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)



Dancing Around the Subject of Boots on the Ground by The Elephant's Child

bootsWhite House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained carefully today that “I think the way that I would describe it is that everybody did — that everybody was surprised to see the rapid advance that ISIS as ale to make from Syria across the Iraqi border and to be able to take over large swaths of territory in Iraq — did come as a surprise.”

Jonathan Karl, ABC News reporter questioned, during the White House Press Briefing, Obama’s comments during his CBS 60 Minutes interview that the intelligence community had “underestimated” the strength of ISIS in Syria.

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

Karl brought up the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who warned back in February that ISIS  “probably will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria to exhibit its strength in 2014.”

Josh Earnest responded that the president was simply referring to Clapper’s comments and had “complete confidence” in the intelligence community.

Clapper became director of national intelligence to “Obamacize” America’s intelligence operations according to Investors. He replaced Admiral Dennis Blair who was described by former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) as being “cut off at every turn” by a White House intent on treating terrorism as a law-enforcement problem. Hence all the “workplace violence” claims, and refusal to say the word ‘terrorism’ or ‘war.’ Investor continued:

You could also see it all in the venom that accompanied Obama’s laying the blame on former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for not producing “a government that had built a sense of national unity.”

New Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, says Obama, “so far at least has sent all the right signals.” And so “it goes back to” that “we can’t do this for them” — the familiar Democrat rationale for pulling troops out prematurely from Iraq. These countries that have never known representative government must “think about what political accommodation means, think about what tolerance means,” according to Obama.

Richard Epstein said that Obama does not change his mind. If he once believes something, it is set in concrete, and he believes it today. The preceding comments suggest that Obama expects far more change to come from Iraqi Prime Ministers  than he is willing to consider for himself.  This is the leader of the free world trying to explain to the cameras why a country infested with terrorists didn’t follow the program devised for them by a political party in this country wrote to win an election.

Everyone is noticing that when Obama takes credit it is all “I” and “my success.” When it doesn’t go well, somebody else gets the blame — that’s all “they and “you,” or even the passive “We.” Obama himself is never, never at fault.

The air strikes are apparently all taking place at night on previously noted targets. ISIS is moving in among the general population to make themselves safe from American attack — exactly as we were told they would respond.  So we have some advisers on the ground, apparently bootless, but no troops. So this is a war that is not a war, but merely an advisory role with a coalition of Arab states who are going along with our air strikes with their planes, or not. It is not exactly clear who is doing what.

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal is titled “The Obama-Military Divide,” with the subhead “what should senior officers do if experience tells them that the president’s plan to defeat ISIS is unworkable without U.S. Combat troops?”  It is abundantly clear that the president has little understanding of things military and how the military works. He remains stuck on hating Bush for the Iraq War, and believing that ending the War in Iraq was what got him elected. I believe he’s wrong on all counts.



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.



Attacking ISIS In An Environmentally Sound Way, With Weapons Obama Scrapped. by The Elephant's Child

To protect the environment, coalition forces will attack only small capacity mobile petroleum refineries but not fixed oil fields, in order to minimize the potential for environmental damage. (escaping carbon) It’s a precaution, they say. I gather that a mobile petroleum refinery is a modular make-shift refiner capable of being set up elsewhere, but I freely admit I know nothing about that. They are used to process oil from the Syrian fields into diesel fuel which is then smuggled across the border into Turkey. which gets them up to $2 million a day to support their efforts.

From a strategic perspective, the decision to leave ISIS oil fields intact makes little sense. On the other hand it’s not smart to repeat the damage in 1991 when Saddam Hussein set Kuwaiti oil fields on fire. The government says they are attempting not to destroy a potential future for post-Assad Syria.

In another odd note, the president is launching attacks on the Islamic State with two weapons that he targeted for elimination years before their usefulness ended or when replacements were ready. He slashed the budgets and weapons systems that he opposed, yet suddenly at the start of a long and sustained campaign to “degrade and destroy” the terrorist group, he’s finding the military quite useful.

The first strikes on Monday included 47 Tomahawk missiles fired from two guided missile warships, part of the George H.W. Bush carrier battle group. The Tomahawk was slated by Obama to be phased out though there is no timely replacement. The Navy last year had plans to buy 980 more Tomahawks ans the primary cruise missile used throughout the fleet.   Obama has already fired off almost half of next year’s planned purchases.

The Syrian campaign was expected to be tougher going than the effort in Libya where there was no serious air defense weaponry to worry about. The Air Force chose to use the F-22 Raptor for the first time in combat because its ability to evade radar detection and high-speed maneuverability make it ideal for high-risk environments. Obama called it a “Cold War ” weapon and slated it for the scrap heap.

Someone noted the other day that Obama went to great lengths to avoid saying the word ‘war.’ He’s called it an ‘effort,’ a ‘process,’ a ‘fight,’ a ‘campaign’,and ‘a moment of American leadership.’ That’s a pretty impressive list of avoidance vocabulary.

It’s nice to believe firmly that peace is good, and that with expert diplomacy we can avoid these nasty little wars. Trouble is we don’t have expert diplomacy. We have John Kerry, and previously the reset button Hillary Clinton, and a couple of unserious young women as  spokespersons for the State Department.




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