As our military commitments expand, the military shrinks

President Obama has found uses for the U.S. military in spite of himself. Max Boot points out that he has just sent 3,000 troops to Liberia to “fight” Ebola; 1,500–and counting–to Iraq to counter ISIS; and hundreds, possibly thousands, more to Eastern Europe to deter Russia.

In addition, Obama sent more than 150 troops to Africa to fight Joseph Kony. And he keeps sending troops to carry out various Special Operations missions from Libya to Somalia.

Last but not least, he has committed to keeping at least 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after this year.

These numbers aren’t enormous, and in some cases they fall short of what is required for the task. However, as Boot says, “they are indicative of the continuing demand for U.S. military personnel around the world.”

Meanwhile, though, funding for the armed forces continues to decline precipitously. Michele Flournoy and Eric Edelman — senior former defense officials under President Obama and President George W. Bush, respectively — recently wrote:

The provisions of the Budget Control Act and sequestration have already precipitated a readiness crisis within our armed forces, with only a handful of Army brigades ready for crisis response, Air Force pilots unable to fly sufficient hours to keep up their skills and Navy ships unable to provide critical U.S. security presence in key regions.

Although last year’s congressional budget deal has granted some temporary relief, the return to sequestration in fiscal 2015 and beyond would result in a hollow force reminiscent of the late 1970s.

The Army has been the main victim. According to Boot, budget cuts are likely to shrink the active duty force from 510,000 soldiers today down to 420,000 by the end of the decade. The Army chief, Gen. Ray Odierno, has warned that going below 450,000 active duty personnel will result in an Army unable to meet even its minimal commitments.

Strikingly, as Boot observes, these cuts are occurring without any real debate. Democrats, by and large, are delighted to see the military shrink. Republicans, fixated on balancing the budget without increasing taxes, don’t seem particularly bothered.

We talk a good game about Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, etc. So far, however, we are unwilling to push for military spending commensurate with the dangerous world we correctly posit.

Hamas forced Gazans to remain in harm’s way

Mudran Zahran is a Palestinian writer and academic from Jordan who now resides in the UK as a political refugee. In the aftermath of the latest war between Israel and Hamas, he interviewed Gazans to find out what they had to say about the conflict. His report appears on the website of the Gatestone Institute.

According to Zahran, Gazans told him of atrocities and war crimes committed by Hamas. Their testimony confirms what seemed clear enough at the time — Hamas is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Gazan civilians.

Here is what a medical worker said:

The Israeli army sends warnings to people to evacuate buildings before an attack. The Israelis either call or send a text message. Sometimes they call several times to make sure everyone has been evacuated.

Hamas’s strict policy, though, was not to allow us to evacuate. Many people got killed, locked inside their homes by Hamas militants.

Hamas’s official Al-Quds TV regularly issued warnings to Gazans not to evacuate their homes. Hamas militants would block the exits to the places residents were asked to evacuate. In the Shijaiya area, people received warnings from the Israelis and tried to evacuate the area, but Hamas militants blocked the exits and ordered people to return to their homes.

Some of the people had no choice but to run towards the Israelis and ask for protection for their families. Hamas shot some of those people as they were running; the rest were forced to return to their homes and get bombed. This is how the Shijaiya massacre happened. More than 100 people were killed.

A Gazan journalist told Zahran:

Hamas fired rockets from next to homes. Hamas was running from one home to another. Hamas lied when it claimed it was shooting from non-populated areas.

To make things even worse for us, Hamas would fire from the balconies of homes and try to drag the Israelis into door-to-door battles and street-to-street fights — a death sentence for all the civilians here. They would fire rockets and then run away quickly, leaving us to face Israeli bombs for what they did.

They are cowards. If Hamas militants are not afraid of dying, why do they run after they fire rockets from our homes? Why don’t they stay and die with us? Are they afraid to die and go to heaven? Isn’t that what they claim they wish?

Hamas “held the whole Gazan population as a human shield,” according to a graduate student:

Hamas imposed a curfew: anyone walking out in the street was shot. That way people had to stay in their homes, even if they were about to get bombed.

Worse than that, Hamas wanted the shield to fail. A former Hamas ministry officer explained:

Hamas wanted us butchered so it could win the media war against Israel showing our dead children on TV and then get money from Qatar.

Despite Hamas’ monopoly on military power within Gaza, there were protests against its deadly, inhumane tactics. A shop owner told Zahran:

There were two major protests against Hamas during the third week of the war. When Hamas fighters opened fire at the protesters in the Bait Hanoun area and the Shijaiya, five were killed instantly. I saw that with my own eyes.

Many were injured. A doctor at Shifa hospital told me that 35 were killed at both protests. He went and saw their bodies at the morgue.

A Gazan academic agreed that Hamas exterminated protesters and critics:

Hamas did kill protesters, no doubt about that. But we could not confirm how many were actually killed. If I have to guess, the number was more than reported.

I am confident that not all of the 21 men Hamas killed on August 22 were collaborating with Israel. Hamas killed those men because it was weakened by Israel’s attacks and felt endangered. So it went on a ‘Salem Witch-Hunt.’

They arrested everyone who opposed them and had to make a few examples to scare people from standing against Hamas. Hamas’s tactic worked. Now Gazans are afraid to talk against Hamas even in front of their own family members.

Our mainstream media failed to provide any true sense of Hamas’ brutality towards the people of Gaza. I attribute this, in large part, to anti-Israel bias.

However, as Zahran points out, Hamas made it difficult for western reporters to get the real story. One prominent Gazan academic told Zahran:

Hamas terrorizes and kills us just like Daesh [ISIS] terrorizes kills Iraqis. Hamas is a dictatorship that kills us. The Gazans you see praising Hamas on TV are either Hamas members or too afraid to speak against Hamas. Few foreign [Western] journalists were probably able to report what Gazans think of Hamas. . . .

But even though Western journalists may not have been able to speak freely with Gazans, they still need a story to send to their editor by the end of the day. So it is just easier and safer for them to stick to the official line — Blame Israel.

How was Zahran able to talk to so many Gazans? As a Palestinian himself, he had friends in the West Bank offer introductions to their relatives in Gaza.

Western journalists can’t obtain such access. But in my view, this doesn’t fully excuse their inability to report Hamas’ terrorism against the people of Gaza some of which surely occurred more or less in plain view.

Lifestyles of the Rich and Climate-Conscious

Well I suppose there really isn’t much to add to what John has posted on yesterday’s climate farce in New York City. Oh heck—yes there is!

It’s never out of season to point out the raging hypocrisy of the whole crowd. Al Gore was there, naturally—he of the multiple mansions and private jets trips and business deals with Arab oil potentates. (How’s that transaction going, by the way?)

Then there’s Leonardo DiCaprio, one of Hollywood’s golden boys. To say he is a carbon Bigfoot is obviously incorrect—he’s more like a carbon Loch Ness Monster. Here’s the monster yacht that DiCaprio rents from an Arab oil potentate to host parties:

Caprio Boat copyAnd here’s one of his houses:

Leo's House copy

And yet, Vanity Fair somehow was able to write with a straight face of DiCaprio’s environmental activism: “[I]t’s not all super-yachts and supermodels for DiCaprio.” And Politico reports that “DiCaprio, who has been praised by Secretary of State John Kerry for his work on climate awareness, recently narrated a short film promoting the need for a carbon tax.” Did you know that he is a UN Messenger of Peace on Climate Change? (But I thought what was needed was a “war” on climate change—or is that only the Koch brothers?) Anyway, I’ll sure sleep easier knowing Leo is signed up with the UN to help achieve peace.

But the booby prize goes to the biggest boob of the whole scene, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who admits to flying on private jets and also owns many homes. Michelle Fields from PJTV caught up with Little Bobby (as I call him) at the rally and gets him thoroughly flustered with a simple question about what Little Bobby is willing to give up to save the planet. (He is apparently unaware that his smart phone has the energy footprint of a refrigerator.) The answer, quite obviously, is nothing. Moreover, it is hard to make out how anything he says has much to do with climate change. (And notice how grabby he gets with Fields when he gets upset—a Kennedy trait with women I guess.)

This video is about 3:40 long, but I recommend saving it for home viewing. And also playing Power Line’s new Little Bobby Drinking Game: every time Little Bobby mentions “Koch brothers,” down a shot. Just make sure you don’t have to drive anywhere for a while. Or if you do, use that smart phone Little Bobby won’t give up to summon an Uber car, or some other car service that Little Bobby’s friends can’t stand (because capitalism).

Inside the Climate Alarmist Zoo

We wrote yesterday about the fact that the “People’s Climate March” consisted mostly of warmed-over socialists and other obsolete radicals. Reason TV attended the march and produced this excellent video, which shows what the “climate change” movement is all about. A hint: it doesn’t have much to do with climate.

Not much explanation is required, perhaps, but Noah Rothman is spot-on:

There appear to be two strains of protesters who attended the People’s March. Some cling desperately to the ideals of Marx and who repeat rhetoric and slogans which have largely remained unchanged since the Rutherford B. Hayes administration. These folks ironically consider themselves “progressives.” The other strain of protester who spoke with Foster seemed lost, misplaced, left behind in a world which no longer made much sense.

It is a condition as old as time; the aimless in search of personal meaning complement the ranks of a movement which promises personal purpose. The revolution is over, but the tragically committed revolutionaries persist.

At Ground Zero in Minnesota

We’ve got a problem in the Twin Cities that is based in our large and still growing population of Somali immigrants. Minnesota’s Somali community — a/k/a “Minnesotans” — is the most fertile ground in the United States for the recruitment of terrorists by foreign terrorist organizations in Africa and the Middle East. The Islamic State is only the latest terrorist group to zero in on Minnesota to expand its ranks, for example, and IS has achieved some success in the recruitment efforts. In Minnesota, we’re a tad concerned the recruited “Minnesotans” might choose to return home if they don’t get killed first.

The Star Tribune has two reporters working the story in “Slick video, social media lure Minnesotans to lure in Middle East.” Law enforcement is on the case, but an unsolved mystery is crimping their efforts:

The FBI is confronting a propaganda behemoth that grows with every click. “It’s a free-for-all,” said FBI Agent E.K. Wilson, who has tracked the waves of Somali youth leaving Minnesota to fight overseas since the first ones headed for Somalia in 2007.

He says online recruitment aims to sell youth on achieving a romanticized purpose in life.

“This is an adventure and this is what you should be doing and you’ll be a hero and eventually you’ll be a martyr,” Wilson said of the message.

But what motivates a Somali teenage boy in Minnesota to trade a relatively comfortable life for an unknown fate continues to baffle authorities.

“That’s a question we’ve been asking for six years,” Wilson said. “And that’s a question that the vast majority of the Somali community — the leadership in that community — has been asking. Life is good here. And most of these kids don’t realize what they have because they don’t remember or they’ve never been there.”

What motivates the Somalis who decamp from Minnesota to join the other side? In the Age of Obama — note Wilson’s reference to “six years” — that has become a mystery beyond unraveling by the FBI, at least for public consumption:

When Wilson first began investigating the recruitment of Minnesota Somalis by the Al-Qaida-linked group in Somalia — Al-Shabab — the main appeal was patriotism, defending the motherland from invading Ethiopia.

Today, the call to western youth to come fight in Syria and Iraq is based on religious duty; they’re told they must come help establish an Islamic caliphate governed by a radical interpretation of Islamic law.

“It does raise it to a more mature and radical level,” Wilson said.

The Star Tribune reporters appear to be making progress unraveling the motivation of these “Minnesotans.” They could lend Wilson a hand. I’m afraid, however, that it has already been determined in advance for the FBI that Islamic terrorism — it’s not Islamic.

The forecast (my forecast) is for trouble ahead. As the Somali community in Minnesota continues to grow and the authorities working the case continue to keep their hands over their eyes, Minnesota will remain at Ground Zero for the foreseeable future.

Climatistas Can’t Keep Their Story Straight, Part 2

Or maybe I should call this series “Scenes from the 97 Percent.” Because settled science! No sooner do I note that one expert writes in the New York Times yesterday that planting trees might be the wrong thing to do than a sharp-eyed Power Line reader points us to a feature in today’s Washington Post that “Trees Offer a Way to Delay the Consequences of Climate Change.” Didn’t the editorial desks get the memo: “97 Percent! Consensus!”

Here’s the Times hed yesterday:

NYT Trees copy

And here’s the Post hed today:

Post Trees 2 copy

Turns out the article is co-authored by historian Joseph Ellis. I hadn’t realized his expertise extended to climate science as well as the founders. The numbers the article cites for deforestation rates around the world are very likely wrong, but never mind for now.  Just glad to know we’ve got this whole matter settled.  Like the rest of climate science.

ISIS advances as Obama dithers

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Since Thursday, Islamic State rebels, backed by tanks and other heavy armor, have seized control of more than 60 villages near the regional capital of Ayn al-Arab, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group. The extremist insurgents, also known as ISIS or ISIL have also forced the evacuation of about 100 other villages, Kurdish field commanders and Turkish officials said. . . .

Kurdish militia in Syria, under the banner of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Defense Units, or YPG, said dozens of Kurds had been killed in fighting to defend Ayn al-Arab, called Kobani in Kurdish. They said the jihadists had advanced to within 9 kilometers of Kobani and appealed for international intervention to help their outgunned forces. . . .

Islamic State’s progress toward the Turkish border again showed the group’s military strength. It seized Kurdish territory in Syria even as French warplanes launched their first attacks Friday against the group’s positions hundreds of miles away in northeastern Iraq.

The move on Ayn al-Arab follows the seizure by Islamic State insurgents this past week of a strategic bridge over the Euphrates River. The capture enabled the rebels to march on the city from the west and rain down artillery shells on the city’s streets, said Khaled Issa, a representative of the Syrian Kurdish administration in Paris.

In the meantime, Team Obama seems focused on telling people (including ISIS) what the U.S. won’t do to counter these terrorists. The president continues to insist there will be no American “boots on the ground.” And now, Samantha Power has announced that the U.S. won’t conduct air strikes in Syria without the assistance of other nations.

Here’s a question: Why the hell not? President Obama claims he’s committed to “degrading and destroying” ISIS. Clearly, this requires air strikes in Syria, which is the only actual fighting Obama will the U.S. to engage in.

Air strikes are necessary if the Syrian rebels whom Obama expects to fight ISIS are to succeed even just in holding their own. To the extent Obama conditions American air strikes on the decisions of other nations, he demonstrates once again that he isn’t serious about “degrading and destroying” ISIS.

Rick Moran at PJ Media has another question: Is ISIS testing Obama’s new Syria policy? More likely, ISIS is acting on its conclusion that Obama’s new Syria policy has already failed its test.

In ISIS’s view, I believe, Obama’s Syria policy failed the test when his announcement of it wasn’t accompanied by air attacks in Syria. To hardened fighters, talk unaccompanied by action is just talk. A serious adversary would have acted in Syria first, then talked.

Moran points out that if the president sends planes into Syria to support the Kurds, a bipartisan group of lawmakers would be issuing a call for him to get congressional approval for the strikes. That’s true, but it’s no reason not to act.

Obama bombed ISIS in Iraq without congressional approval in response to the rout of the Kurds there. He should do the same in Syria under similar circumstances. Afterwards, he can sort out the question of authorization, either by seeking it or by deciding not to.

As Moran concludes, “the fallout from doing nothing won’t improve our credibility with the Kurds, or anyone else who might be thinking of signing on for the fight against ISIS.” And Obama’s credibility on this front sorely needs improvement.