Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Cooking the Results

Drudge has a link to Greg Sheffield's always-informative NewsBusters site. Greg has analyzed the latest CBS News poll, which shows President Bush's approval ratings slipping to an all-time low. His findings? CBS cooked the books, oversampling Democrats, while under-sampling Republicans. It's easy to drive down poll numbers when your sample is 37% Democrats, and only 28% Republicans.

Meanwhile, here's how CBS News explains its polling methodology and results. Of particular note are these comments on "weighting."

"We take great pains to adjust our data so that I accurately reflects the whole population. That process is called “weighting.” We make sure that our final figures match U.S. Census Bureau breakdowns on age, sex, race, education, and region of the country. We also “weight” to adjust for the fact that people who share a phone with others have less chance to be contacted than people who live alone and have their own phones, and that households with more than one telephone number have more chances to be called than households with only one phone number."

So, despite these "great pains," CBS still wound up with a sample that has a disproportinate number of Democrats, and fewer Republicans that the populace as a whole. Hmmm....I think CBS needs to take greater pains in its polling, or out-source the job to a more reliable outfit like Rasmussen. According to Rasmussen's daily poll, the president's approval rating is now at 43%, and has been as high as 49% earlier in the month.

Second Banana

It's been a sad stretch for fans of classic television programs. Actor Darren McGavin, star of the cult series The Night Stalker (and the classic film A Christmas Story), died over the weekend at age 83. Dennis Weaver, best known for his work Gunsmoke and McCloud, passed away on Sunday at his ranch in Colorado. And of course, TV icon Don Knotts died Friday night, after a battle with lung cancer. He was 81.

Despite an acting career that lasted nearly six decades, Knotts will always be known for his signature role, as bumbling deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show. For my money, the Griffith show remains the most endearing (and durable) sitcoms from the early days of television, thanks in no small part to Deputy Fife and his creator, Don Knotts. Forty years later, classic episodes of TAGS remain fresh and funny, attracting a loyal audience on the TV Land cable network and other broadcast outlets.

What many fans and television critics have forgotten is that Barney Fife was something of an afterthought. The character does not appear in the pilot for The Andy Griffith Show, which aired as an episode of the Danny Thomas sitcom, Make Room for Daddy. As Griffith later recalled, "I was supposed to be the funny one." Thomas and his partner Sheldon Leonard (who owned the show, along with Griffith), envisioned a program built around their star's skills as a stand-up comedian and monolougist. The comedic possibilities of a bungling deputy were not considered.

The creation of Barney Fife is one of those show business ironies, a testament to friendship, timing and talent. Griffith and Knotts developed a lasting friendship in the mid-1950s, while appearing in the Broadway military comedy No Time for Sergeants. When the play debuted in 1955, Griffith was still a relative new-comer, known best for appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and his best-selling comedy record What it Was, Was Football. Knotts had a supporting role in Sergeants, but he was a more familiar presence on television, thanks to frequent appearances on Steve Allen's original Tonight Show, part of a legendary ensemble that included Tom Poston, Louis Nye, and Bill Dana.

But, by the end of the 50s, the careers of Griffith and Knotts were moving in opposite directions. Griffith was considered a hot property, thanks to his success on Broadway and in film, including a searing performance in 1957's A Face in the Crowd. Meanwhile, Knotts's career was in a tailspin. Steve Allen had ceded the Tonight Show to Jack Paar, and with TV production migrating to the west coast, Knotts found few acting opportunities in New York. Hearing that Griffith was about to launch his CBS sitcom about a small-town sheriff, he called his friend and said "Well, I guess you'll be needing a deputy." Griffith arranged a guest shot for Knotts, Barney Fife was born, and the rest, as they say, is television history. Griffith readily assumed the role of straight man, realizing that there was gold in that Knotts and his character. Together, Griffith and Knotts created what Time described as "moments of pure comedic beauty."

For his work, Knotts won five Emmy Awards, including three in a row from 1961-63. He left the series after the 1965 season, a depature that was equally inpromptu and decidedly reluctant. Before the '65 season, Griffith told Knotts that he was growing tired of the series and planned to move on to other projects. Figuring he would soon be out of a job, Knotts signed a movie contract with Universal, then learned that Griffith had changed his mind, and agreed to stay with the series for two more seasons. Fans of TAGS can only imagine what comedic gems Barney, Andy and their writers might have produced if they stayed the course . For most of us, TAGS "jumped the shark" with the departure of Barney Fife.

While Knotts made occasional guest appearances over the last two years of the Griffith show, the series was never quite the same after his departure. And while he worked steadily until his death, Knotts never found another character with the near-universal appeal and recognition of Barney Fife. But if he was typecast by his Mayberry role, Mr. Knotts had no regrets, and looked back on the series with a fondness that is shared by millions of fans around the world.

Andy Griffith said it best: "Don was special. There was nobody like him." And the world was a funnier place because of his gifts. He will be missed.

Playing for Keeps in the Information War

Today's must-read op-ed comes from Michael Rubin, the eminent Middle East scholar (and expert on Iran) at the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Rubin's article, published in the Wall Street Journal, outlines Tehran's long-term strategy for influencing and dominating events in Iraq, just as it has in southern Lebanon.

As Rubin notes, the Iranians use a variety of tactics to gain influence and control in a targeted region, including bribery, intimidation and information operations. The importance of the information tool cannot be under-emphasized; Tehran learned long ago that propaganda is one of their most effective techniques, resonating among the Shia underclass and even the western media. Just hours after the Samarra bombing last week, Tehran's propaganda machine was already in high gear:

"The Iranian government sought to direct public anger toward Washington. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei blamed "intelligence agencies of the occupiers of Iraq and the Zionists." Iran's Arabic-language al-Alam television repeated the accusations on Feb. 23. Because al-Alam is broadcast terrestrially, it is particularly influential among poor Iraqis who cannot afford a satellite dish. Furthermore, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the powerful Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), a movement aligned to Tehran, blamed U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad for the attack. "Certainly he is partly responsible for what happened," Mr. al-Hakim said."

Coincidence? Hardly. Some analysts believe the Tehran's information campaign is designed to deflect attention away from possible Iranian involvement in the bombing. While that possibility cannot be ignored, the episode also illustrate's Iran's ability to quickly shape and marshal public opinion within its sphere of influence.

And the U.S. response? Initial hand-wringing, silence, and (finally) some optimistic statements about the improving security situation. Unfortunately, that posture does little to address the long-term problem of stemming Iranian influence inside Iraq. Conventional wisdom held that Iran could never mount a Lebanon-style takeover of Iraq, due to (a) ideological and theological differences between the Shia of Iraq and their neighbors in Iran, (b) efforts to "grow" a democracy in Baghdad, and (c) the presence of U.S. military forces in the region. But even those obstacles are not insurmountable, and Tehran will use all available measures to expand its influence among Iraq's Shia majority.

As Rubin notes, Tehran's combination of charity, intimidation, coercion and propaganda proved instrumental in installing Hizballah as their proxies in south Lebanon, and they believe the same approach will work in Iraq. Obviously, it's too early for Iran to declare victory, but the mullahs are a patient lot, and willing to invest the time and resources required to win hearts and minds within Iraq. And sadly, U.S. failures in the information war have actually made the Iranians' job easier:

"It is in the info-war that Washington has stumbled most severely. The U.S. operates in Iraq as if the country is a vacuum. Sheltered within the Green Zone, diplomats are oblivious to enemy propaganda. Resistance to occupation is Hezbollah's mantra. It is a theme both the Badr Corps and firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army adopted. Why then did Foggy Bottom acquiesce on May 22, 2003 to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1483 which formalized U.S. and Britain as "occupying powers." What U.S. diplomats meant as an olive branch to pro-U.N. European allies was, in reality, hemlock. With the stroke of a pen, liberation became occupation: Al-Manar and Al-Alam barraged ordinary Iraqis with montages glorifying "resistance." They then highlighted U.S. fallibility with images of withdrawal from Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia."

Rubin reminds us that Iran's Arabic language TV service aimed at Iraqi audiences (Al-Alam) began broadcasting three months before its U.S.-funded counterpart. Today,
Al-Alam remains a centerpiece of the Iranian strategy, well-funded and rewarding anyone who can provide footage that is damaging to the U.S. Meanwhile, American efforts to establish a free and independent Iraqi media have been hampered by revelations that the U.S. "paid" local papers to run favorable stories. In reality, we need to use every means at our disposal to generate positive coverage in the Iraqi media, but the episode illustrates how American idealism often hinders the accomplishment of a critical mission, in this case, achieving victory in the information war.

A powerful and though-provoking article--one that should be read by anyone interested in Iraq, Iran and our future in the Persian Gulf region.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Mixed Messages

The Associated Press has obtained a copy of an IAEA report on Iran's nuclear program. According to the report, Iran appears determined to expand its uranium enrichment program, which could result in the production of nuclear weapons.

The report will likely be a key piece of evidence when the IAEA Board of Governors takes up the Iran nuclear issue at its meeting next week. Sources indicate that the document may influence any recommendations that the IAEA makes to the UN Security Council, which will also address Iran's nuclear program in the near future.

In a sense, the IAEA report is encouraging, since its assessment matches what the U.S. (and other western governments) have been saying for some time: Iran is determined to enrich uranium because it offers one of the most viable options for developing nuclear weapons.

