Monday, August 29, 2016

Huh

Barbra Streisand vows to move out of America if Trump wins the election:

He has no facts. I don't know, I can't believe it. I'm either coming to [Australia] , if you'll let me in, or Canada. [emphasis added]

Given how much lefties like Streisand have railed against Trump's opposition to open immigration (although what his policy is at this moment I have no idea), I find it hilarious that Streisand concedes that Australia has the right to deny Streisand immigration status--or even refugee status if she is truly fleeing Trump.

I guess it is just America (and possibly Canada?) that doesn't have the right to regulate the rules and scope of immigration.

But they never follow through on their promises to leave.

The Beautiful Butterfly Emerges!

Wow! The Iranians sure do value cheap and clean nuclear-generated electricity!

Tehran has deployed a recently delivered Russian-made long-range [S-300 anti-aircraft] missile system to central Iran to protect its Fordo nuclear facility, state television said Sunday.

Protecting nuclear facilities is paramount "in all circumstances" General Farzad Esmaili, the commander of Iran's air defences, told the IRIB channel.

It's a Green eco-dream!

Iran is so eager to transition away from fossil fuels that they have prioritized deploying new Russian air defense systems not to protect a high value military target but to guard a nuclear enrichment facility buried in a mountain that has nothing to do with pursuing nuclear-armed missiles which the Iranians have no intention of developing because of the glorious nuclear deal with President Obama!

It is so rewarding to see Iran evolve into a responsible regional power right before our eyes!

Nuance for Everyone?

Iranian harassment and even capture of our naval vessels is really no big deal if you look at it with the right nuance.

Iran continues to avoid that path to being a responsible regional power after getting their nuclear deal:

Dangerous confrontations between Iranian and American warships in the Persian Gulf are up more than 50 percent in 2016 compared with this time last year, according to a U.S. defense official – despite the highly touted nuclear accord, as well as a recent $1.7 billion U.S. payment to Tehran.

The latest incidents of provocative Iranian behavior flared in the Persian Gulf earlier this week, including one filmed by the U.S. Navy. The video showed four Iranian gunboats from its Revolutionary Guard Corps coming within 300 yards of USS Nitze, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.

The incident was part of a troubling pattern, according to stats shared with Fox News.

In one recent incident, a Cyclone-class patrol boat fired warning shots at the Iranians.

One day, by coming so close to our ships, the Iranians could numb American ship commanders to these maneuvers and then work themselves into a good firing position--and then open fire on the vulnerable US vessel.

I do love how the nuanced appearing in the media explain how this is really the Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) faction in Iran pressuring the Iranian government--so it really isn't the Iranian government's fault!

This type of excuse makes it even into Stripes!

“In particular, the provocations may have a domestic political dimension aimed at those within President Hassan Rouhani’s government who advocate better relations with the West,” wrote Farzin Nadimi, a U.S.-based analyst writing in the website The Washington Institute, a private think tank.

Nadimi wrote that the Revolutionary Guard may be trying to bolster their image as the protector of Iran’s coastal borders to justify their substantial share of the defense and research budget.

Seriously. This is considered a sophisticated view of Iranian government structure and actions.

So why did we come to any agreement--let alone one on nukes--with a government that does not have control of its armed forces? And which we don't even expect to control their armed forces?

Could our Navy blow some of these Iranian vessels out of the water while our State Department explains that the American government is totally against such actions--but the Navy is just pushing its position in intra-governmental negotiations on the FY 2017 defense budget?

I mean, can we really be expected to control every bit of our widely deployed military?

Spare some nuance for America, eh?

Winning the Long War

Unless we help Islam reform itself--as many Moslems want to do--one day we will experience a nuclear 9/11.

One aspect of the Long War I've come back to is the need to help Islam get its own house in order. In many ways we are collateral damage in an Islamic civil war to define Islam. If the jihadis win this civil war, Islam itself will wage war on the West rather than the current situation where Moslem governments are helping the West--imperfectly--fight the jihadis on the one hand while on the other hand trying to avoid appearing to fight jihadi ideology that calls out to the loyalty of too many Moslems at some level.


This article discusses the efforts within Islam to change the rules of how Moslems are governed:

Yet despite the devastation and the pervasive feeling of failure [in the Arab Spring], those days of rebellion constituted a rare signpost for the entire Arab world. They posed a first, perfect opportunity for the establishment of true states whose function would be to protect citizens, their freedoms and rights — not artificial states in which the regime functioned only to protect itself from its citizens.

This is what I have written again and again. In 2011 during the Arab Spring, Arab people cried out for democracy and freedom, rejecting the traditional alternatives of autocrat or mullah to rule their countries.

