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,

 

If You Read One Story About the Economy This Year…

…make it this one.

Fed: US consumers have decided to ‘hoard money’

One of the great mysteries of the post-financial crisis world is why the U.S. has lacked inflation despite all the money being pumped into the economy.

Well it’s not that big a mystery.  Part of the answer is has been the interest rates the FED has been paying on excess reserves that Congress approved with the 2008 TARP bill.  That’s given the banks more incentive to sit on those reserves rather than loan them out.  With the current low interest rates, it’s a safer and better deal to draw interest from the FED than take a chance loaning out the money for not a substantially greater interest rate, but with much more risk.

The St. Louis Federal Reserve thinks it has the answer: A paper the central bank branch published this week blames the low level of money movement in large part on consumers and their “willingness to hoard money.” The paper also cites the Fed’s own policies as a reason for consumers’ unwillingness to spend.

That seems like a cheap shot to the American consumer, but what they are really describing is the Velocity of Money, “The rate at which money is exchanged from one transaction to another, and how much a unit of currency is used in a given period of time.”  In other words, how fast is money changing hands, going from one transaction to another.   Right now this low money velocity may actually be a good thing because otherwise:

Under normal circumstances, according to the Fed analysis, when the money supply increases at a faster rate than economic output, which has been the case since the Fed has instituted its aggressive easing practices, prices should keep pace. Factoring in the growth in the money supply against output, inflation should have grown at a whopping 33 percent annually, when in fact it has been rising less than 2 percent.

33 percent inflation rate!  That is what we should have been dealing with under conventional economic theory!

The reason that inflation hasn’t kept up with gains in the money supply simply has been that people are sitting on cash rather than spending it, which has kept money velocity at historically low levels.

So that makes me wonder, what happens when the economy eventually recovers, normal economic resumes, and the money velocity returns to its normal rate?  It’s unlikely to happen under the Obama administration, unless there is a major turnaround of economic policies, but one assumes that eventually there will be an administration that will right the economic ship.  Will we have to deal with a massive burst of inflation just to finally recover from our sluggish economic growth?

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shrinking Need for a Workforce: This Time it’s Different

There’s a YouTube video making the rounds of the internet that I highly recommend.  Go ahead and watch.

I’ll wait.

Done?  Good.

For those who will stubbornly refuse to watch the video, this is the synopsis.  Automation over time has made things easier for us since it’s reduced the demand of physical labor, which we’ve benefitted from.  But automation is not only continuing to reduce the number of boring, repetitious jobs, it’s now going after higher end jobs.  An Oxford Study predicted that 47% of US jobs could be lost to automation in 20 years.  Burger flippers and baristas for sure, but also lawyers and doctors are at risk. There is a lot fewer tax preparers now then there were in the days before tax preparation software.  So it’s not just low end drudge jobs that will be going away, it’s upper end jobs that require education that used to provide a lot of middle class and upper middle class incomes.

Previous automation, since the Industrial Age, has often provided a springboard to new industries and new jobs.  In 1870, between 70 and 80 percent of the US workforce was involved in agriculture.  In 2008, it was less than 2%.  But industrialization created vastly more jobs than were lost.  Automation in agriculture didn’t cause widespread unemployment, it freed up millions to work.  Within my lifetime, there has been an explosion of new jobs that just didn’t exist when I graduated high school.  Web Designer anyone?

There are, as a percentage more professional, high paying jobs than there used to be. That’s part (but only part) of the reason for expanding income inequality; more “good jobs” at the upper end. Professional jobs for people with technical BS degrees or graduate level.  But what about the percentage of new unskilled or semiskilled jobs?  Is the economy creating unskilled jobs paying much better than the minimum wage?

So never mind the video and its predictions. We can just look back over the past 50 years and see that the new jobs that are created are for a more highly educated and highly skilled subset. Automation improvements like cash registers becoming easier to operate as they become oversized calculators, are not creating new jobs, they are making already low skilled jobs even more low skilled.  At least until the jobs are automated away all together.

If these trends continue, with more newer jobs being for the more educated class and few new low skilled jobs created, what are we going to do with people who are just not smart enough to get a Phd in Neurolingustics (as an example)? We are improving automation along the lines of Moore’s Law, but there isn’t a Moore’s Law for human intelligence or ability. That is my concern. Not that we hit the Singularity and every human is unemployed and targeted for termination, but that the gradual change in the economy means few jobs for people on left side of the Bell Curve. We’ll have a growing cadre of people permanently unemployable no matter how great the stock market is doing or how much increase in GDP there is.

After watching this video, I had more questions than answers from it.  Frankly I don’t know what to do about the problem of people being rendered permanently unemployable.  Maybe someone should make an app for that…

 

The Anti-War President’s New Iraq War

The beheading of James Foley seemed to be a game changer as far as Presidential resolve in the war on terror.  You can read his remarks here, but I recommend that you watch the video to get the full flavor of the President’s apparently real anger at ISIS.

Just to highlight some of his remarks…

 Let’s be clear about ISIL. They have rampaged across cities and villages killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can, for no other reason than they practice a different religion.

They declared their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people. So ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just god would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior.

This isn’t typical Obama-speak.  This sounds closer to vintage George W. Bush.  The President’s reaction seems different to the beheading than previously, when he’s been forced, for the sake of protocol, to condemn some terrorist action that he really wasn’t worked up about. I think for the first time, Obama and his administration are actually appalled by an example of Islamic terrorism.  Maybe because it’s a journalist; someone “like them” instead of a soldier, contractor, or missionary.  Those are people generally incomprehensible to this administration’s biases.

And that’s probably why the press coverage is so different this time.  The media has trotted expert after expert on TV telling how this is the greatest threat EVER and there seems to be no push back from the usual foreign policy leftists.

Tellingly, there also  hasn’t been any push back from either the President’s allies or opponents in the Congress.  Republicans are not exactly bragging to the high heavens about it, but they seem to be supporting the President.  Meanwhile the administration is releasing security bulletins that indicate Chicago is a new terrorist target and the President is considering widening his air war against ISIS into Syria.

I think we might be on hand to witness one of the greatest ironies of modern times; an administration that came to power on an anti Iraq war platform now preparing us to go to war in Iraq.

 

Ferguson’s Affirmative Action Solution

Part of the fallout of the Trayvon Martin shooting was a change at the top for Sanford PD.  Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee first stepped down from his position, and then later, after offering to resign, was fired.  Lee was replaced by Cecil E. Smith as the new Sanford Police chief. In Ferguson, MO, Police Chief Thomas Jackson had his entire police department shunted to the sidelines as the Governor put the State Police, lead by Captain Ron Johnson, in charge.  The common thread of course is that in both racially charged cases, a white person was replaced by a black person.

Of course, in the never ending war on noticing, we…aren’t supposed to notice that.  It’s just a guy bungling the situation replaced by someone who is hopefully more competent.  But in both cases with black victims and an activated civil rights establishment on the march; literally on the march, it makes perfect sense that the head of the law enforcement agency in question be headed by someone who’s black.

And as a PR move, it’s worked great.

The media is full of respectful and flattering stories of Captain Ronald Johnson and it’s not just media hype, he’s achieved real results in bringing a boiling situation to a simmer and getting control of the looting after the Ferguson Police Department’s heavy handed military occupation-like attempt to gain control through superior firepower.  And although Johnson does deserve all due credit for that, the fact is that he would not have been able to do that if he were white.

In the post civil rights era, the realization of this started back in the infamous Rodney King beating and has continued up through the age of a Black President, from Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown.  Black people do not trust white cops.  They never have, and are unlikely to start in any of our lifetimes.  We can gnash our teeth of this, and try even more community outreach programs that will fail like all the ones before, but in a town like Ferguson, MO, with a black population of 67%, the police department is 94% white.

The consequences of this are that the black population feels like they are under occupation, and as demonstrated by the Ferguson PD overkill to the looting, they clearly think they are occupying hostile territory. Black President or no, this is an extremely racially divided country, and not because of this or that racial crisis that the media loves to gin up, but because that is our default position.  Sad to say, but the racial divide is normal.  It’s not just a media creation (although they do love to exploit it).  White people like to pretend that after the civil rights era it’s all taken care of, and will point to our Black President as proof, “See there?  Black guy; mission accomplished.”

Mission not accomplished and it may never be accomplished.  We can of course, go on and pretend that this isn’t a divided country, or we can stare down reality and admit that we have problems that another commission, or inner city funding, is not going to solve.

Civil society and all of the threads that make a society work depend on social trust.  That is increasingly in short supply in our society, but it is clearly missing in the relationship between Blacks and police, otherwise we wouldn’t have ‘The Talk.’  But, if we’re willing to accept these painful truths maybe we can do something to mitigate the damage these incidents play on our national psyche.  We need to recognize that Black people really want to be policed by Black cops.

I’m no fan of the concept of Affirmative Action.  I think it’s a legal and constitutional stain on the country, but you know, we have a lot of stains.  Maybe we ought to recognize that for black people, they need the trust in law enforcement that black law enforcement can provide and that white law enforcement, no matter how well meaning, will never be able to.  So what am I suggesting?  I think we need black cops to police black areas.  This would require a massive hiring of new black police officers to police these areas, so this isn’t something that would happen overnight.  It would take years to implement.  But I think the benefits make it worth pursuing, and we certainly haven’t come up with anything else that’s made much of a difference.

But a major nationwide recruiting effort with the subsequent publicity might make a lot of black youth consider a career in law enforcement that they wouldn’t otherwise have even considered.  And not for nothing, but these are considered “good jobs.” People in high crime areas might consider calling the cops more, and actually talking to them, instead of avoiding “snitching.”  If they can start trusting their local cop on the beat, maybe they can start trusting law enforcement at large.  Certainly if a black cop shoots a black suspect, it’s not going raise the ire of the civil rights establishment.  Eventually, when those incidents happen, maybe black people will have the same reaction to those shootings that white people have when a white or black cop shoots a white suspect; ignore it.  Generally we default assume the guy had it coming, not that the cop set out to specifically murder someone.

It’s a low bar of achievement I realize, but we have to accept that for our racially divided society, we can’t even reach that low bar.  We need to try something, even if means recognizing painful truths.

 

 

 

No Moderates in Palestine

I don’t think I’ve written specifically on the Israeli-Palestinian permanent crisis before; mostly because I just don’t have the background on the various agreements, history, and grievances that make this continuing conflict such a stain on the planet.  But as the latest Gaza War winds down, I’ve learned a few lessons that make it a lot easier to know which side to be on.

I’ve been on a web forum for politics for several years now that has an international flavor; there are posters from all over the world who show up to lodge their opinions.  So the Gaza conflict naturally brought out people from all over the world to post their opinions, which, it’s no surprise, were almost uniformly anti-Israeli.  Actually, I’m being kind by referring to the comments as “anti-Israel.”  The real basis of it is good old fashioned anti Semitism.

That’s one of the sad things I’ve learned about the world.  When I first started posting on this particular political forum, I was shocked by the amount of casual anti Semitism that was on display.  That was something that was rarely seen on American political web boards.  Or at least not that I’ve seen. But it really brought into focus one of those issues that confound students of history; namely, how could a civilized nation like Germany fall to such depths that it operated extermination camps for the purpose of mass murder of the Jews?  After a few months on that board, the real question is why aren’t those camps up and running now, considering the depth of hatred that currently exist all over the world for Jews?  It seems that outside of the United States (and I recognize that a slice of internet commentary isn’t the “real world”) that despite the various ranges of language, culture, class, ethnicity, and politics, the world is united in it’s antipathy for the Jews.

So during the Gaza conflict, I was enjoying a discussion thread with a Jordanian who, based on previous postings, was not in any sense, a fanatic. So I thought it would be enjoyable and enlightening to discuss the pros and cons.  I admitted that I didn’t know every in and out of the conflict, but of the two combatants, one was clearly representing civilization, and one was representing barbarity, so in a world of limited information, I’m on the side of civilization.

It was enlightening anyway.

One of the problems in discussing this issue is that the pro-Palestinian side is never honest about their endgame.  I’ve heard from foreign policy experts, diplomats, and pundits that everyone knows what peace will look like:  A two state solution.  The problem is that only one side really believes in a two state solution.  That was the case for this Jordanian, who after saying he supported a two state solution, ended up opposing the best two state solution, the original UN Partition Plan for Palestine, and the second best one, which was the Camp David Summit that took place in 2000 under Bill Clinton where he got Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat to hammer out an agreement that Arafat ultimately rejected.

My Jordanian friend explained that the Camp David agreement would only provide 92% of the West Bank, therefore was unacceptable.  I thought 92% was pretty good terms for the losing side.  And that’s what the Palestinians and their apologists don’t seem to get.  They not only lost the war at the partition and the declaration of Israel’s independence, they’ve lost every single war since then.  Of course, if they had won even one, Israel would no longer exist and it’s likely they’re would be a scarcity of Jews in the area.  For Israel, every war is an existential one.

But losing sides don’t dictate terms, they accept them.  Every other side that has been on the losing end of a war they started and lost territory; at least understands why they lost the territory.  Does Germany get to claim the Sudetenland or Danzig (now Polish Gdansk) back from the war they started and lost?  Nope.  Nor would the world tolerate ethnic Germans living in UN financed refugee camps in 2014 for a war they lost in 1945, whining to get those territories back. Germany makes a good example for another reason:  The Arabs sided with the Nazi’s during World War II.  There are no spoils of war for the losers.

The Palestinians have lost their war and don’t know it. Every other people who get defeated in war and lose territory…don’t get it back. The Mexicans are not getting the Southwest back. Nor were the Mexicans living on the US side of the border put in refugee camps for decades. They either became Americans or left for Mexico. Look how many times the borders of Europe have been changed due to war just in the past century. The losers don’t get do overs. Is the Ukraine getting The Crimea back? Nope. If the entire world was as crazy as the Palestinians, sitting in their refugee camps decade after decade, human life would be extinct. We would have nuked each other over and over until there wasn’t a human left. They should either accept the borders they have and declare themselves an independent state, or pack up and try to find a country to accept them. I don’t understand the entire world having to revolve around the genocidal ambitions of the Palestinians. There doesn’t seem a logical reason for it, unless  virulent anti-Semitism counts as a reason.

If Israel isn’t legitimate than none of the Arab states are since they were all drawn up the same way, on the drawing board of Europe.  And my Jordanian debater?  He eventually admitted that the real occupied territories are the ones Israel took with them on independence.  In other words, the entire state of Israel is an occupation.  So you can see, there is no room ever for compromise in the Arab mind.  The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who live in refugee camps are not refugees from the West Bank, they are “refugees” from Israel, and their intention is to return home when there is no longer an Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scored a good talking point in Western media when he said, “We are using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.”  That’s the civilized side and that’s the side I’m on.