Free Markets, Free People

Foreign Affairs

1 2 3 48

Dither and delay, while ISIS grows stronger and becomes a larger threat

You know you’ve lost respect in the world when the French Foreign Minister calls you out and tells you to do your job:

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has a message about Iraq for Barack Obama: Get back to the White House and do something.

‘I know it is the holiday period in our Western countries,’ Fabius told a radio interviewer Tuesday in France,’ but when people are dying, you must come back from vacation.’

This is just another in a series of disrespectful utterings from foreign leaders about our current resident of the White House.  And yes, it’s about leadership, something our current president does his best to avoid.

Meanwhile, in Iraq:

Senior U.S. officials describe the threat posed by the Islamic State in chilling terms, but they have mounted a decidedly modest military campaign to check its advance through northern Iraq.

The radical Islamist organization has attracted more fighterscontrols more territory and has access to a larger stream of money than al-Qaeda did before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to U.S. officials and terrorism experts. Its refusal to rein in its brand of rampant violence accounts in part for its break from the better-known terrorist group.

“This is serious business,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry told reporters earlier this week. “I think the world is beginning to come to grips with the degree to which this is unacceptable.”

I think much of the world came to grips with it on 9/11.  It is primarily our current leadership that has yet to come to grips with it, attempting to play down the seriousness of the situation by characterizing ISIS as the “jay vee” squad of terrorists.  Of course, that’s just ignorant rubbish.

So far, though, the Obama administration’s response to the group’s blitzkrieg through northern Iraq has been defined primarily by the limits it has placed on the U.S. military’s intervention.

The disconnect between the unnerving assessments of the Islamic State and the apparent lack of urgency in confronting it reflects a mix of political and military constraints. Among them are no clear military strategy for reversing the group’s recent territorial gains, a war-weariness that pervades the Obama administration and the country, and significant uncertainty about the extent to which the Islamic State is prepared to morph from a regional force into a transnational terrorist threat that could target Europe and the United States.

This goes back to my previous post about the West’s unwillingness (and certainly this administration is clearly unwilling) to do what is necessary to confront and defeat radical Islam.  In the case of a growing and violent ISIS, this is the time and place you do that.  It is a “nip it in the bud” moment.

Instead we have President Dither talking about what he won’t do.  And what he has done, a couple of airstrikes, is about as impressive and daunting to ISIS as taking a BB gun to a charging grizzly.

But the ongoing U.S. airstrikes are equally notable for what they have not tried to do. U.S. military officials have emphasized that the strikes are not designed to reverse the gains Sunni extremist fighters have made.

“We’ve had a very temporary effect,” Lt. Gen. William Mayville, a senior Army officer on the Joint Staff, told reporters this week.

It’s called “weakness”, boys and girls.  And in the anarchy of the international arena that sort of weakness creates opportunities for other power brokers.  In this case, ISIS continues to thumb its nose at all, brutally butcher all those who it finds that live outsides its narrow, radical creed and cares not a whit what the West thinks, since it is pretty darn sure it won’t do anything about it.

In fact, Obama’s “plan” is a lot like his plan for the SOFA agreement that failed.  Offer help only if certain political conditions are met that are, frankly, not going to happen – at least not in the near future (the CIA says it would take “years”):

President Obama, who campaigned on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has repeatedly said that a U.S. presence of that size in Iraq isn’t under consideration. “American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq,” he said.

With that in mind, the Obama administration has held off on more aggressive intervention plans, pledging in recent days to expand U.S. military involvement if the Baghdad government can show progress on including Sunnis and Kurds.

So he’s effectively put himself in a position to blame his inaction on the Iraqis, just as he did with the SOFA agreement.

Meanwhile the sycophants here claim that Obama is acting with restraint and wisely.  In fact, he’s in his usual mode of indecision and dithering.  He stands around with his thumb up his posterior while his buffoon of a Secretary of State states the obvious – this is “unacceptable”.  But apparently not unacceptable enough to actually do something about it.

But, as we’ve all learned, in Obama’s world, words equal action, so calling it “unacceptable” is about as good as it gets.

“Time is of the essence,” said Adm. James Stavridis, a former supreme allied commander of NATO and now dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University. The longer the airstrikes drag on, the more time Islamic State fighters will have to learn how to survive them. “Without a fast and serious response, including Special Operations forces on the ground, the chances of reversing IS gains or even breaking their evident momentum is very low,” he said.

And if we don’t do it now, we’ll have to do it later – guaranteed.  Of course that will be when they’re stronger, better armed, control more territory and have even more revenue and fighters than they do now.

Sometimes you’re stuck doing things you really don’t want to do but know innately that if you don’t act, that which you don’t address will only get far worse.   This is one of those situations.

We should act – decisively – but we won’t.  And the problem will only get worse.

I guess the next president can take solace in the fact that when faced with an even larger threat from ISIS, he can blame Obama.

~McQ

 

To call Obama’s foreign policy “Carteresque” is an insult to Jimmy Carter

For a few decades, Jimmy Carter has been thought of as the modern president with the very worst foreign policy.  He’s also been considered the bottom of the heap of modern presidents as well.  But James Kircheck makes the point that the one positive accomplishment in all of this is the Obama administration’s ability to elevate Jimmy Carter from worst to next to worst when it comes to both the presidency and foreign policy.  An objective look at the foreign policies of both presidents shows some remarkable similarities, but there are also striking differences.  The biggest is that upon examination, Carter’s foreign policy, while poor, wasn’t at all as inept and incompetent as the current president’s.  When the Iranian hostage crisis and the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan took place, Carter at least had a plan and executed it:

By January, Carter announced a series of proposals directed at weakening America’s adversaries. First was a 5% increase in defense spending, a move that angered many of his Democratic allies in Congress who had taken to slashing the defense budget in the wake of the Vietnam War.

In his State of the Union address, Carter announced what would later come to be known as the Carter Doctrine: that the United States would use military force to protect its vital interests in the Persian Gulf.

Next came an embargo on grain and agricultural technology to the Soviet Union. Carter also declared that the United States would boycott the 1980 Moscow summer Olympics unless the Soviets withdrew their troops from Afghanistan. When they did not, he began covert funding of Afghan rebel fighters.

Conservatives like to credit Ronald Reagan with ending the Cold War. To the extent that the collapse of the Soviet Union was brought about by American policies and not the internal contradictions and weaknesses of the communist system itself (a debate that engages historians to this day), the last year of the Carter administration laid the groundwork.

Now you may disagree with what he did and how he did it, but at least he took action.  On the other hand:

The correlations between the world situation in the twilight of the Carter administration and in the second Obama term are hard to ignore. Once again, Russia has invaded a neighbor. Only this time, that neighbor is on the European continent, and Moscow went so far as to annex — not merely attack — its territory. And once again the Middle East is in flames, with the prospect of another Islamist movement taking control over a state, this time in Iraq.

But rather than respond to the collapsing world order by supporting our allies and undermining our adversaries, the Obama administration dithers. It is an indication of just how worrisome the situation is that many in Washington are pining for the resolve and fortitude of Jimmy Carter.

For months, the beleaguered Ukrainians have requested the most basic of military aid. The administration sends Meals Ready to Eat. Even hard-hitting, “sectoral” sanctions aimed at the Russian economy are viewed as too provocative.

Last year, Obama declared a “red line” on Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people. Assad’s deployment of such weapons, the world was told, would constitute the sort of breach of international law and norms requiring an American response.

When Assad did use such weapons, Washington allowed itself to be coopted into a farcical deal — proposed by that most altruistic of world leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin — that saw the purported removal of Assad’s chemical arsenal. The message from Washington to Assad: You can continue murdering your people en masse and destabilizing the entire Middle East, but just do so using conventional weapons.

When you analyze what this administration has done, or in may cases not done, you’re left scratching your head.  At least what Carter did had some short term and long term plan.  As pointed out, it laid the basis for future foreign policy (whether or not you agree with its direction).

But when you look at the Obama foreign policy (or lack thereof), it shows no direction, no leadership, no nothing.  Add to that a feckless John Kerry preceded by an equally feckless Hillary Clinton and the US suffers on all fronts in the world arena.  Where there was a discernible lack of respect that emerged due to Carter’s bungling at times, it was nowhere as deep or as widespread as the lack of respect in the world for Barack Obama. The two examples above typify both the emptiness and toothlessness of this administration’s attempts at foreign policy.  The lack of leadership is telling.  And again, Obama et. al. seem to think that symbolic acts serve the purpose and that talking equals action.  For instance:

Few take America, least of all Secretary of State John Kerry, at its word anymore. Earlier this week, Kerry demanded that Russia urge separatists in Ukraine to disarm “within the next hours, literally.”

Or what? This empty threat followed months of similar reprimands from Washington.

Precisely right – or what!?  Same in Syria, with Russia, Iran, well, you name it.  Empty threats and hand-waving.  Red lines drawn, erased and redrawn.

And, of course there’s the “blame Bush” side of their “foreign policy”:

Obama and his surrogates endlessly complain about the “disaster” they inherited from the Bush administration there, but the country was largely pacified by the time Obama entered the White House. Today, due largely to American absenteeism in the region, Islamist militants that make Al Qaeda look like a Rotary Club control a large chunk of the country.

There is no real reason we should be witnessing what we’re seeing in Iraq, had this administration not made the SOFA agreement conditions unacceptable.  Its handling of that was “failure by design”.  And now, well now the inevitable has happened hasn’t it?  Our answer?  “Buy jets from the Russians”, a move that will let them steal another step in the region.

Kirchick concludes:

Global instability is on the rise and faith in America’s stabilizing presence is on the decline, and all we have from Washington are empty, millennial-friendly buzz phrases. “Leading from behind” was how one, too-clever-by-half administration official termed Obama’s global strategy. Hitting “singles” and “doubles” is Obama’s own, jocular assessment of his foreign policy. And now, “Don’t do stupid s—” is the mantra being repeated throughout the halls of the White House and State Department.

“Don’t do anything at all” seems more apt a description of this administration’s approach.

I disagree slightly – the mantra being repeated through the halls of both the White House and State Department isn’t preceded by “don’t”. They’ve been doing “stupid s—” since day one and continue to do it on a daily basis. And there is absolutely nothing that seems to indicate that won’t be the case for the rest of Obama’s term. While the majority of the nation and the world are seeing the horrific downside produced by this inept and incompetent administration’s “foreign policy” and lack of leadership, there is at least one winner – Jimmy Carter.

~McQ

Trying to rewrite history … again

Even the Washington Post has a problem swallowing the latest Obama attempt at rewriting history (with the usual motive of passing off the blame to someone or something else).  As usual, Obama is trying to have it both ways while waving away his culpability in the problems and deaths now taking place in Iraq:

President Obama surprised a few people during a news conference Thursday by claiming that the 2011 decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq, a politically popular move on the eve of an election year, was made entirely by his Iraqi counterpart. The implication ran counter to a number of claims that Obama has made in the past, most notably during a tight campaign season two years ago, when he suggested that it was his decision to leave Iraq and end an unpopular war.

His remarks, coming as an Islamist insurgency seizes territory across northern Iraq and threatens the central government, recalled key moments in his reelection race when he called his opponent hopelessly out of step with Middle East realities for wanting to keep U.S. forces in the still-fragile country America had invaded nearly a decade earlier.

In the 2012 campaign’s stretch, Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney met inside the performing arts center of Lynn University for the last of three presidential debates. The race remained close, and in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission and CIA-run annex in Benghazi, Libya, the Romney team saw foreign policy as an area of potential vulnerability for the incumbent. The debate focused on the issue.

For much of that election year, Obama had included a line of celebration in his standard stump speech, one that among an electorate exhausted by more than a decade of war always drew a rousing applause: “Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq,” Obama proclaimed in Bowling Green, Ohio, in September 2012, and did nearly every day after until the election. “We did.”

For Obama, who four years earlier had distinguished himself from Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton through his opposition to the war in Iraq, the fact he had withdrawn all U.S. forces from the country was a problem solved and a political chip to be cashed in come November.

It was also a way to once again draw contrasts with Romney, who criticized Obama for failing to secure a so-called status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government. The agreement would have granted immunity from Iraqi prosecution to all U.S. troops in country after 2011. Reaching such a deal — a political risk for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — would have allowed a contingent of several thousand U.S. troops to remain, largely to help with training and specific counter-terrorism operations.

“With regards to Iraq, you and I agreed, I believe, that there should be a status of forces agreement,” Romney told Obama as the two convened on the Lynn University campus in Boca Raton, Fla., that October evening. “That’s not true,” Obama interjected. “Oh, you didn’t want a status of forces agreement?” Romney asked as an argument ensued. “No,” Obama said. “What I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. That certainly would not help us in the Middle East.”

On Thursday, Obama addressed reporters in the White House Briefing Room about Iraq’s latest crisis. “Do you wish you had left a residual force in Iraq? Any regrets about that decision in 2011?” a reporter asked. “Well, keep in mind that wasn’t a decision made by me,” Obama said. “That was a decision made by the Iraqi government.”

While the last statement is technically true, it’s because the Obama administration had engineered it to be that way.  They knew full well how all of our other Status of Forces Agreements were done and deliberately included conditions and a step that was unnecessary that all but guaranteed rejection by the Iraqi government.

Here’s a little history of the time (written in October of 2011):

Quite simply it was a matter of will: President Bush really wanted to get a deal done, whereas Mr. Obama did not. Mr. Bush spoke weekly with Mr. Maliki by video teleconference. Mr. Obama had not spoken with Mr. Maliki for months before calling him in late October to announce the end of negotiations. Mr. Obama and his senior aides did not even bother to meet with Iraqi officials at the United Nations General Assembly in September.

The administration didn’t even open talks on renewing the Status of Forces Agreement until this summer, a few months before U.S. troops would have to start shuttering their remaining bases to pull out by Dec. 31. The previous agreement, in 2008, took a year to negotiate.

The recent negotiations were jinxed from the start by the insistence of State Department and Pentagon lawyers that any immunity provisions be ratified by the Iraqi parliament—something that the U.S. hadn’t insisted on in 2008 and that would be almost impossible to get today. In many other countries, including throughout the Arab world, U.S. personnel operate under a Memorandum of Understanding that doesn’t require parliamentary ratification. Why not in Iraq? Mr. Obama could have chosen to override the lawyers’ excessive demands, but he didn’t.

He also undercut his own negotiating team by regularly bragging—in political speeches delivered while talks were ongoing—of his plans to “end” the “war in Iraq.” Even more damaging was his August decision to commit only 3,000 to 5,000 troops to a possible mission in Iraq post-2011. This was far below the number judged necessary by our military commanders. They had asked for nearly 20,000 personnel to carry out counterterrorist operations, support American diplomats, and provide training and support to the Iraqi security forces. That figure was whittled down by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to 10,000, which they judged to be the absolute minimum needed.

The Iraqis knew about these estimates: U.S. military commanders had communicated them directly to Iraqi leaders. Prime Minister Maliki was said (by those who had talked to him) to privately support such a troop commitment, and almost all Iraqi political leaders—representing every major faction except for the rabidly anti-American Sadrists—assented on Aug. 2 to opening negotiations on that basis.

When the White House then said it would consent to no more than 5,000 troops—a number that may not even have been able to adequately defend itself, much less carry out other missions—the Iraqis understandably figured that the U.S. wasn’t serious about a continued commitment. Iraqi political leaders may have been willing to risk a domestic backlash to support a substantial commitment of 10,000 or more troops. They were not willing to stick their necks out for such a puny force. Hence the breakdown of talks.

So the talks on SOFA broke down giving Obama a reason to “end the war” and to blame the breakdown on Iraq and Iraq’s government.  Perfect.

And now we see the result.  He has someone to blame the problem on even as the history of how and why what happened happened seems to be lost in the mist.  This was a deliberately staged and engineered outcome.  By making an unacceptable offer and requiring other than the leadership of Iraq to endorse the deal, they knew it would fail.  And that means the usual … another of our allies thrown under the bus.  Yes, Maliki isn’t any bargain.  And yes, he’s done as poor a job with Iraq as Obama has done in America.  But there are two people that should be under the bus, and we all know who the second one is.

Don’t let him rewrite this bit of history to his advantage.

~McQ

As the polls go …

The polls continue to show an erosion of public support for President Obama.  Here are 4 interesting paragraphs describing the latest:

Foreign crises and domestic economic unease have eroded President Barack Obama‘s public standing, sapping his ability to respond to overseas conflicts and weighing on fellow Democrats heading into the midterm elections.

As clouds gather abroad, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds Mr. Obama’s job approval rating at 41%, matching a previous low. Approval of his handling of foreign policy hit a new low of 37%. Both numbers are driven in part by conflicts largely outside the president’s control, including a new wave of sectarian violence in Iraq.

This latest dip in Mr. Obama’s approval runs contrary to signs Americans agree with his policies on climate change and education, and as a divided Republican Party remains far less popular than the president and his party. Despite misgivings toward Mr. Obama, the survey showed the public sides with him and his fellow Democrats on a range of issues, including immigration, education and the environment. (Interactive: Poll Results)

The latest Journal poll of 1,000 adults, conducted between Wednesday and Sunday, highlights what appears to be a lasting slide in the president’s public image. Respondents split in half on whether the Obama administration is competent, lower marks than Americans gave former PresidentGeorge W. Bush‘s administration in 2006, after the war in Iraq and the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina derailed his presidency.

Now you remember that time don’t you?  The time of Katrina and Iraq?  The time when Democrats lined up to get in front of the cameras and declare George Bush “incompetent”?  Yeah, me too.  And now the guy who was all too happy to participate in that labeling, has managed to do worse.

What does that make him?

Note too the attempt to put lipstick on this pig – “…Americans agree with his policies on climate change and education, and as a divided Republican Party remains far less popular than the president and his party. Despite misgivings toward Mr. Obama, the survey showed the public sides with him and his fellow Democrats on a range of issues, including immigration, education and the environment.”

There’s only one problem with this list of issues of “agreement” – they are all low priority issues for the public.  Jobs.  Economy.  War.  Spending.  Those are what top the list.  And then there’s the matter of bungled health care, scandals and of course, the collapse of any semblance of a foreign policy that this administration might have had.  Frankly, I’m being kind with the last one.  If there’s been a real foreign policy at work for these past 6 years, it’s been as well hidden as Lois Lerner’s emails.

I’d love to say, “I told you so”, I’d love to talk about irony and shadenfreude.  But this is too pitiful a performance to be flip about. And the consequences are real. I see articles about how this guy is now “tired” of being president. He’s “bored” with the job. How could he be either bored or tired – he hasn’t done the job at all.

Got to say, in all my years – and I lived through the Carter era – I’ve never seen this country in such pitiful shape. Never. Mr. Obama has done enough damage, in the foreign relations arena, that it will take decades to undo. The only silver lining, and I’ve mentioned it before, is that one of his goals was to prove big government could be competent and beneficial. He has proven precisely the opposite to be true.

Perhaps the Democrats aren’t calling him “incompetent” for a reason.

Incompetent doesn’t begin to cover how bad this President and his administration are.

~McQ

Cantor, cheese and other stuff

So Eric Cantor went down in flames in the Virginia Republican primary I see.  I can’t say I’m the least bit chagrined.  Cantor is the quintessential establishment Republican.  And like most of that ilk, he was more worried about what the press thought of him than doing what was right by his principles.  I notice the media spin doctors are immediately claiming that he really didn’t lose because of his stand on immigration (i.e. a hard lean toward “amnesty” for illegals although he tried to deny it).  After all if they admit that immigration reform was a reason for his defeat, then they have to admit that its dead for this year (as, given this lesson, no Republican running for reelection in the House  - that would be all of them – is going to touch it with a 10 foot pole).  The spin doctors also know that if it is dead for this year, it may be dead, at least in its present form, for good, if Republicans win the Senate.  One also assumes that Republicans are aware of the polls out there that place immigration reform as a low priority issue for voters right now (yeah, surprise, they’re much more interested in jobs and economic growth than illegal aliens).

I think another reason for Cantor’s loss is a deep dissatisfaction with Republican House leadership – such that it is.  Add his lack of popularity within his own district and an acceptable alternative candidate and you have the prefect electoral storm. Finally, Tea Party candidate Dave Brat’s win signaled, much to the annoyance of the left, that the Tea Party is hardly “dead”.  It’ll be interesting to see how the establishment Republicans react to this upset.

On another subject, yesterday we saw where the FDA had unilaterally decided that it might be necessary to ban the centuries old tradition of aging cheese on wooden shelves.  Because, you know, there’s been such an epidemic of sickness from such practices here lately and over the ages. What?  There hasn’t?  There hasn’t been any real problem at all?  However:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an executive decree banning the centuries old practice of aging cheese on wooden boards.  One bureaucrat within the FDA, without surveying all of the scientific literature, and without public commentary, has rattled hundreds of small businesses across the United States.  Consumers who eat any kind of aged cheese should prepare for a potentially catastrophic disruption in the market for artisan, non-processed cheese.

Now that was yesterday.  Today, yeah, its cave in time.  There has been such an outcry from cheese makers, the public and just about anyone else that could find a forum that the FDA is hastily backing down.  Overlawyered brings us up to date:

Following an enormous outcry from cheese makers, commentators, and the general public, the agency beats a hasty retreat. Commentator/ Pepperdine lawprof Greg McNeil has the details at Forbes (and his earlier commentary on the legalities of the agency’s action is also informative). Earlier here.

In a classic bureaucratic move, the agency denied it had actually issued a new policy (technically true, if you accept the premise that a policy letter from its chief person in charge of cheese regulation is not the same as a formally adopted new policy) and left itself the discretion to adopt such a policy in future if it wishes (merely declaring itself open to persuasion that wood shelving might prove compatible with the FSMA).

McNeal:

This is also a lesson for people in other regulated industries. When government officials make pronouncements that don’t seem grounded in law or policy, and threaten your livelihood with an enforcement action, you must organize and fight back. While specialized industries may think that nobody cares, the fight over aged cheese proves that people’s voices can be heard…

Yes, true.  But … there’s always a ‘but’, Overlawyered points out something that is true and often overlooked.  You have to be willing to fight for it all, not just the popular stuff.  You have to be willing the challenge all the nonsense bureaucrats put out there:

There is a less optimistic version, however. It happens that a large number of editors, commentators, and others among the chattering classes are both personally interested in the availability of fine cheese and familiar enough with the process by which it is made to be un-cowed by claims of superior agency expertise. That might also be true of a few other issues here and there — cottage food sold at farmer’s markets, artisanal brewing practices — but it’s inevitably not going to be true of hundreds of other issues that arise under the new Food Safety Modernization Act. In a similar way, the outcry againstCPSIA, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, rose to a politically effective level only on a selected few issues (publishers and libraries got a fix so that older children’s books would not have to be trashed; youthmotorsports eventually obtained an exemption, and so forth) but large numbers of smaller children’s products and specialties whose makers had less of a political voice simply disappeared.

Absolutely true.  I think of those who want to drink raw milk for instance.  Where does the government get off saying you can’t drink something you choose to drink if you’re willing to take the risk and suffer any consequences?  Something that, until pasteurization, everyone drank?  But since those who prefer raw milk don’t have a large lobby, they’re subjected to government bullying and laws prohibiting them from making that choice.

Choice is freedom.  Limiting of choice is limiting freedom and government is in the freedom limiting business.  The premise is you’re not able to make good choices yourself, so government must keep you from doing so.  Question?  If aging cheese on wood was dangerous to our health and it had been the reason from many deaths over the centuries, how do you suppose the market for such cheeses might have been effected by now?  Right.  It certainly wouldn’t have come down to some government bureaucrat making a unilateral decision in 2014, that’s for sure.

In Iraq, Mosul has fallen to terrorists.  Nightwatch brings us up to date:

ISIL has been trying to take Mosul since earlier in June, but only lately assembled enough forces to rout the security forces and overrun the city.

ISIL now controls two major cities in the Sunni region of Iraq: Fallujah and Mosul. Its fighters tried to overrun several other cities, but failed. Its aim is to create an Islamic emirate that joins Iraq and Syria.

The group had been affiliated with al Qaida for many years, since the time of Abu Musab Zarqawi, according to the National Counter Terrorism Center. In February al Qaida disavowed all links with ISIL because its actions were more extreme than al Qaida and it would not follow orders to stop fighting the al Nusrah Front in Syria, which al-Qaida supports.

On Sunday in Syria, ISIL fighters clashed with the al-Qaida-affiliated al Nusrah Front in eastern Syria, while its Iraq wing fought to capture Mosul in Iraq. This is a formidable group. Only the Syrian Kurds stand in the way of ISIL consolidating large areas in Iraq and Syria under its control.

Mosul’s capture reinforces the judgment that Iraq has re-entered civil war. ISIL is more than an insurgency because it has an effective organization and is conquering territory. By force of arms, it has created a power-sharing arrangement with the government in Baghdad and fragmented the country. A statement by the Muslim scholars association today encouraged ISIL to hold Mosul and to set up an administration. It urged the youth of the city to defend it against the Baghdad government.

ISIL’s control in Syria seems tenuous and contested by other opposition groups. In Iraq, it is the dominant anti-government force and it has broken Iraq, for now.

My position?  If Iraqi’s want a free Iraq, they’d better fight for it.  They’ve been given the time, the equipment and the training.  Now, it’s up to them.

Finally, yesterday I literally had to laugh out loud when I read something Robert Reich, a former Secretary of Labor, had written on his Facebook page.  It simply demonstrates how effing silly – and dangerous to your freedoms – these people are:

President Obama announced steps yesterday he said will make student loans more affordable. It’s probably all he can manage with a grid-locked Congress, but it’s still tinkering with a system of college financing that’s spinning out of control. What’s really needed is to make college free of charge and require all graduates to pay 10 percent of their earnings for the first 10 years of full-time work into a fund that pays the costs (additional years of graduate school means added years of payments). That way, nobody graduates with debts; young people from lower-income families can afford to attend; graduates who go into high-wage occupations in effect subsidize those who go into lower-wage work; and we move toward a system of genuinely equal opportunity. What do you think?

Right … free college for all.  Graduate with no debt!

Question: How in the world does this dolt think that making all graduates pay “10 percent of their earnings for the first 10 years” to fund “free college” doesn’t equal being in debt?  Oh, and who would keep track of all this?  Why the IRS of course – another in a long line of ideas to further centralize control of all aspects of your life at the federal level and add to the federal bureaucracy’s reach and power.

Then add the scam value of this.  Ride the gravy train for 3 or 4 years of free college and then walk away as a non-graduate.  Nothing to pay, right?  I mean the stipulation is that “graduates” pay, so why not hang out in a college dorm, eat in the chow hall, do your own thing while also doing barely enough to stay in school.  That way you can let these other dopes subsidize those years for you.  Then, move, apply to a new school and repeat.  Trust me, there are enough “professional students” in this world that I can promise that would be done.

Oh … and read the comments to the Reich post.  They’ll make you weep.

~McQ

So how are those sanctions against Russia going?

Ask France:

France will press ahead with a 1.2 billion-euro ($1.66 billion) contract to sell helicopter carriers to Russia because cancelling the deal would do more damage to Paris than to Moscow, French diplomatic sources said on Monday.

France has come under pressure from Washington and some European partners to reconsider its supply of high-tech military hardware to Moscow. It had said it would review the deal in October – but not before.

However, French diplomatic sources said on Monday the 2011 contract with Russia for two Mistral helicopter carriers, with an option for two more, would not be part of a third round of sanctions against Moscow.

“The Mistrals are not part of the third level of sanctions. They will be delivered. The contract has been paid and there would be financial penalties for not delivering it.

“It would be France that is penalized. It’s too easy to say France has to give up on the sale of the ships. We have done our part.”

And, we can’t have the sanctions hurt France, can we?

One of the attack helicopter carriers will be deployed in the Black Sea, where all the trouble began:

The first carrier, the Vladivostok, is due to be delivered by the last quarter of 2014. The second, named Sebastopol after the Crimean seaport, is supposed to be delivered by 2016.

How does France justify its intention to provide the ships?

“We are not delivering armed warships, but only the frame of the ship,” the source said.

That, of course, misses the entire point of sanctions. It is a punishment for wrong behavior. It is supposed to be a way one side teaches the other not to do what it has done. And the Western powers agreed that “strong sanctions” be imposed because of Russia’s unacceptable behavior. Now we see the exceptions being made – exceptions that Russia will, rightfully, view as weakness.

Additionally, that “frame” the French are dismissing as inconsequential will give Russia access to advanced technology. And these “frames” have quite a potent capability. The Mistral can carry up to 16 attack helicopters, such as Russia’s Kamov Ka-50/52; more than 40 tanks or 70 motor vehicles; and up to 700 soldiers.

As for leadership from the US insisting that the French not provide the Russians with advanced weaponry?

A French government source said at no point had the U.S. officially expressed any concern over the sale …

Another example of why “strong sanctions” is, in reality, an oxymoron, especially when the Western powers are concerned.

~McQ

Reaping the consequences of “Smart Diplomacy”

Another day another foreign policy gaffe or disaster.

This time we’re in the gaffe department where, as usual, this administration is in the act of further alienating our friends.  In this case it is perhaps the worst Secretary of State we’ve yet had to suffer’s turn … again:

Secretary of State John F. Kerry has stepped in it again — with a gaffe that this time not only makes him look foolish but makes a mess of U.S. foreign policy and destroys any chance he had of realizing his legacy pipe dream of brokering Middle East peace.

In a private meeting with senior international officials Friday, Kerry said that if the Israelis and Palestinians can’t achieve a two-state solution, Israel risks becoming “an apartheid state with second-class citizens.”

Israelis are aghast — especially with Kerry’s remarks being reported yesterday on Holocaust Remembrance Day — and have started issuing calls for his resignation. Foreign policy experts are stunned, saying Kerry’s racially charged statements are major setbacks to peace negotiations in the Middle East.

“No wonder our diplomacy in the Middle East is so wretched,” former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton told the Herald, calling Kerry’s remarks “outrageous and defamatory.”

Caroline Glick of The Jerusalem Post said, “Kerry’s remark was openly anti-Semitic. Apartheid is a crime of intent. There is no Israeli politician that will ever be in a leadership position that harbors any such bigoted intention towards the Palestinians. On the other hand, there is no Palestinian leader or faction that does not demand the ethnic cleansing of Jews from every inch of any territory that will come under Palestinian control.”

How to explain someone as inept and useless as Kerry rising to this position of power is unfathomable until you see who resides in the White House.  It’s all about politics and paying political debts.

Meanwhile, David Brooks, one of the millions of reasons we’re suffering under this atrocious administration (ask him who he voted for in 2008) today complains that “all around, the fabric of peace and order is fraying.”  Well it likely didn’t have to be this way, but it certainly was predictable when you and others voted to hire clueless freshman Senator as President of the US, Mr. Brooks.  A man who has no respect among other leaders in the world and certainly isn’t feared by anyone.  “Leading from behind” may be a clever way of saying “abrogating leadership”, but it didn’t fool those who are actually playing international hardball out there, did it?  So, unsurprisingly (history … try it some time) we now see them acting.  The phone’s been constantly ringing at 3am and no one — no one — is answering it.

And since the thugs and thieves of the world know no one is home, they’re beginning to take full advantage of the situation.

Wow.  What a freakin’ surprise, no?

Brooks consults an expert for an explanation of what’s going on and he gets an answer – one we’ve been talking about for years:

“The ‘category error’ of our experts is to tell us that our system is doing just fine and proceeding on its eternal course toward ever-greater progress and global goodness. This is whistling past the graveyard.

“The lesson-category within grand strategic history is that when an established international system enters its phase of deterioration, many leaders nonetheless respond with insouciance, obliviousness, and self-congratulation. When the wolves of the world sense this, they, of course, will begin to make their moves to probe the ambiguities of the aging system and pick off choice pieces to devour at their leisure.

Consequences of this nonsense?

“This is what Putin is doing; this is what China has been moving toward doing in the maritime waters of Asia; this is what in the largest sense the upheavals of the Middle East are all about: i.e., who and what politico-ideological force will emerge as hegemon over the region in the new order to come. The old order, once known as ‘the American Century’ has been situated within ‘the modern era,’ an era which appears to be stalling out after some 300-plus years. The replacement era will not be modern and will not be a nice one.”

We’ve certainly gotten a full ration full of obliviousness.  And the world certainly is moving toward a less modern and much more deadly era.  But the obliviousness (or “whistling past the graveyard” as mentioned earlier) is what drives the absurd self-congratulation that this administration tries to heap on itself while they hasten the “the American Century” to a disastrous end.

Realty is a bitch and she keeps slapping these clueless backslappers over and over. But they pay no attention. These petulant fools continue to spin “success” when to anyone with the IQ of a pear, it is clear almost everything in the foreign policy field (and domestically as well) has been an utter failure or foul up.  Behold:  “Reset”, lead from behind, Arab spring, UN, sanctions, “Smart diplomacy”, R2P, blah, blah, blah. They blew Libya, gave Egypt to the Russians, are giving Iraq back to the terrorists along with Afghanistan, reducing the military to pre-WWII levels and have thus signaled our withdrawal to all around the globe.

Unsurprisingly, the wolves of the world are beginning to feed on the sheep because the former shepherd has withdrawn while telling those that want to believe it that everything is just fine.  Just fine.  Peachy.  Trust them.  They’ve got it all figured out.  Nothing to see here. Nothing to worry about.  Move along citizen.  War is so … 20th century. And besides, we’ve blocked their Netflix account!

With all that nonsense circulating, why shouldn’t the wolves feel free to feed?

~McQ

The ‘Catch and Release” mandate

Here we are.

Quick hits on the last day you have, had, might have had, to sign up for your ObamaCare insurance.  Curiously a rush of people appeared to sign up that I predict the Administration will report will carry them over the 7 million lost policies, log ons , applications, enrollments payed policy holder goal line.  If anyone can recall 7 million was the original goal when this benevolent plan to help the uninsured portion of the population of the United States started.  We should overlook the percentages of likely to use older and less healthy participants versus the younger will pay and never use participants and the predicted cost curves and such.  If you have a plan and don’t like what they’re offering they promise you can keep your plan.  Ha!  Fooled you!  It’s okay though, your old plan sucked whatever it was and whether you thought it did nor not.

There’s a rumble of war in the east, the Russians will, they won’t, they can’t because we stood up to them, occupy Ukraine, or eastern Ukraine, and will maybe go so far as to establish casino dominance in the Crimea.  Take that Winstar Casino!  But Putin is now in a box owing to the stringent actions of the EU and the US to contain his aggressive ADHD driven tendencies.  And owing to the President’s our ever watchful eye we have Putin’s army where we want it now.

At the pump gas prices are consistently higher over time under the current administration than the previous administration.  But not the highest single spike and that’s what’s important.  We can assume the personal finances of the President are secure as it was a well documented fact during the Bush administration that upticks in gas prices are the result of the President’s holdings in oil companies and his desire to make sure his retirement fund is well padded.  Harry Reid said that when they rose under Bush, or someone said they heard Harry Reid say someone said that.    Meanwhile in another energy independent decisive policy act the President is going to render a decision on the job creating, oil providing,  Keystone pipeline at any moment.  If you click on those links, you might want to jot down the dates on the articles for reference and hilarity.  Continued samples of the brilliant ultra decisive actions we’ve come to expect from this President.

Environmentally the administration is rolling out a new plan to deal with global warming.    It’s likely this plan will establish policies to deal with dangers such as earth quakes, meteor strikes, comets and other ill portents all suspected to be linked to man made catastrophic global warming by the consensus science community.  Officially known as the American Economy Wrecking plan Climate Action Plan, they should consider calling it Obamafarts as a sort of short catchy handle that will appeal to the millenials almost as much as Pajama Boy did.

Speaking of American youth, they continued this last weekend to demonstrate their anger over being spied on, lied to and future taxed into oblivion by focusing on what’s important the same way the President uses his laser like focus to solve the country’s problems.   Such a trend could, in as little as 300 years, lead to as broad a nationwide protest to the current government policies as was seen in the 60′s and 70′s during America’s involvement in Vietnam,  though the former Soviet Union would need to rise up again and send us more campus agitators.

Finally the President’s 4 point approach to deal with America’s immigration problem is showing very positive signs in at least 2 of the 4 parts.    Coupled with his crack down on companies that hire illegals, it was shown over the weekend by an independent study of ICE’s activities that the President can safely add the title “Deporter in Chief” to his list of accomplishments.    We’re calling this latest ‘by Presidential order’  approach the “Catch and Release” mandate.   It’s thought highly likely that once the mid-term elections are over the Administration (and the Republicans) will step up their efforts on part 3, “Streamlining Immigration” by declaring any individuals, living or deceased, in the continental US, it’s states, or territories on Jan 1st 2015 be recognized officially as American citizens. The President may extend the deadline to January 15th 2015 for those who thought about coming to the US, but couldn’t make it before the cutoff date.

Have a great day America.

UPDATE – April 1st

As my two Great Danes could have predicted – “With daily volumes continuing to surge, analysts believe the final tally could approach or even exceed an original goal of 7 million”

Now, don’t let the fact that the system was down for a good portion of the day deceive you.   This “surprising” come back was destined, written, fated, according to prophecy, etc.

I wish the numbers in my checking account were as flexible as the numbers used by the Obama Administration.

Russia, Afghanistan and the US: A changing of the guard

Earlier in the week, former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld had some rather harsh words to say about the current administration’s relationship with Afghanistan.

“Our relationship with Karzai and with Afghanistan was absolutely first-rate in the Bush administration,” Rumsfeld told Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren on Monday. “It has gone down hill like a toboggan ever since the Obama administration came in.”

Rumsfeld pointed to the fact that the Obama administration has failed to get Karzai to sign an agreement that would allow some U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014, when combat ends.

The U.S. has status of forces agreements with more than a hundred countries, Rumsfeld noted. “A trained ape can get a status of forces agreement,” he said. “It does not take a genius. And we have so mismanaged that relationship.”

Now I’m not going to go for the troll about that being a “racist statement”.  Neither of our SecStates or SecDefs were/are black and that’s who would be charged with getting a SOFA agreement.  Rumsfeld’s right.  The relationship has dramatically and drastically changed.  And he’s also right about why:

“And what happened is, the United States government — and I realize these are tough jobs, being president or secretary of state. But, by golly, they have trashed Karzai publicly over and over and over — (Richard) Holbrooke, the special envoy did, Vice President Biden did, Secretary Hillary Clinton has. The president has been unpleasant to him.

“And it seems to me they pushed him in a political box where he really has very little choice. I think there is probably not a politician in the world who dealing with the United States, instead of having the United States deal with him privately through private diplomacy, came out repeatedly, publicly, in an abusive, unpleasant, manner. And I personally sympathize with him to some extent.”

Again, he’s precisely right.  This administration did all it could … in public … to poison the relations.  And yes, Afghanistan is likely corrupt and Karzai as well, but that’s nothing new there.  Karzai was installed by the Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga (assembly).  He’s their president.  It’s a tribal culture.  Figure it out for heaven sake … oh, and keep in mind the big picture instead of playing small ball.

Anyway, these sorts of actions cause reactions and have consequences.  The latest?

Citing “the free will of the Crimean people,” Karzai’s office said, “We respect the decision the people of Crimea took through a recent referendum that considers Crimea as part of the Russian Federation.” To date, only Syria and Venezuela have taken a similar position.

Does it embarrass the US publicly?  You bet.  And that’s precisely why Karzai did it (or it is at least one of the reasons he did it).  And, there’s more:

“In Afghanistan, Russian officials point to their development activities as a counterexample to U.S. aid projects, which many Afghans criticize as wasteful and misguided. . . . Many Afghans, including President Hamid Karzai, praise the Soviet model even though they fought a bloody 10-year war against the country’s army, which invaded in 1979 to support an unpopular communist government.

“The Soviet money went to the right place. They were efficient in spending their money and doing it through the Afghan government,” Karzai said in an interview with The Washington Post this month.

Yes, there’s likely corruption. Yes the “Afghan government” is likely getting its hands on some of that money. But when in Rome, and looking for particular results, maybe knowing what to expect in such a culture and a willingness to play the game might turn out better results (and be cheaper) in the long run that trying to go around the incumbent government and forcing yourself on the population. You know, just a thought … which, apparently is more than our State Department commits to Afghanistan anymore.

Funny, in an ironic sense, isn’t it? “We welcome our former overlords”.

Outplayed by Russia … again.

~McQ

The Crimea (and beyond)

When the Russians more or less militarily annexed the Crimea a couple of days ago , it was pretty obvious the West wasn’t going to go to war over it, any previously mumbled promises to Ukraine that implied we might aside.  It’s still obvious, not that avoiding a war is a bad thing and all.

Who can blame Europe for not wanting another war? They’ve hosted so many, and I’m reliably told if you wander about you can still find nostalgic bits of wreckage to prove it.   There are parts left over from wars everywhere. Castles, forts, the Kaiser Wilhelm church (what’s left of it) in Berlin.  Graves….lots and lots of graves.  Graves of local men, and graves of men who came from across the world, and graves of civilians.

In January of this year, in Euskirchen Germany, a bulldozer operator was killed by a bomb from WWII, and it’s not uncommon for unexploded ordnance to be found, some dating back to the big fandango they held 100 years ago this year.   The Europeans have done a super job of cleaning up the place, and I’m 100% certain they aren’t interested in having to do it again anytime soon.

This is why, no one, not even the allegedly crazy Russians, really wants to die for real-estate to get it back into Russia.  Maybe some Ukrainians are willing to die out of pride for Ukraine, but the Russians prefer it be done with the bare minimum of shooting, explosions and death.   Even ‘crazy’ ‘evil’ people understand that upsets folks, and the shooting, explosions and death get out of control, and pretty soon it’s happening everywhere in sight.   The Russians don’t want a war either, but they’re not averse to picking up (re-acquiring) some real-estate on the cheap.

For my entire life we, Americans, helped keep the Russians from taking over the joint by being in places they wanted to be before they could be there. Kudos to NATO and all for asking us to stay.  But everybody knew when we parked Americans in their path all across Europe and the Russians did drive tanks through Fulda Gap…if they did it over American bodies; America was likely to take a war-like exception to it.  Geo-politics and military science is brutally practical about things like that, and the Russians understood.  America was across the ocean and much harder for Soviet tank division to blitzkrieg than a quick push to the east bank of the Rhine.  We made it difficult for them by being where they wanted to be in ways that only war, or government over throw, could clear us out of.  We stood in Western Europe and they stood in Eastern Europe and we glared at each other.  The Europeans understood where the fight was going to happen if it happened.  If some were nicer to the Soviets (now the Russians) than we liked, it was probably out of practicality.   At times they glared at both us and the Russians.

The ‘other’ people further east, in the Russian zone, just had to live with the Russians because clearing them out would wreck the joint, and everybody knew that too.  They didn’t glare at anybody because they didn’t dare.  Then the Soviet Union/Eastern Bloc collapsed, they became Russians again and Ukrainians and Latvians and Estonians and Lithuanians and Moldovans and Serbs and you get the idea.

The Europeans don’t want a war, the Russians don’t want a war, we don’t want a war.  Having so much experience in wars, and cleaning up after wars, one can understand the reluctance to do the centennial anniversary reenactment of 1914 this year with live rounds.

Still, Russian occupation of the Crimea should never have happened if the West was sincere about helping the Ukrainians keep their lands (especially after the Russians vs Georgia take-down in 2008).   I have mixed emotions about our policing the world, and our commitments to far flung places. But our word has to mean something too, and if we bother to give it, we ought to keep it.  Not keeping it leads to where we are, drawing red lines and erasing them just as quickly, making threats on an international basis and then barring a couple people from Disney World to show how much we mean it.   There’s a whole set of posts that could be written on why we let down our guard in Europe.  A quick hit list, military use fatigue, the cost, the simple hope that the not Soviet Russians weren’t going to start up the ‘let’s take over a country’ club again, resurgent Russian pride, feckless American policy, and a new world order.

The biggest one we hear about is this inane belief in some new order that has taken hold.  A magic set of rules for countries came into being when we hit the millennium.  Who knew?   It’s not clear, to me anyway, why that is, must be a side effect of climate change or something because I don’t recall any burning bushes or Jewish prophets with stone tablets making the news recently.   I do know our Secretary of State thinks they exist ( I mentioned feckless American policy); Angela Merkel seems to think they exist.  But maybe no one forwarded the memos to Vladimir Putin, because all in all he seems pretty proud of using the old rules, and so are his constituents.

No, there is no magic set of new rules.  I can’t even say it would be nice, because not only is it not real, it’s not even clearly laid out what it means internationally.  Furthermore the old rules still work and still apply.  Power and vacuums of power.  In fact these new rules already seem remarkably ineffective against people who still use the old rules. As a result there aren’t any new magic formulas or methods for getting the Russians to give Crimea back now either.    They certainly aren’t going to do it because we in the West tell each other that Russia is naked in the eyes of the world.  They aren’t going to do it no matter how many times some idiot calls them ‘evil’.   They aren’t going to do it because they suddenly understand they’re violating the 21st century rules.

Just because the West doesn’t want to apply power doesn’t mean the Russians can’t and won’t.   When a country can take over a chunk of another country in a week, there really isn’t much threats that will take months to show effect are going to do to stop them.   Done deals.  Because people don’t want to wait that long for results (especially the Ukrainians in this case), and life, and business, and in Europe’s case, the need to heat their houses, goes on.

If the West is serious, and worried about the Russians moving into Kiev, park ‘non-threatening’ NATO forces in Kiev.  Not just visiting, full time. Park a ‘non-threatening’ contingent of ground troops in Estonia (note the date of that article, last year…). See if the other Baltic countries would like to have permanent physical NATO contingents with troops who are not local. Go beyond ‘air policing’. Put the equivalent of a guard contingent on the equivalent of the Rhine bridges before the Russians do the equivalent of occupying the Rhineland.

And hit our own damn power reset button. Drill like hell for natural gas and oil here in the US and export it to Europe to cut their dependence on Russia.  The Russians will understand, they’ll bitch, but they’ll stop because they really don’t want the same war we don’t want.  There can’t be a whole lot in Estonia the Russians want to die for.

Project POWER back into the vacuum we’ve created before Putin again proves the old rules, the same ones Hitler used so well, still work just fine.   Do it before Chamberlain calls to say he wants his ‘new’ rules back.

Not gonna happen, I realize.  We have ‘smart’ diplomacy now, we lead from behind.  We’re going to jaw about the new international rules the millennium brought us, and threaten the Russians with our economic power even while we struggle to keep that power turned on for ourselves.

1 2 3 48