Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vote for Romney

Today, Republican voters (who have not voted early) in Florida are going to the polls to pick their choice of Republican nominee for the Presidency. They should pick Mitt Romney.

Iran plotting against US

The news that Iran is increasingly willing to conduct violent action against the United States is nothing new. In recent months, plots by Iran or allies of Iran (Hezbollah) have been uncovered in Thailand, the United States and Germany. In varying forms, Iran has conducted numerous attacks on US interests since the Islamic revolution in 1979. Iranian supported actions have included the following notable attacks-

Marine Barracks Bombing - Beirut, Lebanon
Karbala Council Meeting - Karbala, Iraq (Iran engaged in substantial support for shia insurgent groups during the US period of operations in Iraq post 2003)
Khobar Towers Barracks- Khobar, Saudi Arabia

Because the United States has failed to mount any considerable response to these attacks including the Saudi-Israel Washington DC plot, the Iranian Government believes that it can 'role the dice' when it comes to prospective operations. From an American national security perspective, this dynamic is increasingly precarious; especially in light of increasing tensions vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear program. The Obama Administration should clearly state that any attack on United States interests by Iran or with the support of Iran, will be met with a robust American retaliatory response.

Florida

Floridians... 


1) Vote for Romney today. Gingrich cannot beat Obama. 
2) Stop letting pythons out into the Everglades

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Paul Ryan on Fox News Sunday

Paul Ryan takes apart President Obama's economic policies. Ryan is a deeply impressive Republican politician. I really hope that he runs for President one day. In the meantime, we need to get him at the front of our message delivery (and cut out the Sarah Palinesque individuals).

Nadal v Djokovic

This was the best tennis match that I have ever seen.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

France Afghanistan Withdrawal

The French decision to accelerate the removal of troops from Afghanistan is a slap in the face of the US/Britain and NATO. Truly, this shows the arrogance of the EU in terms of its foreign security posture. While the Europeans ran to take credit in Libya, they lacked the basic foundations of military power. As Andrew Exum at CNAS notes,


 the nations of Europe, in the words of one defense intellectual, showed up to a gunfight in Libya with knives. The United States brought the guns. And the ammunition. And all the taregting. And all the in-flight refueling. And the ISR. 


The EU (sadly now including the UK) free rides off the back of US taxpayers when it comes to military spending and capability provision. It is decisions like France's that make me think the US should relocate bases out of Europe and gradually diminish the military organisation supporting NATO. NATO should still exist, but it should exist as a diplomatic organisation where allies meet to discuss threats etc. An absence of shared burdens is in effect an absence of a true alliance.

Haditha Prosecution

Absolutely right. These men brought great shame to themselves and their unit. They should have been punished in accordance with common notions of justice. Reminds of me of the pathetic service of justice after My Lai. The US Military is an extraordinary force for good made up by extraordinarily decent people. Where standards fall far below the accepted norms of conduct in conflict, we should never be ashamed to impose serious consequences. As I have written before, application of military justice requires special consideration of circumstances, but that consideration cannot be an excuse for allowing evil acts to escape justice.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

DOD Cuts

As I stated a week or two ago... there is plenty of space for cuts to US Military spending. 
Waste does not equal security. Republicans cannot be the enemy of big government but refuse to be realistic about the need for more efficiency in military spending.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Obama State of the Union

Obama's State of the Union Address was well crafted but predictably partisan. The problem with the President is that he does not understand the irony of making this statement - 


 'It means we should support everyone who’s willing to work; and every risk- taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs.'


and this statement


'Right now, because of loopholes and shelters in the tax code, a quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle- class households. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.
Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Or do we want to keep our investments in everything else - like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans? Because if we’re serious about paying down our debt, we can’t do both.
The American people know what the right choice is. So do I. As I told the Speaker this summer, I’m prepared to make more reforms that rein in the long term costs of Medicare and Medicaid, and strengthen Social Security, so long as those programs remain a guarantee of security for seniors.
But in return, we need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of Members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes. Tax reform should follow the Buffett rule: If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes. And my Republican friend Tom Coburn is right: Washington should stop subsidizing millionaires. In fact, if you’re earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn’t get special tax subsidies or deductions. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent of American families, your taxes shouldn’t go up. You’re the ones struggling with rising costs and stagnant wages. You’re the ones who need relief.
Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.'


in the same speech. He is right about closing loopholes, but his supposition that alongside the woefully insufficient reforms to medicare/social security he is willing to consider, the top 2% can pay to close a $5 trillion/ten year deficit, is patently untrue. The sums simply do not add up. The President is bright and knows this. So the only possible answer is that he is playing politics instead of proposing good policy.

This statement was equally annoying -



 'In the next few weeks, I will sign an Executive Order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects. But you need to fund these projects.'  I wonder if this means he will move to repeal the union friendly (and job destroying) Davis-Bacon Act?


 I doubt it.


However, where credit is due.. I thought that the ending of his speech was excellent.

'So it is with America. Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those fifty stars and those thirteen stripes. No one built this country on their own. This Nation is great because we built it together. This Nation is great because we worked as a team. This Nation is great because we get each other’s backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we’re joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.'

US SOCOM Somalia Rescue

The rescue of a danish and an american hostage in Somalia provides another example of the skill of the US military's special operations community. Operations like these require extraordinary patience, careful intelligence preparation and extremely well trained forces. (And some luck). It only works when each element comes together.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sunday, January 22, 2012

NyTimes and Me

Good NyTimes article covering the same issue as my post a week ago

Gingrich beats Romney in SC

Newt Gingrich's South Carolina victory over Mitt Romney was not surprising. For the past week, Gingrich had been climbing in the SC polls. SC Republicans are very conservative. They were always cautious about supporting Romney - a man that many believed was too moderate. And too Mormon.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Israel - Iran

Israeli Defense Secretary, Ehud Barak, has said that a decision to bomb Iran is a long way off. I would read the opposite from that statement.

An earlier post - Why Israel is likely to attack Iran.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Political Donations (v/+?) Freedom

Truly superb Washington Post op-ed on political donations.

US Army Soldier - Prank

Obama's cuts to DOD

Republicans who squeal about Obama's military cuts but refuse to consider new revenue sources simply have no ground to stand on. 
Obama's proposed $489 billion 10yr reduction in spending is proportionate and necessary. In the context of America's fiscal crisis, it is the right time for major but force-beneficial changes to US military spending. Inefficiencies in terms of procurement, force structure, force deployments and administration all contribute to a defence budget that is currently cost unsustainable. At the same time, these expenditures are producing capabilities that are often insufficiently robust and often unsuited to US policy imperatives - Consider the continuing problems with the F-35 and the V-22 Osprey. The New York Times has a great analysis piece on where savings could be found.

 I am a firm supporter of a strong military but even I found over $550 billion in potential cuts. Republicans need to be honest about the fiscal difficulties we face. We need to cut spending across the board.

Monday, January 16, 2012

US Naval Aviation

V. Interesting article covering evolution in US naval aviation from Kosovo to Afghanistan/Iraq. The professionalism of US carrier crews is extraordinary.

For America, Israel and Iran - policy through the prism of the US presidential election


For all three actors, strategic calculations concerning the looming US presidential election play an integral role in each state's evolving policy decisions.

 For Israel, the desire for tougher action against Iran is tempered by an understanding that Obama is reluctant to risk actions that would endanger the US economic recovery. At the same time, Israel knows that Obama would find it very difficult (in domestic political terms) to avoid supporting Israeli security in the aftermath of an Israeli military strike.

For Iran, the threatened prospect of major retaliation in the aftermath of any Israeli strike is calculated to weaken Obama's resolve in the run up to the election. The Iranian thinking is that such threats can thus encourage a false compromise (Iran's latest offers to begin talks) that enables their continued nuclear development program. Iran hopes to convince Obama that further, significant action on the part of the US will lead to a protracted, messy outcome in which no side could come out unscathed.

For the US administration, the desire to find a peaceful solution to the nuclear crisis (sanctions focus) is calculated alongside the belief that if Israel is likely to attack Iran anyway regardless (as the US believes), then Israeli action now may be preferable to action later. This thinking being that if Israel were to strike Iran in the next few months, the uncertain effects of those strikes could hopefully be contained before the election.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Romney - Bolton

Mitt Romney's decision to have John Bolton campaign for him is a mistake. From my perspective, Bolton's criticism of Obama is unfair. Obama's foreign policy record presents a number of important areas for Republican criticism (uncertainty vis-a-vis Iran policy, contradictory positions on Israeli-Palestinian conflict, failure to fully support/take advantage of the arab spring, artificial deadlines for Afghanistan troop withdrawals etc) - BUT it is absurd to state that he doesn't care about protecting the US or that he deserves no credit for the Bin Laden operation*. Because John Bolton dislikes the President (a lot) he makes too many emotionally rooted statements that lack logical substance. 


However, what American foreign policy really needs is more rational analysis and less populist screaming.


*Re - Bin Laden Strike.. While in my opinion Obama waited too long before authorising the strike, he deserves credit for maintaining the secrecy of the operation and having the courage to decide to send ground forces into Pakistan.

Israel Allegations (Continued)

Israeli Government has issued a denial. Will wait for further information.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Israel Espionage Allegations

If these allegations are true, then the US should have been much more robust in our protests to the Israeli Government. Covertly associating the US with terrorists is intolerable. 


The US relationship with Israel must be based on trust and honesty - arguably the two most important factors for any close friendship. False flag operations without the consent of the 'flag' nation (in this case the US) pose serious moral and political questions. Such actions unjustly associate one party as responsible for the actions of another (thus endangering the first party's interests/citizens) and undercut the notion of an intelligence relationship that is based on mutual respect. Israel acted in a similar (albeit less serious) manner in 2010 vis-a-vis the UK. This suggests a worrying trend.


Faced with a variable array of state/non-state enemies, Israel has the right to pursue independent intelligence operations. However, for the sake of both Israel and her allies, these actions must not come at the expense of long-term friendships.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

USMC Afghanistan Allegation



The history and tradition of the US Marines/US Military is built upon core values of honour and integrity. These ideals are inculcated into every new Marine. Any action that departs from these values dishonours the fine service of those others who serve/have served. While the pressures deployed forces often face are extraordinary (and should be taken into account in the application of UCMJ proceedings), we are right to expect the highest standards of conduct from our military personnel.

In contrast to the argument of some that America's reverence for our armed forces is the product of an illogical, amorphous jingoism, in fact, this reverence is built upon the proper belief that our military reflects the best values of our country. Courage, compassion and sense of honour that are bounded to democratic authority. 

Ultimately, for America's military to be successful it must have the moral credibility to win the support of the populations with whom it interacts. At an institutional level, the Taliban are a truly foul organisation dedicated to a totalitarian ideology. The distinction between them and the US Military could not be more profound. In this regard, to protect the integrity of America's current and future military operations and the integrity of the Marine Corps as an institution, this investigation is warranted and appropriate.

Huntsman and the Republican VP Slot


Mitt Romney should pick Jon Huntsman as his running mate.

Huntsman's involvement would bring two key benefits. 

Firstly, Huntsman would provide credibility to the ticket in terms of foreign policy - an issue on which Barack Obama is generally well regarded by the American people. Asserting a mandarin-fluent, former ambassador to China into the forefront of the general election, will allow Republicans to show that we are serious about applying a successful and considered foreign policy over the next four years. Put simply, while one-line attacks on Obama's foreign policy are popular with Republican primary voters, these statements will be unable to attract voters in the general election. Huntsman has (in comparative terms) an extraordinarily strong base of foreign policy expertise and he has the charisma to effectively deliver that message to the american people.

The second benefit that Huntsman's VP candidacy will provide is in terms of its benefit for Republican policy debates and party identification. Since the rise of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and the tea party, the Republican party has far too often allowed fringe elements to dominate our narrative both inside and outside the party. This has damaged the long term Republican brand, alienating independents and weakening once robust policy debates. Huntsman would help present the republican party in a different light - a party still conservative, but less emotional and more rational. 

For the past few years, intellect has in some republican circles become synonymous with liberal elitism. Putting Huntsman on the republican ticket will show that this characterization is unjust and in terms of the benefit for republican foreign policy that such knowledge can provide, is also counter-productive.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Israel-Iran tensions reach new levels

The long-term covert war between Israel and Iran is rapidly heating up.


 I expect that in the next couple of months Iran will attempt to deter further pressure (like the looming oil sanctions by the US/EU) with some kind of act against either Israeli or American interests. This could very well take the form of an (as threatened) attack on US Navy assets in the Persian Gulf or through Iran's intelligence services (for example an attack similar to the 2011 Embassy Plot). Iran's (in my opinion flawed) calculation for such action would be the belief that it would impose significant, detrimental economic uncertainty onto western economies and fracture the unity of the international community. Iran would hope that in the aftermath of their action, greater opportunity might exist for a compromise. A compromise that would allow them to continue their development of a nuclear capability and would reduce the economic pressures that they currently face.


 It is important that if aggressive Iranian action occurs, the US response should be credible, proportionate and significant enough to alter the strategic calculus in Tehran towards a more conciliatory position. If the Iranian regime smells blood in the water then they will become increasingly aggressive and a diplomatic solution to current disputes will become increasingly untenable. Regardless, Israel is likely to attack Iran's nuclear facilities at some point over the next 9 months.

Turkey and regional security

While not always acting in unison with the West, we should be grateful for Turkey's important contribution to regional security. The Turkish government has no desire for closer relations with Syria/Iran.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Iran and Ron Paul (separate issues in this case!)

US Navy rescues Iranian sailors from pirates.. near the straits of hormuz. You couldn't make it up. 


Some of Ron Paul's specialist moron brigade at work again. 
The people who made this ad are true morons. In their minds, because Huntsman is A) educated B) has adopted two girls in need, he is thus unworthy of the republican nomination. Insane. These Paul people probably think that we should just go around looking to find the dumbest ass hole in america and then anoint him/her as our candidate. 

(I respect that Paul has some v. bright, well intentioned supporters. They need to speak up more though)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Republicans and 'democracy' in the Middle East


This has been annoying me for a while now. 

Republicans cannot condition support for democracy in the middle east on the basis of our personal affinity for particular ideologies. If the party is to stand for democracy in Iraq, it must also accept the need for Palestinian democracyEgyptian democracy and democracy in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Without honest, genuine support for democracy across the Middle East, Republicans have a total lack of credibility to argue that america's foreign policy is centred around promotion of freedom. In this hypocrisy, Republican candidates serve to provide politically astute adversaries like HAMAS, Hezbollah and the Sadrists, with talking points to suggest that the US only supports those with whom it agrees. In an inescapable sense, this feeds traditional extremist narratives hostile to US interests..

IE -  the argument - 'Don't trust or work with the Americans or their agents, because they have no interest in your welfare but instead only care about pursuing a blindly, pro-Israel agenda'. This narrative serves to unfairly deligitimise the nature of America's regional actions and relationships.

Aside from the diplomatic damage caused, such wilful contradiction between words and reality, ultimately undermines the cause of freedom itself (to which america's extremist opponents in the middle east are ultimately ideologically averse). Supporting democracy does not mean that we should automatically agree with other democracies, but it does mean that we accept the notion that popular power is at its basic but ever developing level, a good thing.

The central point here is that if republicans still believe in democracy as a moderating force (the underlying premise of the Bush ideology that Republicans have overwhelmingly supported since 9/11), then in favour of an ultimately more just, peaceful and stable middle east, republicans must be willing to accept that in the short term, while democracy may not always produce results that we would like, it is crucial to stand in support of freedom.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Romney

Romney's win in Iowa is an important step that allows him to move closer towards securing the republican nomination. Santorum will not be able to appeal to the more moderate republicans that define the party's presence in states like New Hampshire. Gingrich lacks the temperament and organisation to be able to contest  Romney across the country. While Ron Paul plays a useful role as an outside radical to the party elite, his policy positions will ultimately preclude him from making continued headway in the race. Ultimately, Mitt Romney will be very happy with how tuesday night played out and.. Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry are (thankfully) done.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Iran Threats

The ongoing Iranian threats to shipping in the straits of hormuz are absurd. The Obama Administration should direct the US Navy to ignore these warnings and proceed with normal patrol operations. Iran cannot ultimately contest control of the persian gulf with the US. The power differentials are simply too large.