The US and the Kurds: no debt owed 7

To serve another’s needs at the cost of disservice to one’s own, may be a virtue when a person does it (though we don’t think it is, any more than Ayn Rand did); but when a state serves the interests of another state at the cost of its own, it is incontrovertibly wrong. It is a betrayal of the people by their government.

President Trump, whose responsibility it is to serve American interests before all else and does so unfalteringly, recently announced that he was withdrawing US soldiers from a region of Syria where there are many Kurds, and letting Turkish troops enter the zone – as the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, intends they shall. The reaction of many conservatives, including Trump supporters, as well as liberals and Leftists, has been an outbreak of passionate concern for the Syrian Kurds.

“Turkey is the enemy of the Kurds and will surely slaughter them,” the cry goes up. “The Kurds have been our faithful allies. They helped us, and now we are abandoning them. Betraying them. Letting them down. Who will ever trust us again?”

Sober conservative voices have argued differently. Among them is Andrew C. McCarthy, from whose article in the National Review, disagreeing with that periodical’s editorial position, we quote:

The Kurds have been our allies against ISIS, but it is not for us that they have fought. They fight ISIS for themselves, with our help.

The US has helped the Kurds more than the Kurds have helped the US. 

They are seeking an autonomous zone and, ultimately, statehood. The editorial fails to note that the Kurds we have backed, led by the YPG (People’s Protection Units), are the Syrian branch of the PKK (the Kurdistan Worker’s Party) in Turkey. The PKK is a militant separatist organization with Marxist-Leninist roots.

During the Cold War, the PKK was one of a multitude of murderous terrorist organizations attacking Western interests all over the world, supported in one way or another by the Soviet Union. Russia has continued to support the PKK, and in retaliation Turkey has given material and diplomatic help to Chechnya in its terrorist war against Russia.

Like it or not (and we do not) –

Turkey remains our NATO ally, even though the Erdogan government is one of the more duplicitous and anti-Western actors in a region that teems with them.

McCarthy says he “would be open to considering the removal of both the PKK from the terrorist list and Turkey from NATO”. But he adds:

For now, though, the blunt facts are that the PKK is a terrorist organization and Turkey is our ally.”

(We aren’t entirely in agreement with him there. We too want to see Turkey removed from NATO, but we do not think the PKK should be removed from the terrorist list.)

Why did the US send its military into Syria?

Our intervention in Syria has never been authorized by Congress. Those of us who opposed intervention maintained that congressional authorization was necessary because there was no imminent threat to our nation. Contrary to the [NR’s] editorial’s suggestion, having US forces “deter further genocidal bloodshed in northern Syria” is not a mission for which Americans support committing our men and women in uniform. Such bloodlettings are the Muslim Middle East’s default condition, so the missions would never end.

ISIS is an atrocious organization, its savage cruelty so extreme as to render all words of horror and outrage inadequate for description of it. It cannot but be a good thing that it has been deprived of the territory it ruled with terror. But was anything it did forbidden by the religion in whose name it acted? It is Islam that threatens us all, the whole non-Muslim world.

Barbaric jihadist groups such as ISIS (an offshoot of al-Qaeda) come into existence because of Islamic fundamentalism. But saying so remains de trop in Washington. Instead, we tell ourselves that terrorism emerges due to “vacuums” created in the absence of US forces. On this logic, there should always and forever be US forces and involvement in places where hostility to America vastly outweighs American interests.

In ISIS’s “Caliphate” that appalling ideology could be, and has been, punished by defeat. And by defeating it, the US was serving its own interests. For the duration of the battle, US interests coincided with the interests of groups oppressed by ISIS, including the Kurds. But that battle is over. No debt is owed to those who fought with us. 

The easily foreseeable conflict between Turkey and the Kurds is at hand. We are supposed to see the problem as Trump’s abandoning of US commitments. But why did we make commitments to the Kurds that undermined preexisting commitments to Turkey? The debate is strictly framed as “How can we leave the Kurds to the tender mercies of the Turks?” No one is supposed to ask “What did we expect would happen when we backed a militant organization that is tightly linked to US-designated terrorists and that is the bitter enemy of a NATO ally we knew would not abide its presence on the ally’s border?” No one is supposed to ask “What is the end game here? Are we endorsing the partition of Syria? Did we see a Kurdish autonomous zone as the next Kosovo?” (We might remember that recognition of Kosovo’s split from Serbia, over Russian objections, was exploited by the Kremlin as a rationale for promoting separatism and annexations in Georgia and Ukraine.)

It is true, as the editors observe, that “there are no easy answers in Syria”. That is no excuse for offering an answer that makes no sense: “The United States should have an exit strategy, but one that neither squanders our tactical gains against ISIS nor exposes our allies to unacceptable retribution.” Put aside that our arming of the Kurds has already exposed our allies in Turkey to unacceptable risk. What the editorial poses is not an “exit strategy” but its opposite. In effect, it would keep US forces in Syria interminably, permanently interposed between the Kurds and the Turks. The untidy questions of how that would be justifiable legally or politically go unaddressed.

President Trump, by contrast, has an exit strategy, which is to exit. He promises to cripple Turkey economically if the Kurds are harmed. If early reports of Turkey’s military assault are accurate, the president will soon be put to the test. … For a change, he should have strong support from Congress, which is threatening heavy sanctions if Turkey routs the Kurds.

Americans, however, are not of a mind to do more than that. We are grateful for what the Kurds did in our mutual interest against ISIS.

As they are to us?

We should try to help them, but no one wants to risk war with Turkey over them. The American people’s representatives never endorsed combat operations in Syria, and the president is right that the public wants out. Of course we must prioritize the denial of safe havens from which jihadists can attack American interests. We have to stop pretending, though, that if our intentions toward this neighborhood are pure, its brutal history, enduring hostilities, and significant downside risks can be ignored.

Posted under Kurds, Syria, Turkey, United States by Jillian Becker on Sunday, October 13, 2019

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Putin’s war planes approach Alaska and Canada 6

Is Putin testing Obama’s “flexibility“?

In Obamaspeak, “flexible” doesn’t mean compromising a little, bending to some extent; it means being willing to act in an unprincipled way, even perhaps to the extent of acting against one’s country’s interests.

Fox News reports:

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An F-22 fighter jet

Two U.S. F-22 fighter jets intercepted six Russian military airplanes that were flying near Alaska, military officials said Friday.

Lt. Col. Michael Jazdyk, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, said the jets intercepted the planes about 55 nautical miles from the Alaskan coast at about 7 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday.

Tensions are high between the United States and Russia as the two countries are increasingly at odds over Ukraine, where Russian-backed insurgents have been fighting for control of parts of the country.

The Russian planes were identified as two IL-78 refueling tankers, two Mig-31 fighter jets and two Bear long-range bombers. They looped south and returned to their base in Russia after the U.S. jets were scrambled.

At about 1:30 a.m. Thursday, two Canadian CF-18 fighter jets intercepted two of the long-range Russian Bear bombers about 40 nautical miles off the Canadian coastline in the Beaufort Sea.

In both cases, the Russian planes entered the Air Defense Identification Zone, which extends about 200 miles from the coastline. They did not enter sovereign airspace of the United States or Canada.

Jazdyk said the fighter jets were scrambled “basically to let those aircraft know that we see them, and in case of a threat, to let them know we are there to protect our sovereign airspace.”

In the past five years, jets under NORAD’s command have intercepted more than 50 Russian bombers approaching North American airspace.

NORAD is a binational American and Canadian command responsible for air defense in North America.

What is Putin’s intention? Why does he think he can do this?

We found answers to those question in this article by J. E. Dyer at Liberty Unyielding. Commander Jennifer Dyer is a retired US Naval intelligence officer who served for 21 years. Her articles deal with important military issues and are invariably well-informed and interesting.

Russian bombers proliferate today in the air space off North America and Europe, operating at an activity level not seen since the very height of the Cold War.  This isn’t something to shrug off.

Although it’s certainly attributable to Vladimir Putin’s current, proximate geopolitical intentions – to defy NATO, press his aggression against Ukraine, and intimidate the Baltic Republics – it’s also an expression of strategic posture harking back to the conventions of the Cold War.

Bringing out the Bears is a strategic signal.  In Europe, the Russians could use Tu-160 Blackjacks and Tu-22M Backfire bombers to fly aggressive routes around the northern perimeter.  The Blackjacks (sometimes called the “B-1-ski”) are understood to have a strategic role; the shorter-range Backfires, as dedicated bombers rather than multi-role aircraft, send a similarly aggressive signal.

But the Tu-95 Bear H bombers have for decades been the backbone of the airborne leg of Russia’s strategic “triad”:  ICBMs, ballistic-missile submarines, and nuclear-armed bombers.  When Russia deploys Bear Hs, the strategic signal is unmistakable.

Americans watching the drama unfold have a visceral sense of this, in part because the media routinely refer to the Bear Hs as “nuclear bombers.”  The Bear Hs are more properly called long-range bombers or strategic bombers; they may or may not be carrying missiles with nuclear warheads.  The aircraft are capable of carrying AS-15 “Kent” long-range cruise missiles, which were designed to be fitted with nuclear warheads, but they won’t necessarily have them mounted on a given flight. …

The post-Cold War status quo involved three fundamental features:  a mutual (U.S. and Russia) stand-down of constantly-ready nuclear forces, which occurred in the early 1990s… ; verifiable adherence by both sides to the basic elements of our arms control agreements; and continuity in the strategic postures of both parties.

The last feature was the first one to be decisively breached … Through a series of actions from 2009 to 2013, the Obama administration overturned the premise on which, for the preceding 25 years, the U.S. had negotiated for arms control and proposed to guarantee global stability.

In 1983, Reagan established missile defense, and not mutual assured destruction, as the basis for U.S. security and global stability. … Although Obama has not publicly repudiated the U.S. missile defense posture, he has dismantled it with a series of policy actions.  All but a few thousand Americans, at most, are unaware of this arcane reality – but Russian decision-makers perceive it quite clearly. …

The Russians for their own reasons have long disputed America’s missile defense-based policy.  Obama’s unilateral decision to give it up has cut the whole strategic stability situation adrift, and the Russians in 2014 are happy to take advantage of that.

Regarding the other two features of the post-Cold War status quo, Russia has been engaging in violations of both START and the INF treaty for some time now; the Bush and Clinton administrations made an issue of that, but the Obama administration has not given it importance, and violations by Moscow have become more egregious.

The US and Russia signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in 1910. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was signed by the US and the Soviet Union way back in 1987.

The weak performance of this one feature would be more tolerable if the other two were in line.  But in addition to the slow, bureaucratic collapse of the U.S. posture under Obama, Russia has since 2010 opened the door to breaching the third feature:  the stand-down of ready nuclear forces.  In 2010, Russia modified her national security strategy to permit preemptive use of nuclear weapons – a change to a policy that had stood since before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

Then, about three weeks ago, Russia publicly floated a threat through the common method of quoting a retired general in the state-run media.  This general, Yuri Yakubov (formerly the commander of Russia’s Far Eastern military district and a senior staffer in the ministry of defense), had an ominous message. Interfax quotes Retired Army General Yuri Yakubov as saying:

[The national military strategy] for the country should in the first place clearly identify the potential enemy of Russia, which is not in the military doctrine of 2010. In my view, our main enemy is the United States and the North Atlantic bloc [NATO].

In particular, in my opinion, you need to carefully consider the forms and methods of the operation of Aerospace Defence, in close cooperation with strategic nuclear deterrence forces, the Strategic Missile Forces, strategic aviation and the Navy. Thus it is necessary to study the conditions under which Russia could use the Russian strategic nuclear forces (SNF) pre-emptively.

The preemptive use of nuclear weapons implies readiness to employ them quickly, against preselected targets. …

Russia would feel much more constrained about nuclear tough talk if the United States were setting and enforcing boundaries.  But we’re not It’s essential to understand this.

Putin has his current, proximate reasons for wanting to convey threats to the U.S. and NATO – reasons having to do with perceived Russian interests in South Asia, the Far East, and the Eastern Mediterranean as much as with Eastern Europe.  But Russia wouldn’t be going high order with the overt strategic signals – the aggressive Bear flights – if Putin thought he was going to get real pushback from Washington …

Putin is pulling a really big weapon, with the accelerating implications that he feels free to break away from the post-Cold War strategic status quo.  This pattern, if nothing else, should be a clue to his seriousness.

But there are other gathering clues, such as the reports in just the last couple of weeks about frankly threatening comments he has made to European leaders.  …

Putin made [the following] statement during a conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko, who in turn, relayed his words to European Commission (EC) President Jose Manuel Barroso, during the latter’s visit to Kyiv last Friday (12 September), in which Poroshenko briefed the EU chief on threats.

If I want, Russian troops in two days could not only be in Kyiv, but also Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Warsaw and Bucharest.

Putin is burning bridges by doing this.  He is clearly not trying to hold out hope of a restored status quo.

And that in turn means that the “push” has started: the push from a former stakeholder that will cause the status quo to fully collapse.

An F-22 from the 302d Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf AFB, AK intercepts a Russian Tu-95MS Bear H. (USAF image

An F-22 from the 302d Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf AFB, AK intercepts a Russian Tu-95MS Bear H. (USAF image)

A different, darker vision 5

Anne Applebaum, one of a small but distinguished team of conservative columnists at the otherwise heavily left-leaning Washington Post, is also one of the most well-informed writers anywhere on Russia and East Europe.

Today she writes (in part):

Openly or subconsciously, since 1991, Western leaders have acted on the assumption that Russia is a flawed Western country. 

In the 1990s, many people thought Russian progress … simply required new policies: With the right economic reforms, Russians would sooner or later become like us. Others thought that if Russia joined the Council of Europe, and if we turned the G-7 into the G-8, then sooner or later Russia would absorb Western values. …

Still others thought that Russia’s forward progress required a certain kind of Western language, a better dialogue. When the relationship deteriorated, President Bush blamed President Clinton. President Obama blamed President Bush. …  Back in 1999, the New York Times Magazine ran a cover story titled Who Lost Russia? Much discussed at the time, it argued that we’d lost Russia “because we pursued agendas that were hopelessly wrong for Russia” and given bad economic advice. In The Post last week, a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Jack Matlock, echoed President Putin and argued that the United States, by “treating Russia as the loser,” is responsible for the current crisis. …

[But] Russian politics have never been all about us. In truth, we’ve had very little influence on Russian internal politics since 1991, even when we’ve understood them. The most important changes — the massive transfer of oil and gas from the state to the oligarchs, the return to power of men formed by the KGB, the elimination of a free press and political opposition — took place against our advice. The most important military decisions — the invasions of Chechnya and Georgia — met with our protests. Though many appear to believe otherwise, the invasion of Crimea was not primarily intended to provoke the West, either.

Putin invaded Crimea because Putin needs a war. In a time of slower growth, and with a more restive middle class, he may need some more wars, too. …

But … the Crimean invasion might have a bigger effect on the West than even he intended. In many European capitals, the Crimean events have been a real jolt. For the first time, many are beginning to understand that … Russia is not a flawed Western power. Russia is an anti-Western power with a different, darker vision of global politics.

For twenty years, nobody has thought about how to “contain” Russia. Now they will. … Strategic changes … should flow from our new understanding of Russia. We need to re-imagine NATO, to move its forces from Germany to the alliance’s eastern borders. We need to reexamine the presence of Russian money in international financial markets, given that so much “private” Russian money is in fact controlled by the state. We need to look again at our tax shelters and money-laundering laws, given that Russia uses corruption as a tool of foreign policy. Above all we need to examine the West’s energy strategy, given that Russia’s oil and gas assets are also used to manipulate European politics and politicians, and find ways to reduce [Europe’s energy] dependence [on Russia].

Obama is doing everything he can to make sure the Russian nuclear arsenal will be bigger and more technologically efficient than ours.  He, and the Left in general, will not call Russia an enemy – but that’s what Russia is: the enemy of the West. Could it possibly be the case that Obama and the Left in general are on Russia’s side? Does the Left see an ally in any country or ideology that is against America?

*

Is Estonia next on Putin’s list for invasion and annexation? It is a member of NATO. Will Putin risk war with NATO? Or does he calculate that the US under Obama will not permit NATO to obey it’s own charter ( in particular Article 5) and defend any member state that is attacked?

