Friday, September 12, 2014

Barack Obama's Cheese Shop Coalition

In his recently announced campaign to do ... something to ISIS (or ISIL, or IS, or Islamic State, or whatever it's calling itself this week. I swear ISIS is like the Snoop Dogg of Islamist groups),Obama promised that we would be “joined by a broad coalition of partners” in fighting ISIS. Paul Mirengoff of Power Line identifies a problem in his open to this particular story:
So now President Obama wants to organize a coalition to take on ISIS, the group whose rise he ignored on the theory that it was the terrorist “jayvee.” Arab states — notably Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan — and Turkey are to be key members of the coalition.
Obama assigns these states primary responsibility for mobilizing Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria against ISIS. Presumably, Obama also wants their financial support and their help in cutting off funds to ISIS.
But there’s a problem: the Arab states don’t trust Obama.
It seems that when you spend most of your tenure at the White House stabbing US allies in the back, those allies are no longer willing to back you up when the chips are down.
President Obama, in a televised speech Wednesday night detailing his strategy for confronting the Islamic State, stressed U.S. support for the new Iraqi government’s effort to promote unity and enlisting Arab partners’ help to mobilize Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria against the group.
But already there is a disinclination to believe his promises, said Mustafa Alani of the Gulf Research Center in Dubai.
“We have reached a low point of trust in this administration,” he said. “We think in a time of crisis Mr. Obama will walk away from everyone if it means saving his own skin.”
Now why would they think that?
Different countries are suspicious of the United States for different reasons, but all feel betrayed in some way by recent U.S. policies, said Salman Shaikh of the Brookings Doha Institute in Qatar.
“They see the security threat posed by the Islamic State. They want it defeated, because at the end of the day, the Islamic State overturns states, and as states, they are threatened,” he said.
However, he said, “there’s this nagging doubt that this strategy is intended just to serve American interests and not the broader interests of the region.”
Most Arab states see the Obama administration as having created the conditions that enabled the Islamic State to thrive by not being more helpful to moderates in Syria and by continuing to back Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in Iraq — long after it became clear that he was pursuing policies that were alienating the country’s Sunni minority.
There's that whole incompetence thing rearing its ugly head, as it so often does with Obama.
Driving the concerns is the memory of Obama’s turnabout on Syria a year ago, when the White House did not follow through on a threat to bomb Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in response to its alleged use of chemical weapons. Obama instead struck a deal with the Assad government to dismantle its chemical arsenal.
The reversal was the culmination of a series of disappointments for Arab supporters of the Syrian rebels who felt that the Obama administration had not kept its promises to aid the anti-Assad opposition. Obama has already said that existing plans to empower the Syrian rebels will be implemented as part of the new strategy against the Islamic State.
But, asked Jamal Khashoggi, an influential Saudi journalist who runs Al Arab TV channel: “What guarantees do we have that what happened a year ago won’t be repeated again?”
Obama's personal guarantee? Kerry's personal guarantee? Right, like those are worth anything.
The tacit alliance that has emerged in Iraq between the United States and Iran is further stirring unease that the new strategy will only further empower Iran and its Shiite allies at the expense of Sunni influence in the region. The example of the town of Amerli, where U.S. airstrikes helped Iranian-backed Shiite militias rescue the Shiite Turkmen town from a siege by the Islamic State, illustrated the ways in which the focus on defeating the Islamic State risks reinforcing Iranian influence, Alani said.
[...]
To Saudi Arabia and its gulf allies, the threat posed by Iran is at least as potent as that of the Islamic State, said Imad al-Salamey, a professor of political science at Lebanese American University in Beirut.
“In a strategic sense, the Islamic State does not pose a strategic threat to the gulf states the way Iran does,” he said, pointing to Arab concerns about expanding Iranian influence elsewhere in the region, including in Yemen, Lebanon and Bahrain.
Obama's insistence on "negotiating" with Iran, always beyond stupid, is paying "dividends" in new and exciting ways. Now our allies don't trust us at all because we insist on giving in to their enemy -- and our enemy as well.

Mirengoff concludes:
Obama has dispatched John Kerry to the Middle East to rally the Arab states around Obama’s latest project. I suspect that the very appearance of our pretentious, foghorn Secretary of State, who not that long ago thought Assad was the key to lasting peace in the region, will reinforce the well-founded doubts about Obama’s seriousness and good faith.
So how "broad" is this "coalition of partners?"

Britain? No.

Germany. Uh-uh.

Turkey? Nope.

Saudi Arabia? No.

Egypt? 'Fraid not.

Jordan? No.

Qatar? No.

United Arab Emirates? Nope.

This "broad coalition" is starting to look like Monty Python's Cheese Shop.



The mere suggestion of which got State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf's boxers in a bunch:
MATT LEE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: The Saudis apparently don’t want to speak for themselves, that’s the problem. The Germans said they are not going to participate militarily, you have the Turks saying that, you have the British foreign secretary clearly uninformed about his own government’s position on this.
HARF: Why do you always focus on what people say they won’t do instead of the plethora of things they have said they will do? What is that what you focus — that’s actually not an unfair question, I don’t think, when we focus on our effort here.
These people are complete idiots.

Your Smart Diplomacy™ Update

I'm often said that Obama and his laughably-named "national security" team could not find, say, Syria on a map. I meant that literally.

And I was right. From a - ahem! - "Senior administration official" on a September 10 conference call:
I guess I would just add one thing on the coalition question -- and I think this is important to really focus on, which is to say, in discussions with governments in the region, notably the Saudis and the Jordanians, what is clear is that we have a very common view of this threat.  And this is really quite unusual. 
ISIL has been I think a galvanizing threat around the Sunni partners in the region.  They view it as an existential threat to them.  Saudi Arabia has an extensive border with Syria.  The Jordanians are experiencing a destabilizing impact of over a million refugees from the Syrian conflict, and are profoundly concerned that ISIL, who has stated that their ambitions are not confined to Iraq and Syria, but rather to expand to the broader region.
(emphasis added)

Sigh! Anything wrong with this statement? Let's take a look:

If you can find the "extensive border" Saudi Arabia has with Syria, please call. (Map from Washington Examiner)

These people are, indeed, complete idiots.

As T. Becket Adams, taking one from Glenn Reynolds, put it: "But don't worry: The country's in the best of hands."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ship from the Sir John Franklin's Lost Arctic Expedition found

This could be the biggest archaeological find in decades:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says one of Canada's greatest mysteries now has been solved, with the discovery of one of the lost ships from Sir John Franklin's doomed Arctic expedition.
"This is a great historic event," Harper said.
"For more than a century this has been a great Canadian story.… It's been the subject of scientists and historians and writers and singers. And so I think we have a really important day in mapping together the history of our country," the prime minister said.

At this point, the searchers aren't sure if they've found HMS Erebus or HMS Terror. But sonar images from the waters of Victoria Strait, just off King William Island, clearly show wreckage of a ship on the ocean floor.
The wreckage was found on Sept. 7 using a remotely operated underwater vehicle recently acquired by Parks Canada. When Harper revealed the team's success at Parks Canada's laboratories in Ottawa Tuesday, the room burst into applause and hollering.
"This is a day of some very good news," Harper told the assembled group of researchers, some of whom had flown all night to be in Ottawa for the announcement.
"It appears to be perfectly preserved," Harper said of the ship, adding that it has "a little bit of damage."

Harper said the "latest, cutting-edge technology" Parks Canada used was integral to finding the ship under layers of growth on the ocean floor. "With older technology, you could have come very close to this and not seen it at all."
Ryan Harris, an underwater archaeologist who was Parks Canada's project lead for this year's search, said the wreck was "indisputably" one of Franklin's two ships.
"It's a very substantial wreck," Harris said, putting to rest earlier fears that Franklin's ships may not be found intact after so many years.

The sonar image shows some of the deck structures survived, Harris explained, pointing out the stubs of the masts which were apparently sheared away by the ice when it sank.  Because the deck is relatively intact, the contents of the ship "should be very, very well-preserved."

The next step for the search team will be to take a look at what's inside.
In a statement, the prime minister said Franklin's expedition laid the foundations of Canada’s Arctic sovereignty.  He called the lost ships Canada's "only undiscovered national historical site."

The prime minister paid tribute to the search teams — a partnership between Parks Canada, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, the Arctic Research Foundation, the Canadian Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Navy and the government of Nunavut — whose work since 2008 has paid off.

“This discovery would not have been possible without their tireless efforts over the years, as well as their commitment, dedication and the perseverance of the many partners and explorers involved," Harper said.
Queen Elizabeth sent a message for Canadians to the Governor General on Tuesday following the discovery.
"I was greatly interested to learn of the discovery of one of the long-lost ships of Captain Sir John Franklin. Prince Philip joins me in sending congratulations and good wishes to all those who played a part in this historic achievement," she said in a statement.
Franklin's crew became locked in the ice during a doomed search for the Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean in 1845. All 128 crew members eventually died, though there's evidence to suggest some may have survived for several years.
Many searches throughout the 19th century attempted to find the lost ships, but the mystery of what happened to John Franklin and his men has never been solved.
Search parties later recorded Inuit testimony in the late 1840s that claimed one ship sank in deep water west of King William Island, and one ship went perhaps as far south as Queen Maud Gulf or into Wilmot and Crampton Bay. The location of this wreck backs up that testimony.
Sure sounds like they should have listened to the Inuits in the first place. Here is a shot of the side-scan sonar that revealed the presence of the ship:


First, some massive congratulations to everyone involved here. Can you imagine what that must have been like to see this image for the first time and realize you had just solved one of the biggest mysteries in history?

Probable route of Franklin Expedition. (Wikipedia)
On the darker side, can you imagine what it must have been like to be on the crew of the Erebus or the Terror and wake up one morning to see your ship had been trapped in ice and was now unable to move until the ice cleared? They had planned to hole up for the winter and had made contingencies for that, but this struck early, before they were ready and safely in a cove where they could wait until the winter ended. The ice had closed in around them overnight, and gradually began moving and twisting the ships. They had hoped the ice would clear in the summer, but it never did, and with their supplies (which included moldy and rancid food cased in lead-soldered cans by unscrupulous contractor Stephen Goldner) exhausted, they tried a desperate exodus across the ice trying to reach a Hudson Bay Company outpost far to the south. They never made it, and succumbed to illness, lead-poisoning, scurvy, exposure, and sunburn. Australian News has a chilling (no pun intended) image of what it must have looked like.


This has always been a huge deal in Canada and Britain. Until 1999, one of Canada's Northwest Territories was named "The District of Franklin" after Sir John Franklin. And when Harper made his announcement, the room burst into cheers.

I have seen questions -- questions that strike me as borderline offensive -- about the value of this investigation, questions about why should we care, as if history has no value. CBC journalist Peter Mansbridge, who has covered the expedition and even had some involvement in it, explains why:
When Sir John Franklin led his two grand ships of the Royal Navy, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror‎, from England's shores in 1845, thousands lined the shore to wave goodbye.
This was big stuff, the latest and best-equipped expedition to try to discover the Northwest Passage.

If this was successful, it would bring the riches of Asia to Europe far more quickly and less expensively than ever before.

For centuries, the quest had been on. It's why all the great European explorers had first bumped into North America. They weren't looking for a "Canada," they were looking for China.

We were just a stopover on the way, and a cold, icy one to boot. Franklin was going to change all that.

But three years after he and his 128 men left on their voyage, tens of thousands weren't standing on the shore welcoming him back.

Instead, they were attending special services in British churches desperately praying for him to be found.

Franklin was lost, nothing had been heard from him, and in 1848, the searches started.

There would be more than 40 in the decades that followed in the 19th century alone. It was to be the greatest combined search ever.

Parts of the story became clearer — Erebus and Terror had been locked in ice, Franklin had died on board and the ships were abandoned as the men tried to walk their way out.

What followed was a horrible tale of starvation, cannibalism and death. Not a single sailor lived to tell exactly what had happened.

And what was never solved was the mystery of Erebus and Terror — what had happened to the pride of the Royal Navy?

What all those years of searching for the two ships accomplished was the mapping, charting and‎ actual opening up of huge parts of Canada's North and West.

This isn't just a story of looking for old bones and old bits of ship — it's a story about us, about our country, about our history.
Hat tip to you, Oh, Canada! You deserve it.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The sad truth about libertarian policy on defense and international affairs -- UPDATED

was exposed -- again -- this time by Richard A. Epstein:
This past week, President Barack Obama shocked those on the left, right, and center when he announced that he had not yet developed a strategy for responding to the threats that ISIS posed to the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. It would, however, be a mistake to think that his paralysis in foreign policy is characteristic only of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Libertarians, both within and outside the Republican Party, are equally clueless on the ISIS threat. In fact, their position on ISIS is, if anything, more dangerous than that of the President. While the President has yet to formulate a strategy on the question, the hard-core libertarians have endorsed a strategy of non-intervention, which I believe is totally inconsistent with libertarian principles.
For my entire professional life, I have been a limited-government libertarian. The just state should, in my opinion, protect private property, promote voluntary exchange, preserve domestic order, and protect our nation against foreign aggression. Unfortunately, too many modern libertarian thinkers fail to grasp the enormity of that last obligation. In the face of international turmoil, they become cautious and turn inward, confusing limited government with small government. Unwisely, they demand that the United States keep out of foreign entanglements unless and until they pose direct threats to its vital interests—at which point it could be too late.
Epstein turns his considerable intellectual and rhetorical weaponry on Rand Paul:
The most vocal champion of this position is Senator Rand Paul. Senator Paul has been against the use of military force for a long time. Over the summer, he wrote an article entitled “America Shouldn’t Choose Sides in Iraq’s Civil War,” for the pages of the Wall Street Journal arguing that ISIS did not threaten vital American interests. Just this past week, he doubled down on this position, again in the Journal, arguing that the past interventions of the United States in the Middle East have abetted the rise of ISIS.
His argument for this novel proposition is that the United States should not have sought to degrade Bashar Assad’s regime because that effort only paved the way for the rise of ISIS against whom Assad, bad as he is, is now the major countervailing force. Unfortunately, this causal chain is filled with missing links. The United States could have, and should have, supported the moderate opposition to Assad by providing it with material assistance, and, if necessary, air support, so that it could have been a credible threat against Assad, after the President said Assad had to go over three years ago. The refusal to get involved allowed Assad to tackle the moderates first in the hope that the United States would give him a pass to tackle ISIS, or, better still, even assist him in its demise, as we might well have to do. It is irresponsible for Paul to assume that the only alternative to Obama’s dithering is his strategy of pacifism. Paul’s implicit logic rests on a worst-case analysis, under which no intervention is permissible because the least successful intervention may prove worse than the status quo. It is hardly wise to wait until ISIS is strong enough to mount a direct attack on the United States, when its operatives, acting out of safe havens, can commit serious acts of aggression against ourselves and our allies. It is far better to intervene too soon than to wait too long.
Very interesting that Epstein said this and came out with this devastating piece when he did, because at about the same time Rand Paul did an about-face:
Speaking to a ballroom later, some of the loudest applause for Paul came when he quipped: "If the president has no strategy, maybe it's time for a new president."
In an emailed comment, however, Paul elaborated by saying: "If I were President, I would call a joint session of Congress. I would lay out the reasoning of why ISIS is a threat to our national security and seek congressional authorization to destroy ISIS militarily."
Pretty big talk from someone who until that speech, as Allahpundit put it, "offered no strategy on ISIS at all."
You can read the above as credulously or skeptically as you like. Maybe it’s proof that Rand really is more hawkish than his old man and that, after some initial ambivalence, he’s been convinced by the intelligence that crushing ISIS is the only way to defuse the threat. Or maybe he’s looked at the polls lately and noticed that the mainstream conservatives he’s hoping to woo in 2016 are swinging back towards interventionism. Maybe it’s a bit of both.
I'm much more inclined to believe the latter. There are fundamental issues with  libertarian defense and foreign policy as expressed by Rand and his execrable father Ron. Epstein continues:
It is instructive to ask why it is that committed libertarians like Paul make such disastrous judgments on these life and death issues. In part it is because libertarians often have the illusion of certainty in political affairs that is congenial to the logical libertarian mind. This mindset has led to their fundamental misapprehension of the justified use of force in international affairs. The applicable principles did not evolve in a vacuum, but are derived from parallel rules surrounding self-defense for ordinary people living in a state of nature. Libertarian theory has always permitted the use and threat of force, including deadly force if need be, to defend one’s self, one’s property, and one’s friends. To be sure, no one is obligated to engage in humanitarian rescue of third persons, so that the decision to intervene is one that is necessarily governed by a mixture of moral and prudential principles. In addition, the justified use of force also raises hard questions of timing. In principle, even deadly force can be used in anticipation of an attack by others, lest any delayed response prove fatal. In all cases, it is necessary to balance the risks of moving too early or too late.
But defense of self and of loved ones is quite different from defending those whom you are charged to protect, as the government -- any government -- is under the social contract.
[S]elf-preservation and the protection of others form the noblest of state ends. The late economist and Nobel Laureate James Buchanan always insisted that a limited government had to be strong in the areas where it had to act. Perhaps his views were influenced in his time as an aide to Admiral Chester Nimitz in the Pacific theater during World War II. In responding to aggression, the hard questions are strategic—are the means chosen and the time of their deployment appropriate to the dangers at hand? Move too quickly, and it provokes needless conflict. Move too slowly, and the situation gets out of hand.
Senator Paul errs too much on the side of caution. He would clamp down, for example, on the data collection activities of the National Security Agency, which allow for the better deployment of scarce American military resources, even though NSA protocols tightly restrict the use of the collected information. It is wrong to either shut down or sharply restrict an intelligence service that has proved largely free of systematic abuse. The breakdown of world order makes it imperative to deploy our technological advantages to the full. Sensible oversight offers a far better solution.
The same is true in spades about the use of force in Iraq and Syria, where matters have deteriorated sharply since Paul’s misguided plea for non-intervention in June. It was foolish for him to insist (and for President Obama to agree) that the United States should not intervene to help Iraqis because the Iraqis have proved dangerously ill-equipped to help themselves. Lame excuses don’t wash in the face of the heinous aggression that the Islamic State has committed against the Yazidis and everyone else in its path.
Rand Paul likes to insist that the initial blunder was the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Whether that invasion was right or wrong is irrelevant today. The question now is how to play the hand that we have been dealt. Whatever the wisdom of going into Iraq, peace had been restored by the surge when President Obama took office in 2009. Since then Iraq’s factionalism has grown because Obama signaled disengagement the day he took office, and found himself unable to forge a status of forces agreement in Iraq in 2011. Being eager to get out, he could not figure out a credible way to stay in.
Unfortunately, Rand Paul writes as if Iraq’s many deficits are fixed facts of nature, wholly independent of the flawed U.S. policies that he has consistently backed, in sync with Obama’s aloof detachment. Yet these policies, tantamount to partial unilateral disarmament, have given our worst enemies the priceless assurance that they can operate largely free of American influence and power. There is nothing in libertarian theory that justifies dithering at home as conditions abroad get worse by the day.
But that is what the Ronulan cult, especially Ron Paul, demands. I do not believe that Rand Paul goes as far as his detestable father Ron does in the "Blame America First" theory, but he goes far enough. Policies he advocated got us into this mess, as anyone who spent even minimal time studying world history would have seen beforehand. Coming late to this particular party means death and destruction.

American isolationism and weakness do not beget security; American isolationism and weakness actually undermines it. Anyone who does not understand that has no business near the reins of power.

UPDATE: Rand Paul has doubled down on his flip-flop with a piece in Time carrying the Nixonian title "I Am Not an Isolationist."
If I had been in President Obama's shoes, I would have acted more decisively and strongly against ISIS
Some pundits are surprised that I support destroying the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militarily. They shouldn’t be. I’ve said since I began public life that I am not an isolationist, nor am I an interventionist. I look at the world, and consider war, realistically and constitutionally.
Not necessarily in that order. If you have to explicitly say "I am not an isolationist," you almost certainly are an isolationist.

Allahpundit notes this does nothing to help Rand Paul improve his image as a foreign policy lightweight:

This is the same guy who was warning the U.S. not to act as “Iran’s air force” 10 weeks ago. Eliana Johnson asked one of Paul’s foreign-policy advisors what changed in the interim. “I don’t think two months ago any of us really had a clear understanding of the momentum this group had,” he told her. Er, okay, but Paul’s first Journal op-ed was published nine days after ISIS had seized Mosul. If that didn’t qualify as momentum, what would have?

In defense and foreign policy, you must be able to think five moves ahead. This is why Obama's "leading from behind" is so damaging. He is thinking five moves behind. Rand Paul is obviously little different.

Selling weapons to your enemies is probably not the best idea

But the French finally seem to be learning it: in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, they have halted their delivery of warships to Russia:
France has said conditions are "not right" for delivery of the first of two Mistral navy assault ships to Russia.
President Francois Hollande's office blamed Moscow's recent actions in Ukraine.
France had until now resisted pressure to halt the delivery, saying it had to respect an existing contract.
Russia's Deputy Defence Minister Yury Borisov said the French decision would not hold back Moscow's plans to reform its armed forces.
"Although of course it is unpleasant and adds to certain tensions in relations with our French partners, the cancelling of this contract will not be a tragedy for our modernisation," he said, quoted by Itar-Tass news agency.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin tweeted his thanks to the French leadership for its "responsible decision", which he said was "important for restoring peace in Europe".
The Vladivostok, the first of the two helicopter carriers, was expected to have been delivered to Russia by late October.
The second, the Sevastopol, was to have been sent next year, although no mention of it was made in Mr Hollande's statement.
As the crisis has escalated in eastern Ukraine and as Russia's direct military role there has become more blatant, so the pressure on the French government to halt its sale of two advanced assault ships to Russia has grown ever stronger.
The US and a number of other countries have long made their feelings plain. But the deal weathered tensions with Moscow over Syria, and the Russian crew of the first vessel which is already undergoing sea trials has travelled to France to begin training.
This was the most significant Western arms sale to Russia and its postponement - the exact terms of the suspension of the deal are not clear - marks a very visible rebuff to Moscow on the eve of Nato's Wales Summit.
The Mistral assault ships can carry up to 16 heavy helicopters, land troops and armoured vehicles. Their delivery would have resulted in a marked improvement in Russia's amphibious capability.
In my book Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II, there are several instances of the Japanese using weapons sold to them by the British against the British. The Japanese battleship Kongo was completed as a battlecruiser at a Vickers shipyard Britain, the last Japanese capital ship built overseas. She was later used in the hunt for the British battleship Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser Repulse in the first days of the Pacific War. During the Battle of the Java Sea, the British cruiser Exeter was disabled by an 8-inch shell, believed to have come from the Japanese cruiser Haguro, that exploded in one of her boilers. When they were attempting emergency repairs to the boiler room in Soerabaja, the Royal Navy engineers found the shell's base plate. It read "Made in Britain."

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Your Smart Diplomacy™ update

It seems that Obama has no strategy or dealing with ISIS because his "national security" team (I use the term loosely) cannot agree on a strategy:
After a week of talk of eliminating the "cancer" of ISIS, President Obama said Thursday that he was not planning to significantly expand the war against the Islamic extremist movement anytime soon.
His remarks came after days of heated debate inside the top levels of his own national security bureaucracy about how, where, and whether to strike ISIS in Syria. But those deliberations – which included a bleak intelligence assessment of America's potential allies in Syria -- failed to produce a consensus battle plan. And so Obama, who has long been reluctant to enter into the Syrian conflict, told reporters Thursday that “we don’t have a strategy yet” for confronting ISIS on a regional level.
Those inside the administration advocating for going after ISIS in both Iraq and Syria were sorely disappointed – and lamented their boss's lack of urgency in rooting out a threat that only days before was being described in near-apocalyptic terms.
“Senior strategists in the U.S. government have been working hard all week to gather multiple options that the president had asked for to strike ISIS in Syria. There was a deep rooted belief among many -- especially among military circles -- that the ISIS threat can’t be kicked down the road, that it needs to be confronted now, and in a holistic way,” said one Obama administration official who works on the Middle East. “This press conference is going to lead to even more doubt by those that thought that this White House was ready to take meaningful action against ISIS across the board.”
Obama addressed the White House press corps Thursday afternoon just before personally chairing a meeting of his National Security Council, his top cabinet members and national security staffers. The meeting was the culmination of an intense week-long process that included series of lower level meetings and at last one Principals’ Committee that officials described as an effort to convince Obama to expand his air war against ISIS in Iraq to Syria as well.
But before the meeting even started, the president seemed to have made up his mind.
The President said that although he had ordered up options for striking ISIS in Syria, the administration’s priority was shoring up the integrity of Iraq, instead. Syria would have to wait. He also said he would send Secretary of State John Kerry to the region because “We don’t have a strategy yet,” to confront ISIS on a regional level.
To many outside the administration who have worked on Syria and the ISIS problem, Obama’s decision not to decide on a broader course of action will have negative implications for the war against ISIS. The administration raised expectations about altering its three-year policy of avoiding intervention in Syria, before Obama dashed those expectations Thursday.
“One has to wonder what sort of signal this administration is sending to ISIS by using tough rhetoric on one hand and then contravening what top officials just said,” said a former Pentagon official who served in Iraq. “It’s not just demoralizing to those who want to stop ISIS in its tracks, but ISIS is just going to act with greater impunity now if they believe they got a free pass. Every single ISIS leader was watching that.”
There were deep divisions inside the administration's deliberations over Syria. One set of officials advocated for a campaign to decimate ISIS in both countries by striking ISIS targets across Syria. This camp pushed for hitting near Aleppo where they are advancing, and with at least some coordination with the moderate Syrian rebels. The group, which included officials from State Department, intelligence community and some parts of the military, came up with extensive targeting options for the president that included not only ISIS military assets, but their infrastructure, command and control, and their financial capabilities. Even the oil pipelines they use to export crude for cash were on the target list.
Another group of officials -- led by White House and National Security staffers but also including some intelligence and military officials -- favored a more cautious approach that spurned any cooperation with the Free Syrian Army and focused strikes inside Syria on targets near the Iraqi border. The objective: cut off ISIS supply lines to Iraq. That strategy would fall more squarely within the existing limited missions that Obama has already outlined for his war.
Inside the intelligence community, there is a dispute about whether the Free Syrian Army, which has been fighting ISIS in Syria all year with little international support, can be a reliable partner for any military mission inside Syria.
So if your people can't agree on a strategy, do nothing. That's called Smart Diplomacy™. Even Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is disgusted:
Appearing on Meet the Press on Sunday, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell that Obama, a cautious figure on all matters foreign, is being “too cautious” in this case
“I think I’ve learned one thing about this president, and that is he’s very cautious. Maybe in this instance, too cautious,” Feinstein said. “And so hopefully, those plans will coalesce into a strategy that can encourage that coalition from Arab nations.”

“I know that the military, I know that the state department, I know that others have been putting plans together,” she added, in a direct rebuke of Obama’s insistence that his administration does not “have a strategy yet” to roll back ISIS in Syria.
Her subtle savaging of the president went a step further. When asked if ISIS is, as Obama said in January, al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” Feinstein flatly disagreed. “I think it’s a major varsity team, if you want to use those kinds of monikers. But I see nothing that compares with its viciousness,” she noted.
She noted that this is the first group with the funding, training, and expertise to present a global military threat as well as an international terror threat.
“I mean, they crossed the border into Iraq before we even knew it happened,” Feinstein added, contradicting a series of administration officials who have insisted that they watched the ISIS group’s activities in western Syrian and Iraq closely and with great anxiety for over a year. “So this is a group of people who are extraordinarily dangerous. And they’ll kill with abandon.”
This does not seem like rocket surgery. John Hinderaker simplified it a bit for our practitioners of Smart Diplomacy™:
President Obama can’t come up with a strategy to deal with ISIS. It’s just so…complicated. Here’s an idea: how about if we kill them?
Careful, John. The Left might call you "uncivil."

The sad truth about "renewable" energy

John Hinderaker at Power Line links to an Ed Hoskins post at Watts Up With That dealing with, as Power Line puts it, "Why Renewable Energy is Hopeless?" Hinderaker explains it a little more simply than Hoskins does:
Ed Hoskins spotlights the intractable problem with solar and wind power: much of the time, the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. This means that in practice, solar and wind facilities can produce only a small fraction of their nominal capacities. This chart requires a bit of study; for three countries, the U.S., Germany and the U.K., it contrasts the nominal (“nameplate”) capacity of wind and solar facilities with their actual production of energy:



The chart is pretty damning. Hoskins goes into more detail:
[T]here is a major problem with these renewable energy sources. Their electrical output is not dispatchable. Their output is entirely unable respond to electricity demand as and when needed. Energy is contributed to the grid in a haphazard manner dependent on the weather, and certainly not necessarily when it is required.
(citations omitted)
For example solar power inevitably varies according to the time of day, the state of the weather and also of course radically with the seasons. Essentially solar power might only work effectively in Southern latitudes and it certainly does not do well in Northern Europe. In Germany the massive commitment to solar energy might well provide up to ~20% of country wide demand for a few hours on some fine summer days either side of noon, but at the time of maximum power demand on winter evenings solar energy input is necessarily nil.
(citations omitted)
Electricity generation from wind turbines is equally fickle, as for example in a week in July this year shown above. Similarly an established high pressure zone with little wind over the whole of Northern Europe is a common occurrence in winter months, that is when electricity demand is likely to be at its highest.
Conversely on occasions renewable energy output may be in excess of demand and this has to dumped unproductively. There is still no solution to electrical energy storage on a sufficiently large industrial scale. That is the reason that the word “nominally” is used here in relation to the measured outputs from renewable energy sources.
Overall the renewable energy output from these three major nations that have committed to massive investments in Renewable Energy amounts to a nominal ~31Gigawatts out of a total installed generating capacity of ~570Gigawatts or only ~5.5%.
But even that amount of energy production is not really as useful as one would wish, because of its intermittency and non-dispatchability.
A way to solve this problem might -- might -- be advances in the storage of energy that would allow the storage of electrical power for long periods of time. But such advances are not pending and are not even on the horizon at this point.

In short, as of the present time, there is no way that "renewable" energy will ever give an adequate return on its investment. It will always be expensive, unreliable, and in short supply.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Oh, goody.

ISIS may now have shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles:
Islamic State militants stormed a Syrian airbase over the weekend, routing the remaining elements of the country’s army from northern Raqqah province and reportedly seizing a cache of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.
The seizure of Tabqa air base, while not the first installation of its type to fall to militants, highlights the Islamic State’s gains in the region and the group’s continued pilfering of advanced military equipment, particularly the surface-to-air missile systems known as MANPADS, short for Man Portable Air Defense Systems.
Matt Schroeder, a senior researcher at the Switzerland-based research group Small Arms Survey and author of a recent report on MANPADS in Syria, believes that the takeover of Tabqa airbase could mark a “significant proliferation” of the weapons across the region.
“What we do know from previous airfield seizures is that these places are a source of MANPADS and similar weapons,” Schroeder said.
It is difficult to independently confirm that Islamic State seized MANPADS from Tabqa.  Charles Lister, an analyst at Brookings Doha Center who has tracked the flow of weapons in the region, tweeted a photo that purportedly showed an Islamic State fighter wielding what appeared to be MANPADS.

Schroeder did not know the model of the system but noted it has the characteristics of an SA-18 and other Soviet MANPADS.
“This is not a system we see often,” Schroeder said. “We know very little about it.”
The SA-18 is one of eight MANPADS variants in militant hands that have been documented by Small Arms Survey. While most are Soviet-era models, the Russian Federation SA-24 and Chinese FN-6 have been sighted in the almost four-year-old conflict.
For Damien Spleeters, an investigator for Conflict Armament Research who just 10 days ago was documenting the weapons of the Islamic State in northern Iraq and Syria, the takeover of Tabqa airbase is just another example of the Islamic State expanding its arsenal of advanced weaponry.
“Usually when you take an airbase you don’t just find one or two systems,” Spleeters said. “You find a lot more than that because airbases are meant to store those types of weapons.”
Spleeters added that the prevalence of advanced systems like the SA-24, which can hit aircraft flying at up to 20,000 feet, is “very worrying.”
You don't say.

And you wonder why American students don't know much about history

The College Board has hijacked US courses to teach a leftist, anti-American narrative:
The College Board, the private company that produces the SAT test and the various Advanced Placement (AP) exams, has kicked off a national controversy by issuing a new and unprecedentedly detailed “Framework” for its AP U.S. History exam. This Framework will effectively force American high schools to teach U.S. history from a leftist perspective. The College Board disclaims political intent, insisting that the new Framework provides a “balanced” guide that merely helps to streamline the AP U.S. History course while enhancing teacher flexibility. Not only the Framework itself, but the history of its development suggests that a balanced presentation of the American story was not the College Board’s goal.
The origins of the new AP U.S. History framework are closely tied to a movement of left-leaning historians that aims to “internationalize” the teaching of American history. The goal is to “end American history as we have known it” by substituting a more “transnational” narrative for the traditional account.
This movement’s goals are clearly political, and include the promotion of an American foreign policy that eschews the unilateral use of force. The movement to “internationalize” the U.S. History curriculum also seeks to produce a generation of Americans more amendable to working through the United Nations and various left-leaning “non-governmental organizations” (NGOs) on issues like the environment and nuclear proliferation. A willingness to use foreign law to interpret the U.S. Constitution is likewise encouraged.
The College Board formed a close alliance with this movement to internationalize the teaching of American history just prior to initiating its redesign of the AP U.S. History exam. Key figures in that alliance are now in charge of the AP U.S. History redesign process, including the committee charged with writing the new AP U.S. History exam. The new AP U.S. History Framework clearly shows the imprint of the movement to de-nationalize American history. Before I trace the rise of this movement and its ties to the College Board, let’s have a closer look at its goals.
NYU historian Thomas Bender is the leading spokesman for the movement to internationalize the U.S. History curriculum at every educational level. The fullest and clearest statement of Bender’s views can be found in his 2006 book, A Nation Among Nations: America’s Place in World History. Bender is a thoroughgoing critic of American exceptionalism, the notion that America is freer and more democratic than any other nation, and for that reason, a model, vindicator, and at times the chief defender of ordered liberty and self-government in the world.
In opposition to this, Bender wants to subordinate American identity to a cosmopolitan, “transnational” sensibility. Bender urges us to see each nation, our own included, as but “a province among the provinces that make up the world.” Whereas the old U.S. history forged a shared national identity by emphasizing America’s distinctiveness, Bender hopes to encourage cosmopolitanism by “internationalizing” the American story.
Bender laments that history as taught in our schools has bred an “acceptance of the nation as the dominant form of human solidarity.” The growing focus on gender, race, and ethnicity is welcome, says Bender, but does little to transform an underlying historical narrative built around the nation. Even the rise of world history in the schools has backfired, Bender maintains, by making it appear as though American history and world history are somehow different topics.
Bender understands that his transnational twist on American history has profound political implications. He complains that while working on his book (during George W. Bush’s presidency), “a discourse of exceptionalism and policies based on it became omnipresent in American public life.” Bender promises that his transnational framing of American history “will give little comfort” to the proponents of policies based on American exceptionalism.
He worries, however, that his globalizing approach to American history might be used to defend precisely the sort of “hegemonic” American foreign-policy he abhors. To prevent this, Bender urges that American history be taught, not only from an American point of view, but from the perspective of those who are subject to American power. “Americans have always found it difficult to imagine themselves as an enemy, as a problem for other people,” says Bender. By showing us ourselves through our enemies’ eyes, Bender hopes to promote humbler and more collaborative forms of American foreign-policy. 
Bender complains about George W. Bush era foreign policy, not only in respect to war, but also in the matters of, “environment, trade, nuclear, and other policies.” Clearly, he hopes that his anti-exceptionalist vision of American-history will encourage a different approach to foreign affairs. Bender also openly hopes that students exposed to a less “national” version of American history will sympathize with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s willingness to use foreign law to interpret the U.S. Constitution, rather than with Justice Antonin Scalia’s rejection of foreign law as an arbiter of American jurisprudence.
Read the whole sickening story from Stanley Kurtz here. As Power Line's Paul Mirengoff describes it:
In other words, we shouldn’t get caught up in the idea that there was something exceptional about America that induced immigrants to come here. We were just another place to go — “just another pleasant country somewhere on the UN Roll Call between Albania and Zimbabwe,” to borrow a phrase used by both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton to mock those who deny American exceptionalism.
Quoting Kurtz, Mirengoff concludes:
The College Board’s “curricular coup” occurred soon after it selected David Coleman as its new president. Coleman is the architect of the Common Core. There should be no doubt that the Common Core is driven by a leftist agenda.
Americans have started to figure out, albeit belatedly, the harms associated with that project, and they are beginning to fight back. But how do we fight back against the anti-American U.S. History curriculum being imposed by the College Board?
States can reject the common core. But if high schools want to offer AP U.S. History (and it is to their advantage and the advantage of students that they do so), they must teach it as the College Board prescribes. Otherwise, students will be at a severe disadvantage when they take the end-of-the-year exam upon which college credit may depend.

As Kurtz concludes:
The brief five-page conceptual guideline [that] the Framework replaced allowed sufficient flexibility for teachers to approach U.S. History from a wide variety of perspectives. Liberals, conservatives, and anyone in-between could teach U.S. history their way, and still see their students do well on the AP Test.
The College Board’s new and vastly more detailed guidelines can only be interpreted as an attempt to hijack the teaching of U.S. history on behalf of a leftist political and ideological perspective.
One way or another, this cannot be allowed to stand.
Agreed.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

My letter to Ohio State University President Michael Drake and The Ohio State University Board of Trustees on the travesty of justice being done to Jon Waters and The Ohio State University Marching Band.

President Michael Drake
205 Bricker Hall
190 North Oval Mall
Columbus, Ohio 43210

Attention: Secretary for Board of Trustees
210 Bricker Hall
190 North Oval Mall
Columbus, Ohio 43210


Dear President Drake and Board of Trustees:

My name is Jeff Cox. I am an attorney-at-law, author, historian, Columbus, Ohio, native currently living in Indianapolis, and proud alum of The Ohio State University Marching Band (“Band”). I am also the son of two Ohio State graduates, both of whom received their undergraduate and graduate degrees from the School of Journalism, one of whom just retired after four decades as a political journalist. Despite being raised in Indiana, both my loyal Ohio State Buckeye parents raised me as a loyal Ohio State Buckeye. At this point, the current Ohio State University (“University”) administration’s handling of the allegations against Jon Waters and the Band – and at this point they are just allegations – has us questioning that loyalty, and whether that loyalty is being returned by the current administration.

“Loyalty” is not just the emotional basis but the legal basis for the glaring faults with the current administration’s handling of the allegations against the Band, which I will boil down to three major points.

1. Report Dated July 22, 2014 issued by The Office of University Integrity and Compliance (“Office”) under the authority of Chris Glaros, Assistant Vice President for Compliance Operations and Investigations (“The Glaros Report”).

During my tenure as an attorney with the State of Indiana, I was periodically tasked with investigating possible wrongdoing and composing reports detailing the allegations of wrongdoing, the evidence of said wrongdoing, and the legal conclusions drawn therefrom. As a litigator, it is my job to review and analyze reports of alleged wrongdoing. As an author, I have investigated various questions of history and assembled the evidence into various history articles. It was those articles that eventually got me invited to write my book Rising Sun, Falling Skies; The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II, which itself contains elements of reporting and investigation. It was with this experience in mind that I read the Glaros Report.

I found the Glaros Report indeed shocking, though not for the reasons you might believe or perhaps wish. I was a member of the Band from 1989-1993. I witnessed most of the behaviors described in the Glaros Report at one time or another. I didn’t like it and didn’t take part in any of it, including the Midnight Ramp. I made clear that I did not like it and as a result I received no pressure whatsoever to take part in it. No nicknames, no insults, nothing. How this comports with the general references to “peer pressure” and a “sexualized culture” made in the Glaros Report is, at best, unclear.

No, the most shocking part of the Glaros Report was its legal conclusions and the structure of its narrative as well as the underlying investigation. I use the terminology in that order deliberately, as it appears the legal conclusions were written before the narrative was prepared, which in turn seems to have been done before the investigation was concluded or possibly even begun. This is a completely improper procedure for investigating allegations of wrongdoing.

Some of the most egregious examples:

Sample Size Page 3 of the Glaros Report states “Conclusions were made using a preponderance of the evidence standard.”

Yet, Pages 3 -4 state that the investigators contacted 5 Band members, including the Complainant’s Child. The investigators contacted 6 Band alumni, including Jon Waters. Furthermore Page 3, Footnote 3 states:
 
The complainant and witnesses recommended specific people to interview and we have talked with or tried to contact each of them. As of July 15, 2014, we were still receiving information from some of the witnesses interviewed. […W]e did not randomly interview current Band members for this investigation.”

 In other words, the investigators contacted 5 Band members, including the Complainant’s Child, out of 225 Band members. The investigators contacted 6 Marching Band alumni, including Jon Waters, out of thousands of Band alumni. That is by itself an awfully small sample size to defame the entire Band. Even worse, Footnote 3 by itself appears to confirm that the investigators only contacted people recommended by the Complainant and the Complainant’s witnesses.

 It’s easy to establish a preponderance of the evidence if one looks for and considers only evidence supporting one side of a case. This is not a method for seeking truth but a method for finding someone guilty.

Glaring Contradictions – As stated earlier, Page 3 of the Glaros Report states “Conclusions were made using a preponderance of the evidence standard.” Yet Page 5 contains the following statement:

Most witnesses indicated that participation in Midnight Ramp was not required. Some witnesses stated that students not participating in the tradition would receive negative treatment from other students and staff. Other witnesses stated that there were no consequences for not participating, while one witness stated that she was “told not to talk about it outside of the Band.”

By the Glaros Report’s own admission, “Most witnesses indicated that participation in Midnight Ramp was not required.” By the preponderance of evidence standard the Glaros Report states is used, the Midnight Ramp was not required. Yet the Glaros Report never makes this clear. Moreover, the use of the term “some” to indicate the witnesses that said “students not participating in the tradition would receive negative treatment from other students and staff, as opposed to the term “most” witnesses used in the previous sentence, is also revealing, and indicative that “most” witnesses in fact did not receive negative treatment.

Thus, by the standards explicitly stated in the Glaros Report, the Midnight Ramp was not an issue and should not have been included in the Glaros Report at all.

Factually Unsupported Statements and Misleading Language Page 4 contains statements that the Midnight Ramp was “oversee[n]” by Waters or “under Waters’ direction.” This is a factual error. A more accurate term might be “monitor.” The use of “oversee” and “direction” suggests Waters controlled it. While Page 5 references an alcohol poisoning incident that occurred “five or six years ago,” after which staff agreed to monitor the event to make sure nothing like that happened again, none of the alleged witness statements mentioned in the Glaros Report support the conclusion that Waters “over[saw] or “direct[ed]” the Midnight Ramp. This was terminology chosen by the author of the Glaros Report, not by the witnesses.

Factually unsupported statements and misleading language appear throughout the Glaros Report. The previous example of the Midnight Ramp included the statements that “most” witnesses said the Midnight Ramp was not required, but “some” said there was “negative treatment” if one did not participate. “Most” and “some” are not defined, which is by itself suspicious given that the relatively low number of witnesses interviewed should have indicated actual numbers of witnesses speaking to each. “Negative treatment” is not defined. At all.

There is far more where that came from. Page 8 contains the statement:

Several witnesses indicated that new Band members were subject to “Rookie Introductions,” which occurred at the front of a moving bus en route to away games. These sometimes included sexually explicit questioning and dirty jokes. A witness stated that one such episode entailed using a dildo as a microphone. Another witness confirmed that sexually explicit Rookie Introductions occurred in the Fall of 2013.

“Sometimes included” does not properly indicate how often the introductions were of a sexual nature or how much of each individual introduction was sexual. I remember that mine was not sexual at all. Plus, a single account does not “confirm,” unless, perhaps, the “confirm” is a reference to the author’s own biases.

Page 15 is especially bad in this regard. It contains the statement: “The misconduct described above affected many students’ musical education through the Marching Band, some to a significant degree, as evidenced by feelings of regret and shame that were communicated in our interviews.” Except none of the witness statements quoted in the Glaros Report contain any statements of “feelings of regret [or] shame.” Furthermore, as stated above, the investigators by their own admission interviewed 5 band members, including the Complainant’s Child, out of 225 band members. The investigators contacted 6 marching band alumni, including Jon Waters, out of thousands of Band alumni. How, exactly, that constitutes “many” is somewhat unclear. And aside from the bald statement that “the misconduct described above affected many students’ musical education through the Marching Band, some to a significant degree,” there is no evidence in the Glaros Report that any student was affected at all, nor is there any explanation of any effect.

Page 15 also says “The subjects of the sexual harassment were impressionable and developing students.” Which seems like an obfuscation of the fact that the “subjects” of the “sexual harassment” were legally adults. Page 15 also states “We find that the Marching Band’s culture facilitated acts of sexual harassment under both university policy and Title IX, creating a hostile environment for students.” It is not clear from the Glaros Report that the alleged victims all agree. In fact, based on media statements made by several of the witnesses, it appears that they in fact do not.

While I would like to believe this was just the result of inartful writing, the totality of the Glaros Report and the current administration’s response thereto support the belief that this report was actually intended to give a false impression that would bring in Title IX.

Lack of Factual Integrity – This term is my own, a reference to the necessity to “show your work” but make allowances for confidentiality. Whether in my books or in my briefs, I must always show my work – my sources of information, my case law, so that they can be checked. My book, for instance, contains some 30 pages of end notes citing my sources. Nothing of the sort appears in the Glaros Report. With witnesses whose identities must be kept confidential, that is somewhat understandable, except there are methods of handling confidential witnesses, statements, and information that preserve the factual integrity of the report. Such methods include designation of witnesses, declaration of when and, if necessary, where the witness interview took place and by whom, additional information to give context to the witness statement, and even where the full transcript of the witness statement is located and how it may be acquired.

This is not rocket surgery, but basic investigatory and report-writing technique. Yet, again, except for a designation of witnesses that appears at the beginning of the Glaros Report and is never mentioned again, nothing of the sort appears in the Glaros Report. There is no easy way to even begin checking the work of the Office here. No way to verify the witness statements, no way to check for context. For all we know, most of these witnesses and their interviews do not exist and never did; in essence, the Glaros Report says, “Trust us.” Part of my practice involves criminal defense, where such conduct by the government is utterly unacceptable.

Even worse is the hearsay that appears in Glaros Report. For instance, Page 17 quotes Pam Bork, “Physical Therapy Manager with Student Health Services who volunteered for 18 years with the Band,” as saying other students (non-Band members) who were on the bus at the Cal game were “horrified” by the atmosphere. Not only is there no identification of who these people were, there is no indication they were interviewed at all. Page 17 also says Bork added that she was concerned that someone would get hurt and that she quit the Band because she believed “something bad was going to happen,” and then referenced a sexual assault that had occurred as what she feared could come to pass. The Glaros Report never gives any details of this alleged sexual assault.

I have plenty more examples of the shoddy work behind the Glaros Report. As a litigator, it is my professional opinion that this report could be easily destroyed in any court of law, so poorly written and conceived that it may not even be admissible – except to show defamation by the current administration.

Generally speaking, in both the private sector and in government law one cannot expect to turn in a report as poorly-written and conceived as the Glaros Report, let alone release it to the public, and expect to stay employed in assembling and writing such reports much longer. Yet the current administration has pointedly and repeatedly stood by the Glaros Report.

The current administration’s position thus changes things, and makes it look as if the Glaros Report is not the result of incompetence but of malice, that it is was not so much an investigation but an assassination. An assassination of character. Of Jon Waters. Of the Band and its alumni. Of The Ohio State University.

Which brings me to my second point:

2. The Public Handling of the Glaros Report.

Robert Conquest’s Third Law of Politics rather famously holds “The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.” That is, unfortunately, the most charitable way of explaining how the current administration has handled the Glaros Report.

As much of an abomination as it is, the Glaros Report could have been easily withheld under the investigatory or deliberative records exceptions to the public records statute until, at the very least, someone competent could have rewritten it. At least according to the public timeline, that was not done here.

The Glaros Report is dated July 22. The announcement of Waters’ firing was July 24. Granted, there was the deadline established by Title IX, but absolutely nothing in Title IX, the 2001 “Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance: Harassment of Students by School Employees, Other Students, or Third Parties” statement or the April 4, 2011, “Dear Colleague” necessitated firing Waters. There were plenty of options, including censure, policy changes, or assignment of a Title IX coordinator that the Band has been lacking. But it appears none of these other options was even considered. Without considering these other options and apparently not even performing due diligence on the accuracy of the Glaros Report, the current administration quickly in that 2-day period chose the nuclear option: firing the best band director in the country, one who has been innovative in show design, who has brought excitement back to marching bands across the country, and has brought nothing but good press and energy to The Ohio State University.

None of the other possible options would have attracted much in the way of possible media attention. Firing the best and most famous college band director in the country was certain to get maximum media attention. And so it did. And it brought in with it the aforementioned shoddy Glaros Report that can easily be argued defames Waters, the Band and all its alumni to national media attention. Furthermore, little of the inaccurate sensationalized reporting by the media of the Glaros Report (i.e., alleging the Midnight Ramp was “hazing,” even though it fits neither a legal nor a practical definition) was corrected by the current administration, and may have in some cases even been abetted by it. The current administration did absolutely nothing to defend the University or the Band.

Even worse, the current administration decided to have a second investigation into the alleged “sexualized culture” of the Band, an investigation to be headed by former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery. Not explained is why a second investigation into the alleged “sexualized culture” is needed if the first investigation into that same culture that resulted in the Glaros Report and the firing of Waters was so “thorough,” a word specifically used by the current administration. Montgomery herself has stated she will not reopen the first investigation that resulted in the Glaros Report. Not explained is how she can look into the alleged “sexualized culture” without reviewing the Glaros Report that supposedly documents that culture.

So the current administration “stands behind” (another phrase it frequently uses) the first investigation and the Glaros Report. But will have second investigation. That will look into the same subject matter as the first investigation. But will not look into the first investigation. Because the first investigation was so “thorough” that it does not need to be reviewed by a second investigation, even though that second investigation is supposed to cover the same subject matter.

Not even Monty Python could concoct a scheme that’s so preposterous. At least in the “Dead Parrot” sketch, Michael Palin tried to explain to John Cleese, however ridiculously, that the parrot was still alive. The current administration will not even do that, arrogantly responding to the increasing questions about the Glaros Report with a machine-like “Read the report.” As if somehow the current administration has the right to invoke papal infallibility.

No crisis management specialist worth the title would recommend handling the Glaros Report like this. Based on my own experience in crisis management and consultations with crisis managers, from the standpoint of the University and the Band, this situation has been handled in such a way as to do maximum damage to both. The current administration could not have damaged Ohio State more if it was trying. “A cabal of its enemies,” indeed.

Which brings me to my final issue:

3. Duty of Loyalty to Ohio State.

The President of The Ohio State University is not a king, nor a god, a potentate, a pope, an emir, sheikh, an emperor, or even a princeps. The president is an agent. Ultimately, so are the trustees. All are agents of the principal: The Ohio State University. In legal terms an agent is obligated to act in the best interests of the principal and only the best interests of the principal. As “Buckeye Battle Cry” says “Our honor defend, we will fight to the end for Ohio.”

Yet here there was no honor defended, and no one fought for Ohio, including and especially those whose duty it was to do so. The investigators at the Office of Compliance and Integrity did not have to find a violation of Title IX, but they chose to do so, straining and stretching, warping and twisting alleged facts into the Glaros Report. In so doing, the investigators at the Office of Compliance and Integrity appear to have been so determined to find a lack of the former that they sacrificed the latter. Even though a due diligence review of the Glaros Report would have revealed its many flaws, the current administration seems to have been almost eager to accept it as the gospel truth, and quickly used it as justification for use of the nuclear option – firing the best band director in the country.

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates was subjected by the Athenians to a sham trail after which he was sentenced to death. The Athenians only forced Socrates to drink hemlock. They did not drop a nuclear bomb on his house and wipe out him, his family and friends, and a large chunk of Athens. But that is in essence what the current administration has done with the Band. The Band, which used to have a spotless reputation and was old and unquestionably the best in the country under Jon Waters, has been badly damaged, perhaps irreparably, and its survival is at stake. The thousands alumni of the Band, including myself, have been libeled as sexual deviants. And all by an, at the very least, incompetent piece of investigation and writing in the Glaros Report.

It is difficult to see how any of the current administration’s actions here have been in the best interests of the University or even could have been contemplated as in the best interests of the University. Nothing – not the facts of the case, even as presented in the shoddy Glaros Report; not Title IX; not even and especially simple notions of justice and fairness – required the use of the Glaros Report to smear Waters and the Band.

So why was the Glaros Report handled this way? We have asked ourselves that, and there is no easy or pleasant answer. It does not make sense. One does not destroy a precious, beloved asset over a century in the making except through incompetence or malice. There is that choice again. It is not a pleasant choice, but one with which the current administration has presented us.

Incompetence or malice? We should not be asking ourselves this question. We should not be wondering about ulterior motives. And yet we are. The thousands of Band alumni, the tens of thousands of Ohio State alumni who have supported us over the years, should trust the current administration – with the president, the trustees, the deans, the provosts, the staff, to protect and act in the best interests of The Ohio State University.

That was clearly not done here. The current administration cannot even make a case that it was done here, and the more and more information comes out about the shoddy Glaros Report – especially the interviewed witnesses who denounce it as inaccurate – the more and more the report looks less like an investigation and more like an assassination. And when we dare to question it, the current administration treats us with arrogance and contempt.

The current administration’s actions here have broken the bond of trust that should exist between it and the alumni and students of The Ohio State University. At this point, nothing said by the current administration or those chosen by it, including Betty Montgomery, can be trusted as be an accurate representation of the facts about this affair. The only way to begin to rebuild that trust is for the current administration to admit its mistake and for the trustees to earn the word “trust” in their titles by retracting the Glaros Report and reinstating Jon Waters as band director.

Anything less and that broken trust will become irreparable.

Please provide me with confirmation that you received my letter. I request feedback from the Board of Trustees regarding this matter.

Truly yours,


 

Jeffrey R. Cox, Esq.
Attorney-at-law licensed in Indiana and California
Author, Rising Sun Falling Skies: The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II.
JD 2003 – Indiana University-Indianapolis McKinney School of Law
BA National Security Policy Studies 1994 – The Ohio State University
The Ohio State University Marching Band (C-Row) – 1989-1993


cc: Chris Glaros
The Ohio State University
Assistant Vice President of Compliance Operations and Investigations
1534 North High Street
Columbus, OH 43201

Archie Griffin
ATTN: Sherri Moore
Longaberger Alumni House
2200 Olentangy River Road
Columbus, OH 43210

Betty Montgomery
6530 West Campus Oval
Suite 210
New Albany, Ohio 43054

David Axelrod
Huntington Center
41 South High Street
Suite 2400
Columbus, Ohio 43215

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Another Crusade in the offing?

The notoriously and irrationally pacifist Vatican has said military action against ISIS is "probably necessary":
For anyone familiar with the Vatican’s recent history of bitter opposition to any US use of military force in the Middle East, Rome’s increasingly vocal support for the recent American airstrikes in Iraq may seem, to say the least, a little disorienting.
On Monday, the Vatican’s previously tacit approval for the American intervention turned explicit, as two senior officials offered what amounts to a blessing through official communications channels.
 
Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the pope’s ambassador to Baghdad, told Vatican radio that the American strikes are “something that had to be done, otherwise [the Islamic State forces] could not be stopped.”

Lingua spoke plaintively of the ordeals faced by an estimated 100,000 Christian refugees from northern Iraq – many of whom, he said, are children – to account for his view of the American campaign.
“You can see these kids sleeping on the streets,” Lingua said, adding, “[there is so much] suffering.”
In a similar vein, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s envoy to the United Nations in Geneva, told Vatican Radio that “military action in this moment is probably necessary.”
Both Lingua and Tomasi went on to say that the international community needs to do more to unmask whoever’s supporting the radical Islamic State forces and to cut off its supply of arms, signaling reservations about widening the conflict.
At the same time, their endorsement of the American action, however grudging, was unmistakable. In light of recent history, it’s a sharp reversal of course.
Indeed. The Vatican's previous comments suggested it had forgotten that Christ's admonition to "turn the other cheek" was for individual, not state, conduct. Why the change now? Vatican reporter John L. Allen, Jr. explains:
So, what gives? What’s the significance of the Vatican offering the Obama administration this time around, if not a green light, certainly a clear yellow?
Three points seem most important.
First, there seems a small but telling shift in Vatican reflection on what constitutes a “just war.” Martino’s 2003 comment suggested that the leadership of the Catholic Church was only prepared to endorse a military incursion, however well-motivated, if it came with explicit international authorization, which in practice means the blessing of the United Nations.
The face-value way to read Monday’s comments from Lingua and Tomasi, however, is as a recognition that there are times when the situation is sufficiently urgent that anyone who steps in, with or without a formal U.N. resolution, can claim the moral high ground.
Even if full legitimacy under international law remains the ideal, in other words, there’s now an exception on the record in favor of “unilateral” action.
Second, the emerging Vatican line clearly establishes a limit to pacifism as an option within Catholic social teaching. In effect, the take-away is that there are times when the use of force is the only option left to serve the greater good.
Third, and most basically, what’s different about 2014 with respect to 2003 isn’t so much the theory but the facts on the ground
The Vatican is also seeing if its "50 years of ecumenical outreach," as Allen puts it, is worth anything by calling on Muslims to denounce and act against ISIS:
The Vatican called on Muslim leaders to condemn the "barbarity" and "unspeakable criminal acts" of Islamic State militants in Iraq, saying a failure to do so would jeopardize the future of interreligious dialogue.

"The plight of Christians, Yezidis and other religious and ethnic communities that are numeric minorities in Iraq demands a clear and courageous stance on the part of religious leaders, especially Muslims, those engaged in interfaith dialogue and everyone of goodwill," said a statement from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue released by the Vatican Aug. 12.

"All must be unanimous in condemning unequivocally these crimes and must denounce the invocation of religion to justify them," the statement said. "Otherwise, what credibility will religions, their followers and their leaders have? What credibility would remain to the interreligious dialogue patiently pursued in recent years?"

The document noted that the "majority of Muslim religious and political institutions" have opposed the Islamic State's avowed mission of restoring a caliphate, a sovereign Muslim state under Islamic law, to succeed the Ottoman Caliphate abolished after the founding of modern Turkey in 1923.

The Vatican listed some of the "shameful practices" recently committed by the "jihadists" of the Islamic State, which the U.S. government has classified as a terrorist group. Among the practices cited:
-- "The execrable practice of beheading, crucifixion and hanging of corpses in public places."

-- "The choice imposed on Christians and Yezidis between conversion to Islam, payment of tribute or exodus."

-- "The abduction of girls and women belonging to the Yezidi and Christian communities as war booty."

-- "The imposition of the barbaric practice of infibulation," or female genital mutilation.
"No cause can justify such barbarity and certainly not a religion," the document said.
Ed Morrissey explains the stakes for Il Vaticano:
The Council’s question is a challenge to their partners, demanding some investment in the risks of peace and tolerance. Pope Francis’ last two predecessors both took a lot of criticism for their efforts to reach out in dialogue with Muslim leaders. Now it’s time to see whether those leaders and their successors have the same fortitude, or whether these have just been empty gestures all along. If after decades of engagement these leaders cannot bring themselves condemn the forced conversion, beheadings, ethnoreligious cleansing and flat-out genocides of ISIS, then it leaves very little value in continued engagement from the Vatican’s perspective.
I'm not holding out much hope for success here. Osama bin Laden wanted a clash of civilizations. ISIS is determined to make that happen.

It's about time

U.S. sending weapons directly to Kurdish forces, officials say.
The U.S. government has begun to funnel weapons directly to Kurdish forces fighting Islamist militants in northern Iraq, deepening U.S. involvement in a conflict that the Obama administration had long sought to avoid.
The arms pipeline, which one former U.S. military official described as a trickle, opened in recent days as the Kurds’ pesh merga fighters have struggled to stem advances by Islamic State forces that have swept across northern Iraq.
The weapons are being supplied by the CIA, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the Obama administration has not publicly acknowledged the spy agency’s involvement.
“They need everything, especially heavy weapons,” said the former U.S. official, who is working closely with Kurdish leaders. While arms have started flowing to Kurdish forces near the city of Irbil, the official said Kurds in the vicinity of the key city of Sulaymaniyah have yet to receive any U.S. support.
The U.S. military has conducted a handful of airstrikes on Islamic State targets in recent days, but Kurdish leaders have complained that they are outgunned and unable to mount a counter-offensive without more American assistance.
 
The U.S. government has previously sold billions of dollars of weapons to the government of Iraq. Many of those American-supplied arms ended up in the hands of Islamic State fighters as they routed Iraqi army units across the country last month.
American officials have tried to expedite the transfer of arms from the government in Baghdad to Kurdish fighters in the north, but that process has gone slowly, prompting Washington to open a direct pipeline to the Kurds. The CIA declined to comment.

A U.S. military official said the Pentagon and State Department were discussing other possible ways to deliver weapons to the Kurds via open channels, but that they would need special legal authorization. Normally U.S. arms sales are restricted to sovereign or central governments.
With Iraq's central government on the verge of a complete collapse and the Kurds essentially controlling their own state, that may not be legal barrier much longer.