Commentary Magazine


Topic: Army

West Bank Shows There Is a Military Solution to Terror

The “expert” report Max cited yesterday, which declared Afghanistan unwinnable even while acknowledging progress in the war, reflects a broader problem: the claim that “there is no military solution to terror” has become virtually unchallenged dogma among Western intelligentsia. Yet as Israel’s experience in the West Bank shows, terrorist organizations can be defeated — if their opponents are willing to invest the requisite time and resources.

In March 2002, Israel was at the height of a terrorist war begun in 2000 that ultimately claimed more victims — mainly civilians — than all the terror of the preceding 53 years combined. Every day saw multiple attacks, and a day without fatalities was rare. But then Israel launched a multi-year military campaign that steadily reduced Israeli fatalities from a peak of 450 in 2002 to 13 in 2007.

Last month, Haaretz published two other statistics reflecting this success: the number of wanted terrorists in the West Bank, once in the hundreds, is now almost zero. And Israeli troop levels in the West Bank are lower than they have been since the first intifada began in 1987.

Western bon ton likes to credit these achievements to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and his American-trained security forces. But in reality, the number of Israelis killed by West Bank terror in the year before May 2008, when Fayyad’s forces began deploying, was all of eight — virtually identical to last year’s five and this year’s six. Indeed, had the war not already been over, Israel wouldn’t have agreed to Fayyad’s plan.

What produced this victory was the grunt work of counterterrorism: intelligence, arrests, interrogations, military operations, and, above all, enough boots on the ground long enough to make this possible. That wasn’t obvious in advance: as Haaretz reported, many senior Israel Defense Forces officers accepted the dogma that terrorist organizations can’t be defeated, because they have an infinite supply of new recruits. But then-Shin Bet security service chief Avi Dichter, who insisted that “the ‘terror barrel’ had a bottom,” proved correct.

What Dichter understood was that while there may be millions of potential terrorist recruits, counterterrorism can dry up the supply of actual recruits by making terrorism a business that doesn’t pay. The more terrorists you arrest or kill, the more potential recruits decide that the likelihood of death or imprisonment has become too high to make terror an attractive proposition.

Two articles, in 2007 and 2008, reveal how this dynamic works: Palestinian terrorists, once lionized, were now unmarriageable, because the near-certainty of Israeli retribution made marriage to a wanted man no life. As one father explained: “I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one. I want her to have a good life, without having the army coming into her house all the time to arrest her while her husband escapes into the streets.” And therefore, the terrorists were quitting.

Most terrorists aren’t die-hard fanatics, and non-fanatics respond to cost-benefit incentives. When terrorist organizations rule the roost, recruits will flock to their banner. But when the costs start outweighing the benefits, they will desert in droves. And then the “unwinnable” war is won.

The “expert” report Max cited yesterday, which declared Afghanistan unwinnable even while acknowledging progress in the war, reflects a broader problem: the claim that “there is no military solution to terror” has become virtually unchallenged dogma among Western intelligentsia. Yet as Israel’s experience in the West Bank shows, terrorist organizations can be defeated — if their opponents are willing to invest the requisite time and resources.

In March 2002, Israel was at the height of a terrorist war begun in 2000 that ultimately claimed more victims — mainly civilians — than all the terror of the preceding 53 years combined. Every day saw multiple attacks, and a day without fatalities was rare. But then Israel launched a multi-year military campaign that steadily reduced Israeli fatalities from a peak of 450 in 2002 to 13 in 2007.

Last month, Haaretz published two other statistics reflecting this success: the number of wanted terrorists in the West Bank, once in the hundreds, is now almost zero. And Israeli troop levels in the West Bank are lower than they have been since the first intifada began in 1987.

Western bon ton likes to credit these achievements to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and his American-trained security forces. But in reality, the number of Israelis killed by West Bank terror in the year before May 2008, when Fayyad’s forces began deploying, was all of eight — virtually identical to last year’s five and this year’s six. Indeed, had the war not already been over, Israel wouldn’t have agreed to Fayyad’s plan.

What produced this victory was the grunt work of counterterrorism: intelligence, arrests, interrogations, military operations, and, above all, enough boots on the ground long enough to make this possible. That wasn’t obvious in advance: as Haaretz reported, many senior Israel Defense Forces officers accepted the dogma that terrorist organizations can’t be defeated, because they have an infinite supply of new recruits. But then-Shin Bet security service chief Avi Dichter, who insisted that “the ‘terror barrel’ had a bottom,” proved correct.

What Dichter understood was that while there may be millions of potential terrorist recruits, counterterrorism can dry up the supply of actual recruits by making terrorism a business that doesn’t pay. The more terrorists you arrest or kill, the more potential recruits decide that the likelihood of death or imprisonment has become too high to make terror an attractive proposition.

Two articles, in 2007 and 2008, reveal how this dynamic works: Palestinian terrorists, once lionized, were now unmarriageable, because the near-certainty of Israeli retribution made marriage to a wanted man no life. As one father explained: “I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one. I want her to have a good life, without having the army coming into her house all the time to arrest her while her husband escapes into the streets.” And therefore, the terrorists were quitting.

Most terrorists aren’t die-hard fanatics, and non-fanatics respond to cost-benefit incentives. When terrorist organizations rule the roost, recruits will flock to their banner. But when the costs start outweighing the benefits, they will desert in droves. And then the “unwinnable” war is won.

Read Less

Applying Counterinsurgency Tactics Against Criminals

Americans are naturally focused on the counterinsurgency work being performed by our forces in Afghanistan and to a lesser extent in other areas of radical Islamist activity (e.g., Yemen and Pakistan). But there are many other insurgencies raging around the world and quite a few of them are primarily criminal not political. That is certainly the case in Mexico and Brazil — both countries that have seen their authority challenged by powerful gangs of drug traffickers.

Many of the same principles that apply in Afghanistan or Iraq also need to be observed in those countries. Chief among them is the importance of follow-through — the need to do not just “clear” operations but “clear, hold, and build.” That is something that U.S. forces have struggled with in the past, as have many other armed forces. Pakistan, for example, has not followed through in the Swat Valley, where its army attacked militants last year. There has been insufficient  development aid or security to keep the extremists from coming back.

I fear that Brazil might be making the same mistake when I read about its army and police making a celebrated sweep through the Alemão shantytown in Rio de Janiero — an area that has long been dominated by criminal gangs. My concern stems from this detail in a New York Times account of the recent operations:

It was also unclear how long the military and the police planned to stay, or how long they could.

Mr. Beltrame, Rio’s security secretary and the architect of the pacification program, has previously said that he did not expect to have enough officers to occupy either Alemão or Rocinha, another violent slum overhanging the city’s affluent South Zone, until next year.

If there are not enough forces to occupy the slum, then why bother clearing it in the first place? Odds are that the gangs will just come back and wreak vengeance on anyone who was seen as helping the forces of law and order. That, at least, has been the American experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Countries such as Brazil would do well to study the lessons of counterinsurgency as they battle criminals on their own turf.

Americans are naturally focused on the counterinsurgency work being performed by our forces in Afghanistan and to a lesser extent in other areas of radical Islamist activity (e.g., Yemen and Pakistan). But there are many other insurgencies raging around the world and quite a few of them are primarily criminal not political. That is certainly the case in Mexico and Brazil — both countries that have seen their authority challenged by powerful gangs of drug traffickers.

Many of the same principles that apply in Afghanistan or Iraq also need to be observed in those countries. Chief among them is the importance of follow-through — the need to do not just “clear” operations but “clear, hold, and build.” That is something that U.S. forces have struggled with in the past, as have many other armed forces. Pakistan, for example, has not followed through in the Swat Valley, where its army attacked militants last year. There has been insufficient  development aid or security to keep the extremists from coming back.

I fear that Brazil might be making the same mistake when I read about its army and police making a celebrated sweep through the Alemão shantytown in Rio de Janiero — an area that has long been dominated by criminal gangs. My concern stems from this detail in a New York Times account of the recent operations:

It was also unclear how long the military and the police planned to stay, or how long they could.

Mr. Beltrame, Rio’s security secretary and the architect of the pacification program, has previously said that he did not expect to have enough officers to occupy either Alemão or Rocinha, another violent slum overhanging the city’s affluent South Zone, until next year.

If there are not enough forces to occupy the slum, then why bother clearing it in the first place? Odds are that the gangs will just come back and wreak vengeance on anyone who was seen as helping the forces of law and order. That, at least, has been the American experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Countries such as Brazil would do well to study the lessons of counterinsurgency as they battle criminals on their own turf.

Read Less

Cut Defense Spending NOW?

The attack on North Korea — an act of war by any definition, even if not acknowledged as such — is a timely reminder that the suggestions floating around to cut defense spending are misguided. The Foreign Policy Initiative explains:

America’s military has come under severe strain in the last decade, fighting two wars, preparing for the many potential challenges of the future, and contending with a growing number of aging, worn-out weapons systems. Yet as the debate in Washington about reducing America’s deficit gathers steam, there are increasing calls to make deep cuts in the defense budget. The fiscal effects of such reductions are miniscule—saving perhaps $100 billion over many years against projected annual deficits of more than $1.4 trillion—but the impact on the U.S. military is major. Greater still would be the effects of diminished American power in an increasingly “multipolar” world. …

There is a common misconception that the military has enjoyed ballooning budgets since the beginning of the decade. In reality, the baseline defense budget (not including the costs of the-wars) grew from only 3 to 3.5 percent of GDP from the end of the Clinton administration to the time George W. Bush left office, delaying modernization and procurement efforts across all the armed services. “Going to war with the army you have,” to paraphrase former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, has exacerbated this problem, gobbling up the remaining service life of older systems; nine-plus years of war have only increased this “modernization deficit.” Further reductions, on top of the more than $300 billion Secretary Gates has already cut in proposed procurement of new weapon systems, will dangerously erode the technological edge that America’s armed forces depend upon, and deserve.

The frenzy to cut defense spending is in reality an entirely political ploy: to get liberals on board with cuts in massive entitlement and discretionary spending, fiscal hawks are willing to throw defense spending into the mix. But this ignores the real and multiplying threats we face, especially under a president whose reticence seems only to have whetted the appetites of aggressive regimes.

The result of the lower-defense-spending fetish is that the way we have traditionally looked at defense spending and national security has been reversed. Presidents of both parties have attempted to assess the threats we face and from that determine what expenditures we need. It is imperfect at best, since congressmen and senators are not shy about asking for goodies for their districts and states. But at least the effort is made to gear spending to national security needs. But in the rush to cut defense spending, this process is reversed: we are told by liberal Democrats, conservative neo-isolationists, and budget hawks that because of the need to cut spending, we need to reassess our national security commitments. It is quite frankly a non sequitur. Al-Qaeda, North Korea, Iran, and the rest are only growing bolder. If the defense cutters were honest, they’d say they are willing to make us less safe to get liberals to accept domestic spending cuts. But that sounds daft. And it is.

As the 2012 GOP presidential contenders scramble for visibility, they would do well to take on this issue — and those who think that in an increasingly dangerous world we should be spending less to defend ourselves.

The attack on North Korea — an act of war by any definition, even if not acknowledged as such — is a timely reminder that the suggestions floating around to cut defense spending are misguided. The Foreign Policy Initiative explains:

America’s military has come under severe strain in the last decade, fighting two wars, preparing for the many potential challenges of the future, and contending with a growing number of aging, worn-out weapons systems. Yet as the debate in Washington about reducing America’s deficit gathers steam, there are increasing calls to make deep cuts in the defense budget. The fiscal effects of such reductions are miniscule—saving perhaps $100 billion over many years against projected annual deficits of more than $1.4 trillion—but the impact on the U.S. military is major. Greater still would be the effects of diminished American power in an increasingly “multipolar” world. …

There is a common misconception that the military has enjoyed ballooning budgets since the beginning of the decade. In reality, the baseline defense budget (not including the costs of the-wars) grew from only 3 to 3.5 percent of GDP from the end of the Clinton administration to the time George W. Bush left office, delaying modernization and procurement efforts across all the armed services. “Going to war with the army you have,” to paraphrase former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, has exacerbated this problem, gobbling up the remaining service life of older systems; nine-plus years of war have only increased this “modernization deficit.” Further reductions, on top of the more than $300 billion Secretary Gates has already cut in proposed procurement of new weapon systems, will dangerously erode the technological edge that America’s armed forces depend upon, and deserve.

The frenzy to cut defense spending is in reality an entirely political ploy: to get liberals on board with cuts in massive entitlement and discretionary spending, fiscal hawks are willing to throw defense spending into the mix. But this ignores the real and multiplying threats we face, especially under a president whose reticence seems only to have whetted the appetites of aggressive regimes.

The result of the lower-defense-spending fetish is that the way we have traditionally looked at defense spending and national security has been reversed. Presidents of both parties have attempted to assess the threats we face and from that determine what expenditures we need. It is imperfect at best, since congressmen and senators are not shy about asking for goodies for their districts and states. But at least the effort is made to gear spending to national security needs. But in the rush to cut defense spending, this process is reversed: we are told by liberal Democrats, conservative neo-isolationists, and budget hawks that because of the need to cut spending, we need to reassess our national security commitments. It is quite frankly a non sequitur. Al-Qaeda, North Korea, Iran, and the rest are only growing bolder. If the defense cutters were honest, they’d say they are willing to make us less safe to get liberals to accept domestic spending cuts. But that sounds daft. And it is.

As the 2012 GOP presidential contenders scramble for visibility, they would do well to take on this issue — and those who think that in an increasingly dangerous world we should be spending less to defend ourselves.

Read Less

Where Are the Smart Liberals?

So who does Job remind you of? I bet you didn’t think of Barack Obama. But that’s what pops into Jon Meacham’s mind, as Rick noted, prompting many of us to wonder how Newsweek lasted as long as it did. It was Newsweek‘s Evan Thomas who first proclaimed Obama a “sort of God,” so I suppose this tale is the modern version of Paradise Lost.

Has Obama lost his family? Become destitute? No, he’s just not popular anymore. Meacham explains:

Outside politics, President Obama thinks of himself less as a professor or community organizer and more as a writer — a man who observes reality, interprets it internally, and then recasts it on the page in his own voice and through his own eyes. And he is a reader of serious books.

Given that, he might find Alter’s new book congenial. John Boehner is not exactly a case of boils, but the president may feel differently at the moment, and thus the story of Job could be of some use to him.

Like Obama, Job was once the highly favored one:

Would that I were as in moons of yore, as the days when God watched over me,
when he shined his lamp over my head. …

But the Lord withdraws his protection, inflicting pain and death and misery on Job, who cries:

Terror rolls over me, pursues my path like the wind. …
At night my limbs are pierced, and my sinews know no rest.
With great power he seizes my garment, grabs hold of me at the collar.
He hurls me into the muck, and I become like dust and ashes.

God is having none of it. He will not be questioned by a mortal, even a mortal whom he once loved and who has honored him. Fairly snarling, the Lord taunts Job from a whirlwind: “Where were you when I founded earth? / Tell, if you know understanding.”

If you think about it (stop before you get a headache), this is utter nonsense. Obama has not been tested or punished to measure his faith in God. He’s being evaluated by voters for a shoddy two years. The entire point of the Job story is that Job had done nothing to deserve his fate, so far as mortals can imagine. Read More

So who does Job remind you of? I bet you didn’t think of Barack Obama. But that’s what pops into Jon Meacham’s mind, as Rick noted, prompting many of us to wonder how Newsweek lasted as long as it did. It was Newsweek‘s Evan Thomas who first proclaimed Obama a “sort of God,” so I suppose this tale is the modern version of Paradise Lost.

Has Obama lost his family? Become destitute? No, he’s just not popular anymore. Meacham explains:

Outside politics, President Obama thinks of himself less as a professor or community organizer and more as a writer — a man who observes reality, interprets it internally, and then recasts it on the page in his own voice and through his own eyes. And he is a reader of serious books.

Given that, he might find Alter’s new book congenial. John Boehner is not exactly a case of boils, but the president may feel differently at the moment, and thus the story of Job could be of some use to him.

Like Obama, Job was once the highly favored one:

Would that I were as in moons of yore, as the days when God watched over me,
when he shined his lamp over my head. …

But the Lord withdraws his protection, inflicting pain and death and misery on Job, who cries:

Terror rolls over me, pursues my path like the wind. …
At night my limbs are pierced, and my sinews know no rest.
With great power he seizes my garment, grabs hold of me at the collar.
He hurls me into the muck, and I become like dust and ashes.

God is having none of it. He will not be questioned by a mortal, even a mortal whom he once loved and who has honored him. Fairly snarling, the Lord taunts Job from a whirlwind: “Where were you when I founded earth? / Tell, if you know understanding.”

If you think about it (stop before you get a headache), this is utter nonsense. Obama has not been tested or punished to measure his faith in God. He’s being evaluated by voters for a shoddy two years. The entire point of the Job story is that Job had done nothing to deserve his fate, so far as mortals can imagine.

This brings me to another point. What’s happened to liberal intellectuals these days? It seems they’ve fallen down on the job and ceased to be serious people. I mean, comparing Obama to Job is downright embarrassing. Does the Gray Lady have no standards?

Another case in point: there apparently is a new film out about Fran Lebowitz directed by Martin Scorsese. The problem is that while liberal New Yorkers imagine her to be the quintessential left-leaning intellectual (actually, they don’t need the modifier since, by definition, are intellectuals share their worldview), she hasn’t written anything of note for years, and the sum total of her “contribution” to the intellectual and cultural life of the nation’s greatest city is a string of one-liners. Even this reviewer is somewhat put off:

Except for a children’s book and a series of wise Vanity Fair articles in the 1990s (which were really just well-edited conversations between Lebowitz and an editor on broad subjects such as race and money), Lebowitz hasn’t produced much. Instead, she’s a study in brilliant coasting, which can’t be as fun as it seems. For all its many laughs, “Public Speaking” carries a necessary undercurrent of the morose.

“No one has wasted time the way I have,” Lebowitz tells Scorsese’s camera in her usual rat-a-tat delivery, a voice coarsened by years of smoking. “[I am] the outstanding waster of time of my generation. It was 1979, I looked up, it was 2007.”

Instead of writing, Lebowitz spends her time talking about American society and culture — either through paid appearances on the lecture circuit or from her usual booth at the Waverly Inn, a dimly-lit, exclusively small West Village restaurant co-owned by her friend Graydon Carter, who edits Vanity Fair.

Talking, she says, is all she ever wanted to do.

You really can’t make this stuff up. And one wonders, is this thin gruel of cultural poses and condescension all the left has to offer anymore?

There’s much more: New York is too expensive to be interesting anymore. Tourists are “herds of hillbillies.” Gay men, who so dazzled Lebowitz with their highbrow tastes in the 1970s, have let her down by working so diligently to get married and join the army. And revenge is a wonderful thing: “I absolutely believe in revenge. People always say revenge is a dish best served cold. No. It’s good any time you can get it.”

She is asked: Is there such a thing as being born lucky? Yes, she replies: “Any white, gentile, straight man who is not president of the United States, failed. That’s what a big piece of luck that is, okay?”

Not exactly John Kenneth Galbraith. Or even Dorothy Parker.

The trouble liberals face in maintaining their intellectual chops is that they operate in a world of knowing glances, incomplete sentences, and shared cultural references. Conformity is seen as a sign of intellectual prowess. And you need not write anything intelligible, let alone intellectually compelling, to qualify as a liberal public intellectual.

Read Less

On the Offense Against Israel’s Delegitimizers

A pro-Israel activist passes on this transcript of “the most brilliantly audacious defence of Israel since Moses parted the Red Sea.” The topic is whether Israel is a “rogue” state. The defense emphatically replies: it sure is. The key to the argument is reminding Israel’s critics as to the precise meaning of rogue — “The Oxford English Dictionary defines rogue as ‘aberrant, anomalous; misplaced, occurring (esp. in isolation) at an unexpected place or time,’ while a dictionary from a far greater institution gives this definition: ‘behaving in ways that are not expected or not normal, often in a destructive way.'”

So if you want “rogue” — how about this:

The IDF sends out soldiers and medics to patrol the Egyptian border. They are sent looking for refugees attempting to cross into Israel. Not to send them back into Egypt, but to save them from dehydration, heat exhaustion, and Egyptian bullets.

Compare that to the U.S.’s reaction to illegal immigration across their border with Mexico. The American government has arrested private individuals for giving water to border crossers who were dying of thirst — and here the Israeli government is sending out its soldiers to save illegal immigrants. To call that sort of behaviour anomalous is an understatement.

Or how about this:

Another part of the dictionary definition is behaviour or activity “occurring at an unexpected place or time.” When you compare Israel to its regional neighbours, it becomes clear just how roguish Israel is. And here is the fourth argument: Israel has a better human rights record than any of its neighbours. At no point in history, has there ever been a liberal democratic state in the Middle East — except for Israel. Of all the countries in the Middle East, Israel is the only one where the LGBT community enjoys even a small measure of equality.

In Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, and Syria, homosexual conduct is punishable by flogging, imprisonment, or both. But homosexuals there get off pretty lightly compared to their counterparts in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, who are put to death. Israeli homosexuals can adopt, openly serve in the army, enter civil unions, and are protected by exceptionally strongly worded ant-discrimination legislation. Beats a death sentence. In fact, it beats America.

The speaker is a 19-year-old Cambridge University law student. Perhaps he should forget about law school and run the Israel government’s press operation. It seems he has figured out the key to combating Israel’s delegitimizers: go on the offense.

A pro-Israel activist passes on this transcript of “the most brilliantly audacious defence of Israel since Moses parted the Red Sea.” The topic is whether Israel is a “rogue” state. The defense emphatically replies: it sure is. The key to the argument is reminding Israel’s critics as to the precise meaning of rogue — “The Oxford English Dictionary defines rogue as ‘aberrant, anomalous; misplaced, occurring (esp. in isolation) at an unexpected place or time,’ while a dictionary from a far greater institution gives this definition: ‘behaving in ways that are not expected or not normal, often in a destructive way.'”

So if you want “rogue” — how about this:

The IDF sends out soldiers and medics to patrol the Egyptian border. They are sent looking for refugees attempting to cross into Israel. Not to send them back into Egypt, but to save them from dehydration, heat exhaustion, and Egyptian bullets.

Compare that to the U.S.’s reaction to illegal immigration across their border with Mexico. The American government has arrested private individuals for giving water to border crossers who were dying of thirst — and here the Israeli government is sending out its soldiers to save illegal immigrants. To call that sort of behaviour anomalous is an understatement.

Or how about this:

Another part of the dictionary definition is behaviour or activity “occurring at an unexpected place or time.” When you compare Israel to its regional neighbours, it becomes clear just how roguish Israel is. And here is the fourth argument: Israel has a better human rights record than any of its neighbours. At no point in history, has there ever been a liberal democratic state in the Middle East — except for Israel. Of all the countries in the Middle East, Israel is the only one where the LGBT community enjoys even a small measure of equality.

In Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, and Syria, homosexual conduct is punishable by flogging, imprisonment, or both. But homosexuals there get off pretty lightly compared to their counterparts in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, who are put to death. Israeli homosexuals can adopt, openly serve in the army, enter civil unions, and are protected by exceptionally strongly worded ant-discrimination legislation. Beats a death sentence. In fact, it beats America.

The speaker is a 19-year-old Cambridge University law student. Perhaps he should forget about law school and run the Israel government’s press operation. It seems he has figured out the key to combating Israel’s delegitimizers: go on the offense.

Read Less

Good Works Plus Firepower Equals Effective Counterinsurgency

Among some Army traditionalists (and some ultra-hawkish conservatives), the knock on “population-centric” counterinsurgency — whose most prominent advocate is General David Petraeus — is that it is nothing more than “social work” that ignores the need to kill or capture the enemy. Nothing could be further from the truth, as current events in Afghanistan demonstrate. Yes, Petraeus has put more emphasis on securing the population, improving governance, and decreasing corruption. But, no, he hasn’t ignored the imperative to hit the enemy and to hit him hard.

That should be clear from this Washington Post article reporting on a decision to send a company of M1 Abrams tanks to assist Marine infantrymen fighting in Helmand Province. Gen. David McKiernan, a previous NATO commander who ironically had a reputation for being overly conventional, had actually turned down a prior Marine request for heavy armor because he thought it would reek too much of the Red Army’s tactics. Now Petraeus has approved the dispatch of tanks that are needed to aid Marines who are in a tough fight in places like Sangin.

That should hardly be surprising, because Petraeus is overseeing an impressive increase in overall firepower. As the Post notes:

Despite an overall counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes the use of troops to protect Afghan civilians from insurgents, statistics released by the NATO military command in Kabul and interviews with several senior commanders indicate that U.S. troop operations over the past two months have been more intense and have had a harder edge than at any point since the initial 2001 drive to oust the Taliban government.

The pace of Special Operations missions to kill or capture Taliban leaders has more than tripled over the past three months. U.S. and NATO aircraft unleashed more bombs and missiles in October – 1,000 total – than in any single month since 2001. In the districts around the southern city of Kandahar, soldiers from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division have demolished dozens of homes that were thought to be booby-trapped, and they have used scores of high-explosive line charges — a weapon that had been used only sparingly in the past — to blast through minefields.

That is not a repudiation of counterinsurgency doctrine but a good example of how it is supposed to work: melding kinetic and non-kinetic operations into a seamless whole. While more troops are among the population, and doing more civil-action projects, they are also gaining the trust and confidence of the locals and learning the lay of the land. That allows them to use firepower far more effectively than in the past, when the U.S. relied on a “small footprint,” counterterrorism-focused strategy.

In years past, air strikes resulted in many civilian deaths because we had so few boots on the ground; that meant we did not have good intelligence about where exactly the enemy was hiding. Now U.S. troops are able to call in air strikes far more precisely, which is why the considerable increase in air strikes has not led to a corresponding increase in civilian casualties or to widespread accusations of brutality, such as were common when U.S. bombs were blamed for blowing up wedding parties.

What Petraeus realizes — and his critics seem to miss — is that effective counterinsurgency can’t rely on force alone or on good works alone. Both are necessary to defeat a tenacious foe and secure a scared populace.

Among some Army traditionalists (and some ultra-hawkish conservatives), the knock on “population-centric” counterinsurgency — whose most prominent advocate is General David Petraeus — is that it is nothing more than “social work” that ignores the need to kill or capture the enemy. Nothing could be further from the truth, as current events in Afghanistan demonstrate. Yes, Petraeus has put more emphasis on securing the population, improving governance, and decreasing corruption. But, no, he hasn’t ignored the imperative to hit the enemy and to hit him hard.

That should be clear from this Washington Post article reporting on a decision to send a company of M1 Abrams tanks to assist Marine infantrymen fighting in Helmand Province. Gen. David McKiernan, a previous NATO commander who ironically had a reputation for being overly conventional, had actually turned down a prior Marine request for heavy armor because he thought it would reek too much of the Red Army’s tactics. Now Petraeus has approved the dispatch of tanks that are needed to aid Marines who are in a tough fight in places like Sangin.

That should hardly be surprising, because Petraeus is overseeing an impressive increase in overall firepower. As the Post notes:

Despite an overall counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes the use of troops to protect Afghan civilians from insurgents, statistics released by the NATO military command in Kabul and interviews with several senior commanders indicate that U.S. troop operations over the past two months have been more intense and have had a harder edge than at any point since the initial 2001 drive to oust the Taliban government.

The pace of Special Operations missions to kill or capture Taliban leaders has more than tripled over the past three months. U.S. and NATO aircraft unleashed more bombs and missiles in October – 1,000 total – than in any single month since 2001. In the districts around the southern city of Kandahar, soldiers from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division have demolished dozens of homes that were thought to be booby-trapped, and they have used scores of high-explosive line charges — a weapon that had been used only sparingly in the past — to blast through minefields.

That is not a repudiation of counterinsurgency doctrine but a good example of how it is supposed to work: melding kinetic and non-kinetic operations into a seamless whole. While more troops are among the population, and doing more civil-action projects, they are also gaining the trust and confidence of the locals and learning the lay of the land. That allows them to use firepower far more effectively than in the past, when the U.S. relied on a “small footprint,” counterterrorism-focused strategy.

In years past, air strikes resulted in many civilian deaths because we had so few boots on the ground; that meant we did not have good intelligence about where exactly the enemy was hiding. Now U.S. troops are able to call in air strikes far more precisely, which is why the considerable increase in air strikes has not led to a corresponding increase in civilian casualties or to widespread accusations of brutality, such as were common when U.S. bombs were blamed for blowing up wedding parties.

What Petraeus realizes — and his critics seem to miss — is that effective counterinsurgency can’t rely on force alone or on good works alone. Both are necessary to defeat a tenacious foe and secure a scared populace.

Read Less

The Military Elephant in the Room

Here’s a topic that wasn’t on the agenda at this week’s United Jewish Communities General Assembly, but should have been: how young American Jews’ ignorance of military matters affects their relationship to Israel.

Speaking in an unrelated context, after his film Lebanon was named a finalist for six European Film Academy awards last week, Israeli director Samuel Maoz told Haaretz he was surprised at how “young audiences in Europe, particularly Britain and Scandinavia,” reacted to the film, which depicts an Israeli tank crew’s experiences on the first day of the 1982 Lebanon War:

A lot of people who saw the film [abroad] told me they were sure the Israeli soldier was a kind of killer who goes around Gaza killing children, and all of a sudden, when they see “Lebanon,” they understand he is a person like them, thinking and agonizing over what to do, dealing with conflicts and situations forced upon him.

What Maoz said of young Europeans is equally true of young American Jews. Most have never served in the army themselves, nor have most of their friends: neither Jews nor their circle of liberal, highly educated non-Jewish peers are prominently represented in America’s all-volunteer military. Consequently, they have no concept of the agonizing dilemmas combat entails, especially against foes who deliberately fight from among civilian populations, or the mistakes that inevitably happen amid the fog of war.

Thus when they see pictures of dead children in Gaza, they lack the knowledge and experience to understand that in wartime, children can be killed despite the best intentions and the most careful precautions. As a result, they all too easily believe, like their European peers, that “the Israeli soldier was a kind of killer.” And that inevitably fosters alienation from Israel: how could any self-respecting, moral individual identify with a nation of killers?

This issue doesn’t exist for American Jews of my parents’ generation. Back then, America still had the draft, so most Jews either served themselves or at least knew people who did. Thus they know that most soldiers are decent people like themselves, not ruthless killers, and they understand that civilians often die in wartime despite not being intentionally targeted.

But America isn’t likely to reinstate the draft, nor are American Jews likely to start volunteering for the military in large numbers. And Israel’s need to fight wars is unfortunately not likely to disappear anytime soon. Thus if the American Jewish community wants to address the growing alienation from Israel of some of its younger members, it must start thinking about how to give young Jews some understanding of what combat entails despite the fact that neither they nor their friends are ever likely to serve.

Films like Maoz’s might be one option. Bringing Israeli soldiers — or American Jewish veterans — to talk to young Jews about their own experiences might be another. American Jewish leaders can doubtless come up with many other creative ideas.

But first, they have to acknowledge that this elephant in the room exists, and must be dealt with. Ignoring it won’t make it go away.

Here’s a topic that wasn’t on the agenda at this week’s United Jewish Communities General Assembly, but should have been: how young American Jews’ ignorance of military matters affects their relationship to Israel.

Speaking in an unrelated context, after his film Lebanon was named a finalist for six European Film Academy awards last week, Israeli director Samuel Maoz told Haaretz he was surprised at how “young audiences in Europe, particularly Britain and Scandinavia,” reacted to the film, which depicts an Israeli tank crew’s experiences on the first day of the 1982 Lebanon War:

A lot of people who saw the film [abroad] told me they were sure the Israeli soldier was a kind of killer who goes around Gaza killing children, and all of a sudden, when they see “Lebanon,” they understand he is a person like them, thinking and agonizing over what to do, dealing with conflicts and situations forced upon him.

What Maoz said of young Europeans is equally true of young American Jews. Most have never served in the army themselves, nor have most of their friends: neither Jews nor their circle of liberal, highly educated non-Jewish peers are prominently represented in America’s all-volunteer military. Consequently, they have no concept of the agonizing dilemmas combat entails, especially against foes who deliberately fight from among civilian populations, or the mistakes that inevitably happen amid the fog of war.

Thus when they see pictures of dead children in Gaza, they lack the knowledge and experience to understand that in wartime, children can be killed despite the best intentions and the most careful precautions. As a result, they all too easily believe, like their European peers, that “the Israeli soldier was a kind of killer.” And that inevitably fosters alienation from Israel: how could any self-respecting, moral individual identify with a nation of killers?

This issue doesn’t exist for American Jews of my parents’ generation. Back then, America still had the draft, so most Jews either served themselves or at least knew people who did. Thus they know that most soldiers are decent people like themselves, not ruthless killers, and they understand that civilians often die in wartime despite not being intentionally targeted.

But America isn’t likely to reinstate the draft, nor are American Jews likely to start volunteering for the military in large numbers. And Israel’s need to fight wars is unfortunately not likely to disappear anytime soon. Thus if the American Jewish community wants to address the growing alienation from Israel of some of its younger members, it must start thinking about how to give young Jews some understanding of what combat entails despite the fact that neither they nor their friends are ever likely to serve.

Films like Maoz’s might be one option. Bringing Israeli soldiers — or American Jewish veterans — to talk to young Jews about their own experiences might be another. American Jewish leaders can doubtless come up with many other creative ideas.

But first, they have to acknowledge that this elephant in the room exists, and must be dealt with. Ignoring it won’t make it go away.

Read Less

The Muslim Brotherhood Takes Off Its Mask

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was never a “moderate” organization. I briefly interviewed their spokesman many years ago, and it could not have been more obvious that I was dealing with a dissembler. I know moderate Muslims when I see them, and these guys aren’t even in the same time zone.

Recently, though, for reasons I’m not quite sure about yet, they decided to stop playing the game, and we can thank Barry Rubin for paying particularly close attention to this development.

In calling for jihad against America, the West and Israel in terms virtually identical with Osama bin Laden’s rhetoric, the leader of Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood uttered one sentence that explains the contemporary Middle East.

Here it is: “The improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as its enemies pursue life.”

The Muslim Brotherhood is not a militia. It can’t seize the capital, and it can’t take on the army. It doesn’t control a state within a state, as Hamas and Hezbollah do. It can’t start a war with another country or draw in foreign powers. It can’t win an election, because Hosni Mubarak’s regime rigs the system. It does, however, have an enormous amount of clout on the streets.

I’ve been to more than a dozen Muslim countries and seen for myself how extraordinarily diverse they are. Some are as secular and irreligious as the nations of Western Europe. Egypt, though, is by far the most politically Islamicized place I’ve ever seen. And by that I don’t mean that Egyptians are more likely to pray and go to the mosque than people in other countries. The Kurds of Iraq are by and large conservative Muslims, but political Islamism barely registers there and is held in contempt by the majority.

In Egypt, it’s different, and you can see it and feel it in Cairo. The liberal and moderate Egyptians I spoke to were keenly aware that they’re part of a small minority that has no political future right now.

One reason for this is that Egypt’s current secular government — which is a less-ideological continuation of the Arab Nationalist regime founded by Gamal Abdel Nasser and his Free Officer’s Movement — has failed Egypt spectacularly in almost every possible way. Egypt’s experience with secular modernity has been a miserable one, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s slogan, “Islam is the solution,” sounds plausible to millions of people.

That isn’t the only reason, of course. Albanians fared far worse under the secular Communist regime of Enver Hoxha — which was similar in a lot ways to Kim Il-Sung’s in North Korea — yet Islamism never caught on there. No single explanation will suffice in Egypt or anywhere else.

Still, Mubarak’s ideology and government is rejected by a huge number of Egyptians for many of the same reasons the Shah’s regime in Iran was in the late 1970s. The Muslim Brotherhood will be a likely replacement if Mubarak’s government implodes or is overthrown. Given that the Brotherhood is becoming more extreme rather than less, the West may want to brace itself.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was never a “moderate” organization. I briefly interviewed their spokesman many years ago, and it could not have been more obvious that I was dealing with a dissembler. I know moderate Muslims when I see them, and these guys aren’t even in the same time zone.

Recently, though, for reasons I’m not quite sure about yet, they decided to stop playing the game, and we can thank Barry Rubin for paying particularly close attention to this development.

In calling for jihad against America, the West and Israel in terms virtually identical with Osama bin Laden’s rhetoric, the leader of Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood uttered one sentence that explains the contemporary Middle East.

Here it is: “The improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as its enemies pursue life.”

