Using Water As A Weapon Of War

Herschel Smith · 03 Aug 2014 · 9 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]

CIA Operatives Engaged in War on Mexican Cartels

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 2 months ago

From The New York Times:

The United States is expanding its role in Mexico’s bloody fight against drug trafficking organizations, sending new  C.I.A. operatives and retired military personnel to the country and considering plans to deploy private security contractors in hopes of  turning around a multibillion-dollar effort that so far has shown few results.

In recent weeks, small numbers of C.I.A. operatives and American civilian military employees have been posted at a Mexican military base, where, for the first time, security officials from both countries work side by side in collecting information about drug cartels and helping plan operations. Officials are also looking into embedding a team of American contractors inside a specially vetted Mexican counternarcotics police unit.

Officials on both sides of the border say the new efforts have been devised to get around Mexican laws that prohibit foreign military and police from operating on its soil, and to prevent advanced American surveillance technology from falling under the control of Mexican security agencies with long histories of corruption.

“A sea change has occurred over the past years in how effective Mexico and U.S. intelligence exchanges have become,” said Arturo Sarukhán, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States. “It is underpinned by the understanding that transnational organized crime can only be successfully confronted by working hand in hand, and that the outcome is as simple as it is compelling:  we will together succeed or together fail.”

Robert Haddick writing for Foreign Policy observes:

Policymakers responsible for the U.S. assistance effort in Mexico seem to be applying some lessons learned during America’s decade of war. The intelligence analysis centers the U.S. contractors are now setting up in Mexico are innovations developed by U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, and elsewhere. As described by General Stanley McChrystal in an essay he wrote for Foreign Policy, the centers are deliberately located down at the tactical level and gather collectors and analysts across intelligence agencies together in one room. The goal is to improve collaboration and more rapidly respond to incoming information and adversary activity. A decade of practical experience across the globe has refined this concept, which the United States is now exporting to Mexico.

We’ve heard this before – this notion of shared organic intelligence assets, different perspectives from different agencies working in concert and in real time, the employment of electronic assets and signals intelligence combined with on the spot analysis, all being used by real operators on the ground who know more about their enemies than they know about themselves – and it has become folklore that General McChrystal and his special operators hitting high value targets put an end to the insurgency in Iraq.  It’s a narrative that I reject, and it isn’t born out of good historiography.  It’s just myth that high value target hits won the campaign in Iraq.

Forecast: We shouldn’t oppose high value target hits in the war on the cartels, since they seem to operate with a more centralized focus than classical insurgencies (which tend more towards swarm theory).   But this will not itself end the cartels, or even hold their growth and the increase in terror in abatement.  This will prove to be a failed effort if it is the only point of impact in the campaign.

The tools exist to seal the border (Marines deployed to combat outposts on the border, with loosened rules for the use of force, conducting daily patrols and combining their efforts with force multipliers such as drones, increased numbers of border agents and comprehensive searches of all vehicles crossing the border, etc.).  The question is will they ever be put to use, and this is a direct function of the will to win the campaign against the cartels?

ATF Promotes Supervisors Of Fast And Furious Gunrunning Scandal

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 2 months ago

From The LA Times:

The ATF has promoted three key supervisors of a controversial sting operation that allowed firearms to be illegally trafficked across the U.S. border into Mexico.

All three have been heavily criticized for pushing the program forward even as it became apparent that it was out of control. At least 2,000 guns were lost and many turned up at crime scenes in Mexico and two at the killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona.

The three supervisors have been given new management positions at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. They are William G. McMahon, who was the ATF’s deputy director of operations in the West, where the illegal trafficking program was focused, and William D. Newell and David Voth, both field supervisors who oversaw the program out of the agency’s Phoenix office.

[ ... ]

McMahon was promoted Sunday to deputy assistant director of the ATF’s Office of Professional Responsibility and Security Operations — the division that investigates misconduct by employees and other problems.

 Something about foxes and henhouses comes to mind.  Criminals, every one of them.  So this is the order of things.  Shill for the administration, violate the Arms Export Control Act, and then get promoted by the Obama administration.

The Taliban And Al Qaeda Are The Same

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 2 months ago

The National Interest has an important account from the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The money quotes follow.

November 11, 2007—Veteran’s Day. I was a veteran waiting to meet the Taliban. I hated this, but I was here now. A young man, called Abu Hamza, a nom de guerre, entered the room and sat down, pointing his rifle low, but at me. He wore an infrared light on his turban. Someone was backing him. Why was he fighting? “We are fighting jihad,” he said. Who supported him? “Elders,” he replied. “Pakistan. We live in the mountains, but for training we go to Pakistan. Sometimes the army comes and trains us. “We know they are in the army, but they have gray beards, like you.”

[ ... ]

A month later, at midnight, I sat in the mountains south of Tora Bora. A Predator buzzed above us and I shivered in the cold. A Taliban commander, about forty years of age, quoted from the Koran before he answered each of my questions. Their support came from God, from the tribes and religious parties in Pakistan, he said. Jihad was jihad. They didn’t care about or look for support from the Pakistani army. He was from Waziristan. I asked about al-Qaeda. “The Taliban and al-Qaeda are the same,” he responded. “We fight under Mullah Muhammad Omar. He started on the mountain tops as we do now.” A dozen teenagers and young men in their early twenties sat with us. I asked how they trained. “They are the sons of the mujahideen,” he said proudly. “Fighting is in their blood, as it was in the blood of their ancestors.”

[ ... ]

The more the U.S. pushes into the east near the Pakistani border, where there are mountains and forests, places to hide and where men have been fighting outsiders for centuries, the more that Pakistan, and its proxy army, the Taliban, will fight back. “Not a shot would be fired in Afghanistan,” my jailer said, “without Pakistan’s approval.” It knows that the U.S. is pulling out of Afghanistan and is desperate to regain its influence there—and to sit at the negotiating table.

Encapsulated in this one account of a man who was kidnapped by the Taliban are two themes I have pressed before: the ideological alignment of the Taliban and AQ, and the duplicity and in fact even role of direct opposition that Pakistan plays in Afghanistan.

Can we please end the juvenile pretensions that we can play nice with the Taliban and re-engage them in the government?  The Taliban and al Qaeda are the same.  Those aren’t my words.  I just quoted them.

Was The CIA Behind Operation Fast And Furious?

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 2 months ago

Robert Farago has a hard hitting report at The Washington Times.

Why did the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) let criminals buy firearms, smuggle them across the Mexican border and deliver them into the hands of vicious drug cartels? The ATF claims it launched its now-disgraced Operation Fast and Furious in 2009 to catch the “big fish.” Fast and Furious was designed to stem the “Iron River” flowing from American gun stores into the cartels’ arsenals. The bureau says it allowed gun smuggling so it could track the firearms and arrest the cartel members downstream. Not true.

During the course of Operation Fast and Furious, about 2,000 weapons moved from U.S. gun stores to Mexican drug cartels – exactly as intended.

In congressional testimony, William Newell, former ATF special agent in charge of the Phoenix Field Division, testified that the Internal Revenue Service, Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement were “full partners” in Operation Fast and Furious. Mr. Newell’s list left out the most important player: the CIA. According to a CIA insider, the agency had a strong hand in creating, orchestrating and exploiting Operation Fast and Furious.

The CIA’s motive is clear enough: The U.S. government is afraid the Los Zetas drug cartel will mount a successful coup d’etat against the government of Felipe Calderon.

Founded by ex-Mexican special forces, the Zetas already control huge swaths of Mexican territory. They have the organization, arms and money needed to take over the entire country.

Former CIA pilot Robert Plumlee and former CIA operative and DEA Director Phil Jordan recently said the brutally efficient Mexican drug cartel has stockpiled thousands of weapons to disrupt and influence Mexico’s national elections in 2012. There’s a very real chance the Zetas cartel could subvert the political process completely, as it has throughout the regions it controls.

In an effort to prevent a Los Zetas takeover, Uncle Sam has gotten into bed with the rival Sinaloa cartel, which has close ties to the Mexican military. Recent court filings by former Sinaloa cartel member Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, currently in U.S. custody, reveal that the United States allowed the Sinaloas to fly a 747 cargo plane packed with cocaine into American airspace – unmolested.

The CIA made sure the trade wasn’t one-way. It persuaded the ATF to create Operation Fast and Furious – a “no strings attached” variation of the agency’s previous firearms sting. By design, the ATF operation armed the Mexican government’s preferred cartel on the street level near the American border, where the Zetas are most active.

Operation Fast and Furious may not have been the only way the CIA helped put lethal weapons into the hands of the Sinaloa cartel and its allies, but it certainly was an effective strategy. If drug thugs hadn’t murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry with an ATF- provided weapon, who knows how many thousands more guns would have crossed the U.S. border?

If Robert’s report is accurate, the list of culpability runs from the ATF to the DEA to the FBI and … now … to the CIA as perhaps the ringmaster.  One very astute commenter to one article I wrote about the Mexican cartels adopting military tactics has pressed down on me for details in my recommendation to utilize the U.S. military in response to cartel violence (as he should – I have some of the best readers on the web, and they help keep me honest).  Would I use combat outposts, would I use ex-infantry and role them into the border patrol, would I use invasive techniques, and so on.  I have been struggling mightily to craft a cogent and coherent response, while also keeping in the back of my mind that there are stipulations: Tennessee v. Garner for the use of force, the Posse Comitatus Act, the sovereignty of neighboring nations to consider, the Arms Export Control Act, etc., etc.

It seems that the CIA (and someone higher in the administration?) doesn’t care about the law as much as I do.  We’ve decided to take sides in the Mexican cartel war as a means to keep the current Mexican administration in power.  And this possibly runs to the top of the CIA, and recently confirmed defense secretary Leon Panetta.  This is just a horrible, horrible commentary on the curent U.S. administration and the lengths to which they are willing to go to skirt the law.

UPDATE #1: Agent Terry’s family has been denied crime victim status in Gun Walker case.

Coffey and others wonder if Burke has a conflict. It was his office that led Operation Fast and Furious. The operation, while executed by agents for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, was managed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley. Hurley drafted the response to the family’s motion. It was signed by Burke.

Congressional investigators are expected to subpoena both to appear before the House Government and Oversight Committee next month to answer questions about the flawed operation that put some 2,000 weapons in the hands of the Sinaloa cartel.

LaJeunesse goes on to speculate that Avila might have cut a deal with prosecutors that would keep him out of jail, a development that would go over especially poorly if Terry’s family was seated in the courtroom, armed with official crime victim status.  The family may also be considering a wrongful death suit against the federal government, which would involve Burke.  Victim status would pump a lot of energy into that case.

Note again.  His own family has been denied crime victim status.  With this threshold, who could have ever met the criteria, whatever it is, for crime victim?

The Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al-Naqshabandi Movement

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 2 months ago

The Combating Terrorism Sentinel has an extremely interesting and well-informed piece entitled The JRTN Movement and Iraq’s Next Insurgency.  It’s well worth the reading time invested in it, and it explains why we no longer need to be in Iraq at all without significant changes to the Status of Forces Agreement where we would be allowed to operate more autonomously than we currently are.  I’ll leave the balance of the report to the reader, but the money quote (for the point I’m trying to make) is this.

JRTN’s branding and messaging has yielded a number of significant advantages for the group. One private security analyst with access to U.S. and Iraqi Security Force officers stated: “At the operational level, JRTN’s appearance of a religious connection gives it credibility in the eyes of the population and therefore increases the support offered and reduces the interference by the local population.” The analyst noted that JRTN’s stated “policy of only attacking the ‘occupiers’ and not the local population (whatever their ethnic or religious group) makes it one of the least ‘interfered with’ terrorist groupings. The population turned its back on many of the foreign fighters but JRTN are still seen as Iraqis first.” In areas along the federal-Kurdish line of control, JRTN’s anti-Kurdish agitation may have assisted its penetration of Sunni security forces. Kurdish factions recently accused JRTN of influencing the 12th Iraqi Army division in southern Kirkuk and flying JRTN’s flag on Iraqi Army vehicles during anti-Kurdish protests. Through sympathizers in the security forces, JRTN is assumed by U.S. officers to have at least some basic insight into the workings of joint U.S.-Iraqi operations centers, including Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and signals intelligence.

The apparent focus on U.S. forces (plus its capacity to intimidate local judges and call upon tribal support) has earned the movement sympathetic treatment by some parts of the Iraqi security forces and judiciary. One intelligence officer from Diyala noted that his Iraqi counterparts “rarely stated in public that JRTN was much of a threat and every time we detained a JRTN leader, we had to fight tooth and nail to keep them detained. In other words they did not accept that JRTN was a serious risk to the [government of Iraq], only to Americans.” JRTN appears to have successfully used loopholes in Iraqi law that means “resistance activities” are not treated as seriously as crimes with Iraqi victims. According to one analyst, this legal aspect “is one reason that [JRTN] is deliberately not leaving a trail of evidence and claims connecting it to car bombings or assassinations that target Iraqis.”

The Iraqis want our logistical capabilities, our MEDEVAC capabilities, our stability, our discipline, and so on.  They don’t want us to operate in such a manner that we quell an insurgency, or target Iranian forces who destabilize Iraq.  We should be killing insurgents, and instead we are still tipping our hat to incarceration of insurgents, which we have demonstrated is never a successful strategy in counterinsurgency (kill them or let them go – prisons are counterproductive in COIN).  And with the current state of affairs in Iraq, we can’t even do that against favored insurgent groups.

So be it.  It’s time for the Iraqis to go it alone.  Our military forces shouldn’t play second fiddle to anyone.

Mexican Drug Cartels Adopting Military Tactics

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 2 months ago

We have discussed the notion that the Mexican cartels, rather than being simply related to drugs and drug trafficking, should be seen as warlords and insurgents.  Warfare has come to Mexico and the border states of the United States.  Their reach now goes all the way to Idaho.  But the degree of militarization of the cartels and their armies is still relatively unknown to most Americans.

Mexican drug cartels are using military weapons and tactics while also recruiting Texas teenagers to carry out their operations, which are evolving into full-blown criminal enterprises, experts said.

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven C. McCraw said last week in a report given to Congress that the cartels “incorporate reconnaissance networks, techniques and capabilities normally associated with military organizations, such as communications intercepts, interrogations, trend analysis, secure communications, coordinated military-style tactical operations, GPS, thermal imagery and military armaments, including fully automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades.”

[ ... ]

“Cartel-run training camps are typically located in Mexico,” testified Zapata County Sheriff Gonzalez. “However, in 2008, law enforcement authorities discovered a training camp in South Texas that was operated by members of the Gulf cartel’s (former) enforcement arm, Los Zetas.”

The Sinaloa cartel, which is waging a bloody battle against the Carrillo Fuentes cartel for control of the Juárez-El Paso corridor, also employs a military-type approach.

According to another U.S. government document, “the Sinaloa cartel uses military-style training camps high in the Sierra-Durango mountains.”

[ ... ]

McAllen’s police chief said there is a war going on between drug-trafficking organizations. “It has taken the form of direct challenges and firefights with authorities in Mexico,” Rodriguez said. “If they, the drug trafficking organizations, were forces from another country, Mexico could be seen as being at war and not winning.”

The cartels aren’t simply drug cartels, and are now engaged in human trafficking.  This isn’t about the war on drugs.  This is about warlords and insurgents across the border in Mexico … and indeed, here in the United States.  War has come to America, and unless it is fought like a war, we will lose it, and not just in the border states.

SAPI Plate Saves Another Soldier

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 2 months ago

Michael Yon has another great report of heroism, fallen comrades and Soldiers saved by SAPI plates, entitled Men at War: Come Home With Your Shield, Or On It.  Visit Michael’s web site and hit the tip jar if you can.  It’s usually bad form to consume band width to splash a photograph on one’s own web site by using feed from another web site.  But I asked and Michael graciously granted me permission to use this one photograph below.

Michael gives us the following caption: Another Soldier had been on the roof when Brice was hit, and this Soldier was shot in the ribs.  The bullet was stopped by his SAPI plate.  He said it felt like he had been stabbed.  Other Soldiers said that the troop who had been shot in the ribs collected his wits and stayed in the fight.

Michael has worn body armor for a very long time, and certainly there are many hundreds of thousands of Soldiers and Marines who have worn it in combat long enough to comment with authority on it.  I don’t want to steal their thunder here with my comments.  But I will make them anyway.

I have worn the Marine MTV (Modular Tactical Vest) only for a short period of time, but I have worn it.  It’s tight, obtrusive, hot, heavy (with its SAPI plates), and constrictive (it hugs the torso in order to place its weight on the hips, rather like an internal frame backpack).  It’s hard to move, and must be even harder to fight in combat.  I recently humped a 65+ pound backpack on Mount Mitchell, up and down terrain changes, and I would rather do that than hump that body armor.  It’s more than just the weight.  It’s hard to breath when it’s on.

That said, I confess that I felt some degree of relief when I knew that the Battalion Commander in Fallujah in 2007 (FOB Reaper) ordered all Marines to wear all PPEs when outside the wire.  At that time the Marine Corps Commandant had given Battalion Commanders the discretion to wear or jettison PPEs as they saw fit, and depending upon the circumstances.  The Battalion Commander didn’t leave it to the discretion of the Marines under his charge.

My own son was saved from a piece of mortar shrapnel by his front SAPI plate, and Michael posts an example of yet another Soldier who was saved by his SAPI plate – his side SAPI plate, no less.  There are many more such examples.  I know that it is totally obnoxious to wear the stuff, especially up and down hills in Afghanistan, and especially on hot days.  But I’m just saying … another Soldier saved.

The U.S. should do all it can to give our warriors the best armor, including lighter polymer (the existing SAPI plates are ceramic surrounding a metal plate).  That prospect seems at risk now that the Pentagon is set to face severe budget cuts.

Visit Michael Yon’s web page.

Prior: Body Armor Category

Preparing for Defense Budget Cuts

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 2 months ago

Regular readers know that I have always been a proponent of wise defense spending, and cutting where there is no reasonably feasible return on investment (Brian Stewart at NRO’s Corner has similar views).  For example, I have strongly opposed the Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, and advocated abandonment of the Marine Corps vision of sea-based forcible entry modeled after 60-year old warfare doctrine.  Instead, I have recommended that the Marine Corps focus on air-based forcible entry, even if from sea-based Amphibious Assault Docks.  Rapid response and smaller unit operations, modeled after Special Operations Forces, should be at least one new focus of the Corps.  And the Congress appears to have cut funding for the EFV.

But this is a far cry from advocating serious slashing of the Pentagon’s budget across the board.  Yet the Pentagon is preparing for such cuts as part of the current financial maelstrom.

After doubling in size during George W. Bush’s presidency, the Pentagon is about to go on a diet for the first time since 1998. Whether that means two years of skipping dessert or a 10-year crash diet depends on how Washington’s debt-ceiling deal plays out between now and December.

Two Californians will be central to the outcome.

One is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a liberal San Francisco Democrat who helped engineer a provision in the debt deal that exposes the Pentagon to nearly $1 trillion in cuts over the next decade.

The other is Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a former Democratic congressman from Monterey who warned in his maiden press conference Thursday that such cuts are “completely unacceptable.”

Underlying the fight is the question of whether the U.S. military should remain the world’s global police force or downsize to a less-ambitious posture that reflects a diminished financial capacity.

“The defense budget is going to be cut, whatever happens with this particular law,” said Michael Mandelbaum, a foreign policy expert at Johns Hopkins University and author of “The Frugal Superpower.” The nation’s deficit problem, he said, is “so large that … in circumstances in which Americans pay more to the government and get less, they are not going to be as generous as they have been in the past in funding foreign and security policy.”

The debt deal lays out two rounds of defense cuts. The first is a $350 billion reduction in “security” spending over 10 years, only two years of which is locked in. The Obama administration had proposed those cuts in April as part of a general belt-tightening at the Pentagon.

But the second round could be much more severe. Viewed by Democrats as a way to force Republicans to accept the need for higher tax revenue, this round could force the Pentagon to share $1.2 trillion in 10-year spending cuts equally with domestic spending on such things as highways and education. These cuts could take $600 billion from the military, about a 10 to 15 percent reduction, depending on what is measured.

The cuts would take effect automatically if a new bipartisan super-committee in Congress fails to devise – or Congress fails to pass – an alternative plan that trims Medicare and other entitlement programs and raises tax revenue.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has indeed warned against sweeping defense cuts, but he is Obama’s man in this post, and the warnings are likely part of a larger strategy to increase taxes, with Panetta’s warnings being the catalyst to force Congressional Republicans to “increase revenue” rather than allow a diminution of national security.

But there is another possibility, and it is that we actually adopt a radically different paradigm for our international behavior.  Support for this approach can be found among Democrats, but finds unlikely support from the Tea Party.

A 12-member bipartisan Congressional committee has until November 23rd to figure out how exactly to trim the debt by some $1.5 trillion dollars over 10 years. Then, they have a matter of weeks to sell that plan to both houses of Congress.

If no agreement is reached, automatic cuts kick in: $600 billion from the military and $600 billion from domestic programs. Both Democrats and Republicans shudder at this arrangement. But how does the Tea Party feel about steep cuts to national defense?

