Tag Archives: Daesh

Stumbling into war


Despite Pres. Barack Obama’s continued insistence that he has pulled the U.S. out of endless – and unsuccessful – wars in the Mideast, American military involvement continues there.

Witness to the continued engagement, and in fact what appears to be an escalation of that commitment, is in the official news within the last 24 hours of another as yet unnamed Navy Seal killed. He appears to have been an adviser in what is a growing offensive to retake Mosul. A city normally of about two and a half million people in northern Iraq, Mosul has been occupied since June 2014 by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and become one its crown jewels..

This is the third death announced since last fall in the more recent American engagement in the region. Theoretically, Americans are only acting as noncombatant but in the fog of war that distinction may fall away quickly The news was blanketed in the extended government and general media publicity given the fifth anniversary of the purtsuit and killing of Osama Ben Ladin, The elimination of Ben Ladin, as well as the continued drone strikes by U.S. forces of known and wanted terrorists, is offered as proof that the Obama Administration has been effectively pursuing a campaign and in eliminating enemies in the continuing struggle against Islamic terrorism.

With what we know of the U.S. commitment there these latest casualties are Special Forces or Seals encadred in local forces to give spine to Iraq government military efforts. It is part of what Obama ordered “to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL” That is the way Obama has characterized the renewed effort of the U.S to end the base of the new terror threat in a September 2014 speech to the nation.

But the refusal by the Obama Administration to acknowledge that the enemy is Islamic terrorism, with its ties however obscure and rejected by other Moslems, is hampering the prosecution of any effective effort against Daesh [ISIS or ISIL]. It is no secret that a larger part of the worldwide 1.3 billion Moslem community is neutered by fear of the minority pusuing jihad, or indeed has a substantial minority sympathetic to the Moslem theis of tradional conquest or conversion of non-Moslems. So long as Daesh is victorious – that is, able to lay a claim that it is a new rising Moslem caliphate or worldwide regime – it will be gathering adherents in the Moslem world. As always, the military and hits supporters wants a maximum effort as soon as possible to destroy the enemy.

Nor is the Obama Administration yet willing to acknowledge that contrary to the advice of the U.S. military, immediately on entering office he removed any American military presence in Iraq. He claimed, although denouncing the two Bush Administrations’ intervention to pull down the dictator Sadam Hussein and his Baath Party, that he was leaving a stable and peaceful country behind. That immediately turned out not to be the case, and his critics have argued that unlike our continued occupations after World War II of Germany and South Korea, it was predictable that we were leaving imminent chaos. That is in part why there have been 260 deaths added during the Obama Administration to the 4497 deaths since the Iraq wars began.

Now a new danger has arisen. By feeding American forces incrementally into the current effort to destroy Daesh, Obama risks that Daesh as long as it exists will take on new and effective strategies to counter the U.S. and Iraqi anti-terrorist forces. Furthermore, it is clear that with its very sophisticated propaganda and successful financial manipulation, Daesh is gaining ground with the various Islamic terrorist movements in Libya, West , North and Central Africa and Indonesia as well as in Syria and Iraq.. And through its influence in the Moslem Brotherhood, nominally Islamicist forces seeking to gain power through the ballot – and hang on to it – Daesh is putting pressure on Turkey and other Moslem-majority countries such as Pakistan with their own jihdist threats.

Washington is in fact groping into a new full-fledged conflict in the Middle East without proper planning and preparation. The kind of incrementalism that the current Obama strategy indicates is to a considerable extent the cause of our stalemate in Korea and our ultimate defeat in Vietnam. It is not a path we should be pursuing.

sws-05-09-16

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Going after Daesh


 

The U.S. is paying a rising price for the early failure of the Obama Administration to wage an all-out offensive to destroy Daesh [the Arabic name for the Islamic caliphate, ISIS or ISIL].

The Obama Administration – the President notoriously characterized them original as “J.V.” –originallysaid America’s objective was to “ultimately destroy” ISIS. .

Beyond the wildest earliest expectations, Daesh is lining up allies throughout the Moslem world – threatening to unite all the terrorist elements at least nominally in a juggernaut against the forces of civilization with every more barbarous acts.

The terrorists, despite some local defeats, still hold most of the large cities they have seized since 2014. It is funding itself with black market oil sales and other more sophisticated financial transactions. And with its hold on this piece of Syrian and Iraqi real estate as its sanctuary, Daesh is waging a very sophisticated campaign for support through the social media throughout the whole Moslem world.

Nothing succeeds like success, and its growing stature is attracting young misfits from throughout the Moslem world – as well some young Western adventurers.

With polls showing a widespread concern among Americans that Washington has failed to bring Daesh to heel, Obama has begun to step up his rhetoric at least about the fight. In his January state of the union address, he did say that fighting ISIS [also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh] and other terrorists is the top priority of his administration.

The U.S. is incrementally stepping up its program of bombing raids, inserting additional special operatives on the ground to more successfully direct what had been an air campaign only a fraction of earlier bombardment in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Daesh’s response has been a campaign to enlist the various insurgencies with Moslem leadership through Asia and Africa. Many have smouldered for decades, as much based on ethnic, linguistic and regional antagonisms as on any Islamic religious character. But that, too, is tending to change with their new found allegiance to Daesh.

In southern Thailand, for example, the long low-level insurgency in its three southern Malay-majority provinces is being enlisted by Daesh. The long-standing ties which both Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok obfuscate between the Moslem rebels in southern Thailand and radical Islamic forces in northeastern Malaysia are strengthening with new political problems in the ruling party in the capital.

In the southern Philippines, the on and off rebellion of the Moros – going back to Spanish and American colonial days – is blossoming. A Saudi official, an opponent of Daesh, was recently assassinated there in a dramatic manifestation of Daesh’s increasing influence. Manila, facing an increasing threat to its position in the South China Sea by Beijing’s push there, has more than it can handle. And it has begun to restore the old alliance with Washington, if at a slow pace and against considerable domestic opposition.

Daesh has tried to link to the old Moslem radicals in West Java, again dating back to Dutch colonial days, but recently manifesting their deep roots with terrorist acts in the national capital of Jakarta. The blood attacks on the tourist island of Bali have shaken the Indonesian government and it is behind the curve in taking on the search for Islamic terrorist ties to the Mideast.

In Nigeria, the Boko Harum – originally a nativist movement rejecting all so-called Western cultural aspects – has now officially linked itself to Daesh. Its bloody attacks on local Christian and Moslem communities has become a major concern for the Nigerian government, always carefully balanced between its more developed southern and Christian and animist regions and the Moslem region in the north.

All this has brought into focus a crisis for Washington on how to deal with Libya and the growing strength there of Islamicist elements which, again, have now proclaimed their loyalty to Daesh. The Islamic terrorists are a product of the overthrow of the Mohammed Qadaffi’s dictatorship by a European alliance with the then Sec. of State Hillary Clinton pursuing Obama’s famous “leading from behind”. If the Libyan rebels, with their close geographic ties to Daesh – and their threat to Egypt’s western frontier – manage to grab Libyan oil fields where they are active, the whole international network will take on new and ominous significance.

Obama, despite his determination to withdraw from all Midesast conflicts, is now facing a brutal decision in Libya which could overturn what is left of his strategy of retreat from contested areas.

ws-03-05-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

Refugees, Terrorists and Morality


Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, America’s leaders are presented with a vexing problem of statecraft which poses realism versus idealism.

Millions of refugees are pouring out of Syria, victims of the more than four year bloody Civil War. Many choose a perilous path on to Europe; some certainly pursuing lifelong dreams for a better life in European countries with their elaborate safety nets and dwindling labor pool. More, even, are not Syrians at all, but Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis and even Central Asians, seizing this opportunity for new lives in the West.

To the consternation of many of her fellow conservative party colleagues, German Chancellor Angela Merkel initially welcomed any and all of these migrants. Although of another generation, and in fact, reared under the Communist East German tyranny herself, she has said that given Germany’s onerous Nazi history, her country could do no less. The German welcome, since its social welfare benefits lead the field, has made it the destination of most of the migrants — what will be 850,000 or more this year. Berlin is now pleading with its fellow European Union members to take more. Some, like Poland and Hungary, however, are adamant that they cannot absorb these new non-Europeans, for economic and cultural reasons.

The flow shows little sign of abatement what with the Syrian chaos enhanced by the emergence of a barbaric, self-appointed Islamic “caliphate”, Daesh [or ISIS or ISIL. While Europe wrestles with the problem, the U.S. now explores its traditional role of welcoming “your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. Pres. Barak Obama has called for the admission of at least 10,000 of these migrants immediately, another 200,000 for the next two years.

The House of Representatives has just passed legislation calling for a pause in admission of the migrants. This comes after FBI Director. James B. Comey, among others competent to judge, have insisted that currently the federal government does not have the capacity to vet these newcomers, weeding out possible covert terrorists. Those defending the President’s initiative have called the opposition everything from racist to calling up the refusal of the U.S. to admit Jews during Nazi persecution and destruction of six million during the 1930s and 40s. While that blot on America’s moral record lives on, it is hardly relevant; although some of us greybeards remember arguments with some of the few German Jewish arrivals about the Versailles Treaty and Hitler, there were no suspicions any were German agents.

Nor is the argument that suggestions only Christians be s prejudicial as it sounds at first glance. The laws under which refugees are given special entry to the U.S. are couched in terms of rewarding specific groups who are the target of a foreign tyranny. That is certainly the case with Christians and other minority groups like the Yazidi and even non-Sunni Moslems who have been the victims of Daesh’s unspeakable barbarity.

Perhaps some of the President’s supporters are correct that opposition to his proposal is based on ulterior motives, for example, an appeal to old-fashioned xenophobia. But the strength of an argument for a “pause” to reconsider who we are admitting and under what conditions is a necessity. The growing evidence that the Paris terrorist acts – as others before them in Europe and the U.S. – were committed not by illegal immigrants but by visaed newcomers or even native-born Moslem ethnics, is evidence of a source of concern. Certainly the growing skill and increasing reach of Daesh indicates they would have every incentive and techniques for infiltrating the migrants.

The U.S. has committed $4.5 billion since the Syrian conflict began in 2011 to aid Syrian refugees and the neighboring countries housing them, more than any other country. This might be a good time to up that ante if it is possible for it to be absorbed by the mechanisms now in place. But it makes all the sense in the world that for the moment we reexamine our vetting processes as a measure of national security for those additional refugees we intend to admit as permanent residents.

sws-11-20-15

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obama’s NATO lapse


Pres. Barack Obama’s veto message of the Military Authorization Bill mentioned the controversial closure of Guantanomo’s terrorist facilities and the failure to achieve reform of systems acquisition and other issues. But critics charge it was largely an attempt to blackmail the Republicans in Congress into supporting his non-military expenditures which have come under fire from budget cutters.

Whatever the final outcome of this particularly bureaucratic hassle, nowhere in the swamp of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy snafu is the contradictions of policy so apparent as in Washington’s relation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization What has been the world’s most successful alliance is now in jeopardy, in part, of course, from new and difficult strategic and tactical circumstances of a rapidly fluctuating Europe and world geopolitical imbalance.

But an important part of the present disarray lies in the fundamental contradictions in Pres. Barak Obama’s basic approach to the whole international scene. Obama’s worldview consisted of a grossly oversimplified concept of American foreign overextension, particularly through its military, and a remedy existed in drastic and dramatic cutbacks in U.S. commitments – such as in Iraq – would be met with a similar response from antagonistic elements abroad. That simply has not proved out, neither with the forces of Islamic chaos and terrorism in the Middle East nor with Vladimir Putin’s drive to restore former Soviet glory as a superpower.

Rushing to meet Putin’s thrust in Ukraine, NATO alliance headquarters senior military now see it may have neglected its Mediterranean flank, a vulnerability they say and others see as laid bare by Russia’s muscular intervention in Syria.

Obama’s reluctant turnaround on meeting what he publicly underestimated as the threat of Daesh [ISIS, ISIL] in Syria and Iraq has been slow and ineffective. In fact, Daesh is rapidly attempting to lead terrorists throughout the Arab and Islamic world, however discordant the various Islamic terrorists evade unity..

After more than a year, the U.S. response has been only reluctantly meeting any of the challenges which the Obama worldview earlier refused to accept. As he said in his quintessential 2009 Cairo speech, Obama believed he could reverse antagonisms between Islam and the West. But it is now clear that the traditional radical strains of the Moslem faith are in the ascendancy throughout the Islamic world. A modest if totally inadequate bombing campaign against Daesh not only has failed to destroy it but even to halt its tactical victories in the region and, more frightening, curb its growing appeal to like-minded elements around the world. The flow of volunteers to it from the West as well as from other Moslem countries is a bitter testimony to this trend.

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has publicly recognized its own strategic failings. He has announced Treaty delegates at a Dec. 1 meeting will take up the new strategic implications for the Alliance’s southern flank brought on by the Russian plunge into Syria. Increased surveillance and reconnaissance activities, deployments of NATO troops in advisory roles to crisis-hit countries across North Africa and the Middle East, and reinforced permanent NATO military deployments in the Mediterranean region are all on the agenda. Stoltenberg said, not surprisingly, that there were now “many threats to the South of the alliance” that had to be urgently met. Stoltenberg’s statement came as Trident Juncture, NATO’s largest war games in a decade was taking place in Spain.

 Admiral John Richardson, the new U.S. chief of naval operations, had already acknowledged the new strategic situation by announcing he was considering sending more ships including submarines to deter what is generally considered in NATO circles, Moscow’s adventurism. Given the growing demands on the U.S. fleet, however much its gains in technology and firepower, make such deployments increasingly difficult.

But “[F]reedom of navigation [in the Mediterranean] is fundamentally important to NATO,” as General Adrian Bradshaw, NATO’s deputy supreme allied commander has said. “As we observe the deployment of more sophisticated [Russian] capabilities with considerable reach it becomes more and more important that we refresh our deterrence.” NATO advisers are already in Iraq, Jordan and Tunisia to bolster the alliance’s regional influence were ready to be sent to Libya as soon as a unity government was formed there.

The question now hanging over all these strategic and tactical concepts is whether the U.S. has the will, and will undertake a reversal of its drastic reduction in military force, to meet these challenges. They find their most dramatic exposition in the new demands made on NATO, but they have competitive demands in the growing aggressive actions of the Chinese in the Asian theaters. And the obvious questions are whether our European allies are prepared to meet the new challenge and whether the Obama Administration moves even more dramatically to reexamine its priorities.

sws-11-05-15

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obama “evolving” on Syria


It looks like another of Pres. Obama’s policies is “evolving”.
The announcement that Ankara has agreed to permit its NATO airbase at Incirlik to be used for bombing missions against Daesh [ISIL, or the Caliphate] in Iraq not only makes them more efficient and cheaper. It became necessary with the gap sequestration has produced for American power projection. It seems definite now that there will be no aircraft carrier in the region from which to launch for several months this fall with their retreating to Norfolk for overlong deployment and refitting.
Meanwhile, Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has moved away from his somewhat ambiguous position after a suicide bomber of Daesh [ISIL, or the Caliphate] pulled off a deadly attack in chaotic southeastern Turkey. There is a suspicion that part of the new arrangement with the U.S. includes Erdogan’s longtime proposal for a neutralized zone in northern Syria, perhaps a “no-fly” zone used earlier in Iraq. That would bring American bombing into Syria as well as Iraq [which some of the U.S.’ allies, including the U.K., are already doing.]
Erdogan moved because his position was becoming increasingly difficult with hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees pouring into Turkey. Its border towns have been used for entry into Syria by volunteers from the rest of the Muslim world and the West [including the U.S.] for one of the many groups in the Syrian civil war. The fact that at the same time Turkish forces have cracked down on Daesh’s supporters inside Turkey, Erdogan has moved against representatives of the Marxist–Leninist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a guerrilla group that waged a 30-year-long insurgency against Ankara on behalf of Turkey’s 20% minority Kurds. Ankara’s fear now is that the Kurds, who are the most effective force in Iraq fighting the Daesh with American support, and the Kurdish minority in Syria will make common cause for an independent Kurdish state.
If, as now seems the case in the Mideast’s shifting alliances, Daesh has made a deal with the Turkish Kurds – the suicide bomber was a Kurd – then Erdogan has a bigger problem. And he is trying to press Washington into supporting any new action he is being forced to take in the border areas and perhaps in Syria.
That, of course, may drag Washington into a more forceful campaign against Daesh – something Obama’s Republican critics in the Congress have been calling for. It’s clear that the relative weak bombing campaign has been only partially successful in stemming Daesh’s gains. It has been relatively ineffective without adequate American military resources on the ground in Iraq to direct the campaign, and the additional complication of basing it on aircraft carrier launches and bases further afield.
It now remains to be seen if the new arrangement with Ankara includes an additional effort on the ground by both the Turks and the Americans to trim Daesh’ sails, and speed up any effort to destroy it. The nominal allegiance of other Islamic terrorist groups from West Africa to Indonesia could take on real strategic significance given Daesh’s brilliant exploiting of the internet. And that may well dictate a U.S. effort to smash the movement quicker than the promise to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL” which the President made 10 months ago. The lack of progress so far certainly suggests Confederate General Nathan B Forrest’s first admonition for war, “get there fustest with the mostest”.
sws-07-24-15

Obama is cool


No, I do not wake up in the morning with that question foremost on my mind. But rarely does a day pass without my putting the question to myself: Why does President Barak Hussein Obama still command the support of half the electorate?
Of course, one immediate response could be that the polls – given that they are largely in the hands of the Liberal Establishment who form the base of his support – may just not be accurate. But they are so consistent, sometimes reflecting a little downward movement in moments of particular crisis, that one pretty much has to accept that is the judgment to half the population which thinks at all politically, that is, that he is doing an adequate job after six years in training.
One might well ask in riposte: Why is it important given that the President is now a lame duck with only two years to go in office and facing Republican majorities in both houses of the Congress? Theoretically, his ability to govern is going to be limited.
The answer is, of course, were his popular following not so large, one might hope that he would be forced into taking a more conciliatory approach to opposition leaders – including some in his own party. That, rather than his confrontational style in full display in the state of the union message – how many times does he have to remind us he has veto power? – is further evidence that legislative progress will be negligible in finding solutions to the nation’s woes [in the narrow sense that is at all possible].
The state of the union message, while delivered with his usual rhetorical brilliance, was a tissue of half truths at best. [On domestic issues and the headlines on foreign crises obfuscation is the least one can use in describing them.] And one has to assume that many if not most of his audience outside the Congress, however apolitical, knows that from personal experience.
For example, his claim of lower unemployment is a statistical anomaly since in fact so many disappointed job seekers have withdrawn from the labor market, that participation has been trending down and is now at only 62.7%. I doubt that most people have to be told of that state of affair, especially the working poor, hit hard not only by the cyclical unemployment – the slowest recovery since World War II – but also by growing structural unemployment brought on the digital revolution.
The President’s claim that the war on terror and the advance of Islamic terrorism – both of which he refuses to name — has been blunted is equally and obviously absurd. He was lucky in that the victory he touted in Yemen only in September was overtured hours after his speech by pro-Iranian forces.
Now, apparently, we have to hope that a tussle between them and their ostensible Sunni opponents, al Qaida of the Arabian Peninsular – also Yemen based – will fight it out in near chaos. [Don’t bet on it! Sunni Hamas, offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood, has nevertheless taken Iranian weapons on the Israeli and Egyptian doorstep.]
It’s no secret to military observers that whether or not the airwar against ISIL [the Islamic State]which has taken over huge tracts of Syria [their headquarters where we do not bomb] and Iraq has been feeble compared to any such campaign historically. [Perhaps the Administration’s decision to now refer to the Islamic Sate as Daesh, its Arabic acronym will help?]
In any case, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a member of NATO, is being forced to admit that reinforcements – including candidates for training for a return to their native countries as “lone wolf” terrorists – are passing through its border with Syria along with logistics for, uh, Daesh. It was only months ago that Obama was in constant communication with Erdoğan as his announced favorite among all foreign leaders.
Almost as the President spoke, Russia’s Vladimir Putin was flaunting additional aid to the rebels trying to tear off another chunk of Ukraine. Russian propaganda aimed at the Russian ethnic populations of the Baltic states hints at a showdown there. As members of NATO, they already face Moscow’s provocations. It could put NATO’s “one for one and all for one” essence on the table as it has not been since.our allies joined us [f hardly enthusiastically] in Afghanistan after 0/11 to root out al Qaida.
Again, the average American voter – however sophisticated – can not be expected to know these details, or indeed, given the current economic situation be intent on studying them. Besides, he reads or listens to a kept media which, by and large, ignores them or muddies the waters as well. [Although one has to note that even Tom Friedman, one of the Administration’s favorites as spokesmen for the always apologetic New York Times got off the reservation, at least temporarily, to criticize the Administration’s continued refusal to associate “Islam” with the terrorists.]
But that would be to deny the common sense of the American audience. The financial records being broken by the Hollywood film, “American Sniper”, despite vicious attacks on it by the usual leftwing and anti-military suspects in Hollywood itself and beyond, suggests that public still has its bearings. A film [I haven’t seen it] which apparently illustrates the horrors of war as much as the bravery and dedication of one soldier as an example of the incredibly overtaxed and professional American military is getting a vote of confidence.
So back to our question? Where does the President’s support come from?
I am afraid I have a hypothesis which suggests some very ugly things about the current American scene, not the least of our self-appointed political, academic and artistic elite.
My old friend, Mike Macht [where are you now, Mike?] had only a half joking hypothesis about the growing chaos and discrepancies of the post-World War II world, especially after the halcyon 1950s. Mike argued that since the Victorian Era, there had been a worldwide deterioration of style. And that explained more than many more dialectical analysis what was going wrong in the world. Hitler, was, indeed, among so many other things, uncouth.
The joke has come back to me as I have watched the chief executive of the United States chewing gum at a meeting of Asian leaders. Or there was – posed? – the photograph of the leg and foot on the hallowed Oval Office desk. Or there was the video of a giggling selfie production at the funeral of Nelson Mandela, a worldwide honored figure.
An absence of style?
Yes, for us old fuddy-duddies, perhaps. But much of this, apparently, is considered not only appropriate but welcomed to a generation of younger Americans who look like they are at the beach when shopping at Walmart’s. Carefully contrived crude “throw away” lines in a prepared speech which ignore the November elections seem to fold into the pattern. And so does conversation – in the rarer and rarer instances when it replaces “texting” – in which “like” or “you know” in every other sentence has replaced articulation of arguments.
The New Oxford Dictionary tells me that the adjective that describes such people and such action is now “cool”. An example? According to the OED: “if people want to freak out at our clubs, that’s cool”.
I suspect that the same people who voted for the first Afro-American president twice, in no small part to assuage their hidden racism or their guilt for living in all-white upper class suburban neighborhoods, are attracted by a president who is, whatever else, “cool”.
sws-01-25-15