American Elephants


The Propaganda Wars: Unfamiliar Strategy by The Elephant's Child

ISIS is depending on their videos to appeal to young Muslims who may be convinced to join the fight. The violence portrayed in many of them has encouraged hundreds to make their way to Syria to join ISIS. The Islamic State’s best recruiting tool is youth boredom. ISIS is offering excitement, a chance for young Muslims in the West to get back at the prejudice against Muslims that they may feel, and they find the extreme violence portrayed on the video thrilling and exciting. Just as we find movie portrayals of special effects exciting. But the reality is something else.

There are currently 3 young women, teenagers, from Britain currently making their way to Turkey and Syria to become brides of ISIS. There are at lest 8 impressionable schoolgirls that were attracted by websites recruiting brides, who have disappeared. A couple of them are already widows. Hundreds are proposing to ISIS fighters.

Have you ever been a member of the military, and gone through basic training? If so you will enjoy this newest ISIS recruiting video meant to strike fear into the hearts of the West. I can’t embed the video, so you will have to follow the link. The music is annoying, but the camouflage is priceless.

We need some evidence and videos of the setbacks being inflicted on ISIS and al Qaeda to counter their propaganda. But that may be another part of the Obama strategy that isn’t understood.



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.



Lessons For Obama, From 1793: George Washington Wrote: by The Elephant's Child

George Washington’ fifth Annual Message to Congress, was delivered on December 5, 1793, in written form. Speeches in those days had to be shouted, if there was a crowd — no microphones, no teleprompters — so President Washington’s Messages to Congress, even including his famous Farewell Address, were written, not spoken.

There are a number of passages in President Washington’s message that might recommend themselves to the attention of President Obama, as you will see.

President Washington expressed his humble gratitude for “the renewed testimony of public approbation” and for “the instances of affectionate partiality with which I have been honored by my country.” He would rather retire, but He will obey the suffrage which has “commanded me to resume the Executive power,” and he humbly “implores that Being on whose will the fate of nations depends to crown with success our mutual endeavors for the general happiness.”

He needs Congress to decide what should be done in regard to the treaties made with France about prizes, whether to allow them to be sold, or restored, or do we need protection of our territory by vessels commissioned. Congress needs to make rules or laws. It’s complicated and even the courts don’t know what to do.

The United States ought not to indulge a persuasion that contrary to the order of human events, they will forever keep at a distance those painful appeals to arms with which the history of every other nation abounds. There is a rank due to the United States among nations which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it, if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war. The documents which will be presented to you will shew the amount and kinds of arms and military stores now in our magazines and arsenals, and yet an addition even to these supplies can not with prudence be neglected, as it would leave nothing to the uncertainly of procuring warlike apparatus in the moment of public danger.”

When we contemplate the war on our frontiers, it may be truly affirmed that every reasonable effort has been made to adjust the causes of dissension with the Indians north of the Ohio. The instructions given to the commissioners evince a moderation and equity proceeding from a sincere love of peace, and a liberality having no restriction but the essential  interests and dignity of the United States. The attempt, however, of an amicable negotiation having been frustrated the troops have marched to act offensively.” As the seasons advance, we many need more troops than the number granted by law, and you need to address that and their compensation.

The Executive also has some anxiety about peace with the Creeks and the Cherokees. We’ve given the Creeks corn and clothing, and prohibited offensive measures against them.  Congress needs to provide for the current emergency. [T]he establishment of commerce with the Indian nations in behalf of the United States is most likely to conciliate their attachment. But it ought to be conducted without fraud, without extortion, with constant and plentiful supplies, with a ready market for the commodities of the Indians and a stated price for what they give in payment and receive in exchange. Individuals will not pursue such a traffic unless they be allured by the hope of profit; but it will be enough for the United States to be reimbursed only. Should this recommendation accord with the opinion of Congress, they will recollect that it can not be accomplished by any means yet in the hands of the Executive.”

To the House of Representatives:

On the first day of June last an installment of 1.000,000 florins became payable on the loans of the United States in Holland. This was adjusted by a prolongation of the period of reimbursement in nature of a new loan at an interest of 5% for the term of ten years, and the expenses of this operation were a commission of 3%.

The first installment of the loan of $2,000,000 from the Bank of the United States has been paid, as was directed by law. For the second it is necessary that provision be made.

No pecuniary consideration is more urgent than the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt. On none can delay be more injurious or an economy of time more valuable.

The productiveness of the public revenues hitherto has continued to equal the anticipations which were formed of it, but it is not expected to prove commensurate with all the objects which have been suggested. Some auxiliary provisions will therefore, it is presumed, be requisite, and it is hoped that these may be made consistently with a due regard to the convenience of our citizens, who can not but be sensible of the true wisdom of encountering a small present addition to their contributions to obviate a future accumulation of burthens.

But here I can not forbear to recommend a repeal of the tax on the transportation of public prints. There is no resource so firm for the Government of the United States as the affections of the people, guided by an enlightened policy; and to this primary good nothing can conduce more than a faithful representation of public proceedings, diffused without restraint throughout the United States.

Gentlemen of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

The several subjects to which I have now referred open a wide range to your deliberations and involve some of the choicest interests of our common country. Permit me to bring to your remembrance the magnitude of your task. Without an unprejudiced coolness the welfare of the Government may be hazarded; without harmony as far as consists with freedom of sentiment its dignity may be lost. But as the legislative proceedings of the United States will never, I trust, be reproached for the want of temper or of candor, so shall not the public happiness languish from the want of my strenuous and warmest cooperation.

GEORGE WASHINGTON

(Reprinted and slightly revised from 2013)



February 22 Is George Washington’s Real Birthday. by The Elephant's Child

 Imagine, you just turned 43 years old, and suddenly you find yourself Commander in Chief of a ragtag American army, such as it was. The battles of Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill had already been fought when Washington arrived in Massachusetts, and had established that the British  could not break out of Boston. Once Washington placed the captured British cannon on Dorchester Heights, the British evacuated by sea. p1070056

Washington had been named Commander in Chief by the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia in June 1775. He was forty-three years old. There was not yet any American army for him to command, only the militias ringing Boston, but the delegates of the increasingly rebellious colonies were seized by  fury for action and for war. “Oh that I was a soldier,” wrote John Adams, a radical lawyer from Massachusetts. “I will be. I am reading military books.  Everybody must and will, and shall be a soldier.”

Adams never became a soldier, but Washington had already been one.  He had served in the Virginia militia during the French and Indian War twenty years earlier, rising to the rank of colonel.  In his old age, Adams would describe Washington’s selection as a political compromise—a southern commander, to lead what would at first be a mostly New England force—engineered by congressional wise-men, including Adams. But Congress did not have many other officers to choose from, Israel Putnam, of the Connecticut militia, was, at 57, too old.  Artemas Ward, the commander of the Massachusetts militia, was incompetent and suffering from the stone.

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The state begins in violence.  However lofty the ideals of a new country or a new regime, it encounters opposition, as most new regimes and countries do, it must fight. If it loses, its ideals join the long catalogue of unfulfilled aspirations.

At six o’clock on the evening of July 9, 1776, the soldiers of the main American army, stationed in New York, were paraded and read the Declaration of Independence. General George Washington, Commander in Chief, hoped this “important event” would inspire them, though when some soldiers joined a mob in pulling down a statue of George III, he deplored their “want of order.” Over the next two months the American army and its commander, orderly or not, were unable to offer much in defense of the Declaration’s sentiments. …

During the summer, the British assembled, on Staten Island and in the harbor, the largest expeditionary force of the eighteenth century: ten ships of the line, twenty frigates, and 32,000 regular troops.  On August 22, most of those troops began moving to Gravesend Bay on Long Island, in what is now southwest Brooklyn.  Anticipating a possible landing there, Washington had posted more than a third of his own force of 19,000 men on Brooklyn Heights, and on a line of hills to the  south.  But he expected the British to attack him on the harbor side of his position, where they could bring the guns of their ships into play. On the morning of the 27th, the British slipped a force through the hills five miles away in the opposite direction and hit the American front line from before and behind.

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These are excerpts from Richard Brookheiser’s  Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington, which he calls a moral biography, which has two purposes: to explain its subject, and to shape the minds and hearts of those who read it—by showing how a great man navigated politics and a life as a public figure.  Brookheiser says “If Washington’s contemporaries were too willing to be awed, we are not willing enough. …We have lost the conviction that ideas require men to bring them to earth, and that great statesmen must be great men. Great statesmen are rare enough in their world. We believe they are mythical, like unicorns.” They are not.

According to recent studies, our kids don’t know anything about George Washington, nor do most adults. There is some speculation that the problem is big fat books. People are more apt to read thin books that don’t scare them about the time involved. Answering that need is a new short biography by the great British historian Paul Johnson. The paperback is only $8.71, and a hardback is available.

ADDENDUM: The picture above is a forensic reconstruction of Washington as a General, and Commander in Chief. Getting a likeness is hard. You get one thing just a little off, and you have lost the resemblance. Washington’s skin was pale, we are told, and he burned in the sun. I don’t think the tricorn hat gives even as much protection as a baseball cap, so I’m sure he appeared much more weathered, with squint lines (no sunglasses). His real hair was reddish. But nasty Stuart Gilbert did him real dirt down through the ages by overemphasizing the distortions of false teeth, and getting a poor likeness. Remember that, every time you look at a one dollar bill. It was deliberate.



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.




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