Monday, January 22, 2007


Am I the only one to note that the Defense Department is now headed by a former top CIA guy, and the CIA is about to be headed by a former top military guy? And both were key figures in the regime of George Senior.

Actually, to go on record, I think the nomination of ADM McConnell to head the CIA is a good choice. I was at NSA during McConnell's tenure as Director and he was very good. He had a clear vision of where NSA needed to go, he communicated well with people at every level of the organization, and he wasn't afraid to knock heads when necessary. He's not a political animal, although he certainly understands how to use politics when necessary. He's stepping into one of the hardest jobs in government right now, but I think he'll do well. We ALL need him to do well.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Bush's Iraq Strategy

I've been speaking as loudly as I can for the past three years about the stupidity of George Bush and his neocon friends. The 2003 invasion of Iraq was one of the dumbest things that any President has ever done. Bush lied about his reasons for going to war and the Republican party has goose-stepped in unison behind him. But it has finally become clear to all, even Bush, that the strategy of "stay the course" is a complete failure. So this past week, he unveiled his new strategy for Iraq. And it comes as a huge suprise to all that know me - hell, even to ME - that I actually support the plan.

The reason is that, finally, Bush has articulated a clear and possibly achievable goal: calming down Baghdad long enough for the Iraqi leaders to get their acts together and start acting like a real government. And he's committed an increased number of troops to the mission. It's not the numbers that the experts have called for, but they're at least concentrated on one area and mission, not just thrown into the same old quagmire.

I don't think this plan has even a 50-50 chance of succeeding. It depends on too many things that can go seriously wrong:
- The Iraqi government starting to do its job.
- A reduction in the corruption that's siphoned off billions of OUR dollars.
- The Iraqi military and (especially) the police becoming at least marginally effective.
- The Sunni and Shi'ite militias stepping back from their levels of violence.
- Iran and Syria not stirring the pot too much.
- No more American scandals like Abu Ghraib or Haditha.
- George Bush staying focused on the problem.

All that being said, I think this plan does have a small chance of moving the country forward, which is something that neither Bush's previous strategy nor the Iraq Study Group's plan featured.

Bush talks about this being a long-term commitment. I don't think so. We'll know in six months whether progress is really being made. If Baghdad's quieter by late June, and if the Iraqi government is making progress towards a real solution, then we might see light at the end of the tunnel. If not, then it's time to call a failed nation a failed nation and to do what's necessary to protect our own soldiers, people, and interests.

As it is, my patience is about gone. I've had it with the whole thing. I say give Bush and Maliki one last chance to pull something together. If they screw it up again, then get our troops the hell out of the way.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Thoughts on Iraq

Sometime in the next few days, George Bush is going to lay out his “new direction” for Iraq. He got the recommendations from the Iraq Study Group a month ago and has been considering his options since then. I want to get my thoughts out on record before George does.

First, some background. Back in ’02, when talk of attacking Iraq first surfaced, I gave Bush the benefit of the doubt. I retired from the Navy as a cryptologist in ’99, and at that time I knew that Saddam was pretty much contained. He was a pain in the ass, but he wasn’t hurting anybody outside Iraq, and he certainly wasn’t a threat to us. Bush kept talking about the “threat” Hussein posed, and with such experienced advisors as Cheney and Rumsfeld, I figured that something new in Iraq must have come up since my retirement. As time went on, however, it became clear that there wasn’t anything new: it was the same old stuff, just repackaged with a few exclamation points thrown in to make it sound urgent. So I came down hard against the war in Iraq.

One other thing: I believed Hussein had chemical and biological weapons. Bush cited that as the “grave danger” that Hussein posed; I viewed it as a “so what”. As long as we stayed out of Iraq, our soldiers wouldn’t have to deal with them. There are lots of bad guys around the world that have bad weapons and it’s not our responsibility to go around invading them because of it. So I was angry that Bush was going to throw our troops into a chem/bio war for no reason.

Fortunately, there weren’t chem/bio/nuke weapons of any sort. Instead, there was something that was worse: strong Iraqi sectarian animosities that were contained under Hussein’s brutal rule, and absolutely no American plan for what would happen after Hussein’s overthrow. This combination has led to steadily increasing levels of violence and to the current state of low-level civil war. For three years, Bush has pretended that the situation in Iraq has been going well … maybe okay … so it’s really going well except for the damn media … umm, it’s making progress … except that progress is slower than expected … until nobody believes him anymore.

Now the situation is this:
- Iraq has a government that is essentially useless, powerless, corrupt, and incompetent.
- Various sectarian forces have stepped into the power vacuum and are escalating the “ethnic cleansing”.
- Our military is playing a game of “whack-a-mole” and is not making any real progress.
- Our military is the only real US player in the country. There’s almost no State Department representation, little/no economic or political or any other kind of help. It’s just boots on the ground.
- Our military is way overstretched, with some troops currently on their third tour in as many years. Our senior generals are saying that they’re nearly at the breaking point.
- The blue-ribbon Iraq Study Group has noted that the situation in Iraq can only be solved by Iraqis, not forced by the US.
- The Iraq Study Group recommended gradual disengagement of US military forces and increased negotiation with Syria and Iran, who are stirring the pot in Iraq.

It appears that George didn’t like the ISG’s report. So he started talking to others. And from press reports, it appears that the only people he’s listening to are the neoconservatives, who are arguing for a buildup of forces. To me, the neoconservatives have less than zero credibility: they’re a bunch of liars who got us into this mess in the first place. But neocons like to talk about “victory”, and George likes “victory”, even if he doesn’t know what it is nor how to achieve it.

Now for my viewpoint. I have been looking for a rational plan from SOMEbody in power for over three years now. I believe that we have an obligation to the world to bring stability to Iraq. It’s the old Pottery Barn rule: we broke it, we should fix it. But nobody has offered a plausible way to do that. George has one last chance this week to present one.

Everybody has been focused on troop strength. That should actually be a fallout of a rational plan. In other words, a good plan should come first, then you decide on how many people you need to implement it. I’ve seen one or two good plans, but they require far more people (50-100K) than the numbers coming out of the White House (20K).

I’m afraid that George is going to screw it up again. I think he’s looking for something he can call a “plan” that will need 20K more troops. He wants a troop increase for political reasons, so it looks like he’s doing something. He won’t draw down the troops because that’s an admission he failed. And he won’t commit the numbers that are really needed.

In my view, if he chooses not to commit sufficient resources, he chooses to let Iraq sink. If he chooses to let Iraq sink and keep the troop strength the same or bigger, then he not only fails Iraq, he fails the country by wrecking our already-overstretched Army and Marines. If he chooses to let Iraq sink and pull our troops out, at least we can start rebuilding our forces.

So the choice is to between implementing a realistic plan with sufficient resources, or pulling our troops out. Both are tough but we can live with them. Anything less than either of these choices is complete and utter failure, both now and for the long term.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy Hanukah?

A lady I know was telling me today that her young daughter was invited to a Hanukah party by one of her classmates. The girl had invited pretty much her whole elementary school class. The lady took her daughter over there a bit early and was the first to arrive. When she went back to pick her up later, it appeared that she was also the last to go.

As it turned out, nobody else had come.

The girls are young and don't seem to really understand what happened. They just had a great time playing together. The mother was appalled. As am I. Why would all those parents keep their young children from experiencing a Hanukah party?

Well, DUHH: it's because racism and anti-Semitism is alive and well in the South. But they won't tell you that. And they may not even think they're racist or anti-Semites. They all think they're proper Christians, raising their children the right way. (I know this because they've said it to this lady on different occasions). The problem, of course, is that Jesus was a Jew and would have celebrated Hanukah himself. So by keeping themselves and their children away from Jewish practices, they're missing an opportunity to understand a side of Jesus that's not taught in Christian churches. What are they afraid of: that their children are going to be forcibly converted to Judaism? Give me a break!

Every time I think this country's making progress, something like this happens to throw a wet blanket on my illusions.

And to my Jewish friends: Happy Hanukah, and I'll come to your party.