Commentary Magazine


Topic: Lt. Gen.

Time for Our Allies to Ante Up in Funding Afghan Security Forces

It’s good to hear that the Afghan government and the international community are signing off on a plan to increase the size of the Afghan Security Forces from today’s level of 266,000 soldiers and police up to 378,000 by October 2012. Such an increase is vital if Afghan forces are to have any hope of controlling their own territory. A good rule of thumb, laid out in the Army-Marine Counterinsurgency Field Manual, is that it takes one counterinsurgent per 50 civilians to defeat an insurgency. Given that Afghanistan has a population of 30 million, that suggests the need for 600,000 security personnel — a milestone that Iraq has already passed.

Even with 378,000 personnel, the Afghan security forces will still fall short, but remember that there are also 140,000 foreign troops in the country. Their presence (assuming that current force levels don’t fall) will bring the total to 518,000 — within shooting distance of the benchmark. That should be more than enough, at least for the time being, considering that the insurgency is isolated among the Pashtuns, who make up less than 50 percent of the population. Of course, if foreign force levels fall by the fall of 2012, the anti-Taliban coalition will find itself  hard-pressed to continue recent battlefield gains, which is another reason why it’s important that the administration and its allies not reduce their forces prematurely.

The gains in the size and effectiveness of the Afghan Security Forces are in large measure a tribute to U.S. Lt. Gen. Bill Caldwell and his superb team at the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan. They have brought newfound vigor and skill to the “train and assist” mission that had been lagging, along with the rest of the war effort, in past years. Their work isn’t cheap, as the Times notes:

[T]he planned increase will mean billions more in spending to train and maintain the security forces, and 95 percent of that cost is borne by the United States. Between 2003 and 2009, the United States spent $20 billion to finance the Afghan Army and police. A growing force, pay increases that were intended to retain soldiers and police officers, and the costs of improved training and equipment drove the total to $9 billion in 2010, and $11.6 billion is budgeted for this year.

But that’s still a lot cheaper than sending more American troops into harm’s way. What irritates me about the whole situation is that it is the U.S. that has to pick up the tab. Our troops are already doing the bulk of the fighting. Why don’t our rich allies — e.g., Japan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, France, Italy, Germany, Britain — pay for more of the cost of training? Some of those countries have made sizable troop contributions; others haven’t. But the U.S. has done more than any of them in terms of fighting the Taliban directly. Why do we have to do so much more than the rest of them in financing the Afghan Security Forces too?

I should note that their failure to ante up should not be an excuse for us to walk away. This is not an act of altruism; it is very much in America’s national-security interest to have a functional and effective security force in Afghanistan to prevent a Taliban/al-Qaeda takeover. Our security perimeter runs right through the Hindu Kush. But that is also true for many of our allies who would also face severe repercussions from a Taliban takeover. They should be doing more to avert that catastrophe.

It’s good to hear that the Afghan government and the international community are signing off on a plan to increase the size of the Afghan Security Forces from today’s level of 266,000 soldiers and police up to 378,000 by October 2012. Such an increase is vital if Afghan forces are to have any hope of controlling their own territory. A good rule of thumb, laid out in the Army-Marine Counterinsurgency Field Manual, is that it takes one counterinsurgent per 50 civilians to defeat an insurgency. Given that Afghanistan has a population of 30 million, that suggests the need for 600,000 security personnel — a milestone that Iraq has already passed.

Even with 378,000 personnel, the Afghan security forces will still fall short, but remember that there are also 140,000 foreign troops in the country. Their presence (assuming that current force levels don’t fall) will bring the total to 518,000 — within shooting distance of the benchmark. That should be more than enough, at least for the time being, considering that the insurgency is isolated among the Pashtuns, who make up less than 50 percent of the population. Of course, if foreign force levels fall by the fall of 2012, the anti-Taliban coalition will find itself  hard-pressed to continue recent battlefield gains, which is another reason why it’s important that the administration and its allies not reduce their forces prematurely.

The gains in the size and effectiveness of the Afghan Security Forces are in large measure a tribute to U.S. Lt. Gen. Bill Caldwell and his superb team at the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan. They have brought newfound vigor and skill to the “train and assist” mission that had been lagging, along with the rest of the war effort, in past years. Their work isn’t cheap, as the Times notes:

[T]he planned increase will mean billions more in spending to train and maintain the security forces, and 95 percent of that cost is borne by the United States. Between 2003 and 2009, the United States spent $20 billion to finance the Afghan Army and police. A growing force, pay increases that were intended to retain soldiers and police officers, and the costs of improved training and equipment drove the total to $9 billion in 2010, and $11.6 billion is budgeted for this year.

But that’s still a lot cheaper than sending more American troops into harm’s way. What irritates me about the whole situation is that it is the U.S. that has to pick up the tab. Our troops are already doing the bulk of the fighting. Why don’t our rich allies — e.g., Japan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, France, Italy, Germany, Britain — pay for more of the cost of training? Some of those countries have made sizable troop contributions; others haven’t. But the U.S. has done more than any of them in terms of fighting the Taliban directly. Why do we have to do so much more than the rest of them in financing the Afghan Security Forces too?

I should note that their failure to ante up should not be an excuse for us to walk away. This is not an act of altruism; it is very much in America’s national-security interest to have a functional and effective security force in Afghanistan to prevent a Taliban/al-Qaeda takeover. Our security perimeter runs right through the Hindu Kush. But that is also true for many of our allies who would also face severe repercussions from a Taliban takeover. They should be doing more to avert that catastrophe.

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Group Outlines the Conservative Case Against New Start

Earlier this month, Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Jim Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger, and Colin Powell laid out the “Republican case” for ratifying New START in the Washington Post.

But now another group of conservative national-security experts has outlined the case against the arms-reduction treaty. The New Deterrent Working group, which includes John Bolton, Edwin Meese, Frank J. Gaffney Jr., Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney, Bruce S. Gelb, and J. William Middendorf II, has sent a letter to Sen. Harry Reid and Sen. Mitch McConnell urging them to reject New Start.

From the text of the letter:

As you know, President Obama insists that the United States Senate advise and consent during the present lame-duck session to the bilateral U.S.-Russian strategic arms control treaty known as “New START” that he signed earlier this year in Prague. It is our considered professional judgment that this treaty and the larger disarmament agenda which its ratification would endorse are not consistent with the national security interests of the United States, and that both should be rejected by the Senate.

Administration efforts to compel the Senate to vote under circumstances in which an informed and full debate are effectively precluded is inconsistent with your institution’s precedents, its constitutionally mandated quality-control responsibilities with respect to treaties and, in particular, the critical deliberation New START requires in light of that accord’s myriad defects …

The letter summed up the direct risks of reducing our nuclear capabilities, but the more compelling argument touched on the potential unintended consequences of the treaty. The group cautioned that New START could actually increase nuclear proliferation by prompting countries that rely on the U.S. for security to develop their own nuclear capabilities. In addition, reductions by the U.S. could encourage China to expand its own stockpile in pursuit of nuclear parity. Since the entire point of New START is to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, this might be one of the more effective arguments against it.

The letter also argued that Russia’s inventory of strategic launchers would shrink dramatically over the next decade (from 680 to 270) because of aging and regardless of whether New START is ratified.

This vocal opposition from prominent conservatives may help keep Senate Republicans in line against New START. Three Republican senators are currently supporting the treaty, but six additional GOP votes are needed to ratify it.

Earlier this month, Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Jim Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger, and Colin Powell laid out the “Republican case” for ratifying New START in the Washington Post.

But now another group of conservative national-security experts has outlined the case against the arms-reduction treaty. The New Deterrent Working group, which includes John Bolton, Edwin Meese, Frank J. Gaffney Jr., Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney, Bruce S. Gelb, and J. William Middendorf II, has sent a letter to Sen. Harry Reid and Sen. Mitch McConnell urging them to reject New Start.

From the text of the letter:

As you know, President Obama insists that the United States Senate advise and consent during the present lame-duck session to the bilateral U.S.-Russian strategic arms control treaty known as “New START” that he signed earlier this year in Prague. It is our considered professional judgment that this treaty and the larger disarmament agenda which its ratification would endorse are not consistent with the national security interests of the United States, and that both should be rejected by the Senate.

Administration efforts to compel the Senate to vote under circumstances in which an informed and full debate are effectively precluded is inconsistent with your institution’s precedents, its constitutionally mandated quality-control responsibilities with respect to treaties and, in particular, the critical deliberation New START requires in light of that accord’s myriad defects …

The letter summed up the direct risks of reducing our nuclear capabilities, but the more compelling argument touched on the potential unintended consequences of the treaty. The group cautioned that New START could actually increase nuclear proliferation by prompting countries that rely on the U.S. for security to develop their own nuclear capabilities. In addition, reductions by the U.S. could encourage China to expand its own stockpile in pursuit of nuclear parity. Since the entire point of New START is to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, this might be one of the more effective arguments against it.

The letter also argued that Russia’s inventory of strategic launchers would shrink dramatically over the next decade (from 680 to 270) because of aging and regardless of whether New START is ratified.

This vocal opposition from prominent conservatives may help keep Senate Republicans in line against New START. Three Republican senators are currently supporting the treaty, but six additional GOP votes are needed to ratify it.

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CENTCOM’s ‘Red Team’ Hearts Hamas and Hezbollah

It appears that the Hamas and Hezbollah terror groups have some friends in a rather unlikely niche of the American military. While the Obama administration has maintained the line that both these groups are terrorist and threats to peace, some senior intelligence officers at the U.S. military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) think the United States should be making nice with them.

According to Mark Perry, writing in Foreign Policy, a leaked memo that was issued on May 7 by a CENTCOM “Red Team” asserts that the United States ought to be advocating for Hezbollah’s integration into the Lebanese Armed Forces and a Hamas-Fatah merger for the Palestinians. He quotes the report as characterizing the Islamist terror groups as “pragmatic and opportunistic” and plays down the close ties between them and Iran, for which they are widely viewed as local proxies. The memo compared Hezbollah with the post–Good Friday Agreement Irish Republican Army and seems to envision its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, becoming the Gerry Adams of Lebanon and a force for peace. As for Hamas, not only did the report boost that Islamist group, but it also dismissed the much-touted efforts of Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton in helping to train a new Palestinian security force that would control terrorism.

Red Team reports are supposed to challenge existing policies and attitudes, but according to Perry, this apologia for Hamas and Hezbollah and repudiation of efforts to isolate these terror organizations actually “reflects the thinking among a significant number of senior officers at CENTCOM headquarters — and among senior CENTCOM intelligence officers and analysts serving in the Middle East.”

If that is so, then it is a matter of deep concern for those who worry about the future of the Middle East. While the Obama administration has sought to distance itself from Israel, it has nevertheless resisted the temptation to repudiate the basic principles of American policy, which has always insisted that such groups must repudiate terrorism, recognize the State of Israel, and adhere to existing peace agreements before they can seek U.S. recognition, let alone the sort of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval that the CENTCOM Red Team believes should be given to them. Moreover, the memo’s repudiation of efforts to aid Palestinian moderates ought to give Israelis pause. Both Israel and the United States have been active in supporting the efforts of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s attempts to create an infrastructure that could resist Hamas and become a credible partner for peace. But calling for Hamas to be integrated into the forces that Dayton is training is tantamount to saying that the two-state solution is dead and that Israel is, more or less, on its own as it faces the challenge of Palestinian terror.

There are many problems with the Red Team’s point of view, but the chief objection is that it completely misunderstands the power of extremist religion in determining the policies of both Hamas and Hezbollah. Both are guided by Islamist ideas that utterly reject the legitimacy of Israel and are steeped in anti-Jewish and anti-Western hatred. The notion that they can be house trained in the way that the Red Team envisions is not only ridiculous but also bespeaks a Western mindset that has no comprehension of extremist Islamic or Arabic political culture.

While there is no reason to believe that either the administration or outgoing CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus has endorsed this radical departure from American anti-terror policy, the leaking of this memo and the notion that it represents the opinions of many in the Pentagon ought to scare Israelis and leave them less willing than ever to make the sorts of concessions Washington believes can strengthen the peace process. If many in the U.S. military are willing to rationalize Hamas and Hezbollah in the way this memo does, then Israelis may be forgiven for concluding that perhaps they need to re-evaluate their own faith in American guarantees of the security of the Jewish state.

It appears that the Hamas and Hezbollah terror groups have some friends in a rather unlikely niche of the American military. While the Obama administration has maintained the line that both these groups are terrorist and threats to peace, some senior intelligence officers at the U.S. military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) think the United States should be making nice with them.

According to Mark Perry, writing in Foreign Policy, a leaked memo that was issued on May 7 by a CENTCOM “Red Team” asserts that the United States ought to be advocating for Hezbollah’s integration into the Lebanese Armed Forces and a Hamas-Fatah merger for the Palestinians. He quotes the report as characterizing the Islamist terror groups as “pragmatic and opportunistic” and plays down the close ties between them and Iran, for which they are widely viewed as local proxies. The memo compared Hezbollah with the post–Good Friday Agreement Irish Republican Army and seems to envision its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, becoming the Gerry Adams of Lebanon and a force for peace. As for Hamas, not only did the report boost that Islamist group, but it also dismissed the much-touted efforts of Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton in helping to train a new Palestinian security force that would control terrorism.

Red Team reports are supposed to challenge existing policies and attitudes, but according to Perry, this apologia for Hamas and Hezbollah and repudiation of efforts to isolate these terror organizations actually “reflects the thinking among a significant number of senior officers at CENTCOM headquarters — and among senior CENTCOM intelligence officers and analysts serving in the Middle East.”

If that is so, then it is a matter of deep concern for those who worry about the future of the Middle East. While the Obama administration has sought to distance itself from Israel, it has nevertheless resisted the temptation to repudiate the basic principles of American policy, which has always insisted that such groups must repudiate terrorism, recognize the State of Israel, and adhere to existing peace agreements before they can seek U.S. recognition, let alone the sort of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval that the CENTCOM Red Team believes should be given to them. Moreover, the memo’s repudiation of efforts to aid Palestinian moderates ought to give Israelis pause. Both Israel and the United States have been active in supporting the efforts of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s attempts to create an infrastructure that could resist Hamas and become a credible partner for peace. But calling for Hamas to be integrated into the forces that Dayton is training is tantamount to saying that the two-state solution is dead and that Israel is, more or less, on its own as it faces the challenge of Palestinian terror.

There are many problems with the Red Team’s point of view, but the chief objection is that it completely misunderstands the power of extremist religion in determining the policies of both Hamas and Hezbollah. Both are guided by Islamist ideas that utterly reject the legitimacy of Israel and are steeped in anti-Jewish and anti-Western hatred. The notion that they can be house trained in the way that the Red Team envisions is not only ridiculous but also bespeaks a Western mindset that has no comprehension of extremist Islamic or Arabic political culture.

While there is no reason to believe that either the administration or outgoing CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus has endorsed this radical departure from American anti-terror policy, the leaking of this memo and the notion that it represents the opinions of many in the Pentagon ought to scare Israelis and leave them less willing than ever to make the sorts of concessions Washington believes can strengthen the peace process. If many in the U.S. military are willing to rationalize Hamas and Hezbollah in the way this memo does, then Israelis may be forgiven for concluding that perhaps they need to re-evaluate their own faith in American guarantees of the security of the Jewish state.

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McChrystal’s Media Woes

If there is one knock on Stanley McChrystal, generally considered one of the top generals in the entire armed forces, it is that, coming from the secretive world of “black” special operations, he is not experienced in dealing with the media. The consequences of that inexperience have now exploded in his face in the form of a hostile Rolling Stone article entitled “Runaway General.”

What on earth was McChrystal thinking, one wonders, when he decided to grant so much access to an anti-war reporter from an anti-war magazine? Michael Hastings’s animus against the war effort shines through every inch of his article. His conclusion is that “winning” in Afghanistan “is not really possible. Not even with Stanley McChrystal in charge.” Along the way he brands the counterinsurgency strategy that McChrystal is implementing “a controversial strategy” that is advocated only by “COINdiniastas” notorious for their “their cultish zeal.” When he quotes outside experts in the article, all of them express disparaging views about the prospects of success. For instance:

“The entire COIN strategy is a fraud perpetuated on the American people,” says Douglas Macgregor, a retired colonel and leading critic of counterinsurgency who attended West Point with McChrystal. “The idea that we are going to spend a trillion dollars to reshape the culture of the Islamic world is utter nonsense.”

There is no indication in the article that Macgregor is a notorious maverick widely known for his eccentric views, which included calling for the lightest of footprints in the invasion of Iraq (he thought that 50,000 troops would be sufficient) and later opposing the surge in Iraq.

Yet while Macgregor may think McChrystal is implementing an unworkable theory, McChrystal’s plan has had the solid support of General David Petraeus, head of Central Command; Admiral James Stavridis, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; Admiral Michael Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and, after an agonizing three-month review in the fall that considered every conceivable alternative, President Obama, himself.

McChrystal was undoubtedly stupid to grant so much access to a hostile reporter, and his aides were equally clueless in making some disparaging remarks in front of this reporter about Vice President Biden and National Security Adviser Jim Jones, among others. But that in no way invalidates McChrystal’s plan, which should be carried out, with some inevitable adjustments, by whomever is the NATO commander in Afghanistan.

Should that person be McChrystal? Despite the calls for his firing emanating from the usual quarters on the left, the general is certainly not guilty of violating the chain of command in the way that truly insubordinate generals like Douglas MacArthur have. Recall that MacArthur publicly disagreed with Truman’ strategy in the Korean War. Likewise, Admiral Fox Fallon was fired as Centcom commander in 2008 after publicly disagreeing in an Esquire article with Bush-administration strategy over Iran. McChrystal does nothing of the sort. At worst, one of his aides says that McChrystal was “disappointed” by his initial meetings with the president, who looked “uncomfortable and intimidated.” Most of the disparaging comments heard from McChrystal’s aides are directed not at the president but at presidential aides who oppose the strategy that the president himself announced back in the fall and that McChrystal is working 24/7 to implement. Is this type of banter enough for Obama to fire McChrystal?

It could be, but if he does it could represent a setback to the war effort — and to the president’s hopes to withdraw some troops next summer. The least disruption would occur if a general already in Afghanistan — Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, who runs day to day operations, is the obvious choice — takes over. If an outsider were chosen (e.g., Marine General Jim Mattis), there would likely be a delay of months while the new commander conducted his own assessment of the situation. That’s a delay we can ill afford right now. On the other hand, we can ill afford having McChrystal stay if he is so discredited with the commander in chief and so weakened in internal-administration deliberations that he cannot stand up to the attempts by Biden and other internal critics to downsize the mission prematurely.

McChrystal has undoubtedly created a major problem for himself, his command, and the larger mission in Afghanistan. But I still believe he is a terrific general who has come up with a good strategy and has energized a listless command that was drifting when he took over. Notwithstanding the current turmoil, the war remains eminently winnable, and the McChrystal strategy remains the best option for winning it.

If there is one knock on Stanley McChrystal, generally considered one of the top generals in the entire armed forces, it is that, coming from the secretive world of “black” special operations, he is not experienced in dealing with the media. The consequences of that inexperience have now exploded in his face in the form of a hostile Rolling Stone article entitled “Runaway General.”

What on earth was McChrystal thinking, one wonders, when he decided to grant so much access to an anti-war reporter from an anti-war magazine? Michael Hastings’s animus against the war effort shines through every inch of his article. His conclusion is that “winning” in Afghanistan “is not really possible. Not even with Stanley McChrystal in charge.” Along the way he brands the counterinsurgency strategy that McChrystal is implementing “a controversial strategy” that is advocated only by “COINdiniastas” notorious for their “their cultish zeal.” When he quotes outside experts in the article, all of them express disparaging views about the prospects of success. For instance:

“The entire COIN strategy is a fraud perpetuated on the American people,” says Douglas Macgregor, a retired colonel and leading critic of counterinsurgency who attended West Point with McChrystal. “The idea that we are going to spend a trillion dollars to reshape the culture of the Islamic world is utter nonsense.”

There is no indication in the article that Macgregor is a notorious maverick widely known for his eccentric views, which included calling for the lightest of footprints in the invasion of Iraq (he thought that 50,000 troops would be sufficient) and later opposing the surge in Iraq.

Yet while Macgregor may think McChrystal is implementing an unworkable theory, McChrystal’s plan has had the solid support of General David Petraeus, head of Central Command; Admiral James Stavridis, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; Admiral Michael Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and, after an agonizing three-month review in the fall that considered every conceivable alternative, President Obama, himself.

McChrystal was undoubtedly stupid to grant so much access to a hostile reporter, and his aides were equally clueless in making some disparaging remarks in front of this reporter about Vice President Biden and National Security Adviser Jim Jones, among others. But that in no way invalidates McChrystal’s plan, which should be carried out, with some inevitable adjustments, by whomever is the NATO commander in Afghanistan.

Should that person be McChrystal? Despite the calls for his firing emanating from the usual quarters on the left, the general is certainly not guilty of violating the chain of command in the way that truly insubordinate generals like Douglas MacArthur have. Recall that MacArthur publicly disagreed with Truman’ strategy in the Korean War. Likewise, Admiral Fox Fallon was fired as Centcom commander in 2008 after publicly disagreeing in an Esquire article with Bush-administration strategy over Iran. McChrystal does nothing of the sort. At worst, one of his aides says that McChrystal was “disappointed” by his initial meetings with the president, who looked “uncomfortable and intimidated.” Most of the disparaging comments heard from McChrystal’s aides are directed not at the president but at presidential aides who oppose the strategy that the president himself announced back in the fall and that McChrystal is working 24/7 to implement. Is this type of banter enough for Obama to fire McChrystal?

It could be, but if he does it could represent a setback to the war effort — and to the president’s hopes to withdraw some troops next summer. The least disruption would occur if a general already in Afghanistan — Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, who runs day to day operations, is the obvious choice — takes over. If an outsider were chosen (e.g., Marine General Jim Mattis), there would likely be a delay of months while the new commander conducted his own assessment of the situation. That’s a delay we can ill afford right now. On the other hand, we can ill afford having McChrystal stay if he is so discredited with the commander in chief and so weakened in internal-administration deliberations that he cannot stand up to the attempts by Biden and other internal critics to downsize the mission prematurely.

