The Paradox and Absurdities of Carbon-Fretting and Rewilding

Herschel Smith · 28 Jan 2024 · 4 Comments

The Bureau of Land Management is planning a truly boneheaded move, angering some conservationists over the affects to herd populations and migration routes.  From Field & Stream. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently released a draft plan outlining potential solar energy development in the West. The proposal is an update of the BLM’s 2012 Western Solar Plan. It adds five new states—Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming—to a list of 11 western states already earmarked…… [read more]

New Approach in the Pech River Valley?

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 9 months ago

From CSM:

Nestled in a lush but mean valley on the banks of the Pech River, Camp Blessing was no longer the sort of place, US commanders decided in February, that warranted the bloodshed of American soldiers.

Instead, the US war effort would benefit from focusing its limited resources on population centers, they concluded, and away from the Pech’s brutal terrain and rather xenophobic citizenry, ready and more than willing to skillfully take up arms against outsiders.

Better, they concluded, to leave this sparsely settled region – where Afghan fighters mustered to make the first successful stand against Soviet occupation – to the Afghan Army.

So soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division towed away the modern toilet trailers and stripped Camp Blessing of its amenities – air-conditioning units, flat-screen monitors, and the covered plywood porch where senior US troops convened to smoke cigars and discuss the news of the day.

In March, they rechristened the base “Nangalam” and turned it over to Afghan forces.

Today, however, US soldiers are back. The conditions at the once built-up outpost are now spartan. Troops bathe with baby wipes and bottled water and sleep on the floors of buildings that, they discovered upon their return in late July, were littered with human feces.

Insurgents had advanced so steadily since March that the Afghan Army could lose the base itself, say a new crop of US commanders.

They see the return as an opportunity to forge a new model for cooperation and mentoring with the Afghan security forces. But while the Pech is admittedly one of Afghanistan’s toughest assignments, the Afghan Army’s failed four-month attempt take the reins of security illustrates its shortfalls – and how far there is to go, US officers say, if NATO is to turn all security responsibilities over to Afghan forces by 2014.

The troops who have come back to this jagged spine of mountain peaks are under no illusions about the difficulty of the task that awaits them. Their code name for this operation: “Hotel California.”

“It’s like the lyrics,” says 2nd battalion intelligence officer Maj. Marcus Wright of the Eagles song: “ ‘You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.’ ”

When US forces moved back into Camp Blessing in late July, they were greeted with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, one of which hit the underbelly of a US Chinook carrying supplies for the base. That marked the first shoot-down of a Chinook this year. The pilot was able to land relatively gently without any serious injuries, though passengers were forced to sprint when thousands of rounds of ammunition caught fire and ignited, causing shrapnel injuries and destroying the helicopter.

It was a pattern of hostility repeatedly encountered by US forces. “We really had to reoccupy the base,” says Maj. Glenn Kozelka, executive officer for the 2nd battalion, 3rd brigade combat team of the 25th Infantry Division.

Security had deteriorated rapidly after US forces departed. Within weeks, the Afghan battalion commander at Nangalam could not safely get to meetings in a Asadabad, Kunar’s bustling capital 25 miles east. The Taliban overran and occupied the capital of a nearby district center.

At the same time, insurgents routinely attacked Afghan National Army (ANA) patrol routes. By May, the Afghan commander stationed at Nangalam had abandoned the outpost, along with his top staff.

“It was better before” the US left, says Afghan commander Col. Adam Khan Matin. “When the coalition forces left, the [insurgent] training camps came back.”

Stopping for a moment for some observations on insurgent bases, U.S. commanders (specifically, McChrystal and his staff) might have argued for a population-centric approach to counterinsurgency, but regular readers know that I didn’t.  Continuing with the CSM article.

Lt. Col. Colin Tuley, the top US commander at Nangalam, grappled with how to address the regression. His battalion now had responsibility for an area that had previously needed two. His 800-plus soldiers were spread out across multiple forward operating bases and command posts.

Simply holding that ground would be challenge enough. After evaluating the capabilities of the ANA at Nangalam, Col. Tuley came to a conclusion. “We needed to do something else.”

In his idea is a hope central to the American exit strategy: If US troops focused more intently on creating a workable partnership with the Afghans, perhaps the mentoring could make up for the diminished number of US troops and ensure that a decade’s worth of US battles are for not for naught.

So began what Tuley calls a “permanent embedded partnership” – or PEP – an experiment that could hold lessons for the American war effort in Afghanistan.

The PEP will revolve around 40 US troops at Nangalam working with multiple companies of the Afghan Army. Most immediately, with a stronger base here, Tuley hopes US forces “can come in and do operations as necessary,” allowing NATO to extend its reach farther into the valley. Perhaps more long-term, he adds, the PEP “is a great kind of interim phase to get the ANA to where [the transition is] not as abrupt.”

The US platoon will run workshops on basics from marksmanship to first aid – lessons that have been taught before, Tuley acknowledges, but bear repeating.

“If you think about it, this [Afghan commander at Nangalam] never had a partnership, Tuley adds. “It was. ‘Here’s your battlespace.’ ”

The first order of business – and lesson for Afghan commanders – is to bolster base defenses. When the US was here, Nangalam had early-attack warning systems, including towers with cameras that sent images to screens in a base defense center, which allowed troops to monitor the perimeter.

When Tuley returned, no vestige of those defenses remained. “The security definitely wasn’t at the level that I would ever feel too comfortable having my soldiers out there,” he says.

In response, he has assigned a US platoon of about 30 soldiers to patrol the surrounding area, and he stationed a single US soldier with night-vision goggles at each Afghan guard post along the perimeter of the base.

Beyond base defenses, Tuley must help the Afghans carry out their own missions more effectively.

The PEP’s first big test: A humanitarian mission into one of the more isolated and government-averse areas of the country.

PEP teams.  It’s permanent now, except that it’s not.  U.S. troops will be leaving, and leaving the ANA in a lurch without the cultural framework, logistical know-how, equipment or honesty to run an army.  And they don’t understand force protection.  Furthermore, historically, only Western armies can field high quality NCOs.  And it doesn’t really produce much confidence that a humanitarian mission is the first really big test of the ANA.  During the battle of Kamdesh at COP Keating, ANA soldiers were found curled up in fetal positions in bed under blankets.  We’ve got larger problems than whether the ANA can pull off humanitarian missions.  Continuing.

Afghans also lack equipment, including night-vision goggles. “That’s a pretty critical piece of equipment to provide security,” says Tuley. US officials worry, however, that if they give night-vision goggles to the Afghans, particularly with ANA attrition rates remaining high, they could fall into insurgents’ hands.

Yes, expensive equipment will end up in enemy hands.  Said one ANA soldier about his conditions, “Some of the guys wear sandals at the border because their boots have been taken by officers who sell them.”

Finally, the most important part of the report.

For now … the US troop presence at Nangalam is likely only to increase.

As the first week of partnership at Nangalam winds to a close, Tuley is increasingly convinced that rather than the 40-plus soldiers currently taking part in the PEP, he will need closer to 200.

He knows, too, that this plan comes with opportunity costs. With US forces set to draw down across Afghanistan, he can only bolster the American presence at Nangalam by closing a combat outpost or a forward operating base.

After the PEP’s first big mission, though, he believes that expanding US forces here is key to US troops being able to one day go home for good.

This is important enough to bear repeating.  He needs more troops (or a higher ratio of U.S. forces to ANA).  The only way he can accomplish that is to close COPs or FOBs.  I repeat.  Marines to Kunar.

NATO Rushes To Seal Afghan Border

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 9 months ago

A U.S. Army soldier from Alpha Company 2nd battalion 27th infantry (the Wolfhounds), Task Force NO FEAR watches out from OP Mace in eastern Afghanistan Naray district, Kunar province near the border of Pakistan early August 27, 2011.  From Reuters

U.S. soldier Staff Sergeant Frankie Berdecia of Alpha Company 2nd battalion 27th infantry (the Wolfhounds), Task Force NO FEAR from Puerto Rico, operates a TOW missile system at Observation Post Mace in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province near the border with Pakistan August 28, 2011.  From IHT.

Romney Set To Attack Perry In South Carolina

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 9 months ago

From Marc Thiessen:

Rick Perry may have jumped to the front of the GOP pack in national polls, but here in first-in-the-nation New Hampshire Mitt Romney still holds an 18-point lead. When I asked Romney about Perry during a recent campaign swing through the Granite State, he replied, “I don’t know what all of his positions are, you’ll have to ask him . . . I don’t spend a lot of time looking at [other candidates’] positions.”

That may be, but Romney’s campaign strategists are certainly spending a lot of time poring over Perry’s positions — and developing a plan to stop the surging Texas governor.

Romney has been criticized for refusing to engage Perry, but his campaign advisers see no need to do so now. They point out that the Democratic National Committee is going after Perry, hundreds of reporters hoping to make names for themselves are scouring his life and record, and other candidates that Perry has passed in the polls are determined to take him down. Why should Romney attack Perry directly when the Democrats, the liberal media and Michele Bachmann will do it for him? Romney’s strategists note that Perry will have to survive five debates in six weeks — ample opportunity for Bachmann to “rip his eyes out” (as she did to Tim Pawlenty) or for Perry to blow himself up.

If Perry fails to implode and continues to surge in the polls, Romney eventually will have to go on the attack — an assault his advisers say will commence “at a time of our choosing.” Romney strategists are quick to note that in his book, “Fed Up!,” Perry writes that “By any measure, Social Security is a failure” and calls the program “something we have been forced to accept for more than 70 years now” that was created “at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government.”

Look at what happened to Paul Ryan when he proposed a plan to save Medicare, they say. Romney’s campaign will argue that Perry is against the very idea of Social Security and Medicare, and that he will use Perry’s book to scare seniors in early-primary states with large retiree populations, such as Florida and South Carolina.

Very bad idea.  South Carolina is currently Perry country, but that’s not because Perry is untested, or Romney  hasn’t yet gone on the attack, or the fact that Rick Perry has a Southern accent.  These ideas are far too dumbed down to do S.C. and its people justice.

Governor Pawlenty dropped in the polls when he went on the attack against  Michele Bachmann, Senator Santorum is still tanking even as he attacks Perry, and Huntsman’s attacks against Perry brought him absolutely no benefit (but to be honest, he wasn’t a serious contender anyway).  Romney will drop in the polls when he goes on the attack against a fellow Republican.  Watch it happen and remember that I predicted it.

I know something about S.C.  When Romney swept into S.C. for the 2008 campaign he made some fatal mistakes.  But first, let’s discuss Jim Anthony.   Jim Anthony is a developer who promised the world and delivered problems to the people of S.C.  He purchased huge tracts of land in the upper part of the state with borrowed money, gated it off to the people of S.C., and sold it to very wealthy people – people like Oprah Winfrey who is never there.  This land was and is pristine, with flora and fauna not to be found anywhere else on earth.  The people of S.C. used it for hiking, camping, hunting, shooting, and just about everything imaginable (without destroying or significantly altering the land).  After Jim Anthony they will never see this land again.  Jim Anthony is seen in S.C. as a robber baron.  Just ask anyone in S.C.

Yet Mitt Romney’s sense of things brought him into S.C. and into a relationship with big money, and … you guessed it … Jim Anthony.  While McCain shook hands with just about every veteran in S.C., Romney was seen across every TV screen in the state with Jim Anthony.  Today Jim Anthony faces foreclosure on much of his property, and is now suing his bank and partners.

But whether Romney has the bad sense of things to hook up with Jim Anthony again, he did so in the beginning because he is a big money man.  South Carolinians aren’t impressed with this.  In fact, the strategy of invoking a government program is a bad, bad sign of his continued intransigence regarding his understanding of the South in general.  If Romney is down in the polls enough that he has to go into S.C. with big government proposals, he is doomed.

In fact, Romney cannot win in S.C.  It is impossible.  And if Romney temporarily surges when he begins campaigning in S.C.,  all Governor Perry has to do is show up at the shooting range in Pickens County, S.C., where I often shoot, carry along some reporters with him, and then inform his fellow shooters that Governor Romney signed an assault weapons ban in Massachusetts (and would do so again).

Romney will be seen as a big government republican who opposes guns, and he won’t have the libertarian vote.  He cannot win in S.C.  Remember that I told you so.

Obama Allows Mexican Police To Violate U.S. Sovereignty

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 9 months ago

From St. Louis Today:

President Barack Obama’s administration has expanded its role in Mexico’s fight against organized crime by allowing the Mexican police to stage cross-border drug raids from inside the United States, according to senior administration and military officials.

Mexican commandos have discreetly traveled to the U.S., assembled at designated areas and dispatched helicopter missions back across the border aimed at suspected drug traffickers. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration provides logistical support on the U.S. side of the border, officials said, arranging staging areas and sharing intelligence that helps guide Mexico’s decisions about targets and tactics.

Officials said these so-called boomerang operations were intended to evade the surveillance — and corrupting influences — of the criminal organizations that closely monitor the movements of security forces inside Mexico. And they said the efforts were meant to provide settings with tight security for U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officers to collaborate in their pursuit of criminals who operate on both sides of the border.

Former U.S. law enforcement officials who were once posted in Mexico described the boomerang operations as a new take on an old strategy that was briefly used in the late 1990s when the DEA helped Mexico crack down on the Tijuana Cartel by letting the specially vetted Mexican police to stage operations out of Camp Pendleton in San Diego.

Recall that I recommended combined and even unilateral military operations against the cartels by U.S. forces.  Do you reckon that Mr. Obama bargained for unilateral U.S. operations against the cartels?  Or perhaps was it just a one-way agreement?  Which is most likely?

Bill Keller’s Idiotic Questions

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 9 months ago

Bill Keller wants to get down and dirty into the weeds of the candidate’s faith.  I’ll let you read his list of questions if you want, but of particular interest to me was this one posed to Michele Bachmann.

You have said that watching the film series “How Should We Then Live?” by the evangelist Francis Schaeffer was a life-altering event for you. That series stresses the “inerrancy” ­— the literal truth — of the Bible. Do you believe the Bible consists of literal truths, or that it is to be taken more metaphorically?

Good grief.  Keller isn’t educated enough even to pose the question the right way.  As he has posed it he blunders into the fallacy of the false dilemma.  Let’s see if I can help out.  Any thinking Christian has to answer Keller’s question, yes and yes.  It is both-and, not either-or.

The Bible contains simile, metaphor (which is extended simile), allegory, data and facts, parables (Jesus taught us in stories), wisdom literature (Psalms and Proverbs, Song of Solomon) and so on and so forth.  Different rules of hermeneutics must be followed based on the kind of literature.  Isaiah 46:9-10 and Ephesians 1:4-5,11 must be taken quite literally.  The book of Daniel, quite obviously, is comprised of much that has to be taken figuratively.

If Keller is referring to whether one believes in the historicity of miracles, then he should have posed the question specifically that way.  Asking whether one believes in the inerrancy of the Bible is, equally stolid and incomplete.  The Christian doctrine pertains to the infallibility of the autographs.  These kinds of things – hermeneutics, doctrine – are taught in classes usually held in places such as seminaries.  Keller might want to attend one before he tries to play ball in the major league again.  He struck out this time.

But I’m glad that Keller opened up the floor for discussion.  Now it’s my turn.  Mr. Keller is no defender of the second amendment, and the New York Times is usually considered to be the enemy of gun ownership.  Very well.  Here is the set of questions for Keller.

Do you believe in individual gun ownership?  If you don’t, is it based on a belief that mankind is too variable and prone to fits of rage to prevent himself from being a danger to those around him?  Depending upon the answer to this last one, there are two followup questions.  If the answer is yes, then please explain the moral flaw in your character that makes you this way.  If the answer is no, then please explain to us why you would relinquish a tool that could be used to defend your family and loved ones from danger and death if in fact your are not susceptible to this moral flaw (also explain why this moral flaw affects everyone else but not you).  As a related issue, why would you force others to relinquish these same tools to defend and protect their loved ones unless you were certain that they too suffered from moral flaws.  Finally, if you do not believe in any system of faith at all, please explain your conception of this moral flaw.  What is a moral flaw?

I’m glad that we could have this conversation.  I look forward to your responses.

Revisiting the Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 9 months ago

David Savage with The LA Times:

The 2nd Amendment’s “right to keep and bear arms” is proving to be a right to keep a gun at home, but so far not a right to bear a loaded firearm in public.

