Patterico's Pontifications

4/4/2007

A Golden Opportunity For Michael J. Fox

Filed under: Public Policy — Justin Levine @ 6:47 pm

[posted by Justin Levine] 

I have never doubted Michael J. Fox’s sincere intentions regarding speaking out in favor of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research (and against those who oppose it). With that said however, he might want to now consider speaking out against the current Democratic Governor of Wisconsin, who threatens to do far more harm against progress in stem cell research than President Bush ever will.

Rudy aborts campaign; Romney flip-flops on Oklahoma appearance

Filed under: General — See Dubya @ 1:57 pm

(a post by See-Dubya)

Neither of these are good things. Rudy Giuliani affirmed for CNN today that he still thinks, as he said in 1989, that there’s a constitutional right to abortion in this country, and that abortions for poor women should be supported by federal money.

I admire him for sticking to his principle even when it’s unpopular. Just like President Bush has made it clear that we need to win in Iraq despite faltering public opinion, sometimes you just have to take a stand.

But this issue is a stone-cold loser. Even pro-choice Republicans don’t want the government paying for abortions; the idea is freedom from government interference and not a new entitlement program—especially for what is ultimately an elective surgery. I understand quite well the appeal of socialized medicine, but that’s for lifesaving surgery and critical health care, not for ending pregnancy.

There’s more great ranting in a similar vein at Innocent Bystanders, where Sobek notes that

I have a Constitutional right to defacate on the American flag if I want, but the government doesn’t need to pay me to do it. Nor does the government have the obligation to subsidize my gun purchases. So why should abortion be different? And if abortion must be subsidized by government, why not any other elements of “health care” (such as it is)? That’s big government talking, there, and that pisses off the federalists…

Meanwhile Mitt Romney isn’t doing himself any favors with the base, either. Apparently he’s decided to renege on a long-standing commitment to speak at the Oklahoma Republican convention on April 14th, and his campaign hasn’t offered any explanation to the party, who must now scramble around for a replacement speaker at the last minute.

As Michael Bates summarizes, “The message the cancellation sends is that Mitt Romney will stick to a commitment, but only until something better comes along.” What that something better is, I would love to see. Oklahoma is pretty much the reddest state on the map when it comes to presidential politics, and disappointing crowds of potential supporters–many of whom may be these (supposedly) suspicious ain’t-gonna-vote-for-no-Mormons evangelical Christians. It’s a great place to raise money and polish up a conservative reputation, which Gov. Romney needs to do.

But instead, he vanishes. I can’t help thinking of this exchange from Spinal Tap:

Ian Faith: The Boston gig has been cancelled…
David St. Hubbins: What?
Ian Faith: Yeah. I wouldn’t worry about it though, it’s not a big college town.

Cross posted at Junkyard Blog.

HuffPo Commenters Call for Violence Against Rove

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:03 am

Once again, HuffPo commenters call for violence against Administration officials.

I just checked, and the comments in question are still up.

With every such instance, the HuffPo increasingly fits Glenn Greenwald’s criteria for meaningful hate speech.

Iraq: Mixed Feelings

Filed under: General — Teflon Don @ 8:16 am

Patterico asked for my thoughts and reaction to this Powerline piece, featuring a particularly gloomy view of Iraq from an anomymous soldier somewhere in the south. Badger 6 has already weighed in lower on this page, and he illustrates many of the differences between the author’s area, and the area of al-Anbar in which we both serve. I’ll focus more on my reactions than re-stating what Badger 6 has already written.

Iraqi police in Southern Iraq are not in the fight against the militias at all.

 In most cases police stations are manned by JAM members in police uniforms who actively aid the terrorists.

On the rare occasion that a Shia terrorist is actually arrested by an ISF unit, he must be turned over to CF immediately or he will be released by the police or courts.

In addition, politicians from the city council to the CoR, if not Maliki himself, make calls and appearances on behalf of the terrorist, often threatening the job (if not the life) of the offending ISF leader with the audacity to actually do his job.

In these statements, the author seems to mistake the reality of his micro-cosm of southern Iraq for the reality of the nation as a whole. Obviously, some area of Iraq are better off than others. Some seem to be slipping into chaos, such as Basra. Others seem to be slowly emerging from chaos, such as Ramadi. Iraq is too diverse, too complex, to look at one area and declare the fate of the country. Reporting trouble in one area of the country and declaring the war lost does no one service. Instead, why not examine trouble areas and ask what we can do, or what we can help Iraqis do to make things better?

