American Elephants


Too Much Politics, Too Little Strategy and Determination. by The Elephant's Child

obama-1Iraqi officials have issued a desperate plea for America to bring U.S. ground troops back to Iraq. Islamic State fighters have advanced as far as Abu Ghraib, a town that is  within eight miles of the Iraqi capital. A senior governor claimed there are up to 10,000 fighters from the movement now poised to assault the capital. The warning came from the president of the provisional council of Anbar Province, the vast desert province west of Baghdad that has largely fallen to the jihadists.

If Anbar is fully controlled by ISIS, it gives their ground forces a springboard to mount an all-out assault on Baghdad, the nation’s capital. A team of 1,500 U.S. troops are in Baghdad acting as mentors to the Iraqi army.

International attention has been focused on the Syrian border town of Kobane, where Kurdish fighters are battling to keep the ISIS fighters at bay, but Anbar is barely holding their own. A senior U.S. defence official said it’s fragile there.”They are being resupplied and the are holding their own, but it’s tough and challenging.”

Obama made bringing American troops home from the Middle East a cornerstone of his administration’s policy. Some suggest he just wants to hold ISIS back with airstrikes until after the election, at which point he’ll just let ISIS have it. With no troops on the ground to identify targets, the airstrikes are having limited effect. They are also much less than we are capable of.

Obama came to the White House with a flawed view of the world, sure that conflict was simply a matter of Republican warmongers and Republican intransigence. Problems could be solved with constructive talks. A “why can’t we all get along” view, which suffers from a failure to recognize human nature and real intent. He’s tried  all sorts of outreach and talks and offers, and promises of peace and understanding — and the world has decided that he is a weak doormat, and they had best charge ahead and take what they can while the taking is good.



If I Just Ignore the Headlines, Maybe It Will All Go Away! by The Elephant's Child

Headlines today:

This last was accompanied by a sub-head that said “Obama is backing indirect talks with Moscow aimed at cutting U.S. non-strategic nukes in Europe”. Is there a major disconnect here?

We are waging a casual sort of low-intensity war, one far below our capabilities, and seem uninterested in stopping ISIS’s advance. But we are supposed to assume that the president is thinking hard about the war against jihadists. The White House is drafting options that would allow President Obama to close the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, overriding a congressional ban on bringing detainees to the U.S., senior administration officials said.

It is simply impossible to discern the mindset that is guiding this president. What can he possibly be thinking? This is the president who traded five Taliban military commanders for a U.S. military deserter, and released them to the very people who support and pay for the activities of the Taliban— and apparently thought we would be delighted that we got our guy back. And promoted him to sergeant.

It is not just that he doesn’t seem to understand, or even be interested in, world affairs but he’s just disconnected. He’s operating in some other world in which the next speech, the next talks, will change the world to comply with the one in his head — because he has a gift, and he can sway multitudes with the sound of his voice. If he just ignores it, it will all go away? If he just pretends hard enough, he will awaken to find it’s all right? He thought all he had to do was make speeches? Nobody told him about the hard decisions? But who’s going to pay the price?



The President is Seriously Not Involved. A Case of “Whatever.” by The Elephant's Child

Several articles today have questioned the commitment of this administration to the war on ISIS. Jimmy Carter said that Obama has been too slow to act against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and gives his current strategy only “a possibility of success,” provided it involves some ground troops. And there have been many discussions of former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’ new book in which he suggests that the fight against terrorism will be a 30-year war.

Rich Lowry called it  “A War for Show.” He said:

When you are too passive for Jimmy Carter, it’s time for some soul-searching in the Situation Room. The late-1970s are calling and want their foreign policy back.

The war against ISIL so far is desultory and occasional, a campaign of underwhelming force. ISIL has still been on the verge of taking the Syrian town of Khobani abutting the Turkish border and on the offensive in Iraq. The erstwhile JV team is defying all the military might that the world’s lone superpower is willing to muster.

I thought I should check into how that war is going from an official source, so I went to the Department of Defense website. >100 U.S. Marines are in Liberia to handle refueling and supply support for the international response to contain an Ebola outbreak in the country. >Hagel is going to a meeting in South America. >Kendall is encouraged about Defense trade progress with India. And then > Airstrikes target ISIL in Syria and Iraq. And >Troops Support Breast Cancer Awareness.

If you prowl around a little, you can find where all the attack, fighters, bombers and remotely piloted aircraft conducted nine airstrikes. They got two airstrikes on ISIL training facilities, two ISIL vehicles, struck two small units and damaged a tank. There’s far more information there on everything under the purview of the Department of Defense. The War on Ebola ranks higher than the War on ISIS for whatever reason. That will not change until ISIS hits us hard here at home, and Homeland Security is quite certain that no ISIS fighters have crossed the border, though others have counted significant numbers.

The President clearly does not want to be involved in Iraq in any way. His number one concern, as always, is Democratic Party politics — which trumps anything else. He has no experience with anything military other than his grandfather serving in Patton’s army, which he mentions now and then. When even Jimmy Carter is criticizing you, you have some soul-searching to do. But Jimmy Carter was a submariner if I remember correctly.

There are some photo essays with pictures of airplanes, or military activities, but the overall impression is that there’s nothing particularly serious going on. Political correctness, gender awareness, or breast cancer awareness are as important as military lives at risk, and destroying one of the trucks we left for the Iraqi army is about as big a deal as anything else.  Not serious.



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 had 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

cTOON1_0930.gif.cms

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

article-2548628-1B12DCF800000578-568_964x632

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….?




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,735 other followers

%d bloggers like this: