The Case for Diplomatic Can-Kicking

In light of the cease-fire that Trump has negotiated in Syria, Ace has some interesting comments. Do read the whole thing, but this is what I’m thinking about:

Is everything fixed, then?

Let me answer that with a question: Is anything ever fixed?

When I was younger and less experienced — and had seen less war — I was a big believer in the Rumsfeld Doctrine, “if the problem seems unsolvable, enlarge it,” that is, don’t chew about the edges if chewing about the edges doesn’t solve things, but go for the whole sandwich if need be.

I also believed the empty Neocon slogans about appeasement and Hitler and Clinton “just kicking the can down the road” in Iraq.

The empty sloganeering went like this: If we don’t permanently solve our diplomatic/military crises once and for ever, then we’re just “kicking the can down the road” and deferring problems until later.

It is very difficult to permanently solve problem – by war or diplomacy. But if you can get the shooting to stop for a significant period of time and allow people to get on with their lives, you’ve done well. We don’t know what will come out of the Syria deal – the problem is most emphatically not solved because most Kurds live in Turkey and Iran and while this is so, at least a portion of the Kurd population will pine for unity with their brothers. But, maybe this deal with allow the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds to start building a life and, just perhaps, rising stability and wealth will make the Kurds outside Turkey less willing to tangle with the Turks? Who knows; and maybe in 5 or 10 years there will be another crisis…and if there is, our job will be to assess our interests and only if we feel there is something crucial concerning us should we offer more than our good offices.

Kicking the can down the road is also not entirely a bad thing. In 1878, the Great Powers of Europe were at loggerheads over what to do with Turkish territory conquered by the Russians in a recent war. Russia, the victor in the war, naturally wanted to have everything her own way. But Austria and Britain weren’t keen on Russian domination in the Balkans. The Germans were at cross purposes because they were trying to keep on good terms with both Russia and Austria. Turkey, naturally, wanted to recover the lost territories. In the end, the British Prime Minister Disreali brokered a settlement which gave Russia some of what she wanted but not total domination of the Balkans.

What is interesting at the time was that the Austrian government was a bit divided on what to do – some arguing for peace even if Russia got advantage, others wanting war to the knife to push the Russians back. The “war to the knife” side saw that whatever deal was made, if it didn’t totally push Russia out, it would just be kicking the can down the road. That the basic problem would remain and would eventually flare up again. And, they were right. The 1914 war was started in roughly the same area and over roughly the same issue: who was to dominate the Balkans? An argument could have been made that the issue should have been fought to a finish in 1878 rather than 1914 – but, had it happened in 1878 then it doesn’t mean that peace and reason would then become triumphant. The aftermath of the actual war to the knife is now known and it isn’t pretty. But by making peace in 1878, the peoples of Europe were spared a major war for 36 years. That is quite a long time, actually. It was a pity that when 1914 came there were no Statesmen of the stature of Disreali (nor any generals who could win the war quickly), but who could foresee that? But even if someone had negotiated an 11th hour agreement in 1914 (as they did the year before in 1913 after the Balkan nations had fought Turkey), it still wouldn’t have solved the problem. Until Russia surrendered her desire for domination of the Balkans, war was always a prospect in the area.

As Ace also points out, World War Two is a bit unique. We were clearly attacked out of the blue and without just cause. Our enemy in Hitler was a purely evil man who had to be destroyed. And we unleashed unlimited power against the enemy – the destruction we wrought was only limited by our capacity to deliver it to the enemy. Had the war in Europe gone on past August of 1945, then Berlin would have been nuked rather than Hiroshima. The level of violence was really astonishing – especially after the allied armies broke into Germany. It is fairly well known how the Russians behaved – and orgy of rape, murder and pillage – but less well known is what the Anglo-American and French forces did. There wasn’t the mass rape and murder that accompanied the Russian invasion (though the French – via their Algerian troops – did permit a great deal of rape as revenge for German rapes in France) but the slightest resistance was met with overwhelming firepower; a great deal of looting went on; Germans were kicked out of their houses to provide billets for allied soldiers. It was a crushing, overwhelming defeat – a defeat so complete that the militarist Germans simply gave up on the concept. But, such a thing is unlikely to repeat itself: both in having such a purely evil enemy and having a political situation where ruthless application of power is possible.

So, can kicking isn’t a completely wrong thing to do. In fact, it is probably the best we can accomplish in most circumstances. With the hope that if its kicked far enough, it will be replaced by some other problem down the road. Because until the End, there will always be problems. There will always be people who feel they have been cheated and/or who think they have a right to someone else’s belongings. Because of this, war will always be in prospect and will, at times, break out. Our job is to permanently have a military ready to fight and then first try our hardest to broker a settlement and, failing that, give the enemy such a lesson about American power that they’ll shy away from trying it a second time. Other than that, we can only wait and see what happens and then deal with it as it arises.

In light of this, permanent alliances and international bodies are a blind ally: they commit us to certain actions even though future events might make a mockery of our commitment. Think about Turkey: suppose we had decided to fight them? Well, as they are NATO allies, that would technically require Spain to go to war against us in defense of their NATO ally Turkey. We hope for friendship – or at least tolerable relations – with all nations; but we can never tell what the future will bring. And, so, we can’t tie our hands in advance – we have to be free to decide as situations arise how we will deal with them.

They say we had to get into NATO and the UN because the world was changing and this is what we needed – but precisely because the world is changing (and always has and always will) it was wrong to get into them. It is time for us to disentangle ourselves and just move forward on the path which seems best to us at the time. It is time, that is, to start kicking the can down the road rather than rushing to war.

Open Thread

Trump pulls our tiny number of troops out of part of northern Syria and all of a sudden, all of Trump’s opponents are pro-war. Ain’t fallin’ for it, guys.

As I said back when Obama was President, I’ve become quite the peace-nik – mostly because of complete lack of trust. I do trust President Trump’s basic instincts here, but overall I don’t trust our government, our military brass or the Democrats when it comes to war. The lives of our troops are too important for them to be thrown away on unclear, endless missions where we surrender all our military advantages and then haul up our troops on charges of war crimes when they make what some REMF thinks is a mistake. I’ll agree to send our troops to war on the following conditions:

1. It is declared.
2. It is fought with brutal and unlimited use of our military force.
3. This is very important to me – we inform all and sundry that when dealing with captured irregulars and hostile “civilian” populations, we’re going to use Rule .303.

The Trump impeachment circus goes on – from what I can tell, Schiff all but wrote the “whistleblower” complaint and as that is falling apart, the Democrats are cooking up a second “whistleblower” to shore up their collapsing case. Meanwhile, various DOJ investigators seem to be closing in on the whole start of the scandal – you know, back in 2016 when the O Admin authorized spying on Trump – and this is getting more and more people into a panic. None of can say where this goes, but I’m feeling confident that Trump (and McConnell) have a very firm grip on this and they are planning on using impeachment – if the Democrats do go for it – as a hammer in 2020.

Dick’s got woke and went broke – but don’t think that will deter them. The only thing an American corporation fears these days is offending the Chinese government. Dick’s made its anti-gun SJW move because it was, socially, cost-free for them. We have to make it economically expensive for corporations to indulge in this sort of thing – only then will they cool it.

Ellen DeGeneres was in the box at a football game with W and the left went ballistic. Ellen made a statement about how its ok for people to disagree and still be kind to each other. That isn’t sitting at all well with the left:

“Avengers” star Mark Ruffalo certainly agreed, saying kindness was out of the question until Bush was brought to justice.

Got that? Brought to justice…for the crime of being a moderately conservative Republican. And this is what Ellen – conventional American liberal – and W – conventional American conservative – don’t get: the left hates. It is what it does, first and foremost and above all else. For every Ellen there are a dozen liberals who’s fondest hope is to see people like us suffer. We could get along with – and often split the difference – with liberals who don’t hate, but such are not remotely in control of the left. We have to defeat these people – drive them from power and take away their subsidies. And we won’t be able to do that if we’re all pretending – as conventional conservatism has – that the left is run by sane people.

The brownouts in California afford us, I think, an opportunity to start rebuilding Republican strength in California. California is horribly misgoverned and this power outage thing just highlights how bad it is there. Trump has commented on it – to the fury of California Democrats – but I’m hoping that someone on Team Trump is really looking at the State to for any election prospects. Certainly it is worth it simply to run up the GOP vote total and thus help Trump win the popular vote (not that it matters, but that it’ll be a fitting and final insult to the Democrats) – but, long term, we can’t rely on Texas forever…and Californians are our fellow Americans (well, most of them, anyway) and we should be working to free them from liberal tyranny and malfeasance.

Syria: How Global Power Works

Like this; from the New York Times:

With evidence that powerful new weapons are flowing to both the Syrian government and opposition fighters, the bloody uprising in Syria has thrust the Obama administration into an increasingly difficult position as the conflict shows signs of mutating into a full-fledged civil war.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Tuesday that the United States believed that Russia was shipping attack helicopters to Syria that President Bashar al-Assad could use to escalate his government’s deadly crackdown on civilians and the militias battling his rule. Her comments reflected rising frustration with Russia, which has continued to supply weapons to its major Middle Eastern ally despite an international outcry over the government’s brutal crackdown…

Meanwhile, the report goes on to note that the rebels are being armed by the Turks with assistance from other Muslim powers.  Here’s what is actually going on:

No one outside of the precincts of the West gives a hoot about the sufferings of the Syrian people.  We here in the United States are disgusted with the mayhem and slaughter but people who are not like us don’t care – they only look at the mayhem and slaughter and think, “can I gain any advantage out of it?”.  No amount of moralizing by Obama and Clinton or anyone in the West will make the least impression upon the Turks, Russians, Iranian,  Saudis or anyone else who is so far involved in the war in Syria.  In fact, they’ll probably view such statements as a sign of weakness – figuring that if we really had a pair we’d intervene so we can grab what advantage we want out of the situation.  Holding back and lecturing all concerned is, in the view of such people, the act of cowards.

Russia and Iran want to maintain their Syrian ally.  Iran because it allows Iran to keep up pressure in Israel while also allowing Iran to project power in to the center of the middle east.  Russia because Syria is on Turkey’s southern flank and puts the Turks between two fires if any Russo-Turkish conflict arises…plus it sticks a finger in our eye and Putin (utter fool that he is) thinks that Russia’s proper role is to oppose the United States (the truth is that Russia can only survive in alliance with the United States, but Putin is just too blinded by his Great Russian nationalism to see this).  In service of this goal the Iranians have shipped thugs to Syria for the purpose of massacring Syrians who oppose the Assad regime (probably the very same thugs the Iranians use to massacre Iranians who oppose the Mullah’s regime in Teheran…so, they’re likely experienced killers who no how to choke off a rebellion).  Russia won’t send troops but is clearly sending arms – and in spite of bland words to the contrary, is sending arms which are useful in fighting the increasingly competent Syrian rebels.

Turkey would love to turn Syria in to a satellite State – the Turks, after all, were the imperial overlords of Syria for more than four centuries and while we here in the United States might not know it, the Turks understand that controlling Damascus is just as important as controlling Baghdad if you want to dominate the middle east (this is why Iran continues to press their power in Iraq along with trying to sustain their ally in Syria).  The Turks also have a very long history of enmity with the Russians (there have been, I think, 9 Russo-Turkish wars over the centuries) and so would love to reduce Russian influence in the area.  Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and other States in the area have a vested interest in curbing Iranian influence – and taking out Iran’s key ally in Damascus is worth a lot in Saudi eyes.

Our problem is that we have as President and Secretary of State two people who appear to have zero knowledge of how the world works.  Obama and Clinton seem to think that there is, somewhere, a genuine desire in Syria and in the other players to end the bloodshed.  There isn’t.  There is a desire to win.  Assad wants to win.  The rebels want to win.  Iran wants to win.  Russia wants to win.  Turkey wants to win.  Saudi Arabia wants to win.  All of them won’t win, of course – but they are all fighting for victory as they see it.  We, under Obama and Clinton, don’t want to win – we don’t even know what we want other than an end to the violence; an admirable desire, but violence can be ended in good or bad ways.  Obama and Clinton are ensuring that when the violence ends there is sure to be one nation which won’t have won:  the United States.

Proper American policy in this matter is not to get involved in Syria – we have no dog in that hunt, unless we could grab Damascus and keep it.  That would involve a major military offensive too fraught with risks right now to be envisioned.  So, nothing to do in Syria – but we do have a strong interest in completely ending Syria’s (and, thus, Iran’s) role in Lebanon.  Syria’s armed forces are, naturally, being concentrated on the rebels.  I’ll bet their forces in Lebanon are thin on the ground:  the opportunity is for us eject them completely – ending Syrian domination and at the same time vastly undercutting the ability of the Iran-backed terrorist groups to operate there.  It is a certainty that Lebanon’s Christian population wouldn’t be adverse to a change in Lebanon’s status – certainly in the southern regions of the country, which we are most concerned about as it borders Israel.  A bit of thought and effort and some coordination with Israel and the thing could be done…by the time Syria is able to respond, it would be too late.

Will we do this?  Not a chance – Obama doesn’t even see it.  I doubt that anyone in his Administration does.  So, we’ll get more liberal hand-wringing while the Russian and Iranians battle it out with the Turks and Saudis and the winner of that not only gets Syria, but Lebanon thrown in to the bargain.  Just monumental stupidity brought about by rank ignorance on the part of our leadership.

 

Turks Expel Israeli Ambassador

From the Washington Post:

Turkey said Friday that it was expelling the Israeli ambassador and suspending military agreements with Israel, signaling a deepening rift between the former strategic allies in the aftermath of last year’s deadly Israeli raid on a Turkish ship leading an aid flotilla to Gaza.

The crisis with Turkey comes as Israel faces strained relations with another longtime regional ally, Egypt, over a deadly border incident last month, and it raises the prospect of Israel’s increasing isolation in the region at a time of tumultuous change.

Turkey announced its move ahead of the publication of a U.N. report that found that while Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip was legal, its commandos had used “excessive and unreasonable” force when they boarded the vessel, the Mavi Marmara, and killed nine Turks in clashes with activists…

That report is bound to be nothing more than another bit of UN Israel-bashing.  “Excessive and unreasonable” is a subjective judgment and, at the end of the day, Israel wouldn’t have had to use any force, at all, if the flotilla people had simply obeyed the law.  You go to break a blockade and you’re engaging in an act of war…Israel could have just torpedoed the flotilla and still would have been within the law.

But Turkey is taking this bogus incident as an excuse to expel the Israeli ambassador, and that means something.  Turkey, increasingly Islamist, is breaking its ties with Israel and lining on the side of the Jihadists.  This is a watershed moment – it is the end of any large, powerful Moslem nation even making an effort to be Western and civilized.  We can now expect increased pressure on Iraq to toe the Islamist line, especially if any sort of Moslem Brotherhood government emerges in Egypt.  We’re back to 1967 in middle eastern affairs but with a much more virulent strain of anti-Israel and anti-US sentiment in the area.

Our response should be to cut off all military ties with both Turkey and Egypt and refuse both nations any aid.  If we can keep Iraq in our camp that would be great…and we should offer strong inducements to the Iraqis to partner with us, lest they be swallowed up by Turkey, Iran or a combination of both.  But we have to be prepared for Iraq to cut ties with us, as well…they are placed in a difficult position and may decide that it is better to get along with everyone than count on an increasingly distant and distracted United States.

It could be that wiser heads will prevail and all this will blow over – but if the Islamic world really wants to fight, then there’s not much we can do about it, except to fight them.