American Elephants


A Historic Speech, Will It Change the World? by The Elephant's Child

NetCongSmilePodiumSideHseofReps3-3-15_600.jpg.cmsVictor Davis Hanson made the decisive comment on the Obama response to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech yesterday, back on February 10, almost a month before the speech was delivered.

Snark is a popular word used for a particular sort of off-putting sarcasm. Snarkiness can manifest itself as adolescent cheap shots, snide condescension, or simple ad hominem patronizing — a sort of “I know you are, but what am I?” schoolyard name-calling. Its incessant use is typically connected with a peevishness born out of juvenile insecurity, and sometimes fed by an embarrassing envy.

Israel’s Prime Minister was eloquent, moving, determined, and humble. He expressed his gratitude to America, and to President Obama for his aid to Israel. He delivered a detailed indictment of both Iran’s intentions and the sellout deal that the Obama administration is drafting in Geneva.

Obama had done everything in his power to cancel, delay and undermine the speech before it was delivered, including putting out the idea that the Netanyahu appearance was somehow “disrespectful” to the president, and had offended by ignoring the customary protocol between nations. The White House was carefully notified before the Prime Minister accepted the Congressional invitation, and there was nothing disrespectful about his appearance. He emphasized the close relations between the two nations and his gratitude for all that America has done for Israel.

After the speech President Obama, in an arranged photo-op, spent eleven minutes claiming that he didn’t even watch the address, though apparently Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei did, and then Obama snarkily added that “there was nothing new in it” anyway.

It’s too bad that Obama didn’t listen. This was the third time that Mr. Netanyahu had addressed Congress, a record shared only with Winston Churchill, whom Obama didn’t like either. The Prime Minister was interrupted with thunderous applause some 40 times. Extra folding chairs were set up in the chamber to accommodate the overflow crowd. Thanks to administration pettiness, the speech drew intense international interest, and was broadcast around the globe. It was an historic speech.

Our two nations, Netanyahu said, share” the destiny of promised lands that cherish freedom and offer hope.”He traced Iran’s history since the revolution in 1979:” America’s founding document promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Iran’s founding document pledges death, tyranny and the pursuit of jihad. And as states collapse across the Middle East, Iran is charging into the void to do just that.”

The Israeli Prime Minister’s speech may make the Iran deal a tougher sell for Obama. The President was hoping to slip it in under the claim that it was not “a treaty” but merely a minor deal that didn’t require Congressional approval, so wouldn’t be presented to Congress. He is really going way too far with this executive order stuff. It is not just about him — its about the safety of America and of Israel. Iran is not going to notify anyone that they have completed their search for a bomb. Israel and Washington D.C. will just be smoking holes in the ground. It’s not about Obama’s “legacy” — it’s about survival.

If you didn’t watch the speech, take the time to watch it now or again. Or read the transcript. It was a stirring, historic, and thought provoking address that will enter the catalog of the world’s great speeches.



Why the Netanyahu Speech Matters by The Elephant's Child

Matthew Continetti has written an excellent column at the Free Beacon on why Bibi’s speech matters. “It exposes the Iran deal as indefensible—and Obama’s politics as bankrupt.”

The emerging nuclear deal with Iran is indefensible. The White House knows it. That is why President Obama does not want to subject an agreement to congressional approval, why critics of the deal are dismissed as warmongers, and why the president, his secretary of state, and his national security adviser have spent several weeks demonizing the prime minister of Israel for having the temerity to accept an invitation by the U.S. Congress to deliver a speech on a subject of existential import for his small country. These tactics distract public attention. They turn a subject of enormous significance to American foreign policy into a petty personal drama. They prevent us from discussing what America is about to give away.

And America is about to give away a lot. This week the AP reported on what an agreement with Iran might look like: sanctions relief in exchange for promises to slow down Iranian centrifuges for 10 years. At which point the Iranians could manufacture a bomb—assuming they hadn’t produced one in secret. Iran would get international legitimacy, assurance that military intervention was not an option, and no limitations on its ICBM programs, its support for international terrorism, its enrichment of plutonium, its widespread human rights violations, and its campaign to subvert or co-opt Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria. Then it can announce itself as the first Shiite nuclear power.

Do read the whole thing:  Matthew Continetti zeroes in on the specific points on why the Obama administration is trying to do such an impossible deal, why Obama wants it, and why he’s deeply mistaken. The greatest danger is that the world perceives Obama as a weak president who cannot be depended on at any. Urgently  needed weapons may or may not be delivered, rescue may or may not happen, decisions may or may not be made, or may endlessly be postponed.

Obama believes he was elected to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. He was not. He was elected to be the first black president. He is terrified of being a ‘war’ president, and wants to avoid confrontation at all costs. Which results in the Ukraine, Cuba, Chinese adventurism, ISIS and Libya, Syria, and the potential return of Afghanistan to Taliban control.



The Obama Administration Campaigns to Get The Whole World to Tune In To the Netanyahu Speech Tomorrow by The Elephant's Child

Netanyahu-Obama2

The Obama administration has done a marvelous job of advertising the Netanyahu speech before a joint session of  Congress tomorrow. The entire world will be listening. The president asked the Black Caucus in Congress to boycott the speech, and clearly suggested that the rest of the Democrats in Congress do the same.

The suggestion was floated that Netanyahu had ‘disrespected’ the president by not seeking permission to give the speech. When it was correctly mentioned that the Congress of the United States does not require presidential permission to invite anyone they damn well please to speak to them, the story became protocol—it was proper diplomatic protocol to let the White House know when another head of state would be coming to the U.S. — and then it was revealed that the White House had indeed been informed before Prime Minister Netanyahu accepted the Congressional invitation.

The lapdog media were still putting the false story about yesterday that Netanyahu had somehow disrespected President Obama.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein attacked Prime Minister Netanyahu on Sunday morning as “arrogant” for asserting that he speaks for all Jews in his upcoming speech to Congress. She huffed’ “He doesn’t speak for me on this. I think it’s a rather arrogant statement. I think the Jewish community is like any other community. There are different points of view. I think that arrogance does not befit Israel” Prime Minister Netanyahu does speak for the people of his country, who are mostly, but not all, Jewish. I rather doubt that he meant to speak specifically for Senator Feinstein.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice went on PBS’s “Charlie Rose” and said that the decision of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to invite Netanyahu without consulting the White House, and Netanyahu’s decision to accept, had “injected a degree of partisanship” into the relationship between the two nations.

“Which is not only unfortunate, I think it’s destructive of the fabric of the relationship,” she said.

The Prime Minister did notify the White House that he would accept the invitation of Congress to speak. He has no need to “consult” the White House and he does not need permission, nor does Congress need White House permission to extend the invitation. Obama has also huffily said that he would not meet with Mr. Netanyahu.

How could you possibly devise a better advertising campaign for a speech before a joint session of the American Congress?

According to the latest Gallup poll 45% of Americans view Netanyahu favorably while only 24% view him unfavorably, while the most recent Gallup poll has Obama at 44% approval and 51% disapproval. “The media did everything in its power to promote a failed boycott of the speech by Democratic lawmakers (so far only about 10% have refused to attend) and to paint those who support Netanyahu’s speech as disloyal to President Obama, and by extension America.”

President Obama’s campaign staff has been off in Israel campaigning against Netanyahu in the Israeli elections. They are private people who get paid to work in electoral campaigns, and Obama says he didn’t send them, which is probably true; but he could have insisted that they do not work in the Israeli campaign because it would look so bad for the president.

President Obama desperately wants a nuclear deal with Iran. Everyone who knows Iran keeps trying to tell the president that Iran cannot be believed at any time for any reason. When they scream “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” they really  mean it. They are the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism, they have ignored ever red line, every promise to cease enriching, and made it clear that they don’t intend to stop, yet the hapless Mr. Kerry and Mr. Obama are sure that next time it will be different and that the mullahs really are reasonable people who want the same things that we do.

Obama is insisting that he can make a deal with Iran without consulting with Congress, and that it’s not really a treaty, so he doesn’t have to.



A Winning Strategy or A Seriously Stupid Sellout? by The Elephant's Child

ISIS-tankI want to talk a little about strategy. Do I have some expertise to share? I have sailed the world with the Royal Navy at the turn of the century (the 19th); served in the Revolution with Kenneth Roberts; and the Civil War with James McPherson; Martin Gilbert took me through the First World War and the Second; I witnessed the Rape of Nanking with Iris Chang; and starved in Leningrad with Harrison Salisbury, and Stalingrad with Anthony Beevor; but I have never been in the service and have no expertise at all.

Stephen Coughlin, a leading expert on national security, says that our foreign policy community is absolutely incoherent and has lost the ability to think. Government bureaucrats, he says, have become focused on fighting narratives consistent with a post-modern, politically correct worldview rather than the facts on the ground.

Dr. Sebastian Gorka holds a Chair in Military Theory at the Marine Corps University. He points out that President Obama’s three-day summit on violent extremism empowers ISIS, by emphasizing the real grievances the Muslim world has with the West, the danger of Islamophobia in the U.S. and the need for community outreach.

ISIS’ recruiting message ” is a story of Islam under attack by the West, a perpetual Holy War against the infidel until the House of Islam—Dar al Islaam—covers the world and all live under sharia in a new Caliphate. They are indoctrinating and training 5-year-olds in Islam and weapons.

Strategy 001: You don’t tell the enemy what you are going to do, nor just when you are going to do it. It is better to keep them guessing and surprise them. Why is this so hard to understand?

While successful military strategy in wartime often hinges on surprise, the U.S. military took an unconventional path Thursday in announcing a plan to wage an early spring campaign to try to drive ISIS forces from the key city of Mosul in northern Iraq. The U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, which oversees the military coalition fight against ISIS in Iraq outlined the size and makeup of a force that the U.S. hopes will be ready for the offensive within five weeks at the earliest, as reported by Defense One and other news organizations.
They told them approximately when the attack would begin, the composition of the coalition’s attack force, what we’re doing to train the forces.
Unless you’re fooling – unless this is an elaborate feint – it’s not normal practice to warn somebody that you’re coming,” Gordon Adams, a military historian and analyst at American University, said. “This is a little bizarre, it seems to me.”
Monday, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) said she was mind-boggled at what the Pentagon has done. One of the officers speaking to the media revealed that one of the Pentagon’s training camps was located in Jordan, and Jordan had made it clear it wanted that information kept private. Jordan is furious. Gabbard has served in the Iraq war in a medical unit where she saw the cost of war.

When  you realize that you don’t know very much about a current threat. the response should be to study up. Put aside the stuff that doesn’t matter, and read and investigate. I don’t have any indication that anybody in the White House is actually doing that. They do have a narrative, and they are sticking to it.

Investors Business Daily offers “Know Thy Enemy: A Crash Course in Radical Islam” by Paul Sperry, in five short parts. It seems useful.



Pretend, for a Moment, That It Is 1939, Once Again by The Elephant's Child

Victor Davis Hanson imagines “President Franklin Delano Obama Addresses the Threat of 1930s Violent Extremism”

Imagining Obama as the American president in 1939 makes what’s wrong with the Obama approach to national security clear in a way that a straightforward discussion will not.

“The United States has made significant gains in our struggle against violent extremism in Europe. We are watching carefully aggressions in Czechoslovakia, Austria, and in Eastern Europe. My diplomatic team has made it very clear that aggression against neighbors is inappropriate and unacceptable. We live in the 20th century, where the 19th century practice of changing borders by the use of force has no place in the present era.

“Let me be perfectly clear: Mr. Hitler is playing to a domestic audience. He adopts a sort of macho shtick, as a cut-up in the back of the class who appeals to disaffected countrymen. Our task is to demonstrate to Mr. Hitler that his current behavior is not really in his own interest, and brings neither security nor profit to Germany.

“As for acts of violence in Germany itself, we must express our worry to the German government over apparent extremism, but at the same time we must not overreact. As far as these sporadic attacks on random civilians, as, for example, during the recent Kristallnacht violence, we must keep things in perspective, when, for example, some terrorists randomly targeted some folks in a store. My job is sort of like a big-city mayor, to monitor these terrorist acts that are said to be done in the name of the German people. Let us not overreact and begin to listen to radio commentators who whip us up into a frenzy as if we were on the verge of war. We must not overestimate the SS, a sort of jayvee organization that remains a manageable problem.

Do read the whole thing. One of the greatest attributes of ordinary Americans is their sense of humor. If we lose that, we’re in real trouble.



What Did Obama Mean By “Fundamentally Transform”? by The Elephant's Child

Obama lecturing

Most of us are apt to divide the world up into the good guys and the bad guys. Opposites.  Simplistic thinking, of course. No nuance. (when did that word slip into the daily vocabulary?) Winners and losers. Short and tall, rich and poor, hard-working and lazy, handsome and ugly, cruel and kind, smart and stupid. It helps us to understand those things we encounter in the world, we can modify our judgment later.

World War II was clear — Allies and Axis, and the Cold War — Communists and the Free World. Things began to get confused with the War in Vietnam. Protesters couldn’t decide who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. Jane Fonda has never been forgiven for her stupidity, but she was not alone among the far left. It was a confusing time, and when the Draft was ended, surprisingly so were the protests.

Questions today on the internet ask “Is Obama a Christian?” and “Is Obama a Muslim?” But those are the wrong questions. Obama has given every indication of signing up with the bad guys, the Axis, the Communists, and those who oppose our country. His dislike for the Israeli prime minister is obvious; his distaste for the United Kingdom is clear; his support for a deal with Iran; his support for the Muslim Brotherhood; for the deposed president of Egypt; inability to reach a status of forces agreement with Iraq; Benghazi; refusal to help the dissidents in Iran, and in Syria; and the silly outreach to Cuba; and the support for most anti-American governments in South America.

There is a pattern.  A pattern which is behind Rudy Giuliani’s asking if the president loves America. One would think that the media would be somewhat aware of the direction of the entire Obama administration, instead of dissolving in wrath when someone actually notices. (Or is that why the media boiled over —they’re beginning to notice?)

I think he is just doing exactly what he said he would do: attempt to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” Everybody was so excited with the idea of the first black president, the mellow baritone voice, the moving phraseology “Yes We Can!,” “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!,” that they didn’t really pay any attention to what he actually said that he wanted to do. I don’t think he is trying to destroy the country, he just wants to “fix” it.

We are paying the price for our inattention. And it’s up to us to find out exactly what he meant by “fundamentally transform.” It matters. It matters a lot.



Barack Obama’s Preposterous Foreign Policy Ideas. by The Elephant's Child

Americans are puzzled by President Obama’s refusal to put the words “Islamic” and “terrorism” even close to each other in a sentence. Violent extremism is as close as it gets, and it is clear that the entire administration has been instructed in language control. If you’re good at it (Jen Psaki) you get promoted, if not, not.

But we hear the news, we remember 9/11, Charlie Hebdo, attacks in Australia, Canada, London, Denmark, Fort Hood, the Boston Massacre, and daily reports of the “violent extremism” of ISIS, beheading, crucifying, burning alive. The inability to say ‘Islamic terrorism’ seems preposterous. It is no wonder that so many think that perhaps Obama is a Muslim, or has extreme Muslim sympathies.

I don’t think so, but he probably has, as he has said, pleasant memories of the Islamic call to prayer, and of his time in Indonesia, where he lived from 1967 to 1971. He was taught to admire his absent father, and his father’s history. After 1971, he grew up in Hawaii. What brought him to national attention was “the Speech,” the keynote speech at the Democratic convention in 2004. Chicago Magazine gives a long and admiring story of how it came about and what went into it.

When Barack Obama launched into his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he was still an obscure state senator from Illinois. By the time he finished 17 minutes later, he had captured the nation’s attention and opened the way for a run at the presidency.

Barack Obama has always been fascinated by his own story. It sets him apart from other men as something truly special. It not only dominated his convention speech, but his autobiography Dreams From My Father, was published the following year, though it must have been already written. Who writes their autobiography at age 44?

Obama believed that he could bring about peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He told us that was his ambition. It just needed his magic touch. He was good friends with Rashid Khalidi, the American-Palestinian firebrand, who is now Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University. His views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are that everything is Israel’s fault, and Palestinians are the abused party. If you read Victor Davis Hanson’s  explanation of Obama’s strategy, it becomes clear:

Leaders caricatured and demonized as a Cuban Stalinist, an Iranian theocrat, a Russian former KGB agent, and a plutocratic Chinese apparatchik in fact think no differently from us. But they have too often not been accorded a voice because the U.S. sought to bully them rather than reason with them. Polarizing and out-of-date labeling such as calling ISIS or the Taliban “terrorists” or “Islamists,” or reducing Bowe Bergdahl to a “traitor,” serve no purpose other than to simplify complex issues in ways that caricature those with whom we differ.

Instead, if we reduce our military profile and show other nations that what we are really interested in is fundamentally transforming U.S. society into a more equitable and fair place, our erstwhile enemies will begin to appreciate that we too are human and thus share their common aspirations. Ideals, persuasion, feelings, and intent are now the stuff of foreign policy, not archaic and polarizing rules of deterrence, balance of power, military readiness, and alliances.

It all makes sense to Obama. I’m not sure how much of the Democratic Party has moved sharply left. Certainly their spokesmen have, and the administration, but would the rank and file Democrats all sign on to this idea of a strategy for America in today’s world?  For me, it’s an increasingly dangerous world out there, with an administration unfamiliar with history and no understanding of strategy, or national security—conducting foreign policy with lightweights.

The mullahs of Iran have long demonstrated that they are not to be trusted at any time, on any subject. Vladimir Putin seems determined to reconstitute the Soviet Empire, without Communism, just tyranny. ISIS is growing and growing more vicious. The Defense Department is intent on getting rid of the A-10 Warthog, because they have a hot new toy for future wars, if it actually works. China is expanding in the South China Sea, and flexing its muscles. Showing other nations that we too are human and share their common aspirations just doesn’t cut it.

We tried to show Cuba our humanity, and Raul thanked us for surrendering to them and demanded that we return Guantanamo. So of course Nancy Pelosi took a delegation of Democrats to Cuba this last week. The message from Cuba is that Raul Castro has no intention of doing anything differently. He expects Washington to lift the embargo, and end any amnesty for Cuban doctors seeking asylum. Their top demand is that they be taken off the U.S. list of state-sponsors of terrorism.




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