The Muslim Brotherhood is not a militia. It can’t seize the capital, and it can’t take on the army. It doesn’t control a state within a state, as Hamas and Hezbollah do. It can’t start a war with another country or draw in foreign powers. It can’t win an election, because Hosni Mubarak’s regime rigs the system. It does, however, have an enormous amount of clout on the streets.

I’ve been to more than a dozen Muslim countries and seen for myself how extraordinarily diverse they are. Some are as secular and irreligious as the nations of Western Europe. Egypt, though, is by far the most politically Islamicized place I’ve ever seen. And by that I don’t mean that Egyptians are more likely to pray and go to the mosque than people in other countries. The Kurds of Iraq are by and large conservative Muslims, but political Islamism barely registers there and is held in contempt by the majority.

In Egypt, it’s different, and you can see it and feel it in Cairo. The liberal and moderate Egyptians I spoke to were keenly aware that they’re part of a small minority that has no political future right now.

One reason for this is that Egypt’s current secular government — which is a less-ideological continuation of the Arab Nationalist regime founded by Gamal Abdel Nasser and his Free Officer’s Movement — has failed Egypt spectacularly in almost every possible way. Egypt’s experience with secular modernity has been a miserable one, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s slogan, “Islam is the solution,” sounds plausible to millions of people.

That isn’t the only reason, of course. Albanians fared far worse under the secular Communist regime of Enver Hoxha — which was similar in a lot ways to Kim Il-Sung’s in North Korea — yet Islamism never caught on there. No single explanation will suffice in Egypt or anywhere else.

Still, Mubarak’s ideology and government is rejected by a huge number of Egyptians for many of the same reasons the Shah’s regime in Iran was in the late 1970s. The Muslim Brotherhood will be a likely replacement if Mubarak’s government implodes or is overthrown. Given that the Brotherhood is becoming more extreme rather than less, the West may want to brace itself.

Read Less

The Limits of Technology in Counterinsurgency

The Washington Post has an interesting if depressing report on the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, 2nd infantry division — the unit where five soldiers who are accused of killing several Afghan men “for sport” came from.

The Post notes that the brigade’s commander, Col. Harry Tunnell, was adamantly opposed to the prevailing counterinsurgency doctrine, which emphasizes protecting the population. He believed in “counterguerrilla operations” along the lines of his brigade’s motto, “Strike and destroy.” He encouraged an aggressive attitude that resulted in many casualties — both among Afghans and among his own men. Some of those losses were no doubt inevitable, because the 5th Brigade was deployed to a heavily Taliban-infested area on the outskirts of Kandahar. But it is striking, and alarming, that the army allowed the deployment of this brigade to a vital area even when it was obvious to all, as far back as pre-deployment training, that Col. Tunnell was dangerously out of sync with the state-of-the-art thinking on how to fight counterinsurgency. The Washington Post article notes that Tunnell is not implicated in the atrocities allegedly committed by his men, but it raises legitimate questions about whether his overly aggressive attitude may have been at the root of some of the brigade’s problems.

That was certainly an issue in my mind when I visited Col. Tunnell and was briefed by him at his brigade operations center at Kandahar Air Field in October 2009. A related issue, which isn’t mentioned in the Post article, is Tunnell’s faith in technology. The Stryker brigades are among the most high-tech in the army, equipped with armored vehicles that are “networked” to provide a common “operating picture” of the battlefield. This can breed hubris among soldiers who think that their gee-whiz gadgets give them an insuperable advantage over a more primitive foe. That was certainly the case with Tunnell, who actually told me that all his sophisticated computer systems gave him a better picture of his area’s “human terrain” than that that possessed by the insurgents. I thought this was a pretty amazing statement considering that few if any of his soldiers spoke Pashto or understand anything about local customs — all of which was second nature to the Taliban.

The army has made great strides in counterinsurgency, but this shows clearly that it still has a way to go. It clearly has to do a better job of making sure that all those in such important combat commands have a better understanding of counterinsurgency doctrine — which includes a keen appreciation of the need for cultural knowledge and the limits of technology in this kind of fight.

The Washington Post has an interesting if depressing report on the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, 2nd infantry division — the unit where five soldiers who are accused of killing several Afghan men “for sport” came from.

The Post notes that the brigade’s commander, Col. Harry Tunnell, was adamantly opposed to the prevailing counterinsurgency doctrine, which emphasizes protecting the population. He believed in “counterguerrilla operations” along the lines of his brigade’s motto, “Strike and destroy.” He encouraged an aggressive attitude that resulted in many casualties — both among Afghans and among his own men. Some of those losses were no doubt inevitable, because the 5th Brigade was deployed to a heavily Taliban-infested area on the outskirts of Kandahar. But it is striking, and alarming, that the army allowed the deployment of this brigade to a vital area even when it was obvious to all, as far back as pre-deployment training, that Col. Tunnell was dangerously out of sync with the state-of-the-art thinking on how to fight counterinsurgency. The Washington Post article notes that Tunnell is not implicated in the atrocities allegedly committed by his men, but it raises legitimate questions about whether his overly aggressive attitude may have been at the root of some of the brigade’s problems.

That was certainly an issue in my mind when I visited Col. Tunnell and was briefed by him at his brigade operations center at Kandahar Air Field in October 2009. A related issue, which isn’t mentioned in the Post article, is Tunnell’s faith in technology. The Stryker brigades are among the most high-tech in the army, equipped with armored vehicles that are “networked” to provide a common “operating picture” of the battlefield. This can breed hubris among soldiers who think that their gee-whiz gadgets give them an insuperable advantage over a more primitive foe. That was certainly the case with Tunnell, who actually told me that all his sophisticated computer systems gave him a better picture of his area’s “human terrain” than that that possessed by the insurgents. I thought this was a pretty amazing statement considering that few if any of his soldiers spoke Pashto or understand anything about local customs — all of which was second nature to the Taliban.

The army has made great strides in counterinsurgency, but this shows clearly that it still has a way to go. It clearly has to do a better job of making sure that all those in such important combat commands have a better understanding of counterinsurgency doctrine — which includes a keen appreciation of the need for cultural knowledge and the limits of technology in this kind of fight.

Read Less

Britain’s Dwindling Defense Budget

American officials are right to be concerned about the further evisceration of British defense capabilities that is apparently planned by the Tory-Liberal Democratic coalition government. Britain has already seen the size of its armed forces shrivel since the end of the Cold War, but Prime Minister David Cameron and Defense Minister Liam Fox apparently have more cuts in the works, expected to be in the range of 10 to 20 percent. Defense spending as a percentage of GDP, already far below the U.S. level, is likely to fall under 2 percent, putting Britain in the same league as Italy, Spain, and other countries with little in the way of significant and deployable military resources.

The Telegraph reports that “the cuts…. will lead to a substantial reduction in the size of the Army, which will also have to give up many of its tanks and armoured vehicles.” Also on the chopping block are the frigates that are needed to fight pirates and other valuable weapons systems that allow Britain to punch far above its weight in the international system. For all of Cameron’s and Fox’s empty and unconvincing rhetoric about maintaining British capabilities while slashing the defense budget, the reality is that their planned budget will continue the sad undoing of Britain’s global leadership role, which traces back to the 16th century.

The Financial Times, hardly a bastion of right-wingery, denounces the cuts in an editorial that warns “there is little sign of coherent geopolitical thinking behind Britain’s planned defence cuts. Instead, this has turned into a money-driven rather than a threat-driven process.” The FT notes that it is particularly striking that at the same time that Cameron is chopping defense, he “is sticking stubbornly to his promise simultaneously to raise Britain’s spending on overseas aid to 0.7 per cent of GDP. This is a bizarre choice of priorities, especially for a Conservative prime minister and particularly when the country is still at war in Afghanistan.”

I would emphasize how bizarre this is for a Tory prime minister. If the Conservatives are not the strong-on-defense party, what identity do they have left? There is a lesson here for those Republicans who might be tempted to adopt a green-eyeshade approach to our own defense policy. As Danielle Pletka and Tom Donnelly eloquently warn in today’s Washington Post:

Conservatives, and the party that putatively represents them, need to decide whether they wish to continue to warrant that trust. They can continue to be the party of Eisenhower and Reagan, supporting and resourcing a robust American role in the world. Or they can reinvent themselves as a combination of Ebenezer Scrooge and George McGovern, withdrawing from the world to a countinghouse America.

The need to maintain American strength — which won’t be cheap — is all the more imperative when one of our few reliable allies is slashing its own defense budget. That means, like it or not, that we will have to do more than ever to maintain global security, or else the entire world will pay a staggering price as terrorists, pirates, weapons proliferators, and other international menaces run free.

American officials are right to be concerned about the further evisceration of British defense capabilities that is apparently planned by the Tory-Liberal Democratic coalition government. Britain has already seen the size of its armed forces shrivel since the end of the Cold War, but Prime Minister David Cameron and Defense Minister Liam Fox apparently have more cuts in the works, expected to be in the range of 10 to 20 percent. Defense spending as a percentage of GDP, already far below the U.S. level, is likely to fall under 2 percent, putting Britain in the same league as Italy, Spain, and other countries with little in the way of significant and deployable military resources.

The Telegraph reports that “the cuts…. will lead to a substantial reduction in the size of the Army, which will also have to give up many of its tanks and armoured vehicles.” Also on the chopping block are the frigates that are needed to fight pirates and other valuable weapons systems that allow Britain to punch far above its weight in the international system. For all of Cameron’s and Fox’s empty and unconvincing rhetoric about maintaining British capabilities while slashing the defense budget, the reality is that their planned budget will continue the sad undoing of Britain’s global leadership role, which traces back to the 16th century.

The Financial Times, hardly a bastion of right-wingery, denounces the cuts in an editorial that warns “there is little sign of coherent geopolitical thinking behind Britain’s planned defence cuts. Instead, this has turned into a money-driven rather than a threat-driven process.” The FT notes that it is particularly striking that at the same time that Cameron is chopping defense, he “is sticking stubbornly to his promise simultaneously to raise Britain’s spending on overseas aid to 0.7 per cent of GDP. This is a bizarre choice of priorities, especially for a Conservative prime minister and particularly when the country is still at war in Afghanistan.”

I would emphasize how bizarre this is for a Tory prime minister. If the Conservatives are not the strong-on-defense party, what identity do they have left? There is a lesson here for those Republicans who might be tempted to adopt a green-eyeshade approach to our own defense policy. As Danielle Pletka and Tom Donnelly eloquently warn in today’s Washington Post:

Conservatives, and the party that putatively represents them, need to decide whether they wish to continue to warrant that trust. They can continue to be the party of Eisenhower and Reagan, supporting and resourcing a robust American role in the world. Or they can reinvent themselves as a combination of Ebenezer Scrooge and George McGovern, withdrawing from the world to a countinghouse America.

The need to maintain American strength — which won’t be cheap — is all the more imperative when one of our few reliable allies is slashing its own defense budget. That means, like it or not, that we will have to do more than ever to maintain global security, or else the entire world will pay a staggering price as terrorists, pirates, weapons proliferators, and other international menaces run free.

Read Less

Clinton’s Slander Against Israeli Democracy

Bill Clinton’s  comments on the number of Russian immigrants and settlers in the Israel Defense Forces do indeed, as Jennifer said, sound xenophobic. But Clinton’s slander is far more dangerous than mere xenophobia. For when he says the increased presence of “children of Russians and settlers, the hardest-core people against a division of the land… presents a staggering problem,” what he’s implying is that these soldiers cannot be trusted to obey a government order to evacuate territory — or in other words, that Israel is no longer a democratic state where the government controls the army. And nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s true that for the last decade, roughly one-third of newly minted infantry officers have been Orthodox Jews, almost triple their 12 percent share in the overall Jewish population. It’s also true that Russian immigrants and their children, representing about one-sixth of the Jewish population, constitute one-fourth of all combat soldiers.

But all this was equally true five years ago, when Israel withdrew from every inch of Gaza, dismantled its 21 settlements and evacuated four West Bank settlements to boot. Yet of the approximately 50,000 soldiers involved in the disengagement, a mere 63 refused to obey the evacuation order — about a tenth of a percent. That’s less than the number of leftists who have refused to serve in the West Bank — though they, too, are a tiny minority.

Both numbers are minuscule for a very good reason: most Israelis of every political stripe accept the principle that in a democracy, the army takes orders from the government regardless of the soldiers’ own political views. That’s as true of “Russians” and settlers as it is of secular leftists — as both the disengagement and several subsequent evacuations of illegal settlement outposts show. If Clinton offered no evidence for his libelous insinuation to the contrary, it’s because there isn’t any.

Nevertheless, if Clinton is truly concerned, the ones to blame aren’t the Russians and settlers but his secular leftist friends. For while army service is mandatory in Israel, combat units are strictly voluntary. Thus, if Russians and Orthodox Jews (most of whom, incidentally, aren’t settlers) are disproportionately represented in front-line units, it’s because they’re disproportionately willing to volunteer for combat duty, while the children of veteran Israeli leftists prefer safer jobs to the rear.

Consider, for instance, the demographic breakdown of the 13-man combat platoon in which a friend’s son currently serves: five men from hesder yeshivas, which combine Torah study with army service; four mizrahim (Israelis of Middle Eastern/North African descent); one Russian immigrant; one Ethiopian immigrant; one French immigrant; and one Israeli Arab (a real rarity, since non-Druse Arabs aren’t drafted, and very few volunteer). Glaringly absent are the Israeli-born, secular, Ashkenazi Jews of Clinton’s fond memories. Yet this group far outnumbers both Russian immigrants and Orthodox Jews.

Their shrinking presence in combat units troubles me, too — not out of any concern for Israeli democracy, but for what it says about their willingness to defend the country. But the army hasn’t suffered a hostile takeover. Clinton’s beloved leftists simply abdicated.

Bill Clinton’s  comments on the number of Russian immigrants and settlers in the Israel Defense Forces do indeed, as Jennifer said, sound xenophobic. But Clinton’s slander is far more dangerous than mere xenophobia. For when he says the increased presence of “children of Russians and settlers, the hardest-core people against a division of the land… presents a staggering problem,” what he’s implying is that these soldiers cannot be trusted to obey a government order to evacuate territory — or in other words, that Israel is no longer a democratic state where the government controls the army. And nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s true that for the last decade, roughly one-third of newly minted infantry officers have been Orthodox Jews, almost triple their 12 percent share in the overall Jewish population. It’s also true that Russian immigrants and their children, representing about one-sixth of the Jewish population, constitute one-fourth of all combat soldiers.

But all this was equally true five years ago, when Israel withdrew from every inch of Gaza, dismantled its 21 settlements and evacuated four West Bank settlements to boot. Yet of the approximately 50,000 soldiers involved in the disengagement, a mere 63 refused to obey the evacuation order — about a tenth of a percent. That’s less than the number of leftists who have refused to serve in the West Bank — though they, too, are a tiny minority.

Both numbers are minuscule for a very good reason: most Israelis of every political stripe accept the principle that in a democracy, the army takes orders from the government regardless of the soldiers’ own political views. That’s as true of “Russians” and settlers as it is of secular leftists — as both the disengagement and several subsequent evacuations of illegal settlement outposts show. If Clinton offered no evidence for his libelous insinuation to the contrary, it’s because there isn’t any.

Nevertheless, if Clinton is truly concerned, the ones to blame aren’t the Russians and settlers but his secular leftist friends. For while army service is mandatory in Israel, combat units are strictly voluntary. Thus, if Russians and Orthodox Jews (most of whom, incidentally, aren’t settlers) are disproportionately represented in front-line units, it’s because they’re disproportionately willing to volunteer for combat duty, while the children of veteran Israeli leftists prefer safer jobs to the rear.

Consider, for instance, the demographic breakdown of the 13-man combat platoon in which a friend’s son currently serves: five men from hesder yeshivas, which combine Torah study with army service; four mizrahim (Israelis of Middle Eastern/North African descent); one Russian immigrant; one Ethiopian immigrant; one French immigrant; and one Israeli Arab (a real rarity, since non-Druse Arabs aren’t drafted, and very few volunteer). Glaringly absent are the Israeli-born, secular, Ashkenazi Jews of Clinton’s fond memories. Yet this group far outnumbers both Russian immigrants and Orthodox Jews.

Their shrinking presence in combat units troubles me, too — not out of any concern for Israeli democracy, but for what it says about their willingness to defend the country. But the army hasn’t suffered a hostile takeover. Clinton’s beloved leftists simply abdicated.

Read Less

A Devastating and Depressing Portrait of Obama

The Washington Post’s story on Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book, Obama’s Wars, includes these passages:

Obama rejected the military’s request for 40,000 troops as part of an expansive mission that had no foreseeable end. “I’m not doing 10 years,” he told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting on Oct. 26, 2009. “I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.” … At one strategy session, the president waved a memo from the Office of Management and Budget, which put a price tag of $889 billion over 10 years on the military’s open-ended approach.

So we finally found the one institution where Barack Obama is frugal and interested in cost-savings: the military during time of war.

It is quite revealing that this most profligate of presidents — whose spending is nearly limitless when it comes to health care, stimulus packages, bailouts, and non-defense discretionary program — has found his inner Barry Goldwater when it comes to spending on defense matters.

There are two problems for Obama. The first centers on Article II, Section II, of the Constitution, which states, “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States.” The president’s primary responsibility, as envisioned by the Founders, is to serve as commander in chief, not as the tax collector for the welfare state. “Among the many objects to which a wise and free people find it necessary to direct their attention,” John Jay wrote in Federalist No. 3, “is that of providing for their safety seems to be first.”

Mr. Obama seems to have his priorities upside down — largely indifferent to those areas he’s responsible for and hyper-active in areas he’s not.

Second, the military, more than any other branch of the federal government, is showing remarkable results for its work. It has reformed and modernized itself in important respects, advanced the cause of liberty, delivered lethal blows to our enemies, and protected us from harm. Yet with America engaged in a hot war in Afghanistan, where the consequences of failure would be catastrophic, President Obama has decided to be hyper-thrifty with his spending. He repeatedly limits what his generals, including General Petraeus, believe they need to successfully prosecute the war.

Quite apart from being reckless, Obama is reinforcing almost every bad impression of his party: keen on raising taxes, spending record amounts on domestic programs, centralizing power, and expanding the size and reach of the federal government. When it comes to war, though, Obama is conflicted and uncertain, in search of an exit ramp more than victory, and even willing to subordinate security needs to partisan concerns (most especially by insisting on an arbitrary drawdown date of July 2011 in order to please his political advisers). As Politico reports,

the president’s timetable to begin a real drawdown … is considerably more concrete than once thought. The book … has Obama warning the Pentagon that he won’t tolerate a 10-year war that sacrifices American troops, bleeds the treasury or drains his own popularity with the Democratic base.

By most accounts (see here and here), the White House is pleased with how the president is portrayed in Obama’s Wars. It shouldn’t be. The president comes across, at least in the stories released so far, as a man deeply uncomfortable in his role as commander in chief.

It is a devastating, and depressing, portrait.

The Washington Post’s story on Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book, Obama’s Wars, includes these passages:

Obama rejected the military’s request for 40,000 troops as part of an expansive mission that had no foreseeable end. “I’m not doing 10 years,” he told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting on Oct. 26, 2009. “I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.” … At one strategy session, the president waved a memo from the Office of Management and Budget, which put a price tag of $889 billion over 10 years on the military’s open-ended approach.

So we finally found the one institution where Barack Obama is frugal and interested in cost-savings: the military during time of war.

It is quite revealing that this most profligate of presidents — whose spending is nearly limitless when it comes to health care, stimulus packages, bailouts, and non-defense discretionary program — has found his inner Barry Goldwater when it comes to spending on defense matters.

There are two problems for Obama. The first centers on Article II, Section II, of the Constitution, which states, “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States.” The president’s primary responsibility, as envisioned by the Founders, is to serve as commander in chief, not as the tax collector for the welfare state. “Among the many objects to which a wise and free people find it necessary to direct their attention,” John Jay wrote in Federalist No. 3, “is that of providing for their safety seems to be first.”

Mr. Obama seems to have his priorities upside down — largely indifferent to those areas he’s responsible for and hyper-active in areas he’s not.

Second, the military, more than any other branch of the federal government, is showing remarkable results for its work. It has reformed and modernized itself in important respects, advanced the cause of liberty, delivered lethal blows to our enemies, and protected us from harm. Yet with America engaged in a hot war in Afghanistan, where the consequences of failure would be catastrophic, President Obama has decided to be hyper-thrifty with his spending. He repeatedly limits what his generals, including General Petraeus, believe they need to successfully prosecute the war.

Quite apart from being reckless, Obama is reinforcing almost every bad impression of his party: keen on raising taxes, spending record amounts on domestic programs, centralizing power, and expanding the size and reach of the federal government. When it comes to war, though, Obama is conflicted and uncertain, in search of an exit ramp more than victory, and even willing to subordinate security needs to partisan concerns (most especially by insisting on an arbitrary drawdown date of July 2011 in order to please his political advisers). As Politico reports,

the president’s timetable to begin a real drawdown … is considerably more concrete than once thought. The book … has Obama warning the Pentagon that he won’t tolerate a 10-year war that sacrifices American troops, bleeds the treasury or drains his own popularity with the Democratic base.

By most accounts (see here and here), the White House is pleased with how the president is portrayed in Obama’s Wars. It shouldn’t be. The president comes across, at least in the stories released so far, as a man deeply uncomfortable in his role as commander in chief.

It is a devastating, and depressing, portrait.

Read Less

How the U.S. Military Polices Its Own Ranks

Anyone who follows the U.S. Army, or the war in Afghanistan, cannot fail to be horrified by reports of atrocities committed by a few soldiers from the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in southern Afghanistan. If news accounts are accurate, a few soldiers decided to randomly kill Afghan civilians for sport. “Military documents allege that five members of the unit staged a total of three murders in Kandahar province between January and May,” the Washington Post writes, adding, “Members of the platoon have been charged with dismembering and photographing corpses, as well as hoarding a skull and other human bones.”

Awful as they are, these atrocities sound mild by comparison with countless other war crimes. Hundreds of Vietnamese were killed in the My Lai massacre. Even greater numbers of Algerians were randomly gunned down by French forces during the Algerian War of Independence in retaliation for grisly attacks on French civilians. The Russians in Afghanistan made a practice of targeting the civilian population — for example, by distributing booby-trapped toys. This is no way meant to be a defense of a few sick soldiers who deserve to have the book thrown at them if half of what is alleged is true. But some sense of perspective is necessary insofar as the Taliban and others will no doubt exploit this case to paint all American soldiers as murderers and torturers. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the conduct of U.S. forces is exemplary by any standard. Their respect for human rights and the laws of war is equaled by few, if any other, military forces thrown into the maelstrom of a vicious insurgency.

Clearly there was a big problem in the 5th Stryker Brigade — something that I saw for myself when I visited the unit last year in the field. I had no inkling of such murderous abuses but the brigade seemed to be off-track in terms of their tactical doctrine, concentrating on hunting down insurgents rather than on winning the trust of the people, and relying too much on high-tech gadgetry. In doctrinal terms, they were pursuing “counterguerrilla” rather than “counterinsurgent” operations.

But there has been no suggestion that the brigade’s leadership, or the army in general, countenanced anything like these abuses. In fact, as usual with such excesses, it was military investigators who uncovered the wrongdoing. Perhaps, as the account by the Washington Post suggests, the military did not respond fast enough to alarms raised by a soldier’s father; if so, that situation needs to be corrected. But once military investigators get on the track of incidents like these, they are normally relentless in building a prosecution — so much so that, sometimes, innocent soldiers get put in the dock. That, too, is to be regretted. But, in general, the U.S. armed forces take such misconduct with the seriousness it deserves — something that cannot be said of all, or even most, militaries, the Israel Defense Forces being a rare exception. Of course, neither the U.S. armed forces nor the IDF can expect any thanks for their scrupulousness about observing human rights; predictably, they get pilloried as monsters while far more monstrous forces (including the enemies they fight, whether the Taliban or Hezbollah) get a pass in global news coverage.

Anyone who follows the U.S. Army, or the war in Afghanistan, cannot fail to be horrified by reports of atrocities committed by a few soldiers from the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in southern Afghanistan. If news accounts are accurate, a few soldiers decided to randomly kill Afghan civilians for sport. “Military documents allege that five members of the unit staged a total of three murders in Kandahar province between January and May,” the Washington Post writes, adding, “Members of the platoon have been charged with dismembering and photographing corpses, as well as hoarding a skull and other human bones.”

Awful as they are, these atrocities sound mild by comparison with countless other war crimes. Hundreds of Vietnamese were killed in the My Lai massacre. Even greater numbers of Algerians were randomly gunned down by French forces during the Algerian War of Independence in retaliation for grisly attacks on French civilians. The Russians in Afghanistan made a practice of targeting the civilian population — for example, by distributing booby-trapped toys. This is no way meant to be a defense of a few sick soldiers who deserve to have the book thrown at them if half of what is alleged is true. But some sense of perspective is necessary insofar as the Taliban and others will no doubt exploit this case to paint all American soldiers as murderers and torturers. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the conduct of U.S. forces is exemplary by any standard. Their respect for human rights and the laws of war is equaled by few, if any other, military forces thrown into the maelstrom of a vicious insurgency.

Clearly there was a big problem in the 5th Stryker Brigade — something that I saw for myself when I visited the unit last year in the field. I had no inkling of such murderous abuses but the brigade seemed to be off-track in terms of their tactical doctrine, concentrating on hunting down insurgents rather than on winning the trust of the people, and relying too much on high-tech gadgetry. In doctrinal terms, they were pursuing “counterguerrilla” rather than “counterinsurgent” operations.

But there has been no suggestion that the brigade’s leadership, or the army in general, countenanced anything like these abuses. In fact, as usual with such excesses, it was military investigators who uncovered the wrongdoing. Perhaps, as the account by the Washington Post suggests, the military did not respond fast enough to alarms raised by a soldier’s father; if so, that situation needs to be corrected. But once military investigators get on the track of incidents like these, they are normally relentless in building a prosecution — so much so that, sometimes, innocent soldiers get put in the dock. That, too, is to be regretted. But, in general, the U.S. armed forces take such misconduct with the seriousness it deserves — something that cannot be said of all, or even most, militaries, the Israel Defense Forces being a rare exception. Of course, neither the U.S. armed forces nor the IDF can expect any thanks for their scrupulousness about observing human rights; predictably, they get pilloried as monsters while far more monstrous forces (including the enemies they fight, whether the Taliban or Hezbollah) get a pass in global news coverage.

Read Less

Inclusive Israel Gets No Credit

Earlier today, I remarked that the left is unmoved by Israel’s protection of the rights of gays and women. It’s not simply that Israel isn’t hanging gays as they do in Iran, or that it doesn’t permit six-year-old girls to be married off; no, it’s a modern, inclusive democracy — a fact that seems to escape its critics’ notice (especially those on the UN Human Rights Council, whose treatment of women and gays is atrocious). Likewise, the media, even in the face of abundant evidence, is slow to credit Israel for human-rights policies and a nondiscriminatory legal system vastly superior to those of its neighbors.

A case in point: “Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the Jerusalem city government to provide more than $120,000 in funding for a prominent gay community center.” The report spins it this way, however: “Thursday’s ruling was the latest sign that a hostile climate toward Jerusalem’s gay community may be abating.” Well, other signs would be that gay Palestinians have fled there. (“According to some estimates, there are now 300 gay Palestinian men secretly living and working in Israel. Their willingness to live there — despite the risk of being detained and deported as a security threat — is due to Palestinian attitudes toward gay men, they claim.”) In April this year, Israel took flack from the Catholic Church for allowing a gay-pride parade in Jerusalem. And then there is this:

The right to be openly gay has been acknowledged in the Israeli military since 1993, and there is little evidence that policy has caused any problems. Even beyond the army, Israeli law is generally progressive on issues of sexual orientation. Even though marriage is controlled by the ultra-Orthodox rabbinic establishment, Israeli authorities recognize same-sex marriages performed abroad, and same-sex partners receive the same economic benefits as married couples.

“Out” magazine has named Tel Aviv the gay capital of the Middle East in acknowledgment of its thriving gay culture.

Military expert Levy said the editor of the primary army newspaper, Bamachane, is openly gay. He estimates the percentage of gay soldiers at 10 percent in general and somewhat less in field units.

Former soldier [Eli] Kaplan said certain intelligence and naval units were known for having a large proportion of gay soldiers.

So there have been plenty of “signs” of Israel’s tolerance and acceptance of gays, despite the AP’s obtuseness. And no, the left in America and the elites of the “international community” don’t give a darn about any of that. Why? Because it’s the Jewish state and the rules are different.

Earlier today, I remarked that the left is unmoved by Israel’s protection of the rights of gays and women. It’s not simply that Israel isn’t hanging gays as they do in Iran, or that it doesn’t permit six-year-old girls to be married off; no, it’s a modern, inclusive democracy — a fact that seems to escape its critics’ notice (especially those on the UN Human Rights Council, whose treatment of women and gays is atrocious). Likewise, the media, even in the face of abundant evidence, is slow to credit Israel for human-rights policies and a nondiscriminatory legal system vastly superior to those of its neighbors.

A case in point: “Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the Jerusalem city government to provide more than $120,000 in funding for a prominent gay community center.” The report spins it this way, however: “Thursday’s ruling was the latest sign that a hostile climate toward Jerusalem’s gay community may be abating.” Well, other signs would be that gay Palestinians have fled there. (“According to some estimates, there are now 300 gay Palestinian men secretly living and working in Israel. Their willingness to live there — despite the risk of being detained and deported as a security threat — is due to Palestinian attitudes toward gay men, they claim.”) In April this year, Israel took flack from the Catholic Church for allowing a gay-pride parade in Jerusalem. And then there is this:

The right to be openly gay has been acknowledged in the Israeli military since 1993, and there is little evidence that policy has caused any problems. Even beyond the army, Israeli law is generally progressive on issues of sexual orientation. Even though marriage is controlled by the ultra-Orthodox rabbinic establishment, Israeli authorities recognize same-sex marriages performed abroad, and same-sex partners receive the same economic benefits as married couples.

“Out” magazine has named Tel Aviv the gay capital of the Middle East in acknowledgment of its thriving gay culture.

Military expert Levy said the editor of the primary army newspaper, Bamachane, is openly gay. He estimates the percentage of gay soldiers at 10 percent in general and somewhat less in field units.

Former soldier [Eli] Kaplan said certain intelligence and naval units were known for having a large proportion of gay soldiers.

So there have been plenty of “signs” of Israel’s tolerance and acceptance of gays, despite the AP’s obtuseness. And no, the left in America and the elites of the “international community” don’t give a darn about any of that. Why? Because it’s the Jewish state and the rules are different.

Read Less

The War Over COIN

In certain U.S. military circles, there has been a backlash against “COIN”– the acronym for counterinsurgency operations. This is a strategy for fighting guerrillas and terrorists, which has evolved over centuries and was last a focus of U.S. military study in the Vietnam War. Then in the 1970s it was discarded in a mental rubbish bin, only to be revived and updated midway through the Iraq War, when it became apparent that conventional, firepower-intensive ways of war were not going to defeat elusive insurgents. The key moment was the publication at the end of 2007 of the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual — the first manual on the subject produced for the general forces in decades. Shortly after it came out, one of its authors, General David Petraeus, was dispatched to Iraq to oversee the surge. The rest, as they say, is history.

Iraq seems to have validated many of the tenets of COIN theory, and Petraeus is now applying them to Afghanistan. A good summary of current COIN thinking can be found in Petraeus’s “Counterinsurgency Guidance,” which advises his troopers, inter alia, to “secure and serve the population,” “live among the people,” and “consult and build relationships.” All this sounds like common sense except that it runs counter to conventional military thinking, which calls for large forces to sweep through insurgent areas, killing lots of bad guys in the hope of defeating the insurgency. COIN theory is centered not on merely killing bad guys but on identifying them, which can only be done with the help of the populace.

No matter how many times these lessons are validated in battle, they have their critics in the conventional military, who argue that today the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, in particular, have put too much emphasis on COIN and not enough on conventional missions such as armored warfare or amphibious landings. They fret that by getting ready for COIN — a particularly thankless and difficult task — the military will be asked to do more of it, and they don’t think that’s in our national interest.

Nadia Schadlow, a leading security scholar and a senior program officer at the Smith Richardson Foundation (which, full disclosure, has provided some funding for my work), has now penned a compelling critique of the anti-COIN arguments in the Armed Forces Journal. The whole essay is well worth reading.

Schadlow argues that guerrilla warfare and terrorism are “recurring” forms of warfare and to prepare for them is the best way to ensure that adversaries will be deterred from attacking us. She also counters the argument that the army has become too COIN-centric, writing that “the Army’s overall approach over the past several years has been to build and train a force capable of fighting across the full spectrum of operations.”

She concludes:

The current COIN doctrine emerged as a corrective to the American tendency to take an engineering or technological approach to war, one that divorces war from its enduring human, psychological and political nature. COIN doctrine, therefore, fills an important gap by identifying operational and tactical requirements that are a part of war — particularly those wars that involve insurgents who are fighting to undermine legitimate governments and establish control over populations or territory.

This is a debate well worth having; no military force should subscribe exclusively to one worldview or orthodoxy. But in the continuing debate over COIN doctrine, count me on Schadlow’s side — we’d better get ready for these types of conflicts because guerrillas and terrorists aren’t going away.

In certain U.S. military circles, there has been a backlash against “COIN”– the acronym for counterinsurgency operations. This is a strategy for fighting guerrillas and terrorists, which has evolved over centuries and was last a focus of U.S. military study in the Vietnam War. Then in the 1970s it was discarded in a mental rubbish bin, only to be revived and updated midway through the Iraq War, when it became apparent that conventional, firepower-intensive ways of war were not going to defeat elusive insurgents. The key moment was the publication at the end of 2007 of the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual — the first manual on the subject produced for the general forces in decades. Shortly after it came out, one of its authors, General David Petraeus, was dispatched to Iraq to oversee the surge. The rest, as they say, is history.

Iraq seems to have validated many of the tenets of COIN theory, and Petraeus is now applying them to Afghanistan. A good summary of current COIN thinking can be found in Petraeus’s “Counterinsurgency Guidance,” which advises his troopers, inter alia, to “secure and serve the population,” “live among the people,” and “consult and build relationships.” All this sounds like common sense except that it runs counter to conventional military thinking, which calls for large forces to sweep through insurgent areas, killing lots of bad guys in the hope of defeating the insurgency. COIN theory is centered not on merely killing bad guys but on identifying them, which can only be done with the help of the populace.

No matter how many times these lessons are validated in battle, they have their critics in the conventional military, who argue that today the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, in particular, have put too much emphasis on COIN and not enough on conventional missions such as armored warfare or amphibious landings. They fret that by getting ready for COIN — a particularly thankless and difficult task — the military will be asked to do more of it, and they don’t think that’s in our national interest.

Nadia Schadlow, a leading security scholar and a senior program officer at the Smith Richardson Foundation (which, full disclosure, has provided some funding for my work), has now penned a compelling critique of the anti-COIN arguments in the Armed Forces Journal. The whole essay is well worth reading.

Schadlow argues that guerrilla warfare and terrorism are “recurring” forms of warfare and to prepare for them is the best way to ensure that adversaries will be deterred from attacking us. She also counters the argument that the army has become too COIN-centric, writing that “the Army’s overall approach over the past several years has been to build and train a force capable of fighting across the full spectrum of operations.”

She concludes:

The current COIN doctrine emerged as a corrective to the American tendency to take an engineering or technological approach to war, one that divorces war from its enduring human, psychological and political nature. COIN doctrine, therefore, fills an important gap by identifying operational and tactical requirements that are a part of war — particularly those wars that involve insurgents who are fighting to undermine legitimate governments and establish control over populations or territory.

This is a debate well worth having; no military force should subscribe exclusively to one worldview or orthodoxy. But in the continuing debate over COIN doctrine, count me on Schadlow’s side — we’d better get ready for these types of conflicts because guerrillas and terrorists aren’t going away.

Read Less

David Brooks vs. Straw Men

David Brooks is critical of an op-ed by AEI’s Arthur C. Brooks and Rep. Paul Ryan. The Times‘s Brooks is upset that the two conservatives don’t appreciate that there is a tradition of “limited but energetic” government, not simply “limited government.” Brooks is perhaps confusing Paul Ryan with Rand Paul.

