Quote of the Day


Kind-hearted people might of course think there was some ingenious way to disarm or defeat the enemy without too much bloodshed, and might imagine this is the true goal of the art of war.Pleasant as it sounds, it is a fallacy that must be exposed: War is such a dangerous business that mistakes that come from kindness are the very worst.

—Carl von Clausewitz

Meanwhile, in the Persian Gulf …


… the Iranians are getting restless. During the final years of the Obama Administration, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps repeatedly engaged in harassment of U.S. Naval vessels in the Persian Gulf. After the change in policy under the Trump Administration, contact by the Iranians dropped precipitously. Until recently.

The pallets of cash provided by Obama Administration have run out. The oil market is cratering. The IRGC’s top commander has been killed, and the IRGC’s retaliatory strikes fizzled. Iran is among the nations hardest hit by the Wuhan virus. The level of frustration must be reaching the boiling point. So last week, a group of IRGC boats harassed American ships, buzzing them with weapons unsecured.

I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.

—Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2020

Stay tuned.

Gnats and Elephants


The United States fired one missile. It hit its target, and there was trivial collateral damage.

Iran launched 15 missiles. Four (over 25 %) failed in flight. The remain eleven all missed their targets, causing collateral damage to a third party (Iraq) and wounding Iraqis.

Donald Trump set his red line a the death of an American, and he has not responded with further military action. Iran’s feeble response to our hit on Soleimani didn’t tempt him to ratchet up the fight. Rather, Trump’s restraint demonstrates the huge difference in power between the U.S. and Iran and the difference in our abilities to take a punch.

Elephants have thick skins, but if small insects become bothersome, elephants have the wherewithal to deal with them.

Cultural Sites and War Crimes


John Hinderacker has a post over at PowerLine about war crime hysteria on the Left.

The Democrats hyperventilate endlessly over hypothetical offenses that President Trump hasn’t committed and, I venture to say, won’t commit. Meanwhile, there is no reason to assure the mullahs that anything if off limits if they continue to kill Americans, something about which no prominent Democrat, to my knowledge, is expressing any concern.

There are two important points there. The first is that President Trump hasn’t ordered any further actions yet, and I doubt he will unless the Iranians are foolish enough to invite such an attack.

The second is the warning to the Iranians that we won’t be deterred from attacking one of their military assets if it has been placed at a cultural site. IANAL, but my training in the laws of war that I received as an Army officer was that it a war crime to place a military asset at such a cultural site—or a school, hospital, or place of worship—but that it was legal to attack such a target. If the Iranians have illegally hidden assets where they shouldn’t be, they have now been given fair warning to move them or risk the consequences. (I suspect that Trump is not so subtilely reminding the Iranians of how good our targeting intelligence has been and that we have reasonably good knowledge of where many of their assets are hidden.)

Hinderacker concludes—

Wouldn’t it be great if the Democrats were pro-America, rather than pro-Iran and pro-terrorist? That is a world that we once knew, but is now hard even to imagine. I don’t expect we will see it again in our lifetimes, unless the Democrats are dealt electoral defeats so crushing as to dictate a total realignment of their party.

Just so. Read the whole thing.

 

BREAKING: WaPo Discovers the Government Lies


WaPo has published a long piece on one of the Lessons Learned reports of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (aka SIGAR). The article is based on documents received after a three-year long legal battle over a Freedom of Information Act request that is still ongoing.

A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.

The documents were generated by a federal project examining the root failures of the longest armed conflict in U.S. history. They include more than 2,000 pages of previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials.

The government initially refused to release the unclassified report, claiming the the persons interviewed were whistleblowers. That was patently false because those interviewed did not come forward voluntarily but were approached by SIGAR. Also, some agencies, including the State Department, the DoD, and DEA, have classified parts of the report after the fact.

Read the whole thing and check out the linked documents.

Meanwhile, over at Instapundit, Mark Tapscott suggest that

Trump will say it proves him right about getting out of Afghanistan, and, more importantly, about why the Washington Establishment cannot be trusted. That this gift comes to Trump from the Post is the icing on the political cake.

Perhaps. Stay tuned.

You’re Welcome


Last Saturday night, I was sitting in a restaurant with Stacy McCain and his older brother Kirby when a young man walked up and thanked us for our service to the country. How he pegged us as veterans is beyond me.

But to all of you thanking us veterans today—You’re welcome. It was an honor and privilege to serve you.

Note: The young man was only two-thirds correct. Both Kirby and I served in the Army. I was a Signal Officer, and Kirby was a paratrooper in the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions. Stacy isn’t a veteran, but one of his son is a soldier currently assigned as an instructor at the Army Ranger School.

Team Kimberlin Post of the Day


Some people are very bad liars who are easily caught. This episode of Yours Truly, Johnny Atsign first ran four years ago today.

* * * * *

Johnny Atsign Logo 2ANNOUNCER: From Westminster, it’s time for—

SOUND: Skype rings once.

JOHNNY: Johnny Atsign.

RULE 5 GIRL: (Telephone Filter) Hi, Johnny.

JOHNNY: Well, hello! What’s up?

RULE 5 GIRL: (Telephone Filter) Nothing. Things are quiet.

JOHNNY: Only on the surface.

RULE 5 GIRL: (Telephone Filter) Oh?

JOHNNY: Have you ever heard the expression “the lull before the storm”?

MUSIC: Theme up and under.

ANNOUNCER: The Lickspittle Broadcasting System presents W. J. J. Hoge in the transcribed adventures of the man with the action-packed Twitter account, America’s fabulous free-lance Internet investigator …

JOHNNY: Yours Truly, Johnny Atsign!

MUSIC: Theme up to music out. Continue reading

Brandishing the Big Stick


Teddy Roosevelt once described his approach to foreign affairs as speaking softly while carrying a big stick. Over the past few days, Donald Trump apparently came close to using that stick, but he wound up speaking softly. It seems to me that he made a wise choice.

Iran is being crippled financially by our sanctions. Its proxy fighters in places like Yemen and Syria have been taking beatings from our allies. Iran’s power and influence are not on the rise.

So why would Iran attack shipping and shoot down a U.S. drone? Desperation?

I don’t think so. The Iranians may be testing the limits to see what they can get away with. Or they may be in such a cash bind that they’ll try anything to raise the price of oil. But oil shipments through the Persian Gulf are no longer a direct concern to Trump because his policies have resulted in America becoming a net oil exporter. These days, it’s China, Vietnam, and Japan who are reliant on oil from the Gulf.

A pinprick attack in retaliation for shooting down a reconnaissance drone wouldn’t have caused enough damage to the mullahs and the Revolutionary Guards to curb their ambitions, so speaking softly (but firmly) probably was wise.

This time.

One of these days, the Iranians will do something too costly to be disregarded. Then it will be time for the stick.

Tankers Attacked in Gulf of Oman


Two tankers have been attacked in the Gulf of Oman, the body of water just outside the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. One is Norwegian-owned, the other is Japanese-owned, but both are sailing under second country flags. The U. S. Navy says that it received distress calls from the vessels at 6:12 am and 7:00 am local time this morning. The Navy says it is helping to evacuate tankers, and the shipping companies says the crews of both ships are safe.

There have been reports that the Norwegian-owned ship was torpedoed. The Iranian Student’s News Agency has tweeted pictures of one of the ships which show it burning at the water line which is consistent with either a torpedo strike or hitting a floating mine. A missile strike would probably have a higher point of impact.

If torpedoes were used, that would imply a state or state-sponsored attacker. Thus far, no one has claimed responsibility, and the Iranians have denied any connection, pointing out that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe currently visiting in Tehran.

The price of oil is up today. The cost of these attacks is yet to be determined.

UPDATE—These tanker attacks occurred a week after a mysterious fire in the Iranian port of Shahid Rajaee destroyed four Iranian merchant ships and damaged two others. The Shahid Rajaee fire occurred one day after the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Norway—whose ships were attacked near Fujairah, UAE, on 12 May, 2019—submitted a report to the U. N. Security Council about the attacks on their vessels.

The Bladensburg Cross


Earlier this week, the American Legion and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission had what should be their final day in court over the Bladensburg Cross, a war memorial to the town’s World War I dead. The American Humanist Association has sued to have the 91-foot tall concrete cross removed because … well, it’s a cross, and that’s too Christian. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the Humanists. The American Legion and Planning Commission appealed.

Part of the defense of the monument is the notion that it is a memorial to dead soldiers that takes the same form as their grave markers. Matthew Vadum reporting at The Epoch Times on the Supreme Court hearing notes that Neal Katyal, the Park Commission’s lawyer, told the court—

In the context of World War I, crosses have a secular meaning in that they honor those who perished in the conflict, Katyal said.

The “dominant image of the time, everything from that poem to art, to the war bond advertisements that the United States Government put, to the 1924 congressional resolution, all did use this cross.”

“That poem” refers to words written by Lt.-Col. John McCrae of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1915 after he buried a friend who was killed in combat in Belgium. It begins, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row …”

The Humanists claim that the monument dishonors the non-Christian war dead. The American Legion respond that such a claim is nonsense, noting in one of its briefs that it had many non-Christian members at the time the memorial was built. In fact, J. Moses Edlavitch, a Jewish veteran who was one of the local chapter’s leaders, signed the deed for the land upon which the monument was eventually built.

This leads to a question about the facts of the matter. The monument honors the town’s war dead. It’s in a shape reminiscent of a grave marker. Do any of the dead being honored actually have non-cruciform headstones?

Meanwhile, we can wait for the Supreme Court to rule.

The Vietnam Service Medal


I received one for my service in Vietnam in 1971-72.

I’m 71 years old and one of the youngest recipients. There are only a few stragglers left who served in that war who aren’t drawing Social Security yet. Other than for service during the two days of Operation Frequent Wind in April, 1975, the last qualifying action for the Vietnam Service Medal took place on 28 January, 1973. It is highly unlikely that anyone who joined the military during or after 1972 would have been legitimately awarded the medal.

And in Other News …


President Trump spent a good part of this week focusing on foreign policy. He spent a couple of days at the UN, speaking to the General Assembly and chairing a meeting of the Security Council.

We were told at the start of the Trump administration that we were headed for a massive foreign policy disaster. I haven’t seen it yet. Neither has Savatore Babones who has a post up over at The National Interest titled Trump’s Foreign Policy Successes Show Principled Realism in Action. He notes that Trump has defied the resistance of Our Betters in the expert class and delivered significant results.

Yet Trump has overcome internal resistance and external pressure to deliver an as yet uninterrupted string of foreign-policy successes : North Korea’s “Rocket Man” Kim Jong-un hasn’t launched a rocket in ten months; America’s NATO allies are finally starting to deliver on pledges to increase defense spending toward the 2 percent of GDP target agreed in 2006 ; Mexico has seemingly come to terms on long-overdue NAFTA reforms; the United States has stayed out of the Arab world’s interminable wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen; and the U.S. embassy in Israel moved to Jerusalem in May without sparking the Third Intifada predicted by Trump’s opponents.

Perhaps just as important (from a U.S. perspective), America’s long-term enemies are nearly all on the run. The Russian economy is crumbling. The Venezuelan economy has crumbled. The Iranian economy, which boomed after the nuclear deal was signed in 2015, has come back down to earth since Trump took office, and stagnated since he pulled the United States out of the deal in May.

Trump’s success comes from his understanding of the true nature of America’s power. Yes, it’s true that we have have the strongest military force in the world, but the real power behind it comes from the infrastructure and the people and society supporting it. There’s much more to American power than armed force.

The secret to the Trump team’s success is its embrace of principled realism: in its simplest terms, the faith that America’s goals are just and American power should be exercised to support those goals. Since taking office a year and a half ago, Trump has forcefully applied American power—while avoiding his predecessors’ equation of power with military force. As a result, America is getting its way on the world stage, generally without putting American lives at risk to get it. That’s about as win-win as things come in international relations.

Read the whole thing.

Our Betters were wrong. Trump may not be doing everything right, but his track record in foreign policy is the best we’ve seen in decades.

Who’s Next?


So Little Rocket Man may be giving up his nukes. We’ll see how that works out.

If it does, it will be an interesting precedent for other countries with weak economies that can’t carry the load of paying simultaneously for weapons development and economic development. Iran has a bigger economy than North Korea, but the mullahs have stunted their civil economies growth. Pakistan has lots of nukes and rampant poverty. The collapse of the Soviet Union was driven in large part by that country’s inability to pay for guns and butter. The Russians changed leaders, got a modestly improved economy, and kept their nukes. Will Kim preserve his hold on power by giving up his nukes for economic development? Will anyone else?

Stay tuned.

Cold War II?


Richard Fernandez has a post over at PJ Media taking a look a what could be the beginnings of a new cold war.

Without fanfare elements of a new cold war are being put into place by the Trump administration, the European Union and China. Although the disconnected components separately make headlines, the underlying pattern is evident despite the carnival-like distractions of the Mueller investigation and the reluctance to declare the old order dead.

The generation that ran the world in 1914 sent their sons to die in what came to be called “The Great War,” and then they mismanaged the peace. In 1939, the generation that fought The Great War sent their sons to World War II. The lessons they had learned didn’t keep us out of another war, but the resulting Cold War was in most ways less brutal than WWII.

The West won the Cold War, but our leaders have mismanaged the Cold Peace. Now, a new generation may be facing Cold War II. If we’re lucky.