Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Martin Durkin

Martin Durkin, the producer of the documentary "The Great Global Warming Swindle," is making a documentary series on the social history of Britain. He has a lot to say about welfare and its pernicious effects:

"The Welfare State, pioneered in Britain of course, has corrupted this country to its core. It has transformed the country caricatured by Noel Coward and others – essentially pretty decent, self-reliant, and plucky – into a country which is thuggish, selfish, mindless, dispirited and lost. Gone is the British stiff upper lip. Modern Britons are moaning, self-pitying inadequates. The welfare state has bred a generation of obnoxious, drug-addled criminals and ne’er-do-wells. It has also, incidentally, burdened what was once the world’s biggest, most dynamic economy with the dead weight of an obstructive and vastly expensive state machine. ...

"Britain has, I think, the highest crime rate of any industrialised country in the world. It is twice as high as the US. The violent crime rate is higher in London than New York. Britain has the highest rate of drug abuse, the highest teenage pregnancy rate and the highest rate of sexually transmitted disease in the modern industrial world. What the hell happened? ...

"The logic is inescapable. Each slice of do-gooder social policy has had its own tragic, unintended effects. The weight and quality of evidence leaves no room for doubt. The Welfare State has been an unremitting disaster, beyond any hope of reform. It is not that the welfare state isn’t functioning properly, it is that the welfare state is in essence degrading."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Year Zero

Israel is quietly preparing to go to war with Iran over the threat its atom bomb program presents. The Israelis are convinced, with good cause, that sanctions will fail, that only military action will work. They think that next year will be the Year Zero for making a decision because Iran will have enough nuclear fuel to make a Bomb by then.

Eran Lerman, former senior member of Israel's Directorate of Military Intelligence, says, "The Iranian regime's need for a nuclear bomb is a reflection of the profound crisis in which it finds itself after almost 30 years in power. They promised the earth and the country is in disarray. The regime has failed to create or sustain stable social structures. So the last validated remnant of the Iranian revolution is to destroy Israel."

The Israelis had what amounted to a dress rehearsal for an Iran strike last September when they took out a nuclear reactor in Syria. Israel did not comment publicly on the strike, nor did Syria nor did anyone else. That told the Israelis that the Arab countries covertly supported the strike while they could not overtly support the Jewish state.

General Moshe "Boogie" Ya'alon, the Boogie Man, the former head of the Israeli Defence Forces, argues a war is necessary, not a raid, "Military intervention would not be one strike. It needs to be a sustained operation … Any military strike in Iran will be quietly applauded by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf states. It is a misconception to think that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the most important in the Middle-East. The Shiite-Sunni schism is much bigger, the Persian-Arab divide is bigger, the struggle between national regimes and jihadism is much bigger. And I can't imagine the US will want to share power in the Middle East with a nuclear-armed Iran."

While I understand the Israeli enthusiasm for eliminating a nuclear threat by the mad mullahs of Tehran, I see some practical problems for such a military action.

The first problem is targeting. The Iranians aren’t as dumb as the Iraqis, who put all their atom bomb eggs in one reactor at Osirak that could be taken out in one air strike. The Iranians have dispersed their atom bomb program. As I understand it, it is spread across hundreds of sites. Three hundred is the number I've read.

How do you get reliable intelligence about the location of these sites, the nature of their construction, and their relative importance in the program? You would need some recent high-level defectors from the program to provide reliable targeting data. For example, you need to know how they are constructed so as to use the correct type of bomb that will reliably neutralize the target.

The second problem is the massive size of the air campaign to strike these targets, once located. I’m reading three hundred sorties over three days. The Israeli Air Force has about four hundred fighters. If you sent them out in four ship flights, that's about a hundred targets each go. The second and third go's will lack the advantage of surprise. Of course, the IAF can not commit all its fighters to attack. It must keep a substantial number in reserve for defense. They just don't have enough fighters to pull this off.

The third problem is access. The direct route from Israel to Iran flies over Iraq or Saudi Arabia. Of course, to fly over Iraq the Israelis would need US permission and cooperation. We control that air space. For lots of reasons, that’s unlikely to happen.

