Thursday, September 29, 2005

Responding to Dan Darling on Zarqawi

Here are my separate points in response to Dan Darling’s post: “I Blame Public Ignorance.” It is not so much a disagreement, rather to enhance Dan’s post with more detail – an augmentation. I do not have concrete evidence on how Zarqawi’s group is organized but here is my theory base on opened source information and personal experience in Iraq.

I. How leadership Emerge:

Zarqawi most eminent skill is his ability to absorb other Islamist groups. The most important merger was between his organization and Ansar Al-Islam (later changed it name to Ansar Al-Suna) before it merge with Zarqawi’s Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad. This ability was also observed in Bin-Laden when he absorb Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad.

Leadership is based completely on personal charisma. The way leadership emerge is the product of nomadic culture. This is true from the Mongolian steppes to the Saharan desert. The best analogy in history are Chengis Khan and Timur Leng (Tamerlane). Followers pledge allegiance not to the group per se, but to the individual who is most charismatic and the strongest. The allegiance does not pass on to children or designate heirs. In fact the pledge of allegiance expire when the leader pass away. Therefore, there is no point in officially designate an heir apparent. The same is true of Zarqawi’s organization. He would have a functional second in command, but the person is not necessary the second in term of seniority or second power structure, and especially not the heir designate. This position is more administrative than command.

If Zarqawi die (I hope in the most painful manner), the next leader to emerge will be the most charismatic, powerful, and ruthless. We may find out the various contenders by picking out the most charismatic and powerful personalities. But we cannot know until Zarqawi die. The new leader will be determined by how many pledge of allegiances each contenter receive and who pledge allegiance to whom.

II. Order of Battle:

Attempt to describe Al-Zarqawi organization along Western line is futile and unimaginative. One must think outside the box. However there are historical models to aid understanding (there are only so many ways to organize) – think of the Japanese warring period or European feudal era. Organizationally Zarqawi’s organization can be broken into main components.

1. Zarqawi and his entourage: This is similar to sultans, a khans, and their household troops and officials. They play the role of advising, organizing, and administration. They interact with the next group. Within this group, important advisors reside to provide guidance on religious, political, or strategic military matter.

2. Zarqawi various emirs: These are the vassals. The title emir does not denote uniform command. In Europe feudal ear, a nobility can be a count, a baron, or a duke and command terrorial vary in size, population, wealth, and military strength. Zarqawi’s organization is closer to the Japanese daimyo that they are nominal of equal status, but in reality vary in strength and power. But the most important aspect of the emirs is their operational autonomy within their territory -- in which Western military would call area of operation (AO) or area of responsibility (AOR).

Strategic decision come from the first groups, but tactical and operation decision is decided solely by the second group. Beside military operation such as attack, many of the recruiting, training, and financing, and activities are actually done by the emirs locally. Zarqawi may assist the emirs with money, arms, and occasional recruits depend on strategic important of each emir (at different time or phase in the war). But emirs are expect to be responsible for most . This is similar to military campaign during feudal time. Vassals actually recruited, trained, armed and financed their own knights and sergant-at-arms.

The organization of Islamist terrorist is only unconventional in Western sense. It is not by no mean unconventional elsewheres in the world where power structure are less formal and non-linear. Of course Pentagon has an extremely difficult time describing event in Iraq to the general public – and I doubt that even the Pentagon leadership outside of the counterterrorism circle truely understand it. It is therefore difficult to quantify the significant of Abu Azzam’s death without going into exhaustive detail, even then it is highly academic and I doubt most people would be interested. More importantly the Press lacks the necessary aptitude to understand the subject to convey it correctly. If a highly intelligent person such as Matthew Yglesias has difficult grasping the situation, one cannot expect an average (if not mediocre) reporter to understand it.

Opposition to the Iraqi Constitution Weakens

Within the Shiite camp, Muqtada Al-Sadr was the most critical of the Iraqi Constitution - in particularly the issue of federalism. However according to Knight Ridder, he said he will not oppose it (hat tip to Keven Drum).

Rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's representatives said that while he's not thrilled about the constitution, he likely wouldn't encourage his followers to oppose it.


"But for now, his opinion is neutral,"

Why's the change of heart. Muqqy may be an low-life opportunist, but he is not stupid. He would not dare openly oppose Al-Sistani. Sistani openly blessed the constitution and for a Shiite faction to oppose it is political suicide. So Muqqy accomodates. Sadr is not the only one who compromise on the constitution. Even the Iraqi Islamic Party (an Iraqi branch of the Muslim Brotherhood) also compromised.
The largest Sunni political group, the Iraqi Islamic Party, said that although it has encouraged its supporters to vote down the document, its efforts are focused on the December election for a new National Assembly.

