Category: War (Page 1 of 4)

Trump Warsaw speech confuses more than clarifies

Donald Trump came home from his first G20 meeting as president with U.S. policy towards Russia, Syria, and Europe in the same state of confusion as when he left. On issues from election interference, Syria’s ongoing civil war, and defense of its allies, the administration made contradictory statements and lacked credibility.

Start with his big Warsaw speech the day before the G20 started: He spoke of values threatened by terrorism, violence, and tyranny, but he didn’t define those values or the threats. Since his first foreign trip, he has been vague as to what he thinks constitutes terrorism. In Saudi Arabia, a country that is funding militants and spreading Wahhabism, he called for nations of the world to “drive out the terrorists and extremists.” As one might have expected, he took the opportunity in Warsaw to emphasize the fact that he made a speech in Saudi Arabia.

But who was he referring to when he said “drive out the terrorists?” Are the groups fighting to overthrow Assad terrorists? Clearly some of them are affiliated with terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, and even those that are not are engaging in anti-government violence to achieve political goals, which falls under the definition of terrorism. Yet Trump has appeared to have good chemistry with the Saudis, bragging (and vasty exaggerating) about the prospect of selling them millions of dollars of weapons. He even appeared to side with Saudi Arabia in its geopolitical conflict with Qatar, before he even knew what was happening. (Read Blatt and Maitra’s piece on the Qatar situation in The National Interest.)

It wasn’t but three paragraphs later that Trump’s call for states to stop supporting terrorism ran up against the reality of Syria. He said, “We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere, and its support for hostile regimes — including Syria and Iran.” By implication, this policy would help the militants and terrorists fighting in Syria; without Russia’s support, the Syrian regime would be much weaker.

The call for Russia to stop supporting Iran and the labeling of Iran as a “hostile regime” also plays into Saudi Arabia’s goal for domination of the Middle East. Rather than opposing terrorism, Trump is simply buying the Saudi framing of “terrorism” as an excuse to push Saudi self-interest—even at the expense of U.S. interests.

This follows months of confused policy from the Trump administration on Syria. As Bombs + Dollars has documented, the Trump administration has vacillated between withdrawing American opposition to Assad and calling for Assad’s overthrow. In the span of one week in April, the White House went from saying U.S. policy was not focused on getting Assad out to calling for Assad’s ouster and then bombing an airfield.

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London Burning: Latest terror attack is “Fourth Gen Warfare”

At 10:30 pm on Saturday, June 3, London witnessed the latest in a string of jihadi terror attacks that have so far hit Afghanistan, Iraq, and Manchester. ISIS has also taken over the town of Marawi in the southern Philippines, showing that as its central state is rolled back inch by inch it has the potential to expand elsewhere.

The attack on London Bridge saw 7 people killed by being run over by a white van or stabbed by the three terrorists who then went on a stabbing rampage that ended in Borough Market. British armed police arrived on the scene in 8 minutes from the time of the alert, where they shot all 3 men dead, who were wearing what turned out to be fake suicide vests.

The attacks struck at another landmark in the capital of the West’s home to parliamentary democracy; London Bridge is a landmark with deep historical significance, and to launch an attack on it was an attempt to reach the same level of psychological impact as that on Westminster Bridge back in March. Borough Market is a popular tourist and local attraction and is always full of people. If the attackers had managed to obtain AK-47’s or another similar firearm, or indeed if they’d actually had real suicide vests, the death toll could have been catastrophic. As it was, the country is grateful that they only had a vehicular missile and blades to finish the job. That is what we’ve come to in the West.

What we are seeing is, as Maajid Nawaz and others have described, a full blown global jihadist insurgency. The jihadists have taken their campaign of terror beyond mere terrorism and have elevated it to the levels of highly decentralised, insurgent, Fourth-Generation Warfare.

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Book Review: “The Strange Death of Europe”

‘The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam’ by Douglas Murray

Hardcover: 352 pages, Publisher: Bloomsbury Continuum (4 May 2017), Language: English. £18.99. Available at Amazon

 

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Douglas Murray is not known for shying away from controversial subjects, or for keeping quiet on matters that need the bright light of public discourse shone on them, whether people want that light shone or not.

He has been a vocal critic of radical Islam and Islamist terrorism for over a decade now and has always spoken with great lucidity and coherence on a range of very difficult subjects that won’t be made

any easier to face by ignoring. To watch him debate on the subject of whether Islam has anything to do with terrorism, for instance, is to watch a verbal heavyweight often crush the opposition with skilful rhetoric and salient facts that just will not go away, much to his opponents’ chagrin.

Douglas Murray’s latest book is a bringing together of the themes he’s been thinking, writing and talking about for years now, and as a result the argument presented within this extremely eloquent piece of rapid-fire literary slaying of sacred cows is a pleasure to read, even as someone who doesn’t agree with everything he has to say. Given that he opens with ‘Europe is committing suicide. Or at least its leaders have decided to commit suicide. Whether European people choose to go along with this is, naturally, another matter’ one can tell that he is, as usual, pulling no punches.

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The Warped Marxist-Feminist Ideology of the Kurdish YPG

An Exclusive Eyewitness Account of an American who Trained with the Kurdish Syrian Rebels

Getting retired from the United States Marine Corps at age 23 with zero deployments under my belt was a huge blow to what I figured to be my destiny on this planet. That “retirement” came in 2010 after three years on convalescent leave, recovering from a traumatic brain injury sustained stateside. I got my chance to vindicate myself in 2015 by volunteering to fight in Syria with the Kurdish Yeni Parastina Gel (YPG), or the “People’s Protection Units” in Kurmanji (Northern Kurdish language).

The YPG is the military apparatus of the Partiya Yekitiya Democrat (PYD), the Democratic Union Party, and one of the main forces of the Syrian Democratic Forces fighting ISIS and Bashar al-Assad’s regime. While they are a direct ideological descendant of the Soviet Union, their take on Marxism has a much more nationalistic bent than that of their internationalist forebears. At their training camp that I attended, they constantly spoke of their right to a free and autonomous homeland–which I could support. On the other hand, they ludicrously claimed that all surrounding cultures from Arab to Turk to Persian descended from Kurdish culture. One should find this odd, considering that the Kurds have never had such autonomy as that which they struggle for.

All of this puffed up nationalism masquerading as internationalism was easy to see through. The Westerners were treated with respect by the “commanders” (they eschewed proper rank and billet, how bourgeoise!), but the rank and file YPGniks were more interested in what we could do for them and what they could steal from us (luckily, my luggage was still in storage at the Sulaymaniyah International Airport in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq). By “steal from us,” I mean they would walk up to a Westerner/American and grab their cap, glasses, scarf and whatever else they wanted and ask “Hevalti?” which is Kurmanji for “Comraderie?” and if you “agreed” or stalled (a non-verbal agreement) then they would take your gear and clothing. “Do not get your shit hevalti-ed,” the saying went.

Not only was their idea of Marxism fatuous, their version of feminism was even worse.

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Who said Trump was never a non-interventionist?

In the wake of the U.S. launching over 50 missiles at targets in Syria in response to Syrian use of chemical weapons, which reportedly killed at least 74, some are surprised that Trump isn’t really a non-interventionist, nor is he a realist.

Some who aren’t surprised? The editors of Bombs + Dollars. There will be more to be written later, but for now, enjoy some of our related coverage on Trump and Syria.

Sumantra Maitra gets us started with his piece explaining why Trump was never a realist:

After the debate about Obama being a Realist, (he’s ofcourse not) it was inevitable the Neorealist tag would be on Donald Trump after his interminable dross for New York Times. It is an incoherent mess, with talking points which will make, Hayek to Say to Ricardo to Morgenthau to Waltz, all cringe in shame, but it had some interesting moments.

