Archive for the ‘U.S. Military’ Category

Strategy beyond the Ukraine: It’s time to start thinking about the risks of nuclear war with Russia, and of appeasement

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

The world stands at a perilous point where the risks of an accidental (or other) nuclear war with Russia are greater than they have been since the most perilous points in the Cold War, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis in October, 1962 and the Yom Kippur War between Israel and the Arab states in 1973.

According to news reports, there is no functioning liaison between American and Russian nuclear officials. In the United States, funds for verification of Russian compliance with arms control treaties have been cut, while appropriations for new and better nuclear weapons have grown.

On the American side, no one seems to have been in charge. The stories of American ICBM crews cheating on preparedness tests seem to be but the tip of the iceberg.

On the Russian side, we appear to have in President Putin a megalomaniac who believes that in any nuclear showdown with Barack Obama he would win, hands down.

Neither Putin nor Obama seems to understand, or to be taking active steps to mitigate, the risks of accicdental nuclear war. Putin and his prime minister, Dimitry Medvedev, have over the last several years engaged is careless and dangerous talk of nuclear war.

According to press reports, the famous “red telephone” may not be in working order, or able to be used within the 10 minutes or so a president might have to decide whether a radar image of an incoming ICBM warrants the launching of a nuclear counter-strike. Even if Obama is ready to take or make a call at 3:00 a.m., the “red phone” line may be dead or there may be nobody on the other end.

See

(1) Markus Becker (München), “Nato-Russland-Krise: Das nukleare Gespenst kehrt zurück; Die Ukraine-Krise hat die Nato und Russland in den Kalten Krieg zurückgeworfen. Die Zusammenarbeit bei der nuklearen Sicherheit wurde eingestellt, ein “Rotes Telefon” gibt es nicht mehr. Experten halten das für extrem gefährlich,” Der Spiegel, 8. Februar 2015 (18:06 Uhr).

(2) Michael Stürmer, “Die Welt ist heute gefährlicher als im Kalten Krieg; Hegemonie oder Gleichgewicht braucht Die Welt, sagte Kissinger;. Also eine Supermacht – wie die USA vorübergehend – oder zwei Supermächte – wie im Kalten Krie.;Der tGlobus ist von beidem weit entfernt, “Die Welt, 6. Februar 2015.

(3) “The Elephant in the Room: Reflections on the nuclear deterrent and the Ukraine,” The Trenchant Observer, December 1, 2014.

The world stumbled into World War I a century ago, and 75 years ago the world was thrown into the maelstrom of World War II due to the military aggression of Adolf Hitler, the West’s response of appeasement, and Hitler’s alliance with the Soviet Unuin (1939-1941) and his alliance with Japan, which led to Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Putin stated recently that he approved of the 1939 Von Rippentropp Pact of alliance between Germany and the Soviet Union, which also provided for the partition of Poland between the two signatories.

The U.S. and NATO are on a collision course with Putin and Russia.  Continued appeasement is likely to only embolden Putin and heighten, not lower, the risks of more direct conflict.

The next time Angela Merkel wants to say, “There is no military solution to the Ukraine conflict,” she should engage her brain before she speaks.

Putin believes there is a military solution that will help him resolve the conflict the way he wishes, achieving his goals.  He is avidly–and successfully–pursuing this military solution every day.

He does so even by signing peace agreements he will not honor, if he imagines that they will help him avoid some immediate countermove, such as third-round economic sanctions by the EU (agreed upon the day he signed the Minsk Protocol), or the U.S. deciding to send defensive weapons to Kiev to assist them in their own self-defense (which he may hope to avert by appearing to be cooperative at the forthcoming Minsk summit in February 11, 2014).

Yet given Putin’s duplicitous nature and his record of breaking agreements on the Ukraine, the upcoming summit in Minsk on Wednesday with François Hollande (Mr. Mistral), Angela Merkel (Mrs. coalition partner of the SDP appeasers and pacifists including her foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Vladimir Putin (Mr. military aggression), and Petro Poroshenko, the valiant leader of the Ukraine whose toughness depends on that of Hollande, Merkel, Obama, and the West, holds little promise for more than a brief respite from the killing.

The Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014 was an agreement that was about as balanced and reasonable as you could get, given ongoing Russian military advances on the ground.

Russia simply didn’t abide by its provisions, and decided to go for more military advances.

While the West frets over angering the aggressor if it sends arms to Kiev, Putin is not at all worried about sending troops, tanks, artillery, advanced air defense systems and highly sophisticated electronic equipment across the international frontier with the Ukraine, in flagrant violation of article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter. He is not afraid of angering the West, because to date they have proven to be utterly spineless.

Have American leaders forgotten that it is Putin who is violating the most basic norms of international law prohibiting the use of force, while sending lethal arms to Kiev is fully in compliance with Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, which authorizes measures of collective self defense, up to and including the use of force, in response to an “armed attack”?

There can be no doubt that Russia has committed an “armed attack” against the Ukraine, first in the Crimea and then in the eastern Ukraine. As we write, Russian regular troops and other military forces are fighting against Ukrainian government forces, within the Ukraine.

However, the real issue, which no one is discussing in public, is the urgent need to impose crippling economic sanctions on Moscow.

The EU appears paralyzed, and is fighting merely to re-authorize the sanctions already in place. That leaves the heavy lifting to the United States, which should impose crippling economic sanctions now, while working to help the EU catch up as soon as possible.

Only such action might forestall further military advances by Russia in the Donbas, and progressive consolidation of its position.

The West is in for a long and formidable struggle with Russia, and should be implementing long-term policies that might contain its current military aggression while bringing Russia back into the international community that supports the U.N. Charter and international law. Its actions should be principled, and aimed not only at Putin and his coterie, but also at the new leaders who will follow him.

In this new struggle with Russia, the West’s greatest weapons are steadfast defense of its values through economic sanctions, including denial of access to technology which would otherwise permit Russia to advance to the first rank of nations.

Military and financial aid to Kiev, as well as other moves by NATO, may also be required.

Immediate steps that can be taken would be to block Russia’s access to the SWIFT international payments system, to impose much broader sectoral sanctions on the Russian economy, to organize a boycott of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia (militating for a change of venue to a non-aggressor state), and to add Vladimir Putin himself to the sanctions list, including the freezing of all of his assets abroad.

These steps would be likely to influence Russia much more than a mere decision to send arms to Kiev, however important that action may be.

It is not logic that is lacking in Washington, Brussels, Paris and Berlin, but political courage and steadfastness of purpose.

Someone had better start thinking seriously about these issues, including both the risks of nuclear war and the risks of further appeasement of Putin and Russia.  Then Western leaders must start acting forcefully to address the challenges presented, in an effective manner.

The Trenchant Observer

 

REPRISE: Kiev caves in to Russian military threats, offering far-reaching concessions in eastern Ukraine; Pacifism and appeasement grip Wasington and Europe; First signs of Russian military intervention appear, as troops on border are poised to strike

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

Originally published April 12, 2014

The Atmosphere in Washington

On Saturday, April 12, The New York Times did not have a story (or even a reference) on its front page on the Ukraine.

The Wall Street Journal, however, in a superb article by Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes, published a penetrating account of the extent to which top U.S. civilian and military leaders are in the grip of President Obama’s pacifism and approach of appeasement.

See Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes, “U.S. Tries to Help Ukraine, Reassure Allies Without Riling Russia; Obama Administration, NATO Face Quandary as They Plan Response to Moscow’s Annexation of Crimea, April 12, 2014.

Entous and Barnes offer a few illustrative examples:

(1) Seeking to demonstrate strong American support for Ukraine, U.S. military planners considered using Air Force planes to ferry food rations to outnumbered and underequipped Ukrainian troops facing superior Russian forces across the border.

Pentagon leaders settled instead for a less-conspicuous operation: They sent the promised meals-ready-to-eat, or MREs, in commercial trucks from storehouses in Germany.

(2) “Ukrainian forces got the MREs late last month, about two weeks after requesting aid. The White House says it is still reviewing other items on Kiev’s wish-list, including medical kits, uniforms, boots and military socks.

“‘You want to calibrate your chest-thumps,” a senior military official said of the step-by-step American response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military moves. “He does something else in Ukraine, we release the socks.'”

Yatsenyuk’s Offer on of Sweeping Concessions, and Escalating Unrest in the East

Meanwhile, in Donetsk on Friday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, in a move signaling a cave-in to Russian pressures and military threats–as few signs suggested that the West would support the Ukraine in defending its territory against a second Russian invasion–offered concessions so broad that they would undermine the unity and sovereignty of the Ukrainian state, if they were ever accepted and implemented.

Protesters, however, seem to be following a different script, dictated by Moscow. An escalating wave of seizures of government buildings by armed protesters continued on Saturday, promising to make the holding of Ukrainian national elections on May 25 all but untenable in the eastern parts of the country where the protests are centered.

The Guardian has provided an overview of the latest developments in the Ukraine, including the concessions offered by Yatsenyuk in Donetsk on Friday:

Protesters in Donetsk have called on Russia to deploy peacekeepers to facilitate a referendum on independence by 11 May.

Yatsenyuk did not agree to a referendum but suggested the system of regional administrations appointed by the president should be replaced by executive committees elected by regional parliaments, which would have “all financial, economic, administrative and other powers to control the corresponding region”.

He also recommended that the parliament approve legislation that would change the constitution to allow for local referendums, a move strongly supported by the leaders of the Donetsk occupation.

Yatsenyuk said changes to the country’s constitution should be approved before a presidential election planned for 25 May that the Kiev regime has said will fully legitimise the new government.

–Alec Luhn in Donetsk, Oksana Grytsenko in Luhansk and agencies, “Ukraine fails to break stalemate with pro-Russian protesters in east; Arseniy Yatsenyuk promises devolution to local government in hope of staving off demands for their independence from Kiev,” The Guardian, Friday 11 April 2014 (15.03 EDT).

The tactics being used are from the Crimea playbook, with reported escalations today (Saturday, April 12) involving military units not wearing military insignia.

See Gregory L. White and Lukas I. Alpert, “Pro-Russian Protests Spread in Eastern Ukraine; Armed Men in Military-Style Uniforms Move to Commandeer Government Offices, Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2014 (updated 7:23 p.m. ET) .

White and Alpert report:

Witnesses said the men who took over the buildings in Slavyansk weren’t the local activists who had led protests in the region in recent weeks.

Instead, they appeared better-equipped and trained, carrying military-style gear and weapons, but with no insignia on their camouflage uniforms.

Such descriptions were similar to the thousands of troops who moved into and took over Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula last month, leading quickly to Russia’s annexation. Those troops were later confirmed to be Russian, though Moscow never officially admitted that.

See also:

“Kämpfe in mehreren Städten der Ostukraine; Im Osten der Ukraine bekämpfen sich prorussische Aktivisten und Sicherheitskräfte. Präsident Alexander Turtschinow berief für den Abend den nationalen Sicherheitsrat ein,”Die Zeit, .”12. April 2014 (19:20 Uhr).

The growing protests and incipient violence appear to be setting the stage for Russian military intervention, by the 40,000-80,000 troops that have been mobilized in preparation for such action.

The Diplomatic Front

On the diplomatic front, Russia is playing the same delaying game it played in Syria, talking of diplomatic solutions and illusory “agreements”, while gaining time for other kinds of solutions produced by the use of military force on the ground.

The strategy has been successful in Syria, and it should come as no surprise that the Russians are following a similar script in their diplomacy vis-à-vis the Ukraine.

The near-constant diplomatic contacts between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry, and others, serve two important Russian purposes.

First, they allow the Kremlin to monitor with great precision the intentions and potential actions of the at times compulsively transparent Obama administration, and its Western allies.

Second, they offer excellent opportunities to divide the Western countries by planting false seeds of hope. For example, Lavrov offered earnest reassurances to Kerry that Russia had no intention of violating the territorial integrity of the Ukraine, only days before the Russian invasion of that country. Similarly, Russian President Vladimir Putin assured German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Russian troops on the border with Ukraine would be withdrawn (or significantly reduced). No such drawdown has occurred, and indeed the build-up has continued.

A similar hope, in all likelihood also illusory, has been offered that if the West does not anger Russian President Vladimir Putin by its responses to Russia’s actions, he will not invade the eastern Ukraine.

Under current circumstances, it is a very bad idea for the U.S. and the EU to meet with Russia on April 17 to discuss the Ukraine’s fate, even with the Ukraine also participating.

See The Trenchant Observer, “Munich II: The meeting in Geneva between the U.S., the EU, the Ukraine and Russia, April 11, 2014.

The meeting, to find a “diplomatic solution” to “the “Ukrainian Crisis” provides Russia with an excellent opportunity to continue its strategy of deception and delay, dividing the West and offering illusory hopes to defuse the momentum for the adoption of any serious responses.

John Kerry, Sergey Lavrov, Catherine Ashton of the EU, and the Ukraine will meet in a context in which only Russia can gain, either by securing “Munich II”-style concessions from the West at the expense of the Ukraine, or by sowing division and doubt among the countries of the West.

Yatsenyuk’s proffered concessions on April 11 suggest that “Munich II”-style concessions are already being crafted, probably under pressure from the U.S. and the EU.

The Costs of Further Delay in Imposing Really Significant Sanctions

Further delay by the West in taking military steps and adopting really meaningful “third-stage” sanctions (such as a ban on financial transactions with Russia and/or a freezing of Russian assets in the West) will enable Russia to proceed with its destabilization of the eastern Ukraine and what may be its plan to have local “referendums” held on May 9, Russia’s Victory Day (celebrating the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II). Demands for such referendums are now being heard from pro-Russian protesters.

The Russians are following Adolf Hitler’s playbook for the Anschluss with Austria and the annexation of the Sudetenland to the letter. The first took place on March 12, 1938. The second took place six months later, with the approval of France and Great Britain at Munich on September 30, 1938.

See
“Is Putin like Hitler?” The Trenchant Observer, April 4, 2014.

“Putin’s seizure of the Crimea and Hitler’s seizure of the Sudetenland: The comparison is accurate,” April 1, 2014.

Because of the complexity and time-consuming nature of EU and NATO decision processes (unanimity is required, in both cases), only the U.S. is in a position to lead and to act quickly.

The additional sanctions announced by Obama on April 11, 2014 (adding seven individuals and a major Crimean gas company seized by the Russians to those on the list of targeted sanctions) represent small steps in the right direction. But no one should imagine for an instant that they are sufficiently serious to affect Russia’s decisions, including any which may have already been made to invade the Ukraine for a second time.

The United States and the West are speaking the language of peace and reason. Russia is speaking the language of war and military action on the ground.

If only Obama and his “groupthink” coterie could come to their senses, grasp these realities, and react with forceful actions that are executed, not threatened, much might still be salvaged from the current debacle. After the invasion and annexation of the Crimea one would think they might have learned a thing or two.

But the roots of pacifism grow deep, and it is not easy for those who are committed to appeasement to discern–much less react to–realities which are dramatically changing, hour by hour, on the ground.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

Will Obama and EU countries send lethal arms to help Kiev in Russian-Ukrainian war?

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

Developing

See

(1) Carsten Luther (Kommentar), “UKRAINE: Manchmal helfen nur Waffen; Militärisch ist der Krieg in der Ukraine nicht zu lösen. Und doch könnten gerade amerikanische Waffenlieferungen an Kiew die Diplomatie wieder stärken,” Die Zeit, 2. Februar 2015 (19:10 Uhr).

(2) David J. Kramer,”Six Ways to Help Ukraine Resist Russia’s Latest Invasion,” Wall Street Journal, February 1, 2015 (6:15 p.m. ET).

Barack Obama has been reported as “considering” whether to send “defensive” lethal arms to help Kiev in the Russian-Ukrainian war, in which the Ukraine is badly outgunned by the regular Russian troops inside the Ukraine.

At the same time, the irregulars and “separatists” they helped organize and alongside whom they are now fighting have just received new shipments of weapons and weapons systems from Russia, across the wide-open border between Russia and the Donbas.

Angela Merkel, under the sway of her pacifist SPD foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has repeatedly stated she is against sending weapons to Kiev.

Until she fires Steinmeier, which she needs to do if she is ever going to be directly in charge of German foreign policy, this position is most unlikely to change.

As they did in Syria, Germany and other countries in the West proclaim that the conflict in the Ukraine cannot be solved by military means. Only a political settlement can lead to peace, they assert.

They ignore the fact that the conflict was caused by Russia invading the Ukraine, by military means, and that the obvious solution is for it to withdraw its military forces and comply with the terms of the Minsk Protocol which it signed on September 5, 2014. For starters.

Meanwhile, the most powerful army in Europe, that of the Russian Federation, continues its military aggression against the Ukraine, which has now cost over 5,400 lives in the Donbas alone since April.

As the West declares there can be no military solution to the conflict in the Ukraine, Vladimir Putin and Russia are shaping facts on the ground every day as they produce their own military solution to the conflict.

Look at the map of Europe and how it has changed since Putin launched his war of aggression against the Ukraine in February, 2014, beginning with the conquest and subsequent purported “annexation” of the Crimea.

In the U.S., Obama is always “considering” something, and the media take and repeat the narratives and explanations the White House feeds them. When Ben Rhodes, the president’s “strategic communications” chief is quoted in a news article, he is channeling Obama, and preparing the public for one more decision by Obama to do nothing.

Anyone who followed the endless press accounts of how Obama was “considering” sending arms to the rebels in Syria, or had “decided” to send arms to the rebels in Syria, all of which came to nothing, is familiar with Obama’s modus operandi of “considering” military options, and then doing nothing.

The one recent exception has been the use of air power against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.  This was the least amount of force required to avoid catastrophe.  To date, however, it has failed to reverse the ideological momentum of ISIS,  or to reduce the territory under their control.  At the moment, they are mounting a concerted attack on Kirkuk, in Iraq.

Doing nothing, or doing the least he possibly can to avoid immediate disaster, has been Obama’s pattern ever since he acceded, in 2009, to the demands of his military in ordering the “surge” in Afghanistan.

It is almost as if he has resolved never to follow their advice again.

He is, after all, the American prsident who, contrary to the advice of his military leaders, “ended” the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The bottom line: Don’t expect Obama to send any significant quantity of arms to Kiev, though he may speak as if he might in order to deflect pressures on him, now coming from a wide array of former national security officials and many others, to send “lethal” arms to Kiev in a quantity and in a manner which might actually  change the course of events.

The U.S. shipment of “lethal” arms to Kiev is not likely to happen, though it could.  In Europe and America, the pacifists and appeasers of Putin and Russia still appear to be firmly in control.

The Trenchant Observer

Russian-Ukrainian war update: Putin’s perfidy in full view, as war intensifies

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

For a comprehensive overview of the current military situation in the Eastern Ukraine, see

MICHAEL WEISS, JAMES MILLER, “LANDBRIDGE TO CRIMEA: PUTIN IS WINNING THE UKRAINE WAR ON THREE FRONTS,” The Daily Beast, January 26, 2015.

Putin’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, signed an agreement in Berlin with the Ukraine on January 21, 2015, to withdraw heavy armor from the demarcation line agreed in the Minsk Memorandum.

At the same time, Russian troops and armor were moving into the eastern Ukraine and launching a new offensive by the so-called “separatists”, including attacks on Mariupol, the gateway city for the conquest of a land-bridge linking Russia and rebel territory in the Donbas to the Crimea.

Russia’s perfidy at Berlin recalled its perfidy at Geneva on April 17, 2014, when it agreed to halt the takeover of government buildings in the eastern Ukraine, as they intensified.

Both agreements were no more than propaganda ploys. Russia under Putin can never again be trusted. Negotiated agreements are meaningless.

Putin agreed to the Minsk Protocol on September 5, 2014 in an effort to weaken or forestall the EU “stage 3″ sanctions agreed also on September 5, and finally put into force on September 12, 2014.

Putin has repeatedly and brazenly violated the Minsk Protocol, which is at the moment all but a dead-letter.

It could be useful if it were included in a new U.N. Security draft resolution which would be put to a vote.

Putin’s military aggresion must be stopped now, and rolled back.

Weapons and training for the Ukraine can help stop further advances by Russian troops and their “separatist” puppets, together with new and much harsher sectoral economic sanctions.

Over time, as these sanctions are intensified — if they are — they can also bring Russia to negotiating a way out of its current occupation of the Crimea, conquered by force in violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter.

Whether the pacifists and appeasers who lead the United States and Europe can put aside their illusions and deal effectively to halt the greatest military threat to Europe since 1945 is, at best, an open question.

Whether Barack Obama, who has checked out from leading the foreign policy of the U.S., can find his way back to the office and engage on foreign policy, is also an open question.

The future of NATO, and perhaps eastern Europe, hangs in the balance.

The Trenchant Observer

The Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, and the torture trail leading to Abu Gharib

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

See

ANDREW HIGGINS and MAÏA de la BAUME, “Two Brothers Suspected in Killings Were Known to French Intelligence Services,” New York Times, January 8, 2015.

Higgins and de la Baume report on the background of one of the suspects, who appears to have been radicalized by anger over U.S. torture at Abu Gharib prison in Iraq, as follows:

Chérif’s interest in radical Islam, it was said at the 2008 trial, was rooted in his fury over the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003, particularly the mistreatment of Muslims held at Abu Ghraib prison.

While there can be no excuse or justification in any sense for the abhorrent acts of terrorism that took place in Paris, there may be an important insight to be gained. Aside from the moral dimension of torture, it appears that debates over its efficacy must now be much more broadly framed.

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE: Christmas reflections—What Obama has taught the American people about Syria

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

First published on December 25, 2013

We owe it to the people of Syria to pause for a moment, on this Christmas Day, and bow our heads in shame for what we, the nations of the civilized world, have not done to protect them.

In this regard, the burden Barack Obama will bear in history not only for his inaction, but also for blocking the actions of others, is enormous.

Since 2011, he has taught the American people that the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity is no longer a matter of grave concern.

He has taught the American people not to act to stop the horrors of Syria, but instead to look the other way.

He has eased any discomfort they might have felt by using the military to make the political argument that using force to halt the atrocities in Syria would be hard.

He has spoken many words about Syria, and offered many explanations of this or that turn in U.S. policy.

In thinking about Obama and what historians will have to say about his policy of inaction toard Syria, however, readers might usefully bear in mind what Theodore Roosevelt had to say when he accepted the 1907 Nobel Peace Prize, about words and deeds:

“International Peace”

We must ever bear in mind that the great end in view is righteousness, justice as between man and man, nation and nation, the chance to lead our lives on a somewhat higher level, with a broader spirit of brotherly goodwill one for another. Peace is generally good in itself, but it is never the highest good unless it comes as the handmaid of righteousness; and it becomes a very evil thing if it serves merely as a mask for cowardice and sloth, or as an instrument to further the ends of despotism or anarchy. We despise and abhor the bully, the brawler, the oppressor, whether in private or public life, but we despise no less the coward and the voluptuary. No man is worth calling a man who will not fight rather than submit to infamy or see those that are dear to him suffer wrong. No nation deserves to exist if it permits itself to lose the stern and virile virtues; and this without regard to whether the loss is due to the growth of a heartless and all-absorbing commercialism, to prolonged indulgence in luxury and soft, effortless ease, or to the deification of a warped and twisted sentimentality.

Moreover, and above all, let us remember that words count only when they give expression to deeds, or are to be translated into them (emphasis added). The leaders of the Red Terror2 prattled of peace while they steeped their hands in the blood of the innocent; and many a tyrant has called it peace when he has scourged honest protest into silence. Our words must be judged by our deeds; and in striving for a lofty ideal we must use practical methods; and if we cannot attain all at one leap, we must advance towards it step by step, reasonably content so long as we do actually make some progress in the right direction.

[Footnote] 2. The “Terror” is a term characterizing the conduct of power in revolutionary France by the second committee of Public Safety (September, 1793-July, 1794), sometimes identified as the “Red Terror” to distinguish it from the short-lived “White Terror”, which was an effort by the Royalists in 1795 to destroy the Revolution.

–Theodore Roosevelt, 1907 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, delivered May 5, 1910.

Whenever President Obama speaks of Syria, let us remember these words from Teddy Roosevelt.

Let us also, on this Christmas Day, at least not forget to think of the people of Syria, and to say a prayer that some leader or leaders in the world will find the courage not to talk of peace, but to act with force to halt the Syrian government’s ongoing commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity on a massive scale.

See also the following articles by The Trenchant Observer:

“Syria: As Christmas approaches, the assault on civilization continues,” December 22, 2013.

“60,000 killed in Syria—REPRISE II: The Olympic Games, and the Battle for Aleppo, Begin—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #91 (January 2, 2013),” January 2, 2013.

“The Leopard and the Impala: Putin astutely plays Obama for a chump,” September 12, 2013.

“Moral cowardice in Europe and elsewhere: Bad-faith arguments on Syria by Germany and other countries lacking the courage to act,” September 6, 2013.

“Hommage à Homs: Jacques Prévert, “Barbara” (with English translation); Paul Verlaine, “Ariette III”,” February 25, 2012.

“REPRISE: A prayer for the children of Syria,” December 25, 2013.

The Trenchant Observer

The Elephant in the Room: Reflections on the nuclear deterrent and the Ukraine

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Developing

As Russia flexes its military muscles around the world, after annexing the Crimea and while conducting an ongoing military intervention in the eastern Ukraine, one factor stands out as “the elephant in the room” which no one will mention.

That factor is the nuclear deterrent of the United States and its NATO allies.

For over 40 years it was the lynchpin of NATO strategy for containing the massive land forces of the Soviet Union. It stayed in place even after the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989 and the Soviet Union was disbanded in December, 1991 following an abortive miltary coup in August of that year.

It remains in place, as Putin remilitarizes Russia and has embarked on a militaristic foreign policy whose immediate fruits–in the Crimea and portions of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in the Donbas region of Ukraine–we can now see with great clarity.

Russian military intervention in and violations of Ukrainian sovereignty continue daily, across a border which Russia has through military means rendered wide-open.

The elephant in the room is the U.S. and NATO nuclear deterrent.

Without it, U.S. military doctrine always recognized, Western Europe would not be able to defend itself against Soviet invasion by ground troops and other forces.

Today, it would appear that NATO countries are ill-prepared to defend their periphery by conventional means against an invasion by Russian ground troops.

Nonetheless, one has the strong impression that President Barack Obama has taken the U.S. and NATO nuclear deterrent off the table.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has grasped this fundamental change in the U.S.-Russian balance of power, and has acted decisively to take advantage of it in the Ukraine.

During the conflict between the West and Russia over Syria beginning in 2011, Putin and then President Dimitry Medvedev (2008-2012) made a number of veiled and not-so-veiled threats of nuclear war. Obama, at least in public, never seemed even to acknowledge them.

After the chemical weapons attacks at Ghouta by the Bashar al-Assad government on August 21, 2013, President Obama flinched at the moment of truth and refused to pull the trigger on a long-threatened and long-awaited military response against Syria for crossing his “red line” on the use of chemical weapons.

Putin’s veiled and not-so-veiled nuclear threats have continued.

One has the strong impression that Putin came to the conclusion that Obama would never use nuclear weapons, no matter what the provocation. Meanwhile, the provocations continue.

What indeed happened to the U.S. nuclear deterrent as a part of NATO’s strategy for defending against a Russian ground invasion in Europe?

Is it not time for people to start talking about the elephant in the room?

Perhaps Senator John McCain (R.-Arizona), as the new Chair of the Senate Armed Forces Committe, can initiate a full review of American nuclear strategy and readiness, particularly as it pertains to countering Russian threats and military actions in Europe.

The Trenchant Observer

Russian military intervention in the Ukraine: THE FACTS

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

NATO and Western nations charge that Russia has invaded the Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Russian President Ladimir Putin and the propanda mouthpieces under him, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, deny that Russia has intervened militarily in the Ukraine.

In determing who is right, it is useful to take a look at the facts while remembering each party’s record of veracity as regards the Ukraine.

See:

(1) Konrad Schuller und Friedrich Schmidt, “Ukraine: Ein offenes Staatsgeheimnis; Von Anfang an spielten Russlands Soldaten im Konflikt in der Ukraine eine entscheidende Rolle. Selbst in Moskau wird deren Engagement nur noch heruntergespielt, aber nicht mehr geleugnet,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 22. November 2014.

(2) Reinhard Veser, Russische Tatsachen; Der Kreml ist am Krieg in der Ukraine beteiligt, das bestätigen auch die Separatisten ganz offen. Wer das noch leugnet, verschließt die Augen vor den Tatsachen,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 22. November 2014.

The Trenchant Observer

Go for Putin!

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Commentary

The contempt Vladimir Putin evidently feels for Barack Obama and the West was revealed in a split-second at the APEC summit in Beijing these last two days, when Putin slapped Obama on the back in a gesture which is often friendly but here was one of utter contempt.

We advised Obama years ago to be reticent with physical contact with foreign leaders from very different cultures, but he has not followed the advice. He puts his hands all over people, with backslaps, grabbing an arm or an elbow, in what is easily identifiable as Alfa-male behavior.

Well, this time, Putin returned the favor, with backslapping that hardly concealed his feelings of contempt for the U.S. president.

Putin was a very interesting character to watch at the summit, from his backslapping of Obama to his draping a coat or shawl over the shoulders of Chinese Leader Xi Jinping’s wife, which she immediately discarded.

How would you like Adolf Hitler draping his coat over your shoulders as he was invading “rump” Czechoslovakia in March 1939?

Watching Putin move about the conference, with an irrepressible smirk on his face instead of a smile, you could almost hear the derisive laughter in his head as he knew full-well what was underway in the Ukraine.

The other APEC leaders could do and say as they liked, but they would soon learn, once again, the value of all their pleasantries and high-minded thoughts, all of their moral appeals and “moral pressure”, in the face of the iron and steel of the Russian military machine, deploying once again its might disguised behind the veil of his brilliantly conceived and now proven new form of “stealth warfare”.

Russia had the military might and was more than willing to use it, almost with “joy”, against the feckless and spineless West, “led” by that tall man he had just stretched to slap on the back.

See Naftali Benadavid (Brussels) and Gregory L. White (Moscow), “NATO Sees ‘Significant Buildup’ of Russian Forces in Ukraine; Large Convoys Reported to be Moving Into the Region,” Wall Sreet Journal, Updatedy November 12, 2014 (7:55 p.m. ET).

Watching Putin in Beijing, one might easily feel with indignation that he, the great and rising Dictator of 2014, had no right to be present among these other leaders, heads of state of civilized nations which still stood by the United Nations Charter, and its obligations to settle international disputes by peaceful means, and not to resort to the threat or use of force against another state except in self-defense or perhaps in other narrowly circumscribed cases such as to halt genocide.

No, Putin didn’t belong there, and he doesn’t deserve to be treated with ceremony as a head of state, at least not while he is engaged in the invasion of another country.

He should be shunned, the way he was shunned prior to François Hollande’s invitation to attend the D-Day commemoration exercises at Normandy on June 6, and then to have dinner at the Elysée palace–the same evening Obama had to dine with Hollande at a Parisian restaurant–and then Hollande’s lifting of the suspension of the delivery of the Mistral-class warship.

The delivery has been suspended again, to avoid inclusion in the new EU “stage 3″ sanctions list on September 5, but who knows for how long? Invitations to a delivery ceremony on November 14 were even sent out on October 8, though French officials then said conditions were not “ripe” for delivery “at this time”.

Yes, Putin should be shunned! In general, those who launch aggressive wars, presumptive war criminals, should be shunned.

No more telephone calls from other world leaders. No more meetings between John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov. No more pretense of civility when the Russians are invading another country and killing innocent people, military and civilians alike. No more handshakes with rogues who threaten nuclear conflict, or to invade other neighbors if they don’t get their way.

And while we’re shunning Putin and his supporters, in Russia and abroad, maybe the leaders of the West can drop their delicacy and call things by their real names, like “invasion” instead of “incursion”.

Maybe we can even get some of our leading newspapers, like the Wall Street Journal, to drop the practice of reporting NATO and Ukrainian charges about Russian military aggression, while dutifully noting that Russia denies the charges, e.g., that they have sent troops and tanks into the Donbas.

Yes, maybe we could even get an American newspaper to boldly report the facts of the Russian infiltration and invasion of the eastern Ukraine!

And if we could do that, maybe we could even take the battle directly to Putin, and go directly after his monstrous lies and deceptions by demonstrating, in the U.N. Security Council and elsewhere, that there is irrefutable evidence that his assertions are false, and that Russia has invaded the eastern Ukraine, that Russia is at this very moment intensifying its invasion, and that there are hundreds of Russian tanks, artillery pieces, air-defense systems, and other equipment, and thousands of Russian combat and other irregular troops in the Donbas.

U.S. military and other intelligence agencies undoubtedly have massive amounts of proof that the denials of the Russians of military involvement in the eastern Ukraine are blatant and outrageous lies.

Understandably, methods and sources need to be protected, within limits. But surely in Washington there must be some “big picture” officials who understand the importance of rebutting Putin’s lies, destroying his credibility, and laying out the truth with evidence–e.g., satellite photos showing the movements of tanks and troops, accounts from captured soldiers, intercepted communications, and a marshaling of what is already in the public record.

In a word, Washington should lay out the facts, the truth, with concrete evidence to back up its factual assertions.

If the Russians still deny the obvious facts, as they undoubtedly will, the U.S. should put forward a resolution in the U.N. Security Council establishing an impartial fact-finding commission, drawing on the work of other U.N. bodies such as the Human Rights Council, to investigate and report the truth about what has happened in the Donbas, who the “separatists” really are, and who among Russia, the “separatists” and the Ukraine is complying with and who is violating the provisions of the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014.

Go after Putin! Refute his propaganda with impartial determination and reporting of the facts!

Show the world, beyond any doubt, the truths that rebut Putin’s shameless lies.

Shun him. Let him threaten the U.S. with his long-range bombers. The U.S. knows how to shoot them down. If Putin harbors any misconceptions over who would prevail in a nuclear showdown with the West, Washington should make it clear to him that he will be facing not only Barack Obama but the united military and security forces of the United States, NATO, and other allies.

But the U.S. needs to get its act together. To do so, the U.S. will have to do better than the incoherence in communications revealed by the following quote from the Wall Street Jounal article cited above:

Russia is sending fresh convoys of troops and tanks into eastern Ukraine, NATO said, and threatening to dispatch warplanes on maneuvers over the Gulf of Mexico, flexing its military muscles in a Cold War-style escalation with the West.

U.S. officials said they couldn’t confirm the new incursion into Ukraine announced by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and an international monitoring group in the region, but accused Russia of repeatedly violating the terms of a peace pact signed two months ago.

Really! The U.S. can’t confirm statements by U.S. General Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander for Europe and Commander of NATO?

As “U.S. officials couldn’t confirm the new incursion into Ukraine”, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power was denouncing it at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

See

(1) United Nations Security Council, Press Release, “Security Council Briefed on Fast-Breaking Developments in Ukraine, as Political Official Warns Failure to Secure Russian-Ukrainian Border Obstructing Peace, ” U.N. Security Council, 7311th Meeting (PM), U.N. Doc. SC/11645 (2014), November 12, 1014.

(2) Ukraine – Security Council, 7311th meeting, 12 Nov 2014 – 7311th meeting of the Security Council on the situation in Ukraine, Webcast (English)

(3) The Webcast of the 7311th Meeting of the Security Council on November 12, in the original language of the speaker, is found here.

Obama needs to bring experienced adults in to take charge of his national security team and its spokespersons, at the earliest opportunity.

We need to communicate clearly and strongly to Putin. This kind of incompetence does not help.

The Wall Street Journal, for its part, didn’t even bother to report on the Security Council meeting, which suggests the need for adult supervision there as well.

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE: Veterans’ Day, 2011: “Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?”

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

First published, November 11, 2011

My uncle died in a field in northern France with a German bullet in his head. To him, and all the other veterans of America’s wars, I am immensely grateful for his, and their, sacrifice.

The Vision of Peace After World War II

At the end of World War II, the leaders of the world had a clear vision of the horrors of war, and acted with resolution to bring wars to a halt through the creation of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945, and by codifying the international law governing the use of force in Article 2 paragraph 4 and Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. Article 2 paragraph 4 prohibited the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of members of the organization, a prohibition later extended to include all states. Article 51 provided for an exception in the case of an “armed attack”. These provisions have become customary international law and, importantly, also aquired the status of jus cogens or peremptory law from which there can be no exception or derogation by agreement.

A Vision of Perpetual War

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama and the United States are currently embarked on a policy based on the assumption of perpetual war. The implementation of this policy includes targeted assassinations through drone strikes and other means, the establishment of new drone bases throughout the northern part of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, and the development of new generations of drones some of which are as small as insects.

This policy has been implemented with little regard for the international law governing the use of force, and even less regard for the duty of the United States to contribute to the development of international law and institutions that can help ensure the security of the United States and other countries in the future.

These actions indicate that the United States has no current vision of peace as an overriding goal to be achieved, and no coherent strategy for actually achieving this objective.

Without the goal of peace, we are not likely to take the actions necessary to achieve peace, or to give those actions the urgent priority they should receive.

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?

In these circumstances, one is reminded of Pete Seeger’s famous song entitled “Where have all the flowers gone?” For the lyrics, click here.

Pete Seeger’s performance of this song is available on YouTube here.

See also, pasquetflowerponderings.blogspot.com, “Grandpa’s War – A Veteran’s Day Post,” November 11, 2011, which contains recollections of America’s recent wars, and a link to a clip of Pete Seeger singing ” Where have all the flowers gone” with a moving montage of photographs evoking American experiences of war, created by the TheSpadecaller in 2008.

Joan Baez, in a more recent performance of the song, can be found on YouTube here.

Marlene Dietrich’s recording of this song in English is also found on YouTube here.

For Dietrich’s performance of the song in French, see “Qui peut dire ou vont les fleurs?” here.

For her performance of the German version of this song, see “Sag mir wo die Blumen sind”, here.

Marlene Dietrich, in a version of perhaps her most famous song, “Lili Marleen”, written in 1915 and later a hit among troops on both sides during World War II, takes us back to November 11, 1918 and the terrible war that preceded the armistice on that day. Her recording of the song, in English, is found on YouTube here. The original German version of the song is found here.

Obama’s Vision of Perpetual War and International Law

In his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech in Oslo, on December 10, 2009, President Obama said:

In the wake of such destruction (World War II), and with the advent of the nuclear age, it became clear to victor and vanquished alike that the world needed institutions to prevent another world war. And so, a quarter century after the United States Senate rejected the League of Nations – an idea for which Woodrow Wilson received this prize – America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations, mechanisms to govern the waging of war, treaties to protect human rights, prevent genocide, restrict the most dangerous weapons.

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t.

Closely parsed, these statements are full of contradictions, as when President Obama affirms:

(1) “We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”
(2) “To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force.”
(3) “I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation”; and
(4) “Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t.”

Affirmation (1) accepts violent conflict as inevitable. (2) states that all nations must adhere to the norms that govern the use of force. (3) states that he, the president, “like any head of state”, reserves the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend his nation. And (4) states he is convinced adhering to “international standards” strengthens those who do.

These contradictions in Obama’s thinking, it is submitted, have contributed to the incoherence of U.S. foreign policy, particularly when measured against the requirements of international law, and the historical burden of strengthening international law and building better international institutions, which is no less important today than it was in 1945.

Reading these excerpts and the whole speech reveals that the president does not have a clear vision of peace as the goal, or a strategy on how to achieve that goal. While he pays lip service to observing international law, he insists that he has the paradoxical right–“like any head of state”–to violate it if necessary, in his view. So much for the concept of international law governing the use of force.

Without the clear and overriding goal of peace or a strategy for achieving peace, it is hard to see how we and other nations can view as the highest priority taking the steps necessary to achieve peace.

President Obama and the United States currently seem to have no overarching vision of peace, or strategy for achieving peace. As a result, their policies and actions are not guided by the pursuance of this goal in a strategic sense, but rather only by the demands of meeting with expediency the challenges of the moment.

By way of contrast, consider, if you will, the vision of the founders of the United Nations in 1945, particularly as set forth in the Preamble and Articles 1, 2, and 51 of the Charter.

We in the United States, like citizens in other countries, need a strong vision of peace and a coherent strategy for achieving it. Consequently, we need a president who has such a vision, and is guided by it.

The Trenchant Observer