American Elephants


Wars Are to Be Won. Enemies are to be Destroyed, Not Merely Admonished by The Elephant's Child

Poor Marie Harf, State Department deputy spokeswoman, has been endlessly held up to ridicule for her statement that “We cannot win this war by killing them.” She was simply repeating the direction of the State Department. But of course we can kill our way to victory. That’s what wars are all about.  Daniel Greenfield, writing as Sultan Knish, thought so too. I thought it was funny, but Mr. Greenfield appropriately took it more seriously as a long time misdirection of the progressive mind, in a piece titled “We Can Kill Our Way to Victory”
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“We can not win this war by killing them,” Marie Harf said on MSNBC.

 Reversing thousands of years of battlefield experience in which wars were won by “killing them”, the State Department spokeswoman argued that you can’t defeat ISIS by killing its fighters.

“We can not kill our way out of this war,” she said. “We need in the medium and longer term to go after the root causes that lead people to join these groups, whether it is lack of opportunity for jobs.”

War is one of the few things in life we can reliably kill our way out of. The United States has had a great track record of killing our way out of wars. We killed our way out of WW1. We killed our way out of WW2. The problem began when we stopped trying to kill our way out of wars and started trying to hug our way out of wars instead. Progressive academics added war to economics, terrorism and the climate in the list of subjects they did not understand and wanted to make certain that no one else was allowed to understand. Because the solution to war is so obvious that no progressive could possibly think of it.

Harf’s argument is a familiar one. There was a time when progressive reformers had convinced politicians that we couldn’t arrest, shoot, imprison or execute our way out of crime.

We couldn’t stop crime by fighting crime. Instead the root causes of crime had to be addressed. The police became social workers and criminals overran entire cities. The public demanded action and a new wave of mayors got tough on crime. While the sociologists, social workers, activists and bleeding hearts wailed that it wouldn’t work, surprisingly locking up criminals did stop them from committing crimes.

It was a revelation almost as surprising as realizing that it does take a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun. Addressing root causes won’t stop a killing spree in progress. (That’s another one of those things we can and do kill our way out of.)

But bad ideas are harder to kill than bad people. And stupid ideas are the hardest ideas of all to kill.

The same plan that failed to stop street gangs and drug dealers has been deployed to defeat ISIS. Heading it up are progressives who don’t believe that killing the enemy wins wars.

General Patton told the Third Army, “The harder we push, the more Germans we kill. The more Germans we kill, the fewer of our men will be killed.” That kind of thinking is passé. General McChrystal, Obama’s favorite commander (before he had to be purged for insulting Obama) had a much better plan.

“We will not win based on the number of Taliban we kill,” he said. “We must avoid the trap of winning tactical victories—but suffering strategic defeats—by causing civilian casualties or excessive damage and thus alienating the people.”

Under Obama’s rotating shift of commanders, we avoided the trap of winning tactical victories. Instead of following Patton’s maxim, American casualties doubled. The Taliban struck closer to Kabul while US soldiers avoided engaging the enemy because they wouldn’t be given permission to attack unless the Taliban announced themselves openly while avoiding mosques or civilian buildings.

“We will not win simply by killing insurgents,” McChrystal had insisted. “We will help the Afghan people win by securing them, by protecting them from intimidation, violence and abuse.”

But we couldn’t protect the Afghan people without killing the Taliban. Civilian casualties caused by the United States fell 28 percent, but the Taliban more than made up for it by increasing their killing of civilians by 40 percent. Not only did we avoid the trap of a tactical victory, but we also suffered a strategic defeat. American soldiers couldn’t kill insurgents, protect civilians or even protect themselves. We’ve tried the McChrystal way and over 2,000 American soldiers came home in boxes from Afghanistan trying to win the hearts and minds of the Afghans. Many more returned missing arms and legs. The Taliban poll badly among Afghans, but instead of hiring a PR expert to improve their image, a Pentagon report expects them to be encircling key cities by 2017.

Unlike our leaders, the Taliban are not worried about falling into the trap of winning tactical victories. They are big believers in killing their way to popularity. As ISIS and Boko Haram have demonstrated, winning by killing works better than trying to win by wars by winning polls.

Now the same whiz kids that looked for the root cause of the problem in Afghanistan by dumping money everywhere, including into companies linked to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, think that the way to beat ISIS is with unemployment centers and job training. Many of the ISIS Jihadists come from the social welfare paradises of Europe where there are more people employed to find the root causes of terrorism through welfare than there are people working to fight them. So far they haven’t had much luck either.                                  (continued below)
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Didn’t Obama Promise That Iran Would Not Be Permitted to Have Nuclear Weapons? by The Elephant's Child

Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor at The Washington Post asked “Can President Obama sell an Iran deal at home?’

If his negotiators strike an agreement next month, we already know that it will be far from ideal: Rather than eradicating Iran’s nuclear-weapons potential, as once was hoped, a pact would seek to control Iran’s activities for some limited number of years.

Such a deal might be defensible on the grounds that it is better than any alternative, given that most experts believe a military “solution” would be at best temporary and possibly counterproductive.

But making that kind of lesser-evil defense would be challenging in any circumstances. Three conditions will make it particularly hard for Obama to persuade Congress and the nation to accept his assurances in this case: the suspicious, poisonous partisanship of the moment here, with Israeli politics mixed in; worries that he wants a deal too much; and the record of his past assurances.

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be anything in any proposed “deal” that would control Iran’s activities for any significant period whatsoever. Straw Man. What experts believe that a military “solution”would be counterproductive? The scare quotes around solution are probably deserved. Blame all on partisanship? Sorry, Republicans are not in doubt of Obama and Kerry as negotiators because of their party preferences, but because from the past history with the mullahs of Iran, we know that you cannot believe anything they say, only consider the evidence of what they do.

To give Mr. Hiatt credit, he goes through, gently, a list of Obama’s “unfulfilled assurances” that are “less than a case of Nixonian deception than a product of wishful thinking and stubborn adherence to policies after they have faded. But before anyone can suggest that he is not following the party line,He hastens to include successes like the killing of Osama bin Laden and a “potentially groundbreaking” agreement with China on global warming. That one is utterly meaningless. There is not much anyone can say in favor of the negotiations with Iran.

Iran is being granted the “right to enrich.” It will be allowed to retain and spin thousands more centrifuges. It could continue construction of the Arak plutonium reactor.Obama has accepted Iran’s demand that any restrictions on their program remain time-limited. Assuming that they would pay any attention to time limits anyway.

Did you know that Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program is subject to no restrictions at all? It is not a part of the negotiations. So why do you suppose Iran is building intercontinental ballistic missiles anyway? Does that question not trouble either Mr Kerry or Mr, Obama? The key word there is “intercontinental.”

Iran cannot be trusted at any time, or for any reason.

The sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table, but inexplicably Obama lifter them as soon as Iran demanded it. He’s really not much good at negotiating much of anything is he. That was before oil prices collapsed, which would heighten the effect of sanctions. Iran has plenty of oil for their own energy needs, less you think they are pursuing the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

They keep saying that Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s “new, more moderate president”, but have offered no evidence that he is more moderate, except that he smiles more than his predecessor. He said “Let anyone make his own reading, but this right is clearly stated in the text of the agreement that Iran can continue its enrichment, and I announce to our people that our enrichment activities will continue as before.” Kerry countered that “nothing is agreed on until everything is agreed on.”

An Iranian dissident group known for exposing key aspects of Iran’s secret nuclear work claims it now has evidence of “an active and secret parallel nuclear program” operated by Tehran. John Kerry said ‘We know about that.’

At the core of the Obama policy is an ideological aversion to American power. there’s some belief that everyone is reasonable and wants the same things.

“Obama’s approach to the world is predicated first and foremost on his bedrock intention to be a “transformational” president. The transformation is largely domestic—hence his preoccupation with the Affordable Care Act, which remakes a rather large swath of the American economy. Abroad and in aid of the main focus on his domestic agenda (‘nation-building at home”), the president’s overwhelming objective has been to keep international affairs at bay. But when world events do inevitably impose themselves, Obama is no less confident of his unique ability  to exert a transformational impact.”

Is the “transformational impact” of this self-infatuated narcissist going to be a large hole in the United States where the nation’s capitol used to be?

Here’s some of the essential reading:

Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy by Michael Doran

What the President Thinks He’s Doing by Elliott Abrams

The Obama Doctrine by Eric Edelman

The Reform Delusion by Reuel Marc Gerecht

Now we know who to believe on Iran by David Horovitz

There’s Nothing Unpatriotic About Challenging Obama on Iran by David Harsanyi



“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.



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

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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.



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

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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.




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