These people who took to the streets may not have had a good understanding of what democracy and freedom required in practical institution building, but that is why I urged the West to help the revolutionaries set up systems that would allow them to elect good men.

Egypt instead became the poster boy for failure of hopes against the forces of first the mullahs of the Moslem Brotherhood that took advantage of mistaking voting for democracy (neglecting the component of rule of law to keep voting from leading to a dictatorship of the majority) and then autocracy that regained control.

Tunisia is a guarded success.

Syria the biggest failure with the biggest body count and regional repercussions.

Libya is a smaller scale failure of similar scope of disaster.

Iraq is a state that we put on the road to democracy before the Arab Spring and which could yet be a laboratory for democracy if we stay after beating ISIL to help build the institutions that support democracy and rule of law; and block the efforts of Iran and Saudi Arabia to exploit their natural allies within Iraq to build sectarian support for themselves and so increase their influence inside Iraq to battle the other.

Even though we failed to help the Arab Spring learn how to build democracy, this help is still necessary in the long run to protect ourselves from a future jihad as we face today.

Another aspect of the long war I've written about is that our military actions are a holding action while Islam reforms itself.

One problem is that there have been repeated waves of jihad exploding out of the Arab world. We are in one now. the rage will in time fade even if we fail to help the Moslem world reform itself.

We might then declare victory as the bombs stop going off in the West, and support autocrats in Moslem states because we are unwilling to help reformers in the Moslem world build true democracy and marginalize the Islamist ideology that has suffered momentary discredit from the casualties among Moslems that the jihadis inflicted.

That momentary discredit of Islamism will fade over time. And if Islamism hasn't been discredited and if democracy has not been made a real alternative to autocrats, the Islamists will again gain supporters who see it as a way to overcome corrupt regimes that grow wealthy from exploiting their people.

We can see this playing out in Algeria where the bloody Islamist uprising in the 1990s momentarily made Algerians anti-Islamist because of the death toll. But now the appeal of Islamism in the face of continuing regime corruption is resurfacing:

Mosques are going up, women are covering up, and shops selling alcoholic beverages are shutting down in a changing Algeria where, slowly but surely, Muslim fundamentalists are gaining ground.

The North African country won its civil war with extremists who brought Algeria to its knees in the name of Islam during the 1990s. Yet authorities show little overt concern about the growing grip of Salafis, who apply a strict brand of the Muslim faith.

Algerians favoring the trend see it as a benediction, while critics worry that the rise of Salafism, a form of Islam that interprets the Quran literally, may seep deeper into social mores and diminish the chances for a modern Algeria that values freedom of choice.

If the Moslem world follows the path of Algeria, one day the Moslem world will see Islamism reborn and see a new jihad build and explode against the West.

There will be more Moslems in the West then. And no matter how small a percent of the Moslem immigrant population is pro-jihad, there will be more then than now inside the West.

Worse, by the time the next jihad explodes, the tools of destruction currently limited to states with the budgets to make them (nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons) will likely be cheaper to build and accessible to wealthy sub-state groups or even individuals.

If we want to avoid a future nuclear 9/11, we need to help Islam reform itself.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Regarding the Candidates We Have

Is it really acceptable to elect as president somebody as thoroughly corrupt as Hillary Clinton?

Behold the corrupt candidate in action:

More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money - either personally or through companies or groups - to the Clinton Foundation. It's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.

Yeah, I'll go with the clown candidate as the less dangerous alternative, as unhappy as I am about having to vote for a clown candidate:

A Trump presidency, I believe, in all its clowny glory, will be constrained by the anti-bodies of the government and press.

Victor Hanson feels much the same way about the prospect of a Clinton restoration:

If Trump’s fantasies are the bluster, narcissism, and adolescence of a real-estate and show-biz wheeler-dealer, Clinton’s lies are the steely-eyed and deliberate work of a long-time sociopathic prevaricator who destroys all those around her who weave the webs of her deceit.

I'm demoralized that our choice is a crook or a clown. But our choice is a crook or a clown.

Will the crook reform?

Jesus Christ, people. Clinton dismissed the story by saying the reporting ignored how many officials Hillary met with during her tenure to focus on the donor meetings!

That's as if a stock broker who was accused of taking kickbacks on 150 client accounts argued that  she honestly invested the funds of 3,000--so why focus on the few? And one of those 150 made a lot of money despite the kickback-based investments--so I did my job there, too!

Hillary Clinton and her entire family and entourage are corrupt and will not change. Nor will the media pressure her to change.

Or will the clown be contained--or even, God willing, shrink in office into statesmen shoes from the big floppy footwear he has now?