The Supreme Court breathed new life into the amendment when it struck down strict handgun bans in Washington and Chicago and spoke of the “inherent right of self-defense.”

But to the dismay of gun rights advocates, judges in recent months have read those decisions narrowly and rejected claims from those who said they had a constitutional right to carry a loaded gun on their person or in their car. Instead, these judges from California to Maryland have said the “core right” to a gun is limited to the home.

Now, the National Rifle Assn. is asking the high court to take up the issue this fall and “correct the widespread misapprehension that the 2nd Amendment’s scope does not extend beyond the home.”

Stephen Halbrook, an NRA lawyer, said “some judges have buried their heads in the sand and have refused to go one step further” than saying there is a right to have a gun at home.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence hailed the trend and called the high court’s rulings a “hollow victory” for gun enthusiasts. “The gun lobby has tried to expand [the 2nd Amendment] into a broad right to carry any type of gun anywhere. And they have been almost unanimously rejected by the courts,” said Jonathan Lowy, director of legal action. He conceded, however, that “this battle is far from over.”

The uncertainty began with the Supreme Court itself. In 2008, Justice Antonin Scalia said the history of the 2nd Amendment shows it “guarantees the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.” But other parts of his 5-4 opinion stressed there is no right to “carry any weapon in any manner,” and that bans on “carrying concealed weapons were lawful” in the 19th century.

Since then, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed to challenge gun restrictions. In California, federal judges in San Diego and Yolo counties rejected suits from law-abiding gun owners who were denied “concealed carry” permits.

“The 2nd Amendment does not create a fundamental right to carry a concealed weapon in public,” U.S. District Judge Morrison England ruled in May.

“That’s the cutting-edge issue: whether the 2nd Amendment applies outside the home,” said Chuck Michel, an NRA lawyer in Long Beach who has appealed the question to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

State judges in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York have also ruled recently that there is no constitutional right to carry a loaded gun for self-defense. And in Virginia, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the federal conviction of a man who fell asleep in his car near Washington’s Reagan National Airport with a loaded gun.

So what is Savage talking about?  The best summary statement can be found directly in the Petition for Write of Certiorari to the Supreme Court on behalf of Sean Masciandaro.

Heller and McDonald left open important questions regarding the scope of the self-defense right beyond the home and the appropriate method for evaluating government regulations affecting it. The lower courts have struggled mightily with these issues. See, e.g., Masciandaro, 638 F.3d at 467 (“But a considerable degree of uncertainty remains as to the scope of that right beyond the home and the standards for determining whether and how the right can be burdened by governmental regulation.”); United States v. Skoien, 614 F.3d 638, 640 (7th Cir. 2010) (en banc) (“Skoien II”) (Heller creates an individual right that includes keeping operable handguns at home for self-defense but “[w]hat other entitlements the Second Amendment creates, and what regulations legislatures may establish, were left open.”), cert. denied, 131 S. Ct. 1674 (2011).

The highest state courts that have considered the issue unanimously decided that the Second Amendment right is limited to the home. Maryland, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Kansas have all limited Heller to its holding. 9 For example, the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld Maryland’s firearm permitting statute, concluding that the right is unavailable outside the home. Williams v. State, 417 Md. 479, 496 (Md. 2011) (stating that “[i]f the Supreme Court, in this [Heller] dicta, meant its holding to extend beyond home possession, it will need to say so more plainly”), petition for cert. filed, 79 U.S.L.W. 3594 (Apr. 5, 2011). That court noted that Illinois, the District of Columbia, and California also limited the right in similar cases. Id. at 496-99. Given this trend, state courts that confront Second Amendment issues in the future will likely limit its protection to the home.

Other state and federal courts have held that even if the right might exist outside the home, it is substantially weaker than the right enjoyed in the home.

So there are massive problems with Heller and McDonald.  While I am a huge fan of Justice Scalia, he let America down on the issue of gun rights.  Heller was too narrowly decided.  To be sure, there is a second amendment right, and it applies to individuals, personally, and not just in the home, but everywhere else as well.  I see bans on concealed carry, bans on high capacity magazines (e.g., California), bans on firearms based on type or function, bans on carry in places of worship, and so on, in the same category.  They all violate the Second Amendment.

The lower courts’ confusion is simply because they are confused.  The Supreme Court shouldn’t have to spell it out that this extent.  But moderately vague language in the SCOTUS decisions, progressive tendencies among the judiciary, and laziness of the American people to assert their constitutional rights, have led us to the point again where the stolid judges, lawyers, politicians and law enforcement officials everywhere must be told that Americans have a God-given right to self defense, at all times, in all circumstances, and by any means.

Man Kills Grizzly, Fights For His Freedom In Court

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 9 months ago

In what could masquerade as a sad Orwellian novel if it weren’t true, an Idaho man defended his family from a potential grizzly bear attack, and is now in court defending his freedom.

A man charged with unlawfully shooting and killing a grizzly bear had so many supporters at his arraignment Tuesday in federal court that the judge had to move the hearing to a larger courtroom.

Even there, every seat was taken as his family, friends and neighbors, young and old, squeezed in.

Jeremy M. Hill, 33, pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court to killing the animal with a rifle on his 20-acre property near Porthill, Idaho, at the Canadian border. He lives five miles from the closest grizzly bear recovery zone.

The grizzly bear is classified as a threatened species in the lower 48 states, according to the Endangered Species Act, and protected by federal law. Hill’s charge is a misdemeanor.

Magistrate Judge Candy Dale set trial, at least for now, for Oct. 4.

Hill has declined comment. His lawyer, Marc Lyons of Coeur d’Alene, said he plans to defend Hill on the basis of self-defense and protection of family.

Following the hearing, his father, Mike Hill, of Athol, said, “This whole thing is a waste of taxpayer money.”

He said his son was concerned for the safety of his children playing outside when a mother grizzly and two cubs wandered onto his property on May 8.

Jeremy Hill has six kids, ranging in age from 14 years old to 10 months old. At least five were home when the grizzly was killed, Mike Hill said.

The bears had gone after some pigs in a pen that the kids had been raising, Mike Hill said.

He said his son shot one of the bears, then called authorities to notify them of the kill. The other two bears ran off.

He said his son could have just buried the animal and not said anything to law enforcement. He said his son is being penalized for coming forward.

State Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, attended the hearing in full support of Jeremy Hill.

“The charges are simply unjust,” she said following the hearing. “Hopefully common sense will prevail. It’s clearly an issue of protecting the family.”

She predicted that punishing someone who reported killing a grizzly will damage government efforts to protect the animals.

She said nearly $20,000 was raised by community members for Hill’s defense.

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho was asked about the case while appearing in Sandpoint on Tuesday.

While Labrador said he needed to be careful in dealing with the prosecutorial side of things, he did have this to say:

“Clearly, we have a problem with the ESA when situations like this happen.” He later added, “We’re doing everything we can to make sure this man is treated fairly.”

Based on a subsequent report, it isn’t clear whether it was Jeremy Hill or one of his sons who killed the bear, or if it was the mother or a cub.  It doesn’t matter.  There is a lot of local support for Jeremy, and in fact, Idaho Governor Butch Otter is appealing to Obama to look into the facts of the case.

It’s ridiculous that it has gotten this far.  The fact of the matter is that regardless of whether the federal government comes to its senses now or soon, some federal prosecutor (U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson?) made the sophomoric decision to carry this case forward.  How embarrassing this decision must be for this attorney.

It is said that exception makes bad law.  Perhaps.  But failure to address the exception makes for bad justice.  Jeremy isn’t a poacher hunting bear in this area.  He is a father and husband, defending his children and wife.  It hurts progressives to hear it, but man is made in God’s image.  Animals are not.  The only evil that could possibly have happened that day would have been if Jeremy had failed to defend his family.

When the framework for righteousness is found in the myriad rules and regulations that pass through the Federal Register every day as lawyers promulgate an increasingly burdensome bureaucracy on a hapless American public, America has lost its way, and has forgotten what true righteousness is all about.  The justification for regulations has become deonotological, needing no foundation outside themselves, and the means has become the end without regard for consequences or affect.  And it is all without heart or soul.

Nuristan, Kunar, Pakistan and the Taliban: The Nexus

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 9 months ago

We’ve covered the Taliban strategy of using Nuristan as a safe haven, and a base from which to launch attacks against the government of Afghanistan.  Kunar is adjacent to Nuristan, and there may as well not be a border between provinces.  As stated by one Taliban commander, “Trouble here can break the central government,” said Qari Ziaur Rahman, a regional commander for the Taliban who is also a leader of the Punjab-based militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad, in a 2008 interview. “Whoever has been defeated in Afghanistan, his defeat began from Kunar.”  For this reason I have insisted on aggressive U.S. troop presence and kinetic operations in both the Kunar and Nuristan provinces, and all along the Pech River Valley.

Thankfully, Tim Lynch of Free Range International could not completely desist from writing about Afghanistan, and he educates us with yet another good post on the current situation in Helmand.

A few months back as they were pushing south, the Marines would run into situations that, for guys like them, are a dream come true.  An ANP commander pointed out a village where his men have hit 3 IEDs in as many weeks and each time the villagers poured out with AK’s to start a firefight.  So, a few nights later the Marines blow a controlled det on the road to simulate an IED hit and when the villains rushed out with their flame sticks they met what we lovingly call the ‘L shaped ambush’.  No doubt (knowing the Lava Dogs) the villains also met Mr. Claymore, were introduced to the proper use of a machine gun section, and were treated to a 40mm grenade shower from those new and super deadly  M32’s.  Bad day.  Not many survived that textbook lesson on the proper use of an ambush squad, but those days are long gone.  Rarely now will somebody shoot at the Marines in southern Helmand, and when they do, it is from so far away that it is hard to notice anybody is even shooting at you.

So the Taliban has returned to doing what guerrillas do when they suck so bad at regular fighting – they rely on the indiscriminate use of  IED’s to fight.  And as everybody in the world (except President Karzai) knows, these IED’s kill and maim vast numbers of innocent Afghans, yet rarely inflict casualties on ISAF units.

Because of a long, flat narrow area, where the population is confined mostly to strips of land in close proximity to the Helmand River and its main canals, the Marines are able to spread out into COP’s (combat outposts) PB’s (Patrol Bases) and OP’s (observation posts) covering the entire AO.  These positions are manned by junior NCO’s and in one PB the senior Marine was a Lance Corporal.   They move positions frequently;  every time the Marines set up in a new one of any size,  local families immediately move as close to the positions as they are allowed and start building mud huts. For them a small band of Marines equals security and the implicit trust shown by this pattern of behavior is something in which the Marines rightly take great pride.

Read Tim’s entire post.  More forces are needed in order to maintain security, but as for the direct firefights, it’s over with the Taliban in Helmand.  They cannot match the U.S. Marines.  The Marines are currently needed elsewhere, specifically, Kunar and Nuristan.

The Taliban are still active there, and are still pursuing their strategy.

“Bullets rained on our house which was close to the site of the clash,” one resident told me. “We were so terrified that we didn’t step out of our house until the next day.”

Another resident said by launching an attack in Mehtar Lam, the insurgents wanted to show that they can still strike at will in any of the seven locations handed over by Nato to Afghan security forces.

In the past month insurgents have killed a judge, a prison guard and a local official in this strategic city known as the gateway to Kabul.

Security handovers like the one in Mehtar Lam are seen as the first step in a lengthy process ultimately aimed to put the Afghan army and police in control of their country by 2014, the deadline for complete withdrawal of Western forces from combat operations.

But judging by developments in Mehtar Lam, the road to transition appears to be far from smooth.

“People live in fear,” said Shah Gul, a barber. “People think that if the security forces can’t protect themselves, how will they protect the people?'”

Insurgents – mainly in the shape of the Taliban or the Hizb-e-Islami militia of former Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – are active in many districts of this mountainous province.

Laghman borders the eastern provinces of Nuristan and Kunar.

“This allows insurgents to carry out attacks in Laghman and then escape to Nuristan or Kunar,” said an Afghan intelligence officer.

“By targeting cities handed over to Afghans, the insurgents and their foreign backers intend to prove that Afghan security forces are not capable of protecting their people.”

Just like I predicted.  But in a twist that leverages this lawless area as the trouble-spot of the world, Pakistan is directly involved.

The Pakistani spy agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), with the help of Taliban, has revived the Al-Huda outfit of Gulbuddin Hikmatyar to target Indians in Afghanistan.

As many as 350 persons have been trained so far particularly to target Indian business interests and development works being executed in the war-torn country.

India’s premier external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), recently reported the development to the Centre. Following the RAW report, security of Indian assets has been beefed up with a view to thwarting any misadventure by the ISI-backed militia.

According to the report, the ISI will provide funds, training and shelter besides intelligence on movement of Indians to the trained recruits of Al-Huda for anti-India operations.

Two training camps were organised recently by the ISI to train the recruits in southern Afghanistan at Chunar and mountainous regions of Nuristan in Afghanistan on Pakistan border, intelligence sources said.

Both — Chunar and Nuristan — are areas dominated by the Hikmatyar group and the NATO forces suffered heavy reverses in the recent past while carrying out operations in these regions. The Hikmatyar group is known for its mastery in ramming explosive-laden vehicles on targetted assets and executing landmine attacks.

India is funding over 300 developmental projects in Afghanistan, including construction of roads, bridges, hospitals, Government office complexes and also the Parliament building of that country. India is the biggest donor country extending aid in revival of the war-torn nation pledging a budget of over $2 billion.

Besides the construction engineers, supporting staff and the personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police guarding the work sites of the ongoing development projects there, the Indian assets in that country also include as many as 24 consulates across Afghanistan and the Indian embassy in Kabul.

Following the inputs, the Indian embassy and the consulates there have been alerted and a security audit of the installations are being carried out to further tighten the security measures, particularly the outer periphery of the office complexes so that any fidayeen attack or blast of an explosive-laden vehicle is checked at a reasonable distance from the perimeter of the buildings, the sources added.

The Taliban had attacked the Indian embassy in Kabul on October 8, 2009 killing 17 persons and injuring 63 others. The Taliban had in the past also targetted work sites maintained by the Indian companies.

The ISI move comes following reverses at the hands of the Americans amid talk of withdrawal of the US forces from the war-ravaged country.

The Pakistani sickness and obsession with India, its own importance in the world, and having access to things (e.g., nuclear weapons, the Taliban, etc.) way beyond their ability to control is working directly against the stability of Afghanistan, the security of U.S. troops, and in fact, the security and stability of the entire region.

Marines to Kunar.  It’s the move that should be made, and sooner rather than later.  If we need more Marines to Helmand in order to pull this off, then so be it.  Someone tell the Marine Corps Commandant to stop playing Iwo Jima, as if we are ever going to conduct a large scale amphibious assault against a near peer state again.  Without chasing and killing the Taliban in his safe haven, the campaign will be lost.

Brady Campaign Lies About Guns

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 9 months ago

Dennis A. Henigan, acting President of the Brady Campaign, waxes breathless in his most recent hysterical rant at Huffington Post.

Remember two summers ago when most Americans were appalled by the sight of guns openly carried by protesters at presidential speaking events and town hall forums on the health care issue? Now it’s not just the protesters bringing guns to political events. Now it may be the candidates themselves.

Texas governor and newly-announced presidential candidate Rick Perry has taken the incendiary mixture of guns and politics to a new level. When it comes to carrying concealed weapons, Perry certainly walks the walk. He has a concealed carry permit and proudly says that he carries a gun when he is out jogging.

Briefly commenting at this point, I’ll observe that I don’t ever recall in my entire life being appalled at the sight of weapons being carried by anyone, at any time.  But as for the concealed carry of weapons while jogging, I guess I have to weigh in with Henigan on this one.  I don’t jog.  I do lift weights and engage in open carry while I’m walking my dog.  But continuing:

Perry recently was asked if he is armed while campaigning. He didn’t respond by saying the question is ridiculous. He didn’t say that in the close quarters of a rope line, with a multitude of people pulling and tugging at him, a gun could easily drop to the ground or be taken from him. He didn’t say that an armed candidate would be a nightmare for the Secret Service. He didn’t say any of those things. Instead, he smiled and refused to say whether or not he carried while campaigning. He added, “That’s why it’s called concealed.”

Rick Perry apparently doesn’t think the question is ridiculous. In fact, his sarcasm suggests he has no objection to political candidates carrying guns to campaign events; he seems to imply that he may do so himself. One thing is clear. The governor has been so thoroughly marinated in pro-gun ideology that he is unashamed about taking it to its logical extreme. If it is true that more guns in public places make us safer, why shouldn’t political candidates carry guns? Isn’t it the least they can do for their own safety?

Something tells me that Perry wouldn’t be ashamed of taking gun ownership to its logical end, whether Henigan wants to call that “extreme” or not.  But Henigan is getting increasingly worked up and hysterical over things, and he eventually drops this bomb.

Yes, it is a good thing that senators can’t carry guns onto the Senate floor because the presence of guns, even carried by well-meaning, law-abiding citizens, increases the risk that arguments and conflicts will escalate to lethal violence. It is the same reason that our national parks are less safe because (due to legislation sponsored by Senator Coburn himself) concealed carry of weapons is now permitted within their borders.

There you have it.  There in a nut shell is the Faustian bargain that gun control advocates are willing to make.  They don’t really believe that an individual cannot protect him or herself or family with a weapon.  They don’t really believe that an individual is less safe with a weapon, regardless of what they might claim.  What they believe is that there is a greater good to be served, and that greater good lies in not allowing provocations to escalate into deadly incidents.  It’s their solution to original sin.  Allow weapons and violence escalates.  Remove weapons and utopia flourishes.

But even here, Henigan cannot help but spuriously link an article that does nothing more than report that weapons are now legal in national parks.  He claims that our national parks are less safe than they were because of this new latitude.  And the article has nothing to do with this claim.

Oh, but he has no evidence.  In fact, I do.  Several months ago I completed a FOIA request to the national parks service, and they returned to me an Excel spreadsheet with crimes outlined by type and delineated per year in the national parks.

11-409 Smith NPS&USPP LE CRIME REPORT 1995-2010

It doesn’t show what Henigan wants it to.  In fact, our national parks are not less safe than they were prior to 2010 when firearms were made legal.  And I did research most of the homicides (through local news accounts) and they mostly have to do with situation-specific (and sometimes bizarre) incidents involving individuals who had no right to carry a firearms anywhere because they were convicted felons, or prisoners on the run, or other such exigencies.  Not one incident that I researched had to do with an otherwise law-abiding citizen who suddenly went berserk because he had a gun in a national park.

Myths die hard.  They are usually built on lies, and Henigan and the Brady Campaign freely traffics in them.  Something as simple as a FOIA request can usually dispel silly myths like this one, and yet we know of at least one instance in which a man’s life was saved from a bear attack because of the new rule in national parks.  He used a .45 handgun to drive the bear away.  I’ll side with the new rule and gun ownership any day.

Rick Perry’s Enemies Turn To Insults

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 9 months ago

Occasionally I feel that it’s necessary to leave behind my focus on military matters, policy and national security, and turn inward towards politics.  The vista is usually an obscene spectacle, and it’s no different with the increasingly heated national political debates.  When serious national discussions are needed in light of the dire economic and national security situations we face, some politicians and pundits revert to insults like a pig returns to its slop and filthiness.  Witness.


This morning Bruce Bartlett, the former pioneer of supply-side economics turned latter-day Keynesian, said on CNN’s American Morning, “Rick Perry’s an idiot, and I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. To the extent that he has people thinking that the Fed doing its normal job is somehow or other a treasonous act is grossly irresponsible.”

Jon Huntsman on Perry’s view of climate change and science:

From the moment Rick Perry declared he would run for president, Jon Huntsman has doled out nothing but love for his fellow candidate, calling him “a good friend and a good man.”

But that changed today when Huntsman took to Twitter, subtly calling out Perry’s views on global warming. Huntsman tweeted: “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”

The tweet comes on the heels of a comment made by Huntsman’s chief strategist, John Weaver, to the Washington Post about views Perry made clear in his book, Fed Up!.

“We’re not going to win a national election if we become the anti-science party,” Weaver said. “The American people are looking for someone who lives in reality and is a truth teller because that’s the only way that the significant problems this country faces can be solved. It appears that the only science that Mitt Romney believes in is the science of polling, and that science clearly was not a mandatory course for Governor Perry.”

Ron Paul on Perry:

Presidential candidate Ron Paul, who has long called for abolishing the Federal Reserve, said he now looks “like a moderate” compared with GOP rival and fellow Texan, Gov. Rick Perry, who said it would be “almost treacherous, or treasonous,” if the central bank increased the money supply before the 2012 election.

Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas speaks with area business leaders, Thursday, at the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Referring to Mr. Perry, the Texas congressman told supporters at a campaign event in Concord, N.H., Wednesday that “He realizes that talking about the Fed is good, too. But I tell you what: He makes me look like a moderate.”

Mr. Paul added,  “I have never once said [Fed Chairman Ben] Bernanke has committed treason.”

Analysis & Commentary

Ron Paul’s comments are much less insulting that the prior two, of course, and more opportunistic, but we’ll get to that momentarily.  Huntsman is of course referring to Perry’s statements on evolution, in which he said something like “it’s a theory … that has some gaps in it.”  Huntsman paints himself as the loyal follower of modern science and Perry as ignorant.  Leaving aside the fact that the voting public isn’t likely to penalize Perry for his views, his statement is dripping with sarcasm, and is an out-of-place sentiment given that he has no formal scientific training.  It’s further rendered hypocritical given his own admonition to leave his own religious views out of his politics: “These presidential nomination contests aren’t about religion; they’re about leadership.”

But let me briefly address the presupposition that underlies his insult, i.e., that scientific folk reject creationism and accept both evolution and anthropogenic global warming (AGW).  I might object to the characterization, and challenge the critics to see who can solve a second order differential equation faster, or a radiation transport problem the fastest (or best and most elegantly).  Or, I might respond to the snooty critic by quizzing him to see how much he knows about Professor Alvin Plantinga’s unique formulation of the ontological argument.  You see, I don’t believe in [macroscopic] evolution, and I don’t consider myself ignorant compared to Huntsman.  At least I’ve had some formal scientific (and also some theological) training.  Or perhaps it would be better to reference friends who are far smarter than am I, such as Professor Nolan Hertel.

Nolan has informed me in the past that many of his own colleagues are creationists, and that the robust debate is usually between young earth and old earth adherents.  Nolan and I, holding radiometric dating in rather high regard for obvious reasons, adhere to the old earth view.  But the point is not to begin a debate over the merits of views of the origin of man, or to assess the age of the earth (and therefore I will delete comments that press the discussion in that direction).  The point is also not to line up authoritative adherents for my views (which is the genetic falacy).  Anyone with any view can do that.  The point is that thoughtful people have pondered this issue for a very long time and come to different conclusions.  It’s just a myth that all scientific people reject creationism and accept AGW.  In fact, I will observe that it’s usually the laymen – those who are untrained in science and engineering – who hold it in such high esteem, ascribing to science abilities far beyond it’s boundaries (e.g., the ability to explain versus the ability simply to describe and formulate models).  At any rate and whatever the case, I’m not advocating that the Republican party (or any other party) become the party of creationism.  I wouldn’t be able to effect that change, and I wouldn’t do it if I could.  The point is that there is no place in national politics for insults based on one’s religious views, even as they impact his or her views on science (and I think Huntsman made that very point, but it’s apparently asking too much for him to be consistent).

As to Huntsman’s acceptance of AGW because the scientists said so, one has to wonder two things.  First, where has he been the last year or so while the climate change scandal has occurred?  It’s remarkable that he so willingly accepts AGW based on such shoddy scientific work (see endnote).  Second, doesn’t Huntsman see the contradiction in his views?  He charges Perry with scientific ignorance in his demurral on evolution, and yet accepts AGW because the scientists said so (not because of his own research or understanding).

Concerning Bruce Bartlett (who? … oh yea, that guy no one knows who shot off his mouth over national television), I don’t think he’ll get the agreement he seeks from everyone in America that Rick Perry is an idiot.  In fact, I’m willing to wager that more people place Bartlett in that category given his sweeping bromide concerning what all of the good American people really believe.

Turning to Ron Paul’s response to Perry’s criticism of Bernanke, Perry didn’t say that he was a traitor.  He said “almost treasonous.”  In fact, I had a dear friend who suffered a massive heart attack and died after degrading health, induced from pressure of not having work to support his family.  I take the health of our economy very seriously, and to me it bears on more than just differences in “monetary policy” by individuals who can and should remain “civil in their discourse” (Senator Santorum has harped on that for several days now).  And what about Ron Paul?  What does he believe?

Though the Federal Reserve policy harms the average American, it benefits those in a position to take advantage of the cycles in monetary policy. The main beneficiaries are those who receive access to artificially inflated money and/or credit before the inflationary effects of the policy impact the entire economy. Federal Reserve policies also benefit big spending politicians who use the inflated currency created by the Fed to hide the true costs of the welfare-warfare state. It is time for Congress to put the interests of the American people ahead of special interests and their own appetite for big government.

Abolishing the Federal Reserve will allow Congress to reassert its constitutional authority over monetary policy. The United States Constitution grants to Congress the authority to coin money and regulate the value of the currency. The Constitution does not give Congress the authority to delegate control over monetary policy to a central bank. Furthermore, the Constitution certainly does not empower the federal government to erode the American standard of living via an inflationary monetary policy.

And Paul recently referred to the Fed’s ruinous monetary policy.  So according to Ron Paul, the existence and practice of the Federal Reserve has been an unconstitutional ruination of the wealth of the American people.  So how does this differ so much from”almost treasonous?”

The fact of the matter is that Perry is being attacked because he is seen as a threat.  When politicians who have previously had kind words for Perry (Huntsman) turn on him, they prove how small they are.  It’s the same for Ron Paul, who has no chance of being President but who believes that he does.  Thus far, I haven’t detected attacks from the Perry camp against the GOP.  He continues to focus on Obama and the ruinous monetary policies that are “almost treasonous.”  And no one I know seems to care much about his views on the origin of mankind.

Who looks like the winner in all of this?

Endnote: For the uninitiated, here is the best short synopsis I can deliver on the AGW scandal (and I do mean short).  AGW proponents point to temperatures recorded over past years and decades to show that there is global warming.  The data wouldn’t otherwise be statistically significant (there’s just not enough of it) were it not for the correlation of tree ring data with temperature.  That is, in order to fill out the data base with temperatures, they have had to assume that there is a correlation of tree rings with temperatures.  This correlation was generally good up until a few years ago, where tree ring data significantly diverged from recorded temperatures.  They haven’t just ignored this divergence, they have hidden it.  Why?  Not because it shows some massive decrease in global temperature (although tree ring data does show a decrease), but because it challenges their own assumptions using tree ring data as a replacement for temperature measurements where we have no such historical measurements.  I have performed thousands of calculations myself in my line of work, and reviewed the same performed by colleagues.  No one in the engineering community would be allowed to posit such a problematic model.  It would be prima facie rejected.  The modelling assumptions, just like the American economy, sit in ruin and ashes.

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