This story is the most hopeful I've heard out of Northeast Asia in a while. I'd say this is the case for optimism: that US power in the region is collapsing, but that security vis. the DPRK might be maintained by an evolving coalition of regional powers. From the standpoint of nuclear terrorism, this is still insufficient--but it's hopeful, at least. No other scenario has been that.
From The Agonist:

"2:25 CST A report from a journalist embedded within the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division indicates that the division has pinned down Iraqi troops against the Euphrates River and is pummeling them with heavy artillery and air strikes. The unidentified Iraqi forces are most likely elements of the 11th Iraqi Division. CENTCOM reported earlier March 22 that the 3rd Infantry had captured An Nasiriyah and a bridge across the Euphrates to the west. It is unclear which side of the river the battle is taking place. It also was unclear what time the journalist filed the report.via Stratfor."

You heard it here yesterday.
Vandenberg Air Force Base:

For a while now we've been hearing about anti-war protestors who want to infiltrate the Vandenburg Air Force base near Santa Cruz. Vandenberg is apparently a major staging area for targeting and communications operations for the US military as a whole. Infiltrators hope to engage in sabotage operations, which they can do even if they are caught: military "force protection" protocols may require a lockdown of some secure areas if infiltrators are discovered. The idea is to disrupt military communications and operations at a time when troops are in the field.

A lot can be said about that. Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is this: It is precisely the advanced communications that have allowed this war to limit noncombatant casualties as much as it has. The "decapitation" strike we saw in the early minutes of the war show that plainly. Because of our communications capabilities, there is more of that kind of intelligence that is "actionable"--that is, intelligence that you can actually use for military targeting. Thus, a carefully aimed stroke against the murderous leaders of Iraq was possible. Without such communications, we're back to carpet-bombing in the hope of getting our boy.

Protestor Maia Ramnath completely fails to understand this. She says, "If our actions at Vandenberg succeed in delaying or disrupting the use of the world�s most formidable arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, in the conduct of a blatantly imperialist war, then we will have acted in good faith, in the interests of the human race." Leaving aside the questions of weapons of mass destruction and imperialism, the fact is that she's acting directly against the interests of the human race, and most especially of the noncombatant citizens of Iraq. By raising the intelligence bar for the US military, she not only endangers the lives of her bravest countrymen, but also the people she thinks she's protecting. Her actions do nothing to protect Iraqi citizens, but rather endanger them: those actions do, though, protect the generals and leaders of the Iraqi regime.

I have a different beef with Elden Boothe, but it is a smaller one. He, protesting the Vandenberg AF Base's policy that infiltrators may be subject to shoot-to-kill orders by base security. "The only time a law-enforcement official should shoot is when his life is in danger," Boothe said. "We are in the peace movement. We are not going to endanger anyone. . . . I suppose they could shoot you, but they would be doing it illegally."

Wrong on all points, sir. First, law enforcement officials--and, in most states, private citizens--are empowered to shoot to kill to protect any life that is in immediate danger, not only their own. The state of Georgia's title 16 describes this as "both [a] right and [a] duty." As mentioned, infiltrators are putting the lives of US military men and Iraqi citizens at immediate peril. Second, base security are not just "law enforcement" officers. Primarily, they are soldiers, and we are at war. Acts of sabotage against military installations have always merited "shoot-to-kill" status under these circumstances.

I still say the best policy would be to turn loose some Marine Corps Scout Snipers on the grounds of the base, with wax bullets and .50 caliber rifles. It would be good training for the Snipers (and good fun for them, too), and a good lesson for the protestors. No need to shoot to kill--a good beating with .50 caliber rounds will change hearts and minds pretty quickly too.
On France & French:

Le Figaro discusses the recent find of Ricin poison in the Paris subway system. The amounts were not sufficient, authorities helpfully tell us, to kill hundreds. Wonderful news.

