Welcome to the TerrorDome

Last Thursday night it was in Nice, France. Next, will be another city. Maybe on another continent. In the last month, dozens of terror attacks have killed hundreds of people across the world. Every public event is a potential target for these killers, who not only welcome death, but confuse our leaders who have tried to stop them.

From Rami G. Khouri at Agence Global:

Every terror attack generates anger, shock, and powerful emotional and political commitments of our indomitable will not to be terrorized, to stand firm and strong, to affirm liberty, free speech, and pluralism. We are all, sincerely, Boston, Paris, London, Nice, Orlando, Dacca, New York, Baghdad, and a hundred other cities around the world, and a hundred more that will be attacked in due course. We will stand with them all in a steel chain of humanity against barbarism.

But, then what? What happens if after a dozen more attacks, the power of their barbarism outpaces the power of our solidarity? Do we willingly give up all of our rights to be kept safe by an authoritarian leader?

We need to debate what we can really do to fight terror, and win.

The policy responses of Western governments and the emotional responses of entire societies suggest we have no idea how to respond to defeat this monster. More from Khouri: (editing by the Wrongologist)

We see no serious questioning of whether… [our] primary focus on militarism reduces or increases the terror threat. We see no credible willingness among most governments, and most of their associated media and intellectual spheres, to transcend Islam as the main analytical…[frame in which to view] the world of terror.

Was the truck driver behind the attack in Nice an Islamic terrorist? Was he a lone wolf with psychological issues? We assume he is a terrorist because of his Arab name. Many terrorists conform to the Islamic narrative – think about the Orlando shooter, or the Muslim couple in San Bernardino. This assumption also shapes attitudes and policy responses of governments when they respond to mass killings. Our first thought is always Islamic terrorism, as in the initial response to the Dallas shooter when we heard his middle initial was “X”.

Our two flawed presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are evenly matched on protecting us: Clinton wants to push out the Assad government, in part by using ISIS mercenaries as proxies, plus US drones and bombing. Meanwhile, The Donald wants to fight an all-out war on ISIS and Islamic ‘terrorism’ in whatever shape. GW Bush anyone?

The US is now facing the consequences of our simplistic knowledge of the Middle East. We are stuck in the 1950s, a time when we could impose regime change in disobedient countries. Today, we drone them, and they kill a few of our citizens every few months. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

When will we ask the presidential candidates how long we have to put up with this steady stream of death and pain? What do they propose to do to tackle the terror problem at its roots? Anger, square-jawed determination, serial incompetence, and heavy-handed, counter-productive militarized policies are signs of cumulative failure.

Can we ask for a more serious response after Nice? Or, do we wait for a few more attacks, and ask then?

  • The Rio Olympics are starting in less than three weeks; the long list of concerns surrounding the games continues to grow.
  • The US military is eyeing a potential increase in troop engagement in Yemen to confront threats by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Why?

Our domestic terror victims are collateral damage of the decisions by the Powers That Be to support using extremists as a weapon. What we see today is not unforeseen blowback, it was knowable.

The entire world needs a wake-up. How should we answer the threat of the TerrorDome?

Here is Steel Pulse to get us going with “Find it Quick” from their 1982 album, “True Democracy”. You weren’t paying attention, but Mr. Obama said something in Dallas to the effect of “those in authority reject the cries of want” which comes from “Find it Quick“:

Sample Lyrics:

We got to find this love oh
Oh help us Jah above yeh come on
We got to find this love
Those in authority reject the cries of want
Those in power corrupt and weak in heart
This world don’t you know that
Hatred has grown
Love fly gone out through the window
We’ve got to find it we got to find it
Love fly gone out through the window
We’ve got to find it

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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China’s Grand Strategy

In December 2015, Wrongo linked to a year-end prediction in the LA Times:

“One Belt, One Road”, also known as “OBOR,” is a new development strategy initiated by China in 2015 to promote its economic connectivity and cooperative relationship with nations in Eurasia by helping them develop infrastructure. These initiatives should also help Chinese exports.

OBOR is called the new Silk Road by the Chinese. The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes linking China’s merchants with Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe in the seventh century.

Now, China’s president, Xi Jinping, wants his country to revisit the time when the Silk Road was a conduit for diplomacy and economic expansion, and when Chinese silk was sent across the globe.

