Free Markets, Free People

Military Affairs

Obama campaign moves to restrict military voting in Ohio

Breitbart’s Mike Flynn reports:

President Barack Obama, along with many Democrats, likes to say that, while they may disagree with the GOP on many issues related to national security, they absolutely share their admiration and dedication to members of our armed forces. Obama, in particular, enjoys being seen visiting troops and having photos taken with members of our military. So, why is his campaign and the Democrat party suing to restrict their ability to vote in the upcoming election?

On July 17th, the Obama for America Campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and the Ohio Democratic Party filed suit in OH to strike down part of that state’s law governing voting by members of the military. Their suit said that part of the law is "arbitrary" with "no discernible rational basis."

Currently, Ohio allows the public to vote early in-person up until the Friday before the election. Members of the military are given three extra days to do so. While the Democrats may see this as "arbitrary" and having "no discernible rational basis," I think it is entirely reasonable given the demands on servicemen and women’s time and their obligations to their sworn duty.

Flynn cites the National Defense Committee which reports:

[f]or each of the last three years, the Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program has reported to the President and the Congress that the number one reason for military voter disenfranchisement is inadequate time to successfully vote.

So here is a law actually trying to provide a little extra time to address the problem cited (btw, the members of the military would most likely have to show their military picture ID to be granted the opportunity to vote during that “extra time”).  Why the resistance from the Obama campaign and Democrats?   Why the intent to disenfranchise military voters?

If the polls are to be believed concerning how the military is likely to vote, it wouldn’t favor Obama or the Democrats.  And, of course, Ohio is a swing state.  So they want no extra time allowed for the military to vote (and don’t expect the DoJ to jump in here and take the side of the military either).

Mystery solved.

But hey, the military is still useful as props during photo ops and when they help burnish the C-i-C’s rep by killing bad guys like Osama.  Voting?  Yeah, not so much.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Is Iran preparing to close the Straits of Hormuz?

That’s what our intel guys are saying:

U.S. government officials, citing new intelligence, said Iran has developed plans to disrupt international oil trade, including through attacks on oil platforms and tankers.

Officials said the information suggests that Iran could take action against facilities both inside and outside the Persian Gulf, even absent an overt military conflict.

The findings come as American officials closely watch Iran for its reaction to punishing international sanctions and to a drumbeat of Israeli threats to bomb Tehran’s nuclear sites, while talks aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons have slowed.

Now, of course, “developing plans” and actually executing them are entirely different things.  But, as irrational as Iran can be sometimes, the development of such plans has to be taken seriously.

If you’ve been paying attention over the past few months, we’ve been creeping any number of assets closer to Iran.  So obviously we believe where there is smoke we may see fire.

"Iran is very unpredictable," said a senior defense official. "We have been very clear what we as well as the international community find unacceptable."

The latest findings underscore why many military officials continue to focus on Iran as potentially the most serious U.S. national-security concern in the region, even as the crisis in Syria has deepened and other conflicts, as in Libya, have raged.

Defense officials cautioned there is no evidence that Tehran has moved assets in position to disrupt tankers or attack other sites, but stressed that Iran’s intent appears clear.

Iran has a number of proxies, as we all know, none of whom have much use for the US or the rest of the Western world.   What would possibly cause Iran to attempt to strike at outside targets?  The belief that they could get away with it:

But U.S. officials said some Iranians believe they could escape a direct counterattack by striking at other oil facilities, including those outside the Persian Gulf, perhaps by using its elite forces or external proxies.

I’m not sure how one thinks they can escape retribution by such tactics, but it is enough to believe you can.  And apparently there are some in Iran who do.  That’s dangerous, depending on where they sit in the decision making hierarchy.

The officials wouldn’t describe the intelligence or its sources, but analysts said statements in the Iranian press and by lawmakers in Tehran suggest the possibility of more-aggressive action in the Persian Gulf as a response to the new sanctions. Iranian oil sales have dropped and prices have remained low, pinching the government.

So, we wait.  And creep more assets into the area.  And wait.

