American Elephants


Time Favors ISIS. They Are At the Gates of Baghdad. by The Elephant's Child

A new Report from the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) reveals that President Barack Obama has attended only 42.1% of his daily intelligence briefings during his entire presidency. In his first term the president attended 42.2% of his Presidential Daily Briefs (PDPs), and 41.3% in his second term. This finding comes on the heels of Obama’s 60 Minutes comments in which he blamed his Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for any lack of awareness of ISIS rapid rise.

Obama said “I think our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.”

Members of the Defense establishment were “flabbergasted” by Obama’s attempt to shift blame, according to Eli Lake of the Daily Beast. Members of the intelligence community said that Obama has shown longstanding disinterest in receiving personal Daily Briefings that allow the Commander-in-Chief the opportunity to ask questions, clarify that which is not clear, and challenge flawed intelligence assumptions. He gets his briefs in writing.  A Security staffer told The Daily Mail that the president has not taken in-person intelligence briefings with any regularity since 2009.

Retired Air Force General Michael Hayden, former director of the CIS and NSA, said it was dangerous for President Obama to only read intelligence briefings instead of getting a briefing with an agent he can have a “human engage” with during a back-and-forth questioning session. On Tuesday, on Newsmax TV’s “The Steve Malzberg Show,  Hayden explained that could lead to the policymaker only seeing what he would like the world to be, and not recognizing the reality of events. He said it was not merely a matter of style, but dangerous.

With the delivery of only a written report, it is not known whether the president reads it or sets it aside, nor if the report was understood as it was meant to be understood.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) said the intelligence community had warned President Obama about the threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria for “over a year. “This was not an Intelligence community failure, but a failure by policy makers to confront the threat,” Rogers said in a statement on Monday. “For over a year, U.S. intelligence agencies specifically warned that ISIL was taking advantage of the situation in Syria to recruit members and provoke violence that could spill into Iraq and the rest of the region.”

Rogers said his committee had formally pressed the administration to act against the terror threat in 2013. “Additionally, national security experts — both inside and outside the government — repeatedly warned, a year before ISIL’s drive into Mosul, that the Iraq Security Forces faced severe pressure; the House Intelligence Committee held a hearing on that very issue in early 2014.”

It has long been reported that President Obama prefers to get reports from his cabinet members, his czars, and staff members in short written summaries.

I prefer written information to videos or radio. Even when it comes to speeches, I would rather read the transcript, so I can go back and re-read sentences as necessary. But reports suggest that Mr. Obama doesn’t want reports either, but just brief summaries. This speaks to a particular mindset, someone impatient with having to read anything lengthy — a lazy reader. Sometimes a piece is too long, the writer does not get to the point, and the material is longer than the time available — but the importance of the information should trump laziness. It is particularly odd for a former law student. The law depends on careful reading of every word, for an entire case can be built on careless words.

But there’s ideology as well, and Mr. Obama clearly has a particular ideological view of the world that many of us on the right find problematical. The Left envisions humanity as perfectible, once they get the right regulations and controls in place. And once they have fixed the people, we will have peace permanently. War is unnatural and should be prevented. Those of us on the Right recognize human nature as messy and quarrelsome, and though we would certainly prefer peace, we recognize that nations have as much trouble getting along as members of a family do.

Obama has a seeming inability to accept blame for anything. Whatever it is is definitely not his fault. His failure to attend daily intelligence briefings, in view of current events, is a major flap in the media. Will this be sufficient to make him realize that more attention is needed? He is famously indecisive, and inclined to dither and procrastinate. Yet time favors ISIS. The more we dither, the more entrenched ISIS will become. They are reported to be only a mile from Baghdad.

You can’t bomb this into a “manageable problem,” Mr. President. The number one task for a Commander-in-Chief is to decide. George W. Bush said “I’m the decider.” Harry Truman has a sign on his desk that said “The buck stops here.”



When It’s a Hard Question, Whose Advice Matters? by The Elephant's Child

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Michael Ramirez, as usual, gets it right. To whom do you listen? Who do you trust? Who is the best qualified? When do you change your mind and why?

(h/t:Investors)



The Rise of the New Caliphate and Its Inevitable Fall by The Elephant's Child

ISIS-fighters
Here’s your Sunday reading assignment. I know, I  know, you don’t have the time, and why should you pay any attention to my advice about your choices in what you want to read anyway? I read these three pieces and have been pondering them ever since. Real food for thought, and I’d love to start a conversation. But of course it’s entirely up to you. You would find them deeply informative, in contrast to the media take.

— The first is a conversation between Michael Vlahos, a professor of history at the Naval War College, and John Batchelor on the John Batchelor show on Friday, September 26. They remind us that Syria is a product of the West’s attempt to cut up and redefine the remnants of the Ottoman Empire in the wake of the First World War. Clemenceau, Lloyd George, and Wilson attempted to divide up the Ottoman Empire into nation states in imitation of — ourselves. Professor Vlahos’s theme is our lack of understanding of Islam and the Middle East — and the quagmire we are blundering into without understanding. It’s just over 18 minutes, but worth your time.

— The second is an article by Edward N. Luttwak,  from the Hoover Institution’s “Strategika” which intends to use conflicts of the past as lessons for the present: “Caliphate Redivivus? Why a Careful Look at the 7th Century Can Predict How the New Caliphate Will End.” Never fear, the article is hardly long enough to compensate for the long title. It takes us on a speed run through the history of the Muslim Caliphates, to note that when modern Muslims invoke the Caliphate as their ideal of governance for the Ummah, the planetary community of all Muslims and all humans once converted or killed if stubbornly pagan, they refer way back to the rule of Muhammad’s first four “rightly guided” successors who followed one after another after his death in 632. Not least because their reign saw the collapse of the then all-powerful  Roman and Sassanian empires who had long dominated all the lands of the Middle East fertile enough to be worth ruling. Wildly improbable victories, that were soon followed by waves of conquest across northern Africa to the Atlantic and as far east as the eastern edges of Central Asia.

— The third is another piece from the Hoover Institution’s “Strategika” on “The Rise and Inevitable Fall of the ISIS Caliphate” by Peter R. Mansoor. The rise of the modern al Qaeda in the Hindu Kush in the Soviet-Afghan conflict in the 1980’s goal is to 1.) attack the”far enemy” — the United States— to force its withdrawal from the affairs of the Islamic world, 2.) destabilize the “near enemy” — the Arab/Islamic states of the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia 3.) destroy Israel, and 4.) recreate the caliphate that ruled the Islamic during it’s heyday a millennium ago. The first part of the strategy was 9/11.

The near-term response was not what they expected, but the longer-term outcome may be more in their favor as Americans seem to tire of seemingly endless conflict. The U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq along with the more recent uprisings of the Arab spring have seriously weakened a number of the Islamic states. The new jihadist proto-state in Mesopotamia and the Levant is an emerging reality.

Is it really a case of no matter what we do—we’re screwed? Or is it only a case of treading cautiously and encouraging alternatives around the inevitable collapse of the Islamic State?

A ” transparent” White House would help, and a media more interested in reporting the facts would also help — but in the meantime we’re left to our own defenses. Informed is better than the alternatives.



In the Movies, the Music Warns You. In Real Life, You’re On Your Own by The Elephant's Child

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You know the moment in the movie when the music turns anxious, the lighting changes subtly and you are struck with a feeling of dread? Something really bad is about to happen. In real life, you don’t often get those warnings. The people of Honolulu were enjoying another sunny day on December 6, 1941, oblivious to what was going to happen the next morning. And sometimes we get all sorts of warnings, and pay no attention, sure that things will turn out fine. Is there a name for the music of dread — I think I hear it rising in the distance.

General Ray Odierno, Army Chief of Staff, has said “the rapid spread of threats around the world and growing demands on the U.S. military should prompt a review of deep cuts scheduled in the size of America’s ground forces.” The active-duty Army still has 510,000 service members, but the Army is due to shrink to 490,000 by the end of next year, then to 450,000 by the end of 2017 and to 420,000 by the end of the decade.

“Many lawmakers and military advocates consider the planned cuts untenable, but no reconsideration of the reductions is under way.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey testified that he, unlike Obama, is not ruling out ground forces if the strategy of airstrikes and reliance on Iraqi and Kurd forces, and “moderate: Syrian rebels fails, which is likely.

General Lloyd Austin, CENTCOM commander has recommended combat troops.

Robert Gates, Obama’s first Defense secretary and a former CIA Director told CBS that in repeating that there won’t be U.S. ground forces, Obama, “in effect, traps himself” because ground forces will be needed.

Retired Marine General James Mattis, who also served under Obama accused the president of tying the hands of the military by taking a major military option “off the table, up front.”

Russia Bear bombers are probing the West’s Arctic borders, and NATO and U.S. fighters have scrambled to turn them back.

Leon Panetta, Obama’s former Secretary of Defense told CBS that ISIS has flourished because the U.S. left Iraq too soon, and involved Syria too late.

Robert Samuelson writes in The Washington Post of America’s neglected defense. Defense makes a tempting target for budget-cutters. A unanimous report from a congressionally mandated task, the National Defense Panel. It warns that defense cutbacks “constitute a serious strategic misstep [that has] caused significant investment shortfalls in U.S. readiness and…have prompted our current and potential allies and adversaries to question our commitment and resolve.” The panel was co-chaired by William Perry, defense secretary  1994-1997 under Clinton, retired four-star general John Abizaid, and Michele Flournoy, Obama’s undersecretary of defense from 2009 to 2012.

Higher defense spending is in our national interest because global order is in our interest. Global order is not guaranteed, but without a strong U.S. military, the odds of global disorder are much greater. The current concern seems to be with short-term political interests rather than National Defense.

Obama says he will take a very hands-on approach to the campaign against Islamist militants in Syria. He has repeated his phrase “no boots on the ground” and “no combat mission” many times. He has indicated that “he will exert a high degree of personal control, going so far as to require that the military obtain presidential signoff for strikes in Syrian territory.” The Federalist noticed  parallels with Lyndon Johnson and the bombing of North Vietnam. “Interference from Washington seriously hampered the campaign. President Johnson allegedly boasted on one occasion that “they can’t even bomb an outhouse without my approval.”

Hear the sinister music rising in the background and getting slightly louder….?



Putin Warns Europe That Winter Is Coming. by The Elephant's Child

Putin in Darkness

“the space between war and peace is not an empty one—but a landscape churning with political, economic, and security competitions that require constant attention.”   Nadia Schadlow

Well, we haven’t been tending to that landscape, and it is telling. “Right after President Obama traveled to Estonia and gave a public address warning Russia not to meddle further in its near-abroad and pronouncing the  U.S.-led Nato coalition’s vow to protect Estonia, and other such countries in the neighborhood, from Russian aggression. Putin has gotten quite creative in his demonstrations of contempt for Obama.”

Putin has watched Obama offer mostly empty words, self-contradictions, and confused backtracking on foreign policy and decided that Obama is not someone to fear or respect. Putin is not alone in this assessment of Obama. He’s just the only leader currently using Obama’s weakness and indecision as an excuse to invade Europe.

Russian officers abducted Estonian security official Eston Kohver, and tossed him in a Russian Jail, accusing him of spying for Estonia and running afoul of Russian gun-possession laws. They took him to Moscow and paraded him in front of television cameras.

The New York Times is reporting that Russia is in talks with Iran to help Iran get around sanctions intended to curb its nuclear program. The Polish government has said that Russia’s state gas company, Gazprom, has been cutting supplies to Poland by at least twenty percent.

The NATO summit approved the creation of a rapid-response force to counter Russian aggression in NATO countries — and suggested headquartering it in Poland. Putin looked to prove Obama’s promises to Estonia to be empty, he apparently plans to show that promises to Poland are equally empty, even if Poland is a NATO ally.

Seth Mandel says that Russia is “unlikely to just cut energy supplies to a whole swath of Europe. Moscow needs the revenue and the influence the revenue buys.” On the other hand, “Putin in not above reminding his neighbors that Obama has not proved himself willing to defend them, and they ought not bite the hand that feeds, especially if there’s no alternative.”



What Was Missing In Obama’s Foreign Policy by The Elephant's Child

From Defense analyst Nadia Schadlow writing at warontherocks.com — via the WSJ’s Notable & Quotable column Sept. 7, 2014:

President Obama’s commitment to reducing America’s reliance on the military instrument of power is well-known. It has been a constant theme of his presidency—from his first presidential campaign through his major speech on foreign policy at West Point earlier this year. It is therefore paradoxical that the administration’s foreign policy outlook and operational style have made use of the military instrument almost unavoidable. By failing to understand that the space between war and peace is not an empty one—but a landscape churning with political, economic, and security competitions that require constant attention—American foreign policy risks being reduced to a reactive and tactical emphasis on the military instrument by default. . . .

The tactical mindset that dominates national security decision-making prioritizes military means over political ends and confuses activity (such as the bombing of enemy positions) with progress. Because the use of military force is not connected to operational plans for subsequent political consolidation, the United States vacates the space between war and peace. And because they cannot match American military power directly, it is in this space—battlegrounds of perception, coercion, mass atrocity—that America’s enemies and adversaries prefer to operate.

“the space between war and peace is not an empty one—but a landscape churning with political, economic, and security competitions that require constant attention.” I love it when someone calls to our attention something seemingly obvious to which we pay little attention, and changes the pattern of our thought.

Excellent website. Add warontherocks to your  choice website list!



What Makes Them Join the Jihad? by The Elephant's Child

Michael Ledeen has gone directly to the nub of the question. Why do they join the Jihad? Why are they flocking to ISIS?

Because it gives meaning to life, that’s why.

It’s a commonplace to anyone who’s studied the rise of fascism, of which Islamofascism is the most recent variety.  The main problem with democratic capitalism is that it’s so successful, and therefore very boring.  A generation or two of European intellectuals bemoaned the great triumph of science and industry, which they portrayed as relentlessly stifling the human soul, burying us under a hill of material things.

The Germans produced the most moving such literature — think Nietzsche, think Hesse, not accidentally the cult hero of the American revolt against materialism in the 1960s — and, seeking for paths to spiritual fulfillment, they often wandered off into Eastern mysticism.  (Californians dd, too, and sometimes still do, but that’s not fascism.  It’s Hollywood spirituality).

The spiritual path merged with politics, catalyzed by war.  All fascism, whatever version of social or political organization it advocates, insists that war is the true measure of human virtue.  A person’s valor and courage are measured by his performance in combat.  The Italian fascists insisted that Mussolini and his followers were superior people who had been molded in the trenches of the Great War.  Young men and women who believed they possessed heroic qualities raced to join the fascist movement, just as they now race to join the jihad.

Dr. Ledeen points out that though there is considerable literature on the recruitment of poor young Muslims to suicide bombing, the recruiters promise money and security to the surviving family. The immediate passion is the thrill of fighting the enemy and making a real difference in creating a new world.

Religious rituals and beliefs work, as long as the movement succeeds. When we crush the jihad, killing the jihadis before they kill us — we destroy the ideology by demonstrating that their leaders are false prophets.




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