Monday, March 30, 2015

The Arab Army

The Arab League wants to create an Army consisting of all 22 countries in response to Daesh.  The U.S. and Europe did the same thing with NATO in response to the Soviet Union.  NATO was a self-protection alliance, much as the Arab Army will be.  The question though is what happens when Daesh is no longer a threat but you still have s large standing Army?

In the case of NATO, you start to become an expeditionary force and travel outside your theater to create some sense of purpose for the money it costs to keep you in existence.  Of course that's not what NATO was envisioned to be so now the EU wants to form its own military.

An EU Army would have two potential advantages over NATO.  One is it would be a way to formalize the participation of France (the only other European nuclear power besides the UK). Second is it would not be driven by the U.S. unlike the case with NATO.  The down sides is without the U.S. all of the costs of the proposed EU Army would fall to the European countries, many of whom are balking at paying to participate in NATO.

The question for the EU is will the creation of an EU Army make the Kremlin even more concerned with Russia's border with Europe?

Similarly, the creation of an Arab Army is unlikely to call the already jittery nerves in Tel Aviv.  Make no mistake, despite Mr. Obama's and Mr. Kerry's assurances to the contrary, the U.S. has much less to fear from Iran's nuclear program than does Israel.  Israel is by most assessments considered to have nuclear although they officially remain undeclared.  If the potential for Iran to become nuclear is enough for Israel to strike, what happens if at some future date the Arab Army decides to conduct exercises simulating a hostile Israel?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What is the goal in Iran based on recent history?

Let's review a little history.  In 2003, then President Bush sent the US military into Iraq because Saddam Hussein (who the US supported with his war with Iran) had "weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)" that posed a clear and present danger to the US.  Saddam Hussein supposedly also supported Al Qaeda (unsubstantiated) and was going to use those WMDs agains the US (even though after almost 12 years of economic sanctions and no-fly zones, Saddam was in no position to do anything but try to rebuild his infrastructure).  By taking out Saddam, the US would be safer and democracy would be restored in Iraq.  Now 12 years later we are still flying missions and have quietly increasing the number of ground troops and Iraq is pretty much in chaos (and Mr. Obama and his administration have done nothing but continued this atrocity).

After 9/11, we had to do something so former President Bush invaded Afghanistan in 2002 supposedly to hunt down Al Qaeda/Osama bin Laden (even though when the CIA worked with UBL during the 1980s, he was always in Pakistan.  Imagine the surprise when we "found" Osama bin Laden in Pakistan during the 2011 raid!).  US troops were supposed to eliminate the Taliban (who were not the same Al Qaeda supposedly responsible for 9/11 but were close enough for government work).  By inference, by eliminating the Taliban democracy would replace Islamic tyranny.  Under that guise, 16 airplanes bought for Afghanistan to the tune of $500 million which we then summarily sold for scrap (around $32 thousand) when the US pulled out.  Now Mr. Obama has quietly agreed to slow the withdrawal of the remaining 10,000 US troops AND has requested $3.8 billion to fund as many as 352,000 Afghan forces through 2017 (DW).

Obama and Clinton wanted Qaddafi out of the way, again inferring that democracy would replace tyranny in Libya.  Instead anarchy has flourished.  Likewise, they hoped the same thing would happen once Asad fell that would allow them to position the next domino to fall, Iran.  But when that didn't happen, Obama and now Kerry playing the part of Hillary had to fall to plan B.

Plan B seems to be negotiating a nuclear arms agreement with Iran (who is supposed to pose some long range threat to the US).  The grandiose initiative though keeps getting overshadowed by the ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh mass executions and now threats against US troops at home.  (Working a deal with Iran is actually nothing new for the US, however, if one remembers a nasty little episode called the Iran-Contra Affair.  Basically sell arms to Iran to get several US hostages released and in-turn use the money to fund the Contras in Nicaragua.)

Giving these attempts to send in troops to eliminate tyranny/terrorism and install democracy, one wonders what the real goal is with Iran?  The US has been wanting regime change there for at least 35 years and so far, things are now different then when the Shah was chased out of Tehran.  Syria shows no signs of losing Asad and at this point, it would allow Daesh to seize control of Damascus.

To all of this, here is the real question.  Unless O'Malley manages a Jimmy Carter or if Ted Cruz usurps Jeb Bush, we are most likely to see Clinton and Bush running in 2016.  If that happens, what are the chances that any of things going on now will change for the better?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Iran behind the scenes

I find this quote from the BBC extremely telling, "The Shia militia's relationship with Iran is a worry for Washington, which sees it as potentially destabilising and deepening Iraq's sectarian divide."  (BBC News)  No wonder Mr. Obama and his mentor Valerie Jarrett are so keen on playing nice with Tehran. Not only does Iran provide a means for Obama to look tough on foreign policy, more importantly Iran provides valuable weapons and support to Iraq in the fight against Daesh.

ISIS top 100, World War III?

Stories have been breaking over the weekend that Daesh has posted a list of 100 troops names and addresses.  The terrorist group was able to comb press releases and compile information from social media to come up with the names.  "The US Marine Corps urged personnel to ‘check their online footprint’ after the so-called Islamic State released the alleged identities and addresses of 100 staff officials, calling on adherents to kill them."  (RT)  Want a sure fire way to neutralize this threat?  The Sec Def should immediately require all active duty personnel to be issued and wear their sidearms at all times.  Up the rhetoric to the terrorist levels by adding that "any military personnel (including those who have separated or retired) will be found NOT be charge with any crime as a result of shooting and/or killing who was in the midst of committing an act of terrorism as defined by the Department of Defense or FBI."

While the Americans are being led to hate one another because of race, they are too busy to notice that Daesh is getting very serious about operations outside their own area:

"Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon believes that every British ISIS fighter will have been given chemical weapons training in the hope they will come back to launch an attack.

The retired head of chemical and biological weapons for the Army believes the Tube or sporting events could be the target."  (Daily Mail)

Daesh does not give a damn about if you are white, black, Latino, Asian or any other flavor of American.  Be at the wrong place at the wrong time and they will kill you just as soon as anyone else.  The only way to counter this culture of fear is to empower Americans to defend themselves.

During the early days of the Cold War, the government decided the best way to manage widespread fear of nuclear war was to convince the public they could survive it.  Hence "Duck and cover" was released and while we can now see how patently ridiculous this campaign was, the interesting thing is the government back then wanted Americans to be responsible for their own safety.

Today's White House pretends to be about empowerment (kids eating healthy, race relations, rights for illegal immigrants) but the effect is just the opposite of "duck and cover".  Americans don't trust the police, don't' trust the government and increasingly don't trust other Americans that don't look like them.  The creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was supposed to symbolize American's renewed focus on defending the homeland but recent stories (such as Ferguson, Eric Brown, hiring immigrants as police officers) has made Americans feel less safe.

Focusing on keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons is also making us less safe.  The headlines and Washington sound bytes assure us that a nuclear armed Iran is unthinkable and the President has to put all of his focus on this issue (and somehow not Daesh?).  It's fascinating to watch how Iran's potential, not actual" nuclear capability is of far more concern to the White House than is Russia's actual nuclear inventory.  Or China's.

In the not too distant past, there was much press about the "Pivot to Asia" under then Secretary of State Clinton.  The policy supposedly recognized that by focusing on defeating terrorism, the US had taken its strategic view away from an ever expanding China.  The "pivot" was supposed to get US efforts refocused on containing China (especially in light is its rapidly expanding economy and surging military).  But Clinton and then Kerry became kiddy at the thought that they could use the Arab Spring to gain US advantage in the Middle East.  Their lack of focused has introduced a different scenario to World War III than most people think.

The most obvious and alarming scenario to the next World War is with Russia over something like the anti-missile system in Europe or if Russia expands their buffer zones via the areas in Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania.  But a wholly different scenario has been developing eerily similar to the days prior to the First World War.

The Economist's "Look Back With Angst" from 2013 shows how pre-war Europe believed "Globalisation and new technology—the telephone, the steamship, the train—had knitted the world together," much as we view smart devices, social media and the Internet today.  For all of the good that has come as a result of these latest technologies, we need only look to how one shooting in Ferguson was able to set race relations in the US back decades (would the reaction have been the same without social media?).  Like in the early 20th Century, many are still of the delusion that war that globalization eliminates the possibility of a global war.  John Maynard Keynes has a wonderful image of a Londoner of the time, “sipping his morning tea in bed” and ordering “the various products of the whole earth” to his door, much as he might today from Amazon—and regarding this state of affairs as “normal, certain and permanent, except in the direction of further improvement”.--The Economist

Instead of Britain, France and Germany, the essay sees China as in the role of pre-war Germany, Japan in the role of pre-war France and the US playing the role of a fading British Empire.

"Yet the parallels remain troubling. The United States is Britain, the superpower on the wane, unable to guarantee global security. Its main trading partner, China, plays the part of Germany, a new economic power bristling with nationalist indignation and building up its armed forces rapidly. Modern Japan is France, an ally of the retreating hegemon and a declining regional power. The parallels are not exact—China lacks the Kaiser’s territorial ambitions and America’s defence budget is far more impressive than imperial Britain’s—but they are close enough for the world to be on its guard."--The Economist

It may often seem that the Middle East will lead us into a major conflict and it is tempting at times to reminisce about the days of the Cold War and try to cast Russia in the role of its former self but the Economist makes some truly valid comparisons.  The comparisons of which the current occupants of the White House and State Department are even less concerned with than Keynes portrayal of a pre-war Londoner.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Russia threatens to aim nuclear missiles at Denmark ships if it joins NATO shield

Russia threatens to aim nuclear missiles at Denmark ships if it joins NATO shield

"Denmark said in August it would contribute radar capacity on some of its warships to the missile shield, which the Western alliance says is designed to protect members from missile launches from countries like Iran.

Moscow opposes the system, arguing that it could reduce the effectiveness of its own nuclear arsenal, leading to a new Cold War-style arms race."

Now another US ally is being drawn into a potential conflict with Russia thanks to Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry's unremarkable approach to dealing with Russia.

Reasons not to be impressed with the Iranian agreement

According to the CIA Factbook, Iran is a theocratic republic.  The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameni, overseas the military and judiciary branches in Iran.  Therefore it is dishonest for Mr. Obama and Secretary Kerry to pretend that we've made great strides in reigning in the Iranian nuclear program just because Iranian President Rouhani likes the draft agreement.

Mr. Obama and his fellow Democrats like to criticize George W. Bush for portraying Iraq as a threat that it really wasn't to the US.  However, Mr. Obama and Kerry (along with Presidential hopeful Hillary) have done the same thing with Iran.  Even if Iran were able to produce enough weapons grade plutonium to build a warhead, that's only half of the battle.  They still have to produce a weapon system capable of striking the US (and in enough numbers to defeat our defenses).  That it is an extremely tall order and it is the same reason why the US has typically not worried when North Korea starts to rattle their nuclear saber.

The real nuclear threat to the US is the one Mr. Obama keeps poking, Russia.  Mr. Obama is hellbent on reducing the military overall but especial the nuclear weapons in the US inventory.  Russia is developing a new type of nuclear cruise missile, the KH-101.  The problem for the US is the sheer number of these weapons (launching from manned bombers as well as submarines) could easily overwhelm US defenses (unlike the hypothetical threat of a nuclear Iran).  Mr. Obama has cut and demoralized the US military to the point that this is a very real scenario.  Couple that with his penchant for leveling economic sanctions against Russia and we are on very thin ice.

As I've written previously, Iran has no reason to trust the US.  The Iranian citizens see the US as trying to make their country irrelevant through economic sanctions.  Having a nuclear weapons program is the only thing the west respects in their eyes.  (While we are on this, consider that the US is always leveling economic sanctions but when was the last time you've hear of someone trying to level a sanction against the US?  So much for fair play!)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

US backed coups

I do not think that supplies of weapons, lethal weapons, will change the situation dramatically,” Navalny said. “The fact is that a military victory of Ukraine over Russia is impossible. Putin will get new facts that Americans are fighting the war in Ukraine and not Ukrainians.” Navalny, 38, a lawyer and anti-corruption blogger, was the most pessimistic about the pace of change since he led of the wave of protests three years ago that made up the biggest threat to Putin’s 15 years in power.--Washington Post

"The Russian foreign minister says the US president’s recent remarks about brokering power transition in Ukraine show that Washington was behind the overthrow of former Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych."--PressTV

Two different Russians, two different news sites but both showing why Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry need to keep their noses out of the Ukraine.  To Russia, the US led the coup that has now created the situation in Ukraine today.  Sending arms to Ukraine appears to Russia as doubling down.  Now wonder Putin wants to put nukes in Crimea.

These two articles caused me to ponder just how many different coups has the US backed over the years.  I've written about Iran and Iraq.  Vietnam was about regina change as well.  Then there was Nicaragua and Chile.  There was also the United States Fruit Company.  I did some quick research and found the following list of US backed coups over the years;

You can judge for yourself how effective any of those attempts were.  The list does not include Ukraine, which makes you wonder how many other coups have been back by the US through third parties?  The problem has and always will be you don't know what happens once your guy takes office.  Does he take revenge on those that oppressed him and his allies or does he simply become corrupt with power?

Of particular note, the US has been trying to effect a regime change in Iran since 2005.  If that is correct, what makes Mr. Obama and Ms. Jarrett think Iran is negotiating with us in good faith (or Iran think we are negotiating in good faith)?  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A culture of fear

At some future point, history will make its conclusion about the Obama administration.  History tends to be kinder remembering the talking points more so than the details about what went into them.  I don't know what my grandchildren will be taught about Mr Obama and his legacy, I can only write about what I see now through the eyes of a retired military officer and former intelligence analyst.

Obama and his master handler, Valerie Jarrett, promised "hope and change" during the campaign trail but instead have only manifested a culture of fear.

Obama and Jarrett, ably assisted by the likes of Wolf Blitzer, want us to be very afraid of Russia.  But Russia hasn't levied sanctions against the US.  Russia did not try to overthrow a legitimate Middle Eastern leader  (Assad) thereby giving rise to the most dangerous terrorist organization (Daesh).  Russia did not threaten to shoot down a valued ally's fighters (Israel) in an attempt to convince a long-standing enemy (Iran) that Washington keeps its word.  Russia did not suddenly warm-up to a long standing enemy (Cuba) while simultaneously leveling sanctions against another country in the region (Venezuela).  

Russia human rights record is to say the least unimpressive but who is Mr. Obama to lecture Putin after his own administration has left relations between African-Americans and the police in the worst state since the civil rights movement?  Thanks to Obama, Jarrett and Holder the African-American community is now more afraid of its own police than ever before.  Police officers, especially white police officers, are more afraid than ever after the sniper shootings in Ferguson this weekend.  (Now it turns out that the racist practices of the Ferguson PD may have ironically been exposed by a righteous shooting.)

The US has a tendency to embrace a culture of fear.  During the 1930s, a culture of fear lead to US Isolationism, causing the US to pass a number of neutrality acts to prevent involvement in the war in Europe.  Paradoxically, the culture of fear lead to matters deteriorating in Europe and Asia to the point the US had no choice but to enter the war.  A culture of fear lead to the Cold War which although the US and Soviet Union never came into direct conflict, it did lead to the US getting involved in the Korean War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and Vietnam War.  

The fall of the Soviet Union introduced a brief period of relief from the culture of fear.  This is perhaps why some believe that the events of 9/11 were a conspiracy to create a new culture of fear (replacing the potential for nuclear war at the hands of the Soviets to WMD attacks by radical Islamic terrorists).  

The culture of fear was termed a "global war on terrorism' by George W. Bush.  He parlayed that into two conflicts that lasted 13 years.  The American public had grown weary of the conflicts and Obama seized on this weariness with his "hope and change" slogan.  He was going to end the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring the troops home.  While not overtly, he seemed to imply that his administration would not be a culture of fear.  But that has not been the case either domestically or overseas.