The BBC reports:

Russia signaled concern on Wednesday at Estonia’s treatment of its large ethnic Russian minority, comparing language policy in the Baltic state with what it said was a call in Ukraine to prevent the use of Russian. Russia has defended its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula by arguing it has the right to protect Russian speakers outside its borders … “

(We took the quotation from this article – Why Obama Scares Me – by Mona Charen at Townhall.)

America’s humble defense 1

It seems that the (misnamed) “War on Terror” is over – not because Islam has been defeated, or Muslims have stopped waging jihad but because the US will no longer resist it.

America’s anti-America president would rather the US military does not fight. Maybe he’d allow it to do a little social work abroad now and then. But the US should have nothing as nasty as a formidable military capability.

This is from the Washington Post:

For most of the past year, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has stressed that the vast military complex over which he presides is at a “strategic turning point.”

A decade of grinding guerrilla war is drawing to a close. Defense budgets are shrinking. The implication is that major changes are coming to the military. …

And what is this civilian with no experience whatsoever of military service doing about it?

The watchword for Panetta’s tenure, senior defense officials said, has been “humble.”

“He’s told the service chiefs to be humble in their predictions of warfare,” one senior official said.

Be humble in their predictions? What does that mean? Humbly predict? Or predict US humbleness?

In an interview describing his defense strategy, Panetta said he has helped craft an approach that hedges bets against a range of potential enemies. “It really does provide maximum flexibility,” he said.

You bet they won’t attack you, and as you’re not committed to any kind of response  (“flexibility”) you won’t have to do anything in particular about it if they do?

The military is going to be smaller … “

Ah-hah!

“… but it is going to be more agile, more flexible …”

No fixed orders, no fixed plan, no fixed aim?

… and more deployable so that it moves fast and stays on the cutting edge of technology.”

Drones then, mainly?

Panetta’s vision is notable for some of the big questions left unanswered. A highly touted promise to shift the military’s focus to Asia has produced little in the way of major new deployments. Nine months after it was unveiled, there is scant evidence of how it will be implemented.

This is a time when you would expect an intense focus on where we want to go and what we want to be,” said Andrew Hoehn, a senior vice president at the Rand Corp. and a former Pentagon strategist. Hoehn said such a debate does not appear to be happening inside the Pentagon or in the presidential campaigns, which have largely ignored national security issues.

Although the war in Iraq has ended and troops are being withdrawn from Afghanistan, Panetta has not pressed the ground forces to conduct a tough and detailed examination of their performance in the two long and costly wars, said Eliot Cohen, a military historian at Johns Hopkins University and an adviser to Mitt Romney’s campaign.

In recent years, Army and Marine Corps officers have tended to blame their struggles on the State Department and other federal agencies, which were unable to provide the necessary help to rebuild the war-torn countries’ governments and economies.

Were unable to rebuild the enemies’ economies?  Well then, the news isn’t  all bad. Though the US did waste a vast amount of energy and money trying to do just that.

Cohen said the finger-pointing has prevented the ground services from acknowledging their own shortcomings, such as their inability to produce a core of experts in the culture, politics, history and languages of the two countries where they have spent most of the past decade fighting.

But since when have countries needed to be familiar with the culture, politics, history and languages of their enemies? The only mission has always been to defeat them.

Panetta said he would like to see the military do more in this area. “I think we have to look at the lessons that we draw, particularly from these last 10 years of war,” he said. “I’m not satisfied. I think more needs to be done.”

Good grief! Far too much social work has been done by the US military in Afghanistan. (See our posts Heroic inaction May 19, 2010; No victory or something like that June 15, 2010; No reason at all April 19, 2011.)

The Obama administration’s defense strategy, meanwhile …

So they do have one?

… plays down the likelihood of the military fighting major counterinsurgency wars in the coming years.

Not a likelihood of their having to fight such wars, but just not fighting them in any circumstances.

To that end, Panetta has ordered the Army to shrink to about 490,000 soldiers by 2017, a reduction of about 80,000 that will leave the force slightly larger than it was before Sept. 11, 2001.

A surprise pick to run the CIA in 2009, Panetta had spent most of his career as a congressman from California and … in the Clinton administration, including a stint as White House chief of staff.

Even after two and a half years at the CIA and 14 months at the Pentagon, Panetta’s speeches tend to steer clear of the kinds of detailed policy prescriptions and tough questions that were routine under Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, his immediate predecessor.

“Do we really need 11 [aircraft] carrier strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?” Gates asked a Navy audience in 2010. He also challenged the Marines to consider whether, in an era of increasingly precise cruise missiles, they would be called upon again to storm an enemy’s shore — a question that cuts to the core of the Marines’ identity.

Gates’s goal was to encourage lower-ranking officers to challenge military pieties. By contrast, Panetta sometimes sounds more like a congressman representing the “Pentagon district” than the leader of the world’s largest military. …

Contradictorally, he is against the devastating reduction in the defense budget that the Obama administration proposes.

“It’s mindless, and it will . . . do incredible damage to our national defense,” Panetta said last month in a speech in New York.

But then, he is not a man who worries overmuch about depleting public funds:

As he did during his days as a congressman, Panetta spends most weekends in California, commuting home on a military jet at a cost of more than $800,000 as of this spring, the latest figures available. …

Although the Washington Post states that “the current list of crises stretches from growing unrest in Syria and Iran’s nuclear ambitions to a new leader in North Korea and rising tensions between China and its neighbors around the South China Sea”, it blandly reports that Michele Flournoy, “the Pentagon’s top policy official”, declared that

For the first time in a decade, the urgent priority mission is not staring us in the face.

Got that? No urgent priority mission staring the US in the face.

