Filed under: Afghanistan, Foreign Policy, Intelligence, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, National Security, Politics, Russia, Terrorism, The United States | Tags: An Ill-Informed Media, Anticipating Events, Russian History
A Politico report called it “a crisis no one anticipated.” The Daily Beast, reporting on Friday’s US intelligence assessment that “Vladimir Putin’s military would not invade Ukraine,” and quotes a Senate aide claiming that “no one really saw this kind of thing coming.” The American Interest noted that the mainstream media remains deeply convinced that President Obama and his dovish team are “the masters of foreign relations, nothing poor Putin did could possibly derail the stately progress of our genius president. There were, we were told lots of reasons not to worry about Ukraine. War is too costly for Russia’s weak economy. Trade would suffer, the ruble would take a hit. The 2008 war with Georgia is a bad historical comparison, Putin doesn’t want to spoil his upcoming G8 summit, or his good press from Sochi.”
How many times did foolishly confident American experts and officials come out with some variant of the phrase “We all share a common interest in a stable and prosperous Ukraine.” We may think that’s true, but Putin doesn’t.
We blame this in part on the absence of true intellectual and ideological diversity in so much of the academy, the policy world and the mainstream media. Most college kids at good schools today know many more people from different races and cultural groups than their grandparents did, but they are much less exposed to people who think outside the left-liberal box. How many faithful New York Times readers have no idea what American conservatives think, much less how Russian oligarchs do? Well bred and well read Americans live in an ideological and cultural cocoon and this makes them fatally slow to understand the very different motivations that animate actors ranging from the Tea Party to the Kremlin to, dare we say it, the Supreme Leader and Guide of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
As far as we can tell, the default assumption guiding our political leadership these days is that the people on the other side of the bargaining table (unless they are mindless Tea Party Republicans) are fundamentally reasonable people who see the world as we do, and are motivated by the same things that motivate us. Many people are, of course, guided by an outlook not all that dissimilar from the standard upper middle class gentry American set of progressive ideas. But some aren’t, and when worlds collide, trouble comes.
Canada has promptly recalled its ambassador to Russia, and cancelled their attendance at the G8 conference. The G7 are suspending their participation in any international summit in Russia. I think that The American Interest has it exactly right. The White House operates on the assumption that the people with whom we negotiate are really reasonable people who basically want the same things that we do. Well, no they’re not. Has no one noticed that Putin has allied himself with Syria, Iran, North Korea. Moscow denounced the overthrow of Moscow’s man in Kiev, Viktor Yanukovych as the illegal work of fascist bandits.
Obama wants stability. He sees Ukraine as a crisis to be managed. Democracy must come organically from international developments, not imposed by outside intervention. What he does not understand is that American inaction creates a vacuum. Obama’s meaningless “red line” in Syria invited in Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. Obama’s failure to get a status of forces agreement with Iraq invited in Iran and al Qaeda. And he is apparently ready to turn Afghanistan over to the Taliban. Obama’s lifting of the sanctions against Iran has allowed them the freedom to finish developing their nuclear weapons.
These are not reasonable people who want the same things we do.The citizens of these countries may be reasonable people, but their governments are a different bunch. The people of Iran were once quite cosmopolitan, but the Mullahs await the return of the Mahdi and expect nuclear weapons to hasten the reestablishment of the Caliphate.
The Saudis and the leaders of the Gulf States are deeply worried about Iran. One might assume that they are more familiar with their neighbors than we are. We should perhaps pay attention.
Putin has told us over and over that the fall of Soviet Russia was the world’s greatest catastrophe, and he clearly regrets the loss of superpower status. Part of restoring the Soviet Union would seem to be recapturing its former satellite states. If we paid attention, and knew our history, we might anticipate such crises. That seems a worthy goal.
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Islam, Middle East, Military, Terrorism, United Nations | Tags: Catastrophe in Syria, The Hungry Looking for Food, Yarmouk Refugees
The Obama administration’s Syria policy has been a blunder of historic proportions. When he might have intervened effectively, he dithered, When he did intervene it was ineffectual. When the situation was manageable, it was neglected. Nevertheless, this is not the responsibility of the U.S. government. It is the responsibility of Bashar Assad and his supporters, al Qaeda and other radical Muslims who have forcibly taken over the opposition to Assad.
