Monday, March 14, 2005

Ominous Fleet Deployments

The India Daily has a report about naval movements that sound ominous:

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is on the move in Atlantic Ocean and is possibly headed towards the Mediterranean Sea. The convergence of three carrier groups in the corridor of the Middle East will send very strong message to the Syrians and Iranians. There are indications that soon US is moving two more aircraft carrier battle groups to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf. This will spell a formidable strike force for Iran and Syria who are in defiance on issues of Lebanon and Nuclear weapons development.

Outbound from Singapore, the USS Carl Vinson is currently crossing the Indian Ocean headed towards Middle-East. This will be the first time since February 2004 that US will have three major carrier groups stationed on and around Middle East.

Each of these carrier groups carry nearly 85 aircraft and is capable of delivering precision-guided munitions. In addition there are anti-submarine aircraft, airborne-early-warning and rotary-wing aircraft. Because of in-air refueling capabilities these aircraft can operate from a long distance. The carrier groups are independent and can operate indefinitely.

U.S. military air bases in Turkey, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia and the three carrier groups will create a formidable force far superior to any military in the region. In addition more than 100,000 battle hardened force in Iraq will be another major force in case US has to use force against Iran and Syria.

It seems the Americans are preparing to deal with Syria and Iran in the next several months. The first priority right now is diplomacy in association with the Europeans and the rest of the world. But the leadership in Teheran and Damascus are taking notice of the power build up in the region. There are seeds of democracy in Lebanon, Iran and Syria. The whole region is getting a quick lesson on the benefits of democracy.

This last sentence is a masterful bit of dry sardonicism. Iran and Syria appear indeed to be about to get a very serious lesson in the benefits of democracy. One of those lessons is that if you are a functional democracy you spare yourself a visit from the American fleet. Let's hope that force is not needed to get Syria out of Lebanon and to turn over Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Let's also hope that force is not needed to persuade Iran to give up it's nuclear ambitions. If suasion should fail, however, let's further hope that the administration is better prepared for the aftermath of a military strike in those two countries than they were for the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Little Green Footballs links us to this site for a breakdown of which ships are being deployed.

The Cedar Revolution

Photos from today's massive anti-Syrian demonstration in Lebanon can be viewed here. Also, Hugh Hewitt has an interview with a journalist on the scene.

The message seems pretty clear to the former ophthalmologist in Damascus. Lebanon is on the verge, it appears, of rising up and throwing the Syrians out of their country. It will be interesting to see if Assad seeks to suppress this nascent revolution by force with the American navy sitting just offshore and 100,000 troops on his eastern border. In any case, it seems clear that Bush 43 is not going to make the same grievous error his father made when he allowed Saddam to massacre thousands of Iraqis who sought his overthrow after the first Gulf war.

Our guess, and our hope, is that Assad will choose retreat rather than confrontation. Either way, though, it appears he will be seriously weakened politically and may not survive in office, or in any other way for that matter.

Mid-East Tensions Mount Again

The Times OnLine has released a story that claims that Israel is planning a joint air/ground assault on Iran's nuclear facilities:

Israel has drawn up secret plans for a combined air and ground attack on targets in Iran if diplomacy fails to halt the Iranian nuclear programme. The inner cabinet of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, gave "initial authorisation" for an attack at a private meeting last month on his ranch in the Negev desert.

Israeli forces have used a mock-up of Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment plant in the desert to practise destroying it. Their tactics include raids by Israel's elite Shaldag (Kingfisher) commando unit and airstrikes by F-15 jets from 69 Squadron, using bunker-busting bombs to penetrate underground facilities.

The plans have been discussed with American officials who are said to have indicated provisionally that they would not stand in Israel's way if all international efforts to halt Iranian nuclear projects failed.

Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, said that America would support Britain, France and Germany in offering economic incentives for Tehran to abandon its [nuclear]programme....yesterday Iran rejected the initiative, which provides for entry to the World Trade Organisation and a supply of spare parts for airliners if it co-operates. "No pressure, bribe or threat can make Iran give up its legitimate right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes," said an Iranian spokesman.

This is not looking good. It appears that the Mid-east is moving ineluctably toward another conflict. If Iran refuses to stop producing nuclear weapons how else can things turn out? Iran has stated that if they ever acquire such weapons they will use them against Israel, so Israel clearly cannot allow them to have them.

We wonder how the paleo-cons and the anti-war Left will react to an Israeli attack. We're curious, too, as to how the Times got the story. Was it leaked? If so, by whom and why? It will also be interesting to see whether the publicity will cause Israel to abort their plans. We doubt it.

The Decline of Environmentalism

Nicholas Kristoff has a fine essay in the NYT on the decline of the environmental movement in the U.S. Much of what he says is on the mark. Kristoff is a lefty so his criticisms of the contemporary environmentalist movement, which is comprised largely of leftists, are the more telling. Here are some of them:

The fundamental problem, as I see it, is that environmental groups are too often alarmists. They have an awful track record, so they've lost credibility with the public. Some do great work, but others can be the left's equivalents of the neocons: brimming with moral clarity and ideological zeal, but empty of nuance....I was once an environmental groupie, and I still share the movement's broad aims, but I'm now skeptical of the movement's "I Have a Nightmare" speeches.

In the 1970's, the environmental movement was convinced that the Alaska oil pipeline would devastate the Central Arctic caribou herd. Since then, it has quintupled.

When I first began to worry about climate change, global cooling and nuclear winter seemed the main risks. As Newsweek said in 1975: "Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend ... but they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century."

This record should teach environmentalists some humility. The problems are real, but so is the uncertainty. Environmentalists were right about DDT's threat to bald eagles, for example, but blocking all spraying in the third world has led to hundreds of thousands of malaria deaths.

Likewise, environmentalists were right to warn about population pressures, but they overestimated wildly. Paul Ehrlich warned in "The Population Bomb" [1969] that "the battle to feed humanity is over.... Hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death." On my bookshelf is an even earlier book, "Too Many Asians," with a photo of a mass of Indians on the cover. The book warns that the threat from relentlessly multiplying Asians is "even more grave than that of nuclear warfare."

Kristoff hints, though he doesn't say it explicitly, that part of the problem with the environmental movement in the U.S. is that it has come to be seen as too ideological. It gives people every reason to think that the real agenda is not so much saving the environment but rather the destruction of corporate capitalism and private property. As a result they've alienated a lot of people who would otherwise share their environmental goals. Kristoff finishes with this:

The loss of credibility is tragic because reasonable environmentalists - without alarmism or exaggerations - are urgently needed....So it's critical to have a credible, nuanced, highly respected environmental movement. And right now, I'm afraid we don't have one.

No, but we do have some very laudable environmental organizations. Our money goes to The Nature Conservancy, an organization which works quietly to preserve the Last Great Places, as they put it, by buying them up. There's a lot more out there to buy and a lot of nature to protect, so perhaps some of our readers might be inclined to give them a hand.