Thursday, March 31, 2016

That's Their Story and They're Sticking to It

I'm glad the French navy intercepted these weapons in the northern Indian Ocean, but were they really bound for Somalia?

Hundreds of assault rifles, machine guns and anti-tank weapons were found.

They seized the weapons under a UN embargo to prevent arms from getting to Somali Islamist militants.

Perhaps it comes from decades of living with Clinton parsing of words, but the article reports that the French said the weapons for bound for Somalia, as in, regardless of what is true, they "said" that.

But were they bound for Somalia? Or is that just a convenient story to get weapons off the streets going to Yemen, Gaza, or Sinai because a UN embargo authorizes seizure of weapons going to Somalia?

Good job. No matter where the weapons were going, you can be sure they would harm our interests and kill innocents.

Wait What?

Events keep the brilliance of our Smart Diplomacy from bearing fruit, apparently:

[A recent The Atlantic magazine] piece described the President as frustrated that terrorism keeps swamping his long-term priorities, including improving ties to Latin America and intensifying links to Asia.

The same profile notes Obama's admiration for Israeli resilience in the face of repeated attacks. It describes his penchant for reminding his advisors that more Americans die because of guns or accidents in the bathtub -- and those advisers' efforts to keep Obama doing this too publicly because it might make him seem insensitive to public fears.

A few things.

So we'd be safer if we ban bathtubs than we'd be by fighting jihadi terrorism (or maybe we just ban assault tubs?)?

Bathtubs don't hate us and we can safely put bathtubs in our homes without worrying they will become radicalized and decide to kill us because we are unclean.

If you search for "bathtub safety standards" which restricts hits to government sites, you get 36,000 hits. So apparently the government does a lot to reduce those deaths rather than shrugging and telling us bathtub deaths are hardly an existential threat to America, so just endure it.

Our military and intelligence agencies are our first line of defense for fighting terrorist enemies abroad. Use them as much as we use regulations for tub safety, eh?

And the president is really citing Israel for their resilience when he also complains when the Israelis actively strike back at terrorist havens outside of Israel?

Fine. Let's have Israeli resilience--and I see no evidence the American people are panicked as some on the Left charge rather than determined to kill our terrorist enemies.

But let's also use those military and intelligence tools to strike back at the terrorists to kill them and end the threat. At some point, constantly getting their asses handed to them will convince all but the truly committed jihadi that perhaps Allah really isn't on their side.

And for God's sake, keep Secretary of State John Kerry and his favorite musicians away from the problem. Nobody is resilient enough to endure that for long.

A Plan So Crazy It Just Might Work

Simple advice to getting rich:

The secret to getting rich is as powerful as it is unexciting: live below your means.

That’s it. The bigger the difference between what you earn and what you spend, the sooner you’ll find yourself with enough money to do what you want with your life. ...

Real freedom is the ability to make life choices that make you happy. Frugality puts money in your pocket so you can do just that.

And the author has an important reminder that when you see people with lots of stuff and who go on big vacations, they may not be rich as much as they are in debt--or at best living paycheck to paycheck no better off financially than someone broke and with nothing.

Tip to Instapundit.

I've followed this advice all my life, and it has allowed me to withstand financial setbacks without wrecking my life. You  always want a reserve to commit to the battle of life at decisive points.

And eventually, living below my means allowed to make decisions on quality of life that were beyond my wildest dreams when I started my career.

I'm not rich, but I've managed to make choices to make me happy. I'll settle for that, eh?

Plan for the best. But prepare for the worst.

It's a Long War and We're Just a Supporting Player

I've noted that the ISIL seizure of Ramadi, Iraq, seems like the high water mark of ISIL in Iraq, at least. ISIL has probably peaked in its appeal in general because its image as the strong horse is faltering. But until the Moslem world gets its house in order, someone else will rise to replace them.

Strategypage notes that ISIL is experiencing a downturn:

The ISIL setbacks are many. In the last year they have lost over 20 percent of the Iraqi and Syrian territory they held at the height of their success in late 2014. Another disappointment is what happened among distant Islamic terror groups that, in 2015, pledged loyalty to ISIL and considered themselves part of the ISIL caliphate. That has clearly not worked out.

These thugs can be beat. It is not true that fighting back just creates more jihadis. Jihadis need success to recruit, and if we kill them and defeat them in the field, that obviously refutes a success narrative.

Sadly for another left-wing failure to appreciate reality, this rise and now decline (but they are still deadly in decline) of ISIL is nothing that George W. Bush--or even Barack H. Obama--created, when you get down to root causes:

The sad truth is that this cycle of rise and decline of Islamic terrorism has been going on for centuries. It is part of an even more ancient (about a thousand years old) cycle of Islamic conservatism periodically becoming popular and powerful enough to stifle technical, political and economic progress in Moslem states. This is something most Moslems prefer to ignore and discourage open discussion about the problem. That is largely because at its peak, anyone openly criticizing this backwardness is often labeled a heretic or blasphemer and killed.

I do believe that Obama administration errors in Syria (failing to support non-jihadi rebels early to make them the strong horse) and Iraq (leaving in 2011 rather than staying to defend our gains against al Qaeda) gave ISIL the space to rise where it did. But President Obama did not cause the rise of ISIL. That's on Islam.

I will never claim that we can kill our way to security. But killing the jihadis is what we need to do to hold the killers at bay until the Islamic world can resolve this aspect of their civil war in favor of a more modern version of Islam that does not seek to kill those who will not submit to the jihadi version of what Islam should be.

I know the Arab Spring is much maligned these days. But it did signal a hope that Moslems see democracy as the alternative to either autocracy or Islamist rule.

I still hope that seeds have been spread that if nurtured will create a less deadly version of Islam that becomes the consensus ideology of the vast majority of Moslems, leaving the fanatics isolated and marginalized, unable to terrorize the majority into passivity or cooperation in a new jihad that strikes in our cities.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Always the Backlash--Never the Lash

Why do so many sophisticated people instantly worry about a backlash against Moslems when Moslem terrorists kill innocent people?

“The scariest thing about Brussels is our reaction to it,” says respected British journalist and commentator and former editor of the (London) Times, Simon Jenkins.


You don't have to be a supporter of rounding up all Moslems and deporting or imprisoning them to think that a reaction that targets the jihadis, their supporters, and the climate of hate that breeds them is the proper response to terrorism rather than the "scariest thing" about the terrorism.

I'll say it again, given that jihadis kill far more Moslems than they kill non-Moslems, it is hardly anti-Moslem to be determined to kill the killers before they kill innocent people.

The scariest thing about Brussels is the reaction of people like Simon Jenkins. These people never get worked up over the ongoing lash--just about the potential backlash that never seems to arrive.

The Main (Unacknowledged) Enemy

Russia is building up forces in the Kuril islands, which Russia took from Japan in 1945. Japan is arguably the country that should be upset. But is China the reason for Russia's action?

Russia seems to be sticking it to the Japanese:

Russia will deploy a range of coastal missile systems on the far-eastern Kuril islands, claimed by Japan, as part of its military build-up in the region, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Friday.

"The planned rearmament of contingents and military bases on Kuril islands is under way. Already this year they will get Bal and Bastion coastal missile systems as well as new-generation Eleron-3 unmanned aerial vehicles," Shoigu said during a ministry meeting.

Is Russia really worried about Japan going to war to get the islands back?

Let me suggest that if I was a Russian STAVKA staff officer worried about the security of Russia's Far East naval forces, I'd worry a lot that I could not hold the bases in the Vladivostok region in the face of a major Chinese offensive.

Short of nuking them, that is.

Given that weakness, I'd want defended facilities further north, and anti-ship missiles in the Kuril Islands would work to shield Russian bases further north from Chinese forces that could be based on the Sea of Japan.

Not that this doesn't also stick it to the Japanese. But  the Russians should worry more about China.

And not just in the Far East.

The year 2020 isn't so very far away now for Russia to be ready for China, eh?

Precision Reaches Down the Chain of Command

Precision firepower continues to get cheaper. Once expensive and only deliverable by specialized aircraft, precision firepower is reaching individual troops. This will speed battle tempo tremendously.

We could easily have precision firepower to take out enemies behind cover at the squad level:

In difficult development for over a decade, the XM25 will finally enter limited production in 2017. It will be the first radically new small arms technology since 1943 [NOTE: the German assault rifle]. ...

Now the XM25 comes to destroy the value of cover. Built-in targeting lasers, infrared sights and a ballistic computer calculate the exact location of the target so the weapon can fire a projectile precisely past it. The 25mm round — essentially a precision-guided mini-grenade — waits to detonate until it has passed whatever cover the target had and can strafe its unprotected side. It will blow up above a trench or foxhole, on the far side of a wall or barricade.

I remember seeing this a couple decades ago at an Army convention when it was paired with a rifle. Now it is a stand-alone weapon. Like a grenade launcher, I assume this is intended as a squad weapon.

We already have plenty of precision air power and tube and rocket precision at brigade and higher levels.

Add in drone/grenades or mortar rounds (as a mini-air force for both strike and surveillance capabilities, and communications), precision 60mm mortar rounds at the platoon level, guided 81mm mortar rounds at the company level, and precision 120mm mortars at the battalion level, and we speed up the tempo of conventional operations tremendously by reducing the need to call up the chain of command for needed support, when coupled with Blue Force Tracker technology that lets our commanders see where their troops are.

With an anti-tank round, the XM25 also puts a portable weapon with relatively cheap rounds capable of destroying light armored vehicles in a squad to supplement more expensive anti-tank missiles or unguided rockets.

Oh, and that article notes that precision direct fire can be in the hands of all individual soldiers:

“If you want to build a smart firearm, it’s available on the market,” retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, former commandant of the Army War College, notes. “There’s an outfit in Austin, Texas called TrackingPoint,” he said, which makes a lightweight gunsight that calculates the trajectory to the target and fires when the gun is in the precisely right position to hit, compensating for any unsteadiness in the hand of the shooter. “You pull the trigger, and you just hold it on the target until the dot turns green and the gun fires by itself.”

In one sense that is kind of scary. We count on training to make our troops superior and not just our technology edge. If even ill-trained troops can shoot that well with similar technology, that edge drains away in one key area.

On the bright side, we will be able to focus training on other aspects of being a soldier to maintain our broader training edge. But we will have to change our training to take this into account.

And if we network all this stuff, precision firepower at lower levels and persistent surveillance will keep our ground forces very lethal with the ability to shoot first and kill enemies quickly--and even defend our troops.

Although what we do when we run low the precision rounds is another question. Then battle tempo will slow down despite the technology.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

And the Lesson is What?

The Left will have no criticisms of the optics of President Obama's trips to Cuba and Argentina because he is trying to improve our reputation in Latin America. This apparently has no lessons for today in the Middle East.

President Obama hopes to restore relations with Argentina, which resents American support for authoritarian governments in the past:

[President] Obama also tried to show the softer side of US power in Argentina, where many harbor resentment at Washington's support for past coups and dictatorships.

His trip to Buenos Aires coincided with the 40th anniversary of the coup that brought the country's last murderous military regime to power.

Victims' groups had been angered by the date chosen for Obama's visit, given the US support for the coup at the time.

I will at least say that the Argentina trip has a purpose--where we supported dictatorship, even as I believe the Cuba project is foolhardy (Cuba agreed to this opening--ending our policy that opposed dictatorship--to save their regime rather than doom it).

But explain to me why today our Left seems to be on board a policy of rejecting democracy for Moslems in the Middle East, preferring a policy of supporting autocrats to keep the wogs in line?

We stiff-armed Iranian protesters in 2009, we failed to support Iraqi democracy after 2011, and in general the Left (and much of the Right, sad to say) is horrified about the Arab Spring which is seen as too risky when we could just support non-Islamist autocrats who will hold the passions of the Islamists in check by force.

So what president will have to have an outreach trip to the Middle East one day in the future to combat the resentments of Washington's support for past coups and dictatorships in the Moslem world?

At least that future American president will be able to point to the actions of George the Liberator to bolster our image.

New! Improved! Now With Agility!

If Southeast Asian nations are concerned about the reality of our pivot to the region, the Littoral Combat Ship is not the way to reassure them.

This defense of the Littoral Combat Ship is quite possibly the worst article I've seen on defense issues so far this year.

The LCS program has been cut back because the ship is under-gunned, not very survivable if hit, less flexible than its modular design promised, and too expensive. The Navy will revamp the class as frigates to address these problems.

Rather than go through the article in gruesome detail--and quote it to do so--let me just say that most of the points raised in defense of the LCS are in fact defenses of naval power in general rather than defenses in favor of this particular ship class. Pity the author didn't pen that article.

Since America's Navy been providing all of these naval power missions even before the LCS, the LCS is obviously not vital to carrying out the missions.

Really, is the author's boasting of how a new LCS provided humanitarian aid in 2013 to the Philippines meant to imply this is the first time our Navy has responded to a natural disaster?

Does the Navy really assign female sailors only to the LCS?

What does it even mean to say the ship is (uniquely?) "agile?"

Good God, my eyes hurt.

I had high hopes for the article when I clicked on it. I was actually hoping that the article would address a hope I have for the western Pacific operating under the shadow of China's fleet and land-based anti-ship weapons.

That's one reason I was satisfied that we are forward-deploying the LCS to Singapore to operate in the South China Sea--I'd rather lose a LCS than an Aegis destroyer--or God forbid a carrier--if we are hit first and our forward-deployed ships are the targets.

I want cheaper and expendable ships for peacetime engagement whose loss won't harm our combat power to eventually win a war in the western Pacific if China launches a theater-wide surprise attack on our forward-deployed forces.

Indeed, if our forward-deployed ships that could be lost in the opening hours of a war are not the best, that lowers the incentive for China to launch a first strike since our main combat power will be unaffected by such an attack.

This article is no defense of the LCS. I'm hoping that the Navy will fix problems with the new class of ships we have already built. We can hardly afford to have 40 worthless ships in our fleet.

But let's not praise a ship that has somehow combined low capabilities with high costs.

By all means, go read it all if you like. Why should I suffer alone?

Nothing to See, Move Along

How can Iran fail to believe that God is on their side?

I was dismayed enough that Iran isn't actually prohibited from testing missiles that could be used for nuclear warheads after all the missile aspects are ironed out.

And I was dismayed that the looming Iran deal appeared to enshrine the concept of deliberately not seeing whether Iran violates any deal.

But little did I know how thoroughly that Schultz Doctrine of knowing nothing and seeing nothing would be embedded in the whole astonishingly stupid deal with Iran:

Because of the JCPOA, 17 IAEA resolutions have been rescinded. Many of them contained mandates for IAEA inspections of Iran’s nuclear program. They have been replaced by a new mandate to only inspect Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA. Moreover, since the IAEA voted in December to close the file on unresolved questions of nuclear weapons-related work by Iran, the IAEA will no longer be allowed to investigate these questions.

It also appears that even when the IAEA issues reports addressing issues on which it is allowed to report, the agency will provide less data and some issues will be excluded, including Iran’s efforts to develop advanced uranium centrifuges.

Olli Heinonen, a former senior IAEA official, said in a recent analysis “for years, Tehran has advocated for less-detailed IAEA safeguards reports, citing concerns ranging from confidentiality matters to IAEA inspection authorities under the comprehensive safeguards agreement.” To convince Iran to agree to the JCPOA, Western states probably conceded this issue to Iran as part of another secret side deal that was withheld from the U.S. Congress.

Do you still believe the outlandish claims about how rigorous the inspections regime that John Kerry--of all people--negotiated?

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Not the Appendix of Shoes

I'm going to try this.

I had no idea what those extra holes were for! I haven't had heel blister problems but I have experienced the issue of toes jamming forward on long walks with one particular pair of shoes.

Tip to the Instapundit Borg.

The New Outpost of Freedom

As long as we're once again making plans to defend NATO, let's start at Narva, Estonia.

A stretch of territory between Russia's Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic and Belarus is a prime invasion route if Russia decides to go big against NATO:

A 60-mile long sliver of flat land just inside NATO member Poland gives the U.S Army's commander in Europe sleepless nights.

It's called the "Suwalki Gap" and should Vladimir Putin decide to invade, it would be perfect for advancing Russian tanks. ...

If the Russian president gave the order to sweep across Suwalki, his forces would initially split the Baltics from the rest of NATO before the West could do anything to stop it.

This is why I don't want to put many NATO troops in the Baltic states:

If we put enough force into the Baltic states to hold the ground, Russia will simply advance through Poland and cut off our troops in the Baltic states, as the Russians did to the Germans in World War II, and leave them to rot away and surrender when the war in Poland is decided.

The key is to hold in southern Lithuania, build up forces, secure the Kaliningrad enclave, and then counter-attack north and from the sea (perhaps including an enclave on the mainland but at least still holding the islands off the coast of the Baltic states), as I've written about at least a couple other times.

Of course, this is low probability since Russia's military is still pretty weak against all but the smallest opponents. Russia has lots of nukes, good special forces, and enough good-enough conventional forces to pound on a weaker enemy in a limited theater like Ukraine (the Donbas and Crimea) or Georgia--or send a small expeditionary force to Syria--but Russia doesn't have the military power to take on NATO.

The Russians don't have enough military power assuming such an attack gets NATO to mobilize its superior but scattered military power weighted to the west in old NATO (or across the Atlantic) and deploy enough of it east to fight, rather than just give in to Russian nuclear threats that conceal Russian conventional weaknesses and concede defeat--that seems to be what Russia counts on.

But if Russia wants to fight NATO in a small theater within their military capabilities, Russia could strike and seize Narva in Estonia:

What if Russia attempts a page out of Pakistan's long territorial struggle against militarily superior India in the 1999 Kargil War?

What if Russia sends in their regular troops--while denying they are their troops--to seize the Estonian ethnic-Russian city of Narva on the northeast border and dares NATO to counter-attack, which would devastate NATO's reputation if we did nothing?

And we'd have to be careful about what we sent to the Narva front because Russia would likely mobilize forces and be in a better position to move into Belarus to threaten an advance through the Suwalki Gap and cut off forces further north and put them out of the fight on the new decisive front.

That's what I worry about at this point, rather than a general invasion of NATO that a Suwalki Gap scenario represents.

Narva could well be the new outpost of freedom.

All Hitler, All the Time

Liberals in America have been amazingly consistent in their treatment of Republican presidents or candidates:

To most people, Nazi analogies summon up images of the Holocaust and a ruthless dictatorship. To the left however, any populist reaction against their rule is Nazism. In their world, there is a battle between progressive and reactionary forces. Any movement that dares to run for office by challenging progressive policies is reactionary, fascist and the second coming of the Third Reich. Republican victories are lazily attributed by liberal hacks to mindless public anger being exploited by right-wing demagogues.

And so the only thing we can truly be certain of is that any Republican nominee will be Hitler. It doesn’t matter what he believes. It doesn’t matter if Democrats considered him a moderate 5 minutes ago. Accusations of Nazism remain the default argument for a Democratic Party turned far to the left.

Republicans aren’t progressive. Therefore they’re Hitler. It’s really that simple.

This tactic goes back to FDR.

I've personally experienced the ability to see anyone the Republicans nominate as an extremist.

(And amazingly, in a Bizarro World anti-extremist viewpoint, the Left celebrates President Obama as a non-ideological pragmatist. Which begs the question of why they would worship a man who is not the most left-wing president we've ever had.)

I know someone who, early in the 2012 election cycle, sadly complained to me that Republicans were leaning to Rick Perry of Texas when they could have supported a nice moderate like Mitt Romney.

By the autumn, this person was speaking of Romney as a dangerous right winger. There was no awareness of her mental evolution. The liberal Interwebs called Romney a dangerous right winger, and so he was. Although to be fair, I didn't hear a Hitler comparison, but the concept holds.

This is how the Big Lie works.

Projection. The Left might want to look into it. Perhaps start on college campuses where young Maoists demonstrate what they'd do with power if they got it.

Or look at how brown green shirt tactics work:

“In 2006, Greenpeace USA mistakenly issued a press release stating ‘In the twenty years since the Chernobyl tragedy, the world’s worst nuclear accident, there have been nearly [FILL IN ALARMIST AND ARMAGEDDONIST FACTOID HERE]’.”

That howler is followed by a roster of less amusing cases in which media stunts were later found to be built on falsehoods or resulted in arrests, such as the case of Greenpeace Japan activists convicted in 2010 of theft and trespass. No corporation could get away with the tactics employed by Greenpeace and stay in business, but the organization has managed to play by its own rules for years. Until now.

Yeah. Just fill in the blank with the latest Republican. The script has been written for many decades now.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

War on Terror Very Interested in You

Europe, as a rule, has not been interested in fighting the war on jihadi terror. But the war has come to Europe even as Europeans thought they could opt out, let America fight the war elsewhere, and complain about how we fight it even as we shield them. Welcome to the war, Europe.

The terror strike in Belgium, following strikes in Paris last year and the ongoing problems with migrant-related crimes from uncontrolled Moslem immigration, is changing the war on terror by creating a new front:

Simply put, Europe has imported a major threat into its countries, one that did not exist a couple generations ago. It can be endlessly debated why this problem has grown so serious so quickly—for instance, how much is due to Europe’s failures at assimilation of immigrants versus the innate aggression of some of those immigrants (and their children)?—but that the threat is large and growing can no longer be denied by the sentient. ...

Europe is now at war again. The threat today is less terrorism than a low-grade insurgency, a guerrilla war of sorts, that hangs over much of the continent as thousands of jihadists, made proficient killers by ISIS in Syria and Iraq, return home with visions of killing “infidels,” their former neighbors. There will be no parley or negotiation with such mass murderers. Parsing the death-cult ideology that drives ISIS fighters, with the hope of making it less noxious, makes as much sense as trying to divine the finer political points of the Manson family.

The war on terror, if this assessment about what Europe has in store for it, has one very striking similarity to the Cold War--Europe will play a significant role in fighting the war on terror now that the war has come to Europe.

In the Cold War, the Soviet threat to NATO tended to mask the decline in power of European states that had been exhausted and broken by two world wars that ended their global dominance.

Once global powers or strong regional powers with global impact or potential, these European states only had major roles in the global Cold War because Europe was the focal point of the global struggle and Europe simply needed to defend itself to be a major player in the global struggle that we waged against the Soviet Union.

Now, long unwilling to make a major effort to fight jihadis overseas, European countries will find that they have little choice but to join the war against jihadis because so many jihadis are in Europe with a base of support for recruits that the Europeans imported.

Not that all or even a majority of Moslems in Europe are pro-jihadi. But you only need a minority with the will to kill in order to bully a lot more into passively looking the other way, at least.

Maybe there was something in the air, but back in the fall, I noted that European efforts to breed docility would falter as they realize that external threats are what matters--not crushing European threats to peace.

And I wondered how soon Europe would have no choice but to fight the war on terror if that external threat they were importing became active.

Sadly, Europeans have been unable to distinguish between immigrants who want to become part of European society (which is good, and strengthens European society) and invaders who want to become the European society (which is bad, and suicidal).

So the global war on terror has a European front. And Europe must fight on this front because they have nowhere else to go. This could get very ugly and look far more like a clash of civilizations than the type of war on terror we have waged that relies on helping friendly Moslems in Moslem-majority states to fight jihadis there.

