American Elephants

What is Vladimir Putin Doing in Syria? by The Elephant's Child

Putin formalThe great mystery in the Middle East is what is Vladimir Putin doing? Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state from 2005 to 2009, and Robert M. Gates, defense secretary from 2006 to 2011, join to write an op-ed at Fox News

One can hear the disbelief in capitals from Washington to London to Berlin to Ankara and beyond. How can Vladimir Putin, with a sinking economy and a second-rate military, continually dictate the course of geopolitical events? Whether it’s in Ukraine or Syria, the Russian president seems always to have the upper hand.

Obama claimed it is a sign of Russian weakness. Europe is alarmed — they have quite enough on their plates with refugees from the Middle East, not all of them by any means from Syria. They are demanding, expecting far more than the Europeans are willing to give, and the people of Europe are beginning to act in opposition.

The fact is that Putin is playing a weak hand extraordinarily well because he knows exactly what he wants to do. He is not stabilizing the situation according to our definition of stability. He is defending Russia’s interests by keeping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power. This is not about the Islamic State. Any insurgent group that opposes Russian interests is a terrorist organization to Moscow. We saw this behavior in Ukraine, and now we’re seeing it even more aggressively — with bombing runs and cruise missile strikes — in Syria.

Putin is not a sentimental man, and if Assad becomes a liability, Putin will gladly move on to a substitute acceptable to Moscow. But for now, the Russians believe that they (and the Iranians) can save Assad. President Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry say that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis. That is true, but Moscow understands that diplomacy follows the facts on the ground, not the other way around. Russia and Iran are creating favorable facts. Once this military intervention has run its course, expect a peace proposal from Moscow that reflects its interests, including securing the Russian military base at Tartus.

Russians don’t regret their foreign adventures. The last time was Afghanistan, and that didn’t happen until Ronald Reagan armed the Afghan mujahideen with stinger missiles. Putin is not responding to world disorder nor does he have any concern for the Syrian people or for Syria as a state.  He’s not trying to hold the Middle East together.

Vladimir Putin is reacting to circumstances in the Middle East and sees an opening created by American disinclination to fully engage.  He’s playing power politics. There will continue to be refugees until people are safe. Significant support for the Kurds, Sunni tribes and and Iraqi special forces is not, as Mr. Obama claimed, “mumbo jumbo.” It might save our current lack of strategy. We must do what we can to prevent an incident with Russian military activities — but we should never have gotten to a place where Russia is warning us to stay our of their way. The Russians intend to secure their interests in the Middle East.

Richard Cohen: The high cost of avoiding war in Syria

David Ignatius: The U.S. cannot pass Syria on to Putin

Charles Krauthammer: President Obama’s Syria Debacle

Peter Baker: Wary of Escalation in Syria, U.S. Is Waiting Out Putin’s Moves


How Come We’re Always Surprised by Events? by The Elephant's Child

article-2343392-1A5EE249000005DC-338_634x479Once again the administration is being taken by surprise. Moscow has established a new airbase in Syria to go with its existing naval base. and they are determined to keep Bashar Assad’s regime in power. The U.S. no longer has any influence in Baghdad, and ever since the U.S. forces pulled out in 2011, Iran has become the dominant player in Iraq.

When Russia sent in flights to create a new Russian military base in Syria, our protests were ignored. President Obama’s failure to act on his red line in Syria has consequences. When he could not even act against Assad’s use of chemical weapons on his own people or Iran’s development of a nuclear program, it ‘s pretty clear that he’s not going to do anything.

Humiliated, Obama is now trying to pretend that Putin will “help”take care of ISIS, but he has been attacking the rebels fighting the Assad regime instead. This is a pure power play by the Russian President. Leon Aron, who is the director of Russian Studies at AEI, looks at why:

  • To establish a sustained, open-ended Russian military presence in the Middle East for the first time since President Sadat sent Soviet personnel home in 1972, thus recovering a key Soviet geopolitical asset as postulated by the Putin Doctrine.
  • To establish the Russia-Iran-Syria (and possibly Iraq) de facto alliance as the dominant military and thus political actor in the Middle East.
  • To boost patriotic mobilization in Russia, which increasingly is the Putin regime’s sole claim to legitimacy. With the economy tanking fast, the ruble down 57% from this time last year, inflation at around 15%, and the seemingly stalemated war on Ukraine no longer generating enough heat to keep the patriotic fervor a-boil, Putin needs another “short, victorious war” (as the Minister of Internal Affairs Vyacheslav Plehve hailed the ultimately disastrous Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05).

