Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

Quick, While the LIVs Are Distracted…..

While the LIV’s focus is on obamacare, Putin, Gwenyth Paltro’s split, the missing flight and other nonsense, CIA’s Libyan station chief put’s to rest that the Obama administration’s talking point that the whole thing started as a protest.

The chief stated at hearings there was no protest and a result of terrorist attacks on the embassy.

What difference does it make at this point in time? -thanks Hillary.

http://p.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/mar/31/cia-ignored-station-chief-in-libya-when-creating-t/

UPDATE:

While the LIVs are distracted Democrats scramble for damage control. Pro Gun Control Democrat State Senator Leland Yee Arrested for GUN TRAFFICKING among other corrupt acts, for campaign contributions.

Charges include:

  • Clandestine meetings with an undercover agent to secure as much as $2 million in high-power weaponry in exchange for payments to Yee and his political campaign. In one of those meetings, Yee assures the agent, who holds himself out to be East Coast Mafia, “Do I think we can make some money? I think we can make some money.”
  • Deals with an agent posing as an Atlanta businessman backing a fictitious software company called Well-Tech, seeking Yee’s help, including an attempt to secure a contract with the state Department of Public Health in exchange for a $10,000 check for the secretary of state campaign,
  • Offering to help an agent posing as an Arizona medical marijuana industry insider looking to expand into California. Yee, again in exchange for campaign contributions, introduced the undercover agent to unidentified legislators and promised political support, particularly if elected to statewide office.
  • An agreement, at the urging of the undercover agent through Jackson, for Yee to honor the Ghee Kung Tong, the organization of suspected Chinese crime kingpin Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, with a proclamation, despite the senator’s worries about Chow being a “gangster.” Yee signed the proclamation in exchange for a campaign check from the agent.

http://www.mercurynews.com/crime-courts/ci_25453464/leland-yee-corruption-case-state-senator-faces-uphill

Little mention in the media.  Meanwhile, HE STILL GETS PAID WHILE SUSPENDED.  It is interesting to note that his bail was HALF that of the so-called creator of the video that “caused the protests in Benghazi”…. only in California.

Putin Lives in the Real World

By the time Japan ran up the white flag in August of 1945, the United States had produced nearly 61,000 tanks, 285,000 air craft, 147 capital ships, 41,000 cannon and more than 12 million rifles.  Using this material, we had killed or captured more than a million enemy soldiers and dropped well more than two million tons of explosives on Germany and Japan (not counting the atomic bombs) and killed somewhere in the range of two million German and Japanese civilians.  Our enemies were cratered wastelands entirely at our mercy.  Peering up from the rubble, the world drew a very vital lesson:  you don’t want to fight the United States of America.

This lesson was tested, of course.  First in Korea – where potential enemies learned that you could draw the United States into a war and not suffer complete destruction – but you had to be willing to absorb immense casualties at the hands of American forces disposing of more firepower than anyone could possibly imagine (in return for the privilege of killing at bit more than 33,000 Americans, the North Koreans and Chinese exchanged at least 400,000 military deaths and 1.5 million civilian deaths).  It was re-tested in Vietnam and finally confirmed – as long as you were willing to lose your people at a fantastic rate, eventually the Americans will get tired and leave, as long as the United States, itself, wasn’t at risk.  But, still,  those piles of smoking rubble in Germany and Japan kept the world entirely unwilling to tangle with the United States in a fight to the death.  And, so, no general wars since 1945.

But such a state of affairs only lasts as long as the world is convinced that fighting the United States is something to take into consideration.  Small scale = can be done, at enormous cost.  Large scale = national suicide.  But what if it comes to pass that you don’t have to worry either about large scale or small scale war with the United States?  Then you get the invasion of Crimea.

The problem Obama has – and its common throughout the leadership elite  of the Western World – is that they have convinced themselves that it wasn’t American power which kept the peace.  Indeed, they have convinced themselves that more than anything else, American power has been the threat to peace (and they use things like Korea, Vietnam and Iraq as proof – never mind that in none of these cases did the United States just blindly go in for aggressive action…right or wrong, in all of these cases a threat was perceived prior to American action). To an Obama, the world is kept at peace by international law; by the United Nations; by NGO’s; by conferences at swank, European resorts.  Everyone agrees to be nice – and see how well it works!  But, here’s the thing, it only worked because at the back of it all were the smoking piles of rubble in Germany and Japan circa 1945 and a worry that really challenging the post-war settlement would mean a new World War with the United States.  But Obama and his like don’t see it like that.  Putin, however, does.

With the decline of American power and the global perception that the United States simply lacks the grit to carry out a long, grinding fight to a victorious finish we have returned to the world of 1938 – precisely when the world held American power at a discount figuring that we probably wouldn’t fight, to begin with, and that if we did, we wouldn’t stick it out (it really cannot be stressed enough that the leaders of both Germany and Japan figured the American people simply lacked guts…that we were too soft to fight it out like men in desperate battle).  Putin isn’t doing anything but living in the real world – and the real world of 2014 is the international anarchy of 1914, prior to the application of overwhelming American power to the globe 1941-45.  In this real world, you grab what you think you can get away with – you know you won’t have to fight even a small, expensive (but ultimately victorious) war against an America which just gets tired and neither will you risk a World War which would bring all of America’s might to bear until your country is reduced to a pile of smoking rubble.

It is an open question as to whether this will work out badly for the world – we simply don’t know.  Perhaps if we hadn’t intervened in World War One things would have been better in the long run?  Maybe if we had dodged the World War Two bullet then having the Japanese Empire run Asia would not be as bad as China attempting to run Asia?  A revived Russian Empire might put a definite check on Turkish and Iranian ambitions, after all.  But while we don’t know how this will come out, there’s no sense getting mad a Putin or acting like he’s not behaving rationally.  He’s doing what he thinks is best – that we think it wrong is immaterial.  Unless we want to declare war on Russia, there’s not much we can do, after all.

But here is the risk – without fear of America’s overwhelming power (and it still is overwhelming – it still could take on, for instance, Russia and China at the same time and beat them into the ground), things could get a bit dangerous out in the world.  It could be that as nations take the lid off and start competing for territory, resources and prestige that one or more of them decides to challenge us directly, thinking that we can be cowed – or, if not cowed, then easily beaten.  It would be much better, I think, that once having won overwhelming global dominance that we had maintained it – we have let the scepter slip from our hands, however, and there’s no getting it back without war.  The world is now at genuine risk of World War Three.

This is not just Obama’s fault – though he has put the final touches on it.  This stretches back to the immediate post-WWII era, when we didn’t firmly put Russia in her place…and when we failed to pick up the real challenge in Korea and take out China and Russia.  It is the result of thinking that the world is governed by something other than force; that sweet reasonableness and treaties make the world safe.  They don’t.  Power and the willingness to apply it is what makes the world safe – or, as safe as it can be.  Putin is living in the real world.  So is China.  So is Iran.  The sooner we join them there the sooner we can start to rationally think about what we want – and where we’ll draw a line and tell them, “thus far and no further”.

What is Diplomacy?

There have been several attempts at defining this.  Webster has it as “the work of maintaining good relations between the governments of different countries”, but that is a lot of nonsense.  You don’t need good relations between governments – in fact, good relations can some times hamper diplomacy (ties of sentiment are deadly when dealing with intra-governmental issues).  Will Rogers came closer when he said, “diplomacy is the art of saying ‘nice doggy’ until you can find a rock”.  But that isn’t quite right, either – because the purpose of diplomacy is to not have to use the rock.  But, make no mistake about it, the rock must be part of the equation.

I’ll say that diplomacy is the art of adjusting competing claims between actors of relatively equal power with war as the punishment for diplomatic failure.

It has to be between entities of roughly equal power or it isn’t diplomacy – it is either the stronger imposing its will on the weaker, or the stronger being generous to the weaker for whatever reason.  Only between equals can there be diplomacy – two equals (or two groups who are roughly equal) can sit down at the table and try to adjust their differences, all the while with the knowledge that failure to come to agreement means war – and being as it would be a war between roughly equal powers, no one on either side could be entirely sure of the result, and so the incentive is strongly in favor of coming to a deal.  Unless, that is, one side is determined upon war no matter what.  In such a case, diplomacy also cannot happen – because if one side is determined upon war no matter what and the other side is determined on peace no matter what, then the aggressive side is the stronger and will impose its will on the weaker…and, once again, you don’t have diplomacy.  Let’s look at some examples to illustrate my definition:

1.  It is said that we negotiated a treaty with Panama in 1903 in order to build the canal.  We did nothing of the kind.  We told Panama what we wanted and bade them sign on the dotted line or we wouldn’t build the canal, which is the only reason for Panama to exist.  This was the stronger imposing its will on the weaker.  Not diplomacy.

2.  It is said we negotiated a security treaty with Japan in 1951.  We did nothing of the kind.  Because Japan occupies a strategically vital area in the Asia-Pacific, we promised to protect Japan in return for obtaining certain privileges for our military forces in Japan.  It was a good move by us because Japan is a useful ally to have – but the security of the United States does not in any way depend upon the existence of Japan, and its not like a Japanese army would ever arrive in the United States to help defend us against foreign aggression. This was the stronger being generous to the weaker. Not diplomacy.

3.  When Chamberlain, Hitler, Daladier and Mussolini gathered in Munich in 1938, three of the four were determined to have peace at any price, one of them was determined upon war no matter what.  That it wound up with an agreement rather than war was because of the rather startling amount of surrender that Chamberlain and Daladier agreed to – they eventually decided that Hitler should get the spoils of war without war (keep in mind, that if they hadn’t agreed, Hitler would have gone to war in 1938 rather than waiting until 1939).  This was rather unique in human history (to that point, at least) but it still illustrates the point:  with one side willing war no matter what and the other willing peace no matter what, the warlike side becomes immediately the stronger and imposes its will upon the weaker.  Not diplomacy.

4.  When the USSR challenged the United States by putting nuclear missiles in Cuba, both affected parties were roughly equal in power and both sides were equally determined to avoid war.  Negotiations were tense and many fears were raised, but the fact of the matter is that as both were equally strong and no one was willing war, a deal was bound to happen unless some horrific accident took place.  The basics of the deal eventually agreed to were Russian nukes out of Cuba, American nukes out of Turkey.  That is diplomacy.

Now, why bring all this up?  Because as we have gone through the Ukraine crisis, no one is understanding that among all the varied things going on, diplomacy isn’t one of them.  Diplomacy will never be one of them – it can’t be as there aren’t two equal sides involved her.  Oh, to be sure, the power of the United States, alone, is enough to fight and defeat Russia…and the combined power of just Germany and France could probably make short work of Putin’s burgeoning empire.  But no one who dislikes Putin’s actions is putting on the table anything like the force necessary to give Putin pause and make him want to turn to diplomacy…which would, once again, be an adjustment of interests between equal powers and war as the price of failure.  It is my belief that Putin does not desire war – not with us, not with the European Union, not with anyone.  If there were power to match his power, he would climb down and negotiate a diplomatic settlement.  Such a settlement would, of course, have to grant Russia some of her desires – that is the thing about diplomacy: it is never a matter of anyone getting all they want.  It is a deal between equals and each gives a bit, because they don’t want a war which would be more costly than whatever it is they have to surrender to reach a deal.  But with a complete vacuum of power opposite Russia, there is no need for Russia to fear war, and thus no reason to use diplomacy.  Might as well grab all you can while the getting is good.

All the huffing and puffing of Obama, Kerry and the collective world won’t do anything.  To be sure, Putin might graciously agree to eventually sign something which will be hailed as a diplomatic settlement, but you can rest assured – unless there comes along a credible threat of war against Russia – that whatever settlement is agreed to will be entirely in accordance with Putin’s view of Russia’s interests.  In other words, he’ll merely take what he wants at the moment, leave an option to grab what he hasn’t got and attend an international conference to ratify what he’s done.  It’ll be a nice meal and pictures taken and his own press back home will laud him (or else!) as the greatest Russian in a century, etc.

Now that I’ve said all that, what do I think we should do?  Normally, I would advocate a vigorous American response to this but given our current condition and our current President, I’m saying that surrender isn’t so bad.  To be sure, its bad for the people who will come under Putin’s embrace, but I’m not so sure how a half-hearted and incompetently conducted military campaign leading to eventual American failure would help – and, of course, such a thing would actually harm.  As under Obama we are bound to have nothing but the aforementioned half-hearted, etc, I figure we just cut to the chase and make the best of a bad situation.  We can start to repair this in 2017 – hopefully under leadership which isn’t quite as bad as Obama’s.  It is a sad and distressing position for America to be in, but we have no one to blame but ourselves – we might be able to assign our 2008 vote to well-intentioned folly, but our 2012 vote was a gigantic mistake with sufficient facts clearly known.  Now we just have to pay the price for it.

Is Latvia Next?

A bit worrisome:

Last week, I warned that the next step for Russia after seizing the Crimea over the status of ethnic Russians would take place in the Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia. All it would take, I argued, would be for Moscow to foment unrest in those ethnic-Russian communities, antagonize the governments in both states, and then insist that Russia had to intervene to protect them. More than a quarter of the population in both countries consist of ethnic Russians, while in Ukraine it only came to 18%.

Now it looks like Moscow will skip over the unrest pretext and demand the right to act as economic protector  in Latvia…

Russia is claiming – probably correctly, to a certain extent – that ethnic Russians in Latvia (as well as in Lithuania and Estonia) are not well treated.  Given the absolutely cruel and brutal treatment the Baltic people suffered at the hands of Russians under the USSR, this is no surprise, at all.

All three nations are NATO allies and members of the European Union – if Russia challenges the independence of these three, small nations, then it is our bound duty to defend them, even up to war.  We’ll see how this plays out – but our weakness (and the military impotence of the European Union) is encouraging Russia to get aggressive.  Of course, this new pressure on the Baltic front just might be a blind…Russia will, as part of a “deal” officially back down on the Baltic States in return for our backing down even further on Ukraine.  We’ll see.

Why Did Putin Do It? Because He Thinks He’ll Win

Later this year, on the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I’m going to be writing an article about how I view that war – but I’ll give one spoiler right now:  the reason the war started, ultimately, was because the Germans thought they could win it.  That is why all wars start – one sides thinks they’ll win.  And not only thinks they’ll win, but thinks they’ll win in a walk over.  Wars aren’t started by people who are resigned to a difficult task with a doubtful outcome – wars are started by people who think they’ve got it sewn.

And Putin has sent troops in to Ukraine because he thinks he’ll win – and win rather easily.  Whether or not he’ll try to take over the whole country instead of the heavily-Russian eastern part remains to be seen.  But if Putin thinks he can grab the whole of Ukraine in an easy war, he’ll do it.  Now, why should Putin think that?

Well, first off, Ukraine is militarily not all that strong – a lot of their equipment is antiquated Soviet equipment (though upgraded a bit over the years), their armed forces are relatively small compared to Russia’s and, of course, a large minority of Ukrainians are Russians – not inclined to fight against the Russian army, even if not entirely favorable to coming under Russian rule. Furthermore, and probably decisively, Putin does not fear any serious response from anyone.  NATO?  Toothless.  EU?  Blind and toothless.  United States?  Distant and ruled over by fools who don’t understand how the world works.  The harshest thing on the table so far is that we’ll kick them out of the G-8.  Big whoop.  Like Putin will care too much about that – and like he won’t be invited back in a few years from now when tempers have cooled.

The only thing which would have stopped Putin is either a militarily powerful Ukraine or a United States not only powerful, but clearly willing to make Putin’s life miserable for years over the matter.  Neither being forthcoming, Putin moved.  Whether or not there will be some “deal” to smooth things over or whether it will go all the way to annexation by Russia remains to be seen – but Putin has just shown that he is in charge in that area of the world.  Ukraine knows that they can only go so far in offending Russia while other nations on Russia’s borders (especially the Baltic States) have been clearly warned that being tight with the west only offends Putin, while the west will do nothing concrete to oppose an offended Russia.

The worse problem is that the cat is really out of the bag, now.  Every two-bit tyrant out there who wants to grab himself a bit of geo-political territory knows that now is the time to start grabbing – with the United States effectively out of the picture as long as Democrats are in charge, the sky is the limit.

And, Meanwhile, the World Burns Down

We’ve got stories that Venezuela’s government is importing Cuban mercenaries to suppress revolution while the President of Ukraine has fled Kiev.  Elsewhere, Syria is still a blood bath, the Taliban are poised to return to power in Afghanistan five minutes after we leave and the war clouds continue to grow in the Asia-Pacific theater.

Just when do we start to get some of that “smart diplomacy” that Obama promised?

Here’s the thing – if you ever wondered what would happen if American power were removed from the scene, here ya go.  This is what a post-American world looks like.  To put it bluntly, as the smoke cleared over the radioactive rubble of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world became peaceful only in so far as America prevented war.  Through nearly four years of global battle and at high cost in blood and treasure, the United States emerged in 1945 as both the arbiter of the world and its guarantor of peace.  All the UN organizations; all the international talk-shops; all the treaties and discussions and agreements and alliances – all were completely pointless except that the United States stood behind them.  No one on this earth then (or even now, actually) wanted to ever fight us, again, in a general war.  Small wars on the side could be managed, but no one ever wanted to re-awaken the Sleeping Giant.  To do so was national suicide.  As long as our power was there as a standing threat, everything could be kept under control.

Take America out of the equation and very quickly everything would fall apart.

And so it has, because we are out of the equation.  While our power is intact, the President of the United States refuses to use it and the world knows he will not.  This is because Obama – that child of modern American indoctrination dressed up as education – believes absolutely that the problems the world has had since 1945 were caused by us, rather than kept from getting out of hand by us.  Obama was told in school that if there was a war or oppression some where, then it was because the United States did it – he never learned that the war or oppression was kept from becoming completely horrific simply because we were there, and at will could utterly destroy whomever was making war or causing oppression.  The world now knows that no matter what anyone does, Obama simply will not do anything about it – and so it just goes from bad to worse out there.  Believe it or not, people can be downright evil – they don’t have to be forced to be evil by a clever CIA plot.  I know this will simply stagger our liberals, but its just one of those hard facts of life.

The world is in more danger of a long, general war than at any time since the 1930′s.  We’ll see how it comes out.  Hopefully we can keep out of any war until at least January 20th, 2017 because more fearful than Obama refusing to use American power would be having that man use American power…it would be like giving a machine gun to a drunk.  We’ll have to rebuild all this after Obama is gone – pray it doesn’t take another world war to do it.

The Collapse of the Middle East

Yes, I know it has been going on for some time, but I don’t think most people are fully aware of just how bad it is – Spengler writes about Turkey’s problems:

…Turkey is a mediocre economy at best with a poorly educated workforce, no high-tech capacity, and shrinking markets in depressed Europe and the unstable Arab world. Its future might well be as an economic tributary of China, as the “New Silk Road” extends high-speed rail lines to the Bosporus…

…The whole notion was flawed from top to bottom. Turkey was not in line to become an economic power of any kind: it lacked the people and skills to do anything better than medium-tech manufacturing. Its Islamists never were democrats. Worst of all, its demographics are as bad as Europe’s. Ethnic Turks have a fertility rate close to 1.5 children per family, while the Kurdish minority is having 4 children per family. Within a generation half of Turkey’s young men will come from families where Kurdish is the first language…

Spengler also notes that corruption is a big problem and, of course, that Turkey is honey-combed with bad debt, now coming due with little chance the Turks can pay.   Iran has the same sort of problem – declining birth rate, low-skilled labor force, corrupt, bad debt…its why they were so eager to cut a deal with Kerry in return for easing the sanctions: Iran’s economy teeters on the edge of complete collapse and the deal frees up money for the mullahs (and, of course, the Iranians were doubly delighted to do it as, having taken the measure of Obama, they knew that they could get the sanctions eased and still just go on sponsoring terrorism and making nukes).  So, add Turkey to Iran to Syria to Egypt to Libya to Sudan as failed States…and look warily at the corrupt monarchies of the Arabian peninsula which keep themselves alive only so long as the oil keeps flowing and they can bribe people to silence.  Meanwhile, Islamism continues to spread and even in Afghanistan – with American troops still there – the Afghan government works out how to implement laws allowing for the stoning to death of adulterers.

So, what of it?  What can we do about it?  Not much.  Suffice it to say that at some point, this mess will draw us back in militarily, but for now there is not much we can do.  First and foremost, because Barack Obama is President of the United States.  The level of ignorance of facts and unwillingness to face the truth about the Middle East entirely cripples any efforts made by the Obama Administration – and if we did get sucked in to active military operations, it is certain that the lack of courage and military knowledge of the Obama Administration would ensure an American defeat.  All we can do is watch in fascinated horror while this goes on.

In the longer term, when we hopefully have better leadership, when we are forced to again fight in that area, it is to be hoped that we will do so with a clear eye to the harsh realities.  For whatever reason, Islamic peoples are simply incapable, as such, of building and maintaining a civilization.  They can take over from others (as they did when they first conquered such areas as Turkey, Syria and Egypt), but they cannot maintain or build on their own.  There is something in Muslim theology which prevents rationality – which prevents a Muslim government from really exercising democracy, from really allowing people to be independent, from really allowing minorities to have rights.  When we have to go back in, our policies must be governed in this light.

To be sure, I don’t want us to have to govern large, Muslim populations – whatever else may be said about them, Muslims dislike intensely any foreign domination.  So, no attempt at nation building.  But when the next war in the Middle East comes to our door, we must ensure that at the end of it, we are firmly protected against the violent acts of Islamist extremists and that the minority peoples of the area are afforded independence from Muslim rule – or even from a Muslim minority within their territories.  This will require a significant reworking of the map of the Middle East.  As I’ve pointed out in the past, new nations will have to be created where non-Muslim minorities can live in peace and independence – in places like Lebanon, parts of Syria, parts of Iraq, parts of Egypt, land must be carved out so that non-Muslims can be safe, with the additional benefit of locking the Muslim nations, themselves, in to positions from which they cannot by offensive action influence the course of world events.

We all of us – right and left – have been living in a bit of a dream world as regards policy towards the Middle East.  It is time we woke up to reality and acted accordingly.

Making a Deal With Iran

It is hard to say what the real goal here is – it is clear that no matter what Iran does, while Obama is President we won’t go to war to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.  Come what may, no amount of non-military pressure on Iran will succeed in convincing the Iranian government to give up their nuclear ambitions.  Given this, why make a deal, at all?  What is it that impels Obama and Kerry to seek a deal?

By making any sort of deal, all we do is increase Iranian legitimacy in the eyes of the world, alienate Israel and lower our prestige among both friends and enemies – the world will see that, in the event, we daren’t attack Iran…that we are, in some sense, afraid of them.  The Gulf States will either make the best deal they can with Iran, while Saudi Arabia and Turkey obtain nuclear weapons of their own to counter the Iranian force.  Can it be that Obama and Kerry, ignorant academics that they are, simply believe that a deal is better than a non-deal?  That the results don’t matter so much as the process, itself?

And here’s the bad news – an Iranian nuclear force is an existential threat to the life of Israel…just how long will the Israeli government hold off from saving themselves from extermination?

Thinking About Syria

Does anyone in any position of responsibility realize that for the Alawites lead by Assad, this is a matter of life and death?  That if they don’t win the civil war, they are in for a round of murder and pillage at the hands of their enemies?  While they are Muslims, they are considered to be a sort of heretical Islam by the dominant Sunni Muslims and for centuries before Syria fell under French rule post-WWI, they were oppressed by their fellow Muslims.  To be sure, they have used cruelty and chicanery to gain and maintain mastery as a minority Ruling Class in Syria, but now the fat is in the fire – the Alawites are not expecting mercy and brotherhood from the other side if they lose, so they’ll fight on until destroyed or they have secured their own homes and families.  Lobbing a few missiles at them will not make them stop doing whatever they think proves necessary to, at minimum, maintain their control over predominantly Alawite ares of Syria.  Only an army more powerful than they can do the trick…and if you’re wondering why this minority of 12% of Syria’s population has maintained control for decades and has an even chance of winning the Civil War look no further than the fact that the Alawites retained for themselves the best weapons…and constituted a majority of the total Syrian armed forces pre-Civil War.

I bring this up because no one seems to be thinking along these lines – that people with their backs to the wall are not likely to be easily swayed.  We’re treating them as if they are concerned about the whole of Syria and its welfare.  In some theoretical sense, this might be true – but in the concrete, the Alawite soldiers are fighting for lives of their wives and children.  These people will not go down easily.  Of course, they are not the only minority group in Syria.  In fact, Syria is a grab-bag of minority groups.  Sure, its overwhelmingly Muslim – but there are nearly as many Christians as there are Alawites (and the Christians probably do favor the Alawites because, point blank, the more secular-minded Alawites have tended to live and let live with the Christians…meanwhile, the rebels are increasingly infected with Islamism, and so Christians are increasingly brutalized); Islam in Syria is broken up in to quite a lot of different sects.

Syria isn’t really a nation as we think of it – its just another one of those colonial left-overs.  Ruled for centuries by the Turks, taken over by the French post-WWI, the people there never thought of themselves as “Syrians” in the sense that we think of ourselves as “Americans”…people with a common history, a shared set of basic values and a willingness to sink sectarian differences for the good of the larger community.  Essentially, the Alawites have provided what the Ottomans provided until 1918 and the French until 1946 – a group of people who keep down everyone else, until just lately, when for a variety of reasons a rebellion broke out (not in any case the first), at a time when non-Syrian forces were willing to back the rebels (and not us, good people – quite a lot of Gulf State Muslim money has poured in to the rebels).  And don’t think the rebels are keen on establishing a republic in which all Syrians live in brotherhood.  There might be a few such trotted out to meet with a junketing Senator McCain, but most of them are primarily interested in securing their own particular interests…and, if things work out, grabbing the sort of power the Alawites have held on to since the 1970′s.  I almost hate to point this out, but the only thing which can be found in common among most Syrians is probably a loathing of Israel…but even that has been set aside so that they can kill each other in a mad scramble for power.

Crucial to any expectations of results is to understand the reality of things.  Syria is not just “Syria”.  Its a lot of different things and the people battling there with extreme cruelty have clear ideas of what they want.  If we don’t have a clear idea of what we want and how it relates to the reality on the ground in Syria, then whatever we do will fail.  This does not at all preclude a diplomatic solution to the problem, by the way – in fact, it opens up wide vistas of diplomatic action, if we will understand the facts and figure out what it is we want.

Furthermore, we do have the power to impose a solution – our weight thrown on to any particular side will allow that side to emerge victorious.  If, that is, we make it clear that if we decide to come in on a side that we’ll come all the way in with whatever level of force would prove necessary.  Half measure won’t do; lobbing a few missiles is absurd.  If we want to have any particular result in Syria, then we have to will the means as well as envision the ends.  We could, perhaps, use our overwhelming power to convince all sides that it is time to sit down and talk – to set up some sort of federal or cantonal system of government which will allow each major element its own absolute sphere, surrendering only enough power to the central government as is necessary to make Syria a functional, national unit.  Carrots for everyone – and a threat of the Big Stick for anyone who decides that they’d rather keep fighting instead of negotiating a settlement…and, yes, this does mean that in certain circumstances we throw our weight behind Assad’s Alawites (if not behind Assad, who probably could be eased out by Alawites convinced that we’ll ensure their lives and property against revenge).

But if we are not willing to envision an end and unwilling to provide the means to achieve the end, then it is best we stay out.  At this stage of the game, staying out is probably the best course of action – mostly because Obama has botched it so badly to this point. It is not because people are getting isolationist that intervention in Syria is unpopular, but because Obama has proven himself a fool and no one wants to dive in to a murky situation without some idea of what we hope to accomplish, what it might cost and how long it will take.  But good things can be done with American power – wisdom is not to be found in launching endless wars, nor in the twin follies of pacifism and isolationism.  Clear headed, rational thinking informed by the actual facts can get us out of this mess – and help the people of Syria, in to the bargain.  My prayer is that some how, some way even Obama will start to see things clearly and a reasonable, humane policy will emerge.

UPDATE:  I’ve pondered it some more and here’s a follow-on comment I left elsewhere:

…(we have) all the ingredients which cool headed diplomacy can make much hay with.  If we understood diplomacy (ie, if we didn’t have Obama and team in charge) we would long-ago have said that our interest is peace in Syria and to that end we will exert pressure on all sides to engage in talks to reform the government of Syria to secure absolutely minority rights.  Once that announcement is made, support can be rounded up in the world for the effort and support built at home for a forward policy – while backstairs negotiations let all and sundry know that we are determined upon a peace settlement to be imposed on the warring sides with the carrot being US and international help to rebuild and the stick being US force being thrown against whichever sides proves most resistant to compromise (in other words, we’re telling them that we’ll even fight on Assad’s side, if he proves most willing to compromise).  Once the preliminary work is done, we call a conference of all the interested parties to reach an agreement to embargo all arms and impose sanctions on the warring factions…Russia, China and Iran would strongly object to this (and thus no such thing could be done through the UN…which is why we’d ignore the UN and go for genuine diplomacy), and we’d lay down the marker:  we’re going to do this and we’re willing to fight…and if Russia, China and Iran want to fight us in order to maintain their particular clients in Syria, then let’s have at it.  They would back down in front of that as no one in the world wants to go to actual war with the United States of America.  Once a cease-fire agreement is hammered out it is presented to the Syrian factions and they are given 36 hours to comply or face sustained military action by the United States until they do agree.  More than likely, all but the Islamist fanatics would agree, and they could be swiftly exterminated.  We can then mid-wife in Syria a Cantonal form of government allowing each group to keep its own while cooperating to sustain the larger entity of Syria.

At any rate, that’s what I would do.

Democrats Who Are for Action in Syria Don’t Want the pResident Humiliated

Dem Congresswoman: Only Reason I’d Vote for Syria Attack Is Loyalty to Obama

It goes to show that Democrats can’t think for themselves and their actions are a result of partisanship.

HOLMES NORTON: So I think he’ll be in real trouble if he then does it anyway. No president has done that.

PRESS: It’s not an easy decision for any of you, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

HOLMES NORTON: Oh, and I’d like to say, Bill, that if he gets saved at all, I think it’ll be because, it’ll be because of loyalty of Democrats. They just don’t want to see him shamed and humiliated on the national stage.

PRESS: Yeah, right.

HOLMES NORTON: At the, at the moment, that’s the only reason I would vote for it if I could vote on it.

Wow, she has said it all.  It is a shame that a pResident who claimed to “restore our world image” is an utter failure at that as well.

UPDATE, by Mark Noonan

You want to know just how we got ourselves in to this mess?  Where, here’s the level of stupidity in the Obama Administration:

…Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, hoped that a team of UN investigators — many of whom, presumably, have a longstanding relationship with Iranian leaders — could write a report that would convince Iran to abandon its ally at the behest of the United States.

“We worked with the UN to create a group of inspectors and then worked for more than six months to get them access to the country on the logic that perhaps the presence of an investigative team in the country might deter future attacks,” Power said at the Center for American Progress as she made the case for intervening in Syria.

“Or, if not, at a minimum, we thought perhaps a shared evidentiary base could convince Russia or Iran — itself a victim of Saddam Hussein’s monstrous chemical weapons attacks in 1987-1988 — to cast loose a regime that was gassing it’s people,” she said…

So, here goes the “thinking” – if we can just get the Iranians to see that Assad is a bad guy, they’ll get on board with us against him!  Genius, I tell ya!  Just where to heck to we get such idiots?  Well, Tom Elia on his Facebook page details it:

Yale undergrad; journalist; Harvard Law School; Pulitzer Prize winner (non-fiction book); professor, Kennedy School; diplomat.

We get it from the Ruling Class – the privileged elite who are supposedly just oh, so well educated and oh, so much smarter than us knuckle-dragging teabaggers.  That’s where we get it from.  Ms. Powers, a little clue for ya from the dummies:  people who hang people for being gay and stone women to death because they were raped are unlikely to have an attack of conscience over gassing people.  Its just not that likely, ya see?  In fact, people who do that sort of thing might even be in favor of gassing people…I know, shocking; but there it is.  Some people are just like that.

Update:

Now anti-war Hollywood chimes in with the most unintelligent reason for not opposing action in Syria:

Ed Asner: “They don’t want to feel Anti-Black”

Wow.  Now I have heard it all.  I am 100% positive if the President was a African-American Republican, Hollywood would have no problem “feeling Anti-Black” in that case.  Again according to the left, if you criticize the pResident you are a racist…. a bigot…. a hater.

UPDATE III, by Mark Noonan:

In between bouts of blaming Bush, I guess someone over at Team Obama realized that Team Bush could at least drum up and sustain support for war – even when things got really rough.  And, so, Team Obama sent some former Bush people to lobby House GOPers:

Top Bush administration officials have mobilized to sway a skeptical Republican party to authorize military intervention in Syria. As National Review Online reported, former national security adviser Stephen Hadley and former undersecretary of defense for policy Eric Edelman this week led a briefing on Capitol Hill for Republican legislative directors and chiefs of staff…

…Their argument: If you hope to have a negotiated settlement with Iran, they only way you are going to get there is if the Iranians actually believe the use of force lies behind America’s efforts to negotiate. Hamstringing the president’s effort to use force against Syria now will “absolutely cripple and destroy” the chance to reach a diplomatic settlement with Iran…

The idea is that if we fail to sustain Obama on Syria, then when he does go to talk to the Iranians about their nuclear program, the Iranians will know in advance that there is no credible threat of US action if Iran refuses to forgo nuclear weapons.  Its a nice theory, but it is based upon a premise that to this moment Iran believes that we’ll do something about their nuclear program.  If they do, then they are too stupid to figure out how to build an atomic bomb…or even a firecracker, for that matter.

Obama’s credibility will not be destroyed by failure to sustain him on Syria – Obama’s credibility has been destroyed for ages.  If the Assad government did use chemical weapons it is because they were convinced that no great punishment would be meted out if they did.  And, they’re right – even if we sustain Obama, he’s just going to lob a few missiles in to Syria.  Twenty or thirty more large explosions added to the scores of large explosions happening there every day.  Not exactly the sort of thing to convince a bloodthirsty dictator fighting for his life that he’s in trouble.  No war in Syria – not now; not while Obama is President.