Crusades VS ISIS: What’s the difference?

The President kicked up quite a ruckus last week during the National Pray Breakfast when in his remarks he compared ISIL to the Crusades. 

No really.  First the warm up:

But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon.  From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it.  We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism  — terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions. 

We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.

So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?

So he is clearly putting his remarks in context with events that are occurring now.  But then, the swerve:

Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history.  And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.  Michelle and I returned from India — an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity — but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs — acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation. 

So all of you people who are part of the coalition that’s fighting the Islamic State, hey, you’re not so great.  You are really as bad as the people you’re bombing.

Some pep talk huh?

I have to admit, I do find that mindboggling. Moral relativism is for academics and unemployed hipsters, not the President. The only reason to try to compare ISIS today with the Crusades centuries ago is to excuse ISIS. In the same week that a Jordanian pilot was burned alive by ISIS, the President feels the need to make a comparison with the Crusades? How does that help the coalition that he ostensibly leads?  Can you imagine FDR making the same comparisons with Hitler’s Germany?

“Troops, before you storm the beaches of Normandy, risking your lives to liberate France, just remember, you are no better than the people you are fighting.  Sure the Nazi’s are killing and enslaving people, but what do you think our country has done?  Massacred Indians enslaved Africans.  Really, we’re no better than the people I’m ordering you to kill.  So get to it!”

Basically the President is saying his side is no better than their side.

At a time in which the insane overreach of the Islamic State has lead to an opportunity to unify the Middle East against the IS, the President blew a chance to make it clear that the west was going to stand with Muslims and others who wished to support it against barbarians.  Instead he brought up the Islamist’s favorite go-to scare story about the West, the Crusades, and condemned his own side for thinking it was better than they were.

 

 

 

Free Speech Thoughts by Bill Maher

The post I wrote last week felt naggingly incomplete to me for some reason.  My purpose was to note that President Obama shouldn’t have gone to the Paris march since he of course wasn’t “Charlie” and had a record of being critical of satire aimed at Islam.  And also to note the irony that the world leaders who did show up at the march were not “Charlie” either.  They came from governments that restricted free speech in one way or the other.

It was another grim reminder on how rights can be taken for granted at the same time they are being quietly taken apart.  And this brings me to Bill Maher.

Maher isn’t in any way a favorite of mine, and the last time I watched him with any regularity he had a show on ABC.  Hey I wonder whatever happened to that…  But for someone who is part of the American left in the 21st Century, he still retains a little of the old 20th Century liberal in him.  Gather round children, because you may not believe it, but there was a time when liberals actually favored free speech, even when it wasn’t politically correct!  Even when they opposed the message!  I know, it’s hard to believe huh?

Of course Maher has had more reason than most liberals to care about freedom of expression as a concept, rather than merely as an obstacle that still allows enemies of the left to voice their opinions.  Just a few months ago he was heavily protested by his fellow leftists at a speaking engagement at UC Berkeley.

So it was not quite surprising when I ran across a Daily Caller story about Maher.  The story, written by Daily Caller writer Chuck Ross (who must be single handedly producing ¾ of the Caller’s content), was taken from Maher’s show Real Time in which he criticized  a group trying to organize a boycott of sponsors of the Rush Limbaugh show.  That’s what old time 20th Century liberals would do; defend, in Voltaire-like fashion, speech they hate.  I think Maher would much rather be on the attack Rush side than on the defense, but he’s mad at official liberalism right now so he’s firing back. Wait until he starts defending Palin….

The problem with Maher is that his liberalism hasn’t really evolved since the 1970’s. Liberals used to really care about free speech, and took seriously the Voltarian maxim that I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it. But that’s when they perceived themselves as the underdogs against “the establishment.” Now of course, they are the establishment. And guess what? They don’t like free speech. That’s why they want to regulate the internet, regulate political speech, and that’s why they’ve been pushing the doctrine of political correctness. Whatever speech they can’t make illegal, they want to make it unacceptable.

I’ve been surprised just how quickly the left has abandoned free speech.  Social Justice and Identity politics will not compromise with the Bill of Rights.  They demand total allegiance.

Maher is a dinosaur, and when his kind passes over to…well nothingness since he’s an atheist, the only defenders of free speech will be on the right.

 

President Obama isn’t Charlie

“The Future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

President Obama 2012

Hey, is someone missing in that picture?

The President took a lot of heat this week for not showing up for the Paris March last Sunday.  And by heat I don’t mean talk radio, I’m talking about the President’s own Praetorian Guard, the main stream media.  When you lose both Jake Tapper (CNN) and Andrea Mitchell (MSNBC) you’ve goofed big time. But in retrospect, I think it was probably the right move not to show up.  After a few days introspection, I think that March was dishonest and there wasn’t a clear message that the President wanted to get behind.  Sure, I think it could be safely said that Obama opposes massacres of journalists, but he really doesn’t like satire against Muslims in general and Charlie Hebdo in particular.

In response to the publication of anti Islamic cartoons in 2012 by Charlie Hebdo, this was the White House response:

“We have questions about the judgment of publishing something like this,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said, while adding “it is not in any way justification for violence.”

“We don’t question the right of something like this to be published, we just question the judgment behind the decision to publish it,” Carney said.

This is pretty much in line with the standard American left view of this, although as I’ve documented previously, the left and the First Amendment parted ways many years ago, and in Europe, it was never much more than a talking point anyway.  It would be hard to explain marching in support of Charlie Hebdo after the President’s histrionics about the YouTube video that the administration claimed caused the Benghazi attack. In that case, the administration tried to pressure YouTube to take down the video.

So much for standing up for free speech.  But let’s face it.  Obama is no more on board with the free expression than the rest of the left.

If President Obama marched in Paris, how would he answer a French Muslim that he’s marching to support free speech to insult his religion while at the same time, it’s a crime to question the Holocaust in France, as well as many other countries in Europe?  That’s why free expression is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.  Once you start creating carve outs to protect some group’s feelings, when do you stop?

Answer:  You don’t.  You only have free speech as long as it’s convenient to the government.  Of course that means that with the changing demographics of France, eventually Blasphemy against Islam will probably be criminalized.

And the French will still think they have freedom of expression.

 

 

 

Cuba on Obama’s Checklist

I have a lot of conflicting thoughts on President Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba.  On the one hand, having no diplomatic relations with an island 90 miles from Key West seems an archaic relic of the Cold War.  The reasons for having no diplomatic relations and maintaining an economic embargo made sense when the US was engaged in a chess game with the Soviets, but those reasons are largely irrelevant now. We engage in diplomatic relations and economic trade with plenty of other despotic regimes, why not Cuba too?Raul Castro

On the other hand, Cuba is among a handful of countries that are among the worst of the worst in terms of political and economic repression of its own people.  It’s not quite North Korea, but it would like to be if it could.  It’s in the top 16 or so most repressive countries. It just doesn’t seem that it’s the type of country that we should be reaching out to. But President Obama feels differently…  It’s as if standing fast as a brutal dictatorship pays off in getting the US to say Uncle.  Not for the people of Cuba of course, but for the regime.

Cuban politicians of both parties seem none too happy about the move.  That’s surprising in that the Cuban American community seems split, mostly along an older versus younger axis, at least based on TV news reports.  But then most Cuban politicians fall within that older crowd and began their careers with the passions that were totally uncompromising where Cuba was concerned.

I think the timing of it all though, doesn’t make much sense.  We would have been in a much better bargaining position if we had waited until the Castro brothers were dead and buried.  At that point, Cuba would be more open to changes, and would be more open to the political and economic benefits of opening relations with the United States.  But with Obama, I think he just doesn’t care.  It seems that since the election, he’s decided to work off his lefty check list of things to do before leaving power.  And of course, that means ignoring Congress and doing whatever he wants to do.

Although foreign policy and diplomacy is mostly the providence of the Presidency, with Cuba there is a history of US law in the way.  The embargo is codified into law by the Helms-Burton Act, which the President can’t just wave away without Congress repealing or modifying the law.

Or maybe he can.  I dunno, we live in a new age in which the executive seems to be able to ignore laws he doesn’t like.

Other laws that regulate our relations with Cuba include the LIBERTAD Act and the Cuban Democracy Act.  Is Obama going to ignore them all?  Probably so.  He hasn’t seemed to pay any price for ignoring any other law so why not these as well?

Does the news media even care about these laws?  Not that I can tell.  In fact, based on my viewing of at least one of the network news programs, NBC, the primary impact of normalization of relations with Cuba is that American collectors will be able to purchase classic American cars and Cuban owners of those same classic American cars will be able to purchase parts for them from the US.  All illegal under US law of course, but that went unmentioned in the news reports I saw and sadly, probably not thought of as that important a consideration.

 

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.