Monday, June 30, 2014

The Islamic State or Caliphate

The Bush administration deservedly takes the blame for starting the war in Iraq.  The Obama administration wants to be credited with ending it and the US role as the world's police force.  What gets obsfucated in the political discourse about events in Iraq today is that Bush pushed for (and received) approval for the 2007 "surge" which stabilized events in Iraq.  The Obama campaign leveraged this stability to run on a platform of pulling the troops out of Iraq.

Circumstances were so improved that Vice President Joe Biden (another “surge” opponent) crowed in February 2010 that a stable, democratic Iraq was going to be “one of the great achievements of this administration.” In December 2011 President Obama doubled-down on that sentiment, praising America’s “extraordinary achievement” in helping create “a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq.”--The Daily Beast

Keep in mind that the US kept thousands of troops stationed in post-war Germany and Japan to help re-establish the infrastructure.   Neither Obama nor Bush developed a Marshall Plan for Iraq.  Even a residual troop presence would have given ISIS cause for delaying any aggressive action.  As this now becomes more apparent, the White House is once again forced into damage-control.

Well, Obama is now insisting that he actually wanted to leave behind a residual force, but Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said no. When asked by a reporter last week if he had regrets about the troop withdrawal, he said, “Keep in mind that wasn’t a decision made by me. That was a decision made by the Iraqi government.”--The Daily Beast

Even though Maliki wanted to keep a residual troop presence after 2011 (when the status of forces agreement or SOFA expired).  Political posturing caused this to fall apart when;

political aides in the White House, worried about Obama’s 2012 re-election bid, pushed back hard against Pentagon requests for roughly 15,000 residual troops, eventually convincing Obama to approve only 3,500.--The Daily Beast

Maliki and Washington were unable to come to terms so they both walked away.  For some reason, the Obama administration chose political expediency (Hey look, we pulled the troops out!) rather than long-term success for Iraq.  Is it any wonder than that this happened?

ISIS has formally declared the establishment of a caliphate, or Islamic state, in the vast stretches of the Middle East that have fallen under its control, and has outlined a vision to expand into Europe.--The Daily Mail

Yes, this is the very same group that back in January was dismissed President Obama as "junior varsity basketball players".  He went on to give his full analysis;

“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,”……. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.”--The Blaze

ISIS has not proven to be a junior variety team, if anything the Iraqi military seems to be the junior varsity team going up against the NBA.  Pundits that are on Team Obama are trying to downplay matters and want to pretend like ISIS has no staying power and that things will work out.  Perhaps but those hopes don't seem to be why ISIS has now changed its name to the "Islamic State".  For a group that pundits have predicting will die down once Maliki is out of office, the goals of the Islamic State seem a little bit bigger.

Source: Daily Mail

The map is a textbook description of Pan-Islamism, unifying Muslims under one state (caliphate).  The map is not as far-fetched as Washington hopes.  Maghred is the Arab word for "Berber World" or what Europeans called the Barbary States.  Khruasan is the pre-Islamic name for Persia (Iran).  Anathol is from the Greek and refers to Asia Minor (modern Turkey).  Sham is the Levant region of Syria.  Hijaz means "barrier region" but unlike the map, it usually is the western coast of Saudi Arabi.  I could not find a translation for Qoqzaz but is used often by the Muslims in Chechnya.  Al-Andalus is Arabic for the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal).  Habasha (Habesha) are also known as the Abyssinians (the people of the Horn of Africa including Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia).

The map uses the ancient Arabic names and not the modern European names to give credence to their movement and to tell Europe and the United States what they plan to do in no uncertain terms.  Kurdistan receives their own land so they will have no interest in supporting Kerry's request that they shore up the struggling government in Iraq.  Obama's reticence of getting involved may leave a legacy now that he never anticipated, the creating of a Caliphate.  

How likely this will occur remains to be seen.  It is a big step to go from ousting Maliki to the creation of a caliphate.  However, the roots for this were sewn back in the Arab Spring which in turn was spurred by European colonization of North Africa and the Middle East (and the subsequent push for independence that often saw pro-Western leaders put in power).  

The United States and Europe are only concerned about oil.  If the Islamic State does not interrupt the flow of oil, this map could happen.  The only resistance would be the creation of "Qoqzaz" which I doubt Russia would accept without a huge war.

Bush was known for saying stupid things.  Let the record reflect that Obama is no junior-varsity player either when it comes to saying stupid things.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend, or so we hope!

Let's begin with a little symbolism for Thursday.

First, we have now all heard of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS, a Sunni Islamist group bent on overthrowing the Shiate led government of Maliki in Baghdad.  At first, it looks like any other half-assed attempt at making a catchy acronym.  However, if we look at "Isis" we learn something more.

Isis- the Egyptian goddess whose name means "seat" or "throne"firmly points to her association with sovereignty (from "The Ancient Gods Speak; A guide to Egyptian religion" by Donald A. Redford).

It appears then the the group "ISIS" coined an acronym that harkens back to ancient times to tell the adepts that they are regaining sovereignty for the Sunnis.

What do you do about a bunch of pissed-off Syrians and Iraqis then that are envying ancient deities in their cause?  If you are the current White House, you look towards cozying-up to the Persians (Iran);

With options limited, the combination of crisis and mutual interest might make possible what many foreign policy experts once thought unthinkable: that the U.S. and Iran, archenemies since the taking of 50 hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979, become partners, frenemies for the sake of Iraq.

“It may be an unholy alliance to some folks but countries don’t have allies, they have interests,” said retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, a senior adviser at the National Security Network, a liberal research center. “And in this case, Iran is a natural ally of the U.S. They want a stable country around them, and that’s what we want. From a purely realpolitik, Kissinger view of the world, we may have some strange bedfellows here.”--McClatchy DC

Obama, Kerry, Hagel and Rice are about to make the same mistake that Reagan, George H. Bush, George Schhultz and Caspar Weinberger did 30 years ago.  The former group is so worried about "radical terrorism" taking over Iraq that they are willing to pretend that Iran has the same interest.  The latter group of the Reagan administration thought that the mujahideen of Afghanistan hatred of the Soviets made them friends with the US.  For those that may not know, a prominent member of the mujahideen in the 1980s was a fellow named Osama bin Laden.  (The mujahideen became the Taliban and al-Qaeda of today.)

