Friday, July 28, 2006

Meanwhile, on the border...

While President Bush obssesses about the fighting thousands of miles away in Lebanon (whilst trying to ignore the full depth of the mess in Baghdad), the situation along the US-Mexico border continues to deteriorate. Zapata County, Texas, Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzales complains that Mexican gangs and drug cartels, which cross the border at will, outgun his police force.

"The weapons we possess are like water guns compared to what they have," Gonzales said. "They're trying to scare us away from the border."

Gonzales, representing the Texas Border Sheriffs' Coalition, was one of more than a dozen witnesses to testify before the [Texas state Senate] Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security. The panel was in South Texas for a hearing on border security and funding for sheriffs along the border.

Gonzales said federal efforts to protect the U.S. side of the border have failed, allowing foreign criminals to infiltrate Texas counties - in some cases just to commit violent crimes before slipping back into Mexico.

"Many murders committed in Laredo were committed by Mexican gang members," he said. "(Improvised Explosive Devices) seized in Laredo, we think were being brought to Mexico to be used against us."

Laredo is in Webb County, just west of Zapata County. Gonzales said that in his own county, residents have reported men marching two abreast, carrying backpacks and automatic weapons. He recounted the barrage of gunfire coming at Hidalgo County sheriff's deputies from across the Rio Grande this month.

"It's not just illegal immigrants," he said. "Something more frightening is happening."

Steve McCraw, the governor's director of homeland security, said: "I call them organized crime. They're no longer traffickers."

Actually, they are invaders with malicious intent who realize that the US is no longer willing to defend its territory and are acting accordingly. They will only grow more brazen and violent as long as they perceive Americans unwilling to protect their land.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Bloody Baghdad with the Blinders Off

Iraq has degenerated into such rampant religious violence that even the most vehement supporters of the invasion are beginning to acknowledge that Bush's Wilsonian dream of a democratic Iraq isn't going to succeed. With the Sunnis and Shias now returning to their centuries-old game of mutual bloodletting, US casualties have declined, but only because Iraqi casualties are shooting into the stratosphere. The UN recently calculated that the death toll among Iraqi civilians (and presumably some insurgents) has reached 3,000 a month. Niether the US nor the Iraqi government has disputed this figure. While this gives US forces some momentary respite, the country (save for the Kurdish north) is coming apart around them. The ethnic/religious cleasning has yet to reach its worst, but after it passes, US forces will be left guarding extremely hostile Sunni and Shia enclaves, in which the worst radicals hold power. Not a good outcome. In a bid to secure Baghdad (for about the tenth time) the US in moving more soldiers to the capital to assist Iraqi forces. Ralph Peters, who had been one of the war's foremost proponents, and just a month ago had been certain of our success, gloomily sums up the current situation and its consequences:

Political violence with a religious undertone is becoming outright religious violence. The difference is crucial. The earlier fighting was over who should govern. Increasingly, it's about who should define Allah's will on earth. Nothing could be more ominous.

Political struggles may be resolved through compromise. Historically, only immense bloodletting and the exhaustion of one side or both leads to even a bitter, temporary peace in religious conflicts.

Leaders may bargain over who runs the ministry of health, but they won't horse-trade over conflicting visions of the divine. When men believe they hear a command from their god, they go deaf to other voices.

Instead of working aggressively toward a solution, key elements within the Iraqi government have become part of the problem. Responsible for the police and public order, the Interior Ministry has failed utterly. Instead of behaving impartially, Shia-dominated police units provide death squads to retaliate against Sunni insurgents. As a result, more Sunnis back the insurgents in self-defense. More Shias die. More Sunnis die. The downward spiral accelerates.

This is bad news for our troops in Iraq. For the first time, we may face a problem we have no hope of fixing. We can defeat the terrorists. We can defeat a political insurgency. But when our forces find themselves caught between two religious factions, the only hope is to pick a side and stick to it, despite the atrocities it inevitably will commit.

We're not ready for that, psychologically or morally. Yet. We'll try to be honest brokers. But men on a violent mission from God have no respect for mediators.

We helped make this mess. Instead of relentlessly destroying terrorists and insurgents, we tried to wage war gently to please the media. We always let the bad guys off the ropes - and apologized when they showed the press their rope burns. We passed up repeated chances to kill Moqtada al-Sadr and break his Mahdi Army militia. We did what was easiest in the short term, not what was essential for the long term.

Now the only way to avoid an outright civil war is for our troops and the Iraqi army to break the sectarian militias in a head-on fight. The media will howl and we'll see a spike in American casualties. But it's our own fault. We put off going to the dentist until the tooth rotted. Now it's going to hurt.

President Bush cannot send US forces to take on the sectarian militias. To do so would bring virtually every group in Iraq into conflict with US forces. The number of US casualties would spike dramatically. If this happened before November, it would all but guarantee an electoral bloodbath for the GOP in the congressional elections, after which a Democrat-controlled House would very likely attempt to impeach the president who got us into this mess. Worse, rooting out the sectarian militias would require even more intrusive and comprehensive house-to-house fighting through Iraq's most hostile neighborhoods. Many, many civilians would die. The images of the carnage would only fuel Islamist extremism worldwide and drive a further wedge between the US and its allies.

Peters sees this too, which is why he takes the first, wobbly steps toward admitting where the whole Iraqi debacle is inevitably heading:

The alternative would be to let Iraq fail. And we need to ponder that possibility honestly. While it's far too early to give up, we need to "think the unthinkable." We can force the Iraqis to do many things, but we can't force them to succeed. If the jealousy, corruption and partisanship in the Iraqi government prevent the country's leaders from dealing forcefully with Iraq problems, we should no longer sacrifice our troops.

Yes, Iran and Syria would be drawn in, through proxies or directly. Not necessarily a bad result, to be frank. At present, Iran and Syria ally against us. An Iraqi civil war would drag them into a military confrontation. Bad news for Hezbollah, not for us.

Let's raise another "impossible" issue: If the Arab world can't sustain one rule-of-law democracy - after we gave Iraq a unique opportunity - might it be a useful strategic outcome to watch Arabs and Persians, Shia and Sunni, slaughtering each other again? Just don't try to referee the death match.

This is a breath-taking display of amorality. It is one thing to sit back and watch your enemies engage in a bloodbath that advances your strategic position; it is quite another to have set the stage for the bloodbath in the first place. There is the slightest hint of childish bitterness in Peters's remark. The Arab world has never sustained a democracy. It lacks the civil society necessary for democracy. It lacks even the foundations of such a civil society. The US policy-makers who devised and launched this effort should have realized this before committing the lives and fortunes of US soldiers and Iraqi civilians, not to mention, hundreds of billions of dollars of US wealth to an enterprise so manifestly doomed to failure. Baghdad is not Minneapolis. The Iraqis - and the Arabs and the Muslims world in general - are not like us. Their cultural values and traditions are alien to ours. This realization should prompt not only reconsideration of our foreign policy, but of our immigration policy as well.

Peters continues, groping for a way out, but still unable to completely abandon hope in the failed crusade.

Meanwhile, our troops are doing all they can - and our cause remains just and good. Iraq could still succeed. It's too early to walk away.

But the Iraqis have to get their act together. We can't keep the training wheels on the bicycle forever. If they won't unite to fight for their own country, we'll have to accept that our noble effort failed.

We should never publicize a timetable for a troop withdrawal, but here's what President Bush should have told Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, yesterday: "You are failing your country. We'll give you six months. If your government can't produce a unified response to sectarian violence that treats all sides impartially, we'll withdraw our troops and our support. Then you can fight it out among yourselves."

Peters's gloominess is echoed by National Review columnist and war-supporter David Frum, who sees the same dismal outcome to the Iraqi venture.

To take back the capital from the militias that now terrorize it will take thousands, not hundreds, of American plus tens of thousands of Iraqis. No sector in Iraq can spare the loss of so many forces (our current troubles in Anbar date back to the decision in 2004 to shift troops from Anbar to the siege of Fallujah - when they returned, they discovered that every pro-US informant and ally in the province had been murdered, usually horribly and publicly). So a real plan for success in Baghdad will have to be built upon additional troops from out of area, potentially raising US troop levels back up to the 150,000 or so of late 2005.

Manifestly, neither the administration nor the Congress will contemplate such a move. Which means, most likely, continuing violence in Iraq and a continuing rise in the power of the militias, especially the Iranian-backed Shiite militias: the Hezbollah of Iraq.

What then? Well, then ...

Uncontrolled militias (some of them working tacitly with the pro-Iranian Islamists at the Ministry of the Interior) will wage intensifying war against each other.

The Sunnis will use random terror: car bombings, suicide bombings, kidnappings and massacres.

The Shiite militias - supported by their friends in the Ministry of the Interior and in the police forces - will respond with increasingly coordinated terror, such as that which killed dozens of Sunnis in the al-Jihad neighborhood on July 9. It is hard to imagine that a few hundred American advisers can put a stop to such atrocities.

As the tide of urban warfare turns in the Shiites' favor, those Sunnis who can flee the city will do so .

Gradually, Baghdad will come to look like Basra, Iraq's Shiite-dominated second city, now effectively ruled by Iranian-backed Shiites with the tacit acquiescence of the British military authorities.

Baghdad - and therefore central Iraq - will in such a case slide after Basra and the south into the unofficial new Iranian empire. (Classically minded readers will remember that the pre-Islamic Persian empires of the Parthians and Sassanids were ruled from Ctesiphon, about 20 miles southeast of Baghdad. And here is a map of the boundaries of the Safavid empire in the 1500s, the last time the Persians counted for much of the history of the world: Pretty much all of present-day Iraq except Anbar is on the inside.) American troops will be free to stay or go, depending on whether we wish to deny or acknowledge defeat.

Oddly, the two biggest losers in the Iraqi debacle (aside from the Iraqis themselves) may be al Qaeda and the US. The spectacularly bloody and murderous carnage committed by al Qaeda's operatives against fellow Muslims, severely hurt the terrorist organization's support in the Muslim world; worse, it's failure to succeed at doing anything but kill Muslim civilians made it look particularly impotent. The US loses in terms of money, soldiers' lives and bodies, and strategic position. The biggest winner will likely be Iran, which will eventually pull the Shia portion of Iraq (as soon as it has been cleansed of the Sunni contaminant) into its orbit as a allied state. This gives Iran access to more oil and a bigger presence in the Persian Gulf.

The mullahs in Tehran must be shaking their heads in disbelief. What they couldn't accomplish in eight years of war with Saddam Hussein, the US will have done for them. And at virtually no cost.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The GOP's "Inconvenient Truth"

President Bush and the "Open Borders" lobby on the right have argued that massive Latino immigration to the US, legal or otherwise, would be good for the US because it would be good for the GOP. The argument ran like this: Latinos have a more "family-centered" culture than most Americans and would thus be more amenable to the conservative message, and more willing to vote for GOP candidates. As an added advantage, most Latinos are Roman Catholic and thus, presumably, pro-life, another supposed boon to the GOP. But as Randall Parker and Steve Sailer have been pointing out for years, Latinos in the US aren't adopting the Anglo-like, bourgeois lifestyle that their "family-centered" culture had led certain conservatives to expect. In fact, Latinos have adopted the worst part of the ghetto culture epitomized by gangs, drugs, violence, and teen pregnancy (a near absolute guarantee of multigenerational poverty). Heather McDonald points out the inconvenient facts at the National Review:

The truth is now supplanting the fiction. Last Friday, the New York Times ran an editorial, “Young Latinas and a Cry for Help,” that laid out the real state of the Hispanic family. A quarter of all Latinas are mothers by the age of 20, few of them married, reported the Times. This out-of-wedlock teen-birth rate is three times that of white teens, and significantly more than that of blacks as well. The Hispanic dropout rate is also the highest in the country — the Manhattan Institute’s Jay Greene puts it at 47 percent.

There is simply no way to square the facts about Hispanic family breakdown with the myth of the redemptive Hispanic. Talk to any social worker and she will tell you that illegitimacy has become completely normalized among her Hispanic clients. And the usual explanation for this epidemic of illegitimacy — an unresolved culture clash between young people and their traditional parents — is equally bogus. The mothers of teen mothers are themselves completely on board with single parenting, say the social workers, having often been single parents themselves. And they have no qualms about hooking their daughter and grandchildren into the public-benefits apparatus: “It’s now culturally OK for that population to be served by the welfare system,” says a case manager in a Santa Ana, Calif., home for teen mothers.

Worse for conservatives, not only are Latinos more prone to the pitfalls of the ghetto culture they are emulating, but their declining fortunes will force even more government intervention in a desperate and futile effort to turn the tide:

Far from exercising a brake on the erosion of traditional values, as conservative immigration advocates claim, the growing Hispanic population will provide the impetus for more government alternatives to personal responsibility. Advocates for young unwed mommies in the South Bronx are agitating for more day-care centers in high schools to accommodate the students’ children, reports El Diario/LA PRENSA. Demand for the 18 day-care slots at Bronx Regional High School, for example, far outstrips the supply, an 18-year-old Hispanic mother who attends the school told the paper. A bill has been introduced in Congress, the Latina Adolescent Suicide Prevention Act, to channel $10 million in federal funds to “culturally competent” social agencies to improve the self-esteem of Latina girls and to provide “support services” to their families and friends if they contemplate suicide.

Of course, President Bush and the current GOP leadership have already killed any notion of Republican fiscal responsibility or commitment to reducing the size of government. So massive Latino poverty fueling massive government expansion is probably not objectionable to the current GOP. Perhaps it's been the plan all along. Though one wonders how it will help Republicans, since no one hands out social welfare like Democrats.

The neo-conservative view of immigration is as divorced from reality as its vision of democracy curing terrorism in the Middle East. But at least that disaster is thousands of miles away. The immigration debacle is occuring within the US itself, destroying the country from within. Osama bin Laden doesn't need to buy nuclear weapons to destroy American Civilization, the US government is merrily doing the job for him.