Sunday, June 30, 2013

Aging Delayed!

The carnival arrived in town, and despite the threats of rain, Lamb managed a good 2-1/2 hours there. Mister is too old for this sort of thing, apparently. Lamb still loves it, and it was great to walk hand-in-hand with her from ride to ride. By the end, she'd had lemonade and just a little bit of motion sickness. So it was a success.

A few times, I did send Lamb on a ride without me. Including on the rocking boat that swings in a great arc, which kept trying to leave my stomach at the end of the arc before losing momentum and swinging the other way. Urf.

I almost dreaded the carnival. The last couple years were rough on my stomach. I thought advancing years were finally catching up with me. But this year, with an easy ferris wheel (single wheel), bumper cars, and the giant slide to space in between stomach churning rides, my stomach actually emerged better than Lamb's. Woo hoo! Aging delayed here, too.

My stomach even withstood the teenager puking near the spinning ride I was on with Lamb, after the young man got of a ride I'd just described to Lamb as one that empties your pockets and stomach (you go upside down on it).

I will never ride that one. A man has to know his limits.

But the carnival is fun for me again, too. I hope I last long enough to keep taking Lamb while she still eagerly anticipates the carnival coming to town.

Too Late to Own Iraq

Let's stop blaming Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki for his failures to defeat al Qaeda, Shia death squads, and Baathists determined to stoke violence. Did we learn nothing from blaming Diem for South Vietnam's problems that nobody else tackled better than him?

I find this blaming of Maliki for Sunni-Shia divisions misplaced and dangerous. Yes, I'm sorry we bugged out in 2011, but we won't make things better by undermining the lawfully selected prime minister. Should we back Maliki? No. Support the office. Should we oppose Maliki and hope/work for his ouster? No. Support the process for changing prime ministers.

And remember the difficult position Maliki is in without our presence.

Let's accept who Iraqis chose to lead them and work with him. And work with the system that selected Maliki to make it better. If we undermine Maliki and even inadvertently promote a coup by factions who believe they have our backing, we make Iraq much worse:

And most important, remember that Maliki is a leader waging a war against jihadis, Baathists, Sunni Arab superiority complex, Shia death squads, Iranian meddling, Kurdish separatists, Shias who want revenge on the Sunni Arabs for decades of oppression and an awareness of centuries of oppression before that, and old fashioned corruption. So no, he isn't going to govern like Iraq is at peace. He can't.

Sectarian war dragging on and escalating in Syria isn't helping, either.

And if we prompt a coup, we will own Iraq while crippling the Iraqi military and still-weak institutions of government. Raise your hand if you want to recommit 150,000 American troops to Iraq to fight round two?

I quoted an earlier post on our past handling of South Vietnam's Diem:

I don't blame Maliki for trying to root out Baathists. Too many aren't really former Baathists and believe Sunni Arabs should rule Iraq as they have for centuries. Iraq is at war and I can't forget that Americans kept pressing South Vietnamese President Diem to be more inclusive despite being at war. We got rid of him thinking Diem was the problem and too late realized that he was actually winning the war until we supported his removal in a coup. Let's not make the mistake of thinking one man is the difference between victory or defeat--or if it is that we know who that one man is. Focus on strengthening rule of law in Iraq. I hope one day we'll see a peaceful transfer of power from the losing incumbent to the winning opponent and it won't seem strange at all.

The fact is, a number of Sunni Arab politicians do have blood on their hands either actively or by looking the other way (out of fear perhaps, but still looking away). So while we commit the CIA to help fight terrorists in Iraq, we also need to urge Maliki to confront Shia terrorists as much as Sunni Arab terrorists, and we need to work on the Sunni Arabs to re-awaken and work with the government to take on actual Sunni Arab terrorists.

Perhaps we need to "guarantee" the behavior of leaders from the Kurdish, Sunni Arab, and Shia factions to work together and commit to defeating and de-legitimizing any leader who promotes violence (or looks the other way) while we enable talks to resolve differences.

Prime Minister Maliki can govern if he has the tools. Maliki stood up to the Sadrists in spring 2008, remember. His failings are from weakness. In what world is weakening an imperfect Iraqi government an improvement?

UPDATE: Aside from advancing our interests, we did do a good thing by eliminating the Saddam regime, remember. Tip to Instapundit.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Will We Help Iraq Succeed?

Our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wants to bolster Iraq's military to help it endure the buffeting it is taking as violence ratchets up around it:

General Martin Dempsey ... said he had recommended helping Iraq better deal with the re-emergence of al Qaeda.

"We've made a recommendation that as we look at the challenges faced by the Lebanese armed forces, the Iraqi security forces with a re-emerging al Qaeda in Iraq, and the Jordanians, that we would work with them to help them build additional capability," Dempsey told reporters at the Pentagon.

If we can help throttle al Qaeda, it makes it easier for Maliki to restrain Shia death squads seeking revenge. And suppressing al Qaeda makes it easier to work with Sunni Arabs over political differences since Shias naturally don't like being murdered by terrorists who find refuge in the Sunni Arab community.

We have to act like we care about what happens to Iraq.

The Balance That Did Not Bark

America really isn't so bad, realistically speaking.

This article notes how Japan and the Philippines are increasing their own military power and reaching out for alliances to balance China's rising (and threatening) military power. It's a natural thing to do:

International relations scholars of the Realist persuasion have long held that when faced with a security threat, states balance against it in two ways. The first way is through internal balancing; that is, by strengthening one’s own capabilities. This is the preferred balancing mechanism for states, according to realists, as it doesn’t force states to rely on allies’ goodwill in meeting their commitments, and doesn’t risk the state being dragged into others’ fights.

However, oftentimes the power disparity between a rising state and its adversaries means that internal balancing alone will not suffice in countering it. In these instances, realists contend, states will seek to align with third parties who also view the powerful state as a threat.

Manila is even rebuilding bases at our old naval base at Subic Bay and will make the facilities available to other countries (like Japan, says Manila, while they glance across the Pacific to America).

But you know what didn't happen according to realist theory? States didn't band together to balance America once the Soviet Union's empire collapsed in 1989 and we were left as the dominant power after the USSR itself collapsed in 1991 and then broke apart.

Sure, China stopped being our de facto ally. But that was a marriage of convenience in the face of the common Soviet threat. Once the USSR fragmented, China had no need for our help.

And Russia's move toward China was based on fear of China rather than the fear of America. Russia knows (intellectually, if not deep down in their paranoid Russian hearts) that we hardly think about them much except when our NSA employees flee to Russia, let alone plot their further destruction.

India, I should add, did not gravitate from the Soviet camp to the Chinese camp in an effort to oppose America. No, India has always worried about China (and Pakistan for many decades, although not now), and saw Soviet support as crucial. India still sees China as the main threat and has moved toward American friendship rather than gravitating to Chinese friendship because they viewed uniquely powerful post-Cold War America as the main threat to world peace.

Remember, the realist theory of power balancing is about reacting to perceived threats based on increased power--not the power increase itself. Clearly, we aren't seen as much of a threat by much of the world--even our enemies act as if we won't use our obvious power superiority to crush them--while China is provoking actions and talks meant to guard against a growing Chinese power and threat.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Questions on NSA Data Gathering Legality

I'm still on the side of defending the NSA surveillance program (with all due respect for concerns of abuse and whether it has come to exceed authority, and a strong desire to defeat our enemies so we no longer need the program), but I should note this attack on the legality.

Of course, my tentative approval for a program I would not accept in peacetime is in part based on the notion that we are waging a war against jihadi murdering scumballs.

What's President Obama's justification when he insists the tide of war is receding?

I'm still persuadable on the issue. But it's so far outside my lane that I hate to leap to conclusions.

Rigging for Silent Running?

I never like the argument that minimized the effects of Snowden's NSA revelations by saying, "Of course jihadis knew we were listening in." I did not assume that. The Internet is so useful that it would be natural to gravitate to it if nobody was rubbing your face in the fact that we could tap that communications grid.

Jihadis are changing their use of the Internet, it seems:

U.S. intelligence agencies are scrambling to salvage their surveillance of al-Qaida and other terrorists who are working frantically to change how they communicate after a National Security Agency contractor leaked details of two NSA spying programs. It's an electronic game of cat-and-mouse that could have deadly consequences if a plot is missed or a terrorist operative manages to drop out of sight.

Two U.S. intelligence officials say members of virtually every terrorist group, including core al-Qaida, are attempting to change how they communicate, based on what they are reading in the media, to hide from U.S. surveillance — the first time intelligence officials have described which groups are reacting to the leaks. The officials spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak about the intelligence matters publicly.

Assuming this is true, damage was done. Jihadis might have assumed we listened in and took steps to encrypt their use that they were confident would work. They could have been wrong. Or they could have been right but they didn't realize that we could learn a lot just by analyzing the patterns of communication.

Unless Snowden is actually working for us (wittingly or unwittingly)--and Lord I hope we are good enough to not make that notion laughable--I'm still on the side of Snowden being a criminal or traitor rather than a hero.

And unless I read more that the safeguards against abuse to target civil rights rather than jihadis are inadequate, I'm inclined to continue defending the administration's program.

But I'm persuadable.

The Usual Suspects

South African protesters chanted against President Obama on his visit there:

South Africans protesting a visit to their country by U.S. President Barack Obama rallied on Friday a few blocks from well-wishers at a hospital in Pretoria where anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela is critically ill.

I could note that when our first African American president (sorry Bill Clinton, it's true) meets protesters in Africa, we've got problems. But I won't.

The fact is, the protesters are just the usual lot who'd protest any American president:

About 200 trade unionists, student activists and South African Communist Party members gathered in the capital Pretoria to protest Obama's visit this weekend, calling his foreign policy "arrogant, selfish and oppressive".

The red shirts and red poster paint give away the communist slant. Israel, NSA, drones, Iraq, and Afghanistan are their targets of outrage. And an odd demand for a truth and reconciliation ("reconciatation" in the sign) commission here. Perhaps that's an IRS reference. Or an attempt to put the CIA into the mix. Who knows? And who should care, really?

I'm half shocked the communist party guys didn't create a front group to confuse foreign reporters who never make the connection if the word "communist" isn't placed before them in the press release about the protest. I'm reasonably sure the communists' colleagues were communist trade unionists and communist student activists.

I will draw some satisfaction that our president's supporters here will forget how they jumped on any protests abroad against the Bush administration's people as evidence of our arrogance, selfishness, or oppression.

Remember that when a Republican president is protested. The usual suspects always come out. Whether here or abroad, in many cases. The variable is whether our press corps determines the protests mean nothing or indicate our sins.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Joining the Battle

In a perfect world, I'd have hoped we'd be ready to ship weapons to Syrian rebels as soon as it became public knowledge. But at least the pipeline is opening up:

The Central Intelligence Agency has begun moving weapons to Jordan from a network of secret warehouses and plans to start arming small groups of vetted Syrian rebels within a month, expanding U.S. support of moderate forces battling President Bashar al-Assad, according to diplomats and U.S. officials briefed on the plans.

The shipments, related training and a parallel push to mobilize arms deliveries from European and Arab allies are being timed to allow a concerted push by the rebels starting by early August, the diplomats and officials said, revealing details of a new covert plan authorized by President Barack Obama and disclosed earlier this month.

We're also working with the Saudis to get a small number of anti-aircraft missiles into the hands of a small number of trusted rebels.

In a perfect world, those "trusted rebels" would be Arab special forces troops.

By August, hopefully Hezbollah is burned out and incapable of offensive action; and those Iranian-organized pro-government militias are too skittish about casualties to poke their heads above the walls.

But infiltration of rebels who get some weapons training will take place slowly over many months starting in August. So the end of the year is a more reasonable time frame to see some results.

But unless the Assad forces collapse because their morale just can't take it any more, the rebels still won't have the power to mount a decisive offensive. These are rebels--not mechanized brigades.

And just how do we think we get a "concerted" push from the competing rebel organizations?

Or is this just an offensive in the south by the Jordanian-backed rebels?

But there is some better news--we did do some work prior to the president's announcement:

The CIA, in advance of Mr. Obama's decision to provide American arms, had already begun to store Soviet-era weapons, including ammunition for Kalashnikov rifles and armor-piercing antitank missiles. The first rebel units expected to receive arms and training by the U.S. already have military experience using Soviet-era weapons, reducing the need for more extensive training.

That's better. I don't expect a perfect world. But I do expect better than making an announcement that gets the hopes of rebels up only to dash them as help takes more time than they have to live under attack by Assad's firepower.

And to finally have a reasonable objective--defeating Assad's regime--is better than just hoping for the best.

For Everything a Place; and Each Thing in Its Place

Ecuador, which looks like it has joined the Axis of Snowden, wants our position on the Snowden issue in writing:

Ecuador said on Wednesday the United States must "submit its position" regarding Edward Snowden to the Ecuadorean government in writing as it considers the former U.S. spy agency contractor's request for asylum.

Ecuador, in a statement from its embassy in Washington, said it would review the request "responsibly."

In writing is better for their filing system:

That puts us in our place, too. I thought only George W. Bush could alienate foreign governments this way.

Assad Isn't Likely to Win This War Unless We Rescue Him

Strategypage assesses Syria much as I have, putting limits on Assad's so-called winning streak of late.

Read it all.

Syria needs lots of Iranian cash.

Assad's army is broken in spirit although it still has firepower.

Hezbollah's expeditionary force is small and can't afford to fight too many more battles.

Assad's air force is worn out and not contributing that much to the fight.

Iran is unlikely to send gunmen, contrary to rumors.

Rebel morale is up on news of foreign arms aid coming.

Arab and Western special forces and similar civilians are in or near Syria training and advising rebels.

But on the bright side for Assad, rebel fragmentation allows Assad to focus efforts on parts of the rebels without a lot of worry that the other fragments will take advantage of the narrow focus on another part of the fight.

Those are the basics. There's more, too.

I don't see Assad with a winning hand. At best he can abandon Damascus and Aleppo to hold a coastal enclave where most of his Alawite supporters are, out to the main north-south highway for some depth.

If Assad could get a Russian paratrooper regiment and a battalion of naval infantry on the ground in that rump Assad-land, he might survive. But Assad isn't going to hold Syria or pretend to by hanging on to the capital. I just don't think he has the numbers. And now that we will arm rebels (and get out of the way of others doing the same, I assume), the rebels will be able to add more shooters to the field.

Or Secretary Kerry might figure out a way to salvage Assad's regime by pretending to broker a grand diplomatic "solution."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Way Different Than Evil Drones

The global left is up in arms over our use of armed drones to kill enemies. I think we can guarantee that they will not get worked up over jihadis using armed drones to kill civilians in a civilian environment.

Score one for the good guys in Europe:

Scores of special police officers raided at least nine sites in southern Germany and Belgium on Tuesday after what the German authorities said was a tip about an Islamist plot involving two men of Tunisian origin who were planning to stage terrorist attacks involving explosives and remote-controlled model airplanes.

Separately, the French authorities detained nine people in raids on Monday and Tuesday, security officials said. The nine were suspected of plotting acts of Islamic terrorism in France or of having ties to jihadist networks.

I'm sure that the jihadis hoped to use the model airplanes as little cruise missiles by diving them into a crowd, or something. I have no idea if they can carry a reasonable payload to make it worth it. It's possible their plan didn't come anywhere near to matching their hate.

Still. I imagine the global left is more likely to say we deserve this after our own drone use; rather than condemning the jihadis, too.

I wonder if the raid was accelerated out of fear that Snowden's NSA revelations would cause the suspects to scatter and flee?

Reorganizing the Army Again

The Army is aiming to shed 80,000 soldiers by 2017 to get down to 490,000 active component troops. What will the new brigades look like?

The Army plan, in part, will:

Reorganize infantry and armor brigade combat teams (BCTs) to restore the third maneuver battalion and increase engineer and fires capability.


Reduce active component BCTs from 45 modular to 33 reorganized BCTs.

We'll have more brigades than we had before 9/11, if memory serves me. But we should have them at or closer to full strength unlike the pre-9/11 situation where we had undermanned brigades.

Remember, we got rid of a lot of support units geared to Cold War practices to free up troops to create more brigades (while also making the brigades smaller). Then we added more troops to create more brigades. At one point, I'm pretty sure we were heading toward 48 Army brigades, in two stages (reorganization under existing caps and then new troops).

I think we went from 32 to 42 brigades with the reorganization method, and then planned to go to 48 with the second method--but only added 3 when victory in Iraq ended the need to bolster the rotation base. My memory is a bit hazy on the specifics, but the big picture is good. Anyway, we will have 33 brigades by 2017.

I had gotten behind the 2-battalion brigades, although I wanted a recon battalion capable of being a maneuver element, too, like our old cavalry units, instead of the glorified forward observers that they seemed to be.

But now we are going back to three-battalion brigades. While adding engineers and artillery, it seems. So the brigades will be bigger than the current ones are. I assume the brigades will continue to be self-contained units rather than being dependent on division assets as the brigades of a decade ago were.

Indeed, Stryker brigades will get an assist in this regard, too. This article adds some details:

"Specifically, we'll go from a 2x8-gun fires battalion to a 3x6. So two additional guns, one additional battery to support the three maneuver battalions. And then in order to do that, some of the echelon-above-brigade structure in terms of engineers will have to be reorganized to provide that additional engineering capability to the BCT."

Stryker brigades, Murray said, currently have three maneuver battalions, but no brigade support troops battalion. Those brigades will get a brigade engineer battalion.

That is, we're going from 2 8-gun batteries to 3 6-gun batteries in each artillery ("fires") battalion. When I first heard of the idea of the additional maneuver battalion, I assumed that artillery support would increase to allow each maneuver battalion to have a battery in support. But it isn't to be a 50% increase in tubes to match a 50% increase in maneuver battalions.

My question is whether the battalions will revert to three line (or maneuver) companies from the 4 they have now (except for Stryker brigades which retained the triangular organization in battalions and companies)? But if the maneuver companies are going from 8 in 2 battalions to 9 maneuver companies in 3 battalions, the more modest increase in artillery support is more understandable. But I don't know.

The article gives the balance of 33 brigades as "12 armored BCTs, 14 infantry BCTs, and seven Stryker BCTs."

Also, the Army expects to lose another brigade after 2017, so I guess we get down to pre-9/11, after all.

And how many National Guard brigades will there be? Still 28 from the last reorganization?

More reorganization will throw the Army into some flux again. But at least it is not being done while waging a significant ground campaign.

I'm disturbed that we are losing our rotation base, but the Army says this method will save 13 maneuver battalions that would have had to go in order to preserve more brigades. So there you go.

UPDATE: Those "infantry" brigde combat teams would include paratroopers, airmobile infantry, and motorized infantry, I assume. And we'd also have our Ranger regiment, of course. But that isn't a maneuver brigade, really. Or it shouldn't be thought of that way. It is good light infantry. It may be the least elite of the special forces guys, but sometimes relative quantity has a quality all its own.

When the Going Gets Tough

Four-and-a-half years into the Obama administration and our foreign policy is still arrogant?


The US is often accused of arrogance in international affairs and it's not hard to see why. US officials frequently speak of behavior that is "not acceptable" from other nations. Or they tell other countries and leaders what they "must" do. Or, if they're feeling a little more accommodating, they merely "urge" other countries "to do the right thing" in their best disappointed parent voice.

Sometimes I think I really don't get this nuance stuff. But Kerry of all people is the last person you'd expect to rid our foreign policy of arrogance.

Well, at least they still have that competence thing going, right? Look!! Squirrel!

People's Power

Riots broke out in China's West as Han Chinese continue to slowly ethnically cleanse the region.

Twenty-seven are dead as members of the Uighur minority, a Turkic-speaking group, rioted in Xinjiang province against the increasing presence, influence, and privileges of Han Chinese "settlers:"

At least 27 people died in rioting in far western China on Wednesday, when protesters attacked a police station and government offices and the police fired on the crowd, state media said. It was the worst spasm of violence for years in Xinjiang, a region troubled by tensions between Uighurs, an overwhelmingly Muslim ethnic minority, and China’s Han majority.

This is one reason why China doesn't like to authorize Western interventions against the abuse of minorities. That's a bad precedent, from Peking's point of view.

The Uighurs are a tiny minority. They don't stand a chance in the long run against the influx of Han Chinese. So if they don't get independence before too long, they never will.

Didn't Read the Story, Eh Editor?

I was really interested in reading about why China's new, huge, amphibious warfare hovercraft are useless against Taiwan, as the headline says:

Ukrainian-built hovercraft may be too fast or too big for operations in the South China Sea and Taiwan, say foreign military experts

They're just "giant toys," the story blares from the top.

I thought the Zubr craft would be useful for Taiwan invasion scenarios. What am I missing here?

Taiwanese defence minister Wu Shih-wen, who patrolled the South China Sea when he was a naval officer between the 1960s and 1980s, said LCACs were not suitable for use in the South China Sea.

"All the islands involved in the territorial disputes between Beijing, Taipei and other Southeast Asian countries are tiny islets, with some even smaller than a ship," he said.

Okay, I'm fine with that. I thought that they could be useful for high-speed dashes in the South Chinas Sea. But I didn't know their range limitations. Assuming China can't stage them forward, distance and islet size make Zubr LCACs useless in the South China Sea, this says. And in the East China Sea, too, the article says.

But what about the restrictions that would make them useless for Taiwan? Ah, here we go:

Antony Wong Dong, of the Macau-based International Military Association, said that because of their range and speed limitations, the LCACs would be capable only of playing an important role in amphibious operations against Taiwan and the Diaoyu Islands, with other potential theatres too far away.

The Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu) are close enough for a one-way trip only. So China would need refueling for that scenario.

But clearly, the Zubr vessels are fine for Taiwan. So how on earth did the editors settle on that headline that dismisses the hover craft as useless? Is this just propaganda to minimize their role in the strait?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mission Never Accomplished

Is the left really saying that government intervention can never be successful?

Can't we all be grateful that the provisions of the Voting Rights Act struck down worked and are no longer needed?

Or, given the president's speech today, can we look forward to tax credits for carbon sequestration when Chicago is under a mile of ice?

Not a Patriot By a Long Shot, It Seems

Remember when Snowden's attempt to be a soldier (he was discharged after breaking a leg or two in training) was a defense of his patriotism? What if Snowden joined just to be a version 2.0 of that Army twerp who gave stolen information to WikiLeaks?

I only ask because this article says Snowden joined the NSA specifically to steal secrets:

Edward Snowden took a job at the intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton specifically to steal American intelligence information, according to a report today in the South China Morning Post quoting the NSA leaker's last major interview before his current international manhunt.

Which, if true, wrecks any notions that Snowden joined the NSA (or the Army, for that matter) for patriotism and was simply shocked and horrified that what he did wasn't in line with his patriotic impulses to defend our country from terrorists.

How long has Snowden been stealing information? Who has he given it to? And does he work for someone else?

UPDATE: Snowden was no patriot who wanted to defend his country but was disillusioned to see how it was done. No, he had help in his journey to the NSA, and then to Hong Kong and Moscow.


Two authors with no clue about what happened in Iraq offer their thoughts on what to do in Syria based on those lessons. This will be gruesome to read. But I'm a glutton for punishment (as I prove every time I read Zakaria or Friedman), so what the heck, let's look, shall we?

Their mission:

Interventionists have successfully pushed President Barack Obama into increasing military involvement in Syria. Their rationale feels eerily similar to the reasons used for the invasion of Iraq. Before our actions spin further out of control, we should pause to review the lessons learned from invading Iraq, Syria's next-door neighbor.

It's fairly straightforward. They have to understand Iraq and draw lessons applicable to Syria.

Ten years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq remains in a state of continuing civil war-like violence. With a toll of more than 100,000 civilian deaths and far more injuries over the course of the war, the argument that we should enter Syria to stop the current carnage of this multi-faction war is undermined by our recent experience in the region.

At least they don't lose all credibility right off the bat by claiming more casualties than statistics justify. I'd call it over 120,000 dead, but they do specify civilian, so that may be part of the difference.

But Iraq's violence is not a continuation of our recent experience in Iraq. We tamped down violence by 2008, with visible improvements by the latter half of 2007. Resurging violence is laid at the feet of the violence in Syria that has given al Qaeda more room to maneuver inside Iraq with sanctuaries in Syria again. So this is dumb.


Just as our presence and choice of factions inflamed opposing groups in Iraq, many Syrians are bound to resent the presence of the U.S.

Our choice of "factions" in Iraq represented about 85% of the population (Kurds and Shias). Iraqis who resented our presence centered on the formerly dominant Sunni Arabs and the pro-Iranian puppets within the Shia community whose happiness with us didn't last long after the defeat of the hated Saddam.

If Syrians are bound to resent the presence of Americans, they are also bound to resent the inaction of Americans. Besides, nobody is discussing introducing American conventional forces into the fight. So I'm not sure what this is even all about.

There's more:

This time, the added danger of other powers joining the fight in an all-out proxy war looms large. Russia is sending air and marine support; the U.S. has pledged small arms and anti-tank weapons; Iran has been funneling arms and manpower through Hezbollah.

Yeah, it is a proxy war. Since Iran is Assad's major backer, our desire to inflict a defeat on Iran makes this a feature and not a bug. And if we manage to savage Hezbollah, that's good, too.

But what are the authors even talking about when they say Russia is sending air and marine support? This implies (do they believe this?) that Russia is sending air and ground forces. What Russia is doing is threatening to sell advanced air defense missiles and deploying ships in the eastern Mediterranean that have no effect on the rebellion whatsoever.

After this middling sort of idiocy, we step into major league stupid:

In Iraq, a country known before the war as one with good relations and frequent marriages between Sunnis and Shiites, the divide between these groups is now larger than ever. Prior to the war, al-Qaida had no presence in Iraq; now the country lives under a continual cloud of al-Qaida-fueled violence. Instead of quieting sectarian divisions, our invasion only served to fuel divisiveness, violence and terrorist activity.

Iraq was known as one where Sunnis and Shias got along? There was a history of centuries of Sunni Arab domination of the hated Shias who had second class citizen status; and thirty years of brutality under Saddam. In the 1980s, the Sunni Baathist rulers feared their Shia cannon fodder troops wouldn't fight for Iraq. And in 1991, the Sunni Arabs brutally put down a Shia uprising in the south. Back at the end of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War, Iraq's Sunni Arabs proved capable of slaughtering Sunni Kurds with poison gas. Let me guess, the Iraqi co-author is a Sunni Arab who remembers the good old days when the Shias knew their place and were happy about it.

Prior to 2002, al Qaeda had no need for a presence in Iraq. Saddam had his own tamed jihadis (Saddam's Fedayeen) and supported many other terrorists within Iraq. After we routed al Qaeda from Afghanistan, they did indeed travel to Iraq and were there before we invaded in March 2003. Al Qaeda invaded Iraq in 2004--funneled in by Assad, if you'll recall.

Our invasion put the 85% majority in charge and the violence and terrorist activity--and devisiveness--was fueled by Syria and their Iranian masters who sent in terrorists to slaughter Iraqis. Violence now, as I mentioned, is from our absence and because of the chaos in eastern Syria allowing jihadis to thrive.

Good grief, I may be quoting the entire article in bits. Let's move on:

In addition to its primary purpose of rooting out weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to be there, our foray into Iraq was advertised as one that would free Iraqis from their detestable dictator, Saddam Hussein, after which Iraq's relatively educated populace would create a democracy in the Arab world. Instead, we have actions like Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's forces' recent deadly attack that led to a Sunni uprising across Anbar province and Baghdad, with increased violence in cities near Hawija and Sulaiman Pek, north of Tikrit. Deadly violence continues, with government troops attacking these cities in a military-style assault with loudspeakers urging civilians to evacuate while electricity is cut off. This get-tough policy is hardly the vision that was foreseen by the interventionists who urged our invasion.

We did not find WMD. But we did dismantle the facilities and break up the organizations that could have restarted WMD programs within months of a decision to do so. So we achieved a significant WMD victory.

We did free Iraqis from Saddam. And we did set up a democracy. It is suffering from our absence. But that's different.

And I think we see the Sunni slant of the Iraqi co-author here when the governmental actions are blamed on Maliki rather than on the Iraqi Sunni Arab population that has allowed al Qaeda to operate amongst them to again kill Shias. The cause and effect between Sunni uprisings and government troop movements (warning civilians to get out of the way, I should add--Saddam never did that) is largely the opposite of the charge.

Oh, I could skip some general BS. Moving on to specific BS:

Iraq is a broken nation, and we helped to break it. Whether the break was accidental or intentional, the outcome is the same for the people of Iraq.

Iraq is less broken than it was. Saddam broke it. Our invasion and liberation created an opportunity to fix it. Syria and Iran--backing al Qaeda, Baathists, and Sadrists--worked very hard to halt rebuilding. They failed. Iraq is better off than it was under Saddam and if we would help, we could make sure Iraq makes more progress and defeats the thugs who still try to break Iraq.

I won't bother with more. Suffice it to say that with 100,000 already dead in Syria--without us--the idea that we would make things worse is ridiculous.

These authors are clueless. They have no idea what has and is happening in Iraq and attempts to apply their random brain sparks about that war to Syria is predictably stupid.

Reaching the Bottom of the Job Jar, Are We?

Terrorism. Afghanistan. Iraq. Syria. Iran, North Korea. China. Russia. Benghazi. Venezuela. Mali. Somalia. Yemen. Libya. Egypt. Pakistan. Hamas. Hezbollah. Turkey. NSA. IRS. ObamaCare. Border security. Fast and Furious. Deficit. Debt. Entitlements. Defense spending. Unemployment--

Look!! Squirrel Carbon!

President Obama will propose a sweeping plan to address climate change on Tuesday, setting ambitious goals and timetables for a series of executive actions to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and prepare the nation for the ravages of a warming planet.

After 15 years of flat global temperatures, it's about time we got on that. After all, what else does the president have to do?

Yeah, this is going to work out swell.

UPDATE: I think this is a reasonable statement of the state of the science on increased temperatures over the period of several centuries:

There are a whole lot of different things that might explain it:

•Human-generated greenhouse gases might be doing it.
•Human changes in land use — like lots of asphalt highways, which are pretty black — might be causing the Earth to absorb more heat.
•There might be measurement error — we have to estimate the temperature based on thermometers around the world. Some of these thermometers themselves have had some pretty significant changes in their environments, like having a parking lot built around them, that would make the temperature higher locally. This would increase the measured average temperature, which would make it harder to find a natural explanation.
•There might be variations in the Sun’s output that cause the changes.
•There could be other factors than greenhouse gases that cause the Earth to retain more heat. (One interesting possibility that’s being explored is that more cosmic radiation might be causing cloud cover to change.)

And yet we are jumping ahead to a "solution" based on one hypothesis (human production of CO2 is the cause of whatever warming there has been). This is going to work out swell.

Pretty Sure We'll Take It--And Like It

President Obama's pre-election pledge to President Putin of Russia that he'd have more "flexibility" after the election are being made moot by Putin's ability to bend our president any which way Putin wants.

Whether it is Snowden, Iran, or Syria, Russia doesn't seem to care much about what we want:

With the Snowden situation, Vladimir Putin seems intent not only defying America but embarrassing her. It turns out that an irresolute amateur like Barack Obama was the best thing that the brutal but determined Putin could have hoped for.

Putin prefers malleability to flexibility, anyway. Good grief, don't let Putin get Kerry in a room alone--Kerry will be Gumby-fied.

Exceptional America?

I find it amusing that America is immune to global trends.

This article attempts to place unrest in Turkey, Brazil, and maybe Iran, in a global context:

From Turkey to Brazil to Iran the global middle class is awakening politically. The size, focus and scope of protests vary, but this is not unfolding chaos -- it is nascent democracy. Citizens are demanding basic political rights, accountable governments and a fairer share of resources.

Thankfully none involve racist nativism. Hell, "Positive dynamics are at work in all three nations." But the author misses an obvious participant in this middle class awakening for political rights (hello IRS!), accountable governments (politicians going native in Washington, D.C.), and a fairer share of resources (limit taxes and spending that benefit politically connected interest groups): America's Tea Party movement.

You'd think a global trend might include the home of the greatest middle class population there is. But America gets a mention as only an observer to this "global" phenomenon. Perhaps because it is inconceivable to think that positive dynamics are at work here.

Who knew we are that exceptional?

Tip to Instapundit. He's had a lot of interesting links lately.

From Outreach to Out of Our Reach

Our fight in Iraq didn't create Sunni-Shia hatred and our troop presence in Iraq didn't cause jihadis to set up shop there.

Fancy that:

It's not hard to find stereotypes, caricatures and outright bigotry when talk in the Middle East turns to the tensions between Islam's two main sects.

Shiites are described as devious, power-hungry corruptors of Islam. Sunnis are called extremist, intolerant oppressors.

Hatreds between the two are now more virulent than ever in the Arab world because of Syria's civil war. On Sunday, officials said four Shiites in a village west of Cairo were beaten to death by Sunnis in a sectarian clash unusual for Egypt.

Hard-line clerics and politicians on both sides in the region have added fuel, depicting the fight as essentially a war of survival for their sect.

And that:

Since Kaddafi was overthrown in 2011, Libya has turned into something of a sanctuary for Islamic terrorists. Not so much because the government allowed it, but more because the government could not prevent it. Benghazi was the largest urban area that was hospitable to Islamic terrorists, mainly because it was the last large city to have law and order restored by government security forces (and pro-government armed groups).

And yet President Obama continues to withdraw from the Middle East as if our presence has been the problem:

Barack Obama’s foreign policy has one core principle: Get the United States out of the Middle East wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that he “inherited” from George W. Bush and avoid repeating those mistakes. There have been other themes sounded by the White House, most notably the “Pacific pivot,” but backing out of perceived military overcommitments in the Muslim world has been the prime directive.

You can argue whether the burden of these problems should be ours to shoulder, but we didn't cause the problems or make them worse.

Indeed, I've suspected that our abortive pivot to Asia and the Pacific has been more about providing a strategic cover to the president's pivot away from CENTCOM:

So for our president, who simply doesn't want to fight Islamist radicalism in the Middle East--or admit there is a war on terror--pivoting to Asia--which is already taking place--was really about pivoting away from the Middle East. It is repackaging an unwillingness to fight the war we are currently in as a strategy of preparing for the next war (or preventing it with strength).

But it is way too early to pivot away from the Middle East.

The September 11 embassy attacks, Iranian nuclear ambitions, revolution in Syria, chaos in Yemen and Somalia, the uncertain future of Iraq, Egyptian instability, Gaza and Hezbollah, and Iranian threats to oil exports all remind us that the need to remain active in the Middle East is crucial. Killing Osama bin Laden--while a very good thing--didn't end the long war on terror.

Our efforts may not always succeed. But success is harder to come by when we don't make an effort.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Why a Rush to Floor?

The rush to pass a 1,200-page immigration bill argues for sending it to committee and letting the normal process of negotiations and amendments--and a conference committee to resolve difference between the houses in the end--to be followed. Do we really want to find out what is in this bill after it is passed?

I'm generally a pro-immigration kind of guy. We built our nation on immigration. But I want border security before I want immigration. This is no way to do it:

There are lots of reasons to believe that most of what is promised in the current so-called comprehensive immigration-reform bill won’t be honored if it is passed by the full Congress and signed by the president.

It breaks my heart to think of people who know no other country than America being sent "back" to Mexico because they came here illegally with their parents. I want to make the exception and not send that person to Mexican exile.

But if we are making that exception 100 times every day for the rest of this century, that's a disaster and makes a mockery of our laws. If we know that illegal immigration is throttled and only legal immigration at a level and under conditions we set is taking place, we can easily make those exceptions to keep people--including children--who don't know any other country but America, in America.

So I think this whole complicated bill is horrible. Immigration reform should be done in two stages--first, seal the border; and then create provisions to legalize those who are already here under conditions we set that don't encourage more illegal immigration. All this complicated two-stages-in-one legislating will inevitably just allow pro-legalization legislators to pretend we've sealed the border and go from there.

There is no way I trust Senator Schumer or President Obama on this. Or Senator Rubio, for that matter.

The Ingredients for a "Good" War

World War II has the reputation as being the good war where the war was black-and-white and where the country came together to sacrifice to wage the war. Bullshit.

I've read that a quarter of our country wasn't in favor of the war. Which makes sense. My grandfather (who was a World War I veteran) told the recruiter when my dad enlisted in the Navy in 1945 that he was bringing in another young man to fight Britain's war. No bitterness there.

We forget the bitterness of the fight over our involvement in World War II:

Yet the great national commitment to victory in World War II stands out as a singular shining moment of cohesion and unity. The afterglow of that massive war effort and the Allies’ great victory hides a darker reality of the political storm that swept the nation right up to the very day of the Pearl Harbor attack.

The fight between isolationists and interventionists over America’s future role in the world, a fight that turned into a political and sometimes real brawl for the presidency in the 1940 election, proved lower and even more vicious than what passes for political discourse today.

After a bloody war in 1917-1918 (for us) that we thought ended war, and as the Great Depression lingered on, a lot of Americans were in no mood to fight a European war again.

Japan ended the debate for the Pacific theater. And Germany, already angry at our undeclared naval war against the Germans in the Atlantic, ended the debate for the European theater. How long it would have taken for us to declare war on Germany had Hitler not saved us the effort is a point of speculation for the war period.

And whether we would have had the willingness to invade Japan is a question for me, goodness and national unity notwithstanding. I recall reading that the troops being transferred from Europe to the Pacific were demoralized that after winning "their" war they had to fight another. But the atomic bomb saved us from that undertaking.

Victory in world War II--despite bringing the Soviets into central Europe and enabling Mao to win the Chinese civil war, thus sowing the seeds of two fronts in the Cold War--and time have erased the memories of those divisions. Victory also eroded the motivation of those who opposed the war to continue arguing over the war after we won.

Heck, by 2003, the 1991 Persian Gulf War that saw large opposition had morphed into a good war with a gold standard of debate and approval (despite the relatively close votes to go to war in Congress: 52-47 in the Senate and 250-183 in the House).

I'll add that divisions over confronting the Soviet Union in the Cold War have been forgotten after the collapse of Soviet communism.

In time, unless we blow the battlefield victories of Iraq and Afghanistan, those wars in Iraq and Afghansitan will be recorded as clear victories. Whether the brawls of the last decade will fade enough to make them templates in a future debate is another question. I suspect they will.

Victory makes sacrifice acceptable. Don't forget it as we have pseudo-strategic debates about "exit strategies."

Unacceptable Losses

One thing that has perplexed me about the military suicide issue is the increase after the stress of constant deployments ended as the Iraq surge faded and combat missions decreased dramatically after victory.

Strategypage notes that suicide rates are still lower than the general population of similar demographics. And this is odd:

In fact, most of the military suicides are of men who were never in combat, or even overseas.

I've always wondered about the old theory that it isn't so much the combat as the post-combat let-down. Keep the troops busy so they don't have time to think, I've read. For those who came back after the high tempos of deployment to win in Iraq, did they have too much time to think before the effects of PTSD could be treated and wear off?

But with so few people involved, the very real impact of PTSD on those who were overseas in combat makes the rates go up a lot. Add in some troops with family or personal problems unrelated to combat or deployment and you have a crisis.

The suicide problem isn't as bad as it seems--but the military is rightly trying to fight the trend. The trend at least is down from the 2009 peak.

I also wonder if the jihadis have similar problems--or if their casualty rates make it unlikely that there would be survivors to suffer PTSD.

The Only Form of Approved Love

Neo-NeoCon doesn't want to invoke Godwin's Law for a comparison, but she is disturbed by the giggling worship of President Obama that our press corps still feels tingling up their legs.

She quotes a book passage about an off-the-record gathering that President Obama held with his adoring press corps during the 2012 campaign:

“The behavior of the assembled press corps was telling. Everyone, myself included, swooned. Swooned! Head over heels. One or two might have even lost their minds,” Hastings writes, as each reporter had a chance to speak personally with the president. “We were all, on some level, deeply obsessed with Obama, crushing hard, still a little love there. This was nerd heaven, a politico’s paradise, the subject himself moving among us — shaking our hands, slapping our shoulders!”

Come on. No comparison? The president spies on everyone; spies on reporters in particular; continued war is peace just because we stop fighting them; threatens the deepest fear of reporters (access to The One); two-minute hates against "neocons;" we've always been at war with EastAsia? Okay, I made up the last one. Still, nothing rings a bell?

You really don't think the Press Corps loves Big Brother? Heck, when faced with loss of access, they'll be telling the NSA to "do it to the Life of Julia!" before too long.

God, our press corps sucks.

Tip to Instapundit.

So It's To Be Cyber-War, Then

We fired a cyber-shot across the bow after the apparent failure of President Obama to get President Xi of China to back off from cyber-espionage against us when they met earlier this month in California. China's exploitation of the Snowden Affair to push back rather than deal with us gives us little choice but to wage cyber-war.

China is in no mood to rein in their cyber-warriors:

"We express grave concern about the recent disclosures of the U.S. government's cyber attacks on China," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement. "This once again proves that China is a victim of cyber attacks."

Hua said China has "made representations to the United States".

China would rather blunt our criticisms of their cyber-espionage by exploiting Snowden (assuming they had nothing to do with it in the first place) than scale their own cyber-espionage efforts back.

We locked and loaded our cyber-capabilities. Is Snowden the e-Lusitania event that unleashes the dogs of cyber-war?

We'll see if China has awakened a sleeping e-giant; or if we are cyber-midgets.

God Does Work in Mysterious Ways

Does President Obama still have a victory mandate if the president pursues objectives nobody really cares about? Do not doubt, oh righteous ones. This is surely a test of your faith.

It's a mystery, all right:

THIS January, as President Obama began his second term, the Pew Research Center asked Americans to list their policy priorities for 2013. Huge majorities cited jobs and the economy; sizable majorities cited health care costs and entitlement reform; more modest majorities cited fighting poverty and reforming the tax code. Down at the bottom of the list, with less than 40 percent support in each case, were gun control, immigration and climate change. ...

The president decided to make gun control legislation a major second-term priority ... with firearm homicides at a 30-year low. Congress is pursuing a sharp increase in low-skilled immigration ... when the foreign-born share of the American population is already headed for historical highs. The administration is drawing up major new carbon regulations ... when actual existing global warming has been well below projections for 15 years and counting.

Please. Like President Obama needs voter approval at this point. He has decades ahead of Davos, the Acela Corridor, speeches to the 1%, seats on Wall Street boards of directors, and United Nations conferences. If he wants to be on the invitation lists in those circles, he needs boulevard cred, no?

And for those who dared hope for movement on jobs and the economy, or anything else not on the agenda, think of this as your Trial of Jobs.

Simply endure your hardships and believe in The One. Do that and the story will end with all of the faithful restored to health, with a new family, and twice as prosperous, in a Life of Julia that will be paradise on Earth.

Tip to Instapundit.

UPDATE: Oh ye of little faith:

“[W]e say as Americans that we are tired of seeing liberty sacrificed on the altar of security and having a handful of lawmakers decide what we should and should not know,” the ACLU writes in a statement circulated to grassroots supporters and addressed to Obama. “We are tired of living in a nation governed by fear instead of the principles of freedom and liberty that made this nation great.”

The fear is purified by hope and change. What's their problem?

Afghan Peace Talks: Women & Minorities Hardest Hit

This blog post title is not a New York Times headline. But it is the second sentence of this article about talks with the Taliban portrayed as defeat:

After 12 years of war and thousands of deaths on both sides, the US and the Taliban are finally ready to talk peace. While the West hopes to smooth its withdrawal, human rights organizations forecast the return of dark times for women and minorities.

I assume peace talks are just there to see if the Taliban will cool it while we withdraw most(?) of our troops over the next year and a half. It's like a rear guard.

I can't imagine we are foolish enough to think the Taliban will agree to anything acceptable. Or am I naive in trusting our administration on this?

But I've expressed my worries again and again that our troop withdrawal--which is part of COIN 101 in turning over counter-insurgency functions to a capable Afghan security force--can be spun as our retreat, notwithstanding the good job the Afghans are doing in killing Taliban without our direct shooting role.

Contrary to the article's thrust, talks in 2007 were a stupid suggestion then, and current talks in no way validate suggestions in 2007 to talk. There is a difference between talks before we built up a large Afghan force and before we smashed up the Taliban quite a bit (and killed bin Laden, too) and talks now.

Thanks for the admission that out intervention helped women and minorities by ending "dark times," I suppose.

Oh, and if we are doomed now and the 2007 talks suggestion is being lauded, were the German Social Democrats trying to get us to lose the war in Afghanistan back then?

And it was such a "good war," too.

UPDATE: Oh, I forgot to mention that we obviously want to get the return of Bowe Bergdahl, an Army sergeant (he was promoted while in captivity) being held by the Taliban somewhere in Pakistan, most likely (thank you, Pakistan!). Hopefully a SEAL Team and supporting assets are ready to go if we find him.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

I Seem to Be Getting What I Want

China's interest in central Asia is increasing. I hope I like the results because that's what I've wanted for years.

As China's power increases, I've worried about China's focus on air and naval power that can be projected out to sea against us and our allies.

While I'm happy to bolster our forces to defeat or deter a Chinese attack, I'd rather redirect China's emphasis to the interior of Asia, as I wrote here, quoting a 2005 post of mine:

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

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

I hoped China's interest would also lead to a break down of recent Russian-Chinese cooperation as Russia defends their former empire from Chinese influence.

Well, China is looking to the interior of Asia (and for energy as I speculated would be the only thing that could get China looking there):

Perhaps the most discussed Chinese investments in Central Asia are the pipelines. China has a long history of funding pipelines that would bring oil and gas overland from the west, as opposed to seafaring tankers that must pass through the U.S.-controlled Straits of Malacca. The agreement between Kazakhstan and China to build a pipeline importing oil from the Caspian shore to Xinjiang was penned as far back as 1997. Completion is scheduled for 2014, when it is expected to have a capacity of 20 million tons per year. The Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline (also referred to as the Central Asia-China gas pipeline), which runs through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, currently brings natural gas into Xinjiang. These pipeline investments are avenues for economic flourishing in the participating countries.

So far China's interests are mostly economic. But just as aero-naval power is justified to protect China's sea lines of supply, increased aero-land power will be bolstered by the need to protect these new pipelines.

That ground capability is growing already.

While the article assumes way too much American-Chinese cooperation for mutual gain in China's new efforts, I have my doubts about that sunny view. I'm just happy to divert China's attention from the seas.

And as I've noted about the possibility of China's moves to Asia shaking Russia out of their China appeasement policy, I just can't give a rat's patootie about losing our Central Asia bases as we wind down in Afghanistan. I'm fine with Russia moving back in:

The Manas Transit Center outside the capital Bishkek, which numbers about 1,000 U.S. servicemen, has been in operation since the end of 2001. The Kyrgyz government said in a note issued prior to a vote in parliament: “Further functioning of this facility is unnecessary”.

Parliament passed the law by 91 votes to five, setting a deadline of July 11, 2014, for the base to close.

Russia secured an extension of the lease of its own air base in Kyrgyzstan last September.

If it makes Russia feel better that we aren't trying to surround them, more power to them. And if it throws Russia in China's path? More power to us. Besides, I haven't forgiven Russia for selling China so much in the way of naval and air technology that has allowed China to be a threat at sea in the first place, so quickly.

Perhaps China has enough economic strength to be a threat to Russia and India in Asia on land and to be a threat to us and our offshore allies at sea (and South Korea gets to experience both). But if so, we've got bigger problems, eh? And it still weakens China in our theater, so we're less worse off than otherwise.

An Itinerary of Justice?

Edward Snowden's itinerary doesn't exactly scream high-minded, whistle-blowing, freedom-of-speech-defending patriot, does it?

So Snowden took off for Russia. What? The Russians don't trust the Chinese to share everything they learned from Snowden?

A former contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency, charged by the United States with espionage, was allowed to leave Hong Kong on Sunday, his final destination as yet unknown, because a U.S. request to have him arrested did not comply with the law, the Hong Kong government said.

Edward Snowden left for Moscow on Sunday and his final destination may be Cuba, Ecuador, Iceland or Venezuela, according to various reports.

I may enjoy the left's sputtering frustration at maintaining their "hope and change" chants while defending Snowden despite his charges, but I still haven't read anything to make me change my mind that the NSA program is legal and necessary.

Mind you, it is regrettable that we do this. I'd like us to try to kill more jihadis and defeat Islamist ideology so this program could be scaled back or put on standby mode.

And I certainly recognize that this administration could easily abuse the program, as it has with other government agencies. And with our fawning press corps, we lack even that check on the government's potential to misbehave.

I'm still hoping Snowden's final destination is Cuba--Guantanamo Bay. But I'm an optimist, at heart.

UPDATE: Wow. China to Russia to Cuba to Venezuela. What? North Korea and Iran don't get blessed with his presence?

It's the "I'm With the Bastard" world tour of thuggish regimes. Ah yes, a Hero of the Left.

UPDATE: A "tyranny tour" works, too:

Edward Snowden flees to Ecuador – a country that's cracking down on press freedom. His tyranny tour has undermined his cause[.]

Yeah, Ecuador is no prize in the freedom world:

President Rafael Correa of Ecuador embraces his role as a thorn in Washington's side, railing against U.S. imperialism in speeches and giving WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange refuge in his nation's embassy in London.

You'd think that over four years of President Obama would have had some positive effect on Ecuador's policies regarding America. But no, they'll screw over not-Bush, too.

It's almost as if "hope and change" and promises to restore our reputation abroad were some sort of mindless and meaningless drivel.

"Journalism" in Action

From the Files of Journolist, a fascinating tale of Obama campaign staffers journalists coordinating an effort to nullify the Reverend Jeremiah Wright issue in 2008.

This tale would be distasteful if a presidential campaign had carried it out because of suggestions to make charges of racism against conservatives in order to divert media attention ("Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.").

But aside from repulsive tactics, the idea of countering a bad news day would be perfectly acceptable--for a political campaign team.

For people who are journalists--and those who teach journalism, of all people--to coordinate a response that has nothing to do with gathering and reporting news is just another reason why I have no trust in our media to be actual journalists rather than political operatives on the left.

Tip to Instapundit.

It's a Package Deal, I'm Afraid

India has a rising China, increasingly aggressive about their border claims against India. India's former ally, the Soviet Union, is gone. But at least India has a budding relationship with the only other power capable of taking on China. And what does that new friend's chief diplomat want to talk about? Friggin' climate change.

India might have more immediate concerns on their mind than the question of when the current 15-year lull in global warming might end, signaling the resumption of the countdown to doom:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in New Delhi to urge fast-growing India to curb emissions that contribute to climate change.

Yeah, now we're pivoting to climate change. That's just what you want in a potential ally. Missing the Soviet Union yet, India?

We really are a good ally to have. But you have to take the good with the stupid, I'm afraid.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Shoppng List

We have details of the arms being shipped to the rebels. It matches my suggestions pretty closely.

We've provided training in Jordan and Turkey for Syrian rebels to use a number of weapons that they're getting:

CIA operatives and U.S. special operations troops have been secretly training Syrian rebels with anti-tank and antiaircraft weapons since late last year, months before President Obama approved plans to begin directly arming them, according to U.S. officials and rebel commanders.

The weapons list seems pretty good:

The two-week courses include training with Russian-designed 14.5-millimeter antitank rifles, anti-tank missiles and 23-millimeter antiaircraft weapons, according to a rebel commander in the Syrian province of Dara who helps oversee weapons acquisitions and who asked that his name not be used because the program is secret. ...

Since last year, the weapons sent through the Dara rebel military council have included four or five Russian-made heavy Concourse antitank missiles, 18 14.5-millimeter guns mounted on the backs of pickup trucks and 30 82-millimeter recoil-less rifles.

We're not likely to provide anti-aircraft missiles. I'm fine with that. Unless we send in missiles with our own people (special forces, contractors, CIA, or trusted allied special forces or intelligence people) or missiles designed to expire fairly quickly if not used, I wouldn't risk that. The other anti-aircraft weapons will be sufficient for the depleted Syrian air threat.

Bonus points to me for mentioning recoilless rifles! Anti-tank rifles aren't actually useful against tanks--but they work against lightly armored vehicles or personnel at long ranges.

Yeah, That Does Suck

The left is learning that the only way to ensure the press corps (and their party's leaders) will serve in an oversight role against government violation of civil liberties is to vote Republicans into office:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was booed by progressive activists Saturday for defending President Obama on the NSA’s surveillance programs and suggesting that alleged leaker Edward Snowden broke the law.

Sadly for Representative Pelosi, this Green on Blue Hair incident isn't something to be brushed aside by invoking George W. Bush:

“People on the far right are saying oh, this is the fourth term of President Bush,” the California Democrat said. “Absolutely, positively not so.”

Obviously it isn't so. It is much worse for the left. It is the second term of President Obama. And it seems the far left is more invested in that accusation.

Some of the crowd erupted in boos, with one man screaming, “You suck!”

At least nobody yelled, "You lie!"

If it had been the fourth term of President Bush (under the Bushtatorship, term limits would have been ignored, obviously), the press would have investigated the NSA surveillance some time in the third term. And Pelosi would have led the impeachment with her sidekick Reid trying the case in the Senate. So there wouldn't have been a fourth term after, Code Pink, and Netroots Nation united to chant President Bush out of office.

Tip to Instapundit.

UPDATE: In the end, we can ignore NetRoots. Isn't this just a bunch of white people complaining about our first African-American president?

For the past two days I’ve been one of a sprinkling of minorities floating in a sea of young white people.

And a bunch willing to use a crude sexual insult against a woman speaking to them, I should add. Let's check the misogynist box, too.

Tip to Instapundit, again.

Left Behind

We're leaving a dozen F-16s in Jordan, just in case. What else was left behind?

We're highlighting the air defense assets:

About a dozen U.S. fighter jets will be flying and conducting training operations in Jordan, poised to respond if needed to protect allies if the war in neighboring Syria spills over the border, U.S. administration officials said Friday.

The increased show of U.S. military might — which brings the total number of U.S. forces in Jordan to as many as 1,000 — should be seen as a signal to Syria that it must confine its 2-year-old civil war within its borders, officials said.

Plus Patriot air defense missiles and a headquarters element of the 1st Armored Division (250 troops).

So we've left fighter, air defense, and headquarters units. This is an interesting way to describe what we are doing:

Jordan had asked the U.S. to leave some military troops and equipment behind.

Leaving troops without equipment is pointless. Why specify "equipment?"

And we do have a new base in southwest Jordan--otherwise used to train rebels--that would mean we don't have to move equipment unloaded in Aqaba very far (and so risk detection):

The training began in November at a new American base in the desert in southwestern Jordan[.]

Okay, looking for meaning in word choice is thin gruel. I admit I'm looking for evidence of my pet theory that we could have unloaded the equipment for a Marine brigade in Aqaba, under cover of our large Marine and Navy contribution to the Eager Lion exercises just concluded in Jordan.

But while the evidence for my theory relies heavily on speculation, that's what I'd do were I god of deployments. But we often don't do what I'd do. So there you go.

More War-Like Than the Libya War?

Like any president when faced with competing authority from Congress over military decisions, President Obama notified Congress about our forces being left behind in Jordan in a manner "consistent with" the War Powers Resolution.

Note that the president does not say he is notifying Congress "pursuant to" or "in compliance with" the resolution in his notice to Congress about leaving forces in Jordan after Eager Lion exercises. The president does not cede any constitutional power to Congress with this wording even as he goes along with Congress' expressed view on the war power issue.

Given that the president never even did this much in regard to the Libya War--by denying we were in a war or war-like situation that would fall under the War Powers Resolution--what is planned now?

Back-Seat Driving

While I appreciate the enthusiasm that the Tea Party brings to spending issues, the movement is often isolationist. While their form of isolationism (stay out of their problems since we have our own to worry about) is better than the left's form (we'll make it worse because we are worse than them, so who are we to intervene?), it is still isolationism.

So this annoys me:

Four senators introduced legislation on Thursday that would bar President Barack Obama from providing military aid to Syria's rebels, saying the administration has provided too little information about what they see as a risky intervention.

The bill would prevent the Department of Defense and U.S. intelligence agencies from using any funds to support military, paramilitary or covert operations in Syria, directly or indirectly.

The bill's sponsors - Democrats Tom Udall of New Mexico and Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Republicans Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky - expressed doubts about Washington's ability to ensure weapons will not fall into the wrong hands, and called for debate in Congress before the United States becomes more involved in Syria's civil war.

Deciding to stay out is a decision to allow Russia, Iran, and Assad a free shot at killing and winning. I'd rather take a shot at even an imperfect victory.

Congress surely has the right to intervene this way, in our foreign policy. One can hope that it fails. I imagine it will since the vast majority of Representatives will wish to avoid taking responsibility for the outcome away from President Obama. Then it would have to make it out of the Democratically controlled Senate. And then it would have to be signed by the president--and if not, have the veto overridden.

So this is nothing, really. Which also annoys me.

The New S & M Fetish

Shoes that cost tons of money don't make sense to me (sorry Ms. Minerva).

Isn't it a form of denialism to pay so much money for shoes that fail the basic purpose of shoes--to comfortably protect your feet from the environment? (Tip to Instapundit)

The designer shoe industry, to some extent, relies on the willful suspension of rational thinking, the giving over to a more primal urge (to shop, that is) in order to move merchandise that common sense would suggest is patently, obscenely, even self-destructively overpriced.

And painful in many cases, as feet are squeezed into too small shoes (just ask Al Bundy).

Paying a lot of money to endure pain for the sake of pleasure just makes no sense to me in any context.

But, hey, it's a free country. Until Mayor Bloomberg discovers the issue.

The Other Losing War

I still think Assad is losing his war despite his recent reclaiming of the initiative. Not only do I think he can't use his military power to achieve a lasting objective before he burns out his new combat power, but the economic basis for his war has collapsed as Assad has lost most of Syria.

So far, Iran is paying--in spite of their own financial problems--for Assad to fight:

The fact that the Syrian currency has not already collapsed has surprised some analysts, who thought it would go into free fall as Iraq’s did in the wake of the U.S. invasion. Aid and loan facilities from Iran and Russia may have made the difference. ...

But as the currency turmoil this past week demonstrated, the economic challenges also threaten Assad’s hold on power, and the Syrian government is being forced to rely ever more heavily on Iran and Russia.

Syrian officials refuse to put a figure on the fall in the gross domestic product (GDP) since the civil war started 27 months ago. But in March, the former deputy prime minister for economic affairs, Abdullah Dardari, now with the United Nations, estimated the nation’s GDP had shrunk by just over a third in the last two years.

Russia, too is assisting Assad. I just don't think the tiny Alawite population and willing minority allies can sustain the loss of life that a winning war effort will require. And that's aside from paying for the war effort.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Snatching Regional Defeats from the Jaws of a Victory?

President Obama's failure to defend our gains in Iraq still makes me angry. I draw no satisfaction that this failure is contributing to his our problem with Syria spiraling into a regional problem.

We actually freaking won the Iraq War. We won it when the left said it could not be won. All President Obama had to do was negotiate a status of forces agreement with Iraq by the end of his third year in office. He failed to do that.

Now we struggle with the Syria problem in the shadow of that failure as we move troops into Jordan and hope Turkey isn't too distracted by internal protests to help:

We are now scrambling to put together some kind of presence in Jordan as a defensive counterweight to the Iran-Hezbollah-Russia bloc.

The tragedy is that we once had a counterweight and Obama threw it away. Obama still thinks the total evacuation of Iraq is a foreign-policy triumph. In fact, his inability — unwillingness? — to negotiate a status of forces agreement that would have left behind a small but powerful residual force in Iraq is precisely what compels him today to recreate in Jordan a pale facsimile of that regional presence.

Whatever the wisdom of the Iraq War in the first place, when Obama came to office in January 2009 the war was won. Al-Qaeda in Iraq had been routed. Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite government had taken down the Sadr Shiite extremists from Basra all the way north to Baghdad. Casualties were at a wartime low, the civil war essentially over.

We had a golden opportunity to reap the rewards of this too-bloody war by establishing a strategic relationship with an Iraq that was still under American sway. Iraqi airspace, for example, was under U.S. control as we prepared to advise and rebuild Iraq’s nonexistent air force.

With Iraq firmly in our corner rather than too afraid of Iran to resist Iranian pressure, Assad might be defeated by now. But no, Iranian help flows across Iraq to Assad.

And if Iraq had been in our corner, Hezbollah might see no value in defending their land line of supply through Syria since it would have already been cut at Iraq. So Hezbollah might be hunkering down in Lebanon hoping not to be noticed and wondering what they needed to do to survive without friends nearby.

But at least President Obama is starting to arm the rebels in Syria. As long as we keep that idea of "leveling the playing field" out of the discussions and focus on defeating Assad and preparing Syrian rebels we can tolerate for the fight over Syria after Assad is gone, we could still come out okay.

With Syria out of Iran's hands, Hezbollah will be isolated and bloodied after their fight inside Syria.

And Iran will be out a lot of money and prestige if Syria is lost as a puppet.

Iraq will at least no longer have to give in to Iranian demands to supply Assad through Iraqi air space. And with Iran taking one on the chin, may be able to resist Iran more effectively in general.

The Arab Gulf states will heave a sigh of relief, too, that we are capable of resisting Iranian efforts to dominate the region.

So yeah, we should make the effort to resolve the issues that have exploded without our presence in Iraq to counter the developments. I do think things would be better if we'd acted sooner to oppose Assad. But it is likely true that it is better late than never.

In a World of Evil

Rule of law is a precious thing. Nigerian police liberated a baby factory:

Human trafficking is widespread in west Africa, where children are bought from their families to work in plantations, mines and factories or as domestic help.

Others are sold into prostitution, and less commonly they are tortured or sacrificed in black magic rituals.

Don't tell me there isn't evil. This isn't about lack of opportunity or poverty. This is about forced pregnancies to create a product--a product for which there is a market, I'll add. A product that isn't considered a problem wherever they are sold. A product that is a human being denied humanity. So the evil is widespread.

Gosnell and various slavery houses with women held as sub-human property discovered here remind us that evil isn't something completely foreign.

If our civilization is to endure, we have to defeat evil.

Death on a Bun

Krazy Jim's Blimpyburger is moving from it's house-like home near campus where it has been as long as I can remember. So I had to go there for a burger yesterday:

The line was long. I just heard the land was bought by the University of Michigan. The last couple years I fully intended to eat there, but kind of lost track. Years ago, I ate there rather frequently. As the sign says, they have a low-fat menu option--water. Another sign advises to get that "freshman 15 (pounds) by October"--at Blimpy's, of course.

Of course, I blew that process at the Deep Fryer Nazi station. Memories of how to order the burgers came back to me as I stood in line. But when the surly deep-fry chef asked if I wanted anything from the deep fryer, I simply blurted out my burger order--correctly I should add. She simply gave me a look and repeated her question without any elaboration. The joy of her job was nowhere in sight.

"Oh. No, nothing from the deep fryer," I replied. This is where you get vegetables, after all.

Why you insolent whelp! The last time I ate a burger here you weren't even born! Nice Sysco cap. I had a hand-painted Hobart t-shirt at your age!

I didn't say that. Quite possibly, she wouldn't care one bit.

The fry cook was pleasant, at least. Or perhaps I simply ordered right.

And the cashier was nice, and smiled.

I didn't get a pop. The last time I was there, they had no fountain drinks and they were proud of it. Apparently in the last quarter-century they added a pop dispenser. I'll not be part of that, I assure you.

As a bonus, I got $2 bills and a Kennedy half dollar as change, plus a 1936 penny! I haven't gotten a good penny in ages, it seems. Until yesterday, I had no pennies from the thirties. Just how far in the past is this monument to fried death on a bun?

So I sat and ate my triple burger with bacon and cheddar cheese on a regular bun.

Then I rolled downtown to have a couple pints at my favorite Irish pub in town while I read a book. Then back home to cook dinner for Mister and Lamb.

Ah, a lovely day. I'll have to return for more burgers in the next weeks before they close down. They're to reopen elsewhere, as I understand it. I hope so. Wheat germ and smoothies we have aplenty.

Good Enough So Far

My objectives for Afghanistan have never been high. I just want the place to keep jihadis who want to kill us from establishing safe havens again. Afghanistan is too far from the center of the Moslem world (unlike Iraq) to be much use as an example of success to justify efforts to achieve more. So far the Taliban don't look like they can shoot their way back into power. We will defend our gains here, right?

Strategypage assesses the failure of the Taliban Spring Offensive so far, as American and Western forces watch in a supporting role while Afghan forces bear the brunt of the direct fight:

The Taliban declared the start of the Spring Offensive in early May. This one was supposed to be different from the failed efforts over the last six years. A Spring Offensive has come to mean, in reality, five months of the Taliban killing civilians and the security forces and foreign troops killing a lot of Taliban. This year the Taliban boasted that it would be different, with fewer civilians and more Afghan police and soldiers killed. So far it’s more of the same, with even more civilian casualties from Taliban attacks. These civilian losses were up 20-30 percent this year over last year. So far the Taliban have killed more police but have in turned suffered more losses themselves. It appears that this year’s Spring Offensive will be as much of a flop as the last six were.

Most Afghans ignore the Taliban and their talk of another Spring Offensive. That’s because most of the Taliban activity occurs in two (Kandahar and Helmand) of the 34 provinces. Some 40 percent of the Taliban violence is in ten Kandahar and Helmand districts (out of 398 in the entire country). Why that concentration of Taliban activity? It’s because of the heroin. The Taliban put most of their effort into protecting the districts where some 90 percent of the heroin in Afghanistan is produced. The other areas cursed with Taliban presence are ones that smuggling routes (to get the heroin to the outside world) go through.

So even without our planned offensive in Regional Command East last year, we seem to be doing well enough in our efforts to turn over responsibilities to Afghans.

If we maintain enough troops to provide needed support functions to the Afghans and enough special forces to go after the toughest targets, we'll be fine. I'd like a single combat brigade as the ultimate reserve force, too, but I doubt I'll get that insurance policy.

Would You Say There is a Plethora of Science?

I do get sick of the moral preening of people who use organic foods and insist my consumption of conventional foods is literally something that kills.

This was fun:

There is a plethora of science that supports the safety record of GM foods. As the Skeptico blog pointed out, there are more than 600 studies (>125 of which were independently funded) that stand behind the safety record of GM crops. Scientists have been studying GMOs and their potential effects for decades. With every major scientific body saying the exact same thing, I simply don’t know how else to spell it out: there is a scientific consensus that GM foods are safe. Continuing to act as if the science is mixed or unclear about the safety of genetic modification is not raising a legitimate concern. It’s not even uninformed; it’s denialist. It’s right up there with the claims of anti-vaxers and climate deniers: that is, simply, flat-out, 100%, dead wrong.

Hey, here's one study he links to about that consensus.

He gets added credibility for his lumping of global warming skepticism in with the other denial positions. That's fine. I'll take allies in different battles without requiring purity. As I've said on that issue, in general the climate is warming over a long enough study period. But it has warmed and cooled without our contribution. So whether our recent contribution of carbon output is important enough to cripple our economy to "fix" our carbon output at a rapid rate is my biggest question.

And if you don't want more nuclear power and natural gas fracking, I guess you have higher priorities than reducing carbon output, too.

If people want to spend way more money for organics and non-GM foods because it makes them feel better--more power to them. It's a free country. But I don't have whatever issues that some of them have that leads them to believe they are saving the world one free-range strawberry at a time; and I have better uses for my money. So leave me the eff alone, eh? I do deny your moral superiority and your scientific superiority.

Or are you telling me that you believe President Obama's Department of Agriculture is letting children die by refusing to ban anything that isn't organic?

Tip to Instapundit.