Blog Archives

Death by drone good; enhanced interrogation bad

From the New York Times regarding John Brennan’s upcoming confirmation hearing as the President’s nominee to lead the CIA. Brennan is currently the President’s drone master and some, it would seem, are concerned about the policy efficacy of death via drone-delivered Hellfire missiles:

Several former top military and intelligence officials — including Stanley A. McChrystal, the retired general who led the Joint Special Operations Command, which has responsibility for the military’s drone strikes, and Michael V. Hayden, the former C.I.A. director — have raised concerns that the drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen are increasingly targeting low-level militants who do not pose a direct threat to the United States.

Perhaps “low-level militants” are in the eye of the beholder. You know, one man’s terrorist is another man’s low-level militant and all that?

So what does the President’s drone master, do? At minimum, it would seem he manages the President’s kill-list:

From his basement office in the White House, Mr. Brennan has served as the principal coordinator of a “kill list” of Qaeda operatives marked for death, overseeing drone strikes by the military and the C.I.A., and advising Mr. Obama on which strikes he should approve.

How have things gone in this arrangement? Well, as for what follows in the trailing block quote… let’s just say it doesn’t appear to have entailed a drone—cruise missiles aren’t drone-delivered—but it’s still something Obama’s predecessor would be literally (in Biden-speak) lynched for:

The first strike in Yemen ordered by the Obama administration, in December 2009, was by all accounts a disaster. American cruise missiles carrying cluster munitions killed dozens of civilians, including many women and children. Another strike, six months later, killed a popular deputy governor, inciting angry demonstrations and an attack that shut down a critical oil pipeline.

Hmm. By December 2009, the Administration wasn’t new to things. They would have been in place almost a year. Yes, it would seem mistakes were made, shoulda, coulda, woulda, and all that.

But what about more recent history? That is, how about the President’s death by drone program—let’s say in Yemen only—in 2013?

There have been at least five drone strikes in Yemen since the start of the year, killing at least 24 people. That continues a remarkable acceleration over the past two years in a program that has carried out at least 63 airstrikes since 2009, according to The Long War Journal, a Web site that collects public data on the strikes, with an estimated death toll in the hundreds. Many of the militants reported killed recently were very young and do not appear to have had any important role with Al Qaeda.

Well. That sounds like a lot of Presidentially-directed death for those who don’t appear to have an important role with Al Qaeda. But what does the Time’s article segue into?

… some Yemenis wonder why there is not more reliance on their country’s elite counterterrorism unit, which was trained in the United States as part of the close cooperation between the two countries that Mr. Brennan has engineered. One member of the unit, speaking on the condition of anonymity, expressed great frustration that his unit had not been deployed on such missions, and had in fact been posted to traffic duty in the capital in recent weeks, even as the drone strikes intensified.

Since the future of warfare is largely unmanned, death by drone is with us to stay. But it’s curious, isn’t it, that the Obama standard of death by drone—including plenty of collateral damage—creates no outrage and very little discussion. Consider how that can be versus the Bush standard of behavior, where highly limited ‘enhanced interrogation’ creates massive outrage and dominates news cycles for months on end? Strange, ain’t it?

The good news, since Brennan is now owned by Obama, is that Brennan says enhanced interrogation is a thing of the past. And as it regards Brennan’s detailed knowledge of the Bush-era enhanced interrogation? That can be waived off… he’s on the right team now.

Nuclear Proliferation, Conventional Fail, and Obama

Remember the calculus from the 2010 QDR? When the Administration said our national security was safe in the arms (so to speak) of our overwhelming conventional superiority?

Now it seems the United States will no longer serve as the global cop. Too expensive, too much trouble, not enough gratitude.

What is the predictable consequence of the U.S. opting out, should this position hold? Nuclear proliferation from those who once fell under the U.S. “nuclear umbrella.”

And it seems the U.S. nuclear umbrella is being non-transparently negotiated away beneath our feet despite the promises of the President in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review:

[President Obama] pledged that as long as nuclear weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure, and effective arsenal, both to deter potential adversaries and to assure U.S. allies and other security partners that they can count on America’s security commitments.

One lesson of history is that peace ends in war.

A second lesson is that war ends in peace.

A third lesson is that countries with nuclear weapons have their security problems diminished and not enlarged. That’s why Pakistan, India, North Korea, and soon, Iran have them. It’s also why Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Japan, and others are re-examining the U.S. nuclear commitment.

Obama’s Foreign Policy Team: Carter, Part Deux

Abe Katsman offers a scathing and fact-based take on the team President Obama is arranging for his second term. While much of the world is rightly fixed on Obama’s domestic failures, Katsman builds a powerful case that other U.S. interests will be ill-served during Obama’s second term based on the quality of his foreign policy and national security team. 

Hagel? Wrong on everything. Kerry? Wrong on everything. John Brennan, the nominee as post-Petraeus CIA Director? Even worse.

Brennan is steeped in political correctness (essential in government “service” where slights, both real and perceived, can derail a career) and if you don’t believe the man’s incredible lack of grasp of the factual, watch him on YouTube in a speech given in early 2010 (warning: the first fifteen minutes or so are pure pap/government speech bureaucratic boilerplate).

Ignorance is a threat to our national security.

So what will America be looking at in the foreign policy arena during Obama’s second term? How about Welcome Back, Carter?

Denial—remember Benghazi—will not make America stronger and yet Brennan is right on one point (even if he tragi-comically fails to grasp the implications of his own words): “Ignorance is a threat to our national security.”

Obama and national security

The fundamental role of government is to protect the public. (And no, run the economy, pick winners and losers, feed the people, house the people, educate the people, provide healthcare to the people—the whole spread the money around thing isn’t on the protect the public list.)

As such, the President has been an epic failure in fulfilling his most fundamental responsibility, that of protecting the public, most clearly seen in our national security endeavors. The Obama model—including reward your enemies and ignore (or punish) your friends—has proven to be a fiasco.

How does the government protect the populace? It buys “insurance” in the form of funding the national security mechanisms (and through the development and exercise of the instruments of national power). As a result of the debt dragon, another rule of government—one that will affect everything, but it appears, especially defense—if it ain’t funded, it ain’tis very much in play.

Obama’s vanity leaks

Rich Lowery writes of Obama’s vanity leaks. You know; the national security ones that are capable of causing exceptionally grave damage to America?

Among all the words in the press airing the Obama administration’s secret national-security programs, one sentence stands out. Appearing in the New York Times, it explains why President Barack Obama personally approves drone strikes: “A student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, he believes that he should take moral responsibility for such actions.”

…The detail reeks of the sycophancy of a White House insider who wants his boss to get credit for all of his prodigious talents and enviable qualities.

So according to the leakers, not only is Obama a great warrior/commander-in-chief, he’s clearly someone who understands national security and the call to morality of ancient Christian thinkers.

While there’s no way to prove or disprove this hypothesis, one thing would help: if Obama were to release his sealed test scores, transcripts, and papers.

And that’s precisely why Obama’s sealed records won’t be released. Chances are Obama has never taken a course on the men or done any writing or personal study on either.

In fact, anonymous sources have suggested that the President believes Augustine is a five-star hotel in Prague and that Thomas Aquinas is a bottled-water company, a couple of items that could make him look foolish in the extreme if off teleprompter.

Which seems more likely: that Obama studies great Christian philosophers in his spare time or that he watches Sports Center?

Send lawyers, drones, and money

How important does the President’s team think it is to burnish his national security credentials? Important enough to leak secrets which could be reasonably thought to inflict exceptionally grave national security damage.

And did you know the President was in the White House video-teleconference center when special operations forces took down bin Laden?

Finally, if you’re on the President’s kill-list and Barry Oh! and his legal team decide your death is above-the-line, is this an assassination?

Maybe (but it will be called lethal covert operations). Still, it matters little because the U.S. policy ban is only on political assassination.

Meanwhile, here in the United States, our President is practicing a form of assisted national (and political) suicide.

If this were a Republican administration, this—among other items—would be bigger than Watergate.

A drone again, naturally

LBJ was mocked for being the target-list approval authority for air strikes during the Vietnam War.

Now America has Barry Oh! doing the same thing. Charles Krauthammer suggests the President has gone drone warrior to enhance his political profile:

So the peacemaker, Nobel laureate, nuclear disarmer, apologizer to the world for America’s having lost its moral way when it harshly interrogated the very people Obama now kills has become — just in time for the 2012 campaign — Zeus the Avenger, smiting by lightning strike.

A rather strange ethics. You go around the world preening about how America has turned a new moral page by electing a president profoundly offended by George W. Bush’s belligerence and prisoner maltreatment, and now you’re ostentatiously telling the world that you personally play judge, jury, and executioner to unseen combatants of your choosing, and whatever innocents happen to be in their company.

While blessed are the peacemakers still rules the day, pay as I say and not as I pay and do as I say and not as I do have been the real hallmarks of the Administration. As such, while the President’s lack of coherence may be disconcerting, it shouldn’t be unexpected.

Closing Guantanamo, for example, would require the following: 1) a better idea than using Guantanamo, and 2) working with the Congress to make it happen.

As such, we have a Presidential version of natural (policy) selection, or better, policy de-evolution. This is caused by closing the door on other instruments of power which leaves a drone again, naturally.

By the way, I have seen the future of warfare. It’s unmanned.

no, a drone again, naturally

North Korea and Launching Rockets

Perhaps the scribblers who mock North Korea’s rocket-launching ability would want to consider this: it ain’t easy.

Consider, for example, the Wikipedia delivered riff on Atlas (at right):

The SM-65 Atlas was the first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) developed and deployed by the United States.

How’d that version of the Atlas do? Of 24 launches, 11 were failures and 13 were successes. The longest run of failures was three, the longest run of successes was also three.

Denigrating North Korea’s current string of rocket launch failures may make some in the media feel better and result in the usual suspects in the arms control industrial complex saying the usual things about the North Korean threat being overblown, yet neither approach will enhance U.S. national security in any way.

Oh, and based on what’s happened to Iran, North Korea probably isn’t too worried about vacuous U.S. or UN saber-rattling either. Now if China were to deliver a smack-down to the North, that would be a different story altogether.

Breaking: White House Press Release

White House Press Release

For Immediate Release

As a part of his Peace Through Weakness (PTW) initiative, the President has moved to strengthen national security by reducing the U.S. nuclear weapons count from the treaty-limited “new START” ceiling of 1550. Under PTW, the number of U.S. nuclear weapons will be 300. Consistent with PTW, this move will enhance the United States’ moral standing with non-declared nuclear nations like North Korea, Pakistan, and soon, Iran, as well as with other states pondering nuclear weapons to include Myanmar, Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.

The PTW reductions will move the world towards the President’s goal of global zero, reduce our nuclear infrastructure costs, and increase the confidence of those nations who are protected by the U.S. nuclear “umbrella.” Additionally, China has promised to purchase $6.4 trillion of U.S Treasury Notes should the PTW reductions be achieved, a benefit of significant economic entanglement for all Americans.

Although the full national security enhancements resulting from such a move may not be known for some time, the President, by himself, has decided in a true multilateral fashion that America and its allies will be best served by this peaceful move. Hyperpartisan critics of the President who describe PTW as a counterintuitive gamble that isn’t required are ignoring the President’s myriad foreign policy accomplishments including (but not limited to) winning the Nobel Peace Prize, killing bin Laden from the White House video-teleconference center, and correctly identifying Canada as being in the Northern Hemisphere.

Press Contact: Ben Dover, PTW Research Director, 201-613-3440

Victor Davis Hanson and the Military

VDH always writes convincingly and clearly. I don’t know how the man pumps out so much stuff that makes so much sense and is so easy to read, but he manages.

Some microtakes from the above linked article:

  • Societies that physically protect their citizens and interests prosper; those that don’t generally don’t (unless you can get a free security ride like much of Europe).
  • Entitlements are still the elephant in the room; defense spending is still normal based on historical post-war spending lines.
  • Military service often turns immature 18-year olds into mature 18-year olds; college doesn’t manage to do the same.

My own microtakes:

  • Americans want liposuction for the Department of Defense; Obama is laying in multiple amputations.
  • The purpose of the American military is to protect American interests. Sometimes that means being ready to fight in order to avoid having having to fight; other times it comes down to killing people and breaking their stuff, and as a good friend would say, discouraging enough of the survivors for war to end on favorable terms to the U.S. and its allies.