Neither Ryan nor Brooks is a libertarian. And their op-ed rejects extreme notions (e.g., abolishing social security). Their sole plea is this:

[F]inding the right level of government for Americans is simply impossible unless we decide which ideal we prefer: a free enterprise society with a solid but limited safety net, or a cradle-to-grave, redistributive welfare state. Most Americans believe in assisting those temporarily down on their luck and those who cannot help themselves, as well as a public-private system of pensions for a secure retirement. But a clear majority believes that income redistribution and government care should be the exception and not the rule.

In fact, they make it clear that they are not for “no government”:

Nobody wants to privatize the Army or take away Grandma’s Social Security check. Even Friedrich Hayek in his famous book, “The Road to Serfdom,” reminded us that the state has legitimate—and critical—functions, from rectifying market failures to securing some minimum standard of living.

David Brooks has selected an odd target for his criticism. Ryan is among the most innovative reformers, one who has ideas on everything from education to health care. Is he really the example that Brooks is looking for? Brooks sounds the alarm:

If the current Republican Party regards every new bit of government action as a step on the road to serfdom, then the party will be taking this long, mainstream American tradition and exiling it from the G.O.P.

Well, he may be comforted by reading Ryan’s Roadmap. It strikes me as quite energetic.

Two additional points. Brooks claims that conservatism is supposed to be “nonideological and context driven.” Most modern conservatives believe it certainly is an ideology (although distinct from partisan loyalty). As for context, it is David, not Arthur, Brooks who seems to have lost track of where we are. We have experienced a gigantic spend-a-thon and a spasm of liberal statism. Ryan and Arthur Brooks are calling for a course correction. It seems an exceptionally timely adjustment.

David Brooks is critical of an op-ed by AEI’s Arthur C. Brooks and Rep. Paul Ryan. The Times‘s Brooks is upset that the two conservatives don’t appreciate that there is a tradition of “limited but energetic” government, not simply “limited government.” Brooks is perhaps confusing Paul Ryan with Rand Paul.

Neither Ryan nor Brooks is a libertarian. And their op-ed rejects extreme notions (e.g., abolishing social security). Their sole plea is this:

[F]inding the right level of government for Americans is simply impossible unless we decide which ideal we prefer: a free enterprise society with a solid but limited safety net, or a cradle-to-grave, redistributive welfare state. Most Americans believe in assisting those temporarily down on their luck and those who cannot help themselves, as well as a public-private system of pensions for a secure retirement. But a clear majority believes that income redistribution and government care should be the exception and not the rule.

In fact, they make it clear that they are not for “no government”:

Nobody wants to privatize the Army or take away Grandma’s Social Security check. Even Friedrich Hayek in his famous book, “The Road to Serfdom,” reminded us that the state has legitimate—and critical—functions, from rectifying market failures to securing some minimum standard of living.

David Brooks has selected an odd target for his criticism. Ryan is among the most innovative reformers, one who has ideas on everything from education to health care. Is he really the example that Brooks is looking for? Brooks sounds the alarm:

If the current Republican Party regards every new bit of government action as a step on the road to serfdom, then the party will be taking this long, mainstream American tradition and exiling it from the G.O.P.

Well, he may be comforted by reading Ryan’s Roadmap. It strikes me as quite energetic.

Two additional points. Brooks claims that conservatism is supposed to be “nonideological and context driven.” Most modern conservatives believe it certainly is an ideology (although distinct from partisan loyalty). As for context, it is David, not Arthur, Brooks who seems to have lost track of where we are. We have experienced a gigantic spend-a-thon and a spasm of liberal statism. Ryan and Arthur Brooks are calling for a course correction. It seems an exceptionally timely adjustment.

Read Less

Give Americans a Break Already

The chattering class and the president have done their best lately to upbraid the American people. We’re Islamophobes. There is a rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment. We’re losing touch with our values. Really, this is Seinfeld’s bizarro world. A passing familiarity with reality should confirm that, if anything, Americans should be commended for resisting the worse impulses the liberal intelligentsia accuse them of harboring.

On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol implored us to consider that Americans do have the right to be at least a little concerned about radical Muslims. The body count of those killed in the name of Islam is rather large. We’ve suffered through the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center bombings, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and the Fort Hood massacre. Americans learned that Major Hasan killed 13 after screaming “Allahu Akbar,” yet there was no popular uprising nor even a demonstration when the Army put out a ludicrous report ignoring the motives of the jihadist. We recently had the Christmas Day and the Times Square bombers’ attempts to kill large numbers of Americans in the name of Islam. And we have an imam ready to build a grandiose mosque on the sight of the slaying of thousands. Have Americans rioted? Demanded Muslims be deported?

Last year, the FBI released its hate crimes report based on 2008 data. There were 1,519 criminal incidents based on religion. Of those 1,013 were against Jews. Muslim hate crimes? 105 in a country of 300 million. Americans may have some faults, but Islamophobia isn’t one of them.

Reuel Marc Gerecht writes that his multi-year study of anti-terrorism reveals no evidence we’ve persecuted Muslims:

Contrary to received wisdom, Americans have been, if anything, more tentative and cautious in their approach to the jihadist threat than many of our European allies, who routinely use surveillance, administrative detention, and prosecutorial methods much more intrusive than those employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, our primary counterterrorist organization on the home front. …

What becomes so striking about the United States after September 11—and the same may be said, perhaps a little less enthusiastically, of the Western Europeans—is how well-behaved Americans have been towards Muslim Americans. … Americans have shown themselves to be models of tolerance, all the more given the insidiousness of the threat.

It is therefore unjust and entirely inappropriate for the president, not to mention the elite punditocracy, to spend days finger-wagging at Americans for alleged but unproven bigotry. He apparently expects non-Muslim Americans not only to tolerate, respect, and accept Muslim Americans but also to celebrate misguided acts of provocation against non-Muslims.

Obama and the left’s “solution” to nonexistent anti-Muslim biogtry is to pretend we are not engaged in war against ideological foes. Unnamed “extremists” and “sorry” tag teams are the problem, you see. That’s not only false and counterproductive to our war efforts (and exceedingly unhelpful to moderate Muslims attempting to undercut radicalism in their own countries); it denies Americans the credit they are owed. Despite the fact that we are at war with radical jihadists, Americans have not generalized their antagonism toward all Muslims, nor abandoned their common sense, tolerance, and attachment to civil liberties.

George W. Bush deserves credit for setting an appropriate tone, but he would, I feel confident, be the first to credit his countrymen, who remain the most decent, fair-minded, and tolerant people on the planet. Too bad we don’t have a president who appreciates that.

The chattering class and the president have done their best lately to upbraid the American people. We’re Islamophobes. There is a rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment. We’re losing touch with our values. Really, this is Seinfeld’s bizarro world. A passing familiarity with reality should confirm that, if anything, Americans should be commended for resisting the worse impulses the liberal intelligentsia accuse them of harboring.

On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol implored us to consider that Americans do have the right to be at least a little concerned about radical Muslims. The body count of those killed in the name of Islam is rather large. We’ve suffered through the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center bombings, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and the Fort Hood massacre. Americans learned that Major Hasan killed 13 after screaming “Allahu Akbar,” yet there was no popular uprising nor even a demonstration when the Army put out a ludicrous report ignoring the motives of the jihadist. We recently had the Christmas Day and the Times Square bombers’ attempts to kill large numbers of Americans in the name of Islam. And we have an imam ready to build a grandiose mosque on the sight of the slaying of thousands. Have Americans rioted? Demanded Muslims be deported?

Last year, the FBI released its hate crimes report based on 2008 data. There were 1,519 criminal incidents based on religion. Of those 1,013 were against Jews. Muslim hate crimes? 105 in a country of 300 million. Americans may have some faults, but Islamophobia isn’t one of them.

Reuel Marc Gerecht writes that his multi-year study of anti-terrorism reveals no evidence we’ve persecuted Muslims:

Contrary to received wisdom, Americans have been, if anything, more tentative and cautious in their approach to the jihadist threat than many of our European allies, who routinely use surveillance, administrative detention, and prosecutorial methods much more intrusive than those employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, our primary counterterrorist organization on the home front. …

What becomes so striking about the United States after September 11—and the same may be said, perhaps a little less enthusiastically, of the Western Europeans—is how well-behaved Americans have been towards Muslim Americans. … Americans have shown themselves to be models of tolerance, all the more given the insidiousness of the threat.

It is therefore unjust and entirely inappropriate for the president, not to mention the elite punditocracy, to spend days finger-wagging at Americans for alleged but unproven bigotry. He apparently expects non-Muslim Americans not only to tolerate, respect, and accept Muslim Americans but also to celebrate misguided acts of provocation against non-Muslims.

Obama and the left’s “solution” to nonexistent anti-Muslim biogtry is to pretend we are not engaged in war against ideological foes. Unnamed “extremists” and “sorry” tag teams are the problem, you see. That’s not only false and counterproductive to our war efforts (and exceedingly unhelpful to moderate Muslims attempting to undercut radicalism in their own countries); it denies Americans the credit they are owed. Despite the fact that we are at war with radical jihadists, Americans have not generalized their antagonism toward all Muslims, nor abandoned their common sense, tolerance, and attachment to civil liberties.

George W. Bush deserves credit for setting an appropriate tone, but he would, I feel confident, be the first to credit his countrymen, who remain the most decent, fair-minded, and tolerant people on the planet. Too bad we don’t have a president who appreciates that.

Read Less

No U.S. Cash for Hezbollah’s Lebanese Army Allies

Last week, the Lebanese army, apparently acting in concert with Hezbollah terrorists, launched a sneak attack on Israeli soldiers who were clearing away a tree on their own side of the border. One Israeli officer was killed in cold blood, and another was wounded. Israel’s response to this provocation was restrained; it merely returned fire on the Lebanese army, killing two soldiers and one Hezbollah-affiliated “journalist” who had come to the border specifically to observe the hit on the Israelis. But while even the anti-Israel United Nations peacekeeping force Unifil agreed that the Lebanese fired first and attacked Israelis on Israeli soil, the international community had little to say about this incident. Western nations, including the United States, are worried that speaking up about this will undermine the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Syrian agents murdered Hariri’s father in 2005, and protests against this act led to the Cedar Revolution, in which the Syrians were chucked out of the country. But since that signal victory for the West, the Syrians and their Hezbollah allies have won back control over the country. Hariri is now forced to accept a role that his father rejected: a vassal of Damascus and an ally of Hezbollah, which now has a place in his cabinet. As last week’s incident proved, the Lebanese army, once thought to be the lever by which the country could be pried from the grip of Syria, is now in cahoots with Hezbollah. Yet it is still in line to be the recipient of U.S. aid, approved in the days when Lebanon and its army were thought to be allies of the West against Islamist terrorism.

The State Department says it is still trying to investigate the incident and whether it is true that the Lebanese used weapons sent by the United States to shoot at Israel. But at least some members of Congress are paying attention.

Rep. Nita Lowey, the New York Democrat who chairs the House appropriations subcommittee on foreign aid, announced today that she is putting a hold on the $100 million allocated to be sent to the Lebanese army in 2010 but which has not yet been disbursed. Lowey says she wants to see how Lebanon and the Hariri government respond to the incident before this money or the $100 million Lebanon is supposed to get in 2011 is sent to Beirut. House Republican Whip Rep. Eric Cantor called for the aid pipeline to the Lebanese army to be stopped altogether, noting rightly that the line between that army and the Hezbollah terrorists had become blurred.

Instead of pretending as if the Cedar Revolution had not been annulled while both the Bush and Obama governments slept, the administration should be following the lead of Lowey and Cantor. As Evelyn noted, not only did Hariri falsely claim that Israel fired first but his government is also now not even recognizing the international border with Israel. Rather than playing along with the fiction that U.S. aid to Lebanon would fund an army that would be a check on Hezbollah, under the current arrangement Washington is helping to pay for the terrorist group’s fellow killers. That must end, and Lebanon — and Hariri — must be put on notice that there is a price to be paid for carrying out cross-border murders at Hezbollah’s behest.

Last week, the Lebanese army, apparently acting in concert with Hezbollah terrorists, launched a sneak attack on Israeli soldiers who were clearing away a tree on their own side of the border. One Israeli officer was killed in cold blood, and another was wounded. Israel’s response to this provocation was restrained; it merely returned fire on the Lebanese army, killing two soldiers and one Hezbollah-affiliated “journalist” who had come to the border specifically to observe the hit on the Israelis. But while even the anti-Israel United Nations peacekeeping force Unifil agreed that the Lebanese fired first and attacked Israelis on Israeli soil, the international community had little to say about this incident. Western nations, including the United States, are worried that speaking up about this will undermine the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Syrian agents murdered Hariri’s father in 2005, and protests against this act led to the Cedar Revolution, in which the Syrians were chucked out of the country. But since that signal victory for the West, the Syrians and their Hezbollah allies have won back control over the country. Hariri is now forced to accept a role that his father rejected: a vassal of Damascus and an ally of Hezbollah, which now has a place in his cabinet. As last week’s incident proved, the Lebanese army, once thought to be the lever by which the country could be pried from the grip of Syria, is now in cahoots with Hezbollah. Yet it is still in line to be the recipient of U.S. aid, approved in the days when Lebanon and its army were thought to be allies of the West against Islamist terrorism.

The State Department says it is still trying to investigate the incident and whether it is true that the Lebanese used weapons sent by the United States to shoot at Israel. But at least some members of Congress are paying attention.

Rep. Nita Lowey, the New York Democrat who chairs the House appropriations subcommittee on foreign aid, announced today that she is putting a hold on the $100 million allocated to be sent to the Lebanese army in 2010 but which has not yet been disbursed. Lowey says she wants to see how Lebanon and the Hariri government respond to the incident before this money or the $100 million Lebanon is supposed to get in 2011 is sent to Beirut. House Republican Whip Rep. Eric Cantor called for the aid pipeline to the Lebanese army to be stopped altogether, noting rightly that the line between that army and the Hezbollah terrorists had become blurred.

Instead of pretending as if the Cedar Revolution had not been annulled while both the Bush and Obama governments slept, the administration should be following the lead of Lowey and Cantor. As Evelyn noted, not only did Hariri falsely claim that Israel fired first but his government is also now not even recognizing the international border with Israel. Rather than playing along with the fiction that U.S. aid to Lebanon would fund an army that would be a check on Hezbollah, under the current arrangement Washington is helping to pay for the terrorist group’s fellow killers. That must end, and Lebanon — and Hariri — must be put on notice that there is a price to be paid for carrying out cross-border murders at Hezbollah’s behest.

Read Less

Terrorists’ Goal Is Not “Foiling Peace Process”

After Monday’s rocket attack on Eilat and Aqaba, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mouthed the de riguer platitude: the attack was perpetrated “by terrorist groups who want to foil the peace process.” Eliot Jager of Jewish Ideas Daily echoed this yesterday. Yet the sequence of events that Jager himself described — and of which Netanyahu is surely aware — strongly suggests the opposite: that the recent spate of attacks on Israel’s south are meant not to keep Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “from pursuing genuine give-and-take bargaining with Israel,” as Jager put it, but to help him in wringing concessions from Israel.

That Abbas has no interest in direct talks with Israel is impossible to miss. He himself has said so repeatedly, as have other senior PA officials: he begged the Arab League (unsuccessfully) to back him in refusing direct talks just last week, and PA officials have complained bitterly of the pressure they are under to begin the talks. So if Hamas’s recent escalation — and whether or not the Eilat/Aqaba strike came from Hamas-controlled Gaza, as Egypt claims, the weekend’s Grad and Qassam rocket strikes on southern Israel definitely did — provoked an Israeli retaliation that Abbas could paint as an “atrocity” and use as an excuse for nixing talks, nobody would be happier than Abbas.

But why would Hamas, which is embroiled in vicious rivalry with Abbas’s Fatah faction, want to cooperate with him? Because despite their mutual loathing, they have a common interest in wresting more concessions from Israel. Hamas has proved this over and over.

For instance, it clamped down on rocket and mortar attacks on Israel in August 2005 — a 75 percent drop from the previous month — to avoid disrupting the month’s scheduled unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Then, after the pullout, the rocket fire gradually escalated again.

Similarly, the year after May 1999, when Ehud Barak became prime minister on a platform of signing a final-status deal with the PA, was the first since the Oslo Accords were signed without a single suicide bombing inside Israel. Hamas wanted to see what Barak might give. But after Hamas and Fatah both deemed Barak’s offer at the July 2000 Camp David summit insufficient, they collaborated in launching a new terror war (the second intifada) to pressure Israel for more concessions. And it worked: in 2005, Israel uprooted 25 settlements and withdrew its army from Gaza without the Palestinians giving anything in exchange.

The problem with resuming direct talks now, from the standpoint of both Fatah and Hamas, is that Israel has made no new upfront concessions. Yet Abbas can no longer refuse without incurring blame.

The solution is obvious: shift the blame to Israel by provoking a military retaliation that Abbas could use as an excuse. Then the world would instead pressure Israel to offer new concessions to get him to the table.

It’s a scheme that has worked well many times before. And it will continue working until the world grasps that terrorists’ primary goal is not “foiling peace processes” but defeating their enemies piecemeal by wresting ever more concessions from them.

After Monday’s rocket attack on Eilat and Aqaba, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mouthed the de riguer platitude: the attack was perpetrated “by terrorist groups who want to foil the peace process.” Eliot Jager of Jewish Ideas Daily echoed this yesterday. Yet the sequence of events that Jager himself described — and of which Netanyahu is surely aware — strongly suggests the opposite: that the recent spate of attacks on Israel’s south are meant not to keep Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “from pursuing genuine give-and-take bargaining with Israel,” as Jager put it, but to help him in wringing concessions from Israel.

That Abbas has no interest in direct talks with Israel is impossible to miss. He himself has said so repeatedly, as have other senior PA officials: he begged the Arab League (unsuccessfully) to back him in refusing direct talks just last week, and PA officials have complained bitterly of the pressure they are under to begin the talks. So if Hamas’s recent escalation — and whether or not the Eilat/Aqaba strike came from Hamas-controlled Gaza, as Egypt claims, the weekend’s Grad and Qassam rocket strikes on southern Israel definitely did — provoked an Israeli retaliation that Abbas could paint as an “atrocity” and use as an excuse for nixing talks, nobody would be happier than Abbas.

But why would Hamas, which is embroiled in vicious rivalry with Abbas’s Fatah faction, want to cooperate with him? Because despite their mutual loathing, they have a common interest in wresting more concessions from Israel. Hamas has proved this over and over.

For instance, it clamped down on rocket and mortar attacks on Israel in August 2005 — a 75 percent drop from the previous month — to avoid disrupting the month’s scheduled unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Then, after the pullout, the rocket fire gradually escalated again.

Similarly, the year after May 1999, when Ehud Barak became prime minister on a platform of signing a final-status deal with the PA, was the first since the Oslo Accords were signed without a single suicide bombing inside Israel. Hamas wanted to see what Barak might give. But after Hamas and Fatah both deemed Barak’s offer at the July 2000 Camp David summit insufficient, they collaborated in launching a new terror war (the second intifada) to pressure Israel for more concessions. And it worked: in 2005, Israel uprooted 25 settlements and withdrew its army from Gaza without the Palestinians giving anything in exchange.

The problem with resuming direct talks now, from the standpoint of both Fatah and Hamas, is that Israel has made no new upfront concessions. Yet Abbas can no longer refuse without incurring blame.

The solution is obvious: shift the blame to Israel by provoking a military retaliation that Abbas could use as an excuse. Then the world would instead pressure Israel to offer new concessions to get him to the table.

It’s a scheme that has worked well many times before. And it will continue working until the world grasps that terrorists’ primary goal is not “foiling peace processes” but defeating their enemies piecemeal by wresting ever more concessions from them.

Read Less

Jim Mattis: New Head of Central Command

The New York Times has a nice article on the general chosen to head Central Command — Jim Mattis. I’ve known Mattis since the summer of 2003, when I spent some time in Iraq while he was commander of the 1st Marine Division. I was struck by how quickly and seamlessly he made the transition from conventional operations to what the military calls “stability operations” in the Shiite heartland of central Iraq. His methods were similar to those being employed in northern Iraq by another divisional commander — David Petraeus, of the 101st Airborne Division. (For my report on their efforts see this article.)

I’ve often wondered since then: whatever happened to those guys? Just kidding.

Petraeus’s stratospheric and well deserved rise to become the most celebrated American general since Eisenhower has already become legend. Mattis has not gotten the same degree of attention, but he completed another tour of duty in Iraq, helped co-author the Army/Marine Field Manual on Counterinsurgency with Petraeus, and went on to head the U.S. Joint Forces Command.

His many admirers, of whom I am one, were puzzled by his failure to be appointed to one of the truly plum jobs, such as that of Marine Commandant or Central Command chief. This was generally attributed to his salty tongue; he got into hot water in 2005 for saying at a public forum: “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap around women for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway, so it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.” This was seen as a cardinal violation of the rules of political correctness, which hold that soldiers are only supposed to talk about the anguish, trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder they experience; they are never supposed to comment on the thrill of the kill.

Defense Secretary Bob Gates and President Obama deserve considerable credit for not letting this minor fracas stop them from appointing Mattis as Petraeus’s successor at Centcom. What they undoubtedly know, and what the rest of the world will discover, is that Mattis is not only a “warrior’s warrior” (as he is described in the Times) but also a “diplomat’s diplomat.” In his JFCOM role, he was for a while responsible for NATO force transformation, which required him to press NATO officials to do more to upgrade their armed forces. He was not always successful (who would be?), but he was by all accounts a compelling and persuasive diplomat. He has become known for sending everyone he meets a personal “thank you” note — not a standard-issue form but rather a letter that reflects on the substance of the conversation.

I got one myself after hosting Mattis for an off-the-record roundtable at the Council on Foreign Relations. Given the ground rules, I can’t discuss what he said, but I can mention the impression he made on some jaded Council members in New York. He wowed them by combining the erudition of a Harvard professor with a combat grunt’s gift for aphorism. He showed why he is revered not only as a combat leader but also as an intellectual whose personal library of military works runs to thousands of volumes. It is hard to imagine a better choice to head Central Command. I trust he will enjoy smooth sailing in the Senate confirmation process.

The New York Times has a nice article on the general chosen to head Central Command — Jim Mattis. I’ve known Mattis since the summer of 2003, when I spent some time in Iraq while he was commander of the 1st Marine Division. I was struck by how quickly and seamlessly he made the transition from conventional operations to what the military calls “stability operations” in the Shiite heartland of central Iraq. His methods were similar to those being employed in northern Iraq by another divisional commander — David Petraeus, of the 101st Airborne Division. (For my report on their efforts see this article.)

I’ve often wondered since then: whatever happened to those guys? Just kidding.

Petraeus’s stratospheric and well deserved rise to become the most celebrated American general since Eisenhower has already become legend. Mattis has not gotten the same degree of attention, but he completed another tour of duty in Iraq, helped co-author the Army/Marine Field Manual on Counterinsurgency with Petraeus, and went on to head the U.S. Joint Forces Command.

His many admirers, of whom I am one, were puzzled by his failure to be appointed to one of the truly plum jobs, such as that of Marine Commandant or Central Command chief. This was generally attributed to his salty tongue; he got into hot water in 2005 for saying at a public forum: “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap around women for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway, so it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.” This was seen as a cardinal violation of the rules of political correctness, which hold that soldiers are only supposed to talk about the anguish, trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder they experience; they are never supposed to comment on the thrill of the kill.

Defense Secretary Bob Gates and President Obama deserve considerable credit for not letting this minor fracas stop them from appointing Mattis as Petraeus’s successor at Centcom. What they undoubtedly know, and what the rest of the world will discover, is that Mattis is not only a “warrior’s warrior” (as he is described in the Times) but also a “diplomat’s diplomat.” In his JFCOM role, he was for a while responsible for NATO force transformation, which required him to press NATO officials to do more to upgrade their armed forces. He was not always successful (who would be?), but he was by all accounts a compelling and persuasive diplomat. He has become known for sending everyone he meets a personal “thank you” note — not a standard-issue form but rather a letter that reflects on the substance of the conversation.

I got one myself after hosting Mattis for an off-the-record roundtable at the Council on Foreign Relations. Given the ground rules, I can’t discuss what he said, but I can mention the impression he made on some jaded Council members in New York. He wowed them by combining the erudition of a Harvard professor with a combat grunt’s gift for aphorism. He showed why he is revered not only as a combat leader but also as an intellectual whose personal library of military works runs to thousands of volumes. It is hard to imagine a better choice to head Central Command. I trust he will enjoy smooth sailing in the Senate confirmation process.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.