Monday, November 18, 2013

The interesting case of Jonathan Martin

In the news there has been stories about Jonathan Martin (formerly of the Miami Dolphins) being bullied by Richie Incognito (also a former team mate).  Martin alleges he was bullied, Incognito alleges they were friends and what Martin terms "bullying" was merely attempts to toughen him up.

Those who have been in the military or who have pledged a fraternity or sorority will immediately recognize this as "hazing".  Hazing, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, is "an initiation process involving harassment; the practice of playing unpleasant tricks on someone or forcing someone to do unpleasant things".  Doing calisthenics in the mud, drinking games, doing chores while dressed in some ridiculous outfit are all milder examples of hazing or initiation rituals.  Hazing though can quickly become a nasty practice involving humiliation, physical injury or trauma and even death.  The US military has regulations against hazing and most universities crack-down on cases of hazing in fraternities and sororities.  Yet hazing still remains as part of the culture for many elite groups.

The Jonathan Martin story gives us an opportunity to look again at the rites of initiations into elite groups and how those same reasons can be used to encourage people to join terrorist groups.  Jonathan Martin, from all reports in the press, is an extremely bright young man from a well-to-do family and graduated from Stanford University.  Despite his size and chosen profession, Jonathan Martin does not appear to be a man who chooses to solve things by sheer physical dominance.  If this assessment is correct, this may be the root of his problem with his right of passage into the NFL and Miami Dolphins.

In comparison, Richie Incognito is nothing if not a physical presence.  Going back to his college years, Richie Incognito embodied the in-your-face physicality associated with lineman.  He was accused of spitting in another player's face, fighting during practice (resulting in a suspension), and the following year he was involved in another fight at a party and was charged with three counts of assault.  In comparison, Jonathan Martin attend a prestigious college-prep school and studied the classics at Stanford.  Despite their polar opposite collegiate experiences, they both ended up pursuing professional football careers and ended-up on the Miami Dolphins.  Incognito alleges they were best friends prior to the allegations that ended-up with both players being suspended.

While we may truly never know what happened, the basic problem seems to have been the Miami Dolphins valued more players being like the aggressive Incognito than the more cerebral Martin.  It is this dichotomy that I believe can help us understand why radical groups (such as terrorists) are able to recruit people you would never guess are interested in becoming terrorists.

Incognito represented the traditional, physically aggressive type player favored by the Miami Dolphins and other NFL teams.  This likely means his behavior was condoned directly or indirectly by other players and the leadership.  The NFL is an elite organization that only the best of the best can play in.  The players recognize this elite standing and take great pains to maintain that mystique.  You see the same thing in Special Forces Units, SEAL Teams, Marine Corps Force Recon, Delta Force, SAS, etc.  You have to measure up just to try out and even if you make the cut, you have to be willing to be tried and tried again.  Often this is accomplished through hazing, which is to remind the rookie that just because he or she has made it, they still have to prove themselves to the veteran members.

Sociologists will tell you this hazing/initiation reduces the sense of self in relationship to the group.  You see this in basic training, the military excels at taking individuals from all walks of life and turing them into a unified group (soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, etc).  Those that can't  be transformed into this new sense of group over self are the ones most likely to receive the harshest form of hazing (much like the treatment of Pvt "Gomer Pyle" in the movie "Full Metal Jacket).

It appears from the press the Joseph Martin fell into this later category.  His mild-mannered, well-educated background caused some to question his toughness.  As a result, Richie Incognito was called in to toughen him up and this is when things went south for the Miami Dolphins.  Individuals being hazed under these conditions are usually left with a Hobson's choice of complying with the group's identity or dropping out of the program.  Joseph Martin chose a third option and went public with his treatment and file suit.  In reaction, Richie Incognito has now filed a grievance over his suspension.

If we now look at most radical or fringe groups, our first thought is to ask why would anyone follow these ideas?  Why would anyone want to be subjected to the verbal threats of Richie Incognito?  It is because of the need to preserver in order to gain admission into an elite group.  Think about how any fraternal groups tends to initiate new recruits.  No matter how good natured, there is some requirement for the initiate to undergo a series of trials that causes them to forsake their own identity or beliefs for that of the group.

Whether is is a professional football team, elite military unit or simply your local college fraternity, they all share the need to protect the mystique of the group and those that don't measure up are made to endure harsher tests often in the form of hazing.  I said earlier that the US military has regulations against hazing but this does not mean individuals from units don't haze new recruits, especially those that like Joseph Martin are felt not to measure up.

Radical groups can get away with even more by finding people looking to belong to something bigger than themselves yet may not have been interested in more traditional routes (church, sports, the military).  They may be individuals that became disenfranchised with one of these groups.  Regardless, by making memberships something that requires sacrifice of self it actually makes it more attractive to some people.

Many people are having an adverse reaction to the revelations of the culture within an NFL locker room.  Yet many of these same people have been casual fans of the sport for years and never questioned how you can get men to play one of the most physically dangerous sports each fall seemingly without regard to their own safety and well being.  How do you get young men (and now increasingly young women) to take on dangerous missions without regard to their own peril?  It is by establishing and maintaining such a demanding initiation process that one's thought of self is made secondary to being a member of the group (vive le guerre, vive le mare, vive le sacre legionnaire!)

I hope social psychologists will pay attention to the case of Jonathan Martin and develop some theories that may better help analysts predict which groups have the right set of rights of initiation or hazing to become threats.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The failure of Kerry

For those who don't recognize the name, Max Hastings is a British author who co-authored one of the best books on the Falklands War and another on the Korean War.  Most of the American media has been criticizing President Obama for his failure in garnering the support for missile strikes in Syria.  The article by Max Hastings points out that this stems from Obama's original hard-line policy two years that lead to the now infamous statement that any use of chemical weapons by Assad would represent a "red line".

Two things should have happened and did not.  First, someone should have explained to the media what that meant or at least deflated the rhetoric.  Second, no diplomatic actions were planned to avoid a red line incident.  Hastings says these two events allowed Russian President Vladmir Putin to outmaneuver President Obama with his proposal of allowing Syrian chemical weapons to fall under international control.  I disagree, Putin out maneuvered a clumsy Secretary of State.  Secretary Kerry decided to be a "hawk" regarding Syria instead of being a diplomat.  His ego lead him to push Congress to a vote that he should have realized made no sense coming from the State Department, especially he could not point to failed diplomatic actions that left the US with no recourse.  He had taken no actions and immediately went for the military option.

Putin's move has struck down the credibility of the Obama Administration and the United States when it comes to foreign policy.  It showed the world a President who is tentative in his foreign policy decisions and a public that is weary of war.  To the Muslim world, it also shows the hypocrisy of US foreign policy.  The US invaded Iraq and waged a ware that killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, destroyed their infrastructure, and has left Iraq now in a perpetual state of chaos.  The development and prolific use of drones has made US military actions autonomous.  Push-button killing, without risk to ones own forces, takes away some moral authority when one wants to condemn another country for killing en masse.

I do not want the US to take military action in Syria.  However, to see a US President fumble and his head diplomat look like a fool is not desirable either.  In the middle of all of this, Syria remains embroiled in a civil war and her people are still dying.

MAX HASTINGS: The humiliation of Obama as Putin swaggers on his Moscow

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Of mice and men

Back in 2004, then Senator Kerry wanted to be president.  A decorated Vietnam veteran, Mr. Kerry thought he would be a cinch for the nomination.  Then cam the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT) and suddenly his record came into question.  To be sure, Kerry did perform with valor but what caught my attention was that he supposedly gave back his medals in 1971.  "I gave back, I can't remember, six, seven, eight, nine medals", said Kerry in an interview WRC-TC Viewpoints ABC News

Kerry supposedly gave these medals back because of how he felt about the war (but more likely because as a Democrat it would not help his chances to get elected if here were seen as a hawk).  Contrast though this article on Salon from 2004 where apparently Mr. Kerry still has his medals.

Do you still have the Silver Star,” I asked Kerry. “Yeah,” he said, “do you want to see it?” My answer was yes. He walked across his study to a secondary desk with clutter on top, mainly books, and opened the top right drawer. This is where he keeps all of his war medals. Salon

Now Secretary Kerry is leading the charge for intervention in Syria.  Kerry is certain of the use of chemical weapons by Assad (although reports are now surfacing that it may have been the Syrian rebels who used the chemical weapons). Kerry called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "a thug and a murderer" and accused his regime of using chemical weapons to kill 1,429 people--ABC

So the war hero first morphs into a "dove" then transforms again into a "hawk".  It makes it hard to really take the Secretary's bluster all that seriously.  Apparently many in Congress feel equally unimpressed with his arguments.  Yet Kerry's vitriol was able to persuade at least one elected official, President Obama.  Despite the resounding defeat of Prime Minister Cameron's effort in Parliament, Mr. Obama was going to go at it alone.

That was until yesterday evening when apparently Mr. Obama went for a walk with his senior advisor and changed his mind (NBC News).  I can't imagine how frustrated his administration has to be after Secretary Kerry brow-beat everyone into taking action in Syria.  This good-cop, bad-cop approach is going to backfire. President Obama is not seen as being particularly strong on foreign policy and defiantly comes in second to his rival Vladmir Putin.  I do not want to see the US launch cruise missiles.  However, I don't want to see a President who flip-flops on such serious matters seemingly at the turn of a hat.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Of Allies

As I perused the web this morning, I learned the British and Germans don't support striking Syria. Perhaps they are weary of war or perhaps they don't see compelling evidence to support missiles strikes that have the very real possibility of escalating matters into a full-blown regional war.  Germany may also be disinclined to support US actions since it was revealed the NSA had been spying on our ally (another hot potato from the Snowden scandal).

But this got me thinking, what of Syria's allies (Russia and Iran)? George Mirsky wrote a great analysis of this very question. The following quote best summarizes his answer:

Russia does not have to do anything, it can just sit quiet. The situation is advantageous to Moscow. Our leaders will be only too happy to see the US start a new war it cannot win. George

The Obama administration faces more problems than it solves with a missile attack. It proves the American people are unwilling to support any type of invasion. As George Mirsky points out, a full-blown air campaign involved manned aircraft is out since it would risk pilots to being captured. Drones are out since the Syrian air defense systems and air force are still intact. The only option, and one proven unsuccessful in creating a regime change, are cruise missiles.

Russia and Iran both stand much more to gain out of this than does the United States. Mr. Obama has said previously how the world Muslim world hates the United States. The airstrike will validate the contentions of those in the Muslim world who hate the United States while doing very little to force Assad out.

The missile strikes could have started today. Many in Congress have been pushing Mr. Obama not to proceed. Perhaps he is rethinking this strategy.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

'We are ready to go'

'What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. Let me be clear. The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable. And despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable."--Secretary of State Kerry.
Daily Mail

The above quote is really quite hypocritical. The US supported and turned its back on the use of chemical weapons by our then ally Saddam Hussein during Iraq's war with Iran. The statement by Secretary Kerry also reminds one of the "indiscriminate slaughter of civilians" when then President Clinton authorized a cruise missile attack of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan in retaliation for attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The cruise missile attack in Sudan killed one employee and wounded 11 civilians. Contrary to what the Clinton Administration believed, the factory produced anti-malarial medicine. The factory's destruction cost thousands of Sudanese deaths due to the lack of medicine.

The use of cruise missile attacks in Syria runs the very real risk of unintended civilian casualties either by the direct action of the explosions or the secondary effects of caused by loss of infrastructure. In either way, the Syrian people are going to suffer more.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Like a 'monkey with a grenade'

In response to the likely use of cruise missiles by the United States as early as Thursday (Aug 29th), Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem warned Washington that his government is ready to defend itself using 'all means available.' Russia, a Syrian ally, responded by delivering aid to the region and evacuating some of its citizens. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin also blasted Western countries on Twitter, saying, 'The West behaves towards the Islamic world like a monkey with a grenade.'

Meanwhile Israel, unlike the Obama administration, has no problem in defining what will happen when Syria crosses its red-line. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Syria that his country 'will respond, and respond with force' if Israel is targeted.

For as long as I can remember, every potential confrontation has been identified as the start of World War III. I hope this latest conflict will also prove that we are done with World Wars, however if ever there were a situation that could ignite a global conflict this may prove to be it. Russia and Vladmir Putin have demonstrated an almost palpable distaste for President Obama and his administration. President Obama for his part seems to be remarkably unaware of the gamesmanship that Putin is waging (and for the most part winning) against him.

I do not want to see US forces sent anywhere else. However, the use of cruise missiles have never forced a change in domestic policy (which at the end of day is what we are looking for). Moreover, former President Bush launched the full might of the US military to deal with the perceived existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In contrast, the Obama administration is show a decisive lack of resolve in dealing decisively with the obvious use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government against their own people. If the Obama administration is not more decisive in its actions, the cruise missile strikes may lead to more, not fewer attacks against the United States.

Daily Mail

While I was away

I stepped away from the keyboard for a while to just read and absorb world events.  During that time, the war in Syria has raged on now involving the second or third major use of chemical weapons.  The Obama administration has verbally postured over "is it or is it really chemical weapons?" despite photographs and eye witnesses of mass casualties, more or less indicating the use of chemical weapons.  No other weapon produces mass casualties with bodies in contorted positions of pain.  The Obama administration now has decided to take a page out of the Clinton Administration and use cruise missiles to show their displeasure (which could, ironically, lead to more mass casualties).

The Obama administration was celebrating the Arab Spring a few years ago, the very event that has lead to the war in Syria and the mass rioting in Egypt.  The ouster of Mubarak and Qaddaffi have not lead to the rampant introduction of American style democracy.  Instead, old rivalries and desires for revenge control matters in Northern Africa.  The United States, badly over-extended from the war on terror, is in no position (physically or emotionally) to head into yet another conflict.

Even so, Al Qaeda recently sent the US State Department into DEFCON 1.  Embassies were closed throughout the Middle East due to the threat of imminent attack by Al Qaeda.  Somehow closing the embassies thwarted this imminent attack causing one to wonder, how serious was this attack?  Diplomats and US citizens working in those countries were not called back or evacuated so in theory, Al Qaeda could have still struck at US targets.

The announcement of the attack came on the heels of the revelation by Edward Snowden that the NSA had overcame the introduction of fiber optic networks by compromising telecommunications companies.  The NSA was created to intercept radio and telemetry signals by the Soviets and Chinese.  The same technology of course could be used to target anyone, even US citizens.  Then an interesting thing happened when copper cable began to get replaced with fiber; the NSA found fewer points to intercept signals.  Being a spy agency though, they quickly overcame this new technology by using third party vendors to sell modified prisms to telecommunications companies (hence the name "PRISM").  Unlike with copper, you can't tap a fiber optic capable (once the fiber is broken or crushed, light can't travel through it).  Prisms are used to splice signals into network operations centers.  The NSA used modified prisms that would basically send an exact copy of the incoming feed to NSA servers located near the companies network operations center.  There would be no loss of speed so until Snowden spilled the beans, no one was the wiser.

Snowden was hailed as a hero by a public that grown increasingly suspicious of big brother.  The Obama administration had to move quickly to vilify Snowden's actions and the threat of an Al Qaeda attack served as a timely way to discredit his actions.  Lost in translation was the fact the NSA and CIA exist to target FOREIGN enemies.  In days long ago, this meant the Russians or Chinese.  Today, terrorist has blurred this distinction were a threat to the homeland could be a US resident.

Taking advantage of the situation was Venezuela (no ally of the US since declaring the CIA poisoned their leader Hugo Chaves) offering Snowden asylum.  Unfortunately for Snowden, the offer came while he was stuck in Russia without a visa.  Putin initially played hardball indicating Russia would not grant Snowden asylum.  In the end though, Snowden did get to leave the airport and now is in Russia for the time being.

