American Elephants

“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Barack Obama, like Carter, came into office promising a sharp break from past U.S foreign policy….Troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan on pre-announced deadlines.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.”

Nations Spy on Each Other? Can This Be True? by The Elephant's Child

How do governments find out what other countries are thinking, what they really plan, what they are talking about behind the scenes? Read the papers? Listen to the speeches? Hang around people who might know something? Yes, and much more. Nations need intelligence about what other nations may do. Nations have interests, and nations have allies, but we still need to know what’s going on behind the facade. So do they.  Nations spy. So what? When a spy infiltrates the government of another nation, they try to root it out, and may send him to prison or shoot him.

For some real insight into the current flap about the revelations of whashis name Edward Snowden, please read this piece by a career diplomat who has served in many parts of the world. Actually, add him to your blog list while you’re at it. He is invaluable.

Hardly necessary to emphasize the absurdity of Germany, France, and other nations getting so huffy about American taps on their communications. American outrage about communication monitoring has given other nations room to pose. Their citizens will act as if the United States has treated them with intolerable suspicion, and believe that the American president may have lost control of his own intelligence services and they have become victims. Germany and other nations have shown no commitment to hard power or in taking sides. Europe has long settled comfortably under the umbrella of American power. With Mr. Obama trying hard to diminish American power, other nations are getting nervous. It’s easier to feel put upon by the Americans.

Will Mrs. Merkel say again, as she did in 2007, “For me, as German chancellor, Israel’s security is never negotiable. Protecting Israel is part of my country’s reason of state. I believe that an hour of truth has now arrived when we must show we stand by our word.

Funny how the chancellor of the world’s third-largest arms-dealing country, in her reluctance to talk of any use of force anywhere, is looking like Mr. Obama’s doppelgänger. Yet she says America needs friends—although surely not ones thinking Washington will want to spy less effectively.

This excerpt from Walter Russell Mead writing on U.S. Negotiations with Iran explains a lot.

Judging from what we see from the outside, the White House does not appear to have a clear strategy in mind at this point, but the trajectory of its internal drift suggests that many there (perhaps including the President) would be ready to sell the Crescent to Iran in exchange for a face-saving, war-avoiding nuclear deal. This is probably how Jerusalem, Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and Riyadh are all reading the President’s deep reluctance to take decisive action against Assad. In Jerusalem, this belief leads people to want to engage closely with the Americans in an effort to make sure that any deal addresses Israel’s red lines on nukes and Hezbollah. In Tehran it strengthens the hands of those who favor the course of negotiations; Obama appears willing to pay a substantial price for the nuclear deal and the very act of engaging weakens American power and promotes the Shi’a cause. In Riyadh this perception heightens the rage and fear that people there feel and has led to what, by Saudi standards, is a public tantrum of epic proportions. In Moscow this is seen as both a satisfying symbolic setback for the United States and a substantial victory over the Sunni jihadi threat the Kremlin sees as a major threat. In Beijing it is read as another chapter in the story of American decline.

American Security and Islamic Jihad. by The Elephant's Child

President Barack Obama spoke to the American people today about the “screw-up” in which his own intelligence team had the information to catch the Northwest flight 253 bomber but “failed to connect the dots.” Perhaps Obama has missed some “dots” himself as he has traveled the world extending his hand and apologizing for his country.

This was designed to be the ‘angry Obama in charge’ speech.  He said that we are a country at war, a war against al Qaeda. Which is misidentifying it in a way that the far left has preferred.

Jihadis desiring an Islamic caliphate have declared war on us.  And the Jihadis come from a vast number of loosely-connected groups all over the world.  Declaring that the United States military is making war on al Qaeda makes al Qaeda far more important than they are, and gives them a more useful propaganda tool than Guantanamo ever was.

Claudia Rosett summarizes the situation in an informative column for Forbes:

Obama had a lively December. He kicked it off with an address at West Point promising a smaller increase in troops in Afghanistan than his specially tasked adviser, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, had asked for. (He also gave the Taliban a handy tip that he’d start pulling the troops out again in 18 months.) He flew to Oslo to collect a Nobel Peace Prize. He flew to Copenhagen for a United Nations “climate change” conference at which he pledged to lame the U.S. economy and fork over more American tax dollars to other countries. He then stuck around Washington not for priorities of defending U.S. security, but for the Christmas Eve passage of the Senate’s monstrous health care bill.

Then Obama flew to Hawaii for some R&R at a beachfront estate. American holiday travelers, waiting in gridlocked airport security lines, absorbing news about six-foot flames shooting from the suicide pants of a jihadi inbound for Detroit, were initially left to ponder the alternative universe of the absentee president and Homeland Security Secretary Janet “the-system-worked” Napolitano.

More than a week after the attack, Obama finally returned to Washington. On Tuesday he announced that “the system has failed in a potentially disastrous way” and that it is his job “to find out why and correct that failure so that we can prevent such attacks in the future.”

Claudia Rosett points out seven “huge, blinking-red” warning signs that Obama is ignoring.  1.  Iran: Ignoring another UN deadline for halting uranium enrichment.  It is clear that the Mullahs have no interest in talks.  2.  China: Says that the time is not ripe for new UN sanctions on  Iran.  Chinese companies banned from doing business in the US for selling missile technology to Iran continue to do a brisk business with American Companies.   3.  Gaza:  Hamas has tightened its grip on  Gaza.  2009 brought a “spread and buildup of “global jihadi organizations in Gaza” several of which identify with al Qaeda.  4. North Korea: A report from A.Q.Kahn–Pakistan’s nuclear-marketing guy indicates that Kim Jong Il may have a more advanced program and missile-ready nuclear arsenal than suspected, and they keep sending munitions to Iran.  5. Russia: Putin now threatens that Russia, to balance any American missile defense will develop new offensive weapons.  6.  Venezuela: President Hugo Chavez says that “The Obama Illusion is finished.”  7.  Piracy: Pirates off the Horn of Africa have almost doubled their attacks over 2008.  This past year 214 ships were attacked. Do read the whole thing.

This is a lot on the plate of a president who is not much interested in his most important duty— national security.  The Left has chosen to believe that al Qaeda was simply incensed by Bush’s venture in Iraq, offended by Guantanamo and Bush in general (as they themselves were).  Obama has said repeatedly that he was opposed to the War in Iraq, and the “good war” was in Afghanistan against al Qaeda.  This is a deep misunderstanding of jihad and Muslim fanatics.

It is always a mistake to assume that your adversaries look at things the same way that you do.

Bless ’em all. Bless all the bloggers who tell us the truth… by The Elephant's Child

The guys at Argghhh! The home of two of Jonah’s Military Guys post a little article on why they blog, and it is a heartwarming story:

KIRKUK,Iraq — The first class of Iraqi Air Force student pilots were awarded their flying wings as part of a graduation ceremony here, Oct. 13.

Nearly a year after the three trainees, Iraqi 2nd Lieutenants Hassan, Majid and Habeeb, entered the program, the success of the Joint Iraqi Flying Training Wing and 52nd Expeditionary Flight Training Squadron came to a pivotal point in building a credible objective air force capable of conducting sustained operations in defense of the country.

As operations expand and the number of students being trained increases, the Iraqi Air Force will move close to developing the foundational capabilities that will allow it to sustain independent operations and grow to meet future demands.  The new Iraqi Air Force stood up after the invasion in 2003 but, until today, all pilots were veterans who rejoined the force….

That’s what happened, and news, but you won’t find much about it in the mainstream media. But that wasn’t the heartwarming part.  That came after a speech by U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen Brooks Bash, Coalition Air Force Transition Team commanding general. (Try to get all that on a business card!)

The important part came in a speech by a Distinguished Visitor when his speech was interrupted by a standing ovation:

One of the kids nudged me when the DV started getting passionate in his address.  “He is saying that for the first time in our history, we are not doing things for one man, but we are doing it for all the people of Iraq.  He is saying the US has showed us how, and we must not forget when we thank God every day, we must also ask him to bless the US.”

Well, an additional thanks to bloggers who tell us the things that do not grace the elite pages of the mainstream press. Because they’re important. And they’re things we need to know.

Which is one of the reasons that the mainstream media is failing in prestige, influence and readership.  They no longer understand what is important outside of their immediate circle, and we are beginning to really notice.

Short on manners, long on politics. by The Elephant's Child

President Alvaro Uribe of Columbia came to Washington this week to plead for a free trade pact.  He didn’t come asking for very much — only that Congress keep its word on an agreement that will drop tariffs on American goods sold in Columbia.  Columbia is perhaps the most valuable ally that America has ever had in Latin America. 

President Uribe is looking for  a chance to help his country develop as a democracy and prosper in a difficult region. The main result of the free trade agreement would be an increase in investments in his country, and an opportunity for America to sell more to Columbia.  The more Columbia is allowed to develop and increase legal investment, the more it will help them to defeat terrorist groups and illegal drugs. 

Last July, Columbia put its’ own men in harm’s way in a daring rescue of three Americans held hostage by FARC Marxist terrorists.  For that, somebody should get a medal, let alone a trade agreement. 

Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who killed the free trade deal last April, refused to meet Uribe, and did not even acknowledge a White House invitation to an event in his honor.  Later, her staff complained that Uribe did not call her. 

Pelosi has offered a variety of excuses, but the motive seems to be paying attention to the demands of Big Labor at election time. Harry Reid, Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson, supposed Latin experts, seemed unaware of the message that their treatment of Uribe sent to the region.

But Governor Sarah Palin, who is supposed to be a foreign policy lightweight, asked to meet with Uribe on Tuesday in New York.  Way to go, Sarah.  At least someone knows how to behave when an important leader comes to our country. And she puts our country’s interests ahead of politics, as well.

Obama’s Statements Are Raising Some Huge Questions. by The Elephant's Child
September 17, 2008, 7:14 pm
Filed under: Iraq, Military, Terrorism, The Constitution | Tags: , ,

The Obama campaign objected to the article from Amir Taheri that I quote  in the article below. The campaign’s response says that Taheri’s article was “filled with distortions”, but their rebuttal centers on a technical point: the differences between two Iraqi-US accords that are being negotiated — the Status of Forces Agreement which will set rules governing US military personnel in Iraq (SOFA) and the Strategic Framework Agreement, to settle the legal basis for the US military presence in Iraq in the years ahead (SFA).

One agreement cannot be settled without the other, for the two are interlinked. The Obama campaign waffles and misconstrues, but the record ends up confirming just what Taheri suggested in his article:

Obama preferred to have no agreement on US troop withdrawals until a new administration took office in Washington.

Obama has changed position on another key issue.  In [an] NBC report, he pretends that US troops do not have a  “clear mandate.” Now, however, he admits that there is a clear mandate from the UN Security Council and that he’d have no objection to extending it pending a bilateral Iraq-US agreement.

This may seem technical, but it is important to understand.  Obama is merely a candidate for the office of President of the United States.  He has no authority and no right to pretend to any. Senators don’t get to run around the world trying to make policy. Democrats seem to have lost a sense of the constitution, and what rights are given to what branch of the government.  Former presidents have no business going around the world making foreign policy speeches.  Candidates who claim expertise in constitutional law should know better.  It should be an election changing error on Obama’s part.

Obama has demonstrated a great lack of understanding of American foreign policy, of our position in the world, and of our responsibilities and challenges.  His claim that he knows more about foreign policy than his opponents because he lived in Indonesia when he was 6 to 10 and has relatives in Africa is laughable. He sneered at senatorial trips abroad when they met with government officials, as unimportant, yet is with governmental officials that the American government must deal.  In his own meetings with foreign officials, as in the case of Iraqi officials he seems more interested in using them to further his ambitions than in learning from them.

In a long interview with the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, [Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar] Zebari says’ “Obama asked my why, in view of the closeness of a change of administration, we were hurrying the signing of this special agreement, and why we did not wait until the coming of the new administration next year ang agree on some issues and matters.”

Again, note that Zebari mentions a single set of agreements, encompasssing both SFA and SOFA. Zebari continues’ “I told Obama that, as an Iraqi, I believe that even if there is a Democratic administration in the White House it had better continue the present policy instead of wasting a lot of time thinking what to do.”

He now talks of “the prospect of lasting success,” perhaps hoping that his own administration would inherit the kudos…He has even abandoned his earlier claim that toppling Saddam Hussein was “illegal” and admits that the US-led coalition’s presence in Iraq has a legal framework in the shape of the UN mandate.

