Tuesday, June 28, 2005


I've said it myself. Now, Paul Campos has said it...

But a far more modest step than bringing back the draft is available, and the complete unwillingness of supporters of the war to take it says a great deal.

Where are the calls for voluntary enlistment? Try to find a single speech in which any member of the Bush administration, or any other prominent politician who supports the war, calls on America's young people (or its middle-aged - there's no reason to be picky when you're fighting for national survival) to come to the aid of our badly undermanned armed forces.

You won't find one - and the reasons aren't hard to guess. First, asking others to make sacrifices that you yourself refuse to make, and that you aren't willing for your own children to make, requires a level of hypocrisy that even most politicians can't quite stomach.

Second, the politicians who started it probably don't believe the war in Iraq is crucial to America's survival. Or if they do, the way they're fighting it qualifies as something close to treason.

Now, Campos is obviously an opponent of the war. But his argument makes logical sense. If Iraq is part of the War on Terrorism, and the War on Terrorism is a war not of choice, but necessity, then an all-out effort is needed to win in Iraq. Have the American people ever been called upon to make an all-out effort to win in Iraq? Have they ever been called upon to make an all-out effort to win the War on Terrorism? They have not. This is because the President has bought into the idea (promulgated by Don Rumsfeld in all probability) that this is a "different kind of war" that can be won without the military muscle and sacrifice required in previous wars. I think that is bunk, which is why I have said many times since 9/11 that we should have had Congress declare war on Al Qaeda and voted funds to significantly expand the military to fight that war.

The President will speak to the nation tonight about the war. I hope he gives us something more than the same old rhetoric. We need a call to arms (I won't hold my breath).

John Kerry already has some advice for the President.

The Army is taking some criticism in the MSM, here and here.

Even though it appears that the Democrats have the upper hand on this as a political issue, Fred Barnes thinks they are still blowing it.

Monday, June 27, 2005


Here is the second part of the Bill Gertz series on China in the Washington Times.

A couple of commentaries on the recent sham election in Iran. This one thinks that the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is going the way of the Shah. Amir Taheri, who once worked for the Shah, lays out the case that Khamenei now has total control of the regime.

The Chinese bid for Unocal has generated some controversy. Paul Krugman has this take. Here is a different view.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


If you don't read any other article today, read this one in the Washington Post. It is an extensive account of the action that resulted in the awarding of a Silver Star to a female soldier, SGT Leigh Ann Hester, of the Kentucky National Guard. In the article, you will learn that this one squad of ARNG MPs (two women, eight men) killed 27 insurgents, wounded six others and saved a bunch of Turkish truck drivers from being kidnapped (presumably to be ransomed or beheaded). If it was a movie script, you would find it hard to believe (especially the part where one soldier, the platoon medic no less, was firing a SAW - Squad Automatic Weapon - with one hand in one direction, and his M-4 rifle in the other hand at insurgents in the other direction, all to protect the three wounded soldiers he was treating. Yes, he won the Silver Star, too).

If you have time to read another article, try this one from the Washington Times. Respected national security writer Bill Gertz reports on the growing concern inside the Pentagon about the increasing strength of the Chinese military. Here is the money quote:

Richard Fisher, vice president of the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said that in 10 years, the Chinese army has shifted from a defensive force to an advanced military soon capable of operations ranging from space warfare to global non-nuclear cruise-missile strikes.

"Let's all wake up. The post-Cold War peace is over," Mr. Fisher said. "We are now in an arms race with a new superpower whose goal is to contain and overtake the United States."

Finally, from StrategyPage (via Instapundit), a couple of posts that shed some more light on what is happening in the Army with retention and recruiting.

June 25, 2005: The U.S. Army, scrambling to maintain strength, have found that they can help this effort just by making it easier for reservists to move over to the regular army. This new policy is partly the result of commanders noticing that a lot of reservists are quite enthusiastic about being on active duty, and many are eager to stay on active duty. But by law, unless Congress declares a general mobilization, most reservists cannot be kept on active duty much longer. The maximum time a reservist can be on active duty for the current "emergency" is 24 months. The army isn’t saying how many additional regular army troops it is going to pick up with this program, but it will probably be several thousand, and maybe much more. An important aspect of this is that these troops have a lot of experience, making them much more valuable than newly trained recruits.

June 23, 2005: The U.S. Army, facing problems recruiting troops, has found that much of the problem stems from parents, grandparents, guidance counselors, teachers and others who, either for political, emotional or information reasons, oppose American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and influence young men and women to not join the military. So the army is going after this opposition by offering tours at military posts, and meetings with young troops, to many of these "opinion makers." The potential recruits themselves are a lot more eager to join up, but recruiters report that, too many times, it’s the ill-will from “opinion makers” that makes the difference. Not all the opinion makers can be reached. Some are still living in the 1960s. But many of the opinion makers can be approached, and if some additional information on what the army is all about makes a difference, then it’s worth the effort.

It appears that those troops who have actual experience of combat operations in Iraq (and, presumably, a clearer picture as to the merits of the operation and its potential for success) are more likely to want to see the fight to its conclusion. In contrast, the young folks and their parents whose knowledge of the situation is limited to the incessantly gloomy assessments provided by the MSM are less and less eager to get involved.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Many historians believe, and I agree with them, that the Vietnam War was lost politically beginning with the Tet Offensive in January of 1968. The irony is that as a purely military matter, Tet was a disaster for the Viet Cong insurgency. Every military analysis I have seen of that battle concludes that, by coming out into the open in a failed attempt to ignite a popular uprising in the South, the VC subjected themselves to the overwhelming firepower of the U.S. military resulting in massive casualties. After Tet, the war in the South was fought mainly by regular units of the NVA. Militarily, the Tet Offensive was a catastrophe for the Viet Cong and, if it were not for the political effect domestically in the U.S., would have (combined with a massive bombing campaign against the North, as was done in 1972) almost certainly led to a favorable political settlement. Could the same thing be happening now in Iraq?

In yesterday's post, I quote from Austin Bay's recent optimistic assessment of the situation in Iraq. Today, Karl Zinsmeister has an equally encouraging view.

Your editor returned to Iraq in April and May of 2005 for another embedded period of reporting. I could immediately see improvements compared to my earlier extended tours during 2003 and 2004. The Iraqi security forces, for example, are vastly more competent, and in some cases quite inspiring. Baghdad is now choked with traffic. Cell phones have spread like wildfire. And satellite TV dishes sprout from even the most humble mud hovels in the countryside.

Many of the soldiers I spent time with during this spring had also been deployed during the initial invasion back in 2003. Almost universally they talked to me about how much change they could see in the country. They noted progress in the attitudes of the people, in the condition of important infrastructure, in security.

These assessments mirror those I have read on a number of military blogs, and by digging deeply into MSM reports. Even Kofi Annan believes there is progress taking place in Iraq. If these reports reflect the deeper reality in Iraq, despite the headline grabbing suicide bomb attacks and more effective IED attacks, then we truly could be watching a repeat of Tet.

The spectacular nature of the enemy attacks, killing Iraqis by the dozen and killing and wounding American soldiers and Marines at a faster pace than at any other time in the conflict, is clearly contributing to the marked decline in public support for the war. That, in turn, has led to more politicians calling for a timetable for American withdrawal.

At this juncture, the Iraqi people may find themselves more fortunate than the still enslaved South Vietnamese. The public relations disaster caused by the Tet Offensive happened only two months before the New Hampshire Presidential Primary. In March of 1968 Lyndon Johnson managed to squeak out a victory over Senator Eugene McCarthy (running on an anti-war platform) by only 300 votes. This led Johnson to realize that he might not even win his party's nomination, much less re-election. He subsequently withdrew from the race. When Richard Nixon was elected that November, he was forced by the changed American attitude about the war to a policy of withdrawal, not victory. This, of course, led to the eventual North Vietnamese victory, because all they had to do was wait us out. When, finally, we withdrew, they gathered their forces and invaded the South. Without U.S. air support, the South Vietnamese forces crumbled. This will not happen in Iraq. George W. Bush does not have to face the electorate again. He is the only person in the world who can order an outright U.S. withdrawal, or a timetable for withdrawal. He has consistently refused to do so. I see no possibility that he will change his mind.

If I am right about the political dynamics of this situation, the Iraqi government will have the no-strings-attached support of U.S. troops at least until January of 2009.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


The President's biggest mistake, the one that will forever prevent him from being considered a great President is not, as some believe, that he ordered the invasion of Iraq. No, his biggest mistake is that, in the days and weeks following 9/11, he did not mobilize the American people for war. Austin Bay, back in Iraq as a writer after serving there last year as a soldier, says this...

This return visit to Iraq, however, spurs thoughts of America -- to be specific, thoughts about America's will to pursue victory. I don't mean the will of US forces in the field. Wander around with a bunch of Marines for a half hour, spend 15 minutes with National Guardsmen from Idaho, and you will have no doubts about American military capabilities or the troops' will to win.

But our weakness is back home, in front of the TV, on the cable squawk shows, on the editorial page of The New York Times, in the political gotcha games of Washington, D.C.

