American Elephants


Foreign Policy is Hard. A Crumbling Worldview. by The Elephant's Child

In today’s press briefing, deputy press secretary Eric Schultz was asked why the administration was unwilling to negotiate with terrorists in the case of journalist James Foley, yet in the case of Bowe Bergdahl  he was willing to release five important Taliban leaders from Guantanamo.

“I think, again, what the president made clear at the time of the Guantanamo transfer was that his commitment to the men and women that serve overseas is a bedrock one, that we will leave no man or woman behind. That’s what he was keeping faith with, and that’s something that’s unshakeable for him,” Schultz said.

“As we’ve made previously clear, the administration determined that it was lawful to proceed with a transfer in order to protect the life of a U.S. servicemember held captive and in danger for almost five years, notwithstanding that Congress did not receive the 30 days’ notice. Again, we disagree with GAO’s conclusion and we reject the implication that the administration acted unlawfully.

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes earlier called the beheading of James Foley a” terrorist attack.”

The fact of the matter is, we’ve actually seen, you know, ISIL seek to advance too close to our facilities, certainly for our own comfort. And so the president’s decision to take military action a number of weeks ago was out of direct concern that if they were able to get into Erbil, that they could pose a threat to our personnel and our consulate there. So, we have seen them posing a threat to our interests in the region, to our personnel and facilities in the region, and clearly, the brutal execution of Jim Foley represented an affront, an attack, not just on him, but he’s an American and we see that as an attack on our country when one of our own is killed like that.”

Can’t let accusations that the president possibly didn’t do enough to try to get Foley back. Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism said that it attempted to rescue the American citizens held by ISIS last summer. Se added that they could not reveal details of the operation. Then more administration spokesmen kept revealing more details. The Pentagon had a statement, Marie Harf, embarrassing State Department spokesperson, had a statement. I don’t know who else had a statement, but we have learned way too many details. We really didn’t need to reveal any details of a failed operation, supposedly based on bad intel.

Except the president’s advisers are quite determined that everybody should know that he did too care, and he ordered an operation, and it’s not his fault if r else screwed up. The misunderstanding is that the most important thing at this time when the president is relaxing on vacation, is to know that he’s completely on top of everything. No it’s not, and he isn’t.

What we must remember about ISIS, or any of the terrorist organizations, is that they advance by causing terror. The more they can scare every observer, the more people will do their bidding. They want to do the awfulest, most horrifying thing ever seen — to impress upon the rest of the world that — resistance is futile.

The president’s worldview is crumbling under the assault of events. He was convinced that getting us out of Iraq completely, closing Guantanamo, and getting us out of Afghanistan would make him an historic figure. Giving everyone medical insurance, and moving the nation away from dreaded fossil fuels and into safe, natural energy from the wind and the sun would be transformative. He would be the strongest  possible contrast with the hated George W. Bush. But the world is isn’t as simple as he presumed.

If he was elected to get us out of Iraq, he is now faced with getting us back in. Drone strikes and air strikes may not be enough, yet he is unable to admit error. What next?



The Obama Administration Violated the Law By Releasing Gitmo Detainees in Exchange for Bowe Bergdahl. by The Elephant's Child

From Powerline:

The Government Accounting Office has concluded that the Obama Defense Department violated section 8111 of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act when it transferred five detainee at Guantanamo Bay to Qatar without providing at least 30 days notice to certain congressional committees. Section 8111 prohibits the Defense Department from using appropriated funds to transfer any individuals detained at Gitmo unless the Secretary of Defense provides such notification.

The GAO also found that by using its appropriations in a manner specifically prohibited by law, DOD violated the Antideficiency Act, as well.

These five individuals were considered to be the equivalent of “Top Brass” for the Taliban, and were transferred to Qatar, a government that is a major supporter of terrorist groups. It is a major backer of Hamas.

The prisoner transfer was part of the deal in which the Taliban released Bowe Bergdahl in another example of Obama’s disregard for the law, and common sense.

Obama has been intent on trying to empty Guantanamo Bay of any detainees, apparently under the assumption that the world hated us because we had detainees at Gitmo. Early detainees were pictured shackled, in orange jumpsuits behind a guarded fence, which naturally convinced the Left that the poor innocent detainees were being tortured by the hated George W. Bush. The detainees were better treated that their military guards, and most gained about 20 lbs. on generous halal food, which can certainly be called torture in a weight-conscious world.



A Few Words of Praise for Congress by The Elephant's Child

Operation Enduring Freedom

Before you get hung up on the “do-nothing Congress” theme, it’s time for a moment of praise. Before they left for their summer break, the Senate unanimously passed an extension to the U. S. visa program for at-risk Afghan translators who worked with American troops in Afghanistan. Many of them are living under the threat of retribution from the Taliban. The measure to issue another 1.000 visas was also passed by the House of Representatives unanimously.

The program had been criticized by advocates for the military translators, for its bureaucracy, opaqueness and slow pace. Recent reforms have improved the program to the point where for the first time the U.S. State Department ran out of the number of visas that Congress had authorized.

State has been distributing an average of 400 visas a month after reforms, which include the appointment of a coordinator between the State Department and agencies that conduct security and background vetting of visa candidates. It is the right thing to do, and a matter of national honor.



Global Chaos — and It’s Only the First of August! by The Elephant's Child

—Israel and Hamas were having a 3-day cease-fire at the behest of Ban-Ki-Moon and John Kerry. I’m not sure what they think they are accomplishing. This time, it lasted just 90 minutes, at which point Hamas sent a batch of suicide bombers into Israel, and killed two Israeli soldiers.  Then they kidnapped an Israeli soldier. Hamas is a terrorist organization that  wants the destruction of the State of Israel and the death of all its inhabitants. Israel wants Hamas to stop firing missiles into Israel, and they want to destroy all the terror tunnels Hamas has dug. Hamas is fighting to win.

ISIS is threatening Kurdistan, and the Kurds have asked the U.S. for military help. They have a good army, but spread a little thin because the border is so long. Obama turned them down, said they’d have to get help from Iraq’s central government—who are more than a little busy at present. Whatever emergency crops up, Mr. Obama is right on top of it.

—The Russia problem continues. The U.S. and the E.U. will impose new sanctions as soon as Monday, in the hopes that with the right balance of carrots and sticks, Mr. Putin will knock off the power grabs. Slap on the wrists and then we can all get back to ordinary business. Mr. Putin is just acting understandably. Ukraine is part of Russia’s historic sphere of influence, so let him have them.

This is Western self-deception. Mr Putin’s Russia is an authoritarian regime bent on redoing the Cold War. He has no democratic legitimacy, so to maintain power he must employ an increasing nationalism and foreign conquest to maintain power. Foreign meddling is not limited to just historic claims. Mr. Putin is not going to be swayed by either mild sanctions nor by reset buttons. Victor Davis Hanson sums it up:

The Obama administration often either denies any responsibility for the current global chaos or claims that it erupted spontaneously. Yet most of the mess was caused by, or made worse by, growing U.S. indifference and paralysis.

Over the last five and a half years, America has had lots of clear choices, but the administration usually took the path of least short-term trouble, which has ensured long-term hardship.

There was no need to “reset” the relatively mild punishments that the George W. Bush administration had accorded Vladimir Putin’s Russia for invading Georgia in 2008. By unilaterally normalizing relations with Russia and trashing Bush, Barack Obama and then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton only green-lighted further Russian aggression, which has since spread to Crimea and Ukraine.

There was no need for Obama, almost immediately upon assuming office, to distance the U.S. from Israel by criticizing Israel’s policies and warming to its enemies, such as Hamas and the authoritarian Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan.

China, Iran, Syria, Libya, and oh, yes, North Korea, who just threatened to drop a nuclear weapon on the White House.

When the uprising in Syria against Bashar Assad arose, it was dominated by patriotic Syrian freedom fighters who asked for our help. Saudi Arabia and other American allies in the Arab world urged us to provide arms and help to the rebels. We didn’t. Iran and Russia did. They saw the larger importance of the conflict and poured in  weapons and personnel to support Assad. Somewhere in that period Obama did draw a red line, but it didn’t mean anything. The Saudis have clearly stated their opinion. We and the Europeans are naive and ineffective and as a clear result, they have been planning to obtain their own nuclear weapons.

In December of 2010, a Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire to protest the confiscation of his goods and the harassment from municipal officials. That began the Tunisian Revolution and the so-called Arab Spring. That was followed by the Egyptian Revolution  in January of 2011, a popular uprising against Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and then in February, the revolution in Libya began with anti-government demonstrations in Benghazi, which escalated into a civil war. Egypt elected the Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in a questionable election and finally the army took over again. The West condemned, demanded an end  to violence, was concerned — all the usual. We had an ambassador, his aide and two brave former Seals murdered.  And how preposterous does it look now to have attempted to blame that on an amateur video?

