American Foreign Policy
More from Strategy Page on the situation in Iraq and how it relates to the winding down of the revolt in Syria:
Currently ISIL is trying to gain complete control over eastern Syria and western Iraq. That is proving difficult because of continued resistance in Syria by government forces and Kurds as well as some rival Islamic terrorist groups (mainly al Nusra). In Iraq the Shia controlled government sent so many of their best units to Anbar that the security forces in Mosul collapsed and handed ISIL an unexpected victory. That appears to be backfiring because now the Shia government of Iraq has given in to years of Kurd demands that the autonomous Kurds of northern Iraq be allowed to take control of Mosul and Kirkuk and nearby oil fields. At this point the Iraqi government doesn’t have much choice. The Kurds will have to fight hard for Mosul and Kirkuk, but the Kurdish army (the Peshmerga) have been defeating Sunni Islamic terrorists for a long time. In this fight, the ISIL is the underdog. ISIL can afford to give up Mosul and Kirkuk because these are not historically Bedouin lands but rather Kurdish. The Kurds will be fighting harder for them. Ultimately ISIL wants to control their own homeland to the south. Once that is done ISIL believes their Holy Warriors can gain control of all of Syria and Iraq and then the world. This has never worked, in large part because of the extreme brutality these Holy Warriors use against their opponents. ISIL has been deliberately murdering Shia, Christian and Kurdish civilians in an effort to terrorize their groups into surrender. That is not working and rarely has in the last few centuries. All these groups have powerful foreign allies who work hard to help their kinsmen fight back.
Despite these problems ISIL is real and dangerous. There’s a reason for that. Islamic terrorists have long been depicted in Arab culture as noble and pure warriors fighting to protect Islam. This is partly religion and partly culture but the reality is no Islamic radicals have ever managed to do any permanent good for the Moslem world. This truth gets realized and accepted eventually and then forgotten again. For example after the 2008 defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq, and the 90 percent decline in al Qaeda attacks there it was believed that Islamic terrorism was on the ropes once more and many Arabs were visibly relieved. But the Arab Spring changed all that. Terrorist attacks worldwide, most of them by Moslem religious radicals, more than doubled from 7,200 in 2009 to 18,500 in 2013.
There have been many outbreaks of Islamic terrorism in the past but his time around the chief cause was state sponsored Islamic terrorism by Pakistan and a recent boost by the Arab Spring uprisings and continued financial support by wealthy Arabs in the Persian Gulf and fanatic young men throughout Arabia. The Pakistani policy of covertly supporting and encouraging Islamic terrorist groups began in the late 1970s and after September 11, 2001 there Islamic terrorists were increasingly out of Pakistani control. Thus Pakistan found itself in the position of continuing to support Islamic terrorists who attacked India and Afghanistan while fighting a growing number of disaffected terrorist groups at home that had declared war on Pakistan. The result was a huge spike in Islamic terrorist violence. For the Arab Spring countries it meant prolonged unrest and more Islamic terrorist deaths. Worse, it isn’t over, especially in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Algeria. Over 200,000 have died so far in the Arab Spring countries, and millions more wounded, imprisoned or driven from their homes. Continue reading
The internet has exploded with stories of the ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) taking Mosul in Iraq. Most of the stories do not do justice to understanding the forces currently at work in Iraq. One of my favorite websites Strategy Page is very helpful for those wishing to comprehend who the players in Iraq are currently, and their strengths and weaknesses:
June 11, 2014: In the north ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) have driven the security forces out of most of Mosul, the third largest city in Iraq. This is going to get interesting because the Kurds believe Mosul is theirs and have the military force capable of taking and holding it. What has stopped them thus far has been the Iraqi attitude that such a move would be an act of war. Mosul and Kirkuk have oil and until the 1980s were mainly Kurdish. Then Saddam began forcing Kurds further north and giving their homes, land and jobs to poor Sunni Arab families from the south. After 2003 the Kurds came back to reclaim the property Saddam had taken from them. The Sunni Arabs resisted, and continue to resist. The claims of all the Kurdish refugees have never been completely settled and the Kurdish government of the autonomous (since the 1990s when British and American warplanes and commandos aided Kurdish rebels in expelling Saddam’s troops and keeping them out) north threaten to take back Mosul and Kirkuk (and the surrounding oil fields) by force. This would trigger a civil war with the Arabs which would probably end in a bloody stalemate. The Kurds support the Kurdish militias in Mosul who keep Sunni Arab terrorist groups like ISIL at bay and since the Americans left in 2011 the two cities remained the scene of constant ethnic (the Kurds are not Arabs) warfare.
Through all this the well-armed and organized Kurdish army in the north stayed on their side of the provincial border while the Sunni Arab Islamic terrorists fought the Shia dominated army and police force. In the last year Shia soldiers and police were joined by Shia terrorists and vigilantes carrying out “payback” attacks on Sunni mosques and civilians. This motivated the ISIL to put more armed men into the city and strive for a takeover. The radicals in the Sunni Arab community welcome more violence because they believed that if enough Sunni Arabs were killed by the Shia the Sunni governments in neighboring countries (especially Saudi Arabia and, once the Sunni rebels win, Syria) would intervene and restore the Iraqi Sunni Arabs to power. Most Iraqi Sunni Arabs understand that this would never work, but speaking up against the radicals (including ISIL, which has always been a Sunni supremacist outfit) can get you killed. Despite that threat many Iraqi Sunni Arabs do fight the radicals, but that’s a war they seem to be losing as the Shia are coming to believe that all Sunni Arabs are their enemy and all should be treated roughly. One thing most Sunni Arabs can agree on is the need to be united in dealing with the Shia dominated government. The growing violence led to calls for an autonomous Sunni Arab government in Anbar (the province that comprises most of western Iraq) and that is what ISIL is fighting for now. Mosul is the capital of Nineveh province which is adjacent and to the north of Anbar and has a 500 kilometer border with Syria. Taking control of Mosul gives ISIL another victory and even if it does not last it helps with recruiting and fund raising. ISIL is competing with al Qaeda for recognition as the most effective Islamic terrorist group in the world. Whoever holds that position gets most of the cash donations from the many wealthy Gulf Arabs who support Islamic terrorism and that means ISIL would also get most of the young Sunni men from the Gulf States looking to jihad a bit. ISIL has also made Iraq and Syria the main battleground for the continuation of the ancient battle between Shia and Sunni militants. Saudi Arabia leads the Sunni bloc and Iran the Shia. Overall, the Shia are winning in Syria and that is partly because ISIL has concentrated most of its manpower in eastern Syria and western Iraq in an effort to establish a Sunni Islamic State. Continue reading
Since 2008 I have often suspected that the Obama administration is one huge, unfunny, practical joke. That is certainly the only rational explanation for the reaction of the Obama administration to the ongoing slicing and dicing of Ukraine by Mother Russia under the leadership of Vladimir “Fearless Leader” Putin. James Taranto at The Wall Street Journal gives us the details:
Here’s a case in point. On March 13, a week or so after that interview was published, Samantha Power, America’s ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted about Moscow’s intervention in Crimea: “I missed the day at law school where self-determination was defined as #Russia-determination. Russia must halt its military action.” Two days later, she added: “Russia can veto a Security Council resolution, but it can’t veto the truth.”
It would appear the State Department is seeking to maintain the balance of power through a strategy of mutually assured derision.
One problem with using sarcasm as a weapon is that its proliferation is uncontrollable and widespread. Even the Canadians have it. In a column for the Toronto Sun, Ezra Levant mocked “the ironically named Ambassador Power.”
Another problem, as Levant suggested, is that the Russians appear to be better at mockery than their American counterparts. After a phone conversation between Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, Levant wrote, “the Kremlin release[d] this note: ‘Mr. Obama congratulated Mr. Putin on the success of the Paralympic Games and asked Mr. Putin to pass on his greetings to the athletes.’ . . . At least Samantha Power stomped her feet and wrote a mean Twitter tweet. But Obama personally congratulated Putin, during a phone call about a war?”
