Free Markets, Free People

National Security


Lawrence Korb: A million job losses through defense cuts "irrelevant"

Lawrence Korb, who obviously sees defense as the budget cutting device that can save other spending programs, opens his POLITICO piece with this:

Defense is not now — nor was it ever intended to be — a jobs program.

So when an Aerospace Industries Association study — supported, unfortunately, by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) — attempts to warn Congress and the American people that cutting projected defense spending by as much as $1 trillion over the next decade, which might happen if sequestration takes effect, could cost 1 million jobs, the appropriate response is that this is irrelevant.

Actually it’s not irrelevant in the least. Not when you have an administration trying to spend more money on “infrastructure jobs” and touting jobs it has “saved or created”.   Not when you have a president who is claiming the national priority is jobs, jobs, jobs.

It isn’t irrelevant at all.

I agree with his essential point and made it myself yesterday.  Defense isn’t a “jobs program”.  And no one is arguing it is.  That doesn’t make the impact of cuts to this particular sector less “relevant”.  Again, a million jobs in the middle of a deep recession means more trouble not less.  So Korb’s cavalier dismissal of that impact as irrelevant is, well, irrelevant.  It’s a false premise.

This isn’t about the jobs, necessarily (although they are important), it is about the future of our national security.   As the Air Force generals I quoted yesterday emphasized the decisions made today will have a profound effect in 20 to 30 years.  If we cut major defense programs now, we suffer their consequences then.  Sure, we’ll see a million jobs go down the drain now.  But the short sightedness of huge cuts now really doesn’t have anything to do with jobs.  It has to do with a badly degraded national defense in the future.

Korb attempts to use this false premise to sell a trillion dollars in cuts to defense programs and then promises vapor jobs in return:

That $1 trillion can be used to lower our federal debt, which Adm. Michael Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the greatest threat to our national security.

Or it could be used to create at least 2 million new jobs — to replace the 600,000 that could be lost.

Note that Korb claims, with no basis for his claim (after supposedly taking apart the argument that a million jobs will be lost with sequestration cuts) and then blithely hand waves “at least” 2 million new jobs into existence by doing what?

Spending that trillion dollars.  That’s worked so well for us in the past 3 years hasn’t it?

And his desire to “create at least 2 million new jobs” to replace those lost tells you what?

That those lost if the cuts to defense are made aren’t irrelevant at all – are they Mr. Korb?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Obama can’t wait on Congress for jobs, but can wait on the Keystone XL pipeline decision

While President Obama continues to claim that he and America can’t wait on Congress to act on his jobs bill, he apparently might delay a decision that would create hundreds of thousands of jobs till after the next election:

The Obama administration is considering a move that could delay a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline by requiring sponsors to reduce the project’s environmental risks before it can be approved, according to people with knowledge of the deliberations.

The step might put off a decision until after the 2012 election and be a way for the White House to at least temporarily avoid antagonizing either the unions that support the pipeline or the environmental activists who oppose it as President Obama gears up for his campaign.

That’s right, it’s about politics.  Need a job?  Keystone XL pipeline might be the very project to provide that.  But to heck with you, your President has an election to win and he can’t afford to alienate or antagonize anyone in his base.   And this decision is going to hack off some of his supporters.  He’s either going to make the environmental extremists that populate the left very unhappy or the labor unions that back the Keystone project and the jobs it will create.

So, in typical Obama style, he’ll just delay the decision till after the November 2012 election.  He apparently can wait on that.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Border security isn’t just about illegal immigration

It appears Iran hatched a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the US.   Fausta has as good a run down on the plot as anyone.  Unsurprisingly it involved a Mexican drug cartel and the southern border to the US.

You know, the border the left keeps telling us just isn’t a problem, shouldn’t be a priority, we’re secure enough, etc.

Funny how our enemies seem to be drawn to what they perceive as a weak point like a moth to a flame.  And they know who to contact to get what they need or want done to move a plot into the US. 

Yes, we lucked out this time – the plotter contacted a confidential informant associated with a drug cartel.  The rest follows the expected course and we finally arrested the plotter when he showed up in the US. 

But you have to wonder how many of these plots are still undetected and working within the same sorts of organizations in Mexico or other South or Central American drug cartels.

This should be setting off warning sirens all over the place within our law enforcement  and intelligence community.  And most likely it is.  But it should also finally make a point to those who want to waive off border security.  It isn’t just about illegal immigration.

It’s about national security as well.  And it is high time we started understanding that and making border security there a much higher priority than it is. 

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


The government’s war against cheap fuel

Harold Hamm, CEO of the country’s 14th largest oil company, Continental Resources, is featured in the WSJ today.  He talks about oil, gas and his belief, given what he knows about our reserves, that we could be completely energy independent from OPEC if we’d exploit them.

Or, as the title of the piece says, North Dakota could be the Saudi Arabia of the 21st century.  He thinks our technology for recovery of oil and gas is at such a state now that we could economically extract gas and oil that was previously unrecoverable and do it at a very nominal price.

So Mr. Hamm goes to Washington and has a chance to meet President Obama.  He has a moment alone with him and tries to get the message across.

When it was Mr. Hamm’s turn to talk briefly with President Obama, "I told him of the revolution in the oil and gas industry and how we have the capacity to produce enough oil to enable America to replace OPEC. I wanted to make sure he knew about this."

The president’s reaction? "He turned to me and said, ‘Oil and gas will be important for the next few years. But we need to go on to green and alternative energy. [Energy] Secretary [Steven] Chu has assured me that within five years, we can have a battery developed that will make a car with the equivalent of 130 miles per gallon.’" Mr. Hamm holds his head in his hands and says, "Even if you believed that, why would you want to stop oil and gas development? It was pretty disappointing."

Disappointing?  It’s vesting our future in a myth (or at minimum a hope) while ignoring what we have in front of us upon which our economy runs.

Daniel Yergin hits the point:

With all the excitement over renewable energy, it might be reasonable to assume that fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas will go the way of the steam engine in the next 20 years.

Not so fast, says Daniel Yergin, author and one of the most influential voices in the world of energy.

"There is always the possibility that something big will happen very quickly, but probably not," Yergin said in an interview this week before delivering a lecture at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

"On a worldwide basis, about 80 percent of energy today is oil, gas, and coal. You say, What’s it going to be in 2030? Most studies say somewhere about 75 percent of the bigger pot."

Said another way, we should be doing everything we can at this moment to do two things – increase our oil and gas supplies and create jobs.  The oil and gas industry promise an abundance of both.

As for our alternate or green fuels – yeah, maybe some day as Yergin, who has spent years researching them, admits, but not anytime soon:

"I’m convinced there will be major changes," he said. "But given how massive the energy system is, how complex it is, things just don’t happen overnight."

Existing energy systems contain an enormous amount of embedded capital. New technologies have long lead times. Automobile fleets take a decade to turn over. And world energy demand is expected to grow 35 to 40 percent by 2030.

Wind turbines, after decades of development, are only now cost-competitive, he said. Photovoltaic cells, first used in spacecraft in 1958, still require subsidies.

"It’s not a light switch where you can go from one to another," he said.

Precisely.  It’s like trying to turn an aircraft carrier around that is going full speed … it not only requires miles and miles of ocean but a lot of time.  We’re not going to transition to any alternate or green energy source in the foreseeable future – gas and oil will continue to play a dominant role in our economy.   And it is high time we began to earnestly exploit our reserves.

Anyway, back to Harold Hamm.  Why is Mr. Hamm so excited about North Dakota?  Bakken shale:

How much oil does Bakken have? The official estimate of the U.S. Geological Survey a few years ago was between four and five billion barrels. Mr. Hamm disagrees: "No way. We estimate that the entire field, fully developed, in Bakken is 24 billion barrels."

If he’s right, that’ll double America’s proven oil reserves. "Bakken is almost twice as big as the oil reserve in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska," he continues. According to Department of Energy data, North Dakota is on pace to surpass California in oil production in the next few years. Mr. Hamm explains over lunch in Washington, D.C., that the more his company drills, the more oil it finds. Continental Resources has seen its "proved reserves" of oil and natural gas (mostly in North Dakota) skyrocket to 421 million barrels this summer from 118 million barrels in 2006.

"We expect our reserves and production to triple over the next five years." And for those who think this oil find is only making Mr. Hamm rich, he notes that today in America "there are 10 million royalty owners across the country" who receive payments for the oil drilled on their land. "The wealth is being widely shared."

The fact is that over the next few years, Bakken is going to provide huge employment opportunities, taxes, you name it – all of the positives that get an economy going again.

How much?  Well that’s still to be determined, but if our experience with the Barnett shale formation down Texas way is any example, lots.  Here are the results of a recent study of the impact of the exploitation of Barnett shale by the Perryman Group [pdf]:

More than 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas have been produced from the Barnett Shale.  Currently, 24 counties have producing wells, with permits issued for a 25th county.  

Although exploration activity slowed during the economic  downturn, production from the Barnett Shale continued to rise, topping 1.8 trillion cubic feet in 2010. 

More than 70 rigs are currently drilling in the Barnett Shale. 

The Perryman Group estimated the positive effect of Barnett Shale related activity on the regional and state economies.  This economic stimulus stems from (1) exploration, drilling, and related activity; (2) pipeline investments and related operations; and (3) royalties and lease bonuses.  In addition, the oil and gas companies involved donate millions to area charities and pay substantial ad valorem taxes. 

The Perryman Group estimated the 2011 total effect of Barnett Shale activity to include $11.1 billion in annual output and 100,268 jobs in the region.  While the majority of the stimulus comes from exploration and drilling, pipeline development and royalty and lease payments also contribute to the overall impact. 

For the state as a whole, Barnett Shale-related activity leads to estimated 2011 gains in output (gross product) of almost $13.7 billion as well as 119,216 jobs. 

The Perryman Group estimates that the cumulative economic benefits during the 2001-2011 period include $65.4 billion in output (gross product) and 596,648 person-years of employment in the region.  For the state as a whole (including the Barnett Shale region), the total benefits over the 2001-2011 period were found to include $80.7 billion in output (gross product) and 710,319 person years of employment.

Approximately 38.5% of the incremental growth in the economy of the region over the past decade has been the result of Barnett Shale activity.  Moreover, the overall economic contribution of this phenomenon now constitutes about 8.5% of the local business complex. 

Activity in the Barnett Shale is also an important source of tax revenues to local entities as well as the State.  The Perryman Group estimates that in 2011, counties, cities, and school districts in the region will receive some $730.6 million in additional fiscal revenues due to the Barnett Shale and related activity. 

The State will likely receive another $911.8 million, for a total gain in local and State taxes of an estimated $1.6 billion. 

Over the entire 2001-2011 period, The Perryman Group estimates that local taxing entities received an additional $5.3 billion in tax receipts, with another $5.8 billion to the State. 

It would seem to most reasonable and rational people that encouraging this would be the smartest and one of the most effective ways to help the economy recover.

But apparently that’s just not the priority – at least when it comes up against the political agenda pushing the myth of instant green energy if we’ll just pour more money into it.

So, instead we get this:

Washington keeps "sticking a regulatory boot at our necks and then turns around and asks: ‘Why aren’t you creating more jobs,’" he says. He roils at the Interior Department delays of months and sometimes years to get permits for drilling. "These delays kill projects," he says. Even the Securities and Exchange Commission is now tightening the screws on the oil industry, requiring companies like Continental to report their production and federal royalties on thousands of individual leases under the Sarbanes-Oxley accounting rules. "I could go to jail because a local operator misreported the production in the field," he says.

The White House proposal to raise $40 billion of taxes on oil and gas—by excluding those industries from credits that go to all domestic manufacturers—is also a major hindrance to exploration and drilling. "That just stops the drilling," Mr. Hamm believes. "I’ve seen these things come about before, like [Jimmy] Carter’s windfall profits tax." He says America’s rig count on active wells went from 4,500 to less than 55 in a matter of months. "That was a dumb idea. Thank God, Reagan got rid of that."

A few months ago the Obama Justice Department brought charges against Continental and six other oil companies in North Dakota for causing the death of 28 migratory birds, in violation of the Migratory Bird Act. Continental’s crime was killing one bird "the size of a sparrow" in its oil pits. The charges carry criminal penalties of up to six months in jail. "It’s not even a rare bird. There’re jillions of them," he explains. He says that "people in North Dakota are really outraged by these legal actions," which he views as "completely discriminatory" because the feds have rarely if ever prosecuted the Obama administration’s beloved wind industry, which kills hundreds of thousands of birds each year.

Continental pleaded not guilty to the charges last week in federal court. For Mr. Hamm the whole incident is tantamount to harassment. "This shouldn’t happen in America," he says. To him the case is further proof that Washington "is out to get us."

And everything we’ve seen seems to agree with Hamm’s assessment.   He’s completely right about the wind power point.  In fact, the California condor, which was finally removed from the endangered species list, is probably going to end up going back on because so many have been killed by wind mills.  Not a peep from the Feds.

The government floods green energy—a niche market that supplies 2.5% of our energy needs—with billions of dollars of subsidies a year. "Wind isn’t commercially feasible with natural gas prices below $6" per thousand cubic feet, notes Mr. Hamm. Right now its price is below $4. This may explain the administration’s hostility to the fossil-fuel renaissance.

This administration’s policies are simply absurd to say the least.

We have the means, the technology and the will to exploit these natural resources.  They will provide millions of jobs (both direct and indirect) – good, high paying jobs.  That also means increased revenue at all levels of government, not to mention more and more energy security.

Mr. Hamm calculates that if Washington would allow more drilling permits for oil and natural gas on federal lands and federal waters, "I truly believe the federal government could over time raise $18 trillion in royalties." That’s more than the U.S. national debt, I say. He smiles.

Even if that’s only half true, what’s not to like or want, especially now in our current economic situation?

I have no idea …. ask President Obama.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Libya – Now what?

After months, not weeks, of a NATO bombing campaign, it appears that the regime of Libyan strong-man Moammar Gaddafi is about to end.  Rebels have advanced into Tripoli, the capital, and Gaddafi is said to be cornered in his compound.  When last heard from his advice to his remaining supporters was to take to the streets:

In a brief broadcast on state television, Gaddafi made what came across as a desperate plea for support. “Go out and take your weapons,” the Libyan leader said. “All of you, there should be no fear.”

But the opposite seems to be what his loyalists are doing:

But reporters traveling with rebel forces said Gaddafi’s defenses were melting away faster than had been expected. There were reports of entire units fleeing as rebels entered the capital from the south, east and west, and his supporters inside the city tearing off their uniforms, throwing down their weapons and attempting to blend into the population.

A Tripoli-based activist said the rebels had secured the seaport, where several hundred reinforcements for the opposition had arrived by boat, and were in the process of evicting Gaddafi loyalists from the Mitiga air base on the eastern edge of the city.

There are also reports that a safe haven is or is still being negotiated for Gaddafi.  South Africa has been identified as a participant in those negotiations with Zimbabwe and the Congo as two possible destinations.

Obviously Gadaffi’s reign is within hours, if not days of ending.

The question then becomes, “now what”?  While this is supposedly a flowering of the Arab spring, there have been disturbing reports of Islamist radicals in leadership positions within the Rebel alliance.   Additionally, there have been various councils and groups claiming leadership.   Once Gadaffi is ousted and the capitol taken, the hard part begins – governing.   Who or what band or group is likely to emerge as the leadership group.   While there is a lot of talk about “revolutionary youth”, etc.,  in cases like this the most ruthless and best organized group usually take charge.

The “Twitter revolution” started by “revolutionary youth” in Egypt has since yielded to the Muslim Brotherhood – a well organized Islamist group which has seemingly reached an accommodation with the army and will apparently take power there after the next election.  The secular and democratic activists have been pushed to the side.

There’s also the question of “now what” for the West.   Does NATO tip its hat to the rebels and wish them good luck, or does it plan on some sort of post-Gaddafi role?   France has a historic interest in Libya.   Will European nations simply walk away or will they attempt to help craft a solution in Libya?

Finally, is the collapse of the Gadaffi regime a vindication of Obama’s “leading from behind” strategy?  It certainly forced NATO to do more than has in quite some time and the campaign got the desired result.   Does that make it a good strategy for the future, or a one-of-a-kind campaign that got lucky given the weakness of the target and the geography of the nation?

All of these questions and more will be answered in the next few weeks.  One has to wonder how many of the answers will come as a surprise.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Guns or butter? Saving food stamps at expense of national defense

It is becoming clearer and clearer that Barack Obama has no real intention of tackling the government spending programs that pose the greatest risk to our future financial security.   And, if he has his way, he’ll certainly agree to some cuts in spending, to at least give himself some political cover and the ability to claim he’s engaged.  But if there are going to be any spending cuts, I think we all know where they’ll be if he gets his way:

“I think what’s absolutely true is that core commitments that we make to the most vulnerable have to be maintained,” [President Barack] Obama said. “A lot of the spending cuts that we’re making should be around areas like defense spending as opposed to food stamps.”

That’s not the first time recently he’s voiced that theme:

During his first-ever Twitter town hall meeting Wednesday, Obama said the Defense budget is so large that even modest cuts to it would free up dollars for other federal programs.

So it isn’t conjecture to say that his target is defense and his plan is to spend what is ‘saved’, not pay down the debt.  I also think it is quite clear that he plans to drastically reduce defense spending in a time we’re involved in three wars (how’s that “weeks, not months” war going?  5 months, counting and no end in sight), and defense commitments globally.

Of course you can always rely on the left to support such an idea.   Ezra Klein tries to be “objective” about it, but it is clear what the intent of his “the US military in two charts” post is about at the Washington Post.  Klein has taken the charts from The Economist.  Let’s take a look.  Chart one shows military spending as a percentage of all military spending in the world:

military spending pie

 

Another way to break it down is US 43%, rest of the world 57%.   Or there’s a whole lot of military spending going on in the world, and we do a lot of it.

But we’ve known that for decades.  What the chart doesn’t tell you, for instance, is how much China’s spending has increased.  China’s defense budget for the past few years has seen double digit jumps, with the only year in single digits being 2010 when it only increased the budget by 7.5%.   This year, it’s back in double digits at 12.7%.   So that wedge you see in this static chart is a rapidly growing wedge.  As China’s economy has heated up over the years, so has China’s military spending.  

Russia too is increasing its spending on defense.  It plans on spending $650 billion on its armed forces over the next 10 years. 

France, on the other hand, has been cutting its level of military spending consistently over the years since 1988.  But a country that isn’t cutting its spending and which now spends more of its GDP on the military than does France, is Iran.

The point, of course, is that while it is evident that we spend an inordinately larger amount than any other country on defense, we’ve done that because we’ve assumed an international role that others can’t fill or we don’t want them to fill.  

And that’s an important point.   One reason that we’ve generally seen a peaceful 50 or so years (with most wars being of the regional, not world wide, type) is because we’ve been the country which has shouldered the burden of keeping the peace.   Peace through strength.

Obviously there is certainly an argument that can be made that we shouldn’t have to shoulder that burden and it’s time we gave it up.   But as soon as you say something like that, you have to ask, “but who will fill the role”?

Certainly not the Third World Debating society known as the UN.   They’re inept, corrupt and incompetent.   And certainly not NATO – as Libya has proven, they can’t get out of their own way.

So who keeps Russia in its place and stands up to China as that country flexes its newly developed muscle?   What about Iran?   Or North Korea?

That’s the problem with being about the only country standing of any size after a world war. 

So we have to ask ourselves, is it in our best interest to back out of our pretty dominant role and cut back drastically in our spending in that area?   If we answer yes, we have to ask who we trust to pick up that slack.   I know my answer to that – no one.   But rest assured that power vacuum will indeed be filled.   A dilemma for sure.

Second chart:

military personnel

 

We lead the world in spending but do not have the largest military – not by a long shot.  In fact, our entire military is just a bit smaller than the Chinese Army alone.  Looking at that, and considering the spending chart, what would it tell you? 

It would tell me we spend the majority of our money on technology.  It costs money – and a lot of it – to maintain our level of superiority.   We spend it on things like 5th generation fighters, state-of-the-art naval vessels, and the like.   Programs that are designed not only to give us the technological edge on the battlefield, but also to deter would-be enemies from even trying, given their inability to match our capabilities.   It is obviously an intangible – we can’t really measure how much this has saved us from brutal and even more costly wars – but with the budget battles and the fiscal crisis, we’re in a position where we certainly have to clearly state our priorities.  Obama has stated his.

Is there room in our defense spending to make some cuts.   Yes, of course there is.  

But let’s be clear, to quote Obama.   Defense spending is 4.7% of GDP and it is approximately 20% of the federal budget.  But it is time for a third chart:

 

800px-U.S._Federal_Spending_-_FY_2007

 

Entitlements (i.e. “mandatory spending”) total 56% of our budget – and growing.  And we’ve so overspent that we’re spending 6% on interest alone.  So 62% of the budget – as designed by those brilliant legislators we’ve elected decade after decade – is untouchable by law.   That leaves 39% that these yahoos want to “balance the budget” on.    The elephant in the room is ignored to go after the dog.  And only part of the dog. We have a president who prefers the other end of the dog to the part that has teeth.

All of that to get to this question – Obama talks about core commitments in his first statement above:  Is it a core commitment of the government of the United States to protect and defend the citizens of the country as outlined in the Constitution of the United States, or is it a core commitment to take other people’s money and redistribute it?

Because that’s the choice we’re talking about here.   Make the commitment to national security and, within reason, the cost that entails, or, as Barack Obama seems comfortable with doing, throw it under the bus in favor of redistribution of income instead.  While serving what he calls the “most vulnerable” he’ll make us all vulnerable.

More on this subject later, but that’s a pretty good start to the discussion.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Was bin Laden in an ISI safehouse?

Lots of bits and pieces coming out about the raid.

This was a targeted kill mission, not just a raid. They didn’t go in to capture bin Laden, they went in to kill him. And they did. It is reported he got the classic "double tap" to the left side of the head. Now he’s fish food. Appropriate. But … it also kills this "justice" nonsense in the legal sense. Legally, that’s not how we dispense justice. So, as some have said, and I agree, this removes the actions he was killed for from the "criminal" realm.

The mission was carried out by the legendary SEAL Team 6. They were the right guys for this type of mission and they apparently carried it out magnificently, even with one of their aircraft going down with mechanical failure. Or said another way, this wasn’t remotely a "Desert One". It was a well planned, well executed job for which everyone in the chain of command, from the President on down, deserve a pat on the back.

The compound bin Laden was in was built in 2005.  At the time it was pretty isolated – well, other than being 1,000 yards from the Pakistani equivalent of West Point.  Since then some other structures were built near it.

That said, there are a lot of interesting rumors flying around not the least of which are claims in the Indian media that the fortress/house/mansion was an ISI “safe house”.  ISI is the Pakistani intelligence services which has always been suspect in its loyalty and frequently cited as having given aid to al Qaeda and the Taliban. MEMRI has the story.   From “India Today”:

"A senior Pakistan military official has told India Today that it was impossible for the army to have not known that Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was in Abbottabad. This has further fuelled speculation that Osama was killed in an ISI safehouse.

Another Indian website reported the following:

"Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] is bound to be cornered in the days to come following the killing of dreaded terrorist Osama bin Laden.

"A source in the intelligence agency says that Osama’s death will no doubt put the ISI in a very uncomfortable position among the Al-Qaeda, Haqqani Network, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, who now feel betrayed by the agency.

[…]

"Nothing in the Af-Pak region goes unnoticed by the ISI, and if bin Laden managed to play hide-and-seek with the world all this while, it was only thanks to ISI’s patronage. Although the U.S. has claimed that Pakistan was not in the know of this operation, terror groups would not believe so.

"They are aware that nothing is possible unless there has been a certain degree of support from the establishment. Moreover, Osama was living in a place close to the army headquarters in Abbottabad, about 70 kilometers northeast of Pakistan’s capital Islamabad. This is not a fact that would have gone unnoticed by the ISI.

The Times of India also claims the ISI was involved in sheltering bin Laden:

"The finger of suspicion is now pointing squarely at the Pakistani military and intelligence for sheltering and protecting Osama bin Laden before U.S. forces hunted him down and put a bullet in his head in the wee hours of Sunday. The coordinates of the action and sequence of events indicate that the Al-Qaeda fugitive may have been killed in an ISI safehouse.

There’s some ground truth in there – the ISI has a fearful reputation in the region and little if anything is unknown to them.  They’ve been constantly accused of playing both sides of the fence in this conflict.  Few if any in the region, among terror organizations, are going to believe this all happened without the ISI’s knowledge and compliance.  And that puts them in a very tough spot as the report indicates.

So bin Laden death may end up being one of the best things to happen in some time if it casts enough suspicion to break up this unholy alliance between the Pakistani state intelligence agency and the terrorists.  Trust me, it will take a loooooong time (if it ever happens) for those two entities to ever have close ties again.

And that, my friends, is a good thing.

~McQ


Osama Bin Laden killed in Pakistan by US forces

I actually enjoyed writing that headline.   It’s about time.  I’ll also admit I was wrong when I continued to contend that he’d been killed early on in Tora Bora.  Events, or lack of them perhaps, had led me to that conclusion.

This is going to make a fascinating book by someone because it sounds like one of those intel coups a long time in the making (Reuters says the trail was picked up about 4 years ago) and finally culminating in a successful raid in which bin Laden was killed.

He apparently was living in what one described as a “mansion” (a large 3 story structure) at the end of a narrow dirt road in a town in NE Pakistan (Abottobad) which is almost due east from Kabul.  Not the tribal lands to the SE, but in an area well under control of the Pakistani government and very near the Pakistani military academy.

"For some time there will be a lot of tension between Washington and Islamabad because bin Laden seems to have been living here close to Islamabad," said Imtiaz Gul, a Pakistani security analyst.

Indeed.  Apparently the compound had an 18 foot high security wall, with other interior fencing, two entrances and no phone or internet connection.

The operation included CIA and Special Ops folks in 4 helicopters (one of which crashed due to mechanical problems). 

What got us on the trail? 

"Detainees also identified this man as one of the few al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin Laden. They indicated he might be living with or protected by bin Laden," a senior administration official said in a briefing for reporters in Washington.

That’s right, interrogation of detainees.  They identified a particular man as a very highly placed and trusted courier of bin Laden’s and security services attempted and successfully did follow him to the compound in Pakistan.  Initially the assessment only stated that the compound probably housed high-value targets but eventually the operatives concluded that there was a very good possibility it also housed Osama bin Laden.

Apparently when the raid began, OBL resisted and paid the price.  Reports say he was shot in the head.  Note the odd phrasing on this Obama quote announcing the death:

"A small team of Americans carried out the operation," Obama said. "After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body."

“After” the firefight they killed OBL?  I’m assuming he meant “during” a firefight, but hey, you never know.  One thing that is obvious is a dead bin Laden is preferable to a live one.  In fact, they’re doing DNA testing and running his image through face recognition software for a positive ID and then dumping, er ,burying his body at sea (the thinking  being his grave cannot become a martyr’s shrine).  It is also reported that a son and two other, plus a women one of those brave guys used as a shield were also killed.

The operation took 40 minutes.

Congrats to the intel and SOF folks who carried this off.  Heck of a job.

~McQ


National security shakeup – what does it mean?

The recently announced moves that will see Gen. David Petraeus taking the helm of the CIA, while CIA director Leon Panetta moves to the Secretary of Defense post (replacing retiring SecDef Robert Gates), may have some interesting reasons behind them.

Petraeus is our most successful general in a generation and credited by many for turning the Iraq war around at a time when it seemed to be spiraling out of control.  His ability to command troops in the field coupled with his ability to deftly handle the diplomatic side of his duties made him the most popular general our military has seen for some time.  So popular, in fact, that he was eventually put in command in Afghanistan to replace President Obama’s hand-picked general there.

Petraeus will resign from the Army to take the CIA post.  But many are asking, why CIA?  Why not Petraeus as the SecDef?

Perhaps the reason is that, with the big drawdown scheduled in July for Afghanistan, this signals how we plan on fighting that war from then on: more emphasis on CIA and Special Operations Force activities and less on conventional forces.  Or, the “Biden plan,” if you will.  Many more covert operations and drone strikes than now.   Less emphasis on coalition operations; more emphasis on training Afghan forces to take the security job over.   Petraeus would have be the best man to make that transition a reality.

So what does the move of Panetta mean for the Department of Defense?  Apparently, Panetta wasn’t particularly enthused about taking the job, but finally said “yes” this past Monday.  Something obviously changed to have him accept the post.  Most think the administration agreed to make it a relatively short-term appointment for the 73 year old Director of the CIA.  Secretary of Defense is a post with a grueling operations tempo, with three wars going and budget battles in the offing.  It’s a tough slog for anyone holding the post.

That means that Panetta will most likely be a “caretaker” SecDef, and as the president’s man, much more open to the budget cuts Obama wants from DoD than Gates.  Gates did his best to protect DoD as much as he could from thoughtless or deep cuts to the defense budget.  He also tried to get out ahead of the curve and nominate cuts of his own in order to avoid those that might be forced on the department by lawmakers.

With Panetta, it is more likely that he will be less of an advocate for DoD and more of a hatchet man for the administration.  He’ll most likely be gone, one way or the other, when January 2013 arrives.  So he has no reason not to do what he and the president agree on concerning cuts to defense.  The only bulwark against administration cuts now will be the Republican House.

Keep an eye on these two appointments and the events that surround them.  Both could signal profound changes in the two agencies effected.

~McQ

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