Though Iran is rapidly becoming a nuclear power.

 

Humiliation 1

America, Britain, NATO  – anyway, our side –  is trying to sue for peace with the Taliban.

They’re not calling it that – they’d say they’re “asking for talks” – but it amounts to the same thing. It’s the first step in the attempt they must make to get out of the war without too great humiliation. So far, they’re not succeeding even with that low aim.

The British army chief of staff, General David Richards, egged on by US commanders, shouted out loud that “it might be useful to talk to the Taliban”.

The Taliban couldn’t help hearing, and their  answer through intermediaries is that they will not enter into any kind of negotiations with Nato forces.

That’s according to the BBC – not a source we usually trust, but the story rings true.

The Taliban statement is uncompromising, almost contemptuous.

They believe they are winning the war, and cannot see why they should help Nato by talking to them. …

June, they point out, has seen the highest number of Nato deaths in Afghanistan: 102, an average of more than three a day.

“Why should we talk if we have the upper hand, and the foreign troops are considering withdrawal, and there are differences in the ranks of our enemies?” said Zabiullah Mujahedd, [when] a trusted intermediary conveyed a series of questions to [him], the acknowledged spokesman for the Afghan Taliban leadership, and [he] gave us his answers.

“We do not want to talk to anyone – not to [President Hamid] Karzai, nor to any foreigners – till the foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan.” …

Doubts about the value of the operation are already growing in every Nato country.

The BBC  (or “Auntie Beeb” as the old harridan is often unaffectionately called in Britain) thinks that General Petraeus’s task is now to change that perception. We don’t think so. His task, as we have said, is to find a way of getting out of the war with as little humiliation as possible.

But even that’s a bad idea. Best thing would be to get out now, because the most humiliating way will be to go on trying not to be humiliated without succeeding.

Actually there must be humiliation whatever is done.

Karzai in power corruptly and/or dealing with the Taliban ? Humiliation.

NATO/US talking to the Taliban to include them in power? Humiliation.

The Taliban refusing to talk to NATO and waiting for it to leave? Humiliation.

Continuing to pretend there is an Afghan army loyal to “the nation”?  Humiliation.

Leaving next July with the same sort of mess there is now or worse? Humiliation.

Giving up on victory and preferring the word “success”? Humiliation.

Pretending Pakistan is an ally and doesn’t have its own designs on Afghanistan? Humiliation.

Trying not to be humiliated and pretending not to be? Humiliation.

Defeat on the battlefield in Marja, Kandahar, and soon all over? Utter humiliation.

Our side is thoroughly, deeply, irredeemably humiliated now. And not another American or NATO life should be lost in this hopeless and even absurd cause .

Pursuing a mirage 0

Afghanistan has never been a nation-state as the West understands such a thing.

This report shows plainly enough that any plan to meld the Afghan tribes into one democratically governed nation is doomed to failure; but it also shows how hard it is for those who imagined it could succeed to see its naivity.

Even an Afghan member of the so-called parliament, trying to fit into the Western illusion, speaks of Afghanistan being “split” as if it were a nation that might be divided into two sides, whereas in fact the region is inhabited by a plurality of feuding fiefdoms, and “splintered” would be a better word to describe the humanscape (to coin a term). An even better word might be “crazed”, in the sense of a network of cracks.

It describes how President Karzai’s attempt to bring the Taliban into a central government is the very thing that will shatter such West-compliant unity as has been tentatively achieved. And it calls this a “paradox” rather than what it is – the proof of the impossibility of a hopeless, foolish, Western fantasy, the pursuit of a mirage.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, it tells us, still think they can prevent Afghanistan being “torn apart” – as if it had even been whole, or as if they really can make their fantasy come true.

The drive by President Hamid Karzai to strike a deal with Taliban leaders and their Pakistani backers is causing deep unease in Afghanistan’s minority communities, who fought the Taliban the longest and suffered the most during their rule.

The leaders of the country’s Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara communities, which make up close to half of Afghanistan’s population, are vowing to resist — and if necessary, fight — any deal that involves bringing members of the Taliban insurgency into a power-sharing arrangement with the government.

Alienated by discussions between President Karzai and the Pakistani military and intelligence officials, minority leaders are taking their first steps toward organizing against what they fear is Mr. Karzai’s long-held desire to restore the dominance of ethnic Pashtuns, who ruled the country for generations. …

“Karzai is giving Afghanistan back to the Taliban, and he is opening up the old schisms,” said Rehman Oghly, an Uzbek member of Parliament and once a member of an anti-Taliban militia. “If he wants to bring in the Taliban, and they begin to use force, then we will go back to civil war and Afghanistan will be split.”

The deepening estrangement of Afghanistan’s non-Pashtun communities presents a paradox for the Americans and their NATO partners. American commanders have concluded that only a political settlement can end the war. But in helping Mr. Karzai to make a deal, they risk reigniting Afghanistan’s ethnic strife.

Talks between Mr. Karzai and the Pakistani leaders have been unfolding here and in Islamabad for several weeks, with some discussions involving bestowing legitimacy on Taliban insurgents.

The leaders of these minority communities say that President Karzai appears determined to hand Taliban leaders a share of power — and Pakistan a large degree of influence inside the country. The Americans, desperate to end their involvement here, are helping Mr. Karzai along and shunning the Afghan opposition, they say. …

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he was worried about “the Tajik-Pashtun divide that has been so strong.” American and NATO leaders, he said, are trying to stifle any return to ethnic violence.

“It has the potential to really tear this country apart,” Admiral Mullen said in an interview. “That’s not what we are going to permit.” …

There are growing indications of ethnic fissures inside the army. …

Prominent Afghans have begun to organize along mostly ethnic lines. ….

Recently [President Karzai] he has told senior Afghan officials that he no longer believes that the Americans and NATO can prevail in Afghanistan and that they will probably leave soon. That fact may make Mr. Karzai more inclined to make a deal with both Pakistan and the Taliban.

As for the Pakistanis, their motives are even more opaque. For years, Pakistani leaders have denied supporting the Taliban, but evidence suggests that they continue to do so. In recent talks, the Pakistanis have offered Mr. Karzai a sort of strategic partnership — and one that involves giving at least one [of the] the most brutal Taliban groups, the Haqqani network, a measure of legitimacy in Afghanistan.

“Karzai has begun the ethnic war,” said Mohammed Mohaqeq, a Hazara leader and a former ally of the president. “The future is very dark.”

What lies behind 0

The government of Turkey and its terrorist group IHH, using an assortment of useful Western idiots as cover, planned and carried out the recent incident off the coast of Gaza when Israelis enforcing the blockade of Gaza were attacked and some of the terrorists were killed. President Obama called it a “tragedy”. It was certainly not a tragedy that nine Islamic terrorists were killed; it was a small triumph. But the motivation behind the Turkish plot could be bringing about a tragedy on an immense scale.

Ryan Mauro writes this (in part) about Turkey and its Prime Minister Erdogan:

The most significant outcome of the Mavi Marmara incident is that there can no longer be any doubt that Turkey has joined the anti-Western bloc that includes Hamas, Iran and Syria. The Muslim country was once devotedly secular, an ally of Israel, and remains a member of NATO [scandalously and dangerously – it should have been expelled – JB], but under the direction of Prime Minister Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (often referred to as the AKP), Turkey has gone in the completely opposite direction with enormous strategic consequences. …

Erdogan … founded the AKP [in 2001], which took a omore moderate line, portraying itself as committed to separation of mosque and state but “faithful governance,” as Dr. Essam El-Erian, the chief of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political bureau, described the AKP’s “moderate Islamist” ideology. There was no anti-Western rhetoric and the party strongly supported membership in the European Union. [Of course they did – they wanted to inject as huge Muslim population into the EU.] The group won a large victory in the 2002 elections, resulting in Erdogan taking the post of Prime Minister.

Dr. El-Erian praised Erdogan’s victory, saying that it was the result of the “exposing of the failure of the secular trend.” El-Erian confirmed that the Muslim Brotherhood had close ties to the AKP, but the West treated Turkey as if nothing had changed. It wasn’t until Turkey steadfastly refused to allow U.S. soldiers to transit their territory to overthrow Saddam Hussein [which was when and why it should have been expelled from NATO.] that the West began questioning the allegiance of Erdogan’s government.

The Erdogan government soon began a concerted effort to fuel anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment, knowing that such feelings help the AKP politically and hurt its opponents in the secular military that have long ties to the West. The Turkish media consistently reported alleged U.S. atrocities, fanning the already massive anti-war sentiment. The outrageous claims can only be compared to the anti-Israeli propaganda seen in the Arab world and Iran, echoing similar themes such as the use of chemical weapons against civilians and the harvesting of organs from killed Iraqis.

The AKP won an even larger share of the vote in the July 2007 election and had even more dominance over the government. Since then, the ideology of Erdogan has become more apparent as Turkish opinion has become less hostile to anti-Western Islamism. Shortly after the victory, Turkey’s moves towards Iran and other enemies of the West became more visible and aggressive. ..

Erdogan’s government simultaneously became more anti-Israeli, particularly once the Israeli military offensive into Gaza began in response to the rocket attacks of Hamas. …

The Turkish-Syrian alliance began shortly after Erdogan came to power, with Syrian President Bashar Assad visiting Turkey and a free trade agreement being signed.

Turkey has also moved closer to Sudan, refusing to describe the situation in Darfur as a genocide. Erdogan’s government also opposes the International Criminal Court’s indictment of President Omar al-Bashir for human rights violations. His defense of Bashir is that “no Muslim could perpetrate a genocide.”

Now, Turkey is taking center stage in the wake of the Mavi Marmara incident. Turkey is openly considering cutting off all diplomatic ties with Israel and is saying that its warships will escort future convoys to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. There are reports that Erdogan himself may actually join a convoy. Erdogan now openly says, “I do not think that Hamas is a terrorist organization…”

Today, the government has begun the country’s “largest-ever crackdown” on the military, prosecuting 33 current and former military officers for allegedly planning a coup to overthrow the AKP government in 2003 including the former head of the special forces. Those arrested have been accused of planning to carry out acts of terrorism including the bombing of mosques, which they deny. Given the military’s pride in acting as the guardian of Turkey’s secularism, it isn’t surprising that elements of the military would desire to see the AKP overthrown. …

Erdogan’s defense of the vessel [the Mavi Marmara] owned by the IHH, a Turkish Islamist group tied to Hamas and other terrorist activity, is particularly insightful. Any true opponent of terrorism and radical Islamism would ban the group or at least officially investigate them. In 1997, the Turkish authorities raided the IHH’s office in Istanbul and made numerous arrests. IHH operatives were found with weapons-related materials and the French counterterrorism magistrate said that they were planning on supporting jihadists in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya. “The essential goal of this Association was to illegally arm its membership for overthrowing democratic, secular, and constitutional order present in Turkey and replacing it with an Islamic state founded on the Shariah,” the French magistrate’s report said.

If the goal of the IHH is to establish Sharia Law in Turkey, and Erdogan’s government is describing them as a “charity,” what does that say about Erdogan’s plans? …

The West’s loss of Turkey has frightening strategic consequences. They are so frightening that the West refused to acknowledge the trend until it became undeniable in recent weeks. …

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa that are hostile to Iran’s ambitions now face an even more threatening bloc that has been enlarged by the defection of Turkey. The temptation for them to surrender the mantle of leadership to the Iranian-Syrian-Turkish bloc in order to save themselves will now reach unprecedented levels, regardless of whether Iran obtains nuclear weapons or not.

To make matters worse, Erdogan’s prestige as the preeminent challenger of Israel will lead to competition with Iran, sparking an escalation where each side tries to establish superior anti-Israeli and anti-Western credentials. Israel is now in its most isolated and dangerous situation since its birth in 1948.

The wrong war 0

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if somehow, between now and July 2011 when American forces are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan, the Afghans could be made over into enlightened, fair-minded, peaceable people, free of old tribal conflicts, filled with a thirst for righteousness, respectful of women, eager to become law-abiding free-marketeers, and enthusiasts for establishing the customs and institutions that embody and support true democracy?

It would be more than wonderful, it would be a miracle.

But if that miracle could be worked, wouldn’t the achievement be worth the cost in blood and treasure of the long war America has been waging against the Taliban?

Some think so.

But what is actually happening among these backward, feuding, misogynistic, deeply ignorant people is a continuation of what has always been happening: feuding, subjugation of women, and savage cruelty – of which this is a very recent example from Afghan sources:

Taliban fighters have hanged a seven-year-old boy, claiming he was passing information to foreign soldiers in the volatile southern province of Helmand.

(“Volatile” is good. We like “volatile”.)

And of what is about to happen we are being nervously forewarned by US military commanders, according to this report from the Washington Post:

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Thursday that the civilian-military offensive scheduled to begin in the southern city of Kandahar this spring would take months longer than planned. The Afghan government has not produced the civilian leadership and trained security forces it was to contribute to the effort, U.S. officials said, and the support from Kandaharis that the United States was counting on Karzai to deliver has not materialized.

When you go to protect people, the people have to want you to protect them,” Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said … in explaining why the Kandahar operation has been pushed back until at least September.

“It’s a deliberative process. It takes time to convince people,” he told reporters at a meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels.

But time is short. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said this week that the U.S.-led coalition has until the end of the year to prove to the United States and its allies that their forces have broken a stalemate with the Taliban. …

In Marja, in western Helmand province, where Marines launched a major operation this year, U.S. efforts have been hindered by the absence or incompetence of Afghan officials and security forces and by the Taliban’s enduring resistance. …

Many  officials are despairing behind the scenes.

“Washington is making nice with [the corrupt President of Afghanistan] Karzai, but what good has that done?” a U.S. official in Afghanistan said. … “We need him to step up and take a leadership role, to get his government to support what we’re doing. But he’s either unwilling or unable to do it. …

In Kandahar, U.S. military officials said a complex web of official and unofficial power brokers stands to lose if efficient government and rule of law are imposed. “There are generations of families that have lived off corruption,” said 1st Lt. James Rathmann … who leads a platoon in Kandahar city …

The operational plan drawn up for Kandahar last spring began with U.S. Special Operations forces raids against individual insurgent leaders within the city and in the Taliban-heavy “bands” in surrounding districts. At the same time, U.S. civilians were to help organize shuras, or meetings of local leaders and elders, to offer development aid and encourage them to take political control. By June, more than 10,000 newly deployed U.S. troops were to begin clearing the Taliban from the outlying districts, up to 80 percent of which the military estimates is controlled by insurgents. …

McChrystal  … acknowledged that winning support from local leaders was tougher than expected. Some see the Taliban fighters as their Muslim brothers rather than oppressors; others are afraid of assassination by Taliban hit squads that target government supporters or see no advantage in challenging the existing political power structure.

“There’s no point in clearing an area until you have the capacity to do the hold, to bring governance” that does not now exist, one military official in Afghanistan said. “Without the Afghan government civilian capacity — without a district government that can provide some basic services — you’ll end up with what we’re experiencing in Marja right now.” …

Asked whether the delay leaves time for a decisive outcome by the end of the year, McChrystal was noncommittal. “It will be very clear by the end of the calendar year that the Kandahar operation is progressing,” he said. “I don’t know whether we’ll know whether it’s decisive. Historians will tell us that.”

Decisive? Changing Afghanistan forever? We don’t think so. Even if the Taliban fighters are wiped out in the forthcoming Battle of Kandahar, there will be no lasting change.

The war in Afghanistan is being fought for nothing.

The Taliban were whacked with the first offensive. The US should have withdrawn then, with a warning that if terrorists from Afghanistan attacked American targets again, they’d be whacked harder. The continuing campaign has been tragically pointless.

What American – or “coalition” – forces ought to be fighting is the urgently necessary war against the Iranian regime before it launches its nuclear attack.

From paint-balls to nukes 0

Restraint does not remove the need for war, it intensifies it.

The following was made as a comment by C. Gee on our post below, A lethal terrorist ambush, about the attempt Sunday to break Israel and Egypt’s blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza with a flotilla of ships under the auspices of Turkey.

We are moving it to our front page because what it says needs to be said:

Turkey insinuated itself into the ME “peace”. Under that cover it is promoting Muslim/Iranian interests. It is an agent provocateur and will undermine and humiliate Israel wherever it can.

There were no repercussions for Turkey when it refused entry to US troops during the Iraq war. The Turkish bluff at being a NATO ally – or a candidate for Europe – should be called. It is clear Turkey is a paid-up member of the North Korea-Iran axis. It has nuclear ambitions of its own, I have no doubt.

The Israeli government should demand an apology from Turkey – for attempting to break the blockade and for the ambush and attempted kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. If they do not receive such an apology, Israel should regard the incident as an act of war. Certainly Israel should reciprocate any summoning or recall of ambassadors.

If anything should wake Israel up to its peril, it is this incident, coinciding as it does with the US endorsement of the non-proliferation conference statement. Israel is isolated. It can expect no help from Obama. On the contrary, Obama will use this incident as cover for his stand against Israeli “intransigence”. Expect Obama to talk about being slapped in the face by Israel; about how Israel has sabotaged Obama’s peace efforts and sanctions efforts. Expect a cram-down of the two-state solution. Expect more statements concerning Iraqi air-space and the interception of Israeli bombers. ( But above all, expect more statements concerning “the unbreakable bond between America and Israel”. )

The Israelis – boarding the ship with paint-ball rifles and pistols – were ambushed by their own and the West’s liberal moral vanity as much as by the terrorist-supporting “activists”. Over and over again, the Israelis have tied their hands behind their backs, have ceded to their enemies and acceded to their friends. They have fought humanitarian wars – on the ground, rather than from the air – costing Israeli lives to minimize civilian casualties. They have turned back from Lebanon before the job was done. Each time Israel stops short of victory because of “moral” pressure, it escalates the nature of the final reckoning. Thanks to decades of holding back on war, the war that Israel has to fight next must be extremely violent, convincingly lethal. From paint-balls to, no longer unthinkably, nukes.

If Israel does not act decisively against Iran now, it will be unable to, ever. It cannot wait for a regime change in America. Turkey will make sure that the UN sanctions against Iran (feeble as they were ever going to be) will be postponed for the world to decry Israel. But who are we fooling? Sanctions were never going to halt Iran’s nukes. Obama knows that. For all we know, Iran already has a bomb – whole, from North Korea.

With North Korea playing out its own provocations (unmet), testing to make sure the US will do nothing, and Turkey/Iran doing the same in the Middle East, the Obama policy of trying to make America liked will result either in war – or Israel’s surrender. The truly awful realization is that a huge number of people in America, including Jews, will not think the price for being liked is too high.

We are in potentially greater peril now than in the 1930s.

Sharper than a serpent’s tooth 0

European leaders are feeling how sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless US president.

According to this Washington Times report, Europe is rapidly losing its enthusiasm for Obama.

To Europe’s dismay, Mr. Obama can’t find the time to attend this year’s annual U.S.-European Union Summit – something Mr. Bush always managed to do. Mr. Obama’s decision to skip the summit offended Europeans, who saw it as a deliberate snub of the European Union – their favorite project to centralize government and internationalize the governance of human affairs great and small. Given Mr. Obama’s embrace of such ideas domestically, Europeans were understandably puzzled that he would not rush to link arms with them in the summit.

Further souring relations was Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates’s blast at much of Europe for dithering on defense. At last month’s meeting of NATO officials, Mr. Gates said the “pacification of Europe” (meaning Europe’s turning away from war and defense spending as necessary policies to keep the peace) was making it difficult for the allies to “operate and fight together.”

“The demilitarization of Europe,” he argued, “where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it, has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st.”

Europe (with the exception of Britain) has contributed little to its own defense ever since the end of World War II. It has depended heavily on the US to “keep the peace”. (The funds that European states might have needed to spend on defending themselves have been lavished on welfare.) This is perhaps the first time strong objection to that state of affairs has come from an American administration:

Mr. Gates is absolutely right … The in-your-face nature of his words is striking. No Bush administration official … ever publicly criticized Europe’s lack of military spending and support for NATO so bluntly. … Now we have a secretary of defense arguing that European fecklessness threatens world peace.

Yet it’s surely ironic that Obama’s Secretary of Defense should be saying this, since Obama himself favors disarmament, has taken active steps to weaken America’s military superiority, and has expressed an ideological ambition to rid America of its nuclear arsenal.

European interests are plainly of little concern to Obama, and his foreign policies are increasingly rousing Europe’s irritation, most recently Britain’s, the staunch ally of America in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars:

It is one thing to start a quarrel with France or even the EU, but Mr. Obama has managed even to offend the British. Many commentators in the UK now accuse Mr. Obama of harboring anti-British sentiments. The State Department’s recent announcement that we would remain neutral in the Falklands Islands dispute between the UK and Argentina has only fueled that perception. …

In general, Europe’s unwarranted expectations of Obama have been disappointed, its adoration scorned, its proffered gifts of wisdom spurned:

With regard to the Obama presidency, illusions are shattering across Europe. There, as here, the left’s exaggerated hatred of Mr. Bush was matched only by their naive embrace of Mr. Obama. They now increasingly realize that although Mr. Obama may admire Europe’s domestic polices on health care and energy, he has little practical use for the European Union’s pretensions to world influence and leadership.

But he does seem willing to give them precisely what they’ve requested for years: A diminished U.S. role in the world. Mr. Obama is pulling back on the projection of American power. Leaving the Europeans to their own devices (and ignoring their summits) is merely part of that program.

Their confusion is understandable. They expected that waning American power would mean less criticism from Washington and more European influence over U.S. policy. It didn’t work out that way….

Europe may never get over its disdain for Mr. Bush. But they may someday come to realize that things were not as bad under Mr. Bush as they thought. At least he showed up to their meetings.

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