"There are powers that will make sure this bad constitution passes," said Ala'a al-Maki, a party spokesman. "We are focusing more on ensuring the Sunnis participate in the next election."
These events may be strange to those who doubt the benefit of democratic process. But for advocates of Democracy, this is easily understood. The political process moderates extremists, forcing them to be pragmatic and make compromise. Bottom line, extremists can be coopted by democracy. Democracy promotion is not a eutopic as critics claim, but rather it is a pragmatic (and only) tool to combat extremism.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Fouad Ajami on Bigotry

I wrote about bigotry in the Middle East here. But Fouad Ajami is much more cogent and far more eloquent on the subject (hat tip to Austin Bay). I love the title, especially the tagline, "Heart of Darkness: From Zarqawi to the man on the street, Sunni Arabs fear Shiite emancipation." An sample of anti-Shiite bigotry:
Nor ought we be taken in by warnings from Jordan, made by King Abdullah II, of a "Shia crescent" spanning Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This is a piece of bigotry and simplification unworthy of a Hashemite ruler, for in the scheme of Arab history the Hashemites have been possessed of moderation and tolerance. Of all Sunni Arab rulers, the Hashemites have been particularly close to the Shiites, but popular opinion in Jordan has been thoroughly infatuated with Saddam Hussein, and Saddamism, and an inexperienced ruler must have reasoned that the Shiite bogey would play well at home.
Ajami even mention Western's complicity is this bigotry.
[...]And America, at times ambivalent about its mission, brought along with its military gear a suspicion of the Shiites, a belief that the Iraqi Shiites were an extension of Iran, a community destined to build a sister-republic of the Iranian theocracy. Washington has its cadre of Arabists reared on Arab nationalist historiography. This camp had a seat at the table, but the very scale of what was at play in Iraq, and the redemptionism at the heart of George Bush's ideology, dwarfed them.
It is an excellent essay. Go read the whole thing.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Hotel Window Reporting

By now readers have all heard about the story of AP reporters staying in Baghdad Hotel and not going anywhere. I can testify to that fact. In the Fall of 2004, there was a masacre of around 50 Iraqi soldiers. The story dominated the news for 2-3 days. I witnessed the aftermath and know the incident in intimate detail.
These soldiers are Shiites from the South. They just finished their 8 weeks of basic training and were allowed a week of leave before reporting back for their next duty assignment. They all put on their civilian clothes and took taxis home (the taxis were actually Kia minivans). As the vans crossed Wasit Province from Diyala Province, they were ambushed.
The terrorists dragged the occupants out of the vehicles, ordered them to lay down along the side of the road in row, and shot them in the back of their head. Even the civilian taxi drivers were killed. Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi claimed credit for the attack.
What is interesting about the attack is despite the heavy coverage in the news. The media was not actually there. Despite being informed by the Iraqi Defense Ministry about the incident (by press release), not a single foreign journalist showed up at the crime scence - no BBC, MSNBC, CNN, not even Al-Jazeera. For two days, the 206th Iraqi National Guard Battalion transported the remains back to Forward Operation Base Wolverine. Only after the remains were inside a Iraqi military facility did the media showed up. They were not there at the site with the 206th ING, they were not there when the transportation of the remain occured.
I wonder how in the world can they report a story accurate if they do not even show up at the scence. And of course, typical of the ignorant media, they got the fact wrong. They reported the victims as Iraqi National Guard - the victims were regular Iraqi Army. They got the location of the incident wrong. They reported that the place of the masacre was in Diyala Province. It was in Wasit Province. Diyala Province was where the bodies were - not where it happened.
Beside the time where I saw the media inside FOB Wolverine, I never saw member of the Press anywhere. So the next time some clueless reporter has the audacity to tell us how important his job is, and how he inform us. Remember that he most likely has no idea what goes on in the world, his world view is the view of his hotel window. And if you want good reporting in Iraq, read Michael Yon, Faces from the Front, or better yet read Milblogs.

Monday, September 26, 2005

I am not Convinced

Tom DeLay, in an pathetic attempt to cool down the the angry fiscal conservatives:

This year, House Republicans streamlined the Appropriations Committee structure to allow for a more transparent, accountable legislative process for our annual spending bills. This reformed process will make it harder to hide excess spending and easier to save money in the future. Wasteful spending can be found and should be cut -- like the $89 billion that never made it into the $286 billion (formerly $375 billion) highway bill the president signed last month -- and as conservatives and Republicans, we should never let down our guard on this issue.

Translation: Get off my back, you troublesome fiscal conservatives. Instead of spending $375 billion of your children money on bacon, I spent only $286 billion. What am I suppose to do without my bacon.
We need real fiscal conservatives in Congress -- people who authentically believe in limited government - not pretenders.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Conservatives Insurrection

This is an insurrection. I have written about this issue before (here, here, and here). It is about we take a closer look at the last five years and what conservative causes have been advanced since then. In the last five years, every single gain that was made under the Gingrich's Conservative Revolution has been reversed, by a faux conservative President and a faux conservative Congress. For the last five years, I voted Republican because I was limited by two choices: big government conservatives or even bigger governmnet liberals. Therefore it is extremely sad and profoundly disappointed to see this from Tim Chapman.
... A coalition of bloggers have launched a website called "porkbusters." The site lists every member of the House and Senate by the name and has a column next to the name for "committed cuts," or sacrifices. Currently, the only member of Congress listed with a "committed cut" is House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
Many Republican members of Congress must be asking themselves, "Is Nancy Pelosi the best fiscal conservative this Congress has to offer?"
Not one single Republican - not one - in the House or Senate is willing to give up pork. In fact, Tom Delay, the Republican majority leader, new title is the "porker of the month" and the co-awardee is another Republican, Senator Don Young of Alaska. Delay even had the audacity to declared that there is "ongoing victory" over government wasteful spending. The Pork King refuse to even consider delay the drug benefit. Who would have thought a self-proclaimed conservative would defend an entitlement.
Of course, the House and Senate Republicans are not the only one to blame. The White House stated that they oppose the delay of the Medicare prescription plan. The President is threaten to veto any bill that delay the program. Unbelievable! This president who never vetoed a single spending bill is threaten to veto a bill if it spend less. This President may talk like Ronald Reagan but act like Lyndon B. Johnson. Compassionate Conservative is a disguise for "The Great Society."
It is therefore with enthusiasm and pride that I declare myself a rebel - a member of the Conservative Insurrection. Let renew the Conservative Revolution. Let renew the Contract with America. Let start to hold every single Republican politician accountable. The day that politicians get my vote for being members of the Republican Party is over.
CORRECTION: Don Young is a congressman not a senator.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

"Neither Ethical nor Pragmatic... Just Muddled"

Vikash Yadav of Foreign Exchange wrote an excellent analysis on the current dilemma of India when it comes to Iran. Please go there and read the whole thing.

In the most recent test of India's foreign policy skill, India seems to be resisting pressure from America and Europe about referring Iran to the UN Security Council for violating its agreements with the international community.

If India does not cooperate with the US, it could scuttle a proposed deal on nuclear cooperation between the US and India. Moreover, India risks once again alienating a natural democratic ally and major economic partner.

Vikash's conclusion is that India action is neither idealist or pragmatist, just muddled
Of course, one could argue that at least India is finally adopting a realistic approach to its foreign policy by placing its energy needs over morality and international law. However, such a claim would ignore the fact that the United States is still India's largest export market. And as a nuclear power, India can certainly shift toward greater reliance on its own nuclear energy if it is denied access to Iranian oil and gas. India's economic (and security) interests are ultimately with the US, Japan, and Europe, not emerging pariah states in the Middle East. If America becomes estranged with India, the US will once again strengthen ties with Pakistan. India cannot afford a repeat of the Cold War where the US-Pakistani entente resulted in India's strategic isolation.
Thus it would appear that India's latest foreign policy is neither ethical nor pragmatic.... just muddled.
I am in complete agreement with Vikash. India policy regarding Iran appears unwise and counter to India self-interest, as well as potentially ruinous to India's long held reputation as a moral and progressive state. But it is also the responsible of the Democratic countries, in particular the US, to help India out of its contradictatory foreign policy. It now rests upon the US, particularly Secretary Rice to unmuddle India Foreign Policy. It is important that we persuade India to our side. I believe there are great incentives we can offer India to reassure that its energy need is safe. Perhap another trip by Secretary Rice to New Delhi is in order.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Small Mindedness

Federal Court in California ruled that the "Pledge of Allegiance" is unconstitutional because of the inclusion of the phrase "under God." The person who brought the case to trial is Michael Newdow, an avowed atheist who said he was offended by the phrase. But I am clueless as to why Mr. Newdow is offended - and so offended that he put considerable resource (time and money) to fight it.
Like Mr. Newdow, I am not a Christian. But I am not an atheist. I am a Buddhist by faith. And my religion is best described as agnostic. Our scripture does not mentions the Creator. We do not affirm or deny the existence of God. Therefore "under God" is not a part of my tradition either. But I am not offended by the phrase "under God" and readers would find that no Buddhist would be offended by it either. Why would I be offended by someone else expression of faith. And saying "under God" in the pledge of allegiance does not degrade my religious belief in any way.
Perhap Mr. Newdow is a small man who is offended by the belief of others that are different from his. Let call his attitude what it really is - intolerance and bigotry. Of a million things to be offended on this world, he decide that this issue offend him. Perhap I can offer him other issues to be offended about - issues far more worthy of his zeal in protest. Let start with the genocide in Darfur where thousand of peoples are dying on a daily basic. Does it not offend to him? Michael Newdow can also be offended by the oppression of women in Saudi Arabia. If that is not enough for him, the murderous rampage of Islamofacists around the world. And if he want something closer to home, how about the Government of New London bulldozing people homes to profit big cooperation. Or if he want something that personally affect him, how about his hard earned tax money being used to built roads to nowhere or pay for farmers to grow nothing. Any of the preceeding issues are far more worthy of outrage than "under God" in the pledge of allegiance.
The Most Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh once wrote about the dynamiting of Buddha statues by the Taliban in Afghanistan. He chided commentators and pundits for their misdirect outrages. They were quite outrages by what they deem as destruction of valuable arts. He scolded them that instead of being outrage about inanimate stones and rocks, they should be more outrages about the treatment of women in Afghanistan - who are flesh and bones.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Giant and Midgets

I have been listening to the John Roberts nomination hearing for three days now. Here are my observations. It is like watching a giant sparing with a bunch of midgets (Republicans and Democrats alike). John Roberts displayed such an intellectual prowess that it is seem terribly mismatched. I almost feel sorry for the senators. What's a pathetic bunch!
Despite the fact that the senators are the ones who have the innitiative, who control (and know ahead) the questions. They managed to fumble time and time again. Often they asked silly (if not stupid) questions. Their numerous attempts to corner Judge Roberts is so futile that I wonder why they even bother. In the process, they look like fools.
The answers that Judge Roberts give are the only ones that are educational. It taught me so much about our judicial process and philosophy. It confirms my view of government. Mainly that of the three branches of government; the executive branch should be the most innovative and open to change. The legislative branch should be more resistant to change - restraining the executive branchfrom potential over-reaching. The judicial branch should be the one most adverse to change. In that regard, Judge Roberts judicial philosophy fits perfectly.
UPDATE: Liberal senators often asked question that has word like "progress," "advancement." It implies that they want judges and justices to promote "human progress." John Roberts by refusing to answer implicitly said: "It is your job, not mine."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Promotion of Racism in the Middle East

Yesterday, President Talibani visited the US. Unlike those murderous thugs that the Left praise as "freedom fighters;" this man is a true freedom fighter. Jalal Talabani fought for his oppressed people freedom since he was a teenager, often as an underdog against one of most brutal tyrant in the Middle East. But have you ever hear the Left refer to Talabani as a freedom fighter? No way. To them, his relationship to the US renders him illegible for the title. But somehow, Baathists thugs in Fallujah are "freedom fighters."
What Talabani said yesterday was not as important as what he said last week on September 4th. According to the article by the New York Times:
In an unusual public rebuke, President Jalal Talabani angrily criticized other Arab states on Monday, saying they had insulted Iraq by not sending diplomats to Baghdad and had not sent condolence letters about the stampede last week in which almost 1,000 Shiite pilgrims were killed.
Speaking at a news conference, Mr. Talabani, a Kurd, amplified complaints by other Iraqi leaders about the Arab states' failure to recognize the stampede, which caused the highest one-day death toll since the American-led invasion. The complaints, aimed at mostly Sunni leaders, hinted at a sectarian bias against Iraq, where Shiites are about 60 percent of the population.
Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite, hinted at similar criticism on Monday when asked about the emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who donated $100 million to the American victims of Hurricane Katrina but nothing to the victims of the stampede. "I'm not condemning what he did, but he should think of Iraq," Mr. Jaafari said.

