Friday, March 27, 2015

Fullbore Friday

One way to know that someone is Fullbore? Well, for starters, they have their own tag at CDRSalamander.

For well over a decade I have seen Ayaan Hirsi Ali for exactly what she is; a hero to the West and the ideals of The Enlightenment. 

Strong, fearless and direct - there is no better advocate for the freedoms that the West takes for granted, and few better at describing the true nature of the fringes that threaten modernity, human rights, and the progress of our civilization.

Rich Lowry has a great primer for those who aren't fully up to speed on who Ayaan is and what she stands for. Read it all, but here is a taste;
Ayaan Hirsi Ali should be the perfect feminist hero. Viewed from a certain level of abstraction, it is hard to imagine one person who fits the role on so many levels: She’s an escapee — literally — from an abusive patriarchy. She’s an African immigrant who made her own way in a Western country, the Netherlands, starting from nothing. She’s a fierce advocate for women’s rights. She’s a target for deadly violence by angry men who want to shut her up. She left her religion and became a scourge of its repressive practices. 
All this — her searing personal experience, her Third World background, her secularism — would seem fit to make her a rock star of contemporary feminism. Except for the blemish on her record: Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a dissident from the wrong religion.
Yes, that is the great irony of all this. She is despised by the left because she pushes back at the force that is most aligned with the self-loathing towards their own society as the left - radical Islam.

As it is with much of the left, the most important thing for them is to feed that which helps prop up the left's cultural masochism, and destroy those who try to get them to tell light from dark.
When all respectable people nod sagely at the cliché that Islam is a “religion of peace,” she says, “No, it’s not.” When all respectable people — and many discreditable ones — recoil and insist, “You can’t say that,” she says, “Yes, you can.” 
Our society, and especially the left, tends to reflexively celebrate dissenters. But some heretics are more welcome than others. In the case of Islam, the pieties of multiculturalism clash with what should be an imperative of feminism (i.e., forcefully standing up for the basic rights of women in Muslim societies), and feminism tends to lose out. 
“The concern,” as one feminist wrote of Hirsi Ali, “is that her intervention into the issue of gender equality in Muslim societies will strengthen racism rather than weaken sexism.” In the fashionable neologism designed to be an all-purpose conversation-stopper, she is “an Islamophobe.” Brandeis University notoriously rescinded a planned honorary degree for her last year, and the Muslim Students Association at the school huffed, “she incites and supports insensitivity and irresponsibility.”
That great stew of cognitive dissonance, hypocrisy, and a need to feel superior to the comfort purchased by others that nurtured you ... yep, that's our left.

In her life, she survived multiple times things that would crush lesser men and women ... yet she thrives ... and she keeps up the fight for the one light left on this planet; the fruits of The Enlightenment.
Hirsi Ali recalls the dissidents from communism in the 20th century like the great Whittaker Chambers. Their personal experience redoubled their commitment to the fight for freedom and human dignity. They, too, were often dismissed as fanatics and as embarrassments to polite opinion. But their intellectual contributions, and the examples of their own bravery, were indispensable in the long ideological struggle. 
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not just a heretic; she is also a believer. She has more confidence in Western civilization and its values than people who have never had to live outside it, or face down the enemies who want to destroy it. If she doesn’t get the recognition she deserves, so much the worse for her detractors.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

What if we gave a war and everyone came

The Middle East sure is a dog's breakfast.

The last few years have seen a victory squandered in Iraq that is now soaked in blood again.

Syria is to a point that all one can expect is for it to be bled to still a lighter shade of pale.

Lebanon is, well, from worse to more worse.

Israel has won the Golan Heights argument for the next few generations, will keep building in the West Bank, and is still the jewel of that part of the world - but is having a bad relationship on a personal level with its benefactor.

Jordan is being held together by duct tape, bailing wire, and the best Arab leader of this generation.

Saudi Arabia is all over the place and decided yesterday to invade Yemen again to kill Shia. Looks like they are leading a Sunni coalition of the spanking with fighter jets from Jordan, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain. Yesterday saw Egypt and Pakistan stating they are in.

Interesting. As I've stated before, only someone who understands the plot lines of Game of Thrones will be able to explain how to the north of Saudi Arabia that in conjunction with Sunni partners we support Iranian proxies and Iranian-actuals to kill Sunni, and then to the south of Saudi Arabia we have those same Sunni partners who are at war with Iranian proxies.

Someone needs some quality time on the white-board to diagram it. I understand it in my head, but for the life of me I can't explain it in under 5,000 words and five diagrams.

Oman is  ... well Omanish - we can call that a draw along with Morocco and Algeria.

Yemen ... check your news feed on this proxy to not-so-proxy Sunni-Shia conflict, as I am sure my few words above did not help at all.

Egypt is back under the only thing that works there - a military dictatorship.

Tunisia is trying to pretend it is a suburb of Caan ... but is infected with Islamic fundamentalists who have the morality of Thulsa Doom.

Libya is Madmaxistan.

The only nation doing well is ... the Islamic Republic of Iran ... with whom we are are now acting as their tactical air force. Aloha snackbar ... or something like that. Let's make nose-art out of it.

The future? At best, we cull the herd and let the scavengers fight over the remains of the Islamic State. Even if the Islamic State is defeated, thousands of radicalized young fighters who survive will return home to France, Germany, Britain, Australia and the USA. They will not come home in peace.

What to do about Iran? We missed that boat when we abandoned the Green Revolution years ago.

Long war ... a very long war.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What nasty name do you want to call me?

I'm sorry, but I have to comment on this - but I am not sure how to do it in today's political climate.

Do I make a lazy, sexist ... yet quasi accurate comment about "women drivers"? No, sexist.

Do I make a cynical comment about, "What do you expect from the Representative of DC?" No, some drone will make that racist.

Do I make a rather easy, "Typical Democrat." swipe? No, too partisan.

Do I make a plant the flag, "A perfect demonstration of the attitude that rules, consideration, and generally responsible behavior is for little people."

Yes, that is it ... though all four are accurate in their own way.

So, call me a name - it seems to be a thing the scolds like to do when someone is trying to laugh at life.

I'm sorry I didn't give you a chance to call me homophobic ... though I'm sure you can find some way if you just imagine hard enough.

On the other opposite side of the equation ... I just fell in love with Leona Chin.

The Body Count as Datapoint

Body counts are a useless metric by themselves. They should never be a primary metric, but they are useful in showing if nothing else the breadth and depth of conflict.

In the Briefing section on the Islamic State, The Economist has, as they often do, a graph that tells a story in a way 5,000 words cannot. It answers questions, as well as offers new ones. It is open to a variety of interpretations, sure, but that is not the point.

People are entitled to their opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.

For review:

Though their article is on the fragility and weakness of the Islamic State, there is another story in the above graph, one I want to revisit.

It tells a story that some don't like to hear - but needs to be repeated as this is the actual history as I saw it, the first part first hand.

1. Withdraw of forces in Iraq began under Bush43 in late 2007 with the success of the surge, just as we were halfway through designing the upcoming uplift of forces in Afghanistan.
2. With a firm victory in Iraq in the late-summer and early fall of '08, the death toll was at a steady low pace as we worked towards what the military wanted, a low five-figure force in place to ensure a properly secure environment until the Iraqi government was fully ready to defend itself. Then the zero-option took place. Shortly after, the slow buildup of death began again, and 24 months later we were off to a death level not seen in half a decade.
3. They Syrian civil war, right across the border, started its blood soaked path almost a year prior to our IRQ zero-option. A risk we wished away.
4. This Islamic State inspired and related killing is not going to stop any time soon, indeed, from Nigeria, to Libya to Yemen ... one could argue that it has only started.

This is President Obama's challenge to fix or let fester.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Politics of the Narrative does not Work Well Internationally

Adult leaders of adult nations speak clearly about what is happening in the world.

We try to teach out children, heck our Sailors, one fundamental; if you make a mistake, own up to it. If you get something wrong, it is better to admit it early than to double down or hide.

Then again, you have the rule of some politicians; never apologize, never admit a mistake. ... and we wonder where the kids get their ideas ...

This habit on the world stage can get dangerous. No one is perfect, the world gets a vote, and human beings have a tendency to do what they want regardless of what you will them to do. Well meaning people will cut you some slack.

They key to remaining credible and to ensure the right intellectual effort is going towards making the best of a changing situation is to ... gird your loins ... admit mistakes and move forward.


I will grant you that Yemen is a success, in a fashion, if your goal is to increase Iranian influence - which Administration is doing quite grandly in Iraq and Syria - then sure, it is a great success. If not, well ...

Now, let's look at where we are in the White House this week;

... and the truth on the ground;

So, where does that leave us? The late night cynic in me sees an administration that is relying a lot on hope and in a large measure are trying to run out the clock on hard decisions so the next President will have to the dirty work.

I don't know if you can run out the clock on this wreck of a foreign policy in the Middle East - but one thing is for sure, we're about to find out.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part LXIII

At a time when many discussions about China tend to be of a worrisome type, emphasizing China's positives while ignoring her challenges, Dan Blumenthal over at FP has a solid article out which gives a little more depth to what China is.
the easy days are over. Resources are shrinking. The situation is Xinjiang is getting worse. And an anti-corruption campaign announced by CCP secretary Xi Jinping shortly after he took office in November 2012 is starting to pick up steam in the military. Meanwhile, China’s land borders no longer appear as secure, as terrorists infiltrate China from South and Central Asia. For the first time since the Cold War, the PLA faces a real set of tough strategic and investment trade-offs and challenges to its weapons program development.

First, China’s fiscal situation is under severe strain. Its debt burden increased from $7 trillion in 2007 to $28 trillion in mid-2014, while Chinese national wealth has only increased by $5 trillion since mid-2008. As my colleague Derek Scissors argued in a November essay, “Chinese growth since 2008 has been built entirely on sand.” China is also aging rapidly: its labor force shrunk by 2.44 million in 2013, and by a whopping 3.71 million in 2014. Moreover, its gross domestic product grew at only 7.4 percent in 2014 — a 24-year low — and Beijing is aiming for around 7 percent for 2015. The current economic slowdown could potentially derail the PLA’s gravy train. Its military budget will have to align with China’s fiscal realities. The CCP will have to meet pension obligations to retirees and try and service the debt.

Second, Xi’s anti-corruption campaign is going after PLA elites. In early March, the PLA announced that 14 more of its generals were targeted in the anti-corruption crackdown. And in October, Beijing indicted Xu Caihou, a former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, the body that oversees the PLA, on bribery charges. Xu, who died last week, was the highest military official in decades to be publicly accused of corruption.
A wounded and slightly paranoid China is not necessarily for us a better China - but it is one that in the near future may be more inwardly focused than one externally focused.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Intellectual Responsibilities of the Naval Professional with Will Beasley - on Midrats

What are the intellectual responsibilities of the naval professional? What is the canon sound thought in the maritime realm is based?
Historically, what has been done, what has worked, and what should we be doing? Should the naval professional just focus on his narrow area of expertise, or does he need to have a more interdisciplinary approach to his intellectual development?

Our guest this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss this and more will be William M. Beasley, Jr., associate attorney with Phelps Dunbar, LLP in Mississippi. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Mississippi with a BA and MA in history where his graduate thesis examined the impact of popular culture, inter-service rivalry, civil-military relations, strategic planning, and defense unification on the "Revolt of the Admirals" of 1949.

Mr. Beasley received his JD from the University of Mississippi School of Law, where he served on the editorial board of the Mississippi Law Journal. Prior to joining Phelps Dunbar, Mr. Beasley worked as a research consultant with the Potomac Institute in Arlington, Virginia. He is a member of the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) and his work on maritime history and security has appeared in Proceedings, The Strategy Bridge, and USNI Blog.

Join us live if you can with the usual suspects in the chat room and offer up your questions for our guest, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that you should also get BJ's first book if you have not already, 21st Century Mahan: Sound Military Conclusions for the Modern Era.