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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – August 11, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Near Helena, MT – 2018 photo by u/jacobs64

Today is Wrongo’s and Ms. Right’s wedding anniversary. No worries about cards or gifts, we usually celebrate this day alone, together. Tonight, we’re going to a bespoke dinner at a quirky French restaurant in Litchfield County, CT. There will be great food, champagne, and a couple of very good wines.

We’ve all made it through the 81st week of Trumpfest, and please, let’s not count how many weeks remain.

This week featured a DC judge threatening Jeff Sessions with contempt of court after his people committed another immigration sin, and the continuing saga of the Manafort money laundering and tax evasion trial in Virginia. Devin Nunes proved once again that he should be removed from his seat in Congress. And there was VP Pence’s announcement of the Space Farce.

This week also marked the resignation of Richard Nixon, in 1974.

But as we hit the weekend, Wrongo wants to talk Turkey. This week saw the relationship between Turkey and the Trump administration hit a new low. Here are a few of the developments: Relations with Turkey haven’t been good for years, but the current problems were sparked by Turkey’s detention of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, on espionage charges. We’ve insisted that he be released.

Then, Turkey asked for the US to extradite Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric living in the US in return for Brunson. We weren’t about to do that, so instead, Washington imposed sanctions against two cabinet-level officials in President Erdogan’s administration.

After the sanctions, the Trumpets thought they had made a deal with Turkey, whereby Turkey would release Brunson in exchange for Israel releasing a Turkish woman it had accused of funding Hamas. The Turkish woman was released, but Brunson wasn’t.

Then, the Trump administration doubled existing tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum. The Turkish currency, the Lira, fell by 15% on Friday. But, the escalation continued when Turkish lawyers sued US soldiers at Incirlik Airbase, supposedly because they were working with Fethullah Gulen to overthrow the Turkish government. Incirlik is a place where the US stores nuclear weapons. It is the primary base for our air war in the Middle East. General Joseph Votel, head of US Central Command, is also named in the complaint.

Turkey is at best, an obstreperous member of NATO, who by holding significant geography, are strategically important to keeping Russia bottled up in the Black Sea. Yet, Turkey just ordered Russia’s latest, greatest air defense missile, the S-400, to consternation in the US. We countered by delaying Turkey’s orders of our latest, greatest jet fighter, the F-35.

Our sorry relationship with Turkey is another example of Trump’s failed “Art of the Deal”: His gut instinct is to escalate the problem, in this case, by imposing more tariffs, instead of stepping in with leadership and diplomacy to help resolve the underlying relationship problems.

Funny how he’s for diplomacy only with Russia and North Korea.

Had enough of this week’s emotional roller coaster? You bet. Time to turn off twitter, email, and network news. It’s time for a Saturday Soother.

We start by brewing up a strong cup of Los Planes coffee ($19/12oz.), from Theodore’s Coffee in Michigan. They import the beans from the Finca Los Planes farm in Honduras. This coffee is unique, because its beans are larger than average coffee beans. Theodore’s says that the coffee has subtle notes of fruit, particularly blackberry and raspberry.

Now, settle back cup in hand, and wearing your best earphones, listen to Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O’Connor perform O’Connor’s composition “Poem for Carlita” in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City. Of the performance, O’Connor said:

When I wrote “Poem for Carlita” for Yo-Yo Ma, I hoped he would play this exactly the way he plays it. The experience was riveting. It was one of my most dramatic and romantic instrumental journeys and he was the one to expose every nuance of passion in the music. He saved his best for this performance…tremendous.

Here is “Poem for Carlita”:

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

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Trump’s Syria Policy Could Threaten NATO

The Daily Escape:

Swaziland street scene – 2012 photo by Wrongo

Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” against Kurdish militias inside Syria on January 20. Reuters reports that Turkish artillery pounded Kurdish positions, while rockets fired from inside Syria hit two Turkish border towns, wounding dozens. More from Reuters:

Intense Turkish artillery fire and air strikes continued to hit some villages, the YPG said, while fierce battles raged to the north and west of Afrin against Turkish forces and their rebel allies…

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey had informed the Syrian government of its military operation in Afrin with a written statement before the incursion was launched. Apparently, Moscow gave the green light to Ankara to commence Operation Olive Branch, and has moved Russian troops out of harm’s way in Afrin. From Stratfor:

The war in Syria should be ending. The Islamic State has lost all the territory it seized in 2014. The Syrian army, backed by Russia and Iran, has confined other anti-government rebels to besieged pockets in the south, on the eastern outskirts of Damascus and in the northwest. Opposition hopes of removing Syrian President Bashar al Assad have vanished. But the war refuses to die. It just takes new forms.

The new fighting is between Turkey and American surrogates. The US announced a post-Islamic State mission that would keep American advisers and their local surrogates in Syria for years to come. The mission calls for the US to train, arm and advise a 30,000-strong, mostly Kurdish border security force. The border that this force will secure is between Syria and Turkey.

Unsurprisingly, this didn’t sit well with Turkey’s president Erdogan, who pledged “to strangle it before it’s even born.” He moved Turkish military units to the border and launched artillery at Kurdish positions in their Syrian enclave of Afrin. Erdogan is a smart guy. He told members of parliament from his Justice and Development Party:

Hey, NATO! You are obliged to take a stance against those who harass and violate the borders of your members.”

Naturally, it’s Turkey’s borders that Erdogan wants NATO to protect from Kurdish militias. The US border security plan could tear NATO apart. Several European partners are unhappy with this latest move by the Trump administration. Importantly, this may commit the US to a long-term presence within a country that doesn’t want us there, and where we have no real strategic interest.

Erdogan’s incursion has received support from al Assad’s government, Russia, and Iran. They see the US plan as a pretext to keep a military presence in Syria, to deprive Syrian authorities control over large swaths of the country and gain some leverage over the war’s likely victors. Joshua Landis at the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Middle East Studies, wrote:

By controlling half of Syria’s energy resources, the Euphrates dam at Tabqa, as well as much of Syria’s best agricultural land, the US will be able to keep Syria poor and under-resourced…

Russia admonished the Kurds that their decision to put their faith in whatever US Central Command (CENTCOM, the controlling regional Defense Department command for Syria and the ME) has planned for them is a poor decision. And the US has already backtracked on their support for the Kurds in Afrin. CENTCOM has announced through a spokesperson, that the US will not continue to support them.

So, what’s the strategy? Both Russia and Iran can simply sit back and watch as Erdogan goes about crushing the US’s proxy (Kurdish militias) in northern Syria. And, they have nothing to lose if a nasty spat develops between the US and Turkey. On the other hand, if Turkey succeeds in vanquishing the Kurdish militia, US will have to vacate northern Syria, which would also be to the advantage of Russia and Iran.

It is hard to explain the Trump administration’s decision to keep the US military presence in Syria indefinitely, against the wishes of Damascus, Russia, Iran and Turkey. Tehran knows that if the US is forced to vacate Syria, it would mean the US-Israeli failure to block Iran from establishing the “Shia Crescent”.

Trump has delegated far too much autonomy to the Pentagon. The White House is focused domestically, or otherwise engaged in infighting, and Trump doesn’t have the interest, or expertise to provide leadership in the region.

Despite all Trump’s campaign rhetoric, his ME policy will only lead to further US humiliation in the region. The US needs a Metternich.

Instead, we’ve got Trump & Tillerson, sort of the “Abbott & Costello” of international affairs. Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon have been completely outplayed for the past year or two.

Sometimes you just have to get out of the way, and just take the shame/blame that’s coming to you.

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Monday Wake Up Call – May 1, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Interior of the Oculus, NYC – photo by Timothy A. Clary

On Saturday, Wrongo scoffed at David Brooks, who said that Donald Trump’s foreign policy moves:

…have been, if anything, kind of normal…

Another part of US foreign policy that is FAR from normal is our effort to square the circle between our NATO ally Turkey, and our Kurdish allies in Syria and Iraq, who are fighting with us to eliminate ISIS as a force in Syria.

Last Tuesday, Turkey triggered a crisis when it launched airstrikes on US-backed YPG Kurdish fighters. The YPG is a Syrian sister organization of the Kurdish PKK Party in Turkey. Turkey believes the YPG and the PKK are terrorist groups whose goal is to destabilize Turkey.

Within Syria, US Special Forces are embedded with the YPG and are coordinating YPG’s moves against ISIS around Raqqa. The Turkish airstrikes killed at least 18 people, destroying the group’s headquarters. The airstrikes triggered heavy artillery and mortar exchanges between Turkish troops and Kurdish forces along the border, raising concerns that Turkey might send its forces into Syria, something the US opposes.

The YPG wants to divert forces from the attack on Raqqa to protect against further Turkish adventures, something the US doesn’t want. Now we learn that the US has placed some of its very limited military resources in Syria between the Turks and the Kurds in an effort to calm the hostilities. From the WSJ:

American forces have started patrolling the Turkey-Syria border to prevent further clashes between Turkish troops and Kurdish fighters, which could undermine the fight against Islamic State, U.S. officials said Friday.

This is the second time we had to break up the fight between the Turks and the Kurds in Syria. We made a similar move last month in Manbij, a northern Syrian town at the epicenter of a fight between Kurdish forces, Syrian government troops and Turkish-backed militants.

We have become our own UN-style peacekeeping force between Turkey and our Kurdish allies in the midst of our very real effort to take Raqqa from ISIS.

So, where are we going with Turkey, the Kurds and Syria? In the ME, the Kurds are one of the few groups the US can trust to perform militarily. They have fought alongside our troops in this region for years. In the past, we have sold them out in favor of Iraqi and Turkish geopolitical desires more than once.

OTOH, Turkey is a NATO ally, one who is the enemy of our Kurdish allies. We have several Airbases in Turkey which help with the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. If the Turks asked us to leave, our military effectiveness in the ME would be seriously weakened.

More than 25 million Kurds live in the region straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. They are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the ME, but they do not have a permanent nation-state. The Kurds can see that a state could be created from the NE portion of Syria, and the region they already control in Iraq, if the Turks, along with Syria and its allies would allow it to happen.

Where does the US stand on this? Would we back the Turkish aspiration to control a Syrian buffer area between the Kurds to the East in Syria and in Iraq, and the Kurds in the West in Syria?

Would Russia, Syria, and Iran allow Turkey to succeed at that? What would happen if Russia and Iran moved against Turkey, if the Turks established a foothold in Northern Syria? Would the US come to Turkey’s defense?

Turkish President Erdogan is visiting Trump in DC in mid-May. Last Friday, Mr. Erdogan said he would personally urge Mr. Trump to stop working with the YPG, but Trump plans to directly arm them. What will the US response be to Erdogan, who looks more like a dictator controlling our only Islamic NATO ally?

Time for Trump and the State Department to wake up and solve the complex issues in Syria. Who knew being president would be so hard? This is not a time for shooting from the hip, or for deal-making, but for establishing principles for the end game in Syria with our most difficult NATO partner.

To help Trump and Tillerson wake up, here is the progressive rock band Yes, Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductees. The ceremony was broadcast Saturday night on HBO. The band’s co-founder, Jon Anderson, reunited for a performance of “Roundabout” from 1971. He’s here with bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Steve Howe, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, guitarist Trevor Rabin and drummer Alan White:

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

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Will Erdogan Remain In The Trump Fan Club?

Trump has two towers in Istanbul. In December 2015, his local partner explored legal means to take Trump’s name off the towers after the Orange Overlord called for a ban on Muslims entering the US. In June, Turkish President Erdogan reportedly called for the removal of the Trump name from the towers.

But things have changed. The Economist reports that:

Mr. Erdogan appears to have changed his mind, both about the towers and about the man whose name appears on them. Although polls show that most Turks would have preferred to see Hillary Clinton as America’s new president, Mr. Trump’s election has been greeted in Ankara with a mix of schadenfreude and hope.

In fact, Erdogan has called US protests against Mr. Trump’s election “a disrespect to democracy”. The Economist says that Trump reportedly told Mr. Erdogan over the phone that his daughter, Ivanka, admired him, and flattery works all over the world.

Erdogan thinks that our Orange Overlord may be more amenable to extradite Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based preacher whom Turkey accuses of orchestrating the coup attempt in July. Since July, Turkey has pressed the Obama administration to extradite Mr. Gulen. The Turks felt sure that Hillary Clinton would not extradite him, since her campaign accepted donations from his followers.

In November, Trump’s National Security Advisor, former General Michael Flynn, strongly supported Turkish President Erdogan in an op-ed at The Hill, suggesting that Erdogan is under siege by “radical Islam” and desperately needs our help. Flynn said:

The forces of radical Islam derive their ideology from radical clerics like Gülen, who is running a scam. We should not provide him safe haven. In this crisis, it is imperative that we remember who our real friends are.

Flynn also seemed to dismiss Erdogan’s crackdown on political dissidents and the dubious circumstances of the attempted coup which allowed Erdogan to solidify his power. So let’s review Erdogan’s actions since July:

  1. Turkey now has outstripped China as the world’s biggest jailer of journalists. In addition, 150 news outlets have been closed, ranging from TV stations to online enterprises.
  2. Erdogan has suspended or fired 110,000 civil servants, judges, teachers, journalists and soldiers. This has gutted the educated middle class of Turkey.
  3. He has restarted an internal war with Kurds in Eastern Turkey, and has arrested the leadership of the Kurdish minority HDP party, which got more than 10% of seats in the last election.
  4. He has sent the Turkish Army into Syria in what was first described as border defense against ISIS (a group he has long supported), but it has been revealed that his plan is to reach central Syria and depose Bashar Assad.
  5. The EU has suspended negotiations for Turkish membership for civil rights backsliding, but not before they gave Turkey €6 billion to stop sending refugees into the EU.
  6. Erdogan has threatened to reopen the flow of refugees if the EU doesn’t agree to further Turkey’s application to join. Opening the refugee flow is an existential threat to the EU, and thus, to NATO.

Trump is holding a tough hand while playing poker with Turkey. As a NATO member with the largest standing army in Europe, Turkey occupies an important place in NATO’s strategy. Trump has to balance Turkey’s support for the mutual defense of Europe against Turkey’s intentions to go one-on-one against Syria.

He has to balance the shaky EU refugee deal with Turkey against Erdogan’s effort to engage militarily against the PKK, a Kurdish group in Iraq and Syria who are allied with the US against ISIS.

Erdogan has made an overture towards Russia and China. A link with them would destabilize NATO even further. Erdogan seems to be testing Trump’s resolve and his commitment to NATO at the same time. Perhaps he sees an opportunity to garner some good old American baksheesh, so he’s putting a foot in the water to see if it’s comfortable enough to dive in.

That may be a poor play, since while Trump may be sympathetic to Turkish concerns about Mr. Gulen, the cleric’s fate rests with America’s courts. Meanwhile, The Economist reports that Trump’s team wants to list the Muslim Brotherhood as a terror group, roll back the nuclear deal with Iran, and continue arming the PKK’s Syrian wing against ISIS.

Erdogan opposes all of these measures vehemently.

Some of Trump’s new team are not fans of Erdogan. In a tweet, Trump’s CIA-designate, Mike Pompeo, called Turkey an “Islamist dictatorship”.

Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Trump show certain similarities. Both are busy recasting and ruining their countries at the same time.

Let’s hope it doesn’t last.

 

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Turkish Democracy

Let’s pause in the ongoing discussion about the perilous state of US democracy in 2016 to focus on how far and how fast Turkish democracy has fallen.

Wrongo visited Istanbul in March 2013. At that point, Turkey seemed to be the better example of two Muslim-majority democracies that existed in the world (the other is Indonesia). Then came the Gezi Park demonstrations a few weeks later that left six people dead and 8,000 injured.

In July of this year, Turkey had an aborted coup attempt. In the three and half months since, Turkey has fired or suspended more than 110,000 government employees. They launched a military incursion into Syria, and have repeatedly threatened to do the same in Iraq.

So far, one third of Turkey’s highest-ranking military officers have been dismissed. Almost every major institution—military, judiciary, media, education, business—have been affected. And 170 newspapers, magazines, television stations and news agencies have been shut down, leaving 2,500 journalists unemployed.

Rights groups say the scale of the purges show Erdogan is using the coup attempt to crush all dissent. Erdogan has successfully manipulated the full-throated “patriotism” that the Turkish people showed after the attempted coup to create a constitutional change that would give him near-total executive powers.

The arrest and detention of judges, mayors, teachers, military personnel, civil servants, journalists and political opponents has shown that Erdogan is moving even further away from a pluralistic society.

On October 29, Turkey celebrated the 93rd anniversary of the founding of the Republic, but just two days later, the 92-year-old newspaper Cumhuriyet (The Republic) became the latest target in a crackdown on opposition media. The government continues to use the state of emergency following the July 15 coup attempt as a pretext for silencing Turkey’s few remaining critical voices.

The Istanbul prosecutor’s office said the staff at the paper were suspected of committing crimes on behalf of Kurdish militants and the network of Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based cleric that Erdogan accuses of masterminding the July 15 coup attempt. The HuffPo reported that the state-run Anadolu agency said: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

Journalists at the paper were suspected of seeking to precipitate the coup through “subliminal messages” in their columns before it happened,

Accused of using “subliminal messages.” This is the code language of authoritarian rule. Say goodbye to a democratic Turkey, it’s Erdogan’s country now. Such a sad turn for a nation full of bright and interesting people.

But it doesn’t end there. This week, also saw the State Department tell US Consulate family members to leave Turkey. The State Department has ordered the families to leave Turkey due to increased threats from extremist groups targeting US citizens.

Erdogan’s increasingly bellicose stance on the world stage has alarmed NATO (Turkey is a member) and the US, since it is becoming an ever more unpredictable partner, one over which we have decreasing leverage. From Reuters:

Erdogan warned this month that Turkey “will not wait until the blade is against our bone” in going after its enemies abroad and has hinted at a possible incursion into Iraq if a U.S.-backed assault against Islamic State in the city of Mosul causes sectarian strife which threatens Turkey’s borders. Frustrated that it has not been more involved in the Mosul operation, Sunni Muslim Turkey says it has a responsibility to protect ethnic Turkmen and Sunni Arabs in the area, once part of the Ottoman Empire. It fears Shi’ite militias, which on Saturday joined the offensive west of Mosul, will provoke ethnic bloodletting.

A Turkish ground operation in Iraq would be dangerous, risking embroiling its military on a third front as it pursues an offensive against Islamic State in Syria and against Kurdish PKK militants in its own southeast.

We need to think about how our two US presidential hopefuls would react to this mess once in power.

Whoever wins can’t just sloganeer about what to do with Turkey or about its ambitions in Syria and Iraq, any more than they can ignore what Russia’s and Iran’s objectives are.

Aydin Selcen, a retired Turkish diplomat who was consul general in Erbil, Iraq, the capital of northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, said:

History is like a huge supermarket where you can find what you want. You can choose a historical perspective created to rally the masses. But you can neither build a foreign policy nor a military strategy based on that…

Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump should stay out of the supermarket of domestic public opinion as well. The answers to dealing with Erdogan and the attack on Turkish democracy while simultaneously dealing with a hostile member of NATO will not be found in “The Art of The Deal.”

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Taking a Break From Domestic Politics

(The next column will appear on Monday 3/14. Starting tomorrow, the Wrongologist and Ms. Oh So Right are attending a wedding in Vermont)

Our preoccupation with the primaries, and dick-measuring has obscured several things that are happening around the world. Let’s take a quick look at three things we have talked about in the past.

US Russia/Middle East policy. Sec. Def. Ash Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, and the wacky NATO Commander, Gen. Phillip Breedlove, all seem to be intent precipitating a war with Russia. Last week at a Congressional hearing, Breedlove called Russia “America’s greatest strategic threat.” He went on to accuse Vladimir Putin of “Weaponizing” the flood of ME refugees into Europe as a plan “to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve.”

We have our disagreements with Russia, we certainly hate what they did in Crimea and what they are doing in Ukraine. The jury is out on whether they are saving or frying our bacon in Syria, but it seems that we are (almost) on the same page there, except for our insistence that Assad must go.

It pays to remember that Russia is armed with several thousand nuclear weapons. Is it really wise for the head of NATO to pick a fight with a country that he knows feels deeply threatened by NATO expansion?

Our policy with Israel. Netanyahu has once again shown his contempt for Obama by spurning an invitation to meet in the Oval Office. When the Iran deal went down over Israel’s strong disagreement, the US agreed to send Israel more equipment and money to shore up their defenses against Iran. But, Netanyahu wants even more money and equipment than Obama is willing to give him, and he thinks that he will get a better “deal” from the next US president. Tom Friedman observed on PBS that Obama has quietly given up on the two-state solution, that it is up to Israel to implement a “one-state” solution: (brackets and emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The idea that they need John Kerry…to come over…It’s got to start with them. I think the most constructive thing President Obama could do [is]…say, we tried. It’s over. There’s going to be a one-state solution.

Friedman says all the Israelis do is pick apart new peace plans, making it more about the US, not about the warring factions in Israel: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

The Americans [should say]…nobody’s coming. It’s over. It’s yours. You own it. Now you live with it.

And fix it if you can. But can we expect that from ANY of the current presidential candidates? No, they all say that they are Bibi’s greatest supporters. So we can expect the policy of “whatever Bibi wants, Bibi gets” to continue.

Finally, Turkey: Turkey is a member of NATO. Turkey wants to become a member of the EU. But, President Tayyip Erdogan is moving quickly to make Turkey an illiberal democracy. Turkish elections are democratic and mostly fair, but the government that they elect imprisons journalists, reassigns police in the middle of inconvenient investigations, and most recently, closed the country’s largest newspaper. In fact, 2000 people have been arrested just for insulting President Erdogan.

