Sunday, September 14, 2014

Little Sissy Psycho Beheads Third Victim—Sends "Message" To Turkey

Episode three of Islamic State's "Little Sissy Psycho" program, included the usual forced denunciation speech by the beheading victim, David Haines, followed by Little Sissy Psycho blathering about British Prime Minister Cameron's responsibility for the murder about to occur. Next up the killing, once again thankfully short in duration, as most of it occurs after the fadeout. And then of course LSP's obligatory threats and a preview of the next victim, Alan Henning, another Brit. All this is delivered with gangster-rap (or pro-wrestler) swagger, and the best guess of British Intelligence at this point is that LSP is in fact a British rapper,  Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary.
The latest episode of Little Sissy Psycho*, i.e. the Islamic State beheading program, showing the killing of British citizen, David Haines, aired yesterday to generally outraged reaction in the West.
*—Note, this nickname for the black-clad executioner host of these beheading videos is explained here.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who figures prominently in this third episode, denounced the Islamic State video in harsh terms:
"David [Haines] has been murdered in the most callous and brutal way imaginable by an organisation which is the embodiment of evil...[Islamic State] boast of their brutality. They claim to do this in the name of Islam. That is nonsense. Islam is a religion of peace. They are not Muslims. They are monsters."
In the video, the execution of Haines is prefaced by a clip of Cameron, talking about giving arms to the Kurds, and sticking to the “very clear foreign policy and very clear strategy…and [British] military prowess…to do everything we can to put the pressure on Islamic State, this appalling organization”.

The IS video is entitled, “A Message To The Allies Of America”, and, according to NBC Chief Foreign Correspondent, Richard Engel, the key American ally targeted for messaging in this third beheading video is not the UK, but Turkey.

Engel explained on Meet the Press today:
"It’s a message to the world...But it is also a very specific message it seems, to Turkey. ISIS is holding more than 40 Turkish diplomats hostage...Turkey has been very reluctant to join this coalition, at least publicly, with the United States. Turkey would be essential. It’s right on the border. If the US wants to build an effective campaign, to build a free Syrian army, it probably has to be done through Turkey. And this is one way for ISIS to say, if Turkey joins, its diplomats are at risk."
Whomever is the intended political audience, the grimness of these videos, the stylized way in which they are performed—not like a documentary of an execution but more like a music video—suggests another target of Islamic State is the huge market of disaffected youth, who may be drawn to these outlandish, extremely anti-authoritarian visual messages.

After all, Little Sissy Psycho (or Jihadi John or Mr. Bary), is working on his fourth episode now, with yet another British victim, Alan Henning, next up for execution, and neither America and its famed SEALs, nor American drones, nor any other force, has been able to successfully rescue the hostages held by Islamic State, nor have they stopped these beheading videos from being produced and distributed. And of course, nobody has been able to stop Little Sissy Psycho from killing.

So long as that is the case, Islamic State's beheading program must also be working as a big recruiting instrument for the Caliphate.

This may explain why the videos habitually cut away just as the victim's throat is being cut by the executioner. It avoids the most gruesome aspect of the beheading, and yet always displays the bloody corpse of the victim, with the murdered person's head resting on top. The effect, while grisly, is almost like a Halloween haunted-house corpse—neatly posed (except for the blood) and rather artificial seeming. And, as always, the victim is clothed in an orange jumpsuit, just as were the prisoners taken by the United States to Gitmo, the infamous prison for alleged Qaeda terrorists in Cuba.

Along with Obama's inability so far to provide a convincing narrative for how his strategy to defeat Islamic State could possible work as he has claimed, he should give a high priority to canceling the Little Sissy Psycho program. The longer it is on, the more inept and ineffectual Obama appears.

Will The NSA Hack The Scottish Independence Vote?

Oh yes my little sheep—Scottish independence! Vote for it and see how the NSA assesses the winner. Democracy! Freedom! On the Moon maybe. On the Earth, Scotland is part of the American empire.
Sound a little extreme to you?

After all, isn’t the USA in favor of democracy and national determinations and all that?

