American Elephants


Dismantle The Islamic State Suddenly, Swiftly, Surgically by The Elephant's Child

General John R. Allen, USMC (Ret.) led the Marines in Anbar Province and was commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. He is a distinguished fellow of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. His piece at Defense One is very worth our attention:

Make no mistake, the abomination of IS is a clear and present danger to the U.S. The only question really is whether the U.S. and its allies and partners will act decisively now while they can still shape events to destroy IS, an act that seems increasingly self-obvious. …

The U.S. is now firmly in the game and remains the only nation on the planet capable of exerting the kind of strategic leadership, influence and strike capacity to deal with IS. It is also the only power capable of organizing a coalition’s reaction to this regional and international threat. As a general officer commanding at several levels in the region, I can say with certainty that what we’re facing in northern Iraq is only partly a crisis about Iraq. It is about the region and potentially the world as we know it.

General Allen points out that the Islamic State is executing a well-thought-out campaign designed to dismantle both Syria and Iraq and replace them with an Islamic Caliphate. It is undoubtedly populated partly by former members of Saddam’s military, and has just captured a major Syrian air base with fighters and helicopter gunships. It includes an ugly mix of fighters from Chechens, Uighurs and  Pashtuns, but also Europeans and Americans. With their newly acquired wealth and American armaments, they are a force to be reckoned with. He adds:

The Kurds, the Sunnis and the Free Syrian resistance elements of the region are the “boots on the ground” necessary to the success of this campaign, and the attack on IS must comprehensively orchestrate these comprehensively diverse forces across the entire region.

The Islamic State, General Allen says,must be destroyed. If given the chance to consolidate its forces, they have been clear they will focus on Western and American targets. We must move quickly to break it up, destroy its pieces. Does President Obama have any understanding of the true nature of the threat? And does he understand what actions are needed? His vacation is over, and he’s due back at the White House. This seems to be the time for swift action.

Maybe you want to rethink dumping all those A-10s, while you’re at it.



Cease-Fires Don’t Work When One Side Won’t Cease! by The Elephant's Child

From Friday’s Wall Street Journal :

JERUSALEM—White House and State Department officials who were leading U.S. efforts to rein in Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip were caught off guard last month when they learned that the Israeli military had been quietly securing supplies of ammunition from the Pentagon without their approval.

Since then the Obama administration has tightened its control on arms transfers to Israel. But Israeli and U.S. officials say that the adroit bureaucratic maneuvering made it plain how little influence the White House and State Department have with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu —and that both sides know it.

Funny. This is the customary way that Israel secured supplies of ammunition through a military to military purchase that required no approval from White House officials.

If people in Pennsylvania were shooting rockets at the White House many times a day leaving everyone to run for shelter immediately, would the administration be so eagerly pressing for a “cease-fire” that everyone knew those crazies in Pennsylvania would not observe? And if they were digging attack tunnels designed to come up in the Rose Garden, or down by Michelle’s veggie garden?

The U.S. government classifies Hamas as “a terrorist organization.” Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry just don’t seem to understand terrorism. “No victor-no vanquished.” let’s have another cease-fire. Hamas’ charter clearly says they intend to destroy Israel and all its people. Israel has the backing of Egypt, and Jordan and even the West Bank for attempting to stop the rocket attacks. Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry just don’t seem to get it. But I repeat myself.

There are cease-fires, and Hamas breaks them. They fire rockets from their storehouses in UN schools, and the administration is shocked by the pretend numbers of casualties claimed by Hamas, and assumes them to be real.  President Obama   doesn’t like disagreement, and has proved to be somewhat vindictive.

Prime Minister Netanyahu explained the situation with Hamas quite clearly, in language easily understandable:

The difference between us is simple.
We develop defensive systems in order
to protect our civilians, and they
use their civilians to protect their missiles.



How Do We Do a “No Confidence” Vote? by The Elephant's Child

Saturday’s Wall Street Journal reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stepped down on Thursday, and announced that he would not seek a third term. The administration considers this a diplomatic coup for the administration, which has worked behind the scenes in Baghdad for months to find a successor who could begin uniting Iraq’s ethnic and religious factions.

Ah, yes. “No victor, no vanquished” We mentioned that strategy. Now we will have a “more inclusive government.” A “negotiated settlement.” And who will bring the new Caliph to the table, and how many will get beheaded in the process?

The U.S. now faces the equally, if not more, difficult challenge of confronting the growing threat from Islamic State militants and promoting a functioning government in Baghdad. The increase in U.S. assistance isn’t expected to result in a major expansion of military operations in Iraq, though there could be selected increases.

Iraq’s parliament on Monday nominated Haider al-Abadi, another Shiite politician from Mr. Maliki’s al Dawa party, to be the next prime minister. He has 30 days to form a government.

U.S. officials said they are hopeful Mr. Abadi can do more to heal ties between Baghdad and Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish communities, which were badly strained during Mr. Maliki’s eight-year rule.

The military, and we have no idea how many of our people are there, are trying to make plans, but they have no authority nor intent to do much more than Obama’s very limited order. The Kurds are getting mortars and small arms. Drones destroyed 2 Islamic State armed vehicles. Experts on Iraq say any increased engagement by the U.S. will require a major makeover of the Iraqi military. Yes, images of ISIS herding long lines of captured soldiers into a ditch where they were then executed probably does have an effect on morale.

Inside the liberal bubble, everyone is really ready to go to the negotiating table.



A World in Chaos, and Secretary Kerry’s Biggest Challenge is Climate Change? by The Elephant's Child

American concern over President Obama’s national security advisers grows. He seems increasingly unable to understand the risks from the Islamic State, and his advisers seem increasingly inept.

Yesterday, as threats to the United States multiply, Secretary of State John Kerry remains fixated on — global warming. On Wednesday at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Secretary Kerry repeated his claim that climate change is “the biggest challenge…we face right now.”

ISIS has established a terrorist state across northern Iraq and Syria, Israel is under siege by terrorists, Ebola is spreading in Africa and threatens to arrive on our shores, our southern order is wide open to terrorists, criminals and diseases by presidential order, China is engaging in a massive military buildup and working on shooting down our satellites. Russia is attacking Ukraine and threatening its other smaller neighbors, and our biggest worry is climate change? Unbelievable.

It’s hard to know what Mr. Obama’s relations with his advisers is, are they so in awe of him that they do not question any of his ideas? Some sources say that Obama only meets with his very closest associates. It’s been reported that he doesn’t attend foreign policy briefings, and that he doesn’t like meetings. The big problem is that there seems to be genocide going on in Iraq, and Obama is fully engaged on the golf course.

ISIS, or the Islamic State, is increasingly intent on attacking the United States. They have proclaimed they want their flag flying over the White House. We should probably take them seriously. A lot of military people are alarmed, as are those who are deeply familiar with the Middle East.

Mr. Kerry recently warned African leaders to stop creating new farms and focus on what they already have. “Certain agricultural processes can actually release carbon pollution,” he explained to the Africans who were hoping for help in feeding their starving people.

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“They’re Coming” and “Another 9/11 is Imminent” by The Elephant's Child

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An editorial from the Washington Post last Friday was headlined “Obama’s authorization of Iraq airstrikes isn’t connected to a coherent strategy.”

PRESIDENT OBAMA was right to order military action to prevent a potential genocide in northern Iraq and to stop forces of the al-Qaeda-derived Islamic State from advancing on Baghdad or the Kurdish capital of Irbil. However, the steps the president authorized on Thursday amount to more of his administration’s half-measures, narrowly tailored to this week’s emergency and unconnected to any coherent strategy to address the conflagration spreading across the Middle East. …

Yet by the White House’s own account, the measures ordered by Mr. Obama are not intended to defeat the Islamic State or even to stop its bloody advances in most of the region. Instead they are limited to protecting two cities where U.S. personnel are stationed and one mass of refugees. The hundreds of thousands of people in Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere threatened by the al-Qaeda forces will receive no U.S. protection.

That’s the Washington Post’s Editorial Board, not usually leading the charge in criticism of the president.

President Obama is trapped in his self-created bubble. He was elected, he believes, to end the war in Iraq, and sees doing so as possibly his greatest achievement. He regarded getting out as the goal, rather than a gradual turnover as Iraq became more able to deal with problems on their own. Even now, he doesn’t understand that there is a genocide in progress, that is endowed with billions stolen from all the banks in Iraq, the world’s best and most modern weapons which which we outfitted the Iraqis, and gullible jihadis are flocking from all over the world to join up in the bloodletting.

Europe assumed that it was a good idea to replace their declining birthrate by admitting immigrants, for they had seen how immigration enriched America. But they didn’t get the assimilation part. They got a lot of Islamist immigrants, but they didn’t turn them into real citizens. It looks like over 900 French nationals have answered to call to jihad in Iraq, and volunteers in significant numbers are coming from Britain and most European countries. Even young women are flocking to become ‘jihadi wives,’ unaware they will end up as sex-slaves and either dead or in the brothels of the Middle East.

I cannot imagine what visions of “the Caliphate” attract them— the opportunity to kill with abandon, long trains of battle-hardened jihadis bristling with guns and tanks, flying the black flag of the Islamic State? Is it an ideal of suddenly being powerful? Too many romantic movies?

We see the primitive blood-lust, the sheer barbarianism and fail to take it seriously at our peril. The Middle East is more unstable today than it has been in years. Global energy supplies are at risk and with that, the entire world economy. The Islamic State seizes vast swaths of land and resources, murders and terrorizes whole nations and recruits thousands of new fighters with Western passports and plots another attack on the United States. Its much more comfortable to blame the failures of your own society on the west than to fault your own backward society.

Ali Khedery is an expert on the Middle East, CEO of the Dubai-based Dragoman Partners, and previously worked the U.S. State and Defense departments, and served as an American official in Iraq from 2003 to 2009, special assistant to five U.S. ambassadors and senior advisor to three commanders of U.S. Central Command.

When he says “They’re coming” and “another 9/11 is imminent” we need to pay attention. He wrote a letter to President Obama in Politico on Tuesday, attempting to warn the president that he needs new advisors, and a “Middle East Czar.” “Someone who can help contain and quell separate conflict in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq before they merge into a full-fledged regional war.” This is not the J.V. team, but the most virulent form of transnational jihad the planet has ever seen. Here he is, being interviewed by Jake Tapper.



“Leaving Iraq? As If This Was My Decision” Part II by The Elephant's Child

It is true that the Bush administration had agreed to end our troop presence. Iraq, naturally wanted to govern their own  country on their own. They were aware that their military needed more training in order to keep the peace. If we were going to stay, Obama had to negotiate a new “status of force agreement” with the Iraqis.

Why that didn’t happen is a complicated question, and Iraqis wanting to be in control of their own country was part of the answer, but only part. Obama was ambivalent about retaining any force in the country. The American officials who were negotiating with the Iraqis were left without guidance from the White House for months.

Dexter Filkins who wrote a definitive piece for The New Yorker quoted an Iraqi politician: “The American attitude was: Let’s get out of here as quickly as possible.”

This was Obama’s most important political promise. I’m not at all sure that it is actually what Americans wanted. The media’s favorite cliché is “war weary.” In the face of a long political campaign centered on mostly meaningless phrases, ending the War in Iraq was one of the few real promises. Obama proudly declared “Mission Accomplished.”

It may not have made any difference, but troops on the ground would have given us a large measure of influence. The Middle East is not much given to peaceful elective government. See Rick Lowry’s piece in the New York Post.

Without the United States as an honest broker, it has been downhill ever since. Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, the former deputy commander in Iraq, told Filkins, “Everything that has happened there was not just predictable — we predicted it.”

Iraq is perhaps the purest expression of the Obama doctrine.



Saving the World With Platitudes, One At a Time. by The Elephant's Child

On August 8, Friday, The New York Times published an interview with the president by Thomas Friedman, titled a bit grandiosely “Obama on the World.” Mr. Friedman is a long-time admirer of Mr. Obama, so it is a gentle interview that allows the president to fully express his successes (many) and failures (very few). It’s hard to know just what to make of it.

Obama made clear that he is only going to involve America more deeply in places like the Middle East to the extent that the different communities there agree to an inclusive politics of no victor/no vanquished.

At the end of the day, the president mused, the biggest threat to America — the only force that can really weaken us — is us. We have so many things going for us right now as a country — from new energy resources to innovation to a growing economy — but, he said, we will never realize our full potential unless our two parties adopt the same outlook that we’re asking of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds or Israelis and Palestinians: No victor, no vanquished and work together.

America, he believes, is dysfunctional, and societies don’t work if political factions take maximalist positions. Oh please. Just explain yourself in straightforward prose — all of Obama’s problems derive from the nasty Republicans who won’t do what he says. Can he possibly believe that a clever new phrase will allay centuries-old enmity that has had Muslim tribes killing each other ever since the sixth century?

Scott Johnson, over at Powerline, apparently had the same misgivings. He said: “I asked the person who is perhaps the most worldly-wise man I know if he could comment on Obama’s interview with Obama apostle Tom Friedman as related …in the Times article “Obama on the World.” His acquaintance responded that he had wondered about this viewpoint.

He said both James Baldwin and Martin Luther King Jr. separately and in other contexts said something about “ignorance allied with power” being the worst imaginable combination. I  just read a piece by Angelo Codevilla, which began with a similar quotation: “Combining the unbridled tongue with the unready hand.” Thus did Theodore Roosevelt define statesmanship at its worst. This is what America’s bipartisan ruling class is giving us.

Scott Johnson’s unidentified worldly-wise man continued:

I think with Obama it starts with ignorance which in his formative years became a required doctrine of the intelligentsia when it came to understanding the way the world works in matters of international security; to be considered politically correct you had to spurn and despise such painfully developed concepts and practices as the balance of power, the necessity of using strength and diplomacy in tandem, etc.

This was allied with a personal drive for High Moralism, the felt need to build a castle around yourself behind a moat of 12-foot thick walls from behind which you could shoot moral arrows at everyone else to demonstrate your superiority and quickly destroy any emerging criticism of yourself. So from this position of invincible ignorance allied with moral perfection and then allied with power, you could become able to cross a line in history to reach a new world shaped by your conviction of your perfected sensibility.

This would mean, 1.) taking the US out of its despicable role of world leadership, which has been immoral and has caused almost all the world’s problems over at least the past century, and 2.) “Transforming” America into a country moral enough to be worthy of you, a kind of big Belgium. As the wicked of the world have refused to fall into line behind this vision, it has made the president increasingly sour and feeling put upon.

At this point he has been forced to do something like take a presidential decision of the kind that all previous presidents have known they would have to take– the “hard decisions” recognized by the president’s hero Reinhold Niebuhr but never recognized by the president. So he has been forced by events to do it. But he didn’t want to do it. And he keeps making it clear that he is determined not to do it in an effective way, to assure our enemies of the many things he will never do, and to sulk about it for the foreseeable future as he relates his unappreciated fate to those who share his feelings, like Tom Friedman.

This makes sense to me. We on the right side of the political spectrum spend way too much time trying to understand the left — how they think, what they understand and what they don’t understand — because they just don’t seem to make sense. That is correct. They do not make sense. The philosophizing and moralizing that are such an animating factor and seem so formidable in the hot house of the faculty lounge — don’t work well out in the real world.

They are not operating in the real world. They don’t do their homework. “High moralism” just doesn’t cut it. It’s all very nice to come up with a new phrase — “no victor, no vanquished”— or you just have to compromise, and if  you don’t, we’ll wash our hands of you. This is not exactly a viable foreign policy.

Obama told Mr. Friedman that the “extremist ideology” that’s taken over the GOP, the “balkanization of the media has blocked my agenda.” What agenda is that? Can’t everybody just get along — is not an agenda. It’s not even an idea, but simply a platitude.

Tom Friedman apparently spent the weekend mulling things over. This morning he said we are absolutely clueless in the Middle East. That’s about right.




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