Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A BOLD STRATEGY FOR DEALING WITH IRAN

The road to victory in the War on Terror has always led through Tehran.

Iran has long been recognized as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and the country continues to funnel money, arms and jihadists into Iraq for the sole purpose of destabilizing the new government and killing Americans and innocent civilians. But it is the ascendancy of belligerent President Mahmud Ahmadinejad (whom many believe to have been a leader in the 1979 hostage-taking of Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran) and his nation’s mad dash to attain nuclear weapons that have moved Iran to the front burner for both the United States and Israel.

Two things are clear at this point: No diplomatic solution is possible; and Europeans, for all their bluster, will not be at our side when military action becomes essential. The time for the latter is drawing nigh, for in a post-9/11 world, we cannot afford to allow the world’s leading supporter of terrorism to join the nuclear club.

Only two nations, the United States and Israel, have the capacity and the will to stage a successful attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. In Gulf Wars I and II, the United States sought to keep Islamic emotions somewhat in check by urging Israel not to become involved, and conventional wisdom suggests that in any action aimed at Iran’s nuclear program, it remains in our interest to keep Israel out of the equation.

But what if conventional wisdom is wrong? The world has changed dramatically in recent years, and so should our strategy for dealing with Iran. Her neighbor to the east, Afghanistan, is a U.S. ally and no longer serves as a base for unchecked radical Islamic terrorism. On her western border, Saddam’s regime is history, replaced by a fledgling democracy whose military and police forces are slowly but surely developing the capability for handling both die-hard Baathists and foreign terrorists (who are aided and abetted by Iran and Syria). The government of Pakistan, on her southeastern flank, was co-opted by the United States after 9/11. Libya has taken itself out of the fight. Jordan and Saudi Arabia have seen first-hand that they cannot remain neutral in the face of radical Islamic terrorism. Syrian excesses have forced the government of Bashar Assad to withdraw forces from Lebanon, where independence is in the air. Yasser Arafat is dead, the Palestinian Authority is as ineffectual as ever, and Israel’s security fence appears to be working. Al Qaeda has been unable to stage another attack on the U.S. mainland since 9/11, its leadership holed up in mountain caves under constant threat of death by Predator.

Iran is isolated and surrounded, yet its fundamentalist government thumbs its nose at the west, believing that the Europeans are all talk and that the United States is too isolated politically, too bogged down in Iraq, and too fearful of an oil cutoff to risk opening another front by attacking Iranian nuclear facilities.

There is a certain logic to that view, though it unravels completely if we do the unexpected: Openly ally with Israel to stage joint air, land and sea operations aimed not just at Iraq’s nuclear program but at overthrowing the regime itself, with the following objectives:

• Destroy Iran’s nuclear capability;

• Decapitate the regime;

• Eliminate all radar installations, missile sites, military bases, troop concentrations and terrorist training facilities;

• Seize and protect the Iranian oil fields for the Iranian people;

• Install a moderate, democratic government.

An open alliance with Israel would be a significant force multiplier for our own military, which presently is stretched to the limit. Israel would bring to the table capabilities that—for largely political reasons—the United States lacks, such as freedom of action in dealing with Iran’s radical mullahs. And while an open alliance might inflame Islamic passions, the military lethality of our combined forces would surely strike fear in the hearts of our enemies.

Limiting our action to air attacks on known nuclear facilities, without taking down the regime, carries greater risk that we may miss any parallel, clandestine nuclear program Iran may have in the works. And it simply kicks the can down the road with respect to Iran’s continuing support of global terrorism. Moreover, regime change may actually lessen the pressure we are feeling from the so-called insurgents in Iraq, because Iran would be preoccupied with defending its home base.

What of Iran’s ally, Syria? We can hold them in place by threatening President Bashar Assad personally with massive air strikes unless he stays out of the fight, shuts down his border with Iraq once and for all, clamps down on terrorists and begins enacting democratic reforms. After the war, we can still hold his feet to the fire on these points and he will fold like a pup tent in a hurricane.

There is the little matter of a War Powers Resolution. Scholars have debated its constitutionality since the act’s inception, but presidents have avoided a test case thus far. With Alito about to tip the balance of the Supreme Court and the stakes so high, President Bush should act first and face the political heat later, taking the fight all the way up to the highest court, if necessary. If this prompts calls for impeachment—which the Democrats are pushing in any case—it would be well worth the risk.

The most problematic part of this bold strategy is establishing a democratic government in Iran to fill the vacuum. That is much easier said than done, but there is strong sentiment among the disenfranchised Iranian people against their radical Islamist government. It would require boots on the ground, but there we may actually be able to convince the Europeans to help provide post-war stability, even if they are unwilling to participate in the combat phase.

The bottom line is we have no choice but to act and act soon, before the terrorists running Iran get their hands on a nuke.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

New Rules Needed for Compromising Security in Time of War

In another time, not so very long ago, it would have been a crime worthy of capital punishment. Consider, for example, the breaking of the German and Japanese codes during World War II and the extraordinary lengths the Allies went through to avoid giving even a hint that the codes had been compromised.

Had any American citizen, government official or journalist revealed this sensitive information, it would have meant many more allied soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines being killed in action. It would have jeopardized our ultimate victory in the war and no doubt the leakers would have been punished most severely, perhaps even with their lives. It was that important to keep the secret.

Flash forward to today, when we are facing an enemy just as ruthless, just as evil and just as threatening to our way of life as we did in World War II. Our very civilization again hangs in the balance. In some ways, the Islamofascists are even more dangerous than the Nazis or Imperial Japanese, because they are essentially stateless, or would have us believe them to be, so the normal restrictions on, say, use of chemical and biological weapons do not factor into their operations.

Revelations by The New York Times of the U.S. National Security Agency’s (NSA) ability to intercept telephone, internet and other electronic communications have probably led our enemies in al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, along with the countries that support them (Iran and Syria, among others) to switch to snail mail and hand-delivered communications. That hurts the war effort and makes it much more difficult to discover and head off terror attacks designed to kill more Americans at home and abroad. There needs to be some accountability.

First and foremost, the people who divulged this secret information need to be found, prosecuted and punished for their crime. To do so, we will have to subpoena reporters’ notes and probably throw some journalists in jail to force them to comply. Thankfully, the precedent for that has already been set by liberals in the much-less-serious Valerie Plame affair. The First Amendment probably protects The New York Times from prosecution, but this breach of security and their active role in it are so serious that some sort of sanction ought to at least be attempted, even if it means forcing a test case upon the courts. At the very least, the White House should ban the newspaper from its press conferences as well as from all government news events. Cut off the flow of information to them and it will make it much more difficult and expensive for them to do their job—or to do further harm to our national security.

Reluctantly, we also should investigate the wisdom of adopting some version of the British Official Secrets Act that would make publishing such sensitive information in time of war a major criminal offense. We also need to change the charters of the CIA, NSA and State Department to make them more like the military, where rules of conduct are governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Military personnel, even those who abhor the policies of the President of the United States, are nonetheless obligated by law to follow his lawful orders as Commander in Chief. Right now, within the CIA and State Department (and presumably within the NSA) there are people who do not agree with the policies of the duly elected president and, like Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, are doing their utmost to undermine those policies. In wartime, that should be a crime.

This is a war we must win. Therefore, we cannot afford traitors among us, be they journalists or private citizens. The New York Times, in its zeal to get President Bush, has stepped way over the line and made it much more likely that hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans will die in some terror attack that might have been thwarted if the Times hadn’t compromised the intercepts. Loose Lips Sink Ships.

Remember that, fellow Americans, when the terrorists next strike. And be sure to thank The New York Times.

Mine Tragedy Teaches Hard Crisis Management Lesson

Classic crisis communications. That was my assessment of the International Coal Group’s (ICG) handling of the tragic Sago Mine explosion that trapped 13 miners, up until the very final stages of the gripping story.

They were cautious, careful not to speculate, concerned, informative and available—all the things a company should be in a crisis situation. ICG in particular was in a bad spot. They had recently acquired a mine with what the news media called a questionable safety record. They clearly wanted to do the right thing. They avoided raising false hopes, yet refused to concede defeat as they managed the heroic effort to rescue the trapped miners and deal with their families, government agencies and hordes of reporters asking leading questions. Several times during the coverage, I nodded my head in agreement with the outstanding job ICG’s CEO and spokespeople were doing in communicating events as they unfolded.

Then, at the very last moment, if you will pardon the expression, the roof caved in. Somehow, the message emerged from the depths of that mine that 12 miners had been found alive. The news spread like wildfire. Relatives rejoiced, the Governor of West Virginia, ICG management, the Red Cross and people around the world breathed a big sigh of relief at the miraculous rescue… only to have all our hopes cruelly dashed just hours later when we learned the real story: Just one miner had survived. The rest were dead. Joy turned immediately to grief, anguish and anger. It was completely understandable, but as the events are investigated, dissected and reconstructed in weeks to come, I am certain we will learn that the mining company did not intentionally deceive us. What would have been the point, after all? More likely, a rumor based on a misunderstanding simply got out of control and everyone, from the news media to the ICG leadership to the governor to the friends and relatives of the trapped miners, to all the rest of us across the world who were following the story grabbed onto the apparent miracle and held on for dear life.

I don’t know the circumstances of how the false information came to be delivered. Perhaps ICG could have done something to quash the rumor before it got legs and started running, but perhaps not. Only time will tell.

What this incident does illustrate is the importance of avoiding all speculation at all costs in a crisis situation, no matter what the temptation, no matter what you hear. Don’t say anything until you know it for a fact. If rumors arise, quash them immediately, even if the rumors appear to be good news. Wait until the facts can be verified firsthand, regardless of the temptation to put a positive face on things, regardless of the pleadings for more information by victims’ loved ones, regardless of relentless prodding by reporters. Do not give in to speculation. Do not announce anything until you are certain of the information. You may face recriminations afterward for not being more forthcoming or timely in releasing news, but that is a price you should be prepared to pay. The worst thing that can happen is what happened at the Sago Mine: hopes raised about as high as they could possibly go, only to be dashed about as badly as anyone could possibly imagine.

What had been a classic example of excellent crisis communications has turned into a disaster of monumental proportions, one that will be studied by lawyers, public relations executives and company managements for years to come. And everything turned on a dime.

The Sago Mine disaster offers an excellent though hard-gained lesson in crisis management. Every company should learn from it.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Targeting Iran and Syria

Iran and Syria, you’re next…

Both countries have been funneling weapons and terrorists into Iraq to kill Americans and innocent Iraqi citizens. Both countries are major supporters of international terrorism. Iran is thumbing its nose at the world as it brazenly pursues a nuclear bomb (they don’t need energy, because they have all the oil and gas they could possibly use). Iran’s president, despite denials by Iranian leaders themselves and the leftist U.S. news media, is most likely the thug who led the takeover of our embassy in Tehran in 1979, a blatant act of war that weak-kneed Jimmy Carter did absolutely nothing about (that was the first of the dots connecting to 9/11, by the way).

Now that the Iraqi situation is stabilizing and they have a fighting chance at democracy, it is time for us to turn our attention to our other enemies in this global war, and Iran and Syria ought to be at the top of the list.

This does not mean sending legions of battle-hardened American troops into either country. A more sophisticated strategy would be to first take out any nuclear facilities in Iran with precision bombing and perhaps small commando raids, then start targeting the head terrorists (including the presidents and top generals and weapons scientists of both Iran and Syria) personally, as we have shown we can do using drones, cruise missiles and other high-tech weaponry.

Both nations are extremely vulnerable. Iran is rapidly becoming an international pariah, and has essentially disenfranchised its population by prohibiting moderates from even participating in politics, and Syria has been exposed as a literally murderous regime to the extent that it was forced to pull out of Lebanon. It is high past punishment time.

Sure, the liberals and the Euros will fret, but neither have the teeth or the cojones to do much to stop us. They can rant and rave all they want, but why not let Bush be a lame duck president, if it means he can utilize his full powers as Commander In Chief to further transform the political (if not the physical) landscape of the Middle East? It would be worth it.

Already, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan and to a large extent Saudi Arabia have one way or the other changed their ways. Other regimes are on the fence and watching for developments. The terrorists are on the run or in hiding just about everywhere except within the Axis of Evil. By forcefully and severely striking at the heads of the terrorist regimes in Iran and Syria, we might just send a message to North Korea that it is past time to pull a Libya and start reforming.

The War on Terror is not only winnable, but victory may be within our reach sooner rather than later. If we have the will.

Every Silver Lining Has Its Cloud

An item caught my attention in The Houston Chronicle’s Letters to the Editor over the holidays. It had to have been written by a liberal because it took a good thing and found something negative to say about it.

The subject was tree plantings along some of Houston’s motorways. The author complained about the downside of such beautification projects: It seems that the trees are attracting wildlife, such as raccoons, which have to cross the road in order to get to the vegetation. Apparently, several were killed by cars.

You just can’t win with liberals. Pave over the trees along the highway to save the coons and they will be yelling about urban blight and loss of habitat. Nothing pleases these people because they are miserable little curmudgeons who want to run the world for the rest of us. Monday morning quarterbacking is their forte.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that The Chronicle ran the letter in the first place… and even added a photo! Of course, the so-called mainstream media is into the negativity up to its neck, so I suppose it was to be expected.