American Elephants


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.



“Once You see what he is trying to accomplish, it all makes sense.” by The Elephant's Child

Victor Davis Hanson, National Review Online:

“The Wise People of American foreign policy — Madeleine Albright, General Jack Keane, Henry Kissinger, General James Mattis, George Shultz, and others — recently testified before Congress. Their candid and insightful collective message dovetailed with the worries of many former Obama-administration officials, such as one-time defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, as well as a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Their consensus is that the U.S. is drifting, and with it the world at large: The Obama administration has not formulated a consistent strategy to cope with the advance of second-generation Islamic terrorism. It is confused by the state upheavals in the Middle East. It is surprised by the aggression of Putin’s Russia and the ascendance of an autocratic China. Our allies in Europe, much of democratic Asia, and Israel all worry that the U.S. is rudderless, as it slashes its military budget and withdraws from prior commitments.

While I think the symptomology of an ailing, herky-jerky United States is correct, the cause of such malaise is left unspoken. The Obama team — with its foreign policy formulated by President Obama himself, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, White House consigliere Valerie Jarrett, Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and present Secretary of State John Kerry — is not in fact befuddled by the existing world. Instead, it is intent on changing it into something quite different from what it is.”

“So far,” Hanson says,” from being chaotic, current U.S. foreign policy is consistent, logical, and based on four pillars of belief.”

Do read the whole thing, Victor Hanson spells out why, in Obama’s mind, we are doing what we are doing. Obama does have a strategy. It’s just mistaken.



It’s Not Always Easy To Distinguish Between Friends and Enemies by The Elephant's Child

U.S. President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu meet at the White House in WashingtonDemocrats are up to their old tricks. The New York Times, with their usual accuracy, accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of breaking diplomatic protocol by going behind the administration’s back  to accept an invitation to speak to Congress before receiving approval from the White House.

The paper of record was quickly forced to issue one of their frequent corrections, as Netanyahu did not accept the invitation until after the White House was informed.

Mr. Obama has reportedly asked the Congressional Black Caucus to boycott the speech, and Nancy Pelosi, the ranking Democrat in the House, said 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.

She added that it was “not appropriate ” that Netanyahu will speak “only two weeks before an election”, but she did not mention the fact that high-ranking Obama administration campaign operatives are currently on the ground in Israel attempting to sabotage Netanyahu’s chances at reelection. The Israelis are offended at Obama’s interference in their elections. Obama may not have sent his campaign operatives, but he surely could have prevented their participation.  It seems highly unethical to interfere in another country’s politics, but Obama has done this before.

We are not getting straight talk from the administration about their negotiations with Iran. The Iranian regime “agrees” to certain principles regarding nuclear enrichment, and has been caught time and again violating their own agreement. The regime has built an 89-foot missile which may have the capability of striking the United States.

In an interview with Mathew Yglesias from the Vox.com  website, the president was asked about terrorism. He responded that the terrorism threat is overrated, and referred to the jihadists who committed the mass murders in Paris last month as “a bunch of violent vicious zealots” who “randomly shot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.” The Jews who were shopping for Shabbat” were just a bunch of folks in a deli, not a kosher delicatessen. The media, needing an audience, inflates the significance of these acts of random violence.

President Obama seems remarkably comfortable embracing our enemies and distancing himself from our long time allies. I don’t think this has ever happened in the United States before. Presidents have made mistakes, as they are only human, but this is something different. Obama’s statement was intentional, not accidental, for White House spokesman Josh Earnest and State Department spokesgirl Jen Psaki not only repeated the denial of the anti-Semitic nature of the kosher deli murders, but doubled down on it.

The Black Congressional Caucus, obediently, has announced that they will not be attending the Netanyahu speech because Bibi “disrespected” the president. Both Obama and V.P. Biden have announced they will refuse to meet with the leader of our closest ally in the Middle East during his stay in Washington.

The consequences of Mr. Obama’s denial of the nature of the targeting of the Jewish state by Islamic jihadists may be grave indeed. Obama is assisting Iran to emerge as a nuclear power, thinking that it will have no unpleasant consequences, because everyone is  reasonable and agreements can be reached by well-meaning people.

Well-meaning people who know their history and can remember our previous engagements with Iran and the mullahs, are deeply dubious about the president’s intent — and worried.

Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, will attend the speech. Orthodox Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has placed a full page ad in the New York Times and the Washington Post urging Congress to put partisanship aside and listen to what Prime Minister Netanyahu has to say about the catastrophic danger of a nuclear Iran.

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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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