Oh, and as I asked earlier, if Moslems in Europe riot and edge into revolt, what will a nuclear-armed Iran have to say about European counter-measures?

Nearly fifteen years after 9/11 in America, we really are all Americans, now.

UPDATE: But do the Europeans know it?

And is America still the America of 9/11 that is willing lead a fight against jihadis?

UPDATE: European elites are certainly not all American, now. They remain supra-Europeans who still think that Europe's main security problem is posed by European states warring with each other--pushed to fight by those bloody, ignorant peasants, of course--and that the EU is the solution.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

That face of fascism, Ms. Click, keeps digging.

Don't know much about history
Don't know much about liberty
Don't know much about freedom of speech
Don't know much about the course I teach

Professor Click defends her actions at the University of Missouri:

“If you have had any exposure to American media in the last four months, you know the quick decision I made to stand with the students, you’ve seen my inexperience with public protests,” Click wrote in a piece in the Washington Post.

[I guess the old, failed, obviously BS excuse is non-operative now!]

But she does know a lot about muscle to suppress freedom of the press:

But I do know that I hate you
And I know that if I have muscle too
What a wonderful campus this would be

Concerned Students 1950, indeed. I'm concerned they think it is 1950.

But given the professors they have, it makes sense.

Thanks to these folks for the lyrics.

UPDATE: And really, my admiration for that young man as he tries to explain basic concepts of freedom of the press to idiot students rises every time I see it. This video clip could be his entire resume` when he applies for work as a journalist.

And this applies to the unseen video photographer, too, of course.

UPDATE: Related: Babies on campus.

Oh Lord, What Did Kerry Do Now?

Is it time for another Russia Reset already?

Syrian troops backed by Russian air support fought their way into the Islamic State-held city of Palmyra on Thursday, their biggest offensive yet against the jihadist caliphate, as Moscow and Washington discussed how to help to end the civil war.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in an atmosphere that was noticeably more amiable than past meetings, reflecting new diplomacy the two Cold War superpowers have championed in recent weeks.

Russia wants Assad to survive as a client who provides bases to Russia; and we want to avoid dealing with the problems in Syria.

So I'm sure we have a basis for common ground, eh?

When Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is smiling this broadly, you can be sure that he's taken Kerry's lunch money and given our top diplomat a wedgie:

Syrian forces are pushing into Palmyra right now.

As I've written, Russia's intervention tilted the battlefield Assad's way, but it has not eliminated the basic Assad problem of having a battle weary ground force too small to hold his territory, with a base of support already reeling from the heavy casualties endured by Assad's small base of support.

Assad needs outside developments to hold his ground, including ground taken around Palmyra and Aleppo.

That's where Kerry comes in to go along with a Russian diplomatic deal that sucks the wind out of the opponents of Assad.

Worst secretary of state ever.

UPDATE: The Syrians seem to have taken Palmyra:

Syrian government forces backed by Russian airstrikes drove Islamic State fighters from Palmyra on Sunday, ending the group's 10-month reign of terror over a town whose famed 2,000-year-old ruins once drew tens of thousands of visitors each year.

I remain convinced that holding this territory relies more on Kerry than on Iranian and Russian military help.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

And Now I Laugh

Okay, I'm laughing out loud.

For about 18 years, give or take a year or so, global temperatures have remained flat despite escalating levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The models said increased CO2 leads to higher temperatures. But that linkage was not observed in the real world.

To me, this made it obvious that the models upon which future doom predictions are based on are pure nonsense.

But then I noticed that the data seems to indicate that the long-running pause either has or is about to end. Data is data, right?

And now, in news too good to believe timing-wise, we have another bit of data just as temperatures seem to be edging up again (tip to Instapundit):

New data published by the International Energy Agency extends the surprising finding, discovered last year, that global carbon dioxide emissions have stopped growing despite continued economic growth.

So we had a situation where the temperatures were flat despite increased CO2 levels.

And now we have a situation where the CO2 levels are flat and yet temperatures are edging up!

All hail the global warming models. Because ... Science!

Grant me that this is funny.

UPDATE: Of course, the climate is only the excuse for an attack on capitalism:

This is how the global warming alarmist community thinks. It wants to frighten, intimidate and then assume command. It needs a “crisis” to take advantage of, a hobgoblin to menace the people, so that they will beg for protection from the imaginary threat. The alarmists’ “better world” is one in which they rule a global welfare state. They’ve admitted this themselves.

That's why these goons are called "watermelons" after all, green on the outside but red on the inside.

Which is odd because socialism has been a bigger polluter than capitalism. Don't you wonder why Europe sets the baseline of their carbon emissions at 1990 levels?

That's the last year that eastern European communist heavy industry economies--now part of Europe--were spewing out pollution. Since then, most of that industry shut down and so the bulk of Europe's fight against carbon emissions was the result of America successfully leading the West to defeat the Soviet empire.

Yet the global warming advocates want to revive that model of economics and government?

Well, you have to break a few economies to make a socialist omelet, I guess.

The New (Bad) Deal

I used to give FDR credit for at least giving Americans hope during the Great Depression. Now it turns out that his policies likely created the conditions that required the hope he provided.

The history is not settled:

After scrutinizing Roosevelt's record for four years, Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian conclude in a new study that New Deal policies signed into law 71 years ago thwarted economic recovery for seven long years.

Once again, we find the words "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help" can be some of the scariest words in our language when they try to do things governments have no business trying to manage.

Life is funny.

Scent of a Legacy



Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Now we know what to do for Brussels.

Perhaps it's just me, but I think the last thing we need is an image of a softer America:

With baseball and tango Obama offers Latin America a softer US

I know President Obama was in a difficult position after trying to turn down the dance invitation.

And no, I don't think that rushing home after the Brussels terror attack was the right response.

But some advance work by his staff on what is appropriate after a terror attack--that killed Americans, too--should have been worked out with our hosts.

And it isn't like this image is overwhelmed by a reputation of resolutely fighting terror.

Drama?  No Obama.

UPDATE: Good point:

“It does explain why we gave away everything in the Iranian nuclear negotiations,” Krauthammer said. “The guy can’t stand up to a tango dancer, how is he going to stand up to the mullahs?”

Of course, Iran had the invaluable knowledge that our president desperately wanted to say "yes" to anything in his quest for a legacy.

UPDATE: Feel the power of the newly reset and hopey battle station!

Fidel Castro responded Monday to President Barack Obama's historic trip to Cuba with a long, bristling letter recounting the history of U.S. aggression against Cuba, writing that "we don't need the empire to give us any presents."

The 1,500-word letter in state media titled "Brother Obama" was Castro's first response to the president's three-day visit last week, in which the American president said he had come to bury the two countries' history of Cold War hostility.

An enemy that at least respected our power a little bit would have the decency to at least pretend for a little longer that our president's folly has a shot at working.

Friday, March 25, 2016

We All Look Alike to Them

How alien is our military to our professors in the educational-industrial complex?

This alien:

Heidi Czierwic, an English professor at the University of North Dakota, was in her office when she saw two individuals walking near her window wearing camouflage and toting what appeared to her to be guns.

The panicked professor scurried to her Safe Space — which in this case was under her desk — and proceeded to call 911.

She saw a couple ROTC students carrying fake or disabled weapons on campus.

But all she saw was camouflage--which she associated with crazed gunmen.

If she had any familiarity at all with our military, she might have noted that they were in full uniform.

Crazed gunmen may wear some camo gear, but they are rarely in a full uniform with proper patches, insignia, and whatnot, properly worn.

But that's our campus culture. I was once called a fascist as I stood in my Guard uniform waiting for a bus on campus at the University of Michigan. A passenger in a car saw camo and made a snap judgment. Not "defender of our nation and freedoms," but "fascist."

You can't defend the decent people without also defending the twits. I suppose that's the opposite of collateral damage.

Tip to Instapundit.

And the Answer is ... America

Apparently, China does not have a Minister of the Obvious:

China said on Monday agreements like the one reached last week by the United States and the Philippines allowing for a U.S. military presence at five Philippine bases raised questions about militarization in the South China Sea.

The actual question is "who will block China's militarization of the South China Sea to gain complete and exclusive control of this body of largely international waters.

The answer is, we will with the help of a lot of regional allies who want to know the answer to the actual question rather than China's farcical "who, me?" question.

I will say that this is a tremendous success of the Obama administration's pivot to Asia.

The pivot is small in military terms, really, and it just continued an existing trend since the end of the Cold War, but it has been working to give reasons for our allies to rally around us.

Have no doubt that this ability to rally allies is crucial to preventing China from simply absorbing the South China Sea as the City of Sansha.

A failure to reassure allies would lead countries to doubt us and eventually lead someone to be the first to cut a deal with China rather than rely on us. Once that process starts, it would snowball as combined allied power declines relative to China's power and more states decide that orbiting the Middle Kingdom is safer than resistance.

So far we are bringing allies in rather than seeing them peeled away.

So kudos to President Obama. I may worry that lack of resolve has weakened our ability to reassure allies. But in the western Pacific he is getting the job done.

Fear is Russia's Best Defense

Russia's conventional military is weak, able to carry out only small missions without resorting to expensive (in lives) brute force attacks. Nuclear weapons are the only way to keep an invader out of Russia. So it makes sense that the Russians stoke fear in the West of Russia's large nuclear arsenal.


The East-West standoff over the Ukraine crisis has brought the threat of nuclear war in Europe closer than at any time since the 1980s, a former Russian foreign minister warned on Saturday.

"The risk of confrontation with the use of nuclear weapons in Europe is higher than in the 1980s," said Igor Ivanov, Russia's foreign minister from 1998 to 2004 and now head of a Moscow-based think-tank founded by the Russian government.

I don't buy that judgment that conveniently covers up Russia's conventional military weakness.

Russia is really willing to risk Moscow for the Donbas? I don't think so.

But it is useful to Russia for people in the West to believe that Russian resolve over Ukraine is so solid that we risk nuclear war by standing in Russia's way.

I'm calling BS on that Putin front man. "Think tank," indeed.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

What Could Go Wrong?

Oh good God, please tell me we won't inflict this young man on a platoon of our soldiers:

A member of the [West Point] class of 2017 asked [Secretary of Defense] Carter, "As a younger generation of millenials enters the work force, American corporations are shifting towards a less hierarchal and more flat and casual organizational structure. What is the Department of Defense doing to stay competitive in this new work environment?"

Because "casual" is a firefight-winning approach.

Tip to Instapundit.

[Stupid scheduled posting didn't work. Sometimes when I click on a future date for publication it reverts to today's date. Which can mean a post gets posted earlier in the same day ... Since some people have read it already, I'll just leave it here today.]

It's Okay, Israelis Aren't Doing It

Don't worry, this "war crimes" news will fade from daily headlines and nothing much will be heard about it from the usual suspects who get worked up when Israelis defend themselves:

The Saudi-led coalition bombing Yemen for one year has caused the vast majority of civilian deaths in the conflict, the UN rights chief said Friday, warning international crimes may have been committed.

During its campaign against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen there have been repeated criticisms that coalition air strikes have not done enough to avoid non-military targets.

Human rights campaigners can be funny. Palestinian and Hezbollah attackers have a lower Jewish body count only because they have not done enough to accurately target non-military targets more frequently.


I don't want to sound alarmist on very little data, but in the last week I've noticed some hits from Russia on the subject of invading Ukraine.

People were surprised at Russia's drawdown of air power in Syria. Scraping up what good forces they have for a renewed Ukraine front would explain that.

UPDATE: FYI, this is the post that has drawn Russian attention. And the map about going big drew particular attention.

I mean, would Putin launch a big campaign in Europe while we are preoccupied with a presidential campaign during the lame duck period of President Obama?

That was a rhetorical question, obviously.

UPDATE: And why would Russia be eager to peddle this nonsense now?

There are no Russian troops in the Moscow-leaning Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, and there have never been, but there are Russian citizens who stand by local residents, RIA news agency quoted the Kremlin as saying on Saturday.

The Russians are aggravating on many levels.

The Big Push

A few days ago, I discussed the pending Iraqi offensive north to Mosul. Here we go:

The Iraqi military backed by U.S.-led coalition aircraft on Thursday launched a long-awaited operation to recapture the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State militants, a military spokesman said.

In the push, Iraqi forces retook several villages on the outskirts of the town of Makhmour, east of Mosul, early in the morning on Thursday and hoisted the Iraqi flag there, according to the spokesman for the Joint Military Command, Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool.

That walking piece of breathing garbage, Moqtada al Sadr, is complicating efforts in Anbar, however:

One leg of the Iraqi military's efforts to clear some of that territory in Anbar has been put on hold. A political crisis in Baghdad has prompted al-Abadi to pull some of Iraq's elite counterterrorism forces back from the front in the Euphrates River valley to secure the capital.

The prime minister recalled the forces after influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr mobilized thousands and staged a sit-in outside Baghdad's highly fortified Green Zone last week in a show of force meant to put pressure on Iraq's political leadership.

It's a shame that the government needs to pull these troops in to make sure loyal forces are available in case Sadr tries (again) to launch an insurrection.

Let's hope the Mosul Storm (my name, not anything official) goes more rapidly than our more cautious estimates have predicted.

And as long as I'm hoping, it would be nice to see the Jordanians offensive into western Anbar to hit ISIL from the rear.

UPDATE: Our military hopes to add forces to support the Iraqi offensive and seems hopeful of progress in the coming months:

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pentagon reporters that recommendations on ways to increase U.S. support for Iraq's ground fight against IS will be discussed with President Barack Obama soon.

"The secretary and I both believe that there will be an increase in U.S. forces in Iraq in coming weeks, but that decision hasn't been made," Dunford said. He did not say how big that increase might be.

He and Carter said accelerating the campaign against the Islamic State will include more assistance like the artillery fire and targeting help that U.S. Marines provided earlier this week to Iraqi forces advancing on Mosul. But they said American forces remain well behind the front lines.

"I think there's a lot of reasons for us to be optimistic about the next several months," Dunford said. "But by no means would I say that we're about to break the back of ISIL or that the fight is over."

I think more troops is justified and I think Dunford is right that we should see progress against ISIL in Iraq if this offensive is truly a serious effort.

Indeed, I would not be surprised if the advance is more rapid than people seem to expect.

But with ISIL still dug in inside Syria and Libya, with branches elsewhere, even crippling ISIL in Iraq will not break their back overall or end the fight against ISIL.

But it is a good start. As I've long argued, our fight against ISIL should be an Iraq-first fight with strikes in Syria only for the purpose of supporting the Iraq campaign.

Sadly, I don't think we're on board the second "win" in that formula, seeming to be siding with Assad scant years after saying he had to go (President Obama) and comparing his use of poison gas to the Nazis (Kerry)

Green Lives Matter

Our president, who likes to pose as a peaceful man averse to war in contrast to Bush 43, actually seems to have a problem with winning wars--not fighting them:

Stephen Sestanovich describes Obama as a “retrenchment” president akin to Dwight Eisenhower or Richard Nixon—leaders elected to scale back the country’s overseas commitments. That seems to me not quite severe enough a judgment. The better parallel is to Lyndon Johnson fighting wars “he believed to be unwinnable” (as Goldberg describes Obama). Sending soldiers into harm’s way when you consider their fight pointless must weigh heavily on the conscience.

Yeah, the president's conscience is the problem. Not the lives wrecked by sending troops to fight and die in a war that we don't try to win.