Yeah, right. Just ask the Muslim Brotherhood about how that worked out in Egypt. Oh wait. You can’t. They’re all dead and in prison.

The Scots after all are getting ready to commit democratic terrorism on the United Kingdom, and while most Americans cannot find Scotland on a map of Colorado, they do know it’s a bad thing for America’s little helpers, the English, to lose their nuclear submarine base in Scotland—which will happen, we are told, if the anti-nuke Scots finally avenge the ’45 and go free from England (and Wales and Northern Ireland—YAY!)

From the USA perspective, which is to say from the NSA perspective, it is time to hack the vote in Scotland, just to make sure the Scots are kept in their place and the Trident submarines are kept in their place—and all the British flags (which will all have to be redrawn all over if the Scots get away) are kept in their place!

On the other hand, all Americans love to see the stuck-up English punched in the nose. Again, the USAish are not entirely sure where London is (in “Sherlock” episodes it looks very modern—Japan perhaps?), but they know those English had something bad to do with America back in the day—like they were the villains in the Civil War or something—right?

So, America absolutely would love to see all those exotic, skirt-wearing folk, give the electoral finger to the English.

But, while it would be terribly satisfying to Americans on that count, among other things, a successful Scottish independence vote might give other, browner, peoples the idea that standing up to well-established authority—after centuries!—is a proper way to conduct oneself.

And we can’t be having that, can we?

So, yes, from the American perspective, NSA has every reason to hack the Scottish independence vote and keep the Mad Macs British. Don't worry, they'll calm down. They'll always have their ghastly booze, their haggis, and their dreary vistas of sheep and moss to keep them warm at night, after all.

Friday, September 12, 2014

ObamaWar Is Already Misfiring On All Cylinders

Secretary of State John Kerry, explained on CNN yesterday that it was necessary for ObamaWar not to be called a war, but rather "a very significant counterterrorism operation" against al-Qaeda (even though Islamic State is not al-Qaeda). In this way, Obama did not have to ask Congress for a new war authorization, since Obama was just fighting his war on the basis of the old, post-9/11 war authorization against al-Qaeda. This war authorization apparently has no expiration date, and no matter how many people die in the current euphemism, it isn't a war. This is just one sign, among many others, that something 1984-ish is going on in Obama's White House again.
One of the more interesting stories reported in the last few days was a Reuters article that revealed this surprising situation:
"Rather than help keep the nation together, [US] air strikes risk being used by different factions for their own advantage in Iraq's sectarian and ethnic conflicts...The fallout...risks worsening grievances that helped Islamic State find support amongst Iraq's Sunnis, and allows the militant group to portray the U.S. strikes as targeting [Sunnis]."
Further, while Shiite and Kurdish militias had joined forces in the North to stop and push back the recent Islamic State advance. the alliance has proven all too brief:
"Now that [Islamic State] has been pushed back, the alliance is unraveling. Kataib Hizbollah [an Iranian-trained and equipped Shia militia], which controls access to Amerli, is denying Kurds entry to the town and one peshmerga [Kurdish militia] commander described the militia as the "Shi'ite IS". The tensions reflect a struggle for territory which the Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad claims, but the Kurds want as part of their autonomous region in the north of the country."
The fact that US airstrikes are achieving unintended consequences that are precisely the opposite of how those airstrikes were supposed to work, has been little noticed, and certainly was not a feature of Barack Obama's Wednesday night speech to the nation, announcing another round of Middle East war for America.

If the usual suspects, meaning the competing, not cooperating, players in Iraq and Syria, do the natural, and some might even say the "right" thing, and take advantage of Obama's naiveté, promising unity against the common enemy (Islamic State) while plotting further self-interested appropriations of territory and resources, the central tenet of Obama's strategy, especially in Iraq, the building of an inclusive, non-sectarian government, is going to fail before his war has even gotten going.

Another serious problem critics have raised is the fact that the United States cannot really hope to take the war to Islamic State in its home base in Syria, without risking having any success in that campaign end up helping America's other supposed enemy, the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. 

This concern is already manifesting, as we read today that Assad has won a battle near Hama, against the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda-allied rival to Islamic State. Assad, knowing that the United States is going to be targeting his main problem in Syria, Islamic State, can turn his full attention to degrading and destroying the remaining Syrian rebel groups. Not only this, but Israel, realizing that Assad is a better Syrian regime (in Israel's view) than having some al-Qaeda affiliate confronting its Northwest border, recently realigned its Syrian policy to meet this reality.

One effect of having Assad strengthened by ObamaWar, is that this will make much more difficult the job of obtaining real support from Muslim countries against Islamic State. Turkey, for example, reportedly is reluctant to engage the war against IS specifically because they fear weakening IS will strengthen Assad. The complexities of the situation, and the interests of the players, make pursuing any winning policy in Iraq and Syria almost impossible. The one short-term move that would likely produce a quick US victory would be the one thing Obama says he will not do—commit large numbers of US ground combat troops to fight IS.

In fact, and this is yet another bizarre aspect of Obama's reaction against being compared to George W. Bush, and his 2003 invasion of Iraq, but just the idea of the word "war" is so troubling to Obama and his team, that Secretary of State Kerry told CNN yesterday that he did not think that word was the correct description for the military action the United States was currently engaged in against Islamic State. Instead, Kerry had a special euphemism for it:
"I think that’s the wrong terminology. What we are doing is engaging in a very significant counterterrorism operation...If somebody wants to think about it as being at war with ISIL, they can do so. But the fact is it’s a major counterterrorism operation."
Kerry went on to demand that Islamic State was still part of al-Qaeda, despite the fact IS has clearly broken ties with its old mentor. Kerry said this is why Barack Obama does not have to seek any new war authorization from Congress. Obama claims he is still working from the 9/11, anti-Qaeda authorization, made so many years ago in a war that simply will not cease.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

With ObamaWar You Can Keep The Bad Strategy You Like

Whether it's ObamaCare or ObamaWar, the American people have the same impression of this guy running it—they don't like it. Americans are fine having health care or Islamic State dealt with for the betterment of citizens, but let's just be glad the first thing Obama needs to do to fight Islamic State is not to set up a working website. And let us hope we do not hear the word "Surge", especially not associated with David Petraeus, mentioned during the course of the new chapter of the endless war.
Fully embracing the jingoistic rhetoric of his foreign policy mentor, George W. Bush, Barack Obama said Wednesday night that he was bringing ObamaWar to Syria and that this would degrade and destroy Islamic State:
“Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.”
In a speech that was promoted as an explanation of Obama's strategy for fighting Islamic State, he spent very little time talking about that, and a lot of time talking about American exceptionalism, suggesting that the war against IS was an expression of this:
"American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny. It is America—our scientists, our doctors, our know-­how—that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola. It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so that they can’t pose a threat to the Syrian people or the world again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, and tolerance, and a more hopeful future."
As with so much Obama said last night, this is basically campaign rhetoric, intended to convince the American people to support the war, but it is not straight talk about the facts, which speak so strongly to the limitations of American power to achieve the goals Obama has set.

For example, many critics would point out that America's rallying the world against "Russian aggression" has achieved very little, if the idea was to stop the aggression. And nor have American scientists stopped the Ebola outbreak. And while yes, Syrian WMD has been removed and destroyed, the problem comes in the word "declared", which the UN has recently suggested did not equal the total of the Syrian government's WMD. Lastly, painting the USA as the savior of "Muslim communities" in their fight for "a more hopeful future" is simply ludicrous.

The United States of course was the main foreign driver in the overthrow of Egypt's democratically-elected government, and is currently dictating to the Iraqi government the form of apparent inclusion it has to present in return for American support against an enemy Obama says is such a dire threat to US interests that destroying it should not depend on how kumbaya-esque the government in Baghdad pretends to be.

One reason Obama spent little time talking about his strategy and more time talking about the great and powerful America, is that while the goals Obama set out Wednesday night (eliminating Islamic State) are generally popular (at this point) amongst the American people, and with many leaders in the Middle East, Obama’s strategy to obtain these goals is very complicated, and thus very difficult to coherently and concisely explain to the American people. Further, the basic assumptions behind Obama’s strategy seem to many experts dubious—if not outright naive.

Example, Obama, attempting to act as some kind of expert on Islam, lectured to the American people about the nature of the enemy:
“Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not ‘Islamic.’ No religion condones the killing of innocents. And the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq­ Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor by the people it subjugates.”
There are many problems with this analysis, but mainly it is a statement of propaganda—not of facts.

1. Islam may not condone the killing of innocents. But the establishment of “innocence” as a characteristic of victims is the key point. The Koran views all infidels as devils, and against God:
“Whoever is an enemy to Allah, His Angels, His Messengers, Jibrael (Gabriel) and Mikael (Michael), then verily, Allah is an enemy to the disbelievers.”—"The Cow", 2:98
2. This is especially true of Muslims who have in some way fallen away from the faith, or who have believed in heresy:
“Whoever changes Allah's Favour after it had come to him, [e.g. renounces the Religion of Allah (Islam) and accepts Kufr (disbelief),] then surely, Allah is Severe in punishment.”—"The Cow", 2:211
3. This is not a characteristic only of Islam. Judaism and Christianity both feature the slaughter of the faithless—including women and children—as being a holy and acceptable thing. Whereas Christians generally, in theory, expect God to carry out the sentence, Christians have had no problem “helping” God by dispatching the infidels (in large numbers) for him. And Jews have their own history, in the Bible, of invading Canaan and wiping out numerous communities (men, women and children), whose only sin was to believe in a different God.

4. As for Islamic State’s status as something more—much more—than a mere terrorist organization, Obama’s assertion is again nothing but factless propaganda. Islamic State controls a large swath of territory. It has a capital city. It has a national flag. It has an army of around 100,000 fighters. And it has easily defeated in battle the three groups that Obama claims will be the ground combat game-changers. Does that make Islamic State a real state? That depends on how long it exists—just like any new state. If the US can, as it claims it will, degrade and push back IS in relatively short order, most people will view IS as a temporary terrorist blip. But if the US cannot accomplish this, IS will gain respect and recognition as standing up to the US and its allies.

5. Lastly, on Obama’s claim about “the people it subjugates”, it is useful to look at the comments made last night by NBC Middle East analyst, Richard Engel, who was sharply critical of Obama’s strategy and his claims about the reality the US was facing against Islamic State. Engel noted that, unlike what the President was claiming, Islamic State actually was ruling over many Sunni populations, especially in Iraq, that were much more fearful of the Iraqi army (i.e., the Shia-majority army) than they were Islamic State.

Engel, commenting from Erbil, Iraq last night, said this:
“[Obama] is talking about having the Iraqi army reconstituted and using that Iraqi army to secure this country [i.e., Iraq, especially the Sunni portions of it]. The problem is, the Iraqi army over the past several months has collapsed. It has been reconstituted already by many Iranian advisors, and sometimes regular Iranian ground forces that have been witnessed on many occasions. And these Sunni villages, that are now with ISIS [i.e., Islamic State], are afraid of the Iraqi army. They don't want the Iraqi army to come into their villages. So we talk about a partner on the ground, that we are going to link up with to rid Iraq of ISIS, well that partner on the ground in many cases is a reason that people support ISIS in this country."
As Engel and others have pointed out in the past 24 hours, if Barack Obama has any hope of actually achieving the goals he set out in his statement last night, the first thing he needs to do is to seriously and accurately asses the threat he is engaging, and to consider the consequences of trying to degrade and destroy it, especially without a large US ground-troop commitment.

As with so many of Barack Obama’s campaign speeches, once you get beyond the promises, to the nuts and bolts of how he expects to deliver, the whole thing just doesn’t make any sense.

Finally, Obama made the one promise that he must keep—if he expects anything other than Bush-level hatred to come his way:
“We will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq.”
For most people actually looking at the situation, they might say the US has already gotten dragged into another ground war in Iraq. Last night Obama announced he was sending another 475 US soldiers to Iraq to bring the total in country to over 1,500. Some number of those troops reportedly will now be embedded with Iraqi and Kurdish troops, as advisors only, but in or near combat.

How long will it be before the mission creeps along to a brigade or two or ten of US ground troops going back to the fight that never seems to end?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Obama Redefines "War" Bypassing Constitutional Authority Of Congress

By replacing the idea of "declaring war" with the much nicer-sounding "protect the American people", Barack Obama seems to think he has personally amended the Constitution to read that Congress has the power to listen to the President explain to them his reasons when he decides to protect the American people. The fact the Constitution says none of this and that it explicitly states the power of declaring, i.e. authorizing, military action, rests solely with Congress, and not with the President, seems to be of no interest to Obama. On this count alone, that Obama is either afraid or contemptuous of seeking authorization from Congress for war, the American people should reject Obama's demand that the US continue its military action against Islamic State.
In an interview aired today on NBC's Meet the Press, US President Barack Obama took an extraordinary step of claiming he possessed sufficient authority on his own to take the United States to war—for years—without Congressional approval.

This dictatorial power, not expressed or implied in the Constitution, comes from Obama's redefinition of "war"—basically eliminating reference to that word and replacing it with the idea the President is using military power against Islamic State to "protect the American people".

At one point in the interview, Obama explained he would be going to Congress, for one thing to ask for "more resources" in a war that Secretary of State John Kerry recently said could last three years or longer.

At that, Chuck Todd, the new moderator of MTP, asked Obama the following:
"This is asking Congress for a vote, an authorization of your strategy?"
It was instantly clear Obama was balking at that idea.

Todd continued:
"This is not a—what does that mean? Define that."
Obama then replied:
 "Well—I’m confident that I’ve got the authorization that I need to protect the American people, and I’m always going to do what’s necessary to protect the American people."
So, the answer to whether Obama will seek a Congressional vote authorizing the new, years-long war is plainly "no".

Obama then explained what he thought the role of Congress is when a President declares war (or that he is once again "protecting" the American people:
"But I do think it’s important for Congress to understand what the plan is, to have buy-in, to debate it, and that’s why we’ve been consulting with Congress throughout."
Todd looked more than a little concerned and dubious at this response. After all, even George W. Bush sought Congressional approval of the war against Iraq.

Many Americans are likely so distracted and so badly informed about abstruse things like Constitutional powers to declare war, that they figure there should not be any problem about a President just deciding to declare war—or anyway go to war—especially if he isn't going to call it war, but instead protecting the American people. And given Obama's claim that that he is always authorized to protect the American people, what is the Constitutional argument supporting that alleged power?

Answer: there isn't any.

While there is an implied power of the Executive to use military means to protect the United States in an emergency, i.e. in a situation where there isn't sufficient time* to obtain Congressional approval for war, outside of that situation, and especially when the President intends on committing the United States to years of war, which Obama intends to do, the Constitution is quite explicit:
*—There is a concept for example in Section 10 of Article I having to do with emergency powers of a state government to "go to war", without Congressional declaration, when that state is "in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay" to take military action.
"The Congress shall have Power...to declare War...To raise and support Armies...To provide and maintain a Navy...To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces."
Respecting the current situation, Obama can certainly not reasonably or honestly declare he is dealing with any emergency situation affecting the lives of Americans domestically, since he was quite clear in the interview:
"I want everybody to understand that we have not seen any immediate intelligence about threats to the homeland from ISIL."
While Obama did say he viewed the Islamic State advance into northern Iraq and the Kurdish region, for example towards the city of Arbil, as an emergency situation, where the lives of American personnel (military and diplomatic) were threatened, that threat has supposedly been managed, with IS fighters pushed back by American airstrikes and counterattacks from Peshmerga militia.

So, even if there is a need, as Obama says, for the Islamic State to be confronted, and degraded, and ultimately destroyed, that is an argument Obama needs to make to Congress, and any resulting war to achieve those ends needs to be authorized by Congress, not just asserted as being authorized by President Obama.

Many of Barack Obama's defenders in the past few weeks have talked about what a welcome change it is to have a President taking slow and deliberate steps towards taking any necessary military action. Obama has been so slow in committing himself to a strategy to defeat Islamic State, even Democrats have begun criticizing his lack of apparent urgency.

But here is another consideration:

If Obama is so careful and deliberate about going to war, then he should recognize that idea is already built into the American constitutional system. It involves a President going to Congress to ask for authority to go to war. Obama says he does not need to do this, that his authority is somehow inherent in the Constitution, under the idea of protecting and defending the American people. However, the Constitution says nothing about this. It does say he is supposed to protect and defend the Constitution. It is Congress, not the President, that is supposed to be the deliberative authority in determining whether or not the United States should go to war.

If the President refuses to acknowledge this fact, and subverts the role of Congress in this matter, he should be impeached.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

State Department Says “Core Coalition” Thrown Together Without “Rhyme or Reason”

Indifferent employment of language, especially when a government bureaucrat is desperately seeking a way out of an interrogative bind, is a real problem in the world. It contributes, along with the utterly obtuse use of words on the internet, to the general antipathy to any deep (or any) understanding of an issue. On the other hand, there is always the possibility that State Department Deputy spokesperson Marie Harf completely fucked up yesterday and said precisely what she thought to be the truth—that there is no "rhyme or reason" to the choice of nations in Obama's hastily organized "Core Coalition".
Perhaps this just comes down to State Department deputy, Marie Harf, not understanding the meaning of the phrase “without rhyme or reason” (i.e., "without logical explanation or reason").

Because, when asked about how Barack Obama chose the nations that have been called the “Core Coalition” (of Obama’s war against Islamic State), State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf pushed back against the idea that the list of nations represented any sort of design or plan (especially one that could be held against the President).

Harf pointed out, in a Friday press briefing, that the meeting to choose the countries in the Core Coalition came about in an unofficial, ad hoc, process at this week's Nato summit:
“This was a meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit. There’s not a specific rhyme or reason why these countries were included.”
This remarkable admission came in response to the accusation, made by AP Diplomatic Correspondent Matthew Lee, that the President’s Core Coalition did not seem to measure up, even to George W. Bush’s Coalition of the Willing, especially not in numbers.

Seeing that the Core Coalition was in deep danger of falling into some kind of meme trap, which it already was at risk for doing (Common Core Coalition anyone?), Harf realized that she herself was trapped rhetorically.

If Harf alleged the Core Coalition was the product of deep reflection on the part of the President and his team of coalition builders, then the CC would be open to criticism in two areas:

1. There are only ten nations (counting the United States) in the Core Coalition, and some of them had already publicly asserted they will be sort of willing to support, in some fashion, Obama’s war against IS. So, there were only a few new nations added to the list. This hardly seems like a strong commitment from the world to face what Obama and his team claim is a "global threat" from Islamic State.

2. Despite Harf’s demand that the Core Coalition and Obama’s 2014 war have nothing to do whatsoever with George W. Bush’s Coalition of the Willing and his disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq, the linkage is unavoidable, since the immense damage done to America's diplomatic relationships, even with its closest allies, by the Iraq War, has not been repaired. What little progress had been made on that front was damaged again this past year with the Snowden revelations showing widespread US spying on its allies and their leaders. Also, the list of Arab or Muslim nations in Obama’s coalition is just as notably short as it was with Bush’s. Obama claims he will be correcting this soon, as the expanded coalition, or whatever they call it, will attempt to include—publicly or secretly is a good question—Sunni Muslim nations. But any Sunni Muslim nation, such as Jordan for example, that decides to openly ally itself with the American campaign against Islamic State, is likely inviting a vigorous terrorist response, if not an outright and dangerous insurgency.

Alternatively, as Harf insisted, if the choice of nations in the Core Coalition has no logical basis and thus leaves no clue about the "rhyme" of the inclusion of any of the members, a reasonable question is why is this so?

In fact, Lee point this out, in response to Harf attempting to employ the "no rhyme or reason" defense a second time later in her remarks. That exchange went like this:
HARF: There’s no rhyme or—I will be clear.
LEE: Well, I hope there is some rhyme or reason to who [you're choosing].
HARF: Well, no. I would not read anything into it—
What Harf is trying to say in all this evasion is that she and Obama don't want reporters "reading anything" into the fact that when it came time to put together a quick list of nations that would publicly agree to be for degrading and destroying Islamic State, it was made up of the traditional close allies of the United States, like France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, and not nations whose public involvement might deflect the criticism that this is going to be another anti-Islamic Crusade of the infidel Americans. 

The one Muslim nation on Obama's Core, Turkey, is likely never going to be an open, active, player in attacking Islamic State. Indeed, one reason so many European and American recruits for IS have managed to get to Syria to join the fight for what is now the American enemy, is because they pass through the essentially unguarded border crossings between Turkey and Syria.

NOTE: See also today, "Obama's Undeclared War Against Islamic State Is Missing An Army"

Obama's Undeclared War Against Islamic State Is Missing An Army

Americans take great solace in knowing that their fearless leader has extensive military experience, including playing in the White House holodecks for hours. Here, Obama is dressed up as General Patton, and looks quite convincing, doesn’t he? One can just imagine Obama leading his tanks into battle against Islamic State, or anyway, gallantly pressing the “fire” button in a drone-driver’s chair.
Barack Obama's bizarre war strategy against Islamic State continued to take rhetorical shape on Friday as the President announced a new "core coalition" of the not-exactly-willing or ready.

Nine nations, in addition to the United States, have agreed to supply varying, and quite conditional, support to Obama's war to stop the Islamic State's advance into Iraq, and presumably to eliminate IS's bases of operation in Syria.

The Syrian part of Obama's strategy and mission goals for the war was not publicly addressed, other than that Obama said part of the strategy would be to arm and train Syrian "moderates", to help them replace Islamic State as the key opponent of  Obama's other supposed enemy in Syria, the government forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

This suggests the truly surreal situation of the US trying simultaneously to defeat Assad, while trying to destroy the one effective fighting force in making that happen—Islamic State.

Exactly what US interest would be served by the Syrian portion of the war against IS is difficult to see. Simply identifying "moderate" Syrian rebel forces to arm and train has thwarted Obama in the past, as he himself recently admitted.

The fear of many experts has been that giving arms to what Obama has referred to as "former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth", would be an indirect way of simply delivering those arms into the hands of IS in Syria, as happened in Iraq when the Iraqi government troops abandoned their US-made arms and fled before IS fighters earlier this year.

But Obama now needs these dubious Syrian allies as one part (in fact the important part) of the one thing his strategy currently lacks—an army. So terrified is Obama (and the Core Coalition) of putting US and allied "boots on the ground" again in a combat role in Iraq—much less Syria—that Obama has announced ground combat against IS will be handled by three groups that Islamic State has already easily defeated in battle:

1. The Iraqi national military—US-trained and armed (for years!), this crew took one look at Islamic State's smaller but more nimble and ruthless forces earlier this year, and fled the scene. In the process, the Iraqi soldiers stripped off their uniforms, threw away their weapons, and abandoned an army's worth of tanks, artillery, and lighter battle vehicles and supplies, which Islamic State fighters took for their own. The Iraqis have plainly said they cannot fight against IS on their own, but the US expects the Shia-dominated forces of Iraq to not merely stop IS from further driving towards Baghdad, but in fact to push IS back towards Syria. Can that be accomplished merely by providing US air support? Earlier, back when the US air strikes were alleged to be temporary in duration, Obama had asserted that the US would not operate as the Iraqi air force. The thing that has to be remembered about IS in Iraq—it is largely made up of Iraqi Sunnis coming home, to battle what they view as a corrupt, repressive, and an illegitimate Iraqi regime set up and propped up by the United States. This is not a united Iraq battling against Islamic State, a foreign invader. It is the continuation of a Sunni-Shia civil war, that began because of the 2003 American invasion and occupation of Iraq.

2. The Kurdish Peshmerga Militia—The very existence of this Kurdish defense force, which is a glorified version of the Sunni insurgent forces allied with IS, speaks to the weakness of Obama's strategy. The Peshmerga and the Kurdish region of Iraq want to be independent—i.e., NOT Iraqi at all. Before IS attacked and defeated the Peshmerga militia a few weeks ago, the Kurdish fighters were taking advantage of IS's advance into Iraq to seize more oil-producing territory away from the Iraqi government. One reason the IS attacked the Kurds is that they likely did not want this Kurdish appropriation of Iraqi assets to continue. In other words, IS attacked a rival opposition force (just as they regularly do in Syria). While the Kurds are unquestionably the most pro-US group of Obama's army, the Peshmerga can only be seen as a short-term and highly unpredictable force. The main problem they pose is that any ground they take away from IS is likely territory they will not want to return to Iraq.

3. The "Moderate" Syrian Rebels—These small (in number), and ineffectual fighters are, as everyone says, hard to find. This is because the truly "moderate" forces in Iraq are not on the rebel side at all. They belong to the Syrian government, which is to say they belong to the secular government of Bashar al-Assad. If Obama were really serious about fighting Islamic State, and radical Islam, the most obvious ally in that fight would be Assad. But that would put Obama into the position of calling as "friend" a man and a regime he said were so horrible and immoderate that Obama almost ordered the US military to (limited, of course) war against Syria just last year. In that situation, Obama reached out to another one of his frenemies, Assad's longtime ally, Vladimir Putin, and Russia helped broker a deal where Assad would give up his WMD. This was back before Putin had sized Obama up as a weakling, and before Putin became Obama's other bad actor in the world, with Putin's war against Ukraine. Not surprisingly, the UN recently reported they think maybe—just maybe—Assad did not really declare or give up all his WMD. But, it is doubtful Obama will do what he threatened in that event—attack Assad too. Worst case, already being discussed: IS gets its hands on some of the remaining Syrian WMD.

As you can see, Obama's reliance on this ragtag group of amateurs, even if it is backed by US air strikes and whatever aid the Core Coalition deigns to supply, is hardly a demonstration of a strong US commitment to degrade and destroy Islamic State.

Add this to the fact that this expanding war (which Secretary of State John Kerry is saying could last three years!) is not being presented to the Congress for a vote on its authority (something that is required by the Constitution), and you begin to see that Obama's war strategy appears to be more of an intellectual exercise—working out and promoting what an anti-IS strategy (with no US ground combat troops) could look like—rather than crafting a realistic action plan to obtain victory in war.

Is this really the best the US military planners could come up with?

About the best you can say for this Core Coalition plan is that it sounds like the sort of military campaign Barack Obama would devise—plenty of shared responsibility, even to the point of relying on demonstrably weak and unreliable allies, combined with totally absurd expectations for their behavior. In this way, Obama, who cannot be so stupid as to have any high hopes for such a plan, has plenty of ass-covering room when it all goes bad.

But then, Obama's sudden war fervor, his anxiousness to "destroy" (instead of just limit) Islamic State, seems to have been pushed by recent events, mainly the video beheadings of two Americans, that invite an emotional, i.e., a purely political, response. For a fellow who is supposed to be careful to a fault, this war plan seems like the product of rash and foolish hysteria.

The pols, the pundits, and the American people, who rightly showed great skepticism when Obama demanded the US should go to war last year in Syria, need to be asking Obama a couple of questions now:

If Islamic State is so threatening to the security and interests of the United States, then why send in three version of the Keystone Kops, instead of the US Marines, to win the war?

And if Islamic State isn't that threatening to the security and interests of the United States, which in the past Barack Obama has repeatedly asserted it wasn't, then why not find a another solution?

NOTE: See also today, "State Department Says “Core Coalition” Thrown Together Without “Rhyme or Reason"