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Wednesday, November 16. 2016
I read these bits from Totten and it bothered me. Totten is a fine reporter, but does he like war?
Look at it this way: From Russia's standpoint, NATO (ie mainly the US) seems like a threat. a threat in their backyard. I feel NATO is an obsolete remnant of the Cold War. Leave it. There is no Soviet Union. The Ukraine, historically part of Russia, is of no national interest for the US. Major powers want their spheres of influence and power, and tend to be a little paranoid and bullying. Russia and China included. Yes, it all seems stupid in the modern world where economics rule. However, those are not America's issues. They do not wish to invade the US, for heaven's sake.
Except for Israel, the Middle East is a God-forsaken s-hole. Despite 9-11, I refuse to be intimidated by those backward lunatics. This is their extended Dark Ages, and nobody can pull them out of that. Bush's and Hillary's wars and interventions were wrong, in retrospect. In the ME, whatever you do is wrong. What could be more obvious? Nuke ISIS, but there will be another one popping up a week later. Evil perseveres.
Life sucks for many people on the planet, but we can't fix that. We are not God and we often make well-intentioned mistakes. We must count our blessings.
Contrary views welcome, as always. No Thought Police here but personal insults are not arguments and good manners are always appreciated.
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The Barrister: From Russia's standpoint, NATO (ie mainly the US) seems like a threat.
Do you know when the last time the NATO alliance was invoked?
This is common sense.
If Russia wants to destabilize the ME we've got a problem, but at the moment we're the destabilizer and they're exactly the opposite. Assad is very bad. The alternative, as seen in Libya, Iraq, and Syria, is incomparably worse, for everybody.
Putin isn't very nice either. Is that a reason to start a war? OMFG please be serious. No, it's not a reason to start a war. We need to let go of the insane idea of fighting wars with every bad person on the planet. We are not living in a comic book. In 2003 if you were ordinarily naive it was possible to believe that, while pointless, installing liberal democracy in Iraq or Libya was at least possible. We were wrong and now we know it. It's not possible.
I played RISK as a kid. It is a strategy game. The Iraq war (second one) was brilliant strategy - the US and the coalition locked in a overland barrier between Iran and the western Middle East. It made transport of men and material from Iran to the troublesome areas of Lebanon, Gaza, West Bank, Syria, and even western Iraq, much more difficult. All we had to do was sit there and maintain stability like we did in Korea and Western Europe.
No - to get re-elected someone had to fail with a Status of Forces agreement, declare victory, and exit the theater, stage left.
Now we have ISIS, emboldened behavior on the Med side of the Middle East, and troubles with turkey and the ethnics that could well have been managed from a presence of force; not actual use of force, just a presence of force.
He was re-elected and this is what we have. Thanks media and those supporting abandonment of success.
Pray for peace, prepare for war. Or the various lessons of Sun Tzu, whereby the potential adversaries must be kept uncertain of the outcome, while being sure of your resolve. The best way to win a war is to have your enemies decline to start one with you.
That means we have to stay in the arena. If we withdraw, we rapidly become obsolete. In which case, we will no longer be masters of our own fate. In the 21Cen the wide oceans no longer protect us.
How to stay in the arena? Have lots of joint exercises with allies. Continue to push for freedom of navigation and commerce. Send our ships and our joint military exercises through the South China Sea. Fly our planes right on the edge of international airspace, let them come and intercept us. Do it regularly.
If we withdraw from the arena, it will be more likely that the bad actors will accumulate nukes and delivery systems, and more likely that they will use them against the paper tiger.
Like Milton Friedman's principle that we don't need only good politicians, but we want the bad politicians to be constrained to make good choices; we want the bad actor sovereigns to conclude that nukes and emp's and dirty nuke terrorist smuggling bands are not worth it.
you're against war? thank the gods that's settled.
give pizza chants.
On Russia's viewpoint, here's an interview of Vladimir Putin and his response on whether they are being militaristic versus the U.S.:
I particularly don't understand the U.S. position with respect to Syria/Iraq. It seems to me the U.S. created the situation; I have never believed Obama's nonsense about supporting "moderate" rebels. Give me a break, they are all terrorists, it's just we support some of the terrorists and not others. And the fact that Obama cannot even call ISIS by its proper name--what's up with that, he's delusional. The only legitimate government in this mess is Assad's, and the Russians are on his side. And none of these "atrocities" would have occurred but for the fact we are financially underwriting the rebels who want to overthrow the legitimate government.
And I totally understand Putin/Russia getting involved in this. Russia is the one with Islamic countries right on its borders, and Islamic groups with a history of unleashing horrible terrorist attacks on Russians (e.g., the Moscow theater, Beslan school attack). This is one of the reasons Putin has the powers he has, he was given them in the wake of Beslan in order to strengthen Russia's position against terrorists. If Russia wants to go out and liquidate as many terrorists as they can find in the Middle East, we should on their side, not the terrorists'. And yet our allies, especially Saudi Arabai, are the ones that are on the side of the terrorists.
P.S. I also support Russia rounding up and using Somali pirates for various types of target practice.
To be further clear. I do not believe that my prescriptions are evidence of bellicosity. Of course the potential adversary complains when you demonstrate resolve. What of it?
1. Establish a baseline level of resolve demonstration. Maintain that level. Do it all under international legal umbrellas.
2. If the adversaries start ratcheting up the saber rattling and casting covetous eyes upon their neighboring countries assets, and seek to establish hegemony and vassals, then we have a decision: continue as we are, or match the intensity.
3. Note that accidents happen while the potential adversaries test each others' resolve. Boats stray out of international waters, or there is a local tactical dispute about where the boundary is. Planes "inadvertently" enter or overfly restricted airspace. Sometimes warning shots are fired. Sometimes there are captures or shootdowns. There is definitely a kabuki feel to it all.
Stay in the arena, or go home and await for others to decide your fate.
I have been reading Totten for close to ten years and am unable to understand how anyone can think that he likes war. He is overly attached to Lebanon, especially Beirut, but he does know the ME and has walked the talk. I think that Totten and John Fisher Burns are the two most knowledgeable folks for the ME and surrounding areas- neither are fond of war IMO.
Ron, I agree Totten is worthy of respect. But I'm with Barrister, and suspect Totten's underlying rationale is like John Fleming's. John poses the key question: if we become isolationist, is that an invitation to others to decide your fate, or rather, is it an invitation to see, in the words of Henry Kissinger, "them both lose"?
Given that ME cultures except Israel seem more tribal than values-based, where's the evidence that if we left, they'd all throw in together and form a force we couldn't handle? And if they can't form a near-superpower-sized army on a par with the US or China, then why not let them have at each other ad nauseum and pass the popcorn?
John, buttress your argument please, I'm all ears...
Yes Yes Yes - there is no point to involvement in the ME, just as there is no point in involvement in sub-saharan Africa.
Much US policy in the region has been about appeasing one or another local thug, instead of building democracies (and consider: America was present in Germany - a Western country with a democratic tradition - for a generation to "de-Nazify" it. And we still foot the defense bill. Is anyone willing to invest in that kind of long-term presence to create a stable, democratic Turkey/Egypt/Syria?). The US pours millions into propping up "moderate" dictators like Sadat - and gets absolutely nothing for it. The investment evaporates almost overnight.
America should focus on supporting Israel, Morocco, and other relatively stable, relatively democratic allies - and doing the same to keep Kenya and Nigeria from being overrun and radicalized. It's probably too late to restore secular democracy in Turkey...
Contain and deter the more radical elements, and condition support for moderates on real reforms. Oh, and drill-baby-drill (frack baby frack?) so the US is not dependent on these regimes.
The 1990's. We said Cold War's over, we won, it's the end of History, just little pissant troubles, Bosnia/Kosovo, Iraq no-fly, Rwanda. Nothing we can't handle, limit our involvement, spend the War Bonus on other things. Don't get involved in anything major.
OBL was more or less free to cook up a surprise. Oh yeah, we knew he was a bad actor. Nobody was paying attention to all that jihad stuff. Besides, the Afghans were our erstwhile allies. OBL wasn't worth the cruise missile.
We got sloppy. Our intel developed blocks and inefficiencies. The bureaucracies got lazy and siloed. When there's nothing important being seen, everybody goes to sleep by going through the motions, doing the same thing they always do.
In the meantime, the willing adversaries watch, test you and learn your weaknesses. They adapt, improvise, overcome. We go to sleep.
Think outside the box. Emp's up high, dirty bombs on the ground, and cheap ass drones sowing chaos. Look at the silly USA, it's hysteria central. If you have any deviousity in you, you can think up before breakfast ten really nasty disruptive things that can be done with drones.
Stay in the arena. Targets that sit still are destroyed. We're too big and too rich to ignore, we're not like England or Australia or Mexico. If the bad actors want a free field, they have to sideline us for good.
Nations like children, you can't make them do anything. Building democracies - doesn't work. But, we can be a good example. We can reward good behavior. We encourage free trade and commerce, tangible and intellectual. We focus on being prosperous by securing our People's Liberties, and freedom to trade.
Besides, we didn't give to our Federal government the power to build nations, but to regulate commerce between, and enter into treaties. Nation building in my opinion is imperial over-reach, and a waste of our wealth.
We take the nations as we find them. What looks like appeasing thugs, can also be enabling commerce.
Nations respond to the example of the strong, confident, dynamic and wealthy nations. Afghanistan and Egypt in the 1950's were adopting Western ways.
Pity the Ukrainians, historically part of Russia (not entirely true and irrelevant), it's no business of ours if they are subject to misrule and mass murder by neighboring foreigners.
Pity the Jews of Europe, historically governed by Europeans, it's no business of ours if....
If only the Ukrainians could be promoted to a people worth caring about. What were the qualifications again, I forgot.
History moves on. Turn the page.
Guaman: to get re-elected someone had to fail with a Status of Forces agreement
The status of forces agreement was a decision of the sovereign Iraqi government.
Yes, the day after 9/11, the alliance was invoked — the only time the alliance has ever been invoked. Over a thousand NATO allies died in Afghanistan fighting to defend the U.S.