By Fr. George Welzbacher
September 21, 2008
The SURGE has worked! Though we're by no means out of the woods as yet-though I suppose that's not quite the right image, given the terrain of Iraq-the military phase of the war to replace a brutal dictatorship (and more significantly a sponsor of terror throughout much of the Middle East) with a stable democracy that stands opposed to terrorists has largely come to a victorious end. And the five brigades that empowered the surge, their duty done, have now been withdrawn. A sizable American military presence will, however, still be necessary until the provincial elections (presently scheduled for late 2008 or early 2009) and the subsequent parliamentary elections (slated for 2009 or 2010) have been held. Too swift and too massive a withdrawal of our forces could allow the defeated elements to regroup, particularly with support from neighboring Iran.
But the situation in the Middle East that will confront whoever is elected president of the United States will be vastly less ominous than would have been the case if president Bush had accepted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's pessimistic assessment that "This war is lost" or Senator Obama's dismissal of the proposed "Surge" as a plan that would not succeed and that might well prove counterproductive. As a new book, The War Within, by Washington Post columnist Robert Woodward establishes with overwhelming detail (assembled from over 150 interviews with prominent government officials and important Washington insiders as well as from a three hours' interview with President Bush himself), practically everyone of influence in Washington, from the adversarial political establishment to the happy high honchos of Mr. Bush's own administration-including the State Department's stellar figures and the Pentagon's whole top line of command-fiercely opposed the president's decision to back Generals David Petraeus and Ray Odierno in their proposal for a bold new counterinsurgency plan, a plan that would station American forces directly within the neighborhoods that were currently dominated by Al Qaida or by ethnic and sectarian militias instead of continuing to concentrate our forces in remote camps. This was a plan that would need for its implementation a significant increase - a "surge"- in the number of troops deployed in Iraq, Such was the plan that Senator John McCain had long been urging upon the president.
An unsigned editorial in the Wall Street Journal for Monday, September 15th, describes with succinct precision the president's decision and its consequences. May I share the article with you here.
* * * * *Bush's Lonely Decision
From: An Editorial in the Wall Street Journal
Date: Monday, September 15, 2008
Now that even Barack Obama has acknowledged that President Bush's SURGE IN IRAQ has "succeeded beyond our wildest dreams," maybe it's time the Democratic nominee gives some thought to how that success actually came about-not just in Ramadi and Baghdad, but in the bureaucratic Beltway infighting out of which the decision to surge emerged.
That's one reason to welcome 'The War Within," the fourth installment in Bob Woodward's account of the Bush Presidency. As is often the case with the Washington Post stalwart, the reporting is better than the analysis, which reflects the Beltway conventional wisdom of a dogmatic and incurious President. But even as a (very) rough draft of history, we read Mr. Woodward's book as an instructive profile in presidential decision-making.
Consider what confronted Mr. Bush in 2006. Following a February attack on a Shiite shrine in the city of Samarra, Iraq's sectarian violence began a steep upward spiral. The U.S. helped engineer the ouster of one Iraqi prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, in favor of Nouri al-Maliki, an untested leader about whom the U.S. knew next to nothing. The "Sunni Awakening" of tribal sheiks against at Qaeda was nowhere in sight. An attempt at a minisurge of U.S. and lraq iforces in Baghdad failed dismally. George Casey, the American Commander in Iraq, believed the only way the U.S. could "win" was to "draw down"- a view shared up the chain of command, including Centcom Commander John Abizaid and the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Politically, the war had become deeply unpopular in an election year that would wipe out Republican majorities in Congress. The bipartisan Iraq Study Group, run by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, was gearing up to offer the President the option of a politically graceful defeat, dressed up as a regional "diplomatic offensive. " Democrats united in their demands for immediate withdrawal, while skittish Republicans who had initially supported the war. including Senators Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Gordon Smith of Oregon, abandoned the Administration.
From the State Department, Condoleezza Rice opposed the surge, arguing, according to Mr. Woodward, that "the U.S. should minimize its role in punishing sectarian violence." Senior brass at the Pentagon were also against it, on the theory that it was more important to ease the stress on the military and to be prepared for any conceivable military contingency than to win the war they were fighting. Handed this menu of defeat, Mr. Bush played opposite to stereotype by firing Mr. Rumsfeld and seeking advice from a wider cast of advisers, particularly retired Army General Jack Keane and scholar Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute. The President also pressed the fundamental question of how the war could actually be won, a consideration that seemed to elude most senior members of his government. "God, what is he talking about?" . Mr. Woodward quotes a (typically anonymous) senior aide to Ms. Rice as wondering, when Mr. Bush raised the question at one meeting of foreign service officers. "Was the President out of touch?"
No less remarkably, the surge continued to face entrenched Pentagon opposition even AFTER the President had decided on it. Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went out of his way to prevent General Keane from visiting Iraq in order to limit his influence with the White House.
The Pentagon also sought to hamstring General David Petraeus in ways both petty and large, even as it became increasingly apparent that the surge was working. Following the general's first report to Congress last September, Mr. Bush dictated a personal message to assure General Petraeus of his complete support., "I do not want to change the strategy until the strategy has succeeded," Mr. Woodward reports the President as saying. In this respect, Mr. Bush would have been better advised to dictate that message directly to Admiral Mullen.
The success of the surge in pacifying Iraq has been so swift and decisive that it's easy to forget how difficult it was to find the right general, choose the right strategy, and muster the political will to implement it. It is also easy to forget how many obstacles the State and Pentagon bureaucracies threw in Mr. Bush's way, and how much of their bad advice he had to ignore, especially now that their reputations are also benefiting from Iraq's dramatic turn for the better.
Then again, American history offers plenty of examples of wartime Presidents who faced similar challenges: Ulysses Grant became Lincoln's general-in-chief in 1864, barely a year before the surrender at Appomattox. What matters most is that the President had the fortitude to insist on winning. That's a test President Bush passed- something history, if not Bob Woodward, will recognize. [End of editorial].
* * * * *
Nevertheless, as the new American president takes his oath of office he will be facing a still very dangerous world, particularly as Iran continues to stride rapidly forward towards the ability to produce nuclear weapons, and as a previously quiescent Russian bear begins showing its teeth and raising its claws towards its closest neighbors. But an even more disturbing possibility is seldom mentioned in the press, namely the threat of a surprise attack that would cripple our entire electronic infrastructure through an electromagnetic pulse unleashed by a single atomic bomb detonated some 25 miles or so ABOVE our land surface. A recent report (September 8) in the national edition of The Washington Times points out just how devastating such an attack would be; the author, William R. Graham, stresses the supreme importance of an intensely enhanced pursuit of defensive measures that promise to counter this threat. Here is the report. Among other things it's an invitation to pray for our country and for our president in these very perilous times.
* * * * *The Under-reported Invisible Nuclear Threat
By: William B. Graham
From: The Washington Times
Monday, September 8, 2008
Our nation and the Department of Homeland Security are rightly concerned about the threat from nuclear terrorism. Extraordinary efforts are under way to detect and prevent a terrorist operation from smuggling a nuclear weapon into a U.S. city or seaport. New technologies, such as muon tomography, are being developed to scan the interior of containers and other objects for nuclear weapon materials.
Yet there is another nuclear threat to the U.S. homeland that could be posed by terrorists that is much less well-known-to our collective peril. This other nuclear threat is just as plausible and equally credible when compared to the threat of a weapon smuggled into the United States. Compared to a nuclear weapon detonated in New York, D.C. or Los Angeles, this other nuclear threat is potentially far more catastrophic; instead of a single city, it could threaten the entire nation's survival
But the Department of Homeland Security and their institutional advisers are so fixated on the "conventional wisdom" of the threat from a nuclear bomb smuggled in that they are doing far too little to detect and prevent nuclear terrorists and their state sponsors from executing an ELECTROMAGNETIC PULSE A TTACK (EMP) on the United States.
A high-attitude EMP results from the detonation of a nuclear warhead at altitudes above 25 miles over the earth's surface, and covers the area within line-of-sight from the bomb. The immediate effects of EMP are disruption of, and damage to electronic systems that are indispensable to the operation of critical national infrastructures-the electric power grid, wired and cell telephone systems, fuel handling, land and air transportation, government operations, banking and finance, food storage and distribution, and water treatment and supply--that sustain our economy, military power and civilian population.
Our vulnerability to EMP attack on any one of the key national infrastructures is dependent on the recovery of others, in the same way their normal operations are interdependent. The longer the outage, the more problematic and uncertain the recovery would be. It is possible for the functional outages to become mutually reinforcing, until at some point the degradation of critical national infrastructures could irreversibly affect U. S. ability to support its population and sustain its role in the world.
Several potential adversaries have the knowledge and the resources to attack the United States with a high-altitude nuclear-weapon-generated EMP, and others appear to be pursuing efforts to obtain that capability. A determined adversary could carry out an EMP attack without having the high level of technical sophistication of a major nation.
One scenario of special concern is an EMP attack against the United States launched from an ordinary freighter off the U.S. coast using a short-or medium-range missile to launch a nuclear warhead to high-altitude (such missiles are readily available on the world armaments black market.)
Terrorists sponsored by a hostile state could try to launch such an attack without revealing the sponsors' identity. Iran, the world's leading sponsor of international terrorism, has practiced launching a mobile ballistic missile from a vessel in the Caspian Sea. Iran has also tested high-altitude explosions of its Shahab III ballistic missile, a test mode consistent with EMP attack.
Iranian military writings explicitly discuss a nuclear EMP attack that would destroy the United States. Connecting the dots is not difficult.
Designs for missile-launched nuclear weapons may have been illicitly trafficked for at least a quarter-century. Recently, as reported in the press, United Nations investigators found the design for an advanced nuclear weapon, miniaturized to fit ballistic missiles currently in the inventory of Iran, North Korea, and other potentially hostile states, that was in the possession of Swiss nationals affiliated with [Pakistan'] A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network.
This suggests that additional nuclear weapon designs may also be in the possession of hostile states and of states that sponsor terrorism. However, even a primitive, low-yield modern day "entry-level' nuclear weapon could be used to conduct an EMP attack.
Why is the Department of Homeland Security moving aggressively to protect America's cities and seaports from nuclear terrorists smuggling in a nuclear weapon but overlooking the possibility of EMP attack? Their assumption is that if terrorists acquire a nuclear weapon, they would certainly prefer to detonate it in a major metropolitan area, rather than attack an entire seaboard or even the whole nation with EMP.
The assumption that a nuclear weapon would be used against us in only one way is unwarranted, as an EMP attack offers some significant advantages over smuggling.
Smuggling a nuclear weapon into a U.S. city is risky, and becoming increasingly so, as homeland security measures improve. Significant investments are being made in measures to defeat such attempts. In contrast, as EMP attack using a missle launched from a ship outside U.S.-controlled waters eliminates most of the operational hazards of smuggling a nuclear weapon into a U.S. port or city. Moreover, it offers less opportunity for detection, less risk of weapon seizure, less risk of crewmember defection, greater difficulty for the United States in conducting forensic analysis to determine who sponsored the attack, less certainty of prompt retaliation and greater long-term, potentially catastrophic consequences for the nation.
Indeed, EMP attack is the only nuclear option where one or two nuclear weapons could gravely damage the entire United States, and give terrorism a large-scale victory from attacking the U.S.
While an EMP attack on our critical national infrastructures is one of the most serious terrorist and hostile state threats facing our nation, the United States need not be vulnerable to the catastrophic consequences of such an attack. The nation owes the recent progress made toward addressing the EMP to the leadership of Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Maryland Republican, and one of the few scientists in Congress, whose concern led him to initiate legislation that established the commission that I chair to address the EMP threat.
The EMP Commission has proposed recommendations that, over a five-year period, at reasonable cost, would enable the United States to prepare, train, protect and recover its infrastructures against EMP attack. This same plan would also help protect critical national infrastructures from other threats, including cyber attack, [such as the cyber attacks recently launched by Russia against Estonia,] sabotage and natural disasters such as very large geomagnetic ston-ns and major hurricanes.
Continued failure to protect the United Statesfrom EMP invites attack. More information, including the EMP Commission's report on the EMP threat to the Critical National Infrastructure, can be found at www.Empcommission.org.