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.


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.


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:


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.


Normandy Reflections

A few days ago, Wrongo and Ms. Right visited the WWII Normandy beaches. This has special relevance to Wrongo because his father was part of Patton’s Third Army. The Third landed in Normandy on August 1, 1944. The role of the Third Army was to punch a hole through the German lines after the initial invasion of Normandy had softened them up. The Third did just that. They drove across France and into Germany in 90 days.

On November 8th, the Third Army started their first big fight inside Germany by attacking the city of Metz. Mr. Wrong’s father often spoke about the liberation of Metz, when Gen. Patton and a few staff units, including Wrongo’s father’s, made it into the city in advance of Patton’s fighting forces. Luckily (for Dad and Patton), their unsupported “invasion” of Metz happened without any disastrous consequences.

Today, let’s focus on an under told story of the Normandy invasion.

If the invasion of Normandy was to succeed, the Allies needed a place to land the men, materiel and supplies that a successful invasion requires. The entire campaign depended upon the speed with which reinforcements and supplies could be brought to Normandy, and then moved inland.

While there were many ports on the Channel coast of France, the Germans were fiercely protecting all of them. When the Allied military command decided it would be too difficult to capture one of them, an innovative solution had to be found. They soon focused on building an artificial harbor somewhere along the Normandy beaches.

Churchill had conceived of creating rudimentary harbors by sinking sand-filled barges during World War I. Although the concept was not used at that time, in 1941 the British War Office began evaluating and refining artificial harbor designs. This was carried out under the code name “Mulberry”.

In those days, an infantry division required about 400 tons of supplies every day, while an armored division like one of Patton’s, required 1,200 tons. During the early stages of the invasion, the Allies needed to have 8,000-12,000 tons cross the Channel every day. Ultimately, to support the growing needs of the push towards Germany, this had to increase by an additional 2,000 tons every day.

Where and how would this be accomplished by the Allies? It turned out to be at the Normandy town of Arromanches, (Gold Beach, one of the five Normandy invasion sites). The Mulberry project was huge and immensely complex. Logistics demanded that the harbor’s components be designed, tested and constructed in Britain, customized to specific hydrographical and topographical conditions, including Normandy’s 24’ tides, then transported across the Channel and erected quickly (within a matter of days).

It had never been done before, but the process kicked off on May 30, 1942 with a wonderfully simple order from Churchill to Lord Mountbatten about the task of constructing the harbor:

They must float up and down with the tide. The anchor problem must be mastered. Let me have the best solution worked out. Don’t argue the matter. The difficulties will argue for themselves.

Given the way our Generals and CEOs micromanage today, it is impossible to imagine such a mission-critical element getting such terse direction.

Two artificial harbors were built, one by the British and one by the Americans. The American harbor at Omaha beach was destroyed in a three-day gale, but the British harbor was used to transport 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tons of supplies during its existence.

It was an important key to victory in WWII.

Some remaining structures can still be seen offshore and on the beach at Arromanches:



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.


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?


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 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?


Careful What You Wish For in The Primaries

After Super Tuesday, Part Three, it is hard to see how anyone but Trump wins the GOP nomination. But given that there are still powerful forces who stand against him being the Republican presidential candidate, the fight will continue, particularly if he doesn’t win enough delegates in the primary season to win on the first ballot.

On the Democratic side, Hillary won big. As of this writing, all of the delegates have not yet been awarded, but so far, Clinton has won the race 326/220 (60%/40%). As primary night wore on, Wrongo heard many Dems saying how happy they would be to run against Donald Trump in the general election.

Dems should be careful what they wish for. It isn’t a completely new phenomenon for Dems to root for a Republican presidential candidate that they perceived to be an easy target, and be wrong.

Think back to 1968. This wasn’t a great year for Dems, considering that the convention was held in Chicago during a year of riots in more than 100 cities following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Both Kennedy and Sen. Eugene McCarthy had been running against the eventual Democratic presidential nominee, Vice President Hubert Humphrey. There was violence on the convention floor, outside the convention center and at Grand Park.

With all that going on, it is doubtful that Dems paid much attention to the GOP primary contest, but they were relieved when Nixon was nominated. After all, a Democrat had beaten him in 1960 (JFK) and 1962, when Nixon lost the California gubernatorial election to Pat Brown, and famously said: “You won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.

But, in 1968, Nixon won the popular vote by the very narrow margin of 0.7 of a percentage point, while easily winning the Electoral College, 301-191.

In 1976, Dems probably were unhappy to be running against Gerald Ford, who had replaced Nixon when he resigned in 1974, since incumbents have a strong advantage. Ford defeated Ronald Reagan by a narrow margin on the first ballot, but Jimmy Carter won the general, pitching himself as a reformer.

In 1980, Dems probably were happy to run against Ronald Reagan instead of George HW Bush, but they lost in a three-way contest.

By 1988, Dems thought George HW Bush couldn’t possibly win. But the Dems ran Michael Dukakis, and Bush won.

In 2000, Dems were delighted to be running against George W. Bush instead of John McCain, and proceeded to lose to him twice.

In 2008, no GOP candidate had a chance to win unless they repudiated the 8 years of the Bush/Cheney administration. So McCain was no longer feared by Dems.

In 2012, none of the GOP candidates came anywhere near close to being strong enough to deprive Obama of a second term.

Therefore, Democrats who want to run against the person they believe to be the weakest GOP candidate have a poor track record, one that blinds them to the weaknesses of their own candidates during the Democratic primaries.

Trump vs. Clinton is the general election race that the establishment Dems want, but it seems risky to Wrongo. Hillary isn’t an inspiring candidate, rather, she’s probably about on par with John Kerry, another career politician.

OTOH, Trump’s campaign style is almost tailor-made to defeat an elitist associated with practically every economic and political failure of the past 30 years. He now has months to refine how to go after her, and years of material to use.

So be careful what you wish for, Democrats.


Time to Dump Our Frenemy, Saudi Arabia

Our Middle East strategy is a failure. We want to blame someone for the failures in Iraq, Afghanistan and now, in Syria. Many will point the finger at Mr. Obama, and he is complicit in our failure, but so are all American presidents since Carter.

One constant in our ME efforts has been our ally, Saudi Arabia. They have been our confidante and along with Israel, they have provided intellectual leadership to our presidents and our military.

Since the 1930’s when we first recognized Saudi Arabia, we have tried to straddle the fence with our choice of allies in the ME. Turkey (NATO member) is Sunni. So is Saudi Arabia. Our “enemy” AL-Qaeda is Sunni. Our “enemy” Iran is Shia. Our “ally” Iraq is Shia. Our “enemy” Syria is Shia. Our “enemy” ISIS is Sunni.

Now, we need to reconsider our alliance with the Saudis.

Although many in the non-mainstream media have consistently pointed out that Saudi Arabia has been a key financier of ISIS, (see here, here, and here) we continue to spend our resources to defeat ISIS in both Syria and Iraq while our ally funds them. And they also export and promote a very similar brand of Islam to that of ISIS. The Progressive reported on the views of Cal State Professor Asad AbuKhalil:

The ideology of the Saudi regime is that of ISIS even if the foreign policies differ…Mainstream Islam frowns upon the views, excesses, practices and interpretations of ISIS…But Wahhabi Islam [the official ideology of the Saudi monarchy] is fully in sync with ISIS.

Still, there has been little mainstream media acknowledgement of the Saudi role until an article on 11/20 in the NYT by Algerian writer Kamel Daoud:

Black Daesh, white Daesh. The former slits throats, kills, stones, cuts off hands, destroys humanity’s common heritage and despises archaeology, women and non-Muslims. The latter is better dressed and neater, but does the same things.

His white Daesh is Saudi Arabia. Here is how Daoud ends his piece: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

Daesh [ISIS] has a mother: the invasion of Iraq. But it also has a father: Saudi Arabia and its religious-industrial complex. Until that point is understood, battles may be won, but the war will be lost. Jihadists will be killed, only to be reborn again in future generations and raised on the same books.

Daoud makes this point about our relationship with Saudi Arabia:

In its struggle against terrorism, the West wages war on one, but shakes hands with the other. This is…denial, and denial has a price: preserving the famous strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia at the risk of forgetting that the kingdom also relies on an alliance with a religious clergy that produces, legitimizes, spreads, preaches and defends Wahhabism, the ultra-puritanical form of Islam that Daesh feeds on.

Wahhabism is Saudi Arabia’s dominant faith. It is an austere form of Islam that insists on a literal interpretation of the Koran. Strict Wahhabis believe that all those who don’t practice their form of Islam are heathens and enemies. It hopes to restore a fantasized caliphate centered on a desert, a sacred book, and two holy sites, Mecca and Medina.

Saudi Wahhabis have spent $ billions to export Wahhabism throughout the ME. They have been able to greatly influence the politics and religion in Muslim countries, and the teaching of Islam in educational establishments.

It has changed these countries, and has led to the conversion of some Muslims to Wahhabism. This conversion of relatively small numbers of Muslims has had a large impact, because these converts have provided much of the leadership of the various jihadi movements that have sprung up in the ME.

The reality of Saudi support for ISIS is studiously ignored in America, probably because of their financial clout, their supply of oil, and our long-standing alliance with them. And there’s the trap. Denial creates an illusion that the Saudis are our partners.

Once again, desert Arabs are stoking a war designed to control the Fertile Crescent. But they are not alone. Turkey wants a rebirth of the Ottoman Empire. Israel prefers Muslims to fight each other, and not them. Russia wants to keep its Syrian base in order to project power elsewhere in the ME. The West wants secure access to oil and to enrich its military contractors by engaging there.

The Saudis also invaded Yemen, and we supported them. They attacked their neighbor under the pretense of reinstalling the deposed government. Now, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the local ISIS affiliate have flourished there. They are fomenting war throughout the ME.

So why would we rely on the Saudis in our war against ISIS?


Veterans Day: 11/11/2015

In his latest book, The Last of the Presidents Men, Bob Woodward reveals a previously unreported memo from 1972 in which Nixon writes Kissinger, saying that a years-long bombing campaign in Vietnam had produced “zilch,” even as he pitched the exact opposite message to the American public. He wrote that the day after giving an interview to Dan Rather, declaring that the bombing of North Vietnam had been “very, very effective”. Nixon’s note said:

K. We have had 10 years of total control of the air in Laos and V.Nam. The result=Zilch. There is something wrong with the strategy or the Air Force.

Nixon then increased bombing, dropping some 1.1 million tons in 1972 alone — more than in any single year of LBJ’s presidency. From Woodward: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

[Nixon] Us[ed] Vietnam to enhance his re-election prospects…breaking perhaps the most sacred trust for a commander in chief.

All these years later, it is hard to believe that anything Nixon did could surprise us, yet there it is.

Since the 1970’s, a meme among conservatives is that the reason we lost in Vietnam was a lack of will, brought on by liberals and war protesters. But thinking that the primary reason we lost Vietnam was that liberals stabbed America in the back is ridiculous. You may remember that in 1968, Nixon said he had a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War. He had no plan, and by 1972, when he sent the note to Kissinger, he knew he was losing the war.

In total, the war stretched on for 7 years after the announcement of Nixon’s “secret plan” to end it.

Today we hear that feckless leadership is causing us to “lose” in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. This comes from a few career military, and many, many Republican Chicken Hawks, who continue to raise the specter of Vietnam.

On Veterans Day, let’s remember that Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan are all places where our boys bled and died on foreign soil. All are places where our money was recycled to the war profiteers, and where we left behind zero ability to foster the “democratic” way of life that our politicians wanted to bring to those nations.

And what about the “sacred trust?” Politicians break the sacred trust to its citizens and soldiers all the time, if there is an opportunity to spread the gospel, secure the oil, or beat the “enemy”. War profiteering for private corporations, socialized losses for the people. US soldiers dead or maimed for life. Their families robbed of optimism, their memories an open wound.

THAT is the sacred trust in ruins. That is the legacy of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan on this, and on all Veterans Days.

And do the Chicken Hawks take care of our veterans after the fact, once they come home? They do not. The CH’s “cut taxes” mantra means that more money for the oligarchs has to come from somewhere. So, they try to cut social programs, because war profiteers (including those in Congress) can’t make any money off government-run, not-for-profit social programs.

Veterans have been with us since before the founding of the Republic. To observe this Veterans Day, here is a reasonably obscure song by Bob Dylan, “’Cross the Green Mountain.” It appeared on the soundtrack of the film, “Gods and Generals,” a Civil War film that was entirely financed by Ted Turner as a pet project.

The song speaks to the horror faced by soldiers in the Civil War. Dylan’s Civil War tale could be about any war, as his worn-down singing captures the essence of a soldier pining for home while reflecting on what may be his last battle, his last moments in life. Below is the abbreviated version of the song that was used as the official music video:

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

That gives you a taste, but if you want the whole thing, the full 8 minute song was part of Dylan’s Bootleg Series #8: “Tell Tale Signs,” and you can view it here.