American Elephants


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.



No, This Isn’t a Particularly Scary Thriller — It’s Quite Real! by The Elephant's Child

Investors is reporting today on Islamist militias seizure of eleven airliners at the Tripoli airport in Libya last month, so it is apparently true, although the State Dept. has “no confirmation.” So we have eleven airliners in the hands of terrorists, and should they not need them immediately, they can take advanced courses in flight in the United States, and maintenance too. We’re just a wide open welcoming country.

We may not have a strategy for dealing with militant Islam, but they have plans for dealing with us. It includes recruiting those who live here, or have passports to get here, or who have enough funds to pay a coyote to escort them across the border.

ISIS has posted photos on social media of its flag and a hand-written message in Arabic taken in front of the White House and in front of Chicago’s Old Republic Building on Michigan Avenue with the warning:

“We are in your state, we are in your cities, and we are in your streets.”

Foreign Policy reported on a laptop captured near the Turkish border in a fight with ISIS.

The laptop’s contents turn out to be a treasure trove of documents that provide ideological justifications for jihadi organizations — and practical training on how to carry out the Islamic State’s deadly campaigns. They include videos of Osama bin Laden, manuals on how to make bombs, instructions for stealing cars, and lessons on how to use disguises in order to avoid getting arrested while traveling from one jihadi hot spot to another.

The owner was a Tunisian national who joined ISIS in Syria and who studied chemistry and physics at two Tunisian universities. Among others was a 19 page document in Arabic on how to develop biological weapons and how to weaponize bubonic plague from infected animals. And how to deliver them to the West.

Use small grenades with the virus, and throw them in closed areas like metros, soccer stadiums, or entertainment centers,” the 19-page document on biological weapons advises. “Best to do it next to the air-conditioning. It also can be used during suicide operations.”

May 2, 2011 — the raid on the Abbottabad compound of Osama bin Laden resulted not just in the death of bin Laden, but in a secondary mission of gathering up as much intelligence as possible. The haul, according to the Weekly Standard, was immense: 10 hard drives, 100 thumb drives, a dozen cell phones, data cards, DVDs, audiotapes, paper files, magazines and newspapers. A senior official described it as material that could fill a small college library. Another called it the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever more than a million documents “detailing al Qaeda’s funding, training, personnel, and future plans.” all of great intelligence value for an “understanding of the enemy we have fought for over a decade at the cost of trillions of dollars and thousands of  American lives.”

What has the government done with this treasure trove? Not much. Not anything close to a full exploitation — maybe 10 percent. The CIA was in charge and blocked access by other agencies. The narrative was simple: “Al Qaeda is on the path to defeat.” And al Qaeda has been decimated” and “al Qaeda is on the run.”

“The administration chose to portray short-term tactical successes as long-term strategic victories.” And it gets worse. The administration planned a release of handpicked documents on the anniversary of the raid. One which detailed the close relations between al Qaeda and the Taliban was withheld because the administration had started secret negotiations with the Taliban, and the release might have complicated the negotiations.

This is a long article — “special from the forthcoming issue of the Weekly Standard.” but not one you want to miss by Stephen F. Hayes, who is an outstanding reporter.

This is an administration focused more on their own public persona than on any actual facts. They had a lot riding on the claim that al Qaeda was dead along with bin Laden (Obama’s triumph), and would not rise again, and not only that,  but had no connection to other terrorist groups that might pop up. As Investors said:

A former Pentagon official told Fox News that Obama received specific intelligence in daily briefings about the Islamic State’s rise. The information was said to be “granular” in detail, laying out IS’ intentions and capabilities for at least a year before it seized big chunks of Iraqi territory and started beheading Americans.

Obama’s indifference to the briefings was an issue during the 2012 campaign, when former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen observed that Obama personally attended only 44% of them. Obama’s perceived lack of interest in a terror war, which he claimed was won prior to the Benghazi attack, mirrors his reported lack of interest in the rise of the Islamic State.



Obama Takes Another Deliberate Step to Weaken the U.S. by The Elephant's Child

In the 1980s, there was a wave of terrorist incidents involving Libyans, and Pan Am Flight 103 was brought down by a bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland in December of 1988. The Reagan administration reacted by prohibiting Libyans from coming to the U.S. to attend flight school, work in aviation maintenance or flight operations, or to study or seek training in nuclear science.

Without going into the long conflict with Libya, with Muammar Gaddafi, in the so-called Arab Spring in 2011, demonstrators across northern Africa ousted former rulers in Tunis and Egypt and it resulted in a protracted civil war in Libya and the eventual execution of Gaddafi. The Arab Spring did not turn out to be the stunning move to democracy that our administration expected. A year later, militants attacked the American compound in Benghazi, killed our ambassador, his technological support officer, and two brave former SEAL contractors. Libya remains in turmoil, and the terror threat there continues.

The Obama administration has surprisingly decided to lift the longstanding prohibition on Libya, by turning a blind eye to real terrorist threats and forged ahead with its plan to allow Libyan pilots and nuclear scientists to study in the U.S. — although only weeks ago Americans working at the American embassy in Tripoli were evacuated due to battles between rival rebel groups.

The House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security and the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security held hearings, and demanded documents on the issue from DHS, which were never provided.

There are unconfirmed reports that there are eleven passenger jetliners missing from the main airport in Tripoli.  The State Department has said they have no confirmation, so this may be only rumor, but a scary one.

The Committee Chairmen are troubled. Chairman Goodlatte: “The House Judiciary Committee has repeatedly sought information about the Administration’s policy reversal but political appointees at the Department of Homeland Security have stonewalled the Committee’s requests and have not articulated why it is in Americans’ best interests to change policy. Given the ongoing volatility in Libya, it is unconscionable and completely irresponsible that the Administration plans to lift a longstanding policy that protects Americans and our national security from threats in the region.”

Chairman Gowdy: “The burden of proof for advocating a change in the status quo lies with the Administration. Is post-revolutionary Libya secure enough to change the rules? Why now? What evidence does the Administration have to assert the relationship between Libya and the US has indeed normalized? It is extremely concerning that DHS is moving forward with these plans, but has not provided information on the policy change despite repeated requests from Members.”

Congressman Chaffetz : “It is unbelievable that this Administration is willing to put Americans in harm’s way by lifting a decades-old security ban on a country challenged by instability. This makes no sense. None.  Recent events – such as the 2012 attack on our U.S. Consulate in Benghazi – do not indicate a nation where things have been ‘normalized.’  Rather they seem to be ingredients of a failed state in the making.”

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has approved a final regulation to lift the Reagan era prohibition on Libyans which was put in place in 1960. The administration justifies it’s action by claiming the relationship with Libya has “improved”, evidenced by evacuating the embassy?

Perhaps this falls under “organizing the Middle East.” Why any administration would want to train more Middle Eastern nuclear scientists is beyond me, nor what illusions they have about the world. According to studies, Republicans are 13% more inclined to consider al Qaeda or ISIS as a threat than Democrats. And Republicans are 18% more concerned about Iran’s nuclear program than Democrats are. Go figure.

Vladimir Putin reminded us on Friday, as Russian tanks and troops poured into eastern Ukraine: “I want to remind you that Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear nations,” he said. “This is a reality, not just words.” Russia, is “strengthening our nuclear deterrence forces.”

Well at least somebody is capable of straight, tough speech. Unfortunately he’s on the wrong side.



The Painful Work Of Crafting A Winning Message! by The Elephant's Child

Obama is having a hard time developing a message. 1.) “We know that if we are joined by the international community, we can continue to shrink ISIL’s sphere of influence, its effectiveness, its finances, its military capabilities to the point where it is a manageable problem.”

And 2.) “So the bottom line is this: Our objective is clear, and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL so that it’s no longer a threat not just to Iraq but also the region and to the United States.”

Sphere of influence? Manageable problem? In his statement on Sotloff’s murder, Obama said the killers “make the absurd claim that they kill in the name of religion , but it was Steven, his friends say, who deeply loved the Islamic world.” Absurd?

Obama said: “[W]hat we’ve got to do is make sure that we are organizing the Arab world, the Middle East, the Muslim world, along with the international community to isolate this cancer.” Who are the “international community” and what does “organizing the Arab world” mean?

This is all so confused. It’s a morass of misunderstandings, political correctness, multiculturalism, ignorance and plain old leftist theology. ISIS has changed their name several times, always beginning with the word “Islamic” — the latest iteration is the Islamic State. They are restoring the Islamic Caliphate, and they are not killing in the name of religion? Of course they are.

You noticed the vast demonstrations across the world by Muslims rising up to denounce the beheadings that ISIS claimed to be doing in the name of Islam, didn’t you? The Moslem religion has a sector of it that is intent on returning to the 7th century, is extraordinarily violent, intolerant, and viciously cruel. The part that is the “Religion of Peace” needs to figure out how to deal with the 7th century part. And this is what Obama speaks of “organizing”?

The Left was so busy hating George W. Bush and therefore hating the War in Iraq, that they never managed to gain any understanding of why we were there, what we accomplished and what we didn’t accomplish and why. They didn’t learn anything about Iraq, or about the people and most of what they did learn wasn’t true.

Obama blamed America for the rise of ISIS. At the American Legion’s National Convention last month, he said the answer for ISIS “evolving terrorist threat: is not for America to “occupy” countries and end up “feeding extremism.” “The answer in not to send in large scale military deployments that over stretch our military, and lead for us occupying countries for a long period of time and end up feeding extremism.” That didn’t go over particularly well with the Legionnaires. It’s gobbledygook.

You can see what a mess his view of Iraq is. He probably thinks his greatest accomplishment was getting us out of Iraq, and the faster the better.  With the press telling us constantly about the “war-weary” American people, he undoubtedly thought he was doing just the thing that would make him popular, but you don’t want to put too much faith in the American media, nor in polls. Obama has known about the rise of ISIS for over a year, but been uninterested in the briefings. When he got the troops out and downsized our military, he thought he was done. He doesn’t know how to do war.

Yet he has watched ISIS grow exponentially, gain wealth unimaginable from capturing Iraq’s banks and businesses and from capturing the oil fields, and gain high quality military equipment from what fleeing Iraqi troops left behind. Now they have captured an airfield in Syria, to round out the supply of helicopters, tanks and trucks. We are told that America is conducting “targeted air strikes” but further information tells us “we destroyed a couple of trucks.” Not quite what I thought targeted air strikes meant.

All the leftist claptrap of the past 40 years, the multiculturalism, the political correctness, the invented rights, cultural relativism, views of the other, not only color our views of a different culture, but prevent understanding  and make “organizing” the Middle East a little difficult. So it is not surprising that Obama cannot come up with a strategy or see the situation clearly. At least Joe Biden was a little clearer—he recommended Bombing ISIS back into the Stone Age.

At a ceremony today to appoint Texas Lawyer Shaarik Zafar to be special representative to Muslim communities, Secretary of State John Kerry said it was the United States’ “Biblical responsibility” to ” confront climate change,’ which included protecting “vulnerable Muslim majority countries.

Kerry said Scripture, in particular the Book of Genesis, make clear it is our “duty” to protect the planet and we should look at Muslim countries “with a sense of stewardship of earth,” adding, “That responsibility comes from God.”

Members of Congress are a lot clearer, or at least the members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) said they are on the same page. “This is exactly the reason why we have to go after ISIS, why we cannot just let them wreak havoc there. They are killers. They are Brutal,” Rep Engel said.
“Target them and target the terrorist training camps where they’re bringing thousands of fighters from around the world,” said Royce. “Those camps and the munitions should be targeted as well.”

Obama’s inability to come up with a strategy is causing dismay on both sides of the aisle, and members of Congress are quite ready to speak out, both to urge action from the president and to stake out their own positions for the upcoming election.




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