Imperial Requiem

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Al Qaeda and a straw man arguement

Tigerhawk (, a fellow blogger, attended a lecture by Michael Doran, who's an assistant professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton (was overlooked last year for tenure because, ostensibly, he didn't follow their academic mantra. Sigh). Read the article at the above link, it's really good.

I do have some points of contention with it, however. I think that Al Qaeda does indeed have a "long term strategy" for dealing with the anti-muslim forces inside and outside of the greater Middle East. But I think their view of it is flawed, and largey consists of building a straw man arguement. They fight modernity, but they don't really bother to understand modernity. In short, they make great use of technology when it benefits them, but they don't really see how it affects the greater scale of things. They don't see how teaching the youth of Iraq and Afghanistan higher end jobs will change their cultures and economies. They don't see the nation-state concept that exists today as a true construct, and they ultimately dismiss Egyptians for Egyptians and Iraqis for Iraqis (Doran makes that point, but only so far). The governments of modern Middle East (well, prior to 9/11 in most cases) were repressive and held all the keys to the economy, technology and communications. They were the reason that the muslim world is down the educational chute. It has nothing to ultimately do with the muslim religion, or the overall cultures of the region. It has everything to do with backwards regimes trying to keep power for just a little bit longer, and using the faucet of radical Islam against the west as a convienient way to keep the repression that they need, going. What better way to keep the people away from Microsoft than to tell them that Microsoft is evil? (ok, no laughing folks. Windows is evil, but that's besides the point)

What happens when those repressive governments go away? In the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, what happens when their constituencies are given alternatives to autocratic rule- a real chance at a middle class, entreprenurial chances, and a real education system? Plus, as Doran noted, what happens when radical Islam clashes with the local views on Islam? Shiites, Afghanis, and Kurds rejected that ideology. Al Qaeda's allies don't even follow that mantra- Ba'athists are secular in concept, after all. And the Saudis are pragmatists. I think they realized that the oil industry will be changing dramatically over the next 30 years (Iraq and ANWR are just parts of that) and that it would be best NOT to piss off an America which no longer views Riyadh as a strategic interest, but a liability.

And the Western culture was brought TO them, rather than kept at a distance, like before 9/11, and make the West to be some mythical boogeyman who they don't really get to see, and ever get a chance to view through anything but a skewed camera. Americans are involved actively in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they can see firsthand westerners. Businesses are establishing contacts. They're getting new avenues of media (please, for the love of all that is holy, can they NOT get American Idol?!), as well. The West is no longer a mythical boogeyman. Americans are a part of their lives, now.

Ultimately, what Al Qaeda has is a straw man arguement. Their strategy in basis is sound, because they realize that they won't be able to win a quick victory over the west, even in the middle east. But they presume that the West will get themselves into a quagmire inside the Middle East, and that it would become too expensive for the West to stay......and then the Middle East would be ripe for Al Qaeda's picking. It presumes far too much that the Americans will follow their script, and will essentially roll over and die when they are told to. It presumes that technology, education, and democratic nationalism won't have as much of an effect in the short or long term. It requires far too much of a static situation on the ground other than repeated insurgencies throughout the Middle East (which has already proven to be a waste of time against American forces). We're already seeing a sea change in how the Middle East views the west- democracy is making inroads throughout the Middle East. Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Egypt to one extent or the other, have embraced some form of democracy, or will be shortly. And the greatest victory of Al Qaeda since 9/11 was in Madrid, not the Middle East. They failed in Shahikot. They failed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. They failed in Najaf. They failed in Fallujah. And they failed in the elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, spectacularly.

No plan ever survives encounter with the enemy, as the old saying goes. Al Qaeda just learned that the hard way. Don't expect your opposition to play the tune that you ask them to dance to. Al Qaeda is learning from their mistakes, but it remains to be seen if they can ultimately get around finding other ways of changing the situation on the ground. I don't think they will, and I think that in 10 years Al Qaeda will really be a spent force. Islamia Jemmiayh and Abu Sayyaf will remain around longer, and eventually, Indonesia will become a new front in the War on Terror, but the rest of the Middle East will most likely not be a factor- unless they choose to tell Indonesia to knock it off.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Why fight the West?

In doing some thinking, how often in the past few hundred years has the Western Culture been actually defeated, in pitched battle, with a non-western culture? I'm definitely on a Victor Davis Hanson vibe here- but my thinking is slightly different. I want an actual ratio of victories/defeats, rather than just examples of victories. I'm debating how far back I should go- to the Roman era? Or to the Pax Britannica era?

If I go with Pax Britannica era theres:
Isandlwana (Zulu Wars)
Chillianwalla (2nd Sikh War 1848-1949)
Little Big Horn (Plains Wars, Custer's Last Stand)
Adowa (Italy in Abyssinia)
Russo-Japanese War(1904-1905)
Pearl Harbor (1941)
Singapore (1941)
Dienbienphu (1954)
Franco-Algerian War (1954-1962)

An asides: I'm sure I don't have all of it listed, and if I don't please don't hesistate to let me know. I don't consider the Vietnam War to be an American defeat; the Americans never lost a battle against the Viet Minh and their NVA counterparts. You can thank the American media for their coverage of that war for the assumption of an American defeat. And the Israelis never lost in Lebanon, either. It was a political decision to leave in the late 1990's, which had little to do with the acutal military situation on the ground, which was largely static. Only the Palestinian terrorists turned it into a PR coup (which, btw, they do frequently to pretend that they actually did something). And Mogadishu was an American victory, as well. They achieved their objectives, despite having no armor and artillery. It was a mistake for the Islamofacists to bother copying the hit and run tactics of Mogadishu; the Israelis and Americans now only attack in urban situations with overwhelming force, or in precision raids that have local overwhelming force.

As one can note, the major victories are largely Japanese, and for good reason. The Japanese followed the west in their military planning and culture. They weren't afraid of building a military capable of fighting the west on their terms, and exploiting stupid mistakes by western commanders. Otherwise, in nearly all the other conflicts, the western commanders and political leaders made arrogant mistakes that lead to their downfalls. They underestimated their opposition, and essentially created their own defeats. If this is what the non-west can do against the west, why the hell did the Islamofacists bother attacking the United States? This isn't to say that there won't be setbacks in the War on Terror (there will be, like Madrid), but by and large, at the end of the day, the result will be the same as it was in nearly every other war that the west lost a battle in. The Zulu nation was defeated; the Sikhs were defeated; the Plains Indians were defeated; the Abyssinians were defeated in 1935-36; and the Japanese were defeated in 1945. Only the French never followed up on their military defeats in French Indochina (and the Americans did militarily defeat the Vietnamese; the media never let the homefront know about it) and in Algeria. Thus, Bin Laden and his cronies elsewhere in the greater Middle East will evnetually join a very long list of non-western cultures that have ended up on the ash heap of history by making the very stupid mistake of fighting the west.

And btw, before I get someone yapping at me about colonialism, I do not support any of the colonial wars in any way, shape, or form. I'm being an objective historian, so knock the PC crap off.

ANWR finally gets passed

ANWR, the proposed plan to drill for oil in the Alaskan National Wildlife refuge area, has finally been passed by the Senate, 51-49. About time that they got around to doing this. Sure, it'll take some 10 years to get oil really coming from ANWR, but that's 10 years of investments, construction, and a partial redesigning of the economics of oil for the United States. In 10 years, there will be oil for the United States coming from ANWR, Afghanistan, and Iraq. That means that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Venezeuela, and others will find themselves adrift in a wholly new game. OPEC will be a thing of the past- at least as it's currently constituted. It would be a VERY smart thing for Mubarak to go ahead with his democratization plans NOW, and not play any stalling game. Why? Because in roughly 10 to 15 years his country will be losing money and would have to seriously cut back on it's programs and gov't spending in order to survive. They'll need innovation and leadership in order to do that. In an ossified dicatorship that Mubarak has provided them with, that would be next to impossible. In a democracy, that would seem feasible. And as for Saudi Arabia, they need to do more than just go towards democracy- they need to kill the funding that the Wahabi sect of Islam is putting forth for the terrorists. If they don't do that now, they'll find themselves as the playthings of the terrorists- and the process would be reversed: the terrorists would be funding the Saudis to keep pumping their propaganda. The Saudis know full well how easily the United States defeated the Taliban and Hussein's Iraq. They don't want to be next.

So, here's to more oil!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Harvard Follies

I'm not on the up and up with all the story, but I know the basics of the Larry Summers vs. Harvard Faculty situation. Suffice to say, the recent news bothers me (,2933,150549,00.html), but its one of those things that kinda HAS to happen. Harvard has exposed themselves to the mainstream of America, and America is going to find them to be giant idiots. If they fire Summers, they're seen as intolerant academics who don't care for free speech and real divergence in viewpoints; if they don't fire him, they'll be seen as incompetent and toothless academics. And also intolerant. But, the long term effects of the whole ordeal will be that Harvard will lose alot of it's luster, and will get hurt in their funding and recruitment. If you're a potential recruit for Harvard, what will the effect of a intolerant academic climate mean to you? Simple: go somewhere else. I've been to more than a few colleges so far, in my academic studies, and there's generally alot of freedom to talk about different topics, without fear of any reprisals or harsh recrimination.

Here's some blogger links to the story- check them out, they do better commentary than I do, on this:
Instapundit: (lots of links for the subject)
Powerline: (WFB quote. 'nuff said)
Lubos Motls: (might be the most comprehensive of the Harvard sites. And Bravo to him for standing up for common sense)

Friday, March 11, 2005

Sgrena: How much of a liar?

By now most folks know about the basic story about the Italian Journalist, Guiliana Sgrena, and her events in Iraq. To recap, she was abuducted by terrorists in Iraq, and an Italian secret agent went to free her (with, presumably, a ransom payment). But then, her accusations were that US troops fired on her car, and killed the agent, and wounded her. She claimed that the US soldiers were out to kill her, because, well, they're US soldiers! Gasp! They kill baby seals for fun! Oh, the humanity! And of course, the leftist media in Europe ate her words up without bothering to do any fact checking.

And now her whole story is collapsing around her. First, only an idiot would try to run through a US checkpoint in Iraq- on one of the most dangerous roads in Iraq. And the American soldiers would have given fair warning that there A) was a checkpoint upcoming and B) followed the rules of engagement. Sgrena's statements were that there were "300-400 bullet holes in the car" and that she "was able to pick up bullets that fell into backset with her hands". Firstly, if American troops were to fire that many bullets at her- she'd be deader than dead. Secondly, if they wanted to kill her.....why is she alive and well, having been sent to a hospital by American soldiers? And thirdly, why have pictures of her car ( (hat tip: Jawa Report and House of Wheels) shown that it's pretty much NOT shot up? There are a few bullet holes in it.....but not many. And then Sgrena goes and changes her story, saying that American soldiers fired at her from the REAR of the car (I guess she saw the pictures herself, and realized that she's full of crap, so she changed her story).....which would either indicate A) that she's just making this up as it goes by or B) whoever was in the car completely blew the checkpoint, and chucked the rules of engagement out the window ( hat tip: Captain Ed's). Apparently, the US troops had NO foreknowledge of the resuce attempt (or the whole ransom issue, but I'll get to that), and all they saw was an unmarked car barrelling down on them on one of the most dangerous highways in Iraq.

And at Captain Ed's blog (also above link), there are also reports that the Italian military in Iraq didn't even know about the rescue attempt. It could be for multiple reasons:
- they didn't want the Americans to know about the ransom
- they didn't want to let the Italian military know about the ransom (they'd have pressured to do a REAL rescue attempt)
- Someone screwed up in the negotiations for her release, and forgot to tell the chain of command (American AND Italian) what was going on.

The folks at the Jawa Report ( are speculating that Sgrena was never kidnapped. And that the whole thing was an elaborate ruse to throw a monkey wrench into the Italian and American efforts in Iraq. Sgrena has certainly tried to do that since the event. I don't know if the speculation will pan out, but it does raise alot of good questions.
1. Sgrena went to Iraq to present an anti-American view of the war, and the American military.
2. Sgrena all but admitted that she'd search out for the terrorists, and get their stories.
3. The kidnappers of Sgrena were unknowns, with a name that doesn't jive with the normal names for terrorist groups (Mujahedeen without Borders?!?!?!).
4. Sgrena's kidnapping "just happened" to take place when she was on the cell phone with another reporter.
5. Much of the info about her abduction and clash with American forces have come from sympathetic colleagues and friends, who are not considered unbiased sources.
6. Sgrena was released a month to the day of her capture.
7. Why in the hell would Berlusconi pay ransom money out of his own pockets for a rabid anti-American communist reporter?
8. Why didn't the American and Italian military commanders know about the rescue attempt?
9. Why did Calipari- the agent- use an unmarked car that offered no protection and identification markings- knowing that they were going into a hostile area?
10. Why did the terrorists warn Sgrena about the "Ameircans wanting to kill her"? Do terrorists normally give their victims such consideration?
11. Why does Sgrena's story keep changing? And the American story does not?
12. Why was Calipari's body flown directly to Italy for a state funeral? Was there ever an autopsy (I think there wasn't)?

It would not suprise me if the Italian government was hoodwinked into paying millions of dollars for what may well turn out to be a fake abduction. And that the Italian government knew it was fake, and tried to cover it up. Calipari may well have gone to extradite Sgrena from Iraq, and either A) the mission blew up when they ran into the American checkpoint, B) Sgrena knew that Calipari had uncovered the truth about the abduction, and staged a attack on their car, and then set the Americans up for the blame.

This is, of course, pure speculation. But there are enough holes in Sgrena's story that you can bet top dollar that SOMETHING fishy is going on here. She's already proven to be a liar multiple times, and her motives are pretty clear. At the rate that the story is unraveling, we'll get to the bottom of it sooner rather than later.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Baseball's here!

Spring training is in the air, and all's right with the world. The Pirates and the Royals have equal chances to win the World Series, as the Yanks, Cardinals, and Red Sox have. At least, for now, until the season begins.

At least this will tide me over, until the regular season begins. Lord knows, I've been in withdrawal since the Super Bowl. There's no NHL, and the NBA sucks these that left me awaitin' for Baseball. Rejoice, for spring is here!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Nut shot to European Appeasers

And I thought I was harsh! This is by Mathias Dopfner, in an editorial from Die Welt (one of the larger German newspapers), and it spares no scorn for Old Europe. Here's a link (free):, and here's a snippet:

While the alleged capitalistic robber barons in American know their priorities, we timidly defend our social welfare systems. Stay out of it! It could get expensive. We'd rather discuss the 35-hour workweek or our dental health plan coverage. Or listen to TV pastors preach about "reaching out to murderers." These days, Europe reminds me of an elderly aunt who hides her last pieces of jewelry with shaking hands when she notices a robber has broken into a neighbor's house. Europe, thy name is cowardice.

Read all of it, it's good stuff. Europe is like a old, beaten up, and washed out boxing contender. They're tired, and don't want to lift a finger to save themselves. Would be a shame, if they could bother to let me give a damn.

Who's Out of Touch?

There are two groups out there who are completely out of touch with reality. The first is the obvious one- the dictators of the greater Middle East. Well, the remaining ones, at least. The second are the leftists who can't see the forest for the trees (not that they ever did. But they do like the trees, at least in principle- Could someone tell Greenpeace that the pine cone air freshener smell went out of vouge in the 1970s?).

