American Elephants


Photoshoppers at Work: Humor 1, Government 0. by The Elephant's Child

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We heard on the radio that President Obama had a telephone conversation with President Putin.  I thought this was funny!



A Bully at Home, Feckless in Foreign Policy. by The Elephant's Child

Daniel Henninger began his column in the Wall Street Journal today thusly:

By the time the second World Trade Center tower collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, the whole world was watching it. We may assume that Vladimir Putin was watching. Mr. Putin, a quick calculator of political realities, would see that someone was going to get hit for this, and hit hard.

He was right of course. The Bush presidency became a war presidency that day, and it pounded and pursued the Islamic fundamentalists of al Qaeda without let-up or apology.

During that time, it was reported that Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer in East Germany, deeply regretted the fall of the Soviet Union’s empire and despised the Americans who caused it to fall. But no one cared what Mr. Putin thought then.

Mark Steyn added:

That’s true. A couple of days after September 11th, the Bush Administration called Moscow and demanded the Russians agree to letting the US use military bases in former Soviet Central Asia for their planned invasion of Afghanistan. That must have been quite a phone call. Washington was proposing not only to do to the Afghans what the Kremlin has so abysmally failed to do, but to do it out of the Russians’ old bases. And yet Moscow understood that, for once, America was serious. And so, presented with a fait accomplis, they agreed to it.

Back to today, Daniel Henninger again:

Sometimes world affairs go off the grid. Diplomats may give reasons why it is not in the interests of Mr. Putin or Russia to take this course. Vice President Biden told the Poles in Warsaw Monday that Mr. Putin’s seizure of Crimea was “flawed logic.” It is difficult for men embedded in a world of rational affairs to come to grips with Mr. Putin’s point of view: He doesn’t care what they think.

And everything Obama does confirms to Putin that the Crimea is his, so why stop there. So Putin will roll on, reassembling the Russian Empire. The Obama Administration pursues its own foreign policy priorities:

Secretary Kerry says the U.S. will send scientists to discuss homosexuality with the President of Uganda.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice wants to take affirmative action in the legal sense on behalf of women. The post of U.S. ambassador to Russia has been vacant for three weeks. Al Kamen of the Washington Post says Ms. Rice would like to place a woman in Moscow. It was rumored that White House press secretary Jay Carney who once worked in Moscow for Time magazine wanted the job of ambassador.

Russian forces invade the Ukraine Naval Base.  President Obama reveals his “Final Four” picks. Joe Biden is in Eastern Europe conferring with our allies there, and trying to convince them that we are serious.

Conservatives who note the stark difference between Obama’s domestic legally questionable hardball and his passive international posture must wonder whether Obama behaves as he does because he is naive or just because he wants the U.S. to have less say in the world. His stated foreign policy objectives are to keep the U.S. out of war and transform America’s image from that of unilateralist bully to a nation that plays well with others.

The trouble is that under Obama the U.S. does not play well with others. Obama’s view of the world is extraordinarily naive, as is the substance and the style of his foreign policy.



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.



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.



Everything You Wanted to Know About the Middle East but Were Afraid to Ask by The Elephant's Child

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at the 2013 World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa held in Jordan.  He unveiled a plan to boost the Palestinian economy. The plan is based on $4 Billion in new funding and seems to carry the endorsement of many foreign leaders. The idea is that we can buy peace in the Middle East. Good Luck with that.

The idea is to mobilize some $4 billion of investment. A team of experts — private citizens, donating their time — are analyzing the opportunities in tourism construction,m light manufacturing, building materials, energy, agriculture, and information and communications technology. The group will make recommendations to the Palestinians. They’re not going to decide anything. The Palestinians will decide that in their normal course of governance, But they will analyze and make recommendations on a set of choices that can dramatically lift the economy.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair and the folks working with him believe that we can lift the Palestinian GDP by as much as 50 percent over three years. They foresee enough new jobs to cut unemployment by nearly two-thirds — to 8% down from 21% today and increase the median annual wage by as much as 40 %. Prime Minister Blair has always been an optimist. But the Obama administration is determined that the “Peace Process” will work. Obama does not change his mind.

“Secretary of State John Kerry says that it’s now or never for Israelis and Palestinians to reach agreement on a two-state solution. Interestingly, neither Israeli nor Palestinian officials have any idea what Kerry is talking about.” That’s Lee Smith writing at Tablet magazine.  A few recent headlines while we were paying attention to other things:

Assad on the March” Wall Street Journal

Syria: Obama talks no fly zones, Putin sends missiles” Rare

Assad Warns Israel, Claiming a Stockpile of Russian Weapons” NYT

Al Qaeda’s Syrian wing takes over the oilfields once belonging to Assad
Telegraph uk

Count Me Out on Syria” Victor Davis Hanson

John Kerry, as the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was the man known to have Bashar Assad on his speed dial. Perhaps he’s been doing some re-thinking since Assad has used nerve gas on his people, and turned into a monster. You probably won’t want to read all of those links, but the headlines give you a sense of the state of things.

Here’s another: “Obama’s Iraq Surrender,” Front Page Magazine, May 31.

But a far bigger part of the picture is the accelerating destabilization of Iraq. The breakdown of Iraq, with its far-reaching regional ramifications, is attributable in no small part to President Obama’s abandonment of the U.S.’s mission in the country, a betrayal committed in total defiance of the military establishment’s recommendations, which squandered the hard-won victory handed down by President Bush. As predicted, our precipitous withdrawal has left the once pacified nation riven with sectarian strife, primarily among Sunni and Shia Muslims and the Kurds. As the region descends, the consequences of Obama’s folly are only becoming more obvious: a nation that once stood a chance at being a source of stability in the region is instead rapidly becoming its maelstrom.

Whether or not you agree with that paragraph, the article continues with a clear description of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in 1916, and the secret agreement between Sir Mark Sykes of Britain and George Picot of France, with Russia’s approval to create Middle East spheres of influence for France and Great Britain following their victory in WWI. The borders created to satisfy European sensibilities largely ignored the realities of historic ethnic, tribal and sectarian divisions which were exacerbated by the rise of dictators, tyrants and Arab monarchs who maintained power after the French and British withdrew in the middle of the last century.

It’s a good summary of the background of the Middle East, and useful for those of us who struggle to understand what’s going on, the actions of our own government, and what we think about it.



Some Nice Words: Some Bad Judgment. by The Elephant's Child

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Barack Obama’s first trip to Israel as President of the United States started off with the presidential limousine breaking down because his people put the wrong fuel in it. A metaphor? Probably.

Mr. Obama has long-expected one of his signature achievements as president would be producing peace in the Middle East by bringing the “peace process” to a satisfactory conclusion. He has believed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be the cause of all Middle East problems, and he would just demand they sit down and talk.

Obama had some nice words in a speech to the Israeli people, then talked down to them. Then he had the extraordinarily bad judgment to give a speech in Ramallah on the West Bank, in front of a gigantic banner of Yassir Arafat, He actually said this:

I think it’s important for us to work through this [peace] process, even if there are irritants on both sides. The Israelis have concerns about rockets flying into their cities last night. And it would be easy for them to say, you see, this is why we can’t have peace because we can’t afford to have our kids in beds sleeping and suddenly a rocket comes through the roof. But my argument is even though both sides may have areas of strong disagreement [sic], may be engaging in activities that the other side considers to be a breach of good faith [sic], we have to push through those things to try to get to an agreement — because if we get an agreement then it will be very clear what the nature of that agreement is: There will be a sovereign Palestinian state, a sovereign Jewish State of Israel.

And those two states I think will be able to deal with each other the same way all states do. I mean, the United States and Canada has [sic] arguments once in a while, but they’re not the nature of arguments that can’t be solved diplomatically. And I think we can keep pushing through some of these problems and make sure that we don’t use them as an excuse not to do anything.

Can he possibly believe that the problems between Israel and the Palestinians is in any way similar to our arguments with Canada? His arguments with Stephen Harper over the Keystone XL must have been far more acrimonious than we knew. Talk about trivializing murder! The Palestinians bring up their children to be terrorists, extolling being a suicide bomber.

Israel’s demands have always been simple. Stop shooting rockets at us, and recognize the Israeli’s right to their own state.  Obama added:

[T]he United States remains committed to realizing the vision of two states, which is in the interests of the Palestinian people, and also in the national security interest of Israel, the United States, and the world.  We seek an independent, a viable and contiguous Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people, alongside the Jewish State of Israel — two nations enjoying self-determination, security and peace.

A viable and contiguous Palestinian state? There is no peace process. And the troubles between Israel and the Palestinians is not the reason for conflict in the Middle East. I heard on the radio that some 30 percent of Palestinians would prefer to live in Israel.

The State Department announced that they will unblock $500 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority. Congress froze funding for the Palestinian Authority in the wake of the PA’s attempt to unilaterally declare statehood via the United Nations. Despite President Obama’s request to PA President Mahmoud Abbas  not to go to the International Criminal Court to seek sanctions against Israel, Abbas, now in the ninth year of his four-year term, had vowed to do so.



Mitt Romney Spoke of “The Mantle of Leadership” by The Elephant's Child

“If America doesn’t lead, others will.”

That simple declaration in his foreign policy speech today at the Virginia Military Institute, Mitt Romney demonstrated his membership in the reality-based community. If America is perceived to be weak, others will move into the vacuum. President Obama’s hope-based, timid, naive foreign policy has already shown that what he understands as a move to make America just one among the many nations of the world, is perceived as weakness by other nations. President Obama has confused popularity with the public with the national interest.

A central truth of the last 200 years of American history is that American weakness harms us, and harms the world. Tyranny arises when America is weak. Americans may be weary of war, but there are fewer wars when America is strong. The consequences of apology and appeasement are apparent.

Ninety minutes after news of the attack on the consulate in Benghazi reached Washington, Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, JCS Chair General Martin Dempsey and a national security adviser met for an oval office meeting in which they ultimately rejected U.S. military intervention. Instead, they decided to reach out to the Libyan government to ask them to send reinforcements.

Ambassador Stevens had begged for reinforcements. When the U.S. Personnel at the consulate left the main building for what was supposed to be a safe house, the deployment of forces seemed moot. In hindsight, we might have sent aircraft from the base in Sicily. a show of force might have given the attackers second thoughts. The State Department dismissed this option as “unrealistic.” When the ambassador and the other three Americans were killed, Obama headed off for a Las Vegas fund-raiser.

Lt. Col Wood, head of the Special Forces Site Security Team in Libya, says his team left Libya in August, although he met daily with Stevens and security was a constant challenge. He said they tried to communicate the danger to State Department officials in Washington, but officials denied requests to boost security.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban mock the U.S. claiming that NATO forces are “fleeing Afghanistan” in “humiliation and disgrace.” Courageous CBS correspondent Lara Logan delivered a speech to about 1,000 influential people from government, politics, media and the legal and corporate arena, in downtown Chicago. Her message was derived from years of covering our Middle East wars.

There is this narrative coming out of Washington for the last two years, Logan said. It is driven in part by Taliban apologists who claim they are just the poor moderate gentler, kinder Taliban. It’s such nonsense.

Eleven years later, ‘they’ still hate us, now more than ever. The Taliban and al-Qaeda have not been vanquished. They’re coming back.

I chose this subject because one, I can’t stand, that there is a major lie being propagated.

Logan stepped way out of the “objective,” journalistic role. The audience was riveted as she told of plowing through reams of documents, and interviewing John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan; Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and a Taliban commander trained by al-Qaida. The Taliban and al-Qaida are teaming up and recruiting new terrorists to do us deadly harm, she reports.

She made a passionate case that our government is downplaying the strength of our enemies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as a rationale of getting us out of the longest war. We have been lulled into believing that the perils are in the past: “You’re not listening to what the people who are fighting you say about this fight. In your arrogance, you think you write the script.”

Our enemies are writing the story, she suggests, and there’s no happy ending for us.

Intelligence officials are angered by Obama administration cover up of intelligence on Iranian, al Qaeda surge in Egypt and Libya, reports Bill Gertz.  Numerous classified reports reveal clear Iranian support for jihadists throughout North Africa and the Middle East, as well as al Qaeda penetration into Egypt and Libya.

Some have been encouraged by Obama’s “kill list” and using drones to attack terrorists as a less costly way to wage war, but not even the White House knows the drones’ body count. Government officials claim they are very-precise killing machines that never miss their targets, but other estimates suggest many civilian deaths, including children. Nobody knows. There is no serious evidence.  The administration seems to consider every military-aged male in a hostile region to be a legitimate target. This may have long term repercussions.

Here is the transcript of Mitt Romney’s Foreign Policy Speech to VMI today.  It was titled “The Mantle of Leadership.” Read the whole thing.  I am encouraged.




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