Why War?
October 4, 2014 1:33 PM   Subscribe

It's a question Americans should be asking. Professor in the history department at West Point, Gregory A. Daddis, explores the changing utility of war in the post WWII environment. 'As the United States charges once more into war, little debate has centered on the actual utility of war. Instead, policymakers and pundits have focused their comments on combating the latest danger to our nation and its interests as posed by Islamic State militants.' 'For well over a decade — one might suggest over multiple decades — the United States has been engaged in war, yet so few in the public sphere seem willing to ask, as a Vietnam-era hit song did: “War, what is it good for?” It seems plausible to argue that war is a phenomenon increasingly serving itself rather than any durable political goals.'

'War, as an instrument of policy, seems increasingly to be losing its decisive edge.' 'But what if peace never comes? What if war only engenders new enemies and new threats?'

'For American purposes, war as a political tool has more and more demonstrated its inability to deliver. In truth, decisiveness in war has historically been elusive, especially in the decades following the end of World War II.'

'Even when the reviled communists had been “defeated,” new threats emerged that required ever more deployments of U.S. soldiers.

This persistent state of war, however, has not stimulated any deeper reconsideration of how we view peace and war.'

'If war provides meaning, why,' as historian Mary Dudziak asks 'does military engagement no longer require “the support of the American people but instead their inattention”? If a theory of forward defense, of fighting on someone else's shores rather than our own, is the rationale for constant war, when will we achieve a sense of national security that no longer requires constant battle?'
posted by VikingSword (352 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
It seems plausible to argue that war is a phenomenon increasingly serving itself rather than any durable political goals.

"Increasingly?" So the present situation is different from the rest of history how, exactly?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:42 PM on October 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


If you're one of the happy few whom war makes very, very rich, with vanishingly small risk to you or anyone you know, it certainly has utility.
posted by gottabefunky at 2:04 PM on October 4, 2014 [17 favorites]


Give War a Chance

War brings peace only after passing a culminating phase of violence. Hopes of military success must fade for accommodation to become more attractive than further combat. ... Too many wars nowadays become endemic conflicts that never end because the transformative effects of both decisive victory and exhaustion are blocked by outside intervention. Unlike the ancient problem of war, however, the compounding of its evils by disinterested interventions is a new malpractice that could be curtailed.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:05 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


ZenMasterThis: "It seems plausible to argue that war is a phenomenon increasingly serving itself rather than any durable political goals.

"Increasingly?" So the present situation is different from the rest of history how, exactly?
"

I'm guessing it has something to do with the increasing lethality and cost (and therefore profit) of our tools of war. You do make a great point, though.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 2:18 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Smedley Butler had this completely covered eighty years ago.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:22 PM on October 4, 2014 [26 favorites]


That makes me think of some interesting things. I'd love to see some sort of plot of, perhaps, the cost of a drone or tomahawk cruise missile as a share of our GDP vs. a spear in say, Roman times. If the implements are getting cheaper, we're all fucked. (I think it's safe to assume we're all fucked whatever the cause.)
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 2:23 PM on October 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


ISIS is the rare case where full scale war might be justifiable. They're not a terrorist group, they're a nascent country with a conventional military. They're serial genocidaires. They pose a real threat of invasion to multiple neighboring countries. If they were to topple the government of Saudi Arabia (increasingly plausible) it's hard to estimate the effect on the Muslim world. Worst, they seem to be growing exponentially; each win over the Iraqi army gives them more manpower and weapons.

However, the USA has been fighting the Hitler of the month for decades. Talk of a fast growing, aggressive genocidal state scarcely sounds plausible, accurate though it may be.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:27 PM on October 4, 2014 [18 favorites]


If the implements are getting cheaper, we're all fucked. (I think it's safe to assume we're all fucked whatever the cause.)

It's not that the costs are getting cheaper. It is that they amortized. We pay for the bombs we drop today for the rest of our lives (even just in the strict financial sense - the moral and practical sense is probably an even more damning accounting).
posted by srboisvert at 2:29 PM on October 4, 2014 [9 favorites]


srboisvert: " If the implements are getting cheaper, we're all fucked. (I think it's safe to assume we're all fucked whatever the cause.)

It's not that the costs are getting cheaper. It is that they amortized. We pay for the bombs we drop today for the rest of our lives (even just in the strict financial sense - the moral and practical sense is probably an even more damning accounting).
"

Excellent point! The USA is the king of blowback. And we've been running up the credit card balance for decades now. I think we all here have a clue what it was like to live in the last few decades/centuries/whatever of the Roman era.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 2:36 PM on October 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


"War! what is it good for?
It's good for business"

-- Billy Bragg
posted by kirkaracha at 2:46 PM on October 4, 2014


War is the only acceptable stimulus spending.

The domestic US economy is stagnant, either by design or negligence, but the forever war provides a reliable engine of economic output, with the convenient side effect of funneling public money right to the top of society, without having to share any of the gains with the huddled masses.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:54 PM on October 4, 2014 [14 favorites]


Self defense and defense of those facing threats or acts of war is perfectly legitimate. What we need is to invest in weapons that preserve even the lives of those doing harm- things that immobilize, freeze, entrap etc those doing harm without causing serious injury to them. It takes a lot of spending and goal setting to create leaps in science that would allow such things, but if we fought with the true intent of preserving the welfare of the vulnerable (or empowering them with protective technology and defensive weapons that do not remove life or cause injury) then I think we would see very different outcomes.
posted by xarnop at 3:02 PM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


It seems plausible to argue that war is a phenomenon increasingly serving itself rather than any durable political goals.

That is a political goal. Maybe not a geopolitical one, but definitely a political one.
posted by carter at 3:07 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]




>>It seems plausible to argue that war is a phenomenon increasingly serving itself rather than any durable political goals.

>"Increasingly?" So the present situation is different from the rest of history how, exactly?


Throughout history war has served many purposes. Very often it's been supporting business interests. It's also been used to grab huge chunks of land (hello, American revolution!), and of course to distract the populace from their woes.

And then there's phases like this, where the oil companies don't seem to have been very well served, we don't want the land, and with the possible exception of Frank Miller the populace has become inured to the baddie of the week. (Al Qaeda getting boring? How about ISIS!). But there is a well oiled machine producing weapons -- and better yet expendable ammunition -- and some very well trained soldiers, and everyone has gotten used to regular deployments anyway and ... well, war has become a habit.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:14 PM on October 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


Before 2009, there were hundreds of thousands of people who were part of a large anti-war movement and demonstrated in Washington. Once Obama was Inaugurated, the liberal groups like MoveOn gave an ultimatum to the anti-war movement: if they opposed Obama's continuation of the Afghanistan war, then the liberal groups would withdraw funding. United for Peace and Justice, the largest anti-war coalition at that time, went ahead with protests that included Afghanistan in their demands, and their funding dried up.

Since then, there is only a small, rump anti-war movement. Obama and liberal groups like MoveOn have been more effective at silencing anti-war dissent than Bush and his cronies ever were. And it has paid dividends as he's had unprecedented free rein to wage war.
posted by graymouser at 3:28 PM on October 4, 2014 [32 favorites]


i am cautiously optimistic that we will not be charging back into war again. there's a certain amount of war fatigue among people i know, after iraq, afghanistan, etc., we need to see a tangible, realizeable objective first. is ISIS really a bad thing? compared to what? saddam hussein? the chaos we sowed when we removed him?

one or two beheadings a month is still short of saudi arabia's tally, and we would have to sacrifice 40-50 soldiers a month to stop it, and i don't think it's worth it as long as the beheadings stay over there.
posted by bruce at 3:37 PM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


is ISIS really a bad thing? compared to what? saddam hussein? the chaos we sowed when we removed him?

ISIS is a bad thing. This is not a fact up for debate.

Whether it's our problem/responsibility/fuckup is another debate entirely.

One should not conflate them.
posted by Talez at 3:59 PM on October 4, 2014 [15 favorites]



Since then, there is only a small, rump anti-war movement. Obama and liberal groups like MoveOn have been more effective at silencing anti-war dissent than Bush and his cronies ever were.


How Obama really silenced the anti-war dissent:
1. Worked to end the idiotic war of choice (ie got out of Iraq)
2. Failed to start any similarly idiotic wars.

If starting a war against IS does turn out to have fewer detractors than launching a pointless war against Iraq (over and against the evidence of WMD inspectors), it might be wise to consider that maybe not as many people think it's as clearly so idiotic a war (as Iraq so clearly seemed), than to blame puppet-master conspiracies.
posted by anonymisc at 4:08 PM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I thought Obama did a good job with foreign policy until the "Arab Spring" -- at which point he collapsed face-first into magical thinking that would have made Donald Rumsfeld proud.

He gave active and tacit support to revolts without any consideration of their strategic import, and sewed disorder in Egypt, chaos in Lybia, and vast humanitarian disaster in Syria.

Last year he was begging to bomb Assad for the benefit of forces who were al Quaeda proxies.

Now he is bombing FOR Assad and effectively for the benefit of Iran and Hezbollah whose proxy Assad is.

But he still won't let the Kurds sell oil, because that might cause instability.
posted by MattD at 4:13 PM on October 4, 2014 [10 favorites]


puppet-master conspiracies

Don't be silly. I am stating that liberal groups like MoveOn openly abandoned the anti-war movement when Obama escalated the Afghanistan war. This left Obama free to use drone warfare to destabilize multiple countries and to perform a hit-and-run that helped destroy Libya.
posted by graymouser at 4:30 PM on October 4, 2014 [5 favorites]




Question I hear is Why US and why Afghanistan at all? The LATimes also reports that the bill for the country now exceeds the entire amount that we put in the entire Marshall Plan after WWII. This is a special kind of lunacy/corruption/foolishness/irresponsibility that will one day make for a really interesting and depressing book.

'If war provides meaning, why does military engagement no longer require “the support of the American people but instead their inattention”?

I have no idea what that means. The lack of an indirect object does not help my lack of understanding. Send back to writer.

War is the only acceptable stimulus spending.

Acceptable to whom? In any event, the whole Obamacare thing's a stimulus to the health care industry, a huge part of the US economy, and it seems to be pretty accepted at least in the blue.

How Obama really silenced the anti-war dissent:
1. Worked to end the idiotic war of choice (ie got out of Iraq)
2. Failed to start any similarly idiotic wars.


And now he wants to go back in.
After he chose to increase our presence in Afghanistan.

And as mentioned above, his Arab Spring record hasn't been very good. A taste for drones. Yemen, Libya.

Anyway, you can still find plenty of anti-war dissent if you care to look. Much of the most vehement comes from paleocons (who were as equally scathing of Bush as they are of Obama, BTW). I say bring back the draft and watch for a sudden interest in international affairs.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:34 PM on October 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


It seems plausible to argue that war is a phenomenon increasingly serving itself rather than any durable political goals.

"Increasingly?" So the present situation is different from the rest of history how, exactly?


Please. Let's grow up. "War is the continuation of policy by other means," Clausewitz said. That should be enough to get you angry, when the policy is misguided or dumb or uninformed, as it often is. But to imply that war has always been "serving itself" in some grand capitalist conspiracy rather than an serving as extreme extension of politics and diplomacy is soft-headed. For one, if it were the former, the U.S. wouldn't have waited until it was bombed at Pearl Harbor to put its Depression-ravaged industry on a war footing.

Undoubtedly there are economic forces underlying most decisions to go to war—from the impressment of US sailors by the Royal Navy before 1812 to the tensions between the agrarian South and the industrialized North before the Civil War to the quixotic dream of secure oil reserves in 2003—but to insist that economics, and specifically the advancement of military-industrial interests is always and only the driving impetus itself serves its own narrow worldview.
posted by stargell at 4:36 PM on October 4, 2014 [11 favorites]


This may be a derail, and mods please remove if it is, but the "this time it's different!" refrain is surely tired by now.

ISIS is the rare case where full scale war might be justifiable. They're not a terrorist group, they're a nascent country with a conventional military. As opposed to the groups in Northern Africa, South Sudan, Ukraine, northern Pakistan, until recently arguably Colombia, the Shining Path, 3/4s of the DRC, any number of groups in Libya, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, etc etc. Yet, no wars there.

They're serial genocidaires. Like Assad? Who was a goodie until a few years ago, then was aterrible baddie, and is now, baffingly, a goodie again? Like There is no shortage of genocidal maniacs we are happy to prop up, like that good friend of the West Islam Karimov?

If they were to topple the government of Saudi Arabia (increasingly plausible). Lol, never gonna happen, ever. Ever ever. The Saudi govt is at more risk from its own people than IS - which is to say none. One of the richest countries in the world, with one of the biggest and best defence forces in the region, backed by arguably the most powerful military in the world. Have a closer look at a map. ISIS pose no threat to the government of Saudi Arabia, they are a long, long way from Riyadh, all of it desert, and the would lack any local support. They would be bombed into individual atoms before they even got close, not to mention the racket from all the other gulf countries.

IS made/is making gains in countries torn apart by war. The idea they could effectively incur on a stable state in the region is fanciful in my opinon. They are a product of war; more war will not stop them, or more accurately, it will not stop someone else filling up the vacuum. It's interesting, no one wants to talk about how many people were slaughtered under Maliki - the idiot we installed and propped up, who arguably shares a huge amount of the blame in this.
posted by smoke at 4:43 PM on October 4, 2014 [33 favorites]


The question isn't really whether War is good or bad, but whether this or that war, in particular, is worthwhile and (very importantly) winnable. And whether some particular war is winnable depends on the military you have, on the particular geopolitical situation and on the strengths and weaknesses of your allies and enemies, or rather on the strength and weaknesses of the various actors in the region, and on their disposition towards you.

Before you go to war, you have to ask yourself: 1) What are we trying to accomplish? 2) Is there really a way to accomplish this goal, given the situation and given the tools we have?

By and large, I think the US has gone to war without satisfactory answers to these questions in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 4:50 PM on October 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


We countries destabilize, it leads to bad things. Just look at the rise of IS. It seems odd to argue that we can make these countries stable by dropping even more bombs on them.
posted by Triplanetary at 4:51 PM on October 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Re: Maliki: "he may be an asshole, but he's our asshole" is something they said about another ineffective, self-defeating leader.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 4:53 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


If they were to topple the government of Saudi Arabia (increasingly plausible)

hahahahaha oh my god the saudi active reserves are 10x the entire membership of isis and they're not a bunch of hicks in technicals
posted by p3on at 5:42 PM on October 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


The question isn't really whether War is good or bad, but whether this or that war, in particular, is worthwhile and (very importantly) winnable.

I think the point of this particular article is that we need to step back and consider if violent confrontation has been a good policy in general. We've won some, we've lost some, but even in the wars we consider successful was it the right policy to pursue? How often does it work, fail, or backfire?

In short, where on the list of diplomatic options does war belong? If only 20% of our military interventions turn out the way we like, then a lot lower than it has been.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:51 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


War is, and has been for a few decades at least, an integral part of the US's self-image, economy and politics. A few dead lower-class soldiers, plus a few hundred thousand dead brown foreigners, doesn't really stack up to all the good things war does for the US and its politicians.
It's like cars, everybody knows they're dangerous, kill more people than guns, overweight and cigarettes put together, etc, but nobody even thinks about getting rid of them.
Why war? Why not?
posted by signal at 6:10 PM on October 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


The reasoning put forth by many here is that the military action against the Islamic State is either bad policy and/or morally wrong, because past US military, diplomatic, and economic actions have contributed to the conditions that led to rise of the Islamic State and has acted in morally deficient ways at other times. By this same reasoning, Britain and France should not have declared war against Germany after its invasion of Poland in 1939 because those two countries had contributed to the conditions that led to the rise of the Nazis, and they oppressed subjects in their own empires.

Some have noted the brutality of Assad regime and thus demand that US not enlist its assistance in fighting the Islamic State. By this same reasoning, the US should not have supplied the Soviet Union with material assistance and coordinated military policy with Stalin during the Second World War because the Soviet regime had killed millions of its own people and attacked Poland in 1939 and Finland in 1940.

In this case US military action is justified, even if it was not in 2003 and in other conflicts, and unlike 2003 the US has the military support of several Arab and NATO countries. The Islamic State *is* a threat, and it is the bigger threat now than Assad. (While critics complain of Obama's bluster against the Assad regime, the threats worked. Syria eliminated its chemical weapons without the US firing a shot.)
posted by haiku warrior at 6:15 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize this year: V. Putin. You might gasp with surprise at that, but c'mon -- fair's fair.
posted by fredludd at 6:20 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Islamic State *is* a threat

To whom? Certainly not the United States. If its a threat to Saudi Arabia or Iran or Egypt or Turkey let them deal with it. We sure as hell give them enough money and weapons. Well, most of them. Not Iran so much.

ISIS has essentially zero chance of posing any sort of existential threat to the United States.
posted by Justinian at 6:27 PM on October 4, 2014 [14 favorites]


Last year he was begging to bomb Assad for the benefit of forces who were al Quaeda proxies.

Now he is bombing FOR Assad and effectively for the benefit of Iran and Hezbollah whose proxy Assad is.


There were three factions fighting over Syria and another two factions fighting over Iraq along with IS. What are you, CNN? We were going to arm and train the Free Syrian Army and we're bombing so to take some off the heat off the Kurds who are the only people standing in the way of ISIS taking control of all of Iraq's northern oil wells.
posted by Talez at 6:33 PM on October 4, 2014


If an army of 20000 militants fighting with salvaged weapons thousands of miles away with no modern military supply transport systems is an existential threat to the US, how the hell have we survived this long? We must truly have been one of history's most enormous paper tigers until a decade or so ago when the world saw through the illusion, because even Luxembourg could probably survive a threat on that scale. Even if they tried to invade, where would they make strategic retreats to and how?
posted by saulgoodman at 6:40 PM on October 4, 2014 [11 favorites]


>The reasoning put forth by many here is that the military action against the Islamic State is either bad policy and/or morally wrong, because past US military, diplomatic, and economic actions have contributed to the conditions that led to rise of the Islamic State and has acted in morally deficient ways at other times.

No it's not. What they are trying to say is that war begets war. Chaos begets chaos. Killing begets more killing. Dropping more bombs will not solve the ISIL problem. What would go a long way towards solving the ISIL problem would be to reign in the CIA and our "allies" who trained and armed ISIL in the first place.

>In this case US military action is justified

Why? I don't think I remember the war lust being so strong for any number of African humanitarian crises with much higher death tolls. The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola come to mind. Either way, as Justinian and saulgoodman have correctly said above, ISIL is not by any sane measure an existential threat to the U.S. So why is military action justified?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:49 PM on October 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


It's tough, because in some senses the US created this problem, so you've got a "you broke it you own it" obligation, and it's tough because they do seem like nasty people (although a beheading here and a massacre there don't make them any worse than is par for the course in the region), but it's also tough to make any judgement on it because the media hysteria is so one-sided here in the West.

It does bring to mind the ascent of Castro in Cuba. Albeit with violence he brought home rule to Cuba, deposing the awful Batista. I don't think he got a fair shake in the US press at the time, or since. As the young Corleone notes in The Godfather, they're willing to die for their cause, and the people they're fighting by and large are not, so they'll probably win, with the implication that they deserve to.

What we're seeing is likely the beginning of the end of the 1920's partition of the middle east, and the self determination of the people in that region. It looks awful now, but give it time.
posted by grubby at 6:55 PM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


ISIS is the rare case where full scale war might be justifiable. They're not a terrorist group, they're a nascent country with a conventional military. They're serial genocidaires. They pose a real threat of invasion to multiple neighboring countries. If they were to topple the government of Saudi Arabia (increasingly plausible) it's hard to estimate the effect on the Muslim world. Worst, they seem to be growing exponentially; each win over the Iraqi army gives them more manpower and weapons.

Yea ok but uh, it's not like we're the only country with jets, and guns, and missiles, etc. We might have the most of the biggest baddest ones in one place, and the best capability for force projection... but why should we be going back to stop them unless a country actually asks for our help?

"OMG there's terrorists shitting things up on the other side of the planet!" is not a threat to our national security, or something we should be involved in.

I get, and agree with the argument that this is a follow-on result of the iraq war. But i don't think we're necessarily going to bomb our way back to anything but a power vacuum here.

Even if it is "justifiable", what's the end goal? what's the aftermath?
posted by emptythought at 7:05 PM on October 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


With due respect to Justinian and others, Islamic State does not have to be an existential threat to the US to be a threat justifying a military response. The Islamic State has been only too willing to publicly demonstrate its brutality by beheading multiple hostages, including two Americans, and slaughtering religious minorities in Iraq and elsewhere.

A natural disaster being an existential threat to the US is not the standard by which the US provides aid to victims in other countries. The domestic disturbance in my neighbors' home not being an existential threat to me does not mean I should not intervene.

Yes, there are even worse crises involving violent groups and wars in other parts of the world. It is impossible to address them all or even to prioritize them. But this is not an all or none decision. The kind of consistency and prioritization that we idealize just isn't achievable given the complexity of the world--present and past. Just because I cannot intervene in every instance of domestic abuse or even just in the worst instances doesn't means I shouldn't intervene in any.

War begets war? Yes, all too often it does. But inaction can be worse, as we have seen in the last 100 years, or even the last 20. The Islamic State has chosen war with the countries in the region and the US (see the horrible videos of the beheading of US hostages), outright destruction of religious minorities, and the violent oppression of women. In my opinion, a military response is not only justified, but unfortunately also necessary.

What is the aftermath? Good question! I don't know, but it wasn't known at the beginning of World War Two, either. It's something that needs to be considered better than it has. But waiting until there is a good post-conflict plan begin fighting isn't feasible in this case.
posted by haiku warrior at 7:29 PM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


You're making exactly the same tired old arguments that people made for intervention in Syria on the opposite side last year and for intervention in Libya before that. And those people were wrong and have been shown to be wrong just as you are wrong now.

As for

The Islamic State has been only too willing to publicly demonstrate its brutality by beheading multiple hostages, including two Americans

Yeah. Because we started attacking them. You'll notice they weren't beheading our guys before we started launching attacks on them.

So now ISIS has killed two innocent Americans. How many innocent civilians have our attacks on ISIS killed? If it is more than two (and it is) does that make us worse than ISIS? IF not why not.
posted by Justinian at 7:39 PM on October 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yes, there are even worse crises involving violent groups and wars in other parts of the world. It is impossible to address them all or even to prioritize them. But this is not an all or none decision. The kind of consistency and prioritization that we idealize just isn't achievable given the complexity of the world--present and past.

You seem to think that the US's decision to go to war is, at least in some part, based on ethics, altruism or morality. This sounds nice. History doesn't really bear it out.
I'm not saying there is a simple explanation for why you go to war, there's a host of them, but as far as I can tell, the essential 'justice' of said war isn't one of them.
posted by signal at 7:39 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


With due respect to Justinian and others, Islamic State does not have to be an existential threat to the US to be a threat justifying a military response.

But to single out just this, I'd say "yes it does". An existential threat to ourselves or a NATO member is the only thing which justifies a large and widespread military response.
posted by Justinian at 7:41 PM on October 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


>but unfortunately also necessary.

Why? White man's burden? Why is it our responsibility to solve everyone else's problems?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:43 PM on October 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


It is frustrating that we've spent so much to build a military that can't quickly and efficiently deal with this shit. ISIS is a light force of 20-30k guys who have limited education and resources. We should be able to roll in, arrest most of them, take away their guns and kill their leaders in a couple months.
posted by humanfont at 7:45 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Take up the White Man's burden, the savage wars of peace!
posted by Justinian at 7:45 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


How does a team stay on top? Practice practice practice.
posted by tgyg at 7:54 PM on October 4, 2014


Wolf!
posted by Poldo at 8:22 PM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


The irony is thick. The very point of the essay in the FPP was to ask the question: "why war". And applied to the current problems in the ME, we should first and foremost ask "why is war the answer here" as in "U.S. engaging militarily". Instead, we have arguments about how very bad ISIL is and how our mistakes were one of the prime causes of the rise of ISIS and how this and that. But to all those assertions, we ought to first and foremost, before anything else ask "and how is a war (U.S. military engagement) the correct answer to that (X)"?

(1) ISIL being very nasty people (and they are) is not enough of a reason for the United States of America to launch a war.
(2)Even if we were to launch a war, we have no hope of bombing and rocketing our way to (a) peace and stability in the ME or (b) defeating ISIL (see: Afghanistan) or (c) preventing ISIL from transforming into the next hellish incarnation (just as ISIS has its antecedents in AQ-Iraq)
(3)This war will be counterproductive. The blowback from this aerial campaign is likely to be tighter bonds between the local Sunnis and ISIL (whereas we want the opposite), more radicalization as a result of inevitable civilian victims. The arming of bands of scoundrels and opportunists (currently U.S. funding them to the tune of half a billion) will result in the injection of more uncontrollable forces into the cauldron of this war and the inevitable blowback down the road, but will do nothing for the U.S. (see: extensive training and massive funds over a decade for hundreds of thousands of soldiers in Iraq, plus hundreds of U.S. military advisors present there to this day - and the end result, complete collapse when confronted by ISIL - so much for that).

A military involvement by the U.S. (war) in the ME right now would not accomplish our stated aims. On the contrary it would be counterproductive in both the short and the long terms. Given that reality, shouldn't those who advocate a war at least make a solid case for it? Or is it paradoxically the other way around: precisely because a good case for war cannot be made, little discussion has taken place about the advisability of launching a war in the first place. Or as the author in the FPP says - we should be asking "Why War?" but instead, we ask nothing and launch heedlessly.
posted by VikingSword at 8:34 PM on October 4, 2014 [13 favorites]


It is frustrating that we've spent so much to build a military that can't quickly and efficiently deal with this shit. ISIS is a light force of 20-30k guys who have limited education and resources. We should be able to roll in, arrest most of them, take away their guns and kill their leaders in a couple months.

We could, just as we did initially with the Taliban in Afghanistan in '03. But then you're left with troops on the ground and the expectation that the US has some kind of plan for what's next and a commitment to enforce it. That's where the strategerizing breaks down.
posted by stargell at 8:35 PM on October 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


Vibrissae: Dwight D. Eisenhower: " In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military[-]industrial complex.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hope of its children…This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.Dwight D. Eisenhower, April 16, 1953
posted by ob1quixote at 9:00 PM on October 4, 2014 [16 favorites]


There's a massive difference between the limited-scale military operations the US is running in a half-dozen theaters at any given time, and the comparatively few full-blown wars entailing invasion and occupation of a sovereign power. Glossing over that distinction in the first sentence clause of the linked article is an enormous and enormously erroneous assumption.

Personally I think the United States should restrict itself to direct defense of home soil, and humanitarian intervention where we can reasonably expect to halt the direct massacre of tens of thousands of people - partly because ethics, and partly because both of these actions have pretty concrete end states (invaders driven off, massacre prevented and those committing it routed). The former would include the Revolutionary War, the Northwest-Indian War, and the War of 1812. Nothing else.

The latter would, most recently, include Darfur, Kosovo, Libya, early intervention in Syria (pre-ISIS, as opposed to after it's formation when Assad's killing and torture of tens of thousands of his own people became, shockingly, the lesser evil), and currently stopping ISIS from massacring tens of thousands of Kurdish people and the systematic rape of captured women.

You're making exactly the same tired old arguments that people made for intervention in Syria on the opposite side last year and for intervention in Libya before that. And those people were wrong and have been shown to be wrong just as you are wrong now.

This is so wrong-headed I have difficulty understanding how anybody could possibly hold this view, and Justinian you're usually one of the most intelligent participants in these discussions. On March 19th, 2011 Gaddafi was expected to capture the final major rebel stronghold of Benghazi within 24 hours. Given Gaddafi's prior record of mass imprisonment, torture, and rape of his opponents or those deemed undesirable, it is a near certainty that what would have followed in that city would have been a horrific massacre, even if it happened behind closed doors. NATO forces lead by the US directly stopped this from happening. While the current political state is fairly awful, it's better than what came before and does not in any way change the fact that we prevented a massacre. I really can't think of a military action since GWB's initial election that actually made me proud of my country other than the Libyan intervention.

In Syria prior to the formation of ISIS Assad imprisoned, tortured, and killed tens of thousands of his own citizens. We should have intervened, and I'd like to think we would have had Russia and/or possibly Israel not made their view of our doing so in their backyard quite clear. A year later, any intervention would have weakened the only coherent resistance to ISIS and only deepened the scope and scale of the current ongoing carnage and misery.

What is happening right now as we sit in comfortable chairs arguing on the Internet is nothing short of the run-up to a brutal massacre of Kurdish people unless we directly intervene - this does not require American boots on the ground (the Kurds have plenty of those), but it does require a Hellfire missile on every tank, APC, and mobile artillery vehicle in ISIS' inventory in a manner similar to the NATO intervention in Libya. This is a relatively trivial and relatively low-cost proposition for the US military. Once ISIS' superior firepower is removed from the equation, we need not and should not continue to intervene in any fashion whatsoever - that's a concrete goal and halting state.

Because of Turkey and its status as a major forward operating base for regional US air power and as a major partner in the US campaign of torture we are unlikely to prevent a good chunk of the pending Kurdish civilian massacres, but I can still quietly hope that Obama ignores the Turkish fear of an independent Kurdistan and does the right thing.

I'm not, per louis wain cat's incredibly informed comment in the prior thread, holding my breath on that point.
posted by Ryvar at 10:00 PM on October 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


How would the American people, politicians, and media react and frame these continual global (largely unilateral) military interventions if... It were China conducting them? If it were Russia conducting them? If it were Israel conducting them?

And yes, various people (radicals on the left, centrists, presidents of our great-grandparents time) have made similar points that this person is making. But it's worth noting (or at least the thing that seemed very relevant to me) is that this is coming from West Point. Not exactly Move-On or the Green Party.

But go on to discuss how the latest military action is probably a good idea and it's for really good reasons this time! I mean they are beheading people, BEHEADING! That alone should make us invade... Saudia Arabia.
posted by el io at 10:17 PM on October 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


There's been a few comments to the effect that ISIS' primary crime is simply one of beheading, of which Saudi Arabia is most certainly guilty.

This is a disgusting trivialization of the actual reality, with almost ten thousand dead including a mass execution of 1500 Iraqi soldiers and the forced sexual slavery of captured women.

To deny these horrors is no less insulting than the US government's denial and deliberate misreporting of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths. We're uniquely unqualified to stand in judgement, but we are capable of halting the momentum of the current situation.
posted by Ryvar at 10:29 PM on October 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


The Islamic State
posted by telstar at 11:00 PM on October 4, 2014


telstar: "The Islamic State "

They can't get any supplies, except by parachute.

So they can get supplies by air drop. Hmm... worked for Khe Sanh. And they remark about declaring Sharia from the White House? Even Mao wasn't that stupid. These guys are indeed J/V and once they piss enough big boys off, they'll be crushed.

Iran, and Assad? Well, those are the big fish that need to be fried.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:35 PM on October 4, 2014


While the current political state is fairly awful, it's better than what came before

Libya is now effectively a failed state. The humanitarian situation is worse than it was before intervention. I don't see how can you call that better than what came before. Hell, it hasn't even been six weeks since Egypt and one or two other countries launched airstrikes into Libya to try to prevent Islamists from taking control of Tripoli. Which they were threatening to do after capturing Tripoli International Airport. Crime and violence is rampant, and thousands have been imprisoned, tortured, or killed with little or no basis. The whole thing is a disaster.
posted by Justinian at 11:37 PM on October 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


smoke: As opposed to the groups in Northern Africa, South Sudan, Ukraine, northern Pakistan, until recently arguably Colombia, the Shining Path, 3/4s of the DRC, any number of groups in Libya, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, etc etc. Yet, no wars there.

For the most part, the groups in those countries limited their actions to those countries (and where they didn't, they didn't usually get very far)- ISIS doesn't. Not only are they aggressively expansionist, they're incredibly successful at it, far more so than anything we've seen in a long time. That, combined with their genocidal tendencies and their propensity for sexual violence, makes for something that I think is genuinely much worse than anything in recent memory- how to respond to them is another question, of course, but I don't think the position that they're no different from every past American foreign policy boogeyman is accurate. IMO, their expansionism alone puts them in a different category than Saddam Hussein/Qaddafi/Assad/et al.

(Also, Karimov is a horrible dictator, but he's not a genocidal one, from all I can gather. For all the crimes against humanity he's committed, as far as I know he has not attempted to outright slaughter an entire religious or ethnic group. As much of a black mark as support for Karimov is on US foreign policy, I don't think he or any of our current allies are comparable to ISIS in that regard.)

AElfwine Evenstar: What would go a long way towards solving the ISIL problem would be to reign in the CIA and our "allies" who trained and armed ISIL in the first place.

I don't think this really addresses the immediate problem, though. (And though the CIA has done lots of terrible things, I think they're sort of a red herring here- I don't think there's really any credible connection between them and ISIS, except possibly in a very indirect way.) Not to say that these things aren't important and worth doing, but it's pretty much closing the barn door after the horse has already left. It's not going to make ISIS just go away- while in the long term it might reduce the chances of groups like them arising in the future, in the short term it would do absolutely nothing to prevent their genocidal rampage across the Middle East. Whatever backing ISIS might have been given in the beginning, the resources they control now make them self-sustaining enough that I don't think shutting down their original backers would do much to them at this point.

Justinian: An existential threat to ourselves or a NATO member is the only thing which justifies a large and widespread military response.

Do you feel that the US should not have signed the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide? I think it's basically impossible to reconcile being a signatory to that convention (as miserably as the US, and every other country, has failed at upholding it) with the position that the US should only use military force in the case of existential threats to ourselves or NATO members. There's a case to be made for an essentially isolationist foreign policy, and there's a case to be made for total pacifism in general- both are respectable points of view IMO, but I think there are certain situations that are very difficult to respond to from those ideological frameworks, and by implication they lead to some positions I think most would find hard to stomach. (For an example of such, look up Gandhi's view of how the Jews should respond to Hitler.)

With some caveats, I mostly agree with Chelsea Manning's take on the ISIS problem, but even if the US were to attempt that strategy I think military force (or support given to the military force of others) would have to play a role at times, even if I think it should be used in a far more focused and sparing way than the US is doing now. (I think some of Manning's proposals for containing ISIS would be pretty much impossible in practice without it, actually, and think it's a weakness of that essay that she doesn't really tackle the question of how they would be done without directly attacking ISIS.) I think it should be scrupulously careful to avoid civilian casualties, and almost exclusively used to prevent potential genocide- I think it was a good thing that the US helped break the ISIS siege of Mt. Sinjar (and I believe that is a case where the usage of military force, between both US airstrikes and the actions of the peshmerga on the ground, actually did save a great many civilian lives), and I think it would be a good thing if the US launched more extensive airstrikes on the ISIS forces outside Kobane. (Or else armed the YPG- whatever the problems with both of those options, doing nothing there will lead to something significantly worse, IMO.) I'd say there's a strong argument that the US is even required to do these things, or assist in doing them, as part of being a signatory to the Genocide Convention- however, I think bombing Raqqa or any other civilian-inhabited city within ISIS territory (as the US has done) is an utterly bad idea on every single level. And yeah, the US record so far speaks for itself there, Mt. Sinjar aside- so I agree with the basic point in this thread that the US can't be trusted to handle the ISIS problem well, but arguments that military power is incapable of ever having a positive effect or that ISIS isn't really that bad are, IMO, not good ones.
posted by a louis wain cat at 11:43 PM on October 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


but arguments that military power is incapable of ever having a positive effect or that ISIS isn't really that bad are, IMO, not good ones.

Has anyone argued that ISIS "isn't really that bad"?

As far as military power having a positive effect...well that can only happen in very specific situations where there is some kind of plan to fill the power vacuum created by the use of military force. In the case of Syria and Iraq it would seem that in order to "stabilize" the region we would need at least six to eight hundred thousand ground troops. I guess I don't see the endgame here. Destroy ISIL from the air and then what? Hope that the Iraqi army we already spending 25 billion training and equipping can do the job after we spend billions more to reconstitute and re-equip it? Which "most senior defense officials have publicly estimated will take about three years." What about Syria? What's the plan? At this point more bombing is just stirring the hornets nest and most probably creating more foot soldiers for ISIL.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:32 AM on October 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


in the short term it would do absolutely nothing to prevent their genocidal rampage across the Middle East.

They have already been stalled at the gates of Baghdad with the help of Iranian Republican guard units.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:41 AM on October 5, 2014


Or not? Well if they attack Baghdad directly and/or threaten the American embassy Obama will be forced to send in more ground troops.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:46 AM on October 5, 2014


What's left of Libya is selling moammar's weaponry to boko haram. Look at the mayhem bin laden caused with 200mil. Cuz IS has better than twice the budget, and the world is awash with arms merchants
posted by Fupped Duck at 1:08 AM on October 5, 2014


The two big winners from the situation in Syria are Turkey and Iran: Turkey, because IS has weakened (perhaps fatally) what was a Kurdish state in all but name; Iran, because IS's victories have effectively removed any support for an attack on that country. This time last year we were talking about bombing Iran; now we're coordinating attacks on Iran's enemies.

Not coincidentally, those two countries are heavily implicated in IS's victories: Turkey is the primary conduit for Syrian oil smugglers; and the mysterious collapse of Iranian-led Iraqi troops provided IS with a huge supply of cash and materiel. I don't know whether the Iraqi collapse was a deliberate ploy, or whether Turkey's blind eye is a matter of policy, but it would be very dangerous to ignore the possibility.

The big losers, incidentally, are Syria and Iraq (of course), Jordan, to a lesser extent Israel, and Russia. I'm surprised Putin hasn't already come forward with a plan to defeat IS. The details would be interesting; Russia might finally end up with a client state in the Middle East.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:55 AM on October 5, 2014


And we've been running up the credit card balance for decades now. I think we all here have a clue what it was like to live in the last few decades/centuries/whatever of the Roman era.

The GDP on Roma towards the end was very interesting, with long protracted wars that depleted the finances and increased wealth inequality, and a high concentration of it in a few connected families. 1.5% of the population owned about 20% of the wealth.
posted by kadmilos at 3:10 AM on October 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


Smedley Butler laid out the details with hard numbers 80 years ago, but the prophet Samuel had the broad outlines 3000 years back. At that time "Israel" was essentially a loose confederation of tribes with some shared history who would band together in a crisis and appoint a provisional leader called a "judge." After a while, people developed something of an inferiority complex because they didn't have a permanent king and royal family like other nations, so they went to the prophet Samuel and demanded a king.
Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”
A bit later on in the Bible the story of David and Bathsheba is introduced with the line "In the spring, when kings go off to war...." No reason needed--war was perpetually on the program. Form your alliances, take a chance, make some profit. At least back then the kings had the self respect to put on armor and lead the charge themselves.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 3:39 AM on October 5, 2014 [13 favorites]


ISIS has essentially zero chance of posing any sort of existential threat to the United States.
That's not strictly true.
They could always drag the US into a war it can't afford leading to austerity and tension at home which explodes into an existential threat.

Gradually and then suddenly.
posted by fullerine at 3:57 AM on October 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


Some of you might be interested in this recent book by Linda Weiss, America Inc., which builds a detailed argument concerning the long term role of the US military as a stimulus for innovation and technological development in the wider US economy.
posted by biffa at 5:02 AM on October 5, 2014


For some reason isolationism always rubs me the wrong way. I hate war, but I don't agree with the standard that something has to be an existential threat to the homeland to justify intervention. I guess isolationism is not one of my favorite isms because the amount of ignoring the effects of non-action and/or the argument that there's nothing we could do to stop x, y, and z.

It's very very shitty that drone strikes are killing civilians. It's very very shitty that the burden of military action falls upon a very small group of people.

But I don't have a problem with the idea that the invasion of Iraq was perhaps the worst foreign policy debacle in the history of the U.S. and therefore, since we were such assholes, we have to intervene. It would be cool if we could do it just by dropping first aid, but hell, ISIS is what, 15 miles outside of Bagdad? I don't think dropping bags of rice will help that.

I also think that the U.S. should be intervening in West Africa to the extent that we pour resources into countries fighting Ebola. That's an easier lift because it doesn't mean dropping bombs, but it's still intervention.
posted by angrycat at 5:49 AM on October 5, 2014


Clausewitz is still relevant.
Unfortunately Politicians do not study war.

No one starts a war--or rather, no one in his sense ought to do so--without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by the war and how he intends to conduct it.
posted by adamvasco at 6:04 AM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


kadmilos: "And we've been running up the credit card balance for decades now. I think we all here have a clue what it was like to live in the last few decades/centuries/whatever of the Roman era.

The GDP on Roma towards the end was very interesting, with long protracted wars that depleted the finances and increased wealth inequality, and a high concentration of it in a few connected families. 1.5% of the population owned about 20% of the wealth.
"

Thank you for that info. So it seems we (Americans or USians) are living that era. So sad that humanity can't learn from the past and avoid repeat mistakes. I wonder who the 1st century (or so) equivalent of Mitt Romney or Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld were.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 7:28 AM on October 5, 2014


The situation in Palestine and Israel is only localized if you ignore the massive destabilizing effect this conflict has had on the region over the past 80 or so years.

And to call the conflict in Congo limited is really just not true. The DRC situation is mostly limited to one (poor, isolated, rural, underdeveloped, African) country (where resources like oil and minerals aren't so easily exploitable) in ground fighting, but it has engaged soldiers and militias from DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan, Angola, Chad, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Burundi. Plus the UN. There are all sorts of reasons the United States has not been openly involved in this conflict, but saying that it's just not international enough to warrant our attention is foolish.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:09 AM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Vikingsword: (3)This war will be counterproductive. The blowback from this aerial campaign is likely to be tighter bonds between the local Sunnis and ISIL

How is this not bleeding obvious to everyone* involved? I'm looking at our prime minister, Mr. Harper, of whom someone said yesterday, "he wasn't able to join the war in Iraq in 2003, but now he's got his chance". I'm all for Canada's "traditional" role as peacekeeper where appropriate, but signing on for a counterproductive bombing campaign seems like we've given up on any solution but hammer -> nail.

*At least everyone with an intelligence service.
posted by sneebler at 8:17 AM on October 5, 2014


I recently read a collection of sci-fi stories that, to my surprise, turned out to be libertarian-themed. I'm not one for billboardy works with a "message," but one story did bring up something I had never considered: taxes are necessary for war.

An acknowledgement was made that taxes are necessary for a lot of things, but as a large-scale collective enterprise, you just cannot get a war going these days without a lot of government spending behind it. This group had gotten rid of war by getting rid of taxes, having judged that the elimination of war was worth the inconvenience of not having taxes funding different projects.

While I think the approach sacrifices more than it gains, it did get me to thinking. A war appears to be decided by which group can expend more resources: guns, explosives, rations, tanks, bullets, and the bodies of young men to absorb those bullets. A sufficient expenditure means getting to hold onto the resources you have or being able to acquire new resources (land, water, mines, humans), hopefully with the game being worth the candle.

I wonder, after a brief spate of struggles over things like clean water and arable land, if war as a phenomenon will not simply be starved out as diminishing returns for any given war kick in. This, of course, depends on a rational accounting of how much a war costs and how much could be gained.

After that, we will only kill each other in droves over ideological differences using existing weapons, like aging neutron bombs.

The future looks pretty bright.
posted by adipocere at 8:23 AM on October 5, 2014




This, of course, depends on a rational accounting of how much a war costs and how much could be gained.

Care to tell me where the heck that's coming from?
posted by Trochanter at 10:06 AM on October 5, 2014


Sure. Countries go to war over something, after all, even if the stated reasons are not the actual reasons. To get what they came for. War, though, costs resources and a country collectively gambles that they'll accomplish something, get something, out of a war, more than the resources sacrificed. However, it is entirely possible that a country might underestimate the resources they will sacrifice and it is also possible that a country might overestimate what they will accomplish.
posted by adipocere at 10:29 AM on October 5, 2014


The poster boy for the Just And Necessary War is WWII. It is the ultimate argument and the one that has the ring of finality. "What about Hitler?!" and "Remember Chamberlain Munich!".

That's a fair argument and deserves a clear-eyed response. Well, what about Hitler?

Wars don't exist in a vacuum disconnected from the broader environment in which it arises. Indeed, war is a symptom as much as the disease itself - it is not a cure for itself. If wars prevented wars, most surely WWI would qualify as such a curative, what with it being the biggest disaster of modern times up to that moment in the number of victims, the destruction of whole countries and the utter disgust it evoked by the senseless wholesale slaughter. Out of that disgust, was born the League of Nations, precursor to the UN, and poets and artists and the common man were united in decrying the waste and shame of that cataclysmic event. Yet, in less than a generation (generation commonly counted as 25 years), within 21 years, WWII erupted, completely undeterred and uncured by WWI, indeed WWII could be said to have been spawned by WWI and its aftermath and led by people who were formed by WWI, such as Hitler, himself a WWI veteran.

And again, what of Hitler? What do you propose? I propose that we not create conditions that give rise to a Hitler and which drive the populace to war, the injustice and irrationality of a system that oppresses large numbers of people for the benefit of a few and finds an outlet for a desperate people in war (as happened after the economic collapse of the 20's and 30's). I propose to prevent a Hitler in the first place. The underlying conditions where the economic system is built on exploitation of the populace and dependence on finite non-renewable resources that are then forcibly extracted in colonial violence and neo-colonial exploitation that needs regular war to subdue, to pacify, and to compel the unsustainable. This is what is happening in the ME, and which has formed the background to our military involvement in the region. It is the disease, and war is its symptom. We had many chances to not just prevent Hitler from rising, but also of stopping him with non-military means - we should not have armed him (we - the West) and helped and financed his arms industry, (nor should we - the West - have build an economy post WWII, centered around the military and dependent upon military spending as stimulus to the economy), we should not have countenanced Hitler's growth as a counterweight in a clumsy geopolitical game against another "enemy" the Soviets (nor should we have intervened militarily in the post WWI Russian Civil War), we - the West - should not have clung to an unjust colonial system of spoils wherein new powers such as Germany and Japan saw their model of participation as joining the colonial system and forcibly taking spoils they felt entitled to.

The drinking (unjust system) is the problem, the liver failure (war) is the symptom and the outcome. Prescribing liver failure (war) as a cure (for drinking) is not a solution. But wasn't WWII the cure? No, WWII did not cure us of WWIII. What prevented WWIII is that we stopped the kind of heavy drinking that brought us from WWI to WWII - we didn't beat the "bad guys" extra hard (and btw. temporarily the other "bad guys" the Soviets were now "Uncle Joe and the good guys" - sound familiar?), what we did is we decided to bring in humanitarian aid short term and the Marshall Plan and economic development longer term (something I've advocated for, and that we've singularly failed in the ME). We stopped the heavy drinking. I wish we had gone further, and stopped altogether - there should have been no Cold War, it was a massive mistake (by both us and the Soviets), for a Cold War was still a war - we needed to stop drinking altogether, not merely slowing the intake. We misspent tremendous resources in a needless (on both sides) Cold War confrontation that devolved into endless proxy wars that destabilized countries and whole regions and resulted in the deaths of literally millions of people as we chased the "commies" from one war onto the next (as mentioned by the author in the FPP).

Haven't some wars worked? Yes, and liver failure has sometimes "cured" drinking through death, and indeed there is a long tradition going back to ancient times and before, where a complete or near-complete elimination of a population was a reality. But even in the more colloquial sense of serious health problems short of death - those can stop the drinking. The question always is: well, better that, I guess, than death from drinking, but wouldn't it have been better not to start the alcoholic process in the first place, or let it go so far as to end up in liver failure (war)? Is prescribing liver failure to stop the drinking really the best we can do?

But now instead of being the last resort, it is our first resort to resort to the bottle as a cure-all and don't bother to tally the cost or account for the aftermath. And then the drinking becomes a self-perpetuating problem (as is the thesis of the FPP), drinking for the sake of drinking, and when problems from drinking appear, we immediately prescribe more drinking as the hair of the dog that bit me cure and soon we can't function without it. But I don't want to push the analogy too far - in plain terms the calculus of war has changed insofar as our economy now is more dependent on the stimulus of military spending and what better way to find an outlet for all that military spending than a war - and war justifies itself recursively, whether by reasons of commerce and strategic resource extraction, like the oil which we fight to secure in the ME or just ideology which in turn is often rooted foundationally in economic interests (f.ex. Communism as a counter-model). The military-industrial complex is the praetorian guard of our economic system and in turn by being so enormous is part of the economy and affects the political system for its own self-preservation interests (often to tragic ultimate results - see history of Rome). A vicious circle and self-reinforcing loop. An undefined and without an endpoint War On Terror feeds into this loop, and the instability it breeds in the world - at the moment in the ME most acutely - provides further reason to extend and justify its continued existence.

WOT destroyed Iraq and destabilized the whole ME - well, there's your perfect justification for more WOT, because the ISIL and assorted terrorists AQ and otherwise which we (and our allies on our behalf) unleashed are really really bad genocidal people (though we have exponentially more blood on our hands in the ME purely numerically) - aren't we justified in stopping genocide? Particularly that we had a hand in allowing it to arise? Why, yes, of course, and you're a monster - isolationist - naive peacenik - insult of the moment - for demanding a questioning the utility of war - the genocide now is fully on your head. The guy/gal who was opposed to the whole sorry scam to begin with - you are guilty. Never mind, that this current "prevent genocide" war merely sets up a bigger genocide down the road, just as preventing Saddam's genocide set up worse from us and the results of our actions in the ME, including the present ISIL genocide. And since we've now established that you're a monster/fool, we don't need you in the conversation, and off to war we go. A war that will create further problems that will then, naturally, have to be fixed in turn... by waging more war (and which you will again be wrong/monstrous/stupid to oppose).

And make no mistake. We will arm dictators and help them, no matter how noxious to their own people, as long as they do as we bid (see SA, etc., etc., etc.). We will destabilize and wage war on countries and regimes that don't, and we'll stop at nothing to further our unsustainable resource extraction. We will deplete and destroy the environment and thus fuel more wars over shrinking resources, with water and food and the most basic sustenance under threat. And we will hold up obliterated countries as success stories - such as Libya. Never mind that the actual math of numbers of killed are in fact higher (hard to compare to counterfactual Ghadaffi surviving to suppress and kill opponents) than before our intervention, the state not functioning (multiple concurrent governments) and worst of all, spreading the instability to sub-Saharan Africa. More instability is the direct result of our military interventions in the ME.

In such an environment, to stop and ask "is war the best step right now" is completely incongruent with the entire model of how our military-security-industrial-economic system works, and therefore bound to be ignored as a non-sequitur.
posted by VikingSword at 10:52 AM on October 5, 2014 [10 favorites]


I'm in favor of intervention if requested by people being injured by other members of their community and unable to resolve it with assistance from within their own communities. For that matter I'm in favor of such supports for people facing disease, poverty, famine etc who are seeking to take care of these needs within their own communities but need specific resources to restore balance and a flourishing system with their community.

To offer such assistance, we ought to know how to deal with terrorists- domestic abusers/violent criminals/hate fueled ideologies- within our own communities- what creates them, what empowers and feeds their ideologies, and what heals or removes power from them. We should know how to assist people in our own nation with feeding and caring for themselves with the resources available in their own local communities. And how to serve as efficiently and effectively as possible those who may need long term care or assistance.

We should learn how to empower and respect when we assist, instead of removing power and agency from those who have a crisis that require short or even very long term assistance. I also think those who are trained to intervene in dangerous situations should have an ethical system that involves preserving the lives even of those doing harm if at all possible. And also choice in whether to participate in a specific war. People should be allowed to say "NO I WILL NOT KILL FOR THIS CAUSE" as any point in their military career, completely free of penalty and with options to stay in a non-violent position for whatever their commitment was.

The military should literally be keepers of peace who will be skilled in the knowledge of how to maintain peace between nations and people with differing ideologies, needs, and core beliefs. This should be part of the training and spending of defensive forces. We should be investing in the knowledge and tools to preserve peace and welfare of all humans and to eliminate the use of violence to resolve problems whenever possible. We should be skilled in the art of resolving conflicts without violence. If we aren't spending any intelligence or development financial resources and training on developing the art of non-violent defense, we will think the only defense option is violence and use it for all threats (real or imagined). And that quickness to jump to violence will also serve those who seek to fight unjust wars for self serving purposes.
posted by xarnop at 11:30 AM on October 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


And during the rare situation we may have times of peace, the military should be involved in growing food, building and repairing homes, assessing needs of vulnerable members of the community, building and creating needed resources and employing and training community members to do the same and take over the jobs, and building healthy thriving communities. Then they will know how to do this for other communities they think they are "helping" and can teach skills to communities who may have lost their elders and skilled trades people due to famine or disease or war. Communities members who will be trained to serve their own communities can then rise up and be trained from within with respect to the unique variations on tending to their communities (which should include knowing the details of their historical food cultivating, arts and trades that have made their communities flourish before the crisis). We need to stop trying to industrialize communities that aren't even interested in that and certainly not on the terms we offer them which includes exploiting their resources and setting up toxic industrial complexes in the name of "building industry" or restoring economies at the price of damaging the environment and health and well being of people. This is not to say we shouldn't help communities that WANT to industrialize but we are perfectly capable of assisting such communities create environmentally sound developments and providing the needed resources to do that.

If we claim we're willing to invest gazillions of dollars on wars to "help people" why don't we just actually help people? And for that matter, our own people? Why such a disproportionate amount of spending on committing violence to save people from brutality; when famine, disease, and death are brutal even when they aren't caused by tyrants.

Why will we only fight suffering if there's a "bad guy" attached to it that we can take out?
Que all american movies about what hero's are supposed to do. Not build healthy communities but attack bad guys. There's no glamor in the work of building a healthy community nor do we frame those who fight to do so as hero's or paint them as mythical figures in our hero tales or fantasy films/media. And I'm tied back into the other thread about the lack of females and "womanly arts" as featured as heroic or worthy of admiration in popular films and culture.
posted by xarnop at 12:43 PM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


The underlying conditions where the economic system is built on exploitation of the populace and dependence on finite non-renewable resources that are then forcibly extracted in colonial violence and neo-colonial exploitation that needs regular war to subdue, to pacify, and to compel the unsustainable. This is what is happening in the ME, and which has formed the background to our military involvement in the region. It is the disease, and war is its symptom.

QFTMFT
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:08 PM on October 5, 2014




Soon it will be faster just to list the countries we haven't attacked, like it is with the UK.
posted by Justinian at 2:19 PM on October 5, 2014


Libya is now effectively a failed state. The humanitarian situation is worse than it was before intervention.

And would this not have happened even if the West did not intervene? If the rebels had been able to successfully overthrow Gaddafi themselves, maybe with regional support? Wouldn't this sad state of affairs have happened anyway? Seems like the main failure is that the West did not do more to assist in the nation-building process after the war was over. No Marshall Aid spending, reconstruction plan there.
posted by Apocryphon at 3:55 PM on October 5, 2014


If, if, if.

But I don't think so, no, primarily because I doubt the rebels would have succeeded absent Western intervention.
posted by Justinian at 4:41 PM on October 5, 2014


In Libya it appears that General Haftar is going to prevail with help from Sisi in Egypt.
posted by humanfont at 4:43 PM on October 5, 2014


In Libya it appears that General Haftar is going to prevail with help from Sisi in Egypt.

Who is being supported by the Saudis and the U.S.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:05 PM on October 5, 2014


You say that like it is a bad thing.
posted by humanfont at 6:24 PM on October 5, 2014


Yay, we replaced one strongman with another strongman. How moral.
posted by Justinian at 6:36 PM on October 5, 2014


SYRIA BECOMES THE 7TH PREDOMINANTLY MUSLIM COUNTRY BOMBED BY 2009 NOBEL PEACE LAUREATE

This is almost certainly an underestimate. The US has been using Reaper drones in east Africa for years, and has a military presence in thirteen (!) sub-Saharan African nations:
1) U.S. drone base in Ethiopia is operational
2) The U.S. military currently has troops in these African countries

I know Ethiopia isn't "predominantly Muslim", but Sudan is, and the USA bombed it repeatedly under earlier US administrations. I can't imagine that those drones haven't been used in Sudan, given that they're there to protect Ethiopia and Sudan is notoriously chaotic and violent. They very well may have been used in places like "Mali, Mauritania and [places like Niger in] the Sahara", given that the USA has a drone base in Burkina Faso tasked with "spying" on Al-Qaeda forces in those countries.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:38 PM on October 5, 2014


Justinian, the people of Libya don't have a chance to choose between a republic and dictatorship; it's a choice between a dictatorship and civil war. Almost any form of government is better than civil war.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:41 PM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


The civil war would have ended if we hadn't intervened.
posted by Justinian at 6:46 PM on October 5, 2014


Maybe, yes. Wikipedia has a thoughtful summary on Civil Wars since 1945, which says "On average, a civil war with interstate intervention was 300% longer than those without."
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:58 PM on October 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


It is not clear how things might of played out differently had the US stayed out. Keep in mind that France was the main leader of the western effort against Ghadaffi. The US famously lead from behind.
posted by humanfont at 7:28 PM on October 5, 2014


It is not clear how things might of played out differently had the US stayed out.

It is pretty darn clear that the people of Benghazi would have been slaughtered if there were no airstrikes. Gaddafi's forces were already entering the city and had just killed Mo Nabbous as the first bombs dropped. Just as it is clear that thousands or probably tens of thousands more Yazidis would have been killed if there were no intervention by the YPJ, Peshmerga, and the US in Northern Iraq. I think it is likely that Libya would look a lot more like Syria now if there were no intervention, but who knows. It is also possible the previous government could have done better had they been provided more international support.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:37 PM on October 5, 2014


I don't know that the Yazidi are particularly safe now, or that they would have been in substantive present danger if the Syrian government hadn't been destabilised. I frankly don't see any good outcome for the region: there is no party that is both effective and committed to the restoration of a civil society. There doesn't seem to be any way to wish one into existence, either.

In further news, Joe Biden has apologised for his frankness, again: Biden issues second apology, to United Arab Emirates, over comments
Biden had described the United States’ allies as the “biggest problem” in the fight against terrorism, then went on to name Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Biden's earlier apology was to the President of Turkey. Biden claimed that Erdogan had admitted that he was wrong to let IS fighters cross Turkey's border. Erdogan angrily replied that they hadn't crossed the border; that he wasn't the one who let them cross it; and that anyway, he hadn't admitted he was wrong to do so.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:14 PM on October 5, 2014


Yeah, I think he was just saying he never admitted he was wrong to do so. This is what he said:
"I have never said to him that we had made a mistake, never. If he did say this at Harvard then he has to apologize to us. Foreign fighters have never entered Syria from our country. They may come to our country as tourists and cross into Syria, but no one can say that they cross in with their arms."
He doesn't let ISIL enter Turkey "as fighters," he lets them enter "as tourists," which just means they have to leave their arms at the border. However, I think there is pretty solid evidence that Turkey is not doing much to stop arms being smuggled across the border to ISIL, while they do make a great effort to stop the Syrian Kurds from getting weapons.

My understanding is most Yazidis are now in refugee camps in Kurdish Iraq. Are you saying they aren't safe there? They must be safer than when they were at home being killed, etc., by ISIL.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:48 PM on October 5, 2014


The point is that we live in a globalized, multipolar world with vast supplies of capital, guns, and people power so that even if the U.S. had not intervened, the regional powers would still fill the void. The Saudis, the Gulf Arabs, Egypt, etc., all would meddle even in the absence of the West. And humanfont brings up a good point- the French, who are no former colonial power to sneeze at, were just as meddlesome if not more than the U.S. in the Libyan case.

Either way, I don't think of the Libyan intervention as an unqualified good thing, I just think its present situation is irrelevant to whether or not if the U.S. had intervened- the problem was a failure of nation building and failing to adequately support the provisional government after Gaddafi had been overthrown. In this, both the United States and the international community at large should share the responsibility.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:00 PM on October 5, 2014


I frankly don't see any good outcome for the region: there is no party that is both effective and committed to the restoration of a civil society. There doesn't seem to be any way to wish one into existence, either.

Agreed. We made a mess and on the plus side overthrew a bunch of strongmen with iron grips on their people, but in the process turned the entire region into shit soup. Cleaning that up and developing functional participatory governments is going to be up to the people of the countries we've afflicted with our interference, because any attempts by us to change their culture will continue to backfire. For a long time, decades at least, even the successful representative governments which emerge (nevermind the less or not-at-all successful ones) are probably going to be successfully representing people that are perfectly comfortable with a worldview which encompasses things we find distasteful in the extreme (ie Sharia law). That's their business, not ours, and it's up to them to sort their cultural identity out for themselves now that they've been given the chance (or not, in too many cases).

Going forward we should have as little to do as possible with that part of the world, but any outright massacres of civilians (the 1500 soldiers killed in the Libyan civil war thus far are NOT morally equivalent) are directly our fault. If we can simply level the playing field or even slant it against those massacring civilians by shooting down some helicopters and bombing several hundred APC & tanks, we owe it to the people over there who just want to live their lives in peace to add a couple pennies per dollar spent on the double-occupation. It's a drop in the bucket but preventing what few horrors we can actually meaningfully stop or substantially reduce is both in our long term interest, and directly saves a lot of innocent lives.

TL;DR - bomb armor columns perpetrating massacres, but otherwise stop further fucking up the lives of everyone within 500 miles of Iraq.
posted by Ryvar at 10:03 PM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


... even if the U.S. had not intervened, the regional powers would still fill the void.

I don't completely agree with this. Military, there apparently aren't that many countries who can fill in for NATO and thereby the US. As I recall, Obama wanted a much smaller role in Libya but was forced to commit forces to the air operation because France was not capable of doing it all on its own. But I agree absolutely that the biggest outrage in the case of Libya was the failure to try to assist in nation building after Gaddafi fell. I don't think we can predict that nation building would necessarily have worked out that well; nevertheless we ("the West") absolutely should have given it a big effort. Another thing we consistently fail to do, it seems to me, is support those who do hold similar values in terms of human rights and representative government, etc., even if they are small and weak. This would include the original protestors/revolutionaries in Egypt, Syria, and Libya, as well as people like the Kurds in Syria.

Tragically, in so many of these cases it seems that tens or hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved if the original governments had negotiated with or just ignored protestors rather than cracked down on them.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:28 PM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think we need more surgical operations — SEALs — and less mass destruction, ie. bombing.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:25 AM on October 6, 2014


InsertNiftyNameHere: "telstar: "The Islamic State "

They [Syrian Army] can't get any supplies, except by parachute.
So they can get supplies by air drop. Hmm... worked for Khe Sanh.
"

Um, did you watch a few more minutes in where IS overran the Syrian army position? And mounted their heads on pikes?

If not, I suppose you also didn't see the segments where the IS is begging, pleading on bended knee for US ground troops to attack them?
posted by telstar at 3:50 AM on October 6, 2014


telstar: "InsertNiftyNameHere: "Um, did you watch a few more minutes in where IS overran the Syrian army position? And mounted their heads on pikes?

If not, I suppose you also didn't see the segments where the IS is begging, pleading on bended knee for US ground troops to attack them?
"


I watched the whole piece, TYVM. Just because they ran over a Syrian position means nothing. They've overrun a lot of Syrian and Iraqi positions. That's merely a tactical victory. They will get their asses handed to them very soon. They will run out of hostages far sooner than the USA and allies will run out of bombs.

And I don't believe Obama is as dumb (I'd like to say retarded) as G. W. Bush. Ain't no American ground troops gonna be involved in this shit other than maybe some elite special forces. We, in the USA, are lucky because we don't have the baggage of W's "He tried to kill my daddy!" Good for you George. You killed close to 4000 Americans just to prove to ONE guy that he shouldn't have messed with your dad. I bet G W lost every fight on the playground.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 5:13 AM on October 6, 2014


They've overrun a lot of Syrian and Iraqi positions. That's merely a tactical victory.

Yes. They will recklessly march deeper and deeper into Iraqi territory, unprepared for Nature's mighty counterstroke. Winter is coming.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:38 AM on October 6, 2014


telstar: " Um, did you watch a few more minutes in where IS overran the Syrian army position? And mounted their heads on pikes?

If not, I suppose you also didn't see the segments where the IS is begging, pleading on bended knee for US ground troops to attack them?
"

So, when the Germans held all of western Europe and looked like they were going to take Russia as well, we should have just thrown up our arms and said, "Well they won." "No sense in disputing that." That's the literal nonsense you're spouting. And, once again, no, there will be no American ground troops involved in this.

We've already got B-1Bs, AH-64As. and A-10s over there. Those guys are toast!

As I said before, though, we have to eventually find a way to deal with Assad and Iran. That will be the really tough part.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 5:41 AM on October 6, 2014


Joe in Australia: "They've overrun a lot of Syrian and Iraqi positions. That's merely a tactical victory.

Yes. They will recklessly march deeper and deeper into Iraqi territory, unprepared for Nature's mighty counterstroke. Winter is coming.
"

If the USA decides to blow the dams on the Tigris and Euphrates, and Baghdad wakes up to find itself under six feet of water, yeah, they might do well to worry about nature's wrath.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 5:55 AM on October 6, 2014


I'm pretty unhappy with the USA's foreign policy, but even I don't think they'd commit a massive war crime in the hopes that they'd kill a few militia in among the millions of civilian corpses.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:14 AM on October 6, 2014


we have to eventually find a way to deal with Assad and Iran
Steady with that sabre rattling you might cut your nuts off.
posted by adamvasco at 7:42 AM on October 6, 2014


Joe in Australia: "I don't think they'd commit a massive war crime in the hopes that they'd kill a few militia in among the millions of civilian corpses."

We are talking about the United States of America, right? Our "leaders" are some crazy bastards. Hell, I live in this country, and even I don't have the faith in the USA that you do. Here's to hoping you are correct.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 8:38 AM on October 6, 2014


adamvasco: "we have to eventually find a way to deal with Assad and Iran
Steady with that sabre rattling you might cut your nuts off.
"

So I take it that you're moving to Syria or Iran? What wonders of paradise they are. And it's not like a bazillion Iranians protested against their repressive government is it? I hear it's a veritable paradise for the population. When's your flight over there? I'll wave you off, and I would offer to buy you a bottle of champagne, but I think you might get beheaded (or your nuts cut off) for possessing that stuff on arrival over there.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 8:52 AM on October 6, 2014


It was frustrating to hear the BBC reporter from just over the border in Kobani describing the ISIS tanks and other heavy weapons shelling the city and no western air power in sight. It is absurd that with all our air power and capabilities after more than 2 weeks ISIS is still able to operate in the open like this.
posted by humanfont at 8:55 AM on October 6, 2014


graymouser: Obama and liberal groups like MoveOn have been more effective at silencing anti-war dissent than Bush and his cronies ever were. And it has paid dividends as he's had unprecedented free rein to wage war.
A war that, by any measure, he has reduced since the Bush years. So, yes, he's had unprecedented free rein, but he has barely used it - those drones are destroying fewer lives, and far fewer civilian lives, than the invading armies Bush put in Iraq.

Obama is no blame-free peacenik, but it's hyperbole to pretend that he has increased the war beyond anything Bush did.

And to claim Obama has silenced anti-war dissent... citation needed.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:13 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


It is absurd that with all our air power and capabilities after more than 2 weeks ISIS is still able to operate in the open like this.

I don't understand why the airstrikes have been so light in Kobane either, but ISIL completely surrounds the entire area - except for Turkey of course. ISIL is also advancing in Anbar and Sinjar, despite heavy opposition on the ground. They are a seriously effective fighting force. A combination of coordinated ground forces, air power, and close air support is needed to defeat them. We need Turkey to move in. If that doesn't happen very soon, Kobane may be the coup de grâce of Obama's legacy.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:48 AM on October 6, 2014


I am moving neither to Syria nor Iran, though the later is a country I would dearly love to visit.
So you state that USA has to deal with Syria; what do you suggest, the same fuck up as Iraq?
And Iran the big bogey man who faced the USA off back in the Carter days; what do you propose there?
Politically both countries have horrendous regimes but war isn´t going to make it any better.
There are several signs that Iran actually wants to end the cold war and already it has much better relations with Europe.
America is a greater threat to Iran than Iran to the US; note that Iran never overthrew a US government. Where diplomacy is concerned it does not seem to be the strongest American interest as it makes less money for the military industrial complex, and anyway Israel would not like it.
As regards the evaporation of the antiwar protestors, silencing dissent seems to be an American tradition.
posted by adamvasco at 10:01 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Honestly, between the inaction in alleviating Kobani and Biden's apologies to Erdogan, it looks like the administration is being as deferential towards Turkey as it is towards other allies in the Middle East. Tail wagging the dog. Maybe the Turkish government wants the Kurds to be weakened before they can be relieved, if at all? Not wanting to fund the FSA is one thing, but throwing the Kurds out into the cold for the third time is just completely outrageous.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:19 AM on October 6, 2014


Turkey: NATO has plan to defend the country
NATO is required to help protect member countries from military attacks.

Yildiz told reporters: "If there is an attack, NATO's joint defense mechanism will be activated."

Kurdish forces are defending Kobani, but two banners of the Islamic State group were raised over a building and a nearby hill on Monday, suggesting that the militants may have broken through the Kurdish perimeter.
Looks like we might be one Gulf of Tonkin Incident away from a larger NATO roll in Syria.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:20 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]




We've already got B-1Bs, AH-64As. and A-10s over there. Those guys are toast!

It'll be over by Christmas!
posted by Justinian at 12:03 PM on October 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Golden Eternity: Looks like we might be one Gulf of Tonkin Incident away from a larger NATO roll in Syria.
That made me go look for a couple of links I posted in one of the older Syria threads:
I Led a NATO Invasion of Syria, Michael Peck, Slate, 29 August 2013
Combat Mission Shock Force, from publisher Battlefront.com, is a video game that examines how a U.S.-led invasion of Syria might be fought. (A free demo is available here.) Designed in 2007, the premise is that Syrian state-sponsored terrorism has prompted a U.S. and NATO-led invasion, with the goal of ousting Assad. While Syria is not in the middle of a civil war in the game, it still proves how life imitates art. When CMSF was published, many gamers—including me—snorted at the idea that the United States would ever attack Syria.

cf. The Syrian Invasion, Michael Peck, Foreign Policy, 10 January 2012
[B]ecause the game is tactical, it does not address the strategic truth, which is that the minute the first NATO tank crossed the border, the Assad regime would be doomed. The Syrians simply lack the advanced military capabilities needed to halt a NATO advance. But an invasion would still face military realities at the tactical level, where the resultant body count would have strategic resonance for Western and world public opinion. Germany opposed sending troops to aid the Libyan rebels last year; a bloody ground war in Syria could easily result in regime-change in Berlin as well as Damascus.

The question is what price can the doomed dictator extract, and it is there that a game like Shock Force is illuminating. If the Syrian military disintegrates, or if it is only effective when shooting unarmed civilians, then a NATO intervention would be relatively -- though not totally -- bloodless. But if an Alawite-dominated Syrian army, with its back to the wall and fearing retribution by the Sunni majority, fights to the last, then they have enough advanced weapons and defensible terrain to inflict politically damaging losses. Maybe the Assad regime would prove to be a paper tiger. But don't count on a blitzkrieg on the road to Damascus.
The calculus is even more screwed up now, of course. Trying to invade to attack only ISIL seems like a fool's errand. Not to mention that I'm sure that rather than send enough troops to do the job properly, they'll try to scrape by with the bare minimum. Forgetting the old military maximum, "If you think it will take a company, send a battalion."
posted by ob1quixote at 12:08 PM on October 6, 2014




That made me go look for a couple of links I posted in one of the older Syria threads:

Well I was thinking of military action against ISIL in Syria not against Assad, but:

Foreign minister of the Assad regime, Walid al-Muallem, said that a Turkish attack on Ad Dawla al-Islamiyya/Islamic State (IS) would be regarded by Damascus as an act of aggression. His warned Ankara on inadmissibility of an attack on the IS. Al-Muallem made his threats after the decision by the Turkish parliament to allow the Turkish army to participate in a so-called "anti-terrorist operation against the IS".

Anyway, I've heard Turkey's conditions for taking action are to stop any support of Assad and the elimination of any Kurdish cantons in Syria, i.e. Rojava - which seems to be one area well worth fighting for.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:40 PM on October 6, 2014


Mortars Land in Baghdad’s Green Zone
Several news outlets said the Islamic State is now operating in Abu Ghraib, a city just west of Baghdad and only a few miles from the Baghdad International Airport, where U.S. troops are positioned. It’s likely the mortar attacks were launched from Abu Ghraib, based on the proximity of its location.
@thereaIbanksy: (political cartoon)
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:31 PM on October 6, 2014


Golden Eternity: Well I was thinking of military action against ISIL in Syria not against Assad[.]
So was I, but it's still true that if NATO counter-attacks into Syria, even ostensibly just to attack ISIL, the regime is done and I'm sure Assad knows it. If Article V is invoked, what worries me is that political constraints will cause the Pentagon to try to accomplish the mission with too few troops. I just finished Sebastian Junger's War and one of the things I couldn't get over was how anybody with any sense thought that a single company plus some divisional fires and air support were enough to take and hold the Korengal valley safely.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:45 PM on October 6, 2014


Just to reiterate, I still believe that there is no military solution to the ISIL problem, but nobody in the 202 area code is calling to ask me what I think.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:51 PM on October 6, 2014


Look at the photo of the female sniper in The Man of Twists and Turns' link. She's rocking a pink hair ribbon. I don't know why this should please me so much.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:07 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I mostly noticed she is rocking a Dragunov. They must be swimming in old Warsaw Pact weapons.
posted by Justinian at 2:32 PM on October 6, 2014




A minimalist strategy for a collapsing Middle East
The reluctant warrior is still reluctant

For more than three years Obama resisted involvement in the Syrian conflict, including arming the early nationalist armed opposition groups composed mostly of former conscripts and officers who deserted the Syrian army, not the farmers, pharmacists and dentists that he keeps talking about. The killing of more than 200,000 Syrians, and the uprooting of almost one third of Syria’s population, did not move the president to stop Assad, the man mainly responsible for the rise of extremism in Syria.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who ignored Obama’s calls for him to step down, began to test the seriousness of the White House by gradually escalating the horror he was visiting on his own people. The early limited air strikes by fixed wing bombers and the occasional Scud missiles, began to increase in numbers and in ferocity. When Assad realized that Western powers - and the Arabs and the Turks - were not going to respond forcefully or decisively, he unleashed the hell of barrel bombs, designed to kill and maim, on the inhabitants of cities, towns and neighborhoods controlled by the opposition.
...


posted by Golden Eternity at 5:44 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


For more than three years Obama resisted involvement in the Syrian conflict, including arming the early nationalist armed opposition groups composed mostly of former conscripts and officers who deserted the Syrian army, not the farmers, pharmacists and dentists that he keeps talking about.

This guy is severely misinformed. The FSA has been supported by the U.S., among other countries, since at least October 2011. Also, the number of defections by Syrian military was never really that high. The initial armed opposition to Assad was specifically "farmers, pharmacists, dentists, ect..."

>So I take it that you're moving to Syria or Iran? What wonders of paradise they are. And it's not like a bazillion Iranians protested against their repressive government is it? I hear it's a veritable paradise for the population. When's your flight over there? I'll wave you off, and I would offer to buy you a bottle of champagne, but I think you might get beheaded (or your nuts cut off) for possessing that stuff on arrival over there.

Can you at least try and argue in good faith, otherwise I don't know why anyone should take anything you say seriously.

The "humanitarian" interventionists are really in a tizzy, aren't they? Apparently the Bushian ideal of the American cowboy has sunk in even among many mefites. All I have to say is that more bombs will not solve any problems in the Middle East. At this point the only way to pacify Iraq and Syria is a massive ground invasion, which I don't think is gonna fly politically for Obama so I guess we have to wait for president Bush III to get into office. Then you warmongers will get your god damned war.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:21 PM on October 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't think a massive ground invasion would do it either, unless it was a scorched-earth type. It didn't work in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I see no reason to expect that it would work in Syria. Also, I suspect that the IS forces have significant local and indigenous support; I don't imagine that they can conquer new territory and terrorise the locals enough to keep their support lines secure.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:37 PM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Justinian: "I mostly noticed she is rocking a Dragunov. They must be swimming in old Warsaw Pact weapons."

Great point. That is a crude and rude "blunt" instrument, but I still wouldn't want to be down range of it.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 10:15 PM on October 6, 2014


Definitely. It may not be as pretty but it'll kill you just as dead.
posted by Justinian at 1:22 AM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Just to reiterate, I still believe that there is no military solution to the ISIL problem, but nobody in the 202 area code is calling to ask me what I think.

Neither NATO nor the United States can "solve" ISIS, but we don't need to - their numbers at present are hardly overwhelming. Level the playing field so the locals can handle it on their own, and once the immediate threat of a civilian massacre has passed back way the hell off. Or better yet just leave the region entirely; there is literally no productive action we could take in the foreseeable future that has operational requirements beyond a carrier group, of which we have plenty should something else come up.
posted by Ryvar at 11:34 AM on October 7, 2014


Kobani Cabal -- When It Comes to ISIS, All Politics Are 'Glocal'

One need not be a military genius to wonder -- given the distressing situation facing Kobani -- whether the ineffective coalition response to Kobani's siege implies the U.S. is in cahoots with Ankara in an appalling conspiracy to send Kobani's desperate population into the waiting swords of ISIS.

It smacks of Stalin's war-time decision to keep his Soviet Army on the eastern outskirts of Warsaw during the Warsaw uprising knowing that the Germans would do his dirty work and finish off the dreaded pro-allied Polish resistance movement despite the urgent pleas from Poles for the Soviets to come to their rescue. Kobani = Warsaw redux???


...

What this coalition desperately needs is "Coalition 2.0" -- a force composed of Jordanian, Saudi, Egyptian and Turkish forces, supplanted by other Arab and Muslim state military support from Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco, etc. Why hasn't the Obama administration enlisted the expertise of highly respected former Generals Anthony Zinni or George Joulwan, or former Secretary of State Baker, all of whom have enormous credibility with Arab states -- far more than anyone in this Administration -- to take on the heavy lifting of finding the boots on the ground the U.S. won't place. Baker did the impossible by forging a huge Arab military coalition against Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. Kerry can't do it all. He has too much on his plate already. Certainly, Obama's national security staff can't do it -- there is not a soul on that staff that has long-term, deep Middle East experience that can positively jawbone potential Arab boot suppliers.

Defeating ISIS is a bipartisan cause. This president needs and deserves help. Before the congressional mid-terms, time to bring in seasoned, mature reinforcements to help President Obama do the job he pledged the American people he would do without U.S. boots on the ground: destroy and defeat ISIS.

That just may get the boots on the ground that are not "Made in the U.S."

posted by Apocryphon at 1:46 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Given what my Facebook feed looks like, whatever the hawks are saying in the wingnutosphere is working. I've got one person calling for "BOOTS ON THE GROUND NOW." Another has been going on for days about how ISIL only exists because Obama is a failure of a President and says, "Now I know why liberals aren't religious. Then they would have to act."
posted by ob1quixote at 2:29 PM on October 7, 2014


and once the immediate threat of a civilian massacre has passed back way the hell off.

Do you honestly think that this is realistic given our political elites are talking about a 30 year war?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:11 PM on October 7, 2014




Bad news: Syria declares another 4 chemical facilities

The UN resolution on the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons was made over a year ago, and Syria has claimed to be compliant for nearly as long. This report demonstrates that Syria has been evading its duties under the UN mandate, and that the UN's intelligence in Syria is only partial. There could be anything out there.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:30 PM on October 7, 2014


The UN inspectors probably will continue to say Syria is in substantial compliance with its obligations. I don't think this disclosure will change anything. It might even help Assad and his supporters claim how they are committed to continued compliance.
posted by humanfont at 6:04 PM on October 7, 2014


The abandonment of Kobani is seriously depressing. Fuck Obama.
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:29 PM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Why We Lost in Iraq and Afghanistan [Subscription Required], Daniel Bolger, Harper's, September 2014
We then added to our troubles by misusing the U.S. Armed Forces, which are designed, manned, and equipped for short, decisive, conventional conflict. Instead, confident of our tremendously able, disciplined troops, and buoyed by dazzling early victories, we backed into not one but two long, indecisive counterinsurgent struggles to which our forces were ill-suited. Time after time, as I and my fellow generals saw that our strategies weren’t working, we failed to reconsider our basic assumptions. We failed to question our flawed understanding of our foe or ourselves. We simply asked for more time. Given enough months, then years, then decades — always just a few more, please — we trusted our great men and women to succeed. In the end, all the courage and skill in the world could not overcome ignorance and arrogance. As a general, I got it wrong. And I did so in company with my peers.

P.S. A book by Daniel Bolger of the same name is forthcoming from Eamon Dolan.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:16 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


The abandonment of Kobani is seriously depressing.

Kobani is on the border of Turkey, a strategic US ally and member of NATO. If Turkey wanted it to be defended, it would have been defended. Turkey apparently did not want it to be defended, and a US defense without the consent of Turkey would have been very difficult: it would effectively have been a full-on invasion of Syria.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:25 PM on October 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


I should say: the pretense that Turkey is an actual ally of the USA (and indeed of Europe) is becomingly increasingly expensive. It occupies half of Cyprus, a member of the EU, and has declared that the (gas and oil-filled) Mediterranean seabed south of Cyprus to be part of its territory. It also seems clear that Turkey is covertly aiding IS, at least to the extent of turning a blind eye to their activities. In other words, its foreign policy is inimical to those of the USA and the EU, as well as many of their allies.

I think Turkey would be a good deal more helpful without NATO's umbrella: at present it doesn't need to assist in any fight against IS but it can call on the NATO's assistance if it is attacked. It would also mean that its expansionist moves in the Mediterranean could be opposed with more than rhetoric.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:38 PM on October 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


the pretense that Turkey is an actual ally of the USA (and indeed of Europe) is becomingly increasingly expensive.

There's also that backdoor agreement they have with Iran regarding the Kurds.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:19 PM on October 7, 2014


Genocide is about to happen because of the actions of Erdogan's government.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:20 AM on October 8, 2014




Iran op-ed asks Soleimani to defend Kobani

Demonstrations break out across Iran in support of Kobani Kurds.

Kobani: Questionable Turkish, US Behavior

The Obama Administration, Turkey, and Syria’s Kurds
Paradoxically, only a few weeks ago when members of the Yazidi minority in Iraq were besieged at the top of a mountain in Sinjar and faced annihilation, Washington bombed IS forces attacking it. However, on the ground it was PYD and PKK forces that punched a hole through IS positions to help rescue the Yazidis. In effect, therefore, there is already an instance of indirect collaboration between the U.S. and the PYD
And the Peshmerga abandoned thousands of Yazidis to ISIL.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:38 AM on October 8, 2014




Why is the world ignoring the revolutionary Kurds in Syria?
If there is a parallel today to Franco’s superficially devout, murderous Falangists, who would it be but Isis? If there is a parallel to the Mujeres Libres of Spain, who could it be but the courageous women defending the barricades in Kobane? Is the world – and this time most scandalously of all, the international left – really going to be complicit in letting history repeat itself?
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:46 AM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


The multiple betrayals of the Kurdish people by the West are completely inexplicable. They are fairly secular, into democratic politics, and trade-friendly. The PKK/YPD and various parties are very progressive, revolutionary for the Middle East, even, and very supportive of gender equality. In recent years they've toned down the separatist rhetoric to seek autonomism along the lines of the EZLN in Mexico. They're an ethnic minority that have been brutalized again and again; that should appeal to the American love of an underdog, and post-WWII European sympathies towards the oppressed. They're the most pro-American, pro-West faction out of all of this. There doesn't seem to be any Islamists among them- they're even fairly friendly towards Israel. Out of all factions, they're the last one that we would regret supporting.

Yet they've been thrown to the wolves by both the left and the right. If Kobani falls, Obama will be yet another American president who left genocide happen under his watch. The fact that it's happening to a people who are not only so pro-American, but have been previously repeatedly been let down by us is absolutely shameful.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:42 PM on October 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Do you honestly think that this is realistic given our political elites are talking about a 30 year war?

Not at all. We are going to remain in the region and continue screwing up, badly, because our motives are mercurial and our implementations incoherent. My point was more that if we actually wanted to try and do the right thing - stopping massacres - with this monstrous excess of firepower we happen to have lying around, we can achieve that with just a carrier group in the greater neighborhood.

Succinctly: everybody on all sides would be better served if we stripped our presence down to a humanitarian intervention task force.
posted by Ryvar at 1:37 PM on October 8, 2014


What happens when out our humanitarian task force is captured by IS thugs and beheaded. Then we need soldiers to defend the humanitarian task force. And then those soldiers have to start shooting people because otherwise you end up like the UN safe havens in Bosnia.
posted by humanfont at 3:18 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


The PKK/YPD and various parties are very progressive

The PKK are terrorists. Maybe they are progressive terrorists, I guess. But they are still terrorists. I mean, given the choice between ISIS and PKK I guess that's a step up, but I'm not about to support risking American lives in defense of a bunch of terrorists.
posted by Justinian at 3:26 PM on October 8, 2014


The YPD may be connected to the PKK, but they are not officially designated by NATO or any other organization as terrorists, unlike the PKK. So by sheer legalism the YPD are not officially terrorists.

And I'm sure Franco considered the CNT-FAI to be terrorists.
posted by Apocryphon at 3:43 PM on October 8, 2014


God dammit. Here we go again:

US Airstrikes Kill 22 Civilians in Iraqi Market
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:05 PM on October 8, 2014


But remember when we slaughter people it's collateral damage, not an atrocity or genocide.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:07 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


We're killing the people to save them.
posted by Justinian at 4:09 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


John Pilger - From Pol Pot to ISIS.
posted by adamvasco at 5:21 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


That John Pilger link adamvasco posted above, should be mandatory reading for anyone who wants to see a broader context to the whole question of the use of war in our foreign policy over the last few decades. Highly recommended, and thank you adamvasco for posting this. We are unleashing genocide and war crimes with each intervention, including this last one, and no discussion is taking place in the public square about the advisability of all this. This silence is something to behold, to our everlasting shame.
posted by VikingSword at 5:54 PM on October 8, 2014


If Vietnam hadn't invaded Cambodia and removed the Khmer Rouge they would probably still be butchering people today with China's sponsorship. Who is going to stop ISIL?
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:21 PM on October 8, 2014


We are killing people to kill them.
posted by humanfont at 6:52 PM on October 8, 2014


There are plenty of regional actors who could stop ISIL. They simply choose not to. Turkey and Iran come to mind.
posted by Justinian at 7:08 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Israel could do it too but that would be a bad idea for what should be obvious reasons.
posted by Justinian at 7:12 PM on October 8, 2014


Would they be war mongering murderers if they tried to stop ISIL?
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:13 PM on October 8, 2014


If Vietnam hadn't invaded Cambodia and removed the Khmer Rouge they would probably still be butchering people today with China's sponsorship. Who is going to stop ISIL?

Who? It's the same answer as I've been repeating ad nauseum here: let the regional actors deal with their region - they are the most vitally interested parties, and they have the often existential interest and determination to see it through for the long term. We don't. ISIL is not an existential threat to us. We are not in the region, we are oceans away. From both Indochina and the ME. We have no business there. In our aftermath, there is Khmer Rouge and ISIL, thanks to our mindless murderous genocidal aerial campaigns. The regional actors have to live with the reality around them. They share borders. As Vietnam shares with Cambodia. As China does too.

with China's sponsorship (and our - U.S. - diplomatic support)

And so like China, Turkey disagrees. Let them sort it out. Let the societies in the ME sort out their own problems without the West destabilizing the region into genocidal hell on earth.
posted by VikingSword at 7:15 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Let them sort it out. Let the societies in the ME sort out their own problems without the West destabilizing the region into genocidal hell on earth.

That's crazy talk, that's what that is. I mean if we did that the countries in the Middle East might have to actually create some kind of détente and work their own shit out without having the U.S. as a scapegoat for their own populations.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:09 PM on October 8, 2014


What if the regional players are asking for our support?
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:22 PM on October 8, 2014


Turkey doesn't want to get its hands dirty. I don't see why we should be on the hook just because they would prefer to wash their hands of the whole situation.
posted by Justinian at 8:30 PM on October 8, 2014


What if the regional players are asking for our support?

And what if they've got a bridge they'd like to sell us? If we want to be used by all and sundry for their own parochial interests, then sure, let's get yanked around by any local party that finds a way to sell us on the vital importance of us supporting their particular special interest. Or, you know, we could refuse to be drawn into other people's fights and allow the local players to take responsibility and the consequences of their own actions and decisions. We need be neither the patsy, the scapegoat, the villain nor misinformed murderous meddler.

The sooner we withdraw from military intervention, the sooner such conflicts will be resolved, and the sooner civil wars will run their course:

"On average, a civil war with interstate intervention was 300% longer than those without. When disaggregated, a civil war with intervention on only one side is 156% longer, while when intervention occurs on both sides the average civil war is longer by an additional 92%. If one of the intervening states was a superpower, a civil war is a further 72% longer; a conflict such as the Angolan Civil War, in which there is two-sided foreign intervention, including by a superpower (actually, two superpowers in the case of Angola), would be 538% longer on average than a civil war without any international intervention."

The best thing we can do is desist from being drawn into civil wars that have nothing to do with us.
posted by VikingSword at 8:47 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Including the civil war in Israel? No support for Israel then?

It seems to me without a large effort to stop ISIL, requiring assistance from NATO, they will proceed to fully dominate Northern Syria and Iraq and then go to work on Jordon and Saudi Arabia and ultimately Iran and Israel and Palestine. Without direct military support from the West, there could be an actual genocide of the Kurds, Yazidis, and other minorities in the area. Worse than Darfur. Others will have no other choice but to join ISIL. If ISIL doesn't succeed in their aims it could become an endless war of attrition. I doubt ISIL will agree to a long term detente with the "kafir" but who knows.

Sandstorm - The Middle East in chaos

Obama and the Syria Two-Step

As China does too.

Sharing a border does not make it okay to sponsor and support genocide.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:38 PM on October 8, 2014


How would ISIL attack Iran or Israel? They'd get slaughtered. The reason they're taking ground is that they're fighting against either incompetent buffoons with decent equipment who run at the first sign of trouble or, in the case of some of the Kurds, tenacious but small in number and ill-equipped light infantry.

The second they tried to attack Iran or Israel they would promptly cease to exist.
posted by Justinian at 10:28 PM on October 8, 2014


This is a pretty amazing (imo) photo of one of Justinian's "terrorists:"

@agit_huseyin: Cemetery of the Defenders of #Rojava Revolution.Kurdish Woman fighter had a visit to the cemetery. #Kobane #YPG #YPJ pic.twitter.com/Z5YQhK3whK

#NewYork : #Ankara police attacking pro-#Kobane protesters showing islamists' finger sign! #NewTurkey pic.twitter.com/MHZJe5BY8r”

Oops, I borked the link. This was it.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:31 PM on October 8, 2014


Oh no, a sad picture of a woman in the YPG means that the PKK are not terrorists. Really?
posted by Justinian at 10:36 PM on October 8, 2014


FWIW in case anyone is unfamiliar, the PKK is officially recognized as a terrorist organization by the US State Department, NATO, the European Union, Australia, and others. They fund themselves through drug trafficking, prostitution rings and human trafficking, money laundering, and protection rackets.

Hell, if they only targeted Turkish military personnel I'd still agree that doesn't make them terrorists. But they haven't; they've over the years engaged in civilian mass casualty suicide bombings and IED attacks, kidnappings of Westerners similar to ISIS though without the snuff videos thankfully, and a couple hijackings (ferries, etc).

So, yes, they aren't ISIS. But don't act like a picture of a sad, cute woman in a cemetary changes anything.
posted by Justinian at 10:42 PM on October 8, 2014


(The closest analogue I can think of is the IRA of a couple decades ago). Better than ISIS. Not good.
posted by Justinian at 10:43 PM on October 8, 2014


Including the civil war in Israel? No support for Israel then?

Um, what civil war in Israel? If you mean Israel's slow suffocation and systematic piranha-bite devouring of the Palestinian territories that were never Israel's to begin with, well, I hardly think that qualifies as a civil war, though it certainly is a war.

But yes, Israel is a regional actor and will of course act in what it sees as its interest. No inconsistency there... if only it were so! Because unfortunately, the U.S. is again meddling militarily - by selling weapons and subsidizing Israel's colonialism, they are in fact massively influencing the war, which really should be off limits.

As a matter of fact, since you brought up Israel, it is the perfect illustration of all the principles at play here. The U.S., is doing exactly what it should not be doing - allowing itself to be drawn into fighting on Israel's behalf, rather than minding its own interests - a poster boy for those "entangling alliances" we were all warned against. Yeah, it would be much better to butt out. Again. Instead, by arming and financing - completely uncritically - Israel's expansionism, we have directly and fatally been meddling in the ME for decades now.

And the result of all this, is harm not only to our interests, and not only to the interests of all those parties being attacked, but I would argue, we hurt Israel itself. We hurt the peace process. We hurt Israel's motivation to find a solution. By uncritically backing Israel, we have contributed to a sense of invulnerability in Israel that finds compromise wholly unnecessary, and the maximalism that this spawns has far going effects that may yet one day come to haunt Israel.

Instead, we should - as I've always claimed - wholly disengage militarily from the ME, including - since you ask - Israel. No more covering for them - often as the only vote - at the U.N., and without the open checkbook and extensive military and intelligence support, Israel would quickly find itself highly motivated to solve the Palestinian problem while actually talking to the Palestinians seriously and actually taking their interests into account, and actually compromising, leading to an actual peace - a peace that would be good for the Palestinians, the whole region and by extension the world, and good for Israel. So there's your answer about "No support for Israel then"? Plenty of support - for them to actually stand on their own, for taking responsibility for their actions and for a chance at real peace built on local realities without call-backs to a superpower oceans away. Glad you asked - and the answer is still the same: the U.S. should butt out, completely.

It seems to me without a large effort to stop ISIL, requiring assistance from NATO, they will proceed to fully dominate Northern Syria and Iraq and then go to work on Jordon and Saudi Arabia and ultimately Iran and Israel and Palestine.

This is fantasy and fear mongering. ISIL can do jack about Saudi Arabia, let alone Iran and Israel. And if outside interference - from the West - stops, ISIL will be subdued fairly rapidly by powers that no longer find ISIL of much use. "Dominate Northern Syria" - shows exactly the misunderstanding. You underestimate the deviousness of Assad - he has been using the terrorists including the ISIL incarnation, as a bargaining chip against the West - he has supported them, sometimes quite overtly, and is playing a very cynical game. Without the West breathing down his neck, he'll turn around lickety split and suddenly ISIL will find itself getting wiped out in Northern Syria lickety split by a combination of Syrian military, Iranian military and the Hezbollah. It's a tangled pit of vipers over there, and the big lumbering U.S. is being taken for a ride - as usual. Without free movement across the Syrian border - once Assad gets serious - ISIL will become trapped in Iraq, where it will come under immediate pressure from a combination of Iran, the Kurds (I've linked to before about how Iran is now the biggest armed supporter of Kurds in Iraq) and the Iraqi Shias. Everybody would then be playing for keeps, rather than trying to see who can get the West to do their bidding for them. The civil wars would come to a conclusion much faster - see again the link I provided.

Will it be bloody and will there be innocent victims? Yes. That's what civil wars are. Full of innocent victims. Our choice is however, whether we'll minimize the number of victims by staying out and letting local actors solve their own problems, or whether we'll maximize the number of victims by prolonging the civil war intolerably and setting up ever bigger future genocides.

Finally, let's get off the ridiculous "those are humanitarian bombs!", and "we're going to war for the women, children and orphans, promise!". There is nothing humanitarian about our machinations in the ME. If you wanted the poster boy for whom to support in a humanitarian way, Kurds would fit the bill - no jihadis, often secular, often pro-American, progressive by the standards of the region. And what do we do? We allow them to be murdered wholesale by our supposed evil target ISIL, while officially stating (Obama's spokeswoman) that defending the Kurds is "not our priority", while at the same time loosening the strict standards on civilian collateral damage. There, that's your humanitarian bombing. We are there in cahoots with scoundrels, jihadist forces with not a lick of difference from ISIL's savagery (except more incompetent), in bed with corrupt Gulf states and medieval dictatorships like Saudi Arabia that puts Iran's anti-democratic theocracy to shame, and we do the bidding of Turkey who asks for genocide on the Kurds so that they can be rid of the Kurdish problem - and we oblige. It's all geopolitics of the most grotesque and evil kind and nothing else. All the crying about "humanitarian intervention" is exclusively for the dopes in the public who buy it and hoping there's enough of them to kill any demand to stop this war. And they're right about that.
posted by VikingSword at 12:07 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Without the West breathing down his neck, he'll turn around lickety split and suddenly ISIL will find itself getting wiped out in Northern Syria lickety split by a combination of Syrian military, Iranian military and the Hezbollah.

This isn't "fantasy?" Syria's military has not been very impressive. All they seem to be capable of is dropping barrel bombs and chemical weapons on children. Against actual fighting opposition they have not done so well, and they were embarrassed by ISIL. That's with the support of Russia.; without them it would be even worse. It is more likely Assad would continue to massacre civilians and ISIS would continue to take down villages and cities in Kurdish Iraq, probably supported by Turkey.

In any event, the coalition bombs aren't doing very much to stop ISIL anyway, so there really shouldn't be anything stopping Hezbollah and Assad from eliminating ISIL "lickety split" as is. Contrary ro "breathing down his neck," Obama has done everything possible to stay out of Syria. Assad should have defeated the Jihadists a long time ago if he were capable of it.

A large number of Jihadists are from Saudi Arabia. If ISIL were to eventually solidify its presence on the border it is likely the IS could bleed into Saudi Arabia culturally and overthrow the monarchy.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:45 AM on October 9, 2014


Syria's military has not been very impressive. All they seem to be capable of is dropping barrel bombs and chemical weapons on children. Against actual fighting opposition they have not done so well, and they were embarrassed by ISIL.

Except Syria has not been fighting ISIS with a view to eliminating them. That's a fact. What they have done, is some minor bombing, just so that they can claim to fight the evil "terrorists", and thus seem to be a good alternative to "terrorists" and an ally the West needs. The existence of ISIS is Assad's insurance policy against the West overthrowing his regime, as well as an excellent way to soak up the West's energies in fighting ISIS instead of Assad. Here is an excerpt from The Guardian:

"Under these circumstances it might be tempting to resort to desperate measures. Among them would be the recasting of the Assad regime as a necessary, if ugly, ally in a difficult fight. Such a move would suit the Syrian dictator well: he has long sought precisely that re-legitimisation. His work toward that goal began just as soon as Barack Obama, along with the British, French and German leaders, solemnly declared that Assad had to leave power, back in August 2011. In that season when Arab strongmen seemed to be toppling in rapid succession, he moved fast to portray all who opposed him as extremists and violent jihadists. The implicit message to the west was that they should stick with the devil they knew. It’s possible he was even content to pump up the Isis threat: he did not deploy his air force against Islamic State targets and boosted Isis ranks when he released a large number of Islamist radicals from his prisons."

Again - Assad has not been fighting ISIL, except for some minor engagements, just so he can maintain his "anti-terrorist" cred. Therefore, to speak of ISIL "embarrassing" the Syrian military, is to understand nothing. Assad is actually interested in fighting first and foremost anyone who might be seen as even slightly legitimate opposition around whom the world can coalesce as an alternative to Assad's regime. So, when the West backed FSA, Assad figured very simply that he can safely fight FSA and massacre the civilian population that opposes him, because once that threat is gone, ISIL would hardly be the party backed by the West as an alternative. So let the West deal with ISIS until such a time as all other - even semi-legitimate - opposition to Assad is eliminated, which includes parts of the Syrian population that wants Assad gone (which is where genocidal bombings of civilians enter). Assad was doing good oil trade with ISIL and fighting minor engagements, but otherwise left them alone. Note, that when the West started bombing ISIL, Assad stayed completely out of that, and continued assaulting other rebels and civilians (leading to FSA complaining about exactly that - as I linked to before).

Now, it is possible that in not fighting ISIL Assad may eventually overplay his hand, and the instability would actually rebound to become a genuine threat to his regime, but that would depend at least partially on how long the West becomes engaged. As long as the West continues to campaign for Assad's overthrow, he needs ISIL as the red cape target for the Western attacking bull. Should Western campaign last too long, it would start threatening Assad, because the U.S. led campaign while being ineffective against ISIL, would allow ISIL to become more of a genuine threat to Assad. Here's a description of that dilemma for Assad:

The History Of ISIS That Assad Hopes Everyone Has Forgotten

"Still, the Assad regime is already beginning to praise itself on a strategy well executed. Advisers close to Assad now believe “the American decision represents a victory for his longstanding strategy: obliterating any moderate opposition to his rule and persuading the world it faces a stark choice between him and Islamist militants who threaten the West,” the New York Times said, adding Obama’s decision “has reinvigorated core members of Mr. Assad’s inner circle who believe that he faces less and less pressure to compromise, and that the West will eventually ally with him against ISIS.”
But there also potential pitfalls to this line of thinking. Already Syria has written off the eastern part of the country that ISIS controls, but it’s unclear just what would come from U.S. airstrikes on the territory as “Syrian officials are unsure who would benefit militarily — government forces, or Syrian insurgents and separatist Kurds, who have also clashed with the foreign-led ISIS militants.” The U.S. for its part believes “the forces that are most likely to benefit are other opposition elements, particularly the legitimate Syrian opposition who we work with.” No matter which assessment turns out to be true, the fact remains that in ISIS the Assad regime has executed as self-fulfilling prophecy, acting to provide the very instability it claims it has been standing firmly against.
"

This is a dangerous game, and nothing is as it seems. In order to understand what is going on, you must see the full complexity of many, many parties acting with hidden agendas. Those who fall for nonsense like "U.S. is in the war for humanitarian reasons" don't seem equipped to understand the realities of the ME.

The best thing the U.S. can do is to withdraw completely from the ME (militarily). We should not ally with any party there, whether Assad, or any flavor of "rebels", let the ME societies solve their own problems. There is no hope whatsoever that the U.S. can do anything worthwhile militarily there, they can only destabilize the region further and prolong the intolerable suffering from the conflict and the civil wars.
posted by VikingSword at 8:37 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Btw. this is also an explanation of why ISIL wants the West to attack it - that is the best chance ISIS has of survival and expansion. Assad is leaving ISIL alone as long as he's got the U.S. fighting them, so he can concentrate on his real targets. That suits ISIL just fine - the ineffective U.S. bombing is actually ISIL's meal ticket in turn, in providing more recruits, uniting Sunnis behind them, and keeping Assad off their backs. ISIL loves the U.S. bombings and courted those assiduously through savage beheading videos and other abuses. We should not play into their hands.

The biggest danger of ISIL becoming entrenched, is through U.S. and Western involvement. That's the real source of strength for ISIL and the real threat that ISIS poses.

Get out. At that point, ISIL actually becomes a real problem for Assad and he can deploy his military for real against ISIS and not his civilian opposition (with the help of Iran, Hezbollah and Russia). Allow the regional powers to deal with ISIL without everyone angling to use the U.S., that's the only genuine solution.

The U.S. is ISIL's lifeline, and we should refuse to do so. Bombing and the aerial campaign are the real threats against any hope of regional stability and civil war resolution. If you want to strengthen ISIL, and make it a real regional threat, then continue bombing and engaging militarily. The longer we do that, the stronger ISIL becomes.
posted by VikingSword at 9:09 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Kurds must not be abandoned again, this time to ISIS
“What’s happened to the Kurds in the last 100 years” includes oppression by Syria, massacre by Turkey and genocide by Saddam Hussein. They are the bravest fighters, and in Iraqi Kurdistan they’ve created the best thing, if not the only dependably good thing, to come out of President Bush’s “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Their relationship to this day with Kurdish Jews in Israel says a great deal – and at the same time they have strong ties with the Palestinians. “You [Kurds] have been with us since the time of Salahaddin. And you have stood for the just cause of Palestine,” said Nadhmi Khudhouri, Palestinian Authority ambassador to Iraqi Kurdistan, when the PA opened its diplomatic office in Erbil in December 2011.
Islamic State Grooms Chechen Fighters Against Putin
When the Islamic State commander known as “Omar the Chechen” called to tell his father they’d routed the Iraqi army and taken the city of Mosul, he added a stark message: Russia would be next.

“He said ‘don’t worry dad, I’ll come home and show the Russians,’” Temur Batirashvili said from his home in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, on the border with the Russian region of Chechnya. “I have many thousands following me now and I’ll get more. We’ll have our revenge against Russia.”
The Iraqi Army Never Was - Careerist U.S. generals touted a toothless military consumed from the start by corruption and split loyalties.
While pro-war critics blame the Iraqi military’s failures on the current administration for leaving the country too soon, American veterans and journalists who spoke with TAC say the army was corrupt, incompetent, and unmotivated from the beginning, and that top U.S. officials papered over this inconvenient fact for years in order to protect their commands and maintain public support for the U.S. intervention.
WHAT DID AUTONOMY BRING TO THE PEOPLES OF ROJAVA?
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:13 AM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Before the first U.S. bombs fell and rockets were launched, when the stupid "strategy" was announced (after months of acknowledging that we had no strategy, period), I already went on record, pointing out the obvious: a purely aerial campaign is absolutely doomed to utter failure. There was zero chance of success. And when Dempsey said a few days later that "if necessary", U.S. ground troops would be involved, I immediately pointed out that this is as much as acknowledging that in fact, our war mongers had this in mind from day one - I doubt they were as stupid as to imagine that rockets and bombs alone would be effective, though given the unimpressive intellects involved, who knows. And so it looks like maybe this is what they had in mind all along. First ease our way in with bombings, assuring the public that "absolutlely cross my fingers hope to die" no U.S. ground troops. Once the public got used to that, with the help of a continuing drumbeat of propaganda, they'd spring their next stage: U.S. ground troops. Again, we are being drawn in, mission creep and all the usual suspects are at it again - the military, naturally, promises victory very, very soon, but in the meanwhile they need more troops and more weapons and more involvement and on and on and on ad infinitum (one of the posters linked to a recent book by a U.S. general sorrowfully acknowledging the reality of how the military operates in the political sphere).

And here we are:

White House grapples with limits of air campaign in Iraq and Syria

""Airstrikes alone are not going to save the town of Kobani," Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday, adding that the militants "are going to continue to grab ground, and there are going to continue to be villages, towns and cities that they take" in Iraq and Syria."

One really wonders how we are supposed to "degrade and destroy" ISIL from the air, if we can't do it from the air even with brave and competent fighters like the Kurds on the ground. What hope do we have with the incompetent and corrupt Iraqi army? If we can't save Kobani from the air with the Kurds on the ground fighting like lions, what are we doing bombing elsewhere and to what purpose? Apparently nonsense:

"Some 500 miles east of Kobani, the limits of U.S. air power are also becoming apparent near Baghdad, where Islamic State fighters are making a less dramatic but potentially more dangerous push to take control of towns and districts within an hour's drive of the Iraqi capital, U.S. officials said.

Despite an intensifying air campaign in Fallouja and other cities not far from Baghdad, an effort that in recent days has included use of U.S. attack helicopters, the Iraqi army has continued to lose ground to the militants, U.S. officials acknowledged.
"

So what is the point of this "aerial campaign"? Oh, I see:

"But the meager results since those early victories could have far-reaching implications, increasing pressure on President Obama to reconsider the strict limits he has placed on the role U.S. troops can play on the ground."

"The decision to keep U.S. troops out of a ground combat role means that ousting Islamic State fighters from many of the towns they have occupied in Iraq will take a year or more and that additional years will be needed to defeat them in their home base in Syria, the officials said.

"This will take time unless we want to own it completely," said a senior military officer who agreed to discuss the operation in return for anonymity.

The limits on the U.S. military already have caused friction between the White House and the Pentagon leadership, and tension has the potential to grow if results of the campaign don't improve in the coming months.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last month that he would consider recommending to Obama that he allow U.S. advisors to accompany Iraqi army units on combat missions, in part to help direct airstrikes, if he felt that was necessary."


In other words, years of war, troop involvement in a quagmire and the setup for the next genocide and then years and years of correcting that "mistake". Perhaps it would have been better to leave Saddam in place, no?

Well, it's exactly the same situation now - the longer we stay, the worse it'll get. Get out now, before we cause another genocide as we did in Cambodia.
posted by VikingSword at 10:03 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


To say that Assad could destroy ISIL "lickety split" as soon as he desires seems to me to qualify as "understanding nothing."

Assad has not been fighting ISIL, except for some minor engagements

Syria conflict: Isis 'overruns' Raqqa military base

Even with ISIL, Hezbollah, and Iran's help Assad could not defeat the "farmers and dentists," but now he is going to eliminate ISIL "lickety split?" The very quotation in your comment disagrees with this entirely, "already Syria has written off the eastern part of the country that ISIS controls." I don't see how it would make a lot of sense for Assad to try to occupy the northeastern region of the country that they have been ethnically cleansing and expose his incompetent military to gorilla warfare and insurgency. If he doesn't, ISIL has gained a home base to operate from permanently. They would then focus on consolidating other territory with sympathetic populations and building a military force strong enough for jihad against the "kafir."
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:29 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]




already Syria has written off the eastern part of the country that ISIS controls."

Um, that's the point. If Assad is not putting his energies into fighting ISIL, of course he has to write off the territories they control - how could it be otherwise? He can't simultaneously control the territory and not fight ISIL that's sitting there.

ISIL overruns this town or base or that town and base - how else were they going to gain control of the territory? It's not as if Assad can sit down and officially cede the territory and hand them ownership papers. To fit in the narrative of threatening jihadist forces, they have to be seen to conquer territories, not have them handed over. There has to be some engagement, otherwise how does it work for Assad to claim "all the opposition is vicious jihadists whom we are fighting" and then not lift a single finger to actually fight. Yes, there will be minor clashes. But clearly, Assad's energies are going into ethnic cleansing and genocidal attacks against Syrian civilian populations that oppose him, not ISIL. Tell me, how many barrel bombs have fallen on ISIL and how many on Syrian civilians?

Assad is a criminal. ISIL and the assorted jihadists by whatever name (including FSA) are of course worse. We have no allies here - none - with the possible exception of the Kurds whom we have chosen to sacrifice to our "friends" such as Turkey. There is no scenario here where the "good guys" win, because there are no "good guys" who have any appreciable power and are in any state to step in and maintain order, even if somehow we managed to establish order in the first place - but we won't be able to even do that.

We should pull out - militarily - 100%. Completely and utterly leave the region (militarily). We should allow the local actors and powers get serious about solving their own problems without angling to use us. Our military engagement is directly aiding and abetting and strengthening ISIL. We are preventing local actors from being forced to face reality and take action, and we are fuelling ISIL's recruiting efforts and strengthening their bonds with the Sunnis. Our military engagement is causing the disaster of ISIL to grow.

But look, you should be happy. The war mongers prevailed. We are having our damn war - modest beginnings, but I'm sure you guys will find ways to escalate soon enough - as the article I linked to above intimates. Countless civilians will perish. Blood will flow in rivers. New genocides will erupt. Non-interventionists, such as me, will only be able to helplessly watch from the sidelines as our war rampages through the region yet again. These arguments here, are merely an attempt to at least ask the question "why war". The cheerleaders of war can continue to cheer, but unfortunately, it looks like we can ask "why war" all we like, but the answer will be just the cheering and applause.
posted by VikingSword at 11:40 AM on October 9, 2014




Kobani, Kurds, Turks, and Airstrikes: A Fine Kettle Of Fish
Objectively speaking it would not appear to be militarily daunting for Turkey to deploy a strong blocking force along its border opposite Kobani and then envelop the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) armed elements with mechanized infantry and armor units crossing into Syria east and west of the Kurdish city. ISIS fighters could then be destroyed in detail. Although the engagement might not join Cannae or Austerlitz in the annals of battlefield artistry, its result might reverse ISIS' momentum in Syria and give pause to young male jihad tourists around the world who regard the false caliph and his ersatz state as winning propositions.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:22 PM on October 9, 2014


That would require Turkey to actually want to engage rather than to sit back and play "let's you and him fight".
posted by Justinian at 2:34 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Their story is they will go ahead and do it as soon as Obama starts bombing Damascus and lets them kill the Kurdish "terrorists."

Islamic State fighters are threatening to overrun Iraq’s Anbar province
“The leadership doesn’t care about us, the people there [in Anbar] don’t care about us. They called us Shia dogs,” he said. “How can I fight for any of them after this?”

Jayashi, the analyst, said that Anbar residents needed to support the Iraqi security forces.

“Otherwise,” he said, “we will lose all of western Iraq.”
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:47 PM on October 9, 2014


Jimmy Carter unhappy with Obama’s policies in Middle East

“First of all, we waited too long. We let the Islamic state build up its money, capability and strength and weapons while it was still in Syria,” he said. “Then when [ISIS] moved into Iraq, the Sunni Muslims didn’t object to their being there and about a third of the territory in Iraq was abandoned.”

Carter sees some hope for the current American policy against ISIS in Iraq where troops on the ground will follow up after air strikes.

“If we keep on working in Iraq and have some ground troops to follow up when we do our bombing, there is a possibility of success.”

No such ground troops are available in Syria at the moment, he said.

“You have to have somebody on the ground to direct our missiles and to be sure you have the right target,” Carter said. “Then you have to have somebody to move in and be willing to fight ISIS after the strikes.”

posted by Apocryphon at 11:41 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Heh. Neocon, warmonger Jimmy Carter.

Why the US should take PKK off the terror list
For sure, the PKK has committed crimes in the past. But since its cease-fire with Turkey two years ago, the PKK has become a force for good in the region.

PKK fighters recently saved thousands of Yazidis, breaking through ISIS lines to establish a 40-mile long humanitarian corridor from Mount Sinjar to sanctuary in Syria.

The PKK joined Syrian Kurds in a heroic defense of Kobani. Scores of PKK fighters died, defending Kurds and other minorities from beheadings by ISIS.

The PKK proved its commitment to peace in Turkey following the cease-fire agreement by withdrawing forces from Turkish soil. It entered into a political dialogue with Turkey's National Intelligence Agency.

The United States should link removing the PKK from its FTO list with the PKK's commitment to a peaceful path. The PKK seeks a dignified peace. Eliminating indignities will shape its approach going forward. The region is roiled by enough violence, without a resurgent civil war in Turkey.

Commentary by David L. Phillips, director of the Program on Peace-building and Human Rights at Columbia University's Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He is a former senior adviser and foreign affairs expert to the U.S. Department of State during the administrations of Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama.
But I thought I read that Ocalan is saying war is back on if there is no final peace agreement by next week? Which I guess means they'll start murdering random people again?

Amazing letter from a 19 year old Kurdish "terrorist" in eastern Kobane (which means she's probably dead by now I would think) to her mother.
We are in the east side of Kobani, mother…A few miles only stand between us and them. We see their black flags, we listen to their radios, sometimes we don’t understand what they say when they speak foreign languages but we can tell they are scared.
...
I know that you will visit Kobani one day and look for the house that witnessed my last days…it is on the east side of Kobani. part of it damaged, it has a green door which has many holes from sniper shots and you will see 3 windows, one on the east side, you will see my name written there in a red ink…Behind that window mother I waited counting my last moments watching the sun light as it penetrated my room from the bullet holes in that window..

Behind that window, Azad sang his last song about his mother, he had a beautiful voice when he was saying “mom I miss you”
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:04 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


For sure, the PKK has committed crimes in the past. But since its cease-fire with Turkey two years ago

Hey, guys, they haven't murdered civilians for like almost 24 months. Sweet.

GE, you keep making asides and implications but you won't come out and say whether you think the PKK is a terrorist organization or not. I realize it's easier when you don't actually have to take a position but, well, it'd be nice if you could say what you think. Are you, yourself, denying that the PKK can reasonably be said to be a terrorist organization?
posted by Justinian at 12:19 AM on October 10, 2014


Christ, I just saw a picture of a YPJ fighter ("terrorist") gagged and cuffed and hung upside down from the back of a tow truck. I should stay away from twitter today, it looks like the head choppers are going to take Kobane very soon.

Anyone who kills people randomly could be accurately called a terrorist and should be tried and convicted. I personally don't consider selling drugs and sex to be terrorism, though. I don't know that much about the Kurds, but I'm very fond of what I've read about their vision of radical democracy in Rojava. The bravery they have shown fighting against ISIS is awe inspiring, and I think the ongoing massacre of Kobane is a huge tragedy. There are things about the PYD I've read that I don't like: they seem very much like a cult, and it seems like at times the PKK has basically operated as a criminal organization, using Kurdish independence as a cover in a way. I agree with Phillips: if the PKK were to have pledged to disavow actual terrorist acts they should have been taken off of the terrorist lists, but now it is too late. I hope they don't kill innocent people, but it seems certain they will engage in an insurgency against the Turkish government. By the way did you know that at least two former Prime Ministers of Israel were actual terrorists?
Many people who headed movements of national liberation adopted violent and indiscriminate methods of resistance that brought death and injury to the innocent and the wicked alike, to civilians as well as soldiers, and which deliberately sowed panic among the public. We have to be sorry but not to deny this, and those who do the rewriting should not be hopeful. Later on, the terrorists became legitimate leaders, presidents and prime ministers; and Begin and Shamir are among these.
Maybe the Haaretz's apologism could apply equally well to the PKK?

Long live Rojava!
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:03 AM on October 10, 2014


Kurd vs. Kurd: internal clashes continue in Turkey
In Turkey, people primarily remember two organizations when recalling southeastern Turkey in the 1990s, when state authority had been badly eroded: the leftist and staunchly secular Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the militant, Sunni Islamist Kurdish Hezbollah.
...
Armed violence between the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), the PKK’s armed youth wing, and Huda-Par, successor to Kurdish Hezbollah, have already resulted in fatalities that might bode ill for the Kurdish political movement. Huda-Par had been trying to become a political actor, steering clear of armed violence.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:17 AM on October 10, 2014


Up to 700 trapped in Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, UN says
The UN special envoy to Syria has warned that up to 700 people, mainly elderly, are still trapped in the Syrian border town of Kobane.
They are going to have more heads than they know what to do with.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:39 AM on October 10, 2014




And since it's timely in the news, Malala Yousafzai received the Nobel Peace Prize. I wonder what another Nobel Peace Prize winner - Barack Obama thinks of this. They did meet, after all. And during that meeting, Malala told Obama in no uncertain terms:

Sixteen-Year-Old Malala Yousafzai Warns Obama: ‘Drone Attacks Are Fueling Terrorism’

Many people have made this point before, and I've certainly flogged it to death here, but the current aerial campaign of bombings, rocketing and droning, is not only ineffective against ISIL, but actually fuelling ISIL's growth.

The longer we bomb, the more dangerous and powerful ISIL becomes - classic blowback, an MO we've perfected all over the world, and certainly in the ME. ISIL is entirely on the heads of those who first decided to meddle in the Syrian civil war and thus give rise to ISIL, and then when they decided to strengthen it by bombing, rocketing and droning. And ISIL is becoming a real threat, thanks to all this.

Yet, for some reason, the policymakers have decided that objectively making ISIL bigger and more dangerous is a good idea, all the while proclaiming a desire to "degrade and destroy".

Who knows, perhaps eagerly praising Malala while ignoring what she says when it's not convenient, will result in exploded heads. We do know that Obama had nothing but praise for Malala. And then he proceeded to bomb, rocket and drone in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. In between awarding Peace Prizes and bombing raids, maybe we could still ask "Why war"?
posted by VikingSword at 12:34 PM on October 10, 2014


“The only thing necessary for the triumph of head chopping is for good men and women to do nothing” - Edmund Burke
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:39 PM on October 10, 2014


That's just a rehash of the "objectively pro-Saddam" canard from the Instapundit era 101st fighting keyboarders. There are lots of awful things happening in the world. We are not morally or practically responsible for them simply because we don't bomb the crap out of all the bad people out there.
posted by Justinian at 12:59 PM on October 10, 2014


"Chopping heads off by one weapon (drone, bomb, rocket) does not prevent chopping heads off by another weapon (sword, knife, chainsaw), you just end up with more heads chopped off. Me like many chopped heads, carry on." - Kublai Khan Samuel Taylor Coleridge Marco Polo Bloodthirsty Buddha the Third.
posted by VikingSword at 1:23 PM on October 10, 2014


Interview With YPJ Commander In Kobanê: Kobanê Will Not Fall (It's probably fallen already actually. I am getting literally sick to my stomache)
We can say that the Kobanê resistance is in particular a women’s resistance. We can see most recently in the person of Arin Mirkan the sacrificial leadership that women have shown in the Kobanê resistance. This resistance also shows us to what extent there has emerged a free Kurdish woman. The resistance will grow because of Arin Mirkan and the leadership of women and these sacrificial attacks will continue. I want to say this to the people of Kurdistan and to all of humanity. This resistance is a resistance of all peoples and deep down the resistance of humanity against the dirty, inhumane gang of ISIS. Kobanê is the resistance of humanity.
Never Forget!
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:55 PM on October 10, 2014


stomache
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:13 PM on October 10, 2014


Well, it's exactly the same situation now - the longer we stay, the worse it'll get. Get out now, before we cause another genocide as we did in Cambodia.


Maybe genocide is the point. Once the one true tribe has killed off all the world's other tribes, there'll be peace.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:18 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Maybe genocide is the point.

Well, then we must just stand and watch people being raped and murdered doing nothing to stop it until they reach our borders lest we be blood thirsty warmongering interventionists.  Because if you look at history, we made them do it anyway. We shouldn't have done that.

A Kurdish voice from Kobane's battlefield
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:36 PM on October 10, 2014


Not nothing to stop it. You provided weaponry.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:08 AM on October 11, 2014


Which ultimately tends to end up in the hands of the very guys we are bombing.

It must good to be a defense contractor. We buy and send a bunch of their equipment halfway around the world. Then the winds shift and we go blow up that equipment. The contractors get paid to replace it with new un-blown-up stuff. Then the knuckleheads with the tanks and planes and heavy weapons we've sent over drop it all and run as fast as possible the second it looks like a bunch of light infantry might shoot at them, thus capturing all our equipment and becoming the richest and best equipped terrorist organization in history. But, hey, honey badger defense contractor don't care because now we blow that shit up too and they get paid to replace it again. For, what, the third time?

Oh, and top it all off they're not just making the equipment we're sending over there to get blown up, they're also making the planes and missiles and bombs and helicopters we're using to blow up the equipment, the replacement equipment, and the replacement replacement equipment.

Sweeeeeet gig.
posted by Justinian at 12:41 AM on October 11, 2014


Kobane: The anatomy of a disaster
It is too late, too late to save Kobane. But its fall will bring to the fore, once again, the tragic failure of the Obama administration in Syria. When one contemplates the amount of criticism directed at Obama over his shifting Syria policies from his former senior cabinet members, including two secretaries of defense, one secretary of state and one director of the Central Intelligence Agency, one sees the enormity of the failure. Even the deliberative and cautious former president Jimmy Carter, criticized President Obama for waiting too long to intervene in Syria, and for giving ISIS the time to build its capabilities and strengths. One would hope that the tragedy of Kobane would lead to a serious re-assessment of the President’s strategy, and that the lives lost will not have been lost in vain. One would hope...
This is a good article. I like Hisham. He is glaringly biased against Iran and Israel, but overall his analysis seems better than most to me.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:30 AM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Justinian: It must good to be a defense contractor.
US Turns $486 Million Afghan Air Fleet into $32,000 of Scrap Metal, Luis Martinez, ABC, 09 October 2014

US planes worth $486M scrapped in AfghanistanThe Rachel Maddow Show, 10 October 2013
posted by ob1quixote at 2:08 AM on October 11, 2014


They must be mad we didn't blow up those planes with bombs. That's another fraction of a percent on the ol' profit statement.
posted by Justinian at 3:42 AM on October 11, 2014


Interesting:
Syrian rebels overrun intelligence base on Golan Heights used to spy on Israel
Syrian rebel forces fighting the government of President Bashar Assad overran a military intelligence base on the Golan Heights that served as a joint Russian-Syrian forward post for information-gathering on Israel.
I have no idea what Qatar's interest in all this is supposed to be:
Israel TV: UN had Qatar pay $25m ransom to free Golan peacekeepers

Insert Simpsons quote here:
ISIS Issues Rules for Journalists; Punishment for Violation is Crucifixion

[Hat tip: Elder of Ziyon]
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:39 PM on October 11, 2014


Kobane: The anatomy of a disaster

It's a mixed bag of an article. The descriptive part is OK - it does describe the Kurd situation well, but it completely falls apart when it starts the prescriptive part... not surprising, because it's not really possible to pick a good option when all are unpalatable.

He blames Obama for being overly cautious, and cites Jimmy Carter as backup. Err, I don't think you want to do that. I like Jimmy Carter, I think he's an extremely decent fellow, and worlds better than most of the presidents we've had, but on interventionism he's got things disastrously wrong - and it's really not a matter of dispute, because it's easily provable. How?

Well, ladies and gentlemen, Jimmy Carter is the poster boy for the modern failed state terrorism blowback as a result of intolerable and foolhardy meddling. I am talking about the mother of all these disasters, going back to even before Al-Qaeda and to the birth of the modern jihadist movement - Afghanistan. Jimmy Carter foolishly decided to escalate the proxy war with the Soviet Union by massively financing, arming, training and supporting various guerrillas to fight in Afghanistan. But, most people think Carter did that in response to the Soviet invasion. That would have been bad enough - after all, why do we need to fight the Soviet Union there? In due time, the Soviets would have been bled and lost anyway. We did it purely as spoilers - after all, the Soviets were at least a regional power right there - in contrast, we were an ocean away. It was stupendously dumb, malicious and ultimately a self-inflicted disaster for the U.S.. But as I said - responding to the Soviet Union there would have been dumb enough - but it was so very much worse. Because you see, Carter got that whole guerilla thing going before the Soviets invaded, and in fact, arguably we were baiting the Soviets to invade, so that they'd experience "their Vietnam". It's hard to believe such depths of cynicism, and yet there you are. A fascinating account here, backed by the most authoritative sources, such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, United States National Security Advisor to Jimmy Carter during that time :

Hawks Want Obama to Be More Like Jimmy Carter

"There are at least two points that deserve clarification. Carter's support for the anti-Soviet mujaheddin did not actually begin after the 1980 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In 1998, Carter national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski gave a revealing interview to the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur (cited in CounterPunch, 1/15/98), where he explained what really happened:
Brzezinski: According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 December 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979, that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.
Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?
Brzezinski: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.
He added: "That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it?"
The interview became more prominent after the September 11 attacks, which drew considerable media attention to this history, since Al-Qaeda's origin is linked to Osama bin Laden's experience in Afghanistan. As the Nation's Eric Alterman (11/12/01) noted: "The truth is that the United States began a program of covert aid to the Afghan guerrillas six months before the Soviets invaded."
So it's inaccurate to describe Carter's support for Afghan insurgents as a consequence of the Soviet invasion; to hear Brzezinski tell it, the reality was more the other way around.
"

Ladies and gentlemen - this is a devastating indictment of our foreign policy when it comes to creating failed states, supporting terrorism and instigating extremely dangerous instability that has then incalculable consequences for the entire world, including the U.S.. And the responsibility for this is at the feet of Jimmy Carter, fair and square.

We baited the Soviets into Afghanistan, where we bled them and broke them - but in that act of vicious Cold War chicanery, we laid the groundwork for an epic blowback that has reverberated from that time on, through 9-11, through the subsequent invasion by GWB and all the way to today. So, how has our intervention in Afghanistan worked out for us? What about that, Jimmy Carter?

And now, Jimmy wants us to intervene in Syria and claims Obama should have done so even sooner. Well, Jimmy Carter has a poor track record - in fact, next to GWB, the worst - when it comes to military adventurism and interventionist meddling. Our efforts at "liberation" and "democracy building" are a sorry spectacle in Muslim countries. And now, for the feather in the cap, Jimmy Carter - and a beautiful one, relevant to our ISIS conversation and Syria intervention:

Pakistan Taliban vow support for IS in Syria and Iraq

The blowback that was the gift from Carter's Afghanistan misadventure, keeps on giving, right through today's ISIS and Syria... which Carter wanted us to rush into (including ground troops!). Holy Moses! Thanks for nothing, Jimmy.

Btw., when you have the likes of Charles Krauthammer advocating a position that praises Jimmy Carter, your natural suspicion aught to be aroused that in fact the exact opposite is indicated (from the link "Hawks Want Obama to Be More Like Jimmy Carter" I gave above) - Krauthammer writes:

""Obama is not the first president to conduct a weak foreign policy. Jimmy Carter was similarly inclined–until Russia invaded Afghanistan, at which point the scales fell from Carter's eyes.
From that moment on, he writes, Carter "responded boldly," winding up with
the massive military aid we began sending the mujaheddin, whose insurgency so bled the Russians over the next decade that they not only lost Afghanistan but were fatally weakened as a global imperial power.
Invasion woke Carter from his illusions. Will it wake Obama?"


Quite some company to keep there, on the same side of policy positions regarding military intervention as Charles Krauthammer - no thanks. Of course, the irony is that Krauthammer is actually historically wrong, because as shown in the link, Carter started the meddling long before the Soviets invaded, and in fact induced the Soviets to invade. He was exactly the interventionist Krauthammer wanted him to be, (rather than the 'reluctant' one he imagined) and the consequences of that disaster we get to live with to this day. Thank dog, Obama was not following Carter's example or advice in this instance.

So yeah, citing Carter as an authority on the advisability of military meddling is Wrong-Way-Corrigan wrong. Every president's got his blind spots, and this one is Carter's huge one.

But let's get back to the Kobane article by Hisham. It's a long article, but what's noteworthy about that, is that for all that length, when it comes to describing what to do about the situation, it becomes extremely short - just a few sentences. And what a let down those are! Especially coming after such a lengthy description of what the problem is, and really a very decent account of the Kurdish dilemma. I was reading eagerly one, OK, OK, that's good, and and and and so what do you think we should do? Oops. Here it is:

"If President Obama is serious about a credible ground component in Syria, he should accelerate with Saudi Arabia and Jordan the programs of equipping and training the nationalist Syrian opposition, he should take another look at the establishment of buffer zones in collaboration with Turkey and Jordan, and he should use – very selectively - U.S. special forces against ISIS leadership and key assets."

That's it. Sum total from the entire long article. And a pathetic sorry prescription that is. So, to get "serious people" to approve, Obama's strategy against ISIS - you know, the grown up thing to do - is to speed up the training we are already doing in SA and Jordan (and for which we robbed the American taxpayer of half a billion dollars) - speed up, not even "initiate" since we've already done that. Boy, speeding up that fiasco is surely a sign that "President Obama is serious". This is not even weak, this is comatose with no pulse. Speed up the training and arming of bands of scoundrels, opportunists, ne'er do wells and incompetents who have previously failed so spectacularly when confronted by Jabhat al-Nusra, let alone ISIS - where they folded like cheap suits, many went over to actually join ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, and more still sold their weapons to them for that sweet, sweet $. Oh the humanity! Oh right, he's also got that bit about the "very selective" use of U.S. special forces "against ISIS leadership and key assets" - ROTLF as the kids used to say... pssst, buddy, ever hear about Afghanistan and the Taliban? We used "special forces" and standard forces, and auxiliary forces (NATO troops) and trained-equipped-guided-forces (Afghan army) and bought-and-paid-for forces (local warlords and other scoundrels) and done this for well over a decade and are about to depart after spending more money and effort than on the Marshall Plan, all to a grand effect of UTTER FAILURE. So insert - gingerly - U.S. special forces (fingering as it were) - and boy, ISIS will surely be degraded and destroyed. "Degraded" fits rather as a descriptive of how we'll feel upon completing such ineffective operations, but one rather doubts ISIS will be "destroyed" anymore than the Taliban was (unless it is from death by laughter). ISIS, which as we've seen are hooking up with that very Taliban whom we've been "degrading" for all these years. Unreal. Boy, insert those "special forces" and we'll know "Obama is serious". The incantation "special forces" sounds more like the author believes in "special" ingredients that work by MAGIC! because no real world scenario can deliver those results.

And then, the final insult, the "another look at the establishment of buffer zones in collaboration with Turkey and Jordan". And just what does he mean by that enervated description? He explains it in passing in another place, and a doozy it is too:

"If Turkey is willing, as Erdogan says, to participate in the protection of a safe zone inside Syria, then the U.S. should provide safe skies above this exclusion zone by degrading and hopefully destroying Assad’s air force."

What?! He's departed earth and launched into an alternate reality. This is not merely fanciful, it's batshit insane. "If Turkey" - the same Turkey that's a byword for "duplicitous genocidal anti-Kurd", whose entire purpose in this conflict is looking to destroy the Kurds as well as Assad for regional dominance - that Turkey? And in order to curry favor with that Turkey, the U.S. ought to in effect declare war on Syria and attack and destroy Syria's air force - dooming not just Assad, but Syria and the region to utter and complete chaos. And in that chaos - who would it be, who would emerge victorious? FSA and the incompetent and scoundrels we're training? Fat freakin' chance - it would be ISIS, ISIS and more ISIS. ISIS would kneel down and kiss our boots if we destroyed Assad's air force and therefore Assad (Turkey's aim), nobody and nothing would stop ISIS from taking over Syria - we'd hand it over to them on a silver platter. We know how that works - because we've seen how well that worked out in Afghanistan when we backed up forces (Northern Alliance) that were a thousand times more competent against the Taliban than the wretched FSA jokers against anybody. And yet, the Taliban prevailed. The same Taliban that is now joining with ISIS. Oh the humani- screw it, this is 100% certified nuttery nut.

That's it then. The entire prescription for "serious Obama" from the Hisham article so highly recommended by GE.

Hisham is just pushing his agenda as best he can. The article below the Hisham one (from the same link), is another example of a much more blatant and shameful shilling: "On Kobane, the PKK and dragging Turkey to war" by Ceylan Ozbudak (check out her photo - comedy gold). A more dishonest article about Kobane is hard to come by - a clumsy artless limp apologia for Turkey's genocidal policies toward the Kurds (and btw. not one word about how Turkey refuses free passage for Kurdish fighters to aid Kobane).

But then there is a very nice article further down - just part 1 of 3 planned - by Dr. Halla Diyab: "How the Syrian uprising led to ISIS’ rise, not democracy (Part 1)". This should be mandatory reading for anyone hoping to understand what the world is confronting in Syria, and why the utter and complete ignorance of history and sociology of the region is bound to blow up in our faces. Just one brief passage:

"Bashar al-Assad’s father Hafez in March 1973 adopted a constitution that deleted any reference to Islam as the state religion. Islamists view themselves as separate from Arab secularists, who have chosen loyalty to nationalism over Islamism.

Islamists have been attracting moderate Muslim youths, who have witnessed the fall of 20th-century Arab secularism and the pan-Arab nationalism of late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. These youths see a revival of Muslim preachers and leaders post 9/11, who publicly took on the responsibility of reforming the international image of Islam and Muslims.
"

This is of course well understood by people who follow the history of the region and nothing new. But it describes the long history of what led to the present situation and why we cannot hope to bomb our way out of this reality. Islamist extremism is a response to the political and economic failure of Arab regimes that modelled themselves on the secular tradition of the West. The roots of that failure are complex, and as so often, we the West, have played our part in that failure. But what the people of the region see first and foremost is just that: failure. Now come along the Islamists and promise redemption and honor. Friends, when honor is at stake, you will not bomb those sentiments into submission, for to submit would mean the ultimate humiliation. From that humiliation are born suicide bombers - there are now whole generations that will rather die in the battle than see the humiliation of submitting to Western will imposed by Western bombs.

Quite simply, we cannot bomb our way to democracy and secularism in the ME. The more we bomb, the more the people will stick with Islam, and the more extreme and rejectionist will that Islam be. That's an unavoidable dynamic. They've seen what we have on offer (corrupt, failed regimes in the Arab world, that humiliated everyone involved) and want no part of it - they will not live under our heel. Death is preferable, and they'll fight to the last man. You are now talking about the majority of Syrians - and people in the ME in general.

So what is the solution? The solution is complete - no ifs buts and maybes - military disengagement by the West from the region. And I mean truly complete - no military advisors, no money for military purposes, no training, no intelligence sharing, absolutely and positively nothing that comes within a galaxy of military engagement on any level whatsoever. Why is that? Because we cannot militarily affect the historic dynamic of social change that's multi-generational. The problem is that they see their secular past as irremediably failed. And they have turned to Islam. The whole region has. Iran was perhaps the first, and did it with a vengeance - they turned to Islam. And the constant pressure, sometimes suppressed more or less effectively has swept the region - Islam on the march from Algeria, through Egypt, Libya - and note, that when in competition with old-line secular forces, they are victorious, see the dynamism of Hamas compared to the faded PLO.

It is a broad historic turn - Middle Eastern societies have turned to Islam, after seeing the failure of the previous approach to governance.

Obviously, we cannot change that broad historic movement of the majority of Middle Eastern societies, by bombing droning and rocketing, boots on the ground or no-fly zones. This is the people, by vast majorities expressing their will - it is Vietnam writ large. No smaller factions of South Vietnamese regimes and troops will prevail. And powers large and small - Japan, France, U.S. will fail, no matter how much blood they spill. If we engage militarily, we will fail again - after a prolonged bloody, demoralizing and ruinous struggle.

What can we do? The comparison to Vietnam provides a clue. We withdrew from Vietnam with utter finality. Good. That's what we need to do here. And then... we let history take its course. We allowed that society to evolve on its own, find its own truth, find its own way to the light. They'll struggle and they'll make mistakes. But they'll come through. They needed national liberation and they thought they also wanted Communism as a form of organizing society. They've lived it now, for decades. And slowly, they have educated themselves and found Communism wanting. Slowly they are turning to rejoin the world economy and old Communist dogma is falling. The time will come, when they'll find democratic expression too, and Communism will fall completely. Look what happened in China - the same trajectory. We could not defeat them militarily and our backed stooges such as Chiang-Kai-Shek failed too. They got their Communism, and they had a mouthful. There was a lot of failure and suffering. And then, they understood. The society evolved. The society was ready to try - for now, it's the economic part. In time, there will be the political part, eventual democracy. Their path to it. Communism existed for over 70 years in the U.S.S.R. (after we tried to defeat them militarily after WWI and we failed and our backed White stooges failed too). The U.S.S.R. is no more, and Communism is no more. They still have a ways to go, but it is their evolution, they need to learn by their own mistakes and they will come to their own conclusions.

So too with the ME. The fire of Islam cannot be defeated by our military or any stooges we may back or buy. It must burn itself out. How do we know that? Because that's what allowed political extremist Islam to come to the fore in the first place - the failure of the previous system. So let the fire of Islam burn itself out - let those societies find out, just as they did before with the old regimes, that this system, theocracy, will not work. And they will then turn toward other solutions, and we will be there with help and economic engagement. But we must allow for that to be a clean and transparent evolution - if we are seen to interfere, especially militarily, we will only entrench Islam, because their failure will be blamed on our interference (as is the case with Cuba - we did more to entrench Castro than anything he did himself and Cuban Communism has outlived the U.S.S.R. itself, and even resisted the economic reforms of China and Vietnam). Any interference by us, will only slow down and indeed reverse the evolution of those societies. They must see themselves as having given Islam a fair try.

What should we do in the meantime? We should not waste money attacking them and destroying our own liberties and economies in the process (WOT - as destructive to our rights and economy as anything during the entire anti-Communist hysteria before that). Murdering people from the air - no matter their beliefs - will not benefit anyone. We should let their societies find the truth on their own. We should accept those refugees who cannot live under their system - we should welcome their ambitious women, their gay people, their artists, their persecuted (Malala!), their scientist and their freethinkers. It will be their loss, and our gain. And they will in time understand, quite on their own. Without use of force by us. Without imposition. It's already starting in those places where this form of Islam spread first and lasted the longest - Iran. Eventually, people figure it out. Societies figure it out. We must not obstruct that process.

To those who say "but it will be bloody!" - it will be infinitely more bloody if we get involved (see the link about Civil Wars lasting three times longer with external involvement by great powers). And I'm convinced it will be far less bloody if we are seen as absolutely not likely to get involved - at that point, they'd rather expel their 'enemies' than kill them (hence why I said we should willingly accept those they reject - gay people, women, artists, scientist, minorities etc.) - the repression is always more savage when the 'enemies' are seen as in cahoots with dangerous external foes. Let us remove the external foe threat - let us not be a threat.

Let them be. We have neither the right, nor obligation, to interfere in the evolution of other societies. We must not counterproductively and murderously - and ultimately unsuccessfully - engage militarily.

We must pull out of the ME - militarily - completely. Let them solve their own problems and find their own way.
posted by VikingSword at 10:31 PM on October 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


So according to this, Kobane may have been a diversion to mask ISIS activity in Anbar province, which I hadn't realized is adjacent to Baghdad. So now they are like Bronx to Brooklyn distance from the Baghdad airport.
posted by angrycat at 7:57 AM on October 12, 2014


Is it pedantic to criticize the usage of the word crucifixion for display of shot-to-death-corpse in crucifixion style? I perused the google image search page for a couple of minutes and I did not see a single instance of a guy who had been nailed to a cross while he was still alive and left there until he died a few hours later. It might not be efficient to do terror in that manner.

Which raises a question to me of when the Romans and the Persians and whoever were doing all these historical crucifixions. It wasn't all that efficient for them to do that either. Maybe a bunch of these crucifixions in the history books are displays of stabbed-to-death corpses in crucifixion style.
posted by bukvich at 8:01 AM on October 12, 2014


Efficient, how? It's a very slow death, yes: that's the point of it. It'd also be hugely antagonistic to Christian America, which might be IS's point.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:40 AM on October 12, 2014


ISIS overrunning Anbar is hardly a surprise. We must keep in mind, that that is where ISIS originated, it is its spiritual home. As I keep pointing out, ISIS was born of Al-Queda Iraq in Anbar and the Sunnis there are its bedrock of support. This was of course stoked by our nasty stooge Maliki:

Islamic State fighters are threatening to overrun Iraq’s Anbar province

"But in recent years, the sectarian policies of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, alienated the Sunni tribes and their constituencies. The Islamic State, which had been founded as an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq, fed off the Sunni discontent."

This is what our policymakers don't understand: ISIS is not the problem, it is the expression of the problem, the symptom. Even if somehow we managed to "degrade and destroy" ISIS, the problem would not go away, it would just transmute into the next symptom or manifestation. Just as ISIS was the next form of AQ Iraq, so too, there would be the next form of ISIS. You cannot defeat that by always chasing the latest manifestation, because the underlying problem cannot be addressed militarily, only politically. Instead, we got the politics exactly wrong, by installing a guy like Maliki who then proceeded to exacerbate the problems.

The only solution is for us not to attempt to install this guy or that guy, this system or that system. We must stop interfering and allow them to sort it out on their own. There is no military solution here.

The longer we stay involved militarily, the stronger will ISIS become. Is this what we want? Maybe actually it is - after all, it would necessitate more WOT, which seems benefits everyone around here (except the people on whom this war is waged and the countries where that war is waged in).
posted by VikingSword at 9:40 AM on October 12, 2014


e. g. five fresh fish

Alexander the Great crucified 200 Tyreans.

I think that is bullshit. I don't believe Alexander's army hauled around 6000 crucifixion-spec iron spikes. You don't need three railroad spikes to hold up a 150 lb soldier for five hours, but ten penny nails ain't going to do it. Has IS* actually crucified anybody?

I don't think they have.
posted by bukvich at 10:08 AM on October 12, 2014


Bukvich, you're saying ISIS hasn't actually crucified anyone because they're tying them to crosses rather than nailing them? I googled ( I don't recommend this ) and had a hard time picking out obvious bullet wounds. Some of the victims are clearly alive on the crosses. I really don't see where you are going with this.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:00 PM on October 12, 2014


I didn't see any clearly alive on crosses. I looked at the google image search page and to me every one appeared to be a corpse displayed on a cross. I first questioned "is this pedantic?" but to me the word crucifixion implies necessarily tortured to death, which is a lot of work. Which they can save if they just shoot 'em, post 'em up, take a pic and everybody parrots this crucifixion narrative.

If you have a link where somebody was tortured to death on a cross I would like to see it. If you want to call displaying a corpse on a cross a crucifixion, that is perfectly OK by me too.
posted by bukvich at 12:13 PM on October 12, 2014


It doesn't much matter how they died: the point of using crucifixes is to antagonize Christians. It seems obvious to me thar IS is all about provoking the West into intemperate response. The beheadings, the crucifixes, the threats, the social media campaign — they want to upset the West.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:35 PM on October 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


There was one that is actually from Yemen. The others are harder to tell for sure.
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:02 PM on October 12, 2014


Crucifixion is actually one of the punishments mandated in the Koran.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:19 PM on October 12, 2014


Catholic Online re the Yemen crucifixion:

The still unidentified man was shot in the head by an Al Qaeda militant firing squad, he then had his hands tied to a soccer goal post with an Islamic flag tied to one post, in a pose reminiscent of Christ's crucifixion, and displayed for the public, Yemeni authorities said.

Link

How many people do you need to hold a guy still enough to nail him to a cross? You might need 4 or 5. Then a guy to hammer. You may need a sledgehammer for the size spike you have to drive. And this is almost a guerilla war zone. The IS* territory is probably 100% within range of mortars and shells, if not snipers. It might not be just too much work to perform a proper crucifixion; it might be too risky an exposure to enemy fire.

Lashing a corpse to a cross is near to nothing in comparison. One guy could do the whole job from start to finish in poor light.
posted by bukvich at 3:54 PM on October 12, 2014


Jacobin: Solidarity with Kobanê
posted by vibratory manner of working at 5:13 PM on October 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Man escapes ISIS cruxifiction attempt. Nailed to a cross for 8 hours sounds pretty textbook.
posted by humanfont at 5:39 PM on October 12, 2014


The Romans reportedly crucified hundreds of Jews per day in the First Jewish Revolt against Rome. It sounds like a lot, but the point of crucifixion is that it's terrifying; doing it to hundreds of people simultaenously must be like something out of a horror movie.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:06 PM on October 12, 2014


Joe in A that site I linked to above has all the reportedlies of mass crucifixions.

Crucifixion of 3,000 Babylonians by Darius
Crucifixion of 2,000 Tyrians by Alexander
Crucifixion of 3,600 Jews by Vespasian
Crucifixion of 800 pharisees by Alexander Jannaeus
Crucifixion of 6,000 rebels by Crassus
Crucifixion 2,000 rebels by Quintilus Varus

I do not believe a single one of these reports. You do know that Josephus the historian was basically a government press secretary, right?
posted by bukvich at 7:15 PM on October 12, 2014


Josephus was in a weird position, but I don't think "government press secretary" is a good description of his ever-changing circumstances. In any event, why don't you believe the stories? You're making crucifixion out to be a big elaborate thing; in most cases it was probably "put the guy up on a stick and make sure it kills him". Or they may have even killed people before putting them up on sticks. Mass crucifixions were public displays, not some sort of legal ritual.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:29 PM on October 12, 2014




Yesterday: US says Turkey OKs use of bases against militants
U.S. officials confirmed Saturday that Ankara had agreed to train Syrian moderate forces on Turkish soil. A Turkish government official said Sunday that Turkey put the number at 4,000 opposition fighters and said they would be screened by Turkish intelligence.

Also Sunday, officials confirmed that Turkey agreed to let U.S. and coalition fighter aircraft launch operations against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria from Turkish bases, including Incirlik Air Base in the south.
Today: Turkey: No new deal with US on using air base
Turkey's deputy prime minister, Bulent Arinc, said that "apart from the existing cooperation in combatting terrorism, there is no new situation concerning Incirlik air base."

The deputy premier added that Turkey had proposed the use of some of its bases to train and equip moderate opposition forces fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, but said the sides had not yet come to any agreement.
Tomorrow?
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:56 PM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]




Turkish president slams modern day 'Lawrences of Arabia'
Erdogan: "Syria has many Kobanis. What will happen to Aleppo, Latakia, Turkmen and other people after Kobane is saved?"

"There are new voluntary Lawrences, disguised as journalists, religious men, writers and terrorists," he added.

"It is our duty to explain to the world that there are modern Lawrences who were fooled by a terror organisation," he added.
[...]
"They are making Sykes-Picot agreements hiding behind freedom of press, a war of independence or jihad," he said, referring to the agreement between Britain and France that sought to divide up the Ottoman Empire into spheres of influence.
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:26 PM on October 13, 2014


Shia militias 'killing Iraqi Sunnis in reprisal attacks'

"Amnesty said the militias had been supported and armed by the Iraqi government and operated with impunity.

"Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who took office last month, has admitted to previous "excesses" by security forces and vowed to govern for all Iraqis."

"The Amnesty report, based on interviews conducted in Iraq in August and September, provides details of what it says were sectarian attacks carried out by militiamen in the cities of Baghdad, Samarra and Kirkuk.
"

"Amnesty says the militias - including Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, the Badr Brigades, the Mahdi Army and Kata'ib Hizbullah - have become more powerful since June, when the Iraqi army fell into disarray in the face of IS advances.

Correspondents say much of the fighting against IS since then has been carried out by militias, who were able to recruit thousands of volunteers, rather than the army.

There are now "tens of thousands" of militiamen, who "wear military uniforms but operate outside any legal framework and without any official oversight", Amnesty says.

The report quotes an unidentified Iraqi government official as saying that militias "mostly... kidnap Sunnis, because the victims can easily be labelled as terrorists and nobody is going to do anything about it".
"

"Amnesty says the militias have taken advantage of an "atmosphere of lawlessness" but the Iraqi government, which has armed and supported them, bears responsibility for their actions.

"By granting its blessing to militias who routinely commit such abhorrent abuses, the Iraqi government is sanctioning war crimes and fuelling a dangerous cycle of sectarian violence," said Amnesty's senior crisis response adviser, Donatella Rovera.
"

If we remember our history, the Sunni-Shia sectarian war was masterminded by the head of Al-Queda Iraq at the time, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

This is one of the worst legacies of our invasion of Iraq, and one that will continue to play out for decades. Everything that happens now flows from that U.S. interventionist disaster. Iraq, is clearly a failed state. It is devolving into the situation of 8 years ago (from the same BBC link):

"Another unnamed government official said some Sunni men were considered to be "terrorists or terrorist supporters" because of where they lived. Others were killed "in blind revenge".

"I'm afraid that we're regressing back to the situation as it was seven or eight years ago, when this behaviour was very widespread," he said.

Militiamen have also tried to extort ransoms, sometimes killing their captives even after payments have been made, Amnesty said.

"I begged friends and acquaintances to lend me the ransom money to save my son but after I paid they killed him and now I have no way to pay back the money I borrowed, as my son was the only one working in the family," one mother said.
"

About the only tiny sliver of a silver lining here, is that in the falling apart of Iraq, the Kurds have a chance at creating a homeland of their own. This ambition is - naturally - opposed by the U.S., who wants the Kurds to be tied to the corpse of a dying Iraq. We are doing all we can to keep the Kurds from gaining independence, but the reality is that only an independent homeland can solve the Kurd dilemma. They will experience no peace and no long term security without a homeland. Logically, if we truly want the Kurds to not be at the mercy of every dictator and every nasty foe, state or non-state, we should advocate for a homeland for the Kurds. Now, you won't be able to carve one from Turkish, Iranian or other territories - the only option is to carve up the corpse of Iraq. Needless to say, the U.S. will help with no such thing, instead we'll act counterproductively for as long as we possibly can - we'd rather put our faith in bombs, drones and rockets, than tough political decisions. So from the U.S. point of view - the heck with the Kurds, let ISIS finish them off, make Turkey happy.
posted by VikingSword at 5:44 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Somewhat encouraging.

VikingSword: I've really enjoyed your posts in this thread. I still think the US ought to be doing things like the above link, because letting tens of thousands of civilians get ground up by tanks and artillery when you have the power to trivially stop it is always wrong, and there is nothing anybody can say that will suddenly make it not wrong.

I agree that it's in everybody's best interest for us to disengage as much as possible, civilian massacre prevention aside. No action or inaction on our part changes the basic fact that there are hundreds of thousands of violent deaths between where we are today and anything that looks like regional stability. The US can't and shouldn't try to change that - the only thing we actually can do is shift, somewhat, the ratio of civilian:military deaths that process entails. I don't believe in any purity of intent on our part or in our leaders' ability to refrain from attempting to ram our version of democracy down these peoples' throats, but I think we become something worse if we wholesale abandon preventing clear-cut impending atrocities.

The decision to engage in torture forever corrupted the US national character, and that's going to stick with us until our culture/civilization either reboots or dies out entirely. Abandoning the Kurds and Iraqi civilians at this stage would turn us into something even more monstrous, which I think would be a mistake given how many decades of military supremacy we still have left.
posted by Ryvar at 11:37 AM on October 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Thank you for the kind words, Ryvar. We may have differing perspectives or take on the situation, but I always take it that all of us here on metafilter are arguing and exchanging views in good faith.

Kobane - like the Yazidis on Sinjar - a much easier case to make for humanitarian military intervention. There are clearly defined geographical borders, clear-cut opposing forces and clear-cut military means to affect the situation. In that context, it was dismaying to see the U.S. drag its feet on Kobane since the start of our military operations. As has been remarked upon repeatedly, the Kurds were as good a group to back as we are likely to find, and the situation was perfect for aerial intervention. Now of course, it may be too late - hope not.

In principle I am not opposed to judicious use of military power, including for humanitarian use (I am decidedly not a pacifist). However, I must say, I am deeply skeptical of any utility to our such endeavours in the ME. If you read the article I linked to above about the Shia-Sunni sectarian war, it is entirely clear that massive human rights violations are taking place and a form of slow genocide is unfolding. Yet, short of a complete ground invasion, how would we stop what is happening there - again, see that link. You have Shia militia completely outside of any law and completely unaccountable, attacking and murdering Sunnis - often while the militia are wearing Iraqi uniforms. How do you stop that militarily, and from the air? Bomb Iraqi uniformed troops? How realistic is it to attack those powerful militia who are marbled into the entire Shia dominated regions of Iraq? That would be straightforward war, and without ground troops, utterly doomed to failure. And on the opposing side - the Sunnis who are being attacked by the Shias - they, quite naturally in this scenario, are turning to whatever force that will protect them - unfortunately it's ISIS. Do you imagine that we will somehow bomb and rocket ISIS out of the Sunni areas they are in turn marbled into with massive and growing local support (which increased the more we bomb, and the more the Shia militia attack)? My friend, there is zero realism in this.

The fact is - there is no humanitarian military intervention short of full on hundreds of thousands of U.S. ground troop invasion and occupation for decades. It will not happen. Full stop.

What to do? The Kurds are easy - as I outlined above. They'll have a homeland. Problem solved. The Yazidis will emigrate or die. Those are the "easy" cases.

What do we buy by our aerial campaign? How are we doing anything at all, except stoking the fires of the next genocide? Let nature take its course. It's not the prettiest, but it is the only realistic option.

My vote would be for 100% military disengagement in the ME, no ifs, buts, maybes, qualifications, humanitarian or any other justification. I've written that long post - screed - a few posts up, with a full explanation of why, so I won't repeat that. But it is good to exchange views, and I certainly think it's good to listen to all viewpoints, especially those with which one disagrees, and I try to do so in an effort to test and refine my own views, so thank you for your contributions in turn!
posted by VikingSword at 12:06 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Actually gonna paste something from my first comment in this thread, because it succinctly clarifies my meaning:
and humanitarian intervention where we can reasonably expect to halt the direct massacre of tens of thousands of people

As you say, with Kobane this is "easy" and a reasonable expectation exists. As it did with Benghazi - and whether halting that tragedy set up a greater one (in terms of mass civilian deaths) hinges on how things play out with Haftar over the next few months.

With the Shia-Sunni sectarian war, no such reasonable expectation exists and as much as it breaks my heart to say this the right thing to do is let the people on the ground work this out for themselves. I completely agree with you that neighbor-on-neighbor slow-form genocide isn't something we can fix without revisiting the hundreds of thousands of deaths that inevitably accompany a major US occupation. Also, we simply can't afford it (although this fact hardly stopped us in 2003).

The US military has somewhere between two and five decades of overt supremacy left to it - determined largely by how China feels like balancing its future energy infrastructure:military spending ratio at any given moment. We have this advantage simply coasting on Cold War infrastructure investment (our nuclear carrier tonnage alone exceeds the rest of the world's total carrier tonnage by a factor of three) and what few War on Terror expenditures weren't outright boondoggles. Most of the former is geared toward power projection - the central idea of a carrier group is that no *known* target within 600 miles exists save with the group commander's permission (always tempered by political considerations).

In situations like Gaddafi's siege of Benghazi or the current situation with Kobane, the targets are readily identified and either static (forward operating bases) or show up clear as day on radar (armor columns). In either of those cases a carrier group within 500 miles can either defang or at least significantly delay impending massacres long enough for most people to escape, at a cost of a couple hundred million dollars. Which sounds like a lot but amounts to a penny or two for every dollar of our annual military spending.

What I would like to see - without any implied expectation of it actually happening - is the US reducing its regional presence to a carrier group tasked to intervene in precisely that type of scenario. We have neither the ability nor the resources for anything beyond that, and every time we have ignored those facts and shouldered on regardless it has ended in truly horrific levels of carnage. I expect to be disappointed, though, because about the only thing we do better than reducing armor columns to scrap metal is forgetting our own history and acting surprised when other people fail to do so as well.
posted by Ryvar at 1:00 PM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Right. But I think we need to be very careful about understanding the circumstances of each intervention. I would definitely make distinctions here.

Kobane - and Sinjar - this was a situation where a minority (ethnic or religious) was attacked by non-state agents, basically terror groups. You can stop the terror group without affecting (much) the overall geopolitical balance of power. I am more inclined to humanitarian military intervention there.

Libya was very, very different. When we are stopping the dictator who is already in power from fighting for his power (however viciously), against people who rose up against him, we are directly intervening into a civil war. I am *strongly* opposed to that. Because now, we are preventing the natural evolution of that society and the balance of power inherent in that environment. We are taking one side of that civil war - no matter for what reasons (including humanitarian). Slavery was wrong, but should a great power have taken the side of the Unionists to prevent the great number of victims of the Civil War? We'd have avoided a bloody conflict, but we would not have resolved the issue as a society and it would have festered terribly, and the intervention would have stunted our political development as a society. Same here.

That's why Libya is very different from Kobane. In Kobane, we affect nothing, but the actors involved. In Libya - or if we took on Assad for his genocide on his people - we are altering the geopolitical landscape and the society. Dramatically different outcomes to an intervention and dramatically different consequences. In Kobane, the Kurds get to live - good. Some ISIS are killed - so be it. Nothing changes in the bigger picture because of our intervention. But when we overthrow a dictator for crimes against his own people - whether Ghadaffi, or Assad... or indeed Saddam who gassed the Kurds and committed genocide against the marsh Arabs and other, well, you get a failed state a la Iraq, and near-failed a la Syria, and on-the-brink a la Libya. The consequences of intervention there, for whatever motives including humanitarian, are far going and incalculable.

I therefore opposed the Libyan intervention. What will happen? We'll see. Libya is a borderline case because it is surrounded on three sides by stable or semi-stable states: Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt. But I'm worried about the south, where you have Niger, Chad and Sudan - and sure enough, the jihadist virus is already spreading there from Libya, and should it take root in sub-Saharan Africa, it will be a nightmare to fight. Which is why I'd have much, much preferred not to intervene. Note, during Ghadaffi's time, there was no such nonsense to the south. Let them work it out on their own. Now it is too late.

Again, and again we see how even the most well-intentioned military interventions can have catastrophic consequences. I dearly hope we won't experience that in Libya, but things are not looking good. First and foremost, we must foreswear any military intervention, for whatever reason, in civil wars. We should not seek to overthrow governments. Let them be overthrown by their own societies, that way, their gains and progress is theirs and earned by their own and forms the lived experience and political knowledge of that culture - that is a far more stable ground than foreign powers from oceans away arbitrarily dropping bombs.

Anyway, good discussion. We should always ask "why war". I also agree with you 100% on this:

"The US military has somewhere between two and five decades of overt supremacy left to it - determined largely by how China feels like balancing its future energy infrastructure:military spending ratio at any given moment. We have this advantage simply coasting on Cold War infrastructure investment (our nuclear carrier tonnage alone exceeds the rest of the world's total carrier tonnage by a factor of three) and what few War on Terror expenditures weren't outright boondoggles."

It really is a pathetic spectacle. We have completely mishandled our superpower status, frittered it away on spectacularly idiotic adventures like Iraq, of no benefit to anybody at all, instead of wisely husbanding our resources and investing them for the power that really matters: economic and cultural. With that power, we could have shaped world history and pushed it in a good direction - assuming we could muster the wisdom to have a generously humanitarian outlook. Instead, we'll have to hope that when China is finally strong enough, they'd have in turn evolved far enough to use their power for good - quite a gamble to take. We have left the world in chaos. Given what we had and what we've done with it, it's an indictment of our leaders who in pettiness, stupidity, self-absorption and myopia rival the worst excesses of the dying Roman Empire.
posted by VikingSword at 1:56 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]




Turkey is now launching airstrikes on Turkish PKK positions. Should we intervene against Turkey?

This is why you don't get involved.
posted by Justinian at 3:37 PM on October 14, 2014


What? What does our attempts at preventing ISIS from massacring people have to do with Erdogan bombing the PKK? Just let ISIS massacre the YPJ/YPG and a bunch of civilians so Erdogan doesn't drop bombs on the PKK? If Kobane were destroyed the violence between Turkey and the PKK would probably only be worse anyway.
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:49 PM on October 14, 2014


A surprisingly decent article from Daniel Pipes: How Turkey Went Bad
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:07 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


BARZANI: NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN KOBANE AND ARBIL
Barzani continued, "The terrorists were able to defeat the armies of two states. However, they have been defeated at the hands of the Kurds. For this reason, it is very important for us as Kurds to show the world a united front. We must put aside all our differences and our disagreements. We must defend the pride and honour of our land together. We are all responsible".

Barzani said that, "As the Kurdistan region we will not refrain from supporting a coalition that will be formed in Rojava. The fight against ISIS is a fight that will decide our destiny. The resistance in Kobane deserves much admiration. We see the success of all Kurds like our own success."
Guerrilla groups hunt down Islamic State in Syria
Small groups of Syrians are hunting down Islamic State fighters in one of their main strongholds in eastern Syria in a new guerrilla campaign that has emerged as a response to the Islamists' growing brutality.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:25 PM on October 14, 2014




Many more such losses and they'll control the entire Middle East.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:21 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Among the less-noted victories against ISIL recently: In early October, Kurdish peshmerga forces and local Sunni tribesmen of the Shammar confederation – usually bitter rivals – cooperated in a three-day blitzkrieg that recaptured the vital Rabiya border crossing
Can anyone explain in what sense a three day battle by dismounted light infantry to retake a tiny amount of land (albeit very important land) can be called a blitzkrieg?
posted by Justinian at 10:22 PM on October 14, 2014


Interesting question:

Will northern Syria become another Northern Cyprus?
Turkey may be plotting to install a reliable, Ankara-friendly pseudo-government in northern Syria.


I don't know that it's likely, though. Wouldn't any such entity have a high proportion of Kurds? And if Turkey is actually planning to move in and restore peace, they're running out of time.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:12 AM on October 15, 2014


Not if they're going for the whole "they make a desert and call it peace" kind of peace.
posted by Justinian at 12:20 AM on October 15, 2014


It seems he has been planning something like that, I'm not sure why he hasn't gone in already. Some toughts:
- Assad has said he would consider a Turkish invasion an act of war.
- Turkey wants the US to enforce a NFZ possibly shooting down Syrian planes, also an act of war. Russia has advanced AA systems on a naval vessel in southern Syria. What happens if Russia shoots down a US plane?
- The US is currenyly at least communicating with Assad through Abadi. And there seems to be an arrangement to allow coalition planes over northern Syria to bomb Daesh only.
- Iranian militias are fighting Daesh in Iraq alongside Iraqi forces, and Iran is supporting the Pesh Merga. Assad is an ally of Iran.
- Many of Daesh's foreign fighters fly into Turkey where people openly wish them luck on their jihad, and they are then given free access to cross the border. Erdogan just made a huge prison swap with Daesh. I have a hard time believing Erdogan will take them on directly. I'm guessing he wants to use Daesh as forward forces against Asssad while he takes control of the area near the border. Daesh might accept this so long as we are grounding Assad's airforce?
- I don't know what Erdogan is thinking with the Kurds in Syria. Maybe he is planning to Daesh wipe them out first before getting involved. But that would give Daesh full control of the border.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:01 AM on October 15, 2014


Erdogan of Arabia
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:12 AM on October 15, 2014


Kobane Diary: 4 Days Inside the City Fighting an Unprecedented Resistance Against ISIS
Life under siege has brought ­people together. Everybody is a volunteer in Kobane, in order to keep up the resistance against ISIS. Doctors and nurses work for free at the makeshift hospitals; shopkeepers have emptied their shops of food, drinks and other accessories in order to distribute them for free to the fighters and civilians.

Courageous mothers whose sons and daughters are fighting on the frontline gather and cook food on a daily basis for whoever is hungry and needs food. Money is no longer worth anything because everybody wants to share their resources as well as their willpower to help one another through these hard times and continue with the resistance to save the city.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:36 AM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Maybe we should ask our ally and new bestie Bashar al-Assad for help in Kobane. He may be a war criminal but he could be our war criminal!
posted by Justinian at 4:50 PM on October 15, 2014






Better one Assad over a thousand Daesh.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:49 PM on October 15, 2014


Does Arming Rebels Ever Work?
The New York Times reports today on a still-classified CIA report, commissioned by the Obama administration during the debate in 2012 and 2013 over whether to increase U.S. support for the anti-Assad rebels in Syria. Senior officials tell the Times that the report “concluded that many past attempts by the agency to arm foreign forces covertly had a minimal impact on the long-term outcome of a conflict. They were even less effective, the report found, when the militias fought without any direct American support on the ground.”
Turks and Kurds Must Prepare for 'Truth'

Under Kurdish Rule - Abuses in PYD-run Enclaves of Syria
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:16 AM on October 16, 2014




The War Nerd: Nobody could have predicted Islamic State’s retreat from Kobane (except me), Gary Brecher, Pando Daily, 16 October 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 12:58 PM on October 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


That war nerd article is pretty great, and pretty damning to the US. I'm not surprised, but I'm disappointed.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 6:21 PM on October 16, 2014


If you can stay awake through Kerry’s Eeyore monotone, you get the idea: He’s saying, “Die, Kobane! Die! Fall, already!” As a general rule, when someone tells you, “It’s a tragedy, and we do not diminish that,” you should make your peace with God, because they’ve decided you’re expendable.
That's some brutal truth right there.
posted by Justinian at 7:29 PM on October 16, 2014


Because, very simply, the US was waiting eagerly for the town to fall.

While they sit there and watch amazingly brave fighters and their families get beheaded and raped because it makes good propaganda. This is truly unforgivable if true.

Is There an Answer for Syria?
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:56 PM on October 16, 2014


Turkey blocks YouTube after audio recording leaked
The audio claims to be a recording of Turkey's foreign minister, its intelligence chief and an undersecretary of foreign affairs discussing plans to stage attacks on Turkey from Syrian soil to justify waging a counterattack on Syria, says Ilhan Tanir of the Turkish daily Vatanin Istanbul.
Lol. I'm guessing they were planning on attacking the Kurds.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:53 PM on October 16, 2014


Is There an Answer for Syria?

It's disappointing when an article that purports to illuminate, doesn't even pass the laugh test. What is the point of writing such, is it just to fill up space, or pad the resume? Nonsense like this:

"The impasse could be sidestepped if Assad were allowed to stay in office, nominally president, but with most of his power dispersed to regional governors, the prime minister, the parliament, and the military. Though he is a war criminal, Assad’s personal fate matters less at this point than his country’s. A government of national unity could be formed embodying such an arrangement, to be bolstered by some form of international peacekeeping."

On what planet is this plausible? Why would Assad ever agree to that? Were he to do that, relinquishing all real power, he'd last less than 10 seconds before he were torn apart by his enemies. And assuming that the Holy Spirit would protect him somehow, what would he do in such a ceremonial post, sit like a bobblehead and reminisce about his crimes? Rock in a rocking chair? Do what, having no power? And who would agree to such a scenario, would all those guerilla and jihadist forces suddenly give up arms, so drawn would they be by the vision of Assad-The-Bobblehead? Everyone would be so entranced by that vision that they'd all get together? National unity? What "unity"? What "nation"? Do the jihadis drawn from all corners of the world now form part of a "nation"? "International peacekeeping forces", like magical fairies, would establish peace over the troubled land?

Drivel like this article is not illuminating anything except the complete bankruptcy of any kind of ideas or expertise our pundits hold here in the U.S.. Somehow, watching our foreign policy makers, I am not optimistic that they have a single clue, and therefore no hope whatsoever that they'll do one thing that is based on reality in the ME.
posted by VikingSword at 10:59 PM on October 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


InsertNiftyNameHere: "telstar: " Um, did you watch a few more minutes in where IS overran the Syrian army position? And mounted their heads on pikes?

If not, I suppose you also didn't see the segments where the IS is begging, pleading on bended knee for US ground troops to attack them?
"
----
So, when the Germans held all of western Europe and looked like they were going to take Russia as well, we should have just thrown up our arms and said, "Well they won." "No sense in disputing that." That's the literal nonsense you're spouting. And, once again, no, there will be no American ground troops involved in this.

We've already got" Those guys are toast!

As I said before, though, we have to eventually find a way to deal with Assad and Iran. That will be the really tough part
"

Right, I see you're taking the Wall Street Journal point of view and saying that even pointing out what's happening is "Chamberlain in Munich". How do you think all these jihad "war fighters" got made? Was it not "B-1Bs, AH-64As. and A-10s over there"? And yass, dealing with Iran and Assad will be the "tough part" once we get over this mere speed bump of ISIS. Je mon dout.
posted by telstar at 1:46 AM on October 17, 2014


If you can stay awake through Kerry’s Eeyore monotone, you get the idea: He’s saying, “Die, Kobane! Die! Fall, already!” As a general rule, when someone tells you, “It’s a tragedy, and we do not diminish that,” you should make your peace with God, because they’ve decided you’re expendable.

Less expendable, more center-stage massacre casus belli.

Given our history with the Kurds, this is just evil. I recognize that in light of Turkey's relative strength vs. other local actors not named Israel it's an extreme long shot or probably no-shot, but I sincerely hope they somehow wind up with their homeland when the smoke on this clears.

At any rate, the whole thing reeks but at least we followed up our cold-blooded bullshit by doing the right thing. If nothing else, our burning off a little surplus ordnance this past week probably made things easier to the tune of a few hundred Kurdish soldiers' lives.

Nice to see a glimmer of hope, but Christ Almighty - not exactly our finest fuckin' hour.
posted by Ryvar at 2:05 AM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Fighting ISIS for Us, Too

Qatar and Turkey: How did it go so wrong so fast?

How Turkey Went From 'Zero Problems' to Zero Friends

Bashar Assad may be weaker than he thinks
Some figures close to the Syrian government predict a breakdown of the regime. “I don’t see the current situation as sustainable,” says one. “I think Damascus will collapse at some point. When? I don’t know. Then there will be chaos that makes the current war look like nothing.”
Israel Is Cautiously Arming Syria's Rebels — And Has A Fragile Unspoken Truce With An Al Qaeda Affiliate
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:31 PM on October 17, 2014


Thr Huthi who recently took power in Yemen are Shi'ites and have been routing the salafist and alqaeda linked groups. They don't like the United States but meh its Yemen
posted by humanfont at 6:47 PM on October 17, 2014


No news on Sana'a Jews after Houthis invade
The streets are plastered with signs that read: 'Death to the Jews!" but there is no word as to the fate of the 70-odd Jews living in a guarded compound in Sana'a.
I understand that these are the last seventy Jews in Yemen. There were tens of thousands of Jews in Yemen within living memory; all the rest emigrated or were massacred.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:44 AM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]




In the Syria We Don’t Know
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:38 AM on October 18, 2014


One of Libya's governments:

Libya's government holed up in a 1970s hotel
In Tripoli, the old parliament - the General National Congress - has continued to sit. It's even appointed its own rival government.
Benghazi, the second city and headquarters of the 2011 Revolution, is largely in the hands of Islamist fighters, some with links to al-Qaeda. There are daily assassinations of officials, journalists and social activists.
Misrata, the third city and main port, is also loyal to the Tripoli authorities. Its militias keep them in power.

Meanwhile Derna, the next town along the coast from Tobruk, has declared itself an Islamic caliphate. It's a no-go zone for any government official.
Thank goodness chaos in the Middle East was unleashed only after the USA found alternative sources of petroleum; the fracking thing came along just in time.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:17 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised it took this long: Lebanon sharply limits Syrian refugee entry
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:18 PM on October 18, 2014


Vile image of baby girl being 'beheaded' found by Kurds on phone taken from dead ISIS fanatics in Kobane
Other pictures show beheadings and jihadis playing football with the severed heads of victims. 
[...]
‘You can see how frightened she is. I can almost hear her scream.What kind of depraved monsters are they? What pleasure can killing this child bring anyone?’
Kobani: What’s In A Name?
Together with PYD, PKK now advocates a form of libertarian socialism in which the Kurdish national question is solved through the system of ‘democratic autonomy’. Democratic autonomy involves a rejection of nation-statism, which could ultimately lead to what Frantz Fanon described as ‘nationalisation of the robbery of the nation’ and leave oppressive hierarchies of class and gender intact. By contrast, democratic autonomy begins from a radical decentralisation of existing states through the establishment of a gender-egalitarian and eco-protective confederated system of self-management based on popular communes as the basic organs of the exercise of direct democracy. The idea of democratic autonomy has been the theoretical lynchpin of formation and administration of three cantons of Afrin, Jazira and Kobani in Syrian/Western Kurdistan or Rojava, which were established by PYD after the retreat of Syrian military from these regions following the militarisation of Syrian revolution and the outbreak of the civil war.

The new ‘social contract’ that underpins Rojava’s experience of democratic autonomy is enshrined in the constitution of Rojava, which is a truly remarkable document in the modern history of the Middle East. The preamble of the constitution begins thus:
We, the people of the Democratic Autonomous Regions of Afrin, Jazira and Kobane, a confederation of Kurds, Arabs, Syrics, Arameans, Turkmen, Armenians and Chechens, freely and solemnly declare and establish this Charter. In pursuit of freedom, justice, dignity and democracy and led by principles of equality and environmental sustainability, the Charter proclaims a new social contract, based upon mutual and peaceful coexistence and understanding between all strands of society. It protects fundamental human rights and liberties and reaffirms the peoples’ right to self-determination.
The charter abolishes the death penalty and “incorporates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as other internationally recognized human rights conventions.”
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:36 PM on October 18, 2014


I don't trust rights proffered by constitutions; they so often turn out to be mere platitudes. None the less, incorporating human rights treaties by reference is a very positive step.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:10 PM on October 18, 2014


Statement of YPG General Command on Kobani and Fight Against ISIS
The resistance shown by us, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the factions of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is a guarantee for defeating ISIS’s terrorism in the region. Counter-terrorism and building a free and democratic Syria was the basis of the agreement we signed with factions of the FSA. As we can see, the success of the revolution is subject to the development of this relationship between all factions and the forces of good in this country.

We as the YPG affirm that we will meet all of our responsibilities towards Rojava and Syria in general. We will work to consolidate the concept of true partnership for the administration of this country commensurate with the aspirations of the Syrian people with all its ethnic, religious and social classes.

We also confirm that there is coordination between us and the important factions of the FSA in the northern countryside of Aleppo, Afrin, Kobane, and Jazia. Currently, there are factions and several battalions of the FSA fighting on our side against the ISIS terrorists.

General Command of the YPG
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:47 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Lebanon Pulled Into War With Islamic State Group

This has actually been true for quite some time. Arsal is located in a mountainous region to the east of the Bekaa (Beqaa) valley. It's close to the Syrian border, mostly Sunni, and full of Syrian refugees - reportedly, well over a hundred thousand. It's effectively a no-go area for Lebanese forces generally: a Lebanese attempt to arrest a Fatah al-Islam leader last year was beaten off, and the Lebanese army's reprisal was apparently also beaten off.

Arsal was briefly captured by rebel forces back in August. The occupation ended in an inconclusive negotiated withdrawal that left rebel forces inside Lebanese territory. In other words, Sunni rebels have a substantial foothold within Lebanon; they enjoy local support; and the Lebanese army can't dislodge them.

Buried near the bottom of the article:
Because of the Lebanese Sunni-Shiite divisions and the pro- and anti-Assad split, the civil war in Syria has completely paralyzed the government in Beirut. Lebanon has been without a president since May, and parliament is set to postpone elections for the second time, ostensibly because the security situation makes it impossible to hold a vote.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:20 PM on October 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


Better late than never?
Defying Turkey, US airdrops arms to Kobane Kurds
posted by adamvasco at 5:23 AM on October 20, 2014


In Kafranbel, a Struggle to Survive and Keep Protests Alive
I and a group of young activists in the Kafranbel media center were angry about the airstrikes. Personally, I was even more so after the first strike targeted Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS. I was angry because they overlooked Hezbollah, Iran and the Assad regime, which has killed and terrorized the Syrian people. It killed using all means available, from knives to chemical weapons. Yet they targeted Islamist groups, which are, in my opinion, a product of the regime. As a person living in Kafranbel, reality changed after the airstrikes.

Also, the airstrikes negatively affected the Syrian opposition which, we, the activists, have built our hopes upon for a revolution. The majority is angry because Western countries target Islamist groups while allowing the regime a free hand to kill and destroy for four years. The majority believes that their goal is to fight Islam and not terrorism. It’s become linked to a specific religious identity, and that’s when people turn to support Islam and Islamist groups to defend their own identity. This is what happened in some areas such as Kfarroma and Has, where people demonstrate to support ISIS after the airstrikes. Whoever is fighting ISIS today is, in fact, fighting an ideology and not individual people.
ALEPPO - The Remnants of Life in Syria's Hotbed

Libya: The war nobody can win
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:02 AM on October 20, 2014


Sounds like ISIS tried to launch their own Tet Offensive today. Too bad they're completely incompetent, unlike the tough bastards in the NVA and Vietcong.
posted by Justinian at 3:16 PM on October 20, 2014


(I realize Tet was a political rather than military victory, yes)
posted by Justinian at 3:16 PM on October 20, 2014


Haftar and Libyan parliament ally to assert authority. I think the US will ultimately end up providing Gen Haftar overt assistance to crush the various Al Qaeda factions.
posted by humanfont at 5:05 PM on October 20, 2014


The War Nerd: Nobody could have predicted Islamic State’s retreat from Kobane (except me), Gary Brecher, Pando Daily, 16

I feel like the War Nerd guy overstates his case, in the opposite direction. Yes, he is correct that official Western propaganda made ISIS out to be a huge outsize threat much bigger than their competence warrants. They had to, in order to justify going to war. But to go to the opposite end of things and make them out to be keystone kops who can't tie their shoes, is also an overstatement. I have said before (and I'm on record going back months), that a combination of local forces can take care of ISIS lickety split - you are talking about Assad's forces, Iranians and Hezbollah, the Kurds, and the Iraqi Shiites - that is not a combination ISIS is likely to survive. And as I said from day one - ISIS is their own worst enemy as their brutality and viciousness will quickly alienate their vital life-support, the local Sunni tribes... once that happens, it's game over for ISIS. The only thing preventing that is our meddling, as our bombing unites even many of ISIS enemies against us. U.S. is the best hope ISIS has, and they're begging for us to bomb them.

Getting back to the War Nerd. Yes, ISIS needs to be put in perspective - again, I agree they can be defeated (as long as the U.S. keeps out), but they are not such a hapless incompetent bunch. Let's not overstate the case in the other direction. If they are so incompetent and such worthless fighters, then how come they've handily defeated the AQ's Jabhat al-Nusra, and who in turn completely demolished the guys we backed, the FSA. And if they're so worthless, then surely no need to help the Kurds in Kobane as they can easily deal with ISIS... right? Wrong, apparently. Or the Kurds could have dealt with ISIS in Iraq - instead, we had to bomb and also drive ISIS from that dam area. Clearly, they're not dealing with ISIS on their own. Sorry, but ISIS is a threat. They are not a paper tiger as the War Nerd would have it. Nor, of course, are they the boogie man that the U.S. propagandists portray. They're a serious, but manageable danger - manageable if we keep out. Since we are determine to meddle, I guess ISIS has a new lease on life and will represent a somewhat bigger danger than they would have otherwise.
posted by VikingSword at 6:20 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think the USA's foreign policy has two fundamental category errors: treating al-Qaeda as an organisation, and treating ISIS as a terrorist group. The IRA, PLO, and other groups were organisations: they were people associated for strategic ends. al-Qaeda is more of an aspiration than an organisation: there are a lot of groups calling themselves "al-Qaeda" and very little evidence for coordination between them.

Treating ISIS as a terrorist group is a complementary error: they certainly instill terror in the people around them, but classic terrorist groups resort to bombings and so forth because they lack the ability to win battles: terrorism is a hit-and-run strategy that preserves a small group's limited resources. ISIS is different; they're using standard-ish military tactics, laced with grand guignol as a way of cowing their adversaries.

I believe these two errors account for the USA's failures in dealing with those groups. In the case of al-Qaeda, much of the USA's response implies that it can be substantially weakened by attacking it at its head. But this isn't necessarily true: if there is no head then those efforts are wasted. We certainly didn't see al-Qaeda in disarray after the attack on Osama bin Laden. The complementary error, treating ISIS as a terrorist group, leads the USA to think that isolated attacks will significantly weaken it. They won't: ISIS has local support and controls sufficient territory to disperse and conceal materiel. Any individual attack weakens them a little, but they can't be actually beaten until they are driven off their territory - and that will take a ground invasion, and (given the evidence of local support) may be next to impossible.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:57 PM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Spot on, Joe in Australia. However, if those were the only two category errors, we wouldn't be in half as much trouble as we are in wrt. our foreign policy failures the world over, particularly the ME. Those two are a doozy, sadly not the only ones. Worse still are the fundamentally wrong goals, both wrong in themselves (i.e. not beneficial to even us long term), and wrong methods employed in the attempt, making the mess even bigger. However, that's a huge subject, outside the scope of this thread.

Our approach to combatting AQ has accelerated its evolution, which will make it much harder to handle in the future. The ISIS mess will be a whole new fresh hell once we're through.

The thing that I marvel over and over again, is that in face of such undeniable and baroque failures, we have not yet fundamentally reassessed our entire approach to foreign policy and national security.
posted by VikingSword at 8:21 PM on October 20, 2014


Doubling Down on Disaster in Syria
Assad’s Army no longer exists in any meaningful sense except on paper and in regime propaganda, thanks to two and a half years of attrition warfare, defections and desertions. His conventional military capability has leaned heavily on the Fourth Armored Division and Republican Guard — his two praetorian divisions, tasked with defending Damascus, both of which seem to be doing less and less these days — and overwhelmingly on a similarly ragtag consortium of brutal militias, almost all of them trained, financed and armed by Iran’s expeditionary arm, the Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QC). These Shiite militias — some of whom are indeed jihadist groups themselves — are just as terroristic and sectarian as the worst Sunni extremists on the other side, ISIL not excepted. They have committed ethnic cleansing, beheadings, car and mosque bombings and extrajudicial killings of prisoners. Their victims, nearly all Sunnis, have included children.
[...]
Tehran’s ground forces are already well north of Baghdad committing atrocities against the Iraqi Sunnis whom Washington and (nominally) Baghdad are currently wooing; its intelligence services are coordinating Baghdad’s campaign against ISIL, with America’s undeclared assistance.
[...]
The “Free Syrian Army” label has always been used as a shorthand or catchall encompassing a number of disparate groups fighting the regime, and now also ISIL. Syria-watchers prefer the more exacting terms “mainstream,” “nationalist” and “non-jihadist” to characterize the more Western-amenable factions. Zakaria’s point about the FSA is irrelevant, and says nothing about whether particular fighting groups are worthy of our support. It is more useful and rigorous to assess rebel groups based on their actual behavior.
[...]
U.S. allies appear to have grasped the point that eludes Zakaria. France, which backs Kerry's call for a no-fly zone in Syria, is also arming mainstream rebel groups. So, it seems, is another unlikely country. According to Ehud Yaari of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, moderate rebel factions in southern Syria have received small consignments of rocket-propelled grenades from the Israel Defense Forces, which has decided to partner with certain rebels as a counterterrorism deterrent against the rise of Jabhat al-Nusra, al Qaeda’s Syria affiliate, near its border with Syria.
[...]
Zakaria and Gelb’s arguments, based as they are on bad data, faulty analysis and selective moralizing, have become all-too-common in the Syria debate. The standard practice is to unfairly and disingenuously misrepresent the Syrian opposition, while judging the United States’ potentially useful allies by far stricter standards than its sworn enemies. A containment strategy that empowers Syrian and Iraqi Shiite militias and disregards Syrian rebels can only court failure. The sad fact is, until wiser heads like General Allen and Colonel Harvey are heeded, Zakaria and Gelb needn’t opine very hard to see the fruits their strategy. They need only open their eyes. It’s the strategy Obama has been following all along.
@JadBantha: FSA has thousands of secular fighters, I personally arranged meetings between 24 secular FSA & US admin culminated in empty promises BS!

@JadBantha: Obama & his admin lied to us so many times, I would rather trust ISIS than Obama & his jokers! The US admin again prove they are our enemies

We Thought Obama Was a Neville Chamberlain. He Turned Out to be Judas Iscariot
It wasn’t circumstances that prevented Obama from helping the Syrian people against the regime’s genocidal slaughter; it was policy. A hidden policy in blatant contradiction to the Obama administration’s public statements and stated intentions. For years, Obama told America’s allies one thing, while deliberately planning something entirely different.
[...]
If Obama never had any intention of helping the Syrian rebels, that should have been made clear from the start.

But to advance excuse after pathetic excuse, to give the impression that circumstances or conditions or the potential recipients of such aid were not quite ready, was to engage in a three year long hoax.
Libya is grasping for a helping hand
Over the last few days, the people of Benghazi have been fighting a pitched battle for their city and for their country. Let there be no mistake, while there are legitimate and genuine criticisms to be made of Khalifa Haftar, the former general who is involved in the attack on Benghazi’s Ansar al-Sharia and their allies, the real fight remains within the city. There, it is the people of Benghazi that are taking the fight to those who would take Libya to the abyss. There must be a clear and unambiguous stance against revenge killings, which could easily transform into tribal internecine conflict – that much is clear. But in Benghazi, the side that has Ansar al-Sharia in its ranks cannot be allowed to emerge victorious. That is the priority and that must remain the focus.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:58 PM on October 20, 2014


This is my surprised face at Libya going to shit after we blew up the status quo. Again.
posted by Justinian at 1:57 AM on October 21, 2014


I'm not sure how much we're at fault for Libya: I think the collapse there was mostly spontaneous. But our intervention certainly didn't help matters; it's hard to imagine a worse outcome than the one we achieved.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:13 AM on October 21, 2014


Don't tempt the interventionists; they can always find a worse outcome.
posted by Justinian at 4:33 AM on October 21, 2014


The Kurdish Experiment in Radical Decentralism and Why Kobani Must Be Saved - Jim Schumacher and Debbie Bookchin (daughter of American Libertarian Socialist Murray Bookchin)
Today in dozens of towns in the Kurdish-dominated regions of Syria that include Kobani, the populations are engaging in an experiment in democratic self-rule unlike anything seen since the Spanish Civil War. They are living the ideals of human freedom and democratic decision-making that exemplify the highest aspirations of democracy-loving people, a feat all the more remarkable because they are doing it in the middle of a war.
[...]
My father died in 2006, so he never lived to see his ideas about libertarian municipalism put into practice by the Kurds. But almost six decades ago, he was an outraged witness to a tragedy similar to the one unfolding in Kobani today. In early November 1956, as Soviet tanks stormed the city of Budapest to crush the Hungarian national revolution, he implored the West not to turn its back on the "magnificent struggle for freedom" that was being waged in the streets by Hungarian rebels.

In a leaflet called "The Betrayal of Hungary," he chastised NATO, and especially the U.S., for broadcasting years of propaganda aimed at assuring the Soviet-dominated Eastern bloc countries that "they were not alone," only to refuse to arm the rebels as Hungary teetered on the edge of a successful revolution.

Quoting an Associated Press report, he described the unanswered cries for help emanating from rebel-held radio stations: "Where is NATO? Where are the Americans? The British? The French? We listened to your radios. We believed in freedom. There is no time now for conferences and discussions. Give us arms!" Western military support never came, and it took more than three decades for Hungary and her neighbors to wrest themselves from Soviet tyranny.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:25 AM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


But our intervention certainly didn't help matters; it's hard to imagine a worse outcome than the one we achieved.

I guess my question to this assertion is - what were you expecting post-Gaddafi Libya to look like?

Everyone hopes that a country liberated from a decades-long dictatorship will calmly stride into a functional democracy, but historically this almost never happens. The overwhelming likelihood is decades of shit soup factional warfare while the nation works out its own issues and builds an identity (or fails to and gets absorbed by its neighbors). Generally this involves a lot of skirmish warfare totaling a few thousand dead each year (with, ideally, those deaths biased toward soldiers), in a slow-burn power struggle that doesn't quite rise to the level of what we mean when we say "civil war", even if it technically qualifies. Any outcome substantially better than what we're seeing right now in Libya is an edge case, at best.

Furthermore, in any country where the people are predominantly Islamic, fundamentalist Islamic ruling bodies are by definition democratic - we may not like it, we may not agree with it, and that's too goddamn bad. Attempting to install governments that exist in opposition to the actual cultural values of a people is both fundamentally undemocratic AND usually pushes back the process of achieving a stable secular democracy by decades.

The reasons to intervene when we did in Libya were twofold: 1) primarily, an ongoing massacre of civilians using armor and helicopters that was within 48 hours of a massive expansion in scale once coherent opposition collapsed, and 2) secondarily, to remove the primary obstacle preventing the Libyan people from starting down the long road to democracy.

Again, I would very much welcome an explanation of what those who oppose our intervention were expecting the outcome to be, and/or what you think we should have done with 48 hours remaining before Benghazi's defenses collapsed - and why that course would benefit the Libyan people.
posted by Ryvar at 10:29 AM on October 21, 2014


JadBantha: FSA has thousands of secular fighters, I personally arranged meetings between 24 secular FSA & US admin culminated in empty promises BS!

And Ahmed Chalabi claimed the INC would be ready to lead Iraq as soon as we kicked out Saddam. We'd be greeted as liberators.
posted by humanfont at 10:43 AM on October 21, 2014


Again, I would very much welcome an explanation of what those who oppose our intervention were expecting the outcome to be, and/or what you think we should have done with 48 hours remaining before Benghazi's defenses collapsed - and why that course would benefit the Libyan people.

As someone who was 100% opposed to our intervention in Libya, I wasn't expecting any particular outcome. Because it is not our business to dictate any outcome. We only become responsible for an outcome if we intervene, because now it is on us - we broke it, we pay for it. My opposition to the intervention is based on respecting the right of any society to determine their own fate. I am strongly opposed to any outside force taking it upon themselves to intervene in that process.

The reasons to intervene when we did in Libya were twofold: 1) primarily, an ongoing massacre of civilians using armor and helicopters that was within 48 hours of a massive expansion in scale once coherent opposition collapsed, and 2) secondarily, to remove the primary obstacle preventing the Libyan people from starting down the long road to democracy.

Second point first: Starting down the long road to democracy? Excuse me? The Libyan society has the right to organize itself however it sees fit. I happen to think that democracy, with all its imperfections (understatement) is the best current option for humanity organizing itself politically. But that does not mean that I think my views ought to be imposed on a society that decides, f.ex., that theocracy is what they wish. How do we determine what a society decides? The answer is that we don't. Because it is not possible to do so. It is not possible to divine the wishes of the society, and therefore it is arrogant in the extreme to give ourselves the right to proclaim what those wishes must be and intervene based on that claim.

To even begin to justify an intervention (which I would disagree with anyway, for reasons I'll enumerate later) "to allow a journey toward democracy", we'd have to first determine what it is that the Libyan people wanted. How did we know what they wanted? Serious request: please provide proof that the Libyan people didn't want Khadaffi in charge. Absent that proof, we quite obviously are imputing views onto the Libyan people - and that is exactly what we did. That is a military imposition of a development on the Libyan society that they did not seek.

Compare this to the Syrian situation. Did we - or anyone - ever conduct a reliable poll of what it is that the Syrian people want? No. So we are intervening based on our say-so. Which is bullshit. In reality, I have a belief - not proof of any kind - that in actuality, the majority of the Syrian people are opposed to Assad's dictatorship and at the same time they are even *more* opposed to living under a fundamentalist Islamic theocracy. Therefore, by default, most Syrians find themselves defending Assad, not because they love him, but because they find him the lesser evil. I base this on reading a number of articles and reports about the militia that actually support Assad, and the ordinary people who take up arms in the defense of that regime (I have linked to many such articles in previous Syrian threads on MeFi). In such a scenario, our militarily deposing Assad, with the likely takeover by the most vicious of the Islamist forces (as has happened repeatedly in such scenarios) is objectively going against the wishes of the majority of the Syrian people, and we are then also responsible for the outcome, because it was our intervention that brings in the greater vs the lesser evil. But nobody can determine what the majority of the Syrian people truly want (myself included - after all, my belief about their wishes may be totally wrong). Nobody can determine that. And nobody could determine that in Libya. So intervening there in the name of "allowing a journey to democracy" is based on absolutely nothing. And it is profoundly wrong.

If it is impossible to determine the wishes of the Syrian/Libyan/X people, what is the course of action? The course of action is to allow the society in question to come to a result quite on their own. Without our intervention, as we should not be responsible for the outcome, nor impose any outcome.

How do they do that? If lucky, they do that bloodlessly (see: the dissolution of Czechoslovakia). If not, they do that through a civil war. What if Ghadaffi, like Assad, was actually supported by the majority of the population? In that scenario, Ghadaffi was using whatever means he felt necessary, to defend his regime - and acting with the blessing of the majority... anyone have a poll the contrary? No? We simply don't know, and cannot know.

A civil war, without outside intervention is the only way to resolve the issue. The society in question needs to have that process complete itself without any outsider putting their fingers on the scale. If we intervene in a civil war, far from allowing them to "start on a journey to democracy" we are impeding that journey. They need to get to that point themselves. The reason I support military intervention in cases of dictatorships established and kept in power by a foreign invader (after determining that we could do so without causing more harm) is precisely because at that point it is not the society that is doing the determination of their own fate, they are not finding the inherent balance of power in their society, because there is an external power distorting that process - it's as if your family is taking a vote, except that the neighbor has managed insert his vote too... why should what happens in the family be determined by a vote of an outsider? Hence, I support throwing out Saddam from Kuwait, but don't support throwing out Saddam from Iraq - Kuwaiti society must determine their own fate without the external vote of Saddam, but Saddam is a part of Iraqi society and it is entirely up to them to determine their fate without any external vote.

Libya was in a civil war. Taking the side of the rebels against Khadaffi was taking one side in a civil war that was the business exclusively of the Libyan people. That was deeply detrimental to the development of the Libyan society. That meddling means that now we are morally responsible for the outcome - all the blood is on our heads.

That is the context of the answer to the question: "I would very much welcome an explanation of what those who oppose our intervention were expecting the outcome to be"

Not intervening means whatever the outcome would have been (sans intervention), would have been the result of the natural outcome of the balance of power in that society at that time. And we have no say in that. It would have been what it would have been, and I could answer that question at that time: "I have no expectation of any particular outcome, but this is the outcome that the Libyan people obtained in their civil war - and it was their business to do so". Now that we have intervened - my answer is that the bloody outcome is on our heads, just as our intervention in the Syrian civil war, should it result in a vicious fundamentalist bloodbath, genocide and dictatorship, would be on our head - and here, note the article outlining how often our interventions lead to horrific genocide down the road. We made it worse.

The reasons to intervene when we did in Libya were twofold: 1) primarily, an ongoing massacre of civilians using armor and helicopters that was within 48 hours of a massive expansion in scale once coherent opposition collapsed, [..]

It's a civil war. If Ghadaffi determined that this is what he needed to do to prevent a much worse fundamentalist outcome (see: today's Libya), or for any reason whatsoever, well, that's why civil wars can be quite bloody. If the majority of Libyan (as with Assad and his bloody assaults on Syrian civilians) want that, it's the price to pay. It is highly possible in the case of Syria that in fact it's exactly what majority of the Syrian society wants - the lesser evil of the still quite evil Assad - and I firmly believe that; I have no idea about Libyan society, but it's immaterial. Ultimately it really doesn't matter at all - not only can nobody determine what the majority of the Syrian, Libyan, X, society wants (in absence of reliable polls), but it's actually irrelevant because what the society determines will ipso facto be determined by the outcome of that civil war. Some people (huge majority? small majority? substantial minority? tiny minority?) support Khadaffi, some people oppose him (huge majority? small majority? substantial minority? tiny minority?), these are the forces clashing in the civil war, and the outcome will tell us which prevailed - for now... let it evolve on its own.

"But humanitarian!"

Yeah, no. During our Civil War, General Sherman undertook an innovative strategy of destroying the civilian infrastructure that allowed the Confederacy to support their rebellion. At the time, the deliberate destruction of civilian targets was seen as an extreme outrage - so great was the outrage that to this day it is spoken of in the South with anger and resentment. What if a foreign power - especially one that had designs on U.S. mineral wealth and a history of being in cahoots with colonial powers that had previously targeted the U.S. - decided that this unprecedented outrage of civilian targets demanded a "brief humanitarian" intervention to take away that strategy option, and assassinated Sherman and his army and prevented that strategy from being deployed. Well, what would have happened? Sherman didn't pick that strategy out of some kind of Caligulan instinct, but because he correctly calculated that without destroying that civilian infrastructure, the Confederacy would hang on and the Civil War would be intolerably extended with incalculably more victims than his regrettable but necessary tactic - and indeed, as we know historically, civil wars last about 300% longer with an intervention by a foreign power. This is now the "outcome" we have made for the Libyans, prolonged their civil war by at least 300% or worse. Would it have been better for us for the Civil War to last from 1961 to 1973 instead of 1961 to 1965 and had 2,250,000 victims (in just soldiers) instead of 750,000? Our Civil War was extremely bloody, but would that bloody nature have been good grounds for a "humanitarian" intervention that prolonged and worsened it by 300%? Who knows what the outcome would have even been - perhaps, like with the fundamentalists, the rebels that won against Khadaffi - Confederacy would have won and then we'd be saddled with that sad result of a foreign "humanitarian" intervention and slavery all over the country (as ISIS has brought to the ME). That outcome would have been the moral responsibility of that foreign power (in the case of Libya, the U.S. and the West). And even if the Union ultimately won, what a horrifically compromised outcome it would have been for the political development of this country, when the result is not something that was determined by our society, but by the intervention of a foreign power - the Southern resentment would have been impossible to assuage. It would have been a catastrophe for us, no matter the which side prevailed.

And that is why it is wrong to intervene in civil wars elsewhere, no matter what the justification, whether "humanitarian", "for the children", "for democracy", or "Jesus". It is wrong, morally and politically and it is a disaster for all involved. My advice for the interventionists in U.S. foreign policy institutions is to desist from the temptation, no matter how it's being justified - if there's an overwhelming urge to intervene in a civil war, get a big bucket of ice and stick your - ahem - hand it and wait until the urge passes. The world will be better off for it.
posted by VikingSword at 1:27 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


We are putting all our eggs in an air campaign, even though it was shown previously that our very best intelligence combined from all sources were unable to locate James Foley. Subsequent bombings hit grain silos, civilian targets and general tomfoolery. Even in a strictly defined area, that has been studied to death, with multiple intelligence sources including those on the ground, when we have to airdrop some arms for the Kurds in Kobane, we have this:

Islamic State: US probes 'stray Syria air drop' in IS video

"The US defence department has said it is examining an Islamic State video appearing to show militants in control of US weapons intended for Syrian Kurdish fighters."

Good job, there. But, they quickly rushed a Pentagon spokesman to assure us that "the vast majority ended up in the right hands". Oh, thanks for clarifying. I can hear the sound of rubbing hands all the way here, when the news came out how we're arming and training - to the tune of 500 million dollars - bands of scoundrels in Saudi Arabia and other hellholes and we're going to inject them, like a poison, into the festering wound of Syria: there's going to be brisk business in shiny new weapons from America, soon in the hands of ISIS and assorted riff-raff the world over. It doesn't appear to matter what the manner of transfer of arms is, including dropping them from the sky, it's like they are bewitched by a giant black hole that sucks them in toward ISIS. I think we should just set them on the ground at the airport and call for ISIS to pick them up, at least that way we save on gas.

Note that we wouldn't have found out about this, had ISIS not bragged with video proof. Only then does the Pentagon "investigate". How many other idiotic and farcical cockups do we not know about? The War Nerd claims ISIS are utter incompetents, well, I guess it's a contest with the Pentagon and our policy makers.
posted by VikingSword at 2:33 PM on October 21, 2014


Subsequent bombings hit grain silos, civilian targets and general tomfoolery

A White House spokesperson reports that US forces have identified and eliminated al-Qaeda's second-in-command, General Tom Foolari. In a statement delivered earlier this morning Ms Apprehension described Tom Foolari as being a major problem affecting US activities in the region.

No news as to whether Major Problem will replace Tom Foolari as al-Qaeda's new second-in-command ...
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:53 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Heh. Well, how are we supposed to take anything claimed by the Pentagon or indeed our politicians at face value? "The bombing was successful" - oh, and how do we know that? "We dropped weapons" - and how do we know they reached their targets? Now they tell us "the vast majority" did - and how do we know that? Anybody who remembers the Vietnam war, remembers the steady procession of figures in and out of uniform assuring the American public, our politicians and lawmakers, that yet another success was achieved, and victory is just around the corner right up to the helicopter departing from the roof of the embassy. Read up on how Johnson was briefed in those "confidential" memos - they straight up lied to the president or passed on more lies and fantasy and misunderstandings from the field.

We are flying blind. The information they provide is unverifiable (unless ISIS takes pity and proves something with a video), and we are making policy on the basis of complete la-la land projections. Ridiculous and wrong-headed policies executed incompetently, with results that are impossible to verify. That's where we find ourselves in the ME. I liked it more when Obama honestly admitted just a couple of months ago, that we have no strategy. I guess the 'explainers' and other reality-massagers got to him, and now we're cooking up a hot mess over there.
posted by VikingSword at 3:03 PM on October 21, 2014






Syria will not get resolution while the opposition bickers
During a meeting on the sidelines of last year’s World Economic Forum conference in Davos, former Syrian opposition chief Moaz Al Khatib was asked to speak to a group of senior diplomats about Syria. Instead of discussing the facts on the ground, he preached about the need for religious values.

Such stories are common among diplomats who have worked closely with the Syrian opposition. Several officials whose countries support the rebels spoke of incidents when opposition figures would bicker and backbite. “There might be five minutes left to discuss ideas,” one source said.

Because of the consistency of such behaviour, the source added, many in the international community have started meeting opposition figures “only out of courtesy”. According to official sources, Saudi Arabia and other key backers in the region have been left dissatisfied by infighting within the opposition.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:55 AM on October 22, 2014


‘Over Half’ of British Donations to Minor Syrian Relief Charities Go to Fund ISIS

My take on this: charities that are genuinely and unarguably delivering food to starving people in ISIS-controlled areas are effectively funding ISIS. They relieve ISIS from supporting those people and allow it to use its resources elsewhere. Cutting off those supplies, however, will disproportionately hurt the starving people - as well as making ISIS look like the good guys. What to do?

Please write your solution on a postcard and send it to ...
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:27 PM on October 23, 2014


Oh boy. This is such a mess! So Iraqi Kurds are smuggling oil through Turkey, which makes things harder for the US in Iraq because it increases Kurdish independence and promotes a breakup of Iraq. But isn't Turkey at least as worried about Kurdish independence? Or are they cool with Kurdish independence in Iraq? I don't think we're getting the whole picture here:

A Mysterious Oil Tanker Might Hold the Key to Kurdish Independence
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:52 PM on October 23, 2014


Islamic State making millions despite U.S. bid to halt money flow

"Islamic State still generates tens of millions of dollars a month in illicit income despite a U.S.-led effort to cut the financing streams that have helped turn the once-obscure militant group into a terrorist organization unlike any previously seen, a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said Thursday.

U.S. and allied airstrikes have pounded small oil refineries that the Sunni militants captured in eastern Syria, slowing but not halting their ability to process and sell smuggled oil and petroleum products at discounted rates on the black market in neighboring Turkey and elsewhere.
"

""We have no silver bullet, no secret weapon to empty ISIL's coffers overnight," Cohen said, using a common acronym for Islamic State. "This will be a sustained fight and we are in the early stages."

The slow progress on the financial front comes as the Obama administration has defended its 10-week-old military operation. More than 600 airstrikes by the U.S. and allies have yet to dislodge the militants from any major cities or areas in Syria and Iraq.
"

'Degrade and destroy' is looking a bit limp, but the real priorities are preserved: everyone important is making money. ISIS, Assad, Turkey, international oil traders, U.S. and Western munitions and defence industries, bankers and money changers, government analysts, pundits on TV and so on. Poor people in contrast, are losing money, and more importantly, losing lives. As has been observed by David S. Cohen, the Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence "This will be a sustained fight and we are in the early stages." so the churning will go on and on and on, and we'll continue to destroy and degrade until a new venture is created that opens new opportunities. The only thing that will always be constant, is the yawning gap between our stated objectives and the reality on the ground.
posted by VikingSword at 9:34 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think everyone agrees that IS's videos are deliberate propaganda, but aimed at whom, and why? In this case I think it may be internal propaganda; this is the sort of attitude they want people to adopt:

Syrian man stones daughter to death in video
In the video, a bearded gunman in combat fatigues stands behind the father, who is dressed in the white robe and chequered headdress typical of the Syrian countryside.

They both face the young black-clad daughter as the gunman addresses her in the classical Arabic of the Koran.

“The punishment is the result of crimes which you committed under no duress,” he says.

“You must accept the punishment of God. Do you accept the punishment of God?”

She nods her head in assent, then turns to her father and asks his forgiveness.

He refuses until the assembled IS fighters persuade him to relent.

But it makes no difference to his daughter’s fate.

She is permitted to speak briefly before the stoning commences.

“I say to every woman: preserve your honor … and I appeal to every father to pay attention to the surroundings your daughter lives in,” she says.

posted by Joe in Australia at 12:39 AM on October 24, 2014


I think everyone agrees that IS's videos are deliberate propaganda, but aimed at whom, and why?

Takfiri

Aimed at recruits I imagine, typically to show that Daesh are winning and the caliphate is real.

I don't understand the honor killings, but they aren't exclusive to Daesh: RED STAINS ON A WHITE SHROUD
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:03 AM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]






Adam Curtis
In the battle for Kobane on the Syrian border everyone talks about the enemy - IS - and the frightening ideas that drive them. No-one talks about the Kurdish defenders and what inspires them.
But the moment you look into what the Kurds are fighting for - what you discover is absolutely fascinating. They have a vision of creating a completely new kind of society that is based on the ideas of a forgotten American revolutionary thinker.
posted by adamvasco at 4:00 PM on October 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


That was a surprisingly good article. It's self-sabotaged by the suggestion that the Kurds are "fighting for" some sort of anarcho-communist philosophy (rather than, e.g., not being treated like crap) and by the BBC-ish habit of ending thoughtful articles with a joke. None the less, it's really good and you might well make it part of a FPP.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:54 PM on October 26, 2014


But isn't Turkey at least as worried about Kurdish independence? Or are they cool with Kurdish independence in Iraq? I don't think we're getting the whole picture here:

This podcast talks about Iraqi oil smuggled through Turkey: Turkey Wonk – Kurdistan’s Moment? (July 2014)

Apparently Turkey was collecting the proceeds and had agreed to split them between Baghdad (83%) and the KRG (17%); but wasn't going to pay either until they came to an agreement between themselves on how to share profits which wasn't likely to happen anytime soon.
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:04 PM on October 27, 2014




What the heck is the White House trying to do?

An article by the White House's lapdog, Jeffrey Goldberg, passes on the message from an "senior Obama administration official" that Netanyahu is "chickenshit" and "afraid to start wars". Which is a good thing, he adds, but ... well, I'm not sure he actually means it. Another one calls Netanyahu a coward on the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat: The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations Is Officially Here
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:12 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's depressing. They don't seem to know what they are doing, which I'm sure is what you were implying. If there were any purpose to this, which I don't think there is, my guess is it has to do with the next 'red line' problem Obama will face. "As long as I'm president of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon." The deadline for nuclear negotiations is Nov 24th. If they actually come to an agreement, there is no way it will be acceptable to Israel or the GOP. It won't make it through congress. At that point, as Iran is building nuclear weapons, I guess the WH can say, "we didn't have the popular support to strike Iran and Israel did. We gave Bibi the green light to strike, but he was too 'chickenshit.'"

It seems to me the WH should have been listening to guys like Moshe Ya'alon before pushing their hopeless Palestinian peace plans on Israel. I've really liked some of the Moshe Ya'alon interviews from his recent trip to the U.S. (except what he says, or doesn't say, about Gaza and the "you can call it the Palestinian empire if you want"). His comments about Kerry are actually quite funny, imo. In the Charlie Rose interview he basically comes out and says Israel will strike Iran unless a nuclear deal is reached that allows for zero centrifuges. Striking Iran doesn't seem like a great idea to me. It will radicalize the Iranian population against the West. The best hope for Iran is for the regime to be overthrown or dis-empowered from within by the younger, better educated population. I guess this means if Iran insists on attaining a nuclear weapon you just let them and impose the toughest sanctions possible while reaching out to the opposition as much as possible.

Chickenshitgate seems to be especially dumb in light of the ongoing negotiations. The WH should be pushing the idea that, if an acceptable negotiation is not reached, Israel will strike Iran and sanctions will be re-imposed. And in addition hint at the strong possibility that Hezbollah, Iran's militias in Syria, and Assad would not be likely to survive.
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:22 PM on October 28, 2014


I'm not implying anything: it just seems weird to me. Leaving the tiresome "unnamed top official" bullshit aside, why is the White House sending this message? Is it mere petulance? Is it an attempt to shame Netanyahu into attacking? Is it to make the USA look better, either because the USA is planning an attack or to justify its decision not to attack? I have no idea what's going on. The USA's Middle-Eastern policy is in chaos: all its traditional allies are either snubbing or being snubbed by it. I understood the policy under earlier administrations: keep the Saudis happy, don't let Israel feel either too secure or too apprehensive. But what's the current policy? Suck up to Qatar and Turkey? If so, why?
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:25 PM on October 28, 2014


In Obama's defense Bibi's Hebrew name is קקי עוף
posted by humanfont at 9:18 PM on October 28, 2014


I doubt the WH is intentionally sending a message; it's probably just something like petulance, immaturity, cluelessness, and incompetence. If anything it is CYA for letting Iran get a nuke.

I'm guessing their original policy was to disengage from the ME. Turkey and Qatar were just super motivated to involve themselves more. What a disaster. I'm not sure Obama was "sucking up" to Turkey ( who is a tradional ally, no? ). Perhaps they just wanted to find some kind of political stability between all of the players in the region.

My Captivity - Theo Padnos, American Journalist, on Being Kidnapped, Tortured and Released in Syria

The FSA handed him over to Nusra. Nice guys.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:49 AM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]






America isn't going to bomb Iran and if it did it wouldn't have much of an impact on Iran's nuclear weapons program. Ultimately if we can't pursuade Iran that they don't need a bomb and don't want to build one; then they are going to get one. Politicians can make whatever hay they want in the meantime and afterwards assigning blame; but you might as well blame Obama or Bush for tonight's sunset. Pakistan is far more dangerous as a nuclearized state with an unstable regime and limited command and control over the use of the weapons. In Iran at least there is someone in charge.
posted by humanfont at 3:48 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's going to be tough to do since its clear that they kinda need a bomb and probably should want to build one. Iraq, Ukraine, etc should be evidence enough of that.
posted by Justinian at 12:48 AM on October 30, 2014


Threatening Russia or (even) the USA with a nuclear bomb is not a very good plan.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:42 AM on October 30, 2014


You don't threaten anyone with the bomb, you just have it. For whatever. Just in case.

Would we have invaded Iraq if they had nuclear weapons? Of course not.
posted by Justinian at 2:46 AM on October 30, 2014


Would we have invaded Iraq if they had nuclear weapons? Of course not.

Exactly. Look at Libya. Ghadaffi voluntarily gave up his nuclear weapons program in an effort to mend relations with the West. And what did it buy him? We were extremely happy he gave up those weapons, because now we could day "sucker!" and bomb the hell out of him. He was brutally murdered not long after. We made a lot of noise about Saddam, we lied to the world about how he has WMD and working feverishly on nuclear weapons, but it was precisely the fact that he was not, that allowed us to invade Iraq. As Saddam stood with a noose around his neck, I wonder if he was happy not to have actually done what he was falsely accused of - working on acquiring nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, North Korea, a state a thousand times more brutal to its own population and more dangerous to the world than Libya, is safe and snug, because they have some big guns aimed at their neighbour to the south, and some crude nuclear weapons with crude rockets - direct and open threats including to the U.S. who actually has troops there facing that danger. They've certainly denounced, excoriated and threatened the U.S. in ways Ghadaffi or Saddam never would have dreamed of, and somehow nothing happens to them. Could it be the nuclear weapons that keep the U.S. so polite? Yes, Virginia, yes it is those weapons, which the U.S. has such a great love for, we'd love to be the only ones to have them. The furor over Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and the efforts to stop them by the U.S. (and Israel) is precisely because we have them (as does Israel) and we like being able to brutalize others with impunity and we don't like the idea of turnaround being fair play. Do you imagine Israel (or certain people in the U.S. "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran") would be so free with the saber rattling and brute threats, if the other party had the same weapons? No, of course not, because we love to pick on the weaker. Far from "it not being a good idea to threaten the U.S. with nuclear weapons", it's an excellent idea, and the only one that will keep you safe from being invaded.

The only danger of nuclear weapons vis a vis the U.S., is in not having them, as history abundantly shows. I wonder what Iran makes of this.
posted by VikingSword at 8:50 AM on October 30, 2014


Meanwhile, North Korea, a state a thousand times more brutal to its own population and more dangerous to the world than Libya, is safe and snug, because they have some big guns aimed at their neighbour to the south [...]

The fact that China literally has their backs probably has more to do with it; it's the reason North Korea exists in the first place.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:35 AM on October 30, 2014


Counterpoint we regularly bomb Pakistan and they have nuclear weapons. Saddam had an extensive cache of non-nuclear WMD and the ability to fire dirty nukes, yet he didn't. Nuclear weapons are a white elephant. Using them to stop an invading army would bring about devastation to your home country. Using them on an enemy city would mean retaliation. Any escalation or widespread use would cause global environmental ruin. In summary the perceived advantages of holding nukes does not align with objective data. The U.S. should recognize this and unilaterally disarm as an example for the world.
posted by humanfont at 12:02 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


America isn't going to bomb Iran and if it did it wouldn't have much of an impact on Iran's nuclear weapons program.

There is no chance Obama will strike Iran. I'm not as sure as you about the next administration. Cheney recently said the only thing he regrets about the Iraq war is that he didn't invade both Iraq *and* Iran. If/when John Bolton and crew get back into an administration, I expect striking Iran might be back on the agenda.

This is an encouraging piece, but overly optimistic in my opinion. And it completely ignores the atrocities Iran is committing in Syria and Iraq:

The revolution is over - Changes in Iran make a nuclear deal more likely—not this month, perhaps, but eventually

It will be interesting to see how the nuclear negotiations turn out. I guess there will probably be another extension, and Obama is probably hoping he can extend it out to the end of his administration, so he can at least keep his promise to prevent Iran from getting a nuke "while he's president." Even if there is a final agreement, I expect it is quite likely to be rejected by Israel, who will then ask the U.S. to strike Iran. This is probably what the White House's ingenious decision to openly insult the PM of Israel was about, in addition to Israel's refusal to participate in any Palestinian peace plan.

If Iran decides to build nuclear weapons and the US pulls out of the ME, it seems to me there will be a lot more incentive for the various Sunni players to attain nukes as well, or other WMD's, to protect their interests against Iran. As it is impossible to say how deeply the jihadists are embedded in these regimes or how well the regimes can protect themselves against the jihadists, I guess it is possible Jabhat al-Nusra and the Caliphate could gain access to them at that point as well. We've already seen WMD's used in Syria; I don't think it is a big stretch to suggest that nukes will be used in the ME, if they become more widely available there.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:57 PM on October 30, 2014


The fact that China literally has their backs probably has more to do with it; it's the reason North Korea exists in the first place.

I don't think that reflects reality at all. Yes, it is true that N.K. exists thanks to China - that's a historical fact, from the 50's and a completely different world. China has changed dramatically, N.K. has not. Their interests have diverged drastically for decades now. China is regularly joining the West in trying to get N.K. to simmer down. They've had pretty dramatic conflicts over refugees, over trade and subsidies, and of course, over politics. China was not at all happy with N.K. pursuing nuclear weapons. There are regular skirmishes, with resulting deaths, between N.K. and South Korean soldiers - China has no role in this, and nowhere is anyone claiming "we can't put pressure on N.K., think what would China say!".

N.K.'s position is extremely well understood. They are safe for the simple reason that they can inflict devastating damage on South Korea through massive conventional artillery , which would turn Seoul into a fireball. N.K. also has rockets and some primitive nuclear devices - nobody knows the exact technical capabilities of those, but as they say, you only need one to work, and Tokyo is well aware of that.

N.K. is safe 100% through deterrence - period. China doesn't factor into this at all, and nobody would expect China to extend even a pinky finger in defense of N.K.

Counterpoint we regularly bomb Pakistan and they have nuclear weapons.

Correction: we don't "bomb Pakistan", we drone in Pakistan - that's a huge difference. Furthermore, let's get real here - in virtually all circumstances when we do, we do so with the tacit approval of the Pakistani authorities (and in many cases based on their intelligence), never mind what they claim officially for public consumption. Circumstances where we act without their explicit permission are quite rare - the OBL raid is one such example. But most importantly, this fails as a "counterpoint" for the simplest of reasons - none of our military actions, whether with official or unofficial approval or the lack of such are aimed at Pakistan. We are not at war or hostilities with Pakistan - they are, nominally at least, our allies. Even in the case of OBL, we took out an illegal non-Pakistani resident, it was not in any way shape or form an attack on the state of Pakistan. "Bombing Pakistan" as a counterpoint is a non-starter.

Saddam had an extensive cache of non-nuclear WMD and the ability to fire dirty nukes, yet he didn't.

Cheney, is that you? Err no, Saddam had no ability whatsoever to "fire dirty nukes" - yellowcake is not a military weapon, whether we term them "dirty nukes" or "scary ooga-boogas". A nuclear weapon is a completely different instrument, and it makes about as much sense to compare them as to claim that if I throw some dirt at you, it's equivalent to being machine-gunned, because after all, I can extract iron from the dirt and melt it into bullets one day soon - in other words, utter nonsense.

Nuclear weapons are a white elephant. Using them to stop an invading army would bring about devastation to your home country.

Gee, I can just see Saddam weeping at the destruction of his own country - this is the guy who gassed whole regions of his own country, caused untold environmental disaster in the marshes while attacking the local opposing Arabs there, and inflicted unbelievable losses on his own military during the Iran-Iraq war. Because the one thing that dictators are known for is their heartfelt concern for the well-being of their own country, especially when their very lives are at stake. The mind boggles.

Using them on an enemy city would mean retaliation.

Are we talking about the same Saddam who actually put chemical weapons on rockets that he then fired at Israel? The same Israel that is famous - or notorious - as the most hard core of hard core retaliatory states in the world? Israel that has hundreds of nuclear weapons and the rocketry to carry them anywhere they wish? Whelp, it didn't stop Saddam. The very same Saddam who launched massive air raids against Iranian cities, killing countless thousands of Iranian civilians - also completely unconcerned about any "retaliation".

Any escalation or widespread use would cause global environmental ruin.

Is this a comedy routine? Are we talking about dictators with nuclear weapons? How concerned is N.K. with "environmental damage"? And since Saddam was brought up, have we already forgotten the epic environmental damage that was done on his direct orders when he set Kuwait's oil fields on fire? Do you imagine for one millisecond that a dictator who is fighting for his very life gives a single neuron over to thoughts about environmental consequences of his military actions? What color is the sky on your planet?

In summary the perceived advantages of holding nukes does not align with objective data.

Oh, that's just the greatest thing ever - you would be a dream come true for every military in the world... an ideal opponent. So completely bereft of the most basic understanding of "objective data", that it can only be explained by some kind of hypnosis.

If Saddam had nuclear weapons, there would be zero invasion from the U.S., and in fact, zero threat. All Saddam would have to say, is - a la N. Korea against S. Korea - "let one bomb fall on our territory, and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia will go up in smoke, and if that's not good enough, so will Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem" - do you imagine for one second, that anyone in the U.S. would risk that? Oh, but Israel would retaliate! Saddam: "You want to take my life. I have nothing to lose - unleash the dogs of war!" He cares not one sole solitary fig about any retaliation. Who gives a flying F that Baghdad is a smoking ruin? Not Saddam. But that's getting way, way, way ahead of ourselves, because Israel would never in a million years agree to sacrifice Tel-Aviv/Jerusalem so that the U.S. can go and invade Iraq, never mind how satisfactory it would be to retaliatorily obliterate Baghdad (while Saddam is safe in some bunker somewhere, launching more nukes).

And even if the U.S. was willing to sacrifice Saudi Arabia and Israel, we would never ever invade Iraq if Saddam had nuclear weapons, because an invasion takes time - remember all those months of gathering forces in bases in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Just one nuclear tipped rocket that wipes out 100,000 of our troops in SA or Kuwait, and we'd have sustained the greatest loss of military life since WWII. A complete nonstarter. And oops - Saddam is not even bombing his own territory, but that of bases in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Oh no, friends, not at all - far from being a white elephant, nuclear weapons are the great equalizer, on which the entire post WWII Cold War was built - MAD. Even a tiny ability - a mere handful of nukes in the hands of a desperado like Saddam or Ghadaffi or any of the other madmen is enough to completely paralyze any thought of military action against them.

Which is why - DUH - the West and Israel is making such a desperate play to prevent Iran (and really, anyone else we don't like) from acquiring those equalizers. Nor are we - or the West in general - or Israel, in any hurry to get rid of those "white elephants" ourselves. Because what we really like is to have a powerful weapon, and the other guy to have nothing, so we can brutalize them with utter impunity. Only the "other" might not be quite as stupid as to agree to such a generous offer.

The U.S. should recognize this and unilaterally disarm as an example for the world.

Well, that would be dandy of course - and actually, realistic from a military point of view. Because it is states with great conventional military power, who need the nukes the least. The U.S. without nukes would not be one lick more vulnerable to attack from Venezuela, Cuba or Iran or Iraq or any of those states we love to beat up so.

Of course, there is zero political realism in this. We will never give up our nuclear weapons. We might very well - and I think we will - draw them down drastically from the completely absurd levels right now, but that would change absolutely nothing... we'll merely be giving up the insane excess which allows us not merely to destroy the world completely but then make the dirt bounce 10 times more; drawing down has PR benefits, and also dollar and cents benefits, because we can save on upkeep of weapons that no conceivable scenario can see used. But the core nuclear capability - yeah, that we'll keep.

And actually, there is zero realism on the other side too. Imagine you are a small country like Iraq that's under constant threat from remorseless lying murderous genocidal bullies. Imagine that one day, the bully says: "Hey little kitty, let's you and I give up our big guns - what a wonderful world, no? No? Come here, kitty, kitty, come here... I'll be nice, pwooomise!". Giving up the nuclear option, means giving up the equalizer. Now you are at the mercy of massive conventional forces and all you have are tiny conventional forces. Oops. How does that go? Well, we've seen how that goes in Iraq and elsewhere, with the rivers of blood, the torn apart countries, the streams of refugees, the devastation. Saddam swung at the end of a rope.

When all countries give up nuclear weapons, then the biggest conventional military instantly becomes the king of the hill, and if they are as vicious as we have been, you are in for a world of hurt and genocide. Say your prayers and prepare to die.

So no. I don't think so. Give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons, when the U.S. is threatening you? That would be suicide.

U.S. military action is the single greatest WMD proliferator in the world today. Until that changes, WMD are here not just to stay, but to grow, and spread. We can stop it - but by doing the exact opposite of what we've been doing so far. Instead of murdering, bombing, droning, inciting civil wars, arming criminal gangs, overthrowing governments, having our allies - such as Israel - issue vulgar threats, we should completely and utterly withdraw our military from every corner of the world. We should draw down our military. We should pledge and then hold to that pledge, to never ever, interfere in other countries internal affairs, never to incite civil wars, never to arm one faction against another and completely and utterly give up military action that is not purely in defense of our own country and finally, to strictly hew to U.N. definitions, and never ever again initiate aggressive wars. When the world feels safe from criminal predators, the conditions arise for relaxing of defenses and laying down of the weapons. The odds of our ever doing such a thing though, are about equal to the odds of our exchanging the budget we spend on the military murdering people to equal amount of money on feeding the world's hungry - in other words, zero.
posted by VikingSword at 3:39 PM on October 30, 2014


Why are U.S. officials trash-talking Netanyahu?
Now these observations are partly intended to tell Netanyahu that this gambit won’t constrain U.S. negotiators. In part, however, they might also serve to tell Iran that any fears they have of an Israeli strike are exaggerated. And if that has been holding the Iranians back, it would potentially eliminate this as a roadblock to further negotiations.
This sounds like a good guess. I'm not so sure they would be right, though; Ya'alon seemed pretty intent on striking Iran if it doesn't shut down the centrifuges. I hadn't realized Obama already decided to go around congress to implement the terms of a nuclear deal with Iran. If Netanyahu and the GOP play this right, they could do serious damage to the Democtratic Party I would think, especially considering the White House has devolved into hurling childish insults.
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:17 PM on October 30, 2014


It's a rational explanation and it's frankly more comforting than the idea that "a senior official" has dementia and the White House is scared to admit it. But if it's a deliberate tactic it sounds like an extraordinarily expensive one: it degrades both the White House and the USA as a whole, and it makes the presently rather strained relationship with Israel that much less workable.

Compare the "chickenshit" remark with Putin's recent speech. Yes, Putin is a hypocrite, Machiavellian if not Mephistophelean, but just contrast the two - Putin's was an open declaration of practical policy and concerns made in the clearest terms before a public audience. The "chickenshit" remark is a deliberately vaguely-sourced insult leaked to a tame journalist and providing only the vaguest insight into the White House's position. It's frankly embarrassing.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:32 PM on October 30, 2014


Joe the political winds in the US and the west are changing. Americans hate being involved in anything middle eastern. The more Bibi and his flacks whine, the more Americans see Israel as petulant and ungrateful little shits, like spoiled children.
posted by humanfont at 6:46 PM on October 30, 2014


I hope the USA does decrease its Middle-Eastern involvement. I don't recall any "whining" by Israeli politicians, but whatever. The USA's demands have been a net negative for Israel since Obama's election; I think that it's probably time for tough love on both sides.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:53 PM on October 30, 2014


What demands? It seems like Israel has done anything they've wanted under Obama.
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:51 PM on October 30, 2014


You probably don't notice most of them because they are stupid, trivial things, even though they come from the very highest level of the US administration. In the last few days alone John Kerry and US Department of State spokesperson Jen Psaki have each made specific demands of Israel, in each case regarding things that are (a) really Israel's business and (b) not worth US attention at anything more than a bureaucratic level.

There are much more substantial demands, of course. The most obvious recent one is "don't bomb Iran". Earlier, there was also "don't bomb Syria" and "don't bomb Iraq". That last was when Saddam was actually firing missiles at Israel. Many people thought this was an extraordinary request, but Israel recognised the peculiar position the USA was in at the time, and refrained.

There are regular calls to "stop settlement activity", which Israel typically heeds (for a while, at least). To the best of my knowledge, all of these "activities" have involved land in areas which everyone acknowledges will remain part of Israel's territory. Furthermore, the nature of property development is that there are multiple stages, each of which is construed as a separate activity. So if land is gazetted, that's settlement activity. If plans are approved (for the same piece of land), it's more activity. If tenders are called for, that's yet another activity. This is not a hypothetical case: the most recent case involved the re-publication of a plan, approved a couple of years ago, for the construction of 2,600 apartments in Givat Hamatos.

Take a look at the site on Google Maps. You can see it's an empty, desolate site, right in the heart of a other built-up areas, and it's small. My calculation is that it's about 450 yards square. About half the apartments were destined for the Jewish suburb to its east; about half for the Arab one to its west. There's a huge housing shortage there, these apartments are really needed. In no sane universe would anyone protest; in no sane universe would the US administration bother with anything so trivial. But no, both the White House and the State Department had to come out and condemn it. This is crazy, and it's constant. It's time for the USA to stop its obsession with Israel, and for Israel to stop seeking the USA's approval.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:35 PM on October 30, 2014


U.S. strategy against Islamic State is falling apart, with major hurdles.

"The Obama administration's plan to raise a 15,000-strong rebel army in Syria has run into steep political and military obstacles, raising doubts about a key element of the White House strategy for defeating Islamic State militants in the midst of a civil war.

Pentagon concerns have grown so sharp that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sent a two-page memo to the White House last week warning that the overall plan could collapse
"

"Senior U.S. military officers also privately warn that the so-called Syrian moderates that U.S. planners hope to recruit — opposition fighters without ties to the Islamic radicals — have been degraded by other factions and forces, including Assad's army, during the war.

It will take years to train and field a new force capable of launching an offensive against the heavily armed and well-funded Islamic State fighters, who appear well-entrenched in northern Syria, the officers say.

"We're not going to be able to build that kind of credible force in enough time to make a difference," said a senior U.S. officer who is involved in military operations against the militants and who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. "We've watched the moderate opposition dwindle and dwindle and now there's very little left.
"

What a surprise. Not. Only a fool would have thought that anything else would result from arming the bands of scoundrels, opportunists and cutthroats we've managed to round up across the ME. It's not as if we're unaware of the history of such endeavors - (from the same article):

"The U.S. experience with proxy military forces is laced with disappointment.

The Kennedy administration backed a failed invasion of the Bay of Pigs in Cuba in 1961 after training a counterrevolutionary brigade. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration bankrolled the Contras in Nicaragua, who were unsuccessful against the Sandinistas' socialist revolution.

"We've helped arm insurgencies before," Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst who now is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "Nearly all of them have been complete failures or marginal to the final outcome. But there was one spectacular success.
"

Massive failure across the board... except for one "spectacular success". Ooh, how exciting! A success! A spectacular success no less! Pray tell, what was it?! Please, please pretty please!

Here it comes - are you ready? Can't hear you... ARE YOU READY?? Well take a gander at this:

"The CIA, working with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, covertly poured $4 billion into arming a rebel force in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, helping them drive out Soviet forces."

CRAASH, THUD, BOINK! I think a whole panel of historians just fainted straight off their chairs and are spread on the floor. The "spectacular success" is the US-Pakistani-Saudi Arabia backed fanatics who exploded into a blowback so SPECTACULAR that the gravity waves are still shaking up the world to this day, almost forty years later, and which gave birth to a veritable universe of terrorist organizations and movements from Al-Queda through today's ISIS (itself a derivative of Al-Queada Iraq), and having a global reach from the America of 9-11 to Europe, Asia, Africa and even Australia. It has been a grand success indeed. We got rid of the roaches in the kitchen...! By firebombing, although there is the minor complication of the whole city on fire a la The Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The Soviets left, and we "won" ourselves a neat little Afghanistan, a prize that keeps on giving, the rot spreading through Pakistan and seeping into Bangladesh, soon joining with ISIS. And we are cooking up another such "success" right now in Syria, and by the looks of it, it will be "spectacular" indeed.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, our "allies" of course have their own ideas. Turkey is training some of the rebels with our money, but under their own goals and program - the relentless drive to overthrow Assad and plunge Syria into utter chaos (from the same link):

"Turkey said this month that it would train a portion of the Syrian force, joining Saudi Arabia in training on its territory."

"But Turkish officials have signaled that the rebels it trains would concentrate on battling Assad's forces, not Islamic State, once they return to Syria."

Aah ha ha ha! We have our plans, and they have theirs, tee-hee. After all, Turkey is allied in all but name with ISIS (as a way to destroy the Kurds national aspirations), so of course the last thing they're interested in is battling ISIS. This btw., is true of all those "rebels" we are training everywhere, not just in Turkey - none of them are interested in battling ISIS - because as the U.S. officials themselves realize, there are no "moderate" rebels left, these are fanatics quite akin to ISIS, and their interest is in taking down the Syrian state and seizing power in the resulting chaos... and it will be ISIS on top, of course (as happens always - including Afghanistan):

"A rebel commander, a defector from the Syrian army who also asked for anonymity, agreed. The U.S. plan "doesn't work for us," he said.

"They are concerned with ISIS … but we are concerned with the regime more than ISIS," he said, using one of several acronyms for Islamic State.
"

Oh the humanity! It's as they say, the full monty here - as we are caught, yet again, with our pants down, impotently flapping in the wind, the tattered remains of our "strategy" blowing across the desert. The ME is plunging into chaos, impelled by our bombs, our money, our arms and our utterly clueless arrogance.

Once Syria is another giant area of lawless chaos filled with extremists, the action moves on to Jordan which will get its just deserts for hosting CIA controlled forces of dubious purposes (from the same article):

"Jordan has not joined the training effort, although it hosts a separate, smaller, CIA-run operation for Syrian insurgents."

And what happens once we - inevitably - officially lose control of the bands of criminals we've unleashed in Syria? Well, ISIS will be strengthened, that goes without saying, but we will now get to taste the fury of the backers of Assad - Iran and Iranian backed forces, such as the Hezbollah, attacking our forces directly:

"Tehran also could respond by using local Shiite militias to attack U.S. personnel or facilities in Iraq. The Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq have coordinated their attacks on Islamic State with the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad.

"If we really focus on Assad, the Iranian piece of this coalition [against Islamic State] will fracture, and we will have Shia militants trying to target us," said the senior U.S. military officer.
"

As in Afghanistan - we will gain no friends among the inhuman cutthroats we back, they'll stab us the first opportunity they get (that's how they've expressed their gratitude for us helping them against the Soviets), and meanwhile we'll turn our tentative allies (Iran) into dedicated enemies - all the while with our stated objectives "degrade and destroy ISIS" unmet, only more chaos and terrorist-rich territories created.

Another fine "success" in the ME - we'll have to let some time pass to see if it's more "spectacular" than the success in Iraq.

Stick a fork in it - it's done.
posted by VikingSword at 11:27 PM on October 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Jordanian monarchy is the pick of a Bedouin elite foisted upon a native Palestinian population through the machinations of Britain's Foreign Office. They have no intrinsic right to rule; it was a sort of consolation prize for not getting the Syrian throne after WW1. The only reason that they are still in power is that they have unerringly picked the right side of almost every conflict for nearly one hundred years. Yes, they were beaten by Israel in '48 and '67, but Israel was never going to unseat them; ducking out of a pan-Arab war would likely have led to their dethronement.

So Jordan, despite already facing severe consequences from the Syrian war, despite having every incentive from the USA to participate, has been remarkably quiet about the whole deal, to the extent of the USA having to save face by saying that Jordan is participating in its own way. That should tell you which way the Husseinis think the wind is blowing: they don't believe there's a winning side on which to enter.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:06 AM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oops.

ISIS Releases Photos of Militants Using U.S. M113s as VBIEDS

"ISIS militants have loaded U.S. M113 armored personnel carriers and are using them as vehicle born IEDs against Iraqi Security Forces, according to photos release by militants with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
U.S. forces rarely drove the M113s brought to Iraq outside the wire because the vehicles were so susceptible to buried improvised explosive devices. Rather than ship the aging armored personnel carriers, U.S. officials left many M113s with the Iraqis after U.S. troops returned home. ISIS militants have since taken those M113s in northern Iraq since overrunning Iraqi army bases.
"

Weapons which we distribute to "our sonsofbitches", weapons which we sell to our "allies", weapons which we leave behind - as is the case shown in the link - always seem to have a way of coming back to haunt us. One wonders when the simple conclusion will be reached, that perhaps it doesn't make sense to spend a ton of effort and money on distributing weapons which then can be used against our interests. It looks like "degrading and destroying" ISIS necessarily involves degrading and destroying our own weapons which we left behind - and we'll do that by using... more weapons, which may end up in ISIS hands, as happened recently with airdrops meant for Kurds.

The cycle of destruction and degradation seems to certainly apply as much to our own interests as to any perceived enemy of the moment. Or, you know, we could butt out and mind our own business - but I guess that would be too easy, not to mention, not nearly as profitable for certain parties, even if a dead loss for the average working stiff.
posted by VikingSword at 9:32 AM on October 31, 2014




Frightening in what sense? The guy's a nutter.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:46 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


That Egypt's official ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan could be that insane and that antisemitic. I wonder how prominent these sentiments are at the highest levels of ME governments supposedly friendly to Israel.
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:39 AM on November 2, 2014


Syrian rebels armed and trained by US surrender to al-Qaeda
It was not immediately clear if American TOW missiles were among the stockpile surrendered to Jabhat al-Nusra on Saturday. However several Jabhat al-Nusra members on Twitter announced triumphantly that they were.
Erdogan's Book of Defeat
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:50 AM on November 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


That Egypt's official ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan could be that insane and that antisemitic.

This is, sadly, absolutely par for the course in the Middle East. A lot of the material doesn't get translated into English, so there's a misconception that these things are just rhetoric. Remember Wolf Blitzer's surprise and shock that Hamas' spokesman, Osama Hamdan, wouldn't back down on his claim that Jews use the blood of infants to bake matzos? I think Blitzer expected that, whatever Hamdan's actual beliefs, he'd play along with a denial. But nope, there it was.

I wonder how prominent these sentiments are at the highest levels of ME governments supposedly friendly to Israel.

Egypt is in no way friendly to Israel. In fact, Wikipedia uses Egypt-Israel relations as its exemplar for a cold peace.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:17 PM on November 2, 2014


Children of the Caliphate
They stand in the front row at public beheadings and crucifixions held in Raqqa, the Islamic State's stronghold in Syria. They're used for blood transfusions when Islamic State fighters are injured. They are paid to inform on people who are disloyal or speak out against the Islamic State. They are trained to become suicide bombers. They are children as young as 6 years old, and they are being transformed into the Islamic State's soldiers of the future.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:39 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Joe shooting and killing one of our kids is a big deal to Americans. Access to the third holiest site in Islam is important to millions of American Muslims and our Muslim allies around the world. If you seriously think that building on disputed land isn't a big deal you are mistaken.
You don't get to decide what is or should be important to Palestinians or Americans. Attempts to defend the policies as if they shouldn't be important ignores the real world where these things are important. The longer supporters of the State of Israel live in this imaginary world, the harder it becomes to create peace in the real world.
posted by humanfont at 2:06 PM on November 2, 2014


Joe in Australia: Children of the Caliphate
The more I contemplate this, the more horrified I become. Then again, if I try to unwind events in the region to a time when a multi-generational "war to the knife" wasn't a near certainty I'm not sure when to stop.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:45 PM on November 2, 2014


Joe shooting and killing one of our kids is a big deal to Americans.

I'm sure it is, and rightly so. But I suppose Americans get shot every day, and it's not generally the sort of thing that merits a particular admonition from the spokesperson for the US Department of State. Do you really think Israel wouldn't have investigated the circumstances in the absence of Jen Psaki's finger-wagging?

As it happens, another US citizen was killed in Jerusalem a day or two earlier: Chaya Zissel Halperin, who was killed in a terror attack while her family was waiting at a light rail stop. Ms Psaki's response was much more muted: “We urge all sides to maintain calm and avoid escalating tensions in the wake of this incident.” All sides? Who are these sides? Pro-terror and anti-terror? Rabbi Yehuda Glick, another US citizen, was shot a few days ago - the Temple Mount was closed because the police wanted to forestall any further rioting on the site. President Mahmoud Abbas has said the shooter "will go to heaven as a martyr defending the rights of our people and its holy places", but I don't think anyone expects Ms Psaki will call for an investigation of the Palestinian Authority's responsibility for that attack.

You don't get to decide what is or should be important to Palestinians or Americans.

Sure. But I can call US policy out as being irrational, obsessive, and counterproductive. Your Secretary of State, John Kerry , apparently thinks that Middle-Easterners' anger at the Israel-Palestinian conflict is causing them to join ISIS and travel to Syria to kill other Muslims. [report in The Telegraph, transcript of speech] Really. He said it's "a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation that they felt [...] they had to respond to. And people need to understand the connection of that." This is insane, loony-tunes nonsense, and it is sad and embarrassing to watch a great nation spinning in circles like this.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:32 PM on November 2, 2014


Joe are you seriously trying to defend the Israeli military's actions by equating it to a bunch of terrorists? That is a terrible argument. The war in Gaza has been a recruitment boon for ISIS. Netanyahu himself was telling Americans just last month that ISIS is Hamas and Hamas is ISIS. John Kerry is a very smart guy who knows a lot about the region. He has done a lot for the state of Israel over the last few decades. Israel would be wise to listen to him instead of throwing tantrums and trying to piss all over him.
posted by humanfont at 7:35 PM on November 2, 2014


? The teenager wasn't shot in a military action. He was shot because he (reportedly) was throwing a Molotov cocktail at cars on a highway. I'm pretty sure police in the USA would have done the same thing. Of course the shooting should be investigated, but that's because every shooting should be investigated, not because the deceased was a US citizen.

I'm not sure I follow your remark about "a bunch of terrorists" either. I think the US State Department should have criticised Mahmoud Abbas' verbal incitement, yes. Do you not realise that he is the President of the Palestinian Authority, the body that governs most of the West Bank and with which the US State Department expects Israel to negotiate?

Finally, have you some actual evidence about recruitment for ISIS? Because I think even ISIS' cannon fodder is probably smart enough to know that they're fighting Muslims in Syria, not Jews in Gaza.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:00 PM on November 2, 2014


I think this is a correct link to the article Golden Eternity referenced above. It's well worth reading.

Syrian rebels armed and trained by US surrender to al-Qaeda

One bit that made me boggle:
These efforts have since been revamped with new operations rooms in Turkey, to manage the north of Syria, and in Jordan, to manage rebel operations in the south including Deraa and Damascus suburbs. The operations rooms are manned by representatives from Turkey, the US, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, a Syrian source involved in the arms supplies told The Telegraph[....]

Rebel commanders apply for weapons directly to the operations rooms and state their case as to why they want the arms. "They have to apply for arms for individual missions," the source said.

The operations room member states then discuss the need and decide how many to give. "They never give more than six or seven anti-tank missiles in one go," the source said.

Then, if the commander wishes to continue to receive supplies, he has to return the used cartridges of the weapons to the operations room, thus proving that they used them and did not sell them on to another group.

The programme has given donor countries the confidence to arm the Syrian rebels, but it has created a "rubber stamp" system that is unwieldy, and too slow to keep up with the pace of the war in Syria and the needs of the men they are backing.
I should think so!
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:39 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


The State department and John Kerry are trying to difuse the situation in East Jerusalem, not inflame it. Shin Bet and the Israeli police have killed Glick's assassin and arrested his supporters. Prior to the Glick incident and the protests in East Jerusalem Abbas has been publically calling for restraint and said now is not the time for another Intifada. Once Israel closed the Temple Mount and started a public crackdown he's got to respond. The U.S. shouting at him in public is just going to provoke riots.

Israel gets the benefits of being a powerful country with a highly educated and advanced economy. This position also creates expectations for its conduct. The PNA is a corrupt, barely functioning entity with limited sovereignty, terrible leaders and insurmountable problems. It survives on graft and handouts. The only benefit they have is low expecations. Everytime Israel sinks to its level by saying ., "but the Palestinians..." It doesn't make Israel look better.

The U.S. has asked for a full independent investigation of the circumstances of the shooting of one of its citizens. That is a pretty reasonable request that nations ought to be able to ask of one another. We have recently sent our justice department to Fergusson, Mo to investigate the shooting of a civilian under equally murky circumstances.
posted by humanfont at 8:42 PM on November 2, 2014


There's a great documentary - which you can stream on Netflix - called "When Jews Were Funny". Jewish humor has been honed through centuries, when frequently it was the only succor to be had in viciously anti-Semitic environments.

A joke that I was reminded of, while reading some of the commentary - it goes like this:

"My favorite joke is about the Jewish mother whose son is rescued at the beach by the lifeguard who, after performing life-saving CPR, hands the boy back to the sobbing woman. She looks down at her child, then at the lifeguard and says, “He had a hat.”"

The U.S. has been an insanely generous friend to Israel. Even when paid back with betrayal and murder. The U.S. has helped in the very survival of Israel in 1973, and has been consistenly for decades often the only vote at the U.N. in favor of Israel, has supported Israel economically and militarily to the tunes of countless billions through the years, has exerted itself diplomatically trying to bring peace and security in the region, the big beneficiary of which was always Israel - and which cost the U.S. in treasure when paying off other parties for the sake of Israel (financial aid to Egypt). Furthermore, the U.S. has borne an incredible burden of hatred and backlash from that support and grave injury to their own national interests.

All the efforts by the diplomats through decades, have been with Israel's interests in mind. In any negotiation, there never was any doubt that the U.S. is not an impartial broker, but crazily tilted in favor of Israel, with the Palestinians, and more broadly the Arab world a distant afterthought. And so too now - Kerry may not always be the most adroit and well-spoken diplomat, but he is traveling tirelessly for thousands of miles and spending countless hours and energy, ultimately with a view of the long term interests of Israel. And what's the thank you for all this: "where's the hat?". Because Kerry, and the administration have not acceded to absolutely every single maximalist demand of Israel, not acceded in the interest of at least trying to salvage a deal which is already monstrously lopsided in favor of Israel. The U.S. administration remains the one staunch ally and advocate not matched by any other nation in the world, in face of Israel's intransigence, illegal settlements and full-scale war using modern weapons on what is essentially a helpless Palestinian ghetto. Not surprisingly, there's worldwide opprobrium for that conduct, and Israel is losing sympathy the world over - except in the U.S.. So what does the U.S. deserve in return from Israel? Nitpicking, insults, contempt and "where's the hat?". Read some of the Israeli press and their take on Obama or any number of U.S. presidents in the past, our diplomats and so forth. Oy.

Which really in the end is fine and fair. By their lights, with the U.S. they've got ahold of a world class "freier", and what does a freier deserve? To be taken for absolutely everything and spat upon in contempt for their immense naivete, decency and generosity.

Israel is a nation like any other - no better and no worse. They act in their own interests, which is completely understandable. If presented with an opportunity, yes, they'll take it and exploit it to the hilt - they're not unique in that way at all. It's just business. Which is why, knowing the nature of self-interest and the iron laws of the dynamic between nations, we were long ago warned against entangling alliances. Which we have ignored, to our detriment.

Be that as it may, there are bad consequences to this, not just for the U.S., world peace, Palestinians and the whole ME, but also to Israel. As I have long argued, the U.S. is hurting Israel longer term, by supporting them blindly no matter how extreme the demands and how maximalist the agenda. It's like an open checkbook - the habit just keeps getting worse and one day it's an OD.

The solution here is as obvious as it is unrealistic in the current political reality: withdrawal by the U.S. from the ME. That would include Israel. If Israel finds itself so put upon by the U.S., why not make them happy and cut them loose so they can be on their merry way, and find out who can be a bigger friend to them IN. ABSOLUTELY. THE. ENTIRE. WORLD. Maybe France could be a bigger friend to Israel? Maybe Russia? Perhaps China? Saudi Arabia? India? Kiribati? Big ole mean U.S. should allow Israel to chart their own course without all that money and support and oppressive finger wagging from diplomats. Once free and clear from the stupid interfering Kerry, Psak, Obama and the rest of the nasty Americans, Israel is sure to swiftly solve the Palestinian problem and win security for themselves and the vision of Greater Israel.

Because really, it's in turns comical and marvellous that one can write this:

"In trying to implement the ceasefire over the weekend, “US Secretary of State John Kerry ruined everything,” wrote columnist Ari Shavit in Monday’s Haaretz, Israel’s leading liberal newspaper. “Very senior officials in Jerusalem described the proposal that Kerry put on the table as a ‘strategic terrorist attack.'”

What is this great terrorist attack by Kerry against Israel? Trying to broker a ceasefire agreement to prevent the complete PR disaster for Israel in its confrontation with Hamas, a confrontation condemned virtually unanimously all over the world - a conflict the U.S. had nothing to do with.

And this, friends, is why disengagement is the only solution. When perceptions of reality are so far apart that reconciling them is impossible, stepping away is the only sensible measure. Let reality assert itself without interference and let the chips fall where they may. In other words, when a scream goes out to come to the rescue once again (after being warned repeatedly not to go into the water in present conditions), "where's my check, arms, X whatever", one can calmly answer "somewhere out there in the ocean - but together with its hat!".

Israel should be free to do as it pleases. They are ultimately responsible for their own security. They should deal with their neighbors, including the Palestinians as they see fit. The U.S. should not attempt to bribe, cajole or indulge - the U.S. should simply say: "vaya con dios!" and wave a fond goodbye. It will free Israel and the U.S. both.
posted by VikingSword at 10:58 PM on November 2, 2014


VikingSword, when you say "Israel is a nation like any other - no better and no worse" you sound like a foreign-policy realist. If that's the case, why would you you imagine that
the U.S. has borne an incredible burden of hatred and backlash from that support and grave injury to their own national interests. All the efforts by the diplomats through decades, have been with Israel's interests in mind.
Surely the same realism applies to the USA: it has acted with the aim of advancing its own interests in the region. Some of those benefits are obvious; others less so. None the less, it would be extremely naive to imagine that the USA, as the dominant partner, fails to get full value from the relationship.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:10 AM on November 3, 2014


VikingSword, when you say "Israel is a nation like any other - no better and no worse" you sound like a foreign-policy realist.

Well, yes I am. But I wrote this, because for whatever reason, in any Israel-related discussion, an inordinate number of people lose their marbles; rational-seeming and otherwise reasonable people. I hesitate to say “anti-Semitism”, because the moment you use that term, discussions immediately deteriorate. However, since we’re talking about this explicitly, screw it, it has to be addressed.

I’ll preface it by saying that most of those people spout anti-Semitic opinions quite unconsciously, and would be astonished to have their remarks classified as such. And indeed, they’re not necessarily classically anti-Semites, but their outlook is informed by anti-Semitic tropes. This results in many criticisms of Israel as a country basically ending up demonizing Israel as if it’s some kind of unique evil in the world, whereas it's a bog standard country acting exactly as any would in that situation.

On the other side, many overeager supporters of Israel would be even more astonished to be told that their views are also informed by anti-Semitism, because they go to the other extreme, and assign Israel some kind of superiority that is ill-warranted if you examine the evidence. Israeli society and its politicians are not Machiavellian geniuses with a firm grasp on the Truth and more clever than any other in history ever. That is also separating them into the "other" of supposed inherent superiority (the flip side of an inferiority complex that often underlies this). All you need to do to be disabused of that notion is to take a look at the steady stream of incredible blunders that Israeli politicians and military leaders have made throughout their history. Israel is a country like any other, no better and no worse.

Surely the same realism applies to the USA: it has acted with the aim of advancing its own interests in the region. Some of those benefits are obvious; others less so. None the less, it would be extremely naive to imagine that the USA, as the dominant partner, fails to get full value from the relationship.

Aah, but no. It’s complicated. First depends on the time. Earlier in its history, most certainly that was true - the U.S. acted in its perceived interests vs Israel, at least partially as part of larger geopolitical maneuvering in the ME in competition with the Soviet Union - and even earlier, in competition to the old colonial powers of Britain and France (Suez Canal). But that long since stopped being true.

U.S. perceptions of its interests have been distorted by the Israeli perspective. This is of course partially due to lobbying, but not entirely.

And incidentally, the Israeli lobbying is another topic that sends people into all sorts of odd conspiracy theories, often ladled generously with anti-Semitism. When Teddy Kennedy or any number of politicians favored Ireland and Irish interests, we didn’t have dark mutterings about the Irish cabal - the same for whatever lobby, Arab, or British or whatnot. So why reserve this for the Israeli lobby? American Jews are not all aligned with Israeli interests as expressed by f.ex. the Likud perspective, they’re expressing their many differing views just as Irish Americans might express their many views or any other group.

The other distorting influence is purely cultural. It is a consequence of history, but the U.S. establishment is naturally more aligned with Israel, purely on cultural grounds. We’re a lot closer than we are culturally to Muslim countries. This distorts our perspective, just as the same historical and personnel realities result in the U.S. being tremendously Eurocentric and extremely neglectful and ignorant about f.ex. Africa (or the ME for that matter!). This results in policies large and small being influenced by this focus - we intervened in the Balkans (which I supported!), but we did not intervene in Rwanda even though the genocide there was much worse. We are close to Israel culturally, we have many ties including ethnic ties, that we simply do not have in the Arab world. It’s hardly surprising that the U.S. perspective is completely warped in a pro-Israel direction and by default against the Arab perspective.

That’s not to say that, anti-Semitism, that incredibly durable bit of prejudice, has not polluted even this relationship - many in the U.S. establishment held (and perhaps some hold to this day) casually anti-Semitic opinions. Just listen to Nixon babbling on about “the Jews”. Now - probably - these were not the result of red-hot hatred, but unexamined cultural habits of the generally mildly anti-Semitic milieu, because, Nixon did after all rely on Kissinger, who presumably was able to counteract any policy distortions from Nixon’s casual anti-Semitism, which might have rebounded against Israel.

Nonetheless, all those factors resulted in the U.S. acting massively against its own interest in the ME. A mixture of genuine ignorance that’s impossible to overstate - just look at the absolute mess we’ve made over there - and complete reliance on the Israeli perspective with a slavish alliance to Israeli interests (cultural identification, lobbying etc.). Our actions in the ME have not been in the U.S. interest for decades now, and indeed this distortion has resulted in:

the U.S. has borne an incredible burden of hatred and backlash from that support and grave injury to their own national interests. All the efforts by the diplomats through decades, have been with Israel's interests in mind.

The U.S. is *not* the dominant partner, does *not* act in its own best interests, does *not* advance its own interests in the ME, and most emphatically does not “derive benefits” from that relationship (in a larger sense). Often these purported "benefits" are of the 'begging the question' variety: ooh, Israeli intelligence alerted the U.S. (never mind they'll only do so when it is in their interest) to a terrorist attack against our troops/interests/X! Except, were the U.S. not seen for the sponsors of Israel that we are, we wouldn't have been under attack in the first place. And so on.

Now, just to make clear - this is not to claim that somehow the U.S. is steered by Israel in a zombie-like fashion. Rather, that the U.S. pursues policies which are informed by the Israeli perspective and disconnected from the broader reality of the ME.

My claim is that *both* Israel and the U.S. lose in this relationship. The most difficult thing to grasp for most analysts is that the U.S.-Israeli policies in the ME are not “Israeli” or “American” - this is binary thinking resulting from essentialising both of the countries (often with anti-Semitic overtones wrt. Israel). They are a “third thing” that is the result of the dynamic of interaction between these two states that would not have existed with either one of them acting independent of one another (like, say - random example in the ME - the U.S. and Algeria). Think of it in terms of crime - or for that matter, perhaps great inventions etc. It is often said, that a given crime would not have resulted if it were up to Bob, or up to John, but the combination of Bob and John resulted in a gruesome crime of which Bob alone or John alone would not have been capable “as it was not in their individual characters” (same of course for great inventions or any number of social effects of dynamic groups of people).

This dynamic hurts both the U.S. and Israel interests long term. It encourages the very worst aspects of the Israeli political landscape, a blank check from the U.S. which blinds them to the simple fact that they have to live in the region long term, while the U.S. is ultimately an ocean away. The maximalist agenda becomes quite logical - and deadly long term vis a vis their Arab neighbors, the Muslim world (why should there be anti-Semitism in Pakistan?? Or Malasia?), and in fact the whole world. They’re like the guy who has a powerful sponsor - he’s likely to be reckless and destructive and act with impunity and go way, way too far, imagining there never will be a day of reckoning; meanwhile the U.S. sponsor finds itself continuously astonished at the level of hatred it is earning in the ME (and the world), and its interest are harmed in very real ways.

Stepping away would be salutary for both. Israel could face their situation with a clear vision, unobstructed by the false feeling of invulnerability that has utterly corrupted their political calculus. They could address their security situation, and indeed their long term future in the region, with a clear realism of the ME conditions. And the U.S. could see the ME for the nuanced complexity it has, rather than through the tunnel vision of cultural limitations and base ignorance.
posted by VikingSword at 8:53 AM on November 3, 2014


Why Iraqi army can't fight, despite $25 billion in U.S. aid, training

"The military collapsed in Mosul even though Washington spent eight years and $25 billion to train, arm and equip Iraq's security forces. The United States has now deployed 1,400 advisors to try to rebuild the shattered military into a force that can repel Islamic State.

American commanders say the Iraqi army won't be ready to mount operations to retake Islamic State-controlled cities such as Mosul for many months. Meanwhile, Iraq's government has turned to Shiite Muslim militias and Sunni Muslim tribesmen as it scrambles to keep the Sunni militants from advancing on Baghdad and its airport.

The U.S. military has not explained how a few more months of "advise and assist" will create a functional army after years of training was followed by wholesale desertions in Mosul and in Anbar province to the west of Baghdad.
"

Surely that's not a mystery at all? I mean, they understand perfectly well that NO amount of advisors and NO amount of training and NO amount of money will ever make the Iraqi army anything else but a laughing stock, because what the Iraqi army lacks is a sense of purpose and legitimacy and no training, money or advisors can impute that.

Here, they are quite explicit about it:

"Eaton said advisors can help the Iraqi military with strategy, tactics and intelligence. But without competent ground forces, he said, U.S. and coalition airstrikes will have minimal effect because they cannot teach the "moral component" to fight and die for a common cause.

"Until the Iraqi soldier in his eyes is a legitimate actor for a legitimate government, we are not going to have any hope of success," Eaton said. "You can't train them to believe in a constitution and a government.
"

It is a completely doomed enterprise with zero chance of success, and furthermore, the air campaign by the U.S. will make no difference, because there is no Iraqi ground component. Clear as day. Not a mystery, and they understand it fully. So what do you think the brass recommends anyway? Surprise, surprise, the same thing as they did back in Vietnam, endless outstretched hand asking for "MORE!" (of the same, with the same useless outcome):

"Dubik estimated that up to 60% of the army could be combat effective if properly led and backed by U.S. advisors and airstrikes. But he questioned whether 1,400 advisors can reconstitute a badly fractured force in a matter of months.

"I don't know what they're doing, frankly," Dubik said of the advisors. "I see us as very slow on the uptake politically and militarily. Ultimately, we will need more advisors and trainers.
"

Wow. The mission will fail, no ifs buts or maybes, everyone understands it, but hey, there's money and careers to be made by peddling politically advantageous fictions, so let's advocate for the same costly failures and useless measures. Unbelievable. Our entire "strategy" in the Middle East described right there.

We will randomly bomb and murder people from the air, accomplish absolutely nothing except create even more enemies, propel the decline of the region into utter chaos, and spend blood and treasure to do this while making a few already rich a bit richer on the taxpayer's dime. Meanwhile common people from the ME to the U.S. will be that much poorer, that much more insecure, that much hungrier and more hopeless. Heck of a job!
posted by VikingSword at 11:08 AM on November 3, 2014


I think this is a correct link to the article Golden Eternity referenced above. It's well worth reading.

Thanks for fixing that. Here's more on arming the FSA from 2013 that is quite fascinating. I can see why the US became so cautious about arming them. The CIA needs a Qasem Soleimani: Iran is far more successful at building and arming militias than just about anyone, it seems.

How to Start a Battalion (in Five Easy Lessons)
Ali Dibo drove me in his fancy car to another large villa in a nearby village. An old Mercedes truck was parked outside, covered in a tarpaulin. Fighters stood around under the orange trees. Two commanders were waiting to see Ali, now no longer the meek subordinate he’d been in the presence of the head of the military council but sporting the air of supreme commander of the faithful. He interrogated one of the men: ‘Why do you need so much ammunition?’ But he signed the necessary papers and the men under the orange trees started unloading crates of ammunition from the truck into a waiting pickup. The big truck was the council’s mobile armoury, containing 450,000 rounds of bullets and hundreds of RPGs.

Ali Dibo turned to another supplicant. ‘All I want from you is a short video that you can put on YouTube, stating your name and your unit and that you are part of the Aleppo military council. Then you can go do whatever you want. I just need to show the Americans that units are joining the council. I met two Americans yesterday, and they told me we won’t get any advanced weapons until we show we’re united under the leadership of the officers in the military councils. Just shoot the video and let me handle the rest.’

Months later I visited Hussam. He had discovered that the ex-teacher had been running his own show, siphoning off weapons intended for frontline troops and using them to build his own power base. Hussam sank into a sofa in the small apartment where he lives with his wife. Metal spikes stuck out of his leg: not long after he was sent back to Aleppo his car flipped over as he tried to flee an aerial bombardment. One of his close friends was killed – in fact most of his friends were by now either dead or seriously injured. ‘Ali Dibo was building his own personal fiefdom. He was using the ammunition destined for Aleppo to curry favour with other commanders.’ The military council, he said, was now just one more militia among the feuding battalions. ‘The problem is that every time they set up a council to oversee the war effort it turns into a militia. They can’t differentiate between their own personal interests and those of the nation.’
Iraqis Prepare ISIS Offensive, With U.S. Help
The goal is to break the Islamic State’s occupation in northern and western Iraq, and establish the Iraqi government’s control over Mosul and other population centers, as well as the country’s major roads and its border with Syria by the end of 2015, according to American officials.

Iraqi and Kurdish forces have made inroads in recent weeks in securing territory threatened or captured by the Islamic State, including the Rabia border crossing with Syria, the oil refinery in Baiji north of Baghdad, the northern town of Zumar, and Jurf al-Sakhar southwest of Baghdad.

...the major push, which is being devised with the help of American military planners, will require training three new Iraqi Army divisions — more than 20,000 troops — over the coming months.
I wonder what percentage of this force will be Sunni. The Kurdish situation may throw a wrench into it. Baghdad has apparently proposed the creation of a northern division of the Iraqi army that will be 70% Kurdish (maybe this is the same referred to in the NYT). This is not likely to go over well with the Peshmerga, who based on this announcement are well on their way to becoming, along with the YPG/J, the army of Kurdistan.

Syria is just a mess. Maybe the Kurdish forces and more trustworthy factions of the FSA can coalesce along the border and stop jihadis from crossing over from Turkey, but that would obviously upset Turkey even more, and there doesn't realistically seem to be anyone to counter Daesh and JN in Aleppo, Homs, Idlib and other areas except Iran and Assad. I don't see what this new FSA could do with only 5,000 soldiers. Maybe the plan is to just let Daesh and JN control those areas for a while, but what if Iran and Assad become strong enough to take them back? They seem to be doing better in Deir ez-Zor. I would hope some sort of political solution is being discussed with Iran.

Military Hates White House ‘Micromanagement’ of ISIS War
Nagata has been tasked with building a new rebel army from scratch but is not permitted to work with existing brigades, meaning he must find and vet new soldiers, mostly sourcing from Syrian refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. What’s more, the size of the program will produce only 5,000 fighters a year after the training begins, most of whom who will serve as “local defense forces” and not go after ISIS, according to two officials briefed on the plan. Of those forces, 500 would be given additional training in “counterterrorism.” That’s a small attack force to face an ISIS military that is estimated to have tens of thousands of fighters.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:11 PM on November 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


This Is How ISIS Smuggles Oil
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:06 PM on November 3, 2014


Meanwhile here at home we're trying to create alienation and recruits for extremists by illegally harassing Muslim citizens:

U.S. Muslim leaders say FBI pressuring people to become informants

"“It’s happening all over the country," said Ibrahim Hooper, a Washington-based spokesman for CAIR. “The agents are approaching these community leaders at mosques with basic questions that quickly turn into something different: pressure to become informants.”"

"Orlando, Fla., attorney Hassan Shibly said he had represented 33 clients this year who claimed they had been pressured by the FBI to release information on their religious beliefs and practices. He said the number of cases had risen dramatically in the last few weeks.

“In Orlando, they pressured one citizen who happened to be Muslim to spy on mosques, Islamic restaurants and hookah lounges or they would throw him in jail,” he said. “In another case, they approached an imam with pictures of a woman they claimed would testify of an affair unless he helped them. These are law-abiding Muslims, not criminals.”

He has taken those and other cases to court, alleging the FBI was using illegal tactics to gain information.

Shibly said Muslims were targets because many didn't know their legal rights.

"The FBI thinks it can get away with bending the law," he said. "Many Muslims come from Third World countries where such practices are common fare for the secret police. But in the U.S. you don’t expect such blackmail, with threats of deportation or worse."

In several cases, Shibly said, imams were asked about their opinions on political affairs and other matters. Agents return and tell the imams that informants have contradicted their previous statements. "They are laying the groundwork for a charge of giving false information to a law enforcement officer. That’s the trick to get them to cooperate,” he said.
"

Dirty tricks and harassment, illegal entrapment and coercion by law enforcement targeting a community based on absolutely nothing but the crudest profiling is laying the groundwork for a backlash and trouble down the road. It's like they're planning a self-fulfilling scenario, not caring that the damage done to the security of the citizenry will not be confined to any one community. That's the poison of an endless and unrestricted WOT - and we are the biggest losers in this. What we're doing abroad seems to always come back home.
posted by VikingSword at 5:19 PM on November 3, 2014


Not good at all: Egypt's Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis swear allegiance to Islamic State.

I don't know how well this has been covered in the USA, but a few days ago ago Egypt closed the crossing from Egypt to Gaza indefinitely, evicted people from the border region, demolished their houses, and declared its intention to build a canal along the border. They said it was to stop smugglers, but I think it must be because they think Hamas is supporting the Sinai terrorists.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:35 PM on November 3, 2014




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