Tag: Syria (Page 1 of 4)

Marines concerned about abandoning allies

In a stunning move to many civilians, Secretary of Defense James Mattis tendered his resignation from the Trump White House, effectively giving a two months notice while citing mutually irreconcilable differences when it comes to philosophy. Many Marines see this as a fulfillment of his commitment.

This resignation is by far the most significant departure from the Trump White House. Mattis was a uniting force that caused some “Never Trump” Marines to get begrudgingly on board. It also comes on the heels of the current administration announcing her full withdrawal from Syria.

Mattis made clear his feelings on abandoning allies in his resignation letter. In it, he cast some major shade at Trump but stayed classy about it as Mattis is wont to do. When contacted about this, many Marines both active and prior service were reluctant to divulge their true feelings, but the overall sentiment is that abandonment is bad and we should not abandon our allies in Syria and that Mattis may be abandoning us.

There is fear that Turkey will invade Syria when we pull out as per Mike Fonda, a decorated US Marine who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan under the stars and stripes only to return to the Middle East to fight for YPG, a local Marxist militia.

Other Marines were worried about an unleashed Trump with no Mattis to reign him in. “I don’t know,” said Elizabeth West, “Are people going to remember this as a slap at Trump or as the time he abandoned us to a madman?”

This is an overarching concern of Marines. West comes from a military family and is currently out of the service so has full rights to talk shit about the administration. 




In his resignation letter, Mattis has committed to staying till February to get a replacement up to speed and to do so before the change over of the joint chiefs scheduled in September.

Q+A with John Allen Gay, Executive director of John Q Adams Society

John Allen Gay is the Executive Director of John Quincy Adams Society, and an alumni of The National Interest. Today he talks to us, in our Q+A series, about American interests, U.S. foreign policy and grand strategy, the Trump administration’s agenda and the future of world order.

You can follow him on Twitter @JohnAllenGay.

You can also find other Q+As here.

 

  1. What are the major challenges facing U.S. foreign policy and grand strategy? In light of those challenges, who or what is the biggest threat to U.S.?

We’re currently in a very extended geopolitical position. We guarantee the security of states that border one great power (Russia) and of states engaged in active territorial disputes with another (China), and in a confrontation, those states would likely be unable to secure themselves without significant American aid. We’re also deeply involved in the Middle East, including a growing entanglement in competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran. And this comes after fifteen years of war and deficits have combined to erode our military capabilities. The stability and cohesion of our government has also faded a bit.

All that combines to create a situation ripe for confrontation: a rival power, believing America is outdriving its headlights, might confront a U.S. treaty ally or strategic partner, in the hope that we’ll back down. But will we?

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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.

Liberal interventionists and Trump blinded by Syrian chemical weapons attack

Donald Trump is effectively continuing Barack Obama’s policy on Syria, but you wouldn’t know that from the New York Times‘s breathless coverage of a chemical weapons attack apparently committed by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Trump’s administration affirmed one week ago, via UN ambassador Nikki Haley, that they weren’t interested in focusing on overthrowing Assad. Then a few days later, the Syrian government reportedly used chemical weapons.

Trump’s initial response was to attack Obama, for not having acted after Assad used chemical weapons in 2013–the same strategy (not overthrowing Assad), incidentally, that Trump often supported on the campaign trail. For while Obama did pay lip service to putting pressure on Assad and did sent scant weapons to anti-Assad rebels, for the most part the U.S. stayed out of Syria. For that, the U.S. was criticized by the likes of the Economist and other elite liberal publications.

Nikki Haley just formalized existing policy and stopped pretending it was anything different. There are many terrorist groups among the Assad opposition, so why should America support a policy that would likely lead to an unstable state in the mold of Libya?

The NY Times ran a news analysis by Peter Baker that begins by asserting “the world recoiled at the televised images of lifeless children in the latest atrocity in Syria’s savage civil war.” For the Times, “the world” consists of American White House correspondents cloistered in the press club in Washington, DC, and Syria is the center of the world.

Anyway: “Where other presidents might have used the moment to call for the departure of Syria’s authoritarian leader, Bashar al-Assad, President Trump’s spokesman dismissed the notion as impractical because it would not happen.”

And why shouldn’t he? It is official U.S. policy not to aggressively push for the overthrow of Assad. As there are terrorists on the ground, and no policy in place to replace Assad, it would be highly dangerous to overthrow him.

Yet, Trump, rhetorically, at least, seems persuaded by media outrage.

In less than 24 hours from his first statement, the president with no spine claimed to have changed his mind about Assad:

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New long essays…on Trump, Russia, Berkeley, and the new world order

For those of us old enough, late Gen-Xers and early Millennials, and influenced by mid-90s Grunge, the riots in Berkeley which forced the University of Berkeley to cancel Milo’s talk comes as no surprise. We, from a generation whose defining trait was indifference and calm unflappable belief in the forces of structure over agency, always wondered what it felt like to be constantly radical, hyper, to have the relentless altruistic idea of value and virtue promotion, of the self imposed burden and crusading revolutionary world changing zeal. It constantly felt like Big Lebowski trying to reason with Shaun King. In fact the latest riot was therefore so inevitable that it barely needs mentioning; the inevitable outrage of a pampered generation of middle class pretend revolutionaries, so ideologically inflexible, so detached from working class sensibilities, so mollycoddled to believe in inherent malleable, ever expanding rights like tampon tax, rather than calm quiet resilience; cheered on by Hollywood millionaires, some of the tweets are borderline treasonous. Everything that happened since Trump won was and remains a bourgeoisie rebellion, and here’s a word of caution from someone pushing mid thirties with a growing Homer Simpson tummy; it is going to end brutally. We’ve seen it all before, us, and the generations before us.

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Ridiculous couple of weeks, with all the protest and violence, and worst of all, the hyperbole, but here are a few essays by yours truly.

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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.

 

Why we get Russia wrong (Long Form)

The idea of a long form, citation-heavy, analytical article on Russia and Russian foreign policy, was not something I was interested in, particularly for two simple and personal reasons. First of all, great power relations, their military and grand strategy, with a particular focus on Russia, NATO and Europe is my area of study, research and, dare I say the much-reviled word, expertise. Like every academic, I treat my subject of research with a cherished, revered detachment; not because I feel skeptical about sharing the information/knowledge/wisdom which I spend days studying, for free, but because it is something which I essentially do all day and I feel reluctant about writing or talking about it during my journalistic leisure. Secondly, there is already an insane amount of what we call “pop analysis” on Russian foreign policy that is available online, especially snowballing during election and referendum seasons and such fluid state of Western foreign policy in general. Some written by bleeding heart rights campaigners, some written by broadly partisan ideological commentators from both left and right. Yet others written by journalists covering a single beat or region, broadly missing the greater geopolitical long game. A lot written by op-ed writers and bloggers desperate to fill up their daily content quota. I started my career as a journalist, so I don’t blame any of them. A lot of these pop analysis and explainers are inevitably asinine and demonstrably flawed, and lack even the most fundamental understanding of International Relations theory and the structural forces that shape and influence how states and nations behave and interact with each other in this Hobbesian, anarchic world.

Here, I finally deal with the issue, in details. 

 

Assorted geopolitical thoughts from yours truly

Sorry, I’ve been busy with research and writing. But I took some time for an update on five important developments, which you might have missed. As the world is busy with the disillusioned illiberal democracies, here are some other updates you should be reading about.

  1. India-Iranian geo-strategic convergence. India recently started a naval port in Iran. Details here.
  2. Brexit is turning out to be a geopolitical struggle between EU and UK, which might get nasty.
  3. What does Suez crisis tell us about declining hegemons and rising peer rivals, and how it is similar to South China sea rivalry between US and China? Read here.
  4. The politics of human rights is essentially politics, rhetorically espousing values. Here’s why.
  5. Finally, how threatening is EU Army for UK, US, and Russia and what does International Relations theory tell us? Read here.

FT “How the west has lost the world”: A rebuttal

Phillip Stevens of FT had an excellent piece “How the west has lost the world“, dated October 13th, 2016.
It is an astute piece that highlights how the declining trust in Western institutions, as well as the relative decline in American power and European chaos is leading to a more anarchic world.
I agree with most of it.
There was, however, one paragraph, which, I’m afraid, doesn’t strictly do justice to a concept he attempted to describe and characterise. The para is where he mentions Realism as a sort of fatalism which means one should let the nations sort out their positions, and there will be an equilibrium by itself.

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