Degrading and Destroying ISIS: Something to Be Thankful For

When receiving news of our battle with ISIS in the Middle East does it feel like we really are at war? It seems more like a video game played in the background of a party.  You may notice the action but it has nothing to do with you.   I’d say the main reason for this is because our part of the war is mostly money and machinery, with only a few flesh and blood Americans risking their lives, and no announced casualties for us.   There is something surreal about it all, but enough of that mental meandering for now.

Let’s look at a couple of promising recent developments on the ground.

Ultimately destroying ISIS means developing some kind of political solution in Syria, their home base, and that situation seems best described as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”, to borrow a few choice words from Winston Churchill aimed at Stalinist Russia decades ago.   As such, we’ll leave that issue for a later time.

But recent news suggests our alliance is at least degrading ISIS in Kobani in Syria and in a few areas of Iraq.   Situated next to Turkey and with most of its residents evacuated, Kobani has been turned into mostly rubble by the fighting of the past couple of months.

During that time the city has seemed constantly about to fall to ISIS, but the combination of continued U. S. air strikes, some 270 of them, and the addition of about 150 Kurdish troops, which Turkey finally let cross their land to get there, seems to have ISIS stymied and actually losing ground slowly, with an estimated 600 of their fighters killed.

In a Huf Post article, according to John Allen, the U.S. envoy for the international coalition fighting the Islamic State militants, losing Kobani would be a blow to the ISIS image of invincibility, so they keep massing their forces there providing good targets for our air strikes.

Also, Iraqi forces have regained a couple of towns taken by ISIS last summer while they are also making progress in retaking Ramadi. According to CNN, “The battle for control of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, is shifting in favor of Iraqi and tribal forces fighting ISIS militants, Iraqi officials said Monday.”

While the article does not expand on the degree of Sunni tribal support, it is welcome news to find any at all as turning Sunni tribes against ISIS Sunni fanatics is a key part of our strategy to degrade them.   The failure of the central government in Bagdad to be inclusive of these tribes is what has paved the ground for the easy ISIS advances.  Separating those Sunni tribes from ISIS is essential.  Otherwise, fighting ISIS appears an attack on Sunnis in general, making us seem allied with Shiites as opposed to Sunnis in that age old conflict that contributes so much to what is happening today.

But that’s another thorny issue best postponed to later as well.   Let’s be thankful that ISIS seems in check for the moment, even though there’s a long winding road ahead to check mate them.

Obama’s Immigration Executive Order: In Your Face Republicans

The Republicans are threatening all sorts of things in response to President Obama’s executive order on immigration outlined in a speech last night, including impeachment.   And of course, it is true that he has “poisoned the well” for future negotiations on all sorts of things, but how much worse could the well get after Republicans have used it as a toxic waste dump for the past six years.

However the anger of the Republican leadership, usually feigned,  seems real for a change as they had different things in  mind to focus on when the new congress takes office, at least according to an article in the Los Angeles Times yesterday.   McConnell, Boehner et al had:

“hoped to focus on corporate tax reform, fast-track trade pacts, repealing the president’s healthcare law and loosening environmental restrictions on coal are instead being dragged into an immigration skirmish that they’ve tried studiously to avoid for most of the last year.

That’s largely because the question of how to handle the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S. bitterly divides Republicans, and the party has been unable to agree on an alternative to the president’s plan.”

Of course, the Republican leadership realizes they need to do something about “our broken immigration system” before the next presidential election, but they don’t want to get mired in that squabble now.    They want to pull the party together on a few things before batting that bee hive about.

By the way, when I say the Republican  leadership realizes the need to do something on immigration it is because the need is obvious.   Obama got about 70% of the Latino vote in the last election and it seems nearly impossible for the Republicans to win the next one without cutting into that margin.

I’ve seen Carl Rove say that as well as a generally respected Republican pollster whose name escapes me at the moment.    Romney got 59% of the white vote in the last contest and according to this pollster’s estimate, they will need nearly 64% of that vote, likely unachievable,  to win if they can’t attract more of different hues than lily white.  There are only so many of us white people to go around.

And to add to Republican discomfort is the fact that Obama’s executive order could be rescinded by a Republican president, a point that will be drilled into Latino voters in upcoming months to get out that vote.

Of course, Obama is aware of that as it is obvious, and those on the right may view him as playing a cynical political game, but he wanted to take this action last summer, announced he would I believe, but put it on hold in response to pleas from Democrats running for office.   And we all know how well that worked out.

Also, this executive decision isn’t very popular according to recent polls, one indicating 48% of Americans thinking he is overreaching, and only 30-some per cent in favor of his action.   Whatever his shortcomings (and for God’s sake people he has THE TOUGHEST JOB IN THE WORLD), I believe in Obama’s sincerity.

Finally, I recommend you read that LA Times article linked above as it gives the gist of key dynamics at work in response to Obama’s executive order.   The other link provides a good summary of what that order means in practice.




THE EBOLA SCARE: When Common Sense is Nonsense

I wrote about the Ebola “crisis” only about two weeks ago, but now it seems like ancient history.   Here’s a history question:  Regarding Ebola, do you know the significance of Nov 7?   That was the final day for those who had had any contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of Ebola in Dallas,  to show signs of Ebola.   I assume no one did.   Otherwise we’d hear all about it.  That’s really good news, but now Ebola stateside is a distant memory and news that isn’t bad isn’t really news, with the rare exception of great news, like astronauts landing on the moon or VE Day, the end of the European front of WW II.

In retrospect, some of the Ebola scare was good, in that it pressed hospitals around the nation to actually think through the question:  What do we do if an Ebola patient walks in through our doors?  In a previous post, I referred to the “Dallas debacle”, but most hospitals would have reacted in the same chaotic way.   If anyone had come in off the street with Ebola to a hospital before I haven’t heard of it.   Ebola cases get shipped here to one of our specialist facilities. They just don’t appear out of nowhere. At least hadn’t.

Surely, that question must have been raised by medical staff in hospitals here and there throughout the country, but in typical bureaucratic fashion, that got lost in the shuffle. The changes needed would have cost money and staff time, perhaps a lot, and the likelihood of it happening must have seemed small, so …

With that one case in Dallas the likelihood suddenly seemed huge. With many Americans thinking it was only “common sense” to make everyone who traveled from those afflicted west African countries remain in 21 day quarantine.   Well, common sense to a point maybe, but when it came to doing that with health workers who had volunteered to go to Africa, it was just plain wrong headed.   As President Obama said, those medical volunteers should be treated as heroes.  Instead they tended to be treated like criminals.

Centuries ago common sense  supported the notion that the sun revolved around the earth because when we looked at the sky we could see the sun moving.   That’s not a fair analogy, but while common sense has valuel, the evolution of science has come in contrast to so-called common sense. i. e. common sense is often misleading, such as in the case of eye witnesses of crimes who used to be thought of as providing great evidence until studies showed different eyes can see events differently.   Thank God for the discovery of DNA.

The problem with the “common sense” angle prized by politicians like the governors of New Jersey and New York, is that an abundance of caution would likely dissuade medical volunteers to go to West Africa where the real problem, the biggest danger to us all in the future, needs to be eradicated.   It is “penny wise and pound foolish,” to apply an old expression.

Common sense was actually head-in-the-sand thinking, but popular with the people, so certain politicians had to slop it up like pigs at a trough.   According to polls 70% of Americans thought it a good idea.   I wonder how many of those polled were libertarian leaning with a strong belief in reducing governmental meddling.

…..except when each of them gets scared enough to demand more meddling.  That’s only common sense.

Here’s to a Republican Senate Victory Tomorrow.

I have so many thoughts and questions on world events jammed together in my little mind that  I feel mentally constipated.   I need to relieve myself of some of them or my head will burst, but where to begin the flow?

I’m not up to tackling the ISIS crisis, Ebola or even the Ukraine (remember when that was the big attention grabber ?   Still, a near civil war brewing there in the western part with Putin playing his games, but it is a tired story, not quite hot enough at the moment to attract our public attention.)

Let’s look at the Senate race which  is mildly interesting to me because I watch enough cable news to be ensnared into viewing the event like a horse race or football game and the “two teams” seem close enough to expect a good match tomorrow, even though the pundits are leaning towards a Republican victory.

Unlike those pundits, I don’t take it very seriously as it seems to me which ever party holds the Senate reins (which is like riding a bucking bronco), the familiar gridlock will continue.   At the moment, I like the idea of a Republican victory simply because it should make for a more interesting next  two years, as they would be in a position to actually develop shared legislation in both Houses.   That would tie them down to their ideas instead of allowing them the luxury of a constant chorus of we’d do it better than Obama.

O. K. show us what you got.

I don’t think they’ve got much, frankly, and it is so much easier to agree in criticisms of Obama and the Democrats than actually agreeing among themselves on something specific to do.   Really, do you think Ted Cruz could agree on much with anyone other than possibly his clone?  That the Republican party can’t even govern itself might be revealed prior to the 2016 election and give the Democrats real governing power then, both Houses and the presidency, assuming typhoon Hilary doesn’t run out of wind  by then through over exposure.

Of course, from a liberal perspective there are negatives if the Republicans win the Senate (they already control the House).  For one, President Obama would likely have even less chance to accomplish much of anything the next two years, but how would that be so different than the last two?

Also, if a supreme court judge or two needs replacing over these next two years, for Obama to find  someone who could get nominated and not add to the conservative majority of the court might be so hard, we’d have an eight (or less?) member court for awhile.   And of course, with the Republicans controlling the committee chairs, Senate investigations of the Obama regime would multiply like dandy lions in an Illinois summer, vying for TV time with fellow House Republican Darrell Issa’s ongoing contemporary version of judgement at Nuremburg when it comes to all things Obama.

Maybe this all wouldn’t be so good for the country, but it figures to me more interesting to follow than two more years of largely the same boring political theater.   I say:  Let’s have some new boring political theater.

My attitude reminds me of something the romantic English poet John Keats wrote centuries ago.  “What shocks the virtuous philosopher, delights the chameleon poet.”

I’m feeling poetic today.  And a little less constipated now.