Streetwise Professor

December 16, 2015

Barack “The Bourbon” Obama: Learning Nothing, Forgetting Nothing

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — The Professor @ 9:53 am

The linchpin of Obama’s recalibration of his anti-ISIS campaign (for it is little more than that) is the deployment of US special operations forces in direct actions targeted on ISIS leadership. This represents further proof of Obama’s intellectual rigidity, and his utter inability to learn from experience–or to admit error.

For this is exactly what Obama did in Afghanistan starting in 2009:

Each year during the Afghan “surge” that President Barack Obama initiated in 2009, one declassified document shows, the manhunting task force ran many more missions than the year before–about two per night countrywide in August 2009; six per night a year later, when the Norgrove mission went south; and eleven per night a year after that, at the time of the “Extortion 17” tragedy. By 2011, the JSOC task force numbered more than 3,800 personnel — huge in special operations terms, but still just 2.4 percent of the overall U.S.-led force in Afghanistan, as one briefing slide notes.

Accompanying the overall surge was a “Ranger surge” that put more and more platoons of the elite light infantry regiment into the field alongside the SEALs, allowing more targets to be struck. Operators from the Army’s Delta Force were present as well, some of them providing what a JSOC staff officer calls a “very special capability”: the ability to track a moving convoy of cars or trucks by helicopter and raid it on the go, as depicted in the movie “Black Hawk Down” and numerous YouTube videos. The documents describe one joint Delta-Ranger team specializing in this task as an “expeditionary targeting force”—the same term defense secretary Carter used this week to describe the new JSOC raid force deploying to Iraq.


And this has accomplished what, exactly? The Afghanistan hamster wheel spins and spins and spins, regardless of how many SEAL and Ranger raids are mounted, and how many “high value targets” are killed. The main result of these operations–if “successful”–is to provide promotion opportunities for aspiring guerrillas and terrorists. It certainly has not changed things on the ground.

Actually, the operations have accomplished something: getting highly trained and difficult to replace special operators killed and maimed and just worn out. The details of the operations were only discovered because they were included in FOIA’d reports about two raids that went horribly wrong.

But faced with another difficult situation, this time in Syria and Iraq, rather than contemplating soberly the all pain, no gain lessons of the “Expeditionary Targeting Force” model in Afghanistan, Obama goes to it again.

What Talleyrand said of the Bourbons applies with even greater force to Obama: He has learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.

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Russia’s Shambolic Logistics in Syria

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 9:39 am

In responding to Micheal Weiss’s idiotic hyperventilating (but I repeat myself) about Russian intervention in Syria, I quoted the old adage: Amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics.  I noted that logistics severely constrained Russia’s military capacity in Russia. Look no further than this for evidence of how shambolic Russia’s logistics are:

Earlier this year, an old refrigerator ship called the Georgiy Agafonov, built to transport fruit and vegetables for the Soviet Union, was quietly gathering rust in the Ukrainian port of Izmail where the Danube flows into the Black Sea.

Its owners, a Ukrainian state company, assumed it would never sail again. When a Turkish company offered to buy it for $300,000, they watched as the hulk was towed away, presumably for scrap.

Nine months later the ship is back at sea, renamed Kazan-60, reflagged as part of Russia’s naval auxiliary fleet, and repurposed as an unlikely part of Moscow’s biggest military operation outside the old Soviet boundaries since the Cold War.

. . . .

The need for the extra cargo ships arose because Russia’s warships did not by themselves have enough capacity to supply the mission, said Vasily Kashin, senior research fellow at the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.

“Before we had to use amphibious landing ships to carry supplies to Syria. But now they are not sufficient and we are creating a new class of military transports which are part of the navy but in fact are pure cargo ships,” he said.

An icebreaker called the Yauza was also sent to the Mediterranean from the Arctic to beef up Moscow’s logistics. According to publicly available shipping data, it made two trips to Syria in October and November.

Buying old cargo ships gives Moscow more control than contracting out its transport to commercial carriers, said Gerry Northwood, chief operations officer with British maritime security firm MAST.


Russia has utilized some flashy weaponry–such as surface and submarine launched cruise missiles–in its Syria campaign. But this is military Potemkinism, a dazzling facade that distracts from the shabby and creaking structure beneath. Especially now, with rumblings about Turkey closing the Bosporus to Russia, those freaking out about Russia’s involvement in Syria need to look beneath the facade, and understand how the realities of logistics, which have doomed far more campaigns than anything that has transpired on battlefields, fundamentally limit what Russia can even hope to achieve.


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December 5, 2015

Can You Shave an Islamist’s Beard With Occam’s Razor?

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — The Professor @ 12:10 pm

Not if the barber is Barack Obama. Two days after it was blindingly obvious that the atrocity of San Bernardino was a terrorist attack carried out by Islamists, Obama clung to the possibility that this was workplace violence (yeah, of the Nidal Hasan variety). He also grudgingly admitted that it was possibly terrorism, but even then he would not speak its name. Rather than name the specific ideology that inspired this brutal act, Obama retreated to his usual circumlocution of “people succumbing to violent extremist ideologies.” Then he descended into the vapidity of calling for more gun control: after all, no crisis should go to waste, right?

Truth be told: gun control will do nothing to impede people like Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, who broke numerous state and federal firearms and explosives laws, and who engaged in an attack that they knew would certainly result in their deaths. Such people (and I use that term loosely) are extremely infra marginal demanders of firearms and bombs. The increase in the cost of obtaining these instruments of mass mayhem caused by any even remotely plausible gun laws would still put that cost below their very high willingness to pay, and if they are not deterred by the prospect of violent death, the punishment for violating gun laws is clearly not going to deter them either.

Although Obama has seen fit to lecture us in the aftermath of Charleston, Sandy Hook, Ferguson, and even Louis Gates, for Christ’s sake, his statements in the aftermath of San Bernardino were limited primarily to his weekly radio address, recorded before he went to party down at the White House holiday party, with, among others, BLM luminary Deray McKesson. Priorities, you know.

One of the obvious early tells of the Islamist nature of the attack was that mere hours after Farook had been identified, his family members were participating in a press conference with Muslim Brotherhood front organization CAIR. Another tell came yesterday, when the Farook family’s scumbag lawyers gave a press conference that can be summarized as: “Who is the real victim here?” Hint: Farook, Malik and Muslims generally. After all, somebody teased Farook about his beard, and that might have set him off.

The administration picked up the victimhood narrative, with Attorney General Lynch saying that  her “greatest fear” is the “incredibly disturbing rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric” and promising to prosecute speech that “edges towards violence” (whatever the hell that means). So, along with trashing the Second Amendment, the administration has its sights set on the First. No doubt the 5th can be jettisoned too, if guns or politically incorrect speech are involved.

No doubt the administration’s denial of reality and its attempt to suppress speech has many causes. For one, San Bernardino totally contradicts the administration’s narrative on terrorism. For another, it creates serious problems for the administration’s plans to bring in large numbers of Syrian refugees. Within a few hours of her being named, Tafsheen Malik’s numerous family connections to Islamists in her home country of Pakistan and her adopted country of Saudi Arabia were documented. Pakistani intelligence said that the family had well known extremist connections: Now they tell us. Her father was an extremely conservative and rabidly anti-Shia immigrant to Saudi Arabia.

Yet the State Department and the immigration authorities failed to uncover these facts in their investigations of potential terrorism connections before granting her a fiancee visa. So yes, we can’t vet someone who has lived in countries with functioning governments that are (allegedly) our allies, but we can evaluate the risk of tens of thousands of people coming from a country embroiled in a  civil war, for whom it will be impossible to obtain any documentation whatsoever. And so much for the women pose no risk thing.

With Obama’s obduracy, we can expect more of the same. The demonization of domestic opposition, and the turning of a blind eye to real enemies within and without.

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November 29, 2015

Erdogan Actually Does What Putin’s Enemies Implausibly Accuse Him of Doing: Exploiting the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 7:56 pm

One theme pushed very hard by Putin oppositions, including people like Garry Kasparov and numerous Ukrainian bloggers and tweeters, is that Putin is deliberately creating the refugee crisis in the EU. There is no doubt that he is benefitting, but there is no evidence that he is doing anything to create it. He gets it without having to lift a finger.

The refugee crisis is indeed creating huge political stresses in the EU that are benefiting rightist opposition parties (e.g., the National Front in France) that are sympathetic to (and in some cases, partially funded by) Russia. This redounds to Putin’s benefit, but he didn’t create the problem. The problem is largely due to the Syrian civil war, but not completely: only about one-half of the migrants swarming into Europe are Syrian. The other major contributor is European policy, notably Merkel’s grandiose humanitarian gesture, which served to open the flood gates.

No doubt Putin is pleased, but I cannot identify anything that he has done, that he wouldn’t have done anyways: for him, the refugee fallout is a happy unintended consequence. He has been all in for the Syrian government from the get go, and has supported its ruthless campaign. This has contributed to the refugee flow, but Putin would have done the same regardless.

One country that has definitely leveraged the refugee issue to its advantage is Turkey. Today, with great fanfare, Turkey and the EU announced a grand bargain whereby the EU would pay Turkey €3 billion, grant it visa free travel, and reopen Turkish accession talks. The €3 billion is to be used to improve conditions for Syrian refugees in Turkey. In return, Turkey will slow the flow of refugees to Europe.

In other words, Erdogan successfully blackmailed Europe. Unlike Putin, Erdogan can exercise considerable control over the flow of Syrians to Europe. He has basically exercised no control heretofore, and Europe has been overwhelmed. They have now agreed to pay Turkey to keep them, and also given Turkey other very important concessions to make it worth Erdo’s while.

This is bad news for Putin. Putin has been trying to leverage his role in Syria to get concessions from Europe on other issues, but as I have written before, he really doesn’t have that much leverage. Erdogan has leverage, and has just demonstrated that he can and will use it. He can also use it to make the Europeans think twice about making any concessions to Putin that would compromise Turkish interests in Syria. And since Turkish interests and Russian interests are close to zero sum there, this means that he wins, and Putin loses when he uses that leverage. Erdogan has therefore proved to Putin who has the whip hand in dealing with the Euroweenies.

When it comes to Syria, Erdogan’s policy is deeply problematic, to put it mildly. His policy towards ISIS can most charitably be described as ambivalent. He is certainly not an ardent foe, and is arguably an enabler–or worse. He is far more interested in crushing the Kurds, who happen to be the most reliable anti-ISIS force in the region. In that respect, Erdogan is objectively pro-ISIS. There is a colorable case that he is subjectively pro-ISIS as well. Furthermore, Turkey has been the main supporter of the Islamist forces–including al Qaeda-forces–fighting Assad. Once upon a time, supporting groups like this would have earned a star turn in the Axis of Evil.

Domestically, Erdogan is doing his best Putin imitation of crushing domestic opposition, including the arrest of journalists. Some antigovernment figures have been murdered (e.g., the Kurdish lawyer killed over the weekend), another similarity to Russia.

Thus, there is little to choose from between Erdogan and Putin in Syria. Indeed, as bad as Assad is, the Islamists fighting him are worse, so the nod goes to Putin here.

Unfortunately, the Kasparovs and Ukrainians who are so obsessed with Putin are completely in the grips of the enemy-of-my-enemy mindset that they are going all in for Erdogan and the Islamists for Syria. They are fighting Putin, so they must be great, right?

Wrong. They are dangerous and despicable, and Erdogan does a pretty good Putin doppelgänger impression.

It is possible to oppose Putin and Russia in Ukraine and elsewhere in Europe, without embracing his enemies in Syria. It is not only possible, it is necessary. Putin’s actions in Ukraine challenge the entire post-War order in Europe, and are deeply destabilizing. Indeed, they deeply challenge the Westphalian system that Putin and Russia claim to defend in Syria, Libya, the Balkans, and elsewhere, and constantly lecture the world about in the UN and elsewhere. So those actions should be opposed, and Europe and Nato in particular have to raise their games.

But that issue is completely separable from what is going on in Syria. And those whose hatred of Putin leads them to whitewash (and worse) Erdogan and the murderous Islamist anti-Assad forces in Syria are wrong as a matter of policy. This also deeply compromises their moral authority and undercuts their opposition to Putin in Russia and Ukraine.

Enemy-of-my-enemy logic almost always leads to a dead end, or worse. It prevents critical thinking, the ability to discriminate between threats, and between degrees of evil. All of that is particularly true in Syria, because siding with Putin’s enemies means siding with murderous Islamists, and a megalomaniacal would be emperor who is actually doing what Putin is only accused (rather implausibly) of doing: exploiting the refugee crisis in Syria in order to obtain political benefits from Europe.


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November 25, 2015

Let’s You and Him Fight

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 11:28 am

There should be no shock or surprise at Turkey’s destruction of a Russian Su-24. Russia and Turkey have been in a state of undeclared war for a long time. Turkey has long supported rebels, most notably Islamist rebels, fighting to topple Assad. Russia intervened to prop up a tottering Assad, and has directed the bulk of its operations against the rebels Turkey supports. Many of these airstrikes have occurred close to the border, and are directed specifically at rebel ratlines running back into Turkey and at the front lines of the fighters Turkey supports.

This has made Erdogan furious. The shootdown was, as Lavrov said, clearly deliberate. Just as Putin’s intervention was a clear signal that Assad was losing, this incident is a clear signal that Erdogan believes that his forces are now losing. This is his way of hitting back and trying to get Putin to back off.

Russia says that it is striking ISIS. This is largely, though not completely, a lie. But Russia is striking Islamists. Today Putin pointedly criticized Erdogan, saying that he is Islamizing Turkey. Putin is correct.

To see the kind of people Erdogan is supporting, consider the fact that the rebels shot at the Russian air crew as they were parachuting after bailing out, killing one of them. They then gloated over the corpse.

All of this makes it beyond strange that so many on the right in the US are apoplectic about Russian intervention in Syria, and that this apoplexy has only intensified with the destruction of the Su-24. Senator Tom Cotton (and others) claim that we are in a proxy war in Syria, and that Russia has intervened against our “allies” in this war.

Why are we in a proxy war? What compelling US interests exist in Syria? And why are we allying ourselves with Salafists who are just branded affiliates of either Al Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood, and who are striving to kill us everywhere else in the world? If “our side” “wins”, what do we get? A Salafist stronghold and safe haven from which to attack us? If “our side” “loses”, what does it cost us? We’ve lived with the Assads  for almost 50 years. They are not going to be much of a threat to anyone, given the wreck the country has become (not that it was ever anything but a typically shambolic Arab dictatorship).

People like Cotton also speak in concerned tones about Turkey as a Nato ally under threat from Russia. This should be turned on its head: we need to reconsider quite seriously whether an Islamist country that provides material support to Islamist groups (including Hamas), and which is led by an increasingly erratic autocrat, is a suitable member of Nato.

This is particularly true given that Erdogan does not have clean hands, by any means, in the fight against ISIS. Erdogan has unleashed his air force against the Kurds, but not against ISIS. ISIS supply lines stretch into Turkey. ISIS members use Turkey as a safe area and a transit zone (including to Europe). He fought mightily to deny aid to the Kurds in Kobani when they were fighting for their lives. Furthermore, there is considerable reason to believe that Erdogan’s family facilitates the sale of ISIS oil. (This last detail raises questions about the US forbearance in attacking ISIS oil convoys, despite the fact that oil revenues are vital to ISIS’s financing. We have given excuses like protecting innocent truck drivers’ lives, or even “environmental concerns“, FFS, to explain the lack of attacks on the oil rat line. The Erdogan connection quite plausibly is a more important reason.)

The main issue for the United States is that this greatly complicates the US air campaign against ISIS, especially in Syria. In response to the downing of its jet, Russia has announced that it is deploying long range S-400 surface-to-air missiles to Syria to protect its aircraft. (Russia denied earlier reports that it had already deployed the missiles. There was some photographic evidence–of the distinctive radars–that they had, so perhaps they are using this as an excuse to announce something they had done before but denied.) Russia does not want to shoot down US planes, but accidents will happen, and the greater the envelope of the missiles, the more scope for accidents, especially given that US aircraft are operating out of Turkish bases.

There are reasons to be concerned about Putin and Russia. But Syria is not among them. Better to devote our efforts to proving a bulwark and deterrent against Putin where it matters to us, than tangling with him in a place where it doesn’t. As I’ve said, if anything, it’s better to have him stuck in Syria than running amok in eastern Europe.

There’s an old joke about “let’s you and him fight.” That seems about right here. Let Putin and Erdogan fight, if that’s what they want. We should want no part of it.

Further thoughts: There has been much blather post-Sharm al Sheik and post-Paris about a “grand alliance” between Russia and the West to fight ISIS. This was always a chimerical hope. First, Russia’s priority has never been ISIS, and even though it did intensify strikes on ISIS post-Metrojet, its efforts were still focused on the non-ISIS groups fighting Assad.

Second, what was the basis for  a bargain? What really can Russia contribute to an anti-ISIS campaign that the US (aided by France and maybe the UK) could not do without its help? The lame Western effort has not been due to lack of capability: it has been due to a lack of will. And if Russia rally desires to strike ISIS (because is it is allegedly in its own interest), why would the West feel obliged to offer it any inducement?  In particular, why would they offer what Putin really wants (concession on Assad, and in particular, elimination of sanctions and a free hand in Ukraine) when Putin really can’t offer anything material in return, especially since these concessions would be humiliating for Obama and the Europeans, and completely undermine Western credibility?

Third, differences over Assad’s fate appear reconcilable. The West–including Hollande, who has been most insistent (and pathetic) importuning Russia for help–has continued its insistence that Assad must go. Russia has been most insistent that he must stay. That gap cannot be bridged.

The downing of the Su-24 and the subsequent escalation (Putin has intensified the bombing of the groups Turkey supports, including the Turkmen) make any deal even less likely. This would involve throwing a Nato member over the side, and although Nato should be looking for ways to reduce commitments to Turkey, to do so under the current circumstances would be disastrous to the alliance, and would likely goad Erdogan (who doesn’t need much goading) into taking more provocative actions in Syria, and against Europe and the US. (For instance, if Europe thinks it is overwhelmed by refugees now, just think of what could happen if Erdogan put his mind to pushing Syrians into Europe.)

This may well be part of Erdogan’s thinking. If his action makes an already unlikely deal impossible, he wins.

Hollande is in Moscow today, looking awkward as Putin blasts Turkey. Putin also blamed the US for providing the intelligence about the aircraft that the Turkish F16s shot down. Especially with accusations like that, there is no way that there is going to be any deal. There may be words and promises, but nothing of substance, and Putin will certainly not be able to leverage the situation to his advantage.

If anything, he is in a weak position. Most of the non-military retaliatory actions he can take (e.g., cutting off food imports from Turkey, and shutting down tourism) are very damaging to an already economically isolated Russia. Cutting off gas sales would hurt Turkey, but at a large cost to Russia and Gazprom, which is already in bad shape. (The cancellation of Turkish Stream would be a potential benefit, as it would prevent Gazprom from wasting $10 billion.)

Militarily, Putin can intensify action against Turkish creatures in Syria, but Turkey can respond by escalating against the Syrian regime. What’s more, Turkey has a trump card: control of the Bosporus and Dardanelles. In the event of conflict between Russia and Turkey, Erdogan could close the Straits and leave Russian forces in Syria high and dry. Putin’s only escalatory option after that would be the unthinkable one.

In sum, I didn’t see much possibility for Putin to leverage Paris into a deal that would give him sanction relief or Western acquiescence on Assad before, and see even less now. Moreover, Putin’s position in the struggle with Turkey is relatively weak. In particular, he does not possess escalation dominance. Within the range of the thinkable, Erdogan does.

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November 19, 2015

Steve Martin & The Underwear Gnomes Are Apparently Hillary’s Military Advisors

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 7:51 pm

Taking time out from attempting to silence comics who mock her, Hillary Clinton gave a speech setting out her grand strategy for combatting ISIS:

Our strategy should have three main elements. One, defeat ISIS in Syria, Iraq and across the Middle East; two, disrupt and dismantle the growing terrorist infrastructure that facilitates the flow of fighters, financing arms and propaganda around the world; three, harden our defenses and those of our allies against external and homegrown threats.

The first one in particular is a real eye-roller. We will defeat ISIS by defeating ISIS. It brings to mind the old Steve Martin bit:

You.. can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes!  You can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes! You say.. “Steve.. how can I be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes?” First.. get a million dollars.

Or the South Park Underwear Gnomes:

Plan for defeating ISIS:

  1. Fight ISIS.
  2. ????

This is Hillary trying to sound all tough and butch, but uttering vacuities.

Not that Republicans are much better. Marco Rubio said: “When I am president, I will tell my commanders that the mission is the total destruction of ISIL and will send them the forces necessary to succeed.” Even if those forces total 50,000? 100,000? 150,000? And what about dealing with the aftermath?

Then there is Trump (who publicly self-identifies as a Republican, though I think his equipment is about as genuine as Kaitlyn Jenner’s), who says, simply, “I will bomb the shit out of them.”

The fact is, there are no good options right now. By 2009, the predecessor of ISIS had been ground down to what Rumsfeld had prematurely declared in 2004: a few dead enders. CIA Director John Brennan (ugh) recently admitted that ISIS was down to “700 or so adherents.” Now it numbers in the tens of thousands, and like Xerxes’s immortals, replaces those killed with a stream of new recruits.

By declaring victory and getting out of Iraq, Obama snatched defeat from the jaws of a hard won victory, and let a dying threat return to life far stronger than before, like an infection after the premature termination of an antibiotic regimen. When ISIS was running amok in May-June, 2014, Obama declined to attack them when they were vulnerable and in the open. Now they are dug in deep in Mosul and Ramadi and Raqqa, and it is beyond the capability of the Iraqi Army, or whatever ragtag force can be assembled in Syria, to root them out.

And despite ISIS’s clearly demonstrated ability to strike outside its core areas, it is dubious in the extreme to argue that the cost of rooting them out of these core areas, and keeping them or some successor Islamic freakazoid group out, is worth it.

The French are bombing. The Russians are bombing. We are bombing more. It will have little effect if not joined with a robust ground force. A robust ground force would entail large casualties. And to what end? To win Syria? Let Putin have it.

All of the major candidates feel obliged to sound tough on ISIS, but shrink from doing what would really be required to destroy it. So they essentially advocate doing what Obama is doing, only a little bit more. This is futile, and ultimately deceptive (and likely self-deceptive).

The reality is that the situation is pretty much irretrievable. We have to look at building firewalls. That will be hard for the US to do, but achievable. For Europe, it will be much harder, because their cities are infested with nests of Islamic radicals, and they are hell bent on admitting more.

In a sick twist on Casablanca, we’ll always have Paris. Sadly, it will be Paris, circa 13 November, 2015.

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November 15, 2015

Terrorist Fish Swimming in a Refugee Tide

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — The Professor @ 10:43 pm

One of the most revealing, and bizarre, aspects of the Paris aftermath is the frenzied attempt to explain away the reports that a Syrian passport had been found near the pieces of one of the suicide bombers. This would raise the possibility that terrorists were infiltrating Europe under the cover of the flood of refugees. This would pose a serious challenge to those invested in the grandiose humanitarian gesture of opening Europe’s borders.

The straw that most of the rationalizers grasped was that the passport was evidently forged, and not well.

How this somehow undercuts the possibility that a terrorist made his way from Syria is beyond me. All that matters is whether the passport was used to secure entry into Europe. And apparently it was. Greek officials verify that the passport was so used. Indeed, the Greeks now report that it is likely that a second attacker passed through Greece.

If a terrorist used a (bad) forgery to obtain entry to Europe, that would make things worse, not better. It would mean that European borders can be breached by amateur counterfeiters.

One of the most risible attempts to deny the possibility that a Syrian cell infiltrated Paris was made by the appalling Anne Applebaum. Applebaum argues-in all seriousness, apparently-that terrorists couldn’t have come from outside, because they knew Paris too well.

Um, it’s known that hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of French Muslims have traveled to Syria, many to fight with the Islamic State. Many of these would be from Paris, and know the city quite well, thank you. Francophone fighters familiar with Paris trained in the heart of darkness of Syria would be the perfect perpetrators of mass terror in the City of Light.

And how the hell were they supposed to get back to France? Flying Air France on their French passports (likely known to French authorities)? No, obviously. But submerging themselves in the tide of migrants and traveling on false documents would be the perfect way to move from Syria to France.

What’s more, having a core team move from Syria would reduce the amount of communication needed to carry out the operation. All the planning could be done in the security of Raqqa, and those coming from Syria could confer face-to-face with their collaborators in France once they arrived. Much reduced need to send orders or plans over communication channels that could be monitored by the DGSE or NSA or GCHQ.

There have been warnings for months about the risks posed by returning jihadis. Those risks have apparently been realized, and it is just disgusting that those invested with accommodating the refugee flood refuse to accept that reality, because their unicorn dreams are so much more important.

This is not to say that all of the attackers came from abroad. Several were apparently French and Belgian. The irony that the Arab neighborhoods of Brussels are out of control of the authorities is too rich (though sick). As if on cue, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said (presumably between drinks), that EU immigration policy would not change as a result of Paris.

So Brussels, the capital of the nanny superstate that claims competence over the most minute aspects of human existence is incapable of performing the most basic function of a state: securing the physical security of its residents. And it is unwilling to admit its failures, and indeed, is committed to compounding them.

Merkel is doubling down too, despite a swelling rebellion in her own party, and Germany at large. Yet another example of the complete disconnect between the European “elites” and the hoi polloi they deign to rule.

Yes. There is a humanitarian catastrophe in Syria. But there are well known ways of addressing it that do not involve throwing open Europe to all comers, terrorists included. Refugee camps could be expanded in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. They could be funded much more liberally.

And here’s a wild idea. Why not force the Gulf state oil ticks, the Saudis, Emiratis, Kuwaitis, and Qataris, to (a) pay to support refugees, and (b) actually take in refugees, something they have adamantly refused to do?

They are pouring money into Syria to arm fighters. They should spend even more money to deal with the fallout of their actions.

And it is not just Europe that is willing to take on huge numbers of refugees. The US is as well. Speaking through the appalling incompetent throne-sniffer and toady Ben Rhodes, the administration says it is not reconsidering plans to admit 10,000 refugees from Syria.

“We have very robust vetting procedures for those refugees. It involves our intelligence community, our national counter-terrorism center, extensive interviews, vetting them against all information.”

“What we need to be able to do, frankly, is sort out that foreign fighter flow, those who have gone into Syria and come out and want to launch attacks or those who have connections with ISIL in Syria,” Rhodes said. “We need to be able to have the intelligence base to identify and target those people.”

Why should we have the slightest confidence that the US government will have the ability to do this? It only takes a few errors by the magical intelligence sorting hat to create a Paris-like disaster here in the US.

Europe (and the US) can deal with the way things are, or the way they wish they could be. Grasping at straws about forged passports would mean they are doing the latter. Keep that up, and there will be many more Parises to come.




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Reaping What Obama & Europe Have Sown: The Price of Military Idiocy and Political Fantasies

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — The Professor @ 2:52 pm

The Paris attack is obviously dominating the news. It has been claimed by ISIS and the French have formally blamed ISIS.

It of course cannot be determined definitively whether the desultory US campaign against ISIS contributed to the onslaught (to which must be added the downing of the Russian jet, in all likelihood), but it cannot have helped. The first principle of war is The Offensive. Maintain the initiative. Dictate to your enemy, not the other way around.

But for some reason that altogether escapes me, this administration and the Pentagon think it is a virtue to forego the initiative, and implement a “slow burn” strategy. Slowness–a cardinal military sin, according to Napoleon (“The reason I beat the Austrians is, they did not known the value of five minutes”), is somehow part of the Obama plan:

Administration officials described the battlefield additions as incremental boosts to a strategy that remains focused on slowly degrading the Islamic State in its heartland and continuing the slow process of building up local forces that can ultimately defeat the group.

Slowly twice in one paragraph. Incremental. ISIS has seized the initiative. The consequences are predictable.

That is a military abomination.

But let the boss speak for himself. Mere hours before the Paris attack, Obama said that the campaign is working, and that ISIS is contained:

President Barack Obama said that the U.S. strategy against ISIS has “contained them,” but not yet succeeded in its effort to “decapitate” ISIS leadership.

This is his idiocy in a nutshell. Containment has obviously not worked. They have broken out from their sanctuaries in Iraq and Syria to Egypt and Libya and to the heart of Europe.

Further, note the focus on “decapitation.” This is his measure of success.

Decapitation of the ISIS leadership is not a sufficient condition for its defeat. It is also unlikely to be a necessary one. Leaders can be replaced. Decapitation can be part of an operational plan if  an attack takes advantage of the disruption of leadership. But just killing one guy, then killing his replacement, then killing his replacement, accomplishes squat.

Truth be told, our options were highly limited once ISIS rolled into cities. During May-June 2014, they were vulnerable, but Obama, dismissing them as the JV with no extra-regional ambitions, stayed our air power.

Now, since a major ground commitment is not a realistic or desirable option, only an intensified air campaign that will result in substantially more civilian casualties, combined with Kurdish forces, is the only real option to expedite the process of the war. And even that will be unlikely to wrest the initiative away from ISIS.

The West is reaping what it–and most importantly, Obama–have sown.

The Europeans are also confronted with a consequence that many warned against: the possibility that a few terrorist fish would swim in with the sea of refugees. Initial reports imply those fears were realized. But many Europeans are so invested in the refugee narrative that they are unwilling to admit that opening the borders was an insane idea. They cling to the fantasy that humanitarian good motives produce desirable results.

And so they too are reaping what they have sown.



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October 30, 2015

Obama Gets a Little Bit Pregnant in Syria

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 11:02 am

The administration is leaking that small numbers (“fewer than 50”) of special operations personnel will operate alongside local forces in Syria.

The military idiocy of Obama is getting just to much to bear. The small numbers is being touted as a virtue, when in fact they illustrate the military futility of this effort. Not enough to accomplish anything, but more than enough to get killed and maimed.

Why the continued use of special operations troops, who have been through the grinder for 14 years straight, in militarily futile operations?

And why in such small numbers? Because it would be bad optics that US soldiers would outnumber those we are “training and assisting?” (This is the case in Iraq, by the way.)

Obama is neuralgic to the idea of intervening in numbers sufficient to be decisive, and I actually agree with this. But he doesn’t want to be seen as doing nothing, so we get these half-assed penny packet interventions that risk our best soldiers and sailors for no purpose.

Special operations are complementary to main force operations. They are a force multiplier. If there is no main force to multiply (and no, some dodgy local insurgents don’t count as a real main force), the entire exercise is pointless.

I also suspect that this is actually announcing as a future plan something that is going on at present. I further suspect that the death of Sergeant Wheeler in Iraq, and the skepticism with which the official story of his death was met, has forced the administration to make this announcement.

I was going to write a longer post on this issue, but I looked back at what I wrote in May, and everything I said then applies now, particularly the closing paragraph:

Obama is categorically opposed to using conventional forces in Iraq and Syria, but feels that he has to do something, and drones and special forces raids are something, even if they accomplish little or nothing of strategic importance. It is pointless to rely  on these instruments of national power, which are only truly useful if joined up with other elements of that power, as the backbone of a campaign against Isis. If there is a more telling testament to the strategic vacuity of Obama’s “slow burn” campaign than the daring raid in Syria, I would be hard pressed to name it. So much professional expertise and courage put at grave risk to achieve a glittering tactical victory that will have no effect on the ultimate outcome in Syria and Iraq. One cannot win wars by special operations alone, and it borders on the criminal even to try.

Actually,  I would change one thing. It doesn’t border on the criminal. It crosses the line.

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October 28, 2015

Could Be Dedovshchina in Syria: Definitely Mendacity in the US

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 10:41 am

Russia has acknowledged the first fatality in the force it has deployed to Syria. The Russians claim the 19 year old soldier committed suicide. The family is having none of it, and one anonymous source told Novaya Gazeta the body had a broken jaw, a smashed skull, and a broken neck. Given the curtain Russia draws over military deaths (including those that occur in Russia where it is not necessary to maintain fictions about involvement, or not, in combat) it is likely that we will never know for sure. Indeed, the family may never know.

But if the Novaya Gazeta report is correct, it sounds like dedovshchina, which would be all too believable. The abuse-often resulting in death-of young soldiers is just one of the dysfunctions that afflict the Russian military.

The Russians are not alone in drawing a curtain over the deaths and maiming of its military personnel. The United States is doing so as well, all to maintain a fiction that the US has no combat presence in Iraq, a fiction that is maintained purely to allow Obama to continue to insist that he ended the war in Iraq (or at least, the US involvement therein). First, the story about the circumstances of the death of the truly remarkable Delta Force soldier (11 Bronze Stars, 4 with the valor device!) in the raid on the ISIS prison in Iraq are being challenged:

Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler died leading his Delta Force team on the primary assault into an Islamic State compound in Iraq — a stark contrast from the Pentagon’s account that American commandos were there only to support Kurdish forces during the rescue mission, according to a U.S. military source.

The body of the 39-year-old native of Roland, Oklahoma, was flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Saturday as more details began to emerge of the Oct. 22 night raid on a prison run by militants affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

Video footage, released by the Kurdistan Regional Government, shows American and Kurdish forces freeing 70 hostages that were held by ISIS militants near the town of Hawija, about 30 miles south of Kurdish-controlled Kirkuk. In a news report, a Pentagon official confirmed its authenticity to CNN.

Wheeler was the first U.S. combat fatality of the campaign against ISIS, but U.S. officials maintain that his death was not the result of a direct combat role.

Second, the military is refusing to release any information about the circumstances surrounding the wounding of 5 personnel:

Five other service members have been “wounded in action” since the U.S. first sent troops back into Iraq last year, according to statistics from the Pentagon and interviews with officials in Iraq (PDF). But how and when they were injured, the Pentagon refuses to say.

As the Obama administration holds to the increasingly dubious claim that U.S. troops are not engaged in combat against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the Pentagon is withholding details about its wounded that would give key insights into the kind of fight American troops are facing in Iraq. Were any of the five shot by the Iraqi forces they are training? Did a mortar round shot at their base injure a soldier? Has ISIS wounded a U.S. service member?

It is a sad day when the US military channels Russian duplicity about casualties, all to protect the amore propre of Barack Obama. Recent news about creeping escalation by the US in Iraq and Syria also reeks of deception. More on that later.

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