Tuesday, October 24, 2017

October 24, 2017

MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey

Middle Eastern Conundrum: Will the United States Ignore the Lessons of Soviet Intervention into Future Disaster?


The armed assault against ISIS in Syria, more particularly, against its capital, Raqqa, is winding down. ISIS appears to have been cleared from large areas of Syria. Although the American press attributes this almost exclusively to the American-supported Kurdish Peshmerga fighters who are largely concentrated in the northeastern areas of the country, the Syrian government forces of President Bashar Hafez al-Assad, strongly backed by Russia, have been arguably even more effective in ridding large portions of the Syrian state of ISIS and Islamic terrorist activity, especially in the more populated and productive western areas of the country. [You won’t hear much at all in the American media about Russian-supported military efforts to defeat ISIS.]

The so-called “Syrian moderates,” so heralded by  frenzied interventionists John McCain and Lindsey Graham, never materialized as a significant force in the American-backed, abortive anti-Assad “coalition.” Indeed, the tiny “moderate” groups that did exist were quickly compromised and mostly absorbed by more radical Islamist groups such as the al-Nusra Front, which is just as violent, if not more so, than ISIS or al-Qaeda. President Assad, for all his authoritarian excess, was able to put together a significant bloc of supporters, including the near entirety of Syria’s important and persecuted Christian population, his own more secular Alawite Muslims, the Syrian Ba’ath Party, and others who recognized that at least for the time being, he was the only figure on the horizon capable of bringing any semblance of order to the Syrian nation.

ISIS has since spread its reach to other Muslim countries in the region, and even into Africa, as recent events have illustrated. But its attempt to reconstitute an Islamic caliphate, based in Damascus, appears for the moment, dashed by a combination of Kurdish fighters and reinvigorated Syrian government military success.

Despite the continuing harangues by McCain and Graham, and their insistent demands that the United States get more deeply involved, including with troops on the ground, the only man capable of bringing any kind of order to Syria—Assad—will, it seems, remain in power for the time being.

But quantifiable peace in the Middle East is just as remote as ever.

First, there are the Kurds.  With the renewed assertiveness of the area’s large Kurdish population, who have been arguably our best and most effective allied fighting force against ISIS, the region’s future looks quite complicated. The Kurdish people are divided up and found in four nations: Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria. They are one of the largest ethnic groups in the world without their own nation. A majority of them are located in Iraq where they already have an autonomous region in the north and where they threaten to secede from Iraq (with recent resulting military action by the Shia government in Bagdad). In Syria they inhabit the extreme northeastern area and have been critical in the fight against ISIS. In Turkey their presence is significant in the southwestern area of the country, and they are engaged in a bloody and interminable struggle against our ally President Erdogan of Turkey and his authoritarian government.

Of course, the continued and age-old conflict between Muslim sects, between Sunni and Shia, and Wahabis in Saudi Arabia, continues to evolve.  And we have not even mentioned the machinations and actions of the Israeli government or how its position affects American views….

The Russians—the old Soviets—found out years ago that making alliances and sending in ground troops to fight in Islamic civil wars was a losing proposition. Afghanistan is littered with the bleached bones of military-aged Russian boys. And we only need to recall American soldiers in Lebanon, blown sky high, or the negative effects of our invasion of Iraq, or the endless warfare in Afghanistan, to understand what Moscow learned three decades ago.

Nevertheless, the zealous Neoconservative “war hawks” continue to beat the war drums for additional American involvement in a region where our more recent actions have not worked out exactly as they envisaged. Whether in Iraq, where replacing a bad but religiously-tolerant Sunni Sadam Husein resulted in an even worse Shia government which is much less tolerant, or in Lebanon, which is now de facto allied with Iran, or with Saudi Arabia, which while an ally, has done more to foment Islamic extremism than any other Middle Eastern state, the United States has few good options.

Of all observers and commentators on the Middle East, Pat Buchanan has always made the most sense. Even in the early 1990s his warnings against our incursion into Iraq and the negative results that would produce proved correct. He was like Homer’s Cassandra, who warned the Trojans about taking in the equine “peace gift” of the Greeks—he was “destined to prophesy truth, but not to be believed until too late.”  Yet, even though his prophesies of disaster were borne out, the Neoconservative “war party” has never acknowledged its errors or its faulty vision. Indeed, the irrepressible McCain, Graham, and apologists like Bill Kristol (The Weekly Standard), Max Boot (former McCain foreign policy advisor), and others continue to chomp at the bit for more intervention, even if it means thousands more American deaths and direct confrontation with Russia (which many of them actually welcome).