Obama's policies on immigration have legalized millions of illegal immigrants, who may be given the right to vote.  American citizens are now afraid they will lose their jobs to these newly legalized immigrants (although it remains to be seen what if any work they will be allowed to do).

Obama's administration let loose the NSA on the American public and even hacked the New York Times.  A culture of fear was now reborn but this time Americans would be afraid of their own government reminiscent of McCarthyism.  The BATF has been let lose to attempt a ban on ammunition (5.56MM) causing gun owners to fear even more draconian gun-control measures could be coming.  The measure is to "protect" police officers (even though this administration has had no qualms throwing the Ferguson and New York Police Departments under the bus).

The one branch of the government that the public still trusts is the US military.  The best way to make people afraid of the troops is to make sexual assault and PTSD front page stories.  Instead of portraying the military as heroes, now they are portrayed as broken.  Instead of maintaining high levels of discipline they are shown as sexual predators.  Instead of strong women fighting and leading others into combat they are show as victims of rape and sexual assault by their fellow troops.

Even political allies aren't safe.  Hillary Clinton has been, and still is, the presumed Democratic Presidential candidate for 2016.  However, things have not been good between the Obama and Clinton camps.  Time to make us afraid of Hillary so now the media has finally turned on her and her private emails.  Fascinating how this happened during her time as Secretary of State but we are only now hearing about it right before her planned announcement to run for President.  The media ratted Jarrett out initially but she had to quickly remind them we aren't supposed to be afraid of her!  Now according to the White House this was all "a bunch of baloney" and Jarrett had nothing to do with the leak to the media.

The problem with a culture of fear is once people are afraid, fear can become widespread and difficult to control.  Jarrett and Obama seem to have forgotten people were already suspicious of them.  Once the story hit about Hillary's emails, people began to finally remember that Ms. Jarrett was a Chicago lawyer/activist (wannabe politician) who was born in Iran.  Oops, we weren't supposed to remember that annoying little factoid.

It makes the events of the last few months seem especially suspect.  A deal with Iran to limit nuclear arms, something that up until now hasn't been a priority.  But then again, don't want to upset Tehran or they may stop sending arms to the Iraqis (who Obama bailed on as part of his campaign promise) to fight Daesh who only came to power after we tried to support an overthrow of Assad.

In the novel and movie "Dune", the protagonist Paul Muad'dib recites the following litany to himself when facing fear

"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration…"

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Weekend wrap-up for March 15, 2015

Friday night I had the occasion to spend the night in a hotel which afforded me the ability to watch cable news (something I've not done since dropping cable service.  Still don't miss it).  The news coverage was pretty much about Ferguson, Hillary's private emails, and Boko Haram.

It fascinated me how many things were not covered (that impact world events);

- Putin has been laying low speculating rumors of a possible coup attempt

- Russia has also affirmed its right (depending on who you ask in the Kremlin) to deploy nuclear weapons in the Crimea

- Netanyahu may lose his bid for reelection.  Some speculate that all of the hardline talk against Obama may have been an attempt to reinvigorate his failing campaign.

- While Obama has been portrayed as playing nice with Cuba, he hasn't with Venezuela.  He has had sanctions levied against Venezuela.  In turn, Venezuela sees the US as a "looming threat" and is conducting military exercises as a result.  It doesn't help that many Venezuelans blame the US for the death of Hugo Chavez.  Probably has nothing to do with Venezuela's oil either.

- Daesh continues to execute prisoners enmasse (either by burning them alive or beheading) but since most are not Western, the media seems to find other stories to cover.

-  The media and Democrats are two willing to give Hillary a pass on the 35,000 emails she deleted.  This from the same group that goes apoplectic at the missing 18 and a half minutes missing from Nixon's White House tapes.

- Speaking of Hillary, watching cable news helped me to realize Hillary has a serious image problem.  No, I'm not talking about the emails now, or Benghazi, or even her disconcerting habit to misremember the truth.  No, I'm talking about how she appears on screen.  Hillary looks tired, I mean really tired.  She doesn't look like someone chomping at the bit to hit the campaign trail for the next 18 months.  It doesn't help that she tends to dress like a world leader from some dystopian sic-fi movie (long frock coats, in dark or tweed).  Maybe she needs to do more yoga?

- A cautionary tale for North Dakota and its booming oil industry.  If big energy is so good for the local economy, why is Louisiana ranked deadliest in pretty much any category you choose to look at?

Update:  Right after I posted this, the following article pops up "Top Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett reported to have leaked Hillary private emails leak to the press".  Why?  Because Ms. Jarrett felt that the Clintons had worked to undermine her boss.  I wonder if there will be calls for her to resign?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Letter

By now, you have read or seen the news about the letter Republican Senators sent to the Iranian prime minister relating to Mr. Obama's attempt at a nuclear arms deal.  I learned of this because for some reason Senator Boxer's PR people thought I would be interested in something she was championing (for the record, I'm not).

The letter was a sophomoric attempt by the Republicans to defy an ever distant Mr. Obama who does not play well with others.  Certainly the Republicans can't count on Boehner or Mitchell to take on the President.  The Democrats are responding in an equally sophomoric way virtually running around stomping their feet and holding their breath.  Neither response is particularly impressive.

The Republicans are seeking to wag their collective fingers at Mr. Obama by stating in the letter that basically Congress and the Senate are the real power brokers, not the President.  The letter also reminds Iran that in 18 months, regardless of whatever deal Mr. Obama may achieve a new President will be in charge so any Executive Order can be rendered null and void.  A new Congress may do the same thing.  To which I ask, does anyone really think Iran gives a damn?

The Democrats are apoplectic running around calling the Republicans that signed treasonous!  How dare they take such a action against their man (who has thus far been anathema to any Democrat wanting to run for President)?!  Outrageous!

Let's I forget, Mr. Obama is not guiltless in this mess either.  True he is trying to reign in Iran's nuclear program, however in so doing he has disrespected our long ally Israel in the process.  The problem for Mr. Obama is in his haste to cut a deal with Iran, he has overlooked how his actions appear to the rest of the world.  By threatening to shoot down any Israeli aircraft en route to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities and refusing to grant Netanyahu any respect, Mr. Obama feels he is showing is how quickly the US will turn on one of its allies.  Steadfast is not a word that will be associated with Mr. Obama's foreign policy.

Obama, his fellow Democrats and the Republicans have all forgotten some recent history.  The reason the US is at odds with Iran has to do with a little coup that the CIA conducted in Tehran that help put Shah Reza Pahlavi in power.  Sure he was pro-Western but his methods of remaining in power (see SAVAK) led eventually to a revolution and the take over of the US embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979.  The hostages were held for 444 days, being released on January 20, 1981 (the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated).  In the 30 plus years, relations have never improved between the US and Iran.

Under Reagan, the US supported a vicious despot in a war against Iran.  That despot was of course none other than Saddam Hussein (who used chemical weapons on the Iranian Army).  Of course then George H. Bush and latter George W. Bush would declare on their former ally against Iran.

The Republican needed bothered with their letter, Tehran more than understands that Washington doesn't keep its word.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance

Cincinnati for those who aren't from the region is in southwest corner of Ohio which shares borders with Kentucky and Indiana forming the Tri-State area.  The Tri-State area made headlines recently for wannabe terrorist Chris Cornell.  The FBI and feds are patting themselves on the back for catching this knucklehead before he was able to launch any attacks.  But Cornell's case has raised local awareness of the ability for a terrorist group six time zones away to recruit without ever meeting face-to-face.

Daesh has been recruiting non-Muslims from around the world for the last 6 months or more.  Recently, several young women from the London have made headlines for trying to join Daesh.  But again that's over there, it's different when it happens in your own back yard.  The Tri-State has a large Muslim community which has now had to go on the defense.

"Chris Cornell was not a part of our community, he does not know our community, our community does not know him," said Karen Dabdoub with the Cincinnati Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Cornell's case illustrates a problem that looks like something right our of a TV show.  Now that we have a group that has established a way to virtually recruit converts, how do we detect these people?

It is tempting to think these are loners, disenfranchised with society.  Cornell seems to fit that description, however that isn't the case in the other Daesh recruits.  Most seem to be young people looking for a cause or are ones who are sympathetic to anti-Western views.  They aren't loners and often come from good families.  Family and friends are perplexed by the news that one of their loved ones has joined Daesh.

The technology of today gives us unprecedented access to one another.  It is easier now than ever before to find like-minded individuals even if they are thousands of miles away.  Today's younger people are quite accustomed to not only text and emails but also video-chat (Skype) and multiplayer role games.  Multiplayer role games provide a means for divergent groups of people to meet-up virtually and engage in shared experiences.  It would not be hard for those skilled in psychological-operations to mine the rolls of these games to find willing recruits.

But even that is perhaps too complicated.  I saw a post today about how Rolls Royce and Bentley don't need to adversities because their reputation attracts their customers to them.  Daesh doesn't need really complicated ways to recruit, those who believe in their philosophies (and other groups) can find them with just a few keystrokes.

FBI, CIA, NSA, DHS and their foreign counterparts have developed so pretty sophisticated algorithms to try to identify potential recruits, however therein lies a major shortfall.  The algorithms can only work from what is known.  New groups or recruits that don't show-up in the algorithms are virtually invisible.

Terrorists rely on fear and media coverage.  More people die yearly from drunk drivers than terrorists yet because of the coverage, we perceive a terrorist attack to be more imminent.  If we overreact, we could actually create a richer environment for recruits.  But that being said, we do need to remain ever vigilant.  As Thomas Jefferson said, "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance"

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Boko Haram aligns with ISIS

This is not surprising;

"Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS), according to an audio statement."  (BBC News)

We already know Mr. Obama's and Mr. Kerry's reluctance to label "ISIS" as Islamic.  Perhaps that's why Boko Haram (that group Hillary refused to label as a terrorist group) felt a kindred spirit with ISIS.

Speaking of Hillary, her mantle as heir apparent to the Democratic nomination may have dimmed a bit. She valiantly weathered the Benghazi accusations, she adeptly "ducked" comparisons to Brian Williams.  But now her use of private emails while Secretary of State has now surfaced.  Team Hillary has decided the best course of action is to say nothing and keep Hillary in seclusion but that technique may not be working so good.

Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley has seized the spotlight from Hillary.  Hillary's tactic of remaining off the media radar to avoid political kerfuffles has allowed O'Malley to come out as a much better option for the Democrats to maintain the White House.  And by O'Malley running for President, he won't run for Senate in Maryland allowing Kathleen Mathews (wife of "Hardball" host Chris Matthews) to run.

O'Malley is a former governor like Christie and Bush (the two most likely Republican candidates).  Unlike the latter two, O'Malley is able to unit his party and thus far proves a far more likely candidate to independent voters than Hillary.

If O'Malley does manage to wrest the Democratic nomination from Hillary, he stands a good chance of winning (assuming Bush or Christie become the Republican nominee).  But it means he will bring in the newest group to in dealing with the ongoing problems with ISIS and Boko Haram to name a few.  Putin would welcome having a new President with whom he has no history.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Our new Vietnam?

"On 21 September 2015 the Pentagon authorized US CENTCOM to begin cross-border operations within Northern Iraq and the area bordering Eastern Syria.  CENTCOM had sought authority for such missions since ISIS proclaimed itself a worldwide caliphate on 29 June 2014.  CENTCOM had been looking to put boots on the ground reconnaissance role to observe, first hand, the enemy logistical system and conduct limited operations. Troop strength was nearly doubled from 2,700 in late February 2014 to almost 5,000 by the time operations began. CENTCOM through CENTAF had been given authority to conduct air operations, including bombardment of supply lines, since late in 2014.  U.S. troops were necessary and CENTCOM was given the green light. In November the first American-led insertion was launched into Al Hasakah in eastern Syria and Mosul in northeastern Iraq.  The mission was deemed a success, but the operations in Syria were fraught with peril, and not just from the enemy. Robert Stephen Ford, U.S. ambassador to Syria, was determined that he would remain in control over decisions and operations."

The above is total fiction but it rings eerily true.  Perhaps because the sequence of events actually occurred 50 years ago in Vietnam.  I merely substituted "CENTCOM" for "MAC-V SOG" and "Syria" for "Laos" and "ISIS" for "Vietcong".  The situation with Daesh is too similar to the early years of Vietnam.  Democrats controlled the White House in both cases.  The military had been drawdown after WWII much like it has today.  Special forces were the preferred method of attack back then whereas we tend to rely on drones more today but regardless, the level of accountability remains classified and cloaked in the "black ops" world.  Our increasing military presence in Laos attracted the attention of the Soviet Union, much as we knew find Russian troops increasing their activities in Ukraine.  Russian military aircraft are much more active along NATO and US airspace as well.

The new SecDef and Chairman for the JCS have been calling for more boots on the ground to fight Daesh.  Mr. Obama seems more concerned with stifling Netanyahu and brokering some kind of deal with Iran.  Daesh is upping its level of violence turning first to beheading prisoners on video to then burning them alive to now out and out massacres of hostages.  Boko Haram has gone off the radar scope as far as Western media is concerned yet their violence and blustering now rivals Daesh.

The newly elected Republicans, led by the ever-tan Boehner, have lost any credibility that they will keep the White House in check.  DHS funding has now been approved as a result of the increased violence shown by Daesh but one has to ask, is DHS even designed correctly for defeating a threat such as Daesh?  Another trespasser was able to jump the fence at the White House, where the hell is the Secret Service?!  The rest of the DHS is wrestling with immigration to worry about an overseas threat.

Certainly not the State Department.  Kerry has yet to broker one deal and continues to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.  He allows that elitist twit Marie Harf to have a job.  He let his boss poke the Israeli Prime Minister in the eye.  He has all but forgotten about China and has let Putin him beat him to the punch in India.

The problem with the digital age is we tend to think things happen immediately.  That speed is an illusion, things still happen as they've always happened.  We've just to amped up now to perceive it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Officer Club and Officer Development

The above picture is of the Robin Hood toby mug from the movie "Twelve O'Clock High" about B-17 crews during World War II. The toby mug played an important part in the movie.   It normally faced the wall above the fire place in the officer's club until there was mission at which time the wing exec officer turned it face out.  The officer's club of Twelve O'Clock high played a pivotal role for the officers.  Pilots, navigators, bombardiers as well as the wing staff officers all gathered to socialize at the club.  It was informal environment that allowed commanders and crews to communicate with one another outside the chain of command and try to maintain some semblance of sanity after the horrors of flying bombing missions over Nazi Germany.

The wartime realities of WWII, Korea and Vietnam developed many traditions within the USAF officers clubs (as I'm sure happened in Navy, Army and Marine Corps officers clubs).  Clubs of that era are associated with drinking and raucous behavior but what is often overlooked is how the unit culture and history was learned and shared.  Some reading this will roll their eyes and say, "That's exactly the problem, it was a culture of drinking and carousing!".  But that view, in my opinion, looks only at the extreme and misses the important role officer clubs  (O'Clubs) actually played in developing the officer corps and maintaining unit cohesion.

Task and Purpose looked at this in "The Military Has Overkilled Alcohol With Big Collateral Damage".  When I was a cadet in ROTC during the early 80s, our instructors were all captains and majors who had come in during the 70s.  The culture they taught us was every officer was expected to be a member of the officers club whether they chose to got there or not.  Officers promotion packages were allegedly checked against the o'club roster, if your name was on the roster you were not going to get promoted.  O'Clubs were that integral to an officers career (at least so we were told.  I did not serve on a promotion board until I was an O-6, by then O'clubs had long stopped being a factor).

O'Clubs in my experience weren't quite the center of activity as they were depicted in "Twelve O'Clock High" but then until 2002, we weren't at war. However, they still were part of an officers development. My first duty station was Scott AFB in Illinois.  It was a major command (MAJCOM) base in the middle of cornfields.  First Fridays were de rigueur for officers, even if you didn't drink alcohol you still made an appearance.  The lowly second lieutenant working in the basement might actually get a chance to chat with the wing commander or one of the generals. In this informal environment, junior officers got to hear and see how senior officers thought.  Senior officers got an unfiltered view of how their junior officers were interpreting their policies and decisions.  It wasn't something as formal as mentoring or feedback sessions, just getting together at the end of the work week.

O'Clubs overseas served on other purpose compared to their stateside counterparts.  It helped officers feel connected to home.  Especially if you were serving in Asia, O'Clubs might be the only place to get a taste of American food.  The O'Club at Ramstein was perhaps the best example from my time in Germany.  The O'Club at RAF Alconbury was the one club that most reminded me of the one depicted in the movie.

By the time I was transition our of the USAF in 1992, we were already in the throws of "deglamorizing" alcohol.  Twenty-three years and one retirement later, I still don't know what the fuck that means.  I never saw alcohol glamorized in the military (unlike in movies and television shows).  I saw officers who inevitably learned to drink (or not drink) in college.  "Officer calls" as the club were not invitation to get drunk, it was supposed to be an opportunity to get together in our environment.  Of course binge-drinking, drunk driving and sexual harassment did happen but it was the exception that made the rule.

The "deglamorizing" movement was meant to curtail these episodes of bad behavior without ever addressing the real problem.  There was never any "glamorization" of alcohol to "deglamorize".  The real problem was those officers who did drink while under the influence, binge-drink or sexually harass had never learned to act responsibly in the first place.  Somehow officers who were charged with being responsible for multi-million dollar weapon systems or given the responsibility for the men and women assigned to them were never given the charter for also being responsible for one another.  Help out someone who obviously has had too much.  Don't let the female officer leave with the senior officer who obviously has been drinking too much.  Have base shuttles to take people back off base.  No, we didn't do any of that.  Instead the USAF turned to the informal slogan of "deglamorizing alcohol" and in the end laid waster to a valuable tradition.

Yes, there were excesses that needed to be curtailed but these were not the norm, just the ugly exceptions that made headlines.  The USAF officer corps lost a place to socialize rich with history.  Many O'Clubs have pictures and paintings form the earliest days of military aviation, the legacy of the base and very unit the officers are assigned to.  What a great place to mentor officers on some of the very topics I've talked about in this blog over the years.  Instead, the USAF is found of ending an officers career for mistakes (especially anything associated with alcohol).

The hypocrisy of course of action is that is was developed and fostered by senior leaders such as Michael J. Carey.  Ralph Baker another.  And of course the most famous of all recently is David Petraeus.  All of these former senior leaders helped shaped and enforce the 'deglamorization" mythos to supposedly prevent the very behaviors that they ended-up being guilty of themselves.

"Deglamorizing" didn't stop officers from drinking, they merely went off base or drank at home.  What it did stop was having a place on base to help guide one another into not only becoming better officers but better people.  Instead the USAF has fostered a culture of "careerism" instead of helping young officers develop a sense of being part of something bigger than themselves.

John Q. Public covered this in "To Be or To Do?  The Trick Question of Air Force Officer Development".  His essay recalls a quote Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave during is 2008 speech at Air War College, "If you decide to do something, you may not get promoted and you may not get good assignments and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors."  I saw that many times throughout my career (and I was certainly guilty of it myself a few times).  Air Force officers are faced with the Hobson's choice of worrying about assignments (also known a checking-the-box) in hopes of getting promoted or actually focusing on the job and risk a premature end to your promotion opportunities.

I had always suspected that appearance was more important than substance (not the increasing emphasis of PT scores, something formerly only the concern of soldiers and Marines).  But then I saw this slide in the essay and more suspicions were confirmed;

That slide is from a 42 slide mentorship presentation by  Colonel Michael Hornitschek.  The colonel dared to put into words what had previously only been implied but never put into writing.  Col Hornietschek mysteriously (!) was not promoted to O-7 (even though he had been what is called a "fast burner") and was relieved of his command after this presentation.  Col Hornitschek was right in what he was trying to do (help educate officers on the unwritten rules for getting promoted) but he was wrong in how he went about it.  In my opinion, had Col Hornitschek only had this slide in his presentation, he might have kept his command job (but his O-7 promotion still would have evaporated).  No, to me what really put the nail in his career was this next slide;

Yes ladies and gentlemen, Col Hornitschek with this slide went above and beyond in disproving any notions that your career is actually about doing your job.  In all fairness, I'm sure it wasn't he intent to do anything more than help officers plan their careers.  But what he had shown with these two slides were that the USAF promotion system really is geared to appearances and not accomplishments.  So much for the Air Force Core Values of Integrity first, Service before self, and Excellence in all we do.  Col Hornitschek called it a game and laid out the rules of the game.

As much as I would like to disagree with Col Hornitschek, the evidence to the contrary is too thin.  Officers who spent multiple deployments leading troops are passed over.  General officers are too often those who successfully maneuvered through assignments without rocking the boat.  Even back in the Vietnam war, the Air Force seemed to reward bureaucrats and punish warriors.  I give you as an example Robin Olds.  He was by any measure a brilliant fighter pilot.  He was also charismatic and knew how to train other fighter pilots to become brilliant as well.  However, he was also a heavy drinker who spoke his mind too many times for the higher ups.

Olds was what the Air Force needed in Vietnam but his war record and outspoke nature made him anathema to the general officers he worked for.  Even though cadets and commissioned officers are required to about officers like Olds, the reality is their opportunities for promotion lie more in the guidelines Col Hornitschek put into his PowerPoint.

How does officer career development and O'Clubs connect?  The O'Clubs served an important role in helping officers discuss issues such as promotions and career choices without the fear of retribution.  Senior officers had the best mechanism available for hearing how to better shape and refine their policies.  Try criticizing a senior officer during a staff meeting and your promotion packet is toast.  Post your thoughts about a Air Force policy on social media and watch your primo assignment to the Pentagon turn into a remote tour in a country you've never heard of.

The Air Force deglamorized alcohol and in the their haste eliminated one of the last, best hopes to get the officer corps collective head out of their asses.  The mid-level talent with war experience are getting out because they can't get promoted.  The new officers coming behind them will have a huge cultural gap between themselves and their senior leaders.  The old school O'Club could have been a mechanism to help deal with this issue.  Instead, I see one more reason why the USAF may one done be no more.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Verifiable Freeze

"Iran must commit to a verifiable freeze of at least 10 years on sensitive nuclear activity for a landmark atomic deal to be reached, but the odds are still against sealing a final agreement, U.S. President Barack Obama told Reuters on Monday."  (Yahoo News)

Mr. Obama's history of holding despots to deadlines is unremarkable to say the least.  He famously established a "red-line" for the use of chemical weapons by Syria.  He continues refusing to label either Daesh or Boko Haram as radical Islamic groups.  He supported a coup in the Ukraine and then blinked when Putin played chicken.  North Korea has not been engaged much less contained.  The famous pivot to Asia has done nothing to curtail China's ambitions.

As I wrote about yesterday, Mr. Obama is once again sending mixed signals to Iran.  He wants them to kowtow to his intellectual bluster, however he has taken far more serious actions towards Israel.  In short, what does Iran stand to lose should they not comply with Mr. Obama?  And where are the partners Mr. Obama supposedly was rallying to bring Iran into compliance?

Monday, March 2, 2015

The strange relationship between the US and Iran

As the Democrats and Republicans fumble around trying to figure out their 201 talking points, Mr. Obama continues to avoid labeling Daesh (ISIS) as a radical Islamic group.  Some are quick to call this proof that Mr. Obama is really a Muslim.  The problem with the snarky little sound byte is it fails to really examine things beyond the superficial.  Perhaps Mr. Obama is merely trying to pursue a diplomatic approach publicly (while increasing troop presence in Iraq).  Or perhaps he still believes he can create a some kind of partnership that will fight the major battles (such as Jordan and Egypt) but by labeling Daesh a radical Islamic group other partners may be deterred.

What is far more intriguing to me is the deceptively low-level reversal of policies towards Iran.  Under Hillary Clinton's reign as Secretary of State, is was tantamount to war should Iran even think about having nuclear weapons.  Obama and Clinton actually likely saw the Arab Spring as a way for Assad to fall while creating instability for Iran.  Of that didn't happen and we now have a stronger than ever Daesh.  But Iran was still not supposed to develop nuclear weapons, even when Kerry took over the reigns at the State Department.

But in recent weeks, talk has been of "bottom lines" to deal with Iran to try to region in their nuclear program.  In 2007, Clinton said that no option can be taken off the table, including diplomatic and economic in addition to the threat and use of military force, when dealing with Iran.

The White House would argue that the policy of 2015 is merely a refinement of Hillary's earlier policy.  But then Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu speech tomorrow has exposed the growing chasm between Washington and DC, especially to our mutual interest of Iran.  Obama overtly disdains Netanyahu's preference for dealing with Daesh and Iran.  However, recent articles show that Obama's disdain for Israel goes well beyond anything previous administrations would have done.  It now has come to light that Mr. Obama authorized the shoot-down of any Israeli jets sent to attack Iran's nuclear facilities (Israeli News).  Jimmy Carter had to face an Iran that stormed our embassy in Tehran and since then, Iran has had an adversarial relationship culminating with George W. Bush naming it as part of the Axis of Evil.  Somehow, Obama has decided that Israel, which has a hell of lot more at stake should Iran become a nuclear power, should have its fighters shot down should Israel dare attack?

If that sounds far-fetched for a US President, then an article in the Huffington Post will really challenge your view of US-Iranian relations.  The $585 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2015 has a rider gives a subsidiary of the Australian-English mining firm Rio Tinto 2,400 acres of the Tonto National Forest in exchange for several other parcels so it can mine a massive copper deposit.
Rio Tinto, which removed Iran’s two members of the mine board in 2012, has argued that Iran gets no benefit from the property, that there is no active partnership, and that it has discussed the issue with the U.S. State Department to ensure that no sanctions against Iran are violated.  The rider was pushed through by everyone's favorite hawk and former POW, John McCain.

"The official also declined to say if, as might be expected, Iran would be able to benefit from the mine if Secretary of State John Kerry is successful in negotiations to limit the regime’s nuclear aspirations, and sanctions are lifted. “We are not going to speculate on any hypotheticals,” the official said. A Rio Tinto official also declined to speculate, but noted that under the current sanctions and Namibian law, it's impossible to buy out Iran's share or sever the tie." (Huffington Post)

Those 2,400 acres are sacred to Native Americans, especially the Apache.  The mining will destroy holy ground and grave sites but these doesn't seem to matter to McCain or Obama.

Obama is too willing to avoid offending Daesh will more then willing to offend Israel and give up sacred lands to Iran.