American Elephants


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



What Makes Them Join the Jihad? by The Elephant's Child

Michael Ledeen has gone directly to the nub of the question. Why do they join the Jihad? Why are they flocking to ISIS?

Because it gives meaning to life, that’s why.

It’s a commonplace to anyone who’s studied the rise of fascism, of which Islamofascism is the most recent variety.  The main problem with democratic capitalism is that it’s so successful, and therefore very boring.  A generation or two of European intellectuals bemoaned the great triumph of science and industry, which they portrayed as relentlessly stifling the human soul, burying us under a hill of material things.

The Germans produced the most moving such literature — think Nietzsche, think Hesse, not accidentally the cult hero of the American revolt against materialism in the 1960s — and, seeking for paths to spiritual fulfillment, they often wandered off into Eastern mysticism.  (Californians dd, too, and sometimes still do, but that’s not fascism.  It’s Hollywood spirituality).

The spiritual path merged with politics, catalyzed by war.  All fascism, whatever version of social or political organization it advocates, insists that war is the true measure of human virtue.  A person’s valor and courage are measured by his performance in combat.  The Italian fascists insisted that Mussolini and his followers were superior people who had been molded in the trenches of the Great War.  Young men and women who believed they possessed heroic qualities raced to join the fascist movement, just as they now race to join the jihad.

Dr. Ledeen points out that though there is considerable literature on the recruitment of poor young Muslims to suicide bombing, the recruiters promise money and security to the surviving family. The immediate passion is the thrill of fighting the enemy and making a real difference in creating a new world.

Religious rituals and beliefs work, as long as the movement succeeds. When we crush the jihad, killing the jihadis before they kill us — we destroy the ideology by demonstrating that their leaders are false prophets.



White House Correspondent Ed Henry Asks — Why? by The Elephant's Child

During today’s press briefing, Fox News White House Correspondent Ed Henry inquired of Press Secretary Josh Earnest whether it was prudent for the president to spend the weekend fundraising for his party and golfing while terrorist acts are being committed against the United States. Obama has stated that his administration has no strategy for dealing with ISIS. Henry asked Earnest:

I wonder what you think about the optics of the president, from that podium yesterday, does not have a strategy to deal with ISIS in serious military, and then next day, without that strategy, goes out and raises campaign money?

Is he detached? Does he feel like the critics coming after him, it just doesn’t matter anymore?” Henry asked. “Why is he still raising campaign money, playing golf, when he’s acknowledging he doesn’t have a strategy to deal with this?

Josh Earnest:

The job of any U.S. president is to be able to handle a lot of different responsibilities at the same time,” Earnest replied, in defense of Obama’s fundraising and golfing. The secretary added that Obama has a national security team, to whom he has outsourced the job of looking after America’s national security challenges.

“Outsourced.” There’s a remarkable lot hiding behind that word.



The Rise of Terrorism — And the Response: by The Elephant's Child

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Speaking as a partisan right wing-nut, and a 4th generation Republican at that, the Republican presidents with which I am familiar — would have bombed the hell out of every ISIS-known stronghold by now.

President Obama spoke yesterday from the Edgartown School in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Among other things he said:

So ISIL speaks for no religion.  Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents.  No just God would stand for what they did yesterday, and for what they do every single day.  ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings.

But they call themselves The Islamic State, they claim to be establishing “a new Islamic Caliphate” and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has proclaimed himself the Caliph. A few days ago, it was claimed that ISIS, which arose out of the defeated Sunni ‘militants’ of al Qaeda in Iraq fighters, had been banished by al Qaeda in February, but apparently, since ISIS has been pretty successful in getting financing (robbing banks and ransom money for hostages), and acquiring a vast store of American weapons, al Qaeda is claiming them again.

We have seen videos of all sorts of jihadists, including little children, who proclaim that God requires them to do jihad until all the unbelievers are gone.  Early in Dexter Filkins essential book The Forever War, he spoke of talking to some Pakistani prisoners in Lejdeh in Northern Afghanistan.

Then there was Faiz Ahmad, seventeen, wearing a pair of wire-rimmed glasses, a hajj cap and no beard. He seemed listless like the others, but when I asked him a question, he came alive.
“It is written in the Koran that we must kill the nonbelievers,” Ahmad said. “My teacher taught me this.” … “There is no end to the jihad,” Ahmad said.”It will go on forever until doomsday.”

I understand the politically correct need to proclaim that Islam is a Religion of Peace, and there are an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, just under the numbers of Christians, and most are not jihadists. But how are the 1.6 billion going to stamp out the very noisy jihadists who want to destroy us all, if we keep saying ‘never mind, it’s really a religion of peace? “Sayyid Qutb, one of the intellectual forefathers of jihadist thought, believed that Islam could not truly be practiced without a caliphate unifying the Muslim world and implementing Islamic law.”

President Obama, in his statement, added that “we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done.” Attorney General Eric Holder said today that his Justice Department is opening a criminal investigation into the brutal execution by Islamic State militants of American journalist James Foley, in the latest move by the administration to use the criminal justice system to pursue terrorists.

I assumed it was a military matter, but political correctness trumps all. “Speaking truth to power,” as the saying goes — doesn’t have much truth in it. And considering consequences is seldom involved. The Islamic State may be rich in cash and weapons, and according to Al Jazeera has jihadis flocking to their cause, but al Qaeda has the linked organizations all over the world. Killing bin Laden did not make the threat go away, To the contrary, we now have jihadists with American and European passports.

Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was killed in early 2002, was killed for the same reason that an ISIS fanatic killed James Foley — to convey an impression of strength— an admission of weakness instead. Max Boot has outlined the necessity for a military intervention and its essential nature.

Janet Daley, writing in The Telegraph sums it up with clarity in a column that asks “What does the Obama White House stand for?”

Barack Obama is discovering – rather belatedly – precisely what is involved in being president of the United States. How he has managed to avoid this for his first term and a half in office is a historical peculiarity. But we are where we are. He now has a full-blown, world-threatening foreign crisis in which the decisions that he makes from one minute to the next might result in immediate mass slaughter, a prolonged war or a gradual de-escalation of the conflict – or possibly all three in progressive stages. At the same moment, bizarrely, he is facing a domestic upheaval of staggering proportions: the return of riots and racially based violence in the urban streets of a kind which his very election as president was supposed to have made a thing of the past.



Are We Capable of Learning From History? by The Elephant's Child

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What do you do with human nature? Good and Evil? There have been many articles portraying the Islamic State, ISIS or IS, as pure evil—yet they see themselves as purifying their world by eliminating those who do not worship their real God properly. They are tearing down shrines and archeological monuments as antithetical, destroying the past as portrayed by rival religions. They are not just demanding adherence to their version of Islam, but those who don’t submit instantly are slaughtered, executed, crucified, beheaded or buried alive. All in the name of religion. Clearly, they believe they are doing good.

Obama, to all appearances, believes that America’s assumption of world leadership has been immoral and has caused almost all the world’s problems over the past century, and we need to let others take the leadership position so we can be something more like a big Belgium. He has been forced by world events to take notice, but he doesn’t want to do it, he finds the ways prescribed to tackle events disagreeable, and he would much prefer to just tell everybody to stop it and start getting along. To make matters worse he keeps telling everyone that he won’t do anything actually unpleasant because he would prefer to be admired. That has no restraining effect on our enemies. That Nobel Peace Prize was a long time ago.

This is in total agreement with a major sector of the Democratic Party. Elizabeth Warren, leftist crackpot, said that “the president has now taken two very targeted actions, and those two actions will change the mix of what’s happening in Iraq, and we’ll just have to monitor it.”

“The point is there has to be a negotiated solution in Iraq, but we don’t negotiate with terrorists. This is partially a question of whether the U.S. government negotiates or whether we have the Iraqi government doing these negotiations, and how we help support them as they try to maintain an integrated country, and a country that better represents all of the people who live there.”

I don’t think the president’s actions will change anything, except IS will spread out more so they are not such good targets. Nobody is interested in the slightest in negotiation, or in sharing a nation. It is way too late for that. There may be a moment in time when antagonist forces are open to just stopping their losses, but that was before they became the richest terrorist group on earth and the best equipped.

Obama is still certain that he can negotiate a settlement between Hamas and Israel, that somehow he can persuade the Israelis to give up enough land and freedom to satisfy Hamas and there will be a “two-state solution.” He really cannot get it through his head that Hamas just wants all Israelis dead. Genocide.

Understanding human nature means grasping the depths to which human evil can descend. We read about it, but we just don’t get it. The media, to protect our sensibilities, carefully blurs the heads and the bodies of the victims of the Islamic State. We have a picture today of a little kid, 7 years old, with a decapitated head in a bag over his shoulder. You can’t see the head, just the bulge in the bag. Small children are being offered weapons so they can go kill infidels for the glory of Allah. What do you do with the mentality that glorifies killing and celebrates blood lust?

There are lessons to be learned from every conflict, but we seldom learn them. We prefer to be entertained, and wait for the media to tell us what they believe we ought to know. The media, in general, are not up to the task. We have an obligation to study up, to understand our own times and our own history. We expect our representatives to manage our affairs responsibly, and we elect representatives who are neither responsible nor qualified.  Will they learn the lessons of history?

Democracy cannot thrive without a certain diet of truth. It cannot survive if the degree of truth in current circulation falls below a minimal level. A democratic regime, founded on the free determination of important choices made by a majority, condemns itself to death if most of the citizens who have to choose between various options make their decisions in ignorance of reality, blinded by passions or misled by fleeting impressions.
………………………………………………...Jean-Francois Revel



A Remarkably Tentative Approach to Genocide. by The Elephant's Child

 

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ISIS, or The Islamic State, seems to be a criminal gang that emerged out of the bloody civil war in Syria. They have been called an ‘offshoot’ of al Qaeda. President Obama contemptuously called them “the junior varsity”— which is treating them far too lightly. They seem to be a gang of thugs drawn together by blood lust and the freedom to kill everybody in sight in the name of Allah. Heady stuff.

Weapons bristling, they have roared at high speed across northern Iraq, executing those who oppose them in piles of corpses. Their fervor and mass executions have left much of the Iraqi army collapsing and leaving their weapons behind, which the thugs are delighted to appropriate. The videos politely blur the pictures of the piles of the dead, the beheaded, and the crucified as too much for delicate Western eyes to behold. They are beheading little children, sticking the heads on fenceposts. Barbarians, imagining they are part of Mohammed’s army out of the year 630. Young boys are enlisted — what fun to be given an AK-47 when you are only nine years-old and get to shoot people, all in the name of Allah.

Thrilled with all of the military equipment they have captured, they haul howitzers behind their trucks and giant missiles that they may or may not know what to do with. But we’ve seen videos of them doing wheelies with U.S. made Abrams tanks.

They are Sunni, at least sort of, and any Shiia encountered are promptly executed, as are Kurds, Christians and Yezedi, which is a religion predating Mohammed. The women are sold as sex slaves to the lusty young fighters, or killed. All in the name of the new Islamic Caliphate.

Mr. Obama recites some of these depredations in a queerly apologetic fashion in a video filmed in the state dining room with no audience but the ubiquitous teleprompters; and his head moves from side to side as if he were addressing a vast audience. He is trapped. He has created his own legend that he was elected because of his opposition to the War in Iraq, which he called the Dumb War, his opposition to the hated Bush; and he is justified because he got us out of Iraq

Many of us believe that the only reason that ISIS exists is because Obama got us out far too abruptly with no status of forces agreement that would have allowed us to continue training the Iraqi army, who weren’t prepared for such an onslaught. President Bush was reluctant to set a status of forces agreement in the last days of his presidency that would bind his successor. Mr. Bush had a video conference with Prime Minister Maliki every week, and called him often to maintain the relationship. Obama just wanted out, and made no attempt to smooth the way.

Obama’s speech is odd. He over-explains why we must act, and over-explains why our actions must be limited — echoed again in Press Secretary Earnest’s careful insistence that we will not put any “boots on the ground.” He’s been quite comfortable with ordering assassinations by drone strikes, but acting in defense of the Kurds who have been our allies, or saving the Yezedis  who are facing genocide, is a step too far.

I know that many of you are rightly concerned about any American military action in Iraq, even limited strikes like these.  I understand that.  I ran for this office in part to end our war in Iraq and welcome our troops home, and that’s what we’ve done.  As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.  And so even as we support Iraqis as they take the fight to these terrorists, American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.  The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces.

I don’t think we have ever had a president who has reminded us so frequently that he is the ‘Commander in Chief,’ as if he needed reminding himself. “Reconciliation among Iraqi communities?” That’s the same failure to grasp the nature of the situation that he exhibited with Israel, almost ordering Prime Minister Netanyahu to accept a cease fire, completely missing the simple fact that as long as Hamas demands the elimination of the Israeli State and the death of all Jews, a cease fire isn’t going to be all that effective. The video is here.

I think events are challenging Obama’s closely held worldview, and he is, in some way,  unable to cope with that.



Why Yes, We Knew — We Just Didn’t Do Anything About It! by The Elephant's Child

Weren’t we told by the administration that they were blindsided by the rapid advance by ISIS last month when Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city fell to this new jihadi army that seemed to come out of nowhere? They not only captured Mosul, but five divisions of the Iraqi army fell and we heard of mass executions, beheadings, crucifixions, and terrified residents fled before the onslaught as the long column headed towards Baghdad.

The administration, according to the record was not surprised at all. Congressional testimony as far back as November made it cleat that the United States had been closely tracking the black-clad jihadis, a ruthless al Qaeda spinoff. Intelligence officials had been closely tracking the group since 2012.

According to McClatchy, Obama administration officials were quite aware of the group’s intention to send men and material back into Iraq and turn loose waves of suicide bombers, which they knew that Iraqi security forces could not handle. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk told a House committee in February that the campaign had the stated objective of carving out a Caliphate in the western regions of Iraq and Syria.

So — if the Obama administration had all that advance warning why are they still trying to figure out what steps, if any, they should take to stop their advance? With all the pictures of the long ISIS column strung out on the road to Baghdad, it looked like a pretty vulnerable target, but I’ve probably read too many thrillers.

They’ve seized all sorts of Iraqi military equipment, drained banks of their assets, seized oil and natural gas fields, military outposts. Nearly every day we hear about another town that has fallen or another outrage they have committed.

What started as a crisis in Syria has become a regional disaster with serious global implications,” Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Wednesday.

Yet Defense Department officials say they might not complete work on proposed options for U.S. actions until the middle of August, a lifetime in a region where every day brings word of another town or village falling to the Islamic State. Some lawmakers and experts say the delay borders on diplomatic malpractice.

Chairman Royce said Iraqi officials and diplomats at our embassy began urging drone strikes as early as August last year against Islamic State bases near the Syrian border.

This was a very clear case in which the U.S. knew what was going on but followed a policy of deliberate neglect,” said Vali Nasr, the dean of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and a former State Department adviser on the Middle East.

“This miscalculation essentially has helped realize the worst nightmare for this administration, an administration that prided itself on its counterterrorism strategy,” said Nasr. “It is now presiding over the resurgence of a nightmare of extremism and terrorism.”

The article from the Merced Sun Star is long and, frankly, depressing. Dithering, indecision, Obama believes one of his greatest accomplishments is ending the war in Iraq, he can’t undo that. Drawing red lines in Syria, misunderstanding the Middle East. Obama came to office believing that the key to the problems of the Middle East was Israeli intransigence. If he could broker a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, then the problems of the Middle East would end. That’s why Kerry has been over there wearing out his welcome, pushing absurd agreements. Obama seems to have learned about the Middle East from his friend Rashid Khalidi, the firebrand Palestinian professor.

Matt Lewis of The Daily Caller has a column in Britain’s Telegraph today, suggesting that “Barack Obama has already checked out of his job,” in which he suggests that Obama is “no longer even worried about keeping up appearances, he doesn’t care enough to fake it.”

The United States has apparently not yet delivered the helicopter gunships and F-16 jet fighters that Iraq has already purchased. The administration has also dragged its feet on Baghdad’s request for U.S. military advisers, though 300 were dispatched after Mosul fell. Obama doesn’t seem to get along with Maliki. George W. Bush had weekly video conferences with him.

Gaza’s charter says they will eliminate Israel and take over the land. That’s fairly clear and straightforward. The Islamic State says they have established a new Caliphate in Syria and Iraq, and then…? Putin is still busily working to take over the Ukraine, al Qaeda is threatening a cyber attack on the United States. We have thousands of children, (mostly between the ages of 14 and 17) who are being recruited by MS-17.  Obama says he wants to send them back home, but he is settling them in all over the country, and schools will be expected to take the kids. The border is wide open because Border Patrol people have been called away to deal with the ‘unaccompanied children’, and security officials are worried. More businesses are moving their corporate offices overseas to escape taxes, and Obama can’t think of anything to do but punish them. Cutting taxes is not in his vocabulary.

What’s the old saying? Ask me no questions, and I’ll tell you no lies.




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