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The Hersh File

June 30th, 2008 - 1:50 pm

Once again Seymour Hersh wastes our time with an essay that would have been more suitable for a psychiatrist’s couch, accompanied by the question, “Doctor, why do I keep making up these things?”

The doctor might say, “what things?”

And Hersh would say, “you know, these stories saying that America is preparing to go to war with Iran, that we’re going to bomb them, that secret military units are running all over Iran, that we’re supporting killer fanatics. That sort of thing.”

It’s some sort of wacky compulsion with him. Back in the spring of 2006 Hersh told us that the Bush Administration, a.k.a. the Great Satan, “has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack…teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups…(Hersh’s sources) say that President Bush is determined to deny the Iranian regime the opportunity to begin a pilot program, planned for this spring, to enrich uranium.”

Last summer, he announced again that we were on the verge of war with Iran. “This summer, the White House…requested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff redraw long-standing plans for a possible attack on Iran…The focus of the plans had been a broad bombing attack, with targets including Iran’s known and suspected nuclear facilities and other military and infrastructure sites. Now the emphasis is on “surgical” strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere…”

We did not bomb, of course, and those alleged plans have vanished from the latest “revelations.” This time around he tells many of the same stories, except without the bombing. And this time he refers to a secret Presidential “Finding,” approved with bipartisan Congressional support, that makes all these things legal. Now it’s just the alleged support for ethnic minority groups, the collection of information about the Iranian nuclear program, and generally seeking to “destabilize the…leadership.” For extras, he suggests that some of our Special Forces have sneaked into Iran, kidnaped some members of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, and dragged them across the border into Iraq for interrogation. But he just can’t help himself. In the midst of discussing these alleged operations, he suddenly and inexplicably erupts in yet another of his “we’re going to bomb them!” seizures.

A Democratic senator told me that, late last year, in an off-the-record lunch meeting, Secretary of Defense Gates…warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a preemptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, “We’ll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America…” (A spokesman for Gates confirmed that he discussed the consequences of a strike at the meeting, but would not address what he said, other than to dispute the senator’s characterization)…

In other words, Gates denies the senator’s account. Hersh can’t quite bring himself to say that, so he sticks it between parentheses. You have to parse Hersh very carefully, because he carefully uses words that don’t exactly admit that he doesn’t have much of a case, but show it nonetheless. Take his remark at the top of the story, in which he leads the reader to conclude that we’re spending a mountain of money to destabilize Iran. “These operations,” he writes, “for which the President sought up to (my emphasis) four hundred million dollars…” But the question is not what he asked for, but what he actually got. Inquiring minds would like to know the actual budget, but it seems Hersh does not know it. The language he uses covers everything from zero to four hundred million. The “operations” he describes (most of which I doubt) are pretty small potatoes, like providing funds for Iranian dissidents in order to fight back against the brutal repression (missing from Hersh’s account) that Tehran has directed against its own people, with particular savagery against the Ahwaz Arabs and the Balouch, along with religious groups such as the Baha’i. I think even the frolicsome crowd at CIA’s Directorate of Operations would have trouble crafting a four hundred million dollar invoice for such things.

As so often in Hershian lore, you can pretty much forget about solid information or identifiable sources. His favorite source, who provides many of the juiciest quotations, is simply called “a Pentagon consultant.” Those who don’t live in Washington can’t possibly imagine a)how many of these characters work the city’s streets or b)how many of them claim to know absolutely everything of significance. If you take Hersh seriously, this guy is privy to conversations among small handfuls of people in the Oval Office. I suppose there may be such a person, but it’s hard to take it on blind faith, especially when Hersh quotes him as being pretty incoherent. The Consultant shifts tense and substance in a single paragraph:

Some of the newly authorized covert funds, the Pentagon consultant told me, may well end up in M.E.K. (ML: an anti-mullah group under American arrest in Iraq) coffers. “The new task force will work with the M.E.K. The Administration is desperate for results.” He added, “The M.E.K. has no C.P.A. auditing the books, and its leaders are thought to have been lining their pockets for years. If people only knew what the M.E.K. is getting, and how much is going to its bank accounts…

So first we hear that the bad guys “may well” get money from the USG, because a new task force “WILL work” with them. Then, one baited breath later, he says that they are already “getting,” and indeed stashing lots of it away in their own bank accounts.

One wonders why Hersh didn’t at least get the tenses consistent. One wonders why The New Yorker editors didn’t insist on it. In fact one wonders if anyone at The New Yorker did any checking of Hersh’s “facts.” As Roger Simon pointedly asks, who are these sources? Does The New Yorker even know?

Hersh even makes sources of on-the-record statements look bad. He fancies that lots of senior military officers in the Pentagon are fighting a desperate war against warmongers like Bush and Cheney, going all-out to stop tomorrow morning’s bombing run against the Iranian nuclear reactors. In this month’s episode, Hersh’s hero is Admiral William Fallon, briefly in charge of our Central Command until he was suddenly terminated. Hersh would have us believe that Fallon was fired because of his opposition to Administration policy. Hersh cites the following statement by Fallon as the sort of thing that got him into trouble in the White House:

…late last year he told the Financial Times that the “real objective” of U.S. policy was to change the Iranians’ behavior, and that “attacking them as a means to get to that spot strikes me as being not the first choice.”

But President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said precisely that, numerous times. Whatever the reasons for the firing, it certainly wasn’t a statement that was totally in sync with announced Administration policy. If Fallon was indeed fired for something he said, it’s more likely this sort of thing, which Hersh admiringly reproduces:

“Too many people believe you have to be either for or against the Iranians,” he told me. “Let’s get serious. Eighty million people live there, and everyone’s an individual. The idea that they’re only one way or another is nonsense.”

Again, one wonders where the editors have gone. Sure, everyone’s an individual; but in a dictatorship of the sort that rules Iran, only a few people matter. If I were the president, and I heard the head of Centcom talking like that, I too would want him out of there.

That leaves us with Hersh’s encouraging claims that we’re striking back at Iranian military forces on both sides of the border, that we’re supporting some minority groups against the regime, and that our Special Forces guys are running around Iran, gathering information on the nuclear program. We should be so lucky.

I would be delighted if American soldiers were (finally) taking steps against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on their own turf. It has been known for some time (although Hersh, not having heard it anonymously from his omniscient consultants, somehow doubts it) that the Iranians have been training terrorists on their own territory, and then sending them into Iraq and Afghanistan to kill as many people as possible, above all, our troops. Until quite recently, our soldiers were not permitted to initiate action against the Iranian officers who sometimes accompanied the terrorists, even in Iraq. But then, roughly about the same time as the change in doctrine that accompanied the surge, we and the Iraqis started to operate against the so-called “Special Groups” that were in cahoots with the Iranians, and the Quds Force officers who supported al Qaeda. It seems logical that these operations should extend to the training camps across the border, and to the Iranians who run them and command the terrorist squads. Otherwise, one tacitly accepts the legitimacy of Iranian attacks across the border, but denies our right to fight back on their terrain.

So far as I can discover, no such operations are taking place. A high-ranking intelligence official in the United States Government, who has proven reliable for many years, told me categorically that we do not capture, kill, or kidnap anyone in Iran, and that our troops have been told they cannot cross the Iranian border, even in “hot pursuit.” So unless Hersh has real evidence, I’m going to doubt it, even though I wish it were true.

Are U.S. Special Forces collecting information about the Iranian nuclear program? I sure hope so, even though Hersh seems to think there’s something wicked about it. In this connection, he seems to me to reveal a great deal about the sources of his information. He praises the linguistic and cultural skills of CIA “agents and assets,” implying that Special Forces don’t have such skills. Nothing could be farther from the truth; Special Forces have excellent linguists. Indeed, many CIA officers do their language training at Monterey, at the celebrated language school run by the military. Hersh thinks CIA is somehow culturally superior, which it isn’t. It’s the kind of idea that is more likely to come from an Agency employee than from someone in uniform, from the sort of guy who thinks our military is composed of untutored lunkheads, while the CIA–with its long record of failure that even Inspector Clouseau would envy–is composed of MENSA members.

I don’t know anything about support for the minority groups (although I do know that a program with one of the major tribes was totally shut down more than a decade ago), but I’m against it. The regime in Tehran is hollow, having lost the support of the vast majority of the Iranian people. The Iranian people are in fact the greatest threat to the regime, and we should support them all, not group by group or tribe by tribe, but as an entire nation. Our support should be almost entirely political, not military. It must start with an open declaration that we wish to see the end of the regime and that we will support a peaceful democratic revolution. Just as in the successful Reagan strategy against the Soviet Empire, the revolutionaries’ most urgent requirements are communications devices, and we should get them cell and satellite phones, laptop computers, servers, and anti-filtering software to beat the filters the mullahs have obtained from the Chinese censors and other friends. And we should turn our own broadcasts, as in VOA, into sources of accurate information about the latest developments inside Iran.

Hersh doesn’t know very much about Iran, judging from the sources he quotes to bash the alleged support for the two tribes and the M.E.K. Iran is a far cry from the description approvingly quoted from Professor Vali Nasr, who holds forth at Tufts and the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Just because Lebanon, Iraq, and Pakistan have ethnic problems, it does not mean that Iran is suffering from the same issue,” Nasr told me. “Iran is an old country—like France and Germany—and its citizens are just as nationalistic”

Professor Nasr studied with Frank Fukuyama, but apparently never heard that Germany is younger than the United States, by nearly a hundred years. And Iran is ethnically very different from France or Germany, which have long had basically homogeneous populations. Only half of Iranians are Persians; the rest range from Azeris, Kurds and Balouch to Ahwaz Arabs, and many other tribes. But Nasr is quite right (as is Hersh, who uses him as a proxy) to oppose any American policy that supports ethnic separatism. It’s worse than a crime; it’s stupid. When you’ve got most of the population on your side, you want to embrace it as a whole, not divide it into smaller units that might spat with one another.

It’s hard to even raise this kind of consideration while talking about Hersh, because he lives and writes in a world in which you only get half the story at best, and that half consists of sliming the United States. One would never know from reading Hersh that Iran has been waging war against us for nearly thirty years, and we have yet to respond. He seems not to know that there are military documents, photographs, confessions, and captured laptop computers proving that Iranians operate inside Iraq. If he does know, he doesn’t inform his readers. He writes as if anyone who acknowledges the murderous role of Iran in the world, and wants an end to its evil regime, automatically favors armed war against it, even though many of us are unstinting in our criticism of the mullahs, favor regime change, but oppose a military campaign.

And so I imagine his doctor saying to him: “Well, Mr. Hersh, it seems you’re an obsessive/ compulsive neurotic, doesn’t it? You keep writing the same story over and over again, with minor variations, year after year.”

And I hear Hersh saying: “Yes, but it feels so good when I finish writing it, Doctor. Every time. And they even pay me for it.”

UPDATE:  Ron Rosenbaum adds more,  focusing on Hersh’s botched description of the infamous NIE on the Iranian nuclear program.  You should read it.

It would be churlish not to credit Helene Cooper of the New York Times for noticing, or deducing, that it is most unlikely that this administration is going to attack Iran.  I hope that someday someone will notice that we have repeatedly stated this, but for now it’s quite sufficient and most gratifying to see that Ms Cooper is there with us.  To be sure, she says that the evidence is “mixed,” but once she gets into it, she’s careful and accurate, and sees no reason to believe that we will launch any military operation against the mullahs.

I have one quibble with the context in which she places the issue.  She says

…Iran appears ascendant, its political and economic influence growing, its historic foes in Iraq and Afghanistan weakened, and its nuclear program continuing to move forward.

Ms Cooper’s on solid grounds concerning the nuclear program.  It is decidedly moving forward, and none of the measures designed to stop it–even the new round of sanctions against Iranian banks and nuclear scientists and overseers–seem remotely up to the task.  But Iran does not appear to me to be gaining strength in either Iraq or Afghanistan.  On the contrary, Iran has clearly suffered a major humiliation in Iraq with the defeat of al Qaeda and the Sadrist Mahdi Army, and the growing military strength of Iraq has got to worry the mullahs a lot.  They are desperately trying to intimidate Maleki into refusing a mutual defense agreement with us, and, so far at least, have failed.  Utterly failed.

They had been doing better in Afghanistan, but the Taliban’s death wish has seemingly overcome sound military doctrine, and they are being killed in amazing numbers by our forces on several battlegrounds.  The Iranian-supported Taliban keep trying to pull off a big military victory against us, which is just what we want.  One Special Forces officer recently called it “target practice” for his guys.  And now that Silvio Berlusconi either has, or soon will, tell his carabinieri that it’s ok for them to shoot real ammunition, the Taliban will have even more trouble.  Those Italians are smart and brave, they will do well.

