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Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Broadest Possible Coalition

John Kerry wrote an op-ed article in yesterday's New York Times about how the USA can confront and deal with ISIS.  Okay, to be fair, someone else surely wrote the column, but it appeared under the byline of Kerry who may have read and approved it before it was sent to the Times.

Kerry's main point is that there needs to be the "broadest possible coalition" of nations to confront ISIS.  He is heading to Europe to work on this.  Then he goes to the Middle East to try to get even more countries involved in this coalition.

I am glad that someone in Washington has, at least, an outline of a strategy for dealing with ISIS.  We all know that president Obama told the world just the other day that America had no such strategy.  Maybe no one told him about the one Kerry is following.  I assume we will hear later that Obama learned of this strategy when he read Kerry's column in the Times (or someone else read it and gave Obama a summary of it) and that Obama is now "mad as hell" that no one told him about the strategy earlier.

Of course, the next logical question is whether or not the "broadest possible" coalition makes sense.  Clearly, the broadest possible coalition would include Iran.  The Iranian military could strike hard against ISIS and probably drive the Sunni Islamic crazy thugs out of northern Iraq.  That would leave northern Iraq under occupation by Shiite Islamic crazy thugs, also known as the Iranian army.  Someone better tell Kerry about this quickly.  You know the old description of one adversary playing checkers while the other is playing chess?  With Kerry and Obama, one adversary is playing chess (that's Iran) while the other (Kerry and Obama ) are playing Tic-Tac-Toe and losing.  Another country whose forces could easily displace ISIS is Turkey.  The Turks, under their Islamist and imperialist president, would like nothing better than to retake control of northern Iraq in a move that might restore a bit of the old Ottoman Empire.  We ought not allow the Turks to get much of a foothold in Iraq in a way that would let them crush not only ISIS but also the Kurds. 

Then, of course, there is the issue of aligning ourselves with Assad in Syria against ISIS.  Obama and Kerry still babble incoherently about the moderate Syrian opposition, but this seems like a delusion.  There used to be a major force fighting under the more moderate Syrian Sunni banner.  Of course, when they asked for American help in the form of weapons to fight Assad and his chemical weapons, bombers, tanks and artillery, Obama and Kerry (and Clinton before him) decided not to help the moderates but rather to let them all be slaughtered by the Assad forces.  Only the ISIS forces got weapons from terrorists sources, so the Sunni fighters moved to fight under the ISIS banner.  Obama and Kerry (and Clinton) probably did more to CREATE ISIS than to fight it at any time.


Update on the UN Forces Held Hostage by Terrorists in Syria

Since I wrote about this situation yesterday, there have been two major developments.  First, the 40 plus Filipino troops who were surrounded by terrorists broke out of their positions and made their way to the border with Israel.  According to the news reports, the Filipinos suffered no casualties despite a rather intense fire fight with the terrorists.  These same reports tell us that the escape of the UN troops was supported by Syria (the Assad forces), Israel, the USA and Qatar.  No one has explained what that "support" means, but it is repeated in most stories, so I add it here.

Second, the terrorists have now demanded "humanitarian aid" in exchange for the 45 UN troops from Fiji who were captured yesterday.  The UN issued a demand for an immediate and unconditional release of the UN forces, but got this demand for supplies instead.  It will be interesting to see just how the UN reacts to this blatant act of terrorism against UN forces.  My prediction is that the UN will do nothing.  Of course, predicting that the UN will do nothing is much like predicting that the sun will come up in the east.


A Winning Platform For 2014 -- 3, A Sensible Approach To Energy and the Environment

This is the latest in the series of issues that ought to be addressed by the Republican party in the 2014 election.  Today's focus is energy and the environment.

The correct position for the GOP is the one that is best for America and it can be summed up in one sentence:  Let's use our own energy and do so smartly and cleanly.

