American Elephants


Understanding Ukraine: The Problems Today and Some Historical Context by The Elephant's Child
April 3, 2014, 6:32 am
Filed under: Europe, Freedom, History, Politics, Russia | Tags: , ,


So Much for the Famous “Reset Button.” by The Elephant's Child
May 13, 2010, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Islam, Israel, Middle East | Tags: , , , ,


President Obama has rolled out the red carpet for Afghan President Hamid Karzai.   Mr. Obama has realized that he has offended Mr. Karzai, and is attempting to mend fences.  It was widely publicized that the administration hoped to see Mr. Karzai replaced — not exactly the way to make friends among national leaders.

Obama’s success on the campaign trail, with enthusiastic crowds and an adoring press, may have given him the illusion that he could sway national interests with his charm and mellow baritone voice. But nations have interests, and the particular interests of the American president don’t trump the interests of other countries.  Working together requires putting aside the arrogance and refraining from telling other people what to do. George W. Bush may have been unpopular in the streets, but his relations with national leaders were, for the most part, excellent.

Obama  has told us over and over that talks are the ultimate goal.  If he could just sit down and talk with the Mullahs of Iran, they surely would find areas of agreement.  The Mullahs have no interest in talks, they have never had any interest in talks.  It hasn’t worked.

President Obama’s relations with other national leaders are not good. He has made no friends.  An exception was supposed to be President Dimitry Medvedev of Russia. They got along famously, we were told, the agreement enhanced by Obama’s willingness to give up our missile defense in Eastern Europe.

Now we learn that Medvedev has paid a state visit to Syrian President Assad in Damascus that resulted in Moscow’s full endorsement of the Arab agenda against Israel, plus a direct Kremlin challenge to American Mideast diplomacy.

In a joint communiqué with Assad, Medvedev added his own Middle East plan, including 1.) Putting the blame for Mideast tensions on Israel, 2.) Demanding a complete Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 lines, 3.) Demanding that Israel join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear state, 4.) Endorsing Palestinian demands for a “right of return” — a formula for the demographic destruction of the Jewish state.

Medvedev also offered nuclear plants to Syria. His next stop — Turkey to whom he has also offered a nuclear plant.

Obama has placed all his bets on getting his Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, to mediate indirect peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  The administration seems to be laboring under the illusion that the problems of the Middle East would go away, if Israel would just make peace with the Palestinians — whose stated goal is to “drive Israel into the sea.”

So much for the reset button, and so much for Obama’s role as the world historical figure who has brought peace to the troubled Middle East.  The Russian bear has other ideas, and they clearly involve a larger role in the Middle East.



How They Celebrate Earth Day in Russia. by The Elephant's Child
April 22, 2010, 2:18 pm
Filed under: Environment, Humor, Statism | Tags: , ,

(h/t: Chris Horner, Planet Gore)



Ideology Trumps Common Sense, America Loses. by The Elephant's Child

A full one-third of terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11 have occurred in 2009, under Obama’s watch. Just mentioning.

There is a segment of the population that believes that if people of good will would just sit down together and decide to end war, then we would have eternal peace.  And so it is with violence,  if we would just renounce violence, then no one would be violent anymore.  They believe in community, and communes.  We can all just live together in harmony, sharing the work and the rewards, sharing everything.  That always works out well.

President Obama has a vision of a world without nuclear weapons.  Apparently it has taken a year and 150 meetings to translate his vision into a policy prescription known as the Nuclear Posture Review.  It took a while to wear down those within the administration who were opposed to actually disarming the United States.

President Obama feels quite comfortable criticizing our friends and telling them how to behave.  Our enemies require coddling.  A treaty seems to be the end game, although treaties are only words.  James Carafano reminds us of some of the history of World War I.

That global conflict was billed as “the war to end all wars.” The Versailles Treaty was meant to seal the deal. But its words couldn’t stop the German military.

The treaty aimed to prevent Germany from producing cutting-edge weaponry. The Kaiser’s U-boats, for example, had taken a dreadful toll during the war.

So the treaty forbid all future “construction and purchase of all underwater vessels, even for commercial purposes … in Germany.” The Germans consequently used foreign dummy corporations to build and test their new and improved U-boat designs while Karl Doenitz developed the “wolf pack” tactics that would make Nazi submarines the scourge of the Atlantic during World War II.

The treaty also placed great restrictions on German air forces. It said nothing, however, about rockets or missiles. Wernher Von Braun brought that loophole to the attention of the German high command. In turn, it bankrolled development of the world’s first military missile — the A4. During World War II, 3,000 of them rained down on Britain.

Measuring intentions is an important part of negotiating any treaty. Yet this basic tenet of foreign policy seems to elude our current administration. Case in point: the new arms control treaty the president plans to sign.

President Obama believes that reducing nuclear arms in concert with Moscow is the first step on the “road to zero.” Unfortunately, the Russians don’t.

Moscow sees its nuclear weapons as the cornerstone of its defense. Moreover, its unspoken threat of nuclear attack is central to the success of its foreign policy. Significantly diminishing those resources is the last thing Russia plans on doing.

Moscow does, however, want to see the U.S. nuclear deterrent reduced to an equal footing with its mediocre might. It also wants U.S. conventional strike capabilities and missile defense to be on the table.

The Ayatollahs in Tehran want nuclear weapons badly.  They see them as giving Iran a pre-eminent place in the Middle East, and control of the region.  The White House is still talking about sanctions, but they are too little and too late.  The ‘Green Movement’s”efforts to discredit the regime deserved our support.  The lessons that the Iranian regime has learned is that they can do whatever they want and we will not impose any price.

We now face what once we thought unthinkable, a nuclear armed Iran.  A world much more dangerous and unstable.  Ronald Reagan didn’t have to threaten war, he only needed to fire the air traffic controllers.  It is not the words of the fine speeches that influence our adversaries and competitors,  but our actions and behavior.  Obama doesn’t come off as exactly a  tower of strength.



Obama’s Teleprompter Problem. by The Elephant's Child

Has there ever before been a candidate for the Presidency of the United States who ran on a platform of not liking his country much? At least when he’s speaking without a teleprompter. He can’t seem to stop putting his foot into it. On Wednesday in Lynchburg, VA, Democrat Barack Obama scolded Russia again for invading another country’s sovereign territory while stating that “the United States should set a better example on that front”.

The Illinois senator’s initial opposition to the Iraq war is his only claim to fame, and to which he refers whenever possible. (I think he was pathetically and disastrously wrong, but he is entitled to his opinion). He went on to say “We’ve got to send a clear message to Russia and unify our allies. They can’t charge into other countries. Of course it helps if we are leading by example on that point”.

Victor Davis Hanson found that a little much too:

Let me get this straight; getting a Senate and House majority to authorize a bipartisan joint war-resolution, going to the U.N., assembling a coalition, having a national and world debate on the wisdom of such an operation from December 2001 to March 2003, and then attacking a genocidal dictator, and staying on to foster a constitutional democracy are apparently the same “charge” “example” as an autocrcy suddenly invading its democratic neighbor during the Olympics, and staying on to annex some of its territory?

Aside from the silliness of these statements, the problem for Obama, again, is that incrementally they really do start to add up — America’s “tragic history,” the mini-sermon on decline to the 7-year-old, waffling exegesis to Rick Warren about our own evil, the confessions to the cheering Berliners about our transgressions — and these doubts are enhanced rather than ameliorated by Michelle Obama’s various rantings, and the creepy things former associates like Ayers, Wright, and Pfleger have said about America and its culture.

Obama has made it pretty clear that history is not his strong point, nor foreign policy. I still can’t get over his claim that he is especially knowledgeable about foreign policy because he lived abroad from age 6 to age 10.

I am offended by his constant put-downs of the country, and by his insistence that the country is in terrible shape. I suppose that if you are a messiah, and you can convince everyone that things are almost beyond redemption, and that you and you alone can redeem the world; well then, I guess you get a bunch of people sitting around chanting Oh-bah-mah. Seems a little sick-making to me.



For Every Action, There is a Reaction. by The Elephant's Child
August 22, 2008, 8:19 pm
Filed under: Foreign Policy, History, News, Politics | Tags: , ,

The Russians seem not to be moving out of Georgia in spite of Western demands. They clearly are not happy with missiles in Poland and with the defiance of their former satellites. Now it seems that investors are yanking their money out of Russian markets. Until Russia invaded Georgia, there had been only massive inflows of capital, probably because of the rising price of oil which represents 20% of Russia’s gross domestic product.

The outbreak of militarism, red tape, corruption, and war talk has caused some to make a hasty exit and take their money with them. On Friday, Russia’s central bank announced that its foreign currency reserves — a central part of its economic stability had dropped $16.4 billion in the last week to $581.1 billion. This was the biggest decline since Russia’s 1998 currency crisis which led to triple digit inflation and a collapse of the ruble.

Oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was eligible for release from prison, but Russian authorities have decided to keep him in prison, without comment. His biggest crime seems to be that he was not politically aligned with Putin.

Russia’s oil boom has done little to improve conditions in Russia. Health care is poor, alcoholism is widespread, and life expectancy is short. Russia’s population is declining by approximately 500,000 a year, and is expected to accelerate.

It’s a strange world, isn’t it?



The crisis in Georgia through the eyes of Michael Totten… by The Elephant's Child
August 21, 2008, 1:41 am
Filed under: Foreign Policy, News, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Michael Totten, independent journalist extraordinaire, reports from Tbilisi in Georgia, and describes the situation there. He describes a refugee crisis all over the country and especially in the capital. Schools have been transformed into refugee housing. Michael visited one of the schools and spoke to four women — Lia, Nana, Diana, and Maya — who had fled with their children from small villages near Gori.

“We left the cattle,” Lia said. “We left the house. We left everything and came on foot because to stay there was impossible”. Diana’s account: “They are burning the houses. From most of the houses they are taking everything. They are stealing everything, even such things as toothbrushes and toilets. They are taking the toilets. Imagine. They are taking broken refrigerators.” And Nana: “We are so heartbroken. I don’t know what to say or even think. Our whole lives we were working to save something , and one day we lost everything. Now I have to start everything from the very beginning.”

As always in his reporting, Michael gives a sense of immediacy to today’s events. Read the whole thing.



War and peace, ceasefires and peacekeepers…. by The Elephant's Child

Oh, well of course, it’s all Bush’s fault. The response has been too anemic. The response has been too strong. A little invasion in Ossetia, and it’s the blame-business as usual. The Russians had no choice but to move in because President Mikheil Saakashvili was committing genocide in South Ossetia; and if you believe that, you probably believe that Russian peacekeepers are keeping the peace.

Melik Kaylan, a New York based writer who has often reported from Georgia, wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

Last year, President Mikheil Saakashvili invited me along on a helicopter flight to see Tskhinvali, South Ossetia’s capital, from the air. We viewed it at some distance to avoid Russian antiaircraft missiles manned by Russian personnel.

He pointed out a lone hilltop sprinkled with houses some 10 miles inside Georgian territory — scarcely even a town. Much of the population, namely the Georgians, had long ago been purged by  Russian-backed militias, leaving behind a rump population of Ossetian farmers and Russian security forces posing as Ossetians. “We have offered them everything, ” he said, “language rights, land rights, guaranteed power in parliament, anything they want, and they would take it, if the Kremlin would let them.” (emphasis mine)

Moscow’s thin pretense of protecting an ethnic group provided just enough cover for Georgia’s timorous friends in the West to ignore increasing Russian provocations over the past few years. Moscow, it now seems, intends to “protect” large numbers of Georgians too — by occupying and killing them if that’s what it takes — and prevent them from building their own history and pursuing their democratic destiny, as it has for almost two centuries.

Georgia is just a little country far, far away, but it was once in the “sphere” of the Soviet Union. So were Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia and others. The core assumptions of the post-Cold War years have proved to be wrong. Francis Fukuyama famously claimed “At the end of history, there are not serious ideological competitors left to liberal democracy.” Nor has human nature, in its best and worst emanations, been repealed.

There have been a lot of words written on the Russian invasion of Georgia. These were, to me, some of the most striking. There will be many more words, lots of propaganda, and many attempts to attach blame. Try hard to retain your common sense. We may need it. This is a wake-up call.



They said they would, but no they won’t…. by The Elephant's Child

The War in Georgia

Russia agreed to pull out of South Ossetia, a cease-fire in the Georgian War, but, of course, they are doing no such thing. They are digging in a little deeper. In Poti, a port on the Black Sea, the Russians have sunk all Georgian naval and patrol vessels, and have been systematically destroying port facilities. They are far outside the borders of South Ossetia. The cease-fire deal calls for both Russian and Georgian forces to pull back to positions they held before fighting erupted on August 8.

The media seems to have accepted Russian propaganda, as usual.

The War in the House of Representatives

First she says she will and then she won’t. She will consider opening “portions”, but probably include little remedies that fit all her lies. Opening the Strategic Reserve, creating green jobs, curbs on non-existent speculation, all the loony leftist ideas. We need to increase the pressure on the Speaker of the House. She has created the worst record of any speaker in my lifetime, and with an approval rating of 9%, it can’t get much lower.

Do you suppose that Speaker Pelosi’s big investment in Boone Pickens’ big wind energy play “Clean Energy Fuels Corporation has anything to do with her insistence on subsidies for wind energy?



Oh, for goodness sake, we’re blaming the wrong people… by The Elephant's Child

Russian State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov contends that the war in Georgia is a “wag the dog” scenario cooked up by the McCain campaign, reports James S. Robbins in the Corner at National Review Online. “What is happening in the South Caucasus is part of the U.S. Republican Party’s election campaign.” he said. How it will lead to McCain taking Pennsylvania remains to be explained.

Oh, ha ha ha! Thanks, James Robbins, for injecting a wonderful bit of humor into a messy situation.



Surprise, surprise, Vladimir lied….. by The Elephant's Child

You thought all that talk about a cease fire could be believed, didn’t you? Some of us have longer experience with the Russians than others. The idea that Russia, while the world was watching the Olympics, just suddenly needed to respond to a “provocation” by Georgia’s elected president, with a fully organized two division military force, tanks, warplanes, warships, and two divisions of soldiers. As Canadian David Warren said:

The notion that Russia — whose land area makes her by far the planet’s largest single state — could be threatened by a neighbour 1/245th her size, should not be confused with paranoia.

In spite of changing titles, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, strongman of Russia, remains in charge. As a former KGB officer, he has long been schooled in Communist power politics. Russia has been meddling in South Ossetia and Abkhazia for years. Russia’s thin pretense of protecting an ethnic group from “ethnic cleansing” provided cover for Georgia’s timid friends in the West to ignore Russia’s adventures. Melik Kaylan explains, in the Wall Street Journal, some of Russia’s strategic plans.

Having overestimated the power of the Soviet Union in its last years, we have consistently underestimated the ambitions of Russia since. Already, a great deal has been said about the implications of Russia’s invasion for Ukraine, the Baltic States and Europe generally. But few have noticed the direct strategic threat of Moscow’s action to U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Kremlin is not about to reignite the Cold War for the love of a few thousand Ossetians or even for its animosity toward five million Georgians. This is calculated strategic maneuvering. And make no mistake, it’s about countering U.S. power at its furthest stretch with Moscow’s power very close to home…
Between Russia and Iran, in the lower Caucasus, sits a small wedge of independent soil — namely, the soil of Azerbaijan and Georgia combined. Through those two countries runs the immensely important Bakuk-Tiblisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which delivers precious oil circuitously from Azerbaijan to Turkey and out to the world. …It says to the world that if any former Moscow colonies wish to sell their wares to the West diectly, they have a right to do so, and the West will support that right.

John McCain understood the situation immediately as a case of Russian aggression, and spoke out forcefully. McCain knows Georgia well, quickly grasped the strategic situation, and spoke to President Saakashvili who he has know for many years.

Susan Rice, most prominent of Obama’s 300 foreign policy advisers, quickly accused McCain of “shooting from the hip”, and said that a more “measured response” would be more appropriate. Susan Rice has emphasized that Barack Obama clearly has more foreign policy expertise because he actually lived abroad from age 6 to age 10. A measured response seems to be talking and consulting the expertise of the U.N.

Leaders of the other former Soviet controlled states have quickly called for Russia to back off and offered their support to Georgia. President Bush has sent humanitarian supplies and medical aid. His statement is here. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on the way to Georgia. The situation is fluid.



Georgians Rally in Support of President Saakashvili by American Elephant
August 13, 2008, 5:26 am
Filed under: Europe, Foreign Policy, News | Tags: , , ,

15,000 Georgians rallied Tuesday to support President Mikheil Saakashvili  — even his opposition. “I promise you today, that I’ll remind them of everything they have done and one day we will win,” Saakashvili told the crowd to cheers of, “Georgia! Georgia!”




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