But I digress.  The important point is that even the Times now recognizes the lunacy of all those claims by the likes of Seymour Hersh, and various lefty bloggers who I will not name for fear of contaminating my computer screen, that it was only a matter of hours before the big assault against Tehran was unleashed.

The short, straight line to realize how crazy this claim was/is, is to ask yourself the question, can you imagine Condi Rice and Steven Hadley approving such a thing, absent some huge smoking gun showing Iranians murdering Americans?  Even the impressive quantity of evidence to that effect hasn’t been enough for these unworthies to approve simple measures of legitimate self-defense such as attacking the terrorist training camps in Iran (and its puppet regime in Syria, let’s not forget).  If they won’t even do that, they certainly aren’t going to something approaching all-out war.

Hell, they won’t even support the dissidents.

Airedales in Politics

June 23rd, 2008 - 9:44 am

Airedales are funny dogs.  Funny ha-ha and funny peculiar.  The main thing to know is that you really have to want to spend lots of time with your dog if you’re going to have an airedale, because they move right in.  It doesn’t take them long to figure out that the two-legged ones have it better.  Better in every way:  they eat better, they get the best rooms, and they play a lot more than the four-legged guy.

So they set out to get all those good things reserved for the two-leggeds.  They figure out how to get at the food, they learn to open doors, and after a while they pretty much take over the house.  And with the passage of time, they develop their own neuroses.  Our first airedale, Barnaby of Blessed Memory, “knew” for seven years or so that everyone who came to the house had come to see him and play with him.  I mean, why else would they come?  He was smarter, faster, stronger, fluffier and cuter.

Over the years it slowly and terribly dawned on him that there were some folks who came to the house for some other reason.  What could it be?  And so he pondered it, until the horrible truth became all too clear:  THEY HAVE COME TO EAT MY FOOD.  No other explanation was possible.  And so, when the doorbell rang, he would race to the door, tail wagging, rapid breathing, bouncing up on the door in preparation for his welcoming bounce on the visitor.  The guest would get maybe half a minute to make his intentions clear, and once Barnaby decided it was one of THOSE, he would let out a mournful wail, race to the kitchen, and lie flat on the floor with his arms around his bowl.  If the poor soul–the visitor, that is–set foot in the kitchen, Barnaby would emit a vicious growl, and the guest would quickly retreat.

It has been said that you can’t really train an airedale, which is a bit of an exaggeration.  True, they don’t take to discipline.  But they certainly understand what you want from them, and they are even prepared to do it, for the most part.  “For the most part” is key, because they view your commands the same way Neapolitan drivers view red lights:  a strong suggestion, something to be seriously considered.  However this does not mean blind obedience.  An airedale has a very strong will, and there will be times when he will decide it’s best to ignore a command.  As when there is a squirrel within five miles, for example.  It’s better to chase the squirrel.  Sometimes airedales even catch squirrels, and then bring them to you as a sign of their love.

I’ve often wondered how airedales would do in politics, because they have great charm, and some of them have great charisma.  Our current airedale, Thurber, isn’t very charismatic, but he makes up for it with charm and cuteness.  Everybody loves him, even anti-dog people.  So I would think he would win most elections, and I’m sure he’d make good decisions in office.

All of which brings us to the horror story of the month, in which the Governor of the State of Maryland (aka the People’s Republic of Maryland), one Mr. Martin O’Malley.  He is not, so far as I know, related to the legendary Mr. O’Malley, the cigar-wielding fairy godfather of barnaby in the old comic strip of the same name.  If so, he has lost the magic, because this particular O’Malley actually evicted an airedale from his home.  His mansion.

According to the Washington Post, Governor O’Malley had an airedale named Scout, who seems to me to be a model of his breed.  The Post had previously reported, in the words of the two journalists,

that the pup was asserting authority beyond his actual powers, aggressively patrolling the perimeter of the governor’s mansion and barking fiercely at every tourist and legislator who passed by. Now, after months of unaccustomed silence from Scout, the O’Malleys are confirming that the dog is no longer with the family, as reported by the Baltimore Examiner.

Scout was doing exactly what he should:  protecting his turf.  And barking at legislators is one of the highest callings of an airedale.  To say that he was overstepping his bounds could not be more mistaken;  he was keeping potential enemies outside  the boundaries, as well he should.

Mrs. O’Malley (Katie) actually made a nasty remark about Scout, whom she had evicted from the mansion.  She cruelly told the Post that

He’s living with Baltimore friends who’ve trained other problem dogs and take him for long runs every day.

“He’s happy,” she promised.

PROBLEM DOGS?  More like problem pols.  Mrs. O’Malley even leaked the ultimate slur, whispering that Scout had bitten their 5-year old son.  She quickly added that “it was minor,” which leads me to believe that Scout was loving up the boy, and between the irrational exuberance of the two of them, perhaps a tooth pressed on some skin.  Our airedales have always loved children, and while I have known a tooth to press against my skin, none of ours ever bit anyone.

In fairness to Mrs. O’Malley, I must admit that Thurber is named after the great writer, James Thurber, who wrote a story about a family airedale.  The story was called something like “The Dog Who Bit People,” and told, as you might guess, of an airedale who bit everyone who entered the house.  That rather appealed to me;  I thought maybe if I named the puppy “Thurber” he might be a fierce guard dog.  But no.  Our Thurber is Ghandian to the extreme.  He thinks all problems can be resolved with treats and licks.

So maybe Scout misbehaved.  But a bit of attention would probably have cured it.  And it seems the O’Malley’s have a bit of remorse:

Though Scout still returns for visits, a new appointee has already taken his place: Rex, an English cocker spaniel. Cute, sweet, good with kids, said O’Malley. “He loves it out in the front yard.”

My bottom line:  a feckless politicized spaniel was promoted to a position for which he has no qualifications, while a brave, trench-hardened airedale was sent to reeducation camp.  Airedales are too good for politics.  And, it seems, politicians in the People’s Republic of Maryland.

Our Marines

June 22nd, 2008 - 3:22 pm

As most of you know, one of our two sons has been in the Marine Corps for the past four years-plus, has twice deployed to Anbar Province in Iraq, and has consequently been a part of the historic victory over al Qaeda.  His younger brother is now two weeks away from completing the ordeal of Officer Candidates School at Quantico.  If he makes it–so far, so good–he will then finish his college education (did you know that EVERY commissioned Marine officer has a college degree?) and become a 1st Lieutenant just under a year from now.  It is not easy to describe what it’s like to be the parent of a Marine officer, because “proud” really doesn’t get you all the way there.  The Marines are awesome.  I don’t know another group anywhere that maintains such high standards (and yes, they are human, and they make mistakes, for which they are severely punished), or has such high values.  And their ‘in your face’ attitude really helps both the Marines and their families, because it recalls Zero Mostel’s unforgettable outburst in “The Producers”:  “When you’ve got it, flaunt it!”

So here they are, flaunting it.  As they should:


And notice the URL:  “Our Marines.”  They sure are.

Our two presumptive candidates are sparring on what to do with bin Laden. As I have said often enough, I think he’s dead, so the “debate” is beside the point. Still, it’s interesting to parse Obama’s remarks on Nuremburg, about which he doesn’t seem to know very much (he seems to think that the Nazis had American Constitutional protections, including habeas corpus, which they didn’t). Which brings me to another of my favorite themes: our elite schools aren’t educating their students. And an ignorant elite is very dangerous for us.

Meanwhile, over at the Washington Post, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Iran expert, Vali Nasr, admits that Iran has taken a shellacking in Iraq, but then (of course) argues that this is (the latest) reason for us to negotiate with them. He even says that “Engaging Iran now could even influence who wins the Iraq debate in Tehran.”

Mr Nasr has some interesting theories about that “debate in Tehran,” which seems to me to be over the best way to kill Iraqis and Americans, drive the Coalition out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and impose an Islamic Republic on the poor souls. But Mr Nasr has a different impression:

Tehran will find it difficult to regain lost turf in Baghdad or Basra, or to go back to happily supporting Shiites both at the center and in the militias. It will have to choose whether it is with the state or the sub-state actors.

One wonders just why the mullahs have to make such a choice. I would think that Supreme Leader Khamenei would want it both ways. He wants to support murderous Shi’ites and try to intimidate the Iraqi Government by killing its supporters as often as he can. And above all, he dreads the thought of an independent and politically free Iraq that has an American security umbrella. Which, as the Washington Post editorialists rightly argue, is exactly what is happening, and exactly what Maliki told the mullahs:

He assured his Iranian hosts that Iraq would not be a launching pad for an American attack on Iran. But he pointedly told a press briefing that negotiations on the strategic partnership would continue. He repeated that commitment on Friday, even after warning that the talks had “reached a dead end.” In effect, the Iraqi prime minister was saying that his country does not want to become an Iranian satellite but an independent Arab state that would look to the United States to ensure its security.

That is why the Supreme Leader must try to intimidate Maliki at the same time he has his killers slaughter Iraqis. Any Iraqis, neither their cult nor their ethnicity interests him in the least. There’s abundant evidence that he is doing precisely that. First, the London Times informs us that the latest car bomb (which, interestingly, has not been called a “suicide attack,” perhaps because it was remotely controlled) that killed so many Shi’ites in Baghdad a few days ago was essentially an Iranian operation. As American Lt.-Col. Steven Stover pout it, our people are convinced that “this atrocity was committed by a Special Groups cell,” language that is used to describe groups closely tied to Iran.

Please notice that this is not the celebrated sectarian conflict that has been so shamelessly promoted as the cause of nearly all violence in Iraq for so many years; this is Shi’ites blowing up other Shi’ites, with Iran pushing the buttons. And I am sure when all is said and done, we will find that Iran has sponsored violence on all sides, Sunni and Shi’ite, Kurd, Turkoman, and so forth.

And as for Mr Nasr’s quaint notion that Iran wants to play some sort of “constructive” role in Iraq, the wonderful Caroline Glick, whose new book, The Shackled Warrior, should be on the top of your reading table, tells us everything we need to know about that.

On Tuesday, the day after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki completed his three-day visit to Iran, his envoy to the Islamic Republic received a care package – delivered to his front door. When Iraqi Ambassador Muhammad Majid al-Sheikh’s driver opened the package, he discovered it was a bomb.

In their best Farsi imitation of the Godfather, Iranian police spokesmen claimed that the package was not a bomb – but aquarium equipment. And in a way, they were right. The package was supposed to help Sheikh “sleep with the fishes.”

I think Mr Nasr has the context entirely wrong. Iran is not a normal state, its rulers are not normal politicians, and its policy is not based on our models of “conflict resolution.” They are waging war against us, as they have for nearly thirty years, and will use all means to win it.

Mr Nasr concludes that this is a great time to negotiate with the mullahs. To be fair, it is hard to remember a time when he didn’t think conditions were right for talking to Iran, so this is nothing new. Nor has he ever seemed to notice that we are in fact negotiating right now, and we have been talking to them ever since Khomeini seized power in early 1979.

This is classic Council on Foreign Relations silliness. Their self-important experts told us all during the Cold War that we should be nice to the Soviets, that we shouldn’t support the dissidents, and that Reagan was a militaristic lunatic. So today they tell us to be nice to the mullahs, remain silent on the massacre of decent Iranians, and Bush is a militaristic lunatic.

Plus ca change…it’s the usual.

Almost a year ago, I wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal in which I said we were winning the battle of Iraq. I came in for the usual derision from the anti-war crowd, which was desperately invested in our defeat in the Middle East, but the facts, as usual, were inescapable. It is very difficult for anyone to deny that things are very much better in Iraq, and the debate has now shifted to the consequences of the defeat of al Qaeda. Take a look at this piece, for example, from the “Guardian,” hardly suspect of being a mouthpiece for Bushhitlercheney:

Today’s Washington Times notes that there has been a significant drop in the number of “suicide attacks” in Iraq. And I am told that many of those recent attacks are actually conducted by remote-controlled vehicles, not by fervent martyrs-to-be. This suggests two things: Coalition forces are doing a better job patrolling the borders (especially the Syrian border, which has long been the route of choice for most of the terrorists), and the Islamic fascists are having increasing trouble recruiting young men and women to their ranks.

The defeat of al Qaeda cannot but shake the Islamofascist world. I have no doubt there are now serious ruptures within it, even though one or another alleged detail may be dubious. It must shake Tehran and Damascus as well, for they went all-out to drive us from Iraq. So this is also their defeat. It must therefore be heartening to the dissidents in Syria and Iran, who are constantly told by their oppressors that “America can’t do a damn thing,” that the Americans are losing in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the Mahdi will soon return to reign over a glorious imperial caliphate. Instead, the infidels and crusaders have smashed the several terrorist organizations funded, armed and trained by the mullahs, from al Qaeda to the Mahdi Army, the Taliban and Iraqi Hezbollah.

