Sunday, March 30, 2008

Harvard Study Links Anti-Resolve Rhetoric to Increased Violence

I can tell from the response to this column that I really struck a nerve with liberals. Guess the truth hurts, especially when confronted with the consequences of action. Some edited and printed version varied from this one and gave the impression that I was trying to endorse squashing dissent on the war, which the column clearly does not do; I would never take such a position, I fought for freedom of speech.

I have been accused of talking over the heads of some at times and I appear to have done that here. So, I'll clarify the four main points on this column for those who had this zip over their heads:
1. Arguing that we should not have gone into Iraq is a valid argument, but it is pointless with regard to solving the current conflict. Making an argument about what we should not have done 5 years ago does not address what we should do now.
2. History and this Harvard study show that anti-resolve rhetoric encourages the enemy in the kind of fight the war on terrorism is. It's an argument I've been making for four years.
3. You are more than free to dissent and protest, but you must also be aware that there are consequences for doing so, those include increased violence.
4. The dissent encourages the enemy to keep fighting.

The criticism about the war in Iraq often crosses the line from pure debate into an unwarranted concession of will and a lack of resolve in the face of terrorists.

There are some whose positions so blatantly argue for defeat at the hands of terrorists that there is no need to even extend them the courtesy of a benefit of the doubt. They simply want us to lose this war. Their rhetoric matches that position.

A recently published study from Harvard points out the danger in such statements. This rhetoric is music to the ears of the terrorists in Iraq.

For those who deny terrorists are in Iraq, those who are still trying to argue 2003 all over again, and those who ignorantly believe it’s a myth that there could be any terrorists in Iraq, wake up to the current situation and quit trying to make the irrelevant five year old argument. If defeating Al Qaeda everywhere in the world actually matters, then it no longer matters if they were in Iraq in 2003 because they are, without doubt, there now. They, along with Iranian backed terrorists, need to be defeated in Iraq.

So why are these opposing positions and statements which demonstrate a lack of resolve music to the ears of terrorists?

Because the method by which lesser military powers (terrorists organizations included) defeat far greater powers is by employing the tactics of an insurgency, the aim of which is not to defeat the greater power militarily, but to crush the will and resolve of that nation’s people.

Statements which show a lack of resolve for our nation’s victory only serve to embolden the enemy during this kind of fight. It gives them exactly what they seek. The defeatist rhetoric from here gives the terrorists what they need because it can ultimately lead to their victory.

They are not trying to defeat our military. They are trying to defeat the will of the American people. Some people happily oblige them and capitulate, and in doing so encourage the terrorists to keep fighting.

I have had some heated exchanges on the subject with politicians, their staffs, and other anti-victory individuals. Others who understand the war against terrorists have also had those same debates.

Last week Harvard confirmed what we inherently knew from our fight against the terrorists in Iraq, the history of insurgencies, and understanding of those motivations which drive the terrorists.

As reported by the UPI, the Harvard research shows that the negative public debate about Iraq has “a measurable ‘emboldenment effect’ on insurgents there.”

The study tracked “anti-resolve” statements by politicians and reports about public opinion to test the belief that criticism of our policy in Iraq encourages the insurgents.

They found “in periods immediately after a spike in anti-resolve statements, the level of insurgent attacks increased between 7 percent and 10 percent.”

”The study also found that attacks increased more in parts of Iraq where there is greater access to international news media, which its authors say increases the credibility of their findings.”

The authors identify an “emboldenment effect by comparing whether anti-resolve statements … have differential impacts on the rate of insurgent attacks in areas with higher and lower access to information about U.S. news.”

They also believe their data tells them that “insurgents in Iraq are rational actors -- responding strategically to changing perceptions of their enemy's will to fight.”

In simple terms, the study shows that where insurgents have the capability to hear the anti-war rhetoric and anti-resolve statements from our country, they are emboldened to attack even more. They also adjust their strategy based on what they hear emanating from our country.

The study’s authors cite their concern that the data will affect the debate on the war, military strategy, and foreign policy. Rightfully so; criticism and debate should not be crushed and the military is always looking for better ways to fight.

But the study does illustrate the danger of crossing the line and demonstrating a lack of resolve, thereby giving the enemy the motivation they need to keep fighting, which is exactly what many of us have repeatedly argued the defeatist crowd is doing.

This study should also tell the defeatists that if they truly want the war in Iraq to end, instead of demanding that we surrender, they should stop emboldening the enemy to keep fighting.

National Security Drives Biofuel Production

The national security need for developing biofuels outweighs what would otherwise be considered questionable government meddling in a free market.

Price supports and production requirements for biofuels bring the artificial influence of government into the realms of energy supply, demand, and pricing. Government price supports distort the monetary value of a product or service, and usually cause some sort of a chain reaction within the market. These chain reactions typically have unforeseen and often undesirable consequences.

Although the government’s influence on biofuel production is a blessing to our state, one that is sure to have a lasting impact on our rural communities, the effects in other markets are undeniable.

In Nebraska, we stand a good chance of having a pending recession buffered by the boost given to our agricultural economy by the production of biofuels. The biofuel industry is a positive development for our farmers, our communities, our state, and a necessity for our national security.

Yet the argument against government sponsored biofuels based on the disruption to free markets and the consequences of doing so has validity, but only if looked at through a free market prism alone.

But we can’t look at it through that single lens because doing so neglects the need and role of biofuels for our national security. This argument trumps free markets this time because it drives supply and innovation toward new sources and infrastructure for our energy needs which can sustain us in the event of national crisis.

