Thursday, May 5, 2005

Marine Exonerated

Common sense prevails:

A Marine corporal captured on video shooting an apparently injured and unarmed Iraqi did not violate the rules of engagement and will not face a court-martial, the Marine Corps announced.

A review of the evidence showed the Marine's actions in a Fallujah mosque last year were "consistent with the established rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict,'' Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, said in a statement Wednesday.

There are more details here.

Painful Acknowledgements

The Guardian's Max Hastings finds himself dragged by the facts, his fingernails leaving scratch trails in the dirt, to grudging and qualified admission of George Bush's success in the Middle East. His chief criticism of what the administration has accomplished seems to be that he doesn't like the "triumphalist mode" that the White House exudes. Some of what he writes follows:

The greatest danger for those of us who dislike George Bush is that our instincts may tip over into a desire to see his foreign policy objectives fail. No reasonable person can oppose the president's commitment to Islamic democracy. Most western Bushophobes are motivated not by dissent about objectives, but by a belief that the Washington neocons' methods are crass, and more likely to escalate a confrontation between the west and Islam than to defuse it.

Such scepticism, however, should not prevent us from stepping back to reassess the progress of the Bush project, and satisfy ourselves that mere prejudice is not blinding us to the possibility that western liberals are wrong; that the Republicans' grand strategy is getting somewhere.

It seems wrong for either neocon true believers or liberal sceptics to rush to judgment. We of the latter persuasion must keep reciting the mantra: "We want Iraq to come right, even if this vindicates George Bush."

Those who say that Iraqis are incapable of making a democracy work may well be proved right. But until we see what happens on the ground over the months ahead, we should not write off the possibility that the Iraqi people will forge some sort of accommodation. A premature coalition withdrawal promises catastrophe for them, not us.

Hastings is holding his nose as he gives credit where it's due, but he at least has the honesty to acknowledge that much of what Bush has accomplished, though halting and precarious, would never have been accomplished in any other way by any other nation and certainly not by the U.N:

Here, indeed, is the nub of the issue about American foreign policy. The Bush vision is founded upon the exercise of military power. It is hard to regard Condoleezza Rice's "charm offensive" or the state department's protestations that in the second Bush term diplomacy will blossom, as more than cosmetic. The president himself has declared that, while he welcomes more allies, they must accept that the game will be played on Washington's terms.

We must respect American power, and also acknowledge that the world sometimes has much need of it. As Sir Michael Howard, wisest of British strategic thinkers, often remarks: "If America does not do things, nobody else will." We should acknowledge the limitations of the UN. The pitiful performance of many international peacekeeping contingents, not least in Afghanistan, highlights the feebleness of what passes for European security policy.

Although the Bush team knows how to wage war they are inept at diplomacy and stand to lose all unless they become more sensitive to the feelings of others:

Yet it still seems reasonable to question the optimism currently prevailing among Washington's neocons, because this remains founded upon a woefully simplistic vision. It is true that, in some chronic, unstable regions, some bad governments - those of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein - have been removed by the Americans. But the fragile advantages gained will be lost, unless Washington can match its boldness in the deployment of military power with a new sensitivity to alien cultures, matched by far more subtle political skills.

We're quite sure that Mr. Hastings is not pleased with President Bush's nomination of the decidedly insensitive and unsubtle John Bolton to be our representative at the U.N. We're confident that Mr. Bolton is emphatically not what Mr. Hastings had in mind, but we wonder whose diplomatic skills he thinks the Bush people should emulate. Those of the esteemed Kofi Annan? Bill Clinton? Jacques Chirac? Gerhard Schroeder? Vladimir Putin? These men are exemplars of the art of getting nothing done while simultaneously filling one's own wallet.

For our part, we think the administration's diplomacy is working just fine considering the difficulties it faces. Unlike the gentlemen listed above, the White House's diplomacy is based upon a realistic assessment of the people with whom we must deal. Some of them, to be sure, can be motivated by emoluments, others can be moved only by fear, still others are intransigently hostile and must be dealt with by force.

The enlightened ones in the salons of Europe believe all men are vulnerable to the blandishments of reason and self-interest. They're convinced that everyone can be seduced by economic bribes if the seducer is skillful enough. Lacking ideology and religious conviction themselves, they fail to understand the power these exert in the lives of others, and have been making this same error since at least the 1930's. They couldn't see the true nature of the Nazis or the communists in the 20th century, and they fail to see what makes the jihadis so implacable today. Their blindness would be the death of the West were it not for men like Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush who have a clearer vision, who recognize that men are often driven by imperatives other than simple greed, and have had the courage and steadfastness to do what needs to be done to preserve us from them.

Anti-Christian Rhetoric in the MSM

Former New York Times reporter John McCandlish Phillips has a delightful piece in Wednesday's Washington Post in which he indicts a number of commentators, but particularly the Times' Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, and Paul Krugman for their super-heated anti-Christian rhetoric, their secularist paranoia, and their utter lack of historical understanding. He notes that there have been 13 opinion columns in the WaPo and the NYT in a one month stretch between March 24 and April 23 which have been of the "sky is falling and it's the Christians' fault" variety.

