Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | October 20, 2015

Lose the ‘quagmire’ theme; Russia can’t fall into one in Syria

Putin confers with his senior military officials. (Image: Kremlin/RIA Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin via Newsweek)

Putin confers with his senior military officials. (Image: Kremlin/RIA Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin via Newsweek)

We’re going to keep this one (relatively) short.  I’ve written about Russia’s goals in Syria elsewhere (see here as well).

A Bloomberg article from Monday commendably recognizes that Russia’s goals in Syria are “far broader” than the official goal of fighting Salafi terrorists.  The authors fall short of “getting” what the Russian involvement there is about, but they’re on the right track.

The problem is that they, like almost everyone else, are still framing the situation in the terms of a U.S.-style expeditionary intervention.  This leads the authors to say something like this: Read More…

Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | October 19, 2015

The future of our time: Rewriting ‘Westphalianism’

Past master. (Image via Outside the Beltway)

Past master. (Image via Outside the Beltway)

Reading Henry Kissinger’s typically well-considered and intelligent article for the Wall Street Journal this weekend (“A Path out of the Middle East Collapse”), I had a growing sense that it isn’t so much a prescription for the future as a description of the past.

The sense began with the first paragraph, in which Kissinger defines the scope of what’s collapsing, and dates it only to 1973, when the U.S. moved to stabilize the Middle East during the Yom Kippur War.

But far more than recent U.S. policy on the Middle East is collapsing today.  What we’re seeing is more like the collapse of “Rome” itself:  the organization of Western power as a Europe-centric territorial phenomenon, setting unbreachable boundaries north, south, and west of a restless and perennially “unorganizable” Middle East. Read More…

These nice people made Germany's strict "gun control" laws during the Weimar Republic era, hoping to curb street violence between Nazis and Communists. Reichstag, 1925. (Image: Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-01154. 12 Mar 1925)

These nice people made Germany’s strict “gun control” laws during the Weimar Republic era, hoping to curb street violence between Nazis and Communists. Reichstag, 1925. (Image: Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-01154. 12 Mar 1925)

At Breitbart, John Nolte notices that David Frum is trying to school Ben Carson on “gun control.”  (The correct expression for the concept intended is gun restrictions, so I will use that here.)

What Nolte calls out is Frum’s remarkable assertion that a gun-restriction policy in Germany could have prevented the Holocaust.

Hold back the laughter for a moment.  You’re going to want the information below, so please follow along with me.  I promise, this is better than a meme image with a questionable “quote” from Hitler. Read More…

Russian Caspian fleet frigate launches a long-range land attack cruise missile on 7 Oct. (Image: Russian MOD/YouTube)

Russian Caspian fleet frigate launches a long-range land attack cruise missile on 7 Oct. (Image: Russian MOD/YouTube)

The Pentagon released information Thursday that some of the cruise missiles launched by Russian warships into Syria the day before (Wednesday, 7 October) had crashed in Iran, instead of making it to their targets.  The missiles were launched from the Caspian Sea, between Iran and southern Russia.

The global audience was apt to note the point that four of the 26 missiles launched by Russia crashed.  But the more important point is that Russia launched the missiles in the first place.

The question is why.  The answer is not darkly nefarious (not particularly, anyway), but it’s not obvious from the standpoint of tactical military operations either. Read More…

Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | October 3, 2015

U.S. sends strongly-worded ‘Media Note’ on Russian military actions in Syria

Obama smirkNow we’re finally deploying the big guns.

We’ve had six weeks of fruitless palaver as Russia built up a military force in Syria, and 48 hours of misdirection and excuse-making from the White House, as Russia put the military force to work bombing non-ISIS targets – some of them linked to U.S.-backed rebels.

When was the joke going to end, and the American response start?  Even some Obama supporters were starting to get nervous. Read More…

Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | October 2, 2015

Oregon killer singled out Christians to shoot them in the head

Chris Harper-Mercer at MySpace.

Chris Harper-Mercer at MySpace.

The killer at Umpqua Community College (UCC) in Oregon was identified on Thursday evening as Chris Harper-Mercer, 26, of Torrance, California, a Los Angeles suburb.  As Howard Portnoy reported earlier, Harper-Mercer died when police shot him to end his killing spree.

A lot of rumors are flying around the web among him right now.  There is zero substantiation, from what I can tell, of a report that he was a Muslim.  (Charles C. Johnson of Got News posted that report, but his website is hammered right now and the link doesn’t come up.  Here’s one of many citations of the Johnson report.)

However, eyewitnesses came forward in the hours after the massacre to report that Harper-Mercer asked each student in turn, in the classroom where he was shooting them, what religion they were.  He shot the Christians in the head. Read More…

Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | September 30, 2015

Obama hubris meltdown: ‘I lead the strongest military the world has ever known’

The POTUS-in-Chief.

The POTUS-in-Chief.

It’s certainly easier on the spirits these days to ignore Obama than to pay attention to his activities and pronouncements.

But it’s worth making sorrowful note of the fateful words he spoke in his speech to the UN General Assembly on Monday.  We cannot doubt that they are likely to become as famous a misreading of reality and the current moment as Neville Chamberlain’s “peace for our time” proclamation – curiously enough, uttered almost exactly 77 year ago, on 30 September 1938.

Here is what Obama said at the UN (emphasis added): Read More…

Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | September 30, 2015

Russian strikes, Day 1: No ISIS targets; ‘demarche’ to U.S.: ‘Don’t fly here’

Gnarly Russian brass visit troops launching military exercise near St. Petersburg, Mar 2015.  (Image: AP/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)

Gnarly Russian brass visit troops launching military exercise near St. Petersburg, Mar 2015. (Image: AP/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)

The moral of this story is: don’t send Barack Obama to negotiate your operational modus vivendi with Russia in a combat zone.

On the first day of Russian air strikes in Syria, Russia surprised the U.S. by sending a general officer to the American embassy in Baghdad to issue a “demarche,” or a unilateral demand or statement of intent.  The general – who is stationed with the new joint intelligence command center set up in Baghdad by Russia, Iran, Syria, and Iraq – said Russia would be conducting strikes, and he “requested” that U.S. forces remain clear of the Russian operating area.  (See video.)

Pentagon officials point out that that’s not what anyone meant by proposing to coordinate with Russian forces in Syria.  Read More…

Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | September 30, 2015

Game change: Russia can now warn Israel against IAF operations over Syria

The game-changers. Russian air defense soldiers man their weapon system, the S-300, in a recent drill. (Image via defencerussia.wordpress.com)

The game-changers. Russian air defense soldiers man their weapon system, the S-300, in a recent drill. (Image via defencerussia.wordpress.com)

A recent report in Arabic media suggests that Israel has agreed to coordinate the IAF’s operations over Syria with Russia, and claims that Russia has warned Israel against conducting strikes in Syria in which Russian soldiers may be killed.  Israel Matzav has the story here.

The reflexive inclination is to focus on whether this particular report is accurate, and what the narrow, immediate implications are.  The big-picture implications, however, are actually much more important.

Short-term/tactical

But let’s quickly address the first questions.  The tone of the Arabic reporting, even in pidgin translations, is triumphalist against Israel, and we should exercise due skepticism of any particulars.

That said, the concerns reportedly raised by Russia are valid and reasonable, if Russia is going to be operating in Syria.  The Arabic report is by no means unrealistic. Read More…

Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | September 22, 2015

Time to ‘John Paul Jones’ the non-deal ‘Iran deal’

Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis at the Battle of Flamborough Head in 1779. Painting by Anton Otto Fischer (1882-1962). (Via crashmacduff.wordpress.com)

Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis at the Battle of Flamborough Head in 1779. Painting by Anton Otto Fischer (1882-1962). (Via crashmacduff.wordpress.com)

“I have not yet begun to fight!”

John Paul Jones, commanding the Continental Navy, Battle of Flamborough Head

23 September, 1779

If we went by the triumphal proclamations of the mainstream media, we would think opponents of the unsigned Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – described inaccurately as a “deal” with Iran – were out of options at this point.

Operating on the process set in motion by the Corker-Cardin bill, the House has voted against approving the JCPOA.  But the JCPOA’s opponents in the Senate have failed twice to move the JCPOA to a vote.  A 42-vote minority has prevented a Senate vote, and Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unwilling to use the “nuclear option” of overriding the effective filibuster by the minority, and forcing a vote on the JCPOA.

If we accept that Obama met his requirements under Corker-Cardin, when he submitted the JCPOA to Congress for review, then the deadline for Congress to act was 17 September.  Since the Senate couldn’t vote by then, the theory is that all objections to the JCPOA are now dead. Read More…

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