Video Wednesday

These have been accumulating so lets watch them together, and clean out the files a bit.

Via The Conservative Woman, Thanks, Laura

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Choosing Freedom or Terrorism

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R), France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (L), Germany Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (C), EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Britain’s Foreign Secretary arrive for a meeting of EU/E3 with Iran at the EU headquarters in Brussels on May 15, 2018. – Iran’s foreign minister said on May 15 that efforts to save the nuclear deal after the abrupt US withdrawal were “on the right track” as he began talks with European powers in Brussels. (Photo by Olivier Matthys / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read OLIVIER MATTHYS/AFP/Getty Images)

From the Free Beacon, in the biting off more than you can chew department.

European countries are currently examining a range of options to counter the reimposition of harsh U.S. sanctions on Iran in a bid to continue doing business with the Islamic Republic, a move that is being met with chilly reception on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are already putting in place measures to ensure that any European nation caught skirting U.S. sanctions faces harsh repercussions, according to a new policy paper being examined by lawmakers and viewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

European Union members are seeking to reimplement an old law known as the blocking statute, which orders European companies to ignore U.S. sanctions on Iran.

The move sets up a showdown between the United States and Europe over the future of business dealings with Iran in the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to walk away from the landmark nuclear deal and reimpose wide-ranging and severe sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Iran opponents on Capitol Hill are already moving to respond, according to multiple sources who shared with the Free Beacon a newly developed policy memo that maps a plan for the United States to potentially sanction the European Investment Bank, or EIB, and cut its access to the U.S. financial system. The policy paper was written by Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“There is no statute that can save a European company from losing its access to the U.S. financial system,” the policy memo states. “European companies will not be willing to violate U.S. sanctions even with the revival of the blocking statute.”

European companies will be forced to make a choice between doing business with Iran and retaining access to the U.S. financial system.

“French President Emmanuel Macron Thursday conceded that European companies should be allowed to decide for themselves what to do without an EU order,” the memo notes. This suggests that whatever blocking statute is announced Friday will be largely symbolic.

Well, they can do what they want, I suppose, but it looks from here like a foolish move to anger the United States rather seriously in order to trade with the failed state of Iran.

But look, there’s more!

The Trump administration could invoke the 2013 Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act, a wide-ranging law that could be interpreted in such a manner that would sanction European companies for providing material support to the globe’s foremost state sponsor of terror.

The law “requires the president to block the assets of any person who knowingly provides financial or material support to any activity related to Iran’s port operators, its energy, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors, and any Iranian company or official listed on Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals list,” according to the policy memo, which is being examined by multiple offices on Capitol Hill. “The Trump administration could interpret this section to apply to any EIB director who votes to provide such support—and to any member of the Management Committee who implements it.”

Administration insiders familiar with the United States’ efforts to ensure European nations cut ties with Iran told the Free Beacon the EU is fighting a losing battle to counter new U.S. sanctions.

“The Europeans are acting more like a Heaven’s Gate cult, locking arms and willing to eat the apple sauce rather than break off business with the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” said one source familiar with the strategy. “Treasury this week designated the governor of Iran’s central bank—does any European country think Treasury can’t designate their own central bank governor too?”

The real point here is that Israel is facing an existential threat, and Israel is very nearly as close an ally as Great Britain. If Germany and France want to anger the US real quick, well they found their issue. And it’s not Donald Trump, or at least not only Donald Trump, it is also the Congress, and yes, the people.

I said last week in a comment on a British blog, the Iran deal has the potential of being an issue where Europeans will have to decide between Iran and the United States permanently. One hopes they decide wisely, but one would be wise to not bet on it. Their delusions of importance seem to not only continue but to grow.

 

Trump, OODA Loops, and Chaos

Michael Walsh wrote a column in The New York Post last week. It’s a good one. A couple excerpts.

And yet, the economy is humming, hosts of regulations have been rolled back, the unemployment rate is down, job openings are soaring, taxes have been cut and black joblessness is at an all-time low. Prototypes for the wall along the Mexican border are being tested, raids by ICE are rounding up dangerous illegal aliens and the “travel ban” against several Muslim nations was argued last month before the Supreme Court, where the president’s authority over immigration will be upheld.

In foreign affairs, the two Koreas are talking to each other, with a summit between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un slated for June in Singapore, the ISIS “caliphate” has been effectively destroyed and just last week Trump yanked the carpets out from under the Iranian mullahs and canceled the nuclear deal negotiated — but never submitted to the Senate for ratification — by the Obama administration.

Indeed so. As I said in a comment last week, when you write with your finger on the beach, you have to hold back the tide.

The truth is, as much as they hate Trump’s policies, the president’s enemies hate the man even more. Donald Trump offends the establishment on a personal, visceral level. His opponents are the same folks who idolized Adlai Stevenson and thought Ike was just a dolt who somehow won World War II. Who worshipped John F. Kennedy (but were repelled by LBJ), hated Nixon, thought Reagan was an amiable dunce and erected shrines to Obama. They are the Ivy Leaguers, the credentialists, the Georgetown establishment for whom there is only one right way to conduct a presidency, and that is the Harvard-Democratic-groupthink way.

What Trump understands, however, is what many great leaders have understood: that “chaos,” not consensus, is the way ideas are tried and tested. That if someone or something isn’t working, scrap it and try something else. Results are what count, not consistency: Trump’s ability to morph from saber-rattling lunatic to charming glad-hander infuriates them because they see it as phony.

To me, this isn’t so much chaos, as it is the president’s learning curve and getting the right people in the right slots to make his vision work. George Marshall all through the thirties kept lists of officers he thought could lead American armies in war. Of the men on that list – well only Fredenhall who lost at El Guettar didn’t work out. The rest, well, you know the names as well as I do, Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, Hodges, MacArthur, and many more, thanks to Marshall’s superb planning. Trump didn’t have that opportunity.

Nor was he especially familiar with international diplomacy, any more than you and I are, so there has been a steep learning curve for him, not helped by the hostility here and abroad, which he shares with Eisenhower and Reagan. Pretty good company, I’d say.

Over the course of my life, I picked up the concept of the OODA Loop. It was developed by an Air Force officer, Colonel John Boyd, and it defines the lifeblood of competition, not only in the furball of aerial combat, that was COL Boyd’s milieu but in American business. I wrote about it here, but here are some of the basics.

  • Observe: This means mostly that you’ve been paying attention to all sorts of things. You know what’s going on in the world and what your opponent might be up to.
  • Orientation: This is your background, specialized knowledge and genetic make up and all sorts of other things that your mind uses to filter information. For instance, if you tell me on the phone that the light in your kitchen doesn’t work and that there is a burning smell; I’d tell you to turn off your electricity , and if the smoke smell persists, call the fire department. And since that’s my business, I’ll be there as soon as I can. If my specialty was something else, I’d likely tell you something else. A lot of orientation is experience. To use the Air Force again, if memory serves during WW II they found that if you survived 5 missions you were far more likely that the gross statistics showed, to finish your tour.
  • Decide: Make a decision, define the mission or whatever you choose to call it. This is where a lot of problems happen. It seems that it rarely happens that we get to make a decision on our own anymore. We have so much support infrastructure and it cost so damned much, that we think we always need more information or to consult or whatever. In my Doolittle example above; that’s the message to Pearl or Washington or a council of war. Any of these slow you down. One of the problems our opponent’s have (either big businesses or in the military realm) is that they usually have to get permission to act; often at a ridiculously high level.
  • Action: Do it and do it fast and then do something else. Keep doing things so fast that the opposition can’t ever keep up.

If you read that article, and the ones referred in it, you’ll know that is why America is so formidable, in business and in war, it’s the reaction time, multiple things going on so close together that they all run into each other. In other words, from outside, when done well, it looks like chaos. It also looks like Donald Trump’s America.

What is the Washington way? Well, Jessica once wrote about The Council of Florence, which was attempting to heal the Great Schism between the East and the West. That post made me fall off my chair laughing because for us it was about something else, something contemporary. It also describes ‘the Washington Way’ very well. This is too long already, but I’ll give you a taste.

There was a crisis, that was why they were meeting. Unless action was taken, then something unpleasant, and possibly worse would happen. It had taken time to get to this point. Those present were, of course, only protecting the dignity of their offices, and no one should think that any asperity in their conversational ripostes was anything to do with personal pride or arrogance, these men were, they all agreed, humble men, servants of the servants of God – and as such it behoved them to guard fiercely the dignity of the office of which they were but stewards.

So, talks about talks had produced a meeting in which there would now be an opportunity for all those present to talk.  As one might have expected from such educated and even intellectual men, the talk was of high quality; had there been an olympiad for such things, giving out the gold would have been a very difficult task; it would certainly have involved more talks to ensure that the criteria established were so finely tuned that they would be able to pick up the echo the nuance of the inference which would surely bring the prize. Still, there was not, so at least there was one less thing to discuss.

Do read it all, and see if it sounds familiar to you. How did that council work out? Well…

In this way, seven months passed most pleasantly in the Italian city of Ferrara. Unfortunately, money was running out to pay for all these hungry thinkers, and there was plague in the area. So they decamped to the even more pleasant city of Florence in January, and seven months later came to an agreement on a formula of union between Rome and Constantinople. But when the Easterners got home, they were reminded that no one voice, indeed not even so many learned theologians and bishops, spoke for the Orthodox, so after all that, there was no union. Still that was fine, as the Westerners deposed their Pope anyway.

Fourteen years later the Ottomans massacred thousands of inhabitants of Constantinople and sold thousands more into slavery. A century later Western Christendom began to splinter into many fragments.

It’s the American (although not the Washington) Way

Lead, Follow, or get the Hell out of the Way

VE Day and Appeasement

Yesterday was the 73d anniversary of VE Day – the day when Nazi Germany surrendered to the most powerful alliance ever assembled, Great Britain and its Empire, the Soviet Union, and the United States, and a fair number of smaller powers, and governments in exile. It is a great day in the history of freedom, and it’s a shame that we don’t celebrate it more.

But maybe the reason we don’t is that it was a rather unnecessary war, if we had kept the watch in the 20s and 30s, it need never have happened. Imagine a world without any of the horrors of that period, it could easily have been, if, for example, the west had shut Hitler down when he reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936. But we didn’t, and it happened.

In 1938 the British Prime Minister journeyed to Munich and returned with a piece of paper, that sold out Czechoslovakia, which has come to be called appeasement. Somewhat unfairly, in my opinion. Mr. Chamberlain was as patriotic as any Briton could want, but his military cupboard was pretty bare, if he had gone to war over the Sudetenland, it is very likely that he would have lost, and left Britain occupied as well. That would have precluded the Allies winning the war, no matter what the New World, in all its power and might, might do.

The next year was different, a new Prime Minister, one of the greatest war leaders of the English speaking peoples was in charge, and the guarantee was given to Poland. And so, once again, as so often, Tommy Atkins paid in blood for his leaders lack of preparation.

But that war ended on May 8th, 1945, and the lesson was learned, and the Soviet Empire was in time destroyed, without destroying the world. But history did not end, as some claimed. It is well to remember what Churchill wrote about Nazi rule for Collier’s magazine in 1937…

To relax their grip may be at the same time to release avenging forces. Dictators and those who immediately sustain them cannot quit their offices with the easy disdain—or more often relief—with which an American President of a British Prime Minister submits himself to an adverse popular verdict. For a dictator the choice may well be between the throne or the grave. The character of these men who have raised themselves from obscurity to these positions of fierce, dazzling authority does not permit us to believe that they would bow their heads meekly to the stroke of fate. One has the feeling they would go down or conquer fighting, and play the fearful stakes which are in their hands. . .

Thus we are confronted with a situation in Europe abhorrent to its peoples, including the great mass of German and Italian peoples, in which bands of competent, determined men under ruthless leadership find themselves unable to go or to stop. It may well be that the choice before Germany is a choice between an internal and an external explosion. But it is not Germany that will really choose. It is only that band of politicians who have obtained this enormous power, whose movements are guided by two or three men, who will decide the supreme issue of peace or war. To this horrible decision they cannot come unbiased. Economic and political ruin may stare them in the face, and the only means they have to escape may be victory in the field. They have the power to make war. They have the incentive to make war; nay, it may well be almost compulsion.

Very wise words indeed, and have application beyond Nazi Germany.

Yesterday, the President ended the so-called agreement with Iran. It was an agreement that never should have been made, as President Obama was told by a huge proportion of Congress, which is why it was an agreement and not a treaty, the Senate would have decisively defeated it. In addition, there is a summit coming up with North Korea. Both of these countries are in the exact situation that Sir Winston describes above.

There are reports of additional air force units of British, French, and American origin moving into position around Syria. They may well be needed.

For Iran, like North Korea is a failed state, who has denied its people butter to buy guns, and is attempting to expand militarily. It is fairly obvious that such is a very bad idea, for us all, and especially for our ally Israel. Then there is the risk of nuclear weapons in the hands of a rogue state. This was, of course, the original impetus of the Manhatten Project, to beat Hitler’s henchmen to the bomb. And so once again, the valley is darkened by the shadow of death, and there are rumors of war, and there could well be war.

But once again, the west has made their bed, and will have to pay the price, or lose. It is ancient wisdom amongst our people, and few put it better than Rudyard Kipling did,

It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
  To call upon a neighbour and to say: --
"We invaded you last night--we are quite prepared to fight,
  Unless you pay us cash to go away."

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
  And the people who ask it explain
That you've only to pay 'em the Dane-geld
  And then  you'll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
  To puff and look important and to say: --
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
  We will therefore pay you cash to go away."

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
  But we've  proved it again and  again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
  You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
  For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
  You will find it better policy to say: --

"We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
  No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
  And the nation that pays it is lost!"

Zuckerberg Talks, Facebook’s Problems Even Worse

From Investor’s Business Daily.

Public Relations: After days of silence in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been talking up a storm. Given the kinds of things he’s been saying, it might be better if he went back to his Silent Zuck routine.

Case in point is his interview with Vox.com, in which Zuckerberg managed to generate a new round of bad press over Facebook’s privacy scandal, talked about having some sort of Supreme Court decide what constitutes “acceptable speech” and how Facebook (FB) hampers independent media outlets. Oh, and he apparently thinks patriotism is arcane.

The latest privacy flap came when Zuckerberg suggested that Facebook scans private messages sent over its Messenger app and blocks those it deems inappropriate.

During the interview, he talked about blocking “sensational messages” that Facebook believed were meant to incite harm. “Our systems detect that that’s going on,” he said. “We stop those messages from going through.”

On Wednesday, Facebook officials confirmed the practice to Bloomberg.

The public response has not been favorable. One Twitter user commented “Facebook is the new NSA.” Another tweeted “Facebook: The world’s youngest surveillance state.”

Completely unacceptable, in my opinion. Either Facebook is a common carrier of information, rather like the phone company, or it is not. If it is not, then it is a private message service, and needs to be transparent in its advertising and public relations that it only carries messages for its favored people and groups, even if that undercuts its model of making (lots of) money by selling its clients information to all and sundry.

“You can imagine,” he said, “some sort of structure, almost like a Supreme Court, that is made up of independent folks who don’t work for Facebook, who ultimately make the final judgment call on what should be acceptable speech in a community that reflects the social norms and values of people all around the world.”

It’s a good thing Zuckerberg wasn’t around when the founders were drafting the First Amendment.

But what exactly does he think would constitute global “social norms and values” in a world that includes countries where gays are executed, infidels killed, political opponents jailed, and free press suppressed?

Zuckerberg also talked about how his company “worked directly” with the German government to monitor content before elections there, saying that “if you work with the government in a country, they’ll actually have a fuller understanding of what is going on.”

That prompted the Wall Street Journal’s James Freeman to write: “The idea of Facebook working with governments around the world to filter news is more frightening than almost any commercial use of user data one can imagine.”

We could not agree more.

I couldn’t agree more either. Worst of all worlds really, being exploited for your personal data, by who knows whom, not to mention various repressive governments, and yes, I include Germany in that category. I wonder when we will start seeing Europeans going to jail for Facebook posts? Shan’t be long, I imagine, the British police are already monitoring Twitter.

At another point, Zuckerberg appears to dismiss pride of country as old fashioned.

“One of the things I found heartening is if you ask millennials what they identify the most with, it’s not their nationality,” he said. “The plurality identifies as a citizen of the world. And that, I think, reflects the values of where we need to go.”

Well, what really is there to add to that. He has his opinion. I and millions of others have a directly opposite opinion, mostly because we are intelligent enough to recognize that some countries are better than others, and some are clearly evil.

He really ought to stop digging, the hole is plenty deep to bury him in, but he won’t, not least because he thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room well world maybe. Watching people blow things up is strangely fascinating though, isn’t it?

The Use of Power

You remember last month we talked here about how a couple hundred Russian mercenaries got handled very roughly when they attacked a camp that contained American advisors. It seems we put on quite the air show for them beyond the artillery response. Everything from Apaches all the way to B-52s. Seems people noticed

From Business Insider via Warsclerotic comes the story.

Since the US-led effort against the Islamic State has reclaimed almost all of the terrorist group’s territory in Syria, 2,000 or so US forces remain in control of the country’s rich oil fields.

And though Russia, Syria’s government forces, and Iran’s militias all oppose that remaining US presence, there’s little they can do about it.

A small US presence in an eastern town called Deir Ezzor has maintained an iron grip on the oil fields and even repelled an advance of hundreds of pro-Syrian government forces— including some Russian nationals believed to be mercenaries — in a massive battle that became a lopsided win for the US.

Russia has advanced weapons systems in Syria, pro-Syrian government militias have capable Russian equipment, and Iran has about 70,000 troops in the country. On paper, these forces could defeat or oust the US and the Syrian rebels it backs, but in reality it would likely be a losing battle, according to an expert.

“They have the ability to hurt US soldiers — it’s possible,” Tony Badran, a Syria expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. But “if they do that,” he said, “they’ll absolutely be destroyed.”

In Badran’s view, even if Russia wanted a direct fight against the US military in Syria, something he and other experts seriously doubt, the forces aligned with Syria’s government don’t stand much of a chance.

The real saving grace is that nobody, not Russia, not Syria, not even Iran really wants to fight the US. That expert is correct, they could kill some American soldiers, and from what I’ve seen of Trump as Commander in Chief, they won’t like what happens next.

We talked about how America makes war, long ago, here. It’s a devastating combination when given enough latitude to fight the war, not make reporters and other such riff-raff happy. It looks like the President understands that.


Some of the British have their priorities straight. Also from Warsclerotic comes a report that a British woman was killed recently in Syria. She was Anna Campbell and she was a volunteer with the Kurds.

Anna Campbell, from Lewes, East Sussex, was volunteering with the US-backed Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) – the all-female affiliate army of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) – in the besieged city of Afrin when the convoy she was travelling in was struck by a Turkish missile on 16 March.

A very brave woman. I think Teresa May should be contemplating why that woman wasn’t in the British army, and maybe asking Turkey just what the hell they think they are doing rather than worrying full time about some Russian spy that got almost killed.


Stacy McCain makes the point very clearly, why the hell do we care what Europe does?

If you’re old enough to remember the debates that preceded the Iraq War, a key point was the posture of our so-called “allies” in Europe. Many liberals argued that if European countries didn’t support the U.S., we couldn’t go to war against Saddam Hussein. In effect, liberals wanted to give Europe a veto over U.S. foreign policy. Americans had to endure the humiliating spectacle of our leaders basically begging France to join the anti-Saddam coalition, only to be rebuffed in the end.

Without regard to the specific issue of Iraq, however, that debate called attention to the general uselessness of our so-called “allies.” How many armored divisions can France put in the field? How many brigades of combat infantry can Belgium or Portugal deploy? How many attack helicopters and fighter aircraft do Spain and Italy have? If you scrutinize Europe’s military preparedness, you realize that even if they had wanted to join the U.S.-led coalition in smashing Saddam, they didn’t have very much operational equipment and manpower to contribute to the effort.

Consider the current condition of the German military:

Germany has come up short once more in meeting its military obligations to NATO. Leaked readiness data indicates that a key component of the NATO rapid reaction force, which Germany is to supply in 2019, is nowhere near ready to perform duties German said it could handle. The German armored brigade that was promised for 2019 is not able to fulfill its duties. Only about 20 percent of the armored vehicles (Leopard 2 tanks and Marder infantry vehicles) are fit for service. German military aircraft continue to have the lowest readiness rates in NATO and Germany continues, as it has for over twenty year, to promise the situation would be fixed but it never is. When the Americans press Germany to meet its NATO obligations (which includes spending at least two percent of GDP on defense) there are promises but no performance.

(Hat-tip: Austin Bay at Instapundit.)

Can’t even keep an armored brigade working, so much for the vaunted German army, once rated the best army in the Warsaw Pact and in NATO. They have become the joke that Italy was in the twentieth century, simply a drain on their allies. Willing to fight to the last Briton (and American). There’s an army ISIS could probably take on, even in their current depleted state, particularly since undoubtedly their 5th (and probably 6th, 7th, and 8th) column is already in place.

I don’t think post-Brexit Britain has too much to worry about from the continent. You’ll notice that Stacy doesn’t mention Britain in that story, I’d bet his reason is the same as mine. Whatever the faults of the British government, and it has many, it is one of the two most reliable allies we have and has been for many years. Yes, the other is Israel. It is also the only other power that can reliably project power around the world, in much the same manner as we do.

I also think it is time to case the NATO standard, and ally ourselves who believe the same things we do and let the rest fend for themselves, we’ve rescued Europe three times in a hundred years and that is enough.

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