I did note that President Obama had taken the lead in wars, so he isn't the anti-Bush as his supporters suppose he is.

And I did wonder why President Obama would order two surges in Afghanistan that drove up our casualty count tremendously only to needlessly risk defeat by pulling our troops out too soon.

Our troops have the right to expect that their nation will send them to win when their nation sends those troops to fight and die.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Have I mentioned that I really despise Windows 10?

Oh, it looks fine. And functions fine.

But it doesn't function fine as much as it should.

First, Internet Explorer crashes more often. Sure, the system helpfully tells me that they are searching for a solution.

But that reassurance at this point is as comforting as OJ Simpson's pledge to find the "real killer" that he was acquitted of being oh so many years ago.

What really gets me, however, is the black screen.

Sometimes I get a warning that my memory is full and I have seconds to bookmark an open website I don't want to lose before the screen goes black.

Just now it simply went black. So I had to turn my computer off and restart--losing any open tabs.

So you know, your loss on my priceless bits of wisdom that will go unwritten for now.

And unlike the old IE, my computer doesn't allow me to reopen a past session that closed unexpectedly.

So really, kudos on the free improvement on my operating system. You get what you pay for.

Poverty Saves Russia's Paratroopers

Russia has canceled their plan to double their airborne forces because of financial problems. That will save their airborne forces.

On the surface, this seems like good news:

The Russian government revealed that in late January it had ordered a halt to a program that was to expand and modernize the airborne forces. This confirms rumors that the government has quietly halted military rebuilding and expansion efforts, especially for the special operations troops (which includes airborne units as well as the more traditional commandos). This is all because of the continuing economic crises.

At the time, I thought that this expansion plan was actually a counter-productive move.

So Russia's poverty has saved a pocket of decent troops that they have.

Which is a reminder--as I've often noted, even before the Ukraine Crisis--that Russia is weak compared to the United States in conventional military power.

But Russia does have the conventional power to defeat weaker states:

Eventually, deep Russian decline will limit its aggression. For the time being, however, a nuclear-armed Mr Putin is bent on imposing himself in the old Soviet sphere of influence. In Mr Obama’s last year as president, Mr Putin, fresh from Syrian success, could yet test the West one more time.

Unfortunately, such weaker states are close to Russia.

And Russia has a lot of nukes to rattle in order to keep any such conflict between Russia and a target from escalating to a conflict that draws in a coalition of Western states superior to Russia in conventional military power,

This is what makes Russia so frustrating. So many people dismiss the need to stop Putin by saying--rightly--that Russia is weak.

This is true. But my take is why shouldn't we help targets of Russia resist Russian aggression because Russia is weak enough to defeat?

I'd rather halt the Russians as far east as possible. I don't assume Russia will decline forever. They've always been poorer, after all, yet in the past have managed to build a military capable of pushing west.

Fighting for a Post-Syria Assad

Russia announced more than a week ago that they would pull out much of their air power from Syria, which is the subject of speculation now. Clearly, Russia only cares about northwestern Syria.

The Russians stated that they completed their mission and would withdraw most of their air power. Rather quickly, about half of the warplanes were pulled out:

Just under half of Russia's fixed-wing strike force based in Syria has flown out of the country in the past two days, according to a Reuters calculation which suggests the Kremlin is accelerating its partial withdrawal.

Strategypage addresses the reduction of forces:

Russia pointed out that their troops made it possible for Syrian government forces to retake over 400 towns and villages more than 10,000 square kilometers of territory and that Russian forces can leave now. While the Russian presence reversed rebel advances that threatened to defeat the Syrian government by late 2015 the Russian assistance has not defeated the rebels. Despite still being divided (and often fighting each other) the rebels remain more powerful than the government forces. Russia cites the long-delayed peace talks as made possible because of the Russian intervention. Yet the peace talks are more about posturing than performance. One tangible result of the Russian intervention was an opportunity to give many new Russian weapons some combat experience. That is a good thing for Russia but because of continued low oil prices and sanctions Russia cannot afford to keep their Syrian operations going at their current intensity. It is no secret that Russia is running out of smart bombs and replacement parts for many of these new weapons. The elite combat and support troops Russia sent to Syria are exhausted and need some rest. Then there is the additional expense of the entire operation, something that is easier to justify back home if it is not open-ended. Russia will continue to maintain its improvised naval base and airbase operations in Syria. This is much less expensive and could be done with only a thousand or so troops. This presence also implies Russian willingness to bring back the muscle if the Assad government gets in big trouble again.

Which is more interesting than just assuming Russia won. Russia will be able to rest troops--showing they don't have the forces to rotate troops to sustain even a small force in Syria in addition to their efforts in eastern Ukraine; the Russians will save money; the Russians can rebuild stocks of weapons; and the Russians got to test out new weapons.

Further, the Russians can come back easily if the rebellion starts pushing Assad back again.

And the Russians may yet feel that peace talks can cement their win, if the Russians can again play Secretary of State Kerry to ratify the survival of Assad if not the defeat of ISIL.

Let me add some thoughts.

One, regaining 10,000 square kilometers for Assad is a drop in the bucket when you consider Syria has nearly 186,000 square kilometers of territory. So Russia helped recover a bit more than 5% of Syrian territory.

But the territory is in the west, which as I've long said is all that Russia (and Iran, for different reasons) cares about. As long as Assad controls the northwest, Russia has a port and airfields that can project Russian naval and air power into the eastern Mediterranean.

This Russian reduction demonstrates the lie of Russia's pretense for intervention that they wanted to fight ISIL. Russia has pulled back just as Syrian forces were aimed east where ISIL's stronghold is--which seemed odd to me anyway because I didn't (and still don't) think Assad has the manpower to hold what he has let alone push into rebel-, jihadi-, and ISIL-held territory to clear them out and then hold that territory, too.

And a reduction in Russian air power isn't that significant if Russia has managed to get Assad's air force and artillery back in action, as the post also notes.

And Russia seems to have shifted to artillery support as their air power has been pulled back from the fight--but not completely out of the fight.

Further, does the lack of much of Russia's air power signal that Assad's offensives are over? A reduced Russian air expeditionary force may be sufficient for flying in defense of pro-Assad forces. Recall that when we were fighting in Afghanistan, a single B-1 bomber loitering over the country loaded with smart bombs was all the air support friendly forces needed. But is it enough to sustain offensives?

Or will restored Syrian firepower be enough to take up the slack to continue the offensives?

Although really, as long as Assad gets Iranian financial support, he doesn't need to hold more than western Syria to survive (and really, just northwestern Syria, since the capital region is expendable in my opinion).

Remember, too, that a Syrian offensive to retake Palmyra, which the Russians telegraphed, is as much to establish an outer perimeter for the defense of Damascus as it is opening a path to eastern Syria.

Unless a solid agreement that joins Assad, Russia, and America to defeat ISIL is achieved, cementing American power to bolster Assad's survival, Assad has no interest in defeating ISIL and has a lot of incentive to leave ISIL intact to keep America focused on ISIL rather than on Assad.

And unless the Russians achieve another photo-op of a smiling foreign minister Lavrov shaking hands with a clueless Kerry over such a deal, will Assad's supporters suffer a critical loss of morale by seeing the Russians pull back leaving them holding the line?

Could the morale of Assad's supporters survive a major defeat that once again denies them the prospect of a victory in the near future that they and their sons survive?

Can the Syrians and their Hezbollah and Iran-sponsered Shia foreign legion endure the casualties to sustain an offensive that tries to add more territory to Assad's core Syria?

And will the rebellion regroup over the coming months and begin clawing back territory from the Syrian defenders?

So Russia turned the tide temporarily for Assad, buying time for diplomacy to cement the limited victory; and Russian forces can come back anytime if the Russian base area comes under threat from a revived rebellion in the future.

And yes, the Russians claim victory and warn they can come back quickly:

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday declared his country's Syria mission a resounding success, but stressed Russia would continue to support the Syrian government and could build up its military presence in the region again within hours if necessary.

The initial intervention beefed up the infrastructure and can now host a return of forces to Syria (REFORSYR?) should Russian objectives require it.

Oh, and under cover of Russia's reduction, according to Strategypage, Hezbollah--which is getting tired of their adventure--may have withdrawn some of their troops. We'll see how this develops.

It will be interesting to see what Turkey and Saudi Arabia do going forward.

UPDATE: Syrian forces are approaching Palymyra, supported by Syrian and Russian air power:

Syrian government forces and their allies pushed forward against Islamic State fighters to reach the outskirts of the historic city of Palmyra on Wednesday, state media and a monitoring group said.

The government lost it last May. Did Russian intervention really revive the Syrian military enough to hold it if retaken?

UPDATE: Pro-Syrian government forces may have entered Palmyra. The link wording doesn't match the article, but whatever. Perhaps recycling links reduces AP's carbon footprint.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Where Microaggressions are Punished

Let's remind our college campus Maoists who dwell on microaggressions and safe spaces what exactly that University of Virginia student sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea actually did:

The U.S. student sentenced to 15 years of hard labor by North Korea's supreme court was convicted for trying to steal a banner invoking former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, state media footage of the trial indicates.

The court sentenced the student, Otto Warmbier, on Wednesday for "crimes against the state", North Korean media reported.

He tried to steal a banner. A freaking banner. Which was deemed a crime against the state--Kim Jong Un.

I hope people with authority in American institutions of higher learning and people with the power to finance them take a hard look at the end of the road when you empower petty tyrants with the authority to define and punish trifling matters.

Just where is Mr. Warmbier's safe space, I wonder?

Bigger Than President Obama's Legacy

The continuing debate pushed by our Left over who is more responsible for the rise of those butchers of ISIL--Bush for invading Iraq or Obama for prematurely leaving Iraq--really misses the point.

Sure, I think that the fact that under President Bush 43 the pre-ISIL jihadis in Iraq were beaten down and brought under control argues against his responsibility under the narrow focus of Iraq as a cause; and the rise of ISIL on President Obama's watch after failing to defend that victory argues for his responsibility--again on the narrow focus of Iraq (although slightly broader when you throw in Syria).

But as much as the Left likes to paint Iraq as ground zero of all things jihadi-related, that narrow focus is simply not appropriate.

Radical Islamism has plagued the world for centuries. And we have been coping with it for decades--long before we fought Saddam.

The people who are responsible for the rise of ISIL are Moslems.

Mind you, Moslems are also on the frontline of resisting radical Islam, including ISIL, and suffer most from jihadi savagery.

But radical Islamism springs from Islam, and until Islam itself beats down this jihadi effort to define Islam in the sick image of the jihads, we will be at risk of suffering collateral damage in what is really an Islamic Civil War.

If you really want to assign blame for the rise of ISIL, of course, this is what you must conclude, rather than just attacking Bush and rallying around Obama to shape a rather pointless struggle for a presidential legacy.

UPDATE: If you really believe jihadi murderous impulses have not sprung from a tragically persistent strain of Islam but from Western actions, pray tell what did the Belgians do to "deserve" this?

A suicide bomber blew himself up at Brussels airport on Tuesday killing at least 11 people and a further blast tore through a rush-hour metro train in the capital shortly afterwards, claiming 10 lives, according to public broadcaster VRT.

A witness said he heard shouts in Arabic shortly before two blasts struck the packed airport departure lounge.

Why do they hate us (as if we did something to provoke it)?

Why do these bastards hate? Full stop.

UPDATE: Related.

UPDATE: My first update was meant to highlight how little Belgium has done in the war on terror--which if Westerners fighting jihadis causes jihadi anger against Westerners, should mean Belgium is safe from attacks.

But my assumption is wrong. Belgians are surprisingly active in the war on terror--on the other side:

Belgium has just 11 million people, and Pew estimated that about 6 percent of the population was Muslim as of 2010. But Belgian and French nationals make up around a quarter of the Europeans who went to fight in Iraq in the mid-2000s. While the government has acknowledged that hundreds of Belgians have gone to fight with ISIS or for other groups in the Syrian civil war, Pieter Van Ostaeyen, an independent researcher, calculated in October that 516 Belgians had fought in Iraq or Syria, far higher than the government’s figures. Based on his numbers, Belgium has contributed more fighters per capita to the fight in the Levant than any other European country.

Is Belgium a "Western" country if more Belgians fight against the West than for it?

UPDATE: Austin Bay has thoughts:

The war against ISIS, however, won't be won by police forces. ISIS must be defeated in Syria and Iraq. Yes, in the Middle East -- that battleground from which Spain withdrew in 2004. The U.S. withdrew its forces in 2011. Last week ISIS forces killed a U.S. Marine in Iraq. To defend Brussels and New York, U.S. ground forces must go back.

Europeans should realize that refusing to fight jihadis "over there" in the Middle East doesn't insulate them from being targets of jihadi hatred as the war on terror comes to them, instead.

As I read reports of how more US troops than the official ceiling are in Iraq by adjusting definitions for "boots on the ground," as more contractors are hired to serve in Iraq in lieu of countable boots, and as the reminder (to me, anyway) of how we use troops in Kuwait (where a troop rotation of headquarters forces there to command Operation Inherent Resolve) keeps relevant troops from counting against the limit, we see that we have to learn that lesson again, too.

One can wish that we'd remained in Iraq after 2011 to help the Iraqis completely wipe out the jihadi that we nearly eliminated with our Surge offensive/Awakening outreach.

But that was inconvenient for reelection rhetoric. So here we are with a whole new Iraq War 2.0.

Let's win it over there to keep from waging it over here.

The Obama Administration Has Never Been Strong on Logic

This part of a critique of President Obama's "our allies are letting us down" excuse-fest cracked me up--in a "we're so totally screwed" sort of way:

If the U.S. won’t act to protect the kingdom, Saudi Arabia will act on its own, as it is currently doing in Yemen, Syria, and other countries — and the U.S. is unlikely to be happy with the consequences.

Yeah. Remember when "leading from behind [allies]" was all the rage in nuanced foreign policy circles?

When we want allies who can fight without us taking the lead--wait for it--we get allies who can fight without us in the lead.

So they might fight in Vietnam. Or invade Egypt.

If we're unwilling to have allies capable of fighting in their own interests, and we're unwilling to pay for our own defense capabilities that could convince our allies that they only need military capacity that complements our capabilities, what's left?

Will we wish for our foes and enemies to simply stop being threats? Or just pretend they aren't threats?

God help me, but I think I just wrote the 2016 Democratic presidential foreign policy.

As I noted after the Libya War, we once had that world. Did we like it then?

Well, we have it now. Even a blogger could see this coming.

I sometimes think back to the first couple of years of the Obama administration when I had regular readers in the White House executive office (two, it seemed, from patterns and IP addresses).

At the time, I never mentioned it because every once in a while I wrote a post with just one audience in mind, and didn't want to taint the waters.

I guess it didn't take.

Or maybe it did have an effect and they were forced to resign.

The best and brightest, indeed.

Monday, March 21, 2016

God Must Love Democrats

What am I to make of the fact that in national polls Bernie Sanders has a higher percentage of Democratic voters than Trump gets from Republicans; yet socialist Sanders is doomed to lose his nomination fight and Trump is handily in the lead?

And according to the media, Republicans are the people wrecking their party by voting--in smaller percentages than Democrats are voting for a socialist--for a clown?

If we needed another lesson that life isn't fair, this is it.

Mosul Storm?

I remain disturbed that a year and a half after we and our allies started training Iraqi army forces, the Counter-Terrorism force remains the only core force capable of leading Iraqi offensives. But does this apparent weakness mask preparations for a blitz north?

