Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Excuses Continue

I don't understand why Russian aggression against Ukraine is okay because it is carried out with rational purposes rather than being random conquests.

First off, yes, Russia is weak militarily compared to America.  Heck, even America's Army is bigger than Russia's (if you ignore Interior Ministry troops) despite the Russian reputation of fielding large numbers of cannon fodder.

But the America-Russian power balance isn't a simple force-on-force equation. Our forces need to be measured on a theater of war. The problem is that Russia can conquer nearby weak NATO allies of ours while our superior but distant military struggles to mass forces in eastern Europe to resist Russia.

And Russia has lots of nukes. So there's that.

But this nuance-drenched excuse for Russia's aggression is just astounding:

Russia’s moves to date “have been select and calibrated,” write retired Gen. David Petraeus, former head of the CIA, and Michael O’Hanlon, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution, in this month’s Foreign Affairs magazine. Crimea, after all, was historically Russian and “is populated by a majority of Russian speakers, and is home to Russia’s only Black Sea naval base.”

How is being "select and calibrated" a defense of what Russia has done? So Russia might have attacked in all directions, freely using nukes, so we should be content that Russia is select and calibrated in their aggression? Seriously?

And what is with that nonsense about Crimea somehow being an understandable conquest of Russia because most Crimeans speak Russian? Should we be relieved that Mexico can't roll across the southern border on similar grounds?

The fact is, Russia gave Crimea to Ukraine on three separate occasions.

Ukraine is a founding member of the United Nations (1945) as the Soviets wanted. And in 1954, the Russians gave Crimea to Ukraine which on paper the Soviets said was an independent state. Russia knew they were giving Crimea to a nominally independent state even though Ukraine was part of the USSR at the time. Russia could have declined to give Crimea to Ukraine. But they did. Perhaps Russia did not anticipate Ukraine actually exercising the sovereignty and independence that Ukraine had since 1945 in theory. But Ukraine did just that in 1991.

When the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, Russia accepted the loss of Crimea--whose people narrowly voted to go to Ukraine--to Ukrainian control. If 1954 was a mistake, Russia could have corrected it--or even contested it--in 1991. They did not.

And in 1994, Russia agreed that Crimea was part of Ukraine in a deal with America and Britain which denuclearized Ukraine which had inherited a lot of Soviet nuclear weapons in 1991. If 1991 was a mistake, Russia could have refused to ratify that decision in 1994. They did not.

So the fact that Russia needs Crimea for a base is just ridiculous. Russia needs Crimea and so is justified in taking it from a fellow UN member contrary to the UN Charter?

And don't forget that Ukraine leased the naval base to Russia. Russia had the naval base in a legal manner already.

So what the Hell? Crimea is Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory. As in a substantial part of the Donbas.

Consider that before Russia invaded Ukraine, this is the state of NATO's "aggressive" posture toward Russia that the Russians have used as justifications for pushing their borders west.


Don't make excuses for the Russians. They make enough for themselves.

When Near, Appear Far?

Is it truly possible that after all this time we are still not ready to begin the offensive to liberate Mosul, which has been occupied by ISIL since June 2014?

I don't buy that this is a cause for delaying the Mosul offensive:

Iraqi forces seized the Qayara air base south of Mosul in July, in what U.S. and Iraqi officials said was a major step toward the eventual liberation of the country's second largest city, which fell to IS in 2014. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called on Mosul residents "to get ready for the liberation of their areas."

But Iraqi army commanders stationed at the base say it will take months of reconstruction before it is ready to receive cargo planes and house the tens of thousands of troops needed for the march on Mosul. Their assessments call into question whether Iraq will be able to launch the operation this year, as the prime minister has repeatedly pledged.

I don't buy that. It has taken an extraordinarily large amount of time to prepare this offensive. If it doesn't begin until the end of the year, it will have taken as long to prepare this offensive from when Mosul was captured by ISIL as it did to launch the D-Day invasion of France following the Pearl Harbor attack.

I admit that cleaning up the western flank in Anbar province was necessary--and I argued for that if it had to be sequential operations rather than simultaneous. But that has taken a long time, too.

Still, after all this time, it seems like the attack should begin well before the end of the year.

And saying that the airfield isn't ready to receive aircraft ignores that we don't need the airport--as I read at the time--to begin the offensive. The location of the base for logistics troops--who can live in tents in the field--is the important part.

We just don't need a fully functioning base with barracks and airport infrastructure. And claiming we do seems more like disinformation to mask an imminent attack.

Then again, I'm astounded it has taken this long to smash the relatively weak ISIL army as it tries to hold territory against a far larger army with plentiful air support.

Get on with it. ISIL certainly seems to be on a Saddam-like (he torched Kuwaiti oil fields in 1991) scorched earth policy of wrecking what they can't control.

God knows what else ISIL could do to derail the long-telegraphed offensive.

UPDATE: An American general says that Mosul could be recaptured this year:

"It's the prime minister's objective to have that done by the end of the year," General Joe Votel, head of the US military's Central Command, told reporters in a video call.

"My assessment is that we can meet the prime minister's objective, if that is what he chooses to do."

I just don't understand why it has taken this long to begin this offensive.

Maybe our enemies won't use the time we've granted them to defeat us or undermine the battlefield victory by indoctrinating impressionable young minds while ISIL controlled Mosul. Maybe the victory will be more secure for taking so much time to set up the killing blow.

But I have a nagging feeling that granting this enemy time is a mistake.

UPDATE: This is amusing:

In the last 10 days alone, the two U.S. generals leading the war effort have promised that the city of Mosul will be out of ISIS hands soon. Telegraphing the military’s next move usually is considered strategically daft, but American commanders now are spelling out the dates of their operation within weeks. ...

“It is a way to end on a high note,” one U.S. official explained. The White House “would love to see us kick off Mosul” before the administration’s term ends in January.

It isn't spelling out the timing of the offensive to capture Mosul if people (including ISIL) believe it will "kick off" (that is, begin) in January rather than being achieved by then.

And yes, as I've been writing about since the end of last year, ISIL fighters have seemingly lost the will to be martyrs for Allah.

The Failure of Diplomacy

Let's remember that when President Obama in 2009 had the choice between supporting nutball mullah rulers of an imperial state (with a Persian core representing 61% of the population ruling over minority border regions) or the ruled who demonstrated for freedom and democracy, President Obama chose the nutball mullah rulers in order to get the hopelessly flawed Iran nuclear deal with the nutballs.

Ah, legacy:

[President] Obama wasn't just reluctant to show solidarity in 2009, he feared the demonstrations would sabotage his secret outreach to Iran. In his new book, "The Iran Wars," Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon uncovers new details on how far Obama went to avoid helping Iran's green movement. Behind the scenes, Obama overruled advisers who wanted to do what America had done at similar transitions from dictatorship to democracy, and signal America's support.

And of course, Syria--where we are now fighting--is just collateral damage in this diplomatic outreach to Iran, since Iran backed Assad and to avoid angering Iran we refused to help resistance to Assad when Assad was teetering and before jihadis flocked to Syria.

And Iraq War 2.0--which we are fighting to defeat ISIL which grew first in Syria--is the collateral damage of that Syrian civil war.

As Kerry, the architect of our recent foreign policy put it:

In one particularly revealing passage, Solomon captures the thinking of Kerry, who engaged in detailed negotiations over the deal in the final months of the talks. "So many wars have been fought over misunderstandings, misinterpretations, lack of effective diplomacy," Kerry told Solomon in a 2016 interview. "War is the failure of diplomacy."

War is the failure of diplomacy. That's debatable. Sometimes enemies are determined to have war.  But Kerry believes it.

So what do you call two wars in Syria and Iraq?

I'm just going to remind you of how a few years ago the Obama administration scaled back their diplomatic objectives for the Middle East:

After a thorough review, the Obama administration has lowered its foreign policy objectives for the Middle East:

Susan Rice leads US to more modest Mideast strategy[.]

Expansive role of two years ago is scaled down[.]

At the United Nations last month, Obama laid out the priorities he has adopted as a result of the review. The United States, he declared, would focus on negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran, brokering peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and mitigating the strife in Syria. Everything else would take a back seat.

Is that all? What will they do after lunch? Engineer the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?

And here we are waging two wars in Syria and Iraq; and we have a strengthened Iran under nutball mullah rule that is still on the path to nuclear weapons and an emboldened Russia carving out a role in the Middle East.

We'd have to improve our diplomacy significantly to rise to the level of "failure."

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What a Full Spectrum Pile of Excuses

Wow. The New York Times published a lengthy excuse for the Obama administration's failures in Syria by arguing that the civil war is so complex that not even The One could fix it with hope, change, nuance, and Smart Diplomacy. Nonsense.

This article on the Syrian civil war just seems like an exercise in excusing the refusal of the Obama administration to decisively support one side in the civil war:

There is a basic fact about Syria’s civil war that never seems to change: It frustrates any attempt at resolution.

Despite many offensives, peace conferences and foreign interventions, including this week’s Turkish incursion into a border town, the only needle that ever seems to move is the one measuring the suffering of Syrians — which only worsens.

Academic research on civil wars, taken together, reveals why. The average such conflict now lasts about a decade, twice as long as Syria’s so far. But there are a handful of factors that can make them longer, more violent and harder to stop. Virtually all are present in Syria.

So what are the factors?

The author says one factor is that the war is "a conflict immune to exhaustion" because outside powers make sure arms never run out and because outside powers are immune to the costs of fighting.

But Syrians are bearing the costs. If they don't want to fight, the war will end. Outside powers can only override locals if Syria becomes the battlefield for foreign forces marching across the country. In a sense ISIL is such a force, drawn from the global Sunni Moslem population. Iran is doing this, too, with a Shia foreign legion drawn from Shia Moslems outside of Syria. But the Hezbollah forces brought in to fight for Assad certainly have experienced the costs of intervention and are not immune to the losses--and have pulled back from operations. Russia has intervened with air power and special forces. So has America. But both superpowers are hardly immune to the problem of casualties. Indeed, both take pains to avoid casualties--or in Russia's case to make the losses public. And these forces are a minority of the combatants in the field. These foreign forces support local Syrian forces rather than replace them.

The author says outside forces bolster local sides that are losing and restore their ability to fight. He says it is a factor that "no one can lose, and no one can win."

Why? I won't argue that outside powers can make a civil war longer and bloodier. But this is a far cry from saying no one can lose and no one can win.

Hell, the Colombian civil war finally is ending with the victory of the government over the main rebel/drug gang after about 50 years of war.  We can be glad the government won even though the length of the war is tragic.

We should want the better side to win in Syria, too. We should want Assad to lose just because of the American blood on that regime's hands.


ISIL will lose. I have no doubt of that.

And if ISIL loses without having another anti-Assad rebel force supplant it in the territory ISIL now controls, Assad will be able to focus on rebels in the northwest and southwest to make them lose, too.

And if ISIL and other rebels in the west lose, the Kurds who are trying to carve out an autonomous region in the northeast will face the full force of Assad's forces. So the Kurds will lose.

If all the foes of Assad lose, Assad survives. I suppose you can say nobody can really win given the casualties, but that ignores that Assad's minority-based Alawite regime will have survived and will in fact have won despite the cost.

The author says the "war’s structure encourages atrocities" is another factor. What? Yes, the regime in particular attacks and starves the majority population viewing them as the base of support for the rebellion. And ISIL kills civilians as a natural impulse.

But is this really a function of civil wars supported by outside powers? This is more from the lack of troops on the government side to control people (so they kill and starve them instead) and the natural impulse of the jihadi groups to kill civilians, rather than being the result of outside support.

Remember too that "hearts and minds" isn't exclusively an effort to get people to like your side. Yes, being nice and restrained can persuade people to back your side and shun the other side. But so too can inflicting atrocities if atrocities make your heart fearful of angering the side committing atrocities and make your mind conclude that the possibility of death argues for supporting that side. Just because America tries to move hearts and minds with soccer balls and development doesn't mean everyone uses those methods. Some operate on the theory that if you grab them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow. Apart from the morality of such tactics and the long-range value of that approach, it can work.

Outside support doesn't create that pro-atrocity outlook. Indeed, it was our presence in Iraq War 1.0 that restrained Iraqi government forces from committing atrocities even as the insurgents and terrorists escalated atrocities in 2006.

So I have serious reservations about this claim. Civil wars are generally brutal from the simple fact that both sides have nowhere to go. In interstate wars, one side fighting in another country can go home. Where do the factions in a civil war go?

This is related to the next factor that "fear of defeat entrenches the status quo." I'm not even sure what to make of this claim. Of course fear of what the enemy might do if they win encourages you to fight even if you don't know how you'd win the war.

Do you think German forces retreating from Russian offensives from 1942-1945 fought less hard from fear of losing to the Soviets just because defeating the USSR didn't seem likely? Winning must meant surviving and hoping the costs of totally defeating the Germans would prove too high.

Then we get this factor: "Syrian parties are built to fight, not win."

Okay. There is at least a point here. Most of the forces in the civil war are trying to defend what they have and don't have the mobile forces or logistics to make major offensives. Most forces--including the government's--are local defense forces tied to defending their homes. That factor does encourage fighting without hope of victory engineered by going on the offensive.

But that was the situation in Iraq in June 2014 when ISIL was largely confined to Sunni Arab areas, Kurds were in the Kurdish areas, the the Iraqi government was in the Shia areas. Since then I've argued we needed mobile forces on the government side to spearhead offensives. We've been trying to do that for two years now and have finally seen Iraqi and Shia forces claw back territory over the last 9 months. The pending Mosul offensive perhaps promises to be a more rapid advance if my suspicions are correct.

Yet when the writer says that multiple factions make it harder to settle the war, you have to forget the early part of the article where the author says:

The ground battles also include Kurdish militias, who have some foreign backing, and the Islamic State, which does not. But pro-government and opposition forces are focused on one another, making them and their sponsors the war’s central dynamic.

The Assad regime and anti-Assad Sunni Arabs (who are divided) are the central actors. So the other factions are minor by comparison. So it really isn't mostly a multi-polar civil war.

And I don't get this factor: "This is why multisided oppositions tend to fail. Even if they overthrow the government, they often end up in a second war among themselves."

One, the Assad-anti-Assad fight is the central dynamic. But even if the fact that the opposition is fractured, so what? That's normal. So after beating Assad, then that civil war among the victorious factions is fought and somebody wins that fight. We fought World War II. Then the West and the USSR fought a Cold War. Yes, it is long. But one side can win. Multiple sides can certainly lose.

Or the victors might negotiate among themselves. That's possible, too. Perhaps it doesn't mean peace but maybe it means the best of the victors isolate and defeat the worst.

And this claim neglects what "winning" means for factions.

Assad wins if he controls a core Syria running from Damascus through an arc to the coast. Hell, Assad wins if he loses Damascus and just holds the coast and an inland buffer.

Assad's patron Iran wins if Assad controls even that minimal ground giving Iran overland access to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Russia wins if Assad controls that territory to provide Russia with airbases and ports on the eastern Mediterranean to project power from Russia's new and stronger position in Russian Occupied Crimea in the Black Sea. (It is interesting to ponder whether Russia would have intervened in Syria without owning all of Crimea, eh?)

The Kurds win if they control their home territory.

ISIL wins if they control their own territory as the start of the caliphate. Ultimately ISIL hopes for a caliphate that controls the entire Moslem world, but in the short run they don't need all of Syria to win the civil war.

Only the Sunni Arab factions arguably need to defeat Assad and occupy Assad's core Syria to win rather than just hold what they have. But if they do that, they could lose the Kurdish region and much of what ISIL controls and still be considered the winner.

Another factor says that even trying for victory is dangerous because it could escalate to inter-state war. I highly doubt either Russia or America would fight each other over Syria. America did not fight the USSR or China when those two surged support to help North Vietnam defeat South Vietnam. And Russia did not fight America when America escalated to defeat the USSR in Afghanistan.

Yes, China and America fought each other in the Korean War. But it remained localized to Korea. And Russia did not intervene to fight America directly when their side began to lose despite having started that war.

The factor that there are no peacekeepers willing to move in assumes that the civil war cannot be won by the combatants and that a deal is necessary to end the war.

This point also assumes that peacekeepers will keep the peace. How'd that work in the territory of the former Yugoslavia? How has that worked in Lebanon? Where has it worked?

Face it, counting on UN peacekeepers to make a peace is folly. All UN peacekeepers will do is suspend the war before it is resolved with a winner and a loser. And allow everyone to gear up to renew the war.

And the Syrians have to want to fight for this civil war to go on. Despite the title of the article that says the war only gets worse ("Syria’s Paradox: Why the War Only Ever Seems to Get Worse"), this is not true. The year 2014 was the peak year of casualties. People are getting exhausted and less willing to die to do more than defend their local areas.

But yes, total victory with control of territory changing hands in a major way could lead the victorious side to attempt genocide against losers.

This should be all the more reason for America to try to support (and influence) a reasonable rebel faction to defeat Assad. Remember that despite centuries of Sunni Arab dominance, decades of Saddam's Sunni Arab brutality, and years of Sunni Arab terrorism, American managed to restrain the Shia and Kurdish victors in Iraq War 1.0 from committing revenge atrocities in Iraq against the Sunni Arabs after we won that war on the battlefield.

Our absence after 2011 allowed the Shia-dominated government to discriminate against the Sunni Arabs enough for the latter to back ISIL for a while, but you must admit that we did prevent genocide against the Sunni Arabs of Iraq.


While outside sponsors can make the war longer and more costly in lives and material assets lost, the author does not explain why somebody won't win the war eventually. And why we can't help the best side (or at worse the least bad side) win.

And the author doesn't explain that our approach to the civil war hasn't been to win the war by defeating Assad but to pressure Assad into negotiations by offering minimal support to rebels while waging what we hope is a separate war against ISIL in Syria (which is fighting Assad, too). both of these approaches have the effect of lessening pressure on Assad.

All in all, the NYT article seems like a lengthy exercise in defending the weak efforts of the Obama administration in Syria and reassure Americans that rather than trying hard to defeat Assad back when Assad was weak and jihadis were few that this weak role was actually the wise thing to do because nothing can really work.

Excuse the length of this post. I really hate going on this much. Both for your sake who is confronted with a lot of scrolling and for my sake since writing this much risks losing focus and I'm not willing to fully treat this like an article being sent for publication.

But the article was nonsense masquerading as nuance.

Nuance is a wonder to behold.

The Glorious Dead!

My head is spinning. After being told by the anti-war side that the Iraq War was a bloody mess that cost too much and siphoned off money from needed domestic spending, one PhD says that war is both too cheap and that we suffer far too few dead military personnel for our own good.

I'll ignore the financial side of this author's argument and settle on this bit of outrage:

Although Americans no longer face the possibility of conscription for themselves or their children, they remain remarkably intolerant of casualties resulting from American military operations. Knowing this, policymakers are choosing to use force in ways that minimize risks to those who are part of the AVF. For example, the United States is increasingly opting for military campaigns conducted entirely from the air and made possible by the rise of precision-targeting technologies, beginning with the 1999 NATO campaign over Kosovo and seen more recently with the 2011 operation to oust Muammar el-Qaddafi (at the start of the operation, President Obama explicitly pledged not to send U.S. ground troops). Similarly, the drone campaign allows the United State to use force without placing American troops at risk and in places where the United States is not formally at war. As the “War on Terror” drags on, the growing reliance on small groups of special operations forces and military “advisers” constitutes another variant of this trend toward low-footprint and tightly limited operations that seek to inflict targeted damage while minimizing exposure for both soldiers in the field and policymakers in Washington. All of these strategies for the use of limited force from a distance—what we might call “standoff strike warfare”—are politically attractive for policymakers who know that the American public is leery of additional long-term commitments overseas, but these strategies are not fostering and will not generate the long-term political outcomes (stability in Libya, for example) in which the United States is interested. [emphasis added]

So what is she saying? She could have stuck with the problem of achieving good results from "standoff strike warfare" approaches. That's a good point to debate. And the title of the article could have been "The Danger of Sacrifice Without War" to get at the issue of the ongoing low-level casualties of combat that isn't waging war (which is the focused use of organized violence to achieve an objective).

But instead she also argues that wars don't cost enough for the generation waging them (which isn't what the Left said during the Iraq War) and that not exposing our troops to death is the human side of the cost "problem."

Perhaps I'm being too harsh, but after that "million Mogadishus" comment by an asshat academic who wanted the prospect of more American military casualties to deter American military operations, I'm a little sensitive to these kinds of arguments.

It can't just be the unfortunate lack of a draft that causes this problem in the author's view, because even with draftees in a military large enough to touch every family, "standoff strike warfare" would kill few of a huge military. Right? So the "problem" has to be that so few American troops die in war; and that we should fight in a way that increases their risk of dying in war.

What kind of sick bastard thinks we need more American dead during war for our own good?

How many dead is enough for this professor in a war against an Iraq-sized enemy?

Five thousand? Ten thousand? Fifty thousand?

Good God, some people are morons.

As if the only thing that keeps America from using military force is the prospect of our military casualties.

But if we must go to war against an enemy, you're darned right I want to win with as few dead American troops as possible. And I'll be grateful if we can do that, and mourn all the more if we cannot.

But I'm funny that way.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Huh

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

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

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

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

But they never follow through on their promises to leave.

The Beautiful Butterfly Emerges!

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

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

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

It's a Green eco-dream!

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

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

UPDATE: Jane's says that the S-300 is not at Fordo:

Satellite imagery obtained by IHS Jane's shows Iran has not deployed an S-300 long-range air defence system to the Fordow uranium enrichment facility as claimed.

Iran sure wants people to think Fordo is defended. Which might bridge a gap until Fordo is defended.

Nuance for Everyone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This type of excuse makes it even into Stripes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spare some nuance for America, eh?

Winning the Long War

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Tunisia is a guarded success.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Regarding the Candidates We Have

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

Behold the corrupt candidate in action:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will the crook reform?

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

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

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

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

Our republic will more easily survive a clown.

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

Goodbye and Good Luck!

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

Huh:

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks a bunch.

The Backbone of Joint Operations

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

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

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

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

I mentioned this pending agreement back in March.

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

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Last Reserves?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jumping the Shark

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


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

Or are organic Heroin addicts a big market?

Tears Flow

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

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

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

Friday, August 26, 2016

Behold the Crowning Glory of Smart Diplomacy

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

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

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

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

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

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



Yeah, that man is going to care.

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

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

UPDATE: Oh Lord:

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

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

A Figurehead Role in the War on Women

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

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

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

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

So no active role. Pity.

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

Tip to Instapundit.

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

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

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

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

But just being a figurehead for this role us okay.

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

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

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

Strong Horse

When we help allies win, we get more allies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 25, 2016

This is Not Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the Hell happened?

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

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

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

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

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

What the Hell happened?

Turkey is On the Move. To What?

Turkey is moving troops into Syria:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Turkey's motives are conflicted, I suppose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Phenomenon of Being Isolated from Consequences

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

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

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

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

But she says she was aware of that terrorism problem.

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

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

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

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

In a Shocking Development in the World of Smart Diplomacy

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

Is anybody really surprised by this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: Related:

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

There are 6 other incidents whose origin is unclear.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Putin Smiles

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: Related:

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

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

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

UPDATE: Related:

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

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

Chutzpah Lessons

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

The outrage:

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is nonsense.

Two, oh really, Turkey?

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

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

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

Two Birds With One Opinion Piece

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

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

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

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

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

Yet still there is a spike in chaos and corruption?

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Yes, But They're So Darned Pretty!

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

Wait. What?

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

Huh.

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

Tip to Instapundit.

Yeah, That Would Be Pretty Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: Strategypage has more on the Shia Liberation Army:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 22, 2016

Signs of Imminent Mosul Assault?

America is preparing to assist an Iraqi offensive to capture Mosul. Are there signs indicating an offensive sooner rather than later at the end of the year?

Our new commander of the war against ISIL is prepared to ramp up our air effort:

The United States will increase the tempo of operations in support of ground forces in Iraq and Syria as they prepare to tackle the Islamic State’s twin capital cities, according to the new commander of the U.S. military operations against the militant group.

Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, who takes command on Sunday of U.S. and allied operations against the Islamic State, said U.S.-backed forces in Iraq and Syria were preparing to move on the Iraqi city of Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa for what he said would be the conclusive urban battles.

Iraqi Kurdish forces are unwilling to slow down their advances near Mosul at the request of the Iraqi government:

The Kurdish government is rejecting calls from the Iraqi government for the Peshmerga to stop advancing towards the city of Mosul in the battle against the Islamic State.

Iraqis can see that ISIL is not fighting hard against the Kurds:

In the north the Kurds have been on the offensive around Mosul and have used their better training and leadership, as well as American air support, to appear unbeatable to many of the ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) fighters facing them. Not only are ISIL defenders being defeated and destroyed, with little visible loss to the Kurds, but details of these defeats have circulated throughout the ISIL forces defending Mosul. This has led to more desertions including leaders of units. This last item requires swift, strong and public response from senior ISIL leadership and that’s what happened. In the last week there have been several public executions of ISIL field commanders who deserted, often while with units under attack by the Kurds.

Why, the Iraqi government may figure, will ISIL fight harder against the Iraqi army?

Why would the government ask the Kurds to slow down unless the Iraqis figured the Kurdish help was not needed at the price of taking ground the government considers Arab land?

There is also this in Syria:

Kurdish fighters on Monday captured the central prison in Hasakeh after fierce clashes with Syrian regime forces and are in control of 90 percent of the northern city, a monitor said.

We would certainly like to stress out ISIL in Syria while the Mosul offensive is conducted to make it tougher for ISIL to even order troops to run our gauntlet to reinforce Mosul.

The Kurdish assault on Syrian government positions in the northeast where we are putting air power into the skies to deter Syrian air strikes could indicate that we paid the price of getting the Syrian Kurds to move on Raqqa in partnership with Syrian Arab rebels we support at their side.

I've been writing for a long time that the time we are taking to prepare to take Mosul is ridiculous. If the offensive truly doesn't begin until the end of this year, that means that we took about as much time following the Pearl Harbor attack to prepare for the Normandy freaking invasion as we are taking to prepare for the liberation of Mosul after its capture by ISIL in June 2014.

And I've been writing all year (and a little earlier) that jihadi morale isn't as fierce as they'd like us to believe.

I sure hope that the assault begins months before the end of this year.

Get on with the offensive. Bad things happen when you give an enemy time.

Cunning bastards that they are, they may annoyingly refuse to patiently await the meticulously planned killing blow.

In the Long Run We are All Dead

Even if Iran abides by the nuclear deal without cheating, I believe that Iran has routes to nuclear weapons that go through North Korea.

This article (direct link, or alternate access here) shows how all the hopes of of the Iran nuclear deal for shifting Iran away from a hostile and aggressive foreign policy are not working out.

And while that aspect isn't working it--yet, the administration says--the nuclear parts of the deal are working just fine, they say:

Today, only 5,000 centrifuges are spinning, the plutonium-making reactor has been made inoperable, and most of Iran’s enriched uranium has been shipped out of the country.

But if this nuclear deal is preventing Iran from going nuclear in the short term, as the administration says in contradiction to indications of problems already, they concede that in the long run--and that seems to range from anywhere from 8 to 15 years from the start of the deal--the deal will free Iran from all constraints on their nuclear programs and allow Iran to use the short run to gain knowledge and experience with nuclear technology free from worry about American military power.

So the long run prospect of a non-nuclear Iran requires Iran to undergo a metamorphosis in the short run from hostile, mullah-run, nutball regime that reaches out around the region to harm American interests to responsible regional power that might not even want nuclear weapons.

Yet consider the signs of claimed short-range success on the nuclear front: that Iran has their plutonium route shut down and can't accumulate enriched uranium. This means Iran can't get nukes, right?

Yeah, not so fast sparky.

Consider that Iran and North Korea are working together on nuclear missile development.

And then recall that North Korea has ramped up both their uranium and plutonium routes to nuclear warheads. As I wrote about this development:

I will note what I asked about a year ago when the news of new Plutonium production on top of their Uranium production came out:

North Korea increases production of two types of nuclear weapon material just as Iran agrees to suspend their work with possible military dimensions.

Isn't that a crazy coincidence?

Given that we know that Iran and North Korea have worked together, why do we assume that North Korean actions are related to tensions with America?

According to North Korea, we've been planning an invasion of that Pearl of Northeast Asia for 50-plus years now. It's imminent war 24/7 as far as Pyongyang is concerned.

But North Korea is desperate for money to survive. North Korea has but two potential exports: ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads.

And Iran has money. And because of the Iran deal, Iran has more money--including $400 million in cash.

Even if Iran abides by the nuclear deal without cheating, I believe that Iran has routes to nuclear weapons that go through North Korea.

What part of "Axis of Evil" was unclear?

Our President Spent His Time Dealing With Sand Traps

President Obama probably actually thought that he could wrap up all our problems with the proper infusion of much-needed hope and change and a few speeches to inspire people and officials here and around the world to just get stuff done. Cue the credits.

Remember, President Obama complained quite a bit about the problems he inherited.

The economy still creeps along more than seven years after we came out of the Great Recession.

And abroad, rather than solving the problems by getting America out of the way--justifying that Nobel Peace Prize he got for his "potential" (!)--bad stuff has happened:

It would be a fitting story to tell of the man who ascended to the presidency while simultaneously winning a Nobel Peace Prize. Obama returns America's sword to its sheath, and earns the praise of his fans and admirers. Just as he passed on a better economy to his successor than the one he inherited from Bush, so he passed on a safer world.

Unfortunately this story is a lie from end to end. The world the next president will inherit is full of traps.

Do read it all.

Although the author unnecessarily genuflects to the Left by ending with this:

President Obama was given a very difficult foreign policy situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. But his decisions in the Middle East and elsewhere have set a number of traps for the next president, while weakening our allies. And this in turn has invited other global powers to test America's historic commitments. [emphasis added]

I will remind readers that Iraq was a battlefield victory by the time President Obama took office. All he had to do was not do stupid shit to defend and exploit the gains. The administration boasted of this success before we walked away in 2011 and that JV team ISIL swarmed over northern and western Iraq in 2014.

And Afghanistan was a low-level fight during the Bush administration, where 660 American troops died in battle since 2001. President Obama tripled our troop strength and our forces suffered nearly 1,700 dead since 2009 in a campaign that he prematurely ended before the military plan of the president's escalation could be completed (which had puzzled me repeatedly).

And even if you insist that Iraq and Afghanistan were major problems unjustly passed on to President Obama, our president failed to use his big-brained and nuanced powers to resolve them. These problems too get passed on to the next president.

Hell, I'm just grateful that President Obama didn't just wash his hands of both campaigns and is able to leave the solution to the next president.

The next president will inherit quite the list of problems to deal with. Pity our current president is more skilled at dodging golf course sand traps than in solving foreign policy traps.

President Obama would have been livid to have been handed this list by such an inept predecessor.