Skip

A new and terrifying state has been born.
August 26, 2014 3:13 PM   Subscribe

Patrick Cockburn a Middle East correspondent since 1979 has a couple of new articles:
Isis consolidates and The Underrated Saudi Connection, Why Washington’s War on Terror Failed.
posted by adamvasco (384 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
posted by No Robots at 3:30 PM on August 26 [13 favorites]


I am but an amateur student of what is happening in the Middle East, but these two articles make eminent sense, and ring true.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:34 PM on August 26


Endless War. Mission Accomplished.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 3:41 PM on August 26 [9 favorites]


By which I mean, "Washington's war in terror" has not failed. It has succeeded beyond the architects' wildest dreams. And the easy money will keep rolling into the coffers of the various weaponry manufacturers.

Better than having to find an honest job, I guess.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 3:44 PM on August 26 [11 favorites]


Had George and Dick not decided on their “cakewalk” in Iraq, had they not raised the specter of nuclear destruction and claimed that Saddam Hussein’s regime was somehow linked to al-Qaeda and so to the 9/11 attacks, had they not sent tens of thousands of American troops into a burning, looted Baghdad (“stuff happens”), disbanded the Iraqi army, built military bases all over that country, and generally indulged their geopolitical fantasies about dominating the oil heartlands of the planet for eternity, ISIS would have been an unlikely possibility, no matter the ethnic and religious tensions in the region. They essentially launched the drive that broke state power there and created the kind of vacuum that a movement like ISIS was so horrifically well suited to fill.

Well, duh.
posted by 3.2.3 at 3:48 PM on August 26 [26 favorites]


I submit to you also this excellent analysis from the Journal of Small Wars. For once, do read the comments.
posted by Aubergine at 3:49 PM on August 26 [14 favorites]


It's interesting to live in a time where people are nostalgic for the rule of Saddam, Assad, and Mubarak.
posted by cell divide at 3:50 PM on August 26 [14 favorites]


It's interesting to live in a time where people are nostalgic for the rule of Saddam, Assad, and Mubarak.

"What could possibly be worse than them?" used to be a rhetorical question.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:56 PM on August 26 [28 favorites]


I wonder whether ISIS will really have enough broad political clout to sustain a civilian population. From what I understand, even most Sunnis are strongly opposed to the extremism they represent. At some point ISIS will have to engage the region in economic and diplomatic terms if they're to survive. If they have no significant population save a bunch of extremist assholes (aided by committing genocide everywhere they go) it won't be as hard to carpet bomb them into oblivion. But perhaps this is just the same naive opinion that's being held currently.

Hopefully ISIS will ultimately represent the ridiculous logical conclusion that knocks some heads together in the region and gives us enough of a glimpse into a vacuous hell that it mends some fences among the more moderate population.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:58 PM on August 26


Taken from the comments of Aubergine's link (which you should read):
Ibrahim al-Badri, a run-of-the-mill Sunni Iraqi cleric, gained a degree from the University of Baghdad at a time when pedagogy there had collapsed because of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship and international sanctions. After 2003 he took the name Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and turned to a vicious and psychopathic violence involving blowing up children at ice cream shops and blowing up gerbils and garden snakes at pet shops and blowing up family weddings, then coming back and blowing up the resultant funerals. This man is one of the most infamous serial killers in modern history, with the blood of thousands on his hands, before whom Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy fade into insignificance.
-- Juan Cole
posted by cell divide at 4:01 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


Perhaps we should learn from the Seventy Maxims Of Maximally Effective Mercenaries*?

"29. The enemy of my enemy is my enemy's enemy. No more. No less."

*Formerly, Seven Habits Of Highly Effective Pirates
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:01 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]


For America, Britain and the Western powers, the rise of Isis and the Caliphate is the ultimate disaster. Whatever they intended by their invasion of Iraq in 2003 and their efforts to get rid of Assad in Syria since 2011, it was not to see the creation of a jihadi state spanning northern Iraq and Syria run by a movement a hundred times bigger and much better organised than the al-Qaida of Osama bin Laden.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED
posted by bukvich at 4:06 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


This man is one of the most infamous serial killers in modern history

Which is how it should be seen and handled. Although at this point it a military issue, post invasion Iraq should have been a police issue. Some kind of police that do not exist at this time. Perhaps if they had hired say Indonesian Muslims instead of Hallibuton mercenaries the various factions could have been prevented from terror activities, the incorrigible imprisoned and some form of workable state could have been built.

And pigs will fly... sigh...
posted by sammyo at 4:13 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


It's interesting to live in a time where people are nostalgic for the rule of Saddam, Assad, and Mubarak.

Has anybody here...seen my old friend Saddam...

Can you tell me where he's gone...

posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:18 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


I don't claim any special understanding of the Middle East either, but two things have seemed pretty obvious to me for a couple of years now:

1. We should have been working with the Kurds a long time ago.
2. We are going to have to learn how to work with Iran.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:24 PM on August 26 [7 favorites]


Cluster, meet Fuck.
posted by stenseng at 4:29 PM on August 26 [7 favorites]


We are going to have to learn how to work with Iran.

We already did. The CIA had quite a good relationship with the notoriously brutal Shah. Until they had an Islamic revolution and then we supported Saddam against the new Iran. Until we overthrew Saddam because we pretended he was linked to Al Qaeda (the organization founded by the people we supported in Afghanistan against the Soviets) and then until we wanted to overthrow Assad in Syria so we sent a bunch of weapons to the "good guy" rebels who became...

ISIS.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:31 PM on August 26 [34 favorites]


It's been posted around the blue before now, but the Dan Carlin podcast on this issue is different from most of what we're hearing and reading elsewhere.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:31 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


Also: ISIS and the Administration’s Ridiculous Threat Inflation

ISIS is brutal, but they're no more some grand existential threat than any other band of extremists with a few US-made weapons- just like Saddam was a run-of-the-mill dictator who was little threat to anyone outside his own borders- no more one of history's great "serial killers" than thousands of despots throughout history, or several with whom we have perfectly friendly relationships today.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:35 PM on August 26


The CIA had quite a good relationship with the notoriously brutal Shah. Until they had an Islamic revolution and then we supported Saddam against the new Iran. Until we overthrew Saddam because we pretended he was linked to Al Qaeda (the organization founded by the people we supported in Afghanistan against the Soviets) and then until we wanted to overthrow Assad in Syria so we sent a bunch of weapons to the "good guy" rebels who became... ISIS.

Let's ship in a few billion more in machine guns and humvees, that should stabilize this situation, surely this time.
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:40 PM on August 26


Dear every person in the US and UK government, media, and general population who favored the 2003 Iraq invasion:

I told you so.

Love, Fellini
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:41 PM on August 26 [19 favorites]


We already did. The CIA had quite a good relationship with the notoriously brutal Shah.

Can you seriously not think of a better way to work with a country than reinstalling and supporting a dictator in a coup that overthrows the result of a democratic election, as we did in 1952? Because it's a stretch to even call that "working with" a country.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:43 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


For the record; Isis is a goddess. ISIL are the lunatics. They stopped calling themselves ISIS pretty early in this game, I wish everyone else would too.

I like Isis. I'm not a fan of ISIL.
posted by dejah420 at 4:48 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]


They are calling themselves "The Islamic State"
posted by stbalbach at 4:49 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


People have been warning about the consequences of attacking Iraq during the entire runup to that crime. This is absolutely something that was foreseen. And so it has been for every subsequent misadventure - what's depressing is how so many of us here on the blue kept warning of this exact scenario during the other occasions when the U.S. decided to inject itself into another ME civil war, whether Libya or Syria. Just go back to those threads here on the blue - there were those who spoke of how this is going to result in huge blowback and a much, much, much worse outcome, and then there were those who kept arguing for intervention (frequently for "humanitarian" reasons). It never ever works out the way the interventionists plan in the ME.

And yet again, we're hearing the siren song of intervention. But this time it's really, really, really, really fingers crossed swear to god and on my mother's grave for a splendidly good reason! Promise and double promise!

There are no "good" moves here. That's how it is sometimes. There are only the least bad. And the least bad, is for us not to engage militarily, period. Yes, yes, yes, I know, yet again "just this once it's truly necessary" is the claim. And it's wrong, this time too.

First there was a relentless drive to bomb and rocket Assad and overthrow the Syrian government, and support the opposition come what may and never mind who they are, every faction was supported - some by the U.S., others by our "allies" and this hellish situation was created. Now we're hearing how we need to go after ISIS also in Syria, which of course in effect allies us with the very Assad whom we were overthrowing five minutes ago - the same guy who has been playing a cynical game of using the opposition to his ends all along.

The only thing that's clear is that we're running around like a chicken with its head cut off - all the collective intellectual heft of the interventionist neocons is about equal in depth of thought and strategy to that headless chicken.

Stop. Get out. Take that money and focus of attention and fix the economy and the myriad problems we have at home, and quit wasting billions/trillions on creating more instability and terrorist enemies in the Middle East, we already have enough enemies to last us generations, thanks. Let the societies of the ME sort out their own problems without our random bombings and bloodletting.

Yet here we go again. Kerry tweets "ISIS will be crushed". Amazing instance of "boast loudly while carrying a tiny stick". Meanwhile, the military options against ISIS are amazingly limited: Administration confirms increase of air strikes and considers additional marines but has limited ability to strike in wake of American’s beheading

"While Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that Isis “must be destroyed”, another US official said the horrific, recorded slaying had not changed US policy options for striking the jihadist entity that has overrun much of northern, western and central Iraq.

Isis continues to entrench itself within Sunni areas of Iraq, making it difficult to dislodge them through the bombing options that the administration has embraced.
"

In other words, we'll do some bombing and call it a day. Boy, that'll show 'em! Maybe we could employ some drones too - after all they're so great at creating and inspiring ever more terrorists, and since we love counter-productive military measures, this should fit right in.

Because really, what are the other military options, other than random and ineffective bombings? Look at Afghanistan - we've been bombing for a decade plus, and we've accomplished exactly nothing. So what are we going to do? Put special forces in? Again, look at how well that's worked out in Afghanistan. Or maybe we'll go the full monty and throw in ground troops? Maybe we can sort of gradually work up the numbers of our troops for an undeclared war, in the grand old tradition of Vietnam? Because that's the exact scenario that would unfold. Bit by bit by bit an iron logic that inevitably brings us back into the same old habits, unable to break the pattern like a terminal junkie. And if not that, what, full scale invasion and occupation? Again, how did that work out in Afghanistan, where we were in addition joined by a bunch of NATO allies and Afghan troops? The key here is that however much we hate to admit, there is *some* support in the population for the Taliban, which turns it into a guerilla war which we will not win, and for which we are not prepared with a time horizon of 10 or 20 years. Same here. ISIS has *some* Sunni support in the region - we will not be able to defeat this by military strikes.

It's a loser. A total loser. Every single dime and every single bullet we put into this, is that much more waste. There is no military solution to this.

We should butt out and let it shake out between the Iranians, Assad, the Shiites, and the Kurds who have to live there. They have the kind of live or die commitment we cannot possibly have, and the time horizon. The Sunnis are also the key to this. The best chance of defeating ISIS is by divorcing them from the Sunni support. And the way to do that is for the U.S. to STAY THE FUCK OUT. We are fortunate in that the ISIS are vicious brutes - they will surely in time alienate the community in which they have taken root, and the community in an immune response will reject them like the evil transplant that they are. They will then die, with no support... unless we prevent that immune reaction, by bombing and murdering and "collateral damaging" our way to an increased support of Sunnis for ISIS. Remember, all our drones and all our bombing quickly turns the population against us. Now, they'll turn again toward ISIS.

The absolute best thing we can do, is to leave our weapons at home (better yet, turn them into plows). Fat chance that'll happen.

Get ready for more of the same failed policies of the neocons.
posted by VikingSword at 4:49 PM on August 26 [40 favorites]


The powers that be obviously want war. That's why they make so much of it. The mid-East situation is no accident: it is everything they desired. It is, in a word, a spectacular success. From their point of view.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:51 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]




It's interesting to live in a time where people are nostalgic for the rule of Saddam, Assad, and Mubarak.

He may be a bastard, but he's our bastard.

posted by GuyZero at 4:54 PM on August 26


you can see how concerned the US is about the "Islamic State" by the rapidity with which they pivoted from "oh shit, the Iraqi Army just ran away" to "Maliki must go!" Actually, the House of Saud/US/Israel are probably happier with an Iraq partitioned into warring mini-states than a unified Iraq dominated by Iran... same goes for Syria.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:58 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, the fruits of military meddling:

Syrian conflict death toll exceeds 190,000, says UN

"More than 191,000 people were killed in the first three years of Syria’s civil war, a UN report said yesterday, and its human rights envoy rebuked leading powers for failing to halt what she branded a “wholly avoidable human catastrophe”.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said war crimes were committed with total impunity on all sides in the conflict, which began with peaceful protests against president Bashar al-Assad’s rule in 2011.
“It is a real indictment of the age we live in that not only has this been allowed to continue so long, with no end in sight, but is also now impacting horrendously on hundreds of thousands of other people across the border in northern Iraq, and the violence has also spilled over into Lebanon, ” she said.
"

"“It is essential governments take serious measures to halt the fighting and deter the crimes and, above all, stop fuelling this monumental, and wholly avoidable, human catastrophe through the provision of arms and other military supplies.”
The report by her office was based on data from four rebel groups and the Syrian government. They were cross-checked to eliminate duplicates and inaccuracies.
Of the 191,369 killed so far, some 62,000 – both civilians and combatants – died in the past year. –(Reuters)
"

So what is going to be our response? How about a nice war of all against all - not only attack ISIS but also Assad at the same time arming Assad's opposition for more proto ISIS creation:

Military brass, ex-officials pressure White House to expand ISIS fight to Syria

"Keane predicted that if the U.S. launches attacks against the Islamic State in Syria, "I don't think [Assad] will engage us."

Keane called for simultaneously boosting military support and funding to moderate opposition groups in Syria.
"
posted by VikingSword at 4:58 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


For the record; Isis is a goddess. ISIL are the lunatics. They stopped calling themselves ISIS pretty early in this game, I wish everyone else would too.

Why would I care what name they want to use?

There is no military solution to this.


No offense, but a military solution is indeed pretty much the solution to a bunch of armed lunatics using military force to take over cities and impose their will at gunpoint.
posted by Hoopo at 5:00 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


People have been warning about the consequences of attacking Iraq during the entire runup to that crime. This is absolutely something that was foreseen.

Another detail that meets this same "well what the fuck did you *think* was going to happen?" test is De-Ba'athification, and all the subsequent Sunni exclusion policies that followed.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:01 PM on August 26 [11 favorites]


Well, if you're going to call out meddling in Syria, how much has the U.S. really contributed to it? It seems like there are no hands, not one, that is unbloodied there- Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies, all have fueled the flames there. If anything, NATO's relative lack of involvement in Syria shows that these conflicts damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situations.

There is a clear difference between 2014 and 2003. In 2003, we started shit. In 2014, shit's already going on. That, at least, has to be recognized.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:02 PM on August 26 [7 favorites]


I'm looking forward to the war on mystery.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:10 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Could there be a clearer, more resounding example of the negative effects of the law of unintended consequences?

Why the fuck couldn't conservatives have actually, you know, been conservative after 9/11 instead of a hopped up mob of meddlers and charismatics bent on revenge?
posted by echocollate at 5:10 PM on August 26


Bush-era White House meeting transcript:

SKINNER
Well, I was wrong. The lizards are a godsend.

LISA
But isn't that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we're overrun by lizards?

SKINNER
No problem. We simply unleash wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the lizards.

LISA
But aren't the snakes even worse?

SKINNER
Yes, but we're prepared for that. We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.

LISA
But then we're stuck with gorillas!

SKINNER
No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:14 PM on August 26 [7 favorites]


To be fair, everyone after 9/11 was that way. It was a Pearl Harbor moment against civilian targets against the United States. It was completely unprecedented. Everyone was outraged and wanted blood.

Now, ask yourself what happened along the road between 2001 and 2003, and that's a more interesting question. Just how did the Bush administration successfully convince the public to move on to another war before the first one was even over?
posted by Apocryphon at 5:15 PM on August 26


pretty sure covering "Guernica" with a blanket was involved at some point
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:18 PM on August 26 [18 favorites]


There was a nice David Cross bit complaining about how Bush was credited with being "strong" when he bombed Afghanistan after 9-11, saying, "What? Kucinich would have bombed Afghanistan!"
posted by Navelgazer at 5:20 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


In 2003, we started shit. In 2014, shit's already going on. That, at least, has to be recognized.

Recognized as in: we may have started shit in 2003, but the 2014 shit is the direct continuation of our shit in 2003 and every year leading up to and including 2014. It's a continuum of the same diarrhea running down our legs for all that time. Every second we spent in Iraq, was another shit-creation. We should refresh our memories about our pal Maliki whom we celebrated from the time of GWB and his visits to the White House up until his recent visits with Obama. We had our troops and advisors in Iraq that whole time - and still have a hand in. Maliki, the petty dictator whom we directly supported and who did such a splendid job of so utterly alienating the Sunnis - against whom he was involved in direct murder and persecution of the most senior Sunni lawmakers in their parliament! - right throughout the ISIS establishment in those Sunni areas, where the Sunnis turned to ISIS in desperation, because they had nowhere else to turn... thanks to our heavily supported thug, Maliki.

We created Iraq, and we fostered that Frankenstein right through 2014, and it's been rewarding us richly all along.

Well, if you're going to call out meddling in Syria, how much has the U.S. really contributed to it?

Our crimes were not just the direct support with money, weapons, intelligence and organization - our biggest crime was abetting and encouraging our allies to fund and support that whole mess. John McCain was crowing about it, famously, on TV. Our stance should have been the exact opposite: not only will we not get involved, but we put pressure on our client states SA and the gulf states to not get involved under pain of severe consequences from us... when we wish, we know how to put pressure on them. Instead, we went the other way, to predictable results.

Let Assad deal with this mess on his own - let Syrian society decide their own fate, in their own way. If Russia wants to meddle - hey, maybe short memories are not just an American affliction - let them learn the lesson of Afghanistan II yet again. Iran lives in that region, they'll have to bear the consequence of their action or inaction, because that's their immediate borders at stake. We, thousands of miles away, have no business there at all.
posted by VikingSword at 5:26 PM on August 26 [10 favorites]


It's amazing how "do nothing" is so far out of people's minds when it comes to our options in the Middle East; they look at you like you're from another planet. "What, you suggest we don't meddle in the affairs of some strangers on the other side of the planet? That's plumb crazy!" even though there is not a shred of evidence that u.s. intervention has made anything better since WWII.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 5:37 PM on August 26 [8 favorites]


Could there be a clearer, more resounding example of the negative effects of the law of unintended consequences?

Well the US tried to do the right thing by supporting the Arab Spring, and here we are.

I think the best we can hope for is effectively managing and containing the problem, but God help the poor people stuck living under Assad or IS in the Levant.
posted by Nevin at 5:39 PM on August 26


Al Jazeera as usual comes up with facts.
Interactive Map : Rebels' path through Iraq
Looking at the Islamic State's offensive as the group, formerly known as ISIL, claims cities across the country.
The caliphate vs. everyone else.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was a US prisoner until a commission made up of US military experts granted him an ''unconditional release''.
posted by adamvasco at 5:40 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


Well, if you're going to call out meddling in Syria, how much has the U.S. really contributed to it?

Our crimes were not just the direct support with money, weapons, intelligence and organization - our biggest crime was abetting and encouraging our allies to fund and support that whole mess.

Really? From my perspective the US has been spectacularly un-involved, or at least only peripherally, in Syria. The accusations I hear more frequently is that Obama didn't do enough to support a rational opposition in Syria, and that we backed off when Putin threatened to escalate the conflict - not that the US was behind it.
posted by kanewai at 5:42 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


To be fair, everyone after 9/11 was that way. It was a Pearl Harbor moment against civilian targets against the United States. It was completely unprecedented. Everyone was outraged and wanted blood.

"Everyone" except the millions who protested against war, say. The unity behind retribution was wildly overstated at the time, and by the time we got to the Iraq invasion was pretty clearly a fiction. The lack of effective opposition, however, put no brakes on the debacle and here we are today.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:47 PM on August 26 [33 favorites]


To be fair, everyone after 9/11 was that way. It was a Pearl Harbor moment against civilian targets against the United States. It was completely unprecedented. Everyone was outraged and wanted blood.

Bullshit. Some of us were shocked and grieved and still able to advocate for an international diplomatic and law enforcement operation to deal with Bin Laden et al. rather than a fucking idiotic amped-up Rambo conventional war more likely to just vent pain and rage than accomplish anything.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:51 PM on August 26 [41 favorites]


Really? From my perspective the US has been spectacularly un-involved, or at least only peripherally, in Syria.

Well, that's the trouble, isn't it? People beg us (and our 'allies') not to set off the explosives under that dam. We do so anyway. A giant flood is unleashed and now the whole area is under six feet of water. That's the situation. We set off the explosives and then "backed off" (except for our allies) - but it was too late by then. It's exactly the same thing as we did in Iraq - blew up the place to kingdom come, and the consequences of that monster quake are still unfolding. But no worry, no matter that we temporarily backed off - we're ready to go back in for some more meddling. Obama has already started with some gentle tentative dip-our-toe-in bombings, and there's no doubt more madness to follow from this promising beginning. Buckle up.
posted by VikingSword at 5:53 PM on August 26


Would it cause a massive derail if I said now that our next president needs to be a Democrat who is not Hillary Clinton?
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:58 PM on August 26 [31 favorites]


No offense, but a military solution is indeed pretty much the solution to a bunch of armed lunatics using military force to take over cities and impose their will at gunpoint.

Goooood morning Vietnam! Err... Afghanistan! Err... Iraq! Err... Syria! Err...Iraq and Syria both!
posted by VikingSword at 5:59 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


Would it cause a massive derail if I said now that our next president needs to be a Democrat who is not Hillary Clinton?

No, but it might be a derail if I said I wish I could favorite your comment more than once.

Alas, I'm afraid I can't favorite your comment more than once, and alas the Democrats really are not going to come up with anyone other than the woman who when it comes to international affairs is to the left. Left of Genghis Khan - but just barely.
posted by VikingSword at 6:02 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Back in December 2010 a wikileak cable revealed that Saudi Arabia rated a bigger threat to Iraqi stability than Iran.
Brookings: ISIS and the New Middle East Cold War.
posted by adamvasco at 6:07 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


To be fair, everyone after 9/11 was that way. It was a Pearl Harbor moment against civilian targets against the United States. It was completely unprecedented. Everyone was outraged and wanted blood.

Of course everyone wanted blood. But we reasonable folks--of whom there were millions--wanted the blood of Bin Laden and a handful of his co-conspirators who were actually responsible for the attacks, not the blood of tens of thousands of innocents.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:10 PM on August 26 [16 favorites]


This is exactly why we should have stayed out of Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and every-fucking-where else. Even people on Metafilter who should have clearly known better were all like MISSION ACCOMPLISHED when we bombed Qaddafi or Mubarak got thrown out on his ass. Hell, we're lucky we didn't bomb the crap out of Syria and give weapons to ISIS(L). Instead we only gave weapons to Iraq who "gave" them to ISIS.

The thing about unpredictable unintended consequences is that you don't intend them and they aren't predictable. Those peeps camping out in a square today might be cutting your journalist's heads off tomorrow. Those "freedom fighters" attacking a dictator in Syria today might be suicide bombing a market in Baghdad tomorrow.

These aren't our countries. We have plenty of problems here we could be trying to solve and we don't even need to drop 2000lb bombs on people to do it. If a democratic government which fully supports human rights for everyone (or at least does so about as well as most free nations which is to say imperfectly) gets set up then by all means let us support them. Until then stay the fuck out of it.
posted by Justinian at 6:11 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


Why Washington’s War on Terror Failed

Is it by any chance because it was a war, and wars elicit terror?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:12 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Would it cause a massive derail if I said now that our next president needs to be a Democrat who is not Hillary Clinton?

That's what we have now.
posted by carping demon at 6:14 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


As of at least four days ago Iran has forces fighting alongside the Peshmerga to retake Kurdish villages from the IS.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:14 PM on August 26


Would it cause a massive derail if I said now that our next president needs to be a Democrat who is not Hillary Clinton?

Clinton had things mostly under control. It's Kerry who's letting things spiral out of hand with the Russian and Ukrainian situation, the Caliphate, a new India/Pakistan war, the rise and in some cases cementing of totalitarian regimes in formerly democratic allies, mishandling economic crises in Argentina and Venezuela caused by American policy, diminishing our pull in our own hemisphere, and man, he has not had a good run. Some of this stuff had been building up during Clinton's time as Sec of State, it's just that Kerry is nowhere near as good as she was as keeping all of the plates spinning in the air.

That said, Obama is in charge. His slowness in recognizing when events are running ahead of him, abroad and at home, since his reelection has been alarming. I believe it's because Clinton's no longer on his cabinet.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:16 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


I still think it is ironic that we're now fighting on the same side as at least two of the three members of the Axis of Evil. Yay, us.
posted by Justinian at 6:16 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


The solution to the US's incessant war-faring is to bring back the draft. Start seeing the kids of the elite getting snuffed, and this whole global meddling shit starts looking less attractive.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:16 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


As of at least four days ago Iran has forces fighting alongside the Peshmerga to retake Kurdish villages from the IS.

Just to tie it together, this is something which Hillary would not seem to look well on.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:18 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Would it cause a massive derail if I said now that our next president needs to be a Democrat who is not Hillary Clinton?

Given the number of above comments that seem lifted from a Rand Paul speech, I'm not sure that the next president "needs to be a Democrat" is still the consensus on Metafilter.

I'm not a fan of Clinton (or Rand Paul), but she is the only major policy figure* who's speeches acknowledge and address the complex reality on the ground - or at least, the reality that we read about from the better articles like this one.

* If there are others I would be grateful to hear about them! But from most of them I just hear noise.
posted by kanewai at 6:24 PM on August 26


This is exactly why we should have stayed out of Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and every-fucking-where else.

Regarding Libya - for awhile there, people on the left were crowing about how that was a successful intervention... until it wasn't. In fact, it is such a disaster, that it's had a domino like effect on African countries to the south, as pointed out in a recent FPP:

"But having said that, I think particularly with regard to foreign policy Obama has made some significant mistakes. Those too are structural, but in part they're individual. What I'm pointing to is the invasion of Libya, the bombing of Libya, 2011. And the reason I say that it's partly personal: in the sense that the leading hawk in his administration, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, as he says in his memoir, was hostile to the bombing of Libya. So that provided him with cover if he wanted to come out against it.

But it was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Samantha Power, now UN ambassador; Susan Rice, now who is the national security adviser, former UN ambassador; who were all gung ho. Now, you could make the argument as well that with regard to U.S. politics, given the strength of the hawks and the right, it's almost like a gang in Los Angeles, where as a condition of membership you have to shed blood in order to become a full-fledged member of the gang. And to a certain extent that's true for the U.S. ruling elite, and particularly for the women, not surprisingly--Clinton, Rice, Power--they have to show that they can be sufficiently macho.

And then there's some trepidation about Obama, since he's of partial African heritage, that is to say, whether he'll really carry the flag at the end of the day for U.S. imperialism. And so I think that that pushes him into this disastrous invasion that not only uses tax dollars in a very unwise manner, but now it's spread like a virus throughout Africa, knock-on effects negatively in neighboring Mali, leading to a UN intervention, a French intervention; knock-on effects in neighboring Niger, which then bleed into Nigeria, China (the largest GDP on the continent; now it's surpassing South Africa, a major oil producer); now bleeding into Cameroon. Ironically and paradoxically, in a sense this is all the product of the first president of African heritage."
posted by VikingSword at 6:27 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


There are probably worse options for president than a good old fashioned isolationist.
posted by sammyo at 6:28 PM on August 26


The Bushies came to power claiming "the adults were back in charge." Yet they exhibited venality and incompetence the likes of which we've not seen since James Buchanan. Fuck those guys.
posted by persona au gratin at 6:31 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Technically he's not a serial killer. But tomato, tomato.

Juan Cole is an amazing source of info. I've learned a bunch from
him since the Iraq war.

Speaking of, that anyone listens to anything Thomas "suck on this" Friedman says (I'm looking at you, Charlie Rose) is a war crime itself. Fuck that guy, too.
posted by persona au gratin at 6:38 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Al Jazeera as usual comes up with facts.
Interactive Map : Rebels' path through Iraq
posted by adamvasco


Recently the NYT published a similar A Rogue State Along Two Rivers interactive scrolling article which I found excellent and their general The Iraq-ISIS Conflict in Maps, Photos and Video page is filled with an almost overwhelming amount of content.

---

1. We should have been working with the Kurds a long time ago.
2. We are going to have to learn how to work with Iran.
posted by George_Spiggott


The Kurds are certainly popular these days, but they can't enforce stability over the totality of Iraq and Syria, and Iran can't either (between ISIS and the Gulf States...). If the Kurds do break away, what is the best case scenario for the Sunni and Shia areas of Syria-Iraq? A Saudi/UAE occupied zone and a Iranian/Assad occupied zone?

A military intervention can kill many ISIS members, but if we don't slot in something, anything, then we obviously end back up where we started. Piecing "Iraq" back together again seems nigh impossible, and it isn't clear there is anything queued up to replace ISIS in the non-Kurdish parts of Iraq and Syria.
posted by rosswald at 6:40 PM on August 26


A sequel to my comment above, Dan Carlin's latest episode goes more into the situation on the ground with ISIL now, as well as in Ferguson.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:41 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


If the Kurds do break away, what is the best case scenario for the Sunni and Shia areas of Syria-Iraq? A Saudi/UAE occupied zone and a Iranian/Assad occupied zone?

I'm hardly an expert, but I'd say yes (with a peaceful Turkish transfer over the Kurdish region there as well, as they've been hinting, which could model peaceful transition to organic borders for the rest of the Middle East in a best-case-scenario, and provide a good tentpole for non-aggression against Kurdistan in a worse one.)

(Though to be honest I'm not sure that Saudi Arabia even truly wants the Sunni region of Iraq. Seems to me like they'd gain not a lot of wealth and resources and a hell of a lot of angry fundamentalists without loyalty to the house of Saud. But again, what do I know?)
posted by Navelgazer at 6:44 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


i don't think stability in that part of the world is going to happen under any circumstances now
posted by pyramid termite at 6:45 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Geographically there's also the issue that the part of Iraq that abuts SA is Shia.
posted by persona au gratin at 6:51 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Juan Cole is an amazing source of info. I've learned a bunch from him since the Iraq war.

Juan Cole is an interventionist. He's just less of an interventionist than some. But his preferred policies have led to plenty of disasters.

Here for example is his "Open Letter to the Left on Libya".
I am unabashedly cheering the liberation movement on, and glad that the UNSC-authorized intervention has saved them from being crushed.
[...]
If the Left opposed intervention, it de facto acquiesced in Qaddafi’s destruction of a movement embodying the aspirations of most of Libya’s workers and poor, along with large numbers of white collar middle class people. Qaddafi would have reestablished himself, with the liberation movement squashed like a bug and the country put back under secret police rule. The implications of a resurgent, angry and wounded Mad Dog, his coffers filled with oil billions, for the democracy movements on either side of Libya, in Egypt and Tunisia, could well have been pernicious.
[...]
I would like to urge the Left to learn to chew gum and walk at the same time. ... . If we just don’t care if the people of Benghazi are subjected to murder and repression on a vast scale, we aren’t people of the Left.
To which I reply "fuck you too, Juan Cole. How bloody do your hands feel now?"
posted by Justinian at 6:56 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


the ISIS bridal shoppe
posted by robbyrobs at 7:02 PM on August 26


Now, ask yourself what happened along the road between 2001 and 2003, and that's a more interesting question. Just how did the Bush administration successfully convince the public to move on to another war before the first one was even over?

State of the Union Address, January 29, 2002.

"Misperceptions, Media, and the Iraq War" (pdf link): A paper from the Program on International Policy Attitudes (associated with the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy) published in October 2003, analyzing the results of seven different public polls examining American's perceptions of the Iraq conflict.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:12 PM on August 26


There are probably worse options for president than a good old fashioned isolationist.

Who, Ron Paul?
posted by Apocryphon at 7:12 PM on August 26


I try very hard to give the benefit of doubt. While unquestionably there are some evil people among the interventionists (looking at you, neocon crowd) who have nothing but the worst motives, it is also unquestionable that many interventionists have good motives.

Unfortunately, military intervention in the ME by the U.S. is ill-advised, no matter how benign it may seem at the moment, or how insignificant. The simple truth is that we have a horrendous reputation (richly deserved) over there, and virtually zero expertise. We cannot in any way control, not even slightly any outcomes of our military interventions in the ME.

And that includes cases like Libya - where at the time, on the blue, I cautioned that we know nothing about and can not control Khadaffi's nominal opposition, and we might be buying ourselves a huge headache down the road.

Not even Egypt - to the tiny degree that we interfered - thankfully minimally wrt. weapons or ammunition - how happy are we with the military dictatorship outcome there? Is it much better than Mubarak?

Where we had no input at all, like Tunisia, is where the Arab Spring has done best so far - but regardless of how well or badly they're doing (by our metric!), it is not our business to interfere, certainly not militarily.

The temptations are enormous. Often coming from the best of motives. But military intervention by the U.S. always ends up in disaster in the ME - and motives are not enough, since we know that the road that's paved with those ends up in hell.
posted by VikingSword at 7:12 PM on August 26


Thanks for the heads up. Book ordered.
posted by unliteral at 7:13 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Reuters: Turkey struggles as 'lone gatekeeper' against Islamic State recruitment - As Islamic State insurgents threaten the Turkish border from Syria, Turkey is struggling to staunch the flow of foreign jihadists to the militant group, having not so long ago allowed free access to those who would join its neighbor's civil war.
posted by rosswald at 7:15 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


I'll add to my wish-list that this concept of interested parties who's interests are not served by violence shepherding the (to my mind inevitable) border transitions could also include Egypt assisting in stabilizing Gaza in a possible two-state solution there, but that's basically just dreaming, I fear.

I'd also like a good, established organization which can provisionally recognize rogue and revolutionary movements as hypothetical future-states and begin negotiating with them on an international level so as to reduce the human cost of these issues. Realistically--well, realistically this won't happen, but a step below realistically-- this would happen within the U.N., which I'm not sure is ideally suited for it, sadly. The U.N. is grand and necessary but it also serves the status quo. Its governing body is represented by regimes, not the people within them. ISIL is horrendous (or at least acting horrendously and I don't have any interest in splitting hairs while innocents are being killed) but Iraqi Sunnis are by design ill-represented. The center cannot hold (to reference No RObots' first comment in the thread.) Something must change.

I have no idea whom this organization would be accountable to, how they could enforce any negotiations, or even how they could get other interested parties to sit across the table from the rogues, but I want a group in place that can say, "hey, you might succeed here. What's your plan then? Because when you're beheading journalists and civilians you're not endearing yourself to the international community, and you're going to really, really need them in peacetime when it comes to actually governing. If you have no interest in that, if all you want is total ideological war, then you're about to find it, and you won't succeed in that case." I want that to be out there.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:22 PM on August 26


Bombing aside, surely no one is against the idea of a humanitarian mission to evacuate civilians threatened by IS, is there? I mean, what would it take for that to be acceptable? If it was under the aegis of the United Nations? If Russia, China, India, and the other great powers (who all have restive Muslim populations, and aren't big fans of IS) were to accede to it? If Iran, Syria, and Iraq's neighbors (who are hated enemies of IS) were to accede to it? Even the Saudis and the Gulf Arab governments are onboard. IS has truly done something that not even al-Qaeda has done: by militarily succeeding and capturing territory, they have united the world against them.

But I digress. At what point is intervention acceptable? I can understand why putting special ops on the ground and drones and bombs in the air sounds like a repeat of Libya which sounds like a repeat of Yemen which sounds like a repeat of Iraq. But what's wrong with rescuing those who are under threat of mass murder? What sort of rescue would be acceptable to non-interventionists? Because at some point the historical analogy is going to shift from Iraq 2003 to Rwanda 1994.
posted by Apocryphon at 7:24 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


I agree with you Apocryphon (and I should probably stop hogging the thread so much, so I'll step away for a bit after this.) One of the Carlin quotes in the latest episode is about how if we can't look at refugees stuck on a mountain told that they'll be beheaded as soon as they come down, and find a solution to it, we're suffering from a lack of imagination. (And Carlin is quite anti-interventionist. Basically he blames half-a-loaf interventionism as the underlying problem and finds the full-scale interventionism that would be required for the western world to force stabilization to be horrifying as well.)
posted by Navelgazer at 7:28 PM on August 26


Hoopo: “There is no military solution to this.

No offense, but a military solution is indeed pretty much the solution to a bunch of armed lunatics using military force to take over cities and impose their will at gunpoint.”
Obviously if they're willing to fight an American Armored Brigade Combat Team straight up, they're going to be annihilated. However, it's been true since at least the Peninsular War that there is no military solution to a guerrilla problem. At least not one that anyone is willing to even contemplate, let alone actually accomplish, i.e. not one stone left upon another and save alive nothing that breatheth.

Not to mention, as I've pointed out before, unless you can get the approximately 25% of military age men in the Middle East who are unemployed either jobs or a romantic partner, you're going to have a problem no matter who is in charge. As far as making the fighting stop, rather than spend hundreds of billions of dollars on personnel and materiel, it makes more sense to me to spend the same money on issuing every household a generator, refrigerator, television, satellite dish, and Playstation.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:30 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


What sort of rescue would be acceptable to non-interventionists?

One that doesn't involve flying close air support for the Iraqi Army and Kurds would be a good start.
posted by Justinian at 7:32 PM on August 26


One of the Carlin quotes in the latest episode is about how if we can't look at refugees stuck on a mountain told that they'll be beheaded as soon as they come down, and find a solution to it, we're suffering from a lack of imagination.

This is almost word for word the same thing that Juan Cole said about Libya in the piece I linked to earlier. How'd that work out?
posted by Justinian at 7:33 PM on August 26


Well (dammit I said I'd walk away) I think the contexts of the quotes are different, for one. (In what the two are supporting, I mean. Cole is, as you've said, an interventionist. Carlin is a military history-enthusiast who is generally aghast at the horrors of war and wants interests beyond the military to find other ways to help individuals in these crises.)
posted by Navelgazer at 7:35 PM on August 26


This place is like the Hotel California, Navelgazer, you should know that.
posted by Justinian at 7:37 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


I don't think anyone is expecting to stabilize the region altogether. Isn't the goal to protect civilians? Isn't that why NATO intervened in Kosovo in the '90s? And in Bosnia and Herzegovina beforehand? There are multiple examples of interventions that happened under non-neocon American governments.
posted by Apocryphon at 7:40 PM on August 26


Back when there was a potent threat, people looked to the Americans as the good guys. All we have to do is let ISIS grow to the size of the USSR. Simple!

On a serious note, the only case of successful almost-solely American occupation of a sizable country that did not already have a large US population was Japan. We had to fund a lot of supplies, especially food, closely watch media, allow Japanese to build infrastructure while breaking up monopolies, give suffrage to women, and enact civil rights. And it only took seven years. With a relatively non-hostile populace. And pressure to make it stable so the Communists could not expand.

I'm sure Bush knew what he was doing, saying we'd be out of the Middle East in 2 years, while sending in random military officers to govern, preventing many citizens from holding jobs, and letting corporations make their money. Just a bit unfortunate that it turned out like the Philippines, where all we did was bar the allied rebels from their capitol and invented waterboarding.
posted by halifix at 7:44 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


I don't think anyone is expecting to stabilize the region altogether.

Why not, though? Shouldn't we be thinking that? Personally, I think that should be done without U.S. intervention (except through U.N. and perhaps NATO peacekeeping forces with actual peacekeeping missions, and even there I feel like local multi-national forces would be much more likely to succeed.)

One of the things that frustrates me the most about the Middle East problem is that we now see it as just an inherently violent and unstable backwater. This is a region which historically has often been the beacon of culture, civilization, and progress. This is a region which could economically benefit from peace so greatly that it's tough for us to even foresee. This is a region intentionally destabilized by the west for the purposes of colonial control under other names which we now consider a status quo demanding protection. And because groups within it are fighting that status quo (in addition to western cultural influence, which is a whole other ball of wax but certainly conflated in many if not most minds to the point where they might as well be indistinguishable at the moment) the West views those fighting as barbaric, as uncivilized, as terrorists.

That is orientalism of the first order and we don't get anywhere with that.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:53 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


it's been true since at least the Peninsular War that there is no military solution to a guerrilla problem.

That would certainly seem to apply to any attempt to retake Northwestern Iraq; it might as well be Afghanistan for all the luck we'll have there. But when IS reached Mosul and Kirkuk they took on the characteristics of an invading force, and that's a different matter. If allegiances hold within the Kurdish groups they should be able, perhaps with Iranian and US backing, to repel them indefinitely.

But unfortunately there's more than one way to skin a cat and things could get a lot worse.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:56 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


One of the things that frustrates me the most about the Middle East problem is that we now see it as just an inherently violent and unstable backwater. This is a region which historically has often been the beacon of culture, civilization, and progress

There have been non-stop wars fought over the region for 5000 years or more. The only time it's been at relative peace is when it's been part of a larger empire (Persian, ottoman, Byzantine, Mongols, etc). That's more an accident of geography than culture, though. There just aren't nice ways to draw borders in the region.

That said, much the same could have been said about Europe prior to the end of WWII.

How many wars, btw, do we need before we can start calling this wwiii? Because I really fear we're heading in that direction.
posted by empath at 8:11 PM on August 26


Cheny warned us against trying to take Iraq, in 1994. Here is the story ... http://archive.redstate.com/stories/war/cheney_warned_of_iraq_quagmire_0
posted by MikeWarot at 8:20 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Those comments are hilarious. Mostly they reduce to the tried and true "B-b-but 9/11 changed everything!" and "You forgot Poland."
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:29 PM on August 26


I'm now pro Palestinian and anti Israel.

Cockburn is unhinged. sorry them's the facts.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:37 PM on August 26




At what point is intervention acceptable? I can understand why putting special ops on the ground and drones and bombs in the air sounds like a repeat of Libya which sounds like a repeat of Yemen which sounds like a repeat of Iraq. But what's wrong with rescuing those who are under threat of mass murder? What sort of rescue would be acceptable to non-interventionists? Because at some point the historical analogy is going to shift from Iraq 2003 to Rwanda 1994.

Well, you're looking at one. I'm not a Johnny come lately on this either. Check out my activity in any of these threads, and I always say that it's specifically *military* intervention by the U.S. in the ME that I'm wary of. I have absolutely no problem with humanitarian aid - more, I have always insisted that we are making a huge mistake by *not* helping with humanitarian aid (under U.N. aegis, of course). The lack of our taking any responsibility for the disaster we caused, has caused further disaster in the region - specifically, our criminal neglect of the enormous refugee problem that's destroying the neighboring countries. Unless we do so, we will cause further disaster.

Longer term, I am also for economic engagement in the region and economic and developmental aid - although it must be without overt short-term selfish goals. The Marshall Plan is a model. It will be infinitely cheaper, and it will bear a lot better fruit for us not merely security-wise, but economically too (longer term).

So this non-military interventionist is all in as far as humanitarian aid is concerned as well as economic and developmental aid, respecting the sovereignty of each country in the region. It's not charity, it's security for the region, for us, and the world. It won't be easy or without challenge, but there is no *sensible* alternative.
posted by VikingSword at 8:48 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


Via a podcast on this topic that I think was linked on the blue, I found the blog Jihadica which has some good information on the whole Jihadist movement. Various factions and information on the ideologies and key players that we in the west don't hear much about usually. That said, it doesn't seem that they've updated in almost a month, but there's plenty of past content there for people to dig in if they want to learn more. I highly recommend it.
posted by symbioid at 9:15 PM on August 26


VikingSword: "Longer term, I am also for economic engagement in the region and economic and developmental aid - although it must be without overt short-term selfish goals. The Marshall Plan is a model. It will be infinitely cheaper, and it will bear a lot better fruit for us not merely security-wise, but economically too (longer term)."

"Us" being US and Western citizens. "We" don't matter. There's oil over there, and the elite need that oil to continue raping the rest of us. The "beneficial" side effect of this is that the elites who are invested in the military-industrial complex get to continue to make insane profits in that area along with the profit from the oil. The politicians also gain because they get to tout how many people are employed in order to fight this evil while receiving huge monetary rewards from their masters. Almost all of us are mere pawns. Same as it ever was, but on a much larger scale, I think.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 9:27 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


I submit to you also this excellent analysis from the Journal of Small Wars. For once, do read the comments.
Soooooo... I took this advice. Or at least I started to. The very first words of the very first comment:
Three facts no one seems to factor in:

1. Obama is a muslim.
posted by Flunkie at 10:14 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


Almost all of us are mere pawns. Same as it ever was, but on a much larger scale, I think.

Nah; fracking, the unfortunately fortuitous discovery of oil in more stable regions, opening of reserves due to the flagrant disregard of previously-established environmental regulations, and the rise of alternative energy sources will eventually reduce the West's dependence on Mideast oil. Heck, perhaps the spectre of renewed conflict with Russia will scare the Europeans into lessening their dependence on oil in general. Without economic diversification, the Mideast will become a backwater again, useful only for certain theologically zealous factions' eschatological schemes.

But that, like the end of the War on Drugs, will take another generation or half to reach.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:24 PM on August 26


The Mideast will become a backwater again, once Ghawar is fulling tapped out. The new oil off Australia mentioned, if proven, would only equal 60 days output from Ghawar.

The oil is running out folks, fracking is a con/bubble (look at cost/return ratios)... all of this ramping up of Homeland Security is all about handling US when we are faced with $50/gallon gasoline. The only thing keeping the price down is inertia in the rest of the world, otherwise they would be demanding Gold instead of promises to pay in promises.
posted by MikeWarot at 10:34 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


You broke it, you own it, and it never ends. Libya is circling the drain, and as it does so, it's pulling us in. They never learn, do they. It's groundhog day again:

U.S., Europe weigh sanctions, armed force for Libya.

"The Obama administration and its European allies are weighing their options for greater involvement in Libya, including sanctions against warlords and an armed international force to help stabilize the North African country, diplomats said Tuesday.

With Egypt and the United Arab Emirates secretly cooperating in airstrikes in Libya in the last two weeks, diplomats will meet Wednesday at the United Nations Security Council to consider joint action aimed at defusing the conflict before it grows worse and aggravates regionwide instability.

Fear of a broader Mideast struggle between supporters and foes of Islamist groups "is forcing some rethinking," said a European diplomat who asked to remain unidentified, citing diplomatic sensitivities. "It seems clear we need to start doing something differently.""

"The United States and Europe have tried to help Libya become a stable democracy since a North Atlantic Treaty Organization air war helped insurgents oust former ruler Moammar Kadafi in 2011.

Libya instead devolved into a semi-lawless state, with a patchwork of warring militias, some secular, some Islamist, or focused on tribal and local issues. The country has two rival parliaments in different cities, each claiming to be its legitimate representative body. The growing chaos has attracted terrorist groups, as well as drug and arms trafficking."

"Brian Katulis, a Middle East specialist at the Democratic-leaning Center for American Progress, noted that Western governments have suffered repeated setbacks in previous efforts to help the Libyan government build its defense forces and control its borders.

"You've got a country in a downward spiral into fragmentation," he said."

Oh yeah, I'm sure more military involvement and more of those secret bombing raids they've been doing recently will be just the ticket to "stabilize" the country and pull it out of its "downward spiral into fragmentation" which is "destabilizing the region".

They never learn, do they. It's groundhog day again. They never learn, do they. It's groundhog day again. They never learn, do they. It's groundhog day again.
posted by VikingSword at 10:36 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


The oil is running out folks, fracking is a con/bubble (look at cost/return ratios)... all of this ramping up of Homeland Security is all about handling US when we are faced with $50/gallon gasoline. The only thing keeping the price down is inertia in the rest of the world, otherwise they would be demanding Gold instead of promises to pay in promises.

google ron paul '16
posted by Justinian at 11:16 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


MikeWarot: "The oil is running out folks, fracking is a con/bubble (look at cost/return ratios)... "

I agree. And that's not even mentioning the huge amounts of ground water involved in doing that (or climate change that results). It's especially alarming when you look at it in terms of ERoEI. Once the middle east is fully tapped, we're going to hit negative ERoEI in an instant. Face it, folks, humanity is screwed.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:34 PM on August 26


i might have missed previous links to VICE mags coverage of ISIL(S) ... if not its solid.. That said funding for these guys comes from somewhere, is it back to Saudi Arabia again (it looks like it is)? If yes, does that continue on to all of us who put their gas in our tanks everyday? Get a bike, fck ISIL.
posted by specialk420 at 12:03 AM on August 27


For the record; Isis is a goddess. ISIL are the lunatics. They stopped calling themselves ISIS pretty early in this game, I wish everyone else would too.

They were ISI until they changed to something that was abbreviated as either ISIS or ISIL, then the US government decided to standardize on ISIL after which they dropped the last bits and became Islamic State, abbreviated IS (see wiki). Non-US media tends to use IS these days.

Related: "Fans have emailed us that they're reluctant to wear our T-shirts now and we've also gotten some off-color comments."
posted by effbot at 1:43 AM on August 27


So let's see.

The CIA overthrows Mossadeq because the US was afraid of communism; we put the Shah in power, who turns out to be terrible, is overthrown by Khomeini, and Iran hates us forever.

The Soviet Union invades Afghanistan. We give aid and training to the mujahideen, who later will become the Taliban.

Iran-Iraq war, in which we support Iraq because they're not Iran. We sell chemical and biological weapons to Iraq. We also sell arms to Iran, because ???

Gulf War against Iraq, beause communism and Kuwait and oil.

War against Afghanistan and Iraq because 9/11 and we didn't get Saddam the first time and "WMDs" and whatnot. This turns out to be the best Al-Qaeda recruiting tool ever and leads to ISIS-or-whatever.

We're selling arms to Saudi Arabia even though they probably were just as closely linked to 9/11 and also have a terrible human rights record, because oil.

And we're selling/giving arms to Israel because... of religion, as far as I can tell... and they're using them to blow up kids and hospitals.

Plus something about Syria and ... shit, I give up. (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
posted by Foosnark at 5:15 AM on August 27 [16 favorites]


pb kindly pointed out that I had borked a link above about abu bakr´s release from custody by US Intelligence in 2004.
In the excellent article from The Small Wars linked by aubergine
the discussion below the first comment gets interesting and one point bought up is that how come an Iman and therefore a teacher who would have been looked up to by other prisoners
comes to be released especially as he was so radical.
This raises the question of if US Intelligence knew who and what he was, did they deliberately release him to do mischief, subsequentially loosing contact.
Long term instability is in the interest of the Military Industrial complex.
Bin Laden believed that the only way to destroy America was to destroy her economy and in hindsight he will be proved correct.
Well done Mr Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al. Mission accomplished indeed. But whose mission?
posted by adamvasco at 5:19 AM on August 27


the West views those fighting as barbaric, as uncivilized, as terrorists.

They are viewed similarly by everyone I've met from the region.

If you need an acronym call them DAASH, it's derogatory.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 5:33 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I'm getting a bit confused by all the we's used in this thread. Should I generally read them as 'people in/from the US'?
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:03 AM on August 27


The "we" in my post was, anyway. Sorry about that.
posted by Foosnark at 6:17 AM on August 27


Related: "Fans have emailed us that they're reluctant to wear our T-shirts now and we've also gotten some off-color comments."

Dude, just think about how Bob Dylan feels.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:25 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


How many times will the same scenario play out before it is considered the desired outcome?
If it were just incompetence, western meddling in the region would've had some success by chance.
That it has not should lead us to believe things are working as intended.
posted by fullerine at 6:30 AM on August 27


This is Bob Dylan to me...
posted by rosswald at 6:32 AM on August 27


Re: The next president; I know it's not possible, for so many reasons...the primary of which is that I'm pretty sure there is photographic record of my twenties...but if I were able to run and win the office of Supreme Ruler of the Executive Geometrical Business Suite, I swear before all that is froody, I would make the focus of my campaign that I wanted to return to the Isolationism of the Founding Fathers. I would quote George Washington's Farewell Adress:
"The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities."
I could pull support from the Left and the Right. I'd be unstoppable. (If it weren't for those Rainbow Family gatherings...and the performance at Burning Man...and the thing with the jugglers...but ya know, other than that...)

I would remind people that we remained isolationists from the beginning of the country until the early 20th century. In a single century, we've somehow managed to get our fingers in everyone's pies, while leaving our own unbaked.

It's madness on an ethical and financial level. It's time to bring the troops home from everywhere. Allies and enemies alike. It's time to stop funding foreign military regimes with American dollars. Let's get the Army Corp of Engineers out on the streets fixing bridges and infrastructure. We could fix our national debt problem in a single year by just admitting that the world isn't our police beat. We could focus that funding on fixing our failing internal systems.

It's time to clean our own house, rather than sweeping sand in the desert.
posted by dejah420 at 6:56 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


I dunno. I am in general anti-interventionist, and have become more so as time has gone on. But I also remember walking through the streeets of Sarajevo looking at the still bullet-riddled buildings, reading and hearing about the siege.

And many Bosnians are still angry at NATO for the terms of the peace deal that left Serbia with a bunch of stolen territory, but jesus how badly might that situation have ended if not for some airstrikes?

The Islamic State is pretty direct blowback from our illegal, incompetent invasion of Iraq last decade, and I'm not sure what if any military intervention today would help the situation, but I'm not willing to agree with a blanket statement that the US should ignore the rest of the world and just let even an ongoing genocide run its course. Do all you anti-interventionists believe we were right to stay out of Rwanda in '94?
posted by crayz at 7:06 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Do all you anti-interventionists believe we were right to stay out of Rwanda in '94?

Its not about rights really. Its about, 'with the information we have now, is it overwhelmingly likely that this military and necessarily violent intervention will have significant positive consequences for the innocent people involved?'
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:11 AM on August 27


It seems to me like most of the evil the US has done to the rest of the world and to itself has been in the name of fighting first communism, then terrorism (which largely sprang up as a result of the previous fight against communism).

I wonder how things might have turned out if the US had let the Soviet Union do its thing... no Cold War, no messing around in the Middle East or southeast Asia, no continuing fear and suspicion over unions and welfare and universal health care. Would the Soviets have overrun Europe and Asia entirely, had all the access they wanted to resources and warm-water ports and gone on to defeat North America too? Or without being provoked by the threat of a potential superpower who remained neutral, would they have also kept their cool and we'd be in a much better world today, overall?
posted by Foosnark at 8:10 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Interventionists believe:
-Something CAN be done to make things better
-The USA is capable of effecting such a plan that results in a positive change
-The US taxpayer can afford it.

But what if that's just not the case?
Since the end of the Cold War 16 years ago, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have been running an experiment with U.S. grand strategy. The theory to be tested has been this: Very good intentions, plus very great power, plus action can transform both international politics and the domestic politics of other states in ways that are advantageous to the United States, and at costs it can afford. The evidence is in: The experiment has failed. Transformation is unachievable, and costs are high.

The United States needs now to test a different grand strategy: It should conceive its security interests narrowly, use its military power stingily, pursue its enemies quietly but persistently, share responsibilities and costs more equitably, watch and wait more patiently. Let’s do this for 16 years and see if the outcomes aren’t better.
Barry Posen, "The Case For Restraint"
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:14 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


All that I feel as I read the first article is sadness for the ordinary people of Baghdad. They're want peace, they're comfortable with peace, they naively hope that there will be peace. Their soldiers would rather sneak back home and live in peace than go out and kill and destroy. Their politicians are bumbling and corrupt and incapable of effectively organizing and inspiring people to kill and destroy.

If he's painting a fair portrait, then I like those people more, and feel sadder for them, than for anyone else involved in this extended orgy of killing and destruction.
posted by clawsoon at 8:31 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


> I would quote George Washington's Farewell Adress:

It's interesting to note, therefore, what the very next President did. Military intervention against the Barbary States because of their piracy and slave taking. So we've actually been doing this for a long time.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:54 AM on August 27


(Not to disagree, of course. Isolationism did remain the overall rule as you say.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:07 AM on August 27


I would remind people that we remained isolationists from the beginning of the country until the early 20th century.

Actually this is not true at all. Unless you don't count the Native American nations that we slaughtered and stole land from as peoples worthy of consideration. Also the Monroe doctrine was most decidedly not isolationist. It seems to me the whole "return to isolationism" trope is similar to the conservative idea that we need to return to some moral golden age that never really existed.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:33 AM on August 27


Even non-military intervention rarely has good results. Look into the history of American intervention in Latin America. IIRC the statistic was that intervention resulted in positive outcomes (for democracy, human rights etc) only 25% of the time.

In medicine, iatrogenesis made going to church a better option than going to the doctor right up until sometime in the early 1900's, when the odds finally tipped in favor of the doctor. We are probably decades if not centuries away from crossing that line when it comes to direct military intervention.

If the Middle East is ever to "stabilize," it will occur exactly when the people who live there are free to settle their own affairs without foreign intermeddling and no sooner. For whatever reason we cannot seem to keep our hands to ourselves, so that will probably never happen.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 10:34 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


On topic, I believe that several times here on the blue I warned about and predicted the blowback which would inevitably result from our meddling in Syria. Another great example of this same failed policy is Libya. Of course it is easier to ignore the disastrous consequences of that adventure as Western capitalists aren't very interested in Mali.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:38 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


AElfwine Evenstar: "I would remind people that we remained isolationists from the beginning of the country until the early 20th century.

Actually this is not true at all. Unless you don't count the Native American nations that we slaughtered and stole land from as peoples worthy of consideration. Also the Monroe doctrine was most decidedly not isolationist. It seems to me the whole "return to isolationism" trope is similar to the conservative idea that we need to return to some moral golden age that never really existed.
"

Here's my thinking; including Native Americans in the foreign policy pile might make sense to modern sensibilities, it certainly wasn't considered that way throughout most of Settler American history. Hence the reason that the Interior Department was responsible for those policies. Ergo, while I agree that treatment of Native Americans always has been, and continues to be unfair, unjust, and uncompensated, that was a policy of Expansionism, and thus not so much connected to the political ideal that we should not get involved in foreign wars.

As to the Monroe Doctrine; it was initially envisioned by Mr.(Pres) J.Q. Adams as a doctrine against colonialism by European powers on the North and South American continents, albeit that is not how it has been interpreted or used by subsequent presidents. Even so, the Monroe Doctrine was still primarily seen as a protective measure of American sovereignty. (Hence the reason for using it to plant a flag on Hawaii in the 1850s.)


George_Spiggott: "It's interesting to note, therefore, what the very next President did. Military intervention against the Barbary States because of their piracy and slave taking. So we've actually been doing this for a long time."

Well, not really. We didn't get involved there until *after* Barbary pirates captured American ships and held Americans for ransom. Isolationism isn't a philosophy of non-retaliation, (see bombing of Pearl Harbor, which finally got us in WWII), it is a philosophy which says that things outside of our borders are not necessarily our mess to clean up.

Isolationism, as I view it, (and political philosophy is like all other philosophy; ymmv, ), is that a country is first and foremost concerned with the well being of her citizens. Resources are spent to ensure the well being of her citizens first, and the world second. It is a selfish philosophy, I grant you, but I put it to you that it is not the job of a government to be externally altruistic.

It is the job of the government to fufill the needs and will of the governed. If a government cannot do that, and I put it to you that our government cannot, then that government has failed, and it's time to take away their toys, and try a new game plan.
posted by dejah420 at 11:02 AM on August 27


And to bring that all back to the point; I do not think that adding more guns to the situation on the ground in the middle east is the right way to go. It is not possible for invaders to win a land war in that part of the world, just ask every army in the history of the world that has tried.

All military intervention is going to do is make it worse. But I'll be honest y'all, I've got no idea what will make it better.
posted by dejah420 at 11:10 AM on August 27


A fair distinction and I won't argue it; I just thought it was interesting how quickly after that speech we launched on such a notable and far-reaching military adventure.

Getting back to the present, what does isolationism mean in the context of say, Nigeria and Boko Haram? We can say "we're not going to get involved", but given that Nigeria has been politically and economically dominated by American and European resource extraction multinationals for decades, aren't "we" already deeply involved?
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:11 AM on August 27


On topic, I believe that several times here on the blue I warned about and predicted the blowback which would inevitably result from our meddling in Syria.

You, me, and others. It's quite illuminating to read one of those threads and see whose positions stood the test of time. It's spooky how accurate those of us who opposed the intervention were in drawing out the exact scenarios that happened - and interesting to see that discussion evolve. I highly recommend re-reading old threads on such topics, because whenever something is happening in the heat of the moment, it's hard to decide who is right, it is only with the benefit of looking back, a consistent viewpoint comes into light - there are those who have a better grasp, and those who fall for the same illusions and wrong arguments over and over and over again.

The non-interventionists have been remarkably prescient, and it's sad to see those who urge us to go back in there with our military are yet again, going to be wrong when in time we look back at today's crisis.
posted by VikingSword at 11:11 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


So if I don't want to bomb the Middle East or arm its population, I am a Ron Paul supporting isolationist? There are any number of ways we can be involved internationally with less destructive consequences. The thinking of those of us that do not want to engage in military action in Middle East is that US intervention hasn’t been helpful and is highly unlikely to be helpful in the future. Military intervention is bad policy, so if we oppose it we are not isolationists; we are fans of productive geopolitics.

Just because libertarian ideology stumbles onto a good policy once in while doesn’t mean that libertarian ideology is always good policy (broken clocks and all), and if I agree with its conclusions from time to time doesn’t make me a 2-dimensional, knee-jerk Randian. What do we gain from intervention, what does the world gain? The argument from the Neoconservatives seems to be that if we disengage our ‘enemies’, like Iran, will gain influence, so what.
posted by Colby_Longhorn at 11:20 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


If it were just incompetence, western meddling in the region would've had some success by chance.

this is not true in the least
posted by Hoopo at 11:22 AM on August 27


The only reasonable alternative, given that we created this situation going all the way back to the crumbling of the Ottoman Empire and the advancement of British and American oil interests, is to let whatever broadly functional independent polities actually exist in the region take the lead, whether we like them or not, and backstop them where necessary when the alternative is to let shit like genocide proceed. As far as I can see that means the Kurds and Iran.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:26 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Sorry, that link appears to be borked. Here's what I'm referring to: I'll take "What is Syria" for $100, Alex
posted by VikingSword at 11:40 AM on August 27


Everyone is over thinking the ME problem. It comes down to oil. Pure and simple. Our government is never going to come out and say so. But it is what it is. If the ME oil fields miraculously dried up permanently overnight we would be out of the ME in a NY heart beat.
posted by notreally at 11:41 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I'm an utterly unqualified prognosticator but I'll put my head on the chopping block and try to guess what comes next.

Let's say Kurdistan with some outside help halts IS at the fringes. NW Iraq and and a chunk of Syria are basically owned by IS, because ain't nobody going to get them out without embarking on another major commitment to a Long War, which nobody has the stomach for right now. As far as it goes, this becomes a quasistable arrangement. But where will IS stop? Will they press on to Baghdad? I cannot even imagine the domestic and geopolitical fallout if after all this we end up contemplating a Fall of Saigon situation there.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:42 AM on August 27


If the Middle East is ever to "stabilize," it will occur exactly when the people who live there are free to settle their own affairs without foreign intermeddling and no sooner. For whatever reason we cannot seem to keep our hands to ourselves, so that will probably never happen.

If you want to stop intervention by non-regional powers in the Middle East you'll need to find a replacement for oil. Do that and I think most of these countries would be happy to wash their hands of the region. This is obvious, I know, but unless it happens you can argue for non-intervention until you're blue in the face and nothing will happen. We're there because the way in which we live demands that the oil flows and keeps flowing.

On edit: seconding notreally's comment.
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:44 AM on August 27


As a lefty-type person I'm sympathetic to the argument that ME problems revolve around oil, but I don't know that that's the whole story. Oil is fungible, there's no reason we couldn't buy it from ISIL or whoever ends up controlling it. Even during the UN sanctions on Iraq its oil still made it into the marketplace (to the tune of $53 billion per Wikipedia). Even if ISIL/whoever won't sell it to America, they'll sell it to someone else, so the overall supply is the same. I'm no economist though, so maybe I've got it wrong.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 12:00 PM on August 27


Honestly, the ferocity and brutality of IS, which allowed them to capture so much territory initially, will eventually cause them to overreach. They are too fanatical to administrate, only to conquer. The Sunni tribes and former Baath officers will clash with them and fall away. Like a bad epidemic, they will burn themselves out. That doesn't mean stability for the region, only the end of the rise of the Islamic State.

But in the meantime, there's still a humanitarian issue.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:06 PM on August 27


Everyone is over thinking the ME problem. It comes down to oil. Pure and simple. Our government is never going to come out and say so. But it is what it is. If the ME oil fields miraculously dried up permanently overnight we would be out of the ME in a NY heart beat.

no, its not all about oil. Mrbigmuscles is spot on. Oil can be purchased on the world market. Its fungible (largely), we aren't at risk of a shortage at all, and OPEC is only nominally a cartel etc
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:10 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


It is about oil, but not direct control of oil for our own exploitation. As the PNAC outlined it is hegemonic control of oil so unfriendly governments cannot control this valuable resource. The argument goes that if it is in the hands of unfriendly interests they can use the profits for nefarious activities and if they control large volumes of crude, they can either flood the market or turn off the tap - either way this could cause exogenous shocks to on the global oil market which can have massive ripple effects. There are also issues with oil being traded on in US Dollars, meaning that nations maintain stockpiles of petrodollars, ensuring demand for US currency. If an unfriendly government chose to trade in another currency if could have negative repercussions on the value of US Currency. If we control ME oil however, we can influence the levels at which it is produced and if we choose can wield that as leverage against other global powers like Russia and China. It is part of the vision of the USA as the sole superpower in the post cold war era, and it seems to be a vision that dies hard.
posted by Colby_Longhorn at 12:20 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


I see IS holding oilfields hostage, I don't see them exploiting them. That requires cooperation from sectors that aren't going to be in any hurry to establish a relationship with them. Who are the IS's friends? Do they have any state backers, or supply lines worth mentioning? Right now they're a feral army that subsists on raids, and really can only be regarded as insurrectionists, not the fledgling state they pretend to be.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:22 PM on August 27


Can US defeat Islamic State without help from Assad?
After a flurry of speculation recently that President Obama might overcome his distaste for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to go after Islamic State militants in their base inside Syria, the White House is speaking out: There will be no cooperation with the Assad regime.

But even as the United States begins surveillance flights over Syria in anticipation of possible expanded US action against the Islamic State (IS), also known as ISIS, some security experts are cautioning the administration about its anti-Assad stance. While it will be possible for the US to degrade IS inside Syria without coordinating with Mr. Assad, they say, reaching more long-term objectives like defeating or even containing the group will probably mean giving up on the goal of seeing Assad step down from power.
posted by rosswald at 12:29 PM on August 27


Do all you anti-interventionists believe we were right to stay out of Rwanda in '94?

that's an irrelevant and unfair question - we didn't have the logistics set up to intervene in anything like the time that would have been required to put an end to it

it's not enough to have an army, you've got to be able to get it there in time
posted by pyramid termite at 12:32 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


It is still not a satisfactory explanation for deposing Saddam, who was basically harmless (except to his own people) and mostly "sold" his oil to Europe.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 12:38 PM on August 27


Didn't mean to sound needlessly fighty it's just I am aware of PNAC etc. but "it's oil!" doesn't seem to explain the headless-chicken nature of our ME misadventures
posted by mrbigmuscles at 12:47 PM on August 27


Dude, just think about how Bob Dylan feels.

Probably corrugated-like, mostly peach-fuzzy.

If ISIS carves out a new state, and then proves to be unable to administer, as so many predict, are we looking at a new Sunni polity?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:20 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]




Yes, of course oil is a huge, huge factor in our interest in the ME, but just as you can't understand what is going on without taking oil into account, you will absolutely get it wrong if you think that oil is the only big factor in our ME policies.

There are other issues, some with historical roots. There is the whole Cold War geopolitical competition with the Soviet Union, which was a huge factor from at least the 60's on (before that, we actually were mostly interested in preventing our European allies, the British and French from dominating the area and the Suez Canal). We formed regional alliances for and against countries in this context. Note, that neither Egypt nor Israel have any appreciable amount of oil, yet the Soviets (who initially backed Israel!) were hell bent on getting a strategic foothold in Egypt, and for a time succeeded. Israel ultimately had closer cultural and ethnic ties to the U.S. (through the Jewish community here), and more importantly knew who had the longer term economic and military staying power, so they turned to the U.S., and we eagerly embraced them for those initial coinciding interests.

That Cold War competition was of course all over the globe, but it was in Africa and the ME too. There was a lot of money to be made too, in selling arms (for both the U.S. and the Soviets). Remember, that at various times, Iraq and Syria had ties to the Soviets (and today, Syria to Russia). And even though the Soviet Union had long fallen, the fact that Saddam was someone we couldn't control, and someone who continued to have ties to Russia and a military dominated by arms from non-American sources was absolutely one factor among many, in attacking Iraq.

Israel meanwhile managed to implant itself into the U.S. foreign policy in the ME to such an extent that a lot of our resulting policies have been completely against our own interests - devastatingly so. So Israel's wishes are always a factor in our ME actions - always. Israel was quite happy to have the U.S. remove Saddam from the region (remember Saddam's rockets fired at Israel during Gulf War I), and are happy to see Syria as a viable opponent completely demolished. These are all non-oil factors.

And speaking purely about terrorism, obviously, the biggest (though not only) reason for ME terrorism being directed against the U.S. has been driven by our support of Israel - and whatever Israel does regionally, such as vis a vis the Palestinians, the U.S. as Israel's #1 sponsor is held accountable (even in instances where we are entirely innocent). We are beholden to Israel nonetheless, for complex reasons - and Israel has no oil.

The joking expression - "but don't be fooled, they really are that stupid" applies to our ME policies in spades. We could all go conspiracy theories about the military-industrial complex and Big Oil, and surely those are factors to a degree, but the biggest explanation of our fuckupery is just that: massive incompetence, incredible hubris, the Dunning-Kruger effect, and astonishing astral-plane level of delusion. If you read the neocons discussing Iraq before the invasion, they had - sincere - hopes of establishing Iraq as a paragon of Democracy that would then domino-effect across the rest of the "backward" region which would all fall into U.S. worship, because we are Democracy #1. Don't underestimate the persuasiveness of that argument to the "deciders" (who are ill-informed to such a degree that GWB famously didn't even know there are Sunnis and Shiites and others, not just "Muslims").

The messianic aspect of this is very, very real to people like GWB. It was a decision (the Iraq war) made by a relatively small group of people. True believers all, and frighteningly delusional. Yes, Cheney may have nattered on for a bit about how we'll control the oil over there, but that was not the key argument for GWB - it was all "USA will transform the region into a pro-USA democratic heaven, thus solving the ME mess forever!". GWB is a stupid, ignorant and incurious man, but he's not a straightforward robber and thief - oil alone, or "securing continued access" would not have had him go to war. He is sadly a true believer in the neocon nonsense. That whole thing was a neocon-christian right-libertarian delusion - the insanity of destroying a whole society with zero regard to its ethnic or political composition, so that they can start with a tabula rasa, wherein the first priority was establishing a stock market and economy that would bring a Libertarian Utopia into reality; the sub-par intellects and twenty-somethings plucked from Christian colleges put in charge of key sectors of the economic project, with neocon "strategists" chirping about marching on to Iran - the whole madness and stupidity on a scale that's hard to grasp.

If you want a perfect analogy, look at one of today's FPPs about the Galt's Gulch Chile scam, where a bunch of delusional, stupid and greedy Libertarians got taken. They had a plan! It was perfect! They believed it! Exactly as our neocons wrt. the ME - a delusional ideology, devoid of any contact with reality, the money and hubris to go whole hog into it, a disastrous collapse of the dream, and a bunch of side-actor sharpies siphoning off the money along the way. That's what happened. All the Halliburtons and the arms people, the curveball, Chalabi and assorted charlatans, the Israel-interest pushers and the myriad other chiselers were merely hitching a ride on the Big Neocon Idea.

So oil is only a partial explanation, and you cannot understand our policies in the ME if that's all you see as an explanation. Ultimately, stupid is as stupid does. And we have been very stupid indeed when it comes to the ME.

The tragedy is that there is no counterforce. Policy continues to be made by a small group of "deciders". There is no check on that, because Americans unfortunately are not particularly well-informed about world affairs, so they can't always spot obvious bullshit like "mushroom cloud!" and so they'll never vote these jokers out. Meanwhile, the same group of advisers continues to poison the well from one administration to the next, so even voting doesn't help, because Democrat or Republican, it's the same crew with minor variations that makes the decisions - including our most "out of the usual business - true hope and change" Obama who famously retained a shitload of the knuckleheads from GWB's time (who in turn went back to Reagan's and even Nixon's crew for that old-timey "competence"). Obama should have made a clean sweep and drawn up charges. Instead, it was all "look forward and not backward" and exactly the same group of ne'er do wells making our policies, whether in the ME or on Wall Street and banking, or "the economy". In sum: expect more of the same.
posted by VikingSword at 2:05 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


>Do all you anti-interventionists believe we were right to stay out of Rwanda in '94?

that's an irrelevant and unfair question - we didn't have the logistics set up to intervene in anything like the time that would have been required to put an end to it


Unfortunately, Rwanda was not a question of "intervention vs. non-intervention". While it seems unbelievable, Belgium and to a certain extent France facilitated the genocide, both by arming the pre-genocide majority government, and then by studiously avoiding doing anything to prevent what was happening, despite both countries having significant military resources located in Rwanda, based at the airport.

Indeed, France actually protected the Interahamwe who conducted the genocide.

Once again, that rule of unintended consequences playing out...

But asking someone if "we" should have intervened in Rwanda or not kind of glosses over the reality of the situation back then. While Clinton was disinterested, even if the US had wanted to go in, two key European allies were already there, aggressively pursuing a non-interventionist policy.
posted by Nevin at 2:15 PM on August 27


So how does Saudi Arabia figure in all this?
Saudi Funding of ISIS

Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar,” John McCain told CNN’s Candy Crowley in January 2014. “Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar, and for our Qatari friends,” the senator said once again a month later, at the Munich Security Conference.
Meanwhile ISIS supporters watch from the shadows in Saudi Arabia.
Meet the Frankenstein monster of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Or as we know them, Isis.
The Middle East Quarterly on Prince Bandar ex Saudi Intelligence chief.
posted by adamvasco at 2:31 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


>it was all "USA will transform the region into a pro-USA democratic heaven, thus solving the ME mess forever!".

That reminds me a lot of the poem about The White Man's Burden. (I hope linking Wikipedia is okay.) I'm getting reminded of Cuba now, except instead of prostitution and illegal enterprises it's oil. Or like the Philippines, with American dreams of a base/ally or farms on the other side of the Pacific.
posted by halifix at 2:39 PM on August 27


As far as intervention is concerned, it certainly is distressing that the responsibility seems to be solely on the U.S.'s shoulders. Sure, "you break it you buy it" and all that, but some multilateralism would be nice. Not just NATO, but getting a U.N. peacekeeping mission and having the intervention being done through such channels. Or heck, getting the Arab League involved- they've got militaries and resources, don't they?

Listen to the Pope, y'all.
posted by Apocryphon at 3:21 PM on August 27


I'm confused about the Rwanda example. Is that example supposed to indicate we should intervene against al-Assad or for him? Is he the one committing war crimes or the one fighting against them? Because both sides could point at Rwanda and claim it's the other.

Which is why I think pointing at Rwanda is no more on point here than pointing at Nazi Germany or Stalin or whatever.
posted by Justinian at 4:11 PM on August 27


The systematic destruction of the Yezidis or the Iraqi Christian minorities could constitute an analogue to Rwanda. Sure, to say one mass-killing is of needing more urgent intervention than another is a weird ethical calculus, but such is the nature of genocide.
posted by Apocryphon at 4:22 PM on August 27


Ok, so we should intervene on the side of the chemical-weapons butcher then?
posted by Justinian at 4:30 PM on August 27


I thought there was no result on whether Assad's guys did the gas attacks or one of the rebel groups did the gas attacks?
posted by bukvich at 4:32 PM on August 27


Eh, I thought it was pretty well accepted it was the regime?

But it doesn't exactly matter. Even leaving that aside lots of people would with justification accuse al-Assad of engaging in genocide against the non-Alawite Syrians.

Besides this was kind of a gotcha question in the first place. Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, specifically equated the actions of the Syrian government with the Rwandan genocide. So now we have Apocryphon saying the example of the Rwandan genocide would lead us to intervene on al-Assad's side against ISIS while Power and others have used that very regime as an example of the Rwandan genocide.

In other words, using the Rwandan genocide to try to make a case here is bullshit just like using the Holocaust would be. Both sides can do it and it makes more heat than light.
posted by Justinian at 4:41 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Twenty years from now, how will we reflect on this Council’s failure to help those people? How will we explain Council disunity on Syria twenty years after Rwanda
- Samantha Power, April 16, 2014 at a Security Council briefing on the prevention of and fight against genocide.

And yet we're about to start a bombing campaign on the side of the people she's talking about. Guess the Hutu Syrians aren't so bad after all.
posted by Justinian at 4:49 PM on August 27


Ok, so we should intervene on the side of the chemical-weapons butcher then?

Why is it only ISIS vs. Assad? There are plenty of sides to intervene on in this conflict. But presumably you'd want to intervene on the side of the people getting slaughtered, i.e. the Yezidis, who aren't even armed anyway. Which is more or less happening, since they're a minority within the Kurdish minority, and out of all of the armed sides involved, the Kurds are probably the ones who are least problematic. I don't know if it's decades of P.R. work, or because they were unfortunate enough to have been gassed in the past (and abandoned by the West to boot), but the Kurds appear to be the West's biggest friends east of Jericho. There's been rumors of cobelligerence with Assad, but that certainly hasn't happened yet.
posted by Apocryphon at 4:51 PM on August 27


I'd rather not intervene militarily at all. Humanitarian aid, sure.

The Kurds are the West's biggest friends in the area in the same way that Mubarak was (until we hung him out to dry). They're still bastards, they're just our bastards.
posted by Justinian at 4:57 PM on August 27


Nah, they're more like the Maronite Christians during the Lebanese War than anything. They're a minority- Kurds aren't Arabs, remember- who are pro-West for some reason, and fairly secular and democratic. And since they're not Arabs, they get along fairly well/indifferent with Israel.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:02 PM on August 27


Did the Maronite Christians have something like the terrorist Kurdistan Worker's Party which engaged in all kinds of massacres and killings of civilians? Note that these are the guys that we helped out in evacuating Mount Sinjar. Like I said, bastards but our bastards.
posted by Justinian at 5:08 PM on August 27


Samantha Power is a warmonger who advocated passionately for direct U.S. military attack against Syria and rocketing Assad, and specifically cited chemical weapons. Before that, she was pushing with all her might to attack Libya, advice which Obama - unfortunately - took, and we're living with the disastrous effects of that piece of warmongering today, and it's continuing to spiral out of control.

In any field, your credibility as an advisor hinges on the outcome of your advice. She was clearly wrong in the case of Syria. Rachel Maddow did an interesting show right after the CW agreement was signed. The clear consensus is that thank dog we did not rocket Assad. There were only losing outcomes to a strike against Assad - first, it would have deprived us of any leverage whatsoever, since we attacked him and shot our wad. No need to sign anything since the incentive was "or else", but once you've used your "or else"... And imagine that somehow we managed to obliterate Assad. What do you think would have happened to those CW? They'd have ended up with ISIS in the chaos that would follow Assad's demise - as they were the strongest military actor all along. We had no means of securing the CW in the event of Assad's overthrow. What a scenario - ISIS with chemical weapons. Not to mention the Russian angle. There was no good outcome to striking Assad, as Power advocated. Instead, it was right to not strike and to have an agreement, and remove the CW from the field. Exact opposite of Power's advice.

And when we did take her advice, disaster resulted - Libya.

It doesn't matter if it's "our" guys, Democrats like Power, or Republicans, wrong advice is still wrong advice and this warmongering has to be called out.

We must critique wrong policies and wrong advice, no matter if it's "our" guy Obama, or "their" guy GWB. Wrong is wrong.

Samantha Power has completely destroyed her credibility. She's been wrong so often and in such catastrophic ways, she should be banished from ever proffering advice on the ME again. It's like listening to Cheney and gang today opine on Syria and ISIS - why are we listening to these guys again? Why is it, that when called to put out a fire, we are asking for advice from the arsonist who is still holding the burning matches?

This is not the case of a doctor giving a mistaken treatment, and well, we all make bad calls. This is a doctor who has such a fundamental lack of understanding that they're advocating decapitation as a cure for a headache. It indicates a fundamental lack of fitness for the position, since you have no grasp of even obvious situations. Anyone advocating for the war against Iraq displays that disqualifying status - because it was clear and argued extensively before the war that it could only result in disaster. Same for anyone advocating for strikes against Assad, or arming Assad's opponents such as ISIS (as John McCain and others did). Disqualifying.

If you as an advisor are repeatedly shown to have given disastrous advice, that should be the end of anyone in power listening to you - no matter if you're a republican like Cheney or democrat like Power.

Sadly, Obama has no insight here and is relying on proven ME incompetents such as John Kerry.

Nobody should listen to a thing the likes of Power, Kerry, Cheney, McCain etc. have to say about the ME, even if it's dressed up in the usual "it's for the children!" appeal.
posted by VikingSword at 5:23 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


And y'all doubted me back in January.

Did the Maronite Christians have something like the terrorist Kurdistan Worker's Party which engaged in all kinds of massacres and killings of civilians?

In the Lebanese Civil War, every sect, ethnicity, and country had its own militia. But to answer your question, yes- and even more so; the Maronites dominated the Lebanese government prior to the war, and their militias were one of Israel's (and the U.S.'s) prime allies during the conflict. That said, the PKK are no angels, but at least they're not going to betray the U.S.- and they're not IS.

Note that these are the guys that we helped out in evacuating Mount Sinjar. Like I said, bastards but our bastards.

Loads of civilian refugees are on Mount Sinjar too, you know.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:29 PM on August 27


Nah, they're more like the Maronite Christians during the Lebanese War than anything. They're a minority- Kurds aren't Arabs, remember- who are pro-West for some reason, and fairly secular and democratic. And since they're not Arabs, they get along fairly well/indifferent with Israel.

So absolutely nothing like the Maronite Christians during the Lebanese War.
posted by xqwzts at 5:29 PM on August 27


The Maronites were backed by Israel and while they were Arab, are a minority in both Lebanon and in the Middle East, since they're Christians.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:39 PM on August 27


Missed your latest comment on preview so just to clarify my problem with your statement:

1- You are conflating all Maronite Christians with the Phalangists/Lebanese Forces. That's obviously something that they want as they proclaim to represent the whole community, but that was never the case. In fact the final few years of the conflict was mainly intra-sectarian between the different Christian communities. More recently election results show that they have the smallest popular support amongst the various Christian parties.

2- They were anything but "fairly secular and democratic". They are a far-right party who committed some of the worst atrocities of the war, including the Sabra and Shatila massacre [at the behest of their Israeli handlers], the assassinations of a couple of Presidents, and the massacre of a large number of army officers.

on preview:

The Maronites were backed by Israel and while they were Arab, are a minority in both Lebanon and in the Middle East, since they're Christians.

Christians in Lebanon weren't such a minority by the start of the war, the difference is they were no longer the majority, but then no individual sect was an outright majority.

As for the backed by Israel part that is again my main problem here: the conflation of Maronites [a religious sect] with a specific political party and its military wing, one which did not and does not represent all [or even the majority] of the members of that sect.
posted by xqwzts at 5:48 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Loads of civilian refugees are on Mount Sinjar too, you know.

I didn't mean the PKK were the guys ON Mount Sinjar, I meant they were the guys we flew CAS for in the process of evacuating the civilians.
posted by Justinian at 5:51 PM on August 27


Why is it only ISIS vs. Assad? There are plenty of sides to intervene on in this conflict.

Because as per the article:
Isis may well advance on Aleppo in preference to Baghdad: it’s a softer target and one less likely to provoke international intervention. This will leave the West and its regional allies – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – with a quandary: their official policy is to get rid of Assad, but Isis is now the second strongest military force in Syria; if he falls, it’s in a good position to fill the vacuum. Like the Shia leaders in Baghdad, the US and its allies have responded to the rise of Isis by descending into fantasy. They pretend they are fostering a ‘third force’ of moderate Syrian rebels to fight both Assad and Isis, though in private Western diplomats admit this group doesn’t really exist outside a few beleaguered pockets. Aymenn al-Tamimi confirms that this Western-backed opposition ‘is getting weaker and weaker’; he believes supplying them with more weapons won’t make much difference.
Any arms supplied by the US have a high chance of ending up in ISIS hands anyway, given how many Syrian fighters are defecting to their side. They are already flush with Humvees and other US-supplied weaponry captured from Iraqi troops. Arming the moderate Syrian rebels with weapons such as the anti-aircraft missiles they need to shoot down Assad's helicopters that are dropping barrel bombs on Aleppo runs the risk of them getting into the hands of ISIS militants who could use them to take pot shots at 747s. Also, arming the weakest party in any conflict and bring them up to parity with the other parties just means the conflict is going to drag on and on in a bloody stalemate with thousands more killed on all sides. It sucks, but backing Assad is probably the lesser evil. Or if that is unacceptable, just doing nothing.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 5:57 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


We must critique wrong policies and wrong advice, no matter if it's "our" guy Obama, or "their" guy GWB. Wrong is wrong.

I agree completely. I wasn't using Power as an example of someone who was correct, but as an example of how examples like Rwanda are usually crap and can be used by anyone for both sides of the current conflict.
posted by Justinian at 6:01 PM on August 27


Slow your roll. Who said anything about Syria? Why can't the Western intervention be limited to northern Iraq? Yes, yes, the boundaries have collapsed and are meaningless at this point, but surely they could concentrate on expelling IS from Iraq to shore up humanitarian efforts, and leave Syria to be Assad and IS's arena. I mean, you're still consigning a lot of Syrian people to certain doom (as the situation has been in the past years), but it means making this a restricted operation.
posted by Apocryphon at 6:03 PM on August 27


ISIS is a cross-border entity and we can't pretend that Iraq and Syria are two separate neatly fenced-off conflicts. For example, ISIS sends weaponry captured in Iraq to be used in Syria and uses revenue from captured Iraqi oilfields to finance its Syrian operations. Therefore attacking ISIS in Iraq weakens it in Syria and is an implicit intervention in the Syrian conflict. Assad understands this, which is why the Syrian air force has been bombing ISIS across the border in Iraq.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 6:12 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Yes, yes, the boundaries have collapsed and are meaningless at this point, but surely they could concentrate on expelling IS from Iraq to shore up humanitarian efforts, and leave Syria to be Assad and IS's arena.

Unfortunately, this is a prescription for failure par excellence. You cannot possibly defeat IS in Iraq without also defeating them in Syria. If a guerilla force has a large area of retreat, they are virtually impossible to dislodge. It's how we couldn't get rid of the guerrillas in South Vietnam, because they were always resupplied from the North (even though we bombed the North extensively!). We can't achieve victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan on account of their resupply from Pakistan (even though we drone them in Pakistan extensively!). Go back to Mao and his long march. The Communists were beaten on the main battlefields, soundly. So Mao formulated a strategy of retreating West, and from there launching relentless attacks, and he prevailed (and wrote the guerilla book, which was studied by North Vietnamese generals to great effect).

You cannot leave a whole area like that and hope that you'll eradicate them from just one undefined borderless region. Sorry, that simply is not an option.
posted by VikingSword at 6:13 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I mean, this illustrates yet again, why a military intervention is just the wrong tool here. You cannot half-do it. The one thing the U.S. military learned from Vietnam, and remembered that lesson until I guess recently, is 'you go in with overwhelming force'. You cannot half-ass it. If we were really serious, we'd go in there full on - 500,000 troops, total domination, non-stop action and commitment of decades time horizon and trillions of dollars. Look at Afghanistan - we've been there for more than a decade, with troop levels that combined with NATO numbers were not far off, and relentless bombing, while trying to build and recruit and use Afghan forces. And we have failed. So we need something bigger than Afghanistan. Now ask yourself - do we have that commitment? Is it realistic? Can we afford it? And on what planet does that cost calculus make sense for us?

So we either go in full force, or we don't at all. Doing the partial thing merely brings us back to the forgotten lessons of Vietnam, the slow, sickening, undeclared escalation and endless dragging fight that saps morale and destroys us. And it won't work - because we merely solidify the ISIS - Sunni connection by our military action, it will be classically counter-productive (as we so often do).

Therefore the military option doesn't exist here. Period.
posted by VikingSword at 6:23 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


> It is not possible for invaders to win a land war in that part of the world, just ask every army in the history of the world that has tried.

Alexander did it. He had generals convert to the local religion and marry local women. I nominate Petraeus.
posted by bukvich at 6:47 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Alexander did it. He had generals convert to the local religion and marry local women. I nominate Petraeus.

Alexander did it, though the order he established didn't last very long. That said, yes, it's possible, taking a page from the Romans. You slaughter the population wholesale. At a certain threshold of casualties, opposition stops if the option is - submission or total elimination. You don't worry about distinctions like potential allies, sparing the "good guys" etc. - you slaughter indiscriminately on a giant scale. Assad the senior did it - a city has opposition? Slaughter the whole city. Saddam was quite the same. Both lasted, safe from domestic overthrow. Throughout history from the Assyrians through the Mongols and the conquest of the New World, this was one way in which this was accomplished. So yes, it can be done, but we cannot use these tactics, though we flirted with borderlines of this in Vietnam.
posted by VikingSword at 7:06 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Right. The Mongols managed to conquer and pacify the largest contiguous empire the world has ever seen. They did it by killing nearly 10% of the population of the entire world in the process. I'm sure we could pacify the Middle East too if we were willing to kill 30 or 40 million people. But we aren't and we shouldn't be.
posted by Justinian at 7:17 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


The Fun of Empire: Fighting on All Sides of a War in Syria

The U.S. “is sharing intelligence about jihadist deployments with Damascus through Iraqi and Russian channels,” the Agence France-Presse reports today, citing one source as saying: ”The cooperation has already begun.”
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:34 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I'm sure we could pacify the Middle East too if we were willing to kill 30 or 40 million people. But we aren't and we shouldn't be.

That would actually be suicidal. Because the world would immediately see us not just as horrifically bumbling, but actively evil - on a no-kidding Nazi level. And that means everyone sees us as an existential threat. At which point the world unites against us. And we cannot survive the resulting isolation. The world is too big for us to prevail in the teeth of total opposition. We're too small a part of the world economy. We'd be an isolated pariah, and we cannot survive that, since our system is built on a free-flowing world economy. Cut off from that means we'd wither on the vine.
posted by VikingSword at 7:40 PM on August 27


Heh, AElfwine Evenstar, that's an amazing article.
posted by VikingSword at 7:47 PM on August 27


VikingSword, since when do we think ahead when it comes to our foreign policy. One problem at a time, man.
posted by Justinian at 7:57 PM on August 27


Ahahahaha, that piece Evenstar linked is too much. I can't take it anymore, stop the ride I wan't to get off.
posted by Justinian at 8:01 PM on August 27


To be fair, World War II, "the last good war", was pretty much the same deal- the Western Allies considered communism to be a greater threat than the fascists. The Nazis and the Soviets were simpatico for a while in Poland. Then it ended up being the Allies and the Soviets against the fascists. It just goes to show that in war, no one's a good guy. Including us.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:33 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Very good intentions, plus very great power, plus action can transform both international politics and the domestic politics of other states in ways that are advantageous to the United States

Is Barry Posen suggesting that politicians or the military industrial complex have 'very good intentions', because he is going to have to show his work on that one!
posted by asok at 4:13 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Well, good or not, the intended outcomes are unsuccessful.

And outcomes are how we measure success & failure.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:51 AM on August 28


U.S. Air Strikes On Syria Would Face Formidable Obstacles.

"(Reuters) - American forces face formidable challenges as President Barack Obama considers an air assault on Islamist fighters in Syria, including intelligence gaps on potential targets, concerns about Syria’s air defenses and fears that the militants may have anti-aircraft weapons, current and former U.S. officials say."

""There are all kinds of downsides and risks that suggest air strikes in Syria are probably not a great idea," said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East adviser under both Republican and Democratic administrations. "But that doesn’t mean they won’t happen anyway.""

"The Pentagon has publicly conceded it has less-than-perfect information about the movements and capabilities of Islamic State fighters, a limitation reflected in a failed attempt by U.S. special forces to rescue Foley in July.

Intelligence gaps raise the risk of civilian casualties from any U.S. air strikes in Syria, especially given that the militants are highly mobile and intermingle with the civilian population in urban areas like Raqqa."
posted by VikingSword at 9:13 AM on August 28


I thought these articles I posted in the other thread showed pretty well how complicated Syria is and that there are no easy answers. I don't get why people are against the saving of the Yazidis from ISIS. That seemed like a no-brainer. Likewise stopping Gaddafi's slaughter in Benghazi. Looking back on Libya, if Gaddafi had stayed in power after a massacre in Benghazi it would probably look a lot like Syria today. Maybe it will get there anyway, but when the future is uncertain either way and there is a chance to save lives immediately, I say do it. I was sad when "Mo" Nabbous was killed. What an incredible person, as was ambassador Stevens. Perhaps Obama is right that more support to Libya for nation building could have prevented the situation it is in now, but I'm a bit skeptical of that. The best outcome, in both Libya and Syria, would have been for Gaddafi and Assad to have negotiated a peaceful solution with the original protesters.

Many in Sub-Saharan Africa Mourn Qaddafi’s Death

Islamic State Fills Coffers From Illicit Economy in Syria, Iraq

Lies and liability: why the US should target both Assad and the IS in Syria
Assad never really made war against the IS a priority until recently, as one of his own advisors (in the Ministry of Reconciliation, no less) has just felt confident enough to admit to the New York Times. In fact, Assad financed ISIS through oil sales and let many of its mid- or top-ranking figures out of Sednaya prison in 2011, knowing full well they’d go back to jihad, and largely left it alone to establish a command center in Raqqa, where it runs military training camps and administers a totalitarian form of government, replete with the brainwashing of Arab youth. Only after the IS sacked Mosul on June 10 – and probably only because Suleimani ordered it – did a Syrian Air Force campaign against the terrorists begin in earnest, ending what Ambassador Fred Hof has called the “de facto collaboration” between Assad and the IS.
...

Assad’s belated interest in combating the IS and his piss-poor performance has been so conspicuous that even his supporters have begun to notice. “The jihadist offensive has prompted some panicked supporters of the Syrian government to sharply criticize the leadership,” the New York Times’ Beirut correspondent Anne Barnard wrote last week, “questioning why it appeared to allow ISIS to build a base in the northern Syria province of Raqqa over the last year while claiming the Syrian Army was fighting terrorism.” Some loyalists have blamed the regime in general for not sending the necessary reinforcements into Raqqa, and the now-sacked Syrian Defense Minister Fahd Freij in particular for ensuring that his own “sons are safe in Damascus.”
Hollande: Assad is No Anti-terrorism Partner but a Jihadist Ally

Seems to me the West can't support Assad. The best thing would be a change in leadership in Damascus facilitated by Iran, similar to Iraq, that could galvanize support of Sunni non-jihadists.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:16 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


Seems to me the West can't support Assad

Seems to me that the west can't support anyone.

It's not our fucking business. Stop sending them weapons, stop buying the oil, get the fuck out of dodge.
posted by empath at 9:38 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Seems to me the West can't support Assad.

Hard to keep up. First against, then for (helps with CIA renditions! Excellent torture outsourcer!), then against, then for, now back to against? The last few for and againsts have accelerated, just this year we've had so many vaults and about faces you can get dizzy - why, we've just had a "for" this past week, and already there are cries "against!"; just wait 5 minutes and another turn-around is sure to come; maybe we can spin so fast that we'll finally take off and launch ourselves back to Washington, where we belong.

All that for and against, and at every juncture, the obvious answer was there all along: don't interfere. It's their society, let them shape their own fate, through whatever struggles that need to happen, whatever the outcome and whatever the process - it's theirs, not ours to decide. We should not infantilize them by constantly "father knows best" interruptions of their own development. They need to find their own truths for their own societies, not have our historic systems and values imposed on them.

The best thing would be a change in leadership in Damascus facilitated by Iran, similar to Iraq, that could galvanize support of Sunni non-jihadists.

Why so modest? As long as we're into complete fantasy, I propose a giant rainbow unicorn descends from heaven and shits out peace upon the Middle East. Surely that would be "the best thing"!

Because back here on planet earth, we have the same knuckleheads who created this mess in the first place (by the war against Iraq, by funding the Syrian rebels, etc., etc., etc.) now propose a full-on war of all against all as in: "the US should target both Assad and the IS in Syria". LOL. I mean, we can't fucking rescue a single journalist, but we're going to solve all of Syria (and Iraq, for you can't have one without the other) with all the baddies banished and democracy forever and ever, amen. I guess we're going in on an Afghanistan scale, or Iraq scale? Oops, that didn't work out, so maybe we need to go in on an Iraq x 3 scale - quick, bring back the draft and put the economy on a war footing! Vietnam! Or are we instead going to do some random bombings (which, as the article I linked to points out, and as I've argued all along, only increase Sunni support for IS)? More arms for more vicious forces? Or maybe, yet again, we'll slowly get drawn into the morass by "gradual" escalation of an undeclared war - after all, memories of Vietnam have faded by now and we need to refresh that lesson.

how complicated Syria is and that there are no easy answers.

Exactly. Never mind easy answers, there are no good answers, period. There are only less bad answers, and the least bad is for us to just get the fuck out and keep the fuck out. Let those societies solve their own problems. If someone else, like Russia, wants to interfere, it's on them - we don't need to gather more enemies and spend more money to fuck up more countries; the other guy threatening to jump off the bridge doesn't mean we need to beat him to it by jumping first.

I don't get why people are against the saving of the Yazidis from ISIS.

We are against creating the Yazidi crisis in the first place. Had we not fucked up Iraq, and had we (and our sleazy allies) not now supported and created IS, there wouldn't be a Yazidi crisis. Any further interference from us - as in the proposed "the US should target both Assad and the IS in Syria" - will create a thousand more Yazidis crises.

We have a choice. We can stop now, tragic as the situation is, or we can go ahead and create ever more, unending self-perpetuating chains of tragedies. I choose to stop now - and therefore "I don't get why people are against stopping the creation of more Yazidi crisis and more ISIS evil."

Likewise stopping Gaddafi's slaughter in Benghazi. Looking back on Libya, if Gaddafi had stayed in power after a massacre in Benghazi it would probably look a lot like Syria today. Maybe it will get there anyway, but when the future is uncertain either way and there is a chance to save lives immediately, I say do it.

You have no idea what would have happened had we not bombed Libya and helped overthrow Gaddafi. We can only speculate. But I tell you what - it is not for us go sticking our guns all over the place while freely admitting that we have no clue about the outcome, because frankly that's the case. And even if we did, it was an internal Libyan affair. That society, like any society was finding its way. It was a civil war. Whose outcome it was not for us to interfere in or try to decide. We would not have appreciated Russia coming in and interfering in our Civil War - on either side - they had no business here. It was our society, and our country and for us to decide. Sometimes the outcomes are tragic. I happen to believe that the 2000 election was stolen, with incalculable damage done by the subsequent catastrophic presidency of the usurper. But I would still have opposed Russia or China coming in with force of arms to "correct" the outcome of that election, as we so freely do all over the world. It is wrong and counterproductive.

Every society has the right to evolve on their own. Sometimes it is very bloody indeed. Our Civil War was extremely bloody. We still don't want a foreign power coming in to patronizingly "spare" us the blood and 'helpfully' white-mans-burden-impose their system on our society.

We must allow those societies to evolve on their own, no matter the process and no matter the outcome. They must gather it within themselves to overthrow their own dictators, should they choose to do so. No dictatorship can last without at least minimum support, and therefore no dictatorship lasts forever. If the Taliban or IS have some support within those societies, we must allow that support to burn itself out by experience and reject it on their own. They'll find their way. Whether it'll be by peaceful evolution or violent revolution, it's their history. We expect no interference for us, and we should have the decency to allow others the same.
posted by VikingSword at 10:30 AM on August 28


Maybe there should be a Potsdam Conference (or Berlin, perhaps) sort of deal between the West and the regional powers hash this out multilaterally. Iraq becomes condominiums- Turkey gets influence over Iraqi Kurdistan, Iran over the Shia portions, the Saudis and the Gulf Arabs over the Sunni triangle. Iraq still remains a country, but with Balkan-type power-sharing schemes so that no one sect dominates. Let the regional powers play the role of policemen- they're already doing so in Libya, after all.

You're expecting that if the U.S. leaves it will be a vacuum, that things will just play out "organically." But it won't; the regional powers will simply fulfill the role that the U.S. abdicates. We should reduce our actions there, certainly; but better we have a hand in cleaning up our own messes. At the end of the day, I agree that military intervention is not a good option- what really should be done is a political intervention, a diplomatic offensive.

But yes, the above is a pipe dream just like most other proposals in this thread; the U.S. has already squandered its goodwill, the political structures are too inert to pursue any grand strategies. So we pursue bombing campaigns because the short-term is the easiest thing to pursue.

We would not have appreciated Russia coming in and interfering in our Civil War - on either side - they had no business here.

Well, actually...
posted by Apocryphon at 11:16 AM on August 28


Iraq becomes condominiums- Turkey gets influence over Iraqi Kurdistan, Iran over the Shia portions, the Saudis and the Gulf Arabs over the Sunni triangle. Iraq still remains a country, but with Balkan-type power-sharing schemes so that no one sect dominates. Let the regional powers play the role of policemen- they're already doing so in Libya, after all.

That's a horrible solution though, and what some of those "regional powers" obviously are hoping to achieve. Partitioning Syria and Iraq is not a new plan, it's been around since the 50's at least, and why not, they're the two largest Arab countries [apart from Egypt], and the only ones which could at some point have played a leadership role in Arab nationalism. They're also both historically "secular", though that is obviously being eroded with these conflicts. At the moment the only two states based on an individual religion are Saudi Arabia [Wahhabism] and Israel [Judaism], if you make the whole region run by religious nuts maybe those two wont stand out so much.

Interestingly, I do believe the US can turn things around, but there's no sign that they actually want to yet. That first change isn't going to be a military one, if the US decides they want this over they just have to stop ISIS's various backers: Turkey for providing training camps and access across Syria's borders, Qatar for providing billions in funding and arms, Saudi Arabia for providing funding and personnel. They're all American allies and wouldn't be doing this without some sort of tacit American approval anyway. Until those three change their course nothing will change on the ground.
posted by xqwzts at 11:29 AM on August 28


You forgot Iran [Shia theocracy], but who's counting?

These condominiums wouldn't be actual separate nation-states or occupation zones, though. More like spheres of influence. Because if the U.S. withdraws from acting in the region altogether, the regional powers are going to go ahead and carve out spheres of influence anyway. Might as well try to formalize it in a way where there's a legal/political mechanism in place for the powers' favored sects to dispute, rather than through military means. Surely, in all of the decades since decolonization, there are some cases where countries were able to overcome internecine conflict? The idea here is that the U.S. needs to be honest and open about engaging the relevant powers with an interest in it.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:40 AM on August 28


xqwzts: At the moment the only two states based on an individual religion

Perhaps it is simply a difference in definitions, but the Wikipedia page on state's with an official religion is more broad than the two you list
posted by rosswald at 1:16 PM on August 28


You're expecting that if the U.S. leaves it will be a vacuum, that things will just play out "organically." But it won't; the regional powers will simply fulfill the role that the U.S. abdicates.

I guess I'm not sure why this is a problem for the US.
posted by empath at 1:41 PM on August 28


At the same time, he denied any existing plans to expand the war into Syria, and indeed claimed there “we don’t have a strategy” at all in place for any part of the war yet, saying asking Congress for permission for the war right now would be putting the cart before the horse until he figures out how big of a war it will be. The White House later clarified that as “no military strategy.”

Having no strategy at all would certainly explain a few things about the haphazard escalation of the conflict, as well as its apparent open-endedness. President Obama said Secretary of State John Kerry is being sent abroad to build a coalition for the war, because apparently other nations might want to get in on this strategy-free, heedless war.


Obama: We Don’t Have a Strategy for Iraq-Syria War Yet
Jason Ditz

posted by bukvich at 2:57 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]




How convenient.
*cough*
posted by adamvasco at 6:06 AM on August 29


Are you saying Foreign Policy or the cited reporters (Harald Doornbos, Jenan Moussa) are engaging in a CIA conspiracy?
posted by rosswald at 6:10 AM on August 29


Or the guy had a copy of Anarchist cookbook.
posted by empath at 7:00 AM on August 29


When people talk about stuff like 'bubonic plague' bombs, one might want to consider whether they would actually work.
posted by empath at 7:00 AM on August 29


Did you read the article? I don't want to overstate things, but a person with degrees in physics/chemistry and a manual is likely to have moderate success creating deadly biologics.
The information on the laptop makes clear that its owner is a Tunisian national named Muhammed S. who joined ISIS in Syria and who studied chemistry and physics at two universities in Tunisia's northeast. Even more disturbing is how he planned to use that education:

The ISIS laptop contains a 19-page document in Arabic on how to develop biological weapons and how to weaponize the bubonic plague from infected animals.

"The advantage of biological weapons is that they do not cost a lot of money, while the human casualties can be huge," the document states.

The document includes instructions for how to test the weaponized disease safely, before it is used in a terrorist attack. "When the microbe is injected in small mice, the symptoms of the disease should start to appear within 24 hours," the document says.

The laptop also includes a 26-page fatwa, or Islamic ruling, on the usage of weapons of mass destruction. "If Muslims cannot defeat the kafir [unbelievers] in a different way, it is permissible to use weapons of mass destruction,"
Maybe it was just the 'Anarchists Cookbook,' but the article seems to portray it as more than that.
posted by rosswald at 7:10 AM on August 29


No, a guy who 'studied' physics and biology is not likely to have the expertise necessary to weaponize bubonic plague.
posted by empath at 7:30 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


JAMA: Plague as a Biological Weapon - Medical and Public Health Management - Consensus Statement | May 3, 2000
Conclusions
[...]
The working group has identified a limited number of agents that, if used as weapons, could cause disease and death in sufficient numbers to cripple a city or region. These agents also comprise the top of the list of "Critical Biological Agents" recently developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague, is one of the most serious of these. Given the availability of Y pestis around the world, capacity for its mass production and aerosol dissemination, difficulty in preventing such activities, high fatality rate of pneumonic plague, and potential for secondary spread of cases during an epidemic, the potential use of plague as a biological weapon is of great concern.

posted by rosswald at 7:51 AM on August 29


Okay, and? You've read the same paper. One presumes you studied some biology and physics at some point in your life. Do you know how to effectively aerosolize plague to cause mass casualties?
posted by empath at 7:54 AM on August 29


We certainly have enough experience and knowledge of CIA "hijinks" to make it always worth questioning their involvement. Over the decades they have proved themselves to be one of the worst actors on the world stage. They are forever fomenting uprisings, smuggling arms and drugs, killing elected leaders, consorting with dictators and terrorists, and fucking things up beyond all repair. It would be the most naïve stupidity to not consider their involvement in this.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:54 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


There's a whole infrastructure around non-conventional weapons that needs to be created which ISIS completely lacks. You need scientists, labs, supplies, testing facilities. You can't just stuff a dead rat in a hot air balloon and hope for the best.
posted by empath at 7:58 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


One presumes you studied some biology and physics at some point in your life

I have, though none of my professors would ever vouch for my lab skills ;)

I think with a library card, the internet, and and access to some basic lab. supplies I could do something dangerous. Would my strain be the most deadly, would my aerosolization levels be high - no. Hell, most likely I would just infect myself, but I think we enough time and thought I could do something bad.

You can't just stuff a dead rat in a hot air balloon and hope for the best.

Why not? One does not have to meet professional/academic standards to make something dangerous.
posted by rosswald at 8:00 AM on August 29


Why not? One does not have to meet professional/academic standards to make something dangerous.

If we're talking 'weapons of mass destruction", you certainly do. If we're talking 'car bomb' levels of damage, probably not. But ISIS has that capability with american made conventional weapons that they stole.
posted by empath at 8:04 AM on August 29


I don't imagine some Hollywood scenario where a single-vial that breaks on an international flight infects the whole world, but rather hundreds or thousands of weak and improperly handled samples being sent out. Between children, the elderly, and the immuno-compromised it would amount to a fair amount of mass-death - whether that qualifies as a WMD I will leave to others.

Anyways, bit of a derail - I agree ISIS is scary enough just considering their conventional weapons.
posted by rosswald at 8:09 AM on August 29


Now ISIS has gone too far.
posted by empath at 8:44 AM on August 29


LA Times - Britain raises security threat from 'substantial' to 'severe': Responding to recent events in Syria in Iraq, Britain has upgraded its security threat level to “severe,” the government announced Friday, meaning a terrorist attack there is “highly likely.”
posted by rosswald at 8:48 AM on August 29


The best policy continues to be our refraining from military action in the area. As has been linked in other articles, we really, really, really have no strategy and no idea what to do militarily, as Obama himself admits:

President Obama Says 'We Don't Have a Strategy Yet' to Bomb ISIS in Syria.

Nobody in the administration has a clue how to go about engaging ISIS militarily, so Obama is sending some flacks to the ME seeing if maybe they can dumpster dive over there and come back with something and call it a 'strategy'. I predict lots of advice from various interested parties, and since we're great at trusting the worst charlatans (Curveball, Chalabi etc.), we'll come back with something that will do somebody else's dirty work at our cost, and do fuck all for the actual problem except make it worse.

Arming more rebels and factions is a losing game - those weapons always end up with folks like ISIS. We've seen that when we originally armed the jihadis in Afghanistan against the Soviets.

We are not going to go in with troops. Realistically, all we have is bombs and drones as far as direct military engagement. And we are in an exceptionally poor position to use them - we simply cannot reliably identify targets, which is the consensus of analysts (I've linked to the articles before) - we put in tremendous intelligence effort into the rescue of Foley, and we failed, because we had faulty intelligence about location. That was our best effort - that's in the words of Pentagon officials themselves. Now you propose that we bomb and drone in real time in the heat of battle and developing action? This is madness, absolute madness. And what is that supposed to accomplish, under even the best of circumstances? You can't defeat a guerilla movement that has the support of locals, just from aerial domination - we've known that since at least the time of Vietnam.

ISIS has the support of many Sunni tribes and a good deal of the local populace. Our best chance continues to be to divorce ISIS from that support, and it's actually a realistic option - left to their own devices, they will inevitably wear out their welcome and alienate their local support through their mindless cruelty and restrictiveness. But critically, for that to happen - we need to leave them to their own devices. We cannot bomb and cause inevitable civilian collateral deaths which infuriate the locals and bind them tighter to ISIS. That's why our military actions are so incredibly alienating and counter productive. That's why I say that by using our military in the ME we make the situation infinitely worse. If you leave them to their own fate, soon fissures appear, locals become alienated, and they start fighting against each other, with factions forming. See this article - from fox news no less:

Fighting in Syria spawns separate civil war in global jihadist movement.

Leave them to it. Let them fight among themselves. Without us providing a unifying target of hatred, they'll splinter and fight among themselves, sapping their own strength. But that can happen only with us staying out militarily. Only local actors and the people whose lives depend on the outcome are viable forces here, whether state or non-state. We have no place there.
posted by VikingSword at 9:33 AM on August 29




Would setting up no-fly zones count as military action? Releasing the drones of war is one thing, but setting up defensive cordons for humanitarian aid doesn't sound so bad. Again, at the very least, the first step is to adopt a '90s approach- get U.N. sanction, bring in peacekeepers, do this multilaterally.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:56 AM on August 29


His argument regarding the british in WWI is a little odd, because the war was going to happen whether the british got involved or not. Britain got dragged along for the ride, more or less. It was Germany, Russia, Austria and France that made the really horrific decisions. Though I guess the argument could be made that Britain could have spared herself the horror, which might be true.
posted by empath at 10:56 AM on August 29


Releasing the drones of war is one thing, but setting up defensive cordons for humanitarian aid doesn't sound so bad.

Okay, so it gets attacked, a bunch of peacekeepers and soldiers are killed. The US's reputation is then on the line and it demands an escalated response, and thus the maelstrom.
posted by empath at 10:59 AM on August 29


Eh, U.S. peacekeepers got killed in Lebanon and Somalia and then all we did was run home.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:02 AM on August 29


This is where we should be concentrating our humanitarian efforts, through the U.N. and everyone else we can corral into urgent action:

Syrian refugees top 3 million, half of all Syrians displaced: U.N.

""The Syrian crisis has become the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era, yet the world is failing to meet the needs of refugees and the countries hosting them," Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement."

This is absolutely insane. We're sitting on our hands, while a catastrophe is unfolding, just as we sat on our hands while Syria's economy was being destroyed by the refugees coming from a torn apart Iraq, which led to the whole Syrian crisis down the road. Now Syrian refugees are spilling across borders, into countries like Jordan, and we're doing absolutely nothing.

This is a prescription for destabilizing the whole region. If we are so cynical that we don't give a damn about the human cost, maybe at least we can wake up to the security threat that this represents. Containing it now, and helping with the refugee problem (for which we are ultimately responsible by breaking Iraq and then intentionally destabilizing Syria), we are addressing the security situation directly.

You are watching the seeds of huge future conflicts being sown right now. It is cheaper - and more humane - to address through humanitarian measures, the refugee crisis - than to pay 10, 100 times more for military action now or down the road.

Yet, our answer is to send apparatchiks and ignoramuses into the region to find out how best to bomb the enemy of the moment, thus multiplying the humanitarian catastrophe while doing nothing of value to anyone. We're actively making it worse. We have no military strategy, which we admit openly, but we will go ahead and bomb and bloodlet anyway. Meanwhile generating even more refugees. It's extremely depressing.
posted by VikingSword at 11:30 AM on August 29


Now Syrian refugees are spilling across borders, into countries like Jordan, and we're doing absolutely nothing.

We (the US) are doing something - http://www.usaid.gov/crisis/syria. We and others should do more, but we are helping.
posted by rosswald at 11:39 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Allen Ginsberg Hum Bom.

Who wants to bomb?
posted by bukvich at 1:37 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]




Famed Syrian Cartoonist Turns Pen To James Foley — And Ire On Obama
Despite Obama's calls for Assad to step down, many Syrians blame him for refusing to help the armed opposition topple the regime, and U.S.-backed moderate rebels have been sidelined by better-funded Islamist rivals. As extremists gain strength, Assad has positioned himself both domestically and abroad as the best alternative — which Ferzat says was his strategy all along. "The continuance of terrorism in Syria means the continuance of the regime," he says. "And if it weren't for Obama's hesitation, we would never have reached this point."
As I recall, the majority of Syrians in and around Damascus did not want to see Assad fall for fear of who would take his place and what would happen to Alawite, Christian and other minorities. There does seem to be significant evidence that Assad facilitated the rise of ISIS to counter the democratic "Arab Spring" rebellion and to justify his chemical weapon, barrel bomb and other massacres of the rebel civilian populations.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:20 AM on August 30


ISIS Displaying a Deft Command of Varied Media
“The overriding point is that success breeds success,” said Emile Nakhleh, a former C.I.A. analyst. “The perception of quick victories and territory and weapons and bases means they don’t need to try hard to recruit.”

For two decades, Mr. Nakhleh said, Osama bin Laden talked about re-establishing the caliphate, but he never claimed to have done it. “Young people look at ISIS and say, ‘By gosh, they’re doing it!’ They see the videos with fighters riding on big tanks. They see that ISIS has money,” he said.

...a British fighter identified as Brother Abu Bara al-Hindi poses the call to jihad as a test for comfortable Westerners. “Are you willing to sacrifice the fat job you’ve got, the big car, the family?” he asks. Despite such luxuries, he says, “Living in the West, I know how you feel — in the heart you feel depressed.” The Prophet Muhammad, he declares, said, “The cure for depression is jihad.”
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:08 PM on August 30


ISIS selling Yazidi women in Syria.

Awful.
posted by Justinian at 3:05 PM on August 30


ISIS selling Yazidi women in Syria.

Awful.


Appalling. Sexual crimes during wartime, kidnappings and human trafficking - I really wish these perpetrators could be held accountable in a court of law, as we've managed to do for a few (very, very few, sadly) in the aftermath of similar crimes (including systematic and mass rapes etc.) committed during the Balkan war in the 90's. This is stuff that should never be forgotten, ever.

Meanwhile I guess it's on... FTA:

"More U.S. airstrikes

U.S. forces conducted more airstrikes against ISIS targets near the Mosul on Saturday, according to the U.S. military, destroying a militant fighting position and armed vehicle.
"The strikes were conducted under the authority to support Iraqi security force and Kurdish defense force operations, as well as to protect critical infrastructure, U.S. personnel and facilities, and support humanitarian efforts," U.S. Central Command said in a press release.

CENTCOM said it has carried 115 strikes across Iraq.
"

Since we still "don't have a strategy" and are therefore just bombing without any roadmap, I imagine when the officials Obama sent over there come back with a jumble of random notes, it'll soon transition into a "strategy" - exactly the same bombing, but now it'll have a catchy name, like "Operation Enduring Freedom"! (formerly known as "Operation Infinite Justice"), although Obama likes to sweep all these campaigns under a more modest bureaucratic opaque-speak "Overseas Contingency Operation" which makes it sound sort of administrative and minor and police-work and like something a group of janitors might do quickly, without the grandiose terms GWB guys liked to use - it also makes it fly under the radar and not seem so big and war-like and worrisome... even if it does cost $50-$70 billion dollars for that one alone, but who is counting, for surely it'll be a grand success.
posted by VikingSword at 4:08 PM on August 30


We are bombing them with the munitions of freedom and shooting them with the 50 caliber rounds of liberty.
posted by Justinian at 4:49 PM on August 30


Syrian rebels say Islamic State could be defeated
Abu Mousab, who himself seemed shell-shocked during a two hour interview, said locals in Deir El Zour and elsewhere in Syria are willing to risk their lives to fight the Islamic State and could take back their country, but they need backing. “This is our land. These are our people,” he said. “If we had outside support, they would not be able to advance,” he said. But the support is not only in arms and ammunition, for fighters need salaries so they can feed their families as well as a promise of benefits for families if they die in battle.

He cited four lessons from the fall of the city. “We need officers with a military mind” to plot strategy and tactics, an “operational headquarters that is responsible for all of Syria,” not just one region or sub-region, more military training, and access to weapons, in particular anti-tank weapons.
Sheikh It Up - The UAE's airstrikes in Libya represent a new and dangerous phase in its struggle with Qatar.

The Assembly of a New World Order: The concept that has underpinned the modern geopolitical era is in crisis - by Henry Kissinger
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:54 PM on August 30


Meanwhile, back at the ranch:

Pentagon: U.S. operations in Iraq cost $7.5 million a day

"WASHINGTON -- U.S. military operations in Iraq, including airstrikes and surveillance flights, have cost about $560 million since mid-June, the Pentagon said Friday.

Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said the average daily cost has been $7.5 million. He said it began at a much lower rate in June and escalated after the airstrikes in northern Iraq began this month.
"

So, just since mid-June it's been $560 million and now it's "escalating sharply". No doubt we've had a lot to show for all those sharply escalating costs, for example, we repelled ISIS from Mosul, right? Yes, we did, so why:

"Asked why U.S. warplanes are still pounding the Mosul Dam area, long after U.S. officials said local Kurdish and Iraqi forces had regained control from the Islamic State forces, Kirby said, "Because ISIL keeps wanting to take it back," using an acronym for the group that is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)."

In other words, we have a guerilla war on our hands:

""They keep threatening the dam and the facility. And as long as they pose a threat to that facility, we are going to continue to help Iraqi security forces preserve their ownership of it," he added."

Oh, so we won back Mosul, except we can't really stop bombing and paying, because the second we stop, we lose Mosul all over again. Sound familiar? Exactly. A prescription for endless guerilla conflict. Better pull out that checkbook and have open-ended budgets (just borrow from China!), because we'll be paying, and paying, and paying, and bombing and bombing and bombing - all to great effect no doubt, of the same cycle over and over and over again thousands of miles away from our own country accomplishing exactly nothing.

I don't know, maybe there are better uses for that money than exploding it in a distant desert. What is it buying us over there? We're borrowing money to finance this insanity, meanwhile we have crying needs of our own here. That's what I'm thinking about, when I listen to various debates about the budget and how we can't afford this or that, and how we need to cut food stamps, and how families with kids starve and how the future of so many of our young people are hollowed out, and how there is systemic unemployment in f.ex. the black community of young people hovers around 40%-50%, there is deep disillusionment and despair, our roads and bridges are falling apart. But we find hundreds of millions of dollars to throw away in an open ended war of no purpose whatsoever, a war we neither have a strategy for, nor any hope of finding one. This is how empires die.
posted by VikingSword at 7:55 PM on August 30


Syria crisis worst since Rwanda, UN says

And it's only going to get worse. Never again? Meh.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:13 PM on August 30




Yeah we dropped humanitarian bombs in coordinated humanitarian airstrikes around Amerli today.
posted by Justinian at 9:57 PM on August 30


But we find hundreds of millions of dollars to throw away in an open ended war

Relax. It's all fake money. Pulled from the air. It's not like $560 million in potatoes or beef or education funding. It's $560 million of bullshit. Fraudulent Cheney-bucks, no bearing on reality.

You have to believe this, or go insane.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:41 PM on August 30




It's interesting to live in a time where people are nostalgic for the rule of Saddam, Assad, and Mubarak.
posted by cell divide at 3:50 PM on August 26 [13 favorites +] [!]


Well yes, there's that. And also the tens or perhaps thousands, and we're rapidly approaching millions of people that have been killed, injured, or feel like they they need to flee.

I doubt many cry for Sadam Assad or Murbark.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 12:26 AM on August 31


How the NSA helped Turkey kill Kurdish rebels.

That is the top story at the Intercept and is also the lead story today at spiegel.de/international.
posted by bukvich at 7:29 AM on August 31




The two weeks Yukawa spent in the hospital cost him $10,000.

Must be a typo, right?
posted by telstar at 10:54 PM on August 31




Blowback accelerating - young people all across the world are growing sympathetic to ISIS and looking to join it:

A survey conducted in July by ICM Research found that 16% of French adults had a favorable opinion of Islamic State, which has used beheadings, crucifixions and mass shootings as it has taken control of parts of Iraq and Syria and declared an Islamic caliphate.

"Among the youngest French people ICM surveyed — ages 18 to 24 — the favorability rate for Islamic State was even higher: 27%. The survey also found that 7% of adults in Britain and 2% of adults in Germany had a favorable opinion of the group.

More Westerners have been joining militants in Iraq and Syria as media-savvy fighters there have been posting graphic photos and slick recruitment videos on Facebook and Twitter.
"

I wonder if folks have absorbed these numbers. If you look at that young people 18-24 in France, where 27% are favorable toward ISIS, figure how many of the young Muslim people are in that number, considering that the majority of 18-24 year olds are not Muslim in France - so to get up to that 27%, what percentage of young Muslims must be favorable to ISIS (assuming much lower rates for non-Muslims). The same applies to that 16% of adults in France and 7% of adults in Britain - how many French/British Muslims must be favorable to ISIS to push the overall number so high. I'd say that's some pretty extreme alienation from the official government positions in the West, where France and Britain have been very vocal about getting actively involved in the region against ISIS. This is not going to end well.

Let's keep poking at that hornet's nest, maybe we can push the percentages of Western sympathizers even higher. When a significant part of the population strongly opposes the government's war footing and are alienated enough to side with ISIS despite the extreme savagery displayed such as beheading videos and mass executions, you are playing with fire when you decide to start military action with no strategy and no real hope for success. Blowback will be your reward, and nothing else.

How about saving all that money and planning energy and redirecting it toward solving actual problems at home, helping the economy, creating more jobs and helping ease the alienation obviously felt by so many, particularly young citizens, who are going to be our future.
posted by VikingSword at 1:22 PM on September 1


"An ICM poll on behalf of the Russian news agency Rossiya Segodnya tested the awareness of the group ISIS (previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant), in three European nations; Great Britain, France and Germany."

"Rossiya Segodnya or Rossiya Sevodnya is an international news agency founded by a decree of the Russian president Vladimir Putin on 9 December 2013. ... Rossiya Segodnya incorporates the former RIA Novosti news service and the Voice of Russia international radio service (formerly Radio Moscow)."

Washington Post: Do 1 in 6 French citizens really support Islamic state?
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 2:07 PM on September 1


Just one more hamfisted propaganda stunt from the Kremlin. They're apparently trying to tie their old bogeyman to their new one.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:15 PM on September 1


It is clearly hard to do accurate polling here, especially if there is motive to skew one way or another. It also could simply be a case of cherry picking. The number that jumped out at me, was precisely what concerned the Washington Post - in order to reach such high numbers, great numbers of Muslims would have to support ISIS. The WP suggests that's unlikely, though of course, we don't know for sure in the absence of counterpoint polling. So while polling is never totally reliable, this doesn't appear to be something that's simply been invented from whole cloth - from the WP article linked above:

Do 1 in 6 French citizens really support Islamic State?

"ICM Research hasn't provided a lot of detail about the methodology in their press release, but they were able to offer some more to The Post. Our resident pollster, Scott Clement, says that while the methodology isn't perfect (the survey was largely conducted with calls over land lines, meaning that cellphone-reliant adults could be undersampled), it wasn't terrible either. Clement suggests that respondents could be misinterpreting the question or simply ignorant of what the Islamic State is: Hearing "The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" and thinking it is just talking about the country of Iraq. Given the continues naming issues that Islamic State/ISIS/ISIL has had, such confusion is understandable to a degree."

So perhaps the issue turns on how the questions were formulated or understood.

"There's little doubt that there is a disturbing amount of support for Islamic State and other extremist groups in Europe and beyond. There are estimated to be thousands of foreigners fighting for various extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, and the Islamic States' has been able to make an impact right at the very heart of European capitals. There's clearly a depressing, disturbing level of alienation among many Western Islamic communities."

It's dismaying that there is as much support, even if these numbers are exaggerated. I predict that the more we meddle and Western powers are seen as heedlessly bombing and interfering, the higher the percentage will climb - so even if the number reported in LA Times is not as high as of today, the moment we commit to more extensive military intervention, it may very well reach those numbers, and perhaps beyond. We shall see - but that's my prediction, happy to revisit in time: as our military operations over there grow, domestic support here in the West, for ISIS will grow too.
posted by VikingSword at 2:50 PM on September 1


VikingSword - maybe we can push the percentages of Western sympathizers even higher. When a significant part of the population strongly opposes the government's war footing and are alienated enough to side with ISIS despite the extreme savagery displayed such as beheading videos and mass executions

Surely "the West" needs to be very careful of how it chooses to become involved the conflict, but I think that if people are being drawn to a group that beheads, rapes, and enslaves (even if only half of what is being reported is true this is definitely happening) then it is a bit naive to think that any amount of rational action on the part of Western countries would prevent young men and women from joining.
posted by rosswald at 7:06 AM on September 2


BBC: Afghanistan: 'Surrender is not an option' (autoplay vid.)

Fighters from a militant Islamic group in Afghanistan, allied to the Taleban, have told the BBC that they are considering joining forces with Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS - and will continue to fight against the Afghan government, even after NATO forces leave Afghanistan at the end of the year.
posted by rosswald at 7:26 AM on September 2


Having forgotten all the lessons of history including Vietnam, we're slowly creeping our way into a war that is expanding right under the nose of congress, driven by an administration that was supposed to be the most transparent, and a president who is a constitutional scholar. After promising to ask congress, it looks like instead it's back to the same old tricks of a covertly expanding war that has no end in sight, no viable strategy and no domestic support. No hope and no change:

The Commander In Chief Should Not Also Be The 'Decider In Chief'

"Throughout June, President Obama had steadily increased the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq from an initial 275 to nearly 800. Military force had not yet been used, but the writing was on the wall.

So the House laid down a marker: By an overwhelming bipartisan majority (370 to 40), members affirmed their constitutional responsibility to decide whether the United States should again enter into combat in Iraq, passing a resolution that said, "The president shall not deploy or maintain United States armed forces in a sustained combat role in Iraq without specific statutory authorization."

The elected representatives of those who will risk their lives in the fight must debate the issue and make the solemn decision about whether to enter a war.
-
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), one of the resolution's main sponsors, left no doubt as to its purpose. "The time to debate our reengagement in Iraq, should it come to that, is before we're caught in the heat of the moment," he said. "Not when the first body bags come home, not when the first bombs start to fall."

The bombs have now started falling, a gruesome video of Islamic State executing American journalist James Foley is circulating the Internet, yet Congress has still not weighed in. There is still time for clear-headed deliberation and collective judgment on a broad range of options. But that window looks to be closing fast.

What began as a small deployment of a few hundred troops to provide support and security for our embassy personnel quickly grew. On Aug. 8, the president authorized "targeted airstrikes" that he assured Congress would be "limited in … scope and duration."

Now in a little more than two weeks the United States has waged an air war with more than 90 strikes. The mission's objectives have expanded from protecting American personnel to assisting humanitarian efforts, to helping Iraqi forces recapture "critical infrastructure" — a dam more than 200 miles outside Baghdad.

This escalation suggests that the president's other pronouncement about the scope of U.S. military intervention in Iraq will prove more accurate than his assurances to Congress: "This is going to be a long-term project.""

"To date, the president has acted alone, invoking "constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as commander in chief and chief executive."

The Constitution arguably permits the president to act to defend the nation and its citizens against an actual or imminent attack without prior congressional approval. U.S. combat operations in Iraq already exceed that narrow exception.

More troubling, the president's stated rationale lacks any discernible limit on U.S. combat operations going forward. Reminiscent of rhetoric used to justify military intervention in Libya three years ago, the president said recently that the United States has "a national security interest" in making sure that a "savage group [like Islamic State] … is contained, because ultimately it can pose a threat to us."

War is inherently unpredictable, unintended consequences routine. ... But the commander in chief should not also be the 'decider in chief.'
-
That rhetoric, and the extent of U.S. military engagement that it implies, has ratcheted up in the wake of James Foley's death and Islamic State's continued indiscriminate and brutal attacks on civilians. According to Secretary of State John F. Kerry, Islamic State "and the wickedness it represents must be destroyed." That can't be done, says Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, "without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria.""


They got LBJ, and now they got Obama. The same warmongers and bad advisers from across the political spectrum, still peddling their bloody wares. But both LBJ and Obama are responsible for their choices. It's on them too.

We may be bombing distant countries and murdering people across the ocean, but we too are victims of this cancerous security complex - our Constitution, our laws, civil rights, our economy and ultimately our future. Will we ever have an administration capable of standing up to these forces? It's hard to be optimistic.

.
posted by VikingSword at 8:52 AM on September 2


Reuters - Islamic state issues video of beheading of U.S. hostage: SITE
The Islamic State militant group released a video purporting to show the beheading of U.S. hostage Steven Sotloff, the SITE monitoring service reported on Tuesday.

A masked figure in the video also issued a threat against a British hostage, a man the group named as David Haines, and warned governments to back off "this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State", the monitoring service said.

Sotloff, a freelance journalist, was kidnapped in Syria in August 2013. Sotloff's mother Shirley appealed on Aug. 27 in a videotaped message to Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, for her son's release.
posted by rosswald at 10:54 AM on September 2




RIP, Steven Sotloff.

And RIP the 1,530 who were killed in Iraq in August alone:

Iraq Body Count . Org

"We don't do body counts" - Gen. Tommy Franks

"Recent events
Sunday 31 August: 62 killed
Ramadi: 37 killed by suicide car bomber.
Baghdad: 3 by IEDs; 2 bodies.
Tuz Khurmato: 3 in clashes.
Diyala: 5 in clashes, IED; 6 bodies.
Falluja: 3 by shelling.
Alexandria: 1 by shelling.
Al Khansa: 2 by IED.
AUGUST TOTAL: 1,592 CIVILIANS KILLED. 217 BY GOVERNMENT FORCES.
JANUARY-AUGUST 2014: 10,000 CIVILIANS KILLED. 1,251 BY GOVERNMENT FORCES.
Saturday 30 August: 21 killed
Falluja: 12 by shelling.
Yusufiyah: 7 by suicide car bomber.
Baghdad: 2 by gunfire, IED.
AUGUST CASUALTIES SO FAR: 1,530 CIVILIANS KILLED.
More"
posted by VikingSword at 11:08 AM on September 2




From bukvich's link (UK could join American air strikes in Iraq and Syria, warns David Cameron) - the erosion of civil rights at home comes right on schedule, as a response to the blowback of young Britons and other Europeans going to the ME to fight on behalf of ISIS - the erosion of those rights being of course another form of blowback, this time to the whole society, exactly as I pointed out in my previous post. The price we'll pay - and all for what?

"He used a House of Commons statement to set out a series of measures to protect Britain from the thousands of European citizens who have travelled to Iraq and Syria and want to “wreak havoc on our country”."

"In his statement, Mr Cameron announced plans to give the police powers to temporarily seize passports at the border if people are thought to be travelling to Iraq or Syria.
He also said the Government will push through laws to either force terrorist suspects to relocate from their home towns or create “exclusion zones” where they are not allowed to travel.
People returning from Iraq and Syria will also undergo a compulsory “deradicalisation programme”.
"

Meanwhile, Britain not wanting to be left out of the folly of throwing more arms into the cauldron of the civil war over there, is pouring gasoline on the fire:

"The statement came as British forces flew more than nine tons of assault rifle ammunition to Kurdish forces in Iraq."

And as I pointed out in my previous post, all this is done in the old tradition of little domestic support for such adventurism:

"A poll for the Independent showed that 50 per cent of people said Britain should not launch airstrikes against Isil militants, compared with 35 per cent who think it should."

At least air travel with continue to get more shitty, but what's yet another small price to pay for the freedom to wage pointless war in faraway places:

"The Prime Minister also said airlines will be prevented from landing in Britain unless they release details of all passengers on their planes."

Life just seems to be getting worse for everyone on all sides as a result of all this meddling. Maybe more war can be the solution? That's what our Western leaders seem to think.
posted by VikingSword at 12:20 PM on September 2


IS back in business
What is most worrying perhaps is that IS has become a means of concealing a seemingly universal political vacuum. Everyone who hated Bush’s “war on terror” — seeing it either as inadvertently pouring oil on the flames, or as an aberrant throwback to the logic of imperialism — is now happily singing from that very hymn sheet, because it saves them having to think about the real challenges the region poses.
...

From this, there follows a sequence of statements each more absurd than the last. Iran to the West: embrace us because of the IS threat. Arab regimes to their people: we won’t give an inch because of the IS threat. The Syrian opposition: save us from ourselves because of the IS threat. Hizbullah to the Lebanese people: everything is permissible because of the IS threat. The US: we aren’t going to intervene in Syria because of the IS threat, but we will strike Iraq... because of the IS threat.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:53 PM on September 2 [1 favorite]


Did you watch the Vice videos? Some of those ISI* guys seem to be 18 - 20 years old. They have been living in a war zone since they were children. Back in 2003 the very few sober guys like Chomsky said if you go in there with bombs and guns you will radicalize millions of sons and little brothers and it will only make it much worse. This is where we are now.
posted by bukvich at 1:00 PM on September 2


The most radical and brutal Isis fighters are not native to the area.
posted by Thing at 1:14 PM on September 2


Or they are former Baathists like al-Douri's guys and probably not that commited to the IS anyway.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:21 PM on September 2


Bloomberg: African Leaders Meet to Discuss Ways of Combatting Insurgencies
African leaders meet in Kenya today to discuss ways of boosting domestic efforts and international support to combat insurgencies that have killed thousands of people across the continent this year.

At least six heads of state, including the presidents of Nigeria, Somalia and Chad, the prime minister of Algeria and ministerial delegations from Libya, South Africa and Ethiopia, are attending the summit in the capital, Nairobi. The meeting is expected to see leaders agree on “concrete steps” to enhance existing measures to “effectively address the threat of terrorism,” the African Union said in a statement yesterday.
posted by rosswald at 1:44 PM on September 2 [1 favorite]




MISSING LIBYAN JETLINERS RAISE FEARS OF SUICIDE AIRLINER ATTACKS
Islamist militias in Libya took control of nearly a dozen commercial jetliners last month...

“There are a number of commercial airliners in Libya that are missing,” said one official.
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:46 PM on September 2


Yeah, because airliners deviating from their registered flight path is something national militaries totally don't respond to in the modern day.

That certainly smells of fearmongering bullshit.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:12 AM on September 3


Is there any evidence that the rebels in libya are engaging in suicide attacks of any kind?
posted by empath at 6:35 AM on September 3


You Can't Understand ISIS If You Don't Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia.
posted by adamvasco at 8:01 AM on September 3 [3 favorites]


How could the planes be "missing?" They have to be at one airport or another in the region I would think. Maybe they're just in hangers and the NSA or whoever was too busy reading our emails or whatever at the time to notice.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:02 AM on September 3 [1 favorite]


Turkey's exports jump to IS-controlled areas of Syria - Turkey’s overall exports increased by 5.2% in the first eight months of the year while exports to Islamic State-controlled Syria increased by 57%. IS continues highly mobile, well-organized attacks without any logistics shortcomings. Turkey has boosted exports of vehicles and spare parts, clothing, durable foodstuffs, electronic items such as cellular phones and chemical products to the area IS controls.
posted by rosswald at 6:27 PM on September 3 [1 favorite]


Slavoj Zizek, NY Times Opinionator: ISIS Is a Disgrace to True Fundamentalism
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:53 PM on September 3 [1 favorite]


Path to jihad: from upscale Cairo to Islamic State beheadings
CAIRO (Reuters) - After leaving his upscale Cairo neighborhood to fight with the Islamic State militant group in Syria and Iraq, Younes says he learned how to work as a sniper, fire heavy weaponry and behead prisoners using the proper technique.

One year later he harbors the kind of ambition that could create a security nightmare for Egyptian authorities: to return home and hoist the Islamic State's black flag in Egypt as his comrades have over large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

Eventually, says Younes, he and other Egyptian fighters in Islamic State intend to topple Egypt's U.S.-backed government and extend their caliphate to the biggest Arab nation.
posted by rosswald at 10:11 AM on September 4




“We Got Nothin',” Charles P. Pierce, Esquire Politics Blog, 05 September 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 2:34 AM on September 6


Media should be challenging arguments for war not baying for blood.
posted by adamvasco at 6:06 AM on September 6






Sounds like the so-called moderate opposition to Assad sold out Steven Sotloff to ISIS. We should definitely start sending weapons to these guys. Because nothing bad could possibly happen.
posted by Justinian at 10:03 AM on September 9




“As it relates to the specifics of this matter, based on the information that has been provided to me, I don’t believe that is accurate,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in response to a question
Maybe, but that's about the least reassuring denial possible. Could he have added any more qualifiers?
posted by Justinian at 3:08 PM on September 9


Ha - yes I agree, it was a very 'slick' denial. Well maybe Weds.' "strategy" announcement will be clearer.
posted by rosswald at 3:13 PM on September 9




Tonight's the night, guys. You ready? Let's get our war on!
posted by Justinian at 12:32 PM on September 10


It's telling that we've become so tired and weary that what amounts to a new declaration of war in the Middle East doesn't even merit any comments.
posted by Justinian at 6:08 PM on September 10 [2 favorites]


I'm here. I was trying not to live-thread it and have spent the last ten minutes trying unsuccessfuly to log on to Chat.

I maintain my already stated position: There is no military solution to the ISIL problem that would be acceptable to the American people or the world community.

However, after the brutal execution of two American citizens, the public wants a punitive expedition. The President has finally figured out that press and GOP are going to continue to dun him on this until he accedes to kill some people. Even though Congress seems loath to hold a vote on the matter.

Sic transit gloria Civitatum Foederatarum.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:18 PM on September 10


It's okay, I'm sure the 475 troops he just announced will be the last advisers sent to help out the government in Saigon.
posted by Justinian at 6:28 PM on September 10




“Obama announces ‘broad coalition’ to fight Islamic State extremist group,” Juliet Eilperin, et al., The Washington Post, 10 September 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 6:47 PM on September 10


“Congressional Reaction to Obama's Speech,” The Associated Press, 10 September 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 7:00 PM on September 10


“NBC’s Richard Engel Slams President Obama’s ISIS Speech: ‘Wildly Off-Base’,” Josh Feldman, Mediaite, 10 September 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 7:11 PM on September 10


It's telling that we've become so tired and weary that what amounts to a new declaration of war in the Middle East doesn't even merit any comments.

Telling in what way? Speaking just for myself, I didn't comment, because nothing has changed - as predicted: we'd intervene, there would be no real global strategy, it would be of the moment and reactive, and it would not accomplish anything except be a net negative. So far it's going according to plan: we're intervening, and we don't appear to have any cogent strategy, it's reactive. As for consequences, we'll have to await those. I think everybody has long since resigned themselves to how this is going to unfold as far as resulting in an intervention - the hawks and doves both, and neither is going to be satisfied - too little for the hawks and too much for the doves, and it'll accomplish nothing. Obama was under pressure, and he folded - or maybe he really is clueless and thinks he's accomplishing something - either way it's depressing. What's left to say?
posted by VikingSword at 9:45 PM on September 10


NYT - Mr. Obama’s speech amounted to a strategy for a problem he has long said would defy an American remedy: sectarian strife between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in countries with deeply disaffected minorities and no history of democratic government.

Among the questions that Mr. Obama did not answer: How will the United States and its allies reinvigorate a moderate Syrian opposition that has been marginalized by more extremist forces? And how can the United States act against ISIS in Syria without benefiting President Bashar al-Assad?
Pretty much the questions I have. I don't think doing nothing is itself a wise strategy, but it seems we are trying to thread a pretty fine needle here.
posted by rosswald at 8:14 AM on September 11


Mark Sumner : - My fellow Americans, please stop being idiots.
posted by adamvasco at 8:17 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


From adamvasco's link - You want to go over to Iraq and rescue people who are endangered by ISIS? Absolutely. I'm right there with you. In fact, I'm serious about that. Call me. I'll pay for that. I'll support that. I'll go. The United States really needs to stop preaching to other countries about accepting refugees and take in more of the world's mistreated and displaced, including the ones right on our doorstep.

But you think that engaging in more military conflict is going to make things better? Unlike the last time. Or the time before that. Or the time before that ... no. Stop it.


--

I agree completely about the US needing to do more to take in refugees... but "rescuing people" and not "engaging in more military conflict" seems contradictory to me.
posted by rosswald at 8:21 AM on September 11




WND EXCLUSIVE - The Kingdom of Jordan is deeply concerned about the Obama administration’s renewed plan to train “moderate” rebels in Syria, believing the Syrian rebels are mostly extremists who espouse radical al-Qaida-like ideology, a senior Jordanian security official told WND.

The official said Obama’s decision to fight the Islamic State, or ISIS, and at the same time arm Syrian rebels was made during a compromise with Saudi Arabia in exchange for Saudi help in scaling back the ISIS threat.

Obama last night announced a sustained campaign against ISIS that could include air strikes and other action in Syria and Iraq. Democrats and Republicans in Congress reportedly support utilizing up to $4 billion to arm the Syrian rebels, with emphasis on the Free Syrian Army.

The security official said Jordan’s estimation is that the Free Syrian Army is no longer a cohesive fighting unit.

And the Jordanian kingdom fears that with U.S. acquiescence, Saudi Arabia will train and arm the al-Nusra front in Syria. Al-Nusra is allied with al-Qaida, although some al-Nusra militants have fought factional conflicts with ISIS.
posted by rosswald at 12:13 PM on September 11 [2 favorites]


Don't worry about arming more rebels. The beauty is that when wintertime rolls around the rebels simply freeze to death.
posted by Justinian at 1:41 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


The most farcical element of Obama's new strategy is the fact that everyone already knows that it is a complete and utter failure, something that's been tried before on a much more robust scale and failed spectacularly. Before we've fired the first shot, we know this one is a loser. So why do it? I personally speculate that Obama and team know perfectly well that their 'strategy' is a farce, but there is a compelling political need to show that we're "doing something about ISIS", and so this ludicrous farce is what'll act as a fig leaf.

A cogent and thorough analysis of the new Obama 'strategy' from the LATimes:

"Finally, Obama's strategy to bludgeon Islamic State in Syria rests on another questionable notion, that so-called moderate rebels, to the extent that they exist anymore in Syria, can somehow be transformed from a halting, atomized force into a well-oiled war machine on two fronts, against Islamic State and President Bashar Assad's government. Three years of warfare suggest otherwise."

"Various rebel groups have already received hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, along with training, from the U.S. and its allies, notably Qatar and Saudi Arabia, along with immense logistical assistance from Turkey, which shares a 500-plus-mile border with Syria. The aid rivals the billions of dollars funneled to the mujahedin fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s, a largesse that helped midwife Al Qaeda and three decades of Afghan instability.

This time, the money and arms have successfully destabilized the Assad government and contributed to unimaginable destruction in Syria. But the massive effort has also energized Islamic State, now heralded as an even more robust threat than Al Qaeda."

"Many units affiliated with the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army collaborate openly with Al Nusra Front, the official Al Qaeda franchise in Syria. Unlike Islamic State, Al Qaeda is clear in its goal of mounting attacks in Western Europe and the United States.

The process of "vetting" rebels for U.S. aid has appeared problematic. Many reports have surfaced of weapons ending up in the hands of Islamic militants."
posted by VikingSword at 9:03 AM on September 12






ISIS just beheaded another prisoner: David Haines of the UK.
posted by Justinian at 3:35 PM on September 13


I mean, I get it - beheading 'infidels' and posting it on social media reinforces their moral authority and draws recruits - but even with that it seems like a terrible strategy.

How does IS/ISIL think that antagonizing "the West" is a net positive for them? The combined airpower of a good number of NATO and Arab allies will be devastating.

If, instead of beheading the hostages, they had released them slowly and won some concessions and perhaps even some kind of unofficial recognition things could obviously be way different. Politics may not have allowed a completely peaceful solution, but we could have been forced to accept and live with ISIS if they hadn't been so directly antagonistic.

I guess though I am glad that ISIL is too stupid to try a more diplomatic path to statehood - now we are going to bomb the "f" out of them.
posted by rosswald at 3:52 PM on September 13


There is no diplomatic path to statehood for ISIS though. It would be unacceptable to basically everyone on the planet who isn't in ISIS, and that's before they started putting out the snuff vids. Their hope is that the videos make the US, UK, and allies act rashly and kill a bunch of people in the region which will bring even more recruits to ISIS.
posted by Justinian at 5:21 PM on September 13 [1 favorite]


There is no diplomatic path to statehood for ISIS though. It would be unacceptable to basically everyone on the planet who isn't in ISIS, and that's before they started putting out the snuff vids. Their hope is that the videos make the US, UK, and allies act rashly and kill a bunch of people in the region which will bring even more recruits to ISIS.

Exactly. ISIS cannot exist without both local Sunni support and external recruits and financing. The beheadings are of course savagery... to us. That's the key: to us.

Look at it from a purely tactical point of view. What do they buy by not executing these innocent people? "If, instead of beheading the hostages, they had released them slowly and won some concessions and perhaps even some kind of unofficial recognition" - this is complete fantasy. ISIS gains nothing from releasing the hostages. Washington or London or Paris or X is not suddenly going to recognize them, or do a single darn thing for them. So.

Meanwhile what do they gain by the savage beheadings? They gain recruits, they create chaos, they discourage 3rd party actors who might ameliorate the situation or even inform the world about the actual situation - aid workers, NGs, journalists. The very tactics used by the Taliban. Without journalists to verify anything, ISIS can engage in contradiction-free propaganda, and thus gain more adherents. Without aid workers and NGs, they are the ultimate decision makers and hold all the levers of power, food, safety - there is nowhere else to turn.

We are disgusted by the evil of these beheadings. And...? So what. We were never going to be the allies of ISIS. What we might do, is put pressure on our governments - as seems to have happened with Obama - "do something! punish!". And that's exactly what ISIS wants. You've walked right into their trap.

You bomb - ineffectively. The combined airpower of a good number of NATO and Arab allies will be devastating - Lol. We've seen in Afghanistan how devastating they are. Remember one key thing - an air campaign is only effective when there is a strictly contained area of combat (like the Balkan campaign of the 90's) - which is why an incredibly intense air campaign might work in Libya (though I think ultimately the country is too big and the borders to the South too porous). When the area of combat is too big and spilling into neighboring countries (Vietnam - Laos - Cambodia) - you will accomplish nothing. Iraq-Syria-Lebanon air campaign will be as successful as Afghanistan-Pakistan was. Meaning not at all.

Why does it work for ISIS? Because our ineffective bombing does little to actually dislodge ISIS (or the Taliban, which we've been trying to do for well over a decade with no progress in sight). What it does do, is entrench them, because it solidifies the support for ISIS from local Sunnis (who will inevitably be victims of collateral bombing damage), it ramps up their recruiting efforts and financing from outraged sympathizers (who provide incredible amounts of money). Yum! Thank you! Can we have more? This is how it's worked in Afghanistan and Pakistan with bombings and droning. We're the best recruiting tool AQ ever had, with the drones.

Instead, we should do the exact opposite. Leave them to their devices. Let their savagery run wild, unopposed. The local Sunnis will get sick of them quickly enough - and with no enemy (read: the West) to blame, they'll stew in their own juices. Schisms and splits will develop. Opposition will grow. Internal fighting will break out. They'll lose Sunni support. It will be nasty, and bloody. But it'll end up with ISIS losing. Now, if you say "we don't like nasty and bloody", fair enough - but it's going to be nasty and bloody regardless, and in fact much nastier and bloodier if we stupidly step into their trap and get involved. But I guess it's too late for that - Obama has stepped into it without even rolling up the pant legs and soon will bring the stench home.

David Haines

.

He gave selflessly, and was met with savagery. We must never forget his sacrifice, nor the evil of his executioners.
posted by VikingSword at 7:02 PM on September 13 [1 favorite]


"they had released them slowly and won some concessions and perhaps even some kind of unofficial recognition" - this is complete fantasy.
----
Instead, we should do the exact opposite. Leave them to their devices. Let their savagery run wild, unopposed. The local Sunnis will get sick of them quickly enough - and with no enemy (read: the West) to blame, they'll stew in their own juices. Schisms and splits will develop.

posted by VikingSword



I would hope that this happens, but to me your scenario seems equally fantastical. If left to "stew" for long enough, they will be a de-facto state if not a de-jure one, and history has proven that theocratic and/or dictatorial regimes can hang on for quite a while.
posted by rosswald at 7:56 PM on September 13




I would hope that this happens, but to me your scenario seems equally fantastical.

Oh really? Challenge accepted. The scenario is not only not fantastical but has already been happening - as I linked to in this very thread:

Fighting in Syria spawns separate civil war in global jihadist movement

So there. Completely realistic - as events on the ground bear out.

Can you in turn provide some evidence and links to it for your scenario that Western countries were prepared for any concessions in the event ISIS released the hostages? That would be a neat trick, since the only evidence in the case is directly contradictory to your contention in the "in your face" blanked refusal by Obama to negotiate at all regarding the hostages (and even going so far as to threatening the Foley family when they tried to raise a ransom).

So your scenario remains a fantasy. I provided links - and you are welcome to google for scads and scads and scads of research backing up my thesis, that it is in the nature of such movements to develop schisms when the focus on the external enemy threat is attenuated or eliminated. People in revolutionary movements are united by a common enemy. Remove, or weaken that common bonding agent and splintering develops with lightning speed. It is, in fact, a well understood dynamic in counter-insurgency doctrines.

By contrast, there is zero evidence for your scenario. It remains a fantasy.

If left to "stew" for long enough, they will be a de-facto state if not a de-jure one, and history has proven that theocratic and/or dictatorial regimes can hang on for quite a while.

Actually, the staying power of a regime depends on many factors, one of which is the presence of an active enemy whom one can blame for internal failings of the regime, and also serves as a rallying point around which the regime can gain legitimacy. Withdrawal means the removal of that factor and a significant weakening of the raison d'être for the regime. This f.ex. has been the long-standing critique of our approach to the Cuban regime of Fidel Castro. Our hostility and attempted invasions have strengthened Castro immensely. It is only by de-escalating hostilities that we have managed to foster internal dissent and weaken the regime.

But that's actually getting ahead of ourselves. First ISIS has to remain in power long enough to for an actual state - and this depends at least partially on our actions. If we counterproductively engage, ISIS stands a good chance of pulling it off. If we stay away, we allow the innate immune system - the local actors, both state (neighboring countries) and non-state to deal with an ISIS weakened by increased dissent.

Finally, regardless of the proximate outcome of our withdrawal, please keep in mind: it is not our business to determine the outcome of civil wars in the ME. Nobody appointed us God The Supreme Ruler. We would not appreciate other countries intervening militarily in our affairs, and we should give those societies the same courtesy.
posted by VikingSword at 11:13 PM on September 13


Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden has long since been dead, but his strategy keeps working: bleeding the United States of resources, just as the Soviets were in Afghanistan. All that money could go toward strengthening the economy, building infrastructure, bettering our society - but instead, it'll go into the maw of an endless unwinnable war, destroying our future. And we're cooperating with that strategy:

Cuts to defense budget threatened by battle against Islamic State

"There are already calls in Congress to eliminate the $45 billion in sequestration spending cuts that are set to hit next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, and to increase the supplemental appropriations used to fund the actual war-fighting, as opposed to other parts of the Pentagon budget.

Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), who chairs a House subcommittee on counter-terrorism and intelligence, said lawmakers should reconsider cuts to the defense budget to ensure the latest military venture is funded for the long haul.

"This is not just bombing a mountainside or securing a dam," he said. "This is a war that could go on for another 10, 15 years. And to do that we're going to have to recalibrate our thinking toward defense, and realize that we have to be on a wartime footing when it comes to spending.""

.
posted by VikingSword at 8:53 AM on September 14


VikingSword: “"This is a war that could go on for another 10, 15 years[," King said.]”
If you asked 19-soon-to-be-20-year-old me on August 1st, 1990 to believe that there would officially be precisely two years in the next 24 where someone in the American armed forces was not killed in combat, by friendly fire in a combat zone, or in a terrorist attack, I wouldn't have. The prospect of that continuing until I'm fucking 60 is making me physically ill.

I don't think what the American people had in mind is another decade of American deaths in Iraq. They want ISIL destroyed or at the very least punished. I'm pretty sure they would settle for al-Baghdadi and the executioner's heads on pikes. Even if it's "only airstrikes" there will be casualties. They'll get classified as "accidents" of course, just like the KIAs from Operation Southern Watch.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:58 PM on September 14


They want ISIL destroyed or at the very least punished. I'm pretty sure they would settle for al-Baghdadi and the executioner's heads on pikes. Even if it's "only airstrikes" there will be casualties.

True enough. ISIS/ISIL is evil, and if there was justice in this world, they'd be held responsible. But, sadly, while we'll bomb with abandon, I doubt those bombs will reach those most responsible for these monstrosities.

And while Obama and others cite the beheadings as casus belli, one wonders why not attack Saudi Arabia:

Rights group says surge in Saudi beheadings
Human Rights Watch says 19 people have been executed in the kingdom since August 4, including one for sorcery.


But maybe because Saudi Arabia is actually a key to Obama's "strategy" against ISIS:

Saudi Arabia, key to Obama’s strategy, beheaded at least 8 people last month

Here's one small fact that's been pointed out by the editorial board of Los Angeles Times of all papers: we are now set to train and arm Al-Qaeda affiliated rebels, with the help of Saudi Arabia because there is a schism and AQ is now fighting ISIS. The people who attacked the U.S. and the West and who are still dedicated to the cause of attacking the U.S., and whose entire raison d'être is a violent war against the West specifically, attacking the West on Western soil - are the AQ, originating in Saudi Arabia - those are the guys whose actions triggered our insane floundering since 2001 and unleashed this madness.

Meanwhile, ISIS is not explicitly dedicated to fighting the West on Western soil (though that may change when we go to war against them), ISIS is interested in carving out their own country in the ME, their caliphate. One could just as easily - and more rationally - make a case for the West supporting ISIS against AQ in that internal fight, rather than the other way around, if one were to take ones own interests into account.

The comical part of all this is that it is a replication of these very mistakes we've made that allowed AQ to flourish in the first place. We armed AQ against the Soviets in Afghanistan and then had a huge blowback. Now we're set to repeat that very same mistake almost literally - arm the AQ, through Saudi Arabia, in order to "liberate" Syria and now against ISIS. Who is not expecting a blowback?

It's like we don't learn, ever, ever, no matter how long ago or recent the lesson has been. People marvelled that attacking Iraq was like learning nothing from Vietnam and Afghanistan, but those were maybe too long ago? How about more recently, the lesson of arming rebels in Syria and the resulting ISIS - that's only from this year, just a few months - and we've learned nothing, and are bent on arming more monsters and whacking the hornet's nest. I doubt we could learn even as the lesson is happening - and listening to what the administration is planning, you realize that nobody there has a clue. So we'll continue on.

The only rational strategy is not to back up any of the evil forces here: ISIS, AQ, or Saudi Arabia. Best thing we could do would be to get the heck out of military action in the ME - of course, that's the one thing we'll never do. Oh well.
posted by VikingSword at 2:41 PM on September 14




Speaking of strange bedfellows, the West is aligning itself with brutal regimes like Saudi Arabia and various gulf states, but apparently we're doing everything we can to ostentatiously exclude and offend Iran, even though Iran has probably the biggest concrete impact on the situation. The U.S. excluded Iran from the recent ISIS-centered security conference and Kerry explicitly went public with his rejection of any role for Iran... which didn't prevent him from contacting Iran on the down low asking for Iran's military cooperation, despite acting like a swine publicly. Very honorable. He's like the town preacher who excoriates sinful sex from the pulpit and then wears a clumsy disguise a la Jimmy Swaggart, while visiting a prostitute. Meanwhile, it is Iran that's arming and advising the Kurds:

Iran fills key role in battling Islamic State in Iraq

"At his office here, Mala Bakhtiar, military supervisor of the Kurdish peshmerga forces and a local politician, spoke openly of comprehensive Iranian involvement in logistics, intelligence-sharing and provision of military equipment to Kurdish troops.

"They gave us rockets, cannons, maps," a grateful Bakhtiar said of the Iranians, gesturing at the large-scale maps competing for wall space. "We needed these things badly."

The Kurdish leader also confirmed the presence of consultants from the Pasdaran, also known as the Revolutionary Guard — who, he said, "were very helpful" as advisors in the ongoing battle to dislodge the Sunni extremists from the nearby strategic town of Jalawla and vicinity.
"

The other thing that's mentioned here is something I touched upon in my previous post: Western decision makers have completely abdicated any responsibility to actually perform an analysis of the fundamental premises of this entire engagement. Namely, why are we so focused on ISIS in the first place? As the article points out, it's an analysis performed by most people actually affected in the region, in this case citing the Kurds:

""Iraq is now a stage for intervention from all countries of the world," added Bakhtiar, also a leading figure with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK, one of the two major political parties in Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish region.

Many here question whether Islamic State poses any kind of direct danger to the United States. Unlike Al Qaeda, which severed ties to the group early this year, Islamic State has not proclaimed a global militant agenda, focusing instead on consolidating its self-proclaimed caliphate in the heart of the Middle East.
"

But then again, we don't listen to local people - because if we did we wouldn't have been involved in as many idiotic and misguided adventures all over the world. Ignorance combined with various special interests taking advantage of our ignorance - that's our MO. It really is very strange that we're aligning ourselves with Al-Qaeda-tainted rebel forces (trained in Saudi Arabia at this moment as we speak) whose platform and entire reason for existence is a war against the West, to be conducted through terrorist attacks on Western soil, while expending tremendous energy and treasure to fight ISIS whose ambitions are entirely regional - an internal struggle, a civil war and redrawing of arbitrary and outdated colonial borders in the Middle East, something that we should stay well out of, as it's none of our business.

One can only conclude that we wish to turn ISIS from a regional actor focused on just the region, into an international terrorist organization that will now have to fight the West, because it's not enough that Al-Qaeda does that, the same Al-Qaeda whom our "allies" are now arming, training and financing with our explicit encouragement.

Perfect strategy to create ever more enemies and an endless war far into the future, something that we'll saddle future generations with, a legacy we'll leave for them, instead of taking that money and effort and leaving a different legacy.
posted by VikingSword at 10:47 AM on September 15


Lol, they're stupider than even I thought:

US ground forces could be deployed against Islamic State (IS) militants if the current US-led strategy fails, top US General Martin Dempsey has said.

And since the "current US-led strategy" is quite certain to fail...

The mind boggles.
posted by VikingSword at 12:16 PM on September 16 [1 favorite]




Meanwhile the kind of people who call the President the "idiot in chief" believe that Allen West has laid out the best strategy for dealing with ISIL in just eight words and that we should "'airstrike' them into radioactive glass" in response to some guy making an evidence-free assertion that ISIL has used chemical weapons. So we've got that going for us. Which is nice.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:41 PM on September 16




wait until he finds out that "quran books" are in his local library and businessmen throughout his area use arabic numerals

the truth is out there!
posted by pyramid termite at 3:31 PM on September 16 [1 favorite]


It used to be that we were against the really, really bad guys who would do things like recruit children to be soldiers and training them to be suicide bombers. These days, we actively align with them and provide arms and money, all in the name of fighting the Syrian government:

MORE AND MORE CHILDREN JOIN SYRIAN REBELS' DESPERATE RANKS

"In June, Human Rights Watch released a report on the use of child soldiers, accusing Syrian armed groups of violating international law by enlisting vulnerable children whose families have been killed."

"Mainstream rebel groups such as the Western-backed Free Syrian Army and the Islamic Front have policies that prohibit enlisting fighters younger than 18. But in reality the situation is one of such desperation that no willing fighter is turned away."

"As hundreds of fatigued rebel fighters desert the ranks of the opposition and many others are killed daily in battles in the Syrian civil war, their positions are increasingly filled by teenagers like Hussein, a boy with an easy grin and light peach fuzz spread along his chin.

Thirteen of his uncles and cousins have been killed fighting government forces. Now Hussein, whose father was one of the founders of Al Tawheed Brigade, carries the Kalashnikov used by one of his late cousins.
"

As so frequently seems to happen to us, in our zeal to insert ourselves into a fight against that which we regard as the evil of the day, we soon adopt the very same practices and in fact end up supporting the worst of the worst. It is how we end up concentrating on opposing Iran, while supporting the greater evil of Saudi Arabia. Over and over again, we seem to debase ourselves and our values while claiming to hold the moral high ground.
posted by VikingSword at 4:12 PM on September 16






[A few comments deleted; if you can't be in this conversation without making it personal, please take a break and cool down. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:01 PM on September 16


How to Start a Battalion (in Five Easy Lessons)- Ghaith Abdul-Ahad reports from Syria

The uncounted cost of 'closing the jihadi highway' to Syria

Why the Heroes of Aleppo’s Civil Defense Are Now in Exile in Turkey - A chaotic war and a fractured opposition punishes the only people trying to save civilians

The US May Need to Solve a Paradox to Defeat the Islamic State
Most of the US debate about arming Syrian rebels is fairly rigid. The rhetoric in Washington is about "degrading and defeating" the Islamic State. Anything beyond that is mission creep or neoconservative warmongering, which triggers "quagmire" warnings from the political-media complex. As far as the US is concerned, the battle to defeat the Islamic State boils down to one point: "You're either with us or against us."

But as far as most of the major combatants are concerned, the conflict in the Middle East isn't merely a fight for or against the Islamic State. It's a broader regional war in which the Islamic State is one faction. Defeating the Islamic State may require defeating the Iranian proxies in Syria and elsewhere. And that might require cooperation with the Islamic State.

Alternatively, it could mean convincing the West to cooperate with Iran and its allies to defeat the Islamic State, which would put the Western coalition at odds with the rest of the Syrian and Iraqi Sunni forces.
Israel believes Syria kept 'significant' chemical munitions

John Kerry has declared Syria breached its commitments to stop using chemical weapons in the civil war by using chlorine gas in attacks earlier this year.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:17 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


How to make Isis fall on its own sword by Chelsea Manning
posted by jeffburdges at 11:54 PM on September 18


Holy shit, France just joined the party in Iraq with major airstrikes against ISIL. Yes, that France.

- Tail wagging the dog? Hollande is massively unpopular in his own party for running left and governing waaaaay to the right, and his austerity policies have had less than stellar results.

- A move to tweak the nose of Turkey, who France does not want to join the EU. Turkey is pointedly neutral officially, and probably leans towards ISIL.

- An attempt to turn disaffected Muslim youth away from ISIL and its international supporting organizations, and towards French Nationalism in defense of an Arab state (Iraq).

- ISIL is an actual threat to European security or portends large-scale genocide if left to their own devices.

My money's on the tail-wagging-the-dog, Hollande is a rolling disaster. How the hell does a socialist wind up that far to the right of Sarkozy?
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:33 AM on September 19


Turkey is pointedly neutral officially, and probably leans towards ISIL.

They what???
posted by empath at 6:36 AM on September 19 [2 favorites]


From the vice article:

The US is interested in defeating the Islamic State and backing the Sunnis. The Shia, led by Iran, are mostly aligned in opposition to the US and the Sunnis.

I'm not sure that either of these statements are true. The US and Iran are at loggerheads not because of any genuine conflict between the two countries, whose interests largely align, but because of israel, and Israel has been pushed the sidelines in terms of geopolitical importance in the area, because of our interests in Iraq. I would not be surprised to see a major re-alignment in the middle east in the very near future
posted by empath at 6:40 AM on September 19


Juan Cole: Top 5 Contradictions in Obama’s Emerging ISIL Strategy.
posted by adamvasco at 6:50 AM on September 19


They what???

They're selling ISIL oil, and supplying ISIL with materiel paid for by the proceeds. You didn't think they were denying use of their airbases because of moral convictions, did you?

More, Turkey is run by semi-totalitarian Islamists with no love for Kurds or Shiites. Backing ISIL is a way to stick it to secularist political opponents.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:28 AM on September 19


I guess Assad, the Kurds, and rich Christian businessmen also lean towards ISIS:

ISIS is selling cheap oil to its enemies — from Syria's government to the Kurds
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:38 AM on September 19


The Kurds aren't selling them ammunition.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:41 AM on September 19


Juan Cole: Top 5 Contradictions in Obama’s Emerging ISIL Strategy.

Remember X months ago when it was first revealed that we were supplying weapons to fighters in Syria who were using them to shoot at Iraqis? The Washington Hawks should have experienced a total logic breakdown right then like the android Kirk stumped with the Liar's Paradox. But no way man. They are a perpetual motion machine.

In another year we'll be arming al-Qaeda again, just like back in the 1980's in Afghanistan.
posted by bukvich at 8:46 AM on September 19


In another year we'll be arming al-Qaeda again, just like back in the 1980's in Afghanistan.

Err, we already are:

Senate approves Obama request to arm, train Syrian rebels

"The Senate on Thursday easily approved a $1 trillion government-funding bill that gives President Obama new authority to battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)."

"While the stopgap bill will prevent a government shutdown on Oct. 1, the vote will be remembered for a controversial provision that allows Obama to start a new training program for rebel fighters in Syria.
Anti-war liberals and some conservatives balked at that request, with some fearing the vote represented a dangerous march to war. The House approved adding the Syria provision to the stopgap bill Wednesday in a 273-156 vote, with more than 80 Democrats breaking with the president to reject his request.

Lawmakers skeptical of helping the rebels are fearful that it could be difficult, if not impossible, for the administration to ensure the weapons do not end up in the wrong hands.
"

Now that AQ are against ISIS, we must of course support the enemy of my enemy is who is my friend:

"Islamic militants who poured into the embattled nation to help the Free Syrian Army in its bid to topple dictator Bashar Assad are now fighting Assad, the rebels and each other in a barbaric free-for-all. At the center is the split between Al Qaeda’s regional affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the newly emerged Islamic State, which are fighting each other on the battlefield and in the war for recruits to the cause of Islamic terrorism."

And we already know what's going to happen to those weapons and the people whom we are training, because it's already been happening from the moment we started doing that before:

Free Syrian Army rebels defect to Al-Qaeda group Jabhat al-Nusra

"Syria's main armed opposition group, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), is losing fighters and capabilities to Jabhat al-Nusra, an Islamist organisation with links to al-Qaida that is emerging as the best-equipped, financed and motivated force fighting Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Evidence of the growing strength of al-Nusra, gathered from Guardian interviews with FSA commanders across Syria, underlines the dilemma for the US, Britain and other governments as they ponder the question of arming anti-Assad rebels.
"


It's a war of all against all, and there is not a single group with any meaningful power we can back that isn't a horrific alliance of fleeting duration and incalculable consequence. There is zero assurance that the weapons and people we finance will do anything but be a giant blowback down the road. There are no good military moves for the West here - none. There is no party to back - none. Not Assad and by extension Hezbollah and Iran, not Iraqi Shia militias that are using mass bombings of Sunni mosques and towns to foment civil war, not Sunni militia or ISIS who are genocidal radicals, not AQ, not any collection of scoundrels, opportunists, frauds, con-artists and mercenaries we care to train and finance in Saudi Arabia, Syria or anywhere else. The least bad thing we can do, is completely desist from any military intervention, whether by our troops, our military advisors, bombing and droning raids, arming of any faction, financing of any faction or providing intelligence to any party state or non-state. The only intervention, such as it is, should be to provide support, financing and manpower for humanitarian aid to the refugees of these horrific conflicts, within the context of the U.N., within the short term, and economic aid and engagement longer term for the whole region.
posted by VikingSword at 10:22 AM on September 19 [2 favorites]


Iran Prepares for a Leadership Transition
Though Iran has been broadcasting pictures and videos of top state officials and noted foreign dignitaries visiting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the hospital, the health of the man who has held the most powerful post in the Islamic Republic remains unclear. The unusual public relations management of what has been described as a prostate surgery suggests Tehran may be preparing the nation and the world for a transition to a third supreme leader. Iranian efforts to project an atmosphere of normalcy conceal concerns among players in the Iranian political system that a power vacuum will emerge just as the Islamic republic has reached a geopolitical crossroads.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:59 AM on September 19


They're selling ISIL oil, and supplying ISIL with materiel paid for by the proceeds. You didn't think they were denying use of their airbases because of moral convictions, did you?

What's your source for this? I've seen this literally no where.
posted by empath at 11:38 AM on September 19


previously. I haven't seen anything about arms though, and it could be argued that Kurdish smugglers would be willing to trade arms for oil if they had some to trade with. Also, it is one thing if Turkish smugglers are buying oil and selling arms, and another if the Turkish government is doing it or sponsoring it.

I think the article I just linked to about the consequences of Turkey shutting down its border with Syria is interesting. Refugees are now getting trapped on the Syrian side of the border, and the "FSA" who also relied on the open border is suffering.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:56 AM on September 19


So local turks are buying diesel from someone on the Syrian side (the article doesn't make clear), and the Turkish army has been digging up pipelines. Which is kind of nothing like what slap*happy was saying.
posted by empath at 12:20 PM on September 19


There are no good military moves for the West here - none.

What if they could identify a new Saddam Hussein and make friends with him better and faster than the Iranians or the Russians? Maybe to Kissinger and Brzezinski and their ilk that looks like a Great Move.
posted by bukvich at 12:40 PM on September 19


What's your source for this? I've seen this literally no where.

Look harder.

The arms and materiel claim comes from NPR - who claims they're smuggling in industrial goods - and from Kurdish media, which claims more direct support.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:01 PM on September 19


The Iranian perspective:

US Presence In Region Exacerbates Terrorism Crisis -- Iranian President

""The US-led coalition against IS is not a serious movement. The US has been present in the region since 2001 to fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, it did not resolve terrorism issues but made crises even worse," he said.

On IS's beheading of American citizens James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British David Haines, Rouhani said the rebels' actions were opposite to Islamic tenets.

"From the point of view of Islam, killing an innocent person equals the killing of the whole humanity. The killing and beheading of innocent people is a matter of shame for IS and a matter of concern and sorrow for humanity," he said.
"

Now they would say that, wouldn't they. Not that it's necessarily untrue either.
posted by VikingSword at 11:21 AM on September 20 [1 favorite]


The Barbarians Within Our Gates - Arab civilization has collapsed. It won’t recover in my lifetime. (HISHAM MELHEM)

Benghazi assassinations stun residents amid Libya's turmoil
One of those killed was Tawfiq Bensaud, an 18-year-old youth activist. In a photograph circulated on social media sites, Bensaud, with a toothy grin and mop of unkempt hair, held a sign that read: “Smile, you are in Benghazi.”

“It’s depressing. The people who were killed came from all walks of life,” said Mustafa Sallak, a Benghazi-based doctor. “Soldiers, activists, sheikhs,” he said. “People are afraid.”
Yemen clashes fuel fears of all-out sectarian war
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:31 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]


The War on ISIS: Views From Syrian Activists and Intellectuals

Seven Days inside the Life-and-Death World of Syria's First Responders (June).

The enablers of ISIS - Other states in the region have helped incubate the sadistic group
Instead of pushing Assad to reach a political compromise in 2011 with peaceful protesters, Iran sent its Lebanese Hezbollah proxies into Syria to fight for Assad and dispatched its own Revolutionary Guard commanders to oversee the Syrian counter-revolution. Iran’s pursuit of strategic dominance from Iraq, through Syria, to Lebanon helped create favorable conditions for ISIS barbarians who say they want to slaughter Shiites and Persians first of all.
Funding ISIS (Infographic)

Suspicions Run Deep in Iraq That C.I.A. and the Islamic State Are United
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:29 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]


“Dominos [sic],” Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station, 20 September 2014
This threat exists because war and conflict have destabilized the region.

More war won’t fix that.

Just as throwing more and more of our children into Vietnam didn’t bring peace or stability there.

Most certainly we should be concerned. We should be outraged and appalled at the brutality and the horror. Absolutely we should be. Absolutely we should acknowledge our role in this mess and provide what support we can to aid those caught in the middle. With caution. With prudence. With an understanding that real peace and stability can’t be imposed at the muzzle of a gun or dropped from a bomb bay or by shouting Kill ‘em!
posted by ob1quixote at 8:49 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]


NYT - The United States and allies launched airstrikes against Sunni militants in Syria early Tuesday, unleashing a torrent of cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs from the air and sea on the militants’ de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, and along the porous Iraq border.

American fighter jets and armed Predator and Reaper drones, flying alongside warplanes from several Arab allies, struck a broad array of targets in territory controlled by the militants known as the Islamic State. American military officials said the targets included weapons supplies, depots, barracks and buildings the militants use for command and control. Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from United States Navy ships in the region.
I love the image of Arab-ally-warplanes flying alongside a Reaper drone etc. The White House and the media have gone through great pains to make it clear there is a "coalition" - but I wonder realistically how involved these Allies really are in these (and upcoming) military actions. The vocal support of the Arab world is certainly helpful, but the military claims are to me unbelievable.
posted by rosswald at 6:51 PM on September 22


We've started blowing up Syria today. For the good of all of us. Except the ones who are dead.
posted by Justinian at 6:52 PM on September 22




I'm sure they totally didn't pay the danegeld. Totally didn't.
posted by Justinian at 7:18 PM on September 22 [4 favorites]




“ISIL Is Contained and That Should Be Good Enough,” Christopher Bolan, War on the Rocks, 22 September 2014
You wouldn’t know it from the threat inflation (see here and here) by U.S. senior officials and politicians concerning the Islamic State — aka ISIL, ISIS, ISI, and AQI — but this terrorist threat is already successfully contained and poses little immediate or direct threat to American interests in the region or globally.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:23 PM on September 22


We've started blowing up Syria today.

That's what they get for threatening Canada. No one fucks with our hat.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:45 AM on September 23


Indications are that the Tomahawk cruise missiles struck first, and that the US strikes centered around attacks on buildings, and people on the scene reported the sky was “full of drones” over the ISIS capital of Raqqa.

The strikes were reportedly joined by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. Each has expressed support for regime change against the Syrian government in the past.


The other day I saw an Iranian TV show segment where they claimed they had a document they swiped from the Saudi government where they had a list of hundreds guys, various nationalities, condemned to be executed; set free with an oath to Allah and to go fight jihad with ISI*.
posted by bukvich at 8:40 AM on September 23






Videos and Photographs Claim to Show Civilians Killed by US Led Air Strikes in Syria

I imagine they'll be using pages from the Hamas playbook here -- launching attacks from civilian areas, showing the resulting carnage when the US bombs it.
posted by empath at 10:32 AM on September 23


Let's see if the level of outrage here when that happens is similar. I'm guessing "no".
posted by Justinian at 12:41 PM on September 23




And here we go - winning hearts and minds (for the terrorist cause):

Syrians say civilians killed in U.S. airstrikes

"Activists say as many as two dozen civilians were killed in the bombardments that began late Monday, and public opinion varied greatly, with some who have suffered at the hands of militants with the group Islamic State praising the attacks and others decrying the loss of civilian life or the fact that the campaign wasn't targeting the government of Assad.

Even some rebel groups that have lost members and territory in clashes with Islamic State said they didn't think the airstrikes would be to their benefit.
"

"In Syria, estimates of the number of civilians killed varied from eight to 24.

Antigovernment activists said that five missiles struck in Idlib province, four on Al Nusra Front bases and weapons warehouses and the other in a residential neighborhood in the village of Kafar Daryan. The Syrian Network for Human Rights said 12 people were killed in the village, including four children in one family.
"

"Omar Zafer, a resident of Dair Alzour, in eastern Syria, said Islamic State militants evacuated their bases before the strikes and most casualties were among the civilian population.

"Everyone is against the airstrikes and there is sympathy toward ISIS," he said, using one of the acronyms for Islamic State.
"
posted by VikingSword at 6:05 PM on September 23


Islamic State militants evacuated their bases before the strikes

It's like deja vu all over again
posted by bukvich at 7:28 PM on September 23


Obama Must Strike Assad, Too - Bombing ISIL isn’t enough. The real problem is the Syrian regime.
It may already be too late. Two years ago, the United States could have killed ISIL before it was born with limited airstrikes on the Assad regime. Back then, the regime was on the run. Free Syrian Army rebels who promoted a “pluralistic, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society” were ripping through regime positions in northern and eastern Syria and even making gains in the capital. The desperate Assad regime only stanched the tide by initiating the first systematic aerial attacks on civilian neighborhoods. If the United States had denied Assad his air monopoly back then, moderate rebels would have regained the initiative, probably seized the capital and presided over moves toward democracy as they did in other Syrian territories.
...
By Jan. 6, rebels were within blocks of ISIL’s international headquarters; airstrikes on ISIL identical to the ones conducted last night would have delivered the death blow. But the only airstrikes rebels saw were regime attacks behind their front lines with ISIL, which forced them to suspend their offensive.
...
Don’t get me wrong: If the current airstrikes on ISIL are strong enough to affect ground developments, they will be enormously beneficial to Syria. I am in regular touch with moderate rebel commanders in the main rebel stronghold of Aleppo and in Kobani, a Syrian Kurdish city now under ISIL siege. The Kurds fear that ISIL may soon capture their area and slaughter thousands of civilians, and have pleaded for U.S. airstrikes against ISIL on multiple occasions. Monday night’s airstrikes are an important step forward.

 But airstrikes on ISIL only address the symptoms of Syria’s cancer. To destroy ISIL once and for all requires addressing the cause: the Assad regime.
AL QAEDA PLOTTERS IN SYRIA ‘WENT DARK,’ U.S. SPIES SAY
The attacks on the Khorasan Group also complicate U.S. efforts to partner with the more moderate opposition. One Syrian rebel group supported in the past by the United States condemned the air strikes on Tuesday. Harakat Hazm, a rebel group that received a shipment of U.S. anti-tank weapons in the spring, called the airstrikes  “an attack on national sovereignty” and charged that foreign led attacks only strengthen the Assad regime.
@SCM_Syria: Translation of Harakat Hazm's condemnation of coalition strikes. Hazm were the 1st to receive TOW ATGMs in #Syia

Assuming ISIS could be defeated, who will take their place? It seems to me there is a risk that civilian infrastructure could collapse in rebel held areas, leaving people without water, food, etc. Things ISIS does seem to provide while they aren't beheading or raping people.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:15 PM on September 23 [2 favorites]


Yeah, let's just bomb everyone on all sides in Syria. I don't see how that could possibly go wrong.

This whole situation is a ridiculous joke, or it would be if people weren't dying. Evil ones and innocent ones.
posted by Justinian at 3:59 AM on September 24


Exclusive: Syrian minister says U.S.-led strikes going in 'right direction'
"As for the raids in Syria, I say that what has happened so far is proceeding in the right direction in terms of informing the Syrian government and by not targeting Syrian military installations and not targeting civilians," he said.
Targeting civilians? You mean like you've been doing every day with barrel bombs?
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:05 AM on September 24


Two years ago, the United States could have killed ISIL before it was born with limited airstrikes on the Assad regime. Back then, the regime was on the run. Free Syrian Army rebels who promoted a “pluralistic, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society” were ripping through regime positions in northern and eastern Syria and even making gains in the capital.

LOL. Right, because the West overthrowing a dictator through military action worked out so well every time we tried it in the ME. Boy, once we overthrew Saddam, a democratic paradise in Iraq! Then there is Libya - boy it's so great there right now, all those rebels who promoted a “pluralistic, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society”, are now spilling into Chad, Niger and Mali:

"In the three years since Muammar Gaddafi was toppled by Libyan rebels and Nato airstrikes, fighting between militia has plunged the country into civil war and seen Tripoli fall to Islamists. The involvement of Qatar, Egypt and the UAE risks a wider regional war"

Btw. Libyan Dawn, which now controls Tripoli is an ISIS like organization that also receives its backing from external sources and the conflict is clearly spreading across the borders.

Good luck with overthrowing Assad militarily - that's the very worst thing we could have done. Had we done that, Jordan and Lebanon would have a civil war - because just as you're not able to contain the Libyan conflict to Libya, which is spreading to sub-Saharan neighbors, so you wouldn't be able to contain a Syrian civil war to that fractured country (see also how a fractured Iraq spills over into Syria).

We should have left those societies to evolve their own solutions to the dictatorships of Saddam, Assad and Khaddafi. Instead, we involved ourselves militarily and made the situation infinitely worse. How many civilians were killed and terrorist organizations flowered before and after our military engagement? Those deaths and those consequences are on our heads.
posted by VikingSword at 8:47 AM on September 24




Wow, Apocryphon, that's an excellent article by As'ad AbuKhalil (poly-sci prof. in CA), thanks for posting it. Also like his diss of Thomas Friedman, heh. Particularly poignant (from Apocryphon's link):

"There has been a moderate and progressive strand of Islam in Syria and many of its elements have aligned themselves with the regime [Assad's government - add. VS]. And contrary to early claims made by the hired external opposition and its advocates in the West, there was never a moderate and progressive version of Islam among the rebel groups. How could that be the case when the sponsors of Syrian rebel Islam are Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia? Mufti Hassun (although he is an ally and perhaps a tool of the regime, and even the slain Sheikh al-Buti) is far more progressive than any of his adversaries on the other side, including Mu`adh al-Khatib who has railed in the past about the ills of social media, masturbation and Jews, and who praised al-Nusrah Front early on his tenure as leader of the Syrian National Council."

The only moderate and progressive strands of Islam have aligned themselves with Assad - as I kept pointing out, it's a civil war, with may non-governmental forces supporting Assad - he is not simply an isolated figurehead, but has support of the progressive part of the population. By contrast, the rebels don't represent any but extremist flavors of Islam, including the Syrian National Council whom we supported and whose leader is in cahoots with Al-Qaeda. As usual in the ME, we've managed to align ourselves with the worst of the worst. The author of the article points out how many competing forces are involved in a war of all against all. The best we could do, is stay out of military intervention in the civil wars in the ME.
posted by VikingSword at 1:04 PM on September 24




I'm not a fan of airstrikes by any stretch, but the killing of civilians is not really something ISIS can claim the moral high ground on.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:17 PM on September 24


I'm quite surprised that he forgot to mention the Kurds, though.
posted by Apocryphon at 3:18 PM on September 24


Opposition fighters are rejecting US-led strikes in Syria - Amid a state of chaos and disorganization on the ground in southern Syria, some rebels are torn between ISIS allegiances and angered by civilian casualties

It seems there is a lot of sympathy for jihadists among the population in rebel held areas of Syria. The civilian casualties did not help things.
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:26 PM on September 24


“Islamic State Online: Jihadist Propaganda 2.0,” Daniel N. Abramson, Geopolitical Monitor, 23 September 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 3:33 PM on September 24 [2 favorites]




I'm not a fan of airstrikes by any stretch, but the killing of civilians is not really something ISIS can claim the moral high ground on.

How many civilians do we need to kill to stop them from killing civilians?
posted by empath at 10:33 PM on September 24


Until there are no civilians remaining to be killed, would be the fatalistic punchline.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:52 PM on September 24


WILL IRAN SELL OUT AL QAEDA FOR NUKES?
Iran has long been harboring senior al Qaeda, al Nusra, and so-called Khorasan Group leaders as part of its complicated strategy to influence the region and keep itself off the terrorist target list, according the U.S. government, intelligence agencies, and terrorism experts.
...

“The Iranian regime has nurtured al Qaeda for many years. There are links, there are contacts, they know these people,” said Fouad Hamdan, executive director of the Netherlands-based Rule of Law Foundation, which funds Naame Shaam, an NGO focused on Iran’s role in Syria.

Naame Shaam has produced a 105-page report on Iran’s mischief inside Syria and its ties to al Qaeda, al Nusra, and ISIS. Al Qaeda and ISIS are under orders not to attack inside Iran in order to preserve their supply network there, the report states. The U.S. government concurs.
...

In recent years Iran’s relationship with al Qaeda has soured. Al Qaeda leaders began leaving Iran in late 2008, including Osama bin Laden’s son Saad bin Laden. Today, Iran supports the governments of Syria and Iraq in their fight against al Qaeda franchises and ISIS.

Nonetheless, some al Qaeda senior managers remain in Iran. Seth Jones, the director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the Rand Corporation, said Iran could help the new U.S. campaign against ISIS and al Qaeda by rounding up the remaining al Qaeda operatives on its own territory.

“They could capture and hand over the remaining al Qaeda officials on Iranian soil,” he said. “A few, including Saif al Adel, remain in Iran.”
Iran in Syria - From an Ally of the Regime to an Occupying Force (Naame Shaam)
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:57 AM on September 25


CNN is reporting that ISIS has overrun an Iraqi army base leaving 100+ dead.

Heck of a job, Brownie.
posted by Justinian at 4:35 PM on September 25 [1 favorite]


Only Americans severely tone-deaf to the spiritual sensibilities of a global population reverent of the term as well as Islamic Egyptians, call the fuckers "ISIS." They're ISIL, Daesh, or if you're on their side, The I.S.

Calling them "ISIS" means you buy into what the American press is selling at the moment, and brother, it changes but quick.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:48 PM on September 25


Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, And These Guys Are Risking Their Lives To Document It
All of us are from Raqqa, and we were all in Raqqa our all lives.

We were activists against the Assad regime when we started, but after our city was freed, and ISIS took over our freedom, we just decided to launch this campaign to expose all the crimes that ISIS do, and not just ISIS but all the extremist groups in the city.
...

Most of the people of Raqqa are against ISIS, maybe 90 percent. The other 10, ISIS gives them money, power, and because of that they want it in the city. After the airstrikes, a few more people said, "I will be with ISIS against these strikes." But most in the city just want them out. They are just tired. 
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:30 PM on September 25


Most of the people of Raqqa are against ISIS, maybe 90 percent. [...] After the airstrikes, a few more people said, "I will be with ISIS against these strikes."

So before the airstrikes 90% were against ISIS, and after airstrikes maybe 85%? Sounds like the airstrikes are doing their job. Keep it up, and maybe eventually you can flip it to 90% for ISIS. In other words, everything is going according to plan. ISIS plan. After all, it's been remarked how ISIS is trying to induce the West to bomb them, all part of the design. Sounds like we fell for it. Again.

Meanwhile, Iran is looking to propagate their own views. After all, they argue, "look, Iran is a stable country in this region, whereas the West has destabilized other countries and sown terror which they are now reaping." I think this must be intolerable to our policymakers. Despite best efforts, we have not managed to destabilize Iran, but if we keep trying, maybe can help "freedom reign" in Iran too, with all the attendant endless bloodshed. Surely we cannot stand for an Iran that is not in a civil war, like the successful Iraq next door - this is intolerable. Surely we can replace a bad dictatorship with a worse civil war and worse aftermath:

"While terrorism has set the Middle East in turmoil, Iran remains one of the region’s most “tranquil, secure and stable” countries, he said."

Iran's Rouhani faults West contributing to rise of terrorism

"In an annual address to the U.N. General Assembly, Rouhani accused the West of unleashing the worldwide threat of groups such as Islamic State through its campaigns against governments in the region."

"Rouhani said terrorism had its roots in Western colonialism and racism and now menaces countries in the region that have helped fund such groups."

"“Certain states have helped in creating it, and have now failed to withstand it,” he said, calling on those responsible to apologize."
posted by VikingSword at 8:34 AM on September 26






The Yazidi pogrom: "Where is the world?
“All of the villages around us are Arabs, and they joined with Daash (the Arabic term for ISIL) against us. They are our neighbours. We have known them all our lives. We don’t know what happened to them,” Khalaf said. “They say if we come back they will kill us. They say, ‘we have taken your house, your car, your fields.’ This is why we do not want to go back.”

The scale of the Yazidi pogrom has yet to be fully comprehended by the outside world, Duhok Mayor Mohammad Amin Osman told me.

“Where is the world?” Osman asked. “Here in Duhok, we are Kurds, Arabs, and some Christians, and we are feeling the sadness for the Yazidis. As humans we are feeling their suffering. For the Yazidis, a genocide has happened for them now. All around them they see enemies, and they are afraid of dying.”
...

Canada has found about $20 million for humanitarian aid to Northern Iraq since the crisis began – a paltry sum, but above average. Even in Syria, where no refuge at all is available to the Arab victims of Bashar Assad and the ISIL gangrene his savagery has caused to spread through the region, the World Food Program has just announced that it is cutting back on the food rations it supplies to six million people, owing to the broken pledges of UN member states.
UN to cut food aid to Syria
“It is because the money is not coming in. This is devastating news for people who are aid-dependent.

There is a three month lag between the time food supplies are purchased and delivered on the ground, Ging said. “This will come at a time when the suffering is exacerbated by winter.

“So we will find humanitarian agencies cutting down on aid deliveries when aid is needed more than ever,” he said. “It is not just food, it is vital shelter material, clothing and supplies for water and sanitation.”
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:30 AM on September 26 [1 favorite]


“It is because the money is not coming in. This is devastating news for people who are aid-dependent."

I have an idea. How about we take the money that we spend on firing missiles to kill civilians while strengthening ISIS, and spend that money on humanitarian aid, so that "money is coming in" instead? Just a thought.

Refugees are a fact of life in any war zone. The least we could do is provide humanitarian aid to these refugees, seeing as it is us who fuelled this war and co-created the monster that is ISIS.

In 2011, it was estimated that a single Tomahawk cruise missile costs US$1,410,000.[1]
posted by VikingSword at 9:59 AM on September 26






Slap*Happy: Calling them "ISIS" means you buy into what the American press is selling at the moment, and brother, it changes but quick.
I personally preferred ISIL over ISIS because the second 'S' stood for 'al-Sham' not 'Syria,' and I thought it was dumb to translate only part of the phrase behind an acronym. Furthermore, my understanding was 'al-Sham' is a broader area, roughly equivalent to the region known in English as 'The Levant.' After reading Ishaan Tharoor's Washington Post article from June about the debate over the proper acronym, I have no idea what to think. I'm going to stick with ISIL because that's what the State Department uses.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:32 AM on September 26


How ISIS Is Using Us to Get What It Wants

This is a great article. Thanks for posting it.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:41 AM on September 26


It is a good article. And rewards close reading. The unsurprising part is how it's pretty much everything that we - the non-interventionists - have been saying. There are no 'partners' for us there. It is a war of all against all. Tangled and fleeting alliances, and nobody has clean hands. And I encourage folks to read that article carefully and answer this question: what is the U.S. getting out of a military engagement here? Reading it carefully, I can find no downside to the U.S. simply walking away from any military engagement, and focusing exclusively on the downstream effects through humanitarian aid. There is literally nothing we can do there through military force, that is not going to result in blowback to us. And the key point is: unlike the regional powers there, we, the U.S. can walk away - we do NOT need to be engaged militarily. There is literally no downside to disengagement and a focus on humanitarian aid. Which is what we've been advocating from day one (the non-interventionists, that is). The saddest part of this from our point of view, is how Obama's attacks seem to be driven by political considerations back home, the need to "look tough" for mid-term elections... and for this, people are paying with their lives.
posted by VikingSword at 11:27 AM on September 26






@WashingtonPoint: Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party head S.Demirtas says in few hours #Kobane might fall, thousands can be massacred while coalition jets fly over

I read somewhere that Turkey is not letting Kurdish forces cross the border to help defend Kobane.

@ggatehouse: On the Turkey-Syria border today. A smuggler tells us Islamic State moves across the frontier at will. More on @BBCNewsnight

@RSyrianCivilWar: More barrel bombs dropped in #Rastan today

@Brown_Moses: 35 videos from rebel areas across Syria against US-led air strikes posted today

@Brown_Moses: Here's some English signs at an anti-US led air strike protest today
"I am a Muslim. al-Nusra Front represents me."
This is starting to kind of look like a charlie foxtrot. It's also starting to seem to me that Saudi Arabia is inevitably going to lose the Saudi Arabia-Iran proxy wars.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:00 PM on September 26 [1 favorite]


Apparently this may have been the start of talk about the "Khorasan" movement: Khorasan pledge splits al-Qaeda (April)

Tehran to America: ‘Thank you Great Satan!’
While analysts, military and security bodies, and the political leadership tried to approach this new offensive on the region from their own perspectives, they all agreed on a common question: Are the Americans this stupid to do us such a favor?
The answer is, “no, of course not.” Hence, there must be some other motives that have yet to reach the surface, and which need to be revealed.

This question is justified based on the following concept: If ISIS and its affiliated groups consider Iran, Hezbollah and the Syrian regime as their main enemy, then any strike against the terrorist group, in any shape or form, will no doubt benefit these parties. What happened that made the United States take such an action?
US’ anti-ISIS campaign: Emulating the "success" in Somalia and Yemen?
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:14 PM on September 26






Mission accomplished.
Defense contractors shares soar..
posted by adamvasco at 2:08 PM on September 26


Who is Killing Iran’s Elite Revolutionary Guards?
For the past few weeks, a string of curious and deadly events has been taking place in Eastern Kurdistan.

Salafi extremists have long been rumored to be operating inside Kurdistan with Iran’s support.

It came as no great surprise to long-time observers, either, when Iran sent tanks across the border.

This is standard fare for Iran–disruption, diversion, and deception.

No, of greater importance are the spate of killings in Urmye, Bokan and Jwanro. These areas are either squarely inside Iran or Kurdistan, depending on who you ask. Starting in September, members of the moderate Kurdish opposition reported five members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) “wearing Kurdish cloths” had been shot. A week prior, a member of IRGC reportedly operating in Urmye also lost his life.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:24 PM on September 26


« Older Geometry in motion   |   "The Witness" Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post