Crisis In The Ukraine Could Humiliate Obama and America By Default.


The Ukrainian crisis has the potential to become a major embarrassment for Obama and the US.  Here is why.

1.  Russia is not nearly as weak as it was in the 1990’s after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Oil money has buffered Moscow and strengthened Putin’s grip on power.

2.  America is not nearly as strong as it was in the 1990’s.  The debacle in Iraq and the economic meltdown have damaged America’s standing in the world and its ability to act.  Add to this the recent Obama administration’s drastic military cuts and it makes it clear that America should not be feared.

3.  This is in Russia’s backyard and they deem the Crimea (which has a heavily Russian population) as Russian territory even though technically it is a part of the Ukraine.

4.  The Ukrainian president that was just forced from office was elected democratically to office although I am sure that it was corrupt.  This, along with the fact that the Crimea is heavily Russian provides Putin with the justification to intervene militarily.

5.  The West encouraged the demonstrators in the Ukraine but nobody should be fooled here.  There is no chance of the US or Europe putting boots on the ground to protect the Ukraine.

6.  The only thing the US and the West can do is talk tough and hope the Russians don’t call their bluff.  Putin knows this and he will call the bluff humiliating Obama and America by default.

7.  Obama’s much hyped “Russian reset” has been a total failure.  A pattern has developed here with Russia playing a major role in problems around the world.  Syria, Iran, and the Ukraine all have one thing in common, Russian interference.

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ukraine/10667111/Ukraine-pleads-for-Britain-and-US-to-come-to-its-rescue-as-Russia-accused-of-invasion.html

 

Obama The Impotent


In an absolutely stunning development President Obama has now decided that he will go to congress to seek authorization for strikes against Syria.  Now to be fair I have to say up front that I have been riding the fence about whether or not we should strike Syria, not because the crime doesn’t fit the punishment but because what the president is proposing wont accomplish anything but to say that he kept his word.  Also lets not lie, America isn’t exactly very strong right now.  Borrowing 40 cents of EVERY dollar spent by the federal government, mostly from those thugs in China, should make all of us hesitate at least a little before starting another middle eastern adventure.  Having said that the fact that Obama has now gone to congress to seek political cover (something no president has ever done for a limited military action in the modern era, not even Carter was that weak) after trying to talk tough against Syria has made America look pathetically weak to exactly those people who need to fear us.  America has not looked this weak and vulnerable since the failed bid to rescue the hostages in Iran.  Furthermore the president’s about face has had just the opposite effect of what the strike was supposed to have done, it has now emboldened ALL of our enemies in the region.  To say that this is amateur hour in the White House is an extreme understatement.  Our country now desperately needs someone with a new vision and decisive leadership to fix our many problems at home and abroad because it sure isn’t going to come from this White House.  God have mercy on this nation because we have incompetents in charge of us now.

America Is No Longer A Superpower


When I first started writing this article I wrote the title as a question.  Upon further reflection I came to the easy decision that there really wasn’t any question about it and that I should write it as a statement instead to better reflect reality.  As our fearless leaders in Washington both republican and democrat debate whether or not we should launch military strikes against Syria I think it is time to acknowledge that our days of being a Superpower have passed.  Yes, we do still have the world’s most powerful military by far but that fact doesn’t look so powerful when you begin to realize that for us to use this military we have to borrow the money, mostly from China.  Can you really claim to be a real Superpower when you are dependent on rival regimes to finance your mighty military?  To me the answer is obvious and has been since the Great Recession began.  The sad fact of the matter is that we are now dependent on borrowed money from rival foreign powers to do anything militarily.  What happens when our interests don’t align with the people that are lending us the money?

 

Europoeans Left Undefended As US Shifts Focus To Asia And European Governments Slash Budgets


 

French President Hollande inspecting French troops in Afghanistan.

French President Hollande inspecting French troops in Afghanistan.