In other words, Obama was trying to derail current US policy, whild Zebari was urging him not to “waste time.”

…Obama no longer talks of “withdrawal” but of “redeployment” and “drawdown” — which is exactly what is happening now.

While I am encouraed by the senator’s evolution, I must also appeal to him to issue a “cease and desist” plea to the battalions of his sympathizers — who have been threatening me with death and worse in the days since my article appeared.

Obama’s ambitions have run away with him, and his desires exceed his knowledge of the office he seeks.  It is very important to look closely at his claims and his promises , and consider what the facts are and if his promises hold water.  They don’t.

Obama’s Teleprompter Problem. by The Elephant's Child

Has there ever before been a candidate for the Presidency of the United States who ran on a platform of not liking his country much? At least when he’s speaking without a teleprompter. He can’t seem to stop putting his foot into it. On Wednesday in Lynchburg, VA, Democrat Barack Obama scolded Russia again for invading another country’s sovereign territory while stating that “the United States should set a better example on that front”.

The Illinois senator’s initial opposition to the Iraq war is his only claim to fame, and to which he refers whenever possible. (I think he was pathetically and disastrously wrong, but he is entitled to his opinion). He went on to say “We’ve got to send a clear message to Russia and unify our allies. They can’t charge into other countries. Of course it helps if we are leading by example on that point”.

Victor Davis Hanson found that a little much too:

Let me get this straight; getting a Senate and House majority to authorize a bipartisan joint war-resolution, going to the U.N., assembling a coalition, having a national and world debate on the wisdom of such an operation from December 2001 to March 2003, and then attacking a genocidal dictator, and staying on to foster a constitutional democracy are apparently the same “charge” “example” as an autocrcy suddenly invading its democratic neighbor during the Olympics, and staying on to annex some of its territory?

Aside from the silliness of these statements, the problem for Obama, again, is that incrementally they really do start to add up — America’s “tragic history,” the mini-sermon on decline to the 7-year-old, waffling exegesis to Rick Warren about our own evil, the confessions to the cheering Berliners about our transgressions — and these doubts are enhanced rather than ameliorated by Michelle Obama’s various rantings, and the creepy things former associates like Ayers, Wright, and Pfleger have said about America and its culture.

Obama has made it pretty clear that history is not his strong point, nor foreign policy. I still can’t get over his claim that he is especially knowledgeable about foreign policy because he lived abroad from age 6 to age 10.

I am offended by his constant put-downs of the country, and by his insistence that the country is in terrible shape. I suppose that if you are a messiah, and you can convince everyone that things are almost beyond redemption, and that you and you alone can redeem the world; well then, I guess you get a bunch of people sitting around chanting Oh-bah-mah. Seems a little sick-making to me.

War and peace, ceasefires and peacekeepers…. by The Elephant's Child

Oh, well of course, it’s all Bush’s fault. The response has been too anemic. The response has been too strong. A little invasion in Ossetia, and it’s the blame-business as usual. The Russians had no choice but to move in because President Mikheil Saakashvili was committing genocide in South Ossetia; and if you believe that, you probably believe that Russian peacekeepers are keeping the peace.

Melik Kaylan, a New York based writer who has often reported from Georgia, wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

Last year, President Mikheil Saakashvili invited me along on a helicopter flight to see Tskhinvali, South Ossetia’s capital, from the air. We viewed it at some distance to avoid Russian antiaircraft missiles manned by Russian personnel.

He pointed out a lone hilltop sprinkled with houses some 10 miles inside Georgian territory — scarcely even a town. Much of the population, namely the Georgians, had long ago been purged by  Russian-backed militias, leaving behind a rump population of Ossetian farmers and Russian security forces posing as Ossetians. “We have offered them everything, ” he said, “language rights, land rights, guaranteed power in parliament, anything they want, and they would take it, if the Kremlin would let them.” (emphasis mine)

Moscow’s thin pretense of protecting an ethnic group provided just enough cover for Georgia’s timorous friends in the West to ignore increasing Russian provocations over the past few years. Moscow, it now seems, intends to “protect” large numbers of Georgians too — by occupying and killing them if that’s what it takes — and prevent them from building their own history and pursuing their democratic destiny, as it has for almost two centuries.