Obama and Kerry along with former Secretary of State Clinton have done everything in the power to bring sanctions and condemnation of Iran for pursuing a nuclear weapons program.  Of course they are just the most recent occupants of the White House to have jingoistic approach to Iran.  The US and UK favored the regime of Shah Pahlavi which led to the Tehran Embassy crisis.  Carter lost his re-election mainly because of the crisis (or you could say Reagan won because of it).  Since the Carter administration, Iran went from being an ally (quick, what air force still flies F-14 Tomcats?) to an enemy.

The Reagan administration supported a little known despot at the time named Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran.  This included the use of chemical weapons against the Revolutionary Guards when things got ugly for Saddam.  In only the manner in which Westerners can do, the White House has rewritten their view of this events to mean that Iran has an interest in helping them stabilize Iraq.

Iranians are Persians and I can't stress that enough.  The First Persian Empire dates back to 550 BC.  This is ancient and proud culture that hasn't survived this long by being duped by upstarts.  Tehran is not going to fall for the White House suddenly being nice.  The Iranians will capitalize on any support they offer and the US won't even see it coming.

Meanwhile, the troop drawdown in Afghanistan is having similar results as in Iraq;

Afghan government officials said Wednesday that at least 35 civilians, 40 government troops and more than 100 Taliban attackers had been killed since the offensive began Sunday in Helmand province's Sangin district. Fighting has since spread to four other districts along the restive border, driving more than 2,000 families from their homes, Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi reported.--L.A. Times

First Afghanistan and then Iraq, the US track record in not compelling and I truly doubt Iran will enter into any kind of agreement without some serious concessions on the part of the US.  That or the US will end-up creating another version of al-Qaed in Iran.

Interestingly, Afghanistan could have been the exception to the rule.  A little know story has come out about a US soldier in Afghanistan, MAJ Jim Grant.  MAJ Grant was a Green Beret who used his skills and training in unconventional warfare to live amongst the Pushtan tribes to "win their hearts and minds".  He was so successful, he was dubbed "Lawrence of Afghanistan" and perhaps more than anyone else really understood what it was going to take to actually win over the people of Afghanistan.

All special forces are taught to think outside the box, known more so than Green Berets who combine the training of special forces with the knowledge of sociology, psychology and political science.  They are adept at becoming part of the culture.  Grant excelled at this and was eerily similar to the Colonel Walter Kurtz character in "Apocalypse Now".  Like Kurtz, his success was threatening to some.  In 2012, he was airlifted out of Afghanistan forced to shave off his bear and returned to Ft Bragg.  There he was stripped of his Green Beret status and reduced in rank to captain (Note, Grant appears to have been prior enlisted.  Normally prior-enlisted officers are busted back to enlisted for grievous offenses.  Busting a field grade officer back to company grade is almost unheard of).

What did Grant do to warrant this treatment?  While in Afghanistan, Grant was married.  He met and fell in love with former Washington Post report Anne Tyson (who was also married at the time).  They both fell in love and she ended living with Grant in Afghanistan clandestinely.  She became as successful as Grant at winning over the trust of the Pushtan women and children.

Grant having an affair with Tyson was a violation of the UCMJ, conduct unbecoming an officer.  Grant is not the first, not the last, officer to have an affair.  The military in general has come under intense scrutiny for the high number of sexual assaults that have occurred with commanders often reducing the charges or dismissing them altogether.  But Grant didn't assault or rape Tyson but his actions were inappropriate.  However, the Army seems to have really overreacted as well.

Grant was taught to think outside the box from day one and how to live amongst the indigenous people and become one of them.  He did that beyond all expectations.  That he had an affair with a married woman should not be ignored but to have stripped of all of his status and to call him a "disgrace" is hypocritical at best.  Gen David Petraeus did the same thing but no one stripped him of his status nor called him a disgrace.  Today he suffers from PTSD and his mental state is fragile after the events left him addicted to alcohol and prescription drugs.  Why was someone who was doing exactly what he was told to do treated so harshly?

I have a hunch that the success and status that Grant had achieved was a threat to some senior officers.  Or perhaps the fact Grant was winning a war without the use of high tech weapons and contractors was a threat to defense contractors.  Either way, to be summarily pulled out of a special operations like this and to by dealt with so summarily smacks of a hidden agenda.  Read more about MAJ Grant here.

Iran sees how we treat our own soldiers, they won't be duped into thinking they can trust the US.

Read more here:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Does John Kerry not see the parallels between Vietnam and Iraq?

Lieutenant John Kerry (USN) awards; Silver Star, Bronze Star (with Valor device), Purple Hearts (three oak leaf clusters), Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation (for heroism),  Navy Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal (two oak leaf clusters), Republic of Vietnam Unit Citation Gallantry Cross Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation Civil Action Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal.  We will ignore the fact he chose to wear his medals on his fatigue uniform when he testified as part of the Vietnam Vets Against the War.

Unlike others, I'm not here to challenge his record.  There is no denying that he served his country with distinction in Vietnam.  Vietnam was an ugly war with the Vietnamese people suffering horrible atrocities and the US troops that survived being damaged by those same atrocities only to return home to an American public too ashamed of them to offer the vets anything other the ridicule and condemnation.

If you asked most people today, they think the Vietnam war started in 1968 (the year the peace negotiated by the Pope was shattered by the NVA attacking the 25th Infantry Regiment).  If they happen to be a little older they might say 1965 (when combat units were first deployed in response to the Gulf of Tonkin incident).  Actually the US involvement in Vietnam goes back to the early 1950s, when advisors were first sent in to assist the French and South Vietnamese in preventing the spread of Communism.  The Second Indochina War (what we call the Vietnam War) actually started on Nov 1, 1955.  The US presence went from a few hundred advisors, tripled in 1961 and then again in 1962.  It explains how there was such a huge military presence prior to the events of the Gulf of Tonkin and the incident could incite a huge military response.

Events in Vietnam eerily parallel events in Iraq today.  A weak government (Iraq) is seen as a puppet of the United States (the same way the South Vietnamese government was viewed).  A group from the North (Syrian backed Sunnis) oppose the weak government that has sought to marginalize them.  In retaliation, the United States labels the opposition as a "threat" (Communism being replaced by radical Islamists) and sends in military advisors (Green Berets, the same troops used in Vietnam) to shore up the weak government leader.  The parallels are almost too similar.

John Kerry served in Vietnam from 1969-1970.  What seems like ancient history to most today was current events for him.  He, as the Secretary of State, more than anyone else in the White House (including the goof of a SecDef) should recognize the opening act to this play.  Instead, we get this in today's New York Times;

Winding up a day of crisis talks with Iraqi leaders, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday that the Sunni militants seizing territory in Iraq had become such a threat that the United States might not wait for Iraqi politicians to form a new government before taking military action.

“They do pose a threat,” Mr. Kerry said, referring to the fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. “They cannot be given safe haven anywhere.”

“That’s why, again, I reiterate the president will not be hampered if he deems it necessary if the formation is not complete,” he added, referring to the Iraqi efforts to establish a new multisectarian government that bridges the deep divisions among the majority Shiites and minority Sunnis, Kurds and other smaller groups.

This is after Obama assured everyone that "no combat troops" would be sent into Iraq after he announced the deployment of the 300 advisors (which were in addition to the 300 Marine FAST team).

Just like France did in Indochina, the US has broke the political and military system that was in place and worked (forget about Saddam, look at Baghdad before 2003 and now).  Now the US has backed the wrong man (Maliki) and Kerry is the latest (after Colin Powell, Condolezza Rice and Hillary Clinton) to try to put a band aid on a sucking chest wound.  Colin Powell at least recognized the risks if we invaded Iraq.  Kerry should know better than most that whenever you send in advisors, you risk escalation.

Iraq has already granted the US advisors limited immunity from prosecution.  WTF?  If you don't see where this heading then you've not been reading your history.  If you don't recognize how "radical Islam" has replaced "Communism", then you haven't read enough about McCarthyism and Black Lists.  

Kerry also shows he doesn't understand Iraq when he turned to Barzani and asked for the Kurds to assist in keeping the Iraqi government in power.  Are you kidding?  The Kurds have no love for Maliki and see this as the best opportunity to seek and independent Kurdish state.

So Lieutenant John Kerry, USN, I salute your service.  Now please use that experience to keep our troops the hell out of another Vietnam.

Monday, June 23, 2014

What's next for the White House?

Talking over world events with a friend the other night, it seems we are at some tipping point.  Nothing has thus far started a major conflict, everything seems to be contained to a region.  Some theorizes that this may be the new "normal" for wars, keeping things regionalized which keep costs down.

The theory doesn't allow for the acquisition of new territory which in the end is why most wars are fought.  The Sunnis for example feel they have been left out by Maliki and have thus resorted to war.  Putin felt Russia had receded far enough and annexed Crimea.  China and Japan are rehashing old claims to islands from nearly a century ago.  Japanese and Chinese aircraft are nearly bumping into each other over disputed airspace.  Russian fighters have overflown American warships in the Black Sea at extremely low altitudes.

In the 21st Century, the acquisition of territory is almost always about safety.  In modern times safety equates to access to cheap energy (oil).  The White House isn't worried about the American public tiring of war, the war is often the last thing on the minds of people (unless they themselves or their loved ones are serving).  The White House IS worried about the price of gasoline sky-rocketing as a result of a major conflict in the Middle East.  Rising gas prices would not help the Democrats in mid-term elections and would damage Hillary's chances at getting elected.

Gas prices effect not only how much you pay at the pump but how much consumer goods cost at the store.  Soaring gas prices, or worse a gas embargo, would also cripple the US military.  The jet fuel it takes to fly all of those sorties still comes from the oil pumped out of the ground in the Middle East.  About 10 years ago, the USAF successfully tested a synthetic jet fuel made from shale.  The continental US sits atop huge reserves of shale so if the technology has matured enough, the synthetic jet fuel could keep the F-35s turning and burning without regard to OPEC.  The question is does the process the USAF came with have enough capacity for all of the branches of the service?

The Navy went on better.  They have unveiled a technology for turning seawater into fuel at a cost of $3-$6 a barrel.  The article can be found here.  The process has the benefit of reducing CO2 levels in the ocean and it would eliminate the demand for oil from the Middle East.  Good news, right?  Well except for one thing, the timing of this means the Navy is a position to wait out any conflicts in the Middle East and still be able to run its non-nuclear ships.

Now let's follow that a step further.  The Air Force is rapidly follow out of favor with drones the have a bad habit of falling on innocent bystanders, nuclear launch officers who cheat, sexual assault scandals, and state of the art fighters that spend more time in hangars than in the air.  The Army takes too long to get anywhere and needs too much stuff to win.

The Navy is self-sufficient with ships and airplanes.  The Navy doesn't need expensive overseas bases to operate from.  Their nuclear forces are being benchmarked by the USAF to try to improve the readiness of Global Strike Command airmen.  Navy ships also carry Marines that can land on the shores and take-over stuff if needed.  Now with the ability to run everything on seawater, the Navy may have come back to forefront and give the White House an option to use to wage war.

But even this White House can't just wage war without some type of impetus.  Syria failed to provide enough justification for Obama, even after the use of chemical weapons.  Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons made great sound bytes but provided Obama with even less of a reason to go to war.

Iraq was supposed to be his victory lap in having pulled all the troops out but Washington's trust in Maliki blinded them to his actions.  Maliki marginalized and oppressed the Sunnis and Kurds.  Further complicating matters was the US decision to completely disassemble the Iraqi military and build anew.  The Iraqi military of Saddam Hussein had seen battle many times.  The Iraqi military of Maliki is completely new and is having to operate without their US mentors for the first time.  The results have not been impressive;

After tens of thousands of desertions, the Iraqi military is reeling from what one U.S. official described as “psychological collapse” in the face of the offensive from militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).--The Washington Post

The Sunnis have the Shiites on the ropes.  Contrary to the naysayers, the Sunnis are a bigger threat for they are the majority through Middle East.  The British intelligence agencies are quite concerned that Sunnis in the UK might be inspired towards terrorist attacks since the UK and US did nothing to help them in their fight against Maliki.

It's a stretch but this may be where the White House finds its reason to go to war.  A British 9/11 could give Obama the reason he lacks to go back into Iraq or finally attack Syria.  Of course the Sunnis most likely have operatives here in the US as well and another major attack on US soil could inspire the White House.

I never like the obvious, I think the reason for the US to go to war has yet to come out.  Perhaps Japan and China finally get tired of playing chicken and finally launch forces.  Perhaps North Korea fires a missile at Japan.  I don't think this White House will launch any kind of military action to protect the Southwest border although the continued flood of illegal immigrants here poses the most immediate threat (and where is DHS in all of this?).

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Delta Force, nuclear forces, and SEALs

Something does ring correct about the recent Delta Force mission to capture Benghazi mastermind abu Khatallah;

The Obama administration has come under withering criticism because the whereabouts of abu Khatallah have been generally known. Journalists in Libya were able to interview him, critics asked, so why couldn’t American special operators track him down, too?

