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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

UN Ambassador Puts ‘The Onion’ Out of Business

Every time I think I’m done talking about Syria, the Obama administration pulls me back in.  But this time I’m pulled in not to discuss policy, but to just throw up my hands and give out a hearty “Oh Good Grief,” Charlie Brown style.

I’ve previously wrote here and here about the absolutely amateurish way the Obama administration is handling their self made Syria “crisis.”  But it seems the amateurishness and naivety runs all the way through this administration.

Last Friday UN ambassador Samantha Power spoke to the Center for American Progress, a left wing advocacy organization, on Syria, in an effort to shore up support among President Obama’s normally reliable allies; some of whom are feeling a bit queasy in supporting missile strikes against Syria. I don’t know successful she was in convincing a group of people who are normally anti-war no matter what that this was a good old fashioned humanitarian war, but she did reveal an astonishing lack of realism regarding Russia and Iran as she related in her speech:

“We worked with the U.N. to create a group of inspectors and then worked for more than six months to get them access to the country on the logic that perhaps the presence of an investigative team in the country might deter future attacks or, if not, at a minimum, we thought perhaps a shared evidentiary base could convince Russia or Iran — itself a victim of Saddam Hussein’s monstrous chemical weapons attacks in 1987-1988 — to cast loose a regime that was gassing its people. We expanded and accelerated our assistance to the Syrian opposition. We supported the U.N. Commission of Inquiry. “

So… our UN ambassador, who is part of the team that is crafting US foreign policy, thought that by showing proof that Syria was actually using chemical weapons; Iran and Russia, on some sort of vague humanitarian grounds, would drop their support of the Syrian government.  I can only conclude that we have high school model UN’s that are more serious than this administration’s UN ambassador.

There doesn’t seem to be much to add to that.  I can’t imagine that the governing class of either Russia or Iran cares about videos of gassed children.  These are amoral and deadly serious regimes that are playing the long game. The fact that the Obama administration thought that would make a difference in Russian or Iranian calculations is ridiculous.  Did they really think that those governments were just sitting around blindly supporting the Syrian government and would be shocked, shocked (once again, with apologies to Captain Renault!) that Syrians are using gas on the battlefield?

I think this puts the administration beyond parody.  I mean, how do you top that? That’s why I think the Obama administration has finally broken the back of The Onion.  There is no way The Onion will be able craft a more ludicrous story than this real one.

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Syria Backtrack

I was as shocked as anyone that President Obama did an about face on firing his phallic symbol-like missiles in Assad’s general direction.  Although I had previously called the administration amateurish, they managed to redefine the word amateur down.

First we’re going to attack, then we’re going to get Congressional approval, but don’t worry, that doesn’t matter, since Obama states he still has the authority to attack anyway, and will, regardless of the vote.

Huh?

Although there are conspiracy theories that the rebels, not the Assad government, actually used chemical weapons as a false flag to trick the US into intervening, I prefer to consider such theories ridiculous until proven otherwise.   As far as figuring out a position on what to do in Syria, I’m just taking the administration’s word that the intelligence is good, and that Assad is the culprit.

However that doesn’t give guidance on how the US should react.

I would really like to support the President in this.  Politics stops at the water’s edge and all that’ however Obama has managed to make it as difficult as possible to support a policy in which the publically stated goals are to accomplish nothing.  They’re not to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons, cripple the regime, or do anything of any military significance. It’s a military mission with no military objectives, and frankly, not even political ones.

Syria isn’t a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, so in a technical sense, they didn’t actually violate “International law.”  The administration is well aware of that since they use terminology “International Norms,” which means things that the international community, such as it is, doesn’t like.  Although no one in the international community feels their norms were violated enough to actually do something about it.

Obama should have just fired his missiles last week without all of the foreplay and advanced warning.  We would have already been on to another issue by now with the feeling that we had sort of accomplished something.  Instead, there was the desperate pleading for international support, an embarrassing House of Commons vote, and now an upcoming Congressional vote that’s likely to be even more embarrassing.

And how will Congress vote?  Very unconventionally apparently.  Noted warmonger Rep. Nancy Pelosi, after wresting with the issue with her 5 year old grandson, is on board to attack Syria. And John McCain, between Smartphone games of poker, is always up for another bombing.  How will the rest of the Congress vote?  It’s not as easy to predict.  Although I can guess how a certain young Illinois lawmaker would have voted:

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now let me be clear–I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied U.N. resolutions, thwarted U.N. inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

But the 2002 edition of Barrack Obama was quite a bit different from the current model.

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Voting Present on Sequester

So let me get this straight.

Over the last ten months, the Republican House has passed two bills on dealing with the sequester cuts, where they’ve languished in a Senate dead zone, with Harry Reid refusing to bring them to the floor.

On Thursday, the Senate finally voted on their own sequester bills, a Republican one and a Democratic one.  Both failed.  Of course the White House actively opposed the Republican Bill.  Why was it so dangerous?  Because it would have removed the across the board cuts and given President Obama the flexibility to cut programs  to shelter some of the more critical government services from cuts.

That’s right.  The President actually opposed a bill that would give him the flexibility to shift the cuts around however he likes.  If that isn’t a complete abrogation of the President’s responsibility to govern, I can’t think what would be.  The President is calling this a crisis, but doesn’t want the authority to fix the crisis because… he might be accountable for something for once?

The President can stomp his feet and blame Republicans all he wants, but this is his failure.  And it’s the worse type of Presidential failure; deliberately choosing not to make decisions because they might be hard ones.

Voting present indeed.  What a farce.

Fiscal Cliff Hangover

Although we called it the fiscal cliff, I always imagined it as more of a fiscal log flume, in which as we slowly go over the edge we hold our arms out, feel our stomach drop, then scream until we hit the end, with water splashing all over us.  Whee!  That was a blast!  Want to go again?  But we can talk about the debt ceiling later.

As deals go, it wasn’t a terrible one, particularly since the House Republicans had no cards to play, as I had pointed out previously.   What the House Republicans had was the total unpredictability of how they were going to vote on the deal.  Boehner didn’t even bother to whip the House body (easy now, I’m talking about getting a count of yes votes before the actual vote and politic to change some no’s to yeses).  He basically blew on his dice and was probably surprised that the House voted yes.

On the negative side, there were no spending cuts and not all of the tax cuts, particularly for the “rich”  were carried over, as I predicted two weeks ago.  So for all of the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, among conservatives of all types, we got as good of a deal as we were ever going to get; and easy to predict if you assumed that President Obama really would have liked to have taken us over the cliff, or if you prefer, log flume.  He would have been laughing all the way to the bottom.

On the positive side (yes there is one), the Bush tax cuts for those making under $450,000 for couples are now permanent.  So we don’t have to go through the end of the year farce of renewing these “temporary” cuts.  Same thing for the AMT tax.  They were fixed and made permanent.  The AMT fix, like the Medicare “doc fix” was an end of year ritual that couldn’t be resolved permanently.  Why you may ask?  Because any permanent fix would reflect in the CBO’s deficit and debt estimates for the years going forward.  Fixing the AMT for any one year was considered a cost for that particular year, but the CBO would base their estimates by current law, which would have the AMT not being fixed for the next year and every year afterwards.  Fixing the AMT for one year is a cost of 92 billion dollars.  A permanent fix it for the next ten years costs almost a trillion dollars.  From a purely crass, political position, having the costs of a permanent fix to the AMT and Bush income tax cuts accrued under the Obama administration ( two items that Republicans wanted to do but could never find the money for):

Priceless.

However all is not well in conservative talk radio land.  I made it a point to listen to what I think was a fair cross section of conservative radio for their take on all things fiscal cliffdom, and I must say, it was a muddled mess of incoherence.  They’ve been off their game since the election in my opinion really dropped the ball on the issues related to the fiscal cliff.  To summarize:

Rush:  No last name needed, you know who I mean.  Agreed with me (or is it I with him?) that Obama wanted to go over the cliff.  However he still wanted to oppose any deal that didn’t have the full Bush tax cuts and spending cuts.  And he regarded the deal that cut taxes as one that raised taxes; simply because not all the Bush cuts were included.  The practical result of his stonewalling any deal without the full Bush cuts?  All the tax cuts would have vanished.   Great job Rush!

Neal Boortz:  This odd combination of Paleo-Conservatism and Libertarianism also opposed any deal, however he thought that the Democratic Senate didn’t want to go over the cliff and would prevail upon Obama to accept all the Bush tax cuts rather than let them all expire.  Considering that after the failed vote on Plan B, The Republican House went home for Christmas, and ultimately didn’t vote on the deal until New Years Day, I would say events didn’t prove him correct.

Mark Levin:  Although I only caught his show once during the fiscal cliff debacle, Levin is being credited with organizing a call in campaign that helped bring about the defeat of Plan B.  Considering that from a conservative position Plan B was a better deal than the deal we actually got, I would have to say that turned out to not be a good move.

Sean Hannity:  Hannity has managed to have it both ways.  Before Christmas, he held the Rush position; that Obama wanted to go over the cliff and to oppose any compromise that didn’t have the full Bush tax cuts and spending cuts.  Post House vote, he is equivocating on whether Obama wanted to go over the cliff.  Too late to be even more wrong.

I think talk radio got it wrong on this one.  The deal wasn’t great, but it could have been so much worse considering that for the Democrats, going over the cliff was as close to a political dream situation as they could have hoped for, with Republicans being forced to bear all of the political costs.  I think conservatives should move on to the debt deal, a situation in which they have a bit more leverage.  That’s a situation guaranteed to generate several scowling Obama photos.