Monday, March 31, 2008

Warfare in Iraq

The conflict in Iraq is heating up again. While many people seem to think that this is a good indication of our side losing, the ‘Fog of war’ can be leading them to jump to conclusions long before we know what the real situation is. I find it interesting that a professor of international politics and Shiite politics at Tufts University has said "The only thing it proved (the new violence in Basra) is that we are a long way from stability in southern Iraq." We have a war underway in Iraq and this guy is looking for stability? How can anyone be looking for stability in a war zone?

It continues to amaze me how small this war is. Considering the population that is being impacted by the issues at stake here, it dwarfs World War II by a magnitude of five. Yet the fighting and loss of life is miniscule by comparison.

It is way to early to be drawing any real conclusions about what is happening in Basra right now. What can be seen are some of the issues involved. One example is Sadr’s militia. Here we have a guy who is a religious leader who is also the commander of an army. The ‘soldiers’ in his army are all more loyal to him and his ideology than they are to the government of Iraq. They are risking their very lives for him. This sounds similar to one of the basic issues decided by the U.S. Civil War. Robert E. Lee resigned his commission in the U.S. army to fight against the U.S. government. Not because of slavery, but because his state of Virginia left the government. He was more loyal to a lower level of government that the Federal government. Many people are more loyal to their ‘clans’ and other organizations than the government of Iraq. This problem is prevalent throughout the Middle East.

I have already discussed many of the issues that are at stake in the war in Iraq. Many of these issues demonstrate the struggle between Islam and modern government. As I have posted before, Islam is far more than just a religion. The parts of Islam that step outside of our concept of ‘religion’ and into the political, governmental and legal arenas are at the basic cause of resistance to our presence in Iraq today. These parts of Islam must be brought into line with modern thinking. People will resist this type of change with warfare EVERY time.

In a way that is similar to the U.S. Civil War, we MUST fight today. To postpone the war will only make the final confrontation much more expensive in terms of lives lost.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Losing the war in Iraq? (Again)

The Chicago Tribune reported on the additional violence that is going on in Iraq. The articles tend to assume that the increased level of violence is proof that the U.S. effort in Iraq is undergoing a setback. I have studied hundreds, maybe thousands of wars. I can’t think of ANY wars in which the violence went down as the war progressed. The tendency is for an increase in violence. The violence level in wars is by no means constant. Many periods of relative ‘quiet’ can be observed followed by intense levels of combat. Surprise is sought after by both sides in any war, so it is reasonable to guess that by keeping the level of combat low in one area may be an effort to lull the enemy to sleep. Then all hell breaks loose. The point is that just because violence is going up or down is NOT an indicator of who is winning or losing. All it tells you is that the violence is going up or down.

Winston Churchill once said that wars are not won by evacuations. The evuaction of Dunkirk had just been completed, saving a third of a million men. This allowed the manpower to be re-equipped and re-deployed to other areas of importance. This in no way can be considered a victory. It was a BIG defeat where the losses were minimized. This is of significance because of the debate over withdrawal from Iraq.

Retreat/withdrawal is one of the most difficult maneuvers to conduct during wartime. Usually, it is performed under tremendous pressure with the threat of total destruction hanging over that unfortunate enough to be caught up in one. Sometimes, it is a necessary move to save the units in an exposed position. In all cases, withdrawal is a defensive move. A counterattack may be planned, with additional units freed up by the withdrawal. In any case, it is basically a defensive move. The current debate in Iraq is basically over the strategic necessity of being on the offensive or defensive.

People who believe that the war against terrorism should basically be a defensive war favor a full U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. This line of thought is that no military solution is available, and that the first line of defense should be civil force, such as the police. The solution is political, so the primary offensive effort should be in the political arena. A Cold War strategy with the main effort in keeping the violence level down will allow for moderation to gain ground and bring the extremists to heel. Treat them like the criminals that they are.

I can’t think of any war that was won by playing defense. Many wars were lost because the side that ultimately lost could not assume the offensive. Basically through lack of strength they were forced into a final defensive position and could not attack to get themselves out. Most of the wars that ended with one side victorious over the other ended with the winning side launching major, successful attacks. The major point here is that in war, the winning side is generally the side that is attacking. Retreats and withdrawals can become necessary, but generally should be avoided. If you occupy an important position that your enemy is attacking to get you out of, then it generally is in your best interest to hold that position if possible without prohibitive losses. The U.S. is not undergoing anything like prohibitive losses in Iraq.

The war in Iraq is not a large war. By comparison to other major wars the U.S. has been involved in, Iraq is not on the list. It will take more than 50 years at the current rate in Iraq to equal the casualties that we have lost in just a few years in other conflicts. (We have lost these many in a day, several times in our history) The U.S. has the strategic initiative in Iraq. We chose the battleground. The desert is one of the best environments on earth for a conventional force like our military to do battle in. The enemy may be able to attack us, but they are not capable of wiping us out. The best they can do is pin-prick. Classic guerrilla warfare. In guerrilla warfare, it is generally to the conventional army’s advantage to have additional combat, not less.

Moral in the armed forces is surprisingly high. Re-enlistment is a major indicator of moral and this important figure is relatively high, particularly considering that we are involved in a shooting war. I do not blame anyone who is not interested in a military career when an active war is being fought. Particularly a war against irregular forces. Conventional forces tend to have low moral when fighting these types of wars, for a number of reasons.

Once again, this is not the case with the U.S. armed forces and our involvement in the war in Iraq.

Once again, wartime news reporting misses out on many of the fundamentals of warfare. Looking at warfare through a political lens can handicap even the most informed person.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Koran

The Koran is basically a group of phrases. The Koran is organized from the smallest phrases to the largest. The Prophet Mohammed lived from around 570 AD until 632 AD and spoke most of the content of the Koran. Since that time, Islamic legal rulings (jurisprudence) has grown around the Koran, in a similar way that U.S. law has grown around the Constitution. Islamic law has been the basis for law in many parts of the Middle East for 1400 years. Islamic scholars have argued over the centuries over which laws are ‘authentic’ and which have been added since 632 AD. ‘Authentic’ means that Mohammed actually spoke the words.

Some of the phrases are considered ‘authentic’ but still can be interpreted in multiple ways. A big part of this problem is because the meaning of words in Arabic is somewhat dependent upon pronunciation. In this way, it is similar to how Chinese words are also dependent upon how the word is spoken. This is the problem with the phrase that describes under what conditions that you may beat your wife. How some of the critical words were spoken can determine if you are to turn away, or actually strike a blow.

Islamic Jurisprudence has helped clarify many of these issues. As desirable as this may seem, we still face many serious problems. As you can tell from this discussion, Islam is not just a religion. Islam is a legal system on top of religion, which is on top of a governmental system. Many of the laws specified in the Koran deal with subjects that involve foreign policy. When to wage war and enter treaties, for example. It also has built in systems to ensure that Islam grows. The Koran has situations where taxes are to be imposed upon infidels.

Many of the problems that we face in Iraq and the Middle East have origins in the Koran and Islamic law. The current U.S. government realizes that many of the laws in ‘authentic’ Islam are hostile to our laws and those of the West. Many of the issues are worth fighting and risking your life for. (Or against) This is why I keep bringing them up. Please note that my efforts are not complete. The # 1 rule of warfare is to know thy enemy. The suicide attackers are all Muslim. It will only help to know what motivates and inspires them.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Iraq government not being pressured enough

One view is that the Iraqi government is not meeting enough political consensus to survive. That lack of progress is enough to be the final straw for U.S. staying in Iraq. The pressure of our withdrawing will enable the Iraqi government to get past it’s bickering and solve it’s most pressing political problems.

Yea, like the Iraqi government is not being pressured enough already? None of the leaders in the U.S. is risking their life in any way, shape or form like the leaders in Iraq. If we leave, they know what their fate is. They are hoping to protect their families, an unlikely prospect in many cases.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Islam and paganism

‘True’ Islam views the world as having begun in 610 AD when Mohammed began speaking God’s word. Anything before this period was pagan, barbaric and idolatrous. This is why the Tailban destroyed those Buddhist statues. This is why in the eyes of some Islamic followers; the Egyptian pyramids should be destroyed. Anything from early Rome or Greece should likewise be eliminated. Christianity and Judaism are pagan religions because they are too early. The Koran is the final word of God. It supersedes all before and after. This is on top of the issues in the last post as being worthy of risking your life over.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Some of the root causes for war in Iraq

Studying warfare for a long time has helped me to realize that some things are worth fighting and dying for. Many times the excuses used to start wars hide the real reasons and not all the time for the worse. FDR definitely antagonized Japan into getting the United States directly involved in WW II. The manipulation for U.S. entry into WW I was less obvious, but we also needed to be directly involved on the allied side. The U.S. Civil War was worth fighting. Getting rid of slavery was worth it. Today we can find a number of issues that are on this level.

The political solution for issues like ending slavery is open warfare. Many times, this is the ONLY solution. People will kill and fight to the death for and against issues like slavery. The injustice in slavery alone is worth the risk of losing your life in fighting it. Many of these types of issues are present within Islam. Like slavery within the South prior to the U.S. civil war, these issues have been embedded into the very culture.

For the past 1400 years, married women who were convicted of adultery have been stoned to death. Riots occurred in Nigeria in the summer of 2006 because this was not enforced. (Nigeria is about 50% Muslim and 50% non-Muslim – the non-Muslim side refusing to enforce.)

Leaving Islam being punished by death has been strictly enforced over the centuries. This is one of the original reasons the Shiite and Sunni are at odds with each other. They differed around the year 690AD over who was the true leader of Islam. Naturally, as time went on, they differed in whom were the leaders who followed him. This disagreement makes the other side Apostates. They must have left Islam to believe this. The hate comes after generations of disagreement, prejudice and discrimination. This is part of the civil war that we are participating in with our presence in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The civil war is between those who want to follow true Islam and those who do not. The rules listed here are for the most part, considered to be ‘authentic’ by Muslim scholars. They must be followed to be an observant Muslim. Modern thinking makes the choice to ignore them really obvious, but the cultural change of thinking requires too much change at once. People will fight this type of change, particularly on this scale, with violence every time. Organized violence.

We keep hearing about the crusades. (1100 AD to 1300 AD – Nine ‘official’ in all. The last four were not with the support of the church in Rome.) What is not discussed is that the crusades were a brief, ineffective response to Jihad in the first place. Islam began in the Saudi peninsula. The Muslim presence in the Holy Land began with the initial Arab conquest of Palestine in the 7th century. Once land becomes Muslim controlled; it can rarely if ever, revert back to being non-Muslim. (Attempting to do so triggers a worldwide obligation to kill ‘occupiers’.)

The concept of Jihad has got to change, significantly. "The presumption is that the duty of Jihad will continue (Interrupted only by truces) until the world adopts Islam or submits to Muslim rule." "Those who fight is the Jihad qualify for rewards in both worlds. Booty in this one, paradise in the next." (Bernard Lewis)

Islam can wage war against Infidels, Apostates, Rebels and bandits. This means to kill. The first two qualify for Jihad. In the case of Jihad, you may seize property. (Until the rise of the nation-state in the past few hundred years, it had been common practice to pay your army by allowing them to seize booty.) Muslims are not supposed to do this for personal gain. Muslims will tell us that this is upheld. (Being strict, they probably obtain better results than what we would) However, they are no more able to stop human nature than we are. History is overflowing with examples of seizing property for personal gain. You can’t tell me Muslims are any less human that the rest of us. Jihad can be seen as a contributing factor in the constant Arab-Israeli wars. Along with war with the rest of the world for the past 1400 years. (The house of war)

" In Muslim tradition, the world is divided into two houses: The house of Islam and the house of war". (Page 31. Bernard Lewis, The Crisis of Islam, Copyright 2003. )
Another view that must change.

