Archive for May, 2009

What we face in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Friday, May 29th, 2009

The Byzantine politics of Pakistan were briefly illuminated last week by a bombing in Lahore, Pakistan that killed, not only policemen (a tactic of jihadis in Iraq) but members of the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence service that created the Taliban in the 1980s. Why would the Taliban attack the ISI ? Well, there are Taliban and Taliban.

While analyzing the Lahore attack, one has to keep in mind certain ground realities: The first is that there are Talibans and Talibans, and within each Taliban there are mini-Talibans. There are virtually as many Talibans in the Pashtun belt as there are tribal sirdars (leaders).

The second ground reality is the clear distinction in behavior and operations between the “Neo Taliban” of Afghanistan, headed by Mullah Mohammad Omar, based in Quetta, Pakistan, and the various Pakistani Talibans led by tribal sirdars such as Baitullah Mehsud of South Waziristan; Hakeemullah Mehsud, who is responsible for operations in the Khyber, Kurrum and Orakzai areas; Maulana Fazlullah of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), who is a native of Swat; and Sufi Mohammad, his father-in-law, who is actually from Dir and not Swat. Of these various Talibans, only the Neo Taliban of Mullah Mohammad Omar, which was created by the ISI in 1994 when Benazir Bhutto was prime minister, still owes its loyalty to the ISI and the Pakistan government.

Now, is that clear ?

I would suggest the Kilcullen book, The Accidental Guerilla , which I reviewed on Amazon in February. There is also Winston Churchill’s The Story of the Malakand Field Force, still in print over 100 years after its publication. It is still mandatory reading in the Army as is his The River War for Iraq. The villages in the story are the same and the conditions have little changed. In fact, a good novel about Afghanistan is Steven Pressfield’s The Afghan Campaign, a fictional account of Alexander’s campaign in 330 BC. Little has changed in Afghanistan except the weapons.

Nofanofaccuratereporting Strikes Again

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

By Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R.

Mikekoshi is at it again with another whopper about the California budget.

Guess those fabled four layers of editors were too busy to correct the glaring math errors in the column by veracity-challenged LA Times “business” reporter and recovering sock puppetteer, a.k.a. Michael Hiltzik.

It’s not as if the LA Times didn’t have ample warning of Hiltzik’s foibles: the paper disciplined him in 1993 for unauthorized snooping into his colleagues’ e-mail — in Moscow.

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DISCLAIMER: As with all I write here, the views here are my own, and not necessarily those of my employer, the North County Times.

Don’t lose your Volkswagen key

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

I have a teenage daughter who loses things. A couple of months ago, she lost my car keys while driving it to visit with friends. I had to go to the Toyota dealer and wait an hour while they made a new key for my car. My daughter also has mishaps with her car and it was scheduled to be dropped off at a body shop for significant body work today. However, my daughter flew to Tucson last weekend, where we have another house and where she recently finished her first year of college. She took the only key to her car with her. Now, her car sits in the driveway useless. I used to have an extra key for her car and kept it in my car for emergencies. She found it about six months ago and it hasn’t been seen since.

I called the VW dealer and asked if a key could be made from the VIN number since we (I) bought the car there. No, I was told. I would have to have the car towed to the dealer for a key to be made. I called Volkswagen of America and was told the same thing. It seems that a key has to be “matched” to the car and that can only be done at the dealer. Supposedly, this is for greater security but I cannot for the life of me understand why this is. A car is a car. I own it. I can prove that. Why, in an emergency, cannot a key be made for the car ? I don’t care if it is a temporary key.

What I need is the name of a good car thief. I suspect it would take him (or her) about 20 seconds to get the car started and ready to drive. There are other reasons why I will not buy another Volkswagen (I have bought four for kids) but this one caps the story.

Cheney Confounds Obama

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

By Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R.

According to the script from the media stenographers, Dick Cheney is a pathetic remnant of a discredited presidency. He’s utterly without backing and roundly repudiated.

So why are leftists (and many moderates) fit to be tied every time Cheney opens his mouth? Why the shrill denunciations and repeated urges for Cheney to shut up?

Yes, this is hardly an original observation. Rush Limbaugh (another fearless speaker who leftists wish would go away) has been hammering this point home.

But it bears emphasis. Cheney has become a phenomenon who has repeatedly made Obama blink, just from the power of his words.

Democrats won the presidency and have firm majorities in both houses of Congress. Yet even the leftist UK Guardian says Cheney has forced Obama on the defensive.

How can that be so? As president, Obama has access to all the information Cheney has. If Cheney were lying or mistaken, Obama could just release information to discredit him. But whenever Obama has tried that route, Cheney has trumped him. Even from across the water, the leftist UK Guardian admits it.

The sinister, reclusive figure at the heart of the Bush administration, who attracted labels such as Darth Vader and Dr Strangelove, has returned to the heart of Washington and is causing havoc.

Can’t you feel your flesh crawl at the raw evil?

What has happened, in my view, is that Obama is learning the limits of words. In politics, words famously trump facts. But not always. At some point, facts do matter and words can’t cover for their lack. Cheney is not known for speechifying on Obama’s grand style, but he trumped Obama’s words with a simple challenge anyone can understand.

Obama released information on torture to show how badly we behaved. Okay, Cheney said, now let’s now see the evidence of terrorism we obtained. Make the memos public so the American people can judge whether the methods actually saved lives.

From Obama: nothing. He’s simply avoided addressing the challenge. Supporters hope it would go away, hence the repeatedly urgent calls for Cheney to shut up.

But precisely because Cheney is seen as so evil, because of his Vaderesque prominence as a former vice president who supposedly controlled President Bush, Cheney has power to attract media attention. And the media and Obama’s supporters — but I repeat myself — keep trying to dispatch Cheney. But with his simple challenge, Cheney repels all attacks.

The longer Obama refuses to release the memos, the more the tension continues to grow. Cheney is refusing to play the role assigned to him. And Obama doesn’t know what to do.

I was never a Cheney admirer, nor do I like the attempts to define torture away by saying waterboarding isn’t torture. (Using waterboarding on our own troops is a pathetic cop-out; real waterboardings aren’t voluntary, and they don’t include “safe words”).

But we have been told torture doesn’t work anyway. That belief is an easy way to avoid the tough moral questions of using torture on terrorists who may have information on future attacks.

Admirably, blogger Patterico has addressed the matter over the last two years or so in various posts. Now Cheney has directly confronted that complacent belief in the most direct way possible. He wants us to know the matter isn’t as cut-and-dried as Obama would have us believe.

Obama doesn’t want to talk about it. And that’s what has everyone else talking.

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DISCLAIMER: As with all I write here, this is my opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the views of my employer, the North County Times.

See you Tuesday

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

If anybody is looking for me, I’ll be here. That’s Howlands’ Landing, Catalina Island

And, the view is like this.

And if you don’t see me ashore or aboard, I’ll probably here with a good book. Or asleep.

Bye

Triangulating national security

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

UPDATE #2 MOre from Andy McCarthy on why bringing terrorists to the US is a bad idea.

UPDATE: Charles Krauthammer has a higher opinion of Obama than I do.

Today there is a post on Commentary’s blog that is so insightful and important that I will reproduce it here with a few thoughts of my own. Bill Clinton was famous for “triangulating” policy, splitting the difference between the Democrats, who hated free trade and welfare reform, and Republicans who hated his “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” compromise on gays in the military and his weakness on national security. The author of the post points out that national security itself has never been the subject of triangulation. Clinton’s weakness in responding to the repeated attacks on foreign soil by al Qeada was the consequence of his policy choices and advisors, like Anthony Lake. He doesn’t seem to have done it for electoral purposes alone although few Democrats had any appetite for adventures abroad.

Obama seems to be risking national security in his attempt to do the minimum necessary to protect the country and keep his leftist credentials intact. Here is the original piece in the NY Times.

As President Obama defends his national security strategy, he faces a daunting challenge. He must convince the country that it is in safe hands despite warnings to the contrary from the right, and at the same time persuade the skeptical left that it is enough to amend his predecessor’s approach rather than abandon it.

Arguably on the defensive over policy for the first time since taking office, Mr. Obama is gambling that his oratorical powers can reassure the public that bringing terrorism suspects to prisons on American soil will not put the public in danger.

At the same time, he must explain and win support for a nuanced set of positions that fall somewhere between George W. Bush and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Rather than an easily labeled program, Mr. Obama is picking seemingly disparate elements from across the policy continuum — banning torture and other harsh interrogation techniques but embracing the endless detention of certain terror suspects without trial, closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, but retaining the military commissions held there.

A caller to Hugh Hewitt’s show yesterday emphasized just how dangerous the policy of closing Guantanamo and incarcerating terrorists in US prisons will be. The caller is a corrections officer in a California prison. He explained the realities of the life of gang leaders in US prisons. They immediately declare themselves “pro per” or representing themselves in place of a court appointed lawyer. This gives them access to computers and allows meetings with all sorts of outsiders and other prisoners. Many large gangs are run from prison in this fashion. It will be immediately apparent to these jihadists that a “pro per” request will be the ticket to return to the battlefield, even while physically confined in a US prison.

This is exceedingly dangerous for all of us. And there is no excuse except politics for this action.

A commencement speech worth listening to.

Monday, May 18th, 2009

This commencement speech, unlike the one at Notre Dame, would have been worthwhile. I hope they appreciated it.

There may be no greater challenge facing mankind today – and your generation in particular – than figuring out how we?re going to meet the energy needs of a planet that may have 9 billion people living on it by the middle of this century. The magnitude of that challenge becomes even more daunting when you consider that of the 6.5 billion people on the planet today, nearly two billion people don?t even have electricity – never flipped a light switch.

Now, the “consensus” back in the mid-1970s was that America and the world were running out of oil. Ironically, some in the media were also claiming a scientific consensus that the planet was cooling, fossil fuels could be to blame, and we were all going to freeze to death unless we kicked our fossil-fuel habit. We were told we needed to find alternatives to oil – fast. That task, we were told, was too important to leave to markets, so government needed to intervene with massive taxpayer subsidies for otherwise uneconomic forms of energy. That thinking led to the now infamous 1977 National Energy Plan, an experiment with central planning that failed miserably. Fast-forward to today, and: déjà vu. This time the fear is not so much that we?re running out of oil, but that we?re running out of time – the earth is getting hotter, humans are to blame, and we?re all doomed if we don?t stop using fossil fuels – fast. Once again we?re being told that the job is too important to be left to markets.

I think the population growth figures are overblown but that’s the only thing I disgree with.

Obama-Netanyahu

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Bibi Netanyahu is in Washington today to talk to President Obama. Last week, I was very concerned about some tough talk that had come out of the Obama administration. This week the concern seems to have been premature. Obama has been cautious in action, much more cautious than in talk. Theodore Roosevelt famously proposed to “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Obama appears to believe the opposite.

Obama is much stronger politically, but he has consistently acted with caution, particularly in the foreign policy arena. Much of his foreign policy follows from the Bush administration. He has made no major breaks in foreign policy beyond rhetoric; his policies on Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Russia and Europe are essentially extensions of pre-existing policy. Obama faces major economic problems in the United States and clearly is not looking for major changes in foreign policy. He understands how quickly public sentiment can change, and he does not plan to take risks he does not have to take right now.

I don’t know if the serious people Obama has to deal with across the world will grow tired of his lies but, for now, they are better than his proposals. The realities of the situation make his previous assertions about a two-state solution sound foolish.

The foundation of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process for years has been the assumption that there would be a two-state solution. Such a solution has not materialized for a host of reasons. First, at present there are two Palestinian entities, Gaza and the West Bank, which are hostile to each other. Second, the geography and economy of any Palestinian state would be so reliant on Israel that independence would be meaningless; geography simply makes the two-state proposal almost impossible to implement. Third, no Palestinian government would have the power to guarantee that rogue elements would not launch rockets at Israel, potentially striking at the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem corridor, Israel’s heartland. And fourth, neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis have the domestic political coherence to allow any negotiator to operate from a position of confidence. Whatever the two sides negotiated would be revised and destroyed by their political opponents, and even their friends.

So, the two-state solution is a delusion. What comes next ?

Overall, Israel is a conservative power. In terms of nation-states, it does not want upheaval; it is quite content with the current regimes in the Arab world. But Netanyahu would love to see an international conference with the Arab states roundly condemning Israel publicly. This would shore up the justification for Netanyahu’s policies domestically while simultaneously creating a framework for reshaping world opinion by showing an Israel isolated among hostile states.

Obama is likely hearing through diplomatic channels from the Arab countries that they do not want to participate directly in the Palestinian peace process. And the United States really does not want them there, either. The peace process normally ends in a train wreck anyway, and Obama is in no hurry to see the wreckage.

So, once again, it is all theater and talk, no substance. Since most of Obama’s policies fit that description, it should be no problem.

Maureen Dowd, Plagiarist

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

By Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R.

No reason for a recap, when other blogs have already reported it.  Below are links to read about all the plagiarism fit to print. (UPDATE – Luke Y. Thompson tipped me off to this, sorry for not mentioning his eagle eye.)

Read here

And here

Dowd’s “defense” is here – it was all a friend’s fault.

Discuss Dowd’s high journalistic standards in the comments, if you like.

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DISCLAIMER: As with everything I write here, this is my opinion, and not necessarily that of my employer, the North County Times.

Another Democrat veteran

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

This is so common, beginning with John Kerry’s “Winter Soldier” farce in the 70s, that is shouldn’t surprise anyone anymore but watch out for veterans who support left wing Democrats. Until Vietnam, this was a rare circumstance. The occasional politician inflated his resume, like Senator Tom Harkin and even a couple of “oldest Civil War veterans.”

The same year, Iowa Senator (and later presidential candidate) Tom Harkin boasted that he had flown F-4s and F-8s on combat air patrols and photo-reconnaissance support missions in Vietnam. No, wait, it was combat sorties over Cuba, he corrected himself when challenged by Senator Berry Goldwater. Harkin finally acknowledged that he had never seen combat — that his military experience consisted of ferrying damaged aircraft for repairs from Japan to the Philippines.

Kerry started the current wave of anti-war “veterans” with his treasonous conduct in 1972. His “winter soldier” media circus, the name taken from “The Crisis, a pamphlet by Thomas Paine, was supposed to indicate that these anti-war veterans were the real patriots. Except:

Enemy documents from 1971 show that Vietnamese communists guided the American antiwar movement via meetings between the communist delegations to the Paris Peace talks and American antiwar activists. John Kerry and the VVAW were working toward the exact goals set forth in the communist directives.

Well, the present anti-war veterans seem to have an agenda, as well. Elect anti-war Democrats who will lose the Iraq War.

Rick Strandlof, executive director of the Colorado Veterans Alliance and the man most colleagues knew as Rick Duncan, was front and center during the 2008 political campaigns in Colorado.

He spoke at a Barack Obama veterans rally in front of the Capitol in July, co-hosted several events with then- congressional candidate Jared Polis and attacked Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer in a TV ad paid for by the national group Votevets.org.

And the mostly Democratic candidates he supported — looking for credibility on veterans issues and the war — lapped it up appreciatively.

Now, politicians are dealing with news that the man they believed to be a former Marine and war veteran wounded in Iraq by a roadside bomb, in fact, never served in the military — but did spend time in a mental hospital.

Oh well, another Democrat veteran. It may have elected Clare McCaskill to the Senate in 2006.

There may be a problem with one of the most effective television ads being run by Democrat for U.S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill. Her campaign can’t prove it is true, KMBC’s Micheal Mahoney reported.
The commercial is called “Josh.” It is named after Kansas Citian Josh Lansdale, a medic who served and was wounded in Iraq. “I returned from Iraq with a busted ankle and post-traumatic stress. It was six months before I could see a doctor,” Lansdale said in the McCaskill ad.
Officials with the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Kansas City said Iraqi vets like Lansdale are priority veterans. “We see them within 30 days of their entry into our system,” said Jane Alley of the VA Medical Center.
…Mahoney reported that he went to one of the addresses for Lansdale, and for more than a week, Mahoney and the McCaskill campaign tried to contact Lansdale. Mahoney said he even asked Lansdale’s mother to have him call KMBC.
In one brief telephone conversation, Lansdale praised the VA’s mental health program, but he complained about how his ankle problem was treated. Mahoney said that indicates some sort of contact, but if, when and for how long cannot be determined.
…Mahoney reported that since Lansdale would not meet with him to answer questions or take phone calls from the McCaskill campaign, he was unable to prove the accuracy of Lansdale’s claim. The commercial is no longer airing on KMBC-TV.

But she won the election. Her credentials ? She was the widow of a former governor.