The increasing dependence upon foreign sources of oil and an unwillingness to utilize our own sources demand that we fully explore all possible routes for alternative fuels and develop the best ones for our national security.

An argument can be made that tapping into our own oil reserves would rectify the situation for national security interests, but it does not fully reflect reality in our country.

The reality is that the far left is unnaturally forcing us away from petroleum, in a direction and at a pace inconsistent with supply and free markets. They have successfully impeded drilling, refining, and infrastructure expansion to the detriment of consumer needs and national security.

Because they’ve impeded the market, the government has to act quickly and outside the rules of free markets to overcome the obstacle placed in the way of their first role, the defense of the nation.

At some point we’ll run out of petroleum and would have to develop alternative sources anyway. But we’re not there yet, and the verdict is out on how long it would take us to get there without other meddling.

However, we have been forced there prematurely. The zealots of the church of global warming, the environmental lobby, and those who simply fight against capitalism at every turn have successfully blocked further development of the petroleum industry. We as a nation have been incapable of breaking the gridlock they’ve created.

Join that gridlock against domestic oil with the reality of the regimes which control much of the world’s oil, and you have a combination that demands alternative energy sources. When added to the unwillingness we’ve witnessed over the last 6 years by many Americans to sacrifice during a time of war, we end up with an alternative energy demand for both national security and national comfort.

Thus we’re forced to pursue alternatives for consumer needs and defending ourselves should a larger conflict arise than the one we’re presently involved in.

We must have alternatives. Our military is one of the biggest consumers of petroleum products in the world. Without petroleum our military doesn’t function.

Through the development of ethanol and biodiesel we are also developing the means by which our military can still fight without petroleum.

While much of the focus is often on the corn-food-fuel complex, we are also exploring and developing other sources and methods of biofuel production. Not only is the government, often the Defense Department specifically, pushing the move toward alternative sources of energy, but they are also catalyzing the research and development of new fuels for military use, as well as the means by which they can be easily produced and distributed.

Whether oil from algae, switchgrass for ethanol, or hydrogen fuel cells, and whether they’re distributed by nation-wide infrastructure systems or produced 500 gallons at a time by embedded military units, the Defense Department is exploring and driving its options for the future. These biofuel innovations are a security necessity for a nation whose political correctness is driving its energy and economic policies.

Change Based on Reality

We all want change. Whether we simply accept its inevitability or seek resolution to those things which need fixed, we want change. But shouldn’t we pursue change for the better?

To change for the better we need forward thinking leadership that has learned from both the successes and failures of the past, not leadership which seeks a change back to the failed policies of the past.

You can’t hope for a better future if you ignore the lessons of the past.

Why then change back to those tax rates which failed us in the past? Why change back to a system which punishes ingenuity, hard work, risk taking, and accomplishment through confiscatory tax rates? We need change that does not punish us for moving ourselves up from lower incomes.

Everyone under the age of 45 needs change. Millions and millions of dollars have been taken from a lifetime of their paychecks for Social Security. Those workers are guaranteed to never see that money from this “sure to be bankrupt” system. We need someone with the courage to let us keep some of our own money for retirement or to fix the problem, not someone who demagogued the issue and refused to act when someone else tried to fix it.

We need our taxes lowered so that we can save more money for our children’s college education. We don’t want change which promises a government program or intervention on their behalf. We need change that allows personal hard work and achievement to pave the way, not the government.

We want leadership courageous and smart enough to understand that government-run health care does not work. Where it exists, it fails miserably in comparison to our system. We want change that fixes the problems in the system so all can afford it, not change that advocates a government take over of the system which will only lead to poorer health care, less access, and a crippling tax burden to pay for it.

We need change that is bright enough to understand, and courageous enough to fix the entitlement programs that are on the way to breaking our country. The addition of nearly 1 trillion dollars every year to those programs and other new entitlements is not change that is either bright or courageous.

We need someone who understands the challenges of the world, and among them is confronting the threats that exist. We can’t afford to change back to someone who believes they can simply talk, be nice, and all will be solved. We’ve seen where that approach fails. Why then change back to a bunker mentality which only hopes for the best? We want change, but not change that has already forgotten what led to WWII and 9/11.

We need leadership that understands the current oil situation, the goals for alternatives in the future, and the need to bridge the gap while in transition to them. We don’t need change which promises to throw us into the abyss while attempting to leap over the divide.

We need leadership that changes the paradigm on arguments about personal freedom back to our country’s origins. Instead of asking how far we can infringe on the 2nd Amendment, we should be figuring out which gun laws to cancel. We should be championing tolerance of everyone’s faith, not championing groups like the ACLU who are intent on destroying it. We should be discussing ways to remove the barriers to everyone’s success, not promising more regulation and bigger government.

We need leadership which understands that solutions have always been found in the American people, not the American government. Why then change back to leadership which advocates a “nanny state” to address our needs? Why change back to leadership which advocates a government program for everything rather than relying on the freedom and empowerment of people to solve problems?

We need leadership that remembers it’s our role to exercise our freedom, and that the government’s role isn’t to tell us how. We need change that reinvigorates freedom from government, not change that advocates bigger government consolidating power unto itself.

That’s the change we need. Not change whose primary hope is that people have forgotten the lessons of the past. Not change which ignores the successes while resurrecting the policies and philosophies which have previously failed and will surely fail again.

True hope and change for a better future can not ignore the reality of history’s lessons.

4 Senate Candidates Views on Iraq, the Broader War on Terror, and the Military

Since originally having this column printed, it appears that Tony Raimondo's position has swung to the left and I would have to amend my closing comments. I now have serious doubts about his position on the war in Iraq.

Senate Candidates Answer Questions on Iraq, National Security, Military

I recently posed questions to four of our candidates running for U.S. Senate on the issues of Iraq, the broader war on terrorism, national security, and the military. Three of them provided enough detail to write entire columns about. I’ve provided the representative highlights.

Pat Flynn initially contacted me to discuss these issues. In Iraq, he believes in continuing to fight Al Qaeda and seeing “The Surge” through to completion, noting that “he’s always believed in it.” He added that we’ve failed in sending the message about the broader implications for winning in Iraq, and that we need to let the Generals fight the war, not the Senators. Too often politics is trumping national security.

He sees the war against Islamic extremists as a war in which America needs to have “resolve and perseverance,” one in which we must never be willing to give up, citing Churchill’s resolve during World War II. In that light, he notes this fight against terrorism as more than just a fight with Osama bin Laden.

Flynn sees China and illegal immigration as concerns for national security.

He also believes that our military is currently under-funded and that we must give them what they need to win, and then take care of them when they come home.

Via e-mail, Tony Raimondo provided detailed answers on these issues.

On Al Qaeda in Iraq, he expressed that “It is important that in the effort to defeat terrorism around the globe we must continue to fight Al Qaeda and other terrorists in Iraq.” He is “not for setting an arbitrary date for troop withdrawal,” prefers “transferring authority for security and military operations to the Iraqis as quickly as possible,” and focusing our efforts “on the missions that are in our national security interests.” He specifically noted that “we do not have an open-ended commitment there.”

Raimondo feels that “a strong partnership with NATO in Afghanistan will ease the burden on our own military and send a message to the world that defeating terrorism is a global initiative, not a U.S. unilateral endeavor.”

He says our military needs “The three R’s - recruitment, retention, replenishment” and that “The Pentagon and the Congress need to devise a plan to replenish our military, to ensure our soldiers are properly trained and equipped so they can meet the national security challenges of tomorrow.”

Mr. Raimondo also feels it’s important “to keep our promise as a nation to our returning soldiers and veterans. They have sacrificed much for our country…Our returning heroes shouldn’t be left to fend for themselves. We owe it to them to give them the care they need.”

In a phone call with Secretary Johanns, he provided comments which were quite thorough in each of these areas.

He’s been to Iraq and has no doubts that Al Qaeda is there. In Iraq and elsewhere, he believes Al Qaeda is “an enemy like none we’ve ever fought, intent on ending our role in the world. We can’t walk away from that.” He further believes there is no question that the war on terrorism is very real, not just a few isolated events of extremism we need to confront.

He says he would like to see the Iraqi government doing more and moving faster, but understands the challenges inherent to their country and the birth pains of a new democracy.

Johanns believes we need to send messages to both the Iraqis and our troops that we will stand behind them, especially given the success our troops have had with “The Surge” and the recent progress of the Iraqis, politically and militarily, under difficult circumstances.

He, as did Raimondo, noted several countries as ones to watch and others as allies to work with. He cited his experience as Secretary of Agriculture working with representatives from many of those countries as an opportunity to build upon.

“We need to stand behind our troops,” Johanns implored, noting his dismay over the mixed signals we send them with the politics surrounding the war. Not only was he adamant about equipping them to win any conflict, but to also care for a lifetime of needs when they return.

Scott Kleeb’s stand on these issues is not defined, or even outlined for that matter.

Ambiguous answers to previous questions by others showed through in the response to the same detailed questions I posed to all the candidates. The Kleeb camp simply replied that they were still building their campaign and not yet ready to answer detailed questions on these issues.

We’ll have to wait for his answers to one of the “biggest issues facing America,” and see how influential his contacts with the radical, far left, defeatists at the Daily Kos are to those answers.

It appears Nebraskans are fortunate to have three candidates who’ve taken solid positions on these issues which reflect the reality of the challenges in Iraq, the rest of the war on terrorism, national security, and our military.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

More Comments on Senate Candidates

Starting today, some Nebraska newspapers will be running my column on the views of our Senate candidates' stands on Iraq, the rest of the war on terrorism, national security, and our military. I won't post the column here for a while, so that it hits the papers first.

For my columns I have to target about 750 words, and ended up with 820 for this one. I did the best I could to provide the ideas and quotes which best reflected the views of three candidates on the subjects in question. In some ways it didn't do justice to the views of Johanns and Raimondo, or the information they provided. The fourth, Scott Kleeb, was not yet prepared to answer the detailed questions I was asking.

If more space would have been available, I would have added many quotes and ideas from both Mike Johanns and Tony Raimondo. (I would add them here, heck, I'd publish my notes if I could, but I did not ask any of the campaigns if I could do so in this forum. To do so now, without permission, would be somewhat of a breach of trust, so I won't, unless they consent to such.)

Both Johanns and Raimondo provided quite a bit of detailed information on the subject that was thorough, well thought out, consistent with, and applicable to actually confronting the challenges in these areas. Their knowledge and positions were most likely to help achieve positive outcomes.