OBOR has drawn remarkably little attention and comment in the US, especially by our politicians and pundits, who prefer to focus on old white men in red ball caps.

This is surprising, considering OBOR’s economic implications and its geostrategic significance.

OBOR seeks to convert the Eurasian land mass into a single economy by interconnecting a network of roads, railroads, pipelines, ports, airports, and telecommunications links, and, based on these, to create a series of logistics corridors (One Belt). Supplementing this will be a maritime component (One Road), aimed at linking Southeast Asia, Oceania, and North Africa, through the South China Sea, the South Pacific Ocean, and the Indian Ocean. China would develop deep water ports and then build the infrastructure to link them to interior markets. Here is a graphic that shows the “One Belt, One Road” project:

OBORSource: The Economist

China plans to commit $4 trillion to build out the OBOR project. That may sound like a lot, but China currently has $3.5 trillion in reserves, mostly in US$. The Chinese say that they have 900 deals in 60 countries in place, or in negotiation, or planned. Most would be designed, built and managed by Chinese enterprises, along with local partners. The Chinese government will directly or through several newly established funds they control, provide the financing for both the Chinese companies and their local partners, with low-interest loans or grants.

OBOR will enable China to employ the large project development capacity that it has built up during its industrialization and infrastructure development drive, much of which China now sees as surplus to current needs.

By seeking to use OBOR to create a Eurasian bloc, China resurrects Mackinder’s World Island Theory, described as: Whoever controls the Heartland of Europe and Asia will rule the world. The corollary is: Who controls the Land Power will unavoidably compete with who controls the Sea Power. Today, the US is the Sea Power, while control of the Land Power is up for grabs, and China is betting that OBOR can help it become the Land Power.

This is China’s Grand Strategy.

Russia is in an interesting position. On the one hand, China is its ally, particularly in oil and gas, with Russia as supplier, and China as the buyer. China will need Russia’s military strength along with its own to offset the military power of the US once the real competition begins. Also, Russia cannot ignore the positive significance that a strong OBOR could provide in its relations with the US and the EU.

China’s bet is that the US is losing its grip in Europe. And that the EU will not be a long-term player politically even if it is economically. The EU is challenged from within by stagnant economies, and challenged from the East by Russia, who sees the EU’s expansion to former Soviet bloc nations as both military and political threats. Possibly, Germany can be spilt off from the rest of Europe.

This is China’s plan for global economic and political primacy in the 21st century. The US response has been to continue playing geopolitics with breathtaking ineptitude: When you are number one, you ally with number three (Russia), against number two (China). Or better yet, get them to fight each other.

But when the US tries to contain both simultaneously, it pushes them together.

Most significant, an autonomous Asian nation is promulgating a global economic and political expansion through bilateral deals. It is presenting a positive and credible vision of future commercial and political success for many countries who no longer trust the West, if indeed, they ever did.

This is very much against the multilateral trade model that the US and the EU have stood for in the past 70 years. Sadly, the West has not demonstrated any positive vision for the future since the end of the cold war.

But trust Trump. He’ll make a great deal, and those Chinese will certainly stay at home.

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Can the GOP Edge in the Primaries Carry Over?

(Note: There will not be a Sunday Cartoon post again this week. Wrongo and Ms. Right will be in Santa Barbara CA for our granddaughter’s college graduation. Blogging will resume on Tuesday, 6/14)

In 2008, the Republicans turned out a total of 20.8 million votes in 45 Primaries. In the 2016 primaries, the Republicans grew that total to 28.6 million votes.

The Democrats have 27.7 million primary votes in 2016, before the DC primary. When Clinton and Obama ran against each other in 2008, they had 37.4 million votes.

So the GOP is up 7.8 million votes or a 37.5% increase over 2008. The Democrats are down nearly 26% or, 9.7 million votes. The parties were separated by only 900,000 votes by the end of the 2016 primary season, and the GOP was on top.

The question to ask the pundits: What does the Republican increase in primary voter turnout by almost 8 million, and the Democrats’ vote shrinking by almost 10 million mean for the general election?

We could talk about the populist turn in 2016. The electorate is rebelling against the establishments of both parties. We could point to the insecurity about jobs, social security and pensions for the 98% of America who know these things are no longer certain in today’s America, and are even less certain in tomorrow’s America. These have made the Bernie promise of free education, Medicare for all, and a break-up of the banks very popular with Millennials. Trump has understood the economic fears of the white middle and lower classes, and has added fear of Muslims, fear of Mexican immigrants and a longing for a simpler world where America was unchallenged, and the 40-hour work week was nearly a right, to be the aspirational standard for tomorrow’s America.

We could talk about Hillary Clinton and the enthusiasm gap. In 2016, Hillary has garnered 15.7 million votes, and she will win the nomination. In 2008, she received 18.1 million votes, 2.4 million more than she got in 2016, and lost. This time around, she was not facing one of the best retail politicians of the last 100 years in Barack Obama, and no one thought that Bernie was real competition, until he was.

So, America is now at a point where, for the Pant Suit vs. the Pant Load, these numbers really begin to matter. Let’s remember that primary turnout doesn’t necessarily translate into a reliable indicator of the turnout in the general election.

Also, over half of the GOP turnout was for candidates other than Trump. Voter preference may change significantly for the general election.

This election will be true to previous form and will be decided in just a few states: Ohio, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania will likely decide the outcome. Obama won all but NC in his 2012 race against Mitt Romney.

Assume that Hillary will win the majority of blacks, Hispanics, other ethnic minorities and many white women. The biggest question is: What percentage of women will vote for Hillary? If Trump peels off enough, he may be able to win in a few of those states.

So, turnout will be key. As an example, Charlie Crist would be the current governor of Florida if just 50% of the African American voters who were registered Democrats, had voted in the last gubernatorial election. In just in one (populous) Florida County.

The gap in the primary voting numbers are a good indicator that the GOP primary voters were more enthusiastic than were Democratic voters in 2016. However, the Democrats were very good at “Get out the Vote” programs in 2008 and 2012. Can Donald Trump match that in 2016?

Hillary starts with better odds of winning since the Democrats have an Electoral College advantage. Romney won 206 Electoral College votes. He lost Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia each by between 150,000 and 250,000 votes. So, it’s conceivable that the enthusiasm for Trump in these states combined with less enthusiasm for Hillary could give him an Electoral College victory.

OTOH, Trump can’t change who he is. He’s not going to go toe to toe with Hillary on wonky policy details. So, he’ll continue the campaign that won him the primary in the general.

Will Pant Load fatigue set in? It hasn’t yet.

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Memorial Day 2016

Thank You Armed Forces

Every year, the Wrongologist reminds blog readers that Memorial Day was called Decoration Day for more than 100 years, ending in 1971. It was established by an order issued by Gen. John Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. This is from Gen. Logan’s order:

The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land…

Back then, it was our most solemn holiday. It was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery, a tradition we still follow today.

The Civil War claimed more lives than any conflict in US history, requiring the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries. Drew Gilpin Faust’s book, The Republic of Suffering-Death and the American Civil War (2008) reminds us just how deadly the Civil War was: 620,000 dead soldiers, (2% of the US population at the time), at least 50,000 dead civilians, and an estimated 6 million pounds of human and animal carcasses to deal with on battlefields.

When the Civil War began, neither army had burial details, graves registration units, means to notify next of kin, or provisions for decent burial. They had no systematic way to identify or count the dead, and until 1867, no national cemeteries in which to bury them. In an ironic twist, in 1866, after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the Union Army opened an office in Ford’s Theater to record deaths, house the war records and assist families to find lost loved ones. In 1893, the building collapsed, killing 22.

The mortality rate in the South exceeded that of any country in WWI. In addition, the South lost nearly 2/3rds of its wealth in the War.

Decoration Day became Memorial Day when Congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971, which made us observe national holidays on Mondays, creating three-day weekends for We, the People. So, along with parades, picnics and mega-sales on the web and in the malls, many think that the holiday celebrates the start of summer.

Instead, please stop and remember the people who died in our wars. Do that irrespective of whether you “believe” in a particular war.

Memorial Day is a time to meditate on the difference between right and wrong wars. Mr. Obama spoke in Japan last Friday, walking a fine line, remembering the atomic weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but not calling WWII and our actions against Japan “wrong”.

Another thing to remember is that our government owes our all-volunteer military policies and policy decisions that are worthy of their sacrifice. But, our government rarely makes decisions that are completely worthy of such sacrifice.

Let’s also give some thought to this quote from Andrew Bacevich:

With its military active in more than 150 countries, the United States today finds itself, if anything, overextended. Our principal security challenges — the risks to the planet posed by climate change, the turmoil enveloping much of the Islamic world and now spilling into the West, China’s emergence as a potential rival to which Americans have mortgaged their prosperity — will not yield to any solution found in the standard Pentagon repertoire. Yet when it comes to conjuring up alternatives, the militarized history to which Americans look for instruction has little to offer.

Ask Trump and Clinton what will be different if they become Commander-In-Chief. Which one will address climate change, the rise of China, or the near-civil war in the Greater Middle East?

Finally, when you think about policies worthy of sacrifice, here is a Memorial Day tune from Warren Zevon: “The Envoy”, from the album of the same name. The song was written in 1981, back when we thought our issues in the Middle East were rare. It was inspired by Philip C. Habib, who was President Reagan’s special envoy in the Lebanon crisis.

That was the start of something that hasn’t achieved much. The US currently has 48 Special Envoys, but you can’t see any peace from where we sit.

OK, the song isn’t “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” or, “Werewolves of London,” but Zevon was one of the best and brightest. Here is “The Envoy”:

These 34 year-old lyrics about the Middle East could be tomorrow’s headlines. Is there a threat to world peace? Oh yeah, us.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Monday Wake-up Call – May 23, 2016

The subject of the day is the continued saber-rattling by our military. Recently, two retiring US Generals made goodbye speeches indicating that Russia is the biggest threat facing America. As Crooked Timber said:

Russia? Really? I guess there ain’t no money in ISIS and Al Qaeda. You don’t need strategic bombers, huge mechanized armies and aircraft carriers to fight them.

Equally disturbing are the concurrent mind games being played in the military strategy establishment. Take the RAND Corporation. RAND has run numerous war games which pit Russia against NATO in the Balkans. Their conclusion is always the same: If Russian tanks and troops rolled into the Balkans tomorrow, outgunned and outnumbered NATO forces would be overrun in under three days. Scary!

RAND argues that NATO has been caught napping by a resurgent and unpredictable Russia, which has begun to boost defense spending after having seized the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine and intervened in support of pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine. In their report RAND said:

The games’ findings are unambiguous: As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members…

Underlying this, is the insanity of the geopolitical outlook that dominates the national security lobby in Washington. The same day as the RAND report was released, Defense Secretary Ash Carter unveiled plans to add more weapons and armored vehicles to pre-positioned stocks in Eastern Europe. The new $3.4 billion plan (that’s the annual cost folks) adds another brigade to the mix, but the soldiers would be based in the US, rotating in to Europe for a few months at a time. So, that’s politically acceptable, assuming the next president can find the money.

But, Carter’s commander in Europe, Gen. Philip Breedlove, commander of US European Command, released on his blog that there is no:

Substitute for an enduring forward deployed presence that is tangible and real. Virtual presence means actual absence.

Lots of agreement between these boys.

And, in an article in Politico Mark Perry discussed the testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee of a panel of senior Army officers, in which they claimed that the Army is now in danger of being “out-ranged and outgunned” in the next war that the Army is in danger of becoming “too small to secure the nation”. Yikes!

While their testimony made headlines in the major media, Politico reported that a large number of former senior Army officers, rolled their eyes:

That’s news to me…Swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles? Surprisingly lethal tanks? How come this is the first we’ve heard of it?

The unnamed General went on: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

These guys want us to believe the Russians are 10 feet tall. There’s a simpler explanation: The Army is looking for a purpose, and a bigger chunk of the budget. And the best way to get that is to paint the Russians as being able to land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time…What a crock.

All of this is political fodder for Obama’s critics in Congress who complain that the President isn’t taking us into the next war fast enough.

So it’s time we all wake up to this maneuvering behind our backs. Maneuvering that is designed to have us spend waaay more money on defense, because, Putin.

To help you wake up, give a listen to a rarely-heard tune by Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger, “Ye Playboys & Ye Playgirls Ain’t a Gonna Change My World”, recorded live in 1963 at the Newport Folk Festival, when Dlyan was still a folk singer, two years before he would be booed off the main stage at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival:

Put in context of the times: Dylan was being called the “Voice of a Generation”. Seeger adds an endorsement of the fed-up young artist who was already one of the key singers of topical songs in the sixties. For those who read the Wrongologist in email, you can listen to the tune here.

Sample Lyrics:

You insane tongues of war talk
Ain’t a-gonna guide my road,
Ain’t a-gonna guide my road,
Ain’t a-gonna guide my road.
You insane tongues of war talk
Ain’t a-gonna guide my road,
Not now or no other time.

Please remember what Voltaire said:

 Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

THAT has always been the strategy of the military-industrial complex. Arguing over defense budgets, equipment procurement, force strength, is pointless.

Today, the money is just not there to do much more for the military.

The critical debate must be how to fix the economy, which drives the size and strength of our military.

And ultimately, our national security.

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Obama Is Visiting Hiroshima on May 27th

When the US president travels, he is accompanied by the “Nuclear Football”, a briefcase containing the nuclear launch codes. Here is a photo of the Football:

Football

The Football allows him to order nuclear war despite being away from the White House or away from a US military installation. It is beyond ironic that Mr. Obama will be visiting Hiroshima Japan as part of the G-7 Summit meeting, and will bring along the Nuclear Football to his May 27th tour of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Obama will also bring a political to Hiroshima. No sitting American president has visited the site of the only nuclear weapon dropped in anger. The question is should he apologize for America dropping the bomb? What should he say to survivors and victim’s relatives?

And back home, what would he say to the veterans and their families who gave and lost so much?

Conservatives are revving up the “Apology Tour” meme. It gives them a free shot at Hillary, while allowing Trump to tout his truculence, by telling us once again that he “never apologizes.”

The Asahi Shimbun English (on line version) is making it clear that Obama will not apologize while in Japan. In fact, although he will be accompanied by Japanese Prime Minister Abe, there will be no major speech, and no meeting with the Japanese A-bomb survivors. According to White House Press Spokesman Josh Earnest, there will a wreath-laying and remarks underlining a “look back” at the events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

So, the political football will be how Obama tip-toes between the natural human reaction to so much innocent death, and his role as Commander-in-Chief of the world’s most powerful military, the one that caused all that death 70 years ago.

Obama makes this an issue by going to Hiroshima. There would seem to be no point to the visit unless he intended to use it to make a gesture, such as indicating some level of regret or expressing sympathy for the victims (he should express sentiments short of an apology) and/or to speak about the need foster peace going forward.

Without a clear political or diplomatic objective, his visit merely reopens a long-festering wound in Japan. Although the Japanese have plenty of blood and atrocities on their hands, our use of nuclear weapons is an order of magnitude worse than anything the Japanese did.

The nuclear airburst was a deliberate targeting of civilians with the most powerful weapon ever created, for the sole purpose of fostering civilian terror. Obama could restate that no country should ever consider using nuclear weapons against civilians again, even if he cannot provide an apology.

We set a terrible precedent with the first use of nuclear weapons. Those attacks have enshrined our place in history as the first, and only nation ever to use these weapons in war. It’s a miracle that we have survived the false alarms and crises that could have easily led to nuclear exchanges between the US, its allies and the USSR. We still live under a cloud of potential devastation that could result from nuclear exchanges between India and Pakistan. And yet, we are now busy modernizing and upgrading our nuclear weapons (long after they’ve been recognized as having no essential military value).

Nobody can say for certain that the decision to bomb Hiroshima did or did not bring about a faster end to the war. But we can say that the Americans firebombing Tokyo or the Brits firebombing Cologne or Dresden, all of which caused hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, are not morally equivalent to dropping nukes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Obama will speak at Hiroshima. He will probably offer thoughts as a father, acknowledging the horror that occurred at an earlier time in the history of conflict between the two countries. It is important, as is the acknowledgement that the countries have been allies for what is now a very long time. They now have a common competitor in China, and their joint future is more important than their history in WWII.

Obama will attempt to square the circle, saying that use of nuclear weapons is a terrible, immoral thing, but he can’t forswear their future use without damning Hillary to second place. He can’t apologize for the US dropping nukes without turning the US military against the Democrats.

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Inside The Rock of Gibraltar

Wrongo and Ms. Right visited Gibraltar yesterday. You are familiar with the Rock that is part of the Prudential logo. Gibraltar is a tax haven. And while it isn’t in the Panama Papers, Gibraltar has a branch of the Panamanian law firm, Mossack & Fonseca, whose leaked documents have focused all of us on tax havens and possible tax evasion.

Gibraltar has 33,000 residents and 1.5% unemployment. About 11,000 Spanish citizens cross the border daily for work, since there is about 40% unemployment in Spain.

It’s hard to imagine when you look at it from the outside, but the Rock of Gibraltar actually has more than 32 miles of tunnels inside. Most were built during WWII. In 1940, Britain, who controlled Gibraltar, was at war with Germany and Italy. The future for Gibraltar was uncertain, since it was surrounded by the enemy. Churchill and the British military believed that an attack on Gibraltar was imminent, so they decided to construct a network of tunnels, building a military fortress inside the Rock.

The tunnels eventually accommodated an underground city. They were built to house 16,000 soldiers along with enough food to last for 16 months. Within the tunnels there was a power generating station, huge fuel storage tanks, 3 hospital units, ammunition magazines, and a vehicle maintenance workshop.

Gibraltar never came under siege, and the need to accommodate thousands of troops never came to pass. But Churchill, Eisenhower, De Gaulle and others toiled inside the Rock at various times during the war. General Eisenhower used the tunnels as his headquarters for the invasion of North Africa. He later wrote:

At Gibraltar our headquarters were established in the most dismal setting we occupied during the war…. Damp, cold air in block-long passages was heavy with a stagnation that did not noticeably respond to the clattering efforts of electric fans. Through the arched ceilings came a constant drip, drip, drip of surface water that faithfully but drearily ticked off the seconds of the interminable, almost unendurable, wait which occurs between completion of a military plan and the moment action begins.

Here is an old photo of the tunnels:

Gibraltar Tunnels

The humidity is high, in excess of 90%. The walls and ceiling are Jurassic limestone. These tunnels make you reflect on how often the military plans for something that never comes to pass.

Beyond the planning is execution, at a huge cost in human capital and materiel, often accompanied by heroic effort, and loss of lives.

We saw the same in Iraq and Afghanistan. NPR reported that the US Army abandoned more than $7 billion of equipment, about 20% of what the Army brought into Afghanistan. At the time of our wind-down, we realized that we had no way to move our equipment out via land, so it would have to be flown out, at ruinous expense.

Apparently, we failed to plan for some obvious outcomes.

We did the same thing in Iraq, bequeathing to the Iraqi government more than $580 million of equipment that supposedly saved us more than $1 billion in shipping costs. We want and need our military to plan for exigencies, even some which may seem remote. Otherwise, we can get caught with our pants down.

But how many times have we heard that “No one could have foreseen” some event or problem that causes us to lose money, people or prestige on the global stage? We leave $8 billion of equipment in the Middle East because we didn’t plan effectively? We can’t connect the dots between Saudi immigrants taking jet pilot lessons and Osama bin Laden’s rumored plans to attack the US?

How come it’s not too expensive to take our military equipment into a country, but it’s too expensive to take it back out?

The threat to Gibraltar was genuine. With 70+ years of hindsight, it is easy to second-guess the British tunnel building as excessive. But, at the time, there were enemy bombing raids that led to the evacuation of most civilians.

Those tunnels are an artifact of the military history of a piece of strategic ground. It was the Allies’ gateway to what was at the time, a hostile Mediterranean. Controlling Gibraltar allowed the Allies to mount the campaign in North Africa, and later, in Italy.

Maybe we plan properly in our wars of necessity, but plan poorly in our wars of choice.

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Congress Can’t Get Its Responsibilities Right

It is always good to know why and how we got where we are. Here is a little history about our military position in the Middle East. From Steve Coll in the New Yorker:

In 1967, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson gave up on the remnants of Pax Britannica. His Labour Government pulled British forces from Malaysia, Singapore, Yemen, Dubai, Qatar, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, and other Persian Gulf emirates.

At the time, Denis Healey, the British Defense Secretary, said England should not:

Become mercenaries for people who would like to have a few British troops around.

And since nature doesn’t tolerate a vacuum, the US decided to leave a few American troops stationed permanently in the Gulf.

Now, 49 years later, American warships still patrol the Middle East. US fighter jets fly from a massive base in Qatar. Over the decades, Republican and Democratic administrations (and Congresses) have colluded to give a blank-check to successive presidents, keeping our troops deeply involved in the ME.

Andrew Bacevich has a new book, “America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History,” which highlights the inexplicable passivity of Congress in our ME wars. He points out that from the end of World War II until 1980, virtually no American soldiers were killed in action while serving in the Middle East, while since 1990, virtually no American soldiers have been killed in action anywhere except the ME.

After the Cold War wound down in the 1980s, the US began what Bacevich calls the “War for the Greater Middle East”. As this new war unfolded, hostilities became persistent: From the Balkans to the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, US forces embarked upon a seemingly endless series of campaigns in the Islamic world, without conclusive success.

Actions undertaken with expectations of promoting peace and stability produced just the opposite. As a consequence, phrases like “war on terrorism,” “permanent war” and “open-ended war” have become part of our everyday politics. When it came to the ME, despite Congress having the Constitutional duty to declare war, they stopped offering any check or balance to America’s continuing ME wars.

It wasn’t always that way.

In 1964, Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. The Congress urged President Lyndon Johnson “to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression” across the length and breadth of Southeast Asia.  LBJ used it as legal cover to ramp up in Vietnam, as well as in Cambodia and Laos.

Fast forward to 2001, and Congress passed the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF). We can consider it to be the grandchild of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.  This directed President George W. Bush:

To use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations, or persons.

In plain language, it was a blank check. Now, nearly 15 years later, the AUMF remains operative, and has become the basis for military actions against innumerable individuals, organizations, and nations with no involvement whatsoever with the events of September 11, 2001.

And in 2015, when Obama asked Congress for a new AUMF addressing the specific threat posed by ISIS, asking that they rubber-stamp what he had already launched in Syria and Iraq,  Senator Mitch McConnell worried that a new AUMF might constrain his successor.  The Majority Leader remarked that the next president will:

Have to clean up this mess, created by all of this passivity over the last eight years…an authorization to use military force that ties the president’s hands behind his back is not something I would want to do.

So, Republicans think the proper role for Congress was to give this commander-in-chief carte blanche so that the next one would enjoy similar unlimited prerogatives. The GOP-controlled Congress thereby has transformed the post-9/11 AUMF into what has now become, in effect, permission for permanent armed conflict.

The illogic astounds: On ME warfare, Republicans collaborate with a president they despise, implicitly concurring with Obama’s claim that “existing statutes [already] provide me with the authority I need” to make war on ISIS.

Something that is at best, extra-Constitutional.

Yet, when Obama is clearly acting in accordance with the Constitution, nominating a new Justice to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, they spare no effort to thwart him, concocting bizarre arguments to justify their obstructionism.

How does Congress square shirking its responsibilities in our ME war with its activism against Merrick Gardner?

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Preparing for a New Land War in Europe

From 1970-1973, Wrongo ran a US Army nuclear missile unit in Germany. It was during the Cold War, and also during America’s involvement in Vietnam. Wrongo got lucky, spending his entire service in a cold war zone, not in a hot war zone.

The stated purpose of his unit was to provide air defense of the skies over Western Europe (WE). The enemy was the Soviet Union. In the 1950s, NATO’s strategy to defend W. Europe changed from reliance on conventional weapons to what was called “flexible response,” which included the first use of tactical nuclear weapons, like the type Wrongo’s unit had.

The doctrine of first use of nuclear weapons came about because NATO was vastly outnumbered in weapons and soldiers in WE. For example, the Warsaw Pact had more than 5 million soldiers and 72,000 tanks on the ground in Eastern Europe arrayed against NATO’s 32,000 tanks. And at its peak, the Soviet Union could deploy 10,000 aircraft against NATO’s 2,000.

Wrongo’s unit was part of a trip wire: If the Soviet Union launched an attack on WE, Wrongo’s job was to turn his air defense unit into a very accurate surface-to-surface nuclear weapon, taking out as much of the Soviet Union’s advancing tank forces as possible.

Fast forward to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Its tanks, soldiers and planes were moved back to Russia from the satellite states. Much of that equipment was decommissioned, and most of the tank outfits were disbanded in 1998.

Now, 45 years after Wrongo served as part of the NATO tripwire, Moscow has reactivated the First Guards Tank Army. During the Cold War, the First Guards Tank Army was stationed in East Germany as part of the vanguard of a possible Warsaw Pact drive into Western Europe. According to Patrick Armstrong at Sic Semper Tyrannis: (parenthesis by the Wrongologist)

The 1st Guards Tank Army will be stationed in the Western Military District to defend Russia against NATO. It is very likely that it will be the first to receive the new Armata family of AFVs (newest generation of Russian tank) and be staffed with professional soldiers and all the very latest and best of Russia’s formidable defence industry. It will not be a paper headquarters; it will be the real thing: commanded, manned, staffed, integrated, exercised and ready to go.

Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu has named the activation of the new tank army one of Russia’s top priorities for 2016.

Why is Russia doing this? Well, under Clinton, we added Poland and three Baltic republics to NATO. Under GW Bush, we said we would deploy medium-range nuclear missiles to Poland, supposedly as a defense against Iran. That decision was later reversed by Obama. Under Obama, we threatened to add Ukraine to NATO.

Armstrong says the decision to re-create the tank army is an indication that Russia really does fear attack from the West and is preparing to defend itself against it. And why do they fear the West? Armstrong says it is about NATO’s continued expansion eastward. He points out that the Russians: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

[Russia had]…planned for small wars, but NATO kept expanding; they argued, but NATO kept expanding; they [Russia] protested, but NATO kept expanding. They [Russia] took no action for years.

Until now. The defense site Southfront.org writes about the Russian military. They suggest that these moves reflect a change in Russian military doctrine:

The fighting in Ukraine demonstrated the advantage of having large and permanently established maneuver formations…Independently operating battalions, regiments, and brigades lacked the ability to deliver a knock-out punch, and coordinating a large number of such units was difficult for higher headquarters.

Could this be Putin’s “Star Wars” moment? Ronald Reagan got the Soviets to spend heavily to counter the apparent threat of Star Wars, America’s not-quite-real anti-ballistic missile technology.

Putin is now laying out a Russian military strategy for Europe that no NATO country wants to match, financially or militarily. He sees that NATO and the US are now committed to smaller, special operations forces, drones and cruise missiles when conducting military operations.

Maybe Putin recognizes and understands that the one thing NATO won’t do is field a real army.

And our wars of choice in the Middle East have gutted the US economy, and our warrior spirit. We have fought wars we couldn’t win, and we plunged entire regions of the world into chaos and terrorism.

Now, Putin confronts us with the need to make a strategic choice in Europe.

Any bets this will be discussed by our presidential candidates?

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Foxtards: Learn A Little Before Bloviating

When Obama and family got off AF One in Cuba, he was met by the Cuban Foreign Minister (FM):

Obama in Cuba

That led to comments like this:

Obama doesn’t really take his responsibility as POTUS seriously. He obviously doesn’t respect the office and thus is indifferent to insults to the office.

And Trump tweeted:

Trump lambasts Castro

Calm down Foxtards! Here’s what you need to know:

In the US, a foreign head of state or head of government is formally welcomed by the president on the South Lawn of the White House. You can check out our State Department’s process here.

In Cuba it is similar:

  • President Putin was greeted at the airport, by the Cuban FM.
  • President Chavez of Venezuela was greeted at the airport, by the Cuban FM.
  • President Ortega of Nicaragua was greeted at the airport, by the Cuban FM.
  • President Xi of China was greeted at the airport, by the Cuban FM.
  • Back in the day, President Khrushchev of Russia was greeted at the airport by, you guessed it, the Cuban FM.

So, how is Obama being greeted at the airport by the Cuban FM, an “insult”?

BTW, both Obama in DC and Castro in Cuba greeted Pope Francis at the airport when he visited, so Trump was half-right. Castro did go to the airport once.

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