October 26, 2006
"Welcome to the party, pal!"
A quick cycle through the headlines of the past two days provides an update on our NATO allies:
October 3, 2006
In Which the European Defense Agency Shows It Has Learned Nothing in the Last Five Years
Political discourse about warfare is all too frequently shot through with utopian impulses. This is because warfare involves both the vision of an "end-state" that one's forces work toward, and millions of decisions at all levels that are easily second guessed as time passes.
An article in the London Telegraph reports that the new European Defense Agency has released a paper envisioning the next 20 years of conflict.
The paper, An Initial Long-Term Vision for European Defence Capability and Capacity Needs, paints a Europe in which plunging fertility rates leave the military struggling to recruit young men and women of fighting age, at a time when national budgets will be under unprecedented strain to pay for greying populations.It seems the study does not attempt to really envision future conflicts so much as it attempts to proscribe a series of measures that must be in place in order for the EU to engage in war. In other words, rather than focusing on enemies, it seems to focus on its own requirements. There is a term for this: self-induced friction. The EU Defense Agency is only 2 years old and already is hamstringing itself.
At the same time, increasingly cautious voters and politicians may be unwilling to contemplate casualties, or "potentially controversial interventions abroad – in particular interventions in regions from where large numbers of immigrants have come."
Voters will also be insistent on having backing from the United Nations for operations, and on crafting large coalitions of EU member states with a heavy involvement of civilian agencies, and not just fighting units, the paper states. They will also want military operations to be environmentally friendly, where possible.
All of this is similar to the Powell Doctrine in the United States, another set of internally imposed rules meant to make domestic constituents happy and to limit the kinds and types of wars that will have to be fought.
A hard-thinking, proactive enemy -- and there are few other kinds -- no doubt laughs in glee at these efforts, as it merely gives him all the more opportunities to avoid battle with the West and pursue his own agenda with impunity; or, once engaged in battle, to prevail simply by using methods and techniques that the West is institutionally (and thereby mentally) unprepared to counter.
The entire report may be downloaded here.
September 12, 2006
From Every Mountainside
Tom Ricks’ book FIASCO: The American Military Adventure in Iraq has been climbing the charts of late. Ricks lists the work Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice by David Galula as being very important to understanding the fight in Iraq today. Galula was a French officer who served in Greece, Algeria, and China, and observed various different insurgencies firsthand. His work is peppered with colorful anecdotes such as the things he learned after being captured by the Chinese Communists. Nevertheless, it very much attempts to develop a theory of counterinsurgency warfare that is extremely relevant today, despite the differences between Communist fighters and those of the Islamic ilk.
Galula believed that the population must be divided into three groups, the favorable minority, who will always favor the side of the counterinsurgent, the insurgent minority, those who are the actual fighters and organizers for the insurgency, and the rest of the population, which lives between the two sides, and can be swayed in either direction. He further made the point that insurgencies are always motivated by a cause, and that counterinsurgencies must have a cause as well if they are to succeed:
The strategic problem of the counterinsurgent may be defined now as follows: “To find the favorable minority, to organize it in order to mobilize the population against the insurgent minority.” Every operation, whether in the military field of in the political, social, economic, and psychological fields, must be geared to that end.
To be sure, the better the cause and the situation, the larger will be the active minority favorable to the counterinsurgent and the easier its task. This truism dictates the main goal of the propaganda – to show that the cause the situation of the counterinsurgent are better than the insurgent’s. More important [sic], it underlines the necessity for the counterinsurgent to come out with an acceptable countercause.
All of this struck me very forcefully last week while attending the 5th Annual Defense Forum in Washington, DC, and hearing Tom Ricks give the keynote address. Ricks told the story of Army Colonel H.R. McMaster’s method of addressing the sheiks and imams in his area of operations upon arrival in Iraq in 2005. “McMaster told the Iraqis that when the American military first invaded Iraq, they were like men stumbling around furniture in a dark room. Now, the Iraqi government has turned on the lights for us, and the time for honorable resistance has ended.”
Ricks stated that this level of courtesy, used by McMaster even while implicitly threatening those who opposed him, is both necessary and extremely effective in the Arab world because the core value of that society is honor, or dignity, or respect. Ricks believes that when “Americans speak to the Iraqis about freedom, something is lost in translation.”