Times are very worrisome.  Syria and Egypt have been tearing themselves apart for almost a year yet the US has not directly intervened.  India has experience an epidemic of women being gang-raped (both foreigners as well as Indians), yet Hilary Clinton has remained remarkably silent.  Even when news reporters are raped or sexually assaulted in Egypt, the feminists in the US publicly remain quiet.  All of these events show that Syria, Egypt, India and of course Sudan are struggling with a level of internal strife that we can scarcely comprehend.  If we are unable to understand the beginnings, then I remain skeptical that we can accurately predict the end.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Russia to Build 100 New Military Bases and Airfields

"About 100 new defense infrastructure facilities, including airfields and Army and Navy maintenance and supply bases, will be built in Russia to accommodate new weapon systems, a top military official said Thursday.RIA NOVOSTI

Gee, I wonder who the Russians are thinking about?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Japan's elephant in the room

As I still continue to mull over my thoughts about Operation Prism and Syria, I came across this article. The military capabilities of the Japanese SDF may come as a surprise to some. Back in 1989, I was stationed at Tyndall AFB going through the air weapons controller undergraduate course. Just a few weeks before, a Japanese F-15 had clipped the guy-wire of a radio mast. The mast subsequently smashed the F-15 out of the sky killing the pilot. It was the first time that I realized Japan had F-15s and their pilots were training right along with American fighter pilots. Flash forward to 2004 and while taking a tour of and airbase in Kuwait, I was surprised to see C-130s that were painted robin's egg blue with the Japanese red sun. Japan had quietly entered into Operation Iraqi freedom stretching the limits of their constitution even further. The British and Australians were fascinated to observe how the Yanks and Japanese would get along. The Japanese possessed the skills, training and equipment to be on par with American forces. They wanted to prove themselves and to my experience, they more than showed that they are a true military. As they continue to increase capabilities, I wonder though what unintended consequences there will be. For example, North Korean and China do not have the best experiences with imperial Japan and the modern day build-up may be seen as a return to the old days with a much more aggressive Japan.

Al Jazeera

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Does anyone read history anymore?

During the Korean War, US forces found themselves fighting not only North Korean forces but the Chinese as well.  The Vietnam War had US forces fighting the North Vietnamese military armed with Soviet weapons.  We did the same thing providing the mujahedeen with Stinger missiles to defeat Mi-24 Hinds in Afghanistan.

This behind the scenes support rarely works out for sponsor.  China did not gain any leverage on the international scene for supporting North Korea.  The Soviet Union reaped no benefits from supporting Vietnam (other than perhaps a willingness to provide weapons to oppose the US).  The US support during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan only resulted in increasing resentment of Osama bin Laden against America.

The lessons of history notwithstanding, the US has been supporting rebel forces in Syria in the hopes that it will result in the overthrow of President Asad.  In two years since the beginning of the Arab spring, Asad has not only remained in power but almost thrives.  The Obama Administration seems to have forgotten that the US put Shah Pahlavi of Iran into power after the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 forced his father’s abdication.

Shah Pahlavi’s reign was viewed as being engineered by the CIA to allow US and British oil interests unimpeded access to Persian oil fields.  The resentment of the Shah and his secret police SAVAK resulted in the Tehran Embassy crisis.  The Shah was sent packing and the Ayatollah Khomeini took over.  The crisis led the US to support Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran.  Of course, when Hussein mistook US support as a green light to invade Kuwait, the US would then form a coalition to oust its former ally from Kuwait.  Relations between the US and Iran has been strained ever since.

Had the Obama Administration thought about this bit of history, they might realize that by supporting rebels in Syria only strengthens the relations between Damascus, Hezbollah and Iran.  In short, Asad is not getting weaker and may actually be getting stronger.  The Obama policy does nothing to dissuade Iran from pursuing its nuclear weapons program.

US forces fighting during Iraqi Freedom faced rebel forces in the north that were being supported via shipments from Syria.  Perhaps President Obama thought he could turn the tables on Asad but thus far, it has thus far been for naught.

Monday, May 20, 2013

More missiles, now Israel is the target?

After North Korea got back in the news for its missile tests, it should come as no surprise that Syria has followed suite;

"The Syrian army is deploying advanced surface-to-surface missiles aiming at Israel in the aftermath of the alleged Israeli strikes, The Sunday Times reports."  Haaretz

Later in the article, there is this little gem "Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that Syria would supply his organization with 'game-changing weapons' in response to recent air raids near Damascus attributed to Israel."

We already know Syria has chemical weapons (which they used on their own people), apparently now these game-changing weapons could be used against Israeli targets.  Israel has already struck once and this latest news isn't going to sit well with them.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Of warships and missiles

Sitting here on a muggy Sunday, I am reminded of a quaint saying that goes "If you don't like the weather in Cincinnati, just wait a few minutes."  Meaning the weather is quite fickle as we still had freezing temperatures just a few weeks ago and now it feels like the depth of summer.

I was reminded of this meteorological tidbit while reading some of today's news.  It seemed like the media could not figure out if it wanted to berate the White House for tapping into AP reporters files and phone calls or if it should focus on Angelina Jolie electing to have a double mastectomy.  All of which took the national focus off of the Benghazi hearings, Syria and North Korea.

North Korea was the most interesting as it looked very much like the US was headed for some type of shooting conflict.  Then just like the barometer in Cincinnati, things got quiet.  Kim Jueng Un is nothing if not a publicity hound so he had to get back into the news somehow.  He did this:

"North Korea fired three short-range missiles Saturday into the sea off the eastern coast of the Korean peninsula, stirring tensions that had appeared to ease in the wake of a recent series of threats directed at South Korea and the U.S."Wall Street Journal

Gotta love the latest Kim, when the focus shifts elsewhere pop-off a few missiles.  South Korea remains on high alert in the press anyway but reports from the average citizen is more blasé.  They just don't get what the big deal is and too be far, neither do most Americans.

President Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people which was the "red-line" President Obama warned against crossing.  The Obama Administration has since had three major scandals break putting the Oval Office into a siege mentality.  It was unlikely they could take military action without critics on both side of the political spectrum pushing further into the IRS, AP or Benghazi scandals.  At least that's what I thought until I read this;

"In a move considered aggressive by US and European officials, Russia has sent at least 12 warships to patrol waters near its naval base in Tartous, Syria. The deployment appears to be a warning to Israeli and Western officials against military intervention in Syria’s bloody civil war, which has now claimed the lives of over 80,000 people."  Times of Israel

Sending 12 warships is quite a statement and it will be interesting to see how the White House responds.  Secretary Kerry has been quite unsuccessful in bringing any change to the position of Syria or Russia.  The US military is still dealing with cuts due to sequestration.  Israel has already struck what they say were mobile missile launchers in Syria.  Perhaps Putin is upping the ante to provide further Israeli air strikes.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Russian Pacific Fleet Warships to Enter Mediterranean

I posed a question to my class the other day, "Why has President Obama not taken actions after reports of chemical weapons being used on the people of Syria?". Most tried to answer the question in political terms (i.e. liberal, Democrat unwilling to go to war). These same students did not realize Russia has a base in Syria and has steadfastly ruled against US involvement. Russia has already sent a warship and marines to Syria, now they are sending ships from their Pacific fleet. In the meantime, the Obama administration is distracted trying to spin the travesty better known as Benghazi. The only good news is that North Korea has ratcheted-down the rhetoric (for now).


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Israel Bombs Syria as the U.S. Weighs Its Own Options

Chemicals maybe get a lot of press and attention, but one of the clear things worrying us is advanced conventional weapons,” said one senior Israeli official

NY Times

While President Obama continues to redefine "red line", Israel has moved out unilaterally to prevent Hezbollah from moving advanced conventional weapons.  Israel previously bomber SA-17 surface-to-air missiles launchers last January.

The United States flew the majority of air missions over Libya to help rebels in their fight against Qaddafi.  Qaddafi used his military to try to squash the rebels but at least according to open source reports, he did not resort to chemical weapons.  Contrast that with the situation in Syria this week where reports are very strongly indicating the use of Sarin gas.  The US response?  “We don’t know how they were used, when they were used, who used them,” President Obama in a press conference.

Why the softening and lack of action?  Perhaps Russia;

Spooked perhaps by the specter of the Iraq war, the US says it now has to present hard evidence of chemical weapons use to the UN. Notably, it needs to persuade Russia that the Assad regime used deadly sarin gas against its own people.--CS Monitor

Latest estimates are 70,000 people have been killed in Syria.  Even if the question about chemical weapons can't be answered definitely, the number of casualties would certainly warrant more action by the United States.

No, I don't want a war but the Obama administration has talked a great game that it is unwillingly to back-up when the shit gets real.  We have the Benghazi attack where US Ambassador Stevens was killed and the US took no action (eerily reminiscent of the Tehran Embassy crisis in 1979).  The President's reluctance to commit is only going to embolden more groups to attack.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Obama stresses concern over Syrian chemical weapons

If proved with certainty, the chemical weapons' usage could triggered unspecified U.S. actions against the Syrian government. Russia has been one of the Syrian government's staunchest allies.
So President Obama needs President Putin's support?  It just might have something to do with the presence of Russian naval and ground forces present in Syria.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Syria and the use of chemical weapons

The White House’s April 25th letter to congressional leaders states: “Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin.”

The U.S. Government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states: “Sarin is a human-made chemical warfare agent classified as a nerve agent. Nerve agents are the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents. They are similar to certain kinds of pesticides which is how many nations disguise the manufacture of chemical agents.

Chemical weapons were the weapon of choice for Saddam Hussein during the Iran/Iraq war.  Sarin was the weapon of choice of the Tokyo subway attackers Aum Shinrikyo in 1995.  It is also the chemical weapon possessed in abundance by Hezbollah.

Despite this history, President Obama has reversed his warnings on Aug 2012 and Mar 2013, "We will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, or the transfer of those weapons to terrorists."

Apparently the US does tolerate the use of chemical weapons.  The question is why?

Attacking the Syrian military risks inflicting civilian casualties.  Civilian deaths caused by forces (led most likely by the US and France) would further destabilize Syria and potential spill into other countries.  Another problem is Iran which may choose to overtly (and certainly covertly) support the Assad government.  A protracted conflict in the region means fewer forces available to deal with North Korea.

Another problem for President Obama is the unanswered questions about the Boston Marathon bombers.  The brothers are from Chechnya which has for some time been at war with Moscow.  Putin has support both Bush and Obama with their war on terror, however he has not support Obama on Syria.  This could partly be why Obama has been forced into inaction for now (he certainly has not had problems before in sending SEAL Team Six or Predators in to take our terrorists).

The conspiracy sites are abuzz with speculation that the Boston Marathon may have been the first of other attacks slated for May.  Their conclusions are based oncounter-terrorism drills planned for Denver, Washington DC and Portsmouth, NH.  A good conspiracy is based on fact and if the facts are correct, one can conclude that President Obama is worried more attacks are likely.  Striking Syria may trigger more attacks in the United States.

There is another problem, what if Syria doesn't want Assad out?  Reports have thus far only identified the Muslim Brotherhood and various "rebels" fighting Assad.  In an article by Dr. Boris Dolgov – senior research fellow of the Centre for Arabic Studies of the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies - he states, "Since the beginning of the crisis in Syria I have made two trips to that country as a member of international delegations in August 2011 and in January 2012. If we watch the dynamics of situation’s development over that period on the one hand we can state intensification of terrorist groups in Syria and on the other hand we see a broader people’s support of President Bashar Assad and a clear demarcation of political forces’ positions...But everyday life has not drastically changed. There are no servicemen, armed vehicles or document checks in the city. Damascus is still a busy city, with no vacant seats in internet cafes and on weekends streets are crowded with family couples and young people."Syrian Scenario

Perhaps the Obama Administration is concerned US or coalition led forces would not only encounter the Syrian military but civilians as well.  The gamesmanship of the President's earlier warnings may prove that he is more of a paper-tiger than he wants North Korean and Iran to realize.

In the meantime, we need to worry about this maniac article.  Ricin laced letters help remind the rest of the wannabes out there that chemical weapons are relatively easy to make and even deliver.  It should spur the Obama Administration to take action in Syria but for the reasons I'v already outlined, we may be facing more chemical weapon threats/attacks for the foreseeable future.

Friday, April 19, 2013

One suspect down, one on the run

We went from thinking the suspects were "dark-skinned" (excellent way to incite a race riot by the way) to two "light-skinned" suspects.  Beginning last night, the suspects (who are brothers) rob a 7-11 near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  They then car-jacked a SUV.  The suspects killed a police officer.  A subsequent shoot-out with the suspects ended with one being killed.  The dead suspect was found to have bombs strapped to his body.  His brother is believed to be similarly armed.

On Wednesday, several of the noted terrorist experts were predicting that this was a domestic terrorist act as most foreign groups would have wanted more casualties.  The two brothers are from Chechnya (a republic in Russia that is Muslim) pretty much rules out domestic motives.  It does bring Mr. Putin's fight with the Chechen Republic to the United States.

How will Mr. Kerry and Mr. Obama are going to handle this.  On one hand, they will want to support a fellow world leader but on the other hand, the history of brutality and near genocide Moscow has committed against Chechnya will make many wonder about the US relations with Islam.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Reports still coming in but it seems at least two explosions killed two and injured at least 134 at the Boston Marathon.  The devices were hidden in backpacks which in-turn were placed in barricades after the area had been cleared by authorities.

No group has claimed responsibility as of my writing this.  Is it terrorism?  For those that are empowered to annotate such things (DHS, CIA, FBI), the final word is still hours or days away.  However, the images of injured and mangled spectators from the Boston Marathon will soon replace the anguished faces of parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook.  In that regard, it is terrorism regardless of the motives of the perpetrators.

Last week I wrote about North Korea and the escalation towards if not nuclear conflict, certainly a return to a shooting war.  Shortly after I wrote that, North Korea confirmed it would target Japan first more or less guaranteeing a direct hit for their missiles and dragging the US into war.

Secretary Kerry attempted to appease the North Koreans by offering to stop the deployment of anti-missile batteries to the theater for the exchange of the cessation of their nuclear weapons programs.  The problem with appeasement is there is your risk looking weak and your foe may be emboldened to escalate the situation.

To me, I can't help but feel as the more is learned about the Boston explosions we may find a link to North Korea.  Secretary Kerry is from Massachusetts and this may be North Korea (or China, Russia or any other group that has a beef with the Obama Administration) way of making a statement.  Let's not forget also that the airliners that American Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 (which both crashed into the World Trade Centers) departed from Boston's Logan International Airport.

Someone asked me today at work if it could be international terrorists?  Possibly but it could just as easily be the 21st Century version of Oklahoma City.  There is much resentment towards the Obama Administration, especially with the increased calls for additional gun control legislation.

The next few days will only reveal more questions than answers.  Just check your FB page and see how many people are asking, why?!  There is no answer to that question other than the need for some to use violence to make a statement.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

North Korea May Have Nuclear Missile Capability (oh really?)

The good news, as of this entry North Korea has not started shooting missiles or people to the South.  The not so good news; a new assessment by the Pentagon’s intelligence arm has concluded for the first time, with “moderate confidence,” that North Korea has learned how to make a nuclear weapon small enough to be delivered by a ballistic missile.  NY Times

The reliability and accuracy is assessed as being low by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).  However, assessments are only as good as the information on which it is based.  The missiles could end being the "golden BB" that hits exactly the right spot at the right time.  Perhaps this is why the Pentagon released this statement: “It would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced in the passage.” 

Could North Korea hit Alaska?  Possibly.  Could North Korea hit the lower 48?  Unlikely, however it makes you wonder if they can build a warhead small enough for a missile could they have built some type of small yield device to be detonated by a terrorist cell?

The real threat though is more that the cat-and-mouse game causes one side or the other to shoot something (such as downing an enemy aircraft the flies to close to the border).  The other unspoken problem is what if Japan gets hit by a missile?  Will they wait for the US to retaliate or take a page from the Israelis?

Perhaps this is why Secretary Kerry is on his way to Seoul. Press reports have his two goals to get China to mount pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program (unlikely) and assure South Korea and Japan that the US has their backs.

North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests, including one earlier this year, and shot a ballistic missile as far as the Philippines in December. American and South Korean intelligence agencies believe that another test — perhaps of a midrange missile called the Musadan that can reach Japan, South Korea and almost as far as Guam — may be conducted in the coming days, to celebrate the birth of Kim Il-sung, the country’s founder. At the Pentagon, there is particular concern about another missile, yet untested, called the KN-08, which may have significantly longer range.

Perhaps this is finally the clue, North Korea is waiting for Kim Il-sung's birthday to start attacks.  Having a new SecDef and Secretary of State breaking in on something this dangerous is not ideal.  One wrong move and we are back in a shooting war.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Of sequester and North Korea

NPR has been spending much effort to broadcast stories demonstrating that Sequester has NOT had any of the adverse effects predicted by critics of the Obama administration.  Fair enough except after I had finished listening to NPR, I then read this on my Facebook timeline;

"Air Force officials will begin to stand down active-duty combat units starting April 9 to ensure the remaining units supporting worldwide operations can maintain sufficient readiness through the remainder of the fiscal year. The stand down is the result of cuts to Air Combat Command's operations and maintenance account, which must be implemented in part by flying approximately 45,000 fewer training hours between now and Oct 1."  U.S. Air Force

I can only assume that NPR had not read this story.

In keeping with this "Baghdad Bob" moment, yesterday a professor from a university that shall remain nameless appeared on a local morning news show to state emphatically that all of this concern about North Korea was totally unfounded.  As the Wizard of Oz famously says, "Ignore the man behind the curtain" or Pyongyang.  He is an expert on North Korea and has written at least one book on the subject so he definitely has the credentials that I don't.

Except then I read this on the New York Times; "North Korea warned foreigners on Tuesday that they might want to leave South Korea because the peninsula was on the brink of nuclear war — a statement that analysts dismissed as hyperbole — the American commander in the Pacific expressed worries that the North’s young leader, Kim Jong-un, might not have left himself an easy exit to reduce tensions.NY Times

The whole sentence is amazing example of towing the party line.  The NY Times manages to call it hyperbole on one hand but then quotes the PACOM commander as if to hedge their bets.  I think the professor may have been consulted.

The two nonsequiturs are in fact part of a continuum of delusion.  Sequester is most assuredly going to impact the United States (contrary to the assurances of the NPR pieces), minimally by causing the Department of Defense to furlough personnel and to eliminate routine training missions.  In-turn this may emboldened our favorite North Korean madman to increase the threats.  What the professor and NY Times both miss is Kim Jung Un is a young, unknown tyrant who believes his father and grandfathers dreams are his destiny to fulfill.  He is not going to behave the same as his ancestors.

North Korea has loaded nuclear missiles on to the launchers.  North Korea shut down access for South Koreans to cross the border to work in their factories.  North Korea has just told foreigners in the South to "get out".  Despite all of this, experts on North Korea are calling for calm.

Secretary of Defense Hagel seems to have a different opinion.  The F-22s are now back in air (after having being grounded for continued problems with the oxygen generators).  They are performing combat air patrols (CAP) in South Korea.  The US, along with Japan and South Korea, have dispatched seven radar equipped destroyers.  The destroyers are the best choice for countering the missile threats.  A good move by the US but one that could drive the North Korean leader to actually launched some type of attack (mortar or artillery strikes) to prove he is serious and not afraid.

Here is what is real question that is going unasked, why now?  North Korea and South Korea seemed to be on the verge of normalizing relations when suddenly ended.  What does North Korea have to gain by potentially escalating things to the point where one side or the other feels compelled to launch a first strike?

China has massed troops on the border with North Korea as I've previously stated.  That would appear to signal that China is not in support of hostilities.  Why then is North Korea escalating?  The only conclusion is there is more being discussed then we are aware of.  Perhaps China or Russia want a destabilized Korean peninsula for some grander strategy and unfortunately, the new North Korean leader is not experience enough to know he is being duped.

The latest report is the missile will be launched tomorrow.  Let's hope that the professor and NY Times are right.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

North Korea

Unfortunately, it seems matters are worse. We have North Korea increasing the rhetoric to the point Chuck Hagel had to say this is becoming a dangerous situation. We have North Korea locking out South Korean workers from a factory. We have South Korea promising to meet in kind any escalation by the North. We have the US flying B-2 bombers as a show of force (as well as pre-positioning destroyers off the coast of North Korea along with THAD missiles). We have China massing troops on the border with North Korea (probably to prevent North Korean refugees from fleeing into China). We have President Obama saying that the US will help South Korea "hold the line", an order of magnitude change from what US policy has been over the last 60 years.

It would appear that we have the perfect storm. Two new leaders on the Korean peninsula trying to each not blink first. We have President Obama worried to death that he can't seem soft yet can't let this escalate into full blown nuclear exchange. If the President messes this up, the Democrats will lose wholesale in the upcoming elections. In Ohio, the formerly unpopular Republican John Kasich is going to run uncontested by any big name Democrat. If this can happen in Ohio, what would an Obama miscue mean for the rest of the nation?

The US has to worry about both the Korean situation and the Middle East. This has effectively crippled the US in being able to focus attention solely on one part of the world. It also means leaders and North Korean, Iran and Syria are more in control than Obama. The President risks losing much whether he acts or not.

What remains unclear is if China benefits from all of the North Korean posturing. Refugees rushing in will not help China achieve economic superpower status.

It is also unclear if the Obama administration will declare all out war (unlikely) or conduct surgical strikes of North Korea's long range missiles. If Obama strikes the missiles, there is no guarantee this won't lead to a full fledged assault on South Korea.


Monday, March 18, 2013


The Chancellor said the financial situation in Cyprus was ‘an example of what happens if you don't show the world that you can pay your way’, adding: ‘We are not part of the bailout.’ Daily Mail

An island of 1.1 million, Cyprus has been a point of contention between Greece and Turkey for decades.  It may now become a flashpoint for the rest of the European Union.

The problem was created when Cyprus went to get bailed out, Germany insisted that the depositors (not the bondholders) pay part of the tab. On Tuesday when the banks open, every depositor will have some or all of their money seized.  According to Business Insider, "Accounts over 100,000 euros will have 9.9% seized. And then the Eurozone's emergency lending facility and the International Monetary Fund will inject 10 billion euros into the banks to allow them to keep operating."

Cypriots tried to run on the ATMs but found them to be shutdown.  This in-turn caused the British military (which maintains a base on the island) to assure their troops and families that they will have cash.  The British are not going to be impressed in this latest financial catastrophe from the EU.

This is where is gets even more interesting, guess who the majority of depositors are?  Greeks?  Turks?  Brits?  No, none of the above. Half of these depositors are said to be Russian oligarchs and other non-residents.  Putin especially has been acquiring vast sums of gold while the world occupies itself with Iran and Syria.  Cypriot banks offered Russia another means of depositing their wealth beyond their borders.

The people of Cyprus are not going to handle this well.  Spain, Italy Ireland and Greece depositors did not lose their money.  Now what if another EU countries even remotely thinks they need a bail out?  Depositors won't wait and will make a run on their banking institutions forcing the banks to go bust.

If this problem reignites the European financial crisis, the EU will have to turn to the United States and the US economy would not be able to handle the strain.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Training for 'all-out war' with the West

A friend called me the other day and asked, "Did you know we are technically at war with North Korea?" He was getting at the cutting of the Red Cross hotline between North and South Korea, as well as the increasing threats Kim Jong Un has been making concluding with the live fire artillery exercise on the border.  However, the US and North Korea have been at war since June 25, 1950 (the beginning of the Korean War).  Wait, some readers may ask, didn't the war end in 1953?  No, a cease fire was agreed to on July27, 1953 but this was not a peace accord, merely a cessation of fighting.  The US and North Korea have been involved in the world's longest stand-off.

The Soviet Union (and now Russia), China and Iran all find it far more advantageous to keep North Korea as a threat to the United States.  As long as North Korea can fire off ballistic missiles or look like it might attack South Korea, the United States can never take its attention completely off of the Korean Peninsula.  This means the US can never fully focus its attention elsewhere (say Syria or Iran).

The posturing going on now is nothing new, typical relations heat up in the spring as the weather thaws on the peninsula leading to assumptions of hostilities beginning in the spring or early summer.  The scenario has been predicted for decades.  What makes this round a little more sinister is the US has never been at war for so long before.  At the same time US forces are stressed, Iran and Syria remain problems that may require military action.  Compounding the problem is a young leader in North Korea (Kim Jong Un) and the first female president in South Korea (Park Geun-hye).  There is no case history to base how these two new leaders will handle conflicts on their border.

North Korea will see the US sequestration as a potential opportunity.  The US military is facing reductions in forces and services due to sequestration.  Ten years of the global war on terror have left US troop battered and tired.  Aircraft and ships are being idled.  Training dollars have been cut which adversely impacts readiness.  If hostilities were ever to re-ignite, now seems an opportune time.

Daily Mail

Monday, March 11, 2013

It has been an interesting week.

Senator Rand Paul filibustered for 13 hours during which time he questioned the Obama Administration policy on drones.  Paul was rewarded for his efforts by having both Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham (both follow Republicans) tell him to basically sit down and shut-up.  McCain's censure was most egregious when you consider his outspoken commendation of the use of torture under the Bush Administration.  How can the potential use of drones against Americans at home be any less concerning?

