Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Shores of Tripoli..?

Anyone care to speculate WTF is going on in Libya? Turkish invasion? Seriously?

Sunday, January 26, 2020

“...disunited, undisciplined, ambitious, faithless...”

Worth noting, as we drift unmoored through the final days of the Republic, that we're showing as many indicators of a late-stage political dissolution abroad as we are at home, one of these being an increased dependence on mercenaries to fight our cabinet wars.

I'm not going to pretend that these hired guns are going to have anything like the negative domestic effects Niccolo Machiavelli reported they had on the Italy of the Renaissance:
"Mercenaries...are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. The fact is, they have no other attraction or reason for keeping the field than a trifle of stipend, which is not sufficient to make them willing to die for you. They are ready enough to be your soldiers whilst you do not make war, but if war comes they take themselves off or run from the foe; which I should have little trouble to prove, for the ruin of Italy has been caused by nothing else than by resting all her hopes for many years on mercenaries, and although they formerly made some display and appeared valiant amongst themselves, yet when the foreigners came they showed what they were."
The United States is not the Florence of the 1500s; we will neither be conquered nor ruined by these mercenaries.

But a putative republic should be concerned with the interests of its citizens. When it increasingly becomes, through using hired troops to further divorce its actions abroad from its people at home, more of an imperium it furthers the conditions that make all the more likely that - although the standards may still read "The Senate and People" - that the orders that move those standards do not reflect any actual intent to do good for, or further the interests of, We the People.

I wish I could, as I so often do, make this into a partisan problem. It's not; the desire to make the nation's military adventures less fraught with political consequences has been sought by the "leadership" of all factions outside the tiny genuinely Red Left (such as it is) and the equally tiny isolationist Right.

No, it's not a Democratic or Republican problem.

It's an "American" problem, and one generated by the massive indifference We the People have shown towards holding our "leaders" accountable to us for their indifference towards...I won't even say "our interests"; it's an indifference towards even trying to honestly and openly assess what those interests are.

Any truly rational evaluation of the value of spending blood and treasure to send soldiers - any soldiers - to chase the ragged aspirants of a theocratic fantasy around a disputatious and chaotic foreign region would quickly conclude that value is utterly nil. All the bullets ever cast cannot kill the notion of Islamic hegemony any more than they could kill Christian dominionism when it was the animating force of the West. It took an Enlightenment to do that, and by our part in discrediting and destroying the secular authorities in the Islamic lands we've done a hell of a fucking good job ensuring that the Islamic Enlightenment is further away than ever.

I have not desire to see my fellow soldiers thrown into this pointless abyss.

But I have even less desire to see my country continue to sow the dragon's teeth simply because I and my fellow citizens are too lazy and disengaged to bother with that sowing when it's done not by our "own" hands but by hired ploughmen tilling foreign fields with the seed my taxes have bought.

Those underneath the harrow are not too stupid to know whose money is behind the rifle, regardless of who is actually carrying it. If we do not understand that, if we do not understand the idiocy of trying to use those hired rifles to divorce ourselves from our cluelessness and geopolitical stupidity, we will never understand that we can never hire enough of those rifles to ever prevent being continually nipped by the dragons.
"...he who told us that our sins were the cause of it told the truth, but they were not the sins he imagined, but those which I have related. And as they were the sins of princes, it is the princes who have also suffered the penalty." ~The Prince, Chapter XII

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Jihadi Jumbo

Abu Abdul Bari, also known as Shifa al-Nima, was arrested in Iraq Thursday.  The high ranking daeshi Imam, supposedly an authority on Sharia, has been charged with issuing fatwa death sentences against other clerics who had repudiated the daeshis.  Also allegedly ordered the destruction of the Tomb and Mosque of Biblical Prophet Yunus (Jonah) back in 2014 saying it had become a place of apostasy.  Or was he jealous of the whale? 

Affectionately nicknamed 'Jabba' and the man who put the fat in 'fatwa'.    They could not cram him into a police car, so they hauled him off in the back of a pickup truck.  Where has he been hiding all this time?  He'll break the scaffold if they hang him.  Unless of course they put him on a radical diet first. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020


One week

One week into

One week into the New Year

And here we are...

I thought Iran would proxy us, and to be honest, I'm surprised they took direct action.

But the details coming out about how Qassaem Soleimani was lured to his assassination explains a lot about the duplicity of how we cravenly used duplicity to kill a man under a white flag.

I don't even know what to think or say...just...fuck.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

New Year starts with a bang

Well the Moron has just put over 5000 US troops and 7000 US contractors in the firing line.  Wag the Dog strategy.  War for partisan internal politics.  Popmpom and the neocons now apparently have control of the Idiot's brain.

Not only Suleiman, but also Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Hashd al-Shaabi, and a member of the Iraqi National Council, who was said to be in line for Iraqi Minister of Defense.  Several other high ranking Hasd al-Shaabi leaders killed.  The attack was reportedly done by attack rotary wing on a convoy traveling on the Baghdad Airport road.
Mr. Thucydides on Line 1... An addendum from FDChief

Mike has given us the bare facts, but I want to add a note on just how geopolitically moronic this is.

Leaving aside the purely moral questions of murder-by-drone (and I suspect that a drone is more likely to have been the Angel of Death here rather than an Army aircraft...) any politico-military act by a Great Power can and should be judged by the cost versus the benefit of the action. So, let's look at those here; first, what are the benefits?

1. Taking a powerful Iranian piece off the board.

Fred Kaplan has a pretty good summary of the larger view of this action here (he also calls it an "act of war" eliding, I think, the reality that the U.S. and Iran have been in a cold war since Trump's abrogation of the JCPOA). Bottom line is that the Dead Guy was effectively the combined Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the CINC of Special Operations for Iran. This was a decapitation strike and, as such, a successful one.

2. Reminding everyone, especially everyone in the Middle East, and especially everyone in Iran, that the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.

Not that anyone really needed that reminder. But this is an in-your-face example of the Ledeen Doctrine. As such it raises as many questions as it answers, and we'll discuss that below. But there's no question that this is a sort of "you're not safe anywhere" gesture to anyone thinking about giving Uncle Sammy the side-eye.

3. Aaaaand...that kinda runs me out of "benefits".

Seriously. I'm not sure what else this does, other than ratchets up the US-Iran cold war.

OK, so...what are the (direct) costs?

1. Rachets up the US-Iran cold war.

Which in itself isn't a good thing, but my real concern is that it could lead to a US-Iran hot war, and there's simply no "good" result of that.

Look, the United States at this phase of it's existence is a "status quo" Power. Stability and regularity are its friends, chaos and uncertainty its foes. Like any status-quo Great Power, it benefits when it can work with smaller regional powers to exert its influence. When it's forced to respond to troubles thrown out by regional instability it risks - as it has found - getting mired in endless sapping brushfire wars and profitless imperial adventures. Status-quo Powers are not usually good at "responding", they're not designed to be nimble or flexible. They do best when they can surround themselves with buffers of client and proxy states that can be bribed, wheedled, intimidated, or some combination of all three, into doing the Power's dirty work for them.

What We the People should have learned from the last 19 years is that "regime change" in politically un- or under-developed polities is unlikely to produce more stability. The Clintonistas tried to "save" Somalia and just knocked it further into the tules. The Bushies knocked the Saddam cork off the Iraq bottle and produced the unholy clusterfuck that this move is part of. The Obamites went along with defenestrating Ghaddafi in Libya and produced an even-more-failed-state.

Removing the mullahs from Iran won't produce a "better" Iran (from a US policy standpoint). Whoever follows is going to be 1) Persian, and, as such, convinced of Iran's place as the regional middleweight power, and 2) reminded that the US has not been a good thing for Iran since back in the 1950s - he, she, or they will remember Mossadegh and the Shah and the Gulf War and, now, this.

2. Replaces the Dead Bad Guys with...some other bad guys we don't know.

The Trumpkins make much of how the Dead Guy was a Bad Guy, but...c'mon. Seriously? This was fucking Napoleon? How "irreplaceable" a military-political genius was this joker? It's not like the IRGC is some sort of modern-day Alexander's Companions. They've made trouble in the Middle East and...what? Like it's that difficult to make trouble in the Middle East? Like it takes some sort of 12-dimension-chess-master? The cemeteries are full of irreplaceable men.

And - as we found with Ghaddafi and Saddam - sometimes the people who replace the guys you kill are madder, badder, and more dangerous to know.

I said this succeeded as a decapitation strike. But who knows? It may turn out to be a "Yamamoto shootdown"; a little revenge drama that has no impact on the military organization it's targeting. Only this one wasn't in the middle of buttrump nowhere Southwest Pacific but at the freaking Baghdad Airport, which brings us to...

