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Thread: Syria under Bashir Assad (closed end 2014)

  1. #761
    Council Member CrowBat's Avatar
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    Hm... so, am I free to conclude that after nearly three years of useless monitoring of the civil war in Syria exclusively through the prism of 'al-Qaida's involvement', and declarations of that conflict as 'no matter of higher US interests', this 'Obama's reverse' in terms of deciding to go fighting the ISIS with a combo of US-supported Syrian insurgents and own air power - kind of caused 'shock & awe' within specific circles?

    Whether this is the case or not, this attachment might be useful for orientation of many. It might appear oversimplified, but if nothing else, it shows that there might be enough 'boots on the ground' to start what is most likely to develop into a 'major CAS campaign'.

    EDIT: there is one thing I'm missing in Obama's declaration, and that might prove crucial in the end. Perhaps I've missed it, but where is 'exit strategy'?
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    Crowbat's last post ended with:
    where is 'exit strategy'?
    In Ali Soufan's commentary yesterday in The Guardian there is this phrase, which I think explains why there is no exit strategy:
    Thirteen years later, it’s becoming clear that we have not fought a 13-year war so much as a one-year war, 13 times.
    So each year we start again. The 'Long War' is here. Needless to say Soufan writes more:http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...ars?CMP=twt_gu
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrowBat View Post
    Hm... so, am I free to conclude that after nearly three years of useless monitoring of the civil war in Syria exclusively through the prism of 'al-Qaida's involvement', and declarations of that conflict as 'no matter of higher US interests', this 'Obama's reverse' in terms of deciding to go fighting the ISIS with a combo of US-supported Syrian insurgents and own air power - kind of caused 'shock & awe' within specific circles?
    It shouldn’t shock anyone who knows there is a U.S. election coming up and that Democratic (Party) control of the Senate is at stake.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    In Ali Soufan's commentary yesterday in The Guardian there is this phrase, which I think explains why there is no exit strategy:

    So each year we start again. The 'Long War' is here. Needless to say Soufan writes more:http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...ars?CMP=twt_gu
    Two things here stand out to me...

    But the real work starts where it should have in 2001, with true grassroots opposition – a true comprehensive strategy – that is managed by regional powers and supported by the international community. This will work if regional governments don’t co-opt Obama’s plan to advance their own divisive agendas.
    The problem here is that regional governments will co-opt the plan to advance their own divisive agendas. That's inevitable, and there is no realistic way that the US or anyone else can prevent it.

    And the underlying issues – of education systems rooted in indoctrination and the suffocation of critical discourse, corruption so pervasive that it has become endemic, oppression of women that has robbed society of their contributions, and an absence of political representation that has served as the fuel of extremism – have been ignored by most governments across the near east, making it inevitable for any spark to cause a conflagration that would prove impossible to extinguish.
    This goes back to the argument from governance. It's an appealing argument in some ways: it is certainly true that if these countries were well governed, many of these problems would be much easier to manage. It's also a distinctly frustrating argument, because these countries are not well governed, and the US can neither govern them nor compel them to change the way they govern themselves.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Council Member CrowBat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    So each year we start again. The 'Long War' is here. Needless to say Soufan writes more:[URL]
    Indeed, it's tragic we're - de-facto - back to September 2001.

    Namely, after formation of this 'anti-ISIS-coalition', I cannot but conclude that the basic idea about how to tackle the threat is still very much the same like back in 2001. 'Arm and fight'.

    That said, I do not think the West is fighting the same war all over again since 13 years: too much effort was squandered for absolutely no gain in Iraq in the meantime. Instead, and tragically, it seems that nobody of responsible characters learned anything at all: instead of cleaning the 'backyard' (see: removing all the debilitating regimes in the Middle East, which are core root of the problem), the West is still happily cooperating with any of them pretending to be 'friends'.

    And one just can't 'kill' ideas: only provide more attractive alternatives.

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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrowBat View Post
    instead of cleaning the 'backyard' (see: removing all the debilitating regimes in the Middle East, which are core root of the problem), the West is still happily cooperating with any of them pretending to be 'friends'.
    Gaddafi and Mubarak are gone. Have the lives of ordinary Libyans and Egyptians improved for all that?
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Crowbat is right, from his latest post:
    And one just can't 'kill' ideas: only provide more attractive alternatives.
    For many good reasons the US and by implication all of the Western post-9/11 response has relied on "might is right". Sadly those options fail to recognise and counter that the violence of the jihadists is based on ideas and grievances.

    That is unless there is a covert operation based on a strategy which the public know nothing about. If this exists I do wonder if it has any success.

    One commentator, John Schindler refers to this in a wide-ranging commentary:http://20committee.com/2014/09/11/de...-how-to-guide/

    All this is not just about Syria!
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Two things here stand out to me...



    The problem here is that regional governments will co-opt the plan to advance their own divisive agendas. That's inevitable, and there is no realistic way that the US or anyone else can prevent it.



    This goes back to the argument from governance. It's an appealing argument in some ways: it is certainly true that if these countries were well governed, many of these problems would be much easier to manage. It's also a distinctly frustrating argument, because these countries are not well governed, and the US can neither govern them nor compel them to change the way they govern themselves.
    Well written, I have debated this with Bob's World on a number of occasions. His general premise seems to ring true, but where it fails in my opinion as a solution is in two key areas. First there seldom a collective entity known as the people or populace. Good governance to one group will be considered poor governance by another. This is a fact of life in most countries. The second area you addressed which is we have limited means to compel any government to actually govern more effectively. At the end of the day it seems that understanding the failures and the consequences of poor governance are important to gain understanding/context, but if is there is something that threatens our interest that resides in that country, improving governance is seldom going to reduce that threat in a timely manner. Shaping governance through engagement certainly isn't without merit, and in some cases it can be more effective than others based on a number of variables, but to assume we can always address root causes seems a bit hubristic to me. We still need to pursue options to manage threats that fall short of fixing governance, but in a way that doesn't make the problem worse. That is where the art comes in, and one can't be a good artist without understanding the subject.

    Break

    NightWatch had some interesting comments in their daily e-mail that came out last night. Can't find a web link to this report. I have no other sources to validate or refute this, but NightWatch is a respected open source intelligence service. For your consideration.

    Comment on car bombs in Baghdad, which supports my hypothesis that ISIL/ISIS may actually be less of a threat when configured as a military force controlling terrain than a traditional terrorist organization. We certainly have the means to make quick work of any ISIL/ISIS conventional capability and probably should, but then what?

    Comment: The efforts by the Islamist extremists to terrorize Shiite neighborhoods and probe for weaknesses in Iraqi security continue. They are impervious to the announced US campaign because the bombers mingle among the civilian population. Suicide and other bombings will continue.
    Does anyone else have other reports validating this claim?

    Reaction to the US President's speech. The so-called moderate Syrian Islamists announced that they are allied to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). That destroys any expectations that moderate Muslims would work with the US effort.
    Sounds like 2003 all over again.

    Turkey announced that the US cannot use any of its bases or resources in fighting ISIL Turkey also will permit no US soldiers in Turkey for the purpose of fighting ISIL.
    CIA announced that the upper limit of ISIL fighting strength is 31,500. This number is significantly higher than the number used earlier in the week. The nature of the fight continues to escalate.

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    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    On the subject of governance -

    IMO it's not so much 'good' or 'effective' government but pluralistic government that has the greatest impact on stability. Before the proliferation of mass communications and weapons of mass destruction, resistance to repressive government would be more easily curtailed - now, any one man with sufficient amount of explosives or fear can have a significant impact on the course of history. So fundamentally there needs to be a shift towards promoting inclusive government rather than repressing the opposition.

    Further - the U.S. with its large size, diversity, and history of populism should be a good case study on effective and pluralistic government. The trend is one towards greater emancipation and participation (notwithstanding recent developments in wealth inequality) as well as generally well-armed and well-funded government controlled by multiple competing interests. Part of this comes from the strength of its institutions, part from well-practiced political norms learned through painful (and usually violent) experiences, and part through active civic agitation. In the Middle East, none of these conditions exist in any amount of sufficiency (except perhaps Israel, Turkey, and Iran), and with the entrenched role of the military in many of these states' political economy, it will take a mass movement to overcome them.
    Last edited by AmericanPride; 09-12-2014 at 04:07 PM.
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    Further - the U.S. with its large size, diversity, and history of populism should be a good case study on effective and pluralistic government.
    This is the type of thinking that repeatedly gets us in trouble. We naively assume that the great experiment we have implemented in America can be implemented in any country despite entrenched cultures that are not receptive to pluralistic governance. We're so hubristic in this regard we assumed we could fix bayonets and push an oppressive government out, and then a stable democracy would "naturally" emerge because it is a natural law.

    While we may have the American idea for over two centuries it has taken us well over 200 years to even coming close to recognizing it, and yet we insist on imposing our ideology on others. Lets not forget the U.S. has more people in prison than any other nation other than China, and I think that is relevant. We enforce the rule of law with an increasingly militant police force and a less flexible legal system. Perhaps out of necessity, but if that is the case it indicates that our pluralistic form of governance is not working for all, so like any other nation we have our percentage of malcontents. The problems are significantly worse in Iraq and Syria. Pluralistic governance seems like a great idea, but I still question its feasibility as a solution in many countries. Then it begs the question do we care more about the form of government or human rights? Can a more oppressive government effectively suppress ethnic hatred within its society, leading to an uncomfortable peace? Or is it better to remove these governments and push for ballots instead of reason? The results in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya indicate we need to rethink this.

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    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill
    We naively assume that the great experiment we have implemented in America can be implemented in any country despite entrenched cultures that are not receptive to pluralistic governance.
    I didn't state anything of the sort - I said it would be a "good case study". Given the challenges to U.S. stability, what are some of the lessons that can be learned from American experiences (both the failures and the accomplishments)? Some may be translatable to other contexts - others not. And it's huge intellectual leap from saying U.S. experiences may be useful for understanding governance to the conclusion that we ought to impose the American form of government on other countries by force of arms.

    Also - what makes a culture "not receptive to pluralistic governance"? I'm curious about the historiography of U.S. military thought on governance and where this obession with culture emerged. Why is the relationship between governance and culture the sole or most important determinant of the outcome?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill
    Pluralistic governance seems like a great idea, but I still question its feasibility as a solution in many countries.
    That depends on how you define the problem in those countries. If the problem is governance, then I think a strong case could be made for pluralistic reform. If the problem is something else (like the impact on U.S. security) - well, that requires a different answer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill
    Then it begs the question do we care more about the form of government or human rights?
    That's a good question. Officially, yes, the U.S. government does care about the form of government and human rights. That does not always work out well in practice. The underlying question is should we? That's a far more difficult question to answer. From the earliest days of its history, the U.S. has had an ideological (and religous) component to its foreign policy. I think the answer to this question depends upon where you start and where you want to end up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill
    Can a more oppressive government effectively suppress ethnic hatred within its society, leading to an uncomfortable peace?
    Yes - but what does "effectively" mean in practice, for how long, and at what cost? And is it useful to frame the problem as "ethnic hatred"? What if we framed the problem as the distribution of power? The problem with the cultural reading of conflict is that it's essentialist - you have to accept that at some fundamental level different cultures are inherently incompatible. This makes it easier to dimiss practical solutions. But the problem is that no one can ever define exactly where and how ethnicity or culture are inherently conflictual. But how cultures and ethnicities are shaped and relate to one another through systems (i.e. the political process or the state) creates contradictions, and therefore conflict. And those problems can be fixed.

    Let's take a look at U.S. race relations, specifically between blacks and whites. Is there anything inherent and blacks and whites in America that make conflict likely between them? Or has been a history of specific political and economic relations (i.e. slavery, disenfranchisement) that have shaped the conflicts between the two groups? If we consider the process of emancipation and political reform in the U.S. (Reconstruction, Civil Rights Movement, etc), there has been a long and mostly deliberate process in dismantling the system of conflict and creating peaceable relations between the two groups in an integrated society. Part of the problem in ethnic conflicts is that the underlying political structure defines the relationship between groups as conflictual but this is often written off as a cultural conflict, not a structural one. When one group occupies resource rich land and the other does not - that's a structural problem, not a cultural one. When one group has education or wealth not accessible by the other group - that's a structural problem. There's a long list. So we need to be careful in how we frame problems of ethnic conflict.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill
    Or is it better to remove these governments and push for ballots instead of reason? The results in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya indicate we need to rethink this.
    I don't think it's a question of 'reason' versus non-reason. The people that pushed for the policies in Afghanitsan, Iraq, and Libya had very specific narratives for how the world functions and this colored their perception and decisions. This inherently becomes an onotological problem in figuring out what is the 'ground truth' and how to act on it. It's not only in defining "effective" government - but effective for whom? And how to implement it. And why "we", the U.S., should be the ones doing it. Can those questions ever be answered in a way that satisfies everyone? Probably not - so it's important to build a political process that is capable of managing that kind of diversity and ambiguity.

    EDIT: FYI - by pluralistic governance I do not mean "U.S. republicanism". I mean government that makes stakeholders out of the maximum range of participants available and gives each equal access to the mechanisms of power. How that is structured in any specific context depends on the context.
    Last edited by AmericanPride; 09-12-2014 at 06:27 PM.
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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrowBat View Post
    Instead, and tragically, it seems that nobody of responsible characters learned anything at all: instead of cleaning the 'backyard' (see: removing all the debilitating regimes in the Middle East, which are core root of the problem), the West is still happily cooperating with any of them pretending to be 'friends'.
    Just out of curiosity... which regimes specifically do you propose to remove, and what do you propose to do in those countries once the regimes are removed?
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

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    Council Member CrowBat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    ... The second area you addressed which is we have limited means to compel any government to actually govern more effectively. At the end of the day it seems that understanding the failures and the consequences of poor governance are important to gain understanding/context, but if is there is something that threatens our interest that resides in that country, improving governance is seldom going to reduce that threat in a timely manner....
    My English is not good enough to describe the following in an as eloquent fashion, and my style seems to appear rather 'aggressive' although there's no intention to be such: yet, it is indeed so that I cannot but wonder about some expressions here.

    Are you sure that it's 'seldom' that the US can change the way some of its allies are governed? Or isn't it so that this is next to never attempted?

    Then when it's attempted, then there is 'no problem' to change things.

    Let's consider the latest (known to me) example of an 'intervention' (of sort) in one of countries in question: removal of famous Prince Bandar from his post as Chief of Saudi Intel.

    Frustrated by Obama's indecision on Syria, Bandar became a vocal propagator of the idea 'Saudis are going to do all it on their own'. I'm too lazy to search for all the possible links, but '5 minutes of googling' should be enough to find out that as of autumn 2012 and through early 2013, certain papers were full of statements by various Saudi ambassadors essentially stating the same, plus reports about massive Saudi purchases of specific arms for insurgents (usually such that could be obtained only from one source, which was motivated with the idea that should any end in 'wrong hands', these wrong hands couldn't get spares and ammo for them).

    Then there was that issue of the FBI's report on 9/11...and bam! Because Sauds are such valuable friends one couldn't ruin relations with them: thus, Obama made it clear to Abdullah that the US are a 'senior partner' in that relationship - and Bandar has to go. In exchange for this, parts of the 9/11 report damning Saudis for their support and involvement were 'weakened' or even deleted.

    If it's 'so easy' to kick out an important and highly influential minister, why to hell should there be a problem to force them to do many other things too? Except it is so that there is _no_ interest to force them to change anything, because that would jeopardise own interests?

    For example because dictatorships are easier to control than pluralist societies...?

    Of course, there are better - or, should I say, 'more humane' - examples from the past too, like imposing a parliament upon the emir of Kuwait in exchange for liberating his sheikdom, back in 1990. Why is it so that nobody recalls that?

    But then, that's only 'one more indicator' that it's really anything but 'seldom' that certain 'friends' can be forced into specific decisions.

    We certainly have the means to make quick work of any ISIL/ISIS conventional capability and probably should, but then what?
    Then you'll have to offer 'them' - all those presently more than happy to join the ISIS - more attractive alternatives than the ISIS could.

    Otherwise, you'll have another al-Qaida, another ISIS, another whatever else - at latest in another 10-15 years. Otherwise, this war of which you're tired, is never going to end.

    Yet the fact is: you can't offer such alternatives while upholding bigot, corrupt, and oppressive regimes.

