Thursday, December 31, 2015

Science Catches Up With The Dignified Rant

I enjoyed this:

Don’t look now, but maybe a scientific consensus exists concerning global warming after all. Only 36 percent of geoscientists and engineers believe that humans are creating a global warming crisis, according to a survey reported in the peer-reviewed Organization Studies. By contrast, a strong majority of the 1,077 respondents believe that nature is the primary cause of recent global warming and/or that future global warming will not be a very serious problem.

The survey results show geoscientists (also known as earth scientists) and engineers hold similar views as meteorologists. Two recent surveys of meteorologists (summarized here and here) revealed similar skepticism of alarmist global warming claims.

That's about it. The Earth is warming. Who could deny that? It would be warming even with no humans since the Little Ice Age has ended perhaps a couple centuries ago.

And while people no doubt contribute to warming factors, there is not enough evidence that our impact is decisive. If it is, why the 19-year-long "pause" we are experiencing in global temperatures (per satellite data) despite more of our CO2 contributions in that time?

And why have the models missed all of this? Remember, models are not actual real world data.

Further, who says this will be bad even if temperatures rise a bit more?

And even if we are responsible for the rise and even if it will be bad for us, who on Earth says that the socialistic, liberty- and economy-killing policies that global warmers advocate would be the proper answer?

This has long been my stand on the issue. I deeply resent those global warmers who try to act so superior as if only they are capable of weighing the evidence. Science? More like faith-based, I say.

Of course, I've long read that the actual scientists are way more cautious on drawing conclusions than the Warminista activists who write the reports that the media relies on.

You do know that the 97% (or 98%) pro-warming consensus claim is pure BS, right? No matter how much you chant it, that claim just isn't true.

Oh, and the best part? The study seems to have been done by global warming alarmists. That's gonna leave a mark.

Life is truly good. Happy new year!

Not Even If You Dim the Lights and Squint

Jesus H. Christ, our diplomats actually believe they are succeeding.

Man, they've got ultra beer goggles to see the clusterfuck they've presided over as something to boast about.

UPDATE: Oh, and to celebrate the State Department hashtag, #2015in5words, let me suggest "Rewarding enemies and punishing friends."

Putin Storm Rising?

Our Navy is worried about the resurgence of the Russian navy. Why? Is it going to bleed on us?

Is the Russian navy rising?

For the first time in 24 years, the U.S. Navy’s intelligence branch has published an unclassified report warning against a rapidly rearming and increasingly aggressive Russian fleet.

And while the report—which the Navy intends for public consumption—has been years in the making, recent events have underscored just how serious its findings are. It’s becoming clearer by the day that, with the strong backing of President Vladimir Putin, the Russian navy is making a serious effort to challenge the world’s preeminent maritime power—the United States.

Russia is a land power that has insufficient power to defend its border. And we don't want them to have more land (and supporting air) power to push around weaker neighbors on their western border.

We should hope that Russia builds up their navy at the expense of land and air power.

It will give European NATO navies something to do, meaning our allies will soak up a lot of that growing naval power.

And their feeble armies will face fewer Russian brigades.

But notwithstanding the warning about a rapidly rearming and aggressive Russian fleet, it's still a Red Storm writhing:

Despite lots of effort (fiscal and otherwise) the Russian Navy is not being rebuilt and that means it is fading away. No amount of media razzle dazzle will replace the actual presence of your warships in distant waters. In the last few years the only such appearances have been mainly for show and the few that occurred were heavily covered by the Russian media.

When I say my bedtime prayers, I beg God to inspire Putin to build aircraft carriers.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Even after several hundred thousand dead and many more refugees and many more living in fear and poverty, Assad remains a man that the Washington establishment can work with.

Behold the smart unofficial diplomacy:

Early this year, a former top White House official secretly went to Damascus and met with leaders of the Syrian regime. The visit is part of a broader effort by the Syrian government to reach out to Washington’s power brokers and gain influence.

The former official, Steven Simon, served as the National Security Council senior director for Middle Eastern and North African affairs from 2011 to 2012. He has not publicly disclosed his trip, but two senior Obama administration officials said he was not acting as a back channel between the two governments. He traveled there as a private citizen and was representing only himself. The officials said he met with the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.
This tendency of the establishment to want to make a deal with the strong man is why I am firmly in the "destroy Assad first" camp and not "destroy ISIL in Syria first" camp. If we destroy Assad first, few will want to halt the effort short of destroying ISIL, too.

But if we destroy ISIL first? Well, then lots of people--including weakened rebels on the ground in Syria--will think letting Assad's regime survive is better than more suffering.

And so a regime that has plenty of blood on its hands--including the blood of our soldiers during the Iraq War, don't forget--will survive as our new partner.

With the current vector, our troops will be fighting for Assad by the end of next year.

After reaching out to Iran and Cuba, why not Syria, too, eh? Ah, nuance!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Enemy of My Enemy

I've meant to comment on Turkey restoring relations with Israel. So much happening in the world, so little time, and all. Strategypage lifts the burden of analyzing this reversal of recent Turkish policy:

Suddenly Turkey is an enemy and allied with Israel. This is not good for Iran. The war in Syria, in particular the recent Russian intervention was very unpopular in Turkey. This was good for Israel because Turkey, long a foe of Russia was not happy with Russian troops fighting right on the Turkish border, Thus by December 2015 the Turks were discussing the resumption of diplomatic relations with Israel. Since 2002 the Islamic government of Turkey has been battling Turkish secularists and trying to improve relations with other Islamic countries (including ancient rival Iran). This new policy meant adopting an anti-Israel attitude after decades of close relations with the Jewish state.

It's nice to see some sanity being restored in the region. Although I don't think that alliance with Israel will help Turkey with the nuclear angle that Strategypage raises.

After experiencing Turkish Islamist-based hostility, are the Israelis really going to back Turkey to the nuclear hilt in a confrontation with a nuclear-armed Iran? Perhaps if Turkey had been a stalwart friend all this time, Israel would risk that. Perhaps.

But not now. So Turkey will need their own nuclear weapons to deter a nuclear Iran. (The year isn't even over, yet who still believes that the nuclear deal with Iran will prevent them from getting nuclear weapons or turn them into a responsible regional power?)

Oh, and Turkey might think that their own nukes would be a useful deterrent against a nuclear Russia getting aggressive in their neighborhood, too.

The Jihadi Benefits Package

Let's look at an actual war on women:

Islamic State theologians have issued an extremely detailed ruling on when "owners" of women enslaved by the extremist group can have sex with them, in an apparent bid to curb what they called violations in the treatment of captured females.

Well, that settles that.

And as the article rightly states, this is about who can rape captives and not about sex.

You can see the translation:

For a U.S. government translation of the fatwa click

Why American feminists aren't leading supporters of the war against jihadi terrorists is beyond me.

Rather than fight actual misogyny, they'd rather resume their defense of Bill Clinton's one-man war on women.

(And as an aside, I know Democrats seemingly welcome another fight about Bill Clinton's sexual predator nature, but this is a brave new world of dangerous micro-aggressions, a so-called campus rape culture, and a mythical "war on women." In a day when "America's dad"--Bill Cosby--is being accused of and charged with sexual assaults against women--sometimes from long ago--is this really a battle they want to fight? Or is it only proper to raise such old charges against an African American man?)

Compare and Contrast

 Let's play who's the confident power?

While China's intentions are suspect, I don't understand why Japan has any grounds to protest a Chinese armed coast guard ship near the Senkaku Islands:

For the first time, China has sent an armed Coast Guard vessel near disputed islands in the East China Sea, according to Japan’s Coast Guard. Reuters reports that the Chinese ship, which appeared to be equipped with four gun turrets, sailed within 30 kilometers (18 miles) of part of the Senkaku/Diaoyu island group, which are claimed by both Japan and China.

If the ship isn't within 12 miles, and thus in international waters, why is this an issue for protest?

Of course, I don't understand why we apologized for flying a B-52 close to an artificial island built by China in the South China Sea:

Instead of broadcasting that America will reject China’s claims in the East China and South China Seas, and instead of asserting that American forces will of course operate in international territory, the Pentagon groveled before China, offering apologies. The Journal reports that the B-52 aircrew is being investigated and that the Pentagon is hinting that “bad weather” led the crew to make a mistake. It’s Scapegoating 101.

My understanding is that the zone around an artificial island is measured in yards for purely safety reasons. So we had every right to be there, too, even if accidentally a couple miles from the island.

The difference is, we said we were sorry about that accident while China refused to concede their right to sail.

UPDATE: Now this (older) article says that Chinese vessels entered Japanese waters:

The Japanese government formally protested the entry of an armed Chinese government ship and two other vessels into waters that Japan claims as its own on Saturday, according to an official in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is the first time that an armed Chinese vessel has intruded into the areas that Japan’s claims as its territory, the official said.

This implies the Chinese got much closer to Japanese territory than that first article claims. Although this very well may be a different incident.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

I Confess I'm Flummoxed


The number of Americans eligible to serve in the military is dramatically shrinking, leaving the Army at its smallest size in over 75 years and forcing units to rely on unstable and unprepared servicemen. That puts both our military troops and the country at risk.

Our Army is shrinking because it has been told to get smaller--not because the Army couldn't recruit enough soldiers. I'm not sure what this author even means.

And there is this:

In 2008, when I was an infantry company commander in charge of over 140 soldiers in Baghdad, I saw firsthand how the declining number of volunteers is hurting the military. Thirty-six of my men were forced to deploy even though their terms of service were up, a controversial military policy known as “stop loss” or the “back door draft.” To meet the bare minimum number of soldiers, my unit took men who were medically unfit to fight. I had soldiers that could not leave our compound because they were medically prohibited from wearing their body armor or classified as mentally unfit. I had soldiers taking anti-depression, sleeping, anxiety and other drugs. I had a mentally unstable private viciously attack his sergeant, causing lifelong damage, and multiple other problem soldiers that detracted from the combat performance of my unit. This was symptomatic throughout the Army.

I have no doubt that his personal experience in 2008--when recruiting was toughest--is accurate. The author had more combat experience before he brushed his teeth the first morning he was in Iraq compared to my reservist REMF service. And I concede we did lower recruiting standards and we did have troops with limitations on duty because of physical and mental wounds from past deployments.

But the author then hints at a draft as a solution for the supposed shortage of quality troops without actually calling for it. I do wish the author would listen to a company commander of an infantry unit in, say, 1970, and consider whether his problems with troops was really as bad as it could get. Heck, you don't even have to talk to a commander in South Vietnam. Talk to one in West Germany.

And don't even get me going on the nonsense of calling "stop-loss" a backdoor draft. That policy was about maintaining unit cohesion of a deploying unit and fully within the enlistment contract of the troops.

Again, perhaps a chat with a company commander in 1969 whose unit churned with people coming and going during a year would be enlightening. Or a couple years later when we were drawing down troops and not units. That policy wrecked our Army--not the war.

Also, I hate to point this out, but the Army of 2008 that suffered from the personnel problems laid out actually did win the surge campaign by defeating al Qaeda in Iraq and supporting the Awakening.

And it beat the pro-Iran Shia Sadrists in hard fighting in Baghdad.

But sure, we could use a bigger Army. I'll stand by the author on that. I'm just not sure what anything the author said before that had anything to with that point.

So When Did This Stop Being a Looming Crisis?

While one can argue that fracking and NAFTA are the factors that have led to a positive story in Mexico, the fact is there is a positive story about Mexico lately.

Yes, drug cartel violence still exists, but this is good news south of the border:

A little noted story from the last year is how Mexico has largely avoided the disaster that is enveloping so many commodity-exporting countries around the world—and especially in Latin America.

Basically, Mexico rejected the leftism that has plagued Latin America lately; opened up their economy under NAFTA to diversify their economy; and opened up their energy sector which has, among other things, let cheap American natural gas reduce electricity costs there.

In the final year of the Obama administration, this is really good news when you consider that at the dawn of the Obama administration I was wondering if Mexico would be the first foreign crisis that it would face.

With a smaller military, it helps to have fewer problems near home to tie down American forces otherwise available for power projection.

UPDATE: But don't put Mexico on the list of the administration's foreign policy successes yet:

President Pena has not managed to address intensifying citizen disgust with government corruption. Every month a new charge surfaces. Highly publicized arrests and prosecutions don’t seem to make a difference. A national movement has not yet evolved, but the disgust spans political parties and economic levels.

But perhaps the administration sees things differently.

Let's Make the French Resistance Real

I'll keep saying this: France should leave the fight against ISIL in Iraq an Syria to us and focus on the problem of ISIL in Libya.

Why wouldn't France try to make a difference in a front where they take the lead?

I've written in those calls for action after the November Paris Massacre that Egypt could be a powerful ally in that fight against ISIL in Libya.

Egypt seems primed to be led:

Egypt continues its tight border controls with Libya. Mainly Egypt wants to keep weapons and Islamic terrorists from entering Egypt and stop illegal migrants (some of them new recruits for ISIL in Libya) from crossing into Libya. Smugglers still get a lot of people and goods into and out of Libya using the fact that the 1,100 kilometer long border largely runs through thinly populated desert. The desert route is more expensive and many illegals cannot afford it. Egypt continues making public calls for international help, from anyone, to help stop the violence and chaos in neighboring Libya. Egypt has been making this appeal for most of the year. These appeals have, so far, been answered with silence. Egypt has carried out some unofficial air strikes but wants an “international effort” (at least one other nation besides Egypt) to carry out an open and official air support campaign. One of the two governments in Libya (the UN recognized one in Tobruk) also called for some international help and got the same response as Egypt.

And Libyans seem primed to ask for help despite the protests that they don't want to do that "at the moment," according to Libya's U.N. ambassador:

The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday endorsed a U.N.-brokered agreement among Libya's warring factions to form a national unity government, a deal Western powers hope will bring stability and help to combat a growing Islamic State presence.

Libya's U.N. ambassador, Ibrahim Dabbashi, said Libyan authorities have no plans to request Western air strikes against Islamic State militants anytime soon, if at all. He dismissed media reports citing him as saying the resolution would lead to a swift Libyan appeal for Western military intervention.

France has limited but good quality military power available. Why waste it in the the Iraq-Syria theater where a major French escalation can only raise their small role from a rounding error to bit player level?

Leading an effort against ISIL in Libya would reduce a lot of problems France has in the area, from their former colonies to ISIL to illegal mass migration.

UPDATE: See? We can handle whatever France wants to do in Syria:

"Over the past month, we've killed 10 ISIL leadership figures with targeted air strikes, including several external attack planners, some of whom are linked to the Paris attacks," said U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren, a spokesman for the U.S.-led military campaign against Islamic State, also known by the acronym ISIL. "Others had designs on further attacking the West."

One of those killed was Abdul Qader Hakim, who facilitated the militants' external operations and had links to the Paris attack network, Warren said. He was killed in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Dec. 26.

Come on France! Take down ISIL in Libya!

Monday, December 28, 2015

There Seems to Be Something Wrong With Our Bloody Jihadis Today

The Iraqis have declared victory in Ramadi after the hundreds of ISIL jihadis who had survived the months long siege appear to have melted away. What's wrong with ISIL's jihadis?

We appear to have an Iraqi victory in Ramadi:

"Yes, the city of Ramadi has been liberated. The Iraqi counter terrorism forces have raised the Iraqi flag over the government complex in Anbar", joint operations spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said in a statement broadcast on state television.

Note that the jihadis--who proclaim to love death the way their enemies love life--did not stand and die in place for the joy of killing enemies trying to dig them out of the Ramadi city center, regardless of their own fate. Paradise awaits, right?

This comes on the heels of the jihadis declining to fight to the death for Sinjar in northern Iraq last month.

When ISIL burst into Iraq to dramatically expand their territory in the first half of 2014, and declared a caliphate, those were heady days for Islamist hopes.

While I may not think much of the slow-motion offensive we've been organizing in Iraq, the long effort has apparently sapped jihadi morale as the caliphate project stalled--with only the surprise seizure of Ramadi in May of this year making it look like the jihad was still on a roll.

But the jihad is not on a roll. Not in Iraq anyway. And in Syria it is looking shaky, too, as we support anti-ISIL forces in eastern Syria.

It's all glory and 72 virgins when it seems like you might die for a successful cause. But the slow grinding war of exhaustion has at least blunted that faith in victory and seems to have given jihadis pause to consider whether their sacrifice will be for nothing.

The price has been to leave millions of people under the brutal rule of ISIL for a longer time, allow ISIL to expand their influence in other countries, and allow ISIL supporters to attack Paris.

But after two major battles where the jihadis declined to die for their cause in a last stand, I think we can say that the primary advantage of the jihadis--their apparent disdain for death--is evaporating.

When the jihadis aren't advancing, the hand of Allah in their success becomes tougher to see.

The failure to advance and conquer also has a practical result: the caliphate will run out of money:

Islamic State has set up departments to handle "war spoils," including slaves, and the exploitation of natural resources such as oil, creating the trappings of government that enable it to manage large swaths of Syria and Iraq and other areas.

The problem is that the spoils of war has evolved from the assets of the captured areas--money, gold, and whatnot--to the ongoing business life and people themselves of the conquered areas. People who might not care a lot if the bank is looted or the wealth of the Iraqi state is seized will find reason to hate ISIL when their own families and means of making a living are considered the spoils of war.

This underlines the basic fact that when you finance your operation on the spoils of war, it requires you to keep moving forward and to keep seizing spoils of war. When you stop advancing, all you can do is squeeze who you already control. That undermines the fear that keeps conquered people in line.

And when the terrorist gunmen themselves lose their aura of bad ass commitment to death or glory, that lack of fear will be fatal. After Sinjar and Ramadi, an ISIL commander could very well be noting that there seems to be something wrong with their bloody jihadis today.

Which means that we really should be able to speed up the pace of operations to exploit what could be shaky ISIL morale right now. Morale is a funny thing. Hit forces when their morale is weak and you can crack them and scatter them, inflicting a major defeat and perhaps ending the caliphate in Iraq.

Fail to hit them at their low point to finish them off, and their morale will recover. Note that finishing off our enemy is what we failed to do after the success of the surge offensive and Awakening led to victory in Iraq over al Qaeda in 2008.

Will we try to exploit this apparent opportunity to deliver a killing blow in the near term?

UPDATE: Austin Bay has related thoughts.

Hillary Was Assured There Would Be No Math

I guess we can call Hillary Clinton's education strategy the Lake Wobegon approach as she explains how she would improve schools:

I wouldn’t keep any school open that wasn’t doing a better than average job,” she said. “… But as president, what I’d be looking for are schools that exceed expectations. And I don’t care whether they’re urban, suburban or rural. … I am very partial toward districts that are doing well, and from everything I can tell, this one is.” [emphasis added]

Good grief! Even the Romans would only kill a tenth to remind the rest to perform better! A full half will go? Egad. Have the teacher unions approved this?

Clinton is familiar with the concept of "average" isn't she? Surely she knows that, depending on the form of "average," that roughly half of schools will perform at levels below the average.

And thus be subject to closing under a Clinton II administration.

This hasn't gotten much attention. Needless to say, if a Republican had said something this dumb, the press would be all over it, with statisticians explaining the idiocy with nice graphs.

The whole affair would have been described as just one example of the anti-science attitudes of the entire party.

But instead, Hillary!

What I Really Like About Windows 10

I just love how Windows 10 will update my computer while I'm away or asleep and restart it, wiping out all the tabs I have open in my browsers.

Windows 8 would at least let me know that my browser unexpectedly closed and ask me if I want to restore it. Even if that option opened up tons of tabs that I had closed much earlier and so did not want, at least I had the option of restoring the whole mess and deleting the ones I've finished with.

So thanks!

UPDATE: In a pre-publication update, I was just reminded about how much I love it when the CPU for no apparent reason hits maximum usage when all I have open are a half dozen or so tabs in Internet Explorer and Firefox.

Why that should tax a computer only about a year old is beyond me.

The screen goes black and the only way to get out of it is to power down the computer and start it up again. Naturally, all the open tabs are dead.

If I wasn't past the one-month grace period, I'd switch back to Windows 8 for my desktop where these things did not happen.

Thanks again!

UPDATE: I clearly made a mistake in updating from Windows 8 and 7. Tip to Instapundit.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Good Enough for Government Work?

The Syrian city of Homs was destroyed by the years-long siege that Assad's forces waged on this bastion of the rebellion. There was no "hearts and minds" battle there. Call it a feature rather than a bug.

Rebels have abandoned Homs after a long fight that left the city in ruins:

More than four years of relentless shelling and shooting have ravaged beyond recognition this city, which once served as the symbolic capital of the revolution.

The buildings hang in tatters, concrete floors collapsed like sandcastles, twisted reinforced metal bars and window frames creaking in the wind like weather vanes. The only humans are occasional military guards, huddling in the foundations of stripped buildings. Deep trenches have been dug in thoroughfares to expose rebel tunnels. Everywhere the guts of buildings and homes face the street, their private contents slowly melting in the elements. Ten-foot weeds have erupted through the concrete.

As far as the government of Syria is concerned, the war in Homs is over. Rebel factions were defeated more than a year ago in the Old City, and the last holdouts, who carried on the revolt from the suburb of al-Waer, signed a cease-fire agreement this month. A few weeks before Christmas, busloads of fighters quit al-Waer for rebel-held villages to the north, under what the Syrian government and the United Nations hailed as a breakthrough cease-fire agreement to bring peace to one of the Syrian war’s most symbolic battlefields.

The Assad government has a long way to go to repeat this victory across Syria and regain control of the country. Assad's reach to inflict this kind of punishment is still limited to the western portion of the country. Russia can provide air support and weapons. Iran can provide money and a Shia foreign legion (including Hezbollah under orders from Tehran) to be the shock troops for Assad.

But who will provide the large numbers of troops from his small base of support--after enormous casualties so far--needed to conquer and police the entire country?

Perhaps Assad can kill enough people to grind them into submission (or flight abroad). But if Assad cannot expand his ground power to the entire country, the example of the destruction of Homs may simply make those beyond Assad's reach for the Homs treatment determined to win:

The rebels, of course, take a different lesson: Assad will annihilate any opposition he can, unless the rebels fight hard and long enough to win, secure an enclave, or, at the very least, force the government to allow safe passage to another rebel-held area. Only force can extract concessions from the state.

At best, Homs becomes a bastion in the easternmost Core Syria that Assad tries to hold with the troops he has available from his small base of support.

This bolsters the effort to cling to the western part of Syria:

Two thousand Syrian Islamist fighters are expected to be evacuated soon from besieged, rebel-held areas of southern Damascus in a deal brokered by the United Nations, a Hezbollah TV station said on Friday.

The deal marks a success for the government of President Bashar al-Assad, increasing its chances of reasserting control over a strategic area just 4 km (2.5 miles) south of the center of the capital.

At worst, the destruction of cities convinces rebels they have to crush Assad or flee Syria completely, since the government can't be trusted not to seek revenge after the fight is called off.

Hide the Decline

Our gun problem.

Tip to Instapundit.

Next Year in Mosul?

Ramadi appears to be the end of the Anbar offensive as the Iraqis plan to turn north to capture Mosul.

This seems pretty clear:

Iraq's armed forces will move to retake the major northern city of Mosul from Islamic State once they capture the western city of Ramadi, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Friday.

I've long been an Anbar-first proponent.

But that isn't going to happen, it seems. Perhaps because one of the factors I've hoped existed--a Jordanian commitment to attack ISIL in Anbar from the west with our support--does not exist.

