Battle In The Clouds

Jackson Diehl, the deputy editorial page editor of the Washington Post, says that Putin has been quietly winning in Eastern Europe.  “To grasp how Vladi­mir Putin is progressing in his campaign to overturn the post-Cold War order in Europe, it’s worth looking beyond eastern Ukraine, where the Kremlin is busy consolidating a breakaway puppet state.”

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Obama has been congratulating himself on leading a “unified response” by the West that, he claims, has isolated Putin. In reality, a big chunk of the NATO alliance has quietly begun to lean toward Moscow. These governments do so in part for economic reasons: Dependent on Russia for energy as well as export markets, they fear the consequences of escalating sanctions.

That probably won’t bother Spencer Critchley, who writes in the Huffington Post. He believes Obama has transcended the traditional categories of winning and losing.  He observes that “President Obama has faced a lot of criticism lately for not being ‘tough enough’ on ISIS. Most of it seems to boil down to this: Why won’t he do what we always do?”  What America used to do was ‘win’.

But what if military victory — at least as traditionally defined — is not the primary objective? What if, instead, the goal is to escape the seemingly endless need for military victories — each one ending up so transient and inconclusive?

After all, we’ve been stuck in an entropic cycle of such “victories” (and some defeats) for decades, each one leading to the need for more. To a large extent, it’s been a cycle of support, accommodation and intervention on behalf of governments that can’t, or won’t, take care of their own people. We beat back a threat, and sow the seeds of three new ones. …

People who complain that Obama’s foreign policy has no theme might look no further than this: just like he’s always said, it’s time for a change.

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Now there’s a thought. Why not try losing for a change? After all, as Critchley points out: “What Obama’s War Critics Don’t Get: Change Means Change”. Critchley says:

In his six years in office, Obama has managed to cripple Al Qaeda, even while he’s been withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan. Before attacking ISIS in Iraq, he arranged for a new, more representative Iraqi government. He formed an alliance that for the first time includes Arab states. And the attacks he’s leading are focused on degrading ISIS’ leadership, infrastructure and financing more than seizing control of ground.

Gee, I remember Arab allies around since Desert Storm. But perhaps Critchley is not serious, however you can never tell these days. Elise Viebeck of the Hill says “health officials” are struggling “to control the media narrative about Ebola”.  The battle Viebeck describes is a battle in the clouds. The struggled referenced is not to do with the Ebola itself (the virus that is) but with the narrative about the virus.

The Obama administration is battling for control of the media narrative about Ebola as conditions worsen in West Africa and fears of an outbreak mount in the United States.

Health officials insist the virus will be contained and stress the potential for infection is remote. While Ebola is frightening, says Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden, health officials “know how to stop it.”

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PR consultants are agonizing over the choice is between risking panic or providing information.

Peter M. Sandman, a Brooklyn-based consultant, said the agency should underscore the idea that Americans are resilient, that there is a “huge amount” that is unknown about Ebola, and that outbreaks in other parts of the developing world are the disease’s “biggest threat.”

“Officials who over-stress that ‘we know how to deal with this’ set the public up to become shocked and mistrustful when errors occur,” Sandman wrote in an email.

“Acknowledging uncertainty and predicting errors, on the other hand, prepares the public to roll with the punches.”

Steven Fink, president and CEO of Lexicon Communications Corp., said health officials should err on the side of disclosure and guidance for people fearful about the virus.

“The more information, the better,” Fink said.

“I have the highest regard for the CDC … but I think they’re lacking a strategic message and I think that’s obvious.”

The battle in the clouds has come to predominate over the battle on earth. At some unnamed point in the last 40 years appearances became more important to our dear leaders than the things themselves. Literally. In June 2012, Peter Bergen, the national security analyst for CNN suggested: ‘why not declare victory against al-Qaeda and go home?’

we are left with a choice: We can continue fighting al Qaeda indefinitely and remain in a permanent state of quasi-war, as has already been the case for more than a decade now.

Or we can declare victory against the group and move on to focus on the essential challenges now facing America, notably the country’s sputtering economy, but also containing a rising China, managing the rogue regime in North Korea, continuing to delay Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, and – to the extent feasible – helping to direct the maturation of the Arab Spring.

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The problem of course is that the earth continued to spin beneath the fleecy clouds. China and North Korea are more troublesome than ever. Iran is near to acquiring nuclear weapons. And the Arab Spring … well …  so what went wrong?

You may argue that Bergen’s whole piece is lunatic; if so what is really disturbing is that Bergen considered it serious.  Not just him but also his influential leaders, up to and possibly including the president himself.

Wikipedia defines psychosis as “an abnormal condition of the mind, and is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a ‘loss of contact with reality’.” That pretty much describes the state of elite thinking today. The New York Times reports that the “Pentagon Says Global Warming Presents Immediate Security Threat”.

The report lays out a road map for how the military will adapt to rising sea levels, more violent storms and widespread droughts. The Defense Department will begin by integrating plans for climate change risks across all of its operations, from war games and strategic defense planning situations to a rethinking of the movement of supplies.

Which is really odd.  In a world beset by Ebola, rampaging fanatical movements, an aggressive Russia and an expansionary China the biggest threat is … Global Warming?  But OK.  Here’s the thing: why can’t the Obama administration simply declare victory over Global Warming and move on? Inquiring minds want to know?

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