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The Pretzel Man

June 18th, 2014 - 4:29 am

Dick and Liz Cheney in a WSJ article point out that president Barack Obama is in the unique position of fighting himself.  What is worse, his evil twin has launched a surprise attack on his other half.  The Cheneys write:

On a trip to the Middle East this spring, we heard a constant refrain in capitals from the Persian Gulf to Israel, “Can you please explain what your president is doing?” “Why is he walking away?” “Why is he so blithely sacrificing the hard fought gains you secured in Iraq?” “Why is he abandoning your friends?” “Why is he doing deals with your enemies?” …

Mr. Obama is busy ushering America’s adversaries into positions of power in the Middle East. First it was the Russians in Syria. Now, in a move that defies credulity, he toys with the idea of ushering Iran into Iraq. Only a fool would believe American policy in Iraq should be ceded to Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.

Ushering is booming these days. Obama’s allies having ushered these rebels into the Syria find these same rebels ushering themselves into Iraq. The onslaught has compelled the president to consider an alliance with arch-enemy Iran to quell the very same people fighting the selfsame Iran across the Syrian border. Nowhere is his dilemma more acutely illustrated than the problem of finding airbases from which to bomb the advancing ISIS columns. The Washington Post highlights how hard it is to find Sunni airbases from which to bomb Sunni rebels.

The Pentagon, for instance, has major air bases in Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The rulers of those countries are Sunni Muslims and are generally leery of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite whom the White House has criticized for exacerbating sectarian tensions.

But they point out the president is unlikely to get permission to bomb from these Sunni countries simply because they are supporting the very forces he plans to attack. It’s quite a twist, leaving him with few clear options other than throw in with Iran, his adversary in the nuclear nuclear face off with Israel.

Such an alliance, as a US military officer observes, would give the Iranians de facto control over any bombing campaign in Iraq. Gary Roughead, a retired four-star admiral and chief of naval operations from 2007 to 2011 was quoted by the Washington Post as saying “for targets in populated areas, the United States would have to rely to a large extent on intelligence provided by the Iraqi military”. That means the Shi’ite military or the Iranians will spot for American air power.

President Obama is now paying the ultimate price for having no strategic goals; no global context.  His sophisticated foreign policy world consisted of disconnected contexts in which contextualized deals could be made.  He’d deal, deal and deal. Nuance. Smart diplomacy. The localization of scope meant the same actors could assume the value of “friend” in one context and yet be foe in another.  That’s why Obama had so more different flavors of al-Qaeda than there are varieties of tomatoes in ketchup. Perhaps the saddest news of recent days is the admission by a former Nigerian president that the girls kidnapped by the Boko Haram are gone forever. Maybe the lesson is that Boko Haram, al-Shabab, Abu Sayyaf, al-Qaeda, ISIS and ISIL are pretty much the same terrorist variable. Despite our best efforts to discriminate between them, they’re none of them “our partners for peace”.

But Obama could maintain a plethora of scopes because unlike the simplistic George W. Bush, he could ‘walk and chew gum’. Now he is finding that it was he who was mistaken.  There is only one Middle East after all. Iraq has exposed his exquisite nuances as mere self-deception. This lack of a solid metric has left him helpless in the current crisis.  He doesn’t know which side of himself to fight.

“Militarily, we can do just about anything we want,” said David Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who helped lead previous air campaigns over Iraq and Afghanistan. “The question is, to what end?”

Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower or Ronald Reagan might have thought the object of military action was simple: victory. But in Obama’s world “victory” is an obsolete word. And consequently there is no yardstick against which his military options can be meaningfully measured.

Much has been made of the president’s deployment of up to 375 troops in Iraq. Is that a small number or a big number? It depends. If Obama intends to “win” against his foes it is probably about 30,000 men too few. If he has no intention of winning against anybody and he is just using the men as a stopgap to kill time until the story goes away then it is 375 too many.

If you’re not going to “win” in some definable sense, why bother to play? President Obama has no coherent definition of winning, no metric of what it means to be ahead.  The very notion of triumphing has somehow become evil. Instead he has raised process to an end it itself and plays a scoreless game in a world of local contexts.  His goal is merely to be perceived as ‘engaged’ and acting ‘responsibly’ — whatever that means.

In consequence Obama is being led around by the nose in ever narrowing circles. The Washington Post notes European countries are selling arms to Russia while condemning it over Ukraine; the Pakistanis are ripping America off, charging it billions to defend their wretched government while playing a treacherous game. And now Obama is on both sides of the Sunni-Shi’a conflict.

It looks like they’ve lost the plot. Hillary Clinton, in a recent interview said she couldn’t quite believe what her own State Department was telling her about Benghazi. “Hillary Clinton, in a sit-down interview with Fox News, suggested Tuesday that she had doubts from the outset about whether the Benghazi terror attack was triggered by a protest over an anti-Islam film — though her State Department pushed that narrative for days.”

Here’s some advice to Hillary. Never believe yourself. But her situation is hardly unique. Large swathes of the administration are doing a land office trade misleading each other. Susan Rice believed the CIA about Benghazi and the Sunday talk shows believed Susan Rice. Mitt Romney had his doubts, but he was set straight by Candy Crowley. Barack Obama credited his advisers when they told him that al-Qaeda was finished. And Congress was assured that Lois Lerner’s emails were available until they went missing.

The fundamental problem is that both in small and big things the Obama administration has poisoned its information stores. Dick Cheney put it this way. “Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.” What the administration needs most is the truth — about something — anything. It needs a starting point. That is probably the reason why Donald Trump bizarrely argued that America should never again go to war in the Middle East again unless the president was determined to take every drop of oil from the conquered country. It was a coarse idea but it reflects his desperation. Trump wanted something tangible, something verifiable in place of all the smoke and mirrors. Trump noted that China got most of Iraq’s oil and to Donald, there was something wrong with that picture.

Today the New York Times note that China is worried about its investments in that country as al-Qaeda, funded by America’s allies, advances on its refineries. Won’t America blunt the attack by joining forces with its enemies to fight its former friends? Temporarily of course. No wonder “China … emerged as the big winner from the strife, at least in terms of oil interests.” They’re not insane. Arguably America is acting insane.

 

Obama is busy trying to prove America never goes to war for oil. He is busy trying to occupy the moral high ground. He doesn’t he want Maliki to win, nor al-Qaeda to win either. At the same time he doesn’t want to fight any of them. All he wants them to reconcile with each other. And he’s willing to send 375 men to make it happen.

Maybe Obama should go and grab the oil just once, for a change, simply to be crazy in a normal kind of way.


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Top Rated Comments   
Obama has spent 5 1/2 years trying to be "not Bush" and "not Reagan" and "not Clinton" and not everybody else. He's now succeeded... he's nobody.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think Obama’s, “What? Where? Who, me?” reaction to damn near everything has become tiresome for even much of the Left. To hear him tell it, he is fundamentally transforming America but is not responsible for anything his actions and pronouncements cause.

Abandoning Mubarak did not hand Egypt over to the MB and also help spur the uprising in Libya. Helping the uprising in Libya did not lead to both the expanded killing in sub-Saharan Africa as well as the tragedy at the US Consulate in Benghazi. Refusing to get involved in the war in Syria did not lead to the loss of much of that country to jihadists while keeping Assad in power (a real twofer, there!) as well as the invasion of Iraq by an upgraded version of Al Queda. And he got a Hamas and Fatah reconciliation as an extra bonus.

His refusal to enforce US immigration law – OR TO ALLOW the individual states to enforce it - did not lead to tens of thousands of children crossing our southern border.

He says he’s not responsible for any of this stuff. In fact, he reads about it in the papers for the first time for the most part.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
“Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.”

Depends on your frame of reference. Place a negative sign around the whole thing, if you assume that his intentions are to aid and abet our adversaries and you would conclude, “Rarely has a U.S. president been so right about so much at the expense of so many.”

At every turn, this administration has accomplished either the diminution of American standing and interests or the elevation of an adversary's standing or interests. They have created crises where there were only brushfires to achieve these ends.

I imagine that how I feel is not unlike how sane, realistic citizens of Germany felt in 1935 or Russia in 1917 or France in 1794 or Spain in 1492. Insanity has overtaken government and its momentum cannot be checked without tremendous exertion of counterforce, because the inertia of a large government is hard to stop. Things will get worse before they get better.

I don't mind living through this, but it breaks my heart that my daughters will have to see it through. I cannot think of a safe place in the world to send them to remain at peace. Perhaps Canada?
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (115)
All Comments   (115)
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Arming the Shia to purify Islam of the Sunni and the Sunni to purify Islam of the Shia may be the best way to solve the problem of the worst "religion" and second-worst (behind Socialism) ideology in history. No one need use nuclear weapons or invade continents with massive armies.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Now Mr Neptun says that "We have been involved in the ME since the end of WWII because that's where the oil was."

I believe this is a common, yet understandable mistake. We were there in an effort to avoid a face-to-face confrontation with the Soviet Union.

Those days are gone, and there is now no risk of anything in the Middle East spilling over to cause any existential threat to the West.

No Muslim can ever pose any threat to any Western country until he is first invited to come attack us, and his way is paid by those who govern us, with our money.

Islamic terrorism is not a threat. Liberalism, in all of it's manifestations, is suicide, and very pleasurable.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
I also pointed out that the USSR wanted it and we worked to keep their hands off of it. They aren't the threat they once were. However Putin has not given up on the idea of getting control of any oil resources he can to maintain leverage on the West. He's stayed close to Iran and is now cozying up to Venezuela. He has also signed an agreement to sell to China. allowing him to use energy as a tool in his dealings with Europe. There are many balls in the air and Obama has two left hands.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sir, the biggest problem confronting Russia is a lack of Russians. A third world country with (worse than) Japanese demographics, and...nukes. They don't really count. Western liberalism and consequent surrender are all that really count. Liberalism.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Your positions remind me of those of the President. "Iran is a tiny country and is no threat to us." "Those who do 'man caused disasters' are troublesome, but not really a danger to us." "Russia is no threat to us" To him, the big threat is from the bitter clingers. To you the big threat seems to be liberals.

I agree the libs are wrong. The only way to change that is to win some elections and show that conservative, free-market policies work.

Concentrating on the near enemy provides the jihadis freedom to plan their destruction and murder. As we are seeing in Iraq, Libya, Somalia, etc. We can't reform the Islamists. We should, however, defend ourselves and our interests.......vigorously.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unfortunately, any country with the talent and the means to produce ICBMs --or even bomb laden ships-- counts...There only remains the will. Sane, or not.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
I agree to an extent with OldSalt. I don't think we needed to get too entangled with the Iraqi government but agree that we should have at least insisted on basing rights. Something that could be serviced from the gulf or through Jordan if KSA or Kuwait went wobbly on us. I like the idea of a $1 a year 99 year lease. The Iraqis got their peace at the end of a gun and it was through our good will that they got anything besides complete destruction (which is what I thought they deserved in the first place).

We could have called it like it was. We are staying to look after our investments and to play whack a mole with any nascent AQ organization that wanted to make a play for 72 virgins. Anybody who comes within mortar range of our main bases and FoBs without permission gets dead.

It is a little late to reassert those conditions but we have every ethical right to do so. Colin Powell said if you break it you own it. We have a responsibility to keep our hard fought peace in place, even if it is at the end of a very big gun. Of course, the whole regional CF that has happened the last few years would have never had happened without the power vacuum created by the anti-GWB policies of the administration.

BTW - “or the cost of green fees”. I thought you were referencing carbon tax.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Barry Soetero, per Wretchard: "I don't need new congressional authority to act"

Good Lord! The evil Chimpy McBushitler got authorization from Congress, authorization from the UN, put together a vast Coalition of the Willing. Is Barry not able to do any of that?

Broke my own rule tonight and watched the bimbos on the Alphabet networks emote their way through the "news". Brave Barry is going to send Green Berets into Iraq to act as spotters for US pilots dropping bombs paid for with pieces of paper printed by the Federal Reserve. But this is not sending the troops into combat. Definitely not!

Has Barry not taken the time to watch the recent (excellent) movie "Sole Survivor" about the deaths of similar spotters in Afghanistan? And at least there were good guys and bad guys in Afghanistan. How is a Green Beret supposed to direct air attacks against bad guys & worse guys in confused Iraq?
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Obama is busy trying to prove America never goes to war for oil. He is busy trying to occupy the moral high ground. He doesn’t he want Maliki to win, nor al-Qaeda to win either. At the same time he doesn’t want to fight any of them. All he wants them to reconcile with each other. And he’s willing to send 375 men to make it happen."

We have been involved in he ME since the end of WWII because that's where the oil was. All of our policies have been aimed at keeping theoil flowing. W cozied up to the Saudis, Kuwait, the Shah, and other dictatorships because we wanted to keep the USSR's influence out. Our polices succeeded relatively well until Carter came along. Since the Persians kicked sand in our faces in 1979, things have ben going downhill. With our new oil finds, the oil has become less important to us, but the world still needs it. The modern word floats o a sea of energy fueled primarily by oil. It is still in our best interests to see that he oil keeps flowing, but at the same time we have to recognize that the money fuels the Islamists. Until the oil money runs out we will have to contain the Islamists. For those reasons, the U.S. still needs a muscular, forward leaning approach to the ME. Not the "walk stickly and carry a big soft" policy Obama as been following.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Re my post below Old Salt just a bit below, couldn't have said it better myself:

blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2014/06/the-conflict-in-the-middle-east-is-far-bigger-than-isis-and-al-qaeda/

Add to this that many current borders were imposed by Europeans and did not confer nationhood within those boundaries.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Whatever we will or won't do, are there real allies to support our efforts? UK? Europe? Who?
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good question.
Who knows?
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Putin! Russia is developing one of the big oil fields in the south. Russia's big chance to send in ten divisions at the "government's" invitation. Exorcise those ghosts of Afghanistan ...
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Another partner in pieces?
;^)
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm interested in what you guys thinks should be done? It appears that you think the USA should fully mobilize and send enough boots on the ground and planes in the air to win this thing. Have I got it right? - Asphalt Potato

Static analysis is nearly always wrong.

The dynamic in place in Syrian and N. Iraq was not caused by Obama, but he had the ability at one point to influence events in a pro-Western, pro-American, and ultimately for any democratic thinking Iraqis that might actually exist, pro-Iraqi direction. Obama has bungled this thing as nearly completely as anyone could.

Let's just say for starters, that having a dominate position in Iraqi through a sovereign basing agreement (similar to Cuba) for the next 99 years would have added a stabilizing factor which would have changed everything that's happened in the past five years. There was a VIRTUOUS reason for America to be in the Middle East and to seize a dominate, defensible military position there. However, Obama would simply see that as colonization.

However, Guantanamo Bay Naval Base is not colonization. The US SPENDS money there and takes nothing from Cuba or the Cuban people. The US presence there is benign and beneficial to Cubans. Regardless, it CERTAINLY is beneficial to U.S. security, and that's justification enough.

Similarly, the US should have forced a Jeffersonian Constitution on Iraq, including a full bill of rights. Iraq would regain full sovereignty only following four successful, peaceful elections, and objective demonstration of Iraqi government and Judicial officials in defending "their" Constitution. To support that effort, and to maintain a peace enhancing presence, the U.S. should have maintained extensive bases on 99 year leases. The US could have operated the oil fields (contracted out, of course) and sent the checks to the Iraqi government, again, until they were ready to permanently support a democratic country.

Would the USA been drawn into this civil war? No, because Syria's strong man would have been long gone. Ditto with Gaddafi, though he'd have met his end somewhere in a European resort.

There was a DAMN good reason for the US to assert rights in Iraq earned through American blood. However, Obama led his Democrats in fighting America's involvement from 2001 onwards, while we had men in the field under fire.

What should we do now? We should drive a hard bargain with the Iraqi PM. We should secure those bases at $1 per year leases, and tell him that this time around, it's "cash and carry". The US owns and administers the oil fields. That's the price of our assistance, in addition to the bases.

Then tell the world that (a) in a war zone, the USA recognizes no borders, and (b) if the USA spills blood in a territory, it will have long term economic consequences to the people of that territory. And (c), post war rebuilding and "hearts and minds" type campaigns should not be assumed. Plus (d), the US fights wars to win, and for it's own interests, period. We will help our friends, we will maintain and stand upon the moral high grown, but we our armed forces are not armed mercenaries for foreign interests. (e) The USA prefers to fight it's wars on foreign soil. If you want to "war" against American, you're going to do it in your own backyard, and the fight will be to the finish, America's victory and your end.

Yes, some will call it colonization. I call it a realistic, long term, sustainable policy. The USA does not want territory nor to control other nations. However, the USA will not allow it's kids to be used as cannon fodder for Muslim and European interests world wide. The USA will not deplete it's economic future by being the world's policeman nor through war's forced upon her.

Like Trump said, and I agree, the next "war" is for all the marbles. America will not come away empty handed. We won't be the Eurpean's, i.e. raping the countries we conquer, but they will pay their own way.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
WADR I don't agree. You can't go Jeffersonian on a people and culture who've been happily slaughtering each other since the 600s and whose faith tells them it's OK. At least not unless you're willing to spend 3-5 generations and colonize the place.

But wait: the Europeans tried that in Africa, at least the Brits did. Even gave the locals British citizenship. Then they left ...

Our best move is to mostly leave them to their own hatreds, work hard to keep it as contained as possible (maybe some of our ''allies'' will help), and be ready to help any sincere folks who want to become something other than ignorant barbarians.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
On the other hand, it worked in Japan. And, to some extent, in India. Moslem culture is half-Western to start with, which India most certainly wasn't.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
I can't really say how Iraq, et al and Japan compare culturally but I think I recall that the Emperor told his people to cooperate with the US Army and himself felt Japan needed to be a modern society; I believe that was decisive. Don't know enough about colonial India to have an opinion.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
I can't tell you how much I hate the 2 minute edit rule. Who and what benefits? So, sorry for all the grammatical mistakes in the above post.

PJM, just f**k it.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama to Congress: I don't need new permission on Iraq
"Washington (CNN) -- I'll let you know what's going on, but I don't need new congressional authority to act, President Barack Obama told congressional leaders Wednesday about his upcoming decision on possible military intervention in Iraq."

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/06/18/politics/us-iraq/

So I guess we don't need to know Who's On First.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama is the King. He doesn't respect Congress, the U.S. Constitution, protocol, friend's or enemy's interests, or the cost of green fees.

It's why he has so little CREDIBILITY and so few friends. The credibility of a U.S. President comes from his CONSTITUTIONAL authority and role. When he fails to respect that, he diminishes his office and his own Presidency.

What a nut, and just think, the Democrats own him and everything he does, every lost serviceman, ever American civilian death, every lost American city, for all eternity.

Wear it proud, American Democrats, wear it proud!
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
If we respected ourselves and our institutions, Mr. Obama would be toast.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here's what I think should happen. Obama ought to have a frank conversation with the public, Congress and American allies. He ought say, "ok guys, this is the Truth." This is who's on first.

And then the next question is: let's figure out what to do next.

It shouldn't matter, in a marginal sense, that we're all tied up in knots. That's water under the bridge. What matters now is untying the knot. To do that, he's got to 'fess up. Maybe it was an honest mistake. Maybe these mistakes were inherited. Maybe some everyone overlooks for now.

But you have to begin by facing the truth. Right now, it's just one big scar tissue of lies. A palimpsest of political excuses, going back to the Clinton years.

So, ok. Is the plan to sow chaos in the Arab world? Is it to an attempt to restore the Caliphate gone wrong? Was it all an election talking point gone wrong? Or is it, as someone suggested, a way to blockade Hormuz from the land and wreck the global economy including China's.

I don't know the answer and neither, I suspect, does anyone else. Maybe general Murphy is in charge. But it's time to put all the cards on the table.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't think Obama has a policy. What he has is a great kettle of viewpoints, biases, and impulses. What he does on a particular day depends on what boils to the top of that kettle which depends in turn on where the flames of events are directed.

His life shaped that. He was influenced in various anti-American directions by his family and mentors, he sought more of the same in his later education, he seems never to have studied history at all, and he never had a responsibility that would force integration of his kettle of fragments.

You might as well set out to explain the 'viewpoint' of a psychotic who is muttering word salad as to ask our president to discuss his 'policy' or his 'plans' or 'program,' even in terms like "What were you hoping to accomplish in Zallotostan?" He wasn't hoping to ACCOMPLISH anything. One day he wanted to Look Presidential, the next it was please the GLBTs, another day it was payback for Arab support of his campaign, yet another time he wanted to put our military in their place, then he spit forth in support of Harry Reid's Nevada supporters ...

This has three immediate consequences:

1. Policy fragments are nearly always wrong;

2. 'Policy salad' will be less than the sum of the scraps because they cancel each other out; and,

3. Since trust comes from predictability, nobody trusts you.

His policy on any subject cannot be understood in any usual meaning of that word. Asking him to come clean and say "... this is the Truth" would at best get you a catalog of actions. We already know many of the actions; we would learn little that could be a foundation for future policy.

We'll do better by trusting what we see and not trying to infuse it with the glue of policy.

13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama cannot publicly admit to any of the potential explanations.

If it's a plan to sow chaos or surround Iran with enemies he cannot tell the victims what is happening even if they already suspect it. Never tell the marks that they're being played. It is also questionable whether the American public would be willing to accept such ruthlessness.

If it's a leftist plot to destroy American power then he can't admit it without the risk of impeachment. The admission of malice would also expose him to lawsuits from the relatives of dead soldiers and everyone else who has suffered as a result of his decisions, and he would be under the threat of criminal prosecution for the rest of his life. It is also unlikely that a narcissist like Obama would ever choose to make himself almost universally reviled.

Similar objections apply if it's some lunatic plan to facilitate the emergence of a new Caliphate or force the Iranians to seek an alliance with America.

If it's simply grotesque incompetence then Obama's vanity would prevent him from ever admitting that he was such a failure.

I suspect it's one of those situations where the only way to find out what's really going on is to live long enough to read about it in the history books. But if I were a gambling man I'd be putting my chips on Murphy.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
How can you trust a person who has been distrustful his entire life?

Obama is using sleight of hand to promote......dare I say Islam?
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is said that Alexander the Great found it easier to just slash the Gordian knot asunder with his sword.

Of course some scholars argue that Alexander simply pulled the pin out of the yoke the knot was attached to the oxcart with in order to expose the ends of the Phrygian peasant's knot.

In any event, his subsequent conquest of Persia and beyond is celebrated even today.
He changed their world.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
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