Archive for the 'Foreign Policy' Category



U.S. Foreign Policy and Syria: What is Best for the U.S.?

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 6 months ago

Syria today is a text book conundrum for the Left.

Obama and the Left have a strange habit of embracing authoritarian and dictatorial foreign leaders among whom Bashir Assad is only one of many: Hugo Chavez, Vladmir Putin, Iranian President Ahmadinejad, Fidel Castro and Saudi King Abdullah.  When these authoritarians, however, let their security forces run amok and kill too many civilians with the gumption to call for individual liberty (too many for even the Left’s media to ignore), they tie themselves in knots trying to figure out a response.

So we have the recent publication by the left-leaning think tank, Center for New American Security (CNAS), Marc Lynch, “Pressure Not War: A Pragmatic and Prinipled Policy Towards Syria.”

Lynch’s paper is a classic example of the Left desperately seeking a rationale and a non-military approach to the recurrent problem of 21st Century dictators– terror-sponsoring ones at that– who must use increasingly bloody means to suppress the natural– dare we say God-given?– desire for freedom of common people.

Consider this summary of the problem presented by Lynch:

U.S. and other Western officials assert frequently that the collapse of the Asad regime is only a matter of time. Indeed, President Obama stated on February 6 that Asad’s fall “is not going to be a matter of if, it’s going to be a matter of when.”4 But Asad’s fall could take a long time. In the interim, many Syrians will die, and the conflict could evolve into an extended regional proxy war that victimizes the Syrian people.

A drawn out internal war could shatter the possibility of a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Syria and reverberate across the region. Within Syria, a civil war could entrench sectarian identities, shatter communities and stoke a desire for revenge that makes reconciliation after Asad impossible. A civil war would also destabilize Syria’s neighbors, including Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey, and the political instability and movement of people and arms could create new security risks for both Israel and Iran. It might also create opportunities for jihadist groups to establish a foothold in Syria, a danger that U.S. intelligence fears is already beginning to materialize. 5 If the peaceful Syrian uprising transforms into an insurgency backed and armed by outside powers against a ruthless but still viable regime, Syria could replicate Lebanon of the 1980s, on steroids.

Beyond these strategic concerns, there is a humanitarian imperative to help the Syrian people. The horrifying evidence of massacres and regime brutality make it difficult – and wrong – for the world to avert its gaze. Some critics accuse the United States of double standards and hypocrisy for focusing on Syria while turning a blind eye to abuses in Bahrain or defending Israel against international pressure, but these accusations ring hollow given irrefutable evidence of massive human rights violations and the use of deadly force against thousands of civilians. The United States has a real interest in preventing atrocities, especially since the outcome in Syria will inevitably either strengthen or badly injure the international concept of the Responsibility to Protect and other more limited efforts to establish regional and international norms against impunity for those who commit atrocities against civilians.6

[Emphasis added].

When I read this recitation of justifications for intervention, it is the case of the dog that did not bark.   Notice what is entirely missing from all of the reasons highlighted above for U.S. involvement in Syria  (Hint: it is the same element missing from the Obama Administration’s justification for intervening in Libya): a vital, U.S. national interest.

It is almost inconceivable to me that any analysis of a foreign intervention of any kind does not start and largely end with a careful consideration of vital U.S. interests at stake.   Lynch cannot even bother himself to mouth the words, “vital U.S. interest.”   Instead, Lynch writes that the United States merely “has a real interest in preventing atrocities…”   A “real” interest?  What does that even mean?  Is that in contrast with a “feigned” interest?  An “imagined” interest?  A “concocted” interest?

Furthermore, this “real interest” is supposedly strengthened because a failure to prevent atrocities would “badly injure the international concept of the Responsibility to Protect.”   What is this?   Lynch helpfully explains in a footnote  that:

The Responsibility to Protect is a relatively new international legal doctrine which gives the international community the obligation to act to prevent atrocities against civilians. Key documents explaining this doctrine are available at http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/index. php/about-rtop/core-rtop-documents

Whatever the good intentions or noble purposes of this doctrine may be, it is clear that creating an international “obligation to act to prevent atrocities against civilians” is the proverbial Pandora’s Box to any number of unintended consequences and unforeseen disasters.  It is one thing to oppose the wanton killing of civilians by, for example, the Iranian Regime, and consider whether and what action to take.   It is a far different and potentially ruinous thing to create an international obligation to act.   To throw out just one example: what would stop the ever-enlightened U.N. from determining that innocent civilians were being killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan (or Yemen, or Somalia, or Afghanistan) thus creating an international obligation to prevent such “atrocities” ?  Such “action” would not likely take military form (although who can foresee a future China or Russia emboldened by deteriorating U.S. military capabilities), but it very well might take the form of sanctions, trade embargoes, freezing of assets abroad, etc…

In essence, then, the Left cannot bring themselves to posit a vital U.S. interest in anything.   Syria is proof of that.   Lynch cites humanitarian concerns and “regional proxy wars” that boil down to more human suffering, but he never reaches the point of articulating why, precisely any of these events necessarily threaten or enhance vital U.S. interests.

My theory is that the Left cannot make the argument because, in the final analysis, they do not believe that there is any, such thing as a U.S. interest insofar as such a thing might conflict with or run counter to international interests.  This type of internationalista thinking is based almost exclusively on emotional appeals to humanitarian concerns and is highly selective.  Where was this urgent, moral imperative, for instance, when the democracy movement in Iran was being beaten, killed, tortured and raped on a massive scale in 2009 and 2010?  Assad and his father before him were torturing and killing civilians all along, but not only did the Left not call for intervention, Obama rewarded Assad with an ambassador and monikers such as “reformer.”

But U.S. interests can and very often do run counter to the interests of other nations and even international agendas.   Any analysis of Syria, then, must start with the U.S. interest in Syria and what is best for the United States of America, not Bashar Assad, not the holy grail of “regional stability” and not even the Syrian people no matter how innocent they may be.

Using Mr. Lynch’s own criteria for intervention, we get an entirely different view of Syria than the internationalista approach.

For instance, Lynch (and the internationalistas as a whole) never asks the question of whether U.S. interests are better served by the status quo ante bellum or in the current state of civil war.   In fact, Lynch assumes without question that Syrian civil war is not in the interests of the U.S. and is something that should and must be stopped.   Furthermore, Obama and his acolytes were more than happy to accommodate the Dictator Assad prior to the civil unrest in 2011.  For the Left, stability with a dictator who views the U.S. as an enemy and is allied with arch-enemy Iran is preferable to instability.

If , however, we examine the Syrian civil war purely from U.S. interests, the conclusion is surely that, despite the current, deplorable suffering of the Syrian people, the uprising by Syrian civilians, to the extent it is a genuine attempt at democratic reform, must be seen as an enormous opportunity to further vital U.S. interests in a critical area of the world for U.S. energy supplies and national security.

An Assad Regime that is battling for its life is no longer an effective state sponsor of terrorism and Iranian cat’s paw.  The fact that Iran and Russia are investing heavily in resources, rhetoric and military units is ample evidence of the value of Assad in power and the perceived loss should he be toppled.   Even assuming that the Regime is not toppled any time soon, anything that keeps the Regime preoccupied with internal strife and in a perpetual state of unrest is a great, immediate benefit to the U.S. and its allies in the region.   Though it sounds Machiavellian to say, in the case of Syria, civil war at the moment is a good thing for the U.S.

Unlike Lynch, our analysis does not stop with whether the civil war in Syria is beneficial to the U.S. or not.  Lynch assumes ipso facto that the civil war in Syria is a bad thing for the U.S. and, a fortiori, intervention by the U.S. must occur in some form.  In our analysis, however, we see that the civil war is actually beneficial for the U.S. (at least for now and in its present form).   The U.S. could well be justified in allowing the civil war to take its course and weaken the Syrian Regime as much as possible.   But a foreign policy based on U.S. interests asks the further questions:  would intervention in Syria further benefit the U.S. and, if so, what form might that intervention take?

U.S. foreign policy cannot be dictated by logarithms of civilian casualties.   Instead, the U.S. must enter into a complicated calculus of risks and benefits in seeking to topple Assad and the methods necessary and appropriate to the task.

On the benefits side of the equation, the outright removal of the Assad Regime, would strike an enormous blow to the chief enemies of the West in the Middle East: Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.  Syria is a kind of linchpin for all three of these Islamist terror groups and it is questionable whether Hezbollah and Hamas could obtain anything like the Syrian support from either Egypt or Turkey.   Beyond severely wounding these groups, the removal of Assad opens up at least the possibility of a resurrection of the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon which has been increasingly strangled by Syrian-sponsored Hezbollah.   Lebanon has great potential to be a second pro-Western bulwark alongside Israel, a huge, net gain for the U.S.   This seems to be the key to assessing Syria: what can the U.S. hope to gain?  What is the potential payoff?  If the game is not worth the prize, best not to play the game at all.

This marks a real difference between Syria and Libya.  Even in hindsight, it is difficult to envision much of a benefit to the U.S. from Qaddafi’s removal.  Qaddafi ceased to be a national security threat to the U.S. in 2004 when he willingly abandoned his WMD programs.   Qaddafi himself was more of a circus act, useful for entertainment at the U.N., but of no international consequence.  He was not even using Libyan oil production as a weapon.   So the removal of Qaddafi and his replacement by even a pro-Western government does not seem to yield much of any benefit to the U.S. in contrast to the central importance of Syria in the Iranian terror web.

On the risk side of the equation, people like Marc Lynch and the Left make much of the dangers of “civil war” in Syria if the U.S. were to support the armed opposition, the so-called Free Syrian Army.   While it is true enough that civil war is brutal for those going through it, we have already seen that, for U.S. national interests, even a civil war is better than having Assad free to do the bidding of Tehran and cultivate Hamas and Hezbollah.  In any event, Syria is already in a state of civil war with the population increasingly arming itself and attacking the Assad Regime.   As even Lynch points out, faced with a murderous regime, the civilian population is going to find a supplier of weapons somewhere and the potential for Militant Islamists (as well as Salafist Saudi Arabia) to provide the weaponry and reap the inevitable loyalty is a very real danger.

Another risk, a more substantial one in my view, surprisingly not cited by Lynch, is the potential for Militant Islamists to come to power, as seems to be happening in Egypt and Tunisia, a bitter fruit of the Arab Spring.  Might the U.S. be repeating the mistakes made in Egypt by backing armed opposition to Assad?

