December 26, 2018

Syriana Interruptus

Timothy Birdnow

There have been many loud voices decrying Donald Trump's pullout of Syria. We are abandoning the Kurds, we are told, as well as other allies. We are setting the stage for an ISIS comeback just as Obama did when he pulled out of Iraq. We are letting the Russians take control of the Middle East. We are empowering the Iranians and their Chinese benefactors. The list goes on.

On the other hand, this article in Asia Times makes a persuasive case for Syriana interruptus.

From the article: Indeed, a coalition of disgruntled elements and assorted interest groups is forming to debunk Trump. Simply put, they are unhappy that the US military is pulling out of Syria. For many, a gravy train is running while for some others, the issue is Trump – not even Syria.

For the Cold Warriors in the strategic community, Syria is a proxy war against Russia.

Evidently, there is a sophistry in their campaign against Trump’s decision. Principally, three phony arguments are being advanced – that Trump’s decision "baffles” the United States’ allies; that he has thrown the Kurds under the bus; and that a US pullout from Syria harms the anti-ISIS fight.

To take the last argument first – what will be the impact on the Syrian situation? To be sure, ISIS is down, but not quite out. But then, ISIS is today only residual terrorism, after the huge defeat in Iraq.

At any rate, the brunt of the fight against the ISIS was borne by the Syrian government forces and their allies – remember Aleppo? Their grit to finish the job has never been in doubt and there is no reason to fear any let-up.

In fact, their interest lies in stabilizing the security situation in the quickest possible way so the political process leading to a post-conflict Syrian order can be speeded up.

End excerpt.

The article goes on to argue that the Syrian government, Russia, and even Iran will purge ISIS and other terrorist groups if left to their own devices.

Therefore, isn’t it the smart thing to do to let "others” do the job, as Trump put it? However unpalatable the thought might be, a tragedy like the attack on the US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut in 1983 is waiting to happen in Syria once the Turkish military crushes and scatters the Kurdish militia, leaving the 2,000 US troops stranded like sitting ducks in 12 bases in the middle of nowhere spread over a vast territory about one-third the size of all Syria.

Wouldn’t Trump know he’s skating on thin ice? For if body bags were to come home, the political cost would be his – not Mattis’.

Equally, Trump can no longer take for granted the Saudi willingness generously to bankroll the United States’ war in Syria, especially if the self-styled humanists on the Hill proceed with their foreign-policy agenda to wreak vengeance on Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. You can’t have the cake and eat it too, can you?

The ground reality is that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Jordan have exited the Syrian conflict. Egypt has no stomach to get involved and Turkey, of course, has turned hostile. So who are these "allies” that the agitated folks in the US are talking about? The frank answer is: a clutch of British and French operatives and a horde of Western mercenaries.

The Americans have been acting as "spoilers” in Syria, locked in a geopolitical struggle that has very little to do with fighting terrorism and has only impeded the stabilization of the Syrian situation. Thus it is no coincidence that Trump unveiled his considered decision just as the announcement was made in Geneva that the pan-Syrian committee for the drafting of a new constitution has been set up, which will work under United Nations supervision to galvanize a political process leading to elections and the formation of a new government enjoying the mandate of the people.

End excerpt.

This is an article well worth your time.

So, is this a good or bad move? I don't know. We certainly shouldn't be in these endless wars, especially where our national interest is not really involved. I favored the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. I have never favored this Syrian adventure.

Years ago I had a rather lengthy e-mail argument with no less a personage as Jed Babbin, former Undersecretary of Defense for George H.W. Bush. I had criticized an article he wrote for the American Spectator, and he replied to me personally. We had a pleasant disagreement over a number of issues, but one stood out that is pertinent her; Babbin thought it a good idea to go into Syria and I disagreed. I asked "what will the Russians do?" and he replied "who cares what the Russians do."

Russia has no good warm water ports with access to the Mediterranean. The Black Sea is easily blocked at the Dardenelles and Bosporus, and what else do the Russian have? St. Petersburg is far north and also in a constricted passage. So the Russians have made Syria a strategic partner, and Syria is a cornerstone of their geopolitical strategy. I pointed out to Babbin that the Russians already had cause to worry about U.S. troops in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and NATO pushing into places like Ukraine and Georgia - all along their borders. Jed was nonplussed. He apparently wasn't worried about the Russians possessing a much newer nuclear arsenal than ours, and one comparable in size. He figured they were too weak in a conventional sense to oppose us.

But I thought then (somewhere in the early part of the last decade) this was a mistake and we should allow Russia a sphere of influence in Syria; heck - it made things more stable there.

But Obama and Hillary and the other geniuses - Susan Rice, etc. - promted the "Arab Spring" which took out our allies and then went after Syria. It was a stupid idea. It ticked of the Russkies and destabilized the region. Rusia was not going to allow the regime in Syria to collapse, even if it meant war. But Obama and his people were pie-in-the-sky dreamers and tampered with forces beyond their understanding. America was dragged into a conflict that is both largely unwinnable and of no interest to us.

That said, sometimes you are stuck in a situation you do not want, and I wonder if this isn't thus.

I take little interest in the pronouncements of many of these Generals (like Mattis) who have largely built careers as political succubi, draining the body politic. Most are internationalists and swamp dwellers. They are all Ivy League snots, only they attended the military academy. I take what I hear from the top brass in the military with a grain of salt.

But are they wrong? I don't know. Time will tell.

Also, I doubt Trump did this on his own. Somebody is advising him. The media, of course, will not say who that is, but we know it's not John Bolton or many of the other hawks in his Administration.

So is this a good or bad move? You tell me.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 11:39 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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