American Elephants


And On The Day After the Boston Bombing… by The Elephant's Child

Today is the day of the Boston Marathon, and the terror and the victims of last year’s bombing are being solemnly remembered. Oddly enough, the terrorists—Chechnyan radicals allied with al Qaeda—are not mentioned. We seem to have a strange reluctance to say the word terrorism or terrorists in this country.

The massacre at Fort Hood is still classified as “workplace violence,” we have the TSA at the airports to check into a long list of supposedly dangerous things and to abuse old ladies and small children, but they may not “racially profile” nor mention the fact that their job is to search for potential terrorists. Journalists fall all over themselves to avoid the use of the word terrorism, the federal government simply does not acknowledge such events nor the intent of the perpetrators.

What’s the deal? Is terrorism to be considered just an aberration of the warmongers George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and only mildly unpleasant things occasionally happen during the Obama administration, which never ever overreacts? Relegated to the old-news department.

Did you know that last April 16, the day after the Boston bombing, a group of terrorists attacked the Metcalf transmission substation, just outside of San Jose, in a military action aimed at disabling a part of America’s electrical infrastructure? The operation began at 1:00 a.m., when the attackers cut underground fiber optic cables, disabling communications and security systems. Thirty minutes later using high-powered rifles, they began a 20 minute assault on the substation’s extra-large transformer and the the cooling system that supports it. Police arrived at 1:50, but the shooters disappeared into the night. There has been no trace of them.

The political response to the attack ranged from an immediate dismissal by the FBI of the idea that it was a terrorist act—to recognition by a bipartisan but small group of U.S. Senators and Representatives that defending America’s electrical grid is an urgent priority. Although there are over 100,000 transformers of all sizes throughout the grid, the destruction of less than two dozen key large transformers—which weigh hundreds of tons, are transported on special rail cars, and are mostly produced in Korea—would cause a catastrophic failure that would blackout the United States. Such is the vulnerability of the system.

This was a professional operation by skilled marksmen—two to six gunmen— trained in reconnaissance, stealth and evasion, and with careful planning. The damage forced electricity to be rerouted to maintain the integrity of power transmission to Silicon Valley, and repairs took several months. One would think the politically connected in Silicon Valley might want to do some serious lobbying about protection of the grid.

We have heard about the potential of an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack—a nuclear explosion in the high atmosphere, which would create a pulse that destroys electrical wiring and hardware across the affected area. This phenomenon has been well understood since the 1960s. It has recently been discovered that a massive solar storm could cause similar damage, but possibly less extensive. Those who think through the potential devastating consequences of failing to defend our sophisticated electrical grid might well wonder why the government is spending billions on frivolous projects but pays no attention to America’s physical vulnerability.

Do read the whole thing. This is a serious matter. The author, Brian Kennedy is president of the Claremont Institute, and the article is adapted from his speech at Hillsdale College, and reprinted in Imprimis, the monthly free publication from Hillsdale (sign up here).

Brian Kennedy outlines practical steps to be taken, and what we are currently doing to solve our vulnerability. (Not much). The attack on the Metcalf transmission substation was brushed aside by the media by the Boston Marathon bombing, and the extended search for the Tsarnaev brother perpetrators.

We really can’t depend on the media any more to keep Americans informed. But we also need to stop fooling ourselves and stop acceding to administration attempts to downplay anything that might interfere with the Obama administration’s efforts to avoid any negative publicity.



The Shame of Brandeis University by The Elephant's Child

Brandeis University invited Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born activist to speak at their upcoming graduation ceremonies and receive an honorary degree. Well deserved. She has focused on the brutal treatment of women and girls rampant in Islamic societies like the one in which she was raised. Her efforts to call attention to them as a legislator in the Netherlands led to fear for her life and her eventual flight to the United States.

Since they thought her brave advocacy deserved the recognition of an honorary degree, it was somewhat startling that the controversial aspect of her views was new and surprising information that led to Brandeis President Fred Lawrence to claim that he had to withdraw the degree because of information he had only lately discovered. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was not surprised that she came under attack from the Council on Islamic Relations.  Such attacks are not new.

One might think that she had given $1,000 some six years ago to the campaign to recognize marriage as a contract between a man and a woman, as it has been for several thousand years. At Rutgers University, faculty and students objected to Condoleezza Rice’s selection as graduation speaker, based on her association with the Iraq War, but so far Rutgers seems to have more character than Brandeis.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali said:

 I assumed that Brandeis intended to honor me for my work as a defender of the rights of women against abuses that are often religious in origin. For over a decade, I have spoken out against such practices as female genital mutilation, so-called “honor killings,” and applications of Sharia Law that justify such forms of domestic abuse as wife-beating or child-beating. Part of my work has been to question the role of Islam in legitimizing such abhorrent practices. So I was not surprised when my usual critics, notably the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), protested against my being honored in this way.

Our academic institutions are in bad shape. They are bastions of political correctness, conformed speech, and Leftist theology. Free speech is neither understood nor observed. You must conform. Dissent is not allowed. In such an atmosphere, it’s no wonder that graduates are having trouble finding jobs. Critical thinking, though much celebrated, doesn’t often happen. Is one to believe that Brandeis University favors genital mutilation and prepubescent little girls married off to old men, and honor killings?

Here’s Ayaan Hirsi Ali giving an earlier speech, in 2013 in Australia. We fear our activists because they might prove to be controversial. Someone might object. But then we might still be burning dissenters at the stake.

 



The Syrian Catastrophe by The Elephant's Child

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The Obama administration’s Syria policy has been a blunder of historic proportions. When he might have intervened effectively, he dithered, When he did intervene it was ineffectual. When the situation was manageable, it was neglected. Nevertheless, this is not the responsibility of the U.S. government. It is the responsibility of Bashar Assad and his supporters, al Qaeda and other radical Muslims who have forcibly taken over the opposition to Assad.

This photograph was taken late last month. The scene is Yarmouk, a district of Damascus that is populated mostly by Palestinian “refugees” and has been the scene of heavy fighting. The U.N. is passing out food packages and the starving people are hoping to get something to eat. This is truly an example of a picture being worth more than a thousand words. (Click to enlarge)

(h/t: Powerline)



Thinking About U.S. Foreign Policy Or — Not Thinking. by The Elephant's Child

Daniel Greenfield wrote a few days ago:

It was the fall of ’38 and the motion was submitted to approve “the policy of His Majesty’s Government by which war was averted in the recent crisis and supports their efforts to secure a lasting peace.”

The policy being referred to was the Munich Agreement which carved up Czechoslovakia and the war being averted was World War II which would come shortly anyway. Of the hope that war would be averted through appeasement, Winston Churchill said, “Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonour. They chose dishonour. They will have war.”

Echoing that old Munich motion, the pro-Iran left is calling the nuclear deal that lets Iran keep its nukes and its targets their Geiger counters, Obama’s “achievement”. Any Democrat who challenges it is accused of obstructing the only foreign affairs achievement their figurehead can claim.

Victor Davis Hanson offered his view of the Obama Doctrine:

Summed up, the Obama Doctrine is a gradual retreat of the American presence worldwide — on the theory that our absence will lead to a vacuum better occupied by regional powers that know how to manage their neighborhood’s affairs and have greater legitimacy in their own spheres of influence. Any damage that might occur with the loss of the American omnipresence does not approximate the harm already done by American intrusiveness. The current global maladies — Islamist terrorism, Middle Eastern tensions, Chinese muscle-flexing, Russian obstructionism, resurgence of Communist autocracy in Latin America — will fade once the United States lowers its profile and keeps out of other nations’ business.

The methods to achieve this recessional are tricky — as they are for any aging sheriff, guns drawn, who hobbles slowly out of a crowded saloon on his last day on the job. American withdrawal must be facilitated by the semblance of power. That is, rhetoric, loud deadlines and red lines, and drones can for now approximate the old U.S. presence, as America insidiously abandons its 70-year role as architect of a global system that brought the world unprecedented security and prosperity. “No option is off the table” tells most foreign leaders that very probably no option ever was on it.

