The wrong-way armada; loose lips sink ships, but loose tongues start wars…

April 19, 2017

I know President Trump has said that he is giving the military a freer hand rather than micro managing its actions in our ongoing conflicts but according to reports Tuesday it would seem either he did not know what the Navy was really doing or he and his administration spokespeople just lied.

More than a week ago the president claimed he was dispatching an armada of ships to the waters off North Korea in reaction to that wayward nation’s missile tests and continued nuclear arms development.

Working off the official word, news outlets reported it like this excerpt out of a USA Today story of April 9:

………………The aircraft carrier and its accompanying ships had been scheduled to leave from Singapore for port visits to Australia on Saturday, but Adm. Harry Harris, head of U.S. Pacific Command, ordered the strike group to head north toward Korean waters instead.   ……………

But now we are being told there was some kind of confusion between the ships’ officers and the Pentagon and the administration and the press and therefore the American people (and the world) were misled. Instead the naval task force headed the other way, toward Australia after all, and only now is it headed toward North Korea.

If the ships really are headed there now I am not sure what difference it all makes but it makes one wonder how much control Trump has (and the president, a civilian, is at the top of the chain of command over the military by our constitution).

Now I realize it might not be a good tactical idea to broadcast the position of our ships but I think the American people have a right to know what is being done in our name and while I would generally applaud the idea of a president not micro managing the military as presidents have done since LBJ, I would like to think the president knows where our warships are going.

And if Trump just made that all up on the spur of the moment to put a scare into Kim Jong-Un — the totally savage and totally nutty leader of North Korea who is constantly threatening to send nuclear-tipped missiles our way — and risk war when really were not doing anything, we really have a problem. This is too serious. I mean even if North Korea’s last missile failed shortly after launching, going kerplop in the ocean, that nation has a tremendous conventional forces and might draw in China and Russia on its side.

Yeah, so maybe this having our ships go the wrong direction was a diversionary tactic and it was a good idea not to give the exact position — loose lips sink ships. But loose lips can cause war when the president makes am impromptu announcement he’s dispatching war ships to a country.

And if he dispatched the fleet in the name of a crisis of the moment that overrode congressional consideration then why did it apparently take a detour?

Now we know we cannot trust anything Trump says in this post-truth era and we know there is a problem of deliberate false reporting, and now we must suffer incorrect news coming out of our government either by design or incompetence.

Trump was lauded by many for his decisive action in the Syria bombing but now we find that it amounted to a tremendous waste of ordnance, at least I think, despite launching billions of dollars worth of Tomahawk missiles the airfield target was not rendered useless.

And then there was the mother of all bombs (short of nuclear bombs) dropped in Afghanistan this past week but are we supposed to believe it was worth it and civilian lives lost justified?

By all accounts the big bomb was a big success military wise, killing scores of the enemy — but then again the American people have been lied to before about how effective our military operations are.

And finally, congress needs to step up to the plate and reassert its constitutional authority on declaring war and presidents need to quit dispatching ships and drones and troops hither and yon like some geo-political board game.


To fight too many wars not to win or to fight too many to win…

April 26, 2015

Sometimes I read something and think — Wow! Amen! I could not have said it better — this writer is right on. Or at least he makes an awful good case and excellent observations.

Ross Douthat in the New York Times tells us about how on the one hand president Obama has us in a bunch of wars where the object seems not to win but to keep the enemies at bay and our friends, such as they are, in power, and on the other hand Republican presidential hopefuls, with maybe one exception, would have us in too many wars with the object of going all out (or at least they can criticize until they had to make the decision and see our limits).

But he says all this much better than I could. So I give you a link. It might not work, but you can check it out on your own in the NYT under the headline of Too Many Viennas:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/26/opinion/sunday/ross-douthat-a-case-of-too-many-viennas.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=c-column-top-span-region&region=c-column-top-span-region&WT.nav=c-column-top-span-region

 

 

 

 


Tactics have no place in war authorizations…

February 15, 2015

BLOGGER’S NOTE: The following is the declaration of war against Nazi Germany congress adopted and President Franklin Roosevelt signed. It essentially reads the same as the one against Japan adopted after the surprise attack by that nation on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941:

 

Whereas the Government of Germany has formally declared war against the government and the people of the United States of America:

Therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that the state of war between the United States and the Government of Germany which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the government to carry on war against the Government of Germany; and to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.

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That’s what a declaration of war looks like.

That does not look like what President Obama has proposed to fight ISIS.

Mr. Obama seems to be of the mind that you can and should spell out your policy, tactics, and methods within such a declaration, even including provisions to limit warfare.

Nonsense!

I mean I realize this is not 1941, and we don’t seem to fight ultra large-scale wars as in the past (and I imagine we should be somewhat thankful for that), and I realize one size does not fit all in war resolutions, but when you limit yourself from the git go in the war resolution itself, as is done in Obama’s draft of a requested authorization to use military force against ISIS, how can you hope to have any military success?

We lost Vietnam for a variety of reasons, but number one was that we limited ourselves, in the terribly misguided notion that we could preserve lives of American soldiers — instead it turned out to be the opposite. Of course in that one it could be argued we never should have gone there. But we did, and the only honorable and moral course after committing so many of our children to battle would have been to use everything we had to win and get it done.

And I am not saying that every time we get into a dispute we have to immediately deploy large scale landings and combine air and ground assaults and put the public on war rationing, I’m just saying we have to be willing to do what needs to be done. And it would sure help if we did not telegraph what we plan or can do to the enemy.

As I understand it, the president is still using military forces in the Middle East under the authorization to use military force passed by congress as the result of the 9/11 attacks. And he says in reality that is all he needs, he just wants to clean things up and be a little more specific. He also says he would like to rescind the 2001 resolution.

I can see an argument for doing just that — I mean the 2001 declaration asked for and received by George W. Bush seems to allow for open-ended war forever.

So yes, there ought to be some specificity, but there is language in Obama’s draft that prohibits the president from deploying ground troops. But what if that becomes necessary? Better to just say we will use necessary force to get the job done — in the correct language of course, not verbatim as I just put it, maybe.

In the 1941 declaration the president was authorized to use the total resources of the military and the nation. That should always be left open. Just because a president can does not mean he will or should, he just needs to have all options open (well not nuclear war I don’t think — that would be a doomsday approach, but we should just keep mum on it and leave them wondering).

One thing, when we use military force, the president, the congress, and the American people should be on board. Confusion just costs lives and hinders success.

 

 

 


Was George W. Bush right after all with his war on terror?

October 11, 2014

I almost choke while asking this question but: could George W. Bush have been right all along to declare a war on terror? With the threat of what seems like the most diabolical enemy ever, at least in modern times, that is ISIS, with its beheadings and mass killings, it seems we need to confront this and do it now. I’m beginning to miss the good old days of the Cold War when it seemed there was less violence.

But then again, there was Korea and Vietnam and other hot wars. There is always war. But the Cold War with the two super powers did seem to keep some things in check.

Mostly it was just two super powers, the U.S. and the now defunct Soviet Union, threatening to annihilate each other with nuclear missiles, meanwhile each controlling or having hegemony over their respective halves of the world.

But America has grown soft in its wealth and luxury (financial crises notwithstanding).

Presidents cannot even think of asking or urging Americans to really sacrifice.

In a previous post I said something to the effect that there is no value in shedding any more American blood in Iraq, or did I say the whole Middle East? No difference. I don’t think there is, either way, especially since this nation quit fighting wars to win after World War II.

Well actually I would consider Korea a sort of win in that we did push the communist forces back across the 38th parallel.

I don’t believe in the concept of “limited war”. I don’t think you can limit war. You either fight to win or you end up losing. But fighting to win can be a major investment and a major risk. Victory is not guaranteed. So you have to pick your battles.

Right now the forces of ISIS do indeed seem to pose a threat to the whole world. So it would seem that it would be worth it to go at it with them head on. But President Obama is fighting back only reluctantly and in a limited fashion for now.

He has committed air power in Iraq and finally into Syria, after initially backing down from his promise to not let the Assad regime cross a red line — and actually that is separate from the current threat by ISIS, except related in that all of it has to do with an ongoing civil war in that nation that pits disparate forces against Syrian strong man Assad and each other — all very complicated.  Meanwhile ISIS takes advantage of the power vacuum and confusion in Syria, and of the weakness and internal struggles in Iraq. ISIS (a split-off from the more familiar Al Qaeda) is the real threat now (and I guess there are other similar factions, but let’s not get into that). This group of thugs appears to want to take over the Middle East and then maybe the whole world. And with modern transportation and technology this is a serious threat.

Obama seems to think that only our air power alone in some limited fashion is the best way to go, and let indigenous forces, on our side (do they even exist?), do the ground work. We tried letting the South Vietnamese ground forces do the dirty work once upon a time, but they wisely decided that it was better to live and let the other guys die (that is Americans). And I apologize to the families of any South Vietnamese soldiers who did give up their lives. I’m just talking the big picture. But we soon found out we had to commit our own forces in Vietnam, for it was really our war (we had chosen to make it our war already).

I doubt the American public, although spooked no doubt by the beheadings and massacres inflicted by ISIS, is in the mood to commit large numbers of troops in the fight at this time. And the public is never asked outright to pay for war, it is all but hidden in special appropriations. I think it must be hard to wage a successful war when you have to almost secretly fund it.

Enemies of the free Western world have only to look to the history of the past few decades to see that America has lost its resolve to fight battles and win.  An example. In the first Iraq War we did not defeat Saddam Hussein in that we did not go all the way to Baghdad and arrest and hang him then and there. In the second war with that nation, we finally just left without actually finishing the whole job (although the Iraqis themselves did hang Hussein), only to have problems flare up all over again.

And, according to Wikipedia, we lost almost 5,000 American troops between 2003 and 2014 in Iraq, and of course thousands were severely maimed or wounded. And still we left without finishing the job it seems. It could well be argued that we should not have gone in there in the first place, but the fact is we did and we put a major investment into the job. Talking dollars and cents, what is the figure? More than a trillion dollars spent on the project over the past decade.

I think it is a crime to commit any forces, be they air or ground or both, if you do not have the resolve to do what is necessary to win. I think that is more of a crime than choosing to go to war for questionable reasons. The justification of wars can always be debated. But there is no justification for asking or forcing people to die or be maimed for life for no reason.

We need to confront the threat of ISIS (and other such groups). Military strikes might not be the answer or only part of the answer. We need to go after the economies or economic entities or people who support our enemies.

But again, as to military action, we need to have the resolve to fight to win. If we can get by with a limited response, well good. But we have to be willing and able to be in for the long haul.

P.s.

And whatever action we take it should be in our own interest. I mean we lead the free world, but we always have to look out for ourselves first.


Iraq crisis is shades of Vietnam…

June 19, 2014

 

UPDATE: Since first posting this it has now been announced that the U.S. will be sending in 300 military advisors in the current Iraqi crisis, and it looks like it has been concluded by the Obama administration that the current Iraqi leader, Maliki, cannot be the person to head a new unity government.

Also, President Obama now has repeated that he has no intention of sending in combat troops (beyond the advisors). But President Lyndon Johnson vowed not to send in American boys to do what Vietnamese boys should be doing. And then he sent in a half million troops. We have already lost 4,500 of our own in the Iraq War and thousands more were gravely wounded. We had declared it over (for us). The pressure will be intense on Obama not to make it a lost cause.

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Shades of Vietnam, kind of. We have a corrupt and non-representative government in Iraq we have supported. Meanwhile, the enemy is at the gates, and we don’t want to send in ground troops but it looks like we will send in military advisors. And what comes next? Well of course the enemy will shoot back and we will then send in more troops. Unlike Vietnam we have already fought this war. We just did not finish it — oh, like Vietnam. Over simplistic analysis and not right on I know. But on enough I think. I’ll try to write more later.

…Well jus time to add this: now there are reports that some factions within the Iraqi government have asked U.S. support to oust their present leader Maliki. Hope this does not turn out to be like the time we backed the murder of the head of the South Vietnamese government, Diem. But on the other hand, Maliki needs to go. He seems to be the cause of the current crisis.

The United States should have not got into the mess of nation building but we did, we just did not stick with it. What to do now? Whatever we do, half measures will not work. We either need to write the whole thing off or on the other hand be prepared to do it right.

Geesh terrorists taking over a major oil supply. That is not good.


Is Iran on our side now? This is all crazy…

June 13, 2014

UPDATE: The news since I first posted all of this is that now President Obama has ruled out sending in U.S. ground troops but other options remain under consideration.

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This is all crazy. Iraq is disintegrating in sectarian fighting and now there is the prospect of Iran taking part and actually being on our (U.S.) side to protect the Shiite government they back, as opposed to the Sunni militants (who are the old Saddam Hussein people, arch enemy of Iran). You may recall the U.S. at one time backed Iraq (Saddam Hussein) in its war against Iran. Maybe we were on the wrong side. Whatever, mixed up in all of this are the Islamic terrorists who would impose harsh Sharia law on all — no rights for women, and no individual rights for anyone really. Whether we should have ever got mixed up in all of this is one thing, but mixed up we got. We spent millions of dollars and suffered much loss of human life with thousands killed and severely wounded (for life) and then walked away with nothing.

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Are we going back to Iraq?

The US’s war in Iraq was supposed to be over and now it was on to winding down our involvement in Afghanistan.

But militants are taking over, threatening the government there we helped create (albeit the one who for all intents and purposes kicked us out). But secretly it asked us recently for some air support against the militants.

And now after declaring our involvement Iraq over President Barack Obama says nothing is off the table, all options are being considered, in the crisis there.

Let’s see: Vietnam, Iraq (two times, now three?), and Afghanistan (where the Taliban is just waiting for us to leave in order to take over).

Is there something similar in all of these?

When you don’t fight a war to win you lose.

Don’t get into war unless you have the stomach to win.

How can our leaders look into the eyes on the faces of the loved ones of those who have died in these wars?

So much sacrifice. For what?

P.s.

It seems to me that the only sensible way to have handled things was to go for all-out victory and then impose rule by a transition government of our creation and stay engaged. If that was not practical then we should have not been involved in the first place. If we go back now I doubt half measures will work. It’s a tough decision. Do we have leadership here in the United States capable of handling it? Not sure of that at all…

 


Since when do deserters get promoted to sergeant for their efforts?

June 4, 2014

There are a lot of unknowns about the soldier Bowe Bergdahl story. Was he a deserter? Did he willingly leave his post in Afghanistan? Actually the answers to those questions appear to be yes according to all the stories I have read and heard so far, although there is usually some qualification. But he was a PFC when captured by the Taliban. He was held for five years until being released the other day in a surprise and perplexing move by President Barack Obama trading five high-level Taliban fighters we (the U.S.) held for the release of Bergdahl.

In the meantime he somehow magically became a sergeant.

I realize that Bergdahl may not be sinister. He was likely or is likely a confused young man. And a disillusioned young man when he saw first-hand what was going on in the Afghanistan War. He reportedly wrote emails expressing dismay and revulsion at the way U.S. soldiers treated Afghan people (we are not supposed to be at war with them, but rather the Taliban and Al Qaeda). He also referred to fellow soldiers who went along with the program as “fools”, I think I am correct in saying.

(And whatever Bergdhal witnessed was one man’s perspective in a certain time and place and not the broad view. War is ugly and there is not always a clear right and wrong like in those traditional war movies many of us have watched.)

There seems to be some question as to whether he was captured while performing his duties or whether he wandered away (ran away) from his post and then was grabbed by the enemy. But from the way everyone qualifies everything, it seems they are only being polite or defensive, with the understood meaning being that, well he deserted. I don’t know.

But I find it curious and even insulting that while he was held prisoner he was promoted from PFC to sergeant. It’s bad enough they promoted him, let alone skipped a rank. There is an intermediate rank between private first class and sergeant. I’m not sure whether this promotion in absentia in a situation as this has been done before. But if there is a question as to whether Bergdahl was a deserter or away without leave or not at his post or whatever, what is this promotion all about? How insulting to those who work for it and show actual leadership capability. And how insulting to we taxpayers. Oh, and how insulting to other POWs with no question as to their loyalty.

There almost has to be something more to this story. But even so, it is doubtful anything can make it right. If I understand it correctly, the Obama administration wanted to hand off the Taliban prisoners even before the Bergdahl swap was suggested. I don’t know what that is all about. Have to do more reading. From something I heard the president say, it appears he thinks former Taliban fighters might become part of the “peace process”. So this was a goodwill gesture and a chance to reunite a captured American soldier with his family.

Well regardless of Bergdahl’s actions I am happy for him and his family. I mean if he did wrong, maybe he can be forgiven. And I hate to see any families suffer the anguish.

But if he did wrong he is going to have a hard time living with the fact that some American soldiers reportedly lost their lives and other troops were occupied looking for him, shortly after his capture (escape).

And how the president thought that making such fanfare over this swap would be a good idea, I cannot imagine.

Swapping those who want to kill Americans for someone who deserted? I don’t get it.

p.s.

And if in fact Bergdahl did act honorably (even if the published emails or quotes from them are true) I don’t know why the administration and the military and his family would not proclaim this. Well, actually Susan Rice did — but her job seems to be taking flak.