Using Water As A Weapon Of War

Herschel Smith · 03 Aug 2014 · 7 Comments

Next City: In a war, anything can be a weapon. In a particularly ruthless war, such as the conflict that has been raging in Syria for more than three years, those weapons are often turned against civilians, making any semblance of normal life impossible. Such is the case, experts say, with the way the nation’s water supply is being manipulated to inflict suffering on the population. According to an article posted by Chatham House, a London-based independent policy institute, water…… [read more]

Our Moment of Truth in Afghanistan: Karzai Orders Halt to Airstrikes

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 3 months ago

Hamid Karzai has raised the ante in the campaign in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded Tuesday that the U.S.-led coalition stop all airstrikes on Afghan homes, drawing his government closer than ever to direct opposition to the American presence here.

The comments could complicate President Obama’s looming decision on how quickly to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Even for Western officials accustomed to Karzai’s rebukes, his latest remarks were cause for deep concern, because they went further than before in calling for radical change in how NATO fights its war.

Tuesday’s demand followed his earlier insistence that foreign forces end night raids, stop unilateral operations, and stay off roads and out of Afghan villages. With each call, Karzai has outlined in ever more stark lines a vision of a vastly less aggressive U.S. military posture against the Taliban. The stance is particularly risky for him politically because his government relies on NATO for its political and economic survival.

“I warn NATO forces that a repeat of airstrikes on the houses of Afghanistan’s people will not be allowed,” Karzai said at a news conference at the presidential palace. “The people of Afghanistan will not allow this to happen anymore, and there is no excuse for such strikes.”

He added that foreign forces are close to “the behavior of an occupation” and the “Afghan people know how to deal with that” — a thinly veiled threat that Afghans could rise up against NATO and drive them out as with past occupying armies. He said Afghanistan would be “forced to take unilateral action” if the bombardment of homes did not cease, although he did not specify what that action would be.

“History is a witness [to] how Afghanistan deals with occupiers,” he said.

Karzai lacks the authority to order NATO to stop airstrikes on homes. But his criticism strikes at a central weapon for U.S. military planners: Airstrikes have surged during the past year and numbered nearly 300 in April.

The immediate provocation for Karzai’s remarks was a U.S. military airstrike in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province that killed at least nine civilians, including children. But Karzai’s statement also was the culmination of years of complaints about civilian casualties and aggressive NATO military operations.

Some Western diplomats in Kabul who have worked closely with Karzai think these statements reflect his authentic beliefs and are not simply an attempt to score domestic political points. They say he is deeply frustrated by his inability as president to exert real authority over the foreign presence in Afghanistan …

“I think part of him is crying out for help,” said one senior Western diplomat in Kabul, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Poor Karzai.  Western diplomats.  Authentic beliefs.  And deep frustration.  “Crying out for help.”  Huh.  Perhaps it might have been appropriate, upon fielding his demand, to tell him to go arrest his criminal brother Wali Karzai, have honest elections, stop releasing Taliban prisoners, and stop trying to ally with the enemy.  So what about the specific instance that catalyzed this demand?

Although U.S. and NATO officials say they have made reducing civilian deaths a top priority, they concede that it is almost impossible to eliminate them entirely, particularly as insurgents fight in and among the population. They said the deaths last week in Helmand were such an example.

On Saturday, a U.S. Marine patrol was attacked by five insurgents in the Now Zad district of Helmand, killing one Marine. U.S. military officials described the assault as an attack from three sides and said the Marines were “pinned down” by gunfire. The insurgents then took cover in a walled house and continued to fight until the Marines called in a Harrier fighter jet for an airstrike. “Unfortunately, the compound the insurgents purposefully occupied was later discovered to house innocent civilians,” U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. John Toolan, the NATO commander in Afghanistan’s southwest, said in a statement.

Petraeus’s tactical directive on airstrikes says that troops cannot call in close air support on a housing compound unless they are under an imminent threat; simply watching insurgents run into a house is not sufficient grounds for an airstrike.

“Everything we’ve seen indicates this was within the current directive,” said one U.S. military official in Kabul. “The only way they could get out of the situation and survive was to call in close air support.”

Perhaps Karzai wants to see dead Marines.  Perhaps we should completely ignore the one who is “crying out for help.”  Perhaps it’s time to withdraw from Afghanistan if we’re going to kowtow to ridiculous demands that harm the troops.

Curiously, this article has been revised since original issue.  It originally stated that the Afghan government was already involved – even to the point of giving approval – for many of the high value target raids in Afghanistan.  We are already kowtowing to Karzai’s ridiculous demands.

NYT Attempts to Plug Huge, New Oil Find in Texas (and other disinformation campaigns)

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 3 months ago

To amend the proverb slightly, what the The New York Times giveth, The New York Times taketh away.

In this weekend story online, we see once again the duplicitous nature of the State Run Media:

CATARINA, Tex. — Until last year, the 17-mile stretch of road between this forsaken South Texas village and the county seat of Carrizo Springs was a patchwork of derelict gasoline stations and rusting warehouses.

Now the region is in the hottest new oil play in the country, with giant oil terminals and sprawling RV parks replacing fields of mesquite. More than a dozen companies plan to drill up to 3,000 wells around here in the next 12 months.

The Texas field, known as the Eagle Ford, is just one of about 20 new onshore oil fields that advocates say could collectively increase the nation’s oil output by 25 percent within a decade — without the dangers of drilling in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico or the delicate coastal areas off Alaska.

There is only one catch: the oil from the Eagle Ford and similar fields of tightly packed rock can be extracted only by using hydraulic fracturing, a method that uses a high-pressure mix of water, sand and hazardous chemicals to blast through the rocks to release the oil inside.

The technique, also called fracking, has been widely used in the last decade to unlock vast new fields of natural gas, but drillers only recently figured out how to release large quantities of oil, which flows less easily through rock than gas. As evidence mounts that fracking poses risks to water supplies, the federal government and regulators in various states are considering tighter regulations on it.

This article uses the well-worn rhetorical technique that grudgingly acknowledges a seemingly good bit of news that runs counter to the Left’s narrative while seeking to undermine it entirely.   In this case, the NYT announces the incredible news of oil field discoveries within the continental U.S. that have the potential to exceed the daily output of entire, major oil producers but, alas, must point out that these gains may never be realized because (sigh) the process for extracting the oil “poses risks to water supplies.”   It is the poison pill.    Concede that which can no longer be concealed but include just enough disinformation or obfuscating facts as to render the entire portion unpalatable.   And so the NYT inserts the specious claim that “evidence mounts that fracking poses risks to water supplies…”  This is pure nonsense by the NYT.

A recent article by the Institute for Energy Research contains a good explanation of the process of fracking (or “hydraulic fracturing”) and points out that there the controversy over fracking is largely misleading if not fabricated.   My intention here, however, is not to explore the merits of the process itself and settle one way or another whether fracking is ultimately safe.   The aim here is to point out the dishonest approach that the Left uses in attempts to negate developments that threaten their narrative.

Powerline recently noted how The NYT was caught distorting the record on fracking.  Notice how the NYT article uses insinuation to mislead here as well.   Having been caught in their prior article claiming that there were “numerous documented cases” of water contamination caused by fracking, the NYT in this story resorts to the claim that “evidence mounts” with regard to the evils of fracking without stating any, actual instances where it has been documented or revealing that, in their own correction, the NYT stated that there are “few documented cases.”   The IER article goes further and states that there are no documented cases.

The Left’s narrative for America includes the notion that domestic energy supplies are non-existent.   If confronted on this fable, the Left claims that our resources are quickly shrinking and any newly discovered resources are too difficult, hazardous, expensive, or environmentally catastrophic to extract.   In essence, the Left’s narrative is for Americans to get used to expensive and scarce energy supplies that will necessarily mean a dramatic restructuring of society (loss of individual freedoms) that can only be accomplished by a domineering, central government.

When Obama says that we cannot “drill our way out of” high gasoline prices, he is engaging in this subterfuge.   When the lease of new oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico remains at a standstill for over a year with no, legitimate explanation, it is due in large part to the commitment of the Left in stopping all hydrocarbon use which forms a central tenet in their environmental religion.

Considering the diametrically opposed views of the Left and Right in this country, it may not be too much of an exaggeration to say that we are in the midst of a Cold Civil War in which each election cycle offers another critical battle.  It is becoming increasingly clear that there is very little room for compromise with the Left.   Their vision for the U.S. is so foreign, so un-American (a phrase itself that used to have a clear meaning but has now been rendered ambiguous by the Left) that there can only be one side or the other that will survive.

Further Analysis of the Jose Guerena Raid

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 3 months ago

In The Jose Guerena Raid: A Demonstration of Tactical Incompetence we saw the helmet camera video released by Sheriff Dupnik of the raid on the home of Jose Guerena.  I observed the following.

First, Mr. Guerena’s weapon, contrary to initial accounts by the SWAT team, was never taken off of safety.  The team took no shots from him.  Second, the team mills around for a while before breaching the home.  Third, they don’t form into a stack.  Fourth, absurdly, they knock and allow only four seconds for a response.  Fifth, one of the members falls in the doorway.  Sixth, upon shots being fired (by the SWAT team), more than one team member begins backing away from the incident.  Seventh, one of the team members who initially backed away moves forward to fire shots over the heads of other team members who are in the home (it’s a wonder that SWAT team members didn’t get shot by their own team).  All the while, several team members are standing aimlessly outside the home, doing nothing.  Then to top it all off, even though medical responders arrived within minutes, they weren’t allowed into the home for one hour and fourteen minutes.

Since then Bob Owens has done a good job of outlining in more detail why this was tactically a bad incident.  But I also received a note from a Police Department Captain (his name and city will remain anonymous).  He responds to the raid.

I am curious to see what the investigation reveals and interested in what information comes out.  Civilian police are not nearly as well-trained as military personnel going to war. In higher risk situations, it is preferable to have a team with a little more training and equipment than street officers.  The somewhat casual appearance of the officers indicated they probably didn’t anticipate armed resistance even if higher risk.  In a forced entry raid, if the homeowner displayed a weapon, he may have been hit with automatic weapons (accounting for the large number of rounds.)  The homeowner was obviously deceased immediately so there was no need to allow the paramedics in to contaminate the crime scene.  Medics may have been sent in later to make a legally-required pronouncement of death if Arizona requires a medical professional to do same.  My primary concern would be: what did the officers see when they entered, did they have the correct house and how reliable was the information used for the search warrant?  If the homeowner displayed the weapon as they made entry, they probably had no choice but to shoot.  If the first shot is not yours in that type of situation, you don’t go back home that day.

My friend raises a number of important questions and issues, so let’s go into more detail on the raid and why this was not a good choice of strategy or tactics.  First, the tactics.

To begin with, the failure was set into motion by their confusion as to procedure, and their setup of the operation.  This was neither a no-knock raid nor a knock-and-question visit.  It was the worst of both worlds.  The “tactical team” turned on the siren for a moment, whether by accident or intentionally, and then knocked on the door.  They could have used the element of concealment and surprise by not announcing their presence, but they chose to give at least a cursory announcement of the team’s presence on the grounds of the home.

Next, they didn’t allow that announcement to take effect and perform its intended function, i.e., to persuade the home’s occupants to come to the door and take questions, allow the police into their home, view a warrant, etc.  By doing what they did, the police set up their own failure.  They gave Mr. Guerena long enough to grab a weapon from a sound sleep, but not long enough to ascertain what was going on.  It is well known that decisions within 30 minutes of waking are worse than those made in a drunken state, and driving is not advisable just after waking.  In this case, they forced Mr. Guerena to decide whether to defend his family, a decision he ultimately made well, where he noticed that they were police officers and never took his weapon off of safety.  Unfortunately, the police were not as disciplined.

Next, they breached the doorway, but stayed in the “funnel” far too long.  In fact, most of the officers never left the funnel, causing unnecessary hazard to themselves and the balance of the team.  Next, they were not well-trained enough or disciplined enough to withhold fire when they saw Mr. Guerena with a weapon.  They used what I will call Fallujah tactics.  Think Operation Al Fajr, or Operation Alljah.  Every home in Iraq was allowed at least one weapon, and it was usually a Kalashnikov.  The number of times that Soldiers or Marines entered the homes of Iraqis only to find that they have weapons, perhaps at their fingertips, cannot be counted.  Yet they did it, and they learned military operations on urban terrain (MOUT).  They became accustomed to the threat and risk, and they learned that split second decision-making that accomplished the mission.

In this case, Sheriff Dupnik’s tactical team made no such judgment.  They used an “if anything moves kill it” mentality (Fallujah, Iraq tactics).  Except this isn’t Fallujah, Iraq.  This is Tuscon, Arizona.  This is completely inappropriate for homes in America.  Finally, it they had stopped shooting at two shots and allowed medical aid, Mr. Guerena might have been saved.  As it was, he was their last concern.  In this case, it was supposedly a drug related raid, and no drugs or contraband were found in this home.  And Mr. Guerena is dead.

Now for the strategy.  The police department could have decided to wait until Mr. Guerena was headed to work and accompany him with several units until they found a safe place to stop and question him.  They could have executed a search warrant of his home, with him absent, at the same time, where there would have been no decision to be made regarding defense of life and family.  In this case they would have found that whatever reason that justified the search warrant to begin with was ill-conceived and mistaken.  As it is, Mr. Guerena is dead.  There could have been a thousand such options other than a day-time raid with automatic weapons.  But they didn’t choose any of those options.

If police department wish to implement military style tactics in situations that demand such tactics (e.g., hostage situations), then they need to become skilled in such tactics and fund and train the tactical teams in a manner worthy of the tactics in use.  Things such as parallel deployments with the military to various theaters around the world comes to mind.

Otherwise, police departments are simply going to have to be wiser and more sophisticated regarding their strategic approach to what they believe to be dangerous people, and corral those people to locations where the risk is minimized to the potential victims, the police, and innocent bystanders.  Any other approach is simply malfeasance on the part of the police.

Last, I call on the House Subcommittee of the Constitution or the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security to investigate the militarization of police tactics within America, and whether such tactics comport with the constitutional rights of the citizens of the United States.  While I am sympathetic to my friend’s concern about going home at the end of his shift, that sympathy is mitigated when I witness awful tactics and even worse strategy.

Concerning the NRA Position on the Rand Paul Gun Amendment

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 3 months ago

In what is uncustomary for an opinion and analysis journal like this one, I’m going to come out and flatly say that I don’t fully understand what’s going on behind the scenes.  Mitch McConnel (and other GOP senators) came out against Rand Paul’s amendment to the patriot act renewal.

Adding further confusion for me, the NRA weighed in against the amendment as well.  But expecting a clear outline of the reasoning process behind the NRA’s disagreement, I am treated to this bit of subterfuge.

As often happens with complex issues, NRA’s position on Sen. Rand Paul’s defeated PATRIOT Act amendment is being mis-reported by those who either don’t understand the facts, or prefer their own version of “facts.”

This amendment was rejected by 85 Senators, which included many of the strongest Second Amendment supporters in the U.S. Senate.  Unfortunately, Senator Paul chose not to approach us on this issue before moving ahead. His amendment, which only received 10 votes, was poorly drafted and could have resulted in more problems for gun owners than it attempted to fix. For this reason, the NRA did not take a position on the amendment.

To be more specific about the amendment and its problems, the amendment would have prohibited use of PATRIOT Act legal authority for any “investigation or procurement of firearms records which is not authorized under [the Gun Control Act].” There have been no reports of the current PATRIOT Act being abused with respect to firearms records, however supporters suggested a far-fetched scenario in which every firearms sales record in the country–tens or hundreds of millions of documents dating back to 1968–could be sought.  Again, we nor anyone else is aware of any case in which this authority has been used to abuse gun owners.  (In fact, published reports indicate that few of these orders are ever sought for any reason.)