Wait, it gets worse. Some of Foggy Bottom’s tweeters are deadly earnest, making them totally defenseless against post-Soviet sarcasm. On March 26 Jen Psaki, State’s top spokesman, tweeted this: “To echo @BarackObama today-proud to stand #UnitedForUkraine World should stand together with one voice.” In an accompanying photo, a smiling Psaki gave a left-handed thumbs-up while holding up in her right hand a sign with the #UnitedForUkraine hashtag and her Twitter handle, @statedeptspox.
Yesterday, National Review Online’s Patrick Brennan reports, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official Twitter account started including the hashtag in its tweets on the subject. Example: “[Foreign Minister Sergey] #Lavrov: Our US counterparts must compel the acting officials in Kiev to bear responsibility for the current situation #UnitedForUkraine.”
Barack Obama’s political operation frequently sees its Twitter hashtags “hijacked” by conservative antagonists. Remember #WHYouth? But in domestic politics, mutually assured derision is just good clean fun. Partisan politics thrives on antagonism. If the purpose of the domestic hashtags is to motivate Democratic base voters, conservative mockery is a help rather than a hindrance.
At Foggy Bottom, however, they seem utterly clueless as to what the Russians are up to. Brennan notes that Macon Phillips, who runs the department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, tweeted in response: “Welcome to the #UnitedForUkraine hashtag @mfa_russia! 2 steps to join in: First watch an intro video [titled ‘Sanctions: How Did We Get Here?’], then RT!” Continue reading
John Kerry, our hapless Secretary of State, is backing the Muslim Brotherhood in the current incipient Civil War raging in Egypt between the Egypptian military, which removed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood former president of Egypt, and the supporters of the military, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Kerry’s fondness for the Muslim Brotherhood goes back quite a ways. Here is an excerpt from a post by terrorist expert Andrew McCarthy at National Review Online from December 14, 2011:
Senator John Kerry (D., Mass.) is in Egypt, meeting with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood — the Islamist organization whose goals are to destroy Israel, “conquer Europe” and “conquer America” (to quote its most influential jurist, Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi).
The Brotherhood, which operates throughout the world, seeks the imposition by governments of strict sharia law (as outlined in Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law) and, eventually, a global caliphate. Naturally, the Obama administration describes it as a “largely secular” and moderate organization — and William Taylor, President Obama’s hand-picked “special coordinator for transitions in the Middle East,” announced last month that the administration would be quite “satisfied” with a Brotherhood victory in the Egyptian elections.
As the Investigative Project on Terrorism reports, Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee and key Obama administration congressional ally, “welcomed the results of Egypt’s first democratic elections,” in which “voters gave the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) nearly 40% of seats, and more than 24% went to the ultra-conservative Salafi coalition led by al-Nour Party.” [ACM: by ultraconservative, IPT means al-Nour is somewhat more impatient than the Brotherhood for the imposition of supremacist Islam; as I’ve explained on other occasions, the Muslim Brotherhood is Salafist in its ideology.]
In addition to praising the Brotherhood’s election as a model of transparency and integrity, Sen. Kerry also called for an infusion of cash from the International Monetary Fund to undergird Egypt’s new Islamist government.
The United States, though over $15 trillion in debt, is the leading contributor-nation to the IMF, providing close to a fifth of its funding. That is about three times as much as second-place Japan, more than four times as much as China, more than six times as much as the leading Islamist country (Saudi Arabia), and more than the combined contributions of the three top European donors — Germany, Britain and France. (See Wikipedia Table, here.) Consequently, a cash infusion by the IMF to the Brotherhood-led Egyptian government would be a redistribution of wealth from American taxpayers to Islamists whose goal is to conquer American taxpayers — assuming, of course, there is any money left in the IMF after the Obama administration gets done using it as the device through which tapped out American taxpayers bail out, at least temporarily, Europe’s collapsing experiment in trans-continental socialism.
Ironically, Kerry’s overtures and pledge of support to the Brotherhood come only a few days after a federal appeals court upheld the convictions of five top Brotherhood operatives in the 2008 Holy Land Foundation (HLF) trial, the Justice Department’s most significant terrorism support conspiracy prosecution in recent years. As the proof overwhelming demonstrated, the Brotherhood, through its American affiliates, channeled millions of dollars to Hamas to support terror operations against Israel. Hamas is the Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch, and underwriting its campaign to destroy Israel has long been a top priority for the Brotherhood’s satellite organizations in the West — many of which were designated “unindicted coconspirators” by the Justice Department in the HLF case, and shown by the evidence to have abetted the Hamas-support scheme. Continue reading
Not everyone was enamored with Rand Paul after his filibuster this past Wednesday in the Senate. Senator John McCain railed against Rand Paul on the Senate floor on Thursday. If you missed it, here’s a shot of the Senator’s performance:
McCain was joined by his
Sith apprentice fellow Senator Lindsey Graham in denouncing Paul’s filibuster. I wish the camera had panned to see if McCain’s mouth was moving as Graham spoke.
McCain wasn’t done criticizing Paul, offering some choice pull quotes to various media outlets, summarized at Hot Air. This one in particular is my favorite:
“They were elected, nobody believes that there was a corrupt election, anything else,” McCain said. “But I also think that when, you know, it’s always the wacko birds on right and left that get the media megaphone.”
John McCain just said that it’s always the “whacko birds”” who get the media megaphone. Let that sink in for a moment. The same guy who hasn’t turned down a Sunday talk show appearance in thirteen years is implying that only kooks get the media spotlight. If you say so John.
Rand Paul couldn’t have asked for a better angry old man to scowl after him, as Jay Anderson explains.
John McCain railing against Rand Paul’s appeal to “impressionable” kids in dorm rooms is so politically tone deaf and out of touch that it makes Clint Eastwood look like a breath of fresh air by comparison. Yesterday, in a textbook example of EVERYTHING that is wrong about John McCain, just after scolding Paul on the Senate floor, McCain lamented the retirement announcement of 78-year-old Democrat Sen. Carl. Levin who has been in the Senate FOR 35 YEARS… since the Carter Administration.
McCain’s world: young upstarts inspiring people to take our liberties seriously and challenging the perpetual war establishment … bad; crusty old farts clinging to power and enriching themselves on the public teet until they’re octogenarians … good.
There’s more to this dust-up than just an old guard versus new guard standoff. McCain and Paul represent two wildly divergent wings foreign policy wings of the Republican Party. Whether you want to call McCain a neocon, a hawk, an interventionist, or some other term that will be invented over the next few years, he certainly has a more expansive view of America’s role in the world. Rand Paul is a bit more of a mystery. While he clearly wishes to narrow the scope of America’s role as global policeman, for lack of a better term, he doesn’t seem to quite share his father’s even narrower vision. Some have speculated that he’s merely toning down his rhetoric in the hopes of being a more palatable alternative in the Republican presidential primaries than his father ever was, though I suspect that’s an overstatement.
Whatever the case may be, Paul and McCain are at opposite poles at least in the Senate’s GOP caucus. Ace of Spades does a good job of explaining why McCain should dial it back if he wants the more interventionist wing to have any credibility. First he explains that he’s not as hawkish as he was after 9/11, yet McCain (and his mini-me, Graham) are still pushing a “super-hawk” line that the public has widely rejected. Continue reading
If we had a mainstream media that consisted of journalists instead of consisting largely of unpaid Obama press agents, reporters would be asking the following questions to the Obama administration about the Benghazi disaster:
I was inclined to cut the Obama administration some slack initially in regard to the crisis in Egypt. It is a tough situation and it was difficult to see anything that the US could or should do. Mubarak has been a friend to the US during his 30 years in power, faithfully kept the peace with Israel, and worked with our intelligence agencies against Islamic terrorism. However, there is no doubt that he is a dictator, albeit one of the best of a very bad lot in the Middle East where dictatorship is the norm outside of Israel, Turkey and Iraq, and no American can weep for his fall. However, what replaces him could be far worse. A tough situation and not a whole lot the US can do to influence events. Therefore I was initially sympathetic to Obama’s dilemma.
However, the utter cluelessness of his administration throughout this mess has ended my sympathy. Endless, feckless posturing, combined with impotence, is not a foreign policy but rather a vaudeville act. This was on full display yesterday when Leon Panetta, CIA director, stated publicly that he had reports that indicated Mubarak would be stepping down yesterday. This was completely erroneous as events proved, but it made worldwide headlines. It then turned out that Panetta was not basing his prediction on intelligence gathered by his spooks, but rather on media reports. I can think of few better illustrations of the level of amateurish bungling that has been the hallmark of the Obama administration in regard to everything they have touched. The Obama Doctrine consists of the following elements:
1. Speak loudly and carry no stick.
2. Watch a lot of tv to find out what is going on in the world.
3. Make endless statements to the press and, never, ever, have a plan as to what to do if you actually have to back up the statements.
4. Always remember to never let a crisis go to waste and attempt to get maximum positive press coverage out of it, because that is what all crises are truly about.
5. Obama needs another Nobel Peace Prize to keep his first one company. Continue reading
When Catholics justified their decision to vote for Obama, they did so on two grounds: healthcare and foreign policy. The premise was Obama would actually save lives through healthcare and through his more peaceful foreign policy, thus outweighing the damage he would do through his promotion of abortion.
I never found that premise convincing. Not only did I think they underestimated the damage abortion does, but I also believed that they were ignoring what Barack Obama was actually promoting in his foreign policy. To make a long story short, I think most people assumed that since Obama was a Democrat who had opposed the war in Iraq that he would be the opposite of Bush when in truth their positions are very similar.
Since taking office, Obama has largely followed the lead of his predecessor. However today news is coming out that he has surpassed his predecessor in circumventing due process: Obama has authorized the CIA to kill a US citizen believed to be involved in terrorism (H/t Vox Nova).
The idea that an American citizen can be killed without a trial outside of battle is a troubling one, regardless of whether you voted for Obama or not. The death penalty is something that should be used only rarely (if at all-I’m w/ the bishops that it’s not good in modern America), and if used then used in the context of a trial. The rights of trial are not merely procedural technicalities but safeguards designed to protect the dignity of life: that is, regardless of what someone has done, freedom & human life itself are so precious that we take it away only after a deliberate and careful process.
To take away human life outside of self-defense is a power no one, including the President, possesses. One will hope that the media will publish this and emphasize it so that public pressure will dissuade Obama from taking this course of action. Unfortunately, one has to doubt that that hope will be realized.
The title of this post is probably the first and last time I will use that phrase.
This is a thesis that could use far more development than I can give it at the moment, but I hope I can lay it out clearly enough that to generate some interesting discussion and perhaps revisit it later.
It’s frequently complained that the US is in danger of becoming a global empire. Traditionally one elaborates on this by quoting Washington’s farewell address if one is of the right, and by citing the evils of colonialism if one is of the left.
I’d like to suggest that the imperial horse has pretty much left the stable a long time ago. The US has been a global empire since World War II, and since the collapse of the Soviet Union has been the sole global power. Although, like the later Roman Republic, the US has not actually taken direct political control over countries beyond its traditional borders (nor does it collect tribute from abroad) it has a sphere of influence covering much of the known world and is repeatedly involved in exerting pressure or deploying force to ensure regional conflicts do not spin out of control.
This in itself is perhaps not a terribly unusual thesis.
Michael Iafrate of Vox Nova condemns the United States for a brutal act of “terrorism” in conducting a strike into Syria against an al Qaeda facilitator.
In typical fashion, Michael likewise insinuates that Sarah Palin approves abortion bombings and alleges that, by virtue of the fact that nobody at American Catholic has yet commented on the story, we are quite obviously racist:
Of course the “pro-life” Cathollic barfosphere, so vocal in the “defense of human life,” remains utterly silent in the face of the Bush administration’s ongoing acts of terrorism. Of course, these weren’t cute white babies who were slaughtered, were they? That explains it.
Michael’s penchant for profanity, libel and general elementary school antics does nothing to enamor readers of his position or the Catholic blog he represents. Yet I think he deserves a response (however meager) …