Posts Tagged ‘iraq’

Is War Coming ?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

There are three, possibly four, major areas of international strife and all are getting worse as we watch.

Europe is trying to deal with Vladimir Putin and the new Russia. It is not doing well.

There was a palpable tone shift in U.S. policy toward Ukraine this week, when the Obama administration signaled that it was ready to consider sending the country lethal military aid. A confluence of factors is pushing President Obama toward this decision. The fragile ceasefire brokered in September between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists has failed, manifested in the series of recent and high-profile separatist advances against the Ukrainian military this week. Bipartisan congressional support for sending weapons to Ukraine, championed by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), as well as a newly released report by former senior U.S. and European officials recommending lethal military aid for the embattled country, have also contributed to Obama and his tight inner circle of foreign policy advisers reconsidering the lethal aid option.

Will this happen ? I doubt it.

As Kadri Liik of the European Council on Foreign Relations pointed out recently , many Western leaders persist in seeing the Ukraine invasion as a hiccup in relations with Russia that can be smoothed over, rather than as a demonstration that Mr. Putin’s agenda is fundamentally at odds with Europe’s security interests and its values. Because of their attachment to the hiccup theory, governments — including the Obama administration — have refused to take steps, such as providing the Ukrainian government with defensive weapons, that could help stop Mr. Putin’s aggression. Instead, they concoct futile schemes for “reengaging” the Russian ruler.

The next crisis will be the end of NATO.

Late this week, the Obama administration unveiled its new National Security Strategy, amid less than fanfare, with the execrable Susan Rice explaining in “remain calm, all is well!” fashion that things are really much better globally than they look. This White House’s new foreign policy mantra is Strategic Patience, which seems to be the been-to-grad-school version of “don’t do stupid shit.” Since nobody inside the Beltway is taking this eleventh-hour effort to articulate Obama’s security strategy seriously, it’s doubtful anyone abroad, much less in Moscow, will either.

Soon, Putin will turn his gaze on the Baltics.

Jaws dropped this week when Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who until recently was NATO’s civilian head, stated that it is highly likely that Russia will soon stage a violent provocation against a Baltic state, which being NATO countries, will cause a crisis over the Alliance’s Article 5 provision for collective self-defense. Rasmussen merely said what all defense experts who understand Putin already know, but this was not the sort of reality-based assessment that Western politicians are used to hearing.

NATO has disarmed and is in panic mode now if they have to face Russia, weak as it is in the long term. As Keynes said, “In the long term we are all dead.” We are partly responsible for this state of affairs.

Not all the fault for this sorry state of affairs lies in Europe. Here America has played an insidious role too, encouraging spending on niche missions for the Alliance at the expense of traditional defense. Hence the fact that Baltic navies have considerable counter-mine capabilities — this being an unsexy mission that the U.S. Navy hates to do — yet hardly any ability to police their maritime borders against intruding Russians. To make matters worse, since 2001 the Americans have encouraged NATO partners to spend considerable amounts of their limited defense budgets on America’s losing war in Afghanistan.

We should have gotten out in 2009. The absurd Rules of Engagement are only part of it.

Now, we face another major threat in the Middle East, Theater Two.

For the situation with Iran, I have long relied on the writing of Spengler.

Dying civilizations are the most dangerous, and Iran is dying. Its total fertility rate probably stands at just 1.6 children per female, the same level as Western Europe, a catastrophic decline from 7 children per female in the early 1980s. Iran’s present youth bulge will turn into an elderly dependent problem worse than Europe’s in the next generation and the country will collapse. That is why war is likely, if not entirely inevitable.

The rulers of Iran have shown no moderation of their messianic beliefs and their willingness to destroy themselves to bring about the coming of the Twelfth Imam.

Twelver Shi‘a believe that al-Mahdi was born in 869 (15 Sha‘bin 255 AH) and assumed Imamate at 5 years of age following the death of his father Hasan al-Askari. In the early years of his Imamate he would only contact his followers through The Four Deputies. After a 72-year period, known as Minor Occultation, a few days before the death of his fourth deputy Abul Hasan Ali ibn Muhammad al-Samarri in 941, he is believed to have sent his followers a letter. In that letter that was transmitted by al-Samarri he declared the beginning of Major Occultation during which Mahdi is not in contact with his followers.

The coming of the Imam is part of the end of the world and the rulers of Iran are “Twelvers.”

Shi’as believe that Imam al-Mahdi will reappear when the world has fallen into chaos and civil war emerges between the human race for no reason. At this time, it is believed, half of the true believers will ride from Yemen carrying white flags to Makkah, while the other half will ride from Karbalaa’, in the `Iraq, carrying black flags to Makkah. At this time, Imam al-Mahdi will come wielding `Ali’s Sword, Zulfiqar , the Double-Bladed Sword. He will also come and reveal the texts in his possession, such as al-Jafr and al-Jamia.

The Shi’ites have this belief as part of their religion and the rulers of Iran seem to be sincere in their beliefs, which is why Obama is insane to consider them rational.

The Sunni equivalent is the new group called Islamic State in Syria and various other names.

The recent rise in terrorist attacks is only one part of the problem. We also see the collapse of Iraq after Obama removed all US troops.

What are we going to do about all this? Probably nothing as Obama has a master plan that will solve all our problems. He will make friends with our worst enemies.

What about China ? We were going to “pivot to Asia.”

One question is whether China is stable. There are questions about China’s economic future.

Beijing can manage a rapidly declining pace of credit creation, which must inevitably result in much slower although healthier GDP growth. Or Beijing can allow enough credit growth to prevent a further slowdown but, once the perpetual rolling-over of bad loans absorbs most of the country’s loan creation capacity, it will lose control of growth altogether and growth will collapse.

The choice, in other words, is not between hard landing and soft landing. China will either choose a “long landing”, in which growth rates drop sharply but in a controlled way such that unemployment remains reasonable even as GDP growth drops to 3% or less, or it will choose what analysts will at first hail as a soft landing – a few years of continued growth of 6-7% – followed by a collapse in growth and soaring unemployment.

What would happen then ? I just don’t see a war with China in our future, partly because neither of us can afford it. China is threatening its neighbors, like Japan and the Philippines, but we are unlikely to intervene. Our former allies in the east are now seeking help from each other as Obama destroys the US influence.

The threat of radical Islam

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

Some commentators talk about the threat of “terrorism” but it is coming from one source; radical Islam or “takfiri Islam” if you prefer.

However, a growing number of splinter Wahhabist/Salafist groups, labeled by some scholars as Salafi-Takfiris, have split from the orthodox method of establishing takfir through the processes of the Sharia law, and have reserved the right to declare apostasy themselves against any Muslim in addition to non-Muslims.

These people are the threat although the fact that most Muslims are unwilling to speak out against this group is worrisome. Today, the new Chairman of the Homeland Security said he expects more attacks like that in Paris last week.

“I believe… larger scale, 9/11-style [attacks] are more difficult to pull off – a bigger cell we can detect, a small cell like this one, very difficult to detect, deter and disrupt which is really our goal. I think we’ll see more and more of these taking place, whether it be foreign fighters going to the warfare in return or whether it be someone getting on the internet as John Miller talked about, very sophisticated social media program then radicalizing over the internet,” McCaul said.

Some of these are “lone wolf attacks” like the the 2002 LAX attack by a limousine driver from Irvine, near my home.

The assailant was identified as Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, a 41-year-old Egyptian national who immigrated to the United States in 1992. Hadayet arrived in the United States from Egypt as a tourist.[citation needed]

Hadayet had a green card which allowed him to work as a limousine driver. He was married, and had at least one child. At the time of the shooting, Hadayet was living in Irvine, California.

A more devastating “personal jihad” attack was the Egyptair Flight 990 attack in 1999.

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An interesting comparison: Obama and Commodus.

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

Today, there is an interesting piece in The American Interest.
Obama and Commodus , the son of Marcus Aurelius.

Unlike the preceding Emperors Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, he seems to have had little interest in the business of administration and tended throughout his reign to leave the practical running of the state to a succession of favourites, beginning with Saoterus, a freedman from Nicomedia who had become his chamberlain.

Sound familiar ? Also:

the evidence suggests that he remained popular with the army and the common people for much of his reign, not least because of his lavish shows of largesse (recorded on his coinage) and because he staged and took part in spectacular gladiatorial combats.

One of the ways he paid for his donatives and mass entertainments was to tax the senatorial order

But enough of his biography. Why does he resemble Obama?

Obama’s rapid withdrawal from Iraq and disengagement from the Middle East in general is therefore understandable, even though it’s a justified target for criticism in the recent memoirs by former officials of his administration. The allure of proclaiming peace and the appeal of focusing on domestic undertakings trumps the unrewarding slog of negotiating with allies and chasing barbaric groups in distant valleys. But the risks are big and, now, they are on the front pages.

Obama is not the first one to have withdrawn from a fight. Commodus did it before him. As recounted by Herodian in his Roman history , Commodus, Roman Emperor in the second half of the 2nd century AD, inherited a war with the barbarians along the Danube River from his father, the prudent Marcus Aurelius.

Marcus Aurelius was noted as an educated and benign emperor but he was also concerned with defending the empire.

He ruled with Lucius Verus as co-emperor from 161 until Verus’ death in 169. He was the last of the Five Good Emperors, and is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers.

During his reign, the Empire defeated a revitalized Parthian Empire in the East; Aurelius’ general Avidius Cassius sacked the capital Ctesiphon in 164. In central Europe, Aurelius fought the Marcomanni, Quadi, and Sarmatians with success during the Marcomannic Wars, with the threat of the Germanic tribes beginning to represent a troubling reality for the Empire. A revolt in the East led by Avidius Cassius failed to gain momentum and was suppressed immediately.

He is also revered as a scholar and philosopher.

Marcus Aurelius’ Stoic tome Meditations, written in Greek while on campaign between 170 and 180, is still revered as a literary monument to a philosophy of service and duty, describing how to find and preserve equanimity in the midst of conflict by following nature as a source of guidance and inspiration.

How did Commodus do ?

two groups of advisers competed for Commodus’s ear. On the one hand, sycophantic courtesans, “who gauge their pleasure by their bellies and something a little lower,” kept dangling in front of Commodus the attractions of a return to Rome. Life was easier, more pleasant there; the new Emperor would be celebrated and praised by the populace, and he could enjoy there the excitement of intellectual conversations at well appointed tables of influential men (perhaps the Roman equivalent of a “2006 Brunello, grilled rib-eye and three pasta dishes—cacio e pepe, all’arrabbiata and Bolognese” and a conversation about “the importance of understanding science, the future of the universe, how sports brings people together, and many other things,” as recounted in a New York Times article describing Obama’s attraction to such meetings). How preferable this vision must have been to the grinding details of frontier warfare! Moreover, were he to return to Rome and to a direct control over domestic affairs, the Emperor could perhaps also keep an eye on his political opponents, quickly criticizing them or bringing them to his court to coopt them.

Commodus was eventually assassinated by his sister’s lovers. Before that, he was a disappointment.

Michael Grant, in The Climax of Rome (1968), writes of Commodus:

The youth turned out to be very erratic or at least so anti-traditional that disaster was inevitable. But whether or not Marcus ought to have known this to be so, the rejections of his son’s claims in favour of someone else would almost certainly involved one of the civil wars which were to proliferate so disastrous around future successions.

We shall see how Obama turns out.

On the frontier, the Emperor decided to let others fight the war. He left the war “in the hands of leaders he deemed capable and trustworthy.” And they chose to avoid a fight. It was easier to buy the barbarians off, even though they sold “peace at a huge price.” But this approach was preferable to Commodus too: he “bargained for release from care and gave the barbarians everything they demanded.”

We shall see what happens after Obama.

The Kurds and the Israelis are our only allies in the middle east.

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

The growth of terrorist state ISIS has taken all the attention lately. This is just a resurgence of al Qeada in the vacuum left by Obama’s withdrawal of all US troops. Maybe, if we had kept a significant force in Iraq, something could be saved of all we bought at such terrible cost. Now, it is too late.

We do have allies worth helping but they are not in the Iraqi government. It is Shia dominated and dependent on Iran for support. They have alienated the Sunnis and the growth of ISIS is the result. We still have the Kurds as allies and they know we were their only hope in 1993. Jay Garner did a great job working with them once we decided to protect them after the First Gulf War. I have never understood why he was dismissed by George W Bush.

The Kurds have been an embarrassment for us for decades in the middle east because they occupy parts of three nations two of which were at one time our allies.

contemporarykurdistanmap2005

Kurdistan includes parts of Iraq, Turkey and Iran. They have never had a modern nation and the neighbors are enemies. Only the mountains have protected them. Now, it is time we did something. Iran is certainly no friend. Iraq has dissolved and it is time to allow it to be broken up into the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish provinces it should be. Turkey is increasingly Islamist and has not been an ally at least since 2003 when they blocked our 4th Infantry Division from invading Iraq from the north.

The 4th was initially ordered to deploy in January 2003 before the war began, but did not arrive in Kuwait until late March. The delay was caused by the inability of the United States and Turkey to reach an agreement over using Turkish military bases to gain access to northern Iraq, where the division was originally planned to be located. Units from the division began crossing into Iraq on April 12, 2003.

The Kurds know this is their opportunity and Dexter Filkins piece in the New Yorker makes this clear.

The incursion of ISIS presents the Kurds with both opportunity and risk. In June, the ISIS army swept out of the Syrian desert and into Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. As the Islamist forces took control, Iraqi Army soldiers fled, setting off a military collapse through the region. The Kurds, taking advantage of the chaos, seized huge tracts of territory that had been claimed by both Kurdistan and the government in Baghdad. With the newly acquired land, the political climate for independence seemed promising. The region was also finding new economic strength; vast reserves of oil have been discovered there in the past decade. In July, President Barzani asked the Kurdish parliament to begin preparations for a vote on self-rule. “The time has come to decide our fate, and we should not wait for other people to decide it for us,” Barzani said.

The Kurds were surprised and routed by ISIS mostly due to limited weapons and ammunition. We could supply the deficit but Obama seems to be oblivious to the true situation. The Iraqi Army will not fight, a characteristic of all Arab armies. To the degree that the Iraqi army is Shia led, the Sunni Arabs will not cooperate or will join the enemy.

The present situation in Kurdistan is desperate.

Erbil has changed a lot since I was there last. In early 2013, on my way into Syrian Kurdistan, I had stopped off in the city for a few days to make preparations. Then, the city had the feel of a boom town – shopping malls springing up across the skyline, brand new SUVs on the road, Exxon Mobil and Total were coming to town. It was the safest part of Iraq, an official of the Kurdish Regional Government had told me proudly over dinner in a garden restaurant.

A new kind of Middle East city.

What a difference a year makes. Now, Erbil is a city under siege. The closest lines of the Islamic State (IS) forces are 45 kilometers away. At the distant frontlines, IS (formerly ISIS) is dug in, its vehicles visible, waiting and glowering in the desert heat. The Kurdish Peshmerga forces are a few hundred meters away in positions hastily cut out of the sand to face the advancing jihadi fighters.

The problem and a solution are both clear. Obama is not serious about doing anything in Iraq or Syria and the Kurds may have to fend for themselves. Interesting enough, there are Jewish Kurds. Israel may have more at stake here than we do. We are an unreliable ally with an anti-Israel president and party in contra, right now.

The phrase “Kurds have no friends but the mountains” was coined by Mullah Mustafa Barzani, the great and undisputed leader of the Kurdish people who fought all his life for Kurdish independence, and who was the first leader of the Kurdish autonomous region. His son, Massoud Barzani, is the current president of Iraqi Kurdistan. Other family members hold key positions in the government.

Barzani1Barzani

Perhaps the Israelis and Kurds can work out an alliance. The US, under Obama, is untrustworthy. We will see what happens.

The Yazidi minority we hear about in the news is not the only Kurdish minority. The Jews of Kurdistan, for example, maintained the traditions of ancient Judaism from the days of the Babylonian exile and the First Temple: they carried on the tradition of teaching the Oral Torah, and Aramaic remained the principal tongue of some in the Jewish Kurdish community since the Talmudic period. They preserved the legacy of the last prophets — whose grave markers constituted a significant part of community life — including the tomb of the prophet Jonah in Mosul, the prophet Nahum in Elkosh and the prophet Daniel in Kirkuk. When the vast majority of Kurdish Jews immigrated to Israel and adopted Hebrew as their first language, Aramaic ceased to exist as a living, spoken language. Although our grandparents’ generation still speaks it, along with a few Christian communities in Kurdistan, Aramaic has been declared a dead language by the academic world.

Israel might be an answer to the Kurds’ dilemma.

Now we know why Foley wasn’t rescued.

Monday, August 25th, 2014

The Delta Force raid on the Syrian ISIS camp failed to rescue any hostages. They had been moved. Now we know why.

Anthony Shaffer, a former lieutenant-colonel in US military intelligence who worked on covert operations, said: “I’m told it was almost a 30-day delay from when they said they wanted to go to when he finally gave the green light. They were ready to go in June to grab the guy [Foley] and they weren’t permitted.”

This is a reflex reaction of Obama to any call for action. He delays and thinks and worries about the politics. It has been reported that Obama delayed the bin Laden raid three times.

President Barack Obama — at the urging of senior adviser Valerie Jarrett — canceled the operation to kill Osama bin Laden three times before finally approving the May 2, 2011, Navy SEAL mission, according to a book scheduled to be released next month.

In “Leading From Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors who Decide for Him,” Richard Miniter writes that Obama canceled the mission in January 2011, again in February, and a third time in March, The Daily Caller reports

It isn’t just the conservative press but Hillary Clinton even says so.

Through weeks of sometimes heated White House debate in 2011, Clinton was alone among the president’s topmost cabinet officers to back it. Vice President Biden, a potential political rival for Clinton in 2016, opposed it. So did then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

The optics and the political fallout were most of his concerns. In the case of Captain Phillips of the ship hijacked by Somali pirates, reports have circulated that Obama delayed the SEALS raid several times as he agonized over the decision.

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Iraq Collapses

Friday, June 13th, 2014

The Iraqi collapse we are seeing on TV has been predictable and is related to the Obama decision to leave with no residual US presence. The reasons why the Iraqi army is dissolving are well known.

iraq humvee

An Iraqi Hummvee.

A retired US general tells the story.

The day the U.S. forces left – because of the desire of our people and our politicians, but also because Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refused to sign a required and critically protective Status of Forces Agreement – the Iraqi Army began to deteriorate.

There were myriad reasons for this, besides our departure. Even before the U.S. forces left, American-trained leaders were being replaced with more and more “favored” officers from sects, tribes or families linked to the government. They weren’t chosen for their competency, a big mistake.

This is the history of Arab armies.

In my final tour, between 2007 and 2008, our soldiers did a great job reducing attacks in the north. I was able to observe and compare the capabilities of the four divisions of the Iraqi Army with the many units of the Kurdish pesh merga.

While both groups were becoming increasingly professional and capable, the connection between the pesh merga and the Kurdish government officials and Kurdish population was positive and vibrant. The same cannot be said of the Iraqi triad.

Beyond that, I also had the chance to engage with government officials, police, academics and doctors, lawyers, and women’s groups. The people we met were unfailingly professional and kind. And, almost universally, the Arab Iraqis and the Kurdish Iraqis were vocal in their frustration with the lack of action by “those in Baghdad” to attend to the matters of government: security, economic growth, services.

The attempt to “build a nation” in Iraq was possibly a worthwhile effort but it was abandoned too soon and cannot be revived.

Afghanistan will be even worse as it is far from the sea and evacuation will be much harder for the last US forces to leave.

Lord Elphinstone learned just how difficult it could be.

The Afghans launched numerous attacks against the column as it made slow progress through the winter snows of the Hindu Kush. In total the British army lost 4,500 troops, along with 12,000 mainly Indian camp-followers. The final stand was made just outside a village called Gandamak on 13 January.[3]

Out of more than 16,000 people from the column commanded by Elphinstone, only one European (Assistant Surgeon William Brydon) and a few Indian sepoys reached Jalalabad.

We have airplanes now but the distance to the sea is still intimidating Pakistan is no friend and Russia has no incentive to help. They lost nearly a thousand soldiers retreating to their border.

Bergdahl, Father and Son.

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

bergdahl

The world got a little more bizarre this week. President Obama worked a trade that involved releasing five serious Taliban leaders in return for the freeing of an army deserter from Afghanistan. Bowe Bergdahl was a private who seems to have walked away from an outpost in Afghanistan and ended up with the Taliban. There are a number of stories surfacing from other members of his unit about his departure.

The handling of the announcement has drawn considerable criticism from conservatives.

The story of how the Bergdahls ended up at the White House is pure turnip-truck territory. According to Time:

Their presence at the White House on Saturday was the apparent product of coincidence: the couple had visited the capitol for a Memorial Day event and then stayed in town for meetings in Congress. Had they been at home in Idaho when the deal was announced, they likely would not have flown to Washington to appear with Obama—and a key visual element of the drama, replayed endlessly on television, might not have occurred.

Does anyone believe that ?

Where did the Bergdahls stay during their D.C. visit, and who paid? How were they vetted before their appearance with the president — both for security and for political sensitivities — and how long did the process take? Did anybody at the White House know Robert Bergdahl was going to say “bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim,” along with the “Pashto phrase” that has been getting so much attention?

If anyone is interested, that story should melt quickly like ice cream on a hot day.

The actual story of the Bergdahl adventure has been around for years.

His attitude ?

“The future is too good to waste on lies,” Bowe wrote. “And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong. I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be american. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting.”

Bitching by soldiers goes back to Alexander the Great. Not all act on their impulse.

Bowe Bergdahl had a different response. He decided to walk away.

In the early-morning hours of June 30th, according to soldiers in the unit, Bowe approached his team leader not long after he got off guard duty and asked his superior a simple question: If I were to leave the base, would it cause problems if I took my sensitive equipment?

Yes, his team leader responded – if you took your rifle and night-vision goggles, that would cause problems.

Bowe returned to his barracks, a roughly built bunker of plywood and sandbags. He gathered up water, a knife, his digital camera and his diary. Then he slipped off the outpost.

Where was he going ? There are stories that he was not a prisoner but a collaborator.

the Defense Department source confirmed to Fox News that many within the intelligence community harbor serious outstanding concerns not only that Bergdahl may have been a deserter but that he may have been an active collaborator with the enemy…

That is explosive stuff and, so far, is all coming from the right. If these stories are out there why would the White House get anywhere near this thing until it is fully vetted ?

The backlash seems to have taken them by surprise. Now they are even attacking the other members of the platoon. Here’s the thing about Bergdahl and the Jump-to-Conclusions mats: What if his platoon was long on psychopaths and short on leadership?

This is from a minor official in HUD who is an anti-war vet with seeming ambitions to be the next John Kerry.

kerry

Kerry

Friedman

Friedman

Do they look alike ?

Friedman has a point. The final verdict on Bergdahl should come from a court martial. Will he ever face one ?

Have we lost and is this why we lost ?

Friday, May 30th, 2014

A new book by a retired army general explains that we lost the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Why ?

I have had reservations about Iraq for years, at least since 2008.

When President Bush convened a meeting of his National Security Council on May 22, 2003, his special envoy in Iraq made a statement that caught many of the participants by surprise. In a video presentation from Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer III informed the president and his aides that he was about to issue an order formally dissolving Iraq’s Army.

I think that decision probably lost the post-invasion war. The other puzzle that was not explained until the recent book, Days of Fire explained it, was why Bremer was put in place of Jay Garner, who had done well with the Kurds.

Garner began reconstruction efforts in March 2003 with plans aiming for Iraqis to hold elections within 90 days and for the U.S. to quickly pull troops out of the cities to a desert base. Talabani, a member of Jay Garner’s staff in Kuwait before the war, was consulted on several occasions to help the U.S. select a liberal Iraqi government; this would be the first liberal Government to exist in Iraq. In an interview with Time magazine, Garner stated that “as in any totalitarian regime, there were many people who needed to join the Baath Party in order to get ahead in their careers. We don’t have a problem with most of them. But we do have a problem with those who were part of the thug mechanism under Saddam. Once the U.S. identifies those in the second group, we will get rid of them.

Had Garner continued with that policy, we might have been out of the cities in a few months instead of years, as was the case with Bremer.

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The Coming Election

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

I don’t think that a more important election has occurred in 75 years than the one later this year. I am not all that enthusiastic about any of the current candidate in the primary. Mitt Romney will probably win but he has been wounded seriously by attacks from other Republican candidates which alleged that his career as a venture capitalist and management consultant was an ethical issue. One expects this sort of thing from Democrats, about 53% of whom prefer Socialism.

53% of Democrats feel positively towards it.

Romney has defended himself with some vigor, which is a positive development. Others have defended him with a more effective argument.

We are now in an election campaign that may well be centered on our country’s economic system. Is capitalism (or free market economics as preferred by some) the best way for our economy to work? History has been written by people who are not positive about capitalism. Recently, revisionist history has appeared that tries to balance the story. Academic studies have been published that suggest that the Depression was a result of Roosevelt’s policies.

The writings of John Maynard Keynes have been quoted in support of leftist economic policies. The problem is that his policies have never been tried. He advocated countercyclical programs which ran deficits in times of economic slowdowns and recessions but surpluses in good economic time. The net result was zero deficits, a marked contrast with policies followed since 1960.

In fact, politicians of both parties have never been willing to run the surpluses that Keynes advocated. In good times, spending rose whether taxes were raised or not. Jimmy Carter said he would balance the budget with higher taxes. Instead, his compatriots (not allies) in Congress spent even more, leading to an inflation and stagnation crisis.

Ronald Reagan reinvigorated the economy with a large tax cut in 1980. The beneficial effect was delayed to 1982 when Bob Dole, the Senate Majority Leader, succeed in delaying the tax cut. The result was a predictable delay in economic activity as taxpayers waited for the lower rates, and the loss of the Senate majority in 1982.

Bill Clinton raised taxes in 1994 (His wife, Hillary, avoided the higher tax rates by taking her bonus prior to January 1, 1993, when the higher rates took effect. The result showed her prudence but also suggested hypocrisy in the Democrats’ enthusiasm for higher taxes.

George Bush I raised taxes in 1992 in spite of a promise not to do so. He lost the 1992 election, mainly because of Ross Perot’s candidacy splitting natural Republican voters. I was interested in Perot at the time but he started acting strangely before the election and I voted for Bush with reservations. Had he not raised taxes, I think he would have been re-elected. I have had some suspicion in spite of denials, ever since that the Democrats extracted a promise to raise taxes in return for voting for the first Gulf War. It is well known that All Gore required concessions in return for his vote for the war.

Afghanistan, Egypt and Obama

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

I have previously posted my opinion that Afghanistan is not worth the cost. I stated my reasons why we should leave here and here and here. Nothing has changed there but a lot is happening elsewhere in the Middle East.

Egypt’s escalating tensions amount to the first real foreign crisis for the Obama administration that it did not inherit. The crisis serves as a test of Obama’s revamped White House operation. Daley, a former Commerce secretary in the Clinton administration, is now running a staff that is briefing Obama regularly on Egypt.

They have handled it badly. This is a very dangerous time for us. The Egyptian Army seems to be siding with the protesters. That may or may not last.

The left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz says that Egyptian army officers in Cairo’s central square have tossed aside their helmets and joined the crowd. “The Army and the people are one,” they chanted. MSNBC’s photoblog shows protesters jubilantly perched on M1A1 tanks. The real significance of these defections is that the army officers would not have done so had they not sensed which way the winds were blowing — in the Egyptian officer corps.

And even as Mubarak tottered, the Saudi king threw his unequivocal backing behind the aging dictator — not hedging like Obama — but the Iranians continued to back the Egyptian protesters. The Saudi exchange tumbled 6.44% on news of unrest from Cairo. Meanwhile, the Voice of America reports that Israel is “extremely concerned” that events in Egypt could mean the end of the peace treaty between the two countries. If Mubarak isn’t finished already, a lot of regional actors are calculating like he might be.

But Washington will not be hurried. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that President Obama will review his Middle Eastern policy after the unrest in Egypt subsides. The future, in whose spaces the administration believed its glories to lie, plans to review its past failures in the same expansive place. Yet time and oil wait for no one. Crude oil prices surged as the markets took the rapid developments in. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu observed that any disruption to Middle East oil supplies “could actually bring real harm.”

Of course, Mr Chu should not worry as we have wind and solar to take up the slack. Actually, we get our oil from Canada and Mexico but the price of oil shifts with the world’s supply.

The present Obama commitment to Afghanistan is ironic since he promised to bring troops home but he has declared that Iraq was NOT necessary and Afghanistan is. This is slightly crazy. The Iraq invasion was an example of US power being applied in a critical location; right in the middle of the Middle East. Afghanistan is a remote tribal society reachable only through unreliable Pakistan. It has minimal effect on world events. We went there to punish the Taliban for harboring the people who attacked our country. Thousands of them have been killed. We have little of interest there now. We should have left last year.

With a Shi’ite dominated government in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and a Muslim Brotherhood that may keep Egypt in neutral or tacitly accept Teheran’s leadership, how could things possibly get worse?

They can if Saudi Arabia starts to go. And what response can the U.S. offer? With U.S. combat power in landlocked Afghanistan and with the last U.S. combat forces having left Iraq in August 2010, the U.S. will have little on the ground but the State Department. “By October 2011, the US State Department will assume responsibility for training the Iraqi police and this task will largely be carried out by private contractors.” The bulk of American hard power will be locked up in secondary Southwest Asian theater, dependent on Pakistan to even reach the sea with their heavy equipment.

This is not where we want to be. The problem is that Obama and Hillary and the rest of this administration have no concept of strategy.

The Obama administration made fundamental strategic mistakes, whose consequences are now unfolding. As I wrote in the Ten Ships, a post which referenced the Japanese Carrier fleet which made up the strategic center of gravity of the enemy during the Pacific War, the center of gravity in the present crisis was always the Middle East. President Obama, by going after the criminals who “attacked America on 9/11? from their staging base was doing the equivalent of bombing the nameless patch of ocean 200 miles North of Oahu from which Nagumo launched his raid. But he was not going after the enemy center of gravity itself.

For all of its defects the campaign in Iraq was at least in the right place: at the locus of oil, ideology and brutal regimes that are the Middle East. Ideally the campaign in Iraq would have a sent a wave of democratization through the area, undermined the attraction of radical Islam, provided a base from which to physically control oil if necessary. That the campaign failed to attain many of objectives should not obscure the fact that its objectives were valid. It made far more strategic sense than fighting tribesmen in Afghanistan. Ideology, rogue regimes, energy are the three entities which have replaced the “ten ships” of 70 years ago. The means through which these three entities should be engaged ought to be the subject of reasoned debate, whether by military, economic or technological means. But the vital nature of these objectives ought not to be. Neutralize the intellectual appeal of radical Islam, topple the rogue regimes, and ease Western dependence on oil and you win the war. Yet their centrality, and even their existence is what the politicians constantly deny.

Events are unfolding, but they have not yet run their course; things are still continuing to cascade. If the unrest spreads to the point where the Suez and regional oil fall into anti-Western hands, the consequences would be incalculable. The scale of the left’s folly: their insistence on drilling moratoriums, opposition to nuclear power, support of negotiations with dictators at all costs, calls for unilateral disarmament, addiction to debt and their barely disguised virulent anti-Semitism should be too manifest to deny.