It seems America wants to get on with its Electra-Glide life, that Sept. 10 sense of freedom and security, without finishing the job. The military is fighting, the Iraqi people are fighting, but where is the US political class? The Bush administration has yet to ask the American people -- correction, has yet to demand of the American people -- the sustained, shared sacrifice it takes to win this long, intricate war of bullets, ballots and bricks.

George W. Bush failed in those days after 9/11 to realize that while the war-fighting would not be traditional in massed armies engaged in battle, no enemy nation-state to invade and defeat to achieve an obvious victory...the American people still needed to be engaged as if it was a traditional war, like World War II. Bush should have asked Congress to declare war against Al Qaeda (nothing in the Constitution limits Congress from declaring war against non-state actors), and mobilized the American people to fight that war. Bay also realizes this...

One afternoon in December 2001, my mother told me she remembered being a teenager in 1942 and tossing a tin can on a wagon that rolled past the train station in her hometown. Mom said she knew that the can she tossed didn't add much to the war effort, but she felt that in some small, token perhaps, but very real way, she was contributing to the battle.

"The Bush administration is going to make a terrible mistake if it does not let the American people get involved in this war. Austin, we need a war bond drive. This matters, because this is what it will take."

She was right then, and she's right now.


Friday, June 17, 2005


Recent polls indicate that President Bush is becoming an increasingly unpopular President. Fred Barnes writing in the Weekly Standard has the best explanation I have seen for the President's dropping poll numbers.

TO UNDERSTAND WHY President Bush is relatively unpopular, one only has to look to the case of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California. After his election in November 2003, Schwarzenegger experienced a political honeymoon. He governed mostly by compromise and without pushing for sweeping change. And his popularity, measured by how people feel about his performance as governor, soared. That lasted for more than a year. Now Schwarzenegger has gotten serious. He's called for a special election to limit government spending permanently, curb teacher tenure, and take redistricting out of the hands of the legislature, which is controlled by Democrats. His popularity has plummeted.

Bush's popularity dropped in 2003 after the terrorist insurgency spread in Iraq. And except for a blip or two, it hasn't risen significantly since, even after his effective campaigning last fall, his reelection, and his dazzling inaugural address. Instead, his job performance rating in the Gallup Poll has dipped further--from 52 percent in January to 47 percent now.

Bush doesn't have the second-term blues, his administration hasn't lost its zeal, and he hasn't been troubled by scandal or the lack of a clear policy agenda. Nor is he suffering solely from his single-minded pursuit of Social Security reform. Like Schwarzenegger, the president has taken on a string of big issues--Iraq, a drastic foreign-policy overhaul, judges, plus Social Security--with predictable results. These are issues that generate political conflict. They upset settled practice, rile various institutions, stir strong opposition, and keep poll ratings low. For an activist president, lack of popularity is part of the package.

The safest way to remain popular as a politician (unless the economy is in seriously bad shape) is to do very little. Social Security crisis? Nah. Health Care crisis? Nah. Energy crisis? Nah. The list goes on. This administration is to be credited for tackling a number of important issues, sometimes in a bold manner. That said, the President can also be criticized for not taking action on a number of fronts. This is true of all administrations. You have to pick your battles. The fewer you choose to fight, the better your poll numbers. It is sad, but very human.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


A lot of folks in the blogosphere and the MSM are weighing in on the issue of military recruiting over the last few days, mostly because of the recent reports about the shortfall in recruiting.

Today, Max Boot in the LA Times and Bob Herbert in the NY Times write about the problem from very different perspectives.

LT Smash has an extensive blog post today on the issue of counter-recruiting, a new strategy by the anti-war folks to bring the war to an end by ensuring military defeat.

These counter-recruiters often protest that they're just telling the students "the other side of the story." But in practice, they're actively campaigning to keep military recruiters away from potential recruits, by restricting their access to campus, and distributing literature designed to scare students away from considering military service. Here's a sample:

Recruiters don't talk a lot about war in their sales pitch. Many soldiers who were sent to the Persian Gulf, Somalia and the Balkans never thought they would end up risking their lives in such places. Recruiters never tell you how discrimination is a serious problem in the military. People of color are more likely to be assigned low-level jobs and passed over for promotion. They are more likely to end up on the front line in combat as well. In the military, women still are not treated as equals, and two out of every three of them are sexually harassed.

This is unmitigated bull****. Nobody signs up for the military with the expectation that they will never have to go in harm's way. This is absurd, and an insult to the intelligence of everyone who has ever worn the uniform.

The military is probably one of the most racially integrated institutions in the United States. As a military officer, I have followed orders of men and women from just about every race and creed. Indeed, when I first put on the uniform the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was none other than General Colin Powell.

The military is the closest thing to a pure meritocracy that most people will ever experience. The process of "boot camp" is universal; it breaks down all barriers of race, culture, religion, and wealth. The bonds forged under the pressure cooker of military indoctrination are much stronger than any of the pre-existing prejudices that recruits may harbor.

As a former Army enlisted man (1986-89) I can also attest to the fact that the Army is as close to a meritocracy as exists in society today. While people bring their prejudices with them into the organization, the Army works very hard to erase those prejudices, along with all sorts of other concepts that are acceptable in civilian life, but detrimental to the Army's mission. You don't like taking orders from a (Black, Hispanic, White, Asian, Female, etc.), too bad. We're all green, my friend. Your status in the institution can be seen on your uniform, not on your skin.

But, as LT Smash says, the goal of the counter-recruiters is not to spread the truth (although I don't doubt that many of them believe this stuff), but rather to deprive the military of recruits, forcing the political leadership of the country to either end the mission in Iraq, or re-institute the draft. Either way, the anti-war movement wins. Oh, and lest we forget, Osama Bin Laden, Zarqawi, and the rest of the head-choppers win, too.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


Here is a piece by Robert Samuelson in the Washington Post. He hits the nail on the head about Europe, which has bigger problems than the declining Euro and the rejection of the EU Constitution.

It's hard to be a great power if your population is shriveling. Europe's birthrates have dropped well below the replacement rate of 2.1 children for each woman of childbearing age. For Western Europe as a whole, the rate is 1.5. It's 1.4 in Germany and 1.3 in Italy. In a century -- if these rates continue -- there won't be many Germans in Germany or Italians in Italy. Even assuming some increase in birthrates and continued immigration, Western Europe's population grows dramatically grayer, projects the U.S. Census Bureau. Now about one-sixth of the population is 65 and older. By 2030 that would be one-fourth, and by 2050 almost one-third.

No one knows how well modern economies will perform with so many elderly people, heavily dependent on government benefits (read: higher taxes). But Europe's economy is already faltering. In the 1970s annual growth for the 12 countries now using the euro averaged almost 3 percent; from 2001 to 2004 the annual average was 1.2 percent. In 1974 those countries had unemployment of 2.4 percent; in 2004 the rate was 8.9 percent.

I've said it many times, and more and more of the punditocracy is coming to the same conclusion. Europe as we have known it is dying. The consequences of the death process which will unfold in the coming decades ought to be of more than passing interest to us as Americans. Samuelson understands this, so I recommend you read the whole article.

Friday, June 10, 2005


This story is a bombshell, and could change the parameters of the health care debate in this country...

Canada's Supreme Court dealt a powerful blow to the state monopoly on health care yesterday, striking down a Quebec ban on private health insurance for services provided under the country's system of universal coverage.

Although the unanimous ruling applies only to Quebec, it is expected to spur similar cases in other Canadian provinces and accelerate a growing movement pushing for more private care.
In recent years, Canada's Medicare was plagued by long waiting lists and a lack of doctors, nurses, and state-of-the-art equipment. Some patients wait months for surgery, MRI machines are scarce, and many Canadians travel to the United States for treatment.

Those of us who have criticized the Canadian system in the past (generally as part of a debate over whether or not such a system should be created here in the States) have to see this as a vindication of our position.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Michelle Malkin describes yet another instance of MSM anti-military bias. It seems Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post thinks U.S. soldiers and Marines have murdered close to 100 detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Malkin documents the inaccuracy of the statement (it is really closer to 25-30 deaths either confirmed as homicides or are being investigated as possible homicides). The problem with all of this is, of course, the fact that Connolly is predisposed to believe the worst of our military, and I believe that is a predisposition shared by many of her colleagues.

The good folks over at CNN have finally figured out that they can't compete directly with Fox news, which is killing them in the ratings. Rather, according to USA Today, they will attempt to counter-program by providing more hard news programs and less talk and opinion programs. I think they are on to something.

Robert Kuttner asks, "Why Hillary?" Because she can win?

CNN reports that the "Old Media" is fighting back, trying to retain advertising dollars. The fight is being led on the radio side by my old employer, Clear Channel, and my current employer (on a part-time basis), Viacom. The question of whether or not the "Old Media" can survive I will address in a future post.

Dick Morris thinks more people are realizing that because their elected representatives in Congress are increasingly voting the party line, they ought to as well. This is bad news for Democrat Senators representing Red States and Republican Senators representing Blue States. Morris shares some election numbers in the piece that are very interesting.

Friday, June 03, 2005


I have been writing a series of blog essays on New Hampshire politics over at NH Insider. If you are interested in New Hampshire politics, please check them out. Also, check out the rest of the website for New Hampshire news and opinions.