The comments by Mr. Talabani and Mr. Jaafari came at a time of heightened tension with other Arab nations. Last week Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, issued a public criticism of Iraq's new constitution - largely written by Shiites and Kurds - in which he echoed the criticisms by some Sunni Arabs in Iraq.
Some Iraqi leaders asked why Mr. Moussa was willing to denounce the new draft constitution now, after the Arab League had been notably silent about Iraq's lack of a constitution under Saddam Hussein.
Of course neither President Talabani and Prime Minister Jaafari should be surprised at the treatment they get from their fellow Muslims and Arabs. The Arab League was quiet when Saddam gased the Kurds and they said nothing when Saddam masacred 200,000 Shiites. Here in this blog, I will say what no biased Western media will say. The Arab League are a bunch of racist and bigots, and our own Media and the Left are complicit in their racism and bigotry. Pan-Arab Nationalism is by nature racist and facist. It includes only Sunni Arab, excluding all other. Kurds are not Arab, hence their lives and death mean little. And if they are massacred by Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Arab, it is for the better. Iraqi Shiite maybe Arabs, but they are heretics, and their loyalty to the greater Arab world is always in doubt.
In fact Shiites are automatically suspected of treason, that they are controlled by Iran, incapable of independence. Every action they take is interpreted as action ordered by Iran. Ever since the election of the current Iraqi government, charges of treason were and are levied against them. Alarmists in the Middle East with the complicity of Western Media and Western Left, have continously warned against a Shiite theocracy in Iraq controlled by Iran. Their evidence is based solely on the fact that the government of Iraq is dominated by Shiites.
Racism by the Arab League dominated by Sunni Arabs is to be expected. But to have the racist talking points being repeated, propagated, and promoted by our Western Media and the New Left show the hypocrasy of the Media and the Left.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Snowballed Effect and Lessons Learned

I apologize for the long absense. I was overwhelm with family and work, both are priorties before blogging. As I was absensed from the blogosphere, Katrina hit. So here are a few disconnected points about Katrina.
  • Snowballing Effect: The first failure compounded exponentially the effect of the succeeding failures. Despite the fact that all levels of US government look pathetic in the aftermath of Katrina; the failure of the City of New Orlean is most note worthy because it worsens the failure of the next echelon. By the time the Federal Government fail to act, the effect became catastrophic. It is important to put the City of New Orlean into context. Just put Katrina in term of military operation and thing became clear. The City of New Orlean is the first line of defense, the first responder. In military term, it would be the first unit on the front line. It is responsible to hold the line at all cost, until the enemy overwhelm the line. If the enemies break through this line, the second line of defense is activated. In this case, it is the State Government. The Reserve is the last line of defense (the Federal Government), to call in when the second line of defense is breached. During Katrina, the first line of defense capitulated, dropped their weapons, and fled without a fight. This reduced the neccessary time for the second line of defense (the State) to react to the onslaught of the enemies. This was then compounded by the slow response of the second line, so the the second line quickly folded. The Reserve was then slow to react, unawared that the first and second lines have fallen. By the time the situation is realized, the enemies have breach the wall of the city and in the process of sacking it. The lesson is that it is important to shore up the first line. Both the State and the Federal Government should have inspected the state of prepareness of their respective lower echelon.
  • Follows the plan: Have a plan and follow it. Captain Quarter reports that New Orlean has a plan for this scenario. The plan looks good and addresses many of the problem faced on the first few days of the crisis. Except that they did not follow it. Had they follow their own plan, many more lives would have been saved. Perhap the plan was simply written to satisfy State and Federal requirement and no ranking official in the city actually read it. It is important to have everyone of responsibility to read through the plan, have everyone involve in the plan go through a rehearsal (at least simulates it on computer). And most important designate a person who knows the plan to be in charge of all activities during crisis. Establish a chain of command so that if the designated person is killed or unavailable.
  • Private Citizens Are Assets Not Liabilities: Earlier on the crisis, the government announced that private citizens should not to come to the affected area to help, because they would get in the way. We later learned that private charities and individuals were faster, more responsive, and far more effective than the government. Disobeying government order, they came. And because they came, many lives were saved. Private charities were the first to get to the affected area. Their effectiveness was impressive. As the government was deciding what to do; trucks full of food, water, and relief material were arriving in massive quantity from private humanitarian organizations. Before any government official arrived, volunteers were already in the area providing relief. The government was wrong to bar private citizens from rescuing their fellow citizens. The forgotten lesson of September 11th is that citizen volunteers played a key role on the first week. Most the rescuing effort at ground zero was done by volunteers. They digged through the rubbles, they took care of the wounded, they saved lives. They organized themselves without the government and they were better organized. It is time that the Bush administration (who are big government conservatives) to recognize this fact.