Leftism is making common cause with Islamic terrorism. Why ? I don’t really know. Some of it may be the caricature of Jews making money and being good at business. Some may simply be the extension of animosity to Israel extending to all Jews. The people behind Obama are not free of these sentiments. His Justice Department is filled with lawyers who defended terrorists at Guantanamo. Holder seems uninterested in voting rights cases if a black is the offender. He was even unwilling to say that Islamic terrorism was behind 9/11.

Because it will hit them where it hurts, in the lifestyle they somehow thought came from some permanent Western prosperity that was beyond the power of their fecklessness to destroy. It will be interesting to see if anyone can fill up their cars with carbon credits when the oil tankers stop coming or when black gold is marked at $500 a barrel. It is even possible that within a relatively short time the only government left friendly to Washington in the Middle East may be Iraq. There is some irony in that, but it is unlikely to be appreciated.

I would add a bit to this from one of my favorite essays on the topic. It compares Gorbachev to Obama.

Nor are the two men, themselves, remotely comparable in their backgrounds, or political outlook. Gorbachev, for instance, had come up from tractor driver, not through elite schools including Harvard Law; he lacked the narcissism that constantly seeks self-reflection through microphones and cameras, or the sense that everything is about him.

On the other hand, some interesting comparisons could be made between the thuggish party machine of Chicago, which raised Obama as its golden boy; and the thuggish party machine of Moscow, which presented Gorbachev as it’s most attractive face.

Both men have been praised for their wonderful temperaments, and their ability to remain unperturbed by approaching catastrophe. But again, the substance is different, for Gorbachev’s temperament was that of a survivor of many previous catastrophes.

Yet they do have one major thing in common, and that is the belief that, regardless of what the ruler does, the polity he rules must necessarily continue. This is perhaps the most essential, if seldom acknowledged, insight of the post-modern “liberal” mind: that if you take the pillars away, the roof will continue to hover in the air.

In another passage:

There is a corollary of this largely unspoken assumption: that no matter what you do to one part of a machine, the rest of the machine will continue to function normally.

A variant of this is the frequently expressed denial of the law of unintended consequences: the belief that, if the effect you intend is good, the actual effect must be similarly happy.

Very small children, the mad, and certain extinct primitive tribes, have shared in this belief system, but only the fully college-educated liberal has the vocabulary to make it sound plausible.

With an incredible rapidity, America’s status as the world’s pre-eminent superpower is now passing away. This is a function both of the nearly systematic abandonment of U.S. interests and allies overseas, with metastasizing debt and bureaucracy on the home front.

The turmoil in Egypt is a test that, I fear, Obama and his Secretary of State, will not pass.

UPDATE: The situation in Egypt festers with an ambiguous statement by Obama no help. Here is an example of how Reagan handled the Philippine overthrow of Marcos. A very different approach.

UPDATE #2: A column by Charles Krauthammer is indispensable reading today.

Elections will be held. The primary U.S. objective is to guide a transition period that gives secular democrats a chance.

The House of Mubarak is no more. He is 82, reviled and not running for reelection. The only question is who fills the vacuum. There are two principal possibilities: a provisional government of opposition forces, possibly led by Mohamed ElBaradei, or an interim government led by the military.

ElBaradei would be a disaster. As head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he did more than anyone to make an Iranian nuclear bomb possible, covering for the mullahs for years. (As soon as he left, the IAEA issued a strikingly tough, unvarnished report about the program.)

Worse, ElBaradei has allied himself with the Muslim Brotherhood. Such an alliance is grossly unequal. The Brotherhood has organization, discipline and widespread support. In 2005, it won approximately 20 percent of parliamentary seats. ElBaradei has no constituency of his own, no political base, no political history within Egypt at all.

He has lived abroad for decades. He has less of a residency claim to Egypt than Rahm Emanuel has to Chicago. A man with no constituency allied with a highly organized and powerful political party is nothing but a mouthpiece and a figurehead, a useful idiot whom the Brotherhood will dispense with when it ceases to have need of a cosmopolitan frontman.

The Egyptian military, on the other hand, is the most stable and important institution in the country. It is Western-oriented and rightly suspicious of the Brotherhood. And it is widely respected, carrying the prestige of the 1952 Free Officers Movement that overthrew the monarchy and the 1973 October War that restored Egyptian pride along with the Sinai.

The military is the best vehicle for guiding the country to free elections over the coming months.

El Baradei also attempted to intervene in the 2004 US elections by releasing a letter that alleged US forces had allowed radicals to steal hundreds of pounds of explosives in Iraq by failing to guard the facility. After the election, it was proven that the letter was not true. The man is anti-American and a liar.