For Obama’s War Non Policy, it’s Go Big or Go Home

A year ago I wrote about President Obama’s low energy lack of engagement with trying to save Iraq and defeat ISIS. I had offered some suggestions on how Obama could have butched up his war plans to actually be effective.  Of course I didn’t really expect Obama to take any such advice, whether from me or the countless military advisors at the Pentagon.  Ultimately, he just wasn’t that interested and prefers to wait out the clock until he’s out of office and then complain about whatever the new guy (or gal) decides to do.  Of course in the past year, a couple of things have happened:

Everything has gotten worse.  The Islamic State hasn’t been stopped, and it might be generous to say that they’ve been slowed down.

The Islamic State is now a real state. They are now acting in their territory just like any other government, settling disputes and providing government services.  No one recognizes their government as a legitimate government, but it’s there anyway.

The amount of airpower we’ve been willing to put into the war effort has been kept at a low enough level to not make much difference.

The Obama Administration, CENTCOM, or someone in it (*cough* James Clapper* cough*) is politicizing intelligence to make sure only happy talk is allowed to be disseminated.

Obama’s plan to train a “moderate” Syrian rebel force is a complete failure. We spent $500 million to field 4 or 5 rebels in country.

In the meantime, a massive refugee crisis has broken out as a result of the war, consisting of as many as 9 million Syrians.

The Russians are moving in, setting up operations inside Syria to shore up their ally, President Assad.

So it’s pretty clear that Obama’s no-effort strategy is an abject failure.  And it also means that anything I thought could have been done a year ago has washed away.  The situation is far direr today than it was a year ago and will probably get worse before it gets better, which may not be in the foreseeable future.

So tossing my old plans in the garbage, it’s obvious that we need a new one, but what?  The option I outlined last year included:

  1. Training the remaining semi friendly anti ISIS forces, primarily the Kurds but also some Iraqi regular army units.
  2. Fortify and blockade the Syrian-Iraqi border to keep ISIS from resupplying and reinforcing its holdings on the Iraq side, allowing the Iraqi’s to take back their own territory and force Assad to engage ISIS instead of him using them as a pawn to drag us into saving his bacon.

All of that is meaningless now.  The reality is, whether we accept the existence of the Islamic State or not, is that there is a Sunni Arab state operating in majority Sunni Arab territories taken from both Iraq and Syria, and it’s likely to remain in some form or another.

But this is a good news / bad news situation.  Given where we are now, I thought I had come up with an original, not yet discussed solution to the Syrian issue.  Unfortunately, in researching this, I discovered that The Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon had already beaten me to it:

“…[A] final option is partition or confederation. Partition is certainly easier said than done — whether the goal is to create new countries or autonomous zones held together through some weak central government. But if the parties do recognize that they need to work together and there is some natural way to divide up land that is seen as both fair and militarily enforceable, partition can work. Conflicts between Bosnia and Kosovo, between Eritrea and Ethiopia and between the two Sudans have all ended this way — though often only after a great deal of blood has been spilled, and often only with the help of international peacekeepers along the various lines of separation.”

Given the ethnic/religious map of Syria, it just makes sense that we should stop trying to fit square ethnic groups into the round holes of artificial states that would never have existed if not for the European map making that lead to the Sykes Picot Agreement, which divided up the Middle East by the British and French after World War I. O’Hanlon seems to envision some sort of federation or confederation, but I think mini states would work better.  Let Assad keep the Alawites, and let the Christians, Druze and Kurds go their separate ways.

The Sunni Arab area needs to be let go.  It mostly belongs to the IS anyway.  The only part of that area that needs to be separated is a Sunni enclave separate from the IS for refugees; and of course a possible staging area for future operations against ISIS.

Of course there is more than one fly in that ointment.  The first one is Putin.  He’s moved into Syria in a big way and appears ready to take the military offensive against ISIS to save his client state.  Before the Russians moved in to Syria, the US had the option of operating more or less without taking the Russians into consideration.  But the US policy of keeping the Russians out of the Middle East, which had lasted for decades, has collapsed due to the Obama administration’s inattention.  If anyone has taken Rahm Emmanuel’s advice of never letting a crisis go to waste, it’s been Putin. So anything having to do with Syria now has to go through the actual military power that is on the ground there: Russia.