Iraqi forces continue to press their offensive in Iraq's Anbar province, after liberating Ramadi from ISIL control:

Led by the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, forces from the police, army and local tribal fighters were making a final push to retake Hit, 145 kilometres (90 miles) west of Baghdad.

"They have begun a broad operation to liberate Hit and Kubaysa," Major General Ali Ibrahim Daboun, the head of the Al-Jazeera Operations Command, told AFP.

We are providing air support, along with Iraqi aircraft.

Although I assume that we have trained Iraqi forces capable of spearheading less-trained ground forces who follow in their wake to hold gains but are holding them out of the line for the Mosul offensive (once that last and most important PowerPoint presentation is finally made!), it does remain disturbing to me that the small counter-terrorism force remains--as it was in June 2014 when ISIL took Mosul--the only Iraqi force actually spearheading Iraqi offensives.

I hope my assumption is right. Sadly, a recent Marine casualty indicates that we probably are getting close to unleashing a Mosul Storm:

The Marine killed in an ISIS rocket attack in Iraq on Saturday was at the first American firebase that had only become operational a few days earlier CNN has learned.

The existence of the firebase had not been made public. The Pentagon had planned to acknowledge the firebase this week, a defense official tells CNN.

The rugged location for now has a "couple of hundred" Marines living in tents near Makhmour in northern Iraq. It's assumed ISIS observed the Marines moving into the area and saw them firing practice rounds with their howitzers, the official said.

This is our first firebase--a protected artillery unit (usually a battery guarded by a company of infantry) to support units in the field--and is called Firebase Bell. Although we have artillery on bigger bases to help defend them.

We were perhaps not dug in yet and perhaps not acclimated to the hostile environment. ISIL took advantage of that.

I've long wanted our fire support to include not just air power but helicopters and artillery. So this is good.

I hope this indicates a pending offensive since I'd guess we wouldn't want to dangle a potential rocket magnet like that out there too long for no purpose.

And I hope that ISIL morale in their Iraq contingent is as fragile as I think it is, and that once the Mosul offensive starts it will make progress more rapid than observers assume--and kill ISIL defenders in large numbers by pursuing them until they break and run.

UPDATE: Strategypage has thoughts on the pending offensive, which follows operations to interfere with ISIL lines of communication into Mosul:

Government forces south of Mosul and Kurdish troops (and non-Moslem militias) north of the city and government forces and Shia militias south of the city are already preparing for the final attack on the densely built city center. This “approach battle” is meant to cut the city off from other ISIL forces in Anbar and Syria. The main road to Raqqa was cut in late February with the capture of the town of Shaddadi. That followed the continuing advance into western Anbar since the liberation of Ramadi in December 2015. Another important success has been government forces becoming as effective as the Kurds in regularly defeating ISIL counterattacks. You rarely hear of successful ISIL attacks on Iraqi security forces anymore.

Reports from inside Mosul indicate growing panic and declining morale among ISIL personnel (at all levels). This has led to growing internal violence, like public executions of misbehaving ISIL members. Recently 21 ISIL men were publicly executed for refusing to fight.

Politics, as in how to handle the Kurds and pro-Iran Shia militias and what they might want, is what is holding the offensive back rather than narrow military issues.

Do read it all.

And I'll say it again, I'm not sure that enough ISIL members in Iraq are willing to fight to the death these days to hold off the offensive.

As long as I'm at it, I'd like to see a Jordanian offensive into western Anbar to complement the Iraqi push that has continued since the liberation of Ramadi. This would reduce ISIL ability to shift forces to Mosul and potentially collapse ISIL across all its Iraq territory.

This Will Work Out Just Swell

Under Democratic management, the city of New York is now fine with littering , urinating in public, and public alcohol consumption:

[The] NYPD’s announcement this week that it will no longer arrest those who litter, drink in public, or urinate on Manhattan streets will have an entirely predictable result on the quality of life in New York City. Gotham will become less orderly and, over time, less safe. Abandoning 25 years of successful public policy and expecting that the city won’t begin to revert to its former levels of disorder is worse than insane—it’s practically criminal.

Well, we wouldn't want to have an ugly "hands up, don't pee" incident, now would we?

It's always interesting to see what kind of future "progressives" want to make progress toward.

Haven't we seen how this works enough without falling for it yet again?

Sigh. But for those with no memory and no knowledge of history, it all seems so fresh and new--even when a confused, elderly man presents it.

It's no wonder young people are pro-Bernie Sanders. It wasn't so long ago that they believed in Santa Claus who brings neat stuff out of nowhere to give to good little boys and girls.

Tip to Instapundit for the NYC article.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Speak Hopefully and Carry a Big Shtick

I think the next president will need to give an outreach speech to the American Allies world to undo the damage our president has done to it.

Behold the president who restored our reputation with our allies (you do remember the nonsense charge that President Bush wrecked our friendships, right?):

American alliances are not in good shape these days, with many countries worrying that President Obama does not value the alliances, their own role in those alliances, or the commitments our alliances imply to the safety of states that are to some degree dependent on the United States.

It is therefore mysterious why the president decided to inflict further damage in interviews with The Atlantic.

Well, maybe not a speech. The outreach speech to the Islamic world hasn't seem to have done squat diddly. But our president had no clue about the history of our relations with the Islamic world let alone the causes of ill feelings.

Hope and change was just a marketing gimmick, it is clear.

I really don't get nuance. After viewing it in action for 7 years, how is it different from ineptitude?

UPDATE: Although I don't think the leading contenders for either major party is the one to repair this damage.

We live in interesting times.

Hasn't the Hope and Change Reached Its Best-By Date?

Some lunatic just hijacked a plane to Cuba!

Wait. What?

Oh, never mind. Air Force One touched down in Cuba:

President Barack Obama arrives in Cuba on Sunday for a 48-hour visit, making history by venturing into what was once enemy territory and sparking enthusiasm among Cubans who have seen their Communist government vilify 10 previous U.S. leaders.

What were those past presidents thinking when they vilified a cruel and aggressive communist dictatorship? Now it is all smiles.

Look, I don't think we have to have a frozen foreign policy against Cuba. That's not my problem with the presidential outreach. If we can have a policy that helps Cubans without tightening the government's grip on the Cuban people in the process, I say fine.

But you have to admit that our "frozen" policy of isolating Cuba from American trade at least--in the absence of a major power to subsidize them as the Soviets once did--helped keep a threat too weak to do a lot of harm in an important region.

And we at least didn't soil our hands with any type of approval of the Cuban regime.

Further, if you want sanctions as an alternative to militarized responses, what does ending sanctions without compelling regime changes say to current subjects of our sanctions?

Sure, Iran is the biggest sanctions example and Cuba just bounces the rubble. But anyone under sanctions knows that they can endure and see sanctions end in time with their regime intact. If their people are poorer, the regime supporters at least know they got through okay.

Sure, defenders of President Obama's policies say that opening up to Cuba will unleash forces that will liberalize Cuba in the long run.

Maybe. I can't rule that out.

But recall that the Castro regime agreed to open up not to doom their regime, but to save it.

Given how the world seems to burn wherever our president touches it, whose objective seems more realistic?

Although the way our president throws friends under the bus, Cuba may find being our foe brings greater respect from us.

Will liberals still swoon over Cuba when Starbucks and McDonald's move in and Cuba loses its glamour?

Really, I'll at least say that at this point Cuba is way down on my list of worries.

But perhaps that will change in a decade.

UPDATE: Well, duh:

"Decades of friendly partner-like relations link Russia and Cuba," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a teleconference with reporters. "We are interested in Cuba, which is friendly to us, maintaining good relations with all its neighbors and above all with the United States."

If we call off the cold war with communist Cuba, Russia's problem of defending their friend in the Western hemisphere decline immensely. And economic ties with America will reduce the need of Russia to subsidize Cuba to maintain this intelligence outpost just off our shores and logistics stepping stone to the Western Hemisphere.