Secretary of State John Kerry did not wait long to predictably condemn Iran's nuclear weapons program and frame it as a clear and present danger to the United States (even though any weapons Iran is able to develop can't strike the continental US).  In my opinion, Kerry's comments lead North Korean President Kim Jung Un to declare his country would "mercilessly drive American aggressors off of the peninsula" (yes South Korea, this means you too).  The non-aggression pact may become a thing of the past.

Kerry has not been on the job long enough to make much more of an impact.  Syria is tearing itself apart with little to no impact discernible from US and UN efforts to end the violence.  US and NATO casualties in Afghanistan are at an all time high and Al Qaeda is going through a resurgence.

Perhaps this is what has lead Janet Napolitano to have DHS purchase over 1 billion rounds of ammunition of various calibers and now 2,700 Mine Resistant Armored Protection (MRAP) armored vehicles (source:  DHS has also ordered 7,000 5.56x45mm NATO "personal defense weapons" (PDW).  At the same time, DHS released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants recently released by the Homeland Security Department because of budget cuts (source: Star Tribune).

Remember, Department of Homeland Security consists mainly of the US Customs and Border Protection, US Citizenship and Immigration, US Coast Guard, FEMA, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, US Secret Service, TSA, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office.  From this list, I see five or maybe six agencies that are armed.  Out of the five or six on the list that are armed, only the US Coast Guard is a military organization.  The others are strictly law enforcement (the US Coast Guard also has law enforcement powers).

All of the agencies already have budget lines for weapons and ammunition.  The huge stockpile of ammunition by DHS has conspiracy tongues wagging about martial law.  I don't buy that but the huge order is unusual at best unless DHS is anticipating some major insurrections at home.

The acquisition of the MRAPs are much harder to explain.  I can't imagine the streets of say Detroit being mined requiring the use of such vehicles.  Even if some kind of armageddon scenario from the worst 80s movie you could imagine happened, why not just contact your local National Guard or US Army unit and borrow one?  Having 2,700 in your inventory is bizarre and expensive.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Swiss Army knives are allowed

TSA has decided to allow passengers to carry small knives.  The Southwest flight attendants unions feels this is unsafe.  Of course, where was their concern prior to 9/11?  It is ridiculous that these were banned in the first place.  Worse, TSA screeners had to spend time worrying about these items instead of focusing more on behaviors.

Passengers are also no conditioned to be passive to a possible threat the way they were prior to 9/11.  The modern air traveler will not put up with anyone threatening flight crews or fellow passengers.  Terrorists today will also have to worry about air marshals shooting holes in them.  So no, the change in TSA policy isn't going to create more terrorist attacks.  It will make it a little less ridiculous for travelers.

TSA allows knives on planes, flight attendants union calls decision 'dangerous'

Sunday, March 3, 2013


A good friend of mine, who is a self-confessed federalist as well as attorney, would argue that the existence of drones that can spot weapons on people isn't a big deal.  People who aren't doing anything illegal has nothing to worry about.

My problem with this latest development in the domestic use of drones is they are contrary to our most basic legal principle; innocent until proven guilty.  Even though state and federal laws are based on British common law (notable exception being Louisiana which is based on Napoleonic law), the United States differs in that would do not believe a suspect is guilt until proven innocent (as is the case in England).

Drones snooping around in the skies presupposes guilt. The mindset is one that encourages an authoritarian stance by government officials and one of oppression by the public.

I also have a problem with an over reliance on technology that the use of drones encourages.  Drones may be very sophisticated (only to become more so in the future) but they are not omniscient. They cannot tell intent.  They can not determine if it is a single lone gunmen or one of many.  It can only detect.

Spending more money on drones and technology means less will be spent on analyst to interpret what is being observed.  If more drones are operating, they can only be as effective as the number of agents to conduct the arrest procedures.  We are still a few years off (hopefully!) from Robocop, so that means manpower.  What good is it to be able to see that guy in the woods is carrying a weapon if there is no one in the same zip code to arrest him?

Drones are too sexy and contractors stand to make too much money for the clock to be turned back.  We have to keep asking ourselves though what all of this technology means for our quality of life.

DHS built domestic surveillance tech into Predator drones

Friday, March 1, 2013

March the 1st, S-day

Two clips from the AFA Daily Report:

"Sequestration took effect at midnight on March 1, as congressional leaders were unable to broker an 11th-hour deal to prevent it from kicking in. The Pentagon, facing up to the possibility of no deal, has been hoarding cash since mid-January, repeatedly warning that it can't absorb the sequestration cuts without profound effects on the military, especially on readiness. Though war-bound units will have priority, the Air Force will have to lay off or furlough tens of thousands of civilians, and some flying units may be idled for months at a time. Returning those people to proficiency will be a long and difficult process, and in the meantime, the Air Force will indeed be hollow. Sequestration is just part of a "perfect storm" of fiscal crises affecting the service, though, as the never-ending budget continuing resolution and debt ceiling battles also take their toll."

"Air Guard Potentially Grounding Large Fleet Portion: The Air National Guard is facing the likelihood that it will ground or significantly reduce flying hours on a large portion of its fleet by week's end, except for "critical wartime missions," according to the National Guard Bureau. Several sources told the Daily Report that the budget continuing resolution and impending cuts from budget sequestration were about to force the Air Guard to cancel flying hours on all but essential missions if no progress occurred on budget negotiations. Barring any late night deals on Thursday, the sequester kicks in on Friday, March 1. NGB spokeswoman Rose Richeson told the Daily Report that Air Guard funding in the CR, which expires on March 27, "greatly underfunded" flying hours and did not account for the ANG's front-loaded depot maintenance schedule in Fiscal 2013. That's because the CR appropriates at the levels in the President's original Fiscal 2013 defense spending request and does not factor the changes made to that original request in this fiscal year's enacted defense authorization legislation, she said on Feb. 27. The Air Guard has identified cost-saving measures and will operate a reduced number of fully mission-capable and partially mission-capable aircraft "by the end of this week," said Richeson. The most critical missions, such as aerospace control alert, search and rescue, airborne firefighting systems, and pre-deployment activities, will continue to operate, however, she noted."

The impact of the first quote may not be apparent.  Civil servants in the military serve as the continuity that uniformed personnel usually cannot perform.  Uniformed military personnel have to move around for promotion, learn new skills, or help improve unit readiness.  Civilians remain in place and serve as subject matter experts.  Furloughing civilians may have made sense since they do not deploy as part of a warfighting unit.  However, support services and research will be tremendously hampered by these furloughs.  And remember, these furloughs are across the entire federal government (except of course for Congress and the Senate).

The impact of the second quote may even be more arcane.  The Air National Guard is responsible for air defense of the United States.  It was the ANG that scramble F-15 fighters to intercept the airliners on 9-11.  It was the ANG that flew combat air patrols (CAP) over DC and New York.  Reducing flying hours means pilots skills are being compromised.  It means maintenance crews are sitting around idle.  Readiness will be effected and the longer sequestration remains in effect, the longer it will take to get those skills back up to speed.

The myth is that units and personnel being deployed to contingencies won't be effected.  True, those rotations won't be effected but what about the cuts to training that take effect at home station?  Even if the argument is training for deploying troops isn't effected, support and services for those that are not deploying will be cut.  Readiness is still effect.  Why?  If you have not been on an active duty base, many of the functions one would think as being performed by military personnel are actually performed by civilians or contractors.  Furloughs automatically reduce availability of services.

Sequestration will have broad and profound impacts on things we take for granted.  Food inspectors are being furloughed.  This could have the effect of reducing the amount of fresh produce available which will increase the cost at the grocery.  Federal law enforcement will be affected even if sworn personnel aren't cut, their support personnel (technicians, clerical, maintenance) will be subject to furloughs.

The ability for the United States to respond to a national disaster or attack is now greatly compromised.

Thursday, February 28, 2013


Will it happen or won't it?  Sequestration is refers to a procedure whereby the US federal budget has a hard-cap placed on it.  These cuts will, from all accounts, be draconian.  Wright-Patterson will lay off thousands of civil servants.  Postal service will be cut.  Food inspectors will be laid off.  Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera....

I previously posted the US Navy is facing challenges regarding its carrier fleet.  The carrier USS Lincoln is back in port, unable to be refueled.  Others Nimitz class carriers may face a similar fate.  The F-22 has been grounded (again) due to a persistent cough pilots and ground crews are developing. Sequestration may prevent funds from being used to find a solution.  The F-35 continues to need cash injections that sequestration may end.

The military is my field of expertise but of course sequestration is across the entire federal government.  In my new career at the college, this means students may have less financial aid.  Perkins grants may be greatly reduced.

The real question is if sequestration happens (remember the imminent fiscal cliff that was avoided at the last minute?), it doesn't mean that sequestration remains in place forever and a day.  The government will continue to work to come out from under sequestration.  The may reason we are in this mess is the Democrats want healthcare reform and the Republicans don't want to eliminate tax cuts.  Sounds reasonable to me, let's shut down everything then!

As I sit here at my house, the local news has show that North Korea is continuing to escalate its nuclear weapons posture, Syria is still tearing itself apart, and Iran is pressing forward with becoming the next nuclear power on the scene.  All the while, our government becomes less and less relevant to world affairs.  Some might even remark they are becoming less relevant to its constituents.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Park sworn in as S Korea president

"North Korea's recent nuclear test is a challenge to the survival and future of the Korean people, and there should be no mistake that the biggest victim will be none other than North Korea itself." BBC

The new Secretary of State is pushing Iran for similar concessions on their nuclear program.  He now has a kindred soul in South Korea to keep pressure on North Korea.  Interestingly, the United States has never publicly appealed to China to thwart the North Korean nuclear program.

Most interestingly, South Korea was still using horse drawn ploughs about 40 years ago.  Now they have done what the United States still has yet to do; elect its first female president.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Measles and drones

The widespread use of drones is outstripping the public debate.  Policy wonks are creating ludicrous white papers justifying the use of drones whilst the public argues  over gun control, immigration reform and the economy.

Case in point,  Michael Kugelman, a senior Program Associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, has written this surreal explanation for Pakistan's protests against the use of drones;

"In Pakistan, there is much ire over civilian casualties. Reliable figures are highly elusive, though many cite the data of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Early this week, the BIJ was projecting that up to nearly 900 civilians have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan between 2004 and 2013.

That averages out to about 100 per year — a sizable number, and, from a humanitarian perspective, 100 too many.

 Now let’s consider some very different types of statistics. In 2012, measles killed 210 children in Sindh. Karachiites staged numerous anti-drones protests last year, but I don’t recall them holding any rallies to highlight a scourge that was twice as deadly for their province’s kids than drone strikes were for Pakistani civilians."

So it is okay to use remote controlled killing because it results in fewer deaths than measles?  Yes, according to Mr. Kugleman.  He goes on;

"Nor do I recall any mass action centered around unsafe water. More people in Karachi die each month from contaminated water than have been killed by India’s army since 1947. Bad water also takes the lives of 30,000 Karachiities each year. 

 Widen the lens geographically, and you’ll find that more than 130 Pakistanis nationwide perished from measles in January 2013 alone. Or that 630 Pakistani children die from water-borne illness every day (that’s more than three times the total number of Pakistani children the BIJ believes have died from drone strikes since 2004)."

A comparative lack of protests over poor sanitation versus a foreign nation killing your citizens is the worst "apples to oranges"analogy.  What a smug, condescending and dangerous supposition.  We can kill with drones because it results in fewer deaths than measles or dirty water.  Isn't this how Europeans justified that taking of lands from Native Americans?

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone magazine wrote a blistering criticism of Kugelman's article;

"It's been amazing, watching the histrionics and mental gymnastics some people have resorted to in their efforts to defend this infamous drone program. Extralegal murder is not an easy thing to manufacture consent around, and the signs of strain in the press have been pretty clear all around." Rolling Stone

The Obama administration has decided that the expanded use of drones is good and that's that, no arguments will be allowed.  Even if those criticisms come from one of allies in the war on terrorism (Pakistan).  We should be very vigilant that the policies governing the use of drones are not crafted by the likes of Kugelman.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


dik-tat: 1. : a harsh settlement, unilaterally imposed (as on a defeated nation); 2. : decree, order

Two seemingly unrelated events in the past few days gives me reason to dust this term off.  The first was the use of drones to hunt down former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner.  He ended-up in a stand-off with L.A. County deputy sheriffs.  The cabin has was in mysteriously burned to the ground.  Reports are now surfacing that he was killed by a single gunshot to the head.  Diktat.

The other event was the announcement of the Distinguished Warfare Medal (DWM) on Thursday. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said, “This award recognizes the reality of the kind of technological warfare we are engaged in the 21st century.” The Defense Warfare Medal will soon become the fourth highest combat decoration in order of precedence pushing the Bronze Star down a notch to the fifth highest combat decoration.

Combat decorations are just that, awards for those who have served in combat.  For the first time, servicemen and servicewomen can be awarded medals for killing an enemy without ever being on the combat field.  Killing by remote control by "warriors" who get to go home at night.  Diktat.

We are rapidly being conditioned to accept drones as common place without considering the wider implications.  Risking our own bodies in service of our country is what makes troops different.  In comparison to drone operators, look at what it took for SSGT Clinton Romesha to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor.  We both admire his bravery and cringe at the loss of life of his comrades and those enemy combatants he had to kill.   It is brutal, dirty and ugly.

Drone strikes, on the other hand, are "surgical in their approach" being clean, efficient and most of all, anonymous.  Drones can be used anywhere (at let me stress that again, ANYWHERE) and anytime.  President Obama and his future successors will not longer have to face an angry public filled with the family members of the fallen.  He or she will be able to smile and bestow medals on warriors who have never left the country.  More than ever, President Obama and his successors (or for that matter, any high-level administration official) will be able to conduct "warfare" without the public become any wiser.

A report by Michael Isikoff of NBC News, reveals that the Obama administration believes that high-level administration officials -- not just the president -- may order the killing of “senior operational leaders” of al Qaeda or an associated force even without evidence they are actively plotting against the U.S.  “A lawful killing in self-defense is not an assassination,” states the Justice Department white paper quoted by Isikoff.  Diktat.

The same article points out "Attorney General Eric Holder specifically endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans, saying they could be justified if government officials determine the target poses “an imminent threat of violent attack.”  Based on this, I truly felt Dorner was going to become the first test case of Holder's opinion.  The next serial killer or would-be terrorist that high tails it into the woods may be taken out by a drone strike.  Diktat.

The Obama administration has realized something Kennedy/Johnson/Nixon could only have dreamed of during Vietnam; a sanitized way of killing your enemies.  And medals still get to be handed out.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Interesting Case of Christopher Jordan Dorner

The above montage shows Christopher Jordan Dorner, former LAPD and Navy Reservist who has now been charged with capital murder of one and attempted murder of three other LAPD officers.

Dorner, a former LAPD officer, was sacked in 2008 for falsely claiming a colleague kicked a homeless suspect, but a judge who examined the case concluded that he could not be certain whether or not the suspect had been kicked. 

Fresh out of the navy reserves, where he had served in Bahrain and Kuwait, Dorner, a trained marksman, was a rookie police officer on 28 July 2007, when he accompanied a training officer, Teresa Evans, to a reported disturbance at the Doubletree Hotel in San Pedro. 

They encountered a mentally ill homeless man, Christopher Gettler. Evans tasered him after he threw a punch. Gettler was later returned to his father and that seemed to be the end of the incident. Two weeks later, however, according to LAPD records published by the LA Times, Dorner told a superior, Sergeant Donald Deming of the harbour division, that after the tasering, Evans had kicked Gettler in the chest and face, snapping his head back and causing him to bleed. 

 An internal affairs investigation ruled that the kicking did not happen and that Dorner had lied. This led to a disciplinary hearing in 2008. Dorner's attorney, Randal Quan, a former police captain, called the case against his client "very, very ugly" said he "wasn't given a fair shake." Quan said: "In fact, what's happening here is this officer is being made a scapegoat." Dorner said he had not immediately reported the kicks because he had filed other complaints against fellow officers and feared retaliation.  Guardian

Last week, he published his manifesto and went on a shooting spree.  He also mailed a LAPD challenge coin to Anderson Cooper at CNN which Dorner had shot several times with what appears to have been a 5.56mm weapon.

After his shooting spree, he drove off into the mountains and set his SUV on fire.  Authorities have been hunting him on foot and via drones ever since.

The LAPD have been on edge ever since resulting in two officers opening fire on what they thought was his vehicle (even though it was the wrong color and was driven by a grandmother).

Unlike say the shooters at Columbine or Sandy Hook, Dorner has garnered a surprising number of sympathizers.  At least three Facebook pages appeared shortly after the shootings all in support of Dorner (those have since been taken down).  It is this support that has fascinated me and leads me to wonder what else is at work here.

A Navy officer who seems to have served in the Undersea Warfare Unit.  He holds a rifle marksmanship ribbon and an expert pistol medal.  The extent of his training is unclear.  He is not a SEAL based on his uniform yet he would seem to possess more training than a typical Navy officer would possess.  I've read conflicting reports as to when he separated.  Some state 2006 while others say as late as 2013.  I suspect he may have left in 2006 but remained in the Inactive Reserves until this year.

Dorner played football and suffered two concussions, one while playing in high school and one while playing college football.  This is mentioned in his manifesto where is also talks about suffering severe depression.  It may turn out he was on prescription medications which may be responsible for his mental state and desire to commit mass murder.

From all reports, it appears Dorner is highly trained between his Navy and LAPD experience.  He is also very fit having played football and from all of the photos, has maintained a very high level of fitness.  Based on this, I doubt Dorner is hiding out in the woods.  He torched his vehicle to draw attention to that spot and is hiding elsewhere.  He did not spend all of that time writing a manifesto to freeze to death in the mountains.

LAPD is being quick to convict Dorner in the media.  The populace does not seem to be as quick to buy into it.

Dorner also represents a bigger issue yet mostly unspoken issue.  The military spends millions of dollars to train operators like Dorner yet nothing on converting them from highly trained killing machines back into civilians.  We may find Dorner is suffering from both severe depression brought about due to his football injuries and PTSD.  The question becomes what happens to all of these highly trained operators in future years?

The Dorner case also is conditioning the public to be more accepting of drones being used domestically. Both of these are things that we should be as concerned about, perhaps even more than a former cop running amok in the mountains of California.

Read about the life of the SEAL Team Six operator that killed Osama bin Laden.  His story is NOT unique.  The man who shot Osama bin Laden

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Book claims Petraeus was brought down after betrayal by vengeful CIA agents and bodyguard

Bunch of hypocrites, Petraeus wasn't the first (or last) executive to have an affair. He also wasn't the first O-10 (four-star flag officer) to run the CIA. He was the first to run things based on real world experience gained in Afghanistan.

There is something about veterans that worries non-veterans. Veterans bring a different ethos and mindset to the job, something I suspect is at work in the case of former LAPD officer Dorner.

Peteraeus biggest mistakes, besides having an affair, was trusting his bodyguards would be as loyal as his military detail. The powers that be did not like the high profile general (something you can see in the press reports). He needed to be removed and the affair provided the perfect excuse.

Daily Mail

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Navy: Lincoln Refueling Delayed, Will Hurt Carrier Readiness

Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower subcommittee called the delay, “another example of how these reckless and irresponsible defense cuts in Washington will have a long-term impact on the Navy’s ability to perform its missions. Not only will the Lincoln be delayed in returning to the Fleet, but this decision will also affect the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) defueling, the USS George Washington (CVN-73) RCOH, and future carrier readiness.”--Navy

The cascading effect of delaying the refueling of a single carrier will have profound effects on carrier readiness for many years to come.  Our current and future enemies are watching this with interest.  The carrier fleet remains the primary means of the US to project power in a global environment.  If the carriers are unavailable, so to is power projection.  Drones aren't the same thing.  A single missile strike does not (at least not year) strike fear into to the hearts of despots the way a carrier battle group does.

This is a calculated risk that does not bode well for the United States and her allies.  Britain can barely keep its forces funded and global ventures may be out of the question for them in the very near future.  No other country has really stood with the United States and without the British, there really is little other allies would or could bring to the table.

Also of interest to this discussion is now the rumor that Hegel may only have a 50/50 chance of becoming the next Secretary of Defense.  If he does, his testimony has demonstrated he may be one of the least prepared individuals to take over at the Pentagon.  If he does not get confirmed, who then will the Obama administration appoint?  Panetta has already loudly criticized sequestering so it will be unlikely that he would be asked to remain.  No alternates to Hegel have appeared at this time.  The only other vet is Kerry who has already taken the helm at State.  Perhaps McCain but he would bring much of the same baggage that is stalling Hegel's nomination.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Aviation experts say new Iranian stealth jet is a pathetic hoax tht can’t even fly

We should not feel superior, the Boeing Dreamliner presented at its premiere was not much better.  It flew but lacked any interiors or anything but basic avionics.  Now it sits grounded because of the lithium batteries that like to catch fire.  It doesn't mean that the Iranian stealth fighter is fantasy.  Quite the contrary, most countries unveil mock-ups to prevent secret technology from being unveiled.  The reverse happened to the US.  The F-22 flies and is operational but has the unfortunate habit of depriving pilots of oxygen.  It got so bad that pilots started to refuse flying in them.  The oxygen generator has been fixed but it took many months to fix something that should never have been a problem in the first place.
NY Post

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Should we still fear al Qaeda?

The Peter Bergen piece on CNN demonstrates the Western bias towards the Muslim world.  Somehow we have to think of al Qaeda as a group that wants to directly attack the United States.  Bergen does not consider how the US has been drawn out and forced to spends billions of dollars and lose thousands of lives on both sides.  The US policy has to adopt to the lack of public support for sending more troops into harms way.  There is victory when you force a superpower to start doing things on the cheap.

The drone campaign Bergen fawns over is the exact reason why we continue to have pop up skirmishes.  You push a button, you take out a terrorist.  The problem is the world isn't that simple.  The drone may take out the individual but not the motivation.

Bergen also thinks that the quiet validates the success of the Obama administration when it may simply mean tactics have changed.  I also disagree about his assessment of Mali and Syria.  Yes, they don't act like al Qaeda in Pakistan but are their goals the same?  What if the goal is to keep the Arab spring alive for reasons other than attacking the United States?

Should we still fear al Qaeda?

Iran: President Ahmadinejad unveils new fighter jet

First China and now Iran has announced a new fighter jet.  A separate story on Business Insider shows a jet that is a combination of the F-22 and F-35.  Analysts have questioned the lack of wiring and extremely small air intakes.  It seems this prototype to be more mock-up than actually production model.

Yes, I'm sure the F-35 can more than handle Qaher 313 but that's not really the point of this aircraft.  Iran has relied on others (including the United States) for its fighter technology.  The 34th anniversary of the Tehran Embassy Crisis is only 10 days away.  Ahmadinejad is invoking the past to legitimize the future of Iran.  Tehran stood up to Washington once before and it was Carter who blinked.

The Obama administration is heavily influenced by by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who will go to his grave believing nothing is more threatening than a nuclear Iran.  Translated, Kissinger is the most pro-Israel former Secretary of State the United States has ever known.  His views were shaped by his experience during WWII (a German born Jew who served in the United States Army) and he did not enjoy the same level of success with Nixon regarding Israel as he did with China and the Soviet Union.  Kissinger would find much more success in first with President Clinton and then later Secretary Clinton.

It is Kissinger who has convinced Hillary Clinton to use a heavy hand when dealing with Tehran.  Israel's relationship has not cooled fears in Tehran that Tel Aviv would not hesitate to launch a pre-emptive strike. Iran not being an Arab country sees itself as being only able to rely on itself for protection.

The Qaher 313 is more bluff than reality.  Iran does not want to be seen as overly relying on Russia for its defense.  It also sees the Obama administration as tiring of the war in Afghanistan and unwilling (thus far) to commit troops to the Syrian crisis.  The Obama administration is facing several domestic challenges with the true cost of Obama Care causing unions to start questioning their support and firearms legislation causing more divisions.  The issue of more vets demonstrating PTSD is slowly becoming a major topic and reason against deploying more ground troops.  In part this is why the President has started talking about using a "surgical approach" in dealing with future crisis.

Iran is going to continue its high stake poker.  The United States is going to have to somehow quell the fears of Kissinger and Israel yet not get drawn into any more conflicts.

Jerusalem Post