If we unpack that sentence, we find the following:

OUR OWN ENERGY:  America happens to be a storehouse of enormous amounts of energy.  We have more coal and natural gas than any other country.  We also have increasing reserves of oil due to amazing advances in the technology of extraction.  We still use more than we produce, but the gap between production and use is shrinking rapidly.  For the last six years, president Obama and the Obamacrats have placed obstacle after obstacle in the path of higher production of oil, natural gas and coal.  Obama dithered on the Keystone Pipeline.  Obama changed the permitting process for wells on federal lands so that it now takes just under a year to get a permit rather than the previous average time of 6 days.  Obama has instituted regulations that make burning coal, even in power plants that scrub over 99% of the resulting particles and other emissions from the air, completely impossible.  Obama has threatened actions that would end the boom in natural gas production by limiting the use of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking). 

If the reduced production of fossil fuels meant that America instead used renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, then, at least, Obama's actions might have an ostensible purpose, but that is not what happens.  Every barrel of oil that is not produced in America is imported from some country like Iran, Venezuela or Libya, places where the extra cash sent for that oil is used for anti-American purposes.  It does not reduce pollution (even that bogeyman "carbon pollution") if the average American burns 5 gallons of oil that came from Venezuela instead of North Dakota.  Using foreign oil, however, does have one major result:  it slows the economy of the USA and kills the formation of jobs.  Think of it this way:  every year, America sends hundreds of billions of dollars abroad to pay for imported oil.  If those funds were instead paid to American producers, they would get added to the US economy.  People would spend that money and support more jobs and businesses here at home.  Ending our dependence on foreign energy could increase the growth rate of the economy by an additional 2% each year.  That may not sound like much, but if we had gained that additional 2% just during the Obama years, America today would have a GDP that is larger by over two trillion dollars, there would be at least three million more jobs in the USA, and salaries for workers across the country would be higher.  On top of this, the additional energy production would have driven the price of oil lower.  Imagine the impact on the economy and on each American family if the cost of gasoline were lower by a dollar per gallon.

USE IT SMARTLY:  Using our own energy does not mean that we forego efforts to reduce energy usage or to shift to renewable energy.  Energy conservation is a winning strategy for the country.  It reduces the cost of production in America, another move to revitalize our economy.  It means less burning of fossil fuels which will necessarily mean less pollution.  It also gets us more quickly to the point where we no longer import foreign oil into this country.  But energy conservation cannot be used as a sledge hammer to destroy businesses and jobs here at home.  For example, the mileage standards for autos sold here reduce oil usage and are a good thing, but they cannot be set so high that the compliant cars become so expensive as to be priced out of the reach of the average consumer.  There is a point where enough really is enough.  A bureaucracy like the EPA is never going to find that point.  After all, if we get to the point where enough has been done, the EPA is out of a job.  No bureaucrat will ever conclude that his own job should be abolished or reduced even if it is in the best interest of the country.

Another smart move would be to expand the use of energy sources like nuclear power.  Right now, that cannot happen because of unfounded fears of nuclear disasters.  The law governing nuclear plants are so complicated and byzantine that essentially no new plant can survive the regulatory process.  As a result, enormous amounts of energy that could have been produced by nuclear energy are still generated by burning coal and the like.  Of course, the locations for new plants have to be carefully considered.  They ought not be near earthquake fault line (like the one in Japan).  They ought not be on the coast near a potential tsunami.  They ought not be in densely populated areas either.  There are, however, many locations in this country where a sparse population would welcome such an installation.  The power from such plants can get added to power grids and transmitted across the country.  This would required a coherent national law that supersedes the local requirements and allows for sensible and safe use of nuclear power.

USE IT CLEANLY:  America needs to have a government that stops listening to environmental extremists and instead follows a sensible environmental policy.  We all watched as the Obamacrats adopted the slogan that "green energy" was the wave of the future.  That brought us hundreds of billions of dollars being thrown down the toilet by the federal government as the Obama government gave out enormous grants to its friends to develop green jobs that never appeared.  Efforts like Solyndra lasted only as long as the federal money kept coming through the door.  Once the solar energy panel manufacturers had to survive on their own, they failed.  But that did not stop the green energy mania of the Obamacrats.  They were saving the planet!  We have laws that the Obamacrats have enforced to shut down the most fertile farmland in America in California's Central Valley so that certain species of fish would have sufficient water to spawn.  On the other hand, though, the wind turbines and the solar plants these same "environmentalists" built across the country are killing tens of thousands of birds each month.  One solar plant out west that is about to go into full operation actually causes birds that have the misfortune to fly near it to burst into flame and burn to death.  So a few fish can shut down extremely important farms, but tens or hundreds of thousands of dead birds cannot be allowed by these same people to interfere with "green energy".

We need to be sensible about the drive for clean energy.  Just look at fracking and natural gas production.  The use of hydraulic fracturing is over forty years old.  In all that time, there is not a single instance in which the process caused ground water contamination when properly performed.  Now think back to how many times you have heard from someone about the terrible dangers of fracking and how it would poison the water.  There have been Hollywood movies made about that poisoning (which never happened).  The fear is so bad in New York, that the governor there, Andrew Cuomo, has not allowed the procedure to be used in New York.  The result has been that there are major installations of gas wells across Pennsylvania with jobs, prosperity, and even state tax revenues for that state, but upstate New York continues to crumble as folks seeking some measure of prosperity leave for elsewhere.  Fear of fracking has undermined the entire region of the Empire State.  In other words, there can be reasonable regulation of fracking so that it is done properly.  We cannot let baseless fears about the environment stop economic progress.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Terrorists Attack the UN Peace Keeping Force

In a perfect metaphor for the world view of the Islamic terrorists, these thugs have attacked the UN peace-keeping force stationed on the border between Israel and Syria.  Troops from the Philippines were attacked by the terrorists and then rescued by Irish peace keepers stationed nearby after a large fire fight.  Both groups then crossed the border into Israeli territory.  Meanwhile over 40 troops from Fiji have been taken captive by the terrorists and another 40 or so Filipino troops remain under threat by the terrorists. 

It is hard to imagine that the terrorists would attack UN peace keeping forces.  There was zero chance that any of the UN troops would enter the fight between the Assad forces and the terrorist forces.  In fact, the UN troops were hunkered down in their bases to stay out of the way of the fighting.  Then they were attacked.

One would think that the terrorists understand that Fiji, the Philippines and Ireland are not enemies of theirs.  In fact, the reason why these troops are on the Golan Heights rather than say Egyptian or Iranian troops is that they are neutrals.  By attacking the UN troops, the terrorists reveal themselves to be true crazies.


Losing the Post

Few media outlets have the clout of the Washington Post.  A reliably liberal newspaper, the Post almost always supports whatever position is taken by president Obama.  That is why the heavy criticism by the Post of the Obama foreign policy is so newsworthy.  Here is a key excerpt from the paper's editorial:

Throughout his presidency, [Mr. Obama] has excelled at explaining what the United States cannot do and cannot afford, and his remarks Thursday were no exception. “Ukraine is not a member of NATO,” he said. “We don’t have those treaty obligations with Ukraine.” If Iraq doesn’t form an acceptable government, it’s “unrealistic” to think the United States can defeat the Islamic State.

Allies are vital; the United States overstretched in the Bush years; it can’t solve every problem. All true. But it’s also true that none of the basic challenges to world order can be met without U.S. leadership: not Russia’s aggression, not the Islamic State’s expansion, not Iran’s nuclear ambition nor China’s territorial bullying. Each demands a different policy response, with military action and deterrence only two tools in a basket that includes diplomatic and economic measures. It’s time Mr. Obama started emphasizing what the United States can do instead of what it cannot.

When a Democrat president has lost the Post, he is, as they say, in deep doo-doo.


Spreading the Strategy

It never fails to amaze me just how quickly the White House adopts stupid strategies.  The latest strategy is "a lack of a strategy".

Earlier this week, president Obama told us that he has no strategy for dealing with ISIS even though in August 2013, Obama himself said in a press conference that America needed a strategy for dealing with ISIS and the other terrorist groups fighting in Syria and that he would develop one.  That idiotic comment made the USA look weak and Obama look foolish.  The White House staff spent two days trying to walk the statement back under a withering and disapproving wave of coverage from much of the media, even including some of the Obama supporting liberal media.

Now, the same strategy is being applied to other issues.  Remember that big executive action coming on immigration?  We hear today that it will likely be delayed until after the election because the Department of Homeland Security has not finished developing a strategy for dealing with the issue.  This excuse is about as lame as the one about ISIS.  Is there really anyone in America who believes that DHS has been unable to develop a plan to carry out Obama's desires regarding immigration?  Remember, it has been about four months since the White House first told us that Obama would act on this subject before the end of the summer. Somehow, I think that DHS could develop a strategy in less than four months. 

What will be the next area where the White House trots out this "lack of strategy yet" concept.  Here are a few possibilities:

1.  Obama announces that he wants to sign legislation funding the government, but he has not yet worked out a strategy for picking up the pen.

2.  We hear that Obama wants to work on tax reform, but he has not yet received a strategy from the IRS for finding a copy of the current tax code.

3.  Obama announces that he wants to help the Ukrainians deal with the Russian invasion, but he cannot because he has no strategy with regard to finding Ukraine on a map.

4.  And the most likely:  Obama announces that he knows that his term ends in January 2017, but he has not yet worked out a strategy to move his stuff out of the White House.

The Proper Focus

It's Labor Day Weekend and the weather is truly lovely.  Here in Connecticut, it is still summer, but there's a slightly crisp coolness in the early morning.  It should be a time when the big issues to consider are choosing between the beach (for probably the last time this year) or a long hike.  Sadly, that is not the case this year.

Right now, it is twelve days until September 11th.  This last year has been most likely the worst year of terrorism around the world since that terrible day in 2001.  What is going to happen in less than two weeks?  Is anyone in Washington actually paying attention to this?  Let's look at what we know:

1.  There are literally tens of thousands of terrorists who would like nothing better than to kill hundreds or thousands of Americans, particularly on September 11th.  That fact is beyond debate.

2.  President Obama and the Obamacrats have consistently played down the threat from the terrorists.  Obama has even seemed somewhat delusional in his persistent refusal to recognize the threat from these groups.  In 2012, despite a warning of potential trouble ahead of time, the USA was completely unprepared for the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi.  Hillary Clinton, who was then Secretary of State, had even denied a request from the American ambassador in Libya for additional security and instead reduced the level of security in Benghazi for better appearance.  When the attack came, Obama could not even be bothered to monitor what was happening, choosing instead to get ready for yet another fund raising trip, that time to Las Vegas.

3.  With the biggest current threat, ISIS, Obama has also played down the threat and refused to plan how to deal with them.  We all know that eight months ago, Obama dismissed ISIS as the "jayvee" terrorist team.  Remember, he did that days after ISIS forces had taken control of Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq, an area containing about a million people.  That's a heck of a junior varsity!  We also know that a year ago, Obama himself was asked at a news conference about how he planned to deal with ISIS and other terrorist groups besides al Qaeda that were operating in Syria and Iraq.  Obama announced in August 2013 that the government was going to develop a strategy for confronting ISIS.  Earlier this week, however, Obama said that there is no strategy for dealing with ISIS.  What happened during the last year?  Was it all golf and fund raising?

4.  Documents and computers recently recovered from the terrorists indicate that they have plans to enter the USA across the Mexican border to launch attacks.  There are also indications that ISIS hopes to use biological weapons to kill tens of thousands.  Again, this is fact, not conjecture.

5.  Obama is off fund raising again.  We have no strategy but he seems not to care.  The Mexican border is being left unguarded for the most part, but Obama not only does not care, he applauds the move.  Obama is so worried that his base might think that he favors military force, that I expect him to announce after a terrorist attack in the USA that there will be no boots on the ground in America.

I worry that two weeks from now we will all be wondering how the terror attack was allowed to happen.  We knew it was likely, but our government let it happen.  HOW COULD THAT BE?

I hope my fears are unfounded.  I pray my fears are unfounded.  But what if they are not?