Posts Tagged ‘iraq’

The end of Obama’s Syria policy.

Thursday, February 4th, 2016


The US foreign policy conducted by the Obama administration has been a disaster all along. He abandoned Iraq and the rise of ISIS has followed. I have read “Black Flags,” which describes how the al Qeada organization of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has morphed into ISIS after Obama pulled US forces out of Iraq. Now, as Richard Fernandez explains in another masterful analysis, Assad is about to rout the last of the non-ISIS opposition.

Reuters reports that Bashal al-Assad’s forces have made major advances behind a major Russian air offensive and are now poised to destroy the non-ISIS rebels opposing the Syrian government is rocking the foreign policy establishment. “After three days of intense fighting and aerial bombardment, regime forces, believed to include Iran-backed Shia militias, broke through to the formerly besieged regime enclaves of Nobul and Zahra.”

The Russians have been surprising US military leaders in ways that are very unpleasant.

The performance of the miniature, “rust bucket” Russian air force has formed an invidious baseline to what the USAF has achieved. The Independent reported:

Their army’s equipment and strategy was “outmoded”; their air force’s bombs and missiles were “more dumb than smart”; their navy was “more rust than ready”. For decades, this was Western military leaders’ view, steeped in condescension, of their Russian counterparts. What they have seen in Syria and Ukraine has come as a shock.

Russian military jets have, at times, been carrying out more sorties in a day in Syria than the US-led coalition has done in a month.

We are not serious and the US military has to wonder what will happen if Putin decides to take the Baltic republics.

All this is happening alongside the weak consequences of Hillary Clinton’s massive breach of security in her “e-mail server.”

Remember, Mrs. Clinton reviewed her e-mails before finally surrendering them to the State Department, and she initially insisted there was no classified information in them. Now, it turns out they were so threaded with classified information that the State Department and intelligence agencies have fallen hopelessly behind the court’s disclosure schedule: The task of reviewing the e-mails and redacting the portions whose publication could harm national security has proved much more complicated than anticipated. Thousands of remaining e-mails, and any embarrassing lapses they contain, will be withheld from voters until well into primary season.

From the level of disinterest in this matter shown by Politico in its piece about Clinton’s “vulnerabilities” in the Democrat primary race, there seems to be no interest at all in foreign policy by Democrats. That may change if the Baltic republics are in jeopardy but, perhaps not. Democrats seem to believe that the US is the root of all evil, not our enemies.

As America’s foes gain in the Middle East, the confusion surrounding the administration’s goals correspondingly grows. If Aleppo falls, and its defenders and inhabitants massacred it will prove that Obama cannot protect anyone. A huge humanitarian disaster whose spillover Europe must inevitably endure will ensue. There is genuine international cooperation. Russia generates refugees and Germany absorbs them.

And as for Geneva, well what of it?

Someone has to ask: what goal does America still have in the Middle East beyond defending the tattered political image of president Obama?

I wonder ?

The Sunni war on America.

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Angelo Codevilla, who has some of the most interesting things to say about America has a new column out in Asia Times.

For more than a quarter century, as Americans have suffered trouble from the Muslim world’s Sunni and Shia components and as the perennial quarrel between them has intensified, the US government has taken the side of the Sunni. This has not worked out well for us. It is past time for our government to sort out our own business, and to mind it aggressively.

To understand why hopes for help from the Sunni side are forlorn, we must be clear that jihadism in general and Daesh in particular are logical outgrowths of Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia’s (and the Gulf monarchies’) official religion, about how they fit in the broader conflict between Sunni and Shia, as well as about how the US occupation of Iraq exposed America to the vagaries of intra-Muslim conflicts.

I have believed this for some time and am happy to see him agree with me. I spent an evening listening to him talk about our foreign policy and how the War on Terror became a war on Americans.

The U.S. government does not understand how to combat international terrorism or respond to its threats. In an exclusive interview with Ginni Thomas of The Daily Caller, Codevilla highlighted the failure of both administrations to understand the enemy, explaining that it makes national security decisions based on a flawed paradigm.

“After 9/11, the U.S. government instituted a system of homeland security based on the proposition that any American is as likely as anyone in the world to commit terrorist acts — and that therefore, all Americans must be screened and presumed to be terrorists until the screening clears them,” Codevilla said.

Certainly, the government has been engaged in a faux security system with the TSA that pretends it will stop an airline hijacking or bomb threat, while allowing 90% of false bombs and guns to escape surveillance.

“These people who attacked us had reasons, which are widely supported — in fact, vigorously promoted by the regimes from which they came,” Codevilla said. “The Saudi regime, which we count as an ally, does in fact harbor the most virulent strain of Islam, the Wahhabism. This movement inspired most of the hijackers in 9/11. The others, some of the leaders, were inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, which the Obama administration has been courting and favoring.”

Rather than confronting the movement of Islamic radicalization, Codevilla says that both Barack Obama and George W. Bush blamed acts of terrorism on the perpetrators themselves, instead of viewing them as the incarnations of a murderously ideological movement.

I am a little less conspiracy minded but I agree that we face a militant ideology that is as yet unacknowledged.

US foreign policy in the Middle East had moved to the Sunni side in 1979 after the Shia Islamic Republic’s overthrow of Iran’s secular Shah. For the previous quarter century, the Shah’s Iran had taken care of US interests in the region while muting its Persian Shia people’s perennial tensions with the Sunni Arab world.

But Iran’s Islamic Republic has been as aggressively Shia and Persian as it has been anti-American. Fatefully, rather than answering in kind the Islamic Republic’s warfare on America, all presidents since Jimmy Carter have searched the Sunni Arab world for counterweights to Iran, as well as for the kind of support that the Shah had given us.

This attempt to outsource America’s security concerns by entering into the Sunni-Shia conflict on the Sunni side has been counterproductive because the Sunni, 85% of the Muslim world, are also the nursery of its most contagious plagues — the Wahhabi sect and the Muslim Brotherhood. Above all, it has been disastrous because it has led the US government to lose sight of our own interests by confusing them with those of Sunni states and potentates.

Here, I agree completely. I think Bush’s attempt to see if an Arab country could rule itself was a reasonable thing to try. The disaster was turning the policy over to Arabist Paul Bremer who decided to become a viceroy and alienated the Sunnis of Iraq. Saddam began the crisis by invading Kuwait.

The main Sunni monarchies’ congenital worse-than-uselessness is why, in the decade after Iranian Islamic Republic’s establishment, US policymakers vigorously courted Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, who ruled mostly-Shia Iraq with a bloody hand through its Sunni minority. The US policymakers who helped Saddam prevail in his war against Iran believed that, by so doing, they could strike a blow at Iran while weaning Saddam away from his reliance on the Soviet Union.

Too clever. No sooner had Saddam established his power over the head of the Gulf than he used it to conquer Kuwait, after which the Gulf’s monarchs were helpless before his disciplined army and frightened by their own peoples’ support for Saddam. They asked the United States’ help.

I am a bit skeptical here but he might well be correct. What we have now is a president who has elected to join the Shia and Iranian side in this Muslim civil war.

But instead of choosing any version of America’s own interest, US statesmen confused that interest with the self-contradictory demands of the Saudis, etc. — the Sunni world’s weak reeds: Please, make war on Saddam, but not so hard as to break his Iraqi Sunni empire. This way we can all win without dealing with the consequences of victory. We can have our cake while eating it too.

Our bipartisan ruling class, from the Bush and Clinton families to the Dick Cheneys and Colin Powells to Washington’s think tanks considered this counsel to be sophistication, and themselves to be sophisticates for accepting it. Far too clever.

The ensuing bellum interruptus was meant to tweak the balance among the Mid-East’s Sunni forces. But the result was that Saddam, who’d not been an enemy of the United States, subsequently led the Muslim world to new heights of enmity to America. Few remember that the longest and most impassioned part of Osama bin Laden’s 1996 fatwa which preceded the wave of anti-American terrorism that crested on 9/11 was a denunciation of America’s actions against Saddam’s Iraq.

Here I tend to agree with Codevilla. Clinton was not immune to this misapprehension of our interests. “Foreign Affairs,” a journal that I used to subscribe to, ran a cover story during Bill Clinton’s feckless presidency on “Foreign Policy as Social Work.”

the Sunni states — which had opposed the invasion strenuously — convinced Bush 43 to occupy Iraq indefinitely. That involved taking care of their business. He agreed to confuse others’ business with America’s despite having been elected in part by promising never to engage in “nation building.”

Bush promised to build “a united, democratic Iraq.” That was always an absurdity because, since Iraq’s constituent groups loathed and feared each other, Iraq’s unity could result only from one group’s despotism over the others, whereas “democracy” — i.e. the will of the people — meant that Iraqis would go their separate ways.

The occupation’s day-to-day practical objective however, was to hold the 83% of Iraqis who were not Sunni into a state structure in which the Sunni would salvage at least some of the privileges they had held under Saddam. That is what the Sunni states wanted, and that is what they had convinced the US government was in America’s interest as well. It was also impossible. Immediately, the occupation started a Sunni war on America that is yet to end.

This is an interesting point of view and could explain why Bush chose Bremer over the far more capable Jay Garner.

He has another installment coming this week. I will read it with interest.

Here is a section I agree with.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, chose to make his country the Islamic State’s indispensable logistical partner out of a welter of reasons and through a calculation of risks that make sense only to him. Erdogan, a Sunni Islamist and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, sees support for Daesh/ISIS as serving his personal and sectarian opposition to Syria’s Bashar al Assad. This, along with his desire to reduce Kurdish enclaves on both sides of the Syria/Turkey border.

The kurds are our only friends, if any, in the middle east except Israel.

The Democrats seem to be choosing Islam as their theme.

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015


The Meet the Press program on November 22 seemed to set a new theme for the Democrats. First, Hillary this week declared, “Let’s be clear: Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.”

Then, Chuck Todd had a Muslim activist “American international human rights lawyer, Arsalan Iftikhar,” who bemoaned the Republicans “Islamophobia.”

Arsalan has also been an adjunct professor of religious studies at DePaul University and he is also a member of the Asian American Journalists Association –

He seems to be a professional Muslim. A few months ago, they had former basketball player Lew Alcindor, now named “Kareem Abdul Jabbar,” to make the same point about peaceful Muslims.

Abdul-Jabbar told host Chuck Todd that terrorists “do not represent the teachings of Islam” and that this misconception makes it “impossible for real Muslims to be understood.”

He continued by saying that he believes the majority of terrorists are a product of their environment, not their religion:

What is their environment ? What does the Koran say ? Another essay on Islam says something quite different.

The avoidance of analysis of Islam contrasts sharply with the excoriation accorded Christianity, Israel, and Western Civilization. The Catholic Church sex abuse crisis has received saturation coverage. Distinguished history professor Philip Jenkins, in a book published by Oxford University Press, claims that media coverage distorts the crisis and contributes to anti-Catholic bigotry. Israel’s very right to exist is questioned and, in high profile media, at times denied. Western Civilization is depicted as imperialist, racist, and Orientalist. This politically-correct selective outrage that lambastes the Judeo-Christian tradition and Western Civilization while emphasizing positive images of Muslims only serves further to inoculate Islam from critique.


Where we are going and how we got here.

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

I have posted a number of previous opinions on how and why we invaded Iraq. The most recent is here.

There are other explanations that cover this question.

From late 1998 onwards, the sole inhibition on Saddam’s WMD programme was the sanctions regime. Iraq was forbidden to use the revenue from its oil except for certain specified non-military purposes. The sanctions regime, however, was also subject to illegal trading and abuse. Because of concerns about its inadequacy – and the impact on the Iraqi people – we made several attempts to refine it, culminating in a new UN resolution in May of this year. But it was only partially effective. Around $3bn of money is illegally taken by Saddam every year now, double the figure for 2000. Self-evidently there is no proper accounting for this money.

Because of concerns that a containment policy based on sanctions alone could not sufficiently inhibit Saddam’s weapons programme, negotiations continued after 1998 to gain re-admission for the UN inspectors. In 1999 a new UN resolution demanding their re-entry was passed and ignored. Further negotiations continued. Finally, after several months of discussion with Saddam’s regime this year, Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, concluded that Saddam was not serious about re-admitting the inspectors and ended the negotiations. That was in July.

All of this is established fact. I set out the history in some detail because occasionally debate on this issue seems to treat it almost as if it had suddenly arisen, coming out of nowhere on a whim, in the last few months of 2002. It is an 11 year history: a history of UN will flouted, lies told by Saddam about existence of his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programmes, obstruction, defiance and denial. There is one common consistent theme, however: the total determination of Saddam to maintain the programme; to risk war, international ostracism, sanctions, the isolation of the Iraqi economy, in order to keep it. At any time, he could have let the inspectors back in and put the world to proof. At any time he could have co-operated with the UN. Ten days ago he made the offer unconditionally, under threat of war. He could have done it at any time in the last eleven years. But he didn’t. Why?

This is from Tony Blair’s speech to Parliament.

There are too many people who don’t remember what happened. This really goes back to the end of the Ottoman Empire.


Stanley McChrystal

Saturday, June 13th, 2015

Hugh Hewitt interviewed General Stanley McCrystal on his radio show yesterday and the interview is pretty interesting. McCrystal has a memoir out called “My Share of the Task, and a new book on leadership called, “Team of Teams.

The discussion is pretty interesting. First of all, McCrystal was fired by Obama after a reporter printed a story about McCrystal’s officers disrespecting Obama.

In a statement expressing praise for McChrystal yet certainty he had to go, Obama said he did not make the decision over any disagreement in policy or “out of any sense of personal insult.” Flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the Rose Garden, he said: “War is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president.”

Of course, it was Obama’s petulance and sense of outrage that anyone would think him less than competent.

In the magazine article, McChrystal called the period last fall when the president was deciding whether to approve more troops “painful” and said the president appeared ready to hand him an “unsellable” position. McChrystal also said he was “betrayed” by Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, the man the White House chose to be his diplomatic partner in Afghanistan.

He accused Eikenberry of raising doubts about Karzai only to give himself cover in case the U.S. effort failed. “Now, if we fail, they can say ‘I told you so,'” McChrystal told the magazine. And he was quoted mocking Vice President Joe Biden.

McCrystal has emerged looking better and better and is obviously a great leader and general. Some of the interview’s insights into his leadership are worth repeating. I plan to read both books.

When I first took command, we were doing about four raids a month, or one a week, and we would take time to develop intelligence, rehearse the force, execute, and then try to digest it. By about two and a half years later, we were up to 300 raids a month or ten a night. And so for the force, it meant that most of the force fought every night. And so we would do the majority of operations at night, and then most of the force would go to bed about dawn. I would go to bed about dawn, wake up mid-morning, and then we’d spend that afternoon maturing intelligence, collecting, cross-leveling, making decisions on priorities, and then start to execute for that night. And then of course, there was a percentage of operations, because of emerging opportunities, that came during the day.

That was when he took over Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq.

On ISIS he has this to say.

I think the Islamic State is a threat that has to be taken seriously. But I think more broadly and more disturbingly, they’re a symptom. This is an organization with an unacceptable ideology, abhorrent behavior. They’re really not resonating with the vast majority of people in the region, but they’re holding terrain, they’re making progress, they’re frightening people, and that shouldn’t happen. It really, to me, symbolizes the incredible weakness of the Mid-East right now, and the weakness of developing a coalition. In better days, an organization like this ought to have a very short life, and it ought to be crushed quickly.

His conclusions are not very reassuring.

it appears that al Qaeda in Iraq now organized as the Islamic State or al Nusra in other places has increased their battle rhythm exponentially even as we’ve withdrawn from the field. Have you seen that from afar? Do you think they’re getting faster than they even were then? And by the way, kudos on the opening head fake second chapter in Team of Teams.
SM: Well Hugh, that’s exactly the conclusion I derive. What happened with al Qaeda in Iraq is they became a 21st Century organization not by intent, they just happened to grow during that period, and so they leveraged these. ISIS, I think, is a 21st Century manifestation of information technology. Think about their agility on the battlefield, and we see what they do, but think about how many people they influence every day with their information operations. They reach about 100 million people a day through various things. They only have recruit a tiny percentage of those to have a real impact.

HH: Do you think al-Baghdadi is as malevolent and as capable a character as al-Zarqawi, whom you hunted down and killed?
SM: Zarqawi was very good, and I’m not convinced that al-Baghdadi is. It seems to me he is more of an iconic figure. But he doesn’t have to run this thing. He doesn’t have to micromanage it. What he does is create the idea, create the environment, and then they operate in a very decentralized, rapid way that makes him very resilient.

They are growing and adapting rapidly. That is not good news.

As for Iran, he says this :

Are they as capable as our task force people are? Do you think the Iranians have this kind of adaptability that you’re talking about?

SM: I think that they do. They’re not as capable as we are in some of the technical systems. They’re not probably as well-trained in some of the small teams. But they have this extraordinary advantage of proximity. And I don’t mean physical proximity, I mean cultural proximity. They put people inside Iraq. They put people inside Syria. They allow their force to get close enough to have a really good feel for it. Of course, the leader, Soleimani, he’s around the battlefield, and he’s become an iconic, heroic figure, because he’s there and engaged.

China is less of an immediate concern.

SM: Well, I think the Chinese first are, they start with this growing economic power, which gives them a launch point to do things, to build aircraft carriers, to build cyber capacity. They’ve been spending an awful lot of money on their military now. They are not very overtly poking us in the eye around the world, in my view. What they are doing is raising the bar to the point where for the United States or even a coalition to shape China’s behavior either through containment or through threat, they’re raising the bar high enough where it’s going to be very difficult to do that, anti-ship missiles and other capabilities. So suddenly, they’re not in a position of being pushed around. I don’t think that they are posturing themselves, yet, for a confrontation, and they may never. I certainly wouldn’t claim to say that that’s their angle, but they want to be the middle kingdom. I mean, they had 200 bad years, but if you look at the sweep of history, that’s a pretty short period.

I agree. I think China is less of a threat than Russia right now and may never be. I plan to read his books.

Iran is over-reaching ? Is Assad about to fall ?

Monday, May 25th, 2015


I have previously postulated that Iran my be getting too stretched.

The Saudis are also in trouble.

Is this good or bad for our interests ?

One might argue that president Obama really played a deep game from his first day in office, perhaps intending all along to single-handedly destroy the Islamic world by withdrawing from the region. But the refutation for this hypothesis surely lies in his single-minded determination to let Iran acquire a nuclear weapon. What sense does it make to trap Iran in a corner then give them a bomb? Especially since the Saudis have made noises about buying their own nuke in turn?

More probably there was no deep calculation behind the events unleashed by administration. They simply blundered into the position they find themselves in now. As Daniel Halper notes, president Obama formally greeted the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia by the wrong name, getting the names of his ancestors wrong too. Hillary couldn’t even remember the name of the US ambassador on the night of the attack on the Benghazi consulate.

Incompetence, rather than deep genius, may be more important in history than we would like to admit.

Obama is a community organizer with all the talent that implies. What is going to happen now?

A more vivid description of BOP (Balance of Power) was provided by Michael Scheuer, former CIA head of the Bin Laden team in an interview with Britain’s Channel 4.

I think we should back away from the whole thing. The thing was ideal when IS was advancing on Baghdad because Sunnis were killing Shias. That’s exactly what we need. We’ve proven that we’re just militarily incompetent or that the military is so shackled by its political leaders, that it can’t defeat these people. But our best hope right now is to get the Sunnis and Shias fighting each other and let them bleed each other white. …

Mr Cameron and Mr Obama and most Western leaders seem to love the idea of us being bled to death by them, rather than the other way round. And we have the problems that have been created by multiculturalism and diversity in our own countries, in Europe more severely than ours but it’s coming our way too.

This is reminiscent of the Iran-Iraq War when Henry Kissinger famously said, “It is too bad both can’t lose.”

Of course, that is 4,000 American lives ago.

What now ? Why in the world is Obama proposing to let the Iranians have nuclear weapons ?

If Assad falls, China and Russia “lose” along with Iran.

The Russians and Chinese clearly understood that if this [Iranian expansion] had happened, the United States would have had an intense interest in undermining the Iranian sphere of influence — and would have had to devote massive resources to doing so. Russia and China benefitted greatly in the post-9/11 world, when the United States was obsessed with the Islamic world and had little interest or resources to devote to China and Russia. With the end of the Afghanistan war looming, this respite seemed likely to end. Underwriting Iranian hegemony over a region that would inevitably draw the United States’ attention was a low-cost, high-return strategy.

The Chinese primarily provided political cover, keeping the Russians from having to operate alone diplomatically. They devoted no resources to the Syrian conflict but did continue to oppose sanctions against Iran and provided trade opportunities for Iran. The Russians made a much larger commitment, providing material and political support to the al Assad regime.

But as Assad began to fold the wily Russians decided to cut their losses, leaving the Iranians holding the bag.

Again, why nuclear weapons ? And, of course, it is our fault Arabs are killing each other.

Why Bush Invaded Iraq.

Friday, May 15th, 2015


There is quite a series of Republican politicians declaring that they would not invade Iraq if they knew then what they know now. JEB Bush is not the only one. Ted Cruz has made Talking Points Memo happy with a similar declaration.

Earlier in the week, Kelly asked Bush if he would have authorized the invasion, and he said he would have. On Tuesday, Bush told Sean Hannity that he hadn’t heard the question correctly and wasn’t sure what he would have done. Cruz, on the other hand, said he knows what he would have done.

“Of course not,” Cruz said in response to Kelly asking if he would have authorized an invasion. “I mean, the entire predicate of the war against Iraq was the intelligence that showed they had weapons of mass destruction and they might use them.

Of course, the “WMD” argument is a more recent addition to the story. Nobody talks anymore about why Bush was forced to invade in 2003. WMD were a small part of it. That is forgotten, of course.

Mr Speaker, thank you for recalling Parliament to debate the best way to deal with the issue of the present leadership of Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Today we published a 50 page dossier detailing the history of Iraq’s WMD, its breach of UN resolutions and the current attempts to rebuild the illegal WMD programme. I have placed a copy in the Library of the House.

At the end of the Gulf War, the full extent of Saddam’s chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programmes became clear. As a result, the UN passed a series of resolutions demanding Iraq disarm itself of such weapons and establishing a regime of weapons inspection and monitoring to do the task. They were to be given unconditional and unrestricted access to all and any Iraqi sites.


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.


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.