Why The Neutralist? The term Isolationist implies a narrow Fortress America outlook and is used as an epithet. The term Neutralist does not indicate someone hiding out from the world. No one calls the Swiss isolationists. The Wilsonian world view is old, tired and wrong. Our interventions have been less and less successful and now the failure can no longer be covered up.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sic Semper Tyrannis, the two Paddies write well about the Middle East

Sic Semper Tyrannis is one of the best sites about intel and foreign policy on the internet.  It may be the best, but as I have not been elevated to the papacy, it might be correct to not speak infallibly.

Patrick Bahzad's FOCUS: modus operandi of ISIS on the tactical level explains much about the success of the forces of the neo-caliphate.  Our takeaway from his post is that whoever is running ISIS, mama didn't raise no fool.  To quote,

One of the most important things to stress about ISIS is that this is an organisation that has learnt to fight and survive – despite heavy losses – in an environment where they were totally outmatched technologically and under the constant threat of US air-power. The other decisive aspect to their military capabilities is the input of former military and intelligence personnel from the Saddam era.

In its early days, "Al Qaeda in Iraq" lacked the military, logistical and organisational skills of the former Iraqi military and it had a hard time surviving the US led "Surge". However, what was left of AQI in 2009 had merged with the ex-Baathist element and had gradually morphed into a structure that had learnt its lessons the hard way. Renamed "Islamic State in Iraq", it was led by a group of people skilled enough to seize any chance to expand and consolidate their organisation.

I remember from back in the day Hannity or someone local waxing poetic about how they had an election and democracy had taken root or something.  Well, Sunni Iraq lives and even if we come back with a few divisions, they will probably go to ground and wait us out and Monsieur Bahzad can write this column again.

Of course, we are not probably going back with a huge footprint.  That is what the other Pat dealt with in TheBorg is Screwing the Pooch in the ME.  At the beginning of the post is the painting of a crusader knight fending off besiegers, but not for long.    Colonel Lang draws the not so subtle analogy that we are not serious about our ME strategy and uses the words of General Dempsey to make the point.

He notes the general says we'll fight on even if the government falls from the network of hedgehogs.  

When pressed Dempsey said that if the Iraq government collapses we (the US Armed Forces) will fight on from our "network" of Hedgehogs assisting whoever wants help and without regard to the wishes of "the government."

Col. Lang mentions Dien Bien Phu and maybe we are in danger of that outcome.  Were I a Sunni or even a Shia, I would not believe or support anything the US did there.  I remember how we supported a revolt during Gulf War Uno and then left the people dangling.  The Colonel has mentioned the Awakening several times.  We are not all that trustworthy.

Good luck with those lilypads.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Bourbon Bob explains it all, again

Talleyrand said of the Bourbon dynasty "they had learned nothing and forgotten nothing". It is said so often that it is a commonplace. That does not mean it is never valid.

The royal house still reigns in Spain and Luxembourg. As to their learning and memory, who knows? What interests us here is that another branch of the dynasty has arisen. We give you, Bob I of Bourbon-Kaplan.

Robert Kaplan is a well known writer most famous for his The Coming Anarchy. It was a prediction that the world was going to hell in a handbasket and it gained him no little notoriety. His reputation has only grown and In 2011, Foreign Policy magazine named Kaplan as one of the world's "top 100 global thinkers."

His day in the sun included plumping for the Iraq war. According to his wiki page he ”participated in a secret meeting convened by then deputy secretary of defense Paul D. Wolfowitz, at which he helped draft an internal government document advocating the invasion of Iraq.  He later concluded that the war had been a mistake and expressed deep remorse for supporting it”

How deep is that remorse. Well in a 2008 Atlantic article, he does express it, but it sounds if there are a few weasel words. In Iraq:The Counterfactual Game he posits that yeah it was bad, but it coulda been worse maybe, sorta if we hadn't invaded. Of course in 2008, the disaster didn't look as bad as it does today.

In a bizarre last paragraph, he plays a disturbing numbers game.

Most fundamentally, does Iraq meet the parents’ test? Can you look parents in the eye and tell them it was worth losing their son or daughter over? As awful as it sounds, quantity matters here, for it says much about the scope of violence that is unleashed for the sake of a higher good. If there were, say, 500 sets of parents you had to look in the eye, the answer might well be yes, it was worth it, given where Iraq is today and what might have been had we not toppled Saddam. But at more than 4,000 and counting, the answer for years to come will still be no. Counterfactuals can only take you so far.”

At what point would Bob believe the test a flunk, 600 troops 2,751, 3,999? In 2015, one hopes he realizes by now only one, as in the American equivalent of the bones of Bismark's Pomeranian grenadier.

He is still an interventionist, not so long ago calling for saving Moldova, not that the Moldovans really needed saving. It appears the Moldies don't feel the need as much as our Bourbon scion thought.

The man has failed up and continues to do so. He has just had a paean to imperialism, published in Foreign Policy; The Ruins of Empire in the Middle East.

Among the imperial entities about whom he thinks positive thoughts is the Ottoman Empire. He credits them with providing safe space for all the diverse groups in their domain. When things went south under the Young Turks it didn't work so well for the Armenians, but why quibble. He also forgets the quaint practice of Devşirme or blood tax. Young boys were stolen from mom and dad and forcibly converted to Islam to serve in the Sultan's military or civil administration.

Several times in the article he uses the word “collapse” to describe what happens when such regimes, well, collapse. If they were so wonderful they might not collapse. Some of them, Iraq and Libya did not so much collapse as were pushed. The results have not been as sold.

It is true that for certain periods of time various imperia have kept a lid on violence, sometimes as deserts of peace, to mangle Tacitus. It may be true that only the heavy hand works in the Middle-East. It is also a verity that they all end, including the last western effort of Sykes-Picot.

We shall probably never know if they could sort themselves out without us because we are, in terms of the old SNL skit, the creature that wouldn't leave. Our Bourbon-Kaplan played his part. He remembers a lot, but did he learn anything? His last paragraph says it all.

Back then it was states at war; now it is sub-states. Imperialism bestowed order, however retrograde it may have been. The challenge now is less to establish democracy than to reestablish order. For without order, there is no freedom for anyone.”

Come back Saddam, all is forgiven.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

US again putting in motion to supply arms to ISIS

According to antiwar.com:

Officials: Pentagon Quietly Starts Massive New Arms Deliveries to Iraq

$1.6 Billion Fund Being Used for New Military Aid Shipments

File this under 

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.