Libya is more than unstable, and we have pulled our embassy staff out of Tripoli. Walter Russell Mead is not so sanguine:

Throw in the resulting civil war in Mali and the scattering of insurgents and weapons to the four winds, and you have a classic exhibition of reckless incompetence—of American arrogance, ignorance, carelessness and moralism combining in a toxic stew to sink a fragile country we never understood.

Luckily for America’s self-esteem, it was liberal Democrats that produced this particular shambles. If Republicans had done this, the media would be on the administration non-stop, perhaps comparing Samantha Power to Paul Wolfowitz—a well-meaning humanitarian way over her head who wrecked a country out of misguided ideology. There might also be some pointed questions for future presidential candidates who supported this fiasco. But since both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have their fingerprints all over Libya, there isn’t a lot of press hunger for a detailed, unsparing autopsy into this stinking corpse of policy flub.

If Obama were a Republican, the press and the weekly news shows would be ringing with hyperbolic, apocalyptic denunciations of the clueless incumbent who had failed to learn the most basic lessons of Iraq.

ISIS is still rampaging over Iraq. Egypt, Jordan and even the Palestinian West Bank are hoping that Israel can eliminate Hamas as a power.  There is still civil war in Mali. We have set free the Taliban’s top generals in a misguided attempt to empty Guantanamo. Victor Davis Hanson adds:

Christians are being exterminated and cleansed from Iraq and Syria. But we seem to think they are equivalent to bible-thumping Texas evangelicals and their killers exotic versions of Che, and so the ethnic cleansing is rarely condemned. If Barack Obama would just close his eyes and envision ISIS, Hamas, or Putin as the Tea Party or Fox News, and then react accordingly, the world would be a safer place. …

The U.S. looks at the current global violence and then looks away, after a call for a “pivot” or a flash card calling for Boko Haram to give back the girls it has enslaved. Our generation’s version of the bad memories of the 1918 Meuse-Argonne Offensive is Iraq and Afghanistan. Like our grandparents of the 1930s, we feel that the dead lost abroad in the most recent wars were not worth it — and so ignore the gathering war clouds on the present horizon, as if ignoring them means they must disappear.

Glance about — Central America, Venezuela, China, Russia, Ukraine, Crimea, Gaza, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Turkey, etc. — and the world outside the West is mostly a nasty place.  The three common denominators in all these catastrophes are the usual demagogic leaders blaming someone else for their people’s own self-inflicted miseries, a comfortable West that shrugs that somehow all these depressing things and mean people will just go away — and a tired global enforcer whose community organizer leader went into retirement and offers “make no mistake about it” warnings between swings on the golf course.



He Didn’t Know! Can’t Be Blamed. Didn’t Know! by The Elephant's Child

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(click to enlarge)

He didn’t know that these unaccompanied minors had all sorts of contagious diseases unseen in this country for years. He didn’t know that there were Mara Salvatrucha recruiters among the unaccompanied minors. He didn’t have time to go to the border to spare from his fundraising. He didn’t know there were Americans aboard that Air Malaysian plane that was shot down by Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine, because he had fundraisers to attend. He didn’t know that the world turmoil hasn’t been this bad since the 1970’s. He was only a kid then, so he didn’t know.



World Turmoil Unseen Since the Seventies. Now What? by The Elephant's Child

A Wall Street Journal’s front page article on Monday said politely “Obama Contends With Arc of Instability Unseen Since 70s.” “A convergence of security crises is playing out around the globe from the Palestinian territories and Iraq to Ukraine and the South Chin Sea, posing a serious challenge to President Barack Obama’s foreign policy and reflecting a world in which U .S. global power seems increasingly tenuous.”

The breadth of global instability now unfolding hasn’t been seen since the late 1970s, U.S. security strategists say, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, revolutionary Islamists took power in Iran, and Southeast Asia was reeling in the wake of the U.S. exit from Vietnam.

In the past month alone, the U.S. has faced twin civil wars in Iraq and Syria, renewed fighting between Israel and the Palestinians, an electoral crisis in Afghanistan and ethnic strife on the edge of Russia, in Ukraine.

Bewildered leftists say that he promised to end the War in Iraq, and wind down the war in Afghanistan and he did. He fulfilled his campaign promises. But there is ending and ending. I don’t know if anyone voted for Obama because he said he would end the War in Iraq. They voted for Hope and Change, and fancy theatrics and a litany of carefully crafted meaningless phrases.

Foreign policy is hard, and the big things may be controlled by the little things like personalities, and ego as well as deep knowledge and understanding of the history and culture of a country. Obama wasn’t much interested in foreign policy. He seems to have had in mind simply being the anti-Bush. Bush made wars, he would make peace. Bush had a muscular presence in the world and emphasized American strength. Obama wanted us to be just a nation among other nations, and let other nations deal with stuff. Obama found his national security briefings boring and quit going.