The Saudis are our allies, at least on paper though not in fact, which means that theoretically we should not turn a blind eye to Israelis flying strike packages over Saudi Arabia. Blatantly disrespecting the Saudis (not that there is anything wrong with that) to help the Israelis wage war against fellow Muslims would stir up the Muslim and Wahhabi pot, maybe even bring it to a boil.

However, it’s within the realm of possibility that the duplicitous Saudis could strike a secret deal to allow their hated Jewish enemies to strike their hated Shia enemies in Iran. The Saudi princes could pose as surprised and outraged at the incursion, however pleased with the outcome. They’re good at lying like that and they hate the Shia more than the Jews.

While it is plausible to deny that a couple flights of Israeli jets masqueraded as an airliner to fly a sneak attack across your air space, it's not plausible to ignore hundreds of jets traversing your sky. You can hide an air raid but you can't hide an air campaign.

The fourth problem is the extreme range. It looks to me to be about 1000 miles, at least, as the crow flies from Israel to the centrifuge facility at Natanz, aka the Esfahan enrichment facility. Of course, the mission will be longer than this when you allow for an indirect route to targets deep inside Iran.

The F-15E Strike Eagle has a range of 2,400 miles (3,840 kilometers) ferry range with conformal fuel tanks and three external fuel tanks. However, that’s FERRY range, not carrying heavy bombs. I’m guessing that adding a couple 2000 pound laser-guided bombs would reduce the range of the F-15Es to less than the distance to their targets. It seems obvious that these fighters would need to be air-refueled, optimally just outside the Iranian border. The range problem is worse with Israel’s 324 F-16s and 50 F-4Es.

Israel only has five tankers, B707 airframes roughly similar to the KC-135. If each tanker supported a flight of four fighters, that’s only twenty fighters Israel could project to Iran. Again, Israel would need US tanker support to fuel its strike force.

The bottom line is that Israel can not successfully take out the Iranian atom bomb program by itself, so the Israeli threat is an idle one. Israel can only succeed with help from the US. However, if we must strike Iran, Israeli help is a political handicap in our foreign relations with the bigoted Middle Eastern and European states. If we must strike Iran, we must leave Israel out of it.

We have better weapons to strike Iran than Israel. Our Stealth aircraft such as the B-2 and F-22 can traverse Iranian airspace with little fear from the 1970s-era technology Iranian fields to defend itself. And who knows what wing of secret srike aircraft we have stashed out in the mountains of Nevada, ready to make its combat debut? Our B-1s, F-15Es, and F-16s would fly over the smoking remains of the Iranian defenses.

We are also better positioned to strike Iran, with air bases in the neighboring countries of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Even though I am an advocate of air power, the gains it makes are transient unless followed up by a ground campaign. Without a ground campaign, we’ve only temporarily set back the Iranian atom bomb.

I think we can stop Iranian aggression short of a war. Iran is economically fragile. Already, our financial measures have taken a toll on them. We can bring Iran to its knees without bloodshed by simply stopping it from shipping its oil and/or importing gasoline.

We can also lend support, carefully hidden, to Iran’s resistance. They could use money, training, communications equipment, et al to support their movement. Perhaps we can redirect the Iranian shaped charges we capture in Iraq back into the hands of the Iranian resistance. Let the mullahs fear the IEDs they export to harm the Great Satan.

Rather than a hard strategy of military action that would polarize Iranians against us, we might profit more by pursuing a soft strategy of support for the disaffected Iranians who want to topple the mullahs and restore ties with America. Right now, the low price of oil may do more to slow down the Iranian nuke program than an air campaign.

Obama, the peace candidate, may well have to fight a conventional war to avoid a nuclear war.

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The Value of Gitmo

Presidential Candidate Obama thundered on the campaign trail about how he would close Gitmo as soon as he became president. He may change his mind as President because presidents can not afford to be ignorant and irresponsible as candidates for president can be. Of the 800+ prisoners tossed into Gitmo, most have been cut loose. Some were innocent, some were transferred back to their home countries, and some were small fish not worth holding. There are about 250 remaining, who are the worst of the worse.

Obama is about to discover, doubtless to his surprise, that the Bush approached worked, stopping follow-on attacks on the USA by vigorous interrogation of terrorist chieftains. It's entirely likely that Obama will leave Gitmo substantially alone, if not to defend America then to defend his own reputation against letting terrorists go who will kill Americans. Again.

Thomas Joscelyn lays it out in "Clear and Present Danger" in the Weekly Standard:

"For example, in his autobiography, At the Center of the Storm, former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet explained that KSM's interrogation led to the arrest of an entire cell that was plotting destruction. The same day KSM was detained in 2003, another terrorist named Majid Khan was picked up. During his interrogation, KSM admitted that Khan had recently passed along $50,000 to operatives working for al Qaeda's chieftain in Southeast Asia, a man known as Hambali. When interrogators confronted Khan with KSM's revelation, Khan confirmed it and said that he gave the money to an agent of Hambali named Zubair. Khan gave his interrogators Zubair's telephone number. Shortly thereafter, Zubair was taken into custody and gave up information that led to the arrest of yet another operative nicknamed "Lilie." According to Tenet, Lilie then provided information that led to Hambali's arrest in Thailand.

"Khan, Hambali, Zubair, and Lilie are all high value detainees at Guantánamo. They were plotting the "second wave" of attacks on America when they were captured. According to the Guantánamo files, Zubair and Lilie were both chosen to be suicide hijackers in an al Qaeda attack on Los Angeles. They had also plotted against targets in Southeast Asia under the direction of Hambali. Hambali was responsible, in part, for planning the 2002 Bali bombings (killing more than 200 people) and a series of attacks on 30 churches in Indonesia on Christmas Eve 2000 (killing 19).

"In addition to serving as an intermediary between KSM and the Hambali crew, Majid Khan was involved in other post-9/11 plots. Khan, who lived in Baltimore for years, was planning to smuggle explosives into the United States. He wanted to target gas stations and landmarks such as the Brooklyn Bridge, and he recommended to KSM that a truck driver living in Ohio named Iyman Faris could help. Faris, who had trained at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, had begun preparations for these attacks. But within weeks of KSM's and Khan's capture, Faris was identified and arrested. Months later, Faris was convicted of providing material support to al Qaeda and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

"Another of Khan's accomplices, a Pakistani named Uzair Paracha, was also arrested just weeks after Khan and KSM. In late March 2003, authorities raided Uzair's apartment in Brooklyn. There they found a number of incriminating pieces of evidence linking Uzair to Khan. In 2005 Uzair was convicted, and in 2006 he was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison.

"Uzair's father, Saifullah Paracha, is a current resident of Guantánamo. Although he has not been designated a high value detainee, he clearly consorted with terrorists. Saifullah is reportedly a multimillionaire who owns a Pakistani media company and a textile business, which exported goods to the United States. Al Qaeda wanted to use Saifullah's textile business to smuggle explosives into the United States. Saifullah also offered his media company's services to Osama bin Laden for the production of al Qaeda's propaganda.

"KSM and Khan were not the only high value detainees to give up crucial, life-saving details during their interrogations. In March 2002, Abu Zubaydah was captured at his safe house in Faisalabad, Pakistan. In At the Center of the Storm, Tenet says that Zubaydah unwittingly gave up information that led to the capture of Ramzi Binalshibh on September 11, 2002. At the time, Binalshibh was plotting an attack on Heathrow Airport in London. At least several of the detainees at Guantánamo were captured along with Zubaydah at his safe house in 2002, and they too were involved in al Qaeda's post-9/11 plotting. For example, Zubaydah intended to use one of them in an attack on Israel.

"The greatest success of the Bush administration is that it stopped all of this, and more, from happening."
So, the question is whether Obama will deliver on his foolish campaign promise to close Gitmo and let the terrorists loose via the courts or will he sober up and realize these people are hellbent on killing more Americans? Obama has proven in the past to be averse to making risky decisions and agile at avoiding embarassments. It's just possible that Obama's fecklessness may play in favor of keeping terrorists locked up in Gitmo. Perhaps he will kick a couple loose through the courts to maintain the pretence of keeping his promise.

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