Category Archives: Defense & Military Affairs

Homegrown Terrorists

In a post in The American Thinker, its editor Thomas Lifson reports on the activities of two homegrown terrorists: the French citizen who murdered an Israeli couple (and two more people) at the Brussels Jewish Museum and an American citizen who blew himself up in Syria. Lifson points out how with a slight change of appearance, the American terrorist could have easily accessed say a US shopping mall to carry out his deadly deed.

Europeans have previously tasted the bitter vile of homegrown terrorism – for example, the perpetrators of the London tube massacre were British citizens. In America, with the exception of Timothy McVeigh, we have been largely spared this scourge. (I don’t count the Tsarnaev brothers as homegrown, but the Fort Hood Islamist, Major Hasan, certainly counts.) Yet there is every reason to be concerned that this deadly phenomenon – that is, homegrown terrorism – will be practiced on our shores with greater regularity in the near future.

This is a frightening development. But let’s be clear about a few indisputable facts concerning the issue:

  1. Future perpetrators are virtually guaranteed to be Islamists, newly radicalized by extremist elements found in US mosques and other Islamic organizations.
  2. Their targets are likely to be Jewish, but their hatred of America parallels their enmity toward Jews and Israelis – so domestic iconic landmarks (e.g., the Statue of Liberty) and mass venues (e.g., shopping malls) will certainly be on their hit list.
  3. The surest means to combat this plague include: (i) call it what it is – terrorism, not “workplace violence”; (ii) prosecute those caught before, during or after their heinous deeds and put them to death; (iii) infiltrate, disrupt and destroy domestic (and foreign) networks that support domestic jihad; (iv) bring the full weight of law enforcement (including military capabilities) to bear in the fight against domestic terrorism; and (v) combat the foreign entities that support and inspire domestic terrorists.
  4. It will be difficult to carry out the previous steps without impinging on the liberties of law-abiding American citizens. The effort will be concentrated in the executive branches of government; but it must involve the legislative and judicial branches as well in order to protect said liberties.

During the twentieth century, the United States led the free world in the ultimately successful battles against Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism. The sooner we recognize that we are now engaged with a twenty-first century totalitarian enemy – radical Islam – the quicker we will defeat it and spare our citizens future bloodshed at the hands of homegrown terrorists.

This post also appeared in The American Thinker

Wow! The Left Celebrated Memorial Day Too

Examining the remarkable change in attitude of the American public toward military personnel over the last few decades

Those of us old enough to remember the Vietnam War recall very vividly the contempt and calumny that was heaped upon our military personnel both during and after the conflict. America lived through a shameful period in which those who wore the uniform were treated horribly by the American public, for whom those slandered soldiers had fought and sometimes died. While it was true that the behavior of a small segment of America’s military – e.g., those that perpetrated the My Lai massacre – warranted public opprobrium, the vast majority of American soldiers (almost all of whom were conscripts) deported themselves honorably, and often courageously, in Vietnam. Nevertheless, when public opinion turned against the war, it too frequently manifested itself in scorn and derision directed against our men (and women) in uniform. This persisted even after the conflict ended. Although the worst treatment meted out to soldiers and veterans was probably limited to the hands of extreme left-wing activists, politicians and media-types, much of the country seemed to acquiesce in an attitude summarized in these points:

• The American military is a corrupt, morally repugnant and dangerous entity that brings shame and dishonor to the country.

• It is a contemptible institution unworthy of the public’s respect.

• Its leaders are venal, self-serving, violence-prone and unrepresentative of American values.

• Its soldiers are at best innocent and unwitting pawns in their leaders’ brutal designs and at worst savage, drug-crazed warriors engaged in illegal warfare.

It was disgusting; especially given how widespread it was and how long it went unchallenged. The attitude was also completely misguided and contrary to the historical pattern of respect and admiration that heretofore had been accorded our nation’s military forces. It symbolized a period of collective madness exhibited by the people of the nation.Thankfully, this attitude softened considerably with the conversion of the military from conscription to volunteer, and then further with the advent of the Reagan administration. Certainly, in the 80s and 90s, the reputation of active military personnel improved perceptibly in the public’s eye. But Vietnam vets were still viewed with suspicion. And in truth, an overall healthy respect for the military was still far from the norm.

America’s remaining coolness to the military in this period is best highlighted by the famous incident in the White House wherein a relatively low level staffer informed a senior military officer that “I don’t greet military people.” An interesting corollary of this attitude was the spillover to police/fire/rescue personnel – or “first responders” as we now call them. The public’s respect for and admiration of first responders, albeit not as low as for military personnel still fell far below its traditional level.

But things changed dramatically after 9/11. A decade later, the public’s respect for, appreciation of and gratitude toward military personnel and first responders is arguably higher than it’s ever been in our nation’s history. I’ll outline the manifestations of this monumental change momentarily, but first let us consider: how did this miraculous transformation come about? Here are three possible reasons:

  1. The monumental heroism displayed by uniformed personnel in NY and DC on that day, and in the next few months in Afghanistan, was so stupendously eye-opening that it caused tens of millions of Americans to reassess their attitude toward military personnel and first responders.
  2. America finally tired of its abnormal distrust of the military and returned to its historical gratitude for the job uniformed people do under life-threatening conditions.
  3. The moderate Left ultimately recognized the damage that they were doing to the cause of freedom in the US and around the world, and so modified its opinion. Having done so, this broke a logjam and the rest of the country was pleased to accept the change of heart and follow suit.

I suppose that the true reason is some combination of the above. Whatever the reason, today, Americans routinely witness enthusiastic and emotional public displays of affection, respect, even love toward military personnel. Whether it be a spontaneous burst of applause for uniformed personnel in public venues; laudatory media stories focusing on the heroism and selflessness of our troops; testimonials to the bravery and indispensability of our armed forces; or just neighborhood alliances with first responders; examples of adulation of military personnel occur frequently all over the land. During the last decade, this change in attitude has survived the bloody civil war in Iraq following our successful invasion but botched occupation; the gut-wrenching disputes over the role of women and gays in the military; and the Obama administration’s devaluing the importance of military preparedness and its draconian cuts to military budgets. Despite these, America’s affection for and gratitude toward the American military remains strong – even on the Left. It is a wonder to observe – as one easily could do on Memorial Day just passed – liberal politicians, media types and activists gushing with praise for our military personnel, and acknowledging the debt that we owe them. I suspect that for some – e.g., Mr. Obama – it’s just a matter of reading the political tea leaves and bending with the current trends. Should America’s support of its military personnel wane again, the hard Left will be off that horse real fast. But I also suspect that among the moderate Left, the affection is genuine. Those folks seem finally to have come to their senses – namely even if they support big government, fear free markets and prefer multiculturalism to traditional American values, they still love America, treasure its freedoms and want the US to be the harbinger of same around the world. They realize, perhaps belatedly, that a strong military is a necessary and vital component of the effort. It gives a conservative hope. Maybe, if we can help the moderate Left to shove Obama – and the hard lefties that surround him – aside, America can resume its normal role as a beacon of liberty and prosperity to the world.
This article also appeared in The Intellectual Conservative at:

Nation Building: From Success to Failure

An examination of the differences between past and recent US nation building efforts; why the former succeeded and the latter failed.

The United States has been involved in serious nation building over the last decade in two Middle Eastern nations – Iraq and Afghanistan. These ventures recall two other major efforts of this type dating back to the middle of last century – Germany and Japan. By any measure, the earlier two (Germany and Japan) were rip-snorting successes. On the other hand, with regard to the most recent two (Iraq and Afghanistan) – although the final word is not in yet – it appears highly unlikely that either will prove to be anything other than a disaster. To evaluate why success has been followed by failure, we shall first need a concrete definition of the concept of nation building.

Wikipedia entries must always be treated with caution, but in this case, the definition provided there will serve adequately for the purposes of this piece. To wit: [The] deliberate effort by a foreign power to construct or install the institutions of a national government, according to a model that may be more familiar to the foreign power…[and]…typically characterized by massive investment, military occupation, transitional government, and the use of propaganda to communicate governmental policy. Furthermore, in all cases in which the US has been the foreign power, the process has always been …succinctly described by its proponents as the use of force [and coercion] in the aftermath of a conflict to underpin an enduring transition to democracy.

The US occupations of (West) Germany and Japan following their defeat in World War II were absolute and unqualified successes. Both nations were converted from brutal, totalitarian dictatorships into peaceful, democratic, free nations whose societies adopted social/political/cultural mores much more reminiscent of the Western, liberal tradition than of an Eastern, authoritarian model. Moreover, those changes have endured over three successive generations.

No one expects that the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, which are now winding down, will achieve even a fraction of the success enjoyed by the preceding two. A fragile democracy has indeed been installed in Iraq. But it appears unlikely to survive the fractured ethnic structure of the population, the intrusive enmity of its neighbors, the lack of any historical basis of free institutions, the sponsor’s loss of interest, and a position in the crosshairs of radical Islamic forces seeking to remake that portion of the world. We have also installed a fragile government in Afghanistan, but it is certainly not a democracy. Moreover, each of the five conditions stated above calling into question the survivability of the US sponsored regime in Iraq applies to Afghanistan – with even more emphasis, if possible.

One might argue that the US engaged in two other great efforts at nation building between the first two and last two named above – namely, Korea and Vietnam. The second of these will immediately and legitimately be labeled as an abject failure. On the other hand, given the situation today in (South) Korea, one could argue that that effort was a success. But strictly speaking, neither of these efforts qualifies as nation building according to the afore-stated definition. In Vietnam, we never got to that phase, because we never achieved the requisite military success to initiate the process of changing the political/cultural structure of the nation. In Korea, at least in the South, we did reach that point, but after the armistice, we made no serious effort to alter the politics or culture of the nation. Nevertheless, I will apply to both Korea and Vietnam the criteria that I develop below as I attempt to identify why our retooling of the Axis nations succeeded, while our remaking of the two Muslim Middle Eastern nations failed.

The criteria I will examine are:

  1. Size of the occupying force.
  2. Duration of the effort.
  3. Extent of US control of developments in the occupied country. This includes whether there is any local resistance, but also the isolation of the target, i.e., the US’ ability to control the regional environment surrounding the occupied country.
  4. US understanding of the culture and history of the occupied country and its people.
  5. Level of support in the US for the venture.
  6. Stature of the US in the world at the time and its willingness to project power.

The meaning of each of these half-dozen criteria should be evident. Moreover, it should be clear that all have a bearing on the success or failure of a nation building effort. While other criteria could be envisioned, I believe these six represent the crucial factors that will determine success or failure in a nation building enterprise.

Let’s consider the cases in chronological order:

  • Germany. Five of six of the factors were in our favor. The occupying force was large; it stayed for a long while (remnants are still there); we had an excellent understanding of Germany and its people (at the time, Germans comprised one of the largest ethnic groups in the US); the American people were totally behind the recreation of Germany as a democratic state; and the US was the preeminent power in the world with no shame or hesitation about projecting that power. The only failing criterion was #3: Germany was half-surrounded by Soviet clients and mischief across its borders was theoretically possible. But Germany was thoroughly defeated, America had ample forces on the ground and the Soviets were so preoccupied consolidating their own gains in Eastern Europe as to forestall any meaningful attempt at subversive destabilization of W. Germany (at the time).
  • Japan. Again, we enjoyed five of six. The missing ingredient here was #4: a deep understanding of the Japanese people and culture. But we had total control of the country, which contained a people willing to try something different, and we deployed some extraordinary personnel (from MacArthur down) who did a fantastic job. In some ways, our success in Japanese nation building was more amazing than in the German effort. The Japanese nation, indeed the world is a far better place for our nation building project there. It was a phenomenal American achievement.
  • Korea. Although we were in a position to engage in nation building in South Korea in 1953, we did not do so. Actually, of the six criteria, only #4 and #5 were not satisfied. We had sufficient troops, and as time has shown, the capability of keeping them in place for a very long time. We were in complete control of the southern portion of the peninsula and we were still the most powerful nation on Earth. Of course we had little understanding of Korean culture and the folks at home were weary of the venture. Whether this would have been sufficient to succeed cannot be known since we didn’t really try.
  • Vietnam. Like Korea, our effort here does not count because we never got to the nation building phase. As for the criteria: only #1 and #2 applied. We committed a half-million troops for nearly a decade. But we failed at the remaining four criteria. We never really established control of South Vietnam or its neighbors; we understood the Vietnamese even less well than we understood the Koreans or Japanese; the domestic opposition to our Vietnam adventure was fierce; and from the mid 60s to the end of the 70s, US global stature was declining as the Soviets were on the march.
  • Iraq. Again only #1 and #2 were satisfied. That we failed at 3-5 is self-evident. And certainly with the arrival of the Obama administration, #6 eluded us too. In fact, one could claim, as many did, that we did not have enough boots on the ground. As for #2, eight years should be long enough. It didn’t take much longer than that in Germany and Japan. But now we can’t get out of Iraq quickly enough.
  • Afghanistan. Once again, virtually everything said about Iraq is true here in spades. The only caveat is domestic opposition to this venture is somewhat tempered by 9-11 and our elimination of Osama bin Laden.

So what conclusions can we draw? All the criteria are important to the success of a nation building mission; in principle, one would like them all to be satisfied. But is it possible that the lack of any one or specific group of them must prove fatal? In Germany we lacked #3 and in Japan #4, yet we succeeded. On the other hand, I believe that the other four are indispensable. However, I also believe that, regarding #1 and #2, this is so basic as to be obvious and uninteresting. They are a set of minimum necessary criteria. What is more surprising is the absolute necessity of #5 and #6. These are not as self-evidently necessary as are #1 and #2. But as history has shown, without them, there is no chance of success. Without the support of the homeland, there cannot be a sustained will to carry through with the incredibly difficult task of fundamentally altering the course of a nation. And without the requisite power and willingness to use it, even with the political will to nation build, there will not be the capability.

With these lessons in mind, we might ponder any future nation building enterprise under consideration. There are those who advocate such an exercise in Syria or Iran. But it should be completely clear that none of conditions 3-6 will be fulfilled for either of those nations. Our examination has revealed that this might not prove fatal in case of #3 or #4, but the missing pieces in #5 and #6 would surely spell doom. Of course, we have a compelling interest in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. We will just have to do so without attempting to alter the character of that tortured nation.
This article also appeared in The Intellectual Conservative at:
and also in The Land of the Free at:

America Abdicates

The story in July 29th’s Wall Street Journal about the death of a Libyan rebel leader also describes the unending ebb and flow of the battle lines between Kaddafi’s forces and those of the rag-tag group of “patriots” who oppose them. More generally, the situation in virtually all of the countries convulsed over the last half year by Arab spring uprisings (i.e., Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain and others) remains confused at best. With the exception of Libya and Egypt, the US has played no role in these potentially monumental events – it seems content to sit idly by while upheavals that could dramatically affect the US and its allies play out according to a dynamic that is ill understood. Incidentally, the US role in Libya was to goad the Europeans to intervene with absolutely minimal assistance from us; and its role in Egypt was to toss overboard our main asset on the ground and then withdraw and hope for the best.

Thus the new Obama Doctrine as explained in the July/August issue of Commentary by Feith and Cropsey. In a nutshell: America’s role in world affairs has been aggressive and arrogant; America owes the world an apology for failing to understand the needs of the people who have been negatively impacted by our assertiveness; and the US must defer to multilateral organizations in order to work for the world’s general good. Our belief in American exceptionalsim has done more harm than good.

This new doctrine is completely at odds with how America has seen its role in the world since it emerged as a global power approximately a century ago. The US has intervened – overtly and covertly – in numerous regional conflicts around the globe in that time. Many of the interventions were successful (Grenada, Taiwan, Korea [we didn’t win, but we prevented a Communist takeover], the Philippines, Israel [Nixon’s airlift], the Falklands [in support of the Brits], Chile, Afghanistan [helped drive out the Soviets], Dominican Republic). Some led to various degrees of failure (Vietnam, Iran [Carter’s rescue mission], Lebanon). A few remain unresolved (Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans). The point is that we saw ourselves as a force for good in the world. We took our role as a world superpower seriously and when our interests or those of our allies were threatened, we acted – with force, if necessary – to protect those interests.

No more. According to the wise one, those interventions reflected American arrogance, self-indulgence, insensitivity and almost always damaged the people whose needs we ignored in our ignoble desire to demonstrate our might. But the wise one now asserts that we have overcome such wanton disregard for our fellow citizens of the Earth. Henceforth, we shall constrain ourselves from actions that are not endorsed by the “world community”; we shall reign in and rarely display our power; we shall engage even our most implacable foes in dialog; and we shall reorient our focus toward ameliorating the ills that plague our own society before we assume the moral authority to address the plight of others.

Thus the Arab world careens further down the road to jihadist violence; Iran surmounts the final obstacles toward achieving nuclear power status; Russia sinks further into a degenerate gangster state; Latin America veers sharply left; Israel is threatened with annihilation; Western Civilization continues its dance with death in Europe; and America accelerates its inexorable slide toward financial Armageddon. The US is not only abdicating its role as a world leader; it is surrendering to the dark forces – external and internal – that threaten its existence.
This post also appeared in The American Thinker at:

Debt Debate Discloses Dems’ Depravity

George W. Bush drove the car straight toward the ditch, but the Obama-Pelosi-Reid team accelerated the vehicle and now we are either in the ditch or at best teetering precipitously on the edge. When Bush left office, the annual budget deficit was a shocking $460 billion and the national debt stood at a gaudy $10.63 trillion. Now, two and one-half years into the Obama era, encompassing two years in which the Dems controlled both the Executive and Congress, the annual deficit has reached a staggering $1.4 trillion – roughly 40% of the entire annual budget, and the debt has ballooned to $14.35 trillion.

This fiscal state of affairs has scared the hell out of the American people – yet it’s only one of three “achievements” of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid team that has mortified the populace. The second is the passage of Obamacare. The third is the Obama Doctrine of Constrainment (as explained by Douglas Feith and Seth Cropsey in the July/August issue of Commentary). Sayeth those sage analysts,

Two large ideas animate the Obama Doctrine. The first is that America’s role in world affairs for more than a century has been, more often than not, aggressive rather than constrained, wasteful rather than communal, and arrogant in promoting democracy, despite our own democratic shortcomings. Accordingly, America has much to apologize for, including failure to understand others, refusal to defer sufficiently to others, selfishness in pursuing U.S. interests as opposed to global interests, and showing far too much concern for U.S. sovereignty, independence, and freedom of action. The second idea is that multilateral institutions offer the best hope for restraining U.S. power and moderating our national assertiveness…the United States should drop its obsession with its own national interests and concentrate on working for the world’s general good on an equal footing with other countries, recognizing that it is multinational bodies that grant legitimacy on the world stage.

In short, Obama and the Dems have rejected the notion of American exceptionalism – which has been a staple of American belief since the Founders – and the people are aghast at the President’s anti-Americanism.

As for Obamacare, Americans realize that it heralds the arrival of socialized medicine in our land – which is guaranteed to dramatically curtail the quality of American health care – and that it will hugely exacerbate the deficit/debt problem. Unlike virtually all historic American legislation (Constitutional Amendments, Social Security, Medicare, Civil Rights laws) – which were passed with bipartisan support and substantial majorities, Obamacare was rammed through Congress in a blatantly partisan fashion with the barest of majorities via dubious legislative tricks. The unholy passage of Obamacare revealed clearly that the Left is determined to complete its march to the Euro-socialist nirvana at which it has been aiming for more than a century – irrespective of the nefarious and duplicitous means it must employ to do so.

That assessment is reinforced by the behavior of Obama and his henchmen in the current debate over raising the debt ceiling. Conservatives see the debt ceiling tap dance that the Congress has been doing for decades as emblematic of the big government calamity that has befallen our country. Conservatives have seized on the current installment of the dance as an opportunity to link this destructive act to a serious effort at federal spending reduction. They are determined to ransom the debt ceiling rise to a significant shrinking of the federal government behemoth in the belief that it will set the country on a course to reverse a century-long liberal stranglehold on the nation’s politics and culture.

Naturally, liberals see this as an existential threat. They fear, correctly, that any success by conservatives in truly reversing the growth of government might spell the death knell for all that liberals have “achieved.” Since liberals control the White House and the Senate, they can and will thwart any such conservative effort. Moreover, they will pull absolutely no punches in their attempt to do so. Thus:

  • Obama, Geithner et al threaten that, if the debt ceiling is not raised, the country will default. But they know full well that there are sufficient incoming federal revenues to pay the interest on the debt, Social Security and Medicare obligations, unemployment benefits and military salaries. Other federal programs (e.g., all the useless and wasteful projects run by the Departments of Education, Energy, Commerce and Agriculture) might have to go unfunded, but Obama places off limits his personal, favorite boondoggles like “green jobs,” high-speed rail and unexpended stimulus moneys.
  • The President explicitly threatens that Social Security benefits might not be paid, knowing full well that after the interest on the debt, and perhaps military pay, that is the next item that Americans will insist be paid. He is purposefully trying to terrify seniors and to direct that terror toward Republicans.
  • The President and the Dems blame the oncoming “default” on unpaid bills incurred by Bush tax cuts, Bush’s Medicare Drug Prescription Plan and Bush’s Iraq War, ignoring the Obama stimulus, Obamacare, Dodd-Franks and the nearly $5 trillion dollars of budget deficits that the big O has racked up. In other words, “we Dems are completely innocent; it’s Bush and the Republicans’ fault.”
  • Obama blatantly lies that 80% of the people favor tax raises as part of a debt ceiling deal, knowing full well that the polls do not support his assertion and that the mainstream media will not hold him accountable.
  • The President and his attack dogs (like Senators Reid and Schumer) demonize business as part of their class warfare effort. They hope to galvanize the approximately 50% of the public that pays no income taxes into blaming the mess on what the Dems identify as the usual Republican cohorts of corporate jet owners, hedge fund managers, oil companies, the “rich” and “Wall Street.” This tactic is particularly divisive, mean-spirited, and subversive of the goal of national unity.
  • The Dems assert that Bush, Republicans, conservatives and Tea Partiers are responsible for the unending recession, the housing crisis, the energy crisis, high unemployment, the out-of-control federal debt and impending high interest rates. Either they are blithely unaware or nefariously cognizant of the fact that their beloved big government, high tax, rampant spending, Keynesian policies are in fact the cause of all these calamities. If the former, they are incompetent and should not have the levers of power in their hands. If the latter – which I suspect is true of some Dems, including Obama – then the country is in mortal danger from Alinsky radicals who will purposefully push us over the aforementioned edge.

The Dems believe that they can repeat 1994-96. They have absolutely no intention of giving an inch toward meaningful spending reductions in return for a raise in the debt ceiling. They are daring Republicans to block a debt ceiling rise and hoping the Republicans will take the bait. The Dems intend to blame the ensuing financial difficulties – however serious they might be – on Republicans and they believe that the people will buy it. They might be right. But their cynicism, their wanton disregard for the welfare of the American people, indeed their depravity is on clear display – if the people will only see it.

Indeed the Republicans might be walking into a trap. If you play fair and your opponent plays dirty, it’s hard to prevail. Given that, it might be that no real start on reversing America’s slide to socialism can begin while the Dems control the White House and the Senate. Therefore, Republicans must unite behind a strategy and a candidate to retake those prizes. That seems to me a necessary – albeit, alas, not a sufficient – condition to achieve the goal of reversing America’s side into a liberal/socialist oblivion. The wildfire that started with Rick Santelli’s rant must spread further throughout the country and convert a substantial majority of Americans to the conclusion that the liberal trajectory of the nation over the last century has been a disaster and must be sharply reversed.

With minor exceptions under Coolidge, Reagan and fleetingly in the time of Gingrich, liberals have been in nearly complete command of the national political conversation in the last century. Like any spoiled brat, a liberal will do anything to preserve what he sees as his innate prerogatives. Liberal temper tantrums and underhanded behavior are on full display in the debt ceiling debate.

This article also appeared in The American Thinker and The Intellectual Conservative at these sites: