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Bob's World
12-29-2013, 07:11 PM
Moderator's Note

This thread was in the Operation Iraqi Freedom arena and on a quick review is a far more general topic so moved here (ends).


People enjoy comparing Afghanistan to Vietnam. Some comparisons fit, many do not. I believe it is high time to explore some other comparisons in a manner that may help us to better understand a family of conflicts, past and present. That family is Resistance.

The two case studies that most of the Small Wars Council community are very versed in for this thread are WWII and the ongoing US War on Terrorism. The core (rooted in human nature) dynamic that I would like to explore is the natural tendency for a foreign, and therefore illegitimate, occupation to trigger a resistance response in the populations affected by the same.

A resistance insurgency is very different than a revolutionary insurgency. The first is a continuation of war - where one system of governance seeks to coerce its will over another, where the government and army have been defeated, and only the population remain in the fight. Resistance is war.

A revolutionary insurgency, however, is internal to a single system of governance. Like the division of a cell, revolutionary insurgency occurs when some segment of the population comes to feel compelled to coerce through illegal (and often very violent) ways political change on the domestic system of governance over them. Such conflict is best thought of as civil emergency, rather than war, as it is largely an act of illegal democracy where legal democracy either does not exist or is inadequate to the task. If such a "cell" ultimately divides and new governance and army forms around the dissident population, such a civil emergency then, and only then, becomes civil war.

Below is a response I posted this earlier today on a thread on the Small Wars Journal:
http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/how-bin-laden-escaped-in-2001-the-lessons-of-tora-bora


In a court of law this entire thread is what might be called "relevant, but immaterial" (in that the information, while interesting and applicable to the case at hand, in no way helps resolve said case).

At a tactical level AQ is a pain in the ass. Tactically they are "a threat." They came to our country, they murdered our citizens, and while they did so in a war-like way, it was plain old, garden variety mass murder and we need to bring justice to those who perpetrated the act, and peace to those who suffered a tragic loss from that same act. Acting like a proverbial elephant with an irrational fear of mice, tromping all over any place where we think mice might hide with little regard to the impression that is creating in the minds of those innocently affected by our tromping is not making us safer. Quite the opposite, in fact.

At a strategic level AQ is a symptom. Just as the Treaty of Versailles made a future war with Germany inevitable, so too did the US decision to let the programs, policies and relationships nurtured during 45 years of Cold War manipulations in the Middle East to simply ride into the future make conflict with the people of that region inevitable as well. The explosion of information technology was an accelerant. Like the collision of a cold (war) front and a warm front over a sea of the people - it brewed a perfect storm.

In the first case, if not Hitler and the Nazi ideology it would have been someone else with some other rallying message. In the second case, if not AQ and their Islamist ideology it would have been someone else with some similar message (Islam-based ideology seems to be the only flavor that works in the Middle East for rallying people to illegal political action).

Resistance insurgency is a natural human response. While it is easy to appreciate why Hitler triggered this human response in every single country he invaded during WWII (and to some degree we even concede why we triggered resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan), we have a harder time appreciating that not every inappropriate, illegitimate "occupation" need be physical. I think we understand the rise of AQ and the resonance their message has had across the greater Middle East in the post-Cold War era best if we consider the possibility that one can trigger this human response through an "occupy by policy" as well as by the more traditional physical occupations we normally associate with resistance movements.

Why is this important? Because if we want to reduce the likelihood of terrorism against the US we must address the source of energy fueling the problem in the first place. Widespread CT operations and invasions of nations we see as supporting or facilitating the UW operations AQ has been conducting to leverage this resistance energy have served primarily to make that energy stronger. Symptoms must be mitigated, not defeated. To attempt to defeat symptoms ignores the problem and allows it to grow unchecked at best - at worst, and we have been bad, such efforts make the problem worse and accelerate its growth.

In many ways, much of what President Obama has been doing in regards to turning his back on Mubarak, tempering the use of drones, looking for diplomatic solutions to Syria, acting in ways that tend to piss off Cold War partners such as the Israelis and the Saudis in general - all have done far more to reduce the energy of this occupation by policy than all of our military efforts over the past 12 years combined. The boss has good instincts, but we have no strategy to provide the framework or narrative necessary to guide and communicate the logic of those actions.

If we want to get to better results, we need to redefine the problem and then devise new strategies. Working harder and faster to execute flawed perspectives focused on symptoms, or rehashing 12-year old battles, is not going to help us finally turn the corner on this problem.

RCJ

Did the victors of WWI provoke an inevitable WWII by their occupation by policy of Germany through the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles?

Did the victors of the Cold War provoke an inevitable War on Terrorism and associated Arab Spring by their decision to largely leave in place in the Middle East the policies, practices and relationships nurtured during and in support of activities designed to contain the Soviet Union?

Do men like Osama bin Laden and Adolf Hitler "cause" these types of conflicts, or are they simply opportunists who, like Mao so eloquently said about his role in China, "saw a parade and leapt in front"?

Do ideologies - be it Nazism, Communism, Islamism, or any other "ism" radicalize otherwise content populations to rise in illegal conflict, or are these simply effective tunes tailored to help a particular "parade" march in step?

I believe we need to refocus the debate. We have debated the branches of these types of conflicts to death. The roots, however, we tend to gloss over. After all, it is uncomfortable to confront the very real possibility that these are roots we planted ourselves.

AmericanPride
12-30-2013, 05:44 AM
Did the victors of WWI provoke an inevitable WWII by their occupation by policy of Germany through the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles?

"Inevitable" is too deterministic. I think it's generally accepted that the termination conditions of WWI did not resolve all of the outstanding issues in Europe, and also created new conditions for conflict. The Great Depression had an equally (or more?) important impact on the political and economic conditions that facilitated the success of Nazism. Germany survived World War I, unlike Russia, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. But this question is also one with an implied structural theoretical base: did the individuals in politics and business matter at all to the outcome? And lastly, the agenda of the Nazi Party was not only the reversal of the Versailles Treaty, but also the establishment of a new German Empire in Europe itself. What about the end of WW1 prompted an imperial/colonial focus in Europe instead of Africa or Asia? Did those same conditions make it easier for the Nazis to succeed than other right-wing and left wing factions (particularly the socialists)? The Nazis were adeptly organized and by 1933 they had forged a number of key political and business alliances that propelled them to power. The other question is: was Nazi policy deliberate from start to finish, or did it evolve as the party gained power and became entangled in another world war? I forget which one, but one of the Werhmacht field marshals after the war basically started that none of them anticipated the invasion of Poland to start a global war.


Did the victors of the Cold War provoke an inevitable War on Terrorism and associated Arab Spring by their decision to largely leave in place in the Middle East the policies, practices and relationships nurtured during and in support of activities designed to contain the Soviet Union?

Same thoughts as above, although Islamism was already on the ascent since the final failure of the Arab nationalists in 1973. I think the end of Arab nationalism as a credible political force had more to do with the emergence of Islamism than anything else. I think globalization (proliferation of weapons, technologies, communication, etc) contributed more significantly to Islamism's successes since then.



Do ideologies - be it Nazism, Communism, Islamism, or any other "ism" radicalize otherwise content populations to rise in illegal conflict, or are these simply effective tunes tailored to help a particular "parade" march in step?

I think this is an important and deep question. First, ideologies don't emerge in a vacuum and it's difficult to predict which ideas will catch fire or how they will evolve over time. It's been argued that the ideological origins of Nazism can be traced to the mid 19th century. Of course, communism can be traced back to the writings of Marx in the same time period -- all before the emergence of a unified Germany, the rise of the US, and the two World Wars. How could anyone predict that these ideologies would more or less shape the second half of the 20th century? But it's also important to note that Marx himself argues that ideological reproduction is function of a system's political economy; in other words, the material system exists first and from it emerges an ideology to sustain it. In my view, this is probably the most accurate; people willingly believe what they wish to explain the world around them. The more desperate they are, the more radical the ideas will be. When times were good in the Weimar Republic, the Nazi party struggled to find support among the electorate. That changed with the Great Depression.

Bob's World
12-30-2013, 10:06 AM
Certainly no particular set of facts or outcomes involving people are "inevitable," after all, we have free will to make decisions and the specific facts and cultural factors will always be unique. Versailles and the lesser known companion treaties, however, created an effect at the human nature level making some form of conflict inevitable.

But these are perceptions that can only be assessed through the lens of those on the receiving end of such an "occupation by policy."

Many on the winning side thought these treaties reasonable and necessary to prevent the very war they ultimately provoked. Likewise most Americans and Middle Eastern leaders either swept up in, or scrambling to ward off, Arab Spring, found the idea of sustaining the status quo emerging from the Cold War reasonable as well.

Common to both examples is that no one asked or gave serious consideration to how the people affected by these decisions felt.

OUTLAW 09
12-30-2013, 12:30 PM
Robert-what is interesting is the failure of Arab nationalism in the 70s and 80s vs say the rise of Sunni and Shia fundamentalism development since then-- especially Iran since 1979.

We often tend to focus on the AQ salafist side of the Sunni house and we speak of the Wahhabi Saudi influence with say FFs but I would say the last 12 years we tended to ignore the real differences between Sunni and Shia Islam.

During the last 12 years Saudi fundamentalism has in fact become the defacto Sunni standard across all Sunni Muslim populations especially in the political arena. While at the same time Shia fundamentalism is really a copy of what the Sunni's were doing as Khomeini attempted to become the overall leader of the Islamic world by using Sunni fundamentalism messaging-which he failed in because he could not bridge the gap of being a Shia and an Iranian in the eyes of the Sunni.

So what we now have in the ME is IMO a true clash between Sunni fundamentalism and Shia fundamentalism which is occurring in Syria as Syria is the key in the view of the Sunni fundamentalists in stopping the Shia expansion started by Khomeini and which is still is being continued by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards who view themselves the defenders of the Shia faith worldwide.

What concerns me is that we the US seem to want to sidestep this Islamic development as it is messy, complicated, has cost us a large amount of cash and lives on both sides and it does not lend itself to easy solutions that fit in a 30 second TV message. And it is equally difficult to explain to the US public who has been paying for it for the last 12 years.

It is now hard to say we screwed up and now we have to change directions---with our current divided political camps what politician is going to venture out with that messaging?

Also look at our think tanks and all of their messaging---who wants to lose one's funding stream by saying --just maybe we went the wrong direction.

Overall the ME population is working it out at the cost of thousands of killed and injured and we the US simply stand by---in some aspects our actions even recent actions are reinforcing the message that it is also not only the Shia fundamentalism that is problem for the Sunni --it is also our actions that are reinforcing the image that the US is actually siding with the Shia---if one really does take the time to read the recent AQ General Guidance for Jihad (Sept 2013) we could in fact be declared the "near enemy" and right now AQ is having success against the "near enemy".

What also concerns me is the side lining of the secular Sunni which is really a large part of the international Sunni population especially among the young and elites---we see this playing out now in Turkey.

We also see it playing our in Germany and France which have rather large Muslim populations--in Berlin there are districts under control of one or two Arabic clans/families/tribes using Sharia law to settle disputes---meaning in those districts the German judicial system which is the linchpin of Germany democracy is being undermined by Islam---already leading to increased neo Nazi backlash-which by the way is growing-and as well a growing concern for German politicians (from both major parties) who are also voicing the same concerns.

In France it is causing a large growth in the right wing as well.

In order to understand the ME it is time to fully understand Islamic fundamentalism (Sunni and Shia), why it occurs, how it is occurring and our role in driving that development---it is no longer just about AQ nor has it really been about AQ.

Islam is not going away any time soon.

Bob's World
12-30-2013, 12:43 PM
In short, it isn't all about us. Yet when our policy is deemed as excessively inappropriate we generate a resistance effect that focuses negative energy in our direction.

Just as the information age created by the printing press opened an era of political and religious (religion being a tool of government) evolution; so too is the modern info age affecting the ME.


When our policy is a fusion of status quo of governance and promotion of Western values in an era of massive upheaval and political/religious evolution, how can there not be conflict?

AmericanPride
12-30-2013, 03:21 PM
Bob,

I think we also have to be careful in categorizing all opposition ideologies or factions as passive. Granted, in many cases, US actions and policies generate resistance, but Western democratic capitalism is not the only ideological force driving for change. With the complexity of ideology and it's evolution over many decades (in some cases, centuries, like Christianity), it's hard to predict which will catch fire and which won't. Nobody expected a communist state in Russia, not even Marx, who predicted revolution would come in the most advanced capitalist economies first. But that never happened, not even in Germany's defeat in WWI. So I think we should be careful in comparing the global momentum of ideologies with the specific opportunities that emerge in conflict itself. There's always going to be an out-group, whether by design or by choice, and there will be some ideological tool kit lying around for them to pick up and use. Some have been successful with terrible results. Others, like the Unabomber, barely make a bump in history.


Versailles and the lesser known companion treaties, however, created an effect at the human nature level making some form of conflict inevitable.

Again, I take issue with the word "inevitable" since you are implying there is a direct and causative relationship between the treaty and the rise and policies of the Nazi Party. But between 1918 and 1933, the Nazis were only one of dozens of radical factions on both right and left. Did any the conditions created by the treaty make it any more likely that the Nazis would be successful not some other political faction instead?

Versailles created conflict on issues directly bearing on its issues; i.e. the Rhineland. But I don't think a direct connection can be drawn between the treaty, the specific components of the Nazi program, and the start of World War II. It wasn't the Rhineland or German demilitarization that led to World War II - it was the invasion of Poland, which was formerly Russian territory. The Nazis imposed a hard colonial regime in Eastern Europe not unlike imperialism in Africa in some regards; was that policy caused by Versailles?


Common to both examples is that no one asked or gave serious consideration to how the people affected by these decisions felt.

Yes, but to what extent did alienation drive political radicalization? And how is radicalization predictable? In other words, did decision-makers at those times have a reason to believe that their actions would lead to the historical outcomes that occurred?

Bob's World
12-30-2013, 03:42 PM
Let us be clear, I said that bad policy made conflict inevitable due to the impact those polices had upon the people they affected.

I never said that Versailles gave rise to Hitler or Nazism.

That is simply the guy who answered the bell and the ideology he applied. It could have been communism just as easily (though liberals and socialists were largely blamed for selling Germany out to the allies, so it would most likely have been some form of conservative, nationalist doctrine).

OUTLAW 09
12-30-2013, 04:30 PM
Robert---you are on to something that has gone under the last 12 or so years---what really causes a resistance insurgency and why does the population react the way it does---yes Mao and Co. help but with religion and ideologies---both have to be looked at intensively.

Kilcullen stated out with his ecosystem approach but then shifted gears when the blogs, think tanks, and others had no idea on how to use it. It is still a point to start with when discussing the development of a resistance insurgency

What I find amazing about the ME especially the Sunni/Shia divide is how the "isms" have played a major role in their fundamentalist developments and how both fed off of each other the last 20 years or so.

We talk about Arab nationalism being a factor but what we do not talk about is the deep impression made by Communism/Marxism on the various Sunni and Shia thinkers in the 60/70s and early 80s---if one does not think there was any influence---check what Khomeini ordered when the communists/leftists were removed first from the universities and then out of government---they were either killed, imprisoned and then killed or driven out of the country. We played a role as well in the killing of thousands of Iranian communists when the CIA was alleged to have passed lists containing their names knowing what the Revolutionary guards would do with the information---and we wonder why the US embassy was bombed by as was rumored shortly after the attack that it was a pay back from the KGB. This attack often does not get discussed as does the Marine bombing.

We have had our internal politics so colored by the Cold War "fight" against Communism that we forgot and or cannot now discuss in a honest fashion just what the role of the various ME Communist parties was in the development of the ME---virtually every modern Sunni/Shia thinker of the 60/70s who was fighting for self determination ie nationalism ended up in prison where they met sometimes for the first time Arab communists---and during their prison exchanges learned things like organization, living underground and population messaging at the same time learning of the similarities between the "religion of Islam" and the "ideology" of Communism/Marxism. In fact a number of ME leading communists were being jailed/killed for their political activities long before Sunnis/Shia got into the self determination fight.

Even some of Khomeini's early writings and speeches reflected communist thinking wrapped in Shiaism.

Why is it that still today we in the US have an extremely hard time discussing Communism in an open dialogue without people taking sides and threatening each other with bodily harm politically speaking of course.

To understand the ME is to understand the role of Communism in the development of Sunni/Shia fundamentalism.

TheCurmudgeon
12-30-2013, 05:25 PM
I don't know how relevant they are but I would like to offer two observations. First, I think you ought to consider "war" as a human activity first and a political activity second. Another way to look at it is that there are natural wars and political wars. Natural wars occur spontaneously from the heat of passion. Political wars are initiated for a specific political end. At its simplest, war is a blood feud between two groups. The motivation in this type of feud is revenge - revenge for an actual or perceived wrong (a murder of a member of your tribe) of such importance as to require retribution in kind on someone of the offending tribe. War is a blood feud on steroids. But the basic requirements are the same. You need two groups, one of whom has committed an offense against the other so grave that it requires retribution in blood. If you think of war this way an American does not need to be the person pulling the trigger and murdering a member of your tribe for you to seek retribution against America. They just have to be the proponent of the policy that results in the trigger being pulled. You have exactly what you describe, war by policy.

Second, I agree that the “isms” don’t matter. What does matter is the reason one “ism” or another is preferred by the population at any one time. In a political war the “ism” is either clear or largely irrelevant. In a natural war the “ism” chosen will reveal a great deal about the nature of the group. The discussions of Arab nationalist and communism is a great example. Communism as a political theory works to unite the general population who share a common burden against the elite who do not share in that burden. It is a perfect match for the idea needed to unite a traditionally disparate group (the Arab people) into a single nation against its oppressor (the "West"). Understanding that message might be helpful in crafting a response intended to co-opt the message.

OUTLAW 09
12-30-2013, 05:26 PM
Robert---the press comments from today indicated that the national decision makers attempted to talk to notice I mentioned talk to-- not talk with the Islamic Front.

But as usual---did not understand a thing of what is going on in Syria---deciding to send a third ranking individual instead of signaling a true intent by sending a high level rep---seems the DoS was against it.

It also signals to me they do not understand the players, their reasons and the Sunni/Shai fundamentalists on the ground. Sometimes "dancing with the devil" is actually a sign of respect within the fighting groups---it really is all about perceptions. But how can we gain creditability in the eyes of the Sunni fundamentalist fighting groups when we are dealing now with Iran and supplying weapons/drones to a Shia Iraq?

Sometimes just supplying weapons to the "bad side" is in effect supporting our long term goals---but supplying them without any constraints or conditions and then sometimes it takes a lot of courage to sit back and see where the dust settles---but at least from the support one does have a voice in the afterwards however small that voice is. It does though take a leap of faith---that we seem to not have.

“Alienating the Islamic Front puts the U.S. at risk of losing any leverage or influence within the armed opposition,” he said. “It’s not about whether they are good guys or bad guys. The Islamic Front is the only counterbalance to extremists in Syria. The U.S. must recognize that.”

What is with this current decision making group in DC---has 12 years of war dulled the thinking capability to see the "trees" from the forest?

OUTLAW 09
12-30-2013, 05:52 PM
Robert---you and I have often repeated here that the Sunni/Shia divide is one of Shia containment by the Saudi's---and I say it is in fact a natural Saudi fundamentalist drive that the US has not recognized or is unwilling to recognize just how deep this goes in the Saudi psyche.

If one does not think the Saudi's have not now made an inherent decision to make a stand against Iran/Shaiism---fails to see history looking them directly in the face. Just how it is that we get it so wrong-repeatedly?

Taken from a news release today and coupled with our inherent inability to talk with the Islamic Front also reported today --we are in the future just going to react to events.

"Saudi Arabia Pledges $3 Billion to Lebanon's Army
Saudi Arabia pledged $3 billion to bolster Lebanon's armed forces, in a challenge to the Iranian-allied Hezbollah militia's decades long status as Lebanon's main power broker and security force."

Hold on tight--- this development will take a lot of courage from our side to ride through--as we have elected for some reason to just be spectators.

AmericanPride
12-30-2013, 05:52 PM
Let us be clear, I said that bad policy made conflict inevitable due to the impact those polices had upon the people they affected.

I think that claim is too broad because the next obvious question is: did the "bad policy" determine the scope or intensity of the "inevitable conflict"? Why would WW2 be preordained and not a smaller, local conflict or a political conflict? And, relatedly, if the disarmanent and "occupation by policy" of Versailles made "conflict inevitable", why wasn't there a similar or more intense German reaction to the peace of WW2, which divided Germany in half, expelled millions of Germans from their homes, annexed historically German territory, disarmed the offensive capabilities of the country, and more or less ended Germany's independence as a great power? That peace was far more destructive to German power than the Versailles Treaty.

So, conflict in a broad, abstract sense is "inevitable" if there's no definitive time frame; but I think the real substance of the question is whether there's a relationship to the scope and intensity of conflict and the imposed policies.

Bob's World
12-30-2013, 05:54 PM
There are so many powerful forces in DC it is amazing we ever get anything right.

Perhaps the most powerful force is inertia. DC is still full of good Cold Warriors on both sides of the aisle who see our strategies, policies and activities of that era as what "right" looks like. What was a good idea in 1950 is hardly likely to be still a good idea in 2014 without some serious refinement applied.

There is also inertia of CT/"war"-think from the past 12 years.

Look at the budget/service battles in the Pentagon today and one sees these two forces of inertia locked in close battle, while very few speculate as to what type of military we actually need for the world we live in today and the missions, capabilities and capacities necessary to extend our messy peace into the future.

Their has also over the past 70 years been a gradual, but tremendous, shift in the relative balance of power between the Congress and the Presidency. It is no wonder all Congress seems to be able to do is quibble over which party wins the Oval Office next. Sustaining a warfighting military in peace necessay to implementing a containment strategy has enabled so many wars of presidential choice. I believe this more than any other factor has contributed to this shift of power. The Founders warned of this very effect and crafted language in the Constitution to prevent this from happening, but now we tend to think of that language as quaint or even obsolete.

Our post-Cold War National strategies have also contributed to our inability to see other people's "forests" because we have become so lost in our own. The twin pillars of sustaining the status quo under US leadership, coupled with a heavy promotion of US values at a time when virtually everyone else is seeking their own best future and turning inward to their own value systems is not a good match. The world is a come as you are party, and we need to embrace that reality. Certainly self-determination was central to our pre-Cold War strategic model.

But as I stated in the opening post:
"The boss has good instincts, but we have no strategy to provide the framework or narrative necessary to guide and communicate the logic of those actions."

We need to reframe how we think about the problems that vex us, and then we need to develop a new stategy to guide and communicate efforts in line with that understanding. We probably also are at the point where we need a national strategic plan and a HQ and staff under the Executive branch tasked to coordinate and synchronize efforts across government in the execution of that plan. Every Agency for themselves is no longer a degree of chaos we can get away with.

Bob's World
12-30-2013, 06:04 PM
I think that claim is too broad because the next obvious question is: did the "bad policy" determine the scope or intensity of the "inevitable conflict"? Why would WW2 be preordained and not a smaller, local conflict or a political conflict? And, relatedly, if the disarmanent and "occupation by policy" of Versailles made "conflict inevitable", why wasn't there a similar or more intense German reaction to the peace of WW2, which divided Germany in half, expelled millions of Germans from their homes, annexed historically German territory, disarmed the offensive capabilities of the country, and more or less ended Germany's independence as a great power? That peace was far more destructive to German power than the Versailles Treaty.

So, conflict in a broad, abstract sense is "inevitable" if there's no definitive time frame; but I think the real substance of the question is whether there's a relationship to the scope and intensity of conflict and the imposed policies.

Strategy by nature is broad. Strategy does not tell you who will lead the next war, what ideology they will employ, or what their ultimate battle plans or goals will be. But strategy can tell you when you are creating conditions that make future conflict inevitable. Human Nature is very predictable. Human Behavior is a wild card.

As to WWI and WWII the answer is simple and widely accepted. The German people perceived themselves to have been betrayed by their own government in WWI, and certainly not defeated by the Allies. In WWII the German people knew they were defeated. Also, because the West were so clearly the lesser of two evils, West Germans readily submitted to occupation by the West as it was so clearly the better alternative to submission to occupation by the Soviets.

We think people like us for who we are; more aptly they tolerate us for who we are not. We need to stop deluding ourselves to that reality.

We're like the little kid buying his mom some jewelry in a commercial running this holiday season. He dumps a handful of change on the counter, while behind him his dad shows the clerk his credit card. We think it is all about the coins we drop on the counter, and don't appreciate their are other forces at work that shape people's decisions.

AmericanPride
12-30-2013, 06:15 PM
As to WWI and WWII the answer is simple and widely accepted. The German people perceived themselves to have been betrayed by their own government in WWI, and certainly not defeated by the Allies. In WWII the German people knew they were defeated. Also, because the West were so clearly the lesser of two evils, West Germans readily submitted to occupation by the West as it was so clearly the better alternative to submission to occupation by the Soviets.

So then it appears the answer to your question is that the Versailles Treaty did not make conflict inevitable because, in your words, the "German people perceived themselves to have been betrayed by their own government and certainly not defeated by the Allies." What made conflict inevitable was this German perception.

In their defense, the Allies were aware of this problem, which is one reason why they pushed for the disarmanent of Germany after the war. So it seems that the perceived inevitably of conflict, at least in the European experience, is what created the Versailles Treaty, not the other way around.

Bob's World
12-30-2013, 06:35 PM
So then it appears the answer to your question is that the Versailles Treaty did not make conflict inevitable because, in your words, the "German people perceived themselves to have been betrayed by their own government and certainly not defeated by the Allies." What made conflict inevitable was this German perception.

In their defense, the Allies were aware of this problem, which is one reason why they pushed for the disarmanent of Germany after the war. So it seems that the perceived inevitably of conflict, at least in the European experience, is what created the Versailles Treaty, not the other way around.

You're like my dog playing tug of way with a knotted rope on this...

Why did the Germans feel betrayed? Because of the bait and switch that occurred between the armistice agreed to on 11/11/18 and the terms of the actual treaty that came several months later. Wilson's points were tossed aside and Britain, and primarily France, wanted revenge. The terms of the actual treaty were so onerous as to crush the German economy long before the Great Depression, and the German people did indeed feel betrayed by their national leaders who conceded to such terms.

If the ruling voice for crafting the treaty had been the US rather than France I suspect a far less provocative document would have emerged. For France, what went forward was perceived as reasonable, for Germany it was perceived as intollerable. The US had the lead following WWII, with very different approach with very different results based on our lessons learned from WWI

The military fights wars, but it is politicians and policy that both end and starts wars. Too often the policies designed to end one conflict become the seeds of the next.


But back to the purpose of this thread to explore the "resistance effect" within a population that is occupied, and to consider that one need not physically occupy to spark this effect, but that policy alone can be enough if those policies are perceived as excessively inappropriate and illegitimate in nature and execution.

AmericanPride
12-30-2013, 08:00 PM
But back to the purpose of this thread to explore the "resistance effect" within a population that is occupied, and to consider that one need not physically occupy to spark this effect, but that policy alone can be enough if those policies are perceived as excessively inappropriate and illegitimate in nature and execution.

My problem isn't with your claim in principle, it's with the abstractness of your claim; and so it's worth exploring the specific horizons of how bad policy (defined as "excessively inappropriate and illegimate") sparks "resistance insurgency" leading to "inevitable conflict". I think the World Wars are too complex to use to support your argument. I'm sure you could find plenty of examples in the history of imperialism in Africa that more effectively isolate the casual relationship you are claiming exists.

In your initial post, you asked: "Did the victors of WWI provoke an inevitable WWII by their occupation by policy of Germany through the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles?"

Here's the problem: "inevitable" is too deterministic. "WWII" is very specific in scope and intensity. Your question asks if the policy of Versailles directly caused the Second World War notwithstanding what occurred between 1918 and 1939. You could credibly argue that the Treaty contributed to a new conflict, but I don't think you can make the specific claim that it led to World War II as it occurred in scope and intensity (you did so at least once: "Just as the Treaty of Versailles made a future war with Germany inevitable").

In another post, when you address the differences in German resistance at the end of both World Wars, you make it clear that the Germans overcame their "natural human response" for resistance through a deliberate decision to focus on a greater enemy; in this case, the Soviet Union ("because the West were so clearly the lesser of two evils"). How do you reconcile the contradiction between a "natural human response" and the deliberate decision to ignore that natural human response? It would seem that policy makers have options other than abandoning the policy - they could create a new enemy, for example.

That said, back to the substance of your position: "policy alone can be enough [to spark the "resistance effect"] if those policies are perceived as excessively inappropriate and illegitimate in nature and execution."

You also claim that "resistance insurgency is a natural human response". If "resistance" is a "natural human response" (implying its inevitability), then to what extent should policy makers modify their policies to accomodate it? Resistance to a thing is not a sufficient indicator of the invalidty of that thing. Or is it?

So to really excavate your idea from the surrounding intellectual fodder, I think it can be more accurately described in this way:

"Policies perceived to be illegitimate may fuel armed resistance if the policies are sufficiently inappropriate. It is not necessary for direct military occupation to incite armed resistance."

OUTLAW 09
12-30-2013, 08:27 PM
Robert---went back over your comments and these items stand out--can it be so simple?

Have we at the national decision making level actually failed to see or maybe not wanted to see and understand the ME population even in the face of the points below? Answer is yes.

Have we at the national level in effect focused all our attention on AQ and not on the population? Answer is yes.

Yes the conversation has to be refocused as it is getting worse in the ME, AQ has grown well in the ME, Saudi is striking out on it's own and surprisingly is in synch with the Israeli view of Iran, Lebanon is set to explode again, Egypt will have MB problems for the coming years, Syria is the final fight for the Shia/Sunni fundamentalists, and the Arab Spring has shown us that the population is looking intently for their path forward-whatever that path will be.

The over 9K KIA and over 100K WIA in two wars demand that we find answers that explain what is happening as this area will be with us for a long while---virtually every current AQ battleground outside of the ME is religious in nature and is tied to the "isms".

1. "Did the victors of the Cold War provoke an inevitable War on Terrorism and associated Arab Spring by their decision to largely leave in place in the Middle East the policies, practices and relationships nurtured during and in support of activities designed to contain the Soviet Union?"

Part of the current problem with the national decision makers is that to refocus demands that one openly admit that we are part of the problem---that will never happen.

To accept the above comment requires one to accept the premise as it is stated-which is hard--it is hard to say we actually created UBL and AQ---it is easier to accuse them of being terrorists or religious nuts.

2. Do men like Osama bin Laden and Adolf Hitler "cause" these types of conflicts, or are they simply opportunists who, like Mao so eloquently said about his role in China, "saw a parade and leapt in front"?

UBL was an astute observer of the ME and American interactions in the ME--his beef with us went back to our be stationed in DS in Saudi Arabia.

3. ]Do ideologies - be it Nazism, Communism, Islamism, or any other "ism" radicalize otherwise content populations to rise in illegal conflict, or are these simply effective tunes tailored to help a particular "parade" march in step?[B]B]

The "isms" give the population something they can understand and drive towards especially if everything else has failed in their drive towards self determination---in some aspects that self determination is tied to jobs, ability to raise families, national respect etc and how they fit into their society as a whole.

[B]I believe we need to refocus the debate. We have debated the branches of these types of conflicts to death. The roots, however, we tend to gloss over. After all, it is uncomfortable to confront the very real possibility that these are roots we planted ourselves.

You are right---we have in effect caused our own wars by the roots that we planted in the 1950/60/70s.

Would make a great Doctoral thesis.

Bob's World
12-30-2013, 09:02 PM
"Robert---went back over your comments and these items stand out--can it be so simple?" Outlaw



"All great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope." Winston Churchill

OUTLAW 09
12-30-2013, 09:08 PM
Robert---your comments are actually very appropriate if one applies the same comments you made to the current situation in Mexico.

I would argue that actually the current problems seen in Mexico are the direct results of an unfinished revolution that did not include the population.

I would also argue that in fact the roots that caused the revolution to go unfinished were caused by our US Army military intervention which did not end until after we had declared war on the Germans during the 1st World War.

We never seem to see analysis of that particular event ie military intervention and it's impact on the population and the revolution.

slapout9
12-30-2013, 09:10 PM
Thank you...Thank you....Thank you. I have said many times that there is No difference between Communism and Radical Islamism as far as a methodology for conducting Special Warfare. They are the same... but we cannot or we will not see that...so we get beat up alot!


PS. I Highlighted certain critical parts of Outlaw 09 comments below.






We have had our internal politics so colored by the Cold War "fight" against Communism that we forgot and or cannot now discuss in a honest fashion just what the role of the various ME Communist parties was in the development of the ME---virtually every modern Sunni/Shia thinker of the 60/70s who was fighting for self determination ie nationalism ended up in prison where they met sometimes for the first time Arab communists---and during their prison exchanges learned things like organization, living underground and population messaging at the same time learning of the similarities between the "religion of Islam" and the "ideology" of Communism/Marxism. In fact a number of ME leading communists were being jailed/killed for their political activities long before Sunnis/Shia got into the self determination fight.

Even some of Khomeini's early writings and speeches reflected communist thinking wrapped in Shiaism.

Why is it that still today we in the US have an extremely hard time discussing Communism in an open dialogue without people taking sides and threatening each other with bodily harm politically speaking of course.

To understand the ME is to understand the role of Communism in the development of Sunni/Shia fundamentalism.

davidbfpo
12-30-2013, 09:45 PM
I have read the posts to date and wondered about the reverse effect of a 'no occupation policy' in the context of Western Europe, in particular the Iberian pleninsula - where in 1945 Franco ruled Spain, had been an Axis ally and next door Portugal had the Salazar dictatorship, which had eventually allied itself with the Allies.

Yes in the Cold War context both were seen as allies, providing bases notably, but politically until 1974 kept at a distance politically. Both successfully became and remain democracies - without major bloodshed.

It is a curious fact that the USSR shared occupation in Austria till 1954 IIRC; withdrew from northern Norway promptly and negoitated a semi-submissive realtionship with Finland. "Finlandisation" was a theme during the 'Cold War' about what could happen if the USSR was successful.
Yugoslavia partly freed itself, but the USSR withdrew swiftly.

Not to overlook all the countries of Eastern Europe it did occupy, each evolved a communist regime that the USSR could normally accept.

Anyway just a thought.

davidbfpo
12-30-2013, 09:48 PM
Robert---your comments are actually very appropriate if one applies the same comments you made to the current situation in Mexico.

I would argue that actually the current problems seen in Mexico are the direct results of an unfinished revolution that did not include the population.

I would also argue that in fact the roots that caused the revolution to go unfinished were caused by our US Army military intervention which did not end until after we had declared war on the Germans during the 1st World War.

We never seem to see analysis of that particular event ie military intervention and it's impact on the population and the revolution.

A better case for the 'no occupation policy' thank you.

slapout9
12-30-2013, 09:56 PM
I have read the posts to date and wondered about the reverse effect of a 'no occupation policy' in the context of Western Europe, in particular the Iberian pleninsula - where in 1945 Franco ruled Spain, had been an Axis ally and next door Portugal had the Salazar dictatorship, which had eventually allied itself with the Allies.

Yes in the Cold War context both were seen as allies, providing bases notably, but politically until 1974 kept at a distance politically. Both successfully became and remain democracies - without major bloodshed.

It is a curious fact that the USSR shared occupation in Austria till 1954 IIRC; withdrew from northern Norway promptly and negoitated a semi-submissive realtionship with Finland. "Finlandisation" was a theme during the 'Cold War' about what could happen if the USSR was successful.
Yugoslavia partly freed itself, but the USSR withdrew swiftly.

Not to overlook all the countries of Eastern Europe it did occupy, each evolved a communist regime that the USSR could normally accept.

Anyway just a thought.

The Air Force has been saying this since the end WW2 as part of the Air Power/Project Control Theory.

AmericanPride
12-30-2013, 10:09 PM
David and Slap,

Bob's thesis is that "policy alone can be enough [to spark the "resistance effect"] if those policies are perceived as excessively inappropriate and illegitimate in nature and execution." He cited World War II and the Arab Spring as examples where policies without occupation incited armed resistance as a "natural human response". As stated in my previous posts, I think the example of World War II is problematic, though I think an argument can probably be made about the Arab Spring.

So, in the examples of Mexico, Finland, Spain, and Portugal, what about the policies pressed upon them by the US or USSR were not "excessively inappropriate illegitimate in nature and execution"? In his comments about WWI and WWII, Bob stated that rational decision-making was fundamental ("the Allies were the lesser of two evils") in the German response, even though Germany survived WWI and was virtually dismantled after the second. If perception of policy is the determinant of armed resistance, what options to policy-makers have in shaping perception to co-opt resistance or must they abandon their policies?

davidbfpo
12-30-2013, 10:34 PM
David and Slap,

Bob's thesis is that "policy alone can be enough [to spark the "resistance effect"] if those policies are perceived as excessively inappropriate and illegitimate in nature and execution." He cited World War II and the Arab Spring as examples where policies without occupation incited armed resistance as a "natural human response". As stated in my previous posts, I think the example of World War II is problematic, though I think an argument can probably be made about the Arab Spring.

So, in the examples of Mexico, Finland, Spain, and Portugal, what about the policies pressed upon them by the US or USSR were not "excessively inappropriate illegitimate in nature and execution"? In his comments about WWI and WWII, Bob stated that rational decision-making was fundamental ("the Allies were the lesser of two evils") in the German response, even though Germany survived WWI and was virtually dismantled after the second. If perception of policy is the determinant of armed resistance, what options to policy-makers have in shaping perception to co-opt resistance or must they abandon their policies?

AmericanPride,

You can make a case that post-1945 US and Western European policies towards Spain especially reinforced the Franco regime. Spain took a long time to ditch its anti-US stance as a result. If anything neither country had 'policies pressed upon them by the US'. Look how long Portugal clung on to its African colonies, without US & Western European support.

I am no expert on Finnish history, but expect the Soviet oversight developed over time, e.g. leaving the naval bases on the Gulf of Finland. Plus the Finnish Communist Party was only able to get a small popular vote.

Occupation after military defeat is different from occupation when the nation-state remains viable in the perception of its citizens. Eastern Europe and Finalnd were devasted by WW2, followed by a sometimes, even often, brutal Soviet military presence e.g. Hungary 1956. 'Excessively inappropriate illegitimate in nature and execution policies' followed by the USSR and its communist partners I would contend diminished over the decades.

slapout9
12-30-2013, 11:37 PM
David and Slap,

Bob's thesis is that "policy alone can be enough [to spark the "resistance effect"] if those policies are perceived as excessively inappropriate and illegitimate in nature and execution." He cited World War II and the Arab Spring as examples where policies without occupation incited armed resistance as a "natural human response". As stated in my previous posts, I think the example of World War II is problematic, though I think an argument can probably be made about the Arab Spring.

So, in the examples of Mexico, Finland, Spain, and Portugal, what about the policies pressed upon them by the US or USSR were not "excessively inappropriate illegitimate in nature and execution"? In his comments about WWI and WWII, Bob stated that rational decision-making was fundamental ("the Allies were the lesser of two evils") in the German response, even though Germany survived WWI and was virtually dismantled after the second. If perception of policy is the determinant of armed resistance, what options to policy-makers have in shaping perception to co-opt resistance or must they abandon their policies?. I believe Ike had the proper 3 part policy. Massive retaliation at a time and place of our choosing. Which included three parts. First a strong economy at home. Second strong nuclear forces. Third strong covert action capabilites based upon plausable deniabilty.

AmericanPride
12-31-2013, 12:20 AM
Slap,


Third strong covert action capabilites based upon plausable deniabilty.

Aren't the consequences of that policy (i.e. blowback) one of the major problems highlighted by Bob's argument against "occupation by policy"? In particular, wouldn't it be "illegitimate in nature and execution" to conduct "strong covert action"?

Bob's World
12-31-2013, 01:30 AM
Certainly covert actions would be viewed as illegitimate by those they are employed against. This is a risky business, but Slap raises a good point, and added the qualifier of "plausible deniability." Of course these things can blow up in one's face. Take our actions to put the Shah in power in Iran. The Iranian people will not soon forget or forgive that bit of Cold War manipulation.

What we seem to discount, however, is that legal, totally overt actions can be equally or even more damaging to our security. Again, with Iran as an example, how do we think the Iranian people perceive the US in our hard, overt sanctions against Iran intended to deter them from developing a nuclear weapon? Even Iranians who do not believe their nation needs such weapons tend to believe even more fervently that the US has no right to curtail Iranian sovereignty to be something less than the sovereignty of those nations currently in possession of nukes.

We, being a nation of laws, tend to put too much faith in actions being ok so long as they are legal. Nothing could be further from the truth. The primary test must be one of perceived appropriateness, not legality. Often this is primarily a constraint on "how" rather than "what" one believes they need to do. The vast majority of our actions in response to the attacks of 9/11 have been legal. But the majority of our actions have also been perceived as inappropriate by those they affect and by many who watch from afar. It is the inappropriateness of our responses that is, IMO, the primary reason that for all of our tactical successes we are failing at the strategic level.

Too often we are unwilling to compromise tactical gains (that are objective, measured and reported to measure our success) in the name of attaining greater strategic gains (that are subjective, nearly impossible to measure, and therefore largely discounted in importance). How many times has President Karzai asked for reasonable constraints on tactical operations in his own country to be told "no" by the same American government that professes to be there as a guest of a sovereign nation with the mission of enhancing the legitimacy of their government? We say one thing, but then our actions have the opposite effect. We even publicly chastise President Karzai as being ungrateful when he dares to stand up for extremely reasonable sovereign rights that we would certainly demand if roles were reversed.

So our occupation of Afghanistan is both physical and by policy. And the resistance insurgency there is very strong as a result. This resistance insurgency will wane rapidly once we back off on both of those lines of provocation. (However the revolutionary insurgency against the government we elevated into power will continue regardless of what we do, we need to accept that fact as well).

slapout9
12-31-2013, 05:36 AM
Slap,



Aren't the consequences of that policy (i.e. blow back) one of the major problems highlighted by Bob's argument against "occupation by policy"? In particular, wouldn't it be "illegitimate in nature and execution" to conduct "strong covert action"?

The world is a tough place and it is going to get tougher IMO. We need covert options and operations and let somebody else take the credit and or the blame for them. Most of the world works that way anyway which is why we get beat up so much. It is the nature of Big Power Nation Politics. We need to be able to do things quietly.

Sure there will be mistakes and blow back but it is a far more realistic option than just saying we will send in the Marines and beat you up on world wide television because we are going to make the world safe for puppies, kittens and bunny rabbits. In a since the USA needs to grow up and act like an adult and not some spoiled child with a lot of money,weapons and Polly Anna beliefs.

What did that dead Chinese guy say....All war is based on deception!! sometimes he is better than that dead German guy.;)

Bill Moore
12-31-2013, 09:11 AM
The problem with this discussion/debate is the extreme arrogance that underpins it. America this and America that, as though we're sole power that influenced good and evil in the world. Our policies certainly contributed to rebellion in some situations, but wherever we played others also played whether they were Soviets, French, Chinese, Israel, India etc. All nations pursue their interests using their own strategies and ways to achieve their ends. Seldom do populations in developing nations within our concept of a State determine their destiny without considerable interference from multiple third parties. A proxy war is just that, an extension of war between two states in another state using proxies. Both sides are being manipulated by the powers that support them, and powers are being manipulated by the proxies. The world has always been this way, this isn't unique to the Cold War and the so called inappropriate policies that we allegedly still follow (which is a very questionable assertion).

I'm not arguing against Bob's ideas, they are old and sound ideas that have been around at least since the beginning the Cold War. Nothing written here that Ed Lansdale and others didn't write over 60 years ago about the necessity of avoiding attempt to force our ways upon foreign populations with our aggressive policies. Not surprising, that line of thought didn't garner a lot of traction back then either. Conventional minded leaders will remain conventional minded leaders.

As to the conversation on covert operations, of course they should be in our toolbox, but that is ultimately nothing more than a way/tool. What objective are we pursuing? Then determine which way to achieve it is best. It does all start with policy, and since 9/11 we have been suffering from terrible ones.

OUTLAW 09
12-31-2013, 09:18 AM
Robert---back to your comment on it is simple---that is in fact the whole crux of the matter meaning yes we see the actions being made by say us and we see the results of those actions coming back as feedback from the population we are dealing with BUT then we the US do not want to believe that the feedback is what it is.

Being simple means from the beginning one looks at the perception of what and how the US action is going to be received on the other end---meaning just how in the heck will the targeted population "receive" or "perceive" our actions in their own minds.

This is where our policy and policy leaders always go astray and I mean astray.

Will give you an example on Iran---in the 60s through the late 70s the Shah sent a number of Iranian students to study in Berlin at the cost of the Iranian government---the students who were initially shy became in a short time "radicalized" by the German student movement which was by the way in 67/68 taking on the dictatorship of the Shah went most US students had never even heard of the Shah or his SAVAK. The first German student shot by the Berlin Riot Police in 67 was demoing against the Shah during his visit to Berlin

For those that now nothing about SAVAK it was the internal security police trained by our CIA and brutally put down anything that resembled resistance insurgency against the Shah.

Those Iranians who were not radicalized out of fear still in their personal beliefs and in private comments hated the Shah.

As an American it was an experience trying to catch up on the history of our coup in 53 that the Iranians you are right still resent to this day---never mentioned in any US history book of the 60s in a high school or university.

Now this is where the fundamentalism kicks in---those students- many left and communists in the mean time raced back to Iran to help in what they viewed to be a final overthrown of US involvement in Iranian politics only to end up either killed, imprisoned or fleeing back to Berlin totally disillusioned.

Never once during the Shah events did we the US admit to the CIA involvement in SAVAK which was truly hated in Iran.

I happened to be flying out of Houston back to Berlin the day that the US literally kicked out the Iranian pilots who had been training in Lackland AFB as "our response" to events in Iran---GUESS WHAT everyone of those pilots were executed when they returned to Iran.

As a former SF vet and someone who had understood what was going on inside Iran my heart broke for them---you could see in their eyes the resignation of their deaths--but they never said anything as they waited for their flight to NYC which was mine as well.

What were the policy makers thinking---did they not understand the population, did they not truly think through their actions and how their actions would be perceived on the other end---no we just reacted out of "anger and wanted to punish Iran" for the embassy event.

If it were so simple the world might not be where we are currently.

To ask national policy makers to think through their actions especially on how it will be received or perceived by the target population is really hard as most Americans never have been on the ground in those countries.

I go back to a former SF PhD Det A vet who is still working and living in Jordan who had the courage to stand in front of over 80 US MI/interrogators in Abu Ghraib in 2005 and say it takes three things to be a good interrogator;

1. speak well any foreign language
2. have physically lived and resided in any foreign culture for a period of time
3. have a natural curiosity of the world around you

I would say that they are also the requirements for a national policy maker and or his advisors---how many Presidents had we had that speak anything other than English?

Again fundamentalism and perception in the ME are the key drivers---without them there would have never been a OBL and AQ.

But then with them we have had the Arab Spring--we should just sit back and let it flow---populations will in the end work through their problems. That is the inherent lesson we fail to understand. We should have learned long ago to accept the results of what the population does-not fight it if it does not match our "values"---sometimes being a good friend/listener gets one further.

I had a Kurdish interpreter in Iraq who during the ethnic cleansing that said you all need to let the Arabs literally kill each other until both are on the ground exhausted then and only then will they negotiate and settle their issues---it has always been the Arab way.

Bob's World
12-31-2013, 01:36 PM
To Bill's comment about arrogance, this is not a concept about America, we are simply the party de jour and the nation I am a citizen of that is currently caught up in this problem.

It is America that is leading a global campaign to defeat a tactic and an ideology, and it is America that is not recognizing the causal role of our obsolete and controlling policies lingering in the Middle East that serve to validate much of AQ's dogma regarding "the far enemy."

Policies that are often reasonable and necessary when initiated grow stale and inappropriate over time if not updated for the times. This is true of relationships as well, to include relationships defined in the legal terms of a treaty. In fact, the very nature of a treaty and its fixed terms leads to a relationship most likely to become outdated and inappropriate for the times we live in today. As Bill well knows, we have many treaty allies in the Pacific, treaties crafted during and for the Cold War. It is little wonder much of our pivot looks a lot like Cold War containment when so much of the policy is still crafted in Cold War terms. I would strongly urge our government and the governments of the region to make updating those treaties the policy lead to any sort of military pivot.

This does not mean don't have treaties, but they must be living documents. This does not mean don't have partners, but partnerships must be flexible, both in their terms, and also in what we apply them to. For example, the US cannot expect NATO nations to follow us on every adventure we see as being in OUR national interests and assume that it must be in THEIR national interests as well. Often it isn't. We can wear out our friends and their populations just as fast as we wear out our opponents and their populations. Perhaps we actually have an adverse affect on the populations of friendly nations even faster than we do on those we bump heads with at the governmental level.

Look at Iran. The people there are not too pleased with their government, but they don't blame the US for that government, so we suffer little from populace-based Iranian or Shia terrorism. Our polices to constrain Iranian sovereignty in support of our Saudi and Israeli allies, however is beginning to create a resistance effect in what is otherwise a largely pro-American Iranian population. That is unfortunate, unnecessary, and avoidable. I applaud the President's efforts to work toward normalizing US relations with what is arguably the most important nation in the Middle East.

Being the most powerful nation on earth is an onerous task. We will have to act in ways that are hard on governments and populations at time. No question. But we always have choices as to how we pursue our interests. Currently we are too caught up in the goodness of our own narrative and therefore ascribe excessive badness to narratives that run counter to our own. This is a problem with becoming excessively ideological in one's strategy, and the US NSS is extremely ideological in tone and nature. We need to become more pragmatic and more aware of how others perceive us and our actions. This will help guide us to developing approaches that are more effective than those of the past dozen years, and that are perceived as more appropriate by the global audience who watch or are impacted by our every move.

Resistance is as old as government and war. We did not invent resistance, nor are we the first nation to spark a resistance effect through occupation by policy. But we are the current nation caught up in this cycle, and recognizing the problem for what it is is the first step to backing away from stomping about the planet in an effort to crush the symptoms.

carl
12-31-2013, 04:39 PM
Not to overlook all the countries of Eastern Europe it did occupy, each evolved a communist regime that the USSR could normally accept.

They didn't develop regimes acceptable to the USSR on their own. They were guided every step of the way by the gentle hand of the Red Army and the NKVD and often the people who eventually ran those govs were selected and trained by the Russians. It is important to remember that the Red Army was always there to do what needed to be done if the USSR was displeased. They did what needed to be done on several occasions.

Anne Applebaum wrote an extremely good book about how the USSR occupied and thoroughly pacified the countries of Eastern Europe.

http://www.amazon.com/Iron-Curtain-Crushing-Eastern-1944-1956/dp/140009593X

It is very much worthy of study from a small war standpoint. What the Russians accomplished was quite remarkable as those countries weren't exactly pre-war hotbeds of communism and the Russians weren't well liked. Remember one of those countries was Poland. But they did it and were able to keep that boot on the faces of those countries until their relative economic power declined. Then they left, they weren't ejected. What the occupied peoples thought about it never really mattered.


'Excessively inappropriate illegitimate in nature and execution policies' followed by the USSR and its communist partners I would contend diminished over the decades.

It did, but that was only because thoroughly entrenched, powerful police states don't need to use the rough stuff so often. The hard part is forcing the guy into the cell. Once he's in there there isn't much need to get physical.

carl
12-31-2013, 05:11 PM
Occupation by policy is a very clever phrase but what it really means is your country is doing something that another country or group of people have a beef with. Nothing new there. The clever part is in the use of the word 'occupation'. That gives the objection of the other party a sort of noble sounding cachet redolent of plucky freedom fighter resisting the colonial power, a throwback to the Che days of the Cold War if you will. So the other party isn't just ticked off that this or that country is doing something they don't like, they are resisting 'occupation'.

The problem I have with it is this. If you are to base your policy primarily upon the need to avoid ticking other people off, you are making other countries or parties the final arbiter of your actions. That is a formula for appeasement. That will not result in a pleasant world to live in seeing as how that world has in it takfiri killers who are real honest to goodness 'Convert or die!' guys; not to mention the more sophisticated and more deadly hard eyed killers in the Chinese Communist Party. I don't like the phrase 'occupation by policy' because using it immediately puts us on the defensive thereby making it harder to recognize the bad things coming at us.

Since we are using WWII lets go to the other side of the world for an example of what I mean. We imposed some very hard economic sanctions on Japan prior to WWII. They were throwing their weight around and killing Chinamen by the millions. So we tried to restrain them some and we viewed it as trying to keep the beast in check. Now, let us say they said you are occupying us by policy and we are only resisting nobly as a great people should. That is a little more persuasive than 'we have a right to kill Chinese with no interference'. It is a matter of semantics I grant you but it could have an effect, but only if you accept the notion of 'occupation by policy'. American leaders back then would have laughed at the notion but the feckless crew we have now might latch onto it as just one more reason to back off or do nothing at all.

Bob's World
12-31-2013, 05:39 PM
Carl,

Save your spin, brother. You don't have to agree, but this is about being smart, not clever.

And this is the farthest thing from appeasement ( a word right up their with "isolationist" and the phrase "abandon your allies" for rationalizing a continuation of policies il-suited for the current era). This is about recognizing the reality of the fact that the US is not particularly vulnerable to any other state, but that we are very vulnerable to every other population. In days over a century in the rearview mirror, governments did not need to worry much about how their foreign policy affected the average person. A deal between governments was good enough. No more.

Now we must actually give pause and consider how the people perceive our actions. This applies to our allies when we drag them off to places like Afghanistan equally to our opponents when we leverage hard sanctions against the people of Iraq under Saddam or the people of Iran currently. This does not mean we do not enforce or pursue our interests at all. It simply means we need to add as a critical and weighted factor in our COA development and comparison how appropriate our actions will be perceived by the people affected directly, and indirectly as well.

We must evolve. You seem to advocate that we double down on the past. I simply try to understand the present and determine ways to succeed into the future.

carl
12-31-2013, 05:48 PM
This does not mean don't have treaties, but they must be living documents. This does not mean don't have partners, but partnerships must be flexible, both in their terms, and also in what we apply them to.

That is a formula for chaos and chaos gets violent. You want to renegotiate treaties often, fine. But to have a treaty, a contract sort of, that is 'flexible' in terms and what we apply them to, to have a 'living document' is to have nothing at all. What you say ain't what you mean...except sometimes. That is international relations by what I feel like at the time, no predictability, anything may happen at any time. Good luck maintaining the peace that way.

Bob's World
12-31-2013, 06:06 PM
That is a formula for chaos and chaos gets violent. You want to renegotiate treaties often, fine. But to have a treaty, a contract sort of, that is 'flexible' in terms and what we apply them to, to have a 'living document' is to have nothing at all. What you say ain't what you mean...except sometimes. That is international relations by what I feel like at the time, no predictability, anything may happen at any time. Good luck maintaining the peace that way.

Inflexible treaties turned an assassination of a single national leader into the senseless horror of WWI.

Today we are similarly poised where bad treaties could lead to senseless war. When war is necessary wage it to win, but when war is unnecessary avoid it like the plague that it is.

Relationships become dysfunctional over time. We must ensure that in an era of rapid change we are not caught like the powers of Europe were not so long ago into events they did not want, but could not see their way clear to escape.

Our current defense strategy calls for "permanent allies" and "building partner capacity" as a major LOO for advancing our interests into the future. I respectfully disagree.



We have no permanent allies,
we have no permanent enemies,
we only have permanent interests.
–attributed to Henry John Temple Viscount Lord Palmerston 1784-1865, Foreign Secretary and two-time Prime Minister under Queen Victoria.

What he actually said was [concerning apparent British apathy regarding Polish struggles against Russian hegemony, which Palmerston did not
believe that it met the threshold of justifiable war] “He concluded with the famous peroration that Britain had no eternal allies and no perpetual enemies, only interest that were eternal and perpetual . . .”--quoted in David Brown, Palmerston and the Politics of Foreign Policy,
1846-1855 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), pp. 82-83.

https://politicalscience.byu.edu/Syllabi/F08/Champion_170_F08.pdf

carl
12-31-2013, 06:19 PM
Carl,

Save your spin, brother. You don't have to agree, but this is about being smart, not clever.

And this is the farthest thing from appeasement ( a word right up their with "isolationist" and the phrase "abandon your allies" for rationalizing a continuation of policies il-suited for the current era). This is about recognizing the reality of the fact that the US is not particularly vulnerable to any other state, but that we are very vulnerable to every other population. In days over a century in the rearview mirror, governments did not need to worry much about how their foreign policy affected the average person. A deal between governments was good enough. No more.

Now we must actually give pause and consider how the people perceive our actions. This applies to our allies when we drag them off to places like Afghanistan equally to our opponents when we leverage hard sanctions against the people of Iraq under Saddam or the people of Iran currently. This does not mean we do not enforce or pursue our interests at all. It simply means we need to add as a critical and weighted factor in our COA development and comparison how appropriate our actions will be perceived by the people affected directly, and indirectly as well.

We must evolve. You seem to advocate that we double down on the past. I simply try to understand the present and determine ways to succeed into the future.

Spin can be useful. It allows a projectile to fly truer, fly farther and hit harder when it arrives. Very useful.

Don't like the word appeasement because it's passe? Well it still exists regardless. Same with "abandon your allies". That is related to standing by your buddies which is one of the things that allows men to stick it out in battle, or so I've read. These things are forever and powerful motivators of humans which is why they keep coming up. We just can't seem to evolve beyond them.

There is nothing new either in having to consider how the populations of countries are affected by and feel about various foreign policies. Just look at all those allies various powers have had or thought they had. The people of the countries weren't too enthusiastic about regardless of what the gov thought. The various allies of the Germans in both WWI and WWII come to mind. I recall reading too how Chiang Kai-Shek was driven into action against Japan at a militarily unpropitious time because the Chinese were so upset. Shoot, look at the problem Spain faced with us in 1898. So there is nothing new there.

Nothing new at all really. The wise course has always been to do what you can and recognize when what you want to do ain't worth the candle. At the same time you must recognize that sometimes you have to take a stand. That's why I don't like the concept of 'occupation by policy' at all. It seems to me that it will lessen our ability to see when a stand must be made, especially given the widespread lack of moral character in our leadership class.

carl
12-31-2013, 06:45 PM
Inflexible treaties turned an assassination of a single national leader into the senseless horror of WWI.

Today we are similarly poised where bad treaties could lead to senseless war. When war is necessary wage it to win, but when war is unnecessary avoid it like the plague that it is.

Relationships become dysfunctional over time. We must ensure that in an era of rapid change we are not caught like the powers of Europe were not so long ago into events they did not want, but could not see their way clear to escape.

Our current defense strategy calls for "permanent allies" and "building partner capacity" as a major LOO for advancing our interests into the future. I respectfully disagree.



What he actually said was [concerning apparent British apathy regarding Polish struggles against Russian hegemony, which Palmerston did not
believe that it met the threshold of justifiable war] “He concluded with the famous peroration that Britain had no eternal allies and no perpetual enemies, only interest that were eternal and perpetual . . .”--quoted in David Brown, Palmerston and the Politics of Foreign Policy,
1846-1855 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), pp. 82-83.

https://politicalscience.byu.edu/Syllabi/F08/Champion_170_F08.pdf

Maybe those treaties started WWI. Maybe it was German high commanders allowing the importuning of staff logistical officers to override good judgment.

In any event, how many wars have been prevented by people being certain that countries will fulfill their formal treaty obligations? It's hard to prove a negative but probably a lot I'll wager. Countries keep making them so they have been judged for thousands of years to have much utility.

Again, that does not mean don't renegotiate treaties frequently or even renounce them. Fine, but be up front about it. Give the other guy something to plan around. A treaty that is a 'living document' isn't a treaty at all and leaves everybody guessing. That leads to trouble.

What does LOO mean? I know what it means in England but I don't know what it means here.

I suppose it is true that there are no permanent allies in the long run, hundreds of years, but in the short run, scores of years, I am not so sure. This is especially true if you include the influence of popular opinion, populations as you say, upon government policy. Our support of Israel is a case in point. I suppose in the realpolitik sense we should have tossed those guys long ago, but that ain't gonna happen. And it ain't gonna happen because popular American opinion won't let it. Same thing with the other English speaking countries. Let's say the Red Chinese called up and said we want Australia or there will be war. Our response would be 'Ok, if its war you want, its war you will have.' I can't see the Americans cutting the Aussies loose. That is a good reason perhaps to make a sort of permanent ally treaty with the Aussies. The Red Chinese can avoid trying to colonize Australia and thereby avoid trouble. Good for everybody.

slapout9
12-31-2013, 07:07 PM
LOO=Line of Operation

Bill Moore
12-31-2013, 07:31 PM
Bob, I understand your response to my comments. Fair enough.

Posted by Outlaw 09


Will give you an example on Iran---in the 60s through the late 70s the Shah sent a number of Iranian students to study in Berlin at the cost of the Iranian government---the students who were initially shy became in a short time "radicalized" by the German student movement which was by the way in 67/68 taking on the dictatorship of the Shah went most US students had never even heard of the Shah or his SAVAK. The first German student shot by the Berlin Riot Police in 67 was demoing against the Shah during his visit to Berlin

Besides being incredibly interesting, I think this comment points to the importance of ideology and transference of ideas. It is ideology, religion, and other ideas that shake the world more than anything else, so we can't dismis them. I also think we have the best intentions when we try to establish democratic governments in the midst of chaos, but with few exceptions (e.g. the country has an educated population and history of democracy) it will fail for reasons that seem obvious in hindsight, and possibly in foresight. Why were the communists and jihadists able to establish functional (good enough) government structures rather quickly? Say what you want about Kilkullen, but a point I think he got right in his new book is that people desire order, they want to know what the rules are so they can establish a new norm that is somewhat predictable. Sharia law and communism provides that structure in my opinion (I'm not talking legitimacy) fairly quickly because the laws/expectations are pretty clear. What do we do? We attempt to impose democracy in a chaotic situation where people are seeking order more than a voice, so we throw more disorder on top of disorder.

While not politically correct, occupation powers (not arguing the morality of being an occupying power) should establish fairly strict population control measures, and facilitate a strong government that can continue to impose this order. Then over time after order is established gradually encourage and assist that government transition to something that more effectively addresses the demands of its people.

We can't fix our policy makers, I wish we could, but we can execute in ways that are more effective at the operational and strategic level.

slapout9
12-31-2013, 07:37 PM
I agree with carl about living documents.....that is nothing but a drug deal about to go very bad.

Bob's World
12-31-2013, 10:43 PM
Let's look at a specific and current example.

I have long contended that the Center of Gravity for the War on Terrorism (or whatever we call it this week) has been, and remains, the nature of the relationship between the Government of Saudi Arabia and the Government of the United States.

There are many clues pointing to this as the COG:
1. The vast majority of AQ's Core and the 9/11 attackers are Saudi.
2. The primary target of AQ being taking down the Saudi family's rule of Arabia.
3. The Saudi-US relationship dating back to 1944 when FDR committed to Ibn Saud that the US would be the protector of the Saudi Kingdom and retain his family in power.
4. The role of the Saudi Kingdom as the protector of Islam and the holy mosques at Mecca and Medina.
5. My understanding of Insurgency. Revolutionary Insurgency conditions between Saudi members of AQ and the KSA; and Resistance Insurgency conditions between Saudi Members of AQ (and their many sympathizers) and the US due to the widely held belief that the Saudi family has been far less willing to listen to the reasonable grievances of the people due to their commitment of protection from the US than they would be if there were no such external source of protection.

Now fast forward to today. What relationship is evolving faster than any other relationship the US has in the ME? Not out of design; not out of us sitting down face to face and discussing new terms; but rather out of reaction to decisions the US is making elsewhere in the ME. Our relationship with Saudi Arabia. The Saudis clearly no longer trust the certainty of this 1944 promise of protection and are increasingly taking matters into their own hands to secure their future. Ironically, even to the extent of working with their sworn enemy, AQ, in Syria.

What have we done that has soured this Cold War relationship?
1. We invaded Iraq and took out Saddam, thereby destroying that strong buffer between Shia Iran and Sunni Arabia. Net result, we delivered Iraq into the Iranian Sphere of Influence and allowed them to flank the Arabian Pen. on the north.
2. We turned our back on Mubarak. Who might we turn on next? The Saudi's and the Gulf State leaders reasonably believe it could be them, as they know they are willing to be even more ruthless than Mubarak toward their own people if need be to stay in power.
3. We waffled on Syria. Saudis and the Gulf States launched their own UW campaigns to support the revolution, working hand in glove with AQ who was already there.

So, while we may well be defusing the COG a bit by accident, that is no way to wage policy. We essentially "occupied by policy" the KSA, not by controlling the Saudi family, but rather by protecting them and enabling them to ignore their people's evolving needs and concerns. We created conditions of resistance insurgency that have been a powerful recruiting tool for AQ and others to enlist members willing to conduct acts of transnational terrorism, to include, of course, the 9/11 attackers.

My recommendation is that we sit down with the Saudis, President to King, and let them know what the new terms are in no uncertain way. Letting them guess is leading to them guessing the worst. That isn't good.

carl
12-31-2013, 11:32 PM
Bob:

I am in full agreement that the relationship between the US and Saudi gov has made for a world of trouble and may continue to do so. Some of the things you cite and conclusions you make I disagree with. I still think the whole 'resistance insurgency' and 'occupation by policy' bits are too strained and tenuous to be useful but you're right about Saudi Arabia being trouble as things stand as they are. We should rejigger the whole thing.

What should we tell them the new terms are?

Bill Moore
12-31-2013, 11:38 PM
http://warontherocks.com/2013/12/rebooting-country-studies/?fb_action_ids=532236653550546&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%5b466394813459983%5d&action_type_map=%5b%22og.likes%22%5d&action_ref_map=%5b%5d

A quote from an article posted to the blog today that is very relevant to the topic.


Every foreign force that comes crashing in thinks it’s intervening in ‘a country,’ but it’s actually taking sides in an ongoing contest among Afghans about what this country is. . .The foreign power essentially tries to swing the pot by grasping its handle, but the pot shatters, and the foreign power is left holding only a handle.

Bob's World
01-01-2014, 12:16 AM
Bob:

I am in full agreement that the relationship between the US and Saudi gov has made for a world of trouble and may continue to do so. Some of the things you cite and conclusions you make I disagree with. I still think the whole 'resistance insurgency' and 'occupation by policy' bits are too strained and tenuous to be useful but you're right about Saudi Arabia being trouble as things stand as they are. We should rejigger the whole thing.

What should we tell them the new terms are?

Carl,

In broadest terms, I think we need to evolve in our approach to being less of an arbitrator of outcomes we believe will be best for us, to being more of a mediator of terms that the people believe will be best for them.

That means assuming a degree of risk we have up to now been unwilling to assume (after all, we have the means in our war fighting military on hand to force the outcomes we want, why allow things to go to chance?).

Control is over-rated. Certainly Containment was a very controlling strategy, so we developed some bad habits over several generations. Many now see this as normal and proper. It isn't. Certainly not in the emerging strategic environment where people are increasingly empowered and informed.

Influence needs to be our goal, and that demands we be far more pragmatic about who some particular people want (e.g., MB in Egypt), and much more plugged into what the people are thinking and feeling about their governance and about us.

For US SOF, (OK, this is my opinion, and not anything official) this means the main effort shifts from JSOC and CT over to the more diverse aspects of SOF that are primarily part of USASOC and the other service SOFs and under the C2 of our various theater SOCs. Primary mission would not be to build partner capacity, but rather simply (and critically) to develop the informal and formal understanding, relationships and influence necessary to appreciate how the people feel, to know who they blame, and to be postured to shape in the right direction in appropriate ways when necessary. Typically that will be through some partner with shared interests and direct relationships with said populations. CT will fall into the shadows as a minor, but vital, capacity to mitigate the rough edges when necessary - but again, in ways that are far less caustic than our approaches over the past several years.

davidbfpo
01-01-2014, 02:18 AM
Bob's World cited in part and with my emphasis:
For US SOF, (OK, this is my opinion, and not anything official) this means the main effort shifts from JSOC and CT over to the more diverse aspects of SOF that are primarily part of USASOC and the other service SOFs and under the C2 of our various theater SOCs. Primary mission would not be to build partner capacity, but rather simply (and critically) to develop the informal and formal understanding, relationships and influence necessary to appreciate how the people feel, to know who they blame, and to be postured to shape in the right direction in appropriate ways when necessary. Typically that will be through some partner with shared interests and direct relationships with said populations. CT will fall into the shadows as a minor, but vital, capacity to mitigate the rough edges when necessary - but again, in ways that are far less caustic than our approaches over the past several years.

Robert,

That is a very grand objective. I am not persauded that SOF are the best body to undertake such a task alone, nor that diplomats and spooks are too. Maybe it would work in parts of the developing world, where non-military agencies find it too hard to operate.

Can you indicate if US SOF have achieved such an objective before?

Before 1979 in Iran the USA had well developed official relationships within Iranian officialdom, but almost none beyond that (shared with many other nations, who feared upsetting the Shah and his regime if they did). IIRC the USA sent a senior army general to Teheran, who had served there, to talk with the army commanders - to not use force against the rising protests.

I do wonder if the Allied WW2 experience, by no means not all good, of political warfare has been forgotten. Yes there was a strong element of "cloak & dagger" and 'black' psyops hence OSS & SOE are well known names, few have heard of PWE (Political Warfare Executive).

Put yourself in the role of the potential host, a nation-state regime, which is aware that the USA wishes to deploy SOF tasked to such a mission; why on earth would they accept them?

Since you earlier referred to KSA, it would be interesting to see if the advocated SOF mission led to the ending of US & UK missions within the KSA military.

carl
01-01-2014, 07:07 AM
Bob:

This is what I understand you to mean. Put people in the country, long term, decades even, so that they may gain a true understanding of the place and the people in it. I say long term because it would not be possible in my view to gain the understanding of the place needed unless our people spent a long, long time there.

The first object of this is simple intel, but truly deep intel. Another objective would be to influence events and this influence would be effected by the people who have been there a long time. This is all to the good but it sort of breaks down for me at this point.

First, can American military people do this or will personnel policies prevent it? It seems that guys are moved around very frequently and that won't do if truly deep knowledge is to be gained.

Stan and his experience would seem to be the kind of thing you are looking for. That brings up another problem. Stan knew what he was about and he knew what Zaire was about. But he was a Sgt. Would a man of such relatively low rank be able to exert any influence? I wonder. It seems to me there would be a lot of 'Oh he's only an enlisted man.' that would get in his way. And that would not only be with the locals, that would be with our own people. Would they listen to an enlisted guy, or any military guy who wasn't a high officer.

The part that really trips me up is the influencing part. How would that be done? Would it be moral suasion, force of personality or would it be something more substantial like the money inflow. It seems to me that we could have guy who was best friends in the world with a big shot in one of these countries and it would be for nothing unless our guy had something to give or take away.

As far as Saudi Arabia goes I'm not sure such an arrangement as you propose could really do us measurable good, like doing something to stop the private Saudi funds financing AQ, unless we could pressure them. We are coming into a very strong position, North American continental energy independence, so we can influence them, but I think it would take more than talk.

Another situation that is getting worse is the persecution of Christians in some of the countries of the Muslim world. That is one of those situations where the energetic people of the country; it might be that is what they really want. How would we change that short of something stronger than talk, if it can be changed at all?

I seek your opinion on the question of persecution of Christians in the Muslim world. Do people talk about that? Is it even seen as a problem and if it is, can or should anything be done about it?

So I can see merit in the general idea, but I question its practicability even given that the perceived ability to 'get things' is inherently less.

Dayuhan
01-01-2014, 12:53 PM
5. My understanding of Insurgency. Revolutionary Insurgency conditions between Saudi members of AQ and the KSA; and Resistance Insurgency conditions between Saudi Members of AQ (and their many sympathizers) and the US due to the widely held belief that the Saudi family has been far less willing to listen to the reasonable grievances of the people due to their commitment of protection from the US than they would be if there were no such external source of protection.

I think there's a great deal assumed here that is not supported by evidence or reasoning.

The idea that AQ is a reactive organization conjured up in response to American policy is widespread - the word "backlash" comes up rather often - but repeating something doesn't make it so. It is a peculiarly American conceit to assume that others have no capacity for agency, and can only be either manipulated by American policy or lash back against it. In reality many of those others have their own proactive goals, usually associated with power, and are perfectly capable of pursuing them on their own, without lashing back against anything. AQ wants power. They want to rule. Certainly they tap into a deep reserve of Arab and Muslim discontent, but I've seen few coherent arguments to suggest this is a backlash against US policy, or that any possible permutation of past American policy would have had the capacity to alter that.

Certainly AQ seeks to overturn and replace Arab governments, most particularly that of Saudi Arabia, but it's important to note that this element of their platform receives very little support among the populaces of these countries. Saudis are more than willing to cheer on AQ and to contribute money and fighters, when AQ fights foreign intruders in Muslim lands, or counts coup against anything associated with "the west". When AQ tried to bring the fight home and generate a rebellion against the Saudi monarchy, the effort fell completely flat: they never generated anything remotely approaching the critical mass needed to muster a credible insurgency or seriously threaten the government. People simply didn't buy the message: Saudis are quite willing to support and celebrate AQ as long as they fight somewhere else, but they have zero interest in being ruled by AQ. That doesn't mean they love the monarchy, of course, it just means that they don't see AQ as a viable alternative. It also doesn't help that the most consistently aggrieved section of the Saudi populace is the Shi'a, who of course are not about to jump on the AQ bandwagon.

There are certainly many Saudis who have grievances with their government, nut AQ is in no way a manifestation of popular anti-government sentiment. They tried to cast themselves in that role, but were categorically rejected.

Perhaps the weakest contention in your argument is the claim that US support has somehow enabled the Saudis to ignore popular grievance. Again, I see no evidence or reasoning to support that claim. The US has certainly supported the Saudis against foreign threats, and will continue to do so: that's not about supporting the royal family, it's about ensuring that Saudi oil reserves don't fall into hostile hands. The Saudis need no US help or advice to maintain internal security, and they could (and would) do it their way no matter what the US said or did. They don't need US help to oppress the populace, nor do they need or seek US permission.

Perhaps the most dangerous part of this argument is that it seems to point toward urging the US to try to impose itself as an unwanted mediator between the Saudi government and populace. That of course is an appalling idea. The US has zero standing to take on such a role, and any such effort would be resisted by all parties involved. The relationship between the Saudi government and their populace is complex, but it is none of our business and neither government nor populace wants us messing in it. Any advice we give their government is going to be rejected out of hand: for a suggestion of how that would go, look what happened when the US tried to council accommodation and negotiation when the Arab Spring hit Bahrain. The Saudis simply ignored us. Why would we think they'd do anything different if we tried to tell them how to manage their own populace?


My recommendation is that we sit down with the Saudis, President to King, and let them know what the new terms are in no uncertain way. Letting them guess is leading to them guessing the worst. That isn't good.

I don't see how the terms have changed.

The US will not bomb Iran or remove Assad just because the Saudis want us to. That's nothing new. The Saudis have tried to push in that direction, the US has not obliged (wisely, IMO), and the Saudis have gone about their own way. That doesn't represent any great change in the US-Saudi position.

The US will, of course, defend Saudi Arabia against any (rather hypothetical) attack from Iran (with Saddam gone there's no other reasonable candidate). Again, that's not support for the royal family, it's keeping the oil in congenial hands, something the Saudi government and people know quite well. The US will not withdraw that protection no matter what the Saudis do to their own people, and any threat to withdraw it is hollow... we know that, and so do they. No matter how awful the royals are, we will not accept Iranian control of the Saudi oil fields.

The US will not protect the Saudis in the event of internal uprising, but I don't think the Saudi royals ever expected that, or cared: they are quite confident in their own ability to manage that situation. That confidence may prove misplaced, but no matter what we do or say, they will do it their way. They don't care what we think, and they don't have to care. We have neither control nor meaningful influence over their actions.

/rant

At the end of the day, since the argument clearly focuses on Saudi Arabia, can we have some actual suggestions for policies and/or actions that you think would improve this situation?

OUTLAW 09
01-01-2014, 12:56 PM
Robert in his comments on the use of SF in the future meaning the building of informal face to face relationship building is and will be the way forward in the coming years vs say the state to state types of meetings/training/exchanges.

By the way the face to face can actually change US policy if the SF UW team on the ground is good at what they do during the relationship building phase.

The following is an example of a early 70s SF UW team;

The entire team had been either just coming from or recently returned VN, Thailand vets from the CIDG or MACV-SOG programs. Many had been wounded a number of times and it was one of the highest decorated SF teams in Germany. The ten man team had the ability to cover five European languages fluently.

Educational backgrounds and military years of service extremely varied-most eventually retired out of SF and the others went back to college ---one was a MOH recipient.

Now comes the interesting part---most of the bloggers here would be advised to go back into history and read in detail the development of Greece from 1954 until the coup of 1967 and especially a Greek army unit called the Hellenic Raiding Force.

Now the shift to what Robert is inferring to--the team receives the mission to train selected Greek officers and senior NCOs of the HRF first in Germany and then in Greece---on the surface a typical FID but there were other players involved that set another set of mission requirements.

When the team received the second set of instructions it did not sit well with the team which actually after a long intensive internal debate refused the mission set as it did not match what they had fought for in a long number of years but which were the national level interests at that particular time in space. The team refused the mission via their chain to conduct the mission and since the mission was tailored to them the chain listened---there was no heated debates just a solid exchange of reasons the team felt the national level was not aware of the impact on the population and Greek military side especially in 1970 inside Greece. By the way this was not the first encounter by the team with the HRF.

And especially an island called Cyprus in 1970 where the HRF had been/was active and that was unknown to the national level tasker but it was known to the SF UW team from previous encounters with them.

The provider of the second set of requirements was then forced to redo their requirements to match the teams beliefs of what should occur based on the SF values of what they had been trained in on the UW side and off the team went---everyone was happy except those that provided the second mission set requirements.

Six month mission was successfully completed based on the UW teams requirements---now check history and see what Greek unit made the initial move to remove the COLs and returned to the population their country which was the same unit that triggered the shift to the COLs in 1967.

It is really all about perceptions and the values established by a SF team at the informal face to face phase of a relationship. There are sometimes minor victories at the informal level that trigger historical events down the road especially when it is based on personal one on one encounters that are previously established. It is amazing what occurs during these personal encounters that can effect history and the cost is literally nothing to the national level.

This is I think where SF wants to head but it requires a SF leadership that sets that tone in UW training and it takes SF teams that are willing to voice their SF values when a mission set comes down that goes counter to their training and values.

It also requires a national level decision maker to understand that every move they make whiplashes the intended population in ways sometimes no one thinks about---so all decisions at this level must have a COA phase that discusses this. Check the current European populations view of the US/NSA since the release of their activities here in Europe---the lowest view of the US is held currently at a level that is scary-- even Russia is being viewed as more trustworthy.

This is where we have gone so wrong with Islamic fundamentalism and AQ.

We have based on our national polices actually driven one and created the other.

BUT who is going to carry that message to a divided US public and political body at large that would declare the messenger to be a traitor.

Dayuhan
01-01-2014, 01:00 PM
Another situation that is getting worse is the persecution of Christians in some of the countries of the Muslim world... How would we change that short of something stronger than talk, if it can be changed at all?

Is that something we need to change? A problem, yes, but our problem?

Muslims are also persecuted in many places... parts of Russia, western China, Burma, southern Thailand, southern Philippines. How would we change that short of something stronger than talk, if it can be changed at all? And again, why would we try?

Lots of people being persecuted in lots of places... not a good thing of course, but appointing ourselves world cop seems not a good thing either, and appointing ourselves defenders of any particular faith seems an even worse thing, to me at least.

OUTLAW 09
01-01-2014, 01:12 PM
Dayuhan---would you not agree that the interests of the Saudis now match those of AQ in Syria---namely confronting Shia fundamentalism in the name of Shia containment? Really reread the Sept 2013 AQ General Guidance to the Jihad and AQs references to the "near enemy".

Second question would be --if true then what drove that merging of interests?

Third question would be if in fact they have merged their short term interests-and both being of a fundamentalist Sunni direction (one Salaist- one Wahhabist) has AQ pulled a 180 turn and is now not viewing SA as the "near enemy" as they did under UBL?

Combat against a perceived common "near enemy" does make strange bedfellows that can have long term impacts that we in the US have not yet fully understood while we tap dance in our Syrian policies.

Lastly what will be the perception impact on the greater Arab population be if both AQ and the Saudi in fact stopped Assad in Syria and the US and Europe just stood by while thousands of Arabs were killed and wounded and millions forced to flee Syria?

That is the inherent question that you side step.

Dayuhan
01-01-2014, 01:28 PM
Dayuhan---would you not agree that the interests of the Saudis now match those of AQ in Syria---namely confronting Shia fundamentalism in the name of Shia containment? enemy".

Agreed


Second question would be --if true then what drove that merging of interests?

Mutual dislike for/fear of both Iran specifically and the Shi'a generically.


Third question would be if in fact they have merged their short term interests-and both being of a fundamentalist Sunni direction (one Salaist- one Wahhabist) has AQ pulled a 180 turn and is now not viewing SA as the "near enemy" as they did under UBL?

I think both SA andf AQ still view each other as enemies, but as enemies with whom they are willing to cooperate if it seems expedient. I don't think the Saudis are all that displeased to see AQ (and allied movement) resources and attention poured into Syria, rather than into the Arabian Peninsula.


Combat against a perceived common "near enemy" does make strange bedfellows that can have long term impacts that we in the US have not yet fully understood while we tap dance in our Syrian policies.

Absolutely.


Lastly what will be the perception impact on the greater Arab population be if both AQ and the Saudi in fact stopped Assad in Syria and the US and Europe just stood by while thousands of Arabs were killed and wounded and millions forced to flee Syria?

That is the inherent question that you side step.

Hasn't really come up on this thread.

First, in terms of "the perception impact on the greater Arab population", I think direct involvement in Syria would be a huge mistake. One of the few things that street agrees on is that they don't want the US or "the west" meddling in regional affairs. Even if "the west" did in fact improve things for Syrian Muslims (a huge "if"), I doubt that they'd give any more credit than they did for protecting Bosnian Muslims. The assumption will always be that intervention was in pursuit of some ulterior motive, not to protect the populace. No matter what positive spin we try to put on it, the image of US armor rolling down Arab streets raises a very predictable and very negative reaction among the greater Arab population. That reaction may not be logical or justifiable, but it's still predictable. Any US intervention in the region, even if we say it's totally altruistic and even if we really believe it's totally altruistic (including any attempt to mediate between the Saudi government and populace) will be interpreted locally as a self-serving effort to advance our own interests. They don't trust us. Can't imagine why.

Wading into a mess we can't resolve because we don't want someone else to get credit for resolving it would seem to me to be pursuit of policy contrary to self-interest.

OUTLAW 09
01-01-2014, 01:29 PM
Dayuhan---interesting comment from you;

"Muslims are also persecuted in many places... parts of Russia, western China, Burma, southern Thailand, southern Philippines. How would we change that short of something stronger than talk, if it can be changed at all? And again, why would we try?"

With what about 3B Muslims world wide---and having read AQs recent General Guidance to Jihad what if the US policies message the reinforcing of our interests in that population being fairly treated ---not through force but by all available other non violent methods.

Then how does AQ handle that ie the US is now strongly interested in those populations --not forcing our value systems on them but allowing those populations to decide for themselves where they want to go even if it goes against our initial political instincts.

IE just what was our response to the Arab Springs? Initially confusion, then standoff, then we tried to engage insisting on democratic development---instead of providing flanking support and allowing the effected population to decide on their own which direction they want to go and with the US signally OK maybe it is not in our interests but it is your interests so we will go with it.

Just what then is AQs messaging--are we then the "near enemy" or is the governance that is not responding to their population really now the "near enemy" as alluded to in the AQ Guidance as we have to a degree identified with the populations own desires and drives regardless of where it goes?

But we will never get to that point as we have locked ourselves into our former Cold War mindsets and view AQ and Sunni/Shia fundamentalism as also equal to Communism-therefore the old domino theory has arisen again.

OUTLAW 09
01-01-2014, 01:42 PM
Dayuhan--this comment goes to the heart of our policy failures in the ME---it is all about how we are perceived nothing more nothing else---how does the common man in the population view us.

Right now not much higher than say the top side of a buried grain of sand.

"Wading into a mess we can't resolve because we don't want someone else to get credit for resolving it would seem to me to be pursuit of policy contrary to self-interest."

Yes we could have waded into Syria but in fact we cannot as we are trying to gain a settlement with Iran which we nationally right now view of higher importance that the thousands being killed in Syria or the Sunni/Shia death fight.

We let others take Syria as we as a country really do not want to conduct a war with Iran where there are no winners only losers.

Confronting the Shia in Syria would have killed any chances of an agreement with Iran for the next ten or so years and Iran would have gone faster nuclear and the Israelis would have gone to war so Syria civilian deaths while brutal are not in our national interests and this is the messaging that AQ throws at us in the ME---and our actions just reinforce that message.

But to the Arab population as a whole the killing does in fact matter and how we respond to Syria is determining what influence or no influence we will have going forward in the ME and it is definitely impacting the Saudi's who say the least are p_____ed at us is an understatement.

Bob's World
01-01-2014, 07:17 PM
BG Wendt wrote at article that goes to one way SOF can more effectively develop understanding, influence and relationships than solely through traditional vehicles, such as training with partners, traditional Embassy positions, or emersion language training.

http://www.soc.mil/swcs/swmag/archive/SW2403/SW2403TheGreenBeretVolckmannProgram.html

This is not about spying on people or working to develop covert networks, this is simply about being in critical places (a fusion of geostrategy and vital interests), living among the equally critical populations who live in those places, and having trusted relationships with appropriate military partners as well. This means stop chasing the threat of the day and going where the J2 says "the threat" is; this means not working to simply help some government stay in power by helping them through capacity building and CT to keep their own population in check; this means applying a strategic perspective that takes a long view so that we are already there and aware long before a threat to interests ever develops.

As to the types of perceptions that create conditions of insurgency among a population, these are subjective and tend to develop over time; and can grow to very high levels (as Arab Spring demonstrates) and remain latent for years before some event or leader sparks the people to move. Or when the people simply overcome their fear of their government. This is nuance and cannot be measured with ruler. Many states, like the KSA, look extremely stable, but in fact are quite brittle. Like the Titanic, a state can appear "unsinkable," but hidden flaws and poor leadership can quickly lead to a catastrophic event.

There are many subtle signals coming out of the ME; and increasingly out of Europe, China and other places as well. Poor governance and conditions of insurgency are widespread. When these conditions are merely revolutionary (internal) in nature it is of little consequence to the US unless it threatens some critical location where our interests manifest. But when the conditions are of a resistance nature cause by the impact of US policy we need to be extremely aware, as this is what drives transnational terrorism against us. When it is a fusion of both, and we work to protect the government that is at odds with its population (as is typically the case for out intel-driven operations today), it is the worst case, and this is why strategically we are moving in the opposite direction our tactics are intended to take us.

carl
01-01-2014, 07:27 PM
Is that something we need to change? A problem, yes, but our problem?

Muslims are also persecuted in many places... parts of Russia, western China, Burma, southern Thailand, southern Philippines. How would we change that short of something stronger than talk, if it can be changed at all? And again, why would we try?

Lots of people being persecuted in lots of places... not a good thing of course, but appointing ourselves world cop seems not a good thing either, and appointing ourselves defenders of any particular faith seems an even worse thing, to me at least.

Is it something we need to change? No, not from a national survival standpoint. From a human standpoint though, yes it needs to change.

I always wonder at the 'Yea but what about ...' response when it comes up, especially when it is used in reference to murders. It seems to me a suggestion that one killing cancels out the other while disregarding the dead.

The Muslims who are persecuted in the places you mention are targets mainly because they are Muslim Separatists, they are rebelling against the government. Righteous cause or not, they are viewed as rebels. That is qualitatively different from the persecution of Christians in some Muslim countries and especially the killings committed by the takfiri killers. That persecution and those murders are committed solely because the victims are Christians. They aren't rebelling against anybody. They are being killed because of the faith they profess. They aren't the only ones being killed for their faith. In Pakistan the Ahmadis, Shias and others get the chop.

This is very important. It gets to one of the basic motivations of the takfiri killers and some of the govs of Muslim countries, especially Pakistan's. It is important because when you are dealing with people like that, there isn't any compromise. It helps to know what the other guy is about. That is why I keep bring this up. It is an important thing.

My own opinion as to what to do is twofold. The first is talk. The US gov should take notice of these things and say so. The other thing is extension of visas to Christians from countries like that. It seems to me that they would win, not getting killed next week; and we would win, we would gain people who would like the place that saved them.

Bill Moore
01-01-2014, 07:46 PM
Robert in his comments on the use of SF in the future meaning the building of informal face to face relationship building is and will be the way forward in the coming years vs say the state to state types of meetings/training/exchanges.

By the way the face to face can actually change US policy if the SF UW team on the ground is good at what they do during the relationship building phase.

The following is an example of a early 70s SF UW team;

The entire team had been either just coming from or recently returned VN, Thailand vets from the CIDG or MACV-SOG programs. Many had been wounded a number of times and it was one of the highest decorated SF teams in Germany. The ten man team had the ability to cover five European languages fluently.

Educational backgrounds and military years of service extremely varied-most eventually retired out of SF and the others went back to college ---one was a MOH recipient.

Now comes the interesting part---most of the bloggers here would be advised to go back into history and read in detail the development of Greece from 1954 until the coup of 1967 and especially a Greek army unit called the Hellenic Raiding Force.

Now the shift to what Robert is inferring to--the team receives the mission to train selected Greek officers and senior NCOs of the HRF first in Germany and then in Greece---on the surface a typical FID but there were other players involved that set another set of mission requirements.

When the team received the second set of instructions it did not sit well with the team which actually after a long intensive internal debate refused the mission set as it did not match what they had fought for in a long number of years but which were the national level interests at that particular time in space. The team refused the mission via their chain to conduct the mission and since the mission was tailored to them the chain listened---there was no heated debates just a solid exchange of reasons the team felt the national level was not aware of the impact on the population and Greek military side especially in 1970 inside Greece. By the way this was not the first encounter by the team with the HRF.

And especially an island called Cyprus in 1970 where the HRF had been/was active and that was unknown to the national level tasker but it was known to the SF UW team from previous encounters with them.

The provider of the second set of requirements was then forced to redo their requirements to match the teams beliefs of what should occur based on the SF values of what they had been trained in on the UW side and off the team went---everyone was happy except those that provided the second mission set requirements.

Six month mission was successfully completed based on the UW teams requirements---now check history and see what Greek unit made the initial move to remove the COLs and returned to the population their country which was the same unit that triggered the shift to the COLs in 1967.

It is really all about perceptions and the values established by a SF team at the informal face to face phase of a relationship. There are sometimes minor victories at the informal level that trigger historical events down the road especially when it is based on personal one on one encounters that are previously established. It is amazing what occurs during these personal encounters that can effect history and the cost is literally nothing to the national level.

This is I think where SF wants to head but it requires a SF leadership that sets that tone in UW training and it takes SF teams that are willing to voice their SF values when a mission set comes down that goes counter to their training and values.

It also requires a national level decision maker to understand that every move they make whiplashes the intended population in ways sometimes no one thinks about---so all decisions at this level must have a COA phase that discusses this. Check the current European populations view of the US/NSA since the release of their activities here in Europe---the lowest view of the US is held currently at a level that is scary-- even Russia is being viewed as more trustworthy.

This is where we have gone so wrong with Islamic fundamentalism and AQ.

We have based on our national polices actually driven one and created the other.

BUT who is going to carry that message to a divided US public and political body at large that would declare the messenger to be a traitor.

I both agree and remain strongly critical of your proposals based on my personal experience and study of history. BG Wendt's proposal for what used to be called the Global Scout is workable only if those individuals are empowered by our bureaucracy. This approach could and has worked when these individuals were empowered and could bypass the bureaucracy and speak truth to power. That has happened, but more often than not it didn't and couldn't, so to base a strategic approach is an approach built on a house of cards.

Some examples include OSS members at the end of WWII who understood the situation on the ground based on their relationships with the people, yet their insights were completely discarded by the bureaucrats who blindly embraced dumb policies and marginalized anyone (included the experts on the ground) who disagreed with them.

Currently reading another book on Lansdale, and he stated the only reason he was successful in the Philippines was because he could bypass the bureaucrats in State and Defense and shape the situation. They hated him for it, and did everything they could to undermine his efforts, to include the JUSMAAG Chief blowing his cover (he was relieved, but the damage was still done).

In Vietnam, he was unable to do this, and he had deep concerns about our policies there, but he was silenced by McNamara, a number of senior officers, and State.

Bureaucracies over time increasingly centralize power over time, so this situation will only get worse. Having recently left the ranks of SF, I was sickened by the officer centric nature of the force when I did leave and it continues today. The bureaucracy has created the perception that only officers are qualified to work with country teams or develop important relationships with host nation personnel. We have effectively marginalized the most talented 90% of our force, who throughout its relatively short history have moved mountains in Africa, SE Asia, and Papa New Guinea at a minimum. Unlike our system where most tend to assess people based on their titles and rank instead of their individual strengths and weaknesses, people outside the bureaucracy will recognize talent and character. I don't give a crap about what you wear on your collar, or if you were appointed as an Ambassador.

How can we fight population-centric conflicts effectively, when we're arrogantly focused on determining who is the most appropriate person for a position based on rank and his/her ability to conform to the bureaucracy?

I hear what you and Bob are saying, and I don't want to quit focusing on "what can be" by getting excessively tied to "what is,", but at the same time we have to understand our system to know what is feasible. Lots of things need to change to make these proposals work.

Bob's World
01-01-2014, 08:42 PM
Bill,

No argument. But the longest journey begins with the first step, right? Step one is stepping back from what really isn't working and exploring what might work better. This thread is just an effort to take a step or two.

Too many think the answer is just to just work harder and faster at what we've been doing; or to be more aggressive in attacking Islamist ideology; or to go more aggressively after governments who have interests that do not support our own (just as our do not support theirs...).

For all of design's flaws, step one is to reexamine the problem. I think we've defined the problem in terms that are excessive symptomatic and in ways that avoid any hard examination of our own causal role or how we might advance our interests more effectively in ways that are less expensive or provocative than the ways we apply today.

I worked for a Marine Brigadier Deputy G3 at PACOM who would routinely "motivate" the troops after we'd been slaving on some problem for days by reminding us "congratulations, we are at step 3 of a 100 step process."

You and I both know "too hard" is never a reason not to try, or we'd be in very different places right now than we currently are.

Bill Moore
01-01-2014, 10:03 PM
Concur, just expressing my frustration with the system for the first time this year:D. We will still continue to slave away in hopes of achieving big changes, but will be happy with small victories when we achieve them. If you go back to work tomorrow you'll find something in your inbox I have been slaving away on the past days that actually, if approved, will be a framework for moving in this direction.

Dayuhan
01-02-2014, 12:57 AM
Dayuhan---interesting comment from you;

"Muslims are also persecuted in many places... parts of Russia, western China, Burma, southern Thailand, southern Philippines. How would we change that short of something stronger than talk, if it can be changed at all? And again, why would we try?"

With what about 3B Muslims world wide---and having read AQs recent General Guidance to Jihad what if the US policies message the reinforcing of our interests in that population being fairly treated ---not through force but by all available other non violent methods.

Then how does AQ handle that ie the US is now strongly interested in those populations --not forcing our value systems on them but allowing those populations to decide for themselves where they want to go even if it goes against our initial political instincts.

I expect that the nations involved would tell us to piss off, mind our own business, and stay out of their internal affairs, and that AQ's message would be "they talk, we act".


IE just what was our response to the Arab Springs? Initially confusion, then standoff, then we tried to engage insisting on democratic development---instead of providing flanking support and allowing the effected population to decide on their own which direction they want to go and with the US signally OK maybe it is not in our interests but it is your interests so we will go with it.

Just what then is AQs messaging--are we then the "near enemy" or is the governance that is not responding to their population really now the "near enemy" as alluded to in the AQ Guidance as we have to a degree identified with the populations own desires and drives regardless of where it goes?

But we will never get to that point as we have locked ourselves into our former Cold War mindsets and view AQ and Sunni/Shia fundamentalism as also equal to Communism-therefore the old domino theory has arisen again.

I don't think the US tried all that hard to impose direction on the Arab Spring revolutions, nor do I think the overall outcome was unduly influenced by the US. Of course these nations will be unstable and in flux for many years to come, but that's the nature of transition out of extended dictatorship. Quite pointless to think that instability is an outcome of American action or inaction.

I do not believe that the US can undo AQs messaging by trying to supplant AQ as defenders of Muslims. That just leads to more meddling, and it will snap back on us. If we suffer the consequences of ill advised meddling in the past, the solution is not counter-meddling: we can't undo bad meddling with good meddling. We can undercut AQs message by meddling less, and by meddling more discreetly when we must meddle.

We need to understand that we will not win points with Muslim populaces by criticizing their governments. It's a hard quirk for many Americans to understand, but in much of the world even people who hate their government will rally behind it if it is criticized by a foreign power, especially if that foreign power is the US.


Dayuhan--this comment goes to the heart of our policy failures in the ME---it is all about how we are perceived nothing more nothing else---how does the common man in the population view us.

Right now not much higher than say the top side of a buried grain of sand.

"Wading into a mess we can't resolve because we don't want someone else to get credit for resolving it would seem to me to be pursuit of policy contrary to self-interest."

Yes we could have waded into Syria but in fact we cannot as we are trying to gain a settlement with Iran which we nationally right now view of higher importance that the thousands being killed in Syria or the Sunni/Shia death fight.

We let others take Syria as we as a country really do not want to conduct a war with Iran where there are no winners only losers.

That's one of many reasons we don't want to get involved in Syria.


Confronting the Shia in Syria would have killed any chances of an agreement with Iran for the next ten or so years and Iran would have gone faster nuclear and the Israelis would have gone to war so Syria civilian deaths while brutal are not in our national interests and this is the messaging that AQ throws at us in the ME---and our actions just reinforce that message.

If we do get overtly involved in Syria, that would reinforce AQs message even more. Regardless of our intention, it would be perceived as American intrusion in a Muslim nation in pursuit of presumably nefarious American objectives. We can message til we're blue in the face, the Arab Street will not believe that we are acting to protect Syrians. I don't think most Americans would believe it.


But to the Arab population as a whole the killing does in fact matter and how we respond to Syria is determining what influence or no influence we will have going forward in the ME and it is definitely impacting the Saudi's who say the least are p_____ed at us is an understatement.

Certainly it matters, but that doesn't mean they expect the US to do anything about it. It's one of those "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situations: if we stay out we're accused of standing by and watching Muslims die, if we go in we're accused of meddling for our own devious purposes. Given that there is zero domestic support for involvement, the chances of a favorable outcome look very small, there's a serious lack of credible partners to support, and very high quagmire potential, it's hard to craft a persuasive case for involvement.

Dayuhan
01-02-2014, 01:06 AM
Is it something we need to change? No, not from a national survival standpoint. From a human standpoint though, yes it needs to change.

"It needs to change" and "we need to change it" are two very different things. Which, if either, do you propose?


The Muslims who are persecuted in the places you mention are targets mainly because they are Muslim Separatists, they are rebelling against the government. Righteous cause or not, they are viewed as rebels. That is qualitatively different from the persecution of Christians in some Muslim countries and especially the killings committed by the takfiri killers. That persecution and those murders are committed solely because the victims are Christians. They aren't rebelling against anybody. They are being killed because of the faith they profess. They aren't the only ones being killed for their faith. In Pakistan the Ahmadis, Shias and others get the chop.

They are separatists, and rebelling, because they are persecuted, not the other way around. Why do you think they are rebelling in the first place?


My own opinion as to what to do is twofold. The first is talk. The US gov should take notice of these things and say so.

I don't think talk is very wise if we aren't prepared to back the talk with action. If we aren't (and we're generally not) we just come off looking impotent.


The other thing is extension of visas to Christians from countries like that. It seems to me that they would win, not getting killed next week; and we would win, we would gain people who would like the place that saved them.

Would we extend that privilege to persecuted non-Christians as well? Why would we single out Christians persecuted by Muslims for special favor?

Dayuhan
01-02-2014, 01:19 AM
But when the conditions are of a resistance nature cause by the impact of US policy we need to be extremely aware, as this is what drives transnational terrorism against us. When it is a fusion of both, and we work to protect the government that is at odds with its population (as is typically the case for out intel-driven operations today), it is the worst case, and this is why strategically we are moving in the opposite direction our tactics are intended to take us.

We need to very careful about any assumption that any situation is caused by US policy. US policy is often one of many interactive causes, but it is almost never "the cause" of anything. Overrating the causative impact of US policy can lead us to overrate the curative impact of a US policy change, or lead us to assume a control that we do not actually have.

Perhaps the worst mistake we can make is thinking that problems exacerbated by our meddling in the past can be alleviated by meddling again: that we can effectively counter-meddle, or undo bad meddling with good meddling. That just gets us deeper into the mess.

Casting the causation of modern radical Islam and the terrorism some factions of it have embraced purely in terms of populace-government dynamics is dangerously simplistic. Assuming that it was caused by US policy and therefore can be uncaused by US policy is equally simplistic and equally dangerous, assuming a power that we do not actually have. Government-populace dynamics in the Muslim world (and elsewhere) are complex and often tense, but they are not something we can play any meaningful role in resolving. Even in cases where we have distorted those relationships in the past, we cannot meddle again to try to un-distort them; if we try we just distort them more.

I feel that at times you're trying to force ground circumstances into the model, rather than adjusting the model to fit ground circumstances.

Bob's World
01-02-2014, 02:02 AM
Dayuhan,

We'll just have to agree to disagree.

There is a far cry from "simple" to "simplistic.". A P38 C-ration can opener is simple, beating a can open with a rock is simplistic.

Ideology has been made the great Bogeyman, along with simplistic statements like "they hate us for our freedom." History of such conflicts and the facts of the current ones simply don't support this.

"They" hate that we are often the obstacle to forcing governments to evolve where evolution is both necessary and reasonable, and no effective legal means exist to gain such changes. Or at least this is often perceived to be true. Reality is irrelevant, as is our own perceptions of ourselves. It is the perceptions of the people in question that rules.

AmericanPride
01-02-2014, 06:39 AM
Ideology has been made the great Bogeyman, along with simplistic statements like "they hate us for our freedom." History of such conflicts and the facts of the current ones simply don't support this.

Bob, I am interested in where you see policy and ideology intersecting and the relevancy of that relationship to your discourse. I ask this because the comment quoted below is itself riddled with ideological presumptions.


"They" hate that we are often the obstacle to forcing governments to evolve where evolution is both necessary and reasonable, and no effective legal means exist to gain such changes. Or at least this is often perceived to be true. Reality is irrelevant, as is our own perceptions of ourselves. It is the perceptions of the people in question that rules.

In your original post, you asked: do ideologies - be it Nazism, Communism, Islamism, or any other "ism" radicalize otherwise content populations to rise in illegal conflict, or are these simply effective tunes tailored to help a particular "parade" march in step?

The question, and some other comments in the same OP, contain numerous references to legality and I am curious to what extent your emphasis on legality shapes your policy prescriptions.

AmericanPride
01-02-2014, 07:04 AM
this comment goes to the heart of our policy failures in the ME---it is all about how we are perceived nothing more nothing else---how does the common man in the population view us.

I submit to you that the "common man" is an irrelevant political construct, and that the perception of others of us is less important than our perception of ourselves, as far as pursuing a specific policy is concerned. The Middle East is an interesting case study because the material interests of the engaged parties are so clearly visible and so it's easy to dispense with theoretical distractions. I agree that there are a number of "policy failures" in the Middle East, though I would contend that none of them are disastrous, and I am sure we will disagree on which policies should be counted among the failures. I do not think our failures can be described in any significant part to "how we are perceived" - as Dayuhan pointed out, the US is widely perceived as acting in a way contrary to the interests of the "common man in the population" regardless of which policy it pursues. The real question is which uncommon elites are unnecessarily incited to oppose US policies and is it necessary for the US to do anything about it?

Several countries in the ME are in contentious transition, and all the actors have already chosen sides - including the US. But the US is more constrained by the political and economic conditions at home than by any perception of the "common man" in the ME. If the US was ever interested in the views of the "common man", it would never have backed dictatorships in the first place.

Dayuhan
01-02-2014, 08:08 AM
There is a far cry from "simple" to "simplistic.". A P38 C-ration can opener is simple, beating a can open with a rock is simplistic.

I'm aware of the difference. I used "simplistic" for a reason.


Ideology has been made the great Bogeyman, along with simplistic statements like "they hate us for our freedom." History of such conflicts and the facts of the current ones simply don't support this.

Agreed.


"They" hate that we are often the obstacle to forcing governments to evolve where evolution is both necessary and reasonable, and no effective legal means exist to gain such changes.

Unfortunately, that's very nearly as simplistic as "they hate us for our freedom". There are any number of people out there who hate us, or see us as an obstacle to their ambitions or as a potentially exploitable asset or any number of things. There's a huge range of reasons behind all of those. The one you cite is probably among them, but it's by no means the only or the most important one. Singling out that one element as a basis for policy is, yes, simplistic.

The contention that "we are often the obstacle to forcing governments to evolve where evolution is both necessary and reasonable" remains unsupported. Where is this the case? Certainly not in Saudi Arabia. We have zero control or influence over Saudi domestic policy, and not much more over their foreign policy. The example given before, of what happened when the US tried to promote accommodation and negotiation in Bahrain's Arab Spring incident, remains appropriate. I'm sure you noted that the Saudis recently offered $3 billion in military hardware to the Lebanese army, obviously seeking to improve its position vs Hezbollah, with the provision that the hardware must come from France. That's $3 billion less for the US defense industry. That seems a pretty clear statement to me, and I seriously doubt that any American attempt to influence the relationship between the Saudi government and its populaces is going to be well received by either side of that equation.


Or at least this is often perceived to be true. Reality is irrelevant, as is our own perceptions of ourselves. It is the perceptions of the people in question that rules.

I think you're making quite sweeping assumptions about what other people perceive, and I don't see any effort to support those assumptions with evidence.

OUTLAW 09
01-02-2014, 10:32 AM
Robert/Bill---what I say in the next might inflame SF but here goes anyway as I think that is where SF has gone wrong in an attempt to overcome that Army's intense dislike of SF coming out of VN.

In the days of 50/60/early 70s officers assigned to SF A, B, C teams were always volunteers as the crossed arrows for them did not exist.

The result was that the officers came and went but the NCO structure remained in place---WOs were also an unknown item.

What the result was that we got some great, some good and some not so good officers assigned to us-but the team suffered through it knowing they were go at some point so they made the best of it--the shift to the crossed arrows came when the argument was raised that officers would not volunteer for SF as it 1) effected their promotions and future careers, 2) it actually did kill careers as big Army still did not like SF.

If one looks at how that model turned out then today this is what SF has---as the officer raises within the crossed arrows there are becoming virtually no more places for them to be naturally assigned to corresponding to their rank requirements for the next promotion and now SF has a jam at the MAJ and LTC levels causing say a MAJ who gets assigned to a position at the International Center in Germany and who makes LTC to then slide left to an embassy position in a country where he speaks the language and then slides left again to say a SOF higher staff position in order to reach 20 years.

So really you still only have young officers up through CAPT and then they are on the hunt for promotion positions in that 20 yr hunt.

So SF shifted---and installed officers and WOs into the teams taking away what had been a solid NCO core who remained for years a lot of the time in the same teams.

In my case it was the core NCOs that moved a second tasker to rethink--not the officers who were just assigned for 2 yrs and who moved on.

It was the NCOs that set into motion a movement within the HRF that came to fruition ---ie moving a really rightwing unit to a moderate force that led in the rebalancing of a mistake---it took massive efforts on the part of that team and teams coming in behind us ---it was NCOs that made the difference, not staffs or officers. But we pulled it off and in the process forced the national level to rethink their policies.

I think this is where Robert is going in his thoughts.

If SF really wants to rethink and reset after 12 yrs of war then they need to start with the crossed arrows problem set that is in fact gumming up the works not helping.

Maybe a policy of yes you can served X number of officer years within SF under the crossed arrows but at some point you have to get into the real world and perform in the real world and then maybe in X number of years come back to the force in more senior positions.

This would in effect do what a number of PME courses tries to do---integrate SF into the GPF and provide a better understanding within the GPF of SF.

Try selling that right now to the crossed arrows.

OUTLAW 09
01-02-2014, 10:53 AM
Dayuhan--this is an interesting comment;

"The contention that "we are often the obstacle to forcing governments to evolve where evolution is both necessary and reasonable" remains unsupported."


Take this sentence and then as an exercise read all the major US newspaper headlines right after the Arab Spring erupted in each Arab country---immediate talk of "democracy breaking out, free elections, rights for women, radical Islam being defeated, personal freedom and democratic values, etc---the list could go on and on.

So at the national level we transported our values into the Spring ---did we for a single moment stop as ask if that is what the population wanted that was in the streets?---no we did not and when the Spring took a turn we did not like---check out then the newspaper headlines.

This is where Robert is heading.

Take Iran right now---there was a really interesting article in a leading German newspaper a week or so ago in German indicating that yes fundamentalism is being reinforced every day in Iran but that is not where the young population is headed--ie they tolerate the fundamentalism because in their private lives out of sight of the Revolutionary Guards they drink, party to the latest music and purchase ten times the amount of cosmetics than during the Shah days-by the way cosmetics sales in Saudi are sky high and the young Iranians in the face of all of this are actually favorable towards the US

By the way the article was not picked up by any newspaper outside of Germany. Ever wonder why?

BUT here is the difference---they would never turn back the revolution, and they firmly believe Iran has a nuclear right, are practicing Shia and blame the US for the economical problems inside Iran.

They do though believe in secularism not fundamentalism---big difference.

So what has been our position towards Iran?

This is what Robert is alluding to---do our actions which we view from our side to be correct actually cause more problems especially if those actions are not being viewed the same way by the target population? Historically speaking and even today the answer is yes.

I keep repeating as it is true our national policies are in fact driving fundamentalism on both sides of Islam and we are delivering to AQ everyday messaging that is being used against us within the target population.

Especially in the worldwide Sunni populations---this includes the worldwide Shia populations as well.

Bob's World
01-02-2014, 12:00 PM
First, I want to thank everyone who has weighed in on this thread to date, your comments have been well- considered and thoughtful, regardless of where your personal analysis led you to fall on the topic.

Often our greatest advances as humans appeared simplistic when first introduced. My thoughts are a multi-year reduction process from many diverse and complex concepts and events down to where I am now. That does not make me right, I could be as wrong headed as our current concepts, doctrine and approaches to these challenges. It is an effort to get to a fundamental understanding, and to express it in simple terms.

Often that can be perceived as "simplistic."

Simplistic is watching cable news and reading blogs all day; marinating that in one's own personal biases and then announcing some theory. That could produce the right answer, like monkeys typing, but that is not how I got here.

Nor did I get here doing lengthy research in some University office, spiced with a handful of field trips to various theaters.

Mine is a mix of research, study and continuous practice. That does not make my perspective right, but it does make it not "simplistic."

OUTLAW 09
01-02-2014, 12:22 PM
Dayuhan---for the want of beating a dead horse five tines over---here goes just two examples of what I and Robert might agree on.

1. Let's take Iran which is the most pressing national policy point right now---now take yourself on a backwards journey to the beginnings at least for me of the Iranian problem---1953 with the CIA's overthrow of a "democratically elected president".

Understand fully why we at the national level condoned the coup ie Soviet containment---all Cold War thinking.

Now jump forward to the 1979 overthrow of the Shah which really was just a continuation of unfinished business from 1953.

What was our public and private responses to the overthrow then?

Now take time to really study the SAVAK-trained by, paid for,sometimes led by and controlled by the CIA and the role it played from in Iran 1953 to 1979.
More critically the role played by SAVAK against Iranian dissidents in say Germany during that period.

Jump to the Beirut US Embassy bombing which actually only targeted the CIA---strong rumors that it was a payback by the KGB for the CIA's turning over to the Iranians a list of all Iranian Communists-who were then either killed, imprisoned or fled the country by the Revolutionary Guards.

Now jump forward to 2013 and how do we respond to the Iranian nuclear drive? Now really take time to study the hypocritical views of the US in that you Iran cannot have a nuclear program but yes you Israel can not only have nuclear power you can in fact have nuclear weapons.

How is it possible that Israeli nuclear weapons are such a "well kept secret" that everyone in the ME knows exists, but we at the national level still deny?

2. Now the second example of our national policies and how they effect the target population-Hamas and Gaza.

Was it not Bush that pushed for "democratically open, free and observed public elections" in Gaza? Yes and they were open, public, free,--- from the multinational observers on the ground relatively fair for/by ME standards.

Why/How did the national policy makers really believe the PLO would win?---just where were they in their thoughts as everyone in Gaza knew how corrupted the PLO was and still is.

Hamas now wins in an "democratically open, public, free, and fair election" and then what was our national level policy response to that election through to today? We should have at the national level been overjoyed as is it not the same values we keep repeating over and over to the world as examples of "democracy"?

In the Gaza population the US polices as perceived by them definitely are not winning us friends in that region.

If you still cannot see the connections then I guess we can beat the dead horse six times with other examples.

This is where Robert is coming from.

OUTLAW 09
01-02-2014, 02:49 PM
Robert---your comments on simplistic are interesting---the core problem I have with the national policy making since the days I began a long walk through the dark UW world colored by the Cold War and continued until today has been one of really wondering why they get it so wrong all of the time just not occasionally wrong.

Yes I can understand the drive in having the entire world accept our values as an underlying US quirk but much as you have I learned also during that long cold UW march that those we assumed wanted and aspired to "our values" did not necessarily have the same understanding of the meaning of the words that we have. Miscommunication is killing us geopolitically.

Then attempt to push back and start to question what was occurring---then one gets hit with "you don't get it, what are you a leftie worst a communist, hey if you do not like it leave the country, you are naive that is not what the world wants etc".

And if one holds a clearance then one learns to throttle the thoughts, accept the marching orders and move on---but the questions still chew at you especially if in Iraq you get an eye opening again that starts showing you what you thought years earlier was in fact correct. Have felt for years that holding a clearance inhibits deep and straight forward discussions out of fear that one takes the comments in the wrong direction---one of questioning authority.

My question to you recently--it cannot be that simple---meant if in fact it is actually simple then why does not a national level decision maker or advisor see it as well.

I have felt for a long number of years the world is far simpler than we want it to be and we as humans tend to want to make something far more complicated than needed as we think that is what it should be---being simple challenges one to relook his or her view of the events and question all the time not just once and move on.

Maybe having worked the team level in strange and challenging cultures colored my views but at the same time it reinforced certain views --I was as well fortune to during my education after SF to have had BU Professors who had great academic reputations as renown "actual" Socialist/Communists who forced one to challenge one's biases and to defend one's views.

This discussion has been interesting in that it pushes a thought that is hard for an individual to do "speak truth to power"---really hard for the current Force even harder for national decision makers and their advisors.

Maybe that is the reason that after fighting the fight for so long within the organization and seeing how the organization does not listen worse yet sidelines one---I decided to pull the plug and remain outside the US --gives me peace of mind as one can carry on such discussions as this one with friends/past service members and one surprisingly finds many having the same views.

My SF career started overseas and ending a career overseas seemed to be a fitting concept. When one walks the road of participating in history as long as I have one tends to get cynical--cynical does not work currently in the US. Learned a long time ago peace of mind counts over anything-also learned that one can never really change history.

You and I might understand what we are discussing but that understanding will never make it to the decision making levels.

Actually events are simple but that is a hard message to carry forward especially for decision makers.

AmericanPride
01-02-2014, 02:59 PM
This is what Robert is alluding to---do our actions which we view from our side to be correct actually cause more problems especially if those actions are not being viewed the same way by the target population? Historically speaking and even today the answer is yes.

Robert's argument is well understood - the counter-question is two-fold: (1) to what extent is that phenomenon relevant compared to other causes and (2) what is the relevancy of a "target population's" perception of policy to that policy? Resistance to a thing is not a determinant of that thing's invalidity.

Bob's World
01-02-2014, 03:09 PM
AP - Exactly right. Often it is not the things (Ends) we seek to do, but rather the Ways and Means we employ to achieve them.

That, and the hard fact that success for the US post-Cold War was largely to sustain the status quo. This is also success for dictators, friend or foe, such as the Kim and Saudi and Assad families, Qaddafi, Mubarak, etc. In an era freed from the structure of the Cold War stand off and empowered by information technology everyone and every other government in the world defined success in terms of change.

It is this collision of those dedicated to sustaining the status quo with those dedicated to change. Stability from a rigid structure vs. stability as in riding a bike. We have been too dedicated to rigidity and have proven quite soundly that one can indeed forget how to ride a bike.

Bob's World
01-02-2014, 03:19 PM
Not sure if this helps, but this is a visual depiction

Here is the text from the Notes Page:

To counter the strategy of AQ, we must first recognize the fundamental political opportunism of what they have been doing. We have overly focused on the illegality and violence of their tactics, upon the ideology they have applied to rally others to their cause, and upon the fact that they saw fit to attack the US and our interests. Those are all superficial factors that are true, and somewhat relevant, but largely immaterial to understanding this problem at a fundamental and strategic level.

There are two broad types of insurgency in play, revolution and resistance. These are very different. The first is internal and merely illegal politics; the second is external and a continuation of war. Both have unique cures as well. Bin Laden and AQ did not "create" this. Like Mao, UBL "saw a parade, and leapt in front."

US foreign policy for the Middle East was largely designed to contain the Soviets and to create a system of reliable allies across the region to secure our interests through. We compromised our values to put this system in place and to sustain it as part of our Cold War Containment strategy.

Once the Cold War ended, unlike other regions, the governments of this region were satisfied with the status quo, as were US business and government. So we let our foreign policy ride, and it grew increasingly out of date and inappropriate. This began almost immediately to create conditions of resistance insurgency to remove this virtual "occupation by policy." Recent decisions by President Obama in Egypt, Syria, and most recently Iran are working to reduce these conditions. Our excessive CT practices, however, and dedication to preserving regimes in KSA, Mali, Yemen; our invasions and manipulations of governance in Iraq and Afghanistan reinforce perceptions of illegitimate control. We must find a new balance to reduce these conditions holistically across the region and it will work to drain the energy from the conditions of resistance insurgency AQ relies upon to recruit for acts of transnational terrorism against the US and our interests.

The governments of the region have never had to deal with populations as empowered and informed as currently exist in the region. Much like the conditions that led to the wars of Reformation in Western Europe 500 years ago, the Middle East is in a period of tremendous internal instability.

Governments that cling to the status quo will ultimately succumb to insurgent forces. Those that make substantive changes and that seek to be as inclusive as possible may evolve peacefully. Revolution does not bring good governance, it simply acts to force change or removal upon governance perceived as bad. The key for the US is to nurture a perception a mediator. To work to convert revolutionary energy into evolutionary change of governance. To take sides is to inadvertently take on too much control/ownership of outcomes and to create de facto illegitimate outcomes.

We must relinquish control and seek positions of influence with formal and informal groups alike.

Basic rules of this new game:
Anything we seek to control is de facto illegitimate and will be rejected to some degree by some, if not all, of the populations it affects.

We can conduct CT against UW operatives and foreign fighters; but not against nationalist insurgents. (primary purpose for action and nature of relationship to the population are the two critical factors for binning actors for action).

Ideology is a Critical Requirement, not a COG. But if based in religion it is not also a critical vulnerability. Do not counter ideology, rather we must out compete ideology. Co-opt rational aspects of AQ's political platform and out-compete them for influence with insurgent populations.

Winning is measured in terms of influence, not control of outcomes. We must assume risk and become more agnostic and pragmatic in our willingness to work our interests with who is there as they are, not who we want as we want them to be.

The COG for the US-AQ conflict is probably the nature of the US-KSA relationship. This deal with Iran and rejection of Mubarak have probably done more to reduce the energy of this COG than anything the military has done. There is no military solution to this problem, the military can only create time and space and be an agent of influence - positive or negative will be determined by how we act and how we are perceived; not by what we intend or if we are legal or not.

The COG for the US-Iran conflict is the damage and response of US violation of Iranian sovereignty in running the Coup to put the Shah into power and to then sustain him there; as well as the US compression of Iranian sovereignty following the hostage crisis. Iran is perhaps the most geostrategically important nation in the region, current efforts to begin healing that relationship will drain the energy from this conflict and open the door to the opportunities found in our shared interests.

LH was born as a resistance to Israeli occupation of Lebanon. Initially the physical occupation, but LH is sustained by the perceived occupation by policy that continues day to day.

Appropriate trumps legal.

A counter UW strategy shifts the main effort from JSOC to USASOC for SOF

OUTLAW 09
01-02-2014, 03:46 PM
Robert---does this comment not break eggs?

"A counter UW strategy shifts the main effort from JSOC to USASOC for SOF"


By the way the description and the slide as actually quite good and to the point--more over it makes sense.

OUTLAW 09
01-02-2014, 03:56 PM
AP

"Resistance to a thing is not a determinant of that thing's invalidity"---- interesting comment.

The target population does not tend to validate the "thing" in the heat of the moment. It is the message that is important--meaning does it validate what I the population feel, eat, live---does it validate my life, my family, my envisioned future---that is the angle the population takes---they do not mentally dissect the thing for validity that is a western approach.

They are really only interested in the "thing" as an entity--in the ME that is a truthism.

OUTLAW 09
01-02-2014, 05:41 PM
Robert---this is why I often say the national decision makers do not understand resistance insurgency or do they understand the populations they target in the ME.

This is from an article today that indicates that they really do play to the messaging of AQ.

"For the region as a whole, the President cited four key American interests in the Middle East—confronting aggression from the region aimed at the U.S., maintaining an unhindered flow of oil, confronting jihadists and terrorist networks, and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destructions. The promotion of democracy and human rights came in as a fifth fiddle."

Massive DoS cuts to the various democracy programs were also announced.

So really the non support for the Syria Sunni groups against Assad a Shia and the negotiations with Iran do in fact reinforce why the AQ has such a pull still in the ME.

And it reinforces the current thinking of the Saudi's ---a real mistake on the part of the US national decision level makers.

OUTLAW 09
01-02-2014, 06:32 PM
Robert---your thoughts not only apply to say the ME it also would apply to say Mexico.

This was an interesting comment today in borderlandbeat.

When the leaders of Mexico and China met last summer, there was much talk of the need to deepen trade between their nations. Down on Mexico's Pacific coast, a drug gang was already making it a reality.

The Knights Templar cartel, (Caballeros Templarios) steadily diversifying into other businesses, became so successful at exporting iron ore to China that the Mexican Navy in November had to move in and take over the port in Lazaro Cardenas, a city that has become one of the gang's main cash generators.

This steelmaking center, drug smuggling hot spot and home of a rapidly growing container port in the western state of Michoacán occupies a strategic position on the Pacific coast, making it a natural gateway for burgeoning trade with China.

Bob's World
01-02-2014, 07:18 PM
China and Mexico have some common ground in regards to drugs, the foreign policy of a world power, and an incredibly disruptive effect on their respective societies.

The history of how Great Britain forced China to take Afghan opium in trade, creating a nation of addicts and draining China of their hard currency, facilitating what China remembers well as the "100 years of humiliation" is not a proud one for the West.

US policy to make certain drugs illegal, resulting in the vast, illicit market that exists today and that is so disruptive to Mexican society and governance seem benign by comparison, but is nearly equally damaging all the same.

In both cases there was indeed an occupation by policy that created and is creating negative resistance energy against the perceived agents of their respective hardships.

It all comes down to a question of "how do the people feel, and who do they blame." Here is where ideology comes into play, as ideology is the tool to intensify these feelings and to direct blame in some particular direction.

America deluded itself that China hated the Europeans, but that they liked us. We saw them as a critical partner in the early days of the Cold War for containment of Sovietism. It was a rude shock that sparked the entire "Domino Theory" in South East Asia when Mao prevailed and China made very clear that they saw the US in the exact same light they saw the European powers who had occupied and oppressed them over the previous century.

This forced us to abandon key US concepts, such as the right of self-determination, when we had to expand containment from Sovietism to the much broader "communism" that was resonating with peasants weary of sharecropping small plots across SEA. It also led to the US promoting more heavily democracy as a political counter to communism. The proverbial slippery slope that began us on the path to our current NSS and its highly ideological tone.

OUTLAW 09
01-02-2014, 08:58 PM
Robert--- this sentence if compared to the released US main four points of policy for the ME does not bode well for the US through well for AQ for the various targeted populations of the ME.

"It all comes down to a question of "how do the people feel, and who do they blame." Here is where ideology comes into play, as ideology is the tool to intensify these feelings and to direct blame in some particular direction."

So when does the national level get off the slippery slope--or do they even see the slippery slope?

Or can they even get off of the slippery slope when the national political debate is divided and one side is ready to accuse the other for being weak in foreign policy or even worse.

Another point that spins out of your concept is one that is not mentioned if mentioned at all---with the speed of social media and other communication sources--- conversations that occur in the public political domain which is for say US internal consumption will be interpreted by the target population sometimes in ways that we did/do not anticipate and which will often reinforce their feelings and who they blame.

A second spin out of the concept is how does a target population take actions committed by individuals in another population that is viewed as provoking to their culture---this just reinforces the perceptions of the targeted population.

So in fact your concept does apply well to the actions of one population provoking another and reinforcing the messaging of AQ---we have seen this occur now repeatedly.

So are the actions of an individual who knows that he is specifically provoking a targeted populated in support of national level decision makers or an attempt to force decision makers in a particular direction if that person does not believe the national level is not "hard" enough?

AmericanPride
01-02-2014, 10:43 PM
The target population does not tend to validate the "thing" in the heat of the moment. It is the message that is important--meaning does it validate what I the population feel, eat, live---does it validate my life, my family, my envisioned future---that is the angle the population takes---they do not mentally dissect the thing for validity that is a western approach.

Resistance to a thing indicates that the resistor perceives the thing resisted to be invalid on some level -- illegal, immoral, impractical, etc. However, if policy's effectiveness is measured by the extent in which it fulfills the goals of the policymaker, unless the goals explicitly include validation from the "target population", then the population's perception of the policy is irrelevant. This brings into question whether the problem identified by Robert is really a problem at all, at least in abstraction. In this calculation, resistance to policy is already a part of the cost-benefit equation; the fundamental problem is when an anomalous unintended consequence emerges that provokes resistance in sufficient strength to contradict the policy's pursued goals (that is, develops the capabilities to defeat the resources applied to the policy). In Robert's most recent example, the US policy in the ME to contain the expansion of Soviet influence was successful, despite the fact that it may have incited opposition from Islamist quarters. Like communism and nationalism before it, Islamism has not reversed or defeated US ME policy. Specifically, AQ has not been particularly successful - the House of Saud is still in power, the only Islamist state is shia-dominated Iran, and there has not been a general rising against US interests. The Arab Spring has largely been in indirect favor of US interests. Understandably, the evolution of US policy from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism has a number of continuities since the bureaucracies (and a good number of the policymakers) have not changed.

The issues you and Robert identify clearly are the results of problems in multi-level games where the administration's foreign policies are constrained (determined?) by the outcomes of internal bureaucratic/factional conflicts. But this also does not necessarily de-legitimatize the policy, even if it brings the policy into conflict with the interests of the "target population". It only means that the policy must satisfy a wider range of invested domestic actors and that will almost always come at the cost of outsiders (and why concepts like the "responsibility to protect" are politically absurd).

So, bringing this back full circle to Robert's original questions; yes, policymakers can provoke resistance, but that's not necessarily bad or undesirable for the policy. There's always some level of ideological radicalization which I suspect is strongly related to the general conditions of the population and its historical context. But that's less important than the capabilities of the radicals to resist the policy.

carl
01-02-2014, 11:06 PM
America deluded itself that China hated the Europeans, but that they liked us. We saw them as a critical partner in the early days of the Cold War for containment of Sovietism. It was a rude shock that sparked the entire "Domino Theory" in South East Asia when Mao prevailed and China made very clear that they saw the US in the exact same light they saw the European powers who had occupied and oppressed them over the previous century.

This forced us to abandon key US concepts, such as the right of self-determination, when we had to expand containment from Sovietism to the much broader "communism" that was resonating with peasants weary of sharecropping small plots across SEA. It also led to the US promoting more heavily democracy as a political counter to communism. The proverbial slippery slope that began us on the path to our current NSS and its highly ideological tone.

I must object to what you are implying here. A lot of your analysis depends upon the proper reading of history. Your reading is flawed, deeply flawed.

Whether the Chinese or China liked or disliked the US in 1949 is completely beside the point. Mao and the CCP disliked the US and the Chinese were going to like and do what Mao and the CCP told them to like or do or they would be killed-blood on the ground, head bashed in never to breathe again killed. That this is true is obvious in the history. Lots of Chinese fought very hard to keep the CCP out. They lost. After that loss, tens-read that again-tens of millions of Chinese died at the hands of Mao and the CCP in order that their vision of China be imposed, whether the Chinese liked it or not. What happened is what a group of organized killers wanted to happen who were Chinese wanted to happen to those other millions, including the dead, not what 'China' wanted.

The false reading of history extends to the second paragraph also. It is makes your theories neater if you disregard the facts. The facts are that lots and lots of people didn't much like the Communists and fought very hard for a long time to keep them out. That they lost doesn't mean you can ignore the historical record in order to make sure your theory doesn't have any loose ends.

Dayuhan
01-02-2014, 11:28 PM
Dayuhan--this is an interesting comment;

"The contention that "we are often the obstacle to forcing governments to evolve where evolution is both necessary and reasonable" remains unsupported."

Take this sentence and then as an exercise read all the major US newspaper headlines right after the Arab Spring erupted in each Arab country---immediate talk of "democracy breaking out, free elections, rights for women, radical Islam being defeated, personal freedom and democratic values, etc---the list could go on and on.

So at the national level we transported our values into the Spring ---did we for a single moment stop as ask if that is what the population wanted that was in the streets?---no we did not and when the Spring took a turn we did not like---check out then the newspaper headlines.

This is where Robert is heading.

American headline writers do have the tendency to rhapsodize over revolution against a dictator. They certainly have the tendency to assume that all people share our values, and that revolutions will necessarily go as we wish they would. They are also easily disappointed when they don't get what they expect.

However, newspaper headlines are neither a tool of policy nor indicative of policy, and they wield no coercive force. Our headlines do not "transport our values elesewhere", nor do they impose our values on anyone. It's a huge stretch to claim that anyone, anywhere, felt imposed upon because they read an American newspaper. If the US government hade made support or assistance conditional on acceptance of American values, or threatened to punish those who failed to adopt American values, that would be a different story. Did they?

In Egypt and Tunisia at least, democracy and free elections were very much on the agenda from the start, and not an American imposition.

I'm also not sure how relevant this is to what Robert was talking about, which was the US providing support to governments under pressure from their populaces, and thus allowing those governments to resist pressure to change. While the US may be reasonably accused of having done that for Mubarak in the past, the past is not terribly malleable, and the US at least resisted that temptation this time around.

In the aborted Bahrain Arab Spring, the US actually followed a course quite similar to what Robert has advocated in the past, throwing its weight behind accommodation, negotiation, and reform. The government of Bahrain, with Saudi support, ignored the US completely. How well that will work for them in the long run remains to be seen, but it underscores the very limited capacity of the US to intervene in government/populace relations in the Middle East.


Take Iran right now---there was a really interesting article in a leading German newspaper a week or so ago in German indicating that yes fundamentalism is being reinforced every day in Iran but that is not where the young population is headed--ie they tolerate the fundamentalism because in their private lives out of sight of the Revolutionary Guards they drink, party to the latest music and purchase ten times the amount of cosmetics than during the Shah days-by the way cosmetics sales in Saudi are sky high and the young Iranians in the face of all of this are actually favorable towards the US

By the way the article was not picked up by any newspaper outside of Germany. Ever wonder why?

BUT here is the difference---they would never turn back the revolution, and they firmly believe Iran has a nuclear right, are practicing Shia and blame the US for the economical problems inside Iran.

They do though believe in secularism not fundamentalism---big difference.

So what has been our position towards Iran?

Our position towards Iran necessarily responds to the Iranian government, not the partying, cosmetics-buying youth. The Iranian government and key elements thereof (like the Revolutionary Guards) have distinct regional ambitions that are not particularly compatible with US interests, and the US can't overlook that. The partying youth may think well of us, but the Ayatollahs at the top of the pile do not... and which of those two make decisions on where a bomb, or any other element of Iranian armed force, would go?

I have my own criticisms of US policy re Iran over the years, but at the same time it has to be recognized as a complex pile with no really good answers. I think the US has been wise to resist the constant urging toward hard-line policy and military action that we hear from the Saudis, Israelis, and some American factions who either agree with or represent them. At the same time, a policy that treated Iran as if the young pro-American generation ran the country would be a bit naive.


This is what Robert is alluding to---do our actions which we view from our side to be correct actually cause more problems especially if those actions are not being viewed the same way by the target population? Historically speaking and even today the answer is yes.

This is of course so. I should perhaps clarify: I completely agree with Robert that the US should not defend dictators from their populaces, or provide them with the means to resist popular pressure for change. We disagree on the extent to which the US is actually doing tins, particularly in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. We also disagree on the extent to which the US can proactively intervene to reverse or correct any previous meddling. My view is that any attempt by the US to interpose itself as mediator between Government and populace in any part of the Middle East will trigger exactly what you refer to above: "actions which we view from our side to be correct actually cause more problems". We cannot mediate unless both parties accept us as mediator, and the probability of that happening approaches zero.


I keep repeating as it is true our national policies are in fact driving fundamentalism on both sides of Islam and we are delivering to AQ everyday messaging that is being used against us within the target population.

Especially in the worldwide Sunni populations---this includes the worldwide Shia populations as well.

I've said that myself many times, particularly with respect to armed US intrusions in Muslim lands, which absolutely reinforce AQs message.


Dayuhan---for the want of beating a dead horse five tines over---here goes just two examples of what I and Robert might agree on....

...In the Gaza population the US polices as perceived by them definitely are not winning us friends in that region.

If you still cannot see the connections then I guess we can beat the dead horse six times with other examples.

This is where Robert is coming from.

I'm fully aware of the history in Iran, in Gaza, and quite a few other places. The US has contributed to some unholy messes in the area. We all know that.

However, for purposes of this discussion, the focus has been on the US habit of supporting dictators in their efforts to control their own populaces. There is of course no doubt that the US did this in many places during the Cold War. Since then the US has (broadly, and in varying degrees) tried to pull back from that policy. This has contributed to (not caused, but contributed to) a general transition out of dictatorship in much of the world. In other places, notably the Arabian Gulf, autocracies have shown that they don't need our support and are quite capable of controlling their populaces without it. The question is what, if anything, the US should try to do about that.

OUTLAW 09
01-02-2014, 11:49 PM
AP---this is an interesting point--and it goes to actually what has been mentioned here---target populations do not think in abstracts and some do not use the western concept of rationally in taking a policy apart to see what is good or what is bad.

Many reactions on the ground within the population are emotionally built on their years of observing what had been happening to them.

If one currently accepts the argument that there is indeed a deep fight ongoing between Shia fundamentalism ie Iran and Sunni fundamentalism ie Saudi and that fight is around the religious belief that Shiaism is a deviant Islam to be countered by the Sunni side and the Sunni's ie Saudi believes that Shiaism must be contained and is attempting to build a wall around Iran from Afghanistan to Lebanon---then you are close to understanding what various populations in the ME are thinking.

Now along comes various US policy developments ie the US is negotiating with Iran a Shia country, ie the US allowed for the first time a democratically elected Shia government to be created bordering Saudi Arabia, ie the US tap dances a policy on Syria where over 100K Sunni's are killed or wounded, US policy in the eyes of Syrian Sunni's---chemical weapons are bad "barrel bombs are OK, the US is delivering weapons to a Shia country to be used against Sunni's and the examples go on.

Now if you are say the Syrian Sunni population or say the global Sunni population what is your view of US policies as they seem to be focused in the eyes of the Sunni population against them?

If you are Saudi who feels responsible to defend the global Sunni population--how do you interpret US policies other than focused against Saudi and Sunni's.

One could argue as you do that the US policies are being incorrectly interpreted or the Sunni population does not quite get the "abstract" of the policies---but they do not get it and in fact respond well to the arguments being pushed out by AQ as the messaging matches their personal experience.

So it is as Robert indicates---how they actually "feel" is something we Americans often have problems with when we create policies because "feelings" are hard to quantify. We are never good with "touchy feely things" some populations on the otherhand are quite adept at it.

OUTLAW 09
01-03-2014, 12:01 AM
Dayuhan---

Do not think this is really what Robert has been alluding to.

"However, for purposes of this discussion, the focus has been on the US habit of supporting dictators in their efforts to control their own populaces."

AmericanPride
01-03-2014, 12:25 AM
One could argue as you do that the US policies are being incorrectly interpreted or the Sunni population does not quite get the "abstract" of the policies---but they do not get it and in fact respond well to the arguments being pushed out by AQ as the messaging matches their personal experience.

I'm not arguing that US policies are being "incorrectly interpreted". I'm arguing that the interpretation of US policies by the "common man" in the "target population" is not relevant in measuring the effectiveness of US policies (with the obvious caveat being if the policies are in fact aimed at affecting the perception of the target population). Strictly speaking, US policies fundamentally serve US interests. Perception or opposition or feeling toward US policy is not relevant unless it has a direct bearing on the outcome of the policy. This is basically a question of power, not perception. Does the perception of the common Saudi of US negotiations with Iran at all impact US energy security? I doubt it. In light of the reduced US military presence in the region and domestic economic constraints (and to a lesser extent, the Af-Pak issue), normalization of relations with Iran makes sense from a US standpoint. What makes the perception of the common Saudi, Syrian, Iraqi, or Israeli for that matter, relevant to that policy?

carl
01-03-2014, 12:54 AM
"It needs to change" and "we need to change it" are two very different things. Which, if either, do you propose?

Well I'll tell ya. You should answer the questions you pose to yourself to yourself since I didn't ask them. Things would be much simpler that way. Or...Wouldn't things be much simpler if you asked the questions you pose to yourself, yourself?


They are separatists, and rebelling, because they are persecuted, not the other way around. Why do you think they are rebelling in the first place?

Well again I'll tell ya. It could be that there is a long history of separatism in those places going back decades that is as much cultural as it is religious and as much a result of various conquests and treaties as much as it is cultural and religious. The modern manifestations of these conflicts are also sometimes overlain by a takfiri ideology that makes them perhaps more nasty than before. Or...Don't you think that is what the separatists and AQ would have you think and perhaps that isn't totally accurate?


I don't think talk is very wise if we aren't prepared to back the talk with action. If we aren't (and we're generally not) we just come off looking impotent.

No, you are confused. If you don't back promises of action or threats of action, then you come off looking impotent. Talk encompasses more than that. It includes condemnations of murdering people for their religious beliefs and telling govs they should be more active in protecting people from takfiri killers who would kill them for those beliefs. If you are reluctant to do that you are either morally blind or the worst kind of moral coward.


Would we extend that privilege to persecuted non-Christians as well? Why would we single out Christians persecuted by Muslims for special favor?

Well I'll tell ya. That kind of argument is one of those sophist sleights of hand, the old 'If ya can't do everything, you shouldn't do anything.' bit. It is good to do just a little good, even if you can't do total good. And then of course, even though it is politically incorrect to say so, we are a predominantly Christian nation. Because of that, for better or for worse there is a greater sense of identification with the persecuted Christians. From that it is likely there will many more sponsors for those people among the tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands Christian congregations in the US, a logistical consideration of some importance.

Or...Don't you think that the perfect is the enemy of the good? Don't you think the identification of US Christians with say Pakistani Christians might allow for greater private resources to be devoted to them upon their arrival in the US? Don't you think giving a good thing to people who might be murdered if we don't is a good thing?

But the biggest thing to me personally, dumb, unsophisticated flyover person that I am, is that is just don't seem right that those people are targets of takfiri killers. We should at least publicly condemn the killings and offer them a safe place to go.

You don't agree obviously and can be counted on for a very many good reasons why. But for simple minded me, 'it don't seem right' beats them all.

AmericanPride
01-03-2014, 01:23 AM
carl,

I sympathize with your point of view. However, I am curious how you would untangle the multiple layers of ethical obligations that political leaders have and where you draw your ethical boundaries. In your example, does the American president have a greater ethical responsibility to persecuted Christians or to the American voters (who could be put in harm's way in defending the persecuted)? Does the American president have a general responsibility to protect all persecuted populations, or just those with whom "there is a greater sense of identification"? Does it make a difference if the president or persecuted population is Catholic, Coptic, Protestant, or some other Christian brand? What about questions of political sovereignty? What if it's not a major issue for voters?

Dayuhan
01-03-2014, 02:13 AM
Simplistic is watching cable news and reading blogs all day; marinating that in one's own personal biases and then announcing some theory. That could produce the right answer, like monkeys typing, but that is not how I got here.

Nor did I get here doing lengthy research in some University office, spiced with a handful of field trips to various theaters.

Mine is a mix of research, study and continuous practice. That does not make my perspective right, but it does make it not "simplistic."

There are many ways to be simplistic. Excessive attachment to a single model is one of them.

I think your model does have substantial relevance to many insurgencies. It provides, for example, an excellent lens for focusing understanding of the drivers of insurgency in the Philippines. It would apply as well to southern Thailand, and I suspect to the ongoing insurgencies in India, and many others.

I think it's less relevant to insurgencies driven primarily by ethnic, sectarian, an similar us/them grievances, particularly where the parties involved are not prepared to accept the possibility of inclusive settlement. When "good governance" means "governance by us" and "bad governance" means "governance by them", it's hard to find a recipe for good governance that will please both parties.

I do think you're inclined to go a bit astray in taking the model from a device for understanding to a device for action. I think you consistently overrate the influence the US can bring to bear on governance/populace relations in other countries, and consistently underrate the extent to which both governments and populaces will resent and resist any American attempt to intervene in their relations, no matter how well intentioned. For example again, while your model is an excellent device for the American who wishes to understand Philippine insurgencies, an American who decided to take it to the next step and try to help resolve those insurgencies by influencing government/populace relations would accomplish nothing and create a significant mess.

Extending this model to accommodate an actor like AQ, which is neither an insurgency nor populace-based, is quite a stretch. The assumption that AQ draws its primary impetus from a popular desire to change or reform governance in their own countries remains, IMO, unsupported, questionable, and not fully compatible with visible evidence.

Dayuhan
01-03-2014, 02:26 AM
And then of course, even though it is politically incorrect to say so, we are a predominantly Christian nation. Because of that, for better or for worse there is a greater sense of identification with the persecuted Christians. From that it is likely there will many more sponsors for those people among the tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands Christian congregations in the US, a logistical consideration of some importance.

Or...Don't you think that the perfect is the enemy of the good? Don't you think the identification of US Christians with say Pakistani Christians might allow for greater private resources to be devoted to them upon their arrival in the US? Don't you think giving a good thing to people who might be murdered if we don't is a good thing?

I think we are a secular nation that by tradition treats all religions equally (or at least strives to) and grants no special privilege to members of any religious group. Announcing to the world that persecuted Christians are more deserving of our support, assistance, and refuge than any other persecuted person would be grotesquely incompatible with that tradition and would be an act of gratuitous hypocrisy. If it comes down to "it don't seem right", how does it seem right to extend special privilege to members of one religion? The last mantle we want to assume is that of Defender of the Faith.

carl
01-03-2014, 03:35 AM
I think we are a secular nation that by tradition treats all religions equally (or at least strives to) and grants no special privilege to members of any religious group. Announcing to the world that persecuted Christians are more deserving of our support, assistance, and refuge than any other persecuted person would be grotesquely incompatible with that tradition and would be an act of gratuitous hypocrisy. If it comes down to "it don't seem right", how does it seem right to extend special privilege to members of one religion? The last mantle we want to assume is that of Defender of the Faith.

How about that? A 104 word (approximately, I only counted once) version of 'If you can't do everything, you shouldn't do anything.' Or...Why or what purpose would it serve to do anything if you couldn't do everything else?

carl
01-03-2014, 03:47 AM
carl,

I sympathize with your point of view. However, I am curious how you would untangle the multiple layers of ethical obligations that political leaders have and where you draw your ethical boundaries. In your example, does the American president have a greater ethical responsibility to persecuted Christians or to the American voters (who could be put in harm's way in defending the persecuted)? Does the American president have a general responsibility to protect all persecuted populations, or just those with whom "there is a greater sense of identification"? Does it make a difference if the president or persecuted population is Catholic, Coptic, Protestant, or some other Christian brand? What about questions of political sovereignty? What if it's not a major issue for voters?

Why does...oops. I almost turned into somebody else for second. There is no need to untangle anything. You say 'We think takfiris blowing up Pakistani Christians for their faith is a terrible thing, a murderous unjustified and bestial thing. We also think the Pak Army/ISI (since they are the actual gov of the country) should be more energetic about protecting these poor people.' Then you say (in my preferred version of the future) 'We have decided because of these takfiri murderers to extend preferential visa treatment to their victims and potential victims.' And you could use about the same form for any other country it might apply to.

That is a plain and simple act of mercy to people who are in danger. It is a good. There is no conflict between this simple good and any of the other things you mentioned. There is no protecting anybody beyond calling out and shaming evil doers and offering refuge to some of those in danger.

That is how I see it. You want to play 'What if?'? Do it. If you wait until all the what ifs are resolved before you try to help, you will wait a long time because you will never run out of what ifs.

Bob's World
01-03-2014, 04:24 AM
Extending this model to accommodate an actor like AQ, which is neither an insurgency nor populace-based, is quite a stretch. The assumption that AQ draws its primary impetus from a popular desire to change or reform governance in their own countries remains, IMO, unsupported, questionable, and not fully compatible with visible evidence.

First, I have never in my life claimed that AQ is an insurgency. Nor do I think it is helpful to call them a "terrorist organization" (what does that even mean other than that they apply terrorist tactics? It in now way suggests a solution for dealing with why they exist). AQ wages UW. UW requires conditions of insurgency to work. AQ is probably best thought of as a non-state political action group dedicated to the removal of overt Western influence in the Middle East along with those Regimes in the region who have become corrupted by some mix of wealth, power or Western influence, with the Saudis being #1 on that list. They also wish to create a coalition of Muslim states to once again have sufficient power to not have to worry about such external exploitation.

Where do you think AQ's power comes from? They have no population of their own, they must borrow populations from others. The only populations interested in what they are selling are those who are Sunni Muslim and that perceive their own governance to need to change, or that perceive external Western influence to be a corrupting factor that once removed will allow their governance to return to what they see as appropriate.

There is a wealth of visible evidence in the words and deeds of AQ; the events in the ME, the Arab Spring, and countless news articles, etc. coming out of the ME to support my position. In fact, there is little more than speculation and theory from Western "experts" to support the theories of what AQ is that much of our response over the past 12 years have been based upon.

You live in SEA, have you ever wondered why AQ's message falls flat there? The nations there are proudly sovereign, having thrown off inappropriate and illegitimate Western influence during the course of the Cold War. They have no occupation by policy drivers of resistance effects toward the West. Do they have internal revolutionary pressures still, and do some of those revolutionaries accept help from AQ? Yes.

What is the difference between the ME and SEA? Primarily the fact that the ME was held static politically as a major battle ground of our Cold War containment, and because frankly communism/land reform does not resonate among non-agrarian and non-industrialized populations. But in SEA communism/land reform resonated widely among tenant farmers weary of scratching out a scant living for some Western Colonial master or some local mixed breed elite caste master as Spain left behind everyplace they colonized. So SEA Muslims largely addressed these issues and have moved on. Now it is time for those in the ME to do the same. But we are too fixated on the symptoms and how it affects us to see the problem clearly.

AQ only has real influence where certain conditions exist. Address those conditions and they will rapidly fade into irrelevance. But those conditions are political, not ideological or purely economic.

OUTLAW 09
01-03-2014, 09:49 AM
Robert---you hit the nail literally on the head and many in the US public/academic world/national decision makers do not understand the concept.

If one takes your comments below one can layer it nicely over Mexico---the 1910 revolution began over land reform-the revolution was never completed due to US military occupation until the begin of the 1st WW and I would argue the cartels are an extension of this failed revolution coupled with a government that cannot provide the population basic security for a chance for economic growth leading the population to believe their children will not have it any better than they do now.

Actually take out the word AQ and it would deliver a good explanation of what we saw in the 60/70s in Rhodesia (mixed with white supremacy), Angola, Mozambique, and inside South Africa which was called during this Soviet containment period as "wars of national liberation" and was the Cold War focal point for open conflict between the Superpowers.

One of the best written condensed explanations of AQ's pull in specific regions and why.

"You live in SEA, have you ever wondered why AQ's message falls flat there? The nations there are proudly sovereign, having thrown off inappropriate and illegitimate Western influence during the course of the Cold War. They have no occupation by policy drivers of resistance effects toward the West. Do they have internal revolutionary pressures still, and do some of those revolutionaries accept help from AQ? Yes.

What is the difference between the ME and SEA? Primarily the fact that the ME was held static politically as a major battle ground of our Cold War containment, and because frankly communism/land reform does not resonate among non-agrarian and non-industrialized populations. But in SEA communism/land reform resonated widely among tenant farmers weary of scratching out a scant living for some Western Colonial master or some local mixed breed elite caste master as Spain left behind everyplace they colonized. So SEA Muslims largely addressed these issues and have moved on. Now it is time for those in the ME to do the same. But we are too fixated on the symptoms and how it affects us to see the problem clearly.

AQ only has real influence where certain conditions exist. Address those conditions and they will rapidly fade into irrelevance. But those conditions are political, not ideological or purely economic."

Also I would add that in the SEA Muslim countries the issues between Shia and Sunni were settled sometimes brutally but nevertheless settled.

As a side comment Iran has not exported their brand of Shia fundamentalism into those countries as they did not contribute to the Shia Green Crescent theory (and they did not follow the Silk Road trading routes) that was built to defend Iran from Sunni's in the ME.

Again a nice comment to see these days about AQ's pull inside specific populations---it ties nicely into the recent AQ General Guidance to Jihad concerning the "near enemy".

OUTLAW 09
01-03-2014, 09:54 AM
Dayuhan---

Do you think that we do not inside our own population have elements of religions and political groups that one outside viewing us might in fact declare are "fundamentalists"--using the same definition we here in this blog use? Check say the influence of US religious groups on the ongoing Gay laws inside Uganda-one might actually view their direct mixing into Ugandan politics as being "Defender of the Faith" actions. We seem to at times to act in ways that one could argue replicate "Defender of the Faith" actions when viewed by an outside population

"I think we are a secular nation that by tradition treats all religions equally (or at least strives to) and grants no special privilege to members of any religious group. Announcing to the world that persecuted Christians are more deserving of our support, assistance, and refuge than any other persecuted person would be grotesquely incompatible with that tradition and would be an act of gratuitous hypocrisy. If it comes down to "it don't seem right", how does it seem right to extend special privilege to members of one religion? The last mantle we want to assume is that of Defender of the Faith."?

OUTLAW 09
01-03-2014, 10:56 AM
Dayuhan---I would even take Roberts last comments a step further and voice the opinion that if the Israeli/Palestinian conflict was resolved and laid to rest AQ would struggle as would a number of fundamentalist groups.

Running since 1968 as a red thread throughout all "Arab terror" groups (yes and even European terror groups ie RAF) to include AQ has been the argument that they support the Palestinian movement in their "fight" for self determination. Until just recently what side have we been vehemently supporting in the face of the Arab street which if one looks at what our own needs actually was against our best interests in the region.

As Robert indicates it is all political these days but it dates back to unfinished business from the British colonial/League of Nation days. Which we turned into a democracy vs communism argument from the 50s through to actually now if one listens to comments being thrown at Russia these days which is following it's own version of Communist expansionism as they reestablish in their eyes their own global geopolitical status after their internal breakup.

OUTLAW 09
01-03-2014, 11:23 AM
Dayuhan---if we also take as a given the recent reporting of Syrian strategic weapon systems making it from Syria to Hezbollah has not in fact Iran pushed the Green Crescent theory to the utmost maximum that it can in it's viewed confrontation with Israel?

Then it makes sense why the Saudi's have linked into AQ and other Islamists in the Syrian civil war in their belief that they must contain Shia fundamentalism.

So in fact has the tap dance policy decision by the US on Syria actually created something we have dreaded for awhile-namely open conflict between Iran/KSA/Israel being fought in Syria and Lebanon?

Having actually bombed Syria due to chemical weapons might have changed a perception being held currently by most of the ME population--that we the US do not care about the widespread killing of Sunni's by Shia. Actions taken sometimes while not definitive for the US can cause a perception shift and it is really all about perception these days. This perception that we seem to be supporting Shia across the ME is also driving the KSA to shift to a more aggressive foreign policy as they in fact now really do not trust us any longer.

So as Robert argues policy can in fact create population resistance in ways we never think about as our policies are in fact being currently interpreted by the various ME populations to be basically wrong.

Even if the Sunni and Shia resolved their issues---the longer term clash is inside both brands of Islam ie Fundamentalism vs Secularism and that one is coming for both brands of Islam-and that will be more far reaching than many think-then the ME can finally calm down and develop they way they want to without outside interference.

Dayuhan
01-04-2014, 02:26 AM
Do you think that we do not inside our own population have elements of religions and political groups that one outside viewing us might in fact declare are "fundamentalists"--using the same definition we here in this blog use? Check say the influence of US religious groups on the ongoing Gay laws inside Uganda-one might actually view their direct mixing into Ugandan politics as being "Defender of the Faith" actions. We seem to at times to act in ways that one could argue replicate "Defender of the Faith" actions when viewed by an outside population

Yes, these groups exist, and yes, their actions may be misconstrued as national policy. That's not helpful, but the US Government has little if any ability to constrain these groups. That doesn't seem an argument for official adoption of the priorities and policies of these groups.


Dayuhan---if we also take as a given the recent reporting of Syrian strategic weapon systems making it from Syria to Hezbollah has not in fact Iran pushed the Green Crescent theory to the utmost maximum that it can in it's viewed confrontation with Israel?

Then it makes sense why the Saudi's have linked into AQ and other Islamists in the Syrian civil war in their belief that they must contain Shia fundamentalism.

So in fact has the tap dance policy decision by the US on Syria actually created something we have dreaded for awhile-namely open conflict between Iran/KSA/Israel being fought in Syria and Lebanon?

It is likely that the KSA ans Iran will end up fighting a proxy war in Syria and Lebanon, much less likely (though not impossible) that they will fight directly. I don't see how that could be claimed as a consequence or creation of US policy toward Syria.


Having actually bombed Syria due to chemical weapons might have changed a perception being held currently by most of the ME population--that we the US do not care about the widespread killing of Sunni's by Shia. Actions taken sometimes while not definitive for the US can cause a perception shift and it is really all about perception these days. This perception that we seem to be supporting Shia across the ME is also driving the KSA to shift to a more aggressive foreign policy as they in fact now really do not trust us any longer.

I find it very difficult to believe that American bombs falling on Syria would improve perceptions of the US in the Sunni world. A more likely perception would be that the US is once again using its military might to force its way into and Arab fight in pursuit of its own devious and nefarious objectives.

It is certainly true that the US refusal to act as enforcer for the Saudi regime is driving a more aggressive Saudi foreign policy, but I can't see how that would justify subordinating US interests to those of the Saudis. The Saudis need to understand that we are not going to beat up on Iran or Assad just because the Saudis want us to. The Israelis need to understand the same thing. If that leads to more aggressive foreign policy from either, so be it.


So as Robert argues policy can in fact create population resistance in ways we never think about as our policies are in fact being currently interpreted by the various ME populations to be basically wrong.

Robert's argument is rather more specific. He's saying that US support for autocratic regimes is allowing those regimes to ignore the desire of their populaces for reform, and that those populaces therefore support AQ. I do not see any particular relationship between that argument and th Syrian situation.


Even if the Sunni and Shia resolved their issues---the longer term clash is inside both brands of Islam ie Fundamentalism vs Secularism and that one is coming for both brands of Islam-and that will be more far reaching than many think-then the ME can finally calm down and develop they way they want to without outside interference.

Probably true, but that doesn't mean the US can play much of a productive role in that resolution. The US is not in a very good position to act as a mediator or influence anyone in that conflict. It's not as if either side trusts us.


Dayuhan---I would even take Roberts last comments a step further and voice the opinion that if the Israeli/Palestinian conflict was resolved and laid to rest AQ would struggle as would a number of fundamentalist groups.

Certainly true, but not very helpful, as the US has no capacity to resolve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

I would also point out that Robert's argument is that support for AQ is primarily driven by relations between Muslim populaces and their own governments, not by external influences like the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Dayuhan
01-04-2014, 02:33 AM
How about that? A 104 word (approximately, I only counted once) version of 'If you can't do everything, you shouldn't do anything.' Or...Why or what purpose would it serve to do anything if you couldn't do everything else?

Misunderstood you have. Try again I will.

Granting preferential access to US support or refuge on the basis of religious affiliation would be incompatible with American tradition and policy, would send a thoroughly atrocious message to the rest of the world, and would be construed (legitimately) as caving in to our own fundamentalist fringe.

Bit of a dead horse anyway, since it's not gonna happen.

Burma's Rohingya Muslims are among the most thoroughly oppressed and persecuted minorities of the planet. The US couldn't care less. Why are they less deserving of support or refuge? I'm not suggesting that if if you can't help them all, you shouldn't help anyone, I'm pointing out that religious affiliation is not a reasonable basis for setting priorities on who gets help.

Dayuhan
01-04-2014, 04:16 AM
AQ wages UW. UW requires conditions of insurgency to work. AQ is probably best thought of as a non-state political action group dedicated to the removal of overt Western influence in the Middle East along with those Regimes in the region who have become corrupted by some mix of wealth, power or Western influence, with the Saudis being #1 on that list. They also wish to create a coalition of Muslim states to once again have sufficient power to not have to worry about such external exploitation.

I think it would be more accurate to say that AQ seeks to take power in the Middle East and as much of the Muslim world as possible. It's less about what they want to remove than about what they want to install: themselves.


Where do you think AQ's power comes from? They have no population of their own, they must borrow populations from others. The only populations interested in what they are selling are those who are Sunni Muslim and that perceive their own governance to need to change, or that perceive external Western influence to be a corrupting factor that once removed will allow their governance to return to what they see as appropriate.

How do you reconcile the idea that "The only populations interested in what they are selling are those who are Sunni Muslim and that perceive their own governance to need to change" with the observed reality that Gulf populaces are willing to support AQ wholeheartedly as long as AQ is fighting the West somewhere else, but that support drops to near zero when AQ tries to rock the boat in their own countries? How do you reconcile that statement with the observed fact that AQ's predecessor organizations rallied enormous support for their effort to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan, even though that conflict had no bearing at all on domestic governance?

AQ draws support from a whole lot of motivators. Some comes from anger over the historical decline of Islam and the rise of the Christian West, and a desire to restore the romanticized days of Muslim ascendancy. Some comes from the affront to Muslim manliness posed by the dismal performance of Muslim armies against non-Muslim foes: even many Arabs who loathed and feared Saddam felt a bit disheartened at the ease with which the US rolled over Saddam's "mighty army". There's a great deal of generic resentment over non-Muslim occupation of "Muslim land", anywhere, even where it has zero bearing on domestic conditions. As Outlaw points out, there's anger over Israel and the Palestinians, exacerbated again by repeated military victories on the Israeli side. There's resentment over the colonial and neocolonial meddlings of the past... even Sunnis who loathe the Ayatollahs will point to the Anglo-American overthrow of Mossadegh as an example of what they hate about the West. All of this rolls into what Bernard Lewis called "aggressive self-pity": an overwhelming sense that Muslims are generically oppressed and beat up and a general tendency to support any Muslim who is sticking it to the West, anywhere, whetehr or not there is any actual or perceived impact on local conditions. There is, as mentioned above, a general preference, especially in the Gulf, for the sticking it to the West to take place someplace else, not at home where the resultant mess might land in the front yard. They want to watch it on Al-Jazeerah, not in the town square.


You live in SEA, have you ever wondered why AQ's message falls flat there? The nations there are proudly sovereign, having thrown off inappropriate and illegitimate Western influence during the course of the Cold War. They have no occupation by policy drivers of resistance effects toward the West. Do they have internal revolutionary pressures still, and do some of those revolutionaries accept help from AQ? Yes.

What is the difference between the ME and SEA? Primarily the fact that the ME was held static politically as a major battle ground of our Cold War containment, and because frankly communism/land reform does not resonate among non-agrarian and non-industrialized populations. But in SEA communism/land reform resonated widely among tenant farmers weary of scratching out a scant living for some Western Colonial master or some local mixed breed elite caste master as Spain left behind everyplace they colonized. So SEA Muslims largely addressed these issues and have moved on. Now it is time for those in the ME to do the same. But we are too fixated on the symptoms and how it affects us to see the problem clearly.

AQ only has real influence where certain conditions exist. Address those conditions and they will rapidly fade into irrelevance. But those conditions are political, not ideological or purely economic.

Here I think you stray from the path.

In general, you can divide SEA Muslims into two groups: those who live in Muslim-dominated countries (Indonesia, Malaysia) and those who live in Muslim-minority countries (southern Thailand, southern Philippines, Burma).

By your model, southern Thailand and the southern Philippines should be ideal for AQ: Muslim minorities have been for generations marginalized, denied self-determination, oppressed, and generally kicked around by US-allied governments. In actual fact, while groups in these areas have taken assistance from (and provided refuge to) AQ and allied groups, the message has gained very little traction. Populaces in these areas are not concerned with pan-Islamic issues and not moved by an Arab-dominated and Middle East-centric message. Their concerns are local, and they see little connection between the message and their struggle.

In Indonesia, on the other hand, the larger AQ and JI message does have a good deal of popular support, though (as in many places) there's very little support for action campaigns that kill local people or rock the local boat. The message gains traction not because of a perception of oppression by their own government, but because of greater identification with a larger Muslim whole, and greater sympathy with pan-Islamic issues and that eagerness to restore Muslim prestige and self-perceived potency by driving the West out of whatever Muslim land they happen to occupy (again, the farther from home the better).

In short, I don't think the actual dynamics of popular acceptance of the AQ and allied group message in SEA supports your theory at all.

Bob's World
01-04-2014, 01:37 PM
Dayuhan,

Great questions! We really do see the same facts, but where we differ is in our training, background and experience (both substantial, but both different) and how we interpret those facts.

I may miss a few, but I will try, not to convince you to think like me, but to see a bit more clearly why I think the way I do.


I think it would be more accurate to say that AQ seeks to take power in the Middle East and as much of the Muslim world as possible. It's less about what they want to remove than about what they want to install: themselves.

Personally I think AQ has a snowball's chance in Saudi Arabia of ever being in charge of even a single country, yet alone a coalition of countries. Much more moderate organizations and individuals will follow the trail they have helped to break to fill those roles. This yet one more reason the West needs to back off of their irrational fear of AQ. The Intel community and the ideologues take the most extreme statements AQ makes for propaganda purposes as gospel, are rarely seems to apply a little common sense. They are far to radical and violent for the average Sunni. That same "average Sunni" may cheer their actions or even donate to charities who they fully appreciate are supporting AQ and similar movements. Many see the value of AQ, but few want them to be in charge of anything.

(On a side note, if AQ ever gained a state or formed a Caliphate they would lose their greatest sanctuary - their status as a non-state actor. NSAs frustrate great state powers, but we eat weak states for breakfast. AQ has to know that even if we forget. The are doomed to NSA status forever.)


How do you reconcile the idea that "The only populations interested in what they are selling are those who are Sunni Muslim and that perceive their own governance to need to change" with the observed reality that Gulf populaces are willing to support AQ wholeheartedly as long as AQ is fighting the West somewhere else, but that support drops to near zero when AQ tries to rock the boat in their own countries?

This is exactly what the concept this thread is exploring is all about. There are two broad types of insurgency, Resistance and Revolution. The first is a continuation of war and caused by illegal, inappropriate, foreign occupation; the second is a civil emergency and is caused by perceptions of poor governance that lead some segment of a population to believe they must act out illegally to force poltical change upon their own government. Often both occur in the same place, but as they are very distinct, can appear in very different degrees.

In Afghanistan the base insurgency is the revolutionary one between those who had patronage power under the Taliban (and who were dispossessed of that power by the US UW campaign and subsequent occupation and political meddling), with a resistance insurgency layered upon top of that provoked by our ever increasing efforts to suppress the rapidly growing revolutionary insurgency following the disastrous elections and constitution of 2003/4. The more we "countered" the revolution, the more the resistance grew. Once we leave and stop out political meddling (physical and policy occupation) the resistance should rapidly wane. Only after the de facto illegitimacy of the Northern Alliance monopoly of the current government is resolved will the current revolution die down. Afghanistan being Afghanistan, it will probably be another 180 flip, and the next revolution will begin.

But in the Gulf, it is probably a fairly small percentage of the domestic population who want to "remove the apostate regimes." From what I see most want modest evolution of governance, not revolution of governance. Calls for slightly greater women's rights (in the context of their own culture, not the "radical" US women's rights we call for), or a judiciary not controlled by the King. I think they see the benefit of the growing fear of internal unrest, as Jordan is making true changes, and the Gulf states are expanding perqs. I think Jordan is doing the best, and making real change. The Gulf states are simply trying to appease their populations with bribes, I don't know how long that will continue to work. But to your point, causation for revolutionary insurgency remains lower than in surrounding states because the governments there have the ability to "buy it down."

Resistance insurgency against western policies, however, is high, and I believe growing due to the perceived inappropriateness of how the US has been responding to the attacks of 9/11. So many who may not be willing to conduct violent revolutionary insurgency to coerce or overthrow government at home, are willing to travel to conduct violent resistance insurgency elsewhere in an effort to coerce the US to back off of the polices they see as being anti-Islamic, inappropriately violent and invasive, empowering of the Shia threat, and protective of their current governments stubborn refusal to listen to the people and reasonably evolve.


By your model, southern Thailand and the southern Philippines should be ideal for AQ: Muslim minorities have been for generations marginalized, denied self-determination, oppressed, and generally kicked around by US-allied governments. In actual fact, while groups in these areas have taken assistance from (and provided refuge to) AQ and allied groups, the message has gained very little traction

No, by AQ's model they should be, but by my model I recognize what AQ does not: They (SEA Muslims) do not blame the US for their plights to that degree, so there is little policy-based resistance, but high internal revolutionary energy against domestic regimes. Certainly some of the US's greatest shame is in how we treated the Muslim populations of southern Philippines (ok, most Americans are ignorant of what we did there, so do not feel shame, but they should). But ultimately we left and have respected Philippine sovereignty over the past several decades. I doubt many Muslims in the Philippines blame the US for the governance that impacts their lives in revolutionary-provocative ways. Likewise in Thailand. Thailand has always been fiercely independent. I have never felt that we ever had much sway over their governance, and have always felt that Americans were well regarded there. Ultimately it comes down to "how do the people feel, and who do they blame." The feelings and blame in Thailand are simply different than they are in much of the Middle East.


In Indonesia, on the other hand, the larger AQ and JI message does have a good deal of popular support, though (as in many places) there's very little support for action campaigns that kill local people or rock the local boat. The message gains traction not because of a perception of oppression by their own government, but because of greater identification with a larger Muslim whole, and greater sympathy with pan-Islamic issues and that eagerness to restore Muslim prestige and self-perceived potency by driving the West out of whatever Muslim land they happen to occupy (again, the farther from home the better).

Indonesia is indeed the most populous Muslim country in the world. It is also geographically a huge, diverse, and dispersed collection of cultures and societies under a relatively new nationalist identity. They suffer growing pains, and that is very natural, as they develop as an independent and sovereign nation. I don't see a tremendous transnational terrorist threat coming out of Indonesia toward the US. Certainly they support the nationalist insurgencies in the Southern Philippines, but I see these are primarily revolutionary energy sources.

You know the deal, when one is a revolutionary, one usually needs external help, and one rarely can be picky about where one gets it. Accepting help from France did not mean that revolutionary Americans wanted to be French. Accepting help from Russia did not mean that revolutionary Vietnamese wanted to be Russian; and equally, accepting help from AQ does not mean that revolutionary Thais, or Indonesians or Filippinos buy into the resistance against Western polices in the Middle East aspect of AQ's dogma.

As I said, the nations of SEA earned their sovereignty from the West during the Cold War, but the nations of the ME were manipulated by powerful external forces and largely held static in conditions designed meet the desires of those Western powers rather than the desires of the people who lived there. Now those people are actively moving to rectify that situation. Their era of revolution was delayed, but will not be denied.

OUTLAW 09
01-04-2014, 08:24 PM
Robert--your last response brings up an interesting issue---Muslims in India-- and why they have not had the problems of say Pakistan, the ME, Syria, or Lebanon.

India has if the census numbers are anywhere close say 147M Muslims or which some say 30M Shia (the second largest Shia population outside Iran) so say then the remaining 117M are Sunni with a small Sufi population making them the largest Muslin minority percentage wise outside of the ME.

So if one looks at the mixed population the question arises ---why has there not been the heated infighting between the Shia and Sunni in India that we have seen elsewhere in the world---followed by the second question why is there no AQ influence at all in India and it is interesting in that AQ affiliates have actually attacked India but from the outside not inside.

A third question might be why is it that Iran has not exported it's fundamentalism to India-----30M Shia is a sizable number in one country?

So historically speaking what happened in India that has not happened elsewhere?

Indian Sunni and Shia development is something that has been largely overlooked in the last 12 years.

Bob's World
01-04-2014, 10:34 PM
Outlaw,

You know the answer to your own question. It is about governance, not religion.

You've seen the movie Gandhi, and how the illegitimate external (resistance insurgency) influence of Britain was removed, and how Muslims and Hindu then worked a subsequent split that gave all a chance to live in a country dominated by governance of one flavor or the other. Do Pakistan, India and Bangladesh all still wrestle with internal revolutionary issues? Certainly they do. But AQ's Saudi-centric revolutionary message does not resonate in that region, nor in Afghanistan for that matter.

It isn't about ideology. It isn't about religion. It is about governance and it is about the higher order aspects of Maslow's hierarchy. People under governance they believe has no right to govern them (illegitimacy); people under governance that acts in a manner seen as inappropriate in their culture (exceeding sovereignty); people under a rule of law they do not perceive as just (injustice); people treated differently than other similarly situated populations (disrespect); and populations who perceive they have no effective legal means available to them to seek the changes to fix any or all of the above (disempowered).

As JFK said: "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will make violent revolution inevitable."

Equally, those who are perceived as helping to sustain in power or enable those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will find themselves confronted with acts of transnational terrorism.

It is that simple.

carl
01-05-2014, 02:39 AM
Misunderstood you have. Try again I will.

Granting preferential access to US support or refuge on the basis of religious affiliation would be incompatible with American tradition and policy, would send a thoroughly atrocious message to the rest of the world, and would be construed (legitimately) as caving in to our own fundamentalist fringe.

Bit of a dead horse anyway, since it's not gonna happen.

Burma's Rohingya Muslims are among the most thoroughly oppressed and persecuted minorities of the planet. The US couldn't care less. Why are they less deserving of support or refuge? I'm not suggesting that if if you can't help them all, you shouldn't help anyone, I'm pointing out that religious affiliation is not a reasonable basis for setting priorities on who gets help.

Misunderstood I have not. This one looks like an about 208 word version of 'If you can't do everything, you shouldn't do anything' or rather 'If you can't do everything, you shouldn't do anything or somebody somewhere might criticize you and better some people die than you open yourself up to criticism.' I can't be sure of 208 words, I didn't count this time.

Remember the MS St. Louis? We didn't give any preferential treatment on that one.

carl
01-05-2014, 03:21 AM
In Afghanistan the base insurgency is the revolutionary one between those who had patronage power under the Taliban (and who were dispossessed of that power by the US UW campaign and subsequent occupation and political meddling), with a resistance insurgency layered upon top of that provoked by our ever increasing efforts to suppress the rapidly growing revolutionary insurgency following the disastrous elections and constitution of 2003/4. The more we "countered" the revolution, the more the resistance grew. Once we leave and stop out political meddling (physical and policy occupation) the resistance should rapidly wane. Only after the de facto illegitimacy of the Northern Alliance monopoly of the current government is resolved will the current revolution die down. Afghanistan being Afghanistan, it will probably be another 180 flip, and the next revolution will begin.

I noted before that you tend to ignore fact, historical and now contemporary, if noting that fact makes your arguments untidy. This is another example of you doing that. This time you mentioned not at all the pernicious influence of the Pak Army/ISI. Commenting upon the conflict in Afghanistan without mentioning that pack of murdering General Sahibs is like talking about airplanes without mentioning wings. It is not a serious comment.

By the way, good point about the Muslim population in India. I never thought about that.

Bill Moore
01-05-2014, 04:27 AM
Posted by Bob,


It isn't about ideology. It isn't about religion. It is about governance and it is about the higher order aspects of Maslow's hierarchy. People under governance they believe has no right to govern them (illegitimacy); people under governance that acts in a manner seen as inappropriate in their culture (exceeding sovereignty); people under a rule of law they do not perceive as just (injustice); people treated differently than other similarly situated populations (disrespect); and populations who perceive they have no effective legal means available to them to seek the changes to fix any or all of the above (disempowered).

While much of your model is a useful lens to view conflicts through as long as one doesn't get blinded by it to other aspects that influence the conflict. I still think you have failed to make a case that ideology and religion don't play a determinant role. Shia's fighting Sunnis is certainly about religion, just as the 30 year war in Europe was largely about religion. To claim good governance would have prevented this is out in left field. Ideology also certainly plays a role, many governments govern by ideology, the U.S. included. The Cold War was largely an ideological conflict. Governments are seen as wrong, not necessarily illegitimate, if they conform to a particular ideology those opposing the government believe in. Ideological forms provide resistance with ideas for an alternative future. Again it is ideas and ideology that rocks the world, nothing else.

Bob's World
01-05-2014, 05:22 AM
Bill,

lets not mix types of conflicts. Absolutely Shia vs Sunni writ large is about religion; but shia vs Sunni internal to Iraq, Bahrain, KSA, or Syria is about a government dominated by one sect using that authority to oppress the other.

The wars of the reformation, to include the 30 Years War were about throwing off the rule of the Holy Roman Empire, a rule that had grown to being seen as illegitimate by many Europeans, and a rule that used Catholicism as a single ideology to control the populace. Within a few years of Martin Luther posting his edict, it was hijacked by politically motivated insurgents who saw the power of the ideology for rallying the masses to join the revolt.

invariably political oppression comes first, revolutionary leaders second, ideology third.

IMO you are dead wrong, and you have the facts of your examples wrong.

Only example I can think of that fits your theory is the Pied Piper - and that is a fairy tale.

Dayuhan
01-05-2014, 05:43 AM
The Cold War was largely an ideological conflict. Governments are seen as wrong, not necessarily illegitimate, if they conform to a particular ideology those opposing the government believe in. Ideological forms provide resistance with ideas for an alternative future. Again it is ideas and ideology that rocks the world, nothing else.

I'm not so sure the Cold War was an ideological conflict. Between the US and the Soviet Union, perhaps. But the Cold War really wasn't cold at all... just as there's no such thing as a low intensity bullet, there's no such thing as a cold bullet. The hot part of the Cold War was fought by proxy, in the developing world, and involved dozens of different conflicts. Those conflicts may have been perceived as ideological by Americans and Soviets, but for those who actually did the fighting they were often anything but ideological. Many of those who fought for or against Communism in those proxy wars wouldn't have known Karl from Groucho, and hadn't a clue about the ideological baskets in which faraway governments framed their domestic conflicts.

Dayuhan
01-05-2014, 05:47 AM
This one looks like an about 208 word version of 'If you can't do everything, you shouldn't do anything' or rather 'If you can't do everything, you shouldn't do anything or somebody somewhere might criticize you and better some people die than you open yourself up to criticism.'

Since you can't do everything, you have to prioritize. Prioritizing on the basis of religious affiliation and putting Christians on a preferred salvation list simply because they are Christians would be... just unacceptable in every way, or any other negative adjective in the book. Wrong, if you will. On every level.

Dayuhan
01-05-2014, 06:48 AM
Personally I think AQ has a snowball's chance in Saudi Arabia of ever being in charge of even a single country, yet alone a coalition of countries.

Agreed. They won't get what they want, but that's still what they want.


This yet one more reason the West needs to back off of their irrational fear of AQ.

Outside of the most paranoid quarters, I don't think "the West" is really that concerned that AQ and allied groups will re-establish the Caliphate. There is substantial concern over the possibility of significant attacks on the West, which is not so misplaced. As the US winds down its engagement in Afghanistan I expect that risk to increase, as AQ will need to provoke another American incursion to justify their own existence.

There's also some concern, not entirely misplaced, over the possibility of AQ and related extremist groups gaining substantial influence, if not complete control, in a state or significant part of a state, which is also not entirely unreasonable and could be a real problem, especially if the state involved is Pakistan.


Many see the value of AQ, but few want them to be in charge of anything.

I think what you need to convincingly demonstrate is that the value perceived in AQ lies in ability to weaken foreign support for domestic governments and make them more open to reform. I just can't see much evidence to support that contention. It seems to me that the perceived value in AQ, especially in the Gulf, lies in the idealization of AQ as the noble Islamic warriors fighting infidel intrusion in conveniently faraway places, rather than in any impact AQ is expected to have on domestic governance.


In Afghanistan the base insurgency is the revolutionary one between those who had patronage power under the Taliban (and who were dispossessed of that power by the US UW campaign and subsequent occupation and political meddling), with a resistance insurgency layered upon top of that provoked by our ever increasing efforts to suppress the rapidly growing revolutionary insurgency following the disastrous elections and constitution of 2003/4. The more we "countered" the revolution, the more the resistance grew. Once we leave and stop out political meddling (physical and policy occupation) the resistance should rapidly wane. Only after the de facto illegitimacy of the Northern Alliance monopoly of the current government is resolved will the current revolution die down. Afghanistan being Afghanistan, it will probably be another 180 flip, and the next revolution will begin.

Yes, that cycle will go on, but the only relevance that cycle has to AQ is its ability to attract foreign intervention, which then allows AQ to rally support from Gulf Arabs who can pat themselves on the back for supporting those noble warriors resisting infidel intrusion in the lands of the faithful without exposing themselves to any real risk. The movement AQ represents needs direct foreign intrusion to justify itself. One question I raised that you failed to address revolved around the enormous support the AQ movement (same in all but name) raised for its jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan. That surely had nothing at all to do with any expected impact on domestic politics in the Gulf.

It seems to me that the mantra driving AQ's popularity is not "weaken American support for the apostate regimes", but "expel the infidel from the land of the faithful", and to a less effective extent "carry the Sunni banner against the Shi'a". "Expel the infidel from the land of the faithful" works best, and that's why I think the risk of terrorist attack will increase as American exposure in Afghanistan decreases. AQ needs a foreign intruder to resist. Without one, they are lost.


Resistance insurgency against western policies, however, is high, and I believe growing due to the perceived inappropriateness of how the US has been responding to the attacks of 9/11. So many who may not be willing to conduct violent revolutionary insurgency to coerce or overthrow government at home, are willing to travel to conduct violent resistance insurgency elsewhere in an effort to coerce the US to back off of the polices they see as being anti-Islamic, inappropriately violent and invasive, empowering of the Shia threat, and protective of their current governments stubborn refusal to listen to the people and reasonably evolve.

I'm not sure that resistance against Western policies in the Middle East can be reasonably classified as "insurgency". I also have serious doubts about the extent to which fighters travel (or financiers send resources) in order have an impact on governance conditions at home. Interview-based studies of foreign fighter motivation, for one thing, provide no basis for for that belief.


I doubt many Muslims in the Philippines blame the US for the governance that impacts their lives in revolutionary-provocative ways. Likewise in Thailand. Thailand has always been fiercely independent. I have never felt that we ever had much sway over their governance, and have always felt that Americans were well regarded there. Ultimately it comes down to "how do the people feel, and who do they blame." The feelings and blame in Thailand are simply different than they are in much of the Middle East.

I don't think Muslims in the Gulf blame the US for their governance conditions either, to any significant extent. Maybe in the Saudi Arabia of the 1990s, to a much greater extent, but that was a different world.


Indonesia is indeed the most populous Muslim country in the world. It is also geographically a huge, diverse, and dispersed collection of cultures and societies under a relatively new nationalist identity. They suffer growing pains, and that is very natural, as they develop as an independent and sovereign nation. I don't see a tremendous transnational terrorist threat coming out of Indonesia toward the US. Certainly they support the nationalist insurgencies in the Southern Philippines, but I see these are primarily revolutionary energy sources.

I also don't see a great threat to the US coming out of Indonesia. There's a great deal of emotional support for the idea of AQ as jihadi, as long as they fight the foreign intruder somewhere. People wave the flag and express devotion to the cause. Direct action is a little more difficult, as they have a dearth of accessible targets and local action gets very little domestic support. It's more about approval than direct support, a function largely of distance. Indonesian Muslims do (overall, obviously there's much variance) I believe have greater identification with pan-Islamic causes and ideas than their counterparts in the Philippines or Thailand.


You know the deal, when one is a revolutionary, one usually needs external help, and one rarely can be picky about where one gets it. Accepting help from France did not mean that revolutionary Americans wanted to be French. Accepting help from Russia did not mean that revolutionary Vietnamese wanted to be Russian; and equally, accepting help from AQ does not mean that revolutionary Thais, or Indonesians or Filippinos buy into the resistance against Western polices in the Middle East aspect of AQ's dogma.

The Indonesians that buy into the idea are not revolutionaries against their own Government. They are politicized Muslims seeking to identify with and feel part of a larger Islamic whole, and with a global cause. They believe that Islam will be ascendant and that the West is degenerate and will fall, and support any struggle that they see as part of that process.


As I said, the nations of SEA earned their sovereignty from the West during the Cold War, but the nations of the ME were manipulated by powerful external forces and largely held static in conditions designed meet the desires of those Western powers rather than the desires of the people who lived there. Now those people are actively moving to rectify that situation. Their era of revolution was delayed, but will not be denied.

Actually I think the revolutionary impulse in the Gulf has significantly declined since the 1990s, and I think you greatly overrate the post Cold War influence of the US, both actual and oerceived, in maintaining the Gulf status quo.

carl
01-05-2014, 06:53 AM
Since you can't do everything, you have to prioritize. Prioritizing on the basis of religious affiliation and putting Christians on a preferred salvation list simply because they are Christians would be... just unacceptable in every way, or any other negative adjective in the book. Wrong, if you will. On every level.

Wrong to save some people who might be murdered? On every level? 'Sorry people. The takfiri killers are coming for you but I can't save you from them because it would be wrong on every level, just horribly wrong.'

Ok, if you say so...

Dayuhan
01-05-2014, 06:59 AM
Wrong to save some people who might be murdered? On every level? 'Sorry people. The takfiri killers are coming for you but I can't save you from them because it would be wrong on every level, just horribly wrong.'

Ok, if you say so...

No, wrong to say Christians are more worthy of being saved than any of the other endangered people we might choose to save.

AmericanPride
01-05-2014, 07:13 AM
Robert,

I've been thinking about the theoretical implications of your model of "occupation by policy" and the attendant concepts of "resistance" and "revolutionary" insurgencies. As someone pointed out earlier, the concepts are not new, and when taken together, there are several theoretical and practical grounds on which to debate the extent of its influence and/or relevancy in the present situation. However, it strikes directly at the issues surrounding power, domination, and revolution and your own words seem to confirm your recognition of the asymmetric relationship in regards to political and ideological legitimacy between the United States and insurgency movements.

You stated in the original post:


The roots, however, we tend to gloss over. After all, it is uncomfortable to confront the very real possibility that these are roots we planted ourselves.

This proposition is actually a very deep rabbit hole. To the extent that the United States champions the global political-economic system, the contradictions of which produce numerous conflicts, then yes there is a "very real possibility that these are roots we planted ourselves." You could call this "metastrategy" - how the shape and connections of the fundamental structure produces conflict or is manipulated to one's own advantage. I had asked you earlier about your views on the intersection of ideology and policy because your policy prescriptions are so full of ideologically charged terms. Unwittingly, you are perpetrating and reproducing the very contradictions ("occupation by policy") that you are claiming are so harmful to US interests. You stated that AQ from a strategic perspective is a symptom. A symptom of what exactly? Gramsci would argue that it's counter power coming back to bite the back end of hegemony. This should not be surprising for anyone familiar with the works of nearly every theoretician since Machiavelli. In globalization, there will be winners and losers, and there will be violent contests to determine which one whole peoples, cultures, and ideologies will be. The inheritance of global governance by democratic capitalism from imperialism is no accident, and neither is the continuation of resistance. This is not a question of any single policy, but instead the relentless logic of way the world is organized. "Occupation by policy" is one tool or strategy at the disposal of the powers that be within the larger metastrategy of sustaining Western-led globalization.

Bill Moore
01-05-2014, 08:40 AM
I'm not so sure the Cold War was an ideological conflict. Between the US and the Soviet Union, perhaps. But the Cold War really wasn't cold at all... just as there's no such thing as a low intensity bullet, there's no such thing as a cold bullet. The hot part of the Cold War was fought by proxy, in the developing world, and involved dozens of different conflicts. Those conflicts may have been perceived as ideological by Americans and Soviets, but for those who actually did the fighting they were often anything but ideological. Many of those who fought for or against Communism in those proxy wars wouldn't have known Karl from Groucho, and hadn't a clue about the ideological baskets in which faraway governments framed their domestic conflicts.

Of course the Cold War was bloody, much bloodier than the current war we're in against terrorism, and it was also ideological. If the opposing ideologies for a dominant world ideology and system didn't exist, the Cold War wouldn't have existed. Not to make light of the proxies that died in this fight, they all may have been fighting for own individual motivations, but the larger context of why they were proxies was part of the larger fight.

Bill Moore
01-05-2014, 08:56 AM
Bill,

lets not mix types of conflicts. Absolutely Shia vs Sunni writ large is about religion; but shia vs Sunni internal to Iraq, Bahrain, KSA, or Syria is about a government dominated by one sect using that authority to oppress the other.

The wars of the reformation, to include the 30 Years War were about throwing off the rule of the Holy Roman Empire, a rule that had grown to being seen as illegitimate by many Europeans, and a rule that used Catholicism as a single ideology to control the populace. Within a few years of Martin Luther posting his edict, it was hijacked by politically motivated insurgents who saw the power of the ideology for rallying the masses to join the revolt.

invariably political oppression comes first, revolutionary leaders second, ideology third.

IMO you are dead wrong, and you have the facts of your examples wrong.

Only example I can think of that fits your theory is the Pied Piper - and that is a fairy tale.

At least you wrote IMO, but then right afterward you confuse your opinion with facts. Unfortunately the Pied Piper is not myth, it reflects a good deal of human history. That aside, since your views are heavily biased by U.S. history during our Revolution the ideas came first. As most noted historians will explain the Revolutionary War was just the final aspect of the Revolution of ideology that took place over the previous three decades. America developed its own political ideology that was no longer compatible with Britain's. Our Civil War was similar, it was a fight largely over two separate political ideologies that emerged decades prior to the fighting. Many internal wars are about incompatible ideologies, whether based on religion or forms of governance, or a hybrid of the two. Unless we have different definitions for ideology, I think your argument falls flat.

Government is not always wrong, nor can government always adapt in ways that pleases all the various ideological groups. If some of these groups can't get their way and they want to pursue their way through violence, then the government of course is obligated to protect themselves perhaps the majority that support the government. Personally I think all revolts are based on a confluence issues that can be tied to ideology, economics, social order, politics, and even outside actors influencing the situation that all interact in various ways. It is never as a simple as a three step process where the government is always wrong.

It doesn't take a major stretch of the imagination to foresee a time when opposing ideology groups in the U.S. become so polarized that a viable compromise is not possible, and armed conflicts erupts. It is the chicken or egg argument, if one party oppresses another's preferred form of governance you could call it bad governance, at least it is in the eyes of the opposition group. IMO it is conflict mostly driven by opposing ideologies, and each group uses all the factors weighing on the situation to make a case on why their political ideology is best. You can argue that the factors drive the development of the ideology also, but the reality is it is an iterative process. Why is the economy broken? How do we fix immigration, Iran? Should gays have the right to marriage? etc. These issues will be used to mobilize support for different groups with opposing political ideologies. For the most part our system adapts and has demonstrated great resilience over the years, so kudos to our Founding Fathers, but we came apart at the seams once before over ideology during our Civil War, and countries today are coming apart due to ideological and identity groups differences that can't be resolved by government. When there is no middle ground, we enter the point where Mao is right, all power comes from the barrel of gun.

Bob's World
01-05-2014, 10:35 AM
Bill,

It appears that we are equally "fixated." Just as I suggested to Dayuhan yesterday, we see the same facts, but assess the meanings from different backgrounds.

I struggle to see how the ideas built around the belief that "an island should not rule a continent" and that British rule was therefore illegitimate somehow came before Britain's rule of that continent. John Locke was perhaps the most influential theorist informing the thoughts of our founders (legitimacy coming from the people rather than power or God; the right of revolution when governments loses touch, etc), but he lived in England in the era following the heated events of the Civil War and the peace of Westphalia.

Thoughts on governance were evolving faster than governments. In the West this began when Mr. Guttenberg's printing press freed and empowered men to read, and think and communicate free from the control of such activities the Holy Roman Empire imposed through the Catholic Church. (Yes, governments use ideologies too). Guttenberg created a revolution of information which in turn fomented a revolution of thought and people's expectations of government and governance. This is not say that governance became evil or even ineffective, it simply grows stale and out of touch with the evolving expectations of the people in such eras. As friction grows, governments being made up of politicians, blame the challenger rather than themselves for the trouble.

Russia's policy of Glasnost had the same effect in the Soviet satellite states, as did modern communications tools in the Middle East. In each case governance comes first, a breakthrough of the state's ability to control information and thought comes second, perceptions of "poor governance" develop and spread, friction grows, (conditions of insurgency - often beginning to grow long before the first bullet is fired or bomb explodes), then informal leaders emerge and ideologies for change are adopted and applied.

This is a timeless, multi-act play. Just because governments tend to sleep through the first several acts does not mean the play begins when the first explosion wakes them up.

OUTLAW 09
01-05-2014, 11:00 AM
Robert---this response goes back to the Indian comment of mine--which I still insist is an interesting event to understand---but you are correct overall in the ME it has been a fight between the Sunni vs Shia over governance and who dominants who carried out under the guise/gloss of religion.

Although the comments are varied your concept is still quite interesting as it tends to reduce the clutter/chatter and attempts to answer the question WHY?

I once had as a interrogator mentor years ago in Berlin who was a former WW2 German Army intel officer who worked the East Front tell me as a young beginner---if you think a human can do it believe it possible---if analyzing something always ask the final question WHY---if you cannot answer the Why then you have a hole a mile wide to drive through and you are not finished.

Here goes my response to India and why I think at least in SWA it has become the center of terror attacks from fundamentalists from outside India---India has been probably the only successful overthrow of colonialism that did not tear the populations inside the former colony apart afterwards. After every attack notice how the Islamic community rallies around the governance.

NOW in Iraq in Fallujah we are seeing something that is interesting and does not bode well for the Malaki government---the Awakening is actually taking on ISIS/AQI on their own with no support from the government but at the same time there are armed Sunni groups taking on the government out of frustration of poor Shia governance---actually think it is the IAI striking out on their own forcing now a Sunni/Shia showdown or actually as they are wording it a Sunni/Iran showdown-begs the question is the group the favorite of the Saudis right now inside Iraq?

Just a side note---if one looks at Sunnism there is a deep view held towards governance---before Khomeini the Shias did not seem to be interested in good governance or governance in general.

Robert agree that governance is one of the items in the difference but there is something in the development of Sunnism and Shiaism in India that has not been seen in the rest of the Islamic world.

In the drive to overthrow the British colonialism ---Islam together with the other resistance groups drove hard for independence with a large number of Islamic leaders being/participating/leading on the resistance side.

When one has the feeling that they were participants in history and helped in the establishing of a new country where they as a population can continue in their own direction there is a bond with other cultural populations that is not found in other Islamic countries.

If we look at the ME while there are Christians still in the individual ME countries there has not been the sharing of ideas and thoughts between the religions as there were between Islam and Hinduism. Yes we are “people of the book” but that is about it in the ME.

Secondly, Islam settled the Sunni/Shia divide in ways not done in other Islamic countries---actually over the years Shia converted to Sunnis' and vice versa to include several top Islamic thinkers with a ease not seen in other Islamic countries.

Shiaism had been identified in the eyes of Sunni’s to be supporters of colonial Britain so when independence came Shiaism was pushed to the side and it has stayed that way since independence. In some aspects Islam in India is secular in nature not fundamentalist.

Thirdly, and this is the important one-- Islam inside India due to the interaction with Hinduism developed into four elements of Sunnism due to their different interpretations of Islam---this has not happened in other Islamic countries-often overlooked are two (more Sunni fundamentalist influenced by Wahhabism) -- the Deobandi whose influence actually covers into the Pashtun region of Afghanistan and the Ahi-I Hadith that influenced the Lashkar-e Tayiba in Kasmir. Both are long time fundamentalists and influenced by Wahhabism.

A kind of resistance export out of Sunni India—which by the way the same two groups in India did not attempt to create discord inside India---maybe this is the reason for the terrorist attacks coming from outside India into India by fundamentalist groups as they dislike the Sunni secular participation in the governance.

So yes governance is/was a major point but how the population developed culturally and how the population helped in the fight for independence are two other big differences often overlooked.

Kind of a participatory democracy thing that at least for India has held for years.

Bob's World
01-05-2014, 11:05 AM
American Pride,

The US is the biggest fish in the pond, and we must have a foreign policy, and that foreign policy will be hard on some and good for others. We are not distilled water poured into this global system, we are the largest and most disruptive agent, good, bad or indifferent.

The concept of "occupation by policy" is about when foreign policy falls out of step with those it affects thereby generating a resistance insurgency effect, much as a physical occupation does. This does not mean don't have foreign policy and don't affect people, it means that one must have mechanisms to honestly appreciate the effects one's governance has (intended or accidental) on various populations, and mechanisms to fine tune that governance to be as appropriate as possible.

Often insanely outrageous foreign policy begins with very logical and reasonable intent. Britain was sending vast amounts of capital to China to purchase tea. This created a problematic trade deficient as China had little interest in British goods, so only took gold or silver. Solution, pay them in opium instead. So for generations Britain solved a trade problem and created a nation of addicts. Today China has a grudge against the West, and one can hardly blame them. Their sovereignty has been compressed because they were too weak to stand up to Western military technology. There will be a reckoning, and the West will blame China when it happens.

Britain was not evil, but they were self-absorbed and self-interested, and ignored the growing signs that the perceptions of their foreign policies were growing worse (accelerated by the telegraph cables they emplaced to better manage the very empire that was increasingly in its perceptions of resistance). The transition from empire to the common wealth was a brilliant move that recognized that the form of governance/foreign policy had to evolve.

What I am not seeing is the US's similar recognition that we can either break ourselves attempting to enforce a status quo that is increasingly perceived as inappropriate, or we can evolve in how we pursue our interests to ways that are less caustic, less expensive, but equally (or more) effective. Our efforts at post-Cold War National Security Strategies have been well intended, but counter productive all the same. At a time when others want to be more like themselves, we profess a goal to make them more like us. That is a dangerous degree of being disconnected from reality, much like Britain and China in the 1800s.

OUTLAW 09
01-05-2014, 11:22 AM
Bill M---this is a side comment based on this sentence--but are we as a country actually reaching this point if one sees the development of a large number of armed groups inside the US all claiming to defend the country, when we see governance at the national level actually in a stalemate where doing nothing is in fact a policy of one player, when we see at the State level one ideology driving a social agenda not really supported by a national majority, when we see how the vote by one individual now being threatened, and when we see how one party can rewrite electoral districts to their benefit in order to push another party out of national politics.

Just look at the views of some groups towards the President of the US---Socialist, Communist, Islamist, not an American by birth, acts above the law, etc---I personally have never seen a Socialist/Communist/Islamist individual before in all of history.

"It doesn't take a major stretch of the imagination to foresee a time when opposing ideology groups in the U.S. become so polarized that a viable compromise is not possible, and armed conflicts erupts."

I for one believe we are closer than some think---AQ is not our problem---we as a population and our views of governance are the problem.

In some aspects even Roberts concept fits the US right about now.

By the way your comment is interesting in that one can see this trend starting already in the early 70s just after VN and the end of the civil rights movement.

Dayuhan
01-05-2014, 11:32 AM
Of course the Cold War was bloody, much bloodier than the current war we're in against terrorism, and it was also ideological. If the opposing ideologies for a dominant world ideology and system didn't exist, the Cold War wouldn't have existed.

I'm not so sure of that. Maybe it wouldn't have been called "the Cold War", or seen as a unitary entity (which it wasn't even as a Cold War), but it still would have happened. What we call the Cold War was, at the other end, the wars of decolonization, fought first to remove unwanted foreign masters and then to remover the unwanted dictators that followed the foreign masters. The whole communist/capitalist dichotomy was an external imposition with little relevance to the local perception of the issues being contested. It is of course true that the proxy meddling exacerbated and distorted those conflicts, but realistically even without that ideological conflict the "great powers" would still have been meddling in pursuit of advantage.

Dayuhan
01-05-2014, 11:52 AM
It appears that we are equally "fixated." Just as I suggested to Dayuhan yesterday, we see the same facts, but assess the meanings from different backgrounds.

I think one of our most prominent divergences lies in the assumption that Arab support for AQ is driven by a belief that AQ will weaken American support for their own governments and make those governments more amenable to reform. I just don't see the basis for that. To me the support is driven more by a rather romanticized vision of AQ as reincarnation of the noble Arab warrior of old, defending the lands of Islam, sticking it to the infidel, and generally avenging generations of abject humiliation at the hands of practically everyone. It is worth recalling that the expulsion of the Soviet Union gave Islam something it has lacked for a long, long, time: a heroic victory. The Arab world, preferring to see one of their own at the head of the parade, nominated Osama (not entirely honestly, but who ever is with these things) as conquering hero. The power of these emotional constructs is very real, though far from eternal, and as long as AQ has an infidel to expel they will have support, regardless of what happens or doesn't happen in the world of domestic governance.


What I am not seeing is the US's similar recognition that we can either break ourselves attempting to enforce a status quo that is increasingly perceived as inappropriate, or we can evolve in how we pursue our interests to ways that are less caustic, less expensive, but equally (or more) effective.

I don't think we are currently attempting to enforce a status quo anywhere, though of course we've little choice but to deal with the status quo in many places.

The big question, of course, is what exactly are these "ways that are less caustic, less expensive, but equally (or more) effective". If that means an overall policy of meddling less, and meddling much less intrusively if we must meddle, I'm on board. If it means trying to counter-meddle our meddlings past by an effort to impose ourselves as advocate for oppressed Muslim populaces or mediator between populaces and governments... that sounds to me like nothing but trouble.

OUTLAW 09
01-05-2014, 01:15 PM
As I had in an earlier posting indicated the ME is wrapped up in the final Shia/Sunni clash with the front being Iraq which borders the KSA, Syria with a Sunni majority dominated by a “deviant” Shia minority and a Lebanon which was mainly Sunni/Christain until Hezzbollah extended Khomeini’s/Iranian influence into the country.

Syria is/has been in fact a regional war (yes the US calls it a civil war but it is in reality a regional war) being fought by two “super powers” of that region Iran representing the Shia and KSA representing the Sunni for hegemony of the ME.

This fight has been brewing since Khomeini came to power in 1979 and when he announced the Green Crescent Shia strategy with KSA since then attempting to wall in Iranian influence in SWA and the ME. Who knew in the late 70s that little 15 cent tape cassettes from Khomeini's Friday prayers being smuggled from Paris to Tehran could have changed the ME forever?

I would argue as has Robert argued that in fact it is our policies or lack of policies that is driving the clash much faster than normal as it appears to the ME populations that we have no answer for anything happening in the ME and they as a population are on their own going forward.

There is an interesting comment from the NYTs article that actually sums up US policy in the ME currently "They don’t want to rock the boat. How is this not rocking the boat?”

So our national decision makers feel that "not rocking the boat" can somehow be magically transformed into a ME policy that will work?

Guess what the various ME populations get exactly what our policies have and or have not been as it has impacted them and their families on the ground .

The US in its drive to settle the Iranian (Shia) nuclear question in order to avoid a major war, it’s support for a Shia Iraq which did/still does not protect the Sunni minority, a lack of understanding the impact of the free election of Hamas in Gaza and our hypocrisy to that from us demanded free election , the lack of a coherent concept and understanding of the impact of Hezbollah as part of the Green Crescent in Lebanon, the lack of a coherent understanding of the Arab Spring other than we thought it proved our “democracy” values, the lack of a coherent concept for Syria (Sunni majority under Shia dominance) and feet dragging in Palestine (Sunni) until 2013, and sending US weapons to a Shia country to kill Sunni’s has shown the various ME populations that the US truly does not understand their issues.

I have repeatedly stated it is really all about perception in the ME---strange for rational thinking Americans but nevertheless it is about perception.

Syria has in effect become the defacto “Spanish battleground” for the 21st Century in the ME--and our national level decision makers (with all the contractors, academics, think tanks, media reporting) were so focused in chasing AQ and conducting two unnecessary wars -- they never saw it coming as it goes to what Robert has been saying about populations and policies that drive resistance. I would argue that chasing AQ and fighting in two Muslin countries has actually made us weaker in the eyes of the various ME populations.

Robert also made some interesting comments concerning KSA and I have as well indicated that the Saudi’s have been greatly disturbed by our lack of a Syria policy so they are moving as fast as they can to establish their own “Syrian policy” using money, troops, and a call to religion.

Actually the NYTs article supports Robert ‘s concept in a number of ways.

Taken from this mornings’ NYT front page article;

“Linking all this mayhem is an increasingly naked appeal to the atavistic loyalties of clan and sect. Foreign powers’ imposing agendas on the region, and the police-state tactics of Arab despots, had never allowed communities to work out their long-simmering enmities. But these divides, largely benign during times of peace, have grown steadily more toxic since the Iranian revolution of 1979. The events of recent years have accelerated the trend, as foreign invasions and the recent round of Arab uprisings left the state weak, borders blurred, and people resorting to older loyalties for safety.”

“Iran and Saudi Arabia have increased their efforts to arm and recruit fighters in the civil war in Syria, which top officials in both countries portray as an existential struggle. Sunni Muslims from Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere have joined the rebels, many fighting alongside affiliates of Al Qaeda. And Shiites from Bahrain, Lebanon, Yemen and even Africa are fighting with pro-government militias, fearing that a defeat for Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, would endanger their Shiite brethren everywhere.”

“Although the Saudi government waged a bitter struggle with Al Qaeda on its own soil a decade ago, the kingdom now supports Islamist rebels in Syria who often fight alongside Qaeda groups like the Nusra Front. The Saudis say they have little choice: having lobbied unsuccessfully for a decisive American intervention in Syria, they believe they must now back whoever can help them defeat Mr. Assad’s forces and his Iranian allies.”

“As the United States rushed weapons to Mr. Maliki’s government late last year to help him fight off the jihadis, some analysts said American officials had not pushed the Iraqi prime minister hard enough to be more inclusive."

“Maliki has done everything he could to deepen the sectarian divide over the past year and a half, and he still enjoys unconditional American support,” said Peter Harling, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group. “The pretext is always the same: They don’t want to rock the boat. How is this not rocking the boat?”

OUTLAW 09
01-05-2014, 02:26 PM
This comment kind of summarizes US policy in Iraq.

"Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime ... He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation ... And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction ... So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real..." -- Sen. Kerry , Jan. 23. 2003"

Wonder what the new DoS would say now to the problems in Fallujah?

Bob's World
01-05-2014, 03:01 PM
The big question, of course, is what exactly are these "ways that are less caustic, less expensive, but equally (or more) effective". If that means an overall policy of meddling less, and meddling much less intrusively if we must meddle, I'm on board.

That is indeed the $64,000 question. It is the conversation that should have been the center of the QDR but was never asked; and it should have been the banner on the wall for the new NSS writing team. I know they are polishing a draft, I fear and hope for what it might say.

Outlaw - Good find on the NYT article, I think they are pretty close. I'll try to contact the author.

We definitely screwed up in Iraq. Iraq was the keystone of the arch running from Shia Iran to Sunni Arabia. We made it all about us and Saddam and blew out the one guy holding everything in check. Ours obsessive paranoia over WMD gets us into a lot of trouble, but Iraq was (hopefully) the worst.

We hate WMD because it is the only check on our ability to do whatever we want. Everyone in the world notices except us that we treat WMD nations with a degree of respect for their sovereignty that we do not lend to those who do not have it. That is why DPRK and Iran have worked so hard to get it. Not to wage physical war on their neighbors, but rather to deter the US from waging policy war against them.

OUTLAW 09
01-05-2014, 05:09 PM
Robert---what worries me when you write about US polices causing basically unintended consequences is the fact that the various ME populations already have a fixed perception of the lack of US interest in addressing issues raised by the Arab Spring as well as the Shia/Sunni clash.

ALL current US policy moves in the ME lead me to believe there is an actual shift occurring in US policy towards a joint US/Iranian move.

This might be due to US policy makers deciding that the Shia might be a way of controlling the Sunni fundamentalists while not wanting to realize that Iran is just as driven by Shia fundamentalists. Again unintended consequences based on the lack of understanding the populations they are trying to address.

I would have said there is no way the US is shifting as such a shift would indicate a true failure to understand the populations of the ME, but the list of moves made by the US towards open support or presumed open support of Shia over Sunni's has I think forced the KSA to truly rethink their view towards the US--the recent 3B weapons deal with the French is a sure sign of that rethink and their open critiques of the US Syrian policy moves is the second nail in the coffin.

This shift just might happening when one thinks that we the US is no longer tied to oil coming from the ME based on our current production levels and the need for good relations with the KSA are no longer needed in pursuit of containing AQ.

If one looks at the four policy points that the US NCA recently released---it simply stated--deter any threats coming from that region---it did not define those threats. Sunni fundamentalism is one such threat.

This small comment came out of a 30 Nov 2013 article written by a well respected Arab commenter on the ME backed up by a comment from Brookings which has some good analysts regardless of what one thinks of them---and it is rather worrying at the least if the shift is in fact true because to lock out two other regional players ie Israel and the KSA is a disaster waiting to happen---unless the shift ie working the Palestinian issue and the Iranian approach is to isolate the KSA?

"So is the US in fact changing sides in the contest between Iran and those regional forces seeking to contain and turn back its advance?

Michael Doran of the Brookings Institute suggested this week that Washington is in the first phase of seeking a "strategic partnership" with Iran, an "entente cordiale" which would see a US-Iranian alliance forming a lynchpin of regional stability.

If this is truly what the welter of evidence detailed above portends, then the Middle East is headed into a dangerous period indeed. As Doran also notes, there is no reason at all to think that Iranian designs for regional hegemony have been abandoned.

The effect of US overtures to Tehran and undermining of allies will be to build the Iranians' appetite. This will serve to intensify their continued efforts at expansion.

The corresponding efforts by other regional powers, Israel and Saudi Arabia chief among them, to resist this process will also increase."

OUTLAW 09
01-05-2014, 05:23 PM
Robert---your WMD comment is interesting---the concept of mutual destruction tends to keep things in check regardless of the countries involved, politics, partners, ideology, and religions---but with the Shia and Sunni there is nothing to keep them in check as it is hard when dealing with two true believers---there are some solutions but the US is not creative enough to use them due to internal US political/religious pressures.

"We hate WMD because it is the only check on our ability to do whatever we want. Everyone in the world notices except us that we treat WMD nations with a degree of respect for their sovereignty that we do not lend to those who do not have it. That is why DPRK and Iran have worked so hard to get it. Not to wage physical war on their neighbors, but rather to deter the US from waging policy war against them."

Bob's World
01-05-2014, 05:39 PM
Hopefully we do not "change sides," but rather move to a posture that is far more neutral and pragmatic across all of the governments and populations of the region. Great Britain thought "changing sides" was the answer at the turn of the 20th century, and it led to dropping old allies and picking up new ones; the alliances that collided in what came to be known as WWI...

The outdated belief that one exercised their interests best through fixed relationships with specific countries, and making their enemies our enemies needs to go.

But Corporations love dictators. And these Dictators have big money, or big Zionist lobbies. So big money from corporations, Arab and Jewish groups skew our politics and policy to keep contracts in place, to keep Israel as a "Jewish state" and to keep certain families in power on the Arabian Peninsula. I don't know if we can break free from the inertia of those forces. We do not need to "abandon" any allies, but we do need to refresh all of these relationships and repair or build new relationships with those we have been sideways with for reasons that are really the interests of our partners or corporations, and not our nation and our people writ large.

Iran is a true nation, and perhaps the most geostrategically important country and population in the entire Middle East - for us to be sideways with them is not in our interests. Other geostrategic enduring nations are Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Turkey. That does not mean the rest are unimportant, it just means their importance rose quickly and will wane even faster as the energy dynamics of the globe eventually transition to whatever comes next.

Governments come and go.

"threats" come and go.

But the people are enduring, as is geography.

We need to be more grounded in geography, and we need to be far more conscious of how our polices affect people, rather than just governments.

And if we want to truly be a "global leader" we need to stop allowing small, but important and powerful, interest groups lead us on fool's errands. Oh and stop initiating so many of our own fool's errands as well, as NO ONE wanted us to invade Iraq, except AQ, of course.

AmericanPride
01-05-2014, 06:39 PM
Bob,


Often insanely outrageous foreign policy begins with very logical and reasonable intent.

I don't think there's anything "insanely outrageous" about US foreign policy. I think at times foreign policy is miscalculated due to a variety of causes. My point is that "occupation by policy" is a 'natural' outcome of the current organization of global power structures. Structural violence, the kind that breeds "resistance" insurgency, is an inherent and basic feature of international order.


The concept of "occupation by policy" is about when foreign policy falls out of step with those it affects thereby generating a resistance insurgency effect, much as a physical occupation does. This does not mean don't have foreign policy and don't affect people, it means that one must have mechanisms to honestly appreciate the effects one's governance has (intended or accidental) on various populations, and mechanisms to fine tune that governance to be as appropriate as possible.

I don't think the incentives exist for those that make policy to genuinely care for "those it affects". By genuine, I mean independent of whatever interest exists to accommodate those populations. The US is the biggest fish in the pond in a pond with very well defined parameters - military and economic power trumps ideology, ethics, and even at times the very law meant to justify the exercise of military and economic power in the first place. The relevant actors know the rules of this game, which is why the Saudis have no problem allying with the Israelis, why the US played games with defining the word coup, and so on. Everyone is a realist pretending to be a liberal while living in a marxist world.


What I am not seeing is the US's similar recognition that we can either break ourselves attempting to enforce a status quo that is increasingly perceived as inappropriate, or we can evolve in how we pursue our interests to ways that are less caustic, less expensive, but equally (or more) effective.

Why do you expect to see that recognition? The US more or less built the current international system and its power is heavily invested in its continuation. The proliferation of globally active political players makes the game more complicated but not necessarily different at its core. Selecting "occupation by policy" is a rational and deliberate choice within this context. "Occupation by policy" is a structural problem, not a strategy problem.

OUTLAW 09
01-05-2014, 07:00 PM
Robert---the core problem with a shift towards Iran is that the various Shia sects make up no more than 7-12% of the total 1.8B Muslims worldwide the rest are Sunni with a small amount of Sufi.

Since 1979 Shias have become more politically aware under Khomeini which was what Sunnis have always been interested in---but at the same time far more fundamental in order to match Sunni fundamentalists.

I do not see the fundamentalists in Iran ie the Revolutionary Guards and others wanting to compromise with the "great Satan"---and really the moderates are not so moderate when one reads what they write and say within Iran.

In the end they will not give up their nuclear program for as you know it is a deterrent--even the Israelis understand that. If the Iranians are allowed to stay with their nuclear program it will only drive the Saudis towards the nuclear option as well.

The real internal debate within Islam will in the end be between the secularist and fundamentalist and the US cannot hold back that debate nor should it as Islam really does need a Reformation in order to allow the populations to settle down and move forward.

OUTLAW 09
01-05-2014, 07:03 PM
AP--would be curious as to what you think the current US strategy is in the ME?

OUTLAW 09
01-05-2014, 09:27 PM
Robert----noticed a Reuters report from Israel today with comments from the DoS and second comment from a Sunni fighter in Syria in the same article that goes to a degree in verifying the NYTs article about a shift in US policy towards Iran that is targeting the curbing of Sunni influence in the ME.

Should be interesting to see how the KSA responds in the next few days especially if the word is the KSA will not be "invited" as the Iranians will be---if one analyzes the media reports about a split between the US and KSA one will notice about every six months for the last two years articles indicating the rising tensions between the US and the KSA.

Taken from the Reuters article:

"U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tehran still should not take formal part in the peace conference scheduled to start on Lake Geneva on January 22 because it had not endorsed a 2012 accord calling for a new Syrian leadership. But he said there might be ways that Iran could "contribute from the sidelines".

There is little prospect of a rapid end to the Syrian conflict but the resurgence in Iraq of mutual enemy al Qaeda, and a recent rapprochement with the new Iranian president, have raised speculation about a common effort between the United States and Tehran to contain instability in the region.

In the eastern Syrian province of Raqqa, Sunni Islamist activist Khaled Abu Alwalid said that the presence of Iraqi Shi'ite militia fighters in Syria was galvanising a common front against them by ISIL and other Islamist factions.

"This is a religious war encompassing Iraq, Syria and Lebanon," Alwalid said.

Like Iraq, Lebanon has seen violence linked to the Syrian war, and its Hezbollah militia, backed by Iran, has sent fighters into Syria to help Assad. There were clashes on Sunday in the Lebanese city of Tripoli between Sunnis and members of the Shi'ite-linked Alawite sect to which Assad belongs."

carl
01-05-2014, 10:16 PM
No, wrong to say Christians are more worthy of being saved than any of the other endangered people we might choose to save.

And another way of saying if you can't do it all, don't do anything.

carl
01-05-2014, 10:32 PM
Outlaw,

You know the answer to your own question. It is about governance, not religion.

You've seen the movie Gandhi, and how the illegitimate external (resistance insurgency) influence of Britain was removed, and how Muslims and Hindu then worked a subsequent split that gave all a chance to live in a country dominated by governance of one flavor or the other. Do Pakistan, India and Bangladesh all still wrestle with internal revolutionary issues? Certainly they do. But AQ's Saudi-centric revolutionary message does not resonate in that region, nor in Afghanistan for that matter.

It isn't about ideology. It isn't about religion. It is about governance and it is about the higher order aspects of Maslow's hierarchy. People under governance they believe has no right to govern them (illegitimacy); people under governance that acts in a manner seen as inappropriate in their culture (exceeding sovereignty); people under a rule of law they do not perceive as just (injustice); people treated differently than other similarly situated populations (disrespect); and populations who perceive they have no effective legal means available to them to seek the changes to fix any or all of the above (disempowered).

As JFK said: "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will make violent revolution inevitable."

Equally, those who are perceived as helping to sustain in power or enable those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will find themselves confronted with acts of transnational terrorism.

It is that simple.

I've been thinking about this and then this morning appeared this article in the New York Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/04/world/asia/uttar-pradesh-religious-violence.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20140105&_r=0

It is about anit-Muslim rioting in India. This particular time dozens were killed. That kind of rioting isn't unusual in India, it goes back many years, to the time of the country's founding just after WWII. These are serious riots in which thousands can be and have been killed.

So maybe one of the reasons for lack of AQ, or similar groups, appeal in India is the Muslim population's precarious position. If they were to too closely embrace that kind of thing, it may result in deadly communal riots. That would be consistent with groups in other countries laying low. The Christians in Pakistan can't do anything or deadly riots may ensue. I imagine the Russian Jews in the time of the Czars had to lay low no matter how badly they were treated for fear of pogroms.

So yes, the policies of the Indian government undoubtedly play a part in keeping AQ and AQ like groups out, but so does the deadly threat of communal violence being directed at the Muslim population if they play their cards wrong. Some people too would say that the threat of communal violence is part of Indian government policy, at least on a local and state level, therefore being a component of the governance that keeps the lid on.

Dayuhan
01-05-2014, 10:42 PM
And another way of saying if you can't do it all, don't do anything.

Sorry to use the word, but that's just getting silly. If you want to save someone, figure out who most needs saving and who you can save without getting yourself into a mess. The religious affiliation of those to be saved has no place whatsoever in the calculation.

Dayuhan
01-05-2014, 11:17 PM
Syria is/has been in fact a regional war (yes the US calls it a civil war but it is in reality a regional war) being fought by two “super powers” of that region Iran representing the Shia and KSA representing the Sunni for hegemony of the ME.

Possibly so, but where is it written that the US must be involved in every conflict on the planet?


I would argue as has Robert argued that in fact it is our policies or lack of policies that is driving the clash much faster than normal as it appears to the ME populations that we have no answer for anything happening in the ME and they as a population are on their own going forward.

Our policy is not to get involved. That's not a lack of policy, it's a quite reasonable policy, and under the circumstances I suspect the best one we could adopt. I see absolutely no way in which US involvement could make that situation better, and a whole lot of ways for US involvement to make it worse.

Given that ME populations have spent a few decades vocally demanding that the US stay out of their affairs, can't see why they'd be upset that "they as a population are on their own going forward". Why would they not want to be on their own? No reason why they'd want us in there telling them what to do.


There is an interesting comment from the NYTs article that actually sums up US policy in the ME currently "They don’t want to rock the boat. How is this not rocking the boat?”

Less about not rocking the boat than about not getting in the boat. Given that the boat is (a) sinking, and (b) filled to the brim with screaming a-holes who hate our guts, that seems to me a quite reasonable plan.


So our national decision makers feel that "not rocking the boat" can somehow be magically transformed into a ME policy that will work?

A policy that works is one that achieves the goals it was intended to achieve. I think we've finally figured out that we are not going to "fix" the Middle East or any part thereof, and efforts we make to "fix" things generally make them worse. Is staying out of the mess an unreasonable policy goal?


The US in its drive to settle the Iranian (Shia) nuclear question in order to avoid a major war, it’s support for a Shia Iraq which did/still does not protect the Sunni minority

Protecting the Sunni minority in Iran is not our business. Protecting the Shi'a minority in Saudi Arabia is not our business. The domestic politics of Middle Eastern nations are not our business. What do we gain by meddling in any of the above?


I have repeatedly stated it is really all about perception in the ME---strange for rational thinking Americans but nevertheless it is about perception.

Yes, perception matters, but it's largely beyond our control. No matter what the US does, somebody will put a negative spin on it, and somebody will believe it. If we stay out of Syria, we're abandoning our nonexistent "friends", if we go into Syria we are imperialist aggressors and hired thugs for the Saudis. Can't win that game, best to do what's best for us and let the perception chips fall where they may. Designing policy based on what someone else might or might not think of it is a one way road to madness.


Robert also made some interesting comments concerning KSA and I have as well indicated that the Saudi’s have been greatly disturbed by our lack of a Syria policy so they are moving as fast as they can to establish their own “Syrian policy” using money, troops, and a call to religion.

Of course the Saudis have their own Syria policy. Why wouldn't they? No need for them to follow our policies, no need for us to follow theirs. Different nations, different perceived interests, different policies.


“Iran and Saudi Arabia have increased their efforts to arm and recruit fighters in the civil war in Syria, which top officials in both countries portray as an existential struggle. Sunni Muslims from Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere have joined the rebels, many fighting alongside affiliates of Al Qaeda. And Shiites from Bahrain, Lebanon, Yemen and even Africa are fighting with pro-government militias, fearing that a defeat for Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, would endanger their Shiite brethren everywhere.”

Ok, so we have Saudi-backed Wahhabi extremists and Irani/Hezbollah trying to kill each other instead of trying to kill us... and we need to jump in between and make them stop? Why?

What would you have the US do in Syria, and why?

Dayuhan
01-05-2014, 11:24 PM
But Corporations love dictators. And these Dictators have big money, or big Zionist lobbies. So big money from corporations, Arab and Jewish groups skew our politics and policy to keep contracts in place, to keep Israel as a "Jewish state" and to keep certain families in power on the Arabian Peninsula. I don't know if we can break free from the inertia of those forces. We do not need to "abandon" any allies, but we do need to refresh all of these relationships and repair or build new relationships with those we have been sideways with for reasons that are really the interests of our partners or corporations, and not our nation and our people writ large.

I don't think the US has any real role in maintaining the internal status quo on the Arabian Peninsula, or for that matter in Israel. Perhaps the State-vs-State status quo, but not the State-vs-populace status quo. Neither the Saudis nor the Israelis need any help from us to keep their populaces in line, and neither give a rat's ass what we think of their domestic policies. We have no leverage over their policies and no means to change them. We and the corporations deal with the status quo because it exists... not like there's anything they can do about it.


We do not need to "abandon" any allies, but we do need to refresh all of these relationships and repair or build new relationships with those we have been sideways with for reasons that are really the interests of our partners or corporations, and not our nation and our people writ large.

Any specific suggestions on how that might be done?

OUTLAW 09
01-05-2014, 11:42 PM
Dayuhan---then your policy is what?---stand on a chair in the middle of a flowing river and claim what?---the river is not flowing or even worse you are not standing on a chair?

One can debate all day long but the fact that one stands on a chair and the river is flowing is reality these days.

It is all about perception as others will even deny the river/chair exists.

It is all in how one frames the problem and our current policies seem to have no real definition of what the problem even is nor do we offer solutions that make sense to specific populations.

According to the just completed Palestinian/Israeli talks we cannot even get it right in the Jordan Valley offer that the DoS made during the talks if one listens to Israeli radio broadcasts---notice the comment that the US does not understand the ME made by no one other than the Israeli Intelligence Minister.

Remember---- It is all about perception as others will even deny the river/chair exists.

So again just what is your policy for the ME stand on the chair and deny the river is flowing or admit the river is flowing and you are standing on a rock OR neither is correct as you were just daydreaming as you really live in China and speak Russian?

Denial (of reality) is not a river in Egypt.

As the comment in the NYTs article today indicated neither is "not rocking the boat".

Comment from radio broadcast:

"Security must remain in our hands. Anyone who proposes a solution in the Jordan Valley by deploying an international force, Palestinian police or technological means ... does not understand the Middle East," Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israeli public radio.

Dayuhan
01-06-2014, 12:24 AM
We are not on a chair in the middle of the river. We are on the bank, looking at the river, deciding whether or not to jump in and try to swim across. As far as I can see the water is filthy, it's filled with parasites and aggressive carnivores of multiple descriptions, the current is nasty and filled with hazardous obstacles, and there's nothing we want or need on the opposite side. Given those conditions, I see no special reason to take a dive.

At a bare minimum, before intervening in other people's fights we need a clear, practical, achievable objective and an action plan that has a reasonably good chance of achieving that objective without blowing up in our faces. A bit of popular support on the home front is also useful. Do we have any of those?

Again, what would you have us do in Syria, and why?

AmericanPride
01-06-2014, 02:31 AM
Outlaw,

I think US strategy in the ME has been relatively stable over the years, with the notable exception of the Iraq invasion (which I will address), and very clear in its intent: maintain close relationships (but not too close) with strategic partners Saudi Arabia, Gulf kingdoms, Egypt, and Israel while sustaining pressure (but not too much pressure) on adversarial governments in Syria, Iran, and formerly Iraq (and to a lesser extent, Libya). We've more or less pushed this strategy to the limit with our current partners, and combined with the misadventure in Iraq and opportunism in Libya, there's not much more that can be done short of another out right war, which we recently learned is not necessarily an American interest.

The US has a number of basic and traditional tools to influence the ME, chief among them military power and money. But as we know, both of these have their limits, and the complexity of disparate interests and the rapidity with which regional alliances shift makes exercising the first a dangerous proposition. And I think Yemen and its problems demonstrates that the use of the second is no guarantee of success.

Now I said the Iraq war was a misadventure, not just because of its execution, but also because it marked a significant break from historical US policy to let local allies or alliances figure out their problems (with US weapons and money of course). And then afterwards at some opportune point, the US steps in to facilitate an agreement. The security of Saudi Arabia is the longest standing linchpin of US interests in the region, and around it we have built a considerable military-oriented strategy to secure the Gulf. But actually exercising that power to destroy Hussein's Iraq only upset the balance of power and not in our favor; more or less forcing us into an understanding with Iran.

The Arab Spring doesn't demand a unifying US policy or a reimagining of US strategy. The US actively intervened in Libya, stayed more or less on the sidelines in Egypt and Syria, and basically ignored unrest in the Gulf. Unless there's a fundamental change in the structures of power in the ME, US strategy won't change and shouldn't -- our allies might change, but that's another question. Here's where I see emerging decision points:

- a nuclear Iran can't be ignored and probably not "occupied by policy". Some kind of accommodation will have to be made to maintain security in the Gulf (and to a lesser extent, the Caucasus). That might come at a heavy price for the US and probably not without some more violence.

- Iraq is out of the game for the foreseeable future. Escalation of Iraq's internal violence could pull in outside actors (read Iran and KSA) deeper into the country again.

- Syria is also out of the game; now it's just a matter of how long and under what conditions. A peace agreement will leave the international jihadists exposed and open to government repression. Where will they go next?

- Although it's not quite over in Egypt yet, as far as the US is concerned, the changes transpired with US interests intact. The question is with the elevated expectations and militancy of the population, what policies will this compel the Egyptian government to pursue?

Bill Moore
01-06-2014, 03:55 AM
Bill,

It appears that we are equally "fixated." Just as I suggested to Dayuhan yesterday, we see the same facts, but assess the meanings from different backgrounds.

I struggle to see how the ideas built around the belief that "an island should not rule a continent" and that British rule was therefore illegitimate somehow came before Britain's rule of that continent. John Locke was perhaps the most influential theorist informing the thoughts of our founders (legitimacy coming from the people rather than power or God; the right of revolution when governments loses touch, etc), but he lived in England in the era following the heated events of the Civil War and the peace of Westphalia.

Thoughts on governance were evolving faster than governments. In the West this began when Mr. Guttenberg's printing press freed and empowered men to read, and think and communicate free from the control of such activities the Holy Roman Empire imposed through the Catholic Church. (Yes, governments use ideologies too). Guttenberg created a revolution of information which in turn fomented a revolution of thought and people's expectations of government and governance. This is not say that governance became evil or even ineffective, it simply grows stale and out of touch with the evolving expectations of the people in such eras. As friction grows, governments being made up of politicians, blame the challenger rather than themselves for the trouble.

Russia's policy of Glasnost had the same effect in the Soviet satellite states, as did modern communications tools in the Middle East. In each case governance comes first, a breakthrough of the state's ability to control information and thought comes second, perceptions of "poor governance" develop and spread, friction grows, (conditions of insurgency - often beginning to grow long before the first bullet is fired or bomb explodes), then informal leaders emerge and ideologies for change are adopted and applied.

This is a timeless, multi-act play. Just because governments tend to sleep through the first several acts does not mean the play begins when the first explosion wakes them up.

Thanks for clarifying your position, I never claimed to be quick on the uptake :D. Your comments here make sense, but your previous comment about ideology not being the boogey man is not entirely correct in my view, but then it again it depends upon what you mean by that statement. I think ideology can be a subversive tool in a UW campaign that undermines the credibility of the existing government, and therefore it needs to be what? Discredited, neutralized, challenged, whatever, but where I think we'll agree is that the government better have a better system/ideology/narrative, or the subversives using ideology will potentially gain a decisive edge.

Where I suspect we'll disagree is that a challenge to the State must be countered or the State is illegitimate. If the government can and is willing to reform and those reforms can effectively neutralize or co-opt the challengers that would be the ideal approach. As an occupying power rushing to establish a government that is seen as illegitimate by its people is almost guaranteed to be doomed to fail. We removed and then imposed governments upon the people(s) of Iraq and Afghanistan that conformed to our model of what a government should like, and even endorsed them in our minds with questionable elections. As it starts to come apart at seams we're standing by with bags of money and security forces to try to hold it together.

In short we created our own Catch 22, we're damned if we continue to support them, and we think we're damned (politically) if we pull support from them. I think most agree it is the policy wonks that need to get this right up front, and how much influence the military will have on these decisions now or in the future is debatable, but we're professionally obligated to voice an opinion on the matter.

Bill Moore
01-06-2014, 04:06 AM
Posted by AmericanPride


I think US strategy in the ME has been relatively stable over the years, with the notable exception of the Iraq invasion (which I will address), and very clear in its intent: maintain close relationships (but not too close) with strategic partners Saudi Arabia, Gulf kingdoms, Egypt, and Israel while sustaining pressure (but not too much pressure) on adversarial governments in Syria, Iran, and formerly Iraq (and to a lesser extent, Libya). We've more or less pushed this strategy to the limit with our current partners, and combined with the misadventure in Iraq and opportunism in Libya, there's not much more that can be done short of another out right war, which we recently learned is not necessarily an American interest.

Partly in agreement but wanted to post a contrary view. At least some of our allies don't see our policy as consistent. Only addressed Saudi here, but obviously Iran, Israel, Egypt and others since a change.

http://carnegieendowment.org/files/102413_gulf-diplomacy_transcript.pdf


The unprecedented anger and chastising in Washington by Prince Turki Al-Faisal just a couple of days ago at the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations – and I was there, and I heard it, and it was carried on many GCC newspapers and in the Arab world. For the first time in years, the dispute and differing with Washington from a GCC perspective is out in the open in a very clear manner. Adjective describing the U.S. policy in the Gulf, in the region and the Middle East in general, like weak, wavering, differing, naïve, unreliable have become the norm.

Dayuhan
01-06-2014, 07:26 AM
The unprecedented anger and chastising in Washington by Prince Turki Al-Faisal just a couple of days ago at the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations – and I was there, and I heard it, and it was carried on many GCC newspapers and in the Arab world. For the first time in years, the dispute and differing with Washington from a GCC perspective is out in the open in a very clear manner. Adjective describing the U.S. policy in the Gulf, in the region and the Middle East in general, like weak, wavering, differing, naïve, unreliable have become the norm.

Yes, the Saudis et al are upset. When you get to the root of the displeasure, though, it seems to derive largely from the fact that the US is not doing what they want. I don't personally have a problem with that. It's long past high time that the Saudis (and the Israelis, and a few others) figured out that they don't get to dictate US foreign policy and the US is not an attack dog for them to unleash at their whim on those that they dislike.

OUTLAW 09
01-06-2014, 10:07 AM
Dayuhan--here is the problem currently for the NCA---they make continuous red lines in the sand, which they feel will never happen then the red lines become pink and then white--when they reach white suddenly the NCA has no plan, but has been on record as having one.

I really do pay attention to small comments that come via some good media reporters---the NYTs comments infer that there is no policy ie there is one "do not rock the boat"---have you ever seen that one work before?

One might as well throw a dart at the wall-you get the same decision effect.

Right now we have through a series of policy decisions or non decisions created an image in the population that we have effectively sided with fundamentalists of the Shia variety which if one looks later the ME is mainly Sunni.

Had we pushed Israel extremely hard after the election of Hamas in Gaza to open the borders for growth and fishing off their own coast line---there was a phase when the Israeli security worked extremely well with the PLO security and not much happened but we let that program go down the drain as a confidence building mechanism---we are currently training PLO police in both Jordan and in the West Bank which some say is getting better.

But when a group regardless of who they are wins a relative fair, free, and democratic election and then we shut the borders, cut off the population from economic growth and they virtually live in a prison---what would be your reaction---push back with all possible efforts and so it happened further cycling the violence.

By the way we were the ones that pushed for a fair election thinking the PLO would win---somehow again not realizing the PLO was corrupt and would lose.

If you say that one country cannot go nuclear then be honest with the world and admit there is another country in the ME that is fully nuclear and that in the end they must disarm as well---that will never happen.

Syria---has been at it for now over three years when one counts the demos---we instituted a full embargo on Iran but we cannot institute a full naval blockade on Syria or stymie the air bridge that Iran is using to fly in weapons and fighters?-come on we flew a no fly zone for years over Iraq with all related costs. Cannot do that without clashing with the Iranians and Russians--open the intelligence and let the world see the verified over flights and the Russian weapon ships.

Release verified intelligence on comments made by Iranian RG Generals that they are sending "troops" to fight in Iran---the Syrian anti-Assad groups did pickup 48 of them to include several Generals---release it openly to the world.

Sometimes verified words/pictures in the open world does wonders and is non violent. But we cannot as we have decided that leaking of intelligence is a crime higher than say creating a lasting truce by all parties in the ME.

If one states a red line then hold to it as it sets perceptions in the region ie if I say something I will do it---counts in the eyes of some Arab countries. The Russians seem to have no problems in doing exactly what they say they will do in reference to Syria and Iran.

When giving a press conference---do not stutter into a solution as an afterthought ---especially by a professional politician who is a VN war vet who should have known better---now the Russians feel they are the verified protectors of a state they support and they are not coming off that idea at no time now or in the future--it is their foothole in the Med.

Reinforce the image that weapons moving across the border to Hezbollah have to be stopped with violence if necessary---three attacks have already been carried out why not more if necessary to reinforce the concept and it sends a message.

Refugees---stop playing games with the refugees---the EU is starting to take thousands-ie over 6K to Germany---JUST how many are coming to the US and slowly WHY because every Arab/Christian from the ME is in the eyes of US security a terrorist attacking the "homeland".

Weapons --flood the market with small arms up to 57/106mm RR including mortars and some type of AAA to level the playing field--the anti-Assad groups have taken out the Air Force but are being hurt by copters---risk is that they flow to FF and we still have an AFG/Soviet syndrome ---so it does not happen.

One wins the perception game---currently viewed as that we do not care and will not actively support the anti Assad groups---also a win in the eyes of some Arab countries.

Politically---we are afraid to engage the Islamists why out of fear of AQ---why-- watch the street in the ME where the Islamists after the Spring became overbearing- they were countered by the street and the population decided against them even against the MB---are they still causing problems yes but let the street decide even if it goes against us. Creates the perception we truly believe the street is responsible for their futures.

Why is it we have a redline for chemical weapons but Syrians are being killed now by "barrel bombs" fully documented---not a single comment have you noticed out of the US-why? Perception in the street is that we are split tongued.

I could go on and on--BUT here is the problem and Robert hit it ---with Corporations and religious groups strength inside the US none of the above will occur as it goes against them---you must realize our foreign policy is driven by who has the money and who yells the loudest in front of Congress and who can finance electoral campaigns.

But that is not the problem---perception wise we are now being seen by a number of Sunni Arab countries of being slanted towards Iran and Shia--that is a dangerous view to create. I have seen a large number of media comments since 2012 "that we have a frank and open relationship with the KSA" --there is an old saying that if one repeats the same thing over and over then there is a problem--if that is true then why the frank and open in the media attacks by the Saudis against what they perceive to be mistakes in our policies---frankly they are now a tad p.....ed. at us.

This is where I to a tad differ with Robert---we need both religious wings of Islam to be at least on "friendly" terms with us not one over the other.

I though still do not understand if the US really does understand the Green Crescent theory of Khomeini---he set it into motion and it is the single anchor in the Iranian foreign policy that one can count on as being accurate.

Agree with Robert that Iran is geo important-but we killed any chance in 1979of moving forward with them and regardless of how much we "think" Iran can become "moderate" as long as the RG and the Spiritual leaders are basically fundamentalists nothing will really become moderate---the Iranian population as a whole backs the 1979 move regardless of rather they want western contact or not---they would like on the whole a more secular move but they do not want to ditch the religion that I know of.

Sometimes one has to dance with the "devil" to set into motion changes that one sometimes cannot forecast---but we need to do it in a non violent way and allow the population to continue their Spring whatever direction it goes which really was started under the guise of pan Arab nationalism must be allowed to finally finish the transformation that has stuttered for years---with the messaging we will be at the end of the road still with you regardless of what direction you go in if you want us to be there--we will support the moves with non violent means were possible but we will not get involved-actually we seem to be doing that in Egypt but it was forced on us by their military--it was not our own decision. If one notices the military is clamping down on both sides to restore a sense of security which is what many Egyptians on the street really want right now in order to get economic growth going again.

Will our Corporations and our own religious groups allow that?

Seriously doubt it.

OUTLAW 09
01-06-2014, 10:18 AM
AP--you in fact with your comments actually confirmed the NYTs article comments yesterday---that in fact our policy in the ME is "do not rock the boat".

See how in fact no action or ignoring the problems by no reacting is in fact a "do not rock the boat" foreign policy?

Does not take security advisors, contractors, think tanks, or academics to come up with that policy---any number of teenagers/adults do that on a daily basis.

Sometimes we simply are procrastinators waiting to see if the problem resolves itself before we really have to make a decision---do you not agree?

OUTLAW 09
01-06-2014, 10:25 AM
AP--example---yesterday it was leaked out by of all people the DoS who openly stated that it might possible to station US troops on the Jordan Valley border in order to drive an Israeli/Palestinian solution.

Now what genius thought that one up?

What was the immediate leak coming out of DoD---you must be out of your mind on that solution set---cost, manpower, we getting shot at all the time for what, what will it bring to the table?

Procrastination--- the mother of all US foreign policy decisions if you ask me---or thrown it up on the wall and see if it sticks---both are doomed to fail.

Bob's World
01-06-2014, 12:03 PM
Good discussions. I wish they were being held higher and more formally, but the longest journey...

Crowd sourcing this concept is being very helpful for me as I push this concept upwards at work, and prepare to sit down and write it up in a (hopefully) clear, concise, and persuasive package.

Keep up the great comments.

As to ideology in insurgency and UW - I published a piece here on Swj several years ago. Ideology to the insurgent is like a rife to a soldier. He must have one, but not any particular one. Just find one that works and Charlie Mike

davidbfpo
01-06-2014, 02:54 PM
Earlier in the thread mention has been made of the apparent absence of an internal jihadist activity when compared to the size of India's Muslim minority, so Stephen Tankel's latest offering 'Jihadist Violence: The Indian Threat' may help understanding. I have not read the paper yet; the summary says:
India faces many well-known challenges, from corruption to environmental degradation. A lesser-noted challenge is domestic militancy. This new study, produced by noted South Asia security expert Stephen Tankel, focuses on the Indian Mujahideen (IM)--a loosely organized indigneous Islamist militant network. IM, Prof. Tankel argues, is "an internal security issue with an external dimension." Its leadership is currently based in Pakistan, but the organization represents a response to Indian domestic failings.

Link:http://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/jihadist-violence-the-indian-threat

AmericanPride
01-06-2014, 03:27 PM
Outlaw,

American policy is more aptly described as "balance of power" instead of "do not rock the boat". The US has no problems rocking the boat when it suits its interests - Lebanon, Iraq, etc. Cold War competition made this policy more clear since it was aimed at containing and reversing Soviet influence to maintain Gulf security. Dual containment of Iraq and Iran followed, but now with the removal of Hussein and the prospect of a nuclear Iran, the balance of power has shifted once again. Our "traditional" allies (the Saudis, Egyptians, Israelis, et al, but the Saudis the oldest and foremost among them) see these winds changing and I think after years of being our favorites, it's a disappointment (as an understatement) to them that we're not, as Dayuhan puts it, "an attack dog for them to unleash at their whim on those that they dislike". They don't care if we're the lightning rod for resentment in the region; it's not their problem (until it's their problem like the case with Al Qaida).

Though written before the latest Iraq War, my favorite book on the foreign policies of these states (Turkey among them) is The Foreign Policies of Middle East States edited by Hinnebusch and Ehteshami. It looks at the regional interests and international penetration of the region from the perspective of each local actor and it does so without the color of ideology.

The problem for the US isn't perception - as others have noted, that's not going to change any time soon. The real problem is making sure we're on the right side of history as these events unfold. The goal is to gain predictability. Syria conflict, Egyptian revolution, Iraq war, Iranian nuclear program -- all of this makes the region unpredictable and in some cases alters the fundamental drivers of these states (i.e. Iraq War). But otherwise, it's business as usual. An agreement with Iran solves one part and might influence some of the others, so I think a long term accommodation of some kind is inevitable. The alternative is war.

Bob's World
01-06-2014, 03:36 PM
AP - "Syria conflict, Egyptian revolution, Iraq war, Iranian nuclear program -- all of this makes the region unpredictable and in some cases alters the fundamental drivers of these states (i.e. Iraq War)."

And yet, all of these events were either totally predictable or actaully caused (Iraq) by us.

Human activity is impossible to predict, but human nature is largely constant. The better we develop our fundamental understanding of the human nature-driven events, such as resistance insurgency and revolutionary insurgency, the better we will deal with the specifics of each event as it occurs, fully flavored by the human behavior of "all the surrounding facts and circumstances" (favorite quote of my brilliant contracts professor in Law School, Professor Holmes) unique to each event.

I see very positive signs in recent strategy decisions, yet feel they are being made by instinct rather than by any comprehensive design. That is a problem for our challengers and our partners and allies in equal measure. We need to explain ourselves.

But before we can effectively explain ourselves, we must first fully grasp a better understanding of the fundamental dynamics behind the many points of friction that frustrate us so completely today.

Dayuhan
01-06-2014, 03:48 PM
Dayuhan--here is the problem currently for the NCA---they make continuous red lines in the sand, which they feel will never happen then the red lines become pink and then white--when they reach white suddenly the NCA has no plan, but has been on record as having one.

Fully agree that "red lines" are a terrible idea and accomplish nothing. The only thing dumber than drawing a red line in the first place is walking into a fight with no clear objective, no clear plan, and no viable partner just because somebody crossed the "red line" you should never have drawn in the first place.


I really do pay attention to small comments that come via some good media reporters---the NYTs comments infer that there is no policy ie there is one "do not rock the boat"---have you ever seen that one work before?

What do you mean by "work"? Staying out of fights where we have no vital national interest at stake, no clear and achievable objective, no viable plan and no functional local partner seems a quite reasonable plan to me.


Right now we have through a series of policy decisions or non decisions created an image in the population that we have effectively sided with fundamentalists of the Shia variety which if one looks later the ME is mainly Sunni.

How do you reach that conclusion? How does staying out of the fight constitute taking anyone's side?


Had we pushed Israel extremely hard after the election of Hamas in Gaza to open the borders for growth and fishing off their own coast line---there was a phase when the Israeli security worked extremely well with the PLO security and not much happened but we let that program go down the drain as a confidence building mechanism---we are currently training PLO police in both Jordan and in the West Bank which some say is getting better.

What makes you think the Israelis will do what we say? They aren't exactly famous for following instructions.


By the way we were the ones that pushed for a fair election thinking the PLO would win---somehow again not realizing the PLO was corrupt and would lose.

Yes, that was dumb. Taking sides in ME conflicts usually is, a good reason to do it less often.


If you say that one country cannot go nuclear then be honest with the world and admit there is another country in the ME that is fully nuclear and that in the end they must disarm as well---that will never happen.

Yes, it will never happen. Trying to make things happen that we know won't happen is a poor basis for policy.


Syria---has been at it for now over three years when one counts the demos---we instituted a full embargo on Iran but we cannot institute a full naval blockade on Syria or stymie the air bridge that Iran is using to fly in weapons and fighters?-come on we flew a no fly zone for years over Iraq with all related costs. Cannot do that without clashing with the Iranians and Russians--open the intelligence and let the world see the verified over flights and the Russian weapon ships.

We have not imposed an embargo on Iran. We have imposed sanctions on Iran, a quite different thing. Iran trades freely with many regional and global partners.

Are you proposing a no-fly zone and blockade of Syria? Wouldn't that mean full scale suppression of Syrian air defenses, and probable clashes with Iran, possibly Russia? In short, going to war? For what? For what objective, and with what plan? Why would we want to do that?


Release verified intelligence on comments made by Iranian RG Generals that they are sending "troops" to fight in Iran---the Syrian anti-Assad groups did pickup 48 of them to include several Generals---release it openly to the world.

Anyone who's paying attention has assumed for some time that Iran is sending troops. So what? How does that mean the US should be involved?


Sometimes verified words/pictures in the open world does wonders and is non violent. But we cannot as we have decided that leaking of intelligence is a crime higher than say creating a lasting truce by all parties in the ME.

Creating a lasting truce by all parties in the ME? Surely you jest. Not a snowball's chance in hell of that happening, and a fool's errand to try to make it happen.


If one states a red line then hold to it as it sets perceptions in the region ie if I say something I will do it---counts in the eyes of some Arab countries. The Russians seem to have no problems in doing exactly what they say they will do in reference to Syria and Iran.

The Russians have been a bit more careful about what they say they will do. We should follow their example. As above, dumb to draw red lines, but even dumber to allow yourself to be forced into pointless and counterproductive actions just to back up a red line you should never have drawn in the first place.


Reinforce the image that weapons moving across the border to Hezbollah have to be stopped with violence if necessary---three attacks have already been carried out why not more if necessary to reinforce the concept and it sends a message.

Why should we reinforce that message? How is it our business?


Weapons --flood the market with small arms up to 57/106mm RR including mortars and some type of AAA to level the playing field--the anti-Assad groups have taken out the Air Force but are being hurt by copters---risk is that they flow to FF and we still have an AFG/Soviet syndrome ---so it does not happen.

Flood the market with small arms? Why? What are we trying to accomplish by pouring small arms into an area where we have not one shred of a chance of controlling where those arms end up and at whom they end up pointed?


One wins the perception game---currently viewed as that we do not care and will not actively support the anti Assad groups---also a win in the eyes of some Arab countries.

Then we get perceived as changing our policy to do as the Saudis are telling us to do. How does taking orders from the Saudis improve anyone's perception of us?


Why is it we have a redline for chemical weapons but Syrians are being killed now by "barrel bombs" fully documented---not a single comment have you noticed out of the US-why? Perception in the street is that we are split tongued.

Because Syrians killing Syrians is no more our business than Congolese killing Congolese. We are not the world's cop. It's about time people figured that out.


I could go on and on--BUT here is the problem and Robert hit it ---with Corporations and religious groups strength inside the US none of the above will occur as it goes against them---you must realize our foreign policy is driven by who has the money and who yells the loudest in front of Congress and who can finance electoral campaigns.

I agree that it won't occur, by why do corporations and religious groups have anything to do with it? Why would corporations care? I don't see it happening because there is zero political or popular support for intervention in Syria, because we have no clear, achievable policy objective, we have no vital national interest at stake and no internal partner we can trust. Why would we want to take sides in that fight? What have we to gain?


But that is not the problem---perception wise we are now being seen by a number of Sunni Arab countries of being slanted towards Iran and Shia--that is a dangerous view to create. I have seen a large number of media comments since 2012 "that we have a frank and open relationship with the KSA" --there is an old saying that if one repeats the same thing over and over then there is a problem--if that is true then why the frank and open in the media attacks by the Saudis against what they perceive to be mistakes in our policies---frankly they are now a tad p.....ed. at us.

Yes, they are pissed at us. They are pissed because we are not following their instructions and subordinating our interests to theirs. So what? I see no reason at all to assume that the US is slanting toward Iran. The US is slanted toward non involvement, which is a quite rational policy.


This is where I to a tad differ with Robert---we need both religious wings of Islam to be at least on "friendly" terms with us not one over the other.

Actually we don't "need" that. We might want that, but we can't make it happen. We can and should avoid getting caught up in their fight.


actually we seem to be doing that in Egypt but it was forced on us by their military--it was not our own decision. If one notices the military is clamping down on both sides to restore a sense of security which is what many Egyptians on the street really want right now in order to get economic growth going again.

Will our Corporations and our own religious groups allow that?

Seriously doubt it.

Our corporations and religious groups have zero capacity to allow or disallow anything in Egypt.

I'm still at a total loss as to what you want the US to do in Syria. What's the goal? What plan do you propose for achieving that goal?

AmericanPride
01-06-2014, 06:07 PM
And yet, all of these events were either totally predictable or actaully caused (Iraq) by us.

I partially agree. They were predictable in the abstract but not in any way useful for policymaking. And the consequences of their outcomes are even less predictable. Will increased militancy and awareness of the Egyptian population compel the new government to pursue specific goals? Will these goals collide with US interests? If a Syrian peace agreement keeps Assad in power, what will happen to the hardline Islamists? Will they migrate to another country and destabilize it? If there's a permanent agreement with Iran, will that lead to any kind of permanency between Israeli and Saudi cooperation? What would that look like - could it provide an opening to a wider Arab-Israeli peace? That's what I mean by predictability - there are to many questions right now entangled in a deep nexus of complicated questions with no clear answers. That's bad for policy. So the best option for the US under these conditions is to keep its head down.



But before we can effectively explain ourselves, we must first fully grasp a better understanding of the fundamental dynamics behind the many points of friction that frustrate us so completely today.

The problem I foresee is that there are substantial differences in perspective regarding the "fundamental dynamics behind the many points of friction". Is "occupation by policy" even detrimental to US interests?

Bob's World
01-06-2014, 06:22 PM
I partially agree. They were predictable in the abstract but not in any way useful for policymaking. And the consequences of their outcomes are even less predictable. Will increased militancy and awareness of the Egyptian population compel the new government to pursue specific goals? Will these goals collide with US interests? If a Syrian peace agreement keeps Assad in power, what will happen to the hardline Islamists? Will they migrate to another country and destabilize it? If there's a permanent agreement with Iran, will that lead to any kind of permanency between Israeli and Saudi cooperation? What would that look like - could it provide an opening to a wider Arab-Israeli peace? That's what I mean by predictability - there are to many questions right now entangled in a deep nexus of complicated questions with no clear answers. That's bad for policy. So the best option for the US under these conditions is to keep its head down.



The problem I foresee is that there are substantial differences in perspective regarding the "fundamental dynamics behind the many points of friction". Is "occupation by policy" even detrimental to US interests?

The primary thing that is unpredictable is "when"; "to what degree" and "how."
Those are very important tactical criteria, but largely irrelevant to designing and implementing an effective foreign policy.

What was totally predictable was "what" and "why." That is all we really need for good policy. "What will be the likely effect of this policy and why will it have that effect"? "Oh, ok, so how could I avoid that bad effect by taking another approach..."

We need to stop thinking that our feces has no odor; and that we are the good guys in the white hats bringing the rule of law and superior values. That is our own twisted internal narrative that others quite reasonably do not buy into. Once we get over ourselves, we will be far more effective in our interactions with others.

OUTLAW 09
01-06-2014, 07:17 PM
Dayuhan---reference comments concerning American Corporations and religious groups---you must have missed the 60/70s when in just about every demo in the ME in those days we were the "imperialists". Heck even in Europe students demoed against our "imperialist" corporations. What about our oil companies in the ME or for that matter Angola or say Nigeria.

You do not think US corporations would like nothing more than peace and quiet in the ME in order to conduct business.

As for religious groups--check their involvement in Uganda in the Gay issues there or say in Congress in support of Israel or say the fundamentalist Christians who apparently love burning Qurans knowing the impact in the Muslim world, or lastly fundamentalist Christians who identify with Israel due to the Second Coming thesis screaming about our lack of support to Israel---come on Dayuhan wake up a smell the roses.

Now for the following response;

"Yes, they are pissed at us. They are pissed because we are not following their instructions and subordinating our interests to theirs. So what? I see no reason at all to assume that the US is slanting toward Iran. The US is slanted toward non involvement, which is a quite rational policy."

You honestly do not believe we have slanted towards the Shia?---check all available open source reporting from the left, right and center sides of this argument since say 2012.

Secondly, the Saudis are angry because they feel like we are not listening---man I heard that being thrown at me in Iraq by the Iraqi's and guess what they were right we do not know how to listen---why because we think we are always correct.

Listening is not science---it is a black art and we as a country are bad at it.

The Saudi's feel that the US does not understand the danger of Iranian hegemony for the region and they feel that as a Shia country the Green Crescent foreign policy they voice is real and active since Khomeini and a threat to Sunni ME countries.

Lastly they rightly believe we are no longer saying what we mean and or worse say things and then do not follow through.

By the way a valid argument out of Europe these days.

OUTLAW 09
01-06-2014, 07:58 PM
AP---here are responses to the following two questions.

"If a Syrian peace agreement keeps Assad in power, what will happen to the hardline Islamists? Will they migrate to another country and destabilize it?"

First of all I am not so sure there will be an agreement with Assad ---as the Saudis have not signaled their attendance---Saudi views Syria as the existential religious fight with Shia and they view Syria as the lynchpin in stopping the Green Crescent expansion as it would split Syria from Lebanon, and isolate Iraq with a Sunni country on either side of it thus ending the Green Crescent.

"Will the fundamentalists (they are not hardline Islamists) migrate"---no as they themselves view the fight as one of stopping Shia expansionism and wanting to setup a fundamentalist Caliphate.

They are having their wings clipped the last couple of days by the other Islamic fighting groups/FSA for their terror against the civilian population.

What I do see is though the effect of the Saudi involvement in the fight---while initially working with Islamists on the ground ie AQ I really think they are behind the Islamic Front and are quietly supporting the FSA as well with weapons and money ---in fact there might be a synergy developing/or already developed between the Jordanian SF who have been training Syrian Sunni fighters and the KSA. Jordan is interesting as they have actually been the only ME country to actually have responded positively to the demands of the Arab Spring and the population has gone quiet.

The fighting against AQ in the north by the FSA and the Islamic Front has shown a professionalism that is new---one can see the handwriting of a paramilitary training coming from somewhere.

Once they cap the fundamentalists then they will turn towards Assad again.

Actually the AQ HQs warned the ISIL that this would in fact occur if they did not rein in their actions against the population.

In some aspects this is the core mistake made in Iraq by the AQI---they forked the insurgency there and lost and now they are forking the Syrian insurgency --they just never seem to take lessons learned to heart.


"If there's a permanent agreement with Iran, will that lead to any kind of permanency between Israeli and Saudi cooperation? "

Actually agree that right now both Israel and the KSA have a joint perspective towards Iran---one of containment for varying reasons.

If you really look at the KSA view towards Israel it has moderated over the years and the DoS is using a peace plan pushed by the Saudis through the Arab League that Israel has to a degree looked at and finds points they could discuss---trying to get the Palestinians to sign on has been an issue for the Saudi's.

Actually what is interesting right now is that both Israel and the KSA simply distrust the US on anything for exactly the same reasons--that has made the two strange bedfellows---will be interesting to see where that one goes long term.

The comments coming out on Israel after the DoS travelled there this weekend on Israeli national radio and local radio were brutal.

The DoS is being viewed as pitching an offer on the take it or leave it basis and if it fails you are own your on internationally---blackmail by a superpower is what they feel it is and it does not answer their long term security concerns.

An accommodation between the two---think about it---Israeli knowhow and Saudi money via investments could drive economic development in the ME in ways we can not think of.

It happened in the past with Israel and Libya.

OUTLAW 09
01-06-2014, 08:17 PM
David---read the article- long but actually quiet good---in fact it matches to a degree some of the concepts Robert has been talking about in the last 150 or so responses.

Was wondering when the internal Sunni fundamentalist movement that spun LeT would come back to roost---but the social side of gangs and student support is interesting as it points to a number of strong internal social problems that India is facing-- merging into a fundamentalist approach that seems to be building meaning it has a message that appeals---again due to their own social ills ---not a response to an outside power player.

Robert would say it is all about governance.

A good article to read from a country we do not pay much attention to on the Islamic side.

OUTLAW 09
01-06-2014, 10:32 PM
Dayuhan---if you think we seem to have coherent policies in the US that foreign populations understand check this comment from Congress.

There is an old chess saying that we in the US seem to not understand in policy debates/decisions---"one well placed pawn is worth a king"

Taken from today's WH briefing;

"I've heard members of Congress suggest this, but if members were suggesting that there should be American troops fighting and dying in Fallujah today, they should say so," Carney said during his daily press briefing."

I did not see volunteers from Congress wanting to be the first back into Iraq---but hey talk is cheap.

But I guess if the Shia government needs manpower they could volunteer.

Note---noticed the Iranians have offered "military advice" and supplies against AQ---and who said Iraq is not a part of the Iranian Green Crescent?

Not so sure what an offer of "military advice" is outside of sending troops as "volunteers" as they did in Lebanon and Syria.

What do you think the Saudi response will be to that offer?

More weapons, cash, fighters into Syria or participation in the coming Syria talks-----

And what is our policy towards Syria currently---do not rock the boat and just talk at a meeting that will go nowhere except cement Russian influence in the ME, keep Assad in power and keep the Shia controlling the Green Crescent if the US does not support the anti Assad forces.

I do not for a moment think Assad will give up and walk away from his country and go where---would have to be Iran as he could be hauled in front of the Hague for crimes against humanity.

Dayuhan
01-06-2014, 11:36 PM
The primary thing that is unpredictable is "when"; "to what degree" and "how."
Those are very important tactical criteria, but largely irrelevant to designing and implementing an effective foreign policy.

What was totally predictable was "what" and "why." That is all we really need for good policy. "What will be the likely effect of this policy and why will it have that effect"? "Oh, ok, so how could I avoid that bad effect by taking another approach..."

Not sure that's fully true.

When you ask "What will be the likely effect of this policy and why will it have that effect", you have to realize that you may never fully know the effect of your policy, because its effects are not seen in isolation: they are tied in with dozens of other factors and it's often impossible determine the extent to which any given factor affected the end result. I don't think anyone can determine the extent to which US policy in Egypt over the lat few years affected the Arab Spring and subsequent events.

When we deal with autocratic regimes or unstable non-autocratic regimes, we have to deal with the status quo, because it exists. We also have to deal with the possibility that the status quo could change. We can't make any specific preparation for that change, because we have no idea when or how it will occur. We don't want to get overly committed to these regimes, because we know they could change, but we also don't want to try to intrude and start the process of change, because we can't control it and starting it prematurely can have all manner of unintended outcomes. Essentially all that leaves us with is a policy of dealing with the regime to the extent we must, and dealing with change as it happens, on the basis of how and when it occurs. That may or may not be "good policy", but what are the better options?

In light of this comment:


What was totally predictable was "what" and "why." That is all we really need for good policy.

What would you consider to be "good policy" toward, say, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States?

Dayuhan
01-06-2014, 11:57 PM
Dayuhan---reference comments concerning American Corporations and religious groups---you must have missed the 60/70s when in just about every demo in the ME in those days we were the "imperialists". Heck even in Europe students demoed against our "imperialist" corporations. What about our oil companies in the ME or for that matter Angola or say Nigeria.

I'm well aware of what happened 40-50 years ago. I'm also well aware that times have changed. Oil companies are not calling the political shots in the Middle East. They have some infulence on US policy, little or none on that of the local players.


You do not think US corporations would like nothing more than peace and quiet in the ME in order to conduct business.

Of course they would like it. Neither they nor the US government have even the slightest capacity to achieve that outcome, so it's pretty much a moot point.


As for religious groups--check their involvement in Uganda in the Gay issues there or say in Congress in support of Israel or say the fundamentalist Christians who apparently love burning Qurans knowing the impact in the Muslim world, or lastly fundamentalist Christians who identify with Israel due to the Second Coming thesis screaming about our lack of support to Israel---come on Dayuhan wake up a smell the roses.

Yes, they are annoying. No, they are not a major or even significant influence on most policies in the Middle Est. They are one among several factors driving the traditionally rather reflexive S subservience to Israel, but on issues like the Syrian situation or the broader Sunnai/Shia conflict, not a factor.


You honestly do not believe we have slanted towards the Shia?---check all available open source reporting from the left, right and center sides of this argument since say 2012.

No, we have not "slanted toward the Shi'a". We have slanted toward non-involvement in a conflict in which we have no vital interest involved nd very little chance of achieving a positive outcome. We have slanted away from supporting a faction of the Sunni side that would almost certainly use our support against us. Slanting toward neutrality is not slanting toward the Shi'a. Declining to serve as enforcers for the Saudis is not "slanting toward the Shi'a".

A claim that we are slanting toward the Shi'a side requires support from specific supporting evidence and reasoning, not a generic "check the open source reporting".


Secondly, the Saudis are angry because they feel like we are not listening---man I heard that being thrown at me in Iraq by the Iraqi's and guess what they were right we do not know how to listen---why because we think we are always correct.

No, the Saudis are angry because we are not obeying, a very different thing. We have listened, and they know it. We have declined to comply with their wishes, and they know that too. They don't like it, but these are indeed tough bananas: there is no earthly reason why the US should go to war in support of Saudi objectives.

The Saudis want the US to remove Assad and suppress Iran. We don't want to, for innumerable and excellent reasons. Should we do as we desire, or do as they desire us to do? Going to war against one's own interests on someone else's behalf because we are afraid they will think we weren't listening seems to me a departure forom the path of wisdom, to put it mildly.


The Saudi's feel that the US does not understand the danger of Iranian hegemony for the region and they feel that as a Shia country the Green Crescent foreign policy they voice is real and active since Khomeini and a threat to Sunni ME countries.

Yes, and they want us to protect them by proactively removing or weakening their potential antagonists. They want us to enter a war that we have no interest in entering to achieve their policy objectives. The Saudis can believe whatever they damn well please, the US us under no obligation to act on their beliefs.


Lastly they rightly believe we are no longer saying what we mean and or worse say things and then do not follow through.

That's always been our habit. Unfortunately our politicians love talking tough and sending big messages. All too often when push comes to shove it becomes clear that acting on those messages would cause more harm than good. The solution to that problem is not to act out the messages and do stupid things, the solution is for our politicians to learn to zip it up (which of course will never happen). If you can't swim, and boat that you will swim across a river, and someone calls your bluff... do you jump in and drown to avoid backing down?

I'm still missing a point here: what exactly do you think we should do in Syria, and why?

Dayuhan
01-07-2014, 12:40 AM
Dayuhan---if you think we seem to have coherent policies in the US that foreign populations understand check this comment from Congress.

Congress babbles. That's what they do. It isn't policy.


I did not see volunteers from Congress wanting to be the first back into Iraq---but hey talk is cheap.

Yes, it is... and war is very, very expensive. That's one of many reasons why we should not go into wars unless we have clear, practical, achievable objectives and viable plans for attaining those objectives.


Note---noticed the Iranians have offered "military advice" and supplies against AQ---and who said Iraq is not a part of the Iranian Green Crescent?

Yes, Iran will try to gain influence in Iraq, and will try to control Iraq if they can. I haven't heard anyone say otherwise.


Not so sure what an offer of "military advice" is outside of sending troops as "volunteers" as they did in Lebanon and Syria.

Yes, they will send people, weapons, and money.


What do you think the Saudi response will be to that offer?

They will order the Americans to do something, pout when we don't obey, and then send people, guns, and money to support their own chosen proxies.



More weapons, cash, fighters into Syria or participation in the coming Syria talks-----

All of the above, most likely.


And what is our policy towards Syria currently---do not rock the boat and just talk at a meeting that will go nowhere except cement Russian influence in the ME, keep Assad in power and keep the Shia controlling the Green Crescent if the US does not support the anti Assad forces.

The policy is to participate in the talks but not to take sides or get involved in the fighting. What I think you're missing here is that neither side is worth support in this venture, and a victory for the Sunni would be no better for the US than a victory for the Shi'a. So why get involved at all? The knee-jerk reaction of "if the Russians support one side, we must support the other" went out with the Cold War.


I do not for a moment think Assad will give up and walk away from his country and go where---would have to be Iran as he could be hauled in front of the Hague for crimes against humanity.

Of course he won't. How is that an argument for US involvement?

When we get involved in a fight like this, it means taking sides. Because we're American, of course we can't just take a side. We have to declare that the people we support are the good guys, the while hats, the true spokesmen to the people. We have to call them our friends, and make a commitment... and then we give them guns and money. Few months later the money is in the Cayman Islands, nobody wants to talk about where the guns are, and our "friends" are back with their hands out. The smart thing to do at this point would be to walk away, but if we do that Carl and the Quds Force (great name for a band) would accuse us of abandoning our friends, so we double down and send more guns and money. Surprisingly, the same thing happens. By now everybody knows we've been played, but to admit that would be to admit that we made a mistake, and we can't do that, so we double down again. We send more guns and money, and this time we send advisers as well. Then we have to secure the advisers, and they want air support so we have to go all shock and awe on the air defenses... and then we're at war, tossing hundreds of billions into a black hole with no realistic goal, no exit strategy, and a bunch of "friends" that are about as useful to us as an anchor is to a long distance swimmer.

Why would we want to go down that road? What's in it for us?

carl
01-07-2014, 05:13 AM
Sorry to use the word, but that's just getting silly. If you want to save someone, figure out who most needs saving and who you can save without getting yourself into a mess. The religious affiliation of those to be saved has no place whatsoever in the calculation.

Silly? No, not at all.

For decades we have been involved in a struggle with and defending ourselves against attacks from people who proclaim, strongly and often proclaim, that their motives are religious. The justification for their murders is religious, distorted religion, but religious. If religion was removed from their calculus they couldn't exist as they do. They incorporate it into their actions to the extent they will kill an innocent if they don't know the name of the Prophet's mom, murder for being the wrong religion. Therefore religion suffuses this conflict whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Religion determines in many cases whether somebody will get the chop, as in throat being cut, blood spurting all over, the victim flopping around and gurgling as they die chop. So since the enemy chooses victims by religion, it stands to reason that it be proper that we can factor the religion of potential victims into the decision about who we offer refuge to.

Whether we openly admit it or not, I think we do recognize the religious aspect of this conflict, at least in the negative sense. For example, this exchange was begun when I asked Bob Jones' opinion of the persecution Christians in some Muslim countries, pretty benign inquiry. A mere solicitation of opinion. I got nothing back, nothing at all. Why? Well I figure Bob works amongst movers and shakers and his words are watched carefully. He couldn't answer because to do so would be to tread in politically incorrect territory. It is politically fraught. It wouldn't be so hot a potato that it couldn't be mentioned unless it is integral to the conflict.

You do the same thing, recognize the importance of religion in all this. Your first response to my inquiry to Bob was this. (By the way Bob, I am still interested in your opinion.)


Is that something we need to change? A problem, yes, but our problem?

Muslims are also persecuted in many places... parts of Russia, western China, Burma, southern Thailand, southern Philippines. How would we change that short of something stronger than talk, if it can be changed at all? And again, why would we try?

Lots of people being persecuted in lots of places... not a good thing of course, but appointing ourselves world cop seems not a good thing either, and appointing ourselves defenders of any particular faith seems an even worse thing, to me at least.

Notice the first specific examples you mentioned involved religion, the only specific examples you brought up involved religion. You could have left the religion out of it but you chose not to. There is nothing wrong with that. It is only natural given the nature of this conflict.

The conflict has strong religions overtones and those overtones were brought to it by the enemy. They are pursuing a largely religious vision; and whether we like it or not, by defending ourselves we are confounding their religious vision. That is a religious act in their eyes.

So given all that, I see nothing improper at all in offering Christian victims of religious persecution from Muslim countries where it is particularly strong favorable visa treatment. We would not be defending the faith, I think we would be defending victims who are of a faith, chosen by takfiri killers to die because of that faith. Those same takfiri killers by the way, are after us too.

carl
01-07-2014, 05:31 AM
The smart thing to do at this point would be to walk away, but if we do that Carl and the Quds Force (great name for a band) would accuse us of abandoning our friends, so we double down and send more guns and money.

Young man you are incorrigible, incorrigible I say. My original comment had to do with the importance of others perception of our past actions, as you can see below.


The Quds force leader said this "‘We’re not like the Americans. We don’t abandon our friends.’ ”.

That is quite an indictment. If he thinks that, others in the world think that so things may go hard for us in the future.

You can see it is an observation about how I think we are viewed by the Quds Force and perhaps by others and the import it may have for us in the future. It is a comment about how others may see us, not one advocating action based on the need to change that perception.

But then if that was recognized, there wouldn't be a springboard to launch into a series of 'Why should we...?'s and 'We ain't going there...'s. Oh well.

Now do I think us being viewed like that is bad? Yep. (I've decided to ask and answer the question, a variation on your technique.) Do I think that there are people in Syria we should support? Yep. Do I think we should because it would help further our immediate interests? Yep. Do I think we should because the Quds Force commander will say we are yellow if we don't? Nope. Do I think if we did it would change that perception I think others may have of us immediately? Nope. Do I think that our apparent reputation for inconstancy was gained over decades and will take years to change and involve more than what we do in Syria? Yep. Do I think the basic difference in our positions is that you think being viewed as a reliable ally means you are a sucker and I view it as being vital to our interests? Yep.

That was fun.

davidbfpo
01-07-2014, 08:31 AM
Within a broad ranging article Rory Stewart, a British MP, with an interesting resume, reflects upon his life to date and his lack of power as a MP:http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jan/03/rory-stewart-interview

Pertinent to this debate are these two passages on intervention, with my emphasis:
In the end, the basic problem is very, very simple. Why don't these interventions work? Because we are foreigners. If things are going wrong in a country, it's not usually that we don't have enough foreigners. It's usually that we have too many.

Our entire conceptual framework was mad. All these theories – counterinsurgency warfare, state building – were actually complete abstract madness. They were like very weird religious systems, because they always break down into three principles, 10 functions, seven this or that. So they're reminiscent of Buddhists who say: 'These are the four paths', or of Christians who say: 'These are the seven deadly sins.' They're sort of theologies, essentially, made by people like Buddhist monks in the eighth century – people who have a fundamental faith, which is probably, in the end, itself completely delusional.

I wonder if Rory ever debates COIN plus with those who are apparently deluded. I'd pay to see that.

OUTLAW 09
01-07-2014, 10:26 AM
Dayuhan---a major problem with your comments is an interesting one at that.

When you someday make to the ground, live/participate in that target population and see "how they take something we define as a policy" and "interpret" it among themselves THEN you will finally "understand" and "see" what Robert is alluding to.

Target populations do not always react the way we think they will based on our Western focused rational way of thinking or what I call our still lingering American Puritan Ethnic biases from the 1700s.

The ability to "understand" and "see" is one of the hardest a researcher, a tactical field operator, or any decision maker has to do---Why--- one has to drop his personal biases---one has to frame the environment, frame the problem and then frame the solution at multiple levels all the while never leaving the "effect" on the target population out of the "problem" and final "solution" --that is extremely hard for anyone to do.

AND by the way constantly changing the "solution" as the "environment" changes---really, really not easy as it takes time and it is constantly ongoing/changing---the WHY today is not the WHAT from 30 minutes ago.

And yet you seem to think it is. It is great to ask questions and to turn arguments inside out for the sake of doing it, but really instead of tearing other arguments apart---WHAT is your answer to the WHAT and WHY of say Syria, Egypt, Libya or actually what the whole ME is about---namely the final settlement between the Shia and the Sunni followed closely by security and economic growth all the while trying to figure out the hegemony issue of a region---a natural drive by countries by the way for the last 1500 or so years.

Do you not agree that Islam has not had their Reformation?

If you agree with this comment then you are on the road to "seeing" the problem but you are still a long way from "understanding" the problem because you are not "framing" the problem.

Pan Arab nationalism was stopped due to our policies and really what we are seeing is the final play out of that original movement dressed in other terms ie "Arab Spring"---the question has to be-- have our policies at the national level contributed to or hindered that final move by the various target populations?

What Robert and I have repeated in different ways is the problem US foreign policy has shown over the last 12 years and for me maybe the last 45 years---not understanding the impact of those decisions on the target population WHICH must be included in any policy decision.

You keep asking for evidence---how do you personally make your decisions?

Betting it is based on your environment, your education, your family, your work experience or lack of experience, your biases, your religion, your race/culture, your travels to other cultures or maybe not, your position within say a specific culture, your ability to speak other languages or not and the list goes on and on.

Now I am supposing you then wrap all of that up in your mind and you come to a personal belief or as some say your personal biases---and then you act on those beliefs/biases.

How then do you measure all of the above that is going on in your own personal mind against say an American policy targeting you, your population and your environment?

In the ME many times it is usually an emotional reaction colored by biases of 40 years of US involvement in the area ---do you honestly expect the various ME populations to react in a Western rational thinking way?---come on now.

You balance it all and then measure it against the policy-simple actually-but extremely hard to measure as it takes someone stepping outside their own biases and frankly looking at it from the target population perspectives.

It takes someone who has a natural curiosity of cultures, someone who speaks hopefully the target population language/any foreign language, and someone who has lived/worked within a population---not many of them in the inner circle of policy advisors these days---they are all academics, think tank types, contractors, personal friends, people from the IC---they are the ones who advise decision makers and then you add all of that to the biases of the decision makers and you "wonder" what Robert and I are talking about.

It is all about perception and it has been for years---if you cannot "see and understand" that then you will be doomed to ask questions all the time never coming to a final biased decision.

You keep asking for evidence of the slant of the US towards Shiaism--and yet you refuse to look at the available open source information---it is out there for all to "see" and "understand" and by the way target populations tend to have that ability.

By the way there is a great quote in the public domain that states 80% of all intelligence can be gleaned out of open source materials---at the height of the Cold War the Soviet KGB/GRU had over 25,000 open source researchers---much of their foreign policey towards the US came from that open source material. Then confirmed or denied by actual intelligence methods.

By the way we fumbled badly in the use of OSINT in both Iraq and AFG as we "viewed" it as "propaganda".

That is what Robert means when he uses WHAT and WHY.

Reinforced by what I call the ability to "listen" and no the US has not been "listening" to the Saudi's as what they say is not fitting into what we want our policies to be.

OUTLAW 09
01-07-2014, 10:36 AM
David---a really good set of quotes---never thought of it in that way-but it works and makes sense. Great catch.

Goes to what I meant when I say and maybe what Robert means when we both use the word that things are sometimes actually simple if one correctly looks at the WHAT and WHY.

Bob's World
01-07-2014, 10:50 AM
Rory did a 2011 TED talk on Afghanistan that is worth a listen as well. About 20 min

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=rory+stewart&FORM=VIRE5#view=detail&mid=8B061C735D7E45E7C4028B061C735D7E45E7C402

OUTLAW 09
01-07-2014, 10:53 AM
carl--will answer the Christian comment.

In the ME Christians are on the losing side and are targeted as it goes back to the Crusades thing and the development of Islam is that region of the world. What is crazy about all of the "religious" problems of the ME is that Islam generated itself out the two other main religions of the period just with a Arabic/nomad spin as a "unifying" ideology of the area against encroaching "foreigners" expanding outside control over their area---maybe the first example of colonialism under the guise of religion from Europe. There is an Islamic saying that "we are all people of the book"--we share some of the same prophets, some of the same religious personalities which they respect but do not accept, Islam is a firm respecter of the Virgin Mary for example, and understand the son of God--Islam just interpreters it differently.

That is what is so strange in this clash of religions.

But again how Christians or any other religious minority are usually treated---badly tolerated/just tolerated in any country where they are not the majority religion can be seen throughout history and in any geo location of the world.

A second comment---how were "Protestant's/Catholics" (kind of a Shia/Sunni thing of the modern times)treated in Europe during say the 30 and 100 year wars---badly depending on what Protestant/Catholic army one belonged to---how was the effect of these wars on the population--a disaster--some areas in Germany had not a single human living in them--so yes we on the "Christian" side have had our Shia/Sunni brutality years as well. Again how were say European "Christian" deviant beliefs treated in say Europe---they all ended up in the US if my history is correct.

I will turn your comment on it's head---how do we in the US treat religions that are not of the founding religions of the US from the 1600s? How do we treat religions that are "strange" to us in the US? IE say Islam, or Hinduism?

We may not kill them off or we may not drive them out of a region---but how exactly are they treated?

OUTLAW 09
01-07-2014, 01:17 PM
Dayuhan---will now give you a vivid example of the WHAT and WHY with our "so called open and frank discussions" with the KSA which you indicated the Saudis were angry because we did not do what they wanted us to do.

It also shows you when a US policy goes astray and is not understood by the ME population---I have asked you often just WHAT is the US Syrian policy and WHY it is so?

In the ME and I keep pounding the response it is all about perception---right now the Saudis as well as others perceive that we do not understand the Syrian internal struggle/Syrian related issues and actually they are correct.

This comment came from of the same Saudi Prince (delegated messenger) who has been repeatedly saying the same thing over and over for the last few weeks for anyone in the US who will "listen". A country cannot be more specific in it's beef with us.

US WH Speakers' recent comment when asked about it---the Prince is basically a nothing as he is not part of the Government nor in a governmental position anymore---and we do have a frank and open dialogues with the KSA--quote unquote.

Anyone with an ounce of knowledge of the KSA knows where this Prince is coming from and he would not be repeating it if he did not have internal KSA approval---shows you just how we fail to "listen" if it does not fit our current policies. Just because a Saudi Prince does not clothe a governmental position does not mean he is not speaking for the KSA.

We always tend to shoot the messenger when the message does not fit our views.

For a Saudi Prince that is a nothing in the eyes of the WH Speaker --his comments nail the current view of the US Syrian policy if there such a thing in the eyes of the ME population. I am not as well sure the US population really knows also what the Syrian policy is or is not.

Notice the fact that not once did he mention Iran in the solution set---as that problem set is in fact a thorn between the two and is not being discussed in public---it is being carried out through direct actions ie money, fighters, and 3B in weapons for the Lebanese Army.

Taken from a US News release from today:
President Barack Obama "made mistakes" and the United States failed in its dealing with the Syrian conflict", an influential member of the Saudi Arabian royal family, told CNBC.

"America has had some big issues with doing the right thing -- for example in Syria," Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud told CNBC. "In Syria, we see the war continuing after three years. From the beginning Saudi Arabia called for a diplomatic solution."

"The U.S. president is engaged in so many internal issues in America, he inherited the economic breakdown, two wars and other issues of gridlock with Congress and the budget, the government shutdown…but I think on Syria, definitely, he made mistakes."

He believed, he said, that "if there was goodwill on everybody's part, the world can put an end to this tragic and very bloody conflict in Syria."

Prince Turki's comments come at a time of heightened tensions in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia and Iran emerging as the two big powers in the region vying for influence over surrounding countries.

Tensions are also rising with the West over how to resolve regional conflicts.

carl
01-07-2014, 06:46 PM
We may not kill them off or we may not drive them out of a region---but how exactly are they treated?

That is the nut of the thing. We don't kill them off or drive them from the region. That is the important thing, the physically verifiable thing, dead bodies and refugees. That is what is happening today in some of these countries. I understand the history and the parallels that can be drawn, but that has nothing to do with dead bodies and displaced people, today. (And the Crusades doesn't have a lot to do with Pakistan despite what some soreheads will say.)

Anyway, to get back to my original question to Bob Jones, in the circles you move in do people talk about the persecution of Christians in some of these countries? What do they think about it? Do they even know it exists? Does the kind of thing I advocate make it into the discussion at all?


---they all ended up in the US if my history is correct.

That is the kind of thing I was advocating. Turned out good for them. Turned out good for us. Them are us.

Bob's World
01-07-2014, 08:44 PM
Actually the era of perhaps the most favorable US influence in the greater Middle East was established and nurtured through Christian NGOs - missionaries.

Arriving in the Ottoman Empire full of the spirit of God they were told by Ottoman officals in no uncertain terms that they were welcome to visit, but that they were absolutely forbidden from preaching the Gospel. So being enterprising Yankees, being denied what they wanted to do they set out to do what they could do. They built and ran Hospitals and Universities.

Over the next hundred years the US wielded tremendous influence and earned respect through these Christian hospitals and universities.

We have a long and storied history in the Middle East that did not begin on 9/11. The best single source book I have read is "Power, Faith and Fantasy: Amerca in the Middle East - 1776 to the Present."

OUTLAW 09
01-07-2014, 09:22 PM
Robert---the two things that pull in the eyes of the ME populations---health care and education.

"Over the next hundred years the US wielded tremendous influence and earned respect through these Christian hospitals and universities."

OUTLAW 09
01-07-2014, 09:39 PM
This is a few sentences out of a NYTs article from today concerning the perceived slant of the US policy towards Iran and sidelining the KSA---quotes from the Iranians are of great interest if one reads between the lines---they see the slant what are we not seeing in the US BUT the KSA is in fact seeing? Seems like the recent remarks of the Saudi Prince were right after all---regardless of what the WH Speaker states.


Analysts in Iran say that Tehran is pursuing a clever strategy, using the United States to undermine its greatest regional rival, Saudi Arabia.

“Cooperating skillfully with Russia, Iran has managed to change the game both in Iraq and in Syria,” said Hooshang Tale, a Tehran-based nationalist activist and a member of Parliament before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. “If we play our cards well, we will end up outsmarting both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.”

He and others note that Iran has managed to keep Mr. Assad in power and wields considerable influence over its neighbors, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rightly or wrongly, they view their regional enemy Saudi Arabia as being on the verge of collapse, saying in Friday Prayer speeches and in televised debates that the kingdom is ruled by old men who have lost their way.

OUTLAW 09
01-07-2014, 10:11 PM
This is from the category of the dumbest drug cartel moves in the last year or so.

Today in Berlin Germany employees of a discount food chain were stocking bananas before opening for business and in case four through case nine of bananas they found over 146 kilos of cocaine that were in the boxes surrounded by bananas.

Evidently the cocaine came out of Columbia via ship into Germany---someone on the receiving end really blew it as they are saying street value was in the
6M Euro range.

Dayuhan
01-08-2014, 12:49 AM
When you someday make to the ground, live/participate in that target population and see "how they take something we define as a policy" and "interpret" it among themselves THEN you will finally "understand" and "see" what Robert is alluding to.

I've spent most of my adult life on the ground among the populace in a multi-insurgency country that has seen way more than its share of capricious and baffling US policies. Given that it's also a country in which a government often at odds with its populace has been historically sponsored by the US, I think I'm in a better than average position to see what Robert is alluding to. I'd also point out that your positions on Syria are yours, not Robert's, and only peripherally related to Robert's points. If Robert has something to say on the matter I'm sure he'll say it himself.


Target populations do not always react the way we think they will based on our Western focused rational way of thinking or what I call our still lingering American Puritan Ethnic biases from the 1700s.

No "target population" will ever react the way we think they will. Populations also don't react with any internal consistency: there will be a spectrum of reaction within any given "target population", and it will often be quite wide.


WHAT is your answer to the WHAT and WHY of say Syria, Egypt, Libya or actually what the whole ME is about---namely the final settlement between the Shia and the Sunni followed closely by security and economic growth all the while trying to figure out the hegemony issue of a region---a natural drive by countries by the way for the last 1500 or so years.

I don't have an answer. Neither do you. Neither does anyone else. The Middle East is evolving. Nobody knows how the process is going to run or where it's going to end up. The process will involve violence, as it has elsewhere. Our efforts to direct or control political evolution in other places have not generally gone well, and I see no reason whatsoever to suppose that the US can or should dive into the mess in an effort to direct or control that process. We don't have an answer. We can't have an answer. It's not our question and we have no business trying to answer it.


Do you not agree that Islam has not had their Reformation?

Depends on how you define "reformation". Religions go through all kinds of changes, no cause to assume that any given religion will ever go through a process analogous to what we call a "reformation".


If you agree with this comment then you are on the road to "seeing" the problem but you are still a long way from "understanding" the problem because you are not "framing" the problem.

You're implying superiority again. It is unbecoming.


Pan Arab nationalism was stopped due to our policies

No, it collapsed because Arabs couldn't get along with each other and agree on who was going to steer the proposed pan-Arab ship. US policies played a part but were in no way the deciding factor.


...and really what we are seeing is the final play out of that original movement dressed in other terms ie "Arab Spring"---the question has to be-- have our policies at the national level contributed to or hindered that final move by the various target populations?

At times both. US policies are only one among many variables and any attempt to declare that any given outcome was "caused by" US policy is pointless. US policies are part of a complex mix of influences, not a sole determinant.


What Robert and I have repeated in different ways is the problem US foreign policy has shown over the last 12 years and for me maybe the last 45 years---not understanding the impact of those decisions on the target population WHICH must be included in any policy decision.

I hear you and Robert saying quite different things, so I suggest that you speak for yourself and let Robert speak for himself.

Of course potential impacts of policies on populations have to be considered, though in most cases we can't accurately predict what those impacts will be or how people will react to them.


You keep asking for evidence---how do you personally make your decisions?

Betting it is based on your environment, your education, your family, your work experience or lack of experience, your biases, your religion, your race/culture, your travels to other cultures or maybe not, your position within say a specific culture, your ability to speak other languages or not and the list goes on and on.

Of course. As do you. All I'm asking you to do is explain what policy you want us to adopt in Syria, and why. I don't think that's unreasonable.


How then do you measure all of the above that is going on in your own personal mind against say an American policy targeting you, your population and your environment?

I've actually been in the position of having an American policy targeting me, my population, and my environment. It's complicated. I used to introduce myself as a Canadian, just to avoid having to explain.


In the ME many times it is usually an emotional reaction colored by biases of 40 years of US involvement in the area ---do you honestly expect the various ME populations to react in a Western rational thinking way?---come on now.

I've never said I expect anyone to react rationally. What I've said is that I can't predict what the spectrum of reaction will be, neither can you, and that trying to build policy to evoke a consistent desired reaction is a fool's errand.


You balance it all and then measure it against the policy-simple actually-but extremely hard to measure as it takes someone stepping outside their own biases and frankly looking at it from the target population perspectives.

Yes, I know, I've been doing that for most of my life.


It takes someone who has a natural curiosity of cultures, someone who speaks hopefully the target population language/any foreign language, and someone who has lived/worked within a population---not many of them in the inner circle of policy advisors these days---they are all academics, think tank types, contractors, personal friends, people from the IC---they are the ones who advise decision makers and then you add all of that to the biases of the decision makers and you "wonder" what Robert and I are talking about.

I'm well aware of what Robert is talking about, I've been talking about it with him for years. In your case I'm less sure. For example, I see no connection between any of what you've said above and what seems to be a desire to see the US take sides in the Syrian conflict. I say "seems to be" because you've yet to say what you want to see us do in Syria. Seems to me that everything you've said above is an excellent argument for not taking sides in the Syrian conflict


It is all about perception and it has been for years---if you cannot "see and understand" that then you will be doomed to ask questions all the time never coming to a final biased decision.

As far as Syria goes, I have reached a decision: my utterly insignificant opinion is that the US should avoid taking sides and avoid involvement to the largest possible extent. What's your utterly insignificant opinion?

Easy to say "it's all about perception", but given the range of perceptions in play and the complications involved in trying to manage perceptions (generally fruitless and often counterproductive), the words don't get us very far.


You keep asking for evidence of the slant of the US towards Shiaism--and yet you refuse to look at the available open source information---it is out there for all to "see" and "understand" and by the way target populations tend to have that ability.

You made the claim, it's up to you to support it if challenged. I don't buy it. I see more a slant toward neutrality. Easing out of a period of reflexive support for one side is not evidence of support for the other side.


By the way there is a great quote in the public domain that states 80% of all intelligence can be gleaned out of open source materials---at the height of the Cold War the Soviet KGB/GRU had over 25,000 open source researchers---much of their foreign policey towards the US came from that open source material. Then confirmed or denied by actual intelligence methods.

Yes, we all know this. That doesn't mean your interpretation of open source data is necessarily correct or better than anyone else's.


That is what Robert means when he uses WHAT and WHY.

Explanations of what Robert means should be left to Robert, IMO.


Reinforced by what I call the ability to "listen" and no the US has not been "listening" to the Saudi's as what they say is not fitting into what we want our policies to be.

Failure to adapt our policies to meet Saudi desires is not necessarily evidence of not listening. It can just as easily be evidence of a perceived difference in interests. You can listen, and hear, and decide not to comply. If you ask me to jump in a sewer to do a bit of dirty work on yor behalf, and I don't do it, it doesn't mean I'm not listening. It means I don't want to do what you want me to do.

If what the Saudis want is not compatible with what our policies to be, why should we adjust our policies to suit them?

AmericanPride
01-08-2014, 03:17 AM
If what the Saudis want is not compatible with what our policies to be, why should we adjust our policies to suit them?

I think this is one of the focal points of the arguments contained in this thread. The question also extends to the idea of "occupation by policy".

Dayuhan
01-08-2014, 03:19 AM
Dayuhan---will now give you a vivid example of the WHAT and WHY with our "so called open and frank discussions" with the KSA which you indicated the Saudis were angry because we did not do what they wanted us to do.

It also shows you when a US policy goes astray and is not understood by the ME population

Prince Turki's comments reflect the desires and priorities of the Saudi Royal Family, not "the ME population". Two rather different things.


I have asked you often just WHAT is the US Syrian policy and WHY it is so?

As far as I can tell, the US policy is to participate in the diplomatic discussions but not take sides with any party, avoid arming and equipping any party, avoid indirect involvement, and absolutely avoid direct involvement.

The why would come down to lack of any clear and compelling national interest, lack of a viable partner to support, lack of an exit strategy, lack of a clear policy goal to be achieved by intervention, inability to control or influence a post-Assad end game, and total lack of support among the American populace for involvement in yet another Middle east quagmire.

Personally, I believe that non-involvement should be the default US response to other people's fights. That is not absolute, and the default setting would be overridden in cases where we have a clear and compelling national interest, a clear, practical, and achievable goal, and a viable plan for achieving that goal. I don't see any of those elements in place in Syria.


In the ME and I keep pounding the response it is all about perception---right now the Saudis as well as others perceive that we do not understand the Syrian internal struggle/Syrian related issues and actually they are correct.

Are you speaking of royal families here, or populaces?

Of course we do not understand Syrian internal struggles. That doesn't mean we should allow the Saudis to impose their own very much self-interested "understanding" on us. Why would we want to get involved in a conflict we know we don't understand?


This comment came from of the same Saudi Prince (delegated messenger) who has been repeatedly saying the same thing over and over for the last few weeks for anyone in the US who will "listen". A country cannot be more specific in it's beef with us.

Actually the comments are very unspecific:


President Barack Obama "made mistakes" and the United States failed in its dealing with the Syrian conflict", an influential member of the Saudi Arabian royal family, told CNBC.

"America has had some big issues with doing the right thing -- for example in Syria," Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud told CNBC. "In Syria, we see the war continuing after three years. From the beginning Saudi Arabia called for a diplomatic solution."

"The U.S. president is engaged in so many internal issues in America, he inherited the economic breakdown, two wars and other issues of gridlock with Congress and the budget, the government shutdown…but I think on Syria, definitely, he made mistakes."

He believed, he said, that "if there was goodwill on everybody's part, the world can put an end to this tragic and very bloody conflict in Syria."

Note that the Prince makes no specific reference to what the "mistakes" might have been, or what "doing the right thing" might have been, or what "diplomatic solution" could have been achieved or how, or how he expects the world to "put an end to this tragic and bloody conflict. Even by the generally vacuous standards of diplo-speak, this is about as un-specific as a statement can be.

Note as well that Prince Turki does not speak for "the ME populace". He doesn't even speak for the Saudi populace. He speaks for the Saudi royal family, which is looking after its own interests and agendas. Those interests and agendas may or may not be consistent or compatible with ours, and I see no reason at all whay the US should allow the Saudis to dictate US policy.

If you want to speak of perception in the ME, one of the most consistent messages we've heard from the region over the last few decades is that US is way too quick to intervene in the region, and that we should try minding our own business and staying out of their affairs. Do we disregard that message, heard across a broad regional and popular spectrum for an extended period of time, because the Saudi royals express a desire to harness the US as their personal Rottweiler?

Dayuhan
01-08-2014, 03:25 AM
You can see it is an observation about how I think we are viewed by the Quds Force and perhaps by others and the import it may have for us in the future. It is a comment about how others may see us, not one advocating action based on the need to change that perception.

Ok, so if we don't support our very hypothetical "friends" in Syria, someone somewhere MAY accuse us of abandoning our "friends". If we do choose sides and intervene in Syrai, is there not an equal or greater probability that a whole bunch of people in the region will accuse us of arrogantly forcing our way into a regional conflict that's none of our business in a cynical effort to further our own invariably nefarious objectives? The reality of "perception management" is that somebody will put a negative spin on anything we do, and somebody will believe that spin no matter what we do. If we're damned if we do and damned if we don't why not act according to our own interests and objectives?


Do I think that there are people in Syria we should support? Yep.

Ok, who? Specifically, please...

Dayuhan
01-08-2014, 03:30 AM
I think this is one of the focal points of the arguments contained in this thread. The question also extends to the idea of "occupation by policy".

Agreed, though I don't see how a failure to subordinate our interests and objectives to those of the Saudi royal family constitutes "occupation by policy', especially on a matter that is a question of foreign policy for both countries.

Curious to hear what Robert thinks on the Saudi/Syria issue, as he has in the past mentioned that he thinks the US has been rather too willing to accommodate the preferences of the Saudi royals (on other issues).

AmericanPride
01-08-2014, 05:17 AM
Dayuhan,

I did not intend to imply that your argument constitutes "occupation by policy" but instead that the same question (why should the perception of other actors dictate our policy?) also applies to the concept of "occupation by policy", if that in fact is US policy and it is relevant to outcomes in the ME.

carl
01-08-2014, 06:33 AM
Ok, so if we don't support our very hypothetical "friends" in Syria, someone somewhere MAY accuse us of abandoning our "friends". If we do choose sides and intervene in Syrai, is there not an equal or greater probability that a whole bunch of people in the region will accuse us of arrogantly forcing our way into a regional conflict that's none of our business in a cynical effort to further our own invariably nefarious objectives? The reality of "perception management" is that somebody will put a negative spin on anything we do, and somebody will believe that spin no matter what we do. If we're damned if we do and damned if we don't why not act according to our own interests and objectives?

Does the above have anything to do with my point? Nope.


Ok, who? Specifically, please...

Do I think there are people in Syria we should support? Yep. Did I come to this conclusion reading open source things available to all over the last several years? Yep. Do I figure this airy request for specificity is being made in good faith? Nope. Do I think it is just being argumentative? Yep. Do I think if God himself could provide a list of people in Syria we should support and the reasons why, notarized by a squad of angels that Dayuhan would still come back with a torrent of 'How do we know?'s followed by a cataract of 'Why should we?'s? Yep. Given this do I have the slightest interest in acceding to the airy request for specificity? Hell no. Am I having a grand old time going on like this? Yep.

Dayuhan
01-08-2014, 07:28 AM
I did not intend to imply that your argument constitutes "occupation by policy" but instead that the same question (why should the perception of other actors dictate our policy?) also applies to the concept of "occupation by policy", if that in fact is US policy and it is relevant to outcomes in the ME.

Certainly perception is relevant to policy, but perception management is a complicated and highly unpredictable business. Any given action can evoke a wide range of perceptions from varying actors, and any effort to declare that if "we" do this, "they" will perceive that is generally way oversimplified. As pointed out above, for example, the preferred agenda is not necessarily indicative of perceptions across the Middle East or even the Saudi populace: it's just what the Saudi royal family happens to want.

I actually think that the discussion of Syria strays a bit from the original topic, which involved the premise that US support for autocratic regimes enables those regimes to resist popular pressure for reform. That seems rather far from the discussion of Syria. The Saudi royal family may want the US to do the dirty work and get rid of Assad, but I doubt that the Saudi populace really cares that much. I suspect that for every person in the ME populace who wants the US to intervene and protect the Sunni, you'd find 5 who are generically opposed to any US intervention in ME affairs, but of course we don't know that. How much basis do any of us have, really, to be talking about what a foreign populace perceives?

As above, it's very easy to say "it's all about perception", but very difficult to accurately assess the range of perceptions that exists, and very difficult to predict how any given action or policy will be perceived.

Dayuhan
01-08-2014, 07:45 AM
Do I think there are people in Syria we should support? Yep. Did I come to this conclusion reading open source things available to all over the last several years? Yep. Do I figure this airy request for specificity is being made in good faith? Nope. Do I think it is just being argumentative? Yep. Do I think if God himself could provide a list of people in Syria we should support and the reasons why, notarized by a squad of angels that Dayuhan would still come back with a torrent of 'How do we know?'s followed by a cataract of 'Why should we?'s? Yep. Given this do I have the slightest interest in acceding to the airy request for specificity? Hell no. Am I having a grand old time going on like this? Yep.

To whom would you have us send guns and/or money, and what reason have you to think that party will use them in a manner consistent with our objectives?

If you seriously propose to back a horse in the Syrian derby, you have to have some idea of what horse you want to back, particularly as the lack of viable horses is at this point one of the stronger arguments against taking sides. Are we to pick a side at random?

OUTLAW 09
01-08-2014, 09:26 AM
Let's turn the question concerning the KSA on it's head with the following.

What if the KSA was the largest "Christian" ie Catholic/Protestant/and others ME country bordering on say two countries what were stating they are the "chosen" and they had build a containment wall around the "Christian" country. Then throw in the mix that we have had differences with the "Christian" country in the past---but economically they have invested deeply into the US economy and in the past they have even in the face of a "peaceful religion" allowed and supported large number of US troops on the ground agitating their "chosen" neighbors. Regardless of what we the US has "done" policy wise they have tended to support us---even if it on occasions goes against their own inherent interests.

WHAT then would our policy be towards that "Christian" country be and WHY?

What if the "Catholic" church along with it the Vatican/Pope was in fact say based in and was now Lebanon--- and in the 80s under a waving Green flag a large number of non Lebanese who were of another religion marches in sets up a separate "shadow" government and security force-then triggers a massive civil war creating thousands of refugees and large numbers of killed and wounded--WHAT would the US policy be and WHY?

Sometimes turning the debate around and shifting terms allows one to "see and "understand" the opposite side of the debate.

We need a level platform (intently understanding Islam which has been missing from all policies now and in the past) towards Islam but that means an honest appraisal of both sides of Islam---right now I am personally not so sure the Iranian hardliners have given up so easily.

Not so sure the Revolutionary Guards, the Qud Forces and several of the spiritual leaders have signed on in the last few months to be "peaceniks"---

Remember in the face of an massively hard embargo which is really an economic blockade these same groups have still managed to continue designing and building new weapon systems, expanded their control in Lebanon, expanded greatly the enrichment program, and have succeeded in turning the fighting around for Asaad.

Robert recently nailed it with our fear of WMD---in the eyes of the hardliners having the ability to either build and have built one nuclear device locks both the US and Israel into the mutual self destruction concept of the Cold War--that is why Israel is so adamant in their views towards Iran.

Remember there are a large number of 79ers still in power who I know have not changed their minds to become "peaceniks"--even the Islamic nationalists see the US as weak right now.

What I think they have figured out is how to maneuver a rather weak US national policy by using the Russian intentions in the region after the US lost in Iraq, having invested 1T in the area for nothing and we are in the process of pulling totally out of AFG.

To the hardliners we are losing at every turn to Shiaism and they see that as in turn weakening the KSA, maintaining Assad, and still controlling Lebanon so in their view why do they need to change?

From their view/analysis I would actually agree with them.

While I agree with Robert that is a need to reconcile with Iran from a geo political perspective---the core question is WHY---outside of their influence inside the former Northern Alliance they are still basically a Shia country interfering inside a largely Sunni country as they attempt to build a bridge to Shia inside both AFG and Pakistan. Economically they will develop strongly if they can get out from under the economic blockade, but they also know the oil industry is running out so where then?

OUTLAW 09
01-08-2014, 09:52 AM
Dayuhan---do you really understand the core differences between Shiism and Sunnism? Have you spent hours talking/debating with fundamentalists of both colors? Do you "understand" Khomeini's Green Crescent policy ---follow on a map the Silk Road and you will "understand". Do you "understand" the KSA reaction to the Green Crescent theory?

Do you really understand the long standing (1400 year old) philosophical debate between the various factions of Shiaism as there are actually over eight different factions of Shiasm, Sunnism (secular/fundamentalist) and Sulfism?

Do you understand their different understandings of governance/their responsibilities to their own community, and the WHY behind those differences?

If you do "understand " the differences then do you see in our US ME polices a reflection of all of that?---especially in Syria/Lebanon where this question of Islamic differences is playing out along with the issue of regional hegemony?

If you do "understand" then you would be "seeing" what is going on inside Iraq, AFG, Lebanon, Pakistan, and finally Syria.

Then you would actually "understand" where the KSA is coming from.

What I see is a US policy for years which has for the ME been economically driven around one topic--cheap oil that flows forever-- tied to blocking Soviet expansionism in the ME---which is actually occurring now under Putin---might now be changing with the US becoming the top oil exporter---but that will only be for as long as the oil flows.

What is interesting is a theory (perception) by the oil countries of the ME that have quietly for years said that the US wanted cheap oil out of the ME in order to protect their own oil supplies--we have if you are honest when reviewing comments made about US oil over the years have been in fact protecting our strategic oil supplies.

Interesting is it not that suddenly after claiming for years we had none and we were dependent on the ME that we are suddenly the worlds top oil producer?---strange is it not that it confirms the 50 year old perception held by ME oil countries?

That change in the status of US oil I think is quietly driving the slant in US policy---lets be real about the slant towards Shiaism--it is occurring causing as whiplash a period of instability that cannot be directed by anyone outside of the regional players which this is all about anyway---that instability will be both dangerous and brutal.

Have you ever seen what Shia and Sunni fundamentalists can do to a human being up close and personal?---then you will "understand" what I mean by brutal.

It is all about regional hegemony being fought under the Green Flag of Islam nothing more nothing less---and we are not a player in that game as we simply do not "understand" Islam nor are we from the region in question.

Dayuhan
01-08-2014, 01:10 PM
What if the KSA was the largest "Christian" ie Catholic/Protestant/and others ME country bordering on say two countries what were stating they are the "chosen" and they had build a containment wall around the "Christian" country. Then throw in the mix that we have had differences with the "Christian" country in the past---but economically they have invested deeply into the US economy and in the past they have even in the face of a "peaceful religion" allowed and supported large number of US troops on the ground agitating their "chosen" neighbors. Regardless of what we the US has "done" policy wise they have tended to support us---even if it on occasions goes against their own inherent interests.

WHAT then would our policy be towards that "Christian" country be and WHY?

Not much different, I expect. We'd trade, and we'd try to promote our own trading interests. We'd decline to interfere in domestic politics; what Robert would call the relationship between government and populace. We might defend them from direct foreign aggression, as we did when the Saudis were threatened by Saddam and as we would do if the Saudis were directly threatened by Iran, but we would not go around bombing whoever they disliked or intervening in foreign conflicts at their behest. I do not think anyone could reasonably claim that the US has been insufficiently attentive to Saudi needs because they are Muslim.


What if the "Catholic" church along with it the Vatican/Pope was in fact say based in and was now Lebanon--- and in the 80s under a waving Green flag a large number of non Lebanese who were of another religion marches in sets up a separate "shadow" government and security force-then triggers a massive civil war creating thousands of refugees and large numbers of killed and wounded--WHAT would the US policy be and WHY?

US policy in such a case would depend on the extent to which the events affected perceived American interests, not on the religion of the country concerned.


Not so sure the Revolutionary Guards, the Qud Forces and several of the spiritual leaders have signed on in the last few months to be "peaceniks"---

Of course they have not. Neither have the proxies of the Saudis. Not a whole lot of peaceniks in the Middle East.


Remember in the face of an massively hard embargo which is really an economic blockade these same groups have still managed to continue designing and building new weapon systems, expanded their control in Lebanon, expanded greatly the enrichment program, and have succeeded in turning the fighting around for Asaad.

I think you overrate the impact of sanctions, which are a long way from being a blockade or even a very effective embargo. Iran still sells oil and gas to China, Japan, Korea, India, and others. They trade with all of those and with the EU.

Yes, Iranian intervention has helped to keep Assad in power. Saudi intervention has helped maintain the threat to Assad. How is that an argument for American intervention?


Remember there are a large number of 79ers still in power who I know have not changed their minds to become "peaceniks"--even the Islamic nationalists see the US as weak right now.

No, they are not going to become "peaceniks". How is that an argument for US intervention in Syria?


What I think they have figured out is how to maneuver a rather weak US national policy by using the Russian intentions in the region after the US lost in Iraq, having invested 1T in the area for nothing and we are in the process of pulling totally out of AFG.

How did the US "lose" in Iraq? Pulling out of Afghanistan and avoiding engagement in Syria is not weak policy, it's sane policy.


To the hardliners we are losing at every turn to Shiaism and they see that as in turn weakening the KSA, maintaining Assad, and still controlling Lebanon so in their view why do they need to change?

From their view/analysis I would actually agree with them.

How can "we" - the US - be "losing" to Shiaism" when "we" aren't fighting against Shiaism? We are not taking sides in the Sunni-Shi'a issues. Why would we want to?


Economically they will develop strongly if they can get out from under the economic blockade, but they also know the oil industry is running out so where then?

The oil industry is not running out, far from it. Iran's oil and gas reserves are among the world's largest, and there are huge and promising areas that have yet to be explored using modern methods. Supply is enormous, and demand sure isn't going anywhere. Iran's oil business will not be "running out" for a long, long time.

Dayuhan
01-08-2014, 01:32 PM
Dayuhan---do you really understand the core differences between Shiism and Sunnism? Have you spent hours talking/debating with fundamentalists of both colors? Do you "understand" Khomeini's Green Crescent policy ---follow on a map the Silk Road and you will "understand". Do you "understand" the KSA reaction to the Green Crescent theory?

Do you really understand the long standing (1400 year old) philosophical debate between the various factions of Shiaism as there are actually over eight different factions of Shiasm, Sunnism (secular/fundamentalist) and Sulfism?

Do you understand their different understandings of governance/their responsibilities to their own community, and the WHY behind those differences?

If you do "understand " the differences then do you see in our US ME polices a reflection of all of that?---especially in Syria/Lebanon where this question of Islamic differences is playing out along with the issue of regional hegemony?

If you do "understand" then you would be "seeing" what is going on inside Iraq, AFG, Lebanon, Pakistan, and finally Syria.

Then you would actually "understand" where the KSA is coming from.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. I see and understand where the Saudis are coming from. It's really not hard to do. What I do NOT see is why you seem to feel that US policy should be built on where the Saudis are coming from, rather than where Americans are coming from. The Saudis have their own priorities and perceptions. If they feel that their interests justify intervention in Syria, they can decide to intervene in Syria, as they have. How in this world or the next does that require the US to get involved in Syria? Why should the US base its regional policy on the priorities and perceptions of the Saudi royal family?


What I see is a US policy for years which has for the ME been economically driven around one topic--cheap oil that flows forever-- tied to blocking Soviet expansionism in the ME---which is actually occurring now under Putin---might now be changing with the US becoming the top oil exporter---but that will only be for as long as the oil flows.

Been a fair number of years since cheap oil flowed out of the Middle East. The US is nowhere near becoming the top oil exporter. The US is becoming one of the top producers, but due to prodigious internal demand is a long, long, way from becoming a major exporter.


What is interesting is a theory (perception) by the oil countries of the ME that have quietly for years said that the US wanted cheap oil out of the ME in order to protect their own oil supplies--we have if you are honest when reviewing comments made about US oil over the years have been in fact protecting our strategic oil supplies.

The decision not to exploit domestic reserves was not a product of government policy. It's simply a matter of price. Investment in US production was not seen as a viable proposition until potential investors were convinced that high global prices were sustainable.


Interesting is it not that suddenly after claiming for years we had none and we were dependent on the ME that we are suddenly the worlds top oil producer?---strange is it not that it confirms the 50 year old perception held by ME oil countries?

We are not the world's top producer. #3, behind Russia and Saudi Arabia. Anyone paying attention has known all along that the US had extensive reserves, but required a high pricing environment to justify investment and persuade the populace to accept the environmental impact.


That change in the status of US oil I think is quietly driving the slant in US policy---lets be real about the slant towards Shiaism--it is occurring causing as whiplash a period of instability that cannot be directed by anyone outside of the regional players which this is all about anyway---that instability will be both dangerous and brutal.

You have yet to provide any compelling evidence - or any evidence at all - to support the claim of a US "slant toward Shiaism".


Have you ever seen what Shia and Sunni fundamentalists can do to a human being up close and personal?---then you will "understand" what I mean by brutal.

Exactly the same things as all the other forms of religious and political fundamentalism. Belief makes people brutal.


It is all about regional hegemony being fought under the Green Flag of Islam nothing more nothing less---and we are not a player in that game as we simply do not "understand" Islam nor are we from the region in question.

How is that an argument for US involvement in Syria?

And, once again, what exactly do you want to see the US do in Syria, and why?

Bob's World
01-08-2014, 02:28 PM
Religion is powerful stuff. Historically religion is the tool employed by governments to control the people under their governance. This evolved over the past 500 years in the West, but is just beginning to take the same journey in the Middle East.

Consider - under the Holy Roman Empire legitimacy came from God and it was vested in the body of the Holy Roman Emperor. Charlamagne.

For 800 years a series of emperors and popes exercised control over the people of the empire, and controlled how people thought by demanding and enforcing a single system of religious thought.

Then Guttenberg invented his press, and as the government lost control on information they began to lose control over thought. Marten Luther was one who reasoably chafed at the interpretation of Christianity promoted and enforced by the Church, so he protested. Men with political concerns quickly saw the value of this Protestant ideology, and the wars of reformation began. Cast as Protestant vs. Catholic, that was really more Shirts vs. Skins as the have nots and oppressed took on the haves and oppressors.

The peace of Westphalia changed the rules. It established that Legitimacy came from the ability of a government/man to rise to power, and anyone who could take power could then pick the religion of his choice to exercise control over the people. This was in some ways a major change, as it broke up a broad system of control, but it really merely replaced it with many smaller systems of the exact same method of control.

The colonization of America took place in this era; and far from the direct control of Kings, thinking on governance evolved at a more rapid pace. Many of the original settlers came for religious freedom, but this was not freedom for all, but rather just freedom to make their own dogma the ruling dogma. The Puritans exercised the same single-minded control being exercised by Kings in Europe, and were at least as burtal in their methods. In many ways the Taliban of 2000 were little different than the Puritans of 1650.

But by the time of the American Revolution thought had evolved, guided by the theories of men like John Locke, to the radical new belief that legitimacy came from the people. But the only way to have legitimacy from the people was to disempower the abilty of the state to exercise idological control through a single state religion. And thus the Establishment Clause in the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is a genius bit of revolutionary prevention. A state that cannot establish an ideology is a state far less able to oppress.

But all of this is about governance and human nature. Religion is a tool. If you can appreciate the idea that "guns don't kill, people do," then you can appreciate the idea that "religion does not oppress, governments do."

Bottom line is that the history books spin this in the wrong direction; and the modern luancy in America that interprets the Establishment Clause as meaning that governments cannot sponsor crosses on hilltops, or nativity scenes, or that public schools cannot play religious context music at Christmas completely misunderstands the purpose of the law.

AmericanPride
01-08-2014, 03:30 PM
Bob,

Religion goes both ways. When true believers seized the Grand Mosque in 1979, it forced the Saudi government into a more conservative position regarding religion out of fear of a religious uprising and empowered the hardliners in the government for the next two decades. I think the timing is interesting with the Iranian Revolution and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the same year; all paradigm shifting events for the region. (And to go back further in history, there is some scholarship which argues that many of the Crusaders were true believers as well who gave up wealth and position in Europe for a high chance of death in the Holy Land). Certainly governments often seek to manipulate religion favorably, but just the same the power of religion can overwhelm government.

Bob's World
01-08-2014, 05:43 PM
As I said, a similiar evolution of how people think about religion and how that affects the ability of governments to employ a single interpretation of religion as a population control measure is being challenged to what occured in Europe is happening in the ME.

It isn't about us, we need to respect there is a huge segment of humanity that is thinking about very fundamental things in new ways. Some will attempt to hijack religious concepts for political change, some will move toward more liberal interpretations and some will move to more conservative interpretations. This is an internal drama that we need to be very cautious about getting into the middle of, or to take sides in. Because then we become part of the problem for someone if we are part of the solution for someone else. Then they attack us.

OUTLAW 09
01-08-2014, 05:44 PM
Dayuhan-- this sentence is interesting.

"I think you overrate the impact of sanctions, which are a long way from being a blockade or even a very effective embargo. Iran still sells oil and gas to China, Japan, Korea, India, and others. They trade with all of those and with the EU."

Not sure if you have friends who live in and or working in Iran---if you do---then ask them if they think the sanctions are not hurting them---ask the overseas Iranian students who have been restricted in exchanging legally their currency---actually look at the recent agreement and just what sailed through Congress concerning this---students can now exchange currency without being a criminal. By the way a large amount of the economic damage they are going through is of their own making and not from the oil embargo/economic restrictions.

The oil embargo was not a total embargo by the way---they are "allowed" to sell upwards of still 50% of their oil---which by the way finds it way to Europe and then in turn is sold to the US in the form of refined products---so we the US consumer are still supporting Iran---you do not hear much from the US on that point.

By maintaining a high level of oil production within the US we are now effectively importing less----our refineries do not know where to go with what we ourselves are producing---thus less dependence on ME is a nice plus---check the import numbers for the last three years---they are falling at a solid rate.

If you have noticed the shift in Syria among the fundamentalists is now starting to shake out with the KSA appearing to have correctly set into motion their support for "selected" Islamists of the non AQ variety which on the "surface" appeared they were doing (the Islamic group doing the current negotiations between the various Islamist groups and AQ is also well trained and rumored to be receiving weapons/money from the KSA).

These Islamists groups appear to be well trained, coordinated and motivated and this is the critical point-- in the eyes of the population acceptable to them.

There was a recent field account out of Syria that these groups are letting their combat be their image not how they institute Islam---and they seem to be doing well on that image building front. If you also notice the thoroughly confused FSA has magically reappeared in conjunction together with the Islamic Front just as the operations against the AQ started---and just in time for the talks in Geneva.

This is a step I have been saying to take---when I mention one has to dance with the devil--you just seem to slide over the comment.

Sometimes by supporting something that does not really go with your policies, but is supported by the population one in fact gains a channel for conversations---not influence just solid give and take conversations which over the long run can work for both sides.

Why is it that we can economically blockade Iran but not Syria?---strange is it not? Noticed the Russian "oil" was delivered nicely from Iran to Syria recently and yet we did not say a word.

A nice touch of hypocrisy on our part---oil on Iranian ships no, but Iranian oil on Russian ships yes---ever wonder why? We seem to see the Russians driving hard on a ME policy but where are we with ours?

Now what is interesting to ask is does the US have conversations going back channel with the Saudis on this support to their "Islamists"---from open reports ---apparently not.

I would have thought over Jordan, but Jordan has been complaining privately lately to the US that they have been cut out by the US on the Israeli/Palestinian talks even though they are tasked by treaty with the security of the Islamic sites in Jerusalem.

So again we do not have a slant?---am not sure just what open source media you are not reading. Will get you an account with Nexus if that helps.

Even the Iranians are seeing the slant so what is it you are not seeing?

OUTLAW 09
01-08-2014, 06:01 PM
AP----your comments on religion are interesting.

There is an old saying "religion is the opium of the masses"---Robert recently said "religion is the rifle of the insurgent".

I say---historical developments in religion often match political developments in history and if one does not understand those developments or as Robert says the WHAT and the WHY then one is destined to go in circles.

Those that do not speak Arabic, have not been on the ground there, and have not read the Koran often get confused with all the chatter of ME politics---it in order to understand the ME one must understand Islam with all of its issues. For those in the US hard to do as we tend to let our own biases get in the way.

Bob's World
01-08-2014, 06:49 PM
Actually, I said that ideology is like a rifle. In that I need one to fight, but if mine is somehow "defeated" by my enemy or stops working for whatever reason, any functional rifle will do.

Chairman Deng said it another way, (regarding the nature of ideology) "it does not matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice."

Governments tend to fixate on the ideology being applied, and also upon the person applying it, rather than upon the political reasons one is applying ideology at all.

OUTLAW 09
01-08-2014, 07:25 PM
AP----this is what I mean with religion in the ME.

Right now AQI/ISIS in Iraq needs Malaki and Malaki needs AQI/ISIS---sounds strange but it is so---ie Malaki needs the sectarian violence from a Shia perspective just as AQI/ISIS needs Shia violence against the Sunni in order to justify why they are in Iraq.

Malaki is cementing his Shia position before the coming April elections in Irag---thus he is "beating up" on AQI/ISIS, raiding Sunni protest camps and arresting a number of well respected Sunni leaders in both Anbar and Diyala.

It was his failure to implement confidence building measures for the Sunni that were built into the Constitution and in settling the oil money issue which he was shutting out the Sunnis on that is driving the Sunni perception that he is totally against them.

What is interesting is that when AQI/ISIS killed an Iraqi Army Division Commander and two Brigade Commanders there was a moment where all Iraqi's (Shia and Sunni) rallied behind the Iraqi flag and called for military action together with the tribes against AQ.

For the first time since we left and for a split second there was religious unity behind a common flag-what one would term nationalism.

Then Malaki raided/arrested and fought with Sunnis and the Sunni explosion is for all to see. It is now not only the AQI/ISIS-- it is as well the tribes taking on the Iraqi Army.

There is though an interesting development that threatens religiously Tehran itself and it comes out of Iraq and will at some point effect Malaki.

Ayatollah Sistani was the calming Shia voice if one was in Iraq during the 2005 elections, he was also calling then for protecting the minority Sunni and had hoped to settle the Shia political party issue after the elections---he was politically sidelined by Malaki as Malaki then as well as now used AQI as the tool to beat up and sideline the Sunni.

Since the elections of 2005 there has not been a true discussion on what form of Shia governance should be developed for Iraq which was Sistani's goal. Initially he was only interested in securing Shia dominance in Iraq historically speaking then he was going to deal with the form of governance-a missed chance for the history of Islam.

It will be interesting to see how he comes out verbally in the next few weeks during his Friday prayers after Fulluja and Ramadi.

"Sistani's popularity extends into Iran where it has deepened in recent years, partly due to the pilgrimage (over 2M Shia came to Iraqi Shia pilgrimage sites). The Iranian-American scholar Mehdi Khalaji cites estimates that "nearly 80 percent of Shiite worshippers" in Iran "follow Ayatollah Ali Sistani" as their spiritual leader. This is echoed by Johns Hopkins' Vali Nasr who attributes Sistani's rising popularity to two factors: the influence of pilgrims returning from Iraq, and widespread cynicism toward Tehran's corrupt religious establishment."

"Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, the Iranian mullahs have transformed themselves from humble scholars into an elite that controls the country's political and economic life. Sistani's popularity reflects a genuine hunger in Iran for an independent religious leadership untainted by connections and corruption."

Sistani is the one to watch in the Shia world--not the Iranian Ayatollahs who use fundamentalism to maintain power. I have never seen any attempt by the US to communicate with him.

That is why I say one must understand Islam to even begin understanding the ME.

OUTLAW 09
01-08-2014, 07:30 PM
Robert---stand corrected on the quote---was too lazy to search back on the string and was going on recall.

The cat quote is better though.

Recall is getting weak it seems.

OUTLAW 09
01-08-2014, 09:40 PM
There is a good link to an Foreign Policy article on explaining the high inflow of Sunni foreign fighters into Syria that speaks of perceptions that drive the inflow.

http://mideastafrica.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/12/09
/syrias_foreign_fighters#sthash.fkBK7ih3.dpbs

OUTLAW 09
01-08-2014, 11:23 PM
While the following is not to topic---- yet it does in fact go a long way in explaining the Arab Spring and the turmoil in the ME---was sent to me from a friend who has been following the thread---refers to complex adaptive systems.

Complexity : “ The balance point -- often called the edge of chaos -- is where the components of a system never quite lock into place, and yet never quite dissolve into turbulence either. . . The edge of chaos is where life has enough stability to sustain itself and enough creativity to deserve the name of life. The edge of chaos is where new idea and innovative genotypes are forever nibbling away at the edges of the status quo, and where even the most entrenched old guard will eventually be overthrown. The edge of chaos is where centuries of slavery and segregation suddenly give way to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s; where seventy years of Soviet communism suddenly give way to political turmoil and ferment; where eons of evolutionary stability suddenly give way to wholesale species transformation.

The edge is the constantly shifting battle zone between stagnation and anarchy, the one place where a complex system can be spontaneous, adaptive and alive.”

Now where does policy fit in and how does policy effect it?

Dayuhan
01-09-2014, 06:36 AM
Dayuhan-- this sentence is interesting.

"I think you overrate the impact of sanctions, which are a long way from being a blockade or even a very effective embargo. Iran still sells oil and gas to China, Japan, Korea, India, and others. They trade with all of those and with the EU."

Not sure if you have friends who live in and or working in Iran---if you do---then ask them if they think the sanctions are not hurting them---ask the overseas Iranian students who have been restricted in exchanging legally their currency---actually look at the recent agreement and just what sailed through Congress concerning this---students can now exchange currency without being a criminal. By the way a large amount of the economic damage they are going through is of their own making and not from the oil embargo/economic restrictions.

Yes, the sanctions do damage, mainly to the ordinary folks, as is usually the way with sanctions. They are still far from being an embargo or a blockade.


The oil embargo was not a total embargo by the way---they are "allowed" to sell upwards of still 50% of their oil---which by the way finds it way to Europe and then in turn is sold to the US in the form of refined products---so we the US consumer are still supporting Iran---you do not hear much from the US on that point.

As I said, sanctions typically have limited impact on the government, and these are far from being as effective as you previously suggested they were.


By maintaining a high level of oil production within the US we are now effectively importing less----our refineries do not know where to go with what we ourselves are producing---thus less dependence on ME is a nice plus---check the import numbers for the last three years---they are falling at a solid rate.

Yes, we all know this. We all also know that even if the US ceases to import from the ME altogether, we still pay prevailing world price for out domestic production (and the imports from Canada, Venezuela, Nigeria et al), and as the largest exporter and the largest holder of surplus capacity, the Saudis still control the price. The US would just as dependent on Saudi production with zero mbpd of imports form Saudi Arabia as it is with 1.46 mbpd. If one producer sees a substantial capacity reduction, it's not just that producer's customers that are hit, it's all buyers, because those customers then compete to buy the rest of the oil, and the price goes up for everyone. Even if the US stops importing from Saudi Arabia, they still need Saudi Arabian production to stay strong to keep the price manageable.


If you have noticed the shift in Syria among the fundamentalists is now starting to shake out with the KSA appearing to have correctly set into motion their support for "selected" Islamists of the non AQ variety which on the "surface" appeared they were doing (the Islamic group doing the current negotiations between the various Islamist groups and AQ is also well trained and rumored to be receiving weapons/money from the KSA).

These Islamists groups appear to be well trained, coordinated and motivated and this is the critical point-- in the eyes of the population acceptable to them.

There was a recent field account out of Syria that these groups are letting their combat be their image not how they institute Islam---and they seem to be doing well on that image building front. If you also notice the thoroughly confused FSA has magically reappeared in conjunction together with the Islamic Front just as the operations against the AQ started---and just in time for the talks in Geneva.

This is a step I have been saying to take---when I mention one has to dance with the devil--you just seem to slide over the comment.

Since the Saudis already seem to be taking it, why does the US need to be involved?

Every time I ask what actions you'd like to take in Syria and why, you just seem to slide over the comment. Might want to do something about that.


Sometimes by supporting something that does not really go with your policies, but is supported by the population one in fact gains a channel for conversations---not influence just solid give and take conversations which over the long run can work for both sides.

What is the "something" in this case, and what "population" supports it? A little specificity would help.


Why is it that we can economically blockade Iran but not Syria?---strange is it not? Noticed the Russian "oil" was delivered nicely from Iran to Syria recently and yet we did not say a word.

We've already established that we can't "economically blockade" Iran... you mentioned yourself that Iranian oil ends up in the US as refined products and the US can't do anything about it. Chinese weapons end up in Iran.

Why should the US blockade Syria in the first place?


A nice touch of hypocrisy on our part---oil on Iranian ships no, but Iranian oil on Russian ships yes---ever wonder why? We seem to see the Russians driving hard on a ME policy but where are we with ours?

Where we are with ours is finally learning to mind our own business and stay out of other people's fights. It's about time.


Now what is interesting to ask is does the US have conversations going back channel with the Saudis on this support to their "Islamists"---from open reports ---apparently not.

If they are back channel, we won't know about them... if we know about them, by definition they aren't "back channel". I would guess there's all kinds of conversation going on behind the scenes.


So again we do not have a slant?---am not sure just what open source media you are not reading. Will get you an account with Nexus if that helps.

Even the Iranians are seeing the slant so what is it you are not seeing?

We are seeing exactly the same information, but apparently interpreting it differently. You made the claim of a "slant toward the Shi'a" (incidentally, a claim rather incompatible with your subsequent claim of an "economic blockade" on Iran), it's up to you to either back the claim with evidence and reasoning, or retract it. Repeating it is pretty pointless.

Dayuhan
01-09-2014, 06:38 AM
While the following is not to topic---- yet it does in fact go a long way in explaining the Arab Spring and the turmoil in the ME---was sent to me from a friend who has been following the thread---refers to complex adaptive systems.

Complexity : “ The balance point -- often called the edge of chaos -- is where the components of a system never quite lock into place, and yet never quite dissolve into turbulence either. . . The edge of chaos is where life has enough stability to sustain itself and enough creativity to deserve the name of life. The edge of chaos is where new idea and innovative genotypes are forever nibbling away at the edges of the status quo, and where even the most entrenched old guard will eventually be overthrown. The edge of chaos is where centuries of slavery and segregation suddenly give way to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s; where seventy years of Soviet communism suddenly give way to political turmoil and ferment; where eons of evolutionary stability suddenly give way to wholesale species transformation.

The edge is the constantly shifting battle zone between stagnation and anarchy, the one place where a complex system can be spontaneous, adaptive and alive.”

Now where does policy fit in and how does policy effect it?

Seems too vague to fit in anywhere. Might ask him to focus a bit...

OUTLAW 09
01-09-2014, 09:29 AM
Dayuahn---now I understand why you tend to tear apart individual sentences and yet you fail to understand from a social science perspective what we refer to as complex adaptive systems or what Kilcullen meant when he used the term ecosystem which is easier to use and understand if one is not a trained social scientist.

In order to effectively discuss policy effects on a population as this thread is trying to do then one must stand back and look at the whole and actually Robert is right when he uses the questions WHAT and WHY.

Back to complex adaptive systems---the paragraph is clear and concise:
Navigating on the edge of chaos - describes how humans adapt to their environmental conditions within some 'rules' that can be defined and understood by social scientists.

You keep asking about what I would do--it is being done already on the ground through Islamist/Syria nationalist groups supported by the Saudis---the only problem is now the efforts being thrown at controlling AQ is distracting from Assad which is the focus of the fight in effect lengthening the overall population tragedy. AQ/ISIS has again decided to be stupid--meaning they "forked" the insurgency creating a counter wind against them based on their brutality against the population exactly a replay of Iraq 2005.

If you took the time to glance through the link on the foreign fighters coming into Syria---there is a topic for discussion by itself in SWJ---just what is motivating the FFs in numbers far higher than seen during the Soviet/AFG period.

What I have also been alluding to is the drive by Iranians being THE regional hegemon---the core reason is that Khomeini during his days actually moved Shiaism closer to the style of historical Sunni governance drive all in the name of creating a Shia Green Crescent regional hegemony from Pakistan to Lebanon--this drive is then translated into action by the RGs and Qud Forces.

The Green Crescent in turn alarmed the KSA who went into full counter mode again from the Sunni perspective and the entire action/counteraction has been going on since 1979.

In some ways the solution is rather simple but actually the hardest piece---how does one convince the leadership of a country that has been on an expansion trip to throttle back and remain inside one's territory.

In some ways the current general Iranian population is OK with that, but when you have for 35 years been on an expansionist trip and your security/military/intelligence apparatus have been supporting this trip then it is hard to throttle back. Once the genie is out of bottle recapping it is extremely hard especially if the current leadership in Iran is driving the expansionism from their religious perspective.

So the fighting goes on in Syria and Lebanon because there is no one is willing to stop this expansionist trip and we cannot because we were badly burned by Iraq and now AFG and I would also say because we failed to understand Islam and understand the current drivers behind the Arab Springs ie ME populations.

The KSA uses religion and money in order to gain influence---using their religious seminaries/charities--exactly as does Iran in Qom.

Iran takes it a step further through using actual military/paramilitary personnel hidden as "volunteers" which is exactly what the KSA sees occurring and has been "pointing it out" repeatedly to the US---we have seen it but refused to address it. You will notice that by the way there are no "KSA volunteers" from inside the KSA physically on the ground--the FFs are in fact the KSA foot soldiers.

That is why I mentioned it would be extremely interesting to this time to analyze the WHY they are answering the Sunni calls for help as that will give us a view for the future on what has to be addressed on this front with the KSA.

There are a number of Syrian solutions now floating around at there--which if one looks at them requires in the final end Iran returning to it's territorial borders.

That will not happen with the current Iranian theocracy power apparatus in place.

So now you see two points of focus---armed resistance on the ground coupled with a slow but steady push to return Iran to it's natural territorial borders pulling it's "volunteers" (military/security/intelligence) back as well. What is the US response in the coming months if Iraq cannot get ISIS under control if Iranian "volunteers" enter Iraq? That will be an interesting moment.

After the dust settles the next step would be to understand the drive behind the FFs in answering the KSA calls for help-via discussions on the topic with the KSA. By the way this was not done after 9/11 and is the camel standing in the corner between the US and KSA.

What you might not know is that when we in the US said that the madrassas supported by the KSA should throttle back their jihadi rhetoric which is buried in Sunni Wahhabism---the KSA did in fact quietly change the focus of the courses/classes and the rhetoric is now nowhere to be seen in KSA supported madrassas. But just as there are different Shia streams there are different Salafist streams other than Wahhabism that are pushing the "jihadi" rhetoric.

OUTLAW 09
01-09-2014, 10:49 AM
Dayuhan---as I said you tend to dissect sentences---try looking at this paragraph from Lebanon today and tell me what you think the Iranians mean by their use of the word "honor".

"Honor" to me means you must accept us as a full hegemon for the region not a side player. If in fact the majority of the Syrian population is Sunni WHY does Iran "feel their honor is at stake" and WHY do they feel they are required to be even involved in Syrian affairs if in fact the majority of the country is Sunni not a deviant of Shiaism which is in the minority---kind of a reverse of Iraq do you not think?

What is you interpretation?

A second question might be WHY did Baa'thism originally develop in Syria and was exported into Iraq when Syria was a Shia controlled country---when today Malaki equates Iraqi Sunnis with Baa'thism?

U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon did not include Iran in his invitations to 30 countries to the gathering. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has suggested Iran could play a role in the Syria conference from the “sidelines” but Tehran has scoffed at the suggestion, saying it would only accept offers that respect the country’s “honor.”

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2014/Jan-09/243539-rebels-overrun-isis-headquarters-in-aleppo.ashx#ixzz2ptPjQfgi
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

Dayuhan
01-09-2014, 01:39 PM
Dayuahn---now I understand why you tend to tear apart individual sentences and yet you fail to understand from a social science perspective what we refer to as complex adaptive systems or what Kilcullen meant when he used the term ecosystem which is easier to use and understand if one is not a trained social scientist.

Oh please, these concepts are in no way rarefied and they certainly aren't advanced social science. Anybody participating here will grasp them fully, even when they are wrapped in unnecessary oleaginous verbiage. We could use less of the "I must be right because I know some (unspecified) thing that you don't" routine. The superiority of a position needs to be demonstrated, not proclaimed.


In order to effectively discuss policy effects on a population as this thread is trying to do then one must stand back and look at the whole and actually Robert is right when he uses the questions WHAT and WHY.

Standing back and looking at the whole provides initial context, but if you never bring it down to specifics, that context never gets you anywhere useful.


Back to complex adaptive systems---the paragraph is clear and concise:
Navigating on the edge of chaos - describes how humans adapt to their environmental conditions within some 'rules' that can be defined and understood by social scientists.

It's anything but clear and specific. It reads like the first paragraph of an unfinished essay, and as it stands it's consummately useless. It points in a very general direction, but doesn't go there, or anywhere else.


You keep asking about what I would do--it is being done already on the ground through Islamist/Syria nationalist groups supported by the Saudis---the only problem is now the efforts being thrown at controlling AQ is distracting from Assad which is the focus of the fight in effect lengthening the overall population tragedy. AQ/ISIS has again decided to be stupid--meaning they "forked" the insurgency creating a counter wind against them based on their brutality against the population exactly a replay of Iraq 2005.

Actually I asked what you would have the US do, and why... and if it's already being done by the Saudis, why would the US need to do it? Both AQ/ISIS have committed their share of stupidities... but again, how is that an argument for US involvement?


If you took the time to glance through the link on the foreign fighters coming into Syria---there is a topic for discussion by itself in SWJ---just what is motivating the FFs in numbers far higher than seen during the Soviet/AFG period.

Proximity is probably one factor - getting to and into Syria is a whole lot easier than getting into Afghanistan - but I don't think anyone here is in a position to answer that question with any degree of certainty.


What I have also been alluding to is the drive by Iranians being THE regional hegemon---the core reason is that Khomeini during his days actually moved Shiaism closer to the style of historical Sunni governance drive all in the name of creating a Shia Green Crescent regional hegemony from Pakistan to Lebanon--this drive is then translated into action by the RGs and Qud Forces.

Yes, we're all aware of that ambition.


In some ways the solution is rather simple but actually the hardest piece---how does one convince the leadership of a country that has been on an expansion trip to throttle back and remain inside one's territory.

Simple question, but hardly a simple answer.


In some ways the current general Iranian population is OK with that, but when you have for 35 years been on an expansionist trip and your security/military/intelligence apparatus have been supporting this trip then it is hard to throttle back. Once the genie is out of bottle recapping it is extremely hard especially if the current leadership in Iran is driving the expansionism from their religious perspective.

I don't think anyone is in a position to say what "the general Iranian population" (hardly a unitary entity) is or is not ok with. The general Iranian population hasn't got much to say about it in any event. The opinion of the population isn't the issue here, the actions of the government are. It would be interesting to know more about the spectrum or Iranian popular opinion regarding intervention in Syria, but I don't think that data is available to us.


So the fighting goes on in Syria and Lebanon because there is no one is willing to stop this expansionist trip and we cannot because we were badly burned by Iraq and now AFG and I would also say because we failed to understand Islam and understand the current drivers behind the Arab Springs ie ME populations.

Nobody willing, or nobody able. I have yet to see anyone make an argument for US intervention in Syria that effectively defines what vital US interest is at stake, what clear, practical, achievable goals are to be pursued, a viable plan for achieving those goals, and a realistic plan for managing the post-intervention endgame, the minimal requirements when contemplating intervention in someone else's war.


The KSA uses religion and money in order to gain influence---using their religious seminaries/charities--exactly as does Iran in Qom.

Agreed


Iran takes it a step further through using actual military/paramilitary personnel hidden as "volunteers" which is exactly what the KSA sees occurring and has been "pointing it out" repeatedly to the US---we have seen it but refused to address it. You will notice that by the way there are no "KSA volunteers" from inside the KSA physically on the ground--the FFs are in fact the KSA foot soldiers.

They have different ways of deploying foot soldiers, but the end result is the same. I still see no effective argument here for US intervention.


That is why I mentioned it would be extremely interesting to this time to analyze the WHY they are answering the Sunni calls for help as that will give us a view for the future on what has to be addressed on this front with the KSA.

The simplest explanation would simply be that they see an opportunity to bog the Iranians down on a prolonged 3rd party counterinsurgency effort that will drain their resources and eventually become an unpopular liability. Obviously there will be more factors involved, but it's not always necessary to over-analyze.


There are a number of Syrian solutions now floating around at there--which if one looks at them requires in the final end Iran returning to it's territorial borders.

That's a goal, not a solution. Viable means to accomplish that goal have yet to be proposed, nor has any good reason why the US should be involved.

That will not happen with the current Iranian theocracy power apparatus in place.


So now you see two points of focus---armed resistance on the ground coupled with a slow but steady push to return Iran to it's natural territorial borders pulling it's "volunteers" (military/security/intelligence) back as well. What is the US response in the coming months if Iraq cannot get ISIS under control if Iranian "volunteers" enter Iraq? That will be an interesting moment.

Is a US response required? Presumably in that case the Saudis and their Gulf allies will up the ante on their side as well. How is that an argument for US intervention?


What you might not know is that when we in the US said that the madrassas supported by the KSA should throttle back their jihadi rhetoric which is buried in Sunni Wahhabism---the KSA did in fact quietly change the focus of the courses/classes and the rhetoric is now nowhere to be seen in KSA supported madrassas. But just as there are different Shia streams there are different Salafist streams other than Wahhabism that are pushing the "jihadi" rhetoric.

I'm aware of that.

What action do you believe the US should take in Syria, and why?

Dayuhan
01-09-2014, 01:49 PM
Dayuhan---as I said you tend to dissect sentences---try looking at this paragraph from Lebanon today and tell me what you think the Iranians mean by their use of the word "honor".

"Honor" to me means you must accept us as a full hegemon for the region not a side player. If in fact the majority of the Syrian population is Sunni WHY does Iran "feel their honor is at stake" and WHY do they feel they are required to be even involved in Syrian affairs if in fact the majority of the country is Sunni not a deviant of Shiaism which is in the minority---kind of a reverse of Iraq do you not think?

What is you interpretation?

Obviously the Iranians don't think that playing a role "from the sidelines" is consistent with their perception of their regional stature. That doesn't necessarily mean they want to be accepted as a "hegemon", but it suggests that they expect to be treated as an inner circle player. That does not necessarily have anything to do with the Sunni/Shi'a balance in Syria; it can bu purely based on the Iranian desire to be acknowledged as a central regional player.


A second question might be WHY did Baa'thism originally develop in Syria and was exported into Iraq when Syria was a Shia controlled country---when today Malaki equates Iraqi Sunnis with Baa'thism?

Of course Maliki will equate Ba'ath with Sunni, as the Ba'ath party in Iraq was dominated by the Sunni minority. The Ba'ath movement was at least nominally secular and not necessarily derived from either branch of Islam, it served more as a loose justification for autocratic rule in the nominal cause of pan-Arab unity than as a tool in the religious dispute.

OUTLAW 09
01-09-2014, 04:57 PM
Dayuhan---you question my comments concerning the tilt towards Iran---here is from an article from a conservative writer which states basically what I have been saying for awhile ---AND this is from a conservative writer not a liberal not a middle of the roader.

8 January Powerline blog

The signs of this “drawing together” of the mullahs and Obama are unmistakable:
On Monday, Iran offered to join the United States in sending military aid to the Shiite government in Baghdad, which is embroiled in street-to-street fighting with radical Sunni militants in Anbar Province, a Sunni stronghold. On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry said he could envision an Iranian role in the coming peace conference on Syria, even though the meeting is supposed to plan for a Syria after the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, an important Iranian ally.

What explains Obama’s tilt in favor of a nation that, during the past 35 years has been at least as implacable an enemy of America as the forces we hope to enlist that nation to combat?

Boot attributes it to a desire for stability. That’s certainly part of the explanation. In addition, it’s easier to reach an accommodation with an established nation state than with a group of rag-tag militias.

To be sure, as Boot emphasizes, Iran is not a force for regional stability; rather it remains a revolutionary, not a status quo power, whose goal is regional hegemony. Thus, accommodation with Iran ultimately means accepting it as a regional hegemon — a status that obtaining nuclear weapons would go a long way to promote.

For most of us, Iran as a regional hegemon is not acceptable. As Boot asks, “Do we truly want the Quds Force dominant in Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Kabul, Bahrain, Doha, Abu Dhabi, and other capitals? Do we want to permanently alienate allies in Saudi Arabia and Israel?” Unfortunately, it’s far from clear that Obama would have serious problems with any of these outcomes.

carl
01-09-2014, 05:26 PM
As I said, a similiar evolution of how people think about religion and how that affects the ability of governments to employ a single interpretation of religion as a population control measure is being challenged to what occured in Europe is happening in the ME.

It isn't about us, we need to respect there is a huge segment of humanity that is thinking about very fundamental things in new ways. Some will attempt to hijack religious concepts for political change, some will move toward more liberal interpretations and some will move to more conservative interpretations. This is an internal drama that we need to be very cautious about getting into the middle of, or to take sides in. Because then we become part of the problem for someone if we are part of the solution for someone else. Then they attack us.

Bob, I assume you are talking about the struggles occurring in the Muslim world between the various factions. I agree with all you say above, but (you probably figured the the 'but' was coming) with some provisos.

First, we must be forthright about not being bullied for following our customs in our countries. If somebody wants to publish cartoons in western countries that some soreheaded mullah who wants to make a name for himself finds objectionable, then that is what they will do and we should make no apologies for it. To the contrary, we have freedom of speech and expression here and if that soreheaded mullah doesn't like it, tough. Our govs need to be clear about that. Some things are not negotiable.

Second, we need to be clear about what we would like to see. We don't want takfiri killers to come to the fore. That would be bad. And that could happen, maybe not likely, but remotely possible. That is one of the reasons I think it important to note the persecution of Christians in some of these countries, because it is indicative of their real positions and perhaps of their actions if they got firm control of some countries. A nation or nations that was actively hostile to other countries because of the predominant faith is a bad thing, a throwback to the middle ages.

That doesn't mean we should not be very cautious, as you indicate above, but we must be clear about what we think is best. It is an internal drama that we mostly can't do much about, but that doesn't mean we should not do anything at all and stand mute.

One thing perhaps we could do additionally is pressure Saudi Arabia and some of the other gulf states to stop private individuals donating big money to the takfiri killers. If we did that it might help level the playing field in the struggle in the Muslim world. We will be much more able to do that now because of all the oil and gas being found all over the world. The Saudis just aren't as important as they were in that respect. Maybe in the totality of things that isn't possible or would be ill considered but it should be considered for the results would be good.

OUTLAW 09
01-09-2014, 05:58 PM
Dayuhan---some more evidence if you think Iran is not driving as a revolutionary hegemon. You will see at the end of paragraph the mentioning of the Badr Brigade---you do not want to know how many Iraqis I talked to who said in 2005 you all will regret having not dealt with the Badr Brigade as you are dealing with AQI.

Taken from the Washington Post 9.1.2013


Iran’s fingerprints in Fallujah
By David Ignatius, Thursday, January 9, 2:02 AM

First, the Obama administration, in its rush to leave the country, allowed the sectarian Shiite government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to undo many of the gains made against al-Qaeda. Second, Iran has waged a brilliant covert-action campaign that turned Maliki and Iraq into virtual clients of Tehran — and in the process alienated Sunnis and pushed them toward extremism.

The covert campaign in Iraq was directed by Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and it included a range of different Shiite figures around Maliki. This ability to ride many horses at once is a mark of Suleimani’s operating style. The Iranians also benefit from intelligence relationships that in some cases date back 40 years.

Iran has drawn its cards from a full deck of Iraqi militias. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who allegedly helped plan the 1983 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait, now directs the IRGC-backed insurgent group known as Kataib Hezbollah. Qais al-Khazali, charged with kidnapping and killing U.S. Marines in Karbala in 2007, runs an IRGC-allied insurgent group known as Asaib al-Haq, or the League of the Righteous. A third Iraqi Shiite militia is known as the Promised Day Brigades. At Iran’s covert direction, fighters from all three militias have been sent to Syria to battle Sunni rebels there.

Iran allegedly has been able to use Iraq as a staging ground for operations to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad thanks partly to Hadi al-Ameri, the Iraqi minister of transportation. He headed the Badr Brigade, a pro-Iranian militia.

New Iraqi elections will be held in April. It’s a mark of Iran’s tactical skill that Tehran is said to be abandoning Maliki and searching for a new client. The United States is picking up the slack, once more supplying Maliki with advice and weapons. The Iranians, it must be said, play the Iraqi game with a finesse and staying power the United States has never matched.

OUTLAW 09
01-09-2014, 06:48 PM
Dayuhan---can keep the evidence rolling---this from July 2013 by no other than the BBC shows the development of a Shia dictator---BY the way he "weathered" Saddams days IN Syria before he returned to Iraq.

Would you want to bet just WHY he is supporting Assad a Shia right now?

THIS is the missing link---explains just why he has not slowed down the resupply flights out of Iran when asked to by the US and WHY he has not "condemned" Iraqi Shia fighters or Lebanese Hezbollah fighters as "terrorists" WHEN he condemnes Sunni FFs as "terrorists".

Notice how he used then and still uses the argument that "it is the brutal Sunnis who want Saddam back" and or it's ISIS and or both.

That is why I previously mentioned ISIS needs Malaki and Malaki needs ISIS.

Check the response of the US to their support to Malaki---naive to a degree or a total none understanding of Shia politics?


1 July 2013 5:36 pm
The Iraq War Part 3 BBC2

Despite the intimidation al Iraqiya won two seats more than Malikis supporters in the March 2010 election. Maliki demanded a recount, but it did not change the result. It was agreed that Maliki would remain Prime Minister, with Al Iraqiya receiving three senior cabinet posts, including Saleh Mutlaq as Deputy Prime Minister

However, Maliki did not implement the power sharing agreement, leading to street protests. 23 protestors were killed and more than 600 Sunnis were arrested, as was the head of the electoral commission. Maliki blamed continuing terrorism on Sunni leaders who, he alleged, wanted to bring back Saddams regime.

President Barack Obamas new US administration backed Maliki, claiming that he headed a democratic Iraq, with its most inclusive government yet. Saleh Mutlaq, the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, told Obama that he was dreaming. He also said that Iraq had a one man, one party show and that Maliki was a dictator. Two days after making these comments his house and those of two other Iraqiya ministers were surrounded by troops commanded by Malikis son.

The result seems to be the replacement of a Sunni dictator, Saddam Hussein, with a Shia one, Nouri Maliki.

Bob's World
01-09-2014, 07:32 PM
Stepping back a bit, the attached link take one to a paper on a topic that is at least as important today as it was when it was written.

http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/international_security/summary/v019/19.3.mearsheimer.html

Written in 1994/5 Professor John Mearsheimer ( a realist, as am I) takes on a detailed look at how to move forward from the Cold War into whatever was going to happen next, and the debate between realism and liberal institutionalism.

Clinton promoted the latter; Bush left the latter in place while acting like a realist; and Obama falls in on the results of both of those two efforts acting in a manner that may well be appropriate, but is probalby not well defined or explained to those working to execute the program, or deal with the effects.

The result is a bit messy...

OUTLAW 09
01-09-2014, 09:30 PM
Robert---then as a realist you might recognize the similarities between the quoted article and this comment.

Especially if you look at his definition of Realism.

There is a movement among some analysts to look at this comment below again in trying to understand internal dynamics of a population as they shift in the face of their day to day reality and how that dynamic plays out then between the state that represents the population with other state represented populations. Basically it shuts out institutions and focuses on the population creativity in the face of reality.

What it takes though are analysts that can see and understand the spontaneous, the adaptive and the alive elements---not analysts stuck in institutions forced to avoid addressing these items as it does not match the status quo.

Right now a perfect example of this edge of chaos is Egypt where the status quo is no longer, but what comes out is an unknown quantity because of the large number of components in play.

Personally think this is where Kilcullen was initially going in his ecosystem concept as a way to explain the chaos being seen but then he went no further.


“ The balance point -- often called the edge of chaos -- is where the components of a system never quite lock into place, and yet never quite dissolve into turbulence either. . . The edge of chaos is where life has enough stability to sustain itself and enough creativity to deserve the name of life. The edge of chaos is where new idea and innovative genotypes are forever nibbling away at the edges of the status quo, and where even the most entrenched old guard will eventually be overthrown. The edge of chaos is where centuries of slavery and segregation suddenly give way to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s; where seventy years of Soviet communism suddenly give way to political turmoil and ferment; where eons of evolutionary stability suddenly give way to wholesale species transformation.

The edge is the constantly shifting battle zone between stagnation and anarchy, the one place where a complex system can be spontaneous, adaptive and alive.”

Dayuhan
01-09-2014, 11:41 PM
Dayuhan---can keep the evidence rolling---this from July 2013 by no other than the BBC shows the development of a Shia dictator

Yes, we're all aware of this. Evidence of what?


Would you want to bet just WHY he is supporting Assad a Shia right now?

THIS is the missing link---explains just why he has not slowed down the resupply flights out of Iran when asked to by the US and WHY he has not "condemned" Iraqi Shia fighters or Lebanese Hezbollah fighters as "terrorists" WHEN he condemnes Sunni FFs as "terrorists".

Notice how he used then and still uses the argument that "it is the brutal Sunnis who want Saddam back" and or it's ISIS and or both.

None of this is a surprise to anyone who's been half paying attention.


That is why I previously mentioned ISIS needs Malaki and Malaki needs ISIS.

Of course. The dictator always needs the insurgent, and vice versa. It is a symbiotic relationship... and the occasional implications of omniscience will be more convincing if you spell Maliki's name correctly.


Check the response of the US to their support to Malaki---naive to a degree or a total none understanding of Shia politics?

The naivete is the same naivete that the US displays in Afghanistan. It is the fundamental naivete of the "regime change + nation building" construct: the idea that you can remove a regime, install a new one, maintain any vague facade of "democracy", and still have any significant degree of control over the direction in which the new regime develops, it's ability to govern, and the extent to which its choices and actions will be compatible with our policies. That persistent illusion needs to be considered in any contemplated action in Syria. Reality: even if we contribute to Assad's removal, we will have no control over what happens next, which is likely to be ugly. Of course what happens next is going to be ugly no matter what anyone does, but if we're the ones who make it happen, it's our responsibility. Taking responsibility for that which you cannot control is never an attractive position.

We don't support Maliki because of a "slant toward Shiaism". We support him for the same reason we support Karzai. They are the outcome of our actions, and we have in the past, mistakenly or not, declared them legitimate. We don't want to admit that we were wrong, or that what we started has gone into a place that is no longer consistent with our interests (though it's hard to say why a government of Iraq or Afghanistan should be directed by our interests). The same thing is likely to happen in Syria if we take sides and try to impose an outcome that we think suitable.

I'm still waiting: what do you think the US should be doing about the Syrian situation, and why?

Dayuhan
01-10-2014, 01:06 AM
Personally think this is where Kilcullen was initially going in his ecosystem concept as a way to explain the chaos being seen but then he went no further.

The "ecosystem concept" does not in itself explain anything. That's not what it's meant to do. It provides a conceptual framework into which the unique details of a given "ecosystem" can be organized and perhaps better understood. Without the details there can be no explanation forthcoming, and the explanation coming out is no better than the accuracy and relevance of the details that go in. As a general rule, the broader and more general the inputs, the less valuable the output. The greater the extent to which the details are based on assumption or generalization, the less valuable the output.

Overall it's a potentially useful tool, but I wouldn't want to depend on it exclusively. Like most conceptual frameworks, it can be manipulated by controlling the information put into the framework, and it can be rendered useless if the information inputs are sloppy or based on assumptions or generalizations.

My observation of the discourse ecosystem in which we operate is that about 99.7% of the invocations of terms like "conflict ecosystems", "complex adaptive systems". "complexity theory", "quantum mechanics", "postmodernism", etc, ad nauseam, have minimal relevance to the construct referred to and are intended not to explain, but to identify those who invoke them with what are presumed to be cutting edge intellectual concepts. In short, they aren't meant to clarify, they are meant to make those who use them sound erudite, to position the user in a hypothetical inner circle, and avoid the risk of explaining something clearly. To use an expression Robert has been known to use, they are meant to complify, not simplicate. Buzzwords and jargon do not promote clarity, they obstruct it.


There is a movement among some analysts to look at this comment below again in trying to understand internal dynamics of a population as they shift in the face of their day to day reality and how that dynamic plays out then between the state that represents the population with other state represented populations. Basically it shuts out institutions and focuses on the population creativity in the face of reality.

For those of us who actually live in tn these populations, this seems like a rather... intellectually autoerotic approach to comprehension of our day to day reality. As always, the relevance of the output will depend not on the frameworks and systems developed by the analysts, or by the erudition of their buzzwords, but on the quality of the ground-level information they feed into the models. I don't expect much, but then I'm naturally cynical about what happens when analysts try to understand the edge.


Right now a perfect example of this edge of chaos is Egypt where the status quo is no longer, but what comes out is an unknown quantity because of the large number of components in play.

Outcomes are always unknown: we do not have crystal balls. Hence the need to avoid the hubris of thinking that involvement in a situation will allow us to control or dictate an outcome.

OUTLAW 09
01-10-2014, 10:34 AM
Dayuhan---have you yourself ever taken the time to take a specific problem and tear it into ever smaller "pieces" until you "see" and "understand" the real driver which might in fact be totally different from where you started with your own biases/assumptions when you initially looked at the problem set?

Everything these days the last time I checked are human driven and in order to "understand" and "see" the WHAT and the WHY one must fully "understand" the environment of the human, the reasons for his actions, the relationships of humans inside his environment, the interrelationship with other humans in their specific environments, the environment itself and the inherent drivers inside that environment and on and on ---this is what ecosystem is all about---every insect/animal on this planet has one and so humans are what not to have one?

Are you saying we are in fact so different from other life forms that we kind of have our "own" life space thing going for us, BUT it is in fact not an ecosystem?

So how do you describe yourself and the environment you live in--WHAT terms do you use--and WHY do you use them?

What we are just a bunch of humans drifting through the time/space continum who pretend to understand they know what is going on around themselves, but in no way are capable of changing anything as we humans have what no influence on things around us because we belong to no "system" thus are not required to interact with anything else---come on.

One is often surprised at the actual driver, relationship, or event of a problem set when it is all said and done---but it takes someone who understands how to use the method---throwing words, comments such as the comment below does not really work when attempting to "understand" and "see" a problem.

Throwing words, comments, around can be done by anyone ---doing the actual work is far harder and more intensive than you seem to think it is.

It is not about trying to "prove" your own particular (personal/political/religious) beliefs or biases---it is all about trying to "understand and see" the drivers of a particular group, person, population, environment---or Robert calls his WHAT and WHY.

The reason I am "assuming" you have not ever done a really thorough analysis on any problem set is actually reflected in the first sentence in your comment below--
"My observation of the discourse" infers you have never conducted a thorough analysis on anything using as you yourself quoted
"conflict ecosystems", "complex adaptive systems". "complexity theory", "quantum mechanics", "postmodernism", etc, ad nauseam

Give me one example of your own actual analytical research on any particular problem set where you have used nothing taken from any of the methods you have just quoted above.

What do you use then as an analytical tool/tools -personal observations, personal biases, political views, religious views, media reports, gut instinct (which many times is actually correct), other people's quotes--?


My observation of the discourse ecosystem in which we operate is that about 99.7% of the invocations of terms like "conflict ecosystems", "complex adaptive systems". "complexity theory", "quantum mechanics", "postmodernism", etc, ad nauseam, have minimal relevance to the construct referred to and are intended not to explain, but to identify those who invoke them with what are presumed to be cutting edge intellectual concepts. In short, they aren't meant to clarify, they are meant to make those who use them sound erudite, to position the user in a hypothetical inner circle, and avoid the risk of explaining something clearly. To use an expression Robert has been known to use, they are meant to complify, not simplicate. Buzzwords and jargon do not promote clarity, they obstruct it.


Buzzwords and jargon do not promote clarity, they obstruct it.

You are so totally right but what do you yourself specifically use in analyzing the world around you----buzz words and jargon---interesting is it not?

So when you ask repeatedly for evidence--WHAT research methodology are you actually using if given evidence when you have excluded any of the research techniques listed in your quote?

Personal biases are easy to state, but really hard to defend.

Or as the old saying goes "talk is cheap so everyone has an opinion"---that is one analysis method I guess.

OUTLAW 09
01-10-2014, 02:42 PM
Dayuhan---not sure if you have used any of the new Social Network Analysis (SNA) "tools" before tied to some very,very good data search engines (which you had not previously listed recently), but what they have been revealing about insurgent groups and their "eocsystems" from personalities, funding, reasons for fighting, support mechanisms, cross ecosystem linkages which can then be proven is starting get one as they say "into the game" of "seeing" and then "understanding" a target population.

Sometimes regardless of what one thinks about them "tools" can help in "understanding" complexity one normally does not see or simply overlooks.

Advanced SNA has just stated to be used by the US, but any country where internal problems occur can use the "tools". Initially used in the US on analyzing insurgent groups it can be easily used to analyze criminal gangs and their activities.

This was taken from a new Mexican Crime article on SWJ which show you how others use SNA tools in their search for "understanding".


Today, technological tools available for social scientists allow zooming in and out on criminal networks, improving the understanding of global characteristics and details of these phenomena. Tools such as Social Network Analysis, predictive analysis, and various data mining procedures constantly improve and reveal an increasing level of complexity of criminal networks around the world.

Currently in Mexico converge some of the most complex criminal networks that operate in the Western Hemisphere, Western Africa, and parts of Europe.

These analyses have also revealed a high level of resilience, meaning that several subnetworks operating in different regions and countries, usually with different command structures, articulate entire criminal networks…………….

In practical terms, those networks do not consist of compact and hierarchical organizations.

Bob's World
01-10-2014, 03:00 PM
My thought for the day:


We need to recover from the belief that playing well, but losing, is good enough. It isn't. When success is measured in tactical, objective terms over six month increments the "evidence" is that we are clearly winning. However, when one steps back and takes a longer view with subjective criteria it becomes equally clear that we are speeding our own demise.


Like the BCS Championship game, it is far better to play ugly and win in the end, than it is to execute a brilliant, dominating gameplan for over three quarters to lose in the end. One would think we would have learned this lesson in Vietnam, but the only lesson senior leaders tout about Vietnam recently is that "we defeated the insurgency, but only later, after we left, did the state of South Vietnam fall to the state of North Vietnam." Pure delusion.

carl
01-10-2014, 04:37 PM
Dayuhan---not sure if you have used any of the new Social Network Analysis (SNA) "tools" before tied to some very,very good data search engines (which you had not previously listed recently), but what they have been revealing about insurgent groups and their "eocsystems" from personalities, funding, reasons for fighting, support mechanisms, cross ecosystem linkages which can then be proven is starting get one as they say "into the game" of "seeing" and then "understanding" a target population.

Sometimes regardless of what one thinks about them "tools" can help in "understanding" complexity one normally does not see or simply overlooks.

Advanced SNA has just stated to be used by the US, but any country where internal problems occur can use the "tools". Initially used in the US on analyzing insurgent groups it can be easily used to analyze criminal gangs and their activities.

This was taken from a new Mexican Crime article on SWJ which show you how others use SNA tools in their search for "understanding".


That sounds like the cross referenced file card system described by Orrin DeForest in his book Slow Burn, which he said, if I remember correctly, was taught to him by the Kempeitai. Is it about the same?

carl
01-10-2014, 05:40 PM
Pundita had a very interesting post in her blog post of Dec 30 ( http://pundita.blogspot.com/ ). She said:
After seeing the two episodes of God in America I realized there was a simple explanation for this: modern America's obsessively secular public life suppressed disputes among Americans that are based in theology. While a political Liberal could cite his faith for support of say, civil rights legislation and a political Conservative could cite the same for his opposition to abortion, it was off limits in the public forum to dispute or even question the theological assumptions informing the political stances.

There is much more in the post itself.

This has application to this discussion I think. Could the same be said about our understanding of the motivations of our takfiri killer foes? Charles Cameron asked this question also in the comment section.

I think we are handicapped in fighting these guys if we aren't up front with ourselves about why they are so determined to kill people.

Dayuhan
01-11-2014, 02:07 PM
Dayuhan---not sure if you have used any of the new Social Network Analysis (SNA) "tools" before tied to some very,very good data search engines

I have not. The disadvantage of working outside of any institutional affiliation is that you don't get to play with the newest toys. The corresponding advantage is that you are unhampered by bureaucracy of any kind. I prefer the fringe, largely for personal reasons: I dislike bureaucracy more than I like new toys.


what they have been revealing about insurgent groups and their "eocsystems" from personalities, funding, reasons for fighting, support mechanisms, cross ecosystem linkages which can then be proven is starting get one as they say "into the game" of "seeing" and then "understanding" a target population.

Sometimes regardless of what one thinks about them "tools" can help in "understanding" complexity one normally does not see or simply overlooks.

Advanced SNA has just stated to be used by the US, but any country where internal problems occur can use the "tools". Initially used in the US on analyzing insurgent groups it can be easily used to analyze criminal gangs and their activities.

This was taken from a new Mexican Crime article on SWJ which show you how others use SNA tools in their search for "understanding".

Has it ever occurred to you that while the US invariably has access to the most sophisticated intellectual models and theories and the most technologically advanced data mining and processing capacity of any given time, American decision-makers still seem to remain singularly unable to understand the world around them? I'd submit that this is at least in part due to a tendency to be over-reliant on those intellectual models and technological marvels. Those provide useful tools, but they cannot compensate for lack of direct feet-on-ground exposure in the places we wish to understand. The US is singularly weak in this regard: we move our people around so much that they rarely if ever gain meaningful local expertise, we impose dense thickets of security measures that prevent official representatives from long term integration with populaces, and we are chronically reluctant to listen to the people who are actually in a position to understand... largely, I suspect, because they tell us what we don't want to hear.

The models and tools you describe are useful contributors, but they will not bring understanding by themselves. Mining and analysis of social media will provide useful data and important information... but anyone who thinks they can "understand" a conflict environment by reading social media postings, no matter how they are organized or processed, is simply delusional.

Dayuhan
01-11-2014, 03:19 PM
Dayuhan---have you yourself ever taken the time to take a specific problem and tear it into ever smaller "pieces" until you "see" and "understand" the real driver which might in fact be totally different from where you started with your own biases/assumptions when you initially looked at the problem set?

Yes. I do it all the time. It's my profession.

J.S. Furnivall once compared the British Colonial Office to a cuttlefish, noting their common tendency, when threatened, to conceal themselves in clouds of ink. Substitute pixels for ink and the balance of your post fits that model rather well.

Suppose we get back on topic, focus, and address a couple of questions:

You have mentioned several times that you perceive a "slant toward Shiaism" on the part of the US. What specific evidence leads you to that conclusion?

You have on a number of occasions expressed dissatisfaction with the US decision not to get directly involved in Syria. What do you think the US should have done, and when, and why?

Bob's World
01-11-2014, 06:20 PM
I personally think if we truly want to be a "world leader" we need to avoid slants toward any particular party to the degree possible, and seek to be as balanced in our approach to the world as possible.

When we slant it should be toward some clearly stated set of principles that we stand for. I think FDR's vision for a post WWII world is a good start point for such a discussion

1. The four freedoms: From fear and want, freedom of speech and religion;
2. The right of self-determination of governance
3. The end of colonialism (or other excessive unwanted external influence over ones governance and day to day lives);
4. The four policemen (in 1945 that was the US, China, Russia and the UK forming a network dedicated to deterring conflicts between others - of course we then broke into two camps and the rest, as they say, is history)

Making others like us is not working. Neither is blindly backing the play of a handful of "enduring" allies. Working to allow others everywhere to be more like themselves but without being able to abuse their neighbors is better, IMO.

carl
01-11-2014, 08:06 PM
Bob Jones I am ashamed of you. You can do a lot better than that. Some of those things are so broad or so anodyne they can mean anything and everything to any and everybody.

You did include freedom of religion. That is good. But that is one of the exact things the takfiri killers are adamantly opposed to. We should recognize that aspect of their behavior and openly oppose it. I am not sure we do that effectively.

Dayuhan
01-11-2014, 11:06 PM
When we slant it should be toward some clearly stated set of principles that we stand for. I think FDR's vision for a post WWII world is a good start point for such a discussion

1. The four freedoms: From fear and want, freedom of speech and religion;
2. The right of self-determination of governance
3. The end of colonialism (or other excessive unwanted external influence over ones governance and day to day lives);
4. The four policemen (in 1945 that was the US, China, Russia and the UK forming a network dedicated to deterring conflicts between others - of course we then broke into two camps and the rest, as they say, is history)

Making others like us is not working. Neither is blindly backing the play of a handful of "enduring" allies. Working to allow others everywhere to be more like themselves but without being able to abuse their neighbors is better, IMO.

Not bad as principles go, but the first two points deal with domestic issues, and the US can't do much to assure them in other countries without violating the 3rd principle.

I don't think much of the world is terribly keen on anyone acting as "policeman", especially where internal issues are concerned. The perception, warranted or not, is always that the "policemen" are acting primarily to advance their own interests.

Ray
06-17-2014, 09:07 AM
Food for thought

The Rise of Muslim Fundamentalism
http://www.danielpipes.org/5327/the-rise-of-muslim-fundamentalism