State of the Union

America’s Overextended War Guarantees

Sweeping through Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania this week, Joe Biden reassured all three that the United States’ commitment to Article Five of the NATO treaty remains “solemn” and “iron clad.” Article Five commits us to war if the territory of any of these tiny Baltic nations is violated by Russia. From World War II to the end of the Cold War, all three were Soviet republics. All three were on the other side of the Yalta line agreed to by FDR, and on the other side of the NATO red line, the Elbe River in Germany. No president would have dreamed of waging war with Russia over them. Now, under the new NATO, we must. Joe Biden was affirming war guarantees General Eisenhower would have regarded as insane.

Secretary of State John Kerry says that in the Ukraine crisis, “All options are on the table.” John McCain wants to begin moving Ukraine into NATO, guaranteeing that any Russian move on the Russified east of Ukraine would mean war with the United States. Forty members of Congress have written Kerry urging that Georgia, routed in a war it started with Russia over South Ossetia in 2008, be put on a path to membership in NATO. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, other voices are calling for expanding NATO to bring in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, and for moving U.S. troops and warplanes into Poland and the Baltic republics.

President Obama says, “All options are on the table” if Iran does not give us solid assurances she is not building a bomb. Members of Congress support U.S. military action against Iran, if Tehran does not surrender even the “capability” to build a bomb. End all enrichment of uranium, or America attacks, they warn.

In the Far East we are committed to defend Japan if China seizes the Senkakus that Beijing claims as Chinese territory, a collection of rocks in the East China Sea. If Kim Jong-Un starts a war with South Korea, we are committed by treaty to fight a second Korean War. We are committed by treaty to defend the Philippines. And if China acts on its claim to the southern islands of the South China Sea, and starts a shooting war with Manila’s navy, we are likely in it.

Is this not an awful lot on Uncle Sam’s plate? Read More…

Posted in . Tagged , , , . 21 comments

Russia’s Blunder Needs a Realist’s Response

Photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo  (released)
Photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo (released)

It is amazing to find the Obama administration, the old George W. Bush foreign-policy hands, and the foreign-policy establishment all generally shocked at Vladimir Putin’s aggressiveness in manipulating Crimea’s breakaway from Ukraine and incorporation into Russia. Putin is restarting the Cold War, they cry. Why would he do such a thing? He is either evil or crazy.

Actually, this should have been anticipated. Who says so? The last Republican secretary of defense—for President Bush and later for Barack Obama—says so, and he said it long before the troops moved in.

By happenstance, after an earlier quick-read of Robert Gates’s Duty, I happened to be re-reading his book closely during the present crisis and came upon the following passage, in which Gates is reflecting back to the Bush administration:

What we did not realize then was that the seeds of future trouble were already sprouting. There were early stirrings of future great power rivalry and friction. In Russia, resentment and bitterness were taking root as a result of economic chaos and corruption that followed the dissolution of the Soviet Union, as well as the incorporation of much of the old Warsaw Pact into NATO by 2000. No Russian was more angered than Vladimir Putin, who would later say that the end of the Soviet Union was the worst geopolitical event of the twentieth century …

Meanwhile other nations increasingly resented our singular dominance and our growing penchant for telling others how to behave, at home and abroad. The end of the Soviet threat also ended the compelling reasons for many countries to automatically align with the United States or do our bidding for their own protection. Other nations looked for opportunities to inhibit our seeming complete freedom and determination to shape the world as we saw fit. In short, our moment alone in the sun, and the arrogance with which we conducted ourselves in the 1990s and beyond as the sole surviving superpower caused widespread resentment … rekindled and exacerbated by President Bush’s “You are either with us or against us” strategy as we launched the war on terror … The invasion of Iraq … Abu Ghraib … Guantanamo and “enhanced interrogations” all fueled further anti-American feeling.

The average American would be shocked that so much of the world looks at the U.S. in this manner. We are the good guys. We always act with the best motives. We want freedom, democracy, and prosperity for all. We sacrifice for the rest of the world: look at the toll of lives, wounds, and treasure from Afghanistan and Iraq alone. How could the rest of the world be so ungrateful?

