Friday, August 24, 2007

Retired Special Ops Warrior to Head Counterterrorism at State

We do not know very much about this fellow, Dell Dailey, a lifelong secret operations military figure who has just been named to head the State Department's counterterrorism office. In fact, only those with highly classified clearance are likely to know many of the details about his various missions over the years.

As described in this Washington Post profile by Robin Wright, he has had a long and extraordinary career as a military operative who has more than once distinguished himself for his bravery, including personally participating in what has become know as the "Dirt Mission" before the Gulf War, in which he secretly flew 250 miles into Iraq to obtain soil samples for "composition tests," in order to ensure that armored vehicle columns would not become bogged down in soft soil.

He was also a key player in the incursion in Afghanistan.

During more than 36 years in the Army, he led the Night Stalkers, an aviation team born from the failed 1980 hostage rescue attempt in Iran that flies secret missions, often at low altitudes, in the dark of night. He headed the Joint Special Operations Command, a unit shrouded in secrecy that runs the "black" military missions of the Navy Seals, Army Rangers and Delta Force. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he directed the new Center for Special Operations, the military hub for all counterterrorism. And he ran special ops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Now, Dailey, who retired in April as a three-star general, has stepped out of the shadows to take on a job that carries far less physical risk but may be no less trying. As head of the State Department's counterterrorism office, he will coordinate diplomats, intelligence officials and the military in the world's largest global counterterrorism effort.

In spite of the secrecy surrounding his many missions, it is also clear that he an aggressive, plain speaking guy who excels at fixing poorly operating units, and team building. Apparently, Dailey frequently asks subordinates to critically appraise his actions, "specifically asking for three things he should continue doing and three ways he could improve. "

In that respect, sounds like he might actually undertake to remove some of the fog from Foggy Bottom.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Happiness Under This Sky -- For Most A Better Life?

* * *
UPDATE III, 08/24. For a little perspective, I'm not sure anyone could say it better. Senator Lieberman release, posted at the Weekly Standard, (ht: Jon at Exurban League).
"I share the frustrations about the performance of the Iraqi government. But the fact is, as my colleagues know, Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus are meeting every day with Iraq’s democratically-elected leaders to help them reach compromise and reconciliation on a range of complex, painful, and existential issues. Political progress in Iraq depends on this kind of steady statecraft and patient diplomacy on the ground in Baghdad, rather than scapegoating and congressionally-ordered coups.
. . .
"Ultimately, the choice we face in Iraq is not between the current Iraqi government and a perfect Iraqi government. Rather, it is a choice between a young, imperfect, struggling democracy that we have helped midwife into existence, and the totalitarian, terrorist regime that al Qaeda hopes to impose in its place, should we retreat."
. . . .
* * *
UPDATE, 08-24. Scott's exhaustive post at Powerline, found here focuses a considerable amount of additional information on English writer, William Shawcross, and the evolution of his thinking on Cambodia and Southeast Asia, especially as that history now relates to Iraq. It makes for fascinating and provocative reading.
* * *

Peter W. Rodman has published an important piece (ht: Hugh Hewitt) on the importance of considering the potential for a bloodbath, or even genocide, should we too quickly abandon Iraq. The reason it was so important is that yesterday, in his speech to the VFW, the President raised the issue in the context of not repeating what we now know was one of the great blunders of the Viet-Nam era.

The press today immediately miscast that portion of the speech, by saying that the President was comparing Iraq to Viet-Nam, when what he really said was that it would be tragic for us to repeat in Iraq, what the Congress back then forced on the Administration by precipitously cutting off funding in Southeast Asia.

And, in doing so, he forcefully laid down a line in the sand.

These days, of course, cutting and running is precisely what the left is vehemently demanding of Congress. Should they succeed in forcing the issue, one wonders if some of their attitudes, among their leftie "cultural heros" will be the same? One immediately comes to mind.

Asked for his reaction to the emerging Cambodian genocidal bloodbath, William Kunstler once said,

"I would never criticize the actions of any Socialist government."

One wonders what sort mentality would lead anyone to make such a comment? Hard to imagine, isn't it?

Hugh Hewitt, however, points out that the left is not only fully aware of the consequences of what they are demanding, some of them are actually gearing up for it!

Now we are watching a replay of that debate of 30 years ago, but this time no one is even bothering to deny that American withdrawal at this point would lead to a bloodbath. It is a strange time, because the "screw 'em" school of cut-and-run advocates includes many folks arguing for doing something for Darfur just as we did in Kosovo. It is as though the prospective slaughter of Arabs just doesn't rank with them.
English writer William Shawcross once published a book called "Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia," Simon & Schuster, 1979, suggesting that the Nixon Administration policy had devastated Cambodia. He later reconsidered some of what he wrote, at least in his assessment of what the expected impact of the fall would be, horrified as he was by the excesses of the Khmer Rouge. (See, UPDATE, 08/24, above).

Shawcross later became a strong proponent of deposing Saddam Hussein. Today, of course, the left views him as a traitor.

Recently, Shawcross and Peter W. Rodman, (author of the piece at the first link above), two men who had clashed sharply years ago over United States policy in Cambodia and Southeast Asia, joined in writing an Op-Ed piece, "Defeat’s Killing Fields," which was published in the New York Times (on June 7, 2007), supporting President Bush's determination to avoid a military defeat in Iraq.

The President referred to that piece in his speech yesterday to the VFW. He said:

Recently, two men who were on the opposite sides of the debate over the Vietnam War came together to write an article. One was a member of President Nixon's foreign policy team, and the other was a fierce critic of the Nixon administration's policies. Together they wrote that the consequences of an American defeat in Iraq would be disastrous.

Here's what they said:

"Defeat would produce an explosion of euphoria among all the forces of Islamist extremism, throwing the entire Middle East into even greater upheaval. The likely human and strategic costs are appalling to contemplate. Perhaps that is why so much of the current debate seeks to ignore these consequences." I believe these men are right.

The speech the President made yesterday is quite astonishing in the breadth of its historical perspective, and should really be read in the entirety. He addresses all of the historical commitments we have made since World War II, including pointing out the doubts expressed by the critics at the time, given their religious and cultural backgrounds, about whether Japan, or Korea would ever embrace democratic ideals. And he also addresses what he defines as the tragic consequences of our policies vis-a-vis a too-precipitous pullout from Southeast Asia.

Here is the link to that Op-Ed he referred to, as it appeared on June 7th the New York Times. Here are a few of the many points they made:

SOME opponents of the Iraq war are toying with the idea of American defeat. A number of them are simply predicting it, while others advocate measures that would make it more likely. Lending intellectual respectability to all this is an argument that takes a strange comfort from the outcome of the Vietnam War. The defeat of the American enterprise in Indochina, it is said, turned out not to be as bad as expected. The United States recovered, and no lasting price was paid.

We beg to differ.

. . .

The 1975 Communist victory in Indochina led to horrors that engulfed the region. The victorious Khmer Rouge killed one to two million of their fellow Cambodians in a genocidal, ideological rampage. In Vietnam and Laos, cruel gulags and "re-education" camps enforced repression. Millions of people fled, mostly by boat, with thousands dying in the attempt.

The defeat had a lasting and significant strategic impact.

. . .

Today, in Iraq, there should be no illusion that defeat would come at an acceptable price. George Orwell wrote that the quickest way of ending a war is to lose it. But anyone who thinks an American defeat in Iraq will bring a merciful end to this conflict is deluded. Defeat would produce an explosion of euphoria among all the forces of Islamist extremism, throwing the entire Middle East into even greater upheaval. The likely human and strategic costs are appalling to contemplate. Perhaps that is why so much of the current debate seeks to ignore these consequences.

As in Indochina more than 30 years ago, millions of Iraqis today see the United States helping them defeat their murderous opponents as the only hope for their country. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have committed themselves to working with us and with their democratically elected government to enable their country to rejoin the world as a peaceful, moderate state that is a partner to its neighbors instead of a threat. If we accept defeat, these Iraqis will be at terrible risk.
Thousands upon thousands of them will flee, as so many Vietnamese did after 1975.

. . .

Our conduct in Iraq is a crucial test of our credibility, especially with regard to the looming threat from revolutionary Iran. Our Arab and Israeli friends view Iraq in that wider context. They worry about our domestic debate, which had such a devastating impact on the outcome of the Vietnam War, and they want reassurance.

. . . .

Peter W. Rodman, an assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs from 2001 to March, is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. William Shawcross is the author of “Allies: Why the West Had to Remove Saddam.”

And here is a link to an essay/review from Commentary Magazine entitled, "Was Kissinger Right?" by Gabriel Schoenfeld (ht. Powerline) that reviewed Henry Kissinger's book, and addressed the larger issues of genocide in the historical context of the Cambodian experience in the aftermath of the defeat of the United States in Viet-Nam, including the impact of the congressional cut-off of funds.

It is not for the faint-hearted, particularly, I would think, when you read the following account. Among other reactions, it will likely sadden and then anger you:

. . . Only six months after the Paris Accords were concluded, Congress barred the further use of American force "in or over Indochina," rendering the agreement impossible to uphold. Despite Ford and Kissinger's intensive lobbying, the provision of supplies that might have given South Vietnam a chance to defend itself on its own was progressively slashed by Congress, from $2.1 billion in 1973 to $1 billion in 1974 to a paltry $700 million in 1975 (not all of which was actually disbursed).

As SOUTH VIETNAM, deprived of sustenance and support, began to crumble, even longtime congressional supporters of the war turned their backs. Although Kissinger finds villains across the political spectrum, he singles out for special censure the late Democratic Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, "scourge of detente and Ford administration critic for its alleged softness on Communism," who in early 1975 abandoned his perduring support for the war and, to "our immense surprise and huge disappointment," voted to throw South Vietnam to the wolves just as it entered a last desperate struggle to survive.

With the United States reduced to the role of bystander, the fall came swiftly. Cambodia succumbed first. As he does also with Vietnam, Kissinger retells the riveting tale, recounting how, as the Khmer Rouge closed in on the capital city of Phnom Penh in early April 1975, the United States offered a number of Cambodian officials a chance to escape. The reply addressed to the U.S. ambassador by Sirik Matak, a former Cambodian prime minister, and reprinted by Kissinger in full, is one of the more important documents of the entire Vietnam-war era.

Dear Excellency and Friend:

I thank you very sincerely for your letter and for your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion.

As for you, and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people which has chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection, and we can do nothing about it.

You leave, and my wish is that you and your country will find happiness under this sky. But, mark it well, that if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is no matter, because we are all born and must die. I have only committed this mistake of believing in you [the Americans].

Please accept, Excellency and dear friend, my faithful and friendly sentiments.

Immediately after the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh, writes Kissinger, Sirik Matak was shot in the stomach and left to die over the course of three days from his untreated wounds.

In the beginning, middle, and end of this episode, Kissinger shows to telling effect, the barbaric natureof the Communist Khmer Rouge was painted over in soothing tones by much of the American press.

The New York Times was the most flagrant offender. In one dispatch, its correspondent Sydney Schanberg described a ranking Khmer Rouge leader as a "French-educated intellectual" who wanted nothing more than "to fight against feudal privileges and social inequities." A bloodbath was unlikely, Schanberg reported: "since all are Cambodians, an accommodation will be found." As the last Americans were withdrawn, another upbeat article by Schanberg appeared under the headline, "Indochina Without Americans: For Most, a Better Life." In short order, the Khmer Rouge proceeded to march nearly two million of their fellow Cambodians to their deaths in the killing fields. Also in short order, Schanberg went on to greater glory and a Pulitzer prize.*

The President also mentioned Schanberg's "report," though he did not not cast it polemical terms. There is no mistaking the meaning, however.
A columnist for The New York Times wrote in a similar vein in 1975, just as Cambodia and Vietnam were falling to the communists: "It's difficult to imagine," he said, "how their lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone." A headline on that story, date Phnom Penh, summed up the argument: "Indochina without Americans: For Most a Better Life."

One can only hope that Hugh Hewitt was correct when he said on a positive note:

The tide appears to be turning at home just as it has in Anbar Province, so the world may avoid a sequel to the killing fields played out in the desert. But if not, President Bush's speech lays down the clearest of markers: The United States has a choice between holding off genocide in the hope of seeing a stable government and renewed region come out of that effort and great sacrifice, or the U.S. can disengage and permit the killing to commence. President Bush is for the former. Most Democrats want to make the other choice. Clarity is a great thing, and nothing could be more clear than this choice.

UPDATE II: 08/24: In a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed today, Max Boot argues that the President's analogy to Southeast Asia is not incorrect, but that it is incomplete. Again, as noted with the first update above, Scott Johnson at Powerline, covers the topic thoroughly.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Getting Off On Donkey Island

"Evil news rides post, while good news baits."
John Milton, Samson Agonistes, Line 1538.

This past Sunday, the Washington Post carried a lengthy article on its front page about a recent battle in Iraq, written by Ann Scott Tyson. It is, I believe, a classic study in factually good news from Iraq, caught up in the entrenched bad news analysis meme. She and her editors simply sought to stretch and twist an exceptional story of victory, though it was somewhat modest in size, into a foreboding tale, fraught with the same old and tiresome lessons that certain news outlets continually try to impose on war stories out of Iraq.

Her facts are, so far as we know, accurate. But the headline, and her "lessons drawn" are right out of deep discount central. You almost have the feeling she thought she was on the trail of Tet.

MSNBC also carried the story, but has apparently now -- a mere three days later -- determined it is no longer newsworthy and has actually taken the link down!

Wrechard at Belmont Club analyzed the MSNBC version, and concluded:
Of course, once the local American reinforcements arrived the al-Qaeda unit was doomed, but their fate was sealed earlier. The three Humveee patrol fixed, disrupted and cut up a force three to four times their size and immobilized an enemy unit that saw its mission change instantly from the infiltration of Ramadi to surviving. It's an amazing story.

Yet, neither Belmont Club's link to the MSNBC story, nor a search of the MSNBC news site using MSNBC's own search engine, yields any remaining Donkey Island story link. It has simply disappeared, including the Today Show version. All you get, as of noon today, August 22d, is "Page not found."

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

The Washington Post version of the story factually relates the circumstances of a rather intense roadside firefight back on June 30th, initially between a small patrol of 9 American troops from the 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment, and a vastly numerically superior contingent of 70 or so al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) terror fighters (the MSNBC version said 40). The American patrol unexpectedly came upon them while riding on patrol along swampy trails near the Nassar Canal, just south of Ramadi in Anbar Province.

While both the canal and the Euphrates River tend to "compartmentalize" the city of Ramadi, neither is "wide enough to seriously limit crossing" hence such recon partols are considered a military necessity in the area.

Our guys were driving along near the canal looking for water-based weapons smuggling operations, and at around 9:15 pm, they suddenly happened on the AQI contingent, and two “semitrucks” that, as was later determined, had been used to smuggle the terror fighters and weapons around several checkpoints, and into the area. Both sides were surprised at the contact, and a firefight ensued that lasted much of the night. Our guys won the engagement, big-time.

But the "lessons" portion of the story Tyson tells is fraught with exaggerated concerns and misgivings that seem plainly unjustified in the context of the very facts she cites.

As she reported, captured video and other intelligence from the insurgents later showed, that the AQI terrorists had trained for months in the lake region north of Ramadi, and were apparently seeking to launch terror counterattacks in and around the city, including proof of a desire to assassinate a local tribal chief just south of Ramadi, one "Sheik Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, who founded the main pro-U.S. tribal alliance, known as the Anbar Awakening." The clear outcome of the battle, in light of the high AQI casualties, compromised intelligence and captured weapons cache, is that neither of those two AQI objectives will be attempted at any time soon. But she doesn't say that. Instead she describes this demonstrably failed attempt, as a battle,

which would not only reveal their enemy's determination to retake Ramadi but also throw into question the region's long-term stability if the Americans were to leave. It suggested, moreover, that preserving the city's fragile, hard-won calm would call for heavier fighting than anticipated.

Sheik Rishawi was one of the first tribal leaders in the largely Sunni region to begin working closely with the Americans last fall, in order to fight AQI. It was back then that, as stated in the article, several “influential Sunni tribes around Ramadi, weary of the violence and executions of their leaders, joined with the U.S. military to oust the hard-core Islamic insurgents.” Though unstated in the story, they were also outraged by the constant terrorizing of civilians, and the attempted imposition of extremist Sharia, or Islamic law on the populace. No doubt that was buttressed by the fact that recent intelligence obtained from captured AQI demonstrated that the terror organization is teeming with foreign fighters and leaders, which has no doubt contributed to the rivening between Sunni Iraqi tribal leaders and AQI related groups.

Clearly, neither the Americans nor the highly trained AQI insurgents anticipated running into one another that night, but the ensuing roadside battle, later dubbed by someone as the Battle for Donkey Island, turned out very poorly for AQI. Donkey Island was a small strip of land in the canal that a few of the AQI fighters swam to in an unsuccessful attempt to flank the American fighters during the battle. As soon as they discovered the AQI fighters, the Americans quickly backed up their three Humvees about 100 yards, lining them up three abreast, and where they also got cover from a small ridge. The fire fight had ensued. Some time later (around 11 pm) additional reinforcements from the I-77 Charlie Company, and no doubt some form of air cover, joined with the nine Americans in the battle, but at no time did American troops outnumber the insurgents.

Two Americans were killed and eleven were injured in the all night violent exchange, while nearly half, or 32, of the AQI fighters were killed. Both American deaths tragically occurred the next morning while troops were disarming AQI “suicide vests” on the dozens of AQI bodies. They were shot by a wounded terrorist.

Largely disregarding the overall tenor of what she was covering, you could tell that Ms. Tyson, or perhaps an editor, were intent on reporting uncertainty about the outcome of the struggle, including raising questions about the entire current surge operation. But the facts, even as she reported them, simply do not support those conclusions.

Take for example, just the highly misleading headline attached to the story:

A Deadly Clash at Donkey Island
On a Routine Night Patrol Near Ramadi, U.S. Troops Stumble Upon a Camp of Heavily Armed Insurgents Poised to Retake the City

Deadly Clash

Plainly, the deadliness of the clash was heavily weighted to the al-Qaeda fighters who were crushed by the engagement. Months of planning for a series of terror attacks, simply went down the drain for them. And in spite of having significant numerical superiority, they were utterly outgunned and suffered nearly 50% killed, or 32 dead. The two Americans deaths both occurred the next morning after the firefight, when two troops were attempting to disarm the suicide vests of the dozens of dead AQI fighters, and were tragically shot by a wounded terrorist.

On a Routine Night Patrol – Stumble Upon Insurgents --

Secondly, the article strongly implies that our troops, while on patrol, only stumbled on the enemy. You would almost think it was a dumb mistake, stumbling upon insurgents. But that is exactly what recon patrols are all about – discovering enemy movements while on patrol in order to keep them from succeeding in surprise attacks on your defensive positions. Prarie Pundit pretty well nailed that aspect of the "battle."

Heavily armed

Thirdly, the statement that the insurgents were heavily armed is just plain silly. They had AK-47s, a few machine guns and some grenades, as well as the suicide vests. And, in the trucks were whatever arms they had smuggled into the area for future attacks in the area. In any event, all were lost to AQI.

Poised to retake the city

And finally, the most outrageous statement was that they were "poised to retake the city." That is just plain unadulterated rubbish. This AQI terror group planned to launch a sneak attack on at least one tribal leader of the region, in order to try and undermine local support for us in our mission, and to launch additional terror attacks. But it was seventy (or forty) fighters. They failed miserably at both, and paid a very heavy price. However, the suggestion that they were poised to retake the city is nonsense.

But you have to dig well into the story to find one small accurate assessment in the story, which the author couches in the opinion of the U.S. military.

U.S. commanders said the battle was a major defeat for al-Qaeda-affiliated insurgents, showing how hard it is for them to operate in Anbar, where they face an increased U.S. troop presence and rejection by the Sunni population.

And the story ends with Tyson quoting a general assessment by General Petraeus, noting al-Qaeda in Iraq has largely lost in Anbar Province, which she follows with quotes from local commanders suggesting contradictions -- i.e., that further AQI attacks in Ramadi will likely occur.

Her over all tone is a “forced” note of pessimism that seems largely unjustified.

As Prarie Pundit quite correctly noted:

What the story really shows is that some relatively inexperienced troops overcame a numerically superior force and prevailed. This is the kind of action that deserves medals and commendations. It does not deserved to be used in someones talking points for defeat.

With stories and assessments of success quickly emerging, even among former war critics, there certainly seems to have been a sea change in the statements and attitudes of national Democrat politicians, who all now seem to be scrambling to align themselves with evidence that the mission in Iraq has turned the corner. Today's Washington Post story on the subject notes in a gentile manner, the "refocus" of the Democrat message.

A few days ago, Representative Brian Baird, (D-WA), long a critic of the battle in Iraq, stated that we may need to stay there longer. Some, as today's Post noted, are even beginning to turn on leadership, such as Representative Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), who has recently begun waivering on troop withdrawal deadlines.

"We should sit down with Republicans, see what would be acceptable to them to end the war and present it to the president, start negotiating from the beginning," he said, adding, "I don't know what the [Democratic] leadership is thinking. Sometimes they've done things that are beyond me."

If the tide of the battle of Iraq continues to turn, and begets success, he's not the only one who is going to be raising that very question. After all, only two months ago, Harry Reid was calling General Petraeus, "out of touch," and even strongly implying that the General was lying.

As for the Democrat Presidential contenders, watching them scramble for position may well challenge the triggers of the world's least sensitive hypocrisy meters. Not two days ago, Barak Obama confidently assured the world that it was too late . . . there could be no victory in Iraq. But today the Post story quotes him saying,

"My assessment is that if we put an additional 30,000 of our troops into Baghdad, that's going to quell some of the violence in the short term," Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) echoed in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "I don't think there's any doubt that as long as U.S. troops are present that they are going to be doing outstanding work."

What's it going to be, Barak?

And Hillary Clinton is now even saying that the surge strategy is working! But where was she last week?

For the troops fighting and putting their lives on the line, however, all of these positions du jour must seem very unsettling. After all, these people claim to be leaders running for President, which would make one of them the Commander in Chief.

As a child I often wanted to see the noblest of motives in others. So my father used to somewhat cynically remind me from time to time, "Just remember . . . everyone lives on Selfish Island."

For the legions of Americans who had lost a measure of faith in the real liklihood of success in Iraq, the leapfrogging siren songs of the political opposition may have seemed somewhat enticing -- for a while. But now, watching them all hastily swim away from their positions, away from their Donkey Island, just has to furrow more than a few brows.

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