Islamic electoral policy of ‘One man (Men only) one vote, once’. One Islam is selected; there is no going back. No more voting. Islam is a one-way street. The penalty for leaving is death. This is an ‘authentic’ law and has been strictly enforced for more than 1400 years. This must also change.

I read a supporter of Islam saying that women have the choice of becoming married, or becoming public property. He says the limits are in place to ‘protect the modesty of women’. I have avoided talking about the gender inequalities within Islam, because my focus is warfare. However, the slavery issue can be compared somewhat to the gender inequalities present within Islam.

Two women testimony equals one man. The next step is no amount of women testimony equals a single man’s. It is insulting for many men in this culture to be treated as or thought of as an equal with any woman. Much in the same way that ex-slaves were thought of in the United States during the 2nd half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries. (Unfortunately, many people still do)

Beat your wife. OK, this is being debated because the phrase can be read multiple ways. The fact that this argument is so widespread indicates that millions of men do believe that this is the correct way to interpret this law. If this is a person who you care about, what about all those who you do not? I would expect improper treatment, as a general rule. It is your right, your destiny. Sounds like the Romans.

Honor killings. Makes sense that if you can kill infidels, Apostates, Rebels, and Bandits that you can kill family members who are ‘disloyal’. Women are treated much like property. It is necessary to sell or kill one of them from time to time. This is why I compare it to slavery so often. In the culture of Japan, honor is VERY important. In Japan, you had to kill yourself if you were dishonored. In Honor killings, they kill you when they consider you to have brought them dishonor. Very convenient.

These ‘authentic’ laws must not be enforced from this date forward. To do otherwise is just putting the issue off until it comes after you. It is generally better to face the music earlier rather than later. Besides, we have a vested interest in who wins the civil war. The issue for us as outsiders is, will these ‘authentic’ Islamic laws continue to be enforced? It is worth risking your life to resolve these issues in a way that the rest of the world can accept. When I say ‘the rest of the world’, I am referring to the house of war.
" In Muslim tradition, the world is divided into two houses: The house of Islam and the house of war". (Page 31. Bernard Lewis, The Crisis of Islam, Copyright 2003. ) Another view that must change.

We also have 1400 years of Islamic law that states that occupation of Muslim land by infidels triggers a worldwide obligation to kill the occupiers. What triggered the ‘occupation’ in the first place is immaterial. This must change.

It sill surprises me that the war itself is this small. No wonder a Civil war is going on in Iraq and throughout the Islamic world. It is worth the loss of life we are experiencing in Iraq to see that the side that agrees with us on most of these issues wins the war.

Part of Islam is peaceful. Much of Islam is the most hostile religion that I have ever studied. Islam must be stripped of 75% of its ‘authentic’ law in order to be acceptable with anyone who shares the values that we hold in the ‘West’. This places anyone who agrees with our extreme liberal version of Islam in the category of apostate. (Punishable by death.) Fighting this qualifies as Jihad. As Bernard Lewis points out, "For most of the fourteen centuries of recorded Muslim history, jihad was most commonly interpreted to mean armed struggle for the defense or advancement of Muslim power. " (P. 31)

1804, the Barbary pirates seized at least one United States ship, demanding Tribute. What was the issue? The question from our point of view was freedom of the seas. The cry went out, "Millions for defense, not a penny for Tribute!". The pirates issue was infidel ships passing through Muslim waters. We owed them payment. The poll tax, or Tribute. We fought a war to resolve only this one issue. The Civil War in Iraq and throughout the Muslim world is all about these issues. At least in our own American civil war, the culture of the North and South did not differ as much as the culture of Islam and the rest of the world. This is one of the reasons that help to make this war so large.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

War on terror

Japan resorted to the organized suicide attack once the U.S. penetrated its inner defense zone. This gave the Japanese military a huge boost in effectiveness. They were able to hit our ships again, when masses of conventional aircraft launching conventional attacks had been slaughtered and failed. Many Japanese believed that this would tip the war back in Japan's favor. It can be easily argued that nuclear weapons put an end to it.

The formation of Israel and U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia and Iraq has broken into the inner ring of Islam. This land is among the most important land in Muslim control. Conventional warfare has been unable to defeat Israel. A worldwide obligation to kill the occupiers has been in effect for a long time now. Unable to stop the infidel advance, Islam has adopted the same response that Japan had turned to. Repeated suicide attack is one of Islam’s last, greatest weapons.

Changing the culture that Islam is married to will be a long-term process. Surprisingly, war tends to speed up these types of changes. Many of the issues involved are worth risking your life over, so maybe this is a necessary evil. Time is not on our side. Sooner or later a terrorist organization will obtain and deploy an effective weapon of mass destruction.
This war is far from being over, with or without a full withdrawal from Iraq.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Poll: Most Palestinians favor attacks

"A new poll indicates that an overwhelming majority of Palestinians support the attack this month on a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem that killed eight young men." The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research is widely viewed as among the few independent and reliable gauges of Palestinian public opinion.

I do not know why this would be any surprise. The Palestinians elected HAMAS. After the attack on this Jewish seminary, they reacted in a way similar to the way they reacted when they heard about 9/11. I keep hearing how this is only a small minority of the overall population. In one poll, the figures were ONLY 43% of the Palestinians supported HAMAS. It would not surprise me to find similar figures throughout the Muslim world. If you took the much smaller percentage of say 20%, of Arabs support this ideology, you will still obtain a figure of 160 million people! This is why I have been saying that this war is BIG. The issues at stake in the Islamic civil war are worth risking your life for. It still amazes me that the actual fighting is so limited.

Monday, March 17, 2008

War in Iraq

A couple of years ago, my wife and I were listening to NPR. An expert on the Middle East was being interviewed. He had all of these complex explanations about the problems there. Half the time, I had no idea what he was talking about. Then the interviewer asked him: "Since 9/11, why has the U.S. not been hit again?" His reply was "I don’t know". My wife said, "You have got to be kidding!" "It’s because of the war in Iraq!" I replied that either he doesn’t have a clue (Which I find hard to believe) or else he just does not want to see it. The "Fog of War" makes it easier to see what you want to see. It also makes it easier to not see what you do not want to see. If you believe that all the war in Iraq is doing is stirring up trouble in an otherwise peaceful area, then you would not connect the two, for they are unrelated.

This view fails to recognize that what has changed is that terrorist ideology is now in a position where they MUST attack us in a location of our choosing. This is ALWAYS desirable in any type of warfare.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Combat and China

The Tibet protest yesterday is a problem for China. It is important to remember that China is not a democracy. This incident reminded me of something that occurred in 1989.

Some fighting had occurred inside China early in the year. When the students lead the protest at Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government sent in combat troops. Not just any troops. They sent in the units that had been involved in the recent fighting. And surprise, they not only went in and obeyed orders, they did not take any shit. They opened fire when opposition was not obeying orders.

Combat experienced troops are different. The fact that you are fighting for your life and depending upon your comrades in arms installs an experience that is difficult, if not impossible to replicate in any other circumstance. During training, obeying orders is very important. When the bullets start to fly, the training you underwent kicks in. You need it and it helps you immeasurably. Afterwards, many soldiers realize how important that training was. (And the deficiencies) The point is that the leadership of China knew this.

The Chinese government deliberately sent in recent, combat experienced troops. They knew that order would be restored and very little, if any backtalk would be tolerated. They knew that these men would not be hesitant to open fire. This was important because of that film that showed the crew of that tank did not want to injure the man who was standing in front of it. The leadership of China could not allow anything like that to occur again. With the Olympics coming up, please keep this in mind when you read or think about China.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Arab culture

Arab culture is very private. By western standards, easily offended. In these ways, it resembles the culture of Japan prior to the 1950’s. Both had been relatively isolated from much of the rest of the world for many centuries. (Japan more so) After oil was discovered in the Middle East, Arabs began to travel more. Early experiences during the 1940’s and 1950’s left Arabs who had visited the U.S. shocked by our decadence and lack of morality. Some of these individuals became openly hostile to the west in general and the United States specifically. This trend has been gaining strength ever since. The actions by the United States over the last 50 or more years is relatively unimportant to the Arab world compared to what the United States IS. What we represent.

Our legal and political systems are foreign to them. Their legal system is hostile to our systems. They find our openness insulting. Believing another culture to be far inferior in ideology can lead to serious underestimation of the opponent’s strength and determination. This can also lead to overconfidence regarding your own military ability. This is what occurred with Japan. The Arab-Israeli wars can be seen to demonstrate this as well.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Popular Support in a Guerrilla war

Irregular (Guerrilla) warfare has a number of additional features that make it even more difficult to get a grip on what is actually occurring. Because at least one side is ‘hiding’ within a civilian population, it is very difficult to get a good idea of the relative strength of the irregular side. The number of men carrying guns is easier to judge, but how about the percentage of the population who supports them? Many motivations come into play here. Take the German occupation of France, 1940-1944.

The strongest and most effective part of the French resistance was made up of communists. They did not have the majority support of the entire French population. Other groups existed and were active. What percentage of the population was supportive of these efforts? Even today, we have a problem figuring this out. At the time, during occupation, many people understandably stayed out of the way. Maybe they saw something, or suspected something, but did not do anything. Do you count them as supporters? After the war, it was to your advantage to consider yourself a supporter, but at the time, were you really? Then you have the outside angle.

Britain and the United States were helping the French resistance. This is not uncommon in irregular warfare. A government or other entity that has a stake, or wants influence without directly interfering can also be playing a part. Then you have the problem of scale.

Who do you include when determining ‘popular support’? Take the problem with the Kurds in Turkey, for example. The Kurds are only a small percentage of the Turkish population. The guerrilla force they support may have a significant percentage of support from the Kurdish population, but if you include the entire Turkish population, (I am certain the Turkish government does) the guerrilla force in no way has ‘popular’ support. How you view the situation can make a huge impact. These motivations and influences can be difficult to judge. On top of this, everyone has an angle. Take Iraq for example.

On the side that is supportive of United States efforts to create a democracy, you tend to see more things in a way that are supportive of this view. You are more tolerant of negative news. You see support of the ‘terrorists’ among the Iraqi population as being limited. ‘Outsiders’ are causing most of the problem. Positive news is viewed as being more important than the negative. If you are on the political side opposed to our presence in Iraq, you probably believe that the war is not winnable. You probably believe that withdrawal is our best move. You see many events as being counterproductive toward swaying the population to join us and encouraging more people to join the insurgency. Irregular warfare makes it very easy to see what you want to see. Toss in the fact that in our democracy, we have two political sides who always appear to oppose the other.

We have politicians whose careers are dependent upon these potentially biased views. It is very difficult to obtain an actual objective view of the war. Even the news reporting is effected.
News reporting has its strengths and weaknesses, just like everything else. The news in the United States is world class when the subject is political. As a result, wartime news reporting tends to be viewed through a political prism. This helps explain why wartime news reporting understands the fundamentals of warfare so poorly. Politics and warfare do not mix well. All of this adds to the general ‘Fog of war’ and can cloud the picture even more.

The phrase "Popular Support" can be misleading and our understanding of it inaccurate in the extreme. With measurements that can be so far off like this, it is best to stick to general views. And even then, we must be very careful how it is used.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Gaza response

The celebratory shooting in the air in Gaza that followed the terrorist attack in Jerusalem last Friday showed that the ideology of HAMAS has a strong following. HAMAS is popular. I suspect that a majority of the population in Gaza favors them, although I do not know for certain. In any case, it is a significant percentage, if not an outright majority. (The election was overwhelmingly in favor of HAMAS, although the backing of any group can change over time.) This brought something back that I had forgotten about:

I remember this same response in that area when they obtained the news about the 9/11 attacks. If memory serves, this was an expression of similar widespread feeling throughout the Muslim world. This one incident cannot tell us much about the Muslim world’s feeling about what occurred in Israel Friday. However, the fact that Israel withdrew and this happened within a short period of time can give us a small indicator of what can possibly occur if and when the U.S. decides to withdraw it’s combat forces from Iraq. Different situation and scale, I know. However, the ideology is very similar, if not the same.

If anything can be gained from this incident, it is the knowledge that plenty of people in Gaza are supportive of this type of warfare.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Baghdad double attack tactic

Yesterday in Baghdad a bomb exploded. After people had rushed in to help the wounded, a suicide bomber then set off his bomb. This second attack was far more deadly than the first. This tactic is not new. It has been used in Iraq before. And well before Iraq.

In ‘Citizen Soldiers’, Steven Ambrose describes an U.S. officer as targeting German medics in France in 1944. He would call down artillery fire upon a German position or unit. He would wait about 5-10 minutes and then hit them again. He described this tactic as ‘then we can get the medics’.

In his book ‘Thunderbolt’ Robert S. Johnson (The 2nd leading U.S. ace in Europe in WW II) described a German fighter pilot he fought as being the best he had ever encountered. The enemy pilot was in the process of bailing out of his aircraft. Johnson closed in and opened fire. The pilot never got out. Johnson said that he did this because this pilot would have escaped and then been able to shoot down more U.S. aircraft and kill other U.S. airmen.

War is brutal. I am certain that this type of thing has happened over and over during the past thousands of years of organized warfare. What is different in the Baghdad incident is the repeating of the suicide attack.

For only the 2nd time in all of recorded history, repeated suicide attack is being used as a weapon. This is extremely important because much data is available about the 1st time repeated suicide attack was used. (This is the reason I keep bringing this up) Although every war is different, similarities can be found. The similarities between the use of suicide attackers by Japan in the 1940’s and those of today are well worth the study.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The 'Fog of war'

The ‘Fog of war’ is a phrase that has been created in order to help explain why mistakes are made. Historians have so much more data to work with than the people who are involved do. The person on the scene is only making calculated risk decisions. After the war is over, the other side can be interviewed. Data about strength and position that is not available (For obvious reasons) is then available. Many times this additional information can make past decisions look silly. Sometimes a decision can be made for the wrong reasons (Or based upon faulty information) and by pure luck turns out to be very sound. It can be easy to pass judgement upon others when you know how everything turns out. In other words, it can be easy to be a monday morning quarterback when referring to warfare. This is a bad habit some historians have, and I work constantly to remember this. It is important to keep in mind that we are just guessing most of the time, particularly when looking at information about recent and current events.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Strength and weakness of democracy


1) A democracy can get rid of bad leadership. In addition, the old leadership need not be killed off. As a result, people do not have as much motivation to cling to power. (It is still strong, but the prospect of being killed and your entire family wiped out is an extreme motivation to hang on.)

2) Is able to adjust to change more readily.

3) Represents the will of the people. Generally, people get what they want. If a law is not a good one, or an unpopular one, it can be changed. As a result, democracies are difficult to kill.


1) Difficult to establish. It takes time and resources.

2) Democracies are inefficient. It takes a large bureaucracy to enable the system to obtain the feedback that it needs in order to respond to the people’s wishes.

3) Once the population realizes that it can vote itself entitlement, fiscal responsibility becomes impossible.

4) Difficult to be consistent with long term policy.

5) Regarding warfare, democracies do not withstand long wars well. They eventually become unpopular. This is a weakness that Bin Lauden has been saying will help him to win.