The other fly in the ointment is of course the Obama administration.  They are the architects of this catastrophe, due to their inexperience and purposeful ideological blindness.  They wanted hands off the Middle Eastern disasters and this is what it looks like; hundreds of thousands dead and hundreds of thousands of refugees.

So for that reason I rate the possibility of actually accomplishing anything as quite low.  Going big would require a major military commitment.  But on the plus side the only areas you would want to take are those areas that truly want be liberated from ISIS, whether they’re Christian, Druze, or Kurds.  Although I’m not sure I would even support that kind of military commitment, I recognize that if you really want to do something useful, you have to do it on that scale.  But  I don’t think the Obama administration has even the appetite for diplomatic action.  Far more likely than going big is simply going home. At least Obama has given a good example of what happens when America Shrugs: chaos.

For those who think the idea of partitioning Syria is unrealistic, there is precedent.  That was how the Yugoslavian civil war was eventually resolved, by; partitioning the area into several states.  The Middle East is revolting against their old, artificially created borders anyway.  That can either be guided to a more peaceful resolution or it can be ignored and resisted with all of the accompanying death and international chaos that goes with it.  But one way or the other, it’s happening.

Update: Since I wrote the above, Putin has changed the game once again. At Monday’s speech at the UN he said that he wants to put together an international anti terrorist coalition to go after the Islamic State. Russia will introduce a UN resolution to that effect, and who can blame them?  International politics and leadership abhors a vacuum, and if the United States is no longer providing leadership, apparently Russia will; on their terms.

CNN Debate Observations


Prez debate

I’m of the mind that most TV “debate” shows are a joke. They’re not really debates, they’re joint press conferences, and the stars are always the debate moderators.  So why TV news personalities are debate moderators is a puzzle.  They don’t know how to moderate or control the flow of questions, and being TV people, they always want to make it about themselves, as Megyn Kelly and Candy Crowley demonstrated when they had their turn at bat.

So when I heard Jake Tapper’s pre debate explanation of how the debate was going to run; they were going to ask questions of candidates about what the other (read Trump) candidates said, I thought that for CNN, this was only about trying to start fights for ratings, and certainly the CNN radio ads I heard promoting the debate sounded nothing if not like Wrestling Promos.  And it apparently worked.  The debate was the highest rated event in CNN history, garnering 20 million viewers.

The format worked on the viewer level too.  It was one of the more freewheeling political debates I’ve seen.  The candidates actually engaged with each other, rather than simply answering the moderator’s questions. That being said, I had a few observations about the debate:

No real losers to the debate, but Jeb once again failed to live up to donor expectations.  On a scale from one to ten, he went from a two to a four.  That’s due to taking Trump’s advice and start displaying more energy.

I rarely agree with the conventional wisdom, but this time I agree that best performance was by Carly Fiorina.  One good performance could be a fluke, but two in a row look like a trend.

Chris Christie also did well.  When he gets airtime, he can put on a good show. Under this debate he got enough airtime, 13 minutes, to make a good impression.

Ignore whatever the media says about who won.  For the last debate, they declared Kasich the winner based solely on preferring his positions on immigration and gay marriage.

Carson and Huckabee are vying for the slot of evangelical candidate, and Carson is running far ahead.  Huckabee is trying to go over the top in supporting Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, who is trying to cloak herself in religion to keep her from doing her job.  How invested evangelicals are in Davis may be what makes a difference for Huckabee.

There were of course the others, who made little impression (at least on me).

And then there’s Trump… (sung to the tune of the Maude theme song)

Jake Tapper tried to slip the noose of the anti vax truther aroundTrump, a situation he was able to slip out of rather easily.  But he didn’t out and out deny the autism-vaccination link, a weakness which allowed Salon and Slate to declare Trump as still harping the anti vaccination line.  Of course your average Slate or Salon reader will be predisposed to hate Trump anyway.  But journalists read Slate and Salon, so expect further anti-vax questions in the future.

Trump was also weak on policy, specifically foreign policy. I expected him to change tactics this debate to “keep’em guessing”, and he did; he cooled the slapstick and insults and tried to be agreeable, but I expected he would bring some foreign policy zingers to the table to show gravitas for the talking heads. He didn’t do that.

Trump can’t wait until he’s President to bone up on these issues or he’s never going to be President. He needs to bone up now and start demonstrating how much detail he knows about our various foreign policy issues.  It can be done.  Marco Rubio, as a first term senator, already has shown a command of foreign policy issues and has been able to stay ahead of journalists trying to trip him up.

This is not the end of Trump, but if doesn’t start showing that he can discuss policy particulars, rather than just say this will be great, this could be the beginning of the end of Trump.


Interesting Reads on the Republican Civil War

The Republican Civil War still rages on. National Review’s Jonah Goldberg inspired his very own hashtag, #NROrevolt, after this article:

No Movement That Embraces Trump Can Call Itself Conservative

Goldberg doesn’t go after Trump, he goes after his own readers who are on the Trump Bandwagon; hence the hashtag and ongoing twitter war.

Goldberg made some points, but the blog The Conservative Treehouse made some pretty deft responses:

An Open Letter to Jonah Goldberg-RE: The GOP And Donald Trump

I don’t know who blogger Sundance is, but he or she made some good points.  I would urge Jonah to read it, if he has internet access in whatever undisclosed location he’s at.

As a columnist, I rather like Jonah Goldberg, he’s a witty writer and is the author of probably one of the top 20 must reads of modern conservatism, Liberal Fascism.  However he is strictly a Blue Pill Conservative.  He doesn’t get it.

However there is a chance that someday Goldberg will choose the red pill.  I can’t say the same for Wall Street Journal foreign affairs columnist Bret Stephens. Stephens took on the Trumpocalypse right out of the gate in this piece:

The Donald and the Demagogues

This is how Stephens opens up on the very first line, “If by now you don’t find Donald Trump appalling, you’re appalling.”

And then he proceeds to get nasty. Stephen’s article even got the Rush Limbaugh treatment.  Limbaugh read aloud excerpts from Stephen’s article; apparently in disbelief that one conservative was rounding up dissenters and burning them at the stake. Although far more vicious, Stephen’s article inspired far less reaction than Goldberg’s ( sorry Bret, no hashtag for you) since if you’re a Donald Trump fan, you’ve probably regarded the Wall Street Journal editorial positions as in the enemy camp for a long time.

Old establishment hands still seem to think that Trump will flame out long before the candidates start racking up delegates, and by the time we get to the convention, all will be forgiven and everyone will fall back in line with the generic Republican candidate to defeat the generic Democratic candidate.

Only I’m not so sure.  What’s going on within the Republican Party is unprecedented in my lifetime, and yes, I’m including the Tea Party revolt and Perot’s Reform Party.  We may be seeing a replay of the fall of the Whig Party.


Blue Pill Conservatives versus Red Pill Conservatives

This has certainly been a summer of a crack up and civil war within the conservative movement.  It started out as the summer of the Cuckservative, in which conservatives attacked each other over who was giving in and trying to please leftists and their media.  It’s ending as the Summer of Trump; the domination of Donald Trump over all other Republican Primary candidates.

Something is radically changing in conservative politics and the fault lines seem to be radically changing every few months, but there seems to be a current divide that explains a lot of the conservative on conservative conflict: Red Pill vs. Blue Pill Conservatives. If you’re not familiar with the term, a simple trip to Mister Google will solve that since Blue Pill/Red Pill is a fairly common internet meme, based of course on The Matrix movies. Blue Pill is living your life under a delusion, and the Red Pill is when you finally wake up to the sometimes bitter reality.

I first started to have the fog lift out of my blue pill haze after the 2012 elections.  Although I expected Obama to win, I was fascinated by the post election armchair quarterbacking that was trying to pin every other imaginary reason on Romney’s loss other than the fact that, as NBC Political Analyst Chuck Todd put it, “The demographic time bomb went off.”  It was a turning point election because it demonstrated that policy positions, the state of the economy, the unemployment rate, or winning the independents; none of the old rules applied. As I wrote after the 2012 election:

Even if Romney had won, it would have been the last gasp of an archaic idea in US politics; political parties that are more or less based on policy decisions and ideas and to a lesser degree, ideology and the left/right continuum   Eventually, I suspect that we will be voting according to our ethnic, gender, and sexual preferences.  In other words, our politics will become more tribal.

What that means in 2015 is that the Republican Party, which is dependent on white votes, is seeing a steady decline in their voter base. As the Washington Post reported:

The total number of white voters decreased by roughly 2 million in 2012 as compared to 2008, the first time since 1996 that a “race group” (as they describe it) has seen a diminution in net votes cast. And, in the last five presidential elections, the white share of the electorate has dipped by nine points…

That coincides with the factoid that Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six elections.

So if you put the increased tribalism of American politics with the decline of the white “tribe” you end up with a more or less inevitable decline in chances for the Republican Party to win the White House.  Each Presidential election will have whites, the mainstay of the Republican Party, as a declining percentage of the electorate. The result of this is that for 2016, the Democrats start out with an advantage of 217 electoral votes more or less locked up.  When you need 270 electoral votes to win, most of the race is already over before the first primary or caucus vote is cast. The Democratic electoral vote advantage is only likely to widen for each Presidential election.  Every four years the Republican base contracts and the Democratic base expands to fill in the gaps.

So how does the Republican Party Inc plan to address this?  Their 2012 Autopsy Report boiled down to go big on amnesty and then Hispanics will love Republicans since they are “natural conservatives.”  This is so counterintuitive to common sense that I honestly can’t believe that the autopsy report writers believe it.  It sounds that it’s a justification of a policy that the establishment of the party is already committed to based on donor desires.  Certainly passing Amnesty didn’t help either Reagan or Bush Senior.

Pro amnesty John McCain got only 4 percentage points more of the Hispanic vote than self deporter Mitt Romney got.  Considering that Romney would have needed 73% of the Hispanic vote to win, there is no path to Republican victory counting on Hispanic votes. In fact, if you consider the Electoral College math, the increased tribalism of American politics, and the declining percentage of the Republican base it’s easy to conclude that all things being equal, conservatism, as it’s currently formed, is doomed.

As a conservative, when you finally come to that conclusion, you’ve taken the red pill.

This really shouldn’t be that much of a shocker.  The Republican Party was a secondary party for much of the 20th Century.  After being caught holding the bag after the Great Depression, the Democrats were the American political party for decades. Republicans only got a shot at the Presidency again by nominating a national hero and celebrity, Dwight Eisenhower, for President.  Eisenhower’s status made it OK to try voting for a Republican again.  That coincided with the rising post war middle class that found themselves more comfortable with Republican Party values.

Much of the Republican Party is still under the blue pill, and thinks that each election, the slate is wiped clean and they have a 50-50 chance to make their case to the American people (who must be devoid of party preferences and are willing to listen to Republican arguments on an equal footing with Democratic ones) with a promise of tax cuts and smaller government, just like they’ve promised every election for decades.

Red Pill Conservatives think this is a path to continued failure and realizes that something big has to change.  There has to be a massive shaking up of the old order, since it’s on a glide path to obsolescence.  What will that look like?  I’m not sure, but the Republican Party needs to be ripped apart and put back together with a 21st Century sensibility.  Maybe we’ll get a glimpse this election season.


Media Lying about Trump’s Immigration Plan

I was having an email back-and-forth with a conservative friend of mine about Trump’s immigration plan and I was surprised at how negative he was about two aspects of the plan; no amnesty for illegals and no birthright citizenship. Oddly enough, those are the same two issues that the media has gone totally apoplectic about since Trump’s plan was released.

No amnesty has been translated by the media into a multibillion dollar deportation plan.  The media has gone into hysterics over deporting illegal’s, with estimates of cost ranging from 100 billion dollars to a trillion, with the image of massive law enforcement forces going on a hard target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, hen house, outhouse and doghouse in the United States on the hunt for anyone matching the paper bag test in skin tone.

No one, not Trump or anyone has suggested that.

All Trump has suggested was merely enforcing current law.  That means, when you run across illegal’s, whether it’s a traffic stop or some other brush with law enforcement, detain them and deport them.  That’s it.  Just follow the law.  That should actually be cheaper than the constant catch and release that we currently do.

Every news show I watched last week declared the 14th Amendment the last word in [caution! Trigger Warning!]  Anchor babies.  I didn’t see a single show, whether it was on the big 3, Fox, or MSNBC that had a guest on to say different.

The 14th Amendment was written to keep southern states from claiming that the newly freed slaves were not citizens.  Originally that was done through the 1866 Civil Rights Act but Congress decided that southerners were so stubborn (probably an accurate reading of the mood in the reconstruction South) that a constitutional amendment was needed.

Then came United States v. Wong Kim ArkThis 1898 case was whether it violated the Chinese Exclusion Act that a person born to Chinese parents in the US was a US citizen.  The Supreme Court ruled that Wong Kim Ark was in fact a citizen, even though he was born to non citizen parents.  This is what most open borders advocates point to as the proof positive that children born to illegal parents in the US are in fact US citizens.


Wong Kim Ark’s parents were not illegal’s; they were in the country legally.  So this isn’t really “settled law” in regards to illegal aliens.  So it doesn’t really address the issue being asked about today.  As far as the 14th Amendment goes, the real issue revolves around the phrase in the nestled in the amendment, “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.”

What does that mean?  According to Justice Gray’s opinion in Wong Kim Ark, “This sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment is declaratory of existing rights and affirmative of existing law. “ What existing law?  The 1866 Civil Rights Act.  So this is the basis for thinking that the law can be changed via legislation.  Congress wrote the 1866 Civil Rights Act, they can amend or change it to exclude the children of people not in the country legally, or in other words, people who are NOT subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. No constitutional amendment required.

Now if Congress actually passed a law that excluded the children of illegal immigrants you can bet it would wind up in court before the ink is dry, so what the Court would do is totally up in the air, but given the Court’s record of decisions lately, the Court could well find that all 7 billion people on Earth are US citizens according to the 14th Amendment.  That’s no crazier than determining that the 14th Amendment has always meant that gay marriage was constitutionally required.

The media is pretty clever at setting the tone of debate, and defining terms and concepts. That’s how the idea of just enforcing existing law suddenly balloons into multibillion dollar enforcement knocking down every door in the country and only allowing one legal argument on birthright citizenship to be heard. The media has every intention of controlling the allowable debate in the Republican primaries so it would behoove conservatives to no allow the media to define their proposals.


Donald Trump – Leader of the American UKIP?

I’ve been giving some thought to the rise of The Donald, and how it compares to the previous insurgencies on the right, most recently the Tea Party.  The Tea Party was as much a revolt against the Republican establishment as against the Obama administration. Before they could take power, they first had to win primaries against incumbent Republican office holders. The Tea Party gave the Republicans major victories both in 2010 and in 2014 (2012?  Not so much.  There were 50 million extra non Tea Party voters).  Not that the Party establishment was particularly grateful.  Although grateful for House and Senate majorities that allowed the leadership to get bigger offices, they had no interest in the Tea Party priorities, cutting the budget, deficit reduction, and getting rid of Obamacare. The result has been a low grade civil war within the party for years, and given the conduct of the Republican majority Congress, the establishment is definitely winning.

At the same time, there has been a parallel right leaning movement rising across Europe, In France, it’s the National Front, in the UK it’s the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), in Denmark, it’s the Danish People’s Party and so on.  These parties are not European Tea Parties.  In Europe, the battle of big government against the little guy was decided long ago, and big government won, but these Parties are growing on issues that have nothing to do with Tea Party issues.  These parties are Euroskeptic, anti-immigration, and nationalist.  Now I wonder if there is an American equivalent…

And yes there is, Donald Trump.  As I’ve noted before, Donald Trump isn’t a conservative, in the American tradition, and he’s barely a Republican, but he is an economic nationalist. Unlike in Europe, which has had these nationalist, right leaning movements for years, there hasn’t really been a US equivalent except on the edge of right wing thought in the Paleo and dissident right.  Within the Overton Window of allowable views, there was no room for an economic nationalist.

Until now.

In the month and a half since The Trumpening, Donald Trump has not only upended the Republican primary, he’s upended the issues and agenda that will define the 2016 race. He’s altered the discussion on immigration.  Instead of discussing how many and will they get citizenship and how soon, the argument is now, “why should they be here at all?”  On trade, Trump is positioning to upend the decades long Republican support of free trade, totally flipping what has been a reliable Republican consensus.


Trump has single handedly created an American UKIP, an entire political movement that didn’t exist even two months ago. I have to wonder, could a celebrity billionaire with bad hair, who’s been derided as a clown, a bozo, and totally unserious do all that?

He’s already done it, and the 2016 race isn’t going to be anything like what the conventional wisdom could have predicted 2 months ago.


Scott Walker: No Amnesty and Limiting Legal Immigration?

I think I’ve enjoyed the Donald Trump Show as much as anyone.  I love his brashness, they way he commands the media, the way he takes control of every interview, and the best part, he never, ever apologizes.  I love the way he infuriates the Republican Party, the establishment Republicans, and most of all, the hated donor class, which has for all intents and purposes wrecked the Republican Party agenda for years.  I hope the Donald Trump Show gets picked up for another season and brings us the laughter and joy that comes from watching media experts get it wrong over and over and watching other politicos squirm.

So as much as I enjoyed the two debates and The Donald’s over the top performance, there was a little noticed bit of news that zeroed in my attention like a laser.  A response to a question to Governor Scott Walker about his change of position on immigration:

“There’s international criminal organizations penetrating our Southern base borders, and we need to do something about it. Secure the border, enforce the law, no amnesty, and go forward with a legal immigration system that gives priority to American working families and wages.”

As Walker made clear on Hannity, “gives priority to American working families and wages” means lower legal immigration. Walker’s immigration position has been slip sliding away from the standard Republican boilerplate of Secure The Border!/also pass amnesty, for several months under the guidance of economic nationalist and immigration guru Senator Jeff Sessions. But this is the first I’ve heard of any sort of definitive statement on a total rejection of Amnesty and actually limiting legal immigration.  However this has made so little news that most people, even those following the campaign closely, might not have picked up on it.

Right now, Walker isn’t really able to capitalize on it because Trump is sucking all of the oxygen out of the room.  Plus, he’s not really a super charismatic guy and I often get him confused with former SNL and 30 Rock actor Chris Parnell

Is this Walker?

Chris Parnell







Or is this Walker?

Scott Walker2






Who can tell?

With Ted Cruz also recently stating a definitive no on amnesty, this makes quite a difference between this group of candidates and the 2012 crowd, which except for Mitt Romney, all had some sort of amnesty plan, even the “conservatives.”  Why the difference?

I think it’s the Trumpenkreig.

As The Donald continues his long march through the Republican Party’s institutions, burning and pillaging as he goes, he is pushing the Overton Window a bit on immigration issues, making the formally forbidden to speak of (no amnesty) permissible. As I had hoped, Trump is pushing changes in what’s allowable for Republican candidates to say.  Some go overboard, like Mike Huckabee’s crazy statement about Obama holding the oven doors open for Israel. But with both Cruz and Walker just saying no to amnesty, Trump is forcing Republican candidates to stop being mealy mouthed and take a position.

This is good news in my opinion, so I’ll go pop some popcorn (extra butter) and continue enjoying the Donald Trump Show.

Six seasons and a movie.