Taiwan’s Election is a Communist Rejection

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

On January 16, 2016, Taiwan held national elections. The results were clear. Dr. Tsai Ing-wen, the Democratic Progressive Party (“DPP”) chairperson and presidential candidate, won a landslide victory with 56.1% of the votes. Eric Chu of the Kuomintang Party (“KMT”) garnered 30.1% percent of the votes.

 

President-Elect Dr. Tsai Ing-Wen Image by MiNe(sfmine79), wikimedia commons.

President-Elect Dr. Tsai Ing-Wen
Image by MiNe(sfmine79), wikimedia commons.

 

In the same elections, the DPP achieved a clear majority in the legislature, winning 68 of 110 seats. That is enough for the DPP to legally overcome any opposition in the legislature. Whenever a national election results in a landslide, usually at least one of two things is true – either the elections are the single candidate, North Korean style farce, or the voters are unhappy with the status quo. In the case of Taiwan, it is the latter, but there is more to it than that.

Prior to the elections, the Taiwanese public had made it clear that they were tired of the corruption and economic mismanagement that their government had inflicted on them. On January 16, they were largely voting for change.

At the same time, a significant portion of previously steadfast KMT loyalists had lost faith in their party because the KMT had shifted toward overt cooperation with the communist regime in Beijing. The KMT had bet heavily on the benefits of economic cooperation with Communist China. That bet did not pay off.

It is a mystery why the Kuomintang Party ignored the pathetic examples many Western nations have set by trusting Communist China in business and diplomatic dealings. A glance at the last thirty years of US history would have let them know what to expect. They either never took that glance, or they were serving interests other than those of the people of Taiwan.

Communist China’s reactionary response to the DPP’s victory was swift and predictable. The regime in Beijing publicly warned Taiwan that any attempt at declaring independence will result in an immediate, crushing military defeat by the Red Army.

To Westerners, this response might sound a bit severe and childishly undiplomatic, but nobody in Taiwan was surprised. The communists have been demanding the “return” of Taiwan to Communist China since the Chinese Nationalist Army retreated to that island in 1949. Since then, “obey our rule or die” has been Beijing’s standard mantra toward Taiwan.

 

Taiwan, Chinese coast, and that pesky 110 miles of water. Image by CIA, public domain.

Taiwan, Chinese coast, and that
pesky 110 miles of water.
Image by CIA, public domain.

 

One might wonder why, since the Maoist regime in Beijing was so easily able to invade and occupy Tibet, wouldn’t they do the same with Taiwan?

The answer is water – about 110 miles of it. That’s the distance from the mainland shores to the beaches in Taiwan. The Red Army did not require a navy to invade and occupy Tibet. Invading Taiwan, on the other hand, would require a strong enough navy, and China does not quite have that yet. They are working on it. For decades, Communist China has consistently declared its intent to “reunite” Taiwan “by force, if necessary.” So far, the threats have not caused the Taiwanese to surrender their freedom to Beijing. When the KMT decided to move closer to the communist regime the Taiwanese voters threw them out.

So what do the election results mean for Taiwan’s Western Pacific neighbors?

For South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Viet Nam and Brunei, it’s good news. All of them have grown weary of Communist China’s increasingly aggressive policy. Taiwan’s increasing acquiescence to Beijing had been a worrying development for them.

What does it mean for the United States of America?

For the moment, the reaction in the US has been quiet relief. In diplomatic terms, here is the official US response:

“We share with the Taiwan people a profound interest in the continuation of cross-Strait peace and stability. We look forward to working with Dr. Tsai and Taiwan’s leaders of all parties to advance our many common interests and further strengthen the unofficial relationship between the United States and the people of Taiwan.”

Leave it to the folks at Foggy Bottom to simultaneously use the terms “profound” and “unofficial” when taking a “stand.” Or would that be a “non-stand?”

Diplomatic ambiguity aside, US leaders, albeit at the pace of a disabled snail, have come to realize that China has, in fact, been telling the truth for the last sixty-six years concerning its aggressive intentions, and that even the government in Beijing occasionally speaks the truth.

Hard core Beijing-lovers in Washington have fallen on hard times. Their cash is still welcome, but they are as out-of-fashion as integrity inside the Washington Beltway. In practical terms, the US government will continue to pretend to believe that fair and friendly cooperation with Communist China is possible. In the meantime, the US will allow a dribble of military aid to flow to Taiwan and the Philippines. Relations with Viet Nam will improve, and the US will send that country token military aid. The cost of the PR photo shoots in Viet Nam heralding in the new cooperation will be greater than the value of the equipment we send them.

In my view, the election results in Taiwan are good news. Let us hope that for the sake of the people of Taiwan, and for the sake of everyone in the Western Pacific, the DPP will use its power to truly represent the democratic will of the people of Taiwan.

 

Venezuelan Political Opera — Calling for a Coup

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Opera is best enjoyed in an opera hall. Sadly, a majority of the world’s population has only experienced “opera” in the form of national and local governments. The performances are always expensive, the performers are usually shrill, and the opera is rarely satisfying. Government as government, as opposed to government as opera, would be nice, but overall, we humans are not quite there yet. In Venezuela, the government opera just became more contentious.

 

 

The current opera in Venezuela, Nicolas the Great Saves the People, is actually a sequel to the previous opera, which starred part-time clown and full-time dictator Hugo Chavez in his classic, When I Grow Up I Want To Be Like Fidel Castro. Chavez’s inability to sing a convincing tune and his skill at generating poverty combined to create low international ratings for his production.

Chavez, a.k.a. eso hijo de puta, came to power in Venezuela on April 14, 2003, campaigning on the tried and true “defeat poverty with socialism” platform. As promised, he instituted a socialist system in Venezuela similar to Cuba’s, and like Cuba, the socialist reforms led to a steep increase in poverty.

A glance at history explains how a poorly performing clown like Chavez ever took power. The colorful succession of incompetent and corrupt clowns that ruled before him never used Venezuela’s oil wealth to help the people of Venezuela. That made it easy for Chavez to sell the nearly universally discredited socialist revolutionary scam. The fact that he was able to peddle his scam was an indication of how disgusted the voters of Venezuela were with his predecessors.

In true comic opera fashion, Chavez managed to increase poverty while his oil rich nation enjoyed very high oil prices. His disastrous handling of Venezuela’s economy was high drama, breathtaking in concept and scale.

 

 

Finally, in early 2013, Chavez managed one award-worthy scene in his long and disastrous opera. He died.

Officially, he died on March 5, 2013. Unofficially, he died a month or so earlier than the announced date. His death was apparently concealed to allow his handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro, time to consolidate his position as the new dictator.

Maduro’s qualifications are twofold.

He did a stint as vice president during which, like most vice presidents, he did nothing. He also served as foreign minister for Venezuela. In that role, he managed to leave his distinctive mark. In keeping with dictator Chavez’s basic agenda, Maduro further destroyed relations with most of the New World’s nations while trying to forge closer relationships with Cuba and Libya.

The Cuba-Venezuela relationship can best be defined as, “Thanks for the free oil. You kind of suck, but we won’t tell anybody.” That might not sound like much in the way of international communist fraternal love, but it’s safe to consider the Cuba-Venezuela relationship to be the bright spot in modern Venezuelan foreign policy.

So, how have Nicolas Maduro and his wife Cilia “La Generalissima” Flores done with their vast power over Venezuela?

As promised, they continued their beloved dead leader’s policies. The results have continued to be disastrous for the people of Venezuela . . . It’s so easy to forget the people when critiquing political opera. In all operas, it’s about the people on the stage. The audience is expected to shut up and like it.

 

Cilia "La Generalissima" Maduro Flores Image by Cancilleria del Ecuador, wikimedia commons.

Cilia “La Generalissima” Maduro Flores
Image by Cancilleria del Ecuador, wikimedia commons.

 

When Chavez did Venezuela a favor by dying, Maduro ignored the constitution of Venezuela by sidestepping the President of the National Assembly and declaring himself President. The Chavez-stacked federal courts backed him.

On April 14, 2013, Maduro won a presidential election. By that time, the Hugo Chavez political opera was wearing thin with the increasingly hungry Venezuelan people. Maduro beat the opposition candidate by approximately 1.5%. There were widespread allegations of vote rigging and voter intimidation that would make polling locations in Philadelphia look friendly by comparison. However, once again, the courts backed Maduro.

Thus far, Maduro has demonstrated that he is not really just a cheap Chavez copy in two ways.

First, he created a “Ministry of Supreme Happiness.” Perhaps he just doesn’t like his North Korean fraternal brother Kim 3.0 always winning the Biggest Jackass award.

Second, Maduro turned up the volume on the anti-USA rhetoric. If anyone was wondering, Venezuela is an economic hellhole, rapidly approaching North Korean standards, because the US government is evil. I halfway agree with the “government is evil” theory, but few Venezuelans think that the US government is running Venezuela.

How few? Last week, elections for the National Assembly resulted in Maduro’s Opera Troupe being knocked out of the majority.

In fact, the opposition now enjoys a supermajority in the National Assembly, which it holds by a single vote. This loss of majority does not bode well for the Maduro Opera. For one thing, the supermajority can rewrite laws and easily override any veto by the president with as little as 60% agreement of the assembly. They can also fire federal judges.

Maduro has responded to this threat to the socialist agenda by testing the waters for a political coup.

On Saturday, December 13, he publicly instructed the military of Venezuela to prepare for a struggle to defend the socialist government. The Opera is getting louder in Caracas, but the tenor sings poorly. In my view the Venezuelan military will not cooperate with Maduro if he attempts to suppress the National Assembly. In fact, if he calls the military to arms, it might well respond by putting a bullet in his head and in the head of his wife Cilia.

What does all this mean for Venezuela?

My best guess is that Maduro’s opera is nearly over. The National Assembly will have to contend with every imaginable roadblock by the Maduro gang, but Maduro’s lousy performance has created a substantial well of determination in the Venezuelan people.

Unfortunately for the people of Venezuela, neither the new National Assembly nor Maduro’s eventual replacement will perform any more efficiently than the US Congress or the US President. But they will do a better job than the Chavez-Maduro regime has done. Venezuela will not get much worse.

Venezuelans have seen their darkest hour. Their future will not be a bed of roses, but it will be better, and that matters – to Venezuela and to anyone who cares about its people.

Let the new Opera begin.

Vetting Syrian Refugees — The Practical Issues

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

News and social media are awash with opinions and pseudo-facts about the Syrian refugees. One fact, though, is that hundreds of thousands of people are caught in a desperate situation between a Europe that is closing its doors and a country back home that is shattered into warring factions, some of which are sponsored by Titans with their own agendas.

As Westerners, we, as nations, strive for open hearts and open minds, and we want to help these desperate people. However, another fact we know is that thousands of jihadis are mingled among the desperate, exploiting this opportunity to position themselves in the West.

Therein lies the crux of the problem. How do we tell the difference? How is it possible to vet refugees with no recorded past?

 

Intelligence, Terrorism, and Asymmetric Warfare Expert Sheik Mullah Ali Baba Mohammed Faqwahdi al-Lansingi a.k.a. Sheik Mo

Intelligence, Terrorism, and Asymmetric Warfare Expert
Sheik Mullah Ali Baba Mohammed Faqwahdi al-Lansingi
a.k.a. Sheik Mo

 

We decided to pose the refugee dilemma to our staff intelligence, terrorism, and asymmetric warfare specialist, Sheik Mullah Ali Baba Muhammad Faqwahdi al-Lansingi, a.k.a. Sheikh Mo. Mo, a retired terrorist himself, knows how to see things through the eyes of the enemy. Jay tracked him down to his new mobile communications and command center to question him about the Syrian refugee situation.

The following is Jay’s actual conversation with Sheik Mo . . .

Sheikh Mo, that’s quite the antenna array on the roof of that lovely catering van you have there.

You know, Jay, with this van, I can talk to people all the way in Pakistan or Gaza without paying for a phone call. And I get all my favorite football games. There’s a big game in Qatar this weekend.

Isn’t that the New York City FBI building behind you?

Yes, I sell to them all day. This is a great location. So many federal employees around here. They love my food. I have health food, too. Sugar free, fat free, gluten free, caffeine free, whatever free you want, I get for you. No problem.

Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind. I can’t help but wonder, don’t any of the FBI folks or the DHS people ask you about those antennas? I mean you’ve got that vast array right at Federal Plaza….

 

Sheik Mo's catering van at Federal Plaza, NYC

Sheik Mo’s catering van at Federal Plaza, NYC

 

Antennas? They ask me all the time, “Can you get the Jets games? Can you pick up the hockey games?” They all want to know the scores, so I give them the scores from all the games. It’s great for business. I can always tell which FBI agent has a gambling problem. When I tell them the score, they turn white and choke on the falafel. I like these FBI guys. They are great customers. And so polite. They always tip.

That’s very thoughtful of you . . . Our readers need your expert input. What do you think about the Paris attacks? Many in the West are pointing to them as a reason why Syrian refugees should be refused.

Wow, those attacks were so stupid! Those ISIS people are so yesterday, like thirteen centuries behind everybody else. In the PLO, we learned that random bombings are no good. You start bombing planes and cities, and you end up eating cruise missile for breakfast. ISIS looks like they are not happy until everyone hates them. Now they are not just losing ground in Syria, they are losing ground in Europe. The way they are going, they won’t even be able to sleep in the Libyan desert. I think they might be first Islamic terror group to have to move their headquarters to the South Pole.

What do you think about the President’s plan to bring more Syrian refugees to the US?

Well, you know, I like Obama. In the last elections, I voted for him twenty times back in Lansing.

I’m sure he appreciates your support, but you should only vote once in each election.

I’m sorry, but you know me. I love this whole democracy thing. I love voting. It’s like an addiction. I need a Voters Anonymous . . . But this Syrian refugee thing sounds a little strange to me.

It’s kind of funny, everything they are saying about “vetting.” They must not know what Syria looks like today. Are they going to call the Syrian police and ask what record the guy has? Who do they think is going to answer the phone? That’s so crazy.

And UN is supposed to interview the refugees first . . . Didn’t the UN just put Saudi Arabia on Human Rights Council? The same Saudi Arabia that funded those ISIS amateurs in the first place? That UN can’t tell a jihadi from a goat in a tutu.

Then the FBI and everybody else is going to interview each one? Like they say here in New York, “Forget about it.”

The government says it will take more than eighteen months. It takes eighteen months to get no reliable information from Syria? They should pay me to do it. For half price, I get them the same “no information” in five minutes. But you Americans think it’s good when the government is slow. It makes you think they are doing something. It makes you think they are so busy. It’s crazy.

I like these FBI people. I am making friends with lots of them. Very nice people, but what are they going to do in an interview? They ask the guy if he is terrorist, he says “No.” Big deal. Remember those kids from Chechnya, the ones that bombed Boston? Russia told the FBI they were terrorists. The FBI talks to them and says “No problem, nice guys.” But then you have big problem in Boston.

So, good luck with all this “vetting” business. I just don’t see how this is going to work. And anyway, there are already enough catering vans in the United States. We don’t need more!

Maybe I should add Mobile Vetting Service to my menu….

Mo, it’s always interesting getting your expert opinions on terrorist issues. Good luck with your lovely catering van, and please stop voting. You are not a US citizen.

Ok, ok. Just for you, my friend, no more voting. But ask your bigshot government friends if I can get in on this “vetting” business. Tell them I have friends in Syria. I give them half off just because they know you.

I’ll be sure to mention it to them, but I have no close friends at the FBI. I think you are closer to them than I am. Thanks for all your insight. I’ll talk to you again soon. Best of luck to you.

OK, Jay. Have a nice Thanksgiving.

You too, Mo.

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And there are the issues. We encourage people to remember that compassion and caution are not listed as opposites in the dictionary. It is only by coming out of entrenched positions and facing reality that we will be able to handle this humanitarian crisis. The reality is that desperate people are in need, and that evil people, whose goal is to destroy us, are seeded among them. The reality is that there actually are no ways to verify the difference. What risk are we, as a nation, willing to take in our compassion?

ISIS Attacks Paris — A Major Mistake

Bayard & Holmes
~ Jay Holmes

On the night of November 13, 2015, cowardly criminals from the ISIS gang carried out coordinated attacks against innocent people in Paris, France. So far, 136 people are confirmed dead, and many more remain wounded.

 

Memorial at Bataclan Image by Annie Harada Viot, public domain.

Memorial at Bataclan
Image by Annie Harada Viot, public domain.

 

Before examining the effects of the attacks beyond the casualties, Piper and I wish to offer our respectful sympathy to all the families that lost loved ones in the attacks. We also wish to assure the people of France that civilized people throughout the world stand in solidarity with them.

It is easy to see why reasonable people might view the Paris Attacks as a “success” by ISIS.

ISIS got attention, and its vainglorious leaders lust for that. They hurt France and, by extension, all French allies and sympathizers. The attacks were a tactical success in that, while they likely killed far fewer people than the ISIS head-monkeys had hoped for, they killed more than enough to justify their efforts in tactical terms.

All this notwithstanding, I view the Paris attacks as a gigantic failure on the part of ISIS.

That’s because the violence in France does not, and will not, support ISIS’s goal of extending its control over more Middle East territory. It certainly doesn’t get the group closer to its stated goal of worldwide Islamic rule.

The Paris attacks have already resulted in increased French air strikes against ISIS assets in the Middle East. As for ISIS assets in Europe, France and other European nations have redoubled their efforts in rounding up the ISIS vermin that have been roaming free across that continent. If you are an agent of ISIS in Europe, your life is more difficult this week than it was last week. Those seventy-two virgins are closer than you think.

This does not mean that ISIS is incapable of carrying out further attacks in the West.

It is never difficult for criminal enterprises to recruit the losers in any society. But since the latest attacks, Europeans will be more willing to tolerate increased police activity and higher military budgets. Those higher military budgets, coupled with increased Western willpower to use military force against ISIS, will equate to a higher rate of vaporization of ISIS thugs across the Middle East. If anyone disagrees with this theory, please note the ISIS casualties these last few days in Syria and North Africa. It’s not a good time to be waving an ISIS flag.

So then, why would a group that claims to be the rightful rulers of all the people on the planet be so unwise as to carry out the Paris attacks?

One critical element of the answer is stupidity. No sane, intelligent person would join ISIS, let alone try to lead it. Lots of types of individuals might join ISIS, but one of the common traits they share is an inability to reasonably perceive reality. Even those that join because they wish to rise in personal status from unemployed dishwasher to “badass terrorist gun slinger” must be intellectually deficient in order to volunteer for life as an ISIS gofer. Being the lead lowlife in a group like ISIS is, at best, a short-term thrill. Being at the bottom of the lowlife heap must be hellish. We are not dealing with a collection of 25,000 brilliant scholars. We are dealing with heartless, bloodthirsty idiots. And they will fail.

When ISIS first came to the forefront of Western media, some analysts predicted that they would be very difficult to defeat. I stated openly that with any real effort by the West, ISIS could be sent back to the caves and sewers that they crawled out of. Some observers viewed the well-publicized parades of black clad jihadists waving ISIS flags as a terrifying new event. I viewed them as an ideal opportunity for target practice for Western and Middle Eastern militaries. A few (very few) experienced military analysts scoffed at the notion that ISIS could be defeated with less than years of major military effort including thousands of US “boots on the ground.”

Thus far, with minimal effort by the US and far less serious efforts by a few of our allies, the ISIS Middle East blitzkrieg has been halted.

Keep in mind that Western efforts have amounted to airstrikes against ISIS targets, pathetically small assistance to the Kurds, a mammoth infusion of cash and arms to that vaguely defined troupe of hapless clowns that we so generously call “the Iraqi Army,” and minimal efforts at helping independent Syrian rebels. We will not at this time delve into any possible covert actions that may have occurred against ISIS.

Thus far, the airstrikes have been partially effective.

Some in the West have called for a more robust bombing campaign against ISIS targets, but that’s a topic for another discussion. The under-armed, outmanned Kurds, now assisted by a few poorly-armed Yazidis, have been very successful in their struggle against their well-armed ISIS opponents. The fact that the Yazidis and Kurds are willing and able to cooperate with each other is further bad news for the despised ISIS. Our wildly expensive efforts with the Iraqi Army have resulted in little more than accidentally supplying ISIS with weapons, ammo, and equipment. Our efforts at assisting Syrian rebels have yet to yield meaningful results. And yet, with such minimal effort by the West, ISIS has been stalled.

What about ISIS’s many friends across the Middle East?

They no longer have any. Thus far, the ISIS Middle East Foreign Policy Initiative has consisted of creating steadfast enemies in Jordan, infuriating the Egyptian government, and declaring war on Hezbollah in Lebanon, thus earning the always generous hatred of the Iranian Shia junta. All of this has been done without them initiating their most important battle – their “coming war” against Israel.

Even by the low standards of ISIS logic, the Paris attacks were a foolish move. ISIS’s future has never been bright. This week, it’s dimmer still.

Vive la France! Vive la liberté!

À la ferme porcine avec ISIS!

Defense Industry UFOs on the Home Front!

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

With so many deadly conflicts brewing around the globe, it’s easy to lose sight of less spectacular defense news at home. Changes in the defense industry and their impacts on taxpayers are not likely to generate front page headlines with so many air strikes, battles and terrorist strikes filling the daily news reports. But sometimes, the bomb-free battles inside the Beltway can impact our national security more than anything that will ever happen in Syria or Ukraine.

 

Actual photo of Lockheed and Sikorsky in an intimate embrace.

Actual photo of Lockheed and Sikorsky in an intimate embrace.

 

One particular event in the defense industry might generate more impacts then were intended by the defense contractors involved. Lockheed Martin’s pending purchase of Sikorsky Aircraft for nine billion dollars has set off a ripple effect in the US defense community.

Last week, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Frank Kendall stated that in the future, he would seek to deter consolidation of top tier defense contractors. Kendall explained that, “Mergers such as this, combined with significant financial resources of the largest defense companies, strategically position the acquiring companies to dominate large parts of the defense industry.”

I can understand Kendall’s concerns. With the current number of large defense contractors, we are paying high prices for our high-tech military gear. In some cases, we are paying high prices for very low-tech gear, as well. Having fewer contractors might lead to less innovation and higher prices.

Kendall’s comments only surprised me because he was open and frank. In the Pentagon, that can be more dangerous than vacationing in Syria.

I am guessing that Kendall must have reason to believe that the White House shares his concerns. Not surprisingly, his comments generated what we might refer to as Unsourced Flying Opinions. To save space, let’s just call them UFOs.

A variety of “defense analysts” have been responding loudly to anyone who will listen that Kendall is creating “uncertainty” in the defense industry. According to some analysts, since large defense contractors will be uncertain about the viability of future mergers, they will be impaired in doing business.

Perhaps they will, and perhaps that’s a good thing. There has been all too much “certainty” in the defense contracting market. Certainly the manufacturing of complex high-tech defense items such as the F-35 fighter or the Gerald Ford supercarrier require a high degree of certainty once production starts, but the selection process should be an open field where the best ideas and greatest efficiencies can compete for contracts.

As Kendall pointed out, “With size comes power, and the department’s experience with large defense contractors is that they are not hesitant to use this power for corporate advantage. The trend toward fewer and larger prime contractors has the potential to affect innovation, limit the supply base, pose entry barriers to small, medium, and large businesses, and ultimately reduce competition, resulting in higher prices to be paid by the American taxpayer in order to support our war fighters.”

With so much money at stake, taxpayers should expect an increase in UFOs concerning defense spending and any further restrictions on defense contractor mergers. When reading the opinions of defense or national security “think tanks,” it’s a good idea to find out who funds them. You can bet that think tanks that are funded by large defense contractors are not going to think highly of Frank Kendall. As a taxpayer, I am starting to grow fond of him.

So far, the Department of Justice is wisely staying out of the debate on future defense acquisitions. Kendall has indicated that the Pentagon will work with Congress to set new policies governing defense contractors. As much as I agree with Frank Kendall’s intent, I disagree with his optimism for possible congressional action. I can easily imagine the sound of industrial strength shredders in the basement of the Capital building as underpaid staffers work overtime handling all those proposed defense contractor rules. But that doesn’t mean that Kendall’s concerns won’t have a real impact.

Kendall and his cohorts in the Pentagon have one very large ace up their sleeve.

If you want to do business in the defense market, you need happy customers, and the biggest customer of all is the Pentagon. In theory, it is only one customer, but in practice, the Pentagon can block anything involving publicly funded research and technology from sale to foreign customers. That leaves large defense contractors with a very small list of customers.

So what does this quiet and largely unnoticed battle in the Beltway mean?

My best guess is that the Pentagon, with the approval of the White House, is simply saying that it will not allow the US defense market to be too heavily influenced by any single competitor. Getting action for something this complex and this political from Congress is unlikely. Getting a defense contract from an unhappy Pentagon is even less likely. Let’s give kudos to Frank Kendall for standing up for the taxpayers and for national security.

Russia Advances In Syria — What Does It Mean?

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Stories and concerns are circulating about an escalated Russian military presence in Syria.

Many of the stories focus on the fact that Russia has sent four Sukhoi SU-30SM fighter jets and eight military helicopters to Syria. We know that Russia has also sent antiaircraft batteries. Less noticed, but possibly more important, is the fact that Russia has ramped up construction at an air base near Latakia, Syria. The construction upsurge appears to indicate facilities for a significantly larger military presence than Russia currently has in Syria.

 

Russian Sukhoi SU-30SM fighter. Image by Aktug Ates, wikimedia commons.

Russian Sukhoi SU-30SM fighter.
Image by Aktug Ates, wikimedia commons.

 

So what does this Russian buildup in Syria mean? The US just posed that same question to Russia.

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter spoke with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu on Friday, September 18. This was the first official conversation between their two institutions since February 2014, when the US broke off military discussions with Russia due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The purpose of this recent conversation was to discuss “de-escalating” any possible meetings between Russian and US forces in Syria.

While Russia’s presence in Syria might seem sudden and new, Russia has, in fact, been in Syria for over half a century.

Since the 18th century reign of Catherine the Great, Russia has sought military alliances in the Mediterranean. After over two centuries of effort, Russia’s presence in Syria is the only real, lasting diplomatic success that Russia has ever achieved in the Mediterranean. Small though Syria is, the Assad regime has always been a “Russia project.”

Current Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s dictator father, Hafez al-Assad, became president of Syria in 1971. The Soviets trained Hafez al-Assad both as a pilot and as a president. The Assad One-Party-Many-Secret-Police style of government is a copy of the Soviet model. It is the same model that Putin is doing his best to reinstate in Russia today.

 

Dictator Bashar and wife Asmaa al-Assad in Moscow, March 26, 2008. Image by Ammar Abd Rabbo, wikimedia commons.

Dictator Bashar and wife Asmaa al-Assad
in Moscow, March 26, 2008.
Image by Ammar Abd Rabbo, wikimedia commons.

 

The US and Europe are backing Assad’s enemies in Syria while they struggle to oust the Assad regime.

Russia does not want Assad ousted. The real impacts of Russia’s buildup in Syria will depend on how far Putin is willing to go in backing Assad. However, the recent Russian upgrade still leaves Assad and Russia at a tremendous tactical disadvantage against US and European forces in the area.

Because of this disadvantage, it is unlikely that the Russians will attempt to directly engage with any US or European aircraft that are flying missions in Syria.

The Russians are explaining their buildup in Syria as their attempt to help their ally Assad fight off ISIS.

Since ISIS is also the enemy of the West, then in theory, the West has nothing to worry about from Russian forces in Syria. The equation becomes much more complicated if and when Russian forces engage with Western-backed rebels, which are rebels who oppose both Assad and ISIS. Russia has offered no explanation as to how their forces will differentiate between Syrian rebels and ISIS fighters. They obviously won’t.

From my perspective, the only surprise about the Russian buildup in Syria is that Russia waited so long to go this far.

Russia has a lot to lose in Syria, and it needs Assad or an Assad-clone to remain in power for two major reasons. The first and most obvious reason is for Russia to keep its one Mediterranean naval base. The second and more subtle reason is that a critical part of Putin’s empire rebuilding strategy revolves around maintaining and creating allies. The ally-creation part of Putin’s grand strategy has failed miserably.

Most of Russia’s old Cold War European allies have either joined NATO or are trying to. Even the stubbornly neutral Swedes are considering joining NATO. Beyond Europe, most of Russia’s old allies have come to expect less aid from Russia in the post-Cold War environment. Russia’s popularity has, in most cases, plummeted amongst undeveloped nations around the world.

In the narrow and mostly closed mind of Vladimir Putin, keeping Assad in power has become a critical need for maintaining a facade of Russian relevancy in the 21st century.

This, of course, is more bad news for both the Syrian people and the Russian people. Putin is once again missing an opportunity to move past his Cold War childhood and embrace modern opportunities.

So how will the West respond to Russia in Syria?

The same way we have for the last half-century. The US and Europe will continue to support enemies of the Assad regime without directly confronting Russian troops in Syria. If Russian forces “mistakenly” fire on US or Western aircraft in Syria, the West will then likely upgrade the weaponry of Syrian rebels in order to make life more miserable, and more dangerous, for the Russians in Syria.

It appears that Putin is willing to invest heavily in propping up the Assad regime. As long as Czar Putin is able to maintain his stranglehold over Russia, I would not expect a Russian retreat from Syria in the near future.

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Bayard & Holmes Official Photo

Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney. Her writing partner, Jay Holmes, is an anonymous senior member of the intelligence community and a field veteran from the Cold War through the current Global War on Terror. Together, they are the bestselling authors of the international spy thriller, THE SPY BRIDE, to be re-released in September, 2015.

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Keep in touch through updates at Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

 

The Real Issue Behind Clinton’s Missing Emails — Benghazi

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Benghazi. The watershed event that former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton can’t make go away, no matter how many emails she deletes.

Much has been bantered about regarding Clinton’s unsecured servers that she kept in her home, transmitting both classified State Department and personal emails. Was she really that ignorant? Or was she deliberately devious? The same questions were asked regarding her denial of security for Ambassador Stevens at the Benghazi Consulate.

Many would frame this discussion as purely a cybersecurity issue. However, the heart of the investigation is the incident on  9/11/2012 at the Benghazi Consulate, when US Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Information Officer Sean Smith, and CIA Operatives and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were murdered by the Al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar Al-Sharia.

It is worth remembering what we do know about that seven-hour attack, in which our military was ordered to stand down while our people were being slaughtered. Below is a post that was written by Jay Holmes, a senior member of the US intelligence community, six weeks after the brutal attack on our unsecured Consulate.

Perspective on Benghazi, October 28, 2012

by Jay Holmes

 

Image of burning US Consulate in Benghazi by Voice of America employee, public domain.

On September 11, 2012, Islamic terrorists attacked the US Consulate in Benghazi.

They murdered US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans during the attack. We extend our condolences to the loved ones of those four Americans who lost their lives in service to their country.

Within twenty-four hours of the attack, both President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton stated that the incident was not a terrorist attack, but rather a spontaneous assault carried out by angry Libyans who were protesting against an anti-Islamic video produced by an Egyptian expatriate in the US.

In the weeks since the attack, the White House and State Department told the public, contrary to their original statements, that the attacks were an organized assault carried out by international terrorists. The public, along with the families of the four dead Americans, are questioning why a US Consulate in a well known danger spot like Benghazi was left with so little security.

The administration is still repeating the mantra that “the attack was unprecedented.”

Apparently, these youngsters remain unaware of the November 1979 attack on the US Embassy in Tehran. Note to Self:  Send son’s middle school textbook and DVD of Argo to White House.

Within days of the attack, the public learned that Ambassador Stevens had endorsed the Benghazi Consulate’s requests for increased security and passed them on to Washington. We know that request made it as far as Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

I’m not yet certain if the request made it to President Obama’s desk. However, the White House, with the cooperation of the major media outlets, played down the allegations that security was denied from the top and claimed that the lack of security was caused instead by “Republican budget cuts” of State Department security funds. The White House also claimed that “all the intelligence” indicated there was no need for increased security.

I found both of these statements worrisome, because as political hot air goes, they seem fairly flimsy and desperate. After decades of listening to the statements issued forth from our various administrations, I know that often times that sort of flimsiness in White House denials indicates a concern for brewing scandals.

Most Americans are aware that all federal budgets and omnibus spending bills require the final approval of the US President, so the budget excuse was at best nonsensical, and at worst an indication of deeper troubles. As for “all the intelligence” which indicated no need for increased security, the White House and the Secretary of State were both aware of two failed bombing attempts against the Benghazi Consulate that occurred April 6 and June 2, only a few months before the successful September 11 attack.

On October 26, FOX News broke an exclusive story that quoted sources from within the CIA who were involved in the rescue of US consulate staff. According to those CIA sources, CIA personnel requested military assistance three specific times during the attack and were denied.

Originally, this denial was blamed on Defense Secretary Leon Panetta alone. We now know that Panetta was in a meeting with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and National Security Advisor Thomas Donilan approximately one hour after the start of the attack. This was hours before the third denial of assistance and well before at least two of our Americans were killed. I can’t imagine Panetta would not have mentioned the ongoing assault to our nation’s two top officials and requested their input since they were, after all, sitting in the same room as a drone fed real time imagery to the White House. If he did not mention it, one has to wonder what, exactly, was more important to them at that moment.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta responded to the FOX News piece by claiming that he and the president lacked enough information to justify sending US troops “into harms way.” This response doesn’t explain why he and the president were willing to leave the US personnel in Benghazi in harm’s way by denying them assistance from the massive US military assets in the Mediterranean.

These assets included two combat-ready Air Mobile/Airborne Special Forces teams close to Libya on call in Italy, and the powerful Naval Air and Marine forces of the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet, including the Sixth Fleet drone capability. Fighter strikes from Italy could have been accomplished within, at most, an hour and a half of the start of the incident. Also, with minimal air support, our people could have been evacuated more easily and safely.

Panetta’s claim that the administration lacked “enough information” is inconsistent with the fact that they knew about two prior bombing attacks on the Benghazi Consulate, and it is a direct contradiction of the fact that they received real time imagery from the drone on site.

It is also a direct contradiction of the fact that eight US security personnel were sent by charter plane from Tripoli to rescue the Benghazi staff during the incident. How is it that the administration had enough information to send the team from Tripoli, but not enough information to employ any of the vast military assets that were available and may have saved some of the American lives lost in the attack and the ensuing rescue operation?

CIA sources also said CIA employee Tyrone Woods used a laser to illuminate a terrorist mortar team that was firing on the Consulate.

As an ex-Navy SEAL, Woods would not have exposed his laser by illuminating a target unless he expected an air unit such as an armed drone, Navy F/A-18, or an Air Force Spectre gun ship to fire on the target right away. Permission for that fire would have come from Commander of Forces in Africa US Army General Carter Ham or any of his superiors, such as Defense Secretary Panetta or President Obama. Revocation of that permission, which Woods apparently had reason to believe was issued, could only have come from those same people, as well.

Sensibly, some members of the press have turned to the CIA for answers. Of course, asking the CIA questions when you are not the president or a member of a Congressional Intelligence Committee can lead to less than satisfying results. So far, the CIA has skillfully managed to strongly deny all of the allegations that have not been made.

In the long and proud CIA tradition of honestly answering anything but the question being asked, CIA Director General David Petraeus sternly denies that the CIA failed to respond to calls for help from the Benghazi Consulate. He does not, however, confirm or deny what requests for military assistance were made by CIA personnel in Benghazi. Thanks Dave. That really clarifies things. Keep up the good work.

Most press members know better than to ask questions of the NSA. The NSA might well have recordings of all the relevant communications from and to Benghazi, but getting that out of the NSA would be more difficult than mining diamonds on Pluto.

So far, the president has dodged the questions raised by the FOX News story by simply saying what amounts to, “I never did that.” He has left any other talking to Panetta.

Panetta claims that questions being asked “amount to Monday morning quarterbacking.”

This answer is convenient for him and the Obama administration, and it is being well received by the Democratic Party faithful. But those voters who feel less constrained in their political choices might not find Panetta’s response an adequate substitution for an explanation or accountability, and the fact is that no presidential candidate can be elected solely by the votes of their party’s faithful. For either Romney or Obama to win the election, they will need the votes of those Americans who are willing to vote without regard for the labels “Democrat,” “Republican,” “liberal,” “progressive,” or “conservative.”

Based on the information thus far available, it appears the administration decided to respond to the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi with as minimal a response as possible.

I suspect this has everything to do with the fact that Obama was reluctant to initiate military activity on a new front so close to the election when so much of his base is anti-war under all circumstances. His minimalist approach turned out to be a bad guess, and it is now becoming clear to the public that said guess was made against the advice of his people on the ground.

Naturally, the president may be reluctant to be seen as expanding military operations into new areas, but the message he sent with his non-action was that Americans will not act militarily to protect their own on foreign soil. This is no doubt extremely encouraging to all of our terrorist enemies, as well as to the Iranian government as it rapidly approaches nuclear capability.

With time and a little interest from members of Congress, more facts will surface and a clearer picture will emerge.

How much time that will take is a key question. On November 6, the administration might realize the benefits of its strategy of dodging questions concerning the Benghazi debacle, but the questions are significant enough to lose Obama some votes. In fact, the President might find himself back in the community organizing business next January.

What happened in Benghazi matters.

It matters to the families; it matters to our Americans abroad; it matters to our enemies; it matters to the public, and it matters to our political future as a nation. How much it matters to the election, however, will depend on the reaction of those Americans who will vote independently this November.

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Shortly after this article was published, we learned from Retired Admiral James A. Lyons, former Chief of the US Pacific Fleet, that Ambassador Stevens was in Benghazi to meet with a Turkish emissary to arrange the transfer of Gadhafi’s captured armaments to an Al-Qaeda group in Syria. (See Admiral Lyons’s letter to The Washington Times, Obama Needs to Come Clean on What Happened in Benghazi.) It is also public that the story put forth by the White House blaming the violence on an obscure video that ridiculed Islam was published in Cairo before Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods had even been killed.

While Ms. Clinton certainly has a great deal of explaining to do about passing classified information on her personal, unsecured server, it would be a great disservice to the US if we forget the original questions about her ignorance and intentions that uncovered the cybersecurity breach in the first place. We cannot afford to forget Benghazi.

~ Piper Bayard