November 30, 2003


AAAH! wants to be, but its editors and managers are, um, how can I say this? Not too savvy. It would be interesting to see if there's an actual trained journalist in the lot. So you get classic web-only boners like this one today, that would be caught if anyone with news sense was involved:

Lead headline: Chr&eacutetien northern trip to Arctic park with family cost $32,000: PM's spokesman offered no explanation as to why Mr. Chr&eacutetien spent the bulk of his time in the park instead of visiting the community. (sic. Sic! Sic!)

But the most amusing characteristic is their photo decisions, which are almost never sound. There's no way the picture of an open car door they're fronting right now was the best they had available from the recent attacks in Iraq, but this is a minor error. Far worse was the deeply unflattering photo they ran yesterday of Canada's next leader Paul Martin (above), with a face that looks like a skin graft and the expression of a mental patient with hives, which I plan to bring out for Hallowe'en next year to scare the children.

Posted by BruceR at 04:49 PM

November 28, 2003


(See previous article) The Paris Match article on the Baghdad SAM attack is out, and although some people are angry that journalists got this close to the other side, it's still a remarkable article... the first to really convey some understanding of a real Iraqi guerrilla leader's point of view.

It's a must-read, but of course it's in French, so I've translated it here. Thoughts on article and photos (which are all Flashed up and non-extractable, so you have to go see them yourself) follow:

First off, the article indicates the guerrillas had both a SA-7 and a SA-14 with them that morning. (They also admit they're nearly out of missiles.) The first missile (fired by the fellow in the green combat uniform and red kaffiyeh) was the one caught on tape... the second is fired by the fellow in the black robe, and there's a remarkable photo of it leaving the launcher (trust me, I've tried to take that exact same photo a few times, and it's tricky), as well as another photo of it missing as the Airbus reverses course away to the left. (That was a fast bank on the pilot's part, btw.). That's definitely a SA-14: you can tell by the now completely obvious ball-shaped front-assembly (there's yet another pic of the same missile launcher leaning up against a car.)

The trouble is, you never get a close look at the other missile, the one that was fired first and actually hit. It's not impossible, I guess, that the actual successful shot was actually the older missile referred to: but that'd be a VERY lucky shot (not impossible, but lucky). The leader says they had three missiles left, so I'm still thinking they actually fired 2 SA-14s and the third, unused one is they one they mention, basically a last SA-7 that was carried along in the pickup as a spare.

There's also a nice shot or two of the Airbus, its civilian markings clearly visible in the zoom lens, banking away, streaming smoke from its outboard left wing. The engine is untouched; small SAMs have proximity fuzes, so they don't have to rely on direct impacts to kill... this missile apparently detonated above or below the aircraft as it passed, and only threw some shrapnel into the left wing (the far wing from the shooter's point of view). This is typical for small heat-seekers, especially for high-deflection shots.

At launch, the plane is estimated to be 3 km out and 1.5 km up, indicating the launch point was closer to the airport than I previously thought. Given the indications of farmland and the shadow patterns, they're probably to the southwest, facing the city with the airport to their front left. Still, it wasn't a tail shot, it's rear-quarter at best, which would make any success with a SA-7 quite remarkable, if true. For SA-14s, it would be an excellent spot. Slant range would have been, if you believe the French writers' estimate, around 4500m at point of impact, which would still be extreme range for an SA-14... almost too extreme, in fact. At that distance, waiting even a few seconds more (as the second missile shooter did) would mean an almost guaranteed miss even with a SA-14, as the missile would certainly lose steering control before it reached its target.

Also, amazingly, the early detection was done by sound and naked eye by the team leader. This surprised me, if only because you have no idea what you're shooting at that way. The article recounts how they were convinced they were firing on a military transport. If I had only a couple missiles left, I'd borrow a couple cell phones and know for sure. But hey.*

The rest of the article is equally fascinating, as the leader of the SAM team makes a series of outlandish claims about his victories against Americans, but then gets down to detail on what he would consider victory, and other details of how his group is fighting their own little war at the moment.

ADDENDUM: Long story short: by his own admission, the missile crew has fired 27 SAMs at relatively slow-moving aircraft, including at least a few SA-14s, and hit or come close to hitting no more than 6 times (and even this number is probably exaggerated). They're probably good enough to score a little more reliably now, but they've also run out of missiles for the moment. A lot of this is just shakeout, and figuring out how the things actually work: Western SAM teams practice dozens of launches on realistic simulators that mimic the jumping of weight off your shoulder when the missile launches, before their first real missile is fired. These guys never had that training, and there's no indication they knew anything about air defence tactics either, picking it up instead through trial and error. That's resourceful, sure, but it's wasteful; imagine what a trained SAM crew from a Western army with 27 missiles to work with could have done in their place. Terrorist attacks on civilian air elsewhere in the world, unless exceptionally well-financed and planned, would meet many of the same obstacles these guys did, with less forgiveness for multiple attempts.

ADDENDUM #2: No way anyone could have known this, of course, but if the crew staking out the Baghdad airport really was down to their last SA-7 this week, that means the President's Thanksgiving flight wasn't actually in much danger at all.

*On reflection this probably cost them the kill, more than anything else... if a better early detection plan had allowed them to fire five seconds earlier, probably the second SA-14 would have gone home, increasing the chance of the plane's destruction.

Posted by BruceR at 10:03 PM

November 27, 2003


The fight between Paul Bremer and Ayatollah Sistani for the future of Iraq bears closer watching. It is the crux of the debate over the future of the Middle East, and only one side can win.

Sistani, the Washington Post reports, has proven far more of a factor in Washington's changing Iraq plans than guerilla attacks. Profoundly influential among Iraqi Shiites, he has unilaterally trashed the last two proposed arrangements for Iraq's future and looks likely to trash the current one, too.

Sistani has two basic demands. He wants the next Iraqi government to be directly elected by the people (guaranteeing a Shia-friendly regime), and he wants a "notwithstanding clause" in the new Constitution that allows it to be overridden should it be in conflict with Islamic law... determined in large part, by imams like Sistani.

The first demand is hard for the Americans to reject, being supposedly in favour of democracy in Iraq and all. But one can only presume that, if the U.S. government is really interested in Westernizing the Middle East, then they cannot accede on the latter Sistani demand. To subordinate the new Iraq's political leaders to its religious ones, however benign, has to be against everything the Wolfowitz-Perle clique have supposedly been pushing for, and which Bush has in recent months ascribed to, as well.

Sistani is not, by any account, a fanatic, or a threat a la Bin Laden. Nor does he want control of the country for himself, in any real way. But he's the devout leader of a devout Shia population that wants a country that they can be devout in.

If Sistani loses this fight, if the U.S. tries to force a secular state on his people, there will likely be mass bloodshed, and brutal American repression of the Shiites. It will not be pretty, and there's no evidence of any real American stomach for that kind of prolonged decades-long national reconstruction that would follow. At that point, the Vietnam analogies (which I agree have been premature thus far) could really start to kick in. If Sistani wins, then the Americans will have successfully created another Iran-style Islamic republic, in which political success will be determined in large part by religious devotion, and any shorter-term Middle East reformation project will effectively have ended.

(The longer-term penetration of democratic values into the Middle East will continue, of course. The world is getting freer, incrementally, year over year, and Arabs were going to de-medievalize themselves at some point, sooner or later. But the Wolfowitz-Perle plan envisioned breaking what they saw as a log jam in this historical trend through decisive, violent action in Iraq, rather than rely on eventual erosion. To consent to an Islamic Iraq would be a bitter fruit, indeed, and one could then well argue that promoting the growth of human freedom in other, more gradualist ways would have been the better course.)

Posted by BruceR at 12:06 PM

November 26, 2003


(See previous article) Well, as Juan Cole has rather triumphantly pointed out, the video of the SAM attack at Baghdad airport does clearly show SA-14s, not SA-7s, being used, suggesting earlier reports were wrong.

The video shows two guerillas with SAMs, following two others carrying RPGs to their launch area (the RPGs are presumably for protection against helicopters... one is shown in the distance), then one of them changing into attire more appropriate for firing a rocket off your shoulder, then launching his missile. Then they all run like hell.

Reports in the press that the missile takes a sharp U-turn are incorrect. SAMs don't do that, for one thing, and there's clearly an explosion just before the smoke trail changes direction, suggesting the "U-turn" is actually the intersection of the missile's track and smoke from the flaming Airbus wing. The tape, as far as I can analyse it, is almost certainly authentic (not a splice job).

