American Elephants


Obama’s Fantasy World Is Dangerous to Our People by The Elephant's Child

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President Obama’s budget for FY 2015 was widely heralded as “dead on arrival.” Spends too much on all the wrong things, and it will never get by the House of Representatives. Fortunately.

But reporters continue to dig into it to try to understand the president’s priorities. We know the major outlines—he’s big on redistribution of wealth,  and wants millions to waste on climate restraining efforts.

We’re in the middle of the seventeenth year of a complete lack of observable global warming but the investment in catastrophic climate change is huge, and nobody’s going to give up with or without a fight. How is Obama to reward his supporters if he cant funnel subsidies to them through the guise of saving us from a nonexistent  rise in temperatures caused by a benign rise in carbon in the atmosphere. But I digress.

What is noticeable as they dig into the budget is that in the wake of a world in turmoil, where it seems that everywhere passions and anger are rising, the cuts to our national defense are indefensible. Now we learn that the cornerstone of U.S. Naval power is eliminated under the Obama budget. The president is seeking to abolish two highly successful missile programs that experts say have helped the U.S. Navy maintain military superiority for the past several decades. The U.S.Navy has been responsible for keeping the world’s sea lanes open and safe—no small matter.

The Tomahawk missile program—the world’s most advanced cruise missile— is set to be cut by $128 million under the FY budget proposal and completely eliminated by FY 2016, according to budget documents released by the Navy. The Long Range Anti-Ship missile, an experimental anti-ship missile not yet capable of passing basic tests. The number of actual Tomahawk missiles acquired by the United States will drop significantly from 196 last year, to 100 in 2015, and zero in 2016. The stock would be completely depleted by 2018.

The Navy will also be forced to cancel its acquisition of the well-regarded and highly effective Hellfire missiles in 2015.

The proposed elimination of these programs came as a shock to lawmakers and military experts, who warned that cutting these missiles would significantly erode our ability to deter enemy forces.

Seth Cropsey, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower, said “It doesn’t make sense. This really moves the U.S away from a position of influence and military dominance.” If someone were trying to “reduce the U.S. ability to shape events” in the world, “they couldn’t find a better way than depriving the U.S. fleet of Tomahawks. It’s breathtaking.”

While the military is seeing budgets cut dramatically, and equipment scaled back—the Tomahawk cuts seem not to be due to a lack of funds.  The administration seems to be taking the millions spent on the Tomahawk program and investing it in an experimental program that experts say will not be battle-ready for at least 10 years.

Putin has on the border of Ukraine 20,000 troops, artillery, and attack helicopters. The Ukrainians asked for weapons, we said no, but offered MREs (meals ready to eat). Putin essentially said Russia was swindled at the end of the Cold War, swindled of its empire, swindled of its colonies and swindled of its own territory and I’m here to get it back. He’s also establishing bases in South America.

China is attempting to make the South China Sea its own private pond. Japan’s Prime Minister Abe  is attempting to reform their pacifist constitution, and re-arm.  North Korea, Syria, Iraq, Iran. Clearly a time to reduce our power in the world—so we won’t be thought to be a bully.

And the president can’t be bothered to attend National Security meetings?



Could We Possibly Get to A Point Where We Are Not “Astonished” by Events? by The Elephant's Child

Politico report called it “a crisis no one anticipated.” The Daily Beast, reporting on Friday’s US intelligence assessment that “Vladimir Putin’s military would not invade Ukraine,” and quotes a Senate aide claiming that “no one really saw this kind of thing coming.” The American Interest noted that the mainstream media remains deeply convinced that President Obama and his dovish team are “the masters of foreign relations, nothing poor Putin did could possibly derail the stately progress of our genius president. There were, we were told lots of reasons not to worry about Ukraine. War is too costly for Russia’s weak economy. Trade would suffer, the ruble would take a hit. The 2008 war with Georgia is a bad historical comparison, Putin doesn’t want to spoil his upcoming G8 summit, or his good press from Sochi.”

How many times did foolishly confident American experts and officials come out with some variant of the phrase “We all share a common interest in a stable and prosperous Ukraine.” We may think that’s true, but Putin doesn’t.

We blame this in part on the absence of true intellectual and ideological diversity in so much of the academy, the policy world and the mainstream media. Most college kids at good schools today know many more people from different races and cultural groups than their grandparents did, but they are much less exposed to people who think outside the left-liberal box. How many faithful New York Times readers have no idea what American conservatives think, much less how Russian oligarchs do? Well bred and well read Americans live in an ideological and cultural cocoon and this makes them fatally slow to understand the very different motivations that animate actors ranging from the Tea Party to the Kremlin to, dare we say it, the Supreme Leader and Guide of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As far as we can tell, the default assumption guiding our political leadership these days is that the people on the other side of the bargaining table (unless they are mindless Tea Party Republicans) are fundamentally reasonable people who see the world as we do, and are motivated by the same things that motivate us. Many people are, of course, guided by an outlook not all that dissimilar from the standard upper middle class gentry American set of progressive ideas. But some aren’t, and when worlds collide, trouble comes.

Canada has promptly recalled its ambassador to Russia, and cancelled their attendance at the G8 conference. The G7 are suspending their participation in any international summit in Russia. I think that The American Interest has it exactly right. The White House operates on the assumption that the people with whom we negotiate are really reasonable people who basically want the same things that we do.  Well, no they’re not. Has no one noticed that Putin has allied himself with Syria, Iran, North Korea. Moscow denounced the overthrow of Moscow’s man in Kiev, Viktor Yanukovych as the illegal work of fascist bandits.

Obama wants stability. He sees Ukraine as a crisis to be managed. Democracy must come organically from international developments, not imposed by outside intervention. What he does not understand is that American inaction creates a vacuum. Obama’s meaningless “red line” in Syria invited in Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. Obama’s failure to get a status of forces agreement with Iraq invited in Iran and al Qaeda. And he is apparently ready to turn Afghanistan over to the Taliban. Obama’s lifting of the sanctions against Iran has allowed them the freedom to finish developing their nuclear weapons.

These are not reasonable people who want the same things we do.The citizens of these countries may be reasonable people, but their governments are a different bunch. The people of Iran were once quite cosmopolitan, but the Mullahs await the return of the Mahdi  and expect nuclear weapons to hasten the reestablishment of the Caliphate.

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The Saudis and  the leaders of the Gulf States are deeply worried about Iran. One might assume that they are more familiar with their neighbors than we are. We should perhaps pay attention.

Putin has told us over and over that the fall of Soviet Russia was the world’s greatest catastrophe, and he clearly regrets the loss of superpower status. Part of restoring the Soviet Union would seem to be recapturing its former satellite states. If we paid attention, and knew our history, we might anticipate such crises. That seems a worthy goal.



Obama Engineers America’s Global Retreat by The Elephant's Child

For Obama, the world’s major events might as well be happening on the planet Pluto. Russia is re-establishing itself in its “near abroad,” and working with Iran to project a neo-Soviet agenda from Southwest Asia to the Mediterranean. China is inexorably asserting sovereignty over the Western Pacific. As Islam’s Sunni and Shia factions tear at each other’s vitals, they seem to agree only on contempt for America.
Angelo Codevilla, Professor emeritus of international Relations, Boston U.

Historian Niall Ferguson wrote in the Wall Street Journal about “America’s Global Retreat.” It is the U.S. geopolitical taper that is stirring world anxiety. To see the geopolitical taper at work consider President Obama’s comment Wednesday on the horrific killings of protesters in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev: “There will be consequences if people step over the line.”

Obama watched passively when the Iranian people rose up against their theocratic rulers in 2009. He was caught off-balance by the illusion of an “Arab Spring.” When crowds swarmed in Tahrir Square in 2011, calling for the ouster of longtime U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak, he backed the government led by Mohammed Morsi, after the Muslim Brotherhood won the 2012 elections. Then he backed the military coup against Morsi.

Syria has been one of the great blunders of post World War II American foreign policy. When he might have intervened effectively, he hesitated, When he did intervene, it was ineffectual. His non-threat to launch airstrikes if Congress agreed handed the initiative to Russia. Assad isn’t handing over his chemical weapons.

The result of this U.S. inaction is a disaster. At a minimum, 130,000 Syrian civilians have been killed and nine million driven from their homes by forces loyal to the tyrant. At least 11,000 people have been tortured to death. Hundreds of thousands are besieged, their supplies of food and medicine cut off, as bombs and shells rain down.

He sent Joe Biden to negotiate a “Status of Forces” agreement with Iraq, which failed, and the troops were pulled out anyway, leaving Iraq to fall apart and Al Qaeda in Iraq to take over Fallujah. If you recall, Obama claimed to truly understand the world because he lived in Indonesia until he was 10. Other than that he proclaimed Iraq to be a “dumb war” and wanted to close down Gitmo at once. Whatever it was – was Bush’s fault. The reason to be in Afghanistan was to get bin Laden. Obama has announced our withdrawal, so the Taliban can plan the timing for their takeover.

We’ve had reset buttons, and a “pivot” from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific is the closest we have come to a strategy. Ambassadors are chosen for the amount that was donated to Obama’s election and re-election, and have never visited the countries to which they are assigned.

Peter Wehner says that Obama is Consciously Engineering America’s Decline. “[H]e views the weakening of American power as a downright positive thing, as a contributor to peace and stability, and a means through which America will be more respected and loved in the world.”

Henry Kissinger once observed: ” Those ages which in retrospect seem most peaceful were least in search of peace. Those whose quest for it seems unending appear least able to achieve tranquility. Whenever peace—conceived as the avoidance of war—has been the primary objective … the international system has been at the mercy of [its] most ruthless member.”

Keith Koffler, veteran White House reporter asked plaintively “Does Obama Have Any Foreign Policy Successes?” The answer seems to be a resounding NO. Try to find a country with whom our relations have improved.

Winston Churchill, May 2, 1935, in the House of Commons:

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 affected 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 foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-reservation strikes its jarring gong — these are features which constitute the endless repetition of history.



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.



Today’s Must Read Essay, Not to Be Missed. by The Elephant's Child

Today’s must read column is by Victor Davis Hanson, who explains the Obama Doctrine for America — our foreign policy, theory and practice.

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.

Do read the whole thing. I think Dr. Hanson is spot on, though I wish it were otherwise. We will pay a high price for our gullibility in electing this man.

If you find that piece rewarding, as I did, you may appreciate Dr. Hanson’s self-described ‘apocalyptic essay’ on Monday, in which he is not so optimistic, but excellent, as always.

 



Obama’s Foreign Policy Failures And Why They Matter. by The Elephant's Child

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Mackubin “Mac” Owens is an American military historian. He has been a Dean at the Naval War College, a senior fellow at the Program on National Security at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and is the editor of its journal Orbis. He had an important column on Obama’s Foreign Policy at Real Clear World this week, one that everyone should read, to understand the shambles of American Foreign Policy, what we’re doing, and why it matters.

U.S. foreign policy is in shambles, characterized by drift and incoherence. It is at best a-strategic at worst anti-strategic, lacking any concept of how to apply limited resources to obtain our foreign policy goals because this administration has articulated no clear goals or objectives to be achieved. The foreign policy failures of the Obama Administration are legion: the Russian “reset” that has enabled Vladimir Putin to strut about as a latter-day czar; the betrayal of allies, especially in Central Europe, not to mention Israel; snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq by failing to achieve a status of forces agreement (SOFA) that would help to keep Iraq out of the Iranian orbit; the muddled approach to Afghanistan; our feckless policy-or lack of policy-regarding Iranian nuclear weapons, not to mention Libya and Benghazi, as well as Syria. President Obama has said that he was elected to end wars, not to start them, as if wars are fought for their own purpose. Ending wars is no virtue if the chance for success has been thrown away, as it was in Iraq.

Observers disagree about the causes of the Obama failures in foreign policy. Some attribute them to indifference, others to incompetence-although the two are not unrelated. Still others contend that the results we are seeing represent the desired outcomes of more insidious motivations. But no matter the cause of Obama’s dysfunctional foreign policy, the result is the same: weakness that opens the way for those who wish America ill. Winston Churchill’s 1936 characterization of the Stanley Baldwin government as Hitler gained strength on the Continent echoes ominously today: it was, said Churchill, “decided only to be undecided, resolved to irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.”

To the extent that it has any intellectual foundation, the Obama foreign policy represents a species of “liberal internationalism,” which holds that the actors in the international political system (IPS) tend towards cooperation rather than competition. Liberal internationalists contend that the goals of actors within the IPS transcend power and security; they also see an important role for actors in the IPS other than states, including international institutions such as the United Nations.

Here is the rest of the story:

 



Al Qaeda Takes Fallujah, While Obama Plays Golf, Unconcerned. by The Elephant's Child

“A rejuvenated, al Qaeda-affiliated force has asserted control over the western Iraqi city of Fallujah on Friday, raising the black al Qaeda flag over government buildings and declaring an Islamic state in one of the most crucial areas that U.S. troops  fought to pacify before withdrawing from Iraq two years ago.”

Following his inauguration, President Obama withdrew troops from Iraq on the timetable agreed upon by President Bush. As the draw-down proceeded, it became clear that security would worsen  dangerously in the absence of American power. He refused to consider leaving even a small contingent of troops to help the young Iraqi government resist terrorist forces. The result has been an escalation of violence. Local tribes, Iraqi security forces and al Qaeda-affiliated militants have been fighting for days in a confused and chaotic three-way war.

 “At the moment there is no presence of the Iraqi state in Fallujah,” a local journalist who asked not to be named because e fears for his safety. “The police and the army have abandoned the city, al Qaeda has taken down all the Iraqi flags and burned them, and it has raised its own flag on all the buildings.” The fighting has now spread to Ramadi.

Iraqi troops trying to retake Anbar province from a mixture of Islamist and tribal foes battled al Qaeda fighters in Ramadi on Saturday after shelling the western region’s other main city, Fallujah, overnight, tribal leaders and official said.

President Obama failed to secure a status of forces agreement in Iraq, and has expressed no interest in helping the beleaguered country. His original idea on coming into office seemed to be that all the problems in the Middle East were the result of the problems between Israel and Palestine. He would force an agreement between Israel and her neighbor, and that would end the problems of the entire region. Which seems to be what Secretary Kerry is up to. This is such a dimwitted supposition that it beggars belief, and shows no understanding at all of the entire region, but that’s what they seem to believe, and American foreign policy is the evidence.

Be nice if a few reporters asked some hard questions about the utter failure of his foreign policy, but that’s not what reporters do these days anyway. Perhaps the British press will ask the hard questions. They do a better job of it.

Disgraceful. Simply disgraceful.

 



The Iraqi Ambassador Expresses Gratitude to America by The Elephant's Child

Here is a column by the newly appointed ambassador, Lukman Faily,  to the United States from Iraq.

During my tenure as the Iraqi ambassador to Japan, I was exposed firsthand to the strength of that country’s relationship with the United States, a relationship that we, the Iraqi people and government, seek to emulate with your nation.

In my country, nearly 2 million more U.S. military personnel served and helped liberate my country from Saddam Hussein and defeat al-Qaeda.

Iraq is on track to join other countries that have benefited from America’s sacrifices. Our economy is one of the fastest growing in the world, oil production is growing, democratic institutions are maturing and our sixth round of elections is scheduled for April of next year.

These successes were not generated solely by Iraqis. America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and foreign service officers helped set Iraq on the path to success — and we are thankful to all of those brave men and women.

Do read the whole thing. Graceful statement.



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.



Why Is It So Hard To Call a Terrorist a Terrorist? by The Elephant's Child

Stockholm riots

An off-duty British soldier has been butchered on a busy London street by two Islamist terrorists, the first terrorist murder on the British mainland since the 7/7 suicide bombings of 2005. The British-born Muslim convert calmly spoke to a witness’s video phone.

We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. Your people will never be safe. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying by British soldiers every day.We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I apologize that women had to witness this today but in our lands our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remover your government, they don’t care about you. Do you think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? Do you think your politicians are going to die? No, it’s going to be the average guy like you, and your children. So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so we, so you can all live in peace.”

Witnesses said the men first ran over the soldier with a car, just yards from the Royal Barracks. Then they set about him with meat cleavers and knives. He was slashed, and eviscerated and beheaded, shouting Allahu Akbar, as horrified passers-by watched.

Here, Christiane Amanpour and Wolf Blitzer wondered why David Cameron and the British government immediately blamed the incident as terrorism.

In Sweden, “unrest” in Stockholm’s suburbs continued for a fourth night as rioters showed their anger by setting fire to as many as 30 cars and buildings, and throwing stones at emergency workers. Another 11 cars were set on fire in Husby, an area of high-rise apartment blocks. Unemployment rates for immigrants from countries outside the EU are nearly three times as high as for ethnic Swedes.

Well, we just had the Boston bombing, which they also had trouble calling terrorism. A bunch of left-leaning media types were hoping out loud that it would turn out to be a “white American” rather than a Muslim extremist. NPR’s Diana Temple-Raston speculated on air that it was likely right-wing extremists behind the bombing because it was Hitler’s birthday that week, and “Hitler’s birthday is ‘big’ for the right.” And today we have learned that a man shot by an FBI agent in Orlando implicated himself and the older Tsarnaev brother in a gruesome 2011 triple murder.

We had considerable difficulty getting anyone to call the incident in Benghazi an “act of terror”, or “terrorism.” Comes right from the top.

President Obama spoke earlier today at the National Defense University, at Fort McNair, in his most droning, lecturing voice. When we were attacked on 9/11, we were shaken out of complacency. “This was a different kind of war. …A group of terrorists came to kill as many civilians as they could:”

And so our nation went to war. We have now been at war for well over a decade. I won’t review the full history. What’s clear is that we quickly drove al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, but then shifted our focus and began a new war in Iraq. This carried grave consequences for our fight against al Qaeda, our standing in the world, and – to this day – our interests in a vital region.

For this president, the only reason for war was revenge against Osama bin Laden and his top deputies. Obama got bin Laden and has done in most of his staff, and ended Bush’s War in Iraq, brought 150,000 troops home, (and because of his mismanagement, never achieved a status of forces agreement, and an ill-prepared Iraq in now falling apart.) “We pursued a new strategy in Afghanistan and increased our training of Afghan forces.” (Hamstringing our forces with the politically-correct idea that we should show our “trust” by having our forces unarmed. This has resulted in a death-toll under Obama that is twice as high as any under Bush). “For over the last decade our nation has spent well over a trillion dollars on war, exploding our deficits and constraining our ability to nation build here at home.” (This from the president who has spent a trillion dollars every year of his administration so far, mostly wasted). He went into a big defense of his drone policy, which is mostly making undeclared war on nations with whom we are supposedly not at war. His defensive comments indicate that he is aware of the opposition from other nations.

Barack Obama does not get terrorism.He is the Not-Bush, everything Bush did was deplorable and he is sure the world hates us for the luxury seaside resort detention center at Guantanamo. He cannot get his mind around the difference between terrorists who have no legal standing under the Geneva Conventions and ordinary criminals.

It was a lecturing, arrogant, defensive speech full of the usual straw men.  He’s clearly threatened by all the scandals flowing around the White House. They are bad. Obama’s disregard for the Constitution and its provisions, contempt for the separation of powers, and unfamiliarity with good management and American tradition have led him to believe that he can approach governing America with Chicago-style politics. It would be a bad idea at any time, but in an economy weakened by Chicago-style economics, it has led to trouble. His overblown confidence in his own ideology is proving no more effective in the nation’s capitol than it is in the failing states run by Democratic administrations, like Illinois.



Iraq: Ten Years Ago Today by The Elephant's Child

Today is the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the War on Iraq. Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and the author, most recently of The Syrian Rebellion is an authority on the Middle East.

Nowadays, few people step forth to speak well of the Iraq War, to own up to the support they gave that American campaign in the Arab world. Yet Operation Iraqi Freedom, launched 10 years ago this week, was once a popular war. We had struck into Afghanistan in 2001 to rout al Qaeda and the terrorists’ Taliban hosts—but the 9/11 killers who brought ruin onto American soil were not Afghan. They were young Arabs, forged in the crucible of Arab society, in the dictators’ prisons and torture chambers. Arab financiers and preachers gave them the means and the warrant for their horrific deeds. …

On the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom—the first bombs fell on March 19—well over 70% of the American public supported upending the Saddam regime. The temptation to depict the war as George W. Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s is convenient but utterly false. This was a war waged with congressional authorization, with the endorsement of popular acceptance, and with the sanction of more than a dozen United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for Iraq’s disarmament.

On March 19, 2003, President Bush addressed the nation from the Oval Office. He said U.S. forces launched a strike against targets of military opportunity in Iraq, describing the action as the opening salvo in an operation to disarm Iraq and free its people.

From the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, Oct. 31, 1998

Since March 1996, Iraq has systematically sought to deny weapons inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) access to key facilities and documents, has on several occasions endangered the safe operation of UNSCOM helicopters transporting UNSCOM personnel in Iraq, and has persisted in a pattern of deception and concealment regarding the history of its weapons of mass destruction programs. . . .

On August 14, 1998, President Clinton signed Public Law 105-235, which declared that ‘the Government of Iraq is in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations’ and urged the President ‘to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations.’ . . .

It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.

Fouad Ajami’s account goes on to recall:

The rationale for the war sustained a devastating blow in the autumn of 2004 when Charles Duelfer, the chief U.S. arms inspector for Iraq, issued a definitive report confirming that Saddam had possessed no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. The war now stood on its own—and many of its former supporters claimed that this wasn’t what they had signed up for.

The mainstream media, of course, turned sharply against the war, not that they were ever really for it, but they became really vicious.

Here, you might find some of the articles by Douglas Hanson at American Thinker at the time, of interest. Hanson was a US Army reconnaissance officer for 20 years and a veteran of the Gulf War I. He has a background in radiation biology and physiology and was an Atomic Demolitions Munitions Security Officer, and a Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defense Officer. He was assigned as the Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Science and Technology.

•March 2, 2004: “Case Not Closed: Iraq’s WMD Stockpiles”
•May 20,  2004: “Pesticides, Precursors, and Petulance Revisited”
•August 10, 2004: “WMDs in Iraq – the real story begins to emerge”
•April 27, 2006: “The Yellowcake Connection”
•June 28, 2006: Saddam’s WMD: Discovery and Denial

Fouad Ajami continued:

A skilled politician, Mr. Obama made the Iraqi government an offer meant to be turned down—a residual American force that could hardly defend itself, let alone provide meaningful protection for the fledgling new order in Baghdad. Predictably, Iraq’s rulers decided to go it alone as 2011 drew to a close. They had been navigating a difficult course between Iran and the U.S. The choice was made easy for them, the Iranian supreme leader was next door, the liberal superpower was in retreat.

Heading for the exits, Mr. Obama praised Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as “the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq.” The praise came even as Mr. Maliki was beginning to erect a dictatorship bent on marginalizing the country’s Kurds and Sunni Arabs and even those among the Shiites who questioned his writ.

The historians will deal with the Iraq War in time, when the emotions have died down.

According to CBO numbers, August 2010, the cost of Operation Iraqi Freedom was $709 billion for military and related activities, including training of Iraqi forces and diplomatic operations. The cost of Obama’s failed stimulus, which passed in February 2009, was $862 billion.

 




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