With the Middle Eastern dictators- Bashar Assad takes the cake. At least the mullahs in Iran are realizing that they're between a rock and a hard place. They're looking to curry favor with Europe, China, and Russia before they do anything else. Its smart compared to what Syria's been up to. The assassination of Hariri in Lebanaon, and the Syrian-backed Tel Aviv bombings are the actions of a brain dead intelligence service, that doesn't realize how dramatically things have changed on the ground. There were very successful elections in Iraq, and there were even semi-free elections in Saudi Arabia (it's a start, I'll give them that). And Hosni Mubarak has ordered the Egyptian Constitution to be changed, to allow for single, secret ballots for presidential elections in Egypt (that might have to do with the growing anti-Mubarak sentiment in his country. Anyone think he wants to end up like Hussein?). In the two weeks since the assassination, the Syrians must know by now that they've bungled badly. It's lit a united front of anti-Syrian Druze, Christian, and Sunni Lebanese against the pro-Syrian gov't in Lebanon, and the Syrian army (plus Hizbullah) in Lebanon. They've gotten a resignation of the Lebanese cabinet in one fell swoop, and have gotten the Syrians to leave ASAP. I don't believe for one second that the Syrians MEAN to leave anytime soon. They're just trying to buy time, to wait for the dust to settle and reassert themselves. I don't think they'll have that luxury. Either the Lebanese anti-Syrians or the American lead coalition (in Iraq) will force the issue. I'd rather see it end peacefully, and see Assad step down quietly from Syria. I DONT want to see a repeat of Tiannamen. Alot of folks don't want to see the Israeli army sitting in Damascus either, but that might be a welcome alternative. But the bottom line is, is that Syria is the poster boy for stupid dictatorial pet tricks. They're so behind the times that their usual "blame it on the zionists! And their American overlords!" schtick isn't sticking. Even in Palestine......where no one was apparently happy with the Tel Aviv bombing.

Then there are the leftists. They are at least admitting that there is a change in the world, that democracy is coming to the Middle East......but they don't want to admit HOW or WHY it is there. There's a New York Times Editorial ( - that's a free link to it, via Roger L Simon) that all but sings the praises of Bush's foriegn policy (ie; Democracy or die) while never admitting that it was Bush, or the Iraq war, that gave us the current domino effect. At least they're admitting that Bush was right, but they're far behind the ball on this (and maybe, just maybe the whole Valerie Plame situation has them praying to GOD that Bush doesn't sue them for all they're worth). Same with Ed Kilgore ( writing in TalkingPoints Memo. He admits that the Lebanese situation is good, but just wants to paint Bush as being lucky to be in office when everything's gone down. Nice of them to miss the Lebanese opposition directly referencing Bush and the Iraq war/election as reason #1 for being able to have their Cedar Revolution. Same goes for Jon Stewart for pulling the same stunt. And then there's the article of Matt Yglesias (got it at NRO: where they still haven't stopped laughing) where Mr. Yglesias goes on to pooh pooh Lebanon as not being all that important to American interests. What, that its a giant middle finger to Syria doesn't count? And that this will infinitely make Israeli security easier, with the eventual death of Hizbollah? These guys are at least paying attention to the news, lest they get egg on their face (at least at a further rate than they already DO have). But by ignoring Bush, or his foriegn policy, they're still not understanding the key elements that are at play here. They don't want to give up their motherload arguement- that the Iraq War was illegal! War Crimes! Torture! Bush is a Terrorist! blah blah blah- and realize that they've been playing with the wrong deck of cards all along. They remain petty as hell, and are still putting their hands over their ears like a bunch of arrogant children. This isn't to say that the march to democracy in the greater middle east is going to be a cakewalk- far from it- but this is to say that far too many just don't seem to care about others. And that's the problem with leftists (the majority of the Democratic Party these days), they just want power, and they don't care who gets in their way. If the Lebanese mean more power for Bush- the hell with 'em. If the Iraqis mean more power for Bush- the hell with 'em. If Americans mean more power for Bush- the hell with 'em, too.

I have a better idea for the Democrats, and their far leftist leaders. See that dodo? Follow it.


Sorry I've been way for a bit, had personal, college, and work stuff to attend to.

Shall be blogging more often, now.