Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Looking For the Big Win

Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail has more on the battle at Camp Gannon that we cited in a post a couple of days ago. Here's an excerpt:

Marines responded to the attack by deploying their "Rapid Reaction" force and calling in air assets; "The unit summoned F-18 fighter jets and Cobra helicopter gunships; the Cobras fired machine guns and Hellfire missiles at what an after-action report described as vehicles transporting weapons." Al Qaeda cannot maintain the initiative against such flexibility and firepower, and were forced to break contact, suffering heavy casualties while failing to achieve their objective. It is no wonder the communiqu�s issued by al Qaeda provided little details on the assault, as there is very little to tout.

According to the Washington Post, "19 insurgents were killed and 15 were wounded during 24 hours of fighting." The size of the assault force is estimated between 40 to 100 fighters (the high number likely representing the support teams), putting the casualty figures at anywhere from 34 to 85%. These are stunningly high numbers.

Al Qaeda devoted significant resources to this assault, and the massing of force at the company level requires time, training, effort and material. The fire truck used in the assault was known to have been missing for months; this vehicle was husbanded for a significant attack. These resources were sacrificed as Camp Gannon has strategic significance to the insurgency.

The fact that the insurgents are using frontal attacks in relatively large numbers suggests that they believe they must gain a significant battlefield victory to reverse the psychological flow of momentum which has favored the Iraqi security forces and the coalition troops since the January 30th election.

Their hope, apparently, is that a major defeat of the Americans will re-energize their sagging morale and make them look again like heroes and winners in the eyes of a populace which they have badly alienated by their indiscriminate murders. As long as the insurgents were killing Americans the citizenry viewed them either positively or with indifference, but as the civilian casualties of their suicide bombs piled up, the Iraqi people have grown very hostile toward them, especially since so many of the insurgents are now foreigners.

A big win would help them, but they'll have to do much better than their last several efforts.

Environmental Health

Earth Day approaches (Friday) and much of the news about the environment is good. Wetland acreage has been increasing over the last decade, as has forested land. Indeed, forests in the U.S. grew by almost 10 million acres in the 1990's.

The arctic is warmer than it was in 1970, as anyone who has seen the receding glaciers in Alaska might surmise, but it is colder than it was in 1930. Also air quality continues to improve with pollution levels at their lowest since monitoring began in the 1950's.

This is all very encouraging, but we'd feel much better if rampant development and immigration were brought under control in this country and if habitat erosion in the southern hemisphere were reversed. Even so the environmental picture in the U.S., at least, is much brighter than it was in the 1970's.

Go here for a fuller report.

Diane Knippers, 53

Diane Knippers, one of Time magazine's 25 most influential evangelicals, died this past Monday of cancer at the age of 53. There is more on her passing here.

Smells Like Liberal Thuggery

The Weekly Standard has a fine piece by Jeffrey Bell on the Tom DeLay contretemps to which is attached the pungent aroma of partisan politics. Some highlights of Bell's piece:

The truth is that Tom DeLay is a special target because he is the first legislative power broker to be an authentic Red State conservative. He is an unhyphenated Reaganite: militantly pro-life and pro-values on social issues, a pro-growth tax cutter on economic issues, and an unapologetic, spread-American-values interventionist abroad. In the years since the GOP's congressional realignment victory of 1994, no other GOP leader in either the House or Senate fully fits this description.

Since the 2000 election and the accompanying Red State/Blue State polarization, Red State conservatives have grown in strength in tandem with the alternative Red State media: talk and Christian radio, conservative bloggers, Fox News, and all the rest who have put older, Blue State media on notice that they are no longer capable of unilaterally defining the national debate.

DeLay is the most important of a small but growing group of conservative leaders who are willing and able to operate without permission or praise from Blue State media. The fact that Hastert, DeLay, and their allies have maintained unbroken operational control of the House, never losing a significant floor vote in the four-plus years since Bush became president, has (to put it mildly) opened the door for other ambitious leaders to consider doing the same, either on selected issues or across the board.

If DeLay goes down because of overseas trips and/or fundraising practices that have never caused the slightest political problem for anyone else, the lesson to other Red State leaders will be clear. The four-year House winning streak, so widely taken for granted among conservatives, will not long survive DeLay. That is why Democrats and Blue State media (despite some half-hearted efforts to depict DeLay as a GOP albatross) so fervently desire his career to end as soon as possible.

The Democrats are trying to kneecap DeLay for doing what many of his colleagues of both parties do. The hypocrisy of their attempt to eliminate a powerful political opponent in this fashion really does give off a stench.

Choking the Chinese

Wretchard at Belmont Club has an interesting analysis of China's plans and strategic concerns for the next couple of decades. He concludes that, despite its bluster, it is unlikely that China will launch an assault against Taiwan anytime soon.

The risk for China is not so much that the U.S. would intervene directly, but rather that we, or even the Taiwanese, would be able to block the flow of oil to China which would cause that country to collapse after about a month. China's oil reserves would last only thirty days - perhaps fifty days by 2010.

As long as China's access to oil depends on keeping a series of maritime chokepoints open the Chinese are vulnerable to the small Taiwanese submarine fleet. China's growing dependence upon imported oil, and the ease with which the Taiwanese could shut it off make, in Wretchard's opinion, an attack on Taiwan unlikely, at least in the near term.

Belmont Club's analysis makes a lot of sense, but read the whole thing and decide for yourself. Let's hope he's right.