Thursday, December 31, 2009

Iraq War: Zero

It looks like 2009 closes out with the lowest possible number there can be for US soldier hostile-fire fatalities in a month: The big ZERO!

There were 4 non-hostile fire US soldier fatalities in Iraq this December, so December 2009 will go down as the new record low for US soldier fatalities in a month.

The last Iraq War US soldier hostile-fire fatality came on November 22nd, which is obviously a record span of time between incidents. The last Iraq War US soldier non-hostile fire fatality came on December 11th and this also sets a new record span of time in the Iraq War without a US soldier fatality.

For the year there were 75 US soldier hostile-fire fatalities and 75 US soldier non-hostile fire fatalities making this the least deadly year of the conflict.

Update: It turns out there were 74 US soldier hostile-fire fatalities, not 75.

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Years Resolution for Obama to Consider

I wonder if some time into the new year we can spare a Marine Expeditionary Unit or two for a little whack, stack, and scatter a mole in Yemen. I bet with the right prep we could quickly go in, kill and capture a bunch of bad guys and steal intel then get right back out. Surprise attack, minimal losses.

Update: I was under the impression that Yemen was a fairly small country. In reality it is not with a population of 24 Million and an area bigger than Iraq. So it's not exactly Panama.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

31 Straight Days

Today marks the 31st day in a row without a hostile fire US soldier fatality in Iraq.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Double Awesomes

False Memory Syndrome by The Dignified Rant. Just another example of Obama's selective history. Money Quote:
The consensus of the world? The "world" did indeed decide to confront Saddam over Kuwait, as expressed with a Security Council resolution approving war.

But somebody forgot to tell the president that his party shouted "stop the world, we want to get off!"

Follow the link for the real history.

No new troops: Germany admits, it wasn’t Bush, we just don’t do hard stuff by Free Frank Warner on Germany/Europes shameful wankerishness.

Money Quote:
"Help US"? This battle is to help Afghanistan

Monday, December 14, 2009

Is it War?

My oldest brother Jeff and the rest of my family have very different worldviews. My family really isn't big in talking politics, so I don't know any of my 3 brothers political views in detail but to give you an idea Jeff lists his Political views on Facebook as Green Party/Progressive. Another thing I should note about Jeff is that he is in his final year of law school.

Tonight one of my nieces had a pre-school Christmas program and the Minnesocold branch of the family got together beforehand to have dinner. At the end of dinner my mom and brother Jeff actually did get into politics. I tried to stay out of the conversation as it started out revolving around Sarah Palin and I am no Palinite like my mom.

Somewhere along the way they got off of Palin and onto Obama and Jeff made a comment about supporting the closing of Gitmo. At that point my Dad jumped in asking him if he thought our enemies in this war should be tried in US courts. My brother went right to one of my Dad's premises and questioned whether or not the situation we are in is war. And then he made the statement that he did not believe our position vis a vis Al Qaeda was war because "wars are between nations and in this instance we are not fighting a nation." The nuance of that blinded me and I didn't catch what he said next and it was time to leave so the discussion ended there.

So is my brother right or is it war?

I just have to shake my head at my brothers dubious philosophical and legal distinctions which are precisely that because Al Qaeda doesn't recognise such conceits. Al Qaeda in their own conceit does not recognise our Western institutions, jurisprudence, or conventions. I suppose there is a touch of irony in that in my brother with his post-modern and multiculturally tinted worldview can't see or understand this forest from the trees.

I can best sum it up this way. You may not want to recognise them as a real "nation" but that isn't gonna stop them from having a real Army full of militias that kill people and break things, therefore we better get our heads in their game.

US and International law may not define Al Qaeda as a government of a "nation" or "state" but Al Qaeda very much views themselves as the guiding force of a real nation responsible for real geographic territory. In their capacity as the guiding force of their nation they raise, train, and field a real Army for the defence of that territory and for the conquest of additional territories. In the capacity as a guiding force of their nation they have indeed declared real war on the United States of America and the governments and populations of many other nations. I think it is silly to argue this isn't war, when clearly their cat hunts as if it were a dog.

Their militia is an Army, and their Army from cannon fodder to commanders are war criminals if ever there was such a category of criminals. Maybe my brother, along with US and International Law need to get up to speed and keep up with reality on this one.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Very Good Speech

Remarks by the President at the Acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize
December 10, 2009

Here are the highlights from my perspective:
But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.
But the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions -- not just treaties and declarations -- that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest -- because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.
I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. That's why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace.

America's commitment to global security will never waver. But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. America alone cannot secure the peace. This is true in Afghanistan. This is true in failed states like Somalia, where terrorism and piracy is joined by famine and human suffering. And sadly, it will continue to be true in unstable regions for years to come.

The leaders and soldiers of NATO countries, and other friends and allies, demonstrate this truth through the capacity and courage they've shown in Afghanistan. But in many countries, there is a disconnect between the efforts of those who serve and the ambivalence of the broader public. I understand why war is not popular, but I also know this: The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice. That's why NATO continues to be indispensable. That's why we must strengthen U.N. and regional peacekeeping, and not leave the task to a few countries. That's why we honor those who return home from peacekeeping and training abroad to Oslo and Rome; to Ottawa and Sydney; to Dhaka and Kigali -- we honor them not as makers of war, but of wagers -- but as wagers of peace.

First, in dealing with those nations that break rules and laws, I believe that we must develop alternatives to violence that are tough enough to actually change behavior -- for if we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure -- and such pressure exists only when the world stands together as one.

(Let us remember that in no small measure the regime of Saddam Hussein stood because of corruption of the United Nations and nations like France, Germany, Russia, and China that did business both legal and illicit with Saddam.)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Two Important War Questions

How lethal can your enemy get?

How long can your enemy sustain it's highest levels of lethality?

I think these two questions are important to consider when thinking about the wars which we are waging. To be successful in waging a war you have to be able to take the best shot your enemy can give for as long as they can give it without a collapse of will on your sides part. When asking these these questions you are trying to figure out just how much sacrifice in "blood" a conflict will require. It is the most cold calculation of war and I think trying to answer it objectively is an important moral dimension if one is to support a war effort. Obviously during the various stages of the conflict seeking the answers is conjecture and only in retrospect can you know the awful truth.

In the Iraq War it now seems pretty clear that our enemies maximum level of lethality was to kill about 1000 US soldiers in a 12 month period and for 5 years they could sustain a level of lethality towards US soldiers that would take a toll of around 700 soldiers per year. In the 6th and 7th year of the Iraq conflict US soldier fatalities have plumeted and for our part it would appear that a military victory has been achieved at a very modest to low cost when the historty and scope of modern conflicts are considered. The damage done to Iraqi patriots and civilians has been much more considerable, but the blame for this lies squarely at the feet of insurgents who's strategy for victory was to cause as much murder and mayhem as they possibly could in order to sour US politicians in the hope that the politicians would call for retreat.

In regards to the War in Afghanistan it does not appear that we have yet seen how lethal the Taliban can be. Since 2005 the Taliban have progressively been showing more lethality each year with a significant jump in Coalition fatalities this year. With the additional escalation of Coalition forces planned for 2010 it would seem we will get a indication sooner rather than later about just how lethal the Taliban can be. Right now the conventional wisdom says that Coalition fatalities will continue to spike in 2010 with the "surge" and on the surface that makes sense as more boots on the ground means more targets of opportunity.

However, I have my doubts about just how strong the Taliban is and can be. The insurgents in Iraq proved they could bring a consistant level of resistance 24/7/365. The Taliban has no such capability with the Afghan terrain and weather being what they are. Also I think a big reason the Taliban has been able to show increasing lethality over the last few years is because the baselines have been kind of low to begin with each year until now.

I do think the Taliban may be able to maintain current to slightly higher levels of lethality for at least the next couple of years but I'm hoping that won't be enough to convince us to bug out.

Update: Now that the January 2010 Coalition fatality numbers are in. I have to admit I am on the surprised side on just how many casualties the Taliban were able to inflict this past month. However, I did hear a report that it has been a rather mild winter and that along with the increased troop pressence now in country explain the hike in fatalities in Jan..

Obama's Escalation Speech

It seems to me that he is not sending all the right messages with such a quick timetable for surge and withdrawal. On the one hand it does send the message to our Afghan allies that they must get their act together sooner rather than later, but What? about the messages this sends to the more neutral or negatively lined against us. I think it would have been much wiser to sketch a 5 to 6 year commitment verses one that for practical purposes lasts a year to a year in a half. If the Taliban are smart they will use the next year to do a lot of intimidation and not very much fighting.

Update: I've thought about it some more and think publicly announcing a date for deescalation is messed up, and just plain stupid. If you are going to put a timetable on this surge it would be far wiser to keep that information top secret and only share it with a small number of the most important Afghan officials. That way they get the message, but the Taliban and the neutrals don't. I think Obama took a huge and unnecessary risk by his public comments committing to a timetable for withdrawal.

Update: This is What? I regard as the best part of the speech:
Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies. We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions – from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank – that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.

We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes. But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades – a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, markets open, billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress, and advancing frontiers of human liberty.

For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for – and what we continue to fight for – is a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.

This said I think there was too many gratuitous moments and I find Obama's self reverential personal regard obnoxious.

The speech could have been a whole lot better, I give it a C.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Barney Frank Regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

I have been doing some research into the origins of the financial crisis and one of the figures that pops up is Barney Frank. I was already familiar with a line of argument that claimed Barney was a stalwart opponent of regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that the GOP wanted to use to reign in the Government Sponsored Enterprise's and that might have helped to avert the financial meltdown. However in doing my research I came across a Barney Frank hagiography done by the New Yorker that claimed just the opposite to be the case.

Here is the relevant passage:

In 2005, while the Democrats were still in the minority, Frank contributed to a bipartisan effort to put his objectives—tighter regulation of Fannie and Freddie and new funds for rental housing—into law. At the time, Fannie and Freddie were regulated by a small agency within the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the bill proposed to create an independent agency to monitor their operations. Frank and Michael Oxley, who was then chairman of the Financial Services Committee, achieved broad bipartisan support for the bill in the committee, and it passed the House. But the Senate never voted on the measure, in part because President Bush was likely to veto it.

So what is the truth?

This is where I think things get interesting.

The argument that he was against stricter regulation of Fannie and Freddie stems from the s.190, the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act Of 2005. This was a Senate bill sponsored by Chuck Hagel and Co-Sponsored by Libby Dole, John Sunnunu and John McCain, all of which are Republican Senators. From what I understand this bill never made it out of committee because Democrats were in lock step against it and few Republicans opposed it as well so it couldn't move out of committee. It could very well be that the Bill could not get the 60 votes needed for cloture and that is why it died in committee. Also from what I understand the Bush administration was fully in support of s.190.

The Frank/Oxley bill referred to in the New Yorker article is in fact H.R. 1461 The Federal Housing Finance Reform Act of 2005. What I don't know but strongly suspect (and seems to be confirmed by a Google Search) is that this H.R. 1461 was the companion House bill to s.190. Here is the thing, Oxley was only a Co-Sponsor and Frank was not a Co-Sponsor as the New Yorker Article seems to hint. In fact the Sponsor and all Co-Sponsors of H.R. 1461 were in fact Republicans. Barney apparently did vote the bill out of his committee, but when it came up for a vote in the House HE VOTED NAY. Funny that the New Yorker didn't mention that little detail.

Before the New Yorker article peddles the notion of Barney the regulator that I quoted it does talk about a Republican attack on Barney as obstructionist and in which we get this incredible leap into cynicism and lies on Frank and the hagiographers part:

“Before we are able to go forward with new and important changes to the over-all regulatory structure for our financial-services industry, I do believe that it is essential that we better understand just how we got into this problem,” Garrett said. “Now, one of the main parts of the problem was poor regulation in the past, specifically in the area of Fannie and Freddie.” According to Garrett, “our distinguished chairman” had no right “to claim the mantle of being a champion of reform with Fannie and Freddie.” On the contrary, Garrett argued, he and other Republicans had wanted to “raise the capital levels, to reduce the retained portfolios, to lower the conforming loan limits.”

Garrett’s accusations were genteel compared with those made by Bill O’Reilly, a few weeks earlier, when Frank appeared on his show on Fox News. “You blame everybody else! You’re a coward!” O’Reilly bellowed. “In any private concern, you’re out on your butt! But not here in the federal government!” Frank, in turn, berated O’Reilly for his “ranting” and “stupidity.” (The confrontation has been viewed more than a million times on YouTube.)

At the hearing, Frank responded testily to Garrett. “The purpose of this hearing was to be forward-looking,” he began. “And I had hoped we could focus on that. But, after the gentleman from New Jersey’s comments in having decried partisanship, he then practiced it. It does seem to me to be important to set the record clearly before us.” Frank pointed out that when Garrett had attempted to tighten regulations on Fannie and Freddie, Republicans had controlled the House. “Had a Republican majority been in favor of passing that bill, they would have done it,” Frank said. “Now he has claimed that it was we Democrats—myself—who blocked things. The number of occasions on which either Newt Gingrich or Tom DeLay consulted me about the specifics of legislation are far fewer than the gentleman from New Jersey seems to think.

“I will acknowledge that during the twelve years of Republican rule I was unable to stop them from impeaching Bill Clinton,” Frank went on. “I was unable to stop them from interfering in Terri Schiavo’s husband’s affairs. I was unable to stop their irresponsible tax cuts, the war in Iraq, and a Patriot Act that did not include civil liberties.” In other words, Frank insisted, if the Republicans had wanted to try to prevent the mortgage crisis, they would have had plenty of opportunities to do so.

The suggestion in the New Yorker that Bush would have vetoed the Bill H.R. 1461 had it gotten to him is ludicrous. It is however highly likely that s.190 could not get the needed 60 votes in the Senate because of Democratic opposition and that is why it was killed in committee. The notion that the Republicans could have brought it up for a vote without Democratic Party support is a lie and Frank isn't stupid.

Update: I have just now found out that Bush preferred s. 190 to H.R. 1461 and made this known. Apparently Oxley wasn't happy about this. But the reason why Bush took that position was because s. 190 was quite a bit tougher than H.R. 1461 which had been watered down to gain bi-partisan support in the House. Would Bush have vetoed H.R. 1461 had it come to his desk? That is highly doubtful seeing how Bush signed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, which was a Democratic party sponsored intiative that featured the same idea's as H.R. 1461. The problem with Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 is that it was too little and too late as far as reigning in Fannie and Freddie, the damage was done.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

No Matter Where You Go, There Are You

You must go, follow your star
No matter where you go, there you are
No matter where you go, there are you
So don't let go of what you know to be true

This is the chorus from a truly great song, "No Matter Where You Go, There Are You," by Irish Guitarist Luka Bloom. The story is about a Muslim who flees Algeria and ends up settling in Ireland due to the way Irish music moves him. Full lyrics here.

I think the song works because on a deep level it connects with the inner humanity with it's longing for nostalgia, beauty, music, freedom, and liberty. However, with all that said I am conflicted about the last line in the chorus.

So don't let go of what you know to be true

The problem as I see it is that there is no way around the fact that pretty much all of humanity is deceived in one way or another and "what you know to be true" might be anything but true. I hold to convictions that a great many people outright reject as false and vice versa. Are my convictions really truth or am I just another of the many deluded and deceived? I think I am with most people in the fact that I would prefer not to be deluded or deceived. However, we live in a time and a place where it is an open question whether or not truth exists or matters. Who is to really say if knowing what is actually true is better than being deluded and deceived? Maybe whatever floats your boat is as good as your gonna get, so why not just go with that right or wrong.

You must go, follow your star
No matter where you go, there you are
No matter where you go, there are you
So don't let go of what you know to be true

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rush to War

In the song I Am Not At War Luka Bloom sings "This rush to war was wrong" about the Iraq War. I think many who were and are against that war suffer under a delusion that there was a "rush to war" in Iraq. I think the actual history in the run up to the invasion tells a different story.

This from the blog The Dignified Rant:
And two, there was no "rush to war" in Iraq as the argument deployed by the White House asserts. The national debate lasted about a year from after the fall of Kabul to the invasion of Iraq, and included a Congressional debate and declaration of war and long efforts at the UN that got us a resolution reaffirming post-Desert Storm UN resolutions insisting Iraq prove it no longer had WMD or else. We had a long debate on starting that war, and the so-called "rush to war" was quite possibly the most telegraphed war in history.

And another thing.

People might not think about this or like to hear it, but in my mind it was pretty much inexcuseable for the nations of the UN Security Council to back Resolution 1441, but when the time came to put their money where their mouth was they backed out and would not approve a resolution making it clear it was time for Saddam Hussien to go or face war. I think had a resolution like that been approved than the war probably would have been avoided altogether.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

? Didn't write this but wish I did.

I don't agree with the idea of easing up in Afghanistan. This asymmetrical war is not about crushing the enemy and signing a peace treaty. It's about eroding the enemy's support among the populace and his will to fight.

These comments were made by Original MikeS at JustOneMinute Blog

It may seem counter intuitive to many that we should basically engage in a war of attrition with the Taliban; After all isn't that pretty much the Taliban strategy to beat us? War is expensive and blood is certainly not cheap but the same pretty much holds true for both sides relatively speaking (although to be honest blood is a lot cheaper to them than it is to us.) I may be wrong on this, but I do believe a big part of winning the the Iraq war was about attrition through a collapse of insurgent leadership and finance. Although it will be a bit more difficult I think the same basic path to victory can work in Afghanistan provided that this countries leadership commits itself to the task.

Unfortunately I am not sure Obama is up to this.

Here is a bit more from the same JustOneMinute blog comment section:

So - given the character of our leadership I would follow Tom Friedman, focus on transforming Iraq, and let Afghanistan slide.


Your lack of confidence in Obama is totally justified but with the greatest respect what reason is there to think that al Qaeda and the Taliban will stop at Afghanistan with Pakistan and its nukes next door? John Bolton doesn't think they will settle for Afghanistan and I agree with him.

It sucks when your enemy is prepared to fight for a hundred years.

Afghanistan is going to be extremely difficult to pacify but IMHO the choice here is between bad and infinitely worse

I third the notion that the fight in Afghanistan isn't so much about Afghanistan as it is about Pakistan and their nukes at this point. Pressure on the Taliban in Afghanistan is pressure on the Taliban in Pakistan who are waging a war in that country as well. At this point I firmly believe that keeping the Taliban occupied in Afghanistan keeps the most dedicated anti-western Sunni Jihadists focused on defending that Muslim land instead of on doing terrorism in the West or going for WMD's in Pakistan. Thankfully I think a debilitating weakness in the Jihadist worldview is that defending Muslim territory from the infidel seems to take precedence over pretty much everything else. I feel like the Jihadists are suckers for our military hard target and they just screw themselves when they take out their frustrations of not being able to expel the infidel out on fellow Muslims.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

On the Iraq Suicide Bombing of 10/25/09

Comment left at The Long War Journal
I don't think the doom and gloomers are very good analysts. This was not an attack on Shia, or Sunni, or Kurd, but a direct attack on the unified State of Iraq. I would say chances are pretty good in a blast this big that all three segments of Iraqi society were represented. If you want to re-kindle the civil war, I don't think this is the way to go about it.

I don't think the attack delegitimizes the state in the least. It does, however, serve to delegitimize the insurgency and provides for a propaganda bonanza for the state to demonise whoever they want to blame.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 Remembered

These are the lyrics to the song Violent Times by The Call, one of my favorite bands. The song was written in the early 80's, but I think it fits today, especially on 9/11, much better than it did then.

Still recovering from the loss
Still discovering from the loss
Violent times
Violent times
We honor friends who have passed away
Stolen years as we mourn today
Violent times

Careless teachers molding minds
Careless rulers eye for eye
Violent times
Violent times
Guarded cities
Forgotten souls
The sad neglect will take it's toll
These are violent times

Untamed passions
Primal rage
The child of hatred comes of age
Violent Times
Violent Times
With our outer nature have come to terms
The destructive nature crash and burn
These are Violent Times

Still recovering from the loss
Still discovering from the loss
Violent times

Just a post or 2 down is a previous 9/11 Post.