As an aside to all the arm-chair defense experts who claim we shouldn’t be developing advanced weaponry because all our future wars are likely to be “just like Afghanistan”.

Really?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Why is the Navy willing to pay $27 a gallon for biofuel?

This sort of stuff drives me crazy.  Why is Secretary of the Navy Mabus fooling around with this sort of nonsense under the guise of being “necessary for national defense” when we’re in the middle of a oil shale revolution that shows the US with the most proven oil reserves in the world?  Secondly and just as important, why during times of tight budgets is he willing to pay $27 dollars for biofuel when conventional fuel costs $3.60?

Example:

A U.S. Navy oiler slipped away from a fuel depot on the Puget Sound in Washington state one recent day, headed toward the central Pacific and into the storm over the Pentagon’s controversial green fuels initiative.

In its tanks, the USNS Henry J. Kaiser carried nearly 900,000 gallons of biofuel blended with petroleum to power the cruisers, destroyers and fighter jets of what the Navy has taken to calling the "Great Green Fleet," the first carrier strike group to be powered largely by alternative fuels.

Now I know it says “blended”.  Apparently it’s a 50% blend, because:

For the Great Green Fleet demonstration, the Pentagon paid $12 million for 450,000 gallons of biofuel, nearly $27 a gallon. There were eight bidders for that contract, it said.

Oh, and you’ll love this:

The Pentagon paid Solazyme Inc $8.5 million in 2009 for 20,055 gallons of biofuel based on algae oil, or $424 a gallon.

Because, you know, that 8.5 million couldn’t have been used to improve the lot of our troops, could it?

Instead:

Solazyme’s strategic advisers, according to its website, include T.J. Glauthier, who served on Obama’s White House Transition team and dealt with energy issues, but also former CIA director R. James Woolsey, a conservative national security official.

If you’re not disgusted, you’re not paying attention.

Meanwhile the administration has refused to approve the Keystone Pipeline and has just essentially reinstated the offshore drilling ban that stood for 27 years.

Hint: The military is not and should not be a proving ground for ideological goals.  It is the blunt instrument of foreign policy.  It is a well oiled machine (note the word!)  But it is an institution that cannot afford stupid profligacy like this.

Cruisers and fighters don’t run on chicken fat.  They run on petroleum.  Something we’d have plenty of if this bunch would get the hell out of the way.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Obama Administration: Remember when “Top Secret” actually meant something?

On the eve of the anniversary of D-Day, it isn’t difficult, given their record, to believe that if it was the Obama Administration in charge on that historic day, the Germans would have known all about it.

In recent months, operations which we should frankly know nothing about, have been leaked by this administration.

Most observers have come to the conclusion that the leaks are an attempt to paint a positive picture of Obama the Commander-in-Chief in what promises to be a bruising fight for re-election.  The reason for such an attempt is the rest of the Obama record leaves much to be desired.

Here, from Peter Brooks at the NY Post, is a litany of the leaks:

It started with the Osama bin Laden takedown last May, in which operational and intelligence details found their way out of the White House Situation Room to the press in just a number of hours.

In a slap at the leakers, then- Defense Secretary Bob Gates said, “We all agreed that we would not release any operational details from the effort to take out bin Laden . . . That all fell apart on Monday — the next day.”

The situation was made worse by exposing the role a Pakistani doctor played in finding bin Laden. The doc is now going to jail for 30-some years — and the crafty inoculation program meant to get Osama’s DNA is blown.

Earlier this year, info escaped about the busting of the plot to put an “underwear bomber” on a US-bound aircraft by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

While kudos go to the intel community for this fabulous counterterrorism op, it was revealed that the expected bomber was a double agent who’d penetrated AQAP. Now al Qaeda knows, too.

Then, late last week, came a news story on “Stuxnet,” the tippy-top-secret US-Israel cyberassault on Iran’s uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz that’s been going on since the George W. Bush presidency.

It’s terrific the cyberattack reportedly led to the destruction of some centrifuges used in Iran’s bomb program, but now the mullahs know for sure who was behind the operation.

Moreover, dope on our highly successful drone program continues to ooze out.

All of this has led to compromising networks, having an agent (the Pakistani doctor) arrested and jailed, and blowing other operations.  It has also made it clear to our allies that sharing intel with the US is a risky business, especially if the outcome could help the political career of the incumbent president.

Let’s be clear here – none of this should have leakedNone of it.  A fairly terse announcement of fact that Osama bin Laden was confirmed dead should have been the extent of any sort of information released.  That’s it.

Instead operational details that should never have seen the light of day have been routinely released.  Anyone with an ounce of sense knows you never, ever talk about methods and means.  Yet both have been a part of these releases.

This sort of behavior, for pure political gain, compromises our intel gathering capabilities and is likely to hurt future operations.   We spend years trying to develop human intelligence networks and agents and in one fell swoop we compromise them (the double agent in Yemen and the doctor in Pakistan).

Who is going to trust us now?

"It’s a pattern that goes back two years, starting with the Times Square bomber, where somebody in the federal government, probably the FBI, leaked his name before he was captured," said Rep. Pete King, the GOP chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

"That’s why he tried to leave the country — he knew they were on to him." Calling the episode "amateur hour" at the White House, King said: "It puts our people at risk and gives information to the enemy."

Amateurs are dangerous.  Amateurs who leak classified information for political gain are even more dangerous.

It’s time to stop “amateur hour at the White House.”

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

I don’t think I’ve never seen a more self-centered president in my life …

You’ve probably seen this.  If not, I doubt it will surprise you.  Any idea of what the White House Memorial Day picture was?  Uncle Jimbo at Blackfive wondered what it might be:

A. a tasteful shot of Arlington Cemetery

B. A pic of a Gold Star Mom at her son’s grave

C. An image of an inverted rifle and empty boots signifying the death of a soldier.

NOPE! None of those pay homage to the true hero of the day.

And that hero of the day?

 

6a00d8341bfadb53ef016766fc56c8970b-500wi

 

Of course … Mr. “Gutsy call” himself.

Shameless.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Meanwhile, in Libya

Unicorns are dancing, fairy dust is in the air and Arab spring continues to flower:

Libyan revolutionaries captured and killed Muammar Gaddafi more than seven months ago, but the dictator’s brutal tactics and antidemocratic ways live after him. Human-rights workers say that’s true not only within the high walls of the dictator’s former Ain Zara torture center but at other jails and penitentiaries across the country. Abdul is among at least 20 Ain Zara inmates whose relatives accuse guards of subjecting detainees to severe and regular beatings with everything from fists to sticks, metal rods, and chains. Family members say some of the prisoners have been repeatedly beaten on their genitalia, a form of punishment that—in addition to being excruciatingly painful—could leave its victims infertile. Others, according to relatives, have been tortured with Taser-style electroshock weapons.

R2P, baby, R2P.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

R2P, Syria and “dumb wars”

Remember the war in Libya?  Remember how the doctrine Responsibility To Protect (R2P) was invoked as the reason to intervene? 

Libya was somehow chosen as a country in which R2P must be exercised and quickly.  Of course NATO airpower and arms shipments to the rebels did the job of overthrowing Gadaffi, and what has since established itself in Libya is as bad if not worse than what the people of the country suffered under the dictator.

But more important than where the doctrine was exercised is where it hasn’t been exercised.  Syria … no R2P for you!

The U.N. said Tuesday that entire families were shot in their homes during a massacre in Syria last week that killed more than 100 people, including children. Most of the victims were shot at close range, the U.N. said.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the conclusions were based on accounts gathered by U.N. monitors and corroborated by other sources. He said U.N. monitors found that fewer than 20 of the 108 people killed in the west-central area of Houla were killed by artillery fire.

"Most of the rest of the victims were summarily executed in two separate incidents," Colville told reporters in Geneva. "At this point it looks like entire families were shot in their houses."

He said witnesses blamed pro-government thugs known as shabiha for the attacks, noting that they sometimes operate "in concert" with government forces.

I recall the justification for intervention in Libya quite well – “we” had to protect civilians who were being killed by their government.

Ahem.  Question for the decision makers – why did Libya qualify and Syria doesn’t?

Daniel Larison figured out the reason months ago:

Paradoxically, the Libyan war and its aftermath have had the unintended consequence of undermining the doctrine of "responsibility to protect" (R2P) that was originally used to justify the intervention. Many advocates of intervention believed Western involvement would strengthen the norm that sovereignty may be limited to protect a civilian population from large-scale loss of life. Instead, the Libyan intervention helped discredit that idea.

A key requirement of the "responsibility to protect" is that intervening governments assume the "responsibility to rebuild" in the wake of military action, but this was a responsibility that the intervening governments never wanted and haven’t accepted. All of this has proven to skeptical governments, including emerging democratic powers such as Brazil and India, that the doctrine can and will be abused to legitimize military intervention while ignoring its other requirements. The Libyan experience has soured many major governments around the world on R2P, and without their support in the future, it will become little more than a façade for the preferred policies of Western governments.

One of those “dumb wars” Obama condemned as a Senator.  Meanwhile our Prez said yesterday, when speaking of war:

"I can promise you I will never do so unless it’s absolutely necessary, and that when we do, we must give our troops a clear mission and the full support of a grateful nation."

“Absolutely necessary?”

You mean like Libya?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Memorial Day 2012

No image portrays the true meaning of Memorial Day like the following image.    I posted it last year, and I’ll probably post it every year I draw breath.  It best encapsulates the day’s meaning for me.

 

Memorial day

 

Freedom isn’t free.  And it doesn’t come without a horrendous cost.  God bless the fallen.  And God comfort their families.

[In memory of SP4 Stuart Lee Barnett, KIA 8/26/70, Republic of Vietnam]

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Impressions of my time among heroes

I‘m not really one of those people who goes to events like Salute Our Troops in Las Vegas and spends his time trying to get interviews.  It’s not that there’s anything wrong with that, it just isn’t my style.  Maybe it should be if I ever want to go anywhere doing this, but its not what I’m comfortable with.

I’m more of an observer.  A listener.  Oh I talk and laugh and exchange small talk, but for the most part I’m one who likes to sit back and watch the interaction of a group, see what they’re all about and then relate my impressions in writing.

That’s not always as easy as I’d like it to be, but it works for me.

The 3 days and nights I spent in Las Vegas at the Palazzo hotel with our wounded warriors was probably one of the more inspiring and satisfying times I’ve spent in a long time.  From the moment I watched them walk into the hotel until I watched them leave 3 days later, I was on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.

Pride was a dominant emotion.  I was extraordinarily proud of how they conducted themselves.  The event was very emotional for them as well.  You could see the trepidation in their faces when they first got off the busses on day one.  A perfectly human reaction.  But as they moved through the welcoming crowd, you could see the unease disappear and the wonderful emotion of the moment begin to take hold.

The genuineness of the welcome made the whole experience resonate with the warriors.  Remarkably it remained a constant through out the entire visit.  It was real.  Tangible.  The thanks rendered wasn’t perfunctory or pro forma, it was heartfelt and always present.

As I watched the wounded warriors begin to interact with the crowd, I knew they felt it too.  I wasn’t just proud of the warriors,  I was equally as proud of the crowd.

Over the next few days, as I got to know the personalities within the group, certain things became obvious to me that might have been missed by those who didn’t have the opportunity to spend the time I had with them.

Brotherhood.  In this case it’s a generic term that includes the wounded women as well.  This small group was a brotherhood who in so many subtle and unthinking ways took care of each other the entire time they were there.  It wasn’t a duty.  It wasn’t something they had to do.  It was what they did. It is who they are.  They had a shared experience and shared sacrifice that made them unique. But they also had an entirely human desire to ensure those they had shared that experience with were well taken care of.   Nothing was too much for their friend or comrade.

Families.  Families by marriage.  Families by service.  Family by experience.  One of the extraordinary things about wounded warriors is they belong to many families and all of them were evident in Las Vegas.  All of them were at work as well.  It was gratifying to see but not unexpected.  Marines checking on other Marines.   A wife taking care of her wounded husband.  One wounded warrior watching out for another.

Normalcy.  One of the more poignant moments for me was overhearing two chaperones talk about a request by one of the wounded.  Each of the warriors and their guests had been given a blue t-shirt identifying them as a part of the Salute Our Troops group.  One of the wounded had asked if they had to wear them all the time or might take them off.  The chaperone relaying the request said, "they just want to be normal, to blend in, to be part of the crowd.  They don’t want to stand out".  I found that request to be incredibly endearing.  They just wanted to again, as much as possible, be normal.

As I watched these young warriors interact with others, another impression hit me – quiet dignity.  It was how they handled themselves.  Their humbleness.  Their gratefulness for what the Armed Forces Foundation, Sheldon Adelson and all the other sponsors were doing for them.  None of them took it as their due.  None thought they were owed this.  All of them showed and expressed their appreciation throughout the week in countless ways.

Humor.  As you might expect there was plenty of that.  Self-deprecating humor.  Ribald humor.  Ragging.  Among military folks nothing is sacred and lord help you if you start feeling sorry for yourself.  These men and women kept each other up, took and delivered shots with the best of them and acted like every Soldier and Marine you’ve ever known.  It brought back fond memories of times gone by for me.

Humor was their currency.  The night of the Blue Man Group show is a great example.   During their show the 3 Blue Men walk through the audience literally moving from arm rest to arm rest as they advance row by row through the theater.  At intervals they’ll pause, stare, pick something up from the audience, hold it up and examine it.  When they got to our group one of the guys handed a Blue Man his prosthetic leg.  The place went wild.  It couldn’t have been more perfect.

But the reality of what these fine warriors face never quite left me.  I couldn’t forget it.  There was a young Marine that who had lost his right leg and wore a prosthesis.  He may have been 5′ 4" if you’re being kind, and maybe weighed 100 pounds with rocks in his pocket.  He was an infantryman. He tried to bluff his way into a club that night but he wasn’t old enough to get in (not to worry, being a good Marine, he did a recon, gathered intel and got in the next night).

For whatever reason that incident struck me hard.  He had lost a leg in combat in  service to his country before he was old enough to buy a drink legally.  Next year he’ll be legal but he’ll also be medically retired from the Marine Corps.  At 21.

When I was at Brooke this past year with Cooking with the Troops, I remember one of the people who worked there standing next to me as we watched the wounded moving through the serving line.  He said, "what you have to realize is not one of these young warriors you see are working on their "plan A" anymore."  That made an impression on me. 

You have to imagine yourself in that situation and wonder how you would have coped with having to come up with a "plan B" at such a young age.   All the hopes and dreams you might have harbored about a certain way of life are now radically and totally changed forever.

Yet even understanding that, the most important message I gathered from all of them is they aren’t victims.  And please don’t treat them like they are.   They’re proud of what they did, what they suffered, even what they’ve sacrificed.  They may not like what happened, but they accept it.  They understand that what happened to them was a part of the risk of the service they willingly undertook.  They knew and understood that risk and yet they volunteered anyway.  And since they’ve been wounded, they’ve been dealing with the aftermath .  But as one amputee told me, "yeah, this happened to me, but others gave their all".   Context. Clarity. Strength.

Not one of them was asking for sympathy, just understanding.  These were Soldiers and Marines.  They are used to adapting and overcoming.  And while they still have much to endure, and many low points to weather,  there was no question that the spirit was willing. 

As one of the chaperones at the event said as we were quietly sharing a drink and watching the group finish a wonderful dinner, "you don’t have to worry about the next generation and  the future of our country.  These guys are that future and the future is bright".

I’ve thought about that a lot since he said that. He’s right. They are our next "greatest generation".  They stood up.  They answered the call and I’ve come to firmly believe that the strength of our nation is to be found in those who serve.   If what I saw in Las Vegas is any indication, the future is indeed bright.  If nothing else, my time with our wounded heroes made that point crystal clear to me.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO