Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Divide and Conquer

When Obama used his executive power to push his immigration reform, it appeared the President and Republicans were headed toward a major confrontation.  What promised to be a tempest, however, turned out to be something akin to a mere sprinkle.  John Boehner, Speaker of the House and fellow Buckeye, seems unable to deal with a lame duck president and now his own party may go rogue.

The tepid Republican response has been to create a "cromnibus" (Beltway-speak for a combination Continuing Resolution and Omnibus bill).  The "cromnibus" insures the government is funded through the fiscal year, however it puts the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under a continuing resolution authority.  A mealymouthed attempt at limiting the President's decision by limiting the funding of the agency responsible for immigration (ICE which is under DHS).  Somehow the Republicans seem to have forgotten that the Secret Service, which has come under scrutiny for its lax protection of the President, is also part of DHS.  Under-funding them could be seen by the Democrats as a way of exposing the President to additional peril.

The Republicans have also masterfully exposed themselves to criticisms of being now soft on terrorism.  The US has conducted over 80% of the airstrikes against Daish (the Iraqi term for "ISIS") and now Ron Paul wants to sign a declaration of war officially recognizing actions against Daish.  Given these developments, threatening the funding of the agency established by former President Bush to prevent further attacks by terrorists seems stupid.  The FBI has warned military troops to be careful about their posts on social media that might attract the attention of terrorist groups.

Of course this assumes DHS is the right agency to deal with terrorism.  If we go back to 2001, we see that what everyone was criticizing was the intelligence failure that allowed the terrorists to be successful.  This was the impetus that lead to the creation of DHS which crammed together some 20 plus agencies and over 180,000 federal employees (who as a result lost their union rights).  But a two very important agencies were left out of this mess; the FBI and CIA which just happen to be two agencies that had the most intelligence regarding the potential terrorist attack on 9/11.

The history of the FBI and CIA and their lack of cooperation goes back to their respective founding.  The FBI of course was founded by J. Edgar Hoover who kept extensive files on any and all that he perceived as a threat.  William "Wild Bill" Donovan founded the CIA out of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) to counter Hoover's agency.  The two agencies have no love lost between them but over time, it developed that the FBI dealt with domestic terrorism (since it was a criminal activity) and the CIA dealt with foreign terrorism.  Despite their doctrines however, they were notably exempt from formation of DHS.  Without the vast intelligence resources of the CIA and FBI, there really is no way for DHS ever to be truly successful (and when one remembers that each branch of the military has its own intelligence branch, not to mention the Defense Intelligence Agency, DHS has even less of a chance).

Daish is still functioning and Secretary of State Kerry has said while the airstrikes have been successful it may still take many years before we finally defeat them.  In the midst of all this, Chuck Hagel resigned as SecDef.  He was so frustrated with the Obama White House that he didn't even wait for a successor to be named.  He basically packed his stuff and left (and earned some well deserved kudos in my opinion).  Obama's first pick was Michelle Flournoy who quickly said, "Thanks but no thanks".  Speculation is she is banking on the next President being Hillary Clinton.  Now Obama has to go with his second pick, Ashton Carter who appears to be even less complacent than Hagel.

If approved, Carter will become Obama's fourth Secdef.  Gates and Panetta both bristled at being micromanaged by the White House.  Hagel was brought in to be a less tempestuous SecDef but even he could not stand the Obama approach to foreign policy, publicly criticizing the President for his handling of Syria and Daish.

All of this turmoil comes at a time when Russia is becoming more aggressive in Ukraine and elsewhere.  The economic sanctions and devalued Ruble are driving much of this aggression along with an increase in oil production by Saudi Arabia (some are speculating we may see gas prices drop below $2 by next week).  The increase in Saudi oil production means reduced demand for Russian oil.  Putin's response seems to be to protect Mother Russia by re-establishing its preeminence via military action.  Notably Russian is dusting off rail mounted ballistic missiles, something we haven't seen since the Soviet Union.     Russian aircraft and naval vessels continue to harass NATO and US assets.  But all of that may just be a smoke screen to make world leaders look for the wrong thing.

Over the last several weeks, the US has found itself divided over the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO back in August.  The grand jury did not find evidence to indict former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.  Based just on my own perusal of FB from my friends, comments were divided along racial lines.  Whites tend to believe all would have be find had Brown simply obeyed orders.  They failed to see the greater implication of yet another black person being killed by a white officer.  Blacks tend to believe that Michael Brown was trying to obey yet an over aggressive white officer still shot him dead.  The criminal history of the victim and the fact that the grand jury did not find evidence to indict does nothing to persuade the black community that they are unjust targeted by law enforcement.

I'm not saying either side is right or wrong.  I'm not even looking for some middle ground.  What is of interest to me is why did this particular case jump out?  You see there was another shooting in St Louis involving a black suspect and white officer back in October yet there is hardly a mention in the media.  Perhaps because in this case the suspect was armed but given how closely this occurred to the Ferguson shooting, you would think this would have been used to add more fuel to the fire.  But it didn't yet we get the "Hands up, don't shoot" mantra even though there is no evidence that this is in fact what Michael Brown said.

What if the situation in Ferguson is being manipulated by psychological warfare operatives from outside the US?  Far-fetched perhaps but bear with me.  Let's look at what Ferguson presents from the standpoint of internal unrest.

We have a country that still has racial tensions, a legacy of slavery of blacks and the subsequent national policy of segregation implemented by whites.  Whites, even though increasingly a minority, still control the majority of power over blacks (look at Ferguson city council and the Ferguson PD which almost exclusively white even though Ferguson is mostly black).  Ferguson PD did not help matters when the they responded fully armed in military body armor and armored vehicles to the first round of protests back in August.  Governor Nixon of Missouri further exacerbated matters by calling out the National Guard in anticipation of the violence in response to the grand jury announcing its decision last month.

So now we have black Americans believing that nothing much has changed since the end of slavery and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 receiving confirmation in their beliefs by seeing their streets flooded with armed soldiers.  What white Americans do not understand is this isn't as simple as merely law and order issue, this is a deeply ingrained belief by black Americans that they are perceived as a threat to be dealt with military force.  The police officers seeing angry mobs of protestors (mostly black) that are a threat to their own safety so their natural recourse is to "gear-up".

Stop for a moment and instead of "black and white" substitute "Sunni and Shia" or even "Catholic and Protestant", would you still have a problem seeing that this goes beyond the bounds of merely being a law and order issue?  I just read a headline now that Obama calls "killer cops an American problem".  Ah yes, how to further divide a country already divided by race is to make those responsible for maintaining the peace part of the problem.

Psychological warfare is not overt, in fact often it merely goads existing issues of alienation and disenfranchisement into action (see Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, etc).  A friend of mine from St Louis informed me that during the week the grand jury verdict was expected, you could not get a hotel room in downtown St Louis.  While some of the rooms were obviously booked by the media, most were booked by protestors from outside the area.  How were these "protestors" recruited and coordinated?  The obvious answer is social media but take a look at this graphic from the Huffington Post;

It shows all of the protests that were scheduled throughout the US.  In Cincinnati, protestors shut down northbound I-75 by kneeling down in the interstate.  That's not just some random sympathizers, that's a coordinated effort to wreck chaos on a widespread level.  With so many involved, isn't it possible that at least some were being manipulated by Daish, Russia, China or some other foreign intelligence agency?  It's a low risk, high return venture to foment this type of dissent and it will keep US resources from being brought fully to bear against Russia, China or Daish.

So the next time you want to label all cops as killers or Ferguson protestors as idiots, stop and think about the bigger issues at work here and how we all may be turned against one another by outsiders for their own gain.  Divide and conquer.

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