Why on Earth are we selling spare aircraft parts to Iran?

April 8, 2014
No way!!

You did what??

This is an unbelievably stupid decision. I’ll let my friend Michael Ledeen explain why:

Somebody on Twitter posted an upbeat message saying the US delegation to the latest round of talks with Iranian officials was quite optimistic. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a born optimist and I love optimism, but I’d rather revel in victory than hope for good news, and the Iranians have every reason to revel. The Obama crowd has just ok’d something the Tehran tyrants have desperately wanted since the eighties: spare parts for their long-grounded American passenger aircraft. Boeing and General Electric were given export licenses by the Treasury Department and everyone involved has been chanting “we take aircraft security very seriously,” in order to cloak this latest gift to the Khamenei-Rouhani regime in humanitarian hues.

Frankly I’d rather they took national security very seriously. Iran uses its commercial aircraft for military purposes (one of the reasons that eery flight between Tehran and Caracas is so worrisome), and the mullahs have been limited by the degradation of the national fleet. The Boeing planes and GE engines date to the 1970s, and very few of them are in service. Back in the mid-eighties, when I spent quite a bit of time with Iranian officials, they repeatedly asked for spare parts, both for the passenger planes and for the aging military craft, the F4s and F5s. Secretary of Defense Weinberger of course vetoed any such discussions, and the embargo has held until just now.

Now we’re arming Iran.

Emphases added.

The idea that a state-sponsor of global terrorism like Iran would adhere to understandings to keep the civilian and military functions of their aircraft separate is self-delusional nonsense. They’ll no more do that than they have to keep their civilian and military nuclear programs apart. (Really, I have a bridge for anyone who believes they’re honoring the recent nuclear agreement.)

What these fatuous dunderheads at State and in the White House refuse to see is that Iran has regarded itself as being at war with the United States since 1979. A deal like this, when Iran could easily ferry troops or equipment on “civilian” flights is tantamount to selling them the rope they’ll use to hang us.

This is part of a larger, global war of tyrannies against democracies. George W. Bush was mocked for his “Axis of Evil” comment, but he was right. The players have changed a bit since then, but still include Pyongyang, Moscow, Beijing, Havana, Caracas — and Tehran. And they’re taking advantage of the openings we’re giving them. More Michael:

And so it is, indeed the war has been on for some time, and it’s a bit hotter than Cold War 1.0 was for most of the twentieth century.  Kiev burned, and may burn again soon.  Caracas is burning, as are many of Venezuela’s cities and towns.  Crimea has been annexed, and Syria is still aflame, as is Iraq, and also Yemen.  Estonia and Finland are seriously frightened, as well they should be.  If we pull back from the crisis du jour, we can see it’s a global conflict.  Iran and Russia are fighting in Syria, sometimes with and sometimes against the jihadi marauders.  Cuba is fighting in Venezuela, a country the Castros largely command, and Hezbollah is in there, too.  And for those of you who follow Africa, know that the Iranians are up to their necks in Nigeria, buying influence and supporting the mass murderers in Boko Haram.

The West needs to wake up and smell the smoke from the fires starting to burn all around it, before it turns into a real conflagration. Our foes are vulnerable, and the West can win, but only if with American leadership. The US government is the only one that can convince the other nations to take the steps necessary to push back against Putin, Khamenei, and the others. As John Schindler recently wrote:

We will have many allies in resisting Russian aggression if we focus on issues of freedom and sovereignty, standing up for the rights of smaller countries to choose their own destiny.

It would help if we had leaders who saw themselves as the heirs to Churchill, rather than Chamberlain.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Solipsism as foreign policy: Russia, America, and Cold War II

April 7, 2014
"Tell me you love me!"

Self-absorption

There’s a very interesting long essay by John Schindler at XX Committee that examines the ideological components of “Putinism”inter alia a rejection of Western, and especially American, post-modernism; the assertion of national sovereignty; ethnic Great Russian nationalism; and an alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church to protect “spiritual values”– and I think it’s well worth your time to read it. One section I want to quote, however, analyzes the difficulty progressive, postmodern Western elites have when it comes to “getting” Putin and Russia:

This is simply because we are WEIRD. That’s social science shorthand for Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic – and nobody is WEIRDer than Americans. In the last several decades many Americans, and essentially all our elites, have internalized a worldview based on affluence, individualism, and secularism that makes us unique, globally speaking. So much so that we seem unable to comprehend that there actually are opposing viewpoints out there.

Barack Obama, by virtue of his diverse ethnic and religious background and elite education, is almost an ideal stand-in for the WEIRD demographic, as he embodies so many things WEIRDos admire: education, affluence, diversity, progressive social views, etc. He comes close to being almost the perfect post-modern American, which perhaps is why so many Americans of that bent adore him deeply. Thus when President Obama says he detects no ideological rivalry with Putin’s Russia, he undoubtedly speaks the truth as he sees it.

Americans of all stripes have a well-honed ability to ignore inconvenient facts, and our better educated citizens seem particularly prone to this (as I noted with our “expert” inability to see what North Korea believes, even though they aren’t shy about it). At root, I suspect Obama and many Americans refuse to accept the in-our-face reality of Putin and his regime because they represent a past version of ourselves, caught up in retrograde views that are entirely unacceptable to our elites, therefore they pretend they do not exist, because they don’t actually exist in their world.

Simply put, Vladimir Putin is the stuff of Western progressive nightmares because he’s what they thought they’d gotten past. He’s a traditional male with “outmoded” views on, well, everything: gender relations, race, sexual identity, faith, the use of violence, the whole retrograde package. Putin at some level is the Old White Guy that post-moderns fear and loathe, except this one happens to control the largest country on earth plus several thousand nuclear weapons – and he hates us.

It’s solipsism as foreign policy. Our governing elites, closeted in their various ivory towers, simply can’t conceive of worldviews that operate in a wholly different paradigm. So convinced they are that their views are self-evidently right, that they cannot imagine that another elite might strongly believe in something wholly at odds with their own assumptions. John Kerry’s admonition to Putin that countries “simply don’t act that way in the 21st century” is a stellar example; he seemed equally angry, dumbfounded, and aghast, as if he had trouble processing unexpected data. It’s similar to the problems we as a largely secular society have with dealing with Iran’s mullahs, a faction of which wishes to bring about a Shi’ite “end times”“They couldn’t really believe that, could they??”

This inability to see others as they see themselves and not as “just like us” and to understand what they value is going to make it very hard to conduct a successful foreign policy against a newly-aggressive Russia, especially if, as Schindler believes, we’re headed for Cold War II.


Russia on the march: 10 reasons Putin is likely to invade eastern Ukraine

March 30, 2014
"I won"

“Can’t touch this.”

There’s a good article by Michael Weiss giving a list of reasons why Russia’s Vladimir Putin is probably going to make a move soon to take over Ukraine’s largely ethnic-Russian eastern regions. It’s well-worth reading; Weiss covers the realities of power, political considerations, and Russian military movements (1). He also brings up a motive that’s psychological, but I think it fits. Let’s see what you think:

2. Putin enjoys embarrassing the United States, and especially its current commander-in-chief.

On Feb. 28, Obama warned that “there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine” — before high-tailing it to a Democratic National Committee cocktail party at the Washington Hilton. The next day, the world awoke to a Russian invasion of Crimea. “Rarely has a threat from a U.S. president been dismissed as quickly — and comprehensively — as Obama’s warning on Friday night,” the Washington Post’s Scott Wilson reported. And let’s look at the laundry list of American desires and warnings the Kremlin has brushed aside: Russia has dramatically increased its arms transfers to Syria since the chemical disarmament deal was struck last fall. It continues to host fugitive NSA spy Edward Snowden. And during the midst of the Maidan protests, Russia’s own spies intercepted a phone call between a top U.S. State Department official and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, then leaked the contents of it to Kremlin-controlled media. Moreover, neither Putin nor his inner circle seem terribly aggravated by the current suite of U.S. or EU sanctions or the blockbuster admission by the Treasury Department that Putin — now a staunch patriotic proponent of the “de-offshoreization” of the Russian economy – personally controls assets in Swiss oil commodities giant Gunvor.

While I would never argue that psychological motives are paramount –Putin’s too much of a power realist to fool himself with petty self-gratifications– I’m sure they’re there. Vladimir Putin is an ex-KGB officer, trained to be brutal when necessary. His goals are those of every Russian ruler since the Mongols were driven out: seeking the security of Russia by dominating the states around her and keeping powerful foes at a distance. In America, he sees a nation in short-term decline, creating an opportunity for him to advance those goals. In Obama, he sees a weak, out of his depth, would-be academic beta-male whom he, Vladimir Putin, almost a caricature of the alpha-male, can intimidate to seize that opportunity.

In short, Putin sees Obama as his [you fill in the word] and loves showing that to the world.

You can bet he plans to enjoy that feeling again, soon.

Footnote:
(1) They’re deploying field hospitals. That’s a significant sign it itself.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Worst Department of State, ever

March 26, 2014

This is someone’s brilliant idea of an effective strategy to deal with Putin over Ukraine:

Word of advice to Secretary Kerry and President Obama: Communitarianism is not a foreign policy and shaming is not an winning tactic when you’re dealing with an ex-KGB officer. Know what I’m saying?

BTW, the person in the photo is Jen Psaki, the official spokeswoman for the United States Department of State. Way to work the gravitas, there, Jen.

PS: I’ve saved a screen cap in case they delete it.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Crimean “election” and our feckless foreign policy

March 16, 2014
"I won"

“I won”

News has been coming in indicating that the Crimeans have voted with about 93% in favor (1) to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. Funny how that works, isn’t it, when there are tens of thousands of Russian troops all over Crimea, not to mention these… “campaign workers:”

Crimea Russia Ukraine mobile artillery

Anyway, I had planned to write about our feckless foreign policy and our pathetic response to Putin’s “19th-century behavior,” but The Diplomad and the XX Committee have both beaten me to it. First the Diplomad:

Silly talk and posturing, the making of grand-sounding statements, and drawing erasable “red lines” all have consequences. One, of course, is that Russia is not likely to undo its actions in Crimea. The Russians, furthermore, have sanction-like weapons of their own such as the messing about with US banks and debt noted above, but not limited only to that. They are major suppliers of gas to Europe and in the past have shown a willingness to interrupt supplies for political purposes.

So while we gut our military, refuse to buy Canadian oil, or become energy independent and a major supplier of energy to Europe, we prattle on and on about sanctions and international law and solidarity with the Syrian opposition Ukraine. As noted before, we could neutralize Russia’s leverage in the world very swiftly, without ever mentioning the word “sanctions.” That, however, requires something we do not have, to wit, patriotic, committed, focused, and decisive leadership.

Metternich and Kissinger, our guys ain’t.

Lewis Amselem, “The Diplomad,” links to a post he wrote describing what we could do to make Putin’s life miserable. I highly recommend it, but, if you haven’t the time to read it, I’ll give you the executive summary: fracking. Putin must be pinching himself at his unbelievable luck, that we have leadership too blinkered by ideology and environmentalist PAC money to do what needs to be done.

Gee, I guess Sarah Palin was right, again, when she said “drill, baby, drill.”

