American Elephants

Obama’s Failure To Grasp the Nature of Al Qaeda Is Frightening! by The Elephant's Child

Obama Arrogantt

“President Barack Obama has described al Qaeda as having been “decimated”, “on the path to defeat” or some other variation at least 32 times since the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, according to White House transcripts.”  That was an article at CNS news on November 1, 2012. He’s probably upped that 32 times considerably since then. Here’s one of the more typical statements:

Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq — and we did. I said we’d wind down the war in Afghanistan — and we are. And while a new tower rises above the New York skyline, al Qaeda is on the path to defeat, and Osama bin Laden is dead.

Fredrick W. Kagan is one of those people that can be correctly called an “expert.”  He has years  of study and experience behind this testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade on “Missing the Target—Why the U.S.Has Not Defeated al Qaeda.”

All conditions are set for a series of significant terrorist attacks against the US and its allies over the next few years. But that’s not the worst news. Conditions are also set for state collapse in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and possibly Jordan. Saudi Arabia, facing a complex succession soon, is likely to acquire nuclear weapons shortly, if it has not already done so. Turkey and Egypt confront major crises. Almost all of Northern and Equatorial Africa is violent, unstable, and facing a growing al Qaeda threat. And Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine is likely to empower al Qaeda-aligned jihadists in Crimea and in Russia itself. That eventuality is, of course, less worrisome than the prospect of conventional and partisan war on the European continent, likely threatening NATO allies. The international order and global stability are collapsing in a way we have not seen since the 1930s. There is little prospect of this trend reversing of its own accord, and managing it will require massive efforts by the US and its allies over a generation or more.

This distressing context is essential for considering the al Qaeda threat today. On the one hand, it makes that threat look small. The long-term effects of global chaos and conflict among hundreds of millions of people across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East on US security, interests, and way of life are surely greater than any damage al Qaeda is likely to do to us in the immediate future. Yet the two threats feed each other powerfully. Disorder and conflict in the Muslim world breed support for al Qaeda, which is starting to look like the strong horse in Iraq and even in Syria. Al Qaeda groups and their allies, on the other hand, powerfully contribute to the collapse of state structures and the emergence of horrific violence and Hobbesian chaos wherever they operate. They are benefiting greatly from the regional sectarian war they intentionally triggered (the destruction of the Samarra Mosque in 2006 was only the most spectacular of a long series of efforts by al Qaeda in Iraq to goad Iraq’s Shi’a into sectarian conflict, for which some Shi’a militants, to be sure, were already preparing)—and have been continuing to fuel.  Al Qaeda is like a virulent pathogen that opportunistically attacks bodies weakened by internal strife and poor governance, but that further weakens those bodies and infects others that would not otherwise have been susceptible to the disease. The problem of al Qaeda cannot be separated from the other crises of our age, nor can it be quarantined or rendered harmless through targeted therapies that ignore the larger problems.

Kagan goes on to explain that we make a major mistake in defining al Qaeda as a terrorist group from whom the danger is an attack on America. Al Qaeda is a terrorist group, of course, but they define themselves differently. They have devoted most of their resources to “seizing and governing terrain and populations in the Muslim world. They see themselves as a global insurgency that uses terrorism, and its ability to field small irregular armies in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere that demonstrates the seriousness with which it takes that self-conception.”

Thinking of al Qaeda as a narrow threat of a small group of extremists hiding out in  the mountains of villas of Pakistan, and assuming that allied groups all over the Middle East and Africa are just temporary fringe players is a major error.” Al Qaeda supporters are fanatics, willing ( in some cases) to die, but avoid the martyrdom they encourage in their followers.  “Islam has a very strong tradition of seeing divine blessing or curse manifested in this-worldly success of failure.”

The state of weakness and indecision in the administration is truly frightening. “The threat is growing in size and capability while we are dismantling our defenses. Surely we should consider other approaches, and soon.”

Do read the whole thing, This is more important than we can imagine.  As he says—all conditions are set for future attacks.

Where Are They Making American Cars? Not Where There Is Forced Unionism! by The Elephant's Child

Writers like to tuck a statistic into their work to prove whatever point they were trying to make. Gives “authority.” But we see so many statistics, we seldom pay attention, same thing for graphs. You have to study the way the graph is presenting information, and some are just unintelligible. Every one in a while you find one where the difference portrayed is so dramatic that it sticks with you. Here’s one from economist Mark J. Perry’s Carpe Diem column at AEI:


(From Stan Greer, National Institute for Labor Relations Research)

From 2003 to 2012, real automotive manufacturing GDP grew by 87% from 2002 t0 2012, but fell by 2% in forced-unionism states (excluding Indiana and Michigan who both passed laws prohibiting compulsory unionism in 2012). The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis h as yet to issue its estimates for the manufacturing output of motor vehicles, bodies, trailers and parts for 2013, the ongoing trends show that more than 70% of the total U.S. production in dollar terms occurred in a Right to Work State.

Big Labor legislators in forced-unionism states like Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio claim it makes no difference to companies considering new plant construction or expansion whether unionism is voluntary or not. If such is the case, how can they explain why  automotive manufacturing is soaring in Right to Work states but completely stagnant in forced-unionism states as a group?

If you follow the link, the debate in the comments is interesting. The rationale for unionism is failing. There was a time of company towns and exploited workers when unions stepped in and forced fair wages. Now corporations know what people are paid in comparable jobs across industries, and because of competition can’t afford to be out of line if they want reliable employees. Enforced rules of the sort that limit the ability to change a lightbulb only to a certified electrician don’t really help anyone and merely create difficulties in production. And paying big dues to your union so they can support their political choices is not so popular any more. Times change. Unions haven’t.

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