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  • Archive for the 'Iran' Category

    Is Israel winning the Global War on Terror for us ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th July 2014 (All posts by )

    Hamas has attacked Israel, first with the kidnapping of three teenagers, now with rockets aimed, for example, at Tel Aviv and its airport.

    GAZA: Islamist Hamas’ armed wing has warned airlines that it intends to target Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport with its rockets from Gaza and has told them not to fly there, a statement by the group said Friday.

    So far, Israel’s Iron Dome antimissile system has been successful in intercepting those that are a risk to populated places.

    Israel’s astonishingly effective Iron Dome air defense has prevented Hamas from killing Israeli Jews and spreading terror in the civilian population. Ironically, though, the better Iron Dome works, the less sympathy the rest of the world has for a nation that remains under rocket attack.

    That sentiment is to be expected as even the Presbyterian Church is anti-Israel.

    David Goldman, who has been writing as “Spengler” for years, reports on the situation in Israel.

    the thumbnail version is that Hamas is making a demonstration out of weakness. Money is tight, 44,000 Gaza civil servants haven’t been paid for weeks, and the IDF did significant damage to its infrastructure on the West Bank after the kidnapping-murder of the three yeshiva boys. Netanyahu will look indecisive and confused, because he has to deal with an openly hostile U.S. administration on one side and his nationalist camp on the other. Time, though, is on Israel’s side: economically, demographically, strategically. The proportion of Jewish births continues to soar. The fruits of a decade of venture capital investing are ripening into high-valuation companies. And the Arab world is disintegrating all around Israel’s borders.

    Israel has been in mortal danger for 50 years. They have survived and thrived. The Arab countries are collapsing into chaos. Iran is still a threat but its demographic future is grim.

    There will be no Intifada on the West Bank: the Palestinian Arabs are older, more resigned and less inclined to destroy their livelihoods than in 2000. Syria and Iraq continue to disintegrate, Lebanon is inundated with Syrian Sunni refugees (weakening Hezbollah’s relative position), and Jordan is looking to Israel to protect it against ISIS. Egypt is busy trying to survive economically.

    Israel is becoming a huge economic success under Netanyahu. Just think of our future had we elected his friend, Mitt Romney.

    Obama promised a “pivot to Asia” but Israel may in fact be the one doing the pivot, leaving us in the dreary Socialist past.

    Richard Fernandez notes that in the view of the world press and elites being rich makes you “white.” Everybody knows that white people, even if they are Asian like John Derbyshire’s Eurasian children, are the root of all evil.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China, Current Events, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Obama, Terrorism, War and Peace | 38 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Michael Rubin in Commentary:

    What self-described realists misunderstand when they pursue their cost-benefit analysis without emotion or regard for principle is that friendship and trust have value. In one chapter of Dancing with the Devil, I explore the history of intelligence politicization. Iraq may now be the marquee example upon which many progressives seize, but intelligence politicization occurred under every president dating back at least to Lyndon Johnson, if not before (the scope of my book was just the past half-century or so). Iraq intelligence was flawed, but the world will get over it, especially since it was consistent with the intelligence gathered by almost every other country and the United Nations. The betrayal of allies, however, is a permanent wound on America’s reputation that will not be easy to overcome.

    This is a chronic problem. We were able to get away with being a fickle ally when we acted like a superpower. Our allies had no choice but to deal with us; our adversaries had to be cautious lest they provoke us. We betrayed Kurds, Iraqi Shiites and other groups without paying much of a long-term price. It was easy to be casual about our alliances. We could afford to see one-dimensional cynical calculations of national interest as realism.

    But now that we behave like just another country we are beginning to pay more of a cost for our unreliability. Our design margin, in Wretchard’s phrase, has eroded. It is increasingly difficult for us to protect our remaining interests. The Obama foreign policy is an inverse force-multiplier.

    Our geopolitical situation is going to deteriorate faster than most Americans expect.

    Posted in International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, National Security, Quotations, Russia, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    Is Venezuela Collapsing ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 14th February 2014 (All posts by )

    UPDATE #2: The western bloc is growing while the Atlantic bloc stagnates.

    Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina are languishing in differing shades of turmoil, steadily losing ground to regional underdogs. The Pacific Alliance, an historic trade agreement between Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Colombia (and coming soon: Costa Rica), has the potential to recolor Latin America’s economic map and introduce some new regional powerhouses to the world stage.

    More here.

    Four nations are developing an initiative that could add new dynamism to Latin America, redraw the economic map of the region, and boost its connections with the rest of the world—especially Asia. It could also offer neighboring countries a pragmatic alternative to the more political groupings dominated by Brazil, Cuba, and Venezuela.

    UPDATE: More on the role Cuba is playing in Venezuela now.

    Belmont Club has a good post today on the collapse of Venezuela. The car manufacturers have announced they are closing their plants.

    Toyota Motor Co. said it would shut down its assembly operations in Venezuela due to the government’s foreign exchange controls that have crippled imports and made it impossible to bring in parts needed to build its vehicles.

    The country’s other car manufacturers, including General Motors and Ford, haven’t even started operations this year, while waiting for needed parts to arrive.

    The oil field workers left years ago when the Chavez government cut oil workers’ pay.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Liberties, Cuba, International Affairs, Iran, Latin America | 20 Comments »

    Sink It

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th February 2014 (All posts by )

    A couple of Iranian navy ships are slowly making their way to the Americas. What’s going on? J. E. Dyer has a long and thoughtful post:

    That said, two things are worth reiterating. One, the U.S. does not have a constant-ready missile defense network that would protect the central and southeastern United States from an MRBM threat emanating from the south. We are unprotected on this axis. Shifting to a footing of 24/365 alert and anti-missile protection – e.g., by deploying Patriot systems in the continental U.S. or Navy Aegis ships offshore – would constitute a new, un-resourced requirement. We’d have to cut back defense operations elsewhere to meet it.
     
    Two, our ability to react against the “shooter” is limited by the forces we have ready today. We don’t have extra ships and aircraft to deploy for a deterrent presence in Central America. We could react after the fact with B-2 bombers, and possibly other conventional forms of attack, such as submarine-launched cruise missiles and ballistic missiles with conventional warheads. But we would have to attack to mount a response, in (most probably) Venezuela or Cuba, and that response would be inherently escalatory.
     
    It’s quite possible that our current administration would view that as a bridge too far. Realistically, I think the military would view the prospect with strong disfavor. Our ready forces would not have such a preponderance of power, or such advantages of geography, that we could do it easily and without inconvenience.
     
    Bottom line: MRBMs down south would constitute a material transformation of our security footing in the hemisphere. It’s a development we couldn’t live with.
     
    [...]
     
    The “red flag” in this whole saga is the concentration of verbal threats from the Iranians, at a time when they are making an unprecedented naval deployment to the Americas; they are mounting an unusual outreach with Fatah; and they are close enough to nuclearization – even by the expected route, as opposed to the speculative North Korean option – that dashing to the finish line is the only step left.
     
    The quality of some of the Iranian threats is deeply silly. But this doesn’t have the feel of random nuttiness to it. The Iranians are up to something.

    I agree with Dyer, who implies in the post (and states explicitly in a comment) that the lowest-risk course of action for us would be to sink the ship of the two that has a hold big enough to transport ballistic missiles.

    Dyer’s argument is long and well supported. You will have to read the whole thing to get the full thrust of her reasoning.

    My take on Iran continues to be that if it gets nuclear weapons, as now seems certain, it will use them. It will not necessarily use them to attack Israel or otherwise blow some place up, at least not in the near future. It will use them to gain leverage, to extort valuable concessions from its adversaries, including us. Obama’s feckless appeasement of the mullahs has whetted their appetite for aggression and confirmed that they have at least three more years of clear sailing ahead. They will press this advantage. We are not going to be able to contain them, because they will continue to look for opportunities to place us in situations where our disinclination to fight will give them victories by default. The current situation, with the two ships, appears to be the opener. We have a lot to lose. If we want to stop Iran we are going to have to confront it militarily at some point. The sooner we do this the less costly it will be.

    Posted in Americas, Cuba, Current Events, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Military Affairs, National Security, War and Peace | 61 Comments »

    When is 5 Percent Not 5 Percent?

    Posted by David Foster on 25th January 2014 (All posts by )

    The Iranian nuclear deal (more on the deal and the secret side agreement; see also this) refers to uranium enrichment thresholds of 5% and 20%. These may not sound too threatening, given that a nuclear weapon requires enrichment to around the 90% level. BUT the percentage enrichment of the uranium is NOT a good indicator of the amount of work required to get there.

    Start with a tonne (2204 pounds) of natural uranium feed–to enrich it to 5% will require about 900 Separative Work Units–SWUs being an indicator of the amount of energy, time, and capital equipment required for the process. Take to 5% enriched product and continue enriching it to 20%, and the incremental cost will be only about 200 SWUs, for an accumulated total cost of 1100 SWUs. And if you want to turn the 20% enriched substance into weapons-grade 90%-enriched uranium, you need add only about another 200 SWUs of effort, for a grand total of 1300 SWUs. Thus, the effort required to get to that seemingly-harmless 5% threshold is already 69% of the way to weapons grade, and 20% enrichment is 84% of the way there. See this article, which explains that “the curve flattens out so much because the mass of material being enriched progressively diminishes to these amounts, from the original one tonne, so requires less effort relative to what has already been applied to progress a lot further in percentage enrichment.”

    There has been very, very little media coverage on this point. One place the issue was discussed was in February and September 2012 reports by the American Enterprise Institute, which were discussed and excerpted at PowerLine in November 2013. Note that the AEI analysis shows an even flatter enrichment curve than the one in the article I linked above–AEI is showing 90% of the total effort for weapons-grade as being required to get to 5% enrichment, rather than “only” 69%. In either case, it should be clear that possession of large quantities of material enriched to 5% is a very nontrivial milestone on the way to constructing a nuclear weapon.

    Meanwhile, 4 billion dollars worth of frozen Iranian funds are being unfrozen and sent to Iran. Money is fungible, and almost certainly some of this money will go to support Iranian-backed terrorism, funding operations intended to kill American military personnel, Israeli civilians, and quite possibly American civilians in this country as well. And some of it will probably go to support R&D on advanced centrifuge technology, allowing Iran to move even more quickly to a nuclear weapon when it decides to do so.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Iran, Israel, Media, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Uncategorized, USA, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    The Next World War

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 31st December 2013 (All posts by )

    Bumper-Stickers-MA-Deport-620x343

    This next summer will be 100 years since the fatal August of 1914. We live in a similar era of “history is over and everybody is happy.” See above. In August 1914, Germany’s major trading partners were Britain and France, as well as the US. There were people who believed that democracies that did business with each other never went to war. Sound familiar ?

    UPDATE: I am not the only one thinking about this, of course. Here is another version. I worry less about China as a geopolitical rival to the US but a China Japan conflict would not be impossible.

    The Telegraph has an excellent piece on the present world situation.

    As we look forward to the First World War commemorations, three stark conclusions are hard to refute. First, that in the course of this century we will need a great deal of luck to avoid a nuclear catastrophe. Second, that the Enlightenment has failed. Third, that this can all be traced back to the Great War.

    As a result of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, it seemed that mankind might make a decisive break with the scarcity and oppression that had characterised previous eras. There was, admittedly, one early warning. The French Revolution proved that a radical reconstruction of society on abstract principles was likely to end in tyranny and bloodshed. But after 1815, the 19th century developed into one of the most successful epochs in history. Living standards, life expectancy, productivity, medicine, the rule of law, constitutional government, versions of democracy – there was dramatic progress on all fronts, and in the spread of civilisation across the globe.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, International Affairs, Iran, Leftism, Military Affairs, National Security | 27 Comments »

    Why the “Israel Lobby” Backed Obama on Syria

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th September 2013 (All posts by )

    Martin Kramer:

    Stephen J. Rosen has written a smart piece on how Obama forced AIPAC to back his planned military action against the Syrian regime. It’s titled “Pushed on the Bandwagon,” and he makes a strong case. Of course, AIPAC views action on Syria as a kind of proxy for action against Iran, and assumes that the former will make the latter more likely when push comes to shove. In fact, bopping Assad may well be a substitute for action against Iran: Obama hopes that by a relatively cheap shot at Syria, he’ll restore enough credibility to restrain Israel vis-à-vis Iran. Alas, a cheap shot won’t restrain Iran, and may even impel it to push its nuke plans forward. Israel has to face reality: it may or may not be a post-American world, but it’s a post-American Middle East. (And if the military operation goes badly it could be post-AIPAC, too.)

    The Rosen piece is here. It’s worth reading, particularly for the reminder of how Obama operates politically (there are no appeals to principle; it’s all about arm twisting, threats and domestic political considerations).

    Kramer’s interpretation is persuasive. Obama probably wants to use a weak attack on Syria, or preferably mere talk about Syria if he can get away with it, as a substitute for rather than a prelude to doing anything about Iran’s nuclear program. Syria is Iran’s puppet and if Obama were serious he’d be going after the mullahs. Instead he appears to be running out the clock until they have nukes, while also doing his best to degrade our military in order to lock in our impotence for the foreseeable future. (J. E. Dyer discusses our current weakness in detail: here, here and here.)

    Whatever the course of Obama’s political career going forward, we are probably going to pay dearly for his ineptitude and anti-American malice.

    Posted in Current Events, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Jewish Leftism, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Quotations, Terrorism, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    Obama, US Military Victory, and the Real “Red Line” in Syria

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 9th September 2013 (All posts by )

    The thing that really bothers me in all the back and forth surrounding the American strike on the Assad Regime debate, and the Democratic Party aligned media spin of what the meaning of words “Red Line” mean, is how off-point from the interests of the American people it all is. The Assad regime’s use of Nerve Gas isn’t the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Deploying those Clinton era spin techniques over the definition of “Red Line” is the political equivalent of pointing and yelling “_Squirrel_!”

    The bottom line is that if the Assad regime of Syria survives on the strength of chemical weapons of mass destruction, an incredibly dangerous to American national security situation will come to pass. The Chemical Weapons Convention will be dead, publicly murdered and discredited similar to the way the Kellogg-Briant Pact against war was in the face of Nazi rearmament. There will be an arms race for chemical weapons of mass destruction in the Mid-East & elsewhere. That will require the US military to rearm with either lethal chemicals or with tactical nukes — with all the costs that requires both financial and moral — in order to maintain a credible deterrent for future conventional military operations.

    The issue with the Assad Regime’s use of chemical weapons of mass destruction is the Assad regime . The only fit punishment, one that will prevent catalytic proliferation of chemical and other weapons of mass destruction around the world, is the Assad Regime’s over throw. That overthrow is readily obtainable by American military forces and can be achieved without a single boot on the ground, nor a single foreign ally.

    The fact that the Obama Administration is unwilling use grasp those means, and to politically justify their use with the same sort of weapons of mass destruction argument that Pres. George W. Bush deployed to justify regime change in Iraq, is the real strategic “Red Line” for Syria. It is a Red Line that the American people chose in electing a Democratic Senate in 2006 and in both electing and reelecting Pres. Obama (and a Democratic Senate) in 2008 and 2012.

    It is a “Red Line” that has to be erased by competent and principled Presidential leadership that forthrightly explains the threat, continually over time, if Americans are to continue enjoying — its admittedly rapidly declining — freedom from police state surveillance at home.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Terrorism, Uncategorized, USA, Xenophon Roundtable | 24 Comments »

    “Did Vladimir Putin Bait a Trap for the United States in Damascus?”

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th September 2013 (All posts by )

    Interesting thoughts:

    By showing that Obama’s America is unable and unwilling to keep its promises, Putin has widened the leadership void in the Middle East—as a prelude to filling it himself. By helping to clear Iran’s path to a bomb, Putin positions himself as Iran’s most powerful ally—while paradoxically gaining greater leverage with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States, who would much rather negotiate with Russia than with Iran, their sworn enemy. While the Americans were heading out of the Middle East, and the Chinese were too busy with their own internal debates about the future of their economy and society, Putin saw that something valuable had been abandoned on the world stage, and he took it. For the price of 1,000 dead civilians in Damascus, he has gained great power status in the oil-rich Middle East. Iran, for its part, gets the bomb, which isn’t great news for anyone, but was probably going to happen anyway.
     
    [. . .]
     
    Only time will tell whose evil is worse—Putin’s or Obama’s. While Putin delights in using the old-school KGB playbook to consolidate his one-man rule, and to expose the empty moral posturing of the West, Obama believes that he can talk his way into a workable accommodation between his own sense of morality and global reality. But the lesson of Obama’s fig leaf is that it is better to be honest about what we are doing in the world and why. If Putin baited a trap for the United States in Damascus, it was Obama who walked right into it. If Obama had stood up and declared that the United States had no vital interest in Syria but would stop Iran from getting nukes—and would prosecute the authors of the nerve-gas attack at The Hague—then Putin would have been trapped. The same would have been true if Obama had said nothing and blown up two or three of Assad’s palaces. But he did neither. Sometimes, well-meaning lies and political spin can be just as deadly, in the end, as nerve gas.

    (Via Tom Smith.)

    Posted in International Affairs, Iran, National Security, Obama, Russia, Terrorism, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    RERUN–The Perfect Enemy

    Posted by David Foster on 26th May 2013 (All posts by )

    (Originally posted in February 2009. I was reminded of it by recent events in London and Sweden)

    Suppose you wanted to create a perfect enemy. An enemy so vile that its evil would be recognized by almost everyone. An enemy that would inspire people to come together in order to ensure its defeat.

    To be more specific: suppose you were a screenwriter with the assignment of creating a suitable villain-organization for a major motion picture. The marketing plan for this movie suggests that it will be marketed primarily to a certain demographic and that, hence, your villain-organization should be particularly appalling to members of that demographic. The demographic in question consists of people who are affluent, highly educated (college with at least some postgraduate education), not particularly religious, and who consider themselves politically liberal or “progressive.” The plot of the movie demands that the audience must see the necessity for Americans–of many beliefs, occupations, and social backgrounds–to come together in order to defeat the enemy.

    Oh, and one other thing. The year in which you are given this assignment is 1999.

    You will clearly want your enemy to share many of the characteristics of the Nazis–disrespect for human life, wanton cruelty, a love of apocalyptic violence. But to make the enemy particuarly awful from the standpoint of your target demographic, you will want to emphasize certain aspects of its belief system.

    Members of your demographic usually have strong beliefs about women’s rights. So, your enemy must have a particularly disrespectful belief set, and a violent behavior pattern, towards women. Similarly, your demographic is generally favorable toward gay rights…so the enemy must advocate and practice the suppression, torture, and killing of gays. Your demographic is generally nonreligious and often hostile toward religion…so, make sure the enemy includes a large element of religious fanaticism. Members of your demographic talk a lot about “the children”–so make sure your enemy uses children in particularly cruel ways.

    Had you created such an enemy for your screenplay in 1999, you would have surely felt justified in assuming that it would achieve its intended reaction with your target demographic.

    It didn’t work out that way, though.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Film, Iran, Islam, Religion, Terrorism | 9 Comments »

    SWOT Analysis of Boston Marathon Bombing

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 20th April 2013 (All posts by )

    Negative items (weaknesses and threats) first.

    Overconcentration of political belief systems by geography and especially by vocation, notably in journalism; the corresponding threat is misdiagnosis of motivation and identity of perpetrators.
    This was on full display over the past week, and although the most prominent examples were instances of the amazingly robust narrative about a supposed right-wing fundamentalist Christian underground, the persistence of which reveals a great deal about the mindset of the “liberal” bien-pensant, they’re not the only ones who have this problem. Claiming that people in Boston are cowering under their beds and wishing they had AR-15s, or casually accusing various (and singularly unimpressive) American politicians of being Communists, isn’t much better than fantasizing about entirely nonexistent WASP terrorists. And there has already been at least one wild-goose chase in recent years, the nationwide Federal investigation to find the co-conspirators of Scott Roeder in the assassination of George Tiller. He didn’t have any, and was known very early on to have acted alone. Your tax dollars nonetheless went to work; see also “memetic parasitism,” below.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Current Events, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Media, Middle East, National Security, Organizational Analysis, Politics, Predictions, Society, Terrorism, Tradeoffs, USA, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    Iran May Have the Bomb

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 5th March 2013 (All posts by )

    A report suggests that the most recent North Korea nuclear test, which used Uranium, not Plutonium as in their others, may have been the Iranian bomb.

    the RAND Corporation reports that the third North Korean nuclear test appears to many experts to be fundamentally different from its previous two efforts. North Korea’s first tests used plutonium to trigger the nuclear explosion. This one, according to some atmospheric tests, likely used highly enriched uranium, exactly the form of nuclear weapon pursued by Iran.

    The report is not that positive about the weapon type.

    Key aspects of North Korea’s third nuclear weapon test, carried out on Tuesday, remain unknown. We do not know whether it was a test of a plutonium or highly enriched uranium weapon, though many experts suspect the latter.

    The report is hardly definitive but it would not be a surprise if Iran has pushed through to a success in its program, unencumbered by any serious US opposition. Still, there is some serious concern.

    The question is whether the weapon North Korea tested this month was its own, Iran’s or a joint project. A senior U.S. official told The New York Times, “It’s very possible that the North Koreans are testing for two countries.” It would be foolish for Iran to test a nuclear weapon on its own soil. Nuclear weapons cannot be detonated in secret; they leave unique seismic markers that can be traced back to their source. An in-country test would simply confirm the existence of a program that for years Iran has denied.

    If that were not enough:

    Ralph Peters has some serious concerns about where the Obama administration is going.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Elections, International Affairs, Iran, Islam, Korea, Middle East, Military Affairs, Politics | 22 Comments »

    Elections Have Consequences

    Posted by Jonathan on 2nd March 2013 (All posts by )

    Worst case is that the sequestration cuts kick in on a month-to-month basis, as the fiscal stand-off between Congress and the president drags on. In early February, in anticipation of having to “operate down” to this worst case, the Navy cancelled the scheduled deployment of the USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75) strike group, which was to be the second of two carrier strike groups hitherto maintained on station in the CENTCOM AOR. Secretary Leon Panetta announced at the time that the U.S. would cut its CENTCOM-deployed carrier force to one.
     
    A strike group brings not just the carrier and its air wing but an Aegis cruiser and/or Aegis destroyers, all with Tomahawk missile load-outs. In multiple ways, U.S. combat power has now been cut in half in the CENTCOM AOR due to the long-running fiscal stand-off. The level of carrier presence is insufficient today to execute a limited-strike campaign against Iran while containing the potential backlash.

    -J.E. Dyer, Dead in the water: Obama’s military and the Iran nuclear threat

    Posted in International Affairs, Iran, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Quotations, War and Peace | 9 Comments »

    Syria, Iran and the Wars Ahead

    Posted by Jonathan on 4th January 2013 (All posts by )

    David P. Goldman:

    Is there a better way to handle the Syrian calamity? I believe so.
     
    First, neutralize Iran, by which I mean air strikes to destroy its nuclear weapons program and a few other military capabilities. That would remove the Assad regime’s main source of support. It would also make the Turks dispensable: without the Iranian threat, the Turkish army is just a makework program with obsolete weapons. Let the Alawites have their enclave, and let the Sunni Arabs have a rump state, minus the Syrian Kurds, whose autonomy would be an important step towards an eventual Kurdish state. The Turks and the Russians would be the biggest losers.

    The USA isn’t likely to do this, which was probably Goldman’s point. It’s possible that the Iranian regime will collapse or that Israel will attack. The near-term odds of the regime falling on its own seem slim. The odds of an Israeli attack are probably increasing as the Israeli Right seems likely to increase its parliamentary majority. But an Israeli attack is far from certain and might not succeed in any event. It therefore seems likely that Syria will continue to fester, that Iran’s imperial ambitions will remain unchecked until there is a regional war, and that nuclear weapons will spread at a faster rate than otherwise. Eventually someone will use a nuke, or two or three, and then what? Richard Fernandez points out that we haven’t been thinking seriously about such things. Maybe it’s time to start. It doesn’t look like containment is going to work this time.

    Posted in Iran, Middle East, National Security, Quotations, War and Peace | 19 Comments »

    Some Notes on the VP Debate, continued

    Posted by David Foster on 14th October 2012 (All posts by )

    (The transcript is here)

    In the last post, I reviewed Biden’s comments about the Benghazi debacle; now I’d like to discuss his thoughts about Iranian nuclear weapons.

    VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: When my friend talks about fissile material, they have to take this highly enriched uranium, get it from 20 percent up. Then they have to be able to have something to put it in. There is no weapon that the Iranians have at this point. Both the Israelis and we know we’ll know if they start the process of building a weapon. So all this bluster I keep hearing, all this loose talk — what are they talking about?…We will not allow the Iranians to get a nuclear weapon. What Bibi held up there was when they get to the point where they can enrich uranium enough to put into a weapon, they don’t have a weapon to put it into…Facts matter. All this loose talk about them — all they have to do is get to — enrich uranium in a certain amount and they have a weapon — not true.

    It is extremely important to understand that, while one might think going from 20% uranium enrichment to the 90% that is required for a nuclear weapon, means that one is only 20/90 of the way there, this is not correct. The first steps in enrichment require more effort–more centrifuges, more energy–than the later steps, because the amounts of mass that must be dealt with are much greater. The nuclear industry actually has a metric, “separative work units,” to measure this. Enriching uranium from a standing start to 5.6kg of highly enriched uranium requires about 1270 SWU, whereas if you start with a feedstock that is already 20% enriched, you only need less than 200 SWU. Even if you begin with material enriched only to the level needed for a power reactor, only about 400 SWU are needed: a savings of 3:1 compared with starting from scratch. (Here’s another analysis with slightly different numbers but making the same point…4% enrichment is much more than 4/90 of the way there, and 20/90 is far more than 20/90 of the way there.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Iran, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    Joe Biden and the debate

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th October 2012 (All posts by )

    A clownish Joe Biden mugged, groaned and interrupted Paul Ryan for 90 minutes last night. It was an odd spectacle but, apparently, just what the Democrats wanted. He lied about the Libya story and now Bill and Hillary Clinton may be thinking rebellion. Biden strongly suggested that the State Department was to blame for the murders because they did not ask for more security, in spite of the testimony before Congress the day before. If Hillary thinks she sees the bus coming, she may jump ship and it won’t be pretty.

    With tensions between President Obama and the Clintons at a new high, former President Bill Clinton is moving fast to develop a contingency plan for how his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should react if Obama attempts to tie the Benghazi fiasco around her neck, according to author Ed Klein.

    Biden also lied about Iran and their nuclear ambitions. He dismissed the danger of doing nothing. He said they do not have a “delivery system.” They have a delivery system named Hezbollah. Iran may not have an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the US, yet. If Iran were to choose to attack the US, a container ship and a US port are much more likely to be involved than a new missile. Certainly, Israel is within reach as are the countries of Europe. Saudi Arabia is within reach. The Sunni-Shia rivalry is sufficient motive but the other reasons should not be ignored. Iran is ruled by a sect of suicidal maniacs.

    Ryan capably described the Romney-Ryan tax proposals and his Medicare plan. I expected the abortion question and I thought it was well handled. Biden, of course, lied about the administration’s rules for health insurance coverage of contraception and abortion. That is not a big issue for me as I am pro-choice but the dishonesty is annoying. The “47% issue” and Ryan’s mention of a “30% who are takers” will not bother many people who agree and the offended are likely Obama voters no matter what happens.

    It will be interesting to see what the result will be. The left, of course, is excited by the nasty tone Biden adopted.

    On their $5 trillion tax cut, Romney/Ryan really need to either start naming the loopholes they’d close to pay for it or just admit they can’t make it revenue neutral without whacking the middle class. The VP was appropriately relentless on this point. Even I’m starting to feel sorry for them every time someone brings up this little flaw in their plan. I suspect I’m not alone in realizing that this country simply can’t afford to elect people promising a tax cut of this magnitude who, when it comes to paying for it, essentially say “trust us, we’ll find a bipartisan solution.”

    The “$Five trillion tax cut” has been thoroughly debunked, including Stephanie Cutter’s retreat from the claim.

    But, as I pointed out, Gov. Romney has already taken capital gains and dividends-for example-off the table. Now, here’s the revealing part: Larry said, and I know many in the investment community, including Mitt, feel exactly the same way, “I don’t consider those loopholes.”

    So, here is a lefty who wants to raise taxes on investment income and capital gains. I don’t see enough responses pointing out that this income has already been taxed as ordinary income. Mitt Romney and most investors had salary income, taxed at the rates of the time, which they saved and invested. The capital gains and dividend income is income that was already taxed once. The left simply does not understand this.

    Ryan kept his cool and Biden played the fool. Ann Althouse was impressed as I believe many women were impressed.

    As I said, I’m tired of the yelling. I found the debate really hard to watch, but I kept watching because I was committed to live-blogging. Even still, I got catatonic. There was a point when I didn’t write anything for 20 minutes and then I said:
    Biden has been yelling at Martha Raddatz for the last 15 minutes (as the subject is war). It’s so inappropriate!

    The previous post had been:
    The stress level is rising. Biden is so angry. Why is he yelling? Ryan needs nerves of steel not to lose his cool. I’m impressed that Ryan, when he gets his turn, is able to speak in an even, natural voice. It’s hard to concentrate on the policy itself, because the emotional static is so strong.

    That shows how I felt: pain. So here’s my question. Ratings were down, I see, but when were the ratings taken? In the beginning? How did the ratings drop off over the course of the 90 minutes?

    I have seen many comments about people, especially women, turning off the debate because of Biden’s rudeness and blustering. The ratings were down and the question is when were the ratings surveyed ? Of course, last night was also a big sports night. I think Ryan did better than the initial impressions suggest.

    If Obama uses the Biden debate tactic as a model for next Tuesday, the election may well be over.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, International Affairs, Iran, Leftism, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Politics, Taxes, War and Peace | 23 Comments »

    Reflections on the debate

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 6th October 2012 (All posts by )

    The reverberations are still going on after the Wednesday debate. The theme coming from the Obama campaign is that Romney did not tell the truth about his policies. Most of the discussion on the non-campaign left is like Bill Mahers’ who said “It looks like he took my million and spent it all on weed.”

    One of the most peculiar reactions was at the U of Wisconsin the next day. Hundreds of UW students were filing into an Obama on-campus campaign rally and were asked by a Breitbart writer if it was unfair that Obama couldn’t use his Teleprompter in the debate. Amazingly, most of the students agreed. What would a Teleprompter do ? Would they stop the debate for a few minutes while Obama’s handlers thought of a good response?

    The polls will take a few more days to show the response but already something is going on. A poll of Illinois’ 10th Congressional district last August was ignored but another poll now suggests that Illinois might be in play in this election.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Obama, Politics | 8 Comments »

    Obama and Netanyahu

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th September 2012 (All posts by )

    Jonathan Tobin:

    But not only was Obama not interested in any such gesture, he was not prepared to tell him this to his face. This snub may stem from the open dislike the two men have for each other, but as I wrote earlier this week, this is about more than personalities. The message from Washington was clear: Israel has no leverage over Obama on this issue even during the presidential campaign and will have even less in a second term.
     
    Netanyahu has been accused of trying to play politics with Obama during the last months of the presidential campaign or of favoring Mitt Romney. But whatever Netanyahu thinks privately, it should be understood that his concern transcends any misgivings about Obama’s penchant for picking fights with Israel during the past four years. If he really thought Romney might win, he would be showing more, not less patience with Obama since presumably Israel would only have a few months to wait before getting a different answer from a more sympathetic White House.

    It’s worth reading Tobin’s post in full, as well as his earlier post (linked in the quoted segment above).

    As Tobin makes clear, the media’s “clash of personalities” framing of the issue has helped Obama by obscuring the conflict of interests between his administration and Israel. Obama will do nothing substantial to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons and no longer cares who knows it. Perhaps if he is reelected he will begin to discuss “containing” Iran, and eventually will push for a regional nuclear treaty that will be designed to get Israel to disarm in exchange for Iranian promises. Good luck with that. In any event it seems unlikely that Obama, who was unwilling publicly to oppose the mullahs when it would have been easy to do and might have brought them to heel, will begin to act resolutely against them once they acquire nukes.

    The key insight from Tobin’s post may be in the last sentence of the second paragraph above. If Netanyahu were confident of a Romney victory it would make little sense for him to engage the obstreperous Obama now. The fact that Netanyahu decided to run the risk suggests that he thinks Obama is likely to be reelected or that little time remains for an effective strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. If this reasoning is correct Israel may attack soon, perhaps shortly after the election if Obama is reelected.

    The current situation is more than a little like the period before the Six Day War. There are bellicose enemies, feckless allies, an existential threat to the Jews, fruitless diplomacy under the clock, much FUD about a possible world or regional war as a result of an Israeli attack, a difficult tactical problem, and a coalition government in Israel. Some things that are different are the degree of direct US involvement in the Middle East, Islamism, the absence of the USSR, and probably a weaker political consensus within Israeli society. We will know soon enough what Netanyahu and his cabinet decide to do.

    To be, or not to be, that is the question:
    Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
    The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
    Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them…

    UPDATE: See also this post on Israeli politics (via Seth Mandel).

    UPDATE 2: Richard Fernandez puts Obama’s bungling into perspective in the context of long-term US policy mistakes:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Iran, Israel, Middle East, Obama, War and Peace | 17 Comments »

    President Obama’s 9/11 in Libya

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 12th September 2012 (All posts by )

    President Obama faces his own “9/11″ today as Islamist crowds attacked both America’s Libyan and Egyptian embassies and killed our Ambassador in Libya and two other Americans with a rocket.

    So what can we expect from Pres. Obama?

    A strongly worded diplomatic communique? A demarche? An Arclight air strike across Libya?

    What we seem to have gotten was a weakly worded diplomatic communique with a political back pedal, when criticized.

    If this follows the usual Obama Administration script, expect to see multiple emails asking for campaign contributions based on Gov. Romney “not stopping criticism of the American government at the water’s edge“.

    UPDATE:
    Gatewaypundit now has photos of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens’s body being paraded through the streets of Libya.
    What I cannot believe is that both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are claiming those photos are of the Ambassador being taken to a hospital.
    We should be getting a Pres. Theodore Roosevelt “America wants Pedicaris alive, or Raisuli dead!”.
    Obama Administration Reacting to Ambassidor Stevens's Murder
    Instead we are getting the ROTC Cadet from ANIMAL HOUSE screaming “REMAIN CALM. ALL IS WELL!” as the riot engulfs him.

    Posted in Americas, Anti-Americanism, Iran, Islam, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Politics, Terrorism, USA | 45 Comments »

    Egypt’s new president.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 24th June 2012 (All posts by )

    The Muslim Brotherhood candidate has now been declared the winner of the Egyptian election. Some foolish things are being said, as a consequence.

    Morsi’s election is tempered by the army’s recent move to significantly limit the powers of the presidency regarding the national budget, military oversight and declaring war. Following a court ruling this month to dissolve the Islamist-controlled parliament, the military also seized legislative powers and is angling to cement its legal authority over the nation by guiding the drafting of a new constitution.

    The military will not be able to control the destiny of the country. The army in Turkey was much stronger with a 60 year history of secularism and a recognized right to displace governments that violated Ataturk’s intent. Since the election of Erdogan, the army has been neutered and half the senior officers are in prison, either with no charges or trumped up charges.

    Barry Rubin has a pessimistic view of the future for Egypt.

    Let me divide the discussion into two parts: What does this tell about “us” and what does this tell about Egypt and its future?

    First, what does it tell about the West? The answer is that there are things that can be learned and understood, leading to some predictive power, but unfortunately the current hegemonic elite and its worldview refuse to learn.

    What could be more revealing of that fact than the words off Jacqueline Stevens in the New York Times: “Chimps randomly throwing darts at the possible outcomes would have done almost as well as the experts”? Well, it depends on which experts. Martin Kramer, one of those who was right all along about Egypt, has a choice selection of quotes from a certain kind of Middle East expert who was dead wrong. A near-infinite number of such quotes can be gathered from the pages of America’s most august newspapers.

    These people all share the current left-wing ideology; the refusal to understand the menace of revolutionary Islamism; the general belief that President Barack Obama is doing a great job; and the tendency to blame either Israel or America for the region’s problems. So if a big mistake has been made, it is that approach that has proven to be in the chimp category.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, India, Iran, Middle East, Religion | 3 Comments »

    The Polish “gaffe.”

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 1st June 2012 (All posts by )

    The nation of Poland and hundreds of thousands of Polish-Americans were outraged when President Obama referred last week to “Polish Death Camps” in a speech awarding a medal of freedom to a Polish American named Jan Kozielewski who was smuggled into a death camp and brought evidence of the Holocaust to President Roosevelt. Evidence that was ignored.

    There is a back story to this controversy that is only now starting to come out. In 2009, President Obama cancelled US missile sites that were intended to defend Poland and Czech Republic against Iranian missiles. The action was taken at the Russians’ request without even notifying the Polish government. That crisis began when the US promised to install such a missile site in 2008. After Obama took office, He cancelled the agreement without bothering to notify the Poles.

    Subsequently, Walesa refused to meet with Obama when he was on a visit to Poland. He said,” ‘It’s difficult to tell journalists what you’d like to say to the president of a superpower. This time I won’t tell him, I won’t meet him, it doesn’t suit me,’ Walesa told news station TVN24.”

    The European reaction was negative.

    The president hadn’t even had a chance to redecorate the Oval Office before he felt the need, in fall of 2009, to appease Moscow by scrapping plans to build a missile defense shield protecting Poland and the Czech Republic from attack by Russia, Iran or any other aggressor.

    At the time, the Polish minister of defense said, “This is catastrophic for Poland.”

    The message, once again, delivered loud and clear to America’s friends, allies and enemies alike, is that the U.S. can’t be relied on.

    This is what American voters get when they elect to the presidency an underexperienced man weighed down by an oversized ego.

    Now, Obama, who has been shown to be a petty man,

    got his revenge on Walesa by barring him from the ceremony.That was no gaffe. TelePrompTers don’t make gaffes.

    Posted in Europe, History, Human Behavior, Iran, Middle East, Obama, Politics, Russia, Terrorism | 12 Comments »

    Estimating Odds

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd March 2012 (All posts by )

    From a comment by “Eggplant” at Belmont Club:

    Supposedly the US has war gamed this thing and the prospects look poor. A war game is only as good as the assumptions programmed into it. Can the war game be programmed to consider the possibility that a single Iranian leader has access to an ex-Soviet nuke and is crazed enough to use it?
     
    Of course the answer is “No Way”.
     
    A valid war game would be a Monte Carlo simulation that considered a range of possible scenarios. However the tails of that Gaussian distribution would offer extremely frightening scenarios. The Israelis are in the situation where truly catastrophic scenarios have tiny probability but the expectation value [consequence times probability] is still horrific. However “fortune favors the brave”. Also being the driver of events is almost always better than passively waiting and hoping for a miracle. That last argument means the Israelis will launch an attack and probably before the American election.

    These are important points. The outcomes of simulations, including the results of focus groups used in business and political marketing, may be path-dependent. If they are the results of any one simulation may be misleading and it may be tempting to game the starting assumptions in order to nudge the output in the direction you want. It is much better if you can run many simulations using a wide range of inputs. Then you can say something like: We ran 100 simulations using the parameter ranges specified below and found that the results converged on X in 83 percent of the cases. Or: We ran 100 simulations and found no clear pattern in the results as long as Parameter Y was in the range 20-80. And by the way, here are the data. We don’t know the structure of the leaked US simulation of an Israeli attack on Iran and its aftermath.

    It’s also true, as Eggplant points out, that the Israelis have to consider outlier possibilities that may be highly unlikely but would be catastrophic if they came to pass. These are possibilities that might show up only a few times or not at all in the output of a hypothetical 100-run Monte Carlo simulation. But such possibilities must still be taken into account because 1) they are theoretically possible and sufficiently bad that they cannot be allowed to happen under any circumstances and 2) the simulation-based probabilities may be inaccurate due to errors in assumptions.

    Posted in Human Behavior, Iran, Israel, National Security, Predictions, Quotations, Statistics, Systems Analysis, War and Peace | 16 Comments »

    Israel, Obama, Propaganda, and Reality

    Posted by David Foster on 5th March 2012 (All posts by )

    As the election approaches, Obama is turning up the volume on his assertions that he’s been a great friend to Israel.

    This video tells a different story, and I think clearly a much truer one.

    The video is long…30 minutes…but it is well-done. If you value the safety and survival of Israel…if you are concerned about the threat of terrorism to Americans and others around the world…if you believe it would be a very bad thing for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons…and if you are even remotely considering voting for Barack Obama or sitting out the election, then you owe it to yourself to watch this video.

    link via Robert Avrech

    Posted in Iran, Israel, Leftism, Middle East, Obama, Politics, Video | 9 Comments »

    A Multipolar World

    Posted by onparkstreet on 22nd February 2012 (All posts by )

    CommodityOnline:

    India’s crude oil imports from Iran is facing a risk of potential disruption as increasing US and EU sanctions make it impossible for Indian ships to obtain insurance.

    Greg Scoblete, The Compass Blog (Real Clear World):

    I imagine if I were an Indian official, I’d be a bit peeved to learn that acting “responsibly” means privileging the interests of the United States over my own country. Nevertheless, Burns has a point. After all, India may rely on Iran for 12 percent of its oil imports, but look at what the United States has been willing to do for India:
     

    Presidents Obama and Bush have met India more than halfway in offering concrete and highly visible commitments on issues India cares about. On his state visit to India in November 2010, for example, President Obama committed the U.S. for the very first time to support India’s candidacy for permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council.

     
    I don’t know about you, but if the U.S. was asked to forgo 12 percent of its oil imports in exchange for another country’s endorsement for a seat on a multilateral forum, I’d make the trade. I mean, c’mon, 12 percent? The U.S. gets about that much from the Persian Gulf – and we barely pay that area any attention at all…

    Europa:

    “The EU-India free trade agreement will be the single biggest trade agreement in the world, benefiting 1.7 billion people,” said president Barroso. “It would mean new opportunities for both Indian and European companies. It would mean a key driver for sustainable growth, job creation and innovation in India and Europe.”
     
    The EU is India’s largest trading partner, accounting for about €86bn of trade in goods and services in 2010. Bilateral trade in goods rose by 20% between 2010 and 2011.”

    Asia Times Online:

    Last year Israel supplied India with $1.6 billion worth of military equipment and is India’s second-largest defense supplier after Russia. Sales are only going to rise. Indian defense procurements from Israel in the period 2002-07 have touched the $5 billion mark.

    And this doesn’t even get into the China-EU-US-Israel-Saudi Arabia wheels-within-wheels complications when it comes to arms deals, hoped for arms deals, trade deals, hoped for trade deals, energy politics, and the rest of it….

    It’s not 1985, now is it? The past is a different country, a Russian (Soviet)-oriented Cold War country used to thinking in terms of “Kissengerian” alliances and blocs. An intellectual adjustment may be needed. It’s like 3-D chess out there….

    Speaking of energy:

    “Was Saudi Arabia involved?” (Asia Times Online.) If it makes you feel better, let me point out that Saudi petrodollars continue to fund all sorts of interesting educational activities on the subcontinent, in Africa, and elsewhere, along with Iranian monies. So that’s nice.

    Posted in Business, China, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, India, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Markets and Trading, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, North America | 2 Comments »

    Syria, Iran and the Risks of Tactical Geopolitics

    Posted by Zenpundit on 13th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from zenpundit.com


    Mr. Nyet 

    World affairs are much more like spider’s web than the neat little drawers of an apothecary’s cabinet. In the latter,  the contents of each drawer are cleanly isolated and conveniently compartmentalized. What you do with the contents of one drawer today has no bearing on what you do next week with those of another. By contrast, with a spider’s web, when you touch a web at any point, not only do you find it to be sticky in a fragile sort of way, but your touch sends vibrations through every centimeter of the lattice.

    Which alerts the spiders.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, China, Europe, International Affairs, Iran, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Political Philosophy, Politics, Russia, United Nations, USA, War and Peace | 3 Comments »