Let us hope—and pray—that President Trump refuses to listen to those in his administration who advocate such a policy!

Today, then, I pass on Pat’s latest column, plus a recent column by Justin Raimondo, a critique of John McCain’s latest speech which illustrates fully his globalism—and his warped and extremely dangerous vision.

Dr. Boyd D. Cathey

Are Our Mideast Wars Forever?

By Patrick J. Buchanan    Tuesday - October 24, 2017

"The Kurds have no friends but the mountains," is an old lament. Last week, it must have been very much on Kurdish minds. As their U.S. allies watched, the Kurdish peshmerga fighters were run out of Kirkuk and all the territory they had captured fighting ISIS alongside the Americans. The Iraqi army that ran them out was trained and armed by the United States.

The U.S. had warned the Kurds against holding the referendum on independence on Sept. 25, which carried with 92 percent. Iran and Turkey had warned against an independent Kurdistan that could be a magnet for Kurdish minorities in their own countries. But the Iraqi Kurds went ahead. Now they have lost Kirkuk and its oil, and their dream of independence is all but dead.

More troubling for America is the new reality revealed by the rout of the peshmerga. Iraq, which George W. Bush and the neocons were going to fashion into a pro-Western democracy and American ally, appears to be as close to Iran as it is to the United States. After 4,500 U.S. dead, scores of thousands wounded and a trillion dollars sunk, our 15-year war in Iraq could end with a Shiite-dominated Baghdad aligned with Tehran.

With that grim prospect in mind, Secretary Rex Tillerson said Sunday, "Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against ... ISIS is coming to a close ... need to go home. Any foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home."
Tillerson meant Iran's Quds Force in Iraq should go home, and the Shiite militia in Iraq should be conscripted into the army.

But what if the Baghdad regime of Haider al-Abadi does not agree? What if the Quds Force does not go home to Iran and the Shiite militias that helped retake Kirkuk refuse to enlist in the Iraqi army? Who then enforces Tillerson's demands?

Consider what is happening in Syria. The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, largely Kurdish, just annihilated ISIS in Raqqa and drove 60 miles to seize Syria's largest oil field, al-Omar, from ISIS. The race is now on between the SDF and Bashar Assad's army to secure the border with Iraq. Bottom line: The U.S. goal of crushing the ISIS caliphate is almost attained. But if our victory in the war against ISIS leaves Iran in the catbird seat in Baghdad and Damascus, and its corridor from Tehran to Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut secure, is that really a victory? Do we accept that outcome, pack up and go home? Or do we leave our forces in Syria and Iraq and defy any demand from Assad to vacate his country?

Sunday's editorial in The Washington Post, "The Next Mideast Wars," raises the crucial questions now before us. Would President Trump be willing to fight a new war to keep Iran from consolidating its position in Iraq and Syria? Would the American people support such a war with U.S. troops? Would Congress, apparently clueless to the presence of 800 U.S. troops in Niger, authorize a new U.S. war in Syria or Iraq?

If Trump and his generals felt our vital interests could not allow Syria and Iraq to drift into the orbit of Iran, where would we find allies for such a fight? If we rely on the Kurds in Syria, we lose NATO ally Turkey, which regards Syria's Kurds as collaborators of the PKK in Turkey, which even the U.S. designates a terrorist organization.

The decision as to whether this country should engage in new post-ISIS wars in the Mideast, however, may be taken out of our hands.

Saturday, Israel launched new air strikes against gun positions in Syria in retaliation for shells fired into the Golan Heights.  Damascus claims that Israel's "terrorist" allies inside Syria fired the shells, to give the IDF an excuse to attack.

Why would Israel wish to provoke a war with Syria? Because the Israelis see the outcome of the six-year Syrian civil war as a strategic disaster. Hezbollah, stronger than ever, was part of Assad's victorious coalition. Iran may have secured its land corridor from Tehran to Beirut. Its presence in Syria could now be permanent. And only one force in the region has the power to reverse the present outcome of Syria's civil war — the United States. Bibi Netanyahu knows that if war with Syria breaks out, a clamor will arise in Congress to have the U.S. rush to Israel's aid.

Closing its Sunday editorial the Post instructed the president: "A failure by the United States to defend its allies or promote new political arrangements for (Syria and Iraq) will lead only to more war, the rise of new terrorist threats, and, ultimately, the necessity of more U.S. intervention."

The interventionist Post is saying: The situation is intolerable. Confront Assad and Iran now, or fight them later.

Trump is being led to the Rubicon. If he crosses, he joins Bush II in the history books.

