Killing Insurgents Will Not Win The War

Terence J. Daly, a retired military intelligence officer and counterinsurgency specialist explains in The New York Times why Bush’s strategy is not working. Killing insurgents does not stop the insurgency:

There is a difference between killing insurgents and fighting an insurgency. In three years, the Sunni insurgency has grown from nothing into a force that threatens our national objective of establishing and maintaining a free, independent and united Iraq. During that time, we have fought insurgents with airstrikes, artillery, the courage and tactical excellence of our forces, and new technology worth billions of dollars. We are further from our goal than we were when we started.

Counterinsurgency is about gaining control of the population, not killing or detaining enemy fighters. A properly planned counterinsurgency campaign moves the population, by stages, from reluctant acceptance of the counterinsurgent force to, ideally, full support.

American soldiers deride “winning hearts and minds” as the equivalent of sitting around a campfire singing “Kumbaya.” But in fact it is a sophisticated, multifaceted, even ruthless struggle to wrest control of a population from cunning and often brutal foes. The counterinsurgent must be ready and able to kill insurgents — lots of them — but as a means, not an end.

Daly explains how this is more a function of police than the military, and concludes:

Forcing the round peg of our military, which has no equal in speed, firepower, maneuver and shock action, into the square hole of international law enforcement and population control isn’t working. We need a peacekeeping force to complement our war-fighters, and we need to start building it now.

If George Bush hadn’t rushed to war, and if removal of Saddam turned out to eventually be necessary, taking the time to build a multinational force would have allowed the United States to do this right, such as having a peace keeping force ready to stabilize areas after the military did its job.

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Facing Reality on Ohio

Some bloggers are willing to suspend all critical thought to accept any theory that Ohio was stolen, regardless of the validity of the argument and regardless of what the actual evidence shows. Russell Shaw discusses this at Huffington Post with a quote from Tom Hayden:

And to the bloggers, I say stick to standards of evidence that will convince the mainstream voters. Sometimes we stray from what we know, and what can be proven to the public, into the world of, well, conjecture. We cannot fight against a faith-based crusade with one that sometimes appears to be fantasy-based. We cannot fight the conservative model with a conspiracy model. The facts are staggering enough to cause deep public questioning and, in time, a radical public awakening. We should see ourselves as the questioning conscience of the nation, the prod to deeper digging by the media, the force that pushes politicians to address all the “inconvenient truths”, every last one of them.

Many of the claims of fraud have been refuted by liberals including Mother Jones, Salon, The Nation, and Jimmy Carter. There are real problems which need to be addressed, but screaming “Ohio was stolen” based upon poor evidence makes reform less likely. Accepting every claim of fraud creates multiple problems:

  • Some charges appear valid while some do not. Accepting all, even those with flimsy evidence, makes objective observers less likely to believe any of the charges
  • Concentrating on the belief that votes were “stolen” after the vote distracts from the real problem of Republicans stacking the system in their favor by various methods of voter suppression which reduce Democratic votes.
  • The belief that one’s vote will not be counted results in some Democrats being reluctant to campaign or vote, unintentionally helping the Republican voter suppression efforts.
  • Denial of the fact that Republicans won partially due to mobilizing voters such as residents of the exburbs and the religious right keeps Democrats from responding to these challenges
  • Promoting the weaker arguments undermines the claim of Democrats to be the “reality based” community on issues such as Iraq, national security, intelligent design, and stem cell research.
  • Claims based uoon theft of the 2004 election will appeal to Democrats but turn off Republicans. Bipartisan support is needed to achieve change. Fair minded independents are Republicans who desire honest elections are more likely to support change if this is argued baaed upon the principles of fairness and not disputing the 2004 election
  • For Kerry supporters this creates the additional problem of John Kerry being unfairly attacked for failing to fight a stolen election. If no evidence which would hold up in court of theft could be established to date, it was certainly not possible for Kerry to prove theft in the narrow window between election day and the counting of the electoral votes

In a democracy it is essential that all parties accept the result of elections as valid. The fact that, under the current system, it is not possible to verify the results to everyone’s satisfaction is sufficient to argue for changes in the voting machines, including a paper trail. Going beyond this and claiming fraud which cannot be proven acts to undermine the argument.

This issue gained more publicity after Robert Kennedy, Jr. wrote an article for Rolling Stone on election reform which was ultimatley a great disappointment due to promoting many weak and previously disputed arguments along with real arguments for election reform. My previous posts related to to this article are below the fold.

Support for War at New Low

A CNN Poll shows oppositon to the war at a new high with 35% supporting and 61% opposing it. Perhaps that is because they no longer believe Bush’s lies about the war. Only 44% believe Bush is honest and truthworthy while 54% do not. Ironically this is one of the more Bush-friendly polls, being one of the rare polls in which Bush’s approval is over 40%. Only 41% agree with Bush on the issues. None of these numbers. None of this bodes will for the Republicans this fall, with 52% say they plan to vote for the Democrat and only 43% planning to vote Republican. Despite all the bad news, The Washington Times is able to spin this positively for the Republicans.

Is the Enemy al Qaeda or Saddam; Eastasia or Eurasia?

In the world of Orwell’s 1984 sometimes the enemy is Eurasia, and sometime Eastasia. When the alliances shifted, whichever is the enemy was always the enemy. All evidence to the contrary is destroyed as the Fox-like media faithfully promotes the government’s line.

The analogy isn’t exact as we are not allied with one, but it feels Orwellian the way in which those behind 9/11 shift in the propaganda of the Bush Administration. Was Saddam or al Qaeda the enemy who we must go to war with? When it served the purposes of the Bush Adminisration, Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attack. At other times, such as today, not only was Saddam not responsible, but the official line is that they never claimed Saddam was responsible.

Like the world of 1984, Geroge Bush has Fox News. Unlike 1984, there are other news outlets which sometimes hold Bush accountable, and there is the blogoshere which consistently prevent the truth from falling down the memory hole. Think Progress and Talking Points Memo both reveal the dishonesty of the Bush Administration on the relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda, each providing links to different sources to back this up.

Learning From Vietnam

Douglas Brinkley, in The Making of a War President, a review of LBJ: Architect of American Ambition, writes “There would have been terrible political costs in allowing Vietnam to fall, to be sure, but the greater costs — to Johnson and the nation — lay in allowing the war to continue.”

I found this particularly relevant after reading Bush Warns It Would Be ‘Disaster’ to Leave Iraq. Bush is right about that leaving would be a disaster, but fails to understand that it will also be a disaster to remain. The likelihood of winding up in such a position is one of many reasons why he should not have invaded in the first place. Bush could have learned something from our experience in Vietnam, if only he had showed up.

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Intelligent Thought on Evolution

The New York Sun reviews Intelligent Thought in which sixteen scientists debunk intelligent design:

There is no scientific conflict. ID is not a theory in the ordinary sense of science, and it is certainly not a reputable “alternate view” of the planet’s life. It has no unique content other than its claim for the existence of a designer. It is not worthy of the time it would take away from real science in the schools, where the time is already far too short. It is in fact the denial of theory, supported only by unsupported claims of flaws in Darwinism. No positive scientific evidence has ever been offered for ID.

We need this book because its authors have name recognition with the general reading public, because they write well, and because the fight will not end any time soon. Humanity needs to come to grips, sooner rather than later, with its biological meanings, and with the values and anti-values of its religious belief systems. The fight is just beginning. If the real values of religion and spirituality, which include humility before the wonders of nature, are to survive our rising tastes for religious war and destruction, then more than just an elite among us must understand science – and what it yields as description of physical reality through deep time. The more often the small faction of us who read can pause to browse engaging books like “Intelligent Thought,” the better is the chance that we can stop the impetus of Homo sapiens toward self-destruction.

Hat tip to Religious Right Watch.

Howard Dean Pledges to Balance Budget if Democrats Take Congress

Howard Dean has promised that Democrats will balance the budget if they take control of Congress. “You just can’t trust Republicans with your money,” Dean said at the Democratic National Committee summer meeting in Chicago. In addition to blasting Republicans on running the deficit, Dean criticized their handling of national security, stating, ‘You can’t trust the Republicans to defend America.”

Dean’s pledge to balance the budget follows similar statements from Nancy Pelosi. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal Pelosi spoke of eliminating earmarks and “pledged that if Democrats succeed next year in rolling back President Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the money would be used to reduce the federal deficit — not for new spending.”

Pelosi’s view on earmarks is another difference between mainstream Democrats and Joe Lieberman as seen in this exchange from the Lieberman-Lamont Debate:

LAMONT: I think these things should go through the congressional process. Sir, you have been there for 18 years. You support the earmarks, you work with the lobbyists, and that’s what needs to be changed.

LIEBERMAN: The earmarks are great for Connecticut.

Osama Loves Whitney

This has got to be one of the strangest stories this month. The New York Post reports that Koola Boof, a former writer for Days of Our Lives, who also claims to have been bin Laden’s sex slave, wrote that bin Laden was obsessed with Whitney Houston. He even considered a hit on her husband. (Update: More at the Daily Mail.)

The Bush Intervention

Just as with all his failed businesses, it looks like Dubya is going to need daddy’s friends to bail him out. This time it will be more difficulty, with Bush ignoring his father’s advice not to go into Iraq. Still, the grown ups realize they have a serious problem and the must intervene. The Washington Monthly reports on a bipartisan group working under the radar to attempt to find a solution to the mess in Iraq. Bush might not be able to ignore this group, as it is led by James Baker, the man who made him king. They realize the problem, both in Iraq and with the person who got us involved there:

But with each passing day, the country is closer to the train wreck that Baker and others are said to fear. In the end, avoiding it might ride on the ability of Jim Baker to persuade the president that it’s time to declare victory and exit.

“The object of our policy has to be to get our little white asses out of there as soon as possible,” another working-group participant told me. To do that, he said, Baker must confront the president “like the way a family confronts an alcoholic. You bring everyone in, and you say, ‘Look, my friend, it’s time to change

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