Can we guarantee who will wind up governing Syria once Assad is gone?  Of course not.  But from a strategic point of view, Assad is already, in many ways, the worst case scenario.  It is difficult to imagine an Al-Qaeda Syria, for instance.    That is not their style, for one, and would open them up to the kind of U.S. power that they studiously avoid at all costs by hiding within a State.  What about the Muslim Brotherhood gaining power (as they seem poised to do in Egypt) ?  This is a real concern, of course, but not one that should leave the U.S. in paralysis.

First, it is unlikely that Syrian can be controlled by the MB in anything like the way that the Assads have controlled Syria.  Without the complete, police-state control of the Assad Regime, the MB will not have anything like the free hand that Assad enjoyed to enforce Tehran’s will in the region.  While the MB may be popular to even a large segment of the population, they would be quite unpopular with other, large segments.   Even if we could imagine an Egypt-like, worst-case scenario in which the MB gains overwhelming control of an eventual Syrian government, that is merely a possible eventuality and by no means, at this point, grounds for doing nothing.  Such thinking is taking the counsel of our fears (something at which the Obama Administration excels it seems).  If anything, the prospect of a MB government in Syria should be positive grounds to do something now, while we still can, to prevent it.

Having wrestled with the benefits and risks, it would seem that there is a clear balance in favor of intervening in some fashion.  But how?

Marc Lynch spends the better part of his paper advocating a diplomatic approach.  Granted, he wants a “forceful diplomacy”, more energetic and better coordinated, but, in the end, it is diplomacy.   Worse, it is diplomacy that has no chance of succeeding.  It is perfectly clear that the Assad Regime (and its backers in Tehran and Moscow) are not going to let go of power without a long, bloody fight.  No amount of sanctions or international condemnations are going to do anything to dislodge Assad from power for the simple reason that his backers will do what it takes to evade, veto, defeat and otherwise de-fang anything that the international community can wield diplomatically.   This is the point that the Left and the internationalistas cannot bring themselves to admit: for many problems in this fallen world, there is no peaceful solution no matter how sincere or well-intentioned the advocates may be.

Lynch does consider various military options being proposed: a no-fly zone; limited air strikes (a la Libya); civilian safe havens protected by some kind of military force; armed observers, and; arming the opposition.   He dismisses each one in turn but, again, for reasons that are steeped in humanitarian concern rather than blunt, U.S. interests.

So what form of action might U.S. intervention take, one that is founded acutely upon U.S. interests?

There is no, one right answer but an incremental approach that starts with providing at least covert, military assistance to some, select opposition fighters promises the best chance for advancing U.S. interests in Syria.

What does Lynch say, specifically, about arming the Syrian opposition?

Providing arms to the FSA might hasten Asad’s fall, but at the cost of a far bloodier conflict, greater divisions among the opposition groups and a more difficult transition if Asad falls from power. First, the regime would respond by quickly escalating its attacks, and would likely discard whatever restraint it has thus far shown in order to avoid outside intervention. It is unlikely that arms will give rebels enough power to defeat the regime on the battlefield and overthrow it, given the immense imbalance in favor of regime forces. It would also be very difficult to stop Russia, Iran or others from supplying fresh arms and aid to Asad once the opposition’s backers are openly doing so. Providing arms to a relatively weak opposition will not necessarily close the military gap – it might simply lead to a bloodier conflict.

Second, this option would likely further divide the different opposition groups, rather than encouraging their cooperation. The Syrian opposition remains fragmented, disorganized and highly localized. The FSA remains something of a fiction, a convenient mailbox for a diverse, unorganized collection of local fighting groups. Those groups have been trying to coordinate more effectively, but remain deeply divided.15 However, providing weapons is not a politically neutral act. Those with greater access to the networks that distribute Western guns and equipment will grow stronger, politically as well as militarily. The arming of the Sons of Iraq in 2006, for instance, dramatically shifted the political power of competing Sunni tribes and families in unexpected ways, and the effects continue to unfold today. Better armed fighters will rise in political power, while groups that advocate nonviolence or advance political strategies will be marginalized.

Third, arming the opposition also would radically reduce the prospects for a “soft landing” if and when Asad falls. It could further frighten Syrians who – fearing large scale sectarian violence – continue to support the regime, and make them less likely to switch sides. Arming the weaker side in a civil war is a recipe for protracted, violent conflict, and it would be foolish to assume that an insurgency once launched can be easily controlled.16 If Asad does fall from power, the armed opposition groups are unlikely to demobilize or disarm quickly. Instead, these armed groups would operate in a political and security vacuum amid accumulated fears and rage, with every possibility of reprisal killings and clashing militias.

However, if arming the opposition fails to solve the crisis relatively quickly, which is likely, there will inevitably be calls to conduct the airstrikes discussed above. In other words, what appears to be an alternative to military intervention is actually more likely to be a step towards military intervention. Arming the opposition is therefore a misguided, risky and potentially disastrous option. That said, arms are likely to flood the country if the civil war continues, regardless of U.S. preferences. That flow of arms into Syria will increasingly work at cross-purposes with diplomatic and political efforts to find a managed transition that avoids the worst outcomes.

None of Lynch’s arguments are persuasive.   Some, in fact, point towards arming the opposition.  Lynch’s three main arguments consist of reducing bloodshed, preventing the rise of factions (particularly ethnic/sectarian factions) among the opposition, and preserving the possibility for a smooth, post-Assad transition of power.

As to bloodshed, the blood is flowing quite freely right now and, tragically, it is all on the side of innocent civilians.  To argue that arming the opposition will only result in greater bloodshed may be strictly true, but amounts to the comforting notion that the opposition can bleed to death slowly rather than quickly.  If this rationale prevailed, French support for the American Revolution was wrong as well.  Lynch resorts to the ridiculous notion that no amount of arms can overcome the military advantage enjoyed by Assad’s forces.  Tell that to the mujaheddin who drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan in the 1980′s (or, for that matter, the Taliban who seem to be driving the U.S. out of Afghanistan with primitive explosives and small arms).   Equally absurd is his notion that Iran and Russia will supply even more weapons to Assad if the opposition starts receiving weapons.  A civil war is never about who is supplied with more weaponry but, rather, who will crack first.  As long as Assad’s thugs can shoot civilians with relative impunity, they will never desert him.   Once helicopters are being shot down, tanks are being destroyed and columns are being effectively ambushed, the regime’s soldiers will quickly re-think their loyalties.   Some already have.

As to the second argument that arming the opposition will lead to factions and potential sectarian warfare, Lynch again departs from an analysis of what is best for the United States.  In fact, he makes an extremely effective argument in favor of arming the opposition when he writes, “providing weapons is not a politically neutral act. Those with greater access to the networks that distribute Western guns and equipment will grow stronger, politically as well as militarily. The arming of the Sons of Iraq in 2006, for instance, dramatically shifted the political power of competing Sunni tribes and families in unexpected ways, and the effects continue to unfold today. Better armed fighters will rise in political power, while groups that advocate nonviolence or advance political strategies will be marginalized.”

Exactly.  This is precisely what the U.S. should be counting upon when it decides which opposition militias it decides to support with weapons, training and intelligence.  Lynch and others assume that arming the opposition somehow requires a weapons free-for-all or that the U.S. is completely incapable of figuring out which groups to support and which to work against.  The U.S. should seek to pick winners in the Syrian conflict.   The U.S. should always seek to support those who favor a pro-Western policy (or, at the very least, a policy that is counter to Militant Islamists).   If that means arming the Kurds against the salafist Sunnis, then so be it.   The U.S. policy in arming the opposition must ensure that all militias recognize that those who side with the U.S. or against the Islamists are going to be the best armed, best trained and best resourced fighters, period.   The U.S. can never lose sight of its ultimate objective which is not the toppling of Assad per se but the disabling and destruction of the Iranian/Islamist threat.  If that means a prolonged civil war in Syria, so long as Syria is neutralized in the war with Militant Islam, vital U.S. interests are served.  Lynch’s reference to the Sons of Iraq in 2006 is perhaps the best example in favor of arming the Syrian opposition as it forced the Sunni tribes to decide whether they would continue to support Al Qaeda or support the U.S.   The result was an overwhelming success for the U.S. in eliminating Al Qaeda, particularly in Anbar Province.

Lynch’s third argument about a “soft landing” after the fall of Assad has been addressed above.  In short, for U.S. interests, we do not want any “soft landing” if that involves giving any power to salafists or the Muslim Brotherhood.   The notion that a unity government that is heavily influenced by or under the control of the MB is a good thing must be denounced.  Far better to see Syria split up into ethnic or sectarian regions than to see a MB government in power.

In summary, when an influential think tank like CNAS produces a paper that is almost wholly inimical to U.S. interests, it is time to look at the leadership in our country and demand that they (Democrat or Republican) reaffirm the primacy of U.S. interests in the making of foreign policy.   What is best for our country should always be the first and foremost consideration.  No other nation on earth plays by any, other rules.

Obama Admin Again Leads With Behind: Super Secret Syria Plan

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 8 months ago

From Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy, “Obama Administration Secretly Preparing Options For Aiding the Syrian Opposition.”

As the violence in Syria spirals out of control, top officials in President Barack Obama‘s administration are quietly preparing options for how to assist the Syrian opposition, including gaming out the unlikely option of setting up a no-fly zone in Syria and preparing for another major diplomatic initiative.

This is one of those articles that illustrates the quandary of politics and democracy in America, circa 2012.  A Leftist can read the article and feel concerned but encouraged that the Obama Administration is carefully reviewing options and nicely weighing consequences and unforeseen possibilities.   A Conservative can read this very same article and find a mother lode of examples of everything that is wrong with Obama and his foreign policy team.   So without offense to Mr. Rogin, we will begin to mine.

In the lede paragraph we find that the Administration is, “quietly preparing options for how to assist the Syrian opposition, including gaming out the unlikely option of setting up a no-fly zone in Syria and preparing for another major diplomatic initiative.”   The fact that this is even news is disturbing.   Isn’t this one of the principal tasks of any administration– to look at the likely hot spots on the globe and have a plan, even (gasp) a strategy for each?   The reaction of the Obama Administration to Syria is the same as it was for Libya as it was for Iran as it was for Egypt as it was for Iraq:  caught with its pants down.

There is no stratagey, no over-arching view of the world that weaves U.S. foreign policy into a coherent set of goals and takes pro-active action, in advance, of events.   In short, the Obama Administration has been playing defense from day one.  And it shows.  When the people of Iran rose up and marched in the streets to denounce the fraud and, later, to demand an end to the Regime, Obama’s reaction was to stay out of it.   There was no thought of seizing an unparalleled opportunity to change the trajectory of the Middle East overnight.  In Libya, the Administration went along for the ride with Britain and France, or, more precisely, Britain and France took the U.S. for the ride, relying on U.S. logistics and air power for the bulk of the mission.   And, despite the War Powers Act, Obama never once articulated a rationale to support the use of force (and the risk of American lives) in Libya.   Obama waffled back and forth on Egypt, with different Administration officials making conflicting statements for months before Mubarak was thrown to the wolves.   Even now, with the Muslim Brotherhood on the verge of gaining power in Egypt, the Administration is busy reacting—or perhaps better known as covering its rear end by painting the Brotherhood as a “moderate” Islamist group.

Notice, too, in just this, first paragraph, how the Administration is busy “preparing for another major diplomatic initiative.”   That pretty well sums up Obama’s first term in world affairs:  floating one  “major diplomatic initiative” after another, even in the face of abject failure and embarrassing rejections.   Iran is busy developing nukes?  No problem.  Let’s get our terrific allies, the Russians and Chinese, to get behind Security Council resolutions that have no, real teeth and do nothing to stop the nuke program.   Here we go again with Syria.  An opportunity to take out one of the worst enablers of terrorism, a puppet of the Iranian Regime and an implacable foe of our only ally in the Middle East, Israel, and Obama is busy “preparing for another major diplomatic initiative.”    Oh and “the unlikely option” of a no-fly zone.

Every line of Rogin’s piece is like a manual on what is wrong with this Administration:

…U.S. officials said that they are moving cautiously in order to avoid destabilizing Syria further, and to make sure they know as much as possible about the country’s complex dynamics before getting more involved. [Emphasis added]

Yes, this thing in Syria is just so, darn complex that we have to move slowly because, you know, we wouldn’t want Syria to become even less stable than it is now, what with the tanks in the streets and snipers randomly shooting civilians trying to buy bread.   And, of course, that Bashar Assad is such a “reformer” that we want to make sure he stays in power as long as possible.

And here’s a great line about the Administration’s idea of taking action:

…the administration is now ramping up its policymaking machinery on the issue. After several weeks of having no top-level administration meetings to discuss the Syria crisis, the National Security Council (NSC) has begun an informal, quiet interagency process to create and collect options for aiding the Syrian opposition, two administration officials confirmed to The Cable. [Emphasis added]

I have to hand it to Rogin on that sentence: it is a marvelous description of an Administration steeped in timidity laced with inaction bounded by circumspection and ringed with preliminary precaution.    “[S]everal weeks” of no, real discussions about Syria!?  What were the “top-level” people doing in the months before that when Syrians were demonstrating against Assad and being killed?  I know, I know, it’s a busy world and there’s a lot of golf that needs playing.

But not worry.  We are told that the NSC is on top of it now.   Uh… with “informal” and, um, “quiet” talks to “create and collect options” to do something.   This has to be the biggest exercise in foot dragging ever.   Essentially the Administration does not want to do anything with respect to Syria except, perhaps, give the impression that it is really, really about to get serious about thinking about creating an “interagency” panel of some sort who will exchange memos about  how to study the issue of, perhaps, aiding the Syrian opposition.

The unmistakable impression is that the Administration is not just playing defense here, they are doing everything they can to run out the clock in the hopes that someone else will do something (and if that “something” happens to turn out well, then take full credit for that result and trumpet it as another foreign policy triumph).

Well, at least there seem to be some options on the table:

The options that are under consideration include establishing a humanitarian corridor or safe zone for civilians in Syria along the Turkish border, extending humanitarian aid to the Syrian rebels, providing medical aid to Syrian clinics, engaging more with the external and internal opposition, forming an international contact group, or appointing a special coordinator for working with the Syrian opposition (as was done in Libya), according to the two officials, both of whom are familiar with the discussions but not in attendance at the meetings.

“The interagency is now looking at options for Syria, but it’s still at the preliminary stage,” one official said. “There are many people in the administration that realize the status quo is unsustainable and there is an internal recognition that existing financial sanctions are not going to bring down the Syrian regime in the near future.”

Gosh, it’s great that the U.S. is so focused on providing “humanitarian” help to these people that are being shelled by Assad’s artillery.   They probably do need alot of bandages and stuff.   But somehow it seems strange that Obama was hell-bent to bomb the pants off of Qaddafi for, what was it?  Oh yes, the possibility of a “humanitarian disaster,” but when it comes to Syria, where people are actually dying at the hands of a ruthless dictator in a country that actually has vital importance to the U.S., Obama is playing the coy, young girl.    Yes, when important world events demand immediate action you can count on sweet Miss Barack to spend months writing in his diary and having endless slumber parties before coming to anything like a decision.   This does not earn the U.S. any points in the world, though perhaps it will do something for Barack Obama at this year’s Miss World competition.

But, as it turns out, Mr. Rogin found at least “one official” who was willing to (anonymously) provide an explanation of the Administration’s odd behavior:

“Due to the incredible and far-reaching ramifications of the Syrian problem set, people are being very cautious,” the official said. “The criticism could be we’re not doing enough to change the status quo because we’re leading from behind. But the reason we are being so cautious is because when you look at the possible ramifications, it’s mindboggling.”

A power vacuum in the country, loose weapons of mass destruction, a refugee crisis, and unrest across the region are just a few of the problems that could attend the collapse of the Assad regime, the official said.

“This isn’t Libya. What happens in Libya stays in Libya, but that is not going to happen in Syria. The stakes are higher,” the official said. “Right now, we see the risks of moving too fast as higher than the risks of moving too slow.”

I don’t know, maybe I just have impossibly high standards for civil servants, but, unless this “official” with knowledge of these discussions is the office janitor who happens to be in the room changing EPA-approved CFC lightbulbs, it sounds a bit funny: the Administration is being hyper-cautious because of the “incredible” and “far-reaching ramifications” of taking any action in Syria.   Ooooh.  There are “ramifications.”   And they could be “incredible.”   And “far-reaching.”   [Director's Note:  Insert here shot of President in fetal position in dark corner, sucking thumb, blankie in other hand].   As the “official” said (with no trace of irony as far as I could tell), “It’s mindboggling.”

And the examples?  A “power vacuum” in Syria?  Got news for you, buddy, Syria under the Butchers of Damascus (Assad I and Assad II) has been plenty frightening.   When the Assads have not been killing and torturing their own people, they have been busy assassinating every pro-Western leader in Lebanon, assisting Iran’s plans to obliterate Israel, hosting and training terrorists for worldwide terror missions and trying to develop their own nukes (until Israel blasted the nuclear reactor to oblivion in 2007).  How much worse are we talking here?

“Loose weapons of mass destruction” ?  Come on, now.  We’re not falling for that one again.   The Left screamed their little heads off that Saddam did not have WMD’s and all the evidence that they were moved to Syria in the year prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq have been ridiculed by the Left.   Surely Obama is not going to try to tell us that Syria has WMD’s, is he?  That just opens up too many cans of worms, even for a guy who owns the Leftist Media in this country.

And a “refugee crisis, and unrest across the region” ?  The entire Middle East is a refugee crisis and non-stop unrest.   Nothing the U.S. could do in Syria is going to change these eternal features.   This is truly one of those situations where things have to get better because they cannot get any worse.

I could go on and on.  Literally.   This valuable piece by Josh Rogin is comedy gold and you should read the entire thing.   Yes, those chortles will be mixed with tears of frustration at such an inept Administration, but these days we have to find the silver lining anywhere we can.

Here are just a few more highlights:

“This isn’t Libya. What happens in Libya stays in Libya, but that is not going to happen in Syria. The stakes are higher,” the official said. “Right now, we see the risks of moving too fast as higher than the risks of moving too slow.”   [Really?  Syria is more important than Libya?  Now there's a good reason to go even slower! And you have to love the tie-in with Las Vegas.]

***

The option of establishing a humanitarian corridor is seen as extremely unlikely because it would require establishing a no-fly zone over parts of Syria, which would likely involve large-scale attacks on the Syrian air defense and military command-and-control systems.  [Yes, attacks against the air defenses and command-and-control should only be attempted against third-rate loons like Qaddafi where our vital interests are at stake.]

***

Rhetorically, the administration has been active in calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside and protecting the rights of Syrian protesters, despite the lack of clear policy to achieve that result. “The United States continues to believe that the only way to bring about the change that the Syrian people deserve is for Bashar al-Assad to leave power,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Dec. 21.  [I am told that Jay Carney scored rather well on the Journalism 101 test for stating the obvious.  Still, it's good that Obama sees the problem even if he has no clue what to do about it.]

As the comedy writers are fond of saying about real life, “You just can’t make this stuff up.”   But it took Obama to bring us the perfect marriage of U.S. Foreign Policy and Comedy Central.   And with CNN World, you can get this farce 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Expect things to get much funnier in 2012.

Feels Like 1939 All Over Again: Painful Choices with Iran

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 9 months ago

The Washington Times runs a piece today that serves as a useful, historical lesson.

There are no, particularly surprising or revealing facts reported.   In this respect, the article is a bit of a re-hash of stories that emphasize the costs of taking direct, military action against the Iranian Regime:

Iran is contemplating violently shutting down shipping in the Persian Gulf as one of several counterattack options if Israel strikes its nuclear facilities, regional and intelligence analysts say.

Such attacks would present the Obama administration with the option of undertaking a limited war against Iran by striking its warships and shore-based anti-ship missiles to keep the Gulf open for business.

Former CIA analyst Larry C. Johnson said Iran has enough firepower to effectively close the Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of all the world’s oil moves.

“One of the things that Iran has exercised, has the capability to do, is shut down the Persian Gulf,” Mr. Johnson said. “The best-case scenario is they shut it down for a week. The worst case is they shut it down for three to four months.”

He said Iran could unleash small boats laden with explosives “that we don’t have adequate covers for. Add to that the ability to fire multiple missiles. Our naval force will try to stop it, and that’s the hope.”

Mr. Johnson, now a consultant on counterterrorism, said Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which has orchestrated attacks against the U.S. in Iraq, also likely would hit targets in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations.

“I think we would be looking at a significant wave of terrorist retaliation by them,” he said.

What makes this article worthwhile is what it says about the point we find ourselves in at this juncture of our struggle against Islamofascism.   As all the news accounts indicate, stirred by the recent IAEA report, Iran is much closer to developing a nuclear arsenal.   There is a sudden panic among policymakers to head off Iran’s nuclear program.   We are, evidently, at the eleventh hour and The Washington Times article duly recites the serious consequences of any attempt to disrupt Iran’s nuke program by overt military action.

The sad fact is that the West is facing yet another instance of weakness in the face of tyranny.

As Winston Churchill noted in his brilliant history of World War II, The Gathering Storm, Vol. I, p. 218 (Mariner Books Ed.):

Mr. Chamberlain was imbued with a sense of a special and personal mission to come to friendly terms with the Dictators of Italy and Germany, and he conceived himself capable of achieving this relationship.  To Mussolini he wished to accord recognition of the Italian conquest of Abyssinia as a prelude to a general settlement of differences.  To Hitler he was prepared to offer colonial concessions.

Does Chamberlain remind you of any, current political figure who believes in their own, personal charm and powers of persuasion?  Someone who is willing to cede concessions to dictators in the hopes of currying their favor and cooperation?

Here is the heart of the matter.  The historical parallels are astounding.   Churchill summarizes the state of things as Adolph Hitler threatened Poland with invasion in 1939:

In this sad tale of wrong judgments formed by well-meaning and capable people we now reach our climax… Look back and see what we had successively accepted or thrown away: a Germany disarmed by solemn treaty; a Germany rearmed in violation of a solemn treaty; air superiority or even air parity cast away; the Rhineland forcibly occupied and the Siegfried Line built or building; the Berlin-Rome Axis established; Austria devoured and digested by the Reich; Czechoslovakia deserted and ruined by the Munich Pact, its fortress line in German hands, its mighty arsenal of Skoda henceforward making muitions for the German armies; President Roosevelt’s attempts to [intervene] waved aside with one hand, and Soviet Russia’s undoubted willingness to join the Western Powers and go all lengths to save Czechoslovakia ignored on the other; the services of thirty-five Czech divisions against the still unripened German Army cast away, when Great Britain could herself supply only two to strengthen the front in France; all gone with the wind.

***
… There was sense in fighting for Czechoslovakia in 1938 when the German Army could scarcely put half a dozen trained divisions on the Western Front, when the French  with nearly sixty or seventy divisions could most certainly have rollend forward across the Rhine or into the Ruhr.  But this had been judged unreasonable, rash, below the level of modern intellectual thought and morality…. History… may be scoured and ransacked to find a parallel to the sudden and complete reversal of five or six years’ policy of easy-going placatory appeasement, and its transformation almost overnight into a readiness to accept an obviously imminent war on far worse conditions and on the greatest scale.

This is the situation now facing us with Iran, but the indictment is far greater for us.    We have thrown away decades of advantage on “placatory appeasement” with Iran, refusing to confront their repeated attacks and declared ambitions to do us further harm.   “Death to the American Satan” was not just an idle slogans for the Regime in Tehran.

There were decades when the U.S. could have unseated the Regime.   From the very beginning in 1979 when the terror masters invaded our embassy and took our diplomats and Marines hostage, the U.S. had ample cause to take down the Regime.   But we had Jimmy Carter at the helm and he refused to act.   Reagan, George H. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush all failed to take down the Regime despite clear provocations and at a time when the power of the Regime to retaliate was far weaker.  During this time, “regime change” was the stated and official U.S. policy.

Now it falls to this pitiful Administration to make the hard choice.   We refused to take action when action would have been comparatively easy.   Churchill’s words echo:  this was judged unreasonable, rash, below the level of modern intellectual thought and morality.    Now we are forced to confront a Regime that is far better armed, with weapons and means to inflict serious injury to our economy and well-being.

Here again Churchill speaks directly to us:

Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival.  There may even be a worse case.  You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than live as slaves.

The U.S. has certainly passed the first stage and the second stage.   Fighting now will certainly be costly, but hopefully not “precarious.”   Yet.  We dare not delay any longer.   If an Islamofascist Iran obtains a store of nuclear weapons  (assuming that they do not already have at least a few), things begin to look increasingly precarious.   May we never reach that stage.

U.S. Foreign Policy Triumphs Again! Turkey Fills the Vacuum In Iraq

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 10 months ago

As if it wasn’t bad enough that the U.S. could not figure out how to negotiate an extension of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq, leading to the “premature evacuation” of our forces in two months time, the Turks have decided to make it clear to the world (and, more importantly, the regional powers that matter) the decidedly unmanly U.S. foreign policy.

Turkey has apparently decided that it is really just too inconvenient to keep dodging back and forth across the northern Iraqi border in pursuit of Kurdish militants.  Instead, according to this news item from August (which seems to have slipped under the collective radar), the Turks are fortifying bases in northern Iraq and settling in for a seemingly long stay.

ANKARA, Turkey, Aug. 19 (UPI) — Turkey targeted Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq for a second day, broadening the reach of its fight against the rebels, officials said.

The attacks Thursday came as Turkey said it’s turning intelligence outposts into operations garrisons to fight the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as PKK, to northern Iraq, where Turkey has 2,500 troops.

Turkey, which has had intelligence outposts in the region since 1995, will transform a Bamerni garrison into a logistics center for supporting major operations against PKK, Today’s Zaman reported.

The publication, citing sources, said fortification of outposts would enable Turkish troops in Iraq to stay there longer to search for members of the outlawed PKK. Bombings are to continue and units from Sirnak province will be deployed in the region, officials said.

Today’s Zaman did not give casualty figures in the latest attacks.

The 25 cross-border operations Turkey has conducted so far have been short because of pressure from allies and regional governments, but sources told Today’s Zaman Turkey would now continue operations as long as necessary to end the threat of terrorism in northern Iraq.

After a regular meeting Thursday, led by President Abdullah Gul, Turkey’s National Security Council said it’s embarking on “more effective and decisive strategy in the fight against terrorism.”

About 20 million of Turkey’s 74 million residents are Kurds, living mainly in the southeast near the country’s borders with Iraq and Iran, and the PKK’s fight for Kurdish independence has claimed 40,000 lives in the past three decades.

There are so many knife wounds in such a short story.  The actions of Turkey here could not present a stronger contrast with U.S. actions if Hollywood wanted to script it.

First off, the Turks do not seem to have learned that Iraq is a sovereign state and that any bases in Iraq used to pursue Turkey’s enemies must be subject to arduous and infinite negotiations, full of lavish offers of foreign aid and support.    How long did Turkey negotiate with Nouri al-Maliki in order to get these basing rights in a supposedly sovereign Iraq?  The article is silent but it is a safe bet that there were no negotiations.   Turkey essentially told the Iraqis, “We’re doing this.  Get used to it.”

Next, what about immunity for Turkish soldiers from prosecution under Iraqi laws?   Obama has told us that those Iraqis are absolute sticklers about this sort of thing.  Why the Iraqi people would never allow foreign soldiers on their soil who can violate Iraqi law with impunity.   The U.S. just couldn’t get that point resolved, so time to pack up in a hurry and get out of Dodge.    Somehow, though, it doesn’t look like the Turks are at all worried about Iraqi prosecutors putting Turkish soldiers in jail.

And how about that nasty Turkish attitude about a few, measly PKK fighters taking shelter in Iraq?  Kurds make up over 25% of Turkey’s population and have historic claims to parts of Turkey, Iraq and Iran.   Arguably, the Kurds were robbed of their own state when the victors of World War I split up the Ottoman Empire.   Unlike the U.S. in Pakistan, Turkey seems to have no problem treating the Iraqi border as purely optional and, now, it seems that part of Iraq itself will become effectively Turkish until the PKK is sorted out.   If that ever happens.

And what to make of Turkey’s methods for defeating the PKK?  It sure does not sound like Turkey is establishing these bases in Iraq in order to win the hearts and minds of PKK guerillas.   I sure hope that Turkish forces are going to be culturally sensitive and not commit any grievous offenses like flatulence in the presence of Iraqi Kurds, but we cannot expect that Turkish leaders will be nearly as enlightened as American leadership in this regard.  Instead, it appears that the Turks are intent on finding and killing as many of the PKK militants as possible, hence the talk by President Gul about “effective and decisive strategy in the fight against terrorism.”   Sounds way too warlike.   Not at all a COIN-centric policy.

Nonetheless, these actions by Turkey should not diminish the crowning achievement announced by President Obama that U.S. forces will be completely withdrawn from Iraq by January 1, 2012 and the war officially “over.”

Funny.  Wasn’t there a time in U.S. history when a war was not “over,” it was “won” ?

UPDATE: Michael Rubin has just posted this damning bit of information that relates how the once openly-pro American Kurds of Iraq have now (correctly) read the complete collapse of American foreign policy in the Middle East and are embracing the Iranian Regime:

The Iraqi Kurds have prided themselves on being America’s allies throughout the Iraq war and its aftermath. Repeatedly, regional leader Masud Barzani​ told visiting American generals and dignitaries that the Kurdish region was the most pro-American in Iraq.

The Kurdish authorities, however, have never made ideological alliances, but are the ultimate realists: Barzani forms partnerships with whomever he believes can most fulfill his own interests. With the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, it is clear that anyone with an ounce of self-preservation is rushing to cut deals with the Iran. After all, the most common Iranian influence theme, Iraqi politicians say, is that “You may like the Americans better, but we will always be your neighbors.” Hence, on October 29, Barzani traveled to Iran where, on Sunday, he warmly embraced both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. According to press reports, Barzani declared, “We will not forget the assistance of the Iranian people and government during the hard times passed by Iraq. To preserve our victory we need Iranian assistance and guidance….”

Everyone in the region knows that the way Iraqis negotiate is to state extreme positions as a deadline approaches, and then go behind closed doors in a smoke-filled room to hash out agreements. The Iranians often quip that they play chess while the Americans play checkers. No one expected Obama to forfeit before the game actually began. But, alas, now that he has done so, he will discover just how deeply he has lost Iraq and Iraqis.

The only consolation I can take from this is that Obama’s replacement in 2013 may be able to undo some of the terrific damage done U.S. interests in the world.   The Kurds and Iraqis at large may quickly come to regret making any deals with the Iranian Regime and may be looking for help in 2013 once the U.S. regains its senses.

Failure in Obama’s Foreign Policy

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 11 months ago

There are many failures in this administration’s foreign policy, but one glaring failure seems to capture all of the incompetence and lack of vision in a single snapshot.

Adm. Mike Mullen’s assertion last week that an anti-American insurgent group in Afghanistan is a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s spy service was overstated and contributed to overheated reactions in Pakistan and misperceptions in Washington, according to American officials involved in U.S. policy in the region.

The internal criticism by the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to challenge Mullen openly, reflects concern over the accuracy of Mullen’s characterizations at a time when Obama administration officials have been frustrated in their efforts to persuade Pakistan to break its ties to Afghan insurgent groups.

[ ... ]

Mullen’s testimony to a Senate committee was widely interpreted as an accusation by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that Pakistan’s military and espionage agencies sanction and direct bloody attacks against U.S. troops and targets in Afghanistan. Such interpretations prompted new levels of indignation among senior officials in both the United States and Pakistan.

That Pakistan’s behavior has been duplicitous for years is well known.  That the Haqqani network of fighters is killing U.S. Soldiers is equally well known.  They are noted as the most dangerous network of Islamic insurgents in the region.  In fact, the Haqqani group had a relationship of patronage with al Qaeda before AQ became big.  They have more than just a regional focus, and have had fighters in other parts of the world.  AQ learned their military skills mainly from the Haqqani group.  That Pakistan’s ISI is fond of the counterbalance in Afghanistan that they feel Haqqani provides them against Indian influence is well known.

But what is so stark about this example is the obscene display of an administration fighting with itself, but only in whispers.  No one wants to be seen publicly disputing what Admiral Mullen said, because they know he telling the truth.  No one wants to look into the eyes of the families who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan and tell them that the country which harbors those who did it is our ally.  So they do it in whispers.

The “anonymous sources” who tried to walk back Mullen’s comments are cowards.  But they exemplify an administration whose foreign policy is in absolute crisis.  They don’t know how to hold Pakistan accountable.  They have put little forethought into lines of logistics other than Khyber and Chaman from the port city of Karachi – so they are beholden to the Pakistanis (and this which is heavily dependent on Russia doesn’t count compared to this).  They have no long term vision for true alliances in the region where India would be a much better friend than Pakistan.

Make no mistake about it.  Mullen and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are trying to fight a war.  The Obama administration just undercut the Chairman in a campaign of whispers by cowards.  It is obscene in the superlative, and a sure sign of utter failure.

Preparing for Defense Budget Cuts

BY Herschel Smith
3 years ago

Regular readers know that I have always been a proponent of wise defense spending, and cutting where there is no reasonably feasible return on investment (Brian Stewart at NRO’s Corner has similar views).  For example, I have strongly opposed the Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, and advocated abandonment of the Marine Corps vision of sea-based forcible entry modeled after 60-year old warfare doctrine.  Instead, I have recommended that the Marine Corps focus on air-based forcible entry, even if from sea-based Amphibious Assault Docks.  Rapid response and smaller unit operations, modeled after Special Operations Forces, should be at least one new focus of the Corps.  And the Congress appears to have cut funding for the EFV.

But this is a far cry from advocating serious slashing of the Pentagon’s budget across the board.  Yet the Pentagon is preparing for such cuts as part of the current financial maelstrom.

After doubling in size during George W. Bush’s presidency, the Pentagon is about to go on a diet for the first time since 1998. Whether that means two years of skipping dessert or a 10-year crash diet depends on how Washington’s debt-ceiling deal plays out between now and December.

Two Californians will be central to the outcome.

One is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a liberal San Francisco Democrat who helped engineer a provision in the debt deal that exposes the Pentagon to nearly $1 trillion in cuts over the next decade.

The other is Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a former Democratic congressman from Monterey who warned in his maiden press conference Thursday that such cuts are “completely unacceptable.”

Underlying the fight is the question of whether the U.S. military should remain the world’s global police force or downsize to a less-ambitious posture that reflects a diminished financial capacity.

“The defense budget is going to be cut, whatever happens with this particular law,” said Michael Mandelbaum, a foreign policy expert at Johns Hopkins University and author of “The Frugal Superpower.” The nation’s deficit problem, he said, is “so large that … in circumstances in which Americans pay more to the government and get less, they are not going to be as generous as they have been in the past in funding foreign and security policy.”

The debt deal lays out two rounds of defense cuts. The first is a $350 billion reduction in “security” spending over 10 years, only two years of which is locked in. The Obama administration had proposed those cuts in April as part of a general belt-tightening at the Pentagon.

But the second round could be much more severe. Viewed by Democrats as a way to force Republicans to accept the need for higher tax revenue, this round could force the Pentagon to share $1.2 trillion in 10-year spending cuts equally with domestic spending on such things as highways and education. These cuts could take $600 billion from the military, about a 10 to 15 percent reduction, depending on what is measured.

The cuts would take effect automatically if a new bipartisan super-committee in Congress fails to devise – or Congress fails to pass – an alternative plan that trims Medicare and other entitlement programs and raises tax revenue.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has indeed warned against sweeping defense cuts, but he is Obama’s man in this post, and the warnings are likely part of a larger strategy to increase taxes, with Panetta’s warnings being the catalyst to force Congressional Republicans to “increase revenue” rather than allow a diminution of national security.

But there is another possibility, and it is that we actually adopt a radically different paradigm for our international behavior.  Support for this approach can be found among Democrats, but finds unlikely support from the Tea Party.

A 12-member bipartisan Congressional committee has until November 23rd to figure out how exactly to trim the debt by some $1.5 trillion dollars over 10 years. Then, they have a matter of weeks to sell that plan to both houses of Congress.

If no agreement is reached, automatic cuts kick in: $600 billion from the military and $600 billion from domestic programs. Both Democrats and Republicans shudder at this arrangement. But how does the Tea Party feel about steep cuts to national defense?

The Tea Party doesn’t have a central spokesman or organizing body; it’s a loose coalition of people united by beliefs in spending cuts, lower taxes, and smaller government. To try and gauge the mood of Tea Party supporters, I spoke with three people, in different parts of the country, who subscribe to their uniting principles.

“We really need across the board cuts. And nothing can be a sacred cow, nothing can be off limits. And that’s going to include defense,” said Chris Littleton of Cincinnati, co-founder of the group The Ohio Liberty Council.

Littleton said the defense budget has become bloated. (It’s come close to doubling since September 11th, 2001.) Littleton argued that’s because the military has lost sight of its Constitutional mission.

“It does not include being the world’s police, being the world’s peacemaker, or trying to advance our culture or causes around the world as a singular purpose. It’s for common defense,” said Litleton. “And so if we are not directly threatened, and we are not involved in an altercation, that we need to defend ourselves (from), then we can absolutely scale back our operations from throughout the world. So I’d be for both domestic and foreign military installations brought back, trimmed down, and hopefully many of them even eliminated.”

Support for a smaller military runs counter to what many conservative Republicans espouse. But Tea Party supporter Jason Rink – executive director of The Foundation for a Free Society in Austin, Texas – argued that’s because Republicans haven’t been acting like real conservatives.

“Traditional conservatives, they believed we should have a humble foreign policy, they believed that we shouldn’t police the world, they believed that we shouldn’t get into foreign wars, and that our defense spending needed to be something that we addressed and we were modest about,” said Rink.

But if we fail to stop Iran’s increased hegemony in the Middle East, if we fail to prevent Iran from going nuclear, if our military power and resolve isn’t sufficient to prevent Russia from invading Georgia again, if we relinquish the Pacific to growing Chinese Naval provocations, if we fail to deal a decisive blow to the Taliban and al-Qaeda aligned fighters in the AfPak region, there will be war.  Israel cannot allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.  Eastern Europe is looking to the U.S. for direction, and our abandonment of a missile defense shield was indication that we aren’t serious about their security, much less entry into NATO.  Russia is back up to their dirty tricks, and is poised to conduct yet another assault into Ossetia, and the Chinese still want Formosa.

As for homeland security, I have already describe a fairly simply assault on infrastructure that we cannot absorb.  Like it or not, America has benefited from the defense doctrine of fighting our battles away from the homeland rather than allowing the threat to land on our own shores before we confront it.  Troops are currently deployed in more than 100 countries, and while it may be a tantalizing prospect to withdraw from the entire world and focus inward, we should be careful what we advocate.  It will be much more difficult to recreate that military presence and deterrent that it was to dismantle it, regardless of how much money we throw at the problems once they have become obvious.

Cuts are coming.  That which cannot continue, won’t.  That which cannot be sustained will fall by the wayside.  The question is whether America will address the growing entitlement state, however painful, or retreat from the world, also painful, just in a completely different ways, and perhaps permanently.

See also:

Rapidly Collapsing Foreign Policy III

Rapidly Collapsing Foreign Policy II

Rapidly Collapsing Foreign Policy

How’s That Democracy Thing Working For You? Egypt and the U.S. Face Reality

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years ago

This is not looking good.

According to this report in The Wall Street Journal, the secular, pro-democracy movement in Egypt received a beat-down by the Egyptian military and ordinary Egyptian citizens who are increasingly backing the Army and Islamist groups like The Muslim Brotherhood.

CAIRO—Mobs of ordinary Egyptians joined with soldiers to drive pro-democracy protesters from their encampment in Tahrir Square here Monday, showing how far the uprising’s early heroes have fallen in the eyes of the public.

Six months after young, liberal activists helped lead the popular movement that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, the hard core of these protesters was forcibly dispersed by the troops. Some Egyptians lined the street to applaud the army. Others ganged up on the activists as they retreated from the square that has come to symbolize the Arab Spring.

Squeezed between an assertive military and the country’s resurgent Islamist movement, many Internet-savvy, pro-democracy activists are finding it increasingly hard to remain relevant in a post-revolutionary Egypt that is struggling to overcome an economic crisis and restore law and order.

As if this is not bad enough the Muslim Brotherhood used this occasion to demonstrate its muscles, gathering “hundreds of thousands” to Tahrir Square a few days before:

Monday’s turmoil in Tahrir followed a massive Friday demonstration on the same square by hundreds of thousands of Islamists, who called for transforming Egypt into an Islamic state—and railed against the liberal and secular youths who had helped motivate millions to rise up against Mr. Mubarak.

The Islamists’ numbers dwarfed those of the activists who have re-occupied Cairo’s central square since July 8, criticizing the slow pace of reforms, calling for police accountability and pressing for speedier trials of Mr. Mubarak and his associates. The Tahrir sit-in was organized by the April 6 Movement, one of the uprising’s main planners, other youth groups and relatives of protesters killed in the weeks before Mr. Mubarak’s ouster on Feb. 11.

The repercussions of an Islamist Egypt could hardly be worse.  Besides the obvious threat to Israel, there is every chance that Egypt could align itself closely with the increasingly Islamist Turkey and join what appears to be the makings of an Islamist Bloc including not just Turkey, but Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Gaza.

The timing could hardly be worse for U.S. interests.  Under the just-completed debt ceiling legislation, defense spending could be slashed with dire consequences for U.S. force-projection capabilities.  Compounding this is the ongoing refusal of the Obama Administration to take the choke-hold off of oil and gas leasing approvals, resulting in an increasing shortage of domestic production and ever-greater dependence on foreign oil.  Add to this the growing influence of China and Russia in the Middle East and the U.S. is facing the prospect of having very little influence in this critical part of the world at a time when we need it most.

Perhaps worst of all, the WSJ piece ends on a note that reverberates right here in the United States:

Unlike in previous skirmishes, the activists interviewed Monday didn’t allege to be the victims of thugs paid by the government.

“The people were beating us and helping the army,” said protester Mahmoud Abdallah, catching his breath in a side street off Tahrir as an army truck hauled away detainees. “The people don’t know what is good for them. They don’t have any awareness. They just want to make money.”

As he spoke, Tareq Shawky, a 42-year-old toilet equipment vendor, interrupted the conversation. He said he had heard about the army moving against the protesters, and drove to the square so he could help dismantle the encampment.

“The Egyptian citizen wants only two things—security and low prices,” Mr. Shawky shouted. “The millions of Egyptians will do anything that the army tells us to do.”

This is the bottom line, isn’t it?

When Government-provided security and subsidies become the paramount concern of citizens, then democracy no longer exists.  There are no, real limits on Government under this mindset.

Egypt seemed to be emerging from an authoritarian legacy with dreams of founding a new society where basic, human rights were protected and valued.   Sadly, it seems that most Egyptians care more for safety and free bread.

And here in the United States, in a little over 200 years, we have, generation by generation, bartered away our independence for Government promises of security and subsidies:  Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance,Pell grants, Minimum Wage, Farm subsidies, Ethanol subsidies… the list is endless.   Even when faced with imminent, national bankruptcy, the thought of any change whatsoever to these entitlements is unthinkable for most Americans.   To merely revise bargaining rights of a public employee union results in riots and the occupation of government buildings.

In the recent “crisis” over the debt ceiling, several polls showed that a lopsided majority of Americans wanted government to reduce spending, but not at the expense of any of their favorite programs.  There is only one place where this attitude leads:  systemic failure leading to societal collapse leading, inevitably, to authoritarianism.

But, hey, why let a little thing like financial collapse ruin the party?

Mark Steyn and the Perfect Summary of 21st Century American Frustration

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 2 months ago

For anyone who is not acquainted with the work of Mark Steyn, you have an awful lot of catching up to do on a treasure trove of witty, insightful and provocative reading.

I have been a huge fan of Steyn for years but this piece, originally appearing in National Review, is, perhaps, his best, at least in regards to the current predicament of America in the 21st Century.

What predicament?

For any American who is knowledgeable about the extraordinary capabilities of the U.S. military, it is a constant source of frustration to contemplate the consistently mediocre results we get from employing those forces.   It is a classic case of underpeformance.   It is like, well, the Miami Heat:  stocked with arguably the NBA’s best talent, they cannot manage to roll over the Dallas Mavericks in the recent NBA championship series.    This was the team that was supposed to dominate like the Chicago Bulls of the Michael Jordan era.

But, to be fair to the Miami Heat, this is a poor analogy.   A more accurate one would be to imagine the College Football National Champion Auburn Tigers going up against the Rec League, Ellicott City Patriots B-Team.  Comprised of 11-year olds.   That’s how stark the difference is between the U.S. military and the kind of adversaries we have been going up against since the end of World War II.  When the Auburn Tigers can’t seem to put away the Patriots’ B-Team and it is dragging into overtime and a possible tie-game, the Auburn fans are understandably frustrated.

Or as Steyn puts it:

Why can’t America win wars? It’s been two-thirds of a century since we saw (as President Obama vividly put it) “Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur.” And, if that’s not quite how you remember it, forget the formal guest list, forget the long-form surrender certificate, and try to think of “winning” in a more basic sense.

After summarizing Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, he remarks:

According to partisan taste, one can blame the trio of current morasses on Bush or Obama, but in the bigger picture they’re part of a pattern of behavior that predates either man, stretching back through non-victories great and small — Somalia, Gulf War One, Vietnam, Korea. On the more conclusive side of the ledger, we have . . . well, lemme see: Grenada, 1983. And, given that that was a bit of post-colonial housekeeping Britain should have taken care of but declined to, one could argue that even that lone bright spot supports a broader narrative of Western enfeeblement. At any rate, America’s only unambiguous military triumph since 1945 is a small Caribbean island with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. For 43 percent of global military expenditure, that’s not much bang for the buck.

Inconclusive interventionism has consequences. Korea led to Norks with nukes. The downed helicopters in the Iranian desert led to mullahs with nukes. Gulf War One led to Gulf War Two. Somalia led to 9/11. Vietnam led to everything, in the sense that its trauma penetrated so deep into the American psyche that it corroded the ability to think clearly about war as a tool of national purpose.

Steyn exactly identifies the source of the problem.   It is not that our military is incapable of decisive victory, the problem lies with our national leadership.  To return to the sports analogy, it is as if the Auburn coaches decided that it would not look good to grind those 11-year olds into the dirt, so the Tigers go to unbelievable lengths to not win but not lose either. That may be fine when it is simply a game of  football, but when it involves a deadly contest where Americans are being killed or maimed, handicapping yourself in such a way is criminal.   Or as Steyn puts it:

But in the nuclear age, all-out war — war with real nations, with serious militaries — was too terrible to contemplate, so even in proxy squabbles in Third World backwaters the overriding concern was to tamp things down, even at the price of victory. And, by the time the Cold War ended, such thinking had become ingrained. A U.S.–Soviet nuclear standoff of mutual deterrence decayed into a unipolar world of U.S. auto-deterrence. Were it not for the brave passengers of Flight 93 and the vagaries of the Oval Office social calendar, the fourth plane on 9/11 might have succeeded in hitting the White House, decapitating the regime, leaving a smoking ruin in the heart of the capital and delivering the republic unto a Robert C. Byrd administration or some other whimsy of presidential succession. Yet, in allowing his toxic backwater to be used as the launch pad for the deadliest foreign assault on the U.S. mainland in two centuries, Mullah Omar either discounted the possibility of total devastating destruction against his country, or didn’t care.

If it was the former, he was surely right. After the battle of Omdurman, Hilaire Belloc offered a pithy summation of technological advantage:

Whatever happens
We have got
The Maxim gun
And they have not.

But suppose they know you’ll never use the Maxim gun? At a certain level, credible deterrence depends on a credible enemy. The Soviet Union disintegrated, but the surviving superpower’s instinct to de-escalate intensified: In Kirkuk as in Kandahar, every Lilliputian warlord quickly grasped that you could provoke the infidel Gulliver with relative impunity. Mutually Assured Destruction had curdled into Massively Applied Desultoriness.

Here I part company somewhat from my National Review colleagues who are concerned about inevitable cuts to the defense budget. Clearly, if one nation is responsible for near half the world’s military budget, a lot of others aren’t pulling their weight. The Pentagon outspends the Chinese, British, French, Russian, Japanese, German, Saudi, Indian, Italian, South Korean, Brazilian, Canadian, Australian, Spanish, Turkish, and Israeli militaries combined. So why doesn’t it feel like that?

Well, for exactly that reason: If you outspend every serious rival combined, you’re obviously something other than the soldiery of a conventional nation state. But what exactly? In the Nineties, the French liked to complain that “globalization” was a euphemism for “Americanization.” But one can just as easily invert the formulation: “Americanization” is a euphemism for “globalization,” in which the geopolitical sugar daddy is so busy picking up the tab for the global order he loses all sense of national interest. Just as Hollywood now makes films for the world, so the Pentagon now makes war for the world. Readers will be wearily familiar with the tendency of long-established pop-culture icons to go all transnational on us: Only the other week Superman took to the podium of the U.N. to renounce his U.S. citizenship on the grounds that “truth, justice, and the American way” no longer does it for him. My favorite in recent years was the attempted reinvention of good ol’ G.I. Joe as a Brussels-based multilateral acronym — the Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity. I believe they’re running the Libyan operation.

This is it precisely.   The U.S. has, for whatever reason, decided that winning is unacceptable.  This is Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign stating that he does not like to use the word victory.   For all practical purposes, the U.S. has unilaterally disarmed.  Sure, we still have all those weapons and sophisticated arsenals of death lying around, and we may parade them about and fly them over the heads of Taliban fighters to try to put a good scare into them, but we have decided that actually using those weapons in the way that they were designed to be used, in the national interest of the U.S., is unacceptable.

Instead, Steyn points out, the U.S. has given in to what he terms, “Transnational do-gooding.”

Transnational do-gooding is political correctness on tour. It takes the relativist assumptions of the multiculti varsity and applies them geopolitically: The white man’s burden meets liberal guilt. No wealthy developed nation should have a national interest, because a national interest is a selfish interest. Afghanistan started out selfishly — a daringly original military campaign, brilliantly executed, to remove your enemies from power and kill as many of the bad guys as possible. Then America sobered up and gradually brought a freakish exception into compliance with the rule. In Libya as in Kosovo, war is legitimate only if you have no conceivable national interest in whatever conflict you’re fighting. The fact that you have no stake in it justifies your getting into it. The principal rationale is that there’s no rationale, and who could object to that? Applied globally, political correctness obliges us to forswear sovereignty. And, once you do that, then, as Country Joe and the Fish famously enquired, it’s one-two-three, what are we fighting for?

When you’re responsible for half the planet’s military spending, and 80 percent of its military R&D, certain things can be said with confidence: No one is going to get into a nuclear war with the United States, or a large-scale tank battle, or even a dogfight. You’re the Microsoft, the Standard Oil of conventional warfare: Were they interested in competing in this field, second-tier military powers would probably have filed an antitrust suit with the Department of Justice by now. When you’re the only guy in town with a tennis racket, don’t be surprised if no one wants to join you on center court — or that provocateurs look for other fields on which to play. In the early stages of this century’s wars, IEDs were detonated by cell phones and even garage-door openers. So the Pentagon jammed them. The enemy downgraded to more primitive detonators: You can’t jam string. Last year, it was reported that the Taliban had developed metal-free IEDs, which made them all but undetectable: Instead of two hacksaw blades and artillery shells, they began using graphite blades and ammonium nitrate. If you’ve got uniformed infantrymen and tanks and battleships and jet fighters, you’re too weak to take on the hyperpower. But, if you’ve got illiterate goatherds with string and hacksaws and fertilizer, you can tie him down for a decade. An IED is an “improvised” explosive device. Can we still improvise? Or does the planet’s most lavishly funded military assume it has the luxury of declining to adapt to the world it’s living in?

In the spring of 2003, on the deserted highway between the Jordanian border and the town of Rutba, I came across my first burnt-out Iraqi tank — a charred wreck shoved over to the shoulder. I parked, walked around it, and pondered the fate of the men inside. It seemed somehow pathetic that, facing invasion by the United States, these Iraqi conscripts had even bothered to climb in and point the thing to wherever they were heading when death rained down from the stars, or Diego Garcia, or Missouri. Yet even then I remembered the words of the great strategist of armored warfare, Basil Liddell Hart: “The destruction of the enemy’s armed forces is but a means — and not necessarily an inevitable or infallible one — to the attainment of the real objective.” The object of war, wrote Liddell Hart, is not to destroy the enemy’s tanks but to destroy his will.

Instead, America has fallen for the Thomas Friedman thesis, promulgated by the New York Times’ great thinker in January 2002: “For all the talk about the vaunted Afghan fighters, this was a war between the Jetsons and the Flintstones — and the Jetsons won and the Flintstones know it.”

But they didn’t. They didn’t know they were beaten. Because they weren’t. Because we hadn’t destroyed their will — as we did to the Germans and Japanese two-thirds of a century ago, and as we surely would not do if we were fighting World War II today. That’s not an argument for nuking or carpet bombing, so much as for cool clear-sightedness. Asked how he would react if the British army invaded Germany, Bismarck said he would dispatch the local police force to arrest them: a clever Teuton sneer at the modest size of Her Britannic Majesty’s forces. But that’s the point: The British accomplished much with little; at the height of empire, an insignificant number of Anglo-Celts controlled the entire Indian subcontinent. A confident culture can dominate far larger numbers of people, as England did for much of modern history. By contrast, in an era of Massively Applied Desultoriness, we spend a fortune going to war with one hand tied behind our back. The Forty-Three Percent Global Operating Industrial Military Complex isn’t too big to fail, but it is perhaps too big to win — as our enemies understand.

So on we stagger, with Cold War institutions, transnational sensibilities, politically correct solicitousness, fraudulent preening pseudo–nation building, expensive gizmos, little will, and no war aims . . . but real American lives. “These Colors Don’t Run,” says the T-shirt. But, bereft of national purpose, they bleed away to a grey blur on a distant horizon. Sixty-six years after V-J Day, the American way of war needs top-to-toe reinvention.

The worst news, however, is that we are such a divided nation in our sense of national purpose that I do not see any way that “the American way of war” will get anything like a “reinvention” as Steyn prescribes.   The American people are living in a fantasy world where we can continue to lavish entitlement spending on ourselves (and heap more on top of that with Obamacare) while contemplating a substantially reduced military, as if evil does not exist and America will never be threatened (and anyone who raises that specter is simply trying to scare the public for the benefit of the military-industrial complex).

But we know how these things end.    The Dot Com Bubble was created by the fantasy that internet companies with no revenues were, nonetheless, worth ridiculous share prices.   That Bubble burst.    The Housing Bubble grew from the fantasy that trillions of dollars could be lent to persons with bad credit and little prospect for repayment.   That Bubble burst.    The current fantasy about the nature of the world and America’s invulnerability will end, too.   And when it does we will finally regain the will to win.   I pray that we will still have the means.

Continuing Fallout from Bin Laden Raid: Growing Chinese Role in Pakistan?

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 3 months ago

The raid to kill Bin Laden in Abbatabad, Pakistan, like a nuclear blast, has fallout beyond the immediate event.

One of those effects is the apparent impetus for closer relations between Pakistan and China.

The Economist noted earlier this month that Pakistan made no secret of praising its relations with China in the aftermath of the Bin Laden raid.

PAKISTAN’S ambassador to Beijing, Masood Kahn, was this week fully armed with metaphors to describe the robust friendship between the two countries. “We say it is higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, stronger than steel, dearer than eyesight, sweeter than honey, and so on.”

The relationship is indeed a geopolitical keystone for both countries. Pakistan serves as China’s closest friend both in South Asia and among Islamic countries. So close, indeed, that many suspect China has asked Pakistan for the valuable remains of the American stealth helicopter abandoned during the bin Laden raid. Meanwhile, China can help counterbalance Pakistan’s arch-rival, India, including in Afghanistan.

Pakistan seems keen to foster the impression that new tensions with America might nudge it even closer towards China. In his blustery speech to parliament on May 9th Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani struck out on an odd tangent to praise China as an “all-weather friend”, providing Pakistan with strength and inspiration. Not to be outdone, President Asif Zardari issued an effusive statement of his own about a friendship “not matched by any other relationship between two sovereign countries”.

Others have noted the attempts by Pakistan to curry favor with China as well.   The Wall Street Journal Online has this:

BEIJING—Pakistan’s defense minister said China has agreed to take over operation of the strategically positioned but underused port of Gwadar, and that Islamabad would like the Chinese to build a base there for the Pakistani navy.

Ahmad Mukhtar gave no clear timetable on the possible change at Gwadar, on Pakistan’s western coast, which is currently managed by a Singaporean government company. But his statement Saturday is the latest illustration of how Pakistan is portraying China as a powerful alternative ally and aid source if the U.S. scales down military assistance for Islamabad in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s killing.

On the whole, given the duplicity of Pakistan and the inevitable conflict in the Pakistani tribal areas, putting some distance between the U.S. and Pakistan may be beneficial in the long run.   In other words:  if you want to jump into bed with China, good luck with their cold feet.

Both The Economist and The Wall Street Journal Online note the decidedly ambivalent feelings about Pakistan by the Chinese.  The Economist cautions:

But if Islamabad is worried about falling out with Washington and hopes to get more out of Beijing, it may be in for disappointment. According to Zhu Feng of Peking University, such calculations based on “the traditional mentality of power politics” are misplaced. China’s robust, longstanding ties with Pakistan stand on their own merits, he says, and owe nothing to America’s standing in Pakistan. Both China and America want a stable Pakistan.

For all that, China’s dealings with Pakistan have always been conducted with one eye on India. Last year Beijing chose to supply Pakistan with two new civilian nuclear reactors, even though the deal appeared to violate Chinese non-proliferation commitments. It was a boon not only for Pakistan’s energy-starved economy. It was, as Mr Zhu points out, also a way for China to counterbalance a controversial nuclear deal reached earlier between America and India.

China and Pakistan have a lustily growing trade relationship, worth almost $9 billion last year. China provides military gear, including fighter jets and frigates. Some Chinese infrastructure projects in Pakistan have strategic implications. They include ports on the Arabian Sea and a proposed rail project which has yet to be approved, but which would arouse controversy, and Indian ire, by running through contested territory in Kashmir.

Still, China’s commitment to Pakistan has its limits. After devastating floods last year, America gave Pakistan $690m, 28% of all international aid. China’s contribution was a mere $18m. According to Andrew Small of the German Marshall Fund, an American policy institute, Pakistan may be “talking up the ‘China option’ beyond where the Chinese are willing to go.” China, he reckons, will be reluctant to tilt too far towards what might look like an anti-India alliance”. Despite border disagreements, China wants to keep its relations with India in reasonable order.

What is more, Pakistan’s chronic instability and its failure, whether by design or incompetence, to suppress extremism make Pakistan as hard a partner for China to trust as for America. “Sweeter than honey” may be plenty sweet enough.

The WSJ sounds a similar note:

China is eager to expand its influence in Pakistan over the long term, but is wary of the country’s chronic instability, which was highlighted late Sunday when a Pakistani naval base was attacked in the western port of Karachi, about 300 miles southeast of Gwadar.

Indeed.  In some ways, Pakistan and China are made for each other.  One is chronically unstable and in dire need of constant foreign aid while the other is infamously stingy and calculating in its foreign affairs.   May they enjoy each others’ company for many years.  We can certainly use the money wasted in foreign aid to Pakistan for better purposes such as freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil.

At the same time, there is no doubt that India feels the pressure of a nuclear Pakistan and nuclear China on its borders.   The U.S. has everything to gain by pursuing closer ties with India, the rising power of the Near East.   Trading Pakistan for India would be like trading Hillary Clinton for Sarah Palin.   I think we can live with that exchange.

But we should be under no illusions that, whatever happens to the American-Pakistani relationship, China is increasingly in the mood to flex its muscles in the region.   According to an article flagged at Hot Air, China has reportedly given the U.S. something of an ultimatum regarding any future border incursions into Pakistan:

Barack Obama says that if the US has another chance to get a high-value terrorist target like Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, he’ll make the same call as he did earlier this month.  Not so fast, says China.  According to a report from India a few days ago, China has warned that an “attack” on Pakistan will be taken as an attack on China (via Pundit Press):

In the wake of the US raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden, China has “warned in unequivocal terms that any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China”, a media report claimed today.

The warning was formally conveyed by the Chinese foreign minister at last week’s China-US strategic dialogue and economic talks in Washington, The News daily quoted diplomatic sources as saying. China also advised the USa to “respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and solidarity”, the report said.

Chinese Premier Mr Wen Jiabao informed his Pakistani counterpart Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani about the matters taken up with the US during their formal talks at the Great Hall of the People yesterday. The report said China “warned in unequivocal terms that any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China”. The two premiers held a 45-minute one-on-one meeting before beginning talks with their delegations.

The Chinese leadership was “extremely forthcoming in assuring its unprecedented support to Pakistan for its national cause and security” and discussed all subjects of mutual interest with Mr Gilani, the report said. Mr Gilani described Pakistan-China relations and friendship as “unique”. Talking to Pakistani journalists accompanying him, he said that China had acknowledged his country’s contribution and sacrifices in the war against terrorism and supported its cause at the international level. “China supported Pakistan’s cause on its own accord,” Mr Gilani said with reference to the Sino-US strategic dialogue where the Chinese told the US that Pakistan should be helped and its national honour respected. Mr Gilani said China had asked the US to improve its relations with Pakistan, keeping in view the present scenario.

It it difficult to believe that China would truly be willing to go to war over, say, a Predator drone attack or even a SOF incursion into the FATA, but uncertainty over China’s reaction to any future missions of a similar nature will only add to the difficulty of having an ally with whom you are, in some measure, at war.

Isolationist Fever: Ron Paul’s Delirious Statements on Bin Laden

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 3 months ago

I have previously commented on the absurd isolationism of Rep. Ron Paul and his fellow travelers, but this recent interview by WHODSM (Iowa) radio host, Simon Conway, is one of those watershed moments when anyone with a minimally-functioning brain has to reconsider whatever support they may have had for Paul.

Consider this 6+ minute clip from the interview (part 4 of a 5-part video series) in which host, Simon Conway, asks Rep. Paul a series of foreign policy questions:

To recap, the host takes Ron Paul through several topics.   The one that has gotten the most press has been the one that occurs at 3:58 in the clip.

SC:  …Are you asking us to believe that a President Ron Paul could have ordered the kill of Bin Laden by entering another sovereign nation?

RP: [No, things would be done differently, per the model of the arrest of the mastermind of the 9-11 attacks, Kalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was arrested by Pakistani agents and turned over to the U.S. for trial.  Also similar to the arrest and prosecution of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers].

They were all captured and brought and tried in a civilian court and they’ve all been punished, so, no, what’s wrong with that?  Why can’t we… work with the government [of Pakistan]?

SC: I just want to be clear.  A President Ron Paul would therefore not have ordered the kill of Bin Laden which… could only have taken place by entering a sovereign nation?

RP: I don’t think it was necessary, no… It was absolutely not necessary and I think respect for the rule of law and world law, international law. What if he’d been in a hotel in London?  I mean…you know, if we wanted to keep it secret?  So, would we have sent the airplane, the… helicopter into London?  Because they were afraid the information might get out?  No, you don’t want to do that.

(Emphasis Added)

First, the underlying premise behind Paul’s statements is that the capture, civilian trial and imprisonment of Osama Bin Laden would be preferable to: (a) death or, in the alternative; (b) indefinite detention as an illegal combatant or prosecution in a military tribunal with a conviction carrying the death penalty.  There have been plenty of others who have commented on the folly of according terrorists the full rights of American citizens to an Article III, civilian court trial.   The total debacle in the Ghalani trial was proof enough of that.  Ron Paul apparently still subscribes to the ridiculous notion that the war against Islamofascism can be fought as a criminal investigation.   Where has Ron Paul been living for the past 10 years?  Has he paid any attention to the War or is he simply playing the ostrich and ignoring world events altogether?

Notice, too, Ron Paul’s touching faith in the government of Pakistan?  “Why can’t we…work with the government” of Pakistan?  Gosh, that is an incisive question Dr. Paul.   You really cut to the heart of the matter.

Afterall, as he points out, the Pakistanis did such a bang-up job of scouring the country for Bin Laden in the first place, hiding right next to their premier military academy, a police station and a breezy drive from their own capital!  And let’s remember that the Pakistani government has done such a good job cooperating with our war efforts in Afghanistan that they only allow one, vast swath of their tribal border area to be a safe-haven, staging area and training ground for the enemy attacking our forces in Afghanistan, instead of two or three.   Now that’s progress!   And no doubt Dr. Paul would point out that he would have no problems working with the Pakistani government that just disclosed the identity of our CIA station chief in Pakistan, or the one that is contemplating turning over our ultra-advanced, stealth helicopter wreckage to China for inspection and reverse engineering (something at which the Chinese have found they do quite well based on the number and variety of pirated products flooding the U.S. market).  And, it is not like the Pakistani government has ever ratted to the Islamofascists about pending U.S. drone strikes, military raids or strategic moves.    Yes, Dr. Paul, I can see why you would want to work with that Pakistani government.

Second, Ron Paul— the Ron Paul who wants to disengage from all manner of international institutions— points to “respect for… international law” as a basis for not taking the kill shot on Bin Laden.  The interview does not bring out Paul’s precise meaning here, but he seems to be alluding to the international legal maxim that one nation should not violate the sovereignty of another nation in the absence of declared war.   As applied to the war against Islamofascism, however, this is nonsense.  The Islamists derive their primary strength, like a virus, by illegally inhabiting the territory of nation states too weak (or too irresolute) to remove them.  Thus it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for the U.S. to directly attack the Islamists without either declaring war on each and every infected country or violating infected country’s sovereignty.    Indeed, the very notion of “sovereignty” is called into question when a nation (such as Pakistan) fails or refuses to exercise the degree of control over its own territory to prevent it from becoming a haven for illegal wars by the likes of Al Qaeda.   In my view, Pakistan has no more right to claim a violation of sovereignty over the tribal areas infested with terrorists than Mexico had when it allowed Pancho Villa to operate freely in the border areas with Texas.  In this ever-shrinking world where death can be dealt out to thousands in New York and Washington, D.C. from relatively unsophisticated, third-world terrorists hosted halfway across the globe, the notion of sovereign territory is in flux, to say the least.

Third, and most damning of all, this interview reveals either a grave intellectual deficit or a type of lunacy to Ron Paul that must cause all, previous supporters to push him to the side.   When Ron Paul poses a hypothetical about Bin Laden living in a hotel in London as a proof against the raid to kill Bin Laden in Pakistan, it is breathtaking.   It is one of those moments when you must ask yourself, “Did he really just say that?”   It is as telling a remark as we are likely to get.  Just the multiple levels of absurdity of the comparison of Bin Laden in a hotel in London to a compound outside the capital of Pakistan is astounding:  (a) imagine a scenario where Bin Laden, lives in a London hotel– a London hotel for God’s sake!  (b) the British government is equally negligent in either not discovering Bin Laden in the hotel  (Sorry, I just cannot keep from laughing over this hotel bit…) or intentionally overlooking it vis a vis Pakistan;  (c) assuming all of the above, once discovered by the intrepid U.S. intelligence services who have been monitoring Bin Laden’s room service orders and porn film choices for months, the British government cannot be trusted to send Agent 007 over to take care of the matter which (d) forces the U.S. to send in the same SOF helicopter assault team (from one of their bases in England no less), to the London hotel, rather than simply send, say, Jason Bourne, and; (e) whisk Bin Laden’s body away to a waiting destroyer in the Atlantic for proper, Islamic burial at sea.

That a declared presidential candidate in the U.S. would attempt to illustrate the illegality of the Bin Laden raid by posing a hypothetical of a similar raid on a London hotel has got to be the greatest farce of the 21st century (thus far).   This is absolutely disqualifying stuff.   To reiterate, it shows either gross intellectual incompetence or a mental instability of some kind.   (Charles Krauthamer, call your office, please).   The fact that there are many people in conservative circles who ardently support Ron Paul is shocking.

I am not, by the way, making the point that Ron Paul’s mere opposition to the Bin Laden raid is, by itself, disqualifying.  I think it is at least possible that reasonable minds can differ on the manner of killing Bin Laden.   Afterall, I believe it would have been quite reasonable and proper to have used drones or precision-guided munitions to obliterate Bin Laden’s compound.   While civilian casualties should be minimized whenever possible, there is equal responsibility on the Pakistani government, for example, for allowing terrorists to infest civilian areas similar to that of the German and Japanese military facilities intentionally located in civilian areas during World War II.   The criticism here is the manner in which Ron Paul defends his positions.   Even someone inclined to support him for president would have to concede that, based on the crack-pot thinking in this interview, he would be torn to shreds in any debate with Obama.   And here lies the greatest danger:  if for whatever reason, Ron Paul supporters decide to sit out the 2012 election (or, God forbid, Paul runs a Ross Perot-like campaign), that may be all that Obama needs for re-election.

It is one thing to re-elect a Bill Clinton.   He was a lecherous fool re-elected at a unique period in history that afforded us the luxury of blind leadership.   We do not live in such a time now and, based on the first two and one-half years, we cannot survive the re-election of Obama.    Where Clinton was the prototypical finger-to-the-wind politician who cared more than anything for his legacy and female attentions, Obama has shown a frightening determination to radically alter the economic foundations of the U.S. in order to effect radical, political change  (all of which is masterfully outlined in detailed research by Stanley Kurtz in his book, Radical In Chief–Barack Obama And The Untold Story of American Socialism).

There is, however, something more going on here.   It is more than just an occasional nonsensical statement from a Congressman.   Paul’s remarks reflect the ravings of someone who has bought into a doctrine that makes no sense and, therefore, results in comments that can make no sense.    That doctrine is isolationism.   It is very much like a sickness that increasingly causes its adherents to say and do the most absurd things.   Besides the nuttiness of Ron Paul’s comments on killing Bin Laden– an avowed terror mastermind and lawless combatant fully deserving of death– Ron Paul is driven, by the isolationist madness I believe, to say all manner of things disconnected with reality.   Driven because isolationism simply does not comport with the world in which we live.  In order to make the connection, isolationists must routinely resort to conspiracy theories and wishful thinking and crackpot analogies.   As evidence of this, listen to the full interview (in all 5 parts) between Simon Conway and Ron Paul.    Rep. Paul actually makes good points about taxation and spending and the nature of government, but as soon as Conway veers onto foreign policy, the isolationist fever takes over.

When asked about Iraq, Ron Paul firmly takes hold of the “Bush Lied, Kids Died” meme of the Left, saying that “we got into [the Iraq war] not being told the truth.  We were told there were weapons of mass destruction aimed at us, that Al Qaeda was there, that wasn’t true.”  When asked by the host to clarify whether he thought that President Bush intentionally misled the nation or was given faulty intelligence, Paul essentially said that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if there had been a conspiracy from the “Vice President” on down to lower-level advisers to manipulate and falsify the intelligence.

This is looney tunes land.   And it would be funny if not for the potential to disaffect enough voters to throw the 2012 election to Obama.   So here is a call to all Ron Paul-bots out there:  get a real candidate.   Ron Paul has made himself ridiculous with his isolationist pretensions.   We cannot beat back Obama without you.   And for anyone else indulging in isolationist thinking, it is time to take a strong dose of reality and come back to full health.


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