 

As the US begins to focus more on Asia and less on Europe there is a new reality for the people of Europe that they are defenseless.  Couple the US pivot to Asia with the fact that the economic crisis has forced many european governments to slash budgets and you have a situation in Europe where it is hard to see how they can defend themselves.  One might ask who exactly the enemy is they should be defending against?  While the answer is not necessarily obvious like it was during the Cold War there are capability gaps in european defense that need to be addressed.  First, europe is already within range of Iranian missiles so it would seem that missile defense should be a priority.  It also begs the question of why the US should be considering paying to provide europe with a missile defense?  The only possible answer would be to defend Europe in case the US strikes Iran but to me that should still mean that Europe should pay and not the US.  Europe also has no ability to project real power around the globe.  I dare say that they would even be hard pressed to be able to protect their interests abroad should they be threatened by even the most feeble of opponents.  Also Europe needs some credible military capability to at least be able to conduct operations with the US when it is in their interest too.  From enforcing future no fly zones or combating terrorism or piracy Europe should have some ability to at least be a contributing partner to future coalitions.  Lastly Europe should be thinking of ways to intervene (not miltarily) in collapsed european states in the near future.  Sooner or later if the situation does not improve in countries like Greece or worse Spain the EU will have to consider how they might deal with countries where the national government ceases to function effectively.  No, it has not come to that yet but if the economic crisis does not resolve itself soon it would be foolish to think that it could not happen.

Our US protector is looking the other way

The Iraq War 10 Years On Was It Worth It?


We are finishing up our look back on the Iraq War by attempting to answer the all important question of was the war worth it.  As you might have been thinking that is a pretty tough question to answer and because of that I think the only real way to try to answer that is to take emotion out of the equation and try analyze the facts as best as possible.  To accomplish this we need to not only look at this as Americans but also as Iraqis, and then again as Shia Iraqis, as Kurdish Iraqis, and finally as Sunni Iraqis because in the end it is their country.  So to accomplish this I will try to weigh the pros and cons from each group.

The Shia Iraqis

Considering that the Shia Iraqis probably took quite a beating during the war some might think that they would not think it worth it.  However, one must also remember that the Shia were persecuted in Iraq by Saddam prior to the war.  Also important to note is that as the largest group of people in Iraq they now control their own fate politically.  Although recent polling shows right now that Shia Iraqis feel worse off I think there is a reasonable chance that will change IF Iraq can stabilize in the near future.

The Kurds

The Kurdish people probably suffered the least from the war almost setting up a state within a state.  I am sure they are disappointed because they are still a part of Iraq but I am also sure that they are thankful to no longer having Saddam shooting chemical weapons at them either.

The Sunnis

The Sunnis without  a doubt have lost the most.  Saddam was a Sunni so they have gone from running the government to becoming junior partners in government to people they used to persecute.  You can imagine that they don’t like this and to them I would believe they do not think the war was worth it.

The Americans

For Americans the war has been bitterly divisive.  When the invasion was launched 10 years ago I remember polls showing support for the war around 70%.  Of course that would have been based on the false assumption that Iraq held stockpiles of wmd.  Couple that with gross incompetence of the nation’s senior defense officials like Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and the many generals who failed miserably in Iraq and your left with the idea that even if you thought the war was still justified because Saddam was gone you can’t excuse gross negligence/complete incompetence/near criminal misconduct with how the war was ran.  Having said all of that I do believe that in spite of everything I just said as bad as the war was for everybody involved the sanctions put on Iraq after the first Gulf War killed far more Iraqis than the war did.  Estimates are between 1-2 million Iraqis died from the sanctions, so you could probably say comfortably that the sanctions killed at least 1 million more people than the war did.

Surprisingly my own personal opinion about the war has changed just in the last week because of the research I did for this series.  Before I started this series I was convinced the war was a complete waste based on bad intelligence or maybe even outright lies about wmd etc..  While I am still shocked and dismayed by the incompetence of our so-called leaders about the handling of the war I can say definitively that something had to be done about Iraq and the sanctions put in place after the first Gulf War.  To be blunt we were butchering Iraqis literally by the thousands each year just so we could feel safe that Saddam wasn’t rearming.  This was wrong period and the situation had to be changed.  Does that mean there should have been an invasion?  I don’t know, you would like to think that during the 90’s upon realizing what the sanctions were doing to ordinary Iraqis a real effort would have been made to get rid of Saddam by all means necessary to include war if necessary.  To think that we launched the Kosovo campaign in the late 90’s to try to stop a genocide from being committed by Milosevic when we really needed to have been trying to stop a genocide in Iraq from being committed in our names makes me cringe.  As bad as the war was at least it ended the even worse sanctions.

The Cold Hard Truth

190,000 Iraqis killed in the war

4488 American soldiers killed in the war

3400 American civilian contractors killed in the war

2.2 trillion dollars spent on the war

Things To Consider

1-2 million Iraqis killed because of sanctions prior to the war

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/how-do-iraqis-view-the-effects-of-the-iraq-war/

http://www.military.com/daily-news/2013/03/15/study-iraq-war-cost-190k-lives-22-trillion.html?comp=1198882887570&rank=9

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1169290/

The Iraq War 10 Years On Part III


 

 

 

iraq-marines

Part III in our series takes a look at some of the major events of the war trying to assess how they look now that some time has passed.  Be sure to check back in later this week as we conclude are series on the Iraq War trying to answer the question of was it worth it?

The Rationale For War

This to me is critical because the rest of the long, drawn out war is justified by the original rationale for war.  The idea that Saddam was a threat because he had large stock piles of wmd was absurd.  To believe that a man who was singularly focused on one thing, the survival of his regime, would endanger that regime by trying obtain wmd was beyond dumb.  Couple this with the fact that most people are convinced that the administration lied about the evidence before the war and you have a serious problem.  The real tragedy about this was that there were legitimate reasons to get rid of Saddam.  Chief among those were that the West felt so insecure about Saddam and the threat of wmd that they killed more in Iraq by sanctions after the first Gulf War than were ever killed in the entire 2nd Gulf War.  Read this disturbing quote below from 2003 right before the invasion to get an idea of how bad sanctions made life in Iraq.

“More than 3000 children are dying every week in Iraq as a result of the decade long embargo that was enforced on the country after its invasion of Kuwait, a new report says.

It puts the total increase in the number of children who have died as a result of the embargo at around 1.6 million since 1990, with year on year increases.”

I tried to find an official body count from the sanctions but of course that was pretty hard to do.  The numbers I saw ranged from 1-2 million people killed by the sanctions.  The number of civilians killed during entire 2nd war in Iraq ranged from a little over 100,000 to up to 600,000 (by far left groups).  With this in mind it is clear that the sanctions were far more deadly to Iraqis than the actual war itself (not that it was any less horrific).  To me in the final analysis the better rationale for war was to have been based on the idea that the sanctions had to end to save Iraqi lives.

The Invasion

Heralded at the time as one of the great feats of military prowess with a full 10 years to reflect on the event I would imagine most unbiased observers would be less impressed.  The pros were that ground units did rapidly advance (supposedly faster and farther than any before) from Kuwait to the capital of Baghdad, but the to be honest most Iraqi army units decided not to fight, although some irregular units chose to engage and there were some intense fights they were almost all small in size.  The point is that yes the invasion forces may have advanced at unprecedented speed but it’s not as if they fought massive battles with tens of thousands of soldiers squaring off against each other (having said that I have no doubt that for individual soldiers facing even small unit engagements that the intensity, fear, and yes probably some exhilaration of the fights were extremely real).  Cons are fairly numerous.  The small size of the invasion force made it difficult to properly secure even areas that had been supposedly liberated.  This had the effect of leaving the impression to some Iraqis that they had survived the worst the Americans could throw at them, in other words they had not been defeated and still had plenty of fight left in them.  This also had another consequence for the occupation because there were so few troops they could not secure critical infrastructure (most probably remember Iraqis looting government buildings) and also they couldn’t secure the many weapons caches, depots, army bases etc. etc..  All of those mentioned would later go on to help fuel the insurgency.  When Gen. Shinseki testified before the invasion to congress that it would take several hundred thousand troops to secure Iraq he didn’t just pull the number out of the air.  He came up with the number based on the US Army’s extensive peacekeeping operations in the Balkans during the 90’s.  Rumsfeld famously lashed out at Shinseki replying that of course it would not take more troops to secure the peace than it did to win the war.  This statement by Rumsfeld showed to all his lack of understanding of modern war, unfortunately both Iraq and America paid for his ignorance.

