Monday, July 31, 2006

Asymmetric Warfare

Anyone who follows the news in the middle-east at least a little bit might be forgiven for asking: how come the bad guys are winning?

How can some scraggly insurgents, Iranian rockets or no, be holding their own against Israel?

How can even scragglier insurgents in Iraq, armed with IEDs and bomb vests be holding their own against THE GREATEST MILITARY POWER THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN?

To understand these seeming impossibilities it is necessary to understand the elements of asymmetric warfare, that is, how little guys win (and indeed they can win) against big, bad professional armies.

To that end I strongly recommend the article by Pericles publishing at Daily Kos.

Although I strongly recommend you read the whole thing (and it is emminently readable) some of the main points are as follows.

Winning by not losing:

Asymmetric warfare works in a very specific situation: The winner of the symmetric war wants to govern the region (or hand it off to a local client government) at a finite cost. If the asymmetric warriors - in this setting let's call them insurgents and their opponents occupiers - can make the territory ungovernable and establish themselves in such a way that they cannot be crushed within the cost parameters of the occupiers, then eventually the occupiers will have to give them at least part of what they want.

In other words, insurgents win by not losing. If the occupiers find the status quo unacceptable, but have no acceptable way to bring the insurgency to an end, then it is only a matter of time before they realize their goals cannot be achieved. It's up to the occupiers to decide when to stop the bleeding and admit defeat, but they have lost. This is the story of the Americans in Vietnam, the Soviets in Afghanistan, and white settler governments in various parts of Africa. It is arguably the story of the Americans in Iraq as well.

The recruitment continuum:
In a successful insurgency, warriors are only the tip of a large iceberg. Even though the number of active warriors may be small, a much larger segment of the population is at some earlier stage of recruitment. Some sympathize with the insurgents silently; they know who the warriors are, but chose not to tell the occupiers. Some help in small ways, by delivering messages, holding money, or even hiding weapons. Some harbor warriors and help them hide from the occupiers. Some will not fight, but will act as look-outs and report the movements of occupying troops. A successful insurgency is always losing warriors (sometimes by intentional suicide attacks), but the pipeline of recruitment is full of people moving to ever greater levels of commitment.

Hearts and minds:
The Vietnam-era notion of "winning hearts and minds" is not just a way for guilt-ridden liberals to feel better about themselves. It deals with the real problem: the whole pipeline of sympathy and recruitment, not just the comparatively small number of active insurgent warriors. Every policy of the occupier - and especially any use of force - must be examined in light of its effect on insurgent recruitment. A search-and-destroy operation may kill dozens of insurgents with only minor occupier casualties, and still be a net loss if it pushes the general population further down the recruitment pipeline. [Emphasis mine-SK]

And most importantly, to my mind, Pericles cogently clarifies The Anti-Timetable Fallacy:
Much current rhetoric falls apart once these basic principles are understood. For example, consider the Bush administration's main argument against setting a timetable for withdrawing American troops from Iraq: that the insurgents would bide their time until we had left, and then rise up again.

If only they would.

Think about it: Suppose the insurgents sat on their hands for a year while they waited for us to withdraw. Iraq, in other words, gets a year of peaceful governance and reconstruction. Roads and power plants are built. Businesses are started. Pipelines transport oil without interruption while tens of billions of petrodollars flow into the country. People rebuild their homes, get jobs, enroll their children in school. And most of all, old wounds recede ever farther into the past.

What happens to the insurgent recruitment pipeline during that year? It collapses. In the course of that year, many people who thought they were willing to die would realize they had something to live for. No insurgent leader could allow it.

Over a year ago I posted a speculative piece on how we might actually win this thing. And though conditions in Iraq have gotten still, quite possibly irreversibly worse, still I'd suggest giving my little timetable idea a try.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

A Proportional Response

As you might guess, your CaliBlogger is a huge fan of The West Wing. One of the reasons is that it frequently tried to present a rational response to the tragedies too common in today's world.

In one episode, called, appropriately enough, A Proportional Response a plane carrying US officials, including a close friend of President Bartlett's is shot down by a middle-eastern country. The President's reaction is a very human one: he wants to bomb the s**t out of the entire country.

When Bartlett, questions as to why a disproportionate would be so wrong, his Chief-of-Staff, Leo McGarry (the sorely missed John Spencer) tells him, essentially, that a proportionate response is how grownup country's behave. It's part of what makes them reponsible players on the world scene.

The implication being that being perceived as responsible is a postitive for the United States.


As you might guess, my belief is that since 9/11, and especially beginning with the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, BushCorp™ has abandoned the concept of proportional response. This is well illustrated by the One Percent Doctrine, as outlined by Ron Suskind, which doctrine (promulgated by Darth Cheney) runs thusly: If there is a one percent chance of something bad happening to the US, the US must treat that threat as a certainty.

Five years on we can see some of the problems inherent in that doctrine.

We can see that invading Iraq on the small possiblity that it posed an actual threat to the US has been a disaster.

And we can see that relinquishing our role as a grownup on the world stage can have disastrous consequences for other nations in the region.

If US foreign policy is irresponsible, then it makes sense for other irresponsible nations (say North Korea and Iran) to arm themselves to the teeth, anticipating that the US may well use force against even the smallest threat. Which, of course, gives the US even greater incentive to attack. Which gives them more incentive to arm. And so on, and so on.

The US, having given up its daddy role in the world, also encourages disasters like the one we're currently witnessing in Israel and Lebanon.

So, rather than step in immediately to broker a cease-fire after Hezbollah's attack on Israel and Israel's ham-fisted response, the adult thing to do, the US actually encourages and abets the Israeli escalation. It is increasingly apparent that this was a bad idea. And not just for Lebanese civilians.

Not only has the Israeli response failed to reign in Hezbollah, it has proven a PR fiasco for both Israel and the US.

As Peter Baker points out in today's Washington Post:

The Israeli bombs that slammed into the Lebanese village of Qana yesterday did more than kill three dozen children and a score of adults. They struck at the core of U.S. foreign policy in the region and illustrated in heart-breaking images the enormous risks for Washington in the current Middle East crisis.

With each new scene of carnage in southern Lebanon, outrage in the Arab world and Europe has intensified against Israel and its prime sponsor, raising the prospect of a backlash resulting in a new Middle East quagmire for the United States, according to regional specialists, diplomats and former U.S. officials.

And may I suggest to those that defend the civilian carnage caused by Israel's actions as accidental, as oppposed to Hezbollah's intentional targeting of civilians, such distinctions make absolutely no difference to the arab masses who provide terrorism's recruits.

And it matters even less to the dead.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Bill Clinton is Gay

At least as regards Ann Coulter.

Letterman explains via Crooks and Liars.

(Maybe he just doesn't dig chicks with adam's apples?)

Friday, July 28, 2006

How to commit a crime and get away scot free

So, some high government officials conspire and break the law. What to do.

Prosecute them?

Of course not.

No, instead you just change the law. From the Washington Post:

An obscure law approved by a Republican-controlled Congress a decade ago has made the Bush administration nervous that officials and troops involved in handling detainee matters might be accused of committing war crimes, and prosecuted at some point in U.S. courts.

Senior officials have responded by drafting legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment.

Just another days work for the folks at BushCorp™.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Day in the Life

If you think the media has fallen down covering the "good news" from Iraq you need to read a great post over at DailyKos by dancewater which imagines what a day's worth of Iraqi violence would look like if it had occured in California.

I'll let dancewater explain:

Below is a list of security incidents from one day (July 11, 2006) in Iraq. Iraq is slightly bigger than California, and Iraq has a slightly smaller population, but they are a close match. Now, join with me on an imaginary situation, where the Chinese army invaded California to rid the country of California of an evil Governor, Mr. Schwarzenegger.

I realize the setup sounds humorous. Believe me it's not.

Read the whole post here.

Amazing what a little perspective can accomplish isn't it?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Friday, July 21, 2006

Show your love

Jesus' General is looking for help in his continuing battle against the French.

So please show him some love*.

*Which, as any Republican can tell you, is most sincerely expressed in 10s and 20s (US of course!).

BushCorp™, "Cultureof Life©", yeah right

Yet again, The Daily Show's John Stewart has the most cogent analysis of BushCorp™ hypocrisy, this time as regards the administration's anti-stemcell research stance.

How, indeed, can one be more concerned with protecting a blastocyst with as much consciousness as a skin cell, and so unconcerned with living, breathing human beings?

Crooks and Liars has the video.

And like most TDS stuff, it's both hilarious and horrifying.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Exposed Spy and Spouse Sue Darth Cheney and Evil Minions

So, Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, whose lives were potentially endangered when BushCorp™ "embarked on an anonymous 'whispering campaign' designed to discredit ... (the Wilsons) and to deter other critics from speaking out," are suing.

Good for them.

And the key point here, a civil suit doesn't require the same standard of proof as does a criminal case.

Making them much easier to prosecute (see, for example, the results of O.J. Simpson's criminal trial versus those of his civil trial).

I'm looking for a long and fruitful discovery process.

[Talking Points Memo has the complaint posted here.]

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Big News: Prez to stop some violations of international law!

In particular, the ones he has been caught violating.


In other news, according to anonymous sources, a yet undiscovered serial killer has vowed to start obeying the law as well.

As soon as he is caught.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Day

Take a moment to read and ponder these words, the hotdogs will wait.

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred. to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

A Humanitarian Disaster in the Making

In a previous post I made a rather glib comment regarding the difference between US and Israeli reactions to the kidnapping of its soldiers. My point being that at least Israel was doing something other than criticizing the media for not swallowing its "good news" talking points whole.

That observation still stands.

However, clearly the Israeli reaction is causing, and may yet cause more human suffering than can be remotely justified by the wrong it has suffered.

And to be clear, the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is a crime deserving of swift and sure puishment.

Still Israel's reaction, and the suffering its impending assault and the destruction of Gaza's only power plant is inflicting on hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who had NOTHING to do with this crime, is itself criminal.

Counterpunch's Virginia Tilley* paints a grim picture indeed:

It is not the immediate human conditions created by this strike that are monumental. Those conditions are, of course, bad enough. No lights, no refrigerators, no fans through the suffocating Gaza summer heat. No going outside for air, due to ongoing bombing and Israel's impending military assault. In the hot darkness, massive explosions shake the cities, close and far, while repeated sonic booms are doubtless wreaking the havoc they have wrought before: smashing windows, sending children screaming into the arms of terrified adults, old people collapsing with heart failure, pregnant women collapsing with spontaneous abortions. Mass terror, despair, desperate hoarding of food and water. And no radios, television, cell phones, or laptops (for the few who have them), and so no way to get news of how long this nightmare might go on.

But this time, the situation is worse than that. As food in the refrigerators spoils, the only remaining food is grains. Most people cook with gas, but with the borders sealed, soon there will be no gas. When family-kitchen propane tanks run out, there will be no cooking. No cooked lentils or beans, no humus, no bread ­ the staples Palestinian foods, the only food for the poor. (And there is no firewood or coal in dry, overcrowded Gaza.)

And yet, even all this misery is overshadowed by a grimmer fact: no water. Gaza's public water supply is pumped by electricity. The taps, too, are dry. No sewage system. And again, word is that the electricity is out for at least six months.

The Gaza aquifer is already contaminated with sea water and sewage, due to over-pumping (partly by those now-abandoned Israeli settlements) and the grossly inadequate sewage system. To be drinkable, well water is purified through machinery run by electricity. Otherwise, the brackish water must at least be boiled before it can be consumed, but this requires electricity or gas. And people will soon have neither.

Drinking unpurified water means sickness, even cholera. If cholera breaks out, it will spread like wildfire in a population so densely packed and lacking fuel or water for sanitation. And the hospitals and clinics aren't functioning, either, because there is no electricity.

Finally, people can't leave. None of the neighboring countries have resources to absorb a million desperate and impoverished refugees: logistically and politically, the flood would entirely destabilize Egypt, for example. But Palestinians in Gaza can't seek sanctuary with their relatives in the West Bank, either, because they can't get out of Gaza to get there. They can't even go over the border into Egypt and around through Jordan, because Israel will no longer allow people with Gaza identification cards to enter the West Bank. In any case, a cordon of Palestinian police are blocking people from trying to scramble over the Egyptian border--and war refugees have tried, through a hole blown open by militants, clutching packages and children.

Can someone please answer this question: Is not terror still terror, even when it's committed by the uniformed military of a "civilized" democracy?

I'm just asking.

[*Thanks to James Wolcott for the heads up]