Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Defining "Denial"

I have no problem accepting that in theory adding CO2 to the atmosphere will warm the planet. I have no problem admitting that people put CO2 into the atmosphere. What I "deny" is that we know that humanity affects the climate more than natural factors as the models assume.

Really, if mankind's contributions dominated the real world (as opposed to the models), the planet's temperature would have risen over the last decade and a half rather than remaining flat.

And no, this trend is not countered by saying that the last decade and a half are the warmest on record. Even if true (and there is reason to doubt that), it still doesn't explain why the temperatures haven't risen over the last decade and a half despite much more CO2 in the atmosphere.

So this science is interesting:

Between 1900 and 2012 temperatures have increased by about one degree Fahrenheit in coastal areas along the Pacific Ocean. ...

But a new study carried out by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Washington concluded that this was not caused by a build up of greenhouse gases.

Instead, they found it was mainly due to changes in ocean and wind circulation patterns which could affect temperatures over periods lasting longer than a century. When the winds drop less water evaporates and temperatures rise.

Most of the warming actually took place before 1940 when concentrations of greenhouse gases were lower, the study found.

As the researchers hasten to add, this doesn't deny the greenhouse effect. I'd never say that.

But what is does say is that over more than a century on our west coast (no mere weather there), factors other than mankind have a greater effect on our climate than the global warming believers insist.

Tip to Instapundit.

The Real Threat All Along

I know there are some who say that our focus on the Middle East over the last decade-plus distracted us from dealing with the Asia and Pacific region as China's power rose.

But given that we tried to  turn our back on the Middle East to pivot to Asia only to see the Middle East--and Europe along with it as we reduced our forces there--explode as enemies watched us lose interest in the region, doesn't that kind of indicate that we weren't distracted by the Middle East as much as we were facing serious threats that we don't have the luxury of ignoring?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Achieving a Pivot to China

India considers China their major military problem now rather than Pakistan. Repeatedly defeating Pakistan in wars since World War II and China's recent dramatic rise in economic and military power led India to this conclusion. Unfortunately, Pakistan remains an enemy to India's rear as India faces China.

China now considers Indian possession of territory on their side of the line of actual control (LAC) in the north a violation of China's "core interests" that China considers worth going to war to achieve:

Besides Tibet, Taiwan and Xinjiang where Beijing has territorial disputes, its core interests include maritime territorial disputes with Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. Official sources said [China's new ambassador to India, Le Yucheng's] remark linking PLA's latest transgression in Chumar with "core interest" is significant as it indicates China's hardening of stand on its dispute with India.

ET had reported earlier that PLA transgresses into Chumar to neutralise India's strategic advantage in the area and sent an unusual large contingent of troopers ahead of Xi's visit to negotiate hard so that India is forced to dismantle its infrastructure there.

More broadly, adding another "core interest" to China's ever-growing list makes me wonder what won't become a core interest of China? It's like a friggin' Amazon wish list at this point.

For India, the important thing is that they are now on that core wish list and must prepare accordingly.

Yes, India is shifting focus and forces to the north. That's good.

But even as China has become India's biggest problem, India remains Pakistan's biggest problem. Which means that Pakistan continues to demand attention from India's defense planners.

And Pakistan has nukes. Surely China wouldn't shed too many tears if India and Pakistan exchanged nukes.

So actually ending the India-Pakistan front rather than merely demoting Pakistan in the Pantheon of Foes is the best course, as India's new prime minister said at the United Nations:

"I do want to hold bilateral talks with them but it is also the duty of Pakistan to come forward and create an appropriate atmosphere," Modi said, according to a translation of his comments made in the Hindi language.

This won't be easy. Pakistan's military justifies its outsized role in Pakistani politics and economy on the need to confront India. The military may not be eager to lose another conventional war with India (but jumping in on a war between India and China is another thing, hence the need for India to end the conflict with Pakistan), but they do support terrorism and separatism inside India to keep India an enemy and justify their privileged position.

But the need for peace with Pakistan should not be in doubt as India seeks to pivot to China. For a lesson, India can look no further than our own pivot to Asia to face China, which involved downgrading both Europe and the Middle East to do so.

And now we find ourselves confronting a new Russian threat to peace in Europe and another war in the Middle East against jihadi fanatics.

Pity that Pakistan can't be persuaded that a nuclear-armed Iran is a bigger actual threat to Pakistan than India, which truly would prefer to have peace on their western border.

UPDATE: Related on increased India-America security cooperation:

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has wrapped up a momentous maiden voyage to the United States. On Tuesday, he met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, which resulted in the customary joint statement. Obama and Modi had to that point spoken exclusively on the phone. Regardless of this meeting’s status as an ice breaker for the two leaders, the joint statement points to a bright future for U.S.-India cooperation in security and defense matters in particular.

In a perfect world, we can use our relationship with Pakistan to get them to wise up and stop looking for a fight with India--or acting like it to maintain their privileged position in Pakistan.

Actual Mission Creep

US aircraft over the weekend struck ISIL forces threatening Syrian Kurdish population centers. This is an actual example of mission creep.

Despite an Iraq First policy against ISIL that puts our air strikes in Syria in the role of supporting the Iraq campaign, we find ourselves supporting Syria's Kurds:

U.S.-led coalition warplanes struck Islamic State fighters in Syria attacking a town near the Turkish border for the first time Saturday, as well as positions in the country's east, activists and a Kurdish official said.

I imagine that we needed to do this because in an Iraq First policy, we really need the Kurds to be our ground force in the northeast.

The Kurds of Iraq may not like being the designated ground force in Iraq if the price is watching their brethren in Syria get slaughtered by ISIL because of the arbitrary border that places Syria in the last part of what I call a Win-Build-Win strategy.

Remember, adding force to achieve the same mission--expelling ISIL from Iraq--is not mission creep. Watch out for gradual escalation perils. But it is not mission creep.

But adding the task of defending Syria's Kurds is mission creep in the context of a plan that assigns Syria a lower priority.

Given our need for Iraqi Kurdish ground forces to achieve the primary mission, I'm not sure what we can do to avoid this additional mission.

UPDATE: On the bright side, the Kurds achieved a victory by seizing a northwest border crossing in Iraq in what could eventually cut the Iraqi branch of ISIL from easy supply and reinforcement from the Syria branch:

The victory, which could make it harder for militants to operate on both sides of the frontier, was also achieved with help from Kurds from the Syrian side of the frontier, a new sign of cooperation across the border.

Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters took control of the Rabia border crossing in a battle that began before dawn, an Iraqi Kurdish political source said.

This is good. As is the fact that Sunni Arabs worked with the Kurds against ISIL, indicating that a re-Awakening is possible.

Underbussing the Intelligence Agencies

President Obama blamed the rise of ISIL on his intelligence agencies.

It didn't take spy satellites to see this one coming from our president:

His acknowledgment in an interview broadcast on Sunday that U.S. intelligence had underestimated Islamic State offered an explanation for why Washington appeared to have been taken by surprise when the fighters surged through northern Iraq in June.

Yeah, the problem was the president's intelligence agencies.

I think not.

If our intelligence agencies want our president to take their briefings seriously, I think they need to start making up Tea Party connections and describe a jihadi war on women, darkly warning that the jihadis want to deny them free birth control.

Hell, we'd carpet bomb the jihadis without precision weapons just for spite.

RELATED: And a pre-scheduled posting update.


On “60 Minutes,” the president faulted his spies for failing to predict the rise of ISIS. There’s one problem with that statement: The intelligence analysts did warn about the group. Says one former Intel officer: “Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting.” Or both

Or he sucks at his job. Or all three, I suppose.

A Presidential "Duh" Moment

Thanks Captain Obvious:

"When trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don't call Beijing, they don't call Moscow. They call us. That's the deal," he quipped.

Duh. Of course you don't call Moscow and Peking (hey, we don't say Moskva, now do we?) when trouble comes up.

Because Russia and China are already there starting the trouble, they can just talk to them in person.

But hey, better 6 years late coming to this realization than never. We'll see if it lasts past November 4th.

Rejecting the Commutative Property of Peking

Notwithstanding their pledge of "one country, two systems" in regard to Hong Kong's democratic institutions at the time of Britain's turn over of the entity to China, Peking clearly assumes that they are operating on a "two countries, one system" plan.

China considers "democracy" to consist of what their ruling communist elites vote for, which the people just meekly accept. When added to China, the people of Hong Kong are no exception. At best, they were given 50 years to accept that definition.

This is heartening but fraught with danger of massacre and heavy-handed oppression:

Hong Kong democracy protesters defied volleys of tear gas and police baton charges to stand firm in the centre of the global financial hub on Monday, one of the biggest political challenges for China since the Tiananmen Square crackdown 25 years ago.

The Communist government in Beijing made clear it would not tolerate dissent, and warned against any foreign interference as thousands of protesters massed for a fourth night in the free-wheeling, capitalist city of more than 7 million people.

"Hong Kong is China's Hong Kong," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying defiantly told a news briefing in Beijing.

And there are certain realities of being China's Hong Kong:

Just days before China was set to deliver its edict on electoral reform in Hong Kong, Beijing’s most senior official in the city held a rare meeting with several local lawmakers whose determined push for full democracy had incensed Beijing's Communist leaders. ...

Zhang, 51, dressed in a black suit and a navy blue striped tie, delivered a blunt response. “The fact that you are allowed to stay alive, already shows the country's inclusiveness," he answered, according to two people in the room who declined to be named. Zhang's office did not respond to several faxed requests for comment. [emphasis added]

Zhang later said his remark was taken out of context. I think we're seeing just some of the context being used on the protesters.

I have to wonder if China will magically see the hand of Japan in the protests and use that as an excuse to do whatever it takes to clear the streets of living protesters.

President Obama Didn't Build That

I'd like to again note that the only reason President Obama can contemplate taking on ISIL in Iraq without using US ground forces is that under President Bush, a coalition of the very forces we will count on to be a ground force we can support from the air was built from 2003 to 2008.

This is the ideal situation for defeating ISIL in Iraq, no doubt, as General Dempsey stated:

If you're suggesting that I might, at some point, recommend that we need a large ground force to counter ISIL, the answer to that is also absolutely.

But it doesn't have to be Americans. In fact, ideally, for the kind of issues we're confronting there, the ideal force -- in fact, the only truly effective force that will actually be able to reject ISIL from within its own population, is a force comprised of Iraqis and Kurds and moderate Syrian opposition.

President Bush built that force. Despite our lack of attention under President Obama and despite walking away from Iraq in 2011, we still judge 26 of 50 Iraqi brigades cohesive and professional enough to work with; the Kurds are still friendly despite lack of recent support; and even Sunni Arabs in Iraq appear to be willing to trust us again after we walked away and let Maliki under Iranian influence undercut and wreck the Awakening of Iraq's Sunni Arabs.

And for those on the right, stop complaining that our first impulse isn't to send American combat brigades. If we are to defeat jihadis around the world, we must rely on others to do the fighting. We simply can't send our combat forces to every place where jihadis skulk about and kill. We can't.

And if we had to, that would pretty much say the war has gone pretty badly, now wouldn't it? If we had no local allies to fight jihadis, that would say that jihadis had defeated all those locals.

While rightly noting that President Obama's decision to abandon Iraq contributed a lot to the ISIL problem, at least be happy that because of George W. Bush (and even Democrats who temporarily approved of the invasion, occupation, and democratization of Iraq before BDS kicked in), we have Iraqi troops who can fight the jihadis with our support.

Remember, it really is ideal if jihadis are a police and cultural problem as they are in Western Europe, America, Australia, and other parts of the West and even within much of the Moslem world (with more of an emphasis on the cultural problem part that exports jihadis and jihadi ideology).

If it is larger than that, it is good if we can support allies who fight them--like we help France in Africa.

And it is good if local governments can fight them with our help.

Sometimes we have to support those locals with direct American military power. It can be special forces, or air power, or the CIA and contractors--or even American combat brigades, in the worst cases.

Iraq, because of our actions in the past decade, is not a worst case. Once a supporter of terrorism, Iraq is a victim of it and can fight back. Iraq should have been a much smaller problem than it is now, but it is a problem achievable by something less than the commitment of American combat brigades.

I'll also note that this is the first time I've seen our people say that the war on ISIL is an Iraq-first strategy, which is what I've advocated:

I'd like to also reiterate that the campaign against ISIL will be a persistent and sustained campaign, and it will take time. As I said last week, this is not an Iraq -- this is an Iraq first strategy. But it's not an Iraq only one.

Now let's hope that it is an Assad-last strategy, too.

Because some of the people on the ground in Syria have a problem with being given the task of fighting ISIL instead of Assad:

The U.S. is struggling to counter anger among the Syrian opposition, where many believe that the air campaign against extremists in the country is only helping President Bashar Assad and that Washington is coordinating with Damascus, despite American insistence it backs the rebel cause.

Clearly, they lack the ability to appreciate nuance.

Sadly, President Obama also didn't build a resistance to Assad strong enough to preempt the rise of ISIL which gained street cred by being effective in fighting Assad.

UPDATE: Perhaps there is hope that Assad is merely lower on the to-defeat list:

The United States is focusing its efforts on defeating Islamic State militants wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria but has not changed its position that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations said on Tuesday.

If we're serious, this can work. In time.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Seriously, What the Hell is Going On?

I mentioned late in the summer that I had an unusual experience with US Customs while leaving the United States to enter Canada for a short vacation in Toronto. I was photographed and fingerprinted.

I went to Toronto for the weekend in the summer. Airplane travel is a hassle both security process-wise and getting to and from the airport. Train travel which used to be my main method of going to Canada, requires me to drive to and from Windsor and park there. That's kind of a hassle.

I've mentioned my experiences being scrutinized by Customs coming back over the years. It's always seemed odd at a humorous level.

This year I tried going by bus. It is actually pretty convenient for me since I go from downtown Ann Arbor to downtown Toronto, and I can go on foot for the whole process (other than the bus). And with bus wifi, that part isn't too bad.

Granted, you get a wider cross-section of our society this way than with plane or even train travel. Some passengers are downright weird, while others are just students and others simply ordinary-looking folks. And the Amish, for some reason. I know I'm not student-age nor do I look Amish, but I assumed I at least wasn't in the weirdo category. Am I wrong about that?

Because on my last trip into Canada this summer, before leaving Detroit for Canada, US Customs examined my passport and, finding that apparently insufficient, requested my driver license.

Hey, kudos to the Michigan Secretary of State for having such a trusted identification document to verify my friggin' passport.

Then, when those means of identification were insufficient, Customs photographed me and fingerprinted me "for identification purposes," the agent told me.

My bag was searched, naturally. While leaving the United States, I'll note again.

And they inquired where else abroad I'd traveled.

One, wouldn't there be records of that based on my passport?

And two, what the Hell? Do I look like I've recently spent time in Waziristan?

I've been meaning to look into that. So today I googled the notion. As near as I can tell--and I went ten pages into the search, which is 9 more than most people look at in searches--Customs is photographing and fingerprinting non-American citizens entering the U. S.

I've found references to doing the same to non-American citizens leaving America, but nothing about photographing and fingerprinting American citizens.

And this is the first time I've seen this routine on anyone despite crossing the border at Detroit many times over the years. But perhaps I just didn't notice.

Also, I am an American citizen.

So what's the deal? Sure, I look bad ass and dangerous. That's a given. Hah!

The Army can be proud for the lingering effects decades later of turning me into a lean, mean, signaling machine, eh? That would explain the agent cowering in the corner being comforted by equally scared-looking agents after I entered the building, I suppose. But I'm a peaceful man, really.

So what's with the scrutiny? When leaving?

The Canadians sure don't have an issue with me arriving there. I breeze through their border controls. They didn't even blink when I entered with a mostly empty backpack as my only luggage (I had a suitcase with my clothing already in Canada where I was going that day).

What the Hell is going on?

So It Will Be Plan B for Iran

Talks to end Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions are going nowhere. Which will work just fine for Iran.

If this news shocks you, get a clue:

Iran and six world powers made little progress in overcoming significant disagreements in the most recent round of nuclear talks, including on uranium enrichment, Iranian and Western diplomats close to the negotiations said on Friday.

Officials from Iran and the six countries had cautioned ahead of the talks in New York that a breakthrough was unlikely to end sanctions on Tehran, although they had hoped substantial progress could be made in narrowing disagreements.

Actually, it is a little shocking to even me. I fully expect us to come to an agreement where Iran pretends to forego nuclear weapons development and we pretend to believe them.

So Iran's refusal to even pretend is probably saving us from signing a document in English, French, and Farsi, festooning it with bright ribbons and official wax seals, and passing out Nobel Peace Prizes. (Oh! Be still, Kerry's heart!)

But for Iran, that's okay, too. They can still go nuclear with Plan B.

Plan B is having sanctions at a level low enough to annoy but not be fatal. They probably got that just to get talks going back last December.

And Plan B allows Iran to keep making progress toward nuclear weapons as we talk and talk and talk. And talk about what we will and won't talk about. And talk about how often we will talk about what we will and won't talk about.

And no, the November 24 "deadline" for talks to succeed doesn't scare Iran any more than any of the other deadlines the Obama administration has set for Iran since 2009.

Face it, President Obama will talk until Iran goes nuclear and be relieved that he can say, "Oops. We tried. Now we'll just have to deter Iran."

So what deters Iran, anyway?

As a bonus for a president whose Nobel Peace Prize was given as a sign of confidence in his ability to achieve nuclear disarmament, learning to love the Iranian bomb means learning to love a Middle East awash in nuclear weapons capabilities.

Does Putin Really Think We're That Stupid?

Is Putin serious in wanting a Reset 2.0?

"We are absolutely interested in bringing the ties to normal but it was not us who destroyed them. Now they require what the American would probably call a 'reset'," [Russian Foreign Minister] Lavrov said, according to a transcript of one interview on his ministry's website.

"The current U.S. administration is destroying today much of the cooperation structure that it created itself along with us. Most likely, something more will come up - a reset no.2 or a reset 2.0," he told Russia's Channel 5 television.

Right. It's our fault that our relations are bad. If only we'd considered Russian acts of aggression and mayhem promotion as happy occasions!

I think I saw this before:

But we really are going to have to argue.

Russia backs that monster Assad in that civil war, tricking (I'm being charitable to Kerry, here) into a faux chemical weapons disarmament deal that simply bought time for Assad to kill his opponents and allow ISIL to grow stronger:

Though Russia has no sympathy for Islamic State militants who have seized large tracts of territory in Iraq and Syria and face U.S.-led air strikes in both countries, Moscow's relationship with Syria forms a difficult backdrop to talks over any potential role.

Russia's absence from the anti-Islamic State coalition complicates Washington's calculus, reducing the possibility of U.S. leverage over the flow of Russian arms into Damascus as the U.S.-led campaign moves forward with air strikes in Syria and arms anti-Assad rebels.

(With bonus huge tracts of land comment.)

Russia has invaded and picked apart Ukraine, violating the UN charter and international agreements, making Ukraine want to join NATO to gain some heft to resist further aggression:

Ukraine began the process to strengthen ties with NATO and said it wanted to join the alliance in the “short term” after President Petro Poroshenko declared the worst of its separatist war was over.

Russia has threatened NATO members with aggression:

As top Kremlin officials have sounded ominous new warnings that they will defend ethnic Russians wherever they live, Latvia, the NATO nation with the highest proportion of Russians, is feeling in the crosshairs.

Let's not forget that Russia is crowding our (and Canada's) air space with renewed military flights, making claims in the Arctic, and running interference for Iran's drive to get nuclear weapons, among other things designed to harm or merely annoy us (see support of Venezuela's nutball rulers and renewed dabbling in Cuba).

Plus just acting like annoying, paranoid, jerks generally.

The sad thing is, I can't say that we won't take Lavrov up on that offer--despite his blaming us for problems--for Reset 2.0.

I've seen that scene before, too:

John Kerry! Oh, John Kerry!

UPDATE: Lavrov is really starting to annoy me:

NATO's potential expansion to the former Yugoslav republics of Bosnia, Macedonia and Montenegro could be seen as a "provocation", Russia's foreign minister was quoted as saying in a newspaper interview published on Monday.

I hate to break to Lavrov, but he doesn't even have the flimsy excuses his boss has been making against NATO expansion. Yugoslavia was not part of the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact, and wasn't even terribly friendly to Moscow.

If China ever attacks Russia, Russia is on its own.

UPDATE: Remember, the Russians gave us the finger at the first "reset" (picture via National Review Online).

You can't make this up. Lavrov is giving Clinton the middle finger. I know that is our cultural thing and not his. But still, he has given us the finger ever since.

Dumb and Dumber

We're going about defeating ISIL all wrong, I read. Apparently we should not be striking ISIL and instead should seek to defeat ISIL by teaming up with Iran. Yikes.

I see the "we only make things worse by fighting back" theory has re-emerged. Apparently, the leader of ISIL wants us to attack him:

Recently, he has distributed footage of carefully choreographed beheadings of Western hostages, some carried out by “Jihadi John”, a man who speaks in an English accent.

These were not whimsical moments of theatrical extravagance. They were designed precisely in order to draw America and its Western allies back into the Middle East. Osama bin Laden plotted the attack on the Twin Towers 13 years ago for the same kind of reason. Baghdadi may calculate that air strikes will not do too much serious damage, while adding greatly to the popular legitimacy of his cause.

If we send in our bombers, we are doing what Isil wants. It is important to reflect on this.

Oh please. Let's reflect on the notion that attacking ISIL is falling into their deep trap rather than a demented attempt to get us to leave them alone to consolidate their caliphate.

Let's reflect that this trap nonsense was said about al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. They've been enjoying their cave accommodations ever since--or swimming with the fishies in the case of the late Osama bin Laden.

And reflect that this was said of Saddam Hussein in 2003. He'd welcome our air attacks to raise his stature, they said. Oh wait. He's dead, too. Executed by his former victims.

But surely this type of wish will work better for ISIL, right?

As I've long said, only ineffective use of force plays into our enemies' hands. Killing force doesn't play into their hands--it kills them dead and scatters their survivors, and makes the kids in the Islamist chat rooms reflect deeply about the wisdom of packing their bags and heading out to join the jihad.

So this is just stupid.

But don't worry. This article isn't only ordinary, everyday stupid.

Behold the alternative to killing and defeating the jihadis:

Yesterday, in the United Nations, a remarkable event occurred. For the first time since the Iranian revolution of 1979, a British prime minister sat down and talked face to face with an Iranian president. David Cameron’s summit with President Rouhani points the way forward – but there is an awfully long way to go.

See? The author isn't relying on a dumb suggestion. He's relying on the even dumber suggestion that we ally with nuke-seeking Iran to defeat ISIL!

Like allying with Persian and Shia Iran will work well in the Sunni Arab world.

And like that won't empower that already-noted nuclear seeking Iran along with Assad and Hezbollah.

Yikes. The stupid is sometimes frightening.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Yes, the Potential Backlash is the Real Problem

Stabbings in Australia and a beheading in America by Moslem fanatics lead so-called Moslem leaders in these countries to worry about the potential backlash against all Moslems rather that worry about the attacks themselves.

In Australia:

Prominent Australian Muslims say their community is being unfairly targeted by law enforcement and threatened by right-wing groups, as the government's tough policies aimed at combating radical Islamists threaten to create a backlash.

Actual attacks (two incidents in the article) cause no concern. But the "backlash" that might happen? Well, that's the real problem, now isn't it?

And here, too, the response to a beheading by a Moslem man (even if it was a personal dispute, the method of attack says something about his motivations) by local Moslem leaders has been less than comforting:

Saad Mohammad, a spokesman for the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, told NewsOK.com that leaders of the society’s mosque are taking security precautions to protect Muslims who gather there from any potential retaliatory violence.

Mohammad said any anti-Muslim sentiments local residents might have could be heightened due to the beheadings and violence overseas by Islamic State militants.

Ah yes. A Moslem man attacks non-Moslems, beheading one, and the real problem is the "potential retaliatory violence" is the first concern?

This incident was at worst a warm up for real murder:

A man driving a distinctive Toyota fired on a group of three men walking along Old Pimlico Road after shouting “Jews, Jews, Jews" from his driver’s side window, according to a release from Baltimore County police.

The men were unhurt and the weapon was apparently an air gun or BB gun. So far just the hate is present. Just be patient.

Moslem leaders do their followers no favors by acting like the rest of society is the problem when people who claim membership in their community commit violence against people not part of their community.

I'll be among the first to say that few Moslems are the problem. The vast majority are decent and good people, as I wrote in the days following the 9/11 attacks here:

We must trust that our Moslem and Arab neighbors share our values. They or their parents or grandparents immigrated to America because they too cherish our freedoms and way of life. Like most Americans, they are here because someone in their family fled poverty, oppression, or both, to build a better life for their children. They are horrified and angry like all Americans. "They" are our friends and neighbors and are part of "us." Some, whether citizens or residents, will be guilty of cooperating with the enemy or even actively fighting us. This is not new. Fascism and communism had their admirers here even in our darkest hours during those fights. Those betrayers were guilty as individuals and not as members of any religion or ethnic group. Let us not descend into the logic of our enemies that the perceived or actual guilt of one condemns all similar innocents.

Too many Moslems, however, look the other way when they see Islamists in their communities out of indifference or fear.

We share the blame in that fear of taking on the Islamists who tarnish the image of all Moslems. If we were forceful in distinguishing between Moslems as neighbors and fellow citizens while vigorously going after the jihadi individuals, that majority of Moslems who don't support murder and personal jihad could stand up to oppose the Islamists more easily.

And so-called leaders in the Moslem community risk creating that so-far potential backlash of retaliatory violence by failing to condemn the Islamist jihadis who emerge from their communities.

After all, if leaders of the Moslem community refuse to condemn the killers and attackers as their first impulse, why shouldn't people who aren't members of the community conclude that all Moslems must think like the killers?

After 13 years since 9/11 with no backlash, you'd think that the wider community would get a little benefit of the doubt by these Moslem leaders, allowing them to focus first on the actual violence itself rather than the still-potential backlash.

I'm thinking that President Obama needs another outreach speech to the Moslem world--our Moslem world. With a shout-out to the Australians, too. If the foreign jihadis now think that random acts of violence are better than elaborate plots to kill us in spectacular fashion, we'll see more of these incidents, as we've seen at the Boston Marathon and even Fort Hood, as the most spectacular actions thus far.


If our sanctions on Russia aren't strong enough to pressure Russia over their aggression against Ukraine and threats to eastern NATO states, Putin is determined to frighten away any foreign businesses not banned by the West from operating in Russia.

No. Don't. Stop:

Russian courts could get the green light to seize foreign assets on Russian territory under a draft law intended as a response to Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.

The draft, which was submitted to parliament on Wednesday by a pro-Kremlin deputy, would also allow state compensation for an individual whose property is seized in foreign jurisdictions.

That'll teach us a lesson.

As did this:

Putin's move in early August to block American chickens has backfired, sources in the poultry industry say, leaving Russians to pay more at the supermarket for poultry products while American producers remain largely unscathed.

Hey, if this passes maybe even German cruise ship companies won't feed the beast if they worry their ship might be grabbed in Crimean waters.

Command and Control

We are sending elements of the 1st Infantry Division headquarters to Iraq and the Middle East region:

So yesterday, the secretary signed a deployment order for about 500 soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division headquarters element from Fort Riley, Kansas. They'll be deploying to the Central Command area of responsibility later this month -- I'm sorry, later in October.

Of those 500, approximately 200 will deploy to Baghdad and Erbil as part of the 475 increase that the president announced on the 10th of September. If you want a breakdown of that, I actually got it: 138 will go to the Baghdad joint operations center; 68 of them will go to the JOC up in Erbil; and 10 will be working out of the ministry of defense there in Baghdad. ...

138 to Baghdad, 68 to Erbil, 10 to the ministry of defense in Baghdad. They're going to provide command-and-control of the ongoing advise and assist effort in support of Iraqi and Peshmerga forces. And they're going to continue to help us all degrade and destroy ISIL.

The remaining of the 300 remaining that are not going into Iraq will be based still in the Central Command AOR, but outside Iraq. And I'm not going to detail exactly where they're going to be.

We already have headquarters elements of 1st Armored Division in Jordan. Or we did at the time of that post. Perhaps it is gone. Perhaps it was replaced.

Perhaps the new contingent going to an unnamed location is going to Jordan to replace the element sent there more than a year ago.

Normally, a division headquarters controls 3-5 maneuver brigades plus support brigades (artillery, engineer, logistics, air defense, etc.).

I don't know what this means. But we have command and control elements on the ground in and near Iraq.

Speaking of Idiocy

Will people stop claiming that by re-intervening in Iraq and intervening in Syria that it looks to Moslems like we are starting a new "Crusade" in the Middle East?

Please remember that the Crusade was actually a Christian counter-attack to liberate Christian territory conquered by Moslem invaders. That's the history and not the fantasy.

One, we aren't trying to reconquer the Middle East for Christianity. Much of the West is at best culturally Christian. And we just want them to stop beheading our people and otherwise trying to kill us in our homelands while fly, ride trains, or use subways. Honestly, if they just killed their own kind in their own countries, even R2P wouldn't gain traction in the West.

And two, just because Moslems don't want to admit that actual history is no reason for us to go along with their fantasy of oppression.

Dennis Kucinich (D-Bizarro World) prompted this post. Which explains the label.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Cutting Out the Middle Man

For all that Moscow goes on about fictional "Fascists" rising up in Ukraine to threaten the Motherland, don't forget that the Soviet Union joined the Nazis in World War II by dismembering Poland (and taking the Baltic states and land from Romania and Finland--after a brave defense by the latter).

Remember ,Stalin voted for Hitler before he voted against him (tip to Instapundit):

The full extent of their conspiracy is exposed in The Devils’ Alliance, a brilliant new history by Roger Moorhouse. Moorhouse is a sober and serious historian, writing with no obvious political agenda. Calmly, he tells the story of the Pact: its genesis, its operation and the reasons for its violent end. When recounting such a monstrous tale, it is proper to be calm: great events need no embroidery. What he reveals is a diabolical compact which, if it stopped just short of being an alliance, can in no way be thought of as a hiccup or anomaly.

The two totalitarian systems traded in all the necessary commodities of war: not just oil and vital chemicals, but arms and ships. They exhibited each other’s cultural achievements, performed each other’s music and films, stressed their joint hostility to Western capitalism.

The idea that there was an unbridgeable gap between Soviet Communism and National Socialism, which is nowadays so widespread, would have seemed curious at the time.

The two have always seemed like two sides of the same coin. For Hitler's state capitalism, the worker was nothing unless yoked to the goals of the state. In Soviet Russia, the worker was everything--as long as he is yoked to the goals of the state. Way different, eh?

Russia is no longer communist. It sometimes feels as if Putin has cut out the middle man in reaching out to fascism.

Of course, Putin may have the supporting role in this version of history.

Our Nobel Peace Prize-Winning Leader

Once again I ponder that I just don't have a firm grasp on that whole nuance concept.

President Obama has escalated the war in Afghanistan (twice), ended and then restarted the Iraq War, threatened to go to war in Syria against Assad and then went to war a year later against Assad's enemies, launched a war against Libya, continues a war in Somalia, escalated a drone war in Pakistan, helped the French fight a war in Mali, waged cyber-war on Iran, and started a drone war in Yemen.

And oh yeah, President Obama bombed the Moon.

Yet President Bush was the warmonger and President Obama is the peacemaker?

Oh, wait. I forgot the Hope and Change. They make everything better.

It's almost funny that Iran thinks that they alone can somehow escape the wrath of this president. Given his record, Iran's mullahs should be wetting their pants right about now, don't you think?

If President Obama nuked Iran, he'd just get (another) Nobel Peace Prize, I suspect.

Inappropriate But Hardly Stupid

Why is the idea of setting up a mercenary army to fight jihadis, as Bill O'Reilly called for, stupid?

This writer thinks little of the idea:

To counter the threat from the Islamic State terrorist organization, O’Reilly proposed a “mercenary army – elite fighters who would be well paid, well trained to defeat terrorists all over the world,” said O’Reilly. The idea, from what we can tell, would be to re-create a Special Forces unit without the personnel of a Special Forces unit.

The idea was to raise 25,000 mercenaries. The Washington Post critic mocked O'Reilly for even bringing it up.

And no, the proposal doesn't call for creating a new special forces-quality force. The critic doesn't understand that American special forces train foreign soldiers as their primary non-kinetic mission (and prior to 9/11 that was their primary mission)--and they don't train special forces, for the most part. They simply use their cultural understanding and skills to train ordinary soldiers.

So the critic simply displays his own military ignorance rather than O'Reilly's so-called ignorance.

As for the criticism that Americans in this force would be American casualties no different than actual uniformed military casualties, that ignores the history of Iraq, where contractor (mercenary) casualties weren't included in the weekly casualty lists; and whose deaths in Fallujah in early 2004 led one prominent lefty to dismiss their killing by jihadis (and stringing up from a bridge) in Fallujah with the words "screw 'em."

In fact, if you weren't determined to ridicule O'Reilly (and I'm not a particular fan of his, I'll say) you'd call it a very European (dare I say nuanced?) notion along the lines of France's Foreign Legion or Britain's Gurkha regiment.

I think Jonah Goldberg had it absolutely right:

Arguably the most hated host at the most hated news network (in large part because both are so successful), O’Reilly could come out in support of the law of gravity and the usual suspects would run the headline, “Fox Host Supports Law Requiring Babies and Puppies to Fall from Great Height When Dropped.”

Heck, I once proposed the idea of mercenaries to help relieve the stress on our ground forces without expanding our ground forces (and risk disruption in the inevitable post-war demobilization). I called for 15,000 in an American Foreign Legion.

I ultimately rejected my idea, but the idea is not inherently stupid. Private warfare is here, people.

If this is a mock-worthy idea, what do you call the Obama administration's idea in 2011 to do just that in Iraq?

U.S. Army helicopter brigade is set to pull out of Baghdad in December, as part of an agreement with the Iraqi government to remove U.S. forces. So the armed helicopters flying over the Iraqi capital next year will have pilots and machine gunners from DynCorp International, a company based in Virginia.

On the ground, it's the same story. American soldiers and Marines will leave. Those replacing them, right down to carrying assault weapons, will come from places with names like Aegis Defence Services and Global Strategies Group — eight companies in all.

That article quoted said we planned for 5,000 mercenaries to defend our State Department mission in Iraq! So Hillary Clinton and her boss Barack Obama are as ignorant of military matters as O'Reilly?

Hey, you know what is stupid? Calling for a draft to fight ISIL, as Representative Rangel recently called for:

I have called for levying a war tax in addition to bringing back the military draft. Both the war surcharge and conscription will give everyone in America a real stake in any decision on going to war, and compel the public to think twice before they make a commitment to send their loved ones into harm’s way.

Rangel is a veteran. Which proves that military experience doesn't automatically make you an expert on military matters.

We're already taxed enough. The problem is that we lavishly fund every other line item rather than prioritize defense as a core federal government function.

As for the draft? I've long been against it for supplying manpower for our current war on Islamist terrorism and related fights. If we are short of troops, we are talking about a matter of tens of thousands. In what world does a draft in a country of over 300 million people make sense?

A draft would need few people and so the exemptions to the draft would have to exclude the vast majority of those turning 18 each year; or the lottery level unfairness of selecting just a few at random of all the eligible recruits would be horrible.

By all means, argue against the idea of a foreign legion of mercenaries. Or for it, if you want. But the notion isn't inherently stupid.

NOTE: Excuse the many typos and clarifications for the original intent that I corrected since hitting "publish." I guess I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

Now That's Paradise


And after she kills those ISIL bastards and they go to paradise, the dead martyrs get kicked in the nuts by 72 female fighter pilots forever.

Not like the jihadis can get mad religion-wise. She is covered head-to-toe in a flight suit and helmet.

Tip to Instapundit.

Right Posters

A reader of this humble blog is in the business of selling conservative posters (and t-shirts).

So check him out.

I'm sure entire handfuls of orders will follow from this blog's massive global reach!

Idiocy Returns

The Bush "lied us into war" talk is resuming. It is still stupid.

I won't even bother linking to the story that prompted this post. But the notion that President Bush (43) lied about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to trick us into war is just nonsense.

One, Saddam Hussein has an obligation under the 1991 Persian Gulf War ceasefire to prove to us that he disarmed. The ceasefire did not require us to prove he had not disarmed. Saddam apparently wanted to bluff the world (especially the Iranians) into thinking he still had WMD. So congratulations to him for succeeding on that, I guess.

Two, the intelligence that led us to believe Saddam had WMD was intelligence that our allies believed. It was intelligence that was believed in a bipartisan fashion here in America, too. That's the main reason that Congress passed and President Clinton signed legislation in 1998 making regime change in Iraq our official policy.

Indeed, for all those on the anti-Iraq War 1.0 side who say that WMD was the only legitimate reason to go to war with Saddam's Iraq in 2003 (ignoring the many other reasons in our declaration of war), prior to the war even they agreed with Bush that Iraq had chemical weapons--and yet many of them still opposed the war.

And three, Iraq had the ability to restart chemical weapons production in a small amount of time. Indeed, Iraq had raw materials to make chemical weapons that critics of the decision to go to war don't think are chemical weapons.

Yet the chemical weapons deal with Assad in Syria that has been lauded as a WMD disarmament triumph included raw materials in addition to poison gas among the WMD destruction successes.

Oh, and Assad managed to use chemical weapons anyway (from materials not part of the deal) and still has chemical weapons facilities standing.

So there you go. Saddam has chemical weapons stockpiles as defined for Assad; even a disarmament plan with Assad didn't get rid of his WMD; everyone--including the French, Saddam's generals, and Democrats here--believed Saddam had chemical weapons; and Saddam was the one who lied about chemical weapons.

At this point, asserting that President Bush lied about Iraq's WMD is a lie itself. And idiotic, of course.

So Let's Win, Eh?

Note that I truly want President Obama to lead us to victory over ISIL, and save Iraq in the process. And overthrow Assad, in time.

I know I've mocked a lot of what the president is doing lately. But it is the result of more than a decade of being called a warmonger for wanting to fight our enemies and for enduring preening, drooling, idiots who pretend they understand the military, war, and history.

And no, I'm not just talking about Kirsten Powers.

Now that President Obama has discovered that the jihad and Russian aggression are very interested in him, the lazy blaming of Bush for all our troubles abroad is no longer tenable, is it?

I'm "enjoying" that in a bitter sort of way.

So now let's kill and stop our enemies.

And congratulations to the Obama administration for getting Arab states to go kinetic on our common enemies with air power. That is an achievement of diplomacy.

Let's not throw away our sacrifices in Afghanistan, while I'm at it.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

When People's March

Is anyone really surprised that communists were in the vanguard of the People's Climate stink-fest?

They were big in the Occupy Wall Street movement, as I noted.

And they were big in the anti-Iraq War protest movement, as I also noted.

But the media almost completely ignores the communist efforts to leverage whatever popular outrage is in vogue on the left to get the same old policies implemented.

Funny, isn't it, that actual hard-core communists see the global warming movement's objectives as compatible with their goals?

Don't expect too much press attention to this Watermelon Movement.

UPDATE: Related:

This is what a political movement looks like when it cannot recognize reality: it descends into ever more radical fantasies and rage, and gives its voice over to its most extreme elements. Like anti-nuclear activism 30 years ago, climate change activism has decayed into irresponsible advocacy, and deserves the increasing scorn of the public. And like the nuclear freeze movement of 30 years ago, if catastrophic climate change is a real prospect decades from now, these are the last people who should be put in charge of developing responses.

Read it all, as the saying goes. Those loons are the last people we should let run with scissors let alone "save" the planet.

Really, Yes We Can

For God's sake, don't despair over Afghanistan. We have a mission within our reach and a lesson from Iraq about the folly of leaving allies on their own too soon.

President Obama ordered two separate major escalations of troop strength to fight in Afghanistan. Despite so many voicing eagerness to get out as fast as possible, the situation in Afghanistan on the ground really isn't very bad at all:

In the last year the number of foreign troops in Afghanistan has gone from 145,000 to 33,000. Afghan security forces have had to pick up the slack. This has meant that in the last six months some 9,000 Afghans died in terrorism related violence. Some 61 percent of the dead were Taliban and another 11 percent were civilians. The rest were police and soldiers. Fewer than fifty foreigners have died. Most of the violence is concentrated in two areas; the south (Helmand and Kandahar, where most of the heroin comes from) and the east (Paktia and Kunar provinces and parts of two nearby provinces). The Islamic terrorists in both the east and south try to maintain control over some areas in the four most violent provinces but their success tends to be temporary. Nevertheless the Afghan security forces are not enthusiastic about perpetual war with these guys. Yet in most of Afghanistan (20 of the 24 provinces) the Taliban is either absent or on the run. This tends to get forgotten by the foreign media, for whom peace and prosperity are not news. But it is inside Afghanistan.

Both these hotspots are sustained by Islamic terrorist sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan.

The Taliban are an intense, enduring, but narrow problem inside Afghanistan, bolstered by sanctuaries in Pakistan (and increasingly, in Iran).

Note that over the last six months, Afghanistan has suffered 1,500 casualties per month. About 900 were the enemy. Government security forces suffered less than half of the enemy rate. In Syria with a similar population, by contrast, casualties are nearly triple. And the casualty percentage of civilian deaths is about 4 times the Afghanistan rate.

Victory in Afghanistan can be sustained with some American help. I don't define Afghanistan victory as democracy in Afghanistan--it is too peripheral in the Moslem world to matter much in this regard. I define victory as denying jihadis a sanctuary. But my objectives for Afghanistan have never been high, remember.

UPDATE: Are we accepting these A-29 planes for Afghanistan's air force? Or are we planning contract pilots? Because I thought our president's plan was to skedaddle after 2016:

Brazilian aviation firm Embraer said Thursday that it had delivered the first of 20 light-attack aircraft to the US Air Force, for use in Afghanistan after the NATO troop withdrawal.

As an inexpensive ground support plane, it is great for a country like Afghanistan that can't afford high performance planes and doesn't face enemies with sophisticated air defenses.

But why are we accepting them? Who flies and maintains them?

But have no doubt, Afghanistan desperately needs air power given our departure. We see the effects of this lack of capability already:

Hundreds of Taliban fighters have stormed a strategic district in an Afghan province southwest of the capital and are on the verge of capturing it after killing dozens of people and beheading some in days of fighting, officials said on Friday. ...

No longer pinned down by U.S. air cover, Taliban fighters are attacking Afghan military posts in large numbers with the aim of taking and holding ground.

As we return to Iraq to re-win that war after we blew our achievements there, could we please refuse to lose Afghanistan right now?

Win, Build, Win

I think the war against ISIL in Iraq and Syria is so far is going--broadly--as I proposed.

In short, I think our strategy should be "Win, Build, Win." I've outlined it in earlier posts, so might as well lay it out in a separate one.

That is, first we focus on a WIN in Iraq as the main effort by defeating ISIL and their local Sunni Arab allies by providing air support (using special forces and forward air controllers to guide them when possible) to local allies on the ground.

Local allies will be Kurdish forces in the northeast to drive southwest; Iraqi forces bolstered by US (and allied) embedded advisors (we will provide enough advisors for 9 brigade and 3 division headquarters) plus Iraqi counter-terrorism forces in the center to advance north and west; and possibly a Jordanian force to advance into Anbar from the west.

It is possible that we will have a contractor-based ground force that we hire that might provide part of that ground force in the center to advance north.

We will need to get another Awakening with sufficient Sunni Arabs to help tear out the jihadis who go underground as local spearheads backed by our air power push into ISIL-held ground.

Second, while we do this, we will BUILD the non-jihadi Syrian opposition. We plan to spend up to a year training 5,000 troops that we intend to use as a buffer forces along the Iraq-Syria border. Hopefully this complements our efforts north of Jordan and efforts out of Turkey to support non-jihadi rebels.

While we build up the Syrian opposition to become a viable alternative to the jihadis for those who want to fight Assad, we will strike targets in Syria to support the Iraq main effort in Iraq and to shape the battlefield for the last step.

Our targets for our initial strikes in Syria are consistent with this part of the strategy:

Coalition strikes targeted ISIL training camps, headquarters, command and control facilities, logistical nodes, armored vehicles and leadership.

U.S. military forces also executed unilateral precision strikes against the Khorasan Group, an A.Q.-affiliated terrorist organization located in northwest Syria.

The intelligence reports indicated that the Khorasan Group was in the final stages of plans to execute major attacks against Western targets and potentially the U.S. homeland.

The strikes at the Khorasan group aren't directly related to the main effort in Iraq, but the rest do support that effort, as did the succeeding strikes on ISIL oil production capacity (by hitting refinery facilities).

And the strikes at Khorasan do help us shape the Syria battlefield by weakening the jihadi alternative to the guys we'd rather see succeed in Syria. Maybe serving with more moderate forces who don't face our air attacks will seem safer. And if that is a symbol of our general support, that will help, too.

Third, when Iraq is secured we attempt to WIN in Syria. Hopefully, those Syrian rebels we trained who hold the border in the east have attracted new recruits and we can back them as they advance west and defeat ISIL in Syria.

The fourth step is to continue the win over ISIL by helping non-jihadi Syrian rebels in the east, in the south, and in the north to overthrow Assad. I'm not sure the Obama administration is on board with this final step.

So yeah, the whole thing will take time. It is possible that the third step won't be finished before 2016 is over--but I think step one should be achieved next year if we can strike decisive blows as we did in Afghanistan in 2001 and as the French did in Mali--and that the fourth step won't begin until the next administration.

But so far I have hope that President Obama will do well enough to make progress in Iraq. Although I'll always worry about his ability to stick with pursuing victory when the going gets rough.

UPDATE: Turkey sure does seem to edging toward using their army to establish a "humanitarian" buffer zone inside Syria:

As it faces increasing security threats from Islamic extremists in its south and southeast, the Turkish government has said it will expand parliamentary authorizations allowing the Army to conduct cross-border operations into neighboring Iraq and Syria.

Perhaps Turkey just didn't want to be led from behind only to find they were the only one in the fight.

UPDATE: And this news about our strikes in Syria is consistent, too:

U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria, which began this week with forceful missile and bomber salvos, are expected to eventually settle into a lower-intensity tempo resembling the American-led campaign in Iraq, defense officials said.

That makes sensee in the context I've laid out. What doesn't make sense is the slow pace in Iraq. How about a little actual ground support for Iraqi troops fighting ISIL rather than letting them get overrun and slaughtered in their bases?

Somewhat Lower Than the First Problem, Now

Hey! Remember when the Left claimed that solving the Palestinian problem was the most important thing that must be done first to solve all other Middle East problems? Sure you do! That was one reason they said we shouldn't attack Saddam's Iraq. President Obama told the international community that he rejects that thinking.

Huh, what did President Obama say in his Wednesday speech to the UN?

On Wednesday, the second-term president went relatively easy on Israel, instead telling Arab countries to stop using the conflict “as an excuse to distract people from problems at home.”

Obama was stern in his instructions for the Muslims: “It is time for the world, especially in Muslim communities, to explicitly, forcefully and consistently reject the ideology of organizations like al-Qaeda and ISIL,” also known as the Islamic State. He went on at some length about the intolerance of clerics who preach hate and the “hypocrisy” of those who fund terrorism.

The president gave the world homework, instructing them to report back next year on “concrete steps that we have taken to counter extremist ideologies.” And he instructed Arab nations to “acknowledge the destruction wrought by proxy wars and terror campaigns between Sunni and Shia across the Middle East.”

Holy Dissonance, Batman! The Arab conflict with Israel is a distraction from solving their problems at home?

Solving the Palestinian problem (which, oddly enough, isn't considered their self-destructive impulse to wage endless war and select scum to lead them) isn't the priority task to set the keystone of building a lasting peace in the Middle East that resolves all conflicts?


President Obama can learn, after all. By God, I am feeling a little bit of the hope we were promised.

I guess we find out if President Obama has learned enough to change enough.

And we'll find out whether his slavish followers can accept what the president has learned about the need to defeat that "Network of Death" that the president said has “access to technology that allows small groups to do great harm," and that "they have embraced a nightmarish vision that would divide the world into adherents and infidels, killing as many innocent civilians as possible, employing the most brutal methods.”

Hey, it worked on Milbank (although old habits die hard, since he called the president a "man of peace" despite the record).

Maybe Code Pink will slap on the yellow ribbons, too.

It's All So Oddly Familiar

Bush went to war in Afghanistan and then Iraq, and our European allies mostly bailed on us in Iraq, judging only Afghanistan the good war. Now it is completely different.

Now Obama goes to war in Iraq and then Syria, and our European allies mostly have bailed on us in Syria, judging only Iraq the good war:

As the US expanded its fight against the so-called Islamic State into Syria alongside five Arab countries this week, the absence of European forces is noticeable.

This is so confusing. I thought Bush 43 alienated our European allies.

I thought President Obama, our first European-American president at heart, would repair the breach of trust and get them to follow us again.

That's what we were told. So where are the Europeans? Don't they trust President Obama's claim of an imminent-ish threat to America or Europe, justifying air assaults inside Syria?

A less self-absorbed man might find it oddly familiar, anyway.

Speaking of Farcical Obama Defenses

I hate to have to return to the issue again, but the notion that the decision by President Bush 43 (and Congress, don't forget) to invade Iraq in 2003 was a massive mistake with no justification is just nonsense.

I only bring this issue up because some of President Obama's defenders deny that his neglect of Iraq since 2011 allowed ISIL to sweep through Iraq, and instead blame the problem on the original invasion which may be the biggest foreign policy error we've ever made (they say).

Remember that even without the many reasons for war provided in the 2002 authorization to use force (the functional modern equivalent of a declaration of war), regime change in Iraq and the promotion of democracy in Iraq were the official policies of America since 1998.

Let's go to President Clinton's signing statement, shall we?

Today I am signing into law H.R. 4655, the "Iraq Liberation Act of 1998." This Act makes clear that it is the sense of the Congress that the United States should support those elements of the Iraqi opposition that advocate a very different future for Iraq than the bitter reality of internal repression and external aggression that the current regime in Baghdad now offers.

Let me be clear on what the U.S. objectives are:

The United States wants Iraq to rejoin the family of nations as a freedom-loving and lawabiding member. This is in our interest and that of our allies within the region.

The United States favors an Iraq that offers its people freedom at home. I categorically reject arguments that this is unattainable due to Iraq's history or its ethnic or sectarian makeup. Iraqis deserve and desire freedom like everyone else.

The United States looks forward to a democratically supported regime that would permit us to enter into a dialogue leading to the reintegration of Iraq into normal international life. ...

The Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 provides additional, discretionary authorities under which my Administration can act to further the objectives I outlined above. There are, of course, other important elements of U.S. policy. These include the maintenance of U.N. Security Council support efforts to eliminate Iraq's prohibited weapons and missile programs and economic sanctions that continue to deny the regime the means to reconstitute those threats to international peace and security. United States support for the Iraqi opposition will be carried out consistent with those policy objectives as well.

What a loony tune NeoCon, eh? Iraq as a threat to international peace and security? Where'd that notion come from?

Hey, on the bright side, invading Iraq surely could have been justified on the basis of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) alone, don't you think? If President Clinton is to be believed, of course.

We are beginning our third war in Iraq (four, if you count the 1990s no-fly zone bombing campaign against Saddam's air defenses and that 1998 Desert Fox thing--or just one war if you count 1991 to today as one conflict interrupted by a ceasefire from 1991-2003 and our time out from the end of 2011 to last month).

Yet somehow only the second one was dumb?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Testing, One, Two, Three. Testing

I assume that the only reason we used the F-22 to strike jihadi targets in Syria was to see how they operated in Syria's air defense environment.

Because none of the jihadis have sophisticated air defenses to justify using that plane.

UPDATE: Others question the reason for the F-22. Was it some special electronic warfare capability needed?

I think we wanted to see if the Syrians detected the plane; and if they did, identify the cascading electronic reaction as word spread about being the first to see the F-22 in combat. That could be important information for us to have in the future.

So Getting Iraqi Troops to Fight is Unimportant?

While we worked on a big strike against jihadis in Syria, we stood by and didn't use our air power to help an Iraqi battalion fight off jihadi attacks. I guess we're fine with local ground forces thinking that our air power intervention will have no effect on their personal chances of surviving combat.

Good grief:

The [Iraqi] army base in Iraq’s western Anbar province had been under siege by Islamic State militants for a week, so when a convoy of armored Humvees rolled up at the gate, the Iraqi soldiers at Camp Saqlawiyah believed saviors had arrived.

But this was no rescue attempt. The vehicles were driven by militants on suicide missions, and within seconds on Sunday the base had become a bloody scene of multiple bombings.

On Monday, a day after the attack, five survivors — including three officers — said that between 300 and 500 soldiers were missing and believed to be dead, kidnapped or in hiding.

This is so frustrating. This is exactly why our air power is needed. Why didn't we use it to help that battalion hold their base? We didn't even drop supplies.

The Iraqis claim chlorine gas was used by the jihadis. There is no proof right now, but al Qaeda did use chlorine gas during the Iraq War, so it is plausible.

Is this how we expect to get Iraqis and other Arab states to fight for us so we don't have to commit ground combat units? Because if so, it isn't going to work.

UPDATE: We still have a chance to make a difference to Iraqi defenders:

Around 200 Iraqi soldiers were trapped in an army camp in western Iraq on Wednesday, besieged by Islamic State militants who routed hapless army forces in a raid on a base close to Baghdad at the weekend.

I mean, what the Hell are we doing in Iraq desperately seeking a ground force to support if we won't help ground forces already there?

What country will volunteer to head to the front to provide that ground force if we won't help those already there?

UPDATE: This story from the 25th is unclear about where the base is, so I don't know if it either of the bases noted above:

Militants from ISIS have overrun an Iraqi military base near Baghdad and executed 300 soldiers, according to a breaking news report from CNN.

I assume it doesn't mean the base in the original post since this is breaking news from the 25th.

How do we convince non-US forces to face the murderous fanatics of ISIL (ISIS) on the ground if we won't help them defeat or even survive the battles with the jihadis?

Are we really this blind?

Grant Me That This is Funny

President Obama's defenders claim that he did not fail to keep a presence in Iraq after 2011 because the agreement that President Bush signed with Iraq in 2008 called for our total withdrawal in 2011. Ponder that claim.

Ponder that President Obama--the anti-Bush--is now relying on the so-called Bush policy expertise that this administration and their defenders have gone to great lengths to deride as incompetent.

But the fact is, leaving in 2011 was not the Bush policy. A 3-year pact was an interim pact meant to be replaced with a new one.

If the Bush agreement was not an interim agreement, why did the Obama administration negotiate with Iraq for a new one all through much of 2011?

Let me provide examples that the notion of staying in Iraq was assumed in 2008 and not some post-2011 conservative ploy to unjustly attack president Obama.

In early 2006 (before the sectarian killing dramatically escalated that year) I spoke of keeping troops in Iraq:

Even after Iraq can defend itself, I could see a few American combat brigades and Air Force units remaining in the 25,000-30,000 level for a long time if the Iraqis are agreeable.

At the time the new 3-year agreement was signed, I said I assumed a new agreement would replace that 3-year deal to keep our troops in Iraq:

My guess is that the Iraqis will negotiate a new agreement to keep Americans in Iraq even after 2011. Iraq still needs us to guarantee that external threats are kept at bay while the Iraqis build up their conventional military power. Remember, Iraq's military is almost purely a counter-insurgency force now and cannot fight conventional enemy forces.

And even if some miracle of events leads to the overthrow of the Iranian mullahs and the neutering of the Syrian Baathist regime, Iraq will still need our armed presence to set parameters for resolving political disagreements inside Iraq. Remember, it isn't the factionalism that is a problem as far as I'm concerned. The question is whether the Iraqis settle their disputes through rule of law and accept election results (unlike the Thai losers of the last election who demand power despite their loss) as a mandate to govern and not to plunder--and if the losers understand that the winners won't use 50% plus one as a mandate to oppress the losers, the losers will gear up for the next election and to oppose the majority through the legal system and media rather than stockpiling arms.

in August 2010, I called for 25,000 to be kept in Iraq after 2011.

In January 2011, amidst reports that President Obama had little interest in a new agreement, I still called for 25,000.

In April 2011, I argued against only keeping only 10,000 as the administration proposed, but I did credit the administration with wanting to keep somebody in Iraq after 2011 while moaning about Iraqi reticence.

And in September 2011, I even tried to figure out how just 3,000 troops could be made to work.

Face it, it was always assumed that there would be a new agreement for a post-2011 American military presence. Acting as if leaving in 2011 was the Bush plan all along is just nonsense.

Did President Obama Just Adopt My Lexington Rule?

Is the Obama Doctrine taking shape in a way that will (or should if they weren't so partisan) horrify the Hope and Change crowd?

President Obama has justified our strikes on targets in Syria by saying that Syria is failing to police their territory:

In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power wrote, "The Syrian regime has shown that it cannot and will not confront these safe havens effectively itself."

The strikes were needed to eliminate a threat to Iraq, the United States and its allies, she wrote, citing Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, which covers an individual or collective right to self-defense against armed attack.

"States must be able to defend themselves ... when, as is the case here, the government of the state where the threat is located is unwilling or unable to prevent the use of its territory for such attacks," Power wrote in the letter obtained by Reuters.

One, enjoy the argument that we don't need a sacred UN Security Council Resolution to embark on a war. (Funny, President Obama doesn't look NeoConish ...)

Two, apparently the threat to us was imminent-ish:

Airstrikes in Syria against the extremist Khorasan group were prompted by planning for an "imminent" terror attack on U.S. soil, the Pentagon said.

The terror attack itself wasn't imminent. But there was planning going on that once completed would have created an imminent threat. So we have that Gold standard for justifying our action, only slightly tarnished

Look, I have no problem killing jihadis. The only good one is a dead one. I'm just noting this evolution of "imminent" achieved by bathing it in the soothing balms of hope and change.

Three, and more important, is the Obama Doctrine going to be defined by adopting the Lexington Rule that I proposed when President Obama was just a gleam in the eyes of the Hope and Change crowd?

One of the problems with dealing with non-state actors is that they have enough power to defy the state government that has the responsibility for policing that piece of territory. So when a country goes after the non-state actor exercising the power of a state to wage war, the country runs afoul of the Westphalian assumptions because the country is attacking the formal territory of some state government even if that government does not control the territory. The Hizbollah War is a case in point.

So what if we modify our rules of recognition? Let's split our recognition. We recognize a government that holds a UN seat and borrows money and is responsible for its actions, as we do now. Right now it is all or nothing. You are recognized or not and if you do you are given credit for controlling everything within the lines on the map indicating your country. The government has legal responsibility to control their territory, but in practice there is no way to compel them to do so and yet international law prevents others from trying to install some level of control--or at least to destroy threats gathering in those areas beyond government control.

But as part of this recognition, we also declare the boundaries of these recognized governments that reflect effective control and not just legal fictions based on lines on maps. For most countries, we'd use the formal boundaries. Germany controls their territory. But not all countries are in this situation.

Where a country's government does not or cannot control all their territory, we should declare areas "free of control" by a national government and therefore deprive the non-state actor from hiding behind the nominal legal government when they are attacked on their de facto territory that the non-state actor rules.

We aren't attacking Syria because Syria doesn't control the territory that is technically within the boundaries of formal Syria that we are striking.

I take it our State Department will from now on be completely on board when Israel fights Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and refuse to claim Israel is at war with "Lebanon."

To be fair, hope and change have made many policies once forbidden now acceptable.

UPDATE: Here's the press conference on the strikes.


Our administration truly has no clue about strategy.

This is just mind blowingly wrong:

A senior Obama administration official, asked why the United States opposes providing lethal aid, said Washington believed Ukraine had enough such equipment and that the types of weaponry that has been discussed would be of only marginal value.

"There's no sense that there's an effective military edge that could be given that could change the overall balance," the official said. "Ukraine would be extremely vulnerable to a fully supported Russian attack."

Excuse me? This is a "senior" administration official?

How is it possible to believe that the only point of arming Ukraine would be to change the overall balance? Why is arming Ukraine pointless if it doesn't provide Ukraine with military superiority that allows Ukraine to defeat a fully supported Russian invasion?

Really? That's the measure of deterring Russia?

This is--if you'll forgive me for using a technical term--"stupid."

Let me begin by accepting one point that I've made repeatedly--we don't need to send big items like armored vehicles and artillery and aircraft. Ukraine has lots of this stuff even if it needs help to upgrade it and put it into service. And providing our stuff would take years and even decades to integrate into a military that is Soviet-designed in equipment.

But that doesn't mean we can't assist them in putting their gear into service and providing gear and weapons that allow Ukraine to fight more effectively--plus training, advice, and intelligence.

My basic frustration is wondering whether that senior administration official really believes that America is the only country sensitive to casualties if we go to war.

Russian society, despite its huge Putin crush that they suffer from, will not grant Putin a blank check for their sons' lives and limbs--not to mention the economic costs--to conquer all the countries on Putin's bucket list of former Russian imperial provinces.

It is not pointless to arm Ukraine short of allowing Ukraine to have a good shot at capturing Moscow or even just allowing Ukraine to build a military capable of inflicting a decisive conventional defeat on Russian invaders.

Russia needs to understand that Ukraine will and can fight a prolonged war and that just reaching their objectives inside Ukraine--whether it is Kiev or Odessa--will be costly.

And then Russia needs to know that pacifying any conquered territory will be costly as Ukraine carries on the fight from Free Ukraine.

And Russia needs to know that Ukraine can strike Crimea to make Russia pay a further price for fighting Ukraine.

Come on! Even China with over a billion people has a pain level of casualties that can deter their efforts to take one of their core interests and whose conquest is the focus of their armament efforts.

At some level, Russian casualties will defeat Russia, as the Soviet Union demonstrated when it left Afghanistan. And if Russia knows with some certainty before Russia launches a war that those casualties are likely, deterrence may prevent a war.

God, we suck.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Premature Escalation

Boko Haram shook the Nigerian military but lately seems to be getting hammered as the jihadis got over-eager to claim their own caliphate.

There's Always a Footnote With These Guys

Pakistan's offensive into North Waziristan has done real damage to the jihadis there. But there's always a catch when the Pakistanis fight jihadis:

Meanwhile the Taliban that are still fighting have lost about half their strength as a new faction, composed of Mehsud and Wazir tribesmen (the largest tribes in North Waziristan) renounced allegiance to Pakistani Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah and formed a new group called Jamaatul Ahrar. One reason for this is the fact that Fazlullah is based across the border in Afghanistan (Kunar province) and calls for continued terror attacks inside Pakistan. Jamaatul Ahrar pledged allegiance to the Afghan Taliban, who continue to be protected by the Pakistani military. This is a major win for the army because this new group is, in effect, pledging to no longer support terrorist violence inside Pakistan. The army tends to go easy on Islamic terrorists who confine their mayhem to India, Afghanistan and other foreign targets.

As I've mentioned before, when we count on others to fight for our objectives, they often (how odd!) fight for their objectives.

We Now Have a Record of Alternate Strategies to Judge the Iraq War

The idea that President Bush caused the current ISIL surge in Iraq by invading in 2003 is ludicrous.

Let's remember that it was President Clinton who signed the law that made regime change and democracy promotion in Iraq our national policy.

Let's remember that even if the charge against Bush is true, the alternative is to say that the brutal and aggressive Saddam regime would have been a better course of action.

Or you can say that we and an alliance should have actively supported rebels in Iraq to overthrow Saddam. See Libya, which is a jihadi playground spreading jihadi unrest to neighboring states.

Or you can say that we should have kept our support for Iraqi rebels minimal and low-level, counting on the majority to overwhelm the government supporters. See Syria, which is at 200,000+ dead already--and counting. And hosting lots of jihadis who conquered large swathes of Iraq and threaten neighbors of Syria

Or you could say that we should have just stayed out of Iraq except for using words. See Egypt, where the old autocratic power structure regained power after Islamists took control for a time. And for a bonus, jihadis are now very active in Sinai.

You can even say that we should have come to another agreement with Saddam that this time--for sure--got rid of his WMD since only that is a real issue for us. See pre-2011 Libya which started to revert to a troublemaker under Khadaffi and still had some WMD at the time of the revolution. Or see Syria under Assad in 2012 when Assad agreed to get rid of his chemical weapons yet still managed to kill civilians with chemical weapons after the agreement was put into effect.

What about the templates that President Obama cites?

In Yemen, a war between north and south is conflated with al Qaeda's presence. We support the government's ground forces with drone strikes and the place is at best a mess that doesn't make our evening news. Is that really a model for Iraq?

Somalia is where we simply try to keep the chaos at bay with special forces direct action, air and missile strikes, and support for outside intervention to keep the jihadis in check. This could be worse without our actions, but is it really the model for the heart of the Arab world?

And why not mention Pakistan where a state with a powerful military allows us to strike jihadis with drones--while denouncing us for doing so and only letting us attack certain jihadis while allowing others a sanctuary?

At best, you have the Tunisia model, which is a small country that lacks a major Islamist presence and lacks major internal divisions. Tunisia is so far an Arab Spring success story. Iraq is not Tunisia.

So the alternative strategies for Iraq don't seem very good.

We had our actual strategy for Iraq, which we invaded in accordance with our national policy and in recognition that 9/11 means that terror-supporting regimes (as Saddam's was) are too dangerous to allow to live when they prove they have not given up on gaining WMD.

We won that actual Iraq War, yet immediately faced an Iranian and Syrian invasion along with a fight against al Qaeda, which made Iraq their main front. This complicated our war, to say the least.

In time, we defeated all these enemies and gave Iraq a fighting chance to build the democracy of different groups (Sunni Arab, Sunni Kurd, and Shia Arab, among others) within a single state that we hoped would be a visible alternative in the Islamic world to rule by autocrats or Islamists.

But then we left Iraq alone. You can insist that it is Maliki's fault we did not stay after 2011. But you are wrong.

Sure, Maliki shares some blame. But we failed to offer enough troops to make pissing off the Iranians seem wise to Maliki. And we failed to find ways to get to yes.

To argue that President Obama is the victim of Iraqi failure in 2011 is to believe that President Obama tried very hard to get the opposite of what he long said he wanted and what he still boasts he achieved--"responsibly ending" the Iraq War by getting all our troops out as he promised.

And blaming it on Bush's three-years SOFA in 2008, as if that was all that was intended, ignores the fire storm that even that interim agreement created. Many Obama supporters insisted that was illegal and would tie soon-to-be-President Obama's hands.

Come on, the president still thinks this way in regard to Afghanistan, which he insists we will leave before 2017, "responsibly ending" that war, too.

Despite everything, we achieved an Iraq in pretty good shape in 2011 that was far superior to the condition of states where we tried alternate strategies and non-strategies to shape chaotic events.