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.