Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Check and Checkmate in Syria

Posted: October 1, 2015 in Iran, Russia, Syria
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Our Daily Challenge: Checkered I too went with the obvious choice.

 

Today it was reported that Russian aircraft targeted sites outside of Homs which contained no ISIS elements but rather CIA funded rebels fighting the Assad regime.

Shocking.

Any hope that Russia is in Syria to take on ISIS is held only by the White House and its supporters. Vladimir Putin has no track record of being on “the right side of history” (as the White House has a proclivity to say).  To believe Russia would be an honest broker and a credible actor is nothing short of naive.

What is shocking is how bewildered this White House is in its reaction to Putin’s successful gambit of aiding President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the eleventh hour. From Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s remarks of “this is like pouring gasoline onto the fire” to John Kerry’s joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov following the announcement of Russia’s unilateral military action — this administration’s actions defy logic or explanation.

The Kremlin, in cooperation with Iran, has made an obvious promise to the Assad regime.  The Russians and the Iranians have promised to see the Assad regime through the present crisis. Russian airpower is the first strike in this promise. It has been reported in the UK press that Iranian and Hizbollah forces have entered the northwest area of Syria (targeted by Russian aircraft) in preparation for a ground attack on Syrian rebel forces holding that territory.

Inaction by the US has now brought on a wider conflict, leading to the real possibility of greater lethal complexity in Syria.  The White House has been checkmated but the true losers in this fiasco are the Syrian people themselves.

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.

confused

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.

The Ghosts of Ramadi

Posted: April 15, 2015 in Uncategorized
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USMC

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.

 

Yemen+Sanaa

Yemen is on the verge of collapsing. It’s capital Sann’a was effectively taken over in September 2014 by Houthi Shi’a rebels sweeping down from the north.  Last week Yemen’s President, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and his government resigned after he was confined to house arrest in the Presidential residence by the Houthi rebels. Today (January 26) the US Embassy announced it is “closed to the public until further notice.”

The White House has responded to this crises with three drone strikes this morning, purportedly killing three al-Qaida suspects. But no plan to assist the government has been discussed. A government who has only cooperated with the US in combatting al-Qaida terrorists on Yemeni soil.

The situation in Yemen commands the attention of the White House, State Department and the Defense Department. It has been established that Yemen was a vital piece in the puzzle in the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris this month as well as being a center of gravity for other terrorist acts coming from the group Al-Qaida of Arabian Peninsula.

Yemen is on the threshold of becoming another stateless arena for training Islamic terrorists if nothing is done to assist the Yemeni government both militarily and politically.

The White House has stated it will sponsor a “conference” to combat violent extremism on February 18 to “highlight domestic and international efforts to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from radicalizing, recruiting, or inspiring individuals or groups in the United States and abroad to commit acts of violence.” 

If the White is serious about defeating Islamic extremism it will do more than host a roundtable next month. It must engage the beleaguered government of Yemen today.

Obama Channeling His Inner LBJ

Posted: September 19, 2014 in Current Affairs, Iraq
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It was reported yesterday that all airstrikes against ISIS militants to take place inside Syria will be personally approved by the the President.  At the risk of dating oneself this is all to reminiscent of President Lyndon Johnson’s decision to oversee and personally approve in 1964 all bombings of North Vietnam.

The danger of micromanaging-some would term mismanaging- a war has been well detailed and examined by scholars of the Vietnam war. Johnson’s obsession with targets, types of ordnance, number of aircraft and local terrain of bombing runs did nothing but guarantee failure in both military and political terms. What was seen by the Johnson Administration as an additional layer of oversight in turn became an extraneous layer of untrained supervision.

The example from today’s headlines sees the White House wrestling with the hangover of last year’s failed policy of attempting to bomb Syria only to pull back due to its own strategic miscalculation in failing to assemble the necessary support prior to announcement. Now a campaign against a brutal and ruthless enemy (ISIS) will be couched in an existing strategy involving the Assad regime still in power in Damascus will bring a measure of restraint in the battle against ISIS.

Top down decision making on the tactical level rarely favors the the force that is carrying out the attack.  What it does do is establish an optic of mistrust in those military leaders whose job it is to design and execute the action to bring about the desired strategic objective.  In 1964 President Lyndon Johnson took that decision making authority from his Generals fearing excessive collateral damage.  Today President Obama has taken that decision making authority from his Generals fearing unintended consequences in aiding the Assad regime in Damascus.

In both cases the military action itself takes a back seat to a political agenda, an agenda which ultimately produces failure on the battlefield as well as on the political front.

 

 

The Decision To Go To War

Posted: September 16, 2014 in Current Affairs, Iraq, Syria
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The greatest misnomer in today’s headlines is that the US is or is not choosing to go to war with (choose one of the following) ISIS, ISIL, IS.  Governments can be swept into war by events they may or may not control, they may drift into war through a series of events or they can have war declared upon them by an advancing belligerent. Rarely , however, does a government have a choice to go or not go to war. ISIS has declared war on modernity-to include the US- whether this is acknowledged by the White House or not.

The events that have led the US to confront the brutality of ISIS and to declare action to halt its advances in Iraq and Syria have been gathering for months. The vacuum that this administration left in Syria from August 2013 to present day is the catalyst which propelled ISIS on its course from the ungoverned desert of Syria to the misgoverned cities of Iraq. Now it is the first transborder area governed by non-state actors in modern history.

This war, and to be clear when airstrikes along with troop deployments and multi national coalitions formed-it is a war, is one that a belligerent (ISIS) has declared on the US. To ignore this reality would be foolish and to leap into to it blindly would be irresponsible.  That leaves a vast middle ground where measured but resolute action must be taken by the White House in confronting ISIS’ plans of redrawing the map of the Middle East.

The danger is, when the middle ground gives way to half made decisions once events have propelled a country into war. Defining a policy by what it isn’t is a dangerous policy and certainly dooms efforts made in its shadows.

We in the West tend to define future wars based on the last war. The danger with that template is when it attempts to force current events into past paradigms thereby limiting the options for the future. This further risks the real danger of not so much crossing a line but of never drawing a line of decisive action thereby emboldening aggressive behavior.