Belmont Club

And the Band Played On

With an update on the Petraeus resignation. Perhaps a national ad hoc council separate from the GOP should be formed to serve as a nucleus to focus opinion and articulate ideas, should more extraordinary events follow. If you don’t have a bucket, you can’t catch the rain.


It was another November in a year long ago. Confidence ran high that this time the enemy defenses would be breached by an unprecedented bombardment of shrapnel, which bursting in the air and raining innumerable fragments at the ground would cut the barbed wire obstacles.

When the moment came to go over the top the men were still lighthearted. The bombardment was visually reassuring, their training, the meticulous planning, upbore them.  As they made their way across No-Man’s-Land, they found the wire largely undisturbed. The strands were too slight to be disturbed by the fragments. However, while there was machine gun fire from the enemy trenchline to be sure, it was not terrible because even in 1916 the German line contained relatively few machine guns per thousand yards of frontage.

Then things changed abruptly when they came within a certain distance. Veterans recalled that it was like hitting a wall. One moment they were safe; the next they were spun around. The density of lead rose exponentially. The British soldiers at the Somme were for a moment unable to understand what had confounded their calculations.

What had happened was simple. The Germans had adopted new machine gun tactics. Instead of deploying the guns behind the rifle line, where they fired at right angles to the advancing British, they had posted them slightly forward at the ends of each rifle line so that they could fire across and parallel to the main traces of the trench. Instead of hitting them from an angle at which they were spread out, the German MGs were hitting the British in the flanks, where the advancing lines appeared to merge into a single file as seen from the side. The streams of bullets converging from the perspective in which they were bunched up. Moreover, the enfilading guns were converging from either side. This was the infamous “crossfire”.

Today most people think of “crossfire” as the title of a talk show. It originally meant an advantage conferred by geometry in which all the forces would be funneled into a point where the defender had absolute control and the attacker had lost his. We are describing of course, not the Mitt Romney campaign of 2012, but the administration’s foreign policy, which is getting hit from all sides.

What happens when you concentrate rigging at choke points … well, never mind.

For now the power of the administration lies in telling its rivals what to do, and watching them meekly do it. The Democrats provide the Republicans with a vote total from Chicago, and the GOP takes it as gospel. It tells the GOP what they should do to win next time and they do it. But while “the entire GOP elite seems to be trying to sell out en masse on immigration” in order to become more like the Democrats, Tehran has asked itself: What if we don’t believe the New York Times?

Iran acted on the premise and have decided they can open fire on U.S. drones. “Iranian warplanes shot at an American military surveillance drone flying over the Persian Gulf near Iran last week” in international airspace. Another drone, the top-secret RQ-170, was lost to the Iranians last year.

Meanwhile, America’s oldest Pacific allies are demonstrating a disturbing lack of confidence in the administration. They too are losing confidence in the New York Times.

The Philippines is arming up with non-U.S. weapons:

China’s increased assertiveness over territorial claims to the South China Sea is leading the Philippines to embark on the biggest military procurement program it has ever undertaken … Both houses of the Philippine congress have approved the budget and acquisition process for the acquisition of 12 jet trainer/surface-attack aircraft; six close-air support aircraft; two long-range maritime patrol aircraft; two light-lift and three medium-lift fixed-wing military transports; three ground-based radars; and 10 attack helicopters. All will be assigned to the Philippine air force.

What’s interesting is what they are buying.

The Korea Aerospace Industries T-50 is the front-runner to meet the requirement for the jet trainer/surface attack aircraft … In terms of maritime patrol, Philippine air force officials say the Indonesian Aerospace CN235 is a strong contender … Indonesian Aerospace is the most likely candidate to meet the light, fixed-wing military transport aircraft requirement with its C212.

A few Filipino naval and air force officers have privately expressed their frustration to my sources at the American unwillingness to arm them with “real” weapons. So they are buying them where they can.

Japan is looking for more assurance on where America stands vis a vis China:

Japan’s defense minister, Satoshi Morimoto, said on Friday that he wanted to revise his nation’s security alliance with the United States to place more emphasis on the threat from China to islands at the center of a territorial dispute.

Two years ago, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the islands fell under the security alliance, requiring the American military to come to Japan’s aid during a possible clash there. The United States currently bases around 50,000 military personnel in Japan, with more than half of them on Okinawa, near the disputed islands.

However, some in Japan have questioned whether the United States would actually risk a war with China over what are essentially barren rocks surrounded by shark-infested waters. Japanese leaders have said that they want Washington to go a step further and openly support their claims to the islands.

Tokyo is politely saying that the administration’s credit is no longer good. They want to see cash. Apparently only the Republican Party is prepared to blindly follow the administration. As for the Chinese, they have apparently not received their Obamaphones and are unwilling to dance the high tunes. Why would they value such phones? They make them, after all.

Meanwhile the Ukraine, according to the Washington Post, “is sliding away from Democracy”. The elections there have finally become completely rigged. The Post writes disapprovingly of democracy in that country without a single note of irony:

The campaign was outwardly competitive, with a wide range of parties and candidates. But “harassment, intimidation and misuse of administrative resources” were used to prevent many candidates and parties from getting their message to voters. State-owned newspapers attacked the opposition; public workers such as teachers and nurses were required to attend rallies; events for the opposition were blocked and obstructed; state television “displayed a clear bias in favor of the ruling party.” Fortunately, there are other media channels and unrestricted Internet access in Ukraine, but their reach is limited.

Maybe the Ukrainians should engage in outreach to Hispanics, gays, and lesbians. Yes, that would improve their chances.

But in Qatar, there are no elections now, just a bunch of leaders of armed “freedom fighters” vying to rule post-Assad Syria. The administration is hoping to appoint men loyal to it. But the jihadis have learned a thing or two from Chicago. The operative question in the leadership conference — “Who sent you? We don’t want anybody who Obama sent”:

“Some are calling this the Robert Ford plan or an American plan,” said Radwan Ziadeh, an SNC member who is the executive director of the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Washington. Ford is the U.S. ambassador to Syria who has been meeting with some opposition figures on the sidelines of the conference.

Ziadeh added: “This is just promises from the Americans that no one is believing. They don’t need Seif to come with a plan. This is unrealistic.”

For Mr. Obama, this is the day to do something to stop the killing inside Syria,” he said. “Because if the situation continues in this way, there will be extremism, fundamentalism and no stability in the area.”

What? No belief in the administration? Maybe they should send the New Black Panthers to “monitor” proceedings in Syria. It is doubtful they will last very long in a region where “nonviolence” doesn’t work too good. Perhaps Putin can help the administration out. He seems to know how things work:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday said he was confident Syria would abide by its promises not to mount chemical weapons attacks on opposition fighters, RIA Novosti reported.

“I rule out the use by [Syrian President Bashar Assad’s] regime of chemical weapons,” Lavrov said to reporters. “We have received appropriate assurances.”

Everyone but the Republican Party assumes the administration is a hollow shell. And they are treating it as a business opportunity to provide security, diplomacy, and services that Washington can no longer provide. They are moving into the vacuum they know exists while the GOP flees from ghost stories they have told.

The Ukraine may soon fall into the orbit of Russia again. Korea will supply weapons to Southeast Asia. Japan will turn to … well who knows … after they reject the doubletalk from Hillary. One wonders what will happen when Obamacare, stimuli, auto industry bailouts, windmills, and trillion-dollar student loans fail. What opportunities will there be?

Each system is vulnerable at certain points. If the Republicans ran into the crossfire of big city vote-rigging — The Unseen Wall — the Obama administration is walking straight into the contempt of actors who can’t be manipulated by Chris Matthews or the New York Times. This is the boundary of bluff. The former arises from the acceptance of a fiction. The latter comes from the rejection of it.

The Washington Post has just reported that “CIA Director David H. Petraeus has resigned, bringing a surprisingly abrupt end to his brief tenure at the agency as well as his decorated career in national security.” Sirius asks in the comments below: “Can we question the timing?” One can certainly question the timing, but the proper way to treat it is as an opportunity. Would Petraeus care to start a post-retirement career as a blogger? I’d be glad to help out in a most modest way.

However, I think that he will need a larger expanse of cover than the New Media can provide. And the Petraeus resignation will probably not be the last earthquake to rock the administration. They will follow thick and fast as all the catastrophes which the MSM has covered for emerge into the sunlight like rotting corpses after a flood.

There may be now be an urgent need to constitute a national political council separate and distinct from the Republican Party to provide a temporary but high visibility nucleus under which those who cross the lines can shelter. But if there were a National Council to Save Democracy to provide a modicum of support, then the GOP might be tempted to strike an alliance. Without that kind of organizational nucleus, the defectors are vulnerable alone. Who should constitute this council? Well that’s a problem and probably a good subject for an open thread.

The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

Tip Jar or Subscribe or Unsubscribe