In particular, the amendment appeared to be aimed at so-called “section 215 letters”–orders from the FBI requiring the disclosure of “tangible things” such as records and documents.

Under the current PATRIOT Act, an application for this type of order with respect to firearms sales records has to be approved no lower than the director or deputy director of the FBI, or the Executive Assistant Director for National Security.  The application is made to a federal judge based on “a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation … to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”  The judge has the power to modify the order and must direct the use of “minimization procedures” to protect the privacy of Americans.

If the Paul amendment were adopted, the FBI would have used other ways to access whatever firearms records it might need for intelligence or anti-terrorism investigations. This is especially troublesome for gun owners.

This would result in United States Attorneys simply demanding the same records through grand jury subpoenas, which require no judicial approval before issuance. Fighting a subpoena after the fact can be very costly and carries legal risks of its own, including possible charges for obstruction of justice.

Even worse, the government would have used the Gun Control Act’s provision that allows the Attorney General to “inspect or examine the inventory and records of [a licensee] without … reasonable cause or warrant” during a criminal investigation.  That means by simply characterizing its activities as a “criminal investigation,” it would enter a licensee’s premises and demand these records without “reasonable cause or warrant”–in other words, without judicial oversight of any kind, and without any of the procedural limits imposed by the PATRIOT Act.

Therefore, given all of these potential problems for gun owners, the NRA could not support this poorly drafted amendment.

What?  Come again?  Can someone please try to remove the confusion and contradictions in Chris Cox’s statement for me?  This makes no sense to me.  I’m left to concur with Sean at SayUncle.  ”I’m scratching my head on a few points. Can someone give a high level play-by-play on this?”

What did Paul’s amendment do?  Why did Mitch McConnell disagree with it?  Why did the NRA demur?  Were the reasons compelling and persuasive?

The Jose Guerena Raid: A Demonstration of Tactical Incompetence

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 3 months ago

Helmet camera footage of the SWAT team raid on the home of Jose Guerena has been released.

Bob Owen noticed the same thing I did.  One of the team members fell in the doorway upon breaching and entering the home.  The video speaks for itself, but by way of summary, let’s observe the following.

First, Mr. Guerena’s weapon, contrary to initial accounts by the SWAT team, was never taken off of safety.  The team took no shots from him.  Second, the team mills around for a while before breaching the home.  Third, they don’t form into a stack.  Fourth, absurdly, they knock and allow only four seconds for a response.  Fifth, one of the members falls in the doorway.  Sixth, upon shots being fired (by the SWAT team), more than one team member begins backing away from the incident.  Seventh, one of the team members who initially backed away moves forward to fire shots over the heads of other team members who are in the home (it’s a wonder that SWAT team members didn’t get shot by their own team).  All the while, several team members are standing aimlessly outside the home, doing nothing.  Then to top it all off, even though medical responders arrived within minutes, they weren’t allowed into the home for one hour and fourteen minutes.

The Sheriff may as well have sent the Keystone Cops to raid the home.  These clowns shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near weapons.

UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the LINK.

UPDATE #2: So I asked a certain former Marine I know (combat tour of Fallujah in 2007) what he thought about this particular raid. Here are his thoughts. This would be hilarious if a man hadn’t died in the process. Tactically speaking, their raid was foolish, and they are guilty of murder. So this SWAT team wanted to “get some?” Great. Go join the Marine Corps and deploy to a foreign country and fight insurgents. You’re supposed to be peace officers, to prevent things like this from happening. As it was, Mr. Guerena thought his home was being invaded, and so what would you do in this circumstance? Well, you go get a weapon and post up. You send rounds down range to protect your family. Mr. Guerena even had the good discipline not to do that. This whole incident was evil.

UPDATE #3: I’ve had a chance to talk with my son about this some more, and a good summary of what this raid was like is to say that “It looks like the Iraqi Army raiding a house.” I had known that the ISF wasn’t present during much of his time in Fallujah (most of the security forces were Marines and IPs), so I asked him, “Why do you say that? Have you seen the Iraqi Army raiding a house?” He said yes, and I responded by asking him what it looked like? He said “It looks like that. Just like that. People falling all over each other, emptying their weapons, shooting at everything, and shooting at nothing.”

Project Gunrunner: White House and DoJ Knowledge and Oversight

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 3 months ago

In what is apparently a newly discovered document concerning the scandal involving the BATFE and weapons trafficking to Mexico, MSNBC has released Project Gunrunner: A Cartel Focused Strategy, September 2010, U.S. Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

World Net Daily points out that:

Gunowners of America President  Larry Pratt says that the official U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobaco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, document linked on MSNBC suggests a coordinated effort between the bureau, the Department of Justice and the White House.

“In the Gunrunner document, they talk about the need to have policies that are consistent with policies directed by the White House and the Department of Justice,” Pratt explained.

I concur, but I think that the word “suggest” is too weak.  Page 5 contains the following.

… over the past few months enforcement strategies (and other guidance) that address firearms trafficking to Mexican cartels have been developed and released by the White House and the Department of Justice. It is essential that ATF efforts support strategies promoted by the White House and Department of Justice. An examination of these and other strategies reveals similarities among the strategies, but also suggests that some revisions to ATF’s current strategy are necessary.

The context is that the report doesn’t claim to supersede project gunrunner, but to incorporate and expand it.  The report is not a request for consistency (that would be the function of an interdepartmental memorandum), but a claim of consistency.  The BATFE is following the direction of the DoJ and ultimately the White House.

So ends the possibility that this administration can claim plausible deniability.  Whatever else we know about this scandal, we know that the highest levels of the administration approved the use of federal resources to catalyze violation of federal law concerning straw purchases.  We also know that Mexican drug cartels have weapons that they otherwise wouldn’t have all because of this project.

The administration must answer for this malfeasance.

The report can be found here: Project Gunrunner.

Continuing Fallout from Bin Laden Raid: Growing Chinese Role in Pakistan?

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 3 months ago

The raid to kill Bin Laden in Abbatabad, Pakistan, like a nuclear blast, has fallout beyond the immediate event.

One of those effects is the apparent impetus for closer relations between Pakistan and China.

The Economist noted earlier this month that Pakistan made no secret of praising its relations with China in the aftermath of the Bin Laden raid.

PAKISTAN’S ambassador to Beijing, Masood Kahn, was this week fully armed with metaphors to describe the robust friendship between the two countries. “We say it is higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, stronger than steel, dearer than eyesight, sweeter than honey, and so on.”

The relationship is indeed a geopolitical keystone for both countries. Pakistan serves as China’s closest friend both in South Asia and among Islamic countries. So close, indeed, that many suspect China has asked Pakistan for the valuable remains of the American stealth helicopter abandoned during the bin Laden raid. Meanwhile, China can help counterbalance Pakistan’s arch-rival, India, including in Afghanistan.

Pakistan seems keen to foster the impression that new tensions with America might nudge it even closer towards China. In his blustery speech to parliament on May 9th Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani struck out on an odd tangent to praise China as an “all-weather friend”, providing Pakistan with strength and inspiration. Not to be outdone, President Asif Zardari issued an effusive statement of his own about a friendship “not matched by any other relationship between two sovereign countries”.

Others have noted the attempts by Pakistan to curry favor with China as well.   The Wall Street Journal Online has this:

BEIJING—Pakistan’s defense minister said China has agreed to take over operation of the strategically positioned but underused port of Gwadar, and that Islamabad would like the Chinese to build a base there for the Pakistani navy.

Ahmad Mukhtar gave no clear timetable on the possible change at Gwadar, on Pakistan’s western coast, which is currently managed by a Singaporean government company. But his statement Saturday is the latest illustration of how Pakistan is portraying China as a powerful alternative ally and aid source if the U.S. scales down military assistance for Islamabad in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s killing.

On the whole, given the duplicity of Pakistan and the inevitable conflict in the Pakistani tribal areas, putting some distance between the U.S. and Pakistan may be beneficial in the long run.   In other words:  if you want to jump into bed with China, good luck with their cold feet.

Both The Economist and The Wall Street Journal Online note the decidedly ambivalent feelings about Pakistan by the Chinese.  The Economist cautions:

But if Islamabad is worried about falling out with Washington and hopes to get more out of Beijing, it may be in for disappointment. According to Zhu Feng of Peking University, such calculations based on “the traditional mentality of power politics” are misplaced. China’s robust, longstanding ties with Pakistan stand on their own merits, he says, and owe nothing to America’s standing in Pakistan. Both China and America want a stable Pakistan.

For all that, China’s dealings with Pakistan have always been conducted with one eye on India. Last year Beijing chose to supply Pakistan with two new civilian nuclear reactors, even though the deal appeared to violate Chinese non-proliferation commitments. It was a boon not only for Pakistan’s energy-starved economy. It was, as Mr Zhu points out, also a way for China to counterbalance a controversial nuclear deal reached earlier between America and India.

China and Pakistan have a lustily growing trade relationship, worth almost $9 billion last year. China provides military gear, including fighter jets and frigates. Some Chinese infrastructure projects in Pakistan have strategic implications. They include ports on the Arabian Sea and a proposed rail project which has yet to be approved, but which would arouse controversy, and Indian ire, by running through contested territory in Kashmir.

Still, China’s commitment to Pakistan has its limits. After devastating floods last year, America gave Pakistan $690m, 28% of all international aid. China’s contribution was a mere $18m. According to Andrew Small of the German Marshall Fund, an American policy institute, Pakistan may be “talking up the ‘China option’ beyond where the Chinese are willing to go.” China, he reckons, will be reluctant to tilt too far towards what might look like an anti-India alliance”. Despite border disagreements, China wants to keep its relations with India in reasonable order.

What is more, Pakistan’s chronic instability and its failure, whether by design or incompetence, to suppress extremism make Pakistan as hard a partner for China to trust as for America. “Sweeter than honey” may be plenty sweet enough.

The WSJ sounds a similar note:

China is eager to expand its influence in Pakistan over the long term, but is wary of the country’s chronic instability, which was highlighted late Sunday when a Pakistani naval base was attacked in the western port of Karachi, about 300 miles southeast of Gwadar.

Indeed.  In some ways, Pakistan and China are made for each other.  One is chronically unstable and in dire need of constant foreign aid while the other is infamously stingy and calculating in its foreign affairs.   May they enjoy each others’ company for many years.  We can certainly use the money wasted in foreign aid to Pakistan for better purposes such as freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil.

At the same time, there is no doubt that India feels the pressure of a nuclear Pakistan and nuclear China on its borders.   The U.S. has everything to gain by pursuing closer ties with India, the rising power of the Near East.   Trading Pakistan for India would be like trading Hillary Clinton for Sarah Palin.   I think we can live with that exchange.

But we should be under no illusions that, whatever happens to the American-Pakistani relationship, China is increasingly in the mood to flex its muscles in the region.   According to an article flagged at Hot Air, China has reportedly given the U.S. something of an ultimatum regarding any future border incursions into Pakistan:

Barack Obama says that if the US has another chance to get a high-value terrorist target like Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, he’ll make the same call as he did earlier this month.  Not so fast, says China.  According to a report from India a few days ago, China has warned that an “attack” on Pakistan will be taken as an attack on China (via Pundit Press):

In the wake of the US raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden, China has “warned in unequivocal terms that any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China”, a media report claimed today.

The warning was formally conveyed by the Chinese foreign minister at last week’s China-US strategic dialogue and economic talks in Washington, The News daily quoted diplomatic sources as saying. China also advised the USa to “respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and solidarity”, the report said.

Chinese Premier Mr Wen Jiabao informed his Pakistani counterpart Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani about the matters taken up with the US during their formal talks at the Great Hall of the People yesterday. The report said China “warned in unequivocal terms that any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China”. The two premiers held a 45-minute one-on-one meeting before beginning talks with their delegations.

The Chinese leadership was “extremely forthcoming in assuring its unprecedented support to Pakistan for its national cause and security” and discussed all subjects of mutual interest with Mr Gilani, the report said. Mr Gilani described Pakistan-China relations and friendship as “unique”. Talking to Pakistani journalists accompanying him, he said that China had acknowledged his country’s contribution and sacrifices in the war against terrorism and supported its cause at the international level. “China supported Pakistan’s cause on its own accord,” Mr Gilani said with reference to the Sino-US strategic dialogue where the Chinese told the US that Pakistan should be helped and its national honour respected. Mr Gilani said China had asked the US to improve its relations with Pakistan, keeping in view the present scenario.

It it difficult to believe that China would truly be willing to go to war over, say, a Predator drone attack or even a SOF incursion into the FATA, but uncertainty over China’s reaction to any future missions of a similar nature will only add to the difficulty of having an ally with whom you are, in some measure, at war.

St. Petersburg Times Propagates the American Weapons – Mexican Violence Myth

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 3 months ago

To the editorial board of the St. Petersburg Times, I noticed that you weighed in with a rather rambling and far-reaching editorial on gun control, stating the following:

America’s gun culture is taking its toll on the nation’s police departments. In its latest annual report, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence recorded a 24 percent jump in the number of police officers killed by gunfire between 2009 and 2010. And 2011 is on track to be even deadlier; already, at least 33 officers have been killed by gunfire this year — including three in St. Petersburg. Policing is a dangerous, difficult job. But it is made riskier by politicians who are cowed by the gun lobby from even discussing sensible gun controls.

The Brady report paints a grim picture of how routinely officers are facing deadly gunfire, and in today’s Perspective section bay area officers talk about the work they do to protect the rest of us. Often, officers are killed responding to everyday situations from road rage and traffic calls to drive-by shootings to reports of a prowler that St. Petersburg police officer David S. Crawford responded to when he was shot and killed in February. Multiple officers are being killed or injured by gunshots at the same incident, such as when St. Petersburg Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz were killed in a shootout in January. Law enforcement said 2010 was the deadliest year for police in two decades. Three officers have been killed in the cities of both Tampa and St. Petersburg within the past two years. This is a national and local problem that lawmakers up and down the line must address.

It is no mystery what it would take to start better protecting police and the public. Congress should reimpose the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and restricted the sale of military style assault weapons and the high-capacity magazines that enable shooters to peel off dozens of rounds of ammunition without stopping to reload. The only use for such firepower is to kill large numbers of people in a short period of time. Lawmakers also should close the so-called “gun show” loophole that allows unlicensed dealers to act as private sellers and avoid subjecting buyers to a criminal background check. And federal authorities need more resources to crack down on sellers who flout the weak gun laws and on straw buyers and traffickers who act as mules for felons, gangs and criminal organizations.

The nation’s police are seeing the effect in the rising use of assault weapons against law enforcement. Police officials call these weapons the criminals’ armament of choice, which is why the International Association of Chiefs of Police has made gun control a political priority this year. It is calling on Congress to renew the ban on assault weapons and large clips and for new tools to track and share data on firearms used in crimes.

America’s lax gun control laws have also escalated the security threat in communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Nine of 10 firearms confiscated by Mexican authorities in recent years came from the United States. The danger America has exported is now turning against the nation, presenting even more risks to local law enforcement. It is time Congress found the backbone to consider serious and sensible ways to better balance the right of gun ownership with the societal obligation to protect the police and the public.

One might expect the editorial board of a newspaper to at least feign fairness and objectivity, which is why you might have cited not only the International Association of Police Chiefs, but also the Fraternal Order of Police which is opposed to the kinds of gun control you discuss (see Chris Cox interview of President Chuck Canterbury in American Rifleman, June 2011, page 80).  But regardless of our expectations, if you cannot feign fairness we should demand honor and integrity.

You say that “Nine of 10 firearms confiscated by Mexican authorities in recent years came from the United States.”  This is simply incorrect.  It isn’t true.  STRATFOR has published an unmitigated takedown of this myth, a complete destruction of the lie.

Even if use of the lie was spurious rather than intentionally misleading, this points to sloppiness in analysis, and you have a chance to correct your error.  I call on the editorial board of the St. Petersburg Times to publish a retraction of this error and correct the record.  Absent this, we can only conclude that the board has the same analytical skills as Bono of U2 and less than exemplary morals.

Entitlement Spending: Time For Feds to Punt to the States

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 3 months ago

According to this article in The Washington Examiner, the prospects for the 2012 Federal Budget are bleak.

There are just 10 weeks remaining until an Aug. 2 debt ceiling deadline set by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. It’s a seemingly generous amount of time but too short in the eyes of some lawmakers, who are wrestling with how deeply to cut the budget and whether to increase the debt ceiling, the amount of money the government is allowed to borrow.

Scores of Republicans have pledged to vote against raising the nation’s debt ceiling if spending is not cut drastically, imperiling the measure in Congress and possibly forcing the government to default on its loans for the first time.

Despite months of debate, only one proposal has been advanced to address spending cuts, and that plan — written by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. — may come to the Senate floor for a vote this week.

Ryan’s proposal would reduce spending by $6 trillion over 10 years and reform Medicare and Medicaid. But it isn’t expected to muster the 60 votes needed to pass, mostly because senators, including Republicans, are fearful of tackling popular entitlement programs with the 2012 elections looming.

The Federal Government is deadlocked, plain and simple.

According to every conventional way of approaching entitlement spending, it is an impossible conundrum.  Conservatives have many ideas about reforming or replacing such programs, but Republicans refuse to embrace them for fear of being tarred as heartless killers of old ladies and the poor.   Liberals know in their hearts that these programs cannot, under any realistic scenario, continue as they are, but no Democrat is willing to even consider mild reforms such as the one posed by Rep. Paul Ryan for fear of being hacked to death by the Left as a sell-out or traitor to the People.   So Republicans dither and delay while Democrats (and their media allies) demagogue the issue and distort the facts.

In fact, entitlement spending demonstrates, perhaps better than any other issue, the inherent weakness and fatal attraction in a central government that has badly strayed from its original, limited role.   There is simply no way for the Federal government to make the required changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that will keep the Federal Government from falling off the financial cliff with Democrats in control of the Senate and White House and Republicans in control of the House.   And it is not an option to wait until the 2012 elections possibly give control of all three branches to the Republicans.    America’s fiscal problems will not stay put until then (and Republicans may not be trustworthy on spending reforms considering the last time they held all three branches).

With this impasse in view and the very real prospect that the Democrat-controlled Senate will go yet another year without passing a fiscal budget, I offer this suggestion as a way for Democrats and Republicans alike to escape their chains:  turn entitlement spending over the States.

This is the perfect situation for punting the football and it makes absolute and total sense.   It is the right thing to do.   The ball is deep in our own territory, it is fourth and 50 yards to go and the coaches cannot make up their minds on any suitable play to call.   “Punting” to the States is the only answer.

“Punting” in this context means that the Federal government recognizes it is simply not in a good position to administer programs such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare and, worse, is completely incapable of controlling them.    The Federal government is far too big, too prone to waste and inefficiency and, most importantly, was never intended by the Founders to occupy the role of National Philanthropist.    “Punting” means, too, that the States are far better equipped in many ways to decide what level of care and support to accord to their citizens and implement the corresponding programs.

So, for example, if California wants to endow all of its seniors with generous retirement and health benefits, let them do so as long as the burden for funding those lavish benefits falls squarely on the shoulders of Californians alone.

Consider entitlement spending in terms of a business:  each State has to decide what benefits it can and cannot afford to dole out.  If the State is too generous, it will eventually go “out of business” as millions move in to enjoy the generosity while millions more move out as their taxes inevitably skyrocket.   If a State is too stingy, it will cease being an attractive place to work and live.  Between the extremes is an enormous range of policy options and solutions that can be crafted to fit the unique circumstances inherent in every State.  And, since most States are forced to balance their budgets each year by law, the State government will undertake entitlement spending with sobriety.

How could it work?

Such a change could not be done overnight, but it need not be terribly complex either. The first step would be along the lines of what Rep. Paul Ryan suggests in his proposal for Medicaid reform:  block grants to the States.   Florida, for example, might get a much larger grant based on 2010 Census numbers of its elderly population (and specifically its indigent population) than a demographically younger state.  According to the 2000 Census, Utah is the “youngest” state, i.e., the one with the smallest percentage of elderly persons, while Florida is the oldest.

The block grants should also factor in existing poverty levels and not just the percentage of elderly in a given State.  West Virginia has one of the higher percentages of elderly people but it also has one of the poorest populations.  Other factors could be considered as well, such as populations of disabled or other, at-risk populations.

With this grant money, each state can use it as they see fit to provide for their at-risk populations.

This kind of block granting has the unique advantage of incentivizing better care for these at-risk populations.  Say, for example, that Maryland develops a better, more efficient way of educating handicapped children.  (This happens to be true).  As this fact is known, more parents with handicapped children will move to Maryland which, in turn, will warrant more grant aid to Maryland to coincide with the higher, handicapped population.  Resources get allocated to those locations that do the best job of serving their populations at the local level.   Conversely, if another State does a terrible job with its care for handicapped children, then those parents will have every incentive to move to Maryland rather than remain in sub-optimal care elsewhere.   A key feature would have to be some method for tracking the subject populations in each State to determine the block grant levels.

But can States be trusted with a large, no-strings-attached, grant of money?  To continue the example, what if Maryland chooses to use the billions in Federal aid to plug the notorious gap in its annual budget?  I submit that even a liberal, tax and spend haven like Maryland would never do this precisely because the Governor and state legislature are far more sensitive and accountable to Maryland voters than the U.S. Congressional delegation will ever be.   Consider that, under the 2000 Census, the average Congressional district was comprised of 646,952 persons– far too many persons for individual citizens to hold the politicians accountable.  Politicians are much more easily held accountable to their local constituency simply by virtue of the smaller numbers contained in each, State legislative district.  It will, of course, be up to each State to decide how to best use the grant money and tough decisions will need to be made, but those decisions will be made far better at the state level where it is far more difficult for AARP to mobilize its members and bully politicians.

Giving entitlement spending to the States also makes sense in terms of perspective.    When we look at Social Security spending, for example, at a national level, the sheer size and scope of the spending is completely disorienting.   When speaking of hundreds of billions of dollars, it is nearly impossible to put the choices into concrete terms: who are these “millions of elderly” who will starve or go without medications?  Why can’t we afford another $200 million for this program when we are already spending $800 billion?   But when the debate is put at the state level, and more importantly, MY state level, things become much more focused.   Supposing that Maryland receives $6 billion in grant money to cover social security, medicare and medicaid for Maryland citizens for the next year, how should that money be used?  Am I willing to pay more in state taxes in order to ensure, for example, that 65 year-old Aunt Mary gets a social security check every month even though I know that she has an adequate retirement income from the Maryland Teachers Pension?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  And will Aunt Mary join in marching on the state capitol to get that extra money even if it means higher taxes for me and her neighbors, friends, colleagues?

Some States will give that money to Aunt Mary and raise taxes to do so.  Others may not.  In the end, however, it will be far easier to come to grips with the many issues involved when we are dealing with specific populations in our own state and with the direct ramifications of those decisions in our own state.

Consider, too, the enormous savings to the Federal budget when the huge bureaucracies associated with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are allowed to shrivel up and die.  The people employed at these federal agencies are not, necessarily, joining a bread line, however.   With the block granting of funds to each State it is likely that persons with pension and healthcare experience will be in demand (hopefully by private firms that provide services rather than bloated State bureaucracies, but that is another topic).  In any event, a reduction in federal personnel should be welcome relief to taxpayers everywhere.

Finally, the greatest benefit of transferring entitlements to the States is the effect upon Federal power and interference in the lives of ordinary citizens.   When the Federal government holds the power of health care in its hands, it induces an unhealthy obeisance to the central power.   This power needs to be split up among the 50 states so that ordinary citizens are empowered to hold their State officials accountable and rein in abuses.    This principle can, of course, be applied across a wide spectrum of federal activities.

Hopefully the politicians in Washington, D.C. will pass the buck in this instance which would, ironically, be the right thing for once.

ISI Allows Taliban Free Run of Pakistan’s Baluchistan

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 3 months ago

From The Economic Times of India, citing mainly Newsweek:

Taliban has been given a free-run in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province bordering Afghanistan and its hardscrabble capital city of Quetta, which has been declared off-limits by Pakistani military to US predator strikes.

The outfit’s military chief Mulla Abdul Qayyum Zakir, ranked number two after Mullah Omar, and his men are operating with impunity in the high-desert landscape and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence ( ISI) seems to be giving them a free hand, ‘Newsweek’ reported.

“They are coming and going in groups without end,” says a senior Quetta politician, an ethnic Pashtun.

“Whatever the Taliban is doing is supervised and monitored by the [Pakistani] intelligence agencies”, he said.

Old hands among the insurgents say it reminds them of 1980s Peshawar, where anti-Soviet mujahedin operated openly with the ISI’s blessing and backing, the magazine reported.

[ ... ]

A local government councillor says the area’s mosques and madrassas are packed with insurgents in need of temporary lodging as they head back to Afghanistan. Way stations have been set up all over the region in rented houses, he says, and swarms of Taliban pass through town on motorbikes every day. Most carry Pakistani national identity cards. “They’re enjoying the hospitality of the ‘black legs’ [derogatory slang for the ISI],” he says. He worries that the local culture is being Talibanized.

Read the entire report.  The Taliban are said to  be stunned and despondent over the successful OBL raid.  But this fact appears not to be holding the tide of fighters in abeyance.  As for other parts of Pakistan which supply sanctuary for both the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban, in a report at The Global Post (which I will be citing again in the future), Shafiq Ahmed, a former Pakistani army general, flatly says that “If America wants to stay in Afghanistan, or safeguard its interests in case of a proposed pull-out, it has to tame North Waziristan.”

It would appear that as I have observed, the Durand line is completely imaginary, and that a regional approach to the problem of Islamic militancy is necessary.  A pullout of U.S. forces, leaving the problem to the pitiful Afghan National Security Forces (ANA and ANP), doesn’t fit the bill.  So what else does the current administration have for us?


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