops) will gradually replace divisions (usually 14,000 - 20,000 troops) as the organizational level at which combat deployments are typically carried out. See DoD.gov.
[* Date and link corrected.]
January 6, 2006 [LINK]
Even worse carnage in Iraq
Over 180 people have been killed by suicide bombs in central Iraq in the past few days, a sudden and terrible escalation of violence. In Muqdadiyah, near the border with Iran, at least 42 mourners at a funeral were killed. In Ramadi, at least 80 Sunni Muslims at a police recruitment center were killed by two suicide bombers in rapid succession. In Karbala, 54 Shiite Muslims were killed outside the Imam Hussein mosque. To some extent, this represents outrage felt by Sunni Arabs at having lost the December 15 elections; many of them persist in the delusion fostered by Saddam Hussein that they are really the majority in Iraq. By all appearances, the desperate attempt to derail the ongoing transition by triggering a civil war is backfiring, as the Sunnis realize that they would certainly lose in such a bloodbath. More and more Sunnis are turning against the Al Qaeda-affiliated Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which may mean the end of the insurgents' dreams of terrorizing U.S. forces out of Iraq. Today's Washington Post and strategypage.com both describe the collapse in political support for the terrorists among all factions in Iraq. What it really signifies is the breakdown in the tacit alliance between the religiously-motivated Al Qaeda faction and the ethnic Sunni-based faction composed of Baath regime remanents. This "silver lining" around the dark cloud of horrific mass death has truly decisive implications for achieving a meaningful victory over the Islamofascist menace: If they can't win in Iraq, they can't win anywhere. One insurgent leader bragged that President Bush's plan to reduce U.S. force levels is proof that their side is winning, but what else would you expect the losers to say? At any rate, one should refrain from jumping to conclusions about the motives behind such attacks. Terrorism is inherently murky, and often irrational. Paying close attention to the rhetoric of terrorists is a fool's errand.
Blankley on national unity
The situation is not quite so auspicious on the home front, however. Tony Blankley, former speechwriter for Newt Gingrich, worries about the absence of national unity in Real Clear Politics. He points out that Islamofascists draw courage from partisan divisiveness in the United States, and draws a link between the weak commitment to the national good and the "me first" attitude that is behind recent corruption scandals and pork barrel excesses committed by the Republican-led Congress. It is a provocative and rather compelling point to consider. Interestingly, he lays some of the blame on President Bush, which I think is appropriate, though Paul Mirengoff at Power Line Blog thinks otherwise.
The human toll
Fifty nine American soldiers lost their lives in Iraq last month, bringing the total number of U.S. combat fatalities there to 2,163. Over the past twelve months, 833 American service men and women were killed in action, compared to 848 in 2004. May all Americans come to understand and appreciate the cause for which our braves soldiers sacrificed their lives.
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