Obama in Alaska…..Who ordered Chinese?

Posted: September 8, 2015 in China
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President Obama’s recent jaunt to Alaska was supposed to be another “no drama Obama” scene stealer for the adoring media that was willingly in tow. Instead it turned out to be yet another display of his feckless foreign policy as five Chinese ships sailed into US territorial waters, just twelve (12) miles off the Alaskan coastline during his visit.

Although the US has made flyby passes over the man made islands that the Chinese created in the South China Sea over the past three years, this occurred in international waters thousands of miles from the mainland of China.  In comparison, these five Chinese warships came within plain sight of the the Alaska coast.

All this occurred as President Obama was acting out his own “Northern Exposure” episode to include selfies with wilderness freak Bear Grylls, celebrating his renaming of Mt. McKinley to Denali (not to be confused with the GMC luxury SUV) and having a salmon spawn on his shoe.

MSNBC and other media outlets were gushing from the moment Obama arrived until he departed with news of assorted “firsts” achieved by him in Alaska. Omitted was the first Chinese flotilla cursing into US territorial waters in Alaska at the same time he was visiting.

There was no mention of the Chinese crews manning the rails and saluting as they passed by.

Once again this White House demonstrated its preoccupation with form over substance as President Obama’s media coverage was paramount, even to the point of ignoring the first incursion of the Chinese Navy into US waters.



The White House held a hastily convened news conference yesterday to shore up flagging support for the recently concluded nuclear deal with Iran.  In that news conference President Obama narrowed the conversation regarding its merits — that we should be enlightened and intelligent enough to see the world in his terms or, in his inference, admit to our own ignorance in opposing it.

Some choice.

This is familiar territory with this White House.  The President believes there is never a choice when it comes to disagreeing with his vision of right and wrong.  The conversation, such as it is, ends with a “my way or the highway” fait accompli.

In reality there is a third way to consider the President’s deeply flawed agreement. He claims that the only alternative to his diplomacy is war.  In fact, the third alternative is that a better agreement can be achieved through better negotiations by the US.

This agreement leaves gaping holes in the verification process as well as the storage of processed fissionable material which has Russia as a guarantor of its safety.  Let’s be clear on this — Russia, a kleptocractic state, that recently committed one of the most flagrant acts of aggression in Europe when it forcibly took over of over 30% of Ukraine (Crimea as well as swaths of eastern Ukraine), is going to be a central guardian in curbing the nuclear ambition of one of the most flagrant aggressors in the Middle East. Ok, I got it.

Meanwhile Mr. Obama told us the problem lies within our own embarrassing inability to see his global perspective; in short we cannot perceive the brilliance of his own vision and intellectual dexterity. In reality this agreement clears the path for Iran to acquire weapons of mass destruction and frees billions of dollars so Iran can continue its policies of mayhem and destruction in its immediate neighborhood.

Mr. Obama stated within fifteen minutes of reaching this deal that he would veto any Congressional action other than full agreement.   This isn’t a choice.  This is not leadership.  This is rule by fiat.  We just celebrated the 239th anniversary of rejecting this path…when a choice was still a choice.


On the margins of the G-7 summit in Germany President Obama admitted he still doesn’t have a “complete strategy” to combat ISIS and bring a halt to its advances in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

One year after the fall of Mosul (June 10) and one month after the fall of Ramadi, ISIS is less than seventy (70) miles from Baghdad. In Syria, over 60% belongs to ISIS while in Libya ISIS operates at will in that lawless territory (abandoning the practice of calling it a state any longer.)  Yet the White House still has yet to decide on a strategy in stopping this army on the march.

It’s difficult to understand how an administration that can craft a global plan to combat climate change, overhaul the US health system and comprehensively critique and attempt to transform US civilian policing cannot sit down and design an effective strategy to combat a foe who is single handedly redrawing the map of the Middle East.

This single fact clearly demonstrates that President Obama has painted himself in corner with regards to sending US forces to combat ISIS, a corner he has put himself into with his own self congratulatory statements regarding “ending” the Iraq war in 2011.

Meanwhile ISIS rolls on toward Baghdad, Damascus and Tripoli while establishing a center of gravity in Kandahar province in Afghanistan.

Yesterday, a US official traveling with the President stated that this yet undefined strategy would eventually involve “including integration of Sunni fighters.” 

If mimicking the Sunni awakening movement of 2007 is a goal then this administration has failed before it started. The Sunni population in Iraq has never trusted the US. This made the Sunni awakening an even greater achievement in 2007 than the media gave the then Bush administration credit for.

Since then the Obama White House has abandoned Iraq with a total troop withdrawal in 2011 leaving the Shi’a majority government in Bagdad to wield absolute power over the Sunni population. Meanwhile Obama is knee deep in a rapprochement with Iran which has sent Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces to battle Iraqi Sunni enlistees of ISIS. Surely the lauded Jeopardy finalists at the White House can connect these dots.

It’s no wonder a strategy doesn’t exist to combat ISIS.  That space has been replaced with confused and contradictory thinking.

Sultan Erdogan

Yesterday’s parliamentary elections in Turkey proved to be a vote against one man rule as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lost in his attempt to further consolidate his power base.

Erdogan had a super majority in parliament as his goal.  This required gathering 330 seats in order to bring about the changes needed in the constitution to give him nearly unlimited executive powers. Failing that, a majority of 276 seats would have given his Justice and Development Party (AKP) a majority in parliament. In the end AKP received just 256 seats which will force it into a coalition in order to rule. The pro-Kurdish party, HDP, was able to strike a chord with Kurds and liberals disaffected with Erdogan to eat into AKP’s parliamentary lock of seats.

This election is in many ways mirrors the Yugoslav Presidential election of September 24, 2000 when Slobodan Milosevic lost to Vojislav Kustunica which was the tipping point in Milosevic’s fall from power just one month later. Milosevic used elections to consolidate his power through his party, much as Erdogan as done since 2002.  Censorship and corruption of the courts was a hallmark of Milosevic’s rule, a path that Erdogan seems to be following particularly considering the growing number of journalists arrested in Turkey and the curtailment of free speech.

Meanwhile, Erdogan has been obsessed with recreating a revived Ottoman identity in an inexplexable attempt to define Turkey’s future by attempting to relive its past. Erdogan’s proclivity has been to dress presidential guards in ancient Ottoman uniforms while attempting to erase over 1,000 years of Christian history in Turkey by restoring ancient churches as working mosques.

Meanwhile the “Anatolian tiger” economy has shrunk to the size of a house cat  Unemployment and inflation on the rise.

Hopefully this morning brings about a sobering moment of reality for Erdogan.  It is a wakeup call.  He must abandon his power grab and begin to govern as an elected official, not rule as a sultan.


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.


Turkey goes to the polls next weekend which could prove to be the final step in Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s drive for total control of Turkey’s political landscape.

Standing in the way of a super majority for his Justice and Development Party (AKP) is an unlikely mixture of Turkish secularists and religious Kurds, led by an upstart, youthful and determined politician by the name of Selahattin Demirtas.  His party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party or HDP, has been swiftly transformed from a mainly Kurdish workers party into a serious opposition party to Erdogan’s AKP which has blanketed Turkey since 2002.

Erdogan, who has since shifted his attention and power to the Presidency, is hoping to corral the final vestitages of Turkey’s democracy into the AKP camp in order to rule ex cathedra from his new Presidential fortress.

In Erdogan’s restless drive for unchallenged authority he has ramped up the rumors against young Mr. Demirtas. On several occasions Erdogan has stated that Mr. Demirtas’ campaign is being funded by dark and isidious forces, even resorting to stating that terrorists are behind his financing.

Not to be outdone by its patron Mr. Erdogan, state Turkish media has sunk to the level of accusing Mr. Demtriras of eating pork.

In many ways Erdogan’s politics are a throwback to old communist methodologies of smearing through innuendo or simple lies which are unsubstantiated but are repeated enough times to be persuasive.

This final week of campaining should prove to be fast, furious and dirty. The closer Mr. Demirtas’ HDP party climbs to the 10% threshold in order to take seats in parliament, the more the Turkish voters should prepare to hear what is on his dinner table.