Sunday, July 31, 2005

Term Limits

Sorry about the lack of posting. I've been eating up a lot of my blogging time with my study of Sun-Tzu's Art of War, catching up on learning about Col. John Boyd, and getting ready for college; more specifically, studying for the AFOQT. Hopefully some or all of that will have some usefulness in my life. Anyway, I finally got around to doing something I've been meaning to do for awhile: add a "favorite posts" section to the sidebar. While by no means are these the only posts I find insightful, or meaningful, these are the ones that I think are some of my best writing and ones that really give an inside look as to what I believe. In the process of doing this, I also dug up another one of my old think pieces, this one on term limits. So, since I'm somewhat busy and definitely more than slightly lazy, I'm just going to recycle the think piece to get something of substance on here over the weekend. Enjoy!

The Founding Fathers obviously felt that turnover in government was a good thing. The House was only given a 2 year term, while Washington set a tradition of a two term limit on the Presidency. Jefferson even went so far as to advocate occasional outright revolution. With all this emphasis on a small government that refreshed itself often, it seems curious that the Founding Fathers did not write term limits into the Constitution. However, if one looks closer at the Constitution and its principles, one will see that there are two very specific reasons that term limits were left out.

A fundamental argument against term limits is that adding term limits will interfere with the Constitutional principle that all men were inherently power hungry and that in order to guarantee a functioning democracy, men in government needed to be set against one another. Term limits act against this principle because they interfere with the natural flow of Congress. The framers of the Constitution intended Congress to be able to develop a cycle, with different factions being able to gain and hold power for periods of time, only to be contested by opposing factions. In order for this cycle to be effective, Congress must only be affected by the issues felt important by their constituents, free from any artificial extensions or limitations of the terms of its members. If term limits are introduced, the members of different factions would be unable to consolidate power since they would be in office for relatively short intervals. This would result in a weak, ineffectual Congress, since no faction would be able to gain decisive power.

On a more basic level, term limits go against one of the foundations of the Constitution, which is that the legislative branch is supposed to ultimately represent the will of the people. Term limits would automatically limit the choice of the people by forcing Congressmen out after a set period of time, even if his constituents want him to continue to represent them. What it comes down to is whether the people should be trusted with electing good leaders or if the people should be contained by using term limits. Ironically, the Framers actually trusted the people on this issue, retaining for them the unlimited power to choose their representatives, albeit indirectly in the case of the Senate. The Framers likely did this because they trusted the people enough to believe that they would elect officials that would represent their constituents best, and that if every district and state did this, the net effect would be good for the country. What was true back then is still true today. The country is best served when each constituency is well represented in Congress by representatives who are free from constraints.

Term limits go against two of the basic principles outlined in the Constitution: the principle of political competition, and the principle of Congress representing the will of the people. With term limits, Congress becomes an ineffectual rotating body, in which the people are unable to truly choose who they wish to represent them. The bottom line is that the concept of musical chairs does not form a sound basis for a legislature.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Nerd test

Self Explanatory

My computer geek score is greater than 70% of all people in the world! How do you compare? Click here to find out!

H/T: Brad


Rep. Tancredo is in the news again for his comments about how we should apply the doctrine of MAD to the Muslim holy city of Mecca if the United States is ever attacked by Islamic extremists armed with a nuclear weapon. For those of you that don't know, MAD stands for Mutually Assured Destruction. It's a policy of deterrence put into place during the Cold War, the premise being that since everyone has enough nukes to blow the world apart many times over, war is impossible because no one wants to die that bad. Obviously, this premise falls up short when dealing with Islamists. They practice suicide bombing as a tactic, ergo they cannot be that afraid of death. So deterrence doesn't work with them. Even if it did, who is to say that they would really be discouraged by the destruction of Mecca? They already pervert many of the teachings of Islam, often making up the rules as they go, as in the rulings dealing with the killing of Muslims. After the rise of civilian deaths in suicide attacks, a ruling was issued by an extremist Imam decreeing that it was okay to kill Muslims, an 180 degree change from what their policy had been previously.

And of course, the most important reason why this is a horrible idea: we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with Islamists, those who wish to pervert a religion by dragging it into the 9th Century, Wahhabi style. An equivalent would be Fred Phelps gaining control of a small but well known faction of a Christian Church, say, the Catholic faith. This faction then launches a biological attack on a major American city because it has become morally degenerate, giving in to homosexuals. Would we be justified in attacking the Vatican based on the actions of a miniscule amount of Catholics?

All Tancredo's irresponsible talk does is provide further "proof" that the "Crusaders are waging war against the valiant mudjahadeen for control of the Holy Land."

H/T: Brad

Your Papers, please

It would appear that the terrorists are winning in the grand city of New York. No, there have been no attacks, and the city of New York is still something approaching a democracy, but apparently the rulers of NYC have decided to forgo the 4th Amendment. This rape of the Constitution has provoked little outrage, anywhere. Perry has a good post on the subject over at Eidelblog.

But what I'm writing about today is even worse. On Sunday afternoon, a bus in New York was stormed by a SWAT team, 5 people were detained, and all 60 people on the bus were searched. (link) Surely, there must be somewhat of a reasonable explanation for this; there was intel of an impending attack, one of the passengers was a known terrorists, something? No, the reason for the hubbub was that a bus company supervisor had her suspicions "raised" when five passengers with "stuffed" pockets and backpacks got on the bus. So, in this country, it is now acceptable for the police to barge onto a bus carrying assault rifles (weapons that ordinary citizens can't be "trusted" with) and search everyone because 5 passengers were carrying burritos in their pockets and had backpacks?

I don't even know what to say.

People, wise up! This is exactly what "they" want. They want us to give in to the terror, to the possibility of "something" happening, to the point where we give up our liberty to obtain security. And as Ben Franklin said, if we reach that point, we deserve neither.

It is quite simple, really. It is impossible to secure mass transit in an open society. The only way to secure them is to institute security that is so time intensive as to defeat the purpose of mass transit. So, instead of admitting this fact, we are instituting half-assed measures that do nothing except infringe on our freedoms, all in the name of security.

We have two options: either continue down this road of "heightened security" and give up our liberty without obtaining any real security, or refuse to give in. Refuse these intrusive, pointless, ineffective measures. Refuse to be afraid. Tell the terrorists that we are coming for you, and we will kill you, but until then, we refuse to change our lifestyles around you. You have changed nothing.

As an aside, it is interesting to note what the ACLU has done in response to this. Perry points it out in his post. They've blathered on about Constitutional violations, but have done nothing of substance, such as filing suit. Interesting to note where their apparent loyalties lie. Here is a cut and dried case of civil liberties being violated, and the ACLU is nowhere to be found. But the Pentagon supports the Boy Scouts once every four years, and it is a federal court case.

Purple Heart, haha?

I recently saw the movie Wedding Crashers. Really funny movie. As usual, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn are hilarious. But in the movie, there's a joke about Purple Hearts that I felt was inappropriate. The basic gist of the joke is that if you wear a fake Purple Heart, you will get free drinks at any wedding bar. First, let me say that the joke fell flat in the theater. Almost no one laughed, but it wasn't real noticable because right after that there was a very funny line about balloons or something. Also, the overall theme of the movie was not anti-military or anything like that; it's just stupid Vince Vaughn comedy. So why include this joke?

If the joke was not bad enough, there is New Line Cinema's website. On the movie's website, they include a printable Purple Heart and say that some "really brave dudes had to fight to get this award. You get one for free." Why does anyone think this is remotely appropriate?

The answer, to me, seems to be yet another example in support of the fact that the majority of Hollywood is out of touch with the rest of America in general, and the military in particular. Most people in America (I hope) understand somewhat, at least, what the Purple Heart stands for. It is more than just some "really brave dudes fighting." The Purple Heart is given to those who have shed blood for their country. Everything I have read has stated that even among highly decorated soldiers, two awards stand out from among the rest: the Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Purple Heart. The history of the Purple Heart stretches all the way back to General Washington and the Revolutionary War. And now it is the butt of a joke.

Granted, I understand that this is a comedy movie, and makes fun of pretty much everything and everyone, but this is different. This film has Jewish stereotypes, fine. Irish stereotypes, fine. If the film had had military stereotypes ("Rambo"), fine. But don't make fun of something that is damn near sacred to any member of the military fraternity. Don't mock something that honors those, and only those, who have shed blood for our country.

Update: New Line Cinema pulled the paper Purple Heart from its website.

H/T: PatriotVoices via Mudville Gazette's Dawn Patrol

Afghanistan and al -Qaeda, redux

As many of you may know, I recently had a spirited debate with Matt in the comments of my recent post, "Afghanistan and al-Qaeda." Another commenter named D.J. took exception to some of my ideas, and more importantly, facts. So, in the interests of full disclosure, here is his comment in its entirety.

Whoa. This piece could use some better research, because the thrust of it is based on an essentially faulty understanding of history. As implied, you don't 'understand al-Qaeda fully' because you didn't 'go to the start' of it.

Bin Laden started 'Al-Qaeda' at his guesthouse in Peshawar in the 1980s, not Sudan in the 1990s. Now, taken by itself, this sounds like a fairly innocuous mistake (after all, our bombing of Sudan was the first time many Americans heard of "Al-Qaeda), but for those who have actually studied the history of Afghanistan, it's a very revealing error.

In fact, I can't really explain without telling you the history of Afghanistan and the Mekhtab e Khidamat, which would make for a really, really long comment, so instead I just posted it up on my blog.

Now, I was going to give you the benefit of the doubt here and say that you made this mistake out of ignorance, but after looking at your comments on Eric's blog, it becomes clear that you did some cursory research, just not enough. You mentioned Hekmatyar (whose first name is "Gulbuddin," not "Gul") and Massoud (whose full name is "Ahmad Shah Massoud"--he was named after Durrani, it's not an honorific), but you conveniently ignore the full history of Afghanistan and the mujahideen.

On the other hand, I must agree that we didn't "create" Al-Qaeda, the way many liberals wish to imply, and your mention of the ISI shows that you're not completely ignorant about the matter. I don't know what happened between your excellent comment there and your post here, but something was lost in translation.

You do make some good points about the military campaign in Afghanistan; but if you ask me, bin Laden is probably already dead. No matter, he's much more useful as an Emmanuel Goldstein than an actual fugitive at large.

And now my response:

First, let me address some of the minor details. With regard to the names, I was aware of both of the leaders' full names; I had just seen both of them referred to by those shortened versions in previous texts, so my apologies.

As for the discrepancy over when and where al-Qaeda was formed, I offer this explanation. You are correct in stating that al-Qaeda was officially formed in the Peshawar, when the Afghan civil war was drawing to a close. However, al-Qaeda did not become a real player in the terrorism scene until after Osama sought refuge with the National Islamic Front in Sudan. So, in retrospect, I probably should have used a better choice of words. But I feel my point still stands.

I had a bunch more to say, but will have to say it another time because I've been reading a biography of Col. John Boyd and have finally gotten around to starting a study of the Art of War. In other words, the portion of my brain that I devote to strategic thinking has been working overtime the past couple of days.

Friday, July 22, 2005

SAC Museum

There is a REALLY cool aerospace museum right outside of Omaha, named the Strategic Air & Space Museum. It originally started in 1959, at Offutt AFB as the Strategic Aerospace Museum. Gen. Curtis LeMay provided the vision for the starting of the museum, and over the years, its focus changed to preserving the heritage of the Strategic Air Command, hence the name change to the SAC Museum (which is what I still call it). Up until 1998, the museum was based at small building right outside Offutt AFB; an unused portion of the Offutt tarmac was where most of the aircraft were stored. In 1998, the museum finally had enough money to move to a purpose-built facility outside of Omaha near Mahoney State Park, where the airplanes were able to be stored inside, preventing further deterioration. Later, the museum changed its name to its current one, in light of its expansion (it actually has several aircraft that were a part of TAC, rather than SAC).

Anyway, the whole point of this is that I took a visit to the museum today.

And I took pictures...and blogger now has a hosting service. I have bandwidth to waste.

So here we go...first up is a U-2C, a version of the famous spy-plane that Gary Powers was shot down in.

Next is a view that MiG-15 pilot would hate to see...a look down the throat of an F-86 bearing down.

Here's an excellent shot of one of the Sabre's rivals: an F-84F Thunderstreak, SAC's escort fighter turned tactical nuclear strike fighter.

We'll travel back in time a bit, taking a look at a classic warbird, the B-25. This is actually a B-25N trainer, hence the lack of guns and gun turrets. This airframe used to have some suggestive nose art, along the lines of a "Texas Rose," but they got rid of it when they restored it from its years of outdoor storage. Pity

Here's a stablemate of the Mitchell, albeit one that had a much longer career, spanning a quarter of a century, serving in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and too many third-world brushfire conflicts to count. This particular model of the A-26 unfortunately has its gun ports in the nose covered, because it is a de-gunned version known as the B-26, lacking gun turrets and forward firing machine guns; it probably saw service in Vietnam as an interdictor. While it looks fearsome now, picture it with six .50 machine guns poking out of the nose and festooned with gun turrets.

Closing out our look at WWII aircraft is one that I'm sure most of you are familiar with, the B-17 Flying Fortress. This particular model is a -G variant, with the chin turret. The museum really did a bang-up job on the restoration. It looks like it just came out of the factory.

Jumping a generation, we come to the B-36, one of the (if not the) biggest bomber ever procured by the USAF. Designed in the middle of WWII to be able to launch unrefueled intercontinental bombing raids, it became a white elephant after the USSR improved its air defenses, making its altitude advantage negligable. It changed roles into a strategic reconaissance aircraft, able to map the entire country of Portugal in one pass.

To give you an idea of how big the B-36 is, here's a picture of its landing gear.

Also with the B-36 were two accessories: the shell of a thermonuclear bomb, and the XF-85 Goblin. The Goblin was a parasite fighter designed to be carried on a trapeze in the bomb bay of the B-36, flying off to defend the bomber in enemy territory, and then reattaching to the bomber for a ride home.
The bomb:

And the Goblin:

Bridging the gap between the WWII aircraft and the B-36 is the USAF's first jet powered bomber, the B-45. Too slow and underpowered to be a bomber, it saw service in the RAF over the USSR and in the USAF in North Korea as the RB-45, a tactical recon aircraft. Relatively fast and maneuverable for its size, it stayed in service until the mid-1950s.

The next generation of bomber, after the B-45 and the B-36, is the B-47, America's first swept-wing bomber. It defended America for years, doing everything from standing airborne alert to dodging Soviet fighters on overflights.

Following the Stratojet was the BUFF, still defending our country after over 50 years of service. Cold War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraqi airstrikes, Afghanistan, and Iraq part two.

Joining the B-52 in Vietnam was the B-57, Martin's Americanized version of the British Canberra, their first jet bomber. This airplane has always struck me as having good lines. Judge for yourself.

Now it's time for some missiles. First up is the AGM-129 Shadow, a stealthy, extended range air-launched cruise missile designed for use with America's strategic bomber force.

Then we have the Quail, a decoy missile launched from the B-52 that was designed to mimic the radar signature of a BUFF.

Next to the Quail is something that should look familiar to anyone who served with a BUFF unit during the Cold War. The AGM-86 ALCM is the cruise missile intended for use by the B-52s in the event the Cold War went hot. As it turned out, most of the stocks were depleted in Desert Storm after being re-armed with conventional warheads. A pretty cool looking misile.

An even cooler looking missile is the Hound Dog, a large nuclear armed missile intended for use by B-52s to blow a way through Soviet air defenses.

Jumping from SAC to TAC, we come across the F-101, an interceptor turned tactical recon bird. One of the lesser known of the Century series of fighters.

Keeping with the TAC theme, here's a good picture of a TAC rescue amphibian, the HU-16. The day-glo paint on this bird is very cool, especially since the museum restored it.

A plane most people find ugly, but I find rather nice, is the F-111 Aardvark. This particular model is actually the FB-111, a version built for SAC as a nuclear strike aircraft. Something interesting about the Aardvark is the fact that instead of ejection seats it has an ejection capsule, which you can see next to the aircraft.

To round out the first hangar, we have a Soviet aircraft, the MiG-21. This particular one is painted up in a NVAF paint scheme. It needs a thorough restoration, but still looks nice.

Starting off the second hangar, there's a very nicely restored C-119, with clamshell doors and twin booms. This aircraft is used for sleep-ins with Scout groups and such. The kids actually get to sleep inside the aircraft on bunks.

Another, slightly older, transport aircraft in the museum is the C-47. Should be self explanatory to most of you.

Keeping with the transportation theme, here's an early helicopter, the H-19. This is the forerunner of the UH-34, made famous by its early service in Vietnam.

Going back to TAC, this is a picture of the F-102, a contemporary interceptor of the Voodoo that was shown earlier.

The sole British aircraft in this museum is one of the best that they built, in my opinion. The Avro Vulcan started service in the 1950s as part of the RAF's V-Force. After being replaced by submarine based ICBMs, it faded off into the twilight as a recon bird and tanker, being resurrected for one last hurrah in the Black Buck series of missions against the Falklands after they were invaded by Argentina.
Here's a few:

One of my most favorite aircraft is the B-1. Here's a good picture of the 150,000 pounds of thrust it puts out.

And if that doesn't give you a sense of its power, look at the size of this wing acutator, able to move 70,000 pounds worth of wing.

Finishing everything off, a picture of the excellent display of the SR-71 that greets you as you enter. You can definitely see why this plane got the nickname of Habu (a famous pit viper).

Thursday, July 21, 2005

No news is good news

Yet again, blogs get out the news that media ignores. This time, its in Afghanistan where 23 girls just graduated from high school in Kandahar.

Afghan Warrior has the details.

Independent Judiciary?

I need to respond to some comments made by D.J. about my most recent terrorism post, but I saw this Reuters article on Yahoo and I just had to respond to it, because it shows a high lack of understanding by a Supreme Court Justice.

The article is about some comments made by Justice O'Connor in regard to the independence of the judiciary. According to O'Connor, there is an effort underfoot in the United States to try to reduce the independence of the judiciary. While that may be true to some extent, for some people, I think most simply want to limit the power of a runaway court system. A court system that in the past two months has turned the Fifth Amendment on its head in the Kelo decision, and has written a large part of Kansas' budget by judicial fiat. O'Connor apparently sees nothing wrong with this, even going so far as to try and make a positive example out of the Supreme Court's citing of "international law" in its ruling that capital punishment for juveniles is illegal. The fact that O'Connor even sees fit to bring this up is telling; she obviously does not get it. The use of "international law" is just one in a long laundry list of liberties the judiciary has taken with the Constitution, and with the judiciary's original purpose.

Most of us out here don't want to abolish the independent judiciary. We simply want it to do its job: interpret the laws of this country according to our Constitution. No more, no less.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


I'm back from Colorado. Had a pretty good time, although we had a bit of trouble climbing Mt. Bierstadt on Friday; kinda got caught on the summit by a lightning storm because me and my dad were both too complacent to get our party moving and off the top. Bierstadt has a rather exposed summit, so we had a ways to get down before we were out of the danger zone. It was rather exciting (read: terrifying) for a while, but made up for it on Saturday by having a beautiful day to ascend Quandry Peak. Live and learn, I suppose.

I leave you with this: (HT: Eric)

What Is Your Battle Cry?

Rampaging across the terrain, cutting down all who dare stand in the way using gilded boxing gloves, cometh Mike! And he gives a gutteral bellow:

"I'm going to hump you until you smell like barbeque, then make toast!!!"

Find out!
Enter username:
Are you a girl, or a guy ?

created by beatings : powered by monkeys

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Centennial State

Blogging will be non-existent from now till the weekend, as I am headed to the Centennial State (Colorado) for some hiking and climbing of 14ers with my father and some friends from Scouting.

Should be a good time. See you all on Sunday.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Afghanistan and al-Qaeda

Over at Eric's place, I've gotten into somewhat of a debate with a very nice fella named Matt in this post. The debate has covered four major areas: al-Qaeda's organization, our success/failure in Afghanistan, that success/failure vs. our decision to invade Iraq, and just how much the U.S. is responsible for the creation of al-Qaeda in regard to our support for the Mudjahadeen in the '80s. I'm going to address the first three here, the last one will come later, if at all.

So, first off, al-Qaeda's organization. As I said to Matt, al-Qaeda is a very decentralized organization, especially post-9/11. Too often, many people seem to get the sense that al-Qaeda is a huge, monolithic organization, almost reminiscent of the "terrorists" in Team America. In a large part, this is due to the constant drum-beat in the media of "terrorism, terrorism, terrorism." Al-Qaeda is the catch-all those in the media often use to describe those who carried out some sort of attack. The Millenium attacks? al-Qaeda. 9/11? al-Qaeda. Bali? al-Qaeda. Madrid? al-Qaeda. London? al-Qaeda. In reality, al-Qaeda is much smaller and much less hierarchical than we are often led to believe. In order to understand al-Qaeda fully, we must go to the start. And the start is Sudan, in 1990.

It was here that Osama bin-Laden fled after he was kicked out of Saudi Arabia. And it was here that he first formed al-Qaeda, which translates to "The Base." The name is very indicitive of its early existence, because for most of the early 1990s, al-Qaeda was more of a support group than an actual striking force. One government analyst described it as the "Ford Foundation of terrorism." Various groups would come to bin-Laden and present a plan. If bin-Laden approved, he would give them money to carry out the attack. So for much of its early existence, an al-Qaeda organization hardly existed at all: just leadership (bin Laden, Zawahiri, and a few others) and some foot soldiers to provide disbursement of the money and to collect resources for the organization. However, as the organization became larger, bin-Laden became more interested in actually carrying out attacks. However, even then, the organization was very non-hierarchical. The leadership would come up with an idea for an attack. One or two foot soldiers would then be told the plan and sent to the area of the world where the attack was to be carried out. Here they would meet up with some sort of local extremist group. For example, Abu Sayyaf and MILF (possibly the funniest name for a terrorist group) in the Philippines, Hamas in Israel, GIA in Algeria, several local war-lords in the Horn of Africa, and smaller extremist cells based out of European (or American) mosques. The local extremist group provides the actual man-power to carry out the attacks, while the al-Qaeda "foot soldiers" act as the leaders of the operation. This template has been followed for almost all of the attacks attributed to "al-Qaeda," with the possible exception of 9/11.

Now, post 9/11, al-Qaeda has been forced to become even more decentralized, because of the simple fact that most of its leadership is now on the run. Orders do not necessarily come from the top anymore, with local groups given more authority to act on their own (which isn't to say they didn't do this before 9/11), and those orders are often more vague. A perfect example is the Madrid attacks. While I won't go into the reasons here, there were a lot of ways the attacks could have been deadlier and better coordinated, but were not. I don't think the same people that thought up 9/11 dreamt up this one. (Well, Khalid Mohammed's been captured, but that's beside the point). In addition to this authority, local groups are often required to come up with their own supplies, as appears to have been the case with the recent London attacks. The size of explosives used was rather small, paling in comparison to those used in the Madrid attacks. (Update: check out this NYT story, which somewhat supports my point about London, in regards to both organization and supplies. HT to Cliff May via Instapundit) And this brings me to my next point.

As I stated above, post 9/11, al-Qaeda has become even more decentralized because of the loss of its base, Afghanistan. Matt made a very valid counter-point to this, in that much of Afghanistan is still lawless and probably harboring some al-Qaeda and Taliban. And this is true. But as any counter-terrorism expert will tell you, two things make it much easier for terrorists to operate: a friendly, legitimate government to faciliate international travel and communication, and a friendly area to act as the "rear." Up until 1996, al-Qaeda had the former in Sudan. They had use of Sudan's diplomatic pouches to send materials, and more importantly, use of their passports to travel. After bin-Laden was expelled from the country in '96, he fled to Afghanistan, which became the organization's secure, "rear" area. Here is where they could conduct training in relative impunity, and here is where leadership could meet, relatively securely, to plan. After our invasion, the organization lost this as well. Yes, Osama might very well be hiding in some cave on the Pakistani border, but he isn't in regular communication with his leadership or operatives, and he definitely isn't doing much planning.

But the fact still remains that we haven't captured him. While more of a symbolic victory than anything else, it would still be a victory, especially in the propaganda war. So this begs the question: did we send enough troops to Afghanistan? First, it must be said that we must separate politics from the military. The military makes plans based on what the politicians ask for. While the politicians do have some say in what the plan will look like, and have the ultimate say in what plan is implemented, the planners at the Pentagon do the actual planning. In the case of Operation Enduring Freedom, the first plan the Pentagon came up with was the "play it safe" plan they had been sending to the Clinton administration for years: send in several infantry divisions, supported by armor, with an extremely large support footprint. The military, unfortunately, has some parts that are risk averse; the Pentagon is one of the largest. To anyone with a knowledge of history, this plan was asinine. For starters, on a specific country-size level, this plan would not work. Afghanistan has been previously invaded twice in its history, the first by the British, the second by the Soviets. Both times the invaders entered the country with large numbers of conventional forces, and both times they were driven out in defeat after having been bled dry by a guerilla war. So history, the terrain, and the composition of the enemy made it clear that U.S. forces would be fighting a guerilla campaign. Time and time again it has been proven that conventional forces do not work against a guerilla campaign. The way to defeat a guerilla campaign is to fight fire with fire. You need small numbers of highly trained troops (special ops units, in other words) that are able to act as force multipliers among local units. The last thing you want is a bunch of tanks surrounded by infantry columns trundling around the mountains. And that is the kind of a plan the Pentagon came up with, after prodding by the administration. In short, the argument that we sent too few troops comes up short. While it would seem logical that more troops = greater chance for success, this is only true in a conventional campaign, fighting a uniformed enemy on actual set battlefields. When fighting someone who blends into the population just as easily as they blend into the terrain, you need fewer troops. More simply gum things up and present a bigger target.

It would appear that the invasion of Iraq took little, if anything, away from the fight in Afghanistan, at least from a military point of view. (Public attention and politics is a different story). But still, there is a persistent question, asked this time by Matt: why invade a country with a secular dictator who was actually suppressing groups like al-Qaeda? Well, setting aside the fact that hatred of a common enemy can make for strange bed-fellows (as articulated by Robert and Eric), there is a larger issue at play, as Eric alludes to at the beginning of his post. Al-Qaeda is just one symptom of a larger problem plaguing the Middle East, a problem that is caused by people like Saddam Hussein. The problem is a combination of things: lack of political representation, often due to an oppressive government, compounded with a stagnant economy and booming birthrates has produced a generation with a lot of young Arab men who are unemployed, unheard, and angry about it. Because of their oppressive, non-representative government, they are often forced to turn to religion as an outlet. Too many of these young men are being converted to Wahhabi style Islamism. What is the solution? Obviously, getting rid of the oppressive government and, in time, the stagnant economy. After all, what would you rather be doing? Beating yourself with chains, reading the Koran in your free time, and ultimately blowing yourself up, or buying a new car and marrying a lovely wife after successfully starting your new business made possible by your country's new rule of law? Hyperbole, I know, but still, the question is relevant. So, if "democratization" (a slightly misleading phrase, as Brad points out) is the key, there is still the nagging question of why Iraq was chosen. Simply put, it was the best with respects to reasons for war, and ease in invading. While Syria would have probably been easier to invade and pacify, the case for war was not nearly as strong as Iraq's. The converse is true for Iran.

So, to summarize, al-Qaeda is still on the run, Afghanistan was a good call, and Iraq was an even better one.

Have fun with those returned comments...I think they might get a little bit of use on this one.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Work Zone, again

Sorry 'bout the lack of comments. A friend of mine and I were trying to figure out how to add this nice left sidebar for the LLP blogroll. We figured that out (after several attempts), but in the process we apparently killed haloscan. Don't worry, everything is still on the haloscan servers. I should have everything back to normal by tomorrow...I hope. Anyway, no posting tonight for a variety of reasons, the least of which is that I'm wiped from moving 14 tons of riverrock today.

Oh, but before I go, here's what our first attempt looked like:

Update: Looks like I fixed the problem. Apparently, we managed to delete the haloscan script. Not quite sure how we managed that one (or why it took me so long to find such a simple error), but anyway, comments are back up, so feel free to comment away!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Constitution? What's that?

Andy McCarthy has an excellent column up over at NRO about a recent Post op-ed written by Ted Kennedy that dealt with the upcoming SCOTUS nomination battle. Andy provides just one more example of how our Constitution has been twisted beyond recognition by some in order to further their agendas. Kennedy's op-ed is only the latest instance.

New Milblogger!

While there have been several additions to the blogroll recently (more on that later, after I get done making all of my additions), I wanted to highlight one blog in particular. Ghraib Danger is the blog of an Air Force JAG stationed at FOB Abu Ghraib. The author, David, is actually a pseud0-relative of mine. His family was close to my mom's family growing up in their small town; at family gatherings, we still keep tabs on him and his brothers and sisters. Anyway, a lot of good stuff here, ranging from what exactly it is he does, to a heart-warming encounter with a couple of Iraqi boys on a basketball court, and another one regarding two expatriate translators, to finally, the inevitable stories about life on the FOB. From having the toilet seat in the Johnny on the Job so hot he couldn't take a dump to being told by a Colonel's PSD on a trip outside the gate that "If the shit hits the fan while we're out here, my job is to get the COL to safety, so if you don't beat us back to the SUV, you're on your own. It's nothing personal.", it's all there. Just keep on scrolling. Also, make sure to check out the comments...Uncle Stevie tends to have some pretty good ones; some of his recent are about mooning two cows on a run to get back to reality, and telling his only "shit story": taking a dump off a moving combine in Montana back in '72. Like I said, pretty good comments.

What are you waiting for? Go check him out!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Back in the K.S.S.R.

I know I promised a "why I love America" post for today, but that will be coming later. Right now I have to delve into an issue that is another crack in our Constitution and another victory for socialism.

As you may or may not have seen in Sunday's paper, there is a crisis of government brewing in the fair state of Kansas. As the end result of a years old education lawsuit battle, the State Supreme Court has threatened to issue a court order prohibiting the funding of public schools, effectively preventing them from opening in the fall. How did things get to this point? For this, we have to go back many years, to the early 1990's.

Johnson County, KS, is an affluent county. As a suburb of Kansas City, it has a large tax base and is what you would describe as upper middle class. So it should come as no surprise that in the booming economy of the '90s, Johnson County felt that it should take some of that money and invest it in its future; namely, raise taxes and institute a special extra property tax for the express purpose of raising the funds available to its school district. The school district (surprisingly) actually used the funds appropriately and efficiently, and the Johnson School District became one of the best, if not the best, in the state.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are school districts in western Kansas; two, specifically. The school districts of Salina and Dodge City are located in rural areas. Their tax base is small in relation to larger, more urban districts, and the school districts are slowly but surely dying. In response to this, the districts did what anyone in America would do when they are under the gun: they sued. Alleging that the state failed to provide their students with an adequate education, parents and students of these two school districts brought suit against the state government in 1999. Behind all the smoke, mirrors, and rhetoric is this simple fact: the lawsuit was brought because the rural districts didn't think it was fair that larger, more affluent areas got to decide how much of their larger amount of money they wished to spend on education. The rural districts argued that everyone should be made equal; that regardless of their means, each school district should only be allowed to spend the same number of dollars per pupil. Does this principle sound familiar to anyone?

Here's the kicker: despite this stipulation that spending per pupil needed to remain somewhat equal, the taxes would not. Each individual county would need to keep contributing the approximate same amount of money to the state budget for education. Now, the court did strike down the extra taxes of the type levied in Johnson County, but even with that "relief," many counties in Kansas are going to have higher property taxes than the rural counties, and even those urban counties that do not are still going to be paying more, because (obviously) they are more affluent and have higher property values, more income, etc. So in addition to enforced equality, we have another tenet of socialism: income redistribution. Oh, and did I mention that several of these rural counties operate meat-packing plants, which creates a much higher level of "bilingual" (read: Mexican) students? I bring this point up not to be racist, but because the Court cited it as another reasoning for its decision.

So that's the socialism part of the story. Now, for the rest of it. In addition to declaring extra taxes for the sole purpose of raising education revenue illegal and decreeing that state education funding will be evenly distributed among school districts, the State Supreme COURT went so far as to set exact spending levels for education in the state. Originally, it ordered an additional $258 million, an increase of 10%, and held out the possibility that it would order an additional $568 million in the 2006-2007 school year. Now, it has ordered that the state bring its funding up an additional $143 million, to the $258 million mark, and that the state does need to come forth with the additional $568 million for next year. This money, of course, will either come from much higher taxes (greater penalizing the more affluent areas yet again) or from cuts in other parts of the budget (which will at least penalize everyone equally). Without either of these two courses of action, the state will be, in effect, bankrupt.

While I understand that courts issue orders all the time, in effect making law and enforcing the "law" of its rulings, I cannot recall any other time where a court has gone this far. An unelected cabal of judges is literally setting the state's education budget for the year. Just one more step on the way to statists uber alles. For the hell of it, since no one seems to do this nowadays, I took a look at the Kansas Constitution to see if it would have any application here. Lo and behold, I think it does. Article II, Section 24: " No money shall be drawn from the treasury except in pursuance of a specific appropriation made by law." Now, I need a legal eagle to help me out here. Does "made by law" refer only to the actions of a legislature? If so, it would appear that the Kansas Supreme Court is flagrantly violating its own Constitution, not that it matters a damn.

As for where the case stands now, the state legislature is frantically working to find a fix to the problem. Ideas like a Constitutional amendment have been kicked around, but the conventional wisdom seems to be that the legislature is just going to have to suck it up and obey the court's fiat.

For more on the situation, in addition to the AP article I linked to at the beginning of this post, go here, (registration required) to a Kansas City Star article on the issue, and here for a good round-up of the situation at freerepublic; it was written in early June, so its a big outdated, but provides a very comprehensive review of the situation up to that point.

For those of you wondering why I seem to know and care so much about the state of Kansas, its because I'm a Kansan at heart. My parents both grew up and attended college there (go Wildcats!) and most of my extended family lives in the northeastern part of the state. Speaking of family, I owe a big hat tip to my Uncle Mark for explaining the situation to me today. Any errors are, of course, mine.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Cutting and Running

I've addressed this topic before here in regards to some comments made by Senator Chuck Hagel, but a recent comment by Alice over at this post at Libertopia has driven me to revisit it.

The subject is cutting and running; pulling up shop and pulling out. As Alice alludes to, it has happened relatively few times in American history because Americans, for better or worse, love a winner. We love to win and won't accept defeat. Our record in military action bears that out. We are 11-2-2, with the losses being Vietnam and Somalia, and the ties being Korea and the War of 1812. Is this pigheadedness responsible for needless deaths? Alice would have us believe that it is, implying that if we had left Vietnam earlier, many lives would have been saved, which is a valid point. However, an even more valid point is that the Vietnam War could have been ended in 1965, with minimal U.S. troop involvement. To digress for a moment, the reason Vietnam turned into the quagmire that it was is not competence on the part of the enemy, or the failure of U.S. tactics and weapons. The issue is the failure of our strategic vision due to political interference by McNamara and LBJ. Through the continued application of airpower in the North, the Vietnamese could have been deterred from ever escalating the war. This hypothesis is borne out by the effect the 1972 Christmas bombings had on the North. But that seems like a topic for another post; possibly to be discussed in the comments if you wish.

To get back on topic, the point here is that using Vietnam as a posterchild for the "get out now and save lives" argument is a false one, as Vietnam still could have been won at any time up until 1975 if we had simply been willing to apply airpower for an extended period of time. The fact that airpower was never used is a failure of political and strategic means, not tactical and military. The bottom line is that yes, getting out early would have "saved lives," in the literal sense. But it still has the same end result: the failure of U.S. foreign policy in SE Asia, the burgeoning of Soviet power abroad, the loss of credibility of the U.S. with our allies, and most importantly, the abandonment of millions to re-education camps and firing squads.

So you ask, why did LBJ conduct the war this way? After all, if Americans supposedly love a winner, why would one conduct a war in such a way that would make it more difficult to win? One major reason, obviously, was the strength of the "anti-war" movement. I wonder, do those who opposed U.S. victory in SE Asia truly understand the ramifications of their actions? I doubt it. History provides a sobering lesson for those who wish to support the troops by brining them home...NOW. Their "support" of the troops in this way only caused the soldiers' sacrifices to be in vain.

But, you say, Vietnam isn't a good example. South Vietnam didn't have a government supported by the people, North Vietnam is stronger than you make them out to be, you are simply an idiot who still believes in Douhet and Mitchell when it comes to airpower. (I do, but that's a story for another day; for that matter, $5 and a cookie to any of my readers, other than the sky jocks, who know who Douhet and Mitchell were.) Anyway, while I disagree with those statements, I say fair enough and offer up exhibit B.

Mogadishu, Somalia, 1993. As many of you well know, the country has been consumed by famine. Warlords rule, and use food shipments as a weapon. A U.N. force is inserted, led by 20,000 Marines, to restore order and allow aid to pass, unrestricted, to the people. Following success, the Marines are withdrawn, and the warlords resume their activities. U.S. special forces are deployed to curtail the warlords and try to get the country to return to some semblance of civilization. The events depicted in the excellent book and movie Black Hawk Down happened, and the U.S. withdrew all forces within weeks.

The reason I bring this up is not the massive geopolitical ramifications the withdrawal had; it had none. Our involvement was of a strictly humanitarian nature. The point here is to illustrate a serious problem with the "support the troops by brining them home" argument. To digress, again, for a minute, I was watching a documentary on the events of that October day. At the end, several of the interviewees were asked if they were mad for the deaths of their comrades. They all answered, to a man, that the deaths of their buddies would not have been as painful if they had meant something. By cutting and running before our mission was completed, we spat upon the graves of those who died attempting that mission. We are telling their families that their sons', husbands' and fathers' deaths were in vain, that their sacrifice meant nothing. That in all honesty, the fact that they fought and died in a country far from home didn't change anything; they could not have gone, and the end result would have been the same.

Simply put, think about this the next time you hear some one say that they support the troops but don't support their mission. How would you feel if someone told you that they support you individually, as an employee, but that the work you do is crap and the company you work for is evil?

Reasonable people can have differences about U.S. policy in Iraq; reasonable people can have differences about whether we should have invaded in the first place. But you cannot claim to support the troops without supporting their current mission.