So this is another good moment to rally to the side of Iranian and Syrian dissidents, but nobody in the “Western world” has the stomach for it. We are still treading water with regard to our major enemies in the terror war. As I wrote last October,

Not a day goes by without one of our commanders shouting to the four winds that the Iranians are operating all over Iraq, and that virtually all the suicide terrorists are foreigners, sent in from Syria. We have done great damage to their forces on the battlefield, but they can always escalate, and we still have no policy to direct against the terror masters in Damascus and Tehran. That problem is not going to be resolved by sound counterinsurgency strategy alone, no matter how brilliantly executed.

There is still no strategy worthy of the name (unless you think sanctions will do the trick; I don’t), and they still get the first shot.

The longer we wait, the more lives will be lost, and the greater the cost will be. Which is, after all, why I keep saying “Faster, Please.”

Iran Policy According to David Brooks

June 7th, 2008 - 8:18 pm

 I am a fan and a friend of David Brooks, a thoughtful and honest man who writes at the New York Times.  A week ago (May 30th) he sent a “letter” about Iran policy to McCain and Obama, that seems to me to reflect the consensus of those pundits who think of themselves as more realistic than the ideologues on either side of the spectrum, and since it’s so well written and so clear, it gives us a good opportunity to evaluate what our expert realists are thinking.  It can be summarized like this:

            –we don’t know much about Iran, even though it’s the major foreign policy issue for the United States (and will remain the #1 issue into the next presidency);

            –not only do we not understand Iran, the Iranians themselves don’t understand themselves either.  They don’t know if they’re a global jihad, or a regional power trying to gain more sway over the Middle East;

            –there isn’t very much we can do about Iran, because we have feckless allies who aren’t willing to do anything really tough (like stronger sanctions);

            –Therefore, our best policy is to do basically nothing, and hope that time works in our favor.  And maybe it is, since the jihadis seem to be undergoing considerable stress, and after all, “where Islamists rule, they wear out their welcome.”

As for the hot item in the campaign—should we talk to the Iranians?—Brooks just waves it away.  He thinks it’s beside the point.  The issue is how to exert pressure (which he says we mostly can’t), not whether we should talk to the mullahs.  Oddly, David doesn’t explain just why we should want to exert pressure.  There isn’t a word about the nukes, nor about the Americans who have been killed and will be killed by Iranian and Iranian-sponsored forces.  Nor is there much of anything about the goal of American policy, except this odd paragraph:

Your job is to restrain Iran’s momentum until the fundamental correlation of forces can shift. For amid all the doleful news, there is a hopeful tide. Opinion is turning slowly against extremism. The über-analyst Dennis Ross says that he has noted it among the Palestinians. Michael Young writes that opinion is shifting against Hezbollah in Lebanon. Peter Bergen, Paul Cruickshank and Lawrence Wright have in their different ways written about the intellectual crisis afflicting Al Qaeda.

Suppose opinion really is turning against extremism.  So what?  East Europeans and the citizens of the slave states along the Baltic were “against extremism” for decades, but it didn’t help them one bit.  We know—contrary to David’s insistence that we really don’t know what’s going on inside Iran—that most Iranians are unhappy with their regime.  We know it, and the regime knows it, which is why so many political prisoners are killed and tortured in Iran. But without support from the free world, they’re not able to get rid of the mullahs. Michael Young is no doubt right when he says that “opinion is shifting against Hezbollah in Lebanon,” but this has not prevented Hezbollah—which is to say, Iran—from imposing its will on the country and using it as a base for their next assault against Israel (which, I expect, Michael Young would tell us most Lebanese do not want).  Here again, not a word.

I find this very disconcerting.  If someone as good as David Brooks can write an entire column in Iran without once mentioning that Iran has been at war with us for nearly thirty years, or that Iranian killers and Iranian-armed-and-trained killers are going after American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan (as they have been, ever since we went into Afghanistan in 2001), or that Iran is developing nuclear weapons with which it has promised to attack us and Israel, it’s a bad sign.  He deals exclusively with process, not with the facts of the war, not with the serious threat against civilization emanating from Tehran.

It’s unworthy of a person with his talent.  I hope he just had a bad day, as we all do.   Merely hoping that things will get better isn’t the sort of “policy” that will get us through this very dangerous time.