Wednesday, July 30, 2014
I recently heard a critic of Kerry say he is out of his depths when he is in the same room as the hardened leaders of the Middle East, and that Kerry isn't the smartest man in the room when they talk.
I dare say that Kerry isn't the smartest man in the room when he is all alone.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
I went to the mall with Lamb. We bought some stuff and window shopped.
When we hit the mall portion that is the site of my greatest culinary defeat, I told Lamb I wanted to go by the sushi place and sneer at them.
Lamb was only mildly mortified at the thought of being humiliated by her dad despite my noting (accurately) that I could feel my eye twitching as we approached the desecration location,
You may or may not recall (I'm sure I've mentioned this here at some point) that about a decade ago, our local mall suffered a great loss when the donut shop closed.
It was a glorious donut shop. It actually made the donuts while you waited.
You watched the machine dump the dough into a river of hot oil where the proto-donuts travelling downstream become donuts, where they were dumped out automatically into a bin where you could have various sugary concoctions sprinkled on your fresh donuts.
I get misty eyed just describing it.
Then the unspeakable happened. The store closed. To be replaced by a sushi shop.
There is no deep frying in sushi.
I hated that sushi shop deeply. I burned with irredentist fury these many years.
And then at the mall with Lamb, as we approached the location where I could ritually curse the usurper, I saw the sushi shop was no more.
I would not know my reaction except that Lamb recalled it word for word.
I said, "It's not a sushi store! I don't know what it is, but they fry something!
Indeed they do fry something. I don't recall the store name, but they fry all matter of potatoes, cheeses, and formed pressed chicken.
They have chili cheese fries, people.
And so, after a long decade of sushi Hell, my people--the Fry Cooks--have reclaimed our lost land.
Oh yes, I shall return.
I guess being the anti-Bush isn't the solution to our problems abroad.
Hamas can't defeat Israel because they are too weak and Israel can't defeat Hamas because Israel won't (can't) use its fool power to annihilate Hamas and other jihadis who would take their place if crushed:
War's purpose is to impose your political will on your enemy. But unless the Israelis surprise us immensely, nothing decisive will come out of this conflict.
This is interesting because it occurred to me that the calls by some in the West for Israel to respond "proportionately" to Hamas' rocket attacks reflects a pre-modern notion of war that has nothing to do with imposing a political will on an enemy.
Israel is not being harmed much whether from Iron Dome or good civil defense, so the critics argue that Israel's attempts to stop Hamas from firing rockets is "disproportionate."
That this standard is not part of the rules of war is another issue altogether. But the idea that Israel should respond to ineffective war with their own version of ineffective war reflects pre-modern thinking about warfare.
The 2014 Hamas War of the Children (whether you want to focus on the murder of 3 Israeli kids that really triggered Israel's response or the death toll of Palestinian children in Gaza during the response) is symbolic and so is pre-war in both the minds of Hamas and the critics of Israel who respond to symbolic war with real war.
Pre-modern war was not as Clausewitzian as we in the West conceive of War. And if you try to think of Hamas' attacks as a Westerner would and wonder why they risk casualties in a seemingly futile effort to kill Jews, you won't get very far.
While pre-modern war could get bloody, it often had formalistic early stages that could either end the conflict or serve as a waypoint to more violent phases. Hamas certainly wants to get to the bloody kill all the Jews stage, but right now they are satisfied with the symbolic phase of showing they can strike. It's all a lot of prancing about, yelling, and chest thumping.
Israel, Hamas complains, should not be jumping right to the bloody phase. And critics in the West seem to agree, with their odd notion that Israel should only respond "proportionately" in violence levels.
Suffering casualties as Israel tries to stop Hamas from firing ineffective rocket barrages is just part of the symbolism stage, letting Israel figuratively punch Hamas in the chest repeatedly to demonstrate that Hamas can take it (with a side benefit of propaganda videos of dead civilians).
If Israel cannot inflict a Clausewitzian defeat on Hamas and impose their will on the Palestinians of Gaza, perhaps Israel will undermine Hamas by fighting a war as symbolic as Hamas is waging:
Israel escalated its military campaign against Hamas on Tuesday, striking symbols of the group's control in Gaza and firing tank shells that shut down the strip's only power plant in the heaviest bombardment in the fighting so far.
