American Elephants

Obama Doesn’t Want Any Advice, Thank You Very Much! by The Elephant's Child

leadBig-0b16e62c331a5b2030f4f0923a17994bEliot Cohen reports that the president has no interest in hearing strategic recommendations.

Criticize the Administration’s Syria policy without providing alternative recommendations, and the President will dismiss you for mere carping. Argue, say, for a no-fly zone, however, and you will be dismissed for lacking the information and advice that only the President can have. Either way, in his view, you are a dummy, or, as he so artfully said of his previous Secretary of State, a peddler of “mumbo jumbo.”

This pervasive contempt for the views of others is one of the President’s greatest weaknesses and least attractive traits. Inevitably, it percolates throughout his Administration and prevails in particular at the White House. Yet it seems not to deter those on the outside—apolitical experts, some Democrats, and not a few veterans of Republican Administrations—from attempting, in all sincerity, to devise and argue for alternative approaches.Not only are their efforts pointless—if Obama is his own strategist, why should he listen to you, foolish or wicked veterans of the Bush Administration?—they are misguided. One can only judge a policy on its implementation, and although a no-fly zone conceived by a tough-minded Commander in Chief and implemented by Bob Gates might be just the thing, a no-fly zone put into place by the President who brought you vanishing red lines, a botched withdrawal from Iraq, the reset with Russia that wasn’t, repeated groveling apologies for the inevitable accidents of war, and much else, could be a debacle.

Marc Thiessen writing in the Washington Post quoted Tommy Vietor as explaining why his boss has skipped more than half his daily intelligence meetings since taking office – including every day in the week leading up to the attacks on our diplomatic facilities in Egypt and Libya: Obama, they say, doesn’t need briefers because he is just so much smarter than everyone else. As Vietor put it to me in an email, “Unlike your former boss [President Bush], he has it delivered to his residence in the morning and not briefed to him.”

The White House takes pride in the fact that Obama’s PDB is “not briefed to him” – because, they say, he is “among the most sophisticated consumers of intelligence on the planet.” That hubris brings to mind this revealing quote from a September 2008 New York Times profile of Obama:

“I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” Mr. Obama told Patrick Gaspard, his political director, at the start of the 2008 campaign, “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

Another problem of the Information Age: What you say can come back to haunt you forever, and often YouTube is there to prove that you did, indeed, say it.

A second piece from the American Interest continues from Eliot Cohen’s piece and points out  a similar article in Politico confirming the president’s unwillingness to listen to anyone on the issue of Syria, including those in his administration. Here’s the essential paragraph:

Sources familiar with administration deliberations said that Obama’s West Wing inner circle serves as a brick wall against dissenting views. The president’s most senior advisers — including National Security Adviser Susan Rice and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough — reflect the president’s wariness of escalated U.S. action related to Syria or Russia and, officials fear, fail to push Obama to question his own deeply rooted assumptions. “Susan and Denis channel him,” says a former administration official who has witnessed the dynamic.

The attitude has alienated Russia experts in the Administration:

Obama’s refusal to take firmer action against Moscow has increasingly isolated several of his administration’s Russia specialists, who almost uniformly take a harder line toward Putin than does the president himself. They include Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs; Celeste Wallander, the National Security Council’s senior director for Russia and Eurasia; and Evelyn Farkas, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. Farkas’ recent announcement that she will exit the Obama administration this fall raised eyebrows among officials aware of her frustration that Obama hasn’t responded more forcefully to Putin’s annexation of Crimea and his support for pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east. (Farkas has told friends that she is not resigning over policy disputes.)

Eliot Cohen’s important article is here.

Obama has decided that we will stay in Afghanistan. Too bad he didn’t give such consideration to the precipitous withdrawal from Iraq.

Obama’s Iran Deal Is Vanishing In A Puff of Disbelief by The Elephant's Child

20131007_obama_iranflag_LARGE“Sometime this week, President Obama is scheduled to sign an executive order to meet the October 15 “adoption day” he has set for the nuclear deal he has made with Iran. According to the president’s timetable the next step would be “the start day of implementation,” fixed for December 25.” That’s Amir Taheri, writing in the New York Post. He added “But as things now stand, Obama may end up being the only person in the world to sign his much-wanted deal, in effect making a treaty with himself.”

Iran has not signed anything and has no plans for doing so. The JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) hasn’t been discussed at the Iranian Council of Ministers, nor has the government bothered to provide a Persian translation of the text (159 pages). The Ayatollah Khamenei said early on that they had no intention of signing a document with America.

Obama’s P5+1 group (Britain China, Germany, France and Russia) have apparently decided that Obama’s deal is really only about lifting sanctions and not enforcing anything. So that’s what they are doing. Putin is renewing his interest with Assad and propping up the Assad dictatorship in Syria, as well as starting delivery of S300 anti-aircraft missiles and is engaged in talks to sell Sukhoi planes to the Islamic Republic.

Britain has lifted the ban on 22 Iranian banks and companies that were reportedly involved with nuclear deals.  German trade with Iran has risen by 33 percent, and they are now Iran’s third-largest trading partner after China.

China has signed a preliminary accord to help Iran build five more nuclear reactors. France has sent its foreign minister and a 100-man delegation to negotiate projects to double Iran’s crude oil exports and negotiate other big business deals. Everybody regards the JCPOA as a green light for dropping sanctions. Indian trade us up 17%, and New Delhi is negotiating a massive investment in a rail-and-sea-hub on the Gulf of Oman.

Austrian, Turkish and UAE banks are lifting restrictions that were imposed on Iran because of their nuclear program. President Hassan Rouhani boasted that “the structures of sanctions built over decades is crumbling.”

They have no intention of shutting down their nuclear project.

The Iranian crowds are not shouting “Death to Britain, France and Germany. Death to India, Russia and China.” They are quite specific. It’s America and Israel. We do need to keep that in mind.

The Mullahs are certain that Obama is paralyzed by his fear of undermining the non-existent “deal.” They are encouraging Palestine in a new Intifada, working to choose the next president in Lebanon, and are calling openly for overthrow of the monarchy in Saudi Arabia.

Obama has hoped to engage Iran on other issues, and reportedly hoped to meet with the Ayatollah Khamenei in Tehran to shake his hand and, I guess, formally turn the Middle East over to Iran. Khamenei declared last week “any dialogue with the American Great Satan to be forbidden.”

There has been a ballistic missile test in Iran that apparently violates the Iran Deal.  Nevermind.

Obama has apparently moved into a fantasy world in which Putin is exhibiting his weakness, while Obama shows what real leadership is with his Climate Change initiatives.  Inside Iran, Obama’s moderate partners who would never actually use a nuclear weapon have doubled the number of executions and political prisoners. They crushed marches by teachers last week. Hundreds of trade unionists have been arrested and potential protesters are terrorized by a new “anti-insurrection” brigade.

President Obama appeared with Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes yesterday. It was an amazing interview. If you didn’t see it, a video and transcript are available here. It is very interesting.

Barack Obama Does Not Learn From Experience. by The Elephant's Child

Obama angry 3Herbert E. Meyer, writing at Ricochet:

In science, when you conduct an experiment to test a theory and get a result you didn’t expect, you learn from the experience and re-think your theory. But what do you do in politics, when you implement a policy you were certain would succeed but which fails miserably? We’re about to find out.

For seven years now, President Obama has been conducting what may well be one of history’s greatest political experiments. His revolutionary theory — which this Copernicus-from-Chicago articulates with such supreme confidence that he’s persuaded American voters to elect him twice to the presidency — is that the world would be a safer, less violent place if the United States played a smaller role on the global stage. At the core of this theory lies his hypothesis that American military power is more the problem than the solution; that our over-reliance on guns rather than brains had de-stabilized key parts of the world, such as the Mideast, that would otherwise have been more peaceful and prosperous.

It’s quite clear that this is what Obama believes, as does a large number of academic professors, and yes, that is what they are teaching our children. Many have moved on into the administration.

Progressives do not share our understanding of society’s problems, nor  our differences about how to deal with them. Progressives have contempt for America’s past and disdain for America’s social contract. Progressives draw their inspiration from an imaginary future where so-called “social justice” prevails. They believe that human beings are naturally cooperative and sharing, honest and moral, but are corrupted by social institutions that encourage greed and prejudice, and socialism will bring about that imagined future where “social justice” prevails.

Conservatives, on the other hand believe that man is flawed, and the root cause of most social evils, and if social institutions are corrupt, it is because human beings create and run them. Because man is barbarous, we need laws and the discipline of morality to civilize the people. That’s why the founders created a system of checks and balances to control the majority’s natural instinct to tyrannize the weak and outnumbered, and why they set limits to government.

There is no indication whatsoever that Obama has learned from his disastrous mistakes, or that he even understands that they were mistakes. Obama yanked our troops out of Iraq, and gave birth to ISIS, who has been rampaging across the Middle East, attempting a forcile return to the seventh century.  The last Americans will soon be drawn out of Afghanistan, in opposition to the generals on the ground, as the Taliban are ready to take over. Russia has sent its warplanes to bomb the insurgents in Syria that we supported, while Obama expects them to deal with ISIS. Ukraine is fighting for its life, China is building military bases all over the Pacific, and waging cyber-warfare on the United States while Obama is quite sure he has made an agreement with China that they will stop doing that. There is no indication that he will learn from experience or change his policy. Early on, Richard Epstein, who knew Obama at University of Chicago, said that once Obama has made up his mind, it is set in concrete. He will not change it. Herb Meyer adds:

Human nature doesn’t change. Politics will always be a rough game, and power will always be an aphrodisiac to those who play it. But so long as politicians need our votes to get elected, the ultimate power lies with us. If we citizens will give our support, and our votes, to only those candidates who will think and act more like scientists, over time we can change the culture of politics itself. That would be a huge leap forward not only for our country, but for humanity.

$500 Million. 5 Fighters. Obama Says It’s Not His Fault! by The Elephant's Child

damaged-buildings-syrian-civil-war1  When you draw a ‘red line,’ or ‘a line in the sand’ publicly in international terms, it is a very serious threat.  When you back down your reputation is permanently damaged. That is usually a lesson that one learns on the playground.

In a 2012 press conference in Stockholm, Obama said:

I have, at this point, not ordered military engagement in the situation. But the point that you made about chemical and biological weapons is critical. That’s an issue that doesn’t just concern Syria; it concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel. It concerns us. We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.

We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.

Assad unleashed a sarin gas attack on Syrians in Ghouta just outside of Damascus. Obama avoided any action in Syria in order to help with the Iran negotiations. The image above is a neighborhood in Syria.

The answer was supposed to be investing $500 million in training some of the Syrian rebels to fight Assad’s army, but it actually yielded just four or five fighters.

So now President Obama and his foreign policy team are confused.Why is Vladimir Putin pouring troops and weapons into Syria? Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that it really isn’t helpful, and is making things worse. Russia has deployed a small number of tactical jets in Syria for the first time. Moscow is clearly preparing to help Assad cling to power. American pilots regularly fly surveillance flights and airstrike missions, the direct involvement of Russian forces could mean trouble.

Russia has been an ally of Syria since Sadat kicked the Soviets out of Egypt in 1972. Look at a map. Putin has re-claimed the Crimea and is simply asserting their influence in the Middle East. Putin’s ambition is always to avenge and reverse Russia’s humiliating loss of superpower status over 25 years ago.

Obama’s efforts to train an opposition army to fight the ISIS has been an abysmal failure. And an expensive failure. But the White House is not to blame. The finger, the White House says, should be pointed not at Mr. Obama, but at those who pressed him to attempt training Syrian rebels in the first place. The New York Times says:

In effect, Mr. Obama is arguing that he reluctantly went along with those who said it was the way to combat the Islamic State, but that he never wanted to do it and has now has been vindicated in his original judgment.

Mr. Trump simply says “Syria’s a mess, Why are we fighting ISIS in Syria? Let them fight each other and pick up the remnants.” A comment much in line with his simplistic answers to everything else.

Ryan C. Crocker who was ambassador to Afghanistan under Mr. Obama and ambassador to Iraq under George W. Bush said the president was right to think that a train-and-arm program would not work, but he either should have continued to resist or taken ownership rather than blame others.

How un-presidential that sounds — ‘We didn’t want to do it, we thought it was unsound but you made us do it,’ ” said Mr. Crocker. “It’s just indicative of their whole approach to Syria, which is not to have a policy. This is the worst thing they could say.”

Now refugees are flooding Europe. We don’t know who are refugees, who are migrants, and who are members of ISIS. What we are learning is that EU estimates are that four out of five migrants are not from Syria but from Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq and even states farther removed. Mr. Obama’s response seems to be welcoming a hundred thousand or so refugees every year into the indefinite future.

Talking Tough! by The Elephant's Child

obama-angry-8-560x350Chinese President Xi Jinping is due for a visit to the United States shortly to be honored at a State Dinner.

Chinese government hackers have reportedly stolen commercial data from many U.S. companies, and personal data about many American government employees — including those with security clearances, plus private data from Americans’ health-care companies. Obama has done little or nothing to stop this coast-to-coast raiding of Americans’ property, but has instead worked elsewhere to boost the Democratic party’s political power.

In the Pacific, China’s government is building new island-bases in internationally disputed waters, while Obama focuses his foreign-policy efforts on completing his nukes-and-cash sellout to the deepening alliance of Iran and Russia.

Surely by now, we must have teams working in each government department to harden off their computer files to prevent hacking?The State Department’s lack of control (or concern) over the Secretary of State’s use of a personal computer might argue that there is something more to be desired.

The Daily Mail (UK) just published ( July 15) this “secret”  NSA map of cyber attacks from Chinese hackers  over the past five years. (Click to enlarge). Did the Daily Mail hack NSA to get their “secret map?”


Silicon Valley is the most attacked. Seattle has Boeing and Microsoft, but I can’t imagine what that one lonely dot on the NW coast is. Iron Springs Resort? The Office of Personnel Management hack got 22.1 million people’s Social Security records, everyone who has ever applied for a government job, and their personal references. The IRS hack in May gave them over 100,000 tax records.

President Obama is not taking this lying down. He refused to stay at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel during the U.N. General Assembly this month. (A Chinese conglomerate now owns the hotel.) And he’s really talking tough in a visit to Ft. Meade, speaking about Chinese cyber attacks.

We’ve made very clear to the Chinese that there are certain practices that they’re engaging in that we know are emanating from China and are not acceptable,” Obama said in an appearance at Ft. Meade. “And we can choose to make this an area of competition – which I guarantee you we’ll win if we have to – or, alternatively, we can come to an agreement in which we say, this isn’t helping anybody. Let’s instead try to have some basic rules of the road in terms of how we operate.”

China is really getting the ultimate threat in the Obama arsenal:  “These practices are not acceptable.” That should get their attention.

China responded:

“We hope that the U.S. stops its groundless attacks against China, start dialogue based on a foundation of mutual respect, and jointly build a cyberspace that is peaceful, secure, open and cooperative,” said a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman.  “Maintaining cybersecurity should be a point of cooperation rather than a source of friction between both China and the United States.”

ADDENDUM: During the President’s trip to Alaska, Chinese warships which had been exercising with the Russians in the Arctic traveled 3,000 miles out of their way to broach the 12 mile territorial limits just, by coincidence, when the President was on a 3 day visit to Alaska, and of course they knew his schedule because they had hacked the White House computers.
Violating another nation’s territorial limits just isn’t done, unless it is meant as a provocation. The U.S, brushed it off as unimportant.

As The World Turns, Altering and Illuminating the Affairs of Men: by The Elephant's Child
May 20, 2015, 7:53 pm
Filed under: Middle East | Tags: , ,

TEHRAN — Iran’s supreme leader, The Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed on Wednesday that he will not allow international inspection of Iran’s military sites or any access to Iranian scientists under any nuclear agreement with world powers. He told military commanders that Iran will resist “coercion and excessive demands” from America and other world powers.

The negotiators from Iran and representatives of the six-nation group —the U.S, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — have launched a new round of talks in Vienna focused on reaching a final deal that halts Iran’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of economic sanctions. “The two sides,” the AP says, “reached a framework agreement in March and hope to work out a final deal by June 30.” It’s just that President Obama’s description of the ‘framework agreement’ and Iranian officials’ description of the “framework agreement” didn’t seem to have much of anything in common.

The White House called the collapse of Ramadi, the largest city in Anbar province in Iraq, a “minor setback” and claimed that we are still succeeding in Iraq.The Pentagon reported that ISIS seized large amounts of American weapons including tanks, artillery pieces and Humvees when the Iraqi troops abandoned Ramadi. ISIS is reported to be now operating in Malaysia.

A Russian spy plane was photographed in British airspace over Lancashire, not far from a NATO monitoring station and a factory that makes military planes. As tensions rise  between Moscow and the West, American planes are patrolling the borders between the Latvian countries and Russia.

President Obama spoke to the graduates at the Coast Guard Academy at New London, Connecticut. He said:.

And this brings me to the challenge I want to focus on today — one where our Coast Guardsmen are already on the front lines, and that, perhaps more than any other, will shape your entire careers — and that’s the urgent need to combat and adapt to climate change.

As a nation, we face many challenges, including the grave threat of terrorism.  And as Americans, we will always do everything in our power to protect our country.  Yet even as we meet threats like terrorism, we cannot, and we must not, ignore a peril that can affect generations. …

Perhaps we need to take a harder look at our intelligence operations. There are too many people telling the president just what he wants to hear. Or perhaps the problem is even more serious.

The President Has Again Tried to Circumvent the Constitutional System of Lawmaking. by The Elephant's Child
May 12, 2015, 5:06 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , ,

Among the publications of the Hoover Institution is an online magazine called Peregrine, which includes short pieces by Hoover fellows. This one about Obama’s use of his executive power by William Suter is particularly interesting:

President Obama is not the first President to use his executive power aggressively. President Lincoln used an Executive Order in 1861 to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. The Supreme Court held that his action was unconstitutional. President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to change the composition of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1937 in order to gain favorable votes for his New Deal legislation. His “Court packing” plan was rejected by Congress and the voters. President Truman seized steel mills in 1952 to avert a strike because the mills were needed to support the Korean War. The Supreme Court held that his takeovers were unconstitutional. Previously, Truman acted courageously by issuing an Executive Order in 1948 that desegregated the armed forces. In that instance, he was on solid legal ground because the Constitution states that the President is the “commander in chief of the Army and Navy.” President Obama attempted to make three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in 2012 when the Senate clearly was not in recess. His reason for doing this was that the Senate would not confirm his nominees. He acted as though he was the first President to be treated rudely by the Senate. Not so! His crude attempt was an insult to the Constitution. The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, held that his appointments were void.

Congress also uses its power aggressively. An example is the Senate’s late-night manipulation of rules to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) in 2010. That embarrassing episode rivaled the famous 1972 Olympic Gold Medal basketball game when three seconds were mysteriously added to the clock, enabling the Soviet Union to defeat the United States. …

President Obama, emboldened by his record of changing laws – including provisions of the Affordable Care Act – decided in November 2014 to bring about his vision of immigration reform, not through Congress, but by use of executive fiats. For years, he maintained that he had no legal authority to change immigration laws. The sweeping election wins by Republicans a few weeks earlier apparently caused the President to change his mind. The largest category of people affected by the President’s executive “Presidential memos” is an estimated population of five million illegal immigrants who have been in this country for five or more years and have children who are U.S. citizens or permanent legal citizens. If they pass a background check and pay their taxes, the President offers a 3-year temporary status of “deferred action” regarding deportation along with work permits. The President’s purported legal authority to do this is his power of prosecutorial discretion. Prosecutors have such authority in individual cases, but no one can seriously think that authority is applicable on such a grand scale. What the President is doing is refusing to execute the law. He has no more authority to do this than he would to exempt corporations from paying income taxes. He cannot change the law.

As one writer put it, “This move by President Obama is not a sign of righteous impatience; it is proof that he has failed at that most basic of tasks – working with Congress.” The President has created a constitutional crisis when there was no need to do so. That is regrettable. (emphasis added)


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