The question becomes how far will Putin go? Both Aron and Ralph Peters suggest that we should be prepared for an “accidental” shoot down of a U.S. or British or French plane? That Putin delights in humiliating the United States is not a surprise. That the Obama administration seems regularly to be surprised is more worrying.

There’s a Time for Politics, and There’s a Time to Just Shut up. by The Elephant's Child

America is shocked and horrified at the massacre in the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. People reacted with sorrow and shame that such a thing should happen at a peaceful prayer meeting.

It’s hard to find the right words to express sorrow and offer comfort for there is no comfort. Republican candidates on the campaign trail quickly cancelled their scheduled events, Senator Lindsey Graham flew back to South Carolina.

President Barack Obama quickly politicized the event. “We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun,” Obama said, adding “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.” Um, tell that to Charlie Hebdo. Or perhaps the 2011 massacre at a summer camp for the youth division of the ruling Norwegian Labour Party. Anders Brevik massacred 69 young people. Just before that he had packed  a van with an explosive mixture of fertilizer and fuel oil. The explosion killed eight people. Germany has had more attacks on schools than we have. But don’t miss a chance to make a political point.

Hillary also called for gun control, while heading for a bunch of fundraisers. Obama, having made his point, headed out to California  for a $16,700 per person fundraiser in Pacific Palisades. Later he has another one in Beverly Hills. On Friday he has an interview with Marc Maron, then flies up to San Francisco for the U.S. Conference of Mayors followed by another couple of fundraisers. Obama frequently tells us how important empathy is to him.

President Obama, Iraq, ISIS, and An Interview With President Bush by The Elephant's Child
June 12, 2015, 8:43 pm
Filed under: Iraq, National Security, The United States | Tags: , ,

Two days after admitting that he did not yet have “a complete strategy” for dealing with the ISIS terrorists estimated as an army of 30,000, President Obama has dispatched another 450 U.S. advisers to train Iraqis troops to do the fighting. It appears that trainers will outnumber trainees. There will be a total of 3,500 American trainers, about 950 more than Iraqi troops.

Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, said the modest troop increase came as a result of “a very regular process of evaluation” not from any perceived public pressure to do something, after a long string of ISIS advances.

We are told by military sources that what is needed are Special Forces to provide intelligence and spotters to direct American aircraft. The lack of on-the-ground information and a restrained target approval process related to White House rules of engagement, 75% of all allied air attacks now return without dropping their ordnance.

Seventeen months ago Obama described ISIS as a JV team. Ten months ago he said he had no strategy. After the hideous beheading of an American, Obama announced the current ‘strategy’ of no combat forces, bombings or troop training. You have to remember that he told military academy graduates that global warming, not terrorism, was the most serious threat to America. Here’s the history, do watch till the end (Funniest mashup ever!)

Israel Hayom caught up with former President George W. Bush for an exclusive interview — on Friday. He said “There is only one thing that I really miss about being president, and that’s being the commander-in-chief. I admire our military a lot,” he told Israel Hayom, his eyes twinkling. “When you are the commander-in-chief at a time when I was, when you put them into a lot of combat situations, you develop a special bond, not only with the military but with their families.”

The war snuck up on then-President Bush with the al-Qaida attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In his book he says that the week of the attacks was the key to understanding his entire presidency. He writes that he poured his heart and soul into defending the country, “by any means necessary.”

To us he says that no one prepared him for becoming a “two-war president” but reality supplied him with a lot of challenges in the White House. He says he had to make very difficult decisions — sending boys to defend the homeland with the knowledge that not all of them would return.

President Bush was asked “Is the war on terror currently being waged in the proper way? He responded:

“I made a decision, as you know, not to criticize my successors, with an s. I am going to be around a little bit longer — there is going to be more than one successor. The temptation is to try to rewrite history or to make yourself look good by criticizing someone else. I think that is a mistake. I don’t think that is what leadership is all about. I know how hard the job is. I didn’t like it when former leaders criticized me when I was president. Some did, so I decided not to do the same.”

