'87 Sir

Thirty years of service ----USNA Class of 1987 '87 Sir

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Leadership in a time of crisis.

So, it is sad, but not unexpected, that every time another foreign policy debacle occurs on Obama's watch, the immediate action of the loony left is to chant-"It's BUSH'S FAULT!" loudly to all of their fellow traveller poltroons.

I actually recommended in a Facebook post the other day to one of those Obama fans that the title of his presidential memoir should be "Dreams of my Presidency-It's all Bush's Fault."  This, of course is a classic sign of narcissism-refusing to own your mistakes and blaming everyone else for your failures, but is, sadly, par for the course for this Administration and it's shrinking band of defenders.

So, take the current Middle East, now world crisis, which began almost 2 years ago with the sweeping out of the deserts of Syria (not Iraq mind you) of ISIS into northern Iraq, capturing Mosul, Ramadi, Fallujah, Bayji, and most of northern Iraq, stopping only at the gates of Baghdad and the line defended by Iraq's Kurdish population.  This group, deemed the "JV team" by our basketball loving President...who  no doubt will fill out his NCAA brackets no matter how many jihadis are killing people around the world, surpassed Al Qaeda in organization, strength, and most important--Ambition.  Not content to merely kill infidels, these particular evil doers wish to own and occupy territory in the failed states of Syria and Iraq.

Now, loony liberals immediately began the cry "BUSH CREATED ISIS, IT'S BUSH'S FAULT" right on cue...giving lefty pundits plenty to chew on and pontificate, even though most of them have no clue what the difference is between a Sunni and a Shiite and couldn't care less.

But, let's consider the facts. 

  • In 2010, Iraq was a stable, if imperfect country, where the  Sunni Awakening and Surge begun in late 2006 had begun to bear some fruit and create the potential for real political conciliation between Sunni, Shias, and Kurds in Iraq.  Yes the whole occupation was a train wreck..no doubt about that, and it took a major change in policy and strategy to salvage SOME level of victory, but Bush made the hard decision, knowing it would cost him politically.
  • When Obama took office there were a diminishing number of US troops in Iraq, training Iraqi forces, providing some CT capability, and generally providing a US presence to counter-balance Iranian influence and keep Shia politicians behaving themselves.
  • In 2011, after trumpeting how GREAT Iraq was as an Obama foreign policy success (remember ol' Joe on the news shows, you can Google it), Obama yanked all our forces out of Iraq, JUST as Syria was coming apart in a civil war.  This meant the US had NO ability to stop Iranian arms shipments to the Assad regime or help keep the Iraq army intact.  When US troops left, the Shia majority government started backsliding on including Sunnis in the government and military..and started to piss off the Kurds too.
  • In 2011, Syria came apart in a civil war, as did Libya...of course both of these were a result of the so-called "Arab Spring," really more of an Arab convulsing of got nothing left to lose rebellions.  In Syria, the Obama Administration bungled every which way--not taking a Russian overture to oust Assad, not bombing Syria when ACTUAL WMDs were used, and generally ensuring that our only allies would be moderate Sunnis jihadis..in effect we have allied with Al Qaeda against ISIS...how F'up is that?
  • In Libya, this Administration "LED FROM BEHIND" what the hell does that even mean, and what moron would ever say that as a national policy in taking down a dictator with...you guess it...NO PLAN to rebuild the country...in effect this Administration fought a war of choice against a contained regime (remember Qaddafi gave up his WMD in 2004 because he was afraid of that cowboy Bush)..because we wanted to "protect" people...well heck of a job Bammy...Libya is now a basket case as well...
  • AND THEN, there's Yemen.  Probably the BIGGEST and most unknown debacle of this Administration...and that's saying something.  Yemen sits astride very strategic waterways and borders two long time allies-Saudi Arabia (allies in the loosest sense) and Oman.  It is also in the throws of civil war and threatens to draw Iran and Saudi Arabia even deeper into their de facto Cold War.
  • I won't even talk about Afghanistan, because, well, frankly that country is a basket case that even Solomon couldn't fix.
SO, how can I make bold statements like Obama f'ed up Iraq more than Bush...simple...he's sending troops back...and likely a lot of them.

Ask yourself this question...if keeping 15 or 20 thousand troops in Iraq might have prevented the re-emergence of ISIS, shortened the Syrian civil war by preventing Iranian resupply of Assad's military, and kept Iraq together and functioning would that have been worth it?

Even as Obama says the US might need troops in Afghanistan longer...a dubious course as those 7th century goat herders are even more primitive than the Iraqis and Syrians, why wouldn't he have kept troops in Iraq, a much more strategically critical country?

The answer is simple----he is blinded to reality by his rigid ideology and the narrative of the modern Democratic Party that the US had to get out of Iraq and "Bush's War" as fast as possible no matter what...after all, any fallout after a short-sighted blunder like withdrawing ALL OUR TROOPS could be blamed on Bush...seemingly forever, if my liberal acquaintances have their way.

Now of course, there is a new dilemma--how to respond to ISIS on a global level.  Do we continue the pinprick bombing campaign in Syria while mouthing platitudes about not misunderstanding and blaming Islam while loony open borders advocates say we should let thousands of Arab Muslim male refugees in our country?

Or do we man up, apply some real air power to aid the Kurds, Iraqis (for better or worse, we're now stuck with the new, improved Iranian owned Iraqi military) and whatever rump Syrian forces are left to wipe out ISIS once and for all...if that's even possible?

That's the question...and, quite frankly, there are now easy answers.  It takes fortitude, foresight, and an absolute firmness of resolve to try and deal with this challenge...which is only going to get worse if the dithering and hand-wringing by the West about the Muslim threat is interpreted as weakness by ISIS, which it most assuredly will.

Unfortunately, this Administration and it's party has no JFK, FDR or even Truman to lead this country and defend it's citizens and freedoms.  We are stuck with a President determined to make the next 15 months some sort of weird victory lap about HIM and HIS Administration and their successes...and screw whoever takes over because then everything will be THEIR fault...after all Barry will be out playing golf and making speeches about his total awesomeness as the first black (actually mixed race) President.

When the world turns to the French to lead the fight against Islamic fascism..we have truly fallen through the looking glass...

Thursday, November 12, 2015

ALERT the liberal media...a revisionist history book I like.

It has been a very, very busy fall for your Grouchy Historian, thanks to my book-loving buds at the New York Journal of Books.

I have literally been like a kid at the bacon buffet...so many books, and there have been some real surprise gems here.

One of them is this little number, reviewed by yours truly.

Marie von Clausewitz: The Woman Behind the Making of On War
I was pretty enthusiastic in my review, and well, I love me some Clausewitz...

One thing I DO NOT love is revisionist history...especially mushy gender-racial-blah, blah...hey let's re-write history to diminish and minimize the dead white male history.

When I first saw this book, I was skeptical to say the least...BUT as I love all things Clausewitz gave it a shot. 

And was darn glad I did...as they say...NOW for the rest of the story.

First of all, to have access to the complete set of her correspondence with ol' Carl...which is the entire basis of Ms. Bellinger's book, as I note in my review, must have been totally awesome.  

She does a marvelous job showing the unique character of their relationship and how Marie lived up to the old phrase "behind every successful man is a good woman" ...perhaps a quaint notion in the 21st century with our endless gender wars, but it was fascinating to read how she could be both the typical 19th century woman expected to prepare herself for marriage while still being a real intellectual and opinionated powerhouse.

I mean, besides the intimate intellectual correspondence and exchange of ideas noted in the book, what a fascinating glimpse in their private life...in the era before email, Twitter, and texting, letters were everything, and no doubt Ms. Bellinger must have left out some interesting gossip about life in the Prussian court, their intimate exchange of feelings and emotions during their many long separations...Carl, after all was a military man who spent a long time away from the woman he loved...we'll just leave it at that...I will say it is remarkable how couple's in the day could be intimate and loving with taste and decorum...no Snapchat for Carl and Marie, to be sure.

Needless to say, I LOVED this book...I have an extensive Clausewitz library, and this book will be right next to my Peter Paret and Jon Sumida.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The forgotten war—Commies vs Nazis

Continuing the general theme of examining little known aspects of World War II..at least to an American audience..I have been studying the Russian 1944 Summer Offensive, known as Operation Bagration.

Now, as any honest military historian will tell you, the Western Allies and their offensives in North Africa, Italy, and France were effectively well publicized side-shows compared to the titanic blood-letting between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia…the REAL decisive theater of World War II.

To be fair, Western military historians have written excellent histories of Stalingrad (including David Glantz's majestic 4 volume shelf filler) and the Battle of Kursk, arguably the biggest tank battle ever, but, like much World War II history…all of this research tends to stop after June 6, 1944. (That’s D-Day for you Common Core social studies kids, look it up on Wikipedia)

This little book tries to overcome that deficit by covering what is arguably the biggest, most elaborate, and most decisive offensive of World War 2—the Russian offensive against the Germans in Byelorussia in June 1944…the famed Operation Bagration that destroyed an entire German Army group, drove the Germans out of the remainder of Russia, and brought the Red Army to the gates of Warsaw, Poland.

It packs a lot of punch in only a couple hundred pages, and overall does a very acceptable job. The order-of-battle and general strategic situation for both armies is well laid out, and Tucker-Jones does an excellent job of setting the scene, particularly in describing the elaborate and very successful Soviet deception plan that convinced the Germans that the main part of the summer offensive would fall in the Ukraine instead of Byelorussia.

Once the battle start, the mighty weight of Soviet manpower and steel quickly overruns the German defenders, and when combined with Hitler’s strategic blinders and associated blunders, turns a Soviet victory into a rout as Hitler issues insane stand and die orders instead of withdrawing German forces to shorten the front and perhaps provide a reserve to strike at the lengthening and vulnerable Soviet columns.

The only factors that save the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front from total annihilation are the shift of the Soviet offensive south to finish liberating the Ukraine and the lengthening of Soviet supply lines. Of course, Stalin’s desire to stop outside Warsaw, instead of rendering aid to the Polish Home Army fighting the Germans in the streets, was a cold and calculating decision that contributed to the absorption of Poland into the Communist bloc.

For the neophyte student of the World War II Eastern Front, this is a great little book. There aren’t a lot of decent histories written on the Soviet-German conflict (David Glantz being the exception…the man is a Russian studies machine) so a book that is well-written for the average reader is a great find.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Four great page turners by the master of military techno-thrillers

I have always been a big fan of Tom Clancy, and it was a truly sad day when he passed from the scene in 2013.  I was an early fan of Hunt for Red October, and I consider Red Storm Rising still one of the best military techno-thrillers of all time..the true granddaddy of an entire genre of fiction.

So, when I got my new job and started my long commutes, I decided to plunge back in with his next generation of military thrillers, very ably co-authored…and now authored by Mark Greaney.  I pretty much devoured them in order on Audiobook…for 3 of them Lou Diamond Phillips does a marvelous job narrating and the newest volume, Full Force and Effect, has a new narrator that is acceptable, if not as familiar.

What is remarkable is how absolutely accurate Clancy and Greaney were at predicting world events.  From the South China Sea to Ukraine to North Korea, these guys clearly did their homework and got things 90% correct…with the events in Ukraine as a yardstick they were scarily accurate.

Now, as fiction goes, these will win no literature awards from snobby pretentious book reviewers I’m sure.  There is no moral angst or gray ethics here.  The good guys are good and the bad guys are bad.  The narration is very straightforward, although the duo does a good job of maintaining tension and keeping the story going at a good clip…always important in novels that weigh-in over 400 pages.  

Although Clancy loves his techno-babble, it doesn’t overwhelm the story and the books remain fairly character driven..focusing on the team from the “Campus” and their efforts to thwart evil doers and save the day.

If you hit these up in order, you won’t be disappointed,  I will be honest and say I enjoyed the last 2 more than the first 2.  Greaney clearly hits his stride and the back stories/secondary plots are really first-rate, especially in Command Authority.
These are great page-turners and just the thing for a cold winter night.