Category Archives: War Commentary

A Mystery Shooter

Usually, we have to play “Guess that party!” In the case of the Kansas City shooter, we get to play “Guess his motive!”

Police would link at least 12 such attacks to the same .380-caliber weapon before they ultimately arrested 27-year-old Mohammed Pedro Whitaker. On Thursday, they swarmed his home in the south Kansas City suburb of Grandview, where a tributary of highways converge and where many of the attacks had happened.

In Whitaker’s home, police said, they found a .380-caliber handgun. After weeks of fear, they told the press they had their man, and not longer after, Whitaker was charged with 18 felonies. (It’s not clear if Whitaker, who has not entered a plea, has a lawyer, and he is being held in lieu of $1-million bond.)
No motive has been publicized, and police declined to speculate.

Emphasis added. I’m sure they decline to speculate, but the rest of us are under no politically correct strictures to do so.

I wonder if that’s the name on his birth certificate? Am I allowed to ask questions like that?

Geopolitics In Space

I talked to Glenn Reynolds yesterday about our Russian entanglement. Just civil, though, not the military space problem.

[Afternoon update]

Space News had a blistering editorial on Monday, excoriating the fools on the Hill:

Those who bemoan NASA’s reliance on Russia, yet shortchange the very program designed to fix that problem, are at the same time adamant that the agency spend nearly $3 billion per year on SLS and Orion, vehicles that for all their advertised capability still have no place to go. Their size and cost make them poorly suited for space station missions, even as a backup to commercial crew taxis, and in any case the first SLS-Orion crewed test flight won’t happen before 2021.

NASA currently lacks an independent crew launching capability because of decisions made a decade ago, the consequences of which were fully understood and accepted at the time. The longer this situation lasts, however, the more culpable the current group of decision-makers will become.

In that vein, the current criticisms of NASA and the White House might be viewed as a pre-emptive strike by lawmakers who sense their own culpability. But in pressing arguments that fail to stand up to even modest scrutiny, they not only undermine their credibility, they give NASA cover to pursue a Commercial Crew Program approach that might not be sustainable.

What a pathetic lot they are.

[Bumped]

A Chinese-Russian Alliance?

Sanctions may make it happen:

…we may undo the work of the Cold War era and stand godfather to a new Sino-Russian alliance. This without doubt would be the stupidest move in the history of American foreign policy. Russia’s economy is weak, but Russia has considerable latent resources in military technology. Russia has a limitless market for natural resources in China and a prospective partner in military technology. If we continue to dismantle our defense capacity while Russia and China nourish theirs, we will be in deep trouble.

The best response to Putin’s challenge would be a massive increase in defense R&D, with a view to neutralizing Russia’s perceived areas of strength in missile and air defense technology (remember how SDI cowed Gorbachev in the 1980s?). That would command China’s respect and reduce Russia’s attractiveness as a prospective partner. The Crimea was, is, and will be Russian, and it’s pointless to cry over milk that was spilled in 1783. We need to think several moves ahead on the chessboard. Otherwise, Chancellor Merkel is quite right: sanctions are pointless.

That would include innovations in Milspace, something that apparently only DARPA is capable of.

The Conditions Of Omar

The Syrian Christians (who survive) are being forced to convert:

Just the other day in Pakistan, Christians “began the construction of a church on land donated by the Christian Akber Masih, a resident in the area. They built the walls of the building and placed a cross in front of the main gate of the small construction yard.” But “when a large group of Islamic extremists saw the Christian symbol they arrived unexpectedly with bulldozers and started demolishing the building.” Although the Christians notified police and authorities, “the perpetrators were not arrested.” As for the aggrieved Christians, they “have received threats and have to abandon the idea of the project to build a church.”

Thanks to Western intervention in the colonial era, the Conditions largely disappeared — not least because Muslim leaders and elites were themselves Westernizing. But today, as Muslims turn back to their Islamic heritage and its teachings — not least because Western leaders and elites are urging them to in the name of multiculturalism, if not moral relativism — the Conditions are returning. And woe to the Christian minority who dares break them by exercising religious freedom — what I call the “How Dare You?” phenomenon, which is responsible for the overwhelming majority of Islamic attacks on non-Muslims.

This is par for the course, and how Islam spread in the first place, not voluntarily through the evangelical preaching of its virtues and spiritual benefits. It was, in fact, the root cause of the Crusades.

Why Russia Invaded Ukraine

…because the West is weak.

And that’s just the way the Democrats, from Madeleine NotSobright to Barack Obama, seem to like it.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Putin was changing the map while Europe was fixing the climate.

What fools.

Also, when weak nations provoke stronger ones. Because part of strength is the will to use what power you have.

[Update mid-afternoon]

“It’s like they’re living on another planet.”

As he notes, if Obama’s unwilling to take on the Sierra Club, who should believe that he’ll take on Putin?

[Bumped]

[Late afternoon update]

The West’s Ukrainian folly:

The real Cold Warriors understood that crushing the Evil Empire of Communism required us to take into account the interests of Russia as a nation. The elder statesmen who won the Cold War, including Henry Kissinger (whose opening to China flanked the Soviet Union), are trying in vain to inject a note of sanity into the clown show that passes for American foreign policy on both sides of the aisle. The Republican mainstream mistook Tahrir Square for Lexington Common, and then mistook Maidan for Tahrir Square. If only we were rougher and tougher, it is claimed, Crimea would be free today. That is just plain stupid; there is no possible state of the world in which Crimea would not be Russian. We had some ability to influence the terms under which it would be Russian, and we chose the worst possible course of action, namely open hostility combined with impotent posturing.

We have an elite that lives in its own virtual-reality world circumscribed by a failed ideology, unable to learn from its past mistakes (or even to admit that they were mistakes) and condemned to repeat the same blunders again and again. They posture at Putin the way a small boy stands up to the zoo lion behind cage bars. The lion, though, is not entirely without alternatives, as the alarming case of Iran should make clear.

It’s folly on every front.

Putin’s Cold Hard Facts

Options for confronting them:

Obama’s post-aggression sanctions regimen is not merely inadequate, it is a joke. Russian hard-power aggression, annexation and expansion require a hard-power response. Here are some I recommend: (1) We can’t flip-flop NATO Article 5, NATO’s commitment to mutual defense. The U.S. must demonstrate it takes its NATO obligations seriously. So, deploy U.S. troops to Poland. The U.S. withdrew its last tanks from Germany in 2013. The Poland garrison needs a U.S. armor brigade. (2) Cancel all defense budget cuts. Faculty club snark aside, peace through strength means something. (3) Open federal lands to natural gas “fracking” and start shipping gas to Europe. Undermining Russian gas sales is a real economic sanction. (4) Arm the Baltic nations. They are also NATO allies. And (5) deploy the GBI’s to Poland, and build a more robust missile defense system. As for permanently deploying U.S. Patriot PAC-3 short-range anti-missile missiles in Poland — that’s an idea whose time has come.

I think we need a new Marshall Plan to quickly reconfigure Europe’s energy infrastructure. If Obama was really serious about his “phone and pen” there are things that are entirely within his power to do. He could open up Keystone and approve the permits for those LNG terminals tomorrow. Investments in new European pipelines and terminals could be paid for with revenues from gas sales. And despite Kerry’s idiotic blathering about an end to all life on earth, this is the real crisis, not carbon.

The New Cold War

Anyone who deludes themselves that it hasn’t restarted, and it isn’t ideological, needs to read this:

Mr. Prokhanov, who speaks in rich, metaphorical Russian and has the slightly disheveled look of a beat poet, contrasted the present government with that of Boris Yeltsin, the president in the 1990s. “In Yeltsin’s time I was seen as a monster by the regime, a character out of hell,” he said. “I was under threat of arrest, and now I am regularly invited to Kremlin events.”

Though he said he had met the president only a handful of times, “The intelligence officers around him pay much more attention to ideology, and for them it is clear that ideological war is an important instrument.”

If Mr. Putin himself decided to make an ideological change, Mr. Prokhanov said, it was in December 2011, when tens of thousands of urban liberals, angry over ballot-stuffing and falsification in parliamentary elections, massed on a city square, Bolotnaya, chanting, “Putin is a thief!” and “Russia Without Putin.”

“During the time of Bolotnaya, he experienced fear,” Mr. Prokhanov said. “He felt that the whole class which he had created had betrayed him, cheated him, and he had a desire to replace one class with another. From the moment you got back from that march, we started a change of the Russian elite.”

Another person who has been swept into the mainstream is one of Mr. Prokhanov’s former protégés, Aleksandr G. Dugin, who, in the late 1990s, called for “the blinding dawn of a new Russian Revolution, fascism — borderless as our lands, and red as our blood.”

Virulently anti-American, Mr. Dugin has urged a “conservative revolution” that combines left-wing economics and right-wing cultural traditionalism. In a 1997 book, he introduced the idea of building a Eurasian empire “constructed on the fundamental principle of the common enemy,” which he identified as Atlanticism, liberal values, and geopolitical control by the United States.

“Left-wing economics and right-wing cultural traditionalism.” Gee, where have we heard of things like that before?

And note that classical liberalism aka libertarianism and individualism, which the modern left calls “right wing,” bears no resemblance to any of this.

[Update a couple minutes later]

“Putin is no Hitler, but Hitler would recognize his moves“:

Adolf wanted to tear up the Treaty of Versailles. Putin is attempting to rip up the post-Cold War settlement in Europe and Central Asia. Like Hitler’s Germany, Putin’s Russia is much weaker than its opponents, so it can’t achieve its goal through a direct military challenge against its primary enemies. Like Hitler’s Germany, Putin’s Russia must be clever until it grows strong, and it must play on its enemies’ hesitations, divisions and weaknesses until and unless it is ready to take them on head to head.

“Keep them guessing” is rule number one. Nobody was better than Hitler at playing with his enemies’ minds. For every warlike speech, there was an invitation to a peace conference. For every uncompromising demand, there was a promise of lasting tranquillity once that last little troublesome problem had been negotiated safely away. He was so successful at it (and Stalin, too was good at this game) in part because his opponents so desperately wanted peace. French politicians like Leon Blum and British leaders like Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain were as hungry for peace (it was the Depression after all, and both countries had suffered immensely in World War One) as Barack Obama and Francois Hollande are today. Commendably and properly, they wanted to fix their domestic economies, create a more just society at home, repair their infrastructure and cut their defense budgets. They were not in the mood for trouble overseas, and so a cold blooded con man found them to be easy marks.

I think if you look up “easy marks” in the dictionary, you’ll see pictures of Obama and Kerry.

Obama’s Foreign Policy

…is based in fantasy:

For five years, the Obama administration has chosen to see the world as they wish it to be, not as it is. In this fantasy world, the attack in Fort Hood is “workplace violence.” The Christmas Day bomber is an “isolated extremist.” The attempted bombing in Times Square is a “one-off” attack. The attacks in Benghazi are a “spontaneous” reaction to a YouTube video. Al Qaeda is on the run. Bashar al-Assad is a “reformer.” The Iranian regime can be sweet-talked out of its nuclear weapons program. And Vladimir Putin is a new, post-Cold War Russian leader.

In the real world, it was a pen pal of the late jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki who opened fire on soldiers at Fort Hood. The Christmas bomber was dispatched from Yemen, where he was instructed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The Times Square bomber was trained and financed by the Pakistani Taliban. Benghazi was a deliberate attack launched by well-known terrorist groups. Al Qaeda is amassing territory and increasing its profile. Assad is a brutal dictator, responsible for the deaths of more than 100,000 Syrians. The Iranian regime is firmly entrenched as the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror and remains determined to lead a nuclear state. And in Russia we face a Cold War throwback willing to use force to expand Russian influence.

Well, to be fair, his domestic policies are based on fantasies, too.

Ukraine And The “Realists”

How they so badly misjudged it:

Russia and the West do indeed have competing interests in the post-Soviet space. The problem with the realists is that they fail to see the moral, tactical and legal disparities that exist between the aims and methods of East and West. When Brussels and Washington propose EU and NATO membership, they are offering association in alliances of liberal, democratic states, achieved through a democratic, consensual process. Russia, meanwhile, cajoles, blackmails and threatens its former vassals into “joining” its newfangled “Eurasian Union,” whose similarity to the Soviet Union of yore Putin barely conceals. The right of sovereign countries to choose the alliances they wish is one Russia respects only if they choose to ally themselves with Russia. Should these countries try to join Western institutions then there will be hell to pay.

Despite all this, Cohen complains of a “Cold War double standard” in the ways we describe Western and Russian approaches to the former Soviet space. The West’s “trade leverage” to persuade Ukraine is treated benignly, Cohen writes, while Putin’s use of “similar carrots” is portrayed as nefarious. A crucial difference, however, is that when a country turns down a Western diplomatic package, as Ukraine did at the November Vilnius Summit (thus sparking the massive protests in Kiev that ultimately overthrew Yanukovych), the EU does not invade.

It should not come as a surprise why countries like Poland, the Czech Republic and other former Warsaw Pact nations that lived under the heel of Russian domination for so long might want to join the NATO alliance, which, according to its charter, is purely defensive. NATO has no designs on Russian territory and never has. But in the fervid and paranoid minds of the men running the Kremlin (and, apparently, in that of Stephen Cohen and other opponents of NATO expansion), the alliance’s defensive nature is irrelevant. If Russia were a healthy, liberal, pluralistic society at peace with itself and its neighbors, it would have nothing to fear from America, the EU, or NATO. Indeed, as crazy as it may sound today, in the 1990s, some Russian and Western leaders spoke optimistically of Moscow joining the latter two institutions. But these hopes of a European Russia were dashed when Putin came to power.

If it hadn’t been Putin, it might have been someone else. There may be something in the Russian character that wants a czar.

The Ukraine Invasion

What to do about it. Note this one:

Move to set up the anti-ballistic missile facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic which Obama scuttled in 2009–on the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland, when it was an ally of Nazi Germany, in 1939.

They won’t do anything that requires an admission that they were wrong.

Mead makes the point that the pundits who predicted until Saturday that Russia would not move into Ukraine are solipsists — they assume that Putin sees the world as they do and will act as they would. That would indeed be nice. But Putin doesn’t see the world they way we — Obama supporters and Obama critics — do. We are told we should not mourn the transformation of a unipolar world into a multipolar world. It’s just selfish to want to see the United States as the world’s leading power. But the alternative is between a unipolar world and a zeropolar world, in which aggressive actors like Putin’s Russia, the mullahs’ Iran and Syria’s Assad can inflict tyranny, suffering and death to millions–and no one can stop or (preferably) deter them.

It is weakness, not strength, that is provocative:

A hundred years ago Theodore Roosevelt had warned Americans that, if we wanted peace in the Pacific, we should either withdraw from the Philippines or build a navy that Japan must respect. We did neither. Instead, US policy consisted of sonorous moral commitments to peace and good order, coupled with an increasingly hollow military: the unbridled tongue and the unready hand. The American people paid the price in blood.

[Update a while later]

Russia’s Ukrainian Invasion

…was easy to predict.

And in fact, Sarah Palin did predict it in the first campaign.

The only people who didn’t see it coming are the people we foolishly reelected last year.

[Update a while later]

From terrible to even worse:

The sequence of the past week, then, has a grim logic. Ukraine unrest builds and its pro-Russian leader gets toppled. The Sochi Olympics come to an end. The United States announces military force reductions. Putin moves to secure Russia’s sole warm-water navy base and bring Ukraine to heel. Russia knows that the United States has a security treaty with Ukraine, so the next move is very much Washington’s. Obama delivers a terse statement in which he does not characterize Russia’s move as an “invasion,” takes no press questions, and then heads off for “happy hour” and delivers a sharply partisan speech to the Democratic Party. Obama has made no effort to unify Americans ahead of what may be the most dangerous foreign policy situation since the end of the Cold War.

Putin knows that the United States is debt-ridden and war-weary. He knows that Europe is in no mood for a war and is not capable of sustaining one without the United States, and that Britain is incapable of stopping him on its own (UK is a signatory to that Ukraine security treaty). He also knows that if the U.S. abrogates its security treaty with Ukraine, then the world stops spinning around Washington and may start spinning around Moscow. He also knows that the team atop the U.S. government consists of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel. Those four hardly constitute a national security dream team. None of them have a record of consistently pursuing America’s national interests above other considerations.

[Update a few minutes later]

Party like it’s 1914:

everyone who understood how to confront the threat of the Soviet Union can say, “I told you so, and we knew how to handle them.” Reagan, Ed Meese, John Paul II, Caspar Weinberger, Strom Thurmond, and thousands of others who shared their moral clarity. Don’t forget, Ted Kennedy was feeding information to Soviet leaders about how to confront Ronald Reagan. Some were on the wrong side of history, some were on the right.

During this era, Obama was on the wrong side.

Again, back to the tape. Now in this digital age we have a president that is not only illiterate in the history of European confrontation, but his tendencies skew toward America’s enemies. Here’s the even scarier part: Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons to Russia in exchange for an American guarantee of security.

It’s starting to feel like 1914, and unfortunately Putin seems to be holding the best hand. America is weak and has a leader who is incompetent at best, and at worst has a history of siding with America’s enemies. Just this week, as Putin was massing force on the Ukrainian border, Jay Carney was warning Putin not to take steps that might be “misinterpreted.” Putin listened. The only place his moves were being misinterpreted was in the Obama White House. Only there, in the bubble of new-age foreign policy nonsense, was there a misinterpretation. Everyone else knew what Putin was up to, except the people we pay to know.

What a disaster the last election was, on multiple fronts.