The EU is considering accelerating Turkey’s negotiations for EU membership. That process, which has been stalled for years, normally requires a candidate country to meet basic standards on pesky items from the independence of its judiciary, to press freedoms, two things missing in today’s Turkey.

The EU is crafting a devil’s bargain. They want Turkey to open up new refugee resettlement camps to hold the Syrians who cross from Turkey to Greece, and on to the rest of Europe. But shopping in the Turkish bazaar is never wise for the novice. The EU learned that lesson this week, when it discovered the refugee deal it believed it had previously sold to Turkish leaders turned out to be just the beginning of the negotiation on Monday. Turkey’s counter offer would have prompted EU negotiators to get up and walk out six months ago. Ankara’s proposal:

• €3 billion in refugee aid in addition to the €3 billion already pledged.
• Liberalized visas for Turkish citizens to visit the EU.
• A pledge by the EU to resettle the same number of Syrian refugees already in Turkish refugee camps, as Turkey takes in when the EU sends them back.
• Accelerated consideration of Turkish EU membership.

Turkey’s message to Europe is: You need us more than we need you. Their message back should be: we’ll give you the money. That’s it.

In closing, Wrongo just can’t resist a brief return (excuse the pun on briefs) to the US general election. Hillary’s likely reaction to Trump’s exhibitionism: “Somewhat like a penis, only MUCH smaller”.

COW Trump Package

 

 

 

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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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Turkey Hoodwinked Washington

From the BBC:

The US and Turkey reached an agreement which will see Turkish jets join the air campaign against Islamic State (IS) militants. American officials hailed the agreement as “a significant step forward” in the fight against IS.

The good news was that Turkey would now be fully integrated into the strategy of the wider anti-ISIS coalition. However, as of last week, the Turkish Air Force had conducted 300 strikes against Kurdish targets versus three against ISIS targets. So Turkey, while giving lip service to the war against ISIS, is actually attacking the Kurds, who in this case, are ISIS’s enemies. As we said in our column on 8/25:

The present strategy of the US for defeat of ISIS is ultimately dependent on the Turks. Turkey is the main pathway through which ISIS receives recruits…and [is] the main pathway through which ISIS continues to export oil to raise money.

Turkey has a conflicted relationship with ISIS. Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest has a long article describing the problems of Turkey as an ally posted at the American Conservative:

Indeed, when I was in Istanbul last July, bearded rebels were observed in the more fundamentalist neighborhoods collecting money for ISIS without any interference from the numerous and highly visible Turkish police and intelligence services.

Given the state of play that now exists in the ME, Washington was delighted when Turkey announced on July 23rd that it would play a more active role against ISIS. But the euphoria in DC was short lived, as Turkey quickly demonstrated that its partnership with the US was window dressing, as ISIS was not the enemy that Ankara had in mind.

Why the bait-and-switch? Turkey’s domestic politics. Turkey held a parliamentary election on June 5th in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) failed to obtain a majority. Worse still, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is largely Kurdish, won more than 13% of the vote, much of it consisting of former AKP seats, making it a potential swing party in forming a new government. The AKP couldn’t form a coalition government without the Kurds or a right-wing party, which Erdogan wouldn’t permit, and new elections now seem set for November 1st. Erdogan wants to try again for a substantial AKP majority, which would allow him to amend the constitution, and add significant new powers to his role. Nevertheless, the most recent election demonstrated that AKP had lost some control, and Erdogan had to do something to create a more compelling narrative.

Enter the Kurds.

For three decades, Turkey has been at war with the Kurds, some of whom seek more autonomy within Turkey, while others favor the creation of an independent Kurdish state incorporating parts of Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. 18% of the Turkish population is of Kurdish origin, and are the country’s largest minority.

Even though Turkey has had a cease fire with the most powerful Kurdish dissident group, the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) since 2013, the AKP’s calculation appears to be that more chaos will mean more votes, with people turning to the devil they know in hopes of stability.

And Erdogan chose to attack the Kurds under the aegis of the US-led war on ISIS.

All of this suggests that the US was bamboozled. One American general called the development a “bait and switch,” while another commented that Erdogan “needed a hook” to go after the Kurds, and lied to Washington to get one. Surely, the Pentagon, CIA and White House know that they were all snookered.

When the news broke that Turkey had bombed ISIS and when it mentioned (without comment) the PKK, it was obvious what the Turk’s game really was. And, they are not alone:

Saudi Arabia plays the War on Terror game to get us to help out with Yemen, and to counter Iran.

Israel plays the War on Terror game to keep the $billions coming.

Egypt’s Sisi also plays the War on Terror game to keep US aid coming and to help consolidate his own grip on Egypt.

Our own domestic Fear Machine uses the War on Terror to keep the taxpayer-paid gravy train rolling along.

The only ones not benefiting from some Terror-related play are we, the people suckers. Oh, and the collateral damage to the people in the countries that we and our allies are “liberating.”

See you on Sunday.

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Our ISIS Strategy is Undermined by Our Muslim Allies

Pat Lang, a retired Colonel in Military Intelligence and a specialist in the Middle East who taught Arabic at West Point, says at his blog, Sic Semper Tyrannis: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

The present strategy of the US for defeat of ISIS is ultimately dependent on the Turks. Turkey is the main pathway through which ISIS receives recruits…and [is] the main pathway through which ISIS continues to export oil to raise money. Erdogan’s Turkey has until very recently barred the US from the use against ISIS of air bases built and maintained by the US for NATO.

On July 25, The Guardian disclosed that US Special Forces had captured “hundreds of flash drives and documents” when they raided the compound of Islamic State’s financial chief, Abu Sayyaf (May 15-16, 2015). The documents showed there had been widespread collusion by Turkish government officials in the smuggling of oil from ISIS-controlled oil fields in eastern Syria.

Lang goes on to say that Turkey and the US have different expectations and goals: The US wants the bases for the war against ISIS, but the Turks want the downfall of the Assad government in Syria and a buffer against a Kurdish state on their southern border. This aligns Turkey with Saudi Arabia and the Sunni governments in the Gulf. The prospect of a Syria dominated by a Nusra Front-led government does not bother Erdogan. He wants a similar outcome for Turkey if he can get enough seats in parliament to change the Turkish constitution to eliminate its Kemalist secularism.

The Turks also want the US to help them bomb the Kurds (by which Erdogan means all Kurds) into submission. To this end, the Turks will use their own forces and any support they can get from the US and the Europeans. In fact the various Kurdish groups, despite their political and tribal differences are really one people. If the US became complicit in attacks on Kurdish fighters of any kind, it risks the loss of our Kurdish ally in Iraq. From HuffPo:

The US finds itself in a position where a key ally, Turkey, is effectively at war with the one ground force, the Kurds, who, when supported by American air power, have been the most effective in rolling back the Islamic State.

Under these circumstances is it any wonder that the ISIS continues to thrive? The Republican drum beat for more American troops on the ground is not because the jihadis are an existential threat to the US but, rather because they menace civilized life in the Islamic World and potentially, across the rest of the world as well. But without real Turkish cooperation, victory over the ISIS isn’t possible, and the US should not attempt it. More from Col. Lang: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

There will be no Western style Reformation of Islam…Most people reading this do not understand the lack of central religious authority in Islam that leads to this chaos…That lack of central authority, when combined with a mindset that inextricably links religious and political authority creates chaos that can only be resolved by force. We should withdraw from the area and watch in fascinated horror. The Israelis? Well, pilgrims, they have sown the wind…

So, how should our strategy evolve? So long as the US continues to support and play along with our Muslim allies, fighting ISIS is a pointless endeavor. It just digs America deeper into a religious war within Islam without any benefits to us. Once the US is not engaged, we will cease to be manipulated by our erstwhile allies – the Saudis, Turks, Gulf States, and Israelis. At that point, those states will need to concentrate their thinking on matters of their own and regional security.

This would be a smarter strategy than our current plan of kicking the can down the road and believing in unicorns. Analysis by Pat Lang:

…the world has changed; the local has become universal, and the burden of existential misery, caused by overpopulation, climate change, misgovernance, war, poverty and loss of hope, has affected large numbers of people worldwide. Local and temporary “solutions”, especially military ones, will no longer work. And, in fact, are likely to worsen the situation.

Overall, our strategy to assist in the defeat of ISIS has not brought about anything positive. From Rosa Brooks in Foreign Policy:

So far, the US-led military campaign…appears to have achieved few positive results…intelligence sources have reportedly concluded that the Islamic State has not been fundamentally weakened. At best, we are probably prolonging the status quo.

It’s very frustrating that we can’t clear an area the size of Kansas with airpower. Either fight the ISIS all the way, or just leave them the hell alone.

The vote here is to get out of the way.

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Monday Wake Up Call – July 27, 2015

The Connecticut Democratic Party has decided to change the name of its “Jefferson-Jackson Dinner”. Apparently prompted by the national controversy over the Confederate flag, the state’s Democratic Party last week voted unanimously to change the name of its annual fundraising dinner and remove the names of two slave-owning American presidents.

The clear implication is that there’s something wrong with Thomas Jefferson which puts him in the same category as the Confederate Flag. The Hartford Courant reported this quote from the state Democrats’ resolution:

As members of the Democratic Party, we are proud of our history as the party of inclusion. Democrats have led the way on civil rights, LGBT equality and equal rights for women…It is only fitting that the name of the party’s most visible annual event reflects our dedication to diversity and forward-looking vision.

Wrongo doesn’t care if the Democratic Party stops naming their fundraisers after Jefferson and Jackson.

What is bothersome is the implication that Jefferson is a pariah. Andrew Jackson is another matter, despite the fact that the symbol of the party is the donkey, or jackass. “Jackass,” stood for Andrew Jackson. It came from an 1837 political cartoon referring to Jackson as a “Jack-ass.” Jackson thought it was funny, and used it to his advantage. Democrats embraced the symbol, and it has stuck for nearly 180 years.

What message does the CT Dems public disowning of Jefferson send? Do CT Dems understand history? We owe a debt to Jefferson. It’s easy to say that Jefferson did things that were wrong, but he wrote the Declaration of Independence, managed our relationships with France during the Revolutionary War, and was a highly successful president. It is a huge mistake to invalidate his accomplishments because of his personal foibles. He was a man of his time, and did what he did. But, without him, our revolution would have been different.

Making perfection the enemy of great is wrong-headed. It places the CT Dems in a similar intellectual place as Donald Trump, who says McCain isn’t a war hero because he was captured, or that John Kerry wasn’t a good negotiator because he fell off his bike.

Maybe we could all be adults? The effort at political correctness by the modern Democratic Party is fine, but we should remember that Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a perfect man. African-Americans know that, but Dr. King is still revered by almost all Americans.

And the fact that today’s GOP embraces Abraham Lincoln does not make the modern GOP a racism-free party, regardless of how often the GOP invokes Lincoln’s name to claim credit for his greatness. Judging our founders, or our heroes by today’s standards, would condemn almost everyone past and present. Maybe, Democrats in Washington, CT, named after George, will want to change its name, since George Washington owned slaves.

Yes, there are egalitarian threads in both the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian traditions that resonate with Democrats today—but both men based the equality of some men upon the subordination of others.

Since CT Democrats are determined to replace Jefferson and Jackson as patrons of these events, and are holding a meeting to decide the new name of the event in September, without question, FDR-JFK could serve pretty well, despite each man’s foibles. Or maybe, Joe Lieberman?

Are you the one American without personal foibles?

So, wake up Connecticut Democrats. To help with their wake-up, here is #4 in our songs of summer series, “Summertime Blues”, the great Eddie Cochran tune done here by Brian Setzer on MTV, recorded live for the ‘La Bamba’ concert. It reminds that there was a time when MTV was watchable:

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

Monday’s Hot Links:
Foreign Policy reports that back in 2000, the NSA intercepted a call to Bin Laden’s operations center in Yemen from a 9/11 hijacker in San Diego. They failed to follow-up, which should set off warning bells. Now 16 years later, the NSA denies they knew where the calls originated. That’s bullshit two ways: In 2000, the telephone network’s technology automatically provided a digital equivalent of caller ID to every phone switch, including NSA’s. And former NSA people like Tom Drake and William Binney say there’s no way the NSA wouldn’t have tapped this line.

Dark matter is the stuff that cosmologists think makes up some 85% of all the matter in the universe. A new theory says dark matter might be a known particle. If true, that would open up a window onto an invisible, dark matter version of physics.

Turkey launches war on Islamic State’s worst enemies – The Kurds. This blog site, Moon of Alabama, can be decidedly anti-American, but this is a must read article.

Gun deaths will surpass automobile deaths in the US this year, says The Atlantic. Car crashes killed 33,561 people in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Firearms killed 32,251 people in the US in 2011, the most recent year for which the CDC has data. The young are most at risk: CDC data show guns will kill more Americans under 25 than cars in 2015. Surely, a small price to pay for our Second Amendment freedoms?

Marilyn Tavenner, who served as the chief administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services from 2013 until February, is now in charge of an insurance industry lobby. This tells us all we need to know about where insurance companies see their next pot of gold. It is the Medicare Advantage program, which over the past several years, has become an increasingly important revenue stream for the country’s insurers. Revolving door much?

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