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.”



Reminder: Iran is Not On Our Side, Not Now, Not Ever. by The Elephant's Child

Iranian_Supreme_Leader_Ayatollah_Ali_Khamenei

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that the “new world order is emerging” and that “Iran will have a strong role in creating it,” according to a Farsi language transcript of Khamenei’s remarks late last week to the country’s Assembly of Experts.

Iran will lead this “new world order” that will replace American influence as capitalism and Western influence collapses, according to Khamenei, who underwent surprise prostate surgery on Monday.

“Iran will have a strong role in creating the new world order,” Khamenei said, explaining that Tehran will expand its already growing influence in Latin America and even Asia.

We have important potential outside Iran, we have supporters, we have strategic depth, in the region, some because of Islam, some because of language, some because of Shia religion, they are our strategic depth, these are all our strengths, we should use them all.”

And it is not only in the region, outside the region, in Latin America we have strategic depth, in some important parts of Asia we have strategic depth, we have the tools to use these opportunities and we have to use these opportunities, using them makes the country strong.

A sign of the West’s waning power came when “the Zionist regime of Israel” supposedly “lost the battle against the small population of the Muslims in Gaza” according to a separate recounting of Khamenei’s remarks published by the state-run Fars News Agency.

The recent war in Gaza was an example of miracle; a small region with limited capabilities accomplished a task that brought the Zionist regime, as the symbol of the West’s power, to its knees” he was quoted as saying. “The current world order cannot continue and a new order is emerging.”

Back in the real world, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer warned against including Iran in any coalition to derail the jihadist group. “A nuclear Iran would be a thousand times greater threat to the world than ISIS, he told guests at a pre-Rosh Hashanah reception at his residence. He also cautioned the U.S. against accommodating Iran during the current effort to degrade ISIS. He praised the American president for leading a coalition to defeat the terror group, but warned that Iran must not be a partner in this effort.

Now I know there is still some absurd talk in certain quarters about Iran being a partner in solving problems in the Middle East,” Dermer said. “They are not a partner, they were not a partner, they never will be a partner. Iran as a nuclear power is a thousand times more dangerous than ISIS.”



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)



Let’s Go Back to Calling it “The War Department.” by The Elephant's Child

Professor Stephen L. Carter had a fine column at Bloomberg, and I’m delighted to see that others have noticed the general obfuscation of dancing around the language without ever calling anything by its name. Political language attempts to mold and sway public opinion, and often does so quite successfully to our great misfortune. We can deal with the truth, but we are being asked to deal with a tissue of lies that we are told represents truth. They have to obfuscate so we will keep them in office. Here’s Professor Carter:

Not content with fighting over whether to call the war on Islamic State a war, and whether to call Islamic State the enemy, we are now arguing whether to call Islamic State Islamic State.

Ah, the words of war. War has never brought out the best in the language. This administration, like its predecessor, is prosecuting its war that isn’t a war under the authority of a declaration of war that isn’t a declaration of war but an “Authorization for the Use of Military Force.” (In keeping with this dubious approach, the dollar costs of these wars that are not wars are not carried on our budget that isn’t a budget.)

There will be U.S. ground forces in Iraq, but they are not to be called boots on the ground, although they will be on the ground and presumably wearing boots. The war that is not a war against the enemy that is not an enemy will be prosecuted in Syria, too, although Syria, lacking a government recognized in the West, may not actually be Syria. …

This obfuscation of language is not confined to war, but perhaps just more noticeable. It’s a standard trick in the hands of the propagandist. Read the whole thing.



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.



There Are al-Qaeda Affiliates Across The Middle East And Africa by The Elephant's Child

While all our attention is focused on Iraq and Syria, an al Qaeda affiliate in Nigeria is sweeping across northeast Nigeria with equally brutal means to attempt to break up the most populous nation on the continent.

Boko Haram overran Gwoza, a city of about 275,000 in Borno state, declaring on August 24, that the town now had “nothing to do with Nigeria”— and declared it part of “the Islamic caliphate.

This is the area where the kidnapping of schoolgirls in April gave birth to the hashtag campaign #Bring Back Our Girls. Wars are not won and problems are not settled with hashtag signs. Other events in the news cycle soon took over the attention of the world. Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau called the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliph  Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as among his brethren, as well as al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and Taliban chief Mullah Omar. Security experts have said that Borno state may be the start of Boko Haram’s new country. They are aggressively attacking the Nigerian military which is poorly equipped and under armed.

It is a particularly vicious  terrorist organization, linked to other terrorist organizations. Bombings, assassinations and kidnappings, genocide on Christians, attacks on schools where the students are taken if they are girls, or slaughtered if they are boys, and they have begun to operate like a conventional army with tanks and artillery.

When these groups are victorious their recruiting is more successful. They seem like conquering heroes and the bloodlust and brutality are an attraction until their armies are decimated, and reality sets in.



Figuring Out Barack Obama. Take 137 A. by The Elephant's Child

I think I’ve got Obama figured out. Yes, yes, I know — join the crowd. The line is right over there. Just get in the back.

Obama has a  bad case of BBUL, not to be confused with a bubble, like the bubble occupied by most inhabitants of the White House. No, this stands for “Bright But Unusually Lazy”— BBUL. Valerie Jarrett gave us a clue:

I think Barack knew that he had God-given talents that were extraordinary. He knows exactly how smart he is. … He knows how perceptive he is. He knows what a good reader of people he is. And he knows that he has the ability — the extraordinary, uncanny ability — to take a thousand different perspectives, digest them and make sense out of them, and I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually. … So, what I sensed in him was not just a restless spirit but somebody with such extraordinary talents that had to be really taxed in order for him to be happy. … He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.

Well, Law professor Richard Epstein disagreed. He said famously that Barack Obama “imitates an intellectual.”He got some flack for that statement, but he did not back down.

No, I have known several people like this. Given a book, or an assignment, they will read the introduction or the first few paragraphs and feel that they understand what the article or book contains. They know the rest of it and feel no need to continue, because they really get bored by reading. And they managed to get through college with snips and snatches of the material and filling in with a glance at the summary. Grade inflation in the Ivy League helped. They never studied any matter in depth, never re-read, and never discussed and compared the material with someone else. They already knew enough. And they never read further in the subject in books written by someone with a different take.

It’s the difference between passing a quiz and mastering a subject.

Ever notice in reports of meetings with Obama and how he sits back and absorbs what everyone has to say, then rounds up the important points and, changing them slightly, claims them as his own?

Or take the number of “Czars” in the White House. Granted, an artificial name for officials appointed by the president without Senate confirmation. Wikipedia claims 44 appointees for Obama, 11 for Bill Clinton, 33 for George W. Bush but the numbers aren’t really important. We know there are a lot. And they seem to be appointed to be experts in subjects or policies that Obama doesn’t know much about. He has, reportedly, asked that they present him with a very short summary on a policy and 3 choices. From those he will pick one as his policy.

It is reported that he doesn’t like meetings, and does not attend them. That he seldom attends his national security briefings. That he talks only to his closest advisors, mostly Valerie Jarrett.

So that’s where we are. The September 7 Wall Street Journal/NBC poll reports that 67% of the people believe the country is on the wrong track, more than at this point in any midterm election is two decades. Daniel Henninger in tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal:

In a 2008 New Yorker article by Ryan Lizza, Mr. Obama is quoted telling another aide: “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors.” Also, “I think I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters.”

In the days before Mr. Obama’s ISIS address to the nation, news accounts cataloged his now-embarrassing statements about terrorism’s decline on his watch—the terrorists are JV teams, the tide of war is receding and all that….

Some of these gaffes came in offhand comments, but others were embedded in formal speeches from the presidential pen, such as the definitive Obama statement on terrorism last May at the National Defense University: “So that’s the current threat—lethal yet less-capable al Qaeda affiliates.” A year later, ISIS seized one-third of Iraq inside a week.

I don’t know. I’m worried about what might happen tomorrow. I found myself wishing something horrible would happen to wake up this president, and then was horrified at the wish. It would make no difference to Obama. Major Hassan massacred his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, and the administration has never been able to acknowledge anything beyond “workplace violence.” The Tsarnaev brothers bombed the Boston Marathon. The shooting at the Navy Yard  in D.C. left 13 dead. All on Obama’s watch. And he still has trouble with the terrorism word.

A reluctant president goes to war. Will he be there when the going gets rough? Somebody in the White House said a day or so ago that they would leave this war for the next administration.




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