A Few Links To Afghanistan & Thoughts On American Leadership

Part of the American response to 9/11 was emotionally driven, defensive but deeply focused. Practical, even: That horrible attack left a scar, and at the time, it hurt bad enough to know it would leave a scar. More scars might be coming.

The lawless FATA region in Northwest Pakistan, and Afghanistan under the Taliban, were harboring globally acting Al Qaeda terrorists, who’d planned and carried out the 9/11 attack. They had training camps to prepare and plot their next moves.

Afghanistan also has some strategic importance relative to Pakistan, Pakistan and India, and China (Belt and Road), to name a few. But, largely, it was about hunting down the bastards who did the deed.

Afghanistan is deeply poor, deeply backwards relative to the West, and deeply divided geographically and culturally. Pakistan and their ISI played American interests from the start (given their interests, I wouldn’t expect too much more).

Not long after invading Afghanistan, our American political leadership directed American military resources to Iraq. The mission of keeping the coalition in Afghanistan together lost a lot of focus and resources. Semi-occupation also required all kinds of misapplied military protectionism, and ridiculous rules.

From the child-buggery, to working as poppy protection, to seeing some of the dysfunction and brutality up close, our servicemen saw a lot of shit. This is where my primary loyalty lies.

So, we can’t really hold Afghanistan together and it may become costly, indeed, to again have the Taliban keeping Afghanistan together at some point in the future.

As for here at home: The cultural tides of equality at high prices, putting so many carts before so many horses, checking all the diversity boxes…now affects a lot of American military decision-making.

We might not be done with failure, here.

Just to cheer you up.

A pretty worst case: Using the Platonic model from The Republic, there really aren’t that many models of governance in human affairs, or perhaps, the more things change, the more they stay the same:

(Timarchy (military honor is the highest good)–>decay into Oligarchy (the City’s coffers and wealth are the highest good)–>decay into Democracy (freedom is the highest good as the Demos come to rule)–>decay into Tyranny and a return to the tyrant’s order as the highest good (the tyrant being the worst master of his passions).

Rinse and repeat.

I look around and see people, with good reasons, convinced our leadership deserves little to no authority (once much of the trust and competence is gone, leaving institutional strivers and pole-climbers…it’s tough to make the case).

So many emperors, so little clothing.

I doubt I could do much better.

Alas, Dear Reader, everyone takes the limits of their field of vision for the limits of the world.

Help me see anew.

Benjamin Jowett’s translation of Plato’s Republic can be found here.

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.… Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What The MSM Is Failing To Tell You’

Full piece here.

‘Hizballah is an Iranian proxy operating for many years now in and out of Lebanon and, more recently, in Syria. Its past forays have extended all the way to Buenos Aires, and not long ago to Bulgaria. It is part of an Iranian-supported, and in many cases Iranian-directed, network that also includes several murderous Shi’a militias operating on Iraqi territory.’

Now that Syria and Iraq have fallen apart, and ISIS is filling in, Hizbollah, what’s left of Assad’s regime, and higher-up Iranians are managing what they can of their interests, and continue to run guns, ideology, influence, and terror, if necessary, around the region, and further afield:

This particularly threatens the Saudis and the Israelis:

‘…contrary to what most Westerners think they understand, Saudi Arabia from the start has been a ruling biumverate: The Al-Saud has worked the temporal, political side, and the Al-Wahhab has worked the spiritual, religious side. Each respects the others’ domain. We care about the Al-Saud because we see succession in the Al-Saud part of this arrangement, but we don’t know the names of and don’t pay any attention to changes in the Al-Wahhab part.

Why do these people care about what we think, one way or the other:

‘Great powers are in the protection business. The United States, as a great power, deserves a more formal and less misanthropic description of the same thing: U.S. grand strategy since the end of World War II has included prominently the suppression of security competitions in the world’s main regions, so as to minimize opportunities for would-be regional hegemons—the Soviet Union in Europe and the People’s Republic of China in Asia—to profit from mayhem.’

Now that we’ve pulled out…

‘And the United States? It’s too late. Having abdicated responsibility to suppress such a major regional security competition, there is no way now to get back to relative stability. Not that it would have been easy or cheap for the Obama Administration to do its duty effectively, and not that its predecessor did not make the situation worse; but abdication is now yielding bad and much more expensive options, whether of passivity or activity, in all directions. At least for the duration of the Obama Administration, respect for American power and trust in American judgment are all but gone. We have made ourselves, in effect, spectators; we are not likely, however, to enjoy the show.’

That’s a vital issue as to what this last election in the U.S. was about:  Will we lead?  To whom, to which ideas or principles, organizations and institutions, laws and contracts do we entrust our interests and military capabilities?  With whom can we do business?

*What about all the budgetary waste and undoubted overspending in D.C?

What about an unadventurous foreign policy, but still very risky nonetheless?

-Dexter Filkins on Iran here.

-Scowcroft and Brzezinski may be offering plans, but they were conditional and required competence: ‘George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’

Which Ideas Are Guiding Our Foreign Policy With Iran.’ Some Saturday Links On Iran-Peace At What Price?

Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-Semitism

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

From The American Interest:’ China’s Lust For Life’

Full piece here.

Our author reviews Evan Osnos’ book about his 8 years spent living on the ground in China:

‘For its part, the government seems to be making efforts to get a grasp on public opinion, though they stem more from its need to buttress its own chances of survival than from any democratic instinct. Attempts at opinion polling have not gone well, mainly because most Chinese are wary about voicing criticism of the government to a stranger on the phone. Nevertheless, there is the sense that the leaders are aware that the ground is shifting. They just don’t know where it is shifting to—and no one else does, either. There is an obsession with establishing the “central melody” of the current culture, but the tune keeps slipping away.’

As previously posted:

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(Q & A starts at about minute 6:20)

This blog is still trying to better understand China.  Troost traveled for months around the country, went with the flow, and wrote about his experiences.

The book comes highly recommended.

Some takeaways:  China’s undergoing rapid, almost seething, sociological, economic, and some political change (we’ll see how that pans out given the old Communist state structure and involvement in the economy).  It’s got over a billion people, a huge landmass, and a long history, and can make individuals feel very small indeed.

Interview with Troost here (via Althouse).

Fascinating piece here.

What’s life like in Beijing for an American editing an English-language Business Magazine?

Interesting quote on author Eveline Chao’s censor:

‘I understood then the mundane nature of all that kept her in place. A job she didn’t like, but worked hard to keep. A system that would never reward her for good work, only punish her for mistakes. And in exchange: Tutors. Traffic. Expensive drumming lessons. They were the same things that kept anyone, anywhere, in place — and it was the very ordinariness of these things that made them intractable.’

Related On This Site: Kissinger says our relations with China are incredibly fragile, and that due to its own past, it may not fit as easily into the Western models of statecraft as some would think: From The Online WSJ: ‘Henry Kissinger on China. Or Not.’

From The WSJ-Exclusive: ‘Eric Schmidt Unloads On China In New Book’

From The China Daily Mail: ‘The Cultures Of North Korea And China: Conflict Escalation Explained’

Over a billion people and a culturally homogenous Han core.  Rapid industrialization atop an ancient civilization.  There is state-sponsored hacking and espionage, a good bit of corruption and a lot of young men floating around fast-growing cities.   There are people fighting for their freedoms, better laws, and making their way forward.  There is an often lawless, ruthless capitalism (and hefty State involvement and cronyism) and it will take smart leadership to maintain steady growth. Can they do it?  TED Via Youtube: Martin Jacques ‘Understanding The Rise Of China’From Foreign Affairs: ‘The Geography Of Chinese Power’From Via Media At The American Interest: ‘History Made; Media Blind’From The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?’

Two Links From The American Interest & It’s Willer Time

Adam Garfinkle (as of July 11th) at the American Interest on ISIS/ISIL, the Kurds, the Iranian regime (the U.S. position can’t allow deliverable nukes for Iran, the Iranian regime is by hook or by crook aiming for deliverable nukes):

‘Do not go soft in the P5+1 negotiations, do not erode the sanctions regime further, and be prepared to build it back up if Iranian behavior warrants; keep repeating the determination that Iran will not have nuclear weapons and that all options remain on the table to prevent it; prepare multi-level economic warfare plans short of kinetic strikes, not to exclude naval blockades; intercept Iranian arms shipments to insurgents in the region and, perhaps, once unloaded, sink the ships; reveal Assad’s chemical weapons declaration to have been bogus; quickly and significantly aid the FSA to do real harm to Iran’s Alawi allies in Damascus; and, above all, use the current ISIS crisis to harm Iran for the longer term.’

This blog is generally sympathetic to Kurdish aims, but in the wake of Iraq we have other interests to balance: Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests? Longer odds, lots of risk: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

Four More Months-The White House & The Iranian Regime

Walter Russell Mead is not happy with the media’s investment in a certain narrative: ‘As Libya Implodes, “Smart Diplomacy” Becoming A Punch Line:

‘But luckily for Team Obama, the mainstream press would rather die than subject liberal Democrats to the critiques it reserves for the GOP. So instead, as Libya writhes in agony, reputations and careers move on. The news is so bad, and the President’s foreign policy is collapsing on so many fronts, that it is impossible to keep the story off the front pages.’

And now for something to wash all that down.  Pretty much unrelated.

It’s Willer Time:

Four More Months-The White House & The Iranian Regime

Secretary Of State John Kerry has announced a four month extension of the initial preliminary talks with Iran, stretching them until November 24th:

Claudia Rosett is unhappy with language coming from the White House, worried that we’ve already legitimized too much.

It’s tough to see what happens in the next four months that hasn’t happened already:

The phrase is absurd. Iran’s nuclear program is manifestly not about peace. If it were, there would have been no need for Iran’s collaboration with Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan nuclear network, no need for secretly built Iranian enrichment facilities, no need for Iran’s years of maneuvering under sanctions, no need for Iran’s work on long-range missiles to deliver nuclear weapons, no need for the whole vast elaborate web of deceits and dodges and ploys with which Iran has built its nuclear program. There would be no need now for months and months of multi-tiered haggling in Vienna with the U.S., Britain, France and Germany (and, nominally, with China and Russia — which have managed the trick of both supplying materiel to Iran’s nuclear program, and bargaining over the results). There would be no need for secrecy. There would be no need for any more Iranian nuclear program going forward. Iran’s regime could dismantle its entire nuclear kit, and amuse itself with developing the country’s vast wealth of oil and gas.’

Click through for more.

It’s hard to see from here how the divide gets bridged:  An Iran which sees nuclear enrichment and weapons as a right, a big stick, and a matter of national destiny, and a U.S. that sees an Iran with nuclear weapons as fundamentally unacceptable.

In Iran, you’ve got a theocratic, repressive regime which sponsors terrorism far beyond its borders, props up Assad and runs guns to Hamas and various others. This is a deep State largely controlled by an Islamic revolutionary security apparatus which squelches domestic political opposition, spies on its citizens, and has been known to murder and jail dissenters and opponents. There are some democratic elements, journalists, and many business interests in Iranian society, of course, bumping up against the Baseej, the Supreme Leader and the theocracy, but they don’t have too much control over their country.

It was argued that with newly elected Hassan Rouhani as President, this was the best chance for something to happen.

By and large, we’re out on a limb with a crafty, authoritarian regime at the end of the day, generally not to be taken at its word most of the time but which probably acts in what can be recognized as rational ways (aiming for regional domination and nuclear weapons as a matter of national destiny, for starters).

I keep putting this quote up 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.”

What about an unadventurous foreign policy, but still very risky nonetheless?

-Dexter Filkins on Iran here.

-Scowcroft and Brzezinski may be offering plans: ‘George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’

Which Ideas Are Guiding Our Foreign Policy With Iran.’ Some Saturday Links On Iran-Peace At What Price?

Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-Semitism

Two Friday Links On Ukraine

We don’t necessarily want a continuation of the Cold War, but understanding the strategic realities The Cold War created is as vital as ever. The younger generation in Ukraine, as well as a lot of people in the West, are getting a hard lesson in Putin’s power politics.

Young Ukranians have yet to taste the economic possibilities of getting a job in a growing economy without living amidst the corruption and cronyism of a rotten, post-Soviet oligarchical no-man’s land.  They have yet to learn how to build and defend institutions that can secure their liberties against Putin’s aggression, and also protect them from the ethnic, linguistic, and historical strife within.

And now the Russian bootheel is back.

I think we ought to be pretty clear about where we stand on Ukrainian aspirations for such an economy, such liberties and the possible development of such institutions.  We have many strategic interests at stake here, despite our clear limitations.

The drift of the current U.S. administration is sending many messages, and not just to Ukranians.

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The Cold War strategists are still around:

Henry Kissinger At The Washington Post: ‘How The Ukraine Crisis Ends:’

‘Putin should come to realize that, whatever his grievances, a policy of military impositions would produce another Cold War. For its part, the United States needs to avoid treating Russia as an aberrant to be patiently taught rules of conduct established by Washington. Putin is a serious strategist — on the premises of Russian history. Understanding U.S. values and psychology are not his strong suits. Nor has understanding Russian history and psychology been a strong point of U.S. policymakers’

Adam Garfinkle at The American Interest talks with Zbigniew Brzezinski: ‘Coping With Crimea: In Ukraine And Beyond

‘It’s hard to understand how Putin could calculate that doing what he did in Crimea would make the Ukrainians more supine toward him in Kiev. So unless it’s a sudden burst of poorly calculated activism, the Crimea operation could be the first stage of a series of steps he’s planning, perhaps to create exploitable unrest in eastern Ukraine. The aim would be to demonstrate that Ukraine is falling into anarchy, thereby making a case for a wider Russian intervention, and then we’re back to having to ask ourselves: “How do we react to make that not happen, and if it does happen, how do we make it ‘

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Vice link from a reader:

From Foreign Affairs: ‘How China Is Ruled’

Full post here. (subscription required)

‘Of course, the revolution that began with Deng has not been revolutionary in one important sense: the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has maintained its monopoly on political power. Yet the cliché that China has experienced economic reform but not political reform in the years since 1977 obscures an important truth: that political reform, as one Chinese politician told me confidentially in 2002, has “taken place quietly and out of view.”

I wanted to pair that with some traveling on the ground.

—————

(Q & A starts at about minute 6:20)

This blog is still trying to better understand China.  J. MaartenTroost traveled for months around the country, went with the flow, and wrote about his experiences.

The book comes highly recommended.

Some takeaways:  China’s undergoing rapid, almost seething, sociological, economic, and some political change.  It’s got over a billion people, a huge landmass, and a long history.

Interview with Troost here (via Althouse).

Fascinating piece here.

Walter Russell Mead back when Hu Jintao was still in power:.

‘Americans, contemplating our policies in Asia and our ideological approach to Chinese communism, see us as promoting a stable status quo that ought to appeal to the Chinese.  President Hu and many Chinese leaders see things very differently: the status quo is a dagger aimed at China’s heart. Our very moderation is a sophisticated form of aggression.’

This is a relationship of mutual economic dependence, potential conflict and strategic complexity.  Keep an eye on Asia.

Related On This Site: Kissinger says our relations with China are incredibly fragile, and that due to its own past, it may not fit as easily into the Western models of statecraft as some would think: From The Online WSJ: ‘Henry Kissinger on China. Or Not.’

Obama’s Decision On Missile Defense And A Quote From Robert Kagan’s: ‘The Return Of History And The End Of Dreams’…A Kantian raft?: Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

From The WSJ-Exclusive: ‘Eric Schmidt Unloads On China In New Book’

From The China Daily Mail: ‘The Cultures Of North Korea And China: Conflict Escalation Explained’

Over a billion people and a culturally homogenous Han core.  Rapid industrialization atop an ancient civilization.  There is state-sponsored hacking and espionage, a good bit of corruption and a lot of young men floating around fast-growing cities.   There are people fighting for their freedoms, better laws, and making their way forward.  There is an often lawless, ruthless capitalism (and hefty State involvement and cronyism) and it will take smart leadership to maintain steady growth. Can they do it?  TED Via Youtube: Martin Jacques ‘Understanding The Rise Of China’From Foreign Affairs: ‘The Geography Of Chinese Power’From Via Media At The American Interest: ‘History Made; Media Blind’From The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?’

Some Saturday Iran Links

Stephen Schwartz, via the Center For Islamic Pluralism, is not happy about the deal nor the Syrian part of the equation:

The White House celebrates an Iranian “interim nuclear deal” that, like the Syrian chemical weapons deal, ignored Iran and Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria. Predictably, Al-Assad was thrilled by the outcome of Iran’s Geneva performance. Al-Assad, official Syrian media crowed, “saw that Iran’s achievement will reflect on Syria due to the strategic relation between the two countries. President [Hassan] Rouhani, for his part, reaffirmed Iran’s standing by Syria.”

Perhaps it’s safe to assume that Putin’s going to do what’s best for Putin, Assad for Assad, and Rouhani and the mullahs for Rouhani and the mullahs.  These are people with whom we can barely do business, if at all.

Walter Russell Mead and his staff remain skeptical.  Remember, this deal is a first tentative step in which the Iranian regime will be expected to meet many conditions.  What have they sacrificed so far?

‘As it stands, Iran looks to be emerging from the sanctions saga with the upper hand. Its influence is spreading and its clients succeeding, from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon. Foreign Minister Zarif is currently on a tour of the Gulf, looking to expand that clout by mending and strengthening financial links and touting Iranian diplomatic prestige. This is not the behavior of a country that has just ruefully acquiesced to western demands.’

One of the more positive pieces I could find comes from Foreign Affairs.   What needs to be done in the meantime if the deal’s going to survive?:

‘Washington must therefore convince the Gulf States that it is committed not only to halting Iran’s nuclear program but also to containing Iran’s principal means of projecting regional influence through asymmetric operations. This would likely take the form of intelligence collaboration and prosecutions that target the Gulf operations of Iranian proxies such as Hezbollah and military units such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — both of which engage in violence, subversion, and terrorism outside Iran’

A lot of leadership, diplomacy, and engagement are required.

Addition:  It’s easy to envision many ways in which this will break-down into a much more volatile and difficult situation for our interests.

Stephen Biddle At Foreign Affairs: ‘Ending The War In Afghanistan’

Full piece here.

Biddle pushes for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban:

‘The international coalition fighting in Afghanistan has long planned on handing over responsibility for security there to local Afghan forces. But the original idea was that before doing so, a troop surge would clear the Taliban from strategically critical terrain and weaken the insurgency so much that the war would be close to a finish by the time the Afghans took over. That never happened. The surge made important progress, but the tight deadlines for a U.S. withdrawal and the Taliban’s resilience have left insurgents in control of enough territory to remain militarily viable well after 2014. Afghan government forces will thus inherit a more demanding job than expected.’

There’s much reluctance at home, from bitterly bipartisan politics and deficit spending battles to isolationism and war exhaustion, as to why we should still be in Afghanistan (and addressing the AfPak issue, really).  Much of the fighting there has been pretty nasty for our troops with the enemy either dug-in or easily melting away across the border into Pakistan.

The primary objective was clearly getting bin-Laden and breaking up his network.  We wanted to inflict a real cost on them.  To do that it was decided that the Taliban, with roots in the mujahideen against the Soviets in 1979, as factions of Islamically purist warlords, needed to be removed from power without making war with Afghans nor other Muslims necessarily.  The Taliban have been cleared away for awhile, and coalition forces have gotten rid of bin-Laden, and while I’ve heard the Al Qaeda network still has presence over the border in the FATA region of Pakistan, basic conditions on the ground haven’t changed that much:  The Taliban are pretty much expected to fill right back in, and groups sympathetic to bin-Laden enough to fight alongside, shelter and harbor him are still likely going be active throughout the region.

How do we prevent this region from remaining a haven for terrorist activity?

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.  Any thoughts and comments are welcome:

Canadian documentarian Louie Palu covered the Kandahar region of southwest Afghanistan, where much of the fiercest fighting has occurred, and where the British, Soviets and coalition forces have fought.

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And again here’s Zbigniew Brzezinski on a brief visit with the Taliban in 1979, in a rather ‘conspiratorial’ video.  You do what  you’ve gotta do, sometimes:

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Related On This SiteFrom March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanStephen Biddle At Foreign Affairs: ‘Running Out Of Time For Afghan Governance Reform’

Repost-From Michael Yon: ‘The Battle For Kandahar’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Monday Quotations-Henry KissingerTom Ricks Via Foreign Policy: ‘American General Dies In Afghanistan; An American Lt. Col. Goes Off The Reservation

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