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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Maliki defies US in naming top Baghdad commander

This does not sound like a good start.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has filled the top military job in Baghdad with a virtually unknown officer chosen over the objections of U.S. and Iraqi military commanders, officials from both governments said.

Iraqi political figures said Friday that Maliki also had failed to consult the leaders of other political factions before announcing the appointment of Lt. Gen. Abud Qanbar. ....

To quell the concerns U.S. commanders have about Qanbar, American officials and the Iraqi government have agreed on a complicated system in which another layer would be added to the command structure between Maliki and Qanbar. That layer would include the top U.S. commander, a high-ranking American official said.

Ah, yes, Maliki's first step is to name a likely factional general to oversee the Baghdad operation that the Iraqis will supposedly be directing. "A new way forward" indeed.

Has he seen The Battle of Algiers?

In the past, the White House wanted us to know that the President was reading about Lincoln and Truman and their perseverance in their "good" wars.

Now, they want us to know he's reading about the disastrous French campaign in Algieria?

What message is the White House trying to send? That he's finally serious? That he finally, really recognizes the mess he put us in?

(This is the book that was so highly referenced among military experts in the early days of Sunni insurgency. (along with the movie, "The Battle of Algiers."))


Is the White House "winning" by shifting the conversation to the "threat" of Iran? Are they succesfully shifting the topic off Iraq?

Later: Maybe what I'm trying to ask is would the White House prefer to talk about this, because they seem to be intentionally seeding the Iran discussion.

Picture of the Day

President Bush waves as he departs the White House in Washington, Friday, Jan. 12, 2007, heading to Camp David to spend the weekend. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)


(AP) Maliki Remains silent. "Experts say that even if al-Maliki assures Bush of support, his behavior illustrates that he's not as Bush described, a man whose primary concern is bringing peace and prosperity to his country."

(Radar) Being wrong on the Iraq war brought phenomenal rewards for pundits. Four stark examples.

(NYTimes) "Military operations in Somalia by American commandos, and the use of the Ethiopian Army as a surrogate force to root out operatives for Al Qaeda in the country, are a blueprint that Pentagon strategists say they hope to use more frequently in counterterrorism missions around the globe."

(Independent) US strikes on Al Qaeda in Somalia killed 70 nomads but none of the stated targets, and has rekindled the conflict.

(Kuna?) For the first time in 3 years, the US is moving planes back into Turkey, F-16's, tankers, and AWACS.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Blackballing the Guantanamo lawyers

I guess they shouldn't even be allowed lawyers for their sham trials.
The senior Pentagon official in charge of military detainees suspected of terrorism said in an interview this week that he was dismayed that lawyers at many of the nation’s top firms were representing prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and that the firms’ corporate clients should consider ending their business ties.

This is so insidiously evil, and the guy doing this knows exactly what he's doing.

What the Iranians are up to.

This is framed in relation to Iran, but connected with the semi-rumor (repeated in this article) that the Mahdi army is on a significant recruiting drive, this might be worth a little notice.
US military intelligence sources tell ABC News that large shipments of weapons have been smuggled to Iraqi militia over the past five weeks, including dozens of Iranian supplied EFP's , or Explosive Form Projectiles, highly effective against armored vehicles.

The weapons were sent to Moqtada al Sadr's Shi'a militia, known as "Mahdi’s Army" who control Sadr City, a slum in northern Baghdad with a population of 2 million.

To take a broader point on this, what is the Iranian goal in supporting the Shia militias? It is not simply to kill US troops; it is to shape the political decisions of the current conflict to establish a direction towards their desired future Iraq.

The Iranians are in this for the very long haul. Long after US troops are gone (1 year, 10 years, 50 years,) the Iranians will still be Iraq's neighbors and deeply involved in some way in the Shia dominated politics. What they're trying to do is shape that future to their greatest advantage.

That I think is the real motivator behind the Bush administration's new very provocatory stance towards Iran.

If you take a look at the last round of Iranians who were recently arrested and released, the story is still very murky. According to the British, they were not smuggling weapons, but instead "were on a covert mission to influence Iraq's government." (BBC) They were meeting with the Shia factions inside al-Hakim's compound plotting a political way forward.

Now, we have reports that another batch of Iranians have been arrested in Kurdistan and the Kurdish appear to have been protecting them. (Although nominally Sunni, the Kurds have a long history of working with the Shia militias from the years under Saddam.)

So, is this an effort by the Iranians to build a very different Iraqi coalition than the "moderate" Sunni-Shia coalition outlined in the Hadley memo? Are the Iranians having enough success that the US is reduced to arresting Iranian diplomats and political operatives to try and stop it?

Notice, if you will, that everytime an administration official makes charges against Iran, the construction is always two part. They are (1) arming the militias, and (2) "destabilizing" Iraq.

"Destabilizing." Is that another word for not making it run the way the US wants it to? Is that why we're suddenly going so hostile, because the Iranians are having more success at their political efforts in Iraq than we are?

Look, I don't know what we should do, and all evidence is that the Iranians are supplying weapons across the border, but what I'm trying to point out is that it's not just the weapons that are crippling the US effort in Iraq, and that the Iranian influence is far deeper than simply "aiding" or arming the Shia militias.

There is a much broader dynamic taking place in Iraq than is being discussed. The Iranians are winning the political battle, and now the US appears to be trying to alter that situation with force.

(By the way, if our focus is on stopping the Iranians from shipping arms into the country, why does "the new way forward" not have any contingency for policing that border?)

Picture of the Day - 2

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki attends the Police Day parade in Baghdad January 9, 2007. (Kareem Raheem/Reuters)

(A quick side note. There are very few pictures from Iraq on the wires that are not with US forces, and none from Anbar or Baquba/Diyala. Interpret that as you will.)


(WaPo) Same Shit. Different Day. A WaPo reporter rides along with US troops working with the Iraqis.

(NYTimes, WaPo, TimesOnline) The Iraqis are no more excited about the Bush plan than we are. (Friday prayers today.)

(Reuters) A very telling piece on the Iraqi government's expectations regarding Sadr. Short, cryptic, and worth a read.

(Reuters) Khalilzad repeats the meme that Iraqis must act now because Americans might leave. (Very interesting play by the White House to use the anti-war sentiment to pressure the Iraqis.)

(AP) The Guardsmen will have to go back to Iraq.

And, remember how this plan was supposedly constructed on the theories of Frederick Kagan and Gen. Jack Keane? (Keane and Kagan, Dec 27, 2007, WaPo.)
We need to cut through the confusion. Bringing security to Baghdad -- the essential precondition for political compromise, national reconciliation and economic development -- is possible only with a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so. Any other option is likely to fail.

Also: (SFChron) People at Brookings, Cato, AEI, and Heritage, all voice their misgivings about Bush's plan.

Interesting. "The base" is against the surge.

A little bit of a breakdown on the AP-Ipsos poll,
Republicans are divided on sending more troops to Iraq. About half, 52 percent of Republicans, favor sending more troops, while 42 percent oppose the idea...... A majority of some key Republican constituencies oppose sending more troops, including white evangelical Christians, 60 percent, and self-described conservatives, 56 percent.

As always, this is just one poll, but how interesting is it that the most passionate segment of Republican party support are so significantly against this?

(And the three Republican "08 frontrunners" all support it.)

Negroponte on Al Qaeda

In his current role as DNI, Negroponte testified before the Senate's SSCI saying that Al Qaeda has "found a secure hideout in Pakistan from where they are rebuilding their strength." (BBC)

The Pakistanis are livid. (Reuters)

So, is Negroponte ready for his job at the State Dept?

Picture of the Day

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (L) stands at the podium to speak to reporters about Iraq, January 11, 2007. Standing with Rice are Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

(This was the whole photo. Weird choice, Reuters photo editor.)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The White House Defense

After "the new way forward" has been universally panned, (I'm still looking for a single mainstream article in support,) "a senior administration official" gives the White House's final defense for the NYTimes front page: It's the least bad choice.

I'm sure the soldiers in the field will be cheered by this. Nothing so helps morale as hearing that the top war planners are picking the best losing strategy.

(The utterance of this defense is also a sign of just how perilously the Bush administration is feeling the political pressure. Republican Senators Hagel, Murkowski, and Voinovich landed body blows today.