I seem to have connected dots that don't exist.

And with rebels and Kurds in eastern Syria active with our support, the Kurds moving in northern Iraq with our support, and with Tikrit and Baiji in Iraqi hands to serve as a jumping off for a northern drive, a new factor enters my calculations.

At this point, even if I am right that Anbar should be cleared first, we've apparently expended so much effort preparing for a Mosul attack that changing the plan would be a mistake.

What's the saying? Better to carry out an adequate plan with full vigor than to keep abandoning plans in search of the perfect plan.

Although if Ramadi is secured (will the jihadis make a hard stand in the city center or will they succeed in scattering and escaping?), and if Fallujah is secured too, perhaps there are too few people in the rest of Anbar under ISIL control to worry about. My desire to focus on Anbar was based on getting a new Sunni Arab Awakening to back the Iraqi government against ISIL and to push the defense perimeter of Baghdad out to protect the city. Perhaps both objectives are achieved with Ramadi and Fallujah and other population centers already in the Iraqi perimeter.

So perhaps this spring the offensive begins. Recall that last spring was the initial estimate for when the operation would begin.

And looking ahead, do we include the destruction of the Bashar Assad regime as part of our plan?

Or do we once again find this dictator with American blood on his hands to be a man we can do business with?

UPDATE: The Iraqis claim they are poised for a final assault on the city center. But are the ISIL defenders still there?

The militants "seem to have fled the complex, we're not encountering any resistance," said Sabah al-Numani, a spokesman for the counter-terrorism units that are leading the fight on the government side. "We're seeing lots of Daesh bodies, killed in the air strikes on the compound," he told Reuters.

Which begs the question of whether the jihadis were ever really surrounded. Are there enough people still in Ramadi to allow the jihadis to disperse into the population?

If so, the city needs to be sealed off from the outside world to allow Iraqi government forces to sift the people to find the jihadis.

And if the jihadis fled Ramadi, why weren't some of them captured? I know that isolating Ramadi just means cutting off the major avenues in and out. And I know that the defenders who survived the last several months number only in the hundreds. But still, you'd think that persistent drone surveillance would identify some of them fleeing.

Or are the jihadis still holed up somewhere waiting to die--while taking out as many Iraqi security forces as possible?

UPDATE: So where did the jihadis go?

"The complex is under our complete control, there is no presence whatsoever of Daesh fighters in the complex," he told Reuters, using a derogatory Arabic acronym of Islamic State.

This article is actually an update of the link in the first update.

Where are the last ISIL defenders?

UPDATE: And I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention the possibility that we intend to continue to clear Anbar despite the loud talk of turning on Mosul which will require shifting American-trained units from the Ramadi region and sending them north.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Let the Promotions and Performance Bonuses Fly!

The United Nations is proclaiming mission accomplished. Rejoice in the might of the sainted international community!

For Somalia:

Somalia is no longer a failed state but a recovering fragile country, the top U.N. official for war-torn Somalia has said.

In the last three years the country has stabilized but there is still a lot of work to do, Nicholas Kay, the outgoing representative for the U.N. Secretary General in Somalia, told The Associated Press.

"The country is the past two-three years has come together quite significantly. It is both politically stable and developed as well," he said.

Well, not all missions accomplished.

I'm not popping the champagne yet.

UPDATE: God save us, but we think the same way:

In a recap of “significant success[es]” in 2015, State Department spokesman John Kirby lists “Bringing Peace, Security to Syria.” Talk about a whopper. Even the obnoxious team of Jan Psaki and Marie Harf might have shied away from a claim this preposterous.

What happened to Kirby?

Attack of the Bitter Clingers

Are you kidding me?

President Obama said in a radio interview airing on Monday that Donald J. Trump, a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, is exploiting the resentment and anxieties of working-class men to boost his campaign. Mr. Obama also argued that some of the scorn directed at him personally stems from the fact that he is the first African-American to hold the White House.

I stand aside to no man in my disdain for Mr. Trump, but oh good grief. The people who elected and reelected him are again suspect in their motives?

Apparently, we have failed out president:

The really maddening thing, though, is that President Obama thinks the reason he isn’t perceived as being especially good at his job is that we yokels aren’t smart enough to understand how spectacularly spectacular he is. Barack Obama is a man almost entirely incapable of self-criticism, and in the NPR interview, he repeated one of his favorite claims: He has had trouble with public opinion because he didn’t explain his awesome ideas well enough. That’s a very politic way of saying: “These rubes don’t get it.”

Yeah, our president is right. Americans are bitterly clinging to memories of prosperity at home and foreign policy strength. Dog whistle codes for bigotry, no doubt.

How unreasonable of us. Clearly, our president deserves a better class of citizen.

In a Sea Far Far Away

This is where my "Huh" Alarm goes off:

China's foreign minister has pledged support for talks aimed at reunifying ethnically divided Cyprus, saying his country welcomes progress made in negotiations so far.

Yes, I know, this issue could involve the UN Security Council where China is a permanent member. But still, this is way out of area for China.

Unless China's area has expanded greatly.

I have wondered about China's interests at the western end of their New Silk Road.

Since resolving this issue basically involves making Greece happy over Turkey's conquest of the northern portion 40 years ago, does China have an angle involving basing rights in Greece?

Friday, December 25, 2015

Is It Time for the Airing of Grievances Already?

Oh good grief, Hillary Clinton is at it again:

[Trump] is becoming ISIS's best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.

I know this isn't breaking news. But really? A video is causing terrorism again?


If it is so easy to turn normal Moslem people into nutballs hopped up on Islamist hatred, is it really our problem? Isn't it their problem? Isn't that what Herself is really saying? (tip to Instapundit)

But of course, Clinton's accusation isn't about blaming Moslems for their too-common tendency to support terror. It's about blaming Americans for Islamist hatred.

Hillary Clinton and the people applauding her accusation should be ashamed of themselves. After all this time, we're still asking "why do they hate us?" and pointing at fellow Americans for the reason?


If we are so awful and deserving of terrorism because of the bad things we do, why do Moslems in war zones need to pretend we do bad things?

What doesn't set those nutballs off and send them to the jihad recruiting office?

Merry Christmas

I already had my Die Hard Christmas. Yes, Die Hard is a Christmas movie.

Whether there is good or bad going on in your life at this season, Christmas is part of the good. So embrace it as much as you can.

It can hardly hurt, can it?

And it can help. (Tip to Instapundit)

UPDATE: How can a majority of Americans fail to see Die Hard as a Christmas movie?


UPDATE:"If you don't think Die Hard is a Christmas movie, then I have nothing to say to you."

Thank you!

UPDATE: And thanks to Mad Minerva again.

Ho. Ho. Ho.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Thin Red Line

The Taliban are causing a lot of trouble in Afghanistan's Helmand province. The British are coming.

Helmand is a growing problem:

Fighting raged between Taliban and Afghan forces in Helmand's Sangin district, where an official said the district's army base was the only area that had not fallen to the Taliban. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The spokesman for the Helmand governor, Omar Zwaq, said government troops were able to deliver supplies to those holed up inside mid-afternoon Tuesday. But, he added, there was no let-up in the fight for Sangin.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf said the siege continued "and the government will soon announce their defeat."

Helmand is important to the Taliban. The lush southern province is home to endless poppy fields and the source of almost all the world's opium, which helps fund the insurgency. The head of Helmand's provincial council, Muhammad Kareem Atal, said about 65 percent of Helmand is now under Taliban control.

I've noted the problem that requires our urgent attention.

The article notes that the British will send advisors:
A British Ministry of Defense statement late Monday said "a small number of U.K. personnel" have been deployed to Helmand "in an advisory role." The U.K. has 450 troops in Afghanistan as part of NATO's training mission.

I would like to quibble with this, however:

Officials have said casualties, as well as attrition and desertion, have taken a toll on numbers of government forces, while the Taliban strength seems never to diminish.

Yes, our side is naturally suffering more casualties as they carry the load without our conventional forces on the ground with them.

But never forget that our problems are always clearer than the enemies who suffers in the shadows that we don't see.

The Taliban also have the advantage of being able to reduce their attacks to levels that they can endure.

Which means that we really need to help the Afghan security forces--with advisers, logistics, direct help, and air support (recon, strike, transport, and medical evacuation)--take the initiative to go after the Taliban and so start to kill and defeat them at rates the enemy can't endure.

Afghan forces are reacting to retake the district capital Sangin. But remember this:

[Afghan defense minister] Stanekzai pleaded for patience, saying Afghan forces were fighting without the extensive array of tactical "enablers" from close air support and helicopters to surveillance assets that NATO troops had used when they were involved.

"Building an army is not the work of two years, three years or four years. It is a young army, it needs maturity," he said. "When the British and U.S. forces were there, how many enablers did they have? How many jets did they have, how many helicopters and how many do we have today?"

Coalition attention is being drawn south and having an effect:

In recent days, the Taliban assault has threatened to overrun Sangin, a major poppy-growing area in Helmand, raising alarm that Afghan forces were too overstretched to fend off the insurgency. The Taliban this week pronounced they had seized control of the district, but the claim was widely refuted by Afghan officials.

As the military rushed more troops to the area, Afghan officials on Wednesday asked for the international military coalition's help, including airstrikes.

Just before midnight, U.S. warplanes conducted two strikes in the vicinity of Sangin, the spokesman for the NATO mission in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Col. Mike Lawhorn, said.

Afghan planes also struck Taliban strongholds in Sangin, killing 25 insurgents and wounding another 12, said the Afghan army spokesman in Helmand, Guam Rasoul Zazai.

Don't panic. Work the problem.

I'm so old, I remember when this was the "good war." Now it is just a vacation buzz kill. Keep it classy WaPo!

Santa Claus is Coming--And We'll Track Him All the Way In

Don't forget to let your young ones see Santa flying tonight to deliver presents.

NORAD is on the job.

UPDATE: Interestingly enough, the tale of how NORAD came to track Santa grew over time into a much less deliberate PR effort than it was. (Tip to Instapundit)

It's still neat. And still heart-warming for what it has become.

Little Red Men

Before there were Little Green Men waging war on Ukraine for Putin's Russia, there were Little Red Men in the service of the Soviet Union:

The soldiers were told to grow their hair long and were given civilian clothes. From then on, their superiors said, they would be addressed — and were to address one another — as “comrade tourist” as they sailed aboard a cruise liner to Syria.

With this simple trick, the Soviet Union managed to sneak thousands of soldiers into Syria in 1983 during the Lebanese civil war, in which Syria, Moscow’s close ally, was deeply involved.

I figure the Chinese will use this trick when they invade Taiwan.


You may wish to read Dave Barry's year in review.

Here's a taste of January:

In Paris, two million people march in a solidarity rally following the horrific terrorist attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Eyebrows are raised when not a single top U.S. official attends, but several days later, Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in France with James Taylor, who — this really happened — performs the song You’ve Got a Friend. This bold action strikes fear into the hearts of terrorists, who realize that Secretary Kerry is fully capable, if necessary, of unleashing Barry Manilow.

I leave it to you to decide whether that was unbelievably small compassion or credibility as an ally.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

For years I've read about the massive bias of ground temperature stations that lead to higher temps as time goes on just from changes in the station population (inconveniently located rural stations abandoned) and development around the stations that exist (urban encroachment that puts concrete or heat-generating machinery around the stations). And this is the basis for computer models that show warming in recent decades even as we continue into year 19 of "the pause" based on satellite data.

So read about an examination of those stations.

And on that satellite data:

The degree and speed with which inconvenient facts are now memory-holed by AGW proponents is breathtaking, it was not that long ago that the respective accuracies of satellites and surface stations was so uncontroversial NASA was calling for surface measurements to be abandoned. I myself downloaded and wrote database scripts for the NCDC data a while back because I couldn’t believe Goddard’s claim that almost half of the data was now being fabricated, not measured. But it was true, 43% were marked as computer-generated, as anyone with modest programming skills can confirm for themselves. Naturally, the Democrats at Politifact then contacted and unquestioningly cited a geography (!) professor who self-righteously harrumphed that there was “no fabrication,” despite the fact the data is unambiguously marked as such, and added to their article a slew of additional misinterpretations favorable to Democrats, giving a perfect example of how the media covers AGW specifically and science in general.

It's science, damn it!

Speaking of science, please adjust your global warming climate change talking points accoringly:

Burning fossil fuels and cutting down trees causes global COOLING, new NASA study finds. Fossil fuel burning gives of aerosols which reflect sunlight. ...

A NASA spokesman said it was “well known” that aerosols such as those emitted in volcanic eruptions and power stations, act to cool Earth, at least temporarily, by reflecting solar radiation away from the planet.

He added: “In a similar fashion, land use changes such as deforestation in northern latitudes result in bare land that increases reflected sunlight.”

But don't worry. I kid. Even a cooling effect makes the globe warm--er, change?

“This means that Earth’s climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide—or atmospheric carbon dioxide’s capacity to affect temperature change—has been underestimated, according to the study.”

So now it’s official, they have it both ways: Burning fossil fuels causes BOTH global warming and global cooling.

Well, whatever is going to happen, it will be bad, it is our fault, and we need to curtail our freedoms and destroy our economy by turning over power to a more powerful national government and the sainted international community.

Because the polar bears are counting on us.

Tip to Instapundit on both of the latter links.

UPDATE: Science! Yeah, I've long ignored the crisis-of-the-day mentality.

The downside is no placebo effect for me. The upside is that I'm healthy nonetheless.

UPDATE: And more from the pro-science class!

The people most likely to refuse to have their children vaccinated tend to be white, well-educated and affluent, researchers report.

Yeah, what's the correlation? Just look where Prius ownership is highest? Well, access to a Whole Foods, anyway.

 Tip to Instapundit for both of these.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It's a Festivus Miracle!

Well Holy Heck, I truly live in remarkable times.

The Air Force will let enlisted personnel fly drones:

Air Force officials stated a dynamic threat environment calls for innovative approaches to high-demand missions. After careful consideration and with an eye toward potential future force needs, service officials plan to deliberately integrate the enlisted force into flying operations, starting with the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

This issue has been a self-inflicted wound for the Air Force which had seemed stubbornly committed to avoiding this simple measure to solve the burn-out problem of their officer corps drone pilots.

I guess I'm not fully in the miracle camp yet.

We shall see if the Air Force is truly committed to NCO pilots or whether this will be designed to set up these new drone pilots for failure.

Strategypage has background on this decision.

Putin Loses a Round

This will be helpful for Ukraine in their struggle to resist Russian aggression:

A new pro-European coalition looks likely to take power in Moldova, putting an end to months of political turmoil, after the surprise defection of 14 lawmakers from the opposition Communist Party.

Moldova, a tiny ex-Soviet republic sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, has been effectively rudderless since a no-confidence motion toppled the previous government in October following the fraudulent disappearance of $1 billion from the banking system of Europe's poorest country.

If Russia can reincorporate Moldova--leveraging Moscow's position in the "separatist" Transnistria--into the reborn Russian empire, Ukraine has a major problem deep in its rear to tie down Ukraine's relatively small armed forces needed to confront Russia in the east and in Crimea.

UPDATE: Well, Putin made up for the loss in the Donbas:

The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine reports it has no access to the village of Kominternove, which belonged to the so-called grey zone, being located 23 km from the Ukrainian-controlled strategic port city of Mariupol in Donetsk region, and which was reported to have been occupied by militants from the Donetsk People's Republic ("DPR") terrorist organization on Tuesday.

They're digging in to hold the ground.

Remember, as our administration teams up with Russia and Iran to save Assad by focusing on ISIL, Russia continues to occupy Ukrainian territory and continues to claw away more ground.

Parental Pride

On the last day of school, Lamb participated in a pinata smash before school got out for Christmas vacation. The school brought out a pole on a stand usually used to mount a basketball net.

When Lamb saw the metal pole, she exclaimed, "It's the Festivus pole!"

She had to explain what Festivus is. Which seems appropriate on this ABC holiday time of year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Netanyahu Got the Directions from Obama

Given how often our government has told Israel to go to Hell, it should be no shock that they finally did just that:

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed in a phone call on Tuesday to coordinate their two countries' actions to fight terrorism in the Middle East, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Our enemies get concessions. Our allies get the shaft. Why wouldn't Israel work with Russia?

So many allies. So little time left for our government to alienate them.

Oh, I Believe Putin

Putin claims he is misunderstood:

Russia is not trying to bring back the USSR, President Vladimir Putin said in a documentary aired Sunday, but the problem is that "nobody wants to believe it".

Oh, I believe that. The communist Soviet Union maintained the fiction that Ukraine, Belarus, and the nations of the Warsaw Pact were independent nations.

The Russian Empire, by contrast simply had Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland--not to mention Finland--as provinces of imperial Russia.

So yeah, Putin doesn't want to rebuild the USSR. He wants to rebuild the Russian Empire.

The Sitzkrieg Ends?

Iraqi forces have essentially retaken Ramadi from ISIL. It's nice to be back where the Iraqi army was last summer, so don't get cocky. There is a long way to go to defeating ISIL and at this rate ISIL troops will die of old age before they are driven from their conquests.

This is good news:

Iraq's armed forces stormed the center of Ramadi on Tuesday, a spokesman for the counter-terrorism units said, in a drive to dislodge Islamic State militants from their remaining stronghold in a city they captured in May.

No doubt there are jihadis that will need to be cornered and killed. So the fight for Ramadi isn't over.

And ISIL might try another counter-attack as they did recently from the north (which the Iraqis defeated).

But it sure seems like the long march to defeating ISIL is in progress and won't be stopped. Our air strikes didn't defeat ISIL, but it sure seems like we've damaged them to the point where they have lost the ability to maneuver and attack in significant strength.

If Iraq had decent mobile forces backed by our air power and special forces, this would go faster.

Strategypage has related information on ISIL and the appeal of jihadi brutality.

UPDATE: Resistance is light at this point. This is highly misleading, however:

[Defence Minister Khaled al-]Obeidi has said successive operations have shrunk the area controlled by IS from nearly 40 percent of Iraq last year to 17 percent.

I do believe the tide has turned. But those percentages are based on assuming ISIL controlled vast stretches of desert terrain last year and looking only at ISIL-controlled populated territory today.

UPDATE: The Iraqis are confident:

Iraq's army chief was quoted on Wednesday as saying he needed only days to drive Islamic State from the city of Ramadi, whose fall in May exposed the weakness of the Baghdad government and dampened hopes of restoring control in the north and west.

I will say that when jihadis first burst into Anbar in January 2014, the Iraqi government was confident they would restore order in just days. So perhaps it is just an expression.

But I do believe the Iraqis will win this battle.

The Greatest Generation Had No Use for Nuance

Let's try to imagine Hillary Clinton in 1944, prior to D-Day, arguing against sending American combat troops into France to defeat Nazi Germany:

I think that what we're facing with Nazi Germany is especially complicated. It was a different situation in the Pacific. We were attacked from Japan. The carrier strike force was based in Japan. We went after those who had attacked us.

What's happening in France and Europe is that, because of the failures in the region, including the failure of the prior government in London, led by Chamberlain, there has been a resurgence of fascist activities, as exemplified by the Nazis. And we have to support French Resistance and British forces against the Nazis, because I believe it would be not only a strategic mistake for the United States to put ground combat troops in, as opposed to special operators, as opposed to trainers, because that is exactly what the Nazis want.

They've advertised that. They want American troops back in Europe. They want American soldiers on the ground fighting them, giving them many more targets, and giving them a great recruiting opportunity.

So, I think it's absolutely wrong policy for us to be even imagining we're going end up putting tens of thousands of American troops into France and Europe to fight the Nazis.
Yeah, it could have gone that way.

If ISIL is our enemy, why rule out ways to kill them? For God's sake, it is not counter-productive to destroy them, defeat them, pursue them, and kill every last damn jihadi.

And I'm sure she would have thought calling it Operation Overlord was insensitive, as well.

Monday, December 21, 2015

It's Been an Instructive Seven-Year Experiment

The world is burning and we're barely doing more than watching it go up in flames:

You can’t have an orderly world without a world order, and a world order can’t exist unless somebody is willing to do what it takes to defend it. President Obama’s Jeffersonian decision to let the Middle East burn without launching any American response is the direct cause of the flare-up in nativism, Islamophobia, and anti-refugee sentiment in both Europe and the United States.

Going in to this administration, the theory was that America makes things worse. If only we'd step aside, people would work out their differences without our malign influence.

Drama? No Obama.

Yeah, that theory isn't working out very well. America isn't the problem, as 7 years of pulling back from the world have shown us.

UPDATE: Yet our president will use his last year in office to see how much more of our policies have to be upended in the theory that we are the problem:

President Obama's final stretch in office -- filled, as he promised, with "interesting stuff" -- has become an extravaganza of "historic" foreign-policy deals, most of them distinguished for making common cause with despotic regimes that are less than friendly toward the United States[.]

What I really fear is that foes who can't get us to give away the store with a nice executive agreement will decide to just take what they want in the belief that we'll just look the other way.

It's going to be a long 13 months.

The Art Work of the Deal

We've finally taking action against Iran. We delivered a shipment of art that they purchased in 1978. The horror.

Seventies art has to be just atrocious. And we have inflicted it on Iran:

Iran has taken delivery of 14 pieces of American art purchased nearly 40 years ago but blocked for export due to a rupture in bilateral relations following Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

How cruel.

No word if we also released the shipments of bell bottom pants and platform shoes under embargo.

We said we "would not rule out additional steps" to respond to Iran's banned missile test, recall. So the Iranians can't say they weren't warned.

I would like to quibble with the last part of that art article:

The delivery comes during a slight improvement in relations between Iran and the United States after the signing of a landmark nuclear deal in July.

That deal was never signed by Iran.

So the pretending goes on as our government (and the press that loves it) pretends it has a nuclear deal with Iran that will actually stop Iran from going nuclear; and Iran pretends they have art.

I miss all that post-Cold War "end of history" talk when people just assumed the world was going our way.

UPDATE: Holy cow, this is the Washington Post editorial board (tip to Instapundit):

IRAN IS following through on the nuclear deal it struck with a U.S.-led coalition in an utterly predictable way: It is racing to fulfill those parts of the accord that will allow it to collect $100 billion in frozen funds and end sanctions on its oil exports and banking system, while expanding its belligerent and illegal activities in other areas — and daring the West to respond.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s response to these provocations has also been familiar. It is doing its best to downplay them — and thereby encouraging Tehran to press for still-greater advantage.

Well, we have shipped them 1970s art. So there's that.

UPDATE: Ah, performance art:

Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan said at a ceremony in northern Iran on Monday that Tehran is not scaling back its program or even keeping production at pre-deal levels.

"We have not halted designing, producing and testing our missiles, (on the contrary) we have even increased our production," Dehqan said, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

It's so exciting to live in an age when our forward-thinking foreign policy transforms jihadi Iran into a responsible regional power!

You remember our president's confidence in the transformative nature of a nuclear "deal," of course:

They have a path to break through that isolation and they should seize it. Because if they do, there's incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of — 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. That would be good for the United States, that would be good for the region, and most of all, it would be good for the Iranian people.

Maybe it's just my lack of nuance, but I don't think Iran has chosen that offered path.


This is insanity:

Students at an ultra-liberal Ohio college are in an uproar over the fried chicken, sushi and Vietnamese sandwiches served in the school cafeterias, complaining the dishes are “insensitive” and “culturally inappropriate.”

I think it is time to break up Oberlin College and sell it for parts.

Sure, this is only a minority. But it is tolerated, if not encouraged, by the administrative-professorial complex.

So they deserve it.

On the other hand, if those writing in about, among other things, how undercooked rice is "disrespectful" of Japanese culture are mocking the original demands, I salute them.

But these days, it isn't safe to bet against the crazy.

UPDATE: Really, you tell me if this is lack of self-awareness or mockery:

Others were up in arms over banh mi Vietnamese sandwiches served with coleslaw instead of pickled vegetables, and on ciabatta bread, rather than the traditional French baguette.

“It was ridiculous,” gripes Diep Nguyen, a freshman who is a Vietnam native.

The Vietnamese dish was not served with traditional French bread! You tell me if that was a joke or not! I can't tell ...

Actually, this reminds me of when I worked in a dorm cafeteria. We had an "Asian night" for dinner (without protests!) and as such special night dinners were, it was hectic.

So to buy time to keep up with the need to refill trays on the self-serve bars, I found a tray of older lettuce in the refrigerator starting to brown and put it out with a sign that identified it as "Korean Brown Lettuce."

That helped a lot--until a supervisor caught me. Mercifully, I wasn't charged by a campus court for culturally appropriating anything.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

When Hope and Change Withered

The Arab Spring did not lead to democracy across the Arab world. Tunisia has made progress but is surrounded by forces that could reverse their gains. Egypt has reverted to the control of the autocrats. Syria's sectarian slaughter continues. Libya is in chaos. And the rest haven't budged from their royal or republican autocracy.  Did it have to be this way?

Few speak of the Arab Spring with much hope these days. What went wrong?

Imagine a Battle of Lexington leading to a War of Independence that went horribly, horribly wrong.   That wouldn't be hard if you could conceive of a leadership that decided to "lead from behind". Sohrab Ahmari, writing in the Wall Street Journal, says that when the old order collapsed an Islamism waiting in the wings came out to fill the vacuum left by a distant Barack Obama. "Good Guys" who were without guns found themselves abandoned by Western governments to bloodthirsty Mustache Petes in the cynical belief that it was easier to make a deal with political Islam or dictators than build a region on new democratic principles.

This was for some reason regarded as smart. Ahmari argues that by the time [the] West found they could not negotiate with bad guys it was too late to reverse the damage:

How did dreams turn into nightmares? ...Washington favored all actors equally, as though Egypt were Luxembourg and the Muslim Brotherhood just another center-right party. ... In Libya, the U.S. removed Moammar Gadhafi under a legal abstraction—the responsibility to protect—then swiftly abandoned a country with few viable institutions to its tribal furies. In Syria, President Obama declared that Bashar Assad “must go,” and then watched impassively as the Iran-backed tyrant continued to kill and gas his own people, triggering a refugee crisis that has overwhelmed Europe.

Going from autocracy and an Islamist opposition to democracy and rule of law was always going to be a hard path to follow. We did not try to bend events to put these countries on the right side of history.

Before Mubarak was overthrown, I called for us to take a hand in teaching Arabs how to elect good men:

One of the problems is that the protesters want opportunity and freedom from Mubarak and the old order; but that getting democracy is only one path in the negative common objective of removing Mubarak and the old order. Yes, some protesters--the members of the Twittering Class that we identify with--want something called "democracy." Others don't want that. Those anti-democratic protesters simply want Mubarak out and we have no obligation to include these people in the new order that is being created before our eyes in the mistaken notion that freedom requires all opposition forces to replace the existing government. Indeed, we have an obligation to keep those proto-thugs out of the new government[.] ...

And even for those who want democracy, not having lived under it they may have no idea what that aspiration really means as a practical matter. Or anti-democratic forces that take part in elections to get their foot in the door could simply take power by undemocratic means--as Hitler did in Germany and as Hamas did in Gaza (UPDATE: And as Hezbollah is in the process of doing now in Lebanon, I should add.).

Which means our role is to direct the clear but unfocused yearning for freedom on the streets of Egypt and allow them the opportunity to elect democratic men by strengthening the institutions that will allow for future elections rather than setting up a winner-take-all plebiscite on who gets to be the next dictator and ruling class.

I retain hope for the hopes that led to the Arab Spring. Arabs marched for an alternative to autocracy or Islamist rule that had been their fate in life so far. The marchers may not have fully grasped what democracy means, with the rule of law ascendant over clan, tribe, and religion, but they knew that it offered a better path to the future.

Later in the year, I lamented the growing call from the left (and that has spread to the right) that Arabs weren't ready for democracy:

So when did "progressives" decide that Arabs are unable to appreciate or handle freedom and democracy? They're seriously one step away from calling them "wogs" and putting on a pith helmet.

Iraq and the Arab Spring have shown us that Arabs do indeed want freedom and democracy. Syrians are only the latest example of people willing to fight and die for it.

Western critics of democracy in Arab countries confuse the clear aspiration for freedom that Arabs show with the long process of achieving democracy with all it assumes (rule of law in all its aspects). Are we to condemn Arabs to despotism because they have no direct experience with democracy and liberty and have few clues how to really achieve them when they get the chance?

That's where we come in. Arabs want something better than autocracy and poverty. They know there are better ways to achieve it. They have lived in autocracy and they have seen the bankruptcy of Islamism. They have seen Iraqis fight through the worst that autocracies and jihadis could throw at them and start to build something better. We in the West who live in real democracy must help them build real democracy. That means more than elections that validate a dictatorship or simply change the cast of looters through legal methods. They need rule of law.

But we did not help them exclude from democracy those who had contempt for rule of law and who simply wanted a vote to get them power.

And so here we are, with even Iraq shaky from our lack of involvement in crucial years and now ISIL reviving the appeal of Islamism as a solution to what ails the Arab Moslem world:

If we can re-win in Iraq, reduce Iranian influence there, and restore our efforts to build a functioning democracy in Iraq, we can yet help the Arab Moslem world escape the dismal traditional alternatives of autocracy or Islamism for governance and exploit the earnest if vague yearnings for democracy that the Arab Spring revealed.

I am not demoralized by the failure of the Arab Spring in 2011 to inspire immediate progress for democracy (and the necessary rule of law). I am encouraged that people expressed a desire for democracy even if they had a weak understanding of what that requires. At least these protesters did not call for religious dictatorship as an alternative to autocrats.

Not demoralized. But disappointed. We could have tried to shape events to exploit the opportunity of the Arab Spring. Instead we let those who aspired to freedom fail against the autocrats and Islamists who were strong enough and ruthless enough to win.

As we did with Iran in 2009, when we abandoned the Green Movement to cut deals with the mullahs. How's that so-called nuclear deal working out?

And as we did in Syria where we called on Assad to go when his people stood in defiance against his bombs, thugs, and poison gas, but did nothing to achieve that. And several hundred thousand dead and the rise of ISIL later which spilled over to destabilize Iraq, here we are siding with Russia and Iran to save the Assad regime.

Perhaps the tides of the right side of history will take the Arab world to democracy (and rule of law) regardless of what we do or don't do.

But we surely had an effect on the timing.

Our failures to help plant democracy in the Arab world to build on the yearnings of the Arab Spring have put off that day when Arabs can look forward to something other than soul-crushing submission to autocrats or mullahs, and the bloody struggle between them that just gets them killed and impoverished.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: There is hope:

When a group of Islamic jihadist attackers stormed a bus in Kenya on Monday, a group of Kenyan Muslims moved to protect the Christian passengers on board, the BBC reported. According to the outlet, the gunmen ambushed the bus, attempting to divide those on board based on the passengers' religious affiliations. However, the Muslim passengers reportedly refused to split. At least two people were killed.

These people need our help to kill, defeat, and reject the jihad in order to build an Islam that stands up to the jihadi strains.

UPDATE: And really, if we don't help Moslems achieve democracy and rule of law, there is no long-term security in backing autocrats because the Islamists grow in that environment:

The Taliban’s growing momentum in Afghanistan is beginning to threaten the fragile former Soviet republics of Central Asia just to the north, where some officials already fret they may live through the troubles of the 1990s all over again.

You may think autocrats keep the lid on the jihadi impulse. But the pressure builds up inside that pressure cooker as people recognize that the autocrats crush them down. And if democracy isn't the alternative as the Arab Spring cried out for, Islamism will be seen as the alternative.

Seeing Through the Charm Offensive

China's neighbors are building real capabilities to resist China. Is it enough?

Japan will finally put boots on the ground in their small islands south of the Japanese main islands:

In recent months, the U.S. has pressured Tokyo to counter China's island building and military training in the region. Japan is responding with plans to deploy a line of anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile batteries along 200 islands located roughly 870 miles from the Japanese mainland toward Taiwan. Japan also is taking steps to increase the number of military personnel stationed in the East China Sea by about a fifth to a total of 10,000 by 2020, the Guardian reported.

This is a vast improvement over past plans to deploy forces capable of rapidly pre-empting a Chinese effort to seize those islands by getting their first.

Japan's effort reflects a regional response to Chinese assertiveness over territorial claims against neighbors:

The nations bordering the South China Sea, and the new islands built by China, are creating alliances and trying to persuade more distant and powerful nations (like America and India) to lend some military, or at least diplomatic support to opposing an increasingly aggressive China. Much to China’s dismay such an alliance has formed and grown stronger in 2015. Recently Japan and India formed military ties directed at Chinese aggression while Taiwan, Australia, Japan and Indonesia all created new military agreements with each other. The growth of this alliance has encouraged a reluctant United States to become more involved and aggressive in defying Chinese claims. China set out to create an empire in the South China Sea but has also generated a rapidly growing and aggressive anti-Chinese military alliance. As the old warning goes, be careful what you ask for.

Vietnam, which lacks a 100-mile wide anti-tank ditch as Taiwan has, is also reacting to China's assertiveness:

Vietnam's military is steeling itself for conflict with China as it accelerates a decade-long modernization drive, Hanoi's biggest arms buildup since the height of the Vietnam War.

Of course, this regional response needs America involved because China is so powerful that they could pick on any single target and overwhelm them while other neighbors are unable to decisively intervene to help the target.

Unless you assume China will conveniently attack every neighbor at the same time and dilute Chinese power rather than picking out a weak member of the herd.

That's where we come in with our deployable power that can help knit together all the separate centers of power that would resist China.

And yet Russia remains apart from this growing regional response, believing China's claims against Russia are uniquely dormant.

Well, they are for a little while longer.

I certainly wouldn't trade places with China (although I'd like updated figures from Strategypage--the site I link to is now missing--used for that back-of-the-envelope comparison, because despite Putin's aggression and bluster, I think he's more the Mussolini figure if you think there is an eerie inter-war vibe going on now).

And just what does China calculate in all this? Do they believe the reaction to their build-up and assertiveness creates a window of opportunity to act now to achieve some of their territorial goals?

Or do they believe they can be patient and watch their power grow to bully foes into submission without a fight that risks drawing in America?

UPDATE: Austin Bay discusses the decision of China's neighbors to create anti-access/aerial denial (AA/AD) capabilities to deter China just as China has created this capacity in the face of American naval power.

In one sense, I don't understand all the hype. Isn't this just traditional coastal defense?

In the age of sail there were gunboats and forts and coastal batteries. Later you could add in longer-range cannons, torpedo boats, coastal monitors (and even coastal battleships). Even later add in submarines and aircraft and land-based torpedo batteries as well as mines.

And now we have long-range anti-ship missiles based on land with satellites to help find targets added to the mix. Isn't this just the traditional coastal defense but with longer range to cope with the longer range of naval power?

Not that it isn't significant. It just isn't new.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

I Remain a Man of the People

I am a man of the people.

I know this because when I went to the mall with Mister and bought a suit for him at Macy's today (a man ought to have a suit, I say), the sales woman helpfully showed me how to hang suit pants on a hangar with a rod to keep it in place.

At one time I owned half a dozen suits, several sport coats, and a tuxedo.

I earned a BA with a double major and an MA.

I worked with the powerful in Lansing, staffing legislatively created task forces on government reform and did research to determine government health insurance contracts worth billions of dollars.

I spoke at an Army convention.

I once even briefed the senate majority leader on an issue of importance to him.

Not that I was a powerful person myself.  And I'm not bragging. I leave that to others who have truly achieved much. But my point is that I wore suits all the time in that environment.

And successfully hung them in my closet.

Yet the woman at Macy's figured this was all new to me!

Not that I took offense, mind you. I was born and raised in the city of Detroit. I know Ann Arbor has a reputation for being a tad snooty, but I guess that hasn't really affected me in my many decades here.

And to be fair, I hadn't shaved in a couple days, hadn't showered yet today (I planned to run), and was wearing an Army t-shirt.

Anyway, I was amused.

I remain a man of the people rather than an over-educated dandy. Possibly dangerous.

A Screening System Fail

Three feminists from the United Nations came to America and were appalled by what they saw:

The three horsewomen of the feminist apocalypse say they were mystified as to why women seem to like America. So let me spell it out for them. America is still the land of opportunity for women and men from all nations. Any Polish and Costa Rican woman would gladly come to America for a better life, and, although it pains me to say it, I suspect English women will not be far behind.

As I've long said, these days (when equality under the law has been achieved) feminists are merely the women's auxiliary of the Left.

What a hat trick of blindness, stupidity, and ideology.

But as the author notes, if these three are so appalled, there's hope for us yet.

So yeah, don't let the door knob hit you three in the butt on your way out.

Tip to Instapundit.

Friday, December 18, 2015

I Know What I'd Call It

China's initiatives to expand economic influence to the interior of Asia is not, the Chinese assert, a strategy. Call it what you will, but it will suck Chinese military power in that direction to defend the economic influence they create.

So China wants to speak softly on their western initiatives:

Many Chinese and foreign observers view the Belt and Road as a grand Chinese strategy to extend its economic and geopolitical influence in the Eurasian continent and beyond. But Beijing has explicitly refused to call it a strategy. ...

As such the Belt and Road Initiative probably should not be called a strategy. Besides, a strategy may smack too much of geopolitical ambitions, and Beijing has made it abundantly clear that the Belt and Road is a vision for “harmony, peace and prosperity,” not a geopolitical conspiracy. In other words, it should not be viewed as a Chinese scheme to counter the U.S. “rebalance” to Asia or to expand Beijing’s geopolitical influence in the Eurasian continent and beyond.

Please. The flag follows trade. Just as China's growing sea lines of communication give China an incentive to build a navy to protect those vulnerable trade routes, increased economic stakes in the interior of Asia will give China a reason to defend those assets.

So whatever you call this Chinese strategy, as we pivot to Asia and build up alliances to resist China, I call it good news:

While all this looks good for building an alliance to fight and defeat China, this is not playing the Great Game. This is making the best of a worst case scenario--war with China. Sure, if we must fight I'd rather win, but just going to war is going to cost us in lives and money.

One can say that we hope that by becoming strong enough we deter the Chinese but this is still only second best. A deterred China will always be on the verge of attacking, just waiting for the moment when we cannot stop them for one reason or another and so cannot deter them for even a short window of opportunity.

No, defeating China makes the best of the worst case and deterring China makes the best of the second worst case. We need to shovel the Snow back north. We need to play the Great Game in Asia to achieve our best case--a China pointed away from the south--Taiwan and the United States and our other allies--and pointed toward the north and the interior of Asia.

I won't say that this is the result of an active American strategy (but who knows?). But I will say I love it when a plan natural tendency comes together.

And yes, making Taiwan a harder target matters a lot to help push China's main interests away from the sea and to the interior of Asia:

A new U.S. arms package for Taiwan will help boost the self-ruled island's ability to inflict a bloody nose on China in the attempt of an attack, enough to make Beijing think twice before any military adventure.

Go west, young Han budding superpower.