This gets Stranger by the Day

Three days before I went into isolation with the wife and dogs a friend of mine and I went to lunch and obviously discussed the developing Coronavirus story, (this was 11 March). He said, and I believe he was half-serious, that he wondered if China could have done this intentionally. He was commenting on my post from 2 February discussing gain of function bioengineering experiments and the Wuhan high containment biotechnology lab. We laughed and moved on. Conspiracies are complex, and therefore are almost never the answer to an event.

However, this entire situation gets stranger all the time. Below I lay out all the very odd things that simply make no sense when you look at them all together.

  • February 2019 - China opens a biosafety lab in Wuhan China for the purpose of conducting experiments with highly infectious pathogens.
  • Beginning in 2019 and accelerating drastically in 2020, CEOs have left their companies and dumped their stock. (record numbers, particularly in 2019 when the economy was churning).
  • 18 December 2019 - The House impeached Donald Trump. Remember, he was a danger to the universe and could not be allowed to remain, it was 'that serious', remember the words?
  • 31 December 2019 - Reports of a new repository illness in Wuhan China.
  • Late January 2020 - Wuhan is cordoned and isolated.
  • From late January until the week of March 9th we are told by Trump that any talk about a pandemic is a hoax and fake news, the left media said it was just like the flu and medical 'experts" said it was not that bad.
  • The week of 23 March - the US economy shutdown. Congress passes two massive 'stimulus' packages.
  • 26 March 2020 the US tops all nations in the number of Coronavirus cases.
  • 27 March 2020 -Trump authorizes the call-up of 1 Million ready reservist and retirees. (this is not the national Guard nor drilling reservist, this is folks that have retired or 'left' the service)

Consider these facts:

  • These massive bills passed with really very little debate, the Democrats control the House, remember how dangerous Trump was in their words in December, now they are all working together?
  • These bills contain the progressive dream agenda and enormous 'help' to large corporations. It is the worst of both worlds from both sides.
  • It 'nationalizes' part of entire industries - taking ownership of a portion of the airlines.
  • QE forever? The government can create 'money' to buy shares of entire industries as it pleases?
  • A large step toward universal basic income (universal poverty).

Only a Republican could have done what Trump has done, the Defense Production Act, activated today - in peacetime! The progressives could never have hoped to accomplish what has occurred without regular Americans literally taking up arms. It could happen when a swath of Americans believe in "Q" and think Trump equals 'Judges'.

I am not denying that people have and will die from COVID-19. However, nobody, not the experts nor the media seem to understand the true nature of this thing. We have no real data to even analyze the problem. In all of history, what nation has ever stopped their economy and essentially mortgaged their future of many future generations based upon guesses and fear? I took it seriously, as an individual, as individuals should - but this? This thing we have done, very strange set of coincidences - and I do not believe in coincidences.

China has now shut its borders. It is ramping up its production and economy while we create trillions of dollars in magic money. Why? what are the implications? How does this all work out to our benefit?

I am not suggesting the following is the answer to these questions but it certainly looks a lot more like all those conspiracy guys that have preached for years that some global cabal of governments and the elites were planning a crisis to take our freedom and impoverish us are worth reconsidering right now. It actually seems plausible.

Nothing that has happened, shutting it all down, creating these outrageous bills, locking people down, trampling the Constitution - all while we cheer. It is very strange. That is the only fact I know for sure, it is strange.

Plausibly Explaining It all

All of the coincidence and strangeness above could make sense, if:

  • Trump and Congress are idiots, liars, and fools.
  • Medical 'experts' in the west were either deniers, fools or liars
  • Maybe all those CEOs just saw the tea leaves of a coming recession (nothing to do with Coronavirus) and resigned their positions and cashed out over the last 14 months - nothing nefarious in that case.
  • The virus really is as bad, or close to as bad as some of the models predicted - it was only less deadly in said because of social norms in places like Japan and Hong Kong, and governmental control of the population (and spread) in China.
  • The West's love of individual freedom (in this case license to not be good citizens) made us more susceptible - think Carnival, Madi Gras, Spring break and idiots going to bars.

It is possible this really was an 'accident of history', just a natural virus that China's authoritarian regime was able to control through draconian measures while our attention in the West was diverted by incompetent news media and politicians worried about petty partisan squabbles. If it turns out to be a pretty bad virus, but just an accident of history that highlights and takes advantage of our weaknesses as moral citizens - well perhaps there never needed to be a 'global cabal' and all the conspiracy theories associated with it.

In either case, authoritarianism wins, China wins, freedom loses, the entire ideal of 'Americanism' loses. Sometimes, oftentimes it is just 'accidents of history' that shape and define the future. Cultures and societies that are not prepared for those accidents, and people that are not just and moral, do not survive them unchanged.

 

Candidates, 2020 Presidential Election

I have noticed some friends throwing about the idea that perhaps one or more of the Democratic candidates would be tolerable, even acceptable perhaps. I have heard Biden, Gabbard and Klobuchar mentioned in this regard. I have only one acquaintance that I know of that supports Sanders (and would conceivably be open to Warren). I will not discuss those two, their ideas are disastrous, anyone that doubts that could care less what I say.

I get that many folks are disgusted by Trump. I will discuss him at the end of this post. But first to these ‘tolerable, perhaps even acceptable’ Democrats.

If you are a Christian and a Conservative, and at this juncture of the cultural war, I cannot imagine that you can be the first without also being the second, then you must oppose abortion. I cannot imagine how a professing Christian could support that. As a realist you probably acknowledge it is here to stay for the time being in one form or another, but, a Christion metaphysical realist view of the world, and a plain understanding of the Word simply must inform you that it is wrong. So where are these ‘almost acceptable’ Democrats on the issue?

Klobuchar and Biden would use your tax dollars to provide abortions, making you even more complicit in murder. Gabbard would simply maintain the status quo, meaning any judges she appointed would solidify the state of the law as it stands. Not acceptable to any Christian.

On healthcare, all of the candidates would place us further down the track toward a socialized healthcare system. Gabbard is with the hardcore socialist, Klobuchar proposes something less drastic and Biden is interested in saving his legacy by ‘fixing’ the broken Obamacare. I understand that healthcare expenses are troublesome. I get people ‘feel’ as if the government ought to do something. Austrian economics indicates it is all broken because the government did too much of something in the first place with Medicare, Medicaid and monkeying with price controls in pharmaceuticals. More government intervention never solves the problem of government intervention. Go study the British economy in WWII and the effects of intervention that still exist there today. Good intentions, terrible ideas.

If you want to talk about completely failing to understand the nature of our Republic and original intent, consider the above. If this occurs, major cities and metropolitan areas will forever lord over and rule all the rest of the country. That was never the intent, and it would be a horrible outcome. The Framers understood the importance of place and community. This would be tryanny for the minority.

Lastly – none of these great ideas (let’s be honest based upon humanist idealism) are fully disclosed. By that I mean, a public choice economics analysis would demand a full accounting of the costs of the various (and massive) programs that the entire group above advocate for in one way or another. Such disclosure is lacking. Greats ‘idea’ but these all violate a principle we ought to hold dear – the government is not God and government is pretty poor at actually solving problems and generally only makes them worse.

So?

If you are a Christian, the first point above ought to be enough to stop the notion of entertaining any of these people. If you are a conservative and an American of a traditional mind, the second two cements the deal. It is not even a question.

But Trump you say.

Yes, he is ill-mannered, often embarrassing, sometimes spastic in his actions and likely someone none of us would invite him to dinner.

However, he is a pretty good speed-bump to slow further damage until maybe, perhaps, hopefully, and prayerfully, we find a way to coalesce around something solid.

He did appoint a couple of OK supreme court justices – not perfect, but not two more RBG types either. When he gets another chance he will likely nominate Amy Coney Barrett, that would be a pretty good win all by itself.

His speech at the National Right to Life March was the best of his career and sounded sincere. He has done nothing while in office to make it seem disingenuous and has taken steps to act out on his words.

He has taken steps to support Religious Liberty, as Christianity enters a minority phase, RL will become increasingly important.

His foreign policy appears spastic, but at times it has demonstrated the touch of realist genius. It is certainly no worse than what we generally see in this regard.

I can already hear your next argument. I am suggesting one hold their nose and vote for the lesser of all these evils. Yes, yes I am. Do you remember how much damage Bill Clinton did to the culture? DODT, etc. What about Obama? Surely you remember all the cultural foundations that were eradicated in his two terms. Neither of those guys held any of the views expressed by the above so openly. Yet, look at their wake.

There is no choice. Hold your nose and vote for Trump. Or Vote for one of the above, and carry the moral cost or don’t vote at all and allow your failure to do what we must be your shame and burden. Not even a choice.

I do not like this any more than you do. I suppose we could get it over and all vote Bernie, you know just burn the house down all at once – voting for one of the other Democrats is really just burning it room by room. But hey, if you want to give up they why not just feel the Bern all at once?

If we want to fix this long term, we need to figure out a way to break the establishment GOP and find a way to elect Americans of principles that respect people, property and tradition.

Love y’all, mean it.

It is Time To Reconsider President Trump

I will state upfront, I have never been a cheerleader for President Trump. I have also never been an unmovable critic. I acknowledge he is perhaps best termed a realistic pragmatic populist. I also find him ill-mannered. But here is the thing, he might be just what American conservatism needed; not to right the ship, but to buy time.

To the folks in a certain circle of conservatives that moan and complain about the man, I would say – I can also quote Burke, Kirk, and others. Yes, there is a crisis of principles in American conservatism, the Straussians did great damage. Many came to see conservatism to mean big government, war, and corporations combined with a ‘fringe’ element that advocated for moral issues. That ‘fringe’ that I am part of has often felt unheard and confused by what is happening. I agree with those that argue that conservatism in America lost its way because it left the principles that define true conservatism. We lost our way and allowed a strange coalition of fringe ideas to rise against us.

I ask you then?  What would you see done?  Retrench into Benedictine enclaves because the culture is lost? Post on Twitter about how much you disagree with Trump until another Kirk or Benedict comes along to put us back on the right path? Here is the thing fellows, there is great value in continually and consistently articulating true conservative principles. There is also great value in being realistic and pragmatic. Talking, throwing rocks and complaining will not change anything.

It is time that all the “blue checked principled conservative ‘intellectuals’ and ‘journalist’’ see President Trump for what he is and what he represents. It is time to stop throwing rocks. Keep up the good work of reminding the world of what true conservative principles look like, but realize, if we are going to get back to those principles in action, we will have to get there in small steps.

Consider if you will, the events of the last month or so

  • Soleimani killed. Iran allowed to ‘save face’ while the U.S. demonstrated the resolve to escalate if necessary. You may say the killing of this man was unnecessary, I would ask were you ever there? Have you ever seen actual intelligence reports related to his activities? I was and did, my knowledge is dated at this point, but he was a valid target just based upon my knowledge. Trump’s handling of the situation was perhaps geopolitical genius. It would have been the easy answer to retaliate against Iran after their ‘for show’ rocket attack. Instead, take a real look at what he did. Unprecedented and perhaps genius.
  • National Right for Life March.  So many of us ‘principled conservatives’ talk about the moral decay that results from a culture that murders the unborn. President Trump was the first US president to speak at this march, go back and watch the speech, perhaps the best of his career.
  • State of the Union.  Religious liberty, Pro-gun rights, Pro-life, Pro-capitalism. Argue with that. (also, tacky and non-traditional, I agree)

You wanted ‘less government’ thrown in there too?  I heard some of that, but here is the thing, what is conservatism really?  To preserve the permanent things. All the permanent things are under assault. One real way to reverse that trend is to change the narrative. To show that conservative principles are not hatred, but rather kindness. A strong economy with less regulation lifts everyone up. For a ‘populist’ president to do that while speaking truth about other conservative issues has real value. Contrasting the conservative vision directly against the socialist view speaks to a large segment of the coalition that supports the left.

Such as;

Black Americans, for instance, have never been completely on board with many aspects of the liberal agenda. They went along because the narrative said evil conservatives are filled with hate. It is hard to make that argument when conservatives are increasing opportunity, incomes and prosperity. It is the economy stupid! That might just be the ticket that breaks up the liberal coalition.

Mexican Americans, we assume, because the left says it is so, that all Latinos are exactly the same, all one block. I am not so certain. I suspect many, those that have been here working for a few years, legally and illegally, view new migrate waves from Central America with suspicion. They know those folks will compete with them for jobs. Trump’s stance on the border will perhaps have a different long-term impact on how many of these folks view conservatives than the liberal narrative paints.

Regular Joes. Factory workers, union men, blue color guys that vote for the liberal ticket because they are supposed to, even though they disagree with many of the social and cultural aspects of the liberal agenda. The economy and jobs is a real way to bring these folks over and break them away from blind support of politicians that harm them and their families.

I get it, and agree, the free-market is not a sacrament. We can all argue internally for decades about how unbridled vulture capitalism has ruined families, rural America, and the country. These are important conversations, we need to eventually expunge the idea that one can separate economic and social conservatism into public and private. However, right now, the real fight is about survival. If we retrench, argue internally over ideas that are alien at best, and heterodoxy at worst (in the minds of ordinary ‘conservatives’) what will we gain? Either Conservative. Inc will cement control of the opportunity of Trump’s populism, or the liberal socialist will take control. In both cases, the cause of conservatism will be killed. We have one chance, to become relevant. If Trump can crack the left’s coalition through economics while talking about real conservative issues, we need to try and get behind that- it is our only option that may actually help restore real conservatism. Throwing rocks, in the face of all the money and influence behind Conservitive, Inc. will simply ensure were are left on outside the circle.

Here is the crux of the matter. Talking about principles is important. High-minded rock-throwing, however, will not fix anything. Believing yourself too educated in the mystical traditions of conservatism to support a populist president that does not speak all the right conservative orthodoxy is not productive, not for the culture. It may garner you followers and book sales, but, you are not in the game. You will not help fix things.

President Trump represents a real opportunity to break the back of the hodge-podge coalition that makes up the power-base of the liberal establishment. Those people have never been more vulnerable. They look pathetic, weak, feckless and wrong at this point. Once that coalition is broken, perhaps then we might turn our guns on the false conservatives and reform conservatism in a real and practical way in America. If we fail to put down this abomination that has become of the left, all of our ideas and theories will be nothing more than academic pursuits and talk.

It is time for the fence-sitting rock-throwers to come to the conclusion I have, President Trump is good for conservatism because he represents a real opportunity to crush the liberal coalition and break it apart. It is time for real conservatives to turn away from ‘never Trumpers’ that cannot recognize this as the reality we live in – those people if they cannot come to understand the reality we live in should never be listened to again. We have an opportunity.

Y’all think about it!  Keep up the good work of articulating the principles of conservatism, however, look around at reality – we have a real opportunity to crush the biggest threat to conservatism and break apart its powerbase. Let’s do that, then we can expunge the Straussians and Neocons.

Unhinged and Triggered
They are unhinged and vulnerable now!

I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen. -Luther

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Connect with Barry on Twitter, @onlyBarryLClark. Wondering who I am? See here.

Northam’s High-Value Target List Team

Virginia’s Governor Northam, perhaps in response to so many Virginia counties passing a resolution stating country police forces and sheriff departments will not enforce any laws related to unconstitutional gun confiscation has taken a lesson from the War on Terror and brought it home.

He is asking for the formation of an 18 man team, and $4.8 million dollars (see page 23 for the funding of the team) to equip and fund said team for the purpose of enforcing state laws related to gun confiscation. (Washington Examiner)

Let me explain why this is a problem. Regular folks assume that there are some good people in law enforcement, and based upon the number of sheriffs across Virginia and other states that have publically stood up lately to say they would not violate the constitution, this seems true. Most Americans believe the National Guard would not be a good option to enforce gun confiscation, many Soldiers and leaders would resist, and this is probably also true.

To get this done, Northam would need people he could trust to do it, ‘special’ people that are treated special, given special equipment, special perks, allowed to grow facial hair, all that – getting an idea of what I am talking about yet? He wants to build a small special operations force, essentially soldiers instead of law enforcement officers, that will do his will without concern for morality or legality.

You say an 18 person team could never confiscate all the weapons Northam wants to ban. Sure, not all at once. They do not need to. All of the ‘offenders’ would be placed on a ‘target list’, intelligence packets created, hasty planning conducted on the evening’s targets and after say midnight or so the team would launch in a geographic area, hitting perhaps six homes a night. It would be all very efficient, fast, and as violent as the team thought they needed to make it in order to quickly hit all the targets on the list before dawn. This would go on night after night…

Most ordinary people would get the message pretty quickly – you cannot stop these guys from entering your home, shooting your dogs, pushing around your wife and trashing your house – try and they will shoot you and move on. I do not care who you are, one guy or four guys cannot stop a well-trained and efficient team practiced in forced entry and clearance procedures. They pick the time, they have the tactical advantage and they have the numbers and firepower. Try and stop them and you die.

The target list would organically shrink pretty quickly. Ordinary people would get the picture and reevaluate their life choices and give up the banned guns. Those few that decided to hold out would remain on the list until their time in the lottery came up one evening. When I was around guys that did this sort of work we called those sorts “deadenders”. Get it? The target was basically dead before the door was breached.

Look, this is dangerous for a bunch of reasons. Recruiting young fellows that want to be ‘heroic’ and are willing to do nasty and unconstitutional things in order to be special is flawed from the beginning. Once teams like this get rolling, night after night of kicking in doors, they begin to believe they are special, and their targets, become just that “targets”- not humans, with families, lives and rights.

There are just too many wolves out there pretending to be sheepdogs, guys that would jump at the chance to join Northam’s new kill squad if it meant they got to be special, wear tacticool stuff and call themselves an elite ‘operator’. Throw enough money and perks at trash and the trash will form a long line to join up.

Here is the thing, the people that advised Northam on this brilliant plan already know what I just said above. They learned this in a warzone, and they know the implications, yet, it is on the table for use in the US. There is no mistake or oversight here, this is intentional and it shows intent. Northam is literally willing to form a small army and invade and quarter them in Virginian’s homes to achieve his desires. Yes quarter, this squad of soldiers will occupy a home as long as they see fit to find justification for being there.

If this is the way he and those around him think I worry about what might occur come Monday.

Nobody anywhere is really “anti-gun”. Anyone that claims they do really means they believe that guns should only be held by the nice, trustable, and moral government. After all, the government would need those guns to actually take everyone else’s guns and to keep everyone in line. Elites and powerful people would ‘need’ those guns for their protective staff to keep the rabble away. When a person says they are anti-gun or for gun control they are saying they think the government is moral, ethical and trustable and everyone else is not to be trusted.

That sort of thinking did not work in the Soviet Union, Germany, Venezuala or the Ameican Plains.

Northam is not anti-gun. He needs the guns and his special HVT ‘kill squad’ to enforce policy. He simply expects everyone to trust him and government.

See also: Second Amendment and From Progressivism to Authoritarianism

Iran: The Long-Term

As we await POTUS’ speech to the nation this morning I think there are some things we can know, and others we can reasonably suspect.

First, looking at the general reaction on social media, for and against, statist and haters, there seems to be few that understand what this conflict really is. It is asymmetric, it is not WWIII and cannot be (unless some vastly remote and unlikely set of circumstances play out and that is as likely as snow in Miami).

Asymmetric warfare can describe a conflict in which the resources of two belligerents differ in essence and, in the struggle, interact and attempt to exploit each other’s characteristic weaknesses. In asymmetric warfare, the smaller opponent picks targets, measures action by cost versus gain and above all else crafts operations to ensure it remains in the fight. It requires realism and rationalism and patience. Iran has demonstrated again and again, and specifically last night, that it is capable and willing to play the long game.

Image

For instance, the satellite imagery above from the al-Assad airbase shows that Iranian missiles clearly missed the areas that look to be CHUs (containerized housing units). We now know that the Iranians informed the Iraqis before the attack, knowing full well the Iraqis would tell the Americans. In this way, Iran was fairly certain that troops would have time to seek shelter. We can conclude that this was a saving face response for Iran, they reacted, they were able to claim heavy casualties in their national media, satisfying their populace. They did not kill US soldiers, and apparently not even any Iraqis, therefore it was only a minor escalation.

For Iran, this was strategic, patient and measured. They acted, saved face and put the ball in the US court. This does not mean in the Iranian mind this conflict is over, it simply means that the leadership in Iran is smart enough not to escalate so much as to force a decisive engagement that they cannot win. They will live to fight another day.

Their next actions will be just as measured, whether through proxies or direct action.

If Iran now awaits a US response what might that be?

As reported yesterday, the US has repositioned B-52s to Diego Garcia

By my assessment 5th FLeet has at a minimum seven platforms afloat capable of launching Tomahawk missiles. Certainly, the US could launch a robust cruise missile response, but that would likely be overkill in the optics of international affairs at this point. It would also certainly not be enough to destroy Iranian capability, it would be, just like the Iranian attack a message.

A message will not change the perspective of Iran. They believe, rather firmly, that concession or weakness will lead to regime change efforts. They likely see no option to pull back, a message will not deter them at this point. For the first time in centuries, the Persians are poised to regain ascendancy in the region, this is a do or die time for them. A message will not deter them.

I suspect if Trump is determined to force the issue he will use patience and build forces and force Iran to act next, and only strike when he has sufficient power in the region. We will likely hear Trump proclaim that we are willing to leave but we are showing force in the short-term and that Iran should not act. We shall see.

Update: 11:42 am

based upon the content of POTUS’ speech this seems to have been predictable last evening.

Social media and the MSM will bash him, left and right, but this seemed to me to be perhaps his greatest moment, and I am neither a fan nor a hater. Knee-jerk launching a bunch of missiles would have been the easy answer, this path took patience and wisdom.

The Conflict with Iran in the Short-Term

Update:

https://twitter.com/onlyBarryLClark/status/1214700684907552769

My assessment below still stands despite this. The US is still in a predicament vis-a-vis Iraq, leave and allow Iran unfettered influence or stay and become an occupier. Obviously, within the Iranian calculus, they saw enough popular support in the region to press a rocket attack sooner rather than later to force the US hand.

I suspect this has increased the risk of escalation. No US president ever ignores an attack on US troops, and to properly attack Iranian sites the US needs to beef up airpower and bases in Afghanistan and perhaps Uzbekistan and secure permission to conduct operations from perhaps Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. I suspect the next move will be a US strike with cruise missiles while the big brains come up with a name for the operation and begin plans to forward position more air power. It really comes down to how many Americans were/are killed in this attack tonight.

In the roll-up of troops below, I missed the deployment of 2 or 6 B-52s to Diego Garcia yesterday. These are primary delivery systems for cruise missiles in this scenario.

_______________________________

Last evening I received inquiries from a young man that occasionally asks my opinion on matters such as this concerning the potential that something bigger may occur related to Iran. He has a wedding planned this spring and his bride to be is obviously concerned he may not actually be here.

I told him I suspect there is at worst a 33% chance of anything ‘real’ occurring and even in the worst-case scenario, it would not involve a Desert Storm style ground invasion. At most, all that is realistic is a pre-Desert Storm build-up and air campaign. Even that scenario requires many more iterations of additional events.

Upon consideration, if I were in charge of Iranian strategy, and if they react and act rationally and in a calculated manner that leverages their advantages, I think that 33% assessment is perhaps too high, much too high for the coming months.

So what do we know?

Khamenei Wants to Put Iran’s Stamp on Reprisal for U.S. Killing of Top General (reported by NYT). In the previous years Iranian direct action has been conducted through proxies, and in almost all cases included plausible deniability. Based upon the passions at home and the positive sentiment Iran enjoys at present in the region after the assassination of Suleimani they must and likely will act directly and overtly. This is not the same as acting stupidly or bluntly. I believe their next action will come soon but it will be measured and focused toward a specifically American target, not a GCC, European or even Isreali target. Perhaps the easy and vulnerable target of al-Assad airbase in Iraq with a limited missile attack. They will use strategic patience to wait for the right target at the right time that just affects the US. It will be proportional, so as not to cast them into the terroristic narrative. So yes, they will act but it will not involve anything like closing the Straits of Hormuz or hitting Saudi oil fields.

The Iraq Parliament passed a resolution calling for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraqi soil. If and when the US leaves this is a tremendous victory for Iran. The US is now in a quandary, stay as unwelcome occupiers or leave and allow Iran unlimited influence. The Pentagon has confused the issue by releasing a statement that US forces will leave followed by a statement by SECDEF that no decision has been made. Iran will pace its next move after all this gets sorted out, so as to not influence the Iraqis to change their minds. Iran will act once the US begins to leave or decides to stay against the will of the Iraqi government.

The deployments to the middle east of ground troops by the US does not indicate that the big brains in the Pentagon believe there is an imminent threat of Iranian massive action. Since May the US has sent approximately 14,000 additional troops to the region. Since the current events began the US has sent(T&P):

  • 3,500 paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne Division, who were sent to Kuwait.
  • A “contingent” of Army Rangers with the 75th Ranger Regiment.
  • Around 2,200 Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit that are embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan.
  • About 100 Marines from 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, who deployed to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad as part of the Special Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response – Central Command.

This really comprises a “speed-bump”, deterrence, rapid reaction and force protection deployment, not really the sort of thing that can conduct or withstand sustained offensive or defensive operations. Trump in his most wise statement of military doctrine I have ever heard him utter told a reporter a couple of months ago, if he wanted to fight Iran he would send a lot more troops.

Sending the light forces, the Marines and paratroopers first pays homage to centuries of gunboat/saber diplomacy. It tells the other side that you are serious and gives them the option for the next move.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly. These recent deployments do not have a name. Military folks love to give operations a name. Once you give it a name, it is real, game on. This is perhaps the best proof that things are not really serious yet. Once some iron major comes up with a name, that makes it past a council of colonels for approval but a group of generals, then you should worry.

I think Iran will be patient, they will probably leverage their newfound sympathy in a place like Afghanistan, overcoming centuries of animosity toward the Persians, to work with groups there to affect their direct action strike Khamenei wants.

Wars and Rumors of Wars

Iran

The United States has been in a proxy war with Iran for years. It has been fought with hard and soft power, in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere. Iranian special forces have been conducting unconventional warfare (UW) operations in Iraq while US forces have conducted foreign internal defense (FID). This is all certainly not new.

I suppose one of the most interesting and ironic things to come out of the death of Qassem Soleimani was the mad rush of youngsters checking the Selective Service website to see if they would be drafted. There was such a panic the website was overwhelmed. No worries little girly boys, the military is not going to pull you out of your Gender Studies college program. You are not needed.

In terms of the morality of killing a man as an individual, well that is something else to consider. Ever since Sherman and Lincoln made it fashionable in the Western mind to ignore centuries of jus ad bellum principles, the gateway to assassination was opened wide. It began with burning cities, progressed to firebombing and now to outright assassination – we have devolved far but that is another topic.

The middle east is something of a pickle. It has been such since the 1920s and the attempts by the major powers to carve up countries where none previously existed. It persisted through the 20th Century with governments supported by the West that were often totalitarian. Perhaps the very best thing we could have done is let it all work itself out in the early 1990s. To allow a stong Shiite and a strong Sunni duality to check one another. Perhaps right after the Cold War was the time to walk away and let them work it all out. Alas, that is not the nature of power, it never seems to just back away.

Here we are, thirty years on. The Sunnis in Iraq are impotent, Iran is unchecked, in the Islamic world only Saudi Arabia can stand against them and despite all the money the Saudis spend on defense they are a paper tiger, inept and inefficient. What to do?

On principle, it seems that stepping away is the wisest and most moral option. Practically I am not certain that is possible, or perhaps better stated, realistic. Americans are too concerned with their own comfort. Folks left and right, would not long tolerate a situation where Iran was able to dictate oil prices and availability. I may be a man that detests war while realizing the necessity to fight when forced to but I also understand the mindset of those in the world around me. The most fervent statists will call for escalation, the most radical liberals will call for appeasement but neither will suggest pulling away. Therefore, if there are only two realistic options on the table, engagement through appeasement and stalwart willingness toward aggression, I begrudgingly and sadly must side with the later (with caveats and perhaps, in the end, I retreat back to a position of principle that says let it be).

Let us just state something right away. The US is not going to invade Iran. I am aware of no plan in existence to invade Iran. I am aware of plans that involve conflict, even ground conflict with Iran in various places and in certain scenarios, but if a plan to actually invade Iran exists, it is theoretical and perhaps more of an exercise of the mind rather than something any professional takes seriously.

Iran is large, much larger than Iraq. It is more capable militarily than Iraq. To be certain its military is nothing close to a peer competitor but they are not incompetent. Iran benefits for the lessons of the US’s previous attempts at regime change. They would not simply dig in their 523,000 man military, (583,000 if you count the paramilitary MOI), and await shock and awe. Geographically, Iran occupies strategic high ground in the Straits of Hormuz. They have intra-theater assets that can cripple the oil supply of Saudia Arabia and punish Isreal. They are much more capable of bringing the mother of battles to the middle east than Saddam ever was, and all thinking people know this. Threatening to hit 52 critical sites in Iran may give them pause, maybe. Then again, maybe not, if the US hit four times as many sites it would not eliminate Iran. I suspect the immediate Iranian response will be subterfuge and something more subtle, activities focused on making the US take more overt action. They have all the advantages through that strategy. Events like the September attacks on Saudi oil fields, which Iran conducted with plausible deniability and impunity are likely future response.

Iran is the honey-badger in this fight, and they just don’t care. This is a tough nut to crack, perhaps too tough.

When The People see the Government as Illegitimate

There have been several news articles of late quoting a Trump supporter as saying something like “there will be a Civil War if Trump is impeached”. These are click-bait pieces, intended to rile up a certain segment of the population with images of white men in their 50s or 60s with MAGA red hats and shotguns storming the steps of Congress.

On the face of it, this is simply preposterous. On a deeper level, there is something to this idea. No, not that Trump supporters would take to the streets in violence if the Senate actually impeached him and actually try and overthrow the government. That is not the real danger. The real danger is the government itself already looks pretty illegitimate to a lot of folks right and left. Impeaching a president, now, in this great divide, with clowns in office, right and left, could only serve to further delegitimize the government itself.

The far left sees the government as oppressive, its police forces unchecked and the government as a tool of inequity. The far-right sees the government as the champion of the destruction of traditional America and inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property. Everybody left, right and middle sees the federal government as incompetent and mired in silliness. It is not a far jump from thinking something an incompetent joke to actually seeing it as illegitimate.

No there will not be a Civil War if Trump were to be impeached but the pendulum does swing, and it is swinging harder with each iteration. Trump was a logical counter-reaction to Obama, the Alt-Right to Antifa, one party’s witch hunt is a reaction to the others when they were in power. The witch hunts will not stop, the pendulum will not stop swinging and the government will not suddenly start appearing more legitimate or competent. Ineptitude, investigations, chaos, and pettiness are now the very best Congress can provide America, no matter which party is in charge.

Somebody, one side, will eventually grow tired of the pendulum and violence will ensue someday. It is likely now, not just theoretical. It could take a year, or twenty, but a government cannot rule without violence once it becomes illegitimate – the Federal government has either crossed that line or is rapidly approaching it, it all depends upon your perspective. The apathy demonstrated by most is an absolute sign of this illegitimacy, a testimony equal to the anger and agitation on the far right and left.

An illegitimate government either crumbles, the least likely outcome, or resorts to violence to combat violence, to shore up its power in a vacuum of legitimacy. Authoritarianism often follows illegitimacy.

The cultural war has devastated a lot more than American traditions, it has polarized politics to such a degree that the government can no longer actually function to fulfill its purpose.

We elect guys with nicknames like “Tricky Dick” and “Slick Willie” and wonder why those men have scandal. We elect a guy that is first generation with a middle name of Hussain and investigate his ties to Kenya. We elect a fellow that demonstrates amorality in his personal life and we are shocked by his audacious tweets. But Americans elected these men, and perhaps as Hans Herman Hoppe pointed out in Democracy, The God that Failed that is the problem, the voters or more specifically democracy is the problem. Hoppe was echoing Alexis de Tocqueville’s sentiments about great requiring good. Americans elected these people, and despite the flaws of their choices, they expected the government to get to work. And perhaps that is the problem.

If the government is illegitimate and there are clowns running the halls of congress and bafoons regularly occupying the White House, whose fault is it? This is not a right or left issue, Trump cannot be the best and the brightest that conservatives might have found, he does not even qualify as a conservative in my mind. But have you taken a gander at the debate stage of the left recently? Are those people the best and the brightest from that side? Some of the Democratic offerings even propose eliminating the last “check on stupid” the Founder’s placed in the Constitution, the Electoral College. That is a brilliant idea!

If the government is illegitimate, it is because the electorate is at fault. We elect these people. We are the clowns.

Humpty Dumpty has taken a fall and no amount of effort can put him back together again. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold.

Confusion on Syria

On the 16th of October, I went out on a limb and postulated that perhaps there was a bigger strategy and significant goings-on behind the scenes in the apparent sudden US withdrawal from Northern Syria. As facts have become clearer I believe I was wrong.

First, we learn that the troops leaving Syria that the US initially stated would move to Western Iraq, to be “in the neighborhood”, are not welcomed. US troops relocating from Syria have four weeks to stay in Iraq (Military Times, 23 October). Some news agencies report that Iraq went so far as to prepare official complaints to the UN regarding the movement of US troops into its territory. This demonstrates, pretty clearly, that there was no strategy, or plan and no coordination with Iraq. Perhaps at best there was an assumption but assumptions are bad planning.

If the plan all along was to keep an eye on a resurgence of ISIS from Iraq, one would think that coordination with Iraq would be a key element to work out before announcing a departure from Northern Syria. However, three days ago we read, US military struggles to find a strategy amid sudden policy changes in CENTCOM region (Military Times, 22 October).

Finally, yesterday the US announced, After American troop withdrawal, Trump shifts focus to Syria oil fields (Military Times, 24 October).

Let’s use a first principle to analyze this:

The same thing cannot be affirmed and denied at the same time

We cannot say;

“they fight over there all the time, it is not our fight”

AND

“We need to be close to keep things under control” (Western Iraq) and when that fails, “we need to send troops back to Syria.”

Either it is true that we have no compelling strategic interest in Syria that requires us to risk blood and treasure, OR, we do. In either case, the manner in which we have executed this honestly makes no reasoned sense. We cannot claim that both are at the same time true and false.

Is this all a result of the “Military-Industrial Complex” pushing back to keep the status quo?

Is it a result of what Ann Coulter called in a recent Frontline interview a phenomenon where Trump acts on the last piece of advice he gets and more hawkish voices got to him?

Is this the “3D Chess” that some apologists suggest?

Was this a result of the Intelligence and Military community’s propensity to see the boogeyman behind every rock and pushing to get back in the fight?

Only time will tell.

VP Pence China Speech

Hours after VP Pence spoke today about China, Foreign Policy published a piece that laying out five takeaways.[1]

“Linking Hong Kong and trade talks”

“Hong Kong is a living example of what can happen when China embraces liberty,” Pence said, before offering an unusual note of support for an official in an administration that has often been reluctant to embrace protest movements. “We are inspired by you,” he added. “Know that you have the prayers and the admiration of millions of Americans.”

Pence

“China is becoming a great cudgel in the culture wars”

“Some of the NBA’s biggest players and owners, who routinely exercise their freedom to criticize this country, lose their voices when it comes to the freedom and rights of the people of China,” Pence said on Thursday. “In siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech, the NBA is acting like a wholly owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime.”

Pence

“Settling the great ‘decoupling’ debate”

“People sometimes ask whether the Trump administration seeks to ‘decouple’ from China,” Pence said on Thursday. “The answer is a resounding ‘no.’”Rather than isolate Beijing, Pence said the United States seeks “engagement with China and China’s engagement with the wider world but engagement in a manner consistent with fairness, mutual respect, and the international rules of commerce.”

Pence

“Emphasizing the intellectual property theft debate”

“American enterprises continue to lose hundreds of billions of dollars each year in intellectual property theft.”

Pence

“The political meddling bugaboo”

“Beijing’s economic and strategic actions, its attempts to shape American public opinion, prove out what I said a year ago, and it’s just as true today: China wants a different American president.”

Pence

Obviously none of this is real news, it is really more of a slow reveal. The 2017 National Security Strategy mentioned China 33 times by name, twice as much as Obamas’s last version. [2] Trump’s NSS specifically called out China and identified mounting threats where Obama’s focused on engagement. Trump’s document, in short, called on all the domains of US power to compete and combat China in every area of importance. This was a nuanced but direct shift in US policy. VP Pence’s words today are merely part of a progressively elaborating articulation of this strategy.

Trump’s next NSS document is due out in 2020 and I suspect it will be less nuanced and more direct in relation to China.

If you are like me years ago you may not grasp the importance of the NSS document. I took public policy classes in college where it was discussed but I garnered it was merely another piece of government paperwork, perhaps more political than anything. It was really not until Command and General Staff College that I realized how important the document is. The moment it is released all the machinery of government stops, reads it, and shifts gears to operationalize the strategy. Every word, every sentence, the choice of words, all are important, nuanced and have great meaning. All the nations of the world read it too and plan and react accordingly. There is perhaps no piece of paper of greater importance released by a US president in the modern era. Before the 2017 document hit the streets parties internal and external to the government began lobbying for their version fo what the 2020 document should say.

For decades, U.S. policy was rooted in the belief that support for China’s rise and for its integration into the post-war international order would liberalize China. Contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others. China gathers and exploits data on an unrivaled scale and spreads features of its authoritarian system, including corruption and the use of surveillance. It is building the most capable and well-funded military in the world, after our own. Its nuclear arsenal is growing and diversi ing. Part of China’s military modernization and economic expansion is due to its access to the U.S. innovation economy, including America’s world-class universities.

2017 US NSS

In early 2018 the DoD released its National Defense Strategy one of the dozens of such documents that follow the release of the NSS and implement the strategy within various domains.

In June 2019, the DoD established a separate office to focus exclusively on China.

“The inward part [is] to help us drive alignment on China across the department as we carry out our National Defense Strategy and its implementation. … A lot of that is to help us internally, with the Joint Staff and the services, to make their respective decisions”

Randall Schriver, the assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs [3]

This is the only such office at the DoD level focused exclusively on one country. Trump absolutely meant what he said in his NSS that China is his focus.

Trump’s 2020 budget reflects his focus on China.

To a remarkable degree, the 2020 Pentagon budget proposal is shaped by national security threats that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has summarized in three words: “China, China, China.”

AP [4]

The South China Morning Post reports that the US conducted four separate training operations in August and September focused on China. [5]

  • A sealift exercise designed to move heavy Army divisions
  • Joint land-to-ship missle exercises with Japan
  • US-Asean naval exercise with 10 pacific nations, Four of which – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – have territorial disputes with Beijing over the South China Sea.
  • Finally, US Marines conducted airfield- and island-seizure drills in the East and South China seas, near the Philippines and around the Japanese island of Okinawa

I have personally argued for years that we were spending blood and treasure in the wrong places and focusing on the wrong goals strategically. If I were to be a hawk, I am not, I would have been hawkish on China for years. Whether this course is right or wrong, and I believe it is certainly part of what we should refocus on, only time will tell.

_________________

  1. Foreign Policy, BY ELIAS GROLL | OCTOBER 24, 2019, 5:15 PM https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/10/24/mike-pence-hawkish-china-speech-hong-kong/
  2. US National Security Strategy, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf
  3. Defense News 1 OCT 2019, https://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2019/10/01/the-pentagon-has-created-a-new-office-solely-focused-on-china-is-that-a-good-idea/
  4. PBS NewsHour Weekend, Nation Mar 16, 2019 1:19 PM EDT https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/new-us-military-budget-focused-on-china-despite-border-talk
  5. South China Morning Post, Published: 6:00pm, 21 Sep, 2019 https://www.scmp.com/news/china/military/article/3029774/growing-rivalry-between-china-and-us-plays-out-military-war