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]

Sheriff: “Carry a concealed weapon -that’ll fix it!”

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 6 months ago


The Spartanburg County Sheriff is known for speaking his mind, and at a news conference on Monday, he didn’t hold back his anger and frustration after a woman was attacked in a park over the weekend.

Investigators said 46-year-old Walter Lance grabbed a woman who was walking her dog in Milliken Park on Sunday afternoon. They said Lance choked the woman, made her take off her clothing and tried to rape her.

Lance is in custody and was denied bond on Monday.

Sheriff Chuck Wright opened his news conference by saying, “Our form of justice is not making it.”

He said, “Carry a concealed weapon. That’ll fix it.”

Wright said Lance had been charged numerous times with crimes again women, and other crimes such as resisting arrest and escape. Wright said Lance had been on probation for a federal gun charge.

He referred to Lance repeatedly as an “animal,” and expressed his disgust about Lance’s long record and the attack.

Wright said Lance has had more than 20 charges dating back to 1983.

Wright said Lance has been in jail more often than he has, and he runs the jail, and he said Lance gets out easier. Wright punctuated it by saying, “And I’m aggravated.”

He said he doesn’t believe every person needs to be kept in jail, but he said, “I don’t think this animal deserves to be out in our society, walking alongside our women.”

Wright said,”Liberals call me and tell me the chain-gang form of justice isn’t working. Well, let me inform you, your form of justice isn’t working either.”

He said Lance should not have had the right or opportunity to “violate a good, upstanding woman.”

“This is a horrific crime,” Wright said. “Her life was threatened so many times.”

He said Lance “doesn’t fight police or men folk — he just goes after women.” He said Lance is not married because, “No woman can stay married to him because he beats them down too much.”

Wright said, “It’s too bad someone with a concealed weapons permit didn’t walk by. That would fix it.” He said people are tired of doing the right thing and criminals getting away with their actions.

He said several times, “I want you to get a concealed weapons permit.”

Wright said, “I’m tired of looking at victims saying, ‘There’s life after this’ … I’m tired of saying, ‘We’re sorry, we can’t keep them in jail.'”

Wright said in his view, gun control is, “How fast can you can get the barrel of your gun back on the target?”

I know this county.  It’s right down the road from me.  And it’s refreshing to hear a law enforcement officer admit to the truth.  LEOs are minutes away when crime happens in seconds.  They cannot possibly prevent crimes except to keep the criminals off of the streets, and Sheriff Wright reminds us that this is a dubious proposition in spite of their best efforts.

And also take careful note.  He doesn’t restrict his admonition to self defense inside the home or the so-called “castle doctrine.”  He said, “It’s too bad someone with a concealed weapons permit didn’t walk by. That would fix it.”

Fix it indeed.  One still has to be careful to be responsible and know the circumstances, know the law, have previously made the commitment to intervene in such circumstances (this requires some serious consideration), and be qualified with your weapon (trigger discipline, muzzle discipline, knowing what’s behind your target, knowing that the one attacked is in imminent bodily danger or in danger of sexual assault).  But assuming these stipulations, the Sheriff knows what we all know.  Law enforcement begins when your person is jeopardy, not when the police arrive on scene.

U.S. Foreign Policy Triumphs Again! Turkey Fills the Vacuum In Iraq

BY Glen Tschirgi
12 years, 7 months ago

As if it wasn’t bad enough that the U.S. could not figure out how to negotiate an extension of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq, leading to the “premature evacuation” of our forces in two months time, the Turks have decided to make it clear to the world (and, more importantly, the regional powers that matter) the decidedly unmanly U.S. foreign policy.

Turkey has apparently decided that it is really just too inconvenient to keep dodging back and forth across the northern Iraqi border in pursuit of Kurdish militants.  Instead, according to this news item from August (which seems to have slipped under the collective radar), the Turks are fortifying bases in northern Iraq and settling in for a seemingly long stay.

ANKARA, Turkey, Aug. 19 (UPI) — Turkey targeted Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq for a second day, broadening the reach of its fight against the rebels, officials said.

The attacks Thursday came as Turkey said it’s turning intelligence outposts into operations garrisons to fight the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as PKK, to northern Iraq, where Turkey has 2,500 troops.

Turkey, which has had intelligence outposts in the region since 1995, will transform a Bamerni garrison into a logistics center for supporting major operations against PKK, Today’s Zaman reported.

The publication, citing sources, said fortification of outposts would enable Turkish troops in Iraq to stay there longer to search for members of the outlawed PKK. Bombings are to continue and units from Sirnak province will be deployed in the region, officials said.

Today’s Zaman did not give casualty figures in the latest attacks.

The 25 cross-border operations Turkey has conducted so far have been short because of pressure from allies and regional governments, but sources told Today’s Zaman Turkey would now continue operations as long as necessary to end the threat of terrorism in northern Iraq.

After a regular meeting Thursday, led by President Abdullah Gul, Turkey’s National Security Council said it’s embarking on “more effective and decisive strategy in the fight against terrorism.”

About 20 million of Turkey’s 74 million residents are Kurds, living mainly in the southeast near the country’s borders with Iraq and Iran, and the PKK’s fight for Kurdish independence has claimed 40,000 lives in the past three decades.

There are so many knife wounds in such a short story.  The actions of Turkey here could not present a stronger contrast with U.S. actions if Hollywood wanted to script it.

First off, the Turks do not seem to have learned that Iraq is a sovereign state and that any bases in Iraq used to pursue Turkey’s enemies must be subject to arduous and infinite negotiations, full of lavish offers of foreign aid and support.    How long did Turkey negotiate with Nouri al-Maliki in order to get these basing rights in a supposedly sovereign Iraq?  The article is silent but it is a safe bet that there were no negotiations.   Turkey essentially told the Iraqis, “We’re doing this.  Get used to it.”

