Reform at the UN proceeds. Who’d a thunk it?
Category: War 2005
Spying on Al Qaeda in the United States
Am I bothered by the revelation that President Bush has authorized, without a warrant, surveillance on telephone calls and emails involving people within the United States? Let’s walk through the issues to explain why I think the criticisms of the Bush Administration are, as usual, vastly overblown; the only substantial legal or policy issue here is whether the surveillance at issue violated FISA, and there is (1) at least an argument that it did not, and (2) a substantial argument that FISA has been effectively repealed in the case of Al Qaeda by the Congressional authorization to use force against the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks. The bottom line is that as far as I can tell, the Administration is, in fact, taking an aggressive but plausible reading of the available legal authority – and doing so to advance our ability to interdict Al Qaeda. Which is precisely what the Administration should be doing.
(For now, I’ll leave aside the loose lips that put this story in the New York Times; hopefully, Patrick Fitzgerald will have his day with them. I’ll also leave aside some of the side issues here, such as how different the Bush Administration’s program is from what was done under Clinton and the precise factual circumstances of some of the examples cited by the Administration of the kinds of past communications this program would have captured).
I. The Policy
As far as I can tell from the press accounts I’ve seen thus far, the National Security Agency spying program at issue involves continuous electronic surveillance of foreign communications – including communications originating in foreign sources but entering the U.S. – and extends to human review of a subset of those communications that are flagged for various reasons as involving Al Qaeda. Richard Posner explains well why the approach these programs take to data collection are no great threat to privacy.
Leaving aside the law for the moment – more on that below – as a policy matter, I see nothing even remotely objectionable about this. The universe of surveilled communications is limited in two ways: every communication involves at least one participant outside the United States (apparently it must be the participant who initiates the communication), and every communication involves at least one participant suspected of being part of, or closely associated with, Al Qaeda, our undisputed #1 enemy in this war. It’s awfully hard to argue that we shouldn’t be spying on Al Qaeda and associated groups with every means available to us; the only issue is whether we should pull some of our punches when Al Qaeda operates within the U.S. – despite the obvious fact that, because Al Qaeda is a terrorist group and not a conventional military power, Al Qaeda’s core operations require it to operate within the U.S. And this Byron York piece on FISA is a good start in explaining why the pre-September 11 legal structures just don’t allow enough flexibility to do all the things we need to do to keep up with Al Qaeda.
Sure, opponents of the Administration will say, the program may be limited now, but without judicial oversight, how can we stop the program from expanding? The answer, of course, is that all executive powers are subject to some abuses, including FISA; but the time to complain is when there is something to complain about. To play this story as if Bush has been doing surveillance of domestic political opponents is just disingenuous.
II. The Law
Our government is one of enumerated powers, circumscribed by enumerated limitations and rights of the people. A number of commenters, unfortunately, confuse this issue. The fact that the president has certain very broad powers, for example, does not make him a king; however broad those powers are, they remain subject to certain express limitations. Thus, the legal issue has to be approached in two main parts: does the president have the power, and are there rights and limitations that impose constraints on that power?
A. The President’s Powers
1. Constitutional Authority
The President of the United States has two main sources of power in the area of national defense. First, Article II of the Constitution directly provides that “[t]he President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States,” a power that therefore requires no further Congressional authorization and that, when properly exercised, at least arguably may not be restricted by Congress without amending Article II.
Second, Congress has several powers under Article I that bear upon the power of the Commander in Chief:
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
Article I also grants Congress authority “[t]o make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof,” a grant of authority that is arguably broader in scope than the powers granted to the President and the courts. Nonetheless, it has long been recognized that both the President and the federal courts have certain “inherent” unenumerated powers to take actions necessary to make effective their enumerated powers.
The idea that this somehow makes the president like a king is ludicrous. The inherent powers of the executive can not be arbitrarily expanded to whatever area the president believes would be useful, any more than the Necessary and Proper clause grants legislative authority over unenumerated areas to Congress or the inherent powers of the federal courts extend beyond the kinds of powers (e.g., contempt sanctions, injunctions against conflicting proceedings) that are required to carry out the judicial function.
The Supreme Court made this quite clear in 1952 in rejecting President Truman’s effort to use the exigencies of the Korean War as an excuse to seize steel mills. Justice Jackson, in his concurring opinion in that case (which I would recommend re-reading in its entirety), made this point succintly:
There are indications that the Constitution did not contemplate that the title Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy will constitute him also Commander in Chief of the country, its industries and its inhabitants. He has no monopoly of “war powers,” whatever they are. While Congress cannot deprive the President of the command of the army and navy, only Congress can provide him an army or navy to command. It is also empowered to make rules for the “Government and Regulation of land and naval Forces,” by which it may, to some unknown extent, impinge upon even command functions.
Justice Jackson also aptly described how the President’s powers act in combination with those of Congress:
1. When the President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress, his authority is at its maximum, for it includes all that he possesses in his own right plus all that Congress can delegate. In these circumstances, and in these only, may he be said (for what it may be worth) to personify the federal sovereignty. If his act is held unconstitutional under these circumstances, it usually means that the Federal Government, as an undivided whole, lacks power. A seizure executed by the President pursuant to an Act of Congress would be supported by the strongest of presumptions and the widest latitude of judicial interpretation, and the burden of persuasion would rest heavily upon any who might attack it.
2. When the President acts in absence of either a congressional grant or denial of authority, he can only rely upon his own independent powers, but there is a zone of twilight in which he and Congress may have concurrent authority, or in which its distribution is uncertain. Therefore, congressional inertia, indifference or quiescence may sometimes, at least, as a practical matter, enable, if not invite, measures on independent presidential responsibility. In this area, any actual test of power is likely to depend on the imperatives of events and contemporary imponderables, rather than on abstract theories of law.
3. When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb, for then he can rely only upon his own constitutional powers minus any constitutional powers of Congress over the matter. Courts can sustain exclusive presidential control in such a case only by disabling the Congress from acting upon the subject. Presidential claim to a power at once so conclusive and preclusive must be scrutinized with caution, for what is at stake is the equilibrium established by our constitutional system.
The Administration and its defenders have argued – and I would agree – that the use of espionage and surveillance against foreign enemies, including electronic surveillance, is a necessary incident of the power to act as Commander in Chief by virtue of being an ancient and well-recognized weapon of war, albeit one that is enhanced by modern technologies unforseen in the time of the Framers. The extension of this authority to surveillance of enemy actions, agents and associates within the territory of the United States is not in any way unsual: would the President need a warrant to spy on an invading army once it has crossed the border? Had you suggested this to James Madison after the British Army torched the White House, he would have been horrified. Anyway, the DOJ letter detailing the Administration’s position notes that this position has been upheld in the courts (although I confess I haven’t read the cases).
So, yes: the power to conduct the limited surveillance at issue – on declared foreign enemies of the United States and their agents and associates within our borders – is unquestionably within the inherent authority of the Commander-in-Chief. Thus, the only questions are whether that authority has been expanded or restricted by Congress and whether it is elsewhere restricted by the Constitution.
2. Statutory Authority
In light of Justice Jackson’s framework, two Congressional enactments are at issue. The first is the authorization to use military force against Al Qaeda. The DOJ letter makes clear that this “AUMF” augments the president’s constitutional authority:
The AUMF authorizes the President “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, . . . in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.” Sec. 2(a), The AUMF clearly contemplates action within the United States, See also id. pmbl. (the attacks of September 11 “render it both necessary and appropriate that the United States exercise its rights to self-defense and to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad”).
The AUMF cannot be read as limited to authorizing the use of force against Afghanistan, as some have argued. Indeed, those who directly “committed” the attacks of September 11 resided in the
United States for months before those attacks. The reality of the September 11 plot demonstrates that the authorization of force covers activities both on foreign soil and in America.
In Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 (2004), the Supreme Court addressed the scope of the AUMF. At least five Justices concluded that the AUMF authorized the President to detain a U.S. citizen in the United States because “detention to prevent a combatant’s return to the battlefield is a fundamental incident of waging war” and is therefore included in the “necessary and appropriate force” authorized by the Congress. Id. at 5 18-19 (plurality opinion of O’Connor, J.); see id. at 587 (Thomas, J., dissenting). These five Justices concluded that the AUMF “clearly and unmistakably authorize[s]” the “fundaniental incident[s] of waging war.” Id. at 5 18-19 (plurality opinion); see id. at 587 (Thomas, J., dissenting).
Communications intelligence targeted at the enemy is a fundamental incident of the use of military force. Indeed, throughout history, signals intelligence has formed a critical part of waging war. In the Civil War, each side tapped the telegraph lines of the other. In the World Wars, the United States intercepted telegrams into and out of the country. The AUMF cannot be read to exclude this long-recognized and essential authority to conduct communications intelligence targeted at the enemy.
The second statute at issue is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”). I will discuss FISA below, as it is impossible to separate the question of what powers FISA grants the President from what restrictions it imposes on him; in my view, the question of whether the NSA program can be squared with FISA is the only substantial question of law or policy in this whole brouhaha. But bear in mind that, even under Justice Jackson’s third prong – which expresses deep skepticism about the scope of presidential authority when exercised in the teeth of a contrary federal statute – if the President violates an Act of Congress that does not render his actions automatically unlawful any more than the Supreme Court acts unlawfully in holding an Act of Congress to be unconstitutional; in either case, the question is whether a coordinate branch of government has properly or improperly concluded that Congress has overstepped the legitimate bounds of its authority.
B. Limitations on the President’s Powers
1. Constitutional Limitations
The main Constitutional limit – really the only one of significance here – is the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment provides:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
As a number of courts and scholars, most notably Yale Law Professor Akhil Amar have argued, the touchstone of any Fourth Amendment analysis is reasonableness, not the presence of a warrant. Warrants are often required in domestic law enforcement as a prophylactic measure to ensure that searches and seizures are reasonable, but the caselaw is rife with exceptions to the warrant requirement, from “hot pursuit” and other exigent circumstance cases to certain good-faith errors in the warrant process to stops-and-frisks on the street; there’s nothing in the Fourth Amendment that protects anyone against electronic eavesdropping without a warrant if, under the circumstances, such eavesdropping is reasonable. And again, I dare anyone to argue that such eavesdropping in the situations the NSA program actually aims at – communications initiated by members and associates of Al Qaeda and associated groups operating outside the US – is unreasonable. The fact that there are other communications as to which such eavesdropping would be unreasonable is entirely beside the point.
2. Statutory Limitations
This brings us to FISA. I am, I confess, no expert on FISA. Put briefly, FISA – enacted in the 1970s as part of the reaction to Watergate-era disclosures of excessive use of domestic spying – purports to be the exclusive avenue for executive authority to use such surveillance. The statute provides:
Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year if the Attorney General certifies in writing under oath that–
(A) the electronic surveillance is solely directed at–
(i) the acquisition of the contents of communications transmitted by means of communications used exclusively between or among foreign powers, as defined in section 1801(a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title; or
(ii) the acquisition of technical intelligence, other than the spoken communications of individuals, from property or premises under the open and exclusive control of a foreign power, as defined in section 1801(a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title; [and]
(B) there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party.
The statute’s definition of “foreign power” breaks down as follows:
(1) a foreign government or any component thereof, whether or not recognized by the United States;
(2) a faction of a foreign nation or nations, not substantially composed of United States persons;
(3) an entity that is openly acknowledged by a foreign government or governments to be directed and controlled by such foreign government or governments;
(4) a group engaged in international terrorism or activities in preparation therefor;
(5) a foreign-based political organization, not substantially composed of United States persons; or
(6) an entity that is directed and controlled by a foreign government or governments.
Notably, the DOJ letter does not argue that the surveillance at issue complied with any of these exeptions (I wonder whether the Attorney General ever provided the required certifications to fit within them). Instead, the DOJ argues that, because the AUMF gave the president war-fighting powers against Al Qaeda, those war-fighting powers – which necessarily include the power of electronic surveillance as an incident of war – follow Al Qaeda wherever it may be, including within the United States. Thus, the argument goes, the AUMF has implicitly repealed FISA within the limited scope of surveillance against Al Qaeda and other parties determined by the President to be behind the September 11 attacks.
Orin Kerr, whose opinion I greatly respect, isn’t a FISA expert either but it’s a lot closer to his areas of expertise than mine, and his detailed analysis concludes that the NSA program violated FISA, and that the AUMF probably doesn’t repeal FISA in this circumstance. Cass Sunstein, one of the nation’s two or three most prominent liberal law professors and generally – though I usually disagree with him – a serious guy, believes that the AUMF probably should be read as repealing FISA for this limited purpose, a point he makes in this blog post and expands upon in this interview with Hugh Hewitt:
[I]f the president is just restricted to al Qaeda, and al Qaeda’s friends, then he’s on very firm ground under the authorization. If, on the other hand, the president has been engaging in wiretapping of people whose connection to al Qaeda is very uncertain and indirect, then the authorization is less helpful for him.
I guess I’d say there are a couple of possibilities. One is that we should interpret FISA conformably with the president’s Constitutional authority. So if FISA is ambiguous, or its applicability is in question, the prudent thing to do, as the first President Bush liked to say, is to interpret it so that FISA doesn’t compromise the president’s Constitutional power. And that’s very reasonable, given the fact that there’s an authorization to wage war, and you cannot wage war without engaging in surveillance. If FISA is interpreted as preventing the president from doing what he did here, then the president does have an argument that the FISA so interpreted is unconstitutional. So I don’t think any president would relinquish the argument that the Congress lacks the authority to prevent him from acting in a way that protects national security, by engaging in foreign surveillance under the specific circumstances of post-9/11.
I should note here, in support of Sunstein’s point about the ambiguity of FISA’s coverage and of its implied repeal by the AUMF, that the conclusion that FISA was violated is hardly bulletproof; Leon H of RedState makes a plausible argument as to why the exceptions apply, with citations to some caselaw. Again, I’m not a FISA expert and I haven’t read the cases.
Is the DOJ’s argument a slam dunk? Hardly. This is a close call in a number of ways. But I agree with Sunstein that, when you consider that the president acted in ways consistent with both his express constitutional authority and his authorization to use force, and not inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment, and in an area in which FISA itself may be ambiguous and may well have been implicitly repealed by the AUMF, the prudent conclusion is that the president does have the constitutional authority to do what is, to my mind, unquestionably the right thing: pursue Al Qaeda at top speed wherever it may operate, in or out of the United States.
You know, re-reading this characteristically incisive Mark Steyn column, it occurred to me that if we do wind up in a military confrontation of some sort with Iran’s new saber-rattling fanatic of a president, all the usual suspects on the Left are going to burst into a chorus of how you must believe Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and not George W. Bush, if Bush says that the Iranians are dangerously close to having a fully armed and operational nuclear arsenal.
Which brings to mind an important point about rounding up political support for the American position in such a confrontation. Many politicians in the Democratic party went on record, on the basis of their review of the applicable intelligence, as saying that Iraq had and/or was working on weapons of mass destruction. Now, of course, many of them want to disclaim those statements and say they don’t believe Bush, Clinton, Blair and the other heads of state who said Saddam had or was working on WMD.
Well, if the Democrats claim to be wiser now, they need to be asked point-blank: are the Iranians dangerously close to getting nuclear weapons in the next 2-3 years, or sooner? And they need to be willing to stand by their answers, knowing that if they say “no” and are proven wrong, they will have shown to the American people their willingness to err on the side of underestimating threats to national security, if that’s the posture they want to take.
Cheney Goes East
The Vice President visits Iraq. It’s getting to be about time for President Bush to return to Iraq as well. While it’s obviously a security nightmare to handle these visits, given what a huge target the President or Vice President is, we’ve got more than enough people risking life and limb over there to justify another trip.
The Last Milestone
I’ve been terribly delinquent in not writing more about the Iraqi elections this week, but I didn’t have anything new to add. Smash and Steven den Beste discuss the implications for terrorism in Iraq: Smash says Al Qaeda has to know it is finished, while den Beste cautions that Iraqi Sunnis will continue to use terrorism as a political tool.
Only the former, of course, is our problem; the difficulty of managing the ethnic and sectarian tensions within Iraq was inevitably going to be a problem once Saddam was gone whether we invaded or not, as was the case in the former Yugoslavia. By establishing democratic institutions and training Iraqi forces, we have given the Iraqis the tools they will need to deal with the problem in the future.
This week’s elections represent, in a real sense, the last milestone to political victory in Iraq. We already had military victory in the broad sense when we conquered Iraqi territory and overthrew the old regime. Military victory against the insurgency, particularly the foreign terrorist element, has been slower in coming, and it’s not done yet, not until we can complete the job of training Iraqi forces that can do the job themselves (a job that’s a good deal further along than it was a year ago) and take down the bulk of the remaining foreign fighters. But on the political side, there’s really nothing left to do except what Iraqis have to do themselves.
Don’t forget to check the full coverage of the Iraqi election by U.S. and Iraqi bloggers at No End But Victory.
What’s Farsi for “Mein Kampf”?
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad engages in some Holocaust denial and suggests that Israelis should be relocated to Europe. (More here, as even Reuters can’t spin this story to create an equivalence between Israel and Iran).
You know you have a bad case of Holocaust denial when it prompts Germany to call your ambassador on the carpet, Russia to denounce your Israel-bashing, and even Kofi Annan to express “shock”.
Ahmadinejad’s remarks raise again the question: when a world leader threatens the unspeakable, to we take him at his word? Nobody took Hitler at his word until it was too late. We didn’t really take bin Laden at his word until after September 11. On the other hand, even today there are those who argue that we should ignore the words of Saddam Hussein, relentlessly calling for jihad against America and trumpeting the September 11 attacks, in determining whether he was a threat.
We have Ahmadinejad’s thinking, in his own words. Will we do anything before it’s too late?
Great KC Star story about Rob McGovern, Holy Cross class of ’89 and a 4-year veteran of the Kansas City Chiefs, who has spent the past four years as a JAG lawyer in Afghanistan and Iraq. There was a whole family of McGoverns that played football at HC – they all went to Bergen Catholic, my high school’s hated arch rivals (the BC football team was also the Crusaders).
Taking the “New” Out of “News”
The Washington Times on how coverage of Guantanamo Bay is outdated, including the fact that most of the photos used in news stories about Gitmo are from Camp X-Ray, which closed in April 2002.
A Seymour Hersh Reader
Since the subject came up in the comments, I thought I’d offer a little reading list on the issue of Seymour Hersh’s credibility. Some of these are rather long, a few raise duplicative subjects, and some are obviously written by people with axes to grind, but the sheer mass of problems with Hersh’s writings and speeches, combined with the near-impossibility of confirming the truth of most of Hersh’s anonymously-sourced claims, makes it foolish in the extreme to take Hersh’s reporting at face value:
*Long 2003 profile of Hersh by Scott Sherman in the Columbia Journalism Review, focusing among others on the credibility problems that led to Hersh’s departure from the New York Times.
*Wikipedia on Hersh’s tendency to “fudge” in speeches.
*Barbara Comstock at National Review (May 2004) on Hersh’s rap sheet, focusing on his book on the Kennedys and other books.
*Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette (May 2004) on Hersh misrepresenting the Abu Ghraib investigation.
*John Miller at National Review (December 2001) on Hersh an anonymous sources, focusing on the Kennedy book and his reporting on Afghanistan in 2001.
*Max Boot in the LA Times (January 2005) on various Hersh misstatements.
*Lowell Ponte in FrontPageMag (May 2004) on Hersh’s history, with skeptical quotes from several liberal journalists, reference to a 1991 book sourced to a scam artist and criticism of Hersh’s reporting on Chile in the 1970s.
*Dafydd ab Hugh email posted at Powerline (May 2004) noting an obvious misrepresentation of the Taguba Report.
*Michael Totten (November 2005) on Hersh’s distortion of the assassination of Rafik Hariri.
*Scott Shuger in Slate (November 2001) on Hersh’s Afghanistan reportage.
*Jason Maoz of The Jewish Press (January 1999) summarizing multiple attacks on Hersh’s credibility.
*Two Pentagon press releases (May 2004 and January 2005) directly challenging Hersh’s reporting.
Expanding the Battlefield
Reading through the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq put out by the White House yesterday, my mind kept coming back to the idea of expanding the battlefield. It is, however, a concept much easier said than done.
One of the themes in the National Strategy is essentially a version of the “flypaper” theory:
Prevailing in Iraq will help us win the war on terror.
+The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. And we must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war on terror.
+Osama Bin Laden has declared that the “third world war…is raging” in Iraq, and it will end there, in “either victory and glory, or misery and humiliation.”
+Bin Laden’s deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri has declared Iraq to be “the place for the greatest battle,” where he hopes to “expel the Americans” and then spread “the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq.”
+Al Qaida in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has openly declared that “we fight today in Iraq, and tomorrow in the Land of the Two Holy Places, and after there the west.”
+As the terrorists themselves recognize, the outcome in Iraq — success or failure — is critical to the outcome in the broader war on terrorism.
Essentially, the idea is that, by removing Saddam Hussein’s terror-sponsoring tyranny and clearing the path for the first-ever free representative democracy in the Arab world, we have forced Al Qaeda and others sharing its basic ideology to fight us at a time and in a place of our choosing; both sides now recognize that the victor in Iraq will be in an immeasurably stronger position, both strategically and on the propaganda front, to pursue its goals throughout the region. Of course, Iraq was, aside from the other reasons for war, well-suited to this role for many reasons: the population was bone-tired of tyranny, the Kurdish north had developed institutions of self-government, the Shi-ite majority would not be receptive to foreign Sunni fanatics, and the terrain is more favorable to U.S. military technological advantages than, say, mountainous Afghanistan.
None of this is to say that the insurgency has been a good thing, but rather that the situation was one in which we could deal a blow to the enemy whether they fought or not. It is the recognition of that challenge that has compelled them to fight.
Anyway, part of the battle in Iraq has been essentially a war of attrition: we’ve been killing the enemy in large numbers and draining their financial and operational resources, while they have sought to find the magic number of U.S. casualties that will cause us to buckle and turn tail. Obviously, one of the major questions about this kind of war is to what extent the manpower and resources of the global enemy are finite, as opposed to being expanded by conflict. The National Strategy identifies three groups fighting our troops in Iraq:
Rejectionists are the largest group. They are largely Sunni Arabs who have not embraced the shift from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to a democratically governed state. Not all Sunni Arabs fall into this category. But those that do are against a new Iraq in which they are no longer the privileged elite. Most of these rejectionists opposed the new constitution, but many in their ranks are recognizing that opting out of the democratic process has hurt their interests.
We judge that over time many in this group will increasingly support a democratic Iraq provided that the federal government protects minority rights and the legitimate interests of all communities.
Saddamists and former regime loyalists harbor dreams of reestablishing a Ba’athist dictatorship and have played a lead role in fomenting wider sentiment against the Iraqi government and the Coalition.
We judge that few from this group can be won over to support a democratic Iraq, but that this group can be marginalized to the point where it can and will be defeated by Iraqi forces.
Terrorists affiliated with or inspired by Al Qaida make up the smallest enemy group but are the most lethal and pose the most immediate threat because (1) they are responsible for the most dramatic atrocities, which kill the most people and function as a recruiting tool for further terrorism and (2) they espouse the extreme goals of Osama Bin Laden — chaos in Iraq which will allow them to establish a base for toppling Iraq’s neighbors and launching attacks outside the region and against the U.S. homeland.
The terrorists have identified Iraq as central to their global aspirations. For that reason, terrorists and extremists from all parts of the Middle East and North Africa have found their way to Iraq and made common cause with indigenous religious extremists and former members of Saddam’s regime. This group cannot be won over and must be defeated — killed or captured — through sustained counterterrorism operations.
The first two groups are unique to Iraq, although similar factions would exist elsewhere. But it’s the third group we are interested in fighting worldwide. I suspect that there is, in fact, some element of truth to the idea that the Iraq War “created” more terrorists in the third group, in the sense that conflict always enables extremists to rally more people to their banners. It’s impossible to quantify that effect, though, and the bottom line is that this brand of extremist comes from the pool of those who are already strongly sympathetic to the jihadists. I have to believe that there remain real limits to how much manpower and financial and operational resources the jihadis can call upon.
That’s where the concept of expanding the battlefield comes into play. At present, U.S. forces are operating in two theaters where the enemy needs to put resources into fighting us – Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the lessons both of the Cold War and the two World Wars, however, is that America’s deep vein of untapped financial, technological and manpower resources gives us a major strategic advantage in war once we can open enough different fronts to force the enemy to become overextended. This is particularly true when we can call upon the assistance of allies, at least to the extent of assisting us within their homelands and home regions. Even after years of controvesry over Iraq, we still have a few allies willing and able to commit major resources to the war on terror generally (the UK, Israel, and Australia) a few others willing and able to commit major resources locally (notably India and Russia), and a wider variety of allies willing to make partial commitments (the French and Germans have reportedly been quite helpful on the law enforcement side) or to offer case-by-case assistance.
But how do we bring those advantages to bear? The obvious answer would be to fight another war, displacing another terror-sponsoring tyranny in the Arab and/or Muslim worlds with a fledgling democracy. While it may yet be necessary to go to war with Syria and/or Iran, however, I don’t really need to list here all the reasons why we shouldn’t be eager for another war if it’s not strictly necessary to the overall victory in the war on terror.
The Cold War would seem to offer a partial operational model. During the Reagan years, after all, we found many ways to put pressure on the Communist world without committing U.S. troops to another full-scale war like Vietnam and Korea. Some of those methods, like a budget-busting state vs. state nuclear arms race, can’t be replicated here. But the strategy of promoting proxy battles against the Soviets, forcing up the cost of penetrating places like Afghanistan and Central America, while promoting democracy movements in the Soviet heartland in Eastern Europe, can be a partial model. After all, if we can encourage peaceful (or violent) movements towards democracy in multiple other states at once, we can compel the enemy to divert scarce resources away from Iraq to try to prevent democratic norms – which are anathema to the jihadists – from taking root across the region. The National Strategy identifies the opportunities:
[C]hange is coming to the region, with Syrian occupation ended and democracy emerging in Lebanon, and free elections and new leadership in the Palestinian Territories. From Kuwait to Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt, there are stirrings of political pluralism, often for the first time in generations.
While none of this is new, the commentary on these stirrings of democracy have tended to focus on two aspects: (1) the idea that our ideals are being vindicated and (2) the idea that we are progressing towards long-term regional goals. But that overlooks the strategic advantage of pressing for more democracy, more liberty, and, yes, more destabilization of existing regimes now and all at once: the more places on the map we can turn into vital interests that the enemy needs to address by dispatching terrorists, money and other operational resources to battle against the forces of democratization and liberty, the more it helps us win everywhere. Regardless of how we go about it, that’s the effect we need to be thinking about in the context of expanding the battlefield.
When the history of the decision to go to war in Iraq is written, there’s one fact that I have to believe will get more attention than it does today: the fact that Saddam Hussein hired terrorists to murder George H.W. Bush.
On one level, it’s not hard to see why this hasn’t been a larger part of the story. War supporters, focusing on the case for war in our broad national interests, have been loathe to focus on a casus belli of uniquely personal interest to the president. War opponents have two motives: those who ascribe the war to ideological or pro-Israel neocon perfidy or to “blood for oil” can’t bear to admit that the wrongdoing of Saddam Hussein played a greater role, and besides, admitting that a terrorist attack by Saddam’s regime was one of the causes of the war requires opponents of the war to admit the very thing they have consistently contended was unthinkable: Iraqi planning and initiation of a cross-border terrorist attack.
The Bush Administration has likewise mostly shied away from this storyline, with the notable exception being aSeptember 2002 GOP fundraiser where Bush referred to Saddam as “the guy who tried to kill my dad.” Even personality-driven commentators like Maureen Dowd have tended to focus on the connection of the war to Bush’s father as being more about unfinished business from the first Gulf War than about revenge for attempted murder. As to the Arab world – well, many parts of Arab society remain traditionally clannish and patriarchal, and in such a society, it’s hard to think of a better reason to go to war than an attempt on the life of the patriarch of the family. Thus, to denounce the war on terms agreeable to many Arabs, it’s necessary to gloss over this fact.
The basic facts are essentially undisputed, and laid out in detail in Stephen Hayes’ masterful book The Connection: in 1993, Saddam’s regime sent two assassins, Iraqi nationals, into Kuwait with explosives and orders to set off bombs with the hope of killing Bush (and, presumably, lots of bystanders in the process). One of the men even carried a suicide bomber’s belt. President Clinton said at the time – in a nationally televised speech – that there was “compelling evidence” of the plot, that it “was directed and pursued by the Iraqi Intelligence Service,” and his Secretary of Defense stated that “[t]he evidence is very conclusive” that the plot “would have had to have been approved by the highest levels of the Iraqi government.” Of course, while the men were presumably picked to provide deniability to the Iraqi government – one was a Shiite who had been involved in an anti-Saddam uprising – their subsequent capture and exposure carried the obvious lesson that using domestic Iraqi nationals still made such operations too easy to trace.
Now, the decision to go to war is, and should be, a decision made in the nation’s interest, and not for the satisfaction of the president’s personal grudges. And, like most supporters of the war, I’m content to justify it on those grounds, and think it unlikely that the many grounds for war were somehow a pretext. (Although some might say that Bush has unique moral authority on the subject of the dangers of the Iraqi dictator as a result of the targeting of his family) But realistically, you would expect the attempt to blow up the president’s father to affect the decisionmaking process. Put yourself in Bush’s shoes: if you were asked to decide whether Saddam Hussein would ever get involved with terrorism, wouldn’t it affect the way you looked at the evidence that Saddam had already attempted a terrorist attack designed to kill a member of your family? And isn’t that, in fact, an entirely logical and natural way to approach such a question?
Closing Bases in Iraq
Kathryn Jean Lopez noted last week the handover of Forward Operating Base Danger in Iraq to Iraqi forces, the 29th such transition so far. Now, first of all, the larger trend ought to be big news. That’s a lot of bases, and even if they don’t lead immediately to a draw-down of U.S. troop strength, they represent tangible evidence of a growing ability to trust the Iraqi forces with security of particular locations. This is what the exit strategy looks like, and should look like: Iraq for the Iraqis.
Of course, FOB Danger has a special significance because of its location: Saddam’s own home town of Tikrit, which has at times been a hotbed of insurgent activity. The base was previously occupied first by the 4th Infantry Division, then the 1st, and then the 42nd Infantry Division of the New York National Guard.
Regular readers of this site will also recognize FOB Danger as the operating base of then-pseudonymous guest blogger “Andy Tollhaus” (who recounted watching the 2004 ALCS there) since identified here and in Dan Shaughnessy’s book “Reversing the Curse.” During the time the base was controlled by the New York National Guard, it was also the site of the murder, in June, of Phillip Esposito and Louis Allen by one of their own men; Esposito was from near my home town in Rockland County.
Hey, That’s Not Diplomatic!
Bravely Calling Retreat
No End But Victory provides a concise summation of the fraud that is the Kos-led Left’s claim that white phosphorous used by U.S. troops in Iraq is a chemical weapon. And yes, I do question the patriotism of anyone – especially an Army veteran like Kos, who must know better – who pushes such an obvious falsehood, providing useful propaganda for the enemy, for the purpose of harming a U.S. war effort. Lord Haw-Haw couldn’t do more than this.
Proceed With Caution
Rumors of this type are a dime a dozen, but keep your eye on the latest rumor that a U.S. raid killed Zarqawi:
U.S. forces sealed off a house in the northern city of Mosul where eight suspected al-Qaida members died in a gunfight — some by their own hand to avoid capture. A U.S. official said Sunday that efforts were under way to determine if terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was among the dead.
In Washington, a U.S. official said the identities of the terror suspects killed in the Saturday raid was unknown. Asked if they could include al-Zarqawi, the official replied: “There are efforts under way to determine if he was killed.”
Deny, Deny, Deny
This Matt Yglesias post is an interesting example of WMD revisionism. Yglesias sites, as an “outlandish” example of “some of the things the administration said before the war” the following statement by Dick Cheney in March 2003:
I have argued in the past, and would again, if we had been able to pre-empt the attacks of 9/11 would we have done it? And I think absolutely. We have to be prepared now to take the kind of bold action that’s being contemplated with respect to Iraq in order to ensure that we don’t get hit with a devastating attack when the terrorists’ organization gets married up with a rogue state that’s willing to provide it with the kinds of deadly capabilities that Saddam Hussein has developed and used over the years.
(Emphasis mine). First of all, what, precisely, is wrong with this statement? Yes, we expected to find more in the way of WMD when we got into Iraq, and that absence has a variety of troubling implications. But you can’t well deny that Saddam had developed chemical and biological weapons in the past, had tried to develop nuclear weapons in the past, had actually used chemical weapons, had hired terrorists and worked with various international terrorist groups in the past, regarded the US as an enemy, and had a tremendous motive and every opportunity to use such groups to carry out attacks against his enemies that could not easily be traced back to him.
Yglesias says only that “[t]here was absolutely no reason to believe that invading Iraq in March 2003 would be a good way to pre-empt a WMD terrorist attack on the American homeland sponsored by Iraq.” But why not? First of all, as of March 2003, the possibility of Saddam sponsoring such a WMD attack at some point in the future was not zero, and was even more emphatically not zero based on the best imperfect information that was available then or going to be available any time soon. Saddam had the motive and the opportunity, and even the various postwar reports have indicated that he had a long-term strategy to develop the means once he could finish the nearly completed task of undermining the corrupt and ineffectual sanctions regime.
Today, by contrast, the chance that the Iraqi regime will sponsor such an attack on the US is zero, and will remain that way for the foreseeable future.
If Yglesias’ point is that the degree of the threat was overstated by implication in Cheney’s statement – well, fair enough. Reasonable minds can differ on that. But as I read his post, Yglesias is either saying there was zero chance of such an attack or that the odds were not reduced by the invasion. And that’s nonsense.
Trust But Verify
Apparently, the Russians will now be responsible for keeping Iran’s nuclear program peaceful. Which may be a workable plan in the short run – I can’t think Putin wants to see another unstable neighbor with nukes – but it still falls under the heading of “never thought I’d live to see the day.”
Bin Laden to U.S.: ” “
It’s quiet. Too quiet?
The Tuskeegee Airmen’s Last Mission
At least, one would assume it’s their last, as the oldest troops yet are sent to Iraq:
Lt. Col. Herbert Carter is 86 years old and ready for deployment. . . . Col. Carter is one of seven aging Tuskegee Airmen traveling this weekend to Balad, Iraq – a city ravaged by roadside bombs and insurgent activity – to inspire a younger generation of airmen who carry on the traditions of the storied 332nd Fighter Group.
“I don’t think it hurts to have someone who can empathize with them and offer them encouragement,” he said.
The three-day visit was put together by officials with the U.S. Central Command Air Forces to link the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen with a new generation.
Read the whole thing.
Could the war be moving back to New York City?
A “credible threat” to the subway system has prompted a vast mobilization of police officers, law enforcement sources said today.
Hundreds of officers were expected to be dispatched as early as this afternoon to every station in Manhattan — and possibly system wide — to thwart the attack, which was said to timed to the Jewish High Holidays and the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
According to sources in intelligence, emergency services and police headquarters, when three Iraqi insurgents were arrested several days ago during a raid by a joint FBI-CIA team, one of those caught disclosed the threat. Because it slipped out during the arrest, the plot was deemed credible.
After several days of work, sources said, the NYPD is increasingly concerned because it has been unable to discredit the initial source and additional information from the source.
The 19 operatives were to place improvised explosive devices in the subways using briefcases, according to two sources. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said officers will continue to check bags, briefcases and strollers, and additional uniformed and undercover officers will be riding in individual subway cars.
I’m a little confused here – were FBI agents in Iraq? If this “source” was arrested in the U.S., why refer to him as an “Iraqi insurgent”?
Question: If he was arrested in Iraq and his information helps thwart a terror attack in New York, does that help or hurt the case for U.S. troops remaining in Iraq?
Putin Says He’ll Go
Vladimir Putin continues to insist he will respect the term limits in Russia’s constitution and step down in 2008. Which is good news, although it remains to be seen if he will follow through. Putin also had some KGB humor to offer Russian TV viewers in a nationally televised interview:
“I do not see my goal as sitting in the Kremlin endlessly and having Channels One, Two and Three constantly show the same face, and if someone chooses a different channel, the FSB director would appear on the screen and tell viewers to go back to the first three channels,” he said during the nearly three-hour program, alluding to a joke from Soviet times. The FSB is the domestic successor of the KGB, the feared Soviet security service.
From The Horse’s . . .
The lead segment recounted Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which the narrator proclaimed as a “great victory,” while showing Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia walking and talking among celebrating compatriots.
That was followed by a repeat of a pledge on Sept. 14 by Abu Musab Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, to wage all-out war on Iraq’s Shiite Muslims. An image of Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born Sunni Muslim, remained on the screen for about half the broadcast.
The masked announcer also reported that a group called the Islamic Army in Iraq claimed to have launched chemical-armed rockets at American forces in Baghdad. A video clip showed five rockets fired in succession from behind a sand berm as an off-screen voice yelled “God is great” in Arabic. The Islamic Army asserted responsibility last year for the killing of Enzo Baldoni, an Italian journalist who had been kidnapped in Iraq.
A commercial break of sorts followed, which previewed a movie, “Total Jihad,” directed by Mousslim Mouwaheed. The ad was in English, suggesting that the target audience might be Muslims living in Britain and the United States.
The final segment was about Hurricane Katrina. “The whole Muslim world was filled with joy” at the disaster, the anchorman said. He went on to say that President Bush was “completely humiliated by his obvious incapacity to face the wrath of God, who battered New Orleans, city of homosexuals.” Hurricane Ophelia’s brush with North Carolina was also mentioned.
KATRINA: Making FEMA a First Responder
We’ve heard a lot lately about the notion that FEMA should have taken, and should take in the future, a more leading role in making the federal government, in effect, a first responder to natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Now, there’s a fair debate here over whether the federal government ought to improve its ability to respond quickly with redundant capacity to provide emergency supplies, evacuation, etc. in the event that state or local first responders are for one reason or another incapacitated.
But we should resist, at all costs, the idea (pushed by Mickey Kaus, among others) that the federal government should centralize a greater amount of the nation’s first-response capacity. Let’s look at two aspects of this problem.
Let’s think rationally here, in terms Osama bin Laden would understand, and we – as long as we’re fighting him, or fighting anybody else, for that matter – can ill afford to forget. We have two choices:
A. Centralize disaster-response with FEMA, with the heads of DHS and FEMA and the President personally responsible for making the crucial decisions.
B. Decentralize disaster-response, with decisionmaking power in the hands of 50 Governors and scores of Mayors.
Even the leader of a ragtag terrorist operation can tell you that decentralizing authority into local cells that can operate on their own for long stretches makes you less vulnerable to your enemies. The more we centralize our response to disasters with FEMA, the more we hand our enemies the ability to cripple our response to multiple simultaneous attacks in different parts of the country. Imagine if Flight 93 had hit the White House – wouldn’t it then have been a particularly good thing that Rudy and Pataki could put the NYPD and NYFD into action without awaiting word from Uncle Sam? Why on earth should our response to this disaster be to centralize rather than distribute our ability to respond in a crisis?
2. Local Knowledge
As critics of the Iraq War never tire of reminding us – and, for that matter, as opponents of the Vietnam War often noted – for out-of-towners, there’s no substitute for knowing the neighborhood. Even closer to home, consider the lesson of the 2004 election. As was much remarked at the time, outside of the big cities – where Democrats had longstanding political machines skilled in getting voters to the polls on Election Day – Republican get-out-the-vote efforts were generally more successful than those of the Democratic side, in part because the Republican “GOTV” operation was carried out locally by local voters, whereas the Democrats in many areas were dependent upon outside groups. While you can debate the degree of importance of this factor, virtually every post-mortem on the election concluded that the Democrats need to improve their local grassroots operations.
What has this got to do with disaster preparedness? Quite a lot, actually. Just as with voter turnout, getting people to evacuate a city or gather in a safe shelter is a job in which there’s just no substitute for local knowledge. You have to know who lives where, how to persuade them to budge, and you have to know the fastest way out of Dodge. And even moreso than in doing Election Day turnout, you don’t have time to learn all of that in the chaos of a disaster or an attack that may give just a few days’ or hours’ warning, if even that much.
By all means, let’s talk about improving the federal response to disasters; regardless of who deserves credit and blame for the response to Hurricane Katrina, nobody who watched the unfolding of events in New Orleans could conclude that there is no room left for improvement at all levels. But in so doing, let’s not make ourselves more dependent upon Washington and less reliant on the people who are in the best position to know their own turf.
Time To Plan The Victory Parade
June 12, 2007, will mark the 20th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin. While I suppose I would prefer a more obviously non-partisan anniversary (the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech is in March 2006, which is probably too soon to plan something like this with everything else that’s going on), this would seem as good an anniversary as ever to plan something that should have been done long, long ago: a victory parade in the nation’s capital for America’s veterans of the Cold War.
In past wars, America celebrated victory with parades suitable to honor the returning soldier. That was never done for Vietnam, and as far as I know, it wasn’t done for Korea, either. While the veterans of those wars are mostly still with us, it’s past time to rectify that omission with a celebration that truly embraces their sacrifice and honors their contribution to ultimate victory over Communism.
The main reasons, I suspect, for not having a formal celebration back when the Cold War ended were (1) the way the “long, twilight struggle” ended in gradual stages and (2) a desire to let sleeping dogs lie by not rubbing Russia’s face in its defeat at a time when we were trying to coax it to democracy. 15 years on, those considerations are less pressing. And it could have a salutary effect in the current struggle to remind the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan that their country has the will to win a long struggle and a long enough memory that their sacrifices won’t soon be forgotten, even when we hit setbacks and ask them to fight battles that end with a whimper rather than a bang.
Whether the anniversary of the Reagan speech is used as the jumping-off point or not, of course, there’s no reason why a parade honoring veterans of Korea, Vietnam and other, smaller Cold War battles would not be a genuinely bipartisan event, as there are numerous members of both parties in Congress and elsewhere who fought in those wars and would or should be interested in a formal display of honor for their former comrades in arms.
What are we waiting for?
Equal Time for Terror?
Steven Spielberg’s upcoming movie about the 1972 Palestinian terrorist attacks on the Israeli Olympic team in Munich is bound to stir controversy; I’m withholding my own opinion until I see it. But this is ridiculous:
Steven Spielberg has been criticized by the only surviving Palestinian terrorist behind the massacre at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany, because the director failed to consult him over his new movie dramatization of the tragic events.
So, who did he call? Well, I’ll give you one guess . . .
Mohammed Daoud was a member of terror group Black September in the early 1970s and was responsible for the deaths of 11 Israelis in Munich’s Olympic Village. He has been on the run ever since. But Daoud is so angry with Spielberg’s supposedly pro-Israel stance in new film Munich, he contacted news agency Reuters to put forward his side of the story. He says, “If someone really wanted to tell the truth about what happened he should talk to the people involved, people who know the truth. Were I contacted, I would tell the truth. (Israel) carried out vengeance against people who had nothing to do with the Munich attack, people who were merely politically active or had ties with the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization).”
The Chavez Menace
Julian Sanchez, in Reason Online, gives an overview of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez and the fascist thuggery and regional meddling (including support for FARC terrorists in perenially unstable neighboring Colombia) that characterize his regime.
More background on Chavez:
*Thor Halvorssen, in OpinionJournal.com, on Chavez’ brownshirts.
*Ivan Osorio, in NRO, on a former Venezuelan Air Force major who claims that Chavez gave money to Al Qaeda. I’m not so sure about this one, but as Osorio notes, Chavez has adopted the classic rogue state pose of befriending anyone he can find who hates and threatens America.
*An older NR profile.
Unfortunately, Otto Reich’s May 2005 NR cover story – an article that hit close enough to home to be denounced by Fidel Castro – is not available online.
MORE: A few from Instapundit’s archives here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
ONE MORE: Also from NRO.
Actually, this is only tangentially related to the war – in that people were afraid of a suicide bomber – but it’s pretty horrible nonetheless.
RELIGION: It’s Just Pat
We hardly needed his latest blunder – publicly musing about the wisdom of assassinating Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez – to remind us that Pat Robertson is a fool and a liability to the conservative cause. (And proof that a good resume is no substitute for good judgment: among Robertson’s attainments, in addition to his ministry, he is a graduate of Yale Law School and a combat veteran as a Marine in the Korean War).
What’s so grating about this remark is that Robertson is a man of God, and as such ought to be much more careful about indulging speculation about resorting to violence than the average public figure. Assassinating tyrants may well be morally justifiable, but if a man of the cloth can’t at least offer caution and restraint on our impulses in that direction, he’s really not doing Jesus or His followers any favors.
And in that regard, this is considerably more problematic than just praying for the Lord to engage in some Old Testament-style smiting of Chavez. That, after all, is the distinction I find so troubling about many Muslim leaders; as I’ve written before:
I have no problem with people who believe that God is going to send me to Hell for being a Catholic. They believe their thing, and I believe mine. I have a major problem with people who think that they, rather than God Himself, should send me there.
(More on related topics here, here and here).
Of course, unlike many of the pronouncements of radical mullahs, nobody can seriously believe that anyone will threaten the life of Chavez as a result of Robertson’s statement, so it’s not really comparable in terms of the direct mischief caused. Instead, what’s much more damaging about Robertson is simply that it gives Chavez, who like most tyrants thrives on his self-arrogated role as a victim of American plots, an excuse to further consolidate his power and spread yet more anti-American propaganda in Latin America. Thanks, Pat. You’ve given the real bad guys ammunition just as much as Dick Durbin ever did.
Finally, two last notes:
*Predictably, there was no such hue and cry when George Stephanopolous called for assassinating Saddam in 1997. (Via Wizbang). But in fairness, the situations were not the same. Chavez was orignally democratically elected, and while his re-election was likely the result of violent intimidation and outright fraud, he has considerably more plausible claims to some sort of legitimacy than Saddam did. Also, by 1997 we’d been to war with Saddam once, and appeared to be on the eve of war with him again as part of his decade-long failure to comply with the terms of the cease-fire; he’d tried to assassinate a former US president himself, he was openly paying terrorists in Israel, he’d been to war with Kuwait and Iran and bombed Israel and Saudi Arabia, he’d used chemical weapons in battle and against his own people . . . you know the drill. Chavez has made all sorts of trouble and promises more to come, but he doesn’t (yet) have the kind of rap sheet Saddam did as far as putting himself beyond the pale of even the kind of conduct we have wearily grown to expect from rogue states, let alone civilized nations.
*Byron York argues that Robertson isn’t as irrelevant to conservatism as some commentators make him out to be. Although he may in some ways be right, I find York’s argument a bit unconvincing, as all he really points to is Robertson’s TV ratings, and not everyone who still watches his show necessarily takes his political meanderings all that seriously.
Best Worst Option
Go read Stephen Green on what Israel gets out of withdrawing from Gaza.
BONUS LINK: Mark Steyn on Cindy Sheehan (more from me on her later, hopefully). (Registration required, but worth it to read Steyn’s Spectator columns regularly).
The King Is Dead
I have to regard the death of Saudi Arabia’s long-ailing King Fahd as a good thing. Of course, in an ideal world, we’d be dealing with a more democratic Saudi Arabia, but it’s hard to see that as a realistic prospect until a lot of the more tractable situations in the region have been moved in that direction. In the meantime, the diffuse and feudal power structure of Saudi Arabia all too often seems to hand us all the difficulties of dealing with an autocracy as an ally but none of the benefits. While that structure is likely to remain unchanged in its fundamental nature, and while I still would not be trusting or optimistic in dealing with now-King Abdullah, you have to figure that Abdullah’s ascension to the formal role of King will help him solidify his power and give the West a slightly clearer picture of who is in charge over there.
Tony the Tiger
Tony Blair tells it like it is:
“September 11 for me was a wake up call. Do you know what I think the problem is? That a lot of the world woke up for a short time and then turned over and went back to sleep again,” he said.
“We are not going to deal with this problem, with the roots as deep as they are, until we confront these people at every single level. And not just their methods but their ideas,” Blair said.
While rejecting suggestions he had claimed the London bombings had nothing to do with Iraq, Blair said there was no justification for terrorism.
“Let us expose the obscenity of these people saying it is concern for Iraq that drives them to terrorism,” Blair said.
“If it is concern for Iraq then why are they driving a car bomb into the middle of a group of children and killing them?” Blair said.
“They will always have a reason and I am not saying any of these things don’t affect their warped reasoning and warped logic.
“But I do say we shouldn’t compromise with it. Whatever justification these people use, I do not believe we should give one inch to them.”
“There is no justification for suicide bombing whether in Palestine, Iraq, in Egypt, in Turkey, anywhere.”
By contrast, we have London Mayor “Red Ken” Livingston, who has already resumed his slumbers:
“If at the end of the First World War we had done what we promised the Arabs, which was to let them be free and have their own governments, and kept out of Arab affairs, and just bought their oil, rather than feeling we had to control the flow of oil, I suspect this wouldn’t have arisen.”
Yeah, blame Churchill and Lloyd George, not the guys who get on buses with bombs. And Livingston’s historical analysis is, in any event, off the mark. The Saudis have never been ruled by the West. Iraq was a League of Nations mandate after the Ottoman Empire collapsed, but became independent in 1932. The places that were longer under the British flag were Palestine/Jordan/Israel and Pakistan/India, neither of which had any oil (and India’s doing fine). Same with Syria, which was French (of course) until 1946. Egypt, also oil-less, acquired some independence in 1922 and full independence after WW2. Afghanistan has never successfully been ruled from outside (or inside, for that matter). The fact is, the Muslim and Arab worlds have never been as heavily influenced or controlled by Europe and the United States as were many parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, or Latin America.
And for those who would dig further back than World War I for origins, if you trace the battle between Islam and the West to its original roots, you have to ask who invaded Spain, who invaded Greece, who overran the Byzantine Empire, who got as far as Vienna and would have put the whole of Christian Europe to the choice of the sword or the Koran. We in the West don’t brood over those initial assaults, but they do serve as a counterpoint to the notion that only the West has ever sought to impose its will and vision on its neighbors.
Saddam and Abu Sayyaf
A question for my left-leaning readers, who I can usually count on to be vocal. I am inspired by this Pejman post disputing this Kevin Drum post, both of which discuss the Saddam-Al Qaeda relationship mainly at the level of conclusions from reports. But the relationship is, to my mind, better understood by the conclusions that can be drawn from specific facts.
In reading Stephen Hayes’ book “The Connection,” one of the more striking and telling facts, to me, was the expulsion of an Iraqi embassy official named Hisham Hussein from the Philippines following an October 2002 suicide bombing by Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf terrorists at a cafe/bar frequented by US soldiers from a nearby base. The bombing killed one American soldier and wounded another. Phone records and surveillance tied the Iraqi official directly to Abu Sayyaf leaders (including records of calls on a captured cell phone that was to have been used for another bombing). And one Abu Sayyaf leader claimed that Iraq had been financing them to the tune of about $20,000 per year.
Now, you can argue that one bombing and one dead soldier do not make a casus belli, and that Abu Sayyaf was, in and of itself, a pretty local actor. But Hayes’ presentation of this incident (echoed in other reports) makes pretty clear that the connection to Abu Sayyaf demonstrated the Saddam regime’s willingness – even after September 11 – to continue to support, finance and associate with Al Qaeda-linked militant Islamic suicide bombers whose only conceivable connection to Saddam’s regional interests was their attacks on Americans wherever they might be found. And that willingness – denied so heatedly by so many bloggers and pundits on the Left – was, after, all, at the very core of the case for war with Iraq.
So here’s the question. So far as I can tell, no liberal blogger or pundit has ever attempted to grapple with Iraq’s involvement in financing and associating with Abu Sayyaf. (This mostly fact-free Media Matters broadside against Hayes, for example, mainly attacks Douglas Feith and Rupert Murdoch). Have I missed something?
Srebrenica, Ten Years On
The Wall Street Journal remembers Srebrenica, ten years later:
Ten years ago today, Bosnian Serb forces under the command of General Ratko Mladic entered the Bosnian Muslim town of Srebrenica, then being defended by Dutch peacekeepers. General Mladic made three demands: that the townsmen surrender their weapons; that all males between the ages of 12 and 77 be separated out for “questioning”; and that the rest of the population be expelled to Muslim areas. Within two days, 23,000 women and children had been deported. Another 5,000 Muslim men and boys who had taken refuge on a nearby Dutch base were also delivered to the Mladic forces.
As we now know, most of the people surrendered by the Dutch to the Serbs were slaughtered, as were more than 2,000 others, bringing the estimated tally of the Srebrenica massacre to 7,200. Yet the scale of the atrocity alone is not why we remember it. We remember because the men of Srebrenica were betrayed by their ostensible protectors, and that carries some lessons for today.
It was . . . unclear whether the U.N. soldiers in safe areas were actually authorized to use force to defend the people in their care. Worst of all, the price Muslims paid for U.N. protection was to abandon their weapons, which they did within a week of the safe areas’ creation.
. . . Europeans alternated between half-measures and attempts at negotiation with the Serbs, even as they exposed thousands of their own soldiers to risk in futile operations. When Margaret Thatcher, by then a former prime minister, called Serb atrocities “evil” and said “humanitarian aid is not enough,” her views were dismissed by British Defense Minister Malcolm Rifkind as “emotional nonsense.”
It’s easy enough to mock the UN and the Europeans for failing to live up to even the limited mission objectives they set for themselves. But the real problem at Srebrenica was a problem I’ve written about before: deploying troops without identifying an enemy and taking sides against that enemy. Had the Dutch seen the Bosnian Muslims as allies they needed to win the war, they would not have surrendered them to be slaughtered without a fight. More to the point, had the European powers seen themselves as being at war with Milosevic, they would never have allowed the situation to get that far; they would have done, at the barest minimum, what Clinton eventually did in Kosovo, and launched an air assault on Milosevic’s troops. And they should, were they serious, have done more than that, and resolved to smash his war machine before it could inflict such atrocities.
This was the fundamental weakness of so many of the interventions of the 1990s: lacking the will to make war, the Western powers turned soldiers into sitting ducks, hunched in a defensive crouch, unable to protect the weak and the defenseless and unwilling to disable evildoers before they could carry out their plots. The contrast with our presence in Afghanistan and Iraq could not be clearer: while we are certainly engaged there as well in “nation-building,” the main role of our soldiers is to hunt down the enemy, and our mission objectives are not in any way limited to being reactive.
Now, I confess that I didn’t follow the crises in the Balkans closely enough in the 1990s to have a firm opinion at the time of what should be done, and even in retrospect I can’t say for certain what the right answer was. As in Vietnam, there were hard choices and no good ones. But Srebrenica was the worst of both worlds: without the UN, the Bosnian Muslims could at least have remained armed to defend themselves.
I was fond of saying at the time that the US should not draw its sword in anger lightly, unless we were willing to keep it unsheathed until the job was done, and that lesson remains a vivid one today. There is peace, and there is war. Pretending you can play a halfway game between the two is a recipe for more Srebrenicas.
Another Lesson of Vietnam
Wretchard makes an important point about Iraq:
Unfortunately, the more ferocious the Sunni attacks on the Shi’ites and Kurds, the less likely they are to agree on the expulsion of their guarantor. The Shi’ites and Kurds will remember the real lesson from Vietnam: how easily Washington abandons its allies after ground troops have been withdrawn. The American antiwar Left drew a peculiar and narrow lesson from Southeast Asia. For the rest of the world the moral of Vietnam is that if you are going to fight a war with American help it is essential to keep them engaged until victory or your entire constituency will wind up refugees.
For this reason, the creation of a new Iraqi constitution and government is of paramount importance to the US. The longer it stays in power, the more likely it is going to become a permanent fixture. By another irony which guerilla strategists may appreciate, it is America that wins in Iraq for so long as it is isn’t defeated.
Atrios, Pandagon, Kos, and – more disturbingly, if it proves predictive of how the Democratic leadership will respond – at least one Democratic congresswoman I’m aware of, are all suggesting that today’s London bombings prove that the “flypaper theory” is demonstrably false, this despite the documented fact of thousands upon thousands of jihadis pouring into Iraq each month, where many of them will be killed.
Which, for a group of people who claim to be so nuanced, things really are quite black and white in the reality-based community: if we can’t take down every dictator simultaneously, we shouldn’t take down even one; if a terror attack happens outside of Iraq, the thousands of terrorists we’re killing inside Iraq are no longer part of the equation.
It is infantile to expect every terror attack outside of Iraq can be stopped; and it is ridiculous to extrapolate from a single terror attack the lesson that somehow our entire longterm strategy for defeating Islamic terrorism is faulty.
UPDATE: Two things. First, I should make clear that the post title, “Simpletons,” refers to the people Goldstein is criticizing, not to the discussion that follows on Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum. Second, Kos’ critique of the “flypaper” theory – that attracting terrorists to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight the US military reduces the number of terrorists available elsewhere in the world – is actually disproven by data cited by Kos himself, as this Steve Verdon analysis makes clear (see the chart at the end showing trends in terror attacks outside the Middle East). Via Vodkapundit.
Meanwhile, Josh Marshall is taking the “Fortress America” view that this sort of thing can be stopped by better homeland security:
The immediate answer to this is to hunt down the people immediately responsible, root out the primarily-non-state terror networks that support, plan and make these attacks possible and start getting about serious homeland defense — port security, rail security, nuclear power plant security.
On that last count, what we’ve accomplished in the US over the last few years has been painfully inadequate, largely because of our focus on nation-states that have only a tenuous connection to this threat . . .
Of course, everyone wants to hunt down the individual terrorists, not that Marshall has any special insight into how you do that, nor any explanation of how you do it when they can fall back into the territory of sympathetic states (ask yourself how Saddam would have responded to requests for help in tracking down the various terrorists who received refuge within his borders). But the insistence that the strategy can be limited to manhunts and securing targets (heck, Marshall doesn’t even mention border security) is impossibly naive.
On the other hand, there’s Kevin Drum, writing the day before the London attacks:
This is pretty much at the heart of the liberal/conservative divide over Iraq. Is our real battle with terrorists themselves? Or is it with the fact that far too many people are sympathetic with their aims?
George Bush and his advisors appear to believe the former. I believe the latter. Al-Qaeda itself, even if you count all its far flung and loosely affiliated partners, doesn’t number more than a few thousand, most of them ill-trained and poorly educated zealots. It’s foolish to underestimate them – they’ve proven over and again that they’re a deadly enemy that needs to be extinguished – but it’s equally foolish to compare them to fascism or communism as existential threats.
That might change in the future, but only if they retain the support of substantial segments of the Islamic population. It’s popular support that’s the real threat, but conservatives seem flatly unwilling to admit this publicly for fear of looking soft. That’s squishy liberal pap! Conservatives prefer direct action!
But . . . military force can sometimes make the long term problem worse – and right now, that appears to be pretty much where we’re headed. As long as 10-20% of the Islamic world is actively on the side of al-Qaeda, there’s not much chance of ever truly defeating them. So far, though, most of our actions in the Middle East have just made this worse. When are we going to get serious about taking on the real enemy?
I take Drum at his word that he accurately states his own view. But as you can see, Marshall takes precisely the view Drum projects onto conservatives, i.e., viewing all this just as a manhunt. And it was repeatedly made apparent throughout last year’s presidential campaign that John Kerry and Howard Dean took the same tack.
In fact, while it may be true tht Bush has sometimes been maddeningly vague in his talk of fighting “terrorists,” it could not be clearer that the “forward strategy of freedom” espoused by Bush, his Administration and the great bulk of its supporters among conservative pundits and bloggers is aimed directly at the realization that you can’t stop with the manhunts themselves, you have to change the conditions in the Muslim/Arab worlds, both by removing state sponsors of terror and by replacing them with states that are more responsive to their own peoples’ needs, in ways that reduce the pressure that gets redirected against the United States and its allies (especially Israel). The focus on killing the hard-core jihadists in battle in Iraq and Afghanistan is only one piece of this broader strategy.
In other words, Drum’s portrayal of his differences with conservatives is entirely incorrect – unless you correct it to state that it’s really his beef with his own party and many of its leading lights. Instead, Drum is really disagreeing with the Right only as to means, i.e., his belief that military action is not useful in toppling tyrants, or at least is more trouble than it’s worth. While that’s a debate that’s worth having (and that we have had, ad nauseum), it would be more useful to recognize that he has the philosophical battle lines drawn backwards.
UPDATE: Stephen Green has some additional thoughts on that Josh Marshall piece.
Terror in London
Head over to Instapundit for a roundup on the terror attacks in London and The Command Post for updates throughout the day.
Obviously, attacks on big-city commuters make me particularly jumpy. A reminder, as if one were needed, that the war goes on, the task is not done, and the security in big urban areas will never be enough. Keep pulling them out at the roots; it’s the only way.
UPDATE: Well, this is cheery:
The London bombings are likely part of a wider al Qaeda summer offensive. A letter attributed to Osama bin Laden addressed to the Muslim community (ummah) surfaced in Pakistan on June 20, stating that he was “preparing for the next round of jihad.” He wrote that “we want to give good news to the Muslim ummah that, with the blessings of Almighty Allah, we have been successful in reorganizing ourselves and are going to launch a jihadi program that is absolutely in accordance with the changed situation.” He stated that new recruits were ready, and that they were armed with the weapons of the enemy (no indication what that means exactly). He also threatened the rulers of Muslim countries who have not signed onto his program (which is all of them, at least publicly). More foreign fighters have appeared and are active in Afghanistan and diplomats from Muslim countries are being systematically targeted in Iraq.
Empty bravado, perhaps. It often has been. But not always.
SECOND UPDATE: More to come?
A British reaction.
Mark Steyn, writing before the attacks in this week’s London Spectator:
It feels like summer. Summer 2001, that is. Then, as now, Africa was in the news. There was a big UN conference on ‘racism’ in Durban the week before 11 September. Remember that? They demanded America pay reparations – for the Rwandan genocide. And Robert Mugabe was cheered to the rafters when he called on the United States and the United Kingdom to ‘apologise unreservedly for their crimes against humanity’.
Four years later, plus ca change. . . in different ways, at Ground Zero and in Hyde Park, we’ve taken four years to come back to where we were on 10 September 2001.
Read the whole thing.
Rudy Giuliani was near the site of the first bombing this morning. It’s like Bruce Willis in Die Hard II: what are the odds on that?
The Hostage Taker
Yeah, it sure looks like Iran’s new president was heavily involved in the taking of American hostages. Rusty has the pictures to prove it, and lots more.
These days, everyone’s a media critic.
On The Same Page
From the looks of this, it’s about time to update this post again.
Why They Will Lose
Good Max Boot effort setting out the major reasons why the insurgency can’t and won’t win. His points about the lack of a leader and lack of territory are significant, and you would hope that the ex-Baathists and other misguided nationalists in the movement would begin to realize that they are playing a losing hand.
On the other hand, neither factor would prevent the country from slipping into civil war or just plain chaos, which may be the real goal here. The problem, especially with regard to the foreign jihadis, is the extent to which war with America is an end in itself. The problem with fighting nihilists is that you can’t take their nothing away from them. The best we can do on that score is (1) as Boot suggests, do a better job of sealing the Syrian border and (2) keep preparing the Iraqi military to carryu on the fight, since the real endgame for us here is having an Iraqi force willing and able to defend its own territory.
UPDATE: I do think the time will come when we will want and need a fixed exit date from Iraq, once we feel that the Iraqi forces are ready (just as we had fixed dates for the transfer of sovereignty and the Iraqi elections). But setting such a date more than a few months in advance of that day would be a disaster, for reasons Chester explains. And setting an October 2006 date – transparently linked to the 2006 Congressional elections rather than the facts on the ground – would be nothing but politics.
Godspeed, Phil Carter
Off to Iraq. Via Instapundit.
Thanks, and Prayers
Who Died at Gitmo?
One of the unfortunate ironies of the furor over Guantanamo Bay (as noted here) is that, while over 100 prisoners have died in U.S. custody, approximately 27 under suspicious or questionable circumstances, there do not appear to have been any deaths at Guantanamo Bay. A fact confirmed by Dick Durbin himself:
Q: I guess one of the reasons people are having such a hard time with this one, is when comparisons are made and you use names like Nazis and Soviet gulags, when you are talking Nazis there were what, 9 million people killed in the camps there. The gulags had about 3 million and so forth. And I know Gitmo is not the Holiday Inn down there, but I don’t think anyone has died down there, have they?
Durbin: No, that’s true. In all fairness, they did not. But I don’t believe we were dealing with deaths at Abu Ghraib either. We were dealing with a situation where when people saw the digital camera photographs, they said “My God! Americans should not be involved in that kind of conduct.”
June 15, 2005 editorial in the leading Egyptian government daily Al-Akhbar:
All the evidence proves that Abu Mus’ab Al-Zarqawi is working for America, because his victims are Iraqis and not [members of] the coalition forces under the command of the American occupation forces in Iraq. . . .
Let’s read the statement issued two days ago on behalf of Al-Zarqawi in Iraq after he killed and wounded dozens of people from among the Interior Ministry and Iraqi army forces, by means of booby-trapped cars in a number of cities in Iraq!
Raising a few questions is unavoidable in order to clarify the situation and [to understand] who this Al-Zarqawi with Jordanian nationality is.
One of the questions is: which of the two should Al-Zarqawi oppose – the American occupation army and the foreign coalition forces, or the Iraqi military and police forces?! The statement issued by Al-Zarqawi and his organization says that they struck and killed dozens of [members of] the Interior Ministry and Iraqi army forces, whereas there was no mention of Al-Zarqawi targeting the American occupation forces and the coalition forces of the various nationalities. [In fact,] the statement did not even mention the occupation army in Iraq!
[W]hy is Al-Zarqawi massacring innocent Iraqi citizens and [members of] the Iraqi National Guard, the Iraqi army and the Iraqi Interior Ministry? Al-Zarqawi undeniably aims to harm the Iraqi people and members of the Iraqi forces, who undergo training to protect [their] homeland in the future. This massacre of the Iraqi forces and the Iraqi people is meant to strengthen the American occupation of the region . . .
You could call this more evidence of paranoid anti-Americanism from a nominal ally, Egypt. But is there more to this? After all, if you read between the lines here, the Egyptians are (1) denouncing al-Zarqawi for attacking Iraqis, (2) noting the obvious fact that any violence in Iraq only serves to prolong the U.S. military presence, and (3) going out of its way to note that Zarqawi is a (Jordanian) foreigner attacking Iraqis. Baby steps, cloaked in the language of baroque conspiracy theory, but steps in the right direction nonetheless, perhaps.