The Surge

To say the American effort in Iraq was on life support in late 2006 is an understatement.  The American people were tired of the war and fed up with the administration’s oft-repeated line that the media only reported the bad things in Iraq (as if they were missing the real story of progress).  With democrats sweeping to power in congress things were definitely going to change in Iraq.  To most people’s surprise that change was an increase in troops and a change in strategy that called for securing the civilian population instead of remaining on base to avoid casualties.  This change in strategy called for new leadership so Gen. Casey was out as Multi-National Forces Commander Iraq to be replaced by Gen. Odierno.  Gen. Abizaid was also replaced by Gen. Petraeus as the CentCom Commander.  Finally Rumsfeld was replaced by Robert Gates as Sec. Def.. The results were dramatic and a situation that looked hopeless now showed some promise that Iraq might actually have a chance.  The US has only been out of Iraq for only a few short years so its hard to say whether the Iraqi government will continue to progress.  We do know that violence still occurs regularly in Iraq.  In looking at the surge and trying to assess its impact knowing that the final chapter about Iraq still is yet to be written I think its fair to say that the surge did not win the war in Iraq but it did prevent the US from losing it for the time being.

It was my hope to talk about other important events in Iraq like Fallujah, the Mahdi Militia and so on but for the sake of time I limited it to the invasion and the surge.  Tune in later this week as I finish the series as the question of whether the war was worth it is explored.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1169290/

Casualties of the Iraq War – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Iraq War 10 Years On Part II


020815-D-2987S-116

Part II of our series on the Iraq War looks at the generals and their legacies.  Will they be remembered as heroes of the nation or will they be synonymous with failure.  Also stay tuned for part III when we take a look at the major events in the war like the invasion and the surge and try to answer the question of was it worth it?

Gen. Petraeus

No general came out of the war looking better than Petraeus.  He started the war during the invasion as a 2 star general commanding the famed 101st Airborne Division.  As invasion turned to occupation Petraeus was one of the few generals that understood the US military was facing a legitimate insurgency and he actually had ideas about how to deal with it effectively.  His embrace of counter insurgency warfare from the start meant that he would go on to play a key role throughout the long war.  After commanding the 101st he was then assigned several tasks including writing the army’s manual for counter insurgency warfare and also leading the effort to train Iraq’s new army.  It should be noted that his effort to train the Iraqi military was not a stellar success.  Whether it was because Rumsfeld and the pentagon never fully bought into the concept or maybe he just didn’t get the job done, what ever the reason there is that blemish.  Of course it was later when Petraeus was appointed by Bush as CentCom Commander that he gained his real fame leading the surge and preventing total humiliation in Iraq for America.  History will look back on him as an innovative commander who when offered a significant command when his nation was in dire need he was able to use that position to reverse a disastrous situation.

Gen. Odierno

To me Odierno really represented the US Army as a whole because he was there during the initial invasion (as commander of the 4th Infantry division that was late getting into the fight because the Turks would not allow them access) and frankly probably did some things wrong, overly aggressive around civilians etc.  However he was able to transform and help lead the change as the lead general in Iraq during the surge.  To me that is no small achievement and I think he deserves great credit.  He currently serves as the US Army Chief of Staff where unfortunately he has stained his record by offering no resistance to women in the infantry but that is another matter entirely.  Also of note his son served in Iraq as a young officer and was seriously wounded losing an arm.  I think it is always a good thing when those who send our sons and daughters into harm’s way also have their own family members sharing the same risks.

