The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Tragic Lessons--John McCain on Iraq

Today, I'm working on a review for my paid column with the Claytong, WI Hometown Gazette.  Mostly, I do book reviews, some classic fiction with modern relevance for current events, but many on modern works of politics, war, and economics.  For this month's article I'm reviewing a documentary movie that was made in 2002, "The Fog of War," which are some raw and unguarded interviews with former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and about the 11 political-military lessons he learned during the 1960s, emphasing the U.S. war in Southeast Asia.  (Look for my expanded review essay in the June 1st issue of The Cepia Club Strategy Gazette).  Ironically, I had been planning a blog entry on some statements given this week by Presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, during his campaign announcement on the "lessons of Iraq."

McCain is quoted in columnist David Broder's syndicated article on April 27th as saying:

"We all know the war in Iraq has not gone well.  We have made mistakes and we have paid grievously for them. We have changed the strategy that failed us, and we have begun to make a little progress. But in the many mistakes we have made in this war, a few lessons have become clear. America should never undertake a war unless we are prepared to do everything necessary to succeed, unless we have a realistic and comprehensive plan for success, and unless all relevant agencies of government are committed to that success. We did not meet this responsibility initially. And we must never repeat that mistake again."

McCain, long a supporter of Bush Administration policy in Iraq, has begun distancing himself from the President, and for political reasons to capture anti-Bush independent voters. McCain's posturing on the mistakes that he has until now endorsed the entire time may be just politics as usual. But what I hope to help people understand is that politics as usual, the usual political class that we have empowered as a nation, keeps making the same mistakes.

The lesson that McCain refers to was the same lesson the U.S. supposedly learned in Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia.

In Korea, once Red China intervened, the unification of North and South Korea was no longer a reasonable policy. Truman rightly decided not to escalate the war, but Truman fell into the trap of playing a role Mao Zhe-dung's complicated political opera to use the Korean War to solidify his own communist regime and his standing among communist movements. Instead of terminating the war by agreeing to one communist demand--the return of communist prisoners of war--the war dragged out for another two years, at great cost in American and South Korean lives. Eisenhower, when he became president in early 1953, essentially agreed to the demand but also threatened the use of atomic weapons if the war did not end soon, something Truman never threatened. Rational leaders in the Soviet Kremlin understood the consequences for themselves if the war did not end and nuclear weapons were used. Following Stalin's death in March 1953, the war was quickly terminated within three months right where it began but with a million Koreans, 500,000 Chinese, and 50,000 Americans dead. Truman had committed America to a limited war that had no political plan other than not stopping the war until the other side gave in. The result in July 1953 was the same stalemate that was obvious in May 1951.  Truman may very well have allowed the war to go on for so long because the "loss of China" to the communists in 1949 hurt the Democrats as a party. He needed to stand up for Korea if this were true.

Vietnam is another of the brutal lessons learned that Americans are doomed to relearn as long as the same military-industrial-political class is allowed to dominate that has been in power since the end of World War II.  In Vietnam, there was no reason to fight communism as an ideology in Southeast Asia. The area was unimportant in geo-politics. The North Vietnamese had never been and will never be puppets of the Chinese, communist or otherwise. The U.S. fought with massive commitments of men, their lives, and national treasure. Again, Democratic President escalated the war in Vietnam because he was most likely afraid of losing a country to communism.  The Democrats had lost China, almost loss Korea, and couldn't afford to look weak against communism.  The escalated war only furthered the breakdown of moral restraint by all sides in the conflict, killing  2 or 3 million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans. The greatest error in Vietnam was not having a political objective clearly pursued by all forms of hard and soft power. Johnson did not want to risk war with the Soviet Union or China but was willing to fight no matter what the cost in the end if the war could be kept small. South Vietnam under a friendly government would not be lost.  The U.S. Government spared no expense or other peoples' lives to pursue its policy. It was not, however, prepared to do anything both reasonable and moral within the strategic possibilities to win. Nuclear weapons never played a serious factor in the Vietnam War from 1965 to 1973, either within Southeast Asia or with China and the Soviet Union.

To get to the end of U.S. military operations with the Paris Accords in January 1973, the U.S. had finally "taken off the gloves" (Nixon's words) in late 1972, n destroyed North Vietnam's capacity to resist through U.S. bombing and mining, and achieved, like in Korea, a negotiated stalemate. Then, however, Congress intervened and prevented the U.S. from ever using what would have been required to keep South Vietnam free and Southeast Asia safe from murder and torture by communists, decisive and limited force and aid. The U.S. gave up the one political objective it finally settled on--stalemate in place--achieved with the blood of millions.  Congress did so by choice, most likely for votes in future elections, and by choice it condemned millions of people in Southeast Asia to death, torture, and suffering.

Lebanon and Somalia, suffice it to say, also suffered from a lack of political goals and ended in U.S. humiliations. As a DIRECT cause of the humiliations, Islamist terrorists have been at war with the U.S. for 25 years as of this time. The U.S. Government and public just didn't realize it until Sep. 11, 2001.

No, the lessons are all too plain and painful.  Partisan politics as usual done by dominate political class as normal behavior, is the reason why America makes the same mistakes in war.  To fix our problem, politics in America need a new thinking and more participation by the people to demand and supply politics influenced less by the desire for ideological and special-interest power, and more for doing the right things for the right reasons. That allows the wrong things to not be done, like bombing Iran or Syria.  Doing things right is always easier and better. Having honest motives in formulating policy allows effective policy to be pursued and achieved.  There is nothing wrong with defending liberty and helping people live free elsewhere, but starting from the premise of gaining votes by it usually ends up making mistakes that kill millions and can destroy the world.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Is the War Really "Lost?"

In the Associated Press on April 19, 2007, Senate Majority Leader is quoted as saying "the war [in Iraq] is lost."  It definitely has not been won by either the U.S. and its Iraqi government allies; nor has it been won by the coalition of insurgent and anti-government groups fighting the U.S.  In history, we call this a stalemate.  What does Reid declaring the war "lost" really mean?

Over the entire issue of the war funding bills before both houses of Congress, Reid and the Democrats, but no less than the Republicans (who are equally guilty), are trying to scheme partisan politics into the war issue to their advantage. Declaring the war "lost" is a sound-byte, plain and simple.  Wars are only won and lost in basic two ways: Either in the total destruction and occupation of an enemy and their homeland by its adversary, or the political capitulation of one side (or both sides--in a stalemate) of a belligerent. Are the U.S. or its armed forces destroyed?  Absolutely not.  The U.S. effort in military terms could continue indefinitely up to the point of losing its military-aged citizens or in complete financial bankruptcy of the government.

Reid is signalling the other type of defeat: voluntary capitulation.  He is showing that American politics, on the left and right, in both parties, have admitted their bankruptcy of ideas and moral certainty.  That is not to say that the war in Iraq was not an extremely short-sighted and arrogant policy by the Bush Administration, or that genuine genocide is not happening to the Iraqi people, (more from the insurgent than the U.S.-Iraqi-Coalition forces--but that is open to honest debate as well).  The whole invasion, occupation, and counter-insurgency effort in Iraq may have been the right war in the larger picture of history, but it was definitely fought at the wrong time.  I firmly believe that in, say, the next five or so years, U.S. intervention in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq would have been inevitable, if the Iraqi dictator had died or been overthrown.  There should be no delusions about that. Iraq was a political mass destructive bomb that would have exploded eventually.  Yet, under such an inevitable need for some sort of military intervention in the Persian Gulf, the timing would have been better and a true "coalition" of the many would have come forward, including France and Russia.

Throughout the last four years, the Bush Administration and its agents have committed grotesque incompetence, and perhaps more, in prosecuting the war. No war is lost "until the big one drops," the escalation to nuclear extermination at which war ceases as a practical and often effective tool of political policy.  To declare the war "lost" is a failure of politics and the failure of the entire political leadership who have done one of the worst jobs in American history at managing a conflict (i.e. the entire war against the terrorists).  It is not lost as long as America is not destroyed.  On the other hand, the harder reality, losing political will in this war is tantamount to an eventual, larger looming threat from Islamists radicals.  Just as when the Israelis were forced to leave Lebanon in disorder in the summer of 2000, radical political Islam will smell the American fear in our "politics as usual." Surrending in Iraq enables the terrorist.

This is not "just like Vietnam." Vietnam was in a time and world of its own, and was relatively insignificant in the larger geo-political game between East and West in the Cold War. NO! Iraq is a genuine theater of the war that will save or end independence for America, and save or end liberty in the entire world.  It is in the most strategically important region in the 21st Century world of globalization.  Just remember, when the Middle East and its oil no longer matter, the war against the terrorists will be irrelevant and it will end.  Until that time, until Americans individualluy (This means you and I) make better choices about our way of life and our future, we will only be bringing the consequences of our selfishness and greed upon us with the vengence of fate.

In the meantime, instread of empowering the Bush Administration or the Democrats in Congress to continue their self-centered, greedy behavior in every aspect of the politics of this war, the American people need to demand better leaders across the spectrum of power.

The war is not lost. It is not won.  It can be won, but only by using a political grand strategy far different, something along the lines of The Cepia Club's "Libertarian Internationalism" (Find out more on under Vol. I, Issue 4). That is the beginning of a victory plan.  The second part is use the power of personal liberty, economic freedom, common security, and community action to wedge out the radicals, in America and the Middle East. The third part of a victory program is to use America's tradition of a maritime strategy to fight smarter with less resources. Stay tuned to further writings from The Cepia Club on the "maritime strategy" for winning the wars of the 21st Century.

To win the war we must use liberty and cunning as our prime tools. If not, it will surely be lost and we will lose all.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

War Czar Search

Over the last week, several American media sources revealed that the Bush Administration is attempting to establish a "war czar" to oversee the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  A suitable candidate is to be  a "Special Assistant to the President," a similar government classification as the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, otherwise known as the National Security Advisor.  This new "war czar" would report directly to the President and to National Security Advisor Steven Hadley; possess the authority to issue directives and orders to all government agencies involved in the wars, including the Departments of Defense and State; and direct planning, coordination and executionwar policy. The overall aim is to increase intra-governmental coordination working toward an eventual "victory" in Iraq and Afghanistan and the global war on the terrorists.

Currently, the executive branch official coordinating the war effort is a deputy national security advisor who reports directly to Hadley.  This sub-cabinet official, Meghan O'Sullivan, lacks status and the force of law to issue binding orders to cabinet principals, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) Marine General Peter Pace.  O'Sullivan was initially involved in the post-invasion occupation administration in Iraq. Any initiatives she would like to enact must be issued up her immediate chain of command to Hadley and directly from him to President Bush. From there the orders go through the National Command Authority (NCA--In order: The President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, and Combatant Commanders of the unified commands of the U.S. Armed Forces, in the specific cases of Combatant Commanders of Central Command, European Command, Special Operations Command, Transporation Command, etc.)

O'Sullivan's work in her role has thus far been wanting, hence the Administration's plan to appoint a new Special Assistant in charge of the war.  The media has reported that up to five four-star generals on the retired list have declined to accept the appointment, including former Combatant Commander-European Command (who is always Supreme Allied Commander-Europe), General James Jones, U.S.M.C. (Ret.).  It is believed by commentators that the Administration is attempting to absolve itself of all culpability in its disastrous war policy the past five and half years in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are resurgent, and in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion.  Such a "war czar" creates an official position that could be blamed for policy failure by the time the Bush Administration leaves office in Jan. 2009.

The "war czar" idea has several problems with it, not including limiting the liability to President Bush's "legacy." First, like the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and a whole new level of bureaucracy for intelligence security overseen by the National Director of Intelligence, such a "war czar" smacks mostly of a public relations move.  In all three cases, the problems were not and are not failure of the design of the original laws meant to implement security policy. The main problem has been lack of enforcement of the laws that exist.  For example, under the 1947 National Security Act laws and follow-ups that created the Central Intelligence Agency, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) overseeing that agency was simultaneously made the coordinator of all national intelligence agencies and was appointed chief advisor to the President for intelligence matters. If the laws were properly followed and enforced, the system would have worked better to our advantage, perhaps even concerning intelligence failure in BOTH the 9/11/2001 attacks and the invasion of Iraq. Instead, DHS and the NDI created a new bureaucracy, extra layers of "coverage" to insulate the people at the top of our civilian executive branch from their failure.  There should be very little doubt that creating a "war czar" will tend to the same degree to obfuscate responsibility and inhibit effective policy and its execution where it matters most--leadership and vision at the very peak of our government.  Indeed, the problem may be that the laws concerning the national security establishment are not properly followed in the first place. One law that would be bent by a "war czar" system is that important part of the U.S. Constitution that makes the President "commander-in-chief" of the naval and land (and by default other) military forces of the United States.

The very implication of a "war czar" should disturb people, and disturb them especially that retired military officers are the prime candidates for the position. "Czar" is a Russian word for "Caesar," the Roman consul (general) who overthrew the Roman Republican and set the stage for the Imperial system. (The Roman emporers titled themselves "Caesar.")  It is very unlikely that a military officer brought up in the tradition of a civilian-controlled military such as that run by the United States would overthrow the republic or stage a coup against a legally funcitoning government. Giving someone such titles and power, however, have proved in history past to be fraught with danger for constitutional government and the natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (Besides Julius Caesar, such notorious "military protectors" have included Cromwell, Napoleon, and Ludendorff, to mention the more notorious ones).

If there is to be a Special Assistant for the war effort, choosing the right person becomes all important.  Since the four-star generals are declining, if he is even alive still (I haven't checked), former Marine Lt. General Paul van Riper is seen as one of the shrewdest and most imaginative strategic minds on the military's retired list. It does not necessarily have to be him, but someone like him with the original and creative perspective on strategy would be necessary.

If it is decided that a civilian candidate would be better, Anthony Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is the type of world-wide authority on military and politico-military affairs that would be ideal--someone outside of government who has the knowledge, reputation and abilities to think critically about grand strategy.

We will have to wait and see what happens with the "war czar" proposal, and hope an pray that it works. The Cepia Club will follow this issue for our participants.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Vonnegut Dies

I just found out at Yahoo! I gather it was announced around 10:30 PM CDT on the New York Times ticker. Kurt Vonnegut died at age 84. He may have been the most important American writer in from 1960 through his death. I particularly liked his novel "Bluebeard," which I've listed on my blog as among my all-time favorite books. It was serendipity in literature.

We have all heard of, if not read, "Slaughter-House Five or the Children's Crusade." That could very well be one of the most important novels on World War II ever written. One particularly good book, pathos personified, was "Mother Night," which was also finely adapted to a movie of that name starring Nick Nolte (Vonnegut did a cameo, non-speaking appearance). Vonnegut was personally affected by the schizophrenia of several family members, some of whom committed suicide, his mother among them, I think, or it was his wife or perhaps both of them. In an interview I heard of him discussing literature on mental illnesses back five or six years ago, he said that his experiences with that awful disease did as much as his wartime experiences to form his world-view.

In World War II, Vonnegut was a U.S. prisoner of war in Dresden, Germany, captured during the Battle of the Bulge in Dec. 1944. Vonnegut was one of the survivors of the worst non-atomic firebombings in human history in Feb. 1945. Little different in results than the carnage of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the firebombing of Dresden lasted for three days. The fires took much longer to burn out. Around 100,000 Germans and other nationalities held by the Germans in the city were incinerated or suffocated from the phenomenon of human-made "firestorms."

Vonnegut certainly saw a lot. He wrote what he saw and said what he felt--about truth, beauty, faith, justice, and all of their ugly, tribal opposites.