To use Galula’s terminology and theory, an independent observer must conclude that democracy is the “countercause” that the US seeks to advocate in the Middle East. But to use Ricks’ anecdote of Colonel McMaster, perhaps this is not the strongest or most effective countercause we might be using. Instead, perhaps we could link the honor that is so important to Arabs to what we define as freedom. Or perhaps we might attempt to dissociate jihad – especially the suicidal variant – from those actions which are perceived to be honorable.
These are tall orders but certainly possible for what has already been called a “long war.” Surely we are up to the task.
March 2, 2006
The Key Strategic Question
Is Islam compatible with a free society?
This is the key strategic question of our day.
In October, William Buckley wrote:
The moment has not come, but it is around the corner, when non-Muslims will reasonably demand to have evidence that the Muslim faith can operate within boundaries in which Christians and Jews (and many non-believers) live and work without unconstitutional distraction.[h-t to a Belmont Club commenter]
Buckley is correct that this is a question demanding an answer, but he misjudges the timing of its asking and answering. The truth is that assumed answers to this question have been fundamental in developing our strategies in the war on terror, and that we have yet to answer it definitively.
Is Islam compatible with a free society? A 'yes' answer offers a far different set of strategic imperatives than a 'no' answer.
In his book The Universal Hunger for Liberty, Michael Novak notes the tone of discourse in the beginning of our war:
"Surely," the proposition was put forward, by many Islamic voices as well as by the president, "a modern and faithful Islam is consistent with nonrepressive, open, economically vital societies."To say yes to our question, one assumes that there are aspects of being Muslim and faithful to Islam, that can coexist peacefully with liberty, tolerance, and equality. The strategy that follows is one of identifying the groups and sects within Islam that adhere to these notions of their religion, and then encouraging them, favoring them, propagating them, and splitting them off from the elements of Islamic practice that are all too incompatible with the portions of modernity that invigorate men's souls: free inquiry, free association, free commerce, free worship, or even the freedom to be left alone.
To answer no, one states that Islam itself is fundamentally irreconcilable with freedom. This leads to a wholly different set of tactical moves to isolate free societies from Islam. They might include:
-detention of Muslims, or an abrogation of certain of their rights;
-forced deportation of Muslims from free societies;
-rather than transformative invasions, punitive expeditions and punitive strikes;
-extreme racial profiling;
-limits on the practice and study of Islam in its entirety
And even some extreme measures if free societies find the above moves to be failing:
-forced conversion from Islam, or renunciation;
-extermination of Muslims wherever they are found.
These last are especially ghastly measures. But a society that thought Islam incompatible with freedom might in the long term slip towards them.
Since 9/11, the assumption of our government has been that Islam can be compatible with freedom. The Bush administration has been exploiting all manner of divides within the Muslim world, not to conquer it, but to transform it such that a type of Islam compatible with freedom -- and therefore the West and the US, the wellspring and birthplace of modern individual liberty -- will come to the front at the expense of a type of Islam that is irreconcilable. Every institution of government answers our key question with a resounding yes. The Pentagon, in its Quadrennial Defense Review, makes a distinction between "bin Ladenism" and moderate Muslims, our would-be allies. Bush makes speeches in praise of freedom in general and especially in the Muslim world. The defense establishment is addressing what it calls a 'war of ideas':
The U.S. government is also focusing more attention on the intangible but vital dimension of the "war of ideas" between radical Islam and moderate Western and Islamic thought. The Pentagon's September 2004 National Defense Strategy stressed the need to counter ideological support for terrorism to secure permanent gains in the war against terrorism.A yes answer to the question requires Red State Christians in the US to tolerate an Islam that tolerates them. A no answer to the question requires an abandonment of belief in the universality of ideas originating in the west, because it becomes clear that a large portion of humanity -- a fifth perhaps -- follows an incompatible religion. A yes answer forces one to attack totalitarian elements within Islam. A no answer forces a clash of civilizations, a Great Islamic War, as it assumes that all Islam is totalitarian.
It stated the importance of negating the image of a U.S. war against Islam, and instead, developing the image of a civil war within Islam, fought between moderate states and radical terrorists. This kind of imagery will feed into the broader debate beginning in the U.S. on how to win such a war of ideas and how to cultivate moderate democratic Islamic states.
A yes answer might lead to the establishment of something like the Congress for Cultural Freedom, as discussed in a recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
The idea of the congress, however, grew out of a feeling among independent intellectuals on the non-Communist left, as well as American officials, that the West after World War II faced a huge Soviet commitment to propagandizing and imposing Communism, and might lose the battle for European minds to Stalinism.One principle of the CCF's founding document was, "Freedom is based on the toleration of divergent opinions. The principle of toleration does not logically permit the practice of intolerance."
So the congress — established at a 1950 Berlin meeting at which the writer Arthur Koestler declared to a crowd of 15,000, "Friends, freedom has seized the offensive!" — launched magazines, held conferences, mounted exhibitions, and generally sought to expose Stalinist falsehoods from its liberal position. At its height, according to Coleman, the CCF "had offices or representatives in 35 countries, employing a total of 280 staff members."
A no answer might disparage the notion that Westerners can say anything of import to those practicing Islam. I'm not sure if Bruce Thornton would answer no to the key question, but he doesn't seem to like the idea of Westerners trying to convince Muslims of anything new about their religion:
If, then, you are in possession of this truth that you are absolutely certain holds the key to universal happiness in this world and the next, why would you be tolerant of alternatives? Why should you tolerate a dangerous lie? Why should you “live and let live,” the credo of the spiritually moribund who stand for everything because they stand for nothing? And why wouldn’t you kill in the name of this vision, when the infidel nations work against God’s will and his beneficent intentions for the human race?A yes answer to our question might force us to reexamine the religious roots of our own conceptions of freedom, in order to figure best a way to help Muslims look for such roots in their faith. This might resemble the efforts of David Gelernter in his recent Bradley Lecture at the American Enterprise Institute, "A Religious Idea Called 'America'"
This is precisely what the jihadists tell us, what fourteen centuries of Islamic theology and jurisprudence tell us, what the Koran and Hadith tell us. Yet we smug Westerners, so certain of our own superior knowledge that human life is really about genes or neuroses or politics or nutrition, condescendingly look down on the true believer. Patronizing him like a child, we tell him that he doesn’t know that his own faith has been “hijacked” by “fundamentalists” who manipulate his ignorance, that what he thinks he knows about his faith is a delusion, and that the true explanation is one that we advanced, sophisticated Westerners understand while the believer remains mired in superstition and neurotic fantasy.
The most important story in and for American history is the biblical Exodus; the verse “let my people go” became the subtext of the Puritan emigration to America in the seventeenth century, the American revolution in the eighteenth, and--in significant part by Lincoln’s own efforts--of the Civil War in the nineteenth. It became important, also, to the twentieth century Americanism of Wilson and Truman and Reagan and W. Bush--Americanism as an outward-looking religion with global responsibilities.A yes answer might say that if God gave Biblical antecedents for the freedom of all mankind, He might have put some in the Koran as well . . . A yes answer would try to figure how to play our own religion-based beliefs into a conversation with Islam, as Henry Jaffa seems to argue in the Claremont Review:
In the end we do need to know the real character of Americanism. The secular version is a flat, gray rendition--no color and no fizz--of this extraordinary work of religious imagination: the idea that liberty, equality, and democracy belong to all mankind because God wants them to.
We [are], in short, engaged in telling others to accept the forms of our own political institutions, without reference to the principles or convictions that give rise to those institutions.A no answer, on the other hand, might first start with Islam as anathema to free society, then move to other religious creeds, seeing them through a lens of general suspicion.
Unless we as a political community can by reasoned discourse re-establish in our own minds the authority of the constitutionalism of the Founding Fathers and of Lincoln, of government devoted to securing the God-given equal rights of every individual human being, we will remain ill equipped to bring the fruits of freedom to others.
Is Islam compatible with a free society? Like a Zen koan, this is the question that vexes us.
Our answer of course, might change. The Bush administration has been answering yes for five years. But, inhabiting a democracy, it is of course reflective of and responsive to public sentiment. Several commentators believe that sentiment may be shifting. A piece by Jim Geraghty on his National Review blog wonders if Americans' answer to the key question is changing:
This strikes me as the fallout of the Tipping Point™ - my sense that in recent weeks, a large chunk of Americans just decided that they no longer have any faith in the good sense or non-hostile nature of the Muslim world. If subsequent polls find similar results, the port deal is dead.Perhaps the people's answer to the question is changing.
And what to make of the Manifesto from a dozen European intellectuals, Muslims or former Muslims many of them? How are they answering the key strategic question?
It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats . . .In Glenn Reynolds' podcast interview with Claire Berlinkski, author of Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Too, she relates this story:
Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man’s domination of woman, the Islamists’ domination of all the others.
Reynolds: You have this wonderful scene in your book where you talk about this, this Englishman of Bengali descent, and he said that when he traveled to the United States, he saw all these immigrants who were US citizens being welcomed by the INS and told, "Welcome home!" And he said, you know, if I ever got that kind of treatment you know when I returned to England, I'd happily lay down my life for England right there . . .In a dissenting statement to the above-mentioned manifesto, Paul Belien in Brussels Journal quotes Dr. Jos Verhulst:
Berlinski: I would have died for England on the spot, that's what he told me. If ever once, someone had said "welcome home" when I showed them my passport at customs and immigration, I would have died for England on the spot.
And now he stands at the dawn of the 21st century: the maligned individual, unsteady on his own feet after executing the inner breach with every form of imposed authority, uncertain, blinking in the brightness of the only god he is willing to recognise – Truth itself, stretching out before him unfathomably deep – full of doubt but aware that he, called to non-submission, must seek the road to the transcendent, carrying as his only property, his most valuable heirloom from his turbulent past, that one gold piece that means the utmost to him, his precious ideal of complete freedom of thought, of speech and of scientific inquiry. That is the unique advance that he received to help him in his long and difficult quest.When I was in Iraq, one Iraqi told me he wished Iraq could be the 51st state in the union. Our experience in both Iraq and Afghanistan seems to indicate that there are many Muslims who would prefer that we answer the key question with a yes, saying to those Muslims who can find Islam compatible with freedom, "Have courage!" and once they've achieved their freedom, "Welcome home!"
Meanwhile he is being beleaguered and threatened on all sides; from out of the darkness voices call him to submit and retreat; they shout that the gold in his hands is worthless, while the brightness ahead of him still makes it almost impossible for him to see what lies in store. In short: what this contemporary individual needs most of all is courage, great courage. And the will to be free and to see, which is tantamount to the will to live.
To what fate are we assigning them if we answer no?
UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Even though I had no direct quote above, this piece, like most that I do, had a lot of influence from Belmont Club, especially Blowback.
UPDATE2: There seems to be some problem posting comments. The server must be a little slow. It took me several tries to post last night. Thanks for your patience.
January 29, 2005
Meanwhile, in that other new democracy . . .
Central Command reports that:
The trend in Afghan citizens and security forces assisting coalition forces by turning in weapons caches has continued to increase over the past two years. In 2003, for example, only 10 percent of all weapons caches were turned in by local Afghan citizens (not including Afghan security forces). In 2004, that number increased to 31 percent.Another Central Command release notes:
Since October 2004, for example, 236 weapons caches have been discovered throughout Afghanistan. Of these 236 caches, 99 were turned in to coalition forces by local Afghan citizens, local Afghan government officials, or Afghan security forces.
This trend is important for many reasons – to create a secure environment, to ensure stability and to improve the quality of life for all Afghans. But, it is also important because of an incident on Tuesday.
A local citizen turned in two rocket propelled grenade rounds to Afghan soldiers working with coalition forces. When the Afghan soldiers went to investigate where the rounds came from, they discovered children playing with an even larger cache of RPG rounds. These unattended caches present an even greater danger to innocent people who may come upon them, and it is important that everyone work together to eliminate this hazard.
MOSUL, IRAQ – Multi-National Forces from 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team) were able to defuse a roadside bomb following a tip received through the Joint Coordination Center in northern Iraq Jan. 28.Looks as though the trend of greater civilian cooperation is on the rise in both countries . . . Central Command has stories like this up all the time . . .
The tip came from an Iraqi citizen who had called the Joint Coordination Center to inform them of the bomb planted in northeastern Mosul. Only four days ago another tip in the same area resulted in a roadside bomb being defused. These types of courageous acts demonstrate the commitment of Iraqi citizens to ensuring a safe and peaceful Iraq.