Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

Obama’s Non-War

The usual course of action is that when the guns go off, we citizens are to rally ’round the flag and back our forces in the pursuit of victory. But that is a bit impossible right now – Obama and his Administration are telling us, over and over, that this isn’t a war. That we’ll be bombing the heck out of things and that lots of people will die horrific, violent deaths at our hands doesn’t count: per Obama and Co, war is only in existence is U.S. troops are on the ground doing the fighting.

So, no war – and thus no rallying ’round the flag. And even if we decided – correctly – that Obama and Co are just full of “stuff” and that this is a war so we’d better rally anyways, what would we be rallying for? Not for victory, because there can be no victory in this non-war. Its not like the enemy commander can offer to surrender to a drone. We’ll bomb a lot and kill a lot of people and this will help those who are fighting the people we’re bombing – and that, in turn, might lead others to victory. A Kurdish victory would be ok, as the Kurds seem a lot of very decent people – but it could also lead to Assad’s victory in Syria and Iran’s victory in Iraq; not exactly ideal outcomes for us. It could also lead to victory for non-ISIS, non-Assad forces in Syria, this might not work out well, either. Let’s just say I have my doubts about Administration assurances that they can pick the non-Islamist-screwball forces in Syria for us to back.

We can also get the worst of all worlds – we blow a lot of stuff up and kill a lot of people with attendant video showing what a bunch of hideous war criminals we are but after all that, Assad still rules his part of Syria, ISIS still rules vast tracts of Syria and Iraq and Iran has secured itself the part of Iraq it cares about (ie, Baghdad plus the oil fields). That sort of outcome is made doubly bad because if ISIS survives in any form, it will become the Islamist hero as it stood up to us, endured a pounding and emerged from the welter of slaughter with victory. Of course, all of this won’t fully come out until after Obama leaves office, so he probably doesn’t care in the least about it, even if he’s aware of the possibility.

This whole thing is the terribly bad decision of a man – Obama – who knows nothing of history, nothing of the world and yet sits assured that he’s the smartest guy in the room. I hope it works out – and I hope our losses are small. But the rule of thumb for war is that you either go all in, or stay all out. Our choices for ISIS were two:

1.  Go all out to war against them until they are all killed or taken, regardless of cost.

2.  Surrender to them and allow them to do as the wish.

Either course of action can have rational arguments to back them up. We have failed to choose between them – we’re just going to bomb a bit and hope for the best. I believe we will be disappointed – and maybe in a vastly worse geo-strategic situation two or three years from now.

UPDATE: Reeling from criticism about us not being at war, the Administration has decided we are at war with ISIS, just as we are against al-Qaeda. Meaning? I guess that six years from now ISIS will be around and a threat, just as al-Qaeda is still around and a threat after six years of Obama…

More Guns, Less Boko Haram

When the rest of the world is only offering you a Twitter hashtag in support, you some times have to take firm action to protect  yourself:

BAUCHI, Nigeria — Villagers in an area of Nigeria where Boko Haram operates have killed and detained scores of the extremist Islamic militants who were suspected of planning a fresh attack, the residents and a security official said.

Locals in Nigeria’s northern states have been forming vigilante groups in various areas to resist the militant group who have held more than 270 schoolgirls captive since last month.

In Kalabalge, a village about 250 kilometers (155 miles) from the Borno state capital of Maiduguri, residents said they were taking matters into their own hands because the Nigerian military is not doing enough to stem Boko Haram attacks.

On Tuesday morning, after learning about an impending attack by militants, locals ambushed two trucks with a gunmen, a security official told The Associated Press. At least 10 militants were detained, and scores were killed, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to give interviews to journalists. It was not immediately clear where the detainees were being held…

I have a friend who is from Nigeria and upon a time we were discussing his home country – which even though he has become an American, he still loves very much and he has a lot of family still living there. After a while, I asked him why the people of south Nigeria put up with it?  Why not just kick the mostly-Muslim north out of the country and have done with it? Nigeria is pretty evenly divided north and south, after all – and the guys who are causing all the ruckus are mostly from the north. Get rid of them, get rid of a large part of the problem.  My friend told me that after the Brits cleared out, the people of the south went to school and learned how to make and build – the people of the north joined the army and learned how to oppress and steal, and they won’t let the south out because the south has the oil.  If the south leaves, the north will have nothing to steal and no one to oppress.  And, so, rather stuck.

It occurred to me after that conversation that the solution, if we want to help Nigeria, is to figure out a way to arm Nigerian militias for local defense in the south. Help the people there just defend themselves and maybe either the north will go away, or will at least become a bit more respectful of the people of the south and won’t steal so often, nor kidnap little girls.  This action by the “vigilantes” (as they are described in the MSM article) is the way to go – and we should offer SEALs and other expert trainers to the Nigerian communities along with sufficient arms and ammunition.  Do that, and over a rather short period of time, the problem there will be resolved, one way or the other.

A Retired Admiral’s Take on Benghazi

The following is a letter that was re-printed in a military newsletter I get from a retired navy admiral to Bill O’Reilly regarding the entire Benghazi affair.  I originally posted this at the end of the recent Benghazi thread.

Mr. O’Reilly,

I am mad as hell because the truth about how combatant commanders and the department of state can and should protect embassies is not being clearly explained. The fact is that there are policies, precedent, resources and procedures that could and should have prevented the embassy in Benghazi from coming under attack, or defended it if it did come under attack, or vacated it if the threat was too high. The ongoing discussion on your show and elsewhere that centers on the video and subsequent cover up is necessary as is the discussion about whether or not we should have responded during the attack. But those discussions have not brought to light the fact that none of this should have happened in the first place.

Fact: The combatant commanders, in this case AFRICOM, have access to our national inventory of intelligence community resources as well as international resources in order to thoroughly understand the risks and threats in any part of their Area of Responsibility (AOR). The complete picture of what was happening in Libya should have been known by AFRICOM leaders and this should have been briefed up the chain daily.

Fact: The first two cornerstones of AFRICOM’s mission are (1) Deter and defeat transnational threats posed by al-Qa’ida and other extremist organizations and (2) Protect U.S. security interests by ensuring the safety of Americans and American interests from transnational threats… In other words it is the mission of AFRICOM to prevent exactly what happened at the embassy in Benghazi.

Fact: The policy is for AFRICOM leaders to work in-conjunction with the state department’s Regional Security Officer (RSO) to establish the threat and then work with the Joint Staff and inter-agency to quickly provide plans and resources to deny that threat.

Fact: There are units specifically designed to bolster security in embassies. The USMC has three companies of Fleet Antiterrorism Security Teams (FAST) and one of these companies (or units from it) could have been deployed to FASTEUR in Rota, Spain, as the risk materialized. Each company has six platoons of 50 men each.

Fact: In July 2003 when I was the J3 at European command (AFRICOM had not been created yet) we had a similar situation develop in Liberia whereby two warring factions were threatening the embassy in Monrovia. The EUCOM team began planning for embassy support PRIOR to Ambassador Blaney’s request. When he did ask for help, we responded immediately, worked with his staff and received SECDEF approval to deploy a single FAST team platoon from Rota to the embassy to provide security. We worked with the Joint Staff and created the mission and structure for Joint Task Force Liberia, an anti-terrorism force based upon USS Iwo Jima and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

Fact: Elements from the MEU arrived and relieved the FAST platoon. The warring parties signed a cease fire, the embassy in Monrovia was secured, no Americans were hurt.

So, the questions are:

1. What was the assessed level of threat in Libya prior to the September attack?

2. If it was not considered high then what were the intelligence failures that lead to that wrong conclusion?

3. If the threat was considered high then why wasn’t a FAST team or other resource deployed?

4. What did Ambassador Stephen’s see as his threat and what did he ask for? If he asked for help and was not provided it, that is inconceivable to me. My two bosses at EUCOM, General Chuck Wald (USAF) and General James L. Jones (USMC) would have bent over backwards to provide anything the ambassador asked for and more. They would have leaned on the Joint Staff to provide the authority to deploy and, in fact, during the Liberian situation described above, they were pushing me every day to provide solutions for the Joint Staff to approve. And should anyone forget, this was July of 2003. We were already in Afghanistan and had invaded Iraq just four months before. We were busy but not preoccupied.

Very Respectfully,
Hamlin Tallent
RADM, USN, retired

The admiral raises a lot of good points.  I guess we’ll see where this goes.  At least the right guy is chairing the select committee.  If Congressman Goudy doesn’t have the cajones to get to the whole truth in this matter, then I doubt that anyone can.

 

 

 

Quick, While the LIVs Are Distracted…..

While the LIV’s focus is on obamacare, Putin, Gwenyth Paltro’s split, the missing flight and other nonsense, CIA’s Libyan station chief put’s to rest that the Obama administration’s talking point that the whole thing started as a protest.

The chief stated at hearings there was no protest and a result of terrorist attacks on the embassy.

What difference does it make at this point in time? -thanks Hillary.

http://p.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/mar/31/cia-ignored-station-chief-in-libya-when-creating-t/

UPDATE:

While the LIVs are distracted Democrats scramble for damage control. Pro Gun Control Democrat State Senator Leland Yee Arrested for GUN TRAFFICKING among other corrupt acts, for campaign contributions.

Charges include:

  • Clandestine meetings with an undercover agent to secure as much as $2 million in high-power weaponry in exchange for payments to Yee and his political campaign. In one of those meetings, Yee assures the agent, who holds himself out to be East Coast Mafia, “Do I think we can make some money? I think we can make some money.”
  • Deals with an agent posing as an Atlanta businessman backing a fictitious software company called Well-Tech, seeking Yee’s help, including an attempt to secure a contract with the state Department of Public Health in exchange for a $10,000 check for the secretary of state campaign,
  • Offering to help an agent posing as an Arizona medical marijuana industry insider looking to expand into California. Yee, again in exchange for campaign contributions, introduced the undercover agent to unidentified legislators and promised political support, particularly if elected to statewide office.
  • An agreement, at the urging of the undercover agent through Jackson, for Yee to honor the Ghee Kung Tong, the organization of suspected Chinese crime kingpin Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, with a proclamation, despite the senator’s worries about Chow being a “gangster.” Yee signed the proclamation in exchange for a campaign check from the agent.

http://www.mercurynews.com/crime-courts/ci_25453464/leland-yee-corruption-case-state-senator-faces-uphill

Little mention in the media.  Meanwhile, HE STILL GETS PAID WHILE SUSPENDED.  It is interesting to note that his bail was HALF that of the so-called creator of the video that “caused the protests in Benghazi”…. only in California.

Putin Lives in the Real World

By the time Japan ran up the white flag in August of 1945, the United States had produced nearly 61,000 tanks, 285,000 air craft, 147 capital ships, 41,000 cannon and more than 12 million rifles.  Using this material, we had killed or captured more than a million enemy soldiers and dropped well more than two million tons of explosives on Germany and Japan (not counting the atomic bombs) and killed somewhere in the range of two million German and Japanese civilians.  Our enemies were cratered wastelands entirely at our mercy.  Peering up from the rubble, the world drew a very vital lesson:  you don’t want to fight the United States of America.

This lesson was tested, of course.  First in Korea – where potential enemies learned that you could draw the United States into a war and not suffer complete destruction – but you had to be willing to absorb immense casualties at the hands of American forces disposing of more firepower than anyone could possibly imagine (in return for the privilege of killing at bit more than 33,000 Americans, the North Koreans and Chinese exchanged at least 400,000 military deaths and 1.5 million civilian deaths).  It was re-tested in Vietnam and finally confirmed – as long as you were willing to lose your people at a fantastic rate, eventually the Americans will get tired and leave, as long as the United States, itself, wasn’t at risk.  But, still,  those piles of smoking rubble in Germany and Japan kept the world entirely unwilling to tangle with the United States in a fight to the death.  And, so, no general wars since 1945.

But such a state of affairs only lasts as long as the world is convinced that fighting the United States is something to take into consideration.  Small scale = can be done, at enormous cost.  Large scale = national suicide.  But what if it comes to pass that you don’t have to worry either about large scale or small scale war with the United States?  Then you get the invasion of Crimea.

The problem Obama has – and its common throughout the leadership elite  of the Western World – is that they have convinced themselves that it wasn’t American power which kept the peace.  Indeed, they have convinced themselves that more than anything else, American power has been the threat to peace (and they use things like Korea, Vietnam and Iraq as proof – never mind that in none of these cases did the United States just blindly go in for aggressive action…right or wrong, in all of these cases a threat was perceived prior to American action). To an Obama, the world is kept at peace by international law; by the United Nations; by NGO’s; by conferences at swank, European resorts.  Everyone agrees to be nice – and see how well it works!  But, here’s the thing, it only worked because at the back of it all were the smoking piles of rubble in Germany and Japan circa 1945 and a worry that really challenging the post-war settlement would mean a new World War with the United States.  But Obama and his like don’t see it like that.  Putin, however, does.

With the decline of American power and the global perception that the United States simply lacks the grit to carry out a long, grinding fight to a victorious finish we have returned to the world of 1938 – precisely when the world held American power at a discount figuring that we probably wouldn’t fight, to begin with, and that if we did, we wouldn’t stick it out (it really cannot be stressed enough that the leaders of both Germany and Japan figured the American people simply lacked guts…that we were too soft to fight it out like men in desperate battle).  Putin isn’t doing anything but living in the real world – and the real world of 2014 is the international anarchy of 1914, prior to the application of overwhelming American power to the globe 1941-45.  In this real world, you grab what you think you can get away with – you know you won’t have to fight even a small, expensive (but ultimately victorious) war against an America which just gets tired and neither will you risk a World War which would bring all of America’s might to bear until your country is reduced to a pile of smoking rubble.

It is an open question as to whether this will work out badly for the world – we simply don’t know.  Perhaps if we hadn’t intervened in World War One things would have been better in the long run?  Maybe if we had dodged the World War Two bullet then having the Japanese Empire run Asia would not be as bad as China attempting to run Asia?  A revived Russian Empire might put a definite check on Turkish and Iranian ambitions, after all.  But while we don’t know how this will come out, there’s no sense getting mad a Putin or acting like he’s not behaving rationally.  He’s doing what he thinks is best – that we think it wrong is immaterial.  Unless we want to declare war on Russia, there’s not much we can do, after all.

But here is the risk – without fear of America’s overwhelming power (and it still is overwhelming – it still could take on, for instance, Russia and China at the same time and beat them into the ground), things could get a bit dangerous out in the world.  It could be that as nations take the lid off and start competing for territory, resources and prestige that one or more of them decides to challenge us directly, thinking that we can be cowed – or, if not cowed, then easily beaten.  It would be much better, I think, that once having won overwhelming global dominance that we had maintained it – we have let the scepter slip from our hands, however, and there’s no getting it back without war.  The world is now at genuine risk of World War Three.

This is not just Obama’s fault – though he has put the final touches on it.  This stretches back to the immediate post-WWII era, when we didn’t firmly put Russia in her place…and when we failed to pick up the real challenge in Korea and take out China and Russia.  It is the result of thinking that the world is governed by something other than force; that sweet reasonableness and treaties make the world safe.  They don’t.  Power and the willingness to apply it is what makes the world safe – or, as safe as it can be.  Putin is living in the real world.  So is China.  So is Iran.  The sooner we join them there the sooner we can start to rationally think about what we want – and where we’ll draw a line and tell them, “thus far and no further”.

What is Diplomacy?

There have been several attempts at defining this.  Webster has it as “the work of maintaining good relations between the governments of different countries”, but that is a lot of nonsense.  You don’t need good relations between governments – in fact, good relations can some times hamper diplomacy (ties of sentiment are deadly when dealing with intra-governmental issues).  Will Rogers came closer when he said, “diplomacy is the art of saying ‘nice doggy’ until you can find a rock”.  But that isn’t quite right, either – because the purpose of diplomacy is to not have to use the rock.  But, make no mistake about it, the rock must be part of the equation.

I’ll say that diplomacy is the art of adjusting competing claims between actors of relatively equal power with war as the punishment for diplomatic failure.

It has to be between entities of roughly equal power or it isn’t diplomacy – it is either the stronger imposing its will on the weaker, or the stronger being generous to the weaker for whatever reason.  Only between equals can there be diplomacy – two equals (or two groups who are roughly equal) can sit down at the table and try to adjust their differences, all the while with the knowledge that failure to come to agreement means war – and being as it would be a war between roughly equal powers, no one on either side could be entirely sure of the result, and so the incentive is strongly in favor of coming to a deal.  Unless, that is, one side is determined upon war no matter what.  In such a case, diplomacy also cannot happen – because if one side is determined upon war no matter what and the other side is determined on peace no matter what, then the aggressive side is the stronger and will impose its will on the weaker…and, once again, you don’t have diplomacy.  Let’s look at some examples to illustrate my definition:

1.  It is said that we negotiated a treaty with Panama in 1903 in order to build the canal.  We did nothing of the kind.  We told Panama what we wanted and bade them sign on the dotted line or we wouldn’t build the canal, which is the only reason for Panama to exist.  This was the stronger imposing its will on the weaker.  Not diplomacy.

2.  It is said we negotiated a security treaty with Japan in 1951.  We did nothing of the kind.  Because Japan occupies a strategically vital area in the Asia-Pacific, we promised to protect Japan in return for obtaining certain privileges for our military forces in Japan.  It was a good move by us because Japan is a useful ally to have – but the security of the United States does not in any way depend upon the existence of Japan, and its not like a Japanese army would ever arrive in the United States to help defend us against foreign aggression. This was the stronger being generous to the weaker. Not diplomacy.

3.  When Chamberlain, Hitler, Daladier and Mussolini gathered in Munich in 1938, three of the four were determined to have peace at any price, one of them was determined upon war no matter what.  That it wound up with an agreement rather than war was because of the rather startling amount of surrender that Chamberlain and Daladier agreed to – they eventually decided that Hitler should get the spoils of war without war (keep in mind, that if they hadn’t agreed, Hitler would have gone to war in 1938 rather than waiting until 1939).  This was rather unique in human history (to that point, at least) but it still illustrates the point:  with one side willing war no matter what and the other willing peace no matter what, the warlike side becomes immediately the stronger and imposes its will upon the weaker.  Not diplomacy.

4.  When the USSR challenged the United States by putting nuclear missiles in Cuba, both affected parties were roughly equal in power and both sides were equally determined to avoid war.  Negotiations were tense and many fears were raised, but the fact of the matter is that as both were equally strong and no one was willing war, a deal was bound to happen unless some horrific accident took place.  The basics of the deal eventually agreed to were Russian nukes out of Cuba, American nukes out of Turkey.  That is diplomacy.

Now, why bring all this up?  Because as we have gone through the Ukraine crisis, no one is understanding that among all the varied things going on, diplomacy isn’t one of them.  Diplomacy will never be one of them – it can’t be as there aren’t two equal sides involved her.  Oh, to be sure, the power of the United States, alone, is enough to fight and defeat Russia…and the combined power of just Germany and France could probably make short work of Putin’s burgeoning empire.  But no one who dislikes Putin’s actions is putting on the table anything like the force necessary to give Putin pause and make him want to turn to diplomacy…which would, once again, be an adjustment of interests between equal powers and war as the price of failure.  It is my belief that Putin does not desire war – not with us, not with the European Union, not with anyone.  If there were power to match his power, he would climb down and negotiate a diplomatic settlement.  Such a settlement would, of course, have to grant Russia some of her desires – that is the thing about diplomacy: it is never a matter of anyone getting all they want.  It is a deal between equals and each gives a bit, because they don’t want a war which would be more costly than whatever it is they have to surrender to reach a deal.  But with a complete vacuum of power opposite Russia, there is no need for Russia to fear war, and thus no reason to use diplomacy.  Might as well grab all you can while the getting is good.

All the huffing and puffing of Obama, Kerry and the collective world won’t do anything.  To be sure, Putin might graciously agree to eventually sign something which will be hailed as a diplomatic settlement, but you can rest assured – unless there comes along a credible threat of war against Russia – that whatever settlement is agreed to will be entirely in accordance with Putin’s view of Russia’s interests.  In other words, he’ll merely take what he wants at the moment, leave an option to grab what he hasn’t got and attend an international conference to ratify what he’s done.  It’ll be a nice meal and pictures taken and his own press back home will laud him (or else!) as the greatest Russian in a century, etc.

Now that I’ve said all that, what do I think we should do?  Normally, I would advocate a vigorous American response to this but given our current condition and our current President, I’m saying that surrender isn’t so bad.  To be sure, its bad for the people who will come under Putin’s embrace, but I’m not so sure how a half-hearted and incompetently conducted military campaign leading to eventual American failure would help – and, of course, such a thing would actually harm.  As under Obama we are bound to have nothing but the aforementioned half-hearted, etc, I figure we just cut to the chase and make the best of a bad situation.  We can start to repair this in 2017 – hopefully under leadership which isn’t quite as bad as Obama’s.  It is a sad and distressing position for America to be in, but we have no one to blame but ourselves – we might be able to assign our 2008 vote to well-intentioned folly, but our 2012 vote was a gigantic mistake with sufficient facts clearly known.  Now we just have to pay the price for it.

Is Latvia Next?

A bit worrisome:

Last week, I warned that the next step for Russia after seizing the Crimea over the status of ethnic Russians would take place in the Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia. All it would take, I argued, would be for Moscow to foment unrest in those ethnic-Russian communities, antagonize the governments in both states, and then insist that Russia had to intervene to protect them. More than a quarter of the population in both countries consist of ethnic Russians, while in Ukraine it only came to 18%.

Now it looks like Moscow will skip over the unrest pretext and demand the right to act as economic protector  in Latvia…

Russia is claiming – probably correctly, to a certain extent – that ethnic Russians in Latvia (as well as in Lithuania and Estonia) are not well treated.  Given the absolutely cruel and brutal treatment the Baltic people suffered at the hands of Russians under the USSR, this is no surprise, at all.

All three nations are NATO allies and members of the European Union – if Russia challenges the independence of these three, small nations, then it is our bound duty to defend them, even up to war.  We’ll see how this plays out – but our weakness (and the military impotence of the European Union) is encouraging Russia to get aggressive.  Of course, this new pressure on the Baltic front just might be a blind…Russia will, as part of a “deal” officially back down on the Baltic States in return for our backing down even further on Ukraine.  We’ll see.