One of the two missiles shown clearly has the forward assembly of a SA-14, the other is indistinct. But even if you couldn't see that, the behaviour of the missile is indicative. It's clearly fired at an aircraft crossing left to right, from roughly amidships, or at most a little to the rear in relation to the aircraft (Baghdad airport is probably roughly 90 degrees to the left in relation to the shooter). SA-7s won't do that; they need to be fired from nearly directly behind. Time of flight is approximately 10 seconds, suggesting the missile firing point was 5 km or so from the aircraft at impact, at the extreme end of a SA-14's range. The shooter knew his equipment, for sure. If they'd fired both missiles, they could well have bagged their bird. [UPDATE: The photos show that they did fire both, but the second failed, in fact, probably due to the aircraft moving out of range... it seems they deserved less credit than I first thought.]

The SA-14 is not new technology; it's been around since 1978. It was the first "all-aspect" Soviet SAM, a counterpart in its day to the American Stinger. Note the limitations of SAMs as demonstrated by these guerrillas. It has to be "shoot and scoot;" you need to work from an area open to observation, and you can't hesitate even a second to visually confirm the target (you're firing at a dot, at best.) There's no sign of good optical equipment (binoculars, etc.) so it's almost certain the firing party had a cell phone connection to someone with eyes on the runway, who told them when to put the weapon to shoulder and turn the seeker on. [UPDATE: In fact, they didn't, but they probably should have; they were looking to hit a military jet, and the wasted time in detection probably cost them their kill.] This kind of attack can be foiled with stronger local security in the airport area, although it's always a cat and mouse game. SA-14s don't totally change that equation, although they can certainly increase the likely firing positions considerably. Modern missiles like the SA-16 and 18 are even better in that regard. As I said last December, "Firm reports of those weapons [SA-16/18] in terrorist hands, when it eventually comes, will be considerably more alarming."

This, however, was still only a relatively mediocre missile by modern military standards, not quite the equal of an early-model Stinger, albeit in the hands of a skilled operator (almost certainly ex-military) in a well-planned operation (filming it was brilliant). For Americans, that should be alarming enough for now. [UPDATE: Evidence from the Paris Match article would suggest luck was more a factor here than skill, in fact. See the later article.]

Posted by BruceR at 01:34 PM


A lot's happened since I posted the "Canadian terrorism roundup," the comprehensive list of Canadian Al Qaeda members and suspected members, in custody and at large. The original post is here. You may want to read it first, if you haven't already. Updates follow.

1) The Khadr family is in the news a lot right now. The father, Ahmed, was rumoured to have been killed in Pakistan, but those rumours were denied by the Pakistani government. Meanwhile Abdul Rahman Khadr, the elder son, was released by the Americans but refused entry by Canada, and is now a man without a country, wandering the Middle East. Unlike his father, Abdul Rahman has nothing more than a familial association with terrorism. While his brother Omar shot an American soldier in Afghanistan in a gun battle, was wounded himself, and captured and sent to prison in Cuba, Abdul Rahman was picked up peacefully in Afghanistan. Many believe he was taken more for any information he could provide about his father's whereabouts, than any actual terrorist intent on his part.

2) Of the Ottawa cell suspected of plotting an attack against an American target in Canada, the apparently innocent Maher Arar has been released from Syrian confinement, and both Canadian and Syrian authorities say they have no reason to believe he's a danger to anyone. Arar, whose name was almost certainly produced through the torture of one of the other Canadians involved, was evidently sent to Syria for ten months in a move approved at the highest level of the U.S. Justice department, in the hope he would name more names through his own torture. Unfortunately, he turned out to be innocent, so that didn't quite work out.

3) The Canadian immigration fraud cases (the "flying planes into reactors" sensation of last August) have now all been released pending appeal of their immigration status or deported for immigration violations. All terrorism claims have been dropped. As said here before, all the Canadian government claimed officially was that the fraud ring provided a *potential* ingress route into Canada for terrorists... the press played it as a real active route, and some people got their life plans ruined.

4) The one thing I didn't report on before was the five immigrants previously held on national security certificates. Immigrants to Canada, as opposed to citizens, can be held indefinitely without charge if they are judged a threat if released. There are currently five in custody:

a) Muhammad Majoub (arrested June, 2000) and Mahmoud Jaballah (arrested August, 2001): Egyptian immigrants, with apparent ties to anti-government terror groups there connected with the Islamic Brotherhood (Mahjoub is on Egypt's "most wanted" list, and allegedly a leader in the al-Zawahiri-led Al Qaeda antecedent, Al-Jihad). They claim they came to Canada to start a new life, but the government's evidently not convinced. Note that these predate Sept. 11, with both individuals living in Canada for several years prior to being picked up, so it's hardly kneejerk anti-Muslim feeling that first placed him there (whether it's keeping him there now is an open question).

b) Hassan Almrei (arrested October, 2001): originally from Syria, Almrei reportedly laundered money for Al-Qaeda through his Saudi Arabian business before coming to Canada. Not a violent terrorist to anyone's mind, but a possible small-fish facilitator.

c) Mohamed Harkat (arrested December, 2002): Algerian, and a former member of the Islamicist GIA there. Like the Egyptians, he claims he came to Canada in the mid-90s to start anew. The government isn't buying it.

d) Adil Charkaoui (arrested May, 2003) Moroccan, arrived here in the mid 1990s. Currently a PhD student, and young father in Montreal. Allegedly being held because he refused to act as an informant against others he knew, he was apparently fingered as an Al Qaeda sleeper by Ahmed Ressam (the LAX bomber) and Al Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubaydah.

The government has only three choices legally on resolving these situations: release, deportation/extradition to the home country to face what would undoubtedly be harsh justice, or continued imprisonment. None of them have as much as spat on the sidewalk here in Canada. The only problem is, the recent Arar fuss has had the side-effect of making deportation to Middle Eastern countries no longer viable... we can't complain easily about Americans doing it to one of our citizens, and then send people from Canadian jails to the torturers themselves. All five apparently face death or torture in their home countries if deported, making it impossible for the government to get rid of them at present. And so their detentions drag on... I'll report back on any further developments.

Posted by BruceR at 01:31 AM

November 25, 2003


The Ministerial Committee on the Army Reserve, headed by John Fraser, wrapped up three years of monitoring of how the army reserves had succeeded in enacting the widely lauded recommendations of the 2000 Fraser Report. The full final report, released earlier this month, is here. The short answer would be, "not very well, but at least now it's hard finding anyone who gets too worked up over it anymore."

Back in the late 1990s, professional-reservist antagonism in Canada's military was far more trouble to senior defence staff than the reserves were worth politically or operationally, so even this could be seen an improvement of sorts. The best that can be said about the Fraser report was that it got all the hidden agendas out in the open. It never solved the funding or institutional will problems, but at least it's got everyone to agree that there is a problem. And so, exit Fraser, stage right.

Posted by BruceR at 01:55 PM


A blessed Eid al-Fitr to all my Muslim friends and relations.

Posted by BruceR at 11:55 AM


"Cut Israel off the $300 billion they're [the Americans are] giving them each year."
--Joe Comartin, NDP member of parliament

(Total U.S. aid to Israel in 2003: $2.7 billion.)

Posted by BruceR at 11:22 AM

November 24, 2003


As we approach the two-year mark on this little experiment, I've unilaterally decided it's time for some changes. TM's been after me to take things in different directions, but I simply don't have the time at present... meanwhile it's a small but growing possibility that work for either my university and military employers in the next year could well limit what he or I could say on space directly seen as belonging to me.

So I've decided to split up Flit, with TM getting his own space, where he can be free of any concern that some employment relationship I might have might end up limiting either his speech or mine, and allows us both to experiment further with the form on our own, should we so choose.

I want to be clear that this in no way reflects anything less than my warmest regard for TM and the views he has expressed here over the last few months. I still believe he has a unique and important viewpoint to bring to issues, and if I can continue to help make that view more available to the world, then I consider that an accomplishment. This is a totally amicable parting, and I wish him all the best. I hope readers will continue to visit both sites, which I hope will always be only one click away from each other. (We'll also continue to share the Flitters discussion space, at least in the short term, as there's too many good archived comments there for either of us to give it up easily.)

Posted by BruceR at 05:41 PM


In an interesting development, Charles Johnson is facing a small rebellion from his own readership. (Note post #19, where CJ realizes his followers likely aren't going to stay with him on a "no action toys for the West Bank" crusade.)

Posted by BruceR at 10:16 AM


Shorter Daniel Pipes:

"If we stay the course, we might still get another Egypt."

(A year ago, of course, that was the worst case scenario many could contemplate.)

UPDATE: Peter Beinart agrees.

Posted by BruceR at 01:10 AM

November 23, 2003


I like Juan Cole's work on Iraq a lot, but I hope his analysis of Iraqi Shiite politics is more reliable than his latest post, which for once I actually have the personal knowledge to check him on.

