American Elephants


Strange, and Quite Wonderful. by The Elephant's Child
April 28, 2010, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , ,

I borrowed this video shamelessly from Ace of Spades, simply because it is so fascinating.  I have no information beyond what is shown in the video.  Apparently there is a nightly ceremony of closing the gates between Pakistan and India, so  elaborate that it attracts a large and partisan audience.

There is so much more one would like to know.  What do they do the rest of the day?  Are they simply regular border guards, or is a special team hired for the display ceremony?  It is almost like the mating dance of rare tropical birds. Does the ceremony take place at all border crossings, or is this one special?  Any travelers to India among our readers?  It’s nice to have such a peaceful ceremony when there has been so much unrest between the two nations.



Some Welcome News from General David Petraeus. by The Elephant's Child
January 26, 2010, 12:42 am
Filed under: Freedom, Military, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

Nearly all of the U.S. Combat troops slated to deploy to Afghanistan to take part in the military buildup there should arrive by the end of August, General David Petraeus said. Everybody engaged in this deployment is making an effort to get there as rapidly as possible.

Army General Stanley McChrystal is leading the counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan. His strategy includes the securing of the Afghan people against insurgent violence and reprisals and improving citizens’ quality of life through reconstruction and infrastructure projects.

Afghanistan is experiencing a building boom as part of efforts to support incoming troops, Petraeus said. There is a huge amount of construction to develop additional airfields, additional ramp space, additional forward operating bases and combat outposts.

Pakistan, Gen. Petraeus says, has committed to the right side, and deserves the unwavering support of the U.S. in its battle against Islamist groups.  He noted a “true change” in Pakistani public opinion last summer, saying that political leaders and even clerics began to recognise the Pakistani Taliban as a threat to the country, when the Taliban challenged the government’s writ in the Swat valley.

“So this became Pakistan’s war on terror, not Pakistanis fighting America’s war on terror.  That is an enormous shift in thinking.”



A Speech Before the Corps of Cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point. by The Elephant's Child
December 2, 2009, 3:30 am
Filed under: Islam, Military, National Security, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

President Obama’s speech announcing his strategy on Afghanistan at The United States Military Academy at West Point was an odd speech.  He announced a surge of 30,000 troops, partly in the hope that NATO would make up the rest of the 40,000 that General Stanley McChrystal requested.  His strong words about the necessity for success were belied by his defensiveness about doing so.

To be fair, the President is stuck between a rock and a hard place.  He clearly doesn’t want to be involved in Afghanistan, and is much more comfortable with his hard left base who oppose all war on general principles.  He made sure to mention that he “opposed the War in Iraq which left our unity on national security issues in tatters, and created a highly polarized and partisan backdrop for this effort.”

Obama seems unable to recognize that his constant attempts to blame everything on Bush, denigrate everything that the Bush administration did, is not only classless, but exactly what has created a “highly polarized and partisan background.”  When politics permeates everything, it doesn’t stop at the water’s edge, as our tradition demands.

The Left opposed the War in Iraq by claiming that the “right war” was instead in Afghanistan — going after al Qaeda.  That allowed the Left to avoid being characterized as anti-war;  but now, faced with Afghanistan, they have no excuses and are united in opposition.  And they really don’t want to spend any money on the war.  The money is needed for their dream of socialized medicine, and that is going to be very expensive indeed.  Spending the rest of the stimulus money on the war or scaling back health care is, of course, not an option.  They’ll tax “the rich” some more.

Obama is trying to have it both ways.  He doesn’t like the war, and wants “to end the era of war and suffering,” but it had better be cost-effective and cost-effective within 18 months.

The Left got onto this “exit strategy” thing with Iraq, demanding to know what Bush’s “exit strategy” was.  Those a little more familiar with war find the question foolish.  The exit strategy is when you win, when you accomplish your objective, but not a date which the enemy can just wait for.

We want President Obama and his strategy to succeed in Afghanistan.  We want success on the battlefield.  There is a lot of talk about “nation building”, but our aim is to protect the citizens and to train the Afghan army to protect the citizens.  The people fear the Taliban, and will not help unless and until they feel secure.

My sense of this is that President Obama is completely uncomfortable with war.  He has little knowledge of combat or battle, and little understanding of the military or how it works.  “Victory” was never mentioned.  He said “As President, I refuse to set goals that go beyond our responsibility, our means, or our interests.  And I must weigh all of the challenges that our nation faces.  I don’t have the luxury of committing to just one.”

I suspect that he never watches war movies, nor has read accounts of battles.  It’s just unfamiliar, uncomfortable territory.  Which is why he thinks an exit strategy is important, and a goal of eliminating nuclear weapons is plausible. And why he dithered for three months about simply making a choice.

And why he brags about his small efforts to recognize the military like “signing a letter of condolence to each family, reading letters from parents and spouses, and traveling to Dover to meet flag-draped coffins.” The commitment and pride with which Americans volunteer to serve in the military must be near incomprehensible.

“Ive spent this year renewing our alliances and forging new partnerships,” he said.  “And we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim world — one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.” Soaring words, but with little relation to the real world. An odd speech, very odd.

I will support the effort in Afghanistan unreservedly.  I hope the President does as well. The men and women who serve deserve our full support.



Blackfive’s Uncle Jimbo Shares His Thoughts About Afghanistan. by The Elephant's Child
October 29, 2009, 2:11 am
Filed under: Freedom, History, Military, Terrorism | Tags: , , ,


Uncertainty, Indecision, Naivety, Doubt, Worry II by The Elephant's Child
October 23, 2009, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Islam, Military, Terrorism | Tags: , , ,

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On August 30, 55 days ago,General Stanley McChrystal submitted his request for 40,000 more troops in Afghanistan, and outlined his counterinsurgency strategy. President Obama is still reviewing the strategy and what everybody thinks of the strategy and who is for it and who is opposed, and playing golf and making speeches and having fundraisers. A decision has not been forthcoming, but he said maybe in another two weeks.

(h/t:  the marvelous Michael Ramirez)



Uncertainty, Indecision, Naivety, Doubt, Worry, Maybe… by The Elephant's Child

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This painting by San Francisco artist Ed Ruscha is one selected by President Obama to be loaned to the White House.  It would seem to indicate some level of self-awareness on the part of Mr. Obama of characteristic indecision.  The world is  taking notice of Obama’s dithering regarding Afghanistan and Pakistan, and worrying.

The word “dithering” has gained a spot in current vocabulary that it has never previously occupied.  In a campaign speech on September 9,2008, Obama said:

His plan comes up short. There’s not enough troops, not enough resources and not enough urgency. What President Bush and Senator McCain don’t understand is that the central front in the War on Terror is not in Iraq and never was. The central front is in Afghanistan and Pakistan where the terrorists who hit us on 9-11 are still plotting attacks seven years later.

On March 27, according to Charles Krauthammer, with his secretaries of state and defense at his side, the President said “Today I’m announcing a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.” He made it clear that he had not arrived at the decision casually.  The new strategy, he said, “marks the conclusion of a careful policy review.” The conclusion of an extensive review, the president assured the nation , that included consultation with military commanders and diplomats, with the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, with our NATO allies and members of Congress.

Dr. Krauthammer continued: “The general in charge was then relieved and replaced with Obama’s own choice, Stanley McChrystal.”

On August 30, Obama’s handpicked general submitted a request for 40,000 more troops which he said were necessary for the counterinsurgency strategy the president wanted, and to avoid losing to the Taliban.

General Petraeus, Admiral Mullen, General Zinni, and Ike Skelton (chair, House Armed Services), Diane  Feinstein (chair Senate Intel) agreed.  Six weeks later, Obama is still dithering.  Rahm Emanuel was on the Sunday shows using the uncertainty in Afghan elections as the latest excuse.  Robert Kaplan wrote in the Atlantic:

The Afghan people have survived three decades of war by hedging their bets.  Now, watching a young and inexperienced American president appear to waiver on his commitment to their country, they are deciding, at the level of both the individual and the mass, whether to make their peace with the Taliban — even as the Taliban itself can only take solace and encouragement from Obama’s public agonizing.  Meanwhile, fundamentalist elements of the Pakistani military, opposed to the recent crackdown against local Taliban, are also taking heart from developments in Washington. …This is how coups and revolutions get started, by the middle ranks sensing weakness in foreign support for their superiors.

Obama’s wobbliness also has a corrosive effect on the Indians and the Iranians.  India desperately needs a relatively secular Afghan regime in place to bolster Hindu India’s geopolitical position against radical Islamdom, and while the country enjoyed an excellent relationship with Bush, Obama’s dithering is making it nervous.  And Iran in observing Washington’s indecision, can only feel more secure in its creeping economic annexation of western Afghanistan.

At the White House, the dithering goes on.  The meetings are now referred to as “seminars”, but strategic decisions seem to be left, not to the world’s best generals, but, of course, to the president and Rahm Emanuel, Joe Biden and David Axlerod.

As the painting says: I THINK MAYBE I’LL…MAYBE…YES…
xxxxxxxwait a minute…
xxxxxxxxxxxxx On Second Thought…
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx MAYBE NO..
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxyet



One of These Things Doesn’t Go With The Other, One of These things Just Doesn’t Belong. by The Elephant's Child
October 5, 2009, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Islam, Terrorism | Tags: , , ,

William Kristol  doesn’t understand the agonizing over Afghanistan:

I think that’s pathetic.  The president said this is a war of necessity.  He said it’s a war we have to win  He said we have to think about it regionally and that we have to think of Afghanistan together with Pakistan and that we can’t have a stable Pakistan unless we hold the line in Afghanistan, and an unstable Pakistan in unbelievably dangerous since they have nuclear weapons.  Why is this a tough call?

Max Boot summarizes E.J. Dionne Jr.’s column in the Washington Post:

In essence, he writes, we should accept a high risk of failure in Afghanistan because trying to win the war will take away momentum from Obama’s domestic agenda, notably health-care reform.  “The last thing he should do is rush into a new set of obligations in Afghanistan that would come to define his presidency more than any victory he wins on health care.”

Well, that kinda sums it up, doesn’t it?




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