Friday, October 10, 2014

Gathering seashells from ISIS

Not since the Roman Emperor Caius -- better known as Caligula -- ordered his legionaries to collect seashells as spoils of his war with Neptune has the leader of a major world power waged as laughable a military campaign as Obama is waging against ISIS. Max Boot:
RAND’s Benjamin Lambeth summed up the Afghan air campaign as follows: “[D]uring the 75 days of bombing between October 7, when Enduring Freedom began, and December 23, when the first phase of the war ended after the collapse of the Taliban, some 6,500 strike sorties were flown by CENTCOM forces altogether, out of which approximately 17,500 munitions were dropped on more than 120 fixes targets, 400 vehicles and artillery pieces, and a profusion of concentrations of Taliban and al Qaeda combatants.”
Now compare with the statistics on the current U.S. aerial bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria. According to Central Command, in the 59 days between August 8, when the campaign started, and October 6, the U.S. has conducted 360 strikes utilizing 955 munitions.
That’s a big difference between dropping 17,500 munitions in Afghanistan and 955 in Iraq/Syria. So rare are U.S. strikes today that Centcom has actually taken to issuing press releases to announce the dropping of two 500-pound bombs.
The bare numbers understate the actual difference, moreover, because the U.S. was dropping heavier bombs from heavier aircraft such as the B-52 in Afghanistan which have so far not been utilized in Iraq/Syria. Moreover, the effect of strikes in Iraq/Syria is not as great because Obama has refused U.S. Special Operations personnel permission to go out into the field alongside indigenous forces to call in airstrikes as they did so effectively alongside the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. This is to say nothing of the fact that in neither Iraq nor Syria is there a ground force as effective and organized as the Northern Alliance capable of taking advantage of U.S. airstrikes to attack ISIS on the ground.
Why are we not putting more into this? As Boot explains, "[T]he lack of will exhibited by the commander in chief who has claimed as his goal the eventual destruction of ISIS but refuses to commit the resources necessary to achieve that ambitious objective."

Power Line's Paul Mirengoff agrees:
Perhaps other reporting will show that our air attacks were more substantial than what the military has revealed so far.
Or perhaps we will learn that a more aggressive, more constant assault on ISIS from the air was not feasible. But as of now, it appears that the air attacks were sporadic and that a substantial opportunity to degrade ISIS (to the extent that it can be degraded from the air) was squandered.
If so, this would be consistent with our concern that Obama’s “war” against ISIS may represent no more than an unserious attempt to “check a box” for political purposes before the upcoming election.
In any event, Obama’s decision not to deploy ground troops makes his “war” on ISIS problematic enough. If, in addition, his air campaign is to be half-hearted, the effort becomes a bad joke.
Almost as bad as Caligula's seashells.

Death by Multiculturalism

Bill Gertz in the Washington Free Beacon has an outstanding piece (as usual) describing how Obama is surrendering in the philosophical war against ISIS and Islamism in general:
The Obama administration is failing to wage ideological war against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) terrorists over fears that attacking its religious philosophy will violate the constitutional divide between church and state, according to an in-depth inquiry by the Washington Free Beacon.
Instead, the task of countering what President Obama called the “warped ideology” of ISIL is being farmed out to foreign states and Muslim communities that often share some of the same goals as the groups the administration calls violent extremists. This approach allows the administration to avoid identifying links between terrorism and Islam.
“While the government has tried to counter terrorist propaganda, it cannot directly address the warped religious interpretations of groups like ISIL because of the constitutional separation of church and state,” said Quintan Wiktorowicz, a former White House counterterrorism strategist for the Obama administration.
“U.S. officials are prohibited from engaging in debates about Islam, and as a result will need to rely on partners in the Muslim world for this part of the ideological struggle,” he said in an email interview.
Obama announced last month for the first time that his new counterterrorism strategy includes programs aimed at countering ISIL’s ideology. But a review of administration efforts shows very little—if anything—is being done to defeat or destroy the terrorist group’s religious ideology in a war of ideas.
This is the result of a fundamental -- and perhaps willful --  misunderstanding of Islam. Forget for the moment the violence being perpetrated in the name of Islam right now. There are two fundamental truths about Islam that non-Muslims frequently do not understand:

1. Of the Abrahamic faiths, whereas the Bible and the Torah are viewed by their adherents as a collection of stories that reveal the Word of God -- this is something of an oversimplification, but you get the idea -- but Muslims view the Qur'an as the literal Word of Allah. As in, the words in the Qur'an were exactly those spoken by Allah to Muhammad. That's it. No room for reinterpretation.

2. The Christian Bible has specific invocations (i.e. "Render unto Caesar") for the separation of Church and State. There is no such separation in Islam. Islam is to be an all-encompassing philosophy. Put simply, Islam is not and has never been "just" a "religion" - it is and always has been a political movement as well.

This is why our First Amendment guarantees of freedom of religion and freedom of speech don't quite match up with Islam. Because Islam or at least Islamists think religion and state should be the same, the political elements of Islam which should be subject to regulation by the state are instead viewed by the uninformed (with encouragement by Muslims) as merely "religious" and given a pass.

And, as usual, Obama and his "national security team" are among the most un of the uninformed:
Obama announced last month for the first time that his new counterterrorism strategy includes programs aimed at countering ISIL’s ideology. But a review of administration efforts shows very little—if anything—is being done to defeat or destroy the terrorist group’s religious ideology in a war of ideas.
At the United Nations on Sept. 24, the president asked the world body to come up with a plan over the next year designed to counter ISIL and al Qaeda’s ideology. He said ending religious wars through an ideological campaign in the Middle East will be “generational” and led by those who live in the region. No external power, the president insisted, can change “hearts and minds,” and as a result the United States would support others in the unspecified program of “counter extremist ideology.”
The administration’s so-called soft power approach to countering Islamist terrorism also appeared to have difficulty with clearly defining the religious doctrine behind the ideology of the resurgent al Qaeda offshoot now rampaging its way across Iraq and Syria.
Obama stated in a speech on Sept. 10 that ISIL is “not Islamic” despite the group’s use of a fundamental Islamic precept of jihad, or holy war, in expanding its reach and imposing anti-democratic, hardline Islamic sharia law in areas it now controls.
Analysts and statements by the president and other administration spokesmen also indicate the administration may not clearly understand ISIL ideology, a required first step in developing a counter to it.
Sebastian Gorka, a counterterrorism specialist, said the major problem for the administration in countering ISIL ideology is that most senior officials hold “post-modern” and “secular” views.
“As a result, they have almost no ability to understand the drivers of violent terrorists which are religious,” said Gorka, the Horner chairman of military theory at the Marine Corps University.
“When you don’t take religion seriously, it’s almost impossible for you to comprehend the philosophy of a suicide bomber, or someone who cuts off the heads of people in the name of jihad,” Gorka said.
Senior State Department officials have expressed the view that ideology plays no role in Islamist terror and is spawned instead by “local grievances” such as poverty or other economic and social privation, Gorka said. “That is utterly fallacious. If that were true, half of India would be terrorists,” he said.
Why might Obama and his "national security team" think this way? In a word: Multiculturalism:
The Obama administration, under pressure from domestic Muslim advocacy organizations, has adopted a politically correct approach toward Islam and terrorism that has resulted in removing mentions of Islam from its current policies and programs. Instead, counterterrorism programs and policies are carried out under the less-specific rubric of “countering violent extremism” (CVE).
Discussing Islam also has been placed off limits in many government and intelligence community counterterrorism programs as a result of pressure groups and Muslim advisers who insist such topics would violate constitutional separation of church and state issues.
That pressure has inhibited the U.S. government from addressing Islamist ideology in a significant way, critics say. Instead, the government has been forced to indirectly counter claims by terrorists, such as the false notion that the United States and the West are at war with Islam. It used public diplomacy programs and global “messaging” campaigns whose effectiveness has been questionable, to try and counter such claims.
James Glassman, former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, said “absolutely,” that the administration is hampered by concerns over First Amendment constitutional religious issues from conducting aggressive counter-ideology efforts against groups such as al Qaeda and ISIL.
“There is reticence, especially at State, to criticize a noxious political ideology based on a religion,” said Glassman, now with the American Enterprise Institute.
Glassman said from the start, Obama has played down the war of ideas in the struggle against terrorism.
During the transition from the Bush to Obama administration, “I was told by the Obama operatives assigned to State that the term ‘war of ideas’ was not to be used,” Glassman said.
“The war of ideas had been my focus at State, but the administration had no interest in continuing the work we were doing,” he said. “Ideology provides the environment and the justification for the activities of al Qaeda and ISIL. It must be dealt with—just as we dealt with communism from 1945 to 1990. It’s a long battle.”
Among those campaigning to ignore the Islamic elements of ISIS are our purported "allies" in the Middle East:
Obama told the United Nations in a speech to the General Assembly Sept. 24 that “extremist ideology” has spread despite more than a decade of military and intelligence efforts to kill al Qaeda leaders. Groups such as ISIL and al Qaeda have “perverted one of the world’s great religions,” he said.
The world, and specifically “Muslim communities,” the president said, must now take steps to “explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of al Qaeda and ISIL.”
However, most of the Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, so far have not denounced the ISIL ideology and do not appear to be engaged in counter-ideological campaigns designed to discredit the motivating force behind the group.
In other words, Obama may have dismissed ISIS as "not Islamic," but many of those countries that are "Islamic" don't seem to agree. So the question becomes, just how much does the ideology of ISIS differ from actual Islam?

And just how can we expect to win this war -- to the pitiful extend Obama is fighting it as an actual war -- if we refuse to identify the enemy because of "Multiculturalism?"

ISIS not a threat to America, huh?

State Department warns: ISIS attacks outside of the Middle East may be coming.

Watch Ronulans' heads explode over that one.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

"[T]he Turks are watching ISIS destroy the Kurds, in much the same way as the Soviets stood by and let the Nazis crush the Warsaw uprising."

So says Richard Fernandez, in an absolutely brutal post describing the Turks' actions and Obama's betrayal of the Kurds, whose history seems to almost exclusively contain betrayal by just about everybody.
What’s old is new again. Bloomberg describes how the Turks are watching the Kurds die:
In blocking the resupply of the Kurdish fighters who are trying desperately to hold off a siege by Islamic State in Kobani, Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is making a decision that may haunt Turkey for years to come.
This is not just about Turkey’s failure to join the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State. It also threatens Turkey’s fragile truce with its Kurdish minority, many of whom are growing impatient with the sight of Turkish soldiers watching, from their side of the border, as Islamic State attacks Kobani.
As in the days of the Shah, the Kurds who had no faith in  regional allies put their trust in America. Why? Maybe that old black magic, some residual sentimentality compounded of Shane and High Noon and Saving Private Ryan and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington persuaded the Kurds against their better judgment to roll the dice one more time. But it’s come up snake eyes.  Like CNN says “several senior U.S. administration officials said Kobani will soon fall to ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State. They downplayed the importance of it, saying the city is not a major U.S. concern.”

Charming. Read the whole thing, as this is just a masterpiece of a post, which is not unusual for Fernandez. Robert Zubrin at National Review reaches the same historical conclusion, and in so doing describes a policy that may be a new low for an Obama administration that seems to relish in reaching new lows daily:
As these lines are being written, some 400,000 Kurds in and around the town of Kobane in northern Syria, on the Turkish border, are being besieged and assaulted by massed legions of Islamic State killers armed with scores of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and heavy artillery. Against these, the Kurdish defenders have only AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. The Kurds have called on the U.S. to send in air strikes to take out the jihadist forces. In response, the administration sent in two fighter jets Saturday, which destroyed two Islamic State tanks and then flew away. The Kurds are begging for arms. The administration has not only refused to send arms, but is exerting pressure both on our NATO allies and on Israel not to send any either. Over 150,000 Kurds have fled their homes to try to escape to Turkey, but they are being blocked at the border by Turkish troops. Meanwhile, Turkey is allowing Islamist reinforcements to enter Syria to join the Islamic State, while Islamist elements of the Free Syrian Army, funded and armed by the United States, have joined forces with the group in the genocidal assault on the Kurdish enclave.
According to Kurdish sources, the Turks are massing troops on their own side of the border, with the apparent plan being to sit in place and allow the Kurds to be exterminated, and then move in to take over the region once they are gone. This is the same plan as Josef Stalin used when he allowed the Nazis to wipe out the Polish underground during the Warsaw rising of 1944, and only afterward sent in the Red Army to take control of what was left of the city. If anything, it is even more morally reprehensible, since it could be pointed out in Stalin’s defense that his forces were at least pummeling the enemy elsewhere while the Warsaw fight was under way. In contrast, the Turks are doing nothing of the sort. For an American administration to collude in such a mass atrocity is infamous.
If we are to win the war against the Islamic State, we need ground forces, and the Obama administration has rejected the idea of sending in any of our own. The Kurds, who have demonstrated both their bravery and their willingness to be friends with America, are right there, and already engaged in the fight. If supplied with adequate arms and backed by serious U.S. tactical air support, they could roll up ISIS as rapidly as the similarly reinforced Northern Alliance did the Taliban in the fall of 2001. Done right, this war could be won in months, instead of waged inconclusively for years.
The administration, however, has rejected this alternative, and has instead opted for a Saudi-Qatari plan to allow the Syrian Kurds to be exterminated while training a new Sunni Arab army in Saudi Arabia. Given the Saudi role in the new army’s tutelage and officer selection, the Islamist nature of this force is a foregone conclusion. At best it might provide a more disciplined replacement for the Islamic State as an Islamist Syrian opposition at some point in the distant future (current official administration estimates are at least a year) when it is considered ready for combat. Meanwhile the killing will simply go on, with the United States doing its part to further Islamist recruitment by indulging in endless strategy-free bombing of Sunni villages.
Where I called Obama's coalition the Monty Python Cheese Shop Coalition, Red State is even more damning, calling it the Coalition of the Useless, with the coalition cows now coming home to roost:
When Obama embarked on his current ill-considered adventure in Iraq and Syria he decided he needed a coalition. Because President Bush. It isn’t that the coalition partners are actually able to contribute anything of value in the combat power arena but Obama needed a coalition and the regional coalition members all have interests at stake in Iraq and Syria. Never mind that those members, until lately, either directly or indirectly aided ISIS. As I noted in Obama Assembles Coalition of the Useless to Fight ISIS:
Only one Muslim nation, Turkey, is represented and based on their pro-ISIS actions to date one presumes they signed on more to ensure they are in the loop on decisions and have some degree of veto over US actions.
Because we assembled a coalition that is in equal parts useless and needless we are now harnessed to the regional ambitions of those coalition partners.
So we are essentially being held hostage by the Turks, who have never been friends of the Kurds:
When pressed to say why Turkey wasn't helping the PKK-affiliated fighters in Kobani, Erdogan said: "For us, the PKK is the same as ISIL. It is wrong to consider them as different from each other."
To begin with, this statement is simply untrue. While the PKK has carried out terrorist attacks in Turkey, it has never beheaded captives, engaged in genocide against civilians of different creeds or systematically raped women. The PKK doesn't want to create a caliphate across the Middle East and convert or kill all non-Kurds within it. What the PKK wants most is greater political autonomy for Kurds in eastern Turkey -- a negotiable demand.
Even if it worked to Erdogan's political advantage by tapping into Turkish nationalist sentiment, a return to war with the PKK would be destructive -- to the country and the wider region. Refusing to let Kurds resupply their kin through Turkish territory also makes Erdogan appear complicit in the rise of Islamic State.
Nevertheless, he is taking as tough a position with the U.S. as he is with Syria's Kurds, refusing to join the military coalition against Islamic State until the U.S. agrees to broaden its goals to include toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He also wants the coalition to enforce a no-fly zone and a (Turkish-dominated) buffer area in northern Syria from which to organize the attack on Assad.
This strategy would provide capable ground troops to follow up on the U.S. coalition's airstrikes -- so it is worth discussion. But negotiations should take place after Turkey joins the coalition. By essentially holding the coalition ransom to his demands, Erdogan is making its Arab members vulnerable to criticism at home. Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates also want to see Assad gone, after all. But they have accepted the "Islamic State first" approach, and at some domestic political risk.
Ultimately, Erdogan's stance will also strain Turkey's most important security alliances, which are with the U.S. and NATO. Turkey is denying its allies use of the U.S. airbase at Incirlik, just 100 miles from the Syrian border.
The fall of Kobani will not, as many say, prove that airstrikes against Islamic State can't work -- only that they can't work without Turkish cooperation. Kobani's defenders have been remarkably effective against a much larger and better armed opponent, and with access to arms and reinforcements, there is every reason to believe they could succeed.
Fernandez concludes his devastating assessment:
And that sensitivity (to the Turks), more than the fearsome air defenses of ISIS, is probably what is keeping US airpower at bay. The president is committed to jaw-jaw. And since he must jaw-jaw with the Turks, Iran, the UAE, and the Saudis, that means the Kurds must die-die.  It looks an awful lot like the administration is doing the bidding of its allies and not the other way around.  Maybe that’s what “leading from behind” really amounts to. Perhaps the administration has been promised that if they go along with Turkey, Anakara will clamp down on ISIS — someday soon. Just you wait and see.
But the cynical question remains: would you buy a used car from this administration, maybe the same one they bought from Turkey? Would you trust your life to them? Because ultimately you are, just as the Kurds did. But a  lot of LIVs will reason that they can trust Obama because it’s them and he is their beloved … so this time it will be different.  They won’t be shafted. No they won’t.

Well ... bye.

Mike Huckabee says he will leave the Republican Party if it stops actively opposing gay marriage.

I agree with the take from Curly Bill Brocius:

Probably news to Obama's "national security" team.

Michael Totten is one of the great unsung international journalists of the world, well-traveled, well-educated, and experienced with out the arrogance, condescension, or anti-American bias of, say, Christiane Amanpour. His columns speak simple and rather obvious truths that nevertheless seem to regularly escape the foreign policy establishment, especially those in or connected to the Obama administration. Totten has posted a few new Captain Obvious columns for the benefit of our foreign policy betters.

The first is that the members of ISIS are, generally speaking, psychopaths:
Roughly one percent of human beings are psychopaths . Most aren’t violent, and nearly all are high-functioning. Supposedly they are overrepresented in Congress, on Wall Street, in corporate boardrooms, and in large urban areas.
They’re even more overrepresented in terrorist organizations like the Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda. Every violent psychopath with Muslim parents for thousands of miles in every direction is drawn to these organizations like maggots to meat. It gives them permission to behave monstrously with impunity.
I wasn’t a bit surprised to learn recently that two British jihadists purchased Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies before heading to Syria. They weren’t drawn there by religion. They were drawn by the license to kill.
So it naturally follows that, Totten reports, they are using human shields:
The Pentagon says Islamic State fighters in Syria are using human shields to protect themselves from American airstrikes. I can’t verify that claim, but it’s a little like saying the Islamists breathe oxygen. Of course they’re using human shields. It’s what terrorist armies in the Middle East do when facing a civilized enemy.
It wouldn’t accomplish squat against a war criminal like Bashar al-Assad. His regime would happily take out a thousand Sunni civilians to kill a single Islamist fighter. He’d see the thousand civilians as bonus points. But the West doesn’t fight like that and the Islamic State knows it.
Civilians always die in war zones. It’s unavoidable. The United States, however, takes great care to keep that number as low as possible. When the US Army and Marines took Fallujah back from Al Qaeda in Iraq (the Islamic State under its previous name) in 2004, for instance, they first spent weeks evacuating the city of as many civilians as they could before going in.
The US cares more about the welfare of Sunni Muslims in Syria and Iraq than the Islamic State does—which is not likely to help the medieval head-choppers and crucifixion enthusiasts much in the hearts-and-minds department.
The only issue I have with Totten here is that he does not explain the full calculus or what exactly the US is supposed to do about it. Here is how it works:
1. Islamist group uses civilians as human shields to protect military assets during their advance.
2. US bombs Islamist group.
3. US bombing of Islamist group kills said civilian human shields.
4. Islamist group screams "civilian casualties."
5. American, European, and Middle Eastern media report that the US is causing civilian casualties without reporting that said civilians were being used as human shields.
6. US looks bad and Islamists look good.
7. Islamist advance continues.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

This dilemma is due in large part to the dishonesty of the American, European, and Middle Eastern media, especially their anti-American bias. So what exactly is the US supposed to do about it?

As brutal as it sounds, the solution is to bomb the Islamists anyway. Yes, there will be civilian casualties in the short term, but if enemies of civilization see that they will get no benefit from using human shields, they will eventually stop taking them. In the long run civilian lives will be saved.

However, I don't expect the current American, European, and Middle Eastern media -- or the current foreign policy establishment -- to understand this rather simple calculus.