Patching up Obama’s ISIS War Plans

 

My reaction to Obama’s speech last week outlining his plans to deal with ISIS started out like most Obama speeches I watch.  I started out with the best of intentions; I was going to pay attention, make note of the high points…but at some point his speech starts taking on a droning quality, and then it becomes a test pattern buzzing…and then I’m watching cat videos on line and what?  It’s over?  What did he say?  For some reason, I can no longer pay attention to the world’s greatest orator.

So I had to read it online and just didn’t find it that workable.  No wonder I couldn’t pay attention to it.  Oh I give the President credit for trying.  I had written previously that the President is making a difficult step; facing the reality that he may wind up going back to the place he was most anxious to leave, Iraq.  But the President thinks he can build the type of coalition the previous Bush Presidents had built, and they’ll trust him on it, when he’s been trashing our relationships with most of the Middle East for the past 6 years.

But not to worry, I have an alternate plan.

The problem with Obama’s plan is it depends on stuff he is unlikely to get; ground troops from other coalition partners.  They have zero reason to trust us for the long haul, so are unlikely to put their own troops up when we are making clear that we’re not. We’re telling our coalition partners that we’re not going risk our troops, but we’ll gladly risk theirs.  You can imagine how that’s going to sit in the differing capitals.  So that only leaves the air option, associated support, and training of Syrian rebels.

This brings me to another problem with Obama’s plan:  training Syrian rebels.  It’s a bad idea in my opinion.  We’re rolling the dice that we can arm and train Jihadi’s that will only fight other Jihadi’s.  Even a military noob like Obama should be able to see where that will lead.

So  what’s my plan?  First, since the beginning of the crisis, the US has pushed the Iraqi government to be more inclusive and allow US troops back in.  Done and done.  If the administration had done this in the first place, we likely wouldn’t be in this situation, but water under the bridge…

 

1)  That leaves limited forces that are worthwhile to train; mainly the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi Army.  Of the two, the Peshmerga is the more motivated and reliable force, but they could really benefit from advanced weaponry, and intelligence assistance.  The Iraqi Army is demoralized and needs a great deal of babysitting.  Ideally, we would only need worry about helping the Iraqi Army but they are not up to the task of kicking ISIS out of Iraqi cities.  Some of the Shia militias might be but if we add them into the coalition we risk alienating Iraqi Sunnis, as well as the Sunni coalition partners.  The only Shias we should be reaching out to are those under the auspices of the Iraqi military.   So no dealing with Iran of course.

2)  Since the US invasion, the problem with Iraq has been its porous borders.  They allowed jihadi’s and supplies from all over the world to come to Iraq and fight Americans, and later allowed the Iranians to train and equip insurgents to fight Americans with extremely sophisticated weapons and tactics.  Since the Iraqi Army is the weakest link, their best use could be used as a border guard.  We need to secure Iraq’s borders to prevent ISIS the easy back and forth access they’ve enjoyed.  If we can cut ISIS in two the Peshmerga can secure Kurdistan easier and the Iraqi’s will have a more limited force to deal with and it will make it easier to take back the cities when they don’t have to worry about ISIS reinforcements.

3) Cutting ISIS in two saves Obama from the political problem Obama has created for himself in being in a de facto alliance with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  Assad is counting on the US taking care of his ISIS problem for him.  However if we secure the border, that leaves Syrian part of a bifurcated ISIS for Assad to handle.  Do we really want to be in the position of saving the Assad regime?  I say, that cutting ISIS in two solves both the military and political problem.

4) There is one major gap that’s missing, and this is the part that makes my plan politically impossible; if needed, we need to be prepared to send in ground forces to back up our Iraqi and Kurd partners.  Yes, the dreaded, boots on the ground!  Although I opposed the initial invasion of Iraq, I get Colin Powell’s  Pottery Barn warning; we break it, we buy it.  That’s why I was able to consistently oppose the invasion, support the surge, and support keeping a stabilizing force in Iraq. So post surge, by 2008 we had a fragile Iraq taped up, the new administration was only interested in getting out and not caring about what came after.  So although Bush was wrong to invade Iraq, Obama was wrong to abandon it.  Now, we’re still responsible for fixing it.

Not to worry, there’s no chance that any of my suggestions will be adopted.  Of course maybe I’m wrong and we can defeat ISIS with air power alone.  But I’m not counting on it,

 

No Strategy and No Intelligence

This sort of dereliction of duty should have President Obama giving himself a facepalm.

What am I talking about you may wonder?

Source: Obama Given Detailed Intelligence For a year about the rise of ISIS

President Obama was given detailed and specific intelligence about the rise of the Islamic State as part of his daily briefing for at least a year before the group seized large swaths of territory over the summer, a former Pentagon official told Fox News. 

The official — who asked not to be identified because the President’s Daily Brief is considered the most authoritative, classified intelligence community product analyzing sensitive international events for the president — said the data was strong and “granular” in detail. 

The source said a policymaker “could not come away with any other impression: This is getting bad.” 

If true, it means that Obama was lying out of his ass when a few weeks ago he said this:

“There is no doubt that their advance their movement over the last several of months has been more rapid than the intelligence estimates and I think the expectation of policy makers both in and outside of Iraq.”

How would he know?  He’s not getting briefed on them.  But this sort of amateurishness I find galling:

Obama, unlike his predecessors who traditionally had the document briefed to them, is known to personally read the daily brief. The former Pentagon official, who has knowledge of the process, said Obama generally was not known to come back to the intelligence community with further requests for information based on the daily report. 

This issue has actually come up before.  Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen wrote a column last year noting that Obama skipped more than half of his intelligence briefings. However he included the administration response, which was that the President reads his Daily Intelligence Briefing every day and doesn’t require an actual in person briefing.  One presumes because darn it, he’s just that smart.

I would call that nonsense, and I know a little bit about the subject.  During my military career I gave briefings, I wrote and helped assemble briefings, I’ve read them, and sat in on briefings.  Military and Intelligence officials get their briefings in person from a briefer, and I can assure you it’s not because they aren’t as smart as the President.  You need a briefer there because if you have any questions on any of the briefed issues (and I’ve never seen a high level person being briefed who didn’t ask questions) you need to have someone there who can elaborate on the issue.  Being briefed isn’t a passive activity; you are supposed to be actively engaged in your own briefing.

And that’s among people who already have spent a working lifetime immersed in the details of military and intelligence capabilities and areas of interest. That is not the President’s background.  He received his first intelligence briefing shortly before the election in 2008; the guy is no expert.  If anyone needs the handholding of a skilled briefer it’s him.

It’s not as if Obama is the first President who arrived in the White House with no military or national security experience, but I doubt there has been a more arrogant one who was just too cool for the room and who no doubt genuinely thinks he knows more than the military and intelligence professionals who desperately need to educate him. No wonder Obama has ‘no strategy for handling ISIS.  He’s just recently heard of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why The Administration is Surprised by the Berghdahl Reaction

All the negative reaction to the release was of no surprise to me, but the administration was caught totally flat footed by the negative reaction of the military and the American public to Bergdahl’s release.  As Obama scribe Chuck Todd reports:

 

As Obama high priest Chuck Todd stated, the administration did expect some sort of pushback by the release of these five Taliban Gitmo prisoners, but why was the Obama administration caught so flat footed by something that the entire rest of the country felt uneasy about, the effort that went into the release of an apparent deserter?

I have two possible theories on that:

Theory One:  The Left regarded him as a hero, so Obama did too.

In 2009, when Bergdahl first disappeared, it was reported that he had left post without weapons and without permission, so from the very first reportage on this issue, we’ve known that he wasn’t just captured, but that he just walked away under suspicious circumstances.  At the time I used to argue politics with a lefty who actually posted the story on his blog and was troubled by his apparent desertion as well.  All very non-partisan right?   Then came FOX.

A few days after Bergdahl’s capture/disappearance/desertion, Fox News ran an interview with its Military Analyst, LTC Ralph Peters, who had some choice words on Bergdahl:

Peters called Bergdahl a liar and possible deserter.  If the blogosphere left needed to know what side to be on in this issue, Peters showed them; the opposite side from Peters and Fox.  I saw the left reaction to that near immediately when the same lefty who first posted the blog post on Bergdahl noting that he had walked off post suspiciously and that there was a lot more to this story, suddenly switched gears and attacked Peters for dare besmirching a captured American POW.

Private First Class Bowe Robert Bergdahl, Unit...

Private First Class Bowe Robert Bergdahl, United States Army. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I assume that 180 degree reversal came about due to some talking points that felt more hay could be made by attacking Peters and Fox for daring to attack an American soldier.  And of course, a disillusioned solder is the perfect lefty military icon.

So it makes sense that to the typical member of the Obama administration, all they would know of Bergdahl is that he’s an American hero that was attacked by Fox News years ago.

Theory Two:  An excuse to empty Guantanamo Bay

A few weeks ago I caught some video of President Obama being asked about his promise to close the US prison at Guantanamo Bay.  Obama seemed really heartfelt about his regret at not closing it.  Unlike so many issues, where it feels like he’s just reading off a teleprompter (OK he is), Obama sounded very sincere about still wanting to shut down Gitmo.  This wasn’t just a campaign promise; he really wants to do it.

But Obama has been stymied by Congress, and not just “obstructionist” Republicans, but Democrats as well.  He couldn’t get Gitmo closed when Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress, so the odds of accomplishing anything via legislation appear dim.  But even if Obama can’t close Gitmo, he’s the Commander in Chief.  He could empty Gitmo.

It’s possible that trading 5 Taliban bad guys wasn’t so much a trade as Obama giving away something he wants to get rid of anyway and pretending it’s a trade.  By all indications, these are some of the “worst of the worst.”  With those guys gone, it makes releasing guys not as bad easier.  With the Afghan War winding down, it’s possible that Obama is going to pretend that’s the end of the war on terror, and just let everyone go from Gitmo.

Although such a move seems highly irresponsible, so was releasing those five Taliban commanders and he did that, in spite of the recommendations of the military, intelligence, and foreign services.  If the Obama administration intends to do a back door shut down of Gitmo, he’s already gotten the worst out of the way.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Memorial Day Links

This is just a collection of interesting reading I’ve come across in the past few days.  They’re not really related to Memorial Day.

The Case for Reparations

This from The Atlantic, and my main surprise is that The Atlantic ran something like this before Salon did.  Written by Atlantic columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates, the title doesn’t match the article, which instead is about the persistent housing and mortgage discrimination that sabotaged dreams of African American home ownership and achieving the middle class throughout the 20th Century. As a history, the article is extremely well done, but has what to do with reparations exactly?  My gut feeling is that this is a well researched piece that Coates had been working on for a while, and the editors decided to run with the title and the tacked on conclusion about reparations.  My guess is it’s after a call from either the White House, DNC, or whoever is planning election strategy for Democrats for this year.  In case there was any doubt, in the same way that the Democratic strategy for the 2012 election was the “Republican War on Women,” 2014 will be the year of the “Republican War on Blacks.”  In order to generate African American turnout, could this be the year that the Democratic Party begins supporting some sort of reparations?

Charles Murray is his usual controversial self, but he makes some good points with:

Down With the Four Year Degree!

Murray argues that the value of a 4 year college degree, the trusty BA, has dropped over the years as more people over the years as more people have them.  In 2014, does it make sense to tell every High School student who can fog an SAT to go to college, even if you are going for non descript social science or liberal arts field?  And he brings up a really penetrating question, why does it take 4 academic school years to get a BA no matter what is taught?

I’m not into what the kids call tumbler, but I came across this link and it’s eye opening.

Gobing Detroit

This tumbler however, compares street photos of Detroit from 2009 to 2013.  The rapid deterioration of the property is amazing.  Note to Walking Dead producers:  If you want to see how houses and businesses really look after the apocalypse, this will give you the comparative tools to build realistic sets.

No collection of links could be complete without one from Mark Steyn.  The problem is, as always, which one to pick?

Inequality Before the Law

The article compares National Review writer Dinesh D’Souza’s conviction for breaking campaign finance laws, with the Obama campaign disengaging their security for credit card transactions for 2008 and 2012 so anyone, from Adolph Hitler to Mickey Mouse could donate to the Obama campaign, and from anywhere in the world (Hitler donated from “The Reichstag, Germany”).  All a violation of campaign laws of course, but not even an investigation by the FEC.  It was an issue that was well covered in the conservative blogosphere but not at all interesting to the MSM.  This is part of a long term issue Steyn has been discussing of the organs of government being corrupted to serve the ruling party.

Since it is Memorial Day after all, on a military related note:

Army Taps Scorpion to Replace UCP

The Army has officially selected its new camouflage pattern, called Scorpion, to replace its current UCP gray pajamas pattern, the last one I wore before retiring.  It’s very close to, but not quite similar to the Multicams that have been worn for Afghanistan deployment for the past few years.  Why not just multicams?  If I knew the answer to that, I might be smart enough to know why switching from desert camo pattern of the old Battle Dress Uniform to gray greenish digital camo would make sense for the desert.  All I know is that the travesties of US Army camouflage uniforms over the last 12 years deserve a much longer treatment.

 

 

Arrogance of Trust

The news that Edward Snowden had somehow managed to persuade 20 to 25 of his fellow colleagues at the NSA to give up their passwords and login information has probably shocked IT professionals and corporate security types.  “What kind of slipshod IT security is the NSA running?”  Could the smartest guys in the room really be so dumb and trusting?  As Reuters reports:

Snowden may have persuaded between 20 and 25 fellow workers at the NSA regional operations center in Hawaii to give him their logins and passwords by telling them they were needed for him to do his job as a computer systems administrator, a second source said.

This may seem incredible to those involved in information assurance that a system administrator, who had only been at the job a few months, could talk that many people out of their passwords.  Don’t these people have any information security training?  Every company IT department  teaches its employees to never share their password information.  Didn’t these guys have any training?

Headquarters of the NSA at Fort Meade, Marylan...

Headquarters of the NSA at Fort Meade, Maryland. Español: Instalaciones generales de la NSA en Fort Meade, Maryland. Русский: Штаб-квартира АНБ, Форт-Мид, Мэриленд, США (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It turns out they do.  The Department of Defense, which the National Security Agency falls under, has extensive computer security training.  But that only begs the question further.  Snowden was so new at his base in Hawaii that he probably didn’t have any long term personal relationships to play on in order to trick people out of their passwords.  But I don’t think he needed to trick anyone.  And I think I know why.

I should preface this by saying this is just my personal opinion, but I think the popular idea of intelligence agencies and organizations, at least American ones, as a font of constant paranoia, looking over your shoulder at all times, and a lack of trust between co-workers, as depicted in movies and popular culture (think the Bourne movies) is totally opposite of the real situation.  I think the security problem in US intelligence organizations, which Snowden exploited, is that everyone trusts each other too much.

Security Clearances for Top Secret and above levels cost thousands of dollars and can take months to complete.  Once you have a security clearance, it’s not only a marketable item, but it’s sort of a short hand as to what kind of character you have.  Although it actually means you’ve mostly stayed out of trouble and have not screwed up too much, it’s taken as a certificate of approval that this person is trustworthy and of good character.  So if you work in a classified facility, surrounded by cleared people, some of them may strike you as crazy, or unpleasant, but not thieves, not crooks, and not traitors.  Why?  It’s nothing they did, it’s simply from the fact that they are working there; they’ve been vetted.

Once you are on the inside, you are part of special limited clique, in which everyone on the inside of the vault door holds secret knowledge that those on the other side of the vault door don’t know, and can’t know.  It’s like being part of Skull and Bones, only instead of knowing secret arcane nonsense; you know real things about the world that matter.  That dividing line between those on the inside of the door and those on the outside is huge.

One of the first things they teach you in Basic Training and Boot Camp is to keep you locker and money locked up and secure at all times. Even the camaraderie of military service isn’t enough to be sure your buddy won’t grab your wallet in an act of desperation. But like Singapore, if you decide to leave your wallet on your desk at work in your secured facility, you can mostly be assured that it will still be there, undisturbed, when you come back from break.  Having many roommates in the past with security clearances, I never worried for a second about leaving money or valuables around out in the open. I may have worried if they would clean up the kitchen after fixing dinner, or vanishing for days on end, but I never worried that they would steal from me.  I granted them an automatic level of trust that most keep within close family members.

And maybe that’s the problem.  In spite of all the security, and in spite of all the rules and security procedures, it doesn’t mean a thing unless people can operate with even a normal level of caution.  In my corporate environment I would never turn over my password to anyone, system administrator or otherwise.  But if I was back in the classified world, inside that insular level of trust, I can’t be sure how I would react.  And the fact that I would even question that is the problem.

Enhanced by Zemanta

My Connections

My son took advantage of some family connections and recently procured a fairly decent full time job.  Since full time work is going the way of the dodo that was considered a minor coup and the job is one requiring proficiency in a sophisticated software suite, in which the demand was high enough that they were willing to train.  The job is at my wife’s place of employment.  She heard about the position, knew the requirements for the job, and was able to give our son some useful guidance in putting together a resume and in interviewing for this particular position.  Of course, succeeding at the job is all on him, but he more than likely would never have heard of it, let alone known how to successfully apply for it if it hadn’t been for a family connection.

That’s not an uncommon story.  Lots of people get their jobs with help from family.  At my current job I telecommute so I’m rather cut off from office goings on, but when I worked at an office it was not uncommon to see siblings or parent/child combos working at the office.  Usually the kids heard about the job from their parents and if the parents were well respected at work, they were an informal reference for the new applicant.

Among my son’s peers many of them work for the same companies based on feedback they had gotten from their friends.  If a place is hiring and the salary, and benefits are better than what their friends are making at say, in the fast food industry, they’ll get the hook-up to put in an application, and give them details enough about the job so they have a much better idea of what the job is then the average applicant reading the brief description from an online job searching site or even more quaint, your daily newspaper. A couple of good connections are worth more than a thousand emailed resumes in today’s job hunt.

Growing up, I even took advantage of connections to get a job.  My father worked for a major national airline, and one summer when the airline was hiring temporary help to work the ramp, my father told my brother and me about it to see if we were interested.  Indeed we were, since the job paid double the minimum wage in those days, and it certainly beat washing dishes. The interview was barely that since I had met most of the people who had worked there before.  So by the standards of that time and place, that was an excellent paying job for a couple of guys in community college.  And it’s a job I would have never heard of if it hadn’t been for a family connection.

Needless to say, the military is rife with family connections.  My first visit to the Army Recruiter was a good example.  Upon entering, the office, hopped up on the movie Stripes and Reagan’s America, I stood patiently waiting while the recruiter was filling out paperwork; he barely raised his eyes to look at me and returned to his paperwork.  But of course, I had the hook up.

“Ahem,” I said, clearing my throat, “But I’m a legacy…”  This time he looked up in earnest, a big smile on his face.

“Well why didn’t you say so?  Please follow me!”  We retired to the military recruiter’s wood paneled study, and over brandy and cigars, discussed my future military career, and my father’s draftee inflicted one.  Of course, even as a legacy, one has to be careful to take the recruiter’s promises at face value.  Apparently, many of the things he had promised me turned out to be flights of fancy.  Based on the MOS I had selected, I was promised that I would never need to handle a weapon again after basic training, and I would work in an office building in civilian clothes.  Much to my surprise, this turned out to be not quite accurate, although in what would have probably have been a surprise to my recruiter, many years later I did in fact have an assignment in which I worked in an office in civilian clothes, but that was well beyond the influence of my recruiter, my legacy status, and depended more on dumb luck and being at the right place at the right time.

It wasn’t much of a surprise that most (although not all) of the people I met in the military usually had a family member, most likely a father, who had also been in the military.  That sort of personal family knowledge makes the idea of joining the military conceivable; in a way that someone without such intimate family knowledge might regard it as a totally off the wall due to their lack of familiarity to the idea of the military.

And that applies to almost the entire job market.  The labor market isn’t a pure, well functioning machine. It has a lot of bumps to it, making it difficult to get the idea of the full opportunity for jobs that are available in a particular geographic area.  Think how many buildings you drive by in a day that are staffed by hundreds of people working for companies you have no idea about doing jobs you’ve never heard of.

So taking advantage of the network of friends and family for finding when doing a job search is probably far more cost and time effective than virtually anything else you will do when you job hunt.  It’s far more useful than emailing hundreds of resumes to unwatched email boxes.

Enhanced by Zemanta

GI Jane Finally Gets Her Chance

I suppose it’s an indication of how jaded I’ve become at each new Obama initiative that I barely turned my head to the television when the news blared that outgoing Secretary of Defense Panetta announced that combat positions would now be open to women.

I get it.  Women are “already on the front lines.”  The face of warfare has changed, and after over a decade of war, we’ve been fighting without a distinctive front.  Women have been in the line of fire from snipers and IED’s from the beginning.  All this change in policy is amounts to a de facto acknowledgement of what has been going on in Iraq and Afghanistan for years.

But still…

I should preface this by saying that during my many years in the military, I served with women in all matter of positions, both as subordinates and supervisors, and there was no job in the units I served in that a woman couldn’t do.  But those units were not combat arms units.

It’s one thing to be in a war zone, and it’s another to open up combat arms positions to women.  Those jobs are extremely physically demanding.  How physically demanding?  Demanding enough that two female officers who attempted to go through the Marine Corps Infantry Course both dropped out.  It’s no shame to drop out of a course like that.  It’s demanding enough that the course loses 25% of its male candidates, but it doesn’t bode well as a proof of concept that women are capable of making through that course and others like it.  If this was a project that would work on the merits we would have seen women in the NFL years ago.

The physical realities of maintaining a high performance in a combat zone, were well detailed in a much spoken about article in the Marine Corps Gazette last July by Marine Corps Captain Katie Petronio.  The article, titled “Get Over It!  We Are Not Created Equal,” got the ball rolling in the military.  The article, which I highly recommend, is Captain Petronio’s personal experience while deployed in Afghanistan, and the physically debilitating toll that the experience took on her body.  Her argument is that the cost to the services of dealing with the long term physical deterioration of females put in those grueling situations isn’t cost effective or the best use of resources.

And she’s just talking about women who can make the physical standards.  I’m more worried about the women who will have the standards adjusted to allow them to make it.  Yes I know, Panetta and JCS Chairman Dempsey said that wouldn’t happen, but I just don’t believe it.  Contrary to common opinion, The Department of Defense isn’t a conservative organization.  Following  O’Sullivan’s Law (any organization that is not explicitly conservative will become liberal over time), the military is about as liberal in direction as the private company I work for, with its constant profiles on diversity and emails celebrated it’s perfect score by the Human Rights Campaign on LGBT issues.  The Pentagon would like to get a perfect score on LGBT issues too, but first you have to walk, not run, so they are going for gender equity.

Currently the services are reevaluating their Physical Fitness Standards as well as the physical fitness standards for each Military Occupational Specialty to justify what standards should be required for each military job.  I’m pretty sure the standards will be tweaked until the Pentagon can get what they consider the right number of women into combat arms jobs.

Think that I’m wrong and the Pentagon would never purposefully degrade the nation’s military capabilities for some fuzzy affirmative action goal?

In November 2009, I wrote about the aftermath of the terrorist attack at Ft.  Hood committed by MAJ Hasan.  At the time, Army Chief of Staff General George Casy said on Meet The Press, “Our diversity, not only in our Army, but in our country, is a strength. And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.” 

So yes, an Army General is saying that it’s better that 13 soldiers were killed then trying to scrutinize terrorists in the ranks.  Such an organization will make sure that their shiny new women-in-combat policy succeeds.  And they won’t worry about combat readiness or people’s lives to make sure it does.  Any Colonel who dares say publicly otherwise will never see General.

Sometimes the military’s can do spirit can make incredible things happen.  Sometimes it can make stupid things happen.  I’m pretty sure I know in the years ahead which one this is.