Friday, December 2, 2016

Fatah Fading

It is about one week before the Seventh General Congress of the Fatah party in Ramallah. 1,400 members will participate, but very few people outside Fatah care. As Avi Issacharoff writes in an excellent article in The Times of Israel,
How does the Palestinian public regard this congress? With a great deal of indifference, and in some cases outright hostility. Fatah has not managed to improve its status or image in the public’s eyes over the past several years….
The gathered apparatchiks will elect members of the movement’s two most powerful bodies, the Central Committee and the Revolutionary Council–but just reflect for a moment over those names, “Central Committee” and “Revolutionary Council.” The terms are relics of the movement’s pro-Soviet past and of its birth during the Cold War. And Fatah has completely failed to make the change to becoming a modern political party. The old Arafat machine remains a corrupt system dominated by a few aging figures, with Mahmoud Abbas, now 82–Palestinian Authority president, PLO chairman, and Fatah chairman–at the top.
Moreover, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are completely at odds with the Arab world’s most important governments, in part over Abbas’s banning of his rival Mohammed Dahlan. As Issacharoff wrote,
A severe, unprecedented crisis has broken out between the Palestinian Authority and the moderate Arab world. Abbas is close to cutting off relations with the Sunni Arab states, Egypt and Saudi Arabia first among them. Cairo stands behind Dahlan and encourages his various activities. Saudi Arabia has suspended its financial aid to the PA. The United Arab Emirates is giving Dahlan official protection, and Jordan could not care less about what happens in Ramallah.
My own conversations during a recent trip to the Gulf suggested that the Issacharoff analysis is on the mark. Abbas, despite his age, has no plans to lay down the reins–ever. The party congress next week will lead to more bitterness as those pushed aside revolt against their new and diminished status. Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the PA-PLO-Fatah system is increasingly repressive, destroying freedom of the press and using the PA security forces against perceived enemies. Popular support, which has been low for years, continues to decline. As ABC News reported,
With the long-ruling Palestinian Fatah faction torn by rivalries, fierce shootouts between Palestinian security forces and Fatah-aligned gunmen have erupted in recent months, plunging the Balata [refugee] camp into unrest and lawlessness. The violence, much of it directed at a Fatah leadership seen as corrupt and out of touch, comes as the movement prepares to hold an overdue leadership conference at the end of the month and reflects a combustible power struggle….
During a recent conference in the Gulf, I listened to Americans, Europeans, and Arabs discuss the major problems of the Arab world: Iran’s growing power, the Russian role, the diminution of American strength and involvement under the 44th administration, the crisis in Syria…and not a word about the Palestinians. Correction: one word, from a BBC journalist who called the Palestinian issue a “core” issue for the region. Like Fatah’s leaders, she is living in the past.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Minds And Motives

There will come a time when our nation can fairly evaluate 43's strategy and record in fighting terrorism. Perhaps that time can start now. A new book by James Mitchell, a man who questioned 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed contains an extraordinary revelation. 

It turns out that those who believe that al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. in order to draw us into an Afghan quagmire are wrong. Terrorists attacked America expecting that we’d respond as we traditionally had, by treating terrorism primarily as a law-enforcement problem, with the military response limited to cruise-missile attacks like 42’s ineffective 1998 strikes in response to the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Instead, 43 chose a different course.

Writing in the Washington Post, Marc Thiessen quotes from Mitchell’s account: “Then he [KSM] looked at me and said, ‘How was I supposed to know that cowboy 43 would announce he wanted us ‘dead or alive’ and then invade Afghanistan to hunt us down?’” Mitchell writes. “KSM explained that if the United States had treated 9/11 like a law-enforcement matter, he would have had time to launch a second wave of attacks.” He was not able to do so because al-Qaeda was stunned “by the ferocity and swiftness of 43's response.” 
Americans often ascribe superhuman levels of endurance and perseverance to our terrorist enemies. We believe terrorists scoff at losses and feel no fear. We think they relish dying, and the more they die, the more they inspire new recruits. We are convinced that they want to fight us, and when we do, we’re playing into their hands. But those of us who’ve deployed overseas know a different story.
 Terrorists are people, too. They panic, they feel fear, and most of them try to preserve their lives. They want to kill us, but they don’t necessarily want to fight. In my deployment, we captured five or six terrorists for every one we killed. Indeed, some of the terrorists who fought to the death only did so while high on drugs.

As 45 takes office, regardless of his existing views of American “entanglements” overseas, he must understand that under no circumstances should America’s terrorist enemies be permitted to create safe havens. For more than two years, 44 and the West allowed ISIS to build and maintain its caliphate, and while it is under siege now, the jihadists have done enormous damage. It is up to the new commander in chief to help a war-weary public understand that our enemy hopes we tire before they do. 
 Indeed, as Thiessen notes, our enemy is counting on our exhaustion. “In the end, he told Mitchell, ‘We will win because Americans don’t realize . . . we do not need to defeat you militarily; we only need to fight long enough for you to defeat yourself by quitting.’” Our enemy is human, but its leaders have the resolve to fight the long fight. In the United States, we don’t lack for young men and women who share that same determination. 
Jihadists can’t outlast the American warrior. Can they outlast the American public?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Oh Kuznetsov!

Commonwealth Russia's Naval Aviation ain't all that!

Many of the fast jets that were embarked on the Russia aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov have been flown to the main Russian air base in Syria, Airbus Defence and Space satellite imagery obtained by IHS Jane's shows.

The imagery shows eight Russian Federation Navy Su-33 and one MiG-29KR jets alongside various Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) aircraft at Humaymim Air Base in Latakia province on 20 November.

Kuznetsov can carry around 20 fast jets and is known to have embarked at least eight Su-33s for its current deployment in the Eastern Mediterranean, and at least four of the new MiG-29KR multirole fighters for the first time. One of the new jets crashed on 14 November, an incident that a Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) statement attributed to an unspecified "equipment fault during an approach for deck landing".

The Russian news website Gazeta published an article on 21 November that cited a source knowledgeable about carrier operations as saying that the MiG-29KR was circling Kuznetsov due to a problem with one of the carrier's four arrestor cables when both its engines failed, forcing the pilot to eject.

The MoD indicated that there were no problems with Kuznetsov's flight operations on 15 November, when it announced that its aircraft had carried out airstrikes against targets in Syria. It released video footage showing Su-33s loaded with unguided bombs and taking off from Kuznetsov, but the MiG-29KRs were not seen flying, hinting they may have been grounded after the crash.

Monday, November 28, 2016


There is more than enough evidence to judge the Castros’ legacy for what it is: the systematic exploitation and oppression of the Cuban people.

Two decades of “Castro-is-dead” rumors are finally at an end. And the race is on to see which world leader can most fulsomely praise Fidel Castro’s legacy, while delicately averting their eyes from his less savory characteristics. Two dul -elected leaders of democracies who should know better, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and 44, are leading the way. Mr. Trudeau praised Castro as a “legendary revolutionary and orator” who “made significant improvements to the education and health care of his island nation.” 44 offered his “condolences” to the Cuban people, and blandly suggested that “history will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure.” Now, he added, we can “look to the future.”

With all due respect to 44, the 60 years Fidel Castro spent systematically exploiting and oppressing the people of Cuba provide more than enough history to pass judgment on both Fidel and, now more importantly, his brother Raul.


Lee Kwan Yew, Augusto Pinochet, Francisco Franco, Chiang Kai Shek, Park Chung-he: all of these dictators and authoritarians can mock Fidel Castro. They left their countries better off than they found them, and while many of them committed terrible crimes, they can also point to great accomplishments. Fidel has only the crimes.

Fidel leaves a shattered society and a desperately poor country behind him. Cuba is more divided today than it was when he conquered it; it is less able to shape its destiny than it was in 1959, and its future will likely be more closely linked to the United States after his death than before his seizure of power

Adios, failed autocrat

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Thankful for being an American. Everything else just seems to fall into place.

Pic - "Almighty God - We totally thank thee for raising up this laughing race of free men, avatars of Thy divine deigns that "Whosoever will" - may. That fun and free choice shall not perish from the earth - we are eternally grateful for l'nom d'guerr "Americans" 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Drones Challange The Law OF Armed Conflict

Over the last eight years, 44’s counterterrorism policy has in large part been defined by drone strikes against a number of terrorist targets around the world.

Indeed, the U.S. drone program is a global enterprise, with bases in at least 10 countries, lethal operations in at least seven countries, and coordination of drone operations with numerous partners and allies.

But even as the Drones Gone Wild program has become a cornerstone of counterterrorism policy, its implementation has raised a number of questions, particularly with regard to the use of drones outside active combat zones or in countries not engaged in war with the United States.

Central to these questions has been the ongoing secrecy surrounding the U.S. lethal drone program, including limited details on casualty figures, a lack of information on the legal framework supporting the program, little insight into policy guidance, and next to no information on how targeted drone strikes fit in with broader strategic objectives.

One of the main challenges with the U.S. drone program is that it has been relatively difficult to assess the basis for and impact of the program itself. Over the last eight years, the administration has released very few documents relating to the legal justification for the lethal drone program, and those that have been released have been primarily only under court order. It wasn’t until the summer of 2016 that the 44th Administration released the first government-provided data on casualties of U.S. “counterterrorism strikes,” as well as a heavily redacted version of the Presidential Policy Guidance (PPG) that governs the use of force and armed drone strikes outside of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, countries that are considered “areas of active hostilities.”

While these documents shine some much needed light on the human cost of the U.S. drone program and provide some much-sought insight into the legal rationale underpinning the U.S. drone program, they emphasize the decision-making process without significant clarification of the legal standards for the program. Indeed, the only thing that can be definitively said after these two releases is that the U.S. drone program demonstrates the flexible nature in which the administration has applied law, rules, and regulations.

The use of drones by the United States has challenged the application of the law of armed conflict. For over a decade, the United States has seemed to widely interpret its legal right to target and kill those individuals identified as a member of al-Qaida or its associated forces wherever they are located. However, the ways in which individuals are identified is based on undisclosed criteria and evidence. Moreover, it appears that there has been little means for anyone outside the secretive process to identify or remedy mistakes. This ad hoc application of international legal standards and principles undermines support for the international rule of law.

Current U.S. drone policy is also devoid of public understanding of the processes through which targeting decisions are made, and the domestic and international legal justifications for these decisions. Though detailed and revealing in terms of the procedural process for uses of force against terrorist targets outside the domestic context and outside areas of active hostilities, the PPG release in August did not adequately explain the standards for the use of force outside active war zones, and the terms used within the PPG are seen as vague, inconsistent, and at times contradictory. Moreover, the PPG still neglects to explain the specific legal rules and standards that underpin U.S. drone policy and is particularly vague in terms of the application of international human rights law standards that should apply in such contexts.

Although armed drones are but one tool in the United States’ larger counterterrorism toolkit, they appear to have become the most coveted tool, and their reliability and usage is arguably driving U.S. strategy (rather than being a tactic of a larger strategy). And because it is unclear what oversight and accountability mechanisms are being utilized, it is difficult to gauge success. What remains is a lack of clear understanding of the structures in place to ensure that continued use of targeted strikes against “high-value targets” and associated forces is fulfilling and/or contributing to strategic goals and objectives. These challenges are compounded by continued uncertainty regarding how the administration assesses effectiveness, and the metrics and methodologies used to evaluate impact. Indeed, the opacity of the U.S. lethal drone program has made it impossible to identify the systems in place, if any, to responsibly respond to mistakes, pay reparations if necessary, or ensure that operations are not undermining longer-term strategic goals.

In short, the lack of information on the justifications and rationale behind the Obama Administration’s drone program makes it impossible to conduct any objective analysis of whether the program rests on appropriate standards and if it is accomplishing broader national security and foreign policy aims. Rather, the administration has resorted to a reliance on its own internal evaluations and a “trust us” mentality, which is inherently problematic. The lack of public information about the drone program limits discourse on key U.S. engagements and the use of force in countries around the world.

This discourse is vital to ensuring that U.S. drone use and policy is effective in addressing immediate threats as well as attending to broader strategic interests and foreign policy goals. These interests and goals include upholding U.S. commitments to the laws of war, international human rights law, and international humanitarian law, as well as establishing appropriate standards for the use of drone technology. All of these principles are essential to establishing an appropriate precedent for the use of lethal drones, particularly as other countries develop and seek to acquire similar capabilities.

The next president will inherit a U.S. drone policy that seemingly offers other countries a blank check to adopt and conduct drone operations based on questionable legal justifications and largely secret policy guidance. The 44th Administration’s continued reticence to provide substantive information on the breadth of the U.S. drone program, the legal justification behind it, and the costs and benefits of operations, poses risks within the United States and sets a dangerous precedent internationally.

45 will need to take steps to clearly and publicly establish rules for the U.S. drone program that provides the domestic and international legal framework for the U.S. drone program, including interpretations used by the United States with regard to international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

Congress has a role to play as well. It must place a larger priority on the U.S. drone program, provide more rigorous oversight over the program, and ask questions about its overall efficacy. Without clear and transparent rules, prominent oversight, and legal use, the U.S. drone program will undermine U.S. national security interests and foreign policy objectives, no matter how well-intended.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Mad Dog As Secretary Of Defense

Something kinda cool about command level Teufel Hunden nom d'guerr'd "Mad Dog."

As in General Mad Dog Mattis who may be getting the gig as 45's Defense Secretary...

If you’re going to put a general in there, Mattis is a good choice. He is a rarity in that he is a genuine strategic thinker, pushing himself and others to stretch their minds. This tendency is not always welcomed.

Having Mattis run the Defense Department would put the Marines in their most powerful position ever — they’d have the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman Joint Chief of Staff, and the commandant. If I were the Army I’d hunker down and plan for the future for a few years.

The relationship between SecDef and chairman of the Joint Chiefs would be especially interesting. Joseph Dunford, the CJCS, served under Mattis in Iraq in 2005.
 A Marine Corps Times profile put him in the Corps’ pantheon, calling him “a leader with almost mythical, rock-star status like Chesty Puller and Al Gray.” Check the #Mattisisms hashtag on twitter.

Congrats General Mattis!

Pic - Mad Dog says "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet."