Saturday, June 18, 2005

Quickening the Tempo

The U.S. led coalition in Iraq has launched a second operation downriver from Operation Spear. This second maneuver, code-named Operation Dagger, comes just a day after Spear and raises the question of how we are able to ramp up operations to such a rapid pace given the shortage of American fighting men in theater.Belmont Club offers this explanation:

So where do are US forces getting the the manpower to up the pace of attack? Overall US force levels are being drawn down. America has lost 18,000 men in theater to troop reductions after the Iraqi elections. According to Global Security Org, the total number of US troops in theater is expected to fall from 153,000 to 135,000. One possible answer is that America is understating the number of men in theater by excluding the Special Forces from the count. But even if the entire 10th Special Forces group were included, it would add only about 3,000 men to the total. The increase in tempo cannot come from having more Americans.

One other possibility is that the Coalition is throwing more cannon fodder, what the Daily Kos called "fresh meat", against the insurgents. Austin Bay notes that more and more Iraqi Army units are being used in operations. Austin Bay recently attended a briefing in Baghdad and reported that "In at least nine out of ten security operations, the new Iraqi military is providing half of the forces." That would permit the US to reduce the number of troops devoted to security operations and devote them attacks against the insurgents, where the Left assures us they would be lucky to break even against Zarqawi's men.

In either case, if the calculations of Fester and the Daily Kos are correct, the increased tempo cannot be sustained. Reason: if a player keeps losing chips at the table he will run down his stake. If combat results favor the enemy it necessarily follows that the more combat, the better for the enemy. Sooner or later, according to the predictions of the Left, the Coalition must retire bankrupt from the field.

In the near term, the operational tempo (billed as "violence", "instability" or "mayhem" in the media) will almost certainly increase for the following reasons. First, Iraqi forces are now coming online and they are not the "fresh meat" the Daily Kos claims. Though they may have shortcomings, Iraqi troops are far from totally ineffective and actually represent a net increase in coalition combat power against the enemy. Second, the cumulative results of two years of intelligence infrastructure building coming into fruition in the larger size of caches being found and in the number of "tips" which precede many of the recent captures and rescues. Third, the insurgent strategy of attempting to ignite a civil war as described in the last post, will generate its own backblast.

In other words, the Coalition is actually gaining and will continue to gain in strength. This does not necessarily prove we are winning because the enemy is also reinforcing the Iraqi battlefield with every combatant he can muster.

What we are witnessing is a race between the force-generation capabilities of two sides. Materially speaking, the enemy is bound to lose. Al Qaeda is openly rushing every available fighter into Iraq. But millions of Iraqis Sunnis, Kurds and Shi'ites who have no intention of being resubjugated, fueled by the oil wealth of Iraq can be counted on to resist them, supported by the most deadly military force in the world. On the face of it the enemy cause would be lost. But in the matter of the will to win the outcome becomes more doubtful. Iraq has become the recruiting focus of a generation of Islamists and Leftists while the United States public has won itself enough temporary safety to forget the dangers of September 11. The enemy's hunger -- almost desperation for victory -- stands in symbolic contrast to the desire among many Americans to close Gitmo. The war in Iraq has bought American homeland security in the most unexpected of ways. The enemy has learned to refrain from awakening the US giant, the better to defeat him in his sleep.

History seems to be repeating itself. Americans impatient with the pace of prosecuting the war are growing increasingly disenchanted. The inability of Americans to persist in a difficult enterprise over the long haul was the great hope of Ho Chi Min. It is also being counted upon by Osama bin Laden and his acolytes.

The North Vietnamese were able to outlast the American will because Americans eventually came to believe there was not enough at stake in Vietnam to justify the carnage. They were largely correct. It's not clear that they will come to the same conclusion about Iraq, but if they do they will be greatly mistaken. Moreover, if they ever do reach that unfortunate conclusion, it will be largely because the Bush administration has for the most part abandoned attempts to press upon the American people the significance of the conflict.

Nader's No No

Al Sharpton admonishes Ralph Nader to remember that there are words that whites like him are not allowed to use. Viewpoint wonders if there are any words prohibited to blacks or Hispanics, or whether racial and sociological taboos only go one way.

Never mind. We know the answer.

Operation Spear

Operation Spear has commenced in western Iraq:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. F-16 fighter planes dropped a series of 500 lb (220 kg) bombs on insurgent targets in western Iraq overnight as the U.S. military launched a heavy offensive against rebels near the Syrian border.

Nine of the powerful bombs were dropped, the U.S. military said, two of them targeting suspected rebel safe houses near the town of Qaim, an insurgent stronghold on the Euphrates river about 20 km (12 miles) east of Iraq's border with Syria. Four more were aimed at rebels as they fired mortars and assault rifles at U.S. ground forces near Qaim, and a further three were used to hit suspected weapons caches in the area.

The air power was in support of Operation Spear, the third major offensive U.S. forces have launched in western Iraq in the past six weeks with the aim of crushing insurgent activity in the Euphrates valley which stretches northwest to Syria.

"Operation Spear ... began in the early morning hours with the objectives of rooting out insurgents and foreign fighters and disrupting insurgent support systems in and around Karabila," Captain Jeffrey Pool of the U.S. Marines said in a statement from Ramadi, capital of the surrounding Anbar region.

Iraqi troops and U.S. tank and amphibious assault units were involved, he added. About 1,000 troops were taking part in all.

This is apparently what the buildup on the Syrian border to which Viewpoint alluded a couple of days ago was for.

Meanwhile, Arthur Chrenkoff has two versions of how the Australian hostage Douglas Wood was found. Wood's first words were "God bless America. You don't know how pleased I am to see you." Chrenkoff closes his post by observing that there is no word yet as to whether Wood's captors mishandled his Bible.

Where Are We Now?

In a gold bull market of course. From the link...

Collapsing confidence in the euro has become one of the principal factors behind the breakdown in the close correlation between gold prices and the dollar, suggesting gold may become something of a currency of choice this summer.

It's interesting that a struggle is currently underway by various entities to establish a one-world currency. Up until recently, the US dollar has been winning the war as most important things have been denominated in dollars.

Then the euro came on the scene and challenged the dollar hegemony and was doing quite well until a negative vote on the EU charter by the French and Dutch vote. Small wonder as the charter, as presented, steals national sovereignty from said countries.

On one hand, I am quite surprised as I expected the euro to do much better given the problems plaguing the dollar i.e. US trade and budget deficits, inflation, etc., yet the euro may rebound from all of this eventually. On the other hand, I have always agreed with a quote from Murray Rothbard that "fiat currency by any other name smells just as sour". And it appears that a general consensus is forming that agrees with him. The big investors who have lost confidence in the US dollar (with good reason) are now loosing confidence in the euro as well.

The article at the link above indicates that some of these players are choosing a third alternative as their "play of choice" and that is gold. Currently, gold is rising against both the dollar and the euro. A de-coupling is taking place whereby previously, as the dollar went up against other currencies, the cost of gold went down. That relationship is clearly demonstrated in these two graphs.

However, these graphs also show that, in the last several months, both the value of the dollar and gold are going up. The dollar is rising due to a lack of confidence in the euro and the price of gold is going up as a result of a bigger lack of confidence in the dollar.

It's ironic that all of this is happening since, as I mentioned above, there is an effort under way for a one-world currency yet the ideal one world currency has existed for the last 5000 The problem is that gold represents an honest measure of exchange. The powers that be aren't interested in that. They want a measure of exchange they can manipulate and inflate. Remember that inflation is simply a tool that a government uses to transfer wealth from those that have it to those that want it.

Perhaps these thoughts will be influential if you're thinking about the best place to put your money where it will represent and sustain your true wealth as it is protected from a government's proclivity to steal it from you.

Also, if you're not thoroughly bored from my droning on endlessly, a response to 's Pirhanas in the Blogosphere below can be found at the Feedback Page.

Pirhanas in the Blogosphere

PowerLine's readers work over a recent column by the New York Times' Paul Krugman like piranha stripping clean a side of beef.

Krugman's article was erected around the claim that "Working families have seen little, if any, progress over the past 30 years." This assertion seems silly on the face of it, and a number of bloggers, including PowerLine, offered rebuttals. These posts elicited, in turn, comments from readers, many of which were quite thoughtful. One response in particular deserves special note. Responding to Hindrocket of PowerLine Dafydd ab Hugh replied:

You wrote that "the Census Bureau data show that for the category "Married-Couple Families," median income went from $46,723 in 1973 to $62,281 in 2003. (All numbers are in constant 2003 dollars.) That's a hefty 33% increase in real income."

With all due respect, Hindrocket, that's bullpuckey. The increase in "real income" would be hundreds of times that 33%, once you take into account the value of what you can now buy. Riddle me this:

* In 1973, how many households could afford a desktop computer with hundreds of megabytes of RAM? Ans: none.

* How many could afford a portable telephone that fits in a pocket? Or for that matter, how about a portable computer terminal? Ans: none.

* How many could afford to have genetic diseases in their children repaired by gene therapy? Ans: none.

* How many childless couples could afford in-vitro fertilization? Ans: none.

* How many could afford to have diseases diagnosed with Positron Emission Tomography or treated by laser surgery? How many could afford to have Lasik corrective eye surgery? How many could afford to have depression or anxiety cured or controlled by selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox or Celexa? How many could afford to have their teeth repaired by composite resin fillings? How many could afford laser microsurgery, radio-telemetry surgery, foetal-abnormality surgery, minimally-invasive surgery, robotic surgery, or "beating heart" cardiac surgery? Ans: none.

* How many could afford to start their own "magazines" that could be read by tens or hundreds of thousands of people each week without even being distributed? Ans: none.

* How many could afford a luxury family vehicle suitable for offroading adventures? Ans: none.

* How many breadwinners could afford to telecommute? Ans: none.

* How many could afford a Mint Mocha Chip Frappuccino? How many could buy fat-free potato chips? How many could afford NutraSweet? How about lactose-free milk? How many could afford to go out routinely for Pad Thai, Japanese sushi, Armenian khorovatz, Ethiopian aleecha, Chorizo Argentino, Lebanese hummus and shawarma, or even a nice, simple blueberry bagel? Ans: none.

The point should be clear: it is impossible to legitimately compare buying power in 1973 with buying power today, for the simple reason that a huge proportion of what we buy today simply did not even exist thirty years ago. This is more obvious when you try to compare today's economy with the economy of the Middle Ages: the strides in technology and society are so staggering, they swamp any attempted calculation of monetary value: how many emperors in A.D. 750 could afford antibiotics?

Claiming that "working families have seen little if any progress over the past 30 years," as Krugman claimed, is so manifestly preposterous -- even before taking economics into account -- that I don't question his veracity so much as his sanity. Is he mentally ill?

We had a couple of additional thoughts on this question of middle class progress. For example, although it was around in the 70s, relatively few middle class families had central air conditioning back then. In our opinion, the air conditioning of America has done more to improve the quality of middle (and lower) class life than most of the items on Dafydd's tally. We might also add to his list access to health information like the hazards of tobacco and high fat diets which has made life better for those who avail themselves of it and act upon it. Moreover, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering drugs like Ibuprofen and statins have greatly enhanced the quality of life of many middle class families in the last couple of decades. Nor should we neglect the emergence of cable television and VHS and DVD formats of entertainment.

We're confident that our readers can come up with more examples of how life is better for middle class citizens today than it was thirty years ago.

People like Krugman don't see all these developments as progress because they only consider economic advancement in terms relative to the wealthy. In other words, if the lives of middle class families are improving in numerous ways, that progress is negated by the fact that the middle class still doesn't make as much money as the upper classes. How else to explain a claim so clearly counter to the facts as Krugman's that the middle class has seen little, if any, progress over the last thirty years?

At any rate another good reply to Mr. Krugman's claim can be found here.

One of the beauties of blogs is that five years ago the only way to expose nonsense like the sort that Paul Krugman dispenses was to fire off a letter to the editor which would probably never get published or would be so severely edited as to render it ineffectual. No longer. Now when someone like Krugman writes something ridiculous, which seems to happen with astonishing regularity, it's immediately amplified and rebutted by the pirhanas in the blogosphere. We're all better off for it.

Who's Driving The Bus?

One can only wonder where the Bush administration is taking us.

First, there seems to be a bizarre reluctance on the part of the Bush administration to protect our borders. Case in point, the individual in this article is about as bizarre as the reluctance of the Bush administration to do something about the situation.

On April 25, Gregory Despres arrived at the U.S.-Canadian border crossing at Calais, Maine, carrying a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles and a chain saw stained with what appeared to be blood. U.S. customs agents confiscated the weapons and fingerprinted Despres. Then they let him into the United States.

The full story can be read here.

I'm reminded of the pun that went: if the terrorists want to smuggle a nuclear weapon into the US all they have to do is hide it in a bail of marijuana.

Then on the fiscal responsibility front, things are getting equally bizarre.

From the link...

Why then, during a period of relatively rapid inflation, is the outcry so muted? Why is the government so quick to claim victory over an adversary that is so clearly winning the fight? I believe there are two primary reasons for this apparent paradox. First, in the 1970s and 1980s, when America was a nation of savers, most people easily perceived how inflation robbed them of their purchasing power. Today, American debtors sees inflation as their salvation, as rising home prices and equity extractions increase their purchasing power. Second, as the Fed deliberately peruses a policy of inflation as a means of repudiating government debts, as well as bailing out other borrowers, including hedge funds and homeowners, it can only do so to the extend that it conceals it true intentions from America's creditors. If the world's savers only knew the truth, interest rates would soar, bursting the bubble economy the Fed is trying so desperately to keep inflated.

As I've said before, if a group of conspirators gathered together to plot the destruction of America, they could not design a better master plan than what is currently taking place in this country today.