We Are Losing The War On Terror

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First, if you think this is going to be a hit piece on Barack Obama…keep reading, because that is precisely not what this.

What this is, fundamentally, is an analysis of where our global fight against existential terror groups stands.

It is not a pretty picture.

Even before this weeks events in Iraq, we have seen a resurgence of Islamists all over the world.

In African, numerous groups have seen a comeback, most famous being that Baku Haram in Nigeria, who kidnapped several hundred young girls, and led to a Twitter phenomenon that so far has failed to find and return those girls safely.

In Libya, the West’s strategy has failed completely, as the majority of the country is now controlled by rebels, and the Capital itself has come under attack several times; Libya is on the verge of being a failed state.

Syria has long been a failed state, as the Civil War rages on. Thousands have died since the West signed a chemical weapons deal with Assad. The chemical weapons deal is a nice public relations coup, but will not change the killing one iota.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban are apparently biding their time until the US leaves, so they can restart their Jihad against everyone. And they staged one of their biggest coups in years, by receiving 5 key leaders back from Guantanamo Bay, at the price of one single American Soldier.

And the Taliban, along with the Hiqqani network, staged an underreported attack on Karachi airport in Pakistan, which signals new trouble for that nuclear state.

Iraq’s troubles, with ISIS and other Islamist groups, marching toward Baghdad is just another symptom of the larger problem.

Now, people’s instincts are to do one of two things: blame George W. Bush for everything and do nothing; or blame President Barack Obama for everything, and bomb everyone.

Both are incorrect and illogical.

Let us stipulate, at least in Iraq, that George W. Bush shares a lion’s share of the blame. I don’t want to get into the larger fight about the historical record of the war; but Bush owns this, for all time.

That said, that doesn’t mean Mr. Obama should simply play the tit-for-tat game, point at Bush, and say he wins the game. This is no game. This is not a time for political theater.

Let us put this into perspective, shall we? ISIS is a group that Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s titular leader, thought was too extreme for him, and thus he severed ties with that organization. He once thought the group was a liability…the the ‘Al Qaeda brand’. Think about that for a second. To allow them to just walk into Baghdad would be a horrible failure of U.S. foreign policy.

Furthermore, let us recall that Osama Bin Laden’s key strategic goal was not to attack the United States. His key goal, all along, was to create a caliphate in the Middle East, that can grow and then present a true threat to the West. ISIS is on the verge of accomplishing just that.

The question now becomes, as we look at this global surge of islamic terror rising, and then see one event in which we could, at the very least, stem that tide in the hopes that more moderate and democratic forces can take charge, should we just ignore it because it is inconvenient?

Obama has only limited tools at his disposal. Putting troops on the ground is not an option anyone is considering, nor should they. There is much debate about whether drone or air strikes would do the trick. That is a military question I cannot answer.

I think the war in Iraq was a mistake. I think we should be far more non-interventionist in our foreign policy as time passes. But ignoring the threat posed here is foolish as well…9/11 taught us that.

I for one hope the President takes decisive, albeit limited, action here. He has a host of terrible choices, and many if not most of the problems in this specific case were not of his making. However, that should not excuse him from having to make the choice that is needed now, nor should it do so in the future.

Additionally, I hope the country quickly unites and backs the President if he takes quick action. This is a moment for unity, not for politics. There are real costs to failing here; and people who don’t understand that have learned nothing from the last two decades of foreign policy failures.

Obama’s ‘ALL IS WELL!’ World View

animal-house-remain_calm1On Tuesday, Obama spoke to the United Nations General Assembly, and made some of the following comments:

“The world is more stable now than it was five years ago.” “Just as we reviewed how we deploy our extraordinary military capabilities in a way that lives up to our ideals, we’ve begun to review the way that we gather intelligence so that we properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share,” he said. “As a result of this work and cooperation with allies and partners, the world is more stable than it was five years ago,” he added. Obama did note, however, that “dangers remain.” “Even a glance at today’s headlines indicates that dangers remain,” Obama said. “In Kenya we’ve seen terrorists target innocent civilians in a crowded shopping mall, and our hearts go out to the families of those who have been affected. In Pakistan nearly 100 people were recently killed by suicide bombers outside a church. In Iraq killings and car bombs continue to be a terrible part of life.” “Meanwhile, al-Qaida has splintered into regional networks and militias which doesn’t give them the capacity at this point to carry out attacks like 9/11, but it does pose serious threats to governments and diplomats, businesses and civilians all across the globe.”

Now, he did acknowledge there are dangers.  Bully for him.  But the rest of this world vision simply is a level of self-delusion that is not just amusing for his opponents and our enemies on the world stage, but is in fact quite dangerous.

Let us take a case by case look at the world, shall we?

Afghanistan:  Almost twice as many American military personnel have died in that country under Barack Obama’s 4+ years than during Bush’s 7 years of  over seeing that war.  The government has largely distanced itself from its American counterparts, and to varying degrees has aligned itself with Iran and Pakistan.  The Taliban is resurgent, and simply are waiting for the inevitable Obama announcement for exiting the war all together.

Pakistan:  This critical nation is more destabilized now than ever.  The political situation is tenuous, and our relations with them continue to reach all-time new lows.

Iran:  Iran inches toward nuclear weapons, a clear goal if there ever was one.  We missed an opportunity during the Green revolution in 2009, and such a chance will be unlikely to come again.

Iraq:  The country for which Obama has the least historical responsibility, but things are not going well here.  Violence has escalated, almost close to the levels of the civil war of 2006.  And because we withdrew from the Bush-era force agreement, we have no leverage there, as Iraq, like Syria before it, starts to become a proxy state for the Iranians.

Syria:  The biggest, most glaring hole in Obama’s claim.  100,000 Syrians have died during the two-year civil war, and tens of thousands more will die before the war is over.

Israel/Palestine:  The peace process has been dead as a doornail, with neither side even approaching the negotiation table.

Egypt:  After Syria, maybe the next most glaring example of failure.  Violence has been rampant all year, as the Muslim Brotherhood was pushed out of the democratic process.  Ever since Obama helped displace Mubarak from the leadership, Egypt has been in a slow death spiral.  Now, ironically, it looks like only the Egyptian military, from which Mubarak himself originated, can save the country.

Libya:  We helped oust Qadhafi, and ever since, it has been a failed state.  The central government controls less than 1/3 of the nation. Islamists control the rest. Many of the weapons we sent to the rebels has been used in other Islamist conflicts through out Africa, the most prominent being the Mali civil war.

Russia: Outside of the Middle East, the biggest diplomatic failure.  We are closer to a new Cold War than we have been since 1991.  Putin has no respect or love for Obama, and opposes him at every turn.

Al Qaeda/Islamic terrorists;  Probably deserves its own category.  Whether you are discussing Yemen, Kenya, or elsewhere, the death of Osama Bin Laden has done little if anything to stop the generational war that Islamists continue to fight, whether we admit it or not.

Simply put, no rational analysis of the world situation can result in thinking the world is more stable today than five years ago.  We can argue whether this is Obama’s fault or not, whether this is a historical trend we are swimming against, whether this all the fault of George W. Bush, or maybe the fault of Aliens.  But in short…Obama’s view is simply delusional.  There is no other way to describe it.

Syria: What Now?

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So, I have spent much of the last two weeks contemplating the logic of war, what should determine if we send troops into the field and kill and destroy people of a far off land.  I think, and I hope, I took a fair look at the decision-making involved.  You can see my prior posts here.

That said, where does that leave us?

I believe wholeheartedly that Barack Obama made the right decision in 2012 when he refused to get involved directly in the Syrian Civil War.  None of the arguments I have heard, to this day, make me believe that anything we could have done would have dramatically altered the landscape in such a way to benefit us in any significant way.

That doesn’t mean we couldn’t have had an effect.

First and foremost, we could have pushed a diplomatic solution long ago. Yes, it would have required agreement by Russia and China…but isn’t that what diplomacy is always about?  And don’t tell me it was impossible.  Today, with the deal the Syrians are making with the Russians, we are seeing how impossible such a path was.  Simply put, our diplomatic forces failed miserably.

Additionally, if we wished it, we quite easily could have pushed Assad out of power.  But to what end?  To allow a host of rebel groups, most of whom are to one degree or another Islamists, and many who have direct ties to terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, to take control of a key piece of real estate in the Middle East?  There was no western-style democracy to be had in Damascus.  Every alternative was a bad one.

Then, for reason unknown to this day, President Obama drew his now infamous ‘red line’.  This may go down in history as one of the most inept Presidential statements ever.  In one single sentence, Mr. Obama placed the credibility of the U.S.A., not to mention the credibility of his own Presidency, on the line if Assad or the rebels ever decided to use their chemical weapons stockpiles.

Imagine:  placing the credibility of the greatest nation on earth on the decision-making of dictators and Islamists groups, who would happily die for the greater good that they envision.

That was madness.

Everything that has occurred on this side of the pond since has largely occurred because Mr. Obama said something extremely stupid in that press conference.

To compound this initial mistake, which could have been corrected by an apology, Obama then went on to double down, as he built a case for war against Syria.

At this point, he has laid this mess on the laps of Congress, because frankly, he had no where else to go.  He couldn’t go to the public, because they are about 90:10 against the concept; heck, his own wife is not on board.  He couldn’t go to the United Nations, because his leverage there may be less than mine. He tried to go to America’s great backup plan, the United Kingdom, and David Cameron failed in epic proportions to muster the votes needed for military action.

Now, Obama stands alone.  And honestly, this is unique in his entire political career.  Obama has always made sure he had political cover for every decision he has ever made.  That is one reason he has tried to go back to Congress; he believes that their support may give him the cover he needs to take the country to war again.

So, the question remains:  what should Congress do?  This is a terrible decision all around.  First and foremost, the President already had the power to attack Syria under the War Powers Act.  I wholly believe this, although I have made much hay about Obama’s hypocrisy on the subject (he openly opposed those same powers when George W. Bush was in office).

If Congress blocks military action, the President and the country will be further diminished in the eyes of the world.  If they vote for military action, Obama could take the country on another unnecessary and possibly dangerous adventure in the Middle East…and we all know how well those have gone in the past.

In other words…damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

In a last-minute brilliant move by Vladimir Putin (brilliant for him; not so good for the United States), Putin offered a roadmap to peace.  He would allow the Syrians to give up their chemical weapons, in exchange from protection from military attacks from the West.

This is, of course, ridiculous policy after the past few weeks.  First and foremost, Assad has been accused of wars against humanity.  So all he has to do is give up the weapons for which he is accused of those crimes?  It is like allowing a murder to walk following a shooting, if only he hands over his gun.

It should be interesting how Democrats play this.  For the last several weeks, Obama supporters like John Kerry and Harry Reid have made the case that Assad is the modern Hitler.  So now, if we allow Assad to stay in power…the natural progression of their logic is Barack Obama is the modern Neville Chamberlain.

Secondly, we all know this is a delay tactic. Much like Saddam Hussein, time is on the side of the tyrant.  The longer he survives, the more time he has to wipe out his enemies, in what ever manner possible. Furthermore, if you see news reports in the German press, there is an open question to whether Assad ever was inclined to use chemical weapons in the first place.  This raises the question:  is he even in control of his weapons?  And if he isn’t, that means that he benefits from any steps the international community takes, by allowing him to consolidate his power.

Furthermore, the reality is Assad will never give up his chemical weapons.  Not really.  Even if he gave up every ounce of weapons he has today, he will forever have the capability to make more.  Chemical weapons are a low-cost entry in to the world of weapons of mass destruction.  He may talk about eliminating his stockpile; he may even let inspectors come and look at his weapons depots.  But the possibility of him handing over his trump card, including potential capabilities to produce future weapons, is next to nil.

So, the joke is on us if we even consider this proposal for a nanosecond.

On September 10th, the President plans to talk to the American people.  I have no idea what he plans to say.  At this point, I almost don’t care.  The last few weeks of foreign policy from this administration has been a comedy of errors, and sadly, none of it is funny.  As they have made their case for war, their support for war among the public has dramatically dropped; as much as 20% in a recent poll over the past week.  In other words, the more Obama makes his case, the more people are opposed to it.  So what difference will a Presidential primetime speech make?  Likely, none at all.

So, Congress is likely to shoot down Obama’s war proposal; possibly even the Senate.  That will be one of the loudest votes of no confidence in an American President in modern times.  The decision-making will then shift to the Kremlin, where Putin has outplayed Obama, and he now holds all the cards.  And where Obama goes from there, nobody knows.  But America will be weaker off for it.

The Logic of War, Part II – The Syrian Conundrum

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Yesterday, in the post linked here, I discussed generally what I believe should be our logical process in evaluating whether a war was reasonable and necessary.

Today, I am going to put Syria to the test.

1.  U.S. National Interest.

Clearly, we must have some vital interest that involves us in a conflict.  If a war goes on in a region of the world where we have no diplomatic, military, or financial objective…we simply must turn away.  We are not the world’s policeman, as much as Barack Obama, John Kerry, John McCain and others would apparently like to make us so.

As for Syria, do we have a vital interest?  Syria probably falls into that over broad category.  Like the Cold War, Misters Obama and Kerry are arguing that any destabilization of the Middle East is worrisome.  Syria could potentially be a threat to our allies, Israel and Turkey.  And they fear the conflict spilling over its borders into places such as Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq.

I find this argument less than compelling.  If destabilization is a threat…then why are we not more involved in Egypt today? Or, for a larger question:  why are we allowing Iran to build nuclear weapons?  Both likely have far more national implications for the United States.  One could even make the argument that pulling our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan destabilizes the region.

But, history has given Presidents broad leeway on this, and I guess I should do the same for President Obama.  Syria does in the broadest and most vague terms fit the arena of American national interest.

2.  Do we have a list of defined goals and objectives?

I think the clear answer here is a categorical ‘No’.

During yesterday’s testimony to Congress, Secretary of State John Kerry was asked this time and again, and could not provide a rational response.

Does anyone, including the President, have any idea what the endgame is?  We have already been assured that regime change is out of the question, so removal of Assad from power is not a goal of these strikes (Ironically, Kerry stated it may be a goal of our diplomatic approach, but not the military action; if that makes any sense).  That also means they don’t want to wipe out the current Syrian army.

