Weekend reading recommendations – part one

This week saw some interesting analyis published.  Here are those I found of special interest.


  1. Commentary: Israel of the Caucasus“, ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE (UPI Editor at Large), Middle East Times, 2 September 2008
  2. U.S. Teams Weaken Insurgency In Iraq“, Wasington Post, 6 September 2008
  3. SOF or Surge – pick a side“, Pat Lang (Colonel, US Army, retired) at his blog Sic Semper Tyrannis, 6 September 2008
  4. Thoughts on Gause“, Prof Marc Lynch, posted at his blog Abu Aardvark, 4 September 2008


I.  Commentary: Israel of the Caucasus“, ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE (UPI Editor at Large), Middle East Times, 2 September 2008 — Excerpt:

In a secret agreement between Israel and Georgia, two military airfields in southern Georgia had been earmarked for the use of Israeli fighter-bombers in the event of pre-emptive attacks against Iranian nuclear installations. This would sharply reduce the distance Israeli fighter-bombers would have to fly to hit targets in Iran. And to reach Georgian airstrips, the Israeli air force would fly over Turkey.

The attack ordered by Saakashvili against South Ossetia the night of Aug. 7 provided the Russians the pretext for Moscow to order Special Forces to raid these Israeli facilities where some Israeli drones were reported captured.

I see no western media running it.  Other ME media have run the story, including (of course) Debkafile (this, however, does not mean that the story is false).  Another example:  “Russians raided Israeli airfields in Georgia that were to be used against Iran“, Matzav, 5 September 2008:

II.  U.S. Teams Weaken Insurgency In Iraq“, Wasington Post, 6 September 2008.  Standard wartime propaganda; the media published reams of this stuff during the Vietnam War.  Self-promotion is a core expertise of DoD.  Excerpt:

Uthman, whose given name is Salim Abdallah Ashur al-Shujayri, was one of the bigger fish to be landed recently in a novel anti-insurgent operation that plays out nightly in Baghdad and throughout much of Iraq. U.S. intelligence and defense officials credit the operation and its unusual tactics — involving small, hybrid teams of special forces and intelligence officers — with the capture of hundreds of suspected terrorists and their supporters in recent months.

The “fusion cells” are being described as a major factor behind the declining violence in Iraq in recent months. Defense officials say they have been particularly effective against AQI, which has lost 10 senior commanders since June in Baghdad alone, including Uthman.

III.  SOF or Surge – pick a side“, Pat Lang (Colonel, US Army, retired) at his blog Sic Semper Tyrannis, 6 September 2008 — :

There are now effectively five US military services; Army, Marine Corps; Navy, Air Force and Special Operations Forces (SOF).

… The SOF forces operate on a largely stove-piped (vertically integrated) basis around the world with a single minded mandate to hunt down and kill terrorists and terrorist leaders and that is very largely all they do. They have no other function. War is more than that, but they seem blind to that fact. “Special Operations” used to encompass a whole panoply of sophisticated approaches to conflict. There seems to be little left of that other than lip service.

… This set of giant “plants” has become self aware like the monstrous toothed green thing in the “Little Shop of Horrors.” The “plants” have now become jealous and resentful of praise and attention when these are given to the traditional services. Like the CIA and the marines, they have become active in the self-promoting business of managing press contacts.  Focused altogether on the business of destroying terrorist groups, they are increasingly dismissive of the “contributions” of the traditional services.

… This article, and Woodward’s latest book are examples of the gullibility of the media when confronted by mustachioed (or not), hard muscled characters in a briefing van at Balad or a bar somewhere.  The SOF task forces and their CIA, etc. accretions have done good work in Iraq, Iran and elsewhere? Of course they have. Have they made ALL THE DIFFERENCE in Iraq?  No.

IV.  Thoughts on Gause“, Prof Marc Lynch, posted at his blog Abu Aardvark, 4 September 2008 — In a typically brilliant post, Lynch discusses events in Iraq.  His analysis overlaps with my paradigm of a “fragmenting Iraq.”  Excerpt: 

In the piece I posted yesterday, Greg Gause makes a strong case that Maliki is pursuing a coherent strategy aimed at positioning himself as the strong man of Iraq. 

… Third, centralizing vs fragmentation.  Maliki’s moves to centralize power seem to run in the face of the fragmenting trend which I’ve emphasized in much of what I’ve written over the last year (the collapse of the UIA, the Sunni community’s division between the IAF’s constituent factions and the many different Awakenings groupings, etc.).  But I don’t think it’s a contradiction.  The trend towards fragmentation creates a more atomized Iraqi political scene which makes for easy pickings for an Iraqi leader trying to divide and rule.  The more competing players on each side, the easier for a Maliki dripping with oil money to selectively repress and co-opt, and the harder for his political rivals to form a single, coherent political alternative.   An oil-rich, centralizing government facing an atomized political society is a recipe for Arab authoritarianism – which very much supports Gause’s argument. 

But at the same time, the same fragmentation could make it more likely that a few groups going back to insurgency, or a revitalized Sadrist movement, could create a system shock tiping things back in the other direction. The growing frustration of the Awakenings leadership – which I’ve catalogued at length, and came through quite clearly in the response to the Anbar handover– should be a real warning sign.  It’s great that all these movements want a place at the table… but they haven’t gotten it yet, and it seems to be receding ever further into the horizon.   More broadly, the daunting catalog of unresolved political fault lines makes it less plausible that Maliki will be able to consolidate power in the way he seems to hope (more on this next week). 

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

5 thoughts on “Weekend reading recommendations – part one”

  1. Re: DeBourchgrave —
    Israel has relations with Russia, if not with the state then with some of the oligarchs and criminal elements (see Wayne Madsen reports), and it hopes, perhaps, to bring the Russian government on board with the idea of sanctions against Iran. For this reason, reportedly, Israel reduced its training contingents in Georgia and stopped arms shipments a month or so ago, fearful of antagonizing Russia at a time when it was looking for some quid pro quo. Israel’s foreign relations may be the most byzantine in the world. In almost any important American domestic event, you have to ask “could Israel have had anything to do with this?”

  2. I find this Israeli connection to Georgia very suspect. Israel is very opportunistic when it comes to selling UAV’s to anyone. They will sell them to anyone who is’nt anti-Israel. If you doubt this log onto defenseindustrydaily.com and search ‘israel uav’s” They are a world leader in uav technology. Many people have Israeli uavs and Israeli technology including Russia. Indeed Russia has (supposedly) world class fighters incorporating technology originating from Israeli companies. If Russia is more interested in an alliance with Iran than world class technology from from Israel then one has to ask: What is Israeli intelligence worth anymore? Maybe nothing after their Lebanon/Hamas fiasco. Or is it that they have depended on U.S. intelligence (overt, covert or stolen) for so long and us intelligence and related decision making have gone to hell? Or is it that this is more distraction from somebody? Any way the bear needs to keep his ears up.

  3. Re: article II: it may be propaganda, no way to tell. But if it is propaganda at least it shows the military command has classical counter insurgency concepts on it mind: secure, hold, persue, stabilize. When Rumsfeld was steering this thing it was about how we were going to finish off the “dead enders”

  4. Re: article III: One of the original intents of the Special Forces(It has evolved into a separate command) was to prove tactics for the general forces. Indeed the adoption of “special forces” tactics relevent to the current frontal conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan by general forces should be nothing but a triumph for the special forces community as some of them labored in obscurity for years watching American general forces and the Pentagon beat their head against insurgent and terrorist tactics while the Special Forces largely understood the concept. But they are a government organization that has grown greatly in recent years. And as with all government organizations that stake out territory they will defend it. A pity because what SOC has given us as a country since founded is brave individuals willing to create a cutting edge of tactical innovation and point of the spear influence.
    I will never forget my father telling me about the bravest man he ever met. A Special Forces officer who was the sole advisor to a remote Vietnamese unit. As my father told it he went into the field with the Vietnamese unit by himself day after day. He worked on the commander of my fathers Marine unit until he finally allowed 1 Marine at time to accompany him into the field to watch his back so he could concentrate on advising the Vietnamese. I don’t think he worried about his bureaucratic territory.

  5. Re: article IV: This is no great surprise to me. Look at the state of Democracy v. Resources around the world. An increasing concentration of economic activiity in one nation around one resource or industry leads to one strong man leader. A diversity of resources and economic activity leads towards truer Democracy. A corollary to the idea that Democracy derives from stability, not stability from Democracy. Single resource nations teeter on the scales between political groups. The strongest controls the scales. Diverse economies are beyond the control of anybody so debate about leadership is endless and almost incomprehensible. I love the good old U.S.A. As for Iraq I’m glad it might be stable but I’m afraid it will end up just the way I thought in 2003: just about like Russia right now.

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