Phillips then closes with this:

It is said, again and again and again, that the evangelical/Catholic right is out of accord with the history of our republic, dangerously so. What we are out of accord with is not that history but a revisionist version of it vigorously promulgated by those who want it to be seen as other than it was.

The fact is that our founders did not give us a nation frightened by the apparition of the Deity lurking about in our most central places. On Sept. 25, 1789, the text of what was later adopted as the First Amendment was passed by both houses of Congress, and subsequently sent to the states for ratification. On that same day , the gentlemen in the House who had acted to give us that invaluable text took another action: They passed a resolution asking President George Washington to declare a national day of thanksgiving to no less a perceived eminence than almighty God.

That's president, that's national, that's official and, alas, my doubting hearties, it's God - all wrapped up in a federal action by those who knew what they meant by the non-establishment clause and saw their request as standing at not the slightest variance from it. It's a pity our phalanx of columnists cannot crawl into a time machine to go back and reinstruct them.

It's an outstanding column and we invite our readers to read the whole thing.

Rolling Up the Enemy

Recent days have brought us two very significant developments in the war against al Qaida. The first was the interception of a letter written to al Zarqawi by a mid-level commander named al Qusaymi who paints a bleak picture of al Qaida's situation in Iraq.

Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail has some outstanding commentary on the letter. After analyzing its contents he concludes with this:

Assuming this letter is authentic, the picture al-Qusaymi draws of the current state of al Qaeda in Iraq is not positive [for al Qaeda, that is]. Their soldier's morale is very low and for good reason. They are being mistreated by their own leaders, they feel they are being sacrificed without any positive effects on the outcome, they do not feel they have direction, and some are deserting. No doubt incidents like the failed and costly assaults on Abu Ghraib and Camp Gannon contribute to the feelings of being thrown to the wolves.

There is great distrust between local commanders and Zarqawi's inner circle. al-Qusaymi asks to meet Zarqawi face to face as he does not trust his lieutenants. This can stem from several sources, the main one being that al-Qusaymi is not impressed with their command decisions. The recent spate of arrests of Zarqawi's lieutenants means that less experienced and qualified commanders rise through the ranks. Despite media portrayal that al Qaeda has a limitless supply of experienced operatives and leaders, organizations do not gain strength by losing their best and most seasoned leaders, particularly while under fire.

Al-Qusaymi is writing this letter to attempt to correct problems within al Qaeda's organization. His capture should be a high priority for the Coalition, as he is both insightful and brave enough to approach Zarqawi to address some perceived fundamental flaws in the organization. al-Qusaymi will have detailed information on the weaknesses of al Qaeda which can be exploited, as well as operational information on the makeup and organization of terror cells and their leaders. Removing the smart leaders and allowing the poor ones to remain in place is an effective way to destroy terrorist organizations, as the poor leaders will make bad decisions that will likely alienate both their own recruits and the Iraqi people.

The overall message of al-Qusaymi's letter to Zarqawi is supported by past letters intercepted or published on the web by al Qaeda. Al Qaeda leaders have complained that the Muslim world is shirking jihad and not supporting the fight in Iraq, indicated there are manpower issues in Iraq and Afghanistan and recruiting problems. The lack of quality recruits combined with the Coalition's dismantling of the organization and the arrest of senior leaders is having a negative affect on the morale of both the foot soldiers and leadership of al Qaeda in Iraq. This letter is further evidence that Iraq has provided for the opportunity to deal an operational defeat to al Qaeda.

The other development is the capture announced yesterday of Abu Farj Farj al Liby, bin Laden's third in command. One wonders if his location wasn't gleaned from al Zarqawi's laptop. In any event, he himself should prove to be a treasure trove of information on the whereabouts and operations of other al Qaida bigwigs, perhaps of bin Laden himself and his second in command Ayman al Zarwahri.

Rolling up this terrorist organization is like rolling a snowball down a mountain. Pretty soon it gathers so much momentum that it becomes an avalanche. Each low-level prisoner has information that leads to others which in turn leads to others until top people are being smoked out. When the leadership is interrogated the information inflow takes a huge leap and the pace of shutting down terror operations accelerates even more.

One thing about all this that's important to remember. It's hard to imagine how any of it would have happened had we not invaded Iraq. When the administration told us that draining that swamp was essential to winning the war on terror, it was right. Had we not invaded Iraq, Saddam would bestride the Middle East like the mythical colossus, few if any of the terrorists who've been apprehended would today be in custody, Libya would still be producing nuclear weapons, Syria would still be in Lebanon, Pakistan would be an indifferent ally in the WOT, and the Arab world would be smelling the scent of victory over a decadent west which lacked the will to defend itself against the armies of Allah.

It's good to remind ourselves every now and then.