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.



“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 About Terrorism, It’s About the Lack of Opportunity by The Elephant's Child

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

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

MATTHEWS: Are we killing enough of them?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Do You Care About the Price of Oil? Here’s Why You Should! by The Elephant's Child

When most of us think about the price of oil, it comes to mind only when we have to fill up at the gas station. If you have a vehicle with a large gas tank, you pay quite a bit of attention. But when the price of oil drops significantly, it’s like getting a major tax cut.  Not just what you pay at the pump, but our entire economy runs on energy. When oil prices are high it means that everything you buy will cost more. Businesses and factories run on energy, everything must  be transported. And there are our energy bills. Keeping warm as the climate gets colder matters.

OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Companies) decided on Friday to maintain their crude oil output despite a glut, largely due to Americas energy bounty from shale oil and fracking. That decision in turn knocked down U.S. benchmark oil prices by 10% to $66.15 a barrel. That’s the lowest level since September 2009. Scared investors dumped energy stocks. That, in turn, affects national currencies.

Brent crude price for January deliveries was $70.15 a barrel on Friday. BP plans projects assuming a price of around $80 a barrel. Russia planned it’s 2015 budget assuming an average oil price of $100 a barrel. President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow will stop pursing a gas pipeline to Europe amid opposition from the European Union and instead build a new line to Turkey.

Some say that OPEC’s decision to keep pumping in the face of  increased American exports is intended to drive marginal producers out of business. Some think it may have something to do with Iran and ISIS’s dependence on oil sales. Most of the world’s worst dictators depend on a high price for oil. Mr. Putin’s ability to buy domestic political support will decline with declining oil prices.

Economist Larry Kudlow is exulting in the lower prices.  “Seldom has so much good news  been portrayed so negatively. Oil prices continue to fall in the U.S . and around the world, but nearly everybody in the media is grumpy about it.”

“The International Energy Association (IEA) reports that most production in the Bakken formation, one of the main drivers of shale-oil output, remains profitable at or below $42 a barrel.”

So there you go. More on the oil industry that you ever wanted to know. If America’s oil producers will continue to prosper and the lower cost of oil will give a boost to your budget and the economy, the EPA has other ideas. Their Clean Power Plan could double the amount of coal-fired capacity  being retired by 2020. Energy Ventures Analysis has found the EPA  underestimates how much it’s power plant regulatory regime  will raise electricity and natural gas prices — a 37% increase by 2020. They don’t believe the EPA estimates, and claim the cost would be the equivalent of the energy used by 29 million homes.

There ‘s always somebody to rain on your parade. Why am I not surprised it’s the EPA?



Obama Goes to Australia, Offends Everybody. by The Elephant's Child

There didn’t seem to be much news from President Obama’s trip to Australia for the G20 meeting. The media made a lot of his climate accord with China at his previous stop in Beijing. The commentary recognized that Obama set a path for America to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, and China would go ahead building coal-fired plants at a tremendous rate until 2030 when they might start paying attention to their emissions. The general assumption is that China will pay no attention the agreement anyway, but Mr. Obama seems to believe it to be a great accomplishment.

President Obama ruffled feathers by demanding to make a speech to young people at Queensland University, where he offended everybody with what they called “an ill-informed, insulting speech from Barack Obama about climate change, the Great Barrier Reef and coal.”

The U.S. Embassy carefully had advised the president not to couch his climate change comments in a way that would be seen as disobliging to the Abbott government. “Historians of the US-Australia relationship are unable to nominate a case of a visiting president making such a hostile speech to the host government.” Heads of State just don’t go to other countries and insert themselves into political debates in that country.

Queensland is a coal mining state. Mr. Obama said that climate change “here in Australia” means “longer droughts, more wildfires”  and “the incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threatened.” Well, no it doesn’t, but it has been a contentious point in Australian politics. Climate change does not cause wildfires, nor does it harm the Great Barrier Reef.

Prime Minister Abbott has been critical of Obama’s Green Climate Fund, and points out that the “four-fifths” of the developed world that had used fossil fuels to develop could not deny “the other fifth” access to coal to generate electricity for the hundred million people who were without it.

Queensland officials are so angry at Mr. Obama’s remarks about the Great Barrier Reef and his attack on coal production in a resources state that they are considering a formal complaint. Informal messages were sent to the U.S. delegation that the president’s speech was not in keeping with that of a guest and ally.

Hopes for a positive G20 summit meeting crumbled abruptly when Obama called Vladimir Putin a jackass. At a joint press appearance President Obama blurted “Everyone here thinks you’re  a dick.” Mr. Obama then unleashed a ten-minute tirade at the Russian President.

Look, I’m not just talking about Snowden and Syria,” Mr. Obama said. “What about Pussy Riot? What about your anti-gay laws? Total jackass moves, my friend.”

As Mr. Putin narrowed his eyes in frosty silence, Mr. Obama seemed to warm to his topic.

“If you think I’m the only one who feels this way, you’re kidding yourself,” Mr. Obama said, jabbing his finger in the direction of the Russian President’s face. “Ask Angela Merkel. Ask David Cameron. Ask the Turkish guy. Every last one of them thinks you’re a dick.”

Mr. Putin released  a terse official statement reading, “I should be afraid of this skinny man? I wrestle bears.”

After one day of meetings, the G20 nations voted unanimously on a resolution that said perhaps everyone should just go on home.

The American press, for the most part simply reported that Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper told Putin that he wasn’t sure about shaking Putin’s hand, and Putin “should get out of Ukraine.” For Obama’s tirade I had to go to the Daily Mail and Zero Hedge.  Interesting omission.

ADDENDUM: I ‘m told that the conversation between Obama and Putin comes from a parody in the New Yorker last year, and has inadvertently been picked up by many bloggers as accurate. Apparently it is not. I apologize. It seemed to fit right in with his speech that so offended the Aussies. That was quite real, and reported in the Australian newspapers, as well as in the text supplied by the White House. Mr. Obama has seemed particularly angry since the election, and short tempered, but that’s just the view from partial glimpses.

 




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