No 1476 Posted by fw, October 10, 2015
“On Syria, Putin obviously is right. If fighting the Islamic State is the first order of business, as it should be and as even the most dunderheaded diplomats and mainstream media commentators concede, then of course the United States should coordinate with the Russians — and with Iran and with what remains of the Iraqi state as well. It should also work with, not against, the Syrian government…. in Syria, America has no goal at all, except to keep Russia and Iran down; and there isn’t even a workable strategy for that.” —Andrew Levine
In a March 2015 article, Stephen Harper tells opposition that Canada will fight ISIS threat for ‘as long as it is there’, both Mr. Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau refused to support Harper’s plan to conduct airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, warning that the mission could result in Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad “consolidating his grip on power.” They were echoing the view of the Obama administration.
As it now turns out, according to Andrew Levine, a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park, our arrogant PM appears to have hooked us up with Washington “dunces.” Moreover, the reason Mulcair and Trudeau Harper gave for opposing Harper’s mission creep was equally ill-informed.
To read the full account of Levine’s essay, outlining how the bumbling Americans got themselves into this Middle East quagmire, dragging the hapless Canadians along with them, click on the following linked title. Alternatively, below is a considerably abridged version with added subheadings.
Watch the video at the bottom of the post as embarrassed US government officials try to explain to Congress and the press why the Syrian rebels training program was such a dismal failure.
“The dunces calling the shots in Washington today still don’t get it. The murder and mayhem therefore continues.”
Stereotypes are on full display in the diplomacy around Syria: Arabs and Turks seem duplicitous and cruel; the Brits [Canadians and Australians] are supercilious junior partners; the French don’t do much except strike out on their own with aplomb; the Chinese are inscrutable; and the Russians play the world like a chess board.
Where Vladimir Putin is concerned the White House and the State Department are the Republican Party writ large, they oppose him come what may. Whether or not he is right about Syria is therefore irrelevant, in just the way that the merits of Obama’s policies are irrelevant to Republicans.
On Syria, Putin obviously is right. If fighting the Islamic State is the first order of business, as it should be and as even the most dunderheaded diplomats and mainstream media commentators concede, then of course the United States should coordinate with the Russians — and with Iran and with what remains of the Iraqi state as well. It should also work with, not against, the Syrian government.
In World War II, the United States didn’t fight the Nazis by supplying “moderate” fascists with guns and money; it joined forces with the Soviet Union.
The Soviet contribution was indispensable; it was Soviet resistance, more than anything that the United States or Great Britain did, that brought Nazism down. Stalin was a more execrable figure than Bashar Al-Assad, but there was no other way.
Despite this precedent, the Obama White House and the Clinton State Department couldn’t quite figure out that their least bad option for cleaning up or at least containing the mess they had made in Iraq and Syria was again to make a pact with a devil.
The dunces calling the shots in Washington today still don’t get it. The murder and mayhem therefore continues.
And the Middle East is now full of displaced persons, and Europe is awash with refugees and asylum seekers.
There is another major problem in the offing too; before long, hordes of jihadis will be finding their ways back to their countries of origin – in the West, in Russia, and around the world.
The catastrophic consequences of Bush and Cheney, Obama and Clinton just keep on coming
The catastrophic consequences of what George Bush and Dick Cheney started, and what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton made worse, just keep on coming.
The peoples of the Middle East can do little, at this point, to set the situation right; and Europe is hopeless. The world should therefore be grateful for whatever help Russia can provide.
It is far from clear what the outcome of direct Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war will be. But there is nothing else in the works now that stands a chance of cutting the Islamic State and other jihadi groups down to size. Everything the United States and its allies have done has made the problem worse.
Mainstream media are too busy “manufacturing consent” to let facts get in the way
Mainstream media are at a loss; having become deeply invested in villainizing Putin, they cannot or will not process what is going on. They are more comfortable Russia-bashing. This makes them ludicrous, and it makes reading what they write and listening to what they say even onerous than usual. But they don’t care; they are too busy “manufacturing consent.”
They just don’t get it: that 2011 is over, and that muddling along aimlessly, without even a semblance of a strategy, is no longer a viable option, even in the short run. Obama and Company aren’t quite checkmated yet, but the end-game is underway.
US’s main goal is to keep Russia from being a player in the Middle East
No doubt, Putin and the people around him are interested in more than just smashing the Islamic State. They also want to make Russia a player in the Middle East again.
This is something that the world’s only superpower desperately wants to avoid. America’s dependents in the region — the Saudis, the other Gulf oil states, and Israel – want to avoid it too.
A world in which Russia throws its weight around in the Middle East, would be a mixed blessing at best. It would be better than the situation now, however. Insofar as peace and stability are goals, two superpowers are better than one – at least if they are not too much at each other’s throats, and insofar as they remain generally rational.
The chances of that are much improved when the contending parties are secular; unlike most of the players in Syria and Iraq today, the United States and Russia still are.
Even beyond the larger geopolitical considerations, however, stopping the IS in its tracks would be a boon to the world. The need is urgent; and the Russians are now the world’s best hope.
“Obama’s saving grace is that he is irresolute” – he can be persuaded to do a flip-flop on Putin
There is some reason to think that John Kerry is coming around to this view. Perhaps he, or others in power who still have some of the sense they were born with, can persuade Obama to find a graceful, face-saving way to flip flop on Putin, Assad and the Iranians. It shouldn’t be too hard a sell; Obama’s saving grace is that he is irresolute.
Putin saved Obama from going too far before. Perhaps he can do it again. At least he has a goal, and a strategy. This is more than the United States has had for a very long time.
How did American diplomacy get so inept?
American diplomacy wasn’t always so inept; it got that way because, with Russia out of the picture, the United States had it too easy.
It was during the Clinton administration that America’s leaders came around to the view that Realpolitik was only for little countries, and that all countries are little except the “indispensable” United States.
Clinton got away with it; some mischievous, foul humored demon looks out for that bastard.
It helped, of course, that it was smooth going for America in the Clinton nineties; the world was not exactly at peace, but neither was it falling apart.
The Middle East was downright placid. The “Oslo process” was underway; jihadis were still, for the most part, biding their time; Iran and Iraq were too enfeebled by war and sanctions to cause concern; and Riyadh and the other Gulf capitals were practically giving oil away.
Meanwhile, with Russia’s regression to capitalism going poorly, the country was in shambles. China’s long march down the capitalist road, superintended by its Communist Party, was unfolding less tumultuously, but that country’s economy and military were also still weak. And, with only a few exceptions, the erstwhile Third World was quiescent.
America was therefore – figuratively — on top of the world. It had reliable junior partners in Europe, Asia, Australasia and Canada; and its economy was chugging along comfortably, even picking up steam as the dot-com bubble formed.
It is hard to imagine today, but back then it looked like the American century would never end. The formula for keeping it going was simple: spend more money on “defense” than the rest of the world combined — and voilà.
With the class war going well for the wrong side, there was little domestic opposition to squandering America’s wealth on its military-industrial complex; and so there was no political reason not to keep defense spending high.
This made America brawny, and brawn is all it needed. It didn’t have to be smart.
With things going well in the ‘90s, Clinton put the State Department in the hands of two “numbskulls”
Clinton could therefore put numbskulls in charge of foreign affairs; so what, if they couldn’t strategize their way out of a paper bag! He put the State Department in the hands of two of the most hapless Secretaries of State in American history — Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright.
Luckily for Obama, America is still strong enough not to have to rely on its wits. But times are changing, and America’s seemingly endless spell of dumb luck may finally be running out.
Putin is hardly a Grand Master, but he is a decent enough chess player. This more than makes up for a lot less brawn. Playing against Team Obama is like playing against a four-year-old.
Today, besides destroying ISIS, Russia and Iran want to kick the US off its high horse
Russia and Iran want to destroy the IS by any means necessary. They have other objectives too, mostly having to do with prosperity and respect or, what comes to the same thing in the world these days, with kicking the United States off its high horse.
The British and the French want the IS gone too; even more, they want to be relevant. The Chinese can afford to wait until their time comes; in the meantime, though, when it suits them, they surreptitiously do what Republicans say Obama does – “lead from behind.”
US diplomats seems to have only one goal – keep America Number One by keeping Russia and Iran down
What do our diplomats think they are doing? Their only overriding goal, it seems, is to keep America Number One. Beyond that, they take it one day at a time.
The US has not had even barely competent leaders in decades
What a sad state of affairs! Now, more than ever, the United States needs leaders who understand that the days when America could get its way in the world with impunity are coming to an end; leaders whose overriding goal is to engineer a soft landing. Needless to say, this isn’t happening. The United States has not had even barely competent leaders in decades.
And so, in Syria, America has no goal at all, except to keep Russia and Iran down; and there isn’t even a workable strategy for that.
In practice, this puts the United States and Israel on the same page, except that the Israelis do have some idea of what they want, and how to get it.
And what does Israel want? — For all the warring parties to kill each other off
The Israelis had been fine with the Assads, father and son. Despite their on-again off-again support for Lebanese Shi’ite militias, the Assads kept Israel’s northern frontier quiet.
But Israeli-Syrian coexistence had always been an unstable modus vivendi, with no love lost on either side. And so, when the clueless [Hillary] Clinton State Department decided that, like Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Al Assad had to go, the Israelis didn’t mind.
Perhaps the Israelis were clueless about the Arab Spring too. In any case, once it became clear that a stable Syria was not to be, they decided that the best they could hope for would be for all the warring parties to fight each other to exhaustion, killing off as many of each other as possible in the process.
There is, of course, a precedent for what America and Israel are up to; the one by default, the other by design. During the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), the United States and its sidekick – it is not for nothing that the Iranians call Israel “the Little Satan” — encouraged Iran and Iraq to do each other in.
For the most part, the US tilted towards Iraq; despite the virulent anti-Israeli rhetoric emanating out of Tehran, the Israelis sided with the Ayatollahs. But tilting one way or the other was mainly a matter of looking the other way. When it became expedient, the US turned on Saddam Hussein while the Israelis discovered the mother of all existential threats in Iran. The main thing, after all, was not to strengthen one or the other side, but for them both to knock each other off.
Bumbling along just doesn’t cut it any more. — the US will have to get smart fast
This, no doubt, is what Israel is hoping all the warring parties in Syria will do; and it is, for all practical purposes and for want of a better idea, what the Obama administration is working towards too, probably without being fully aware.
So much for the superior morality of the world’s two “exceptional” nations! But, for Israel, encouraging goyim [gentiles] to kill goyim – Muslims especially — is par for the course.
Shame on the United States government, however! Even in the Age of Obama, it should be able to do better – morally, of course, and geopolitically as well.
Because it resolutely will not, mainstream media’s arch-foe, Vladimir Putin, is now poised to wipe the floor with America’s “moderate” anti-Assad insurgents, and to make Obama et. al. look like fools.
Bumbling along just doesn’t cut it any more, no matter how grotesquely wasteful our defense budgets are. For a soft landing, or any tolerable landing at all, the US will have to get smart fast.
US scraps Syria rebels training program (19 min) by RT, October 9, 2015 — The decision to stop the training came after senior US officials admitted that, despite the programs’ $500 million budget, the US had only trained a handful of fighters. Even more disastrous was the fact that a stockpile of weapons given to the US-trained rebels ended up in the hands of terrorists, after the so-called ‘moderates’ willingly handed it over soon after crossing into Syria. When it comes to the reason why the original program failed, US officials remain reluctant to open up. A few months ago Defense Secretary Ashton Carter testified before of Congress, stating that it is difficult to identify rebels with the right mentality, who would not then turn over their weapons and themselves to Islamic State.
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