Shifting Sands:

Bill Roggio has a report from Ramadi that focuses on the shift even in 'Wild West' Anbar Province from "kinetic" to "non-kinetic" operations -- that is, from killing insurgents to reconstruction. He also details more "red on red" fighting, with even active insurgents turning on the remaining al Qaeda units -- and indeed, turning them in to the Coalition.

The Belmont Club considers the evidence and holds that the military war has in fact been won in Iraq: what remains, Wretchard says, is politics middle-east style. That's a bloody affair by itself, of course.

He got a letter back from the PAO, Captain of Marines Jeffery Pool:

You don’t know how true your post Baghdad county truly is, you’re right on the mark.

The 2nd Marine Division has been conducting talks/negotiating at the Government Center in the provincial capital in Ar Ramadi with the Governor, sheikhs and imams. Most of the groups who have been fighting the Iraqi government, military and Coalition Forces are now beginning to realize the power is with the ballot, not the bombs. However, the hard core al Qaeda terrorists realize this and are starting to threaten the local insurgents who they normally work with. This is creating what we call ‘red on red fighting’. Basically two groups who aren’t are allies slugging it out for power. This is what has been happening on a large-scale in Ramadi and to a lesser scale throughout Al Anbar.

From the city of Hit all the way to Husaybah is closed to al Qaeda groups, and in Ramadi, they are holding on by their finger nails. The series of operations 2/28 Brigade Combat Team has been conducting has really helped disrupt their planning and ability to launch attacks. But the real meat of this is the local insurgent groups who are trying to dissociate themselves from AQI.

The last tool AQI has is money. They are paying for support and sanctuary. It is not being freely given anymore in Ramadi. The elections are going to be pivotal. My opinions, if the Sunnis vote en masse then AQI is done but if AQI is successful in intimidating the populace then they bought themselves some more time.
Such is the reading of two men whose opinions I greatly respect, and one officer of Marines.

Unc. Smash

Uncle Smash Wants You:

The Indepundit, formerly Lt. Smash, wants you to undertake a mission this week. It's designed to counter a MoveOn campaign. Countering MoveOn is always -- so far as I know, without exception -- the right thing to do, so I commend you to him.

Christmas Stories

Christmas Stories:

I don't know if there's a "war against Christmas" per se, but the holiday has not in my memory been so violent in its imagery. Still, I suppose it's only a return to roots. I saw from Drudge that the American Family Association is protesting Labafana, the "Christmas Witch." Well, I know nothing of Labafana, but I am going to guess that she's a friendly witch, as the witches of my association abhor violence. Not so the "mother Christmas" we were looking at yesterday! A traditional Icelandic figure, Gryla the Mother of December...

...likes to cook up naughty children and eat them, bones and all. "Gryla" is also married to "Leppaludi". This charming couple own a large black cat as well. This larger than human cat is called Christmas cat. He also eats children who do not get new clothes for Christmas. Not getting new clothing is proof that you were sooooo naughty, you deserve nothing except to be eaten.
Meanwhile, via Southern Appeal, I see that the original St. Nick slapped a heretic at the Council of Nicea. (One of the commenters to the post proposes a new Christmas carol: "Deck them all for all their folly.")

The heretic in question was Arius, who was the primary advocate of what came to be known as the Arian Heresy. The Catholic Encyclopedia makes the dispute sound highly technical, which may lead you to believe that it was a dispute among scholars only. It certainly doesn't sound like the kind of thing that would become popular enough to create a major schism in the religion, which it did. There was a reason that Santa Claus was mad enough about it to punch out the fellow. The Encyclopedia says that:
[Arianism] is not a modern form of unbelief, and therefore will appear strange in modern eyes. But we shall better grasp its meaning if we term it an Eastern attempt to rationalize the creed by stripping it of mystery so far as the relation of Christ to God was concerned.
The encyclopedia then proceeds to do anything other than strip the thing of its mystery. Instead, it clouds what Arius was saying beneath a host of doctrinal points about what the Church holds.

What Arius said was that Jesus was the "son of God" in the sense that he was half a god, half a man. The Church holds that Jesus is fully god and fully man at the same time. That is one of those logical contradictions that the Church says shows that the brains of mortal men can't grasp the power of God. This is not an unreasonable position -- the finite being unable to grasp the infinite -- but it is also not obvious. In fact, if anything is going to appear strange to modern eyes, it's this position.

Arius' position, on the other hand, was immediately understandable. Greek-speaking pagans at once grasped that you could have a god that was all-powerful: Zeus was sometimes said to be (and so, by a certain cult, was Bacchus). It also had no trouble with the idea of that god fathering children, who were half-gods. God is like Zeus, only moreso; Jesus is like Heracles, only with a very different message. The Arian Heresy made conversion to Christianity very easy in much of the Indo-European world, and thus it produced a huge number of adherents.

The Church didn't agree, but it had its work cut out for it. Arius held firm, which is why Santa Claus was so angry at him. The violence didn't stop there:
George of Cappadocia persecuted the Alexandrian Catholics. Athanasius retired into the desert.... Hosius had been compelled by torture to subscribe a fashionable creed. When the vacillating Emperor died (361), Julian, known as the Apostate, suffered all alike to return home who had been exiled on account of religion. A momentous gathering, over which Athanasius presided, in 362, at Alexandria, united the orthodox Semi-Arians with himself and the West. Four years afterwards fifty-nine Macedonian, i.e., hitherto anti-Nicene, prelates gave in their submission to Pope Liberius. But the Emperor Valens, a fierce heretic, still laid the Church waste.
Sort of puts that "Christmas Witch" thing in perspective, doesn't it?

UPDATE: A little searching around proves that "Labafana" is actually "La Befana," a traditional Italian legendary figure.
As legend has it the three Wise Men were in search of the Christ child when they decided to stop at a small house to ask for directions. Upon knocking, an old woman holding a broom opened the door slightly to see who was there. Standing at her doorstep were three colorfully dressed men who were in need of directions to find the Christ child. The old woman was unaware of who these three men were looking for and could not point them in the right direction. Prior to the three men leaving they kindly asked the old woman to join them on their journey. She declined because she had much housework to do. After they left she felt as though she had made a mistake and decided to go and catch up with the kind men. After many hours of searching she could not find them. Thinking of the opportunity she had missed the old woman stopped every child to give them a small treat in hopes that one was the Christ child. Each year on the eve of the Epiphany she sets out looking for the baby Jesus. She stops at each child's house to leave those who were good treats in their stockings and those who were bad a lump of coal.
So, once again, the American Family Association is... ah, misinformed. Rather than anti-Christian, it's just the regular sort of multiculturalism.



Sovay once quipped that her cats, should they learn to speak and wish to refer to me, would call me "The Nice Man in the Hat." Now comes Theodore Dalrymple to say that hat-wearing may be what makes you nice:

I recalled the days of my childhood during which most men wore a hat, and I remembered that my father, who was not always the most considerate of men, never failed, in a gesture of genuine politeness, to raise his hat to someone whom he knew. Indeed, the etiquette of hats was drummed into me as a child as being a stage in the taming of the natural savage.

Mr Johnson, too, remembered the age of hats, a gentler age than our own, when men would remove them to acknowledge a passing hearse.
I think there really is something to this theory. The 'etiquette of hats' is learning to perform traditional courtesies that are intended as a gesture of respect for others. It is, as etiquette will be, not only morally beneficial to the person who learns it, but also useful in a practical sense. It will amaze you how much easier it is to accomplish things when the usual sources of friction -- bureaucrats, lazy store clerks, and the like -- encounter the unexpected but still recognized courtesies related to the hat. Likewise, trying to push through holiday shopping crowds is greatly eased for the man who tips his hat to the ladies he is forced to push past.
The staff of Mr Johnson’s shop told me that purchasers of men’s hats are invariably polite and charming, which is why they want a hat in the first place.
I'm not sure if I've ever been described as "charming," but at least I do aspire to "polite." A proper hat, of course, also makes you look dashing, which can't hurt either. It takes a certain amount of courage to wear one, though, in an age when so few men do. Practicing courage is a worthwhile thing, even in small matters. It informs your second nature.


An Icelandic Yuletide:

You might enjoy Army Wife / Toddler Mom's story about the tales her brother's Icelandic fiancee used to tell her. The 13 Elves of Christmas are a formidable lot, particularly if you learn to pronounce their names in the Icelandic. (I happen to know that at least two of the bloggers at Grim's Hall can do that.)


Corn & Lennon:

Against those who say that Pajamas Media contains nothing new or interesting, I should note that it was via that website that I learned today was the anniversary of the John Lennon murder. It's not a date that is marked on my calendar, as I never cared for the Beatles' music, politics, '60s or '70s culture generally, or any of the various causes that have sort of collected like lint on the Lennon image in the decades since. Lennon glasses, like Che shirts, are invariably the sign of rot.

David Corn remembered, though. He's blogged a fairly interesting piece on his one and only political speech. It deserves some comment.

Corn was apparently deeply moved by the news of Lennon's tragic death. The fact that I never cared for Lennon the man, his music or his politics doesn't change the fact that his murder was an evil thing, one that rightly excites condemnation and wrath in the heart of a good man. I certainly sympathize with anyone so moved by this or any similar event.

For whatever reason, however, Corn's wrath was directed not at the murderer, but at a sort of symbol: the NRA headquarters building, which he was walking by on an errand.

I walked down 16th Street NW, and within a few blocks I passed the headquarters of the National Rifle Association, an entire building next to one of Washington's lovely traffic circles. I stared at the building. My sadness and numbness slid into anger. I didn't know yet that Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman, had purchased the .38-caliber handgun with which he shot Lennon, at a Hawaii gun store despite having a record of mental illness. But I did know that the NRA and its allies in the gun industry were one of the most powerful lobbies in town and that their primary concern was easy access to weapons. I started talking to the imposing building. No, I said, no, you're not going to get off scott-free here, no, no way. And an idea struck.
The NRA actually has three primary concerns. One of them is, by necessity, the defense of the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms for lawful citizens. Another -- the one that escapes Mr. Corn -- is making sure that those who misuse guns are put away forever, as for example in its Project EXILE. But its founding purpose, and the purpose in which it continues to lead the world, was to provide instruction in the safe and accurate use of firearms. In large part because of the NRA, accidental shootings have dropped every year since we began keeping records on them. The NRA, if you wanted to characterize its purpose in a single sentence, is more properly focused on "developing among the citizens a capacity for the safe and lawful use of firearms."

To put it another way: if Lennon's murderer faced a jury entirely composed of NRA members, he would be in far greater peril than if he faced a jury entirely composed of gun control advocates. For all that NRA members (myself included) defend the legal right to keep and bear arms, we also are the worst sort of foe to those who misuse the rights we defend.

But no matter. Corn was angry and young, and his wrath focused on the NRA. So he formed a protest group, which found ready volunteers in the climate of the day.
And I asked a copy shop--no Kinko's back then--to print hundreds of copies on a super-rush basis. It could in those days take a day or two to get such a job done. The person at the counter looked at the material and said, "Come back in an hour."

CAGV grew in numbers, by which I mean that several interns at the Center and some friends of mine volunteered to put up flyers around town. Mokhiber went out and bought a bullhorn..... [At a Lennon memorial] I politely pushed my way toward [the fellow in charge]. I handed him one of the flyers and asked if at an appropriate time he would let the people around him know about the rally. He looked at the flyer. The cassette player was playing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." He said, No, you tell them. The song ended. He turned off the machine and said, "This guy has something he wants to say to you."
And so they had a rally. It was a time to emote, to express wrath, and burn off the anger they had built up over the event. It reminds me of nothing so much as a poem written by a bongo-beating fellow I once knew, who had become self-conscious of the uselessness of his "men's circle." The poem used language that built ever higher to describe the drumming circle and the fire it was laid around, with the sparks shooting up out of the fire and rising to heaven -- this last, as a symbol of the power of their emotional energy, rising to carry the light of their circle to the wider world.

'Yet though I did not say it,' I recall the poem ending, 'the sparks went out right over our heads.'

And so for Corn, who gave his one ever political speech:
The event--as far as such events go--was a success. There was media coverage. Those who had come felt they had done something with their grief and anger. And as almost always happens when a prominent act of gun violence occurs, the topic of handgun was again on the radar screen. Not because of our effort, but we had done our part. However, that moment--like all moments--quickly faded. It is now 25 years later. John Lennon is still dead. (And so is George Harrison.) The NRA years ago moved to a bigger and better headquarters in suburban Virginia. The gun lobby has had its ups and downs, but it's been mostly ups of late (such as the expiration of the ban on assault weapons). Lennon's death, it turns out, was no catalyst for action. And we have still--after all this time--not learned how to stem the tide of gun violence. Which is one of several reasons why this anniversary of Lennon's death is a sad day.
Corn is too harsh toward his society when he says we have not learned to stem the tide of gun violence. Murder rates are at an historic low. Violent crime rates, in fact, are. It wasn't protests that brought us to this boon, however: it was a combination of harsher prison sentences for the violent, an improving economy, and the spreading of the concealed carry of firearms across the United States, which results according to most evidence in a sharp decline in crime rates -- indeed, even the most hostile evidence says only that it doesn't worsen them. Of the three, the two political changes have both been NRA projects.

It is true what he says, when he says that these protests have done no good at all. Yet the NRA might be thanked. What good as has been done, has been done in part by them.

UPDATE: If I might be permitted a minor critique of PJM, I should like to note that the photo they run alongside the Corn piece, entitled "John Lennon, Handguns, and Me," would appear to be a collection of .30-06 rifle cartridges. These are not fired in any handgun, and indeed offer somewhat stiff recoil even in a rifle. It's a minor point, but given that the blogs have so often critiqued the MSM for its outright ignorance on these very matters, do try to get it right.


The Fields:

By now we've all seen the Air Marshal story out of Miami International. There are, of course, recriminations. For example, "Federal Airport Nazis Execute Unarmed Citizen." Or these comments recorded at Mark in Mexico's blog.

Yet the Air Marshals Service says, "This was a textbook scenario and they acted instinctively* based on the training." It's worth taking a look at why the training runs this way.

Essentially, this is an equation with two variables. Variable X is, "Is this guy really an armed terrorist, or not?" Variable Y is, "Do the Marshals shoot him, or not?"

If X=1 (he's a real terrorist) and Y=1 (you shoot him), nothing bad happens.

If X=0 (not a terrorist) and Y=1 (you shoot him), your career is in question and you might go to jail, based on how the inquiry into your actions pans out.

If X=1 and Y=0, the terrorist is free to act and will carry out whatever plan he has come to execute.

Finally, if X=0 and Y=0, you will answer questions about your reasoning before you're clear to return to duty -- but since you were right, nothing bad happens.

Obviously, the training has to focus on trying to get the X and Y values to match whenever possible. However, perfect knowledge is not possible, and mistakes will occur. Therefore, when choosing how to train Air Marshals, you have to decide if you will preference X=0 Y=1 situations (i.e., non-terrorists getting shot) or X=1 Y=0 situations (i.e., terrorists being free to act).

As a point of pure logic, harm is minimized by training to settle hard cases in a way that preferences X=0 Y=1 over X=1 Y=0. The harm to be done in (X=0 Y=1) is limited to two people: the non-terrorist getting shot, and the Air Marshal whose career and liberty are called into question. The harm to be done in (X=1 Y=0) is unknowable, but potentially quite high. Air Marshal training expects an entire jet full of people to be at the mercy of a terrorist, after all, as that is the normal situation in which they are likely to encounter terrorists. You could lose dozens of lives, or more yet if the terrorists should gain control of a plane 9/11 style.

For that reason, the training is appropriate. Furthermore, by exactly the same logic, the inquiry should accept cases such as this one as "textbook" and "justified." This is because the other Air Marshals will watch the outcome of the inquiry, and modify their actions accordingly. Since it is logical and necessary to prefer X=0 Y=1 cases over X=1 Y=0 cases, you want to conduct the after action in a way that will continue to maintain that preference. Unless there is clear evidence that the Air Marshal acted recklessly, the Service is acting in a logical fashion if it tends to back his actions.

What I find interesting is that, in addition to a field of practical results, there is also a field of political results. The Air Marshals Service can't afford to consider these in their training, but it happens that they encourage the same preference in training:

X=1 Y=1: No politician will condemn the Service; only fringe speakers in the media/blogspace will do so.

X=1 Y=0: Almost every politician will condemn the Service; almost every speaker will do so.

X=0 Y=1: If the Air Marshal was clearly acting recklessly, there will be stiff condemnations; however, the Service can derail most of these with an inquiry and punishment for the individual Marshal. Thus, harm is localized. In situations where the Air Marshal was not plainly reckless, most politicians will avoid comment, and speakers will tend to favor the shooting out of an understanding of the practical considerations (i.e., the first set of possible results, above).

X=0 Y=0: Since we are talking about cases where someone appeared to possibly be a terrorist, but turned out not to be, the reasoning of the Air Marshal will be called into question widely. People will ask "What if?" questions that challenge the training of the Service. Certain ultra-partisan politicians (e.g., Ted Kennedy) will state that this proves that the Service, and indeed the Administration, does not take terrorism seriously.

A rational reading of this field is this: Where Y=1, the result will either be positive entirely, positive on balance, or bad only in a way that is easily compartmentalized by punishing the individual. Where Y=0, the results will either be entirely and bitterly negative, or negative in a more balanced way that nevertheless still calls into question the usefulness and dedication of the entire Service.

Thus, as both a practical and a political matter, the training ought to be what it is. It is only logical.

* "acted instinctively" -- Not precisely, but the confusion of terms is telling. Instinct properly refers to biological responses, not trained responses. These are what Aristotle called "First Nature." However, as Aristotle himself noted, with proper and intensive training you can create a response that, while learned, feels exactly like instinct. This is your "Second Nature." This is why we say that such-and-such was "second nature to him," when we mean that a thing was so ingrained in a man's thinking and habits that it had simply become a part of his character.

Second Nature will develop, by the way, whether you train with it in mind or not. If you aren't actively and rationally thinking about what your Second Nature ought to be, and training yourself mindfully, it will become whatever your habits are. This is why Aristotle spent so much time on the subject of considering what the proper Second Nature was. He felt that it should be carefully considered using the rational part of the soul, and then carefully put into practice until it was fully adopted. Obviously, the Air Marshals Service has done its logical reasoning here, and likewise done its training. On those grounds, the Service deserves praise.



A speech at John Hopkins by the SECDEF is quoted in the Wall Street Journal today. I continue to like and admire Rumsfeld, in spite of my occasional deep disagreements on particular policies. Nevertheless, it is clear that he is a serious thinker, honest and direct, and possessed of a courtly manner that befits a gentleman and a high official.

This last thing, in the hands of an American Secretary of Defense, is as important to our diplomacy as any diplomat. When Rumsfeld lists among the "difficulties" in Iraq that "Iran and Syria are being notably unhelpful," a firm message is delivered without the need for saber rattling. When he points out what the stakes in Iraq are for all Americans, it is without overstatment.

The speech should be read in full. It is not merely a restatement of confidence in the mission. It is also a direct engagement with the journalists covering the war. The last third of the speech praises them for what they have gotten right, and challenges them on what they have gotten wrong.

He ends with Jefferson, which is a good place for beginnings and endings alike. "But to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, we are all Republicans. We are all Democrats. We are all Americans. We are all in this together." So we are. Whether the war is won by soldiers or surrendered by politicians; whether Iraq rises to stability or falls to chaos, the consequences will lay upon us all together.


This afternoon, I was suddenly reminded that today is the 64th anniversary of a tragic event.

As told by President Roosevelt to Congress a day after the attack:
Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan....

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God.

Many thousands died that day. Hundreds of thousands more would die in the battles against the Empire of Japan and its allies in Germany and Italy.

Today, I would like to remember those who died in Pearl Harbor. I would also like to remember those who died in another surprise attack 4 years ago, and the thousands who have died in the resulting combat action and nation-building.

We are forever in their debt.

More on IO

More on IO:

The military issued a statement on the IO campaign in Iraq that seems to have gotten everyone's dander up. The statement appears to read, 'Thanks for your input, everybody. If we decide we've done anything wrong, we'll stop doing it. As to which, we'll get back to you.'

My favorite piece of criticism of this IO comes from Christopher Hitchens, who was in full voice:

In a situation already dominated by rumor and conspiracy-mongering, and in a country rife with death squads, it exposes every honest Iraqi reporter to the charge that he or she is an agent of a foreign power. Who at the Pentagon could possibly have needed to have this explained to them? ... The prostitute journalist is a familiar and well-understood figure in the Middle East, and Saddam Hussein's regime made lavish use of the buyability of the regional press. Now we, too, have hired that clapped-out old floozy, Miss Rosie Scenario, and sent her wh....g through the streets.
Hitchens is a serious writer, and a good one, but this is just silly. It might be a plausible argument if the US were the only group in Iraq attempting to promote a story line. However, that's not even close to the case. Iran is going at it with both hands, and Iranian-linked groups actually run some of the major news sources in Iraq (such as SCIRI's press). The 'prostitute journalist' is hardly an American export.

Everyone in Iraq knows that foreign powers are trying to influence their thinking. The United States, at least, requires that our attempts to do so involve only truthful information. We may pay folks to print stories for us, but the stories will at least be true. You think Iran restricts itself thus? Syria? Turkey, even?

Yet, as always, the United States is the villian even though it is trying to play the same game as everyone else by more moral rules. Even our Mr. Hitchens forgets that this time, which is a shame. I've come to expect better from him, though I have confidence that this was merely a momentary lapse.

Favorite, Foolish

Favorite Foolish Headline of the Day:

"U.S. Missile, Al-Qaida Death May Be Linked."

You don't say! I wonder what the link could be?


Credit Where Credit Is Due:

I see that InstaPundit points to a P.A. Miller piece asking why there are suddenly calls for withdrawal from Iraq. The fellow posits a theory: that victory is nigh, and political opponents of the White House and the war must derail it if at all possible.

Grim's Hall asked the same question two weeks ago, and credit for having come up with that line of argument may properly belong to commenters "g wood" and Noel. They both articulated forms of it at that time.

Is it true? Howard Dean said that defeat is certain, as did Richard Cohen. John Kerry is expanding the complaint, accusing the military of terrorizing children in Iraq. That sounds like three of the top figures for the Left, all asserting not only that we are going to lose, but in fact that we ought to lose. It would be morally improper for a military force that makes its way by terrorizing kids to win any victory. Any good American should oppose it.

Evidence against that proposition is legion. Consider this graph, or General Abazaid's comments:

[The General] is amazed as he goes around the country and testifies before the Congress how many of our countrymen do not know or understand what we are doing or how we are doing. There are very few members of Congress who have ever worn the uniform (of our armed forces). He said that the questions he gets from some in Congress convince him that they have the idea that we are about to pushed out of Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no relation between this and the reality on the ground.

As he goes around the region and talks to troops and junior officer he is very impressed by their morale and their achievements. They are confident that they are capable of defeating the enemy. You will never see a headline in this country about a school opening or a power station being built and coming on line, or a community doing well. Only the negative things will get coverage in the media. He told the mid-grade/senior officers to go to their local Lions Clubs when they go home and tell the people what they are doing. If they don't get the word out, the American people will not know what is really happening.
You can also consider Bill Roggio's reports from the ground. I've had the pleasure of working with Bill, and while I know him to be devoted to the cause of victory, I also have faith that he would give it to you straight if he thought we weren't winning. Yet his reports, which unlike the media reports actually come from someone who understands strategy and tactics, are quite positive and well informed.

At this point, I think that anyone who asserts that we are being defeated in Iraq falls into one of three categories:

A) Someone ignorant of military science.

B) Someone acting out of a political agenda that benefits from defeat in Iraq.

C) Someone who should be challenged to prove it.

I have never seen a convincing argument based in military science that the war is unwinnable, or even that it isn't being won. Concerns that it could be handled better in certain areas, which I sometimes share, don't amount to an overriding argument that the war is failing overall. Even if every area of the war were being mismanaged, that war could still be won if the enemy is weaker (as ours is), your resources are greater (as ours are), and the dynamics of the war favor you rather than your opponent. I believe that the dynamics favor our side, for reasons explained in these several pieces I have written over the last year and a half.

Anybody who wants to prove me wrong is invited to break lances with me. If they cannot explain why we are supposedly losing, with actual evidence to demonstrate that their trend analyses are correct or at least plausible, I must assert that they fall into category A or B. When I wrote about this topic first some weeks ago, I found it hard to believe that any serious political figure in America could prefer defeat just because it would confer a domestic political advantage. Yet, as Sherlock Holmes said, "When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Here, then, is a chance to prove that it is possible to believe we are losing, and not fall in camp A or B.


More Military Links:

Strategy Page has more on the Rules of Engagement situation, although I think Joel's post below is still the most informative I've seen. SP is under the impression that the rules have not gone into effect yet, though JHD assures me that they have. The thing to watch is how the rules are applied, and how they are handled by commanders and NCOs in the field. It's a topic that interests me, so I will continue to watch for items on it -- and if any of you learn anything on topic, please email me.

NRO has a very good piece today on Iraqi Army training, and the quality of the recruits.

Mudville has a call from Soldiers' Angels for donations of recreational equipment to wounded servicemen at Brooke Army Medical Center. I think I can probably come up with a couple of old pool cues. See what you can come up with.



Kathleen Parker’s article, “For Instructions On How To Lose War, Consult Flow Chart," inaccurately describes the effect of the recent change to the standing rules of engagement.

Maj Mannle from the Office of the SJA to the Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) provided the following clarification in an information paper on this subject.

Key Points

a. Pertinent text of the (new) rule on the inherent right of self-defense. The rule states that, “unless otherwise directed by a unit commander, military members may exercise individual self-defense in response to a hostile act or demonstrated hostile intent. When individuals are assigned and acting as part of a unit, individual self-defense should be considered a subset of unit self defense.” (Emphasis added.) The rationale for the rule is to maximize and stress the primacy of unit self-defense for commanders- not to limit individual service members. Two points bear mention:

(1). No change regarding commanders’ authority. The rule merely quantifies what has always been ground truth: a commander, in the context of mission accomplishment, may place self-defense of the unit (i.e., all individuals) above that of one individual. Current language states that “unit commanders always retain the inherent right and obligation to exercise unit self-defense.” The previous SROE stated (with regard to individuals) that “their use of force must remain consistent with lawful orders of their superiors, the rules contained in this document, and other applicable rules of engagement promulgated for the mission or AOR.” Under both the previous and current SROE, a commander could decide he’d rather allow an enemy to advance in order to exploit the element of surprise, rather than have a Marine on an OP start shooting when that Marine decides he’s about to be attacked.

(2). Individual right of self-defense remains the default. Despite a commander’s ability to limit the right of individual self-defense, the rule is clear that individual service members have a standing right of individual self-defense. It takes express, unequivocal direction by a unit commander to subjugate this right to unit self-defense.

Both MNF-W and MNC-I received and carefully reviewed the new SROE in August. They concluded that the new SROE would not change the conduct of operations.

b. Lawful implementation of the rule. The notion that the rule cannot be “lawfully implemented” (enforced) because restricting [individual] self-defense contradicts the Code of Conduct is patently ridiculous. There is no relation whatsoever between the rule and the principle that Americans do not surrender when they have the means to resist.

5. Conclusion. CJCSI 3121.01B has changed to emphasize the primacy of unit self-defense, yet the rule in the current SROE on the inherent right of self-defense remains the same: individual service members may exercise the inherent right of self-defense- unless their unit commander directs otherwise.

RT Guard

The Thai Royal Guards:

I believe I have uncovered evidence that the Thai Royal Guards are the toughest fighting men alive. They'd have to be, to wear this uniform:

A man walks down the street wearing a hat like that, you know he's not afraid of anything.

ROE What?

A Most Disturbing Story:

Joel, would you mind to take a look into this? If this is being accurately portrayed, it's the most disturbing story I've heard in a while.

In June, the Pentagon changed its Standing Rules of Engagement to allow commanders to limit individual self-defense by members of their unit. Interpreted for me by two Army judge advocate general officers (JAGs), this essentially means that soldiers and Marines may not have the individual prerogative to fire upon an enemy when they are faced with an imminent threat of death or serious injury. That belongs only to commanders, who may not be present to make a decision every time a soldier or Marine faces a deadly threat.

The impetus behind the rule change likely evolved from concerns that a soldier might misinterpret a danger and kill an innocent instead of a bad actor. But critics say the solution to this ever-present tension is better training, not more restrictive rules.

Commanders and JAGs close to the debate say the rule change poses numerous potential problems and contradicts the guiding principle in all of America's rules of engagement, which is that nothing in these rules limits the inherent right of self-defense. If a soldier or Marine can't make a split-second decision to kill or be killed, even at the risk of making an erroneous judgment, he or she may eventually hesitate, fumble the wrong way, and end up dead.
Hat tip: Sharp Knife.

UPDATE: I'm going to leave this post on top today, as it seems to me a tremendously important matter. You cannot "turn off" the right to self defense. It is the most fundamental right -- "the inherent right," as the piece puts it. The military can suppress free speech for a time, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and so forth. These rights, recognized in the Constitution, can be set aside by military orders. Volunteers, even draftees in the days of the draft, can be ordered into dangerous situations -- volunteers particularly.

Neither can you set aside personal responsibility for how the right is used. Whether you have orders or not, you as a serviceman are personally responsible for the fashion in which you bear the arms entrusted to you, even as a civilian who exercises the right to keep and bear arms is responsible for how he uses his arms. If you act "in self defense" in a fashion that is not appropriate, you have in fact committed a crime for which you can be punished under the UCMJ. This is true just as a civilian who wrongly shoots another can be punished under state and sometimes Federal law. More than that, you will answer to yourself, if you guess wrong and kill an innocent. For many, this will be a worse punishment than the law.

Because the responsibility exists in the law, in all times at all places, there is no need to abridge the right -- even were it moral to do so, which it is not. It is already the case that the soldier and Marine will answer for how he uses his arms. The military has apparently decided that it might prefer not to answer for how it has trained him to use them. Better that he should stand in place, and maybe die, than that the military should risk having to explain why he shot what turned out to be an innocent.

Such moral risks exist in war. There is no avoiding them, and though training can mitigate them no war can be fought without them. It will not help to tie his hands.

Nor is it right to do so. It is also the case that he will answer for how he has failed to use them. Only in some cases will the law participate in that process, if for example he refuses orders to fight. The worse case is the one in which he makes a choice not to defend himself or his unit -- guesses wrong about a figure who might be a civilian but who might be a suicide bomber -- and has to live with the memory of his friends.

These are awesome moral weights to bear at any age. Yet there is no avoiding them. The consequences -- sometimes legal, certainly moral -- will fall on these young men on the front lines. The worst of them cannot be touched by the law. It is hard enough that these men must take up such weights so young. It is unacceptable that the military should strip them of the power to choose and act. The weight will not leave their shoulders because the power left their hands.