The situation on the American side is not much better. The careerists in the Army and DoD have learned that not taking chances and reporting only good news up the chain are the  ways to advance their careers.

There is no better counterpoint to this assertion than General Petraeus. His successes in working with, not against, the media, in building a solid Iraqi security force, and in promoting good counterinsurgency doctrine made Mosul an early bright spot in Iraq. Mosul later became increasingly violent, under the less adept hands of other leaders, and finally turned around again under another bright leader- LTC Kurilla of the 1/24 Strikers. LTG Petraeus, meanwhile, has been tasked with the command of all of Iraq. That’s quite a career advancement for someone who took chances and reported bad along with good.

The Army is not flexible enough or well trained enough to win a counterinsurgency.

Someone once said that the Army is doomed to chronicly prepare for the last war, and not the next war. In essence, as junior officers rise, they continue to focus on the strategy and tactics they learned during their time “in the trenches”. As the Powerline author rightly points out, there have been innumerable missteps and mistakes in this war. Many mistakes have been due to commanders inexperienced at COIN. However, I feel we have come to the point at which the cream has begun to rise to the top- the point at which our purpose is more clear, our mistakes are fewer, and our flexible, bright commanders control the field of battle.

Then there’s the domestic political situation which I won’t rehash except to say that it’s crippling to the war effort.  …  Would, should, any rational person bet his life helping CF when you’re expecting them to leave at any time?

This is the one point of the article on which I agree 100% with the author. Why indeed would you fight alongside the soldiers that will leave when you need them the most? Why would you care if the temporary occupiers of your fields are blown apart by IEDs? Why would you devote your tribe’s men, time, and treasure towards the success of a government that you expect to fall as soon as the Americans leave?

What I say I don’t say lightly and I say with regret. But as someone who has been separated from my wife, friends, and family for 20 months already (with four months to go thanks to the surge) and as service members continue to lose life and limb I feel that I can no longer hold my tongue.

Badger 6 said it already- I’ll say it again. Speaking out against the missteps and problems of Iraq as you see them is one thing. Allowing your fatigue to inject bitterness into your comments and color your thinking is another.

We have mismanaged Iraq in ways too numerous to list here  for four years. In order to succeed on the ground we would  have to scrap everything we have done and start over….

I agree with the first point, but not the second.

Shall we tear up the roads we have built? Shall we break apart the hard-won working relations we have forged with the sheiks of al-Anbar? Shall we repeat our first post-invasion mistake,  dissolve the Iraqi Army a second time, and once again leave our troops to face a hostile populace alone?

Hello Patterico readers!

Filed under: General — Teflon Don @ 7:33 am

Teflon Don here, author of Acute Politics. For many of you, I’m a new face. Some of you may know me from the times Pat has linked me here. In any case, let me introduce myself:

I’m a Army Combat Engineer, currently deployed to Iraq. I’m assigned to a route clearance company, tasked to keep roads in the area around Ramadi and Falluja clear of IEDs. I’m in the heart of the Sunni insurgency, and I’m increasingly hopeful about our fight here.

I can’t guarantee a lot of posts while Pat is gone, but I’ll chip in as time allows. Hopefully he’ll still recognize the place when he gets back.

~TD

UPDATE BY PATTERICO: Also check out Teflon Don’s work at Pajamas Media, here.

One more thought on training

Filed under: General — Badger 6 @ 1:53 am

The claim made by the Powerline correspondent that “the Army is not trained for counterinsurgency” also deserves another answer.

In war one is frequently forced to deal with situations one did not plan on and was not “trained” to deal with. There is no question United States forces spent much more time training to fight traditional maneuver warfare. To say though , we are untrained and that we rely on a formal program of instruction is weak. As officers and NCOs we are responsible for seeking out training we anticipate we might need.

Check out this post at Badgers Forward to see some of the things I did to prepare my unit for counterinsurgency operations. I led an OPD based on the COIN reading.

Iraq: An Improving Assessment

Filed under: General,Terrorism,War — Badger 6 @ 12:11 am

One of the things Patterico asked me to blog about was an assessment of the situation here in Iraq. Specifically he asked me to respond to  this correspondent at Powerline.

Blogging and reporting about the situation in Iraq is complex and difficult. What is true in one block may not be true in the next block and while the General Officers have an overall view, it becomes difficult for them to roll all of their assessments into one neat little sound bite. Conversely the Private or Lieutenant will know his or her one area of Iraq very well, much better than his or her Senior Leaders because that is all they are responsible for. If things are going well in that small area, the situation can seem very good; obviously then the opposite is true, if your area is going poorly then the whole thing may appear quite dismal.

The biggest mistake I think the the Powerline correspondent makes, is using his or her localized experience as a template for all of Iraq.

The Iraqi government and security forces are so thoroughly infiltrated by the Shia militias that you could say that the militias are the government and you would not be far off. Iraqi police in Southern Iraq are not in the fight against the militias at all. Top CF targets walk the streets freely in every city. In most cases police stations are manned by JAM members in police uniforms who actively aid the terrorists. On the rare occasion that a Shia terrorist is actually arrested by an ISF unit, he must be turned over to CF immediately or he will be released by the police or courts.

This may very well be true in the correspondents area. Here in Al Anbar Province there is virtually no Shia presence, it is almost entirely Sunni. Many of the Iraqi Army Soldiers (Jundi) are Shia serving like our Soldiers do a long way from home. Conversely the Iraqi Police (IP) are almost all local recruits. The IP in Al Anbar have been strengthened a great deal in the last year because the Shieks decided to tell their militia members to lay down their arms as militia and join the Iraqi Police. This has been a challenging and difficult process, but one that has worked. The primary concern of the tribes has been the security of their people and that is why the needed to have militia.

Now there is no doubt these new IPs will likely retain some tribal loyalty, but as their paychecks regularly flow in from the central government there will likely be a reevaluation of who exactly is able to provide them and their family the most security. The importance of the tribe and clan will never go away, but the strong control may well diminish overtime.

The other part of this that simply makes no sense to me is this – if Maliki and the Shia are the real problems and determined to exercise control over Iraq a la Saddam Hussein, why do they not do the following: Simply order the Shia militias to stand down and do nothing, but particularly not attack Coalition Forces. If the Shia militia violence is the real problem and their control so pervasive then Maliki and the Shia could set the conditions for the US forces to be gone by the end of 2007. If there were four or five months of no real activity the clamor at home to bring US forces would be deafening and there would be no refutation of it.

The Powerline correspondents experience is different from mine and I am not in a position to say he or she has not seen what they write, but it strikes me that their assessment overlays specific experiences over a diverse country and has some counterintuitive reasoning.

Then we have this assessment

The situation on the American side is not much better. The careerists in the Army and DoD have leaned that not taking chances and reporting only good news up the chain are the ways to advance their careers. Just look at General Casey. The army is first and foremost a bureaucracy intent on taking its processes, forms, procedures and top down decision making with it wherever it goes. The Army is not flexible enough or well trained enough to win a counterinsurgency.

There is some truth in this. The Army is one big bureaucracy and at its heart is a large government agency. (As a side note, want to see what National Health Care will look like, just see the Walter Reed Army Medical Center “scandal.”) As an institution it certainly should be a great deal more flexible to win a counter insurgency, however to say we are not well trained enough is simply untrue.

As to organizationally the Armed Forces should be a great deal more nodal or networked, the hierarchy does not create ideal conditions for working in this environment, but we are more than adequately trained. It is really about implementation.

Here in Al Anbar for the longest time the US Armed Forces refused to work with local militias because they had either been insurgents or merely because they were un-official. Last year the decision was made to deal with them and the situation immediately started to improve. Because someone high ranking enough to have some “juice” but low ranking enough to understand the situation on the ground needed this decision. The farther down the chain we push these decisions , the easier it will be.

Do not misunderstand what I am about to write because the Powerline correspondent has some valid points, nonetheless these comments color the writing in my view.

But as someone who has been separated from my wife, friends, and family for 20 months already (with four months to go thanks to the surge) and as service members continue to lose life and limb I feel that I can no longer hold my tongue.

I am familiar with this unit and no doubt there is a morale problem at this point because of their extension, I do not blame them for being irritated at the Army and the war, but that should not substitute for analysis.  I left home in January 2006 and will be home by Christmas 2007, I understand what that separation is like, but to use the time of separation from family as the excuse strikes me as bitterness and not principle. I come by that assessment because of the next comment.

We have mismanaged Iraq in ways too numerous to list here for four years. In order to succeed on the ground we would have to scrap everything we have done and start over….

We started over with the surge and the appointment of GEN Petraeus.  This falls into the Angry Left’s meme  of  “not  changing course.”  Substantive and real changes have been made in strategy and tactics.  We have seen that here in Al Anbar with engagement of the local Sheiks and militias.  Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is becoming more desperate with every savage attack.  Things are not going to change overnight, but they are changing and they are getting better.


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