The Defense Department has stated that there is no tactical way of destroying the chemical weapons stashes around the country…so ridding the country of WMD is not possible.

And a ground invasion is off the table, at least theoretically.

The only argument for a defined goal that I can fathom is that we are acting as the world’s policeman, and wish to ‘punish’ the Syrian authorities for use of chemical weapons.  This might be meaningful, if we had the world community supporting us.  Of course, we don’t.  The United Nations refuses to authorize this, and most of our major allies have decided to stay at home.

3.  Are the goals worthwhile?

Not sure how to answer this after the answer in question #2, but I think it is fair to say that if you have no real goals in mind, there is nothing worthwhile in the effort.

If the only goal is to punish Syria, then will the missile strikes that are being contemplated achieve even that minimal goal?

 4.  Are the goals achievable?

What goals?

OK, let us, for the sake of argument, say our goal is policing the world community, and to punish Assad for violating international norms.

If that is the case, what punishment would suffice?  Clearly not a few Tomahawk missiles, that is for sure.  In the past two decades, such action against the likes of Saddam Hussein did nothing but bolster their regimes hard-line stances.

You would need a systematic disruption of the ability of the Syrian army’s ability to fight the rebels; strategic destruction of the Syrian air force; and some sort of diminshed ability of the Syrians to use chemical weapons.  Furthermore, direct assault on Assad’s own power base would be helpful.

After the testimony of Defense officials, other than the destruction of the Syrian air force, none of these goals are achievable.  And even the Syrian Air Force may be a tough target to destroy. Certainly, we could hurt Assad’s forces.

That said, how would we hurt Assad in such a way, when Mr. Kerry specifically stated that our goal is not to hurt Assad in such a way?

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I admit there may be a logical reason to strike Syria.  The use of chemical weapons should be considered beyond the pale, an act of evil against civilians that should not stand.

However, nothing in this strategy from the Obama Administration makes the least amount of sense.  They probably have, in the most lenient definition imaginable, some national interest involved.  But they have yet to articulate a rational set of goals that are worthwhile and achievable considering the situation on the ground.

Until they meet those criteria, they should not involve the United States in any foreign intervention.

TACTICS: Syria and Obamacare

Today, Saturday Aug 31 President Obama decided that he would follow the Constitution and seek approval from Congress before engaging in miltary action against Syria. Lots of folks are going to be writing about this from all sorts of perspectives. I’m here to talk about the political tactics happening here, and how we can make sure that Conservatives don’t lose the game that Progressives decided to play.

Obama did not call Congress back into session. This isn’t an emergency that he wants an immediate answer for.  Hmmm. That’s interesting. He’s content to have the topic be discussed at length, for a week or more. Why would that be? Why is he acting all humble and Constitution minded now?

There is ALWAYS a political reason with these guys. ALWAYS. Look beyond the surface. What else is going on, what political purpose is he serving?

Distract the people, and divide the opposition. 

Distract us from the push to defund Obamacare. He just has to run out the clock a few more weeks.

Divide us into pro-attack and anti-attack camps. Keep us argining amongst ourselves.

It’s brilliant. And it will probably work. Enough conservatives will decide to focus on Syria and pontificating on the war and terrorism and all of this, that discussion of defunding Obamacare will disappear.

We’ll be arguing amongst ourselves. The vote will be SOLID Democrats in favor of whatever Obama wants, his agenda will continue to progress without interruption, there is NO opposition to whatever he does.

Our side will be split, we’ll fight amongst ourselves, and we’ll lose EVERY battle. Not just Syria – we’ll lose Obamacare, Immigration, Syria, Debt Ceiling, everything

What to Do?defund_obamacare[1]

You can’t change how Congress works, so just quit worrying about that.  YOUR time is precious. I value your time enough that I’m making this short and to the point about what you can do.

Quit thinking about, worrying about, talking about, fighting about the things you cannot change.

Spend your precious time on the things you CAN change – YOUR Congressperson needs to hear from you about TWO things, only two things – NO to Syria, and DEFUND Obamacare. Tell him everyday, those two things. Once you get a yes from him, move on to the next thing…

Motivate your conservative friends to do the same. Teach your apolitcal friends what they can do. Inform them, help them, and move on.

What about the liberals? What about the people that argue with you on FB, Twitter and G+? What about them? IGNORE THEM. You won’t change their mind, see them as what they are – time vampires. Their comments don’t need to be answered. Whatever they say to or about you doesn’t matter. Stay on target.

NO to Syria bombing. NO to funding Obamacare.

And if you only have time for one? Focus on defunding Obamacare. That’s the one that has serious long term consequences for the nation.

Don’t let Obama’s tactic of “kindly allowing Congress to debate the Syria issue” be the distraction that they want it to be.