UTT Throwback Thursday: US Already Apologizing to the Enemy in Afghanistan – Again

Understanding the Threat, by John Guandolo, Sept. 7, 2017:

At what point do American citizens call for our military generals to be tried for criminal negligence as well as Aiding and Abetting the enemy for continuing their grossly unprofessional conduct and failure to make the slightest effort to understand the enemy 16 years after 9/11?

In February 2012, General John Allen apologized to muslims because allied forces “improperly disposed of Qurans.”

This week U.S. Major General James Linder apologized to muslims in Afghanistan for offending them by dropping leaflets containing the image of a dog with the Islamic shahada on it – “there is no god but allah and Mohammad is his messenger.”

Americans have just redeployed to Afghanistan and the United States is already apologizing to Islamic leaders.

Why don’t U.S. leaders man-up and  begin speaking to the Islamic world in language they understand?

How about our leaders tell the Islamic world to end the global jihad or we will obliterate it.

How about our leaders tell Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, and all the other Islamic countries funding the global jihad that if they do not turn the money spigot off immediately, the U.S. will turn their countries into parking lots – and keep their money.

How about our leaders shut down every Islamic school, mosque and organization that teaches jihad, seize the property, and arrest their leaders.

What if, and this is a big IF, U.S. generals actually read sharia and come to understand the enemy so they will realize that apologies from them endanger U.S. troops and emboldens the enemy.

The United States is again surrendering to an enemy we should be decimating.

Weaponizing Ridicule

The fifth rule: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.

—Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals

Army University Press, by Michael J. Waller, Sept. – Oct. 2017:

Venezuelan women stripped off their pants and threw them at riot police, taunting the already demoralized young men to “man up” and put them on. Jeering crowds laughed at the confused paramilitary forces, chanting for them to “wear some pants” and side with the people against the tottering Maduro dictatorship. Suddenly, the truncheon-wielding, helmeted police and their armored vehicles didn’t seem quite so menacing. Once the public could make fun of the repressive machine, everyone knew the police state’s time was running out.

Improvised street theater across Venezuela in the spring of 2017, with the occasional Molotov cocktails adding drama to provoke overreaction among the security forces, marked the tipping point for a corrupt regime that had brought itself to the breaking point. The people laughed in the face of their oppressors. Their fear evaporated.

When a police state loses its ability to instill obedience or fear, it cannot long survive. When terrorists lose their ability to terrorize, they lose their most vital psychological weapon. Terrorism being by definition a form of psychological warfare—the name says it all, which is to instill terror among populations and leaders—the perpetrators cannot exist in perpetuity if they fail to cow the people.

Killing terrorists and their supporters is only part of the counterterrorism arsenal. Yet, hunting down and killing them has been the primary means of counterterrorism in a war apparently without end. Sometimes the worst thing to do to an enemy is to mock him or her. Ridicule, mockery, and their related tactics have been weapons against evil—and evildoers’ weapons against all things good—throughout recorded history.

“The devil … the proud spirit … cannot endure to be mocked,” wrote Sir Thomas More, the closest friend and confidant of King Henry VIII, who would lose his head to the executioner’s axe for being what he called “the king’s loyal servant, but God’s first.”1

Ridicule can work when philosophy, theology, or reason fails. “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear Scorn,” said Martin Luther, a leader in what would become the Protestant Reformation.2

Authors Douglas J. Feith and Abram N. Shulsky echo Luther, writing, “One of the most potent weapons of the Enlightenment in its battle against religious fanaticism and intolerance was ridicule.”3

The same can be said about most conflicts today. Ridicule has received little attention in modern military thinking. The military is not supposed to be funny. But neither are diplomats nor spies. Ridicule seldom if ever becomes a factor in military or diplomatic strategic planning, and rarely at the tactical or operational levels, even though many of our priority targets, large and small, are ripe for a good laugh.

Al-Qaida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi lost his aura of invincibility in 2006 when the U.S. military released raw outtakes of a captured video showing the terrorist chief to be a befuddled, pudgy bumbler in a black ninja costume who didn’t know how to operate a machine gun.4 But some in the U.S. military didn’t get the value of ripping down al-Zarqawi in this way, arguing that the machine gun, an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, is “complicated to master” and requires extensive training. Plus, the M249 in question was an “older variant, which makes its malfunctioning unsurprising.”5Arab journalists, on the other hand, saw the value immediately. Iraqi television broadcast the video over and over for days.

Dictators, terrorists, and totalitarian ideologues, almost by definition, cannot tolerate being laughed at. Nor can anyone with an inflated ego and thin skin. Ridicule is their Achilles’ heel. And, humor is a robust underground phenomenon in any society. The Soviet leadership was so fearful of humor that the KGB had what Russian comedian Yakov Smirnov called a “Department of Jokes.” That was not the real name of the department, which had a more anodyne designation as a subunit of the KGB’s political enforcement section, the Fifth Chief Directorate, but Smirnov’s nickname for it made the KGB look all the more weak and bizarre (although all jokes still had to be KGB approved).6

An antigovernment protester holds a poster with a caricature of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro 2 March 2014 during a rally against his government in Caracas. The poster reads, “What the hell does SOS mean?,” “Peace no, bullets yes.” Subsequently, thousands of antigovernment demonstrators marched in the capital trying to keep up the momentum during months of protests demanding Maduro’s resignation. (Photo by Jorge Silva, Reuters)

The Nazis took a different view. Early after Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, the Nazis banned comments critical of the regime, but did not ban jokes. Some German historians say that the Nazis considered jokes to be an escape valve for ordinary Germans’ tensions and frustrations. During the losing years of World War II, however, the Third Reich took jokes as a form of military defeatism, punishable by imprisonment or death, although historian Rudolph Herzog, author of Dead Funny: Telling Jokes in Hitler’s Germany, found that the jokes were a pretext for purging undesirables.7 A persuasive case can be made that excessive denunciation of humorists and jokers, playing up the threats they present, using shows of force, and even physically attacking them, can strengthen the purveyors of ridicule and deepen their appeal.

Cost Effective

Ridicule costs nothing to deploy. It requires no expensive hardware or special procurement budget. As such, it has no pork-barrel political constituency in Congress and no career path in the armed forces. Because ridicule effectively costs nothing, it cannot be accounted for as a tool or weapon. The lawyers and accountants who increasingly dominate military thinking and action cannot “bean count” ridicule the way that they can easily account for spent munitions, wrecked vehicles and gear, dead and mutilated servicemen, and endless disability benefits. Military promotions tend to be for tangible, accountable time and actions, with occasional intangibles like gallantry and valor, not difficult-to-account-for innovations like ridicule that can weaken and destroy an enemy more effectively than kinetic, bean-countable force. So, we miss endless opportunities to take out our enemies and put our adversaries in their place.

Take an opportunity in early 2017, when Russia sent its creaky Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier on its first-ever deployment from the Baltic to the Syrian coast. NATO maritime countries wrung their hands at the development. What if, instead, they simply made fun of the diesel-belching monstrosity? They could have caused an Internet sensation by dogging the Kuznetsov in full public view. What if, rather than marvel at Russia’s new naval aviation capabilities, the alliance simply made fun of the mechanically plagued Kuznetsov? One wag suggested on Twitter that the British send a Royal Navy salvage tug to escort the Kuznetsov as it sputtered its way through the English Channel. At the time, Russian aircraft recklessly buzzed NATO warships and even reportedly penetrated NATO airspace. By making fun of Moscow’s flagship on its first Mediterranean combat run, the alliance could have slapped Vladimir Putin down a few notches instead of elevating him toward his craved status as a military peer.

Such a stunt is not “information” in the informative or cyber sense of information operations (IO). It’s political theater. It isn’t “military information support operations,” whatever that is, the awkward terminology having stripped the very essence from its former name, psychological operations (PSYOP). But political theater can be PSYOP. Without a proper name, we deprive ourselves from using what we have in hand for the psychological effect on a target. We would never think of using a tugboat to weaken the intimidating first-ever presence of a Russian aircraft carrier. Instead, policy makers moan and groan about what to do, while bloggers and Twitter activists virtually blew the Kuznetsov’s prestige out of the water.8

Vulnerable Leaders

Let’s look at some examples of some vulnerable national leaders around the world, and then at some vulnerable adversaries on the tactical and operational levels. First, we must resist the urge to recoil in twenty-first-century horror at forms of ridicule that many in the modern West feel are misogynistic and bigoted, and consider the appropriateness against the relevant targets in their own societies.

Russia. Vladimir Putin has a thin skin. He has a crass sense of humor, but he is vulnerable when the laugh is on him. A group of psychologists and policy strategists has argued that Putin’s carefully cultivated tough-guy image is an overcompensation for his own insecurities about his personal sexual identity.9 Putin is so thin-skinned that he officially banned a popular meme of him with his face painted in drag. That reaction inadvertently made the meme more popular than ever, becoming an international sensation. NATO militaries have now begun to consider memetic warfare, which employs memes as a form of psychopolitical conflict.10

Egypt. An indicator that a regime is ripe for a ridicule attack is when that regime passes laws and issues decrees to ban public insults against those holding political power. In the case of Egypt after the February 2011 revolution against Hosni Mubarak, the Islamist successors made such a ban part of the new constitution. The democratically elected regime of Mohammed Morsi, which quickly tried to consolidate power into a theocratic Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship, would tolerate no jokes.

That constitutional ban didn’t deter Egyptian funnyman Bassem Youssef, who hosted a popular television program modeled after Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. Youssef had aimed his merciless wit against Mubarak without reprisal, but the Islamists quickly had enough of him after Morsi became the butt of his jokes. Youssef aired a regular gag of poking fun at Morsi’s repeated use of the word “love” in political speeches. To the tune of love songs, Youssef caressed a red pillow bearing an image of Morsi’s face. These and other offenses were now a crime that earned international headlines. Youssef “made fun of President Mohammed Morsi on television,” the London Telegraph reported.11 International public opinion, led by Stewart himself, arguably spared Youssef from prison. The comedian now directs his wit at the Sisi government that ousted Morsi, with no repercussions.

Humor and ridicule can create a battlespace of its own. In Youssef’s case, the Islamists fired back with their own acidic comedy. Abu Islam Ahmed Abdullah, whose show Hezbollah is aired on the Ummah Channel (these are real names, not jokes), appeared to express physical attraction to Youssef, calling him more beautiful than famous Egyptian actresses, and urging him to cover his face like a woman.

For comedic jihadists, the humor is one-way. Abu Islam said that Islamic sheikhs who have become involved in politics should be held above criticism, “because God gave them the right to enlighten people on what is right and what is wrong and that they can judge who will go to heaven and who will go to Hell.”12 The Morsi regime and other Islamists called for restrictions on freedom of expression against Egyptian artists in general with high-profile intimidation campaigns.13

Qatar. The United States considers the dictatorial regime of Qatar a reliable friend and ally in the war against violent extremism, even though the Qatari regime and its ruling family finance the indoctrination, training, and operations of jihadists worldwide. We have conditioned ourselves to think of Qatar as a partner because Qatar “lets” us use the massive Al Udeid military base we built there, much of it at our expense. Why we consider Qatar a friend and ally when it finances the people who kill us is beyond the scope of this article, but let’s look at the thin-skinned intolerance of the regime as an Achilles’ heel if times get tough. Qatar can dish it out to the rest of us with its Al Jazeera television and Internet channel, but it can’t take it.

The Qatari regime sentenced a poet to life in prison for the crime of “insulting” the emir. The offense: deriding the family dictatorship as a bunch of “sheiks playing on their Playstations.”14 The poet, Muhammad Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, supported the regime-backed Arab Spring uprisings in North Africa, and seemed to call for a democratic revolution in Qatar, though he was careful not to say so specifically. Calling for the overthrow of the ruling al-Thani family is a capital crime in Qatar. In one of his poems, al-Ajami said, in Arabic, “If the sheiks cannot carry out justice, we should change the power and give it to the beautiful woman.”15 Such putdowns don’t seem like much to people in democratic societies, and the ridicule isn’t particularly profound, but it shows the weakness of jihad-exporting petro regimes and the simplicity of taking advantage of their leaders’ emotional and psychological insecurities.16

Syria. The Syrian uprising prior to Islamic State (IS) attempts to control the country began after the Assad regime arrested schoolchildren for painting antigovernment graffiti in what appeared to have been a well-organized, low-budget provocation.17 The children were not arrested for vandalism but for political crimes. Faced with no real journalism and a weak Internet presence, Syrian artists became increasingly courageous in skewering the Ba’athist Assad regime with the psychologically lethal weapon of satire.

Dictator Bashar al-Assad is said to be extremely sensitive to ridicule, in part for his own political survival and in part because of a physical feature—an unusually long neck—that makes him an easy target for cartoonists, puppeteers, and other artists.

“From the beginning the regime has known it’s dangerous to use the image, to use art,” Syrian artist Aram Tahhan told CNN. “The camera is the equal of any weapon from the point of view of the regime.”18

Many of the authors needed no Internet. They spread their message through songs, cartoons, and poetry. They moved from their traditional skirting of social boundaries to becoming literal iconoclasts, smashing regime personalities and symbolism head-on. Others used the Internet to reach audiences both in Syria and around the world. A group of ten artists, calling themselves Masasit Mati, created cheap, easy-to-smuggle finger puppets of regime leaders to star in a video lampoon called “Top Goon.”19 The very simple—and very funny—puppet show ripped down the regime’s fragile cult of personality around Bashar “Beeshu” al-Assad, his henchman, and his glamorous wife. The simple performances also heaped ridicule on the regime for its atrocities.

These short, comical puppet shows were popular in Syria and around the world, and reduced the regime to repressing puppets. The puppets themselves were an ideal format for underground video resistance. Easy and inexpensive to make, small enough to hide or discard in an emergency, and mercilessly funny caricatures of various Syrian regime figures, the puppets carried out a brilliant divisive operation to embolden the average Syrian and marginalize what was left of the regime. The short and entertaining shows are worth watching and promoting as examples of cultural resistance to dictatorship, and as ideas for battling other adversaries, such as the regime in Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. Top Goon has its own YouTube channel in Arabic, and videos with English captions and subtitles.20 The entire campaign was possible by a small grant from the government of the Netherlands.

Before the emergence of IS, some foreign observers urged that satirical artistic expression be supported as a tool in Syria against the well-organized, disciplined, militant, and generally unhumorous Muslim Brotherhood, which sought to take control of Syria.

“A creative and resolutely non-violent form of opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s regime has taken hold in Syria, as the country’s artists respond to the crisis with newfound boldness and purpose, despite the clear dangers in doing so,” wrote CNN’s Tim Hume.21

“Since the uprising, the artists have broken through the wall of fear in Syria and are thinking in another way,” said Syrian journalist Aram Tahhan, one of the curators of an exhibition on Syria’s creative dissent—Culture in Defiance—on display in Amsterdam. “The uprising has changed the artists’ thinking about the task of art in society, how they can do something useful for society,” Tahhan said in the CNN report. “They have rewritten everything.”22

“With works spanning from painting to song to cartoons, puppet theater to graffiti to plays, the exhibition traces the way that Syrian artists have used a range of creative techniques within traditional and new media to create political, populist art that both brooks ‘the red line’ of dissent and engages the public in unprecedented ways,” according to CNN.23

North Korea. The totalitarian family dynasty of North Korea may be more absorbent than it seems. The Internet has made Pyongyang acutely sensitive to satire and ridicule. After the 2004 release of the “South Park” puppetry of Team America: World Police, rumors circulated in Washington that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il ordered the assassination of producers and directors Trey Parker and Matt Stone.24 Team America’s vulgar humor did no damage to American power and prestige, even though it satirized what was then the Global War on Terrorism. But, it pierced the choreographed imagery of Kim’s propagandistic persona and turned him into a global object of ridicule.

Kim’s son and successor, Kim Jong-un, is even more thin-skinned. When introduced to the world as the successor to his ailing father, South Koreans derided him as a “fat pig” and a “Teletubby.”25Apparently facing substantial opposition from the ruling elite, Kim Jong-un consolidated his domestic political power through a regime of fear, executing longtime loyalists through the most humiliating and bizarre methods and assassinating his own half-brother. A decade after the release of Team America, James Franco and Seth Rogen starred in the action-comedy The Interview, in which the CIA recruited their talk show characters to assassinate Kim under the pretext of having him on their television program.26 The North Korean foreign ministry warned that release of The Interview would be an “act of war” that would trigger a “merciless” response.27

Bloody as he is, the chubby North Korean dictator appears intensely conscious about his hard-to-control weight. In 2016, the Chinese government censored websites that called the 275-pound tyrant “Kim Fatty the Third.”28 When U.S. Sen. John McCain referred to Kim as a “crazy fat kid,” the North Korean government called the comment “a provocation tantamount to declaration of war.”29 In the bizarre world of North Korea’s hermit regime, where personal image and psychological intimidation are the only means of keeping power, playing on Kim’s obsession with his personal appearance could become an important psychological factor in bringing the regime to heel and even hastening its collapse.

Too sensitive to employ? Many of the real-world examples above raise policy questions for the United States and its NATO allies. Has Western society become too sensitive to find such mockery acceptable? In an absurd way, it has become politically and socially normal for the United States to kill and maim people around the world, but forbidden and even immoral to make fun of them. One of the problems to consider is, have we become too politically correct to use ridicule adroitly against targets in traditional or fundamentalist societies because of our own social prejudices and fears about offending (as opposed to killing) others?

Read more

J. Michael Waller, PhD, is a founding editorial board member of NATO’s Defence Strategic Communicationsjournal, published by the alliance’s Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence in Riga, Latvia, and is a vice president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C. He holds an MA in international relations and communication, and a PhD in international security affairs from Boston University. For thirteen years he was the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Professor of International Communication at the Institute of World Politics. He is the author or editor of several books, and he has written for prominent national academic and professional publications, as well as Reader’s DigestUSA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He has been an occasional commentator on BBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NPR, and the Voice of America.

Erik Prince: Trump Considering My Proposal for Afghanistan War

Getty Images/Getty Images/AFP/File MARK WILSON

Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, Aug. 16, 2017:

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is considering a plan drawn up by former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince to hire a private army to end the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan, Breitbart News has confirmed.

Prince told Breitbart News that the U.S. is assessing his strategy as it debates what to do about the ongoing conflict that has already outlasted two administrations.

“My proposal has been taken up by various federal officials for review as part of their recommendations to the president,” declared the former U.S. Navy SEAL, dismissing claims that his plan involves the full privatization of the war in Afghanistan.

Prince argues that there would be fewer private contractors in Afghanistan under his plan than there are there now.

“There’s already nearly 26,000 private contractors in Afghanistan, that number would go down to about 5,000,” he told Breitbart News. “The American troop levels would go from 9,000 down to 2,000. That’s hardly a privatization of the war. That’s a rationalization and an ending of the war.”

On Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis indicated that the Trump administration is, in fact, considering the option of using private contractors in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has already tried both a surge and a drawdown of U.S. forces just to have the Taliban resurge, taking more territory, and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) establish a presence in Afghanistan.

According to the U.S. military, the Afghanistan-Pakistan region is home to the largest concentration of Islamic terrorist groups in the world.

Prince told Breitbart News that U.S. victory in Afghanistan, which he said involves making the region “very, very miserable for terrorists to live and operate,” is attainable, stressing that he can deliver the winning strategy.

Breitbart News has learned that President Trump is unhappy with the plans put forward by the Pentagon and the White House.

Trump is reportedly looking for a novel approach to dealing with the seemingly endless war.

Prince said he believes his plan offers “exactly” what the commander-in-chief is looking for — a new strategy to “ending” the war in Afghanistan.

President Trump has “a real reluctance” to sign up to plans to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan, Prince told the Times adding, “A change of course is necessary.”

The Blackwater founder argues that he can achieve victory for the United States using a leaner and cheaper private army of about 5,500 contractors who would train Afghan soldiers and engage in combat against the Taliban, with the assistance of a handful of U.S. special forces and a 90-aircraft private air force, Military Times reported.

Prince has revealed that his plan would cost less than $10 billion dollars a year, as opposed to the estimated $45 billion the U.S. is expected to spend in 2017 alone on its military presence in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has obligated about $714 billion for the war in Afghanistan, which started in October 2001, soon after al-Qaeda attacked the American homeland on 9/11.

***

Secretary of Defense Mattis: What’s With the Flip-Flops?

US President Trump with Sec. of Defense General Mattis (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, Aug. 16, 2017:

When President Trump chose Marine Corps General Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis as his Secretary of Defense, the cheers could be heard from the moon. There was bipartisan praise; social media accounts lit up with his badass quotes and he gave foes of Islamism and Iran plenty to cheer about.

Since then, Mattis’ record has been mixed. At times, we’re left wondering if President Trump accidentally appointed a alien version of Mattis.

Islamism

In 2015, Mattis said to Congress, “The fundamental question I believe is, ‘Is political Islam in our best interest?’ If not, what is our policy to authoritatively support the countervailing forces?”

In a more recent speech to the Heritage Foundation, he said that our strategy is flawed because we have not identified Political Islam as the enemy. He countered the argument that calling the problem “Political Islam” would appear Islamophobic and trigger blowback by explaining that this framework would allow us to identify new and better Muslim allies.

“If we won’t even ask the question [if Political Islam is in U.S. interests], then how do we ever get to the point of recognizing which is our side in the fight? And if we don’t take our own side in this fight, we are leaving others adrift,” he said.

But then…

Qatar

When Arab countries confronted Qatar for sponsoring Islamist extremism and financing terrorism after Trump’s speech in Riyadh, Mattis urged “de-escalation,” an indirect criticism of the Arab countries’ pressure on Qatar.

Mattis speaks positively of the Qatari regime, saying he agrees that terrorism-financing is a problem but, “I believe that (Qatar’s) Prince Thani inherited a difficult, very tough situation, and he’s trying to turn the society in the right direction.”

He defends Qatar as “moving in the right direction” on stopping the financing of terrorism and claims that this is “not black and white.”

Yet, the overwhelming evidence says otherwise.

Right in the midst of the clash between Qatar and other Arabs, Mattis signed a deal to sell 36 F-15 fighter jets to Qatar for $12 billion. A Qatari official boasted that “this is proof that U.S. institutions are with us, but we never doubted that. Our militaries are like brothers. America’s support for Qatar is deep-rooted and not easily influenced by political changes.”

Muslim Brotherhood

In his speech to the Heritage Foundation, Mattis identified the Muslim Brotherhood as an adversary of the U.S. He argued for a stronger partnership with the Egyptian government and complained about the widespread perception among Egyptians that the U.S. was on the Brotherhood’s side.

But then…

He reportedly opposes designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organization because of the U.S. military base in Qatar.

He also tried to pick a top ally of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Anne Paterson from the Obama Administration, for the top civilian post in the Pentagon (which is the fourth highest position overall).

His choice of Paterson, one of the Americans most detested by Egyptians, resulted in heavy criticism. He did not relent. Mattis fought for her until he ultimately had to withdraw his selection.

Iran

Mattis is very hawkish on Iran. He describes Iran as the “single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East,” even more so than ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

President Obama fired him in 2013 because of his belief that the U.S. should bomb targets in Iran.

In 2011, after U.S. troops in Iraq were targeted with Iranian munitions, he wanted to retaliate against Iran itself, such as by launching a raid against an oil refinery or power station. He argued that tough action would minimize the chances of actual war.

He also requested covert operations to kill or capture Iranian operatives involved in terrorism and seizing Iranian shipments to terrorists in Yemen and Syria and elsewhere. He especially wanted military retaliation after the U.S. foiled an Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to America in which the Iranians were planning to blow up a diner in Washington D.C.

Mattis boldly said in March that U.S. efforts to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear arsenal are not working. He favors negotiating with Iran, but wants to couple it with tougher sanctions and diplomatic isolation.

But then…

Mattis supports keeping the nuclear deal with Iran, partially because “when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.”

He is also concerned that scrapping the deal will result in Iran dashing towards developing nuclear weapons or at least the necessities for them. From his point of view, at least the deal significantly restricts Iran’s nuclear weapons activity for the time being.

Mattis also wanted to give a top Pentagon post to Michele Fluornoy, the Obama Administration’s Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, but she turned it down. Flournoy was widely assumed to be Hillary Clinton’s choice for Secretary of Defense if she had won.

I was initially alarmed by Fluornoy in 2009 when Los Angeles Times columnist Rosa Brooks was appointed as Flournoy’s advisor. I went through Brooks’ articles and found that she is a hyper-partisan extremist.

One of her columns illogically argued that Al-Qaeda was “little more than an obscure group of extremist thugs” and said the U.S. response to 9/11 had made Al-Qaeda into an actual threat. She blamed Israel for its war with Hamas. She opposed the surge that turned Iraq around.

She was so hyper-partisan that she dismissed evidence that Iran was arming Sunni terrorists in Iraq as Bush Administration propaganda. She even claimed that President Bush was conspiring to launch an unnecessary war against Iran—which obviously never happened—and that he is “psychotic” and should be put into a straightjacket.

As a senior Pentagon official, Fluornoy had this radical columnist as her advisor for two years (afterwhich Brooks was promoted). And Mattis, as Secretary of Defense, felt Fluornoy was deserving of a senior post as his deputy.

ISIS

Mattis is undoubtedly doing a good job in defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria. His strategy is based on “annihilation” — encircling ISIS so its fighters can be captured or killed. The strategy takes longer to implement and is probably costlier, but it’s better than shuffling the jihadists from one area to the next until they move outside of Iraq and Syria to commit attacks elsewhere.

The pace of ISIS’ defeat has “dramatically accelerated” according to the State Department’s envoy to the coalition fighting ISIS. Notably, that envoy is a holdover from the Obama Administration. About one-third of ISIS’ territorial losses have happened under the Trump Administration.

Mattis says our performance has improved because lower-level commanders are being allowed to make decisions instead of being hamstrung by micromanagement from the top. The U.S. has also succeeded in getting more financial and military commitments from partners.

Syria

Mattis is realistic about the risks of regime change in Syria and of arming Syrian rebels, warning the U.S. could end up “arm[ing] people who are [our] sworn enemies.” However, he is not pro-Assad and still sees Assad’s downfall as a desirable objective.

“The collapse of the Assad regime … would be biggest strategic setback for Iran in 25 years,” he said.

 Israel

Mattis seems to be of the belief that it is in America’s interests to distance itself from Israel.

He has said:

“I paid a military security price every day as a commander of CENTCOM because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel, and that moderates all the moderate Arabs who want to be with us, because they can’t come out publicly in support of people who don’t show respect for the Arab Palestinians.”

Mattis also seemed to believe that Israeli settlement construction was a primary cause of the conflict with the Palestinians. He warned that Israeli was headed towards “apatheid” if it wasn’t stopped.

“If I’m Jerusalem and I put 500 Jewish settlers out here to the east and there’s 10,000 Arab settlers in here, if we draw the border to include them, either it ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don’t get to vote — apartheid…That didn’t work too well the last time I saw that practiced in a country,” he said.

The previously mentioned Anne Paterson, who Mattis hoped to give the top civilian post in the Pentagon to, was not only a strong friend to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. She was also been very adversarial towards Israel.

Afghanistan

In 2013, Mattis wanted 13,600 U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan.

It is not known what Mattis is currently advocating or what President Trump will decide to do. President Trump’s campaign rhetoric indicates he would favor a strategy that involves as close to a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces as possible.

Mattis bluntly states that the U.S. is “not winning” in Afghanistan as the Taliban gains ground, thanks to Pakistani, Iranian and Russian aid. And the Taliban and Al-Qaeda should not be seen as separate entities, as Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has sworn his allegiance to the Taliban chief.

Mattis apparently believes that at least a small troop increase is necessary. In June, President Trump authorized Mattis to send up to 3,900 more troops to Afghanistan. The Pentagon had hoped to add up to 5,000 U.S. troops to the Afghanistan battlefield. The additional forces were not sent, presumably because Trump changed his mind.

Towards the end of July, it was reported that Trump rejected the Afghanistan strategy put forth by National Security Adviser McMaster. Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson opposed presenting it to Trump because it lacked clear benchmarks for progress.

Trump instead is looking at a plan to privatize the war by hiring 5,500 contractors and a 90-strong private air force. It is being pitched by Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater.

One’s judgement of Mattis’ performance on Afghanistan comes down to whether U.S. policy makers are willing to continue the U.S. military engagement in the country. For those who argue against it, they better have a plan to deal with the massive jihadist haven that is likely to follow and explain what our leaders should do when images of brutality and news about the end of girls’ education cover our TV screens.

U.S. Military Infiltrated By Alien Recruits?

Front Page Magazine, by Michael  Cutler,  Aug. 3, 2017:

On August 1, 2017, Fox News reported the worrying headline, “Pentagon investigators find ‘security risks’ in government’s immigrant recruitment program, ‘infiltration’ feared.”

Military bases are among the most sensitive facilities to be found in the United States. Classified materials, weapons and, of course, our members of the armed forces, can all be found on every military base. Time and again, we have seen terrorists in the Middle East carry out “insider attacks” by joining the military or police and then, when the opportunity presents itself, turn their weapons on their trainers and other soldiers.

Military training is highly prized and sought after by terrorists and criminals. Many terrorists travel around the world to attend terror training camps. Undoubtedly, the training our military recruits receive is a quantum leap above anything that terror training camps provide. Additionally, our soldiers learn the “playbook” employed by our military forces on the battlefield.

The thought that foreign terrorists may have successfully infiltrated our military and gained access to all of the above is highly disturbing, to put it mildly. One recruitment program, known as MAVNI (Military Accessions Vital to National Interest), has especially raised serious concerns in this context. Under this program, according to the Defense Department:

The Secretary of Defense authorized the military services to recruit certain legal aliens whose skills are considered to be vital to the national interest. Those holding critical skills – physicians, nurses, and certain experts in language with associated cultural backgrounds – would be eligible. To determine its value in enhancing military readiness, the limited pilot program will recruit up to 5,200 people in Fiscal Year 2016, and will continue through September 30, 2016.

The Fox News report on MAVNI began with this excerpt:

Defense Department investigators have discovered “potential security risks” in a Pentagon program that has enrolled more than 10,000 foreign-born individuals into the U.S. armed forces since 2009, Fox News has learned exclusively, with sources on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon expressing alarm over “foreign infiltration” and enrollees now unaccounted for.

After more than a year of investigation, the Pentagon’s inspector general recently issued a report – its contents still classified but its existence disclosed here for the first time – identifying serious problems with Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI), a DOD program that provides immigrants and non-immigrant aliens with an expedited path to citizenship in exchange for military service.

Defense Department officials said the program is still active but acknowledged that new applications have been suspended.

First of all, it is extremely important to not forget the honorable and dedicated service of many foreign nationals who have served in our nation’s military.   Many have made the ultimate sacrifice to safeguard America and Americans, while others have suffered grievous injuries. Those are facts that we must never lose sight of.

However, I ask that you stop and take notice that none of the aliens who participated in MAVNI were illegal aliens. All of the aliens in this program — among whom are those who have apparently gone missing and may have used this program to infiltrate the United States and gain access to military bases and training — were, as a requirement, legally present in the United States.

Nevertheless, even as you read this, Congress is considering the creation of a similar program for illegal aliensunder the auspices of the ENLIST Act (H.R. 60). The term “ENLIST” is an acronym for: “Encourage New Legalized Immigrant to to Start Training.” This dangerous and wrong-headed program would provide illegal aliens who, in the parlance of the open borders/immigration anarchists, entered are “undocumented.”

The cold, hard, irrefutable truth is that these are illegal aliens who entered the United States surreptitiously, without inspection. In other words, they are undocumented. You cannot tell a “good guy” from a “bad guy” without a scorecard.  Undocumented aliens have no scorecards.

If there is a serious problem in vetting aliens who entered the United States with passports and visas, how in the world could our officials begin to vet aliens who evaded the inspections process and prevent the entry of criminals, fugitives and terrorists?

Of course my question is not a really a question in search of an answer, but a rhetorical question. The answer should be self-evident.  There is no easy or effective means of vetting such aliens.

I addressed the threats that these aliens pose to national security and public safety in my recent article, When “Compassion” Endangers National Security. The lack of integrity to the vetting process for aliens who are admitted into the United States has created a deadly nightmare for America and for those who fall victim to crimes and terror attacks that these failures facilitated.

It is this lack of integrity to this vetting process that prompted President Trump to attempt to suspend the entry of aliens into the United States who are citizens of six countries associated with terrorism and whose identities and backgrounds cannot be determined with certainty. Incredibly, the Supreme Court has decided against the President’s law-based Executive Order that the media has described as a “Travel Ban,” refusing to use the actual name of that Executive Order, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.

That very title of that Executive Order makes its purpose crystal clear.  It is a purpose that the vast majority of American’s would undoubtedly accept and, indeed, support. Because of the de-facto censorship of “journalists,” many Americans have likely never heard the actual title of President Trump’s Executive Order. The term “Travel Ban” for citizens of “Six Muslim Majority Countries” has evoked an emotional response from many Americans who have been snookered by the media. Those six “Muslim Majority” countries have been properly identified as having an association with the threat of terrorism.

President Trump has stated that because of his concerns about the entry of potential terrorists and criminals into the United States, he has called for subjecting aliens seeking entry into the United States to “extreme vetting” when they are citizens of certain countries.

Given the unsettling findings of the Pentagon investigators — along with many other findings in the investigations conducted by a long list of other investigative agencies — the entire vetting process for aliens seeking visas and entry into the United States needs to be tightened dramatically.

This problem is not a new one. Back on May 20, 1997, I participated in my first Congressional hearing on the topic of Visa Fraud And Immigration Benefits Application Fraud. That hearing was conducted by the House Immigration Subcommittee and was predicated on two deadly terror attacks carried out in 1993 at the CIA Headquarters in Virginia in January of that year, followed the next month by the deadly bombing at the World Trade Center.

All of the perpetrators of those terror attacks were aliens who had, in one way or another, gamed the immigration system by securing visas through fraud, including the use of aliases and/or counterfeit and altered passports, by making false claims to political asylum or by committing fraud in applications for participation in the massive amnesty program that was an integral part of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA).

Many terror attacks in the years after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 involved aliens who had entered the United States through ports of entry and then embedded themselves in communities around the United States as they went about their deadly preparations.

Today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is far more concerned with head counts on airliners than body counts at the morgue. Consequently, they and their allies in industry, special interest groups, government and the media, have been pushing hard to dismantle our nation’s borders, expand the Visa Waiver Program and flood America with cheap foreign labor, foreign students and foreign tourists.

That Visa Waiver Program, incidentally, should have been terminated, not expanded, after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

The sobering report about possible foreign malevolent infiltrators in our military must serve as a warning and a reminder that, if our leaders err, they must err on the side of caution, putting national security and public safety first.

***

Also see:

WINNING: Five Pentagon Successes Under President Trump

Michael Reynolds/Pool via Bloomberg

Breitbart, by Kristina Wong, July 19, 2017:

President Trump has placed a high priority on rebuilding the U.S. military and allowing his commanders to make more calls. So far, in the administration’s first six months, successes have been piling up.

Here are the top five:

1. Islamic State Defeat in Mosul

The U.S.-led coalition assisted Iraqi security forces in uprooting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from its stronghold in Iraq, a major strategic and symbolic victory. ISIS had stormed into Iraq the summer of 2014, seizing large swaths of land and establishing Mosul as its de facto capital in Iraq.

Iraqi forces are now moving to clear other pockets of Iraq where there are still ISIS holdouts, with Tal Afar, just west of Mosul, being the next target.

Although the Mosul offensive began under former President Obama, President Trump called for a review of the ISIS war and made two significant changes. Defense Secretary James Mattis announced the changes on May 19 during a Pentagon briefing:

First, he delegated authority to the right level to aggressively and in a timely manner move against enemy vulnerabilities.

Secondly, he directed a tactical shift from shoving ISIS out of safe locations in an attrition fight to surrounding the enemy in their strongholds so we can annihilate ISIS. The intent is to prevent the return home of escaped foreign fighters.

The fight for Raqqa, the capital of its “caliphate,” is also underway, beginning last month. U.S.-led coalition forces are assisting local Syrian Kurdish and Arab forces on the ground, who now have the city encircled.

2. Diminished Islamic State Presence in Afghanistan

The U.S. military has been keeping ISIS on its back foot in Afghanistan after declaring its presence there in 2015. The U.S. military killed the emir of the terrorist group’s Afghanistan branch, ISIS-Khorasan, last week. Abu Sayed was killed in a U.S. strike in the group’s headquarters in Kunar province on July 11.

“The raid also killed other ISIS-K members and will significantly disrupt the terror group’s plans to expand its presence in Afghanistan,” Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Dana White said.

The military also took out two previous ISIS-K leaders: Abdul Hasib in late April and Hafiz Sayed Khan last July.

White said Afghan and U.S. forces launched a counter-ISIS-K offensive in early March 2017 to drive ISIS from their presence in Nangarhar. In April, the military dropped its largest conventional bomb on ISIS there.

A Pentagon report in June said ISIS-K has declined “in size, capability, and ability to hold territory” between December and May.

3. U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier Fleet to Officially Boast Eleven Vessels Again

The USS Gerald R. Ford will join the aircraft carrier fleet – the Navy’s newest and most advanced aircraft carrier – this month.

It is the first aircraft carrier of a new class in forty years, since the Nimitz-class carriers were commissioned in the 1970s, and will bring the Navy’s carrier count back up to 11 for the first time in five years, in accordance with the law.

Trump has pledged to build a twelve-carrier Navy and this milestone is a big step towards that. It is also symbolic of the president’s plans to rebuild the military.

“After years of endless budget cuts that have impaired our defenses, I am calling for one of the largest defense spending increases in history,” Trump said on the Ford in March.

The administration has proposed a $603 billion defense budget for 2018, $19 billion over what former President Obama had planned.

4. Trump Installing His Team at the Pentagon

The Senate signed off on Trump’s nominee for deputy defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, this week, with an overwhelmingly bipartisan 92-7 vote.

Six Democrats and one independent opposed his nomination: Sens. Corey Booker (NJ), Tammy Duckworth (IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Kamala Harris (CA), Ed Markey (MA) and Elizabeth Warren (MA), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

The confirmation fills a key policy-making role at the Pentagon. He last served as senior vice president of supply chain and operations at Boeing Company.

Shanahan is taking over for Bob Work, an Obama holdover who had agreed to stay until his replacement could be found.

Normally, his confirmation would be a normal thing, but in this charged political atmosphere, nothing is normal. In addition, Democrats have been stalling confirmation of Trump’s nominees.

His confirmation brings the number of Senate-confirmed appointees at the Pentagon to six, out of 22 nominations so far.

5. Trump Challenging China in the South China Sea

President Trump has begun to challenge China in the South China Sea, sending the U.S. military to sail or fly within 12 nautical miles of land features claimed by China.

The purpose of these operations, called “Freedom of Navigation Operations” (FONOPs), is to make sure China knows the waters remain open to the international community, despite China and other countries’ claims of ownership.

Former President Obama had set a moratorium on such operations in the South China Seabetween 2012 and 2015 out of concern it would upset China.

But Trump has authorized three of these operations so far since May, the same number that Obama conducted in all of 2016.

The first FONOP occurred on May 24 when the destroyer USS Dewey sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef.

The second one occurred on July 2 when the USS Stethem sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracel Islands.

The third one occurred on July 7 when two B-1B Lancer bombers flew over the South China Sea shortly before Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

US military drops MOAB on Islamic State in Afghanistan

AP

Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio, April 13, 2017:

The US military dropped the “MOAB,” the GBU-34 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb which is better known as the “Mother of all Bombs,” on Islamic State fighters in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar. The strike took place in Achin, the same district where a US special forces solider was killed last week.

From the US Forces Afghanistan press release:

At 7:32 pm local time today, U.S. Forces – Afghanistan conducted a strike on an ISIS-K tunnel complex in Achin district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, as part of ongoing efforts to defeat ISIS-K in Afghanistan in 2017.

The strike used a GBU-43 bomb dropped from a U.S. aircraft. The strike was designed to minimize the risk to Afghan and U.S. Forces conducting clearing operations in the area while maximizing the destruction of ISIS-K fighters and facilities.

“As ISIS-K’s losses have mounted, they are using IEDs, bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense,” said General John W. Nicholson, Commander, U.S. Forces – Afghanistan. “This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against ISIS-K.”

U.S. Forces took every precaution to avoid civilian casualties with this strike. U.S. Forces will continue offensive operations until ISIS-K is destroyed in Afghanistan.

US and Afghan forces have been attempting to clear the Islamic State’s so-called Khorasan province from Achin and several other districts in eastern Afghanistan for nearly two years, but like the Taliban in other areas of Afghanistan, the group remains entrenched. The deployment of the MOAB may indicate a degree of desperation in the fight against the Islamic State in Achin district. This is the first use of such a weapon, which is described as the largest bomb next to a nuke, in Afghanistan.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.

***

***