Faster, Please!

Faster, Please!

The New Axis of Evil

October 11th, 2015 - 12:17 pm

Do you remember the Axis of Evil?  It was one of the major themes of President George W. Bush’s State of the Union speech in 2002, 4 months after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States.  The president identified Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an “axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”

W was roundly criticized for the phrase.  Some couldn’t figure out what North Korea was doing in there—we were smashing al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan at the time—while others, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, complained that Iran was being very cooperative and that Bush’s words were a gratuitous slap in the face of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.  And even though Saddam Hussein was widely viewed as a monster, nobody thought he’d been involved in the 9/11 operation, and Iraq and Iran were highly partners in anything, having recently ended their long and very bloody war.

Yet Bush saw that all three countries were enemies of ours, were dedicated to developing weapons of mass destruction, and were willing to cooperate in order to expand their power and threaten the peace of the world.

The “Axis of Evil” went hand in hand with Bush’s analysis of the threat we faced:  it was, he said, a combination of terrorist groups and countries that supported them.  He promised that the United States would not distinguish between the two groups.  We would go after the terrorists and their sponsors and allies.  That we did it badly—Iran, not Iraq, was the logical target after Afghanistan, and political warfare, not invasion, was the logical method—shouldn’t blind us to the fact that it was already clear in early 2002 that we had to deal with multiple threats, and we’d eventually have to defeat them all or face a grim future.

Would that we’d kept that thought.  Instead, we got the grim future.

We now face a more potent Axis of Evil that includes two of the original three (North Korea and Iran, with Iraq up for grabs), plus Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and other countries, and terrorist groups including al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and the Islamic State.  With the exception of their hatred of the West, there is no single ideology that unites them.  The new Axis includes Sunni and Shi’ite radical Muslims, Communists and other radical leftists, and nationalistic secular tyrants like Vladimir Putin.  They have certainly succeeded in wrecking hopes for a peaceful world.

There is no escape from this war, whatever Western leaders might wish.  We will either win it or lose it, and right now we are losing, most obviously in the Middle East and Central Europe, less dramatically in Africa from Somalia to Nigeria, and in Latin America where Iran is busily strengthening its cooperation with local autocrats.

How are we to cope with the new Axis of Evil? 

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A Dandy Little Adventure

September 28th, 2015 - 2:42 pm

The global anti-American alliance is now on full display in the Middle East, with Iran at the lynch point.  The headlines have told us about the coordination of Iranian/Iraqi/Syrian/Russian/Chinese activities, and of course there is a division of labor.  That was all worked out in recent weeks in a series of Iranian visits to Moscow (General Suleimani, who commands the Revolutionjary Guards’ foreign ops, twice traveled to Russia in open defiance of existing sanctions).  Basically, the Russians are sending some crack troops and their favorite heavy weapons (tanks, big guns).  It goes via an Iranian air bridge and thence across Iraq to Syria.  The Revolutionary Guards’ air force has 115 trained pilots ready to go, and they’ve trained 3000 Afghan fighters for ground battles.  The Afghans get Iranian residence and a stipend.  In addition there are 740 Pakistani Shi’ites in Suleimani’s special forces.

It’s a start, anyway.

We keep hearing about the difficulties of the Iranian people and the regime’s desperation to end the financial sanctions, but Khamenei & Co. don’t care much about the plight of the Iranian people, and they’re already spending a lot of the cash (more than $20 billion for Russian weaponry, especially stuff to use against our Nay, including missiles and torpedoes—on top of the $700 million per month we are already releasing to them—they are confident they will have soon).

Even so, the spigot won’t open for several months even if everyone signs The Deal (which nobody has, as yet), so they’ll need some spending money to make ends meet.  The Chinese will help, having just signed a trade agreement said to amount to $25 billion.  That doesn’t need The Deal, since China, like India, never agreed to sanctions, and they’ve got real leverage in this game;  the Iranian elite has deposited lots of money in banks in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Maybe the regime will try to ease the pain so palpable in Iran nowadays.  Maybe not.  Workers haven’t been paid for months, and the latest manifestation is a nation-wide teachers’ protest against the arrest of the seven top leaders of their organizations.  This comes just at the start of the school year, thereby disrupting an essential part of daily life.

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The Pope of Montecristo

September 20th, 2015 - 7:08 pm

So Pope Francis, having delivered himself of the usual Jesuit diatribe against capitalism and warned us all about rising global temperatures, has arrived in Cuba.  That unhappy island inhabits a time-space warp that was formed in the 1960s, a world where the political slogans and the automobiles are relics of a failed tyranny, which offers pretty girls for rent to tourists with hard currency, and which continues to peddle its once superb cigars to the unwary.

Yes, I’m going to warn you about Cuban cigars.  Back in Camelot days, Cuba produced the world’s best cigars.  JFK smoked them, as did his press secretary, Pierre Salinger.  It was said at the time that the president instructed Salinger to obtain a huge stash of cigars from the vuelta abajo in order to beat the imposition of the embargo.  I always believed that story, and I’ve got a footnote for it.  Years later, when Salinger was working as a reporter for ABC News in Paris, we had lunch one day and he showed me his personal supply of his personal Cuban cigars:  they had a “Pierre Salinger” band (as I recall, they were Churchills from Partagas).

Americans have been forbidden to import Cuban cigars ever since, but this is apparently about to end as one of the elements of Obama’s deal with the Castros. When I heard the pope was headed for Havana, I wondered if the Castros were planning to give him a box of “Francis” cigars. And I also wondered if anyone had briefed him on the current state of Cuban cigars. Which is, let us say, not what it once was.

I spend a fair amount of time in Europe, where there is no Cuban embargo, and thus you can buy all the Cuban cigars you want. I’ve had some, but for the most part I’ve given them up. The Dominicans and Nicaraguans are much better cigars nowadays. The great Cuban cigar makers brought tobacco seed with them when they fled Castro’s tyranny, and over the course of the past half-century they have gotten better and better. More important, they have good quality control, whereas the Cubans don’t.

In keeping with Communism’s bottom line–“they pretend to pay and we pretend to work”– Cuban cigars for many years have been totally unpredictable. Sometimes you get a masterpiece (same seeds, same soil, same sun as fifty years ago), but then the very next box of the very same brand and size will be unsmokable.  And, also in keeping with the essence of Communist rule, there’s a big black market, both on the island and internationally, involving both “real” Cubans and imitations.  I’ve had friends give me boxes bearing the logo of the legendary Montecristo #2, the big torpedo that German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard used to smoke, only to find they were awful.  In all likelihood they were total phonies, some junk tobacco packed and banded to look like the real thing.

To me, the story of Cuban cigars is a good metaphor for the failure of Communist tyranny, and I think it’s shameful that the first Jesuit pope in history apparently intends to talk mostly about the weather instead of freedom.  Sometimes the Jesuits are too clever for our own good.  But there is no excuse for Francis’ lecturing us about the sins of capitalism and largely ignoring the dreadful rule of the Castros.

When he comes to Washington, if I have the chance, I’ll give him a fine cigar made by free Cubans in Little Havana.

1 Rule and 4 Tips For Smoking Cigars

The Two Mark Levins

September 12th, 2015 - 3:40 pm

I know two quite different Mark Levins and I am crazy about both of them.  The first is the one I listen to on the radio. The loud one, the one that gets all worked up, the one I imagine standing up and waving his arms, veins protruding from his neck, pupils dilated. The other one writes books, and those books are so calm, so carefully argued, and so patiently explicated, that you can only imagine him sitting in an overstuffed leather chair near a fireplace puffing thoughtfully on his calabash.

The second Levin explains his mission this way in his latest, Plunder and Deceit:

… To persuade as many fellow citizens as possible, through scholarship, facts, and ideas, to avert a looming tragedy.… A real and devastating American tragedy, the loss of the greatest Republic known to mankind.

The whole book is written in that voice, although the evidence he presents about our pending national tragedy is enough to make anyone scream.  Plunder is an orderly, devastatingly careful assault on the nuts and bolts of the American crisis, from taxation to immigration, from the appeasement of our enemies to the bleeding of our defense budget, to the ideological capture of the educational system by the enemies of American ideals, and—perhaps most importantly—an expose of the lies that the left tells about civil society, the economy and America’s historic role in the world.

No wonder it’s a national best-seller.  No wonder the New York Times, in an ironic confirmation of one of Plunder’s central theses, kept it off its best-seller list for a week, pretending it didn’t really exist, or something.

What to do?  Mark calls for a new trans-generational movement to fight against the frightening march toward an all-powerful centralized state. 

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What if Iran Rejects the Deal?

September 9th, 2015 - 7:28 am

Congress is back, and we will now have round one of the fight over the Iran deal. The White House has organized enough votes to block an override of the anticipated presidential veto, but there are now multiple schemes to kill the deal anyway. Maybe some of the Democrats who have promised to vote with Obama will change their minds in the face of mounting public opposition. Maybe the Corker-Cardin law contains the seeds of its own distruction, and, surprise, surprise, can actually be used to force the Senate to treat the deal as a treaty rather than an executive agreement. I will confess that I can’t keep up with all the fine print, and anyway the central issue – Iran policy – is not going to be debated, at least for now.

The central issue is the war waged against us by Tehran and its allies, and whether we are going to continue to pay the Iranians billions of dollars to kill Americans and others. You would be amazed at the number of famous legislatures and their top staffers who do not know that we are presently giving Iran $700 million a month, as you would be amazed at the tiny handful of so-called leaders who publicly asked, “Why would any president want to pay Iran hundreds of billions of dollars to kill Americans?”

It’s a question than answers itself, or so you would think. But then, since nobody asks it, we are still very far from the central issue, namely the war. Whatever happens in Congress in the next couple of weeks, the war will remain. The Iranians don’t need nukes to kill Americans, as they have demonstrated for the past 36 years, and sooner or later we will have to respond. Unless, of course, we just want to go quietly. If we want to win, we need to support regime change in Iran, lest the off-repeated nonsense that Congress must choose between the deal and war becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Nonetheless, our history suggests a different solution: we may be saved by our enemies.

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The War Games

September 5th, 2015 - 5:53 pm

Can’t anybody around here play this war game?  Russia is sending troops into Syria, alongside the Iranian forces that have been fighting long since, to shore up the Assad regime.  The Iranians are convincingly accused of creating terror cells in Kuwait and Thailand and waging cyberwar and conventional terror attacks against Saudi Arabia.  We know that Iran organized a scheme to blow up a restaurant in Washington, another to bomb a passenger train between Canada and the U.S., and yet another to destroy Kennedy Airport.

They are all acts of war.  Yet, the president and his followers insist that if there is no deal with Iran, “the only alternative is war.”

You’d think a blind man could see that the war was on, but no.  War is instead described– by the Democrats–as A Very Bad Thing that would happen if Congress didn’t follow President Obama’s orders.

Meanwhile, opponents of  The Deal insist that war is actually more likely if we approve all the concessions granted the Iranians at Vienna.  They, too, fail to see the war in front of their noses, and engage in the heated debate over a fantasy.  Thus, thousands of column inches and countless hours of broadcasting focus relentlessly on votes in Congress instead of mass death and destruction currently underway.  And, as our enemies warn us every day, the mayhem is headed our way.

To summarize:  there IS war, it is escalating, and it is aimed at us.  The current slaughter is just for practice, and the oppression within Iran, Syria, and the caliphate is a template for our own massacre and subjugation if they win.

It’s hard to have a serious policy debate under these circumstances, and we don’t have one.  If we did, the pundits and politicians would pay more attention to the recent reports about the arrival of Russian troops and fighter planes in Syria, and our strategists would be designing a way to win.  No way.  Typically, concurrently with the military advance Putin starts talking about “peaceful change” in Syria that would produce a coalition between Assad’s Alawites and what the Russians call the “healthy opposition.”  Here’s The Daily Beast’s Michael Weiss, one of my favorite reporters/analysts, with the long version.