Our republic will more easily survive a clown.

UPDATE: And really, I'd prefer the man who bought the politicians than the politicians who were bought.

Goodbye and Good Luck!

President Obama came into office convinced that the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba where we hold jihadis captured on the battlefield was the most horrible thing in the world. He pledged to get rid of it as one of his first tasks on the job. It may be gone by the time the president is gone.

Huh:

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Thursday he still expects that the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will close before the Obama administration leaves office in January.

"That is my hope and expectation," Biden said during a press conference in Sweden.

His remarks came several days after President Barack Obama’s chief spokesman revealed that the president still intends to shutter the controversial terrorist detention center before his last day in office on Jan. 20 next year.

So despite the prison being the "worst thing in the world" or something, our president decided that it was useful enough to keep going throughout his entire presidency despite the pen and phone he has freely used during his presidency.

And the next president can deal with the lack of such a facility that proved useful to him as the Long War on Islamist terrorism continues.

Thanks a bunch.

The Backbone of Joint Operations

India and America aren't military allies despite having a common potential foe in China. But we will be able to resupply each other now. Which is a start.

India and United States will sign an anticipated agreement on military logistics cooperation later this month during Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar’s scheduled visit to the United States. ...

The agreement, which was first mooted in the early 2000s, will enable reciprocal access to and reimbursement for supplies and services for each country’s armed forces. It is one of three so-called “foundational” agreements, along with the Communication and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA).

This logistics agreement will allow each nation to provide supplies to the other in a regular process rather than an ad hoc basis which slows things down.

I mentioned this pending agreement back in March.

While I'm sure we can make use of this given our forces swing between the western Pacific and the Middle East, I imagine India will be the largest beneficiary for their naval forces operating in the South China Sea.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Last Reserves?

I recently wrote that Hezbollah has sent their elite special forces to the Aleppo front to assist Assad's war effort. I asked if this was escalation or desperation by representing a replacement for the Hezbollah infantry who no longer want to fight for Assad:

[Is] the deployment of the most trained unit in Hezbollah a sign that the rank and file are now too unhappy to really trust for offensive operations on behalf of Assad?

That is, is the unit being sent not as a special operations force to support the Hezbollah line units but as a loyal infantry unit that will fulfill the role of the shock troops of the offensive because the line units are no longer willing to carry out that role?

Well, if this is still true, it is closer to desperation:

Iran ordered Hezbollah into Syria after 2011 and the heavy Hezbollah losses there were unpopular with Lebanese Shia and Hezbollah eventually had to pull most of Hezbollah forces back to the Lebanon border and concentrate on keeping Islamic terrorists out of Lebanon. Iran took a huge popularity hit in Lebanon by forcing Hezbollah to enter the Syrian war in defense of the Assad government, which is hated by most Lebanese as well as most Syrians. [emphasis added]

The Aleppo front is far from Assad's core areas and has a lot of people. How likely is it that Assad has enough ground forces to defend the lines up to Aleppo, go on the offensive, and hold the people they take control of if the offensive action is successful?

So how likely is it that Hezbollah's elite Radwan Forces can avoid being sucked into the frontline as an infantry force to make up for too few regular forces reliable enough to fight it out with rebels?

Jumping the Shark

Seriously, even if organic foods are worth the much higher prices they command, why on Earth should anyone care if freaking cotton balls are organic or not??!!


Unless you eat these things, why could it possibly matter to you whether it is Frankenpuff or organic?

Or are organic Heroin addicts a big market?

Tears Flow

I hadn't realized that the earthquake in central Italy was that bad:

The magnitude 6.2 quake struck at 3:36 a.m. on Wednesday and was felt across a broad swath of central Italy. At least 290 people were killed, but the death toll could rise as recovery efforts continue. Several people are still unaccounted for.

My sympathies, for what they are worth, go out to the Italians.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Behold the Crowning Glory of Smart Diplomacy

Well, now Putin's gone and done it. Release the Kraken!

Putin has provoked the Obama administration into unleashing the disapproval of the United Nations for his actions:

The Obama administration is pushing U.N. reports showing Assad hasn’t given up, and is in some cases still using, poison gas. The strategy is to pressure the dictator’s patron, Vladimir Putin.

Wait. So the chemical weapons deal with Syria's Assad was a farce rather than a glorious success? Huh.

Well I'm sure our nuclear arms deals with Russia and Iran are much better, rather than part of a pattern of self-delusion.

More to the point, what's the administration going to do? Have President Obama's FBI director set out the evidence of Russian complicity?



Yeah, that man is going to care.

Assad wasn't deterred by President Obama's "red line" on chemical weapons use. Why would Putin feel any pressure from a belated effort to redraw the line for him?

I'm guessing that Putin isn't going to feel any pressure at all from this bold diplomatic stroke.

UPDATE: Oh Lord:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the talks on Syria with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry were "excellent" as they took a lunchtime break from meetings in Geneva as part of a new U.S. effort to enlist Russia as a partner in Syria as fighting becomes more volatile and complicated with the introduction of Turkish ground forces.

I'm sure that from Russia's perspective, the talks with Kerry were indeed "excellent."

A Figurehead Role in the War on Women

I'm sure that if a Trump backer was a "figurehead" on a publication of a neo-Nazi organization that this explanation for Huma Abedin's role on an Islamist magazine would work for that Trump backer:

Top Hillary Clinton confidante Huma Abedin played no formal role in a radical Muslim journal — even though she was listed as an editor on the hate-filled periodical’s masthead for a dozen years, a campaign rep claimed Sunday.

“My understanding is that her name was simply listed on the masthead in that period,” Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said hours after The Post broke the bombshell story. “She did not play a role in editing at the publication.”

Merrill said Abedin was just a figurehead and not actually on staff at the Saudi-based and -funded Journal of Minority Muslim Affairs, which featured radically anti-feminist views and backed strict Islamic laws roundly criticized for oppressing women.

So no active role. Pity.

Because if she played an active editorial role she might have fought against the anti-women views of the journal rather than passively accepting that actual "war on women" editorial message for 12 years!

Tip to Instapundit.

UPDATE: Huma's mother had an active role in the publication's editorial message:

... Saleha M. Abedin had explored the religious merits of sexual submissiveness, child marriage, lashings and stonings for adulterous women, and even the ­circumcision of girls.

The elder Abedin, whose daughter helps run Clinton’s presidential campaign, did take a pro-gender-equality stance on at least one issue: Muslim women’s right to participate in violent jihad alongside men.

Oh, and America pulled off the 9/11 attacks, the magazine's editorial position held.

But just being a figurehead for this role us okay.

And for those who might say that Hillary can't be blamed for what the mother of her trusted aid did, there is this:

As secretary of state, women’s-rights champ Hillary Clinton not only spoke at a Saudi girls school run by her top aide Huma Abedin’s ­anti-feminist mother, but Clinton invited the elder Abedin to participate in a State Department event for “leading thinkers” on women’s issues.

I guess in Hillary's world, when Islamism conflicts with feminism, Islamism wins. But don't call that a war on women.

Strong Horse

When we help allies win, we get more allies.

What a shock, when we arm, train, and support acceptable rebels, we attract more acceptable rebels!

In northeast Syria American trainers working with Syrian Kurds reported a growing number of Arabs are volunteering to join the Kurdish dominated (and U.S. supported) SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces). For over a year about 80 percent of the SDF strength (currently about 25,000) was Kurdish with the rest being Christian and Moslem Arabs. But with the weakening of ISIL because of battlefield defeats and growing desertions (and fewer new recruits) more Syrian Arabs are willing to fight and prefer to do that with the SDF, who are the most successful Syrian rebels. Many of the new volunteers have no military experience at all and the U.S. is hustling to expand its training program, which takes longer for men with no military experience. [emphasis added]

This recruiting success years into the civil war is why I was furious over all the excuses for not arming rebels because of how tough it was to find acceptable rebels.

I wanted to find whatever acceptable rebels we could identify and start arming them to begin a cycle of generating more acceptable rebels:

Since the appeal of the more Islamist (and jihadi) groups has been their effectiveness in battle (which has meant they attract foreign arms or seize them more often from the government), arming the secular and nationalist groups can be expected to reverse the appeal of the Islamists. So this 25% of the rebels could grow with new recruits and at the expense of the groups we aren't arming.

Then look for some of the groups with Islamic character to move away from that outlook in exchange for arms, training, and assistance. If they are losing people to the secular and nationalist groups we help, they will have incentive to move away from an Islamic character.

And once the non-Islamists and non-jihadis are more effective, it will be easier to pressure our Arab allies into reducing support for these Islamist elements.

It isn't too shocking that the Islamists are the most important element right now. They fight the hardest and so get more results and attract recruits and arms. In World War II, the most effective resistance fighters against the Nazis were communists. Is it any wonder that communists were so strong in post-World War II Western Europe?

We found some acceptable rebels and have given them real support, and now find more want to join the acceptable rebels.

Pity we didn't do this 3 or 4 years (and 400,000 dead) ago.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

This is Not Good

American forces are bolstering Afghan forces as the Taliban approach Lashkar Gah:

Around 100 U.S. troops in Afghanistan have been deployed to a southern city at risk of falling to the Taliban.

The spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan said the soldiers had arrived in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, to provide training and support to Afghan forces.

While it is good we are helping, why did it get to this point?

When last The Dignified Rant mentioned Lashkar Gah, we were helping the Afghan forces consolidate their forces to get rid of vulnerable outposts in order to better defend more important territory--like Lashkar Gah:

Army and government officials said security forces had left Nawzad district, which borders Musa Qala, and would concentrate their strength on defending the area around the provincial capital Lashkar Gah and the main highway between Kabul and the western city of Herat.

And gathering reserves by abandoning small posts was supposed to allow Afghan forces to seize the initiative and go on the offensive. That was a good concept.

Instead, Afghan forces appear still on the defensive in the south, but now holding the provincial capital against advancing Taliban.

Will Afghan forces have enough support from America and our allies to allow them to outfight the Taliban?

What the Hell happened?

UPDATE: The fall of the district capital in the east, which is the subject of this article, probably isn't significant. These are like our county seats--there are lots--and will likely be retaken shortly. But this is relevant to my question:

According to U.S. estimates reported in July by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a Congressional oversight body, Afghan forces control or influence just under 66 percent of the national territory, down from just over 70 percent at the start of the year.

The reduction was partly due to security forces pulling back from exposed areas and concentrating their strength, but after a lull following the death of former leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in May the Taliban have stepped up their summer offensive.

Some 36 of the 407 districts in the country were under insurgent control or influence, while another 104 were deemed "at risk", SIGAR said. [emphasis added]

Pulling back from exposed areas where they were tied down in small static defensive positions was supposed to free up Afghan troops who could be mobile for offensive action and to react to Taliban attacks.

What the Hell happened?

Turkey is On the Move. To What?

Turkey is moving troops into Syria:

Turkey mounted on Wednesday its largest military effort yet in the Syrian conflict, sending tanks, warplanes and special operations forces over the border in a United States-backed drive to capture an Islamic State stronghold in Syria.

The offensive on the city of Jarabulus began hours before Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was set to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara to discuss tensions raised by the failed coup in Turkey last month. The joint operation in Syria seemed intended to send a message that the countries are still cooperating in the fight against the militant group.

Turkey has long wanted to support rebels trying to overthrow Assad while resisting American pressure to get Turkey to join in the war against ISIL--which includes Syrian Kurds who are not welcome additions as far as Turkey is concerned.

Early in the year, it seemed that Turkey would intervene to help those anti-Assad rebels.

And now Turkey invades to focus on ISIL. Is this an example of our diplomacy bearing fruit?

I highly doubt that is the case. The new Turkish focus on ISIL likely is related to warmer relations with Russia which has long tried to save Assad by peeling away anti-Assad forces to the anti-ISIL fight.

So, no, I don't think this is not an example of Smart Diplomacy.

Although I suppose Turkey could be using an anti-ISIL operation with the blessing of the Russians to get their foot in the door. Then, Turkey could support other rebels.

Perhaps.

In the long run, I don't worry about a Turkish-Russian alliance. But in the short run, Assad could win his civil war and survive it.

And as an aside, just how will the Turks justify their "disproportionate" response to a few terrorists planting bombs inside Turkey?

MORE: Let me add a pre-publication update to this scheduled post.

Stratfor writes that the Turkish move is small (even if it is Turkey's largest operation to date) and that Turkey has not aligned with Russia's goal of supporting Assad. In fact, the move really is in coordination with America.

So I'm wrong about my speculation that Turkey's move into Syria was more aligned with Russia--even if I thought a second stage could be more anti-Assad.

Now it seems that we agreed to let Turkey prevent the Kurds from linking up their eastern territories with Kurds to the west; and we warned the Kurds to pull back from the Turkish move.

I still don't think this is Smart Diplomacy, since we are going along with a Turkish objective of setting the Kurds back.

That American support might be the price of Turkish permission for American forces to use Turkish bases against ISIL [oops, I originally typed "Assad"].

Do read it all. Basically it argues that both Turkey and Iran need America to balance Russian ambitions. I agree. In the long run.

So Turkey won't stray too far even if it does damage to us.

As for Iran, such an American-Iran partnership is certainly possible. So President Obama is not completely delusional on this long-term factor pushing us together.

However, as long as nutball mullahs run Iran there is no way that the long-term forces pushing us together can bear fruit unless we wish to go along with whatever the nutball Iranian mullahs want to do.

Would we really pledge to defend nutball mullahs with American troop lives in a confrontation with Russia over nutball Iran? And will our other allies tolerate American support for Iran which goes after them, too? And the whole terrorism support thing?

But for Turkey, which is in NATO, we can afford to go along with a minor Turkish move into Syria that is directed more at the Kurds in order to keep Turkey onboard in the short run to deflect Russian efforts to gain ground in the Black Sea/eastern Mediterranean region by loosening our ties to Turkey.

[I thought I'd leave the original post as is and add the new information as a separate piece rather than rewrite the post based on better information just so you can see my thinking process--right or wrong--as I read the news, which at the time I wrote the original post focused on ISIL without bringing in the Kurdish angle. I knew that region was an objective for the Kurds which Turkey opposed--but the reporting was that the Turkish move was anti-ISIL in motivation and larger than it turned out to be.]

UPDATE: The Turks muddy the waters on who they are working with:

President Tayyip Erdogan and senior government officials have made clear the aim of "Operation Euphrates Shield" is as much about stopping the Kurdish YPG militia seizing territory and filling the void left by Islamic State as about eliminating the radical Islamist group itself.

So this can't be just working with America against ISIL. We back the Kurds who fight ISIL.

Turkey sees ISIL as both a threat and a tool against Assad, but sees Syrian Kurds as a problem to be tolerated because America sees Kurds as an asset against ISIL.

Russia wants to save Assad by getting everyone to focus on ISIL, which would leave the Kurds all alone once the Arab rebels are defeated.

America in theory is against Assad and ISIL and walks a tightrope with Kurds who are effective in Iraq and Syria but whose independence ambitions run counter to what our allies affected want (nor does Iran want that).

So Turkey's motives are conflicted, I suppose.

UPDATE: Strategypage characterizes this Turkish operation as an Iran victory. And hence an Assad and Russian victory, of course. Do read it all. I'm starting to downgrade the Stratfor interpretation and lean more on my initial impression.

That America  went along with the Turkish operations by siding with Turkey over the Kurds is just an example of "following from behind."

And ponder that we sided with Turkey to push Kurds out of non-Kurdish areas at the border and limit the Syrian Kurds to positions east of the Euphrates River.

I've long noted that we can hardly count on the Kurds to be the main force against our enemies--whether ISIL or Assad (is he still our foe?)--because the Kurds are hardly willing to sacrifice a lot to move out of their traditional territory. They fight with us as long as our interests coincide.

But if we won't let the Kurds move into Arab territory to link up with Kurds in the Syrian northwest, why would the Kurds advance beyond their own regions to fight our enemies?

Also, this may explain our recent use of fighter aircraft to help protect Kurdish forces in the northeast from Syrian air power. We wanted to take some of the sting out of the Turkish northern operation and our siding with the Turks against the Kurds there.

The Phenomenon of Being Isolated from Consequences

This is a defense of Merkel's policy to welcome and encourage Modlem refugees/migrants to come to Germany (and Europe)?

Chancellor Angela Merkel has dismissed suggestions that the influx of refugees over the past year brought Islamic extremism to Germany.

Merkel said late Wednesday that "the phenomenon of Islamist terrorism by IS isn't a phenomenon that came to us with the refugees, it's one that we had before too."

This strikes me as a damning excuse. If Germany had no Moslems and no Islamic terrorism problem, Merkel could perhaps have the excuse of not knowing that bringing in Moslem migrants in huge numbers could cause a problem.

But she says she was aware of that terrorism problem.

So she had no excuse for not realizing that Islamic terrorism exists within Moslem populations in Germany, and that increasing the Moslem population dramatically in a short time would increase the terrorism problem for Germany (and Europe).

And that's apart from the issue of ISIL or other Islamic terrorist groups using the migrant flow to infiltrate terrorists into Europe.

Oh well. Merkel has armed guards and full-time security to protect her from being groped or otherwise assaulted. And there is no way that a refugee center would be plunked down next to her home!

So for Merkel, this is just a "phenomenon" and not a traumatic and perhaps life-threatening incident.

In a Shocking Development in the World of Smart Diplomacy

Syria did not give up their chemical weapons capabilities despite the 2013 deal. I know. What a shock.

Is anybody really surprised by this?

The world’s chemical weapons watchdog has repeatedly found traces of deadly nerve agents in laboratories that Syria insisted were never part of its chemical weapons program, raising new questions about whether Damascus has abided by its commitments to destroy all of its armaments, according to a highly confidential new report.

The discoveries of precursors for chemical warfare agents like soman and VX at several undeclared facilities, including two on the outskirts of Damascus, underscored what a 75-page report by the director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) describes as a troubling pattern of incomplete and inaccurate Syrian disclosures over the past three years about the scope of the country’s chemical weapons program.

It was always clear that we couldn't trust Assad.

And I predicted in that post exactly what the problem is now that we see Assad using chemical weapons and evidence of cheating (back to the initial article):

Robert Ford, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and a former U.S. ambassador to Syria who helped negotiate the chemical weapons deal, doubts that the Kremlin would support aggressive action against the Assad regime at the same time it is trying to prop up its ally in Damascus.

“Do we really think that the Russians are now going to allow Chapter 7 sanctions against their client?” Ford said. “The administration has worked itself into a position that’s just untenable. They look foolish.”

If you ever believed the Syrian chemical weapons deal was anything other than an excuse to avoid confronting the brutal Assad regime after he crossed President Obama's ill-considered "red line" on chemical weapons use, well, you're just too dense to even talk to.

In the end, Assad just used America to clean up his elderly stockpiles of chemical weapons and raw materials while keeping the best stuff in order to reconstitute a  newer and more lethal chemical arsenal once our attention wanders away.

UPDATE: Related:

A UN investigation established that President Bashar al-Assad's forces carried out at least two chemical attacks in Syria and that Islamic State jihadists used mustard gas as a weapon, according to a report seen by AFP on Wednesday.

There are 6 other incidents whose origin is unclear.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Putin Smiles

Ah, if Putin had a role in directing refugees into Europe, he is getting a nice bonus collateral damage in the main economic power in Europe and the source of the largest potential military challenge to Russia within Europe:

A week-long spate of violent attacks this summer — including two involving migrants — has triggered debate about potentially deploying troops on Germany's streets for the first time since World War II.

The German army is sad enough as part of a weak conventional force that might challenge the Russian army. It would take a lot to mobilize Germany's economic power and build a formidable military.

Instead, the German army may be diverted to police duties dealing with Islamists and criminals among the migrants--making it even less imposing as a force that could stop the Russians.

UPDATE: Related:

There are signs that Islamists are trying to join the German armed forces to get military training, and there is a risk they might use that training to carry out attacks in Germany or abroad, a German newspaper cited a draft document as saying.

Consequently, the armed forces want applicants to undergo a security check by the military counter-intelligence agency, starting in July 2017[.]

On one side or another, the German military is going into the streets, it seems.

UPDATE: Related:

The [United States] Army is using improved explosive detecting gear at garrisons throughout Europe to intensify the military’s force protection and guard against a wave of terrorist attacks that have stretched from France and Belgium to Germany.

The jihadis prefer easier civilian targets, but you never can tell.

Chutzpah Lessons

Turkey has decided to give Israel a lesson in Advanced Chutzpah.

The outrage:

Israel said Monday it staged dozens of strikes on Gaza in response to rocket fire from the strip, causing limited casualties but sparking a war of words with Turkey. ...

Turkey, whose parliament on Friday night ratified normalisation of ties with Israel after a six-year rift, slammed the Israeli strikes.

"We strongly condemn these disproportionate attacks," its foreign ministry said in a statement.

One, it is a gross distortion of the concept of proportionality in warfare to say that Israel's much larger response is illegal.

Proportionality is intended to mean--in an obviously exaggerated example--that you don't nuke a building to take out a single sniper.

The notion that Turkey and much of the Western Left use for proportionality means that the stronger party's response must always be artificially hobbled to match the violence of the initial attack.

That is nonsense.

Two, oh really, Turkey?

Turkish armed forces on Monday launched artillery strikes on separate targets of Islamic State (IS) jihadists and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) Kurdish militia in northern Syria, television reports said.

Turkish army howitzers stationed inside Turkey fired on IS targets in the town of Jarablus and PYD targets around the area of Manbij, the CNN-Turk and NTV channels reported.

How does this fit with Turkey's apparent definition of proportional responses?

Two Birds With One Opinion Piece

This author condemns the Obama administration for its failures to promote rule of law in the Balkans and Eastern Europe:

Obama’s global influence, or lack thereof, also led to a spike in chaos and corruption throughout Eastern Europe, harming American interests. I’ve personally seen this on recent think tank trips, speaking and touring for a collective three months in 12 European countries to include 7 former Soviet Republics and several satellite states.

The writer has a point. Although he focuses on Moldova as the worst case of what he says is a regional trend.

But consider that despite lack of American attention to combat that trend, why hasn't the European Union been more successful within its own sphere?

Shouldn't any failure by America been made up by the nearby EU foreign policy bureaucracy to show their mettle?

Yet still there is a spike in chaos and corruption?

America at least has an excuse: things are screwed up in so many places that we have plenty to keep our people busy.

What about the European Union that has pretensions of being an autonomous power in its own right?

Why has this well-paid body spent more time condemning the British for Brexit than in maintaining stability in an expanded democratic free Europe that the American-led NATO provided to Europe?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Yes, But They're So Darned Pretty!

Patriarchy, male privilege, glass ceilings, blah, blah, blah. Men bad.

Wait. What?

“With the exception of the age group between 45-59 (a 15 year span) years old, women cost more to the state than the tax they provide. In contrast, men generate more tax revenue than they cost between 23 and 65 (a 43 year span). In the brief period in which women generate more or as much tax money than they consume, men outscore them by at least 3 times.

Huh.

Well, it isn't a very good patriarchy, it seems.

Tip to Instapundit.

Yeah, That Would Be Pretty Good

I've often spoken of Iran's recruitment of a Shia Foreign Legion to fight for Assad in Syria. Iran is formalizing their practice for a general purpose tool of intervention. So much for Iran becoming a responsible regional power.

Assuming Al Jazeera is reliable, this formation of a multi-national Shia military force is interesting and not too shocking:

Iran has formed what it calls the Liberation Army whose units will be deployed in Arab countries, according to reports.

I'm not sure how "responsible" (as in  abiding by international norms and international rules) this is but it sure does make Iran more of a "regional power":

[President] Obama told NPR that Iran should seize the chance of a [nuclear] deal that could lift crippling sanctions.

"Because if they do, there's incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of Iran and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules - and that would be good for everybody," he said.

Hell, from the Obama administration's perspective, two out of three ain't bad, eh?

Oh well, in theory this was supposed to be good for everybody. Just like Summer Glau falling madly in love with me would be pretty good, eh? I'm not sure which is less likely to happen.

UPDATE: Strategypage has more on the Shia Liberation Army:

The SLA will be similar to the French Foreign Legion, which was founded in the 19th century as an elite force of non-French troops to handle problems in the worldwide network of colonies and possessions France had accumulated since the 18th century. ... But the main role of the SLA is to develop a source of foreigners devoted to Shia Islam, loyal to Iran and possessing combat and related skills. The SLA is no surprise to those who know the recent history of the region, especially the Iranian experience with creating and expanding Hezbollah.

Funny how left-wing condemnation for use of mercenaries (or "contractors," as we call them) is reserved just for America.

When Leading from Behind it is Easier to Stab in the Back

So are we downgrading our cooperation with Saudi Arabia in the Yemen civil war because of civilian casualties?

The U.S. military has withdrawn from Saudi Arabia its personnel who were coordinating with the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen, and sharply reduced the number of staff elsewhere who were assisting in that planning, U.S. officials told Reuters. ...

The June staff withdrawal, which U.S. officials say followed a lull in air strikes in Yemen earlier this year, reduces Washington's day-to-day involvement in advising a campaign that has come under increasing scrutiny for causing civilian casualties. ...

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the reduced staffing was not due to the growing international outcry over civilian casualties in the 16-month civil war that has killed more than 6,500 people in Yemen, about half of them civilians.

But the Pentagon, in some of its strongest language yet, also acknowledged concerns about the conflict, which has brought Yemen close to famine and cost more than $14 billion in damage to infrastructure and economic losses.

I'm not sure why the civilian casualties are a major factor in any decision we make. As I recently wrote, the 6,500 casualties in nearly a year and a half are really a low rate--assuming the casualty count is accurate.

And the article says that civilian casualties are half of the total, making the toll even smaller.

A "arms watchdog" group is calling for a reduction of arms to Saudi Arabia in punishment:

An arms watchdog on Monday urged major weapons exporters, including the United States and France, to cut sales to Saudi Arabia over its actions in Yemen, as a conference on global arms trade opened in Geneva.

As I noted, the death toll isn't that high compared to other wars. Plus, does the watchdog group account for enemies using human shields? Saudi Arabia is not obligated by the rules of war to refrain from striking valid military targets just because civilians are close. In that case, the responsibility for the civilian deaths lies with the side that places civilians close to their military assets for protection.

And the rebels seem to have plenty of weapons, as does Assad where the death toll of Syrian civilians is an order of magnitude greater than civilian deaths in Yemen (and possibly a couple orders of magnitude greater by now).

I don't know, but this whole issue sounds more like caving in to Iranian information operations designed to portray the Saudi-led intervention against Shia forces that Iran backs as bloodthirsty.

Why we'd go along with Iranian efforts to turn America into a responsible (according to Iranian definitions) power in the region is beyond me.

And given that the Obama administration prides itself in "leading from behind," why we'd undermine an ally actually willing to get in front of us is also beyond my powers of analysis.

But I've always been nuance deficient, I admit.