Two More Syria Links

Was there a chemical attack?  One respected journalist, anyways, having visited the site in Douma, says there’s very little evidence.

Addition: Maybe he’s a dupe at best?

And:

‘Meanwhile, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) team arrived in Damascus on Saturday, April 14th – after the US-led overnight strikes which primarily hit government buildings in the capital. ‘

Hmmm…maybe it’s just me, but I see a crisis of belief all throughout the West and relatively poor leadership (what to believe, and when to act?).  This can lead to greater instability.

Another argument against the American military strikes (we pulled our influence in the region, and all this is now too little, too late…come what may):

‘To reiterate my own longstanding view: Russia is a nasty place and Vladimir Putin is a nasty man, of the ilk that always has ruled Russia, a country where nobody talks about Ivan the Reasonable. On my Ogre-ometer, Putin barely registers a 1.9 against Stalin’s 9.8. Russia is NOT our friend and NOT a prospective ally. But we have two choices. One is to attempt to bring Putin down and bring in a government we like, and the other is to strike a deal with Putin that we can live with.’

How about we avoid gazing into Putin’s soul this time?  Is the French-American alliance durable?  Perhaps this is what to make of a dimished thing, which means more compromise, strategy, and vision with our military.

What’s the plan, here?

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As posted:

Michael McFaul at Foreign Policy: ‘How Trump Can Play Nice With Russia Without Selling-Out America:’

After some policy suggestions, there’s this:

‘I continue to believe that it is in the U.S. interest to promote the independence, territorial integrity, and security not only of Ukraine, but also Georgia, Moldova, and all countries threatened by Russian hegemony. And the United States and its allies must develop new strategies for engaging Russian society and other societies throughout the former Soviet Union, including even in the Donbass region of Ukraine now occupied by Kremlin-supported separatists. We need more student exchanges, more peer-to-peer dialogues, more business internships to increase connections between our societies. We cannot revert to a policy where we only speak to officials in Moscow and attempt to do right by the Kremlin.

A lot of those former Soviet satellites, especially the Baltics, needed courage, hard-work, and luck just to get far enough away from Moscow to recieve NATO protection….:

Not exactly a foregone conclusion…

Here’s Putin, back in the 80’s, meeting Reagan. Ho hum, just a tourist, snapping some photos and meeting, how do you say, your premier.

What goes around, comes around-An oldie but a goodie-George Kennan: ‘The Sources Of Soviet Conduct

60 Minutes had an interview with ‘Jack Barsky,‘ an East-German Soviet spy who ended up living in America.  To hell with it!

From The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’

The Same Old Quote From Samuel Huntington While Watching Current Events In Syria

Perhaps now, after eight years, we’ve returned towards some semblance of what came before, but now with many changes in the American cultural/political landscape duly reflected in foreign policy.

The more liberal internationalist and humanitarian discontents (neo-neo-conservatives?) seem ok using American military force to draw clear lines against the use of chemical weapons.

Or perhaps better said: Some liberal internationalists are ok using American military force and patriotism right now for these aims if the international institutional authority to which they are predisposed isn’t forthcoming.

While Donald Trump has triggered many into foaming domestic mistrust, weirdly, he may end-up uniting many humanitarian realpolitikers and pro-military, anti-terrorist, anti-Islamist types with this strike.

Subject to change.

Syria, you’ll recall, was teetering early-on during Obama’s tenure (when Libya involvement was chosen instead), and soon devolved into the horrendous civil conflict we see today:

Many in Russia, China, North Korea and Iran are paying pretty close attention and strategizing accordingly.

In other words, we’ve gone from Peace-Activist-In-Chief back towards the center with a more pro-union, pro-military and socially liberal New York excutive-in-chief making strange bedfellows while also shaping and seeking public sentiment.

A quote from this piece over at the Atlantic: From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

“Although the professional soldier accepts the reality of never-ending and limited conflict, “the liberal tendency,” Huntington explained, is “to absolutize and dichotomize war and peace.” Liberals will most readily support a war if they can turn it into a crusade for advancing humanistic ideals. That is why, he wrote, liberals seek to reduce the defense budget even as they periodically demand an adventurous foreign policy.”

Are we back here again or someplace like it?

My two cents, dear reader.

From Via Media-Obama’s Syria Play A Failure…Michael Totten On The Problem From Hell In Syria

Related On This Site: More Syria-From Via Media: ‘Congress on Syria: Going In On A Wing and A Prayer’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’James Kirchik At The American Interest: 

Michael Totten’s piece that revisits a Robert Kaplan piece from 1993, which is prescient:  “A Writhing Ghost Of A Would-Be Nation”.  It was always a patchwork of minority tribes, remnants of the Ottoman Empire

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest-‘Part 2: Syria Policy, Up Close & Ugly’

Full piece here.

‘Now, the process of watching the President go from red line to red line to congressional ploy to Russian diplomatic life-preserver (an idea that was not as impromptu as the Administration made it seem at the time) was painful in the extreme. The new NSC Advisor, Susan Rice, was shown to be essentially incompetent as she presided over, or tried to chase, the most embarrassing excuse for a foreign policy decision process I have ever seen.’

Here we are, drifting along with events, backing into potentially serious problems, and being guided by foreign policy ideals far enough Left that the President seems wary of the U.S. military almost on principle, even if the U.N. Security Council was able to do virtually nothing for three years in Syria.

Obama does seem to have been listening to some seasoned officials at State and liberal internationalist strategists, but all the while he’s been promoting a younger, pliant B team and I’m guessing has never lost sight of elections, nor the anti-establishment, further Left base and coalitions at home.

We’ve never had good options in Syria, but in the wake of Libya, and looking at Iran, it’s not clear we have a larger strategy able to meet our objectives, nor the leadership to meet them even if we did.

Even some folks at NPR may be pining for the days of Clintonesque humanitarian intervention, as they bring in some analysts to compare the mess in Syria to the former Yugoslavia.

***A pretty damned good overview of Syria for the non-initiated, including what’s been going on since 2011 and the backstory at the thehowardbealeshow. Recommended. Really.

Related On This SiteMore Syria-From Via Media: ‘Congress on Syria: Going In On A Wing and A Prayer’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’A Few More Syria Links-’Unmitigated Clusterf**k?’

From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’…Liberal Internationalism is hobbling us, and the safety of even the liberal internationalist doctrine if America doesn’t lead…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

Via Circa: ‘US And Russia Reach Agreement On Seizing Syria’s Chemical Weapons’

Full post here.

‘After 2 days of talks in Geneva, Sec. John Kerry and Russian FM Sergei Lavrov have agreed a framework for Syria handing over their chemical weapons — a move which looks likely to avert a military strike. Kerry said the agreement will be backed by a Security Council resolution that could allow for sanctions if Syria reneges on its obligations.’

From what I’ve heard, read, and been able to piece together:

Addition: Avik Roy interviews Eli Lake At Richochet about who we might be able to support, and how.

What we can hope for is that this is really buying Obama time to hopefully regroup and come up with a strategy.  We’re seeing an exercise in what a lack of American power, strategy, and leadership would look like in the region and sending signals more broadly in the world that we’re not necessarily on top of things (think of it as..ahem…an exercise).

This has given Putin a chance to take advantage of our weakness and advance his interests, like continuing to supply the Assad regime and the Iranians with arms, and get back at us for trying to assist democracy in Ukraine.  He sees any U.S. strikes, anywhere, as something of a threat.  His interests are ideologically and practically opposed to ours, for the most part.  Vlad’s been shrewd and played us like a mob boss plays a flailing mayor.  The mob boss doesn’t even live in the city.

Assad has been thrown a lifeline but it’s not that much, as he is in a bitter, sectarian, Civil War in which defeat likely means death for him, his family, and many Alawis in high government and military positions.   He’s got chemical weapons and they, pretty much, are not likely to go anywhere.  The conflict rages on, and it includes:

A brutal dictatorship meeting the high youth population and the ‘Arab Spring.’

An ethnic, sectarian patchwork of loyalties and alliances

Redrawn colonial maps and a familiar split between Islam and Arab nationalism, between the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular, semi-socialist Baathists

The VERY bitter Sunni/Shia divide

The backdrop of the Iran regime’s aim to have deliverable nukes and be the big dog in the region, (they really do state-sponsor terrorism for leverage and to mess with everyone else).  Russia and the U.S. still are still playing chess in the region, the Russians using Iran and Syria as their leverage.  Israel is watching all of this closely.  Saudi Arabia has turned toward Moscow.

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This may sound a little harsh, but what if you held an ‘international community’ rally promoting peace with the possibility of war, and only Putin and Assad showed up?  You didn’t even know what to write on the banner.  The U.N. was too disorganized to show up.  No Britain.  No Australia.  No Canada.  No Europe.  No glorious moment where ‘moderate’ Muslims sweep the terrorists away amidst cheers of solidarity and peace and everybody feels good.  The socialist Francois Hollande calls and says he likes your ideas and may want to participate.

During the rally you may get Putin and Assad to sign in at the front table and you try to take a picture with them in front of the Geneva Conventions, but that’s about it.

Here are two quotes from Henry Kissinger:

The purpose of bureaucracy is to devise a standard operating procedure which can cope effectively with most problems.  A bureaucracy is efficient if the matters which it handles routinely are, in fact, the most frequent and if its procedures are relevant to their solution.  If those criteria are met, the energies of the top leadership are freed to deal creatively with the unexpected occurrence or with the need for innovation.  Bureaucracy becomes an obstacle when what it defines as routine does not address the most significant range of issues or when its prescribed mode of action proves irrelevant to the problem.”

and:

“Moreover, the reputation, indeed the political survival, of most leaders depends on their ability to realize their goals, however these may have been arrived at.  Whether these goals are desireable is relatively less crucial.”

Kissinger, Henry. American Foreign Policy:  Three Essays.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.  1969.

Positive suggestions?  At least show leadership for the ideals we’re claiming to believe in, like assisting with the humanitarian crisis and trying to help all countries ringing Syria deal with the flow of refugees.  Keep trying to maintain a lifeline with that group of Syrians stuck in a Civil War who aren’t radicals, or at least will have to live there when it’s over.  No, we don’t need relocate them here, necessarily.  Keep reassuring Israel.  Try and make the most of the situation with the Turks.  Offer the arms and black and spec ops that we are.  Keep trying to maintain our alliances, with you know, our allies…

Anyone?

Related On This Site:  A Few More Syria Links-’Unmitigated Clusterf**k?’

More Syria-From Via Media: ‘Congress on Syria: Going In On A Wing and A Prayer’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’James Kirchik At The American Interest: 

Michael Totten’s piece that revisits a Robert Kaplan piece from 1993, which is prescient:  “A Writhing Ghost Of A Would-Be Nation”.  It was always a patchwork of minority tribes, remnants of the Ottoman Empire

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’…Liberal Internationalism is hobbling us, and the safety of even the liberal internationalist doctrine if America doesn’t lead…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

A Few More Syria Links-‘Unmitigated Clusterf**k?’

A pretty damned good overview of Syria for the non-initiated, including what’s been going on since 2011 and the backstory at the thehowardbealeshow. Recommended. Really.

Julia Ioffe at the New Republic-‘The Syria Solution: How Obama Got Played By Putin & Assad’

What do you do when you have little to no strategy, a map that isn’t lining up with events, and no clear vision of what you want to achieve?:

This, to borrow a phrase from a Congressional staffer at his wits’ end, “is an unmitigated clusterfuck.”

Strong language, but, you know, perhaps quite appropriate here.  This blog is generally more skeptical of the liberal internationalist ideals and the human rights crowd running foreign policy, because no matter how successful the realpolitik, they can often put the cart before the horse.  I suspect few people expected the cart to be unhooked from the horse and left in the mud for a few years.

‘As it stands now, Russia and France have taken the lead on working out a plan to get Assad to hand over his chemical weapons, a lead Obama seems all too happy to relinquish. Hammering out the details will take a some time, and, while they’re at it, Assad will still have his chemical weapons but will no longer be under the threat of a U.S. military strike. (Who knows if he’ll use them, but he certainly hasn’t let up on the conventional shelling.) Putin has succeeded in throwing sand in the gears of the American political process and separating the U.S. from its allies, and the current American handwringing over Syria seems likely to grind on for weeks. And a pro-Assad paper ran with the following headline this morning: “Moscow and Damascus Pull the Rug Out From Under the Feet of Obama.”

Our foe, the obviously undemocratic Putin, has come to rescue our cart!  Of course, by opportunistically taking advantage of our leadership vacuum and uniting Russian opinion against us.  Our profile and influence diminish further.  Assad, our clear foe and ruthless dicator thug stays in power, maybe the chemical weapons the Russians have been supplying to him are taken away, but probably not.  The Civil war continues and continues to spill out all over the place.

That’s if Putin is even serious.

Meanwhile, our allies and possible alliances remain ignored, unconvinced, or can be seen turning away with looks of disbelief, back to their own politics to play this for what they can and pursue their own interests as they see fit, perhaps at our expense.   At the same time, our enemies, like Al Qaeda, remain under little to no pressure from anyone to become more ‘moderate,’ while Iran’s regime keeps one foot in the ‘international community’ pretending to be civil, with the other kicking furiously towards deliverable nuclear weapons, the Shia crescent, and regional domination.

At home, public opinion remains strongly against this war, and deeply skeptical of our political leadership.

I fail to see much upside here.

Dan Drezner tries to spin this deal into something tolerable, perhaps some kind of victory towards inducing foes and bad actors towards the goal of international law and the Geneva Conventions, but, think about it:  A gaffe made by Kerry is pounced upon by Putin and Assad in order to help our President out of his own corner…towards international cooperation:

‘Despite a series of mistakes, screw-ups, u-turns, and flubs, it’s possible that the Obama administration can, at the end of the day, claim credit for forcing Syria’s regime into relinquishing its chemical weapons stockpile and signing on to the convention banning its use.

Take the deal. Take it now.’

Here’s to hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

Addition:  Get ready for the President’s speech, and the refrain that this was a war averted and brilliant game of chess by the President.  The ideals were advanced.  All is well.

Related On This Site: More Syria-From Via Media: ‘Congress on Syria: Going In On A Wing and A Prayer’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’James Kirchik At The American Interest: 

Michael Totten’s piece that revisits a Robert Kaplan piece from 1993, which is prescient:  “A Writhing Ghost Of A Would-Be Nation”.  It was always a patchwork of minority tribes, remnants of the Ottoman Empire

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’…Liberal Internationalism is hobbling us, and the safety of even the liberal internationalist doctrine if America doesn’t lead…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

From Foreign Affairs: ‘The Best Case Scenario in Syria’

Full piece here.

You know, there may have been a chance of avoiding such a region-destabilizing Civil War, but that moment, should there have been such a moment, has long passed:

‘As the White House repeated this Monday, the conflict in Syria will only end with a political solution. In other words, the United States should use the leverage it has, in the form of continued pressure and looming military strikes, to help get all sides to the table.’

Could a bomb Saddam-like campaign work?

Joshua Landis at Syria Comment disagrees:

The US, however, should avoid getting sucked into the Syrian Civil War. Thus, it should punish Assad with enough force to deter future use of chemical weapons, but without using so much force that it gets drawn into an open-ended conflict’

But his solution strikes me as the same kind of liberal internationalist, U.N. one worlderish-type thinking that helped get us to this point:

‘The US should strive to persuade all parties to reach a power-sharing agreement to end the war. This can only happen with the cooperation of Russia and other players, such as Iran.’

That’s good for a laugh.  We kept a lid on the region.  We were the muscle, and now the Saudis, partially due to fracking, partially due to our withdrawal from the region without plans for our replacement, are turning to Moscow.  With so many players, including Iran and Russia fighting a proxy war Syria, this sounds pretty unworkable.

This is also why John Kerry’s appeal as to the moral awfulness of chemical weapons, and the need to draw a ‘red line’ and call others to action, while reasonable and historically accurate, still rings so hollow.  Geneva conventions do not a peaceful world make:

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Are we still the world’s policeman?  Stay tuned.

Addition: Ramesh Ponnuru at the National Review, dissents:

‘This is not a military action that we are undertaking to defend ourselves from attack or to protect a core interest. The congressional power to declare war, if it is not to be a dead letter, has to apply here. And it seems to me exceedingly unlikely that Congress would vote to commit us in Syria, because the public manifestly opposes it. This is a war with no clear objective, thus no strategy to attain it, no legal basis, and no public support. I dissent.’

Related On This Site: …From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’James Kirchik At The American Interest: 

Michael Totten’s piece that revisits a Robert Kaplan piece from 1993, which is prescient:  “A Writhing Ghost Of A Would-Be Nation”.  It was always a patchwork of minority tribes, remnants of the Ottoman Empire

I just received a copy of Totten’s book, Where The West Ends, and it’s good reading.

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

Liberal Internationalism is hobbling us, and the safety of even the liberal internationalist doctrine if America doesn’t lead…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Friday Quotation From Samuel Huntington

Dexter Filkins on the chemical weapons likely used by al-Assad against his own people in the Eastern suburbs of Damascus 

A quote from this piece over at the Atlantic: From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

Although the professional soldier accepts the reality of never-ending and limited conflict, “the liberal tendency,” Huntington explained, is “to absolutize and dichotomize war and peace.” Liberals will most readily support a war if they can turn it into a crusade for advancing humanistic ideals. That is why, he wrote, liberals seek to reduce the defense budget even as they periodically demand an adventurous foreign policy.”

I’ll keep putting it up, as it’s so relevant. A few central quotes from this article here:

Huntington was instinctively a conservative because he valued an ordered society, but he also championed conservatism as a necessary instrument to defend liberal institutions against communism. In many of his books he attacked idealistic liberals for holding such institutions to impossible, utopian standards that undermined their effectiveness in the world.”

and:

“An iconoclast to the core, Huntington never threw his lot in with left or right. He was too statist to be a libertarian, too realist to embrace neoconservatism, and too sympathetic to nationalism, religion and the military to identify with liberal Democrats. As a conservative Democrat, then, he is an intellectual rarity.”

Too late to act with lower risk and higher gain? Ralph Peters At The NY Post: ‘Too Late For Syria’Fareed Zakaria On Youtube: ‘Stay Out Of Syria’

Joshua Landis’ blog here.

Al Jazeera live blog on Syria here.

Interesting paper here.

Update And Repost: Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

A Few Thoughts On Foreign Policy-Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘Conservative Principles Of World Order’

See Also:  Google books has ‘Political Order In Changing Societies‘ and ‘Who Are We?:  The Challenges To America’s National Identity‘  (previews)available.

Huntington’s page at Harvard here.  Reihan Salam has a short piece here.

Also On This Site: Francis Fukuyama, a neconservative up until the Iraq War or so, student of Huntington’s, and author off The End Of History, has a view that modernization and Westernization are more closely united.  Yet Fukuyama envisions a Western State which has an endpoint that the minds of men might be able to know.   This breaks with Karl Marx’s end point of Communism rising from the ashes of capitalism, is more Hegelian via Alexander Kojeve in Paris, and advocates for a State that ought to be bigger than it is now in the U.S.  This requires a more moral bureaucratic class to lead us here at home and perhaps an almost one worlder-ish type Super-Government for all.  Can you see limited government, life, liberty and property from here?:  From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonFrom Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’