The Paradox and Absurdities of Carbon-Fretting and Rewilding

Herschel Smith · 28 Jan 2024 · 3 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]

Drones and the War Against Militant Islam: Useful Tool or Game Changer?

BY Glen Tschirgi
12 years, 4 months ago

One of my favorite historians and conservative thinkers, Victor Davis Hanson, published a provocative article over at NRO, “The Predator-in-Chief.”

In this article, Hanson basically observes the irony that President Obama, who roundly criticized Bush 43 for his resort to force of arms, has turned out to be the unquestioned champion of UAV/drone strikes against high-value targets in both Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and even Somalia.

But Hanson attempts to do far more than merely observe Obama’s unbridled use of drones.   He argues that the development, use and continuing refinement of drones has “turned the tide” in the war against militant Islam.

For example:

Even when [the United States] adjusted well to the 9/11 tactics, there were new threats, such as suicide bombers and roadside improvised explosive devices that seemed to nullify American technological and material advantages.

But America is once again getting the upper hand in this long war against Middle Eastern terrorists, with the use of Predator-drone targeted assassinations to which the terrorists have not yet developed an answer. In systematically deadly fashion, Predators are picking off the top echelon of al-Qaeda and its affiliates from the Hindu Kush to Yemen to the Horn of Africa.

New models of drones seem almost unstoppable. They are uncannily accurate in delivering missiles in a way even precision aircraft-bombing cannot. Compared to the cost of a new jet or infantry division, Predators are incredibly cheap. And they do not endanger American lives — at least as long as terrorists cannot get at hidden runaways abroad or video-control consoles at home.

The pilotless aircraft are nearly invisible and, without warning, can deliver instant death from thousands of feet away in the airspace above. Foreign governments often give us permission to cross borders with Predators in a way they would not with loud, manned aircraft.

Moreover, drones are constantly evolving. They now stay in the air far longer and are far more accurate and far more deadly than when they first appeared in force shortly after 9/11. Suddenly it is a lot harder for a terrorist to bomb a train station in the West than it is for a Predator to target that same would-be terrorist’s home in South Waziristan.

Notwithstanding my admiration for his work, I cannot sign onto this particular piece.  Perhaps I am once again blinded by my antipathy for the current Administration, leading me to reject anything that reflects well on Obama, a kind of cognitive dissonance that finds fault where there is none.  On the other hand, it may be that Herschel Smith (and other folks like Tim Lynch, Michael Ledeen and Michael Yon) educated me too well to fall into facile thinking about a war won with drone attacks.   I am surprised to hear Professor Hanson saying anything to this effect.

What support is there for Hanson’s statement that drones have facilitated “getting the upper hand in the long war against Middle Eastern terrorists” ?

I certainly do not deny that drones have proven to be exceedingly useful tools on the battlefield and adept at decapitation operations, but Hanson seems to make way too much out of the effect of drones.  Yes, many al-Qaeda and affiliated terror group leaders have been killed and their accumulated expertise, leadership and inspiration denied to their followers.   But, as we have seen again and again in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Gaza, Lebanon, Iran and Somalia, merely ridding terror groups of their top leadership provides at best a respite until new leadership fills in the vacated posts.   Capabilities can be blunted at times with this tactic but the larger struggle continues unabated.   In short, no one has yet proven that decapitation operations are winning the war.

And I posit that no one can prove this point because to argue this is to mistake the very nature of the war itself.

Has the killing of Bin Laden and others really “turned the tide” in our favor as Hanson claims?  It could be argued that Al Qaeda as an organization was already dead or dying, discredited by their humiliating defeat in Iraq and their failure to launch any new attacks against the U.S. homeland.  In this sense, Al Qaeda leadership has been sitting around waiting to be picked off.   Very simply put, the game has changed dramatically since 9-11 and Al Qaeda and its cohorts are no longer all that relevant.   The ball has been taken up by other larger forces and by events that no one could foresee in 2001 or even 2009.   The Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the so-called Arab Spring.   These are all actors and events that are well beyond the reach of Drones and will have the most to say about winning or losing the war against militant Islam.

This is the problem with incorrectly identifying the enemy and the nature of our war.  It is far larger than any one terror group or 2,200 disembodied radicals.  The enemy is an ideology that is antithetical to Western civilization.  Like it or not, we are in a civlizational war with militant Islam.  If it makes us feel better to kill off 2,200 bad guys in Pakistan or Yemen or wherever, fine.

This explains, by the way, the strange attraction of Drones for Obama.  It is a cheap, easy and politically potent tool, giving him something concrete he can point to and say, “See what I’ve done to defeat terror?”

In the meantime, the ideology is not defeated.  To the contrary, it grows and metastasizes throughout the Middle East.  Iran.  The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Gaza (and Syria?).  Hezbollah in Lebanon.  Islamists in Libya.  The U.S. has done nothing to counter the Islamist ideology or strengthen the hands of those in the Middle East who share our values but need strong support to make their case to the people.  We blandly ignore the protests in Iran and Syria as internal matters, allowing the Islamists to gain the upper hand.  We have wasted 10 years in Afghanistan with futile attempts to impose an 18th century notion of democratic rule on a 9th century nation that sees little need to change.  But let’s celebrate those drone strikes.  The ground in the entire Middle East is shifting right under our feet, but, boy, did we blast those bad guys to bits in those remote villages and caves.

Drones are not the answer to any of this.   If only they were.   We cannot win this war with technology.   We have to defeat militant Islam the same way that we defeated fascism and communism:  by showing that they are bankrupt and evil ideologies.   Drones cannot save us.    Sorry Professor Hanson.

Heller Versus D.C. Before The Circuit Court Of Appeals (Assault Weapons Ban)

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 4 months ago

The Washington Post editorial board droned on about a recent ruling concerning the District of Columbia “assault weapons” ban.

Last week, the judges — or, more precisely, two of them — delivered a pleasant surprise. Chief Judge Douglas Ginsburg and Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson upheld the District’s ban on “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines — defined by the District as those holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Also upheld were certain provisions that require gun owners to register handguns. The decision was, in our view, correct in its conclusions and methodology.

The judges, as is common with constitutional issues, asked a series of questions: Are semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines in “common use” or are they the type of weapon — think, sawed-off shotguns — that the Supreme Court has said is not covered by the Second Amendment because they are “not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes”? Do the regulations infringe on the fundamental right to keep and bear arms for self-defense? How does any infringement of the individual right balance against the government’s interest in protecting public safety?

Gun registration, the judges ruled, is “deeply enough rooted in our history to support the presumption” that it is constitutional. The ban on semiautomatic long guns is permissible, they concluded, because it does not prohibit possession of “the quintessential self-defense weapon” — the handgun. Those who wish to keep a long gun for hunting or self-defense may legally own a non-automatic rifle or shotgun. The judges also rightly deferred to the District’s concerns over safety in banning high-capacity ammunition clips that “pose a danger to innocent people and particularly to police officers.”

The third panel member, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, would have struck down regulations banning semi-automatic long guns and requiring gun registration, but he would have asked a lower court to conduct more fact-finding on whether a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips passed constitutional muster. The right to keep and bear arms, he argued, should not be subject to the balancing test adopted by the majority. Because semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines have been in common use, he argued, they should presumptively be deemed constitutional. But “common use” in this approach spells the end of common sense and quashes the ability of diverse jurisdictions to fashion laws that address specific safety concerns. As the majority opinion shows, Second Amendment rights can be respected without thwarting legitimate public safety goals.

The editorial board is referring to the case of Dick Anthony Heller, et. al., versus D.C. before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, decided October 4, 2011.  This case follows on from the Supreme Court ruling in D.C. v Heller, decided June 26, 2008.  Dick Heller and others decided to appeal a D.C. court ruling that prohibited them from owning so-called “assault weapons” in D.C. due to local ordinances.  The SCOTUS decision in Heller, they claimed, made D.C.’s ban of these weapons unconstitutional.

The phrase “assault weapons” is, of course, deplorable because of its misleading connotations (weapons with rails for attachments such as tactical lights, forend grips, a pistol grip, collapsible stock, etc., are classified as “assault weapons due to these features).  More deplorable is the complete ignorance of the subject in the MSM, especially when they decide to weigh in on the issue.  But more deplorable still is when judges make life-altering decisions based on factually incorrect information, in total isolation from any personal knowledge of the subject upon which they are supposed to adjudicate.  Such is the case with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in its latest foray into the unknown.

Much of the decision is occupied with the two judges arguing for intermediate scrutiny as opposed to strict scrutiny as to whether second amendment rights are implicated by the D.C. ban.  But it doesn’t take long for the decision to become muddled.  On page 30 they state:

We think it clear enough in the record that semi-automatic rifles and magazines holding more than ten rounds are indeed in “common use,” as the plaintiffs contend. Approximately 1.6 million AR-15s alone have been manufactured since 1986, and in 2007 this one popular model accounted for 5.5 percent of all firearms, and 14.4 percent of all rifles, produced in the U.S. for the domestic market. As for magazines, fully 18 percent of all firearms owned by civilians in 1994 were equipped with magazines holding more than ten rounds, and approximately 4.7 million more such magazines were imported into the United States between 1995 and 2000. There may well be some capacity above which magazines are not in common use but, if so, the record is devoid of evidence as to what that capacity is; in any event, that capacity surely is not ten.

Here is the perhaps the only correct set of assertions contained in the ruling, and the Washington Post has gotten it exactly backwards.  The judges didn’t base the ruling on whether assault weapons are in “common use.”  They clearly are.  But the rejection of this framework contained within Heller isn’t comprehensive or final, as we’ll see in a moment.

On page 33 of the decision, the judges begin to construct their own framework for rejection of assault weapons and exoneration of D.C.’s ban.    They turn their focus on D.C.’s “Committee on Public Safety,” the findings in their report, and whether the ban has a reasonable “fit,” tailored to the goals of public safety and reducing violent crime.  The committee relied upon An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban:Impact on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994-2003.  The report does make the claim that “AWs and other guns equipped with LCMs tend to account for a higher share of guns used in murders of police and mass public shootings, though such incidents are very rare.”  But no evidence is offered to substantiate the claim (as we’ll see in a moment, there is none).

But there is sleight of hand.  By lumping police murders and mass shootings together, along with “assault weapons” and high capacity magazines (what they termed “large” capacity magazines, which I take to be rather outdated and not in colloquial usage), the authors get to make claims that are sweeping in nature while misleading in the details.  It only takes a single shot to murder anyone, including a police officer.  No one needs a high capacity magazine to pull off a murder.  But the ugly specter of “mass shootings” introduces the emotional element that the committee needs to make their case.

Then the judges return to the framework of Heller, after jettisoning it earlier, by referring to whether assault weapons are “dangerous and unusual” (see page 34).  After quoting Brian Siebel of the Brady Center as an expert witness, the judges conclude “In short, the evidence demonstrates a ban on assault weapons is likely to promote the Government’s interest in crime control in the densely populated urban area that is the District of Columbia.”  On page 35, the judges jump into bed with Siebel when they parrot his own words.

The Siebel testimony moreover supports the District’s claim that high-capacity magazines are dangerous in self-defense situations because “the tendency is for defenders to keep firing until all bullets have been expended, which poses grave risks to others in the household, passersby, and bystanders.” Moreover, the Chief of Police testified the “2 or 3 second pause” during which a criminal reloads his firearm “can be of critical benefit to law enforcement.” Overall the evidence demonstrates that large-capacity magazines tend to pose a danger to innocent people and particularly to police officers, which supports the District’s claim that a ban on such magazines is likely to promote its important governmental interests.

This is highly problematic prose, not only for the facts it claims to exist (“dangerous in self-defense situations”), but also for the light that it casts on the decision process.  The judges have earlier jettisoned Heller’s framework for weapons that are unusual by observing that the AR style weapons are not at all unusual, then reintroduced Heller’s framework in their decision by arguing that these weapons are “unusual and dangerous,” changed the framework again by arguing that the basis for the decision is public (police) safety, and then modified their argument again to introduce their concern for people involved in self-defense and those around them.

The rest of the decision is just as muddled as the foregoing was, and it is appropriate at this point to make several observations concerning some of the alleged facts upon which the court has based its decision.

It can be argued that not only is the 5.56 mm round and the AR style weapons a legitimate home defense weapon, it is in some circumstances the optimal one to use.  The District of Columbia and the judges find themselves in the uncomfortable position of saying that it is acceptable for citizens to possess a long gun shooting the 7.62 mm round, as long as it doesn’t have a collapsible stock, forend grip, or rails for lasers or lights (after all, we wouldn’t want individuals to be precise in their self defense, or perhaps we do because of the safety of others around them).  Or, substitute here a shotgun, even shooting slugs for self defense.  Yet one feature of the 5.56 mm round shot from any AR is that brick (and in fact multiple layers of drywall) shatter the round, turning it into shrapnel due to its tendency to yaw upon impact (and even during flight).  Thus, people in adjacent homes are at least as safe with the AR as they are with any shotgun, and they may be more safe.  The same holds true for rounds fired from pistols (from 9 mm and above in caliber).  Pistol rounds penetrate more layers of drywall than 5.56 mm rounds.

As for the testimony of law enforcement officials, it’s always easy to find a police chief or sheriff who wants to rid his area of all weapons.  Concerning the recent ban on open carry in California, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said “For law enforcement officers and community members, any type of weapon being carried, openly or concealed, could appear as a threat to their well-being and is regarded as a public safety threat.”

Note what was said.  The subject was open carry, and not only does the Sheriff not like open carry, he doesn’t approve of concealed carry either.  It is regarded as a “safety risk.”  But risk in this context is defined by him, as a policy matter, representing police officers, rather than innocent citizens looking to do nothing more than defend their person in the case of peril.

But if assault weapons aren’t really dangerous in self defense situations as the Brady Center (and the court) claims, what about this notion that they (whether long guns or high capacity magazines used for handguns) represent a danger to public safety because of the threat of mass shootings?  This is the real bogey man lurking behind the curtain after all of the other reasons are given, reasons that appear to be like so many leaky buckets slammed together, and it makes sense to assess the history of mass shootings in America.  I have provided some of the details in Mass Shootings in the U.S. (HPS).

Disclaimer and stipulations: (1) I have tried to include all known mass shootings in recent history, but the list may not be comprehensive, (2) Number of deaths excludes suicide by the shooter, (3) Some information is marked unknown, (4) the list is in no particular order, and finally, (5) I have followed no specific definition of “mass shooting,” except that no attempt has been made to capture individual murders or even double-murders.

As Robert Farago observes, there is no single, equivalent definition of high capacity magazine.

California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Oak Park, Illinois – 10 cartridge limit
Chicago, Illinois – 12
New Jersey, Aurora, Illinois; – 15
Franklin Park, Illinois – 16
Maryland – 20
Denver, Colorado: – 21
Riverdale, Illinois – 35

Thus the Violence Policy Center has used a gratuitous definition that improves their chances of making compelling literature.  The definitions are not particularly useful, however, since I have tried to provide what is publicly available.  Moreover, analysis of the data provided in Mass Shootings in the U.S. (HPS) gives some insights that call into question the usefulness of generalizations and categories.

First, there simply haven’t been that many mass shootings in the U.S.  There aren’t enough to be statistically significant, but anecdotal wisdom can nonetheless be gleaned from the data.  Second, the charge that assault weapons are somehow the weapon of choice, or are involved in increasing proportions in mass shootings, is simply false.  The data shows that handguns are involved at a rate of 4:1 compared to either shotguns or rifles of any kind.

Third, the most frequent choice for such shooters in order to achieve effectiveness seems not to rely on magazine capacity, but having multiple weapons and magazines.  Fourth, the highest number of deaths occurs in instances of handgun use, not AR or AK use.  Fifth, determined and well-prepared shooters, e.g., the Texas tower murders, can use bolt action rifles to wreak carnage without the accouterments of the “assault weapon” label.  Sixth, most shooters carried multiple magazines, and seemed to be capable of fairly rapid magazine changeout.  In fact, given the ability to perform this action quickly, it isn’t obvious that use of magazines of different capacity would have substantially changed the calculus for any of the incidents.  The Fort Hood shooter used a high capacity magazine for his FN Five-Seven, but he also performed magazine changeout.  He didn’t stop shooting until he was himself shot.  It isn’t apparent that more magazine changeouts would have changed the outcome of the incident.

While correlation isn’t causation and no conclusive judgments may be made from this data due to the limited quantity of the set, this is true in the superlative for those who would try to use it to demonstrate in the legal system that so-called assault weapons are more dangerous than any other type of weapon or are involved in more crimes.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling continues to amuse at it goes on.  Eventually the court parrots the words of the ATF concerning the lack of a sporting purpose for assault weapons, a cultural framework that is dated by at least twenty five years.  I pointed this out in Analysis of the ATF Study on the Importability of Certain Shotguns.  Mentioning the Saiga-12 competitions or the local 3-Gun competitions should be enough to cause the authors to go back to the drawing board and craft up-to-date language and regulations (or better yet, simply reverse the regulatory trend of micromanagement).  The ATF language is simply outmoded, incorrect and useless.

But hysteria over assault weapons causing bad judicial outcomes isn’t the only problem.  In the Southern district of New York, Judge Cathy Seibel has ruled that possession of a firearm of any kind outside of the home is a privilege rather than a right.  Continuing with this theme, Sean Masciandaro fell asleep in his car while resting from a long drive, and this happened to occur on National Park land.  He was arrested for failing to remove the ammunition from the proximity of his weapon and place it in a remote location such as the trunk of his car (as if the weapon would have been any protection for him unloaded).

The attorneys for Sean argue thusly.

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.

Heller was a muddled decision and at least placed language in effect that justified the micromanagement of weapons types (with the statement that the “handgun is the quintessential self-defense weapon,” it sounds as if Antonin Scalia has been watching too much television).  But if Heller was muddled, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (and other courts throughout the nation) have made the problem an order of magnitude larger, with incoherent arguments, factually incorrect statements, lack of personal knowledge of firearms, and reliance on “experts” who are known to be duplicitous and ignorant of the subject.  We can forgive editorial boards.  After all, they wax eloquent in ignorance all the time on all kinds of things.  Courts cannot be forgiven.

According to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the D.C. assault weapons ban is based on something other than those weapons being unusual since there are hundreds of thousands of them in circulation.  But not really, because they are unusual and dangerous weapons, and the real concern has to do with the safety of police officers, until the public is mentioned, because their protection is paramount.  And if all of that doesn’t work, the big bad bogeyman of “mass shootings” should be enough to convince the reader that they should be banned.  It’s just a horrible decision that wouldn’t make the grade in any college writing class.

And worse?  The Supreme Court bought all of that and refused to hear Heller’s appeal.  The Supreme Court has one more chance to get it right this term with the case of Sean Masciandaro.  If they don’t, Heller will be nothing more than a right to possess a weapon inside the home, and the second amendment will have been eviscerated.

UPDATE: I appreciate the links give to this article by Say Uncle and David Hardy at Of Arms & the Law.

Grenade Walking

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 4 months ago

From CBS News:

There’s a new twist in the government’s “gunwalking” scandal involving an even more dangerous weapon: grenades.

CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, who has reported on this story from the beginning, said on “The Early Show” that the investigation into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)’s so-called “Fast and Furious” operation branches out to a case involving grenades. Sources tell her a suspect was left to traffic and manufacture them for Mexican drug cartels.

Police say Jean Baptiste Kingery, a U.S. citizen, was a veritable grenade machine. He’s accused of smuggling parts for as many as 2,000 grenades into Mexico for killer drug cartels — sometimes under the direct watch of U.S. law enforcement.

Law enforcement sources say Kingery could have been prosecuted in the U.S. twice for violating export control laws, but that, each time, prosecutors in Arizona refused to make a case.

Grenades are weapons-of-choice for the cartels. An attack on Aug. 25 in a Monterrey, Mexico casino killed 53 people.

Sources tell CBS News that, in January 2010, ATF had Kingery under surveillance after he bought about 50 grenade bodies and headed to Mexico. But they say prosecutors wouldn’t agree to make a case. So, as ATF agents looked on, Kingery and the grenade parts crossed the border — and simply disappeared.

Six months later, Kingery allegedly got caught leaving the U.S. for Mexico with 114 disassembled grenades in a tire. One ATF agent told investigators he literally begged prosecutors to keep Kingery in custody this time, fearing he was supplying narco-terrorists, but was again ordered to let Kingery go.

The prosecutors — already the target of controversy for overseeing “Fast and Furious,” wouldn’t comment on the grenades case. U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke recently resigned and his assistant, Emory Hurley, has been transferred. Sources say Hurley is the one who let Kingery go, saying grenade parts are “novelty items” and the case “lacked jury appeal.”

Attkisson added on “The Early Show” that, in August, Mexican authorities raided Kingery’s stash house and factory, finding materials for 1,000 grenades. He was charged with trafficking and allegedly admitted not only to making grenades, but also to teaching cartels how to make them, as well as helping cartel members convert semi-automatic rifles to fully-automatic. As one source put it: There’s no telling how much damage Kingery did in the year-and-a-half since he was first let go. The Justice Department inspector general is now investigating this, along with “Fast and Furious.”

 Sharyl Attkisson has indeed been on this story from the beginning, as have the folks at Sipsey Street Irregulars and David Codrea with Examiner.  This isn’t the first mention of explosive ordnance in the context of Fast and Furious, but the magnitude of the scandal in this report is important.

It’s also important to note that, unlike the characterizations in the MSM (other than CBS) and even sometimes at one of my favorite hangouts (reddit guns), this scandal has nothing whatsoever to do with incompetence or negligence.  Even the term malfeasance isn’t quite appropriate.  All of these terms imply that the ATF was simply too stupid to pull off a sting that was ill-conceived from the beginning and should never have been tried.  Folks at the ATF aren’t stupid.  The real story, as so aptly pointout out by Bob Owens, is that the ATF knew that they could never track these weapons across the border, as they have no jurisdiction in Mexico, no intelligence, no ability to follow the firearms themselves, and no confidence in the ability of the Mexican authorities to do any of this either.

This operation wasn’t an instance of stolid neglect or incompetence.  What we’re witnessing isn’t a bug in the operation.  It is a feature.  And now we see that one aspect includes knowingly allowing the trafficking of explosive ordnance.  It isn’t just the coverup that is the problem here.  This is clearly a violation of Arms Export Control Act, and many other statutes.

Mexican Cartels Are Warlords and Insurgents

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 4 months ago

But a State Department official doesn’t think so.

A State Department official resisted pressure from congressmen to call Mexican drug cartels “terrorist” or “insurgent” organizations during a Oct. 4 joint hearing of subcommittees from House Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security.

“I agree with virtually all of the suggestions that the facts are consistent with the label [terrorist group],” said William Brownfield, assistant secretary of state for the bureau of international narcotics and law enforcement affairs.

But so labeling Mexican drug cartels could have unknown implications, Brownfield said. “What does it give us that is more than we already have?” he asked.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland subcommittee on oversight, investigations and management, contended that the designation would “provide additional authorities to help Mr. Calderón win this war,” referring to Mexican President Felipe Calderón.

Mexican ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan suggested in a April 11 Dallas Morning News letter to the editor that a consequence of calling the cartels terrorist would be “to start calling drug consumers in the U.S. ‘financiers of terrorist organizations.'”

But the degree of psychological [un]appeal of a conclusion is no excuse for not completing the syllogism.   This is logic 101.  As to what would be accomplished were we to treat the Mexican cartels as warlords and insurgents as I have recommended, we could unleash the U.S. military and unshackle their efforts from the constraints of the SCOTUS decision in Tennessee v. Garner.  As for decriminalizing drugs as a solution, I continue to claim that it is a Potemkin solution.  Further, it isn’t legitimate to discuss this issue unless and until the legal and political framework is in place where I am not required to pay for the food, housing, medical care or any other cost associated with drug users.  Reconstruct this framework and we’ll talk.  Until then, as long as my tax dollars go to support half of the country (and could support more if drugs are legalized), I have the right to say how they live.  You can’t have partial libertarianism.  It’s all or nothing.  Continuing with the report:

“Our interest is less in the semantics, less in the label but what the label implies operationally for us. And for us we find that the law enforcement tools that we have are best-suited for the job,” said Mariko Silver, acting assistant secretary within the Homeland Security Department office of international affairs.

“I believe our authorities, our federal narcotic laws are sufficient to address the trafficking problem that exists now,” said Rodney Benson, Drug Enforcement Administration chief of intelligence.

Thus is Rodney Benson an idiot.  No one goes on record saying that everything is just fine and all the tools necessary to secure the border and fight crime are available.  Some people want to legalize drugs, some people (me) want to treat this as a war (no, not with some ridiculous “war on drugs” slogan, but a real war against warlords and insurgents, killing the bad guys with robust rules of engagement), and some want to increase law enforcement assets.  But no one says that every thing is fine.  Except for Rodney Benson, who thinks that everything is just fine, and who is an idiot.

Prior: Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment

The Lies of the Brady Campaign

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 4 months ago

California has recently prohibited open carry.

Sunday night, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law two bills affecting gun owners and dealers.

Brown signed AB 144 by Assemblymsn (sic) Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada-Flintridge) to ban the open carry of handguns in California; and AB 809 by Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) to close a loophole in state law that required the destruction of long gun sales and transfer records.

“The Governor has shown common sense and real courage by standing with law enforcement and victims of gun violence to make our communities safer,” said Dr. Dallas Stout, President of the California Brady Campaign Chapters.

AB 809 will require the preservation of records for long guns sold or transferred in the state after Jan. 1, 2014. Currently, only handgun purchases and transfer records are retained by the state Department of Justice.

“The retention of long gun records will enable the tracing of long guns used in crime and help law enforcement expose traffickers and sources of illegal guns,” continued Stout. Data from the state Department of Justice shows more th an half the guns recovered from armed and prohibited persons are long guns.

AB 144 will prohibit carrying in public openly displayed handguns. Last January, the California Chapters of the Brady Campaign announced their Demand Gun-free Dining – California project in response to a political movement of gun enthusiasts testing an old law — which allows the open carry of semi-automatic weapons with live ammunition magazines readily available — by holding gun gatherings in local restaurants and on public property.

“By prohibiting the open carry of guns, we can now take our families to the park or out to eat without the worry of getting shot by some untrained, unscreened, self-appointed vigilante,” Stout continued.

A gun registry is one of the stepping stones to the holy grail for the Brady Campaign, the total absence of guns in the hands of law abiding citizens.  But don’t be deceived.  The Brady Campaign is lying about being able to “take families to the park or eat without the worry of getting shot by some untrained, unscreened, self-appointed vigilante.”  It isn’t really concealed carry that the Brady Campaign wants.  Not at all.  The Brady Campaign puts out so much silly propaganda that it cannot keep its own story straight.  As reported by Rock River Times (apparently reporting not too far, ironically, from Rock River Arms in Colona Illinois), the Brady Campaign is arguing for something different in Illinois.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence intends to file two amicus briefs in federal courts this week in Illinois urging dismissal of two gun lobby lawsuits challenging the validity of Illinois law restricting the public carrying of firearms.

Illinois is the only state in the nation that has yet to legalize a form of concealed carry of firearms.

“The people of Illinois have made the reasonable decision to keep deadly semi-automatic weapons off the streets,” said Brady Center Acting President Dennis Henigan. “Courts have wisely rejected the gun lobby’s argument that the Constitution provides a right to carry loaded handguns in public, and the Second Amendment does not require people to be subjected to the grave risks of more loaded guns in our communities.”

You see, the Brady Campaign doesn’t want concealed carry either.  Their faux praise for the new California law prohibiting open carry is for appearances.  They must keep up the facade of reasonableness and legitimacy on their way to their holy grail.  In reality, they want the total disarmament of the population (which can never succeed with the criminals).  In shouldn’t be able to succeed with law-abiding citizens either, which is one reason we mustn’t give one inch to the anti-firearms zealots and bigots.

I’ve discussed my open carry practices in my home state of North Carolina before, and this is another fine time to mention that my sister state of South Carolina still needs a progressive and forward-thinking congressman to carry them out of the dark ages and allow open carry.  South Carolina still agrees with California, as odd as that may sound.  They both prohibit open carry now.

If the CIA built an intelligence network, SOF could do the job

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 4 months ago

From The Tennessean:

They were the first Americans into Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks and will probably be the last U.S. forces to leave.

As most American troops prepare to withdraw in 2014, the CIA and military special operations forces to be left behind are girding for the next great pivot of the campaign, one that could stretch their war up to another decade.

The war’s 10th anniversary Friday recalled the beginnings of a conflict that drove the Taliban from power and lasted far longer than was imagined.

“We put a CIA guy in first,” scant weeks after the twin towers in New York fell, said Lt. Gen. John Mulholland, then a colonel with U.S. special operations forces, in charge of the military side of the operation. U.S. Special Forces Green Berets, together with CIA officers, helped coordinate anti-Taliban forces on the ground with U.S. firepower from the air, to topple the Taliban and close in on al-Qaida.

Recent remarks from the White House suggest the CIA and special operations forces will be hunting al-Qaida and working with local forces long after most U.S. troops have left.

When Afghan troops take the lead in 2014, “the U.S. remaining force will be basically an enduring presence force focused on counterterrorism,” said National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, in remarks in Washington in mid-September. That will be augmented by teams that will continue to train Afghan forces, added White House spokesman Tommy Vietor.

The White House insists this does not mean abandoning the strategy of counterinsurgency, in which large numbers of troops are needed to keep the population safe. It simply means replacing the surge of 33,000 U.S. troops, as it withdraws over the next year, with newly trained Afghan ones, according to senior White House Afghan war adviser Doug Lute.

It also means U.S. special operators and CIA officers will be there for the next turn in the campaign. That’s the moment when Afghans will either prove themselves able to withstand a promised Taliban resurgence, or find themselves overwhelmed by seasoned Taliban fighters.

“We’re moving toward an increased special operations role,” together with U.S. intelligence, Mulholland said, “whether it’s counterterrorism-centric, or counterterrorism blended with counterinsurgency.”

[ … ]

Senior U.S. officials have spoken of keeping a mix of 10,000 of both raiding and training special operations forces in Afghanistan, and drawing down to between 20,000 and 30,000 conventional forces to provide logistics and support. But at this point, the figures are as fuzzy as the future strategy.

Whatever happens with U.S. troops, intelligence officers know they will be a key component.

“If the CIA built an intelligence network that could provide special operations forces with targets, we could do the job,” said Maj. Gen. Bennet S. Sacolick, who runs the U.S. Army’s Special Warfare Center and School.

This is a glowing report about the progress in Afghanistan coupled with a report card on what the SOF and SF are able to do – right up until Sacolick mentions those pesky little issues of logistics and intelligence networks.

20,000 – 30,000 troops won’t even be able to provide force protection for the SOF troopers, much less protection for the lines of logistics, protection for intelligence assets, or presence on the ground in the RC South or RC East to prevent virtually the entirety of Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for the Taliban again.  The Taliban haven’t retreated far beyond the outskirts the urban areas anyway.

But take careful note of what Sacolick says about his directions for high value target hits: “If the CIA built an intelligence network that could provide special operations forces with targets, we could do the job.”  What job?  The job of HVT raids.  First off, there is no discussion as to the [in]effectiveness of said program.  But just as important, as to the intelligence that under-girds the existence of the program, Sacolick says “it’s not my shop!”

We just do raids.  The CIA has to provide the intelligence, and they must do it without the troops necessary to squeeze the information out of the population, or protect the ones who do give up information.  The most incredible thing about this report is that the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pentagon are even contemplating this as a viable option.  It shows the desperation of the campaign that this idea has even been floated.

One final note.  How is that plan going for turnover to ANA forces?

Late one evening, soon after a bomb planted in the road was blown up by the vigilant engineers, another large explosion rocked the Afghan patrol based called Hamid where the troops were camped for the night.

Insurgents had accidentally triggered a large IED placed where we had patrolled just an hour before.

“An own goal,” gloated the Diggers as they settled in for a night.

The Mirabad Valley clearance had been billed as an “ANA planned and led” operation.

In reality following two fatalities and seven destroyed vehicles, the ANA commander said, “Let’s clear the Mirabad Valley before winter sets in.” He then left the planning and details to Alpha Company led by Major Tony Bennett whose men are mentoring the 3rd Kandak of the ANA’s 4th Brigade working with local police and their American mentors.

“They are picking some of it up, but they will not be able to do this (clearance) without us,” Major Bennett said.

“They will sit in the patrol bases and be a deterrent and hopefully the police in the valleys will be enough to stop the insurgents.”

“Sit in patrol bases and be a deterrent.”  Such is the state of the plan.

Transparency Will Be The Touchstone Of This Presidency

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 4 months ago

The Atlantic:

Outside the U.S. government, President Obama’s order to kill American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without due process has proved controversial, with experts in law and war reaching different conclusions. Inside the Obama Administration, however, disagreement was apparently absent, or so say anonymous sources quoted by the Washington Post. “The Justice Department wrote a secret memorandum authorizing the lethal targeting of Anwar al-Aulaqi, the American-born radical cleric who was killed by a U.S. drone strike Friday, according to administration officials,” the newspaper reported. “The document was produced following a review of the legal issues raised by striking a U.S. citizen and involved senior lawyers from across the administration. There was no dissent about the legality of killing Aulaqi, the officials said.”

Isn’t that interesting? Months ago, the Obama Administration revealed that it would target al-Awlaki. It even managed to wriggle out of a lawsuit filed by his father to prevent the assassination. But the actual legal reasoning the Department of Justice used to authorize the strike? It’s secret. Classified. Information that the public isn’t permitted to read, mull over, or challenge.

Why? What justification can there be for President Obama and his lawyers to keep secret what they’re asserting is a matter of sound law? This isn’t a military secret. It isn’t an instance of protecting CIA field assets, or shielding a domestic vulnerability to terrorism from public view. This is an analysis of the power that the Constitution and Congress’ post September 11 authorization of military force gives the executive branch. This is a president exploiting official secrecy so that he can claim legal justification for his actions without having to expose his specific reasoning to scrutiny. As the Post put it, “The administration officials refused to disclose the exact legal analysis used to authorize targeting Aulaqi, or how they considered any Fifth Amendment right to due process.”


American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions, according to officials.

There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House’s National Security Council, several current and former officials said. Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.

Not too long ago:

The AR is a Legitimate Home Defense Weapon

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 4 months ago

Chris Brown at Media Matters gives us an amusing take on so-called “assault rifles.”

Last week, a gun blogger going by “Eric at the Gunmart Blog” writing at broke with the gun industry trade association National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) over its recently made-up terminology, “modern sporting rifles.”

Many of the rifles Eric discusses are modified civilian versions of military rifles, and some were classified as assault weapons under the Federal Assault Weapons ban in place from 1994-2004. But NSSF would rather the public thinks about hunters stalking game than soldiers on the battlefield. Eric isn’t down with the branding effort:

Words are powerful, and choosing to use certain words instead of others (i.e assault rifle) can have a powerful influence on public opinion. But come on… lets be real… “Modern Sporting Rifle” has not been an effective choice of words.


I honestly don’t know what we should choose, but I think the time has come to move on to something different. Heck, perhaps we should just embrace the term “assault rifle” and normalize its usage so that there is not a stigma attached to it anymore.

This week, NSSF launched a web assault defending its rebranding effort, comically asking, “The Term ‘Assault Rifle’ as Dangerous as Weapon Itself?” If you’re only worried about gun sales, then the answer is probably yes.

At the well-read The Truth About Guns, they weren’t buying the NSSF attack, going beyond Eric at Gunmart’s critique, calling NSSF’s terminology “a failed attempt at O[r]wellian language modification“:

Still, when  Eric at Gunmart Blog wrote an essay entitled I Dont like the Term “Modern Sporting Rifle,” the NSSF felt obliged to defend their failed attempt at O[r]wellian language modification and accuse our pal of sedition . . .

We’re guessing NSSF wishes it could send the whole episode down the memory hole.

Chris wrongly assumes that the firearms community must be ashamed and embarrassed at the debate.  With Robert Farago, I think that this alleged takedown is much ado about nothing.  This is just the firearms community talking to each other.  Frankly, it doesn’t much matter to me whether one calls it an AR, a home defense weapon, a rifle, a long gun, or a modern sporting rifle.  It’s all of those things, and more.  But there is one particular myth that I want to take down once and for all, and it is given to us by someone calling himself “progressive” at Media Matters.

I’d personally consider an ‘assault rifle’ to be a weapon other than a handgun (ex: semi-automatic or revolver) or submachine gun (ex: FN Herstal P90, Tec-DC9, H&K MP5) that can fire high-powered rounds such as .223cal, .308cal, or 7.62mm with a selective fire capability. Many tend to have a lever built into the trigger assembly for selecting single-shot, multi-round burst, or safety-on.

The category especially includes military-derived rifles like the AR-15/M4 family used by many US and NATO forces, Kalashnikov-style rifles (AK-47, AKM, AK-74) that originated from the former USSR, and newer high-tech weapons from Europe like the FN Herstal SCAR, H&K G36, or SIG-Sauer 556.

I think ‘assault rifle’ is a perfectly accurate term. These rifles were all designed and mass-produced to be (quite literally) anti-personnel weapons in a combat situation. They were NOT designed with residential protection, competitive shooting, or hunting in mind- otherwise there would be no need to sell a modified version of any of the above rifles to the general public. For example, you cannot wisely use an AR-15 rifle to protect your home from a burglar who is inside- the penetration properties of a high-powered weapon would make the risk to your family in an adjacent room a serious concern. There’s a reason that police SWAT units rarely use assault rifles for operations inside an occupied building.

Oh my.  There are so many errors in this one post that it’s difficult to know where to begin, but I want to cover this notion that the AR isn’t a legitimate home defense weapon.  The acronym AR, as we all know, stands for Armalite.  My own rifle is a Rock River Arms Elite CAR A4, an M4-style variant that has a long enough barrel to be legal (the M4 does not for civilian use).  I have put many rounds through it, and never had a failure to feed or failure to eject.  Until you have shot the 5.56 round, you simply don’t get a feel for how high the muzzle velocity is (viewing through scopes at 100+ yards shows no discernible time delay between firing and observing impact on target) compared to the extremely low recoil.

The 5.56 mm is a high velocity round with superior terminal ballistics, yawing upon impact and leaving an enlarged trail of tissue damage.  Yet this idea that it will kill people one or two houses away or that it is more dangerous to people in adjacent rooms than other rounds, even pistol caliber rounds, is entirely wrong.  Tests have demonstrated that the 5.56 mm penetrates less drywall than most of the pistol caliber rounds (depending upon the specific brand and type).

My AR is fabricated (with its quad rail) to hold attachments such as a forend grip and a tactical light, and upon meeting a home intruder in the dark, without a tactical light you may as well be blind.  Sending the wife to the movies for the night lends a wonderful chance to darken the home and practice clearing tactics from room to room.  The light weight of the rifle along with its collapsible stock make it a great weapon for maneuverability around doorways, and so it makes a great CQB firearm.  Finally, while the round does yaw and tend to fragment (causing tissue damage or conversely beginning the process of disintegration if it misses), it does well if the home intruder is wearing soft body armor, a trend in the more violent home invasions in urban areas.  While there are those who disagree, I believe that Eugene Stoner was a genius.

Tiger McKee sums it up it well.

When people ask, “What do you keep beside your bed at night,” I tell them it’s an AR. Usually their first response is, “Yeah, but you live in the middle of Alafrickinbama.” Which is true, but that doesn’t mean the .223/5.56 carbine isn’t an excellent weapon for home defense, even in urban environments.

When it comes to terminal ballistics high velocity rifle rounds perform much better than pistol rounds. Another advantage of the .223/5.56 round is its limited penetration, unless you’re firing steel core rounds specifically designed for penetration. Numerous tests show the .223/5.56 round penetrating through less interior walls than 9mm, .40 and .45 ACP rounds. This is even true for hollow-point pistol rounds, which fill up with sheetrock and such and never expand the way they are supposed to, and buckshot. If you’re shooting, the possibility of missing shots exists. Limited penetration of errant rounds is a good thing.

The carbine allows you to place one bullet exactly where you want it to go, as opposed to a shotgun. Even though great advances have occurred in shotgun rounds, you still have to be concerned with distance and pattern, and wads and spacers, which at close distances can injure or kill. In a hostage situation, an AR and the proper skills allow you to place one round with surgical precision. The AR is accurate from three yards to three hundred. Not that you could justify to a grand jury shooting someone at an extended distance, but this means it’s no problem to hit at thirty yards, which could be necessary.

The AR is lightweight, has limited recoil, and simple to operate. Anyone in the family of age can learn how to use it, effectively, in a short amount of time. A lot of people, even hard-core operators, will flinch when pressing off a magnum round of twelve-gauge buck. After firing the shotgun you have to pump it, which a lot of people forget or fumble under stress. When firing a semi-auto without getting a good aggressive position there’s a chance the shooter will be clearing a malfunction. With an AR you slip off the safety, get a good sight picture, press the trigger, follow through, and repeat as necessary.

While most self-defense problems only require a few rounds to solve, the AR’s high capacity magazine does allow you to stay in an extended fight for longer periods of time without having to reload. Just keep in mind Clint Smith’s saying that a higher capacity magazine isn’t a license to shoot more, it just means you have to manipulate the weapon less.

We also can’t ignore the psychological advantages of the carbine. I’ve seen people with pistols pointed at them who really didn’t seem to care. A carbine normally commands much respect.

The AR may not be the weapon for your home defense, but don’t discount it without serious consideration. When attacked, your task is to stop the threat as efficiently as possible. With the proper training and practice the .223/5.56 carbine is an excellent tool for this task.

Lastly, there is always the threat of bear in Pennsylvania, bear in Idaho, mountain lions in Sierra Madre, feral hogs in South Carolina, Georgia, or frankly anywhere in the Southeast running children indoors (if they don’t harm or kill them first), or rabid  Coyotes in suburban Charlotte (McAlpine Greenway near where I live and  walk my dog).  Even if you want something more hefty for bear, you may not have ready access to it.  The AR platform provides a ready and reliable means of defense against nearly all threats (confession: I don’t carry my AR while I walk my dog, I open carry my XDm .45).

Where else can you get 3100 fps muzzle velocity, rounds yawing upon impact, almost non-existent recoil, light weight, rails for needed attachments, ability to penetrate soft body armor during home invasions, relative safety for adjacent rooms compared to large shotgun shot, relatively short barrel and rapid ability to attain a viable sight picture?

It may not be the weapon for everyone, but while it isn’t the only weapon I use, it sits under my bed at night.  Media Matters can supply us with laughs, chuckles and snortles, but a serious assessment of the matter shows that the AR is not only a legitimate home defense weapon, it is a superior one.  Enough with the notion that this weapon is around only so that psychopathic kooks can “kill large numbers of innocent people.”  It’s high capacity magazine has turned out useful in defensive engagements before and will so in the future.  Besides, as I’ve said before, a high capacity magazine is an aluminum parallelepiped with a spring and follower.  Anyone with a little ambition can build one in his garage.  Prohibiting them from sale is both silly and deceiving.

I withhold my counsel on use of the AR for Chris Brown and Progressive at Media Matters.  I strongly advise that upon sensing a threat of any kind they call and wait for the police to arrive.  That should happen on the order of 8 – 20 minutes from placement of the call.

Border Security and Potemkin Solutions

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 4 months ago

Dan Riehl conveys a report on one of Governor Rick Perry’s solutions to the war at the border.

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Gov. Rick Perry of Texas said on Saturday that as president, he would consider sending American troops into Mexico to help defeat drug cartels and improve border security. He indicated that any such action would be done “in concert” with the Mexican government.

“It may require our military in Mexico working in concert with them to kill these drug cartels and to keep them off of our border and to destroy their network,” Mr. Perry said during a campaign appearance here.

Dan observes that:

As I suspect there’s little to no support across America for deploying troops to Mexico under any circumstances – and it would likely never happen in the first place – it was, in a word, dumb to even bring it up. Pssst, Rick, if you have to cross the border to deal with a problem, maybe the border IS the problem to stay focused upon if you’re running for President of a, you know, sovereign nation? Imagine that. Suggesting sending troops into Mexico only reinforces the idea of a reluctance, or inability to deal with the core issue – sealing the border. It may even be somewhat honest on his part. But it’s simply not good politics. Perry may not only be in Texas right now. But if this keeps up, he will be and will remain there after 2012.-

I suspect that Dan is right and there is no stomach for sending troops of any kind into Mexico.  I have advocated some variant of what Perry is suggesting, although it’s difficult to know exactly what he is suggesting since he has given no detail.  In Texas Border Security: A Strategic Assessment (and also previously) my advocacy has included (but has not been restricted to) the following:

  1. Searching every vehicle that crosses the border checkpoints.
  2. Increased sting and undercover operations by law enforcement to root out corruption.
  3. Sending the U.S. Marines to the border to (a) construct and occupy combat outposts and observations posts, (b) conduct regular foot patrols of the border, and (c) be allowed (by the U.S.) to cross the border if necessary to chase Mexican insurgents.
  4. Taking Congressional action to remove legal requirements such as the SCOTUS decision in Tennessee v. Garner, thus allowing the Marines to conduct combat operations at the border rather than law enforcement operations.
  5. U.S. Special Operations Forces raids against Mexican cartel high value targets inside of Mexico (with or without the permission of the Mexican government, unilaterally, and without Mexican involvement).

Several military and former military friends and contacts have weighed in with me recently with the view that the gravest national security risk faced by America today comes from South of the border, not Pakistan or Yemen.  I have recommended treating this as a war against warlords and insurgents rather than a law enforcement operation, and my sense of things is that the American public, even if they don’t support sending U.S. troops into Mexico in companion operations with Mexican troops, support some sort of militarization of the border.

For the American public, however, it always seems a legitimate solution to send the National Guard to the border.  We tried this, and because of lack of training, the application of Tennessee v. Garner to their operations, arming orders that focus on prevention of incidents, misunderstanding of the Posse Comitatus Act and why it doesn’t really apply to border troops, and host of other problematic bureaucratic entanglements, a National Guard outpost was overrun by Mexican fighters partly because the troops didn’t even have weapons.

Sending National Guard troops to the border is a Potemkin solution as we have previously demonstrated.  But military operations alongside Mexican troops – as Perry has suggested – will be equally ineffective while the border isn’t secure.  There is absolutely no replacement for securing the border, regardless of how the solution might be dressed and served up.

Another Potemkin solution is given to us by Terry Goddard, Attorney General of Arizona (lengthy quote).

As the Attorney General of Arizona, I have been part of law enforcement on the southwestern border for most of the past decade. My office confronted border crime on an almost daily basis. From that view, it is clear that much of the “secure the border” debate is nonsense. Again and again, symbols trump reality, misinformation buries the truth. Programs like building a bigger border wall or enlisting police in the local enforcement of immigration laws are sold as ways to make the border more secure. They will not. In the latter instance, the “cure” could actually make the crime problem worse. Equally misguided is the idea that a force buildup alone can keep the border secure in the face of increasingly sophisticated smuggling organizations—the cartels.

Since improved border security is a common denominator in the immigration debate, both sides should be anxious to know what actually works. This paper is based on the assumption that sincere parties on both sides want to go beyond the rhetoric and the symbols. I believe a more effective border defense is possible, but not on the present course. Not by the Administration’s defense-only buildup of Border Patrol and National Guard on the border, and not by the huge investment in bricks and mortar or the quasi-military responses proposed by the Administration’s critics.

A more effective border strategy starts with the money; the torrent of cash pouring across the border into the cartel pocketbooks. Cartels are, first and foremost, business enterprises.  Sophisticated cartel organizations are formed not for any lust for power or to employ the bosses’ relatives, but because they maximize profits. Cartel agents do not threaten, terrorize, and kill because they love the work, or out of religious zeal. They do it because they are very well-paid. So, go after the money. Taking away the profit cripples the organization. Conversely, as long as the money from drug sales and human smuggling—which may total more than $40 billion a year—flows to the cartels, the violence in Mexico, the sophisticated smugglers crossing our border, and the perception that nothing is being done to defend the border will continue.

We can also do a much better job of taking the fight directly to the drug cartels using the full arsenal of law-enforcement methods. We can significantly reduce the number of illegal crossers and the amounts of illegal drugs smuggled, as well as the violence in Mexico. The answers are straightforward; the mystery is why they have not been taken up long ago.

Read all of his report.  We should indeed use all tools at our disposal, including freezing assets and other tools mentioned by Goddard.  But this notion that “force alone” cannot secure the border is juvenile, and similar to the population-centric counterinsurgency mantra that “you cannot kill your way to victory.”  Of course you can, and of course force can make the border secure.  And of course the involvement of local law enforcement can help federal efforts (if such efforts exist at all).

It strikes me as silly and and stolid to suggest that something we have never tried won’t work.  It also strikes me as silly and stolid that Perry’s advisers haven’t to this date informed him that he cannot score the nomination while holding his current views of immigration and the border.  Finally, it strikes me as particularly dangerous for the American voting public not to be informed enough to know when a recommendation (such as sending National Guard troops to the border, or going after cartel assets to the exclusion of all other efforts, including border security) is a Potemkin solution.  It’s the sovereignty and security of America that is at stake.

Prior: Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment

The End Of The ATF As We Know It?

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 4 months ago

Katie Pavlich writing at Townhall has the report.

Multiple sources, including sources from ATF, DOJ  and Congressional offices have said there is a white paper circulating within the Department of Justice, outlining the essential elimination of ATF. According to sources, the paper outlines the firing of at least 450 ATF agents in an effort to conduct damage control as Operation Fast and Furious gets uglier and as election day 2012 gets closer.  ATF agents wouldn’t be reassigned to other positions, just simply let go. Current duties of ATF, including the enforcement of explosives and gun laws, would be transferred to other agencies, possibly the FBI and the DEA.  According to a congressional source, there have been rumblings about the elimination of ATF for quite sometime, but the move would require major political capital to actually happen.

“It’s a serious white paper being circulated, how far they’d get with it I don’t know,” a confidential source said.

After a town hall meeting about Operation Fast and Furious in Tucson, Ariz. on Monday, ATF Whistleblower Vince Cefalu, who has been key in exposing details about Operation Fast and Furious, confirmed the elimination of ATF has been circulating as a serious idea for sometime now and that a white paper outlining the plan does exist.

So does this report exaggerate the situation?  Turning to Examiner reporter David Codrea, there at least seems to be a serious shakeup in the works.

“Word is leaking out of HQ this week, to us plain old agents in the field that our new Acting Director is in fact planning on making some personnel moves very shortly,” a thread on the CleanUpATF website titled “Sweeping Out the 5th Floor” begins.

CleanUpATF is the website co-founded by whistleblowing ATF Special Agent Vince Cefalu to expose bureau waste, abuse, corruption and fraud, and has been the source for many tips that have been proven by investigation, including the initial allegations of gunwalking and the association of walked guns with the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry—something which the Chief Counsel’s Office and top management were acutely aware of early on—including this correspondent’s reporting on it.

Per comment poster “Plain Old ATF Agent”:

The Acting Director has told the 5th floor jerk off’s that the management of ATF will look entirely different by January 1 and has said in so many words that most will be gone. Mr. Jones is not too impressed with what he has seen and been told thus far by the 5th floor executives. Jones is telling people close to him at DOJ and at the OUSA in Minnesota that he can’t believe some of the people are in the positions they are in and that the agency is in worse shape than he was led to believe.

This assessment has also been shared with this correspondent by other sources, some hearing scuttlebutt that a partial realignment of senior executive staff may happen as early as today.

Whether the end result is termination or reorganization of a large number of ATF agents and analysts or complete breakup of the organization, there are a few things things that are obvious to the astute observer.

First, it isn’t clear how much of victory it is for those of us who oppose the existence of the ATF as an overly-bureaucratic, hyper-regulatory obstruction of firearms freedom and rights in America.  What happens going forward isn’t planned or considered because none of this is very well planned or considered.

And that leads to the second point.  This is a function of the political machinations of the Obama administration.  This has nothing to do with making the ATF better, or ending the ATF as we know it, or any other predetermined altruistic end.

It’s all reactionary and it has to do with political cover.  This has to do with making the problem go away in the headwinds of the coming election, because the election is all that matters.  The sad fact is that the good ATF agents – those ones who want to lock up criminals and assist law abiding citizens in gun ownership and publicly bearing arms – end up being collateral damage in Obama’s cover.

The entire nation deserves better.

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