Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Iraq / Syria Regional War Updates ( November 25 , 2014 ) - Obama and Congress embrace War ( Hagel Firing By Obama , Secret Afghanistan Order Extending Direct Combat and Rand Paul War On ISIS ) ..... Corruption in Iraq bigger enemy than Jihadists ....... Tweets of the Morning - Additional Focus on Turkey and Lebanon , as well as Syria and Iraq !
President Obama has long couched his foreign policy as at least comparatively moderate, presenting everything he does as the half-measure alternative to some senatorial superhawk’s demands.
Yet Obama seems to be shifting himself further and further into the position of a hawkish, wartime president, and his actions over the past few days reflect an attempt to reinvent his foreign policy.
After years of talking up the 2014 end to the Afghan War, the end of 2014 is fast upon is. Unwilling to lose one of his defining wars, President Obama was revealed Friday to have issued a secret order extending direct combat in the country through at least the end of 2015. He also made a deal over the weekend that ended a ban on night raids, which have caused a number of Afghan civilian casualties.
Today, he took a further step toward packing his cabinet with hawks, firing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, a man who was initially hired to end the Afghan War and get the Pentagon’s books in order.
The Afghan War isn’t ending, and you certainly can’t have the Pentagon’s books in order when there are brand new wars in Syria and Iraq to throw endless money and escalations at.
Who’s coming in to replace Hagel is unclear so far, but the front-runner is Michele Flournoy, who as Undersecretary of Defense presented “ending” the war in Iraq as leaving 60,000 troops there indefinitely.
Hagel was too worried about what stuff cost and whether it made sense, and issued a memo recently complaining that the administration was talking up ousting Syrian President Bashar Assad while all its policies in Syria were expanding his hold.
The administration has made clear those sorts of questions aren’t very welcome from the press and the public, and it must be doubly so for cabinet members, who aren’t so easily ignored. Whether Flournoy or not, expect the next US Defense Minister not to ask too many questions.
Sen. Rand Paul (R – KY) has today unveiled a draft declaration of war against ISIS that he intends to introduce in the Senate in December, authorizing “limited” ground operations against ISIS.
Congress has not declared a single war since World War 2, when it was declared in the wake of Pearl Harbor. On the one hand, Sen. Paul’s push is seen as an aim to assert Congressional authority to declare wars during an era when wars tend to be unilateral presidential decisions.
Yet Sen. Paul’s bill is being harshly criticized by antiwar groups as well, which see the draft declaration as risky, particularly to the extent that it defines “limited” operations well beyond what President Obama has already announced.
In an interview with US News and World Report, Antiwar.com Editorial Director Justin Raimondo predicted that the attempt to limit the scope was a strategy “likely to backfire and simply open the door to a wider war,” adding that “attempts to limit the introduction of ground troops will never hold.”
Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin also criticized the move, saying Sen. Paul, who has supported the ISIS war so far, is “not his father’s son anymore,” and risks alienating former Rep. Ron Paul’s (R – TX) supporters by positioning himself as more pro-intervention.
“If people want a candidate who’s going to be pro-intervention, they might as well vote for Hillary Clinton,” Benjamin added. President Obama has yet to comment on the proposal, but has expressed support for an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF), a legal shorthand occasionally used in wars that falls short of a formal declaration.
Awash in oil wealth and massive influxes of US aid, Iraq was supposed to have the best trained, best equipped military in the region. After being routed by ISIS, there is huge pressure for the US to rearm them.
“If each soldier is supposed to get 100 bullets, he will only get 50, and the officer will take and sell the rest,” noted Col. Shaaban al-Obeidi. “I told the Americans, don’t give any weapons through the army – not even one piece – because corruption is everywhere, and you will not see any of it. Our people will steal it.”
Corruption has become so absurdly rampant in Iraq that many of its leaders have gotten informal nicknames based on their respective graft. Lt. Gen. Rashid Fleih is known as “chicken guy” because of his penchant for selling off the chickens meant to be fed to the troops. Another, General Mahdi al-Gharawi, aka “General Deftar,” is named after the Deftar, the local term for the 10,000 dinar bills he demands for selling promotions.
Prime Minister Hayder Abadi has ousted several officers for corruption and “unprofessionalism,” but many in the military warn the problem remains extremely common.