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Austin Bay

Austin Bay is a syndicated columnist, author and strategist with over 30 years of service in the U.S Army and U.S. Army Reserves. His online writings can be found here
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Making Sense of the Meltdown in Iraq

Friday, June 13th, 2014 - by Austin Bay

STRATEGIC POLITICAL: The US has a vital interest in helping Iraqis create a stable, democratic state. Would-be isolationists will quickly rediscover that economic links bind the 21st century world, once they see the oil price hikes spurred by the battlefield successes of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also translated as the media-friendly acronym ISIS, for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria).

However, US interest in Iraq is not simply energy or economics — it is political example.  Iran’s dictatorship and various violent Islamic militant groups know that a successful Iraqi democracy would be fatal to them and to their goals.(1)  The US and Iraq must negotiate a new Status of Forces Agreement. To stabilize, Iraqis need confidence; a long-term US security presence inspires confidence. American kept a security “nightlight” in Germany and Japan for half a century.(2)

OPERATIONAL MILITARY: Iraqi forces need US airpower, now. They need US special operations forces (SOF) teams to coordinate air strikes and tap US intelligence assets. First, target ISIL’s truck-borne flying columns. Air attacks devastate light vehicles in the open, and northwestern Iraq is open.  The US has US Navy carrier aircraft within range; so is NATO’s huge Incirlik air base.

The Iraqi Army claims that it stalled an ISIL column near Tikrit. With only 4,000 fighters, ISIL cannot fight an attrition battle. With US airpower providing an immense firepower advantage, Iraqi forces can kill the stalled ISIL column, and kill it quickly.

(1) In early 2004 US intelligence intercepted a letter from Iraq-based terrorist commander Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to his al-Qaida superiors. Zaraqwi wrote: When “the sons of this land (Iraq) will be the authority … this is the democracy. We will have no pretexts (i.e., for waging a terror war).” Anticipating strategic defeat, Zarqawi concluded his only option igniting a “sectarian war” in Iraq by waging a relentless terror war on Iraqi Shias. He believed this would “rally the Sunni Arabs” to his cause.

YouTube videos of summary executions in Mosul and reports that ISIL is imposing harsh Sharia law in areas it controls suggest ISIL intends to pursue the same desperate stratagem: igniting a Shia-Sunni civil war to shred Iraq. Out of the chaos, ISIL will then create a radical Sunni Islamic state in northern Iraq.  However, the Kurds, Turks and Jordanians won’t let it endure, nor will the Israelis. Though the Iranians will use the chaos to their advantage, they have no interest in a radical militant Sunni state on the border of the Syrian client. However, the best outcome is to kill the ISIL “caliphate” and kill it in a spectacular fashion.

(2) The Iraqi Army of 2008 was an increasingly capable force; the Operation Knights Charge in Basra was a highly successful Iraqi-planned and led attack. However, since US forces withdrew in 2011, cronyism and corruption have undermined Iraq’s military forces. Yes, Nouri al-Maliki bears the blame. Crooked armies are brittle armies; Mosul demonstrates that. Stabilizing Iraq means penalizing rule by whim (or cronies) while nurturing and strengthening the institutional Rule of Law.  An extended US security presence not only gives democratic political elements protection, it provides them with an on-the-ground Rule of Law institution to emulate.

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It is time for Social Security reform

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011 - by Austin Bay

This past Monday Dick Morris argued on Sean Hannity’s radio program that Rick Perry made a mistake when he called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. Morris  believes Perry must “walk back” the statement or it will damage him in a general election.

No doubt Obama and his fawning media cronies will try to portray any conservative  Republican opponent as anti-Social Security. It’s a classic in the Left’s playbook, long in tooth, hoary, and false, but facing moral and ideologically bankruptcy, lies and smears are all the Left has…left.

Dirt can work, and when you’ve got Paul Krugman and his ilk, you’ve got the bigtime dirtbags it takes to shovel big dirt.

Yet…yet I’m not so sure Morris is right, not in the 2012 campaign.  Hannity expressed this opinion, as have others. I also strongly suspect this may be the election where the old lies fail and the old dirt doesn’t stick, and in the election’s aftermath Social Security’s problems will finally be addressed.

American voters are increasingly sophisticated and knowledgeable. The old lefty rhetorical prestidigitation and chicken in every pot routines don’t work as well as they once did.  The internet exposes the schtick 24/7. Fox News and conservative talk radio have done their bit as well, which is why the Left despises them.  The Left’s dirt, lies and fearmongering about Social Security are countered with facts.

Okay–knowledgeable Americans know Social Security isn’t a pure Ponzi scheme (as Dick Morris noted, Ponzi couldn’t mint money), but it is definitely not fiscally sound.  For decades payroll taxes have not gone into dedicated retirement funds. Instead, the political class has perpetrated a swindle of sorts and used those taxes as general revenue. Now economic decline and demographics have combined to expose the Beltway game. The base of the pyramid which supplies the income stream is shrinking and the upper tier, as Baby Boomers approach retirement, is expanding. We’ve fewer workers to fund the program, thanks to economic mismanagement and an aging population. To argue otherwise is dishonest. It’s the numbers, stupid. Ponzi scheme? Swindle? Fraud? All are species of calculated dishonesty, with filching someone else’s wealth the end result.

The deeper issue is maintaining societal security. Social Security reform is a component of tax reform and government restructuring, with the goals of energizing entrepreneurs, encouraging business expansion and jobs growth, and creating wealth. Strengthening America’s economy is the only way to insure Social Security’s continued existence, the only honest way. As the poverty rate increases, as chronic nine percent unemployment becomes Obama’s statistical norm, I suspect the public is ready to hear that message, and vote for fiscally responsible representatives who will implement reform.

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Obama: The Leadership Void

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011 - by Austin Bay

Remember 2008? If you criticized Obama’s lack of executive leadership experience you were called a racist, a bigot, and a rube. The lefties just couldn’t accept an assessment that found Obama wanting in any shape, form, or fashion. Tsk. Today Maureen Dowd noticed that Obama had “failed to fill the leadership void” in Washington. In three years perhaps Dowd will notice that Obama is a leadership void. Now Dowd argues Republicans are playing President Obama for a dupe. Uh, Ms. Dowd…who voted for him?

Obama is a leader of a type, but not a strategic leader. Guess what. That’s one reason Candidate Obama was unfit for the job. The President of the United States is a strategic leader…or he should be…or she should be.

The US military devotes a lot of time to developing strategic leaders –the officers who command very large organizations, like CENTCOM. Their job is to lead leaders. A president leads other national leaders, or at least he should, especially in a crisis. Does Obama do that well? No. Does he do it at all? At one time he could send tingles up Chris Matthews’ leg and dazzle the dazed at the Daily Kos –but we’re talking about leading leaders, not spinning sycophants.

I’ve additional thoughts on developing strategic leaders and exercising strategic leadership over at strategypage.com.  Someone send Ms. Dowd the link.



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Secretary Gates’ Speech to NATO

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011 - by Austin Bay

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave a speech last week in Brussels to a group of NATO ambassadors (Friday, June 10). Several media organizations (NY Times, Wall Street Journal) described it as dire and harsh. It was. The speech, however, also struck me as a lamentation of sorts, and a plea for foresight. The gut of the SecDef’s complaint is an old one: the great majority of European NATO nations don’t pay their fair share of defense costs. The new “blunt reality” (Gates’ term) is the US debt burden.  There is and will be no slack to compensate for Euro-shirking. Yes, Europe has a huge debt burden as well.  At a very superficial level, Gates is playing bad cop and doing so sets up his successor, Leon Panetta, as the good cop. Panetta can say come, let us reason together. Gates’ critique, however, is anything but superficial. Debt is a strategic threat.

Here is a transcript of the entire speech.

This is a telling line:

“If current trends in the decline of European defense capabilities are not halted and reversed, future U.S. political leaders — those for whom the Cold War was not the formative experience that it was for me — may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost.”

I have some additional thoughts over at StrategyPage. If you’ve time, I suggest you read the entire speech.



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The Texas Take on Economic Freedom and Creativity

Friday, May 13th, 2011 - by Austin Bay

It hasn’t been a secret, Roger, that Texas has a political and cultural climate that favors economic freedom and promotes creative entrepreneurs. Of course the NYDCLA media (New York, Washington, Los Angeles) rarely frame the discussion in terms of  freedom and creativity. That media axis prefers to frame Texas as a politically and culturally benighted state that is anti-environment, anti-worker (code word for anti-union), favors “the rich,” and fails to provide a morally-acceptable social safety net (ie, denies welfare rights).  The “racist” meme crops up, too. In other words, Texas ain’t progressive.

The Great Chris Dodd-Barney Frank recession has altered that narrative somewhat. Tatler covered the recent trip by California politicians to Texas. They were looking for magic bullets to slay the Golden State’s debt monster.

Economic creativity is a magic of a sort, but it is sweat equity magic. You get an idea, you see an economic niche, you seek capital, then you sweat, and work, and placate investors, then keep working some more. Then you succeed and the progressives label you greedy. Tsk. Sure, Texas has leftists, but to their chagrin the vast majority of Texans wouldn’t damn you as greedy, but would regard you as an employer.

Excessive bureaucratic regulation squeezes the space for economic experimentation by start-up entrepreneurs– the new idea men and women whose small businesses will spark genuine economic growth. Bureaucratic regulations that favor embedded political constituencies (eg., unionized Newport Beach, CA lifeguards making $100K a year) impose further burdens (ultimately, confiscatory taxes). The entrepreneur sees the built-in costs, runs the numbers, and moves–to Texas.

When compared to New York and California, Texas has managed to avoid those errors.  The Texas model isn’t perfect– no model is perfect. But in Texas creative entrepreneurs have a better chance.

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In contact with Mr. Angleton?

Saturday, May 7th, 2011 - by Austin Bay

So Michael, you are in contact with Mother? The James Jesus Angleton?

Wow. Your contact represents the biggest breakthrough in getting to the truth since Bob Woodward channeled Bill Casey. You and Woodward– Beltway Psychics and Sorcerers! Soon you’ll be on The View. Appearing on The View is pure torture but less damaging than what’s in store for Ahmadinejad’s henchmen who now face charges of sorcery. Tsk. Those Iranian radicals — they just don’t respect folks who gather intel from the spirit world.

As to the rumor Ayman sold out Osama — let us take advantage of this post-Bin Laden opportunity and your access to Angleton’s specter. You are well positioned to help poor, paranoid, and frightened members of Al Qaeda. Here’s the gist of your Dear Abby gig: Al Qaeda Terrorists and Terrorist Wannabes –  can you trust anyone when your heroes sell each other out to America? Mother knows all. Michael knows Mother. So write PajamasMedia and tell us about your woes. Your answer will be personally delivered, care of SOCOM.

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Gadhafi Gets Off An Air Strike

Saturday, May 7th, 2011 - by Austin Bay

Libyan rebels in Misurata told AFP that small prop-driven airplanes (possibly used for aerial insecticide spray on farms) dropped bombs on oil tanks. UPDATE: A more recent report claimed the air strikes were conducted by helicopters or possibly a recon helicopter directing rocket artillery fire.

From the AFP report (initial report):

Libyan government forces dropped bombs on four large oil storage tanks in the contested western city of Misrata, destroying the tanks and sparking a fire that spread to four more, a rebel spokesman said on Saturday. Government forces used small planes normally used to spray pesticides for the overnight attack in Qasr Ahmed close to the port…

A rebel spokesman added:

“Four tanks were totally destroyed and huge fire erupted which spread now to the other four. We cannot extinguish it because we do not have the right tools,” he said.

“Now the city will face a major problem. Those were the only source of fuel for the city. These tanks could have kept the city for three months with enough fuel”…

UPDATED Report: Here.

The Libyan rebels say they informed NATO that the aircraft were attacking and NATO did not respond. Small aircraft are are difficult to detect on radar and, if they fly low, difficult for interceptor aircraft to track. For example, in 1987 a small single-engine aircraft flew from Finland into Russia, evaded Russian radar and landed near Red Square. The small aircraft do not need air bases, and based on reports from NATO, all major air fields used by Gadhafi loyalists have been suppressed. The small planes, however, can operate from paved roads or open fields. Helicopters have the same capabilities and create the same types of problems. (Note the update claims that the helicopters allegedly had Red Crescent markings.)

Gadhafi continues to concentrate on Misurata. In a Tatler post on April 29, I argued that at the moment Misurata is Gadhafi’s main effort. The city has proved to be very resilient. The dictator’s ground  forces, however, are still shelling the city. Yet the rebels continue to resist and resist effectively.

The siege of Misurata is a stalemate Gadhafi cannot afford. The Turkish government has called for him to quit power and leave Libya. To break the city’s resistance he knows he must stop food, medicine, and –my guess– military supplies from reaching its rebels defenders. His forces have tried to mine Misurata’s harbor. That attempt appears to have been frustrated, hence the air strikes with a jury-rigged air force. Destroying the city’s fuel tanks does increase the city’s woes. The best response, politically and militarily? NATO and coalition leaders should send a very large sea supply convoy to the city protected by strong naval forces. Gadhafi’s gnats have struck; surprise aided their mission– whether they were small fixed wing aircraft or helicopters. NATO operations officers are now wise to the trick and targeting teams will be examining every intelligence source (image, electronic, HUMINT, etc) for information  on  the aircraft. Needles in haystacks are hard to find, but even small aircraft and helicopters must be maintained and refueled. As for point defense of Libyan civilian targets against air strikes: this is another reason NATO and its coalition allies should deploy special operations forces armed with shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.

Gadhafi’s forces are also  attacking  Berber rebels on the south-western front. The fight for the Dehiba (Tunisia) and Wazin (Libya) corridor continues. Tunisia reported four artillery rounds fired by Gadhafi’s forces landed in Tunisia.

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Meanwhile, back in Libya…

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011 - by Austin Bay

It appears that the orchestrated attacks on European embassies in Tripoli –conducted by Gadhafi supporters– were too much for the Turkish government. The Italian and British embassies were attacked last weekend –allegedly in retaliation for NATO air strikes. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan says Gadhafi’s removal from power is now “inevitable.”

An AFP report:

Turkey on Tuesday urged Moamer Kadhafi to “immediately” cede power and leave Libya, in its first public call on the veteran strongman to go.

“We wish that the Libyan leader pulls out from Libya and cedes power immediately — for himself and for the future of his country — without causing more bloodshed, tears and destruction,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters.

Kadhafi’s departure has become “inevitable,” he said, adding that the Libyan leader “must take this historic step in the name of Libya’s future, territorial integrity and peace.”

The report goes on to say that the International Contact Group on Libya (Turkey belongs to the group) is preparing to discuss the possibility of arming Libyan rebels and providing financial assistance.

Turkey is not Gadhafi’s friend, but Turkey’s ambivalence towards NATO’s aerial intervention in Libya’s civil war potentially provides Gadhafi with a political fissure to exploit. It appears that fissure is closing.

As for spelling Gadhafi. I use Gadhafi because that’s what my editor at Creators Syndicate plugs in if I spell the Colonel’s name “Qadaffi” or “Khadaffi.” AFP uses Kadhafi. The Colonel is also referred to (with no fondness) as Daffy Duck. It was sometime in the late 1980s when I was pulling my annual reserve active duty for training tour that I heard Gadhafi called Daffy Duck. This witticism is, of course, an insult to Warner Brothers and a truly great cartoon character.

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Bin Laden Dead?

Sunday, May 1st, 2011 - by Austin Bay

Fox News and CNN are reporting Osama Bin Laden was killed a week ago by a US air strike. The info is sketchy but if this is accurate — his death by American arms is well deserved.

UPDATE: Fox just confirmed that the US has OBL’s body. The America haters will rage — let them. Here’s the bottom line lesson: Don’t attack the US.

ANOTHER THOUGHT: Would that we had him in Fall 2001. However, time has worked against Bin Laden. He dies tarnished. A man who hides in a cave for ten years is no martyr. He quickly lost the aura of divine sanction — he was driven out of Afghanistan, and the US stayed. Moreover, the US took it’s counter-terror war into the heart of the politically dysfunctional Arab Muslim world. What’s the choice between tyrant and terrorist? Iraq provides a choice. Al Qaeda made Iraq a battleground and lost — lost to the Iraqi people and the US.

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An opportunity in Libya?

Friday, April 29th, 2011 - by Austin Bay

Gadhafi is now fighting a war on five fronts. I’m aware that The Washington Institute describes the situation as a two-front war with the western front having several “compartments.” Over the last ten days the situation has clarified. In a column I wrote this past Tuesday I suggested Gadhafi now has five fronts. Cyrenaica (eastern Libya), the Nafusa Mountains (Berber region south of Tripoli) and Misurata (besieged western city) are the most active. Misurata could be described as a compartment but it is so vital and requires so many resources on Gadhafi’s part that you can make a case it is (at the moment) Gadhafi’s main effort. In March, Gadhafi suppressed uprisings in the western cities of Zuwara and Zawiya (near the coast, between Tripoli and the Tunisian border). However, opposition simmers in the region. He must assign police and garrison forces to watch the region. So that’s four ground fronts that require attention. He must divide his forces.

Gadhafi’s fifth front is the NATO/coalition air front. Is it a front ? NATO airpower smashed his air force. In the column I wrote Tuesday I noted that the addition of Hellfire missile-armed Predators puts increased psychological pressure on Gadhafi and his senior henchmen. With Predators lurking he’ll now have to think twice before he tools around Tripoli in a convertible posturing for television cameras. He did that a couple of weeks ago, to show the world he’s macho. As my column notes, Great Britain’s defense secretary openly discussed striking command and control centers. I report, you decide: Does Gadhafi’s convertible would qualify as a command and control center? Colonel Gadhafi seems to think so. His propagandists accused NATO of planning an assassination.

Back to the ground fronts: Today news broke that Tunisian forces have detained pro-Gadhafi fighters who crossed the Tunisia-Libya border while pursuing Libyan rebels.

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AC-130 Gunships for Libya?

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 - by Austin Bay

Gadhafi’s forces have moved back into eastern Libya. Two weeks ago Gadhafi’s forces began mimicking rebel tactics. I discussed this tactical shift in a column written April 5. Here’s the gist of it: Gadhafi’s henchmen started using trucks instead of tanks and armored personnel carriers for transport and combat. This shift was forced upon them — coalition air power has turned Gadhafi’s tanks into death traps. The shift in tactics has reduced the effectiveness of NATO air strikes.  This NPR report from April 12 (based on interviews with French carrier pilots) addresses the dilemma:

“(French Rear Admiral Phillipe) Coindreau acknowledged that it was still difficult for NATO to ascertain the exact balance of forces on the front lines between Brega and Ajdabiya, because Gadhafi’s forces have started breaking their units into smaller, more maneuverable contingents and using civilian vehicles for transport and combat actions.”

NATO bombs have accidentally struck and killed rebel fighters (in at least two serious incidents). The April 5 column mentioned that Gadhafi hoped to exploit these such grievous errors (eg, accidental bombings, so-called friendly fire) and drive political wedges between the rebels and the international coalition. Over the last week he has certainly tried to do so.

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The Gitmo Foldo Follies (cont.)

Thursday, April 7th, 2011 - by Austin Bay

Attorney General Eric Holder is unbowed despite his Gitmo fold, reports the Washington Post.

Sheesh. Unbowed? Such a carefully selected word. The mainstream media continue to cover for Obama Administration personalities. But these tactical propagandists can’t obscure the obvious forever.

After eight years of leftist teeth gnashing and Republican trashing, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad will be tried by a military tribunal. Gitmo remains open –as it damn well should.

Of course The Washington Post portrays Holder as a victim– he’s the “target of Republican attacks.” What the hell did Obama partisans and hard left Democrats do for almost a decade? With the veneer of “fierce moral urgency” (remember that phrase?) they casually accused fellow Americans of committing war crimes.  They made waging war on international terrorists –a complex endeavor– much more difficult. They maligned the reputations and impugned the motives of those who fought it –the responsible leaders with the guts to make tough decisions and patriotic American soldiers who took the war to the terrorist enemy.

War? Many Obamaites don’t believe we’re involved in a long-haul war. They prefer circumlocutions. “Overseas Contingency Operation.” (OCO–which is loco.) Now we have military kinetic action, or military kinetic operations. Yep. Those lawyers and professors with ponytails sure know a lot more than the generals and the PFCs…

Representative Peter King thinks Holder –if he really is a man of principle– should resign. No kidding. Show some fierce morality, Eric.

I’m going to pull this sentence from a recent column about Obama’s Libya policy: “I’ve read the twitchy screed of several apologists who, under the guise of legal opinion, try to provide propaganda cover for Obama’s obvious failure to close Guantanamo Bay. These law school scribblers seek to obscure the big picture by magnifying scrawls on the margin. The big picture? The community organizer has put on a cowboy hat.”

The Gitmo Foldo is done, but be aware Obama’s academic scribblers will scribble for decades. (OCO!. Kinetic Military Action!) These scribblers live in a world of words.  They will erect walls of prose in an attempt to hide the truth from themselves and jive the jiveable.

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Gadhafi’s megalomania on display

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 - by Austin Bay

From the BBC’s Twitter Feed:

  1. 2301: Col Gaddafi’s words in front of his damaged Bab Al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli: “I do not fear storms that sweep the horizon, nor do I fear the planes that throw black destruction. I am resistant, my house is here in my tent [...] I am the rightful owner, and the creator of tomorrow. I, I am here! I am here! I am here!”.

You can’t make this stuff up.

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Candidate Obama! Let us protest the rush to war!

Sunday, March 20th, 2011 - by Austin Bay

So I’m pinching from a post that appeared on my personal blog yesterday. The dire situation, however, demands it.

“I call on Candidate Obama to protest President Obama!”

Obama’s most excellent Libyan adventure: Tragi-comedy or Comi-tragedy? (The obvious pun, Commie-tragedy, is possibly more accurate, but aye, such a low blow. But compared to the year in year out slanders promulgated by the Bush Derangement Syndrome crowd, utterly mild.) Whatever the headline, this moment is so rich. With Obama’s most excellent Libyan adventure we are witnessing a Bonfire of the Hard Left Hypocrisies (apologies to Tom Wolfe). What’s the plural of hypocrite? The DailyKos? Naw, that’s a collective. Copperheads? An American Civil War reference, but getting closer.

Internet literalists will write “Why, the plural of hypocrite is hypocrites.” True, but that provides so little solace for Obama, Howard Dean, and Code Pink.

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