A DHL plane landing at Baghdad airport with one of its engines on fire after it was hit by a surface to air missile. It was said to have landed safely. Dozens of such attacks have been launched at aircraft landing at the airport in recent months, but they have usually been foiled by a steep spiral landing technique used by military transport pilots and others. Commercial airliners cannot spiral in closely in that way, which is why they are still not flying into Baghdad. Guerrillas in Iraq appear to have gotten hold of shoulder held missile launchers and missiles more sophisticated than the old SA-7s, possibly SA-14s or SA-16s

The Baghdad strike was, for what it's worth, a textbook attack on commercial air using a man-portable SAM. All the standard factors are present: permissive ground environment, attack on takeoff (not, as Cole's entry seems to suggest, on landing). The plane, a two-engine Airbus A300, turned around and made a safe emergency landing with one engine still on fire.

The "spiral in" stuff is something Cole read somewhere. An A300 is about as commercial an airliner as you can get, and is roughly as unmaneuverable as the large military transports that have been flying into Baghdad as well. They no doubt have steep approach and departure paths, but statistics show the vast majority of SAM attacks on commercial air take place on takeoff, not on landing (it makes much more sense from the missile-firer's point of view that way). It's passenger flights that have not resumed, although few cargo carriers are interested in taking a chance on Baghdad at the moment, and rightly so. The survival and successful landing of a plane this size after a direct hit on an engine is not unusual, either. And the first reports are that this attack, once again, was carried out by one of those ubiquitous old SA-7s... nothing more sophisticated. So basically the whole paragraph is wrong from start to finish.

UPDATE: Cole responds at the end of his post. If it wasn't clear, here's my beef. Cole draws a total of three of his own conclusions in that paragraph, and each of the three is either unsupported by the facts or just wrong. Cole talks only about landings, and spiral landing techniques... whereas most successful portable SAM attacks historically have taken place against aircraft taking off. Logically, other factors must have played a larger role in reducing losses thus far than just landing technique (Iraqi inexperience, or good area surveillance for instance.) Second, an A300 carrying cargo is just as capable of "spiralling in" as one containing passengers... the reason there's no airline service to Baghdad at the moment has more to do with the different risk-assessments of passenger and cargo carriers than any aerodynamic limitations of the airframes they both use. Third, as said before, whether there are SA-14s in Iraq or not, they weren't used here.

I have come to count on Prof. Cole to tell me stuff about internal Iraq politics I didn't know. I have to assume he's a reliable informant. But on a subject I know I actually have comparable or greater knowledge to his own (air defence) I find him going 0 for 3. I understandably find that disconcerting.

Posted by BruceR at 01:57 AM

November 18, 2003


"...not long ago in Washington, Cheney approached Powell, stuck a finger in his chest, and said, 'If you hadn't opposed the INC and Chalabi, we wouldn't be in this mess.'"
--George Packer, from the current New Yorker (not yet online)

Posted by BruceR at 01:09 AM

November 17, 2003


A couple interesting stories on newfangled military hardware this weekend. In Britain, governmental officials denied an American request to have one of the presidential vehicles carry a minigun, according to the Guardian. One suspects this would have been a 7.62 mm model of the ultra-fast firing machinegun mounted in a Secret Service SUV, much as seen here. With proper guidance systems it's a devastating anti-air weapon, but on the kind of mount you could fit in a militarized civilian vehicle, it's nothing more than a people-killer, ideal for shooting down rampaging swarms of those alien bugs from Starship Troopers, some of the smaller varieties of velociraptors, or maybe those crazed African Simbas from The Wild Geese. It's really incomprehensible what use anyone would have thought they could ever get out of this weapon on London's streets. And unless there is some major policy announcement coming out of this, along the lines discussed below, this visit by its highhanded security needs seems to have already caused more damage among international audiences than the Americans need now.

Meanwhile in Iraq, the Americans are using "satellite-guided missiles" to destroy the empty homes of suspected militants, after clearing out the nearby residents. There's no reason this weaponry is being used, as opposed to, say a tank gun... other than the persistent military need, if you've got a new weapons system, to test it out once or twice. The new weapon in this case is the MGM-168, also known as the ATACMS Block IVA missile, which replaces the cluster munitions of a standard army heavy artillery rocket with a 500-lb. HE warhead in a GPS-guided missile body. It's fired by the army's artillery rocket launcher, the MLRS; each launcher can hold 2 such missiles. It was designed with use on point targets in mind, as opposed to the wide swathes of destruction the MLRS is famous for, and this is the first time I've heard it used in action (destroying an individual house 100m away not being a capability the Army lost much sleep over in the Cold War years.)

That only one missile was fired in two separate instances, and that in the second case other artillery was around to finish the job, suggests these were in-combat trials, too. They seem to have worked quite well. (Wondering about the general tactic of house-razing? No obvious military value, rather a product of no intelligence and insufficient troop presence, probably... it actually looks like it was meant for internal military morale purposes, as much as anything else. There needed to at least be the appearance of payback, one suspects.)

Posted by BruceR at 10:35 PM


Well, an unspecified time, maybe a month, until we get a Prime Minister again, which, if all you other Canadian soldier-readers haven't realized it yet, is about the only unfettered time we have to talk about Canadian politics. (We're not supposed to criticize the current political leadership, but Chretien's gone and Martin hasn't done anything yet.) So woo hoo, cat's out of the bag at Flit! Expect numerous posts along the lines of, "you there in Ottawa, I don't know who you are, exactly, but I'm sure you suck!" and so on in like vein.

Seriously, I have very little to say about Canadian politics that isn't ably said on the right by Colby Cosh and in the sensible centre by Paul Wells. (Still looking for a readable leftie. Angua doesn't count.) But for what it's worth, I think Wells gets it about right in his discussion of why no one in Canada votes for the right. He's... well, absolutely right... as discussed here last May in examining their defence policy, the Canadian right's combined policy expertise when it comes to defence (and likely all the other areas of federal responsibility) could fit in my hat. With room for my head.

Posted by BruceR at 06:49 PM


Diana Moon is unimpressed with the jingoism of Master and Commander, evidently seeing it as a movie with the Anglo-French rivalry substituting for the U.S.-Arab one ("...slimy dark Mediterraneans. You see them lying dead and dying and the image that comes to mind is cockroaches or rats in need of extermination;" scroll down, the Blogspot link's acting a little buggy.)

Which may well be true (haven't seen the flick), although not surprising. Movies are a function of their times and wartime movies doubly so (Olivier's Henry V the classic example; Shakespeare's war against the French used to inspire a war to free the French). Certainly the changing of the book's villains from Americans to French had to be made, in part because of the current world situation; a movie with Russell Crowe standing triumphant over the bodies of dead and wounded American sailors simply could not be made now, if ever.

Moon's on shakier historical ground, when she says in criticism, "In 1805, the British were our sworn enemies. The French were our friends. They helped us during the Revolution."

Moon might want to look up the Quasi-War with France sometime. Also the XYZ and Genet affairs.

The (largely beheaded by this point) French royal family under Louis were the colonists' friends; the Revolution, although welcomed by some like Paine, had made other Americans profoundly uncomfortable, while the 1795 Jay Treaty had more or less normalized Anglo-US relations. That series of insults by revolutionary France I list above switched American popular opinion, particularly in the seaboard cities that valued trade with England and its colonies, right over to the other side. In the years up to 1805, the opposition Federalist party, the party of Washington and Adams, was basically pro-British in its foreign policy.

Throughout Jefferson's first term, the best way to describe American views on the deteriorating European situation as Napoleon rose to power would be neutral isolationism. America was the largest remaining neutral shipping power. The years from 1803-05, when war returned to Europe, were thus incredibly lucrative for New England (ie, Federalist) shipping interests, because theirs were the only ships that could inter-trade between the ports of all countries in Europe... so long as they could keep amicable relations with both sides.

Things went south again starting in 1806, though, with the French and British forbidding trade with the other (making any ship going to the other's ports a potential naval prize) and the Essex ruling. This led to the Leander incident, and finally the bloody Chesapeake affair in 1807... from then on, Britain and America were headed for war again, sooner or later. America's choice between the two was probably inevitable; in what was essentially a world war situation, the simple fact was Britain, as the largest maritime power, and America, as the largest neutral shipper, were much more likely to actually cross swords than the French and Americans were at this time, regardless of any 30 year-old feelings for either of them. (Britain actually possessing colonies in North America within range of being attacked was another factor.)

So, "sworn enemies?" Not in the year this movie is set, anyway. An actual American in 1805, if he heard of the British capturing a French frigate and commerce raider, would likely have been profoundly... indifferent. Now if you set it in 1808, different story... but by then the French navy was too weak to be a threat to anyone, so it doesn't work there historically, either.

PS: Moon also writes, "They [the British] sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War." Actually, they remained neutral, as did France. However, Napoleon III invaded Mexico in 1862, taking advantage of American distraction (the Foreign Legion's finest hour, the last stand at Camerone, dates from this war). Unlike Canada, Mexican ports could have been used to funnel supplies overland to the Confederates, making French recognition of the Davis government as great a threat as British recognition if not greater and a serious concern to the Lincoln administration.

In between, Moon skips right over the 1834 "French Crisis," as well, supposedly Andrew Jackson's finest foreign policy hour. Of course, only a Jacksonian would see it that way.

Question for history: Why is it it seems that every country's famous last stands (Grenville and the Revenge, Alamo, Camerone, Butch and Sundance) so often involve wave after wave of Hispanic speaking assailants? Just asking.

Posted by BruceR at 05:27 PM


A lot of fluffle today about the remarks of former NATO Secretary General Solana about NATO taking a larger role in Iraq. "It's a climbdown," etc. etc. It's unlikely it's as bad as all that... in fact, it may make for a big improvement. (via Stryker, Calpundit, etc.)

What I expect we're going to see in Bush's state visit to Britain is a Bush-Blair announcement that they support the handing over of land force authority for one, or possibly both multinational divisions to NATO headquarters. This would create a defacto "NATO zone" in Iraq, probably the southern Shiite part of the country the British and other multinationals now patrol. Civilian authority will remain with the CPA (although there will be some opening up of business contracts to European firms) and the Iraqi governing council. Supreme military command will remain with the US, but the divisional commander(s) in the NATO zone will also report in some fashion to the NATO Council and SecGen.

This is not unusual, really it's almost customary. West Germany had three separate occupation zones in 1945 after all, and Bosnia and Kosovo both are recent NATO peacekeeping operations structured on this model. Afghanistan, with NATO responsible for Kabul and Americans outside the environs, is also similar.

It'll be hard for NATO to say no to this, especially if the ex-SecGen's behind it. The French would likely be the biggest holdouts, but there will be pressure from their own businesses to get French money into the Iraqi reconstruction profiteering game, and as of this week Chirac can now claim that the U.S. has largely adopted his plan for a return to self-governance. The other countries with troops on the ground will be ardent for it.

The reason is casualties, but not, as Tacitus suggests, American casualties. It's the other countries'. Now that Italians and Spanish are dying, the fact they have no say at all above their own brigade level areas in the military planning in Iraq has to be grating. To my knowledge, there are no force commitments, not even Britain's, at this point that extend past the fall of 2004. This is now not to be about getting more commitments, as much as keeping the ones they have. If the US does this right at this juncture, though, those commitments could be extended indefinitely.

It's only fair. The recent Italian fatalities have certainly crystallized the issue. If there is going to be a multinational component to this force, they need some commensurate authority, under U.S. overall command, to "shape the battlefield" in their divisional zones according to their own values. These soldiers and their civilian leaders at home are not mindless automata; they deserve the freedom to try something a little different, as the British have with success in Basra, when they feel the need, providing it doesn't compromise the overall nation-wide operation. It is their soldiers, and their citizens, who are dying, after all. I have no doubt getting NATO back in on the military command of the multinational divisions would have full Pentagon support, for this reason alone.

The advantages for Bush and Blair are huge. Blair can claim he's pulling the U.S. back into line with Europe, and getting greater British say over the running of things. Bush gets to claim multilateralism for real, without impeding the military's operations (if NATO does anything well, it's the kind of robust "community soldiering" that's required here), or getting stuck in the inevitable quagmire if the UN were to be given military authority. It basically undercuts the whole Wesley Clark Iraq platform, too.

It's important to remember who mans the two multinational divisions at the moment, leaving aside all the symbolic and non-fighting contributions:

The British-led Division:
Britain (NATO) -- 11,000
Italy (NATO) -- 2,800
Netherlands (NATO) -- 1,100
Denmark (NATO) -- 400

The Polish-led Division:
Poland (NATO) -- 2,300
Ukraine -- 1,800
Spain (NATO) --1,300
Bulgaria -- 500
Romania -- 400

The first is basically a NATO division now... undoubtedly being run using NATO staff procedures, under a commander high on the NATO merit list, etc. For them especially, this would just be formalizing the reality.

This also has to do with the survival of NATO itself. The US is at the "fish or cut bait" point. The other non-NATO members, including Britain, have been pushing the idea since the Afghanistan war of a military headquarters to co-ordinate military operations by the other members in the absence of the US. Sort of a "Club of No Homers" approach to military strategy. The US opposes this because they want to keep their options in Europe open in years to come, and keep their seat at the military planning table even if they don't see the group as particularly useful at the moment. If NATO is seen, despite the presence of its other nations' troops and their lamentable deaths, to have no role in a US-led operation, the centrifugal force that splits the organization further into the Americans and Everybody Else it has perceptibly been turning into these last two years can only increase. This is almost certainly Solana's thinking, and why he is advocating for the American interest in this instance.

Anyway, that's what I think will be announced this week. If I'm wrong, I'll know when you do. It would be a very wise course if it was, with upsides all around. How people react when the news comes out, however, will depend on what they're really after in Iraq... if they're in favour of victory, and freedom for Iraqis, this is a good thing. If they're pathologically opposed to French petroleum engineers flying in, on the other hand, their reaction will be obvious.

UPDATE: As of 4 p.m., the Independent has pulled the story that started the whole ruckus from its website. Hmm. (5:30 -- never mind, it's back up again... maybe it was just being hammered.)

Posted by BruceR at 02:27 PM

November 13, 2003


moI've temporarily amended our top right photo as part of my clever plan to offend all Muslims everywhere. Fortunately, I don't think it's going to be as many as some people seem to think. All the Muslims I've actually had the pleasure of knowing are much, much smarter than the extremists (on either side, and that link above is a classic example of both) give them credit for.

UPDATE: Photo now in the text. I missed my favourite astrological observatory.

Posted by BruceR at 04:07 PM


Instapundit and others continue to defend the Rice-Rumsfeld Werwolf analogy to present-day Iraq, citing some clashes between American soldiers and German youths accusing them of fraternization in the late 1940s.

Note how Glenn Reynolds uses the provocative word "murder" even though it is in no way borne out by the source material he cites, an October 1945 clipping about a street brawl in which apparently no Americans were killed.

There is some evidence that Germans sometimes violently clashed with Americans who were seeing German girls during the occupation. Two things about this worth noting, however: one, that has nothing to do with any kind of organized resistance to the occupation itself, and is in no way analogous to Iraq; I'm sure the American soldiers would wish that the only time they were in danger there was when they were out on a date at night with their new Iraqi girlfriend... Second, what the clips don't make clear is that generally the most violent incidents involved black soldiers dating German women. Indeed, there was considerable racially motivated brawling within the American occupation army on this score, many white soldiers being equally opposed to the idea of interracial sex (the only fatal incident I've found firm record of involved a black revenge killing of some Southern white soldiers, in fact). The anti-fraternization Germans, historians now generally concede, were opposed to soldiers dating their sisters and daughters, not necessarily Americans in general. That's a big difference. (It should also be noted that there were several accusations of rape by American soldiers at the time, too.)

Justin Katz draws the odd conclusion that, since there were no recorded successful guerrilla attacks on American troops after May 7, 1945, therefore VE-Day cannot be analogous to the "end of major combat operations" in Iraq this last May 1. The Iraqis still have to surrender, in other words. To me, this concedes the entire point being made by those poking holes in the Werwolf analogy. That war transited overnight to a peaceful occupation. This one has not. What Rumsfeld and Rice were arguing is that previous successful occupations weren't peaceful either, a statement singularly unsupported by fact, which Katz appears to now be conceding. Well... okay then.

Katz brings up, as the sole actual evidence he could find that could support the Rumsfeld-Rice position on this, a report of a report of a "1953 Pentagon report" which lists American deaths "due to enemy action" from June to December of 1945 as 42, and in 1946 as 3. While I obviously haven't seen the report, it needs to be noted that not only are these worldwide totals, not just Germany, but they pretty obviously include such things as deaths due to leftover minefields and unexploded ordnance (In fact, it's reasonable to assume that this alone would amount to almost all of them.). The official US history of the occupation mentions no fatal attacks by German guerillas after VE-Day, and the prowar camp simply can't change that, as much as they'd like to.

The only candidate that I have ever seen proposed for a fatal attack by German guerillas after VE-Day was the summertime explosion at the Bremen police station that killed 5 Americans. And even Perry Biddiscombe, the historian of the Werwolf "movement," concedes that the official explanation of that event, an accidental gas main explosion, is still a plausible one.

Posted by BruceR at 02:35 PM

November 12, 2003


This year's R-Day I was in Whitby, Ontario, doing the army public affairs schtick for the military delegation to the Remembrance service on the site of the old Camp X, the WW2 HQ for British intelligence in the Americas, and a founding place of sorts for Canada's civilian and military intelligence services. It was one of the nicer Remembrance Day services I've ever attended, despite the driving rain off the lake. They've got a website, if you're curious.

UPDATE: I quite liked Colby's take on R-Day... although I personally wouldn't hold it against anyone if they couldn't name THREE Canadian Boer War actions. So long as you've internalized a little about Paardeberg and Liliefontein, that should be sufficient.

I wonder if his restated belief that Canadian nationalism is a product of Flanders fields is on the mark, though. The French-Canadian and English-Canadian experiences of the war were profoundly different... it's true that the Conscription Crisis of 1917 presaged much that would follow, but I don't think it's categorizable as a "common national feeling." I'd even say the "questionable... decision making," particularly with regard to Quebec sovereignty, is also part of that "lingering heritage."

Cosh questions whether today's Canada has any connection to the Canada that was once fought for. If it was, it's a cross-cultural connection, between the recent immigrants who largely populate our major cities now, and the successive waves of recent immigrants who preceded them, into a land that in many cases didn't have running water or all-weather roads, let alone an Anglo heritage. The simple fact is that a plurality of Canadian soldiers who died in South Africa or Flanders were first-generation Canadians. That they were first-generation from Aberdeen or Stockholm, instead of Kazakhstan or Jamaica, shouldn't be the difference that we've made it out to be. They crossed an ocean, they made good, and then they recrossed the ocean again to fight and die. That would seem sufficient common purpose enough, were it to be phrased that way, instead of making one the "founding culture" and the others "multiculturals."

I agree the Remembrance Day Colby and I were taught has little to do with the one I've come to know working with soldiers in my adult life. If meaning had anything to do with it, "In Flanders Fields," a profoundly pro-war poem, would never be read in church or school in today's society. But it is a Canadian poem, and it was read once, so it is read again now.

Teaching kids about some undefinable debt, as Colby puts it, is more akin to the misguided historian's notion that we are "a nation forged in fire," with a heritage rooted in D-Day and Vimy, than I think he realizes. In Canadian history, wars have always been fearful tests of resolve, corrosive to the nation tested. Both world wars nearly broke us. They should not be looked to as positive experiences.

Were we a wholly rational nation, the "key message" of Remembrance Day would be this: another global cataclysm like those first two is the greatest threat Canada faces. They have a profound tendency to fracture this fragile country, on every line imaginable. It is not to be hoped on the evidence that the idea of Canada as a country could survive the next world war, whether it be nuclear or no, whether we are attacked or largely immune again. If we believe in Canada as an ideal in any way, we must therefore strive to prevent another such cataclysm.

Now, from that basis, you can go a number of different ways. Me, I've concluded that it is therefore in our best interest to conduct a policy to keep all future foreign wars, by everybody, small and short. It also behooves us to support the institutions and alliances that prevent global war, whether through deterrence or peacekeeping or what have you. But the central focus should always be forestalling the next "clash of civilizations," by any means necessary. Because even if our civilization were to emerge triumphant, Canada would likely fission in the process of getting there. And I don't believe that's a victory worth winning.

There is an alternate universe no doubt, where an assassin's bullet in 1914 led to Conscription Riots in Montreal, followed by bloody repression, followed by the creation of a Quebec Free State in the 1920s. (Happened in Ireland, after all.) There is another timeline where the second war in Europe lasted another season, more unwilling French Canadian draftees died, and the not-so-Quiet Revolution of 1960 led to bloody secession in 1970. The best that should ever be said of our major foreign adventures was not that they "forged our nation," but that Canada barely survived melting in the furnace.

In 1919, on the first Remembrance Day, surely no veteran was ever so deluded that they thought all wars of all kinds in the world could ever end. (Even if "the world" to them meant Europe, and little else.) They were not that naive any longer. Nor did they want us to quietly thank them for our "freedoms," or feel they had somehow bestowed them on us through their efforts. What they wanted was for their society to dedicate itself to avoiding future cataclysms and future losses of entire generations of youth and talent in mass bloodbaths, so that no one else had to do what they did. If we are to really remember them, that is what Remembrance Day should really be about. It is by nature a rebuke of what thoughtless patriotism can lead to. So if you start assigning some misbegotten nobility to a country's "performance" in those wars, rather than those individuals who fought in them, you're entirely missing the point.

No, Remembrance Day only makes sense if you start with the assumption that those two world wars were the most self-destructive mankind has ever gotten, and such a thing cannot be allowed to ever happen to us again. It is not, or should not be, a condemnation of all wars, or all soldiers. It is a staring out at the spectre of our civilization's and nation's destruction, and rededicating ourselves to ever letting things get so far that it again through our own selfish disinterest. To constant re-engagement with the world around us, and re-evaluation of our own motives. To staring little evil men down, before they become big evil men. And, in my mind, to sometimes realizing that small, short wars can serve the interests of global peace.

Is that a complex lesson to teach in the schools? Damn straight. But it's the only lesson worth drawing. And I'd rather the kids half-got it, and thought it through themselves later, then to never get it at all.

Posted by BruceR at 01:18 PM

November 10, 2003


Little entry devoted to blog gossip here.

Riverbend, the anti-American Iraqi weblog, has vanished. Wiped from Google, the whole bit. Whoever wanted to get rid of it was certainly efficient.

Meanwhile, the famous Iraqi blogger, Salam, has posted an entry that is somewhat wierder than usual, too.

Diana Moon, who had much to do with Salam's somewhat dangerous (to Salam) level of popularity back in the day Saddam was still running things, is back, on the other hand, and quite as insane as ever.

Little Green Footballs nearly got hacked through its own referrers page, which is interesting.

And one of the more interesting blogging voices, Arthur Silber, has apparently quit in disgust.

UPDATE: Riverbend's been phasing in and out, apparently. I'm not sure what this would have to do with Iraq, as some have suggested, as presumably that's not where Blogspot's servers are, but what the hey? Glad she's back.

Posted by BruceR at 10:46 PM


Daniel Benjamin gets the lead story spot in Slate today with a somewhat alarmist piece on surface-to-air missiles.

There are, as one might expect, numerous factual errors:

Benjamin writes: "In any case, even the best of these devices are estimated to perform effectively just 90 percent to 95 percent of the time."

This figure is extremely high. If "perform effectively" means the number of attempted launches divided by the number that kill or damage an aircraft target, first-generation missiles like the SA-7 would have a lifetime rating of somewhere in the single digits, less if not well-maintained. Comparing numbers of missiles fired to successful kills in after-action reports from the Falklands, Israel and other conflicts gives a pretty good idea of what successful kill rates are in target rich environments, and they're never anywhere near 90 per cent. If you looked at just helicopter targets, or just small aircraft, maybe you'd get somewhat higher numbers, but "just 90 percent" is needlessly alarmist. It also confuses the threat assessment... SA-7s are not high rate-of-return missiles, but some of the newer ones in, say, Russia's arsenal, like the SA-16, certainly are. Lumping them all in together masks the truly threatening ones... for instance I believe the American pressure on Nicaragua to get rid of its SA-7s is probably misplaced, in part due to muddy thinking like this.

Benjamin says the majority of his 40 "attacks" on civil aviation with MANPADS or RPGs (no idea on the provenance of that number... the actual number of kills is much lower) occurred in Africa. As we discussed, that's not true. He also says the small plane (not a civilian airliner by any stretch) that was shot down over Rwanda in 1994 was brought down with a SA-7. It was not; in fact it was a much more effective SA-16.

Most importantly, though, Benjamin does not distinguish between the difficulties of attacking North American civil air and civil aviation elsewhere in the world. I readily concede the latter faces a threat... there is little evidence air travel on this continent does, however. Yet. The situation in Iraq does not change that. Yes, the fallout of an even unsuccessful missile attack in the United States would be high, but as Benjamin points out, if it's missiles that were all that was lacking, this could have happened long ago: there's no shortage of these things. That it hasn't happened yet suggests the system is not ideal for the target in this case. Officials in countries that share a border with Iraq or are only a couple countries away could well make a different risk assessment, though.

One more thing Benjamin doesn't mention. There is one recorded instance of a man-portable SAM successfully engaging a four-engine jet, in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. The plane landed hard, but all its passengers survived. Success rates against smaller aircraft are proportional to their size, as well; the more engines, the safer you are.

Posted by BruceR at 01:58 PM


Idle thought for the morning: if Americans want to viscerally grasp how the rest of the Western world regards them now, for the most part, they might want to see the movie Mystic River, or see it again.

The movie, of course, has nothing to do with Iraq, nor was it intended to, as far as I know. But, just for a thought experiment, think of the Tim Robbins character as Iraq (maybe not guilty of the crime he's accused of, but certainly guilty of something awful, and probably insane to boot), the Sean Penn revenge-seeker keen to make things right through cathartic force, and the Kevin Bacon cop as the guy just trying to make things right (find the WMDs?) through slow, due process. At the end of the movie, Penn is feeling guilty he moved too fast, and Bacon guilty he moved too slow.

Not a perfect analogy by any means, but I suspect how the average viewer sees the situation at the end has a lot of similarities to how non-American Westerners view the United States, Iraq, and our UN "authorities." We understand Penn, even if we can't condone him; we fear Robbins, without wishing him the fate he receives; and we wish the UN-like Bacon wasn't... well, Kevin Bacon. Because no one, given a choice between Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon, in any context, is going to pick Kevin Bacon. I dunno. Like I said, random thought for the morning.

Posted by BruceR at 10:12 AM

November 09, 2003


The 1982 Lebanon War is a far, far closer comparator. I hope the planners are reading into it a bit.

(Saw a documentary on TV the other night, about how Ariel Sharon, then the defence minister, wanted to create a "zone of peace" from Cairo to the north of Lebanon, by installing a pro-Israeli government in Beirut and expelling the PLO... it was what could only be called today a Wolfowitzian vision. If nothing else, it's fair to say "success" by the Americans in Iraq would mean they accomplished what Sharon attempted and failed two decades ago... )

Posted by BruceR at 02:32 AM


Another long essay by Den Beste, with another error that just has to be pointed out... this time the reasons for Germany's declaration of war on the United States on Dec. 11, 1941:

Den Beste writes:

"After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese ambassador in Berlin had hinted to Hitler that if Germany were to declare war on the US, Japan might in turn declare war on the USSR and open a second front against the USSR out of Manchuria. Hitler took the bait and declared war on the US... the Japanese ambassador had gamed Hitler nicely."

Unfortunately, this is not how Ribbentrop, the German Foreign Minister recalls it. His explanation is found in Shirer's Rise and Fall, and it's quite different:

"I told him (Hitler) that according to the stipulation of the Three-Power pact, since Japan had attacked, we would not have to declare war, formally. The Fuehrer thought this matter over quite a while and then he gave me a very clear decision, 'If we do not stand on the side of Japan,' he said, 'the Pact is politically dead. But that is not the main reason. The chief reason is that the United States already is shooting against our ships. They have been a forceful factor in this war and through their actions have already created a situation of war.' The Fuehrer was of the opinion at that moment that it was quite evident that the United States would now make war against Germany."

Hitler was referring to Roosevelt's "shoot on sight" order against German warships in American waters on Sept. 11, 1941, after a German U-Boat had attempted to torpedo an American naval vessel. The two sides had been involved in escalating naval clashes since April, and U-Boat commanders were begging Hitler to let them launch unrestricted submarine warfare on the Americans, whose ships were by that point escorting British shipping up until the Atlantic midpoint.

With considerable material resources already flowing to Britain and Russia, Hitler concluded, probably rightly, that this was sooner or later going to devolve into a shooting war, and preferred he choose the time and place... which is the main reason why he joined the Japanese right after Pearl Harbour. No Japanese promises with regard to the Soviets were required.

The Japanese were not in the least interested in a war on Russia... they had signed a neutrality treaty with Stalin in April, in fact. (Den Beste elsewhere refers to it as a "de facto" truce, when it was clearly "de jure.") Currently on Hitler's desk on Dec. 7 was an unsigned amendment to the Germany-Japan-Italy Tripartite Pact that prevented the nations from making separate peaces with common enemies... anticipating the Pacific conflict to come. Basically Japan wanted a guarantee that Hitler would not make peace with Britain or the U.S., freeing them to help the other nation in the Pacific. (The only "common enemy" the two sides were guaranteed to have after the Japanese went to war was the British; however, the Japanese evidently saw a U.S.-German war as inevitable, sooner or later too, and wanted to prevent a separate German-U.S. peace for the same reasons.) By Dec. 7, the Germans had only assented to this verbally, and there was some concern on the Japanese side that the surprise of Pearl Harbour (which Germany had not been informed about) would lead them to renege.

For someone who has studied so much bushido, manga, etc., to attribute this kind of trickery to the neo-samurai Japanese national leadership in the first half of the century is... a little odd. Tojo, et al almost certainly would have regarded a proposal to fake the Germans into a war alongside them as dishonourable in the extreme.

(Indeed, some historians have argued Hitler was less interested in a Japanese attack on Russia, which in early December of 1941 still seemed superfluous given the success of Barbarossa, and was pushing the Japanese instead to engage the British in their Far Eastern possessions and India, to take some of the pressure off him and Mussolini in the Mediterranean. He would have considered a Japanese offer to go to war with the Soviets as a strategic mistake on their part and likely would have argued against it, if asked.)

Posted by BruceR at 02:16 AM

November 08, 2003


TIKRIT, Iraq The U.S. military swept through Iraqi neighborhoods early Saturday, firing at houses suspected to be harboring hostile forces in the wake of an apparent attack on a Black Hawk helicopter that killed six U.S. soldiers.

Backed by Bradley fighting vehicles, American troops bombarded buildings with machine guns and heavy weapons fire.

"This is to remind the town that we have teeth and claws and we will use them," said Lt. Col. Steven Russell, commander of the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment.

Fox News, today. Note that there is no mention of anyone firing back... also that this American action took place before they could confirm whether the helicopter had, indeed been brought down by hostile fire. (Noted at Talking Points Memo).

Would this be one of the "inevitable atrocities" that David Brooks said Americans would have to put up with from now on, one wonders?

In other Iraq news Naomi Klein makes a good case that the CPA's privatization of public assets and ending restrictions on foreign capital are contrary to the 1907 Hague Accords, and hence (you guessed it) a war crime. As John Glenn has said, maybe if the Authority devolved things like taxation and investment policy to the Iraqis and worked on things like restoring security instead, things might be going more smoothly.

Posted by BruceR at 12:26 AM

November 07, 2003


Perhaps most importantly from a humanitarian point of view, Iraq's once thriving marshes, which Saddam had drained as a way of punishing the Marsh Arabs for revolting against him in 1991, are now being revitalized, and the Marsh Arabs, against whom Saddam had tried to commit genocide, are returning to their former way of life.

--Oxblog, in a widely praised speech on Iraq

Restoring an area that is said to have been the biblical Garden of Eden, marshlands that Saddam Hussein turned into an arid salt bed in his purge of Shiite Muslims, was one of President Bush's priorities when he asked Congress for $20.3 billion to help rebuild Iraq.

It also was among the few items House Republicans decided to cut, at least for now, if the United States had to pay for it. They chopped $100 million from Bush's bill for resurrecting the Mesopotamian marshlands between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

--Guardian, Oct. 15

(Noted at Juan Cole.)

More here.

Posted by BruceR at 05:57 PM


Little noticed in the kerfuffle about the U.S. defence department bringing its draft boards out of 30 years of dormancy (presumably just in case) is this little caveat:

"Local and Appeal Boards throughout America would decide which young men, who submit a claim, receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service."

The U.S. conscription law is quite clear... only men are eligible. It's an interesting convergence this week... you have a 30 year-old machine of the state exempting women in large part from military service being refuelled if not restarted, at the same time the ordeal of Jessica Lynch has rekindled the debate over military service by women, at least to some ways of thinking. Meanwhile you have a movie (Matrix Revolutions) which prompts Roger Ebert to comment that the role of women in action movies, doing military things, has never been greater.

One thing seems for certain. With over 212,000 active duty servicewomen in the American forces now (out of a total of 1.4 million), it would be extremely difficult to replace them without resorting to selective service. The Rubicon, it seems, has been crossed on this issue. The question now is what else needs to be rethought if we're to keep up.

UPDATE: They yanked the press release. Must be one of those new-model memory holes. The relevant text is quoted in Flitters.

Posted by BruceR at 03:12 PM


Turns out the Chinook that crashed in Iraq had flare dispensers and used them, without effect, when it was targeted.

Little known fact about flares is that they're generally only useful to distract heatseekers if combined with altitude, quantity (lots of them) and/or violent maneuvering by the target plane... none of which the Chinook, flying low and slow with little warning, could have benefitted from. (The ideal state for flares, in fact, is to have them in the air BEFORE the missile acquires and launches, so that the operator presses the trigger on a false positive... that's why, if you've ever seen an A-10 practicing a gun air-to-ground engagement, it's dropping flares all over the damn place, using its automatic dispensers, before it's even in close range of its quarry.)

The same goes double for passenger jets at the point of most danger from a terrorist SAM attack, shortly after takeoff. The automated IR jamming technologies now being worked on would offer more hope for commercial jets, but any move to widely deploy the currently available flare systems on commercial air traffic outside of the highest-risk airports is almost certain to be a waste of money.

Posted by BruceR at 10:34 AM

November 06, 2003


With time officially out for additional multinational support, the Pentagon announced plan B today... the Marines, which they took considerable care in extracting, will go back into Iraq in divisional strength.

The big problem staring the Pentagon in the face was the February rotation out of the 101st Airborne, last of the original Iraq war units, which could not be further postponed. The push for multinational troops from Turkey and other countries was largely due to this crucial need, as it always seemed unlikely that American troops could withdraw that quickly given the current environment.

When international forces only came up with two of the three divisions hoped for, even after a new UN resolution, this decision became pretty much inevitable. This is going to have a significant impact on American warfighting ability outside of Iraq through 2004 (more or less preventing another foreign ground commitment through to the end of next year and forcing a conciliatory line on Iran and Korea) but it should keep the lid on long enough for other forces to have more time to work in Iraq, at least. The questionmark now moves to the fall of '04, at which point, if nothing else, large numbers of those multinational troops will also be pressing for relief... but changing the plan to bring in the Marines has bought the American government another six months, at least.

Posted by BruceR at 02:14 PM


Another entry in the Canadian terrorism-related news stories... this time a large amount of money going from terrorist group supporters here through Canadian banks to terrorist organizations: 24 suspicious transactions last year, totalling $22 million noted and reported to the authorities by Canada's financial intelligence agency.

The actual report and the news coverage doesn't make this crystal, but this is almost certainly nearly all a product of Canadian Tamil immigrant support for Tamil fighters in Sri Lanka, a conflict that Tamil-Canadians have bankrolled in much the same way that Irish-Americans provided the backbone of the IRA for decades. (My old colleague John Thompson seems to think some Colombian money headed from drug deals to FARC may also be part of this, too.) There's no indication this has anything to do with Muslims, Al Qaeda, or terrorist threats to Western countries.

That of course, doesn't stop the usual suspects from making the usual hay.

Posted by BruceR at 01:35 PM


Found here. Highlights:

*attack aviation (helicopters): "non-existent"
*spare parts: "non-existent"
*special ops: "no information... of any value to the unit"
*PVS-7A nightsights: "all but worthless"

Guess there's still room to improve there. Most interesting from a Canadian perspective is the obvious conclusion that urban war operations are high-intensity by definition, requiring heavy armour far more than dismounted infantry these days... at a time when the Canadian Forces are relinquishing their high intensity capabilities and focussing on training dismounted troops for this role. It'd be interesting to know how the American "Stryker brigade" leadership reacted to this one, as it's their dilemma, too.

Posted by BruceR at 11:53 AM


(See previous post) A regular reader with Nexis ability fleshes out the Iraqification lexicography in Flitters. The original coining now appears to be from the UK Guardian, where a piece with the word in its Observer section on Apr. 6 is the first known usage.

Then, to quote Krusty, for a long time nothing happened.

The word lodges itself firmly in print on Aug. 31, with its first American usage and first usage in a major publication, with this Joe Klein column in Time:

That leaves Iraqification, the third path, which everyone agrees is absolutely necessary. The Pentagon says it is Iraqifying as fast as it can...

Klein also used the term the same day during his appearance on ABC-TV's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," its first recorded appearance in a transcript.

Back in Britain, Jon Freedland from the Guardian used it next, on Sept. 3, referring it to being in usage by "some in the American press," presumably Klein. At home, Molly Ivins wrote "I wince to report" the term was in use on Sept. 5 in her nationally syndicated column, presumably also a reference to Klein.

(The word still wasn't in wide use at this point, as it escaped noted columnist-lexicographer William Safire's attention. On Sept. 9 he coined the word "Iraqi-ization" for the same phenomenon. He followed up on Sept. 28 noting that Iraqification was becoming the preferred term.)

The next usage is of course, the Weekly Standard usage noted earlier (Sept. 22).

So, on the American side of the pond, the lexicography goes:

Joe Klein (Time) --> Molly Ivins --> Reuel Marc Gerecht (Weekly Standard) --> widespread usage in multiple sources, beginning Sept. 28. The point, though, that this is entirely a columnists' construct, and is not a term that has yet been used by any U.S. government source, still seems to hold. So it's still a branding failure. (Where are all the parsers of the word "imminent" on this one, I wonder? This is a far clearer case of message-twisting, or at least message-forcing, by the mainstream press on the government.)

One suspects the liminal origins of the word also have something to do with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and "Californication," particularly given Gerecht's use of it in a sexual pun, as well: "premature Iraqification." Safire's surmise that people didn't glom onto "Iraqization" instead could be due to trying to avoid the implicit Vietnam analogy, as well, but in any case, it hasn't worked.

UPDATE: Check Flitters for a 1999 British usage, in a completely different context!

Posted by BruceR at 10:29 AM

November 05, 2003


The only piece of information that hasn't been at least roughly surmised yet about Maher Arar... indeed, the most important piece of information... is that the innocent Canadian who was shipped to Syria for a year of torture and pain, contrary to previous reports, did have a consular visit prior to his being handed over to Syrian intelligence by U.S. authorities.

The papers haven't quite caught this yet, but it's significant. It means that the U.S. authorities DID in fact, follow their Vienna obligations to inform Canadian authorities they had Arar in custody, contrary to earlier suggestions... and is very strong evidence that Arar was only shipped to Syria with Canadian governmental consent, if only applied by acquiescence.

Whereas before the Canadian government had deniability... that they only knew of Arar's situation after it was too late... Arar's own statement makes it clear that they did not. This is not, any longer, an American crime against a Canadian citizen... or a situation of Canadian ineffectiveness a la Bill Sampson... unless the government wishes to somehow refute this through a proper inquiry, the Arar case is certain to go down in history as Canada's government selling one of its own citizens down the river because they, not the Americans, they, preferred to see an innocent man put in hell rather than let a possible (and only remotely possible at that) terrorist live free in this country.

And then, brave country that we are, we blamed the Americans.

Posted by BruceR at 06:38 PM

November 04, 2003


Obviously no one who uses the term "Iraqification" can possibly have missed the obvious connection with the failed "Vietamization" strategy that helped lose that war 30 years ago more efficiently, can they? The term can only in that context be a perjorative. So how did it end up getting used by David Brooks, among others, who actually support the strategy?

Herewith, a short history of "Iraqification."

Coiners of the term seem to have been the Washington Post's Ricks and Slevin, whose use of the term in an Oct. 29 story seems to have been its first use to show up on Google news. There's no evidence they were citing or quoting anyone from the administration.

Rather, they were probably accidentally quoting Reuel Marc Gerecht of the Weekly Standard, who used it as an obvious joke in his Sept. 22 story, "Premature Iraqification."

The term's first appearance in a non-Post Google News source was in Maureen Dowd's column in the New York Times the next day.

After a one day break for Halloween, the term shows up on Nov. 1 in Australia's The Age. The Post used it again the next day, in quotes but without attribution, here.

A Nov. 3 article in the Christian Science Monitor is the first time it seems to appear without quotes, ie without obvious irony. It's used there to paraphrase a Bremer comment, but I doubt he used the word.

The same day, Mother Jones used its use as further evidence of the tin ear of the administration, ignoring its actual non-White House provenance. Fareed Zakaria's column in the Post and Newsweek the same day points out the obvious parallels to Vietnamization, without pointing out that only the opponents of the occupation seem to be using the term, presumably precisely to make those parallels even more obvious.

Today so far we have CSM (again), pro-war advocate David Brooks and anti-war Paul Krugman in the Times, firmly embedding the word in the lexicon, I'd say.

So what you have here is a word accidentally invented by a pro-war journal a week and a half ago, never apparently used by a government figure, strongly promoted by the Washington Post, Dowd, and other individuals intent on conjuring up the spectre of Vietnamization by using it, and now somehow the quasi-official name for the U.S. strategy. As a warfighting strategy, the current U.S. focus may yet prove a success... but from a branding perspective it's already a disaster.

Posted by BruceR at 02:49 PM

November 03, 2003


Shorter Ontario Tories: "We were going to avoid the looming fiscal disaster we'd secretly created if you re-elected us, with our equally secret plan to sell off all the province's public assets... we knew you'd never go for it if we'd told you, but after the election it'd be too late and your resistance would have been useless... WA HA HA HA..."

Shorter Lorrie Goldstein: "Even though I strongly endorsed them for office, I knew the Tories were lying to taxpayers. Why couldn't the rest of you?"

Posted by BruceR at 01:52 PM


Patrick C. points to a weekend article on the changes to Canada's army, contained in the new Army Strategy and typified by the recent announcement of a purchase of some 105mm Mobile Gun Systems (wheeled tank destroyers).

It's a good piece for the most part, although the headline is objectionable and not borne out in the text. It should be noted that Canada's M109 155mm howitzers are few in number, and like our Leopard tanks are not readily transportable outside the country.

The artillery support for all of Canada's overseas missions since Korea (with the exception of the standing brigade in Germany that left a decade ago at the end of the Cold War) has been a combination of 105mm towed guns and 81mm mortars... exactly the weapons the army is proposing keeping now. It's really more a matter of coming to terms with reality.

I've heard Col. Brian Macdonald speak on this before, and he's in favour of replacing our 155s, too, but with some form of light artillery rocket system rather than big guns that never left the country, too. That's what he's referring to by "better answers than shifting the mortars," in case you were wondering. I don't know if the kit that currently exists meets his requirements (presumably airportable, with guided flight, and a stand-off cluster munition capability), but if it did it would certainly be a handy little toy.

There's no big surprise about this... the plan to move mortars from the infantry to the artillery and the absence of any 155mm gun replacements could have been clearly inferred from the Army Strategy, now a year old. The army leadership announced a plan, got the defence minister's blessing, and are now following it to the letter.

Is it a sound plan, though? Only if you believe the Canadian army's mission should be to increase its deployability and effectiveness in low- and medium-intensity conflicts, such as peacekeeping, given the basic assumption that funding (and hence personnel numbers) will not significantly increase. Given those constraints, it seems perfectly sound.

What you're really seeing here is the institution of corporate-style management practices to the Canadian military... particularly the idea of the "deliverable/nondeliverable" line, and the idea of every budget being a two-way negotiation and agreement. The idea is that the controlling agency (your higher Headquarters) gives you a mission, then asks what you would do to accomplish that mission, and then lets you prioritize the expenditures that would be required from essential to non-essential. You return that info to higher HQ, at which point they say, "okay, you have $X million, draw your "deliverable line" at that point on your list and execute everything above it as a funded priority." Everything "below the line" is unfunded, and only executed if the funding conditions change. This same collaborative decision process is then executed on the next level down.

This is basically what the army is doing with Canada's political leaders now. The things these people are saying the army should keep (ie, tanks and big guns, even if they never leave Canada) are "below the line," because everything else is judged by them (surely the people the best position to know) as more essential to the actual mission they have been given. If the Canadian public someday decided in their righteous ire that the Canadian army needed more funding, they're always free to add resources, and push the line further down into the desirable list. Meanwhile, the army is trying to rationalize purely on the basis of what it's been given and what it's been asked to do. And replacing outdated high-intensity weapons platforms from the Cold War that cannot impact the kind of operations where Canadian troops have their lives on the line today is definitely below their line at the moment.

I know where the graybeards quoted in John Ward's article are coming from. Every last soldier wishes there was more money being given to defence in this country. I just wish the non-serving experts could work on their message so that it stops sounding like they are blaming the army for bad planning (which is demonstrably not true) and direct a clearer call to action to the Canadian taxpayer. I don't get the key message, "Canadian citizens, you need to ante up and kick in, because this is important stuff" from this piece. Largely from the headline alone, I get instead "silly soldiers, will they ever learn?" which is neither helpful nor true at this juncture.

Posted by BruceR at 10:10 AM


While I was on Bill Quick's site, I couldn't help but notice this little bit of truth-skirting:

On several different occasions in Vietnam we lost more men in a single day than we have in the entire Iraq war - and we won the Iraq war. No, the "war" isn't still going on. There are no organized Iraqi military formations in the field. What we are doing now is pacification, not war-fighting. This is no Vietnam and, sad as the extremely small loss of life has been, it is still a trivial factor in the larger scheme of things.

At best this is rather imprecise. For the record, the worst day for American fatalities in the Vietnam war was February 6, 1968, when 147 Americans died, 131 from hostile fire. (The second worst day, for the record, was the next day, Feb. 7... with 130 hostile and 6 non-hostile deaths recorded). The first three weeks of February were the worst time of the war for the American armed forces in Vietnam, as they continued to struggle with the aftermath of Tet and the ongoing siege of Khe Sanh.

To date, there have been 433 American fatalities in Iraq, the worst month being April 2003, when 73 died; the number of soldiers lost "in the entire war" (until the US declared the end of major combat operations on May 2) was 139, with 115 of those being combat fatalities; there have been 139 combat fatalities and 99 other deaths up to this weekend in Iraq since that point. It would have been more accurate to say that the Americans frequently lost more in a given week of the Vietnam war than they've lost in the entire Iraq war and occupation (by any measure), or even that in the height of Tet they managed to lose more in one day than in the entire major combat operations period in Iraq.

What was the rate of loss in Vietnam, really? It depends what you count as the period of the war, as it ramped up and ramped off slowly. Probably the best comparator for Iraq would be the period of major ground combat operations involving US troops, ie the 82 months between June, 1965, when the first offensive combat operation by U.S. ground troops started (on June 27 to be precise) and the last divisional action involving American marines, concluding in April 1972. During that period there were 55,800 fatalities of all kinds or 680 per month. At 45 a month since the Iraq war started, the Americans are well below that, obviously.

viet-iraq comparisonIf you look at the beginning of major ground operations in both theatres for the first eight months of their respective wars, the fatality numbers look like this (with Vietnam dates along the bottom):

Obviously there's a different pattern at work here. But there's no value in making false comparisons, whether it's to "quagmires" or particularly bloody days, either.

Posted by BruceR at 02:33 AM

November 02, 2003


Things have drastically gone south for the merger of Canada's right wing parties, as the only weighty contender for the combined leadership bowed out today.

The linked article cites a lot of reasons, but surely the big one is the political calculus. There is no statistical probability of the combined party winning the next election, or even driving the Libs into a minority... it'll be a victory if their seat total doesn't go down... and the next election after that is five years off. Whoever they elect for this election was always going to be a caretaker, to hold the party off from further erosion and plan the inevitable reconciliation with Quebec sovereigntists in the second half of this decade (possibly by wooing over premier Jean Charest or Quebec right-of-centre leader Mario Dumont). That would almost inevitably mean an election of a new, francophone-friendly leader again, as well.

Harris probably looked at the cards, realized he could not become PM this election, and would inevitably be forced out before he got a second try, and passed. Sacrificing his reputation for political unbeatability to take the Canadian right to the next plateau on its steady decade-long rebuilding plan would have been profoundly noble and selfless of him. But that's Mike Harris for you.

In other news, Harris' former party members are busy accusing the new Ontario Liberal government of naively believing their lies.

Posted by BruceR at 11:55 PM


The tragic loss of an army helicopter shows all the characteristics of a classic infantry SAM attack... the use of missiles in pairs, the choice of a transport helicopter as the most high=value target... the attack in mid-flight, which is much easier for helos than for fixed wing, due to lower speed and altitude, and the hostile ground environment. It's not particularly brilliant, but it is typical for successful SAM attacks.

The reaction in the prowar-blogosphere is, sadly, also typical. NZ Bear's current top 3 prowar voices, Instapundit, Sullivan and LGF, haven't found the words yet for the biggest success for anti-American Iraqis arguably this year, 15 hours after the story broke. Dailypundit, meanwhile, calls for the Americans to destroy the village in order to save it. Oh, wait, that's wrong. He doesn't want to save it.

UPDATE: Speaking of Instapundit, he's not having a great weekend. First there was the "The German occupation wasn't working before the Marshall Plan" revelation. Then there's his frankly bizarre conclusion that whenever the Defense Department deletes a critical internal website, that that must automatically have been the work of nameless "brass" and in no way something the political leadership could possibly have been responsible for. Facts not in evidence, I'd say.

UPDATE #2: By the 18 hour mark, the other two are still in shocked silence or at least something that looks just like it, but Instapundit has posted on the crash, to his credit... a good part of the reason why, of the Big 3, and despite anything else I or others might ever say about Glenn Reynolds, his website has remained an indispensable read.

UPDATE #3: When you're over at Dailypundit, please note commenter "Jake's" assertion that German terrorists killed "6000 allied troops" between 1945 and 1947. Complete fiction. As discussed here before, there are apparently no definitively "Werwolf"-related deaths of American troops in Germany post VE-Day at all. Zero. None. (I doubt there were 6,000 deaths among the Soviet occupiers alone, but even if there were that would be an apples-to-oranges comparison to Iraq, surely.) "Jake" even cites Perry Biddiscombe, a historian of occupation Germany who tends to give the Werwolf movement more credit than anyone else, but who has never made any claim of that kind, at least to my knowledge. (You can find some of what Biddiscombe really says here. But do note that almost all of the Werwolf activity he's talking about actually occurred before VE-Day, a point he probably doesn't make as clear as he should have in this particular essay.)

UPDATE #4: Little Green Footballs finally chimes in at the 31-hour mark, with "The media is on the side of the enemy. Their desire to see the US fail in Iraq is palpable." He's in Ann Coulter territory now. (Sullivan came in with a somewhat more sober post at the 23 hour point).

Posted by BruceR at 05:55 PM