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    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv
    Gaddafi and Mubarak are gone. Have the lives of ordinary Libyans and Egyptians improved for all that? .
    The problems in Egypt and Libya are structural - they won't be fixed just by removing the old regime; there has to be an active process in constructing a new system of political and economic relations. In Egypt specifically this means bypassing or removing the entrenched military elite that owns something like 20% of the country's economic activity. With that kind of dependency on the military as an institution, there should not be any surprise that changes faces in power doesn't really change who exercises that power. We talk about state-building in the context of rebuilding a state after destroying it in war - why not talk about state-building in the context of reform prior to war?
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    Indeed: 'state-building before it provides growing ground for extremism'.

    BTW, it's much more than 20% of the Egyptian economy that is owned by the military elite. The 'problem' in assessing the actual situation is that much of that military elite consists of retired generals. Best example is tourist industry: any 'decent' brigadier or major-general there owns at least a hotel, or construction business or something of that kind.

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    Council Member CrowBat's Avatar
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    BTW, some more 'food for thoughts' for Bill...

    Lets not forget the U.S. has more people in prison than any other nation...
    This is not the least a 'good example' for the topic on hand. Namely, the US has its own reasons for problems of this kind.

    A 'stupid' example, if you like: narcotics...Primarily enjoyed almost exclusively by privileged classes and Chinese immigrants at earlier times, until somebody in (I think it was) California came to 'the idea' of declaring them illegal because he had something against cheap labour offered by Chinese immigrants... and meanwhile, with many of prisons being run by private, commercial persons/companies: well, running a prison in the US is a highly profitable business. Thus, there is 'special' interest in keeping these prisons full...

    The problems are significantly worse in Iraq and Syria. Pluralistic governance seems like a great idea, but I still question its feasibility as a solution in many countries.
    Pluralism functions everywhere, Bill - and that without a single exception.

    (There are meanwhile even al-Qaida theologists preaching pluralism and democracy.)

    The only difference are 'disturbing factors': in the USA it's the 'lobbying', somewhere else meddling of foreign powers because of 'special commerc...erm, national interests' (oil), quasi-religion etc., etc., etc., etc.

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrowBat View Post
    Are you sure that it's 'seldom' that the US can change the way some of its allies are governed? Or isn't it so that this is next to never attempted?
    It's seldom attempted because Americans have finally figured out that it doesn't work. Might get a cosmetic shuffling of faces, a few paper "reforms" that are not enforced or taken seriously... but not meaningful change in governance. These countries are governed the way they are for a reason: the people that run them want them run that way and see substantive change as a threat to their own power.

    Quote Originally Posted by CrowBat View Post
    Let's consider the latest (known to me) example of an 'intervention' (of sort) in one of countries in question: removal of famous Prince Bandar from his post as Chief of Saudi Intel.
    Let's not pretend that Bandar's removal was solely or even primarily due to US pressure. Bandar had made a pile of enemies in his own tent and a lot of people in Riyadh wanted him out. When Syria didn't go as he wished, and when it became clear that he no longer had the capacity to get the US to do the Saudi dirty work for them, his days were numbered.

    Quote Originally Posted by CrowBat View Post
    Frustrated by Obama's indecision on Syria, Bandar became a vocal propagator of the idea 'Saudis are going to do all it on their own'.
    What indecision? Obama made the decision to stay out and stuck to that decision, at least until now, when indecisiveness really is creeping in. He may not have made the decision that you (or Bandar) wanted, but that's not indecision.

    Quote Originally Posted by CrowBat View Post
    If it's 'so easy' to kick out an important and highly influential minister, why to hell should there be a problem to force them to do many other things too? Except it is so that there is _no_ interest to force them to change anything, because that would jeopardise own interests?
    It was only "easy" because powerful people in Riyadh also wanted it done. If you think the US can compel any fundamental change in the way the Saudis govern, think again. What leverage does the US have that could force such a change?

    Quote Originally Posted by CrowBat View Post
    For example because dictatorships are easier to control than pluralist societies...?
    Possibly so, but the US doesn't have a great track record at controlling either. Certainly the US does not control or even significantly influence the Saudis and the other Gulf monarchies. They do what they want. Look what happened when the US tried to pressure Bahrain to respond to their Arab Spring demonstrations with accommodation and reform. That's a good example of how much influence the US has when serious matters of governance are on the line.

