Saturday, August 30, 2008

No Thanks, Gustav

Hurricane Gustav, who is a bad boy at Category 5, has stormed ashore in the Cuban Isla del Pinos. The US Gulf Coast appears to be next on his itinerary, and although other possibilities seem more likely, there is some chance that he will decide to visit Cuidad El Jefe.
It's Labor Day anyway, but the Great One, accompanied by SWMBO, the Heir, the Imperial Mother in Law, the Feline High Patronesses of the Blog (Milo, FLINKY and Shiny), and the whole Court, together with the prelates of the State Church, the Imperial Mistresses, the soothsayers, the Ministers of Secret Police, Happy Thoughts, the Treasury, Propaganda and Off-Track Betting, have all decamped to the hacienda in the provinces.
In any case, here's hoping that Gustav abruptly changes his vacation plans from the Gulf coast to the mid-Atlantic, or something.

It's Beer Time! Bayerischer Defiliermarsch

The weekend is here and it's beer time at last! Too much beer will put you in crash-monster mode, but not to worry, the Bayerischer Defilermarsch should wake you right up. Happy Labor Day!


Friday, August 29, 2008

Nobody Texted Me

So, last night nobody texted me from the Nuremberg Rally/religious ceremony at the Temple of Invesco, wanting to Witness to me, or asking me to become an acolyte of St. Barack.
I can't decide if I should be hurt or happy. Was I off the text list because I'm over 15 and haven't joined the whole texting thing? Or maybe my cell phone was quiet because my friends are smart enough not to have joined the cult?
Speaking of cults, while everybody was milling around the Barackopolis, waiting for the Demosavior's Glorious Appearing, I wonder if they served the worshipers Kool-Aid?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Apotheosis of St. Barack of Obama

Tonight the Great One appears at the Temple of Invesco to His hungering People, accepting the Call to be the Democrat Savior, to lead us and the whole world to Change We Can Believe In.
Yea, he truly comes among us to proclaim His Message of Love and Compassion for the Whole World. He has been blessed by Nancy of Pelosi, he has vanquished the False Messiah Clinton. He drinketh the Holy Sacrament of Abortion on Demand, and gives us the wafer of Peace and Socialism.
The Great One is nominated and anointed to make us Holy, and rides forth to battle Karl Rove's demon-spawn. We humble sufferers need no longer walk alone, but may now have protection and guidance by our chattering class betters from cradle to grave. Rejoice Ye People! Deliverance from the Long Night of Bushhitler is at hand.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Biden...or Hillary Still ?

So I wonder if Joe Biden really is going to be the Democrats' VP candidate?

Hillary did her duty last night, no question. She made an effective speech, and there is nothing in her speech that St. Barack could reasonably quibble over. "No Way, No How, No McCain" is a good, pithy little slogan.

That said, how does any of this help St. Barack?

The convention is supposed to be about bringing the country to Jesus. . .er, St. Barack. But so far, the event's about lining up the supporting cast, and the drama of Hillary giving up the prize. To my mind, Senator Clinton's performance, and all the contortions about how her delegates are to be permitted to express themselves -- simply makes the omission of Senator Clinton from the ticket all the more glaring.

This whole business also shows that Barack Hussein Obama really, really is an amateur. Extraordinarily gifted, very intelligent, no question. But an amateur. Once upon a time, there were two politicians, JFK and LBJ, who didn't like each other much. But they were both pros, put personalities aside, and did what they had to do for their party to win.

I'm not convinced that Hillary Clinton ever wanted to be Vice President. As I have said (and bearing in mind I'm talking totally in terms of power) if he wins, she loses. She only wins if he loses and she's not seen as the cause.

So what happens now? I wonder if Obama's going to really get Biden? Wouldn't shock me if the convention might not have a different idea about who should be Vice President. I sure don't think that helps him, much, either.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Trouble With Russia, Pakistan = No Bullets in Afghanistan

Count me among those skeptical that the downfall of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was a good thing. No question that Musharraf was a dictator, not a democrat, rather heavy-handed and did things to stay in power of which comfortable people sitting in air-conditioned university classrooms would not approve. So stipulated. Of course, your average American censorious disapprover of anti-democratic Pakistanis doesn't have to worry that his valet might shoot him while he's dressing, or have to worry about whether the Taliban (or Al Qaeda or whoever) has finally bought one of his bodyguards, or whether the security people adequately checked the route from the office to the bathroom.
But now the bad man is gone, and Pakistan looks to be coming even more unglued than is usually the case. The "winners" -- civilian opponents of the military regime -- are falling out among themselves. The resumes of the most powerful actors in Pakistan's attempt to resurrect civilian government -- Benazir Bhutto's widowed husband Mr. Asif Ali Zardari (a/k/a "Mr. Ten Percent"); and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (tossed out in 1999 by Musharraf's military coup) and their squabbling -- give one confidence that the latest attempt at "democracy" will just be the typical Pakistani hiatus between military governments. I wonder who leads the next coup?
There's a nice story on the AP today about an assassination attempt on a US diplomat which, fortunately, failed -- missing her as he rode to work in her armored vehicle. Middle level diplomats going to work by armored car is not that unusual in many places, but think on what that implies about the state of local law and order.
Of course, Pakistan is a faraway place that Americans would like to forget about. But we'd really better not. As it stands, the US has a lot of troops in Afghanistan. It is a real problem for the United States that Afghanistan is land-locked. Modern armies (particularly American armies) are omnivorous and voracious gulpers of tons and tons of supplies, daily. There is no line of communications to Afghanistan fully or even partly under our control, by which we can supply our troops.
There are basically two routes for getting fuel, food and bullets to Afghanistan, to say nothing of the reinforcements the Obama/Biden crowd want to send. They can either go through Russia and the "stans" -- that is the central Asian countries of the former Soviet Union to the north, by a combination of air and truck convoy; or, as approximately 75 percent of the supplies do) the goods can come over land from Pakistan via the Pakistani ports. Truck convoys are needed, supplies by airlift for sustained periods are not practicable.
Whatever's coming out of the Stans, it's not going to be coming much longer, especially if we keep pushing the Russians over Caucasus postage stamps. If problems with Russia weren't enough, Pakistan now looks very wobbly. This could all go really bad, really quickly -- ever read The Anabasis? (Try Coyle's Ten Thousand). I'm worst-casing, but the worst case is more possible then one would like, particularly since we have no reserves in terms of ground forces.
In any case, the state of things on our supply routes gives us, or should give us: (1) reason to think about whether Georgia is really a big deal to us; (2) a little bit of interest in what happens in Pakistan; and, (3) reasons to think about how much sense staying in Afghanistan makes.
(H/t, Belmont Club).

Monday, August 25, 2008

Zombietime Does Denver

Zombietime, famous for his photo albums of West Coast Lefty Wackos, is visiting the Democratic National Convention, opening today in Denver. Be sure to check out the Zombietime site, if you've never done so -- it's occasionally interesting to look into the abyss and see it staring right back.
In the meantime, check out Day 1 in Denver. It's a regular Global Harmonic Convergence of wackos. Zombie proves the need for a vast US/UN/World relief operation: a ginormous airlift of deodorant and soap into Denver, and maybe a few fire-hoses. Looks like the Denver cops should stock up, also, on paddy-wagons and plastic handcuffs.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

If You're Not for Obama, You're a Racist

The fact Obama might lose has nothing whatever to do with him having the most liberal voting record in the Senate; nothing to do with his position on the war; nothing to do with his terrorist friends, or his wacko minister; or his association with the Chicago Democratic machine; or his total inexperience (a "community organizer!"). Oh no the only reason Obama might not win is because we're racists.

It's Biden !

12:45 p.m. Central, and a report is out there saying St. Barack has picked. . .
BIDEN !!!!
Splendid, splendid ! I hope it's true. This has to be a second choice -- he would never, never have announced Biden on a Friday night two days before the convention, one day before the Olympics closing if this was the first choice.
I'm betting Choice 1 was Hillary, and negotiations collapsed. That's why the lack of a vetting process became an issue only today. Hillary knew for weeks there was no serious vetting -- so far as we knew -- going on. . .because she and the Ersatz Messiah were talking. Things must have collapsed this week.
Biden. . .the blowhard whiner, beloved of the chattering classes, who shoots from the hip. Boring old Biden, who has been in Washington forever and ever, since Julius Caesar was the senior Senator from Rome. Hamlet with a teleprompter. It's not Kaine or Webb or anybody who could hurt us with voters in a state McCain's got to have. The Sainted One's publicly kicked the Hillaites in the teeth. . . or it looks enough like it. Perfect!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Hillary Dissed? Or St. Barack Diss-organized?

Politico has a story today claiming that Senator Hillary Clinton, who (one would think) would have been seriously considered for the No. 2 spot on St. Barack's ticket -- was not "vetted" -- that is checked-out, by the Great One's vice-presidential selection team.
If this is true, it's simply amazing. True, Hillary is, to put it mildly, well-known, and the Obama people have no doubt done a significant amount of research on her in the form of opposition research during the primary campaign. But it's absolutely mind-boggling that the selection team did not, at the least, go through the motions of asking Hillary (and Bill) for relevant financial information, medical reports and other materials necessary to do the appropriate investigation.
This is possibly pure carelessness -- the Sawdust Messiah's gang reposing total confidence in their primary season research, maybe built on the certainty that they never meant to go this road, whatever happened. Alternatively it might be pure disrespect, bound to infuriate Hillary and her die-hard supporters by telling the whole world that the Obamaites never took the possibility of including her on the ticket seriously.
Either of these possibilities amount to rank stupidity -- in this business you never, never close-off an option (no matter how unlikely) until necessary, and never offend or obviously disrespect people without intending to. There's just no percentage in it whatever for St. Barack to deliberately offend Hillary.
Still, I wonder if it's simply disorganization? Obama cannot simply have ruled-out Hillary with certainty early in the process. The timing certainly indicates a problem: they really should have come out with a name Wednesday or yesterday. He needs to hurry, the Friday news cycle is going fast.

Obama and Late Term Abortion

Some details about Senator Obama's positions on late-term abortion, when he was in the Illinois legislature, are emerging, specifically, on something called the "Born Alive Infant Protection Act" in 2001-02. Andrew McCarthy, over at National Review Online writes today:

There wasn’t any question about what was happening. The abortions were going wrong. The babies weren’t cooperating. They wouldn’t die as planned. Or, as Illinois state senator Barack Obama so touchingly put it, there was “movement or some indication that, in fact, they’re not just coming out limp and dead.” . . .

They were coming out alive. Born alive. Babies. Vulnerable human beings Obama, in his detached pomposity, might otherwise include among “the least of my brothers.” But of course, an abortion extremist can’t very well be invoking Saint Matthew, can he? So, for Obama, the shunning of these least of our brothers and sisters — millions of them — is somehow not among America’s greatest moral failings.

No. In Obama’s hardball, hard-Left world, these least become “that fetus, or child — however you want to describe it.” . . .

But not Barack Obama. As an Illinois state senator, he voted to permit infanticide. And now, running for president, he banks on media adulation to insulate him from his past.

Comment by me would be superfluous. Read the whole thing, but you need a strong stomach. Rush Limbaugh's discussion of Obama's position on this subject is worth reading. There's more (also linked by Rush), over on Red State.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Texting the VP Choice

St. Barack of Obama says he's made a choice, but he's not telling us who, yet; not telling us whether the Lucky(?) Choice has been told yet. But an announcement is imminent by -- are you ready -- text message to his supporters, "sometime" before Saturday afternoon.
You've got to wonder how he's breaking the news to the Lucky (?) Choice? Somewhere today, there's a politico at work; at lunch; meeting with lobbyists, or Code Pink and MoveOn; or maybe throwing lamps at hubby over his latest intern, when. . .the phone, Blackberry or I-Phone vibrates, rings, sings, makes the T-Mobile sound, or whatever.
Yes, it's the Great One, texting the Lucky(?) Choice with the good word. The following dialogue ensues:
"GAS?"
"Sure"
"URit"

"OMG!!! G8! IM SO N!!!! ^5, BFG!!!!"

"?4U"

"? me"

"Did U Tell Bill U were MB doing it?"

"DFGT! ICEDI!"

"JW. U need to C him, TILIS"
"SLAP, CUL ! BFFE!"

Harry Doesn't Like John

Hmmm, can the McCain people get him to say that on camera? Senator Reid's about as popular as the measles, so it'd make a great pro-McCain ad.

Paging the Demo VP Candidate

I find the lack of an announcement from the Obama camp on who is to be the Vice Presidential candidate extremely interesting. Today is Thursday, the 21st. Sunday the 24th is the closing ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics, and on Monday, 25 August 2008, the Democratic National Convention opens.
Obama's handlers will hardly wish to compete for news coverage with the end of the Olympics, but it would still be desirable to have the Vice Presidential candidate known before the convention opens. There are logistical problems that must be got through, and the campaign staff would not want buzz about who is to be Vice President detracting from the show's theme -- the triumph of the Great One.
I would think that the announcement would be today at the latest, to parade the new candidate in front of the press and get two news cycles done by the time the close of the Olympics completely takes over television. Obama's in Virginia, which would seem to point at Governor Kaine (or, despite denials, Senator Webb??).
The choice of Kaine would jibe with my own suspicions. McCain needs Virginia more than Obama does: it's very hard to see how McCain can win without Virginia's 13 electoral votes. Meanwhile, Obama has other routes that could give him victory, but St. Barack's picking the Governor of Virginia might be a great way to block McCain by putting Virginia in his column. Every day that McCain has to play defense in Virginia is a day less to play offense someplace interesting, such as Pennsylvania or Michigan. So Kaine's interesting. Funny, though, that all the buzz is about Biden.
I wonder if Obama is only just now getting it nailed down? He's really fallen rather dramatically in the polls, which changes his calculus of profit and loss quite a bit. I'm sure he doesn't want Hillary. But it is safe to pass her up? Does he need to nail down her voters: have her inside the tent rather than out? As for Governor Kaine, he's nationally an unknown. Are two rookies a smart move against McCain?
St. Barack is in a pickle. Here's hoping he stays there. Personally, I'm really hoping it's Biden -- I think that's a loser choice. We'll know soon enough.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

VP Choices...

Put me on record as hoping St. Barack takes Biden, and McCain Lieberman.
Yes, that Lieberman. He's liberal for me on domestic issues, but what a repudiation of the Democratic Party and all it now stands for: their Vice-Presidential candidate of eight years ago standing up next to a Republican against what the Democrats have become. Besides, I think he's a good man. Think of how much better off the country would be if the Democratic Party was sane again. Maybe this would help shock them into it.
I feel better about this election than I have in a long time. The odds are still in St. Barack's favor, but only by a little. It looks increasingly like the half-baked ersatz-Messiah might be toast, with just a little luck.

The Perfect Ticket: Putin-Musharraf

When Pervez Musharraf resigned as President of Pakistan yesterday, the vision for the Perfect Presidential Ticket came to me. You know, just like the scene in The Blues Brothers where Elwood and Jake get their mission from God?
What this country needs is Vladimir Putin for President -- with Musharraf as his VP. Besides the obvious (no matter what they sometimes think in Atlanta, Georgia's never ever going to secede again with Vlad as President) a Putin-Musharraf ticket has tons of advantages over the Hobson's Choice between the Grumpy Geezer and St. Barack.
First, the Middle East. If Vlad had some real horses, say, control of the Pentagon rather than the somewhat decrepit Russian military, do you think the Iranians would ever even think of building a bomb ? Not bloody likely!
Also, the whole Israel/Palestinian thing would be settled tout suite -- Israel would have plenty of new parking lots, with an ample supply of Hamas/Hezzie compost to make the desert bloom.
Similarly, Iraq would settle right down, even as Guantanamo and similar places filled up, up, up. But this would be no problem, because we've got Vice President Musharraf to help us with a small matter of judicial reform. The guy who got rid of the whole Pakistani Supreme Court would hardly be bothered by the vaporings of Justices Kennedy or Ginzburg.
Speaking of vaporings, just think of how a Putin/Musharraf administration would improve the whole tone of political rhetoric. Politicians would actually be serious again. No more gasbag sermons (unbacked by any steel) from Condoleezza Rice, or Madeleine Albright, President Bush or others of the great and the good, about the spread of democracy in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or wherever. President Putin (like Mr. Ed) would never speak unless he had something to say, but if Vlad told somebody to get out of Georgia, or to stop their nuclear program, you could pretty much bet that non-compliance would produce something a little more noisy than harsh language.
Meanwhile, the sounds of silence from the Blowhard Temple in Turtle Bay would be absolutely golden. I sorta bet we'd hear less from Nancy Pelosi too.
Yep, the more I think on this, the better it sounds. I'm only half kidding.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What's an Amy Winehouse?

Okay, this is an appeal for help.

Who or what is an Amy Winehouse? Why do we care? Any comments, advice, help, appreciated.

Thanks,

The Management.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ceasefire

The Russians and Georgians have both officially signed a ceasefire. Well, the devil is in the details, and it will be interesting to see if this means very much.
Probably, Georgian refugees from South Ossetia and Abkhazia will not be going home to those places, ever again. Refugees returning to Gori and other places in Georgia proper will probably find heaps of ruins when the Russians finally decide to pull out.
Georgia, and every other Former Soviet Union state -- will think twice or three times about going against Moscow's wishes. At least that was probably Putin's idea, but it may not work out that neatly. Look for Ukraine and the Baltic States to try to get more protection out of Washington.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hillary Still a Good Bet

Random thought of the day.
I think Senator Clinton is still a good bet to be St. Barack's Vice Presidential candidate. The Great One is hurting a little now, the polls are very close. Besides, with friends like Howard Dean, who needs enemies? In any event, St. Barack cannot afford to leave Hillary's supporters feeling angry and slighted. For a lot of reasons, Hillary is a very, very bad choice for St. Barack. But the Avatar of Hope may have to go, down, down on his knees and beg her to take the job, anyway.