I wonder if they're waiting for a Nixon-esque visit from a small group of respected Republican Senators.)

But what if the Iraqis don't want to be rid of the Iranians?

Apparently, during the raid on the Iranian embassy(?) in Irbil this morning, another raid was blocked by Kurdish military forces. There was a standoff as US troops attempted to approach the airport for a second raid which led to an hour and a half standoff between US and Kurdish forces which included both sides pointing loaded weapons at each other. (ABC, NPR)

Then, to top it all off, the Kurds demanded the release of the Iranians.

So, what happens if the Iraqis don't want to be rid of Iran?

It's just not as simple as George Bush believes.

Picture of the Day - 3

An unidentified protester makes a peace sign as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)

Something simple. Something that would work. Something we could learn from Hezbullah.

If the US wanted to do something relatively simple that would generate massive goodwill within Iraq and beyond, it would begin resupplying the hospitals in Iraq.

It is unconscionable that in the midst of all this violence Iraqi hospitals don't even have the most basic items, antibiotics, clean bandages, painkillers.

Unlike water, power, or other reconstruction, this could be a relatively contained operation. US forces drive up and drop off boxes and boxes and boxes of these very basic, very inexpensive supplies, and drive away. Simply flood the country with supplies.

Or, to take this one step further, open and publicize a fund in the US where the American people could donate to help the Iraqis, a March of Dimes campaign with collection cups at the Starbucks and every grocery store. Tell me you wouldn't throw in a couple bucks.

This is a relatively small thing, but it would make alot of difference both in the lives of Iraqis and as an expression to the wider world.

(This effort would have to be worked around the existing Health Ministry which has been politically channeling the few supplies available, and if the militias seized the supplies, it would destroy their image in front of their people, not ours.)

Still looking for a positive review

Has anybody seen even one positive review or analysis from a neutral publication of the speech or plan?

I'm still looking.

Maliki's "Plan B"

On CNN last night, fantastic NYTimes war reporter John "I don't cut my hair in theater" Burns, made the point that Maliki will not seriously disarm or degrade the Shia militias because they are his "plan B."

If the US were to withdraw, Maliki wants the Shia militias in place and intact to act as his fighting force in the civil war.

So, as you hear about Maliki allowing attacks on the militias, read the articles deeply, because I would guess that it's going to be more like a drug baron giving up a few of his problematic underlings to keep the rest of the operation intact.

Also: On CNN last night, this report outlining the multitude of violent Iraqi groups. It's good.


Tell me Chuck Hagel doesn't sound more in tune than McCain, Giuliani, and Romney who have all come out pro-surge?

Picture of the Day - 2

Right now, I'm choking on the hose. There's just too much out there this morning to make any sense of it all, but I will say this:

I hope that George Bush lives a long and healthy life so that he can see for himself that history will never vindicate him.

(In this video frame grab taken from television, President Bush addresses the nation, Wednesday Jan. 10, 2007. (AP Photo/APTN))

(The only three wire photos this morning, all look this bad. (1, 2, 3)

As a political act, the speech was a failure

ABC instant polling. "Indeed, rather than Bush bolstering public confidence, the national survey, conducted after his address to the nation on his new Iraq strategy, finds that a new high -- 57 percent -- think the United States is losing the war. Just 29 percent think it's winning." (61-36 against the Bush plan. 58% think the war wasn't worth fighting.) (Later: AP-Ipsos.)

USNews does a brief media roundup with links. "Most media analysts greeted President Bush's new Iraq strategy with marked skepticism, if not outright hostility." (The first two paragraphs.)

(Also, as an empirical, last night, my mom finally stepped off the bus.)

It's only going to get uglier from here.

(Has anyone seen a major publication that gave a positive review or analysis?)

The US storms Iranian embassy in Iraq

This is the only report I've seen so far (BBC.) In normal circumstances, this is an act of war.
US forces have stormed an Iranian consulate in the northern Iraqi town of Irbil and seized six members of staff.....

One Iranian news agency with a correspondent in Irbil says five US helicopters were used to land troops on the roof of the Iranian consulate.

It reports that a number of vehicles cordoned off the streets around the building, while US soldiers warned the occupants in three different languages that they should surrender or be killed.

A little later: Reuters, AP

Later still: The US says it wasn't an embassy. The phrases "consular building" and "diplomatic representation" are being thrown around.

McCain tries to make money from the "surge."

Just a little personal experience from last night.

Three minutes before the Bush speech, my phone rang, and when I picked it up, it was somebody fundraising from John McCain. I could barely understand him because in the background was a huge bustle of a phone "war room."

About 45 minutes after the speech finished, I got another McCain call looking for a donation.

Just thought I'd mention that McCain's "principled" position that's "costing him so much politically" is being used in fundraising calls directly tied to Bush's speech.

(Although, in the interviews after the speech, Johnny didn't seem best pleased, did he?)

Picture of the Day

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Ummm.... What are the Patriot missiles for?

In the midst of the section on Iran and Syria, Bush spoke of sending another aircraft carrier to the region and the deployment of Patriot missiles to our allies.

Do the insurgents have fighter support? Do the Shia militias have mid-range ground to ground missiles?

Why would we be "assuring" nations in the region against missile and air attacks if we weren't about to seriously provoke Iran?

Gotta protect those oilfields. Just noticing.

Later: ThinkProgress has the video clip.

Thur AM: NYTimes: "American officials maintain that the latest moves should not be seen as preparations for a military strike against Iran. But they also said that Mr. Bush’s top deputies... had decided that, barring some major conciliatory move from Tehran, American moves to engage Iran had run their course."

A gaping hole in the plan

So, let me get this straight. How this will work is that the Iraqi forces will designate missions, do the planning, and then lead the combat with US embeds and broader support.

So, what will stop the militia members who constitute a sizable percentage of the Iraqi forces at all ranks from contacting or otherwise colluding with the supposed targets of these operations?

As the US has learned so many times before, even with just an hour's notice, the Iraqi forces have repeatedly tipped the targets so that when US forces arrived, there were no men or weapons there.

If the Iraqis are truly planning things, almost every military operation will be tipped which means that the units involved, and the US forces embedded, will be sitting ducks.

That's the plan.

Picture of the Day - 3

WaPo: Bush to Warn Americans War Could Be Bloody.

In this photo released by the United States Army, shown is Spc. Jeremiah Johnson, date and location unknown. Johnson, a member of the 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, died Friday, Jan. 5, 2006 of injuries he sustained while on patrol in Iraq. (AP Photo/United States Army)

AP slams Bush plan

Wow. The AP rips the "new way forward."

Early excerpts of the speech.

The White House's supporting outline of the plan, and, an interesting powerpoint .pdf from the National Security Council.

And, an anonymous "Senior Administration Official" holds a press conference backgrounding the whole thing.

Other "surge" thoughts

Has anyone noticed that there's no regional component in the plan as released so far?

(NYTimes) "But Republican officials conceded that at least 10 of their own senators were likely to oppose the plan to increase troops levels in Iraq."

(AJ at Americablog) "And what's more, by launching this escalation at a time of year during which violence traditionally ebbs anyway, the decrease in violence may create the false impression that the new surge strategy is working..... "

Not a fan of David Frum, but "Hang a map of Baghdad on one wall. A map of Iraq on another. Have the president stand between them with a laser pointer. Let him show where the sectarian fighting in the city is occurring, let him detail where US troops are currently deployed. Then he can explain the new plan...."

How can three "news" networks devote the entire day to this without discussing what's actually going on, on the ground in Iraq?

Why an escalation?

(WaPo) "As described by participants in the administration review, some staff members on the National Security Council became enamored of the idea of sending more troops to Iraq in part because it was not a key feature of Baker-Hamilton."

Good to know they're going for the right reasons.

Picture of the Day - 2

National Guardsman Mike Hardgrove with his wife, L'Angel, in Fredericksburg on Saturday, the eve of his deployment to Iraq. (John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

There's nothing left to say

There's nothing left to say today. We all know what's coming. We all know that almost all of the previous military command, the joint chiefs, and many in the administration are against it.

Regardless, it is going to happen anyway.

There's not much else to say except "Good luck, soldier."

