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171101 War From The Cheap Seats

We're into November, so if you're still in some kind of post-Halloween Reese's coma, wondering where
November 1 · Issue #6 · View online
5 NatSec Things
We’re into November, so if you’re still in some kind of post-Halloween Reese’s coma, wondering where the glitter came from and whether or not the goat in the corner is part of someone’s costume or an ironic commentary that humans will eat anything, here’s today’s shots at all those who take the shots for the rest of us. Or at least at the fuckwits who take themselves and national security issues far too seriously.
As I’m writing this, the Republic is still barely intact, since we’re still being run by a sentient Cheeto who times things like the capture of Benghazi suspects so they coincide with the serving warrants to some guy the rest of us never heard of and King Fumblethumbs wished he hadn’t. But there’s enough coming apart at the seams around the world to keep us entertained. 
Today it’s Finns, injunctions, disappearing Afghans, the AUMF that would not end, and uppity Chinese. Not necessarily in that order. 

Hey Hillary, Remember Benghazi? We Got A Guy!
Not since we all went full Pavlov listening to that AOL guy tell us we had mail have so few cared so much about so many emails. And then there was this Benghazi thing, which despite giving us another unbearable Michael Bay film without robots, was a fucking tragedy that took the lives of some outstanding people. 
To be clear - if you’re thinking I’m at all a fan of anyone who tried to correlate Secretary Clinton with what happened in Libya, we’re not going to be friends. But, in a bit of a bright spot, they caught someone who is believed to have played a key role in the attacks in 2012. Then, in a bit of a dim spot, the Tweeter-In-Chief took credit for it
Yesterday, on my orders, United States forces captured Mustafa al-Imam in Libya. Because of this successful operation, al-Imam will face justice in the United States for his alleged role in the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, which resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, and Tyrone Woods—four brave Americans who were serving our country.
B2 Bomber Holds Korean Reunion Tour
Sometimes it’s good to be the king, because while he’ll never have walkout music quite like Mike Tyson, Donald Trump’s got something better: a B2 bomber. One of which took a round trip from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to the Korean peninsula. This hasn’t happened since 2013. 
US Sends Nuclear-Capable Bomber to Pacific Ahead of Trump Visit | The Diplomat
Granted, there are a variety of other bombers on Guam, and the B2 has been based there before. And while the USAF was quick to point out that this was just all part of routine training, the timing is…auspicious. Given that things in the upper half of the Korean peninsula are getting restive. Which is a word I’m using because I feel like words like that make me sound smarter.
It’s sending a clear message to US partners in Asia as well as possible B2 targets in Korea and elsewhere, that while the American president thinks Nambia is a country, he’s still got a fuck ton of firepower at his disposal. And a slew of generals who are inclined to make use of it. Speaking of Guam, the Chinese had some thoughts on the matter.
China has practiced bombing runs targeting Guam, US says
Because the US is the only one that’s allowed to practice bombing missions against possible targets? There’s always an air of “Well, I NEVER” in reports like this one, except that it’s notable that Gen. Dunford, who runs things as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, points to China as an even more pernicious threat than North Korea. 
Because while the DPRK is going to go off like a lyric in a Katy Perry chart topper, what Beijing has in mind is a long slow burn of whatever it wants to set on fire in Asia and elsewhere.
Russian Shenanigans Have Helsinki Thinking NATO
This kind of article’s why I started doing these newsletters in the first place, because, well, it’s a little off the beaten national security path. Sure, there are probably a slew of international relations wonks that totally saw this one coming. I am not one of those, so this right here is kind of fascinating.
Wary of Russia, Finns take another look at NATO – POLITICO Wary of Russia, Finns take another look at NATO – POLITICO
Apparently Finnish relations with Russia have always been tenuous, but Helsinki’s approach has long been, “Let’s not poke the Russian bear with a NATO stick.” Now, though, Moscow’s been uppity at levels your usually sardonic Finns are finding less palatable. And at least one presidential candidate is asking, “Why don’t we want to go to Brussels again?”
It’s a case of Russian empire building pushing another nation off the fence and into the waiting arms of the NATO alliance. Or not. And some of that might depend on Stockholm. Because if the Swedes go NATO, well, the Finns will probably jump in that Article 5 sauna, too. 
And with sauna, I’ve about exhausted my knowledge of Finland. Maybe a vodka reference will round this out. 
Like vodka, Putin’s efforts to grow the Federation brand are having some unwanted follow-on effects. Unless that’s been Vlad The Paler’s plan all along, and that’s to push the Finns toward NATO so he has an excuse to start something more obnoxious in the Baltic.
Stay tuned for all things Finnish presidential elections in the days ahead.
We've Got The Watches, But Taliban Have The Heroin
So no heroin in this bit from the Guardian which has had some stellar journalists working the Afghanistan beat over the years. And this bit from Sune Engel Rasmussen is another in a long line of quality reporting he’s done from the graveyard of large news bureaus. It’s not about heroin, but it is a gripping look from the Taliban side of the looking glass.
'150,000 Americans couldn’t beat us': Taliban fighters defiant in Afghanistan | World news | The Guardian
What’s remarkable is that this isn’t just a press release from a sanctioned Taliban spox. Rather these are a couple of rank-and-file mujahideen who give, if not insight, at least perspective on a group that might be more powerful now than ever. Which is one of the reasons why the US is classifying Afghan security force troop numbers and casualties. Because things are going super well.
You Say "AUMF" Like The Rest Of Us Say "Blank Check"
For a non-political guy, the current Secretary of Defense has been doing a pretty decent impression of a politician in responding to this whole Niger thing. Because while part of the SF mission in Niger is totes counter-terror, the four soldiers who died there? Were there under a completely different mission.
Mattis: Soldiers killed in Niger not part of anti-terror authorization | TheHill
Since they were officially there under Title 10 and doing “advise-and-assist” missions, that means they weren’t there as part of the Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF). Now, of course, these advising missions can escalate. And quickly. Kind of like nearly every episode of Jersey Shore. But unless you’re doing GTL, escalation when militants are involved turns deadly.
Mattis is splitting hairs so fine they’re nearly invisible at this point. Because there was another team in the area that was absolutely operating under the AUMF, if early reports are to be believed. And that means that those who died in harm’s way are dead, no matter what mission they were there to support. 
That’s not to say that Mattis isn’t in favor of updating the AUMF. Within limits, of course. 
Mattis, Tillerson tell Congress new war authorization should have no time, geographic constraints | TheHill
And by limits he means permission to shoot anyone, anywhere, for any reason. Because limits mean you don’t win wars. And that’s just downright un-‘murcan.
Kids: he’s not wrong. Depending on how you define winning. Which at this point I’m pretty sure involves tiger’s blood at least one of Charlie Sheen’s former girlfriends. Because what Mattis and the rest of the Trump administration want is nothing short of the eradication of terrorism. 
And for that, well, for that you don’t need limits.
Like It? Tell Me! Or Better Yet, Tell Someone Else!
Bit of navelgazery that will probably show up more often in these issues: I’m committed to doing this thing as a newsletter for…a while. Like several months. I’m resisting the urge to turn this into a blog, or a podcast, or a YouTube channel, or whatever. At least for now. 
Because what I’m hoping happens is a bunch of engaged readers who tell other readers that they like what I’m doing here. I’ll probably promote this on Twitter at some point, or not. 
If you like it, tell me. Love to hear it. Then send it to someone else. Get them into the cheap seats with the rest of us. And as always, thanks for reading!
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