Gen. Abizaid

Abizaid took command of CentCom in late summer of 2003 when Rumsfeld still refused to acknowledge that there was an insurgency.  To his credit at his first news conference he quickly reversed course for Rumsfeld by admitting we were in an insurgent war.  Unfortunately Abizaid would be crippled by incompetent commanders in Iraq (remember as CentCom Commander Abizaid would not be the general in Iraq leading the effort on the ground).  He had the misfortune of having two duds (courtesy of Rumsfeld) to carry out the war effort in Iraq.  He was a big proponent of using fewer troops arguing that the more Americans that were in Iraq the more hostile the populace would become.  Unfortunately for him that strategy was ultimately disproved by the surge.

Gen.  Sanchez

He was one of the two duds I referred to that Abizaid was cursed with to run the war in Iraq.  He was quickly appointed as the ground commander in Iraq after the initial invasion while he was still only a 3 star commander.  It was said that because his command had only been a 3 star command that he did not have nearly enough support staff to run his new 4 star appointment (I believe this came out of the book Fiasco by Tom Ricks but it has been so long I can’t say for sure) which meant that America’s lead officer on the ground was both inexperienced and under staffed to run a 4 star command.  This was not unusual for a Rumsfeld appointment, frankly it appears that Rumsfeld liked people who wouldn’t  stand up for themselves against him (Sanchez replaced Gen. Wallace who was a real 4 star because many speculated that he didn’t get along with Rumsfeld).  The end result of Sanchez’s tenure was the insurgency picked up steam partly as a result of his aggressive intelligence gathering techniques which relied on picking up suspects and sending them to Abu Ghraib (we all know how that ended up).

Gen. Casey

The other dud that Abizaid was cursed with to lead the war in Iraq.  Another Rumsfeld appointee whose only real qualification was that he wouldn’t tell Rumsfeld no (we are beginning to see a pattern here).  His major contribution to the war effort was an idea that to win the war we had to keep casualties down so he ordered troops to stay on base instead of conducting security sweeps.  The results were a total disaster for Iraq and America.  The insurgents ran wild killing civilians and humiliating America.  After his time in Iraq he was rewarded with the Army Chief of Staff position and Sen. McCain famously said that based on his time in Iraq he didn’t deserve to be rewarded with the position.

Gen. Franks

Much like Colin Powell Tommy Franks to me is another wild card, whether he was hero or villain is quite complex.  The case against Franks is that the insurgency took root while he was still in command.  In his defense it appears that Franks was told that he did not have to worry about Iraq once Saddam had been toppled.  That a whole separate command was to be in charge of post-war Iraq.  If this were true (once again I believe this came from Fiasco by Tom Ricks) it would be hard to blame Franks for this.  Also supporting Franks case for hero was that he had to fight Rumsfeld tooth and nail for even the bare minimum of forces necessary to win the invasion.  This is no small accomplishment and in my opinion Franks probably helped avert a national disaster by insisting on more troops (moron civilians in the pentagon were calling for only 75,000 troops).  The fact that Franks was even the commander for the invasion is evidence of Rumsfeld’s tough time getting along with army generals.  Franks was due to rotate out of command of CentCom before the invasion.  In an article in Time or Newsweek before the invasion it detailed how Rumsfeld couldn’t find anyone he had confidence in to replace Franks so he asked him to stay on for the invasion.  This sounds ok at first but the fact that Franks did not want to stay past the invasion(he was tired after having already led the fight in Afghanistan) was the reason Rumsfeld came up with idea of shifting responsibility for post war Iraq to a whole different command.  It was that decision that paved the way for the insurgency to take hold because Franks planned his invasion without post war Iraq in mind.

Gen. Shinseki

I wanted to briefly mention Shinseki who was army chief of staff at the time of the invasion.  Remember it was Shinseki who testified to congress before the war that it would take several hundred thousand troops to occupy Iraq effectively.  He was then savaged in the worst way by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.  Of course Shinseki was ultimately proved right and to many he has become a hero for standing up to those bullies.

In closing, we have mentioned only the major players in the war.  Basically all (except Shinseki) were either CentCom Commander or Mult-National Forces Iraq Commander.  There are many others who made significant contributions to the war, but it is these men who held the command positions to influence the war the most.    Because of this it is these men that history will hold accountable for the war effort in Iraq.

Gen.
Tommy Franks, commander in chief, U.S. Central