Winston Churchill, to the House of Commons May 2, 1935:

It is possible that the dangers into which we are steadily advancing would never have arisen…[but] when the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply too late the remedies which might have effected a cure.

There is nothing new to the story. It is as old as [Rome]. It falls into that long dismal catalogue of the fruitlessness of experience and the confirmed unteachability of mankind. Want of foreign, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong — these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.

Dore Gold, former Israeli Ambassador to the United States:

The US and Iran speak very different diplomatic languages that cannot be bridged by a dictionary alone. In the West, candor is central to confidence-building; for the diplomats of the Islamic Republic, deception is a way of life.

Daniel Pipes, in the Washington Times:

The recent fall of Fallujah, Iraq, to an Al-Qaeda-linked group provides an unwelcome reminder of the American resources and lives devoted in 2004 to 2007 to control the city – all that effort expended and nothing to show for it. Similarly, outlays of hundreds of billions of dollars to modernize Afghanistan did not prevent the release of 72 prisoners who have attacked Americans.

[Maladies] run so deep in the Middle East that outside powers cannot remedy them. Water is running out. A dam going up on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia threatens substantially to cut Egypt’s main water supply by devastating amounts for years. Syria and Iraq suffer from water crises because the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers are drying up. [The] poorly constructed Mosul Dam in Iraq could collapse, frowning half-a-million immediately land leave many more stranded without electricity or food. Sewage runs rampant in Gaza. Many countries suffer from electricity black-outs and especially in the oppressive summer heat that routinely reaches 120 degrees.

People are also running out. After experiencing a huge and disruptive youth bulge, the region’s birth rate is collapsing. Iran, for example, has undergone the steepest decline in birth rates of any country ever recorded, going from 6.6 births per woman in 1977 to 1.6 births in 2012. This has created what one analyst calls an “apocalyptic panic” that fuels Tehran’s aggression.

The Wall Street Journal offered “An Obama Foreign Policy IQ Test:”

During a visit to Washington last week, U.S. commander in Afghanistan General Joseph Dunford offered a take-it-or-leave-it scenario: Maintain a post-2014 force of 10,000-strong that is minimally sufficient to train the Afghan military and protect U.S. diplomats, spies, aid workers and troops—or pull out entirely at year’s end. The Pentagon added a political sweetener by calling for a complete withdrawal of the residual force within two years. In other words Mr. Obama could claim to have ended the Afghan war as he leaves office. The generals know their Commander in Chief.

President Obama has been here before. In his first term he had to deal with a difficult leader about a future U.S. military presence in Iraq. He settled for a complete pullout. Unlike in Afghanistan today, at least the war in Iraq was over and the country’s military was reasonably well-trained and funded.

We now know the Iraqi withdrawal was one of the President’s worst blunders. Without America’s calming presence, Iraqi politicians reverted to bad sectarian habits. U.S. troops could have also helped stop the jihadist spillover into Iraq from Syria’s civil war. Al Qaeda has returned and taken control of chunks of Anbar Province, which had been pacified at great cost in American lives.



Today’s Must Read Essay, Not to Be Missed. by The Elephant's Child

Today’s must read column is by Victor Davis Hanson, who explains the Obama Doctrine for America — our foreign policy, theory and practice.

Summed up, the Obama Doctrine is a gradual retreat of the American presence worldwide — on the theory that our absence will lead to a vacuum better occupied by regional powers that know how to manage their neighborhood’s affairs and have greater legitimacy in their own spheres of influence. Any damage that might occur with the loss of the American omnipresence does not approximate the harm already done by American intrusiveness. The current global maladies — Islamist terrorism, Middle Eastern tensions, Chinese muscle-flexing, Russian obstructionism, resurgence of Communist autocracy in Latin America — will fade once the United States lowers its profile and keeps out of other nations’ business.

Do read the whole thing. I think Dr. Hanson is spot on, though I wish it were otherwise. We will pay a high price for our gullibility in electing this man.

If you find that piece rewarding, as I did, you may appreciate Dr. Hanson’s self-described ‘apocalyptic essay’ on Monday, in which he is not so optimistic, but excellent, as always.

 



France Warns Hundreds of Jihadis Returning From Syria Could Overwhelm Europe by The Elephant's Child

President Francois Hollande has asked Manuel Valls, the interior minister to draw up plans to crack down on the “jihadist exodus.” The warning came after it emerged that two 15 year-old French boys had left this month to fight in Syria. They are believed to be among the youngest Westerners to travel there since the Arab Spring revolt against Bashar al-Assad turned into a full blown civil war.

The prospect of hundreds of battle-hardened extremists returning to Europe with training in bomb-making and weaponry has become a major cause of concern in recent months. Mr Valls said the numbers going there had “accelerated” in recent weeks.

He said French intelligence services believe around 700 French nationals or persons living in France were either currently fighting there, had already returned or were planning to become jihadists.

Twenty-one French nationals had been killed in fighting in the Arab state.

The threat is not confined to Europe, Radicalized young Muslims from the US, Canada and Australia as well as from other Muslim countries have traveled to Syria to fight.



Al Qaeda Takes Fallujah, While Obama Plays Golf, Unconcerned. by The Elephant's Child

“A rejuvenated, al Qaeda-affiliated force has asserted control over the western Iraqi city of Fallujah on Friday, raising the black al Qaeda flag over government buildings and declaring an Islamic state in one of the most crucial areas that U.S. troops  fought to pacify before withdrawing from Iraq two years ago.”

Following his inauguration, President Obama withdrew troops from Iraq on the timetable agreed upon by President Bush. As the draw-down proceeded, it became clear that security would worsen  dangerously in the absence of American power. He refused to consider leaving even a small contingent of troops to help the young Iraqi government resist terrorist forces. The result has been an escalation of violence. Local tribes, Iraqi security forces and al Qaeda-affiliated militants have been fighting for days in a confused and chaotic three-way war.

 “At the moment there is no presence of the Iraqi state in Fallujah,” a local journalist who asked not to be named because e fears for his safety. “The police and the army have abandoned the city, al Qaeda has taken down all the Iraqi flags and burned them, and it has raised its own flag on all the buildings.” The fighting has now spread to Ramadi.

Iraqi troops trying to retake Anbar province from a mixture of Islamist and tribal foes battled al Qaeda fighters in Ramadi on Saturday after shelling the western region’s other main city, Fallujah, overnight, tribal leaders and official said.

President Obama failed to secure a status of forces agreement in Iraq, and has expressed no interest in helping the beleaguered country. His original idea on coming into office seemed to be that all the problems in the Middle East were the result of the problems between Israel and Palestine. He would force an agreement between Israel and her neighbor, and that would end the problems of the entire region. Which seems to be what Secretary Kerry is up to. This is such a dimwitted supposition that it beggars belief, and shows no understanding at all of the entire region, but that’s what they seem to believe, and American foreign policy is the evidence.

Be nice if a few reporters asked some hard questions about the utter failure of his foreign policy, but that’s not what reporters do these days anyway. Perhaps the British press will ask the hard questions. They do a better job of it.

Disgraceful. Simply disgraceful.

 



Appeasement. Concessions. Not a Winning Strategy. by The Elephant's Child

The headline read: “Iran: White House Lying About Details of Nuke Deal.”

Iranian officials say that the White House is misleading the public about the details of an interim nuclear agreement reached over the weekend in Geneva. …

The White House released a multi-page fact sheet containing details of the draft agreement shortly after the deal was announced. However, an Iranian foreign ministry official on Tuesday rejected the White House’s version of the deal as “invalid” and accused Washington of releasing a factually inaccurate primer that misleads the American public.”

Iran’s right to enrich uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon, is fully recognized under the draft released by Tehran. Iran proclaims no limits on their  right to continue enriching uranium which should set alarm bells ringing loudly. They want time off from the sanctions that are disrupting their economy, so they can enrich in peace. John Bolton, who has long experience with Iran, says:

In exchange for superficial concessions, Iran achieved three critical breakthroughs. First, it bought time to continue all aspects of its nuclear weapons program the agreement does not cover (centrifuge manufacturing and testing, weaponization research and fabrication, and its entire ballistic missile program). Indeed, given that the interim agreement contemplates periodic renewals, Iran may have gained all of the time it needs to achieve weaponization not of simply a handful of nuclear weapons, but of dozens or more.

Second, Iran has gained Legitimacy. This central banker of international terrorism and flagrant nuclear proliferator is once again part of the international club. Much as the Syria chemical-weapons agreement buttressed Bashar al-Assad, the mullahs have escaped the political deep freezer.

Third, Iran has broken the psychological momentum and effect of the international economic sanctions. While estimates differ on Iran’s precise gain, it is considerable ($7 billion is the lowest estimate), and presages much more. Tehran correctly assessed that a mere six-months’ easing of sanctions will make it extraordinarily hard for the West to reverse direction, even faced with systematic violations of Iran’s nuclear pledges. Major oil-importing countries (China, India, South Korea, and others) were already chafing under U .S. sanctions, sensing President Obama had no stomach either to impose sanctions on them, or pay the domestic political price of granting further waivers.

Iran declares regularly its radical hatred for Israel and the United States. It continues to sponsor terrorism on a wide scale. It regularly states its wish to annihilate Israel even at the risk of its own self-destruction. From the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran and imprisonment of embassy personnel for 444 days until today, we have had no reason to trust Iran at any time. It is appeasement of the worst kind, and puts one of our greatest allies at greater risk.

If President Obama thought he was changing the subject from the ballooning disaster of ObamaCare with a “deal” that Americans would like, he was mistaken. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) spoke out at the end of October about a report claiming Iran is one month away from a nuclear bomb, ‘extremely alarming. ‘ The Institute for Science and International Security says Iran could produce one bomb in as little as 1 to 1.6 months, or using only 3.5 percent low enriched uranium, could make 4 bombs in 1.9 to 2.2 months using all of its existing 3.5 percent enriched uranium. Seems like a fine time to go for appeasement.



Saudi Arabia Threatens to Sever Diplomatic Ties With U.S. by The Elephant's Child

And on the Foreign Policy front, all is not well either. So how is that vow to “repair America’s frayed alliances” supposedly frayed and battered by the Bush administration working out?

The Kingdom is not keeping secret any longer its disgust with the administration’s policy drift in the Middle East. Prince Turki al Faisal, the former Saudi ambassador in Washington explained his view of the deal Washington struck with Moscow over Syria’s chemical weapons.

“The current charade of international control over Bashar’s chemical arsenal,” the Prince told a London audience, “would be funny if it were not so blatantly perfidious, and designed not only to give Mr. Obama an opportunity to back down, but also to help Assad butcher his people.” It’s a rare occasion when a Saudi royal has the moral standing to lecture an American President, but this was one of them.

The Saudis asked the U.S. to beef up our naval presence in the Persian Gulf against a potential Iranian counter-strike, only to be told that we didn’t have the ships. Mr. Obama was nonchalant about our shrinking Navy. But there are consequences for our actions on the international scene.

If you look at foreign newspapers, it is surprising how much of their “news” is devoted to America and what we’re doing, whether it’s fads or politics or policy. Americans, on the other hand, probably because we live in a big country with major cities across the U.S., don’t really pay much attention to what is going on elsewhere. Part of that is simply language. Most other countries learn English as their second language, Most Americans take a language course in high school, but never learn to speak one.

Mr. Obama has been quite clear that he wants the U.S. to be just another nation among other nations, not a superpower. He opposed the Iraq War as a “dumb war” with no understanding of why we were there, and assumed that the only reason for being in Afghanistan was to “get” bin Laden, which he couldn’t quite bring himself to order when it came to it, until forced into it. We had won the Iraq war, but V.P. Biden could not arrange a status-of-forces agreement, and when al Qaeda in Iraq returned and started killing Iraqis, their foreign minister begged for us to return, but too late. The War in Afghanistan was to be conducted “nicely,” with our troops training Afghan recruits with unloaded weapons to show our niceness, which got a lot of our troops killed. I would be willing to bet that Mr. Obama has never seen a military movie, nor read either any military history, nor any of the great military novels. I may be wrong.

The troubles with Saudi Arabia have been developing for some time. David Ignatius wrote that “Saudi officials in Riyadh that they told him that they increasingly regarded the U.S. as unreliable and would look elsewhere for their security. in 2011.” They were dismayed when we deposed Mubarak and even more so when we backed the Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi. They are afraid of the Iran/Syria nuclear adventurism, as are many other countries in the Middle East, with reason. The Syrian rebels have learned that there really aren’t any red lines, and any adversary can call our bluff. Obama is more eager to court enemies than reassure friends, as the Poles and Czechs have learned, when we withdrew ballistic-missile defense as a way to appease the Russians.

Fouad Ajami explains the problems of the Obama foreign policy cogently in a piece at the Wall Street Journal today, which may be behind a subscription barrier, but read it if you can.

We must not underestimate the tenacity of this regime and its will to rule. We should see through the rosy Twitter messages of President Hasan Rouhani, and the PowerPoint presentations of his foreign minister, Mohammed Jawad Zarif. These men carry out the writ of the supreme leader and can only go as far as the limit drawn by the Revolutionary Guard. …

The gullibility of Mr. Obama’s pursuit of an opening with Iran has unsettled America’s allies in the region. In Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates there is a powerful feeling of abandonment. In Israel, there is the bitter realization that America’s strongest ally in region is now made to look like the final holdout against a blissful era of compromise that will calm a turbulent region. A sound U.S. diplomatic course with Iran would never have run so far ahead of Israel’s interests and of the region’s moderate anti-Iranian Arab coalition.



The Syrian Problem: A Visual Montage, or Why We Worry. by The Elephant's Child

How Much is Al Qaeda Involved in Syria? by The Elephant's Child

Thomas Jocelyn testified yesterday to the House Committee on Homeland Security, about al Qaeda in Syria and the threat that poses to the United States. Al Qaeda affiliates and allied jihadist groups dominate the insurgency in the heart of the Middle East. The Long War Journal published his testimony.

“The situation inside Syria is grim, with a despicable tyrant on one side and a rebellion compromised by al Qaeda and like-minded extremists on the other. In between these two poles are the people who originally rose up against tyranny in search of a better life. As we’ve seen time and again in this long war, Muslims embroiled in violence in faraway lands are often the first line of defense against an ideology and an organization that pose a direct threat to the West.”

We should have no illusions about the nature of the Syrian war. What we are witnessing right now is a conflict that will have ramifications for our security in the West. The fighting in Syria and the terrorist campaign in Iraq are deeply linked, feeding off of one another in a way that increases the violence in both countries and potentially throughout the region. American interests outside of Syria have already been threatened by the war. We saw this late last year when al Qaeda repurposed a cell of Jordanian citizens who had fought in Syria for an attack inside their home country. They reportedly had the U.S. Embassy in their crosshairs and were planning a complex assault involving other targets as well. …

Al Qaeda and its extremist allies have grown much stronger since late 2011. Al Qaeda does not control the entire rebellion, which is made up of a complex set of actors and alliances. However, al Qaeda and its allies dominate a large portion of northern Syria and play a key role in the fighting throughout the rest of the country. These same al Qaeda-affiliated forces have fought alongside Free Syrian Army brigades. There is no clear geographic dividing line between the most extreme fighters and other rebels. For example, al Qaeda’s affiliates played a key role in the fighting in Latakia, an Assad stronghold on the coast, in early August. And within the past week we saw al Qaeda-affiliated fighters lead an attack in Malula, a Christian village not far from Damascus. These are just two examples chosen from many.

Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s emir has made the fight for Syria a strategic priority. They are political revolutionaries who are looking to establish an Islamic Emirate in the heart of the Levant. They want a state of their own — as a start.  Other al Qaeda groups have joined the fight — the Taliban from Pakistan, Chechens , fighters from South Asia and North Africa, are fighting alongside each other. There is a Syrian Islamic Front that fights alongside al Qaeda. There is a direct connection between the terrorists over there and terrorists over here. Some are being repurposed for  operations against the West. And al Qaeda is recruiting Westerners who can be used against their home countries. They are looking for chemical and biological weapons in Syria, and an al Nusrah Front cell has been arrested and found to be in possession of about 2 kilos of sarin gas. Iraqi officials claim to have broken up an al Qaeda cell that was seeking to launch sarin gas attacks in Iraq, Europe and possibly North America.

Do read the whole thing. These people do understand that we are in — a long war — and have been since 9/11. It is civilizational and serious and real, and we must take it seriously.

NOTE: A piece I posted on September 3 was based on an article from the Institute for the Study of War, and based on information from Elizabeth O’Bagy, who was an adviser to John Kerry and supposedly an expert on the situation in Syria. The Institute has discharged her for misrepresenting her credentials, and she is apparently involved as a lobbyist for the Free Syrian Army. So I don’t know if any of what I wrote is true, nor if the map is correct.



War and Empathy and Unbeliveably Small Strikes. by The Elephant's Child

It is 9/11. and the mind goes back twelve years to that terrible day, and to Benghazi on 9/11. The President and Vice President and their wives and the entire White House staff were photographed on the White House Lawn where they observed a moment of silence, and then the president went off to pass out food to the needy — in his continuing push to make 9/11 a “Day of Service.”

I don’t get it. I see no relation between mourning those we lost and doing some volunteer work. But then I’m not much on “moments of silence,” which I guess are to be seen as a one-minute collective observance of sorrow. If we do it collectively it is more meaningful? I’ll just go on mourning all day, the images don’t stop replaying in my head. I guess if you are a collectivist, you think collectively.

It is another day in the War on Terror. Yes, terror is a tactic, not the producer of terror, but that is simply semantics. What do you want to call it — a war on jihadists?

Americans are confused by World War II, when we had clear enemies — Germany, Japan and Italy. They expanded into conquered territory and we had to drive them out. The War was a total effort. Civilians did war work, bought war bonds, raised victory gardens and did without a wealth of things to which we were accustomed. The war lasted a neat four years, the victory was clear and surrender abject and total, followed by occupation.

Now there remains for Americans an expectation that a proper war will have those characteristics. In World War II people were thoroughly weary of war, but they knew that it had to be won and the enemy defeated utterly. There was no talk of “war weariness.” You even heard people during the War in Iraq or in Afghanistan complain that civilians weren’t asked to buy bonds or accept rationing. They weren’t proper wars because the home front just went on with ordinary life, undisturbed.

Richard Cohen, liberal columnist for the  Washington Post, asked plaintively “Where’s the moral outrage?”

The civil war in Syria has cost more than 110,000 lives. It has produced a humanitarian calamity — well over 2 million refugees.

Bashar Assad has massacred his own people by conventional means and is accused of using poison gas several times, most recently on Aug. 21, when his military murdered 1,429 people, including more than 400 children. …

I pick on the American left because it is liberal and because that suggests empathy, concern and internationalism.

The American right is now going through one of its periodic bouts of lunacy, reverting to a comfy isolationism-cum-selfishness that has often characterized it. (I should note, though, that back in the late 1930s, Norman Thomas, the six-time socialist presidential candidate, supported the isolationist America First movement.)

Isolationism-cum-selfishness? Hardly, but then empathy, concern and internationalism are not reasons to go to war either. War is a serious business, and with Iran in full-fledged support of Assad, must be considered seriously. An “extraordinarily small ” strike is not a serious response. And the president’s speech last night indicated that he is not serious.

My point is that the more military action departs from the example of World War II as it exists in memory, and movies, the more reluctant the people. You need the Draft, War Songs, Bond Drives, and some kind of deprivation for the people so they feel involved.  Americans want to support their president, but when offered only an “extraordinarily small” reprimand, the people sense that there is no clear strategy there at all.




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