Loose Canons

Loose Canons

Chuckie Hagel’s New Horse

By 4.14.14

Judging by the horse he gave Defense Secretary Chuckie Hagel a couple of days ago, Mongolian Defense Minister Dashdemberel must be a very diligent student of the defense budget that Congress is now trying to craft. The horse, of course, is a gelding.

When the president announced his proposed budget and Hagel went to Congress to state the party line, I wrote that several indispensable weapon systems — the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, the A-10 Warthog attack aircraft, and half of the Navy’s 22 cruisers among them — would be retired. Under the president’s plan, military pay raises would be capped at 1% for the second straight year. Most of the fictive strategy the president brags about would have to be abandoned if the budget went through.

Because of these and other inanities in the president’s proposal, the House rejected it out of hand earlier this month by a margin of 413-2.

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Loose Canons

Testing and Detesting SGO

By 4.7.14

With former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell’s congressional testimony, a new Iranian ambassador to the UN, and a great UN report on global warming, there’s a lot in one week SGO to catalogue and remember. And to do justice to the week, we have to go at it in reverse order

(For those just joining us, “SGO” is the comprehensively useful acronym for “s*** goin’ on” created by my pal and former SEAL Al Clark.)

At week’s end, retiring Cong. Jim Moran (D-of course, VA-unfortunately) told Roll Call that Congress was underpaid. Before we could see clearly through our laughter-teared eyes, he added that “I understand that it’s widely felt that they underperform, but the fact is that this is the board of directors for the largest economic entity in the world.” And he said all that with a straight face.

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Loose Canons

The Road to Putingrad

By 3.31.14

President Obama’s diplomacy by tourism has gone very sour. After being scolded by the Pope for Obamacare’s forcing religious institutions to provide contraception and abortion coverage, Obama jetted to Saudi Arabia where he was scolded by the Saudi king about his failure to send aid to the Syrians fighting Bashar Assad and his nuclear agreement with Iran.

It’s getting tiresome. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry are carrying on as if they have everything under control, every crisis has abated, and no one should be overly concerned. By now they must have noticed that every world leader disagrees with them. And some take pleasure in demonstrating their disregard for the weakness Obama and Kerry display every day.

The Obama-Kerry show delights Russian President Putin. He is enjoying his ability to play them both as puppets on strings. All is decidedly not well, especially in Ukraine and the entirety of Eastern Europe.

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Loose Canons

Putin Keeps Us Guessing

By 3.24.14

If Henry Kissinger were dead, he’d be spinning in his grave. The fact that he is very much alive is a good thing that may make us dream of the day when someone with the essential education, skills, and training will again be in charge of our foreign policy.

Unfortunately, no such person is and one of the men most observant of our sad condition is in a position to take advantage of it. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s often bare-chested strongman, has managed with very little effort and hardly a shot fired not only to destabilize Europe but to do so in a way that makes the European governments and our president believe that it is too hard, too expensive, and too dangerous to do anything about it. Putin’s managed to bring back the atmosphere of the Cold War — the intimidation that the Soviets brought about — so easily it’s almost admirable.

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Lies, Spies, Leaks, and DiFi

By 3.17.14

These days it’s a commonplace to diagnose a clash between two parts of our government and conclude that both are wrong. The case at bar this week is the uncharacteristically rancorous fight between the CIA and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal).

On one hand is the Senate committee which has, since 2009, been investigating the Bush-era program in which terrorists would be subjected to rendition — capture and removal to another nation for interrogation — and the “enhanced interrogation methods” that have been loosely (and incorrectly) lumped together with torture.

On the other hand is the CIA which has been playing hide and seek with Senate investigative staff even to the degree of depriving them of documents previously made available and complaining to the Justice Department of possible criminal conduct by Senate staffers. (Some of them took printed versions of some documents back to the Senate’s own classified information facilities.)

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Loose Canons

Putin the Humanitarian

By 3.10.14

It’s not at all clear what Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk thinks he can accomplish during his visit with President Obama later this week. It’s a good bet that he’s not coming to urge on Obama the advice offered by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman.

I had to read Friedman’s March 4 column twice to be sure I hadn’t fallen for a parody from The Onion. Friedman has a prescription to weaken Vlad Putin that sounds like something written by Al Gore and edited by the folks who publish Mad Magazine.

According to Friedman, if Obama wanted to frighten Putin, we’d invest in (i.e., have the government pay for) facilities to liquefy and export natural gas, making Europe more dependent on us; (2) raise the tax on gasoline; (3) create a national carbon tax and a “national renewable energy standard” all of which, as Friedman admits, would increase the price Americans pay for energy.

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Crimea River

By 3.3.14

Sometime last Thursday, our intelligence community was telling its bosses that there was little or no chance that Russian President Putin would order his troops to seize control of Ukraine. These are the same guys that are telling us that Iran isn’t building nuclear weapons.

Fortunately, I have better sources. My friend Matt Keegan is a Russia expert and a serious student of their military. On Friday, Matt emailed me to point what should be in the front of the minds of President Obama and the other naïfs trying to figure out what was (and is) going on.

First, he said, Russia wants to control Ukraine because it believes it needs a land bridge to its strategic naval base at Sevastopol on the Black Sea. (The base has been there for about 200 years. When the Evil Empire fell apart, Russia began renting it from Ukraine.) He also pointed out that there are about eight major gas pipeline routes from Russia through Ukraine to reach Europe and Sevastopol. Without controlling Ukraine, Russia risks Ukrainian tariffs on gas or even pipeline sabotage. All of which meant, he said, that the Russians would send military forces into Ukraine to control some or all of that nation.

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Et Tu, U2?

By 2.26.14

Sergeant Hagel did his duty on Monday. The gent who was appointed to be Queen of Hearts for the Defense Department did as he was told and announced yet another round of massive cuts for the defense budget.

Like the Queen — “verdict first, trial after” — Sgt. Hagel announced some very choice cuts without the benefit of any analysis of the threats our nation faces. Gone will be the A-10 attack aircraft, the U2 reconnaissance aircraft, and a host or two of soldiers and Marines. The decision may also be made that the Navy can’t afford to refuel one nuclear carrier resulting in it — and the rest of its battle group — being stuck in port for the foreseeable future. Which is surely okay with the White House because Hagel is matching that with cutting half of the Navy’s cruiser force.

(NB: Obama’s “Pacific Shift” to protect Japan, Taiwan, and the rest of the Pacific Rim nations is now officially a nullity. So is his promise to replace the ground-based missile defense that Bush promised Poland with a sea-based system.)

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Obama’s Assault on the First Amendment

By 2.24.14

The First Amendment provides that Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech or of the press. That, in the view of President Obama, is no limitation on his ability to make such laws, even indirectly, through executive branch rules and regulations.

Throughout the 2012 presidential campaign, the IRS discriminated against conservative groups in investigating, delaying and denying the tax-exempt status many had applied for in order to do what similar organizations do on the left side of the political equation. It was enough for Obama’s operatives in the IRS to detect the use of words such as “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in a group’s name for it to be subjected to this discrimination.

When IRS official Lois Lerner was called to testify about this practice before a House committee, she took the Fifth. And during the Super Bowl halftime show, Obama told Bill O’Reilly there wasn’t a trace of corruption in the IRS’s conduct.

Last November, the IRS proposed a change to the tax regulations that would institutionalize this discrimination.

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Obama’s Binge Diplomacy

By 2.17.14

Like a college student losing a weekend inside a tequila bottle, President Obama is going to lose the next month or more in another diplomatic binge. He has lined up a string of summit meetings with Middle Eastern leaders that will put his best foot back between his molars. Perhaps he will succeed for a time, but only in steering the media’s attention away from Obamacare and the latest rope-a-dope he’s pulled on Boehner and McConnell.

In the next weeks, Obama is going to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Saudi King Abdullah, and several other Middle Eastern heads of state. There’s little hope that he will do any good on any front, though he seems poised to poison a few more wells.

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