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Last night President Obama felt compelled to address the American public, sandwiching his brief remarks between the end of the late NFL games and Sunday Night Football. His sixteen minute address was billed as a major policy statement in the fight against ISIS.

It failed.

He offered no new strategy in the fight against ISIS or the rising tide of terrorism-to include the recent terrorist attack in San Bernardino. Instead we heard more of the same tired rhetoric of how the White House has a steady strategy to meet ISIS and they are just a bunch of thugs who pervert the beauty of Islam.

In listening to the President’s address I was reminded of a training course in dealing with alcoholics and their families I took over thirty years ago. It was at that time that the concept of codependency with family members of alcoholics was just beginning to be explored in the treatment of alcoholism.

Codependency is that which allows the alcoholic to make all the rules and actually excuses the behavior of the alcoholic. “If only dinner is ready when he arrives home, he won’t drink. If only the kids would be quiet and dinner is ready he won’t drink. If only I had repaired the furnace instead of paying a repairman and the kids would be quiet and dinner ready when he came home-he wouldn’t drink.”

The innocent blame themselves instead of the one responsible in the first place.

In the past months we have been told by this administration if only we had not invaded Iraq and Afghanistan we would not be facing ISIS. If only we were more culturally aware radical Islamists wouldn’t hate us. If only we would take 10K refugees without question the radical Islamists wouldn’t behead our citizens in the desert of Syria.

Substitute radical Islamist for alcoholic and the codependency is blindingly obvious.

Our President reminded me of this because in his remarks last night he was more intent on shaming the American public for alleged never documented acts of retaliation against American Muslims than confronting the real issue: terrorist acts on our shores.

Pew Research recently cataloged religious based bigoted acts the US. The results: 60% of victims were in the American Jewish community, American Muslims registered just 10%.

Once again when the White House takes aim at an issue it not only misses, but aims at the wrong target.



Just when The European Union thought it had escaped into the post-modern mist of tomorrow, when it had left behind national currencies, age old animosities and borders between nations, current events have dragged the EU back to reality.  Germany re-instituted its border crossing with Austria as the stream of Middle Eastern refugees swells to record numbers.

The tide of political refugees and economic migrants have caused Berlin to rethink its open arms policy, announced just days ago, as the number of refugees have swelled following Angela Merkel’s announcement that Germany is prepared to take in even more refugees seeking asylum.

The re-institution of borders between Germany and Austria has thrown the EU into an unwanted reminiscence of the time prior to the 1985 Schengen agreement which began the era of visa free travel in Europe. This, coupled with the dissolution of the Warsaw pact in 1989, erased border crossings between European countries that long served as legend from armed invasions in two World Wars to plot points in late twentieth century spy thrillers.

The EU, in its typical self congratulatory fashion, often pointed to this visa free and borderless travel as the model for other regions in the world to imitate, a post-modern model of super state formation.

The best laid plans……..

Now to gain a modest handle on this overwhelming refugee crisis, Germany has brought back the border with Austria.  There is no telling how long this once familiar red and white crossing gate will remain in place but one can be sure it will not remain the only re-established border as other European capitals struggle to cope with the tide of people seeking entry into Europe.

Checkpoint Charlie, the once famous crossing between East and West Berlin, has been relegated to a museum dedicated to the cold war.  This new “Checkpoint Angela” however is up and running for the foreseeable future as Germany reexamines its ability to be that center of gravity of the refugee tide moving into Europe.


National Public Radio reported that the State Department is ready to launch its latest salvo in its effort to combat ISIS’ recruitment in the US. According to yesterday’s “Morning Edition“, the State Department has enlisted millennials, through a competition-something of a nexus of American Idol and Jeopardy, to design a social media strategy which combats violent extremism.

This latest idea comes from the scholar/practitioners of Foggy Bottom who  are the very same who designed that implacable hashtag campaign against Vladimir Putin (Jen Psaki’s #standwithUkraine selfie) following Russia’s ruthless invasion and annexation of Crimea.

Now the target for these new age warriors is ISIS’ recruitment campaign which State plans to counter with a robust “just say no to violent extremism” onslaught of tweets, Instagram photos and periscope real time and stackable videos.

Watch out Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, you’ve finally met your match brother.

The fact that this administration still cannot bring itself to say the words radical islam for fear of offending the most fragile elements of the Democratic party is difficult to comprehend and ultimately brings any efforts to combat it to an inauspicious closure.  The phrase violent extremism can be applied to anything from erratic personal behavior to the most loathsome of football fans, i.e. Oakland Raiders.  Perhaps it’s the very inability to quantify the phrase violent extremism, that keeps the Obama administration defaulting to it.

Combatting ISIS’ strategy both on the battlefield and here at home will require more than a college bowl exercise and certainly more than 140 characters floating in the ethernet. Real time challenges require real time effort-not a sham graduate seminar exercise. Once again the Obama administration is demonstrating it is out of its depth in confronting the real world challenges which are at its doorstep.


In a MSNBC interview Monday with Atlantic editor Steve Clemons, he stated that the five Taliban detainees that were traded for US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl last year were not field commanders and consequently just not that important.  Mr. Clemons went on to further downgrade their importance by calling them “paper pushers”in the Taliban organization. Yes….paper pushers. In a country with a literacy rate of just under 30% a paper pusher analogy is a little weak Steve.

The fact that these individuals under the Taliban government were a Minster of Interior, Deputy Minister of Defense, Deputy Minister of Intelligence, Governor of Herat province and Governor of Balkh and Lagman provinces.

You’re right Mr. Clemons, obviously mid-level managers who simply were trying to feed their families and got caught up in some ugly stuff in 2001.

I wonder if the same logic could be applied to the US? That guy, what’s-his-name, Ashton something in the Pentagon, he’s not in the field so how important could he be?

In reality, Steve Clemons’ interview is a sad commentary on how political spin is done, even if only powered by the rotation of the earth. The five (5) former detainees who are very much still current Taliban operatives have a global understanding of how to conduct terrorist operations in the field and will use this once they arrive back in Afghanistan.

Having spent seven (7) years in in Afghanistan, this author is under no misunderstanding that these men are dangerous for their operational experience. The have the strategic understanding that is translated to tactical operations.

In his interview he stated they will no doubt be part of a future Afghan government and these five would no doubt play a part in that future government. Mr. Clemons might be ready to concede the Afghan people to Taliban rule again but perhaps if he spent less time within the Beltway and more in the areas he comments upon he might come away with a more measured perspective.

Unbalanced Choices

Posted: May 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


The recent fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi, the capital of the largest province in Iraq (Anbar), or “tactical setback” forces the White House to face a crumbling foreign policy in respect to combating ISIS.

The Obama administration’s ruinous strategy of offshore balancing has brought ISIS to within seventy (70) miles of Baghdad and the effective end of Iraq as a state with the fall of Anbar Province this week. The concept of offshore balancing, which has been strategically employed by every President since Truman, is a combination of positioning US forces just over the horizon of a conflict zone while funneling needed aid to allied forces who then carry the bulk of the fight to the enemy. The difference with the current administration is the wholesale reliance on offshore balancing while enacting a policy of military retreat back within the US border.

Willful evacuation by the White House of US influence in the world is not a strategy. This is an invitation for our enemies to act more robustly and our allies to act with greater unpredictability. This is exactly what we have in the Middle East today.   Over 50% of Syria and Iraq is now under ISIS control, and the recent addition of Anbar province this week adds over 1.5m more Iraqis living under the ISIS sword.

Offshore balancing is one of many tools in foreign policy available to a President. It is not, however, a doctrine. Unfortunately,  it has become just that in the Obama White House. Over the horizon strategies are successful if the underpinnings of economic, military and political components are in place which work in concert with one another.  In the present case with regard to ISIS it appears that a greater portion has been relegated to chance and wishful thinking on the part of the President. The Iraqi forces have proven inadequate in standing up to the march of ISIS across the region.  Even the revered Golden Brigade disenegrated in retreat this week as ISIS captured Ramadi.

Meanwhile the White House and Pentagon continue to express confidence that the latest catastrophe is but a minor setback with the hope that Iraqi forces will be an antithetic version of their recent failures to retake Ramadi.

Hope is never a course of action.

Washington Kite Runner

Posted: May 4, 2015 in Uncategorized


In a recent article the Obama administration’s Middle East policy was likened to a kite in hurricane. No better analogy has been crafted for the aimless and dangerous foreign policy meanderings of this administration.

From the precipitous and short sighted withdrawal from Iraq, thereby leaving a vacuous space tailor made for an Iranian political and military surge into the region, to the toothless threats to the Assad regime in Syria culminating in a humiliating reversal of Obama’s promise to intervene in August 2013.

Most recently was this administration’s silence at the seizure last week on the high seas of the Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Island flagged container ship.  Iran is claiming compensation from Maersk Shipping dating back to an unrelated 2005 claim and has committed an act of piracy in commandeering this ship, sailing it into Iranian territorial waters while demanding the alleged compensation they claim is due to them.

The reaction from the White House was deafening silence. As has been written in the National Journal article this catastrophic cascade of failures by the White House has wreaked havoc in our relationship with Saudi Arabia and demonstrating that our friends no longer trust Washington, just as our enemies no longer fear us.  This has lead to the present crisis in Yemen where Saudi Arabia has opted for a “go it alone” strategy in the battle with Shi’a Houthi rebels in the Houth’s attempt to take the government with Iranian military backing.

All this brings us back to that kite. As this administration continues with its disjointed and shortsighted actions in the Middle East, US influence in the region and the ability to assist will disappear as surely as that kite in a hurricane.

The Ghosts of Ramadi

Posted: April 15, 2015 in Uncategorized
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According to officials in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, it is just hours away from falling into the hands of ISIS insurgents.  Ramadi is the capital of Anbar Province which is a Sunni stronghold in Iraq and the 2006 birthplace of the Sunni Awakening which was a turning point in the fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq in 2006. It was in Ramadi that Sunni tribesmen stood against insurgent violence in ever increasing numbers.  Prior to 2006 the first battle of Ramadi saw some of the toughest fighting to that date.

Today Ramadi is about to fall to ISIS, the “JV team” which the White House dismissed as inconsequential in January 2014. I suppose they get their “Varsity jerseys” with the capture of this vital city just 70 miles from Baghdad.

In the summer of 2004 Ramadi was the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting in the Iraq war to date.  The Marines (2nd Battalion/4th Marines) took the heaviest casualties it had experienced in over thirty years.  This first battle of Ramadi in 2004 saw the loss of 30 Marines and one sailor.  The Marines killed approximately 250 insurgents in this battle.

The second battle of Ramadi in 2006 saw over eighty (80) Marines killed. After the second battle the tide began to turn against Al Qaeda in Iraq when Sunni tribal leaders stood up to the insurgents and organized a well disciplined opposition supporting the Baghdad government. The Sunni Awakening has been studied as a turning point in the Iraq war, with Iraqis finally taking the lead in their security and their future.

Today Ramadi is positioned to be another trophy for ISIS as the White House wanders aimlessly in its “strategy of combatting ISIS” while trying to make friends and history with Iran. Allied airpower has been used for months without any significant degradation of ISIS’ capabilities. Meanwhile the White House has ceded the ground war to Iranian Shi’a militias in an attempt to use them as our proxy in Iraq.  This has lead to the improbable and preposterous strategy of aligning ourselves with Iran in this new Iraq war while opposing Iran in their efforts to conqueror Yemen.

What this administration fails to grasp is the concept of sacrifice. The US sacrificed its most precious resource in Ramadi over ten years ago, our warriors. In 2004 while Barak Obama was plotting his trajectory out of the state house in Springfield, Marines of 2/4 where winding through the streets of Ramadi fighting house to house to clear a determined enemy.

Now as President Obama is charting the design of his legacy, ISIS is devising the fall  and occupation of yet another Iraqi city. The same city US Marines defended and liberated from insurgents nearly ten years ago.

The President’s “JV team” (as if using a sports analogy somehow lessens the threat) is about to hit the big leagues as it closes in on Baghdad. The White House has completely misjudged ISIS and miscalculated the impact of their sweep through the region…but then the President has never been that good in picking his brackets.