McChrystal has undoubtedly created a major problem for himself, his command, and the larger mission in Afghanistan. But I still believe he is a terrific general who has come up with a good strategy and has energized a listless command that was drifting when he took over. Notwithstanding the current turmoil, the war remains eminently winnable, and the McChrystal strategy remains the best option for winning it.

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Will J Street Protest Anti-Zionists at the Nation and on the Streets of New York?

Were there any lingering doubts about the toxic nature of the American Left’s allergy to Israel, the Nation removes them today. Its website branded the head of the Israeli Defense Forces a “war criminal” that righteous New Yorkers should picket.

The event that got the Nation’s knickers in a twist is a fundraising dinner to be held at the Waldorf Astoria for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, a nonprofit group that provides aid to soldiers. The keynote speaker is Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff of the IDF and the man who led Israel’s forces last year in its counterattack against terrorist fire on southern Israel. In Europe, Israelis like Ashkenazi have been subjected to harassment and bogus legal action, an outrageous situation that hard-core leftists here would like to emulate.

Indeed, what they want is to end the international isolation of the Hamas regime in Gaza and, instead, impose a blockade on Israel. But the irony of the Nation and its übersecular followers fronting for the Islamist murderers of Hamas is lost on the magazine.

The main point here is that the flagship American publication of the Left has no compunction about attempting to delegitimize the right of Jews to self-defense against terror, or about promoting an event that is part of the vicious International Israeli Apartheid Week libel fest.

Some pro-Israel activists will be counterdemonstrating against the Nation-supported anti-Zionists in what will, no doubt, turn into the usual pointless shouting matches. But if there is one group of Jews that ought to argue with the Nation’s acolytes, it’s not the usual right-wing suspects who turn up at these things but that famous “pro-Israel” group that calls itself J Street. On its Website, J Street says it is against the apartheid libels thrown at Israel.

But in December 2008, when Israelis from Left to Right united behind Operation Cast Lead, J Street opposed the counterattack on Gaza. So it is understandable that “peace” activists who back the group may feel conflicted about taking on fellow left-wingers who took seriously the organization’s rhetoric opposing Israeli self-defense.

But instead of firing on the mainstream pro-Israel community or pushing the Obama administration to pressure the Jewish state, J Street — which has repeatedly asserted during the past year that it is as “pro-Israel” as it is “pro-peace” — has a responsibility to confront some of its erstwhile friends on the Left who seek to demonize the State of Israel and its defenders.

If the Jewish rump of Moveon.org that formed J Street wants to make its bones as part of the pro-Israel coalition in this country, it can do no better than to protest the Nation’s decision to label Israeli soldiers as war criminals.

Were there any lingering doubts about the toxic nature of the American Left’s allergy to Israel, the Nation removes them today. Its website branded the head of the Israeli Defense Forces a “war criminal” that righteous New Yorkers should picket.

The event that got the Nation’s knickers in a twist is a fundraising dinner to be held at the Waldorf Astoria for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, a nonprofit group that provides aid to soldiers. The keynote speaker is Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff of the IDF and the man who led Israel’s forces last year in its counterattack against terrorist fire on southern Israel. In Europe, Israelis like Ashkenazi have been subjected to harassment and bogus legal action, an outrageous situation that hard-core leftists here would like to emulate.

Indeed, what they want is to end the international isolation of the Hamas regime in Gaza and, instead, impose a blockade on Israel. But the irony of the Nation and its übersecular followers fronting for the Islamist murderers of Hamas is lost on the magazine.

The main point here is that the flagship American publication of the Left has no compunction about attempting to delegitimize the right of Jews to self-defense against terror, or about promoting an event that is part of the vicious International Israeli Apartheid Week libel fest.

Some pro-Israel activists will be counterdemonstrating against the Nation-supported anti-Zionists in what will, no doubt, turn into the usual pointless shouting matches. But if there is one group of Jews that ought to argue with the Nation’s acolytes, it’s not the usual right-wing suspects who turn up at these things but that famous “pro-Israel” group that calls itself J Street. On its Website, J Street says it is against the apartheid libels thrown at Israel.

But in December 2008, when Israelis from Left to Right united behind Operation Cast Lead, J Street opposed the counterattack on Gaza. So it is understandable that “peace” activists who back the group may feel conflicted about taking on fellow left-wingers who took seriously the organization’s rhetoric opposing Israeli self-defense.

But instead of firing on the mainstream pro-Israel community or pushing the Obama administration to pressure the Jewish state, J Street — which has repeatedly asserted during the past year that it is as “pro-Israel” as it is “pro-peace” — has a responsibility to confront some of its erstwhile friends on the Left who seek to demonize the State of Israel and its defenders.

If the Jewish rump of Moveon.org that formed J Street wants to make its bones as part of the pro-Israel coalition in this country, it can do no better than to protest the Nation’s decision to label Israeli soldiers as war criminals.

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Another Year, Another Peace Process

Carl in Jerusalem has a perceptive analysis of Secretary Clinton’s statement on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, addressing some of the concerns in my post about the omitted phrase “defensible borders” — a diplomatic term of art that has been dropped without explanation from the lexicon of the Obama administration.

Carl notes another significant omission, this time on the Palestinian side: Clinton referred to the goal of an “independent and viable” Palestinian state but omitted a word that has been insisted upon by the Palestinians:

There’s a key word missing here: contiguous. I have argued many times on this blog that if a ‘Palestinian’ state is contiguous, then by definition the Jewish state would be neither contiguous nor secure. Thus Clinton’s omission of the word contiguous from her formulation, if tracked in the [potential] letter to the “Palestinians,” is significant.

There may be a connection here. If a “contiguous” Palestinian state is not consistent with an Israeli one with “defensible” borders — and vice versa — Clinton may have simply ducked the issue by leaving both words out of her statement.

As the year ends, it is time for a broader look at the peace process, which has to date produced three Israeli withdrawals (from Lebanon, Gaza, and part of the West Bank); three Israeli offers of a Palestinian state (at Camp David, in the Clinton Parameters, and during the Annapolis Process); three Palestinian rejections; and three wars – one from each area of the withdrawal. The enterprise is apparently too big to fail, even though it repeatedly does.

The Obama administration thought it would try its own unique approach – creating daylight between the U.S. and Israel, reneging on longstanding understandings about settlements, demanding pre-negotiation concessions, disregarding the 2004 Bush letter – but has not yet been able to get even new negotiations started. So we end the year just as it began, with a no-state solution that may be the best option under the circumstances.

As we now proceed to the 17th year of the peace process, it is worth re-reading Maj. Gen (Ret.) Giora Eiland’s valuable 2008 monograph for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “Rethinking the Two-State Solution,” as well as two other paradigm-changing analyses from 2008: Caroline Glick’s “Israel and the Palestinians: Ending the Stalemate,” and former IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Moshe Yaalon’s “Israel and the Palestinians: A New Strategy.” Taken together, they provide the outline of a more reliable roadmap. Giora, in particular, argues persuasively that the current two-state paradigm is a zero-sum game that will not work even if a comprehensive peace agreement is achieved — and even if it were actually implemented:

Even in such a case, there is no chance that a Clinton [Parameter]-style solution would be stable or sustainable, for at least two reasons: the Palestinian state would not be viable, and Israel’s borders would not be defensible. The combination of these two problems would inevitably catapult the two sides back into a cycle of violence.

A strategy of artful formulations, such as Secretary Clinton’s confident statement about negotiations resolving the goals of both sides – while failing to list the conflicting ones of defensible borders and the demand for a contiguous state — is not likely to be successful. Meanwhile, the sponsor of Hamas and Hezbollah marches toward weapons of mass destruction, unimpeded by an unperturbed Barack Obama.