He yanked our people out of Iraq too abruptly and failed to establish a status of forces agreement to help prepare the Iraqi army for just what is happening now. The countries in Eastern Europe didn’t get their missile defense. Obama said in a May speech at West Point that the Obama foreign policy doctrine, would rely on U.S. leadership, but not troop deployments. Well, we’re not any good at the U.S. leadership business either, it seems.

A few meetings with Obama and Hillary’s “reset button” convinced Putin that nobody was likely to do anything, so he went right ahead to annex Crimea. The allies who had relied on America to prevent Russia’s ambitions lost confidence in American action as well. The Taliban got their leaders back. Obama drew a Red Line in Syria, and then erased it. The Arab Spring was misunderstood from the beginning, and the administration fell for the Muslim Brotherhood’s claim to Egypt. The feckless John Kerry has been trying to solve the problems of the Middle East by forcing Israel to give more land to the Palestinian terrorists. The Chinese, watching our military downsize, have decided to upsize theirs and are vigorously growing their navy and submarine fleet and flexing their muscles in the South China Sea.

And there is the self-declared new Caliphate, now encircling Baghdad, another surprise to the administration, and our negotiations with Iran go on. We want assurances, they are happy to give assurances. We seem unable to learn that deception is a way of life in the Middle East, and expect an agreement to be worked out that will enable them to have all the sanctions lifted.To call it all an “Arc of Instability” is perhaps the understatement of the year. But the stakes have never been higher.

Jonathan Karl lists some of the “instabilities.” Obama, we are told, no longer talks to anyone but Valerie Jarrett and Michelle. We are in the best of hands.



Iraq Was The Dumb War, Afghanistan Was The Smart One, And Russia Is Our Friend! by The Elephant's Child

ISIS has now renamed itself as the Islamic State that has established a Caliphate stretching across parts of Iraq and Syria. They have bigger ambitions, however. Here is a map of their intended territory. The westernmost territory labeled Maghreb, is the Western Sahara, and includes Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and several other nations. They are reaching back to the Middle Ages when Muslims controlled Spain. They now incorporate almost every nation between Spain and the borders of China.

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The map surfaced on social media as ISIS made strides in conquering cities in Iraq. They seem to be imitating the ruthless behavior of the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. as they execute, murder, behead and crucify — sweeping all before them. The map was widely disseminated as the terrorist group formally announced the caliphate under their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who will be the Caliph.

Nine leading jihadist groups in Syria promptly rejected the claim. Their online statement said “the announcement by the rejectionists [the Islamic State] of a caliphate is null and void,” both “legally and logically.”They warn other jihadists individuals and organizations not to support the Islamic State.

Two of the nine signatories are the Islamic Front, a powerful rebel coalition that includes the al Qaeda-linked Ahrar al Sham, and the Majlis Shura al Mujahideen (MSM) in Deir Izzor. The MSM is an alliance of groups, including the Al Nusrah Front, that is opposed to the Islamic State in eastern Syria.

On its Twitter feed, the MSM posted a link to the statement rejecting the Islamic State’s announced caliphate. The MSM says the Islamic State’s announcement is part of “a systematic campaign to distort sharia terms” and the Islamic State has “distorted jihad, sharia, and [the rules for] punishment, and now they want to distort the Caliphate.”

Seeing pictures of little kids recruited as jihadists with their weapons is a little unsettling. These are kids 9, 10 and 11 years old.. On the other hand, an NGO in Syria confirmed that the Islamic State had crucified nine men who were not vigorous enough in their jihad.

Who knows how this will work out. The battle lines between the Islamic State and its rivals are not new. They are all trying to be the leaders. The Caliphate may not be real, but the brutality is. Their stated aim of attacking the U.S. is not encouraging.

The administration was caught by surprise by the ISIS advance. But then they were caught unprepared by Russian aggression. This is a major intelligence failure that should be sounding alarm bells in Washington. And in Afghanistan.the administration is surprised that the Taliban are moving hard against the democratic government. New York Times correspondents described one of the most sophisticated and coordinated assaults on the government in years. The Taliban have attacked police outposts and government facilities across several districts in Northern Helmand province.

The reporters called it “a new worst-case situation for Western officials, an aggressive insurgent push that is seizing territory even before American troops have completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan.” Now why do you suppose the Taliban would attack while the Americans are busy elsewhere?




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