Johanns had the benefit of actually being able to talk with me about the subjects, which always provides a clearer picture of where one stands. He was unhesitant in his description, analysis, and solutions. There was no pausing to choose the right words, they just came. We should feel quite comfortable with Mike Johanns in this arena.

Not to be dismissed was Raimondo's answers via e-mail. They reflected a good command of the subject, especially with regard to the effect of other countries on our economy and national security. I had a little difficulty reaching the right people to ask those questions, but when I did, the answers came very quickly in reply. That tells me he's been thinking about, paying attention to, and preparing solutions, as we should expect of someone who wants to be our U.S. Senator.

Pat Flynn has the right take on the situation in Iraq, national security, the war on terrorism, and our military, and is starting to look at other threats we face. His overall understanding and philosophy were good, he just didn't have the details the other two did yet.

Had I had more space in the column, I'd have made further analysis of Scott Kleeb's inability to answer the same questions I posed to the others. I'd have also reviewed some quotes from an Omaha World Herald article from the 25th or 28th of Feb. (I'd have to go back and look that up. It's the same one he has on his website.)

His answer about Iraq is one of the better "non-answer answers" I've seen on the subject, and I know this subject. I've watched, read, and listened to politicians talk about Iraq for four years now. These issues are a daily study for me. Comparatively, his statements in that article, were ambiguous at best. They reflect someone who doesn't know the issues or is trying to mask an unpopular position on them.

I'll go with the non-sinister version, and assume he doesn't know the issues. I think we should be uneasy with someone who ran for Congress two years ago, has obviously been leaning toward running for something, but doesn't have a good enough grasp of the situation to answer questions on what he himself admits is one of the two biggest issues we face. Did he have a position back then?

He's had plenty of time to prepare both himself and the answers to tough, detailed questions on these issues. He's campaigned for national office before. He no longer gets the new guy pass. After all, he and Raimondo jumped in at the same time, but Raimondo was more than capable of demonstrating a good grasp of these subjects and was able to provide very detailed answers. Answers that represent where I believe other Nebraskans stand.

Maybe he'll come up with answers. I hope they're good ones that reflect the reality of the challenges in the world. But right now, he doesn't pass the test.

We'll see where the next couple months take us with these four. (No, I haven't forgotten about the other Democrat running. I only get so much space, and these were the four of highest profile.)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Extremists and our Candidates' Web Site Comments on Them

During the last month we were given several stark reminders about the nature of the extremist elements who threaten us.

The latest came Monday when a man in a wheelchair blew himself up at an Iraqi police station, killing several police officers as well.
Moroccan authorities arrested 32 members of an Al Qaeda linked terrorist network which was planning to assassinate cabinet ministers and members of the small Jewish community there.

We learned that a recent suicide bombing which claimed the lives of about 100 people in a Baghdad market was actually carried out by two mentally incompetent women from a mental health facility. They were unwittingly rigged with explosives, sent into the crowded market by terrorists, and then remotely detonated.

In a series of reports in February, we followed the attempts of jihadists to take over the country of Chad. Chad has been of assistance with aid to the victims of genocide in Darfur and is instrumental to new humanitarian initiatives in Sudan backed by the U.N., E.U., and the African Union. But in a pre-emptive strike, the armed opposition of Chad backed by the Sudanese government and Wahabi extremists attacked and nearly took down the Chadian government. The Janjaweed fundamentalists nearly consolidated a larger power base in the region from which they would surely continue to inflict their terrorism on any one not like them. As if the suffering in Sudan weren't enough, these belligerents thought it also necessary to prevent anyone from coming to their aid.

We were also treated to two Al Qaeda videos, one of which showed a training session for young boys being taught how to kill and kidnap, and another of the rescue of a young boy who had been kidnapped. He was being held for ransom, threatened with death if his family did not pay. Experience tells us the terrorist's beheading threat was not idle.

Using the mentally and physically handicapped as human bombs, kidnapping and killing children, teaching children to kill, engaging in the atrocities taking place in Darfur and attacking those who would assist the victims should remind all of us what it is we face in the world.

Given the nature and facts of this threat, it is imperative that we understand and analyze the positions of those who seek to represent us in D.C. on the issues of extremism, Iraq, the rest of the war on terrorism, national security, and the military.

In addition to our newspapers, one of the most public sources for a candidate's stand on the issues comes from their websites. As of Monday, the following information was found for our Senatorial candidates on the topic:

Tony Raimondo's lone reference was three sentences, "our national security demands a fresh approach. We face new challenges every day. These new challenges demand new leadership with new ideas."

Scott Kleeb's lone reference was listing as one of the challenges we face, "a global threat of extremism."

It's fair to assume that their very recent entry into the fray explained the lack of information about their positions and more could be expected in the future.

Pat Flynn's website provided more detailed information on the issue, everything from Iraq to illegal immigration, including: "One way we will guarantee the freedom and security of our country is through a strong National Defense." He states that "The war on terror is winnable, and that includes the current battlefront in Iraq. I believe Iraq is the center of the war against al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in the world today. It is clear that these groups are being funded and armed by terrorist stronghold countries, and their resolve to win is great. Our resolve must be greater!"

He further adds, "We need to support our military with renewed troop strength, hardware updates, and a missile defense shield."

Mike Johanns has a section on the War on Terror with the following, "Islamic terrorists, who have proven they hate America and have no regard for innocent human life, have declared war on the United States. It is a long-term threat that requires our constant vigilance and courageII do not agree with those who advocate surrender and retreat in Iraq. I believe we must support our military and work for a quick and victorious resolution to win the war against terrorists and extremists who threaten free people and seek to do our nation harm."

Analysis will be made of all the information available on these positions for the candidates in future columns. If anyone decides to run against Adrian Smith the same will be done for that race.

It should be an interesting run into May.

Lessons During Two Years of Writing

When you write a column on a Sunday or Monday, but don’t have it printed until later in the week there’s always a chance the week’s events could change the impact of the column. After two years it finally happened.

Last week’s column calling for a Diplomatic Surge in Iraq was penned, but not printed before some outstanding news came from Iraq.

Iraqi lawmaker’s passed three long-awaited measures that bode well for the future of the country and the political process there. They passed a budget for 2008, a law which detailed provincial powers and prepared for provincial elections this fall, and approved amnesty for prisoners being held but not charged. The last measure met yet another of our “benchmarks” for success.

In combining the measures into one piece of legislation, the three major factions showed much reconciliation and cooperation, although the process was contentious at times. But the success of the process certainly gives hope to the likelihood of needed future legislation.

Although the reporting and analysis of the legislation, the events leading up to it, and its impact for the future varied from pessimistic to very optimistic, this legislation is yet another step forward for the country.

If the State Department was instrumental to assisting Iraq’s politicians with this legislation, I’ll reconsider my position, but they would need to keep up the good work. This could even be a point of hope in that the State Department has finally found a way to overcome their own bureaucracy to make something happen.

If the Iraqi’s acted of their own accord, then the Miranda memo cited here about the State Department’s ineptitude and the Iraqi’s capabilities was well timed.

Highlighting the change in the week’s events leads to one of the lessons learned during two years of daily research and weekly writing. It’s actually relearned after watching politicians and party officials be incorrect or on the wrong side of on an issue, but unwilling to change course when new facts highlight the need for change. Whether stuck in our own paradigm or adamantly following a party line without foundational principles, an unwillingness or incapacity for change is something we should avoid.

I’ve learned to look for the differences in positions and at different perspectives, regardless of an individual’s political affiliation or foundation, instead of assuming affiliation matched position. For example, Senator Nelson has a moderate stance on Iraq, contrary to many in his party, whereas Senator Hagel’s position is most likely to match what is often considered liberal. Both usually contradict their own party on the subject, and Senator Hagel’s position is contrary to his conservative ideals in other areas. I’ve learned, and am still learning when to agree or disagree with individuals and well-defined groups on specific issues, and when a broad-brush is appropriate.

I’ve also learned to give credit where credit is due. Although I adamantly disagree with Senator Hagel on the war in Iraq, he should be commended for his movement on what is being touted as a G.I. Bill for the 21st Century. The old G.I. Bill had done well in its time, but an update has been sorely needed. Senator Hagel, along with Senator Webb of Virginia, has introduced the “Post-9/11 Veterans’ Educational Assistance Act” to provide benefits that reflect current costs of education and living.

After spending some time in Washington D.C., I’ve learned just how busy our elected officials can be. They run rigorous, tight schedules both in D.C. and back home. Although I have disagreed with them on issues, I would never criticize or accuse them of neglect or laziness for missing a vote or declining attendance at an event. Anyone who would really needs to pay more attention to the demands on our elected officials in Washington.

I’ve learned to laugh at the contacts from those who anonymously disagree. Although their ramblings have been humorous, I’ve found the lack of courage to put a name on the criticism even funnier. While I respect those who have publicly disagreed with their names intact, the anonymous “hate-mail” ends up where it’s best suited, in the circular file.

Those who anonymously disagree have steeled my resolve to keep writing more than they know (until now), but not as much as those who’ve contacted me and asked me to keep writing. I’ve learned this perspective is in far more demand than I thought, so I will.

Diplomatic Surge in Iraq is Overdue

I have argued with lawmakers since September, given the undeniable success of the military Surge in Iraq, that what was now needed was a Diplomatic Surge. The military had succeeded, but the Iraqi government was struggling to move forward at an acceptable pace.

It’s not that we’d left the Iraqi government all alone through the process of standing up their own democracy, or so it seemed. Our country had given them what was supposed to be the advantage of hundreds, if not thousands, of State Department officials and contractors to guide them through the process. Yet despite all the expertise in diplomacy and nuance of such delicate matters so many members of the State Department claim to have, it was apparent that they were failing to assist Iraq’s legislative efforts.

Their obvious lack of progress became the cornerstone to the calls for a Diplomatic Surge.

Now, a 10 page memo to Ambassador Crocker from a recently resigned contract employee, Manuel Miranda, would confirm the need for a Diplomatic Surge. Mr. Miranda served with the State Department as the Senior Advisor for Legislative Framework in the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office.

Mr. Miranda criticizes the State Department and Foreign Service throughout his memo, highlighting many areas where they are not only inefficient, but also completely ineffective, incapable of assisting the Iraqi’s with their government – the very mission which defines their presence and purpose in Iraq.

Mr. Miranda describes incredible shortcomings in several key areas and points out where the culture and incompetence of the State Department and Foreign Service are causing further failures. He provides detailed analysis of the State Department’s inadequate management profile, the false premises under which they operate, trouble with information flow and management, excuses on legislative benchmarks, and the rule of law. Most notable among his criticisms were:

“…we have brought to Iraq the worst of America – our bureaucrats…”

“…the State Department and the Foreign Service are not competent to do the job that they have undertaken in Iraq.”