Carl in Jerusalem has a perceptive analysis of Secretary Clinton’s statement on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, addressing some of the concerns in my post about the omitted phrase “defensible borders” — a diplomatic term of art that has been dropped without explanation from the lexicon of the Obama administration.

Carl notes another significant omission, this time on the Palestinian side: Clinton referred to the goal of an “independent and viable” Palestinian state but omitted a word that has been insisted upon by the Palestinians:

There’s a key word missing here: contiguous. I have argued many times on this blog that if a ‘Palestinian’ state is contiguous, then by definition the Jewish state would be neither contiguous nor secure. Thus Clinton’s omission of the word contiguous from her formulation, if tracked in the [potential] letter to the “Palestinians,” is significant.

There may be a connection here. If a “contiguous” Palestinian state is not consistent with an Israeli one with “defensible” borders — and vice versa — Clinton may have simply ducked the issue by leaving both words out of her statement.

As the year ends, it is time for a broader look at the peace process, which has to date produced three Israeli withdrawals (from Lebanon, Gaza, and part of the West Bank); three Israeli offers of a Palestinian state (at Camp David, in the Clinton Parameters, and during the Annapolis Process); three Palestinian rejections; and three wars – one from each area of the withdrawal. The enterprise is apparently too big to fail, even though it repeatedly does.

The Obama administration thought it would try its own unique approach – creating daylight between the U.S. and Israel, reneging on longstanding understandings about settlements, demanding pre-negotiation concessions, disregarding the 2004 Bush letter – but has not yet been able to get even new negotiations started. So we end the year just as it began, with a no-state solution that may be the best option under the circumstances.

As we now proceed to the 17th year of the peace process, it is worth re-reading Maj. Gen (Ret.) Giora Eiland’s valuable 2008 monograph for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “Rethinking the Two-State Solution,” as well as two other paradigm-changing analyses from 2008: Caroline Glick’s “Israel and the Palestinians: Ending the Stalemate,” and former IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Moshe Yaalon’s “Israel and the Palestinians: A New Strategy.” Taken together, they provide the outline of a more reliable roadmap. Giora, in particular, argues persuasively that the current two-state paradigm is a zero-sum game that will not work even if a comprehensive peace agreement is achieved — and even if it were actually implemented:

Even in such a case, there is no chance that a Clinton [Parameter]-style solution would be stable or sustainable, for at least two reasons: the Palestinian state would not be viable, and Israel’s borders would not be defensible. The combination of these two problems would inevitably catapult the two sides back into a cycle of violence.

A strategy of artful formulations, such as Secretary Clinton’s confident statement about negotiations resolving the goals of both sides – while failing to list the conflicting ones of defensible borders and the demand for a contiguous state — is not likely to be successful. Meanwhile, the sponsor of Hamas and Hezbollah marches toward weapons of mass destruction, unimpeded by an unperturbed Barack Obama.

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Al Qaeda Weakening . . .

In a story from the Associated Press we read this:

The Al Qaeda terror group in Iraq appears to be at its weakest state since it gained an initial foothold in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion five years ago, the acting commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said Wednesday in an Associated Press interview. Army Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who assumed interim command of U.S. Central Command on March 28, acknowledged that Al Qaeda remains a relentless foe and has not disappeared as a serious threat to stability. But he said an accelerated U.S. and Iraq campaign to pressure Al Qaeda has paid big dividends. “Our forces and the Iraqi forces have certainly disrupted Al Qaeda, probably to a level that we haven’t seen at any time in my experience,” said Dempsey, who served in Iraq in the initial stages as a division commander and later as head of the military organization in charge of training Iraqi security forces.

And this:

Earlier Wednesday, the Army general who oversees U.S. commando operations in the Middle East said that Al Qaeda in Iraq has yet to be vanquished but is increasingly running out of places where local Iraqis will accommodate the group’s extremist ideology. “Is he still a lethal and dangerous threat to us? Absolutely,” Maj. Gen. John Mulholland said in an interview with reporters at the headquarters of U.S. Special Operations Command, the organization with global responsibility for providing Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and other commandos to combat terrorism. . . . Mulholland acknowledged that Al Qaeda, which U.S. intelligence says is led by foreign terrorists but is populated mainly by local Iraqis seeking to establish a radical Islamic state, still poses a major challenge in the Mosul area of northern Iraq and has occasionally slipped back into areas like Anbar province in western Iraq. “Do we think he can at least try to regain a foothold in Anbar province? Yes, we do think he’s trying to do that,” Mulholland said. While U.S. officials do not believe Al Qaeda is succeeding in re-establishing a significant presence in Anbar – which the group was forced to abandon a year ago as local Sunni Arabs turned violently against it – it does appear that small Al Qaeda cells can still slip into isolated areas and make trouble, he said. “I don’t want to paint a picture – or to convey to you in any way – that Al Qaeda in Iraq is being completely destroyed or rendered irrelevant, because that’s not the case,” he said. “They are still potentially a threat capable of death and destruction against the Iraqi people and our own forces there. But it is not something he can do easily any more.”

This news should be seen within the context of Max’s post earlier today in which he points out that the number of daily attacks in Mosul has dropped at least 85 percent since U.S.-Iraqi forces began an offensive against Sunni insurgents in the city earlier this month. And that news, in turn, follows on progress we’ve witnessed in the last few days in both Basra and Sadr City. And earlier today at his confirmation hearing to take over the U.S. Central Command, General David Petraeus said this:

I should note here that the number of security incidents in Iraq last week was the lowest in over four years and it appears that the week that ends tomorrow will see an even lower number of incidents. This has been achieved despite having now withdrawn 3 of the 5 Brigade Combat Teams that will have redeployed without replacement by the end of July. Recent operations in Basra, Mosul, and now Sadr City have contributed significantly to the reduction in violence, and Prime Minister Maliki, his government, the Iraqi Security Forces, and the Iraqi people deserve considerable credit for the positive developments since Ambassador Crocker and I testified a month-and-a-half ago. In the months ahead, Coalition Forces will continue to work closely with the Iraqi Security Forces in pursuing Al Qaeda-Iraq, their extremist partners, and militia elements that threaten security in Iraq. And though, as always, tough fights and hard work lie ahead, I believe that the path that we are on will best help achieve the objective of an Iraq that is at peace with itself and its neighbors, that is an ally in the war on terror, that has a government that serves all Iraqis, and that is an increasingly prosperous and important member of the global economy and community of nations. [emphasis added]

What are we to make of all this? For one thing, there is no question that on almost every front–including the political and economic front–we’re seeing heartening progress in Iraq. It’s virtually impossible to argue that after far too many years of pursuing a flawed strategy, which came at an enormous cost to both the Iraqi people and the United States, we now have in place the right strategy being executed by the right people. Progress that was unimaginable in Iraq fifteen months ago has been made–and a nation that was bleeding and dying is now binding up its wounds.

General Petraeus’s warning that tough fights and hard work lie ahead cannot be repeated often enough. Military victories in Iraq, as difficult as they have been, are still easier to attain than rebuilding a traumatized and broken society. But we really have no other choice. Given the hopeful developments we have seen since the surge began, to leave now, before our job is complete, would be reckless and shameful and probably catastrophic.

In the latter half of 2006 it was legitimate for war critics to argue that Iraq was irredeemable lost and therefore we should cut our losses and leave. But that case can no longer be made. The debate has shifted from what the right strategy is to one of national will. Will our nation, weary of this long and costly war, continue along the path which has brought about indisputable, and in some cases breathtaking, progress? If we do, there will be honor in our efforts–and, it’s now reasonable to say, success as well.

In a story from the Associated Press we read this:

The Al Qaeda terror group in Iraq appears to be at its weakest state since it gained an initial foothold in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion five years ago, the acting commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said Wednesday in an Associated Press interview. Army Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who assumed interim command of U.S. Central Command on March 28, acknowledged that Al Qaeda remains a relentless foe and has not disappeared as a serious threat to stability. But he said an accelerated U.S. and Iraq campaign to pressure Al Qaeda has paid big dividends. “Our forces and the Iraqi forces have certainly disrupted Al Qaeda, probably to a level that we haven’t seen at any time in my experience,” said Dempsey, who served in Iraq in the initial stages as a division commander and later as head of the military organization in charge of training Iraqi security forces.

And this:

Earlier Wednesday, the Army general who oversees U.S. commando operations in the Middle East said that Al Qaeda in Iraq has yet to be vanquished but is increasingly running out of places where local Iraqis will accommodate the group’s extremist ideology. “Is he still a lethal and dangerous threat to us? Absolutely,” Maj. Gen. John Mulholland said in an interview with reporters at the headquarters of U.S. Special Operations Command, the organization with global responsibility for providing Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and other commandos to combat terrorism. . . . Mulholland acknowledged that Al Qaeda, which U.S. intelligence says is led by foreign terrorists but is populated mainly by local Iraqis seeking to establish a radical Islamic state, still poses a major challenge in the Mosul area of northern Iraq and has occasionally slipped back into areas like Anbar province in western Iraq. “Do we think he can at least try to regain a foothold in Anbar province? Yes, we do think he’s trying to do that,” Mulholland said. While U.S. officials do not believe Al Qaeda is succeeding in re-establishing a significant presence in Anbar – which the group was forced to abandon a year ago as local Sunni Arabs turned violently against it – it does appear that small Al Qaeda cells can still slip into isolated areas and make trouble, he said. “I don’t want to paint a picture – or to convey to you in any way – that Al Qaeda in Iraq is being completely destroyed or rendered irrelevant, because that’s not the case,” he said. “They are still potentially a threat capable of death and destruction against the Iraqi people and our own forces there. But it is not something he can do easily any more.”

This news should be seen within the context of Max’s post earlier today in which he points out that the number of daily attacks in Mosul has dropped at least 85 percent since U.S.-Iraqi forces began an offensive against Sunni insurgents in the city earlier this month. And that news, in turn, follows on progress we’ve witnessed in the last few days in both Basra and Sadr City. And earlier today at his confirmation hearing to take over the U.S. Central Command, General David Petraeus said this:

I should note here that the number of security incidents in Iraq last week was the lowest in over four years and it appears that the week that ends tomorrow will see an even lower number of incidents. This has been achieved despite having now withdrawn 3 of the 5 Brigade Combat Teams that will have redeployed without replacement by the end of July. Recent operations in Basra, Mosul, and now Sadr City have contributed significantly to the reduction in violence, and Prime Minister Maliki, his government, the Iraqi Security Forces, and the Iraqi people deserve considerable credit for the positive developments since Ambassador Crocker and I testified a month-and-a-half ago. In the months ahead, Coalition Forces will continue to work closely with the Iraqi Security Forces in pursuing Al Qaeda-Iraq, their extremist partners, and militia elements that threaten security in Iraq. And though, as always, tough fights and hard work lie ahead, I believe that the path that we are on will best help achieve the objective of an Iraq that is at peace with itself and its neighbors, that is an ally in the war on terror, that has a government that serves all Iraqis, and that is an increasingly prosperous and important member of the global economy and community of nations. [emphasis added]

What are we to make of all this? For one thing, there is no question that on almost every front–including the political and economic front–we’re seeing heartening progress in Iraq. It’s virtually impossible to argue that after far too many years of pursuing a flawed strategy, which came at an enormous cost to both the Iraqi people and the United States, we now have in place the right strategy being executed by the right people. Progress that was unimaginable in Iraq fifteen months ago has been made–and a nation that was bleeding and dying is now binding up its wounds.

General Petraeus’s warning that tough fights and hard work lie ahead cannot be repeated often enough. Military victories in Iraq, as difficult as they have been, are still easier to attain than rebuilding a traumatized and broken society. But we really have no other choice. Given the hopeful developments we have seen since the surge began, to leave now, before our job is complete, would be reckless and shameful and probably catastrophic.

In the latter half of 2006 it was legitimate for war critics to argue that Iraq was irredeemable lost and therefore we should cut our losses and leave. But that case can no longer be made. The debate has shifted from what the right strategy is to one of national will. Will our nation, weary of this long and costly war, continue along the path which has brought about indisputable, and in some cases breathtaking, progress? If we do, there will be honor in our efforts–and, it’s now reasonable to say, success as well.

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Right In Reverse

Monitoring the progress in Iraq these days is a bit like watching a disaster film play backwards: All the setbacks that threatened the whole pre-surge effort now seem to be righting themselves in reverse order.

We’ve seen the Awakening of Sunnis, the clampdown on al Qaeda in Iraq, the quelling of a “civil war” that wasn’t, the fight against Shiite militias, the reconciliation among sectarian blocs in the Iraqi government, and now the large-scale return to service of former Iraqi army members. Azzaman.com, the habitually negative Iraqi news source, is strikingly hopeful about this development what it indicates:

The government has allowed more than 5,000 members of the former army which the U.S. had disbanded to return to service.

The move comes as part of government efforts to deny rebels and the al-Qaeda group the means to use popular discontent as a means to raise recruits.

It is the largest single batch of former army members to be allowed to return to service and it signals the government is finally keen to appease Arab Sunnis.

The batch which includes many officers will certainly make the city notables among them tribal leaders happy.

A Defence Ministry spokesman said the members “volunteered to join the armed forces” and that the government was pleased with the move.

“The return of this large group of members and officers will boost the strength of the armed forces,” Lt. Gen. Mohammed al-Askari said.

The move also indicates that the government campaign to pacify Mosul, one of the most restive cities in the country, has been going well.

This kind of enthusiasm from Azzaman.com is noteworthy. Add it to the New York Times’ acknowledgement of Maliki’s success and Nancy Pelosi’s near admission of the same and what do you have? An emerging acceptance of good news from Iraq. If the backwards film reel effect holds, Hillary Clinton will soon start crowing about her unstinting support for the war in the first place.

Monitoring the progress in Iraq these days is a bit like watching a disaster film play backwards: All the setbacks that threatened the whole pre-surge effort now seem to be righting themselves in reverse order.

We’ve seen the Awakening of Sunnis, the clampdown on al Qaeda in Iraq, the quelling of a “civil war” that wasn’t, the fight against Shiite militias, the reconciliation among sectarian blocs in the Iraqi government, and now the large-scale return to service of former Iraqi army members. Azzaman.com, the habitually negative Iraqi news source, is strikingly hopeful about this development what it indicates:

The government has allowed more than 5,000 members of the former army which the U.S. had disbanded to return to service.

The move comes as part of government efforts to deny rebels and the al-Qaeda group the means to use popular discontent as a means to raise recruits.

It is the largest single batch of former army members to be allowed to return to service and it signals the government is finally keen to appease Arab Sunnis.

The batch which includes many officers will certainly make the city notables among them tribal leaders happy.

A Defence Ministry spokesman said the members “volunteered to join the armed forces” and that the government was pleased with the move.

“The return of this large group of members and officers will boost the strength of the armed forces,” Lt. Gen. Mohammed al-Askari said.

The move also indicates that the government campaign to pacify Mosul, one of the most restive cities in the country, has been going well.

This kind of enthusiasm from Azzaman.com is noteworthy. Add it to the New York Times’ acknowledgement of Maliki’s success and Nancy Pelosi’s near admission of the same and what do you have? An emerging acceptance of good news from Iraq. If the backwards film reel effect holds, Hillary Clinton will soon start crowing about her unstinting support for the war in the first place.

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Proper Promotions

An unusual amount of interest has attended the army’s latest promotion list to brigadier general because of a perception that, up until recently, the army was still operating a peacetime personnel system even in wartime. There seemed to be little correlation between battlefield success in Iraq or Afghanistan and the promotion process. Some outstanding officers, such as Colonels H.R. McMaster and Peter Mansoor, had been passed over by previous boards even though they were integral to the greater success we’ve been having in Iraq. (Mansoor got tired of the whole process and decided to accept a tenured professor’s job teaching military history at Ohio State–a great consolation prize.)

But now, reports the Washington Post, McMaster and some other battle-tested leaders–including Colonel Sean McFarland, who engineered the amazing turnaround in Ramadi, and Colonel Ken Tovo, who has distinguished himself over multiple tours as a Special Forces officer in Iraq–will get overdue promotions to brigadier general. These promotions–if in fact they actually occur; the Army has said nothing publicly yet–will be the result of an unusual decision by the Army chief of staff George Casey and Army Secretary Peter Geren to ask David Petraeus to take a brief break from his duties in Iraq to chair the promotion board. Other officers with considerable Iraq experience on the board included Lieutenant General Stanley A. McChrystal, who has headed the Joint Special Operations Command (home of our Tier 1 commandos), and Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who served two tours in Iraq.

The (rumored) decisions of this promotion board mean that some of the army’s great innovators in counterinsurgency are being put into influential positions where they will be able to shape the future course of the armed forces. That’s good news not only for these officers and their families, but also for everyone who worries about whether our military can adapt to the challenges ahead.

An unusual amount of interest has attended the army’s latest promotion list to brigadier general because of a perception that, up until recently, the army was still operating a peacetime personnel system even in wartime. There seemed to be little correlation between battlefield success in Iraq or Afghanistan and the promotion process. Some outstanding officers, such as Colonels H.R. McMaster and Peter Mansoor, had been passed over by previous boards even though they were integral to the greater success we’ve been having in Iraq. (Mansoor got tired of the whole process and decided to accept a tenured professor’s job teaching military history at Ohio State–a great consolation prize.)

But now, reports the Washington Post, McMaster and some other battle-tested leaders–including Colonel Sean McFarland, who engineered the amazing turnaround in Ramadi, and Colonel Ken Tovo, who has distinguished himself over multiple tours as a Special Forces officer in Iraq–will get overdue promotions to brigadier general. These promotions–if in fact they actually occur; the Army has said nothing publicly yet–will be the result of an unusual decision by the Army chief of staff George Casey and Army Secretary Peter Geren to ask David Petraeus to take a brief break from his duties in Iraq to chair the promotion board. Other officers with considerable Iraq experience on the board included Lieutenant General Stanley A. McChrystal, who has headed the Joint Special Operations Command (home of our Tier 1 commandos), and Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who served two tours in Iraq.

The (rumored) decisions of this promotion board mean that some of the army’s great innovators in counterinsurgency are being put into influential positions where they will be able to shape the future course of the armed forces. That’s good news not only for these officers and their families, but also for everyone who worries about whether our military can adapt to the challenges ahead.

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Wiser in Battle?

In the Washington Post today, I point out some of the problems with retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez’s new memoir, Wiser in Battle. But even a 1,000-word review is insufficient space to deconstruct all of the myths, misunderstandings, and false impressions that Sanchez tries to peddle. On his own blog, Phil Carter offers trenchant thoughts on what else Sanchez got wrong.

I was particularly struck by Phil’s comments on what Sanchez has to say about the lessons of Vietnam. As Phil notes, Sanchez peddles the old stabbed-in-the-back thesis, writing that

civilian leaders in the White House micromanaged many aspects of the Vietnam War. They did not allow the U.S. armed forces to utilize the full extent of its resources to achieve victory. Instead, the military was forced to fight incremental battles that led to a never-ending conflict.

This was the conventional U.S. Army takeaway from Vietnam, as exemplified by Harry Summers’s influential book On Strategy. Unfortunately, more recent historical work has largely refuted the notion that civilian micromanagement was to blame for our defeat. Sure, it didn’t help that LBJ personally chose bombing targets in the Oval Office, but even more corrosive was the inability and unwillingness of the U.S. Army in the early years of the war to adapt to counterinsurgency warfare. It’s noteworthy that Sanchez, who fails to comment on this lack of adaptation in Vietnam, was guilty of a similar failure to adapt to conditions in Iraq when he was in charge in 2003-2004.

And, just like many of the Vietnam War generals, he tries to lay the blame at the feet of civilians. Of course, civilians–notably President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld–do bear the ultimate responsibility. But Sanchez is off-base when he writes, “I observed intrusive civilian command of the military, rather than the civilian control embodied in the Constitution.” Sanchez seems to be under the misapprehension that the Constitution designates the President as “controller in chief” rather than “commander in chief.”

The problem in Iraq wasn’t that the President was too intrusive; it was that he deferred too much to a military chain of command that made huge mistakes and was slow to correct them. Rumsfeld, while nit-picking minor details, also washed his hands of big strategic decisions (such as the disbanding of the Iraqi armed forces).

The proper lesson of Iraq, then, is the same as the lesson of Vietnam. It is not that we should have less civilian command of the military; it is that we should have better civilian command.

In the Washington Post today, I point out some of the problems with retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez’s new memoir, Wiser in Battle. But even a 1,000-word review is insufficient space to deconstruct all of the myths, misunderstandings, and false impressions that Sanchez tries to peddle. On his own blog, Phil Carter offers trenchant thoughts on what else Sanchez got wrong.

I was particularly struck by Phil’s comments on what Sanchez has to say about the lessons of Vietnam. As Phil notes, Sanchez peddles the old stabbed-in-the-back thesis, writing that

civilian leaders in the White House micromanaged many aspects of the Vietnam War. They did not allow the U.S. armed forces to utilize the full extent of its resources to achieve victory. Instead, the military was forced to fight incremental battles that led to a never-ending conflict.

This was the conventional U.S. Army takeaway from Vietnam, as exemplified by Harry Summers’s influential book On Strategy. Unfortunately, more recent historical work has largely refuted the notion that civilian micromanagement was to blame for our defeat. Sure, it didn’t help that LBJ personally chose bombing targets in the Oval Office, but even more corrosive was the inability and unwillingness of the U.S. Army in the early years of the war to adapt to counterinsurgency warfare. It’s noteworthy that Sanchez, who fails to comment on this lack of adaptation in Vietnam, was guilty of a similar failure to adapt to conditions in Iraq when he was in charge in 2003-2004.

And, just like many of the Vietnam War generals, he tries to lay the blame at the feet of civilians. Of course, civilians–notably President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld–do bear the ultimate responsibility. But Sanchez is off-base when he writes, “I observed intrusive civilian command of the military, rather than the civilian control embodied in the Constitution.” Sanchez seems to be under the misapprehension that the Constitution designates the President as “controller in chief” rather than “commander in chief.”

The problem in Iraq wasn’t that the President was too intrusive; it was that he deferred too much to a military chain of command that made huge mistakes and was slow to correct them. Rumsfeld, while nit-picking minor details, also washed his hands of big strategic decisions (such as the disbanding of the Iraqi armed forces).

The proper lesson of Iraq, then, is the same as the lesson of Vietnam. It is not that we should have less civilian command of the military; it is that we should have better civilian command.

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The Times They Are Not A Changing

Should the United States build new and more reliable nuclear warheads? In the face of the aging and deterioration of weapons in the existing arsenal, the Bush administration is pushing ahead with a plan to do just that. And the New York Times, among other liberal outlets, has been pushing back.

The paper’s argument is that the nuclear modernization program

is a public-relations disaster in the making overseas. Suspicions that the United States is actually trying to build up its nuclear capabilities are undercutting Washington’s arguments for restraining the nuclear appetites of Iran and North Korea.

In other words, the United States is in danger of provoking an arms race.

But Iran and North Korea are not the only players in this game. What, one might ask, are Russia and China doing in this realm? And there are some other pertinent facts one might consider that the Times, the Washington Post, and other critics of the Bush “build-up” also never mention.

One such fact is that the Bush “build-up” is not a build-up at all but a build-down. Last week, two ranking officials with the National Nuclear Security Administration testified before Congress and reported that

we continue to reduce the stockpile to meet the President’s mandate to have the smallest nuclear stockpile consistent with our national-security objectives. As a result, today the stockpile is half of what it was in 2001, and by 2012, the United States will have the smallest stockpile since the 1950′s. Additional reductions in the stockpile are possible, but these reductions will require changes to the weapons complex and the composition of the stockpile. . . .

In 2004, the President directed a 50 percent reduction in the size of the [nuclear] stockpile, and, in December 2007, he ordered an additional 15 percent cut. The result will be a nuclear stockpile one quarter the size it was at the end of the cold war and the smallest since the Eisenhower Administration.

So much for the alarming Bush build-up. What about China and Russia?

The Pentagon has just issued its annual report, Military Power of the People’s Republic of China. China, it states,

is qualitatively and quantitatively improving its strategic forces. These presently consist of: approximately 20 silo-based, liquid-fueled CSS-4 ICBMs (which constitute its primary nuclear means of holding continental U.S. targets at risk); approximately 20 liquid-fueled, limited range CSS-3 ICBMs; between 15-20 liquid-fueled CSS-2 intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs); upwards of 50 CSS-5 road mobile, solid-fueled MRBMs (for regional deterrence missions); and, JL-1 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) on the XIA-class SSBN (although the operational status of the XIA is questionable).

By 2010, China’s nuclear forces will likely comprise enhanced CSS-4s; CSS-3s; CSS-5s; solid-fueled, road-mobile DF-31 and DF31A ICBMs, which are being deployed to units of the Second Artillery Corps; and up to five JIN-class SSBNs, each carrying between 10 and 12 JL-2 SLBM. The addition of nuclear-capable forces with greater mobility and survivability, combined with ballistic missile defense countermeasures which China is researching — including maneuvering re-entry vehicles (MaRV), multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRV), decoys, chaff, jamming, thermal shielding, and ASAT weapons — will strengthen China’s deterrent and enhance its capabilities for strategic strike. New air- and ground-launched cruise missiles that could perform nuclear missions would similarly improve the survivability, flexibility, and effectiveness of China’s nuclear forces.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee late last month about Moscow’s efforts to augment its nuclear forces.

Russia has made a major commitment of almost 5 trillion rubles to its 2007-2015 budget to develop and build new conventional and nuclear weapon systems, with Moscow’s priority on the maintenance and modernization of the latter.

Development and production of advanced strategic weapons such as the SS-27/TOPOL-M ICBM and the Bulava-30 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) continues.  In April, Russia rolled out the first Dolgorukiy-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) designed to carry the Bulava-30 SLBM which continues testing despite several publicized failures. . . .

Russia retains a relatively large stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons.

“[W]hen we build, they build; when we cut, they build,” is what Harold Brown once said about the USSR back when he was Secretary of Defense under Jimmy Carter.

The times appear not to have changed all that much since then, and neither, in its consistent effort to blame the ills of the world on the United States, has the New York Times.

Should the United States build new and more reliable nuclear warheads? In the face of the aging and deterioration of weapons in the existing arsenal, the Bush administration is pushing ahead with a plan to do just that. And the New York Times, among other liberal outlets, has been pushing back.

The paper’s argument is that the nuclear modernization program

is a public-relations disaster in the making overseas. Suspicions that the United States is actually trying to build up its nuclear capabilities are undercutting Washington’s arguments for restraining the nuclear appetites of Iran and North Korea.

In other words, the United States is in danger of provoking an arms race.

But Iran and North Korea are not the only players in this game. What, one might ask, are Russia and China doing in this realm? And there are some other pertinent facts one might consider that the Times, the Washington Post, and other critics of the Bush “build-up” also never mention.

One such fact is that the Bush “build-up” is not a build-up at all but a build-down. Last week, two ranking officials with the National Nuclear Security Administration testified before Congress and reported that

we continue to reduce the stockpile to meet the President’s mandate to have the smallest nuclear stockpile consistent with our national-security objectives. As a result, today the stockpile is half of what it was in 2001, and by 2012, the United States will have the smallest stockpile since the 1950′s. Additional reductions in the stockpile are possible, but these reductions will require changes to the weapons complex and the composition of the stockpile. . . .

In 2004, the President directed a 50 percent reduction in the size of the [nuclear] stockpile, and, in December 2007, he ordered an additional 15 percent cut. The result will be a nuclear stockpile one quarter the size it was at the end of the cold war and the smallest since the Eisenhower Administration.

So much for the alarming Bush build-up. What about China and Russia?

The Pentagon has just issued its annual report, Military Power of the People’s Republic of China. China, it states,

is qualitatively and quantitatively improving its strategic forces. These presently consist of: approximately 20 silo-based, liquid-fueled CSS-4 ICBMs (which constitute its primary nuclear means of holding continental U.S. targets at risk); approximately 20 liquid-fueled, limited range CSS-3 ICBMs; between 15-20 liquid-fueled CSS-2 intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs); upwards of 50 CSS-5 road mobile, solid-fueled MRBMs (for regional deterrence missions); and, JL-1 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) on the XIA-class SSBN (although the operational status of the XIA is questionable).

By 2010, China’s nuclear forces will likely comprise enhanced CSS-4s; CSS-3s; CSS-5s; solid-fueled, road-mobile DF-31 and DF31A ICBMs, which are being deployed to units of the Second Artillery Corps; and up to five JIN-class SSBNs, each carrying between 10 and 12 JL-2 SLBM. The addition of nuclear-capable forces with greater mobility and survivability, combined with ballistic missile defense countermeasures which China is researching — including maneuvering re-entry vehicles (MaRV), multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRV), decoys, chaff, jamming, thermal shielding, and ASAT weapons — will strengthen China’s deterrent and enhance its capabilities for strategic strike. New air- and ground-launched cruise missiles that could perform nuclear missions would similarly improve the survivability, flexibility, and effectiveness of China’s nuclear forces.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee late last month about Moscow’s efforts to augment its nuclear forces.

Russia has made a major commitment of almost 5 trillion rubles to its 2007-2015 budget to develop and build new conventional and nuclear weapon systems, with Moscow’s priority on the maintenance and modernization of the latter.

Development and production of advanced strategic weapons such as the SS-27/TOPOL-M ICBM and the Bulava-30 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) continues.  In April, Russia rolled out the first Dolgorukiy-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) designed to carry the Bulava-30 SLBM which continues testing despite several publicized failures. . . .

Russia retains a relatively large stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons.

“[W]hen we build, they build; when we cut, they build,” is what Harold Brown once said about the USSR back when he was Secretary of Defense under Jimmy Carter.

The times appear not to have changed all that much since then, and neither, in its consistent effort to blame the ills of the world on the United States, has the New York Times.

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