Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category.

Failure – The Obama Administration’s Foreign Policy Legacy

I’m fascinated by disaster and failure. I’m not talking natural disaster; although fascinating in themselves (who around back then does not recall when Mount St. Helens blew up in 1980?) natural disasters don’t provide teachable moments the way a man-made failure or disaster does. Soon the Discovery Channel and The Science Channel will simulcast a scripted movie about the Challenger disaster. The movie is based on Dr. Richard Feynman’s memoir “What Do You Care What Other People Think” and will invariably show how Science and the human analytical mind went from a cloud of smoke and debris at 50,000 feet to the reason for the disaster: an O-ring seal in a solid rocket booster. Such failure analysis is why travel on large aluminum jets is the safest method of transportation in human history, going from perhaps the deadliest form of transport to the safest in less than a century. Such success came about through hard detective work the scene of each disaster, followed by a long period of investigation and analysis where the failure was pinpointed and most importantly, having the lessons learned applied to the rest of the industry.

The bible for those interested in the study of failure is German professor Dietrich Dorner’s 1996 book, The Logic of Failure. The book is based on a set of cognitive experiments done with software simulating a small town’s society in the US, and a fictional area in the Sahel. The studies found that while participants came from varied walks of life and backgrounds, “People court failure in predictable ways.” It then ties the experiments to real life failures such as the nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl. As a systems analyst involved with complex multi-million dollar software development programs, I consider the book “must reading” for everyone in IT. Feel free to pass along a copy to those behind the Obamacare rollout.

Five years ago the people of Iraq had, thanks to the blood of thousands of American and allied soldiers, achieved a level of freedom unparalleled in their history. The national sport of kite flying was legal again and girls headed to school in Afghanistan. al Qaeda and its affiliates were on the run and confined to lawless patches in northern Pakistan, northern Nigeria and Somalia. Iran was boxed in between biting sanctions that undermined the regime internally, successful American military operations on either side of it, and an Israel ready, willing and backed by American leadership to attack Iran to stop it from acquiring nuclear weapons. China was busy flooding the world with cheap crap, content to use North Korea as its proxy to stir up trouble in favor of the regime in Beijing. Our relationship with Russia had begun drifting away from engagement towards confrontation over its aggression towards Georgia, but Russia was clearly a state in decline both internally and internationally. Even Syria was seen as a player, with Democrats having genuflected at Bashir Assad’s feet, Nancy Pelosi having claimed “the road to peace begins in Damascus” in 2007, four years before Vogue’s schmaltzy interview with the Assad family, “A Rose In the Desert.”

Today Iraq is a client state of Iran, its skies filled with Iranian cargo planes resupplying the Assad regime in Syria and Hezballah in Lebanon, its social fabric once again ripped by car bombs as the Sunni/Shi’a war rages on the ground. The Obama administration, convinced of its failure before it took office walked away from American success in Iraq by its refusal to negotiate a status of forces agreement with Baghdad. Historians will one day ask “Who lost Iraq?” and the answer will be Barack Obama. Immediately after setting up their base in Afghanistan in 2001, the Marines buried a piece of steel taken from the World Trade Center rubble on the site. Soon the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies will reclaim this as a war trophy as the kites and girls disappear from the streets, and the music that has filled the air in Kabul since 2001 will be replaced once again with silence punctuated by gunfire and explosions. Again historians will ask “Who condemned these people to savagery? Who lost Afghanistan?” Again the answer will be President Obama, a man who once called Afghanistan “the good war.”

After taking power President Obama fluttered around the world on what critics like me called his “Apology tour,” apologizing for American misdeeds both real and imagined, in the belief that the new-found humility would please our friends and sway our enemies. The Obama Administration has accomplished exactly the opposite. Today Iran is expanding its “Shi’a Crescent” throughout the Middle East, and the only ones standing in the way is Israel in an unlikely (and unspoken) alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. This after a popular rebellion took the streets in 2009 that could have changed the course of History, but it received no hint of support or backing from the Obama administration and it was ruthlessly crushed. It will be decades before the people rise up against the theocracy, if they ever do.

Today from Morocco across northern Africa to the Sinai, and from Nigeria across the continent to Somalia Africa burns with Muslim extremists allied with al Qaeda. Obama’s support of the rebellion to replace Mohammar Khaddafi in Libya has opened a Pandora’s Box of weaponry built over decades by Libya’s Great Loon, handing AK-47s, RPGs, and anti-aircraft missiles to everyone with an axe to grind and a Koran burning a hole in their hearts. Where there had been one failed state 5 years ago, Somalia, there are now at least 3 (Somalia, Mali, Libya) with numerous others (Algeria, Chad, Mauritania, Nigeria, Niger, Western Sahara) circling the drain. After Khaddafi’s fall al Qaeda training camps sprouted like mushrooms across North Africa and the Sub-Sahara, breathing the lawlessness that the Libyan Debacle created, and repaying the Obama administration for its “lead from behind” strategy by killing an American ambassador and his three bodyguards in the first such incident in 30 years.

Although the administration’s failure vis-a-vis China is not as bad as the disaster it has created in the Middle East, the Obama Doctrine of placating our foes while dissing our friends has been noticed in Asian capitals. South Korea is developing closer ties with China at the same time Japan rearms and prepares to ditch its anti-war constitution ghost written by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Nations like Pakistan who haven’t really decided whether they are American allies or its enemies see no downside to throwing their lots in with the Chinese or Iranians. Pakistan even provides China the tail-section of a top-secret stealth helicopter used in the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden, America’s enemy number 1 watching porn in air conditioned comfort on Pakistani soil. There is no blow-back, no consequences suffered for entertaining the man responsible for the deaths of 3,000 Americans, and none for handing over the tail rotor section to America’s greatest military adversary. And to top it off, the true hero of the event, a local doctor who had the guts to help the Americans confirm Bin Laden’s identity, sits in jail as a traitor to his people. If anything playing up to America’s adversaries almost wins respect from the Obama administration itself. China understands this best, waging a cyber war against the US government and private industry without retribution.

Then there’s Europe. When the Obama Administration hasn’t sacrificed its allies to appease its enemies in Teheran and Moscow, it bugged their phones, proving yet again this administration’s inability to differentiate friend from foe. “Everyone does it,” is not an acceptable excuse for a superpower. There is absolutely no reason the US should be bugging Angela Merkel’s phone just as there is no reason it should be spying on 10 Downing Street. Perhaps the mushy-headedness that comes with moral relativism has blinded the administration to the differences of say, between Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin, or David Cameron and Ayatollah Khamenei.  The “Special Relationship” with the UK is special for a reason, one that is much older than the inhabitants of the West Wing and much more sublime than the political wonks can comprehend. Ditto the German Chancellor. Frau Merkel was born in East Germany and has first hand experience with illegal and unjustified surveillance. Unlike some of her predecessors, she has not risen to power on an anti-American platform, and has done an exemplary job of aligning the interests of Germany with the broader interests of Europe and the United States. Spying on her was a stupid idea that should never have been approved, and once approved, it should have been cancelled, and if not cancelled it should never have been revealed. Yet a contract DBA waltzed off with the keys to the entire American Intelligence in the worst espionage failure since Klaus Fuchs handed the Soviets the Bomb. Again, no consequences. No one fired let alone jailed.

Many on the right have concluded that this is all by plan, that the Obama administration and his Democratic party supporters have been intent on taking the ship of state and intentionally running it aground because they are socialists or communists. In the Irving Kristol Lecture to the American Enterprise Institute on February 10, 2004 Charles Krauthammer suggests it is more complex and subtle than that:

“What I do know is that today it is a mistake to see liberal foreign policy as deriving from anti-Americanism or lack of patriotism or a late efflorescence of 1960s radicalism.

On the contrary. The liberal aversion to national interest stems from an idealism, a larger vision of country, a vision of some ambition and nobility – the ideal of a true international community. And that is: To transform the international system from the Hobbesian universe into a Lockean universe. To turn the state of nature into a norm-driven community. To turn the law of the jungle into the rule of law – of treaties and contracts and UN resolutions. In short, to remake the international system in the image of domestic civil society…

And to create such a true international community, you have to temper, transcend and, in the end, abolish the very idea of state power and national interest. Hence the antipathy to American hegemony and American power. If you are going to break the international arena to the mold of domestic society, you have to domesticate its single most powerful actor. You have to abolish American dominance, not only as an affront to fairness but also as the greatest obstacle on the whole planet to democratized international system where all live under self-governing international institutions and self-enforcing international norms.” – Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passion, Pastimes and Politics

Seen in this light, Obama’s foreign policy has not been a failure at all. It has accomplished exactly what it was intended to do. It has weakened America’s foreign policy hand across the board. America’s military is weakened through political purges of its officer corps, lack of direction and budget cuts. Its diplomatic corps is undermined by the lack of protection of its staff, as proven in Benghazi, by the White House’s high-handedness shown towards America’s closest friends the UK and Israel, and the spying program targeting American allies as well as its enemies that State Department personnel are forced to explain in their host countries. Its adversaries Syria, Iran and North Korea are all in better positions than they were five years ago. Ditto China and Russia. As the US weakens its enemies strengthen, and its allies are then forced to either band together (EU standing up to Russia and encouraging Ukraine to join, ASEAN nations co-coordinating efforts to balance China) or leave its sphere of influence entirely (Saudi Arabia, Egypt and perhaps Israel in the Middle East, South Korea in East Asia).

Obama has domesticated America on the international stage, to use Krauthammer’s term: so now what? Where is the Golden Age promised by Locke and the internationalists? If they are correct, a humbled America should encourage its enemies to stop their own military buildups (they don’t need offensive military capability with America’s gone). North Korea and Iran no longer need nukes now that American nukes are rusting away awaiting destruction as Obama unilaterally disarms. Without American backing Israel should engage its enemies diplomatically in a desperate bid to secure peace with the Palestinians. The world should be much better today than it was five years ago.

Is it? I suppose that depends on your perspective. Five years ago Americans could have traveled safely throughout Africa except for one nation Somalia. Today I’d hesitate to walk through the narrow streets of Zanzibar as I once did freely nearly two decades ago, and have struck Valley of the Kings in Egypt off my bucket list until further notice. Northern Kenya, Mali, Eritrea, Mauritania, Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Western Sahara, and Libya are now no-go areas for Westerners. I suppose that’s great if you can’t help but shout Allahu Akhbar every time you touch an AK-47, but for the rest of us things have gotten worse not better under the new regime.

Dietrich Doerner writes, “For them (people who failed most often at complex analytical tests) to propose a hypothesis was to understand reality; testing that hypothesis was unnecessary. Instead of generating hypotheses, they generated ‘truths’.” The Obama administration came to power proposing a hypothesis, that the world would be a better place with the United States weakened. It treated this hypothesis as a truth, steadfastly refusing to let go of it, sacrificing ambassadors, diplomatic relationships built over generations, and American influence in the process. When Doerner’s study participants failed, they invariably blamed others for their failures just as the Administration has focused the blame on the GOP.

When the Obama administration took power I and many others had hoped it would govern from the center, that things wouldn’t be as dire as we had feared. We hoped that it would try its crazy ideas, learn they didn’t work, then try something else. But they didn’t learn. They stuck to their “truths.” Five years on our foreign policy is a shambles, America weaker and friendless as it has been at no other time in its history. The disaster is worse than we expected, and we still have 3 full years left in this president’s term.

Will America be able to survive this epic failure? Thirty-two years ago Ronald Reagan took power and turned around foreign policy debacles of the previous Carter administration pretty quickly. Will a Republican president be able to do the same after eight years of disaster? And what if the GOP selects the wrong candidate and Hillary Clinton wins in 2016? How much failure can this country accept and still survive?

Mint Press Exposed

In the days after the Sarin gas attack in the Damascus Suburbs in August 2013, a news story began making the rounds of the Internet that the chemical weapons attack had been an accidental release of chemical weapons by the rebels. This story was picked up by ZeroHedge, a website frequented by economically-minded  paleo-conservatives, isolationist libertarians, and anarchists.

The story was sourced from Mint Press and written by Dale Gavlak, an Associated Press stringer and NPR correspondent. It claimed the chemical weapons were provided by the Saudis and that the release of the chemical weapons was accidental:

 

“Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack. “My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,” said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.
...
“We were very curious about these arms. And unfortunately, some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions,” ‘J’ said.

 

The story was widely quoted, and passed quickly through the anti-war groups naturally suspicious of false flag operations that could lead to western involvement in Syria. The problem for these groups is that the facts in the story were not corroborated by other news organizations, are likely fictions spread by the Iranian sympathizing owners of Mint Press. BuzzFeed covers the scandal here in its piece “The Inside Story of One Website’s Defense of Assad”.

It’s relatively easy to take down an outfit like Mint Press.  It’s much more difficult to prove propaganda charges spread by the likes of the Washington Post, New York Times and NBC News. Nevertheless these organizations are just as slanted in their reporting in support of Democrat administrations and antagonistic to Republican ones. The only real difference between them and Mint Press is their size.

Hat-tip: SimplyJews

Ignore Iran Today – But Not Tomorrow

American diplomacy is a mess. Much of this can be blamed on the current administration who came into power believing they were different from the previous ones, gifted with talent and intelligence their predecessors lacked. But the truth is American diplomacy has always been a mess because honestly, we suck at it.


Having the ability to talk your way to get what you want is only useful for someone who is weak. In the hundred years or so after America’s founding when it was relatively weak to the Great Powers in Europe, we were far enough from the fray to not really matter, and the Europeans only took interest of us when they thought they could use us in their schemes against their primary European opponent. Thankfully American administrations heeded Washington’s advice to avoid foreign entanglements, and were content with expanding power across the continent.  At our weakest point, the years of the Civil War, when the European powers had the opportunity to sway the outcome of the war, it was only a blunder by Confederate President Jefferson Davis to bully the European powers using cotton exports to European textile mills as his primary bargaining chip to attain diplomatic recognition of the Confederate states, and the Union’s more benign and positive support of free trade and past military cooperation with Britain and France that convinced these powers to stay out of the fray. Had Davis been more diplomatic and the European powers more interested in the goings on across the Atlantic, chances are good I’d be writing from my seat in the Confederate States of America.


Things changed after America achieved its “manifest destiny” of spreading across the continent, and began following in the footsteps of the European powers in constructing an empire. During this time diplomacy didn’t matter; what mattered was brute force and the ability to wield it, first in Mexico then throughout the Central America and the Caribbean as it displaced first France and later Spain. But America came late to the game, so its empire was small and inconsequential compared to the great empires of France and Great Britain, and the world wars that followed in the 20th century exposed the danger of empire building as well as the limitations of diplomacy. The Europeans chewed the fat with Hitler for years and it didn’t stop him from taking over continental Europe. Had Neville Chamberlain advised the King to select Lord Halifax, whom he liked and was the popular choice at the time, instead of the unflappable Winston Churchill, it’s quite possible Hitler would have held it.


Americans came closest to learning the art of diplomacy during the Cold War when military supremacy was far from assured while mutual destruction was. This was a decades long learning curve, and during that time the Soviet Union and the United States stood at the brink of war, most notably during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But these lessons have limited value in today’s world where there is no superpower to challenge us. Worse, the Cold War proved the Soviets were “rational actors”, something that isn’t assured by countries like North Korea, Iran or terrorist organizations like al Qaeda.


American foreign policy in the Middle East has never been handled well. After World War 2 America imported British policies in the region, then tailored them to fit the realities of the Cold War. These policies favored stable dictatorships that were either friendly enough to host America forces sent to guarantee the West’s oil supply, or at least were friendly enough not to host Soviet forces. The Soviets weren’t stupid, of course, and the rise of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt who assumed a neutral stance towards the superpowers offered them an opportunity to expand their influence throughout the Arab world. Although officially non-aligned, the Egyptians followed policies that for all intents and purposes matched those of the Soviets, provoking the Eisenhower administration to isolate Nasser by supporting the Saudis as a counter-weight in the region. Thus began the alliance between the Saudis and the Americans, an alliance that has dictated policies by both governing parties over the next 50 years.


Has this policy benefited the United States? The Saudi monarchy and its supporting administrations have proven to be master diplomats. They’ve had to be because they have a valuable resource in a dangerous area and have limited means to defend it. The Saudis took power in the Arab peninsula by first co-opting the Wahhabi preachers prevalent in the area, then kept them under control by providing them a portion of the oil wealth they could use to spread their version of Islam around the world.


Wahhabi Islam is the most intolerant religious sect in the modern world. Imagine the Westboro Baptist Church with tens of millions of followers and billions of dollars yearly at its disposal, and even this analogy is limited due to the WBC’s non-violent teachings compared to the exhortations to violence that regularly appear in Wahhibi sermons and commentary. Yes WBC hold signs at military funerals stating “God Hates Fags,” but they don’t execute suspected homosexuals as the Wahhabis do.


Islam is a conversion-based religion, spreading throughout Asia and Africa and laying siege to Christian Eur0pe first in Spain and later in Eastern Europe. As Islam spread it changed as most conversion based religions do, incorporating customs and traditions of the natives, thereby making it more desirable to the locals at the expense of doctrine. Also lacking a central authority unlike Christianity, numerous strains of Islam appeared, making the Islam of Indonesia different from the Islam of India, which was different from the Islam of Iran which itself differed from the Islam of the Arab nations.


The Wahhabis took their opportunity to re-establish purity and achieve Mohammed’s dream of a global Caliphate by sending well-funded (thanks to Saudi money) missionaries to set up Wahhabi mosques and schools throughout the world, paying special attention to countries with large communities of Muslims. The Wahhabi missionaries would arrive in a community flush with cash, then set up a new mosque and madrassa preaching Wahhabi teachings. These mosques and schools could provide education and services that outcompeted the existing mosques and schools since these relied upon local funding to survive.  The result has been the radicalizing of Muslims in previously multi-religious societies throughout Africa and Asia. Countries where Muslims and Christians had lived intermingled for years suddenly experienced religious strife such as has happened in Indonesia and most recently Kenya and Tanzania.


American foreign policy seems filled with ironies, and none is perhaps as ironic as the fact that the United States supported the Saudis to fight the existential threat of communism during the Cold War, only to create the existential threat of religious intolerance-bred terrorism.


The only thing that has kept Saudi Arabia from appearing on the list of states sponsors of terrorism has been its alliance with the United States. This alliance goes very deep, and the likelihood of its rupture is minimal. The Saudis have built deep personal ties with American leaders in politics, business and academia in their effort to sway American policy to favor their kingdom. The relationship has weathered Saudi sponsored terror attacks including 9-11 and the funding of Sunni militias in Iraq that killed hundreds of American soldiers. So far these ties and the influence that comes with it have convinced the Americans to defend Saudi Arabia from Saddam in Iraq and an Iranian regime seeking nuclear weapons.  In a private comment released by Wikileaks former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the Saudis were willing to fight the Iranians to the last American, yet American leaders have been more than willing to give Saudi Arabia a pass on its sponsorship of terrorism while focusing on such sponsorship by its Shiite nemesis Iran.


Into this complicated situation America has elected its most inexperienced, arrogant and incompetent leader since before the Civil War. The Obama administration’s policy failures in the Middle East, from its failure to secure the peace in Iraq, through its naïve support of the Arab Spring to the gross mishandling of the civil war in Syria has destabilized the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States. The selection of Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran has presented a tempting diplomatic opportunity for the United States, one that President Obama seems to be entertaining, as Rouhani makes tempting noises in the press about normalized relations with the West.


Is a normalized relationship with Iran worth entertaining? First, there is no doubt that Iran is a sponsor of terrorism, whether through its own Revolutionary Guard or through its support of Hezbollah. There also is no doubt Iran has American blood on its hands. But Shi’a Islam is nowhere near as intolerant a sect of Islam as Wahhabi Islam. Iran is much more tolerant of other faiths than Saudi Arabia, and has not built an industry out of sponsoring mosques and madrassas to inspire hatred of other faiths and sects. Traditionally Shi’a Islam also has something roughly akin to a separation between Church and State, something that the Ayatollah Khomeini and his successor the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei have downplayed in order to maintain clerical supremacy of Iranian society. In the long run it is unlikely that Iran would present the existential threat to the United States that the Saudis have through their support of Wahhabism, and would likely be more amenable to taking a slower track towards nuclear weapons.


This is what Obama likely sees, and its a vision that in the eyes of a worthy leader could change history for the better. But Obama is not that leader.


Obama is desperate for success, and like any man who is desperate he will reach for anything. The Iranians know this which is why they are making gestures towards the current administration. They smell Obama’s desperation, and see an easy opportunity to separate the United States from its traditional Saudi and Israeli allies. They will negotiate from a position of strength, guaranteeing any diplomatic successes will only be attained through great cost by American negotiators.Is the Saudi relationship on the table? Perhaps not wholesale but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to put some daylight between the Saudis along with the Israelis and the American regime.


Given this administration’s track record, such offers should not be surprising. Look at the deal Putin got out of the President. The diplomatic community hasn’t seen a come-down like that since Carter tried rescuing the hostages in 1980. Obama’s idea of political horsetrading is making a speech. He’d be unable to get a good deal on a used car lot let alone in the international arena where regimes like the Saudis, Israel and Iran are fighting for their very existences.


There will come a time when America can strike a deal with Iran that will benefit both nations, but now is not that time. Such a time will only come when the situation is reversed, when America is negotiating from a position of strength and the Iranians are weak. Such a deal would likely see the United States freed from Saudi influence of its policies, allowing it to see the existential threat that the oil rich kingdom has unleashed on the world for what it is. Such an event would inevitably lead to the downfall of the House of Saud which is the policy Americans should have been pursuing all along since the end of the Cold War.


Now is not that time.


UPDATE: As usual Michael Totten explains why we should “Beware Persian Leaders with Masks” better than me, pointing out that Rouhani is not the leader of Iran: “Seriously, getting excited about Rouhani is a like foreign heads of state swooning when the United States gets a new Senate Majority Leader.”


Obama’s Leadership Failure

Over the past five years I have watched the collapse of American prestige in the world. I have come to terms with this loss, recognizing that such things are reversible and that a new administration will one day take over and reverse the decline. But as we learned during the Carter era, reinforced by Reagan’s retreat from Lebanon after 242 US Marines were killed in 1983 and later Clinton’s Somalia fiasco, such a loss resonates into the future. The prime example of this was Osama Bin Laden’s recognition of these failures as signs of America’ s loss of will, making it the “weak horse” which would collapse by the addition of a grain of salt on its back. One by one grains were added, the 1993 WTC attack, the Khobar bombings in Saudi Arabia, the Embassy Bombings of 1998, and the USS Cole attack of 2000, and the horse failed to fall. The 9-11 attacks were just more of the same, more grains of salt added to the horse’s back from Bin Laden’s perspective. But instead of collapsing under the strain Bin Laden’s metaphor collapsed, and he and his organization found itself on the defensive against a determined foe, one that eventually turned him into fish food in the Indian Ocean.

We are repeating history, and in this sequel we are much closer in time to Carter’s 1980 failed hostage rescue mission than we are to Tora Bora. President Obama’s core belief that words matter, that diplomacy can solve every crisis and that the military option is only resorted to by leaders less intelligent than himself, has been shown a failure to everyone outside his inner circle. Over the past 5 years (I include Obama’s promises in the final stage of the 2008 campaign as well as the self-importance he attached to his president-elect status after the 2008 election and before the 2009 inauguration) Obama has used promises and threats instead of deeds and action to guide US foreign policy. There was some success at first as allies took his word for the former and our enemies heeded the latter, but as the world changed the promises weren’t met and the threats weren’t acted upon, our allies became disheartened while our enemies were encouraged. Such mistakes must have come as a surprise to both, to see the most powerful and influential nation on earth run by an administration filled with the best and brightest progressive leaders the country had to offer acting like an impoverished, helpless and morally bankrupt banana republic on the world’s stage.

Nations adjusted accordingly. China has become more aggressive in its territorial claims. North Korea continues to threaten the world with nuclear annihilation with impunity. Iran has taken the success of North Korea to heart and vigorously pursues the Bomb. While the Obama administration spoke about the decimation of al Qaeda, the terrorist organization proved powerful enough to kill an American ambassador, the first in thirty years, take over leadership of the rebellion in Syria, turn Iraq into a killing zone,  and scare the administration into closing a score of embassies throughout the Middle East. Not bad for an organization that the administration has said is “on the run.” Clearly al Qaeda accomplishes more in retreat than many armies do on the offensive.

Then there is Russia.  It’s ironic that President Obama treats Vladimir Putin as his equal and Russia as a superpower by giving it veto power over American actions in the Middle East and throughout Asia. In effect Obama elevates the status of Russia while subverting American interests abroad. Such actions must demoralize nations in the former Russian sphere of influence like Poland and the Czech Republic, while encouraging our friends in the Middle East such as Israel and Saudi Arabia to begin to cut their own deals with Russia.

Speaking of friends, we once had one in Egypt. It was a typical Middle Eastern friend. It took gobs of money from us then fed the masses a steady diet of anti-American propaganda that encouraged Islamic terrorism. But the Egyptian regime was successful for the most part. It kept itself in power, maintained the peace – albeit a cold one – with Israel, and kept the foreign currency flowing into Egypt from European and American tourists. Make no mistake Hosni Mubarak was no Winston Churchill, and the Egyptian regime never had our back the way Australia always has, but to expect anything more from Arabs in the Middle East requires complete ignorance of the culture and history of the area. Nevertheless the Obama administration and the State Department under the leadership of Hillary Clinton, a woman whose resume highlight for the job included hosting dinners as the First Lady in the White House for eight years, proved through their actions (and inactions) that for all their supposed brilliance, they were at heart as dumb as a box of blocks when it came to Egypt.

First the administration saw the Arab Spring as a revolutionary moment for liberalism in the country, forgetting that Egypt has been ruled throughout its five thousand year history by pharaohs, kings and military juntas when independent and by Rome, the Ottoman Empire or France when not. Although Egypt lacked any democratic culture or institutions, the Obama administration happily threw Hosni Mubarak under the bus, thinking that he would be replaced by a liberal Democrat they had met at a Washington DC state dinner, Mohamed ElBaradei. The Obama administration didn’t understand what was really happening in Egypt during the Arab Spring: the military junta had stopped supporting Mubarak when he attempted to turn over power to his son and make the presidency a dynasty. Elections were held and the masses didn’t vote for a familiar face in the DC dinner circuit; instead they elected the front of a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Israel and the United States, and the ideological parent organization of both Hamas and al Qaeda.

Maybe the Obama administration and the State Department thought they were dealing with the Egyptian equivalent of Sinn Fein, and that like the IRA in Ireland, the terrorists in Egypt would lay down their arms and take up the ballot box to achieve their aims of global conquest. Many on the Right questioned the administration support for the Brotherhood as being more diabolical, and that some great conspiracy lay behind American support of the Brotherhood even when it became obvious that it was trying to turn Egypt into an Islamic state like Iran. Although I doubt that Obama is a closet Muslim, or that Hillary’s “special friend” Huma Abedin’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood dictated our policy towards Egypt, nothing but sheer stupidity successfully explains our support of the organization as it attempted to wrest control of the state from the military. The military reacted and said “Enough,” taking power away from the Islamists and restoring the status quo of a generation ago when Mubarak ruled Egypt with military support and the Muslim Brotherhood conspired to take power from behind bars. The result of this episode in Middle Eastern foreign policy is the brilliant progressive leaders of the Obama Administration and State Department have angered all sides in Egypt.

For perhaps the first time in his life Obama will be judged not by his words but his actions. No speech he gives will excuse the failure of his leadership on foreign policy, particularly on Syria. It is ironic that the words so prized by Obama and his followers are what has boxed him into a corner in the first place. His team knew the ad libbed term “red line” would prove disastrous. Now he is so desperate he is begging Republicans like former foe Senator John McCain and House Speaker John Boehner to save him. Given the stupidity of the GOP it’s quite possible they just will, providing him the option he needs so that when things get worse in Syria he can blame them. Unlike McCain and Boehner I can live with an America that cannot be trusted by its friends and is no longer feared by its enemies – at least until January 2017. The progressives and Obama believed they knew best and elections have consequences. To paraphrase my late mother-in-law, they chose this path, and they must walk it.

 

The Day After: When Iran Successfully Tests The Bomb

Before visiting Israel President Obama said in an interview with Israeli TV Iran was about a year away from having the Bomb, and “all options were on the table” for preventing it from acquiring it. Visiting Jordan later in his trip Obama took a more conciliatory tone, saying the issue is best resolved through diplomacy and the United States will continue to apply pressure on Iran “in a non-military way.” But if what Obama says is true, that Iran is a year away from having a bomb, it would represent a failure of diplomacy and would contradict the CIA position held as recently as 2012 that Iran had “halted its nuclear weapons program” in 2003. So what would it mean for Iran to have the Bomb? What would happen after a successful bomb test?

The first awareness of a successful Iranian underground nuclear test would come from seismic sensors detecting an earthquake  having a magnitude of 4.0-5.0 centered in a sparsely populated region of Iran. Such man-made earthquakes have a distinctive seismic signature compared to naturally occurring quakes and can be detected within minutes of a test. Occasionally an underground test, such as one conducted by North Korea in 2006, releases cesium 137 into the air which can be picked up by detectors downwind in China, India and Pakistan, but it is likely the seismic signature of a blast would be enough to announce to the world that Iran had joined the nuclear club.

Press reports would appear suggesting a nuclear detonation in Iran, but in the initial hours after the blast most nations would be quiet about it, preferring to review their own intelligence before making statements, and the media in the USA and Europe will double and triple-check their sources before setting the headlines. Not so the Iranian press. A nuclear Iran has been perhaps the only thing opposition groups and the theocratic regime agree on, and Iranian media outlets will be trumpeting the news throughout the nation and the regime will be passing out sweets in the streets of Teheran in celebration. Therefore it is likely we would learn about a successful nuclear blast from the Iranian press via American and European media reports before official confirmation came from western governments.

When those official confirmations arrive expect them to be funereal in tone, of the type “The (your nationality here) people condemn the Iranian regime for its unlawful nuclear weapons test that threatens the stability of the region as well as the regime itself.” There would likely be near panic in some quarters, jubilation in others with commentators and reporters expecting the imminent obliteration of Israel. But Israel will not be in immediate danger.  Building a bomb for a test and a bomb that can be put onto a missile or airplane are two separate engineering challenges, and because of that they are most likely occurring concurrently and with assistance from North Korea and some assistance from Russia.

There will be a sense in the West that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was worthless, and the sanctions Iran has put up with for over 15 years have completely failed. Promises made by the Obama administration to Israel and other states in the Middle East that containment of a nuclear armed is not an option as Vice-President Joe Biden said to a meeting with the Jewish group AIPAC“Let me make clear what that commitment is: It is to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon, period. End of discussion. Not contain. Prevent,” would be repeated by some right wing or conservative media outlets while others more supportive of the administration would spike such “we told you so” stories.

There would likely be a window of at least a year or two beyond the bomb test before Iran could target a weapon on Israel, and during that time nothing  on the surface will seem to have changed much. In fact because of that calm, voices preaching containment and appeasement would begin to appear, saying “How are the Iranians different from the Soviets?” “The Iranians got the bomb, but they won’t use it.” “If containment worked for the Soviets why can’t it work for the Iranians?” Ron Paul said as much in the 2012 Presidential debates. Leaks would come out of the Israeli and US intelligence agencies of possible military action being launched against Iran to keep it from “weaponizing the bomb,” with the intent of undermining the rationale for the attacks in favor of non-intervention. Iranians would return to the negotiating table, promising to halt their nuclear program in exchange for this that or the other thing. North Korea plowed, graded, paved and painted lines on this road so expect the Iranian regime to ride it in comfort. As the sting from the surprise of the test wears off, liberals, anti-war type and other useful idiots of the Islamic regime will play a more active role and attempt to protect the regime. “The USA is the only state ever to use the Bomb,” expect them to say, “So why should we trust it more than Iran?”

And they’ll have a point, but for the wrong reasons. US credibility will be at a low not seen since the Iranian Hostage Crisis at this point. States such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia have already begun dusting off their own test programs, and a successful test by Iran would accelerate this research. Of  the two nations Saudi Arabia being the wealthier would probably simply buy a nuclear weapons program from Pakistan with assistance from France and other European nations, and perhaps share it with Turkey. But it would still take the better part of a decade for the Saudis to join the Nuclear Club. It would also push these nations closer to Russia who would be seen as an honest broker in the region, even when it is honestly supplying the Iranians whom the Sunni regimes in the Middle East detest. At least the Russians could be trusted while the Americans make threats and do nothing.

The time between a nuclear test and the successful weaponization of the Bomb will be the last window of opportunity for the Israelis and Americans to gather what remains of their spines and attack Iran. Failure at this point would lead to the fulfillment of promises made consistently over the history of the current Iranian regime: Israel will be destroyed. And while Israel will not go down without a fight, taking hundreds of thousands of Persians with them, it will not be said that the Iranians didn’t warn us; but it will be said that we were foolish not to believe them.

 

An Obama Victory May Be Good for the War on Terror

In the final weeks before the election I’ve been thinking long and hard about what the outcome could mean for the future of my country. Regardless of who wins, he will face a China that is bullying its neighbors into American arms, a Middle East that has become more radicalized not less, an Iranian nuke or a war started by Israel or the United States but blamed on the Great Satan regardless of which flag is painted on the bunker busters. The November winner will face a crumbling Europe, a soaring American debt that has become so big no one knows how to tame it, and a catatonic domestic economy. American education spends more than any nation in the world on its students yet they learn less. The weight of the pensions of Baby Boomers threatens to crush public spending, turning cities and states into mob enforcers who shake down the working, relatively poor young and pass the cash to the retiring relatively wealthy elderly.

I will leave the economic issues aside for the moment to focus on foreign policy. In my view with the exception of China, Obama has made all of these problems worse. But looking at these issues over the long-term, say through the remainder of this decade, would an Obama loss be really a victory for those of us who have opposed him every step of his way to the office he now holds?

China stands as perhaps the only issue I agree with the administration on. I’ve studied China and East Asia for decades, and recognize that handling a rising superpower is never easy, especially one with a 4,500 year history and cursed by a long, often twisted, memory. The Obama administration has attempted to encourage the rise of a peaceful, prosperous China that would take its place as an equal partner in the Pacific, but at the same time has worked to support our allies such as Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea. It is an art more than a science, and while mistakes have been made by the Obama administration, they are to be expected in such a long-term important endeavor. The Chinese cannot understand why the United States would welcome a peaceful, prosperous and powerful China that is integrated with the rest of the world, and instead sees every American move through paranoid eyes and zero-sum calculations. We can’t do much to change this view of American policy in the Pacific, except by doing what this administration has done, setting policies that reassure our allies while encouraging the Chinese to play nice with others in the Pacific’s playground.

Unfortunately the tact, intelligence and real-politic shown by the Obama administration towards China has not been manifested anywhere else in the world. In the same way the reality of Iraq showed the folly of the neocon dream, the murder of our diplomat in Libya and the virulent anti-American nature of the “Arab Spring” has put paid to the dreams of Obama and his liberal eggheads. Obama believed that he alone could solve the Middle East problem with a grand speech in Cairo and apologies and bows to Arab leaders. He thought he could strong-arm Israel to make peace with the Palestinians, and that the Muslim world would see the wisdom of the Nobel committee’s awarding him his Peace Prize. He believed that once free from Iraq, he would be able to exit Afghanistan gracefully without fear of the Taliban taking it over and turning back the clock to 2000.

Nearly four years later America is even more hated than it was under the Bush administration. Iraq is becoming a satellite of Iran, allowing its Shiite neighbor unrestricted flights over its territory to resupply the Assad regime. Pakistan has degenerated into a pit of vipers that protected a man personally responsible for more American deaths than anyone since Ho Chi Minh and allowed Chinese to test a piece of top secret American gear left behind after its forces aired out his skull. Vast swathes of North Africa have been lost to al-Qaeda affiliated radicals including half of its most populous nation, Nigeria. Women are being secreted behind closed doors in Cairo and Tunis, as Egyptians copts are raped and terrorized out of their homes, putting an end to communities that date almost to the time of Christ. Liberals laughed when a man threw shoes at George W. Bush; they are oddly silent as they see Obama burned in effigy by crowds throughout the Middle East. Americans once were able to visit the Pyramids and Valley of the Kings; today members of the Egyptian government call for the destruction of the Pyramids and the State Dept warns Americans to avoid Egypt.

Hope and change.

The murder of the Libyan ambassador proves the Obama administration has failed to learn the lessons of 9-11. The average rapper has better security in Los Angeles than the Libyan ambassador. Threats against American interests there were ignored just as Bin Laden’s declaration of war against the US was in 1998. Many on the right including myself have given a pass to the Clinton administration for failing to imagine the attacks of 9-11 and stop them; today the Obama administration has no such excuses.

And speaking of silence, where is Code Pink, Cindy Sheehan and the other anti-war Left? Where are the anti-war drums that sounded for every dead Muslim civilian or American soldier arriving at Dover Air Force base in Delaware in the middle of the night? Where is the anger, the spiteful commentary of lost wars, the Vietnam comparisons that flowed thick through every mainstream news outlet during the Bush administration? As Walter Russell Mead notes, “If George W. Bush were president now, and had ordered the surge and was responsible for the strategic decisions taken and not taken in Afghanistan over the last four years, the mainstream press would be rubbing our noses in his miserable failures and inexcusable blunders 24/7. The New York Times and the Washington Post would be treating us to pictures of every fallen soldier. The PBS Newshour would feature nightly post-mortems on “America’s failed strategies in the Afghan War” and every arm-chair strategist in America would be filling the op-ed pages with the brilliant 20/20 hindsight ideas that our pathetic, clueless, failed president was too dumb and too cocky to have had.”

After his election I feared that Obama would weaken the position of the United States in the world. I envisioned Obama to be a pacifist who would gut our military, anger our friends and embolden our enemies. I was wrong about Obama’s pacifism; he may be a pacifist at heart but he has shown a willingness to kill America’s enemies that would make Dick Cheney offer him a high-five. Unfortunately he has succeeded in doing what I feared. Our alliances with our closest friends Australia, Canada and Great Britain are ignored. Our long-standing friendship with Israel rebuffed. A deep relationship with Egypt lost. Meanwhile Iran, North Korea and the socialist states in South America continue on as before, confident that the US lacks the resources to challenge them. As Machiavelli wrote “if one cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved.” Obama should play less golf and read more because he has failed to do either.

The only solace I can take is that the Obama administration has shown a willingness to kill our enemies. Bin Laden is crab food, and drone strikes and special operations continue worldwide. The administration avoids calling it by its name, but the Global War on Terrorism continues using the same methods and tactics that the Bush administration developed and supported. What Obama has not done is use his speech giving abilities to provide an explanation to the American people why the war continues, and show that he and his administration understand the existential threat posed by radical Islam. It is a shame because it is possible that a liberal like Obama could do more to protect and advance freedom in the world for the same reason that a cold warrior like President Nixon could open up to China: his base trusts him.

And this is what concerns me about a Romney victory. If Romney wins I would expect that the Democrats would stoke the flames of their anti-war brothers at a critical time in our history. War is Not the Answer bumperstickers would sprout on foreign cars. Colleges would be wracked by anti-war protests. We need a coherent strategy explained to the American people while continuing the fight against terrorists around the world. There is the potential for Obama to do that, and for his allies to keep their anti-war instincts at bay. Likewise I suppose it’s possible that Obama, having achieved his goal of reelection would simply allow his own pacifist instincts to rule the day, putting American in even more danger. But I would hope that four years of at least occasional Angry Birds free Intelligence Briefings would have convinced Obama the threat to our nation is real.

So it is possible that the best outcome is an Obama victory for those of us who believe in the primacy of the war against radical Islam. The continued media silence at dead terrorists may be worth the price of four more years of Obama. This of course will not change my vote in November, but it has given me something to think about.

Egypt: The Next Iran and the Surprises in Store for Liberal Reporters

I’m often amazed at how ignorant journalists are of history. I get frustrated when one shows his or her ignorance for a complex issue, falling back on conventional wisdom instead of historical truth to provide the background for a story. Case in point is this New York Times piece. I’m not sure how old the writer is, but he should Google “1979” and “Iranian Revolution.”

In late 1978 and early 1979 the Shah had ceded power to Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar, a member of the liberal opposition. Bakhtiar hoped to share power with the Ayatollah Khomeini and allowed the Ayatollah to return to Iran from exile. Khomeini arrived in Teheran to a crowd of millions and promised to “kick their (liberal regime’s) teeth in.” He appointed his own government and drained support away from the liberal opposition movement. Iran then sought to export its Islamic revolution throughout the Middle East, and spread terrorism around the world.

“I would say people should not be too alarmed by the anti-American rhetoric,” said Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy, based in Washington. The end last year of the Mubarak rule in Egypt, he said, “is an important step in combating terrorism in the region and undermining its appeal.” “People can freely vent their frustrations and go to the polls to vote,” he added.

By this logic Bakhtiar should have succeeded in Iran, and the Palestinian Authority would still be running Gaza. The problem with this thinking is that it assumes the causes of terrorism are due to the lack of democracy and a say in a people’s own governance. This is looking at Islamic terrorism through the lens of leftist and nationalist terrorism as conducted by guerrilla movements such as the IRA, Red Army, and FARC. Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with people’s frustration of not being in control of their own destiny. If it did they wouldn’t replace secular dictators with religious dictators as the Iranians, Lebanese Shi’a, and Palestinians in Gaza have, and Iran wouldn’t be sponsoring Hezballah, Islamic Jihad and a dozen other Israeli and American-killing outfits.

Islam is not a nationalist movement, it is a religious one. While executive directors of projects and their New York Times’ interviewers might see the world as nation states whose citizens dream of controlling them, a Muslim sees the community of believers (umma) and non-believers. Earthly power derives from God, and only those He has appointed are able to lead. It’s a simple concept that is even baked into the meaning of the term “Islam.” It means “submission” to God’s will, and democracy where people lead themselves is as heretical to Islam as Scientology is to Roman Catholicism. New York Times reporters and their think-tank sources don’t get that because they haven’t studied Islam except through the narrow lens of their own political and philosophical assumptions.

They will be shocked when Egypt follows in the footsteps of Iran and travel to visit the Valley of the Kings and the Great Pyramids become a distant memory for American passport holders just as trips to Teheran and Qom are to older American Asia-hands. Already the calls have begun for the destruction of the Pyramids, just as the Taliban destroyed the Buddhist statues in Afghanistan and Egypt’s first Muslim rulers destroyed the Great Library in Alexandria.

Let’s Chant: The Future of the Middle East is Impossible to Predict

So here we are in the midst of what the Chinese might call “interesting times” in the Middle East and it seems that I can write about nearly everything BUT what is happening there. There’s a reason for that: I really don’t know what is going on. Having lived through 1989, I can sense strong similarities between events that year in Europe and what is happening today in the Middle East but there’s a key difference between 1989 and now: 1989 happened. The Berlin Wall fell, the dust settled, and the world changed for the better (for the most part – Tiananmen Square also happened in 1989 and I don’t think the Chinese are better off because of the slaughter). What is happening today… is happening. It’s the present for me (at least at the time of writing) so I don’t know what is going to happen.

I have some ideas, like we are seeing the beginning of the next stage of development in the Mideast and the end of post-colonialism. In recent history the region has gone from the Ottoman Empire, to colonialism, and finally to post-colonialism. That era has been characterized by secular dictators like Saddam Hussein, Mohamar Khadafi, Gamal Abdal Nasser, Haffaz al-Assad and their regime successors. I believe one could even squeeze Iran into that category, with the secular dictator of the Shah being replaced by a religious dictator in the form of the Ayatollah Khomeini and his successor the Ayatollah Khamenei.

So what comes post post-colonialism? That’s the question and at this point it is impossible to answer it. It would be nice to think that secular democracies would sprout and take root throughout the region, but there is no democratic tradition which could provide the fertile soil necessary. I suppose it is a possibility – perhaps a democracy with Islamic characteristics that would reflect the will of the people more but show little in common with western democracies like Israel, Europe and the United States.

Naturalist Stephen Jay Gould’s hypothesis of “punctuated equilibrium” proposed that the evolution of organisms is characterized by long periods of stability punctuated by brief periods of chaos. In a sense the Middle East has been static for decades and now we are entering a chaotic period that will change the region forever. What comes out of that is impossible to know, no matter how important the results are to us.

So Remember the next time some talking head appears on TV predicting the future of the region that the future is impossible to predict. The next time some political wag waxes poetic in the New York Times about the future of the Middle East, remember that the future is impossible to predict. When some blowhard appears on NPR and offers his vision about what changes lay ahead in the Middle East, shout at the radio “The future is impossible to predict!” (and feel free to add “you liberal moron” as I used to do when I listened to NPR -which I don’t do anymore).

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be supportive of the people over there, or that we should drop our guard and be suspicious of their motives. The outcome is unknown, and as long as it is we should try to influence it as best we can. But truth be told there is little we can do – especially when even helicopter gunships, jets and snipers aren’t enough to stop people from rioting in Libya.

Things are changing, but how are they changing? Who knows! Because the future of the Middle East is impossible to predict. It’s a basic idea but one that gets lost in the 24 hour news cycle and in RSS feeds and Facebook comments.

Freedom Isn’t Free

I’m reminded of this fact as I watch events in Iran. If people really want freedom from the theocracy there, they are going to have to die for it. Freedom rarely comes easy, and when it does it usually doesn’t hang around very long. Freedom is bought with blood. So far Neda has shed hers for her country; do other have the guts to risk shedding theirs and ending up like her?

Some of the protesters looked to us and the rest of the world to intervene. We can’t – it’s not our job. Call me selfish, but I don’t want to risk my stepson’s life. He signed up to protect America, not liberate other nations. Besides when we do intervene the line between liberator and oppressor gets mighty thin as the Iraqis will attest to. We can cheer them on and offer them all the support we can but when it comes down to it, they are going to have to liberate themselves just like the Serbs did earlier in the decade – or be crushed for generations like the Chinese at Tiananmen.

It’s a tough decision, but one that collectively the Iranian people must make on their own.

Iran and the Seasons of 1989

Twenty years ago I remember watching with horror the Tiananmen Square massacre unfold before my eyes in the newspapers and on CNN. Three months later I watched as one by one the nations of the Warsaw Pact bolted to freedom and the Berlin Wall crumbled. Today I am silent about Iran because I really don’t know how things are going to turn out there.

I stupidly take certain things to heart – and the freedom of oppressed peoples is one of those things. A therapist – heck even any AA sponsor – would warn me of the danger of allowing world events to affect me. As the Serenity Prayer states I must accept the things I cannot change – and there is nothing I can do to alter how the events are unfolding in Iran.

As I did then I curse the cowardice of my own leaders who today cannot distinguish between Hope and Despair in Iran, and those of 1989 who were all too quick to dine with the Butcher of Beijing. Obama today, Bush yesterday – yet they both share a sociopathic attachment to the status quo.  For Bush the tanks must have come as a relief because the Tiananmen Square demonstrations complicated his efforts to cultivate a relationship with China to tip the balance of power vis-a-vis the Soviet Union.  For Obama a less-radical Iran in possibly the mold of today’s Serbia would sidetrack his effort to cleave the Gordian Knot of the Middle East and succeed where all presidents over the last third of a century have failed. His ego and his followers demand nothing less.

The situation is fluid. No one can predict how events in Iran will play out. So I’ve avoided writing about it and tried to push it out of mind. But then the headlines crash through and I’m left yearning for the Persian people  to become free – to experience the liberty that all human beings deserve by birth. I want them to experience the heady days of the  Autumn of 1989 – not the horrifying Summer.

How will this end? I haven’t a clue but I know where my heart lies.
Neda - Iran's Angel of Freedom
With Neda.

America Should Demand Apology For ‘Insulting’ Hollywood Movies

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for an apology from a team of Hollywood actors and movie industry professionals visiting his country for producing “insulting” movies. “After recent movies like The Love Guru and The Hottie and the Nottie maybe we should demand one too.

Retreat-Now Activists Fail Again

Ralph Peters writing in the NY Post:

What don’t the critics like? Democracy? The defeat of al Qaeda? Muslims turning to the US military for help? Troop cuts? The dramatically improved human-rights situation? What’s the problem here?

The answer’s simple: Admitting that they’ve been mistaken about Iraq guts the left’s argument for political entitlement. If the otherwise deplorable Bush administration somehow got this one right, it means the left got another big one wrong.

So be prepared for frequent time-machine trips until November. The encouraging reality of today’s Iraq will go ignored in favor of an endless mantra of “Al Qaeda wasn’t there in 2003 . . .”

The bottom line? Al Qaeda let the war’s opponents down.

John Bolton on Iran

Former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton has this to say about negotiations with Iran:


When the U.S. negotiates with “terrorists and radicals,” it gives them legitimacy, a precious and tangible political asset. Thus, even Mr. Obama criticized former President Jimmy Carter for his recent meetings with Hamas leaders. Meeting with leaders of state sponsors of terrorism such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il is also a mistake. State sponsors use others as surrogates, but they are just as much terrorists as those who actually carry out the dastardly acts. Legitimacy and international acceptability are qualities terrorists crave, and should therefore not be conferred casually, if at all.


Moreover, negotiations – especially those “without precondition” as Mr. Obama has specifically advocated – consume time, another precious asset that terrorists and rogue leaders prize. Here, President Bush’s reference to Hitler was particularly apt: While the diplomats of European democracies played with their umbrellas, the Nazis were rearming and expanding their industrial power.


A History of the Past Five Years: 2008-2013

The following is a brief history of world events as I see them today, March 18, 2013. I will update this as time permits. I apologize in advance for boring those of you to whom this is “yesterday’s news,” but it’s my way of trying to place the last five years in perspective. A lot has changed, but a lot has not. After all, there are still those who believe that those horrible events our nation experienced in 2010 were just “inside jobs” to either force the president’s hand to declare war, or to make him look ineffectual depending on which side of the “Truther Spectrum” you find yourself on. Long-time readers will note my position on those terrifying days hasn’t wavered: the terrorists are ultimately to blame. But I still hold the prior administration and the former Democratic Congress responsible for creating the conditions that allowed the terrorists to strike, so I didn’t shed a tear when President Obama gave his concession speech. (Like all of his speeches, it sounded good when I heard it but as soon as it was over I forgot what he said. Freakin’ typical…)

I also want to remind readers that the way things are today aren’t the way they were in the past. We tend to believe that Change happens slowly, and when it doesn’t, such as in 2010 and before that Sept. 11, 2001, we rationalize it until we can safely ignore it as “freak event.” Instead we should view History the way seismologists view faults. A fault may be quiet for years, but a seismologists knows that unseen forces are stressing the fault line until it eventually snaps. When it does, the earth moves for a few moments and transforms the landscape by destroying buildings, raising mountains or altering the courses of streams. After the stress is released, the fault becomes quiet again. But that doesn’t mean that the stress is gone; almost immediately after a quake the fault begins accumulating stress that it will release during the next quake.

And that’s why I’ve fought the policies that led to 2010. I knew that I wasn’t being paranoid – although I was portrayed as such by the commenters here and elsewhere – because earthquakes don’t happen for no reason: they are the result of stress. 9-11 and 2010 don’t happen spontaneously; they were the result of a series of conscious decisions and mistakes made by our political, military, law enforcement and intelligence officials any of which might have stopped the plots. If Houston Patrolman Rodriguez had detained the “speeder” instead of releasing him on his own recognizance for fear of bucking the “don’t ask – don’t tell” illegal immigrant policy supported by his department under pressure from the ACLU, his “speeder” wouldn’t have made it to Kansas and achieved martyrdom, taking hundreds of thousands with him. If the NSA had been allowed to monitor the satellite phone traffic that passed through microwave towers in Virginia without a warrant from a judge that happened to be hunting in Saskatchewan at the time of the call, we might have been able to arrest the “moneyman” and unraveled the plot before it made the History books as the greatest series of terrorist attacks of all time.

The refusal by politicians of both parties to take illegal immigration seriously that eventually allowed the terrorists to enter our homeland. The Chinese Walls put in place between foreign intelligence services and domestic law enforcement under the Clinton administration that prevented the warning signs of the impending 9-11 Attacks from being acted on. These walls were breached briefly after those first attacks, but then the Democratic-controlled Congress rebuilt them after Obama took office. The politicization of the CIA and NSA that started under Bush II kept bad news from being reported up the chains of command for fear of appearing disloyal. We all know their roles in 2010 even if you didn’t download the PDF version of the McCain-Webb Report and read the 876 pg investigation results word-for-word.

This is a draft: I will amend it as I see fit but the history itself will not change. We can’t bring back the dead of 2010, nor can we cure those who are permanently scarred. But I believe we can honor their memory best by writing the truth to counter the propaganda that clouds those events, dehumanizing those innocents who died those days for what? For simply being who they are, who we are, Americans.

Middle East


Iraq

As promised President Obama ordered an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq starting in 2009, leaving a token presence in Baghdad. Iran and Syria accelerated their undermining of the Iraqi regime while the Kurds in northern Iraq continued to react coolly for demands of assistance by the central government. By 2010 the Iraqi government had fallen, and a new regime backed by a coalition of Iranian/Syrian forces demanded a complete withdrawal of US forces from Baghdad. The US complied and by the Summer of 2010 Iraq was in complete chaos with the exception of the Kurdish controlled north, which finally gives up the pretense of being a part of Iraq and refers to itself in all official communiqués as Kurdistan. Turkey reacted to the growing autonomy with threats and several military incursion to chase PKK rebels, but the Kurdish authorities promised to keep the PKK under control and renounced claims to a greater Kurdistan – for now. A steady exodus of Iraqi refugees set up camps in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, demanding visas to the United States due to the threat of persecution for supporting the US occupation.

Afghanistan

Emboldened by their success in Iraq, the anti-war Left in the United States demands a similar US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the Taliban, with help from former Iraqi insurgents and Iranian Special Forces, escalate attacks against former-NATO forces and the Afghani populace. This leads to a large increase in casualties among the local populace as well as the remaining contingent of former NATO forces. Weary from the relentless terrorism of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, support evaporates for the regime and by the middle of 2010 the government of Hamed Karzai has fallen. US forces evacuate the remaining former-NATO forces from Baghram air base as Taliban leader Mullah Omar parades triumphantly into Kabul. After reports in the western press that the Taliban are going door-to-door and executing the families of suspected collaborators with former NATO and Karzai’s forces, the Taliban Communication’s chief imposes a news blackout and demands that all reports must receive the approval of Taliban authorities. Cell phones are confiscated, and cellphone towers dynamited. News trickles out from Afghan refugees at camps in Iran and Pakistan of a bloody “cleansing” of the Afghan community by the Taliban, with hundreds of thousands slaughtered.

Saudi Arabia

The abrupt withdrawal of US forces from the region has made traditional Saudi enemy Iran the major player in the region. King Abdullah takes a public stance of solidarity with the Iranian regime, all the while resisting and covertly attacking Iranian interests in Iraq as the kingdom and Iran vie for supremacy over the remnants (the oil fields) of the former state. However Iran soon gains an upper hand in Iraq through its Shi’a allies there, and uses its ties to al-Qaeda developed during the US occupation of Iraq to attack the Saudi kingdom directly. This is made all the more easy when one of the Sudairi Seven, the seven close-knit sons of King Abdul Aziz “ibn Saud” by Hassa bint Ahmad Sudairi, dies under suspicious circumstances. The Arab Street immediately blamed the Jews, but the Saudis knew better.


The collapse of oil prices to below $50 a barrel hasn’t helped Saudi finances much either. With stagflation haunting the USA and international trade under attack in most of the developed world, world demand for oil has slumped significantly since the US economy entered recession in early 2008. Add in several million Iraqi refugees, many of whom are suspected of being al-Qaeda, and the Kingdom find itself in the toughest place it has been in the modern era.


The United States

The first successful terrorist attack on US soil since 2001 occurred in 2010. You would think that the savagery we witnessed in 2001 would have prepared us somewhat for what happened that year, but unfortunately our capacity for horror is unlimited. Like most I was simply speechless for days afterward. The President’s “Solidarity” speech seemed calming, but that was before the second strike. Then came the third, and the fourth and I remember thinking to myself that they would never end. As with the attacks on 9-11, there were no claims of responsibility but al-Qaeda was suspected until a tape was uploaded to Youtube two months later by al-Zawahiri stating that the US was being punished for its “past transgressions against Islam.” It threatened further attacks unless the USA “redeems itself by repudiating it’s Crusader past” and embracing Islam. Unlike the other threats, al-Zawahiri made good on this one and 2010… Well, it sure wasn’t the vision Arthur C. Clarke had when he wrote the novel. The book it most resembled was Dante’s Inferno.


Leftists claimed that America deserved the attack for its past support of Israel, and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After several months of investigation it was determined that the terrorist cell infiltrated the United States through Mexico. Proof of ties between the terrorist and drug gangs operating in northern Mexico were produced by US authorities, but denied by the Mexican government. In an unusual statement, the head of the Mexican drug gang posted a video statement on Youtube where he admits that his gang helped the terrorists infiltrate the United States, but denies knowing anything about their mission.


A small group of influential Leftist scholars called for the indictment of former president George W. Bush, vice president Dick Cheney, and former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice as war criminals. They hoped that a successful prosecution would encourage “peace with our Islamic brothers,” and demanded that a diplomatic delegation be sent to Pakistan to negotiate with al-Qaeda.


The electorate punished President Obama in the 2010 mid-term elections by re-electing a single Democrat to her seat; the Republicans ran the table using the infamous “2010” campaign. Even the Leftist MSM had a hard-time attacking the Republicans due to effectiveness of the campaign message highlighting the government failures that allowed the terrorism to happen.


One of the leading lights of a revitalized Republican party was a governor with strong ties to the religious right but who repudiated the “internationalism that infected our party for the last half a century.” Calling Sen. Ron Paul “an inspiration, and one of the smartest men I’ve ever met,” the Governor demanded that President Obama send the returning armed forces to man the border with Mexico and Canada. “These brave men and women enlist to protect America from its enemies – not the Koreans who stole our jobs, not the Europeans who stole our dignity, and not the Saudis who stole our souls.” On Sunday January 20, 2013, he was elected the 45th President of the United States.


As anyone who has read this journal before, I am not a big fan of the President. While I have written in the distant past that Isolationism is the default state of America, I cannot help but think how things would have been different had we not elected a closet isolationist president in 2008 at what should have been the end of the recession. It turns out later that the economy wasn’t as bad as Obama and the Democrats made it out to be late in the year, but by that time the recession had bitten deeply into our economy with millions thrown out of work, falling tax revenues and worse, inflation as the Fed printed flooded the markets with cash to try to get the economy moving.


For those of you who weren’t around back then, it was like 1978 all over again. The Democrats reminded us of that over and over, reviving the term “misery index” that had been coined under one of their own presidents. Every potential bright spot of the economy was talked down, while every negative statistic made the headlines. Sure this was a cynical ploy just like the Clinton team had done to the first George Bush’s candidacy in 1992 – but like Clinton it worked – just too well. Perception is reality for Wall Street, and all the trash-talk by Democrats (and those Republicans who thought that McCain’s rhetoric was too polly-annish to dent Obama’s lead) altered its perception. All the negativity about the economy and trading partners was enough to sweep Obama into office but also boxed him into a corner. He had lost the ability to backaway from his more radical policies early in his campaign, but in order to survive he had to repudiate that strategy. When it came time to deliver, he had to come through for his constituents. Taking office just after the economy was starting to dig itself out of negative territory turned out to be a disaster. The markets were tanking. Our trading partners were matching our anti-trade rhetoric tit for tat. We faced the perfect storm: bad monetary situation, low confidence in free markets and trade, and an election without an incumbent. Somehow Obama managed to piss off the Canadians more than Bush ever had. Honestly I didn’t think it was possible given the shared history of our two nations, but the comments he made in 2011 supporting Quebec separatism pretty much killed what little relationship our two nations had after the trade rhetoric cooled.


I was never a fan of Obama. I always thought him to be in the mold of Jimmy Carter. However his term by comparison made Jimmy’s term look like a Golden Age. It’s hard to relate what life was like to those of you who don’t remember living in a country that was open to the rest of the world. The prosperity this openness brought us was always taken for granted so that we only appreciated it when we lost it. I always had my doubts about Free Trade, but I wanted to see it tweaked not discarded completely as it has been by both the Obama and current administrations.


Free Trade never got the credit it deserved in Academia due to the latter being the last bastion of Communism on the planet. Therefore much of the elite that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s never appreciated how trade had lifted more people out of poverty than any single idea or ideology. The only time that this was recognized was by the Malthusians in the Eco-movement who wanted the people in China, India and Africa to return to poverty because it lowered their carbon footprint. When the elites started leading, as Obama’s generation took power in the USA, Europe and elsewhere, they were indifferent to Free Trade or worse, antagonistic to it.


But the bonds of trade are not made of steel; they are based on trust, and when that trust began to be broken by Obama’s attempt to renegotiate NAFTA, the bonds were broken. Then 2010 happened and Isolationism became the new paradigm. I suddenly found myself feeling catapulted backward in time with the constant chatter about “the gold standard” and tariffs – not from a Hearst broadsheet, but the blogosphere and MSM.

Europe:

Forces in Europe have been drawn down starting with deployments in Bosnia and Kosovo, followed by the quick redeployments (home) of forces in Spain, Italy and eventually Germany. Finally, all remaining forces returned home by the end of 2012, only the contingents protecting US embassy personnel remained. Total force drawdown as of Dec 2012: 98,000. Remaining: 250

Impact:

NATO unofficially expired going the way of the Warsaw Pact. European governments have been forced to rebuild their dilapidated armed forces; some opted for an EU force, while others (UK, Italy, France) continued to field their own militaries under their own command. Russia’s interest in Europe revived as it saw an opportunity to extend its influence westward, but all this has apparently done is push Europe to the Americans. Much of the virulent anti-Americanism is gone, although some remains among the “usual suspects” (the universities and trade unions). There are articles in the continental press that put forward the idea that should Europe find itself in trouble with Russia, the US will intervene as it has done for the past century. But the Brits seem to get it, with the Daily Telegraph noting in recent piece the depth of America’s antipathy towards Europe:


This expectation ignores the very fundamental question from the American perspective: Why? Why would the United States return to the past, placing US troops on European soil? What would the US derive from such a bargain? Protesters chaining themselves to the gates of their bases? Governments pursuing their own interests and prospering often at the expense of those of the United States, as France emphatically proved in the 1990’s in the Middle East? The transports planes have long gone and the bases at Aviano and Wiesbaden are already becoming overgrown with weeds. Why would the US reverse this process which it believes to be in its own best interest?



Remaining to do;


Iran


Israel


Asia


China’s blockade of Taiwan.

Disband the CIA

I’m a hawk who changed his dovish plumage on a crystal-blue morning in September 2001. I no longer want the USA to coexist with its enemies: I want to see them destroyed. I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s under the era of detente with the Soviet Union. This policy made sense since the USSR was too big to destroy and we had to live with it. However we don’t have to live with Iran and Saudi Arabia – our nation’s current enemies.

But the CIA is not the agency to do it, and Gabriel Schoenfeld agrees. He quotes former CIA director Robert Gates from his memoir From the Shadows:


As a result of the lack of innovative and creative personnel management, I believe this agency is chock full of people simply awaiting retirement: some are only a year or two away and some are twenty-five years away, but there are far too many playing it safe, proceeding cautiously, not antagonizing management, and certainly not broadening their horizons, especially as long as their own senior management makes it clear that [risk-taking] is not career enhancing. How is the health of CIA? I would say that at the present time it has a case of advanced bureaucratic arteriosclerosis: the arteries are clogging up with careerist bureaucrats who have lost the spark. It is my opinion that it is this steadily increasing proportion of intelligence bureaucrats that has led to the decline in the quality of intelligence collection and analysis over the past fifteen years — more so than our declining resources . . . or congressional investigations or legal restrictions. CIA is slowly turning into the Department of Agriculture.

The biggest reason to disband the organization is the simple fact that it has become a large organization. I know large organizations. I tend to work for them; I have seen them from the inside, and realize that it might be okay to rely upon them to manage your insurance or even your bank account, but national security? My bank recently had a security breach and only told me so after my bank account had been drained. Would I trust this bank with the physical security of 300 million Americans when it has difficulty managing data security for a few million bank accounts?

And that’s the problem with the CIA. I’m sure that there are some good people who work for it, just like the manager at the local branch of my bank. However these people would be even more effective in smaller, more nimble and less bureaucratic ones than the CIA. As far as I’m concerned any organization concerned with spying should not have a sign directing to it’s headquarters from the interstate.

Does this have to do with bitterness towards their recent report exonerating Iran that even the French government doesn’t believe? Of course. But why should I believe the CIA is right about Iran today when it was wrong about Iraq 4 years ago?

In my experience working with data I have learned that it is better to have no information than unreliable information. The CIA is a large organization which produces unreliable intel. The fact that it was wrong about Iraq is more excusable since its intel was similar to independently gathered intelligence data of other countries. Anti-war folks like to hitch their star on that intelligence failure, forgetting that it wasn’t just the CIA that screwed up. The mossad, M1, French and Russian intelligence agencies all agreed that Saddam was actively hiding his program from the UN inspection teams. Saddam just didn’t fool George Bush he fooled the world.

The CIA remains Truman’s greatest mistake – not his firing of General MacArthur or his handling of the Korean War. It is a mistake that should be rectified by the next president regardless of his/her party affiliation.