As I mentioned in the Obama article above, it is perhaps a bit back in fashion these days, with growing isolationist tendencies across both sides of the Atlantic, to use talking points of indifferent stoic state interest. While superficially it might sound realist, it is not, and it lacks theoretical rigor and coherence. Realists have opposed Trump previously, alongside others. And although I don’t speak on behalf of the entire Realist school of FP here, it is safe to presume, they will oppose any delusional lunatic again, and everytime.

Maitra: So, is Donald Trump a Neo-Realist?

And:
Maitra: The Realist civil war and Donald Trump
Maitra: Is Obama a Realist in Syria? TL-DR: No.
Blatt: No, Trump’s not a Realist. He’s not anything, because he has no ideas.
Blatt: Trump’s fake anti-war position slips

In a column I wrote after his inauguration, I explained that Trump is just a saber-rattling strongman who wants to use military intervention to prove his “toughness”:

The discourse over whether Donald Trump is “anti-interventionist” or a militant warmonger is misguided. Trump is neither, and yet he’s also both. Indeed, he has put forward arguments — contradictory as this may sound — for both ways of thinking.

It’s a misnomer, however, that Trump doesn’t want to send American troops abroad to fight terrorist and insurgent groups. After all, he’s repeatedly said he wants to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS in Syria. In March, he even paid lip-service to the need to send in up to 30,000 ground troops.

He has expressed the view that Obama has been a “weak” president for being relatively passive when confronting terrorism and crisis.

Blatt: Trump: Neither isolationist nor interventionist

Maitra, from 2016, on why sympathy for dead civilians is no justification for war:

Unsurprisingly, the worst kind of virtue signaling can start over a visual, and this poor boy was no exception. Historically visuals were used to rally people for a cause. Just one example, during the Indian mutiny of 1857, the power of British press was evident, as paintings of Lady Britannia delivering retributive justice to the evil Indian rebels was used to bring the entire country together in what was one of the toughest time of the Raj. Similar instances are littered throughout history.

Realist academics and policy makers cannot rely on hashtags or candle light vigils, because simply real life is different and there are more considerations than simplistic narratives. If anyone comes and shows dead children photos, and demands action or inaction, that is “Argumentum Ad Passiones” or in common parlance, an appeal to emotions. That is not however a ground for policy. What could be a policy in this situation?

Maitra: Baby pics and appeal to emotions

Correction: A previous version of this article said “over 100” people died in the sarin attack, a number that was cited in some early reports. Most reports in major media now report 74 verified deaths. B+D has updated this post to reflect that “at least 74” people died, which also includes the possibility of 100 or more.

Don’t listen to the false prophets of humanitarianism

Must be hearing how Middle East civil wars are exactly like Jews being persecuted by Nazis in Europe during the 1930s?

I wrote on Quillette, why that is a lie. An excerpt.

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Read the whole thing here.

 

How Bush and Obama let ideology mislead their foreign policies

In my latest column for The Federalist I argue that Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama both followed their ideologies and idealism too closely on Iraq. The result is the current mess we have in Iraq and Syria.

To quote some of the important passages:

Yet a war can just as easily lead to mass American deaths. In fact, in the years since 9/11, 30 times more Americans died fighting in Iraq than died from terrorist attacks. Those mistakes have been well-reported over the years, and the Chilicot Report adds some details but not too much groundbreaking information. In short, the United States and United Kingdom didn’t do enough preparation and were overconfident about their ability to spread democracy to a country with no experience of such. It was a classic example of idealism overpowering cold analysis of facts.

Bush thought spreading democracy would mean more freedom, and that freedom and democracy would create open societies and discourage radicalism. We Americans value our political freedoms. Seeing people around the world suffer under tyranny is disheartening indeed, and it would be wonderful if all people could live in freedom.

But events in recent years in places like Egypt, with its election of the Muslim Brotherhood; Libya, which collapsed into chaos; Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez won multiple semi-democratic elections; Thailand, which suffers from coups and populism; and others show that democracy doesn’t always work everywhere.

