American Elephants

Saving the Republic With Empty Words And Empty Minds by The Elephant's Child


I couldn’t resist posting about Chris Matthews interview with State Department spokesgirl Marie Harf, partly because even ultra-liberal Matthews found her bland and unbelievable responses too much to take.

As I subsequently checked in with all the many websites I usually read, I wasn’t really surprised to find everybody going on about Miss Harf, and the comments were extensive and impolite. People seem to be really fed up with the delusional nonsense.

Further, it’s clear that they expect the public voice of the United States of America to be an experienced diplomat, and the two young women holding the job were considered — embarrassing, not serious, shameful.

Well, Jen Psaki, the senior one, is moving up.” She is leaving her post as spokesperson for Secretary of State John Kerry to become the new White House Communications Director, President Obama said today.”

Jen worked on both my campaigns, she’s served in the White House, and she’s traveled the world as an adviser to Secretary Kerry,” Obama said in a statement. “I fully trust Jen — and I am thrilled she’s agreed to come back to the White House as Communications Director.”

Psaki will replace Jennifer Palmieri, who is expected to join Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign after leaving the White House. …

Psaki began working for Obama’s political operation in 2007, and the president has been a frequent booster of her work. The president had Psaki on his short list for the White House press secretary’s job last year before selecting Josh Earnest.

In a post at PJ Media, Ed Driscoll captured not only the problem of administration thought, but the place of Obama’s radical-chic roots and his training in Community Organizing in dealing with ISIS (ISIL?), but summed up the spokesman problem by labeling the two women as — “spokesbarbies.” Perfect.

Obama’s  appointments have been a remarkably unimpressive bunch. But he goes for those who willingly share his ideology. And that is a BIG part of the problem. He needs to be surrounded with people unafraid to disagree with him, who will challenge his ideas, tell him when he’s off on the wrong track.

But the new breed of leftist does not want to be disagreed with. Climate skeptics are called “deniers” and some demand that they be put in jail. The two identifiers “Islamic”  and “terrorism” are not to be used together in any context. It’s fine to have a Secretary of State who in four years accomplishes only a miss-translated  reset button, and a vast number of air travel miles. John Kerry has demonstrated once again, that being in the Senate, making speeches and voting, does not qualify one for higher office.

The hard-nosed advisers, the Generals and Admirals, the intelligence experts who dared to speak out are all gone. On top of that, it is frequently reported that Obama seldom speaks to anyone outside his closest advisers, especially Valerie Jarrett. And just in case, Obama drafted, early on, an exception to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that more or less allows anyone in the administration to fail to produce information, and it frequently takes a court order to get it. This was going to be the most transparent administration in history, remember? Here’s a video from 2009 that explains why the president does not use the term ‘terror, terrorist or terrorism,’ with all sorts of excuses for sloppy thinking. “Terror is a tactic,”etc. etc. This president does not change his mind, his ideas are set in concrete and not subject to revision.

Please, Just Tell Us The Truth. by The Elephant's Child


ISIS just posted a video of the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya. We saw only pictures of the prisoners lined up on the shore, kneeling, wearing orange jumpsuits with a black-clad jihadist standing behind each one with a knife. Our media protected our delicate sensibilities by refraining from showing the executions. None of us want to see, but by sparing us, the media is lying about what happened. Does that matter?

President Sisi of Egypt promised revenge and attacked ISIS positions in Derna with at least two waves of air strikes.

In Iraq, ISIS jihadists have burned 45 people to death in the western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi, according to the local police chief. Al-Baghdadi has been besieged for months by ISIS fighters until the town fell on Thursday. It was one of the few towns still controlled by the Iraqi government in Anbar province. It was the first time in the last few months that ISIS  had taken new ground according to the Defense Department.

ISIS has released another video of 17 caged Kurdish Peshmerga fighters dressed in orange jumpsuits and shackled in cages being paraded through the streets of Kirkuk, Iraq, the cages in the back of pickup trucks. Presumably they are to be burned alive as was the Jordanian pilot.

A while back there was a picture posted of an ISIS Fighter with his young son, maybe 9 or 10, proudly holding up a decapitated head by the hair. The website had blurred the head so we could see only a round shape and not any features. Many videos are presented with a warning that it might be disturbing to some. (And there is nothing, compared to what your imagination suggests).

I’m not suggesting any desire to see really ugly film, but wondering if its omission is a way of lying to us about what is really happening in the world. Do those of us who cannot bring ourselves to say the words “Islamic terrorism” or even just the simple “terrorism” fail to understand because they are sheltered by the news media, who will allow no distasteful images involving war or murder, but anything else distasteful is fine? Just wondering.

The White House is hosting its Summit on Countering Violent Extremism this week.”The event is supposed to showcase President Obama’s leadership against a threat he refuses to identify by name, gut the entire world has been watching Islamist jihadists advertise the specific threat across a brutal weekend,”said the Wall Street Journal.

A recent White House talking point has been that terrorism isn’t all that threatening and we shouldn’t overreact. If that’s going to be the message of this week’s summit, then call it off, Mr. President. The event will merely help Islamic State recruit more jihadists.

It’s Not About Terrorism, It’s About the Lack of Opportunity by The Elephant's Child

Last night on Hardball on MSNBC, Host Chris Matthews interviewed State Department spokesgirl Marie Harf, who explained to viewers just why Obama’s attempts to deal with ISIS have been so ineffective.

Remember that Marie Harf, as a spokesperson, does not express her own opinion, but the opinion of her boss, Secretary Kerry, the administration and the president. So this is Obama ‘s foreign policy:

MATTHEWS: Are we killing enough of them?

HARF: We’re killing a lot of them and we’re going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians, so are the Jordanians. They’re in this fight with us. But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium to longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs, whether…

MATTHEWS: We’re not going to be able to stop that in our lifetime or fifty lifetimes. There’s always going to be poor people. There’s always going to be poor Muslims, and as long as there are poor Muslims, the trumpet’s blowing and they’ll join. We can’t stop that, can we?

HARF: We can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance. We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people…

It must often seem that conservatives are anxious to find anything that will reflect badly on Obama, but it’s the policies that are the problem, and I think Conservatives are seriously worried about national security, do not feel that the administration understands the problem, and fears that they want to make a deal with Iran, the evil state that sponsors the terrorism that we see in the world.

Conservatives are inclined to believe the “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” shouts of their officials. The “root causes” theme always has some appeal to the West, because it offers a simple, and simple-minded cure. But it never works and has been proven wrong over and over. Democrats just can’t bring themselves to believe in evil, except when applied to Republicans or anyone else who stands in their way.

And sorry, Marie. Wars are always won by killing the enemy, until they are so utterly defeated that they give up abjectly and permanently. Wars are not won with peace treaties, nor with amelioration of root causes. Wars are won by defeating the enemy. Mr. Obama is more concerned about global warming than the threat of Islamic terrorism, which he cannot even dignify by naming it.

The President does not know what he is talking about. He misconstrues Vladimir Putin, and does not know his history. He does not understand Iran, and does not grasp their intentions. He has surrounded himself with yes-men and women, and does not listen to disagreement. A president needs to have those who disagree with his policies around, so he can learn what the opposition thinks, and evaluate whether his own position is correct. He needs to be probing the best minds he can find, to learn and ponder ideas other than his own.

ADDENDUM:The jihadists recruited from Western countries are usually, according to studies, from comfortable middle class families, or well-to-do parents, who have been radicalized by charismatic preachers or recruiters. Poverty and lack of opportunity are not usually the problem.

President Obama Is Agonizing Over What to Do, Again. by The Elephant's Child

Obama watchingPresident Obama is agonizing again. Should he arm Ukraine, even as  Putin pushes ahead? Should he approve an effort to rescue hostages who might be executed? Should he send weapons to the Kurds? But that might anger Iran. He so wants a deal with Iran. What to do about ISIS, now they aren’t just beheading and crucifying, but immolating people? What if they captured an American soldier?

The U.S. has been bombing ISIS since August on the authority granted to Bush, but now Obama has requested that Congress pass an Authorization for the Limited Use of Military Force (ALUMF) that will allow Congress to weigh in without interfering too much in the president’s options. The result is a request that allows the president “to use the Armed Forces of the United States as the President determines to be necessary and appropriate against ISIL or associated persons or forces.” O.K. That should give him the authority to deal with this band of jihadi extremists.

But he wants limitations as well. The authority does not extend to “the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground operations.” What does that mean? You can have battles but only short ones? Engagements but not campaigns? Is this meant to prevent any extensive war that might annoy Iran or the Democrats in Congress? Additionally, the request says the authority will expire in three years. Is this intended, like our departure from Iraq and Afghanistan, to announce in advance precisely when we are leaving?

Obama clearly wants a deal with Iran. He believes that we can turn over the pacifying of the Middle East to Iran, and extract the United States from that region entirely. Let them manage Iraq and Syria and ISIL (he insists on calling the jihadis by that name,( the Islamic State in the Levant, essentially recognizing their statehood). Those little things matter.

Many recognize Iran as the main sponsor of Islamic terrorism in the world, and assume that when they keep shouting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” — they probably mean what they say. Coupled with their drive to get nuclear weapons, many do not believe that Iran is a viable partner in bringing peace to the Middle East. It is a difference of opinion, but certainly not an unimportant one.

That Democrats are intent on a deal with Iran was noted back at the end of January when Nancy Pelosi said that she was concerned that if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the U.S. Congress in March, it might result in negative ramifications for the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran. “Such a presentation could send the wrong message in terms of giving diplomacy a chance,” she told reporters. That explains that flap, and the Democrats’ effort to be engaged elsewhere on that day.

It is hard to understand what Democrats think we might get from diplomacy with Iran. Google: “Iran + EMP attack,” to get an idea of the concern, and the reason why Republicans want to hear from the Israeli Prime Minister who is also worried about Iran, and very dubious about any diplomatic efforts.

To return to the ALUMF, I suspect that the president wants Congress to “forbid” him from taking any real action against ISIS, so that he can avoid any problems with Iran in his continuing diplomatic efforts. They are going to great lengths to avoid giving offense to Iran, including lifting the sanctions and returning their money, thus enabling Iran to step up their nuclear efforts. Should Iran go nuclear, Saudi Arabia is prepared to go nuclear as well, quickly. Other Middle East countries would follow.

Obama is  not really old enough to remember the Carter years, and the hostage situation, nor the Iranian revolution. And the president is somewhat deficient in the history department as well. I just don’t believe that he grasps the problem of Iran. And I don’t get the idea that he has any national security advisors that he listens to, but rather that he tells them what his policy is.

Obama has strived throughout to avoid doing anything that Bush would have done, without much examination of why certain things were done.

Bernard Lewis once said something to the effect that “we are a country that has some religions, Islam is a religion that has some countries.”

The Middle East Has Declared War on ISIS, and Obama Won’t Help. by The Elephant's Child


The United Arab Emirates is sending a squadron of F-16 fighter jets to Jordan to strike against ISIS alongside the Jordanian air force. They had suspended flights as part of the US Coalition conducting air strikes in view of concerns about search and rescue capabilities after the Jordanian pilot was downed.

Major Mariam al-Mansouri, a female pilot with the UAE air force, played the starring role in a publicity stunt last month when she was photographed in the cockpit of the F-16 fighter she had flown in the first wave of US-led attacks on targets of the Islamic State in Syria (Isis).

Thumbs up and beaming for the camera, it was a striking image that combined empowered Muslim women, the Arab fightback against jihadi extremism – and the pride of the small but wealthy Gulf state that is flaunting a new-found assertiveness and promoting its political agenda in a region in profound turmoil.

A House Armed Services Committee member revealed that the Obama administration had turned down a request from Jordan for Predator spy drones that would help locate targets against ISIS. The request was for the Predator’s unarmed export version. Rep. Duncan Hunter sent a letter asking the president to approve the transfer. “The decision to deny the license request should be reversed immediately” Mr. Hunter wrote. “Doing so will provide Jordan critical mission capability in the fight against the Islamic State and ensure Jordan is given every advantage.” The U.S has turned down aid and weapons for Ukraine in its battles against Russian-backed separatists. which Ukraine has been requesting for months.

The video of the immolation of the Jordanian pilot has not gone over well in the Middle East. Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, met with Jordan’s King Abdallah, and  has vowed to help Jordan get the armaments it needs. Of course the Jordanians and the UAE are Sunni, and Iran is Shia, and Obama doesn’t want to offend Iran.

If Jordan and the UAE succeed in really damaging ISIS with their strikes on Raqqa, expect President Obama to take credit. After all, he just took credit, only a few days after banning oil drilling in Bristol Bay in Alaska, and pushing to ban oil drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Reserve, for the drop in the price of gas. He has decided that cheap gas prices were another of his great successes.

ADDENDUM: Foreign Policy is reporting that Jordan did not request Predator unarmed spy drones,  but rather that the manufacturer was denied an export license to Jordan. Armed Services congressmen have questioned the decision. Jordan has requested other equipment which has not been forthcoming. The Kurds are not being well supplied either. Obama talks big about his “coalition” but is a little short on the follow-through.

Obama’s Secret Strategy for Iran And the Middle East by The Elephant's Child

Richard Epstein, professor of law at University of Chicago, and New York University, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, spoke about President Obama early on in his administration. He had known Obama at the University of Chicago, and through his next-door neighbor who was one of Obama’s best friends. He said that Obama was very dogmatic. Once he made up his mind, it was fixed in concrete. He does not change his mind. I have found it useful to keep that in mind.

In an important essay by Michael Doran in Mosaic magazine, the author writes about “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy,” and suggests that a strategy, centered on Iran, has been in place from the start and consistently followed to this day.

In the giddy aftermath of Obama’s electoral victory in 2008, anything seemed possible. The president saw himself as a transformational leader, not just in domestic politics but also in the international arena, where, as he believed, he had been elected to reverse the legacy of his predecessor, George W. Bush. To say that Obama regarded Bush’s foreign policy as anachronistic is an understatement. To him it was a caricature of yesteryear, the foreign-policy equivalent of Leave It to Beaver. Obama’s mission was to guide America out of Bushland, an arena in which the United States assembled global military coalitions to defeat enemies whom it depicted in terms like “Axis of Evil,” and into Obamaworld, a place more attuned to the nuances, complexities, and contradictions—and opportunities—of the 21st century. In today’s globalized environment, Obama told the United Nations General Assembly in September 2009, “our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. . . . No balance of power among nations will hold.”

For the new president, nothing revealed the conceptual inadequacies of Bushland more clearly than the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Before coming to Washington, Obama had opposed the toppling of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein; once in the U.S. Senate, he rejected Bush’s “surge” and introduced legislation to end the war. Shortly after his inauguration in January 2009, he pledged to bring the troops home quickly—a commitment that he would indeed honor. But if calling for withdrawal from Iraq had been a relatively easy position to take for a senator, for a president it raised a key practical question: beyond abstract nostrums like “no nation can . . . dominate another nation,” what new order should replace the American-led system that Bush had been building?

When he arrived in Washington in 2006, Obama absorbed the ideas of the final report of the Iraq Study Group, in which the co-chairs of the bipartisan congressional commission. Lee Hamilton, former Indiana congressman, and former secretary of state James Baker,” interpreted their mission broadly, offering advice on all key aspects of Middle East policy.”

The report, published in December 2006, urged then-President Bush to take four major steps: withdraw American troops from Iraq; surge American troops in Afghanistan; reinvigorate the Arab-Israeli “peace process”; and, last but far from least, launch a diplomatic engagement of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its junior partner, the Assad regime in Syria. Baker and Hamilton believed that Bush stood in thrall to Israel and was therefore insufficiently alive to the benefits of cooperating with Iran and Syria. Those two regimes, supposedly, shared with Washington the twin goals of stabilizing Iraq and defeating al-Qaeda and other Sunni jihadi groups. In turn, this shared interest would provide a foundation for building a concert system of states—a club of stable powers that could work together to contain the worst pathologies of the Middle East and lead the way to a sunnier future.

There you have the basic strategy. Engage Iran to stabilize Iraq and Syria, to defeat ISIS, and enter an era of harmonious relations with the rest of the world. Obama is very anxious to show himself as that “transformational leader.” He, at least, is not in thrall to Israel, He wants Iran to become a “successful regional power and a friend and partner to the United States.”

Meanwhile, Iran has sent a thousand rockets to Hezbollah, is supporting the Houthi in Yemen (look at a map to see why that is important), and adding more centrifuges. White House national security advisor Susan Rice denied, in a speech to Brookings Institution, that the threats facing the United States are in any way “existential” — blaming that perception on media “alarmism.” (With more centrifuges, a bomb in 2 months!)

After a year that saw a Russian invasion in eastern Europe, continued violence in Israel, massive international cyber-attacks on American companies and the rise of an ultra-violent Islamic caliphate in the Middle East, Rice took pains to assure her audience that all is well.

“Too often, what’s missing here in Washington is a sense of perspective,” she said. “Yes, there is a lot going on. Still, while the dangers we face may be more numerous and varied, they are not of the existential nature we confronted during World War II or during the Cold War. We cannot afford to be buffeted by alarmism or an instantaneous news cycle.”

She listed other threats to U.S. security, including “the very real threat of climate change” and the necessity of promoting equality for homosexuals. The new National Security Strategy is here, should you wish to delve more deeply. Foreign Policy remarked:

Of course, if you are like most Americans, you won’t ever read it at all. Which is just as well. Along with being devoid of strategy, the document is also devoid of surprises or new ideas. That could be because its focus is not, as would be the case in a real strategic planning document, the future. Instead, it is the past. This document is really a brief filed by the president in defense of his record to date.

The discussion of the rising cyber-threat is under a heading called “Access to Shared Spaces”. preceded by “Climate Change” and followed by “Increasing Global Health Security.”

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline quotes the Washington  Post’s concerns:

The three concerns are: (1) that a process began with the goal of eliminating Iran’s potential to produce nuclear weapons has evolved into a plan to tolerate and temporarily restrict that capacity; (2) during the negotiations, Obama seemingly has conceded Iran’s place as a regional power at the expense of Israel and other U.S. allies; and (3) Obama has signaled that he will implement his deal without a vote by either chamber of Congress.

Charles Krauthammer sees us as back in the perilous days of the late 1930’s, when some could see glimmers of what was coming down. I’m inclined to agree with him.

The Feckless U.S. Foreign Policy by The Elephant's Child

“The Jerusalem Post reports that European diplomats say the deal between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is for Tehran to keep about 6,500 centrifuges in return for “guaranteeing regional stability” —using Iranian influence to keep Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria in check. International sanctions that  Obama claims have forced Iran to the negotiating table would be lifted.

Iran not only retains the ability to attain atomic weaponry, it gets license from the U.S. to become a power broker in the region—eventually a nuclear-armed actor.”

In his State of the Union speech, Obama devoted just 172 words to the question of Iran. He was attempting to put a pretty face on the entire state of the union, but this was delusional.

Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material. Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran, secures America and our allies, including Israel, while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict. There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran.

But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails—alienating America from its allies; making it harder to maintain sanctions; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. And that’s why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress. [Applause] The American people expect us only to go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.

Iran hasn’t halted anything. Days before the speech Iran announced it would be building two more reactors. They have continued to make progress on the plutonium program and continued enriching. Obama has been returning funds frozen as part of the sanctions program. Iran is the foremost sponsor of terrorism in the world.

Obama believes that the radical theocracy in Iran that sponsors worldwide terrorism can be talked out of its nuclear aspirations and transform itself into a helpful friend, who will stabilize the mess in Iraq and defeat ISIS, and then the Middle East will cease to be a problem that we have to get mixed up in. He really doesn’t seem to see a nuclear Iran as a particular problem. After all, lots of other nations have nuclear weapons, and nobody is about to use them.

Israel believes that the Obama administration “has already given the Iranians 80% of what they want” in nuclear negotiations.

Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken admitted to Congress that the Obama administration’s goal during negotiations with Iran is delaying the regime’s development of nuclear weapons rather than actually shutting down their contested nuclear program.

In his recent interview with Fareed Zakaria which turned largely on Obama’s inability to put “terrorism” and “Islam” in the same sentence, Obama said:

Sure they can do harm, but we have the capacity to control how we respond in ways that do not undercut what’s the — you know, what’s the essence of who we are.

That means that we don’t torture, for example, and thereby undermine our values and credibility around the world. It means that we don’t approach this with a strategy of sending out occupying armies and playing Whack-A-Mole wherever a terrorist group appears because that drains our economic strength and it puts enormous burdens on our military.

Ultimately these terrorist organizations will be defeated because they don’t have a vision that appeals to ordinary people. It is — it really is, as has been described in some cases, a death cult, or an entirely backward looking fantasy that can’t function in the world.

For whatever reasons, Barack Obama is living in a fantasy world where all of his speeches are well received, where his strategy always works, where the economy is booming, all of his economic efforts have paid off, and his efforts to make the world a better  place have been triumphant. What more could you possibly want?


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