Picture of the Day

Army Staff Sgt. Brianne K. Love, left, cries with her mother-in-law, Mary Love, during the graveside service for her husband Army Staff Sgt. Robert Lee Love, Jr., in Russell, Miss., Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006. Love died in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device blew up near his vehicle during combat. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The biggest mistake of all

For half a century, the American empire was built upon the twin legs of economic relationships and geopolitical goodwill. Admittedly, alot of that "goodwill" was simply the forced self interest of nations who chose the US amidst the Cold War, but nonetheless, the US was perceived internationally as the primary force for freedom and peace.

In most of the world, even in much of the Soviet bloc, the US was perceived as "the good guys."

But please, notice the use of the past tense. Our white hat has been sullied.

The abandonment of the international system by this administration has largely destroyed a half century of goodwill leaving the US in a far weaker geopolitical situation.

And a surge isn't going to fix that.

Picture of the Day - 2

Senator McCain at a welcome center in Lancaster, N.H. During his campaign stops in New Hampshire. (Scott Goldsmith USN & WR)

US ground forces operating in Somalia

Wow. Not getting this in the mainstream yet.
U.S. special forces are working with Ethiopian troops on the ground in operations inside Somalia today, senior U.S. and French military sources tell ABC News.

Not really a surprise after the continued attacks today by helicopters, but I do find it surprising that the US would let themselves be associated with the Ethiopians.

Don't miss it

Blogger's acting all funky, and I have a lot going on, so, light if any posting til later, but I gotta say, I'm really looking forward to this.
(O'Reilly) The Fox News Channel host and Colbert, who has essentially based his comic character every evening on Comedy Central on him, will trade appearances on each other's programs Jan. 18.

Remember when Colbert left Bill Kristol speechless?

Picture of the Day - A Partial History

In Wed. Speech, Bush once again battles the wily strawman

Bush: My plan is better than my characterization of another plan.
The president’s advisers are also mindful of polls showing that while the public wants the situation to improve in Iraq, it does not necessarily favor immediate withdrawal.

“They’re going to cast it as a choice between withdrawal and surge,” said one Republican strategist close to the White House. “The public is not for immediate withdrawal or even a quick withdrawal, but they’re not for the status quo. I think they feel as if the public is more likely to support the president’s position, which is putting a stake in the ground in Iraq and saying were going to try to win.”

Also, notice the construction of the spin effort.
Mr. Bush’s aides are planning a highly orchestrated introduction of the plan. Before Wednesday night’s speech, which is expected to last about 25 minutes, reporters will receive briefings from senior administration officials, and leading members of Congress will be notified of the president’s intentions.

The "aides" will brief so close to the speech that there will be no time for press questions or analysis forcing the White House's language and structure to appear in the "analysis" before and after the speech.

(Are they releasing a document of some type?)

Meanwhile in the reality of Iraq

(Reuters) SCIRI leader al-Hakim accuses the Sunnis of genocide. (You may remember Hakim as the center of Hadley's plan for a cross sectarian "moderate" alliance just a month ago.)

(Reuters) Bush claimed that Maliki requested the surge? (Against everything else he has ever said publicly?)

(Daily Mail) The British aren't surging.

(AFP) Reported main points of Bush's Iraq plan.

The press keeps reprinting Maliki's claim that the current push will hit all sectarian factions, but thus far, all the actions are against the Sunnis. (Reuters) The Iraqis at Haifa street had to call in US air support. (LATimes) A big operation in the countryside of Diyala.

(BBC) 1 in 8 Iraqis have now been "displaced."

(USAToday) Polling shows Americans very against the surge.

(AP) The fight starts at the edge of Sadr City.

Also: Was this a real sub collision or a message to Iran?

Monday, January 08, 2007

TV alert - Frontline

If you didn't see this Frontline on the Afghani-Pakistan border the first time around, take a look on PBS this week. It was phenomenal. (Tuesday night(?) or you can watch it online.)

(Brought to you by viewers like me.)

Made me laugh

The sub-blurb on the NYTimes frontpage made me laugh.
U.S. Strikes Suspected Al Qaeda Target in Somalia
The attack is the first military action in Somalia that Pentagon officials have acknowledged since 1993.

That key word "acknowledged" sums up so very much.

(AFP and AP both lead with the word "overt.")

Picture of the Day - 3

(AP) Fourteen survivors of a ferry sinking survived for nine days on a life raft, drifting almost 370 miles before they were rescued, an official said Monday. (Photo - AFP/Mamat)

The early reception is skeptical at best

Tony Snow was fending them off today.

Q What are you expecting the American people to hear on Wednesday that will change the mind of the majority of American people who don't want to see an open-ended escalation of troops?

Q Tony, does the President believe that up until now the policy of what to do with our troops -- their posture, how to deploy them -- has been a failure?

Q The President is isolated in terms of the Iraqi policy and he seems to be among the few who thinks that this step, or any step can actually result in victory. I'm wondering where his mind-set is, how he arrived at this point in doing something that remains quite unpopular?

Q I guess the challenge would be who besides the President thinks that the war is winnable at this stage?

Q But the President will use the word "victory"?

Q But, I mean, isn't it true that there are limitations as to what the United States can do in Iraq, that much of this rests on the shoulders of the Maliki government and others within the Maliki government?

Q So how can the White House say with certainty that what the President will unveil is, in fact, the way forward for Iraq?

Q My gist is this: Can you point to any single, specific thing, other than good intentions, that Maliki has done?

Q You never answered Helen's third question there, will this be with the President through the end of his administration? Is he going to leave this for the next person?

Yes he will, and that'd better be one hell of a speech.

Picture of the Day

"That's some nice work. Mind if I get an x-ray to pass along to the boys at secret prisons?"

Vice President Dick Cheney, right, inspects the broken arm of Christian Nelson, 9, grandson of Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., center, in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2007 during a re-enactment swearing-in ceremony. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Mahdi preparing for a "major battle?"

Treat as rumor at this point, but
Several Iraqi websites have claimed that Muqtada Al-Sadr gave orders to Mahdi Army operatives in Sadr City to recruit males between the ages of 18 and 45 from all families in the district. These claims coincide with expectations of a “major battle” by militias for the control or “liberation” of Baghdad, as it was described by these websites. Eyewitness accounts from Baghdad have confirmed these rumors. (Iraqslogger)

Also: An interesting Newsweek article "How the US is losing the infowar," and one in the CSM on the increasing problems along the truck route supply lines.

Iraq and the "new" plan.

The NYTimes points out the underlying absurdity of the likely new Bush plan by using the word "benchmarks" reflecting the failure of earlier "benchmark" agreements.

But perhaps more tellingly, (Reuters) "The Iraqi government expects a "slight tuning" in U.S. policy rather than a major change when President George W. Bush makes a much-heralded announcement this week on plans to turn around the increasingly unpopular war."

Also, look how hard Ray Odierno is working to lower expectations.

(McClatchy) "Military `surge' not enough to save Iraq, U.S. commander says."

(Reuters) "He also sought to play down U.S. public expectations of what could be achieved over insurgents, saying an overwhelming "77-7" win -- to use a sports metaphor -- "ain't going to happen"..... "There will be no victory parade when we leave here. There never was going to be," he said.

(Reuters) "Over time we can accomplish the mission. That time I put two or three years from now.".... "It takes patience and it takes time ... Unfortunately what we're starting to show some lack of is patience ... I think it's too important not to have patience."

Finally, the LATimes has a piece on the administration's prespin. It outlines how the theme of "sacrifice" will be applied.
"Is this a war, or is it not a war?" one official asked, previewing an argument the president is likely to make. "If it is, you have to be willing to sacrifice…. Americans are willing to do that as long as we have a clear strategy that offers a chance of success."

(And, it's very clear that the policy is being driven by domestic politics.)

So why was Fallon chosen for Centcom?

The growing consensus seems to be that Adm. Fallon was not chosen to manage the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Admiral Fallon can be expected to pay great attention to the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, but to leave day-to-day operations to the senior commanders on the ground in Baghdad and Kabul, similar to his current relationship as Pacific regional commander to the four-star Army officer in charge of forces just in South Korea.

So, then the question is, why was he named?

Chris pointed out a couple days ago, that it is highly unlikely that Adm. Fallon left the naval jewel of Pacific Command to simply be a figurehead over Petraeus, and you can't spin me that Iraq is the same as South Korea.

Fallon, with all his experience with carriers and naval operations, is, at the very least, insurance against Iran. Pay attention.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Losing both wars in the "surge"

Pulling troops from Afghanistan for the "surge."
As a last-ditch effort, President Bush is expected to announce this week the dispatch of thousands of additional troops to Iraq as a stopgap measure, an order that Pentagon officials say would strain the Army and Marine Corps as they struggle to man both wars.

Already, a U.S. Army infantry battalion fighting in a critical area of eastern Afghanistan is due to be withdrawn within weeks in order to deploy to Iraq.

According to Army Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Tata and other senior U.S. commanders here, that will happen just as the Taliban is expected to unleash a major campaign to cut the vital road between Kabul and Kandahar.

(There's alot of good detail in this article about the expectations for the year forward in Afghanistan.)

Picture of the Day - 3

Sens. John Cornyn, Bill Frist, and Norm Coleman proudly show off their purple fingers.

I don't get it

Why is the story always the Democrats' internal divisions on Iraq while, just in the Senate, Republicans run the gamut from bloodlust McCain to Hagel to Gordon Smith who advocates withdrawal?

Isn't the real story that even the President's own party doesn't support his policies?

Quckhits - Paranoid edition

(MiamiHerald) Two Iraqis and one Lebanese man were arrested trying to gain entry to the Port of Miami-Dade.(Later: It's nothing.)

(ABC/Blotter) The Somali government claims to have found US passports among the dead Islamists.

(NYDailyNews) Rudy Giuliani has trademarked his name along with his consultancy's name in an effort to limit its use in attack ads against him.

Picture of the Day - 2

Iraqis carry a coffin with the body of their dead relative in front of Baghdad's Yarmouk hospital morgue, Iraq, Sunday, Jan. 7, 2007. (AP Photo/Samir Mizban)

Dear Cindy Sheehan, you're not helping

Cindy Sheehan served an absolutely vital role in bringing the antiwar message to the mainstream consciousness. Her stakeout at George Bush's ranch really started the national conversation about the war. But, now, she's not helping the cause.

Look, I don't see her Iraq position as all that radical, but her tactics are, and now that the withdrawal sentiment has really hit mainstream America, an association with those radical tactics makes the overall message of withdrawal less "sellable" to the centrist majority.

Yesterday, she was protesting against Guantanamo. Certainly, a worthy position, but by broadening away from her original antiwar message, she has undermined the one issue where she had real credibility.

I have no right to challenge her speech, but I would observe to her that her current activities are actually working against her stated goal of stopping the war.

(In perhaps the greatest irony of all, I believe that she ended up so far off message because she listened only to those around her, and in that vacuum, went further than she would have.

The irony is, this is exactly what she charges George Bush did.)

Maliki's "security push" is a dressed up civil war

A little more on Maliki's "security push" that appears to be targeting only Sunnis.

(Reuters) The Iraqi government will be moving about 3,600 Iraqi troops into Baghdad. 2,400 from the Kurdish north and 1,200 from the Shia south.

(AP) "Al-Suneid (a key aid and member of al-Maliki's Dawa Party) said the new drive to free Baghdad from the grip of sectarian violence would focus initially on Sunni insurgent strongholds in western Baghdad."

(WaPo) "Maliki believes that if the additional troops can effect a decrease in violence over the next two months, then he can negotiate more effectively with Shiite militia leaders in the city and improve his chances of disarming them, his aides said."

So, the reality is that the Shia dominated government is using Shia and Kurdish forces to target Sunnis while the Shia militias are left untouched effectively gifting the capitol to the Shia militias.

Stepping back, I can't help but wonder whether the Sunni regional players, Saudi, Syria, Egypt, are more concerned with protecting the Sunni population or with preventing Shia domination of Iraq. If it's the latter, Maliki will never push the Sunnis out of Baghdad and this war will continually go on.

Picture of the Day

President Bush listens to a reporter's question while making a joint statement with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Jan. 4, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)