Posts Tagged ‘Syrian Intervention’

Glenn Greenwald sums things up

April 8, 2017

Glenn Greenwald, on The Intercept, said pretty well everything that needs to be said about President Trump’s attack on Syria.

  1.  New wars will strengthen Trump: as they do for every leader.
  2.  Democrats’ jingoistic rhetoric has left them no ability — or desire — to oppose Trump’s wars.
  3.   In wartime, US television instantly converts into state media.
  4.   Trump’s bombing is illegal, but presidents are now omnipotent.
  5.   How can those who view Trump as an inept fascist now trust him to wage war?
  6.   Like all good conspiracy theories, no evidence can kill the Kremlin-controls-Trump tale.
  7.   The fraud of humanitarianism works every time for (and on) American elites.
  8.   Support for Trump’s bombing shows two toxic U.S. conceits:  “Do something” and “Look strong.”
  9.   Obama’s refusal to bomb Assad hovers over everything.
  10.   None of this disproves, obviously, that Hillary Clinton was also a dangerous hawk.

LINK

The Spoils of War: Trump Lavished With Media and Bipartisan Praise for Bombing Syria by Glenn Greenwald for The Intercept.   Hat tip to peteybee.

Can we have war theater without fighting?

April 8, 2017

Click to enlarge.

We Americans like the spectacle of war, but, since the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam Conflict, only a small minority of us has had an appetite for actual fighting.

President Donald Trump’s attack on Syria shows that he understands this.  It was a kind of minimalist attack.   The Syrian government was given a general notice that an attack was coming, and the Russian government a specific attack, so that casualties and damage were minimal.

Except for the unfortunate Syrian troops who were killed, this was war theater, not war.

Yet he got credit for acting decisively.    Deeply unpopular before, he has been applauded by the press, Congress and even Hillary Clinton, while even Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren equivocated.   All the speculative news about Trump conspiring with Putin has vanished from the front pages.

I fear Trump has learned a bad lesson.  When unpopular, rally Americans by attacking a designated foreign enemy.  But since these attacks won’t change anything, he’ll have do something each time that is more impressive than what he did the time before, which means a higher risk of sliding from token war into general war.

I don’t think that Trump scared Bashar al Assad, Hassan Rouhani, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping or Kim Jong-on.   I think they understand what is going on very well.  I don’t think they can be bluffed or intimidated.   As my father said, never start a fight you are not prepared to finish.

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Scott Adams on the Syrian gas attacks

April 7, 2017

[Correction 4/8/2017: Sarin, as peteybee of Spread an Idea pointed out, is a liquid, not a gas.]

Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon and a self-described expert on persuasion, thinks that the best way for President Trump to respond to fake news about Syrian gas attacks is by means of a fake response—

The reason the Assad government would bomb its own people with a nerve agent right now is obvious. Syrian President Assad – who has been fighting for his life for several years, and is only lately feeling safer – suddenly decided to commit suicide-by-Trump.

Scott Adams

Because the best way to make that happen is to commit a war crime against your own people in exactly the way that would force President Trump to respond or else suffer humiliation at the hands of the mainstream media.

And how about those pictures coming in about the tragedy.  Lots of visual imagery. Dead babies.

It is almost as if someone designed this “tragedy” to be camera-ready for President Trump’s consumption.  It pushed every one of his buttons.  Hard.  And right when things in Syria were heading in a positive direction.

  • Interesting timing.
  • Super-powerful visual persuasion designed for Trump in particular.
  • Suspiciously well-documented event for a place with no real press.
  • No motive for Assad to use gas to kill a few dozen people at the cost of his entire regime. It wouldn’t be a popular move with Putin either.
  • The type of attack no U.S. president can ignore and come away intact.
  • A setup that looks suspiciously similar to the false WMD stories that sparked the Iraq war.

I’m going to call bullshit on the gas attack.  It’s too “on-the-nose,” as Hollywood script-writers sometimes say, meaning a little too perfect to be natural.  This has the look of a manufactured event.

My guess is that President Trump knows this smells fishy, but he has to talk tough anyway.  However, keep in mind that he has made a brand out of not discussing military options.  He likes to keep people guessing.  He reminded us of that again yesterday, in case we forgot.

So how does a Master Persuader respond to a fake war crime?

He does it with a fake response, if he’s smart.

Source: Scott Adams’ Blog.

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Did Bashar al-Assad order poison gas attack?

April 6, 2017

[Correction 4/8/2017: Sarin, as peteybee of Spread an Idea pointed out, is a liquid, not a gas.]

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley states as a fact that the Syrian government used poison gas (probably sarin) against civilians in its fight against rebels.  I question this because: —

  1.   It doesn’t make sense that Bashar al-Assad would risk turning the world against him and his regime when he and his Russian allies are on the verge of victory against ISIS and other jihadist rebels.
  2.   No news account that I have read states unequivocally that such attacks have occurred.  They all use words such as “allegedly” and “reportedly” and then go on as if the fact was proven.

Haley’s speech reminds me of Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations back in 2003 that Saddam Hussein possessed chemical, biological and/or nuclear weapons.   We now know that this was just an excuse to invade Iraq, a nation that never threatened the United States but was feared by the leaders of Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The Iraq war united most of us Americans behind President George W. Bush, at least for a time, but in the end it helped create the backlash that led to the election of Barack Obama.

Donald Trump was one who came to understand what big mistake it was to invade Iraq.   He also said it would be a big mistake to intervene in Syria in 2013.   He was right both times.   Those are two reasons I thought he might be less of a war hawk than Hillary Clinton.

Now he seems eager to go to war.   He now criticizes the Obama administration from holding back on going to war in 2013 in similar circumstances.

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Who will fight for the U.S. against ISIS?

December 15, 2015

The Syrian situation reminds me of a remark by Adam Smith in (I think) The Wealth of Nations — about how masterminds who think of themselves as master chess players, using other people like pieces on a chessboard, will find the people they think they are manipulating are actually playing their own game.

image-931841-panoV9free-whwk-931841The aims of the U.S. government in the Middle East are, in no particular order, to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, to counter the growing power of Iran and to destroy the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh).

The bitter experience of the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions means that the American people will not tolerate a large-scale intervention with ground troops, so American leaders, including the principal Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, look for pawns to carry out U.S. purposes.

Here is a rundown on these pawns and the games they are playing.

  • Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirate governments, all predominantly Sunni Arab nations, fear the rise of Shiite Iran and Shiite power in Iraq much more than they do Sunni Arab ISIS or al Qaeda.   To the extent they fear ISIS and al Qaeda, it is more as an internal threat, and they are happy to see their local rebels go off to fight and maybe die for ISIS.   The Saudi government doesn’t crack down on individuals who contribute to ISIS because they reflect the beliefs of Wahabism (aks Salafism), the harsh version of Sunni Islam that rules Saudi Arabia.
  • The Kurds in northern Syria and Iraq are fighting ISIS effectively, but they are fighting to defend themselves and their goal of an independent Kurdistan, to be carved out of the existing territory of Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran, not as part of any overall “war on terror”.  They aren’t going to give up that goal just because it is inconvenient to the USA.
  • The Turkish government desires the overthrow of the Assad government in Syria and the suppression of Kurdish nationalism more than suppression of ISIS.  Oil from ISIS-controlled territory enters Turkey, and money and arms go from Turkey to ISIS.  Turkish politicians talk of the glories of the Ottoman Empire and of the unity of ethnic Turks across Asia.
  • The Iraqi government desires to prevent breakaway movements, whether ISIS, other Sunni Arab fighters or Kurds.
  • CQfwkI2WwAALwwnThe Sunni Arab militias and tribal leaders in Iraq blame the United States for overthrowing Saddam Hussein and setting up an Iraqi government dominated by Shiite Arabs, so they’re not willing to be U.S. proxies in a campaign against ISIS.
  • The Shiite Arab militias in Iraq hate ISIS, but their leaders distrust the United States and won’t work with Americans.
  • The “moderate Arab” rebels in Syria primarily desire to get rid of Bashar al-Assad and talk about fighting ISIS primarily to obtain U.S. weapons – many of which wind up in the hands of ISIS, al-Nusra and like groups.
  • The Iranian government desires to support Shiite Muslims against all enemies, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey or ISIS, and to defend Syria and also Hezbollah, which represents the Shiite Muslims in Lebanon.
  • The Syrian government is an enemy of ISIS because ISIS is an existential threat to its existence.  But the Assad regime regards the other Syrian rebels and the Kurdish separatists as equally threatening

This leaves Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  Putin justifiably fears the influence of ISIS and other jihadist terrorists on the large Muslim population in the Caucasus and other regions of the Russian Federation.  He also wants to defend Russia’s Syrian ally and keep Russia’s naval station in Syria.  But for him, the war against ISIS is a war of self-defense, not merely a means of extending Russian influence.

If fighting ISIS is the top U.S. priority, then the U.S. government should find a way to cooperate with Russia against ISIS.  If the U.S. government is unwilling to cooperate with Russia against ISIS, then fighting ISIS is not the top U.S. priority.

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What is Russia’s real objective in Syria?

December 14, 2015

1.Russia-False-Narrative-in-Syria_13.Russian Airstrikes 30 NOV-02 DEC-01

Is Vladimir Putin’s objective in Syria to destroy ISIS or to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad?  It seems to me that the answer is “yes”.

I’ve read articles criticizing Putin for concentrating Russian airstrikes on rebels other than ISIS.  Some of these articles hint that Putin or maybe even Assad are secretly supporting ISIS.

I think this criticism mistakes the nature of air power.  Command of the air can be devastatingly effective when used in combined operations with ground troops.  But bombing alone, in and of itself, seldom defeats a determined enemy.

What these maps show is that Putin’s air strikes are concentrated on “rebels” not part of ISIS and not part of the al-Nusra front (formerly known as al Qaeda).

There is, however, no clear distinction between ISIS, al-Nusra and generic “rebels”.  Individuals and small bands change affiliations according to the situation, and U.S. weapons given to “rebels” are often acquired by ISIS through capture, gift or sale.

Christoph Reuter of Spiegel Online suggested that Assad wants to defeat the U.S.-backed rebels first and ISIS last, because, so long as ISIS is in the field, he can present himself as the only alternative.  I suppose this is possible, but the simpler explanation is that Russia is concentrating on bombing the troops that are actually fighting the Syrians.

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Why U.S. intervention in Syria is a mistake

October 31, 2015

Click on Mike Whitney for a transcript of this interview.