Q: You mentioned ISIS, you spoke about defeating terror. Is it possible to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq without boots on the ground?

“The president will have to make that determination. My position was that you need to have boots on the ground. As you know, I made a very difficult decision. A fair number of people in our country were saying that it was impossible to defeat al-Qaida — which is ISIS as far as I am concerned. They said I must get out of Iraq. But I chose the opposite — I sent 30,000 more troops as opposed to 30,000 fewer. I think history will show that al-Qaida in Iraq was defeated. And so I chose the path of boots on the ground. We will see whether or not our government adjusts to the realities on the ground.”

This has already translated into the idea that Mr. Bush said we needed boots on the ground. He said that was up to the president. When it was his job to decide his position was that you needed boots on the ground.

It is a long and very interesting interview, do read the whole thing. He steadfastly resisted any comments or criticism of his successor, but talked about what he himself did and why. He said:

In my post-presidency I have written a book, and that has helped a lot. I wrote another book. It is brand new. It is about an extraordinary man — my father. It will be a very historical document because never has a son of a president written about the president. So the paintings are along these lines.

“I read Winston Churchill’s essay ‘Painting as a Pastime,’ and it is a really interesting essay. I started looking at Churchill’s paintings and I said ‘wow, I can do this.’

There is so much in the interview that is charmingly Bush, that I wanted to include it all. You will have to read it for yourself.

Obama Insructs the Court by The Elephant's Child
June 10, 2015, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Democrat Corruption | Tags: , ,

……………………………………………………………… by Marcus Schreiber

For the second time during his presidency, Barack Obama has ventured to instruct the Supreme Court on what he conceives to be their duty. As John Steele Gordon writes in a piece titled “Obama Instructs the Court” at Contentions:

Presidents nearly always come with fully-functional egos. After all, climbing the greasy pole of American politics requires rich reserves of self-confidence. And self-confidence is equally necessary to being an effective president. No one wants a Captain Queeg in the White House. But Barack Obama combines his egocentricity with an almost boundless intellectual arrogance. It is one of the primary reasons his presidency has been so devoid of successes and so filled with failures and disasters. Only Woodrow Wilson comes anywhere close to being in the same league. And look what happened to him.

Noemie Emery points out in the Washington Examiner that men like Obama and Wilson cannot learn from their mistakes because they cannot admit or even conceive that they can make mistakes.

The conventional view of what has gone wrong — that Obama lacked experience, and that first-term senators should be viewed with suspicion — is undercut by the fact that he has had six years of experience, and failed to learn from it. At home and abroad, Obama makes mistakes over and over, with the same result, and takes nothing from them. He disses his friends, placates aggressors and seems surprised that aggressors advance and whole regions catch fire.

His arrogance prevents him from even listening to anyone who disagrees with him.

Yesterday, at a news conference in Germany, Obama criticized the Supreme Court for a decision that it has not yet made. Essentially, he is instructing a co-equal branch of government on its duty.

The New York Times  says simply that Obama is making his case for Health Law, With his usual charm he condemns opponents of his signature health care law as “cynical” partisans seeking to deprive Americans of a benefit that has become an integral part of the country’s social safety net. “This is now part of the fabric of how we care for one another — this is health care in America ” he said in a speech to the Catholic Health Association, who wrote a brief asking the high court to uphold it.”It seems so cynical to want to take health care away from millions of people.”

Their lives are better, Mr. Obama said, “Americans support this new reality.” This “new reality” has caused many people to lose the health care they liked. Families are threatened with double digit increases, and huge deductibles before their new insurance pays for anything. The Affordable Care Act does not give people health care, it gives them insurance, and not very good insurance at that. Costs are skyrocketing. Patients cannot find doctors and are going to the emergency room instead.The Court is expected to rule before the end of the month on King v. Burwell.

“This Administration’s Foreign Policy is Contemplated With Astonishment by Practically Everybody Else” by The Elephant's Child
June 1, 2015, 10:37 pm
Filed under: National Security | Tags: , ,
President Obama attended a town hall meeting Monday with with young fellows from an exchange program for community leaders from ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. While he was answering questions, he said his administration has restored the United States as the “most respected country on earth.”