McCain As Metaphor

by Justin Raimondo Posted on   October 19, 2017

Some people are living symbols, sheer embodiments of a concept that fits their persona as snugly as their skin: e.g. the Dalai Lama personifies Contemplative Piety, Harvey Weinstein is the incarnation of Brazen Vulgarity, and John McCain’s very person exudes the sweaty blustery spirit of Empire. His entire history – born in the Panama Canal Zone, son of an admiral, third-generation centurion, the War Party’s senatorial spokesman – made it nearly impossible for him to be other than what he is: the country’s most outspoken warmonger and dedicated internationalist.

As George Orwell remarked, “After forty, everyone has the face they deserve,” and in McCain’s case this is doubly true. That Roman head, fit for a coin of high denomination, looks as if it might sprout a crown of laurel leaves at any moment:  Grizzled brow, wrinkled with the tension of an inborn belligerence, eyes alight with a perpetual flame of self-righteous anger, McCain is Teddy Roosevelt impersonating Cato the Elder. In the extreme predictability of his warlike effusions, he’s become a bit of a cartoon character. Who can forget his enthusiastic rendition of “Bomb bomb bomb Iran!” to the tune of “Barbara Ann”?

The Senator from Arizona represents something relatively new on the American scene: the emerging class of colonial administrators, Pentagon contractors, and high-ranking military personnel, and their families, many of them stationed overseas. These people have a material interest in the expansion of our role as global cop, they number in the tens of thousands, and they are strategically placed in the social order, with enough social power to constitute an influential lobby.

As the prototype of this mutant species of Homo Americanus, McCain is the perfect enemy of the new nationalism that handed the White House to Donald Trump and sundered the Brits from the EU. It’s no surprise he’s become the antipode of the Trumpian “America First” foreign policy doctrine. His latest philippic perfectly summarizes the spirit and content of the brazen imperialism that is his credo and the credo of his class. We get the whole grand tour of McCainism as a worldview, from the rather odd idea that “America is an idea” and not an actual place, to the glories of the “international order.” There is much shedding of blood “to make a better world” – a cause we are told has “made our own civilization more just, freer, more accomplished and prosperous than the America that existed when I watched my father go off to war on December 7, 1941.” Now here is crackpot Keynesianism with a vengeance: the destruction of World War II was good for the economy!

Having “liberated” the world from itself, the United States, as the champion of World Order, is in danger of turning away from its sacred duty to always be shedding lots and lots of blood on behalf of Others. And we know just who McCain is talking about:

“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”

The idea that we led and organized the world for the entire postwar era erases the cold war from history, a neat trick given McCain’s record. And as for our “ideals” and this “last best hope” business, none of that is worth a single American soldier – nor does it have anything to do with a soldier’s proper job, which is protecting this country. Yet what is one to expect from someone who actually believes “we live in a land of ideals, not blood and soil.” Blood never comes into it for McCain unless it’s being shed in some ill-conceived totally unnecessary war. And as for soil – there is none. There’s just “ideals,” floating in a void.

While admitting that the Trumpian version of American nationalism is somewhat undercooked – and, perhaps, not all that digestible – one has to wonder: where does a supporter of the Iraq war, who assured us it would be a glorious victory, get off calling anybody or anything half-baked?

McCain doesn’t even try making a coherent argument: instead, he simply lies by claiming that, having taken the road to Empire, “we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did.” It’s utter nonsense, of course: empires are an expansive luxury. We spend more on the military than the top ten powers combined, and the national debt is at historic heights. We’re effectively bankrupt thanks to out-of-control military spending and McCain’s favored wars of choice.

The idea that we have a “moral obligation” to enforce McCain’s beloved “international order” is rooted in the crazed post-millennial pietism that has motivated so much that is mischievous in American history. The old religious impulse that motivated Prohibition and the “anti-vice” campaigns of the nineteenth century has, today, been secularized and internationalized. The old fundamentalists sought to remake the country, their secular successors seek to remake the world. This accounts for the quasi-religious tone of McCain’s remarks, this talk of “moral obligation” and “shame” if we fail to take up the burden of Empire, manfully and willfully, because “We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”

In other words: Americans have no right to live their lives in peace, and to leave others in the same condition: they must perpetually be sticking their noses in other peoples’ business, sniffing out “injustice” and making sure the trains run on time. McCain hails the crusade to “help make another, better world” – yet the American people don’t want another world, they want to live in this world in peace and security, rather than sacrificing themselves to some imaginary “duty” to uplift the world on Uncle Sam’s shoulders. That’s one reason why Trump is in the White House and McCain is on the outside looking in.


You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.

I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].

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