Thursday, May 31, 2012

What I believe the US should do in Syria

The continuing bloodshed in Syria is terrible. I believe that greater, more aggressive action is needed on the part of the international community. I also believe that Europe must learn that this situation is another example of why they must spend more on defense.

Having said this, I will break my reasoning into two considerations - the strategic utility of  a non-US Military rooted intervention and how such an intervention could be implemented effectively.

Regarding a prospective military intervention, my primary concern is that direct US Military intervention in Syria would pose substantial risks. A major point here is in the fact that much of Syria is protected by a comparatively advanced air defense system. This is a system that’s defeat would require a substantial air campaign on the part of the United States – a campaign that would risk both Syrian civilians and American flight crews. Another concern is the relative competence of the Syrian armed forces in comparison to those of Gaddafi. Faced with direct US Military intervention, these units might dramatically escalate their campaign against Syrian civilians. These units would also be likely to pose a greater threat to US interests in the region. I also worry that a military intervention would require a substantial re-direction of resources away from other critical US Military missions, while simultaneously risking Iranian escalation. In such a situation, the US would be left stretched and our regional priorities would be left highly vulnerable. Critically, Afghanistan is a core US national security priority and requires the continued focus of our national power.

My argument instead is that the US should adopt a strategy that combines increased diplomatic pressure on Assad, Iran and Hizballah AND China and Russia, with physical US support to Syrian rebel elements.  The US should make clear to the Chinese and Russian leadership that we regard their continued support for Assad with major discontent. Consequently, the US should be ready to take escalatory diplomatic reprisals if China and Russia fail to adapt their position. To be blunt, the US must ultimately be prepared to withdraw our ambassadors to Beijing and Moscow. If we truly value human rights, we must be willing to stand up with purpose. Alongside diplomatic action, I believe that the US should provide logistical support (weapons money, tools, intelligence support etc) to identified rebel elements. This support should be given in concert with European and other regional partner states, so as to maximize support efficiency and credibility, while also minimizing the risk of this 'support' entering the hands of Islamist extremists (a risk that cannot be totally eliminated). The CIA Special Activities Division is well suited to such a task.

Ultimately, I believe that this balanced approach would dramatically increase pressure on Assad while mitigating the negative risks of an open military intervention. Such action would also serve to increase pressure on the Lebanese Hizballah, via highlighting the hypocrisy of Hizballah's continued support for the Assad regime. It is in this way that the Assad-Iran-Hizballah alliance could be weakened and Assad's grip on power could be slowly but systematically degraded.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Romney v Obama - Election 2012

Romney is officially the nominee. In reality he was the nominee a few months back. Now that he is confirmed, we can expect to see a much greater emphasis on the key issues rather than on semantics. For me the election will be decided on two core issues - the economy and the debt. Obama wants to raise taxes on businesses, pick winners and losers and pretends that he can resolve the debt crisis simply by raising taxes on the rich. Romney wants to simplify the tax code (lowering rates but ridding loopholes so as to increase revenue), encourage greater competition and attract greater investment into the US economy. Romney has endorsed the Ryan Plan for debt reduction (in which unlike the President's plan, the sums actually add up).
  In personal terms, Obama will seek to portray Romney as an aloof, uncharismatic rich guy who doesn't care about low-middle income Americans. Conversely, Romney will seek to portray the President as a man who simply doesn't understand basic economics. A President more interested than class warfare than creating jobs. I think that the President is making a terrible mistake by rooting his campaign in the Bain Capital saga. Obama simply doesn't have many options, his record varies from being non-existent to actively negative. I believe that Mitt Romney will be the President on January 20th 2013. 


Monday, May 28, 2012

Iran

The situation with Iran is becoming increasingly ridiculous. Iran is playing games with the international community so as to buy space and time for continued nuclear development. At the same time, Iran continues its long tradition of plots against the US, with another recent episode in Azerbaijan. As I noted in my most recent op-ed for the Daily Caller, Iran fears force. Put simply, alongside crippling economic sanctions, only the credible threat of military action has the capacity to alter Iranian strategic judgements.

Team America - Paramount Pictures

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Beautiful Photo from Rolling Thunder Parade

Linda Davidson- The Washington Post

Christian Slayton, 12, prays while Marine veteran Tim Chambers salutes fallen service members during the Rolling Thunder ride in Washington. Chambers holds his salute for three to four hours as bikers ride by. Slayton, who is from Raleigh, N.C., joined Chambers on the median for a moment to say a prayer of thanks for all the veterans, living and fallen.

Risks and Options available to deal with Assad

In light of today's news from Syria, I wanted to post an update of a previous commentary I wrote for this blog. 

Calls for a western intervention in Syria are growing. While I understand and share the concern of many regarding Assad's continuing campaign of murder, I do not believe that military intervention in Syria would be an appropriate strategy. 

First, a direct military intervention would be far from easy. Unlike Gaddafi's weak military infrastructure, Syria possesses a formidable array of military capabilities. These include thousands of tanks and artillery pieces, an advanced air defense network and hundreds of thousands of soldiers - the key units of which are ideologically attached to the Assad regime. Military intervention would require engaging and destroying these units. Such a mission would be complex, risky and would require a much more substantial coalition military force than that which was seen in Libya. Only the United States Military could carry out this operation. The pathetic European attitude towards foreign security policy - 'big talk, no kit' means that practical support from the EU would be almost non-existent. So.. in effect, if the US were to embark on an operation in Syria, it would be forced to commit significant military resources away from critical operations in Afghanistan, while undertaking full practical responsibility for the evolution of 'post-action' events inside Syria. I would however re-consider my position on military intervention if Turkey and other regional states were willing to contribute substantial military assets to any operation.

Beyond the pure military complexities, a prospective US intervention in Syria also raises  other major concerns. First, in the context of existing tensions, Iran would likely regard direct US engagement against Assad as a direct threat to the Iranian regime. Combining this with the looming Israeli-Iranian showdown, Iran's paranoid leadership might elect to go 'all in' to support Assad. Whether through supporting terrorist attacks against western interests around the world, mining the straits of Hormuz or sending a much greater level of military support to Assad, Iran would probably take a much more overt role in the conflict. Israel might also decide to launch an early strike on Iranian nuclear facilities (to offset future negative international concerns) thus increasing the likelihood of a situation in which every regional power alliance rapidly escalated towards war. It is crucial to remember that the situation in Syria is not divorced from other regional dynamics.

In another area, for Assad domestically, a US intervention would encourage the regime to portray the internal rebellion as a foreign project controlled for example by the 'Zionist puppets in Washington'. Assad's desire to portray recent terrorist attacks as a representation of the broader protest movement, suggests that the regime would jump at any opportunity to weaken the narrative of legitimacy that the current rebellion continues to expound. Put simply, American intervention might encourage Assad to use massive amounts of force in an attempt to finally annihilate those who challenge him. In such a situation, the US might have to apply equally vigorous force to quickly remove Assad from power. This would likely be expensive in its cost on American military personnel.

I believe that there is a better route towards destroying Assad's regime. This approach should take the form of a dual track strategy.

First, the west should increase covert support to Syrian resistance cells. This should focus around provision of money to allow cells to fund logistical costs (like fuel, food and communications) and to build organisational structures that can contest Assad's forces more effectively. If possible, the west should provide military special forces advisors to help direct the resistance military strategy.

Second, the west should continue to draw attention to Assad's actions and their incompatibility with the arab spring. The west should aggressively highlight continued Chinese and Russian unjustifiable support for Assad's regime, while continuing to build regional pressure alongside allies like Turkey.  We should also seek to draw attention to the sickening hypocrisy of Iran and Hizballah in the current fight. While the Iranian regime claims to have lead the region towards revolutionary empowerment, in reality, Iran's clerical leaders are supporting the murder of thousands of innocent civilians in order to maintain their grip of power over the Syrian people. Similarly, by supporting Assad, Hizballah's narrative of 'emancipation for the oppressed weak against the power of the corrupt strong', is being rendered a transparent falsehood. At least in the case of Hezbollah, if sustained attention can continue to be brought against that group's relationship with Assad - a tipping point in which they break effective ties will probably become possible. As in Lebanon, Hezbollah is vulnerable to further negative attention.

The near/middle east is undergoing seismic shifts in state-society relations. Ultimately the current Syria-Iran-Hezbollah+Russia/China alliance is its own worse enemy. We should seek greater publicity of this alliance, coupled with more vigorous support to the Syrian rebels.



Thursday, May 24, 2012

Baghdad Peace Talks Fail

Unsurprisingly, the Baghdad peace talks failed. Iran has 0 interest in anything other than wasting time and attempting to divide the International community. Diplomacy had a chance once. Now I fear that chance is gone.


Brian Banks Conviction Overturned


This disgusting woman should have to face the full force of the law. 

What an absurd quote "In a strange turn of events, the woman who accused him a decade ago friended him on Facebook when he got out of prison. Wanetta Gibson explained she wanted to "let bygones be bygones."


Source: Boston.com

European justice system

While we should always welcome debates surrounding the issue of justice (see video below), I personally do not believe that European justice systems have much to offer the US. Conditions in European jails are often lenient, incarceration overly expensive and the prohibitions to successful prosecution are generally excessive (absence of RICO laws being a good example). However, the most damning element of European justice is in the sentences that are often handed down for terrible crimes. 
The UK, itself the best of Europe, still provides pointed evidence for my argument. Take the cases below - 


Minimum of only 40 years for murdering two ten year old girls.

Reduction of a 50 year sentence to 40 year minimum for murdering an eight year old girl.


34 years for raping and murdering  a young woman. "Three of the stab wounds were so severe that they went through her abdomen and out of her back."

Most if not all of the individuals above showed no remorse and denied their crimes. These sentences, representative of far more, do not represent justice. They represent absurdity.

Conversely - compare with this case from the US.



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bin Laden Doctor - Treason?

Treason requires an act of betrayal against your country. So.. the fact that a Pakistani court has found Doctor Afridi guilty of treason, indicates that the court believed that Bin Laden was due the special protection of the Pakistani state. So.. if as the court suggests, Pakistan was harboring Bin Laden, Pakistan committed an act of war against the Untied States. 

The United States should do everything in our power to secure the release of this good man.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Obama, Bain Capital and Cory Booker

Obama is paying the price for his moronic 'vampire' ad. Cory Booker is the Democrats leading star at the moment. So, when one of Obama's biggest surrogates (as Booker is), openly disagrees with the central plank of Obama's campaign - that Romney's Bain record is a weakness that disqualifies him for the Presidency, then Obama has a major problem. Obama simply doesn't understand that a class warfare campaign won't work in in the United States. Americans don't fear wealth. Americans understand that a strong, growing economy sometimes requires hard choices rather than government control and hand outs. 

This debate, forced by Obama, is one that Romney should welcome.

Obama - The guy for big unions

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Obama on Afghanistan - re-election is the priority

I have written for the guardian a couple of times on Afghanistan (here and here) and on my blog more recently, so I don't want to repeat previous statements. However, I do want to point out this new article in the NYTimes. The article explains how, for President Obama, success in Afghanistan has always taken a distant second seat to the President's re-election considerations. It's a very sad state of affairs. The NATO summit in Chicago is going to be (like the G8) a big joke. Under Hollande (socialist concern for the oppressed being an obvious technicality), the French are abandoning Afghanistan. Under Obama, the US Military faces a timetable made up in Obama's campaign HQ, rather than one, as under GW Bush, developed the White House situation room.

In 2008, Obama stated that Afghanistan was the 'right war' that had to be won. In 2012, 'the right war' is now an obstruction in his electoral path. An abstraction to be rid of, whatever the cost.

'Change we can believe in'.



Saturday, May 19, 2012

Why this G8 Meeting is a Joke

The G8 is currently meeting at Camp David. However, in assessing the diverging dynamics at play for each of the big five, I believe this G8 meeting will be a total joke.


This is my judgement of each leader's participation -


OBAMA - Obama's sole concern is re-election. He wants Merkel to continue to bail out the eurozone. However, he will not offer anything that jeopardizes his domestic position electorally.

MERKEL - Merkel is left in a terrible position. The Greeks want to stay in the EU but also want the EU to bankroll them into the future. No one wants to support the Germans in bailing out a country that has no intention of paying off its debts. Merkel is alone.

CAMERON - Cameron wants fiscal discipline to take precedence. While no one wants to give the British Government credit for the comparatively low cost of British borrowing (Cameron's fiscal reforms have ensured the UK is seen as a reliable borrower), only Merkel agrees with Cameron's 'austerity' approach. Obama certainly doesn't.

HOLLANDE - I can't work out whether Hollande is A) Stupid B) Crazy or C) Combination of both. France has a 85% debt-GDP ration. Instead of proposing cost cutting reforms and inducements for economic growth, Hollande intends to reduce the pension age, return to the thirty five hour work week and institute a 75% top rate of tax.


PUTIN (MEDVEDEV) - Putin simply doesn't give a damn. So he sent Medvedev, who is irrelevant. I find it sad but also truly hilarious that Obama consistently ingratiates himself with the Russians. They are playing us Americans for fools.





Thursday, May 17, 2012

Democrats and State Tax Increases

Yesterday, the Maryland state legislature voted to support Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposed tax increase. This news is important in the trend it reflects concerning state finances across America. O'Malley's new taxes mean that many Maryland families will now pay an additional $700+ a year in tax. The new rate also means that Maryland's taxes are now the fourth highest in the country. Why did the Democrats do this? To pay the unions. The WPost article has a quote that stands out -

'Counties and unions for state employees, who will receive a 2 percent raise from the tax increase, praised the legislature after the House of Delegates voted 77 to 60 for the package.'

The problem for Maryland democrats is that screwing people for more money in order to maintain the union feeding frenzy, pisses people off. Major corporations are already abandoning Maryland and California, where the Democratic leadership of that state is proposing similar tax increases. Republican led Virginia, which borders Maryland, has lower tax rates and high living standards. The simple fact is that increasing numbers of people and corporations are likely to decide that Virginia and not Maryland offers the better locale for residency. Human capital is inherently moveable in the DC area.
           The broader point here is that where Democrats are in control of state politics, taxes are increasing while long term entitlement/spending reforms remain weak. In contrast, Republican run states like that of Gov. Christie's New Jersey, are pursuing reforms that increase their states attractiveness to individuals and businesses, while ensuring that the unions are not able to drag everyone along a course to bankruptcy. This polarity of choice - on the one hand, Democrats offering higher taxes and higher spending and on the other, Republicans offering lower taxes and long term reform, is increasingly evident across America. This should be the ground on which Republicans wage our political campaigns. We should be unafraid to take on unions who are the worst enemy of the vast majority of low income workers. 
             Under this President, America is heading towards a future of catastrophic debt, higher taxes and economic stagnation. These issues are of crucial importance. (Screaming about gay marriage does not help the Republican cause).


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Soldier killed during Vietnam War to receive Medal of Honor

Leslie Sabo's MoH is long overdue. That a 22 year old draftee acted with such heroism is a tribute to him and his family. I would encourage readers to view the stories of those who have been awarded the MoH more recently, in Afghanistan and Iraq. This Korean War act is my personal favorite story.

and this guy for obvious reasons (although I assume no relation!)



Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ron Paul quits Republican race

Ron Paul has effectively ended his campaign. I used to think Paul was a bit of a joke but now I hold a different perspective. Ron Paul's candidacy allowed him to provide a number of  important benefits to the Republican Party. These benefits come under two different orbits - 'Tone' and 'Substance'.

On the question of 'tone', Paul's relative humility has provided a notable contrast with the hubris that was often on display from other candidates at the Republican primary debates. Republicans need to remind ourselves of the traditions of respect that underpin the predominantly rural communities that support our party.

On 'substance', while Ron Paul has said many strange things, his willingness to challenge the simple orthodoxy that sometimes infects our policy debates is deserving of praise. Paul's counter-point critiques of Republican foreign policy positions and comfort with domestic civil liberties restrictions should remind us that these issues are far from simple. While many of us (including me) may not agree with Paul's position on these issues, his engagement demands that we provide the American people with a thoroughly researched and articulate postulation of where we stand on the big issues AND why. An honest Republican policy towards Iran cannot begin and end with threats to bomb that country because they are 'evil'. Neither for example, can an honest Republican counter-terrorism strategy begin and end with supreme Presidential executive power.

                 In a political climate in which many Republican linked commentators are making absurd comments (gay marriage issue for example) and generating substantial negative attention for the party, it it important that we Republicans can appeal to a broader base of individuals. In order to protect the party from becoming a bastion of authoritarianism and emotion, Republicans need the involvement of people like Ron Paul. 

If we are going to beat Obama, we need to ensure that our policy debates are wide ranging, robust and necessarily complex. 


Monday, May 14, 2012

Obama's anti-Romney 'Vampire' Ad

Obama's new attack ad against Mitt Romney is ludicrous but makes for a typical Obama-style easy populist sound bite. Obama wants to portray Romney as an aloof rich guy who is fundamentally out of touch with the concerns of average Americans. What Obama doesn't seem to understand is the basic premise of capitalism. Long term, effective economic growth requires a hard-process analysis that understands some businesses cannot be saved. The alternative is Socialism, an approach that requires saving everything, succeeding at nothing and ultimately screwing just about everyone. While I don't believe that Obama is a true Chavez style socialist, I do believe that the President regards government as the central source of economic development. It is also important to remember that Obama has an agenda in attacking Bain Capital that goes beyond his political ambitions. The President is the man for big unions. He might criticize Romney, but ultimately he represents vested interests that are destroying state budgets, are reducing employment opportunities, are driving up living costs and are restricting the free movement of workers.

In the President's mind, government investment should provide not only the wheels on which the American economy will grow (infrastructure, some r+d etc) but also the engine and body of America's economic vehicle. While it is true that government investment can play a beneficial economic role in forging new avenues for growth- see the emergence of the internet, the simple fact is that the center of American economic success is (and always has been) found in America's entrepreneurial spirit. A few current examples.. Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook. Each company here was built on the risks that their respective creators took to pursue success AND the support that private investors granted in pursuit of a profit. Obama rips Romney for his role in the demise of GST Steel, but he wilfully ignores Bain's patently obvious successes. A few of Bain's more notable  investments have included Staples, The Sealy Corporation and Domino's Pizza. Together these businesses now employ hundreds of thousands of people (many of whom are not wealthy) and in so have brought economic benefit and opportunity to communities across America. Capitalism is sometimes unpleasant and sometimes unsuccessful, but ultimately, capitalism is the key reason for America's economic success and the high living standards of our people.

American society is a center right society. Romney must run a campaign that directly challenges Obama's failed economic record and his false economic narrative. The erosion of real income growth at the hands of health care/education inflation is an area where Government (including Republicans) must play a greater role to help middle-low income Americans more. However, this does not change the fact that long term economic growth will require opportunity, risk and hard choices.

Romney offers this leadership, while America will head for economic decline under Obama II.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Yemen Plot - Criminal Investigation

Senator Feinstein is correct to call for a criminal investigation into leaks surrounding the latest AQAP plot. As I previously noted, the leaked information is serious in nature. Their are few intelligence failures as problematic as ones that compromise the source identity of an allied foreign agent. Whoever leaked this information is likely a TS/SCI security clearance holder and therefore someone who should be capable of absolute discretion in protecting classified material. A level of discretion that requires individuals to concern themselves with national security and not the pursuit of media glamor. The American people and our foreign partners deserve better.

Source: Marshall Foundation

Saturday, May 12, 2012

US_UK Naval Aviation

This is a great story. These men/women are all great pilots. Maintaining core naval aviation capabilities is critical to the national security of the US and the UK. Alongside the growth of the Chinese Navy, resurgent Russian forces and ongoing tensions in the Middle East, maintaining an elite power projection force will become increasingly important over the next decade. It is crucial to remember that these skills serve not only the US and the UK, but also innocent people in combat zones who rely upon the professionalism of these pilots.





Thursday, May 10, 2012

Yemen Plot- British Agent?

It has been reported in US media outlets that the double agent responsible for breaking the latest AQAP plot (see my analysis) was a British intelligence officer/ British run agent. IF this is true and IF US officials are responsible for leaking the details, it represents a major failure on the part of US Intelligence operational security. It would also mean a major compromise of the 'trust' caveat which is inherent to the success of the UK-US intelligence relationship. In order to interact effectively, our foreign intelligence partners (like the UK) must be able to trust that we will not divulge their classified sources/methods without permission. I've previously argued that issues like this one may lead to future troubled waters for the UK-US intelligence relationship (a partnership that has been highly productive for many years).

I sincerely hope that these latest reports are wrong.






Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Obama and Gay Marriage

Obama's remarks on gay marriage were politically brave and honorable in nature. The purpose of marriage is to provide a framework for lasting unity and commitment between two people. A framework that benefits both the couple and society. I'm not gay but I don't believe that I should have more rights than my gay friends. I also don't believe that gay marriage in any way endangers the well being of my country. Rather, as a Republican, I believe that individual freedom is the most central element of good democracy. My party's position on this issue is short sighted and wrong. On this issue, Obama is right.

'A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.'

Thomas Jefferson





Tim Larkin banned from UK

The British Government has the right to exclude non-UK citizens from the UK. Parliament also has the right to establish the laws of self defense as it determines necessary. However, I cannot understand the decision to exclude Tim Larkin from the UK. Larkin argues for escalatory self-defense. He does not argue for crazed rampaging. 

I will give two personal anecdotes here.. In 2010, I worked part time as a door supervisor in a Florida nightclub. In doing this job, I believed that I had the support of the law to do what was necessary to protect myself. I also believe the vast majority of observers would have viewed the actions of our security team as highly professional and proportionate to each situation. While I enjoyed the job in Florida, I would never work security in a UK nightclub. Why? I believe that the UK's self defense law would endanger my ability to protect myself. Further, because English criminal law imposes insufficient deterrence against criminal violence, low/low-medium level violent behavior is common and accepted on towns across the UK on friday/saturday nights out.


I have experienced this dynamic first hand. In January 2011 in Wimbledon, myself and a couple of others attempted to stop a group of men who were attacking a bar owner outside her establishment. From my recollection, out of our group defending the woman; myself, the woman and one other guy were punched in the face by the aggressor group and another good samaritan suffered a broken cheek bone. These offences constitute a 3x simple assault/1x assault occasioning actual bodily harm. In Florida, the offenders would have faced a relatively serious police investigation and if they had been caught and convicted, they would have likely looked at some jail time. In reality, as the crimes occurred in the UK, the crime was deemed so low in priority that the police filed the investigation the very next day! At first appearances, me mentioning this case just seems like bitching about a negative personal experience.. (and maybe it is!), but I also believe that the incident speaks to a broader problem in the UK. This being that the law has helped incubate rather than address, a societal dynamic that tolerates casual unlawful violence. Contrary to the belief of the British Government, what Tim Larkin is actually trying to do is to empower law abiding members of the public to be able to deal with the threat of violence. Violent criminals already have those tools in abundance, Tim Larkin's tutorials are not going to make the UK a more violent place.


A little more detail on self defense.. The Omari Roberts case- combined with the Tony Martins case illustrate how little English law actually appreciates imminence of threat. IE - English law fails to grasp that if someone who has manifested violent intention against you is still in your home or in the locale of you home, that person represents a clear and present danger to your security. The ability to use force in those circumstances should be (but in the UK is not) clear and fully justified. As law abiding residents of the UK, we must all accept these laws, even if  they endanger us unjustly.

It is my opinion that current English law dangerously constrains the natural right of self defense both in terms of action and in terms of perception.


Me working as Bouncer (I don't have permission to show the guest's face!)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

AQAP plot continued...

1) The fact that a double agent was involved represents a great coup for US intelligence. Risk is part of the intelligence game. This risk paid off big time. Sometimes the risk doesn't pay off.


2) The leak of the story is an indication of the continuing challenge that the US faces in maintaining operational security. Whoever is responsible for the leak must face serious consequences. We cannot conduct effective intelligence campaigns when there is always someone waiting to talk to the press.


The willingness to take risks is important  - Jim Kirk says it best!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Foiled Al Qa'ida Plot

US Government sources are confirming reports that US/allied Intelligence services have foiled a terrorist plot form-similar to that of the Abdulmutallab attack. While (at the time of this post) the story is still breaking, I believe there are a number of early observations that can be drawn.

1) If the plot did originate from Al Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and out of Yemen, then there is further clear evidence to suggest that AQAP is now, at least in operational terms, the pre-eminent Al Qa'ida franchise. US intelligence/DoD are already dedicating substantial resources towards actively engaging AQAP. This latest plot will only heighten those efforts. Yemen is a state that suffers fundamental socio-political instability. Alongside Yemen's growing water crisis and combined with a young, generally poor population, AQAP will find increasingly positive recruiting conditions in human despair. US efforts in Yemen must therefore be focused in a joined kinetic (force application) and non-kinetic (civil development, economic support, political mediation, democracy promotion) strategy to prevent Yemen from becoming a failed state.

2) If the plot did involve another human borne improvised explosive device (suicide bomber), then there is a notable trend developing on the part of AQAP's attack methodology. In addition to Abdulmutallab's attack, in 2009, AQAP, using the brother of Ibrahim al-Asiri (see point 3), attempted to assassinate a Saudi prince via an internal body IED. Because suicide bombers are notoriously difficult to detect, their employment presents a very popular option for terrorist organisations. Regardless, the fact that this latest plot reportedly involved a unusually advanced device using a non-metallic template, presents a further cause for concern. In basic terms, by removing or reducing detectable components of an explosive device, that device becomes far easier to conceal during a search. This development reduces the probability that prevention tools (for example, metal detectors) would be able to identify an attacker. It thus increases the chance of a successful attack.

3) The creativity/sophistication of the plot suggests that AQAP bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, played an important role in constructing this device. If this is the case, addressing the threat that he poses will become a top US counter-terrorism priority. Capable and resourceful ideological absolutists, like al-Asiri, are the key to successful Al Qa'ida plots. Khalid Sheik Mohammed provides evidence of what can happen when these individuals remain in action.

4) While some will argue that this latest plot is designed to maintain the domestic 'fear narrative' (IE - that the US wants to maintain public fear of terrorist groups in order to continue a hidden, unjustifiable deviant agenda etc.), the truth is that the violent threat posed by groups like AQAP remains real. The US is at war with Al Qa'ida and AQ affiliates. While the Galula approach remains true, irreconcilable actors like those who planned this attack must be confronted. That is why, as Michael Leiter explains, Obama is continuing many of his predecessor's counter-terrorism policies. He is correct to do so.

My related links.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Republicans and Religious Extremists


This is a really important piece in the WPost. 

Republicans will destroy our moral credibility and our electoral future if we play to hard-line religious extremists. And... if you petition for  homosexuality to be illegal, for pornography to be banned and argue that Muslims don't have a right to worship... I'm afraid that you are an extremist. The ideological roots of the Republican Party are vested in notions of individual freedom, personal responsibility and national unity. Those values require respect for others. Those values make us win elections. If we appeal to fringe voters we will alienate moderate voters and over time, we will destroy the Republican brand.


Everyone in America is entitled to their view (including those on the fringe of rationality). However, those who pursue a fundamentalist political agenda - Guys like Fischer.. are often arrogant authoritarians who are obsessed with the politics of division. These extremists are neither good Christians, nor good Republicans, nor good Americans. 


We shouldn't be afraid to tell them so.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Tom Rogan Thinks..

My website is now www.tomroganthinks.com RATHER>> than www.tomroganthinks.blogspot.com 

However, www.tomroganthinks.blogspot.com will still redirect you for a while. 


KSM Arraignment

The arraignment of KSM and his accused 9/11 co-conspirators will occur later today (the link has good bios on the guys). 

My thoughts... I stand by an
earlier post in which I welcomed that these individuals would be charged and tried under the military commissions process. The head prosecutor is also the best of the best of what America has to offer (the accolades in the linked article are matched by statements that I have heard from others who know Martins). 

Back to the trial authority question... From my perspective, the 9/11 attacks were an act of war against the US. The strikes were carried out by a group of individuals serving the political agenda of a formal organisation focused on destroying the United States. I disagree with the notion that it is only states that can carry out acts of war. This is the 21st century.. for a few examples of non-state actors able to wage effective war, just look at current instability in Afghanistan, Mexico and Yemen. For another example, Hizballah's military power in Lebanon means that this group has effective power over the stability of that country's political process (a power they are not afraid to use). My point is that non-state actors have extroadinary power potential. To treat them as simple criminals ignores the fundamental political nature of their agenda and their associated acts. A criminal law focus also allows these organisations to use the criminal justice system as a propaganda weapon and thus as a vehicle for the continued pursuit of their agenda. There is a final relevant point... the jurors who would consider a civilian court trial simply do not have a sufficient understanding of the military-political component of organisations like Al Qa'ida.




Thursday, May 3, 2012

Chen continued..

The situation in China re-Chen is becoming a huge embarrassment for the Obama Administration. It now appears that the Chinese have reneged on a deal to grant more freedom to the political activist and are denying US officials access to him. Chen also appears desperate to leave China. 

The problem here is that Obama claims to be the agent of human rights.. and yet now we have a situation in which the US looks incredibly weak (China ignoring the supposed deal) and fundamentally realist in nature (US more concerned in Hillary Clinton's visit than in human rights issues). As I noted earlier (see post below), the President has a track record in this area. I understand the need for a balanced relationship with China.. I supported GW Bush's 2008 visit to the Beijing Olympics. However, when someone comes to a US Embassy for help after facing political prosecution.. we better be pretty sure that we are comfortable that person won't be screwed when he leaves that Embassy. Essentially, we must ensure that a freedom seeking man or woman isn't abandoned for the sake of our own short term consideration of political expediency.


Obama, Chen and Freedom

IF.. it is true that the Obama Administration forced Chen out, it is just another incident in which the Administration has failed to support pro-freedom movements. IF it is true, it is a profoundly sad moment for the US Govt. When someone enters our embassy because they fear prosecution for free speech, we have a responsibility to stand up for that individual.

Another two examples of where (early on in his term) Obama failed to stand up for individual freedom..



and 

Skip to about 4 minutes in for the best moment..

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Obama and Afghanistan

By talking about his sacred deadlines and by broaching the subject of negotiation with the Taliban, Obama appeared weak. This is a President for whom re-election is the central concern. Compare Obama's lack of resolve on Afghanistan with Bush's resolve on Iraq. Obama/Biden were wrong when it came to the end game in Iraq and Bush was right. At that critical moment, Obama's judgement was found wanting. Now, as President, Obama's Afghanistan policy has been and continues to be inherently linked to domestic US politics. You don't win a war by taking opinion polls at home.

Credit: New York Post