My favorite line from this story: "[D]ocuments estampill�s al-Qaida et permettant de confectionner le poison mortel." French is an astonishing language to me, sometimes remarkably direct, sometimes equally dense. Probably the best part of it is the cognates with English, though, which produce an effect in the reader like no other language. Until today, I would never have put "confection" and "mortal poison" together; but now that they have, I am reminded of that scene in V. C. Andrew's _Flowers in the Attic_, which was required reading in a high school that would have done better to require Chaucer, wherein the children are poisoned by cookies topped with cyanide. Such are the benefits of language studies, I suppose: new ideas rise from the semantics alone. Usually the ideas are kinder.
On North Korea:

Today's news is that the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea--usually, "North Korea") has postponed talks with South Korea, blaming them for allegedly raising their military alert status. North Korea seems to see this as a prelude to war.

Earlier this month, an unofficial spokesman for the DPRK promised nuclear strikes against the United States in the event of any such invasion. The article wildly claims that there are a hundred 'suspected' nuclear weapons in the DPRK, numbers I've not seen elsewhere. If memory serves, the CIA thinks the actual numbers are two to six. However, the statements the man makes about the DPRK's ability to produce nuclear weapons look accurate to me--six new warheads by April is not impossible, given their hidden nuclear processing plants (see yesterday's links) and the possibilty of underground testing (cf. the gentleman's comments on becoming an "official nuclear power" as one way of neutralizing American influence on the penninsula).

I am still thinking about options for dealing with the DPRK. Ideas welcome.
Pope: War "threatens fate of Humanity."

And to think I'd always thought the Catholic Church had a pretty fixed idea about the "fate of humanity."

Stanley Kurtz on North Korea in National Review Online. Kurtz is being sloppy, with a large number of qualifiers and a number of bald assertions (e.g., "Even if Yongbyon stays quiet, the North Koreans will shortly be selling nuclear fuel manufactured in their clandestine plant(s) to al Qaeda." Well--maybe. It's wise to act as though that were going to be the case, because the consequences of it happening are so severe. Still, here's a place where one of those qualifiers would have been useful). Even so he's got some things worth reading. The first is the existence of clandestine uranium processing plants, whose activities/existence can't be examined. Earlier this week I was discussing with a close friend a theory I had that they might test a weapon underground, thereby creating more fissible material on the instant as well as announcing that they were a nuclear state. She didn't think they would, not wishing to create quite -that- big a stir. Here's a reminder that they don't have to do so in order to keep producing uranium, though not as speedily as with undergound tests.
The Agonist is reporting "unconfirmed" Israeli reports that the 3rd Infantry is bypassing the sites of resistance. The 3rd Infantry, Mechanized, is out of Fort Stewart, Georgia, not far from Savannah. They are called "the Rock of the Marne" due to their performance in a battle not well remembered by the president of France, who seems to think that military control of an area comes from bureaucrats rather than forces on the ground.

Unconfirmed reports are just that, but it sounds plausible to me. There is no possibility that the 3rd would leave an active enemy at its back, however, with access to its supply lines. What this likely means is that an envelopment of the resisting forces is in progress. There are two ways to go about this, and I don't know what the current plan calls for. The usual fashion is to invest on three sides, leaving open a way for an enemy to retreat. This isn't an act of kindness. The notion is to hit them until they are forced to abandon their defensive positions, withdrawing in the only way that is left available. Since you know which way they are going, you can set ambushes (or, in this case, use air power) to rout and slaughter them along the way. Recall here the "highway of death" from Gulf War I.

It is also possible to perform a complete encirclement. Usually this is not done, unless your forces are so superior that you do not fear having to defend all points against a breakout attempt. The three-sided investment allows for greater predictability of enemy actions. However, in this case, it is entirely possible the 3rd might attempt this, completely investing the resisting forces and destroying them with airstrikes, mopping up later.

Although most of the reported airstrikes are in cities just now--as that is where the reporters are--it appears that this tactic is in fact what is being used in the Western campaign.
On the War:

The best site I've found for following war developments, with the understanding that he's printing rumors as well as confirmed reports, is The Agonist. There are a number of good warblogs for seeing unfolding events, but most of them claim to be mystified by the strategy the coalition is using. This seems to be resulting in some worries among observers that things may yet turn bleak.

Well, there are two big dangers left: the Special Republican Guard, and the taking of Bagdad. However, I think I can give a picture of the emergent strategy that ought to calm fears.

1) The coalition has moved quickly to seize entry points (airfields, the seaport), communication points (esp. bridges) and oil fields. Ground troops have been used rather than air power because these needed to be taken whole. In spite of "surprisingly stiff resistance," pace the W. Post, there is only one confirmed fatality from combat. I suspect there have been quite a few more among special operations troops, but we may never know exactly what their toll is.

2) Special operations forces seem to have the run of Bagdad, judging from the various reports coming out about the decapitation strike, as well as intelligence gathering. This bodes well for the coming campaign, and suggests we have a significant number of defectors/traitors assisting our intelligence forces.

3) The bulk of the coalition military is advancing only until it meets resistance. This is not true in the sensitive areas mentioned in point 1; those had to be taken, so resistance was broken. Yet it appears to be otherwise true. The US Army seems to be advancing cautiously in order to separate Iraqi military units into those which will surrender, and those which will fight. The ones that fight back are being pinned down, but not broken. This gives the illusion that they are holding their own against our forces. In fact, it is probably a strategic decision to pin them down for later air strikes. Once they are enveloped, they will be broken by the application of air power, with ground forces merely mopping up survivors.

Looks like a well planned operation. No surprise there: the joint US/British forces offers the two best collective minds in the military world.
War clarifies:

Many wished to believe that there was no evidence of a connection between Saddam Hussein and terrorist networks. Hours into war, a connection now emerges: a top officer of the Palestine Liberation Front, Ahmed al-Baz, was killed in that bombing attack on the Baghdad bunker. What, one wonders, was a high level officer of a terrorist group doing at a meeting of Hussein's top generals? Feels like a connection between the Iraqi government and a terrorist group--a pretty tight connection.
More on idealism:

"Some readers will say that this is a mere fantasy. I answer that it is the actual history of mankind. This, as a fact, is how cities did grow great. Go back to the darkest roots of civilization and you will find then knotted round some sacred stone or encircling some sacred well. . . .

The eighteenth-century theories of the social contract have been exposed to much clumsy criticism in our time; in so far as they meant that there is at the back of all historic government an idea of content and co-operation, they were demonstrably right. But they really were wrong, in so far as they suggested that men had ever aimed at order or ethics directly by a conscious exchange of interests. Morality did not begin by one man saying to another, 'I will not hit you if you do not hit me'; there is no trace of such a transaction. There is a trace of both men having said, 'We must not hit each other in the holy place.' They gained their morality by guarding their religion. They did not cultivate courage. They fought for the shrine, and found they had become courageous. They did not cultivate cleanliness. They purified themselves for the altar, and found that they were clean."
G. K. Chesterton, "The Flag of the World," Orthodoxy

There is much here that is right, even for those who, like myself, are not at all Catholics. The classical liberal tradition has its roots in Socrates, who did cultivate courage--see the "Laches." Yet Socrates has his roots in Homer, and Homer in the lost tales of old. At base, that classical liberal tradition to which I subscribe is a well drawing on an underground sea. The well is a rational, thoughtful way of obtaining the water in an orderly and predictable fashion. The water, though, is a wild thing, whose power and energy is prior to and greater than our own.
More on chivalry:

This is an article from the Chronicle Review on teaching the ethic of honor at the Naval Academy. The most relevant point for those who have argued that chivalry is antiquated romanticism:

"When warriors fight murderers, they may be tempted to become like the evil they hope to destroy. Their only protection is their code of honor. The professional military ethics that restrain warriors -- that keep them from targeting those who cannot fight back, from taking pleasure in killing, from striking harder than is necessary, and that encourage them to offer mercy to their defeated enemies and even to help rebuild their countries and communities -- are also their own protection against becoming what they abhor."

Also, the NY Times has this anitwar article comparing the curent conflict to the Trojan war. This is exactly the kind of argument that fascinates me: an attempt to work out right ethics in the context of the Western tradition. There can be no better guide. My opinion is that the proper model from the Iliad is Odyessus. As the article points out, he took some pains to avoid war (although even Odysseus didn't hold out for twelve years of diplomacy). Once the war was joined, however, he bent himself to the business of victory. No fighter was more cunning or inventive. Master soldier and mariner, Homer called him: perhaps an early Marine.

Still, the real point at which the Trojan War comes into our world is this: we are on the cusp of a r eturn to an age in which war means the total destruction of cities. In the ancient world, a taken city was laid waste utterly, men and boys killed, women enslaved, the buildings razed, the crops burned, and sometimes--as at Carthage--the earth sowed with salt. Even the mechanized warfare of WWII was not so thorough. Dresden, firebombed, still was healthier than Troy when the Greeks finished with her.

The United States government, through its military and intelligence services, is the force in the world most devoted to and capable of preventing the return of such horrors. This is the real threat of nuclear terrorism: We are the Trojans, this time, with a hungry horde of black ships by the sea. It is we who must watch for the Trojan horse. We must be emphatic. Wait and watch, suggests the author of the Times piece: perhaps the enemy will starve. Perhaps they'll just slip out of the horse and plan a new attack. Let's burn the horse instead.
Why I love the United States Marine Corps:

"When I give you the word, together we will cross the Line of Departure, close with those forces that choose to fight, and destroy them. Our fight is not with the Iraqi people, nor is it with members of the Iraqi army who choose to surrender. While we will move swiftly and aggressively against those who resist, we will treat all others with decency, demonstrating chivalry and soldierly compassion for people who have endured a lifetime under Saddam's oppression. . . ..

"You are part of the world's most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon. Share your courage with each other as we enter the uncertain terrain north of the Line of Departure. Keep faith in your comrades on your left and right and Marine Air overhead. Fight with a happy heart and strong spirit."
Maj. Gen. J. Mattis, commander, 1 Marine

There is probably no other institution on earth that honestly and completely accepts chivalry as an operating principle. The USMC still believes in it, though, with a whole heart. Believing, they bring it back into the world, and make it real again. Today I toast them: it's all I can do. Another day, if Fate smiles, I may do more.

This is an interesting bit of speculation from the Wall St. Journal that touches on a question I've been interested in for a while. KSM is said to be a Baluch from Kuwait, which is a fascinating notion to me. The folks I've met who have Baluchistan ties have been princes of fellows. The so-called "Lions of Pakistan," they are a tribal people whose independence is carefully, and vigorously, guarded. How Baluchi ended up as leaders in al Qaeda will prove to be a fascinating story, whether or not Iraqi intelligence was involved as the article suggests.
I hear the Shetlands are considering printing roadsigns both in English and Old Norse. Does anyone there actually speak Old Norse? I might have to move.
Let's start with an article from the London Spectator.

This is on the subject of one of the more famous jihadis, Abu Hamza. Hamza, through his firey anti-West speeches in London, attracted the attention of a fair number of men who would later have famous names: Zacarias Moussaoui and Richard Reid are two such.

The article finally comes down against deporting Hamza. I'm thinking the author is in the right here, conditionally. My reasons are as follows:

In the American South, we have had a long tradition of dealing with a group similar to Al Qaeda in most respects: the Ku Klux Klan. Anyone who has had occasion to listen to an old Klansman talk recognizes Hamza's attitude at once. There are "good" jews/blacks, but a lot of "bad" ones too, who need to be controlled or destroyed. The righteous, who understand the conflict at hand, are few and always at such an extremity of need that violence is justified as a method of controlling the evil, unfit men (if "men" is the right word, they will often add).

In my great-great grandfather's day, our family hunted and killed these folks in the mountains of Tennessee. The various White-terror groups, who later banded together into the KKK (even as various Islamist groups seem to be banding together now) used their power largely against the unarmed and frightened, through lynchings, whippings, and burnings. We did then what the Green Berets are doing now in the mountains of Afghanistan: it was a part of the history of freedom that is largely omitted from the history books, that guerrilla campaign that began with the end of the Civil War, and lasted through Reconstruction.

Now, though, the KKK has grown old and feeble. The response of most listeners is just as the response to Hamza mentioned in the article: after a few minutes' hearing, you recognize the madness. Men like Hamza serve to discredit their movements more than anything else that can be done. Let him stay, and talk.

But let us also do what we do with the KKK: infiltrate his group with informants. The aged Hamza, the old KKK man, they aren't dangerous, but they attract young men who are. Thus they are doubly useful: first in discrediting their movements to the reasoned majority, and second in drawing the dangerous young into our circle of vigilance, if only we trouble to maintain it.