But other U.S. officials, who spoke to The Daily Beast anonymously because they were not authorized to talk to the press, said the mission to grab abu Khatallah had been planned for more than a year. Indeed, the Benghazi ringleader had been in the sights of Delta Force operators at the end of August, according to these sources, but no order was given at the time. A senior administration official told The Daily Beast that the delay in apprehending the suspect was due in part to requests from the Justice Department to gather appropriate evidence to prosecute him in criminal court. --The Daily Beast

Unlike the way missions are portrayed in the movies, special ops missions are well planned out and yes, I believe Delta Force had abu Kallah in their sites for months.  What I don't buy is the timing of when the "green light" was given to capture Khatallah despite quotes to the contrary in the same article:

While Benghazi has been an issue that has bitterly divided Democrats and Republicans since the attacks in 2012, none of the officials who spoke to The Daily Beast suspected the timing of the mission this week was political. “This is a great win,” the contractor said. “These kinds of things take a long time, you can’t put this on politics.”--The Daily Beast

Too many things have been going wrong for the White House lately.  Syria, Crimea, and Iraq have not worked out well for the administration.  The negotiated release of Bowe Bergdahl has basically backfired for the White House.  It needed a win to take some of the heat off of it.  

Up until the release of the five prisoners from GITMO, the Obama administration killed terrorists.  The change to apprehending and arresting is extremely suspect. Remember, this is the same Department of Justice and Attorney General that gave us Operation Fast and Furious.  This the same administration that had the NSA wiretap the New York Times.  

President Obama has ruled out air strikes for now in Iraq.  Not surprising as the situation in Iraq really isn't the thing for air strikes to solve.  The best hope for the White House is their enemy, Iran.  Unfortunately, the current occupants of the White House have not shown the ability to see what's coming.  If Iran is successful in helping Maliki stay off a Sunni takeover, it will in effect marginalize the Sunnis even further in the future and Iran will have in effect taken over Iraq.  The White House will be on the sidelines trying to explain this away.

The events in Iraq and with the capture of Khatallah are playing out just in time for Hillary Clinton's anticipated run for President in 2016.  First Monica Lewinsky came back on the stage and then Hillary's book is not doing well.  One would imagine this means Hillary won't run but don't be so sure.  She has thus far avoided any entanglements from Benghazi and if Khatallah is put on trial, she most likely will take credit for his capture and/or conviction.  I'm not prepared to count her out of running much less winning in 2016.

There's part of me that wants to believe we are avoiding World War III by containing most conflicts to local regions.  But then if that is the case, and the evidence strongly suggests that it is, why then does our nuclear forces continue to make headlines?

"The United States is falling behind potential adversaries, such as Russia and China, in modernizing its nuclear deterrent, and the bills for that modernization are coming due at the worst possible time," said Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, strategic deterrence chief on the Air Staff. "Almost everybody else is modernizing, certainly at a pace beyond ours," he said during a Capitol Hill speech on June 17 sponsored by AFA, the Reserve Officers Association, and National Defense Industrial Association. "Part of the problem is a lot of these things should have been taken care of 25 years ago. We took a procurement holiday when it comes to strategic nuclear modernization" while our rivals have, in many cases, kept a steady pace since the end of the Cold War, he said. Now, with budget sequestration in force, and money becoming scarcer, the United States is saddled with having to upgrade or replace everything from ICBMs, bombers, and submarines, to warheads, cruise missiles, and command and control infrastructure at once, said Harencak. "It's just a fact," he said. Air Force Association Daily Newsletter

The United States relied on nuclear weapons to end the war with Japan and keep the Soviet Union at bay during the Cold War.  Nuclear weapons have never been part of the Counter-Insurgency (COIN) doctrine.  It is worrisome that this administration keeps focusing on the readiness of our nuclear forces, specifically those employed by the USAF.  The old Strategic Air Command (SAC) lead the way in the USAF for readiness and adherence to regulations (often the SAC supplements to USAF regulations were better and more comprehensive).  But the end of the Cold War and Gen Merril McPeak combined to destroy that benchmark.  Perhaps the readiness of nuclear forces had been diminishing all along but it seems the Obama administration is more concerned of late.  The new emphasis on nuclear readiness just seems too coincidental with increased tensions with Russia.

I started with Delta Force let me finish today with another special ops group, the Navy Seals.  The Navy has their own version of the Gadsden Flag, known as the First Navy Jack.

Navy personnel closely associate the logo with the global war on terrorism because then-Navy Secretary Gordon England authorized it on May 31, 2002, as the official jack, or maritime flag, for the Navy for the duration of the global war on terrorism. The entire Navy began flying the Navy Jack on Sept. 11, 2002, the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. It has been widely worn on the left shoulder by sailors deployed in war zones since then, including SEALs.

The Gadsden Flag has become associated with right-wing political movements such as the Tea Party.  More recently, thanks to the husband and wife psychopaths out in Las Vegas, the federal government will become associated with anti-government movements.  All of the reasons have caused some SEAL commanders no to wear the patch.  Special operators are notorious for not following the customs of other units and telling a SEAL in theater not to wear this patch is just asking for the opposite to happen.

The Navy has disavowed any knowledge of such a ban and the US Navy Special Warfare Contracting office has announced its intent to buy more patches.  I guess I won't have to remove the Gadsden flag from my range bag anytime soon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

LTG Honore

I found the following on LTG Honore's page, great situational update.


This map shows why things are so volatile right now in Southwest Asia.  Syria has had a civil war waging for over a year.  Shiite supporters from Syria have been supplying Iraqi insurgents since the beginning of the invasion in 2003.  Syrian refuges have been pouring into Turkey.  Turkish and Syrian forces have been clashing on the border for almost as long as the civil war has been going.  

The uprising in Iraq has created a strange cooperation between the US and Iran.  Iran and Iraq went to war in the 1980s when Saddam Hussein feared the Iraqi Shia minority would be inspired by the 1979 Iranian Revolution.  Now roles are reversed and Iran is interested in not having the violence of Syria and Iraq spill over to their republic.  The US fears is violence erupts in Iran, any nuclear technology could fall into terrorist hands.

The US is culpable in all of this.  As I wrote previously, the invasion destroyed the infrastructure for any kind of leadership.  Placing bets that Prime Minister Maliki would be the one to keep the peace was a mistake.  His tendency towards oppressive violence was known as far back as 2008.  Once the troops came out in 2011, it was inevitable that Iraq would erupt into violence.

Now the White House is trying to work with Iran to keep things in check.  If things work out, it will make Tehran seem much less like the "axis of evil" and the White House like a bunch xenophobic hypocrites.  On one hand, the President has spent most of his tenure demonizing Iran for its pursuit of nuclear weapons.  Now he has to turn to Iran under his "multilateral partnerships" to fix a problem the US created.

The US direct response was to send in a Marine "FAST" (fleet anti-terrorism security team) to protect US embassy personnel.  In an ironic twist, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel sent the USS George H.W. Bush to the Persian Gulf.  The carrier will give the White House more options to strike but there arises the big question, strike who?  There is no single person or group of people to target to stop the insurgency.  Worse such strikes would most likely exacerbate matters.

Now with the US attention once again distracted, what of Ukraine? Or even our own border with Mexico?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Prelude to war?

Air Force leaders eliminated approximately 4,000 Airmen from eligibility for the upcoming boards at Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James’s direction to bolster manning for nuclear-related air force specialty codes and to account for budgetary uncertainty regarding proposed force structure changes.--US Air Force

This isn't Stop-Loss (an action to prevent airmen from leaving who have already started the process to separate).  This is something wholly different and seems to be in keeping the nuclear forces ready.  Given the current state of relations with Russia, keeping nuclear forces at a certain level is either to keep  Russia from further aggression or a prelude to the US attacking.  The US may not have no intention of using a nuclear weapon but if US nuclear forces are drawn to thin, Russia, China or North Korea may feel they can launch a nuclear weapon in retaliation.  U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush to the Persian Gulf on Saturday to “protect” American lives and interests during terror flare-ups in several Iraqi towns.


The situation in Iraq is a reminder of how much the media needs headlines.  "Radical Islamists", "Islamist militants", "militants led by the ISIS", "ISIS backed militants", etc. etc. etc. are the terms being thrown about by writers on both sides on the pond and across all political spectrums.  When in doubt, link the ISIS to al-Qaeda and you have a ready made headline.  The problem is nothing going in Iraq is really all that new.  Iraq's modern borders dated back to 1920 and the Treaty of Sevres, which encompassed a Shia majority with a Sunni minority population in the Southeast and a Kurdish minority population in the Northeast.

Saddam Hussein's brutality wasn't just the resulted of his own psychosis, it was in part due to keeping some semblance of order between the three different groups.  Colin Powell new this and worried that if the US invaded Iraq, it would be stuck with trying to keep all three groups at peace.  He famously warned then President Bush, 'You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people,' he told the president. 'You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You'll own it all.'  Neither Bush nor Obama heeded that advice.

Why do I include President Obama?  Because he also failed to realize the situation in Iraq for what it truly is, three different groups seeking their own independent states but locked into a country than none really control.  The US post-war presence served as a bit of a buffer but the continued outbreaks of violence forced Obama to pull the troops out.  He made two mistakes in doing this.  First, he ignored Colin Powell's warning.  Whether Obama agreed with Bush or not, the US had broken Iraq and now owned it.  Pulling the troops out was reneging on our debt for invading in the first place.  The second mistake Obama made was announcing a firm timeline for the troops leaving.

Think about being in a boxing match.  You announce that in the next 5 seconds, no matter what, you are going to throw a right cross.  You opponent would have more than enough time to come up with dozens of counters to your pre-announced right cross.  Obama has done the same thing.  The "militants" have had years to plan their move. Blair was right in his criticism of Obama's handling of Iraq but don't agree with his assessment that military action in Syria would have prevented the ISIS from seizing power.  

(Obama is making the same mistake in Afghanistan, announcing a timeline for troop drawdowns years in advance.  The Taliban and al-Qaeda are drawing up all sorts of plans for those final days.)

Realizing this mistake (maybe), Obama quickly went on the defense to announce no troops would be sent in even though the Iraqi government was pleading for US assistance.  Now taking a page from the Clinton administration, both the White House and the UN have decided that drone strikes will help.

Unfortunately, the ISIS is conducting ground warfare which means once the have move into an area they occupy it.  Even with drones, you still need to force then out and then occupy their former areas with your own troops.  The Iraqi military has thus far proved unable to handle this assignment so the drone strikes are not going to be anything more than headlines for a few days.  Worse, if memory serves, drone strikes have not been all that popular in Pakistan.  The Taliban and been condemning drone strikes for years and since they are linked to al-Qaeda it appears the ISIS will also follow suite.

Perhaps this is why so many are now bemoaning the inevitable next strike of al-Qaeda against the United States.  Odd that this potential threat is getting more air time and concern from pundits than the masses of bodies making their way through the Mexican border, at least some of whom are part of the drug cartels.  The US evacuated most their personnel from the embassy in Baghdad.  I wonder if FEMA will be called on to evacuate US citizens from the border region?

Bush broke Iraq and Obama did nothing to fix it.  Now the US is running away from it like a kid that has just hit a baseball through a neighbor's window.  What is not being discussed is how our lack of action in Iraq will hobble future US foreign policy initiatives.

And less we forget about the Ukraine;

Ukraine says Russia has cut off all gas supplies to Kiev, in a major escalation of a dispute between the two nations.

"Gas supplies to Ukraine have been reduced to zero," Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuri Prodan said.

Russia's state-owned gas giant Gazprom said Ukraine had to pay upfront for its gas supplies, after Kiev failed to settle its huge debt.--BBC News

Putin has always had more than the military card to play in the Ukraine.  Economic sanctions have their greatest impact in the long-term.  Short-term, Putin is going to be able to bend Ukraine to his vision before any sanctions force he to adopt a new strategy.

Obama, Kerry, Hagel and Susan Rice are being outmaneuvered in each situation.  Obama's amnesty program has created a sucking chest wound on the Mexican border.  Yet the administration thinks it can contain China.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Symbols and connections

Branding, narratives and symbols have been on my mind a lot these days.  Not so much for the "hidden secrets" that many on the fringe want to find in them but rather our own involuntary responses to them. We look for meaning in symbols and try to come up with narratives for them.  Sometimes these narratives are quite accurate such as gang symbols indicating the presence of a gang.  Or it may be something even larger such as Putin's "protecting Russian speaking people" to give meaning to actions.  Other times, we overreach for a meaning to those symbols and draw faulty conclusions.  Case in point, the two cosplay psychopaths from last weeks shooting out in Las Vegas.

A killer clown (after all, that's who The Joker really is) and his female accomplice (Harley Quinn).  The Joker and Harley Quinn are both super villains from the world of Batman.  Both characters are homicidal psychopaths as are their real life counterparts, Jered and Amanda Miller.  The Millers killed two police officers and one bystander last Sunday.  Before events Iraq had seized the headlines, the story of the two killers added a certain narrative to another gruesome crime.  Two teen-age girls repeatedly stabbed their 12 year old friend in an attempt to invoke "The Slender Man".  Bizarre crimes that took pop culture as their nexus to identify themselves with something larger than themselves and to rationalize the hate and blood lust they used in committing their crimes.

But it is easy to start seeing connections and patterns in randomness.  How many people read comics and even go so far as to dress up as their favorite character and yet commit no greater crime than poor fashion choices?  How many people read Creepy Pasta and end up doing nothing more than giving themselves a bad case of the heebie-jeebies?  Yet Creepy Pasta recently had to post disclaimers on their website about "The Slender Man" stories and have just recently instituted and age verification such as the demand that somehow the site was responsible for the stabbings.

What though is more distressing is how the Millers headline-ready personas and killings have gotten the whole police world on edge.  The Millers not only killed cops but they also draped the dead officers in the Gadsden Flag.

The Gadsden Flag was used early in the American revolution and flown by the Continental Marines.  It was both a rallying symbol for the 13 colonies as well as a symbol of defiance to the British.  In modern times, it has come to represent a range of feelings from individuals and groups that don't agree with the government to those that are outright anti-government.  The latter groups are the ones that especially concern the police as they anti-government groups tend to see the police as an extension of the government (hence "police-state").

Many of my police friends on social media have lamented the most recent shootings in Las Vegas as proof that there is a "war" being waged against cops.  They need to protect themselves (taking the motto "To Protect and Serve" to mean something else) and are fueling the pro-gunners paranoia the gun control and gun confiscation are going to happen.  And here is where we let symbols and our quest to fill in the story take over.

The police feel they are under attack and are freely using the words "war" or "under siege" to describe the situation.  If you are at "war" who do you look to model?  The military of course.  Ever since the first the Los Angeles Police Department started their SWAT team in 1967, the police have become increasingly more military in their appearance and actions.

I'm not a fan of SWAT.  First, the premise behind SWAT is more akin to an elite special forces military group than a police agency.  The military is there to kill the enemy.  The police are there to keep the peace and enforce laws.  SWAT blurs those doctrinal lines.

Furthermore, SWAT is like the proverb that says if your only tool is a hammer, than everything starts to look like a nail.  SWAT teams are highly trained and well equipped.  SWAT teams cost a lot of money for a typical department so both the chief and the SWAT officers want to see the team being used.  But in reality, how often is a SWAT team truly needed in most municipalities?  Was it because of the situation or was it because the department had the team?

Increasing the firepower of the department is not going to make the officers safer.  It is only going to fuel the fears of the anti-goverment groups leading to escalation.  If the enemy has a bigger gun, then we need an even bigger one.  But we gets lost is that the police are there to protect and serve the COMMUNITY.  Community police based approaches are far more effective but less glamorous ways of keeping the police engage with their local communities.  The headline that never gets written is the crime that never happened.  SWAT teams grab headlines.  Community policing doesn't.  Unfortunately headlines help chiefs maintain or increase their budgets.

Jered and Amanda Miller are two psychopaths that used symbols to get under the skin of the police.  Intelligence analysts working for the police are just drooling over all of the details coming out of the Miller's home.  They tendency will be to draw conclusions of the exception to create the rule.  Will now police have to monitor comic conventions and renaissance fairs to find leads on potential cop killers?  Will everyone wearing the Gadsden Flag but suspected of anti-government feelings?  We all dismiss those questions as too ludicrous but can you see how easily a few well place symbols can lead us down a faulty path.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


The beginning of this Century saw both the start of the war on terror and the introduction of the term "branding" into the collective lexicon.  Branding is defined as "the process of creating a relationship or a connection between a company's product and emotional perception of the customer for the purpose of generating segregation among competition and building loyalty among customers."  

Unfortunately customers are a fickle lot and none more so than political customers.  Branding is often unsuccessful as the emotions of the customers are subject to change that no amount of marketing analysis can predict. Political analysis is even less exact, often attempting to homogenize diverse political views amongst individuals into convenient categories.  This is why Eric Cantor lost and others like him may as well.  Creating a brand means cuts both ways, you please some but you also turn others away (sometimes the very ones you thought you were keeping).

The White House and Obama Administration are desperately trying to craft a brand for the President as he finishes out his second term.  His polling numbers are the lowest ever and many Democrats now see him as weak on foreign policy and radioactive to their re-election bids.  Branding causes the company or politician to keep repeating the same message despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary being experienced by the customer.  Case in point is this quote from President Obama during and interview;

"Guard against cynicism. I mean, the truth of the matter is that for all the challenges we face, all the problems that we have, if you had to be -- if you had to choose any moment to be born in human history, not knowing what your position was going to be, who you were going to be, you’d choose this time. The world is less violent than it has ever been. It is healthier than it has ever been. It is more tolerant than it has ever been. It is better fed then it’s ever been. It is more educated than it’s ever been.", President Obama in an interview with David Karp, Tumblr CEO and posted on Real Clear Politics

The brand seems to be that President Obama doesn't watch TV as it is too cynical but knows that "the world is less violent" because of him would be the implication.  The words "the world is less violent than it ever has been" is one of those stupid lines speech-writers put into a speech because it looks good on paper and sounds good rolling of the tongue.  

The first question comes to mind is by measure does the President consider the world less violent?  The effects of the Arab spring have left Libya, Egypt and Syria in extremely violent states.  The favelas in Brazil and clashes with the Brazilian police are certainly violent.  Thailand just had a coup.  Crimea was annexed with Ukraine still fighting the Eastern separatists.  And now the border with Mexico has been breeched by the drug cartels.  But the branding says that the President is making the world safer so we have to stay on scripts

Sticking to the brand script is apparently why Washington has thus far ignored requests, according to the UK Telegraph;

The NYT writes: “Iraq’s appeals for a military response have so far been rebuffed by the White House, which has been reluctant to open a new chapter in a conflict that President Obama has insisted was over when the United States withdrew the last of its forces from Iraq in 2011.”--Telegraph

President Obama famously wanted to pull the troops of Iraq as soon as he took office.  He then had to recant and increase troop strength due to the increased violence.  Now as he has finally pulled the troops out of Iraq, the violence has increased again, this time with no sign of the legitimate government being able to handle matters.

The military attacked fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in Saddam Hussein’s former hometown of Tikrit, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, state-sponsored Iraqiya television reported. In Mosul, the air force struck ISIL positions after they seized the largest city in Iraq’s north earlier this week, Iraqiya said. Al-Sumaria television reported heavy clashes as the army fought for Tikrit backed by air support.--Bloomberg

The less violent world of the Obama brand is probably why he has turned towards "multilateral partnerships" and negotiations to solve world crises.  Diplomacy and negations replacing his, and former President Bush's, penchant for sending in troops.  He has and his minion Susan Rice have much touted the success of economic sanctions against Russia.  But apparently Russia isn't as impressed as we hoped;

Four Russian strategic bombers triggered U.S. air defense systems while conducting practice bombing runs near Alaska this week, with two of the Tu-95 Bear H aircraft coming within 50 miles of the California coast, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) confirmed Wednesday.--Washington Free Beacon

Not only is Russia testing our borders, so are the Mexican drug cartels which are using the President's amnesty program against us.

The massive influx of adults and minors crossing into the U.S. from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador has brought the Customs and Border Protection agency (CPB) past its capacity to provide security at the U.S./Mexico border, according to the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC).--Breitbart

What Obama and his brand management team have forgotten is that others are marketing their brand as well.  Coke will forever have Pepsi challenging their brand and vice versa.  The Obama brand does not exist in isolation.  Worse, so much contradictory information is now flowing that Obama looks like a smug elitist completely unaffected with the concerns of Americans.  The brand experts of his competitors know this and are taking him to the mat.  We are left with the realities of this mess.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The "Toilet Paper Shortage of 1973"

Like many who are reading this, I read all manner of things on the Internet.  News sites, blogs, and of course social media are just some of the stuff I like to look over.  The story of Bowe Bergdahl has pretty much consumed everyone's attention throughout the net.  Each story and report only clouds things further rather than shedding more light.  Was he a deserter, coward or hero?  Perhaps the even more remarkable story is the visceral reactions readers are posting to the various stories and postings about Bergdahl.  From all that, what should be asking is if any of the assumptions by the press and readers are correct.  Let me illustrate my point with the following Quick Fact I came across while surfing the web;

Johnny Carson was of course the late night talk show host and comedian.  He was not and never did pretend to be a news journalist.  Even so, by merely being a face millions saw every night he had a power to influence thoughts and behaviors without regard to the preponderance of information to the contrary.  Viewers believed what Carson had said, even though it was obvious part of his routine and even AFTER arriving at the store to find plenty of (at least first)  toilet paper.

Bergdahl is another case of hysteria that is preventing the real facts being reported.  In the name of headlines and biases along political lines, everyone has concluded Bergdahl's as either a deserter or prisoner.  Black and white, no grey allowed thank you very much even though grey continues to be a preferred color for automobiles and SUVs.  Other possibilities, such as Bergdahl being a plant (either for the US or al Qaeda, take your pick) is dismissed as too fringe or conspiratorial for most of the net.  

The lesson from both Bergdahl and Johnny Carson?  All of the stories that are currently making the news, from the Ukrain crisis to Nigeria, are portrayed in the media in ways to attract the most hits.  When I was still teaching, I used to have many students who would complain about the "mainstream media" as though that meant something.  I pointed out that regardless of their purported political slant, ALL media is about one thing; selling copy.  In today's media, you can't afford to fact-check a fast breaking story.  If CNN or Fox goes with the release of Sgt Bowe Bergdahl, every other outlet is forced to go with the story unless they want to lose viewership.  If they various outlets want to remain relevant, they have to go with the breaking news.  Think, when was the last time you saw an update on Flight 370?  

As you or I read about events in here or elsewhere in the world, we need to remember the "Toilet Paper shortage of 1973".  Are the facts real or just something someone is reporting to increase viewership?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Unknown unknowns

Here is a question I would like to pose to President Obama and his advisors on national security, especially Susan Rice, Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel.  What's next?

Critics and supporters are alike are flooding the Internet with their various assessments of Obama's release of Bergdahl, his West Point speech, and his seeming lack of action on Syria and Ukraine.  I'm just as guilty, having given into the visceral reaction of the moment that the US has not been able to follow through on any of it's stated foreign policy goals by the President.

But now I take a step back and want to ask, what does Mr. Obama and his advisors think they are preparing the US to do in the future?  Apparently it is to use negotiations instead of military force.  Negotiations are the preferred method of just about everyone.  They don't risk lives and save the expenditure of huge amounts of money waging military operations.

There is one flaw though to relying strictly on negotiations.  If you are unable to come to terms and have to walk away, then you must be willing to leave matters as they are.  If the person you are negotiating with knows there are no consequences to walking away, except perhaps economic sanctions, it becomes less imperative to work out a solution.  Ultimately there may be no incentive to even come to the negotiating table.

The shift to negotiations from direct action is coming for a President that did not hesitate to have Anwar al-Awlawki (an American citizen) killed in Yemen.  Nor did Mr. Obama hesitate to have Osama bin Laden killed rather than face trial (I'm sure Mr. Obama ordered the SEAL team only to capture Osama bin Laden but al-Awlawki's assassination months prior makes me skeptical).

So congratulation Mr. Obama, your switch in tactics has everyone confused.  Are you the no-nonsense, kill 'em first ask questions later leader or one who is too timid to follow-up on his threats?  Can this President only smite those that can't retaliate?

But back to my original question, what does this shift mean for the future?  Negotiations can only happen when a) the parties concerned are willing to negotiation and b) you know who those parties are.  Relying on negotiations means we are talking with the right people in the first place.

Now follow that thought further.  How do you know if you are talking to the right people?

Let's say we have a new terrorist group, "Derechos Elementales" (Elemental Rights).  They are an unknown group of environmentalists in Venezuela who believe the US is trying to overthrow their government to exploit their oil.  In retaliation for the assassination of Hugo Chaves (who they believe was poisoned by the CIA), "Derechos Elementales" decide to blow-up the US embassy in Caracas.  They pick that embassy because it is close, the US military presence abroad is now minuscule, and the US has withdrawn all UAVs from the South American continent.  Their plan is low risk in execution with the probability of high return if they are successful.  They use a Cessna 182 loaded with ANFO (ammonium nitrate fuel oil) and fly it into the embassy.  Caught completely off guard for such an attack, hundreds perish as a result of the explosion.

The error of Obama and his advisors is their way of thinking does not allow for any planning to prevent such an attack.  The above scenario used bits of actual things combined with a few extreme but realistic possibilities.  Obama and his cronies are smug in their belief that they know all of the threats and are able to effectively deal with them through negotiations.  Therefore, they feel validated in their cost-cutting measures to reduce the military.

The mistake is the world is not a rational place that follows simple models that the Obama administration seem to be enamored with.  Stopping Putin from continuing further into Ukraine does not mean that was ever his end-game.  Condemning Asad does not mean that he would not be re-elected nor that he may actually have more supporters than critics.

Anyone who has experience in working on labor negotiations has seen how when what is considered a generous offer is made, the opposing side may see it as an insult.  Obama and his courtiers smugly think the release of Sgt Bergdahl and the release of the GITMO prisoners have placed the US in a better position on the international front.  But then you merely have to read the NY Times to see how the US is now viewed by others;

TEHRAN — Speaking from a stage decorated with a banner proclaiming “America cannot do a damn thing,” Iran’s supreme leader on Wednesday asserted that the Obama administration had taken the option of military intervention to resolve conflicts off the table.

“They realized that military attacks are as dangerous or even more dangerous for the assaulting country as they are for the country attacked,” the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in an address to the country’s political and military establishment.

If that's what Tehran thinks, what conclusions might others draw from the current President's policies?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A POW's release and China's reaction

The strange case of Sgt Bowe Bergdahl

In 2009, Sgt Bowe Bergdahl went missing from his forward operating base (FOB) in Afghanistan.  The details of this seem to be murky since the Army has not come out with its official version.  Former soldiers who were with Bergdahl at the FOB have no problem calling him a deserter.  On NPR yesterday, one of the soldiers said that Bergdahl's night vision goggles, body armor and kit were all nicely stacked by his bedside indicating that Bergdahl left under his own accord.

If the testimony is accurate, then why is the White House, DoD and the media all calling Bergdahl a POW?  He walked off on his own and it sounds like he may even have remained on his own for an extended period of time.  If he was "captured", was this something he intended to happen?

Moreover, why was it necessary for President Obama to bypass Congress and free five detainees/prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl?  Why were the terms of the exchange that Bergdahl remain at Landstuhl for 30 days before being returned to the CONUS?

I am happy for his family that he is being brought home.  I am saddened for the families of those soldiers that were killed looking for Bergdahl when he first went missing.  I hope they did not die in vain.

But the whole story has a very strange feel to it, like something Rod Serling would've written about the insanity of war and our perceptions of soldiers and heroes.  Reports are that Bergdahl may have forgotten how to speak English.  I say bullshit.  Foreigners are constantly immersed in other countries and cultures without forgetting their native tongue.  Something else is at play here and I don't think we will ever get the straight story.

And why was one soldier worth five detainees/prisoners suspected of the worst crimes?  And why now?

"Officially, Obama and other top leaders are calling Bergdahl’s return a victory, a promise kept that the United States never leaves a prisoner of war behind. ”We’re committed to winding down the war in Afghanistan, and we are committed to closing Gitmo. But we also made an ironclad commitment to bring our prisoners of war home. That’s who we are as Americans. It’s a profound obligation within our military, and today, at least in this instance, it’s a promise we’ve been able to keep,” Obama said."--Defense One

Perhaps effecting Bergdahl's "release" was a prelude to closing GITMO.  If they worst of the worst are no longer there, then Obama can make the case to close more easily.  But it so doing, he has now changed the game without realizing it.  Since at least the 1980s, it was understood the US would not negotiate with terrorists.  Apparently this is no longer the case.


China perhaps cut through the bullshit of the Obama Doctrine better than anything I could write:

“As U.S. power declines, Washington needs to rely on its allies in order to reach its goal of containing China’s development,” Maj. Gen Zhu Chenghu, a professor at the National Defense University, told a TV station.

“But whether it will get involved or use military intervention once there is a territorial dispute involving China and its neighbors, that is another issue,” he added.

He said that this depended on the U.S. ability to project power, citing Ukraine as an example.

He said, “we can see from the situation in Ukraine this kind of ED” –which he explained in Chinese was a military abbreviation for something that may have meant “extended deployment” – “has become the male type of ED problem – erectile dysfunction.”

So instead of multilateral partnerships that will allows the US and its allies to exert influence without direct intervention, China sees the Obama doctrine as analogous to ED.  Isolationism or extreme intervention seems to be the point of Obama's West Point speech.  I seriously doubt in the 21st Century global economy that the US can completely isolate itself.  It didn't work in the early 20th Century so what makes Obama think it will work any better today?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Obama's goes to Europe

The New York Times just ran a piece on President Obama's trip to Europe starting with this;

"President Obama leaves for Europe on Monday night cautiously optimistic that the crisis in Ukraine has turned a corner, but he will find himself face to face with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for the first time since the two squared off in a Cold-War-style showdown in Eastern Europe." N.Y. Times

Propaganda, or what is more politely called "spin", is a very dangerous thing.  It trying to make the President look more successful, the White House and American media are deluding themselves into thinking Ukraine has turned a corner.  The new Ukrainian president and Russian separatists will continue their conflict with Russia aiding the separatists.  Far from turning a corner, this may signal the beginning of a much broader quest by Putin.  He may have started with Crimea but his long term plan may be for annexing Lithuania or Latvia next.  He also has shown that Washington is now looking to contract out its direct action to third parties and will rely on "multilateral partnerships" to influence others.  Good but I'm not certain that this strategy is going to be as effective as Mr. Obama and Susan Rice hope.

The fallacy in their strategy is revealed by Poland.

“What we most need to hear from President Obama is what to do with Ukraine, how to deal with this new Russia,” said Aleksander Kwasniewski, the former president of Poland. “We are not interested in a confrontation with the Russians. We are not interested in Cold War II. But we will have a difficult time getting through the next four or five months without very clear and very determined American leadership.”

Poland has spent the last decade shifting focus from Washington to Berlin and Brussels, while nursing a raft of grievances and disappointments over what it saw as America’s inattention and insensitivity. Warsaw bristled when Mr. Obama canceled his predecessor’s plans to station interceptors in Poland as part of a missile defense system. But a reformulated missile defense program approved by Mr. Obama will include a site in Poland."--N.Y. Times

Herein lies the challenge for Obama and his administration.  They may provide interviews and press releases about "multilateral partnerships" but when your "partners" feel you have abandoned them, how  really effective can this strategy be?