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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

The US/Russian Confrontation in Syria

The Daily Escape:

Going to the Sun Road, Glacier National Park, 2016 – photo by Wrongo

They told Wrongo that if he voted for Hillary, we’d be at war in Syria. He voted for Hillary, and sure enough, looks like we could get into a war with Syria! Particularly after this:

A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet from Carrier Air Wing 8 on board the USS George Bush shot down a Syrian Air Force Su-22 ground attack aircraft near Raqqa, Syria after the aircraft struck ground troops in Ja-Din, south of Tabqah, near Raqqa.

According to most sources it is the first time a U.S. combat aircraft has shot down a manned enemy aircraft in aerial combat in nine years.

The pro-Assad regime Syrian Su-22 that was downed had attacked Syrian Democratic Forces aligned with the U.S. led coalition and inflicted casualties on the friendly forces as they were driving south of Tabqah before it was intercepted.

Russia was displeased. They announced that they could possibly shoot down any US air craft operating in western Syria:

In the combat mission zones of the Russian aviation in the air space of Syria, all kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs of the international coalition detected to the west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets.

Treating US and allied planes as “targets” does not mean the Russians will shoot at them. What they’re saying is that they will track the planes as they would track any target, they will send their own planes to observe the targets, and possibly escort the targets out of the area.

This gets tricky: what happens if the “target” refuses to be escorted away? Do the Russians then shoot at the target? They haven’t said. But until they do start shooting, we’re not in a hot war. We’ve just moved a step closer to one possibly occurring soon.

And this would be the most dangerous confrontation between the US and Russia since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Wrongo remembers the Cuban Missile Crisis very well. He was in college. We sat around thinking that DC (where we lived) would be taken out by nuclear missiles launched by the Russkies.

This is one outcome of Trump’s outsourcing full control of military action on the ground to the generals.

One miscalculation, and Trump’s generals are making new foreign policy. Clemenceau was correct when he said that “war is too important to be left to the generals”. Who we decide to fight is one of our most important national decisions. From the American Conservative:

There has never been a Congressional vote authorizing US military operations in Syria against anyone, and there has been scant debate over any of the goals that the US claims to be pursuing there. The US launches attacks inside Syria with no legal authority from the UN or Congress, and it strains credulity that any of these operations have anything to do with individual or collective self-defense.

The US says we are in Syria to fight ISIS and evict them from Raqqa. But we have also been arming the Syrian opposition for at least three years. And we have been a party to the Syrian civil war for at least a year before that. But the underlying assumption, that it is in our interest to be fighting in Syria, has not been seriously questioned by most members of Congress.

Americans are so accustomed to fighting wars on foreign soil that we barely notice that the policy has never really been debated or put to a vote. If this Syrian confrontation leads us into a larger conflict with Russia, will it finally be time to notice what’s happening?  

Shooting down a Syrian jet shows the dangers that come from conducting a foreign policy unmoored from both the national interest and representative government.

It was shot down because it was threatening rebels opposed to the Syrian government, and the US supports those rebels, apparently up to and including destroying Syrian regime forces that attack them. We say we are there to fight ISIS. That has sufficient support by the people and the Congress. If we are also fighting to oust Assad, we are doing something that requires a full debate.

Without that debate, when we shoot down a Syrian plane inside its own country, we have committed an act of war against another state.

A bit of music. Here is Paramore with “Hard Times”:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

Takeaway Lyric:

All that I want Is to wake up fine
Tell me that I’m alright
That I ain’t gonna die
All that I want
Is a hole in the ground
You can tell me when it’s alright
For me to come out

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Will The Candidates Discuss Syria?

Although it is Sunday, there will be no cartoons today. Sorry. Instead, time to eat our vegetables and prepare for tonight’s second Presidential Debate.

Wrongo thinks Syria should be a featured topic, since it lays bare our conflict with Russia, which has steadily grown since their annexation of Crimea. But, the debate is in a town hall format, with half of the questions coming from the audience, so it is difficult to say if Syria and Russia will make it to the table.

Certainly they should be discussed. On October 3, the Obama Administration walked away from the Geneva negotiations with Russia, aimed at ending the war in Syria. On October 5, the Principals Committee met at the White House to consider four options for Syria:

  1. Create a no-fly zone over Syria;
  2. Create safe zones along the Turkish and Jordanian borders inside Syrian territory;
  3. Bomb the entire Syrian Air Force;
  4. Arm the Syrian rebels (jihadists) with anti-aircraft weapons (MANPADS) as part of a prolonged insurgency directed against the Assad government, which are increasingly dominated by the very terrorist forces that the US and Russia were jointly targeting up until last week.

The first three options require the imposition of a no fly zone over Syria. There are big risks with a no fly zone, if the US imposes it without Russian cooperation. The Russians might refuse to respect it. If they defy the no fly zone and we shoot down Russian planes, it could lead to war. The Russians categorically oppose a Syrian no fly zone, because they believe it will weaken Assad.

Option four means the US aligns with our former jihadi terrorist enemies against Assad, in a semi-permanent war in the Middle East. So, consider these statements:

Any alternative approach must begin with grounding Mr. Assad’s air power…If Russia continues its indiscriminate bombing, we should make clear that we will take steps to hold its aircraft at greater risk.

I would recommend our colleagues in Washington to thoroughly consider the possible consequences of the realization of such plans…

That’s the current geopolitical landscape. What do the candidates think?

The Pant Suit wants to remove Assad and defeat ISIS simultaneously. She supports a no-fly zone. Clinton does not support an American troop commitment. Instead, she wants to arm and supply Syrian and Kurdish rebel groups. Her plan is to replace both Assad and ISIS with another group to be named later. It’s a weak plan, but it appeals to Americans because Clinton’s plan doesn’t require more American troops on the ground.

Trump has no plan, but during the primaries, he said: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

So, I don’t like Assad. Who’s going to like Assad? But, we have no idea who these people [Assad replacements], and what they’re going to be, and what they’re going to represent. They may be far worse than Assad. Look at Libya. Look at Iraq. Look at the mess we have after spending $2 trillion dollars, thousands of lives, wounded warriors all over the place–we have nothing.

But during the VP debate, Pence adopted Clinton’s position. Pence said:

The United States of America needs to be prepared to work with our allies in the region to create a route for safe passage and then to protect people in those areas, including with a no-fly zone.

Obama has repeatedly refused to impose a no-fly zone.

Here is some context: Arming terrorists in a sovereign nation is an act of war. Bombing and attacking targets in a sovereign nation is an act of war. Establishing no fly zones without permission in a sovereign nation is an act of war. Stationing troops or Special Forces in a sovereign nation without permission is an act of war.

We have no UN mandate to be in Syria. Congress has not given its approval to be in Syria.

It’s a big fat mess, with no good solution in sight, made worse by the scale of the Syrian humanitarian crisis. And marked by Congress’ lack of courage.

It would be nice if at least ONE candidate would recall that during the Cold War, the number one goal was not to provoke a war between the US and Russia, but to find ways to de-escalate the situation.

Perhaps this is too much to expect, given the temperament of both candidates.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 29, 2015

Russia and Turkey, America and turkey. Turkeys shopping on Friday. Turkeys on the campaign trail. Quite the week for turkeys.

Russia’s and Turkey’s tiff makes Thanksgiving worrisome:

 

COW Russian Turkey

 

What Massasoit should have said to the Pilgrims:

COW Platter Back

“We’d love to get the platter back when this is over. That, and our land.”

Not all holiday cornucopias are filled with gifts:

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

 

 

 

For some, Black Friday wasn’t about shopping:

COW Black Friday 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For others, long lines on Black Friday would be OK:

COW Black Fri

 

 

 

 

2016 presidential politics provided quite a bit of leftover turkey:

COW Leftovers

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What’s The Strategy Mr. Obama?

From The Atlantic:

Defense Secretary Ash Carter says the US will step up its operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, including through ‘direct action on the ground.’

Carter captured the strategic incoherence that is the essence of our current Middle East policy.

And isn’t sending our uniformed military into Syria to support forces in open rebellion against the Syrian government an act of war? What will we say when a non-NATO country invokes this same precedent, say, in the Baltic States, or on Philippine territory?

We seem to be relying on the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). The AUMF is our legal excuse to justify any plan for more intervention in the ME. It is a catch-all, because it allows the US to go after whoever we dislike. The relevant passage from the AUMF says that the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

Our new ME policy backs ISIS in Syria, but fights it in Iraq. This is a flawed strategic position. It puts US soldiers at risk of direct confrontation with Russian forces, instead of by proxy, which would be bad enough. From Sic Semper Tyrannis: (Brackets and emphasis by the Wrongologist)

In Syria, the [Def Sec]Carter/[General]Dunford/WH “team” proposes to insert US Green Berets into YPG Kurdish controlled areas northeast of Aleppo as instructors, coordinators, advisers and air controllers. The Turkish Air Force has been busy bombing these same Kurds the last few days to prevent them moving west along the border to seal it against IS transit of the border from Turkey…Question – what will happen when Turkey kills some US soldiers?

We are doing this because we have been outplayed by Russia in Syria. The US (and Obama’s) dilemma has nothing to do with the alleged Obama fecklessness. It has everything to do with the US having to cope with the second order effects of the destruction of Iraq.

Iraq is America’s cardinal sin, and we will suffer its consequences for a very long time.

The US cannot have a coherent ME strategy as long as it remains loyal to its traditional ME allies/clients Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel. Successive administrations have maneuvered the US into a position where we can’t extricate ourselves from the policy goals of these “client states”, even when we know their goals are detrimental to US interests.

These alliances have placed the US in a foreign policy straitjacket. Obama wants to wriggle free. He wants to accept the changes in the regional balance of power that have emerged as a result of the destruction of Iraq, but our allies/clients both resent, and oppose them.

The simple fact is that the US is dependent on the consent of these allies/clients for the use of their overseas bases. The Turks have leveraged that need with the denial of use of Incirlik Air Base until their demands were met. We should expect the Saudis and Qataris play the same card.

The Obama administration understands that the US is losing its grip on the region and its politics. We try to operate against that, despite having allies/clients that have different objectives than we have, allies who have diametrically opposing narratives of recent events and very different policy goals.

That means the “allies” resist our plans, while we compromise with them, and work to meet their preconditions. This is precisely because the US has configured our Empire in a way that means these allies aren’t “client states” at all: They are “customers” for our military suppliers, and everyone knows that The Customer Is Always Right.

In the end, even assuming a rational strategy and stellar execution, the regional balance of power in the ME has fundamentally changed, and the US must adjust.

This new move by the Obama administration means that America is on a track to just continue wandering around in the ME. That will continue until we are again bloodied on the ground, and fade away…or stumble into WWIII.

We let the genie is out of the bottle. Now it is time to deal with it.

 

See you on Sunday.

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Monday Wake Up Call – October 5, 2015

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Saturday that he opposes a unilateral American no-fly zone in Syria. This differentiates him from Hillary Clinton who wants to create one. Mr. Sanders:

We must be very careful about not making a complex and dangerous situation in Syria even worse…I support President Obama’s efforts to combat ISIS in Syria while at the same time supporting those in that country trying to remove the brutal dictatorship of Bashar Assad.

Ms. Clinton’s position is the same as Republican contenders Florida governor Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and failed CEO Carly Fiorina, making all of them the “Quagmire Candidates”. Think about it: A US enforced no-fly zone over northern Syria could mean starting a war with Russia, who now controls that air space.

The Quagmire Candidates are ok with possibly attacking Russian forces in order to defend al-Qaeda?

Remember, our CIA and our Gulf State allies are funding al-Qaeda-affiliated groups. The NYT says: (brackets and emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The fighters advancing on that [northern] front were not from the Islamic State but from the Army of Conquest, a group that includes an affiliate of Al Qaeda known as the Nusra Front and other Islamist groups, including several more secular groups that have been covertly armed and trained by the US.

A second NYT article on 10/1 about the Army of Conquest: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The alliance consists of a number of mostly Islamist factions, including the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate; Ahrar al-Sham, another large group; and more moderate rebel factions that have received covert arms support from the intelligence services of the United States and its allies.

Clinton, Fiorina, Bush and Kasich have all endorsed the idea of forbidding Russian use of air space and operations in Syria and a willingness to fight the Russians to enforce such a thing. So, we have SEVERAL presidential candidates who should never be allowed near the position of Commander-In-Chief.

And why? What is there about (or in) Syria that is worth the risk of nuclear war to America? The Russians would have to agree to any US “no-fly zone” and it is difficult understanding how they would agree to it. Would we really engage Russia in an air war to settle the point about who controls the skies over Syria?

Will the main stream media even ask Hillary, Jeb, Carly or Kasich why they want to start World War III? Or, why America is supporting Jihadists in Syria?

This is potentially more dangerous than the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it is beyond aggravating that these candidates can’t see it.

Our national security policy skews macho, and has since the 1950s. And the chest-beaters in Congress want Mr. Obama to appear weak, while our media continues to stir up trouble to keep these contradictions on the front burner.

This is why some Democrats have problems with Hillary Clinton. Her foreign policy position is “Republican Lite.” She consistently holds a near-bellicose position, similar to many Republicans. She supported our actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

Apparently quagmires poll well.

So, our wake-up is for the America voter: Here are Lords of the New Church doing “Open Your Eyes (to the lies right in front of you)”. Their line, ‘the acting’s lousy but the blind don’t know’ is as true today as it was in 1982 when this was recorded:

The Lords were fronted by the late Stiv Bators, who previously fronted the Dead Boys. Wrongo and Ms. Oh So Right hosted Mr. Bators and crew at our place in 1978. But, talk of recording an album there never materialized.

Sample Lyrics:
Video games train the kids for war
Army chic in high-fashion stores
Law and order’s done their job
Prisons filled while the rich still rob
Assassination politics
Violence rules within’ our nation’s midst
Well ignorance is their power tool
You’ll only know what they want you to know
The television cannot lie
Controlling media with smokescreen eyes
Nuclear politicians’ picture show
The acting’s lousy but the blind don’t know

Open your eyes see the lies right in front of ya.

For those who read the Wrongologist in email, you can view the video here.

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