Georgia is just a little country far, far away, but it was once in the “sphere” of the Soviet Union. So were Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia and others. The core assumptions of the post-Cold War years have proved to be wrong. Francis Fukuyama famously claimed “At the end of history, there are not serious ideological competitors left to liberal democracy.” Nor has human nature, in its best and worst emanations, been repealed.

There have been a lot of words written on the Russian invasion of Georgia. These were, to me, some of the most striking. There will be many more words, lots of propaganda, and many attempts to attach blame. Try hard to retain your common sense. We may need it. This is a wake-up call.

Mea Culpa… by The Elephant's Child

A while back, I wrote that China was drilling for oil in the waters between Cuba and the United States. It was widely reported that they were drilling just 50 miles offshore. This apparently was not true. My bad. It may yet happen, but it is not happening now.

Disaster relief here, there and elsewhere. Be very glad to be an American. by The Elephant's Child

Cyclone Nargis aftermath

When Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar (Burma) on May 2 with winds up to 120 mph, the US Navy sailed to offer aid, as did the world’s major relief organizations. Estimates of the number of dead ranged from 77,000 to 110,000, with as many as 220,000 missing and 2.4 million severely affected. The inability of farmers to plant rice seeds in time for the growing season is a major concern. Losses of cattle and water buffalo suggest future famine. The military junta ruling Myanmar has been reluctant to accept any aid, provoking deep frustration from relief organizations.

Nearly a month after the cyclone hit, fewer than one in three victims of the storm had been reached with aid. There were reports of supplies confiscated by the government and re-labeled to show that they came from the Myanmar government. The government did allow a limited number of U.S. Air Force C-130s to fly in supplies from Thailand. They have allowed 116 flights of water and other relief supplies to Yangon. By June 10, the Government of Burma reported granting visas to 911 relief workers and authorizing 569 to work in affected areas, and issued guidelines to follow. Some organizations reported being turned away at police checkpoints, and lack of access continues to prevent needs-driven approaches to relief operations.

The junta is particularly sensitive to allowing U.S. helicopters, which would highlight the American effort in a country where the people have been taught that the U.S. is a hostile aggressor. Washington has been a leading critic of the junta for its poor human rights record. Stories deeply critical of that record seep out from many sources.

It’s worthwhile to think back to a January 2, 2005 report by a Dutch diplomat who traveled to Banda Aceh to see the reality on the ground following the Asian tsunami on December 26, 2004.

The US military has arrived and is clearly establishing its presence everywhere in Banda Aceh. They completely have taken over the military hospital, which was a mess until yesterday but is now completely up and running. They brought big stocks of medicines, materials for the operation room, teams of doctors, water and food. Most of the patients who were lying in the hospital untreated for a week have undergone medical treatment by the US teams by this afternoon. US military have unloaded lots of heavy vehicles and organized the logistics with Indonesian military near the airport. A big camp is being set up at a major square in the town. Huge generators are ready to provide electricity. US helicopters fly to places which haven’t been reached for the whole week and drop food. The impression it makes on the people is also highly positive; finally something happens in the city of Banda Aceh and finally it seems some people are in control and are doing something. No talking but action. European countries are until now invisible on the ground. IOM staff (note; this is a USAID-funded organization) is very busy briefing the incoming Americans and Australians about the situation. (emphasis in original)

The US, Australia, Singapore and the Indonesian military have started a “Coalition Co-ordination Centre in Medan to organize all the incoming and outgoing military flights with aid. A sub-centre is established in Banda Aceh.

The US Navy finally sailed away from Myanmar on Thursday June 5th. leaving behind an offer of 22 helicopters and including an offer to allow Myanmar officials aboard all helicopters to monitor their routes and to unload relief supplies.

Yes, yes, I know. No culture is any better than any other. All must be considered equal.

ADDENDUM: The excerpt is from the account by the Chief Diplomad who observed the tsunami aftermath from Banda Aceh, and reported his daily observations at It is a wonderful website to browse around, in January of 2005, to get a glimpse of disaster relief and how it works or not.

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