April 8, 2018

Learning lessons from the Syrian quagmire; Trump should copy Obama to wiggle out of Deep State's headlock

In recent weeks, Trump had made repeated and unequivocal statements about wanting Americans out of Syria immediately, lest we waste another $7 trillion in the Middle East.

This parallels, almost to the day, the statements that most of his top Cabinet officials made last year about Assad's fate being left up to the Syrian people, as the US was no longer going to be in the regime change business anymore.

These Cabinet officials included Secretary of State Tillerson, UN Ambassador Haley, and Press Secretary Spicer -- but crucially not Secretary of Defense Mattis, who was asked directly about this matter during a press conference with his British counterpart in London, and completely dodged the question, which was as good as an answer that he -- and the Pentagon -- still wanted regime change.

The Deep State responded to Trump's attempt to pull the US out of Syria by not just bombing a government airfield over there, but by more than doubling the number of Americans on the ground (at least 2000), building more bases to dig in its presence in the northeast, amassing a private army of Kurds that threatens to provoke Turkey into attacking their American masters, and shifting the rhetorical frame away from non-intervention and toward Assad must go, the US will stay in Syria forever, and Russia and Iran are pulling the puppet-strings and may need to be attacked as well.

* * *

Everyone who apologized for the strike on Syria a year ago by saying it would go no further than a few pock marks on a little airfield has been proven totally wrong. Not just regarding the series of escalations that the US did in fact take after bombing the airfield, but regarding the whole framework and tone of viewing the situation.

Obviously if Trump gives the Pentagon an inch, they will take a mile. Military intervention and occupation is a self-sustaining process, where one action begets more actions. It is not a one-time, cathartic, get-it-out-of-the-system release of energy, characterized by negative feedback loops. It is founding a little armed colony that will grow and grow and grow.

The other discredited framework is that we shouldn't worry until it's too late and the really bad shit has already happened. This approach views our commentary, whether on the internet or in phone calls to our Congressmen, as akin to calling a coin that is tossed in the air. Will the call be accurate or inaccurate?

In real life, accuracy of a prediction does not matter as much as survival from the process whose outcomes are being predicted. If the person calls "war" and the coin lands "no change," nothing is lost. Innocuous false alarm. If the person calls "no change" and the coin lands "war," there are massive negative consequences -- not just the war itself, but the lack of preparations you now suffer from, after assuming the coin would land "no change".

This asymmetric pay-off function means we should always err on the side of mobilizing to head off disaster once we see that the war-coin is tossed into the air.

And with a self-sustaining process like collective violence -- whether a mob rioting or an army invading -- we can never know ahead of time the order of magnitude of the damage done. Maybe only a few individuals will be killed -- or a few dozen, or a few hundred, a few thousand, a few million. All it took was the assassination of one individual, Archduke Ferdinand, to ignite a positive feedback loop that ended up killing tens of millions.

In a negative feedback loop, one person or at most a few people get killed, and that's the end of it. Some robber who shoots someone to steal their wallet, or two guys who get into a deadly fight in a bar when one steps on the other's shoes.

This is individual-level violence, not collective. Any further individuals have a rapidly smaller motive to get involved in the existing violence -- it's just a beef between those two guys who bumped into each other, no need for any bystanders to take offense and get involved.

If the killing is between members of entire groups -- Team A vs. Team B -- then anyone on Team A has a motive to get involved in killing anyone from Team B, and vice versa. That makes each killing like a contagious event that spreads in an epidemic, where if one person gets killed from Team A, it provokes multiple members of Team A to strike back and kill multiple members of Team B. One killing begets multiple killings. Collective violence like this could be between two races in a race riot, two groups of fans for rival soccer teams, or two armies on opposing sides of a conflict.

When we are faced with the decision to get involved in collective violence, the disaster can easily turn out to be orders of magnitude worse than we thought possible, as it feeds on itself. It must require the most catastrophic immediate threat to us, to even consider getting involved.

And needless to say in this case, Syria poses the American people absolutely no threat. They have never attacked us, are not attacking us now, and have no plans to attack us in the future.

The worst attackers from the Middle East have been the Saudi Arabians, who carried out 9/11. Yet they are our #1 allies in the world -- no one has so brutally attacked us and gotten off scot free. The Pentagon prioritizes its alliance with jihadist nations who can help it to attack Iran in their part of the world, rather than its duty to protect the American people on our side of the world. Imperialism is necessarily globalist, and weakens the core nation in order to prop up the crumbling borders on its far-flung fringes.

* * *

As this pathetic process repeats itself all over this year, almost right down to the day, how can Trump and his allies do better this time to resist plunging us further into the Syrian quagmire?

This is all the more important in 2018 since the Russians are far more involved in Syria, and have stopped giving the US the benefit of the doubt about the Trump administration being anti-interventionist. They have clearly stated that a US attack based on a hoax chemical attack may be met with the gravest consequences.

First, Trump must realize that he personally has zero political capital when it comes to deciding military policy, where he is dwarfed by the combined political capital of the Pentagon and other warmongering institutions like the CIA. At every major decision, he has said "I don't want to do this, and I campaigned against doing this, but the Pentagon has my head in a vise, and I have no choice but to surrender to their orders." Syria, Afghanistan, now Syria again.

Aside from giving the Deep State the inch that turns into the mile, he signals weakness by pushing so strongly in one direction and then, one week later, parroting his enemies so strongly in the opposite direction. It makes it clear that he got out-maneuvered and has not only folded, but has chosen to spread his enemy's propaganda for them.

The only recent precedent we have for a president resisting the Deep State that wanted to get us further involved in a factional conflict, was Obama in 2013. Not coincidentally, it was the same country of Syria, same region of Eastern Ghouta, same phony pretext of chemical attacks, same jihadist allies of ours, and the same demand by the Deep State and its mass media mouthpieces to Do Something militarily.

And not coincidentally, on Twitter Trump himself lobbied Obama non-stop and in the most unequivocal terms not to get us entangled any further in Syria.

How did Obama wiggle out of the Deep State's headlock? He could not take them on personally, since no single person can outmatch the political capital of the entire Deep State when they are foaming at the mouth for war.

Instead, he passed the buck to the Congress and to the American people -- putting the decision up for a prolonged public debate. Although the Deep State outweighed the political capital of Obama himself, they did not outweigh the political capital of the entire American citizenry and its representatives in Congress.

And the more they heard about it, the more they talked about it, and the more they thought about it, the more they wanted nothing to do with it. Opinion polls showed it was deeply unpopular -- and worse, that it was most unpopular with Republican citizens (which may, in fairness, have been partisan naysaying). Getting an endorsement from Congress was dead on arrival.

So, it never happened. The Deep State had been arming, funding, and enabling its proxy forces in Syria, and would continue to stand by these jihadist militias as they tried unsuccessfully to topple Assad. But Obama and his allies kept it from getting orders of magnitude worse -- no thousands of Americans on the ground, no amassing a private army of Kurds right along the Turkish border that would provoke that regional power into attacking their NATO ally, and no prospect of the other nuclear superpower launching a punishing attack on the US since Russia was not involved in Syria in 2013.

* * *

Trump's Achilles heel is his blindness to institutional forces, and seeing relations in entirely personal terms, as well as his obsession with countering whatever Obama did, whether it was good or bad. So it may prove impossible for him to copy Obama's successes, if framed that way. Thus, it is imperative for his allies to frame the decision to give Congress and the American people the final say-so, in terms that flatter his ego.

It would not be passing the buck to tell the Deep State "hey, it wasn't my decision" -- it would be giving a voice to the Forgotten Man and Forgotten Woman, none of whom were chanting "Death to Assad" at the Trump rallies. And it would not be copying Obama's proven success -- it would be taking a historically bold move that no other president had the guts to try, far more bold of a move than whatever Obama may have tried.

It will probably require lying to Trump about what Obama did in the same situation -- tell him that Obama just choked like a dog before the generals, whereas Trump will pull off an ingenious trick by throwing the matter to prolonged public debate, where it will die of its own unpopularity. Trump has already started calling Obama weak for ignoring the "red line," so it will take some effort to convince him that Obama was secretly doing the bidding of the Pentagon, and that he should make it a public debate instead.

We don't have to like the kind of people and situations we're dealing with here, but that's the best shot we have to keep the Deep State from getting America further entangled in the Syrian civil war.

Nevertheless, we should remain realistic that this task will be even harder to pull off in 2018 since Trump just idiotically made John Bolton his National Security Adviser, who will be constantly in his ear agitating for war. Again, spend more time framing the bold move Trump can take to make this a referendum with the public and Congress, and less time calling him an idiot for making an idiotic decision that is fait accompli for now.

And do whatever you can to weaken and damage Bolton's reputation, framing anything that goes wrong as Bolton's fault. McMaster was garbage, and presided over last year's escalation in Syria, but Bolton is worse still.

Don't bother lobbying directionless, sycophantic Hannity on Twitter -- more sympathetic will be Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter, and perhaps Lou Dobbs, who openly groused about "Oh please don't get us sucked into another one" when Bolton was on air a few weeks ago. And the usual libertarians in Congress like Rand Paul, who has good rapport with Trump.

And of course, prepare to vote out every Republican in the midterms and for Bernie in 2020. We're not getting what we voted for, and it's time for a little regime change within our own country before it becomes a shithole itself.


  1. You don't need any deep state pressure to explain Trump's being so pro-war. The man's a boomer who didn't go to vietnam, and thus probably feels a need to compensate. Bursting the bubble of the military's being unable to be criticized is something Trump's got the right persona for. Too bad he won't do it.

  2. Trump's largely been anti-intervention in Jihadistan going back to the run up to the Iraq War (a pithy "eh, whatever" response on Stern notwithstanding) and he campaigned pretty heavily on the Iraq War being a mistake which was one of the ways he destroyed Jeb! during the primaries. As Ag linked to as well, this isn't the first time that Trump has signalled a pull out of Syria only for Assad to decide a few days later he needs to stupidly hit his own people with chemical weapons and oh look actually we can't leave now.

    The fact is the Pentagon is absolutely out of control at this point. People have always asked whether X or Y is the new Roman Empire but I have a hard time thinking of anything more Roman than an arrogant military that sees itself as above the civilian leadership and citizens of the state, is massively corrupt, cares only for eternal war to sustain itself and if the nominal leader fo the state has a problem with that then they have no issue showing him who's really running the show.

  3. Right, intra-elite competition is the real problem, with Trump's individual wimpiness toward the elites being a secondary problem. The elites are not just competing against each other as individuals, but as factions or entire institutions.

    I'd say the Pentagon is not so much intending to fuck over the common people, as they are trying to grab as much of the wealth and power at the top -- before any other elite factions grab it first.

    They understand that they don't get to grab as much when Democrats are in office, so they channel their competitiveness into getting Republicans elected -- once that happens, it's a gorge-fest for the military.

    The banks, media, and tech sectors got to gorge themselves under Democrat rule, now the military, agriculture, and energy companies get to gorge themselves. There might not be a country left, or enough lenders to keep inflating our national debt, by the next term -- so gorge all you can, while you can.

    When our institutions were more restrained and deferential toward each other, there was internal peace -- like the Great Compression.

    Eisenhower campaigned on getting *out* of a major ongoing war (Korea), won the election on that theme (no other major themes that year), and the military actually let him pull out of NK (while remaining in the South). Then his Defense Sec slashed the military budget by 50% since they weren't in a major war any longer -- and the military actually accepted those massive cuts.

    Then on the way out of office, Eisenhower warns about the military-industrial sector having such a big profit motive in perpetual pointless war, that they needed to be checked and balanced somehow -- and the military actually let him avoid assassination.

    Hyper-competitiveness has gotten out of control during the Reaganite era, and it won't end until it unfortunately goes too far and one side wipes out the other, or they both wipe each other out and something grows in their place.

  4. Add Chris Hayes and Laura Ingraham to the "anchors to lobby" list.

    With Israel getting more involved this time around, bombing Syria while also bombing Gaza and shooting Palestinian journalists, there may be more pick-up from the libs and progs. The tide is turning against Israel so fast among them.

    At the same time, a lot of the "boo Israel" people are themselves jihadists or in the pay of jihadists, who are slamming Israel in order to promote Hamas, a political Islamist group akin to the Muslim Brotherhood.

    But at the grassroots level, most of the sympathizers of Palestinians are doing so for ethnic or political reasons (non-white, non-Western, occupied nation), not because they support political Islam.

    Will they see Syria the same way -- a non-white, non-Western country attacked by a colonial apartheid state (Israel)? Or will they parrot their Vice News propaganda and say, "Oh who cares, that's the butcher Assad? The White Helmets need our help."

    Interesting contradictions to be worked out there between grassroots liberals and progressives vs. their Qatari-funded punditry that pushes political Islam rather than secular anti-imperial themes regarding Israel, Syria, etc.

  5. If the Iran theme becomes more salient, that could also draw more Democrats out of inaction and push back against the Pentagon.

    The Dems see the Iran deal as one of the big achievements of Obama's presidency, and something that the jealous racist Republicans including Trump are trying to undo, to erase the legacy of the first African-American president, bla bla bla.

    Of course the main supporters on their side are the finance sector who wants to get their investment tentacles into a fairly modern and civilized economy that's been irrationally closed off by our govt for so long.

    So make sure to lobby any libs and progs about how intervention in Syria would be Trump and the GOP's first step toward undoing Obama's legacy of the Iran deal.

    Won't be so hard to connect the two, as the Pentagon increasingly blames Iran for Assad stying in power, as Bolton trains the NSC's targets more on Iran directly, and as Israel joins the bombing of Syria in order to indirectly antagonize Iran.

  6. After the raid on his lawyer Cohen's office, and Trump venting at length on camera about the Mueller probe, we may see Dems turn against a strike or larger action in Syria.

    They'll be tempted to dismiss it as an attempt to distract from the "walls closing in" regarding his legal troubles.

    Dems will want to hear about the "walls closing in" non-stop -- and then Trump interrupts that storyline to make it 24/7 coverage about something totally different. Boo! Get this Syria strike bullshit off the screen, and change the channel back to Trump's legal doom!

    Last year this time, there wasn't a whole lot of "walls closing in," just paranoid conspiratarding. Now that his personal lawyer's office has been raided, and Trump may do a Saturday Night Massacre, that's something concrete to distract from.

    They may start latching onto a "wag the dog" narrative, which would delegitimize the alleged distraction -- military action in yet another Middle Eastern country.

    If you know any pussy-hatters who would otherwise be militarist re Syria because of Russia's support for Assad, float them the idea that Trump's just attacking Syria to distract from the Cohen raid.

    Anything to make intervention unpopular, and something the candidates can run on next time -- no more distracting wars in the Middle East!

  7. Turn on Tucker! Or catch it later...

  8. Circa 1920, we had civil unrest centered around labor disputes and other signs of inequality.

    Circa 1970, we had civil unrest centered around racial and generational differences and tensions (older generations didn't like Vietnam or Jim Crow per se, but older generations didn't want widespread rioting and lawbreaking).

    Circa 2020, will we get unrest based on...What, exactly? The Pentagon being out of control? Robber barons not being held to acount, not unlike the early 20th century? It certainly won't be a repeat of the late 60's, since the population is too old to create a strong sense of generational momentum and we don't have codified discrimination anymore. Maybe we'll just have to wait out how excessive Wall Street and the Deep State decide to be, and based on their behavior we'll make trouble accordingly in the coming years.

    Generationally speaking, I'd like to think that some of these problems will get solved based on attrition of hedonistic generations and/or people born after the mid-70's essentially finally working up the nerve to take the damn keys away from people who graduated from High School before the Berlin Wall fell. Then again, we might see the system as it's been constituted since circa 1980 collapse under it's own weight.

    BTW, according to the GSS those born before 1952 are more likely to ID as middle or upper class. Those born after 1972 are much less likely to ID as middle or upper class. Those born from 1952-1972 are somewhere in between (white cohorts only, keep in mind). And this isn't because younger generations are, well, younger. People born in 1960 have had 40 years to "move on up", but it didn't happen like it did with older generations. Neil Howe in the early 90's already had evidence that many Boomers understood that they wouldn't get the gifts that GIs and Silents got; but basically rationalized it away by saying that their lives had more meaning and spiritual worth.

    It seems to me that as opposed to generations per se, it's more that we can divide people up into three categories:

    1) Those who entered the workforce before 1970 (low immigration levels, no affirmative action basically, strong unions, etc.)

    2) Those who entered the workforce between 1970-1989 (growing striving, diversity, hedonism, etc.)

    3)Those who entered the workforce after 1990 (non-existent unions, horrible entry level wages, immigrants dominating certain sectors, manufacturing being decimated, etc.)

    People who entered the workforce before the 90's just don't get the "failure to launch" thing. And moreover, many "Millennial" traits (WRT life trajectory) were first observed with mid-late period Gen X-ers in the late 80's and 90's; it's just that "young" generations not being able to even get a taste of the American dream wasn't at a level of crisis until circa 2010.

    I seem also to remember that "ever married"? on the GSS reveals that people under the age of 30 start to record much lower levels of marriage in the late 90's and early 2000's. Esp. looking at men only. Anecdotally, I've found that those born from about 1965-1970 (esp. the women) have a decent chance of being married at some point, often to a late Boomer. The number of mid-late period Gen X men who make decent marriage candidates is quite a bit smaller than the number of late Boomer/early Gen X dudes. There's a lot of early Gen X women married to late Boomers and very early Gen X-ers. Early Gen X women were probably the last cohort of Americans who could reasonably expect to get married at a fairly young age.

  9. Not that marriage is all it's cracked up to be; the GSS reveals that (among whites) the divorce rate for those born in the 1950's is horrific, and those born in the early-mid 60's are worse still! Gen X-ers need to be given more time to see how their marriages are holding up, but then again many of them didn't get married in the first place, or took a long time to get married.

    Far from being a "culture" war issue that's it's often framed as, there's a face palm worthy DUH! correlation between economics and divorce. Those born after 1950 have had substantially greater money problems than older generations, and nothing drives marital disharmony quite like squabbling over money. GIs and Silents could deal with various wounds and let them heal without much scarring, but amongst most Gen X-ers and Millennials who doesn't remember their Boomer parents bickering about money? And we all remember growing up in a world in which women were often on equal or greater footing with men, relative to professional status and income level. Progressively weaker status and assets for men born after 1950 has destroyed their ability to hang onto their wives, or get ones in the first place.

    If the problem was moral culture, than those born in 1946 ought to be maritally unstable as those born in 1966 (cripes, people born in the 40's fought tooth and nail to transform our culture). But that ain't the case, because when you get down to brass tacks of human behavior it's resources that matter, not moral whimsy. Getting your first job before circa 1990 conditions you to think that resources abound, and makes you more laizze faire, while Millennials feel acutely deprived inheriting a world in which each rung on the ladder seems two times higher than the previous rung. And younger generations are tired of the free for all promoted by older people.

  10. Just to emphasize who's running the show right now Trump's homeland security adviser just got pushed out a few days after questinoning the timing of Syria comitting a chemical attack and saying on national TV that we need to pull out of the region.

  11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpzVc7s-_e8

    The Onion gets it.

  12. Scratch Chris Hayes from the list of worth lobbying on Syria. Looks to be under Qatari influence -- not directly, since he's criticized them as a "slave labor paradise," but indirectly via their hipster / progressive-friendly propaganda that has co-opted outlets like Vice News.

    Not to pick on him in particular, since it's a very general pattern.

    For this group, it's OK to be pro-Palestine and anti-Israel (Hamas being akin to the political Islamism that Qatar prefers), OK to be anti-Saudi and pro-Yemen (Saudis being rivals for the Islamist movement, seeking military instead of political methods), but on Syria...

    These generally progressive people side against a secular anti-imperialist leader (Assad), and in favor of the jihadist rebels, whether they're Saudi-style militias or Qatari-style Muslim Brotherhood political groups. The Qatari propaganda would obviously promote the latter over the former, but would make their main goal to promote ousting the secular Assad govt, so that the Muslim Brotherhood types at least have a shot at seizing control, if they can step over their jihadist militia rivals in the power vacuum.

    Within the Islamist movement, the Saudis have co-opted the military interests, mainly Republican, since they're controlled by the Pentagon and are plugged into media outlets that appeal to militaristic voters.

    The Qataris have branded themselves as the non-violent alternative to the nasty jihadist militias -- they appeal to liberals and media types. Al-Jazeera English having all sorts of liberal / prog positions on other culture war topics like climate change. They want persuasion and propaganda rather than force and conquest.

    Key tactic for the Qataris has been to appeal to lib/progs' desire to shout down racists, and to make them think any criticism of Islamism is against Islam per se. Criticize Islamist rule? Support Assad? That's Islamophobic! Obviously not meant to appeal to the conservative / Republican audience in the West.

    Over the past 5-10 years, this prog-friendly Qatari party line on the non-Islamist govts in the region (mainly targeting Assad), has hardened into place pretty well among libs and progs.

    Probably too late to change their minds in the limited time frame we have until we escalate our involvement in Syria even further.

  13. Chris Matthews has been much better, repeating the phrase "no stupid wars" to keep Trump from getting us sucked into any more of them. An old-school theme on anti-militarism, and that we ought to focus on domestic improvements instead. That mindset comes from materialism, not ID politics.

    That's a different theme than the more Gen X / Millennial prog position that "it's wrong to attack Muslims, being members of a non-white minority group". So if Assad is targeting Islamists, that's akin to Islamophobia, and if you're a good anti-Islamophobic prog, you have to be against Assad, and if you're in America, you have to support your military toppling his govt.

    Most of these progs supported toppling Qaddafi as well, even though it would obviously blow up the country and let it be over-run by jihadists (plus open-air slave markets where black Africans are sold).

    Come to think of it -- how many gave a shit about Palestinians when they were still led by Arafat and the PLO rather than Hamas?

    Again, not that progs are Islamists themselves -- but that their obsession with culture and identity politics, rather than class and empire, is a weakness that the Qataris (and fellow travelers) have identified and exploited to wild success.

    Signal the intensity of your progressive anti-Islamophobia by helping to topple anti-Islamist govts, and by glorifying and lionizing the Islamist rebels as though they were cool revolutionaries standing up to The Man. If you don't support Islamists, what are you, a racist Westerner?

  14. And in fairness the culturally focused Right has its own strange contradictory set of factions they're rooting for. The uniting theme is anti-Islam, whether they themselves are Christian or non-religious.

    So, pro-Israel and anti-Palestine. Anti-Iran. So far, so good.

    But also openly critical of jihadist nations like Saudi Arabia who did 9/11. Contradicts their pro-Israel stance, since the Zionists and jihadists are in an alliance (and both in alliance with our Pentagon).

    Pro-Assad or just neutral in Syria, as he's battling Islamic terrorists. Contradicts their pro-Israel and anti-Iran stance, given those countries' positions on Syria.

    Probably anti-Hezbollah, although they don't really speak much about them one way or another -- not tenable, since they're such a major actor in regional affairs. Contradicts their pro-Assad stance, since the Shia group is helping a secular leader against Sunni radicals.

    TL,DR: Don't root for factions based on airy-fairy cultural issues. They do not matter to real-world people, and are ignored by the factions themselves. Economic, geopolitical, etc. -- those are the real forces.

    Either pick a single side that coheres among itself, or stay out. Don't imagine there's a "side" that exists just because you can logically describe commonalities among supposed members. E.g., clueless progs thinking that Assad is Islamophobic or anti-Muslim, rather than simply anti-Islamist. Or clueless cons thinking that Iran and Saudi Arabia are on the same side -- Muslim theocracies.

  15. I think you seriously misunderstand where lefties who are anti-Assad are coming from. These aren't people who are coming at that conflict from some sort of identity politics stance or anti-racist thing. As with Libya, it's basically a mirror image of how the right, and neocons in particular, have been obsessed with 'the lessons of World War II' for decades now. The neocons and other hawks have come up with the idea that the primary lesson of WWII was 'No More Munichs!' (i.e. we should never settle disputes diplomatically because that would mean we'd have to give up something to get something, and any country that so much as looks at us crosseyed is lead by the next Hitler). The liberals and progressives have taken that same lesson to heart and combined it with 'Never Again', both in the form of the Holocaust but also in terms of Rwanda. And with the Left in Syria, for the most part you have an affinity with the Kurds, who are out and out socialists of some sort or other, in the northern part of the country that gets combined with nostalgia for both WWII and the Spanish Civil War.

    Ultimately, publicly the Left and more mainstream Democrats who are in favor of intervention in Syria and who oppose Assad honestly are coming more from a liberal/left equivalent of Bush era neocon as informed by such brilliant minds as Samantha Power. It's not that 'supporting Assad is racist' as much 'supporting Assad, who murders his own people because they want Democracy, is wrong'. And combine that with lines about how it totally isn't the case that the strongest forces on the ground fighting Assad are some strain of Islamist nuts, and you get a justification for a foreign policy stance that W. would've loved.

  16. Well the Kurd fetishists may have non-ID politics reasons for being anti-Assad, but that's not a real big swath of the Left -- the anarcho-communists, Antifa, etc. And it doesn't explain why libs and progs are also in favor of Palestinians and Yemenis, who aren't Kurds or socialists.

    As for supporting those who want democracy over authoritarians within a single country, they don't apply that to Palestine or Yemen. They aren't calling for us to help Palestinian democracy-lovers topple Hamas, or Yemeni democracy-lovers topple the leadership of any faction in Yemen.

    Maybe that is the rationalization that liberals have about Syria specifically -- but obviously it's not any kind of general principle for them, and is covering up some other, truly general guiding principle.

    The contrast with Yemen is really telling. There, Saudi Arabia is supporting a proxy war against a secular strongman type of govt and Shia rebels (Houthis). There, the Left favors these besieged underdogs.

    In Syria, the exact same nation -- Saudi Arabia -- is supporting a proxy war against a secular strongman and Shia rebels (Hezbollah). And yet the Left did not support the besieged underdogs, but deflected things away from the external forces (like Saudi Arabia), and say "Yeah, well what about how authoritarian that leader is? Just because he's a besieged underdog doesn't excuse being authoritarian -- not a cool look."

    So, something draws them to support the Qatari side in basically every conflict -- they also supported the Arab Spring in Egypt, which brought in the Muslim Brotherhood under Morsi, and openly describe Sisi as an illegitimate coup-plotter who holds sham elections.

    Where are they questioning the authoritarian tendencies of Muslim Brotherhood type movements? They're silent. Why? Because anti-authoritarianism is just a rationalization (except for the anarcho-communists), and they're really just afraid of saying bad things about Islamist rulers -- because questioning Islamism is tantamount to questioning Islam, and that would make them Islamophobic.

  17. The interesting wrinkle there is that the Left is pretty supportive or neutral at worst toward Iran, who are big supporters of the Syrian govt that the Left thinks must be punished and destroyed.

    Iran is also run by authoritarian Muslim theocrats, though not of the Sunni fundamentalist type, but tolerant Shia. So questioning their police-state features would be Islamophobic.

    Again we see the link to the Qatari side of conflicts -- of the Wahhabi Gulf states, Qatar is the most friendly with Iran, despite the Wahhabis thinking all Shia are godless pagans who should be put to death. Qatar is not hell-bent on the punishment and extinction of Iran, unlike their Gulf buddies in Saudi Arabia or their Zionist allies in Israel.

    That allowed the liberals to seal the deal with Iran on sanctions and nukes. (It didn't hurt that the liberal party is controlled by the finance sector, who wanted to open Iran up to Western investment, whereas the military party wants to keep it contained as much as possible.)

    Ultimately, that makes the Left closer to ideal on foreign policy in the Middle East -- their one big failing is on Syria. But on the cultural Right, they're good on Syria but abysmal on Israel (rabidly pro) and Iran (rabidly anti). Plus the Right's party is controlled by the military, whose main ally is Saudi Arabia.

    I think the near-term solution to the Left's blindspot on Syria, without the longer-term solution of molding their framework away from ID politics and toward materialism, is to portray the Syrian people, Hezbollah, and Assad's govt as they were during the war -- besieged underdogs invaded by proxy forces of authoritarian outsiders, including militias funded by Uncle Sam.

    I don't know how well it'll do to point out that those militias are jihadists -- Oh no, somebody's criticizing a group of Muslims in a way that relates to their religion, that's Islamophobic.

    Or maybe play up the alliance with Iran -- libs wouldn't want to endanger the Iran deal signed by the first African-American president.

  18. The biggest thing I would imagine to marginalize those Lefties who are on board with regime change in Syria is simply to argue that it'd be a stupid war and we've had enough of them with Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, On a practical level, I think that is the best argument you can possibly have against intervention. And add to that the argument that the opposition has a lot of Saudi and Western sponsored nutjobs, and that'd probably cover most of your bases on the left.

    Overall, the left (and I mean this as distinct from the current mainstream of the Democratic Party) is not united on Syria. In my limited experience there are a number of course who would agree with the idea of getting 'Operation Syrian Freedom' going in one form or another, there are plenty who pump up the Kurds as some sort of modern day Catalan Anarchist type thing (with Western foreign fighters for the YPJ being modern day equivalents of the International Brigades), and there are plenty who simply oppose Western intervention on one ground or another (it's Western Imperialism, it'd be a stupid war, etc).

    By the way, as a guess for why you think the Left is drawn to support Qatar, I'd wager that it's a matter of the difference between Sunni Islamism Muslim Brotherhood style vs. Sunni Islamism Saudi style. My understanding of it, long story short, is that the House of Saud gets a lot of mileage out of the whole custody over Mecca and Medina thing. Combined that with it's patronage of Wahhabism, and it's built a good base for authoritarian rule justified through it being an Islamic government. The Muslim Brotherhood, by contrast, has always been a political party, they're whole thing is that an Islamic government can come to power through the ballot box and can rule democratically while still being Islamic.

    This to put it mildly is not a message that the Saudis are terribly fond of, but for a Westerner who believes that Democracy is the best form of government a very appealing one. So Western liberals and leftists supported the Arab Spring because they were uprisings against oppressive governments and surely democracy would follow and Arab countries would end up looking like Minnesota over night. Now, the racism element might come into play as a response to anyone who argues that democracy, or more accurately what we would view as a liberal democracy, might not be the best form of government available in a country like Iraq or Syria ('why shouldn't we support Democracy abroad, unless you believe that brown people are incapable of governing themselves, racist'), but that's secondary to the whole neocon/Wilsonian stuff we've been dealing with for over a century now.

    And of course let's not forget that the Qataris pay big bucks to D.C. think tanks (home of among others, Qatar Hero Charles Lister), that surely couldn't have an influence on anything at all.

  19. Not going to war against Syria was one of the top reasons I voted for Trump. I am extremely disappointed. Another reason I voted for him is he was passionately against the TPP. Now all of the sudden he wants in. What a nightmare this is turning into.

  20. Mattis wanted Cong to OK Syria strikes, but over-ruled by WH:


    Whether or not he makes this a principle to uphold generally, at least in this case it would have torpedoed the idea of Doing Something Explodey, since the public and Congress would hate it if they discussed it for more than a single news cycle, just like Obama's move in 2013 to get out of the Deep State headlock.

    Trump may have wanted to pull us out entirely, but when that doesn't happen, his Plan B is the other half of "all or nothing". That's what a badass president in a Hollywood action movie would do, after all, and showbiz is his background.

    And being so impressionable, he's clearly come under Bolton's influence -- which is why he never should have hired him in the first place. What a dipshit.

    I think the reason we all thought he was so anti-interventionist as a deeply held instinct, was because he'd spent most of his time before the presidency hearing from ordinary people about the Iraq War, Afghanistan, etc. -- and most of them want to pull us out, after such catastrophic wastes and failures.

    But when he goes to Washington and no longer hears from ordinary people, and instead hears from Deep Staters and the NatSec Establishment all day every day, his impressionable mind takes the shape of their militaristic Do-Something-ism.

    Then his sycophantic media enablers like Hannity just parrot back whatever he said, which validates his decision in a way that makes it seem like he thought it up himself -- rather than saying to him, "Thank God that Trump is so easily manipulated by the Deep State, or he might actually cool down our presence in the Middle East".

    Next time -- no mush-head candidates.


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