It is always helpful to see the world from another point of view. It is clear Putin has a very different one, as he spelled out in detail in his 40-minute March 18 speech announcing that he would accept the result of the Crimean plebiscite to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia. He started his remarks 1,000 years ago with the baptism of his namesake Vladimir in Crimea and the conversion of Russia to Christianity. Catherine the Great incorporated Crimea into Russia in 1783, before the U.S. Constitution, and it remained Russian for 170 years. Putin spoke of Russians fighting the British and French in the 19th-century Crimean War. He mourned the thousands of Russians who fought the Nazis there, and all the war dead, civilian and military. He criticized the Ukrainian-born Nikita Khrushchev for transferring Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 at his own “personal initiative” and complained Russia should have gotten back the peninsula when the Soviet Union expired in 1991. It was not surprising that 90 percent turned out and 93 percent voted to join Russia. Read More…

Posted in . Tagged , , , . 13 comments

Rand Paul and Ted Cruz: The Breakup That Wasn’t

The recent war of words over foreign policy between senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz—both potential 2016 nominees—has many on the right bemoaning the rift between the two. But it’s no shock to those of us who’ve paid attention over the past two years. “What breakup?” we wondered. “When were these two ever similar candidates?”

As recently as last month, conservatives were making the two seem almost interchangeable. On his radio show, Glenn Beck mused that if he had to choose a GOP nominee right now it would be Cruz or Paul. Sean Hannity, his guest, agreed.

Perhaps “anti-establishment” is an accurate way to describe both Cruz and Paul. But foreign policy was something that no observer could ignore for as long as most did. Cruz claims to be somewhere between John McCain-hawkishness and the “other end” of the spectrum, which he describes as Senator Paul. Putting aside whether it is accurate to imply Paul’s foreign policy is on an extreme end, is Cruz himself “in the middle”? How quickly we have forgotten Cruz’s nigh maniacal fits over Chuck Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense. Was there a fiercer hawk in the room? McCain, as a matter of fact, was more subdued on the matter.

As for Cruz’s opposition to intervention in Syria, it was most likely adopted for the same reasons many interventionist-minded rank-and-file Republicans were suddenly sounding like Ron Paul himself: because Obama was for it, which meant they were against it. Lest there be any doubt, Cruz told The Weekly Standard this week that “he would have been open to aiding Syrian rebels if the administration had been able to identify nonjihadists among their ranks.”

How about Cruz’s #StandWithRand on Senator Paul’s anti-drones filibuster? No true, self-respecting hawk would worry about drones, so essential to today’s interventionist adventures. Yes, Cruz did stand with Paul—but the Texas senator attended, at best, due to an overall interest in civil liberties; at worst, to snag the spotlight.

In other words, Cruz has shown no actual noninterventionist leanings. Contrast that with his consistency on Iran or his recent statements on America’s role in the world. If foreign policy is a major issue for a voter—and for many it is and unquestionably should be—there can be no “Eh, I could go with either Paul or Cruz.” They were never together, thus there was never a breakup.

Posted in , , . Tagged , . 5 comments

Who and What Is Vladimir Putin?

Vladimir Putin on a 2010 visit to Kiev, Ukraine. Mark III Photonics / Shutterstock.com
Vladimir Putin on a 2010 visit to Kiev, Ukraine. Mark III Photonics / Shutterstock.com

Vladimir Putin seems to have lost touch with reality, Angela Merkel reportedly told Barack Obama after speaking with the Russian president. He is “in another world.” ”I agree with what Angela Merkel said … that he is in another world,” said Madeleine Albright, “It doesn’t make any sense.” John Kerry made his contribution to the bonkers theory by implying that Putin was channeling Napoleon: “You don’t just, in the 21st century, behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pretext.”

Now that Putin has taken Crimea without firing a shot, and 95 percent of a Crimean electorate voted Sunday to reunite with Russia, do his decisions still appear irrational? Was it not predictable that Russia, a great power that had just seen its neighbor yanked out of Russia’s orbit by a U.S.-backed coup in Kiev, would move to protect a strategic position on the Black Sea she has held for two centuries? Zbigniew Brzezinski suggests that Putin is out to recreate the czarist empire. Others say Putin wants to recreate the Soviet Union and Soviet Empire.

But why would Russia, today being bled in secessionist wars by Muslim terrorists in the North Caucasus provinces of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, want to invade and reannex giant Kazakhstan, or any other Muslim republic of the old USSR, which would ensure jihadist intervention and endless war? If we Americans want out of Afghanistan, why would Putin want to go back into Uzbekistan? Why would he want to annex Western Ukraine where hatred of Russia dates back to the forced famine of the Stalin era? To invade and occupy all of Ukraine would mean endless costs in blood and money for Moscow, the enmity of Europe, and the hostility of the United States. For what end would Russia, its population shrinking by half a million every year, want to put Russian soldiers back in Warsaw?

But if Putin is not a Russian imperialist out to re-establish Russian rule over non-Russian peoples, who and what is he?

In the estimation of this writer, Vladimir Putin is a blood-and-soil, altar-and-throne ethnonationalist who sees himself as Protector of Russia and looks on Russians abroad the way Israelis look upon Jews abroad, as people whose security is his legitimate concern. Consider the world Putin saw, from his vantage point, when he took power after the Boris Yeltsin decade. He saw a Mother Russia that had been looted by oligarchs abetted by Western crony capitalists, including Americans. He saw millions of ethnic Russians left behind, stranded, from the Baltic states to Kazakhstan. He saw a United States that had deceived Russia with its pledge not to move NATO into Eastern Europe if the Red Army would move out, and then exploited Russia’s withdrawal to bring NATO onto her front porch. Read More…

Posted in . 52 comments

Russia’s Demographic Time Bomb

In the last stanza of “The Battle of Blenheim,” Robert Southey writes:

‘But what good came of it at last?’ Quoth little Peterkin.
‘Why, that I cannot tell,’ said he; ‘But ’twas a famous victory.’

What did it really matter? The poet was asking of the triumph of the Duke of Marlborough—”Who this great fight did win.” What brings back this poem about the transience of glory and folly of war—during this week’s struggle over whose flag will fly over Crimea—is a wall chart that just arrived from the UN.

“World Population 2012″ projects the population growth, or decline, of every country and continent, between now and 2050. Most deeply involved in Crimea’s crisis are Russia and Ukraine. Yet, looking at the UN numbers, there seems an element of absurdity in this confrontation that could lead to a shooting war.

Between 2012 and 2050, Ukraine, war or no war, will lose one-fourth of its population. Eleven to twelve million Ukrainians will vanish from the earth, a figure far higher than the highest estimate of the death toll of the horrific Holodomor of 1932-33. Russia will lose 22 million people, with her population falling below 121 million. Every month between now and 2050, close to 50,000 Russians will disappear. Some demographers believe the UN numbers to be optimistic. Indeed, this writer has seen projections far more dire.

Those who warn that Vladimir Putin is trying to reconstitute the Soviet Union might explain how this is going to be done as Russia loses 22 million people, while the former Soviet republics of Central Asia—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan—together add 22 million people.

How often in history do nations with shrinking populations invade and annex those with surging populations?

When the UN was set up in 1945, Stalin wanted each of 15 Soviet republics given a seat in the General Assembly. He settled for three seats—for Russia, Ukraine and Byelorussia, now Belarus. That was the core of the old Soviet Union. Yet, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine will lose together 35 million people by mid-century, a figure comparable to the human losses from four years of the Hitler-Stalin war and seven decades of Bolshevik rule.

Our War Party is demanding that we send military assistance and possibly troops to Poland, the Baltic republics and Rumania, and bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. This would mean America would fight Russia to defend them all, should another clash occur as in 2008 in Georgia and today in Crimea. Does this make sense—for any of us? Read More…

Posted in , , . Tagged , , . 27 comments

Push For New Cold War Seems to Stall

happy_hour / Shutterstock.com

How goes the campaign to pep up Americans for a new Cold War? If the most recent polling on the Ukraine crisis is to be believed, not very well. According to a survey released yesterday by Pew Research Center, only 29 percent of Americans want the U.S. “to take a firm stand” against Russia’s incursion into the Ukraine, while 56 percent prefer that the United States “not get too involved in the situation.” Among “independents”—a category much scrutinized and coveted by political operatives of both parties—the skeptical-about-intervention numbers were highest of all: 62 percent versus 25 percent. A mere 16 percent of Republicans supported the certifiably insane position—”consider military options”—while the percentage among Democrats and independents so inclined barely topped the margin of error.

This polls comes after two weeks of intense anti-Putin propagandizing by the Iraq War Party, attempting to reconstitute itself a decade later. We have seen windy laments about American lack of moral backbone from Leon Weiseltier (Jim Sleeper provides a delicious takedown of the closeted neocon here) and “Putin equals Hitler” analogies from Richard Cohen and Hillary Clinton. We have seen the Washington Post and New York Times columnists bloviating against Russia’s Vladimir Putin almost every day, and the major television puff pieces celebrating the rebels who mounted an anti-democratic coup in Kiev’s Maidan Square. (Yes, the coup overthrew a terribly corrupt ruler, but why not simply wait for an election to get rid of him?)