3. Punks the Baghdad government and every Iraqi regardless of political affiliation.

Imagine how you would feel if your neighbor kicked your door down, walked into your kitchen, and shot dead the guest your cousin had invited in.

You might not like the guest, or your cousin all that much...but that? That's a punch in your face. That's utterly contemptuous of you and your home. The neighbor has, to put it bluntly, just shown that you are his bitch. If you don't respond with force, are.

It's one thing to know that the strong do what they can. It's another thing to have your nose rubbed in it.

Seriously, I have no idea how the current government in Baghdad survives this if they don't make every American persona non grata and order the whole nutroll out of their country within 30 days. Hell, you'd think that they'd demand the extradition of the drone operator and everyone in their chain of command on murder charges. They won't...but why not? I mean, it kinda WAS premeditated murder.

3. Bogs the US even further in the Middle Eastern/Sunni-Shia War of Religion mire.

The one thing that everyone here has tried to make a Trump Positive is his supposed longing to #endendleswars. How the hell does this do anything to do that? I want to whack this dude? Fine. You can't find a way to get him to turn up in the Baghdad Marriot with a fatal heart attack, two labradoodles and a boy toy wearing a full wetsuit and stripper heels? Instead you choose the most ridiculously in-your-face fuck-you to every Masud and Amina between Gibraltar and the Celebes?


We've had discussions here that always seem to come back to the "Well, sure, Trump talks bugnuts shit, but that's just Trump..." thing. But I think this is a perfect example of WHY it's a problem. This doesn't strike me as something that was the result of some sort of deep foreign policy analysis. This feels like Trump gets pissed off at these pesky little Persians fucking with HIS embassy and making the news like he was a girly-man Jimmy Carter sorta wuss and calls down to his CIA Iran desk and says "Goddamn it, find me some Iranian sonofabitch to kill!" so he can look Strong and Commanding. This really is Foreign Policy by Tweet.

I'm not trying to say that he's somehow breaking U.S. Middle Eastern policy. That's been a shitshow since we stepped into the French and British colonial shoes after 1945.

But the feckless bastard has found ways to make it an even bigger shitshow, and after Bush I wasn't sure that was even possible.

What a fecking mess.

Update 1/4/20: Oh, for fuck's sake...
OK, so...the part where this whole idiocy is "Foreign Policy by Tweet"?

1) Fifty-two hostages? The 1979-1980 "Hostage Crisis"? Seriously?

2) "Iranian culture"? You're advertising that you're gonna war crime Iran by targeting cultural heritage sites? Why not bomb Coventry Cathedral, too, bubba, so you can bag the sweep. Jesus wept.

3) No more threats, hunh? I guess you're King of the Playground now, Spunky.

IF one of my troops had actied this stupid I'd have had the sonofabitch pulling extra duty until he ETSed. Since the POTUS is in the chain of command,...

Update 1/5/20: No, duh.

Like I said; this was fucking inevitable.

Anyone but a complete goddamn moron or goddamn Donnie Trump - but I repeat myself - could have seen this coming. KNEW this was coming the minute the warhead of the Reaper missile detonated. Does it mean that the GIs will have to do a Saigon-embassy-un-ass the joint? Maybe. The Baghdad government knows damn well that the GIs are the only militarily effective force in their country, and that if the GIs go it'll be a matter of time before the Sunni rebels re-rebel (the ridiculous Islamic State panic masked the reality that, in Iraq, anyway, the IS was more-or-less just the continuation of the Sunni resistance to the US occupation that began in 2003.

But the hell with tomorrow; today the Iraqi pols have only one choice, and that's between giving Uncle Sammy the finger, or being his tool. No Iraqi pol is stupid enough to think that being a Quisling is going to get him anywhere after this past week. Trump has made it cleat that his entire geopolitical approach to the Middle East is summed up in the sort of thing one of his goobers would wear on a T-shirt at one of his Nuremburg rallies; "Kick the ass. Take their gas."

IF I thought that Trump was serious about #endingendlesswars, that he'd simply tell the guys to grab a hat and not let the door hit them in the ass?


But whacking Solemani and sending paratroops to Kuwait and not even feinting towards repealing the AUMFs?

Nope. He's not even trying. He's pulling your leg just like he pulled the poor bastards' legs who "invested" in his fake university. That's who he is. That's what he does.