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Belmont Club

The Road to Hell

January 29th, 2014 - 5:26 pm

Max Boot notices that although “President Obama’s State of the Union included the following pledge: ‘Here at home, we’ll keep strengthening our defenses and combat new threats like cyberattacks. And as we reform our defense budget, we have to keep faith with our men and women in uniform and invest in the capabilities they need to succeed in future missions.’ What the speech didn’t include was any mention of the defense budget, which makes the above pledge ring hollow.”

Kevin Baron at Defense One puts it another way. “President Barack Obama closed out his State of the Union address by attempting to define a new post-war standard that limits U.S. military intervention in global conflicts around the world but shows no sign of letting up chasing global terrorism.” It is, in Baron’s article a vision of “no more war but plenty of fighting.”

War is no more. The lawyers have simply defined it out of existence. After all, if you don’t go to Congress for authorization, where’s the war? It is a condition of what used to be called strategic mindlessness. But this time it’s a bug, not a feature.

It’s not just Max Boot and Kevin Baron who’ve noticed that the cat has gone away. The rats know it too. Pyongyang is up to its old tricks. “North Korea has followed through on its threat to advance its nuclear weapons program, the top U.S. intelligence official said Wednesday, while a research institute pointed to signs the communist country is preparing to launch bigger rockets.”

In written testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said North Korea has expanded the size of the uranium enrichment facility at the Nyongbyon nuclear complex and restarted a reactor that was used for plutonium production before it was shut down in 2007.

Damascus is also showing signs of backsliding. “Syria has given up less than five percent of its chemical weapons arsenal and will miss next week’s deadline to send all toxic agents abroad for destruction, sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.”

The deliveries, in two shipments this month to the northern Syrian port of Latakia totaled 4.1 percent of the roughly 1433 metric tons of toxic agents reported by Damascus to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“It’s not enough and there is no sign of more,” one source briefed on the situation said.

Maybe Assad and Kim have lied. They’ve been known to do that. In the past the US would send over a carrier to remind them of their pledges. But alas, carriers are a scarce commodity these days and here’s why: no money. ”News reports indicate the U.S. Navy could eliminate one of its 10 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers starting in 2015. And according to one prominent naval writer, that single cut should be the beginning of a slow process of completely axing the giant ships from the American fleet.”

“The nation must plan a graceful transition that stops building carriers, plans a path for those already built to see them through their service life and creates new means of operational effectiveness in the future,” Capt. Henry Hendrix, an historian and strategist, wrote in a 2013 study for the Center for a New American Security think tank.

The main reason is simple: money. Unless budgets increase, carriers somehow get cheaper or the Pentagon makes deep cuts elsewhere, the Navy cannot afford to maintain today’s 10-flattop force—to say nothing of the 11 carriers it’s required by law to have over the long term.

Even if its not the beginning of the end the Navy is now in what Breaking Defense described as a “carrier crunch”.  Running what it has harder than before.

As demand rose, the Navy just kept extending planned deployments from the official seven-month standard to eight months or more.

“We’re averaging eight to 10 months” now, Adm. Bill Gortney told the Surface Navy Association two weeks ago, “and that’s not sustainable over the long haul.”

“The intent was to have a seven-month deployment in a 32-month cycle,” said Clark, the ex-Navy official. “Pretty much every carrier deployment has been eight months plus [and] we were deploying a lot of carriers twice in their 32-month cycle.”

That creates the perception that America is weak.

Recently the Turkish foreign minister suggested that al-Qaeda had secretly switched sides to Assad, a development which suggests the militant group now believes the Opthalmologist of Damascus will be the winner in Syria. “Last week Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu accused the Syrian regime and the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) of being “in a partnership backstage,” a vaguely worded assertion that seems intentionally couched so that it can be read to imply an explicit partnership or an implicit alignment of interests.”

Al-Qaeda may be crazy, but they’re not stupid. They want to be on the winning side. And so apparently does Afghan president Karzai. The Daily Beast suggests that this American ally is behaving increasingly like a foe. “The escalating brazenness off Karzai’s anti-American rhetoric is indicative of the deterioration of US-Afghan relations since President Obama took office. US officials have leaked stories that Karzai is a drug addict and drug lord, his family is in bed with the Taliban, he is in the pay of the Iranian government and the CIA, and he has rigged elections. It is well known that top US officials, including Richard Holbrooke, were active in campaigning against Karzai in the 2009 presidential election.”

Karzai 1: State Department:0.

But the administration assures us that all is well, whatever the appearances to the contrary. With reference to the effort to disarm Iran the Christian Science Monitor notes the administration is no longer using the word “dismantle” in that connection. “Tactical retreat? Obama dodges ‘dismantlement’ in State of the Union Iran comments”.  Tactical retreat it might be, but an extraordinary constellation of US allies says it looks like the administration is bugging out. In response John Kerry said that “nothing could be further from the truth”.

Senior officials in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel all have complained about what they view as an American retrenchment after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with some leaders already beginning to chart policies more independent of Washington than in the past.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry sought to ease those concerns Friday, insisting in a foreign policy address during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that “it is a myth that we are pulling back or giving up or standing down…. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Still not everyone is convinced the administration is just readjusting the lines. Four former American ambassadors to the Ukraine signed a joint statement in the New York Times were very blunt. “Ukraine is on the verge of spinning out of control. A pro-European protest that began more than two months ago in Kiev’s central square has flared into broad, angry opposition to the authoritarian policies of President Viktor F. Yanukovych. If the United States and European Union wish to encourage a peaceful resolution, they must use their leverage now. Otherwise the situation could degenerate further, to the point where the West will be no more than a spectator.”

“No more than a spectator”: a sad comedown for the administration of Barack Obama, who won that the Nobel Peace prize back in 2009, . If it’s any comfort to the administration Norwegian legislators have just nominated Edward Snowden from the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, so maybe there’s something of a curse inscribed on it. ”The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

The administration has nominated 2014 as the “year of action”. More likely it will be the Year of Consequences.  It would be wrong to think that president Obama is being stymied by the Republicans.  It is the feedback from reality he has to fear.

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Top Rated Comments   
National defense is a kind of insurance against the kind of catastrophic sickness exemplified by World War 2. The immediate postwar generation spent huge amounts on it because the cost of being uninsured was so fresh in their minds.

President Obama has stopped paying the premium because he wants to spend that money on Obamaphones or something. Why do we need that old iron anyway? Nobody's attacking us?

And indeed they are right. But the nature of insurance is that you buy it before you smell the smoke of a fire because by the time you realize you need it, you can't buy it. Pre-existing condition and all.

The Yom Kippur War, limited as it was, consumed an entire year's GDP for Israel. Any major conflict that breaks out will be far more expensive than all the "wasteful defense spending" cut.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
The great advantage of people like Assad is that they don't have to work through channels. They owe no deference to the Obama administration and pursue their interests singlemindedly. Maybe most Americans are still waiting for the administration to wake up, for people to change, since that's the way it's always been: to wait by the radio for the president come on the air and take the lead. But perhaps the best way to go is stop waiting and just fix the problem without fanfare.

And that seems to be a far more productive approach than waiting for the system to change. Fracking did not succeed by convincing the administration. They just fracked around him, until finally he was reduced to trying to claim it was his idea. Which when you come to think of it is exactly what all of Obama's successful enemies are doing. They see him as a great opportunity to do what they want because he is too incompetent to stop them. So they just bore on regardless.

Maybe the Navy after years of trying to keep four carriers forward simply said: not going to do it any more. Gonna do what we have to do. And lo it is harder for the administration to say "no" than it is for others to say "no" to them.

Perhaps the best way forward is to practice the UNODIR strategy. Just do what works unless otherwise directed. Hence Coburn now has a comprehensive counter-Obamacare proposal, a health reform program of his own. One shouldn't wait until the administration formally concedes the argument, but simply proceed UNODIR.

Because in the nature of things Obamacare is going to fail and the insurance companies aren't even going to get their subsidies and at that moment they may espy an alternative chugging along and just latch onto it. Ultimately people go with what works and it is often unnecessary to directly confront a nonfunctional system. Just put a useful work around and in the end you will win just because.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ironically I think this is a hopeful time. For the warning signs are unmistakable without really causing any irreparable damage to world peace. And therefore it provides an opportunity for statesmen to alter course before it is too late.

And I think this is actually happening. The US allies, for example, are adapting by entering into ad hoc arrangements among themselves. They understand, even though they will not speak openly of it, that Washington is busted.

There's actually a replacement bill for Obamacare sponsored by Senator Coburn. It's no longer just about saying "no" but building anew. Reality has noed Obama and this is understood. All over the place people are quietly moving to shore things up without making a big hue and cry. This SOTU was marked by its pathos; it was like hearing a has-been saying, "I'm ready for my close up," which only goes to show that people are ready to move on. The mental adjustment is being made. The past is becoming history.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

The administration thought that by mastering the narrative it could master events. Well it has the NYT and the Washington Post still. And its media acolytes are ever more devoted. But times have passed them by and they will increasingly be in a reactive mode.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (54)
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All this admin and Leftists are betting is that SHTF happens under a different, (hopefully Republican), president. They really don't care how many people (here and foreign) can and will get hurt.

"Bush dropped the ball", "Under his watch", how many times we've heard that over and over? Damn the cause and consequences.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The administration has nominated 2014 as the “year of action”. More likely it will be the Year of Consequences. "

So you think 2014 may be the "Year of Consequences?" That is a big-time understatement. You didn't mention that China and Japan are on a verge of war. That means the US too. Hell, it's not entirely clear if the US will even exist in a couple of years. What's going to happen if Israel attacks Iran? That will be like throwing a match at a gas can.

Pick your path to war: China and Japan blow up, or Israel, it's neighbors and Iran blow up.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
You know, based not only on his record but the statements made during his State of the Union speech, I think that PJ Media should produce a summary of Obama'S Edicts so we can go about the business of ignoring the Federal Govt in a thorough, systematic, and effective manner.

First preference in ignoring the Feral Govt should be What Obama Decreed.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Kinuachdrach "the world is ready for the next Big Idea"

For some reason, that phrase conjures up a vision of Albert Gore. I prefer ideas like the nut and bolt which revolutionized the industrial world. The invention of airplanes, railroad engines, automobiles .... you name it, depended on the humble nut and bolt. I've never seen the nut and bolt lauded as a "Big Idea" but it surely was.

My vote is for fewer Albert Gores and more nut and bolt ideas.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
"You will perish in Flames!!!" - Keymaster Vinz Clortho
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
K said: A thought stimulated by all this discussion -- the world is ready for the next Big Idea

Or maybe not. Unless it's a huge Luddite movement, ban all the computers! Until then I think most people are completely overloaded with ideas on their smart phones and netflix.

No stinkin' digital devices in the Koran.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Fascinating article & string of comments. Congratulations, everyone.

A thought stimulated by all this discussion -- the world is ready for the next Big Idea, something that people can sign up for & believe in. Communism. A Thousand Year Reich. The Land of the Free. An Empire on which the Sun Never Sets. A Crusade to free the Holy Land. A Caliphate. A Roman Empire.

But today's credentialed substitutes for leaders are not capable of sparking that fire, defining a cause for which people will brave hardships. It is hard to persuade a shivering people that "Global Warming" is the biggest threat they face. Even harder for a multi-millionaire shouting down at the plebes from his helicopter to do the persuading.

Maybe this moment will pass, and the world will descend into Equal Opportunity misery. But somewhere in the Outlands, a Mohammed or a Jesus walks, a Churchill or a Genghis -- part of the uncredentialed unwashed, carrying an idea which will lay low today's failed nomenklatura and unleash global changes. These are fertile times for someone with true leadership capabilities and an unstoppable idea.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
A not so new idea from the original Spengler, "Decline of the West" (1912)

Spengler predicted, based on the life cycles of previous civilizations, that once Western Civilization reached the Imperial Stage, which he thought would happen by the end of the 20th century, that the age of New Ideas would be over, at least as far as Western Civilization is concerned. Western Civ would just continue to sputter along in a half-hearted way until it burned itself out. (so far, he looks right on the money)

Big New Ideas will come some day, but not until Western Civ has completely crashed and burned - the New Ideas will come from those who have to try and make something out of the rubble.

Remember, Rome had already crumbled under the barbarian invasions long before Mohammed showed up. Mohammed's armies didn't conquer any thriving empires, not in Persia and not in Byzantium - in both cases, they overran a war-torn wasteland that had seen its better days pass away long, long, before.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wretchard wrote "By doing stuff, by achieving real things one wins the argument regardless. Hence maybe it is possible to simply work around, where possible and look behind in the rearview mirror at the guy cutting all the silly ribbons."

That is what Henry Kaiser and the six companies did during the Great Depression. See page 54 of Freedom's Forge

"...At one point Ickes drew up a list of no fewer than 70,000 separate violations of the letter of the contract, and considered imposing a $300,000 fine.

Kaiser struck back --- not by confronting Ickes directly but by having a pamphlet with color illustrations drawn up, called 'So Hoover Was Built', celebrating the heroic achievements of the Six Companies and its engineers and employees, which Kaiser intended to mail en masse to congressmen and members of the media.

A week before the pamphlet was to go out, Kaiser dropped a copy off on Ickes' desk. The prickly interior Secretary saw that he was about to lose a massive public relations battle and backed down..."

Note that the Six Companies built the Hoover Dam with non-union labor, while FDR and Ickes were trying to call it Boulder Dam.

History tells us who got naming final rights. It is known today as Hoover Dam.

Henry Kaiser kicked FDR's butt. So much so, that FDR learned to "lead him from behind".

10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
This sir is a history lesson that will never be taught. We received a recent hire from UT-Austin of all places who was a life-long Texan from the Houston area.

I am his trainer. Out of pure curiosity I asked him if he had ever been required to read the Constitution in primary, secondary, or post secondary education.

He said "not once."
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Show him this

Abe Lincoln freed the Negroes
and old Nero he burned Rome,
but the Big Six helped depression
when they gave the stiff a home.
In a nice bunkhouse they're sleepin'
They're working every day.
The hungry look has vanished
For they got three squares a day.
You'll find tall Lou from Kal-a-ma-zoo,
And Slim from Alabam
Mixed in with the rest of us
Old boys on Hoover Dam.

10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
To quote:

"I will not go silently into the night"

The largest standing army in the world is the US citizenry. Over ninety percent of those weapons are owned by conservatives.

This will come to a head. Sooner than later. The markets are already crashing which is long over due.

When it starts, it will explode. Some times good Christian people must do what is right. History has a way of repeating itself.

Case in point, It appears that Peyton Manning, if the Broncos lose the Super Bowl, despite his paycheck for the game, will still owe the state of New Jersey 800 bucks. A tax rate of 101%.

That is the very definition of tyranny.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
And perhaps 90% of them have had military training?
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sadly, I think your estimate is long outdated. Only a little more than one percent of youth ever volunteer for military service, and the alumni of active duty tend to comprise a large share of the National Guard and reserves. Viet Nam vets are now under 900,000 and shrinking . And their age is in the 60s to 70s.The Korean War vets are all in their 80s or older. The hunter is probably a proficient shooter while hunting, but is probably lacking in field and tactical skills. And certainly has no experience of deer and ducks which shoot back. They will learn, but the learning curve will be steep.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment

"The Karzai 1, State Department 0"

That was brilliant.

This administration keeps score.

But when it comes to foreign policy, it is a boding of doom to come. They will do something incredibly stupid. They will double down on their anti-American agenda come October of this year. Just watch. They simply cannot help themselves.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
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