But despite the media barrage, Americans simply don’t find Russia reasserting some sort of hegemonic position in Crimea much to be concerned about. Perhaps they think that what goes on in Crimea isn’t really any of our business. That’s something of a surprise—the sheer intensity of the anti-Putin media barrage made it seem likely that at least some sort of “tough” majority could be temporarily cobbled together in support of anti-Putin measures, but most Americans seem to have tuned it out. Overheated Beltway language implying a Putin blitzkrieg seems somehow unrealistic in the face of a Russian intervention that has not, as of this writing, resulted in the loss of a single life.

Why aren’t the American people following the clues of their media masters? It’s not entirely clear. But I would point to two powerful potential reasons: the real Cold War was about the spread of Communism, which Americans understood to be an evil system, not about hostility to Russia acting like a normal great power. Adam Gopnik makes the point (in a short essay of exceptional lucidity) here:

The point of the Cold War, at least as it was explained by the Cold Warriors, was that it wasn’t a confrontation of great global powers but, rather, something more significant and essential: a struggle of values, waged on a global scale, between totalitarians and liberals. Russia as a nation was incidental—if the Soviets had given up Marxism and on the utopian (or dystopian) remaking of the world, and had been content to act as a regular power, we would have had no war, cold or hot. That, anyway, was what the Cold Warriors claimed—indeed, those who saw Soviet ideology as mere Russian behavior were regarded as historically naïve. And here we are, with a restored Russia, paranoid about encirclement, increasing their leverage in the neighborhood. It may be ugly and it may be wrong, and Ukraine deserves the moral support that small nations always deserve when they are bullied—but it is also historically normal. If we become hysterical every time historical forces assert themselves, there will be no end to the hysteria.

Or, to put it another way (as Pat Buchanan did), there’s a difference between a Russian ruler who murders priests by the thousands and one who jails for a year the Pussy Riot ladies for committing sacrilege.

Then there are some very practical reasons to pause before joining up with the Beltway sanctions brigades. The Russian analyst Fyodor Lukyanov, writing in Al Monitor, points to some issues which may arise if Washington pushes hard over Crimea. One is the fate of our troops in Afghanistan, who are resupplied in part through a Russian base in Ulyanovsk. Of course the troops could be resupplied through Pakistan, and could probably even exit through there if necessary. But it’s likely to be logistically far more difficult, and could potentially cost American lives. Then there is Syria, where Russian and American diplomacy has tentatively cooperated, at least on chemical weapons. And Iran, where Russia has pleased Washington by canceling previously agreed upon weapons sales. Obviously if faced with American hostility, Putin would reconsider Russian policies on all these issues according to his estimate of Russia’s interests.

One would hope the Obama administration would weigh this before accepting Bill Kristol’s invitation to ignite a new Cold War with Russia. We will see. Ukraine’s prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, “elected” by Victoria Nuland, if not by the Ukrainian people, is due for a White House visit today (Wednesday). When the invitation was tendered, Washington was roiling in anti-Putin, new Cold War frenzy. Since then, the American people have registered a cool message, and even CPAC, the right-wing young Republican organization, has given a straw poll victory to Rand Paul, the national candidate most wary of starting a new cold war. Bob Gates, a foreign policy stalwart of the last two administrations, has noted realistically that there’s not much anyone can do to sever Russia from Crimea, though of course we could shoot ourselves in the foot. It will be interesting to see whether Obama, a far cooler head than Kerry, Clinton, and of course Nuland, will be able to shift course and signal to the world that America’s global policies will not be tethered to a revolutionary nationalist regime of dubious stability which rose out of the barricades in Kiev.

Posted in . Tagged , , , , , , . 28 comments

China and India Offer Russia Tepid Support

As coverage of the standoff between Russia and Ukraine continues and debate over America’s role in the conflict rages on, two crucial players have stepped forward to offer support to Russia: China and India. While no assumptions can be made about China’s diplomacy with Russia, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that an economic superpower would protect its trade agreements in the region. China is Ukraine’s second largest trading partner, a partnership worth $7.3 billion dollars a year, with a target of $20 billion by 2017.

China likely has no intention of endangering its profitable relationships in the face of geopolitical conflict. There is no indication that China will publicly condemn Russia’s actions: it may instead carefully weigh its options with regard to its political alliance with Russia and future economic opportunities with Ukraine. China has paid lip service to Ukraine, but that may change as the situation develops. A spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Ministry reasserted its non-interventionist policy, but left room to switch platforms if it became expedient:

It is China’s long-standing position not to interfere in others’ internal affairs. We respect the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. There are reasons for why the situation in Ukraine is what it is today. China will follow the development of the situation closely and call on relevant parties to seek a political resolution of their differences through dialogue and negotiation based on respect for international law and norms governing international relations in order to uphold regional peace and stability.

As it currently stands, China has not made a definitive move towards either Russia or Ukraine. Joel Wuthnow, a China analyst writing for the National Interest, suggests that China may side with its previously established economic relationships: “In addition, China’s relations with Ukraine deepened in December with a “strategic partnership” signed by Xi and then-president Viktor Yanukovych. This agreement involved a five-year, $30 billion plan to boost PRC investment in areas including infrastructure, aviation and aerospace, energy, agriculture, and finance.” Much of China’s diplomacy springs out of its business partnerships, and thus far Ukraine does not seem to be an exception. But China also has no interest in estranging Russia, especially after Presidents Putin and Jinping appeared together in public at the Sochi Olympics, sending a signal of solidarity as the Western media raked Putin over the coals. Shannon Tezzi of The Diplomat posits that in spite of deep philosophical misgivings, China will put its developing relationship with Russia above its own political agenda, at least in this case. But public support of Russia is not without risk.

What’s confusing is why India has decided to come forward. Read More…

Posted in , . Tagged , , , , , . 5 comments

Ukraine and Syria’s Common Path to Resolution

When columnist Peggy Noonan asked, “Whose Side Are We On?” about Ukraine, the answer was obvious. The people in the streets of Kiev were demonstrating for freedom against an authoritarian president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was shooting them down. We Americans were all with the demonstrators for freedom and democracy. We knew it in our hearts.

Yet, Yanukovych had been in power only four years, elected in what had been called “an impressive display of democracy” by outside observers. In the face of the protests, he agreed to European demands for early elections and a more representative cabinet. But the demonstrators refused, forcing the imperious Yanukovych to flee in what seemed like a victory for the people. But was it democratic to overthrow an elected government? Does democracy matter here?

The first parliamentary acts of the new government under speaker and interim president Oleksandr Turchynov were to issue mass murder charges against the outgoing leaders and downgrade Russian from a second official Ukraine language. Governor Mikhail Dobkin of Russian-speaking Kharkiv region called the ski-masked Pravy Sektor demonstrators “fascists” for the violence of their demonstrations and the prejudice shown in their demands. The mayor of eastern Sevastopol resigned under pressure from Russian-speaking Ukrainians and his self-appointed replacement promised to resist the western Ukrainian government. Russia’s Vladimir Putin recalled his ambassador, cut aid, warned against oppressing the Russian-speaking majority of Ukraine’s eastern regions and then, in the guise of protecting his fleet, introduced troops into Russian-language-speaking Ukrainian Crimea.

Ukraine is closely divided between primarily Ukrainian-speakers and Russian-speakers, as demonstrated in each of its razor-thin, passionate elections. The great majority of the demonstrators were from the Western-oriented Ukraine-speaking areas. Were the Ukrainian people as a whole or just its westerners the ones to support? It is true that the old Soviets coercively settled Russians in the eastern regions specifically to weaken the westerners, but they are there now and provide pretext for Putin if not support. A civil war would be a disaster for all, even Putin, whose own Russians could turn on him. While we are for Ukraine, Russia is the only nation state other than the U.S. that has sufficient power to cause a nuclear holocaust. Experts all agree the U.S. cannot do much militarily, and minor moves like U.S. sanctions often irritate without results. It is in everyone’s interest to calm things down even if our hearts are inflamed.

Our hearts speak in Syria, too. The U.S. government, the media, and probably most Americans consider themselves on the side of the Sunni majority rebels against the brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad and his Alawite/Shiite led coalition of minorities. He is not democratic, and liberty is rare, so the choice seems simple. But the effective rebel military units are radical Islamists. The moderates the U.S. is supporting are mostly in exile or ineffective, so much so that the U.S. supported replacing Free Syrian Army leader Gen. Salim Idriss with Abdul-Illah al-Bashir, an Assad defector. While top Washington Post foreign correspondent David Ignatius was still celebrating the replacement, the moderate military commanders of all five battle areas in Syria and nine other military leaders called Idriss’ replacement a “coup” and were breaking ties with the U.S. backed Supreme Military Council.

