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US Foreign Policy
Topic: US Foreign Policy (Read 54604 times)
2016 Foreign Policy Debates
Reply #550 on:
July 23, 2014, 08:49:57 AM »
Most of us here have tended to a strong US foreign policy, but at the polls in 2016 this may prove a very losing proposition. For several years now I have been underlining here that rudderless nature of US foreign policy. This article addresses this theme:
The Big 2016 Foreign Policy Debates
Rand Paul will fight the GOP hawks, and Joe Biden could run to the left of Hillary Clinton.
By William A. Galston
July 22, 2014 7:19 p.m. ET
These are tough times for internationalists, liberal and conservative alike. George W. Bush's overreach in Iraq undermined public support for the use of American power overseas, and Barack Obama has done nothing to rebuild it. Large majorities of Americans believe that our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan was a mistake. A July 21 Politico survey of likely voters in battleground states found that only 39% think that we have a responsibility to do something about the mess we left behind in Mesopotamia.
The survey also found that by a margin of 3 to 1, Americans reject the sweeping vision Mr. Bush enunciated in his second inaugural address and would instead confine the use of American military power to direct threats to our national security. In the same poll, completed before the downing of the Malaysia Airlines 3786.KU -2.17% passenger plane, only 17% thought we should get more involved in the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine.
The desire for some nation-building here at home is palpable and understandable. Nevertheless, the forthcoming presidential campaign is likely to feature an unusually spirited debate—within as well as between the parties—about America's role in the world.
The outline of this debate among Republicans is easy to foresee. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has articulated a coherent message of government restraint abroad as well as at home and has proved adept at making a libertarian-leaning agenda more broadly acceptable to conservatives. The young adults who flocked to his father's rallies seem especially receptive to his critique of military intervention and NSA surveillance. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose political instincts seem to have improved since 2012, has publicly challenged Mr. Paul for his alleged isolationism, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has positioned himself as his generation's torchbearer for a muscular internationalism based on American leadership.
Sen. Rand Paul Associated Press
Most Republican contenders are likely to side with their party's national-defense orthodoxy of recent decades. Still, Mr. Paul's self-confidence and political skills could carry him far in a divided field and might even gain him the nomination. That would be an earthquake within the Republican Party and present a tough choice for staunch hawks like John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Mr. McCain has publicly said as much.
Although it may not occur, the Democrats are poised for a similar debate. The only significant difference between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008 was her vote for the Iraq war, which probably cost her the presidential nomination. Little has changed. During her tenure as secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton was among the administration's toughest voices during internal debates. She supported the use of American air power in Libya, and the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden. (Both Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Robert Gates opposed it.)
Strong legal support from Mrs. Clinton's State Department for President Obama's expansive use of drones surprised many observers. She was an advocate for the 2009 surge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and favored maintaining a residual American force in Iraq after the end of our combat missions. While not opposed to nuclear negotiations with Iran, she has expressed mistrust about Iranian intentions and has opposed a policy of "containing" a nuclear-armed Tehran if diplomacy fails. As president, it seems reasonable to conclude, Mrs. Clinton would make decisions about using American power based on prudential considerations, not instinctive aversion.
For the record: Even though I opposed the Iraq war from the start, I believe that Hillary Clinton's judgment on defense and foreign policy issues has been right far more often than it was wrong and that she would serve our country well as commander in chief.
But rank-and-file Democrats are no less dovish today than they were in 2008. Although attention has focused recently on the clash between "populist" and "Wall Street" Democrats, the potential for an intraparty debate on foreign policy seems just as real. While Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has consistently denied her intention to run if Mrs. Clinton enters the race, Vice President Biden has made no such pledge. Estes Kefauver, the 1956 Democratic vice-presidential nominee, once remarked that the only known cure for persistent presidential ambition was "embalming fluid."
Mr. Biden is well-positioned to wage a left-leaning campaign on foreign policy as well as economic issues. Although he voted for the Iraq-war authorization in 2002, he argued vehemently against the Bush administration's surge in 2007, proposing instead the quasi-partition of Iraq into autonomous Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite zones. As vice president, he argued just as hard against Gen. David Petraeus's proposal (backed by then-Secretary of State Clinton) for a massive military surge and nation-building policy in Afghanistan. And he has taken U.S. military action against Iran off the table, declaring that "war with Iran is not just a bad option. It would be a disaster."
These issues matter, not just for the U.S., but for the world. During the Cold War, American retreat usually meant Soviet advance. Now it most often means anarchy. The question is whether the American people can be persuaded that they should care.
the trigger points for World War III are in place.
Reply #551 on:
July 30, 2014, 11:26:13 AM »
Great article. My guess is that despite it being in The Atlantic, most of you will find it compelling:
From the article:
Pacifist tendencies in western Europe coexist with views of power held in Moscow and Beijing that Bismarck or Clausewitz would recognize instantly. After the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia, the UN General Assembly ratified the concept that governments have a “responsibility to protect” their citizens from atrocities. But in the face of Syria’s bloody dismemberment and Ukraine’s cynical dismantlement, idealism of that kind looks fluffy or simply irrelevant. The Baltic countries are front-line states once again. The fleeting post–Cold War dream of a zone of unity and peace stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok has died. As John Mearsheimer observes in his seminal The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, “Unbalanced multipolar systems feature the most dangerous distribution of power, mainly because potential hegemons are likely to get into wars with all of the other great powers in the system.”
In this context, nothing is more dangerous than American weakness. It is understandable that the United States is looking inward after more than a decade of post-9/11 war. But it is also worrying, because the credibility of American power remains the anchor of global security.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #552 on:
July 30, 2014, 03:54:51 PM »
Hey, elections have consequences. Who knew electing Bill Ayers' and Rev. Wright's most famous follower would turn out this badly?
Well, some of us did...
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #553 on:
July 30, 2014, 05:44:29 PM »
Not sure why you would think the piece would not be well-received in these quarters. indeed we might even joke it reads as if by a reader of these forums.
Henninger: Winds of War Again
Reply #554 on:
July 31, 2014, 10:38:18 AM »
Winds of War, Again
One wishes Barack Obama and John Kerry more luck in Ukraine and the Middle East than Neville Chamberlain had in Munich.
By Daniel Henninger
July 30, 2014 6:56 p.m. ET
If it's true that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, then maybe we're in luck. Many people in this unhappy year are reading histories of World War I, such as Margaret MacMillan's "The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914." That long-ago catastrophe began 100 years ago this week. The revisiting of this dark history may be why so many people today are asking if our own world—tense or aflame in so many places—resembles 1914, or 1938.
Whatever the answer, it is the remembering of past mistakes that matters, if the point is to avoid the high price of re-making those mistakes. A less hopeful view, in an era whose history comes and goes like pixels, would be that Santayana understated the problem. Even remembering the past may not be enough to protect a world poorly led. To understate: Leading from behind has never ended well.
In a recent essay for the Journal, Margaret MacMillan summarized the after-effects of World War I. Two resonate now. Political extremism gained traction, because so many people lost confidence in the existing political order or in the abilities of its leadership. That bred the isolationism of the 1920s and '30s. Isolationism was a refusal to see the whole world clearly. Self-interest, then and now, has its limits.
Which brings our new readings into the learning curves of history up to 1938. But not quite. First a revealing stop in the years just before Munich, when in 1935 Benito Mussolini's Italy invaded Ethiopia.
A woman in the Sudetenland, as Germany's troops arrive, 1939. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
Before the invasion, Ethiopia's emperor, Haile Selassie, did what the civilized world expected one to do in the post-World War I world: He appealed for help to the League of Nations. The League imposed on Italy limited sanctions, which were ineffectual.
One might say this was one of history's earlier "red lines." Mussolini blew by it, invading Ethiopia and using mustard gas on its army, as Bashar Assad has done to Syria's rebel population. Mussolini merged Ethiopia with Italy's colonies in east Africa. The League condemned Italy—and dropped its sanctions.
In defeat, Haile Selassie delivered a famous speech to the League in Geneva. He knew they wouldn't help. As he stepped from the podium, he remarked: "It is us today. Tomorrow it will be you."
In 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, not unlike John Kerry today, shuttled tirelessly between London and wherever Adolf Hitler consented to meet him to discuss a nonviolent solution to Hitler's intention to annex the Sudetenland, the part of Czechoslovakia inhabited by ethnic Germans. Hitler earlier in the year had annexed Austria, with nary a peep from the world "community." Many said the forced absorption of Austria was perfectly understandable.
One may hope Mr. Kerry and President Obama have more success with their stop-the-violence missions to Vladimir Putin, Kiev, Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Tehran, Afghanistan and the South China Sea than Neville Chamberlain had with Hitler, who pocketed eastern Ukraine—excuse me, the Sudetenland—and then swallowed the rest of Czechoslovakia, which ceased to exist.
But here's the forgotten part. After signing the Munich Agreement on Sept. 29, 1938—an event now reduced to one vile word, appeasement—Chamberlain returned to England in triumph. Many, recalling 1914-18, feared war. Londoners lined the streets to cheer Chamberlain's deal with Hitler. He was feted by King George VI. At 10 Downing Street, Chamberlain said the words for which history remembers him: "I believe it is peace for our time."
Winston Churchill, in a speech to the House of Commons, dissented: "This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup." Hitler, as sometimes happens in history, had negotiated in total bad faith, with no interest in anyone's desire for peace. When World War II ended in 1945, it had consumed more than 50 million people.
The U.S.'s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, though fought by a dedicated professional military, are said to have turned America in on itself, as two big wars did to Europe. The idea is that Americans are tired of their world role now. But tireless men like Hitler always finds advantage in other nations' fatigue.
Some note the current paradox of the public's low approval for Mr. Obama's handling of everything from Iraq to Ukraine to Gaza, while the same polls show a reluctance to involve the country in those problems.
But there is no contradiction. The U.S. public's resistance reflects coldblooded logic: Why get involved if the available evidence makes clear that America's president won't stay the course, no matter how worthy the cause?
After returning from Munich, Neville Chamberlain told the British to "go home, and sleep quietly in your beds." After 1914 and 1938, one wishes it could be so now. Wars, in their causes and timing, are unpredictable. What is not impossible is recognizing the winds of war. Doing less than enough, we should have learned, allows these destructive winds to gain strength.
VDH: American Indifference
Reply #555 on:
August 03, 2014, 11:32:01 AM »
PS: Readers here will recognize that I take a harder line than VDH in my criticism with regard to the SOFA failure in Iraq.
Hillary's Foreign Policy
Reply #556 on:
August 13, 2014, 07:38:03 AM »
The Message From That Hillary Interview
She would be the best-prepared president on foreign policy since George H.W. Bush.
By William A. Galston
Aug. 12, 2014 6:57 p.m. ET
Jeffrey Goldberg's interview in the Atlantic magazine with Hillary Clinton has made headlines, with good reason. Her critique of President Obama's Syria policy was pointed and persuasive, as was her assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood's missteps in Egypt.
But what lay beneath the headlines is far more important. The interview revealed a public servant instructed but not chastened by experience, with a clear view of America's role in the world and of the means needed to play that role successfully. If she entered the race and won, she would be better prepared to deal with foreign policy and national defense than any president since George H.W. Bush, whose judgment and experience helped end the Cold War and reunify Germany without a shot being fired.
Although Mrs. Clinton's tart remark that " 'Don't do stupid stuff' is not an organizing principle" has evoked reams of commentary, the words that preceded it are far more important: "Great nations need organizing principles." The former secretary of state expressed enthusiasm for the role the U.S. played in defeating communism and fascism. The question since 1991 has been, what now?
During Bill Clinton's administration, the answer seemed clear enough: Build prosperity by incorporating the workers of Asia, Central Europe and the former Soviet Union into the global economy. The rising tide would create an expanding middle class, which would bolster new democracies and move authoritarian governments toward democracy. So the U.S. should take the lead in promoting open trade and peacefully advocating open government. The winds of history were in our sails.
Mrs. Clinton has thought hard about this, and here is what she told Mr. Goldberg: "The big mistake was thinking" that "the end of history has come upon us, after the fall of the Soviet Union. That was never true, history never stops and nationalisms were going to assert themselves, and then other variations on ideologies were going to claim their space." She cites jihadi Islamism and Vladimir Putin's vision of restored Russian greatness as prime examples. She might well have added China's distinctive combination of political authoritarianism and pell-mell economic growth ("market-Leninism"), which is seen elsewhere as an orderly alternative to democratic messiness.
The rise of violently aggressive anti-democratic ideologies was one rebuttal of the end-of-history theory. Another was the global economic crisis, discrediting the so-called Washington consensus that had dominated world affairs since the early 1990s. Central bankers, it turned out, were not wise enough to eliminate financial panics. Although too much regulation could stifle growth, too little could open the door to reckless risk-taking.
George W. Bush's response to jihadi Islam—global democracy-building backed by American might—came to grief in the sands of Iraq. But a policy built on avoiding that failure, says Mrs. Clinton in the Atlantic, runs risks of its own: "Part of the challenge is that our government too often has a tendency to swing between these extremes" of intervention and non-intervention. She adds: "When you're down on yourself, and when you are hunkering down and pulling back, you're not going to make any better decisions than when you were aggressively, belligerently putting yourself forward." If Mr. Bush's porridge was too hot, Mr. Obama's is too cold.
But moderation is a means to ends, not an end in itself. So what would be the ends, the animating purposes of Mrs. Clinton's foreign policy? Her interview suggests, first, that we must take the fight to jihadi Islamism, which is inherently expansionist. In that connection, she says, she is thinking a lot about "containment, deterrence, and defeat." When unarmed diplomacy cannot succeed, she adds, we should not be afraid to back "the hard men with guns."
Second, we should drive a tough deal with Iran, or none at all. "I've always been in the camp," Mrs. Clinton says, "that held that they did not have a right to enrichment. Contrary to their claim, there is no such thing as a right to enrich."
Third, we should distinguish clearly between groups we can work with and those we can't. For example, Mrs. Clinton would exclude Hamas on the grounds that it is virulently anti-Semitic and dedicated to Israel's destruction. She does not believe that Hamas "should in any way be treated as a legitimate interlocutor." Her commitment to Israel's defense is unswerving, including a willingness to call the rise of European anti-Semitism by its rightful name.
Fourth, the U.S. should vigorously advance the cause of women's rights around the world, not only because justice demands it, but also because the empowerment of women promotes economic growth and social progress.
And finally, because many American values "also happen to be universal values," we should take pride in ourselves and make our case to the world. Today, Mrs. Clinton says, "we don't even tell our story very well." As president, clearly, she would do her best to change that.
Reply #557 on:
August 20, 2014, 06:48:05 AM »
meltdown? what are you kidding? the man's a genius
Reply #558 on:
August 20, 2014, 07:17:44 AM »
OTOH from one of my favorite "opinion" thinkers
Fareed Zakaria: Obama’s disciplined leadership is right for today
By Fareed Zakaria Opinion writer May 29
“Because of his unsure and indecisive leadership in the field of foreign policy, questions are being raised on all sides,” the writer declared, adding that the administration was “plagued by a Hamlet-like psychosis which seems to paralyze it every time decisive action is required.” Is the writer one of the many recent critics of Barack Obama’s foreign policy? Actually, it’s Richard Nixon, writing in 1961 about President John F. Kennedy. Criticizing presidents for weakness is a standard practice in Washington because the world is a messy place and, when bad things happen, Washington can be blamed for them. But to determine what the United States — and Obama — should be doing, we have to first understand the nature of the world and the dangers within it.
From 1947 until 1990, the United States faced a mortal threat, an enemy that was strategic, political, military and ideological. Washington had to keep together an alliance that faced up to the foe and persuaded countries in the middle not to give in. This meant that concerns about resolve and credibility were paramount. In this context, presidents had to continually reassure allies. This is why Dean Acheson is said to have remarked in exasperation about Europe’s persistent doubts about America’s resolve, “NATO is an alliance, not a psychiatrist’s couch!”
But the world today looks very different — far more peaceful and stable than at any point in decades and, by some measures, centuries. The United States faces no enemy anywhere on the scale of Soviet Russia. Its military spending is about that of the next 14 countries combined, most of which are treaty allies of Washington. The number of democracies around the world has grown by more than 50 percent in the past quarter-century. The countries that recently have been aggressive or acted as Washington’s adversaries are getting significant pushback. Russia has alienated Ukraine, Eastern Europe and Western Europe with its recent aggression, for which the short-term costs have grown and the long-term costs — energy diversification in Europe — have only begun to build. China has scared and angered almost all of its maritime neighbors, with each clamoring for greater U.S. involvement in Asia. Even a regional foe such as Iran has found that the costs of its aggressive foreign policy have mounted. In 2006, Iran’s favorability rating in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia was in the 75 percent to 85 percent range, according to Zogby Research. By 2012, it had fallen to about 30 percent.
In this context, what is needed from Washington is not a heroic exertion of American military power but rather a sustained effort to engage with allies, isolate enemies, support free markets and democratic values and push these positive trends forward. The Obama administration is, in fact, deeply internationalist — building on alliances in Europe and Asia, working with institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations, isolating adversaries and strengthening the global order that has proved so beneficial to the United States and the world since 1945.
The administration has fought al-Qaeda and its allies ferociously. But it has been disciplined about the use of force, and understandably so. An America that exaggerates threats, overreacts to problems and intervenes unilaterally would produce the very damage to its credibility that people are worried about. After all, just six years ago, the United States’ closest allies were distancing themselves from Washington because it was seen as aggressive, expansionist and militaristic. Iran was popular in the Middle East in 2006 because it was seen as standing up to an imperialist America that had invaded and occupied an Arab country. And nothing damaged U.S. credibility in the Cold War more than Vietnam
my second post after Gms first post here of the day
Reply #559 on:
August 20, 2014, 07:23:14 AM »
From Krauthammer who for reasons unclear to me gives Hillary credit for being right and admits only her motives may be questioned
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #560 on:
August 20, 2014, 07:25:38 AM »
Dr. K is a good guy, but sometimes I wonder what he's thinking...
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #561 on:
August 20, 2014, 09:09:01 AM »
On the point in question, her interview is not without merit.
The interview was posted here; if we don't watch out any and all of our candidates will not be able to handle her on this issue.
In a related vein, how would Cruz, or Paul, or ? handle the following?
Departure Interview with Gen. Flynn
Reply #562 on:
August 21, 2014, 12:22:50 AM »
Re: Departure Interview with Gen. Flynn
Reply #563 on:
August 21, 2014, 12:34:04 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on August 21, 2014, 12:22:50 AM
Sounds like a good guy. Sorry he's leaving, but I doubt the buffoons at the white house listened anyway.
Pay no attention to the declaration of war
Reply #564 on:
August 21, 2014, 05:33:15 PM »
I'm pretty sure the IS thinks it represents a religion. Funny enough, they cite key religious texts to support their actions.
The Neo NeoCons
Reply #565 on:
August 26, 2014, 02:39:52 PM »
ISIS makes liberals rediscover the necessity of hard power.
Aug. 25, 2014 7:22 p.m. ET
So now liberals want the U.S. to bomb Iraq, and maybe Syria as well, to stop and defeat ISIS, the vilest terror group of all time. Where, one might ask, were these neo-neocons a couple of years ago, when stopping ISIS in its infancy might have spared us the current catastrophe?
Oh, right, they were dining at the table of establishment respectability, drinking from the fountain of opportunistic punditry, hissing at the sound of the names Wolfowitz, Cheney, Libby and Perle.
And, always, rhapsodizing to the music of Barack Obama.
Not because he is the most egregious offender, but only because he's so utterly the type, it's worth turning to the work of George Packer, a writer for the New Yorker. Over the years Mr. Packer has been of this or that mind about Iraq. Yet he has always managed to remain at the dead center of conventional wisdom. Think of him as the bubble, intellectually speaking, in the spirit level of American opinion journalism.
Thus Mr. Packer was for the war when it began in 2003, although "just barely," as he later explained himself. In April 2005 he wrote that the "Iraq war was always winnable" and "still is"—a judgment that would have seemed prescient in the wake of the surge. But by then he had already disavowed his own foresight, saying, when he was in full mea culpa mode, that the line was "the single most doubtful" thing he had written in his acclaimed book "The Assassins' Gate."
Then the surge began to work, a reality the newly empowered Democrats in Congress were keen to dismiss. (Remember Hillary Clinton lecturing David Petraeus that his progress report required "a willing suspension of disbelief"?) "The inadequacy of the surge is already clear, if one honestly assesses the daily lives of Iraqis," wrote Mr. Packer in September 2007. The title of his essay was "Planning for Defeat."
Next, Mr. Packer pronounced himself bored with it all. "By the fall of 2007, my last remaining Iraqi friend in Baghdad had left," he wrote a few years later. "Once he was gone, my connection to the country and the war began to thin, even as the terror diminished. I missed the improvement that came with the surge, and so, in my nervous system, I never quite registered it." This was Mr. Packer in Robert Graves mode, bidding Good-Bye to All That.
And then came Mr. Obama. Was ever a political love more pure than what Mr. Packer expressed for the commander in chief? Mr. Obama, he wrote in 2012, was "more like J.F.K. than any other president." Or was T.R. the better comparison? "On foreign policy, Obama has talked softly and carried a big stick." He had "devastated the top ranks of Al Qaeda." On Iran, he had done a "masterful job." On Syria, "the Administration was too slow in isolating Assad, but no one has made a case for intervention that has a plausibly good outcome."
As for Iraq, Mr. Obama withdrew "after eight years of war in a way that left the U.S. with almost no influence—but he could have tried to force matters with the Iraqis and left behind far more bitterness."
Elsewhere, Mr. Packer has written that "American wars in Muslim countries created some extremists and inflamed many more, while producing a security vacuum that allowed them to wreak mayhem." This is the idea, central to the Obama administration's vision of the world, that wisdom often lies in inaction, that U.S. intervention only makes whatever we're intervening in worse.
It's a deep—a very deep—thought. And then along came ISIS.
In the current issue of the New Yorker, Mr. Packer has an essay titled "The Common Enemy," which paints ISIS in especially terrifying colors: The Islamic State's project is "totalitarian." Its ideology is "expansionist as well as eliminationist." It has "many hundreds of fighters holding European or American passports [who] will eventually return home with training, skills, and the arrogance of battlefield victory." It threatened a religious minority with "imminent genocide." Its ambitions will not "remain confined to the boundaries of the Tigris and the Euphrates." The administration's usual counterterrorism tool, the drone strike, is "barely relevant against the Islamic State's thousands of ground troops."
"Pay attention to other people's nightmares," he concludes, "because they might be contagious."
Correcto-mundo. Which brings us back to the questions confronting the Bush administration on Sept. 12, 2001. Are we going to fight terrorists over there—or are we going to wait for them to come here? Do we choose to confront terrorism by means of war—or as a criminal justice issue? Can we assume the cancer in the Middle East won't spread so we can "pivot" to Asia and do some more "nation-building at home"? Can we win with a light-footprint approach against a heavy-footprint enemy?
Say what you will about George W. Bush: He got every one of these questions right while Mr. Obama got every one of them wrong. It's a truth that may at last be dawning on the likes of Mr. Packer and the other neo-neocons, not that I expect them ever to admit it.
Re: (US) Foreign Policy - Disproportionate Response
Reply #566 on:
August 28, 2014, 10:20:40 AM »
Liberals and anti-Israelis often admit Israel is being bombed and attacked but blame or accuse Israel of making a disproportionate response. It seems to me this is an entire topic in itself, which we should address regarding US foreign policy.
Isn't disproportionate response the essence of deterrence and deterrence is the essence of national security.
Denying the right to do that is put our national security at risk. (And same obviously for Israel)
Looking it up on Google I see wikipedia calls it "Massive retaliation"
and Foreign Policy magazine calls it "An eye for a tooth":
Deterrence is tough to achieve against the suicide bomber types but I think we have learned that leadership (such as OBL) value their own live, just not those of the rank and file.
Current example. I.S. is threatening to behead another journalist if US does not end air strikes. Shouldn't it be the other way around. You behead one American and you set your own mission back by years.
My daily 2 cents
Reply #567 on:
August 28, 2014, 10:34:09 AM »
Haven't the Israelis proved the only thing the radicals understand is force?
I understand the libs think we just continue to be NICE for decades the radicals or their offspring will eventually learn the life of the love generation. That violence begets violence and Netanyahu's methods only fosters more hate and violence propagating the endless cycle.
While we dither not only did ISIS solidify but Iran is closer to nuclear weapons. If one thinks ISIS is a grave threat with small arms and a few armored vehicles just imagine Iran with nucs.
But don't fear. Hillary will be tough.
And Rand who won't be has no chance of election - thank God.
US Interventionists abetted the rise of ISIS
Reply #568 on:
August 28, 2014, 01:52:25 PM »
How U.S. Interventionists Abetted the Rise of ISIS
Our Middle Eastern policy is unhinged, flailing about to see who to act against next, with little regard to consequences.
By Rand Paul
Aug. 27, 2014 6:35 p.m. ET
As the murderous, terrorist Islamic State continues to threaten Iraq, the region and potentially the United States, it is vitally important that we examine how this problem arose. Any actions we take today must be informed by what we've already done in the past, and how effective our actions have been.
Shooting first and asking questions later has never been a good foreign policy. The past year has been a perfect example.
In September President Obama and many in Washington were eager for a U.S. intervention in Syria to assist the rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad's government. Arguing against military strikes, I wrote that "Bashar Assad is clearly not an American ally. But does his ouster encourage stability in the Middle East, or would his ouster actually encourage instability?"
The administration's goal has been to degrade Assad's power, forcing him to negotiate with the rebels. But degrading Assad's military capacity also degrades his ability to fend off the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Assad's government recently bombed the self-proclaimed capital of ISIS in Raqqa, Syria.
To interventionists like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, we would caution that arming the Islamic rebels in Syria created a haven for the Islamic State. We are lucky Mrs. Clinton didn't get her way and the Obama administration did not bring about regime change in Syria. That new regime might well be ISIS.
This is not to say the U.S. should ally with Assad. But we should recognize how regime change in Syria could have helped and emboldened the Islamic State, and recognize that those now calling for war against ISIS are still calling for arms to factions allied with ISIS in the Syrian civil war. We should realize that the interventionists are calling for Islamic rebels to win in Syria and for the same Islamic rebels to lose in Iraq. While no one in the West supports Assad, replacing him with ISIS would be a disaster.
Our Middle Eastern policy is unhinged, flailing about to see who to act against next, with little thought to the consequences. This is not a foreign policy.
Those who say we should have done more to arm the Syrian rebel groups have it backward. Mrs. Clinton was also eager to shoot first in Syria before asking some important questions. Her successor John Kerry was no better, calling the failure to strike Syria a "Munich moment."
Some now speculate Mr. Kerry and the administration might have to walk back or at least mute their critiques of Assad in the interest of defeating the Islamic State.
A reasonable degree of foresight should be a prerequisite for holding high office. So should basic hindsight. This administration has neither.
But the same is true of hawkish members of my own party. Some said it would be "catastrophic" if we failed to strike Syria. What they were advocating for then—striking down Assad's regime—would have made our current situation even worse, as it would have eliminated the only regional counterweight to the ISIS threat.
Our so-called foreign policy experts are failing us miserably. The Obama administration's feckless veering is making it worse. It seems the only thing both sides of this flawed debate agree on is that "something" must be done. It is the only thing they ever agree on.
But the problem is, we did do something. We aided those who've contributed to the rise of the Islamic State. The CIA delivered arms and other equipment to Syrian rebels, strengthening the side of the ISIS jihadists. Some even traveled to Syria from America to give moral and material support to these rebels even though there had been multiple reports some were allied with al Qaeda.
Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for the London newspaper, the Independent, recently reported something disturbing about these rebel groups in Syria. In his new book, "The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising," Mr. Cockburn writes that he traveled to southeast Turkey earlier in the year where "a source told me that 'without exception' they all expressed enthusiasm for the 9/11 attacks and hoped the same thing would happen in Europe as well as the U.S." It's safe to say these rebels are probably not friends of the United States.
"If American interests are at stake," I said in September, "then it is incumbent upon those advocating for military action to convince Congress and the American people of that threat. Too often, the debate begins and ends with an assertion that our national interest is at stake without any evidence of that assertion. The burden of proof lies with those who wish to engage in war."
Those wanting a U.S. war in Syria could not clearly show a U.S. national interest then, and they have been proven foolish now. A more realistic foreign policy would recognize that there are evil people and tyrannical regimes in this world, but also that America cannot police or solve every problem across the globe. Only after recognizing the practical limits of our foreign policy can we pursue policies that are in the best interest of the U.S.
The Islamic State represents a threat that should be taken seriously. But we should also recall how recent foreign-policy decisions have helped these extremists so that we don't make the same mistake of potentially aiding our enemies again.
Mr. Paul, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from Kentucky.
I disagree with a lot/most of this, but it presents some challenging questions
Reply #569 on:
August 28, 2014, 03:37:04 PM »
Losing the War On Terror Is Winning Us The World
Recently I drew a lot of flak for a blog I wrote in which I called our allied nations of GWOT, the “Western Empire,” and mentioned that our imminent action on Syria to deal with the Islamic State threat may be one of our own successfully developed and executed plans. I said that we would take what is ours.
I’m going to use just one of the examples of the messages I got, but please don’t anybody think I am berating or disrespecting this man’s opinion, and don’t let it deter you from further commenting. This is for the sake of discussion, so feel free to share your ideas as well.
murphySo this commentor failed to realize that I am not ignorant of the history of western colonialism, I was actually referring to it in the present tense. You’re fooling yourself if you think that colonialism is nothing more than a history subject, which I hope to touch on in this rant.
Also, he mentions that ISIS needs to be destroyed, and the thought of people cheering on Western colonialism is stupid and disappointing. What he’s not understanding is that ISIS, or whatever the name will continue evolving to, is an ideology that will never be wiped out. What’s more, is that the Islamic State’s continued existence of horribleness benefits us by legitimizing our perpetual war. Why wipe them out and leave the resource rich battlefield when we can practice containment? Why create a cure when the money is in the treatment?
If you’re a combat veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, you’ve probably battled with the question, “WTF are we doing here?” I know I have. I started off as a hard charging young Republican off to fight for Toby Kieth’s idea of a free America. Well balls-deep into my second extended deployment, I sat high on the side of a bare rocky mountain staring across the waddi at another bare hillside in the tribal areas of Eastern Afghanistan. I repeatedly asked myself how it could be possible that the key to keeping the free world free was me sitting in a such a desolate part of the world where the local villagers don’t care what’s going on two miles down the river, let alone the goings-on in America. I still killed with the same ferocity because I was born a warrior, and whether the wars were justified or not, the people we were targeting were terrible human beings. However, my belief in the cause had changed.
Then I got out and went to college, and those feelings of betrayal and disenfranchisement grew. No longer was I just living in my little microcosm of just trying to keep my guys alive. I could afford to look at the bigger picture, and I didn’t like what I saw. “Did we really lose the war?” I asked myself. Was I really just a puppet being manipulated for a corrupt, corporation controlled government? Was I the real terrorist? I battled these doubts for years, and when someone would thank me for my service, I would respond graciously, but I wanted to say, “For what? Ruining the economy? Making us more enemies?”
Like many veterans, I was lost. I had no closure, and I just wanted to know what it was all for. I researched for years. Reading the Long War Journal on a daily basis and watching and reading between the lines of anything I could get my hands on concerning GWOT. At first it didn’t make sense. Why would we be giving Pakistan billions of dollars if we know that the ISI is directly funding the Haqqani Network and other terror groups that are fighting us in Afghanistan and attacking India? Why would we be arming and funding al-Qaeda in Libya when they were our sworn enemies in Iraq? Well it’s because we’ve wanted strongman Gaddafi gone, and now he is.
Currently, Libya is an extremist war zone shaping up to be the next Syria. Egypt and UAE just launched airstrikes against Islamist militias in the region in the name of their own security without notifying the US, and Washington is pissed. That’s our pot, and we need it to boil a little longer before we step in to stabilize it. You know, the freedom we keep fighting for.
Look at Syria. The same thing was attempted. A strongman we branded as a dictator and wanted removed, Assad, and coincidentally a hoard (Marc: sic ) of savage Salafists trying to destroy him in the name of Islam and Sharia law. Unlike Libya however, Assad is hanging in there. Watching repeated combat videos, I can’t help but cheer for the man. He represents the least terrible armed entity in the nation. Unfortunately for him, his reign is scheduled for termination by the West, and he will be removed. So as much as I love to see him continuing to hold out, I support his ouster and our guaranteed follow-on mission of battling the Islamist militias in the name of Syrian freedom and security. We will have Syria.
I don’t want to get into too many conspiracy theories, but have you heard the one about al Qaeda being created by the West? I don’t know if that’s true or not, I don’t have the evidence, and if I did I might think it’s just as likely to be misinformation. That’s the world we live in. However, humor that idea for a minute. I think it would be impossible for the CIA to directly control al-Qaeda. If anything, I picture it more like when African villagers make a bunch of large plains animals stampede through a mine field to clear it. Although the people are not directly in control of the escaping animals, they are still using them to achieve their desired effect, all while the animals think they are operating on their own accord.
Considering these Islamists are so extreme in their beliefs that they are willing to execute children, it’s not hard to believe that they’re also not the most skeptical, critical thinkers concerning where their orders are coming from, especially when your leader claims to be a direct descendant of Muhammad, and the word of God. Additionally, these groups need funding and supplies, which makes them susceptible to owed favors and outside influence.
Even if this were true, it doesn’t change the fact that they do pose a serious threat to everybody. Even if they were a creation of the West, it doesn’t change the fact that tens of thousands of Muslims are joining their ranks to be martyred or kill for the ideals of the group. They are very very real, and they are very very bad people. So I guess it’s lucky for us that we have the perfect enemy. A foe so vile, that everyone in the world supports their demise, and therefore gives us justification to be in these resource rich areas all while keeping any other entities that may want the resources far from them. It’s like having a vicious dog to guard your yard. He will attack everyone, including you, but you know how to manipulate and operate around it by throwing the occasional bone, creating a diversion, or kicking its ass. Everyone else just keeps their distance. The region becomes a no-man’s land unless you are the powerful American military or that of her allies.
So back to the commentor. He called my piece “stupid and disappointing coming from a journalistic blog.” Is everyone aware of the current state of so-called journalism? The news media is a propaganda mill fighting over table scraps that are nothing more than generic, sterilized talking points. As far as “disappointing” goes… I think what’s truly disappointing is that nobody seems to be catching on to what our foreign policy is really about. It’s not coincidence that the same thing is happening across the world. We’re not fighting terrorists for the sake of other nations’ freedom. We didn’t fail in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Nigeria, etc… We are the most powerful nation on Earth. The destabilization of the region was the intended consequence, and we (US backed Western nations) are the benefactors that are now allowed further influence and occupation in the region. As much as you and others want world peace (like that’s a thing or even a possibility), the world has just gotten too small, populations too large, while the resources are finite. We are not at war with Islam or terrorism… we are in an ongoing and rapidly escalating proxy war for resources with China and Russia. There is no way we can afford not to control as much as we can for the sake of appeasing ignorant hypocrites that think the world can be all hugs and rainbows, a notion they learned during a privileged lifetime of opportunity afforded to them by our underhanded neo-colonialistc ways.
The reality of it, is that the world is a cold place, and human beings are inherently violent conquerors. We are a superpower that must take equally super and often ruthless measures to maintain our “super” status, all while allowing clueless, morally superior pacifists to bad mouth the institution that has ensured that the biggest obstacles they face in life are cellular contracts and road construction delays. They have no clue, and therefore no appreciation, that their government and its allies are slitting throats for them to maintain their comfortable way of life.
I’m not a sociopath, and I’m not a shill for the government. In fact, I think the erosion of the Constitution and its amendments here at home is appalling. However, if you think our foreign policy has been a failure, then you’re not seeing it for what it really is… an ingenious masterpiece.
Colonialism is as alive and well as it has ever been, it is just done in the dark. Powerful nations will take what they need, that is what keeps them in power.
So call me delusional, a war-monger, or whatever you want, but for my brothers and sisters in arms, from every nation that has fought side by side with us in the Global War On Terror, I am claiming victory for the Western Empire.
A Black Sea Strategy
Reply #570 on:
September 02, 2014, 10:58:16 PM »
Ukraine, Iraq and a Black Sea Strategy
Tuesday, September 2, 2014 - 03:00 Print Text Size
By George Friedman
The United States is, at the moment, off balance. It faces challenges in the Syria-Iraq theater as well as challenges in Ukraine. It does not have a clear response to either. It does not know what success in either theater would look like, what resources it is prepared to devote to either, nor whether the consequences of defeat would be manageable.
A dilemma of this sort is not unusual for a global power. Its very breadth of interests and the extent of power create opportunities for unexpected events, and these events, particularly simultaneous challenges in different areas, create uncertainty and confusion. U.S. geography and power permit a degree of uncertainty without leading to disaster, but generating a coherent and integrated strategy is necessary, even if that strategy is simply to walk away and let events run their course. I am not suggesting the latter strategy but arguing that at a certain point, confusion must run its course and clear intentions must emerge. When they do, the result will be the coherence of a new strategic map that encompasses both conflicts.
The most critical issue for the United States is to create a single integrated plan that takes into account the most pressing challenges. Such a plan must begin by defining a theater of operations sufficiently coherent geographically as to permit integrated political maneuvering and military planning. U.S. military doctrine has moved explicitly away from a two-war strategy. Operationally, it might not be possible to engage all adversaries simultaneously, but conceptually, it is essential to think in terms of a coherent center of gravity of operations. For me, it is increasingly clear that that center is the Black Sea.
Ukraine and Syria-Iraq
There are currently two active theaters of military action with broad potential significance. One is Ukraine, where the Russians have launched a counteroffensive toward Crimea. The other is in the Syria-Iraq region, where the forces of the Islamic State have launched an offensive designed at a minimum to control regions in both countries -- and at most dominate the area between the Levant and Iran.
In most senses, there is no connection between these two theaters. Yes, the Russians have an ongoing problem in the high Caucasus and there are reports of Chechen advisers working with the Islamic State. In this sense, the Russians are far from comfortable with what is happening in Syria and Iraq. At the same time, anything that diverts U.S. attention from Ukraine is beneficial to the Russians. For its part, the Islamic State must oppose Russia in the long run. Its immediate problem, however, is U.S. power, so anything that distracts the United States is beneficial to the Islamic State.
But the Ukrainian crisis has a very different political dynamic from the Iraq-Syria crisis. Russian and Islamic State military forces are not coordinated in any way, and in the end, victory for either would challenge the interests of the other. But for the United States, which must allocate its attention, political will and military power carefully, the two crises must be thought of together. The Russians and the Islamic State have the luxury of focusing on one crisis. The United States must concern itself with both and reconcile them.
The United States has been in the process of limiting its involvement in the Middle East while attempting to deal with the Ukrainian crisis. The Obama administration wants to create an integrated Iraq devoid of jihadists and have Russia accept a pro-Western Ukraine. It also does not want to devote substantial military forces to either theater. Its dilemma is how to achieve its goals without risk. If it can't do this, what risk will it accept or must it accept?
Strategies that minimize risk and create maximum influence are rational and should be a founding principle of any country. By this logic, the U.S. strategy ought to be to maintain the balance of power in a region using proxies and provide material support to those proxies but avoid direct military involvement until there is no other option. The most important thing is to provide the support that obviates the need for intervention.
In the Syria-Iraq theater, the United States moved from a strategy of seeking a unified state under secular pro-Western forces to one seeking a balance of power between the Alawites and jihadists. In Iraq, the United States pursued a unified government under Baghdad and is now trying to contain the Islamic State using minimal U.S. forces and Kurdish, Shiite and some Sunni proxies. If that fails, the U.S. strategy in Iraq will devolve into the strategy in Syria, namely, seeking a balance of power between factions. It is not clear that another strategy exists. The U.S. occupation of Iraq that began in 2003 did not result in a military solution, and it is not clear that a repeat of 2003 would succeed either. Any military action must be taken with a clear outcome in mind and a reasonable expectation that the allocation of forces will achieve that outcome; wishful thinking is not permitted. Realistically, air power and special operations forces on the ground are unlikely to force the Islamic State to capitulate or to result in its dissolution.
Ukraine, of course, has a different dynamic. The United States saw the events in Ukraine as either an opportunity for moral posturing or as a strategic blow to Russian national security. Either way, it had the same result: It created a challenge to fundamental Russian interests and placed Russian President Vladimir Putin in a dangerous position. His intelligence services completely failed to forecast or manage events in Kiev or to generate a broad rising in eastern Ukraine. Moreover, the Ukrainians were defeating their supporters (with the distinction between supporters and Russian troops becoming increasingly meaningless with each passing day). But it was obvious that the Russians were not simply going to let the Ukrainian reality become a fait accompli. They would counterattack. But even so, they would still have moved from once shaping Ukrainian policy to losing all but a small fragment of Ukraine. They will therefore maintain a permanently aggressive posture in a bid to recoup what has been lost.
U.S. strategy in Ukraine tracks its strategy in Syria-Iraq. First, Washington uses proxies; second, it provides material support; and third, it avoids direct military involvement. Both strategies assume that the main adversary -- the Islamic State in Syria-Iraq and Russia in Ukraine -- is incapable of mounting a decisive offensive, or that any offensive it mounts can be blunted with air power. But to be successful, U.S. strategy assumes there will be coherent Ukrainian and Iraqi resistance to Russia and the Islamic State, respectively. If that doesn't materialize or dissolves, so does the strategy.
The United States is betting on risky allies. And the outcome matters in the long run. U.S. strategy prior to World Wars I and II was to limit involvement until the situation could be handled only with a massive American deployment. During the Cold War, the United States changed its strategy to a pre-commitment of at least some forces; this had a better outcome. The United States is not invulnerable to foreign threats, although those foreign threats must evolve dramatically. The earlier intervention was less costly than intervention at the last possible minute. Neither the Islamic State nor Russia poses such a threat to the United States, and it is very likely that the respective regional balance of power can contain them. But if they can't, the crises could evolve into a more direct threat to the United States. And shaping the regional balance of power requires exertion and taking at least some risks.
Regional Balances of Power and the Black Sea
The rational move for countries like Romania, Hungary or Poland is to accommodate Russia unless they have significant guarantees from the outside. Whether fair or not, only the United States can deliver those guarantees. The same can be said about the Shia and the Kurds, both of whom the United States has abandoned in recent years, assuming that they could manage on their own.
The issue the United States faces is how to structure such support, physically and conceptually. There appear to be two distinct and unconnected theaters, and American power is limited. The situation would seem to preclude persuasive guarantees. But U.S. strategic conception must evolve away from seeing these as distinct theaters into seeing them as different aspects of the same theater: the Black Sea.
When we look at a map, we note that the Black Sea is the geographic organizing principle of these areas. The sea is the southern frontier of Ukraine and European Russia and the Caucasus, where Russian, jihadist and Iranian power converge on the Black Sea. Northern Syria and Iraq are fewer than 650 kilometers (400 miles) from the Black Sea.
The United States has had a North Atlantic strategy. It has had a Caribbean strategy, a Western Pacific strategy and so on. This did not simply mean a naval strategy. Rather, it was understood as a combined arms system of power projection that depended on naval power to provide strategic supply, delivery of troops and air power. It also placed its forces in such a configuration that the one force, or at least command structure, could provide support in multiple directions.
The United States has a strategic problem that can be addressed either as two or more unrelated problems requiring redundant resources or a single integrated solution. It is true that the Russians and the Islamic State do not see themselves as part of a single theater. But opponents don't define theaters of operation for the United States. The first step in crafting a strategy is to define the map in a way that allows the strategist to think in terms of unity of forces rather than separation, and unity of support rather than division. It also allows the strategist to think of his regional relationships as part of an integrated strategy.
Assume for the moment that the Russians chose to intervene in the Caucasus again, that jihadists moved out of Chechnya and Dagestan into Georgia and Azerbaijan, or that Iran chose to move north. The outcome of events in the Caucasus would matter greatly to the United States. Under the current strategic structure, where U.S. decision-makers seem incapable of conceptualizing the two present strategic problems, such a third crisis would overwhelm them. But thinking in terms of securing what I'll call the Greater Black Sea Basin would provide a framework for addressing the current thought exercise. A Black Sea strategy would define the significance of Georgia, the eastern coast of the Black Sea. Even more important, it would elevate Azerbaijan to the level of importance it should have in U.S. strategy. Without Azerbaijan, Georgia has little weight. With Azerbaijan, there is a counter to jihadists in the high Caucasus, or at least a buffer, since Azerbaijan is logically the eastern anchor of the Greater Black Sea strategy.
A Black Sea strategy would also force definition of two key relationships for the United States. The first is Turkey. Russia aside, Turkey is the major native Black Sea power. It has interests throughout the Greater Black Sea Basin, namely, in Syria, Iraq, the Caucasus, Russia and Ukraine. Thinking in terms of a Black Sea strategy, Turkey becomes one of the indispensible allies since its interests touch American interests. Aligning U.S. and Turkish strategy would be a precondition for such a strategy, meaning both nations would have to make serious policy shifts. An explicit Black Sea-centered strategy would put U.S.-Turkish relations at the forefront, and a failure to align would tell both countries that they need to re-examine their strategic relationship. At this point, U.S.-Turkish relations seem to be based on a systematic avoidance of confronting realities. With the Black Sea as a centerpiece, evasion, which is rarely useful in creating realistic strategies, would be difficult.
The Centrality of Romania
The second critical country is Romania. The Montreux Convention prohibits the unlimited transit of a naval force into the Black Sea through the Bosporus, controlled by Turkey. Romania, however, is a Black Sea nation, and no limitations apply to it, although its naval combat power is centered on a few aging frigates backed up by a half-dozen corvettes. Apart from being a potential base for aircraft for operations in the region, particularly in Ukraine, supporting Romania in building a significant naval force in the Black Sea -- potentially including amphibious ships -- would provide a deterrent force against the Russians and also shape affairs in the Black Sea that might motivate Turkey to cooperate with Romania and thereby work with the United States. The traditional NATO structure can survive this evolution, even though most of NATO is irrelevant to the problems facing the Black Sea Basin. Regardless of how the Syria-Iraq drama ends, it is secondary to the future of Russia's relationship with Ukraine and the European Peninsula. Poland anchors the North European Plain, but the action for now is in the Black Sea, and that makes Romania the critical partner in the European Peninsula. It will feel the first pressure if Russia regains its position in Ukraine.
I have written frequently on the emergence -- and the inevitability of the emergence -- of an alliance based on the notion of the Intermarium, the land between the seas. It would stretch between the Baltic and Black seas and would be an alliance designed to contain a newly assertive Russia. I have envisioned this alliance stretching east to the Caspian, taking in Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. The Poland-to-Romania line is already emerging. It seems obvious that given events on both sides of the Black Sea, the rest of this line will emerge.
The United States ought to adopt the policy of the Cold War. That consisted of four parts. First, allies were expected to provide the geographical foundation of defense and substantial forces to respond to threats. Second, the United States was to provide military and economic aid as necessary to support this structure. Third, the United States was to pre-position some forces as guarantors of U.S. commitment and as immediate support. And fourth, Washington was to guarantee the total commitment of all U.S. forces to defending allies, although the need to fulfill the last guarantee never arose.
The United States has an uncertain alliance structure in the Greater Black Sea Basin that is neither mutually supportive nor permits the United States a coherent power in the region given the conceptual division of the region into distinct theaters. The United States is providing aid, but again on an inconsistent basis. Some U.S. forces are involved, but their mission is unclear, it is unclear that they are in the right places, and it is unclear what the regional policy is.
Thus, U.S. policy for the moment is incoherent. A Black Sea strategy is merely a name, but sometimes a name is sufficient to focus strategic thinking. So long as the United States thinks in terms of Ukraine and Syria and Iraq as if they were on different planets, the economy of forces that coherent strategy requires will never be achieved. Thinking in terms of the Black Sea as a pivot of a single diverse and diffuse region can anchor U.S. thinking. Merely anchoring strategic concepts does not win wars, nor prevent them. But anything that provides coherence to American strategy has value.
The Greater Black Sea Basin, as broadly defined, is already the object of U.S. military and political involvement. It is just not perceived that way in military, political or even public and media calculations. It should be. For that will bring perception in line with fast-emerging reality.
Read more: Ukraine, Iraq and a Black Sea Strategy | Stratfor
VDH: Only Deterrence Can Prevent War
Reply #571 on:
September 05, 2014, 11:12:00 AM »
Hanson follows up on my "disproportionate response" post with an excellent "peace through deterrence" article. Never more timely than now.
Only Deterrence Can Prevent War
Most aggressors take stupid risks only when they feel they won't be stopped.
By Victor Davis Hanson
Only lunatics from North Korea or Iran once mumbled about using nuclear weapons against their supposed enemies. Now Vladimir Putin, after gobbling up the Crimea, points to his nuclear arsenal and warns the West not to “mess” with Russia.
The Middle East terrorist group the Islamic State keeps beheading its captives and threatening the West. Meanwhile Obama admits to the world that we “don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with such barbaric terrorists. Not long ago he compared them to “jayvees.”
Egypt is bombing Libya, which America once bombed and then left. Vice President Joe Biden once boasted that a quiet Iraq without U.S. troops could be “one of the great achievements” of the administration. Not now.
China and Japan seem stuck in a 1930s time warp as they once again squabble over disputed territory. Why all the sudden wars?
Conflicts rarely break out over needed scarce land — what Adolf Hitler once called “living space” — or even over natural resources. A vast, naturally rich Russia is under-populated and poorly run. It hardly needs more of the Crimea and Ukraine to screw up. The islands that Japan and China haggle over are mostly worthless real estate. Iran has enough oil and natural gas to meet its domestic and export needs without going to war over building a nuclear bomb.
Often states fight about prestigious symbols that their own fears and sense of honor have inflated into existential issues. Hamas could turn its back on Israel and turn Gaza into Singapore — but not without feeling that it had backed down.
Putin thinks that grabbing more of the old Soviet Republics will bring him the sort of prestige that his hero Stalin once enjoyed. The Islamic State wants to return to 7th-century Islam, when the Muslim world had more power and honor.
The great Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges once summed up the Falklands War between his country and Britain as a fight “between two bald men over a comb.” In fact, Britain went to war over distant windswept rocks to uphold the hallowed tradition of the British Navy and the idea that British subjects everywhere were sacrosanct. The unpopular Argentine junta started a war to take Britain down a notch.
But disputes over honor or from fear do not always lead to war. Something else is needed — an absence of deterrence. Most aggressors take stupid risks in starting wars only when they feel there is little likelihood they will be stopped. Hitler thought no one would care whether he gobbled up Poland, after he easily ingested Czechoslovakia and Austria.
Saddam Hussein went into Kuwait believing the U.S. did not intervene in border disputes among Arab countries. Deterrence, alliances, and balances of power are not archaic concepts that “accidentally” triggered World War I, as we are sometimes told. They are the age-old tools of advising the more bellicose parties to calm down and get a grip.
What ends wars?
Not the League of Nations or the United Nations. Unfortunately, war is a sort of cruel laboratory experiment whose bloodletting determines which party, in fact, was the stronger all along. Once that fact is again recognized, peace usually follows.
It took 50 million deaths to remind the appeased Axis that Germany, Italy, and Japan in 1941 were all along far weaker than the Allies of Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States. The Falklands War ended when Argentines recognized that boasting about beating the British was not the same as beating the British.
Each time Hamas builds more tunnels and gets more rockets, it believes this time around it can beat Israel. Its wars end only when Hamas recognizes it can’t.
War as a reminder of who is really strong and who weak is a savage way to run the world. Far better would be for peace-loving constitutional governments to remain strong. They should keep their defenses up, and warn Putin, the Islamic State, Iran, North Korea, and others like them that all a stupid war would accomplish would be to remind such aggressors that they would lose so much for nothing.
Even nuclear powers need conventional deterrence. They or their interests are often attacked — as in the case of Britain by Argentina, the U.S. by al-Qaeda, or Israel by Hamas — by non-nuclear states on the likely assumption that nuclear weapons will not be used, and on the often erroneous assumption that the stronger power may not wish the trouble or have the ability to reply to the weaker.
If deterrence and military readiness seem such a wise investment, why do democracies so often find themselves ill-prepared and bullied by aggressors who then are emboldened to start wars?
It is hard for democratic voters to give up a bit of affluence in peace to ensure that they do not lose it all in war. It is even harder for sophisticated liberal thinkers to admit that after centuries of civilized life, we still have no better way of preventing Neanderthal wars than by reminding Neanderthals that we have the far bigger club — and will use it if provoked.
Reply #572 on:
September 05, 2014, 06:07:40 PM »
"You want to think he is playing a cool, long game, that there's a plan and he's acting on it. He's holding off stark action to force nations in the region to step up to the plate. The comments of the Saudis and the Emiratis are newly burly. Good, they have military power and wealth, let them move for once. He is teaching our Mideast friends the U.S. is not a volunteer fire department that suits up every time you fall asleep on the couch smoking. In the meantime he is coolly watching new alliances form—wasn't that the Kurds the other day fighting alongside the Iranians?"
A lot of people are going to react well to this "He is teaching our Mideast friends the U.S. is not a volunteer fire department that suits up every time you fall asleep on the couch smoking."
We need to make/address this meme in making our case.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #573 on:
September 06, 2014, 06:55:41 PM »
Nothing deep here, but for some reason I find it worth posting , , ,
WSJ: Cheney was right
Reply #574 on:
September 09, 2014, 11:02:44 PM »
Dick Cheney Is Still Right
Obama's return to Iraq reveals how wrong he has been about the world.
Sept. 9, 2014 7:24 p.m. ET
President Obama will lay out his plan to counter the Islamic State on Wednesday night, and we'll judge the strategy on its merits. But the mere fact that Mr. Obama feels obliged to send Americans to fight again in Iraq acknowledges the failure of his foreign policy. He is tacitly admitting that the liberal critique of the Bush Administration's approach to Islamic terrorism was wrong.
Recall that Mr. Obama won the Presidency by arguing that the U.S. had alienated the world and Muslims by recklessly using force abroad. We had betrayed our values by interrogating terrorists too harshly and wiretapping too much. Our enemies hated us not because they hated our values or our influence but because we had provoked them with our interventions.
If we withdrew from the Middle East, especially from Iraq; if we avoided new entanglements, such as in Syria; and if we engaged with our adversaries, such as Iran and Russia, the anti-American furies would subside and the world would be safer. We should nation-build at home, not overseas, and slash the defense budget accordingly.
Mr. Obama pursued this vision starting with his Inaugural Address and throughout his first term. He tried to "reset" relations with Russia by dismantling a missile-defense deal with Poland and the Czech Republic. He muted support for the democratic uprising in Iran in 2009 lest it upset the mullahs he needed for a nuclear weapons deal.
When the Syrian revolt erupted in 2011, Mr. Obama called for Bashar Assad to go but did nothing to aid the moderate opposition. In the process he overruled Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CIA director David Petraeus, and his ambassador to Damascus Robert Ford.
The U.S. absence left Syria's battleground to the Russians and Iranians, who helped Assad hang on, and to the Qataris, who have funded Islamic State and the al Qaeda affiliated al-Nusrah. But Mr. Obama was unrepentant, saying as recently as August that it had "always been a fantasy" to think that arming the moderate Syrians would make a difference.
Above all Mr. Obama sought to end the U.S. presence in Iraq. He made a token effort to strike a status of forces agreement past 2011, offering so few troops that the Iraqis thought it wasn't worth the domestic political trouble. Mr. Obama then sold his total withdrawal as a political success, claiming Iraq was "stable" and "self-reliant" and making a centerpiece of his 2012 campaign that "the tide of war is receding." He ridiculed Mitt Romney for warning about Mr. Putin's designs.
Mr. Obama doubled down on his peace-through-withdrawal strategy in the second term, speeding up the U.S. departure from Afghanistan. On May 23, 2013, he summed up his vision and strategy in a sort of victory speech at National Defense University:
"Today, Osama bin Laden is dead, and so are most of his top lieutenants. There have been no large-scale attacks on the United States, and our homeland is more secure. Fewer of our troops are in harm's way, and over the next 19 months they will continue to come home. Our alliances are strong, and so is our standing in the world. In sum, we are safer because of our efforts."
Then in January his friends at the New Yorker quoted him as comparing Islamic State to the "jayvee team," and this summer he said Mr. Putin is doomed to fail because countries don't invade others in "the 21st century."
So where are we less than a year later? Iran's mullahs continue to resist Mr. Obama's nuclear entreaties, while Mr. Putin carves up Ukraine and threatens NATO. China is breaking the rule of law in Hong Kong, pressing its air-identification zone in the Pacific, and buzzing U.S. aircraft.
Syria is now a terrorist sanctuary from which the Islamic State has conquered a third of Iraq, the first time since 9/11 that jihadists control territory from which they can plan attacks. Al Qaeda's affiliates have expanded across the Middle East and Africa, attacking a mall in Kenya and kidnapping schoolgirls in Nigeria.
Mr. Obama can blame this rising tide of disorder on George W. Bush, but the polls show the American public doesn't believe it. They know from experience that it takes time for bad policy to reveal itself in new global turmoil. They saw how the early mistakes in Iraq led to chaos until the 2007 surge saved the day and left Mr. Obama with an opportunity he squandered. And they can see now that Mr. Obama's strategy has produced terrorist victories and more danger for America.
Mr. Obama's intellectual and media defenders were complicit in all of this, cheering on his flight from world leadership as prudent management of U.S. decline. Even now some of his most devoted acolytes write that Mr. Obama's "caution" has Islamic State's jihadists right where he wants them. It is hard to admit that your worldview has been exposed as out-of-this-world.
We hope tonight's speech shows a more realistic President determined to defeat Islamic State, but whatever he says will have to overcome the doubts about American resolve that he has spread around the world for nearly six years. One way to start undoing the damage would be to concede that Dick Cheney was right all along.
Serious Read: The Virtue of Subtlety
Reply #575 on:
September 10, 2014, 12:52:12 PM »
The virtue of subtlety: a U.S. strategy against the Islamic State
The American strategy in the Middle East is fixed: allow powers in the region to balance against each other. When that fails, intervene.
George Friedman | 10 September 2014
comment | print |
balance of power
U.S. President Barack Obama said recently that he had no strategy as yet toward the Islamic State but that he would present a plan on Wednesday. It is important for a president to know when he has no strategy. It is not necessarily wise to announce it, as friends will be frightened and enemies delighted. A president must know what it is he does not know, and he should remain calm in pursuit of it, but there is no obligation to be honest about it.
This is particularly true because, in a certain sense, Obama has a strategy, though it is not necessarily one he likes. Strategy is something that emerges from reality, while tactics might be chosen. Given the situation, the United States has an unavoidable strategy. There are options and uncertainties for employing it. Let us consider some of the things that Obama does know.
The Formation of National Strategy
There are serious crises on the northern and southern edges of the Black Sea Basin. There is no crisis in the Black Sea itself, but it is surrounded by crises. The United States has been concerned about the status of Russia ever since U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt negotiated the end of the Russo-Japanese war in 1905. The United States has been concerned about the Middle East since U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower forced the British to retreat from Suez in 1956. As a result, the United States inherited -- or seized -- the British position.
A national strategy emerges over the decades and centuries. It becomes a set of national interests into which a great deal has been invested, upon which a great deal depends and upon which many are counting. Presidents inherit national strategies, and they can modify them to some extent. But the idea that a president has the power to craft a new national strategy both overstates his power and understates the power of realities crafted by all those who came before him. We are all trapped in circumstances into which we were born and choices that were made for us. The United States has an inherent interest in Ukraine and in Syria-Iraq. Whether we should have that interest is an interesting philosophical question for a late-night discussion, followed by a sunrise when we return to reality. These places reflexively matter to the United States.
The American strategy is fixed: Allow powers in the region to compete and balance against each other. When that fails, intervene with as little force and risk as possible. For example, the conflict between Iran and Iraq canceled out two rising powers until the war ended. Then Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened to overturn the balance of power in the region. The result was Desert Storm.
This strategy provides a model. In the Syria-Iraq region, the initial strategy is to allow the regional powers to balance each other, while providing as little support as possible to maintain the balance of power. It is crucial to understand the balance of power in detail, and to understand what might undermine it, so that any force can be applied effectively. This is the tactical part, and it is the tactical part that can go wrong. The strategy has a logic of its own. Understanding what that strategy demands is the hard part. Some nations have lost their sovereignty by not understanding what strategy demands. France in 1940 comes to mind. For the United States, there is no threat to sovereignty, but that makes the process harder: Great powers can tend to be casual because the situation is not existential. This increases the cost of doing what is necessary.
The ground where we are talking about applying this model is Syria and Iraq. Both of these central governments have lost control of the country as a whole, but each remains a force. Both countries are divided by religion, and the religions are divided internally as well. In a sense the nations have ceased to exist, and the fragments they consisted of are now smaller but more complex entities.
The issue is whether the United States can live with this situation or whether it must reshape it. The immediate question is whether the United States has the power to reshape it and to what extent. The American interest turns on its ability to balance local forces. If that exists, the question is whether there is any other shape that can be achieved through American power that would be superior. From my point of view, there are many different shapes that can be imagined, but few that can be achieved. The American experience in Iraq highlighted the problems with counterinsurgency or being caught in a local civil war. The idea of major intervention assumes that this time it will be different. This fits one famous definition of insanity.
The Islamic State's Role
There is then the special case of the Islamic State. It is special because its emergence triggered the current crisis. It is special because the brutal murder of two prisoners on video showed a particular cruelty. And it is different because its ideology is similar to that of al Qaeda, which attacked the United States. It has excited particular American passions.
To counter this, I would argue that the uprising by Iraq's Sunni community was inevitable, with its marginalization by Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite regime in Baghdad. That it took this particularly virulent form is because the more conservative elements of the Sunni community were unable or unwilling to challenge al-Maliki. But the fragmentation of Iraq into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions was well underway before the Islamic State, and jihadism was deeply embedded in the Sunni community a long time ago.
Moreover, although the Islamic State is brutal, its cruelty is not unique in the region. Syrian President Bashar al Assad and others may not have killed Americans or uploaded killings to YouTube, but their history of ghastly acts is comparable. Finally, the Islamic State -- engaged in war with everyone around it -- is much less dangerous to the United States than a small group with time on its hands, planning an attack. In any event, if the Islamic State did not exist, the threat to the United States from jihadist groups in Yemen or Libya or somewhere inside the United States would remain.
Because the Islamic State operates to some extent as a conventional military force, it is vulnerable to U.S. air power. The use of air power against conventional forces that lack anti-aircraft missiles is a useful gambit. It shows that the United States is doing something, while taking little risk, assuming that the Islamic State really does not have anti-aircraft missiles. But it accomplishes little. The Islamic State will disperse its forces, denying conventional aircraft a target. Attempting to defeat the Islamic State by distinguishing its supporters from other Sunni groups and killing them will founder at the first step. The problem of counterinsurgency is identifying the insurgent.
There is no reason not to bomb the Islamic State's forces and leaders. They certainly deserve it. But there should be no illusion that bombing them will force them to capitulate or mend their ways. They are now part of the fabric of the Sunni community, and only the Sunni community can root them out. Identifying Sunnis who are anti-Islamic State and supplying them with weapons is a much better idea. It is the balance-of-power strategy that the United States follows, but this approach doesn't have the dramatic satisfaction of blowing up the enemy. That satisfaction is not trivial, and the United States can certainly blow something up and call it the enemy, but it does not address the strategic problem.
In the first place, is it really a problem for the United States? The American interest is not stability but the existence of a dynamic balance of power in which all players are effectively paralyzed so that no one who would threaten the United States emerges. The Islamic State had real successes at first, but the balance of power with the Kurds and Shia has limited its expansion, and tensions within the Sunni community diverted its attention. Certainly there is the danger of intercontinental terrorism, and U.S. intelligence should be active in identifying and destroying these threats. But the re-occupation of Iraq, or Iraq plus Syria, makes no sense. The United States does not have the force needed to occupy Iraq and Syria at the same time. The demographic imbalance between available forces and the local population makes that impossible.
The danger is that other Islamic State franchises might emerge in other countries. But the United States would not be able to block these threats as well as the other countries in the region. Saudi Arabia must cope with any internal threat it faces not because the United States is indifferent, but because the Saudis are much better at dealing with such threats. In the end, the same can be said for the Iranians.
Most important, it can also be said for the Turks. The Turks are emerging as a regional power. Their economy has grown dramatically in the past decade, their military is the largest in the region, and they are part of the Islamic world. Their government is Islamist but in no way similar to the Islamic State, which concerns Ankara. This is partly because of Ankara's fear that the jihadist group might spread to Turkey, but more so because its impact on Iraqi Kurdistan could affect Turkey's long-term energy plans.
Forming a New Balance in the Region
The United States cannot win the game of small mosaic tiles that is emerging in Syria and Iraq. An American intervention at this microscopic level can only fail. But the principle of balance of power does not mean that balance must be maintained directly. Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia have far more at stake in this than the United States. So long as they believe that the United States will attempt to control the situation, it is perfectly rational for them to back off and watch, or act in the margins, or even hinder the Americans.
The United States must turn this from a balance of power between Syria and Iraq to a balance of power among this trio of regional powers. They have far more at stake and, absent the United States, they have no choice but to involve themselves. They cannot stand by and watch a chaos that could spread to them.
It is impossible to forecast how the game is played out. What is important is that the game begins. The Turks do not trust the Iranians, and neither is comfortable with the Saudis. They will cooperate, compete, manipulate and betray, just as the United States or any country might do in such a circumstance. The point is that there is a tactic that will fail: American re-involvement. There is a tactic that will succeed: the United States making it clear that while it might aid the pacification in some way, the responsibility is on regional powers. The inevitable outcome will be a regional competition that the United States can manage far better than the current chaos.
Obama has sought volunteers from NATO for a coalition to fight the Islamic State. It is not clear why he thinks those NATO countries -- with the exception of Turkey -- will spend their national treasures and lives to contain the Islamic State, or why the Islamic State alone is the issue. The coalition that must form is not a coalition of the symbolic, but a coalition of the urgently involved. That coalition does not have to be recruited. In a real coalition, its members have no choice but to join. And whether they act together or in competition, they will have to act. And not acting will simply increase the risk to them.
U.S. strategy is sound. It is to allow the balance of power to play out, to come in only when it absolutely must -- with overwhelming force, as in Kuwait -- and to avoid intervention where it cannot succeed. The tactical application of strategy is the problem. In this case the tactic is not direct intervention by the United States, save as a satisfying gesture to avenge murdered Americans. But the solution rests in doing as little as possible and forcing regional powers into the fray, then in maintaining the balance of power in this coalition.
Such an American strategy is not an avoidance of responsibility. It is the use of U.S. power to force a regional solution. Sometimes the best use of American power is to go to war. Far more often, the best use of U.S. power is to withhold it. The United States cannot evade responsibility in the region. But it is enormously unimaginative to assume that carrying out that responsibility is best achieved by direct intervention. Indirect intervention is frequently more efficient and more effective.
The Virtue of Subtlety: A U.S. Strategy Against the Islamic State is republished with permission of Stratfor.
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The Weinberger Doctrine
Reply #576 on:
September 16, 2014, 03:21:32 AM »
The Weinberger Doctrine
In 1993, the professional concerns of the military led to the resurfacing of the Weinberger Doctrine. This was reinforced by events in 1993 in Somalia (where the objectives of U.S. troop involvement remained unclear) and by the fears of some that the United States would become involved in the conflict in Bosnia-Herzogovina.
The Weinberger Doctrine was established by Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger in the Reagan administration in 1984 to spell out the conditions under which the U.S. ground combat troops should be committed. (Recall that in the earlier part of the 1980s U.S. marines were sent to Lebanon with tragic consequences and the U.S. invaded Grenada where it was criticized for its political and strategic overkill.)
The elements of the Weinberger Doctrine include the following:
1. No overseas commitment of U.S. forces to combat should be made unless a vital interest of the United States or a U.S. ally is threatened.
2. If U.S. forces are committed, there should be total support - that is, sufficient resources and manpower to complete the mission.
3. If committed, U.S. forces must be given clearly defined political and military objectives. The forces must be large enough to be able to achieve these objectives.
4. There must be a continual assessment between the commitment and capability of U.S. forces and the objectives. These must be adjusted if necessary.
5. Before U.S. forces are committed, there must be reasonable assurances that the American people and their elected representatives support such a commitment.
6. Commitment of U.S. forces to combat must be the last resort.
Re: The Weinberger Doctrine
Reply #577 on:
September 16, 2014, 09:17:11 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on September 16, 2014, 03:21:32 AM
1. No overseas commitment of U.S. forces to combat should be made unless a vital interest of the United States or a U.S. ally is threatened.
2. If U.S. forces are committed, there should be total support - that is, sufficient resources and manpower to complete the mission.
3. If committed, U.S. forces must be given clearly defined political and military objectives. The forces must be large enough to be able to achieve these objectives.
4. There must be a continual assessment between the commitment and capability of U.S. forces and the objectives. These must be adjusted if necessary.
5. Before U.S. forces are committed, there must be reasonable assurances that the American people and their elected representatives support such a commitment.
6. Commitment of U.S. forces to combat must be the last resort.
Much to consider there. This is a different enemy with a different threat than Sec. Weinberger faced or contemplated. Perhaps all of that still applies. Setting objectives and the completion of the mission do not have obvious definitions in a war that looks like it will never end. The only thing obvious is that doing nothing is not an option. There is no question that Israel and other allies are threatened by an expanding ISIS and there is no question that acting sooner is better than acting later to stop them.
Pres. Obama's mission I believe needs to be broken down into objectives that can be achieved within his term. With full use of allies and coalition, we need to take back specific territory from ISIS, degrade their capability to prosecute war and choke off their control over oil and money used for terror and militarism. Meanwhile, a Presidential campaign is starting and the public will part of a full debate over our level of involvement in the future.
Europe and the US, and elsewhere like Russia, India, China, etc. face a large threat of homegrown and imported terror. Now that the US government admits we are in war with an enemy sworn to kill us, our first and most obvious step should be to take control of our own border.
Kissinger's new book
Reply #578 on:
September 18, 2014, 10:36:46 AM »
World Order. By Henry Kissinger.Penguin Press; 420 pages; $36. Allen Lane; £25. Buy fromAmazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
DESPITE being out of office for almost four decades, Henry Kissinger—who left America’s State Department in 1977—still has remarkable influence. Reading this book, you can see why. As Russia plays grandmother’s footsteps in Ukraine, the Middle East falls prey to anarchy and China tests its growing strength, Mr Kissinger analyses the central problem for international relations today: the need for a new world order. He never quite says so, but he is deeply pessimistic.
“World Order” sets out how the modern state arose almost by accident, from the interminable warfare of early 17th-century Europe. Worn down, the architects of the Peace of Westphalia agreed to disagree. Each state pledged to accept the realities of its neighbours’ values. There was no single prevailing truth. Ambition would be kept in check through an equilibrium of power. As imperialism receded, and colonies turned the arguments of Westphalian self-determination against their distant rulers, the European concept of international order spread until, with American sponsorship, it was eventually enshrined in the apparatus of Bretton Woods and the UN.
Today this order is under attack from all sides. Europe and America have come to demand that states everywhere observe a Western set of liberal values. European power, diminished by two world wars, has disappeared down the rabbit-hole of European Union integration. America, still the pre-eminent superpower, may be able to prevent geopolitics from spinning out of control, but it has become reluctant to act as enforcer and balancer. Asia contains rising states, including India and China, which have no tradition of thinking about power in Westphalian terms and may want to revise the system. And in the Middle East, rampaging Islamists are committing mass murder to impose a caliphate run according to the rules of the Koran.
Mr Kissinger is often presented as an arch-realist: an adherent of the supposedly sophisticated idea that foreign policy is purely about power and interests, and that values and morals are for the feeble-minded. But his world view is more subtle. If a system is built on power, but lacks legitimacy, then it will destroy itself; if it asserts moral truths, but lacks the power to enforce them, then it will unravel. The problem today is that from the perspective of almost all sides, power and legitimacy are out of kilter. The West cannot enforce its disputed view of a liberal order. China may not get what it thinks its growing wealth and power should command. Russia sees Western norms as a Trojan horse for the expansion of Western power—at its own expense. The Islamists reject the whole idea of a temporal, secular order.
What is the solution? Mr Kissinger sketches his answer in only four brief pages. It consists of a vague appeal to strike a new balance between power and legitimacy—which, earlier in “World Order”, he acknowledges is very hard, especially on a world scale, in societies struggling with the anarchic effects of new media.
Mr Kissinger is now a wealthy consultant. His failure to drive the bad news home is like his habit of sugaring his criticism of living statesmen with compliments that are, presumably, designed to spare their client’s embarrassment. (“I want to express here my continuing respect and personal affection for President George W. Bush”, he writes, “who guided America with courage, dignity and conviction in an unsteady time.”) That is a pity, as the wit, clarity and concision of his earlier chapters on Europe, America and jihadism are bracing. Perhaps, though, Mr Kissinger supposes that people can read between the lines: you do not need to be Metternich to grasp that this elder statesman thinks the future is bleak.
VDH: Bomb, or Occcupy, , , , or neither
Reply #579 on:
October 02, 2014, 08:04:47 AM »
Wars usually end only when the defeated aggressor believes it would be futile to resume the conflict. Lasting peace follows if the loser is then forced to change its political system into something other than what it was.
Republican Rome learned that bitter lesson through three conflicts with Carthage before ensuring that there was not going to be a fourth Punic War.
Germany fought three aggressive wars before it was finally defeated, occupied and reinvented.
America defeated Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and Imperial Japan, inflicting such damage that they were all unable to continue their resistance. And then, unlike its quick retreat home after World War I, America occupied -- and still has bases in -- all three.
Does anyone believe that Japan, Italy and Germany would now be allies of the U.S. had the Truman administration removed all American military bases from those countries by 1948?
The controversial Korean War succeeded in saving a non-communist South Korea. The U.S. military inflicted terrible punishment on communist Korean and Chinese aggressors. Then, America occupied South Korea to prevent another attack from the North. The world of Samsung and Kia eventually followed.
There are still American peacekeepers in the Balkans following the 1999 defeat of Slobodan Milosevic and his removal from the Serbian government. Does anyone think that we can now pull all NATO troops out of the Balkans and expect Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Slavs, Croats and other assorted nationalities and religions to live peacefully and not involve the world again in their brutal ancient rivalries?
In contrast, examine what has happened when the United States pounded an enemy, then just up and left.
By 1974, South Vietnam was viable. A peace treaty with the North Vietnam was still holding. But after Watergate, the destruction of the Richard Nixon presidency, serial cutoffs of U.S. aid and the removal of all U.S. peacekeeping troops, the North Vietnamese easily walked in and enslaved the south.
It was easy to bomb Moammar Gadhafi out of power -- and easier still for President Obama to boast that he would never send in ground troops to sort out the ensuing mess in Libya. What followed was a Congo-like miasma, leading to the Benghazi attacks on our consulate and the killing of four U.S. personnel.
We can brag that U.S. ground troops did not follow our bombs and missiles into Libya. But the country is now more a terrorist haven than it was under Gadhafi -- and may come back to haunt us still more.
When Obama entered office, Iraq was largely quiet. Six prior years of American blood and treasure had finally led to the end of the genocidal Saddam Hussein regime and the establishment of a constitutional system that was working under the close supervision of American peacekeepers.
Then, for the price of a re-election talking point -- "I ended the war in Iraq" -- Obama pulled out every American peacekeeper. The result is now the chaos of a growing Islamic State.
Apparently, Obama himself recognizes his error. When our troops were still monitoring the Iraqi peace, he and Vice President Joe Biden proclaimed Iraq to be "stable" and their likely "greatest" achievement. But when the country imploded after they had bragged about pulling out troops, Obama blamed the decision on someone else.
The unpopular, costly occupations of both Afghanistan and Iraq were not, as charged, neoconservative fantasies about utopian democracy-building. Instead, they were desperate, no-win reactions to past failed policies.
After we armed Islamists to force the Soviets out of Afghanistan in 1989, we forgot about the chaotic country. The Clinton administration periodically blew up things with cruise missiles there on rumors of Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. An al-Qaeda base for the 9/11 attacks followed.
After expelling Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait and leaving Iraq in 1991, no-fly-zones, a resurgent and conniving Saddam, and Operation Desert Fox followed. The aim of the second Iraq war of 2003 was to end the conflict for good by replacing Saddam with something better than what we had left after the first war.
It is popular to think that America's threats can be neutralized by occasional use of missiles, bombs and drones without much cost. But blowing apart a problem for a while is different than ending it for good. The latter aim requires just the sort of unpopular occupations that calmed the Balkans, and had done the same in Iraq by 2011.
Obama now promises to destroy the Islamic State in Syria, solely through air power. And he assures that he will safely pull nearly all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan at the end of the year.
More likely, Syria will remain a dangerous mess like Libya, and Afghanistan will end up like Vietnam or Iraq.
Victory on the ground and occupations can end a problem but are unpopular and costly.
Bombing is easy, forgettable, and ends up mostly as a temporary Band-Aid.
If we cannot or will not solve the problem on the ground, end an enemy power, and then reconstitute its government, then it is probably better to steer clear altogether than to blow up lots of people and things -- and simply go home.
Will Syria be Obama's Vietnam?
Reply #580 on:
October 08, 2014, 10:51:56 AM »
FIFTY years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson authorized a strategic bombing campaign against targets in North Vietnam, an escalation of the conflict in Southeast Asia that was swiftly followed by the deployment of American ground troops. Last month, President Obama expanded a strategic bombing campaign against Islamic insurgents in the Middle East, escalating the attack beyond Iraq into Syria.
Will Mr. Obama repeat history and commit ground troops? Many analysts believe so, and top officials are calling for it. But the president has expressed skepticism about what American force can accomplish in this kind of struggle, and he has resisted the urgings of hawks inside and outside the administration who want him to go in deeper. Mr. Obama, his supporters say, is a “gloomy realist” who has learned history’s lesson: that American military power, no matter how great in relative terms, is ultimately of limited utility in conflicts that are, at their root, political or ideological in nature.
It’s a powerful, reasoned position, amply supported by the history of America’s involvement in Vietnam. But that history also shows that a president’s attitude and analytical assessment, no matter how gloomily realistic, are not necessarily an antidote to ill-advised military action. Foreign intervention has a logic all to itself.
Today we think of Lyndon Johnson as a man unwaveringly committed to prevailing in Vietnam. But at least at first, he shared Mr. Obama’s pessimism. He and his advisers knew they faced an immense challenge in attempting to suppress the insurgency in South Vietnam. “A man can fight if he can see daylight down the road somewhere,” he said privately in early March 1965. “But there ain’t no daylight in Vietnam.”
Johnson also knew that the Democratic leadership in the Senate shared his misgivings, and that key allied governments counseled against escalation and in favor of a political solution.
On occasion the president even allowed himself to question whether the outcome in Vietnam really mattered to American and Western security. “What the hell is Vietnam worth to me?” he despaired in 1964, even as he was laying plans to expand American involvement. “What’s it worth to this country?”
At other times Johnson was quite capable of arguing for the geopolitical importance of the struggle — he was adept at tailoring his Vietnam analysis to his needs of the moment. But the overall picture that emerges in the administration’s massive internal record for 1964-65 is of a president deeply skeptical that the war could be won, even with large-scale escalation, and far from certain that it was necessary even to try.
So why did Johnson take the plunge? In part because he was hemmed in — not merely by 15 years of steadily growing American involvement in Indochina, but, more important, by his own and his advisers’ use of overheated rhetoric to describe the stakes in Vietnam and their confidence in victory. Moreover, he had personalized the war, and saw any criticism of its progress as an attack on him, compromising his ability to see the conflict objectively.
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story
We know the results. In the very week in which he professed to see “no daylight” in the struggle, Johnson initiated Operation Rolling Thunder, the graduated, sustained aerial bombardment against North Vietnam; also that week, he dispatched the first combat troops. More soon followed, and by the end of 1965, some 180,000 men were on the ground in South Vietnam. Ultimately, the count would top half a million.
True, it’s hard to imagine Mr. Obama ordering a Johnson-style surge of combat forces to Iraq or Syria. The circumstances on the ground are dissimilar, and he sees the world and America’s role in it differently than Johnson did. By all accounts he is less inclined to personalize foreign policy tests, and less threatened by diverse views among his advisers.
In these respects he is much closer in his sensibility and approach to another Vietnam-era president, John F. Kennedy. He consistently rejected the proposals of civilian aides and military leaders to commit combat forces to Vietnam, but he also significantly expanded American involvement in the conflict during his thousand days in office, complicating the choices open to his successor. Whether he could have continued to walk that line, as Mr. Obama is trying to do, is an unanswerable question.
But the point is not about biography; rather, it’s about the inability of a president, once committed to military intervention, to control the course of events. War has a forward motion of its own. Most of Johnson’s major steps in the escalation in Vietnam were in response to unforeseen obstacles, setbacks and shortcomings. There’s no reason the same dynamic couldn’t repeat itself in 2014.
And there is a political logic, too: Then as now, the president faced unrelenting pressure from various quarters to do more, to fight the fight, to intensify the battle. Then as now, the alarmist rhetoric by the president and senior officials served to reduce their perceived maneuverability, not least in domestic political terms. Johnson was no warmonger, and he feared, rightly, that Vietnam would be his undoing. Nonetheless, he took his nation into a protracted struggle that ended in bitter defeat.
“I don’t think it’s worth fighting for, and I don’t think we can get out,” a sullen Johnson told McGeorge Bundy, his national security adviser, in 1964. One can only hope the same sentiment is not being expressed in the Oval Office today.
Fredrik Logevall is a professor of history at Cornell and the author, most recently, of “Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam.” Gordon M. Goldstein is the author of “Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam.”
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #581 on:
October 08, 2014, 11:29:52 AM »
As someone who lived through the Vietnam War, indeed I was in the draft lottery and quite active in the movement against the war, the preceding article has a lot of resonance for me.
We face very a plethora of difficult situations and it can be easy to get lost in the complexities. Herewith my armchair general to cut to the chase:
The original idea was to deny safe havens for Islamo Fascism (IF) to safely train and prepare to attack us.
Hence Afpakia-- this launched at the height of the American uni-polar moment
How has this original idea worked out so far?
It has not. The enemy has, or will soon have, Afpakia, Libya, various pieces of Africa, and ISILstan. (Egypt was almost also on this list despite the hubristic follies of Obama-Clinton.) All these places are now places that IF now has sanctuary to plot, train, and prepare its coming attacks upon us. Thus it seems to me that the logic of denying sanctuary no longer applies.
As is amply documented here, I am of the firm belief that it did not have to be this way and that a large % of the responsibility lies with Obama-Clinton, but in fairness it must be noted that Bush's strategy for Afpakia was incoherent (as I have said here many times for many years) and I do not envy the hand there he handed over to Obama. Bush's many screw-ups in Iraq caused a very close brush with disaster that understandably broke the heart and trust of many Americans before he turned things around-- but turn things around he did and he handed a very good hand to Obama in Iraq-- which Obama petulantly threw away.
Having noted that so that we may learn from it, the question remains: What do we do now that the enemy DOES have sanctuaries?
First it seems quite clear to me that we must realize that it is too late for "fighting them there so we do not have fight them here" as Bush presciently stated in 2004.
Off the top of my head we need to DEFEND THE HOMELAND:
a) Control the borders!!!
b) Have a proper system for promptly and efficiently noting those who overstay their visas; the Feds must overrule the "Sanctuary City" policies of many cities (and states?) just as it overruled Arizona for intruding in the Federal realm (a mistake because AZ was SUPPORTING the enforcement of federal law, not undercutting it) ; illegals caught domestically should be deported instantly-- after reasonable changes in the law regarding those brought here young and who grew up here. No path to citizenship, but yes a path to green card or something like it.
c) Change immigration criteria. I'm hoping the collective here, GM in particular, can help us look up what US policies were regarding the entry of communists and those from communist countries during the Cold War. Perhaps there are some useful analogies and correlations there , , , There are populations more likely to contain IF and immigration from them and visas granted to its citizens should be curtailed.
As noted in my previous posts, we are headed down a path to disaster. Yes IF is an enemy, but who do we hear putting forward a plausible strategy? Certainly not Obama! But that said, it must also be said, are those advocating "boots on the ground" really putting forward something that will work? That is not clear to me. Indeed it is not clear to me that it is clear to them what they have in mind. Certainly NO ONE is putting forward anything about Iran's nukes that sounds plausible to me!!!
In the mood in which I find myself as I write this post and my suggested strategy not likely to be put in effect while it can be, Ron Paul seems closest in this moment to what I am thinking/feeling. He seems to be pivoting towards something around which the American people will be able to rally whereas both Obama and the generals are not.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #582 on:
October 08, 2014, 10:43:23 PM »
From memory, my wife had to declare she wasn't a member of the communist party on her immigration paperwork some years back. I'll get the specifics when I get back in a week or so.
Kind of ironic, given our current president.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #583 on:
October 09, 2014, 08:04:51 AM »
I'm thinking there may be a conceptual model there of use to us.
Just another armchair thought
Reply #584 on:
October 09, 2014, 10:02:14 AM »
We handle a nearly unsolvable situation like the Israeli's who unfortunately have been doing so for decades. That is dealing with a very determined enemy that appears to never want to conciliate.
We deal strongly and when necessary as decisively as we can. Boots on the ground and damage them as much as possible. Leave a few carriers nearby for a redu when needed. All the while gaining and updating intelligence doing our best to keep other countries involved and make it clear that we will defend our citizens and our country even though it means there WILL be collateral damage. Yes some innocent will die or be hurt but make it clear we will do our best to avoid but that our safety comes first.
There are millions of radicals who wish us dead, convert, or scamper off into the sunset. This IS not a police problem. This is a war.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #585 on:
October 12, 2014, 01:55:40 PM »
This article comes highly recommended to me by someone who was well outside the wire, working with Iraqi interpreters, during lively times. I would quibble with some aspects of his description of the Bush strategy and of what Bush handed over to Obama, but on the whole I think this piece rather deep.
Vainly I note that most of its recommendations parallel mine from August and last month.
VDH on a rampage: Ruins of the Middle East
Reply #586 on:
October 14, 2014, 12:07:09 PM »
Stratfor: Super Chaos?
Reply #587 on:
October 15, 2014, 01:18:09 PM »
Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 03:02 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan
By Robert D. Kaplan
The words anarchy and chaos are everywhere in the news. Iraq has collapsed. Syria collapsed some time ago, as did Libya and Yemen -- even as Yemen now threatens to enter deeper depths of implosion with al-Houthi insurgents having entered and virtually surrounded the capital of Sanaa. Civil war in Lebanon periodically threatens to reignite. Egypt has required a rebirth of authoritarianism to keep order there. Afghanistan and Pakistan are never far from the abyss. Ukraine is a weak state threatened with further Russian military aggression. A wall of disease has been erected in West Africa in states that collapsed into anarchy in the late 1990s and have been limping along ever since. Nigeria faces an Islamic insurgency that is, in turn, indicative of regional tensions between Muslims in the north of the country and Christians in the south. South Sudan, midwifed into existence by Western elites, has been in a circumstance of tribal war. The Central African Republic, beset by religious violence that has killed thousands, can in no sense be called a functioning state. The same can be said of Somalia, though the worst of the threat posed by Islamic extremists there may be past. New shortages of rationed food items in Venezuela may mean more upheaval there. And there are other places around the globe -- called states in the polite language of diplomats and development experts -- that travelers' accounts away from the capital cities reveal are no such thing.
I worried aloud about such a world in a lengthy 1994 essay in The Atlantic Monthly, "The Coming Anarchy." The core of my argument was that with European empires gone, not every place in the world will necessarily have the capability to maintain functioning institutions in far-flung countrysides, and that absolute rises in population, ethnic and sectarian divides, and especially environmental degradation (i.e., water shortages) will only make such places harder to govern. My argument only seemed hopeless if you believed in the first place that elites could engineer reality from above. Of course elites can affect destiny at pivotal moments, but the actual character of large geographical swathes of the earth will only be determined by the masses living there.
But what if such chaos as we have seen in small- and some medium-sized states over time happens in larger states? What if, for example, the two dominant territorial forces on the Eurasian mainland, Russia and China, prove deeper into the 21st century to be ungovernable by centralized means? I am not predicting this. I personally do not think this will happen. But I believe it is a worthwhile thought experiment to conduct and entertain. For even the partial unraveling of Russia or China would have dramatic geopolitical effects far beyond their borders. Europe, after all, has throughout its history had its fate substantially determined by eruptions from the east -- in Russia. Southeast Asia, the Korean Peninsula and even the island nation of Japan have often had their fates substantially determined by changes in China. If we do not think the unthinkable, therefore, we are being irresponsible.
The fear of chaos has always been central to Russian history. Russia's landmass encompasses half the longitudes of the earth, with the result that central control must be oppressive merely to be effective. Adding to this sense of oppression is the perennial fear of invasion. Indeed, Russia is a land power with few natural borders in any direction. Oppressive, autocratic regimes have a tendency to foster weak institutions, since rule in such circumstances is personal rather than bureaucratic. Of course, the stories of Russia's impenetrable and inefficient bureaucracy are legion, but this reality has only caused its rulers -- czars and commissars both -- to be even more oppressive in their attempts to overcome it. To wit, the way in which President Vladimir Putin rules Russia is merely a culmination of how Russia has been ruled for more than a millennium. Putin rules in Politburo style, with a somewhat opaque circle of advisers who control all the major levers of power, military and civilian. Natural resource revenues, especially those of oil and natural gas, become tools of central authority in this case.
Russia is not a world of stable, impersonal and rules-based institutions but a world of rank intimidation and of whom you know. If this is the case -- if Putin has created a rule by a camarilla, which by its mere existence weakens institutional checks and balances -- what will happen to Russia after he leaves or is forced from office? Voices in the Western media wax hopeful that Putin can be toppled if he miscalculates on his military intervention in Ukraine. But were that to occur, it is more likely that Russia itself could weaken or fall into chaos, or that an even more brutal dictator would emerge to forestall such chaos. And were there to be a crisis in central authority in Moscow, expect far-flung regions such as Siberia and the Russian Far East to gain more autonomy, formally or informally. In other words, the partial breakup of Russia may be more likely than the emergence of Western democracy in Russia. The years of former President Boris Yeltsin's incompetent rule in the 1990s should be a warning of what to expect from Russian democracy.
The fear of chaos has often been prevalent throughout history in China. For thousands of years, one Chinese dynasty has followed another. But not every dynasty has been able to control all or most of Chinese territory, and between the fall of one dynasty and the rise of another there has periodically been chaos. The Chinese Communist Party is just the latest Chinese dynasty, which itself emerged following a long period of war and chaos. Now this latest dynasty faces a tumultuous economic transition from an Industrial Age, smokestack economy driven by low wages and a massive volume of exports to a postindustrial, cleaner and high-tech economy featuring higher wages and a somewhat lower volume of exports. Chinese President Xi Jinping is using an anti-corruption campaign as a sort of great purge to re-centralize the Party for these economic rigors ahead. It is highly unclear whether he can succeed. Meanwhile, democratic tendencies stir, as we have seen in Hong Kong.
If Xi only partially succeeds, let alone fails, there is the possibility of sustained ethnic unrest at increasing levels among the Muslim Turkic Uighurs in western China and the Tibetans in southwestern China. So do not necessarily expect China to be as stable over the next 30 years as it has been for the last 30.
In sum, just because autocracy has failed does not mean that democracy can work. And just because the tumultuous, dramatic weakening of central control in big states has not happened yet does not mean it is implausible.
Read more: Super Chaos? | Stratfor
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Stratfor: Responding to a Chronic Terrorist Threat
Reply #588 on:
October 15, 2014, 01:23:55 PM »
Responding to a Chronic Terrorist Threat
Thursday, October 9, 2014 - 03:00 Print Text Size
By Scott Stewart
Last Thursday I had the opportunity to speak at a Risk Management Society meeting in Cleveland, Ohio. During my presentation, I shared some of the points I made in last week's Security Weekly -- namely, that the jihadist movement, which includes groups such as the Islamic State and al Qaeda, is resilient and can recover from losses if allowed to. There is no military solution to the jihadist movement: It is an ideological problem and must be addressed on the ideological battlefield, and thus jihadists are a persistent threat.
In response to these points, an audience member asked me if I thought the United States was wasting its time and treasure in Iraq and Syria (and elsewhere) by going after jihadist groups. After answering the question in person, I decided it would make a good follow-on topic for this week's Security Weekly.
First, it is important to understand that, historically, the success al Qaeda has had in executing large attacks is not due to the professionalism of its operatives and attack planners. Indeed, as I have previously noted, in addition to foiled attacks such as Operation Bojinka and the Millennium Bomb Plot, al Qaeda operatives were also nearly detected because of sloppy tradecraft and operational security mistakes in successful attacks such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1998 East African embassy bombings, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole and even the 9/11 attacks.
These mistakes weren't trivial. In the 1993 World Trade Center case, one of the two operational commanders whom al Qaeda sent to New York to assist in the plot, Ahmed Ajaj, was caught entering John F. Kennedy International Airport with a Swedish passport that had its photo replaced in a terribly obvious and amateurish manner. Authorities also found a suitcase full of bombmaking manuals with Ajaj. His partner, Abdel Basit (widely known as Ramzi Yousef), called Ajaj while he was in jail looking to recover the bombmaking instructions. Before the East Africa embassy bombings, authorities had identified the al Qaeda cell responsible and detected their sloppy preoperational surveillance of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. The leader of the group, Wadih el-Hage, was asked to leave Kenya, and he returned to his home in Dallas, where the group continued with its plans for attack in Africa. The perpetrators of the USS Cole bombing attempted to attack the USS The Sullivans in January 2000, but their boat was overloaded with explosives and foundered. Finally, among other mistakes the 9/11 attackers committed, Mohamed Atta had been cited for driving without a valid license and was the subject of an arrest warrant for failing to appear in court on those charges.
Al Qaeda was able to succeed in these attacks because terrorism had become a third-tier priority for the U.S. government in the 1990s, and very few resources were dedicated to fighting terrorism. Even fewer resources were dedicated specifically to the jihadist threat. Thus, significant leads were not followed in each of these cases.
The success of U.S. counterterrorism programs in the post 9/11 era cannot be attributed to the creation of the bloated and redundant bureaucracies of the Department of Homeland Security or the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. In fact, any achievements have come despite these organizations and the inefficiencies they have created. The real change is that terrorism is now identified as a significant threat, and countering the terrorist threat has been made the primary mission of every CIA station, FBI field office and NSA listening post on Earth. Indeed, all the tools of national counterterrorism power -- intelligence, law enforcement, foreign policy, economics and the military -- are now heavily focused on the counterterrorism mission.
Though the jihadist threat has persisted since 9/11, the intense pressure applied to jihadists by the combined force of myriad counterterrorism tools has made it difficult for the militants to project their terrorist power into the United States and Europe. These counterterrorism tools will not eradicate jihadism, but the threat jihadists pose regionally and transnationally can be contained and abated with their use. As I mentioned last week, jihadist operatives who possess advanced terrorist tradecraft are hard to replace, and arresting or killing such individuals hampers the ability of jihadist groups to project power regionally and transnationally. Ignoring the jihadist threat and allowing it to again become a third-tier issue will permit the jihadists to operate with relative impunity, as they did in the 1990s.
Ideological Change Is the Key
Another reason to maintain physical pressure on jihadist groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State is that pressure works to counter the groups' claims of divine blessing. That al Qaeda leaders claim to trust in God for protection and then hide as far underground as possible has caused many jihadists to criticize the group. Furthermore, though many jihadists treated the killing of Osama bin Laden as a joyous martyrdom, it caused other jihadists to question why the leader of al Qaeda was living in a comfortable home with his family while others were fighting on the front lines in his name.
When the Islamic State made impressive gains in Iraq and Syria in June, it boasted that it was being blessed by God, was therefore invincible and was going to continue until it conquered the world. It is quite common to hear such statements in Islamic State propaganda, including the following comments made in a video after the massacre of a group of Syrian soldiers who were taken captive after the siege of the Syrian 17th Division base near Raqqa on July 26: "We are your brothers, the soldiers of the Islamic State. God has favored us with His grace and victory by conquering the 17th Division -- a victory and favor through God. We seek refuge in God from our might and power. We seek refuge in God from our weapons and our readiness."
Such claims, when backed by dramatic battlefield successes, can have a discernible impact on many radical Muslims, who begin to wonder if the Islamic State is really becoming as inexorable as it claims to be. This illusion of divine support and invincibility has greatly assisted the group in its efforts to recruit local and foreign fighters, to raise funds and to garner support from regional allies.
Conversely, the blunting of the group's offensive on the battlefield has tempered the Islamic State's boasting. Though reports that U.S. and coalition aircraft missed key targets such as the Islamic State headquarters may reflect that the United States was a bit behind the intelligence curve, they also demonstrate that the Islamic State was abandoning the facilities, fearful of airstrikes. The sight of Islamic State fighters reacting fearfully to coalition aircraft will help slow recruitment efforts and should cause already skeptical jihadists to think twice before joining the group or swearing allegiance to it.
Doubts stemming from battlefield losses about whether God is blessing the Islamic State should also bolster efforts against the group on an ideological front. For example, on Sept. 19, a group of 126 Islamic scholars from across the globe published an open letter to the Islamic State and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The scholars used the letter to address what they consider to be 24 points of error in the theology espoused by the Islamic State. These errors encompass a number of issues, including the nature of the caliphate; the authority to declare jihad; the practice of takfir, or proclaiming another Muslim to be a nonbeliever; the killing of innocents; the mutilation of corpses; and the taking of slaves.
The letter ends with a plea for al-Baghdadi and his followers: "Reconsider all your actions; desist from them; repent from them; cease harming others and return to the religion of mercy." It is unlikely that many of the hardcore jihadists will do as requested, but as these theological arguments are circulated and discussed, they will help undercut the ideological base of the jihadists and make it harder for them to convince impressionable people to join their cause. The effects of these theological critiques will not just be confined to the Islamic State; they will apply equally to al Qaeda and other groups that hold similar doctrines and commit similar acts.
Moreover, mainstream Muslim theologians have not been the only ones critical of the group. Jihadist ideologues such as Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi and Abu Qatada have also been critical of the Islamic State's activities and pronouncements.
Fighting the ideological war will undoubtedly be a long process. In the interim, the United States and its allies will have to continue applying pressure to groups such as the Islamic State and al Qaeda in an effort to contain them and limit the chronic threat they pose.
Read more: Responding to a Chronic Terrorist Threat | Stratfor
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