Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cruising the Web

Too little, too late seems the general conclusion about the President's decision to bow to low poll ratings by announcing the US will be leading efforts to destroy the Islamic State. And of course, there was no acknowledgement that what he announced last night was the opposite of what he'd been saying just a few weeks ago about arming the supposedly moderate Syrian rebels to be the ground troops he refuses to send in from America. Just a month ago he was saying that it wasn't worth it to arm an army made up of doctors, lawyers, and pharmacists. And there was no acknowledgment that if Obama had not been so determined to pull out of Iraq that he didn't get a status of forces agreement to keep troops and intelligence forces there to guard against exactly what happened. And he didn't acknowledge that his ignoring the threat from ISIS as it had been developing already for several years.

As Rick Klein writes for ABC News, last night's speech was basically a Mulligan for Obama.
That last word – “strategy” – appeared four times in the president’s prime-time address. The repetition was an implicit follow-up to an already infamous quote from two weeks ago, when the president said “We don’t have a strategy yet” to confront ISIS in Syria.

Yet the president did not announce any new actions, beyond sending fewer than 500 new service members to Iraq, and repeated request for Congress to fund training of Syrian opposition forces. He said “I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria,” but cautioned that “it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL.”

It’s worth noting the tortuous path he took to get to even this point. Back at the beginning of the year, he famously compared the al Qaeda group that had taken over Fallujah, Iraq, to the “jayvee team” in Los Angeles Lakers’ uniforms.

By summer, as ISIS’ terrorist army marched across Iraq and into Syria, the American public was shaken by gruesome images of an American journalist beheaded by ISIS. The president angrily condemned the killing, then returned to his vacation, going golfing that afternoon.

As things stand, the public is scared of the threat posed by ISIS, and seemingly ready for the president to act.

This week’s ABC News/Washington Post poll found that nine in 10 Americans see ISIS as a serious threat to vital US interests, with nearly two-thirds of the public supporting air strikes in Syria. More than half of those polled said the president has been too cautious in responding to the threats posed by ISIS.

There was a calming tone to the president’s remarks: “America is safer,” he said, on the eve of the anniversary of 9/11.

Looking ahead, Obama is now looking to lead internationally. The White House would claim there’s nothing new there, but the fact is that “leading from behind” has competed with “don’t do stupid stuff” as functional definitions -- albeit usually derisive ones -- of the Obama Doctrine.

In an odd piece of timing, it was precisely a year ago where the president went in front of far more skeptical public to argue for airstrikes in Syria. He offered caveats that he could not and would not make Wednesday night:

“I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo,” Obama said Sept. 10, 2013.

A year after not conducting those threatened air strikes, the president used a White House speech to prepare the nation for a fight that seems open-ended and can easily become prolonged.

Of course, Obama didn't acknowledge his "long history of downplaying the threat" from ISIS. Now that polls show how concerned the American public is about ISIS, the President finally decided to announce action. Will he shut down that action if the polls change?

President Obama kept referring to our effort as a count-terrorism effort, presumably because that would poll better among the American people. But, as Frederick and Kimberly Kagan write, ISIS is more than a terrorist group.
SIL is an insurgent group that controls enormous territory in Iraq and Syria that it governs. It maneuvers conventional light infantry forces supported by vehicles mounting machine guns and occasionally armored personnel carriers against the regular forces of the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish Peshmerga—and wins.

It is purely and simply not a terrorist organization any longer. Neither is it the simple manifestation of nihilistic evil the president makes out.

ISIL has described a very clear vision of seizing control of all of the territory of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories. It intends to abolish all of the borders and redraw them according to a new structure of governance suitable to its hateful version of an old Islamic heresy. That vision also makes it more than a simple terrorist organization. It’s awfully hard to develop a sound strategy when you start by mis-diagnosing the problem so profoundly. That’s why the “strategy” the president just announced has no chance of success.
Obama tried to sell his strategy as being modeled on what he terms successful operations in Somalia and Yemen. But, as Daniel Halper notes, the Obama administration itself has not been declaring success in Yemen and Somalia.
But what has Barack Obama said about both Yemen and Somalia? Well, in the last six months, the commander in chief has said that both nations "continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States."
Katharine Zimmerman explains
n an address Wednesday night to the nation, President Obama held up America’s strategy in Yemen as a model for the counterterrorism strategy he intends to pursue in Iraq and Syria. By doing so, he committed to a strategy of targeting terrorists from the air and supporting local security forces in their counterterrorism fight. But the disconnect between the picture of success in Yemen and the realities on the ground is stark. If the strategy in Iraq works as well as it has in Yemen, we can be sure that the Islamic State will retain safe-havens, plan and conduct terror operations against Americans, and regain ground as the local security forces crumble. That is what is actually happening in Yemen now.

And the administration is not even coherent when they explain that they don't need to go to Congress for some sort of authorization of force to act against ISIS. Last year, he used not getting approval from Congress as an excuse for not doing anything against Syria and going along with Putin's phony fix to the problem This year, he is proposing more military involvement and he doesn't need Congress. George Will explains,
George Will said it is astonishing that President Obama does not want support from Congress as a precondition for his action against the Islamic State in Syria. “One year ago the president said, “I cannot act in Syria without Congress because I am the president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.” Now, he says, ”Not important”,” Will said. “There seems to be a distinction of constitutional dimensions between going to war in the air, not requiring Congress, going to war on the ground, requiring Congress.”
As always, the explanation is totally political. Vulnerable Senate Democrats don't want to have to take a difficult vote on supporting military action before the election. And the Democrats are all about shielding their members from difficult votes. That is why they evaded passing a budget plan for so many years. The votes would be difficult and easy to criticize. Why do we elect our representatives to vote in Congress if their whole aim is to be shielded from taking a vote that might be unpopular. Just imagine if these guys had been in the Continental Congress in 1776.

Noemie Emery reminds us that President Obama has failed on his administration's own policy of "Don't do stupid stuff."
Four little words – “Don’t do stupid stuff” – define the Obama Doctrine in all its non-glory, and the key word in this matrix is “do.” It implies in effect that wisdom is measured in negative energy, that by declining to act one can stay out of trouble, that passivity is the key to a guilt-free existence and a serene and an untroubled world.

Never use force, don’t threaten force, and no one will blame you for anything. Pull out of wars and your foes will stop fighting. Don’t send men to war and your hands will be clean.

In the belief that less is not only more but the sum of all wonders, he vacated Iraq, dithered with Russia, drew lines in the sand that Syria crossed with impunity, and ran for re-election in 2012 on his “smart” and “evolved” foreign policy, which was possible only because his foes hadn’t yet fully capitalized on the openings left by his innocent lunacies. By June 2014, they had.

In 2011, against the advice of generals who urged a residual force of 23,000, Obama pulled all of his forces out of Iraq, removing at once all restraints upon Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and losing access to an intelligence system that could have detected the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in its earlier stages.

Soon after, he refused — against the advice of Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, and David Petraeus — to arm and equip pro-western rebels in Syria, ensuring therein that President Bashar Assad would keep power, and creating a vacuum into which sinister forces would flow. The two came together in 2013, when radical forces from Syria rolled into a weakened Iraq, raping and killing, and wiping out Christians en masse.

Mistake number three was when Obama blew off repeated reports of this rampage, dismissed the fall of Fallujah and Mosul as in any way serious, coming alive only when ISIS’s threat to the Kurdish capital city blasted him out of his reveries. By that time there had been hundreds of rapes, many beheadings, and hundreds of thousands were dead.
Patrick Brennan points to an assertion from the NYT Baghdad bureau chief that the administration has been lying to the American people for years about what the conditions are in Iraq in order to further their political claims of having successfully entered the war there. Ace posts what Tim Arango, the NYT's man on the ground in Iraq said on Reddit.
t's not my job to rate the Obama Administration's actions in Iraq. But i will tell you that after 2011 the administration basically ignored the country. they did not want to see what was really happening because it conflicted with the narrative that they left Iraq in reasonably good shape. In 2012 as violence was escalating I wrote a story, citing UN statistics, that showed how civilian deaths from attacks were rising.
Tony Blinken, who was then Biden's national security guy and a top Iraq official, pushed back, and even wrote a letter to the editor, saying that violence was near record lows. But that was not true. even after Fallujah fell to ISIS at the end of last year, the administration would push back on stories about Maliki's sectarian tendencies, saying they didn't see it that way.

So there was a concerted effort by the Administration to not acknowledge the obvious until it became so apparent -- with the fall of Mosul -- that Iraq was collapsing.
But, hey, the lies helped Obama get reelected so who cares?

George Will explains how atrocious the Democrats' proposed amendment to undo Citizens United is.
The 48 senators proposing to give legislators speech-regulating powers describe their amendment in anodyne language, as “relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections.” But what affects elections is speech, and the vast majority of contributions and expenditures are made to disseminate speech. The Democrats’ amendment says: “Congress and the states may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections,” and may “prohibit” corporations — including nonprofit issue-advocacy corporations (such as the Sierra Club, NARAL Pro-Choice America and thousands of others across the political spectrum) from spending any money “to influence elections,” which is what most of them exist to do.

Because all limits will be set by incumbent legislators, the limits deemed “reasonable” will surely serve incumbents’ interests. The lower the limits, the more valuable will be the myriad (and unregulated) advantages of officeholders.

The point of this “improvement” of James Madison’s First Amendment is to reverse the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. It left in place the ban on corporate contributions to candidates. It said only that Americans do not forfeit their speech rights when they band together to express themselves on political issues through corporations, which they generally do through nonprofit advocacy corporations.

Floyd Abrams, among the First Amendment’s most distinguished defenders, notes that the proposed amendment deals only with political money that funds speech. That it would leave political speech less protected than pornography, political protests at funerals, and Nazi parades.

And who says that there are no real attempts at voter fraud? Exhibit one this week is what an ally of Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn has been attempting to do to forge voter registration applications.
In a memo sent to county elections officials, Secretary of State Brian Kemp said in recent weeks his office has “received numerous complaints about voter applications submitted by the New Georgia Project.”

Kemp wrote, “Preliminary investigation has revealed significant illegal activities’ including forged voter registration applications, forged signatures on releases, and applications with false or inaccurate information.”
I guess the model is ACORN.

USA Today asks the question I've been wondering - why did NJ authorities decline to prosecute Ray Rice?
Domestic violence cases can, of course, be challenging for prosecutors. Some victims recant. Some, like Rice's wife, Janay, stand by their man. The situation is often "he said she said." But Rice's case was as close to a slam dunk as it gets.

As the nation now knows, a video camera captured Rice punching his then-fiancée Janay Palmer, and then dragging her like a rag doll out of an Atlantic City casino elevator. It would have been pretty tough to find a jury to acquit Rice on a charge of aggravated assault. And pretty easy to drive a hard plea bargain.

Instead, Rice is walking around free — though unemployed as of Monday — after he was accepted in May into a New Jersey "pretrial intervention" program. If he stays clean for a year, the charge could be dismissed, poof, as if the beating never even happened.
Sure, it's fun to beat up on Roger Goodell and the NFL. Gosh knows, they deserve all the criticism they've been receiving. But if the NJ authorities had prosecuted Rice and used that video tape, the NFL wouldn't have had to debate what to do about Rice. Though they do seem to have trouble in taking action against Carolina Panther Greg Hardy who has actually already been convicted of assault yet was able to play. I'd prefer that punishment of athletes be left to the judicial system rather than the sports leagues involved, but that's tough when the authorities are the ones who drop the ball.

Charles Gasparino notes the disconnect between how the NFL treated Richie Incognito with how it originally dealt with Ray Rice.
Richie Incognito, an All-Pro offensive lineman, was branded a thug, faced countless hours of interrogation by league officials and their lawyers, and now can’t get a job in the NFL because he was found guilty of “bullying” a fellow lineman of equal size and strength.

Ray Rice, an All-Pro running back, was suspended for a mere two games, faced no similar league inquisition, and was heralded by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as a decent guy who made a simple “mistake” when he was caught on video dragging his unconscious fiancée out of the elevator, by her hair, no less, after what appeared to be a physical altercation.

Welcome to political correctness, Goodell-style....

Another obvious question: Why did Goodell initially throw his support behind Rice after an obvious physical altercation with a woman but throw the book at Incognito for name-calling a 300-pound fellow lineman?

I don’t expect Goddell to answer that question (an NFL spokesman didn’t return a telephone call or e-mail for comment). Nor do I expect the gentle souls in the media to raise it either. That’s because to do so would be to own up to the obvious fact that the scourge of “bullying” (which used to be called “name calling”), in our ever more politically correct world, has been deemed a worse offense than even physically abusing a woman.

Some words are more dangerous than some violent actions, according to the PC police.

New York Times' "correction of the year."