People don’t remember, but when I came into office, the Untied States in world opinion ranked below China and just barley above Russia, and today once again, the Untied States is the most respected country on earth. Part of that I think is because of the work we did to reengage the world and say we want to work with you as partners with mutual interests and mutual respect. It was on that basis we were able to end two wars while still focusing on the very real threat of terrorism and try to work with our partners in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s the reason why we are moving in the direction to normalize relations with Cuba and the nuclear deal that we are trying to negotiate with Iran.


The President explained to the young Asian leaders that it was important not to betray one’s principles while being a leader. He added:

One of my core principles is that I will never engage in a politics in which I’m trying to divide people or make them less than me because they look different or have a different religion,” Obama said. “That’s a core principle, that’s not something I would violate.

Well. That covers the two most common complaints about the Obama administration — That he has been the most divisive president in modern memory, and that polls confirm that the world’s opinion of the United States as a serious world power has eroded markedly. From Conrad Black:

As President Obama and his entourage and imperishable following persevere in their conviction that this president’s benign championship of non-intervention, arms control, and giving rogue states the benefit of the doubt is winning hearts and minds to a new conception of a kindly, detached America, it is clearer every week that this administration’s foreign policy is contemplated with astonishment and contempt by practically everyone else.
And from historian Victor Davis Hanson:
Barack Obama, like Carter, came into office promising a sharp break from past U.S foreign policy….Troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan on pre-announced deadlines. The post-surge quiet in Iraq fooled Obama into eagerly yanking out all U.S. peacekeepers.A new outreach to radical Islam went to ridiculous lengths. The Muslim Brotherhood was invited to Obama’s speech in Cairo that claimed the West owed cultural debts to Islam for everything from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. Terms like radical Islam, jihad, and Islamic terror were excised from the official American vocabulary and replaced by a host of silly euphemisms.The defense budget was cut. Reset with Vladimir Putin’s Russia assumed that the Bush administration, not Putin’s prior aggression in Georgia and threats to Crimea, had caused the estrangement between Moscow and Washington.

Predictable chaos followed as the U.S. became an observer abroad. The Islamic State appeared to fill the vacuum in Iraq. Syria imploded. So did most of North Africa. Iran sent agents, surrogates, and special forces into Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, even as it pressed on to get a bomb.

Dr. Hansen suggests that the Obama foreign policy is so weak that it will likely provoke more chaos or even a large war, but correcting it will be almost as dangerous.

I saw another headline that seemed to fit the occasion. “The Left’s Self-Conception and Self-Delusion.”

A Debate on Obama’s Potential Nuclear Deal With Iran by The Elephant's Child
May 31, 2015, 6:01 pm
Filed under: Iran | Tags: , ,

Last Tuesday evening, Lauri Regan attended a debate in New York City, sponsored by “Intelligence Squared U.S”.focused on whether or not Obama’s Iran deal is good for the country. For the pro-Obama’s Iran Deal is Good for America, Philip Gordon, a former White House Coordinator for the Middle East, N. Africa and Gulf Region. and Thomas Pickering, a former Under Secretary of State;

Arguing against the Nuclear Deal with Iran were Michael Doran, a Senior fellow with the Hudson Institute and Former Senior Director of the National Security Council and Mark Dubowitz, Executive Director if the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and Director of the Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance. The Debate was moderated by John Donvan.

A podcast is available here.Lauri Regan was surprised to find what a partisan issue this was. The pro side, she said, used lies, straw men, personal attacks and the usual tactics from the hard Left. If you are interested, read Regan’s article first, then listen to the podcast. She found the audience remarkably uninformed, considering the length of time the situation has been in the news. She said her view is that Americans are uninformed about the realities of the deal and what it means, but people were willing to come out and spend two hours listening and learning, but half of them didn’t understand what they heard.

How anyone could leave without understanding that Obama is “putting the whole world in mortal danger for the sake of an imaginary legacy” she did not understand, nor do I.

I heard on the radio a statement that most people now get their news from Facebook. I have no idea if it is true. The New York Times, I have also heard, plans to publish on Facebook. I’ve also heard that many get their news from the late night comedy shows. I think we need some major coursework in high school and colleges on how to find information and establish its reliability. Too many people know far too much that just isn’t so.


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