Why Foley wasn’t rescued.

The Delta Force raid on the Syrian ISIS camp failed to rescue any hostages. They had been moved. Now we know why.

Anthony Shaffer, a former lieutenant-colonel in US military intelligence who worked on covert operations, said: “I’m told it was almost a 30-day delay from when they said they wanted to go to when he finally gave the green light. They were ready to go in June to grab the guy [Foley] and they weren’t permitted.”

This is a reflex reaction of Obama to any call for action. He delays and thinks and worries about the politics. It has been reported that Obama delayed the bin Laden raid three times.

President Barack Obama — at the urging of senior adviser Valerie Jarrett — canceled the operation to kill Osama bin Laden three times before finally approving the May 2, 2011, Navy SEAL mission, according to a book scheduled to be released next month.

In “Leading From Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors who Decide for Him,” Richard Miniter writes that Obama canceled the mission in January 2011, again in February, and a third time in March, The Daily Caller reports

It isn’t just the conservative press but Hillary Clinton even says so.

Through weeks of sometimes heated White House debate in 2011, Clinton was alone among the president’s topmost cabinet officers to back it. Vice President Biden, a potential political rival for Clinton in 2016, opposed it. So did then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

The optics and the political fallout were most of his concerns. In the case of Captain Phillips of the ship hijacked by Somali pirates, reports have circulated that Obama delayed the SEALS raid several times as he agonized over the decision.

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The Tree of Life

Warning: spoilers, I guess, though with a film like this it’s hard to give anything away so as to really detract from the experience. Maybe a few autobiographical spoilers of my own.

Having only seen it once so far, I am aware of having gotten at most glimpses of its full intent. I cannot easily describe Terrence Malick’s oeuvre except in superficial ways: mostly out-of-doors, with nature as a significant element; spectacular cinematography; more or less nonlinear storyline; voice-over narrations. I have not seen Badlands but have seen everything from Days of Heaven on.

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Rapturous times, neh?

[ cross-posted at Zenpundit — apocalyptic movements, best readings, budget shortfalls, lack of support for scholarship in crucial natsec areas — and with a h/t to Dan from Madison for the video that triggered this post ]
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What with rapture parties breaking out all over, billboards in Dubai proclaiming The End and thousands of Hmong tribespeople in Vietnam among the believers, this whole sorry business of Harold Camping‘s latest end times prediction is catching plenty of attention. I thought it might be helpful to recommend some of the more interesting and knowledgeable commentary on Camping’s failed prophecy.

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First, three friends and colleagues of mine from the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University, about which I will have a further paragraph later:

Richard Landes of BU has a text interview here, and a TV interview here. His forthcoming book, Heaven on Earth, is a monumental [554 pp.] treatment of millenarian movements ranging “from ancient Egypt to modern-day UFO cults and global Jihad” with a focus on “ten widely different case studies, none of which come from Judaism or Christianity” — and “shows that many events typically regarded as secular–including the French Revolution, Marxism, Bolshevism, Nazism-not only contain key millennialist elements, but follow the apocalyptic curve of enthusiastic launch, disappointment and (often catastrophic) re-entry into ‘normal time'”.

Stephen O’Leary of USC wrote up the Harold Camping prediction a couple of days ago on the WSJ “Speakeasy” blog. He’s the rhetorician and communications scholar who co-wrote the first article on religion on the internet, and his specialty as it applies to apocalyptic thinking is doubly relevant: the timing of the end — and the timing of the announcement of the end. His book, Arguing the Apocalypse, is the classic treatment.

Damian Thompson of the Daily Telegraph is a wicked and witty blogger on all things Catholic and much else beside — the normally staid Church Times (UK) once called him a “blood-crazed ferret” and he wears the quote with pride on his blog, where you can also find his comments on Camping. Damian’s book, Waiting for Antichrist, is a masterful treatment of one “expecting” church in London, and has a lot to tell us about the distance between the orthodoxies of its clergy and the various levels of enthusiasm and eclectic beliefs of their congregants.

Three experts, three highly recommended books.

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Two quick notes for those whose motto is “follow the money” (I prefer “cherchez la femme” myself, but chacun a son gout):

The LA Times has a piece that examines the “worldwide $100-million campaign of caravans and billboards, financed by the sale and swap of TV and radio stations” behind Camping’s more recent prediction (the 1994 version was less widely known).

Well worth reading.

And for those who suspect the man of living “high on the hog” — this quote from the same piece might cause you to rethink the possibility that the man’s sincere (one can be misguided with one’s integrity intact, I’d suggest):

Though his organization has large financial holdings, he drives a 1993 Camry and lives in a modest house.

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Now back to the Center for Millennial Studies.

While it existed, it was quite simply the world center of apocalyptic, messianic and millenarian studies. CMS conferences brought together a wide range of scholars of different eras and areas, who could together begin to fathom the commonalities and differences — anthropological, theological, psychological, political, local, global, historical, and contemporary — of movements such as the Essenes, the Falun Gong, the Quakers, Nazism, the Muenster Anabaptists, al-Qaida, the Taiping Rebellion, Branch Davidians, the Y2K scare, classic Marxism, Aum Shinrikyo and Heaven’s Gate.

And then the year 2000 came and went, and those who hadn’t followed the work of the CMS and its associates thought it’s all over, no more millennial expectation, we’ve entered the new millennium with barely a hiccup.

Well, guess what. It was at the CMS that David Cook presented early insights from his definitive work on contemporary millennial movements in Islam — and now we have millennial stirrings both on the Shia side (President Ahmadinejad et al) and among the Sunni (AQ theorist Abu Mus’ab Al-Suri devotes the last hundred pages of his treatise on jihad to “signs of the end times”)…

Apocalyptic expectation continues. But Richard Landes’ and Stephen O’Leary’s fine project, the CMS, is no longer with us to bring scholars together to discuss what remains one of the key topics of our times. When Richard’s book comes out, buy it and read it — and see if you don’t see what I mean.

Or read Jean-Pierre Filiu‘s Apocalypse in Islam. Please. Or Tim Furnish‘s recent paper.

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And while it may not see Judgment Day or the beginning of the end of the world as predicted, what this week has seen is the end of funding of Fulbright scholarships for doctoral dissertation research abroad. But then as Abu Muqawama points out:

hey, it’s probably safe to cut funding for these languages. It’s hard to see Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan or anywhere in the Arabic-speaking world causing issues in terms of U.S. national security interests anytime soon.

Right?

So the CMS isn’t the only significant scholarly venue we’ve lost to terminal lack of vision.

(1) RESTREPO Monday, 11/29/10 at 9PM ET/PT; (2) Maj.Gen. Scales on Small Unit Dominance

This is the television premier of this extraordinarily film. I wrote about seeing this filmhere.

Restrepo chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. The movie focuses on a remote 15-man outpost, Restrepo, named after a platoon medic who was killed in action. It was considered one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S. military. This is an entirely experiential film: The cameras never leave the valley; there are no interviews with generals or diplomats. The only goal is to make viewers feel as if they have just been through a 94-minute deployment. This is war, full stop. The conclusions are up to you.

I highly recommend this film to all of our readers.

An information page for Restrepo is here, including video.

On a related note, I also highly recommend this article entitled Small Unit Dominance: The Strategic Importance of Tactical Reform, by Maj.Gen. Robert H. Scales.

Slightly more than 40 years ago my unit was butchered by elements from the North Vietnamese 29th Regiment at a mountaintop firebase overlooking the A Shau Valley. Nineteen of my 55 soldiers were killed or wounded severely enough to warrant evacuation. The loss was mainly my fault. I wasn’t new at the job. This was my fourth command so I thought I knew what I was doing. A much smarter and better trained and equipped enemy taught me that I did not.
 
The event made me promise that I would never go to war again No. 2 in a two-sided contest. It also burned into the depths of my soul several questions that have lingered and festered ever since. I asked why the most technologically advanced country on the planet was unable to make better weapons and equipment than the enemy. I asked why my soldiers were so poorly prepared physically, intellectually and emotionally for this fight. I asked why my experience as a combat leader could be gained only by spilling their blood.

Maj.Gen. Scales goes on to say:

In July, I watched the Afghanistan war documentary “Restrepo” play out on the screen and compared it to my experience decades ago: same type of unit (airborne light infantry), same lousy rifle (M16/M4), same helicopter (CH-47), same machine gun (M2), same young men trying to deal with the fear of violent death. Seared in my brain is the image of a young soldier at Fire Base Restrepo hacking away at hard clay and granite trying frantically to dig a fighting position. The U.S. is spending more than $300 billion on a new fighter plane. We haven’t lost a fighter pilot to enemy action since 1972. Why after nine years of war can’t we give a close-combat soldier a better way to dig a hole? For that matter, why do soldiers exiting fire bases not have some means of looking over the next hill? Why doesn’t every soldier have his own means to talk to his comrades by radio? Why can’t soldiers on a remote fire base detect an approaching enemy using sensors? Why can’t soldiers rely on robots to carry heavy loads and accomplish particularly dangerous tasks? I could go on, but you get the point.

Why indeed. I was struck by the same questions. Much of the American arsenal verges on science fiction. But what you see in Restrepo would be familiar to soldiers from 50 or more years ago. In fact, an infantry platoon from 1918 would be very roughly like one of platoon depicted in Restrepo, while an airplane from that era is from an entirely different universe from the aircraft of today.

Air and sea dominance have served us well, though the cost of maintaining them seems to be snowballing out of control. Nonetheless, with the USA fighting land wars against committed opponents we need to spend effort on gaining an edge in that domain as well. Our enemies drag us down to their level, where their numbers and home-field advantage are most telling, when we engage in this type of labor-intensive combat. We cannot match their numbers, and skill and training alone will not prevail over those numbers. Additional tools beyond what they can match may make the difference. Having a Buck Rogers aircraft overhead, while hacking out a hole with a shovel in the hard earth below, shows a misdirection of resources.

(h/t to Adam Elkus for this article.)

Vietnam, Israel and the Left’s Delusional Narratives

The Western left’s criticism of Israel’s role in Middle East conflict has long since become so bizarrely lopsided and vicious that many non-leftists have concluded that only antisemitism can explain it.

The left makes sure that every real and imagined military misstep on Israel’s part becomes international news, while ignoring the intentionally brutal attacks of Israel’s enemies against both Israel and their own people. The left contends that democratic, relatively multicultural Israel ultimately makes the evil decisions that drive the conflict and not the autocratic regimes attacking Israel. The left claims that the conflict can end only when Israel reforms, gives up or even disappears. The left requires almost no concrete action towards peace on the part of Israel’s enemies while demanding that Israel take concrete actions merely to get the enemies to even begin to think about negotiating.

Such extreme and thoughtless imbalance in the face of objective facts is one of the hallmarks of bigotry but I don’t think antisemitism drives the left’s stance on Israel. Instead, I think the mindless criticism a kind of intellectual mass hysteria that creates a delusional narrative so encompassing and so immersive that leftists begin to see it as unquestionable truth.

In short, the left is trapped in an immersive story in which Israel is the villain. Any fact that disrupts the “plot” gets edited out of the narrative.

That might sound overwrought but we have seen a mass delusional narrative before…

… the Vietnam era “peace” movement.

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