Dead Palestinian children don't deter Hamas from shooting as Israel. Maybe shots at Hamas' image of power and control will have an effect on the leaders of Hamas.
And now we find, violated the limits already agreed for Russian theater nuclear weapons:
In an escalation of tensions, the Obama administration accused Russia on Monday of conducting tests in violation of a 1987 nuclear missile treaty, calling the breach "a very serious matter" and going public with allegations that have simmered for some time.
We say the Russians tested a nuclear cruise missile illegally.
Russia apparently couldn't care less about our protest:
Russian officials say they have looked into the allegations and consider the matter closed.
So the Russians have set the Bastard dial to "11."
Monday, July 28, 2014
Given that death from the slightest penetration of their chest to touch their heart seems to kill them, you'd think that somewhere along the line, vampires would have started wearing chain mail. Or just reinforced leather or perhaps nice plate armor on their chests.
It should go without saying that modern Kevlar would be a Satan-send for them.
And maybe armored collars to protect against beheading would be a good idea.
And what about covering their skin against the burning of Holy Water?
Would SPF 500 sun screen offer any protection against sunlight?
I'm not sure what to do about the repellent nature of crosses and garlic.
But if any of the above defenses work against the lethal threats, mere repulsion seems like a small thing to put up with.
The body armor thing just bothers me at some level. They live forever but learn nothing from experience.
In an effort to snatch a victory from the gathering defeat in eastern Ukraine, does Putin escalate to directly and openly intervene in eastern Ukraine? Does he go deeper to threaten Kiev and Odessa with conventional forces?
Or does he recoil from eastern Ukraine and be content to consolidate Crimea?
And does he survive the loss of business investment in Russia caused by foreign fear of instability?
But Putin's political survival isn't that big a deal if more like him assume power. Don't get so caught up with personalities. Or is the slogan "Osama bin Laden is dead" still reassuring to you?
If Russia still owns Crimea and Europe restarts business as usual with Russia in a short period of time even if Putin is sent out to pasture to enjoy his pastimes of Tiger wrestling and whatnot, why is that a victory for us?
We may get Ukraine in the West as the result of this crisis. Which is good as long as we stop further aggression against Ukraine (and new NATO states in eastern Europe) in the future. Otherwise this is a meaningless victory.
And to call it a victory and prevent that further aggression, we have to make Ukraine a Western country with Western rule of law rather than just a corrupt Russian-style regime within Europe but not really part of Europe. The latter just gives Putin (or his successor) opportunities to keep eating pieces of the Elephant as the years go by.
UPDATE: Is Putin alienating his base of support that values their net worth more than pieces of Ukraine?
“According to German intelligence it is quite possible that some of the oligarchs who are worried by European Union sanctions will soon start putting economic interests above political concerns and try to put the brakes on Putin,” Der Spiegel reported.
Adam Smith is punishing Putin more effectively than Western sanctions as investors remain wary of risking money in Russia.
But the oligarchs aren't against Putin seizing territory for the glory of Russia and Putin (or reverse the order, if you wish). They are against a drawn out fight that doesn't allow Russia to get back to business and enrich the oligarchs.
So maybe Russia escalates to just take the territory and end the pretense of supporting local secessionists:
"Everything so far points to a further hardening in Russia's stance. Mr Putin has too much invested - both from a geopolitical and, just as importantly, domestic political standpoint - in his standoff with the west to be swayed by sanctions alone," said Nicholas Spiro, Managing Director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy, a London-based consultancy.
I didn't understand why people thought Putin would abandon the secessionists (with a large portion of his own people within that group) after the Malaysian plane shoot down. I mean, has Putin abandoned Syria's Assad after 170,000 casualties and a poison gas attack to highlight the more mundane methods of barrel bombs, executions, and starvation? Talk about mirror-imaging a foe!
And if Putin thinks his political survival hinges on success in Ukraine, what might he do beyond shipping heavy weapons and providing artillery support to the so-called rebels?
Why would LOST with our participation be any more important to China than any other treaty they ignore?
China has refused to abide by any international agreements when it comes to their claims on nearly all the South China Sea. As far as China is concerned the area is owned by China and China will seek to establish control over it all as peacefully as possible.
For China's rulers, paper is useful only to confirm Chinese ambitions. Power and not paper will constrain Chinese ambitions.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Apparently, notwithstanding Secretary of State Kerry's warnings to Russia to behave, the arms still flow into eastern Ukraine:
“We know that they sent, for example, last week a column of over 100 vehicles which included tanks, artillery, multiple launch rocket systems,” Army Col. Steve Warren said, adding that these actions are consistent with Moscow’s behavior in eastern Ukraine for several months.
Like I said, a ceasefire as we bizarrely call for in the aftermath of the MH17 shoot down can only allow Russia to do more of this. The proper response is to help the Ukrainians defeat the pro-Russian forces and regain control of the east.
So Malaysian Airlines is avoiding Ukraine for a new route between Europe and Asia. Thank goodness, you may say. Not so fast:
After Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down Thursday by a ground-to-air missile in eastern Ukraine, airlines began to avoid the airspace above where the Ukrainian military has been fighting Russian-backed rebels. Swedish flight tracking service Flightradar24 AB posted a flight map on its Twitter account on Monday showing the change in the route of Malaysian Airlines flight MH4, which flies from Kuala Lumpur to London.
Flight tracking data showed this flight had previously crossed over eastern Ukraine. (Flight path: bit.ly/1wPJDUr) Syria is in the middle of a civil war in which 170,000 people have died since 2011.
Are you kidding me? Malaysian Airlines rerouted their flight over Syria? What? Was the air space over the Russian Buk SAM test range facility unavailable?
UPDATE: Thanks to Mad Minerva for the link.
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Jonah raises the League of Democracies idea to bypass (but not replace) the United Nations.
Ten years later, I still think it is a bad idea.
Democracies are often not supportive of our actions.
And unlike the UN which lacks the moral authority to deny us freedom of action, could we ignore the refusal of a League of Democracies to endorse our actions?
If Lamb didn't bake at all, I'd still count myself a lucky man to be her dad.
And Mister, too, I hasten to add. If I write less about him it is because at the advanced age of 17, I don't wish to embarrass him. But he is growing up to be a fine young man.
Yeah. We already see how the jihadis have learned that America under President Obama is way different than under cowboy Bush. Bush fought them and put them on their heels. Obama "responsibly ends" the fight against them, giving the jihadis the opportunity to rebuild and advance again.
And now that focal point of outreach has no interest in us:
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he has stopped talking to US President Barack Obama on the phone, amid growing strains between Ankara and Washington over Syria and the Gaza conflict.
Turkey, a fierce opponent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and an open supporter of armed rebel fighters, felt betrayed when the United States backed away from military action against Damascus in September.
I'm so confused. Is this the "smart" part of our diplomacy or the nuanced part? Because I thought that being the anti-Bush would solve all our problems in the Moslem world?
Ten years ago, I warned people that the Islamists hate us--not Bush:
We indeed have traveled a long way since 9-11. Too many people are back to 9-10. They hate us, people. All of us. Not just the current administration. Not just the Red State citizens. Owning a bongo and tie-dyed shirts won’t save you. Nor will spouting sympathy for their cause. We’re all targets and they’ll dance over our graves if we let them.
Stop debating to the point of paralysis over what dots should have been connected and what dots existed. The dots keep killing us in the most gruesome manner they can come up with. Just kill the freaking dots! We are at war and we must win.
The jihadis still hate us. Kill the dots. "Outreach" should be for the purpose of target acquisition and identification.
Friday, July 25, 2014
With al Qaeda beaten on the battlefield in both Afghanistan and Iraq, al Qaeda Prime is struggling to survive and remain relevant to the jihadi cannon fodder that wants a strong horse to lead them to the caliphate glories they know are their just reward.
As I noted recently here and here, the new flashy jihadis are claiming the mantle of leadership for the global jihad from the guys in the caves who are collecting their AARP fanny packs:
In hiding, targeted by drone strikes and unable to land a blow in the West, al Qaeda's ageing leaders are losing a power struggle with ultra-radical young militants in Iraq and Syria who see themselves as the true successors to Osama bin Laden.
The shadowy network that targeted the West and its Arab allies for almost a generation is increasingly seen as stale, tired and ineffectual on the hardcore jihadi social media forums and Twitter accounts that incubate potential militant recruits. ...
The generational divide opening up in radical Islamist ranks threatens to topple al Qaeda from its primacy in trans national militancy, a stunning loss of prestige for a group whose hijacked plane attacks killed nearly 3,000 people in New York's World Trade Center, Washington and Pennsylvania.