Meanwhile, Naval War College professor John Schindler, writing at The XX Committee, has this to say about our current crop of diplomats and national security personnel:

However, the rot goes far deeper than this White House, and is not confined to any party; indeed, the remarkable decline in American foreign policy over the last generation is one of our few truly bi-partisan national efforts, so there’s no point in fantasizing that an election or two will change this. This sad truth I explained in a recent post which got quite a bit of attention, particularly this part:

“A related factor here surely is that the United States has groomed a whole generation of foreign policy wonks-in-training who lack any real understanding of how the world actually works. These impressive-on-paper people – let it be noted they are legion in both parties – the under-45′s who are always graduates of the right schools and first-rate players of The Game in Washington, DC (which really comes down to cultivating the right mentors who will guide you to the proper think-tank until your party returns to power), are no match for the stone-cold killers of the Kremlin, led by the Chekist-in-Chief Putin. They have grown up in a world where unipolar American power has never been challenged, and while they can utter pleasant, Davos-ready platitudes about the whole range of bien pensant issues – global warming, emerging trends in micro-finance, gender matters on the Subcontinent, et al – they have quite literally nothing to say when old-school conventional threats emerge and enemies – yes, enemies: not rivals or merely misunderstood would-be partners – emerge from the darkness with conquest and killing on their minds.”

We’re in the best of hands, no? Our leadership prattles on about how dismembering other countries “just isn’t done,” while Vladimir Putin goes right ahead and does it.

Anyway, I suggest you put both sites in your feed reader, if you haven’t already. The insights they provide are invaluable.

RELATED: Did you know Putin has recently reported as saying that the breakup of the USSR was illegal? That should make the Evil Empire’s former satrapies happy, especially as more Russian troops mass at Ukraine’s borders for “exercises.” Oh, and Russia’s toadies in Belarus have mobilized, too. And if you wonder what Russia has in mind, besides keeping access to a Black Sea port (Sevastopol) and thus the Mediterranean, have a look at these maps.

Obama and Kerry blather about the “international community” and “sanctions,” but it’s really all about the realities of power. Putin gets it, they don’t.

Footnote:
(1) Sloppy, Vlad. Kim Jong Un will be disappointed in you.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


John Kerry focuses the State Department like a laser… On climate change

March 10, 2014
We're doomed.

We’re doomed.

Because, as we all know, Man-caused climate change the Dread Demon Carbon Dioxide is the “world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction,” a threat we have to deal with now and with all our efforts. Not nukes in the hands of Iranian mullahs yearning to bring about their version of the Apocalypse. Not jihadist terror groups also jonesing for a few kilotons of their own. Not H-bombs and rockets in the possession of Kim Jong Un, who, when not feeding relatives to the dogs and ordering the execution of Christians, might decide to restart the Korean War. Not Vladimir Putin, who, with thousands of nuclear weapons at his disposal, has decided to start dismembering neighboring states and daring the West to do something, anything about it. Not a rising, hyper-nationalist, aggressive, nuclear-armed China, which is rattling sabers at its island neighbors and looking to challenge American supremacy in the western Pacific.

Nope. Global warming is the greatest threat to America, and so Secretary Kerry has ordered our ambassadors around the world to make that their top priority:

US Secretary of State John Kerry has called on American ambassadors around the world to make the fight against climate change a top priority ahead of new UN talks next year.

In his first department-wide policy guidance statement since taking office a year ago, he told his 70,000 staff: “The environment has been one of the central causes of my life.”

“Protecting our environment and meeting the challenge of global climate change is a critical mission for me as our country’s top diplomat,” Kerry said in the letter issued on Friday to all 275 US embassies and across the State Department.

“It’s also a critical mission for all of you: our brave men and women on the frontlines of direct diplomacy,” he added in the document seen by AFP.

He urged all “chiefs of mission to make climate change a priority for all relevant personnel and to promote concerted action at posts and in host countries to address this problem.”

Note that the environment has been one of the “central causes” of John Kerry’s life, his personal mission. Thus the Department of State, charged with conducting the nation’s diplomacy, is now at the service of John Kerry’s personal tilt at the windmill. Silly me for thinking State’s job is to pursue the nation’s interests, not one dull man’s obsessions.

Of course, Kerry probably thinks his cause is the nation’s. It’s solipsism as foreign policy.

I ask again: Have we ever had a more fatuous, dunderheaded  bore as secretary of state than John Kerry?

Via Doug Powers, who provides illustrative examples of the Kerrys’ “Green lifestyle.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


(Video) John Bolton at CPAC on foreign affairs

March 7, 2014

National Review’s Jim Geraghty interviewed former Ambassador to the UN John Bolton (1) at the Conservative Political Action Conference and asked him what in world affairs keeps him awake at night. His answer should have you weeping — not because of what he says, so much as the knowledge our foreign policy is directed by the likes of Barack Obama, John Kerry, Joe Biden, and Samantha Power.

In a world made more dangerous by Team Unicorn’s Hundred Acre Wood foreign policy, I can only hope a hard-nosed realist who –gasp!– thinks the world is a better place with a strong America plays a major role in the next administration’s foreign policy. They’re going to have a heckuva mess to clean up.

Footnote:
(1) Or, as we fanboys like to call him, “The ‘Stache.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Okay, now Putin is just trolling us. Update: Ukraine sailors to Putin – “You lie!”

March 4, 2014

In an interview with reporters, Tsar President Vladimir Putin said those aren’t Russian troops taking control of Crimea from the Ukraine.

No, really.

Russian soldiers have not occupied government buildings and surrounded Ukrainian military bases on the Crimean Peninsula, Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted Tuesday during a news conference near Moscow at which he gave an account of recent events that contradicts reports from the ground.

Instead, he told reporters that the heavily armed men are “local self-defense forces.”

What’s more, anything Russia has done, Putin said without offering specifics, has been part of a “humanitarian mission” to protect ethnic Russians in Crimea.

Right. Because local self-defense forces always have self-propelled artillery  (1) available:

Crimea Russia Ukraine mobile artillery

Yeah, that looks like any humanitarian mission I’ve ever seen. How about you?

