Slow Motion Crisis

After the first massive clash of arms in during the Great War, combatants on both sides began to extend their trenches to either side until the Western Front became one continuous trenchline.  Without anyone being quite aware of it at first, a vast stage was set upon which a tragedy would be enacted. In a somewhat analogous manner, the zones of global conflict are spreading to distant corners of the globes from their initial centers of gravity.


Peter Shinkman, writing in MSN says ‘ISIS [is] making deadly inroads in Libya, Pakistan and Afghanistan”.  Osama bin Laden’s plan to oust the West from  Muslim countries, create chaos and establish a caliphate is succeeding better than he could have expected.  It’s spread now and may spread further.

It’s irrelevant – for now – whether the expanding presence of the Islamic State group is at the explicit direction of its reclusive leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, or if regional “lone wolf” insurgents are branding themselves as such. What matters is that average citizens from Libya to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India – and perhaps even farther – believe now more than ever this murderous firebrand could show up at their front doors.

After watching Zero Dark Thirty on the eve of the 2012 elections, who would associate al-Qaeda with North Africa? Yet the New York Times reports that the militants who attacked the US consulate were al-Qaeda affiliated. Citing UN documents as well as other sources as a basis, the NYT writes:

Witnesses in Benghazi as well as United States officials say that Ansar al-Shariah fighters played a major role in the assault on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, killing Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

El presidente appears to have minimized the fact that a threat is growing across North Africa. The Nation reports that “For years now, the Pentagon has been increasing its missions there and promoting a mini-basing boom that has left it with a growing collection of outposts sprouting across the northern tier of the continent.”  So he must have known something was up.


This string of camps is meant to do what more than a decade of counterterrorism efforts, including the training and equipping of local military forces and a variety of humanitarian hearts-and-minds missions, has failed to accomplish: transform the Trans-Sahara region in the northern and western parts of the continent into a bulwark of stability.

Janes has stills from videos of an Islamic group overrunning Egyptian detachments in the Sinai, including on which overran an “Egyptian Army mechanised detachment that was dug in and equipped with at least two M60 tanks, two M113 armoured personnel carriers, and one YPR-765 armoured fighting vehicle.”  The country of the soaring Cairo speech is immersed in big trouble.

The latest video is a major blow to the Egyptian military, which prefers to release as little information as possible. It shows that the army is struggling to suppress a highly motivated and ruthless jihadist insurgency more than a year after it stepped up operations in Sinai, where it needs Israeli approval to deploy forces.

The Egyptian military presence in the peninsula has reportedly grown since September 2013, when an Israeli commander revealed 10 regiments and eight AH-64D attack helicopters had been deployed to suppress the militancy that escalated in the wake of the coup in July of that year.

The Washington Post says “CIA Director John Brennan is considering sweeping organizational changes that could include breaking up the separate spying and analysis divisions that have been in place for decades to create hybrid units focused on individual regions and threats to U.S. security.”


Brennan appointed an internal CIA committee in September to evaluate the proposal as part of a broader review of the agency’s structure. In a message to the agency’s workforce, he cited the “rising number and complexity of security issues” such as the continued threat of al-Qaeda, civil war in Syria and Russia’s incursions in Ukraine.

“Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,  lest we forget—lest we forget!” But we want to forget and the media, bless them, are going to help us with the amnesia.

Remember the Ukraine? Leon Mangasarian and Ott Ummelas of Bloomberg reported on the huge spike in Russian wargames in the area.

Allied jets “have been scrambled over 400 times” this year to intercept Russian planes — a 50 percent rise over 2013, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said yesterday. …

A worsening standoff is pitting Europe and the U.S. against Russia over Ukraine in the biggest crisis since the Cold War’s end 25 years ago. Even German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier — a persistent proponent of dialog — said on Nov. 18 after shuttle diplomacy in Kiev and Moscow, that he sees little reason for optimism. …

“The rapid mobilization of 20,000 to 40,000 Russian troops at the Ukrainian border scared the hell out of NATO,” Karl-Heinz Kamp, academic director at the German government’s Federal Academy for Security Policy in Berlin, said by phone.

Remember how el Presidente argued that the Crimea would never be annexed? Vice president Joseph Biden “told the Kremlin during a visit Friday to Ukraine that the United States will never recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea and warned Moscow that it faces greater isolation if it continues its ‘provocative action.'” So we’ve gone from never to won’t recognize. In case the Kremlin doesn’t get it, the Los Angeles Times’ article went on to quote the Biden again:


“Let me say as clearly and categorically as I can, America does not and will not recognize Russian occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea. We do not, will not, and insist others do not accept this illegal annexation,” Biden said.

So far El Presidente has shown great resolve in dealing with law abiding citizens, but has been less forceful toward organizations which show only contempt for him. Take another “never”.  John Kerry, after seemingly getting nowhere with Teheran, announced that he would stay to make an extra effort to reach a nuclear deal with Iran. “Mr Kerry’s decision to stay on came just hours after his spokeswoman said he was leaving Vienna for meetings in Paris.”

But it’s going to be a good deal. Back in October, David Sanger of the NYT reported that the administration was looking for an Iran deal that could avoid Congress.

No one knows if the Obama administration will manage in the next five weeks to strike what many in the White House consider the most important foreign policy deal of his presidency: an accord with Iran that would forestall its ability to make a nuclear weapon. But the White House has made one significant decision: If agreement is reached, President Obama will do everything in his power to avoid letting Congress vote on it.

Sneak it in the back door and declare victory. Nothing warms the cockles of his heart more than “it so ordered”. But that has been the pattern for the administration. It claimed al-Qaeda decimated, maintained the attack on the Benghazi consulate was caused by a video, swore that Obamcare mandates were not taxes, that you could keep your doctor or health plan; it celebrated the fresh wind of an Arab spring that blew through Libya, Egypt and Syria. It claimed the doorman Putin has been put in his place. Which of these is true?


But there are many who still believe. Unfortunately they may be surprised one day when all the dreams of grand bargains, resets, pivots, springs and a World Without Nuclear Weapons don’t actually come true. The disappointment may be a bitter one.

The British displayed their talent for theater in marking the 100th anniversary of the Great War. With a fine sense of history, they turned out the public lamps one by one, until only a single light remained.

“The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life”. In his 1925 memoirs, Sir Edward Grey said that he could not recall uttering this lament for Europe as he looked out from his office over Saint James’ Park at dusk on August 3, 1914, but the words have ever after been attributed to the then foreign secretary. And they will prompt a nationwide act of commemoration on the centenary of the declaration of war on Germany. At an official service in Westminster Abbey on Monday night the candles will be snuffed one by one, until only a burning oil lamp remains at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.

We, like them, have set the stage.  But the players in our case have not yet arrived. There is still time. Darkness descended in 1914 because a generation of statesmen preferred the lie. If only they had opened their eyes. If only had we.

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