The Islamic State, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) until the June 29 declaration of the caliphate, has galvanized young followers by carving out swathes of territory in Iraq in a rapid advance last month.
President Obama's Cairo outreach to the Islamic world, embrace of Turkey's "tame" Islamist government, and withdrawal from Iraq has not achieved what the administration assumed it would achieve--a kinder, gentler Islamist world.
We have to go back to the cowboy methods of defeating the jihad--killing jihadis--and supporting Arab states in reforming itself to reduce the appeal of Islamism to their young men.
That is why I had hopes for the Arab Spring. I drew hope from the new sight of Arabs calling for democracy rather than Islamism as the solution to autocratic corruption and stagnation.
President Obama's outreach to the Islamic world wasn't bad itself. But to work, an appeal to the moderates of the Islamic world had to go hand-in-hand with our efforts to kill the violent radicals who enjoy killing moderate Moslems just as much as they enjoy killing Jews, Christians, and Hindus.
But now we're back to the pre-9/11 situation where a group of Islamist nutballs with a sanctuary seem like a hopeful future to young Moslem men who eagerly seek to sacrifice themselves to wage jihad.
But the distance from September 11, 2001, makes it easy to forget that while the Afghanistan campaign was about responding to the 9/11 attack to destroy the perpetrators and deny them that particular sanctuary, the Iraq campaign was in large measure about preventing another even worse 9/11 attack in the future.
As we seek to punish Russia over their serial invasions of Ukraine (Crimea and eastern Ukraine), don't forget that any sanctions that are effective in coercing Russia will from Russia's point of view be no different than military action designed to coerce Russia.
If that's the case, Russia might respond to sanctions and their secondary effects not by ending their support for secessionist forces (some actual Russians) in eastern Ukraine but by directly intervening in eastern Ukraine to conquer it with army and Interior Ministry troops.
So we need to beef up our military assets to limit Russian threats to NATO states and to help Ukraine's army survive a conventional Russian invasion.
I'd also help Ukraine develop the ability to threaten Russia's Sevastopol naval base. Naval mines and means of delivery plus surface-to-surface missiles to attack and close down the naval base and threaten ships in port would be a very visible Ukrainian counter-strike should Russia seek to invade eastern Ukraine overtly.
Do those things and maybe we deter Russia from escalating to win rather than accept defeat in eastern Ukraine. Because while we hope sanctions can work instead of a military stick to alter Russia's behavior, ultimately sanctions are not a stick.
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Bonus quote from the State Department's Marie Harf before I comprehended what an insufferable dolt she is.
Eliminating Syria's chemical weapons--if Syria actually declared all their chemical weapons and raw materials to make chemical weapons (recall that these raw materials count as chemical weapons for lauding the Syria deal but don't count for Iraq, which had no chemical weapons capability according to the critics of the war)--is a useful objective if we intervene against Assad.
But if the deal just bought time for Assad to defeat his enemies (and make ISIL seem like a worse enemy than him), Assad could rebuild his arsenal (modernizing it in the process, obviously).
Say, what about those facilities?
The OPCW also announced that the 12 former chemical weapons production facilities in Syria would be placed beyond use. Seven hangars would be razed to the ground, it said, while five underground structures would be sealed off permanently.
They "would be" disabled? They would be if Assad allows it.
Do recall that ISIL captured an old Saddam chemical weapons facility in Iraq where old weapons (unusable, according to the press reports) were stored. Why wasn't this facility disabled by now? Are we really sure that the Syria facilities will truly be made unusable before Assad terminates the deal, having wrung as much out of our pause in helping rebels as he can?
Saddam Hussein lit the Persian Gulf on fire with his ambitions for conquest, first with Iran in 1980 and then by conquering Kuwait in 1990 until we ejected his army in 1991.
Saddam used chemical weapons against both the Iranians during that 1980s war and against his own Kurdish population.
During the ceasefire following Desert Storm in 1991, Saddam refused to live up to the terms of the ceasefire, leading to years of low-level conflict with Saddam over the no-fly zones designed to make him obey the ceasefire.
During the Clinton administration, it was the official policy of the United States to overthrow the Saddam regime and replace it with a democracy. Many reasons for set forth to implement this policy.
In 1998, we even launched a 4-day air campaign to degrade Saddam's WMD and missile capabilities.
So don't forget that prior to the Iraq War, Democrats considered Saddam's Iraq to be a threat:
In 2002, in a bipartisan vote reflecting the common view that Iraq was a threat, we declared war on Iraq, adding new reasons to the Clinton-era law justifications.
I set forth my reasons for going to war with Saddam's Iraq in two posts (here and here), neither of which relied on charging Saddam assisted in 9/11. Although anti-war notions that Saddam was at least a secular thug are incorrect. Saddam relied on Islamist nutballs long before al Qaeda entered Iraq to fight with the Baathists to defeat us there.
Yes, despite the war being a bipartisan effort at the start, during the war most Democrats recanted their support and in the Senate even tried to lose the war by defunding it, eager to damage Bush. And recently, many Republicans have done the same, seemingly eager to damage Obama by tying him to his failure to defend stability in Iraq.
Even war supporters speak of failures fighting the war. No war is fought perfectly. But I think it is wrong to see the war as a string of blunders that we miraculously salvaged in the Surge offensive of 2007. The fact is, we faced an evolving series of different wars in Iraq that we defeated in sequence. Broadly speaking, we had the right strategy to win.
The Surge and Awakening built on the past campaigns. People forget that we saw Baghdad as crucial earlier and that we surged forces into Baghdad in summer 2006 but they did not work. Timing mattered for the Surge that worked.
One decision that gets a lot of traction as a so-called failure is that we erred in disbanding the Iraqi army. I strongly disagree. The Saddam army disintegrated on its own, so our order was a pure formality. And if it hadn't evaporated, we would have had to disband it to prevent the victims of Saddam from thinking we were betraying them again, as we had in 1991 when we watched Saddam kill the Shias who rose up in southern Iraq in 1991.
"Disbanding" the Iraqi army did not cause the Baathist resistance or the Syrian and Iranian "invasions," nor did it prevent the Sunni Arabs from switching to our side in the Awakening that began in earnest at the end of 2006.
When the insurgencies and terrorist fights continued, war opponents wrongly charged that the Bush administration had lied about Iraqi WMD, neglecting that every country's intelligence agencies believed Saddam had them, as did Clinton-era officials and members of Congress familiar with the intelligence.
They neglect that if Saddam did not have them when we invaded--and I'm not convinced that he didn't dispose of them in our long-telegraphed approach to war--Saddam was bluffing to hold off the Iranian threat and would have made good on his bluff to get those chemical weapons just as soon as the collapsing sanctions eroded enough. Can you really doubt that Saddam would have rebuilt his chemical arsenal had we not invaded?
Remember, our deal with Syria to remove their declared chemical weapons capability included classes of precursor chemicals needed to make poison gas that were all over Iraq after the war.
So by the standards of the Obama administration success in Syria, Iraq had chemical weapons capabilities when we invaded.
Now, Iraq's Shia-dominated government has alienated many Sunni Arabs and weakened the Kurds's allegiance to Iraq.
I'm astounded that Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki is the fall guy for left and right to abandon Iraq. He may not be who we want now. But he had potential and without us there to push him to being who we need rather that what he needed to survive, we bear some responsibility for how he has turned out.
President Obama promised to get out of Iraq and in 2011 he did. I cannot believe that he tried as hard as he could to get the opposite of what he loudly claimed he wanted--a continued American military presence in Iraq.
Indeed, the Obama administration boasted of the success in Iraq. Which is no shock since we won the war.
This despite the fact that a 3-year SOFA was as good as outgoing Bush could get and that it was obvious a follow-on agreement would be necessary. Face it, we left Iraq way too early.
I really am discouraged by the anti-war side's inability to analyze the effect of the war.
But don't forget what we could have chosen had we left Saddam in power.
We won the Iraq War. But then we blew it. But it is not too late to reverse the enemy advances and regain our lost ground in replacing the Saddam regime with a democracy as we pledged to achieve in 1998.
Yes, part of the Iraqi army collapsed. Who should be shocked given the track record going back decades? Kasserine Pass was not exactly a moment of glory for us, you know.
But at least the Iraqi army rallied to fight back. With our support, they can win the war that was not responsibly ended in 2011.
The war never ended, obviously, no matter how much our president pretended it had. As I argued since 2011, we could only end our role in the war that continued to be fought at a low level but then snowballed into the crisis we face today.
We can re-win the Iraq War.