Meanwhile, the two top Sunni Islamic rebel groups—the Nusra Front (designated as al-Qaeda’s official group) and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (the previous official al-Qaeda)—were fighting each other; ISIS leader Abu Khalid al-Suri was killed the next day. At the same time, Saudi Arabia announced a new Syria policy leader, Mohammed bin Nayef, an aggressive supporter sending of more arms to fellow Sunni fighters on the scene now planning to send them antiaircraft and other heavy weapons. Read More…

Posted in . Tagged , , , . 5 comments

Marco Rubio’s Absurd Foreign Policy

Though Barack Obama is widely regarded as a weak president, is the new world disorder really all his fault?

Listening to the more vocal voices of the GOP one might think so.

According to Sen. Lindsey Graham, Vladimir Putin’s move into Crimea “started with Benghazi.” ”When you kill Americans and nobody pays a price, you invite this type of aggression,” said Graham. Putin “came to the conclusion after Benghazi, Syria, Egypt” that Barack Obama is “a weak indecisive leader.”

Also blaming Obama for Crimea, John McCain got cheers at AIPAC by charging, “This is the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy in which nobody believes in America’s strength anymore.” This “blatant act” of aggression “cannot stand,” said McCain. How McCain plans to force Putin to cough up Crimea was left unexplained.

Now Marco Rubio seems to be auditioning to replace the retired Joe Lieberman as third amigo. His CPAC speech is described by the L.A. Times:

[Rubio] said that China is threatening to take parts of the South China Sea … a nuclear North Korea is testing missiles, Venezuela is slaughtering protesters, and Cuba remains an oppressive dictatorship. He added that Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons and regional hegemony and Russia is attempting to ‘reconstitute’ the former Soviet Union.

What all these countries have in common, said Rubio, is “totalitarian governments.” Rubio proposes a U.S. foreign policy of leading the world to “stand up to the spread of totalitarianism.”

Not quite as ambitious as George W. Bush’s “ending tyranny in our world,” but it will do.

Where to begin. Read More…

Posted in . Tagged . 13 comments

Military Power Is Not a Foreign Policy Panacea

Photo: U.S. Army

A recent article by Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations serves to illustrate how some elite thinkers in the United States have come to view the application of deadly force as a cure-all for a wide range of foreign policy challenges. In the February 10 edition of the Financial Times, he wrote that it was the U.S. failure to “arm and train the Free Syrian Army” that allowed the Syrian regime to stay in power. To counter perceived American inaction, he recommended solutions ranging from “doing more to arm the moderate opposition, to declaring a no-fly zone. Drones could strike al-Qaeda operatives in Syria; air power could create humanitarian zones near the Turkish and Jordanian borders.” While Mr. Boot castigates the White House for “inaction,” he does not bother to address the most critical question: what happens after these steps are taken?

For example, he argued we should train and arm “the Free Syrian Army.” Yet as has been widely reported, this so-called ‘army’ is a fractious, incongruous alignment of disparate groups, many of whose goals are antithetical to American interests and who often fight among themselves as often as against regime forces. Moreover, he does not address how these individual actions fit into a comprehensive strategy. How does he imagine the U.S. will identify al-Qaeda operatives within Syria for drone strikes? What end would these drone strikes seek to achieve? Kill “some” of the leaders? 10 percent? 50 percent? What would be the strategic utility of such a course of action? Given that nearly unfettered drone strikes have proven inconsequential in Pakistan and Yemen, how will sporadic strikes in Syria change the tactical balance?

Perhaps most importantly, advocates of military action frequently fail to consider this possibility: what sort of Syria would exist if their suggested military actions succeeded and the current Syrian regime did fall? What would be the likelihood that the grudging cooperation currently at play between radical and moderate Islamic groups on the rebel side would erupt into open warfare in the struggle for control of a post-Assad Syria? What would the United States do if an al-Qaeda affiliated coalition gained control of the Syrian state? These are hardly hypothetical possibilities.

Yet the default position by opinion leaders like Mr. Boot is to use military power first, and worry about the consequences later; the effects suffered by the men and women who live in the target country seem to get little consideration. Read More…

Posted in . Tagged , , , , . 7 comments
← Older posts Newer posts →