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Belmont Club

The First Glimmer

July 30th, 2013 - 2:44 pm

The New York Times writes “Al Qaeda in Iraq Scores Big”. The piece is signed by the editorial board too. It describes the negative consequences of the President’s hasty abandonment of Iraq. But more properly considered, it is an indictment of a whole strategy. For the consequences of that failed plan are rippling not just through Iraq, but North Africa, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. Before the end the consequences may spread to Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Jailbreaks are common in Iraq, but the brazen assaults on the prisons at Abu Ghraib and Taji last week are in a class by themselves. The attacks freed perhaps as many as 800 militants, who are now sought by Interpol as a “major threat” to global security. The attacks showed the fearsome and growing strength of Al Qaeda in Iraq, seemingly on the decline only a few years ago. They also raised new questions about the effectiveness of Iraq’s authoritarian prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, as well as the stability of Iraq itself. …

Al Qaeda in Iraq, an affiliate of Al Qaeda, waged a virulent insurgency that brought the country to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007, then suffered major defeats at the hands of Iraqi tribal groups and American troops. It has since rebounded and is believed largely responsible for a surge in daily bombings that have killed an estimated 700 people this month alone….

Iraq is a sovereign country, responsible for its own security. But Iraq might have been better able to repel Al Qaeda if Mr. Maliki and the Americans had worked harder on a deal to keep a token number of troops in the country to continue helping with training and intelligence-gathering. Not surprising, Mr. Maliki’s interest in such an arrangement has grown; Army Special Operations and the C.I.A. reportedly have small units in the country to assist in counterterrorism activities. .

Well let’s not forget the breakouts in Libya or Pakistan either. That last paragraph– “but Iraq might have been better able to repel Al Qaeda if Mr. Maliki and the Americans had worked harder on a deal to keep a token number of troops in the country to continue helping with training and intelligence-gathering ” –  is probably as close to eating crow as anything recently published by the Gray Lady. Time to re-excerpt my old post, the Ten Ships, published in May, 2010, which if read, might have made the NYT’s surprise and astonishment at the burgeoning disaster less. I began with a quote.

President Barack Obama told military service members Monday that the war in Afghanistan was a “war of necessity” and that the U.S. would adhere to its timetable to withdraw troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. … “But we must never forget. This is not a war of choice,” he told the VFW crowd. “This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again.”

To jump from the correct idea that defeating the forces which ‘attacked American on 9/11″ were an existential threat to the idea that ergo Afghanistan was a war of necessity was a huge non sequitur. Afghanistan happened to be the place from which Osama Bin launched his attack on September 11. Admiral Nagumo launched his infamous attack on Pearl Harbor from a nameless patch of ocean 200 miles North of Oahu. But Admiral King had the sense to understand that the location itself had little significance. It was the Kido Butai, the ten carriers which made up the Japanese Fast Carrier force which momentarily occupied that ocean waste that he had to destroy. While the Kido Butai existed it could move across the vast spaces and attack at a point of its choosing. While it survived every patch of ocean was dangerous. Once it had been neutralized all the oceans of the world were potentially safe. As John Adams in his book If Mahan Ran the Great Pacific War wrote: “sink ten ships and win the naval war”. Both the Nihon Kaigun and the CINCPAC understood this. The entire purpose of subsequent American naval operations was to find and sink these ten ships; and the Nihon Kaigun’s subsequent efforts revolved around their attempt to preserve them. …

For all of its defects the campaign in Iraq was at least in the right place: at the locus of oil, ideology and brutal regimes that are the Middle East. Ideally the campaign in Iraq would have a sent a wave of democratization through the area, undermined the attraction of radical Islam, provided a base from which to physically control oil if necessary. That the campaign failed to attain many of objectives should not obscure the fact that its objectives were valid. It made far more strategic sense than fighting tribesmen in Afghanistan. Ideology, rogue regimes, energy are the three entities which have replaced the “ten ships” of 70 years ago. The means through which these three entities should be engaged ought to be the subject of reasoned debate, whether by military, economic or technological means. But the vital nature of these objectives ought not to be. Neutralize the intellectual appeal of radical Islam, topple the rogue regimes, and ease Western dependence on oil and you win the war. Yet their centrality, and even their existence is what the politicians constantly deny.

The “ten ships” of the War on Terror — the enemy’s center of gravity — were never in Afghanistan. It was always in the source of ideology, money and recruits that fueled it. In a word it was in the Middle East and in the Islamic ideology that motivated the terror. That is now painfully clear, even if the administration won’t admit it. But they have as much as done by their actions.

The CIA has announced it is moving from Afghanistan to the Middle East and North Africa. The DOD is talking about military options in Syria. And why heck, even the NYT is worried about the fires in that region raging out of control.

Nobody says “Detroit is alive and al-Qaeda is dead” any more. It’s not funny these days. Not even to the NYT.

Well that’s what you get for redeploying your firefighting assets in an irrational way. What did they expect? What did they expect for not naming the enemy, or even denying its existence? That might have given them a clue to who it was. That’s is what comes of trying to fight the War on Terror as a law enforcement, for substituting cafe talking points for strategy.

It is tempting to ask “what did you expect by choosing Barack Obama?” but that would be untrue and unfair. President Obama is the result, not the cause of the strategic disaster. He’s not the reason for this catastrophe, he’s the consequence.

The malaise was caused by the huge and growing defects within the Narrative. It became unmoored from reality. Print the money, make deployments a symbolic gesture. It became all about naming the first gay envoy to a South American country or the first woman ambassador to  an Asian nation. It became about novelty acts and it forgot about the bread and butter. It lost sight of the fact that beyond the Narrative, there is Reality. There is always Reality.

And now it is paying for its contempt for “unproven missile defense systems” and “advanced combat” plans.  These despised things are all that are saving its hide. Like Nagumo at Midway it is living off the sheer tactical virtuosity of its military professionals. But of strategy there is none. And sooner or later the moment must come when the dive bombers show up and even the US military won’t be able to save their bacon.

For now it is paying for idiotic policies, for the ideology that produced Barack Obama and which stuck the ground forces in landlocked Central Asia where every bean and bullet has to be imported by paying off the Pakistanis or the Russians. It is not too late. Not yet.  But the craziness has to stop now.

If there’s any hope within this editorial it is that the first glimmer of fear is now openly appearing within the liberal establishment. They’re beginning to suspect it’s not going to work;  that survival is not guaranteed;  Detroit can go broke, the pensions can be forfeit, their writ may no longer run in Cairo and American dominance — indeed their own jobs and lives — are not a given. It has finally occurred to them that the US can lose in the Middle East and beyond; that America can be defeated after all, if they behave stupidly enough.

But one must let them come to this realization themselves, just as if they were the first persons to think of it.  Their vanity must be given its due. Because it is all they have. It impelled them to make history’s most stupid luxury purchase: the elevation of Barack Obama to President of the United States. That memory is embarassment enough for anyone. Let them eat crow in peace.


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Top Rated Comments   
The USA should consolidate it's forces, rearm, identify friends and allies, and demonstrably reward friends and punish enemies (not necessarily by military force, but up to and including as necessary). Of course, seriously cutting domestic social expenditures and restructuring long term liabilities (e.g. Social Security, civil service retirement, medicare, medicaid, etc.) would also go a long way in giving America credibility once again.

Obama has done the trifecta, i.e. managed to squander ALL the American diplomatic, military, and economic credibility in five short (oops - LONG) years that required two and a half centuries to build. America is of no consequence not simply because Obama is at the helm of our hapless ship of state, but because Americans PUT HIM THERE. America is a mess, and every foreign enemy fully realizes it.

15 aircraft carriers, a completely new class of manned and unmanned submersible battleships, serious missile defense, and a bustling economy leading the world in GNP by doubles and triples will reestablish American credibility. Simply having a President who says what he means and means what he says, will go a long way towards making American a player again on the world stage, however, that will have to wait until 2016 or the next Impeachment.

Remember the world's first reaction to 9/11, when Cheney personally visited Pakistan to lay down America's terms, when Khadafy almost immediately turned in his WMD's - THAT was credibility, even through the world had yet to see America's full military might in action in the Middle East (though I'm sure memories of 1990/91 Desert Storm was fresh).

The main thing missing in American strategic policy is a strategic policy, and the will and determination to follow it. Obama's team is a joke, and the entire world knows it.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Of course President Obama screwed up. Now, whose fault is that? The New York Times endorsed Barack Hussein Obama in both 2008 and 2012. It's a bit late to eat crow now. It's a bit late to say, “You screwed up. You trusted us.”

Who gets hurt the most from the jailbreaks at Abu Ghraib and Taji? The people of Sadr City. Residents of Sadr City are the most likely to get massacred by the prisoners who were freed. Sadr City, stronghold of Moqtada as-Sadr. Sadr City, hometown of Muntadhar al-Zaidi – the dude who threw his shoes at George W. Bush. It's a bit late now for people in Sadr City to discover that neither Moqtada as-Sadr nor the Iraqi government nor all of the shoes in the world can defend them from al-Qaeda – the United States is gone and isn't coming back any time soon.

Barack Obama has set back decades of progress in both the national security and internal stability of the United States. Expecting him to repair the damage he has done is pointless. The same could be said for the Gray Lady. I look forward to the time when the New York Times is shuttered and Thomas Friedman finds out he has lost his job to a blogger in Calcutta.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Let them eat crow in peace."

Au contraire mon frere. Ensure those you love survive and learn, so they can dance on the b*stards graves.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (50)
All Comments   (50)
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"It impelled them to make history’s most stupid luxury purchase: the elevation of Barack Obama to President of the United States."

...soon to be followed by the election of Hillary Rodham Clinton. I can't wait to see her choice for Secretary of State.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
"But one must let them come to this realization themselves, just as if they were the first persons to think of it. Their vanity must be given its due. Because it is all they have. It impelled them to make history’s most stupid luxury purchase: the elevation of Barack Obama to President of the United States. That memory is embarassment enough for anyone. Let them eat crow in peace."

Sorry, but I doubt this will happen. For starters, people are extremely good at rationalizing away their actions. It won't be, "Yes, I made a mistake.." But, something along the lines of "Oh, if only we tweaked this, or that, the plan would have worked..."

Secondly, the NYT still controls the narrative to the lefties in this country And, as far as they (the average lefties) are concerned, Obama is the only one brilliant in Washington.

51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why strike at the slave when you can strike at the master?

It was always a mistake to strike at Afghanistan, except as a secondary target. The primary targets remain Saudi Arabia (for its wealth and Wahhabism), Iran (for its fanaticism), and Egypt (for its academia).

Nothing openly effective (e.g., seizing the monarchy’s wealth, ceasing subsidies to Egypt) will be done. Ever.

The best strategy to strike at the primary targets might be the fomenting of general unrest across the region through the creation of agents-provocateur who call for Arab Democracy and Arab Spring, two impossible concepts, which will instead lead to chaos, a chaos that might bring down the Saudi monarchy.

Irresponsible? No more so than the Saudi funding of Islamic centers world wide. Better than nuking Mecca. Let Moslems own their misfortunes.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
"They would give their eye-teeth to have a position near Syria, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon right now." - W

I dunno.

The Left sees themselves as a aristocratic caste above who should never have to 'get their hands dirty" with mundane efforts such as understanding geo-political military strategy.

There's too many nasty difficult choices involved- it 's soo much better to be above the fray like Buraq and believe there is a third way out somehow where the choices are politically correct and antiseptically clean. I really don't think they would even appreciate the value of a logistical position near Turkey, Iraq or Syria, because that would mean they appreciate military strategy.

As far as the NYT facing reality, I also don't know about that. The thing is that many Lefturds I know, in their private moments, will admit to thinking realistic "conservative" thoughts now and then , but when they do it, they are always looking over their shoulder psychologically. It's as if they fear being expelled from the " in crowd" group if they really embrace reality.

The average Lefturd knows that Left vehemently attacks it's own when they stray and really make an example of those who betray the caste. So the slavish devotion to the Narrative may just be a way to preserve one's standing with the Caste Hierarchy.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Let them eat crow in peace!?! Indeed not!

Having caught them in a strategic blunder we should now give them space to recover? No. they must be pounded on all fronts. Things are unraveling, starting at the periphery; they will unravel towards the center. Detroit and the other urban bankruptcies are that unraveling on the home front.

Its not the narrative that's the problem. The narrative is a tool, a weapon in the war that has been waged covertly on the US these last - what? 60 or 70 years. The narrative must be exposed and mocked to silence, but the underlying strategy of subversion, the cultural warfare, the active measures, must be exposed and broken as a strategic necessity if it is not to start all over again.

These are the people for whom a century of failure has proven nothing. All their political correctness, all their monolithic diversity, divisive inclusivity, critical theory, all their whatnot studies, tolerance bigotry, all their foolish brights and useful idiots, lies, empty promises, vile works - all of it! must be brought down, cast out and given over to the flames.

How we do that and preserve the Union, I don't know. But I do know that anything less and the cancer spreads anew.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
A wonderful article. But as to the escaped terrorists, the worst of them should have been executed long ago. Even if we were too squeamish to do it, I would have thought the Iraqis not. To an enemy that gives no quarter, none should be given.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
“If there’s any hope within this editorial it is that the first glimmer of fear is now openly appearing within the liberal establishment”.

Or perhaps they are just getting ready to pivot to Hillary in 2016? Wretchard, you pointed out earlier this week that a television biopic on Hillary's life is in the works. IMHO the establishment can’t reject the Narrative because that would risk legitimizing some political figures opposed to key tenants of their sacrament: abortion, gay marriage, etc. It’s easier for them to just tell themselves that Hillary is the mature and moderate alternative to BHO … God help us all.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
The entire ME problem would be completely different had Dear Leader not, in a monumentally stupid move, bolted out of Iraq over phony issues about the status of forces agreement. He thus lost a strategic base in a friendly country with a functioning national society. Instead, he chose an irrelevant exercise in a tribal waste land. Even the NYT recognizes this blunder.

The problem seems to be that Dear Leader favors the Sunni (and Saudi) side of the conflict against the Shia. Staying with a friendly Shiite Iraq between Shiite Iran and Alawite Shia Assad would have provided an immensely influential position in the present area of conflict. Mere presence of the US in Iraq would frustrate Iran from establishing a bloc of dominance from Afghanistan through the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean.

The likely prospect now is either that very Iranian hegemony, if Assad wins, or a strengthened Sunni Islamist base, if the rebels win (or both if Syria splinters). And because of his earlier blunders, Dear Leader has little control over the outcome. Given his record and the Kerry/Clinton clown act, I would expect the worst or horrors yet unimagined except in the fevered brains of fanatics.

Dear Leader shows a certain symmetry with a Saudi foreign policy commitment and a Saudi-centered domestic energy policy. That has to be inadvertent, given the stupidity on display in the Washington.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
“Ideally the campaign in Iraq would have a sent a wave of democratization through the area, undermined the attraction of radical Islam …”.

I’d say the 2009 protests in Iran indicate that this objective was, at least partly, achieved. Unfortunately President BHO received this incredible opportunity, purchased at the cost of so many American soldiers killed or maimed, and flushed it down the toilet.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
In the whole MENA region from Morocco to Pakistan, the only country that can feed itself from its own efforts is Pakistan. Pakistan's population growth will overtake its rice exports soon enough. It was idiotic to try nation building in Afghanistan when the country has 27 million people but can only feed 13 million in a good year. Their breeding rate has gone up since the US invasion. But one day the trucks carrying wheat will stop arriving and then the urban populations will fan out into the country and eat whatever they can chew on, including the seed grain for next year's crop. The population collapse will be almost complete. The coup in Egypt came along just in time for the Saudis to provide some financing for continued grain purchases. So the circus goes on for another year or two. The end is not in doubt, only the timing. Whatever you do, don't feed them. It only delays the outcome and makes it worse. When the first nation collapses due to lack of wheat, the bidding by governments for what they can get on world markets is going to be spectacular.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
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