Meanwhile, I’m sure those are only local self-defense forces demanding the surrender of Ukrainian ships in Crimea — or else. And the treacherous former commanding officer of the Ukrainian Navy defected only to local self-defense forces. But it’s not really a defection because, hey, all those guys in Russian uniforms are Ukrainians, too! (More trolling: they only bought those uniforms at their local surplus store.)

I swear Putin must laugh his head off every time he shuts the door.

via Bryan Preston

Footnote:
(1) Come on, CNN. If you want to retain even a shred of credibility, have someone on hand who can actually identify military equipment.

UPDATE: via The XX Committee, a statement by sailors of the Ukrainian Navy in response to Putin’s assertion that there are no Russian troops in their country. Here’s an excerpt:

The Ukrainian Navy warships Ternopil and Slavutych, which are moored in Sevastopol Bay, are currently blocked by warships and vessels of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, and they are all carrying detachments of marines numbering up to a platoon. They are armed with automatic weapons and equipped accordingly.

Bearing in mind the remarks of Mr. Putin that such gear and equipment can be bought in any shop, we would like to seize the moment and ask which shop – as well as where one can purchase automatic weapons, pistols and grenade launchers in violation of Ukrainian legislation? We also would like to recall that no unit of the Ukrainian Armed Forces deployed in Crimea gave up even a single inch of the territory of their military bases or the weapons entrusted to them, let alone in such quantity, as all units remained faithful to the call of duty and their oath to the Ukrainian nation.

In response to all these insinuations, and the flows of mendacious information disseminated by dirty politicos and corrupt journalists, we – officers, warrant officers and sailors of the Ukrainian Navy – openly declare that we will honestly carry out our soldier’s duty till the end, we will defend our country and the Ukrainian people as we have been doing through all the years of independence, not for the sake of posts or salaries, but because this is our land and we cherish the lives of every person who lives on this land regardless of nationality.

Godspeed to them.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Humorous headline of the day, @BarackObama edition

March 3, 2014

Politico gathered several writers to talk about how Obama would handle the Ukraine crisis. And, knowing that journal and it’s love for The One, I’m sure the headline writer was deadly serious:

Obama steel spine

“Aluminum foil” more readily comes to mind, if you ask me.

 


Really? They couldn’t pay to have a good model made?

March 3, 2014

Apparently Hillary Clinton’s infamous reset button was swiped from a hotel swimming pool. Couldn’t they at least have ordered from Amazon?

And the woman who headed this team wants to be the next President of the United States.

The monkey speaks for me:

"Even the monkey is embarrassed"

“Even the monkey is embarrassed”


Have we ever had a more fatuous Secretary of State than John Kerry? Updated.

March 3, 2014
We're doomed.

We’re doomed.

Really, all that seems able to come out of that mouth of his is an endless stream of meaningless blather that would make Sir Humphrey Appleby proud.

Courtesy of Hot Air, this is what Kerry had to say about the Ukraine crisis yesterday:

Secretary of State John Kerry said that “all options are on the table” when it comes to steps the U.S. can take to hold Russia accountable for its military movements in Ukraine, including economic sanctions and potentially military action.

In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos today on “This Week,” Kerry said Russian troops moving into the Ukrainian region of Crimea was “a military act of aggression” and that the U.S. will move swiftly to impose penalties if Russian President Vladimir Putin does not withdraw his troops.

While military force is among the options President Barack Obama is considering, Kerry said the U.S. and its allies hope they can avoid such action.

“The hope of the U.S. and everybody in the world is not to see this escalate into a military confrontation,” he said.

The indirect language of diplomacy uses phrases that convey very specific messages without putting the other side publicly on the spot, in a situation where he cannot back down without being humiliated. And when you say “all options are on the table,” John, that includes military action. You’re essentially telling the other side that, should we not get satisfaction, we’re willing to go to war. This is the kind of talk you do not engage in lightly, especially when dealing with another nuclear power. The very idea of a “military option” in Ukraine is insane for any number of reasons.

I wonder if Kerry even knows what the words he’s saying actually mean. If he doesn’t, he’s a bigger dunce than I thought, which would be impressive. If he does and somehow thinks that will intimidate Vladimir Putin, then he’s dangerously incompetent. Putin has taken the measure of the Obama administration after years of watching it in action, and he knows darn well their threats are meaningless. After abandoning Poland and the Czech Republic over missile defense, after the laughable reset button, after cutting and running in Iraq and Afghanistan, and after the disaster of Obama’s Syria policy, Putin knows any threats from this American administration are empty. He probably rolled his eyes and laughed when Kerry said all options were on the table.

Then there was this:

Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “stunning, willful” choice to invade Ukrainian territory and warned of possible sanctions.

“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country,” Kerry said on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” one of several appearances on network interview shows.

“It’s serious in terms of the modern manner in which countries resolve problems,” Kerry said.

“That’s not the act of somebody who’s strong,” Kerry added, saying Putin is acting out of “weakness” and “desperation.”

I can think of many ways to describe President Putin, but “weak” and “desperate” wouldn’t even occur to me.

On the contrary, Vladimir Putin is a revanchist thug who, seeing that Washington won’t do anything meaningful (1) to oppose him, is going to push as hard as he can until someone dares to make him stop. His goal is not just to rebuild the Russian/Soviet empire, but forge a Eurasian Union (2) as an alternative bloc against the US and the EU. The bleatings of a Boston Brahmin about Putin being out of step with the times are meaningless to him

Secretary of State John Kerry (3) embodies the ideals of liberal internationalism, and brutal realist Vladimir Putin is showing just how empty they and he are.

Footnotes:
(1) For a sketch of the meaningful things we could do to stand up to Putin’s thuggery, check out Tom Rogan’s recommendations, especially that to, borrowing a phrase, “drill, baby, drill.”
(2) This is some scary stuff.
(3) To think he almost became president in 2004. I may have nightmares.

UPDATE: Speaking of Putin’s “weakness and desperation”…

Crimea Russia Ukraine mobile artillery

Those, my friends, are Russian mobile artillery pieces. On Ukrainian territory. Don’t they look weak and desperate? (h/t Jim Geraghty)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Asking for trouble: the Obama-Hagel defense budget

February 25, 2014
U.S. Navy, post-Obama

U.S. Navy, post-Obama

Long ago, the Roman writer Vegetius wrote perhaps the wisest thing anyone has ever written regarding war and peace:

“If you want peace, prepare for war.”

In other words, if your potential foes know you are strong, that you are willing to use force to defend your interests, and that they are not likely to win, then they will not pick a fight with you.

President Obama and his dullard Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, have evidently never read Vegetius:

Stating that a postwar environment was the time to do some shrinking, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel unveiled a budget proposal Monday that reduces the Army to pre-World War II levels despite “a world that is growing more volatile, more unpredictable, and in some instances more threatening to the United States.”

“Our force structure and modernization recommendations are rooted in three realities: first, after Iraq and Afghanistan, we are no longer sizing the military to conduct long and large stability operations; second, we must maintain our technological edge over potential adversaries; and, third, the military must be ready and capable to respond quickly to all contingencies and decisively defeat any opponent should deterrence fail,” Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon today.

You can read the details in Bridget Johnson’s article, but, quickly, the Army would be reduced to 450,000 soldiers, the Marine Corps to 182,000, the Navy would be kept at 11 carrier battle groups (unless further cuts are needed), and, among other cuts, the Air Force would eliminate its entire force of A-10 “warthog” ground-support aircraft. I’m sure infantrymen everywhere are thrilled with that one.

Hagel’s opening statement is nonsensical: in one breath he proposes devastating cuts to our military capabilities, while, in the other, he claims (rightly) that the world is growing “more volatile, more unpredictable,” and “more threatening.” When he claims this configuration will allow us to defend ourselves from foes by relying on high tech, he ignores his own assertion that the world is unpredictable. Who knew on September 10th, 2001, in the wake of the Clinton-era defense cuts, that we would find ourselves in a war that required liberating and occupying two nations? While we are leaving Afghanistan and have left Iraq (God help them), we are still at war with a transnational terror group waging holy war against us. What if they should take over another country as a base (Syria? Mali? Iraq, again?)?  Do we then shrug our shoulders and say “No can do?” What if North Korea decides to invade the South, again? Those A-10s will be sorely missed, I guarantee it.

Those are just two among the myriad possible threats we face as dictators grow emboldened by our feckless leadership. When Ronald Reagan launched our military buildup in the 1980s, it wasn’t just to have plenty of ships and tanks on hand, it was to demonstrate a will to resist the world’s tyrants, so that they would make no miscalculation. The Obama-Hagel defense cuts, on the other hand send just the opposite message, one of weakness and a lack of confidence, of opportunity for the enemy because this administration is renouncing our traditional role as guarantor of a liberal world order.

And it’s deliberate. In an essay that now seems truly prescient, Charles Krauthammer made it plain that, for an ideology that sees American power as a problem, not a solution, for the world’s challenges, decline is a choice, one made in sacrifice to the desire to turn the US into a gelded European social democracy:

This is not the place to debate the intrinsic merits of the social democratic versus the Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism. There’s much to be said for the decency and relative equity of social democracy. But it comes at a cost: diminished social mobility, higher unemployment, less innovation, less dynamism and creative destruction, less overall economic growth.

This affects the ability to project power. Growth provides the sinews of dominance–the ability to maintain a large military establishment capable of projecting power to all corners of the earth. The Europeans, rich and developed, have almost no such capacity. They made the choice long ago to devote their resources to a vast welfare state. Their expenditures on defense are minimal, as are their consequent military capacities. They rely on the U.S. Navy for open seas and on the U.S. Air Force for airlift. It’s the U.S. Marines who go ashore, not just in battle, but for such global social services as tsunami relief. The United States can do all of this because we spend infinitely more on defense–more than the next nine countries combined.

Those are the conditions today. But they are not static or permanent. They require constant renewal. The express agenda of the New Liberalism is a vast expansion of social services–massive intervention and expenditures in energy, health care, and education–that will necessarily, as in Europe, take away from defense spending.

This shift in resources is not hypothetical. It has already begun. At a time when hundreds of billions of dollars are being lavished on stimulus and other appropriations in an endless array of domestic programs, the defense budget is practically frozen. Almost every other department is expanding, and the Defense Department is singled out for making “hard choices”–forced to look everywhere for cuts, to abandon highly advanced weapons systems, to choose between readiness and research, between today’s urgencies and tomorrow’s looming threats.

That was in 2009, and now we’re seeing the inevitable product of that vast expansion of the welfare state. And the world is going to become much more dangerous because of it.

To paraphrase Vegetius, “If you want war, pretend your enemy wants peace.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


(Video) Senator Rubio makes a fool out Senator Harkin over Cuba

February 25, 2014

This is truly a popcorn-worthy use of your time, my friends.

Background: Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), one of the leading progressives in the Senate, took a trip to Cuba recently. Perfectly legal, members of Congress can go on such fact-finding missions when they wish. The senator must have visited an alternate-Earth Cuba, however, because, when he came back, he had nothing but praise for the Communist dictatorship:

It makes sense that as chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Tom Harkin would want to check out how other countries are doing when it comes to public health. So he spent last week in Cuba, where he saw all sorts of things that made quite the impression on him.

Cuba is a “poor country, but they have a lower child mortality rate than ours,” the Iowa Democrat said to reporters Wednesday. “Their life expectancy is now greater than ours. It’s interesting—their public health system is quite remarkable.”

This was all a bit much for Marco Rubio (R-FL), himself the son of Cuban refugees who had to flee the island to escape that wonderful health system, and so much else. (1) So, in a speech before the Senate, he proceeded to mop the floor with Harkin’s useful idiocy. From the Miami Herald:

This wasn’t some Cold War-era fulmination about Castro’s regime.

Rubio’s speech was about current events: the protests in Venezuela, the Maduro government and the ties it has with the Castros, who repress their own people and helped inspire the suppression in Caracas.

Venezuela is becoming the new Cuba.

For 14 minutes and 16 seconds, Rubio gave the best oration of his political career, speaking largely off the top of his head and with only the barest of notes. Rubio sometimes dripped with sarcasm or simmered with indignation as he made the case to Congress that the United States needs to continue Cuba sanctions and punish Venezuela.

Enjoy:

My only question is at what point did Harkin sneak out in embarrassment?

I know Rubio has lost his luster with conservatives because of his support for the Senate immigration bill last year. Indeed, he’s fallen well-off my own short list, as I came to question his judgment. But, in this speech on Cuba and Venezuela, on the fecklessness of the Obama administration’s policy in the region, and the fatuousness of Castro apologists such as Tom Harkin, all I can say is “Viva, Marco!”

RELATED: More at Hot Air.

Footnote:
(1) If you want to read one of the best books about what life under the Castro brothers has really been like, I recommend Armando Valladares’ memoir, “Against All Hope.” I’m tempted to send Tom Harkin a copy.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Lessons of World War I. @BarackObama, take note

February 23, 2014

World War I montage

There’s an excellent (1) article by Victor Davis Hanson (2) on the lessons to be drawn from World War I, or, as I sometimes call it, the 19th century’s collective act of mass suicide (3). As this is the centennial year of the war’s start, we’re naturally seeing and will see all sort of books, articles, and programs about how it happened, whose fault it was, and what we can learn from it.

Hanson’s article deals with the last. After reviewing the standard analyses regarding secret treaties, rigid mobilization plans, and a too-harsh peace, all of which have their flaws, he keys on one that has bearing for our increasingly dangerous world, today — misjudgment:

One of the lessons of the outbreak of World War I is the importance of perceptions. At some point in 1914 the German military and diplomatic community concluded that the country not only could pull off a successful lightning strike against France, but could do so without starting a world war — given various events over the prior decades.

Such flawed thinking is a good reminder that appearances often matter as much as reality in provoking wars. Hitler certainly was suicidal in attacking his de facto partner, the Soviet Union, in June 1941. But for all his crazy ranting about his grievances, Untermenschen, and grand strategy, it was the false perception that the Soviet Union would quickly collapse — given its recent dismal performance in Poland and Finland, and the prior purging of its officer corps, contrasted with the recently successful Blitzkrieg in Poland and Western Europe — that persuaded Hitler to try something so fatally dangerous.

And yet, at the end of both wars, Germany was defeated –crushed, in the latter case– by the nations her leaders has mistakenly deemed weak. War had assumed its role as the final arbiter of the realities of power, at the price of wholesale destruction and millions dead.

For which Hanson sees a rough parallel and lesson for today:

China, like the Westernized Japan of the 1930s, wants influence and power commensurate with its economic clout, and perhaps believes its growing military can obtain both at the expense of its democratic neighbors without starting a wider war. North Korea is not convinced that demanding concessions from South Korea — or simply humiliating it and the U.S. — by threats of war would not work. Iran trusts that the age of the U.S. mare nostrum in the Mediterranean is over, that the Sunni Persian Gulf oil sheikdoms are spent, that once-unquestioned Western guarantees to Israel are now negotiable, that nuclear acquisition is an agreed wink-and-nod obtainable enterprise, and that terrorist appendages can achieve political objectives in the Middle East just as effectively as carrier groups.

Putin dreams that the Russian imperial world of the 1950s can live again, through coercion, Machiavellian diplomacy, and the combined lethargy of the EU and the U.S. — and he often is willing to take some risks to refashion current realities. Failed socialist and Communist states in Latin America nonetheless believe that a distracted or uninterested U.S. no longer cares to make the argument that transparent democratic capitalism is the region’s only hope for the future. The miseries of Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela are apparently no reason for them to feel that they should not extend them to other countries.

And then ties it to our current leadership:

Amid all that, a minor bow and apology here, or an inadvertent pink line and empty deadline there, matters. Gratuitous talk of “reset” and “lead from behind,” coupled with serial scapegoating of past U.S. policies and presidents, massive new debt and vast cuts in defense, also sends a message to our rivals and enemies that occasional gambles and aggressive moves that would usually be seen as stupid and suicidal may not be any more.

World War I became “World War I” when Germany believed that Britain would not fight to support France or honor an ancient treaty with little Belgium. They were wrong, but part of the reason they were wrong was due to the diffident mixed signals being sent by London. The world now has to hope that the diffidence emanating from Washington doesn’t lead to similar misjudgments in Moscow, Beijing, or Tehran.

Footnote:
(1) Kind of a needless adjective, when talking about anything written by VDH.
(2) Why isn’t this man in the Senate, instead of the blithering idiot Boxer? I demand satisfaction!
(3) Update: I should have made this clear, I guess, but, no, I do not believe the First World War was fought in the 19th century. As I explained to a commenter, WWI and the “suicide of the 19th century” refers to the civilization of the “long 19th century,” a term some historians use for political, diplomatic, and cultural themes that were dominant from roughly 1789 to 1914. The chronological 19th century ended at midnight, December 31st, 1900. The world of the 19th century came to an end in August, 1914.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Foreign Service officers revolt against lousy Obama appointees

February 14, 2014
Qualifications

Qualifications

In the Catholic Church, the sin was called “simony,” the buying and selling of sacred offices, such as bishoprics. The practice was one of the abuses that lead to the Reformation. Now Foreign Service officers are rising against a secular simony, the Obama administration’s appointment of unqualified ambassadors who also happen to be big campaign donors:

After a string of rocky confirmation hearings for President Obama’s diplomatic nominees, the group representing America’s Foreign Service professionals signaled Friday that it’s had enough.

The organization, in a major rebuke, is now urging that the White House set minimum qualification standards for its ambassadorial nominees.

“The topic of the qualifications of ambassadorial nominees is of great interest to AFSA’s membership,” The American Foreign Service Association said in a statement. “All Americans have a vested interest in ensuring that we have the most effective leaders and managers of U.S. embassies and missions advancing U.S. interests around the globe.”

The American Foreign Service Association has long argued that ambassadorial nominees should, for the most part, come from the ranks of career professionals — as opposed to the ranks of top-dollar political donors. But the organization is taking its concerns to a new level, announcing Friday that it will propose new guidelines for “the necessary qualifications and qualities” for diplomatic candidates.

The statement said the group has been “closely monitoring” recent confirmation hearings.

AFSA has good reason to be upset. Administrations have typically operated under a 70-30 rule, under which political appointees (as opposed to professionals) were kept to around thirty percent of the available posts. Some went a little higher, others a little lower. The Obama administration, on the other hand, has broken all records: per AFSA, fully 53% of all appointees have been political, the trend rocketing during the second term.

If they were qualified, the practice would contemptible and venal, but tolerable. But many of these appointees are spectacularly unqualified:

  • Senator Max Baucus, appointed to represent us in China, admitted he was “no real expert” on China. This is the same China that holds most of our debt and is a growing military rival in the Pacific. The only reason Team Smart Power yanked him out of the Senate (from which he was retiring) was to try to save the seat for the Democrats in the coming midterms.
  • Hotelier and mega-bundler George Tsunis was so ignorant of of Norway, to which he had been appointed, that he managed to offend the Norwegian government at his confirmation hearing.
  • Noah Mamet, another bundler, admitted under questioning that he’s never been to Argentina, one of the most important countries in South America and which appears to be heading into a crisis. Maybe they should have asked if he could find it on a map.
  • And Colleen Bell, an Obama bundler and soap opera producer appointed to be our ambassador to Hungary, a nation whose democratic institutions are under attack by rising fascism, couldn’t describe our strategic interests in this NATO ally. Senator McCain utterly humiliated her in her hearing.

AFSA, which is not a union per se and has traditionally kept a low profile, is making the unprecedented demand that ambassadorial appointments meet some minimum qualifications. One would think this would already be true, but not apparently in Chicago-on-the-Potomac.

What’s next? Appointing Obama’s favorite horse?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#Benghazi: Lady Macbeth regrets

January 28, 2014
American Blood, US Consulate, Benghazi

“Madame sends her regrets.”

The Democratic Party’s presidential nominee-in-waiting (1) spoke before the annual convention of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association in New Orleans last weekend and took full responsibility for the security lapses at Benghazi that led to the deaths of four Americans, including the Ambassador, saying, “I was in charge, but I put politics ahead of good sense. I failed, and now four good men are dead because of my failure.”

Wait. No, she didn’t.

Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton remained vague Monday about whether she will run for president in 2016 and said the attacks on the U.S. outposts in Benghazi, Libya, were the biggest regret of her four years as the United States’ top diplomat.

Before a large crowd of politically active car dealers, Clinton, the overwhelming favorite among possible Democratic presidential contenders, discussed her signal accomplishments — notably a recommendation that U.S. commandos go into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden (2) — and her regrets.

“My biggest regret is what happened in Benghazi,” she said during a question-and-answer session after her keynote speech at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) convention in a packed 4,000-seat room.

Four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were killed when militants attacked the lightly protected U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi and a better-fortified CIA base nearby on the night of Sept. 11, 2012.

“Regrets.” Pardon me while I spit. Regrets are what you send when you can’t attend a dinner party. Regret is what you feel for not asking that neat girl or guy in high school to the prom, or when you turn down a great job offer and later realize how stupid you were.

Those are things you regret.

What happened in Benghazi was an atrocity, a murderous attack on US government personnel made possible by multiple layers of serial incompetence at the State Department, including the Secretary of State, herself, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“Regrets?” Try “criminal negligence.”

Instead of speaking to car dealers, Clinton should be facing a jury.

via Sister Toldjah in email

PS: Might as well get this out of the way — “What difference, at this point, does it make?” A lot, Hill. A lot.

Footnotes:
(1) In her own mind, at least.
(2) Please. I’ll give Obama credit for ordering a direct assault on bin Laden, but, let’s be real: any American president, including James Buchanan and Jimmy Carter, would have done the same. And, Hillary? You were just one adviser among many.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Ukraine’s Hidden Hand

January 27, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

What was Sidney Greenstreet’s line from “Casablanca?” “It’s the Russian’s hand, no doubt!”

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

As I write this, Ukraine’s crisis continues to worsen, with the threat of serious violence rising, and today the justice minister hinted that martial law may be imminent. If the Yanukovych regime attempts such a decree, it will divide the police and the army and may quickly cause a bona fide civil war. My hope for a peaceful resolution of this crisis is dwindling. Europe is facing its most serious crisis since the fall of the Soviet Union.

One of the big issues among Ukraine’s opposition has been the nefarious role played by Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin in this sad affair. It’s universally assumed by oppositionists that Moscow’s encouragement, at the least, led to the latest round of repression in Kyiv, which has stoked the fires of resistance to their current burning point.

Evidence is generally lacking, since such matters are conducted in secret, but enough has already appeared in the…

View original 412 more words


He’s the Smartest President Ever, so give him easy words

January 27, 2014
Liar.

No big words, please

From Florida’s Shark Tank via Jim Geraghty’s Morning jolt, it seems we have an explanation for the “Polish death camps” kerfuffle that roiled relations between our two countries a while back.

His speechwriter was trying to protect him:

In an exclusive audio file furnished by Shark Tank reporter, Special K, the President’s $75K a year speechwriter, Kyle O’Connor, who wrote the speech in question, discussed how this gaffe really came about during a talk he had with a group of college kids in Washington, D.C.

O’Connor stated that he was concerned about the pronunciation of the name of the death camp, so he opted to remove the name from the speech, and replace it with “Polish death camp.”

According to O’Connor, all of Obama’s “Wizards of Smart” didn’t  catch the gaffe, and signed off on it, but after the political excrement hit the fan, O’Connor was told that it was not a big deal, that, “ no one could have caught it.”

Per Power Line (h/t Geraghty), the camp’s name was “Belzec.” Yep. Real toughie, there.

As for “not a big deal,” if you’ll recall, the Poles were none too happy that Nazi death camps were attributed to them, thanks to sloppy speech writing. “No one would have caught it?” Pardon me? Just how ignorant are these people? The Holocaust is one of the most horrific events in human history, and the Nazis placed many of the camps in occupied Poland. No one ran this speech by the guy on the East European desk at State? Surely, after he was done spit-taking, he would have gently informed (1) the White House they were about to gravely insult an ally. Again.

Once again, no one in this administration was held responsible for their performance. Instead, the whole thing became a standing joke involving camps where genocide took place. Read the rest for the punch line.

If the words “juvenile” and “callow” come to mind when you think of this administration, you’re not far off.

Footnote:
(1) As in screaming his lungs out.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Smart-Power Success! Al Qaeda takes Fallujah!

January 6, 2014
Your Obama foreign policy team

Your Obama foreign policy team

Not “al Qaeda central,” as the Obama administration likes to call it, but the revived affiliate “al Qaeda in Iraq” (Zarqawi’s old outfit), which is more or less merged with its Syrian equivalent in one big happy family of murdering jihadi psychos.

And, taking advantage of internal Iraqi political frictions, they’re making their move:

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, an al Qaeda branch in the Middle East, and its tribal allies have taken control of Fallujah less than one week after launching an offensive in Iraq’s western province of Anbar. Meanwhile, the military and tribes that oppose the ISIS have launched counterattacks in Ramadi and other cities and towns along the Euphrates River.

Security officials and reports told the BBC that the ISIS fighters “control the south of the city,” while “tribesmen allied with al Qaeda hold the rest of Fallujah.” Reuters reported that “the northern and eastern parts of the city were under the control of tribesmen and militants.”

(…)

Jihadists waving al Qaeda’s black flag have occupied police stations and government buildings, and are issuing calls from mosques for men to join the fight against the government.

The military has responded by shelling areas of the city under ISIS control. The total number of people killed during the fighting in Fallujah is not yet known.

ISIS fighters seized control of parts of Fallujah and Ramadi, the two largest cities in Anbar, on Tuesday after the Iraqi military withdrew from the cities in the wake of clashes between government forces and the tribes following the arrest of a senior Sunni politician in Ramadi. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda seizes partial control of 2 cities in western Iraq]. Maliki ordered the troops to return to the cities after cutting a deal with the tribes, but not before the ISIS quickly moved in and seized control.

Politics between the Sunni tribes in Anbar with each other and strained relations with the Shiite Maliki government in Baghdad gave ISIS their opening (for example), but I have a hard time imagining this coming to pass if Team Smart Power hadn’t a) utterly bungled the negotiations over a Status of Forces agreement with Iraq, thus leading to our total withdrawal, and b) also bungled the Syrian situation so badly that a promising opportunity to bring down Assad and deal a body-blow to Iran was instead practically given gift-wrapped to al Qaeda affiliates (and Iran…).

Bungling. That seems to be the common element here.

Fallujah, Ramadi, Tal Afar, Baquba, and so many other places in western Iraq and around Baghdad were liberated by American and Iraqi blood and treasure. I don’t know if this situation will deteriorate into a crisis, or if Iraqi security forces can push ISIS out, but, as of now, Barack Obama and his foreign policy geniuses are flushing everything those men and women fought for down the toilet.

RELATED: via Hot Air, Secretary of State Kerry says “You go, Iraq! Just don’t expect any real help from us…”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Shocker: Syria to miss deadline on Obama WMD deal

December 30, 2013
Not again?

Wishes he’d never heard of Syria

Hey, didn’t the Assad regime get the message that Obama really meant it when he said he was really, really serious about getting Syria to give up its chemical weapons? Keep this up, and he’ll go tell Putin on them:

Syria’s failure to move part of its chemical weapons arsenal to a Mediterranean port has prompted warnings that the disarmament deal struck with the country is falling seriously behind schedule.

A Norwegian navy frigate sent to escort a convoy carrying Syria’s mustard gas and sarin stockpile has said it has been advised to expect a substantial delay.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the body in charge of the UN-backed plan to destroy 1,300 tonnes of Syria’s chemical weapons, said it had put in place all the necessary “logistical and security” arrangements.

However, it added that tomorrow’s deadline for the shipment of the weapons-grade munitions cannot be met and could only proceed if President Bashar al-Assad’s government “intensified efforts” to move the material.

I’m sure they’ll get right on that.

Of course, everyone knew this would happen: Obama leapt at the deal brokered by Russia because he had stupidly opened his mouth and laid down an ultimatum he wasn’t prepared to back up. In the meantime, Assad has gained more time to defeat the rebels, his Iranian paymasters keep Syria as a client state and bridge to their proxies in Lebanon, and American influence in the region sinks lower as Obama can’t even enforce the minimum terms of a fig-leaf agreement he and Secretary Kerry touted as a major breakthrough.

That “smart power” sure has paid off, no?

via Jim Geraghty

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


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