This photograph was taken late last month. The scene is Yarmouk, a district of Damascus that is populated mostly by Palestinian “refugees” and has been the scene of heavy fighting. The U.N. is passing out food packages and the starving people are hoping to get something to eat. This is truly an example of a picture being worth more than a thousand words. (Click to enlarge)
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Iran, Middle East, Military, National Security, Russia, Terrorism, The United States | Tags: 2015 Budget Request, Defense Secretary Hagel, Sir Hew Strachan
What is the natural state of the world? Is it peace — or war? That’s one of the big questions, and much depends on your answer.
At the extremes are those who are sure that if we just lay down our arms, destroy them, and ask the world to follow our example, then there will be real and permanent peace. At the other extreme are those who believe that we are a fallen, quarrelsome species always looking for an opportunity to dominate another.
A conservative …takes the world as given, a place always full of sin, silliness and a rich surplus of stupidity—but also much goodness and mirth. The conservative fancies he views the world, as the philosophers say, as in itself it really is. Utopia is not his idea of a good time; it is not, for him, an idea at all, but an illusion. If he is sensible, he understands the need to alter social arrangements that are cruel or grossly unfair. But the installation of perfection in a patently permanently imperfect world is not something he has signed on to deliver. This in itself ought to bring a smile to his face. Joseph Epstein
Headline in today’s New York Times: Pentagon Plans to Shrink Army to Pre-World War II Level. Not back to the level of 1933, when the Army of the United States of America was 16th in size, at 137,000 men. By December 7, 1941 — the army was 1,640,000, and after our entry into World War II expanded to 8,300,000 officers and men. About 5,000,000 served overseas. In 2011, numbers were 556,000. Secretary Hagel proposes 440,000 – 450,000.
Budget cuts and indifference to maintaining the “arsenal of democracy” have led to units that are not ready to deploy, and soldiers with weapons their grandfathers used. According to reports 85% of its brigades are not combat-ready.
The Navy is down to 10 carriers, even though there is currently a demand for 15 carriers. The Navy has tried to make up the lack by deploying carriers for longer than ever at sea, but the price has been high. Similar cuts are planned for the Air Force and the Marines.
British military historian Sir Hew Strachan, an expert on the history of war, says that the president’s strategic failures in Afghanistan and Syria have crippled America’s position in the world. President Obama is “chronically incapable” of military strategy and falls far short of his predecessor George W. Bush, according to one of Britain’s most senior military advisors. “Obama,” he said, “has no sense of what he wants to do in the world.”
Part of the problem, Strachan says, is that politicians are worried about allowing military leaders to give open and frank advice. Concern about the military speaking out shows a lack of maturity. You need their advice.
As of last October, President Obama has fired an unprecedented, and baffling, 197 officers. The military is being cleansed of any officer suspected of disloyalty or disagreement with the administration on matters of policy or force structure, leaving the compliant and fearful. Reasons range from “loss of confidence in command ability,” ‘mishandling of funds” to” inappropriate relationships,” “Inappropriate behavior,” to “low morale in troops commanded,” or simply no reason given.
For President Obama, the military of a once-feared superpower is an anachronistic vestige of an America whose exceptionalism and world leadership require repeated apologies. It must be gutted and fundamentally transformed into a force wearing gender-neutral headgear only useful for holding the presidential umbrella when it rains. It is to be “his” military and used only for “his” purposes. Investors
I have no expertise in matters military, except a fairly good knowledge of history, and attention to what is going on in the world. Defense Secretary Gates was dismayed by the controlling nature of the White House, and found Obama to be deeply suspicious of senior officers and recommendations. All decisions were political. Osama bin Laden may be gone, but al Qaeda is growing and strengthening. The American people now believe that Obama is not respected on the world stage, according to Gallup. Even if we are hated around the world, when disaster strikes, they call for American help—and we have been ready to provide it.
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Humor, Politics, Terrorism | Tags: The Elephant's Child
Had a long power outage today, somewhere in the vicinity of 2 to 3 hours (electric clocks) and then my computer has been acting up with 6 or 8 crashes.
I apparently need a new display-driver, and beyond that — your guess is as good as mine. At this point, I am exasperated, tense, irritable and incapable of writing anything intelligible. I shall regain my composure and return when it is regained. Always fighting alligators. Some days are like that!
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Foreign Policy, Intelligence, Israel, Middle East, National Security, Terrorism, The United States | Tags: Incentives Matter, Obama's Foreign Policy, Unserious and Risky
I rely a good deal on Richard Epstein’s take on President Obama. Epstein knew Obama at the University of Chicago, and through Epstein’s next-door neighbor, who is one of Obama’s best friends. Epstein’s description of Obama was simply a clear-eyed assessment of the man, but not pejorative. It was a fair assessment. One particular thing he said has stuck with me. He says that Obama does not change his mind. If he once believed something, he still believes it today.
Early on, Obama expressed his idea that the crisis and trouble in the Middle East was entirely due to Israel’s refusal to make peace with the Palestinians, and if the Israelis are forced to make peace, return land to Palestine, and give Palestinians the “right of return” then there would be peace in the entire Middle East — Obama’s great accomplishment.
This seems a remarkably strange take on a group who teach their little children to hate Israel, bomb Israeli cities and houses, and grow up to be suicide bombers. But that is clearly the marching orders Obama has given to Kerry. “In a short time, John Kerry has managed to make the Israelis and the Arabs hate him almost as much as American do. And he did it in the traditional way by saying stupid and ugly things.”
The State Department hastened to say that Kerry didn’t really mean that, “Today’s status quo absolutely to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It’s not sustainable. It’s illusionary.” That’s what he said at the Munich Security Conference. But that same status quo has been maintained for two decades.
How odd that you seldom see mention in the press of the Palestinian children needing complicated heart surgery or other advanced medical treatment, and the Israelis step in and save lives. Syrians bring their badly wounded people to the Israeli border in hopes that the Israelis will save them. Obama clearly has no interest in foreign policy, and wants America to pull back and let others cope with it. He has no understanding of the nature of the world.
Angelo M. Codevilla is professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and a fellow of the Claremont Institute. He is the author of To Make and Keep Peace Among Ourselves And With All Nations to be published by the Hoover Institution Press. His article for The Federalist: “Obama’s Unserious Foreign Policy And America’s Permanent War Footing,” is really worth your time. The subtitle”Fickle foreign policy, increased risk”sums it up.
He ended the war in Iraq, and is ending the war in Afghanistan. In Syria, he is supporting the good guys. He has put al Qaeda “on the path to defeat, and is doing the same to all similar folk. He is ridding Syria of Chemical weapons, while American diplomacy is at work settling the Arab-Israeli war – the key to a larger peace. He asked Americans to believe that Obama is moving the country “off a permanent war footing.” How, he gave no hint. It is difficult to imagine foreign nations, friend and foe alike, taking any of this seriously. Or Americans for that matter.
In fact, foreigners ceased taking Obama seriously long ago. That is one reason why so much of the world is moving in directions that do not augur well for America.
Do read the whole thing.
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Freedom, Humor, Politics, Pop Culture, Progressivism, Statism, Terrorism | Tags: Government Series II Les Paul, Mockery Is The Best Weapon, The Gibson Guitar Raid
The Gibson guitar company in Nashville Tennessee was raided by the Feds in February 2012, with a SWAT-team who shut the whole company down, allegedly for possessing illegally imported wood. I wrote about it at the time because it was so absurd. A federal agency flexing its muscles — because they could. The agency experienced no restraint from the executive, who made it clear that war on the right was the mode of the day.
They confiscated stocks of tonewoods from the factory on dubious grounds, and Gibson eventually settled for a $300,000 fine, a “community service” payment of $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (?), not to mention lost business from being shut down, and legal fees. Do read the article on the settlement to see just how absurd the federal actions were. Gangster government indeed.
This is another reason why the economy has not recovered. Business does not know what the federal government might do next. What new regulations? Every agency seems to have their own SWAT team. Who is next, and on what grounds? Uncertainty.
The Feds have returned their wood, the case is resolved, and Gibson is celebrating the end of the investigation with the introduction of a striking new guitar: The Government Series II Les Paul.
From its solid mahogany body with modern weight relief for enhance resonance and playing comfort, to its carved maple top, the Government Series II Les Paul follows the tradition of the great Les Paul Standards—but also makes a superb statement with its unique appointments. A distinctive vintage-gloss Government Tan finish, complemented by black-chrome hardware and black plastics and trim, is topped by a pickguard that’s hot-stamped in gold with the Government Series graphic—a bald eagle hoisting a Gibson guitar neck. Each Government Series II Les Paul also includes a genuine piece of Gibson USA history in its solid rosewood fingerboard, which is made from wood returned to Gibson by the US government after the resolution.
I love the “distinctive vintage-gloss Government Tan finish.” A nice drab bureaucratic style. (click to enlarge)
Filed under: Education, Freedom, Politics, Terrorism | Tags: Lack of Common Sense, The American Schoolhouse, Zero Tolerance Policies
Liberty Pen has assembled recent examples of the zero tolerance policies of our schools. It’s time for a zero tolerance policy for over-zealous principals who do damage to our children because they themselves cannot distinguish between absurd levels of political correctness and a real threat.
In the meantime, the acts of violence prevented by their zealotry — zero. Loss of respect for a school’s overzealous pursuit of a useless zero tolerance policy — immeasurable.
I’m for the kids. They have more sense.
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Intelligence, Islam, Middle East, National Security, Terrorism | Tags: Jihadist Exodus, Radicalized in Syria, Terror at Home
President Francois Hollande has asked Manuel Valls, the interior minister to draw up plans to crack down on the “jihadist exodus.” The warning came after it emerged that two 15 year-old French boys had left this month to fight in Syria. They are believed to be among the youngest Westerners to travel there since the Arab Spring revolt against Bashar al-Assad turned into a full blown civil war.
The prospect of hundreds of battle-hardened extremists returning to Europe with training in bomb-making and weaponry has become a major cause of concern in recent months. Mr Valls said the numbers going there had “accelerated” in recent weeks.
He said French intelligence services believe around 700 French nationals or persons living in France were either currently fighting there, had already returned or were planning to become jihadists.
Twenty-one French nationals had been killed in fighting in the Arab state.
The threat is not confined to Europe, Radicalized young Muslims from the US, Canada and Australia as well as from other Muslim countries have traveled to Syria to fight.
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Intelligence, Middle East, National Security, News the Media Doesn't Want You to Hear, Politics, Terrorism, The United States | Tags: al Qaeda In Syria, Attacks At Home, Training Jihadists
You are aware, of course, that al Qaeda has been “decimated and is “on the way to defeat.” Since the Benghazi attack, President Barack Obama has touted al Qaeda’s demise at least 32 times, even though Libyan President Mohamed Yousef El-Magarief, members of Congress, an administration spokesman and several press reports said that al Qaeda played a role in the attack. In Green Bay, Wisconsin, on November 1, Obama said “Thanks to sacrifice and service of our brave men and women in uniform, the war in Iraq is over, the war in Afghanistan is winding down, al Qaeda has been decimated, Osama bin Laden is dead.“
But nobody told the British newspapers. The Telegraph today says that Al Qaeda is training hundreds of British and European jihadis in Syria — and telling them to return home to set up terror cells.
British people fighting in Syria are being trained as “jihadists” and then encouraged to return to the UK to launch attacks on home soil, an al-Qaeda defector and western security sources have told the Telegraph.
In a rare interview on Turkey’s border with Syria, the defector from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) said that recruits from Britain, Europe and the US were being indoctrinated in extremist anti-Western ideology, trained in how to make and detonate car bombs and suicide vests and sent home to start new terror cells.
British security and intelligence agencies believe the threat of would-be terrorists being indoctrinated and directed back to the UK by al Qaeda organizers in Syria is growing. Foreign fighters are proud of 9/11 and the London bombings. A defector from ISIS said of the foreign fighters he met in Syria: “They talked often about terrorist attacks. The British, French and American mujahideen [holy warriors] in the room started talking about places that they wanted to bomb or explode themselves in Europe and the United States. Everyone named a target. The American said he dreamed of blowing up the White House.”
Up to 500 fighters from Britain have joined the struggle against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, many already known to MI5 for their radical sympathies. Some have gone with the intent of fighting the regime but are brainwashed by al Qaeda and urged to return home and launch attacks there instead.
The French interior minister, Manuel Valls, said the possibility of French citizens returning from Syria as hardened jihadists was “the biggest threat that the country faces in the coming years.” France and Europe risk being “overwhelmed” by the phenomenon.
Shiraz Maher, a senior research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London, estimated last week that up to 50 British fighters have already returned home.
I don’t suppose that anyone here is apt to think of this as a warning about open borders, uncontrolled illegal immigration, amnesty, and the declining rate of real assimilation among new immigrants. Europe may have a rude awakening over their rush to encourage immigration to relieve declining birthrates in Europe, and their inability to assimilate their immigrants. We may have a rude awakening over our administration’s insistence that al Qaeda has been defeated, and is no longer a concern.
Filed under: Foreign Policy, History, Iran, National Security, Terrorism, The United States | Tags: Ayotollah Khomeini, Peace With Terrorists, The 60s Revisited
The headline at the Weekly Standard was “Yoko Ono vs. Ayatollah Khomeini.”
It’s going to be difficult, it’s going to be challenging, but ultimately this is how diplomacy should work.”
“If Iran is willing to walk through the door of opportunity that’s presented to them” then the country and its people will benefit.
“If they fail to walk through this door of opportunity, then we are in position to reverse the interim agreement and put in place additional pressure to make sure that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon.”
“My preference is for peace and diplomacy, and this is one of the reasons why I’ve sent the message to Congress that now is not the time for us to impose new sanctions, now is the time for us to allow the diplomats and technical experts to do their work.”
“What we want to do is give diplomacy a chance, and give peace a chance.”
The Iranians said that America was being secretly run by a bunch of Nazi space aliens who control the government. Really.
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Iraq, Terrorism, Democrat Corruption, National Security, Middle East, Islam, The United States, Intelligence | Tags: A Didgraceful Foreign Policy, Al Qaeda Captures Fallujah, Fighting in Ramadi
“A rejuvenated, al Qaeda-affiliated force has asserted control over the western Iraqi city of Fallujah on Friday, raising the black al Qaeda flag over government buildings and declaring an Islamic state in one of the most crucial areas that U.S. troops fought to pacify before withdrawing from Iraq two years ago.”
Following his inauguration, President Obama withdrew troops from Iraq on the timetable agreed upon by President Bush. As the draw-down proceeded, it became clear that security would worsen dangerously in the absence of American power. He refused to consider leaving even a small contingent of troops to help the young Iraqi government resist terrorist forces. The result has been an escalation of violence. Local tribes, Iraqi security forces and al Qaeda-affiliated militants have been fighting for days in a confused and chaotic three-way war.
”At the moment there is no presence of the Iraqi state in Fallujah,” a local journalist who asked not to be named because e fears for his safety. “The police and the army have abandoned the city, al Qaeda has taken down all the Iraqi flags and burned them, and it has raised its own flag on all the buildings.” The fighting has now spread to Ramadi.
Iraqi troops trying to retake Anbar province from a mixture of Islamist and tribal foes battled al Qaeda fighters in Ramadi on Saturday after shelling the western region’s other main city, Fallujah, overnight, tribal leaders and official said.
President Obama failed to secure a status of forces agreement in Iraq, and has expressed no interest in helping the beleaguered country. His original idea on coming into office seemed to be that all the problems in the Middle East were the result of the problems between Israel and Palestine. He would force an agreement between Israel and her neighbor, and that would end the problems of the entire region. Which seems to be what Secretary Kerry is up to. This is such a dimwitted supposition that it beggars belief, and shows no understanding at all of the entire region, but that’s what they seem to believe, and American foreign policy is the evidence.
Be nice if a few reporters asked some hard questions about the utter failure of his foreign policy, but that’s not what reporters do these days anyway. Perhaps the British press will ask the hard questions. They do a better job of it.
Disgraceful. Simply disgraceful.
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Freedom, Iran, National Security, Progressivism, Terrorism, The United States | Tags: Abject Failure, Fallible Assumptions, Victory — Not Conflict Resolution
Deals between democracies and dictators seldom turn out well. Democracies assume that dictators seek peace, and are as concerned for the well-being of their people as democracies, which is seldom the case. We assume they want compromise, which they don’t. Years of talks intended to prevent North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons resulted in abject failure. The big “reset” with Russia, with Hillary’s mistranslated symbolic red button, led to American concessions on such important issues as missile defense, and Russia has given …? We assume that, like us, the bad guys are seeking common ground and are open to compromise. The bad guys’ goal is victory — not conflict-resolution.
According to Clifford May, head of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, they estimate that over the next six months, Iran will receive $20 billion or more in sanctions relief both directly from the Geneva agreement and through positive changes in Iranian economic activity. Last Friday a State Department spokesman finally answered a query about what concessions Iran has given in return. On the Iranian side, the agreement “has yet to be implemented.”
In the meantime, Iran’s centrifuges continue to spin, turning out 20 percent enriched uranium. Construction is ongoing at the Arak heavy-water reactor, a facility that will be able to produce weapons-grade plutonium. Weaponization and ballistic-missile development have not been halted — such activities are not even included in the Joint Plan of Action despite the fact that a 2012 U.N. Security Council resolution obligates Iran to “not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” All these issues are to be addressed in a new round of negotiations expected to begin in January — though no date certain is yet on the calendar.
Not only are we assuming that our goals are similar, we are assuming that both sides agree on what the language of the agreement actually says. That is not the case. “The government of new president Hassan Rouhani says the deal recognizes Iran’s right to enrich uranium.” The mullahs know how to play hardball, and they are so doing.
Scott Johnson at Powerline says:
[T]he Iranians have Obama’s number and they mean to advertise it. They are sending a message. They see him as a pathetic weakling whom they can push around without consequence. Obama and Kerry are smart enough to know they are being humiliated, but they don’t care. They are more than willing to endure humiliation in the service of what they deem to be a higher cause.