Napoléon's 239th Birthday

Napoleon in His Study (1812) Jacques-Louis David (Oil on Canvas)
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

I ascend the throne to which the . . . votes of the Senate, the People and the Army have called me, my heart full of the destinies of a Nation which I, from the midst of camps, first proclaimed great.
Napoléon I, 1 December 1804. (From R.M. Johnson, P.J.Haythornthwaite, eds, In the Words of Napoleon, Greenhill, 2002).

Today is the 239th anniversary of the birth of Napoléon I, Emperor of the French, King of Italy.

Born Napoleone (or Nabolione) diBuonaparte, in Ajaccio, Corsica, he just missed being Genoese, as Corsica was only transferred to France in 1768, the year before his birth. Child of a prominent, but retiring local lawyer (Carlo) and a strong-willed mother (Letizia Ramolino) – an amazing woman in her own right, she had the preponderant parental influence on him, Napoleone was sent away, alone, to boarding school at Brienne in France at the age of nine, eventually winning admission to the Ecole Militaire at Paris.
Despite his obvious talent and intelligence, Buonaparte was still a minor noble from a backwater province: he would have done well to have ended his life as an obscure field-grade officer in the Royal Army. But life had other plans. The nobody officer cadet from Ajaccio, poorer than his classmates, laughed at by his fellows for his Italian-accented French and the holes in his shoes, rose out of the chaos of the French Revolution and its wars all the way to the throne.
Today, the (fifth) French Republic has an uneasy official relationship with the memory of Napoléon, and prefers to remember General Bonaparte of the French Republic, and not Emperor Napoléon I, founder of the French Empire. For his own part, Napoléon was at the least ambivalent if not downright uneasy about aspects of the French Revolution, and his orderly mind saw the (first) French Republic as a chaotic madhouse.
The Emperor's extraordinary career would not have been possible without the Revolution, which swept away an entire political system and its ruling elite (which would have barred him from real power), and opened opportunities for achievement, position and power to new men with talent, such as himself. But Napoléon found (among other things) the mob-violence, social change and disorder that came with such wide-spread upheaval profoundly disturbing; and (even though Napoléon was very aware of his debt to the Revolution and to circumstances) as soon as he was able to do so, he set about terminating the Revolution.
As First Consul and then Emperor, Napoléon ended the corruption, chaos and brigandage of the French Revolution and restored order, financial sanity and religion. Napoléon correctly divined that the French missed the monarchy destroyed by the Revolution, and restored it, to popular acclaim, in the person of himself. His choice of the title: "Emperor of the French" drew on both the legacy of the Holy Roman Empire, and the earlier Rome of the Caesars which Napoléon and many of his contemporaries so greatly admired. The Pope himself came from Rome to preside at his coronation, at Notre Dame de Paris, 2 December 1804.
Napoléon is justly famous as a soldier, but he was a far greater ruler than he was a general. The Emperor proved to be one of the greatest lawgivers in history, and the modern French state is his creation. Napoléon's laws and administrative system still govern France today, and have had worldwide influence, as far afield as the United States and Japan. Napoléon was a great builder, and filled the country with universities, libraries, roads and other useful public works. The French educational system, and those of several other European countries were his creations.
Napoléon is mostly remembered for his wars. He made his reputation as a general in the wars of the French Revolution, and he inherited responsibility for the wars when he seized power from the corrupt French Republic in November of 1799. As soon as was diplomatically possible, he concluded a series of advantageous peace treaties, culminating in peace with Great Britain in March of 1802.
Peace was short-lived, however, and France and Britain, along with much of the rest of Europe, were soon at war again, on and off, from 1803 forward. Five great victories by Napoléon: Austerlitz (1805), over Austria; Jena (1806), over Prussia; Eylau and Friedland (1807), over Russia and Prussia; and Wagram (1809), over Austria again -- cemented French dominance of central and western Europe. Napoléon’s siblings were given thrones.
The Corsican gunner from Ajaccio took as a second wife a Habsburg Archduchess (Marie Louise), and their child was a King from the moment of his birth. “Roll up that map of Europe” said British Prime Minister William Pitt, after Austerlitz, “it will not be needed again in our time.”
But Napoléon was unable to consolidate his rule. Despite his victories in central Europe, his greatest enemy, Britain, remained, implacable and untouchable across the English Channel, always able to field good little armies, and provide financial support to his enemies. In the west, a guerrilla war in Spain bled Napoléon's armies; although he probably would have prevailed on this front had central Europe remained quiet. But on the east, Russia, although ostensibly an ally, more or less openly subverted Napoléon's attempts to shut British commerce out of the continent and otherwise generally intrigued with Napoléon's covert and overt enemies.
The Emperor overreached himself trying to resolve this latter problem, by invading Russia, in 1812. The space, logistical and communications problems were insoluble for Napoléon's pre-industrial military machine, and the French were beaten even before they reached Moscow. The retreat from Russia led eventually to defeat, the collapse of the Empire, exile and a lonely death on St. Helena in the South Atlantic. Still, after the fall of his regime in 1815, his successors in France found things in such good order that little actually changed, beyond the names on the office doors.
In today's more republican, egalitarian and pacifist times he is often blamed for the bloody wars of his era, but he did not start most of them (the Russian and Spanish wars being the great exceptions), although he certainly took advantage of the opportunities they presented for the aggrandizement of his empire. Greatest general of his age, and possibly ever, Napoléon's meteoric political and military career, and all of the monumental change which came in its train, was effectively finished by the time he was 45. Like Julius Caesar, the historical personality he most resembles, Napoléon transcended mere mortal existence and passed into legend.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Bad Hand in Georgia

For ourselves, we shall not trouble you with specious pretences - either of how we have a right to our empire because we overthrew the Mede, or are now attacking you because of wrong that you have done us - and make a long speech which would not be believed; and in return we hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that you did not join the Lacedaemonians, although their colonists, or that you have done us no wrong, will aim at what is feasible, holding in view the real sentiments of us both; since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.
The Athenians (i.e. Alcibiades), speaking to the Melian ambassadors (Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, Book 5, Chapter 17 ("Sixteenth Year of the War - The Melian Conference - Fate of Melos" [a/k/a "The Melian Dialogue"]).

Well, there's one theory shot to pieces. (See last post).

The Russians are sitting in Poti and in Gori, apparently making preparations to at least partially withdraw, and appear to be wrecking Georgia's infrastructure before they leave. I wonder if the Russians will claim they've "withdrawn" but leave South Ossetian and Abkhazian "volunteers"(Russian soldiers with different insignia) in place until Georgia concedes independence to these places. In their place, I certainly would.

The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has said Georgia's territorial integrity is a "dead issue" and that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are not going to be forced back into Georgia. His position makes better sense than the converse Euro-American position, since it reflects the facts on the ground. The winner gets to call the tune; and, sorry, but the Georgians, Americans and Euros are not in that column.
If President Bush wants to order the Russians out of Georgia and speak up for Georgian territorial integrity without rendering himself ridiculous, than he needs something more to threaten the Russians with than harsh language. At the moment, the less President Bush says about what the Russians should do, the better. The military facts do not warrant his making any demands on them whatever.
The "humanitarian aid" to Tbilisi in C-17's is a step in the direction of giving the Russians something to think about. But is this wise? It seems a couple days late and a few batteries of artillery short. Hopefully the President and his advisers know what they're planning to do if the aircraft are fired upon. I don't think the Russians are seeking a conflict with us. . .they had better not be, for their sakes. But accidents have been known to happen. Personally, I feel badly for Georgia, but it is not worth a war to the United States.
It now seems probable that there was a massive failure of intelligence and imagination on the part of the Americans and Georgians leading up to this conflict. We will no doubt learn more about that in the months ahead. But it is now time to liquidate a bad position, and encourage the Georgians to negotiate the best exit from this position possible.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Georgia, or Iran?

The world is agog this morning that Russia is (gasp!) violating a supposed truce with the Georgians. If Russian armor was not in Gori two days ago, AP's story sure indicates that it is this morning. The Russians act like they're going to Tbilisi. (See the map from my 11 August post).
In the west, the Abkhazia separatists, presumably backed by elements of the Russian armored column that was in or by Senski two days ago, are moving too. A "separatist official," speaking of Abkhazia's move into Georgian territory, says that "the border [that is, the Georgia/Abkhazia border] has been along this river for 1,000 years" and that Georgia would have to accept the "new border" and that the Georgian Army had received "American training in running away." I wonder what "river" this official is talking about as the "border"? The Enguri, or the Rioni and its tributaries, much further south?
The Abkhazian official raises a good question: where is the Georgian Army? Presumably it's preparing to defend Tbilisi, to the southeast of Gori.
What appears to have happened is that the Russians stopped for a day, probably to move up fuel supplies; give the Georgians time to smell the coffee, crawl and throw President Saakashavili out (as the Russians have demanded); and, to gauge the reaction to events so far on the part of the Americans and the Europeans. Now, with the tanks refueled, the Georgians intransigent and the Americans uninterested, the tanks are moving south again.
In a Stratfor essay entitled "The Russo-Georgian War and the Balance of Power" George Friedman observes, inter alia:
The United States is Georgia's closest ally. It maintained about 130 military advisers in Georgia, along with civilian advisers, contractors involved in all aspects of the Georgian government and people doing business in Georgia. It is inconceivable that the Americans were unaware of Georgia's mobilization and intentions. It is also inconceivable that the Americans were unaware that the Russians had deployed substantial forces on the South Ossetian frontier. U.S. technical intelligence, from satellite imagery and signals intelligence to unmanned aerial vehicles, could not miss the fact that thousands of Russian troops were moving to forward positions. The Russians clearly knew the Georgians were ready to move. How could the United States not be aware of the Russians? Indeed, given the posture of Russian troops, how could intelligence analysts have missed the possibility that the Russians had laid a trap, hoping for a Georgian invasion to justify its own counterattack?
Interestingly, Richard Fernandez (a/k/a Wretchard), over at Belmont Club, today notes a New York Times story that "long before there was any allegation that the Georgians had entered South Ossetia, the Russian cyberwar apparatus began their campaign against Tbilisi. . ."
Clearly, there was plenty of evidence that should have clued-in the Georgians -- but especially the Americans -- that the Russians were coming. At the very minimum, it should have been clear to all sentient life-forms in possession of such intelligence that the Russians were not playing around, or going to tolerate any playing around, on the South Ossetia issue. Friedman adds up the implications:
This leaves two possibilities. The first is a massive breakdown in intelligence, in which the United States either was unaware of the existence of Russian forces, or knew of the Russian forces but -- along with the Georgians -- miscalculated Russia's intentions. The United States, along with other countries, has viewed Russia through the prism of the 1990s, when the Russian military was in shambles and the Russian government was paralyzed. The United States has not seen Russia make a decisive military move beyond its borders since the Afghan war of the 1970s-1980s. The Russians had systematically avoided such moves for years. The United States had assumed that the Russians would not risk the consequences of an invasion.
Sorry, but this just does not add up to me. I simply cannot see how (1) the United States could have missed the buildup of Russian forces around Vladikavkaz, north of the Caucasus; or in Abkhazia. Armored columns are active on both the western and eastern Georgian fronts. This means substantial fuel and supply dumps, big concentrations of vehicles, including tankers; almost certainly significantly increased activity in Russian rail yards in the south, particularly at Vladikavkaz, Stavropol and Prokhiadnyy; plus turbulence in Ground Forces units throughout western Russia, as other units were stripped to provide equipment and manpower fillers for units tapped for the southern campaign. The naval movements discussed in the press would have required significant preparation also.
Moreover, I cannot fathom how (2) anyone could miss the significance of Russian cyber-activity against Georgia, alluded to in the Times story. Moreover, (3) both (1) and (2) would have generated a significant amount of Russian communications traffic, that would have been picked up by the Americans. Communications intelligence has always, always been an American high card. Additionally, according to the Times (London), British intelligence was on the case, and expected the war "weeks ago." Surely London shared with Washington, at least on this matter.
The raw intelligence, and everything else, surely makes it clear that the Russians were coming, and so, finally, (4) I simply cannot credit that the processing of the raw intelligence, the analysis, was that far off the mark either. So I don't credit either of Dr. Friedman's possibilities -- failures in intelligence gathering, or analysis.
There's a third possibility, alluded to in passing in the Stratfor piece:
The Russians also know something else that is of vital importance: For the United States, the Middle East is far more important than the Caucasus, and Iran is particularly important. The United States wants the Russians to participate in sanctions against Iran. Even more importantly, they do not want the Russians to sell weapons to Iran, particularly the highly effective S-300 air defense system. Georgia is a marginal issue to the United States; Iran is a central issue. The Russians are in a position to pose serious problems for the United States not only in Iran, but also with weapons sales to other countries, like Syria.
Therefore, the United States has a problem -- it either must reorient its strategy away from the Middle East and toward the Caucasus, or it has to seriously limit its response to Georgia to avoid a Russian counter in Iran. Even if the United States had an appetite for another war in Georgia at this time, it would have to calculate the Russian response in Iran. . .
(bolded emphasis supplied)
Lets roll with this one a little further. Suppose, suppose, just for a minute, that US decision makers had all of this information. Just maybe, the dog didn't bark?
Georgia and the Caucasus are, as Dr. Friedman indicated, second-order problems for the United States. Not so Iran! The United States has no more vital foreign policy objective in the present era than maintaining its hegemony in the Persian Gulf, strengthening pro-US client regimes west of Iran (Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan), and allies (Israel); and also preventing Iran from either getting a nuclear weapon or otherwise threatening America or its clients.
Things seem to be moving towards a showdown with Iran. Since late 2007, Bush has embraced the European method of working through the diplomats to try to stop Iranian nuclear development. Iran hasn't budged. All evidence shows that Iran is bound and determined to continue down the nuclear road, and that Iran fully intends to produce a weapon. The desire to have a nuclear capability reflects a broad national consensus, even among the many Iranians who hate the present regime. They are not going to be talked out of it.
The Israelis are alarmed, and apparently considering their military options. Are the Americans, more than we perhaps understand, doing the same?
So, Iran is and has to be America's most serious concern at present. For the Russians, matters are different. For the long run, they probably are not happy at the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons, but they very much resent the unipolar world the Americans think that they rule, and want to recover their influence and position in the "near abroad" -- the states comprising the former Soviet Union. For Russia, the Caucasus, and Georgia, are first order concerns. Russia has wanted to control the Caucasus since Peter the Great. Iran, for the present, is a distinctly second-order problem for them, but the Russians are certainly not unhappy to see the Americans embroiled in the Persian Gulf.
Suppose, for a moment that the Russians, implicitly or explicitly, have offered the Americans a quid pro quo. Is it possible that Moscow has told Washington that it might be willing to take a hands-off attitude towards whatever the Americans wind up doing in the Persian Gulf, if the US avoids helping Georgia too much in the Caucasus?
I don't say that such a deal has occurred. But it makes too much sense not to consider the possibility. We will have to wait and observe the Russian attitude when the Iranian pot boils.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Question of Bargaining Chips

The Russians are insisting that the Georgian President, Mr. Mikheil Saakashvili, "must go." The Foreign Minister, Mr. Sergei Lavrov, also says that Moscow will not talk to Mr. Saakashvili..
The US Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, says that this demand (reiterated Sunday by the Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin), is "unacceptable and crosses a red line."
Of course, I agree with Ambassador Khalilzad that this is outrageous, but I would like to know how he proposes to make the Russian demands unacceptable? With the Russians sitting on Georgia's main communications artery, and the Georgians without the ability to drive them off, or real help from Georgia's US quasi-ally; the Russians are in a good position to get what they are demanding. The military facts on the ground do not entitle the US or the Georgians, however "reasonable" and "equitable" their position may appear -- to insist on anything.
I could wish matters were otherwise, but without means to put pressure on the Russians, or, quite frankly, any manifestation of will by the US to do so -- Ambassador Khalilzad should moderate his tone and try to help extract the best terms for the Georgians from this mess that he can. If the US government finds a way to squeeze on Russia, I'll be the first to support a harder line. Find some chips, Ambassador.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Georgia Evening Roundup

The Times (London) reports the Georgian Land Forces pulled out of Gori in disarray. Presumably the troops that fled do not include the Georgian battalions being shuttled in by the US from Iraq -- those are probably the best units the Georgians have. But with the main east-west highway and rail links cut in two places; the heartland and capital isolated from the country's ports; and the Georgians unable to interdict the Russian supply routes over the Caucasus passes, the game is pretty near up.
The New York Times reports at least some Russians in Senaki (see my earlier post), although the Russian and Georgian governments both say that the Russian troops pulled back from that place. The Russian commander in Abkhazia is demanding that Georgian forces near the Abkhazia borders disarm.
The New York Times piece also says that Russia has named its terms: the Foreign Ministry says that Georgia must pull its troops out of South Ossetia and enter an agreement renouncing the use of force against that territory. The Georgians would be well-advised to accept those terms, and be lucky to get them.
Probably, however, the Russians are going to try to add some more, possibly unwritten terms to any deal -- including the political demise of President Saakashvili, and an end to Georgian attempts to cozy up to NATO and the US. The Russians will want the US trainers assisting the Georgian military to leave. The Russian Foreign Ministry, so far, is not accepting Georgia offers of a cease fire.
Georgia has lost. The question now is what this misadventure is going to cost. If Georgia is going to get away with nothing more than definitively loosing South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the US and Europe are going to have to assert themselves a little, and lay down some red lines.

Georgia In Trouble

AP reports that Russian mechanized forces have seized a "base" in Senaki, Georgia, about twenty miles from the Georgian Black Sea port of Poti. The base (whatever kind it might be) is much, much less important than where Senaki is.
Have a look at the splendid map, above (kedged off of Belmont Club). If the report is correct, and the Russian forces are in Senaki in force, they have cut off one of Georgia’s two rail links to its Black Sea Ports – they are sitting directly on the T'bilisi-Poti line. Moreover, the town of Samtredia is about fifteen miles further southeast. Two river crossings will be required, but presumably the Russian Ground Forces can find the requisite engineers and pontoons.
Moreover, Samtredia is just within range of the 152mm self-propelled guns (there are several types) which accompany Russian mechanized formations, and some types of Russian rocket artillery. Samtredia is important because it contains the other important rail-link in western Georgia – to Batumi – the country’s other major Black Sea port. All the Russians need to do is make the line economically unusable, not knock it out entirely.
I find it interesting that the Russians have managed to advance in the west, down the road from Och'amch'ire (in Abkhazia) so quickly. Possibly Georgian forces in that area are thinned out, perhaps to support the front towards Ossetia, or guarding the ports from descents by sea.
Further, this western advance by the Russians is more evidence, if such were needed, that a massive intelligence failure has occured -- both on the Georgian side, and on the part of Georgia's patron, the United States. The AP report indicates that the troops in Senaki are mechanized troops, so it is unlikely they came to Abkhazia by sea. Given the poor state of readiness of most of the Russian military, and the isolated nature of the axis of advance from Abkhazia (on the south side of some very rough mountains, traversable by bad roads) this is further indication that this campaign was set up well in advance by the Russians. Mechanized columns are voracious drinkers of fuel and users of tons of other supplies. Fuel and consumables would have to be moved in and dumped far in advance, and units assembled. How have the Georgians (and their American friends) been caught so obviously flat-footed?

In any event, depending on how close Russian forces are to Gori (Stalin’s birthplace), through which the rail links to Bat’umi and Poti pass, Georgia may already be strategically cut in two, so the concern over the western ports may well be academic. If the Georgians cannot get the Russians out of rocket and artillery range of the railroad (and I find this unlikely), then they are finished, and must sue for peace on whatever terms they can get, now.
Until Georgia can obtain terms...the attitude of the Armenians and Azerbajanis, sitting on Georgia's last un-interdicted rail links to the outside world (south and east of T'bilisi) will become increasingly important.
UPDATE: (12:15 p.m.). AP reports that the Georgian government claims that Gori has fallen to the Russians. This is a clue to where the missing Georgian forces in the west were (see above) -- probably fighting for Gori.

Friday, August 8, 2008

An Obama Salute?

The Obamagruss? U.S. News reports that the Obama people have their own salute, or so it appears. Admittedly this is not the work of the campaign, per se, but of a "creative agency" called "The Loyalty, Inc." They want to have 75,000 people at his nomination screaming their allegiance and making the Obama salute, which symbolizes "new hope" and "hands clasped in acceptance of responsibility for our future."
First there was a seal, then they took the big flag off the airplane, to replace it with the Obama O, now there's a salute? What's next, uniforms (with Obama O armbands) and a song? I guess nobody's used the Horst-Wessel-Lied in awhile, although I think Billy Bragg's version of the Internationale is more their speed.
I can't honestly determine if these people are just historical illiterates with no knowledge of totalitarian movements and their use of salutes, symbols, songs and flags; or if, on the contrary, these people really do know what they're doing, and are after more than an election. I repeat my question of several days ago. What is Obama really running for?
(Hat tip: American Power).

Russia and Georgia

Russia has intervened directly in favor of secessionist rebels in the Georgian region of South Ossetia (center of map). The Russians have always helped and supported the secessionists, in both South Ossetia and in Abkhazia (top left map). In 1995, both regions (with Moscow's connivance) achieved de facto if not de jure independence from Georgia, and Russian "peacekeepers" have been in the area since at least that time.
Georgia has never given up trying to reintegrate both regions, and Georgian military forces earlier this week occupied the secessionist capital at Tskhinvali (see map), and clamed the city had been "freed." The Georgian President, Mr. Mikheil Saakashvili, says that Russian Ground Forces then crossed the border. The Georgians claim the force includes armor (the Reuters story says "150 tanks" plus APC's and other vehicles), and that Georigan military airfields around their capital Tbilisi (center right on the map) have been bombed. Russian news agencies claim that a Russian armored column has moved over the border. The Georgians claim to have shot down two Russian aircraft.
Apparently shelling from heavy guns is on-going near Tskhinvali. Owners of the guns unknown.
Unlike the United States, the Russians are very careful about giving out too much order-of-battle information, so any information has to be taken with a box or two of salt. Still, here is what is publicly available about Russian Ground Forces in the Caucasus/Transcaucasus region.
Georgia borders the Russian North Caucasus Military District. This military district probably has most of the combat-capable ground units in the Russian Ground Forces, simply because it is tasked with ongoing Russian operations in Russia's own breakaway Chechnya region. Supposedly, it has a number of mountain-warfare capable units.
Just across the Georgia border, in North Ossetia, is the Russian Ground Forces 58th Army (wich is subordinate to the North Caucasus MD, and is its principal Ground Forces unit. The principal maneuver unit in this army is the 19th Motor Rifle Division, which has three Motor-Rifle [infantry] regiments, a separate tank regiment [90-100 tanks, all up] and a self-propelled artillery regiment (big guns on tracked vehicles).
Additionally, 58th Army has at least three subordinate separate motor rifle brigades or regiments (maneuver elements about a third a size of the 19th MRD at full strength). However, the Russian Ground forces are not the Soviet Ground Forces, and they do not possess the wealth of personal and material of similar units in Soviet times. Most units are cadres -- that is, greatly below their full notional strength, and are filled-out with additional troops and equipment when needed.
Although there are at least two other MRD's in the North Caucasus MD, in addition to substantial Interior Ministry paramilitary units, much of what's there (including 58th Army) have commitments in Chechnya. In all probability, if a major intervention in Georgia is seriously contemplated, and continues for any length of time, other forces will be required.
Georgia's land forces are about 20,000 strong, comprising four infantry brigades and supporting units. Two additional brigades are supposed to be raised by 2010. The Georgia Land Forces have enjoyed good relations with the US military (including joint exercises and training) and sent forces to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Wretchard at Belmont Club has a good discussion of US/Georgia military relations, and this new crisis, here). Georgia can probably defend itself against anything short of a full-scale invasion, simply because of geography, but if the Russians are determined, Georgia is in trouble.
Georgia is not part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but has a "partnership for peace" with NATO, whatever that might mean.
What appears to have happened today is that Georgia decided that it would be able to bring separatist South Ossetia back under its control without Russian objection. Georgia's calculation appears to have been erroneous. Probably, the Russians implemented standing plans for their own military response in the event Georgia tried this.
The decision to execute the plan would go all the way to Moscow, to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Medvedev and Putin appear to think they have a green light to move troops openly into a sovereign state that has relations with NATO; or that NATO (meaning the US) is too busy elsewhere to really object, much. Why the Russians might think that should cause some other people to think a little bit. . .

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Alliance of Convenience

Lenin: The Tsar should have had your secret police. My party will study your methods.
German Consul: They [the reports] fail to mention your sense of humor.
Lenin: It gets even funnier: I want to get to Petersburg.You want to get to Paris.
German Consul: It's outrageous! We are here in Zurich, and if I understand you, you want the German government, which is at war with Russia, to take you across Germany to Sweden, because you can get to Russia from there?
Lenin: I'm offering to stop the war.
German Consul: (scoffing) Oh, I didn't know you had such authority.
Lenin: If there were a Bolshevik government in Russia, we'd immediately make peace with Germany. Then how many divisions could you send to the western front?
German Consul: And now you're asking me for classified information. You know my government has locked up more Bolsheviks than anyone else? How can you expect us, to help you make a revolution? You have no sense of proportion!
Lenin: All I'm interested in is power in Russia, and it's lying there on the streets waiting to be picked up. . .
German Consul: I see your jokes are very subtle. A Marxist wants to use the Kaiser. And perhaps the Kaiser can use a Marxist.
Curd Jürgens as "The German Consul" and Michael Bryant as "Lenin" in Nicholas and Alexandra (1971) (Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner; Screenplay by James Goldman and Edward Bond, from a book by Robert K. Massie)
Karen Tumulty, writing in Time, asks hopefully, fearfully, "Have the Clintons gotten over it?"
Oh, one surely hopes not.
The White House awaits you in four years, Senator Clinton, but the road to glory cannot be travelled with St. Barack upon it. If Obama wins, you're history, writing your has-been memoirs about what might-have-been and blaming Bill that it did not come out differently. But you knew that.
All kinds of rumors are circulating that you want your delegates "heard" at the convention. Maybe that you even want a floor vote on the nomination? I doubt you're going to do that, unless you think it certain that St. Barack is a gone gosling. He's lost some tail-feathers, but he's not weakened enough for you to expose yourself by forcing a vote, not yet. But some chaos is not all bad.
Perhaps all the noise is the sound of you making one last effort to gain the number two spot? Maybe. But I think you agree with me and John Nance Garner that on the terms you could get it, the position is "not worth a bucket of warm piss." Still, offering you the post would be a counsel of desperation for Obama: it would be too easy for you to connive at his defeat from within. If Obama is fool enough to give it to you, and he still wins, he'll watch his back, lock you up in the Naval Observatory, trot you out for the odd funeral, and make it his business to ensure your political future after him is oblivion. No matter how you look at it, his win is your loss.
I think you're probably smart enough to push for the position, enough to be noticed, and to demonstrate the viability of your power base; all the while being enough of a bother to ensure that you don't receive an offer, and to encourage a rookie's tendency to do something stupid to offend your supporters. For his part, Obama must consider you, but not give you the post, in such a manner that he doesn't appear a churl rejecting you. Hard to bring off. You win either way: if he loses it's not (obviously) your doing. If he wins, you still have supporters certain you were short-changed, which, combined with your seat in the Senate, is something of a base.
Ms. Tumulty reports that you're "skeptical" that St. Barack can win in the fall. Your skepticism is well-founded, but it would be even more well-founded, and much in your interest, if you were to give the New Messiah, and history, a little bit of an unobtrusive shove.
So, you don't like Republicans and conservatives? Well, the distaste is mutual of course, but what of it? Tomorrow we can have our quarrel, and we will see whose political head winds up over the barn door. But today, our interests, and those of the country, happily coincide, and on that basis we can surely understand each other. How about it? Looks like a win-win, from here, for the moment. If the Marxists can use the Kaiser, maybe the Kaiser can use a Marxist?

Iran and Military Options

There is a flurry of new reports this week that Israel is considering its military options against Iran and its nuclear program. Links to some reports and a good general discussion are set out by Spook at In from the Cold.
Count me a skeptic about the Israelis pursuing a military option. The ranges are long, the targets too dispersed and probably hardened. Absent the use of nuclear weapons (unthinkable without an actual Iranian attack on Israel) I'm not sure the Israelis have the weight to do enough damage to Iran or its program (much less killing the scientists and the institutions that give the Persians the capability) to justify the political problems created by such an action.
I think similar considerations (politically at least) would hobble a US effort.
The Iranians have essentially won this hand. If Iran wants nuclear devices, there is not a usable military option available to stop them at the moment. The only way they can lose at this point is by being over-truculent and forcing the outside world's hand. However, the regime is sailing very close to the wind, and there is a strong possibility that the Mullahs and "Mad Jad" Ahmadinejad could bluster themselves into a real war by mistake.
The mullahs' weakness is that they need political confrontation with America and the west (at least on this issue) for much the same reasons that Chavez in Venezuela does. The mullahs have made such a hopeless mess, economically, spiritually and politically, of Iran that a foreign threat is imperative to keep the regime out of serious trouble. For the mullahs (and us) the problem is that the consequences of the confrontation ever becoming violent cannot adequately be predicted: a few raids would no doubt unite the public behind the regime; but if the world becomes afraid enough, a real war could destroy both them and their country.
The desire for nuclear power and nuclear weapons unites both the regime and its enemies. Halting Iranian nuclear programs politically is simply unlikely to occur. The Iranian nuclear program is dangerous not for itself, but because the mullah regime is dangerous, and wants to overturn the political order of the Gulf region, and beyond.
Change the issue a little. The Iranian nuclear program is the wrong target. The Iranian regime, which is both unpopular and criminal -- and more vulnerable politically than the nuclear program -- is the right one.