Next, what about immunity for Turkish soldiers from prosecution under Iraqi laws?   Obama has told us that those Iraqis are absolute sticklers about this sort of thing.  Why the Iraqi people would never allow foreign soldiers on their soil who can violate Iraqi law with impunity.   The U.S. just couldn’t get that point resolved, so time to pack up in a hurry and get out of Dodge.    Somehow, though, it doesn’t look like the Turks are at all worried about Iraqi prosecutors putting Turkish soldiers in jail.

And how about that nasty Turkish attitude about a few, measly PKK fighters taking shelter in Iraq?  Kurds make up over 25% of Turkey’s population and have historic claims to parts of Turkey, Iraq and Iran.   Arguably, the Kurds were robbed of their own state when the victors of World War I split up the Ottoman Empire.   Unlike the U.S. in Pakistan, Turkey seems to have no problem treating the Iraqi border as purely optional and, now, it seems that part of Iraq itself will become effectively Turkish until the PKK is sorted out.   If that ever happens.

And what to make of Turkey’s methods for defeating the PKK?  It sure does not sound like Turkey is establishing these bases in Iraq in order to win the hearts and minds of PKK guerillas.   I sure hope that Turkish forces are going to be culturally sensitive and not commit any grievous offenses like flatulence in the presence of Iraqi Kurds, but we cannot expect that Turkish leaders will be nearly as enlightened as American leadership in this regard.  Instead, it appears that the Turks are intent on finding and killing as many of the PKK militants as possible, hence the talk by President Gul about “effective and decisive strategy in the fight against terrorism.”   Sounds way too warlike.   Not at all a COIN-centric policy.

Nonetheless, these actions by Turkey should not diminish the crowning achievement announced by President Obama that U.S. forces will be completely withdrawn from Iraq by January 1, 2012 and the war officially “over.”

Funny.  Wasn’t there a time in U.S. history when a war was not “over,” it was “won” ?

UPDATE: Michael Rubin has just posted this damning bit of information that relates how the once openly-pro American Kurds of Iraq have now (correctly) read the complete collapse of American foreign policy in the Middle East and are embracing the Iranian Regime:

The Iraqi Kurds have prided themselves on being America’s allies throughout the Iraq war and its aftermath. Repeatedly, regional leader Masud Barzani​ told visiting American generals and dignitaries that the Kurdish region was the most pro-American in Iraq.

The Kurdish authorities, however, have never made ideological alliances, but are the ultimate realists: Barzani forms partnerships with whomever he believes can most fulfill his own interests. With the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, it is clear that anyone with an ounce of self-preservation is rushing to cut deals with the Iran. After all, the most common Iranian influence theme, Iraqi politicians say, is that “You may like the Americans better, but we will always be your neighbors.” Hence, on October 29, Barzani traveled to Iran where, on Sunday, he warmly embraced both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. According to press reports, Barzani declared, “We will not forget the assistance of the Iranian people and government during the hard times passed by Iraq. To preserve our victory we need Iranian assistance and guidance….”

Everyone in the region knows that the way Iraqis negotiate is to state extreme positions as a deadline approaches, and then go behind closed doors in a smoke-filled room to hash out agreements. The Iranians often quip that they play chess while the Americans play checkers. No one expected Obama to forfeit before the game actually began. But, alas, now that he has done so, he will discover just how deeply he has lost Iraq and Iraqis.

The only consolation I can take from this is that Obama’s replacement in 2013 may be able to undo some of the terrific damage done U.S. interests in the world.   The Kurds and Iraqis at large may quickly come to regret making any deals with the Iranian Regime and may be looking for help in 2013 once the U.S. regains its senses.

Concerning Taliban Sanctuary in Pakistan

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 7 months ago

After have read Men, Not Machines, Win Wars, I find that my thoughts were not clearly presented, making it not just possible, but probable, that my prose would be misconstrued.  Any misconstrual is my fault.

Tim Lynch doesn’t misconstrue my points, but some of the commenters in his Sanctuary Denied? shows that I need both to clarify my views and address Tim’s (and his commenters).  Anytime Tim speaks it’s worthy of time and consideration, and we are all richer for having his work and thoughts on our campaign in Afghanistan (as well as on military matters generally).  I consider Tim’s friendship to be a blessing and honor.

First of all, to Tim’s response.

Herschel Smith is unimpressed with the reported build up in the east of Afghanistan and I can’t remember a time he’s been wrong about anything. His assessment could prove to be spot on but this is one time I hope it isn’t.

Afghanistan President Karzai has threatened to back Pakistan if the US conducts cross border operations.  Secretary of State Clinton stopped by for a few words with President Karzai who immediately gave a TV interview telling the world he would side with Pakistan.  I guess the SecState failed to get her message across. Big frigging surprise there.

[ … ]

We have known since the very first days of this conflict that the Taliban use the border area for sanctuary after they try to attack our troops and start getting their asses kicked in response.  We have been good about not going across in “hot pursuit” having limited incursions into Pakistan to one that I know of.

We have alternate supply lines, we have stocks of stuff on hand, we still need to move supplies through Pakistan so what to do?  How about this famous quote “Never take counsel in your fears”.  The Pakistani’s have been playing us off since just after we started in October of 2001.  Back then they were all about cooperation, as was every other country in the world except the ones that don’t matter anyway.  The reason they were so cooperative was they knew we were in the blind rage stage of being pissed off.  That is several steps up the pissed off ladder and nobody at that time was sure what we were going to do.  All they knew was that we were capable of doing whatever the hell we wanted to do.  We still are.  In fact given the billions spent on hight tech platforms we could do destroy more, faster, and with greater efficiency than we could a decade ago.

From watching that 60 minutes segment with General Allen I am certain of one thing.  He’s pissed.  And he’s pissed about how Pakistan has been playing us and he is not the kind of man you want pissed at you.  Take it from me because I’ve been there with him and it is not pleasant.  Most of you do not know General Allen or anything about him.  What you need to know is he understands that unlimited sanctuary is no way to fight a war.  And even though he doesn’t have the political capitol of General Petraeus he has his confidence.  As he does with General Mattis – another fighting general who is not too keen on granting anyone sanctuary.  I know calls like going across the border in hot pursuit are the Presidents to make but we all now know (thanks to Ron Suskind) that the White House is dysfunctional and getting the President to make a firm decision about anything almost impossible.  National level leadership of that kind allows for subordinates to make “interpretations of intent”.  A fancy way of saying they can make their own decisions and take the actions they think fit Obama’s intent.

A few thoughts about Tim’s views here (beyond the fact that with Tim, I hope I am wrong about a great many of the things I have said).  America has always had a love affair with generals.  For me, General George S. Patton is my hero.  But let’s say that I knew at the time of the most intense fighting during World War II that Patton’s drive across Sicily cost the lives of American Soldiers because Patton wanted to best Montgomery.  If my son had perished in Sicily I would have burned with hated for the man.

On the other hand, the hardening of his Army created the ability to attack the Germans with two divisions within 48 hours across 100 miles of frozen tundra to relieve the Americans at Bastonge and end the German offensive.  It was the feat of supermen.  There are sterling successes and dark secrets about all generals, just as there are with each of us.

I don’t know general Allen, but I hold this against general Mattis.  The prosecution of the Haditha Marines occurred under his watch.  My own son went into the Marine Corps and by the time he hit boot camp and SOI, he was trained by Marine veterans of Al-Fajr. Veterans of Al-Fajr trained their Marines a certain way, to do certain things, and to see combat a certain way.  In 2005, room clearing operations meant that whomever was in the room died.  It’s just the way it was.  It was expectation.  It was training.  It was tribal knowledge, passed down from Marine to Marine.  It all occurred so rapidly that identification of the inhabitants of the room was irrelevant and impossible anyway.  Mattis knows this, and still he allowed good men to have their reputations tarnished.  I hold this against him, and I always will.

So the fact that the names of Allen and Mattis are mentioned is not determinative for me.  There must be more.  There must be commitment at the upper echelons of the administration.  Sometimes it’s best to let your readers speak for you, and concerning the notion that I simply didn’t know everything that Petraeus had up his sleeve when went to Pakistan to solicit their support (a sentiment on the comments to my first post), TSAlfabet had this to say.

… there is no such thing as secret anything when it comes to the U.S. government. As Wikileaks, the NYT, The WaPo and LA Times have all demonstrated, there is always an abundance of people with access to “top secrets” who are willing to blab to the media in exchange for anonymity and whatever smug feelings of superiority they get from betraying secrets.

So, for instance, when the U.S. needed to get tough with Pakistan in 2001 in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. knew exactly what to say to the Pakis in order to secure their, ahem, “cooperation.” Yes, there were goodies thrown in and charm pops blah blah, but the bottom line, “secret” message to Musharraf et al was, “You either work with us on rooting out Al Qaeda or we are going to turn your country into a parking lot. Your choice.” Not surprisingly, the Pakis chose to cooperate, albeit with as much fudging, double-crossing and reluctance as they thought they could get away with.

And how do we know that? Because these “secret” conversations were leaked to the press and, eventually I think, by Musharraf himself after he lost power and went on his rock-star media tour. It is a permanent feature of American power that there are no, real secrets. Only suppressed facts. I.e., if the secrets hurt conservatives or help liberals, you can be sure that the leaks will get front page news and be on every Left Wing media channel. If the secrets hurt liberals or embarrass a Democrat, you can be sure that the Leftist Media will ignore, suppress, excuse, counterattack in whatever way possible.

Now, ten years later, what is that Paki attitude? Do you think they are even a little bit scared of any threats coming from the U.S.? The Pakis are shelling U.S. troops according to the recent NYT article that is posted here at TCJ recently. The Pakis, according to our own CIA and Admiral Mullen are openly using the Haqqanis to attack the U.S. in A-stan.

No, the SCREW UPs don’t have anything up their sleeve. If they did, we would see real results. We would see a mysterious drop in cross-border attacks from Pakistan. We would see, with Iran, a decreasing belligerence.

No indeed. What you see is what you get. And we, the U.S. of A, are getting the finger from every tin pot dictator and 3d world thug out there. Obama and his circus show have made us a laughingstock the world over. Anyone who gets elected (short of Ron Paul) would be better than Obama.

As if on cue, the Taliban have gone on record with the BBC saying that Pakistan’s ISI assists them.

Pakistan has repeatedly denied the claims. But the BBC documentary series Secret Pakistan has spoken to a number of middle-ranking – and still active – Taliban commanders who provide detailed evidence of how the Pakistan ISI has rebuilt, trained and supported the Taliban throughout its war on the US in Afghanistan.

“For a fighter there are two important things – supplies and a place to hide,” said one Taliban commander, who fights under the name Mullah Qaseem. “Pakistan plays a significant role. First they support us by providing a place to hide which is really important. Secondly, they provide us with weapons.”

Another commander, Najib, says: “Because Obama put more troops into Afghanistan and increased operations here, so Pakistan’s support for us increased as well.”

He says his militia received a supply truck with “500 landmines with remote controls, 20 rocket-propelled grenade launchers with 2000 to 3000 grenades… AK-47s, machine-guns and rockets”.

See also the Reuters report.  Of course, Pakistan denied the BBC report, but the reader can make up his own mind.  But generals notwithstanding, a more aggressive stand towards Pakistan would require White House approval.

To clarify, my original post, which Tim didn’t misunderstand, did not advocate full scale engagement of Pakistani forces.  But this comment goes beyond what I advocate (although I didn’t make that clear).

The odds of General Allen launching a full-on sustained invasion of Pakistan on his own say-so, and being backed by his superiors, while the rest of the federal government stands by, are roughly equal to the probability that he’ll launch his own space program and start to terraform Venus, or send a MEF up the Potomac. I’ll put $100 down saying that no such thing happens, with a side bet of $200 saying that if it does, we’ll pull out in a week like in Lam Son.

Two quick observations on this.  First, I advocate that we conduct ourselves with the same respect for the Durand line that Pakistani forces show it, not that we launch a “full-on sustained invasion of Pakistan.”  I also advocate that we make larger use of or air assets in conjunction with land incursions.  If we find bases, use Arty or send the A-10s after them, no apologies, no regrets.  Kill them all, combatants and any other inhabitants.  Turn their terrain into a parking lot.

Second, the commenter is right anyway.  We wouldn’t even do this without White House approval.  That’s not a knock on the generals.  That’s reality.  And how many readers think that this White House would give approval for this approach?

Another Foreign Policy Triumph: Pakistan Gets Free Pass to Shell U.S. Troops

BY Glen Tschirgi
12 years, 7 months ago

On October 16th, The New York Times reported an astonishing account of repeated shelling of U.S. and Afghan forces from across the Pakistani border that has been near-continuous since  May, 2011.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan — American and Afghan soldiers near the border with Pakistan have faced a sharply increased volume of rocket fire from Pakistani territory in the past six months, putting them at greater risk even as worries over the disintegrating relationship between the United States and Pakistan constrain how they can strike back.

Ground-to-ground rockets fired within Pakistan have landed on or near American military outposts in one Afghan border province at least 55 times since May, according to interviews with multiple American officers and data released in the past week. Last year, during the same period, there were two such attacks.

May is also when members of a Navy Seals team killed Osama bin Laden in the house where he lived near a Pakistani military academy, plunging American-Pakistani relations to a new low. Since then, the escalation in cross-border barrages has fueled frustration among officers and anger among soldiers at front-line positions who suspect, but cannot prove, a Pakistani government role.

The government’s relations with the United States frayed further after senior American officials publicly accused Pakistan of harboring and helping guerrillas and terrorists. Last month, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, called the insurgents who attacked the American Embassy in the Afghan capital “a veritable arm” of the ISI, Pakistan’s military intelligence service.

Pakistani officials have repeatedly denied aiding fighters for the Taliban and the Haqqani militant network, who operate on both sides of the border. They insist they try to prevent cross-border incursions or violence.

Funny coincidence.   U.S. bases get shelled from Pakistan beginning the same month that U.S. special forces entered Pakistan and killed Osama Bin Laden.   OK, well, I suppose that one could argue that this is a not-altogether-unexpected consequence of sticking a steel-toed boot right up the backside of Pakistan and laughing as we dump Bin Laden into the ocean for fish food.   (All properly according to Islamic hoyle, of course).  So we should not be surprised.

The truly troubling part about this is that there is no apparent Administration response or any, apparent guidance from the chain of command for these units who must sit there and take it.

When taking fire from Afghanistan, they said, they return fire with barrages of high-explosive and white phosphorus artillery rounds. (The burning effects of white phosphorus, they said, can detonate rockets waiting on launchers; for this reason, white phosphorus falls within rules guiding the soldiers’ use of force.)

When receiving fire from Pakistan, they said, they do not return fire with white phosphorus and fire far fewer high-explosive rounds. Attack helicopters and aircraft are also less likely to fire ordnance the closer the firing position is to the border, they said, even if it is on the Afghan side.

Several soldiers complained of what they called the “politics” limiting their choices. “We’re just sitting out here taking fire,” one soldier said. “If they want us to do our jobs, let us do our jobs.”

Senior officers described a tactical and strategic puzzle.

On one hand, soldiers said a principle of any modern military defense is that they patrol to and beyond the range of weapons systems that can menace them, and, in this case, at least to the border of the nation that the United States, in essence, has underwritten. On the other, heavy return fire against the firing positions inside Afghanistan has not prevented the attacks from continuing, so it is not clear that more fire into Pakistan would stop the cross-border firing, either.

And Colonel Bohnemann noted a complicated history. Afghan units have patrolled to the border, he said, and then been fired on by Pakistani military units who claimed they mistook the Afghans for insurgents. That fighting included Pakistani artillery fire.

The risk of having an American patrol face similar fire has been reasonable grounds for caution when planning sweeps near the border, and when returning fire over it, he said.

“Am I frustrated?” he asked. “Yes. Would I like to fire more? Yes. But do I want to be sure not to escalate out of frustration? Absolutely.”

(Emphasis added)

This is simply indefensible.  As I have said on many occasions, our Afghan strategy is really no strategy at all but a charade for political purposes:  the appearance of force and toughness but lacking in the kind of metrics necessary for victory (higher force levels, robust rules of engagement, proper focus on appropriate lines of effort, etc…).   This Administration has played politics with Afghanistan since Day One and one of the obvious results is that we have Americans sitting on the Pak border forced to absorb indirect fire from Pakistan without any, meaningful way of defending themselves.


Exit From Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 7 months ago

So this is the way it comes to an end?

Throughout the summer and autumn, as talks on a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq foundered, President Barack Obama and his point man on Iraq, Vice President Joe Biden, remained aloof from the process, not even phoning top Iraqi officials to help reach a deal, according to logs released by the U.S. Embassy here.

The omission is an unusual one, given the high priority that U.S. officials had given to achieving an agreement for some sort of residual U.S. presence in Iraq after the Dec. 31 pullout deadline set in a 2008 pact between the two countries. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other senior Pentagon officials spoke often about the need for an agreement in a pivotal country in a volatile region and insisted talks were continuing up until Friday, when Obama announced that all U.S. troops would be coming home before the end of December.

A listing of direct conversations provided by the embassy — drawn, the embassy said, from the White House website — indicates that Obama had no direct contact with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki between Feb. 13, when he telephoned the prime minister, until Friday, when he called al-Maliki to tell him U.S. troops would be withdrawn by Dec. 31.

Also absent for nearly the entire year was Biden. According to the official listing, Biden telephoned al-Maliki on Dec. 21, the day al-Maliki formed a new government, and visited here Jan. 18, but had no direct contact after that date, according to the official listing.

U.S. Embassy officials, asked in July whether Biden was coming to help secure the deal, which military officers said needed to be concluded by July 31 for planning purposes, said the vice president was too busy trying to end the donnybrook in Congress over raising the national debt ceiling to visit Iraq.

On Tuesday, a White House spokesman, Tommy Vietor, denied that Obama and Biden had not talked to al-Maliki during the negotiations. But he did not respond to a request for the dates of conversations between the president and al-Maliki.

So I decided to hop on over to Abu Muqawama’s place at CNAS (for the first time in about a year) and see if he had anything to say about Iraq.  He had this to say.  “Having pretty carefully considered the arguments for and against leaving troops in Iraq beyond this year, I ultimately found Doug Ollivant’s argument to be the most persuasive. So I support the president’s decision to end U.S. military involvement in the war in Iraq.”  Douglas Ollivant had this to say.

Let me be clear. The United States should have no — zero — troops in Iraq on Jan. 1, 2012, when the Status of Forces Agreement signed between the two countries requires a complete withdrawal (this number excepts, of course, a small military presence at the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Military Cooperation — a presence that exists in almost every embassy worldwide). This is not about delivering on an Obama campaign promise or saving money. This is about doing the right thing for both the United States and Iraq. Although the White House’s proposal to keep approximately 3,000 troops in Iraq is better than the rumored 17,000 desired by the commander of the U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. Lloyd Austin, maintaining any American presence is simply the wrong decision for both parties.

Despite having both a political problem and a terrorism problem, Iraq is now a reasonably stable country that must have the opportunity to chart its own course.

Now that Ollivant has been “clear,” let me also be clear.  Maliki’s puppet-masters are the Mullah’s in Iran.  Regardless of what one thinks of OIF1, OIF2 and OIF3 were necessary.  And a certain Marine and I had a conversation the other day about the 100+ foreign fighters flowing across the Syrian border per month and Iraq as a terrorist haven in 2007 during the height of the surge (when he deployed to Fallujah).  He also remarked to me about the poverty he witnessed, and the wealth that it takes to arm a society.

“As little money as I make, I am rich compared to most Iraqis,” he said.  “Yet they had AKs, handguns, explosive ordnance, and RPGs.  The RPG is an EFP device.  Do you know how much it costs to make and deploy one of those?  The weapons came in from Iran.  Typical Iraqis could not possibly have had the size caches we seized of those weapons after combat ops.  Thousands upon thousands – just in our AO.  You just can’t imagine the scope.  The money doesn’t exist.  These people don’t have it, and neither did the foreign fighters we killed, although the foreign fighters had better equipment than we did.”

He continued, “So do you think we finished the job?”  “No,” I said.  “We are leaving Iran empowered.  We could have enjoined the covert war they declared against the U.S., but we refused to do it.”  “I agree,” he replied, somewhat wistfully.  And we continued to discuss the possibilities that even a small force in Iraq could accomplish with the will to do it at the senior administration level.

And now I find that the President is busy printing and spending trillions upon trillions of dollars and throwing it away on worthless projects, while the Vice President is busy attempting to raise the debt ceiling so that our children and children’s children can be impoverished and bankrupt, while we ignored Iraq and Iran, refusing even to invite the PM for a visit so that we could strong arm him and negotiate a new SOFA.

Children.  Children in the White House, being led by a senior child, surrounded by children for policy advisers, being advised by children at think tanks who have absolutely no idea whatsoever of the ramifications of their counsel forward in time ( and who quote even more childish and un-serious think tanks for their sources).

Please, dear God, please, send someone serious to help these people.  Gravitas, please?

Analysis Of Brief For The U.S. In Opposition to Sean Masciandaro

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 7 months ago

In No Right To Carry Concealed Handgun and Heller Versus D.C. Before the Circuit Court of Appeals (Assault Weapons Ban), we discussed the case of Sean Masciandaro.  While traveling, Mr. Masciandaro fell asleep in his automobile at or near Daingerfield Island, an area of NPS land near Alexandria, Virginia.  He had a handgun, and instead of separating the ammunition in proximity from the weapon, he had the weapon loaded.  He was convicted of a crime, and has appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court of the U.S.

Since Mr. Masciandaro’s conviction, Congress has passed a law prohibiting executive regulation of enforcement of weapons bans on National Park land (including the specific infraction with which Mr. Masciandaro was convicted).  We will revisit this fact later in our analysis.  Mr. Masciandaro’s attorneys submitted their Petition for Writ of Certiorari, and until recently were awaiting the response of the Solicitor General.  Donald B. Verrilli and Lanny A. Breuer finally submitted their Brief for the United States in Opposition to Sean Masciandaro.

Analysis of Core Argument[s] in Brief for the U.S.

The brief spends some unfortunate pages rehearsing what we already know about this case, providing detail that has been provided  by they attorneys for Mr. Masciandaro.  By the time that the argument begins and goes a single paragraph, it is reduced to the following three unrelated points: (1) intermediate scrutiny is appropriate (and thus the government is not required to prove whether the core question implicates Second Amendment considerations), (2) the level of danger with a loaded weapon is high and warrants government controls in the interest of public safety, and (3) the case is irrelevant due to its having been made void by an act of Congress.

On page 8 the brief begins the argument that the subject regulation implies specificity inasmuch as it only applies to loaded firearms in National Parks and inside a vehicle.  The argument to specificity is important and we will revisit its implications.  On page 10 the brief argues that whether the core right identified in Heller extends outside the home as well is an “abstract question,” and adds that the case of Masciandaro “presents no occasion to decide that issue.”  On page 12 the brief extends the argument that whether the Second Amendment extends outside the home is an “abstract question.”

On page 13 the brief begins to walk this argument back when it states:

Petitioner suggests (Pet. 21) that lower courts “will continue to limit the Second Amendment right to self-defense in the home” until this Court affirmatively extends its scope. Even if that were so, it would not preclude this Court from addressing the broad question, after full consideration by the lower courts, in a case (unlike this one) where its resolution would be outcome-determinative.

So rather than an “abstract question” effecting the broad application of firearms rights outside the home, in just a few pages the Masciandaro case has become one that cannot possibly be “outcome-determinative” because any decision by the U.S. Supreme Court would effect only regulations in National Parks (or more specifically, the case of Sean Masciandaro in a National Park convicted of this specific crime at this specific time in history).

A new section begins the argument (on page 14) that the question of bearing firearms outside the home is not “cleanly presented” in the Masciandaro case.  Brief continues:

… when this Court in Heller pointed out that “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” 554 U.S. at 626, it identified several “presumptively lawful” regulations of that right, id. at 627 & n.26, including “laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings,” id. at 626. Although the court of appeals found it unnecessary to decide the issue, national parks — heavily traveled, government-controlled areas where “large numbers of people, including children, congregate for recreation,” Pet. App. 15a — can readily be described as “sensitive places” within the meaning of Heller. At a minimum, they implicate specific public safety interests, and their “circumstances justify reasonable measures to secure public safety.”

In a 16 page brief, Verrilli and Breuer have stumbled into a serious logical blunder.  The brief argues that the Masciandaro case doesn’t implicate Second Amendment rights on a large scale, since this case involves only National Park land and any decision would effect only this specific regulation.  Recall from above that the initial argument straight out of the gate had to do with the specificity of this case and any decision thereto.

But the brief apparently feels that the Second Amendment implications are massive, arguing extensively that this case involves “sensitive” areas where large numbers of people are congregated.  On the one hand, this case is specific.  On the other hand, its implications are broad enough that the court should decide it later because public safety is at stake and the implications for any decision are far too broad.  This is fundamentally contradictory, as the case doesn’t fit the category for broad constitutional implications because of its specificity, but does so to such a degree that any reversal by the Supreme Court of Mr. Masciandaro’s conviction would imply carry rights in areas that the government would seek to prohibit.

This problem can be seen again in the way in which the brief argues for non-consideration by the Supreme Court.  On page 7 this case is noted as having “little importance” since the law has been reversed.  So it has been categorized as not implicating second amendment rights as a justification for dismissal.  Then on page 12, precedent is cited for rejecting cases with “underlying issues with such broad ramifications.”  The brief’s core argument is self-referentially incoherent.

Further Analysis

It is appropriate at this point to make some additional remarks about the brief that don’t go entirely to the core argument[s].  The brief is so poorly written that it is difficult to follow the flow of thought (if there is any).  It seems to revert at times to the leaky bucket approach to rhetoric.  First there is the judicial “now you see it, now you don’t” trick of intermediate scrutiny, and thus whether Second Amendment rights are implicated is irrelevant – but even if Second Amendment rights are implicated, the government has an interest in public safety that bears on this question – but even if we don’t, the law has been overturned anyway – and even if all of that isn’t true, the Supreme Court should wait to decide cases with such broad constitutional ramifications as this one – but any decision by the Supreme Court wouldn’t effect larger questions since the regulation only effected behavior on National Park Service land, so the Supreme Court should reject it from consideration since it is so specific.  And on and on, back and forth from page to page it goes, dizzying the reader like a ping pong match.

The brief is such a completely disconnected, randomized flow of consciousness paper that it leaves one without a sense of having been persuaded of much of anything except that it is a pleasing experience to stop reading it.  It places heavy weight on the notion that a loaded firearm is “surely more dangerous than an unloaded one.”  But this assertion is stated as axiomatic and lacks demonstration or evidence.  For most concealed handgun permit holders, trigger and muzzle discipline approaches religious fervor.  To be sure, the state has an interest in knowing that weapons owners (who have a permit to carry) know how to make their weapon function with no danger to anyone except an assailant.  Hence, a range test and firearms safety training (e.g., knowing where your target is and also what is behind your target) is part of the process to get the permit to carry.

But it is a juvenile and illogical leap simply to assert that a loaded firearms in the hands of trained, permitted individuals, is “surely more dangerous” than an unloaded one (as if weapons randomly discharge).  This is analogous to the argument in Heller 2 where D.C. continues with the ban of so-called “assault weapons.”  An analysis of mass shootings in the U.S. demonstrates rather conclusively that assault weapons do not deserve the approbation heaped upon them.  Similarly, in spite of the prediction of bloodshed in the National Parks by the Brady Campaign’s Dennis Henigan, based on a FOIA request I filed concerning violent crimes in National Parks after reversing the ban on loaded weapons, there is essentially no change in 2010, and firearms related incident continue to remain statistically insignificant.  Dennis Henigan was wrong.  But then so are many adjudications concerning firearms because they rely on arguments made mainstream by the likes of Dennis Henigan.

After arguing for a compelling government interest in public safety because of the threat of violence from loaded handguns, the brief all but stipulates to the contrary proposition by dumping the basis for their argument and asserting that a Supreme Court decision wouldn’t matter because the law had changed.  Note well.  The brief doesn’t argue for the Supreme Court to take up the case to justify their assertion that a loaded handgun is surely more dangerous than an unloaded one and hence the compelling interest in public safety makes such regulations just and right even if the court exonerates Seam Masciandaro (a position which they could have taken).  The brief argues that the Supreme Court should not take the case because there may be other cases in the future that also bear on the question.

There are several other things that can be gleaned from the brief.  First, it is clear that neither the appeals court judges nor the authors of the brief have any significant personal experience with firearms.  No one with personal experience would make such manifestly absurd, factually incorrect statements about firearms.  Second, it becomes clearer with this brief what the current administration thinks about Second Amendment rights (they are not friendly to the Second Amendment).  Third, the brief eventually seems to devolve into a whiny, nagging missive on the fact that the Supreme Court shouldn’t take the case of Sean Masciandaro because we, the administration, really don’t want them to.  And if that’s not enough, we really … really … really don’t want them to.

The case of Sean Masciandaro presents a perfect opportunity to establish once and for all that U.S. citizens have a right to self defense outside their home.  The home is a man’s castle, and castle doctrine has now become law in most states as it should be.  Thus the burden of proof is placed squarely where it should be, i.e., on the prosecution, and the burden is heavy and the bar high for cases of self defense inside the home.  Rightly so.  But while the burden may not be as high outside the home, that doesn’t mean that a citizen relinquishes the right to self defense when he leaves the confines of his domicile.

Life in the United States of America generally requires interaction with the balance of society, and the warp and woof of America involves rich and robust ideas on firearms ownership and the right to self defense.  It did at the founding of our country and that continues to this day.  There is no evidence that the majority of Americans feel that their rights cease and desist because there are other people around them.  In fact, the presence of others is precisely the circumstances under which self defense would be exercised.  Restriction of the right in circumstances where it is most likely to be required to be exercised doesn’t comport with the spirit of the constitutional guarantee.  Rather, it mocks it.  Neither, for that matter, does requiring Sean Masciandaro to separate his ammunition from his weapon, rendering it completely useless as a means of self defense, comport with the intent of the founders or the rights granted to us by God.  Judges and attorneys who have experience with firearms or even who care just a little about constitutional guarantees would know these things.

UPDATE: Reddit/r/guns link.

U.S. Warning to Iran

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 7 months ago

From The Washington Post:

The United States will continue to support Iraq as it moves toward democracy, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Saturday as she wrapped up a weeklong overseas trip.

Without mentioning Iran by name, Clinton warned Iraq’s neighbors against meddling and said the U.S. and Iraq would remain close allies.

“As we open this new chapter in a relationship with sovereign Iraq, to the Iraqis we say: America is with you as you take your next steps in your journey to secure your democracy,” she said.

“And to countries in the region, especially Iraqi’s neighbors, we want to emphasize that America will stand with our allies and friends, including Iraq, in defense of our common security and interests.”

She said the United States would have a “robust, continuing presence throughout the region, which is proof of our ongoing commitment to Iraq and to the future of that region.”

The problem with Iran began more than a quarter century ago, and for Operation Iraqi Freedom, even before the campaign began.  We could have addressed the present problem, at least in part, when Maliki’s rule was hanging by a thread and Iraqi lawmakers were waiting to see who the U.S. would support.  While I argued for support of Allawi, the U.S. policy-makers decided to support the Iranian apparatchik Maliki.  At that point we may as well have withdrawn troops, and afterward a downward spiral took effect in Iraq, from a poor status of forces agreement to increased Iranian hegemony.

To be sure, the Obama administration could have projected strength, but did not and will not, and hence Maliki feels even more emboldened to follow the dictates of his puppet masters in Iran.  While the Obama administration did nothing whatsoever to help the situation, the problem began years ago with our refusal to engage Iran in the war that they declared on us.

I haven’t recommended full scale conventional warfare with Iran.  That’s clearly not necessary.  But what is necessary – support for the Green movement, a campaign of assassinations against Quds commanders, fomenting an insurgency within Iran, and robust covert warfare against Iranian forces around the Middle East, from Quds forces in Iraq, to Hezbollah in Lebanon – will not happen because neither the Obama administration nor the Bush administration has or had the stomach for winning the global war on terrorism.

The Iranian Mullahs know that.  We don’t even have the sway left in Iraq to have gotten a renewed status of forces agreement that prevents our Soldiers from being held on charges in Iraqi courts, much less to prevent the expansion of Iranian power in the Middle East.

Thus, this warning to Iran must seem like the silliest, most self-delusional piece of propaganda ever to be issued from the offices of the State Department.  We have sunk to a new low.  We now traffic in complete lies without  the slightest concern over the fact that not even the enemy believes us any more.

Get tough strategy with Pakistan?

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 7 months ago

From the Los Angeles Times:

The U.S. needs Pakistan’s cooperation to succeed against an insurgent group that uses sanctuaries along the Afghan border from which to attack American and Afghan forces. But so far, Washington has failed to entice that cooperation — or coerce it through threats to pull billions of dollars in aid.

On Thursday, Washington embarked on a get-tough strategy — sending its top diplomat along with its top intelligence and military officers to Islamabad to deliver the blunt message: Whether or not Pakistan chooses to help, the U.S. will continue to fight the Haqqani network inside Afghanistan while seeking a negotiated end to the decade-old Afghan conflict that has taken the lives of more than 1,800 U.S. soldiers and thousands of Afghan civilians.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s arrival in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, on Thursday, accompanied by CIA Director David H. Petraeus and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, signaled the all-out nature of the bid to persuade Pakistan to cooperate.

To fight Haqqani in Afghanistan (note the absence of the threat to fight them in Pakistan), with or without Pakistan’s help, and a bid to persuade Pakistan to help?  That’s it?  That’s our strategy to get tough with Pakistan?  The same thing we’re doing now, i.e., fighting Haqqani in Afghanistan and attempting to persuade Pakistan to help?  So if the preceding strategy is failing, our forward going plan is to do more of the same?

Maybe that’s not the complete strategy.  We’re also going to seek a negotiated settlement.  Perhaps the threat of a negotiated settlement will persuade Pakistan to help.  I had recommended unilaterally fighting Haqqani in Pakistan too, and if the Pakistani army had in any way impeded our progress or caused harm to our troops, turning the ground they stood on into a sea of glass.  But what do I know?

Let’s all take a strategic pause and see how this plan works out, shall we?

Solicitor General Responds to Sean Masciandaro

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 7 months ago

The Solicitor General, along with Lanny Breuer, has responded to the Petition for Writ of Certiorari before the Supreme Court by Sean Masciandaro’s attorney, Antigone Peyton, a case which I have discussed here and here.

I see a number of serious weaknesses and logical blunders in the brief that I intend to exploit in a followup analysis article.

In the mean time, if you wish, you may weigh in yourself in the comments with what you perceive to be the problems with the brief.  The Solicitor General’s brief may be found here.

Men, Not Machines, Win Wars

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 7 months ago

As one who has argued for the involvement and importance of air power and conventional artillery, I don’t want to overplay this hand.  I say what I am about to say circumspectly.  I know the limitations of what I am about to say, and I’d rather have air power on my side than just about anything else.  That is, anything except an infantryman.

So am unimpressed with this report.

US forces are massing on the Pakistan border in eastern Afghanistan amid reports of an imminent drone missile offensive against fighters from the feared Haqqani Network, a Taliban faction which operates from safe havens in Pakistan’s North Waziristan Agency, Pakistan Army sources have confirmed.

The scale of the American build-up, including helicopter gunships, heavy artillery and hundreds of American and Afghan troops, caused panic in north Waziristan where tribal militias who feared they could be targeted gathered in the capital Miranshah to coordinate their response.

Local officials in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) warned that Pakistan’s armed forces would repel any incursion across the border by American forces, but military sources in Islamabad and Afghan officials suggested the build-up was part of a coordinated operation.

It’s not a coordinated effort, “hundreds” of troops will not significantly alter the outcome of the campaign, and sending helicopters into Pakistan will get them shot down by insurgents under the current protocol.  Not that I’m opposed, mind you, to sending helicopters into Pakistan, but this isn’t some bloodless, clinical way to run a war, any more than sending helicopters with 30+ Navy SEALS around in Afghanistan to get shot down.  Frankly, I was surprised it took as long as it did before tragedy happened with our elite troopers.

This report adds some clarity.

There were no signs of troop movement on the Pakistani side, locals and officials said, suggesting no plans for a complementary offensive in the neighboring North Waziristan region. Pakistan has long resisted U.S. pressure to launch an operation against extremists that use North Waziristan as a safe haven.

A senior Pakistani military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that Pakistanis hadn’t been briefed in advance about what the U.S.-led forces were up to but were “informed upon inquiring.”

Although few clear details emerged of what the U.S. and its allies were planning, rumor of the gathering forces spread a mixture of panic and bravado in Pakistan. Many North Waziristan residents believed that a surgical U.S. airstrike was imminent, while some said they were prepared to fight U.S. troops if they crossed over.

A senior NATO official dismissed the Pakistani fears, saying that the alliance wasn’t authorized to operate outside Afghanistan and wasn’t trying to threaten Pakistan.

“No, we’re not massing on the border,” said the official, who wasn’t authorized to be quoted by name.

Pakistan isn’t acting to press the Haqqani network on their side of the border, we still respect the border and won’t cross it, and thus the Haqannis still have safe haven.

I recall this depressing report on Marine Corps operations near Sangin.

It is a conversation, the military surgeon says, that every U.S. Marine has with his corpsman, the buddy who is first to treat him if he is wounded by an insurgent’s bomb.

The Marine says, “‘If I lose my manhood, then I don’t want to live through it,'” according to Navy Lt. Richard Whitehead, surgeon for 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, which is fighting in one of the most treacherous combat areas of Afghanistan.

“They ask us not to save them if their ‘junk’ gets blown off,” said Whitehead, using a slang term for genitals. “Usually, we laugh. We joke with them about it. At the same time, you know that you’re going to treat them anyway.”

This is a world of fear, resolve and dark humor that is mostly hidden from accounts of the human cost of the war in Afghanistan. American troops who patrol on foot in bomb-laced areas know they might lose a leg, or two, if they step in the wrong place. But for young men in their prime, most unmarried and without children, the prospect of losing their sexual organs seems even worse.

Whitehead said: “It’s one of the areas we can’t put a tourniquet on.”

Sangin, the district of southern Afghanistan where the Marine battalion is based, was a Taliban stronghold for years. It has one of the highest concentrations of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in the country. Robust Marine operations in the past year have weakened the insurgency in Sangin, and troops now seek to build up the authority of local government and community leaders.

But elusive fighters routinely strike with booby traps on trails and around patrol bases. Lt. Col. Thomas Savage, the battalion commander, said there was a rough average of five IED strikes, finds or interdictions a day in Sangin, in Helmand province. Estimates vary, but some Marines say roughly one in 10 IEDs hits a target.

Sixteen of the battalion’s Marines have died and at least 160 have been injured during a seven-month deployment that ends in October. Of those, about 90 were sent home because of the severity of their wounds, said Whitehead, the battalion surgeon. One lost both testicles, four Marines lost one testicle and two had penis injuries.

We’re sending “blast panties” or “ballistic boxers” to help, but that only helps to stop infection and decrease the damage of shrapnel.  It doesn’t save a Marine’s gonads.  Know what we’re also sending?  Robots.  That’s right, robots.

Listen.  I’m all for robots, and helicopters, and drones, and all manner of new-fangled gadgetry and high tech toys.  But we’ll win in the Helmand Province when we send Marines on distributed operations to sit in concealment and wait to find the IED emplacers, and we shoot them where they stand.  And we find the makers, and we take them out in their homes and in the roads.  We’ll find out who these bastards are when we enter their homes, and get in their faces – when we do census operations, when we press the villagers.  When it becomes too dangerous to emplace IEDs, the insurgents will stop doing it.  Governance and digging wells didn’t work in Iraq, and it won’t in Afghanistan.

And when we inform the Pakistanis that if they shoot at our troops chasing the Haqqani fightes in Pakistan we’ll turn the ground they are standing on into a sea of glass, then we’ll be on our way to ending the Haqqani threat, machines and ballistic underwear notwithstanding.

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