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Symposium: The Place of the Surge in the War on Terror By: FrontPage Magazine
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, June 19, 2008


The following symposium took place at the David Horowitz Freedom Center retreat in Santa Barbara, which was held at the Four Seasons Resort May 30-June 1. -- The Editors.

Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu: We've got a really distinguished panel here.  If you dig in your bag, you can find bios on everybody.  So I don't think it's useful to spend the time going over that.

Just be known that, with the exception of Caroline, we've got people who have collectively got more than a century-and-a-half of experience in war in one form or another.  I've asked everybody to keep their remarks kind of short, so that we can have time for interaction.  If anything that we say in the next few minutes piques your interest, then please feel free to participate in the Q&A period.  I'd like to kind of get through everybody first, and then open it up for discussion afterwards.

I also want to remind you that at 4:00 this afternoon, I'll be talking about my recent embed in Iraq.  I got back about two weeks ago, and I spent a month over there with the U.S. military police.  And I've got some slides that I don't think will bore you too bad, and we can have further discussion there about what is going on right at the moment.

I think it's important for everybody to keep in mind when we're talking about Iraq -- this is something I like to emphasize, and I know the other panel members do, too -- Iraq is not the be-all and the end-all.  I think it's important to realize that in the greater scheme of things, Iraq is a theater or a battleground in the greater global war against radical Islam and against state players who are inimitable to our interests, such as North Korea and Venezuela.

When we will win in Iraq, which we will, it doesn't mean that we're all going to come home and begin to spend peace dividends.  What it simply means is that we will have established a bastion of freedom in an area that's never known it before – and this is critically important.

What every member of this panel would tell you is that, yes, we could have done it better.  Yes, mistakes have been made.  And yes, we are learning from our experience, which I think is key to this.  Mean, if you want to use a sports analogy, which Americans like to do -- at the end of any game, what do you do? You get together and you say, well gee, we shouldn't have passed on that fourth down; we should have run -- you know, this sort of thing.  This is normal and usual.  We've never had a war -- Victor Davis Hanson wrote a column about this the other day -- we've never had a war in which we haven't made terrific mistakes.

The fact of the matter is in this one, compared to previous wars, including World War II, which is always held out as kind of a crucible of what -- an example of what an ideal war should be, there were terrible incidents that took place -- mismanagement, mis-leadership, poor intelligence, excessive casualties; all of these kinds of things.

It's important to remember also to keep this in perspective -- while every military death is a tragedy -- and nobody up here would argue that -- that overall, if we're going to be a superpower in this country, that we have to be willing to accept casualties in order to advance our national interest.  This is -- it's hard, but it's realistic.

Also, the fact of the matter is that in the military -- and you've got three of us up here who have extensive military experience -- four of us -- we all know that in the military, you suffer casualties in training.  During the Clinton Administration, for example, we lost about a soldier a day in some sort of training accident or incident.  So if you look at the casualties overall, they really are -- while we have this drumbeat of how high the casualties are, frankly, considering what the game has been, and how we have in fact liberated two totalitarian-run countries -- the casualty rate is remarkably low.

And for those of you who are students of history, you need only go back to, you know, Northern Europe, Battle of Iwo Jima, Battle of Okinawa, and you can see what high casualty rates really look like.  Even my experience -- or our experience in Vietnam -- at the height of it, we were putting maybe -- suffering 500 a week, compared to what we've done in Iraq is pretty remarkable.

And one reason it is so remarkable is the quality of the soldiers.  You know, it's easy to say technology -- and sure, the toys are more fun; you know, they're great.  But it's really the person behind the machine that's carrying this out -- the men and women who are doing the job.

And one thing I'll talk about this afternoon is how extraordinarily proud and impressed I have been in my month over there with these guys.  And I think everyone here would echo that.

(applause)

Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu: We're looking at today what we call Beyond the Surge.  And many of you may wonder exactly what the surge is.  So we're going to talk about that a little bit.

And we're going to -- I'm going to ask General Vallely to lead off, and he'll talk to us about the surge -- how it came about, what the parts of it are, where it's going to lead to, where we are now.  Caroline Glick will follow, and she'll talk about the Israeli angle.  Michael Ledeen will talk about the Iranian angle, and Lt. Col. Bill Cowan, my friend sitting next to me here, is going to step back and take a macro overview of where this might lead, both internationally and impacting our own election process, which, you know, as we've just listened to, is complex and is very nuanced, so -- particularly vis-à-vis this war. So without further introduction, I'd like to ask General Vallely to take over.

Major Gen. Paul Vallely: Thank you, Gordon.  Thank you, David Horowitz and the Freedom Center, for inviting us to this wonderful weekend.  It's always great to see some friends that we've met in the past at different Restoration Weekends, and surely to meet new people this particular weekend.

The surge -- if I can explain it, just to review for you what that was all about -- just a little over a year ago, when General Petraeus was given the direction to conduct a surge.  And what that surge really meant was plussing up the number of combat brigades that we had in Iraq, and plus up what we call those force levels.

The second part of the surge -- thank goodness for General Petraeus -- we switched to a different strategy, utilizing different tactics in Iraq, transforming more to a -- what we call a counter-insurgency type of warfare.

The third part of that surge was to give time to strengthen -- and be strengthened -- the Iraqi government, as well as the Iraqi security forces.  So that's what the surge was about.

If we look now, a year-plus hence, we see in fact that General Petraeus did put into effect this counterterrorism strategy and tactics throughout Iraq, but primarily in the western provinces and in Baghdad and some of the other major cities that are in the northern part and mid-part of Iraq.  It did in fact give time for the security forces to become better, become more efficient, become better trained, become better armed, with combat support services added on to strengthen the Iraqi forces.

It appears that the Iraqi government has strengthened, though I have some questions in my own mind how strong they really are, even at this point in time -- though Maliki seems to have stepped up to the plate, based on the actions that were taken during the last really serious operations which occurred in Basra and throughout mostly Central Iraq against the militia groups.

So that continues to be something that has to be measured.  But assuredly, the surge is over.  So when we talk about the post-surge or after-surge, we're talking about what happens today and tomorrow.

I think in terms from a military perspective with the surge in my mind being over, because I don't think it will happen that we'll surge up and put any more combat troops or service support troops in Iraq, not only because the situation is better, but secondly, with the political situation that we have here this year, and even into next year.

So I think from the standpoint of that surge being over, what happens? Well, what will happen, in my mind, is that we'll see a draw-down in forces at some point in time.  And General Petraeus now, who has received a new job, as you may know -- he's now the Commanding General of Central Command.  And General Odierno, who was his deputy over there, becomes the commander of the forces in Iraq.  Both superb generals, generals who have had their hands tied in many ways, but through it all have really made a very difficult, bad situation a little more -- better than it was.

The drawdown in forces -- when it will start will be the call from the Administration on through the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on down to Central Command, then down to the Commanding General, which will be General Odierno.  The question then, after the surge, is -- and my counterparts here will talk a little bit about that -- if you took a spotlight and put it on Iraq, that's not what the post-surge is going to be about necessarily.

The situation in Iran continues to be very, very, very difficult.  The center of international terrorism is in fact in Tehran, along with the weapons that they are developing.

The serious threats then in the region become apparent.  I've been working on the Lebanon situation for about three weeks.  Lebanon, ladies and gentlemen, is basically gone.  The Iranians, Hezbollah, the Syrians have got their way.  And basically, we've kissed Lebanon off at this point in time.  Caroline can reflect on that a little bit, because she and I have been in a little bit of communication about what was going to be done by the West, by Israel, or by the United States or other countries, to save Lebanon from the control of Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.  We also have to look at what is happening in Gaza, in the West Bank, and the continued support of those entities to bring down Israel.

So now you have a situation, when you put that spotlight on the greater Middle East, for a requirement hopefully that somebody can establish some kind of strategy for the Middle East.  And ladies and gentlemen, we don't have one now.  We do not have an overall Middle East strategy, whether it comes -- whether it's economic oil, or from the military.

So I don't see much coming from this administration to change that.  What we're going to get into after the election, of course, is the big question.  But without strategy, without a plan, we can't deal with these threats throughout the world.

We look over in Afghanistan -- I had a report provided me from a gentleman just came back from Afghanistan three days ago.  He's going back over in another three days.  That situation does not look good at all.  We have an un-performance basically of NATO forces for the most part.  We may see NATO finally succumb to the situation where they're totally ineffective out there as far as a force structure to combat this war against radical Islam.  We even have German special forces being told they can't shoot the Taliban.

We have a situation where we have basically again, like in Iraq, have hamstrung the generals and the admirals, because we abide by borders, and the enemy doesn't.  So you have a tremendous spotlight now on Pakistan again, where you have a pipeline going from Pakistan into London, Birmingham and throughout Europe, from the training camps that are growing and becoming much more effective in their use of advanced weapons systems, many supplied again by the Iranians.

So if you understand this network that's going on in the Middle East, beyond the surge then, brings on other major challenges and threats to our national security.  So whoever becomes our new President really must take on again the number-one, the number-one responsibility of our government, and that's to protect you -- our children, our families.  And do not elect anybody into office that doesn't put our security first.

So that's why it's so important this year that we elect the right person.

(applause)

Major Gen. Paul Vallely: I'll pass this on.  But how many of you saw the John Adams series on HBO? All right.  Today I'm bringing back our new motto, post-surge -- don't tread on me.  All right?

(applause)

Major Gen. Paul Vallely: And that's what the United States -- that's what we have to focus on.  Do not tread on us anymore, because we are going to protect ourselves.  And that's what we need to be focused on.

So I'll pass it on to [my best colleague].

Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu: I think, you know, Paul brings out one of the points that I believe really needs to be emphasized.  And this is where we're not learning, where we haven't developed a historic learning curve over the last 40 years.

In post-World War II, every war we've been in subsequent to that, we've allowed the existence of privileged sanctuaries that border the battlefield.  We did this in Southeast Asia, where we were -- our actions in Laos and Cambodia and North Vietnam were severely limited.  We did it in the Korean war, when we arbitrarily drew a boundary at the Yalu River.

I had hoped against all hope in 2003 that when we moved into Baghdad, when we moved up the Tigris-Euphrates Valley to overthrow Saddam, that we would have learned this lesson and not allowed Syria, not allowed Iran, not allowed these other countries to continue to run the rat lines to send the foreign fighters down, not allow them to put in the weaponry; to rearm the militias or the al-Qaeda in Iraq.  But we haven't done that; we're not learning a thing.

And unless and until we have someone in power -- and unfortunately, I think it's not only the White House where we've got to have a testosterone-filled Congress, which I don't see at all -- what's going to happen is that we're going to allow our soldiers to be exposed to needless threats because of this.

When I was over there, we were getting indirect fire from rockets that were coming right up from Iran.  They've found some of these things that didn't fire and they had made in Iran in 2008 on them.  So it's not stuff that was there before, regardless of what you might hear.  But unless and until we get smart enough to realize that it's a regional war, and that as Paul said, we can't -- we have to treat international boundaries as a line on the ground in which another enemy is on the other side, not as some sort of inviolate international border which we can't cross, then we're in trouble.

So I think that we saw this happening, in many cases, in the Lebanese-Israel war last year, where the boundary with Syria was wide open, and all this material and manpower was pouring across the borders.  But I'm going to turn it over to Caroline now and let her address some of these.

Caroline Glick: Thank you. As the only woman on this panel, I think I need to just say, I was in the army for six years.  And --

Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu: Thank you for your service. She doesn't look old enough [for all this].

Caroline Glick: And so -- and I've been working as a lecturer at the Israeli War Colleges in tactical warfare for the past five.  So just so you know, it's not a -- so I don't have a century of experience, but I do have a little bit.

I just -- everybody's going to say the same thing, which is that one of the problems with the war in Iraq is that we're treating it as a war, as opposed to as a campaign in a larger war.

And so I'm just going to say -- give my perspective on it from where I'm sitting, which is in Jerusalem, which is in my view, my informed view, the central front of this war, and the one that's been most ignored, and to our detriment -- and just talk for a second about what the situation is in Israel on the eve of the end of the surge in Iraq, which is that Israel is today surrounded by Iranian proxies on its southern and its northern border -- it's northern border both with Lebanon and with Syria.

Iran itself, of course, is arming itself now with nuclear weapons that the head of Mossad thinks that it will have by next year.  And Hezbollah and Syria both have missiles that are capable of reaching every spot in Israel.  Syria has chemical weapons and biological weapons.  And as we saw from last September, they also were developing nuclear capabilities with North Korean and Iranian assistance.  Gaza is run by Hamas, which is also an Iranian proxy.  And it's gaining force as well on the West Bank, which is run by the Israeli military.

So Israel is probably in one of the worst military situations we've seen in recent years.  Because of the way that the second Lebanon war in the summer of 2006 ended, Israel effectively lost its deterrent capacity against its enemies.  Because it was unable to defeat Hezbollah -- which is simply an Iranian foreign legion in Lebanon -- or to prevent missiles from raining down on Northern Israel for the duration of that war.

So Israel itself faces a very, very difficult situation.  Every single day in Gaza that the Hamas regime is allowed to remain in power, the border between Hamas' Gaza and Egypt in the Sinai is being used as one of the main highways of terror traffic in the world.  We see the armament going on inside of Gaza as something that is unprecedented.

And we also have to remind ourselves that this was going on before Hamas took charge of Gaza, when it was under Fatah terror control until June of last year.  Also, the Gaza-Egypt border was an active border for international terrorists and terror material.

Hamas itself has built up an army.  It has called it the Executive Force, but essentially it's an army to all intents and purposes.  It has units that are formed up to -- I think it's now brigade level.  And they're organized and trained by Iran, which also arms and finances them.

So this is a new situation that we hadn't seen before in Gaza.  Southern Israel is, as you know, daily attacked with missiles and mortars and rockets from Gaza.  And the Israeli government is essentially doing nothing.

So that's Israel's strategic situation -- the end of the surge.  But to the military situation, you also have to add the diplomatic situation.

From a diplomatic perspective, since the Palestinians began their jihad against Israel in September of 2000, Israel has never been in a worse situation diplomatically.  We see that not only in Europe, but even here in the United States, you have educated, otherwise intelligent people discussing as a real possibility the prospect of America recognizing Hamas as a legitimate player, and having direct contact with Hamas, and accepting them as a legitimate player in Palestinian politics, such as they are.  And this is in the United States.

And of course in Israel, our radical Left also is saying, Well, since we can't make a deal with Fatah, because they're essentially been rejected by the Palestinians, we should be trying to cut a deal with Hamas.

So we have both diplomatically, internationally, Israel is becoming more and more of a pariah state.  You hear it accepted that, oh, it's okay to kill Jews, or, well, they just kill Jews, so it's not that big of a deal; they're not going after Americans, they're not going after Europeans, they're not even going after other Arabs.  They're just killing Jews, and therefore they're not a terrorist organization.

The EU, for instance, has never recognized Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and it is in fact a genocidal proxy of Iran, with a stated objective of annihilating the Jews and also calling for the death of the United States.  But they're not a terrorist organization.

And so we see this diplomatic isolation of Israel.  We see this noxious form of anti-Semitism, of demonizing the Jewish state -- and essentially saying that it doesn't have any right to exist, and certainly not to defend itself -- being widely accepted in international circles, and also in widening circles in the United States, and not only on college campuses -- we were discussing this morning with the college kids -- but in general.

We have demonization of Jews going on in this country, the likes of which I had never imagined could happen, with people not even blinking when they say that the media is controlled by Zionists, or Washington is controlled by Zionists.  This is something that was not part of my experience growing up in this country.  But it's much more prevalent now, and we all know that neo-conservativism is just another word for Judaism.  So this is the situation in Israel and about Israel, regarding Israel, throughout the world.

Now Gordon said correctly that one of the biggest problems that we've been having, what makes the surge so unique, is that since 2001 -- and in Israel's case, since 1993 -- we have simply not been willing to learn from our mistakes.  We have simply not been able to learn from our experience.  And that's why the surge is such a bright spot, because it is the only place in Iraq where the allies in this war have actually learned from their mis-moves in the past and moved on to essentially victory in that area of operations.

But as regards Israel specifically, we see that people who, again, we generally consider to be smart, or to be authorities on international security or on the Middle East, or even on jihad -- people who write good books -- Lawrence Wright, for instance, who wrote "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11" and others like that, who essentially, one would think, have got it pretty much right -- refuse to acknowledge Israel's position as a central front in this war.  They insist on saying that the war against the Jews is sui generis, that it has nothing to do with anything happening to the United States, that terrorists who commit atrocities of mass murder against Jewish civilians in Israel are not really terrorists the way that we look at them.  Because when we define terrorists, we're only referring to people who kill people who aren't Jews, or at least not specifically Jews.

And this of course is, aside from being morally atrocious, is also strategically blind.  Because the refusal to acknowledge Israel's central role in the war, for the jihadists themselves as they see it, is part and parcel with the overall denial, both, by the way, in Israel as well as outside of Israel of the nature of the war.

And we just saw in the Financial Times this past week that one of the chief counter-terror officials in the Department of Homeland Security, I think it is, has railed against not the use of the term "jihad" or "radical Islam" to define the enemy, but actually he thinks that it's wrong to call the war a war on terrorism, because everybody knows that we're talking about Muslims, and they feel really bad about that.

And so, you know, I suggested that perhaps we're supposed to be fighting a war against meanies, or something like that, but -- you know, people with bad table manners.  But the problem is that when we look at this sea of denial, we understand that the refusal to acknowledge how vital Israel is as an ally in this war stands central to the entire denial.  Because the minute that people acknowledge that the people who are attacking American forces abroad, that are attacking American civilians in the United States, that are trying to undermine the basis of the foundations of Western civilization, whether it's here or in Europe, are the exact same people who are trying to destroy Israel.  The minute that we recognize that, we're going to actually have to acknowledge the nature of this war.

That is, we're going to admitting that the people who are targeting Israel for annihilation are not doing it because you got 15 Jews living on an empty hillside in Samaria, but they're doing it because you have a million Jews who live in Tel Aviv and surrounding areas, or five million Jews in all of the state of Israel.  The minute we acknowledge that they are part of the larger jihad, we're going to have to acknowledge that there is a jihad.  And the minute that you acknowledge that, you actually have to put together a strategy for fighting and winning it.

And since we don't want to do that, the most important thing of all for everybody who is preaching denial as a national security strategy for the United States, or for Europe or for Israel, is to pretend that the genocidal campaign that is being carried out against the Jewish state is all about the division, the proper division of the land of Israel between Arabs and Jews, when in fact it has never been about that.  And it never will be about that.  It is about the Arab world's rejection of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination and to sovereignty in our homeland.  And we refuse to recognize this because we don't want to fight.

And so when I look ahead at where we're going, I'm not optimistic as I would like to be, simply because it never occurred to me that it could get this far along without the people who are in charge in Washington and in Israel and in other places saying to themselves, Gee, this isn't working anymore.  And we have to stop pretending that we can attribute genocidal terrorism and ideologies to a lack of Palestinian statehood.

It never occurred to me that we would be seven years out beyond 9/11, or eight years almost, without any acknowledgement of the central truth.  So I think that things are just going to get worse until somebody finally wizens up.  I simply hope that we wizen up before Iran has a chance to test their nuclear weapon on Tel Aviv.

And so, those are my thoughts.

Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu: You know, one of the points that Paul made rather strongly was that we don't have a strategy.  We who consider ourselves some of the smartest, most inventive, most innovative people in the world can't figure this out.  At the same time we denigrate our enemies, you know, we'll think of them as -- to our peril -- as rural, as underdeveloped, as rather simpleminded, mono-focused religious fanatics -- these people have a strategy.

And one of the key points of their strategy -- and this dovetails precisely with what we've been talking about today, and what you'll hear tomorrow -- is to drive a wedge between Israel and the United States.  And they're doing it on a number of levels.  They're doing it in the media, they're doing it in academia, they're doing it politically, and they're doing it through some of the most reprehensive tactics that Caroline talked about, which is to bring out all these old -- you know, I mean, I'm waiting for The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and all these other things to start coming out -- you know, Jews sacrificing blood --

Caroline Glick: That would be "The Israel Lobby," by Steve Walt and John Mearsheimer.

Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu: Yeah.  So all of this stuff is coming out.  And we're in the position right now where we're in deep denial, where we're trying to drink our own bathwater and pretend that if we can just somehow contrive an exit from Iraq that this whole war is going to be over; when in fact our enemies are taking this moment of ineptitude on our parts, this moment of inaction, of indecision, where we're all consumed with sitting around staring at our navels and deciding whether Bush lied or not, where we're consumed by this domestic hatred -- and are taking full advantage of this to mount an attack on us that I fear could well bring us down.

I mean, look at two things that happened in 2001.  We had the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and then we had those few anthrax letters.  Anybody remember the anthrax letters? Couple of letters, and our government was shut down.  Now imagine you've got a biological or a radiological or chemical weapon going off in some major city.  Imagine that you've got weaponized smallpox coming out of Syria, in which you've got, in effect, suicide jihadists who allow themselves to be infected with the disease and then go to all of the major airports in the world.  If we couldn't survive a few anthrax letters, imagine what it would be like if we were on the target end of that.

That's why this is so critical at this very time.  And yet, the only people discussing it seem to be the people in this room and colleagues like us.  So I think Caroline's points are excellent.  And, you know, I hope you repeat them outside of this room.

One of the things that she mentioned and that Paul mentioned, and so did I, is the Iranian -- the looming Iranian influence in this whole affair.  I mean, the 800-pound gorilla in the living room is Iran right now.  And who better to discuss that than our colleague from the American enterprise Institute, Michael Ledeen?

Michael Ledeen: This thing has always been always been all about Iran from the beginning.  When Paul said that Tehran is the center of international terrorism, that's been true for decades.  Even the State Department knows it.  I mean, you don't have to even go to the intelligence community.  Ever since the State Department's been issuing lists of countries that support international terrorism, Iran has always won the blue ribbon -- always.  So I mean, there's nothing new there.  There's hardly anything new in all of this, except, you know, certain recent events.

But the Iranians declared war on the United States in 1979, has been waging war against us ever since; prior to 9/11 had killed more Americans than anybody else in the world, and may have been involved in 9/11.  It'll take quite awhile before we unravel all of that.  But there are all kinds of connections between al-Qaeda and Iran.

Just to give you the most entertaining and Germanic one -- the logistics officer from 9/11 was a man named Ramsey Bin Al Shib.  He did not get a visa to come to the United States, so he went elsewhere.  And in December of 2000 through January 2001, he was in Iran.  What he was doing we do not know.  And then six days before 9/11, he went to Iran again.  And then 9/11 took place, and he was subsequently arrested in Pakistan.  He had clearly come out the other side, and so forth.  What was he doing? What are his connections? We don't know.

We know that many of the terrorists involved in 9/11 passed through Iran on their way to America to conduct the operation.  We know that on at least one of those airplane flights that went from Saudi Arabia, passed through Iran, then to Beirut and then on to the West, Imad Mughniyah, the operational chieftain of Hezbollah, the oft-cited here terrorist proxy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, was on the flight.  So he was working with them.

So were they involved? We don't know.  There are many things that we do not know yet, even though we've been at this for quite a long time.

I want to suggest to you that what's going on here is these battles, these skirmishes, these fronts in which we have been involved since 9/11 are, so to speak, the Spanish Civil Wars of this generation, to use the World War II kind of metaphor.  Prior to World War II, the fascist armies tested their strategies, their methods, their weapons, their leadership in Spain, in a very violent civil war, where in essence we had the Soviet Union on one side and the Germans and Italians on the other.

What we've had now in Afghanistan, and now in Iraq, and increasingly along the borders of Israel and in Lebanon, is another test of Western armies and Western tactics and strategies against -- what shall we call them -- our enemies' tactics, strategies, weapons and so forth.  And they've tested quite a lot of stuff, actually.

I mean, Iraq has been a big testing ground for IEDs, for suicide bombings, for how do you recruit suicide bombers, what kinds of -- I point out to you that the whole doctrine of suicide terrorism in the Middle East is Iranian.  The suicide bombing itself is not even a Middle East invention.  So far as I know, the first suicide bomber was a Bangladeshi woman.  And so, you know, it comes from there.  Yes, always -- the women are always the most dangerous people. So we're involved in a dry run, where they are testing us and testing their own methods.  And we are trying to catch up.

I want to say something optimistic, since the tone of this panel has been unremittingly gloomy up until now.  Given all of this, and given that for all Western democracies our enemies always get the first shot -- I mean, that's part of our society -- we do not initiate things; they always get the first shot against us -- even with all those advantages, even with their lack of morality and their ability to conduct all kinds of evil actions and so forth, it is still the case that in Iraq, al-Qaeda has been defeated.

And in a whole series of very interesting essays, articles, think pieces, research pieces recently, ranging from -- mostly in leftwing publications like the New Yorker and the New Republic, and so forth -- you have scholars of al-Qaeda and of Islamic terrorism writing extended analyses of what is happening to al-Qaeda, what is happening to radical Islam is that it is sort of blowing up from the inside.  Because, you know, people are saying all these methods are wrong and so forth.  And this is a spinoff of a model of what is happening in Iraq which I think is totally wrong.  And I think it's enormously important that we get this thing right.

What these -- the fact is clear.  That is, there's now enormous internal dissent throughout the jihadist universe.  Lots of jihadists are saying, We've got this all wrong, we're doing it wrong, and we're losing.  Because they are losing.  They know it, even if the New York Times really doesn't, and hesitates to say it.  But they know they're losing.

And so they're trying to figure out why.  And the means that their apologists, so to speak, of the -- Islam's apologists are trying to provide goes that, well, they just overdid it.  They were too bloodthirsty, they were too nasty, they killed too many civilians, they raped too many women, they killed too many children, and so forth.

And so you see these stories -- Anbar Province in Iraq -- too many people got killed.  And so the tribal leaders, the tribal sheiks, finally said, well, the hell with this, we're going to fight these guys.  We'll even work with the Americans.  And they came to the Americans and joined with us.  And so, this campaign was carried out.

That is not what happened.  Those terrorists had been killing people all along.  The decisive events that convinced people in places like Iraq -- and now is happening also in Afghanistan and will happen elsewhere -- is not that al-Qaeda was killing people randomly and viciously; they've been doing that forever. People were always surprised.  They said, well, how can Iran, a Shi'ite country, support al-Qaeda, a Sunni organization? But Iranians and -- Iranian Shi'ites and radical Sunnis have been working together since day one.  Don't forget that the Revolutionary Guards were originally trained in Lebanon in the 1970s before the revolution, before the revolution, by Yasser Arafat's Fatah.  That is, the radical Shi'ites in Iran were originally trained by radical Sunnis, largely from Egypt, from the Islamic Brotherhood, et cetera, et cetera.  Right? So no surprise there.  No surprise at all.

Anyway, the people weren't responding to this kind of murder, because that had been going all along.  What they responded to was the fact that we all of a sudden were winning the war.

If there's a single book that you can read on the subject of counter-insurgency, read the book by David Galula.  David Galula was a French officer in Algeria during the Algerian war.  And he wrote this book in 1963, when he was at Harvard.  You know, everybody ends up at Harvard sooner or later.  Anyway, this was David Galula's.

What David Galula says about counter-insurgency is very simple, and we have to get this right.  He says, Counter-insurgency, revolutionary wars, are always determined by the people.  Because the people have the crucial information that will permit one side or the other to win.  The people know where the enemy is, what he has, what his plans are, and how and where he can be beaten.  Right?

For a very long time, the people strain always in these wars to remain neutral, to stay outside.  Because making a commitment one way or the other is always very painful, because a lot of them will get killed by one side or another, depending on which way they vote, so to speak; which way they jump.

Finally, at a certain point, the people make a decision.  And that decision is made very ruthlessly.  It has nothing to do with ideology.  So forget all this talk about radical Islam on the one side and democratic doctrine on the other.  It has simply to do with winning and losing, living and dying.  They decide who is going to win that war.

And at a certain point in Anbar Province, the people of that province came to two basic conclusions -- number one, the marines could not be beaten; and number two, the marines were not going to leave. And once they came -- well, I mean it took us long enough.  But once they came to those two conclusions, they said, we're going to go with the marines.  And they went with the marines, and that was the end of the war.  That was the end of al-Qaeda in Anbar Province.  Because the people in the province had all the information, all the wherewithal, to lead to their destruction.  And they provided it to the Marines.  And that was that.

The reason why there is now a crisis inside the Islamic world, the radical Islamic world -- including Iran, and I'll get back to it for just a second -- is because they are losing this war, and they know it.  That's what produces this kind of inner turmoil.  You can't explain this inner turmoil any other way except by the panicky realization that the war is going against them.  It is not all a bleak picture, the one that we're looking at right now.

The great catastrophe for American policy in this war is that from day one, we - and both Caroline and Paul have referred to this -- we have failed to recognize that it was always going to be a regional war, and that we were never going to have the luxury of doing one country and then pausing, and then another country and then pausing.  Because our enemies were going to organize themselves to come after it.  They all told us -- the Iranians, the Syrians, the al-Qaedas, the Hezbollahs, the Hamases -- they all told us, even before we went into Iraq, that they were going to come after us there -- that they were going to replicate the Lebanon of the 1980s in the Iraq of the 21st century.  And they laid it out; it was no secret.  We did not want to think about that.  The war seemed plain -- the war as it really was, and as it was always going to be.

And so we found ourselves in this situation where we were, and are, just playing defense in Iraq, which is a sucker's game.  Because no matter how well we do in Iraq -- and we're doing brilliantly in Iraq right now -- it still gives the Syrians, the Iranians, et cetera a free shot at us.

I mean, Condoleezza Rice categorically says, whenever asked on this subject, we don't want regime change in Iran.  We want a change in behavior.  But we've got 30 years of consistent behavior from this regime.  Why would any rational person believe that they will change now? That's Einstein's definition of a madman -- someone who continues to do the same thing over and over again, hoping someday to get a different result.  You won't get a different result.  I mean, it's got to come down.

And the hell of it all is that you can hardly find a better candidate for regime change than Iran.  I mean, just think of it this way -- I would just -- I got couple of sentences, and then I'm going to stop.  We were able to bring down the Soviet Union with the active support of what, 5 or 10% of the population? No more than that.  A handful of dissidents, a small number of brave people here and there -- Poland, Czechoslovakia, et cetera -- a tiny percentage.  And yet it was enough.

In Iran, we've got 70, 80% of the population who tell the regime that they want it changed, who say it publicly, who every single day demonstrate their hatred for and contempt of the mullahs who are ruining their lives.  How could we fail to bring down that kind of regime if we went after them? And why do we not go after them? But that's another question; requires a much broader answer.

Thanks.

Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu: Yeah, thank you, Michael.

What you hear recurring here is political will backed by military might.  There's no army, there's no military in the world that can stand up to the U.S. military, period.  That's it, that's end of story.  And they know that.

But they also know that the American public is impatient.  We're domestically focused, and we tend to be easily misled by the media.  And that's where they're focusing their attention.  They're hoping they can wait us out on this thing.  That's the only way they're going to win.  They're not going to win, as Michael said, against the army, against the marines, because we're too good for them.  And we learn, and we pick up from that.

This point, I'd like to turn to a former marine, my friend, Bill Cowan.  And he's going to summarize and discuss some aspects that we haven't gotten into yet.

Lt. Col. Bill Cowan: Thanks, Gordon.

First, I don't know whether everything I say here or not is on the record.  I hope it is; it always is.  I'd like to go on the record as saying -- we've talked about torture here last night and this morning.  I do not like waterboarding.  I do not like waterboarding.  I prefer electricity.

(laughter)

Lt. Col. Bill Cowan: And I stand by that statement.  And it concerns me quite a bit that John McCain has already ceded interrogation techniques to certain people.  I would never for a moment use harsh techniques -- and I have used them -- on just anybody.  But you know, sometimes there are certain people, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, or certain individuals sitting on key information around which people's lives -- particularly American lives, particularly our American servicemen and -women -- around which those lives depend.  And the notion that we're just going to abide by some set of rules is political correctness at its worst, and at some point will cost Americans lives.

I'm also concerned that he gave them Guantanamo, or he's given it up.  Paul and I have both been to Guantanamo.  Paul did a lot of work on the Guantanamo story.  And frankly, Guantanamo's not a bad place to be.  It's not half as bad as the media would make you believe.

Now, do I want  to treat everybody bad? No.  But again, we have to do it sometimes.  We're talking a little bit about the surge.  I'm going to spin that story a little bit differently.  And I've got an hour's worth of things to say, and probably four and a half minutes left.

Ahmadinejad right now -- watching the elections in the United States very carefully, very carefully...Now let's talk about the October surprise.  Right now, the Iranians are stockpiling materials, equipment, EFPs, IEDs, agents of influence, agents of action inside Iraq, so that they can pull an October surprise.  I'm a Vietnam veteran, as some of my friends are; we all remember Tet '68 so well, where the Viet Cong were obliterated on the battlefield, but the media turned the story upside down. So we should all stand by for the Iranians -- very carefully, very strategically -- making a move in Iraq in October, trying to create an October surprise that will impact on the presidential elections.  If they're not thinking about doing that, they're making a big mistake. But I think, from talking to a lot of my friends still over there, and indeed people inside the government, that they still are.

You know, the one thing that has truly turned Iraq around for us is indeed David Petraeus, General Petraeus, by himself.  And Michael pointed out David Galula's book, saying it's all about the people.  When Paul and I visited Petraeus in October of '03, there was no question in our mind at that point -- he understood insurgency, he understood what the war was about, he was running operations up -- 101st, up in Mosul.  That guy at that point -- had he been in charge of Iraq, this would have been over a long time ago, with much less loss of American lives -- the point here being that he is the one person I see throughout the entire chain -- from the last PFC at the end of some squad all the way to the top of the White House -- who understands and is not afraid to exert leadership.

We have a total failure of leadership inside this administration and may well inside the next one.  We've got Americans dying every day in Iraq by bombs being made in Iran.  We know exactly where those bombs are being made.  We know where they're crossing the border.  We know who's carrying them.  And you know what we're doing about it? Nothing.  Nothing.  Same with Syria, although it's not quite as dramatic now as it was.  What are we doing? Nothing.  Why? Failure of leadership.  Failure of the ability to stand up.

If Mexicans were coming across the border and killing Americans -- but I mean, sorry, Caroline -- killing Americans with high explosives every day in San Diego, Phoenix or somewhere else, would we stand by and watch it? No, we wouldn't.  Why are we doing it right now, letting our young men and women die inside Iraq? Failure of leadership.  And Petraeus, as Paul said, has just moved up to the next highest level.

At one point, Paul and I were with a group of people that would sometimes go inside the Pentagon.  I asked Rumsfeld specifically about three years ago -- Secretary Rumsfeld, what about Iran? Why can't we do anything to the Iranians? And his answer to me was -- he looked as if he were looking across the river, and he said, The White House won't let us.  The White House won't let us.  And the White House won't let us do it now, either.

Caroline's talking about Hezbollah.  I know those people pretty well.  They've been around for a long time, a long, long time.  You know what our policy is with respect to Hezbollah? Hands off.  Hands off.  I'm not talking also about just going in and killing people.  I'm talking about disrupting their processes, much as they disrupt ours.  And there's plenty of nonlethal things we could be doing to make life a little bit more difficult for them.  But we don't.  Absolute failures of leadership.

So as we look to the next elections -- one, we have to hope that General Petraeus will stay in place, no matter who gets elected.  You would have to hope that if Obama were elected, as Dick Morris suggested, that he would at least listen to somebody who should become a national hero for us, David Petraeus.  We have to hope, if McCain goes in, that he'll listen to Petraeus.  And those of you who know Senator McCain know that -- who knows where his thought processes come from sometimes? It's totally unpredictable.  Maybe it's sometimes who gets there first.

But the reality is, as was suggested early on, Iraq is only one part of this large war that we're fighting.  And Iraq's going to end at some point, and Afghanistan is going to end at some point.  But what about all the other tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of fanatics that are growing up and going to training camps in Africa, in Indonesia, in Thailand, in Yemen, in other places around the world? We are winning, but we haven't won yet.  And we've got a ways to go.

And let me close on one thing.  Caroline really focused on Israel.  Those of you who have been in the military -- and I know there's many of you out here in the audience -- we should all remember, we do remember -- when we set in a defensive position -- day or night or whenever -- in a defensive position -- and America is in a defensive position right now -- when you set in a defensive position, out in front of your lines, you put listening posts, or observation posts.  You put people out there to get a sensing of the enemy that are coming, to know what's happening out in front of you.

I'll tell you right now; I say this endlessly -- Israel is our forward outpost right now.  What happens in Israel is going to happen here.  Ahmadinejad has said it.  We should be paying attention.  We need to make sure in all things we do that our relationship with Israel stays absolutely as tight as can be.  We failed them.  We, the United States, failed them, in my judgment, in the Israeli-Hezbollah war -- totally failed them.  We can't afford to let that happen in the future.

(applause)

Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu: To Bill's point -- the cancer has already metastasized.  Off the coast of Venezuela, on an island called Margarita, there are hundreds, hundreds of Hezbollah operatives training.  And they're being given top cover by Hugo Chavez, the dictator in Venezuela.  I strongly suspect that those people are learning how to pass as Hispanic, and eventually to make their way, probably through rat lines organized by criminal and narcoterrorists, into this country.

So we should expect, as Bill said, sometime in the future to begin to see the types of operations going on, conducted against us here as are being conducted against Israel.  Why not? They see it's working.  Why change? Why not come after us? They see us as soft, they see us as weak-willed, as indecisive, as impatient, as unwilling to stand casualties.  And so far, we've given the truth to all of those suppositions.

I'm going to be a little more pessimistic perhaps than Michael.  But while we are winning, I think that it is -- it's a temporary, it's a hiatus here in the war.  And we need to get -- we need to gird up and ruck up, and get our full battle-rattle on, and get ready to go.  And I don't see that coming from the political side at all.  Not at all.

So I'm going to end it here and open it up for questions.

Q-and-A Session

Unidentified Audience Member: Just a comment to the panel.  I know Iran keeps coming back and forth.  What about a blockade? Where does the panel split on a blockade for Iran?

Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu: A blockade's an act of war.  I think if we're going to do a blockade, you know, we better be prepared to go the whole way.  Anybody else want to comment?

Lt. Col. Bill Cowan: Only thing I can say is the U.S. Navy got swarmed, as you may remember, some months ago -- their ships were.  And the best we could do was bullhorn them. So, you know, blockade is going to have a -- it's going to have an effect, but I think a minimal effect.  I mean, I think it's -- we're at the point, probably in my judgment, where we need some kinds of more direct action.  That doesn't just mean putting U.S. troops on the ground inside Iran.  There are clandestine and covert things we could be doing, we should be doing; no trace back to the United States, but disruptive to the Iranian mullahs.

Unidentified Audience Member: Caroline, I wanted to compliment you for your excellent articles in the Jerusalem Post.  Wanted to ask you --  what is the strategy of Israel? They're supplying humanitarian aid to a regime in Gaza dedicated to their destruction.  They can't bring themselves to use collective punishment, because that would be wrong.  They're talking about giving back the Golan to Syria.  What's going on?

Caroline Glick: Israel's strategy is -- such as it is -- is to be liked by the State Department -- that's Israel's strategy -- and to be treated well at Davos, at the World Economic Forum.  That's Israel's strategy.  Because Israel's government, such as it is, thinks that the best way to conduct foreign policy is to be nice to foreigners when they call them up on the telephone.

So if you're trying to find strategic logic to what Israel is doing, you can't, unless you descend to the level of the schoolyard between second and third grade.  Well, I would say, just on that level.  And I think that it's important to understand it.  Because people don't understand what motivates the Israeli government.

And I just gave you an explanation of what motivates it.  The Israeli government, particularly the one that we have now -- but really most Israeli governments that we've had since 1993 -- have been extremely weak.

And one of the consequence -- one of the causes for Israel's weakness is this erosion, in a sense, of the justice of our cause among many of our elites over time, who have been ground down by the absence of peace.  And the sense of the world's refusal to see Israel as a regular state, as an equal -- whether it's in the United States or it's in Europe -- that the refusal to acknowledge and accept a Jewish state as an equal in the family of nations has had a corrosive effect on a lot of the elites inside of Israel, who had hoped and expected that when the Jews asserted our sovereignty over our country, that over time, at least, anti-Semitism would fade, if not disappear.

And the prevalence and the continued vibrancy of anti-Semitism, particularly as it's directed against the state of Israel in the form of anti-Zionism, is such that it has made it hard, particularly for the Israeli Left, to feel comfortable any longer with defending the country, which has caused enormous fissures also inside of Israeli society.  Because obviously, most Israelis are not suicidal, and most Israelis are very proud of being Israelis and are very proud of what we've accomplished in our country and look forward to a future of further accomplishment and greatness.

So what you're seeing right now is the reaction of a largely corrupt and ideologically dead leadership in Israel.  And I think that they're also in their death throes of leadership in Israel.  Because I think that the internal contradictions of everything that they claim to stand for -- defending Israel on the one hand and appeasing today's versions of the Wehrmacht on the other hand -- are so glaring and so overwhelming to the overwhelming majority of Israelis that come election time -- which may actually be around the corner because of the exposure of Olmert's padded pockets -- that we will get these people out.

And when that happens, hopefully -- and nothing is ever certain -- we will be able to be led by men and women who have a concept of strategy as something other than trying to be friends with Condoleezza Rice and thinking that any time that she smiles, it's a strategic victory for the Jews.

One thing that I had wanted to say, just by the way -- I was embedded with the 3rd Infantry Division in 2003, in the invasion of Iraq.  And it was very interesting, because for me, and for most of my colleagues in Israel, it was pretty clear exactly what kind of war was going to be fought against the Americans in Iraq.  The unit that I was with was attacked by suicide bombers in the second week of the war; it was the first suicide bombing, I think, of the war.  It was a car bombing.  And for me, it was really not at all surprising, because it was clear that the Iraqis were going to treat the Americans the same way that the Lebanese treated the Israelis in the 1980s, which is to embrace us as liberators and then to start chewing us up and spitting us out over a period of time of war of attrition.

And I think again, if I go back to the American refusal to acknowledge the nature of the alliance between the United States and Israel, I think that one of the reasons, one of the sources of the American naïveté -- and also ignorance of the nature of the war that they were about to be fighting in Iraq -- was a refusal to see Israel's experience in Lebanon as applicable to what they were about to do in Iraq.  And I think that they refused to see Israel's experience in Lebanon as applicable to what was about to happen in Iraq, because the United States refused to acknowledge that the Arabs view the Israelis and the United States as two sides of the same coin.

So that inherent refusal to see Israel as an ally is one of the reasons why the United States took so long to acknowledge the nature of the war that is being waged against it in Iraq.

Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu: Thank you.

Unidentified Audience Member: Thank you.  And this is -- first a quick statement, and then a question.

I think many of us in this room have been to Dachau and Auschwitz and have seen the end result of what we're talking about.  And I hope against hope that that will never happen again, but there are people out there trying to make it happen.  And I acknowledge Israel as a vital and important ally to the United States.  And if we abandon Israel, in my view, we've abandoned ourselves.

But my question is to a broader one in Iraq.  During the invasion of Afghanistan, we were provided quiet support by the Soviet -- well, the Russian intelligence agencies.  Have you see any active opposition or any support from the Russian government in our Iraqi occupation?

Michael Ledeen: Yeah.  Look, let me answer that quickly, and then I want to talk about the broader issue that you raise.

The Russians are playing a very tricky game all over the Middle East.  They're certainly helping Iran all they can.  The Iranian nuclear program is a Russian program.  It is Russian technology provided by Russian technicians, as are the various antiaircraft defensive systems that are being provided, again by Russia, to both Syria and Iran.

And so basically, the Russians are saying to these people, you know, Go on, go on, we'll take care of you.  We will protect you, and we will help you.  So there's a lot of that going on.  Whether the Iranians and Syrians should trust the Russians to do this is another question.  Because I have a theory that the Russians' entire strategy in the Middle East is to provoke the Iranians and Syrians to be nasty enough to the United States so that we will take out Iran.  Because I don't think Russia really wants a nuclear-armed Iran sitting on its borders, led by these fanatics.

In any case, let me take -- since you raised it -- the broad question, the big question, one might say.  For a very long time, we have all obsessively studied fascism, World War II, the Holocaust, for two reasons.  First, how could it have happened? How could the world's two most cultured, civilized, refined societies, Italy and Germany, have produced the world's greatest horror? Because that's what happened.  So how could this be possible? And how could it be that the entire Western world sat by and watched it all happen, and never did anything? Those are the two questions.

Basically, the answer that the civilized world came up with was -- it was unprecedented.  There had never been such a thing.  You'd never had genocide on such a scale, you had never had evil on such a scale, and you had never had such evil coming from such civilized countries.  So how can you blame people for having failed to see it coming?

Well today, we have to say that that explanation has been proven wrong.  Because we have it again; they're back.  Same things.  The same kind of evil, on exactly the same kind of scale, led by evil people who are saying exactly the same things that the Nazis and the fascists said in the '30s and '40s.  And again, nobody is doing anything.

So we have to go back and ask that question all over again, this time rejecting the original answer that we came up with.  Because it's no longer unique.  Evil on this kind of scale is now a commonplace.  We see it all over the place -- you know, whether it's in the Middle East or Africa or whatever, and we all know these things.  We all know these stories.  So why?

So I want to leave you with a couple of thoughts.  The first is that we have all bought into a theory of human nature which is anti-historical and philosophically false.  And that is -- number one, all people are the same; and number two, all people are basically good.  This is one of the core doctrines of multiculturalism.  We believe it.  By and large, all Western societies have bought into this.  And we all know that it's false.  Both of those statements are false.  People are not the same, and people are not all good.

Machiavelli, to whom I devoted a book once -- line one, chapter one, is -- man is more inclined to do evil than to do good.  Well, I don't know if it goes that far.  But anyway, there's plenty of evil people.  That we can certainly agree on.

And number two is that if you grant the existence of evil, and if you look at it and take seriously the things that their leaders are saying today, then you are obliged to act.  And the actions you take are very painful.

Because if you accept the threat for what it is, if you say, yes, they're back again, here we are again -- we know these people.  We know what their intensions are.  We know what they will do if we leave them be.  It means we have to go to war.  And democratic societies don't want to go to war.  They have to be pushed over the edge before they actually do such things.

Look at the history of the United States.  Look at the 20th century.  We were torpedoed into World War I by the Germans on the North Atlantic.  We were bombed into World War II by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor.  There was no chance the United States was going to enter the European war if the Japanese had not bombed us.  They saved us.  We are most of the time saved by our enemies, not by our own great leaders, not by our own vision and strategic understanding and so forth.

That's the history of the United States, and of all Western democracies.  Democracies don't prepare for this kind of crisis.  We -- the United States is the first country in the history of the world to believe that peace is the normal condition of mankind, which is total nonsense.  War and the preparation for war is the normal condition of mankind.  That's what human history is.  Start with the Old Testament, and read forward, and you have the history of war.  That's basically what it's all about -- too bad.  But I mean, governments who want to survive have to prepare for that, and we're not preparing for it.

So this is, I think, one of the big ways of looking at the answer to your question.

Major Gen. Paul Vallely: Gordon, let me just add one thing; it's only going to take 30 seconds.

I want you to look at a picture here, as the world and much of the world wants to paint the United States as this big dragon.  One spear into the body of the dragon will not kill the dragon, but many spears into the body of the dragon will bleed it to death.  And when we look at our internal enemies, we look at the press in some ways, we look at Russia, we look at China -- these are spears into the body of the dragon.  And that's what we've got to prevent and understand, is how to prevent them from bleeding us to death.





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