The Tea Party doesn’t have a central spokesman or organizing body; it’s a loose coalition of people united by beliefs in spending cuts, lower taxes, and smaller government. To try and gauge the mood of Tea Party supporters, I spoke with three people, in different parts of the country, who subscribe to their uniting principles.

“We really need across the board cuts. And nothing can be a sacred cow, nothing can be off limits. And that’s going to include defense,” said Chris Littleton of Cincinnati, co-founder of the group The Ohio Liberty Council.

Littleton said the defense budget has become bloated. (It’s come close to doubling since September 11th, 2001.) Littleton argued that’s because the military has lost sight of its Constitutional mission.

“It does not include being the world’s police, being the world’s peacemaker, or trying to advance our culture or causes around the world as a singular purpose. It’s for common defense,” said Litleton. “And so if we are not directly threatened, and we are not involved in an altercation, that we need to defend ourselves (from), then we can absolutely scale back our operations from throughout the world. So I’d be for both domestic and foreign military installations brought back, trimmed down, and hopefully many of them even eliminated.”

Support for a smaller military runs counter to what many conservative Republicans espouse. But Tea Party supporter Jason Rink – executive director of The Foundation for a Free Society in Austin, Texas – argued that’s because Republicans haven’t been acting like real conservatives.

“Traditional conservatives, they believed we should have a humble foreign policy, they believed that we shouldn’t police the world, they believed that we shouldn’t get into foreign wars, and that our defense spending needed to be something that we addressed and we were modest about,” said Rink.

But if we fail to stop Iran’s increased hegemony in the Middle East, if we fail to prevent Iran from going nuclear, if our military power and resolve isn’t sufficient to prevent Russia from invading Georgia again, if we relinquish the Pacific to growing Chinese Naval provocations, if we fail to deal a decisive blow to the Taliban and al-Qaeda aligned fighters in the AfPak region, there will be war.  Israel cannot allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.  Eastern Europe is looking to the U.S. for direction, and our abandonment of a missile defense shield was indication that we aren’t serious about their security, much less entry into NATO.  Russia is back up to their dirty tricks, and is poised to conduct yet another assault into Ossetia, and the Chinese still want Formosa.

As for homeland security, I have already describe a fairly simply assault on infrastructure that we cannot absorb.  Like it or not, America has benefited from the defense doctrine of fighting our battles away from the homeland rather than allowing the threat to land on our own shores before we confront it.  Troops are currently deployed in more than 100 countries, and while it may be a tantalizing prospect to withdraw from the entire world and focus inward, we should be careful what we advocate.  It will be much more difficult to recreate that military presence and deterrent that it was to dismantle it, regardless of how much money we throw at the problems once they have become obvious.

Cuts are coming.  That which cannot continue, won’t.  That which cannot be sustained will fall by the wayside.  The question is whether America will address the growing entitlement state, however painful, or retreat from the world, also painful, just in a completely different ways, and perhaps permanently.

See also:

Rapidly Collapsing Foreign Policy III

Rapidly Collapsing Foreign Policy II

Rapidly Collapsing Foreign Policy

Liberals and the Use of Violent Rhetoric: Sticks and Stones to Follow?

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 2 months ago

Peter Berkowitz has an insightful column in the The Wall Street Journal.

He points out the inherent contradiction between the beliefs professed by the Left (tolerance, respect for diversity, the betterment of humanity) and their increasingly vicious rhetoric.

The voters’ message [from the 2010 elections] was clear: Cut spending, compel the government to live within its means, and put Americans back to work. In short, the president and his party badly overreached in 2009 and 2010; and in 2011 the Republicans, to the extent their numbers in Congress allowed, have effectively pushed back.

But that’s not how progressives have tended to see things. They have ferociously attacked congressional Republicans, particularly those closely associated with the tea party movement, with something approaching hysteria.

Consider the unabashed incivility of progressive criticism, its tone dictated from the top. During and after the budget negotiations, we heard that tea party representatives were content with “blowing up our government” (Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne). Then came accusations that “Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people” (New York Times columnist Joe Nocera), while acting like “a maniacal gang with knives held high” (New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd). At the height of negotiations, Vice President Biden either said, or agreed with House Democrats with whom he was meeting who said, that Congressional Republicans “have acted like terrorists.”

***

How often they have haughtily lectured the nation on the vital importance of civility in public discourse, the urgency of constraining executive power under law, and the need for impartial expertise in public affairs to pragmatically weigh competing public-policy options. But in the debt-limit debate the virtues they profess could hardly have been more spectacularly absent.

The evident panic of the progressive mind stems from a paradox as old as progressivism in America. Progressives see themselves as the only legitimate representatives of ordinary people. Yet their vision of what democracy requires frequently conflicts with what majorities believe and how they choose to live.

Add to this the progressive belief that human beings can be perfected through the rule of experts, and you have a recipe—when the people make choices contrary to progressive dictates—for generating contempt among the experts for the people whose interests they claim to alone represent. And not just contempt, but even disgust at diversity of opinion, which from the progressive’s perspective distracts the people from the policies demanded by impartial reason.

The progressive mind is on a collision course with itself. The clash between its democratic pretensions and its authoritarian predilections has generated within its ranks seething resentment for, and rage at, conservatives. Unless progressives cultivate the enlightened virtues they publicly profess and free themselves from the dogmatic beliefs that undergird their political ambitions, we can expect even more harrowing outbursts to come.

Mr. Berkowitz’s analysis could not be more correct, in so far as it goes.   The problem is that it does not go far enough.

When he writes that “we can expect even more harrowing outbursts to come” he is (consciously or not) pulling his punches.   Words, after all, are just words.  The old “sticks and stones” proverb comes to mind.   There is, then, nothing “harrowing” about what these Leftists have to say.   The real trouble is that this type of vituperation too often leads to corresponding action.   That would be the “sticks and stones can break my bones” part of the equation.  This is where Berkowitz should have gone with his “harrowing” comment.  Because the real, and deeper, contradiction with Liberals and Leftists is that they do not stop at name-calling when their utopian visions of reform at the hands of their elitist programs are resisted.

The lesson of the 20th century is clearly that Leftist visionaries were not averse at “breaking a few eggs” in order to make the proverbial omelette.  Bolshevism, Communism, Fascism, Socialism and even Islamism all seek to subvert the individual to a mindless, communal creature.   If that means gulags, re-education camps, mass starvation and even genocide, that is a price that the Left has always been willing to pay.

And this is where the rhetoric of Democrats and their Leftist enablers is leading.  And that is truly “harrowing.”   How long did it take after the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords before the Left was engaging in the violent rhetoric that they claimed should be out of bounds in the aftermath of the shooting?   Months? Weeks?  Days?

The point is that the philosophy of the Left is incompatible with freedom because its sole criteria is to gain power over others and reform them whether the subject wants to be reformed or not.   They are the true Don Corleone who make an offer that society cannot refuse.   Because they are without a moral foundation to constrain them, every tool of coercion and compulsion is available to them.   Deceit, flattery, subterfuge, blackmail, intimidation, violent rhetoric and— finally– actual, physical force.

Recall the rhetoric of the Left during George W. Bush’s presidency.   Beyond ridiculous comparisons of Bush to Adolph Hitler, there were more than a few Liberals openly calling for Bush’s assassination.   The vehemence of those days was palpable.   Now, 3 years later, despite having control of the White House and the Senate, the Left is again reaching frenzied levels of calumny.   What do you suppose will happen if the Left loses the Senate and White House in 2012?    Does anyone think that the Left will respect the results of that election any more than they have respected the results of 2010?

Thankfully the Left is a minority in this country, perhaps some 21% of the population according to one Gallup poll and, according to this same poll, outnumber Liberals in every state except Washington, D.C. (big surprise).  But this is not grounds for complacency or comfort.  This minority of people are extremely well organized and occupy a disproportionate share of the positions of power in government, academia, media and entertainment.   In short, this minority holds the levers of power and propaganda in their hands.  Combine this power with their philosophy to do whatever it takes to cement and expand their power and the new social media that allows mobs to gather literally in an instant and there is considerable damage that the Left can do.   And do not think that they will hesitate to resort to violence.   They already have in Wisconsin when their union power was challenged by a duly elected majority in the State house.

How will the rest of us respond?   Time to start thinking that through, very seriously.

How’s That Democracy Thing Working For You? Egypt and the U.S. Face Reality

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 2 months ago

This is not looking good.

According to this report in The Wall Street Journal, the secular, pro-democracy movement in Egypt received a beat-down by the Egyptian military and ordinary Egyptian citizens who are increasingly backing the Army and Islamist groups like The Muslim Brotherhood.

CAIRO—Mobs of ordinary Egyptians joined with soldiers to drive pro-democracy protesters from their encampment in Tahrir Square here Monday, showing how far the uprising’s early heroes have fallen in the eyes of the public.

Six months after young, liberal activists helped lead the popular movement that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, the hard core of these protesters was forcibly dispersed by the troops. Some Egyptians lined the street to applaud the army. Others ganged up on the activists as they retreated from the square that has come to symbolize the Arab Spring.

Squeezed between an assertive military and the country’s resurgent Islamist movement, many Internet-savvy, pro-democracy activists are finding it increasingly hard to remain relevant in a post-revolutionary Egypt that is struggling to overcome an economic crisis and restore law and order.

As if this is not bad enough the Muslim Brotherhood used this occasion to demonstrate its muscles, gathering “hundreds of thousands” to Tahrir Square a few days before:

Monday’s turmoil in Tahrir followed a massive Friday demonstration on the same square by hundreds of thousands of Islamists, who called for transforming Egypt into an Islamic state—and railed against the liberal and secular youths who had helped motivate millions to rise up against Mr. Mubarak.

The Islamists’ numbers dwarfed those of the activists who have re-occupied Cairo’s central square since July 8, criticizing the slow pace of reforms, calling for police accountability and pressing for speedier trials of Mr. Mubarak and his associates. The Tahrir sit-in was organized by the April 6 Movement, one of the uprising’s main planners, other youth groups and relatives of protesters killed in the weeks before Mr. Mubarak’s ouster on Feb. 11.

The repercussions of an Islamist Egypt could hardly be worse.  Besides the obvious threat to Israel, there is every chance that Egypt could align itself closely with the increasingly Islamist Turkey and join what appears to be the makings of an Islamist Bloc including not just Turkey, but Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Gaza.

The timing could hardly be worse for U.S. interests.  Under the just-completed debt ceiling legislation, defense spending could be slashed with dire consequences for U.S. force-projection capabilities.  Compounding this is the ongoing refusal of the Obama Administration to take the choke-hold off of oil and gas leasing approvals, resulting in an increasing shortage of domestic production and ever-greater dependence on foreign oil.  Add to this the growing influence of China and Russia in the Middle East and the U.S. is facing the prospect of having very little influence in this critical part of the world at a time when we need it most.

Perhaps worst of all, the WSJ piece ends on a note that reverberates right here in the United States:

Unlike in previous skirmishes, the activists interviewed Monday didn’t allege to be the victims of thugs paid by the government.

“The people were beating us and helping the army,” said protester Mahmoud Abdallah, catching his breath in a side street off Tahrir as an army truck hauled away detainees. “The people don’t know what is good for them. They don’t have any awareness. They just want to make money.”

As he spoke, Tareq Shawky, a 42-year-old toilet equipment vendor, interrupted the conversation. He said he had heard about the army moving against the protesters, and drove to the square so he could help dismantle the encampment.

“The Egyptian citizen wants only two things—security and low prices,” Mr. Shawky shouted. “The millions of Egyptians will do anything that the army tells us to do.”

This is the bottom line, isn’t it?

When Government-provided security and subsidies become the paramount concern of citizens, then democracy no longer exists.  There are no, real limits on Government under this mindset.

Egypt seemed to be emerging from an authoritarian legacy with dreams of founding a new society where basic, human rights were protected and valued.   Sadly, it seems that most Egyptians care more for safety and free bread.

And here in the United States, in a little over 200 years, we have, generation by generation, bartered away our independence for Government promises of security and subsidies:  Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance,Pell grants, Minimum Wage, Farm subsidies, Ethanol subsidies… the list is endless.   Even when faced with imminent, national bankruptcy, the thought of any change whatsoever to these entitlements is unthinkable for most Americans.   To merely revise bargaining rights of a public employee union results in riots and the occupation of government buildings.

In the recent “crisis” over the debt ceiling, several polls showed that a lopsided majority of Americans wanted government to reduce spending, but not at the expense of any of their favorite programs.  There is only one place where this attitude leads:  systemic failure leading to societal collapse leading, inevitably, to authoritarianism.

But, hey, why let a little thing like financial collapse ruin the party?


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