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12.10.2006

Refuting Conventional Wisdom

Here are a few thoughts I've had around various examples of conventional wisdom the last couple of weeks:

1. The American people will not tolerate a dishonorable retreat from Iraq, and will not be fooled by Democrats redefining surrender as "redeployment" or any other focus group-tested flim-flammery.

2. Neither will we tolerate a steady drumbeat of desultory violence in Iraq, nor a perpetual role for Americans as the Iraqi police force. Much of the current dissatisfaction with Iraq isn't that our troops are on the ground, but that they don't seem to be doing anything except Habitat for Iraqis and providing targets for terrorists.

3. Nobody is fooled by the fig leaf of a "blue ribbon" commission on Iraq, nor by the fact that most of the names on the list are unrecognizable to anyone who's not a political junkie. The Iraq Study Group will rather be judged on the merits of its recommendations and, more importantly, the success of those which are adopted. The LWM will of course spin these just as they did the 9/11 commission recommendations into THE path to victory in the War on Terror, and will mercilessly hammer any Republican administration when key recommendations adopted fail miserably, such as the 9/11 commission's suggestion to form a Department of Homeland Security.

4. Conventional wisdom on the Democrats' victory in the 2006 election is that they've got a mandate to disrupt the War on Terror, gut immigration enforcement, and implement a left-wing social policy. Yet none of these issues was placed before voters in a clear fashion. Heath Shuler, for example, didn't win his seat by offering surrender in Iraq, supporting gay marriage, or offering to open the southern border. Democrats ran as moderates and conservatives, by and large, and swing voters gave them the benefit of the doubt. It remains to be seen whether Democrat leadership is smart enough not to overstep, or at least not so much that it's beyond the LWM's power to spin it away, such as when Hillary Clinton tried to take over healthcare in 1994 only to get spanked.

5. Pundits claim that Americans lack the will to fight this war. That is simply not true outside of the political and cultural elites and deep blue regions of the country. The military continues to exceed recruitment goals, the antiwar movement is pathetically anemic despite LWM attempts to puff them up, and politicians opposing the war cannot state so openly. It would be nice if our leaders actually enlisted the support of Americans in this effort rather than urging them to ignore it. This was the biggest mistake Bush made and a strong indication that he needs more advisors from outside the Beltway.

6. More troops don't help a counterinsurgency, particularly when an enormous urban area is in play. The problem is you can't win a counterinsurgency by clearing and holding with foreign troops---remember how outraged Americans were when the British tried this? It drove enormous numbers of otherwise loyal British subjects over to the revolutionary cause. The U.S. Marines have a strong history of successfully fighting counterinsurgency operations, often with only a relative handful of American troops. Moreover, the Marines have sought to become urban warfare experts since the 90s, given the decreased need for amphibious operations. We don't need more troops, but rather less Army generals unwilling to use them properly in a joint operations environment. Special forces have had the same problem in Iraq---Army commanders have tried to use them simply as infantry whenever the political price of failure has been high. Sack some generals and replace them with colonels who understand counterinsurgency.

7. Britney Spears didn't become a skank under Kevin Federline's tutelage. She has always been trashy. It was the sweet, cute, innocent Britney who was the creation of record label marketing. The latter never existed in reality.

8. Pope Benedict XVI has larger concerns in Turkey than theological debates. In an increasingly radical Muslim environment, the welfare of oppressed Christians is a paramount concern. Reconciliation between Eastern Orthodox and Catholics is possible only if the former survives. Given the Armenian massacre, this is an open question in Turkey, where frustration over the EU refusing Turkish entry could result in attacks on Christians. EU membership is a matter of Turkish national pride, and one would be wise not to tread lightly here. Being diplomatic on Turkish soil suits the Vatican's interest well. And The Vatican has a cadre of the best diplomats in the world.

9. The distinction between a civil war and an insurgency is not academic. A civil war typically arises from an insurgency and comes at a point where insurgent forces are large enough, well-equipped enough, popular enough, and unified enough to take on the legitimate government. You fight a civil war conventionally.

An insurgency is a form of guerilla warfare wherein combat is usually asymmetric---the government forces are almost invariably much larger and better-equipped. Insurgents have to be supplied from outside---in Iraq, it's Syria and Iran propping them up. You fight a counterinsurgency by interdicting these supplies, by taking on the suppliers conventionally, and by building up popular support for the legitimate government.

Fighting an unconventional war conventionally will lose the war. Fighting a conventional war unconventionally will lose the war. Vietnam offers examples of both: post-Tonkin an pre-Tet, Americans tried to wage a largely conventional war (Diem's strategic hamlets actually were the effective counterinsurgency techniques deployed, largely over American objections); post-Tet, when the Vietcong insurgents no longer existed, we tried to fight them unconventionally, despite facing NVA regulars at that point.

The distinction is quite profound, and affects our strategy on the ground. Matt Lauer is singularly unqualified to make it, having read nothing but a teleprompter and learned nothing as a result.

10. The impact of demography is being greatly overstated. It is certainly true that Muslims have more children than Western secularists. Yet demography is most certainly not destiny, for Muslims have been outbreeding the West for quite some time. Much of the Muslim world is impoverished, with higher mortality rates and emigration rates than the West. This is not much different than the situation faced by the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century, as immigrants from Catholic Europe arrived in large numbers. Even though Catholics have much larger families on average than Protestants, America is still a Protestant nation.

China affords a better example. The Chinese had enormous population growth following the Japanese invasion prior to World War II, yet the Chinese have not conquered the relatively empty eastern Russia, much less Asia. Demography is not destiny.

The larger issue in the Muslim world is the practice of polygamy (sanctioned by Mohammad and thus inseparable from Islamic tradition). Polygamy leaves a lot of extra males around, with no prospect for marriage and family outside of emigration. This has created a wellspring of Islamic radicals and legions of men willing to die to attain the paradise in the next world which has eluded them in this. Discouraging Muslim polygamy would go a lot further in reducing the threat of Islam than encouraging Europeans to have more children.

One last point, courtesy of "The Looming Tower". How many Saudis are there?

You might be shocked by the answer: 5 million. 1/60th the number of Americans.

Even if demography were destiny, it would take these nations an awful long time to catch up with the West population-wise. Desert living isn't easy.

1 Comments:

Anonymous karen said...

Thanks, Teflon.

This is being sent onward to my Lib friends- can't wait to read their reactions!(Bet i won't be too surprised, eh?)

9:58 AM  

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