Tuesday, September 20, 2016

It Is Monday, And The Washington Post Is Saying Dumb Things About Foreign Policy As Well As Economics

(Well, Monday is now over, but... ) Yes, Robert J. Samuelson has a column about the Fed that ignores austerity fiscal  policies and other matters. But Dean Baker has done a good job tearing him and that to shreds over on Beat the Press (sorry, no link, too lazy), so I shall stick to the foreign policy side.

That  comes from Jackson Diehl, whom I have never figured out why he has ever had any credibility with anybody, although I guess he talks to the usual set of neoconnish VSPs that lurk  about Washington repeating increasingly empty and silly bromides to each other.  In this case it is about Syria,  with Diehl spouting stuff that Hillary apparently somewhat believed and supported when she was SecState, but appears to  have moved beyond to be closer to  the Obama admin's positions.  However, it may be that the point of this column is precisely to drag her back to things she once believed and supported, even as they are lying in tatters on the floor.

Diehl argues that Putin has taught Obama a "lesson" by upping his bombing and other military activities somewhat successfully in favor of the Assad government.  This supposedly shows that Obama was wrong to resist requests for more use of air power  that came from Kerry, Clinton, Petraeus, and Panetta, that unrealisticallly wimpy non-VSP prez.  If we had used more air power or otherwise "supported rebels" with no-fly zones more back in 2012 or so, we could have maybe attained a "political settlement favorable  to the United States and its allies."  This nonsense raises so many red flags, one almost does not know where to begin, but so we must.

Of course, one place to start is precisely that we have been supporting "the rebels," those favored by this group being some based mostly in northwestern Syria whom we have claimed were  "democratic moderates," but who have  long ceased to be that and to be dominated by al Qaeda-related groups. That has not kept us from supporting them, even if we never  instituted the no-fly zone this gang wanted, and that Hillary has quite recently claimed to still support (ugh). These folks  argue that if we had done this  back then, those virtuous democratic forces, supposedly derived from the original peaceful  anti-Assad demonstraters during the beginning of the 2011 Arab Spring, whom he crushed by attacking them with bombs and other military stuff, they would have just done peachy keen and taken power or something.  Anyway, supporting these mostly Sunni fundamentalist anti-Assad groups would please our "allies"(presumably Turkey and Saudi  Arabia, both of whom have become oppressive and engaging in unwise actions we should not support).  But the important thing has been to  overthrow Assad and put in place one or another of these groups, apparently not all that worried that they might be al Qaeda affiliated.

As it is, we have for some time in fact been both heavily bombing Syria and putting troops on the ground there more recently than 2012, namely against the group we have for several years considered to  be our Number One enemy in the world, Daesh/ISIL/ISIS/IS, whose caliphate's capital, al-Raqqa, is in eastern Syria. Our bombings have been directed against them and in support of Kurds of the leftist YPG, with whom around 300 US special forces are supposedly embedded, some of them reportedly wearing hammers and sickles on their uniforms.  This group had until very recently been advancing well and taking territory, with Obama and others reasonably arguing that they seemed to be the only group around interested in actually fighting Daesh.  Somehow, Diehl makes zero mention of any of this, although this clearly very important, especially now.  But they were poised to move on al Raqqa.

So where does Diehl get his argument about Putin?  Yes, Putin has increased aerial bombardments on various fronts, especially in the northwest against some of these al Qaeda linked groups we continue to  support (apparently mostly through the CIA, although I do not know that for sure).  Turkey was supporting these groups, while it does not like the Kurdish groups, whom it sees as allied with troublesome Kurdish groups in southeastern Turkey. In various parts of Syria, this bombing has worked to help Assad forces gain back territory and solidify its hold on power. These VSPs all of course think this is awful, and certainly Assad has been awful, supposedly killing up to half a million people.  But his regime does practice religious tolerance and support of the many ethnic minorities in Syria against a possible dictatorship by extremist Sunni Arabs, even if once there were some "moderates" and "democrats" in their midst.  Of course Diehl is right about Putin, and he goes on to say that Putin has done this  without "getting into a quagmire."  How nice.

But there is this minor detail  that he  fails to mention: Russia and the USSR before  have had a naval  base in Syria at Tartus since 1971.  They have been deeply involved in Syria for a long time and preserving that strategic hold has been a top priority for nearly half a century.  They also have an air base, so it is not surprising that they can easily increase use of air power in Syria without getting into  a quagmire  beyond their long historical presence, which we do not have at all.  Our situations are completely and totally different, and we are not  in alliance with the government in power  either, as they are.  That this might make comparing what Putin does with what Obama does completely irrelevant and ridiculous does not cross the consciousness of  Diehl.

Of course the more recent situation has indeed become completely absurd, which Diehl  does not discuss at all either.  He makes it seem we have not  supported those "moderates" in the northwest, (whom we should have supported more!),  But, they have morphed into the Syrian Free Army, whom ironically have come to be supported  not only by the US CIA but by Turkey and Russia.  Just as the US-Pentagon-backed Kurds were about to make their  move on al Raqqa, ah ha! Daesh gets saved by our CIA backed cavalry, the Syrian Free Army, which has swept in to block them and take territory from them, with the backing of  Turkey especially important who wants to block the Kurds and who has newly made friends again with Putin, thus accepting that maybe it  is OK to let the Assad regime survive.  So we have reached a  situation where we have US backed forces fighting US backed forces, but Diehl and his sources think  we should have gotten in even more deeply than we are.  I mean, heck, this is no quagmire...

Barkley Rosser


Bruce Webb said...

Barkley in fairness to Diehl the War Department never really liked the OSS back in 1941 so the fact that the Pentagon/Defense Department is at odds with the CIA 75 years later is no surprise.

But thank God the institution of the National Security Council brought both together along with the State Department.

Ha! Ha!!! I am laughing amongst my tears here! The only real surprise is that Foggy Bottom, the Pentagon and Langley do not have independent missile systems targetted on each other. Christ even Darth Cheney never quite managed to bring them all under single command.

Peter T said...

Spot on. US Syria policy is a shambles - the CIA supports "moderate" rebels, who forcibly convert or massacre deviants (such as the Druze), the Defense Dept supports the Marxist YPG, State supports the southern rebels, who have mostly entered into truces with Damascus, and equivocates between placating and irritating Turkey. That the Assad regime has managed to hold on to all the major population centres and 60 per cent of the population remains ignored. Meanwhile the VSPs emit endless vapour unmoored from the most basic acquaintance with facts. It's the 5 o'clock follies gone 24/7.