Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Network Centric Warfare & Globalization

Hugh Hewitt spotted a lengthy essay "Netwar" at The Belmont Club, which in turn is reaction to a piece by Josh Manchester (aka "Chester"), Globalization and War. That is part of an on-line round-table on the subject at Zenpundit. (Also check the rest of the Zenpundit November archive for rebuttal pieces.)

An excerpt from the Belmont Club essay:
The fundamental issue [Manchester] discusses is whether nation-states are in some sense being replaced by distributed networks of people. Many activities, from community building to earning a living have jumped over traditional boundaries. Criminal and terrorist organizations have been among the first to exploit this fact. Viewed from one angle, modern Islamic terrorist cells are not so much a return to the forms of the 8th century as new structures made possible by 21st century technologies.
Of course, being the blogosphere, each post links to lots of other articles, and many have extensive comment threads too. I'm bookmarking these to read at my leisure.

Winning the War — At Home (w/update)

Despite the best efforts of Main Stream Media (MSM) to paint a picture of doom and gloom about the situation in Iraq, reports leak through that we are making significant progress.

Senator Elizabeth Dole writes this morning "We should reflect on our successes in war on terror":
America’s continued progress in the war on terror is critical to protecting our nation and our very way of life. As this year comes to an end, I hope Americans will reflect on the tireless commitment and good works of our troops and the progress that has been made, and that they will reject defeatist rhetoric and baseless partisan attacks.

It has been less than three years since Iraq was liberated, and in that time tremendous advancements toward democracy have occurred. A constitutional democracy is taking hold, and the Middle East is moving toward greater stability. It is integral to the continued progress in this region and to the overall war on terror that we not allow the cowardly acts of insurgents to derail our efforts.
Senator Joe Lieberman visited Iraq over Thanksgiving, and wrote a long Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal yesterday:

I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood--unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.

Progress is visible and practical. In the Kurdish North, there is continuing security and growing prosperity. The primarily Shiite South remains largely free of terrorism, receives much more electric power and other public services than it did under Saddam, and is experiencing greater economic activity. The Sunni triangle, geographically defined by Baghdad to the east, Tikrit to the north and Ramadi to the west, is where most of the terrorist enemy attacks occur. And yet here, too, there is progress.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld listed achievements at his Tuesday news conference:
  • More than 212,000 Iraqi security forces are fully trained and equipped, up from about 96,000 a year ago;
  • Ninety-five Iraqi army battalions are in the fight, compared to five in August 2004;
  • Iraq's army has seven operational brigades and 31 operational brigade headquarters, up from zero in July 2004;
  • Twenty-eight special police battalions are conducting operations, compared to zero in July 2004;
  • U.S. forces have turned over control of 29 military bases to the Iraqis;
  • Iraq forces have assumed responsibility for 87 square miles of Baghdad, an entire Iraqi province and 450 square miles of territory in other provinces; and
  • More than 5,000 Iraqi troops played a key role in recent operations in Tal Afar, where they helped liberate and secure a terrorist operational base.
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, CENTCOM's deputy director of plans and strategy, spoke at the Heritage Foundation on Monday:
U.S. and coalition initiatives to create well-trained and -equipped Iraqi security forces are paying off, with Iraqis taking on more of the fight, a U.S. Central Command general said Nov. 28 at the Heritage Foundation here.

"Iraqi security forces are fighting hard. They're fighting well. They are not cracking under pressure, as you see in some armies, and they are making a tremendous contribution."
Over at the Chicago Sun-Times, columnist Mary Laney observes "Our accomplishments in Iraq make for long list:"
The soldiers are putting their lives on the line daily, yet we don't hear from them or about them in the myriad reports coming out of Baghdad. The Marines are making certain schools are free of bombs and children can go inside to learn. Yet we don't hear from them. We only hear of the fatalities of the war -- not the victories of the war. We see pictures of the soldiers who have given their lives, but no pictures of the heroes who are, daily, making progress over there.
Major K (via Hugh Hewitt) has a couple of first-hand observations on developments in Iraq:
Firstly, the average Iraqi will often (not always) trust us more than other Iraqis outside of their family when it comes to fair and humane treatment. Secondly, for all of the people at home and in the media that think we are such a widely hated and mistrusted "occupying force," I would like to know why they think the Iraqis hate their honest broker. I have found that only the arhabi [terrorists] do.
(And discover why Christmas carols are popular in Iraq!)

If you hadn't heard, Iraq will have another round of elections on December 15 to elect a Parliament. The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq is the official website.

[Updated 6:15 pm] Finally, President Bush gave a major speech at the Naval Academy today on the war effort:

The terrorists in Iraq share the same ideology as the terrorists who struck the United States on September the 11th. Those terrorists share the same ideology with those who blew up commuters in London and Madrid, murdered tourists in Bali, workers in Riyadh, and guests at a wedding in Amman, Jordan. Just last week, they massacred Iraqi children and their parents at a toy give-away outside an Iraqi hospital.

This is an enemy without conscience -- and they cannot be appeased. If we were not fighting and destroying this enemy in Iraq, they would not be idle. They would be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our own borders. By fighting these terrorists in Iraq, Americans in uniform are defeating a direct threat to the American people. Against this adversary, there is only one effective response: We will never back down. We will never give in. And we will never accept anything less than complete victory. (Applause.)

To achieve victory over such enemies, we are pursuing a comprehensive strategy in Iraq. Americans should have a clear understanding of this strategy -- how we look at the war, how we see the enemy, how we define victory, and what we're doing to achieve it. So today, we're releasing a document called the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." This is an unclassified version of the strategy we've been pursuing in Iraq, and it is posted on the White House website -- I urge all Americans to read it. [ed. hyperlinks added]

Non-MSM resources include:

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Rep. Murtha Complains Again

Congressman John Murtha (D-PA) has been much in the news the past week. Today, he was on Meet the Press, where he re-iterated his concerns with the progress in Iraq, amplifying what he said in his press conference on Thursday, 17 Nov.
MR. RUSSERT: Congressman, according to our military experts, there are only 700 Iraqi troops who are fully independent and combat ready. (ed. Rumsfeld disputes this statistic.) That being the case, if we withdraw our troops quickly from Iraq, won't the Iraqi citizens be overwhelmed by the al-Qaeda and Saddam loyalists? Are the Iraqis capable of defending themselves without the U.S.?

REP. MURTHA: Tim, I'm absolutely convinced that we're making no progress at all, and I've been complaining for two years that there's an overly optimistic--an illusionary process going on here. They keep trying to measure Iraqi troops by our standards. They don't need to meet our standard. And until we turn it over to the Iraqis, we're going to continue to do the fighting. Our young men and women are going to continue to suffer.

No progress at all? That's not what embedded blogger Michael Yon reported on 4 Oct about the Battle for Mosul:
It bears repeating that the Coalition IS winning in Mosul. Here’s why: while the enemy commander Abu Zayd was hiding in and around Mosul, and complaining about his fellow terrorists squandering money on phones and cars, American and Iraqi commanders were physically fighting alongside their men, instilling confidence in the mission, sharing the risks. ...

[T]he Coalition simply has superior leaders, and they are mentoring the best Iraqi leaders, and the results are transparent.
Other good news stories include:
And finally, Same Ole' Different Day writes in Out of Iraq? (via Mudville Gazette):
I am here to tell you that everyday we are winning over the hearts of the people of Iraq. If you could see the smiling faces that I have seen you would know that we are making a difference in this country. I volunteered for the military, no one made me sign on that dotted line. Let me stay here and finish what we have started Mr. Murtha.

P.S. Don Surber has more links, but says End The MIssion Creep: Bring Them Home. I commented, "I don't think that being in a new phase of operations equates with mission creep. The end of active combat operations just meant the start of winning the peace. And that process is progressing faster in Afghanistan and Iraq than, say, Kosovo under the tender occupation of the UN. As the ground game changes, so do the units deployed."

Update: I edited down the quote from Michael Yon for copyright reasons. Go read the whole dispatch.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

My Letter to Rep. Saxton (R-NJ)

17 Nov 2005

Representative Jim Saxton
2217 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman Saxton,

I urge you to join your Republican colleagues in forcefully denouncing the congressional initiatives that would call for an immediate pullout of American forces from Iraq.

As Congressman Geoff Davis (R-KY) said today:
Ayman Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's deputy, as well as Abu Musab Zarqawi, have made it quite clear in their internal propaganda that they cannot win unless they can drive the Americans out. And they know that they can't do that there, so they've brought the battlefield to the halls of Congress.

And, frankly, the liberal leadership have put politics ahead of sound, fiscal and national security policy. And what they have done is cooperated with our enemies and are emboldening our enemies.
Please let the world know that you stand with President Bush and vow that "America will never run. We will stand, we will fight, and we will win the war on terror."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Embarrassed Republican

That's me.

What in the world possessed the Senate Republican "leadership" to push through the Warner Amendment (S.AMDT.2518) to the Defense Appropriations Bill today?

SA 2518. Mr. WARNER (for himself and Mr. FRIST) proposed an amendment to the bill S. 1042, to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2006 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, and for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe personnel strengths for such fiscal year for the Armed Forces, and for other purposes; as follows:

At the end of title XII, add the following:


(a) Short Title.--This section may be cited as the ``United States Policy on Iraq Act''.

(b) Sense of Senate.--It is the sense of the Senate that, in order to succeed in Iraq--

(1) members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or have served in Iraq and their families deserve the utmost respect and the heartfelt gratitude of the American people for their unwavering devotion to duty, service to the Nation, and selfless sacrifice under the most difficult circumstances;

(2) it is important to recognize that the Iraqi people have made enormous sacrifices and that the overwhelming majority of Iraqis want to live in peace and security;

(3) calendar year 2006 should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with Iraqi security forces taking the lead for the security of a free and sovereign Iraq, thereby creating the conditions for the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq;

(4) United States military forces should not stay in Iraq any longer than required and the people of Iraq should be so advised;

(5) the Administration should tell the leaders of all groups and political parties in Iraq that they need to make the compromises necessary to achieve the broad-based and sustainable political settlement that is essential for defeating the insurgency in Iraq, within the schedule they set for themselves; and

(6) the Administration needs to explain to Congress and the American people its strategy for the successful completion of the mission in Iraq.

(c) Reports to Congress on United States Policy and Military Operations in Iraq.--Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every three months thereafter until all United States combat brigades have redeployed from Iraq, the President shall submit to Congress an unclassified report on United States policy and military operations in Iraq. Each report shall include, to the extent practicable, the following unclassified information:

(1) The current military mission and the diplomatic, political, economic, and military measures, if any, that are being or have been undertaken to successfully complete or support that mission, including:

(A) Efforts to convince Iraq's main communities to make the compromises necessary for a broad-based and sustainable political settlement.

(B) Engaging the international community and the region in the effort to stabilize Iraq and to forge a broad-based and sustainable political settlement.

(C) Strengthening the capacity of Iraq's government ministries.

(D) Accelerating the delivery of basic services.

(E) Securing the delivery of pledged economic assistance from the international community and additional pledges of assistance.

(F) Training Iraqi security forces and transferring security responsibilities to those forces and the government of Iraq.

(2) Whether the Iraqis have made the compromises necessary to achieve the broad-based and sustainable political settlement that is essential for defeating the insurgency in Iraq.

(3) Any specific conditions included in the April 2005 Multi-National Forces-Iraq campaign action plan (referred to in United States Government Accountability Office October 2005 report on Rebuilding Iraq: DOD Reports Should Link Economic, Governance, and Security Indicators to Conditions for Stabilizing Iraq), and any subsequent updates to that campaign plan, that must be met in order to provide for the transition of security responsibility to Iraqi security forces.

(4) To the extent that these conditions are not covered under paragraph (3), the following should also be addressed:

(A) The number of battalions of the Iraqi Armed Forces that must be able to operate independently or to take the lead in counterinsurgency operations and the defense of Iraq's territory.

(B) The number of Iraqi special police units that must be able to operate independently or to take the lead in maintaining law and order and fighting the insurgency.

(C) The number of regular police that must be trained and equipped to maintain law and order.

(D) The ability of Iraq's Federal ministries and provincial and local governments to independently sustain, direct, and coordinate Iraq's security forces.

(5) The criteria to be used to evaluate progress toward meeting such conditions.

(6) A schedule for meeting such conditions, an assessment of the extent to which such conditions have been met, information regarding variables that could alter that schedule, and the reasons for any subsequent changes to that schedule.

The roll call on the Amendment was as follows:

Akaka (D-HI), Yea
Alexander (R-TN), Not Voting
Allard (R-CO), Yea
Allen (R-VA), Yea
Baucus (D-MT), Yea
Bayh (D-IN), Yea
Bennett (R-UT), Yea
Biden (D-DE), Yea
Bingaman (D-NM), Yea
Bond (R-MO), Yea
Boxer (D-CA), Yea
Brownback (R-KS), Yea
Bunning (R-KY), Nay
Burns (R-MT), Yea
Burr (R-NC), Nay
Byrd (D-WV), Nay
Cantwell (D-WA), Yea
Carper (D-DE), Yea
Chafee (R-RI), Yea
Chambliss (R-GA), Nay
Clinton (D-NY), Yea
Coburn (R-OK), Nay
Cochran (R-MS), Yea
Coleman (R-MN), Yea
Collins (R-ME), Yea
Conrad (D-ND), Nay
Cornyn (R-TX), Yea
Corzine (D-NJ), Not Voting
Craig (R-ID), Yea
Crapo (R-ID), Yea
Dayton (D-MN), Yea
DeMint (R-SC), Nay
DeWine (R-OH), Yea
Dodd (D-CT), Yea
Dole (R-NC), Yea
Domenici (R-NM), Yea
Dorgan (D-ND), Yea
Durbin (D-IL), Yea
Ensign (R-NV), Yea
Enzi (R-WY), Yea
Feingold (D-WI), Yea
Feinstein (D-CA), Yea
Frist (R-TN), Yea
Graham (R-SC), Nay
Grassley (R-IA), Yea
Gregg (R-NH), Yea
Hagel (R-NE), Yea
Harkin (D-IA), Nay
Hatch (R-UT), Yea
Hutchison (R-TX), Yea
Inhofe (R-OK), Nay
Inouye (D-HI), Yea
Isakson (R-GA), Nay
Jeffords (I-VT), Yea
Johnson (D-SD), Yea
Kennedy (D-MA), Nay
Kerry (D-MA), Nay
Kohl (D-WI), Yea
Kyl (R-AZ), Nay
Landrieu (D-LA), Yea
Lautenberg (D-NJ), Yea
Leahy (D-VT), Nay
Levin (D-MI), Yea
Lieberman (D-CT), Yea
Lincoln (D-AR), Yea
Lott (R-MS), Yea
Lugar (R-IN), Yea
Martinez (R-FL), Yea
McCain (R-AZ), Nay
McConnell (R-KY), Yea
Mikulski (D-MD), Yea
Murkowski (R-AK), Yea
Murray (D-WA), Yea
Nelson (D-FL), Yea
Nelson (D-NE), Yea
Obama (D-IL), Yea
Pryor (D-AR), Yea
Reed (D-RI), Yea
Reid (D-NV), Yea
Roberts (R-KS), Yea
Rockefeller (D-WV), Yea
Salazar (D-CO), Yea
Santorum (R-PA), Yea
Sarbanes (D-MD), Yea
Schumer (D-NY), Yea
Sessions (R-AL), Nay
Shelby (R-AL), Yea
Smith (R-OR), Yea
Snowe (R-ME), Yea
Specter (R-PA), Yea
Stabenow (D-MI), Yea
Stevens (R-AK), Yea
Sununu (R-NH), Yea
Talent (R-MO), Yea
Thomas (R-WY), Yea
Thune (R-SD), Nay
Vitter (R-LA), Nay
Voinovich (R-OH), Yea
Warner (R-VA), Yea
Wyden (D-OR), Yea

Hugh Hewitt is devoting his whole radio show to this topic tonight. Transcripts of his interviews with various Senators will be posted at Radioblogger. Senator Burr's interview is here.

Thankfully, there are grown-ups in Washington. Secretary Rumsfeld was informed of the vote during his press conference this afternoon. The question is almost as interesting as his whole answer:
Q The bottom line, though, it's a sense of the Senate on the war requiring the Pentagon and the administration to file more complete, regular progress reports. And it pressed the Pentagon --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Is this the one that was pending by Warner and somebody --

Q Yeah, and Frist.


Q And here's my question. Looking back as a former member of Congress, does this signal to you a growing impatience in the U.S. Senate similar to the early '70s debates on Vietnam?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I wouldn't go down that road myself. It's understandable that the American people and the Congress are interested in knowing as much as possible about a war. A war is an important thing. It's a serious thing. It's a dangerous thing. People die, and we know that, and it's heartbreaking.

I was reading a book last night, Winston Churchill, and he said the problem is not winning the war but persuading people to let them -- let him win the war, he said. In a free system like we have -- these situations don't evolve in a dictatorship. It's only in free systems that we have these kind of open, public debates and discussions.

Just a piece of factual information. I'm told that the Department of Defense and the Department of State send literally dozens of Iraqi-related reports to Congress each year already. Seven are required reports. We have seven voluntary briefings. We have 28 IG reports, 52 GAO reports, and regular classified updates on the Iraqi security forces, which I believe go up there every month. Many of those things address what, as I recall, an earlier draft of that amendment may have covered. And that's fine. I mean, that's all part of the interaction between the executive and legislative branch. And they have every right to ask for reports, and we send, I don't know, it's something over 900 reports total every year from the Department of Defense to the Congress. I hope someone reads them.

But no, what it reflects to me is that this is a serious business and these are serious people and they're interested in having as much information as possible.

I was struck by what someone told me about another amendment, where Senator Lieberman spoke and pointed out that he was concerned -- I think he said, quote, that it seems to be -- you don't want to -- he said one of these amendments would send "a message that I fear will discourage our troops because it seems to be heading to the door. It will encourage the terrorists and it will confuse the Iraqi people and affect their judgments as they go forward."

And I mention that because another one that's pending involves deadlines, as I recall, or timetables of some sort. [ed. S.Amdt. 2519]

Q That was shot down.


Q Yes.


Q But the point, I mean the impatience there, is this impatience coming a lot quicker than you would have anticipated? I mean, this your own party pressing this at the moment; it was 79 to 9. It was many Republicans, including Warner and Frist.

SEC. RUMSFELD: I think that amendment, I was told, was going to be offered in lieu of one that was somewhat different.

Q Yeah, but the point -- I mean, impatience, though. That's what I'm trying to get your sense on.

SEC. RUMSFELD: I think -- I have a lot of confidence in the American people, and frankly, I have a lot of confidence in the Congress. The Congress represents the American people, and the American people have a very good center of gravity. They listen, and they'll decide.

And what's going on in Iraq is important. It's important historically. It's important for the Iraqi people. It's important for the entire region, and quite honestly, it's very important for the United States of America and the coalition countries that have a desire to have their people be able to live as free people and not be subjected to the dictates of a hand -- small handful of fanatics.

After several more questions on other topics, Mr. Rumsfeld took one last question:

Q Yeah. One of the sentiments expressed by both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate is that the Iraqi political leaders need to be sent a message that the United States is not in Iraq indefinitely, as an incentive to get them to take greater responsibility for their own security leadership. How do you respond to that? Do you -- are you satisfied with the Iraqi political leadership, or do they need to be sent a message?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, of course, the leadership is not "the leadership." It's a scoop of individuals from different sects and different religions and different political lists, and they have differing views. But -- I mean, the fact of the matter is I meet with a lot of Iraqis, and overwhelmingly, they suggest that they're anxious to have the time arrive when we do not have to have so many forces there so visibly. And that's our desire as well.

So it seems to me that we're all very much in agreement, the president of the United States, who says he wants to hand over responsibility as soon as is possible and is working very hard to achieve that. We're already handing over responsibility in a number of areas. I expect that after this election, we'll be able to hand over additional responsibilities as the Iraqi security forces continue to grow in number. And that's the desire of the -- at least a number of the Iraqi leaders, just as it's the desire of the president of the United States and the troops themselves.

We don't go into a country to stay in a country. We go into a country to try to be helpful and then leave as soon as is possible, but not in a manner that's precipitous; and not in a manner that would inject an instability into the situation; and not in a manner that would suggest to the terrorists that all they have to do is wait us out, and they'll be able to have their way. Because if they have their way and impose their medieval vision on that country in that part of the world, it would be an enormous price to pay. And I don't think that's going to happen. [ed. Emphasis added.]

Thank you, folks.

Go get'm Mr. Secretary!

P.S. If you're wondering, the post title is a take-off on Hugh Hewitt's book, The Embarrassed Believer. He really should get it back in print, and add a study guide for church groups.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sunday Must-reads

The Anchoress has a beautiful essay today, Discernment is always grave…:

God gives the gift of faith, some folks give it back in service. God tells us “take and consume,” some give their lives back in return, saying, “Lord, take and consume,” it is an endless give-and-take, and a very great mystery of love.

It is not easy to be a man or woman of God, to live a vowed and consecrated life, regardless of whether that consecration involves a celibate life lived in community, or in a humble rectory, or in a hermitage, or a life lived in chaste marriage. In each case, the life is busy with the Work of God, and somehow - even perhaps with the hermit - the supernatural must balance with the natural, the charity to which we are called will be challenged by our fellows, by our feelings, by the times and by our own tempraments.

Today, perhaps take five minutes to sit quietly and hold in prayer your priest, your pastor or someone else you may know of who has made the grave offering of not merely “loving” God, but of “being poured out like a libation” for the benefit of his or her fellow sheep, in service to a passionate and intensely loving God who uses up every last inch on a spool of thread and wears down every pencil to its nub, so that nothing is wasted or cast aside.

Dr. Sanity says "Let's Discuss Bush Derangement Syndrome Again" (hat tips to Anchoress and Powerline):
What makes Bush Hatred completely insane however, is the almost delusional degree of unremitting certitude of Bush's evil; while simultaneously believing that the TRUE perpetrators of evil in the world are somehow good and decent human beings with the world's intersts at heart.

This psychological defense mechanism is referred to as "displacement".

One way you can usually tell that an individual is using displacement is that the emotion being displaced (e.g., anger) is all out of proportion to the reality of the situation. The purpose of displacement is to avoid having to cope with the actual reality. Instead, by using displacement, an individual is able to still experience his or her anger, but it is directed at a less threatening target than the real cause. In this way, the individual does not have to be responsible for the consequences of his/her anger and feels more safe--even thought that is not the case.

This explains the remarkable and sometimes lunatic appeasement of Islamofascists by so many governments and around the world, while they trash the US and particularly Bush. It explains why there is more emphasis on protecting the "rights" of terrorists, rather than holding them accountable for their actions (thier actions, by the way are also Bush's fault, according to those in the throes of BDS). Our soldiers in Iraq are being killed because of Bush--not because of terrorist intent and behavior. Terrorist activity itself is blamed on Bush no matter where it occurs.
The Powerline post on Dr. Sanity's diagnosis is also worth a read.

Don Surber examines Bush's Gettysburg (Hat tip Instapundit):
From a small town in Pennsylvania, the president came to finally answer critics of an increasingly unpopular war, a war that Democrats hoped would sweep them into office in the next election.
Tigerhawk has a lengthy essay "Considering dissent and limited war II" (Hat tip Instapundit):
When a democratic nation is at war, there are inevitably those who will object to the way in which the war is being fought, or that it is being fought at all. If the war is manifestly for the country’s survival or otherwise of great moment, the objectors will be so marginalized that they and their arguments will have no effect on the politics of the country, the morale of its military, or the tactics of the enemy.

Dissent can, however, have an enormous impact on the means by which a democracy wages a limited war, the persistence with which it wages the war, or whether it wages the war at all. This post considers the objectives of domestic dissent to limited wars, the impact of anti-war dissent on the means of fighting the war and the morale of the soldiers at arms, the different types of anti-war dissent and, finally, whether some objectives and types of dissent are more moral than others.

96 Blind Bishops

Veteran's Day brought this bracing headline: "96 bishops decry 'unjust and immoral' situation in Iraq".


This time the United Methodist Bishops have signed "A Call to Repentance and Peace with Justice." Like their English episcopal brethren, the UMC bishops are in mea culpa mode:
As followers of Jesus Christ, who named peacemakers as blessed children of God, we call upon The United Methodist Church to join us in repentance and renewed commitment to Christ's reign of compassion, justice, reconciliation, and peace.

As elected and consecrated bishops of the church, we repent of our complicity in what we believe to be the unjust and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq. In the face of the United States Administration's rush toward military action based on misleading information, too many of us were silent. We confess our preoccupation with institutional enhancement and limited agendas while American men and women are sent to Iraq to kill and be killed, while thousands of Iraqi people needlessly suffer and die, while poverty increases and preventable diseases go untreated. Although we value the sacrifices of the men and women who serve in the military, we confess our betrayal of the scriptural and prophetic authority to warn the nations that true security lies not in weapons of war, but in enabling the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized to flourish as beloved daughters and sons of God. We confess our failure to make disciples of Jesus Christ and to be a people who welcome and love all those for whom Christ died.
Let me count the assumptions:
  1. unjust and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq
  2. rush toward military action based on misleading information
  3. thousands of American and Iraqi people needlessly suffer and die
  4. poverty increases and preventable diseases go untreated
The first point is, arguably, a matter of opinion. What the bishops would consider justifiable or moral grounds is left to the reader's imagination. The language of the Catholic Church's just-war doctrine is informative, even if Pope John Paul II counseled against going to war, wishing more time for diplomatic efforts. Also see "Iraq and Just War: A Symposium," conducted on Sept. 30, 2002, for a discussion of the pros and cons.

The second point conveniently forgets the decade-long diplomatic dance between the UN and Saddam Hussein, with numerous Security Council resolutions drawing ever fainter lines in the sand while Oil-for-Food kickbacks enriched the shameless. That's hardly rushing into things. And that "misleading information" is short-hand for "Bush lied about the WMD threat", a canard that the President vigorously refuted in his Veteran's Day speech.

The third point revolves around the assumption that the war and its aftermath created "needless" harm in Iraq, that if the US and its allies hadn't intervened to bring down the Hussein government, all would be swell — a "what-if" that is knowable only to God. That Saddam and his cronies had brazenly butchered Iraqis (especially the Kurds and Marsh Arabs) and repressed the population seems to be irrelevant to the bishops.

The fourth point is all about guns versus butter, and ignores the improvements in the general Iraqi economy and standard of living as the infrastructure that rotted under Saddam's tender care is restored and improved. If the good bishops are concerned that the US government has cut back on welfare or health care funding domestically, they should review the 2005 budget historical tables. Defense outlays rose 47% from $305.500 billion in 2001 (the last Clinton budget) to an estimated $450.586 billion in 2005 (down from $453.684 billion in 2004). Meanwhile, expenditures for Medicaid rose 41% from $129.4 billion in 2001 to an estimated $182.1 billion in 2005. Likewise, outlays for "income security" line items rose 29% from $269.615 billion in 2001 to an estimated $348.149 billion in 2005. To give a historical perspective, the raises projected in FY2001 for these categories by 2005 were 14%, 43%, and 25% respectively. Yes, the poverty rate in 2004 rose slightly over the previous year to 12.7%, but it's still 9.7% better than it was in 1959 when the first estimates were made.

As you might expect, the "action plan" for the bishops and their flocks includes lots of prayer. While prayer is a powerful tool, it's more effective if the remedies prayed for have some bearing on the problem at hand. Here's the rest of the bishops' text:
Aware that we are to bring forth fruit worthy of repentance, we personally and as bishops commit ourselves to:
  • Pray daily for the end of war in general and the Iraq war specifically; for those who suffer as the result of war, including the soldiers and their families; the Iraqi people in their struggle to find a workable form of government; and for the leaders of the United States that they will turn to truth, humility, and policies of peace through justice.
  • Reclaim the prophetic authority that calls nations, individuals, and communities to live faithfully in the light of God's new creation where all people know their identity as beloved children of God; where justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream; and where barriers are removed and all creation is healed, reconciled, and renewed.
  • Commit ourselves to peacemaking as an integral component of our own Christian discipleship, which means advocating and actively working for the things that make for peace: personal, institutional, and governmental priorities that protect the poor and most vulnerable; modeling an end to prejudice toward people of other faiths and cultures; confronting differences and conflicts with grace, humility, dialogue, and respect without being so cautious in confronting evil that we lose our moral authority.
We call upon all United Methodists to join in the pursuit of peace through justice as revealed in Holy Scripture and incarnate in Jesus Christ.
  • Let us move beyond caution rooted in self protection and recover moral authority anchored in commitment to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.
  • Let us object with boldness when governing powers offer solutions of war that conflict with the gospel message of self-emptying love.
  • Let us with compassion share the pain of God's children who suffer from the devastation of war and those who live in poverty resulting from misplaced priorities and misguided public policies.
  • Let us work toward unity in a world of diversity, that all peoples will come to know that we belong to one another, and that "in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself … and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us"(2 Corinthians 5:19).
I love those lines "Reclaim the prophetic authority" and "without being so cautious in confronting evil that we lose our moral authority". Yet as I read their statement, I have to wonder what "evil" they think they're fighting. They seem to be more concerned with the policies of the governments trying to eliminate the bad guys than with the evil perpetrated by Al-Zarqawi and his minions, most recently in Jordan. The bishops need to recalibrate their approach: wimpy pacifist multiculturalism ("unity in a world of diversity") is no match for zealous jihadis who have no desire to share the planet with Christians at all. Whatever became of the Church Militant, anyway?

I'm not alone in my dismay. Last week, Joseph Loconte, editor of "The End of Illusions: Religious Leaders Confront Hitler's Gathering Storm", wrote an essay for the Wall Street Journal, "Peace Now," examining the statements made by a number of church bodies:

Peacemaking has always been a major theme in Christianity, and pacifists a strong voice within the Christian tradition. The founder of the faith, after all, is hailed by believers as the Prince of Peace. Yet modern pacifists, for all their citations of Scripture, seem miles away from the moral insights of biblical religion.

Nowhere is this gulf more striking than in their posture toward terrorism. Despite the record of gruesome violence since 9/11, many Christian leaders still refuse to confront the radical evil of militant Islam. [...]

It's important to be aware of our own temptations to hubris, even in wartime. But moral equivalence has nothing to do with the ethics of the Bible. In the political arena it becomes a substitute for responsible action. The theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, writing in early 1941, when most of Europe was under Nazi control, assailed such thinking as a kind of perfectionism derived from secular culture. "This utopianism," he warned, "contributed to the tardiness of the democracies in defending themselves against the perils of a new barbarism."

Another form of barbarism now threatens the civilized world, what some have called "fascism with an Islamic face." The danger of the pacifist illusion is its campaign to persuade democracies to ignore the true nature of this barbarism--and to throw down their defenses in the name of peace. [...]

Christians have never viewed peace as the highest good. There are other goods: protecting human dignity and restraining evil, for example. A just peace can be the final result of these pursuits, God willing. But if peace is made the supreme goal, if it consumes all other virtues, it becomes an idol--and a snare to the statesman as well as the saint. [ed. Emphasis added.]
In his Veteran's Day Speech, President Bush reiterated the nature of the evil we're fighting:
We're facing a radical ideology with inalterable objectives: to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world. No act of ours invited the rage of killers -- and no concession, bribe, or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder. On the contrary, they target nations whose behavior they believe they can change through violence. Against such an enemy, there is only one effective response: We will never back down, we will never give in, we will never accept anything less than complete victory. (Applause.)

The murderous ideology of the Islamic radicals is the great challenge of our new century. Yet in many ways, this fight resembles the struggle against communism in the last century. Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism is elitist, led by a self-appointed vanguard that presumes to speak for the Muslim masses. Bin Laden says his own role is to tell Muslims, "what is good for them and what is not." And what this man who grew up in wealth and privilege considers good for poor Muslims is that they become killers and suicide bombers. He assures them that this road -- that this is the road to paradise -- though he never offers to go along for the ride. (Applause.) [...]

With the rise of a deadly enemy and the unfolding of a global ideological struggle, our time in history will be remembered for new challenges and unprecedented dangers. And yet this fight we have joined is also the current expression of an ancient struggle -- between those who put their faith in dictators, and those who put their faith in the people. Throughout history, tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that murder is justified to serve their grand vision -- and they end up alienating decent people across the globe. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that regimented societies are strong and pure -- until those societies collapse in corruption and decay. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that free men and women are weak and decadent -- until the day that free men and women defeat them.

We don't know the course our own struggle will take, or the sacrifices that might lie ahead. We do know, however, that the defense of freedom is worth our sacrifice, we do know the love of freedom is the mightiest force of history, and we do know the cause of freedom will once again prevail. (Applause.)
Thus endeth the lesson.

[Updated 11/14] Also see my previous post about the Anglican bishops, Stuck on Stupid, as well as Overcoming Evil with Good, and Why I didn't go to Church today with the infamous "Litany for Liberal Christians". In a similar vein, Don Surber writes Edwards Is Wrong About Being Wrong.

[Update 2, 11/14] Warren Bell at NRO Corner spots "The misguided church", an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post about the Anglican bishops' report I discussed in Stuck on Stupid. Sample graf:
Beyond the obvious betrayal of British troops in the field, the report symbolizes two more substantial, disturbing tendencies among liberal Christian intellectuals: profound ignorance of Islam and a virulent pacifism that embraces appeasement.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Great comment from Captain Ed

I just had to pass on this pithy comment from Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters:
Gratitude aside, partisanship comes as a symptom of what ails the court in the first place -- and why the appointment of originalists has become so necessary. In the true mold of the Constitution, politics would play little role in confirming jurists, and a man or woman with Alito's experience would hardly get any remarks when promoted to the Supreme Court. Only because the Court in recent decades has arrogated legislative powers to itself does partisan politics now play a role in getting nominees confirmed. The very demands that Democrats place on these nominees demonstrates the corrupt outlook previous courts have taken with the Constitution, and why jurists like Alito and Roberts provide the only antidote.
If you want in-depth analysis of Judge Alito's record as the debate progresses — rather than mere talking points — my short list of lawyer's blogs includes:

Prayer Request

A friend on a Christian email list sent the following request:
Please pray for and send messages of support to the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem. It's the only hospital in the area that treats Palestinians, regardless of their insurance or lack of insurance. The Israeli government is trying to revoke the 30+ year non-profit status of the hospital and also trying to collect millions of US dollars in 'arrears' taxes. As Augusta Victoria is funded completely by donations from around the world, this would mean an immediate closure of the hospital. As you can read in the article below, that would be devastating to the people in the Palestinan Territories.

Pass this along. Write. Pray. Whatever your feeling on Israeli/Palestinian politics, basic medical services should be available for everybody.
Full details of the situation are at The Lutheran World Federation. While the situation has taken several years to develop, the next critical date in the process is 01 DEC 2005, when a hearing before the Israeli Supreme Court is scheduled.

For more information, per the LWF site:
Write to Rev. Mark B. Brown, Regional Representative, The Lutheran World Federation, P.O. Box 19178, Jerusalem 91191; phone +972-2-628-2289; send an email to; or visit our website: