American Elephants


Critics Complain About Obama’s Leadership. Does Obama Grasp Why? by The Elephant's Child

Obama ArroganttPresident Obama spoke today at MacDill Air Force Base. But he wanted everybody to know that there would be no boots on the ground. He is still talking about is grand coalition, but he doesn’t mention who is actually in it, and he’s not going to have any boots on the ground. Somebody else can do that. But the American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.

All his generals and advisors have told him that he cannot succeed with ISIS without having boots on the ground. Isis fighters will shelter among civilians, and use those civilians as shields. It is hard to know what he has in mind, it apparently is a personal political decision. Certainly the last of the anti-war left is part of his base and those who are sure that peace is natural state of mankind in spite of all evidence to the contrary. Obama seldom attends his national security briefings, and seems totally unfamiliar with the realms of strategy and intelligence.

Mr. Obama has a bad habit of telling the enemy just what he will and won’t do, leaving nothing to the imagination. There are no plans for the outcome, no contingency plans for the time when the terrorists merge into the civilian population, nor for when the actual fighters fail to take Fallujah or Tikrit. Then what?

We have heard him speak before on situations like this. He is a more qualified field commander than his generals, a better planner than that bunch in the Pentagon. Or it’s all about politics and only politics matters. His constant emphasis that he will have no troops on the ground seems the ultimate in a warped Bush-hatred

I think Obama thought he was riding to election on the basis of giant waves of Bush hatred. Nancy Pelosi said something dumb today about Democrats never having been as rude and nasty to President Bush as Republicans were to President Obama. When Republicans recovered from raucous laughter, and were able to stop giggling, they thought gratefully of Minority Leader Pelosi and DNC Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz with runaway mouths and little sense — gifts that keep on giving.

The emphatic “no boots on the ground” came along awkwardly with the other announcement that the president was sending 3,000 troops to Africa to fight Ebola. Many found that announcement preposterous. However, the 3,000 number is  heavy on corpsmen, medics, and the experts who can build field hospitals and erect intensive care units.

The situation in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea is dire. Hospitals are overburdened and there are not enough beds, What health system there is is near collapse. The military command center will be in Liberia to support civilian efforts across the region. Personnel from the U.S Public health Service will deploy to the new field hospitals. New isolation units and more than 1,000 beds. More than 2,500 men, women and children have died, and patients are being turned away. People are dying in the streets.

ISIS is to be degraded and disrupted— not defeated, at least not yet. If ever. To put “boots on the ground” Obama would have to admit that he was mistaken, and that he does not do. That would take something over 25,000 boots on the ground. Investors remarked that “Liberals always want to wage war by not admitting war is war.”We’ll see. I’m deeply unimpressed with Obama’s politicized ideology, his complete inability to admit fault of any kind, and his tendency to overrule his best advisers because he knows better.  I’m betting on the White House deputy who said they’d leave this mess for the next administration.



What Was Missing In Obama’s Foreign Policy by The Elephant's Child

From Defense analyst Nadia Schadlow writing at warontherocks.com — via the WSJ’s Notable & Quotable column Sept. 7, 2014:

President Obama’s commitment to reducing America’s reliance on the military instrument of power is well-known. It has been a constant theme of his presidency—from his first presidential campaign through his major speech on foreign policy at West Point earlier this year. It is therefore paradoxical that the administration’s foreign policy outlook and operational style have made use of the military instrument almost unavoidable. By failing to understand that the space between war and peace is not an empty one—but a landscape churning with political, economic, and security competitions that require constant attention—American foreign policy risks being reduced to a reactive and tactical emphasis on the military instrument by default. . . .

The tactical mindset that dominates national security decision-making prioritizes military means over political ends and confuses activity (such as the bombing of enemy positions) with progress. Because the use of military force is not connected to operational plans for subsequent political consolidation, the United States vacates the space between war and peace. And because they cannot match American military power directly, it is in this space—battlegrounds of perception, coercion, mass atrocity—that America’s enemies and adversaries prefer to operate.

“the space between war and peace is not an empty one—but a landscape churning with political, economic, and security competitions that require constant attention.” I love it when someone calls to our attention something seemingly obvious to which we pay little attention, and changes the pattern of our thought.

Excellent website. Add warontherocks to your  choice website list!



The Boston Marathon Bombing Was Not an Act of Terrorism by The Elephant's Child

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As long as we’re talking about the careful parsing of language, according to the Boston Globe,“the Boston Marathon bombing attacks were not an “act of terrorism,” the U.S. Treasury Department has ruled, which conveniently means terrorism insurance claims need not be paid out in full.”

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Congress passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which created federally backed insurance in cases of damage due to terrorism. Some Boston businesses were among those that bought the insurance.

Those purchases became relevant after the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013. Of the 160 companies located near the marathon’s finish line that submitted insurance claims, just 14 percent had purchased terrorism insurance, Insurance Journal reported.

And of course Major Hassan’s massacre of his fellow service-members is still designated “workplace violence,” without the slightest acknowledgment of reality. But then that simply deprives the wounded of medical care and purple hearts, and the recognition that they were wounded in the line of duty. They probably don’t particularly care about the medal, but the benefits matter.



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.



And On The Morning After… by The Elephant's Child

When President Obama famously announced to the world that he didn’t have a strategy yet for dealing with ISIS, he was speaking entirely of himself. The Defense Department has all sorts of strategies and plans. That’s one of their major tasks — developing plans for any contingency that might arise. And they have had a sharp eye on Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Russia and China as well as countries under the radar of the press.

In deciding how to deal with ISIS, President Obama has rejected the “best military advice,” the advice given to the commander in chief from his military leader. General Lloyd Austin, top commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said that his best military advice was to send a modest contingent of American troops, principally Special Operations forces, to advise and assist Iraqi army units in fighting the militants, according to two U.S. military officials, the Washington Post reported shortly after the speech last night:

“The recommendation, conveyed to the White House by Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was cast aside in favor of options that did not involve U.S. ground forces in a front-line role, a step adamantly opposed by the White House. Instead, Obama had decided to send an additional 475 U.S. troops to assist Iraqi and ethnic Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment.

Recommitting ground combat forces to Iraq would have been highly controversial, and most likely would have been opposed by a substantial majority of Americans. But Austin’s predecessor, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, said the decision not to send ground troops poses serious risks to the mission.

“The American people will once again see us in a war that doesn’t seem to be making progress,” Mattis said. “You’re giving the enemy the initiative for a longer period.”

Germany and the U.K. on Thursday ruled out carrying out air strikes on Islamic State militants in Syria, a day after the president’s speech. “We haven’t been asked, nor will we do it,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters when asked about German participation in air strikes. “We need to be honest with ourselves in the current situation,m we don’t yet have a final, blanket strategy which guarantees that we’ll be successful against ISIS and similar groups.”

His U.K. counterpart Phillip Hammond explicitly ruled out air strikes in Syria, after the U.K. parliament struck down such a move last year.

Obama has assigned primary responsibility for mobilizing the Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria against ISIS. He presumably also wants their financial support and help in cutting off ISIS funding. But there is a problem. According to the Washington Post:

In common with their fear of the Islamic State, the region’s leaders also share a deep mistrust of the Obama administration, rooted in the past three years of increasing disengagement from the Middle East as the United States has sought to distance itself from the turmoil engendered by the Arab Spring revolts. . . .

Already there is a disinclination to believe [Obama's] promises, said Mustafa Alani of the Gulf Research Center in Dubai.

“We have reached a low point of trust in this administration,” he said. “We think in a time of crisis Mr. Obama will walk away from everyone if it means saving his own skin.”

Most Arab states see the Obama administration as having created the conditions that enabled the Islamic State to thrive by not being more helpful to moderates in Syria and by continuing to back Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in Iraq — long after it became clear that he was pursuing policies that were alienating the country’s Sunni minority.

Obama’s overtures to Iran also play a major role in Arab mistrust of the U.S. It is feared that the new strategy will further empower Iran and its Shiite allies at the expense of Sunni influence in the region.

At the Weekly Standard, Fredrick and Kimberly Kagan said that “President Obama has just announce that he is bringing a counter-terrorism strategy to an insurgency fight.”

ISIL is an insurgent group that controls enormous territory in Iraq and Syria that it governs. It maneuvers conventional light infantry forces supported by vehicles mounting machine guns and occasionally armored personnel carriers against the regular forces of the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish Peshmerga—and wins.

It is purely and simply not a terrorist organization any longer. Neither is it the simple manifestation of nihilistic evil the president makes out.

ISIL has described a very clear vision of seizing control of all of the territory of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories.  It intends to abolish all of the borders and redraw them according to a new structure of governance suitable to its hateful version of an old Islamic heresy.  That vision also makes it more than a simple terrorist organization.  It’s awfully hard to develop a sound strategy when you start by mis-diagnosing the problem so profoundly. That’s why the “strategy” the president just announced has no chance of success.

So Obama chose not to take up the strategy recommended by his military advisors. Has, according to experts, misidentified the problem. He promised a broad coalition apparently before consulting with those who he expects to make up the coalition. And promised the broad support of Arab states who no longer trust that the United States will act in an honorable manner and do what it says it will do.



War On a Terrorist Organization That is Not Islamic, With No Boots On The Ground? by The Elephant's Child

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That was a very odd speech. This is a long way from the soaring rhetoric of the campaign or the inauguration. I didn’t watch, that was asking too much. I listened on the radio. But he was not commanding, but belligerent. His speech came in those little bursts that he uses when he is particularly angry. He said he had all the authority he needed to do what he wanted, and Congress should make themselves useful by giving him the money needed.

No boots on the ground, but he was going to lead a large coalition, and they would attack and degrade ISIl forces, and we would train Iraq and Free Syrian forces, but no boots on the ground, (except for all the personnel and equipment needed to train those forces and defend our embassy) but we wouldn’t have any boots on the ground.

Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.

In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. In acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists – Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.

“ISIL is not Islamic? No religion condones the killing of innocents.” John Kerry said something equivalent. The Koran is full of killing, and beheading. It is completely intolerant of unbelievers, other religions, and anyone who has not submitted to Islam. How can you wage war, even a minor airstrike war, and fail to grasp the nature of the opposition?

But this is not our fight alone. American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region. That’s why I’ve insisted that additional U.S. action depended upon Iraqis forming an inclusive government, which they have now done in recent days. So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.

Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.

If you want to distinguish ISIL from other Muslim countries, add “radical” or “terrorist” to Islamic each time. But do not pretend that they are not motivated by a radical version of Islam. It’s a fine distinction, but don’t pretend it away.

Then he drifted off into his usual roundup of his accomplishments, which keeps getting heavier on the things accomplished by others during his tenure, and things that just haven’t been accomplished at all.

Very odd speech, quite short, only about 20 min. Pretty much what was expected.

Do you think Obama ever went to a war movie?  Or read a military history? Or even a military thriller by one of today’s popular novelists? Just asking.

“This is a core principle of my presidency. If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”

“This is American leadership at its best: we stand with people who fight for their own freedom; and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.”

He said over the last month”we have conducted more than 150 successful airstrikes in Iraq.” Col. Ralph Peters remarked that he should have conducted 150 airstrikes on the first day. That would be a start.



The President Made a Statement to the Press. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama held one of his rare press conferences today, and even took a few questions. He announced to the world that he has no strategy to deal with ISIS.  Maybe later.

He announced that we aren’t taking military action to solve the Ukrainian problem. I’m sure Mr. Putin is relieved.

He’s sending Secretary Kerry to Iraq, because they have to develop a more inclusive government. Our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader comprehensive strategy, but we don’t have that either.

He has, however, directed Secretary Hagel and the Joint Chiefs to prepare a range of options.

Jen Psaki, State Department Spokesperson, showed that our State Department is right up on things. She held up a little handwritten sign with a hashtag. I forget what it said, probably something about being concerned.

Our country is in the very best of hands.

The President’s statement is available here.

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