Bush didn’t spend enough time considering whether there was a reason Iraq didn’t have democracy and hadn’t had democracy before. Wishing for something is one thing, but one’s wishes and ideals shouldn’t invade the life-and-death decisions of the commander in chief.

Obama was so wed to the idea of “peace,” he didn’t think of how to win peace. … Since then Obama has begun campaigns of air strikes in Iraq and Syria and sent more troops. There are now 5,000 service members on the ground in Iraq, and generals want more. Meanwhile, Obama has slowed the ongoing withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The result is neither peace nor an end to American involvement.

Read the whole thing here: It’s Time To End Ideology-Based Foreign Policy

On Hiroshima and Apologizing

In the final year of his presidency, Barack Obama took the liberty to do what it had been speculated that he would do for some time: visit Hiroshima and give a speech on the atomic bomb. It should be emphasized that he “gave a speech” and didn’t “apologize,” but nonetheless, “apology” is the word of choice, especially across the right side of the blogosphere.

Nowhere did Obama take a stand on whether or not it was right to drop the bomb. That wouldn’t have been the place to do it. You don’t respect your allies by reasserting the righteousness of your might in the place where 60,000 civilians were incinerated. Even if that was necessary to end the war, it was a tragedy that it had to happen and that it did happen.

Acknowledging that tragedy was what Obama did. “We come to mourn the dead,” Obama said. He included the victims of the Nagasaki bombing, too, in reciting the death toll and made specific note of the one dozen American POWs killed (and made no mention of the British and Dutch POWs).

“Yet in the image of a mushroom cloud that rose into these skies, we are most starkly reminded of humanity’s core contradiction. How the very spark that marks us as a species, our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our toolmaking, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will — those very things also give us the capacity for unmatched destruction,” he said.

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PODCAST: In case you didn’t have enough hilarity this week, Belgium joins Syria bombing campaign


How will that make any tangible difference in operational outcome, is however, anybody’s guess.

(In the immortal words of William Hague, “oooh scary!”)

Really…Belgium, of all countries suddenly decided to drop a few bombs. I mean, seriously, I am just a humble political scientist, but strictly by the dictates of logic and prudence, shouldn’t that money be better spent on Human Intelligence (HUMINT) gathering inside Belgium? Or Counter Terrorism operations? Or securing borders and improving surveillance and monitoring within Europe? 1448313843772

How much does one laser guided bomb, one mission, one sortie, one refueling cost, compared to CCTV monitoring, or a yearly salary of a beat-Cop or intelligence officer in Molenbeek, Europe’s jihadist breeding ground and capital? Considering the fact that the majority of Euro terrorists are from within Europe, often second generation, disgruntled urban youths, lonely losers, listening to hip hop and smoking pot, and looking for ultra-violence and misogyny, wouldn’t it be logical to monitor and control that, rather than providing them with more narrative of West interfering in the Middle East?

Just this morning, there was report, how migrant flow from Libya is not controlled. The migrants are not even war refugees, widows, elderly, infirm or children from Middle East, but healthy young men looking for jobs from Sub-Saharan Africa. Shouldn’t the money be better spent in stopping that?

I’ve written an entire essay before for War on the Rocks, on how Libya intervention was a mistake and how there are other ways of containing ISIS and stopping mass migration. But nothing really changes as Europe tries the same process of coalition, bombing, and state building, when the strategy should be one of containment and tactical amputation.

On that frustrating note, here’s the podcast.

In the words of David Petraeus, “Tell me how this ends”?

Listen, and share.

 

Weekly Reading List: So, I got published in War on the Rocks and Nottspolitics

Big week, as I mentioned before, with a couple of major publications coming, other than my regular columns.

To start with, the biggest one till date, my essay on War on the Rocks, where I write a Neo-Realist critique of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s latest revisionist history lesson. And was then called a Neo-Con for some reason, in the comments. But that’s another issue.

The second big one was my guest post at the official blog of the University of Nottingham, Dept of Politics and IR, where I talk about a foreign policy course for Philippines and how it should balance between China and US.

Other than that, here are my weekly columns.

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