Monday, December 25, 2006

Recalling the Sacrifices of a Great Battle: The Battle of the Bulge

By John E. Carey
December 25, 2006

Aging veterans of another war are this week recalling their battles, their sacrifices, their losses and their triumphs. This is the 62nd winter since the “Battle of the Bulge” in World War II.

In 1944 the combined allied armies of the European Theater, made up mostly of British and American troops under the Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower, landed in Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6th. The armies assaulted the German defenders of “Fortress Europe.” Casualties on both sides were staggering. On D-Day alone, total Allied casualties were estimated at 10,000, including 2,500 dead.

After D-Day, the Allied armies plunged into the German defenders and fought their way across France. From June until December, 1944, the Allies advanced while the Germans retreated, all the while each side inflicting heavy casualties upon the foe.

On July 20, 1944, a senior German staff officer, Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, planted a bomb at Hitler’s “Wolf’s Lair” — his command post for the Eastern Front in Rastenburg, Prussia. Hitler survived.

In the purge that followed, along with many others, Germany’s hero of the North Africa campaign, the “Desert Fox,” Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, who also had commanded the German defenses in France and along the Atlantic Wall on D-Day, was implicated in the plot and eliminated by Hitler.

In December of that 1944, German ground forces were struggling but unbowed. Besieged by Russia in the east, Hitler elected to surge his forces westward in the face of the Allies in an attempt to retake the port of Antwerp. The Allies were assembled in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium and poised for the final lunge into Germany itself.

Because Adolph Hitler would not suffer a defeat while he still had combat ready troops, the world’s best tanks, and other military assets still ready for a fight, the “Battle of the Bulge” may have been inevitable.

Hitler’s forces began to ramp up their activity with probing attacks along the American lines as early as November 27, 1944. Even so, Hitler’s gambit which became known as the “Battle of the Bulge” took the allies totally by surprise.

Germany launched the assault on December 16, 1944. In the winter snows of Belgium, the Nazis used their Blitzkrieg tactics forged in battle all over Europe.

Germany’s Generals were under no illusions when they launched into what would become known as the “Battle of the Bulge.” They knew this assault may be the last gasp of a mighty army.

But the Germans, aided by dense cloud cover which prevented Allied air power from attacking them, attacked on the ground with speed and ferocity.

For Germany, this battle was an all or nothing affair. The Germans raced for Antwerp, led by an SS armored column under the command of SS Gruppenführer Joachim Peiper. Peiper’s had to capture fuel for his tanks as they attacked forward. Peiper took no prisoners, ordering the execution of hundreds of Americans captured by his column. He also massacred Belgian civilians in the town of Stavelot.

The fighting was fierce.

A participant at the Belgian town of Bastogne recorded the events this way: “We were not well equipped, having just gotten out of combat in Holland. We were particularly short of winter clothing and footwear….We became completely surrounded by Germans and our field hospital was overrun by a German attack. We had put the hospital in what would normally have been a safe place, but no place is safe when you are completely surrounded. At this time, we were not able to receive air resupply because the weather was absolutely frightful. It was very, very cold and snowy. Visibility was often measured in yards.”

The German commander demanded that the Americans surrender.

The American commander, acting Division Commander General Tony McAuliffe of the 101st Airborne, penned a one word reply to his German counterpart: “Nuts.”

The Americans prevailed. Colonel Edward Shames of the 506th Parachute Infantry, 101st Airborne, wrote, “After 29 days of hell, we were relieved from the area around Bastogne and headed elsewhere to fight the remaining battles of World War II.”

Two days before Christmas the weather began to lift and Allied air power began to pound the Germans. Meanwhile, Patton’s Third Army made the largest and fastest redeployment from one enemy line to another in the history of the U.S. Army.

The day after Christmas, the siege of Bastogne was over – but the “Battle of the Bulge” and spin-off engagements would rage for almost one more month.

The Allies could not be certain that the Germans had been defeated in their plan until January 25, 1945. The “Battle of the Bulge” had raged for more than 40 days.

Today we remember and salute our fathers and grandfathers who fought so bravely to bring us our freedom and end World War II – especially those participants of the “Battle of the Bulge.”

John E. Carey is a frequent contributor to The Washington Times.

Government of Japan May Have Considered the Development of a Nuclear Weapon

By Chisaki Watanabe
Associated Press
December 25, 2006

TOKYO - The Japanese government recently looked into the possibility of developing a nuclear warhead, a news report said Monday, citing an internal government document.

Yasuhisa Shiozaki, the government's top spokesman, however, denied any knowledge of such a document.

