Peace in our time: Akula in the GOM

Interesting times.

Now the Russians have gone and done it.  The Washington Free Beacon reports that a Russian Akula-class nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) operated undetected in the Gulf of Mexico in June and July 2012.*  The wording in the report suggests that we recognized when the submarine left the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) – presumably through the Florida Straits – that it had been in the Gulf.  US national intelligence agencies probably had a good idea that the SSN was deployed, and may have assessed that it was in the Western hemisphere, but they didn’t know where.  Armed with the knowledge that the submarine had departed the GOM, they “walked back” to the likely deployment date to determine when the submarine probably entered the GOM undetected.

The Washington Free Beacon story highlights the fact that the submarine was in the GOM during the G-20 summit in Mexico in June, Continue reading “Peace in our time: Akula in the GOM”

Leadership 101

Our national officials acted like low-ranking newbies in their paroxysm of “explaining” the Knickerbomber last week. Stop explaining and fix it.

The statements made by the White House this week, about the systemic failure that let young Abdulmutallab get on a passenger jet to the US on Christmas Day, have been chillingly incompetent.  The principal impression has been one of bizarre inexperience, haplessness, and lack of judgment.  Although I had some sympathy with Juan Williams’ complaint on Fox News Sunday this morning – that right-wing pundits do nothing but look for ways to blame Obama for everything – the fact is that the Obama administration has performed very poorly in relation to the Knickerbomber.

I made the case at “contentions” on Friday that the administration’s invocation of an analytical surprise – that Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has moved from “aspirational” to “operational” – was disquieting.  There is not enough room in a short post to develop this concern fully, so I focused on the issue of whether that analytical conclusion should be required before we can keep people with known terrorist associations off of airplanes. Continue reading “Leadership 101”

The West’s Biggest Test

We need to be careful with “remedies” for the problem of Major Nidal Hasan, a criminal who requires prosecution. Religious liberty is indivisible; if the state can threaten it for Muslims is can threaten it for everyone.

The shootings at Fort Hood on 5 November have thrown into strong relief the great conundrum facing the liberal West today:  how to administer freedom of conscience and thought, in the face of an ideological religion that, as practiced by its radical or fundamentalist adherents, is diametrically opposed to those very liberties.

A great many right-wing pundits have made a great many good points in the last few days, about manifold signs of trouble from Major Nidal Hasan, and those signs apparently being ignored by the Army.  Not only did he talk to his colleagues about his intense opposition to the War on Terror, he was fingered by the FBI for comments in an online forum in which he approved the actions of suicide bombers.  Colleagues knew he thought it was profoundly wrong for the US to be in a war with Islamists and to be fighting it in Muslim countries. Continue reading “The West’s Biggest Test”

9/11: The Data Entry Angle

Heroism came in many forms on 9/11.

We all have our 9/11 stories.  Where were you on 9/11?  I was at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside DC in Maryland, attending a conference.  I represented US Central Command’s Intelligence Directorate, with a small team there to discuss the gigantic, outsized issue of “joint C4I,” or the thorough IT-ification of the military, as organized through the prism of what was then called the Global Command and Control System, or GCCS (“geeks”).  As we milled about in the conference facility’s lounge during our first morning break, someone called out “Shhh!!  Shhh!!!  Hush up!  A plane just ran into the World Trade Center!”  We gathered around the TV, speculating on what could have happened.

An hour later we were watching in horror as endless footage ran of the second plane plowing into the tower. Continue reading “9/11: The Data Entry Angle”

The LatAm Gambit

Iran is charging another chokepoint in the Americas — and the US border. A lot.

The Iranian economy that is in shambles is apparently no obstacle to an Iranian “economic” push into Latin America that has politicians and journalists sitting up and taking notice.  Meanwhile, Hizballah has been making money off the narcotics trade in Latin America for years; but many who are familiar with Hizballah’s recent anti-Semitic activities in Venezuela are not so well-versed in Hizballah’s connection with drug trafficking, from Argentina and Brazil to Panama, Mexico, and the United States.  Hizballah, moreover, has overtly political adherents in a number of Latin American nations, in at least one of which (Brazil) its status has been tacitly considered, for some time, to be that of a political party rather than a terrorist group. Continue reading “The LatAm Gambit”