“The State Department bureaucracy is not equipped to handle the urgency of America’s Iraq investment in blood and taxpayer funds.”

“Foreign Service Officers…are not equipped to manage programs, hundreds of millions in funds, and expert human capital assets…other than diplomacy, your only expertise is in your own bureaucracy…”

“…they do not have the leadership profiles or management experience called for by the nation’s high sacrifice of blood and treasure.”

“The embassy is also severely encumbered by the Foreign Service’s built-in attention deficit disorder…”

“At the keystone moment that America’s leaders and people were pained over the debate of our continued national sacrifice, the Baghdad Embassy was doing a bureaucratic imitation of the Keystone Cops…”

“Any American graduate school study group could do better.”

“…the State Department has been an albatross around the neck of the Coalition command...”

Mr. Miranda also provides his assessment of what he calls one of the State Department and Foreign Service’s mantras, “that political success in Iraq depends entirely on Iraqis.”

He says it “amounts to little more than excuse-making by people who cannot imagine alternative paths and who are limited by their own limited experience in government and economic development,” and “is over-used as an excuse by bureaucrats who simply do not have the ability of conceiving or executing scenarios of institution-building assistance that does not comport with their past experience and over-cautious diplomatic instincts.”

He adds that “the excuse-making tendency of the Foreign Service is most evident in the areas of meeting Legislative Benchmarks and Rule of Law objectives.”

Interestingly, those comments not only have implications for the State Department and Foreign Service, but also apply to the politicians here at home who are obsessed with the Legislative Benchmarks and use the same mantra about the Iraqis as an excuse when they try to justify a precipitous withdrawal or a change in mission.

Ultimately, our military has performed superbly, providing the necessary security conditions for Iraq to move forward. The Iraqis are competent to move their governmental affairs forward. But they need assistance. After a lifetime of dictatorial oppression by Saddam Hussein, they need someone to provide leadership in showing them the way to their own democracy. That leadership has obviously not come, nor is it likely to come from our State Department. It is past the time for a Diplomatic Surge in Iraq under and with plenty of new embedded leadership that comes from outside the State Department and Foreign Service.

Liberal Groups Protest the Marines

Last week the city council of Berkeley, California informed the Marine Corps recruiting station in Berkeley, through a vote of 8-1, that they were “uninvited and unwelcome guests.”

They also voted to give the anti-war, anti-military, reality challenged group Code Pink use of the parking space in front of the Marine’s recruiting office and a sound permit once a week for the next six months so that the group can freely protest the Marine’s presence.

Berkeley’s mayor told the Marine’s they don’t belong there and they should leave.

My immediate reaction was to wish for a way that we could defend the nation, except for Berkeley.

At a minimum, maybe all of our munitions could now be manufactured and labeled with a disclaimer, “Not intended for use in defense of the citizens of Berkeley, California,” or an apology, “We regret the use of this ammunition against you and your terrorist organization if Berkeley, California was the target of your next attack.”

And then I wondered if the oath for commissioning could be changed to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States (except as it applies to the citizens of Berkeley)…

But alas, the munitions labeling is unrealistic and the oath is what it is, taken without hesitation, reservation, or purpose of evasion, sworn to in total. No part of it can be preferred or ignored. In swearing to it, one not only submits him or herself to the mandates of the oath, but also to the irony of defending the rights of those who hate you simply because you’ve chosen to defend their right to do so.

Just the same, one can’t help but ponder at what point those domestic groups who stand so adamantly opposed to the defenders of our nation’s freedom become indistinguishable from those foreign groups who do the same, and thus themselves become one of the domestic enemies one has sworn to defend our nation against?

The actions of the Berkeley city council (and Code Pink), no matter how disagreeable one finds them, do not qualify as such. Their actions simply fall under the First Amendment, even when the Amendment gives them “the right to be idiotic,” as Senator DeMint of South Carolina stated in this case. But neither should their actions go unchallenged.

Ultimately, the actions of Berkeley’s city council and Code Pink are maddening, disgusting, and sad. Both groups, by their actions, have demonstrated themselves to be “the sheep,” truly fitting the “sheep, wolves, and sheepdog” analogy often associated with Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman, author of several books, including “On Combat.” As he says it, “We know that the sheep live in denial, which is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world.” The sheep do not like the sheepdogs (the military) even though they protect them from those who mean them harm (the wolves). They don’t want the sheepdogs around. But when the wolves show up, they clamor for and try to hide behind the sheepdogs they loathe, demanding protection.

That’s exactly why the residents of Berkeley and Code Pink are sheep. They hate the military, and probably always will. But when the day comes that they’re attacked by the wolves, they’ll be the first and loudest screaming for protection.

While all of this makes sense if you understand that liberals like those of the Berkeley and Code Pink strains are prone to deciding and acting upon short term emotion instead of foresight and thoughtfulness, it is still sad.

A good friend of mine, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marines and a true sheep dog described the Berkeley/Code Pink situation this way: “While I get somewhat upset by this, I am more saddened. I can't help but be reminded how dumb most sheep are…When the populace gets to the point that they don't want protection (sheepdogs), they will get the government that they deserve (wolves), and not the government that they want. As long as this sheepdog lives it will be the one that they want, but I can't guarantee that forever. Teach your children how to defend themselves. The day will come when they may need to because someone has muzzled all the sheepdogs.”

He’s exactly right. While the residents of Berkeley may loathe the Marines who protect them, they need to remind themselves of the consequences of not having a military to protect them from the foreign and domestic enemies the members of our military have sworn to defend even them against.

Seeds of An Awakening

The four Iraqi men walked into the room. They were dressed in traditional, formal Arab garb. All were about 6 feet tall, strongly built, dark haired and thickly mustached. Two were older gentlemen, roughly in their late 50’s. Two were younger, likely their early 30’s. They were impressively charismatic, presented themselves somewhat regally, and from their features, were obviously related to one another.

After the usual greetings, they took seats on a wooden bench along one wall of the small dusty room, the chosen location for so many of the meetings I was having with the Iraqi’s from the area. A dilapidated, yet functional air conditioner missing its front cover hummed in the window. At least we were cool, regardless of what these meetings brought.

I also sat on a wooden bench, thrown together from scrounged up scraps of wood, my interpreter next to me. A Corporal, my guardian angel, stood near the door. Three other Marines, members of a Human Intelligence (HUMINT) Exploitation Team (HET) assigned to the area stood along one wall to the side of the Iraqi men. Although this was their first attendance at one of my meetings, they would soon become frequent visitors.

As the four men sat, one elder and one younger man looked toward the other older gentleman. The hierarchy was established.

The second of the younger men slouched and looked straight ahead, a combination of dismay and annoyance crossing his face. His overall demeanor was like that of a teenager who’d been forced along on a family outing.

Further introductions revealed the village they were from and that the one man to whom the others deferred was the sheik, the other his brother, and the two younger men his sons.

I asked the sheik what it was that had brought us together that day. He replied that he was seeking assistance in getting running water and electricity to his village.

The leader of the HET team immediately stepped forward and addressed the sheik.

Their team, along with an escort from a nearby Army unit, had tried to enter his village the week before. They came under heavy attack and had to fight their way out. One of his Marines had died in the action.

The HET leader demanded information about the terrorists and insurgents in the village. I told the sheik we simply couldn’t begin to help if we were attacked while trying to do so. The message was clear, “Tell us who the bad guys are, and then we’ll see if there’s something we could do about the electricity and water.”

What ensued was a heated circuitous exchange of denial from three of the Iraqi’s about the identities of the perpetrators and our demanding information about who they were.

All the while, I watched as the fourth man, the second of the sheik’s sons, sat back on the bench, looked to the ceiling and shook his head or looked to me and rolled his eyes with each denial by the other three about the identities of the insurgents and terrorists.

When it became obvious the debate was going nowhere and the non-verbal message from the son was clear, I called a halt to the meeting and asked everyone to leave, except for the son, my interpreter and guardian angel.

When the room had cleared, I looked back at the son and asked, in English, “You know who the bad guys are, don’t you?” He smiled a huge satisfied smile and fully nodded his head. “Who are they?” I demanded, again in English. He immediately began to rattle off names, personal and vehicle descriptions, whereabouts and daily schedules, everything we’d need to hunt down the insurgents.

That man became the first of nine Iraqi’s in the Sunni Triangle, starting about May of 2004, who became regular allies for me, informing on Al Qaeda. All nine had a common purpose: to make their villages safer and to avenge injustices and atrocities committed by Al Qaeda against them, their families and villages.

While Al Qaeda was sowing the seeds of despair in Anbar province, there were also seeds of a rebellion being sown against them, sown and cultivated until the end of the summer 2006 when the Anbar Awakening began to spring forth as a province wide movement.

Those war critics, like Barack Obama, who believe the Awakening did not occur until the Iraqi’s perceived a threat from the Democrats taking power in Congress at the beginning of 2007 need to go back and relearn the timeline and the history.

It should be simple, because that history just happened. They shouldn’t be so arrogant as to assume that those of us who were a part of it have already forgotten it.

Senator Nelson Placed Front and Center on Iraq War Debate

Nebraska’s Senator Ben Nelson was put at the forefront of the Iraq war debate by Harry Reid last week.

Three aspects of this development are of particular interest.

First is that Harry Reid may be softening his stand on the insistence for a mandated timeline/date for withdrawal. Senator Nelson has refused to accept the random, catastrophic dates certain for withdrawal that Reid has so irresponsibly demanded. His new willingness to place Senator Nelson out in front on the issue may be a sign that he too has finally come to accept a more responsible position.

The second is the Senator’s position itself, presented in his weekly column.

In his column, the Senator gives our troops and their implementation of The Surge an “A+.” He praises the successful effort in saying “The plan, executed by General David Petraeus, is a resounding achievement.” I agree.

He then lays out an argument that the Iraqi’s have failed to reach the benchmarks established a year ago, giving the Iraqi national government an “F,” noting they’ve only reached 1 of 8. Fair enough, but it must also be noted that this week they reached another benchmark, the legislation for deBaathification. They’ve also been implementing yet another, oil revenue sharing, although the legislation which would check the box for the benchmark has not been passed.

Still another, local leadership via provincial elections, has occurred without the elections having taken place. It has happened within the context of Iraq’s tribal system. Here again we have no official action by the government, but have realized dramatic progress toward local leadership consistent with the intent of the benchmark. The Iraqi people are becoming empowered of their own accord.

There are two sides to the argument. The Senator’s view on the benchmarks is understandable. They are a measuring stick, but also the political corner that success has been painted in to.

There is success, regardless of the given benchmarks, and it appears the much desired political solution is likely to occur outside their parameters. Either way, the tremendous progress consistent with, but outside the confines of the benchmarks can not be ignored.

Senator Nelson then calls for a transition of the mission for our troops, recommending they keep fighting terrorists, maintain Iraq’s border integrity, protect American assets and personnel and train Iraqi soldiers; all missions with merit.

At present, most of what our troops are focused on is training Iraqi’s and fighting terrorists, either kinetically or by other means. The Senator’s proposal is not unreasonable and not inconsistent with what we’re already doing in Iraq.

So why then call for any transition? Would it actually change what we’re already doing? Not really in many cases, so why more legislation?

Because some see us fighting the war against terrorists and others simply see us as propping up a government. The reality in Iraq is that the two are currently inseparable.

So reconciliation is needed here at home, as is the legislation allowing us to stay in the fight against terrorists and prevent a forced, catastrophic withdrawal. The goal is to find a way forward here at home that allows Iraq to move forward, garners us a position of strength, and meets our national security needs.

The other challenge is that in doing so we may venture into setting a precedent for Congress to dictate war strategy, a very dangerous road for us to head down.

The Senator then sums up his position in closing with, “I do not support immediate withdrawal of American troops or setting hard dates to withdraw…,” and reiterates his view that, “The American commitment is not open ended and at some point Iraq needs to assume more responsibility for their government, their security, and their future...” Fair enough.

The final aspect of these developments is the press coverage surrounding the Senator’s new place in the debate. For whatever reason, the creative selection of his comments by the press gave the impression that he’d morphed himself into the new Cindy Sheehan.

Sure the Senator has called for a transition and provided some tough words for the Iraqi government and the President, not all from his column were included above, but neither had he suddenly become clueless or defeatist as some reporters and his opposition portrayed him.

By news stories alone there was reason for pro-victory Nebraskans to be upset with him, until you spoke with his office, and until you read and studied his words in full context, not those selected for you.

Not only was this week’s coverage a study of the press itself, but also a study in the complexity of the war in Iraq, the politics surrounding it, and the need for further analysis and a more detailed understanding than the headlines and sound bites will ever provide.

Heroes Families, Democracy, Gridlock, Iraq

Each week presents itself with a myriad of topics to choose from and ideas for columns. I’ve often wanted to comment on multiple topics. Not a novel idea I know, but one that seems to work well this week launching into a new year. So here it goes.

The Families of the Fallen

One fallen troop and the grief of his family was enough to realize the cost of war to Nebraska. We ended the year with another in Broken Bow.

We’ve definitely had enough war deaths here at home in Nebraska to understand the cost of war.

If your New Year’s Resolution was for the usual weight loss/diet/exercise/stop smoking stuff, reconsider or at least amend your New Year’s Resolution. Promise yourself to check in on those families and see that they’re being cared for.

By the way, isn’t it time for a monument to honor those Nebraskans who’ve died fighting terrorists for us?

The Democratic Process

The violent aftermath of the elections in Kenya and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto bring in to focus the precious nature of our democracy and the civility with which we practice it.

Although we may disagree on many issues, and we all find ourselves on the losing side of an election from time to time, we retain a sense of respect and decorum for the processes and institutions of our democracy and the republic represented by them.

We don’t resort to violence as a means to protest or change either the candidates for or the outcome of an election.

Rancor and rhetoric, as ugly as they may have gotten in our political arena, are still not exhibitions of violence.

We should be grateful to our Founders for a well laid plan which lends itself to such peace. We should be grateful to our Creator for allowing that plan to be fulfilled.

Washington Gridlock

On one hand it can be a good thing. The less that is done in Washington, typically the better off all of us are.

Our system of government was intended to be limited in scope. It was foreseen that the more it did, the more it would act as an apparatus to impede progress. Consequently, the less it does, the fewer intrusive laws it passes, the fewer regulatory obstacles it places in our path, the better off we are.

However, there are some things that we need Washington D.C. to fix. (Ironically, we can probably also trace them back to something Washington D.C. broke to begin with.)

But those things aren’t being corrected because gridlock remains a problem. The daily operation of our government has morphed into something which stagnates itself with Congress often unable to find legislation worthy of the people and issues of the time.

We can blame special interests, extreme partisanship, party leadership, a combination of all three, or something altogether different. Either way, surely they can do better.

As an aside, I do find it interesting that Congress was unable to accomplish anything in December until the last minute when they were suddenly able to cram half a trillion dollars of legislation together in order to run out the door for Christmas break. Maybe our nation’s Senators and Congressmen aren’t all that different from college students and school kids.

The War in Iraq

In case you missed it, there is still a war being fought. Despite the lack of coverage about the success we’re having. Despite the lack of coverage, period.

Things are going well enough that news outlets can’t come up with news. Are they so entrenched in the “if it bleeds it leads” mentality that they’ve become incapable of anything else?

The holidays presented me a rare occasion to watch television uninterrupted for two hours one morning between Christmas and New Year’s. I almost wore out my thumb on the remote control, racing from channel to channel and news program to news program.

With the exception of the ticker crawling across the bottom, there was only one story about Iraq in those two hours and it was about a Sunni woman and Shiite man who were married in Baghdad and all they’d done to keep the flame of love alive in a war zone. Sunni and Shiite marrying? Must have been a civil war.

But only one story in two hours, on at least 6 different channels. I’ll take it.

I’d like to see the stories of all the good work our troops are doing, but I’m also willing to settle for “no news is good news.”