The Japanese daily Sankei reported that experts at several government organizations concluded it would take at least three to five years to make a prototype weapon.

The experts also estimated that the project would cost about $1.68 billion to $2.52 billion and require the efforts of several hundred engineers, according to Sankei.

The experts did not say whether Japan should develop nuclear arms, the newspaper reported, only what such a project would require. The newspaper published a summary of the document, dated Sept 20 and titled "On the Possibility of Developing Nuclear Weapons Domestically."

"The government is not aware of such a document," Shiozaki told reporters at a regular news conference.

As the only country ever attacked with atomic weapons, Japan for decades has adhered to a strict policy of not possessing or developing nuclear weapons, and not allowing their introduction onto Japanese territory.

This stance, however, has become a subject for discussion since North Korea conducted its first nuclear test on Oct. 9, causing deep concern in Japan. Just months prior to North Korea's nuclear test, it test-fired several ballistic missiles capable of hitting Japan.

Several politicians have suggested Japan should at least debate starting a nuclear weapons program following the North Korean test.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the country's pacifist Constitution does not ban it from possessing nuclear weapons for self-defense. But the government stressed that Japan would stick to its policy of forbidding nuclear weapons on Japanese soil.

Japan's huge plutonium stockpile from its nuclear power stations is a major international concern, partly because that stockpile could be a target of terror attacks or be used to build nuclear arms.

Officials at the Defense Agency could not immediately comment on the report early Monday.

The Year of the Boar will soon be upon us

By John E. Carey

Well, we are quickly closing in now on the new Chinese Year and 2007 is the year of the boar.

The pig-like tusked animal represents the “boar people” in the Chinese horoscope. People born during the year of the boar are said to be pure of heart. “Boar people” are those born in the years 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995 and of course those born in 2007 will be Boars.

Boar people are generous and kind, full of inner strength and courage and they can take on any task. A friend who listens, the Boar is sincere and trustworthy. They are driven by their passion for life.

Boar people are compatible with Tiger (1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998), Rabbit (1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999), Rat (1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996), and Ram (1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003).

The Boar’s most feared enemy is the snake: 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001.

Famous boar people include Chiang Kai-Shek, Woody Allen, Lucille Ball, Billy Crystal, Steven Spielberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stephen King, Henry Ford, John McEnroe, Tracey Ullman, Phil Donahue, Fred Astaire, Thomas Jefferson, Dudley Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Robert Dole, Jerry Lee Lewis, Humphrey Bogart, Julie Andrews, Richard Dreyfuss, Henry Kissinger, Marie Osmond, Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Dalai Lama.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is also a bore.

Listening to Those Who Know

By Jack Kelly
The Washington Times
December 24, 2006

President Bush has been asking a lot of peoplewhat he should do next in Iraq. But he won't be consulting with Travis Patriquin.Captain Patriquin possessed two qualities most of those offering Mr. Bush advice do not. He'd been in Iraq for a lot more than a couple of days, and he spoke fluent Arabic.

A former Special Forces officer then assigned to the First Armored Division, Capt. Patriquin, 32, was killed in Ramadi Dec. 6. But he left behind an 18-page briefing on "How to Win the War in al Anbar" so simple (with stick figure drawings) that even the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee could understand it.

Americans can't win in Anbar (populated almost entirely by Sunni Arabs) by fighting the insurgents, because they can't tell "the good Iraqis from the bad Iraqis," Capt. Patriquin said.
Iraqi army units (composed almost entirely of Shias and Kurds from outside the area) have the same problem, he said.

The solution is to work with tribal sheikhs who oppose al Qaida and their militias, Capt. Patriquin said. Sheikhs have been authority figures in Anbar for 14,000 years, and they and their militias know who's who.

Give the sheikhs respect and government contracts, and recruit their militias into the local police, Capt. Patriquin said.

Soldier-blogger "Teflon Don" says Capt. Patriquin's approach works:
"A local sheikh came to the Army unit in charge of the sector he lived in, announced he wanted to fight the insurgents, and asked for help in doing so," he wrote Nov. 29. "To demonstrate his commitment, he organized his militia and began to quell some of the violence in the sector. With days, indirect fire attacks against U.S. bases dropped to nearly zero."

Sir Thomas Gresham noted that: "bad money drives out good." (When two precious metals are in circulation as currency, people spend the silver and hoard the gold.)

A kind of Gresham's Law applies in politics and journalism. Bad advice drives out good. The recommendations of the Iraq Study Group (composed of 10 famous people who know next to nothing about either the military or the Middle East) received enormous attention from the news media. But the report last week from people who actually know what they're talking about received little.

Aside from the surreal recommendation that we ask our enemies, Iran and Syria, for help in quelling the violence they are largely responsible for fomenting, the ISG recommended, essentially, that we do more of what hasn’t worked very well.

General Jack Keane, former vice chief of staff of the Army, and former West Point professor Frederick Kagan have a different view. They headed a study group for the American Enterprise Institute which issued its report Dec. 14. They think it's about time we tried the only thing that's ever worked in fighting insurgencies.

Every counterinsurgency that's succeeded has done so by protecting civilians from insurgents, Gen. Keane noted.

But protecting Iraqi civilians isn't even formally a mission for U.S. troops, which explains in part why we're doing such a poor job of it, Prof. Kagan said.

The mission given our military by the Bush administration is to train up the Iraqi security forces so we can leave. The Iraqi army and police are getting better. But the situation is deteriorating faster than the capabilities of the Iraqis are increasing.

Gen. Keane and Prof. Kagan want to surge U.S. troop levels by seven brigades (about 30,000 troops) to secure critical neighborhoods in Baghdad and Ramadi.

Along with the increase in the number of troops would be a change in strategy. Currently, after U.S. troops 'clear" a neighborhood, they return to their bases, permitting insurgents to slip back in. Any civilians who cooperated with U.S. or Iraqi troops are subject to retribution, which discourages cooperation. The higher troop levels would permit a constant presence in the disputed neighborhoods.

The AEI study has a specificity the Iraq Study Group report lacked. It identifies the particular mixed Sunni/Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad where the security problem is worst.

"Going big" may be our best hope for success in Iraq. But there is a critical precondition. We must have an Iraqi government willing to crack down on Shia death squads as well as Sunni insurgents.

Establishing this precondition may be why President Bush met at the White House Dec. 4 with Abdul Aziz al Hakim, the Moqtada al Sadr's foremost Shiite rival, and last week with Tariq Hashimi, leader of the largest Sunni party in parliament. Stay tuned.

U.S. Cannot Accept Defeat

By Frederick W. Kagan
USA Today

America faces a critical moment in Iraq. Sectarian violence threatens to destroy Iraq's government and society and what's left of America's will to fight. Yet the consequences of accepting defeat would be horrendous.

Iran and Iraq's Sunni neighbors would vie for dominance, and the conflict would likely expand throughout the Middle East. Al-Qaeda could establish a base in the ensuing vacuum. Abandoning Iraq to chaos would harm America's vital interests immeasurably.

It is essential, therefore, to adopt a new strategy. We must secure Iraq's population and thereby bring the violence under control, abandoning the failed attempt to hand responsibility over to the Iraqis prematurely.

As we saw in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, military forces, together with political and diplomatic initiatives, can control ethnic and sectarian conflict. A large scale two-year effort to clear and hold critical areas in Baghdad that are the center of sectarian violence in the capital can succeed today. U.S. forces secured Tal Afar in 2005 and parts of Sadr City in 2004.

U.S. commanders admit that recent attempts to gain control of Baghdad in Operation Together Forward II failed through lack of resources. Many neighborhoods were cleared, but there were too few American troops to maintain security in those areas. U.S. military forces know how to establish security and maintain it, but they cannot do so without the necessary resources and time.

Securing the critical areas of Baghdad would require a surge of at least 35,000 more U.S. combat troops into Iraq (some would go into Anbar province and elsewhere to contain any spillover from Baghdad). This surge would come from extending the tours of soldiers already in Iraq and accelerating the deployment of a few brigades. It would require two years to succeed, accompanied by economic reconstruction and political efforts to strengthen the Iraqi government. Training of the Iraqi army would continue, and the Iraqis would have to take responsibility for their own security at the end of these efforts. They can only do so, however, if we bring the violence down as we train the Iraqis up.

Some argue that these actions would "break" our Army by destroying morale. But with more than a million men under arms, these claims are not credible. The extensions are modest and within the bounds of what the United States has done in this conflict. Above all, let us consider the alternative: A defeated Army would have to withdraw under fire, humiliated, watching as the enemy tortures and kills the Iraqis it had worked with and defended. Nothing would break the Army more surely than ignominious defeat.

The options in Iraq are stark: withdrawal, defeat and regional disaster, or an effort to secure the population to permit the political, economic and social development and national reconciliation needed for Iraq to move forward. The president's determination to win with a comprehensive new strategy isn't stubbornness. It is wisdom.

Frederick W. Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq.