Friday, September 6, 2013

Deafening Silence

Are we all waiting for the congress critters?

There are some articles out there pushing a soft power solution for Assad's chemo fascination.  Sounds good to me.  But I am not sure what those soft power solutions might be.

A couple of folks in congress want to give Syria XX number of days to sign the international agreement on the ban of chemical weapons.  But what happens then if XX days pass and Assad does not take the bait?  Or more probably he just stalls ad infinitum?   But that would just be another redline that needs to be dealt with.

As for kinetic options I am still against them.  But have to admit that my inner 17-year-old said 'go for it' when Iran's supreme leader Khameini warned us not to do it - or else.  Hopefully BHO and Sergeant Hagel don't take dares the same way as me.


  1. Iran is making some reconciliatory remarks these days, especially in the direction of Israel.

    To extort a UN member state into signing a treaty would be illegal under the Charter of the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty. It's even doubtful whether the UN could do it legally.
    And once done, that extorted signature and ratification would probably not be worth anything.

    Furthermore it's a tricky and laborious affair to destroy chemical weapons stockpiles safely. To do so during a civil war when even the security of depots is questionable is impossible. Syria could sign and ratify the ban on C weapons, but this would likely only be the pretext to the kind of harassment and lying that Iraq was exposed to during the 90's. Which Mideasterner is stupid enough to play along with this on the wrong side?

    Maybe they should really push for a secession solution as in Kosovo; this way the Russians could even keep their naval base rights in an Alawite-controlled coastal state and they could even provide the bulk of blue helmets for securing the secessionists. But as far as I know the Sunnis don't want this; they even launched a mini offensive in the coastal region to prevent it.
    Then again, Putin could pay back the Kosovo defeat this way. NATO cannot really argue without hypocrisy against such a secession without being overtly hypocritical.

  2. SO -

    Secession sounds interesting. How would that work though for the northeast with the Kurds and Assyrians?

    Not sure I agree though that the Sunni offensive in the coastal region was to prevent secession.

  3. I don't get it. Why would we discourage use of gas - or any other weapon - on Islamic fundies? To the contrary, I think we should *encourage* Assad to do whatever it takes to kill these rebels like dogs.

    And before anyone gets morally outraged, if an A bomb was good for fanatical japs and fire bombing was good for Nazis, then gas is certainly good for takfiri scum.

    The rebels are the same guys that are our enemies. The idea that there are good rebels is naïve, IMO. Enemy of my enemy is my friend and friend of my enemy is my enemy.

    There is no soft solution to takfiri expansionism. This is one of those situations where the only viable solution is to kill them all as quickly and efficiently as possible. As they would do to us whenever the opportunity presents.

  4. no one: Don't be soft, man. We "discourage" chemical weapons in the hands of non-allied nations for the same reason we discourage bugs and nukes. Those weapons present the only real risk to the conventionally-overwhelmingly-powerful U.S. land forces.

    Not in the "war-winning" sort of risk sense, but in the sense that sliming U.S. troops makes Joe and Mary Lunchpail nervous about sending the little troopies into harm's way. So IMO what this whole Syria business is about is making the world safe for U.S. muscle. We don't want ANYONE thinking it's OK to use bug, gas, or nukes that we're not OK with. So Saddam can slime Iranian troops and we're jake with that, because he was our pal. But Assad, who is IRAN's pal, can't slime his own people.

    And are you seriously trying to convince anyone that all the rebel factions in Syria are "takfiri scum" and "our enemies"? If so, you REALLY need to find another source for your geopolitical information than Weekly Reader.

  5. I think the problem, mike, is that nobody REALLY wants to get stuck into this goddamn disaster. Even the Obamites (hung on the cleft stick of the Boss's rhetoric) don't really want to do more than dick-wave at Assad.

    At this point I don't see a "soft-power" solution to any part of the Syrian problem. If you look at the origins of the war they go back to large, potentially insoluble drought and crop-failure issues that mobilized a bit part of the Syrian Sunni population into the cities where they were jobless and hopeless, led to civil unrest that Assad tried to crush with force and failed.

    Now the Syrian well is pretty thoroughly poisoned. All the factions there (at least from what I get out of the local reportage) are locked into a zero-sum viewpoint. For them to win their enemies have to lose. And in the Game of Syrians to lose is to die.

    My thought is that at this point the BEST (from a Western outlook) possible outcome is the rise of some sort of secular warlord - an Ataturk-like figure - who would unite enough of the people living in what-used-to-be-Syria to crush most of the rest of the factions and re-establish some sort of secular dictatorship.

    I consider the MOST likely outcome to be Libya; the Assad regime falls but is "replaced" only notionally, as the chaotic mess of rebel groups and regime remnants - secular regime soldiers/deserters (i.e. Free Syrian Army), mainstream Arab factions, jihadi groups, Kurds, Druze, Alawites, and everydamnbody else - struggles for power in the remnants of the failed state.

    Frankly, what and where the U.S. bombs will probably look pretty insignificant unless this country goes full Cheney on the Assad regime. And I'm not sure what purpose - even bad, mistaken purpose - that would serve...

  6. Re: who's doing what on the ground in Syria and what it means for the chances for "resolving" this, either through "soft power", diplomacy, or gassing takfiri scum. It's from Charles Lister, the head Middle East analyst at IHS Jane’s Terrorism & Insurgency Center.

    "Syria is by no means a dichotomous sub-state conflict represented simply by "moderates" and "extremist elements". The armed opposition is far more complex than that. The largest portion of the armed opposition is neither "moderate" nor "extremist" & it's this section of the opposition that defines (& will likely continue to define), the direction & dynamics of localised insurgent theatres in Syria.

    The denial of: "The conventional wisdom holds that the extremist elements are completely mixed in with the more moderate rebel groups" is perfectly correct - but I don't think this has become "the conventional wisdom" at all. Yes, such intra-group coordination on the battlefield is common, particularly in the N and E, but contrary to the article's claim, this is also perfectly common in the S.

    Travelling extensively with "moderates" with a premeditated desire to see their liberal foundations & civilian influence is self-fulfilling. In the end, no single portion of the opposition is dominant on a nationwide basis. Syria consists of countless theatres, some are conflict-ridden and others have long been peaceful. Hardline Islamist groups, including AQ, have been strategically dominant in battles in the N & E, and have been smart in assuming territorial control at the cost of moderates. But such groups are not numerically dominant.

    Instead, they've strategically deployed forces so as to gradually extend influence w/o stretching resources too thin. Most importantlyone simply CANNOT view the Syrian conflict as 1 single conflict. Doing so will ensure misjudgement & allow one's adversaries to exploit such miscalculations to their own advantage. One truth often misinterpreted is that “AQ groups have now established a presence in Syria that is sustainable in the long-term, independent of any counteractions” - but this does not mean they are dominant nationwide.

    Unfortunately, all too often, politics craves simplicity and cowers from complexity. Syria is immensely complex - please don't forget this.

  7. No-one -

    Of course if we do nothing then just more and more Takfiri will immigrate to Syria. And then they could take over the FSA and other elements in the Syrian opposition; or at least put them in the minority, Al Qaeda’s dream solution for Syria would be for the West to do nothing. That would allow them to step in big time and gain them the thanks and support of not only the Syrian Sunnis, but Sunnis everywhere including our allies in Jordan and Turkey, plus those Sunni countries that are on the fence.

    Another issue would be Bashar al Assad’s allies, Iran and Hezbollah. They are not our friends. They support Assad in order to use Syria as a conduit for importing weapons for Hezbollah to use against Israel. Why would we want to help them out? If what you say is true about the ’Enemy of my enemy is my friend and friend of my enemy is my enemy’, then it is in our national interest to do something.

    This does not in my view have anything to do with the R2P (responsibility-to-protect) doctrine. No goody-goody, let’s help the poor gassed babies idea has anything to do with it.

  8. FDChief –

    There are some soft power options. And if we never try them how would we know that they would not work. Even if they achieve only partially of what was intended then it is a win. Why is the Secretary of State advocating kinetic solutions when he should leave that to the DOD and use his time more fruitfully by using diplomacy? That is as true for Kerry under Obama as it was for Powell under Bush.

    We should engage the Syrian rebels more. We should be arm twisting the Qataris, Saudis and others that are arming the rebels to ensure that in return for their arms shipments that there should be no reprisals against Alawi, Christians, Kurds, and Druze. Will it stop the atrocities? No, but even if it turns it down a notch it would be a plus.

    And maybe then Assad’s people would not be so quick to use CW. Especially if we also look for diplo ways to convince Moscow and Teheran to condemn its use, without of course naming their proxy as the perp. Those two countries have had CW used against them. Russia during their civil war by the Brits with the White Army acting as a proxy, and Iran during their war against Sadaam, so why would they not want to criticize its use. I believe some in those countries already have condemned its use even if they have not assigned blame.

    Explore ways to get the UN (the General Assembly of course and not the Security Council) on record against both the use of chem weapons and to also condemn reprisals. Is that possible or can the Security Council veto any and all statements by the General Assembly? I don’t think so but really don't know and what is to lose by trying? Even if the Security Council vetoes any such statements they cannot muzzle the Assembly as a whole.

    Explore the Partition Option that Svenn brought up. I know it never worked in Vietnam and worked badly in India and Korea. It may not work in Syria either. But the circumstances are perhaps different in Syria so even a partial partition might stop some bloodshed and suffocation by sarin. I don’t know how you solve the problem of Damascus which would be separated from the partitioned western Alawi & Christian districts. The Kurds in the northeast are probably strong enough to take care of themselves and most are Sunni so they may not be a problem. That leaves the Druze and the Assyrians at some risk. But why couldn’t the Saudis or the Arab League try to guarantee their protection. But at the least we should be letting career diplomatic minds delve into that and recommend some options instead of letting tomohawks try to solve the problem.

    Formally recognize the opposition. Let them set up quasi-embassies or maybe real embassies in Washington, London, Paris, Riyadh, Ankara, Amman, Qatar, and elsewhere. Negotiate with them. Do not negotiate with Assad at least not in public. Do it secretly, sub-rosa if you will. When you talk to Assad openly you strengthen his standing. We should start talking to some of his bad boys who envy his position and are not happy with his leadership. Again this should be done secretly (or maybe semi-secretly so that he gets a message he may end up alone and betrayed).

  9. Hmm, seems to me that the USA does not want a peaceful solution. More likely they are following Luttwak's advise. Keep the pot boiling in Syria for as long as possible.

  10. And now that I think of it why not add some NBC defense capability to Syrians that need it.

    Ship enough atropine for 2- to 300% of every man woman and child in the country. Or instead of atropine send over some of the newer treatment regimes such as biperiden, pralidoxime, epileptic sedative drugs, and ????

    Establish a teaching hospital on CW treatment for Syrian medical personnel (or bankroll the UN's World Health Organization).

    Give the rebels some of those US Army chemical detection systems. Not the ones that drove every soldier crazy with false alarms on the march up to Baghdad, don't we have more selective ones available now? JCAD?

    Give them a decontamination capability.

    Send a few FSA smart guys to Fort Leonard Wood for Chemical defense training. Or . .. . send a few instructors to Jordan or Turkey to train the FSA closer to their home.

    This is a pipe dream on my part. Probably too expensive? But surely cheaper than the dollar figures that are being bandied about on military intervention. I am just throwing out crap to see if anything sticks.

  11. Greetings gentlemen-

    Thanks mike for this thread . . .

    A "Lawfare" perspective from Phil Carter . . . my comment (which reflects my unchanged view from the previous thread) is the first . . .

  12. Re: the Carter post, seydlitz, I read on in sunsurprised silence (given what I know of Phil's background and convictions until I got to this:

    "It’s not at all clear that Congress or the nation is willing to support what may be required to see the situation in Syria through to completion."

    "Completion", Phil? Completion? What, you mean the "completion" part where Syria is like Framingham, Mass. except with more donkeys? Peace? Prosperity? Town meetings? Who the hell is going to want to pay for that in blood and treasure?

    Or is it the "completion" part where Syria returns to the status quo ante, a hardscrabble precarious multiethnic post-Ottoman demistate run by a strongman and always one good famine away from failure?

    For all of this nonsense I have yet to hear anyone who appears to be in favor of this nonsense come up with an actual sane and sensible argument about how blowing shit up = better outcome than NOT blowing shit up.

  13. "Of course if we do nothing then just more and more Takfiri will immigrate to Syria. And then they could take over the FSA and other elements in the Syrian opposition; or at least put them in the minority, Al Qaeda’s dream solution for Syria would be for the West to do nothing."

    And the reason for this would be...why?

    Since "AQ's dream solution" for 9/11 was just what the U.S. did; rampage around the Middle East looking like a mad Crusader killing Arabs and Afghans.

    Nonsense, mike. The real bottom line is that we have NO idea what will happen if we "do nothing" any more than we know what will happen if we do "something", but the bottom line is that resisting jihadist groups will depend a LOT more on the locals that ANYTHING we do. And if we do that anything wrong - say, for example, destroying something the locals don't appreciate us destroying - that we might poison that well worse than it already is.

    But that was my point in posting the Lister piece. We, most of us, many of the people in our government who are running this con, don't really understand the complexity of Syria's politics. I sure don't. But I do know that to categorically state that "If we do nothing the takfiris win" is to pretend an understanding of what's happening in Syria that I find highly unlikely that any of us has.

  14. FD Chief-

    Imo, Phil's making a Clausewitzian argument, where "completion" would be the return to peace after the war had ended and the goals of policy attained through military means . . . Obviously to impose "our view" on the Syrian situation would require an ability to see it through the long haul (in terms of material and moral resources) . . . which is unlikely. But then I would argue the whole thing is impossible since that is not how the shambles of US "policy" functions today . . .

    Saudi policy is to screw it up for Assad, the Iranians and the Russians (since Putin didn't take Bandar Bush's bribe). We're playing the role of "chump" for the Saudis, Turks and Israelis . . . It's actually funny watching Kerry carry on as he does . . . as if the US had ANY credibility at this point in time . . . polite nods followed by knowing smiles . . . then the brush off. That's where the US is in the world today . . .

  15. Ael -

    I do not know Luttwak's bonafides. He has been called a neocon by some as he was a consultant to Rumsfeld's DOD. And since he is now writing articles for the press I would assume he is NOT working with Hagel or Obama. Hopefully they ignore any expertise that he claims.

  16. Mike, "Of course if we do nothing then just more and more Takfiri will immigrate to Syria"

    It was already happening - the increase in takfiri presence - and was inivetible for various reasons whether or not we did something, soft or hard, that is in opposition to Assad. The departure of Assad would represent a vacuum that the takfiris could not resist attempting to fill and that they would have a good chance succeeding to fill given their SA suporters.

    Now we could, theoretically, kill the snake by cutting off its head; the head being SA royals. However, we all know that won't happen because we have this tangled secret love affair with the SA royals that I won't even pretend to understand, but which I suspect is generational and based on oil and interwoven investments of mega $s with powerful US elites on a scale and scope that is mind boggling to simple folks like us.

    The takfiris are recognized as the best fighters in the FSA, comprising up to 25% of the active forces. They have the best support and funding. I think it is foolish to believe there is a chance that, gven an FSA victory over Assad (meaning his head on a stick at the end of the day), that the takfiri elements wouldn't purge the more moderate elements and create another piece of the tafiri uma/caliphate out of Syria.

    Now, someone might think it best to support the rebels today, let the rebels win and then step in to aid the moderates in wiping out the takfiris, but I don't see it happening given our affair with SA. Additionally, takfiri resistance to US support of moderates would probably include terrorist attacks against real US interests; maybe even here at home. These are savage, primitive, fanatical US/infidel hating maniacs. They are not afraid to die for their cause. Many even welcome the opportunity to do so. They are not motivated by rational - or at least what we would call rational - factors. This is the worst kind of enemy and I do not think there is any way to make deals with them or to play them.

    I reiterate that our desire to bring down Assad is a result of the end game of seeking to bring down the Iranian government. I further think that our desire to intervene in Sysria is to provoke Iran into doing something that gives us an excuse to attack them. This is foolishness in the extreme, but it has been a persistent feature of US middle east machinations for a couple of decades. Had Iraq gone as planned, it would have already happened.

    We would be much better off dealing with Iran diplomatically, as a rational state actor, than playing footsie with islamic radicals.

    This seems to me messy and risky. Far easier to simply support Assad. We could insist that in exchange for support, Assad must grant non-retribution to any moderate rebels that want to lay down their arms as well as reforms that address whatever grievances moderates might have with his government. Set a deadline and anyone taking up arms aganst Assad after that date would be exterminated by whatever means, to include Russian and/or US airstrikes, intelligence, etc.


    no one

  17. seydlitz -

    You may not want to thank me. I felt the same way about Libya. There is no way we should have intervened militarily against Qadafi despite the fact that you and millions of Europeans were asking for the US to take action. The policy was bad then and is bad now. Assad is a thousand times crueler towards his own citizens than Qadafi ever was.

    What makes that little episode of the American use of martial power more sacrosanct? Oil?

    1. mike-

      Why wouldn't I thank you? Libya? What has that got to do with Syria? Very different political context, although US confusion - as a result of our political dysfunction - is highly evident in both.

  18. FDChief -

    I nowhere implied in this post that we should bring down Assad. And I agree that we should be using all of our diplomatic brilliance (sorry I could not resist that joke) to engage with Iran. I believe I mentioned that in my 1:55pm comment yesterday.

    As for the 'dream solution': Sure, you are right that there are some in AQ that would prefer to have us stomping around in Syria. They would then have a target rich environment of American servicemen. And they could rebroadcast to the Ummah all of our collateral damage against helpless babies making us out worse than Assad.

    But hopefully we will not go in militarily.

    And if we also do nothing with soft power? Then I believe there are some smart ones in AQ that realize it gives them the chance to become the heroes of Syria. They could claim to be the only ones to stand up against the evils of Assad's chemical warfare while the West did absolutely nothing.

    PS - where are you getting the 25% figure?

  19. oops sorry - that 25% number came from no-one. but the question still stands, mr no-one, what is your source for that percentage?

  20. @no one: "They are not afraid to die for their cause. Many even welcome the opportunity to do so. They are not motivated by rational - or at least what we would call rational - factors. This is the worst kind of enemy and I do not think there is any way to make deals with them or to play them."

    The Japanese also welcomed the opportunity to die for their cause. Yet we stopped them cold less than six months after Pearl. And we had them on the run within a year.

    Who is suggesting that we make a deal with the Takfiri? Or to try to play them? Nobody on this blog that I am aware of/

  21. "mr no-one, what is your source for that percentage?


    Seems to me it's common knowledge. Even the winter warrior himself acknowledges that 15% - 25% are extremist and he said so.

    Yes, Japan lost momentum at Midway and Gaudalcanal, but it still took three years of fierce no holds barred, no quarter asked, no quarter given combat on Islands across the Pacific on top of a ruthless bombing campaign that included WMD to bring the intractable enemy to unconditional surrender.

    "Who is suggesting that we make a deal with the Takfiri? Or to try to play them? "

    It's implied in the policy of seeking regime change in Syria and in the failure to kill - or at least help kill -these people.

    no one

  22. Or, let me put it this way, Mike, is anyone here proposing helping Assad destroy the takfiris?

    There they are. Right in front of us in Syria. Lined up in front of our sights like they're target on the KD range; Bolding video taping themselves Jumping up and down shouting Allah Akbar, executing prisoners and civilians and sawing off heads and burning churches. The same enemy we've been overtly fighting in a very "hard" way for twelve years and, really, since the first world trade towers bombing. The guys who attacked the Cole. The guys who blew up our embassies. They guys that turned commercial airliners into manned missiles right here at home.

    What are we doing about it? At best -Nada. Zip. Zilch. At worst, giving them some form of support.

    If you don't support Assad, you support the takfiris.

    no one


    (and elsewhere)

    Sems the Russians have outfoxed us and developed a soft solution that should cause the US to back off. Synopsis: Russia asked for Syria to place all of its chemical weapons under international control and Syria agreed.

    Now what will our excuse be?

    no one

  24. Getting back to your comment about WW2 and the Japs - I'm not sure what you were trying to do in bringing it up. At any rate, Marines knew that the only "good" jap was a dead jap. And that's how the war in the Pacific was fought. I think remebering that fact is more salient to the current topic than Midway.

    no one

    1. That's bullshit on so many levels.

      The Pacific War was fought the way the admirals wanted it (with useless detours due to MacArthur), and they didn't buy into their own BS propaganda.
      Japanese bases were bypassed en masse.

  25. "Imo, Phil's making a Clausewitzian argument, where "completion" would be the return to peace after the war had ended and the goals of policy attained through military means"

    I understand that's what Phil's saying. What I'm skeptical about is something along the lines of what you're saying, which is that the "goals of the policy" are nearly impossible to figure out because the "policy" itself is so utterly incoherent. Even the first part - the "after the war ended" part - is difficult to forsee. Does this turn out to be one of those conflicts that don't "end" for generations? Can it "end" short of the disintegration of Syria as a nation-state? If the rebellion succeeds does it take years or decades for the rebels to finish sorting themselves out?

    1. FD Chief-

      What I'm saying is that the "policy" isn't really ours, but that of Saudi & co. They are clear enough in their goals and our strategic incoherence makes us essentially a "tool", which part seemingly BHO was more than happy to play at least at first . . .

      Very nice play by the Russians btw. But then they understand strategic thinking and how it all fits together. The Russians have saved BHO's azz since the whole intel basis of his story was beginning to unravel . . .

  26. no one:"Synopsis: Russia asked for Syria to place all of its chemical weapons under international control and Syria agreed."

    Only if you assume that Syria is actually going to DO this, for which at this point is no more a certainty than anything ELSE in this idiotic business.

    The Assad regime has every reason in the world to now begin stalling and time-wasting and the Russians to aid and abet this.

    This does add some interesting complexity to the whole macguffin, however.

  27. mike: "I nowhere implied in this post that we should bring down Assad."

    And I nowhere implied you did. The point I disputed was your interpretation of who the rebels are and what they're doing; "Of course if we do nothing then just more and more Takfiri will immigrate to Syria. And then they could take over the FSA and other elements in the Syrian opposition; or at least put them in the minority, Al Qaeda’s dream solution for Syria would be for the West to do nothing. That would allow them to step in big time and gain them the thanks and support of not only the Syrian Sunnis, but Sunnis everywhere including our allies in Jordan and Turkey, plus those Sunni countries that are on the fence."

    My point was and is; we don't KNOW what will happen if we do "something". We don't - at this point - even really know what that "something" could be. But we do have the track record of the U.S. in the Middle East, and to this point our doing "something" kinetic has typically resulted in some...less-than-optimal outcomes.

    That was OBL's plan; attack the U.S. and prompt an explosion of rage and military adventurism all over the Middle East, radicalizing formerly neutral or at-worst passively anti-American Muslims. Worked like a charm, too; even Rummy admitted that we didn't have the slightest fucking clue but that there was perhaps a 50-50 chance that every wraphead we killed generated another enemy...

    When you look at the "big picture" it's even worse. Between us the U.S. and Israel have done a ton of the heavy lifting for the salafi jihadis. From '48 all the way to 2003 the single most consistent trope is the failure of the secular Arab regimes against Israel and the West. We showed the Muslim inhabitants of the Middle East that going with a secular strongman is a total loser, that the only groups that succeeded against the Great Satan were the Islamic organizations and the mullahs in Iran.

    Now that we've sowed the wind are we so sure that puffing on the flames in Syria won't just speed up the whirlwind. I'm not. Are you?


  28. (con't from above)

    The bottom line on this is that I tend to agree that there are "somethings" we can do here.

    We should at least try some sort of negotiated solution that works to keep the salafis out of Damascus. That may not be possible, but in this case we have Hezbollah and Iran in Assad's corner, so who knows? Between them and the Russians something might work out. The problem is that the Turks, Jordan, and the Saudis are playing the other side, and they have some pretty serious assets in place - better than we do, anyway.

    The other thing we REALLY need to be doing is working to figure out how to relieve the economic disaster in Syria. My understanding is that THE biggest single reason (and there are a whole pantsload of causes for this, like any civil war) this civil war erupted is the drought and crop failures that hit beginning in 2008. That drove tens of thousands of poor Sunni farmers off their land into the cities where the was no work. These mooks put pressure on the Assad government and it responded with violent repression that backfired and kicked off the fighting.

    So unless there's some way to piece the Syrian agricultural economy together - or piece the damn thing together some OTHER way - there's no real chance that, Assad or no Assad, this place isn't an explosion waiting to happen...again.

    Still, IMO the bottom line is that we, the U.S., have such a 1) poor track record, 2) piss-poor strategic and geopolitical intelligence and decision-making process and agencies for the Middle East, and 3) obviously deeply flawed conception and approach to Syria and this crisis that the "best" of the bad options at this point is to stay as hands-off as possible and work through local proxies to ensure that the worst-of-the-local-factions are kept as far from power in Damascus as possible...

  29. I still don't see any good coming from the US use of military force. I wrote this back in Feb. 2012 on military options in Syria and I think it stands up pretty well today.

    Pretty much nothing makes sense about this. Dempsey's silence during the hearings was deafening - it was obvious that he thinks the whole thing is a farce, which it is.

  30. "As for kinetic options I am still against them. But have to admit that my inner 17-year-old said 'go for it' when Iran's supreme leader Khameini warned us not to do it - or else. Hopefully BHO and Sergeant Hagel don't take dares the same way as me. "

    Remember, your inner 17-year old is dumb; you've either spent years not letting him run your life, or years suffering for having done so.

  31. SO, "That's bullshit on so many levels.

    The Pacific War was fought the way the admirals wanted it (with useless detours due to MacArthur)...."

    Many bypassed islands were still subjected to heavy naval bombardment and the Japanese garrisons on them reduced to barely living scarecrows due to lack of adequate provisions. These were hardly an effective fighting force. Others faired somewhat better on islands where food could be grown, but still, due to the fact they were stranded on island fortresses, they could not be a factor in the outcome of the war. They were cut off. Once their emperor had surrender they agreed, out of continued loyalty, to follow the emperor's last wish. Had the emperor asked them to continue fighting their descendants would still be out there killing Americans whenever the opportunity arose.

    How are you going to cut off AQ chapters in today's interconnected world? If you could, you would. You can't. Where is the equivalent of the emperor that will ask them to lay down their arms? There isn't one. They will have to all be killed whenever *we* have the opportunity to accomplish this. Otherwise, they are going to remain a threat.

    The US admirals chose to assault islands that were strategic stepping stones to the Japanese mainland; or that were deemed threats to the stepping stone strategy. Hindsight being 20/20, some campaigns, such as Peleliu, are questioned today. What's the point? When engagement occurred the fighting was as I described.

    My old man was a Marine in the Pacific (WIA, Okinawa). He hated Japs 'till the day he died. Refused to even buy a Jap camera and would curse at people driving Japanese made cars. The record shows that a lot of combat Marines hated the Japs. That is no bullshit.

    no one

  32. "Only if you assume that Syria is actually going to DO this......"

    Why wouldn't they? It's all up-side

  33. FDChief -

    10000 gomenazais for confusing your coments with "mr no-one's". Hopefully both you and he or at least one of you are honored by my mistake.

  34. no-one -

    I have no idea who the winter warrior is that you cite.

    BTW it looks like Obama is the one that put Putin on the initiative to have Syria place all of its chemical weapons under international control. So he is the fox IMO. He snookered Putin, Assad, and Netanyahu. Good on him I say.

  35. Mike, I suppose that's one way to look at it.

    Winter warrior = Kerry

    1. I like the term. It kind of implies someone who has been in harm's way and "seen the elephant" as the old civil war vets used to say. As opposed to the summer patriots who pushed for war but stayed home (like Junior Bush and Cheney).

      Not sure that Kerry deserves the name if he is truly pushing for war now. But I suspect he was fronting for Obama while he (Obama) was working the back channel diplomatic solutions at the G20 with Putin and others.

  36. @FDChief - "The bottom line on this is that I tend to agree that there are "somethings" we can do here."

    Glad to hear it chief. And I believe the possible solutions you mention are exceedingly feasible.

    Good to have you back occasionally from the WASF dark side.

  37. Mike,

    Hard to believe that gambit was planned by the admin, coming, as it did, from a extemporaneous question and response. Much more likely it was Putin trap. Doesn't matter much to me, though, I'm happy that this stupid attack seems turned off, at least temporarily.

  38. Or a mutual scramble; Obama realized that (1) Congress was going to actually get up on their hind legs and do something; (2) the strategic plan was sh*t (bomb and hope for something good to happen); (3) whomever 'wins' this war, it's a sh*t-fest; (4) nobody in the international community really wanted in. So he punted to Congress to either have an excuse or make them sign on, and when Putin offered this, he agreed to not unleash a can of whoop-ass.

  39. I think you are correct Barry, though it must be noted that BHO is still making a case for war (tonight) and the winter warrior now says, ""nothing focuses the mind like the prospect of a hanging."

    Who are these guys? BHO, the pirate, wanting to fire shots across the bow and Kerry the wild west vigilante. Kind of odd, because you'd think it would be BHO talking about lynching and former squid Kerry getting into to loosing ye olde grapeshot and - shiver me timbers - givin' the scallywags a mighty broadside.

  40. Andy -

    Not sure why you think this was a Putin trap??? What was he trapping? This plays into our hands - not Assad's. Unless you think that Obama was going for regime change. There is no way I believe that. If that had been Obama's game he would have acted long ago. The extemporaneous Q & A you mention has been debunked in my mind. Hope you are not stating to believe the wolf-pack press.

    As for Putin, yeah, maybe he gets some favorable press working this deal (if it works). But by letting Putin take the credit Obama has shown the essence of good diplomacy. And besides it never would have been accepted if the US had proposed it (probably would have been laughed off the world stage).

  41. Barry - My inner 17-year-old is still getting me in trouble at 70. Mrs Mike manages to keep him in check though.

    1. My point is that our 'inner 17-year-old' is no more trustworthy than his pet, 'our gut'.

  42. The difference between the Russian initiative and a US initiative to remove chem weapons from the Assad arsenal is that the latter is based on a threat of arms, and the former is not. Thus, Assad gets "credit" for a willingness to engage in diplomacy if he goes with the Russian approach, rather than bowing to a military threat with the US approach.

    Vladimir Putin may be a thug, but he's not stupid. Since 9/11, the US has shown a propensity for using "diplomacy" more for gaining allies in a desire to make a military strike, than to solve the "problem" the strike was allegedly addressing. Putin has thus painted himself as a "true diplomat", providing a solution without the threat of military action to get the desired results. Meanwhile BHO has offered that a military strike is the only solution, and has been pounding the streets, domestically and overseas, to recruit support.

    Personally, I don't see the value of the primary objective being "punishing" Assad. To me, the optimal initial solution is to get chem weapons off the table. Then the world needs to turn to diplomatic and humanitarian means to end the suffering, on a long term basis, without regard to who ends up in power.

    Slightly different topic:

    Keep in mind, that about 10% of the Syrian population is Christian, primarily under the Patriarch of Antioch. Also under the Patriarch is the Church in Lebanon, Iraq, parts of Turkey and some other Muslim countries. Toppling or driving out the Patriarch gives Islamic extremists a boost in rooting out Christianity in not just Syria, but most of the area. Assad has not allowed persecution of the Church, at home and abroad, and has actually negotiated some accommodations for co-existance between historic Christianity and Islam. Look at Egypt, under the Patriarch of Alexandria, for a sneak preview of what Islamic extremists have in store for the native Christian population and Church.

  43. Here's one view of the status of the US, Europe and Russia on the world stage as the Syria drama plays on.

  44. Mike,

    IMO, the question from the press and the answer given by Kerry were extemporaneous. I could be wrong, of course, but it doesn't appear to be an act to me. The Russians, wisely, pounced on Kerry's comments. They are playing a much more sophisticated game than we are.

    In the end I don't really care about those details, at least in the short term - I'm just glad this stupid war got turned off for a while. Long-term, I have little confidence in the upcoming negotiations, but one can always hope.

  45. @Andy - "I'm just glad this stupid war got turned off for a while."

    Me too.

    As for the details, I for one am glad to see the KGB guy get some points internationally. And if that hurts Obama's credibility I am sure he is laughing up his sleeve regardless of whose idea it was originally. Perhaps as you say it was not Obama. Although something eerily similar was suggested in the press by a couple of US congressmen more than ten days prior to Putin's surprise.

    Or it could have been someone else at the G20 that dropped some hints to Putin. Svenn's dear leader Ms Merkel maybe? Erdogan and King Abdullah were there. Surely not France, even though President Hollande was a socialist, that probably does not carry much weight in todays Russia? In any case I do not believe it was a trap as you mention.

  46. Here's the link:

    Perhaps the Patriarch of Moscow, who knows the Patriarch of Antioch, put the bug in Putin's ear to defuse (forgive the pun) then chem weapons issue. Used our "Orthodox Secret Handshake"?

    I wouldn't sell Patriarch John X of Antioch short in his ability to garner "peaceful" approaches to the current conflict. +John X has an exceptional academic and pastoral background, and is well acquainted with Metropolitan Hilarion, the Director of the Russian Orthodox Church's Department of External Affairs, another impeccably educated and experienced young man who is a close adviser to the Patriarch of Moscow. +John X has been calling for a diplomatic solution to end the suffering of all Syrian peoples, without taking partisan political sides. Similar appeals to the Obama administration by the Antiochian Archbishop of North America has received no response.

    +John X's brother, Bishop Boulos is one of the two Syrian bishops who were kidnapped at gunpoint last April, while on a humanitarian mission to Aleppo, and are still unaccounted for. He has more skin in the game than the average duck.

    It would not surprise me if +John X called upon the Patriarchate of Moscow to push Putin for a non-violent approach to the chem weapons deal. he's a sharp cookie, as is +Hilarion, the External Affairs guy. Both of them were lecturers at Cambridge when the wife and I studied there 1999 - 2003. We not only spent classroom time with them, but socially, and were quite impressed with their sophisticated worldview.

    If the Church was involved, it would definitely have been totally behind the scenes, as political action is forbidden by Canon. But then, if they were seeking humanitarian ends, it is not political. Further, having a Christian leader broker a sensible approach would only inflame the Islamic extremists. Putin is the perfect "front man".

  47. Meanwhile, back at the Ranch


  48. This comment has been removed by the author.

  49. Al,

    Thanks for the link and info - I had completely forgotten about the ties between Christians in Russia and Syria.

  50. Putin is quite eloquent! Using the words from our own Declaration of Independence to trash the notion of American exceptionalism.

    My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

  51. NBC is reporting that rebels have rejected Russia's deal (whereas Assad accepted it immediately). If the rebels don't have chemical weapons why reject the deal? Why even offer it to them in the first place. Of course, the IC KNOWS that the rebels have chemical weapons and is pretty sure it was they who used them and that is the answer to both questions.

    The BHO as machiavellian genius for peace gambit is looking quite wrong at this point.

    Putin punked him and his administration and he's going to look even stupider as this thing drags on.


    Prediction, BHO ends his term mired in the lowest approval rating of any POTUS ever and the US image, domestically and abroad, is utterly destroyed as a senseless stew of stupidity, hypocrisey and violence.

    "Yes we can!"

    no one

  52. No-one - false flags work both ways and not only internationally. Beware of Americans punking each other for political advantage.

  53. Interesting times gentlemen . . .

    I'm thinking about doing a post on President Putin's Oped in the NYT . . . very interesting from a strategic theory perspective . . . But then I also have to work . . . vacation's over . . . along with the summer . . . and my sabat . . .

    We'll see what happens . . . it'll be fun . . .

  54. That would be a good post Seydlitz. I for one welcome it.

    Putin's words: "My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust." and "I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria." It does not sound like to me that those are the words of a man who 'punked' Obama as some have tried to claim.

  55. pl, "No-one - false flags work both ways and not only internationally. Beware of Americans punking each other for political advantage."

    I understand that.

    If our leadership - our elected representatives - are busy punking each other when something as serious as war is on the table, then we have an unserious leadership that has made punks of itself, in totality, as well of us, The People.

    This is a fairly simple situation, IMO, if we are not punks. Israel is not a 51st state. Our interests and theirs can and do diverge. Let them not dictate our ME policy. The Syrian "rebels" are comprised of our enemies. These are intractable enemies. Therefore, first and foremost, they must be crushed out. Assad poses no threat to us. Help him crush the rebels and gain a few concessions in the process. Perhaps even gain some negotiating points with Iran. End of story. Any thinking of a more grandiose nature is pure folly and is doomed to fail.

    The American people are ready to understand this approach and accept it.

  56. also, when bho and others say they are not aiming for regime change, yet arm the rebels, that is an attempt to punk us all. It doesn't even make sense.

    I see no false flags or clever Machiavellianism here; just contempt for the people.

  57. IMHO, Putin is quite cleverly positioning himself and Russia as the true defenders of international law and peaceful solutions.

    He is casting Russia as the major non-violent player in this whole mess, and in a world that is weary of violence, much of which involves the US abroad, he's got a sympathetic audience. Stating "I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria", could easily imply to a sympathetic audience that Russia is the leadership in this issue, especially in light of his championing the UN and "wisdom" of its charter and "The Veto" in promoting world peace.

    Clearly, he suggests the US would be operating outside the law:

    From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law………….The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.

    Interesting that he suggests Russia agrees to subordinate itself to international law, but the US does not. Whether or not it is international law that has led to Putin's policies toward Syria, he sure can claim the moral high ground on the basis of his actions. And actions speak louder than assumed motives.

    With a significant portion of the US population opposing armed intervention in Syria, crafty Vlad is not just painting himself and Russia as "law abiding members of the world community", but a friend of the American people who share his rejection of a military solution. With the Right’s knee jerk hatred of BHO, Vlad has probably gained sympathy from a fair number of them.

    The guy is quite clever. He has basically painted the US, based on our actions over the past decade or so, as the rogue bully.

  58. And while the world was focusing on Putin's role as true defender of law and peace, Prime Minister Abe of Japan had sent his right hand man to Teheran to convince the Iranians to have Syria get rid of its chemo arsenal. Masahiko Kōmura, former Foreign Minister, former Defense Minister, and former Justice Minister was canoodling with Rouhani the day after the G20. As both countries were victims of WMD they have issued joint statements to that effect and that they stand against its use. Teheran has a lot of clout in Damascus - as much or more as Moscow - so hopefully this leads somewhere.

    Now some might want to claim that Putin put Abe up to this as part of his punking initiative. I have major problems with that line of thinking.

  59. pl-

    Welcome to our humble blog . . .


    Needless to say I see the Russian move a bit differently . . . hopefully will have something up this weekend. Working day tomorrow . . .

  60. mike-

    Really doesn't matter who really pulled of the "diplomatic solution". Fact is, it wasn't the US. Thus, we said, "We are going to punish you", and the rest of the civilized world said that violence isn't the answer. Now we just have to see how it plays out. If the chem weapons are effectively neutralized, the world wins, but the US loses stature.

  61. Al -

    You are correct that it does not matter who pulled off the diplomatic solution. But you are wrong that the US had nothing to do with it. And if the chem weapons are neutralized, we (the US) will reap the same benefits as the rest of the world. As for losing stature, we lost that ten years ago under Cheney, it cannot get any lower. We have nowhere to go but up in world opinion.

    There is a lot more to be done though, both diplomatically and behind the scenes peacefully with regard to Syria. I don't see Russia or Iran doing much more than PR. A peace in Syria is not in their best interests unless it is a peace fully under the control of Assad's armored glove.

  62. House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-Mich) said:

    "He (Putin) wanted [Syrian President Bashar] Assad there," Rogers continued. "He gets to keep his warm water port. He gets to keep his military contracts. And he gives breathing space to both Hezbollah, which is fighting on behalf of Assad, and Assad. And he creates a problem for us with al-Qaeda operating in the [Middle] East. This was a big win for him."

    Now, I can understand Rogers' list of positive outcomes for Russia, but how does he come up with not attacking Assad creating a problem for us with al-Qaeda, other than their being miffed we didn't attack their foe, Assad? Where would the positive outcomes for the US, in terms of al-Qaeda, be in attacking the Syrian government?

  63. Al-

    Rogers is hopelessly confused by the Global War on Terror narrative . . . his contradictory statements reflect him attempting (unsuccessfully) to make sense of it . . . time to retire Mike . . .