    Quote Originally Posted by CrowBat View Post
    Of course, there are better - or, should I say, 'more humane' - examples from the past too, like imposing a parliament upon the emir of Kuwait in exchange for liberating his sheikdom, back in 1990. Why is it so that nobody recalls that?
    Possibly because that kind of leverage doesn't exist without a foreign occupier... and has the pattern of governance in Kuwait really changed that much?

    Quote Originally Posted by CrowBat View Post
    Then you'll have to offer 'them' - all those presently more than happy to join the ISIS - more attractive alternatives than the ISIS could.
    Who's "you" in that picture? The US hasn't the right, obligation, or capacity to offer alternative forms of governance to nations in the Middle East. They have to build those for themselves.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Crowbat

    While I agree with some of your ideas about pluralism, better alternatives, etc., those ideas are not ideas that "we" can put into practice for others. It is sort of like the super model who looks good on the cover of a magazine after considerable air brushing, but when you see in person she is not much more than a plain Jane. There is a gap between the ideas you're proposing we pursue and the means to do so.

    Where I principally disagree with you is that you seem to assume that if we do X then Y will happen. The real world doesn't work that way, there are many factors influencing the outcome of situation beyond what we do. All to often we have to relearn that lesson. Our actions are not necessarily going to be deterministic, they'll just be part of a larger whole. Providing support to various so called moderate insurgent groups could work in our favor, may not have any effect, and could backfire on us. To assume we have perfect control of the outcomes is hubris. We have to make educated assumptions on probable outcomes, and consider if the worst case happens is the risk worth the potential gain?

    If we knew how Iraq was going to turn out, do you think Congress would have supported it if we could all go back in time? Some predicted what would happen in Iraq quite accurately, but that doesn't mean they knew. They made an educated assumption. Others assumed we could easily defeat Saddam's military (we did), and then the people would embrace as liberators and they would welcome democracy (they didn't). We learned that there was considerable tension between the ethnic groups, we learned Iran gained considerable sway with the Shia community, we learned that removing all the Ba'athists resulted basically in removing any semblance of governance, opening up control of the state/or sub-regions to a wide range of actors competing for control. Most importantly I hoped we learned the world will do things we don't anticipate, and there are no easy wars where the outcome is certain.

    Indeed: 'state-building before it provides growing ground for extremism'.
    That is the theory, but it is important to note that others are competing with us to build their version of a state. Unless we completely bring an adversary to their knees, which we haven't done since WWII it is unlikely we'll be able to build a state. We can help the locals build their state, but if there isn't a common vision for what that state should look like between the warring parties then state building will continue to be a distant dream outside the realm of reality.

    Let's consider the latest (known to me) example of an 'intervention' (of sort) in one of countries in question: removal of famous Prince Bandar from his post as Chief of Saudi Intel.

    Frustrated by Obama's indecision on Syria, Bandar became a vocal propagator of the idea 'Saudis are going to do all it on their own'. I'm too lazy to search for all the possible links, but '5 minutes of googling' should be enough to find out that as of autumn 2012 and through early 2013, certain papers were full of statements by various Saudi ambassadors essentially stating the same, plus reports about massive Saudi purchases of specific arms for insurgents (usually such that could be obtained only from one source, which was motivated with the idea that should any end in 'wrong hands', these wrong hands couldn't get spares and ammo for them).
    First off I have no idea if we facilitated the removal of Bandar, but even if we did that doesn't mean we can facilitate good governance. We probably just paid someone off to get rid of someone we didn't like. That doesn't change the culture of a government.

    It is certainly worth surfacing all ideas for consideration, but we should also be critical and realistic about each idea. If we decide to pursue it, fine but we have to watch for signs it isn't working and have back up plans and adjust as needed. Although we preach this, I have seldom seen it done.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    but if there isn't a common vision for what that state should look like between the warring parties then state building will continue to be a distant dream outside the realm of reality.
    How much effort is actually placed in building a "common vision" between different internal actors? This kind of facilitation/mediation does work when applied appropriately but it's the kind of work that is often difficult and long-term; not exactly the kind of thing that succeeds in when passions are high and elections are near. I think the U.S. can do a much better job in this part of it's soft-power / smart-power tool kit.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    ...Where I principally disagree with you is that you seem to assume that if we do X then Y will happen. The real world doesn't work that way...
    Perhaps it does, perhaps not.

    If we follow what's said by that gent who said he was ordered to go to the elected pres of Ecuador, and tell him he either has to follow US instructions and - between others - indebt the country forever by taking development loans from the World Bank, or he's going to get assassinated (and this happened just a few months later)... then sorry, but yes, we have to assume that if 'we' do X then Y will happen.

    (And 'we' can only be the USA, then here in the EU we don't have strong, united foreign policy that would matter on international plan and be supported with the use of force as necessary, but 27 sets of entirely different commercial interests supported by lame and slowly applied economic sanctions.)

    Translated to the ME, characters like Abdullah know all too well how dependable on Western support for their survival they all are, and that's why they shut up when said to shut up. All provided somebody comes to the idea to tell them to shut up - instead 'bowing - to tie shoelaces, of course'...

    And regarding 'many factors': fact is that sanctions like travel bans (i.e. a la 'you'll not go to Geneva to drown yourself in cognac, buy yourself 1001st Rolex and enjoy Ukrainian whores until you order your police and intel to finally stop all the private donations for AQ and similar idiots') are really easy to impose. They would hit the selected few, 1000% sure and send a strong signal that proverbial sh!t has hit the fan and enough is now enough.

    Anything is better but hushing up such facts like FBI's findings that the wife of the Saudi ambassador financed the 9/11 idiots (and I don't want to know what kind of possible connections can be found behind bombings in London or in Madrid; not only that local intels imposed extremely strict bans on any kind of relevant reporting but it's a 'historic fact' that such affairs are even easier to hush up here in the EU).

    If we knew how Iraq was going to turn out, do you think Congress would have supported it if we could all go back in time?
    Iraq is, IMHO, an extremely rare, very special case - where the entire nation went after an idiotic president like a flock of sheep follows its shepherd into a slaughter.

    Frankly Bill, I was monitoring what was going on back then 'front row, legs free' as we say it here, and simply couldn't believe what's going on. Until then, I could never imagine Americans going that 'retard'. There was no sane discussion of pros and cons, no argumentation, no critique, nothing. Even within the IC it was like in a church with worshipers repeating dogmas and reciting in trance, 'The president said, the SecState said, the MOD said, the president said, and amen...'

    The entire affair stood in absolutely no relation to 9/11, yet everybody was happy to forget what was all the uproar about - and plunge into that catastrophe too. Perhaps it's really so that in such cases your nation functions like broken software, and whenever in doubt wants back to mama. It's definitely so that when facing a hard-to-determine sort of threat, it selected a kind of enemy that was much easier to determine...

    Now, whether everybody there was bribed, or so shocked by 9/11 that nobody could see further than the tip of one's nose... no clue. But, like I mentioned in my post above, it's tragic that even 13 years later nobody learned anything about Islamic extremism at all. The only difference is that nowadays every conflict with potential involvement of the USA is seen through the prism of that 'Iraq mistake'.

    Some predicted what would happen in Iraq quite accurately, but that doesn't mean they knew. They made an educated assumption.
    Sorry, nah. The people I happen to know have clearly said things like, 'well, beg your pardon, but all that's missing are 100kg of Sarin, that's a clear matter of fact - and Curveball is bull-####ting'. The only thing such people couldn't believe was how short their careers became, and how fast they found themselves on receiving end of utterly destroying defamation campaigns.

    So, no 'educated guessing' there: that was a 'system error', the decision taken was completely wrong and against any better advice - and all of that was clear right from the start.

    First off I have no idea if we facilitated the removal of Bandar...
    Admittedly, what I mentioned above is my theory, an 'educated guess' if you like - also based on 'uproar' it caused within specific circles of the Saudi military: but, sigh, the timing was EXTREMELY strange, simply too much to be an 'accident'.

    Overall Bill: such 'things' are doable, and not only 'seldom'. It's just about what 'things' the US decides to do, and what not.

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