Don’t expect any political breakthroughs.  The “peace” talk is classic disinformation.  Just ask the millions of refugees, who know the war is on and are running from it.

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Hackers and Assassins

August 23rd, 2015 - 1:03 pm

There is so much hacking going on that it seems to have become almost boring.  But it behooves us to take hacking very seriously.  I think if the public knew more about the way hacked information is actually being used, we’d pay closer attention and defend ourselves more effectively.

Who cares about all the hacking? Take a hypothetical example: American soldiers in the Middle East have been receiving emails that sound something like this: “Good morning. We thought you would like to know that we are carefully watching your daughter Rosie, the one who lives in Wichita at 1234 State Street. This is to inform you that if your tank moves 100 meters north, she will not live to see the sun rise tomorrow.”

That’s the sort of thing that can happen when personal data get into dangerous hands. American troops aren’t afraid to die in combat, but their children did not volunteer. This sort of blackmail is credible and effective.  Threats against the kids are more powerful than those against the troops themselves. And this is only one way in which the hackers and their clients can exploit all those millions of files.

Such emails come from the  “information dominance and psychological warfare” handbook to add incremental corrosive stress to the war fighter, in addition to the stress that he or she is already under.  Direct stress to the war fighter is “thrown off” nearly automatically because of good training and because we operate under the theory of the team, the band of the brotherhood, etc.  We are trained to believe that we as a team, so long as we are a team together, will be okay.

However, the greater stress that impacts the war fighter is that which cannot be spun off — and that is a threat against our family at home, alone, and while we are in combat and deployed.

Thus, this particular PSYCHOP — a hypothetical one, to be sure, but similar things happen often — is very cleverly created because it cannot be easily shed — it is done to add additional stress; and moreover, to distract and defocus and finally to demoralize the war fighter so that they will make mistakes or lose focus upon their training or not take risks.

The hacked data provide our enemies with a terrific mailing list, as well as targets for espionage (that’s how they get information about “Rosie”).

Which raises two crucial questions: Who’s hacking?  Who are their clients?

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Radical Islam’s Systematic Use of Rape

August 18th, 2015 - 7:25 pm

There was a brief flurry of outrage at the report that the “Caliph” of the Islamic state had repeatedly raped American aid worker Kayla Mueller before she finally died in an attack against IS targets. The New York Times devoted a lot of space to what it called the “theology of rape” that is an integral part of the doctrine and practice of the “Caliphate.”  The Times story suggested that the systematic use of rape was of relatively recent vintage for IS, but the violent treatment of women by radical Islamists is nothing new. It ranges from rape and honor killings to beating, to formal, legal definition of women as inferior beings.  In Iran, for example, the legal code treats a woman as “worth” half a man, and this is reflected in penalties for crimes against them.  If a man kills a pregnant woman with a male fetus, for example, he is likely to be ordered to pay a full charge for the fetus but half as much for the mother.

Some years ago, I worked on a story abou a Palestinian member of the Abu Nidal terrorist organization. He had a daughter who was dating a black man in St. Louis, and her father didn’t like it. He accordingly established a rigid curfew for the girl, and one night she arrived late. A nasty fight ensued, and he stabbed her to death. The only witness was his wife, who refused to testify against him. But the FBI was on his case, had bugged the house, and thus had an audio recording of the bloody event.

Had it not been for the FBI’s investigation of the terrorist group, this honor killing would have never been exposed. This suggests, with considerable evidence, that the phenomenon is quite substantial.

Needless to say, rape, honor killings and the oppression of women are not limited to radical Islamist men. But the systematic use of rape certainly seems more common to them than to any other contemporary group. This should not surprise us; the environment in which radical Islam is transmitted to the young men seems almost deliberately designed to produce sexual repression. The madrasas in which Koranic ideology is taught are sexually segregated and physically unpleasant. The students typically sit cross-legged on the ground for hours on end, memorizing the sacred text. There are no females in their lives, and the hormones of the faithful are every bit as powerful as those of the infidels. Ergo, they emerge with wild sexual fantasies that are fueled by promises of a sexual paradise in which the faithful will be rewarded by the total submission of 72 beautiful virgins.

No wonder IS uses rape as a recruiting tool!

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From Schumer to Suleimani

August 9th, 2015 - 2:19 pm

I am not very good at predicting political events, and I did not expect Senator Chuck Schumer to announce his opposition to the Iran deal before the August recess. After all, he’s in line to become the Democrats’ leader in the Senate, very important for a professional pol. That happy thought is now very much in jeopardy as he is targeted by the White House and the left wing – that is to say the majority – of the Democrat Party.

He certainly knew that he would be viciously attacked; the left, and not only in the United States, has pretty much given up trying to win rational arguments. The old pseudo-Marxist remedies having failed long since, their “politics” consist primarily of attempts at the personal destruction of their opponents and enemies. Schumer will now bear the full brunt of his party’s rage.  It has already cost him money, no small matter.

In my world, anyone willing to pay a steep price for his actions isn’t cunning, but brave.

So I think that Schumer’s action is one of those profiles in courage that John F. Kennedy wrote about in his famous book. I am not at all convinced by the various conspiracy theories that are floating around, the cleverest of which is the suspicion that Schumer knows that the deal will survive, even if it goes back to Congress after an Obama veto, and so he is free to cater to the sentiments of his (Jewish) base.  Such theories are too clever for me. Among other problems, I doubt that the bulk of his supporters are opposed to the deal, and there is certainly no mass uprising against it from the American Jewish community (although, in another surprise, the liberal American Jewish Committee has also come out against it).  So the would-be premise is false.

As a matter of fact, it is much more difficult – at least for me – to account for those who are supporting the Grand Bargain with Iran. By now, anybody who cares to know is aware that the deal is a bad one, and indeed it is probably worse than we know because the administration is withholding information about it from Congress and the public. Moreover, just as Kissinger and Schultz predicted, the deal, far from lessening the risk of nuclear war, is provoking other countries to pursue nuclear options. I am quite surprised, for example, at the considerable number of intelligent and well-informed people who privately say that Saudi Arabia has already obtained nuclear weapons.

But even aside from nuclear proliferation and Iran’s continued rejection of serious investigation of their known and suspected nuclear facilities, the whole issue boils down to a simple, straightforward question: do we really want to pay Iran to kill Americans?

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How to Defeat the Grand Bargain with Iran

July 27th, 2015 - 6:24 am

I think most of those trying to stop the approval of the Iran Deal are going about it wrong.  I don’t believe you can stop this thing by going through the text and pointing out its myriad flaws, nor do I think it’s good enough to expose the many lies Obama, Kerry, Rhodes et. al. told us along the way, nor even to uncover secret deals.  Kerry and Zarif spent 27 hours alone during the negotiations, and we’re not going to get a transcript of those conversations, nor will either of them tell us what they may have agreed.  And even if they did, I don’t think it would produce enough public political rage to stiffen the wobbly spines of our elected leaders.

The critics are quite right for the most part: it’s an awful agreement, the administration has behaved abominably, and the deal should be rejected.  I’m just talking about the best way to do it, the best tactics to use.  Obama understands how to do it:  reduce the issue to a simple choice.  He does that when he says that Congress must either approve the Grand Bargain or plunge the Middle East–or is it the world?–into war.

We should answer it:  Iran has been at war with us for 36 years, and this deal–the latest of its kind–gives Iran lots of money to kill even more Americans.  Indeed, we’ve been doing it for quite a while.

In a single phrase:  the war is already ON, and we’re paying the Iranians to kill us.  You want to pay them even more?  Apparently that’s what Obama wants.

That’s the essence of the matter, but we’re all wrapped up in on-site inspections, complicated annexes and a steady flow of information that’s been withheld from us.  That won’t work.  Just stick to the one-liner.  Americans don’t like our guys getting murdered by Iranians and their proxies, and we don’t like being shaken down by our own killers.

Remember when comrade Lenin remarked that the capitalists would eventually buy the rope and supply it to their hangman?  Well here we are.

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