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]

Concerning Marines Urinating On Dead Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 7 months ago

Most of the DoD establishment is outraged over the recently divulged incident of Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters.  Much of it is faux outrage, but these Marines won’t be very happy with the outcome of the inquiry.  Ever the one to point out the different standards for different people because of different political needs, I’ll mention that there is no way – no way – to square the burial of Bin Laden at sea with Islamic law (not that it really matters to me whether we followed Islamic laws concerning his burial; we could have treated him like they did Mussolini as far as I’m concerned — either way, he’s in hell.).  Additionally, the public display of Zarqawi’s bloodied and bloated body caused an outrage among Muslims across the world.  It’s okay to desecrate the dead as long as the DoD sanctions it.  It’s not okay to do it if you’re a Marine under fire in the Helmand Province.  Come back to me when you get some consistency.  Until then, I think I’ll turn my attention to other, more important things.

Speaking of Marines under fire, we should mention some recent heroics.

The secretary of the Navy next week will present the Navy Cross to the family of a Marine from Camp Pendleton killed while saving the life of other Marines in Afghanistan, officials announced Tuesday.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is set to present the medal Jan. 17 to the family of Lance Cpl. Donald Hogan in a ceremony at Camp Pendleton. The Navy Cross is second only to the Medal of Honor for combat bravery by Marines or sailors.

Hogan, 20, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, was killed Aug. 26, 2009, by a buried explosive device after pushing a Marine to safety and yelling warnings to other Marines. Hogan was on a walking patrol in Helmand province, long a Taliban stronghold.

According to the Navy Cross citation, Hogan spotted a trigger wire for a buried bomb and hurled himself into the body of the nearest Marine to push him away from the imminent blast.

Hogan then “turned in the direction of the Improvised Explosive Device and placed himself in the road so that he could effectively yell verbal warnings to the rest of his squad-mates. This desperate effort to warn the rest of the patrol bought the remaining Marines valuable seconds to begin moving away,” the citation reads.

And some recent heartbreak.

A Wilmington Marine has been seriously injured in Afghanistan.

According to a report from the Wilmington News Journal, Cpl. Josh Sams, 27, was on routine patrol Wednesday when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). He was taken to a hospital in Afghanistan where both legs were amputated above the knee.

Sams’ mother, Barbara Regan, told the Journal that Sams was serving his third and final deployment and scheduled to come home for good on Feb. 7.

Sams is currently at a hospital in Germany also suffering from a broken pelvis and arm. He is in stable condition and will hopefully return stateside by Tuesday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.

He serves with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, H&S Company, Scout Sniper Platoon.

Sams is married to his wife, Lindsey, who lives in Jacksonville, N.C., where Sams is stationed.

Sams’ younger brother, Logan, died in an ATV accident in 2008.

Our men are still at war people.  Take a deep breath and recalibrate your perspective.

“Stoopid” Talk About Cutting Defense Spending

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 7 months ago

In Herschel Smith’s recent post, “What Defense Cuts Can and Can’t Accomplish,” he noted in response to President Obama’s announced cuts to Defense that such cuts were cover to make room for ruinous entitlements spending and ensured a future military that will not be prepared to meet America’s defense needs.

To tag team on that post somewhat, I would like to address two, typical fallacies indulged in by those calling for cuts to Defense spending.   The first is the idea that the Pentagon budget is so massive and so stuffed with waste and fraud that any budget increase would almost be immoral.   The second notion is that Defense spending is indistinguishable from any, other Federal spending and, so, sacrifices must be made.   I offer this in the context of the ongoing Republican nomination season where an amazing number of candidates are espousing the same kind of cuts.   Furthermore, I am amazed as I travel the internet and read comments by alleged conservatives that call for deep-sixing much of the Pentagon budget.  So, to all those would-be candidates and fellow conservatives who are tempted by the low-hanging Pentagon budget, I say, “No good can come of it.”

And here’s why:

No Federal function will ever be free of waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement.   Live with it.

Conservatives must take it as almost axiomatic that the military, being part of the federal government, is inherently inefficient, wasteful, bass-ackwards, and prone to all the wrong priorities.   Herschel’s post detailing the problems with various weapon systems is on point.

That said, the U.S. military is, nonetheless, widely recognized the world over as the best-functioning part of the national government we have.  It is, in many cases, the only thing that does, actually work even half the time.  When any, significant natural disaster occurs anywhere on the planet and rapid response is required to prevent massive loss of life, who is the one doing the heavy lifting in terms of humanitarian relief?  The U.S. military which has the advantage of being everywhere on the planet (or at least within carrier distance) and organized to deliver critical logistics in short order.  For all its many, many faults, the U.S. military still gets the job done in far less time and in far better fashion than any, other alternative known to mankind at this point.

Money will be wasted by the federal government just as a teenager will blow at least some part of that $20 bill you give them on a Big Mac and fries.  There is simply no way around it.  Yes, fraud/waste/abuse must be rooted out as far as possible and contracting must be improved blah blah blah, but there is no way this side of Paradise to put as many people in the field, all around the globe with as many types of weapons/units/vehicles et al without substantial waste.  I am sick of Obama or any GOP candidate who puffs and preens about reducing waste at the Pentagon as if that is going to solve our national spending addiction.  All of the waste and fraud at the Pentagon in a year is still a pittance compared to the entire, federal budget.   The problem is in the very budgeting and spending process.   Raging about government waste is performance art.   Worse, when it comes to government and waste, the two are too often synonymous.

Perhaps a better way of viewing Defense spending is to liken it to a huge pipeline.   The U.S. government is like a huge pipe with lots of spigots and also a bunch of holes, leaks and cracks: water is going to leak out all over the place.   Amazingly enough, however, due to the sheer volume and force, enough water will still manages to get through.   Tightening down the spigot called the U.S. military does not save any, actual water.   That water will just flow to other spigots like welfare, “green energy,” public employee unions, TSA harpies, bridges to nowhere and genius programs like “Fast and Furious.”   To actually save water in this illustration, the entire plumbing system has to be re-engineered.

Some Federal functions are more legitimate than others.  Prioritizing is key.

President Obama and the other Defense cutters act as if every federal undertaking is on an equal footing much as a family may decide to spend less on expensive orange juice and shift those dollars to cereal instead.   For those of us who continue to believe that we live in a constitutional republic, however, the U.S. military in one of the very few legitimate functions that the federal government performs under the U.S. Constitution.  Rather than starting the discussion about budget cuts with the one department that is actually in the U.S. Constitution, how about talking first about real, immediate cuts to the plethora of departments, agencies, programs and funding that are completely outside of any Constitutional mandate.  Entitlements are the place to start, not the military.

Like Obama, John Huntsman is particularly annoying in this regard.   Worse yet, to hear Huntsman talk about Defense spending, the U.S. can treat it like putting off a leaky roof:  we can put off needed spending for some period of time, hoping that the roof will not collapse, and someday get the repairs done.   As Herschel’s post pointed out, this has been done with shocking frequency since the 1930′s and has always ended in disaster and tragic losses of life.  As night follows day you can rest assured that a major violent international event will follow our budget cuts to defense.  That’s not scaremongering, it is just history.  Sure, we can try ramping up like we did all those other times, but history may be less forgiving this time around.

As this Heritage Foundation paper aptly states, quoting Secretary of Defense Robert Gates:

After each war-driven boom, the defense budget has experienced an extended period of decline. In May 2007, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained:

Five s to times over the past 90 years—after the First and Second World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and most recently after the Cold War— the United States has slashed defense spending or disarmed outright in the mistaken belief that the nature of man or the behavior of nations had changed with the end of each of the wars, or that somehow we would not face threatour homeland or would not need to take a leadership role abroad.[6]

Time and again, policymakers have tended to neglect defense absent immediate, manifest threats to U.S. interests, and Americans and their military personnel have repeatedly paid the price of being less prepared.

Common sense dictates that the Pentagon should take advantage of peacetime lulls to replace damaged or destroyed equipment, to modernize legacy systems, and to purchase next-generation replacements to avoid predictable shortfalls in future force structure. Yet most Administrations have failed to do so.

The Heritage Foundation paper is well worth reading in its entirety and provides valuable citations and data that emphasize the follies of U.S. Defense spending practices for the past 90 years.   The papers leads to the conclusion that the combat forces of the U.S. military are increasingly being hollowed out by decades of short-sighted cuts, binge spending and misallocations, with increasing shares of the budget going toward entitlement-like benefits and mushrooming bureaucracies.

Conclusion

The United States is playing not only with fire but a can of gasoline nearby.  Any one of a dozen international hot spots could ignite in the next years and the combat arms of the military are increasingly made to get by with aging equipment and insufficient numbers of soldiers and marines.   In a bitterly comic twist, Democrats like Obama, who only 3 short years ago were complaining that President Bush was wearing out the U.S. military, are now cutting funds needed to re-build it.   More shocking is that this defense-cutting contagion seems to have spread to conservatives.  We seem to be watching our leaders flinging lighted matches at the gas can with little, apparent alarm.

Gun Ownership Declining in America

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 7 months ago

That’s what Josh Horwitz would have you believe.  Actually, the Huffington Post can’t get their narrative straight.  Five days before publishing Horwitz’ piece they published the narrative that background checks of firearms spiked in 2011 and especially towards the end of the year.  But let’s note that consistency isn’t the stock and trade of the Huffington Post and move on.

While noting that background checks for firearms had increased, Josh points out that “Thousands of background checks each year result in denials” … “Background checks are performed under a number of circumstances that do not involve gun sales, for example, when an individual pawns a weapon and later redeems it” … “In some states, a concealed handgun permit exempts permit holders from having to undergo additional background checks when they purchase new firearms,” and so on the explanation goes.

That these same exceptions and caveats existed prior to 2011 and also effected data from the previous years (assumed to the same extent unless and until proven otherwise) is irrelevant to Josh.  What matters is selling the narrative.  But Josh must have missed the memoranda, and presumably there isn’t really any better witness than firearms dealers.  A sampling (albeit anecdotal) follows.

There has been an increase in both the sale of firearms and in concealed handgun permit requests in Gaston County, North Carolina, in 2011.

In Kernersville, North Carolina, firearms sales were up as much as 15% over the previous year.

At Adventure Outdoors  in the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna, twice as many firearms were sold last month as they did in December of 2010.

In Elkhart, Indiana, Midwest Gun Exchange is seeing a lot of first time families and women becoming involved in the shooting sports and self defense.

In Tucson, Arizona, there are record-setting sales for firearms to women.

At Second Amendment Sports in Bakersfield, California, firearms sales were up 25% from the previous year.

In and around Cleveland, Ohio, local firearms dealers say their sales have been up from anywhere between 20 and 40 percent. A large part of the surge in gun sales has been by women who want to learn how to shoot and defend themselves.

In Fort Worth, Texas, sales of firearms to women have been “through the roof” according to dealers.

In Yakima, Washington, firearms sales climbed by a quarter over the holidays compared to last year.

The Gun Center in Frederick, Maryland, had its best December in 25 years in business — “and not by a little,” owner Bill Kelley said.

At Sharpshooters in Lubbock, Texas, they have seen their handgun sales increase by 10 to 15 percent over the past year.

Sales of firearms to women in Permian Basin, Texas, have doubled.

You see, Josh Horwitz relied on data supplied by the highly biased Violence Policy Center for his analysis.  But he is using the data to attempt to dispute a tidal wave of evidence that the second amendment is alive and well with American citizens.

It isn’t clear what Horwitz is attempting to do with his analysis.  Perhaps he intends to substantiate the constant assertions by his organization and the Brady Campaign that the NRA “owns” the Congress, and always uses scare tactics to convince people to give more and more of their money to the NRA in order to protect the second amendment – that the real threat isn’t gun control advocates, and in fact, there are fewer gun owners in America.  The real threat is the NRA.  Perhaps that’s his aim, although it’s an odd, forced, stilted and uncompelling argument.

Then there are those like me who believe that until recently (in American Rifleman magazine), Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox have undersold and soft pedaled the message.  They seem to have just recently hit their stride, but this just goes to show that not all of us propagate NRA conspiracy theories or fall prey to them.  Many of us are out ahead of them waiting for them to catch up.  If the NRA is Horwitz’ target, his analysis fails miserably.  If not, then no one knows why he wrote the analysis in the first place.  Besides, if there are fewer and fewer gun owners in America, then there is far less need for gun control laws, another unintended consequence of Horwitz’ argument.

What Defense Cuts Can and Can’t Accomplish

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 7 months ago

Obama has rolled out his plan for defense cuts.  He appeared at the Pentagon with such notables as Generals Odierno and Amos.  This is extremely bad form, and this tactic was used to make it appear that the military agrees with or is setting national defense policy, specifically, the Obama administration policy.  It isn’t the business of the military to agree or disagree with its civilian leadership on national defense policy.

To the point, the revised policy includes things such as a so-called rebalancing towards the Asia-Pacific region.  It also will place higher emphasis on drones and cyberwarfare, and will markedly decrease the size of the Army and Marine Corps.  This shift in policy is supposed to align with an increased concern over saber-rattling by China and increased growth of its military.

There has also been a large amount of posturing over the wasteful spending at the Pentagon.  At Foreign Affairs Lawrence Korb has penned an article entitled Why Panetta’s Pentagon Cuts Are Easier Than You Think.  Any review of my advocacy will show that I have opposed ridiculous programs as well.  I’ve called for the end of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and counseled the Marine Corps to focus its energies on forcible entry based on more rapid and aggressive airborne assault (such as with helicopters and V-22 Ospreys).  I have advocated the end of the highly wasteful F-35 program, as well as more F-16s and F-22s (both of which outperform the F-35).  I have advocated against the Army Future Combat Systems, and other wasteful programs.

Furthermore, my own advocacy for the far east has been to cut Japan loose from our umbrella of nuclear protection, as well as for South Korea.  Nothing would slow China’s military advances more than having to worry over a nuclear Japan.  But my advocacy has also been for staying the course in both Iraq and Afghanistan, for strengthening our infantry, both Army and Marines, and for replacing and upgrading infantry equipment.  An entirely new armory of rifles and automatic arms will be needed to replace the aging actions of older firearms in order to keep our infantry well-supplied.  Future policy has also pointed towards a reduction in the number of aircraft carrier groups, while I have argued for steady or increasing carrier availability as one of the most effective elements of force projection.

But this – the current Obama administration actions – is more than re-apportionment and redistribution of resources to ensure wiser spending.  Make no mistake about it.  Approximately one and a half years ago, the CATO institute produced a study entitled Sustainable Defense Task Force, and it wasn’t the only such study.  The unspoken presupposition of these efforts was the need to find money for entitlement spending.  They saw it coming, and they prepared the think tank papers and studies to show that it was necessary.

But Glen Tschirgi has pointed out that entitlements will consume all tax revenues by the year 2049.  Defense cuts won’t do the job.  Mark Steyn has argued that Ron Paul suffers from the same illusion that grips the left.

Like many chaps round these parts, my general line on Ron Paul was that, as much as I think he’s out of his gourd on Iran et al, he performs a useful role in the GOP line-up talking up the virtues of constitutional conservatism. But this Weekly Standard piece by John McCormack suggests Paul is a humbug even on his core domestic turf: The entitlement state is the single biggest deformation to the Founders’ republic, and it downgrades not only America’s finances but its citizenry. Yet Paul has no serious proposal for dealing with it, and indeed promises voters that we won’t have to as long as we cut “overseas spending”.

This is hooey. As I point out in my book, well before the end of this decade interest payments on the debt will consume more of the federal budget than military spending. So you could abolish the Pentagon, sell off the fleet to Beijing and the nukes to Tehran and Khartoum and anybody else who wants ‘em, and we’d still be heading off the cliff. If a candidate isn’t talking about entitlement transformation, he’s unserious.

And, before the Ronulans start jeering “Neocon!”, I part company with many friends on the right who argue that defense spending can’t be cut. I wrote a cover story for NR a couple of months back arguing that the military’s bloated size (and budget) is increasingly an impediment to its effectiveness: When you’re responsible for 43 per cent of global military expenditure, it’s hardly surprising that you start acting like the world’s most lavishly funded transnational-outreach non-profit rather than the sharp end of America’s national interest. In Afghanistan, the problem is not that we haven’t spent enough money but that so much of it has been utterly wasted – and mostly in predictable ways. I am in favor of a leaner, meaner military, with the emphasis on both adjectives.

But Ron Paul, with his breezy indifference to the entitlement question, is peddling the same illusion Obama sold a gullible electorate in 2008 – that, if only America retreats from “Bush’s wars”, life can go on, and we’ll be fat and happy with literally not a care in the world. Big Government parochialism is an appealing fantasy because it suggests America’s fortunes can be restored without pain. But they can’t – and when Ron Paul tells you otherwise he’s talking hogwash.

The illusion is that cuts to defense spending can save our economic system from collapse.  The administration talks of two wars ending, and the wars of the last decades “coming to an end.”  Coming to an end indeed.  While I have argued endlessly for better and smarter logistics, the difficulty facing the logisticians now is getting troops and materiel out of Afghanistan rather than into it.  And with waning political support for the campaign, it would be easy to argue for complete withdrawal, even immediately.  If the campaign won’t be taken seriously and run to its completion with an outcome that we can live with, I argue (herein) for such withdrawal.  America apparently isn’t prepared to encounter militant Islam on our own terms.  Very well.  Then we’ll do it on their terms, and it will be more painful.

The wars of the “last decade” won’t go away.  The enemy gets a vote on our fate fate as well.  And Robert Scales outlines the downside of defense cuts.

Harry Truman seeking to never repeat the costs of World War II reduced the Army from 8 million soldiers to fewer than half a million. Without the intervention of Congress, he would have eliminated the Marine Corps entirely. The result was the evisceration of both land services in Korea, a war Truman never intended to fight.

With Dwight Eisenhower came the “New Look” strategy that sought to reduce the Army and Marine Corps again to allow the creation of a nuclear delivery force built around the Strategic Air Command. Along came Vietnam, a war that Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson never wanted to fight. But by 1970 our professional Army broke apart and was replaced by a body of amateurs. The result was defeat and 58,000 dead.

After Vietnam, the Nixon administration broke the Army again. I know. I was there to see the drug addiction, murders in the barracks and chronic indiscipline, caused mainly by a dispirited noncommissioned corps that voted with its feet and left. Then came Jimmy Carter’s unique form of neglect that led to the “hollow Army” of the late ’70s, an Army that failed so miserably in its attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran.

The only exception to this very sad story was the Reagan years, when the land services received enough funding to equip and train themselves to fight so well in Operation Desert Storm. Then tragedy again as the Clinton administration reduced the ground services, intending to rely on “transformation,” a program that paid for more ships and planes by reducing the Army from 16 divisions to 10. In the George W. Bush administration, Donald Rumsfeld continued a policy that sought to exploit information technology to replace the human component in war. Had it not been for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Army would have gone down to fewer than eight divisions.

So, here we go again. The Obama administration will reduce its long-service, professional land force to pay for something called “Air Sea Battle,” a strategy that seeks to buy more ships and planes in order to confront China with technology rather than people. This strategy shows a degree of a-historicism that exceeds that of any post-World War II administration. So much for remembering “the lessons of the past.”

I’m in good company in my advocacy for good men and materiel.  Drones are slow and lumbering, and our national fascination with them will come to a timely end when they see service against states that can easily shoot them out of the air (such as recently with Iran).  They are no replacement for the Air Force flying manned fighters, GPS is no real replacement for the ability to read maps and use a compass, red dot optics is no replacement for knowing how to use iron sights, and heavy reliance on logistics is no replacement for training in the ability to use the land for survival.  The human element in warfare cannot be replaced by technology.

From Cato Institute

We will suffer some future hardships from lack of intelligent and wise funding of our military.  Defense cuts can exacerbate those hardships.  But what defense cuts cannot possibly do is be anything other than a very short-lived and dangerous bank account for survival until we deal with what will be the true root cause of our economic demise: the entitlement state.

One Police Officer Dead And Five Wounded From No-Knock Raid

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 7 months ago

From San Francisco Chronicle:

Ogden, Utah –

Search warrant in hand, a team of bulletproof vest-wearing officers rapped on the door of a small, red-brick Utah house, identifying themselves as police. When no one responded, authorities say, the officers burst inside.

That’s when the gunfire erupted.

When it was over Wednesday night, a seven-year veteran officer was dead and five of his colleagues were wounded, some critically. The suspect, an Army veteran whose estranged father said suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and may have been self-medicating with marijuana, was injured.

As the city tried Thursday to grapple with the outburst of violence and the loss of one of its officers, investigators were trying to determine how the raid as part of a drug investigation could have gone so terribly wrong.

“It’s a very, very sad day,” an emotional Ogden Police Chief Wayne Tarwater said.

Police declined to reveal details of the shooting besides a general timeline, citing the ongoing investigation.

Among the questions that authorities will try to answer was whether the officers, in the chaotic moments upon entering the house, may have inadvertently fired on each other.

Police said the warrant was based on information about possible drug activity, but would not say what officers were specifically looking for inside Matthew David Stewart’s home.

Stewart, 37, was in the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, authorities said. He does not have an attorney yet.

Stewart served in the Army from July 1994 to December 1998, spending a year based in Fort Bragg, N.C., and nearly three years stationed in Germany, Army records show.

He held a post as a communications equipment specialist, earning an Army Achievement Medal and a National Defense Service Medal. Both are given for completing active service.

Stewart’s father, Michael Stewart, said his son works a night shift at a local Walmart and may have been sleeping when police arrived.

“When they kicked in the door, he probably felt threatened,” said Michael Stewart, who has been estranged from his son for more than a year, but keeps track of him through his two other sons.

He said he didn’t believe his son owned any automatic weapons and that the family is upset by what happened. Weber County Attorney Dee Smith said it wasn’t yet clear what charges Stewart might face once the shooting investigation concludes.

SWAT raids, in all but a handful of cases, constitute reckless endangerment of the individuals inside the home.  Recall that we previously discussed how these kinds of raids also involve endangerment to the officers themselves?  In this case, one officer is dead and five wounded – all unnecessarily.  It will be interesting to see how this case proceeds.  If Mr. Stewart believed that his life was in danger from a home invasion, will a judge or jury actually rule that he had no right to defend himself?  Should he sit and allow a home intruder to kill him given the possibility that it might be police officers?  Will prosecution bring charges against Mr. Stewart?

There is a solution, of course, to this problem.  Don’t do no-knock SWAT raids.

Concerning Iran, the U.S., and the Strait of Hormuz

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

We’re all aware of the recent boasting over how Iran can shut down the Strait of Hormuz.  We also know all about the pipelines being constructed by the UAE in an attempt to circumvent the Persian Gulf and thereby defang Iran in its hegemony over the region, at least as regards its threats over the waterways.

There is also – as usual – the bluster about how Iran won’t possibly make good on its promises, and how the U.S. Navy issued threats of its own.  But rest assured that if the U.S. or Israel launches a strike against the Iranian nuclear program, given the radical Mullahs apocalyptic and eschatological view of reality, they will hold nothing back from their retaliation.

And don’t rest so comfortably in the blustering of of the U.S. Navy.  Their fear of shore to ship missile technology has been the basis for their demurral to define any role at all in what they want so desperately to have a role in, i.e., littoral combat.  They won’t tread any closer than 20 miles to shore, the “beyond the horizon” distance.

As for anecdotal data, consider what happened (I have reported this before) with the 26th MEU in 2008.  The USS Iwo Jima was in vicinity of the very subject of our discussion (somewhere in the Persian Gulf, or Strait of Hormuz), and an Iranian helicopter virtually landed aboard the ship.  The Marines at that time judged a threat and prepared to engage the enemy, but Navy officers, not wanting an incident, of course, ensured that the Marines didn’t respond.

The incident of Iran filming a U.S. Aircraft Carrier rather pales in comparison to an Iranian helicopter hovering just over the deck of the USS Iwo Jima, does it not?  I have no confidence whatsoever in the willingness of the US Navy to engage Iran on any level at all.

Prayer Request

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

Friend Rick Keyes writes with this prayer request:

My brother the AC130 pilot is in the hospital in Landstuhl with a non combat related sickness however it is serious enough they evaced him as soon as they could.  Any prayers and thoughts that could be sent his direction would be greatly appreciated.

Done.  Actually, send your thoughts to Rick and his brother, your prayers in the direction of God.

Obama Admin Again Leads With Behind: Super Secret Syria Plan

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 8 months ago

From Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy, “Obama Administration Secretly Preparing Options For Aiding the Syrian Opposition.”

As the violence in Syria spirals out of control, top officials in President Barack Obama‘s administration are quietly preparing options for how to assist the Syrian opposition, including gaming out the unlikely option of setting up a no-fly zone in Syria and preparing for another major diplomatic initiative.

This is one of those articles that illustrates the quandary of politics and democracy in America, circa 2012.  A Leftist can read the article and feel concerned but encouraged that the Obama Administration is carefully reviewing options and nicely weighing consequences and unforeseen possibilities.   A Conservative can read this very same article and find a mother lode of examples of everything that is wrong with Obama and his foreign policy team.   So without offense to Mr. Rogin, we will begin to mine.

In the lede paragraph we find that the Administration is, “quietly preparing options for how to assist the Syrian opposition, including gaming out the unlikely option of setting up a no-fly zone in Syria and preparing for another major diplomatic initiative.”   The fact that this is even news is disturbing.   Isn’t this one of the principal tasks of any administration– to look at the likely hot spots on the globe and have a plan, even (gasp) a strategy for each?   The reaction of the Obama Administration to Syria is the same as it was for Libya as it was for Iran as it was for Egypt as it was for Iraq:  caught with its pants down.

There is no stratagey, no over-arching view of the world that weaves U.S. foreign policy into a coherent set of goals and takes pro-active action, in advance, of events.   In short, the Obama Administration has been playing defense from day one.  And it shows.  When the people of Iran rose up and marched in the streets to denounce the fraud and, later, to demand an end to the Regime, Obama’s reaction was to stay out of it.   There was no thought of seizing an unparalleled opportunity to change the trajectory of the Middle East overnight.  In Libya, the Administration went along for the ride with Britain and France, or, more precisely, Britain and France took the U.S. for the ride, relying on U.S. logistics and air power for the bulk of the mission.   And, despite the War Powers Act, Obama never once articulated a rationale to support the use of force (and the risk of American lives) in Libya.   Obama waffled back and forth on Egypt, with different Administration officials making conflicting statements for months before Mubarak was thrown to the wolves.   Even now, with the Muslim Brotherhood on the verge of gaining power in Egypt, the Administration is busy reacting—or perhaps better known as covering its rear end by painting the Brotherhood as a “moderate” Islamist group.

Notice, too, in just this, first paragraph, how the Administration is busy “preparing for another major diplomatic initiative.”   That pretty well sums up Obama’s first term in world affairs:  floating one  “major diplomatic initiative” after another, even in the face of abject failure and embarrassing rejections.   Iran is busy developing nukes?  No problem.  Let’s get our terrific allies, the Russians and Chinese, to get behind Security Council resolutions that have no, real teeth and do nothing to stop the nuke program.   Here we go again with Syria.  An opportunity to take out one of the worst enablers of terrorism, a puppet of the Iranian Regime and an implacable foe of our only ally in the Middle East, Israel, and Obama is busy “preparing for another major diplomatic initiative.”    Oh and “the unlikely option” of a no-fly zone.

Every line of Rogin’s piece is like a manual on what is wrong with this Administration:

…U.S. officials said that they are moving cautiously in order to avoid destabilizing Syria further, and to make sure they know as much as possible about the country’s complex dynamics before getting more involved. [Emphasis added]

Yes, this thing in Syria is just so, darn complex that we have to move slowly because, you know, we wouldn’t want Syria to become even less stable than it is now, what with the tanks in the streets and snipers randomly shooting civilians trying to buy bread.   And, of course, that Bashar Assad is such a “reformer” that we want to make sure he stays in power as long as possible.

And here’s a great line about the Administration’s idea of taking action:

…the administration is now ramping up its policymaking machinery on the issue. After several weeks of having no top-level administration meetings to discuss the Syria crisis, the National Security Council (NSC) has begun an informal, quiet interagency process to create and collect options for aiding the Syrian opposition, two administration officials confirmed to The Cable. [Emphasis added]

I have to hand it to Rogin on that sentence: it is a marvelous description of an Administration steeped in timidity laced with inaction bounded by circumspection and ringed with preliminary precaution.    “[S]everal weeks” of no, real discussions about Syria!?  What were the “top-level” people doing in the months before that when Syrians were demonstrating against Assad and being killed?  I know, I know, it’s a busy world and there’s a lot of golf that needs playing.

But not worry.  We are told that the NSC is on top of it now.   Uh… with “informal” and, um, “quiet” talks to “create and collect options” to do something.   This has to be the biggest exercise in foot dragging ever.   Essentially the Administration does not want to do anything with respect to Syria except, perhaps, give the impression that it is really, really about to get serious about thinking about creating an “interagency” panel of some sort who will exchange memos about  how to study the issue of, perhaps, aiding the Syrian opposition.

The unmistakable impression is that the Administration is not just playing defense here, they are doing everything they can to run out the clock in the hopes that someone else will do something (and if that “something” happens to turn out well, then take full credit for that result and trumpet it as another foreign policy triumph).

Well, at least there seem to be some options on the table:

The options that are under consideration include establishing a humanitarian corridor or safe zone for civilians in Syria along the Turkish border, extending humanitarian aid to the Syrian rebels, providing medical aid to Syrian clinics, engaging more with the external and internal opposition, forming an international contact group, or appointing a special coordinator for working with the Syrian opposition (as was done in Libya), according to the two officials, both of whom are familiar with the discussions but not in attendance at the meetings.

“The interagency is now looking at options for Syria, but it’s still at the preliminary stage,” one official said. “There are many people in the administration that realize the status quo is unsustainable and there is an internal recognition that existing financial sanctions are not going to bring down the Syrian regime in the near future.”

Gosh, it’s great that the U.S. is so focused on providing “humanitarian” help to these people that are being shelled by Assad’s artillery.   They probably do need alot of bandages and stuff.   But somehow it seems strange that Obama was hell-bent to bomb the pants off of Qaddafi for, what was it?  Oh yes, the possibility of a “humanitarian disaster,” but when it comes to Syria, where people are actually dying at the hands of a ruthless dictator in a country that actually has vital importance to the U.S., Obama is playing the coy, young girl.    Yes, when important world events demand immediate action you can count on sweet Miss Barack to spend months writing in his diary and having endless slumber parties before coming to anything like a decision.   This does not earn the U.S. any points in the world, though perhaps it will do something for Barack Obama at this year’s Miss World competition.

But, as it turns out, Mr. Rogin found at least “one official” who was willing to (anonymously) provide an explanation of the Administration’s odd behavior:

“Due to the incredible and far-reaching ramifications of the Syrian problem set, people are being very cautious,” the official said. “The criticism could be we’re not doing enough to change the status quo because we’re leading from behind. But the reason we are being so cautious is because when you look at the possible ramifications, it’s mindboggling.”

A power vacuum in the country, loose weapons of mass destruction, a refugee crisis, and unrest across the region are just a few of the problems that could attend the collapse of the Assad regime, the official said.

“This isn’t Libya. What happens in Libya stays in Libya, but that is not going to happen in Syria. The stakes are higher,” the official said. “Right now, we see the risks of moving too fast as higher than the risks of moving too slow.”

I don’t know, maybe I just have impossibly high standards for civil servants, but, unless this “official” with knowledge of these discussions is the office janitor who happens to be in the room changing EPA-approved CFC lightbulbs, it sounds a bit funny: the Administration is being hyper-cautious because of the “incredible” and “far-reaching ramifications” of taking any action in Syria.   Ooooh.  There are “ramifications.”   And they could be “incredible.”   And “far-reaching.”   [Director's Note:  Insert here shot of President in fetal position in dark corner, sucking thumb, blankie in other hand].   As the “official” said (with no trace of irony as far as I could tell), “It’s mindboggling.”

And the examples?  A “power vacuum” in Syria?  Got news for you, buddy, Syria under the Butchers of Damascus (Assad I and Assad II) has been plenty frightening.   When the Assads have not been killing and torturing their own people, they have been busy assassinating every pro-Western leader in Lebanon, assisting Iran’s plans to obliterate Israel, hosting and training terrorists for worldwide terror missions and trying to develop their own nukes (until Israel blasted the nuclear reactor to oblivion in 2007).  How much worse are we talking here?

“Loose weapons of mass destruction” ?  Come on, now.  We’re not falling for that one again.   The Left screamed their little heads off that Saddam did not have WMD’s and all the evidence that they were moved to Syria in the year prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq have been ridiculed by the Left.   Surely Obama is not going to try to tell us that Syria has WMD’s, is he?  That just opens up too many cans of worms, even for a guy who owns the Leftist Media in this country.

And a “refugee crisis, and unrest across the region” ?  The entire Middle East is a refugee crisis and non-stop unrest.   Nothing the U.S. could do in Syria is going to change these eternal features.   This is truly one of those situations where things have to get better because they cannot get any worse.

I could go on and on.  Literally.   This valuable piece by Josh Rogin is comedy gold and you should read the entire thing.   Yes, those chortles will be mixed with tears of frustration at such an inept Administration, but these days we have to find the silver lining anywhere we can.

Here are just a few more highlights:

“This isn’t Libya. What happens in Libya stays in Libya, but that is not going to happen in Syria. The stakes are higher,” the official said. “Right now, we see the risks of moving too fast as higher than the risks of moving too slow.”   [Really?  Syria is more important than Libya?  Now there's a good reason to go even slower! And you have to love the tie-in with Las Vegas.]

***

The option of establishing a humanitarian corridor is seen as extremely unlikely because it would require establishing a no-fly zone over parts of Syria, which would likely involve large-scale attacks on the Syrian air defense and military command-and-control systems.  [Yes, attacks against the air defenses and command-and-control should only be attempted against third-rate loons like Qaddafi where our vital interests are at stake.]

***

Rhetorically, the administration has been active in calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside and protecting the rights of Syrian protesters, despite the lack of clear policy to achieve that result. “The United States continues to believe that the only way to bring about the change that the Syrian people deserve is for Bashar al-Assad to leave power,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Dec. 21.  [I am told that Jay Carney scored rather well on the Journalism 101 test for stating the obvious.  Still, it's good that Obama sees the problem even if he has no clue what to do about it.]

As the comedy writers are fond of saying about real life, “You just can’t make this stuff up.”   But it took Obama to bring us the perfect marriage of U.S. Foreign Policy and Comedy Central.   And with CNN World, you can get this farce 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Expect things to get much funnier in 2012.


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