Of course, the real question is what the IAEA will do with its information, and what recommendations--if any--it will forward to the UNSC. The IAEA has a long history of missing, ignoring or even tolerating nuclear efforts by various rogue states. And, with Iran still proposing some sort of "compromise" enrichment program with Russia, there is the possibility that both the IAEA and the UNSC will give "diplomacy" more time to work.

Barely 24 hours before the IAEA report was leaked, Tehran indicated that it had reached some sort of compromise with Moscow on the enrichment issue. But Iranian negotiators also indicated that some conditions still had to be met. One of those conditions reportedly calls for a dual-track enrichment program, with some Iranian uranium being enriched in Russia, and the rest in Iran.

The nuclear rope-a-dope continues.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Today's Reading Assignment

From Saturday's edition of the Mudville Gazette, one of my favorite military blogs. Greyhawk does an exceptional job of tracking the on-going propaganda war that followed last week's destruction of the Golden Mosque in Samarra. He illustrates that MSM reports exaggerated claims of violence and casualties in the wake of last week's bombing. No real surprise, but it reinforces the notion that the military needs to more more effective psychological and information operations, as part of its strategy in Iraq--and elsewhere.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Warning Signs of a Civil War in Iraq

Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail has compiled an excellent list of likely indicators of a civil war in Iraq. As he notes, we're not seeing any of these danger signs--yet.

As the Deadline Draws Near...

for the IAEA meeting on Iran's nuclear program, Tehran is continuing its strategy of stalling and obfuscation, with an occasional half-hearted gesture for good measure.

As of this writing, the IAEA is scheduled to discuss the Iranian nuclear program on 6 March, a meeting that could result in action by the UN Security Council (don't hold your breath). With that in mind, Iran is now reportedly offering "new information" on its uranium enrichment efforts, under something called "Green Salt Project." And obligingly, IAEA inspectors are headed to Iran this weekend to examine the information.

Memo to IAEA Director General Mohammed El-Baradei and other agency big-wigs: don't bother. I'm not a nuclear physicist or engineer, but I can predict that whatever Tehran reveals this weekend, it will be incomplete, and probably raise more questions than it answers. It's all part of a deliberate effort to drag out the diplomacy as long as possible, giving Iranian scientists more time to develop nuclear weapons.

Want more proof (as if it were necessary)? Consider this dispatch from the 20 Feb edition of the Washington Post. According to the paper, the latest round of talks between Iran and Russia on a proposed enrichment deal ended inconclusively, but both sides promised to keep talking. Under that proposal, Iranian enrichment activities would be conducted at a Russian facility, offering greater access for IAEA inspectors. Iran actually rejected Moscow's intial offer last year, but decided to keep talking when the Russians modified their proposal.

The Russian proposal has the backing of the EU and the United States, who are apparently hoping that Moscow can actually broker a deal with Tehran.

We've seen this kind of thinking before. It's called appeasement; it didn't work with Hitler in 1936, and 70 years later, it faces a similar fate in dealing with Iran.

Military action is always the option of last resort in dealing with this sort of problem, but, as President Bush has pointed out, it should never be off the table. Nor should comprehensive sanctions that escalate in their severity and culminate in resolutions authorizing the use of force to prevent Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons.

But developing a viable strategy for dealing with Iran is hard work, and so far, few in the west have the stomach for that. It's easier to invest in endless (and pointless) diplomacy, while Iran buys more time for its nuclear ambitions. Meanwhile, the more ambitious strategies for countering Tehran will reside at the Pentagon (and the Israeli MOD), not at Foggy Bottom.

al-Zarqawi's "Hail Allah"

While most Americans remain focused on the UAE port controversy, sectarian violence continues to flare in Iraq. The AP estimates that at least 122 Iraqis have died since Tuesday's bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam. More fighting is expected in the days ahead, as Shiites exact their revennge on Sunni terrorists, whom they blame for the attack.

The MSM is filled with dire predictions of Iraq lurching toward a civil war, but it's far too early to make such an assessment. Despite the spike in violence, some of the demonstrations--especially those outside Baghdad--have been relatively peaceful. Additionally, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, spirtual leader of Iraq's Shia majority, has been urging calm and restraint, despite the bombing.

You'll notice that one faction in Iraq has been remarkably quiet since the blast in Samarra. That group is Al-Qaida in Iraq, and its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. More than a few analysts see Zarqawi's hand behind the bombing, and I tend to support that assessment. If Zarqawi's terrorists weren't directly responsible for the attack on the Golden Mosque, they were almost certainly complict, providing training, logistical support and other assistance to the bombers.

If Zarqawi was behind the bombing, then it was tantamount to a "Hail Allah" play from the terrorist handbook. Until this week, the insurgency in Iraq was on a noticeable downswing; the number of "effective" IED attacks had dipped below 10%, and according to Pentagon statistics, the number of U.S. casualties declined in Iraq in 2005. Meanwhile, the Iraqis continue to make significant progress in building a democratic government, and playing a greater role in securing their nation.

And, the overall picture for Al-Qaida was equally bleak. In its annual assessment of the global terror threat, a British firm described the "base" organization and its leadership, as a "largely spent force," and predicted that Osama bin Laden or his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, would be killed or captured by the end of the year. In other words, Zarqawi could expect little help from his bin Laden and the remnants of his organization, which remain preoccupied with survival, despite bold statements in recent taped messages.

Against that backdrop, Zarqawi needed a bold gambit that would promote sectarian violence, and help achieve one of his primary goals--triggering a civil war that would plunge Iraq into chaos. Bombing the Golden Mosque satisfied that requirement, although it will probably fall short of sparking a civil war. A widespread conflict between Sunnis and Shia would also give Zarqawi something of a breather; with U.S. and Iraqi security forces concentrating on civil unrest, there would be less time (and fewer resources) in the hunt for Zarqawi and his network. Under that scenario, Al-Qaida in Iraq could capitalize on the violence and emerge as an even greater threat.

But Zarqawi's strategy also carries grave risks. If the Samarra bombing could be linked to Al-Qaida, Zarqawi's support in Iraq would further erode, something his terror network can ill-afford. That's why (IMO), the U.S. will miss a major opportunity in the information war if we don't highlight the likely connection between Zarqawi and the bombing of the Shia shrine. Much of our recent military and intelligence success in Iraq is the result of better information from ordinary citizens, increasingly fed up with the "outsiders" who bring death and destruction to their country. Using information operations to connect Zarqawi to the Samarra attack--based on solid evidence--would turn his tactical success into a strategic defeat, and further undermine the insurgency.

Unfortunately, the U.S. has long-standing problems in countering enemy propaganda and information operations. I found this article in an Air Force journal, written more than five years ago, which describes some of our difficulties in overcoming Serb propaganda during Operation Allied Force. It's a bit long, but take a glance, and see if you find any similarities between what happened in 1999, and what we see in Iraq today.

Until we understand that all forms of public information are a battlespace that must be contested and defended, we will face an uphill battle in winning the struggle for hearts and minds. In football, "Hail Mary" or if you prefer, "Hail Allah" plays should have a low probability of success. Zarqawi's desperation heave in Samarra can also be deflected, if we use all the tools at our disposal, including information operations.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Follow the Money (But Only So Far)

The indispensible New York Sun offers a unique slant on the UAE port controversy. After digging through campaign records and FEC filings, the paper discovered that all of the New York and New Jersey-area Congressmen and Senators opposing the deal have something in common: all have accepted campaign contributions from the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA), the union whose members might be affected by potential changes in port management. Attempts to run the ports more efficiently might mean less jobs for ILA members. According to the Sun, the union has expressed "great concern" about the transaction, echoing similar comments from its friends in the House and Senate.

But the political angle in this story only goes so far. There is no indication that the Dubai-based holding company plans changes in the management of U.S. ports; in fact, government transportation officials predict that the executive team from Peninsula and Orient (P&O) shipping (the port management company being purchased by the UAE) will remain in place, and supervise daily operations at the six U.S. ports affected by the proposed takeover. Assuming there is no change in operating procedures (or a drop in traffic), the ILA should have little to fear from the UAE takeover. Additionally, the contributions cited by the Sun are relatively small. It's a stretch to say that Hillary Clinton or Chuck Schumer is in the union's pocket over a $4500 campaign donation.

It is also worth noting that some of the arguments against the UAE deal are based on overheated rhetoric and fasle assumptions (how many stories have suggested that the Dubai firm will be in charge of port security--a function that remains the responsibility of the U.S. Coast Guard and local law enforcement?) But, on the other hand, it is reasonable to ask questions about the holding company, and what access--if any--it may have to sensitive shipping information, and potential ties may exist between the firm, its owners, and terrorist organizations.

As illustrated by the 9-11 Commission Report, some transactions within the UAE--particularly in the financial sector--tend to be a little murky. Before the Dubai holding company completes its takeover of P&O, Congress has a right to have its questions answered, by the administration and the UAE. If deal is above boards and security concerns are adequately addressed, then the deal should proceed.

I will agree with the Sun on one thing: some of the Congressmen opposing the port deal are certainly selective in their outrage with the UAE. As the paper notes, Senators Schumer, Clinton, Lautenberg, Dodd (and others) never uttered a peep when the Clinton Administration sold highly advanced F-16s to the UAE Air Force. But then again, consistency in national security matters has never been the Democrat's strong suit.

It's Tempting to Say....

...that Aristotle was right when he observed that "youth is wasted on the young." The results of a recent South Korean opinion poll tend to support that assertion. A survey of 1,000 young South Koreans, between the ages of 17 and 23, found that nearly half believe that Seoul should back its arch-enemy North Korea, in the event of hostilities between Pyongyang and the United States. At the same time, just over 40% said that South Korea should remain neutral in a war between North Korea and the U.S., while only 11% said that the Seoul government should support its long-time ally. The survey was conducted by two major South Korean newspapers.

Critics of the Bush Administration will probably use the poll results as evidence of growing anti-Americanism around the globe. But such assessments are not necessarily accurate, particularly when it comes to South Korea. Having spent portions of my military career in that nation, I can attest that such sentiments are largely unique to that demographic group--and their typical, passing interest in radicalism--and not indicative of the society as a whole.

In South Korea, student protests and flirtations with radical politics are a common rite of passage, something to pass the time at the university before graduation. During my tenure in the ROK, you could almost mark your calendar by the protest season; they typically peaked between semesters at the major universities in Seoul. When classes were in session, the demonstrations dropped off dramatically. Apparently, few students wanted to jeopardize their future careers by spending too much time on the ramparts, battling the riot police. But during class breaks, anti-government and anti-U.S. protests remain a popular diversion.

We don't have the "internals" of the South Korean poll, but they would prove informative. I'm guessing that university students are probably over-represented in the sample, hence their "strong" support for Pyongyang. But even that supposed affinity has its limits. If young South Koreans identify that strongly with the communist north, it would be reflected in other sectors of society, notably the military. South Korea's large (and increasingly capable) military is still a conscript-based force; most young men serve a two-year commitment, beginning in their late teens. Yet, despite this apparent fondness for the north by draft-age males, the ROK military has few problems with draft dodgers and desertion. South Korea's harsh penalties against those acts provide one explanation, but it is also clear that most South Korean males don't have a problem with defending their country against its greatest threat--the DPRK.

I gained some sense of this seeming contradiction during my tenure in Korea. As a part of my duties, I attended a number of meetings and conferences at a combined U.S.-ROK operations center, located at Osan AB, about 40 miles south of Seoul. During several gatherings, I struck up a conversation with my counterparts from the South Korean Air Force (ROKAF). A number of these officers freely admitted to participating in student protests during their college days--it was "the thing to do" as one explained. But when they received their degree (and their officer's commission through the ROKAF equivalent of ROTC), they quickly abandoned their radical politics. Many of these young officers hoped to make the ROKAF a career, and understood that there was no place--nor tolerance--for radicals within the officer corps. The same axiom held true for students seeking employment in the civilian sector, particularly in the giant chaebol or congolmerates that dominate the South Korean economy.

In fact, the South Korean student movement in unique, particularly in contrast with U.S. campus radicals of the 1960s. Unlike the American movement, which moved our university system (and the Democratic Party) to the far left of the political spectrum, the South Korean protests have not produced similar changes in that society. True, there is a hard core of campus radicals (some funded and supported by the DPRK), but on the whole, South Korean universities and the larger society remain models of orthodoxy. That's why the poll is more indicative of common political fads among the young, and not a harbinger of changing opinions among the South Korean populace.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Port Call (Part II)

Drudge has a flash on President Bush's strong statements defending the proposed UAE port deal. He summoned reporters on Air Force One earlier this afternoon and mounted a vigorous defense of the contract, which would give a Dubain firm control of operations at six U.S. ports. The President also threatened to veto any legislation that would cancel the proposed deal accusing Congress of a "double standard" in denying the contract to a Middle Eastern firm. Mr. Bush noted that lawmakers had no objection when port operations were being run by a British firm.

Why did the President mount such a sudden, forceful defense of the controversial deal? I'm betting that some of his reasons are among those outlined here.

Double standard or not, Mr. Bush is going to face an uphill battle in selling this deal to Congress and the American people. It's a political lose/lose situation. If he stands behind the deal, he makes the Democrats look good in the area where they are considered weakest--homeland security. On the other hand, if he reverses course and cancels the deal, he better start looking for replacements for those UAE bases now used by our military forces. And, he better have a fallback plan for keeping that F-16 assembly line open in Fort Worth--the same factory that is currently cranking out fighters for the UAE.

The Enemy Within (Again)

Breaking news out of Toledo, OH today...three Muslim men have been charged with conspiring to commit acts of terrorism against persons overseas (including U.S. military personnel in Iraq) and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.

Here's the DOJ press release announcing the indictments.

More coverage from the Counterterrorism Blog. Andrew Cochran notes that AG Alberto Gonzalez was asked by reporters if NSA surveillance info was used in building a case against the defendants. Don't bet against it. I'm guessing that U.S. and Iraqi security forces have been moving fast and hard against cells in communication with the "Ohio 3," based on NSA foreign and domestic surveillance. However, I'm guessing a FISA warrant was obtained on this group some weeks ago, and responsibility for the surveillance quickly passed from the NSA to the FBI.

Cochran also notes FNC reports that a "respected member of the local Muslim community" provided information to law enforcement authorities about the terror plot. This individual is apparently "the trainer" who is also named in the indictment, but not listed as a conspirator. Federal officials said the trainer was working on behalf of the government and was cooperating from the beginning of the operation.

And yet, some people question the need for a long-term extension of the Patriot Act and the NSA Surveillance program.

Getting it Wrong

When Max Boot joined the line-up of op-ed columnists for the Los Angeles Times, I cheered. At last, the Times was adding an informed, well-reasoned conservative voice to its editorial page, a much-needed counter-balance to such left-wing bomb throwers as William Arkin and the now-departed Robert Scheer. A former editor and writer for The Wall Street Journal, Boot is currently a senior fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a recognized expert on military and security affairs. In contrast to Arkin (a Greenpeace activist turned military "analyst"), Boot seemed like a perfect fit.

I still have great respect for Max Boot, but his latest effort for the Times ("The Wrong Weapons for the Long War) is a disappointment for a "serious" writer on national security matters. I kept looking for clues that Arkin or Shceer hijacked the column, or perhaps Mr. Boot is exchanging too many e-mails with Joel Stein. Whatever the reason, Boot's column is a second-rate effort that is filled with inaccuracies and false comparisions.

In his op-ed, Boot contrasts the recently-released Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), the Defense Department's latest strategy update with the DOD budget for FY 2007. The QDR notes that irregular warfare has become the type of conflict that the U.S. is most likely to encounter, and calls for expanding and strengthening the capabilities of special operations, psychological warfare, and civil affairs units.

But as he examines the Pentagon budget, Boot finds that projected funding fails to match QDR rhetoric. According to Boot, too much of the budget is devoted to conventional weapons programs from the Cold War, including the F-22 fighter, the F-25 Joint Strike Fighter, and the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

Unfortunately, there are major problems with Boot's premise that (ultimately) undermine his argument. First of all, contrasting a multi-year QDR to a one-year budget snap-shot is an apples-and-oranges comparison at best. A budget covering a single fiscal year doesn't account for additional funding increases in coming budget cycles; while this year's spending plan announces a 30% increase in the number of special ops units, it takes time to create additional teams and battalions, so much of the funding increase in those areas will come in future budgets, not FY'07. I'll go out on a limb and predict that the "published" budget for special ops in FY'11/12 will show geometric growth from current levels, as spending catches up with the strategy outlined in the QDR and this year's budget document.

And what about those "Cold War" weapons systems that Boot rails against? In his words, "we already have total dominance in the air," so there's no real need for the F-22, JSF, or new naval aircraft. Money flowing to those programs would be better spent on "boots on the ground."

Wrong again. America's continued dominance of the skies is hardly assured. As demonstrated by recent exercises with the Indian Air Force, the latest generation of Russian-built SU-27/30 fighters are a match for U.S. F-15s and F-16s. Assuring air superiority in the decades to come means pressing ahead with programs like the F-22 and JSF that raise the technological bar, even if the bills are coming due now.

True, Osama bin Laden doesn't have much of an Air Force, but other adversaries (notably China) are rapidly expanding their aerospace forces. We may spend much of the next decade fighting terrorists, but (as the QDR also notes), we can't rule out a major regional conflict, either. And, at some point, a future QDR is likely to identify China as our #1 threat. As the war against Islamofacists winds down, the U.S. may be facing a PRC military that is technologically advanced, and determined to press its agenda in East Asia and elsewhere. Against that type of threat, building your military forces around 30-40-year-old legacy aircraft and naval systems is simply a non-starter. Having more troops on the ground is great, but their benefit becomes irrelevant if you can't control and air and sea lanes needed to get them to the fight.

Here's something else to think about: Boot's comments about the F-22 and JSF are something of a budgetary red herring, due to the status of each program. The F-22, in development for more than 20 years, is now entering operational service. Consequently, costs for the Raptor will be high for the next 5-7 years, as the Air Force pays for new jets, new maintenance facilities, and training for pilots and ground crews. The JSF, now entering the final phase of development, will also be an expensive program for the next decade, for similar reasons. After that, costs begin to level off, as the program moves into a sustainment phase.

One more thing: did I mention that the F-22, JSF and Super Hornet have precision strike capabilities that are much improved over current aircraft? That's a quality that is very useful to our troops on the ground, even in the Long War against terrorism. And, because the newer jets will be easier to maintain, that means higher sortie rates, and more support for troops in harm's way. Even Max Boot should be able to understand that.

Port Call

From a national security and political perspective; it would appear to be a no-brainer; faced with mounting criticism from both sides of the aisle, the Bush Administration is expected to quietly pull the plug on the deal that would let a Dubai-based company run operations in six major U.S. ports. Just today, the Republican governors of New York and Maryland threatened legal action to prevent the United Arab Emirates Firm (Dubai Ports World) from managing port operations in New York City and Baltimore. Their threat is indicative of the political firestorm that is growing over the port issue.

While the White House has described the United Arab Emirates as an important ally in the War on Terrorism, the Dubai government has a less-than-sterling record in tracking terrorist operatives and commerce. One of the 9-11 hijackers--who flew a jet into the south tower of the World Trade Center--was born and raised in the UAE, before emigrating to Saudi Arabia. There are also indications that nuclear and missile technology may have passed through Dubai, enroute from North Korea to Iran. The UAE even bought SCUD missiles from Pyongyang, in defiance of international sanctions against such transactions. While Dubain was supposed to be punished for the SCUD deal, the Clinton Administration overlooked that transgression when it agreed to sell advanced F-16s to the UAE (more on that in a moment).

So why not cancel the deal, and avoid giving the left some badly-needed, election year ammunition in the political battle of homeland security? Unless the deal is scrapped, the administration will find itself in the akward position of appearing weaker on port security than, say, Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer. At this point, one would assume that GOP powerbrokers are leaning on the White House to cancel the agreement.

But it's not that simple. Cancelling the port deal could mean the end of U.S. basing rights in the UAE, strained relations with other regional partners, and the potential loss of a key defense contract, all viewed as critical in fighting the War on Terror. Collectively, those factors probably explain why the deal hasn't already been nixed, and why the Bush Administration may put up a fight--even with political allies.

Let's beging with the basing rights issue. U.S. military forces--particularly Air Force units--have been using airfields in the UAE since the start of Operation Desert Shield back in 1990. Bases in the UAE are viewed as particularly important for potential military operations against Iran, given their proximity to disputed islands the Persian Gulf, and the Strait of Hormuz. Flying from bases in the UAE, U.S. fighter-bombers would have only a short hop to targets in Iran, allowing them to maintain constant pressue on Tehran's military forces and political leadership. The presence of large numbers of tactical aircraft in the UAE would also make it easier to keep the strait open, and reduce Iran's ability to restrict the flow of oil to the global market. If the White House cancels the port deal, Dubai may end its basing agreement, and greatly complicate our military strategy in the region.

Overturning the port deal could also create other problems in the Persian Gulf. Cancellation of the contract would be viewed as an insult to the UAE and its leadership; regional critics would accuse the U.S. of hypocrisy--anxious to utilize UAE bases and sell its defense hardware to the Dubai, but unwilling to let a UAE company manage operations in U.S. ports. Such criticism, in turn, would cause other Gulf allies to question Washington's long-term committment to the region, and make it more difficult for the U.S. to sustain basing rights in such countries as Qatar and Bahrain. In fact, the loss of basing in the UAE would probably force the U.S. to approach Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain to take in more U.S. personnel, a potentially tough sell in the wake of a cancelled port deal between the Dubai and Washington. U.S. basing in Qatar is viewed as extremely critical, since the Gulf nation is home to a multi-billion dollar Air Operations Center, that is used to direct combat operations in the region.

Finally, striking down the port deal would mean likely curtailment of the sale of U.S. F-16s to the UAE. Back in the late 1990s, the Clinton Administration signed an agreement to sell 80 F-16s to the UAE, at a cost of roughly $8 billion. The UAE F-16s (Block 60 models) are most sophisticated version of that fighter ever produced, with capabilities beyond those of USAF F-16s. Sale of the F-16s was viewed as essential in continuing U.S. basing agreements in the UAE, and a major economic plum for the state of Texas, where Lockheed-Martin builds the F-16. The UAE deal came at a time when F-16 production was winding down; the U.S. and other countries had essentially completed their purchase of the F-16, and the assembly line was facing closure until the UAE deal came along. Lockheed hopes the UAE contract can stimulate other F-16 purchases, possibly by other Gulf States or possibly India. In economic terms, the UAE F-16 deal means literally billions of dollars and thousands of jobs in the President's home state.

Brit Hume of FNC has predicted that the White House will quietly cancel the UAE port deal a few weeks from now, after the initial furor has died down. But I'm not so sure. The military stakes are enormous, and the economic consequences (through the F-16 sale) are significant as well. Cancelling the port deal may solve political and security issues here at home, but it will also create significant problems in the gulf region, at a time the White House can ill afford them. It's a tough call, but one the President has to make--and soon.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Another Reason Iran Has Little to Fear from the UN Security Council

Tehran and Beijing are concluding a deal to develop a major oilfield, just weeks before the UNSC takes up the issue of Iran's nuclear program. What a coincidence.

Spies Like Paul Pillar

One of my "guilty pleasure" DVDs is Spies Like Us, a long-forgotten Chevy Chase-Dan Aykroyd vehicle from the mid-80s. In the film, Chase plays Emmit Fitz-Hume, a low-level State Department official and Aykroyd is Austin Milbarge, an equally anonmyous code breaker in the Pentagon. Both are hastily recruited and trained as field agents, with a mission to penetrate the former Soviet Union.

In reality, their characters are decoys, designed to divert Russian attention away from another spy team, tasked to steal (and launch) a Russian ICBM toward the United States. It's supposed to provide a test of a black world missile defense program, run by an Air Force general (Steve Forrest). Spies Like Us was a bit of a bust at the box office, but it is a surprisingly funny film that lampoons (among other things) the Cold War, Fail-Safe-genre movies from the 1960s, and the CIA's penchant for ineffective cover operations. In the film, virtually all of agency's activities--including covert agent insertion--are run by poorly-disguised front operation called the "Ace Tomato Company."

Two of my favorites characters in the film are a couple of CIA officers named Ruby and Keyes (Bruce Davison and the late William Prince). As willing accomplices in the ICBM operation, the CIA men are quite willing to send Fitz-Hume and Milbarge to their deaths, but when the plot unravels and they face arrest and imprisonment, Ruby and Keyes try to shift the blame to their military partners. "We were kidnapped," they claim, "That's right, kidnapped!" With their rep ties, Ivy League elitism and blame-someone-else mentality, Ruby and Keyes perfectly capture a CIA "culture" (real or imagined) that has produced more than its share of intelligence failures.

I don't think Bruce Davison or William Prince ever met Paul Pillar, but there does seem to be a striking resemblance between their characters and the former CIA official turned Bush Administration criticr. We wrote about Mr. Pillar a few days ago. Now, another former CIA officer (Guillermo Christensen) has a timely piece at OpinionJournal.com that does an even better job at exposing Pillar's hypocrisy. As Mr. Christensen notes, Pillar was responsible and (ostensibly) stood behind thousands of pages of pre-war intelligence that supported the invasion of Iraq. If he disagreed with those assessments, then Pillar (as National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia) was uniquely positioned to counter those arguments, and offer competing analysis.

Instead, Pillar betrayed long-standing professional practices at the agency and became a vocal, public critic of the Bush Administration--and the very intelligence he helped produce. The result of this, according to Christensen, is a further undermining of the CIA's tenuous credibility with elected officials and policy makers. Because of the Pillar's conduct, Christensen believes that future leaders will be less likely to turn to the agency, fearing that conversations with CIA officials and finished analytical reports will be leaked to the press by malcontents inside the agency. Pillar and his fellow critics have actually pioneered a new method of plausibile deniability in the intelligence field--if your assessments are off, blame the intelligence consumer, and accuse them of trying to silence you. With (fomer) spies like Paul Pillar around, who needs enemies?

More Journalistic Dishonesty from the AP

For some in the MSM, this must be "return to Abu Ghraib" week, something to help fill a couple of news cycles between Dick Cheney's hunting accident, and the start of Scooter Libby's trial.

Australia's Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) kicked things off with supposedly "new" images from the Abu Ghraib scandal. These images are "new" in the sense that they haven't appeared in print or broadcast before. Both U.S. and Iraqi officials say the photos were taken two years ago, by military personnel originally linked to the prisoner abuse scandal. Former Army Specialist Charles Graner, now serving a 10-year prison sentence for abusing detainees, appears in several of the photos, as does his former girlfriend (PFC Lynndie England); she is spending three years behind bars for her role in abuse at Abu Ghraib. SBS also says that many of the images show Graner and England having sex at the prison, so the photos are clearly from the period when Graner, England and other low-ranking reservists abused prisoners, largely for their own amusement.

While the AP notes that the images are dated (in paragraph #2), readers don't learn about the Graner-England connection until the end of the story. In between, there's lots of speculation about whether these images will further inflame anti-western sentiment, and assurances from U.S., Australian and Iraqi officials that the issue has been dealt with, and the abusers punished. But mentioning the involvment of Graner and England would place the story in an entirely different context, something the AP writer (Robert Reid) clearly wants to avoid.

Mr. Reid also doesn't say much about SBS, the Australian channel that aired the "fresh" photos. But if you read its mission statement, you'll see that SBS is all about multi-culturalism, and politically, I'm guessing that the network is somewhere to the left of PBS (if that is actually possible). Check out these excerpts from the SBS network's "mission statement:"

"SBS was established to give voice and exposure to multicultural Australia; to define, foster and celebrate Australia's cultural diversity in accordance with our Charter obligation to "provide multilingual and multicultural radio and television services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians and, in doing so, reflect Australia's multicultural society."

"SBS celebrates difference and promotes understanding. It gives Australians access to other cultures and languages, and targets prejudice, racism and discrimination through creative and quality programming that is inclusive and diverse."

Of course, the AP won't tell you about the SBS's left-wing ideology; readers outside Australia might assume--incorrectly--that the network is similar to an American cable news network or broadcast news division, and offering at least a measure of balance and fairness in its reporting. But SBS's ultra-liberal leanings puts the Abu Ghraib puts the program in an entirely different light; the network is clearly no fan of the U.S. military, the Bush Administration, or Australian Prime Minister John Howard. And it's no surprise that the network with that type of ideology would air a documentary designed to fan the flames of Abu Ghraib--but you won't learn that reading the AP story.

Sadly, the "Return to Abu Ghraib" item is a model of balance and fairness in comparison to AP's coverage of the UN Report on the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. On Thursday, a UN-appointed panel said the U.S. "must close the facility immediately," because it is effectively a torture camp where prisoners have no access to justice."

The AP article (by UN correspondent Edith Lederer) spares no critical comment from the report, or from statements by Kofi Annan supporting its findings. While she notes that the White House has rejected the panel's report, Ms. Lederer buries one critical fact from her story that (again) casts the findings in an entirely different light.

The UN panel that issued the report on conditions at Guantanamo Bay never--repeat, never--visited the facility (emphasis mine).

From yesterday's White House press briefing:

MR. McCLELLAN: "Well, I'd point out a couple of things. First of all, the U.N. team that was looking into this issue did not even visit Guantanamo Bay. They did not go down and see the facilities. They were offered the same kind of access that congressional leaders, who are responsible for oversight of these matters, have been provided. Yet, they declined to go down there."

Ms. Lederer puts a different slant on that damning fact. She reports that the U.S. offered to let three members of the UN group tour Guantanamo Bay last year, but they declined the offer, since they would not be allowed to interview detainees. Her insinuation is clear: the U.S. insisted on "conditions" that made the visit impossible. But she fails to mention that Congressional delegations touring Guantanamo operate under the same restrictions. If those rules are good enough for members of Congress, they should be acceptable for U.N.-hired "experts."

Lederer also notes that the U.N. findings were based on a variety of accounts, including interviews with former detainees, lawyers, media accounts and questions answered by the U.S. government--without any caveats on potential reliability problems among those sources. Let's see...former detainees wouldn't have an axe to grind with the U.S. military, would they? How about their ACLU lawyers? And we cab certainly trust the western media to "play it straight" with reporting on the detention of terror suspects.

The articles by Reid and Lederer are merely the latest examples of ournalistic fraud, perpetuated by the AP on a daily basis.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Lost in Translation?

According to former UN weapons inspector (and Arabic linguist) Bill Tierney, there are significant differnces between his translation of the Saddam tapes, and the ABC News version. Tierney was originally contracted by a civilian translation agency, working for the U.S. government. He told Sean Hannity that when he learned the disc with the conversations was unclassified, he offered them to ABC, which hired its own translator.

Among the differences: according to Tierney, Saddam never says a terrorist WMD attack "would never come from Iraq." There is also discussion, he says, of getting the French and Russians to help Iraq resolve its problems with UN weapons inspectors. That "assistance" is probably a reference to getting Paris and Moscow to lean on the UN and end the inspection process--a long-term goal of Saddam.

Tierney will appear on Hannity and Colmes at 9 pm tonight, on FNC. Recommended viewing, to say the least.

Beijing's Shopping List

From Strategypage.com, details on an effort to illegally export high-tech military items to China, including Blackhawk helicopter engines, cruise missiles, and an engine for an F-16 fighter:

"Last week, U.S. authorities charged two foreigners with attempting to export military equipment to China. Ko-Suen Moo, a Taiwanese man, was arrested last November. His partner, Frenchman Maurice Serge Voros, is still at large. The two were trying to export an F-16 engine, forty engines for the UH-60 helicopter, plus cruise missiles and other items, to China. It was not revealed exactly how far along this plot was. China has denied any connection with the two men. However, much military equipment has made its way to China. And China has, in the past, been prepared to pay well for any foreign military equipment that can be gotten into China."

Over the past decade, Beijing has assembled a veritable "shopping list" of western technology that they would like to acquire, including air-to-air missiles, precision-guided weapons, and state-of-the art aircraft engines. To accomplish that mission, the PRC has deployed agents across the globe and assembled a network of front companies, middle men and cut-outs, complicating the job of tying acquisition efforts to the Chinese government, or the People's Liberation Army.

The Chinese have pursued technology acquisition with a relentless determination, and they have achieved some notable successes. By purchasing SU-27 FLANKER and SA-10/20 surface-to-air missiles from the Russians, the PRC has been able to leap-frog from antiquated to advanced systems, and provided the technology for Chinese engineers to field similar, equally sophisticated weapons. Saves a lot of time and money in R&D costs.

Israel has also been a reliable technology source for the PRC, and that fact provides an interesting post-script to the purported F-16 engine acquisition. Back in the 1980s, Israel embarked on an effort to develop (and build) its own advanced fighter. The aircraft--nicknamed the Lavi--was based heavily on early model U.S. F-16s, sold to the Israeli Air Force. The Lavi program was largely funded by U.S. military aid dollars, but eventually, the Israeli government decided that it was cheaper to keep buying F-16s from the United States, and modifying them to IAF specifications.

So what happened to the Lavi? Many of the engineers and technicians associated with the project eventually wound up in the PRC. And, not long after that, the Chinese unveiled their new lightweight fighter, the F-10. Take a look at the photographs below. Note any resemblance between the F-10 and a certain, cancelled Israeli fighter?

PRC F-10


China's access to Lavi technology raises an obvious question: if you've got the blueprints for an F-16 clone--including its subsystems--why bother trying to acquire an F-16 engine? Short answer: there's been a quantum leap in turbofan jet engine technology over the past 20 years. The engines that Beijing may have gained through the Lavi program deliver less thrust--and consume more fuel--that the latest generation of U.S. jet engines. In aerial combat, factors like thrust, weight, and range are critical. An F-10 with a less efficient engine would be at a disadvantage against a U.S. F-15 or F-16 with a better powerplant. Beyond that, China wants to enter the realm of supercruise--a jet engine that allows an aircraft to go supersonic without using afterburners. Moving up to supercruise means developing more efficient turbofans that are the springboard to that advanced technology--assuming that the Chinese don't take the direct route, and simply steal or buy supercruise engined from someone else.

Strategypage didn't specify the particular model of F-16 engine that was apparently bound for China. But I'll go out on a limb and guess that it wasn't one of the early variants, that powered A and B model F-16s in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Beijing is very exacting in the military technology it plans to acquire, right down to a particular type of jet engine.

Missing the Boat (Literally)

Last summer, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors rejected a plan to permanently berth the battleship USS Iowa in their city. By an 8-3 vote, the supervisors decided against against taking in the ship, citing their opposition to the War in Iraq and military policies against gays in uniform, among other reasons.

Sean Hannity was in the City by the Bay a couple of days ago, following up on the Iowa controversy. You might have caught his debate (on radio and TV) with a San Francisco supervisor (Gerardo Sandoval), who expressed a desire to completely disband the U.S. military. Mr. Sandoval--clearly no student of history--opined that "standing armies" in the United States didn't appear on the scene until the 1950s. Sandoval might be interested to learn that the U.S. Army has been in continuous existence since 1775, and the Marine Corps since 1798, but his ill-informed thinking clearly illustrates the radical liberalism that dominates Bay Area politics. Remember: this is the city that pays the homeless a monthly stipend of $3-400, but won't provide a home for a ship that defended American liberty in four wars.

At last report, the Iowa appeared headed for Stockton, a port city located 80 miles up the river from San Francisco. Stockton has been enthusiastic about providing a home for the battleship, offering a dock on the San Joaquin River, a 90,000 square-foot building and parking area. City officials believe that the Iowa--as centerpiece for a historical park--could attract up to 125,000 visitors a year.

That estimate may be low, and Stockton--if it gets the ship--may have the last laugh. Across the country, decommissioned battleships have proved to be a popular tourist draw. The USS Alabama, on permanent display in Mobile, has attracted more than 11 million visitors over the past 40 years; statewide, the ship's presence has generated an estimated $270 million economic impact during the same period. Even in Massachusetts (perhaps the "bluest" of the blue states) the USS Massachusetts, centerpiece of a historic complex called Battleship Cove, has drawn over five million visitors who pay for admission, parking, souvenirs, food, lodging and gas, and stimulate the local economy in the process. Battleship displays in North Carolina, Texas and elsewhere are also popular tourist attractions.

More importantly, these ships are not a drain on local tax coffers; virtually all of the battleship parks operate as independent, not-for-profit enterprises. Money for operating and maintaining the ships (and other exhibits) is derived from private sources, including admission charges. Beyond its initial investment, the city of Stockton shouldn't have to spend another dime on the Iowa, while reaping millions of dollars in additional revenue each year from restaurant and lodging taxes.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco city supervisors can take pride in their principled stand, and find other ways to attract more tourists to their city. Turns out that the tourism sector has been weak in the Bay Area since 2000, and not all of it can be attributed to the travel drop after 9-11. That trend continued in 2005, according to USA Today, with demand for convention space declining, and a noticeable drop in foreign visitors as well. I guess the supervisors haven't heard that the USS Missouri and the remains of the USS Arizona are particularly popular among foreign tourists visiting Hawaii.

A Measure of Protection, Part II

About six weeks ago, we noted that the Israeli state airline, El Al, was installing missile defense systems on its passenger jets. Initial reports indicated that the carrier would mount defensive systems on six of its airliners that operated in "high threat" areas. At a cost of $1 million per aircraft, the defensive gear represented a sizeable investment for El Al, but it also reflected the growing threat to passenger aircraft from man-portable, surface-to-air missiles (MANPAD SAMs).

Today's update from Haaretz indicates the El Al has actually outfitted all 29 of its passenger jets with missile defense systems over the past two years. I'm guessing that was the plan all along; given the capital investment--and the time required to schedule and outfit each aircraft--it's doubtful that El Al suddenly decided to expand the upgrade from a handful of aircraft, to its entire passenger fleet. The original report--which also appearaed in Haaretz was either inaccurate, or El Al security officials gave the reporter misleading information, to avoid tipping the airline's hand until the installation program was complete.

In any case, El Al is now the only airline with missile defense systems on all of its owned passenger jets. The airline leases five other passenger aircraft, and it's unclear if the defensive system will be installed on those jets as well. Missile defense systems are typically but around sensors, located at various points on the aircraft, which detect changes in IR energy associated with a missile launch. The sensors are linked to a central computer, which evaluates the information and dispenses countermeasures--usually a burst of laser energy, designed to blind the missile seeker. Some systems also dispense flares, intended to draw the missile away from the targeted aircraft.

Meanwhile, the FAA is conducting a study of competing missile defense systems installed on Boeing 767 and MD-11 aircraft. As part of an 18-month effort, Northrup-Grumman is testing one of its "Guardian" defensive suites on a FedEX MD-11 cargo jet. Rival BAE has installed its Jeteye systems on an American Airlines 767 for testing an evaluation. At this point, permanent installation of missile defenses on U.S. passenger aircraft is still years away.

And there's no guarantee that U.S. airliners will ever receive this protective gear. With most of the airlines struggling financially, few could afford the program without massive government subsidies, or the FAA completely underwriting the program. According to one government estimate, the "mainline" U.S. carriers will have almost 5,000 passenger jets in service by 2010; outfitting those aircraft would cost a mininmum of $5 billion, a pricetage that will likely rise in the coming years.

Does the threat justify the cost? MANPAD attacks against commercial aircraft have been somewhat rare, but the growing proliferation of shoulder-fired missiles makes them an ideal terrorist weapon. Downing even a single U.S. airliner with a MANPAD could have a devastating impact on the airline industry, and potentially drive more carriers out of business. Given the heavy volume of U.S. air traffic--and the potential availability of shoulder-fired SAMs, it is perhaps more surprising that there hasn't been a MANPAD attack against an airliner in this country. There are also disturbing rumors that the intelligence community may have underestimated the number of MANPADs produced by Russia and other manufacturers, including late-model missiles that have some resistance to countermeasures. If those rumors are true, there may be even more shoulder-fired SAMs available to terrorists, both at home and abroad.

Given these realities, I believe the FAA needs to expedite its evaluation program, and press ahead with installing missile defense suites on commercial passenger aircraft. The installation program could be funded with a ticket surcharge; according to Aviation Week, the charge would be $1 per ticket on a New York-Los Angeles flight, enough to pay for the system, installation and the extra fuel burn caused by the increased weight/drag associated with the defensive gear.

For a measure of protection against a known threat, $1 a ticket is reasonable--and affordable.

You Read it Here First

Flag the post! Last week, we noted that Scooter Libby had not been indicted on charges of deliberately divulged classified information--despite court filings that showed he leaked a 2003 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq. We believe that one reason Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald passed on those charges is because the senior leaders of the executive branch have the right to declassify information and disseminate it as they see fit. From our post of 10 February 2006:

"Officials at the highest levels of the executive branch (read: The President and Vice-President) are understood to have "declassification authority" for any type of classified material....The development of the B-2 bomber, for example, was a closely-guarded, black world program back in the 1970s until President Carter decided to discuss it in a speech, as proof that he wasn't weak on national defense. In the matter of a few sentences, the B-2 moved from the black world into the white world, with an official budget "line," public relations hand-outs and all the other trappings of an "official" program. Why wasn't Carter investigated? As commander-in-chief, he had the authority to "declassify" the B-2 program in a public address.

"Accordingly, every chief executive has had the authority to "move" information from the classified to the unclassified realm, through speeches, comments, and leaks. As we noted yesterday, every administration has played the leak game to some degree, and the Bush White House is no exception.....If Bush or Cheney authorized the declassification and dissemination of portions of the NIE, it was probably legal, even if there isn't an accompanying paper trail. So much for security.

In yesterday's interview with Brit Hume on FNC, Vice-President Cheney expouded on this authority a bit, noting that there is an executive order that grants declassification authority to both the president and the VP. Cheney didn't cite the specific order, but it's been on the books (in various forms) for decades. The executive power that allowed Jimmy Carter to declassify the Stealth Bomber is the same authority that allowed the Bush Administration to declassify the Iraq NIE.

As we've noted previously, arbitrarily declassifying or leaking information for political reasons is not a sound security practice. But all administrations play this game (to some degree), and thanks to executive power, it's perfectly legal.

As former Clinton aide Paul Begala observed: "Stroke of the pen, law of the land, kind cool."

And remember, we told you that President Bush and VP Cheney had declassification authority one week ago. Welcome to the game, Drudge, AP, and others.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Honoring Pappy Boyington

Yesterday, we reported on the refusal of the University of Washington Student Senate to pass a resolution honoring WWII ace (and Washington grad) Gregory "Pappy" Boyington. Lt Col Boyington, who died in 1988, was the top Marine Corps ace of World War II, downing 26 Japanese aircraft while leading the famous "Black Sheep" squadron. On his last combat mission, Boyington himself was shot down and spent 20 months as a Japanese POW. For his heroism, Lt Col Boyington received both the Navy Cross and the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Alert reader Secretagent may have found a solution for this problem. He discovered that the federal government recently gave the university $5 million to build a new bioengineering research facility, and another $12.4 million to fund a "science of learning" center.

If the feds are ponying up the money, then (presumably) they should have some say in who these complexes are named after. Supporters of Colonel Boyington to get in touch with GOP members of the Washington Congressional delegation, and get them to lean on the university administration. The message should be short and direct: give Pappy Boyington the memorial he deserves by naming a federally-funded facility on the UW campus after him. Personally, I think the "Gregory Boyington Bioengineering Research Center" has a nice ring to it. A fitting tribute for an American hero--and a UW engineering grad.

Here's another idea: the university's Naval ROTC unit is located in a building named Clark Hall. Why not rename it Boyington Hall, or Clark-Boyington Hall?

Prompt Disclosure

From AFP, via Drudge: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said she was troubled by the Bush Adminstration's failure to promptly disclose information on Dick Cheney's hunting accident:

"A tendency of this administration -- from the top all the way to the bottom -- is to withhold information ... to refuse to be forthcoming about information that is of significance and relevance to the jobs that all of you do, and the interests of the American people."

Excuse me, Mrs. Clinton, but how long did it take you to find those "missing" billing records from the Rose Law Firm? You know, the same records that were subpoenaed by various investigators looking into your old real estate dealings? As I recall, those records disappeared the night Vince Foster died, and didn't resurface for almost three years, when they mysteriously resurfaced in the White House residential quarters. You might even remember that a Senate Committee described the handling of those documents as highly improper conduct.

Compared to Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Cheney is a paragon of disclosure and openness.

Arrogance and Ignorance

David Ignatius of the Washington Post is at it again. In his most recent column, he manages to link Dick Cheney's hunting accident, the President's speech on a folied LA terror plot and "purges" at the CIA as examples of administration arrogance.

That's a lot of territory to cover in less than 1,000 words, but Ignatius certainly gives it the old college try. Regarding Cheney's hunting accident, the WaPo columnist is "disturbed" by the time lag between the accident (Saturday afternoon) and the time the MSM was informed (Sunday morning). It was an attempt to delay and perhaps suppress embarassing news, he decides, declaring the incident reminiscent of Chappaquiddick.

Not surprisingly, the facts don't support Ignatius's supposition. Ted Kennedy waited more than 12 hours to inform Massachusetts authorities of his accident, but found time to huddle with his attorney before going to the police. By that time, of course, Kennedy's passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, had expired. When Cheney accidentally shot hunting partner Harry Whittington late Saturday, medical attention was promptly summoned, and local authorities notified. By the time the story broke on Sunday morning, the local sheriff had completed his initial investigation, and described the incident as an accident. Let's see....Whittington received medical attention immediately and the cops were called, while Ms. Kopechne was left to drown in Teddy's submerged Oldsmobile, quite a difference, wouldn't you say?

In fact, the only resemblance between the hunting incident and Teddy's ill-fated drive is that the MSM didn't get the story until hours later. Personally, I think Cheney and his staff should announced the incident more quickly, but there's no law that requires prompt notification of the White House Press Corps. In fact, I'm guessing that if the press office had summoned reporters on Saturday night, they would have grumbled about "being called in on a weekend over a minor hunting accident." And, BTW, if you want to see arrogance personified, check out the hissy fit staged by NBC's David Gregory during Monday's White House press briefing.

But Ignatius doesn't stop there. He remains concerned about the "politicization" of intelligence by the Bush Administration, a sure sign of presidential arrogance. He accuses Bush of over-stating the validity of intelligence information about a 2002 Al Qaida plot to crash a jetliner into the U.S. Bank tower in Los Angeles. He bases that assessment on comments by a foreign official (with "detailed" knowledge) of the information, and a former, high-level U.S. intelligence official.

Sound familiar? Criticism of Bush Administration policies by "former, high-ranking intelligence officials" has become a cottage industry in Washington. Naturally, this former official isn't named, nor do we know his position within the intelligence community. By some standards, I am a former, high-ranking intelligence official, but I never worked the U.S. Bank plot, and can't comment on the validity of the information. Outside the context of who this person was, where they worked, and what their job entailed, such observations are meaningless.

Ditto for the "foreign official." Did this "source" see the finished, fused intelligence product on the Al Qaida plot, or just the debriefing reports from Khalid Sheik Mohammed and the Indonesian operative, known as Hambali. In many cases, the U.S. is willing to share debriefing reports with other countries, particularly if those nations are detaining the suspect. But the sharing of finished, fused information with other countries is not automatic. Some information is even withheld from our closest allies (Britain, Australia and Canada) under the NOFORN caveat (Not Releasable to Foreign Nationals). Once again, without knowing who the official is, the country he represents, and his access to information, comments about the validity of information are nothing more than opinion, and (possibly) ill-informed opinion at that.

And that brings me to Ignatius's final concern, regarding administration "attempts" to undercut Paul Pillar and other former CIA officials who have been critical of Bush policies in Iraq. He claims that Bush went ballistic after Pillar made comments at a private dinner, warning of likely problems in post-war Iraq. Ignatius believes that Pillar was subsequently forced out at Langley, part of a Bush-directed purge by the new CIA Director, Porter Goss.

Let's see...an active CIA officer publicly criticizes official government policies and (in turn) gets pushed out the door, pension intact. Sounds like Pillar got off easy. Ignatius (predictably) ignores the fact intelligence officers (like military personnel) do not have "free unfettered public speech." That right goes out the window when you sign your first non-disclosure agreement, something Pillar did many years ago. Mr. Pillar had no business making those comments, even at a private dinner. The fact that CIA management allowed active officers to make speeches and publish books critical of administration policies underscores the mess that Goss inherited at Langley. Saying a purge was in order would be an understatement.

Ignatius also bemoans the agency's loss of "some of its best intelligence officers, when we need them most." That's right, the same bunch that missed the collapse of communism, assessed that Saddam would not invade Kuwait, and largely ignored the rising threat of Islamofacism. So tell me again why these guys are, in Ignatius's view, virtually irreplacable. Is the columnist upset because some of his favorite leakers are now on the outside, unable to provide scoops to the WaPo?

Someone once told me that arrogance is in the eye of the beholder, but ignorance is plain for all to see. Reading Ignatius's column, it's hard to tell if his rants are the product of arrogance, ignorance, or both.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Your Tuition Dollars at Work

If you're paying tuition for a son, daughter (or other relative) to attend the University of Washington, you may be interested to hear about a recent decison by the school's student senate. According to World Net Daily, the student body recently rejected a proposed memorial for WWII flying ace (and Washington alumnus), Lt Col Gregory "Pappy" Boyington.

Boyington, who attended the university from 1930-1934, gained fame as a Marine Corps fighter pilot during the Second World War. After a stint with the famed American Volunteer Group (the famed "Flying Tigers") in China, Boyington commanded Marine Fighter Squadron, the legendary "Black Sheep." Lt Col Boyington shot down 26 Japanese aircraft in aerial combat over the South Pacific, making him the leading Marine ace of the war. Shot down on a combat mission, he spent 20 months as a Japanese POW before being liberated in 1945. For his heroism, Boyington received the Navy Cross and the Congressional Medal of Honor.

According to minutes of the meeting, student senator Jill Edwards said she didn't believe a member of the Marine Corps was an example of the sort of person UW wanted to produce." Another senator, Ashley Miller, said the school already had many monuments that honor "rich white men."

As a compromise measure, another member of the senate amended the resolution, removing a clause that referred to Boyington's 26 aerial victories, saying that the Marine pilot should be honored for his service, not his killing of others."

Give me a break. What, pray tell, were Boyington and his fellow pilots supposed to do--negotiate with their Japanese adversaries? Pappy Boyington, who passed away in 1986 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetary, deserves better from his alma mater, and the twits that populate its student senate.

If I had a son or daughter at UW, I would seriously consider a letter or e-mail to the chancellor, or the university's President, Mark Emmert, and the school's Board of Regents. Clearly, there is something wrong with an institution of higher learning whose students can't recognize a genuine American hero. Obviously, the faculty at UW is doing a fine job of indoctrinating those young skulls full of mush.

Today's Reading Assignment

...from Brendan Minitier at OpinionJournal. He writes about the Pengaton's vision for the "Long War" against terrorism and its root cause, "bin Ladenism."

Readers will note that the strategy described in heavily dependent on information operations, and defeating the enemy in the arena of ideas. The importance of that concept cannot be under-emphasized. Unfortunately, our efforts in that area are often undercut by our domestic media, which is often a willing mouthpiece for Islamofacism.

Anything for Money, II

Hard to believe, but Gary Busey was once an Oscar nominee, for his memorable performance in The Buddy Holly Story. Billy Zane was featured in James Cameron's epic blockbuster, Titanic. At one point, both men had promising careers as film actors.

Unfortunately, Mr. Busey and Mr. Zane's stock at the box office has apparently tanked in recent years; That may explain their latest career move, starring in a new Turkish "film" (and I use that term loosely) entitled "Valley of the Wolves--Iraq." Zane plays a sadistic U.S. Marine named Sam (clever, huh?) who goes on a killing spree in occupied Iraq until he is finally tracked down and eliminated by heroic Turkish agents. Mr. Busey, meanwhile, plays a Jewish-American doctor who "harvests" organs from inmates in an Abu Ghraib-style prison and ships them to the United States, Britain and Israel.

Screenwriter Bahadir Ozdener claims his script is based on "real" events, but he couldn't offer any examples, except for a brief detention of Turkish special forces troops by Marines in 2003. Not that it really matters. Virulent anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism have long been staples of the Islamic cinema, and Valley of the Wolves is doing boffo box office in Turkey, though it's unlikely to reach American multiplexes anytime soon. Apparently, Mr. Ozdener has never heard of the Sundance Film Festival or other western gatherings that celebrate the anti-American cinema; if he had arranged a screening at one of those festivals, he'd probably have an Academy Award nomination for "Best Foreign Language Film," and a three-picture deal with Miramax. Better luck next time.

Of course, it's one thing for Turkey's answer to Michael Moore to produce an anti-American lie; it's quite another for American actors to willingly participate in such a project. Mencken might observe that you'll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of Hollywood actors, but in their apparent quest for a paycheck, Busey and Zane have managed to attain a new level of professional ignominy. Which makes me wonder: where does an actor go after a star turn in something like Valley of the Wolves? Snuff films? Hard-core pornography? Almost anything would be a professional improvement over their roles in that Turkish film perversion.

On the other hand, since anti-Americanism plays so well in Hollywood, Busey and Zane may be lionized for appearing in such a "bold" and "provacative" film. Who knows? By selling out their country (and seemingly, their profession), the two actors may be able to resurrect their careers, and work their way into better film roles. Anb f that doesn't work out, there's always Valley of the Wolves II--Invasion of Iran. Maybe they'll even get a piece of the gross for the sequel.
Some people will do anything for money.

P.S.--Zane has actually defended his participation in the film, describing himself as a "pacifist" who believes that the horrors of war "should be exposed." He fails to mention that the best anti-war films work because they are based in truth, not the fantasies of some radical Turkish screenwriter. For my money, one of the best anti-war films ever made was Lewis Milestone's All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), based on the book by German World War I veteran Erich Maria Remarque, and starring Lew Ayres. Interestingly, Ayres was a conscientious objector during World War II, but volunteered to serve in the Medical Corps in the South Pacific, treating wounded soldiers. Ayres was a man of principle and integrity, concepts completely foreign to latter-day Hollywood "pacifists" like Zane.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Taking God Out of Islam

Amir Taheri explains how a Persian Freemason and an Armenian huckster (!) helped produce the modern Salafi movement and hijacked Islam in the process.

Mr. Gumbel's Racism

Did you catch the latest edition of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel on HBO? Let me begin with my usual caveats about HBO and Mr. Gumbel. Readers of this blog know that I'm no fan of the network; much of its "original" programming is pretentious and over-hyed; critics like it only because HBO is eager to broadcast simulated homosexual sex (Six Feet Under), depict Mafioso thugs as heroes (The Sopranos), or televise big-budget, made-for-cable epics (Angels in America) that are little more than shameless tirades against the conservatives and the GOP.

As for Mr. Gumbel, his "smarter-than-you" attitude and occasional tendency towards race-baiting make him one of the more unwatchable personalities on the tube. Yet, I make it a point to watch Real Sports because it's one of the few attempts at serious ports journalism on TV. I also watch because HBO also had the good sense to hire some gifted reporters (most notably Bernard Goldberg and Frank DeFord) to cover the stories featured on each edition. And better yet, viewers have to endure only a bit of Gumbel in each edition. He introduces each segment, chats with the reporters after their stories have aired and offers a brief commentary at the end.

In his most recent comments, Gumbel takes a shot at the Winter Olympics--and manages to work in a few political and racial digs as well.

"And finally tonight the Winter Games. Count me among those that don't like 'em and won't watch 'em. In fact, I figure when Thomas Paine said, "These are the times that try men's souls", he must have been talking about the start of another Winter Olympics. Because they are so trying, maybe over the next three weeks we should all try too.

Like try not to be incredulous when someone tries to link these games to those of the ancient Greeks who never heard of skating or skiing. So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world’s greatest athletes, despite a paucity of Blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention. Try not to point out that something's not really a sport if a psuedo-athlete waits in what's called a "kiss and cry area” while some panel of subjective judges decides who won.

And try to blot out all logic when announcers and sports writers pretend to care about the luge, the skeleton, the biathlon, and all those other events they don't understand and totally ignore for all but three weeks every four years. Face it, these Olympics are little more than a marketing plan to fill space and sell time during the dreary days of February. So, if only to hasten the arrival of the day they're done, and we can move on to March Madness, for God's sake, let the Games begin."

Apparently, Mr. Gumbel is excised because there are few black athletes in the winter games. Judging from his comments, the Winter Olympics are apparently unwatchable, in part because the athletes are overwhelmingly white. Perhaps I'm a bit old-fashioned, but I never believed that admiration for an athlete should be based on his or her skin color. Ask someone why they idolized Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Walter Peyton or Michael Jordan, and you'll hear something about a particular play, bout, shot or game-winning performance. Skin color, in that context, becomes irrelevant, except to the Bryant Gumbels of the world.

Perhaps Mr. Gumbel would be happy if there were some sort of affirmative action plan for the Winter Olympics, allowing blacks to be fully represented in sports like downhill skilling, the luge, curling, figure skating and hockey. If that's the solution, then maybe he'd support similar affirmative action plans for boxing, the NBA, and track-and-field, where the number of black participants far exceeds the number of whites. Funny, but I don't recall Bryant Gumbel bemoaning the lack of white participation in pro basketball, boxing, or the professional track circuit.

By raising the issue of race, Gumbel misses the messsage of the Olympics, the belief that athletic competition reflects the best of mankind, and can serve as some sort of bridge between nations and groups that often disagree. Admittedly, that message is sometimes lost amid the hype and commercialism that accompany the modern games, but you can still find it, if you bother to look. I found it the other day, watching an Estonian woman overtake the race favorite in the final 300 meters, and win a gold medal in cross-country skiing.

Of course, such displays of grace, grit and determination are lost on the Bryant Gumbels of the world, who (ironically) style themselves as sophisticated observers of the sporting scene. But in reality, they're nothing more than liberal race baiters, pre-occupied with imaginary quotas and concerns about racial representation. I'm not much of a hockey fan, and I know nothing about the skeleton or biathalon, but thanks to Bryant Gumbel, I will make it a point to watch more of the Winter Olympics on NBC.

The Echo Chamber

The latest Democratic talking point goes something like this: VP Dick Cheney should resign because he (presumably) told Scooter Libby to leak the 2003 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq. Howard Dean advanced that argument again yesterday, following the lead of Ted Kennedy, who made similar comments on Friday. I guess the weekend blizzard slowed the fax lines between Capitol Hill and DNC HQ. But we digress.

Unfortunately for the Dems, that dog won't hunt, for reasons we outlined last week. As the #2 official in the executive branch, the V-P has declassification authority, allowing hiim to direct the declassification and release of sensitive material. Additionally, the entire NIE was declassified and released in the summer of 2003, so Libby's lawyers can argue that his conversations with reporters were a part of that process. And finally, Special Prosecutor Peter Fitzgerald took a pass on indicting Libby for illegally releasing classified information, because there were numerous leaks of the NIE, both from the White House and Capitol Hill.

I've haven't read the transcript of Face the Nation (where Dean made his comments), but I'm guessing that host Bob Schieffer conveniently ignored these salient facts.

Contingency Planning

From Sunday's UK Telegraph comes a sobering story about U.S. plans for possible combat operations against Iran. According to the British paper, planners from the U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) and U.S. Central Command have been identifying targets, updating weapons loads, and calculating logistics required for the operation. Sources told the Telegraph that the effort is not merely an update of existing contingency plans:

"This is more than just the standard military contingency assessment," said a senior Pentagon adviser. "This has taken on much greater urgency in recent months."

One interesting wrinkle in the Pentagon's reported plan involves the use of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) attacking Iranian nuclear sites with conventional warheads. However, other press reports have suggested that the program is (officially) at least four years away from fruitiion. A recent Bloomberg article outlined efforts to develop a conventional warhead for some Navy TRIDENT D-5 missiles (carried on Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines). The Navy plans to spend at least $127 million in FY'06 and $225 million in FY'08 to develop capability, with deployment of the missiles in the years that follow. The conventionally-armed TRIDENT program is part of a Pentagon effort called Prompt Global Strike, allowing the U.S. to target virtually any point on the globe in 30 minutes--or less--using non-nuclear weapons.

In other words, the Telegraph story on U.S. war plans is referring to a capability that currently doesn't exist--at least not officially. There are a number of potential explanations for this apparent inconsistency. Perhaps the writer was referrring to the new mission of the USS Ohio, the first boat in that SSBN class. SLBMs were removed from the Ohio more than two years ago, and the sub has been re-fitted as a cruise missile platform. It is scheduled to being operations this year, and could conduct cruise missile strikes against enemy targets--a mission assigned to U.S. attack subs in past conflicts. Two other Ohio-class boats--the Michigan and Georgia--are undergoing similar conversions, and will re-join the fleet in 2007. Collectively, these vessles are capable of launching hundreds of cruise missiles against hostile targets. However, their weapons are not the sub-launched ballistic missiles referred to in the Telegraph report.

That leaves two other theories. Perhaps the planning update is actually a long-range effort, accounting for capabilities that won't enter service until later this decade. The looming crisis with Iran would certainly account for the new "urgency" in planning efforts, even if some of the weapons and employment scenarios are still under development. On the other hand, it makes little sense for a critical contingency plan to list--or integrate--combat capabilities that are still 4-5 years away from their initial operational capability (IOC).

The third--and perhaps most likely explanation--is that the conventional TRIDENT D-5 program is further along than the Navy is admitting, and will enter operational service well before the end of the decade. Fitting a conventional warhead isn't exactly rocket science (forgive the deliberate pun); the launch system (the missile itself) and reentry vehicle technology are tested and reliable, so equipping the D-5 with a conventional warhead is largely a matter of building a large, high-explosive warhead, and developing the required fusing and guidance (think GPS) technology to transform the RV into a precision, penetrating weapon, capable of destroying buried, hardened targets. That's exactly the type of capability we would need in going after Iran's nuclear facilities and it would be a welcome addition to the U.S. arsenal.

Using SLBMs in this role does present a potential problem. Unless coordinated in advance with the Russians and Chinese, a sudden SLBM launch against Iran is bound to scare the hell out of Moscow and Beijing. On the other hand, prior coordination with Russia and the PRC would reduce chances for misinterpretation of the event (and overreaction of their part), but it could divulge details about operating patterns/locations for conventionally-armed SSBNs, increasing the threat those platforms would face. But from the Pentagon's perspective, the benefits clearly outweigh the risks, and if the Telegraph story is any indicator, conventionally-armed SLBMs on U.S. subs may be a reality well before their "published" introduction date.

On a related note, the Telegraph also published this companion piece in Sunday's edition, outlining the potential consequences of a war with Iran. You'll note that the paper relied on left-wing experts for their assessment, which predicts that as many as 10,000 Iranians might die in a U.S.-led bombing campaign. Readers will also note that these "experts" recommend that a "military response....should not be considered further. Alternative approaches must be sought, however difficult these may be." Hat tip: Regime Change in Iran.

Here's a question for the smart boys at Oxford: pray tell, what would those alternative approaches be? We've been negotiating with Tehran in search of those options for almost a year. To date, EU and Russian diplomatic efforts have resulted in renewed Iranian nuclear activity, escalating tension in the Middle East, and no viable solution in sight. Admittedly, the military option should be the last one for the Iran crises, but in the end, it may be the only alternative. Removing the military option from the table now would be tantabmount to Britain and France's refusal to eject Hitler from the Rhineland in 1936. The British and the French had the military might to defeat the fledgling Nazi army, but they were so intent on preserving peace, they eliminated their best option. And we know what happened three years later.