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Wizbang Podcast #68

Here's what I thought you'd like to hear about today:

  1. How long the Surge? - Admiral Mullen's View
  2. Reinstating the Draft? - A Warning Shot from General Douglas Lute
  3. Are We Really at Risk of a Domestic Terrorist Attack? - Not according to the left
  4. The Debate on Changes to the FISA law - Rivkin v Greenwald
  5. Is Iraq like Viet Nam? - What George Bush Actually Said

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How long the Surge? - Admiral Mullen's View

The newly confirmed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon is Admiral Michael Mullen. He takes over from General Peter Pace at the end of September. At his confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee at the end of July, he was asked about our options in Iraq by Carl Levin, the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Committee. Thanks to C-SPAN for the video. He describes the pros and cons of three options for the next 12-18 months in Iraq.

Play clip.

Admiral Mullen is very clear that Defense Secretary Gates' commitment to 15 months on, 12 months off troop rotation schedule, in order to preserve the all-volunteer force, is going to lead to the end of the surge. Not the end of military activity, just a return to 15 brigades from the current 20. Later on in the hearing, Senator Lindsey Graham tries to pin down the Admiral to dates and force levels. He clearly indicates that we can't keep as many in theater as we have now without breaking the 15/12 commitment.

Play clip.

So it sounds to me like the Pentagon plans for half the troops in 3-4 years, in order to reach the 12 month on, 24 month at home rotation. That schedule is critical to recruiting and retention goals of the all volunteer army. Which brings us to our next topic:

Restarting the Draft? - A Warning Shot from Douglas Lute

The Pentagon has always preferred volunteers over conscription. The draft is an anathema to the Generals. It would go against the goal of having the strongest, most intelligent, most motivated armed forces we can get. So why did Lt. General Douglas Lute, President Bush's War Czar suggest a return of the draft? From NPR on August 10, we hear a rumble of that. His real title is assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan, but the war czar sounds so much more dramatic. Here he is interviewed by Michele Norris.

Play clip.

Clearly we are putting our young men and women under stress by forcing longer deployments in the war zone. Long times away from families, extended risk from being in the conflict theater a greater percentage of their service time, and the incredibly tough working conditions put the military under enormous pressure. As the liaison between the President's National Security team and the other branches of government involved in Iraq, including the Defense Department and the State Department, he has regular contact with those responsible for planning and executing operations there. Someone at the Pentagon must have done the arithmetic on force levels and decided that Lute would be the right guy to float the draft idea to the media. No one else has mentioned it.

Dave Winer, a long time anti-war blogger had an idea what it meant. He wrote on August 15:

I figured out why the czar said what he said -- it's the military, sending a message to the President, in clear terms. We can't keep running the way we're running, and if you won't do something about the shortfall of soldiers for the war in Iraq (really an occupation, of course) we'll take the issue to the people, in a way you'll feel. No doubt, even talk of a return to the draft changes things. I think it's a good idea to talk about it, and quite possibly a good idea to reinstate it. That would get us out of this mode of life-as-usual. We are losing in Iraq, pointlessly, and eventually we're going to have to leave. Yes, cut and run is looking like the right way to go, esp when the cut part could be explained as "cut our losses."

While I don't agree with Dave's view that we should leave right away, I agree that General Lute was sending a message with the NPR interview. I couldn't find any reference to the radio appearance in any of the right wing of the blogosphere. I think many conservatives have tuned out NPR, or mistakenly assumed that this was the same draft proposal that Charles Rangel has been talking about. Rangel's motivation is to weaken the military to the point where it could no longer be effective. Lute, on the other hand, wants the politicians to realize that keeping the surge would have consequences on the 15/12 rotation schedule promise, and on the long term viability of the all-volunteer force. The Pentagon will do what the White House tells them, but they won't let it happen without a fight. Conservatives who would like to continue the surge would do well to understand the arithmetic involved.

Are We Really at Risk of a Domestic Terrorist Attack? - Not according to the left

One of the arguments I hear occasionally, especially from my 16 year old son, is that the real risk of being killed in a terrorist attack in America is extremely low, and that we should stop worrying about the Jihadi's and the IslamoFascists in the Muslim world. The way this argument goes, if 3,000 people died on 9-11, out of a population of 300 million, our chances of being killed are one in a hundred thousand. More than ten times that number die each year in car accidents. Or so the argument goes. I thought only 16 year olds had this level of naivety. But on Slate's Podcast Gabfest on August 3, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter reiterated that argument. Listen and weep:

Play clip.

National security does dominate the mind of the typical Republican voter. We saw 9-11 with our own eyes, saw the people jumping out of 100 story buildings to escape burning jet fuel, and we don't want it to happen again. But more important than fear for my personal safety, what I am afraid of is what another attack would do to our country. Consider the aviation industry. Who would fly if they thought there was a fair likelihood of being rammed into a skyscraper? An estimate published recently determined, and I quote,

Based on the scenario thought most likely, another attack on U.S. commercial aviation could cost as much as $420 billion, according to a new study appearing in the current issue of the scientific journal Risk Analysis. The authors conducted their research on the basis that the attack would shut the entire system down for seven days and require a two-year recovery period.

"The Economic Impacts of a Terrorist Attack on the U.S. Commercial Aviation System" by four scientists at the University of Southern California Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events... As the sixth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, approaches, the conclusions from this study should help commercial aviation authorities with their emergency planning.

It should help them to understand that their ass is grass if another attack takes place.

It's not the attack that scares us, it's the fallout on the entire US economy that has us rooting for Rudy. We want someone who will do whatever it takes to keep these crazies far away from our soil. The Jonathan Alters of the world, with their smug assurance that voters of Iowa are not likely to be hurt in another terrorist attack, are clueless of our real fears.

And, if the left thinks the latest concerns for NSA eavesdropping rule changes are an assault on our civil liberties, they should think about what would happen after a second 9-11. Which leads us to our next topic:

The Debate on Changes to the FISA law - Rivkin v Greenwald

C-SPAN hosted a debate between liberal blogger Glenn Greenwald and David Rivkin on the most recent FISA law modifications that Congress passed just before their August recess. This is the introduction by Glenn "Sock Puppet" Greenwald, followed by a response by David Rivkin. If you have time, go and listen to the whole thing. Greenwald actually comes across as reasonable in the debate, although his claims of a police state ring a bit hollow in 2007.

Play clip.

Glenn's claim that George Bush is listening in on your phone conversations and reading your email is ludicrous. Imagine how silly he would sound arguing these points after the next attack. I guarantee no one would listen to his pitiful cries after a second such event.

Is Iraq like Viet Nam? - What George Bush Actually Said

President Bush's speech this week to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention was described by ABC news in a headline as follows:

Thanks to Ace of Spades for the pointer. They later changed it to
New Bush Talking Point: Iraq Like Vietnam
How thoughtful. During the speech, a few sections of which I'm going to play in just a moment, he actually talked about many conflicts, including World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam, and said that there were lessons to be learned from these conflicts. His point was not that the Iraq and Viet Nam were the same. It was rather that the mistakes in Viet Nam cost us dearly, the successful rebuilding of Japan benefited us greatly, and we have the potential in Iraq to have a result more Japan than Viet Nam if we behave properly.

The first excerpt is from the beginning of his speech where he lays out his argument. The second clip is a story from history that is relevant to the present.

Play clip.

Not fit for freedom indeed. Where else have we heard that criticism? Oh, I remember, it was about Iraq. The President returns to the present later in the speech, to illustrate why the lessons of Viet Nam bear on our current conflict in Iraq.

Play clip.

Words well spoken. He appears to have been able to take a few minutes off from his 24/7 phone call eavesdropping and email reading to learn a 45 minute speech.

That's it for now, podcatchers. I'm Charlie Quidnunc signing off from deep beneath the bowels of the city of Seattle, WA.

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