Archive for December, 2005

Iraq: Back to Business

So the election’s over, back to the same old grind: assassinations, car bombings, regular airplane bombings, attempted overruns of Iraqi army and police posts. Tom Lasseter has the must-read articles of the day, though, as he interviews Iraqi Army units in northern Iraq and finds out (surprise!) they’re pretty much just rebadged peshmerga militia fighters who owe their primary loyalty to Kurdistan as opposed to Iraq:

Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan.

The Iraqi army’s 2nd Division, which oversees the Irbil-Mosul area, has some 12,000 soldiers, and at least 90 percent of them are Kurds, according to the division’s executive officer.

Of the 3,000 Iraqi soldiers in Irbil, some 2,500 were together in a Peshmerga unit previously based in the city. An entire brigade in Mosul, about 3,000 soldiers, is composed of three battalions that were transferred almost intact from former Peshmerga units, with many of the same soldiers and officers in the same positions.

Lasseter and Knight-Ridder have documented pretty much the same situation with Iraqi Army units in the south, which are dominated by Shia militias loyal to the Hawza religious establishment in Najaf. Meanwhile Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army extends its control throughout the Iraqi police, including the special commando units, while SCIRI’s Badr Brigades run the Interior Ministry.

Given the current situation, can someone please explain to me why supposedly smart people think that the Iraqi elections would convince the Sunnis to lay down their guns? Why would you do that when all the other players are loading for bear?


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Christmas Loot

Assorted goodies gotten:

Two trade paperbacks of one of the best manga out there: Blade of the Immortal. These two feature one of my favorite characters, Makie, the ex-lover of the series’ antagonist and the deadliest fighter in Blade‘s universe. Since this is manga, she is naturally a beautiful, 90-lb., excessively submissive former prostitute. The latter two parts are annoying, but her story arc is pretty compelling, and again Samura Hiroaki proves that no one does action on the comic page like him.

Call of Duty 2, the sequel to one of the more popular WWII-themed first person shooter games out there. This is more in the nature of a graphics upgrade expansion pack than an actual sequel, unfortunately. The single-player campaign is (thusfar) also nowhere near as compelling or cinematic as the first Call of Duty, which stole liberally from Band of Brothers and Enemy at the Gates. If you’re in the market for a good FPS, pick F.E.A.R. or Day of Defeat: Source.

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Former Nixon Defense Secretary Melvin Laird has gotten some attention with his recent Foreign Affairs article recommending a repeat of Vietnamization in Iraq. Essentially Laird endorses Bush’s “Iraqis stand up, Americans stand down” course in Iraq, with the focus on training Iraqi security forces to take the place of American forces. Laird considers the American Army’s exit from South Vietnam in 1972 as a model to be followed to achieve decisive success in Iraq, which might seem odd given that South Vietnam doesn’t exist any longer. Not to Laird, however:

The truth about Vietnam that revisionist historians conveniently forget is that the United States had not lost when we withdrew in 1973. In fact, we grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory two years later when Congress cut off the funding for South Vietnam that had allowed it to continue to fight on its own.

Documents released from North Vietnamese historical files in recent years have proved that the Soviets violated the treaty from the moment the ink was dry, continuing to send more than $1 billion a year to Hanoi. The United States barely stuck to the allowed amount of military aid for two years, and that was a mere fraction of the Soviet contribution.

Yet during those two years, South Vietnam held its own courageously and respectably against a better-bankrolled enemy. Peace talks continued between the North and the South until the day in 1975 when Congress cut off U.S. funding. The Communists walked out of the talks and never returned. Without U.S. funding, South Vietnam was quickly overrun.

I believed then and still believe today that given enough outside resources, South Vietnam was capable of defending itself, just as I believe Iraq can do the same now. From the Tet offensive in 1968 up to the fall of Saigon in 1975, South Vietnam never lost a major battle. The Tet offensive itself was a victory for South Vietnam and devastated the North Vietnamese army, which lost 289,000 men in 1968 alone.

Apparently some folks in the blogosphere think that the man who was responsible for implementing a program is the most objective observer regarding its success. Unfortunately, Laird is engaged in some rather egregious revisionism of his own here.

U.S. funding of South Vietnam, first of all, continued at a high rate through 1975. From 1973-74, the U.S. provided South Vietnam with $3.3 billion in aid — three times the amount of Soviet aid listed by Laird. In 1975, this was cut not to nothing, but to $700 million. Lewis Sorley and other revisionist historians like to talk about ARVN troops running out of ammunition, but this was largely due to massive and endemic corruption throughout the South Vietnamese high command, not lack of American aid. And as Melvin L. Pribbenow relates in Parameters, the North Vietnamese too had ammunition supply problems that were a major factor in their strategic planning for 1975.

By 1974, PAVN’s entire stock of heavy artillery and tank ammunition, including all ammunition held by combat units at forward warehouses, and in North Vietnam’s strategic reserves, totaled just 100,000 rounds. The ammunition problem was so serious that the PAVN artillery command had to replace the larger weapons in a number of units with obsolete 76.2mm and 57mm artillery pieces drawn out of storage for which there still was adequate ammunition.

Indeed, Pribbenow goes on to relate that much of the artillery fired in support of the North’s offensive in 1975 was captured from overrun ARVN units, which were lavishly stocked in comparison.

During their initial attacks Tra’s troops overran the small ARVN outposts at Bu Dang and Bu Na on Route 14. COSVN Military Command reported to Hanoi on 20 December that within the ruins of these two outposts PAVN forces had captured intact four 105mm howitzers and 7,000 rounds of artillery ammunition. This unexpected treasure trove stunned the leadership in Hanoi. Seven thousand rounds were more than half the number the General Staff had planned to expend nationwide during the entire 1975 campaign. Tra now argued that he could use this bonanza for his planned attack on the Phuoc Long province capital without even touching his current ammunition holdings. In fact, PAVN could expect to capture even more ammunition at the larger bases. It was an argument the leadership could not resist. Tra was authorized to proceed with his original plans. On 6 January the PAVN 3d and 7th Divisions completed the conquest of Phuoc Long province by taking the province capital and capturing another 10,000 rounds of artillery ammunition.

Laird also skedaddles over much of the ARVN’s history. The ARVN suffered several major defeats post-1968. Operation Lam Son 1971, the South Vietnamese invasion of Laos, ended with ARVN airborne LZs overrun and panicked troops pushing their own wounded off evac helicopters to escape. The 1972 Easter Offensive, generally regarded in the U.S. as a crushing defeat for the North Vietnamese, would likely have destroyed South Vietnam without the presence of American advisors, who provided most of the combat leadership in the most crucial battles, and even more importantly massive and overwhelming B-52 “Arclight” strikes on NVA troop concentrations. Even given the massive losses incurred on the North Vietnamese and their failure to hold any population center, they still took control of most of the Central Highlands region. As Eric Bergerud notes:

Dubbed the ‘Third Vietnam” by journalists, the huge expanses of mountain and jungles controlled by the Party’s forces served as the ultimate liberated zone. Thieu continued to garrison the area’s cities, putting a sizable portion of the ARVN in an untenable postion once PAVN was resupplied. Hue was likewise nearly under siege. All this had been gained by Hanoi despite a withering U.S. air and artillery offensive and brilliant tactical leadership by the American military advisors who, in fact, commanded ARVN …

Starting with the 1973-74 dry season, Hanoi did not miss a step. Most of the PAVN continued to reequip, and much effort was spent creating a series of all-weather roads down the Ho Chi Minh Trail and deep into South Vietnam … PAVN and what was left of Front forces struck hard in a series of ‘strategic raids’ around Saigon, Hue, and Danang. Many GVN outposts were overrun, and old strategic safe zones near Saigon lost after Tet 1968 were reclaimed by the Party’s forces. In the Mekong Delta … the Front launched a furious assault on the pacification program and, in many areas, destroyed four years of ‘progress’ in a few weeks …

When the North Vietnamese went on the offensive in 1975, the ARVN collapsed. Generals abandoned their troops; soldiers fled their posts. Fifty-five days later, South Vietnam had ceased to exist.

Does any of this sound like success to you?

By the way, training for our new Iraqi Army was recently boosted — to 24 days (hat tip Daily Kos). Most soldiers in the Iraqi Army have 14 days of training, which is slightly more than security guards in New York state are required to get. I wonder how long ARVN basic training lasted.

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Democracy on the march

No, really.

“The Islamic militant group Hamas won sweeping victories in local Palestinian elections held Thursday in some of the West Bank’s largest cities, according to preliminary results released Friday.

The voting, six weeks ahead of crucial parliamentary elections, was a considerable blow to the Fatah faction that has dominated the Palestinian Authority but has fractured in the year since the death of Yasir Arafat. The West Bank has generally been considered Fatah’s base, with Hamas more popular in the conservative, smaller and isolated Gaza Strip.

Hamas swept the large northern city of Nablus, a former Fatah stronghold, seizing 13 of the 15 seats, took control in the town of Jenin by one seat and won decisively in the smaller El Bireh, next to Ramallah.”

Everyone has already posted on the Iraqi elections, but the upcoming Palestininan elections could be just as crucial to the eventual future of the Middle East. The Head Heeb, as always, has outstanding commentary.

The potentially destabilizing factor is that the “Young Guard” of Fatah are hardly a united front. Each commands militias of their own, and are united really only by their desire to displace the old men of Arafat’s generation. Yet none of them provide a true national rallying figure as Arafat did. If and when the Young Guard does take over, there may not be much of a Palestinian Authority or even national movement to run. The real danger of Palestinian civil war comes not from a split between Fatah and Hamas, but rather the different Young Guard factions between each other.

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Hello dere!

Well, let’s get this thing started.

I started this blog to have a place to record my daily thoughts about the different stuff that interests me. This includes U.S. and world politics, books, movies, video games, fitness — all the typical crap people blog about.

Facts for those interested:

  • 28 years old
  • Work in the New York financial industry
  • Just got married to the most wonderful woman in the entire world
  • Recently enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve delayed entry program as an aspiring 0300, with a ship date to Parris Island of June 2006.
  • Graduate of New York University class of 2000, B.A. in economics and sociology

That’ll do for now. Be back when I think of something actually interesting to say.

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