The logic behind a possible US strike in Syria is anachronistic, writes author.
Al Jazeera, 15 September 2013
In the past few weeks, I have fielded phone calls from exasperated young colleagues in Washington DC. As strategic thinkers, they are flabbergasted that the same cohort of leaders could possibly present a casus belli for Syria that is so risk-blind and mindless, lacking any evidence of a longer-term vision. More than once I have heard the phrase, ” How can it be that people with such authority could possibly still think this way after the last twelve years?”
Even if you aren’t a young American policy analyst in DC, you might be equally bewildered how the United States could be considering yet another intervention in the Middle East with limited moral justification, flimsy legal cover, and no clear strategic endgame. There is a logic here to the proposals of Kerry, Power, McCain, Graham and company – but that logic is driven by the myths from another age. To understand the mentality of the current crop of US leaders as they claim the right to enter the Syrian civil war on behalf of morality, look to the myths that drive people who grew up in another time.
The tenacious 20th century myths of today’s leaders
Who Benefits From America’s State of Perpetual War?
Putin Lectures Obama
by FRANKLIN C. SPINNEY, COUNTERPUNCH, SEPTEMBER 12, 2013
That our Noble Peace Prize winning President and the Congress needed a rational lecture [also attached below] on the need for a little common sense in foreign policy, from a graduate of the KGB, says a lot about about the degraded nature of domestic politics in the United States.
Domestic politics do not end at the water’s edge, as the foreign policy elite would like us to believe. On the contrary, any nation’s foreign policy is always a reflection of its domestic politics. (see for example, Robert Dallek’s insightful history, The American Style of Foreign Policy: Cultural Politics and Foreign Affairs.) The political soap opera surrounding Obama’s quest to bomb Syria is a case in point. Two thirds of the American people opposed the war, yet elites have been debating how to ignore the will of the people. These domestic politics are the real subject of Putin’s lecture. Implicitly, his lecture is also about the democratic duty of American citizens to reign in the elites claiming falsely to be acting in their name.
Should a former KGB agent be giving advice to the people of a constitutional democracy?
Think about the pathway that ‘democracy’ has travelled on over the last twelve years: On September 11, 2001, the entire world was on the side of the United States. In fact one of the largest, if not the largest, of the world wide demonstrations in support of the United States was a mass vigil in Tehran, Iran — a country we promptly denounced as being part of an axis of evil. Twelve years later, America is increasingly isolated, its leadership elites having used 9-11 as a pretext to fabricate rationales for invading Afghanistan and Iraq and for bombing Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. Now Syria is in the crosshairs for reasons that are questionable, to put it charitably, and once again, the elites are fabricating stories to get their way.
America is in a state of perpetual war with large parts of the Muslim world. America is viewed by more and more people around the world, including some of its non-Muslim allies, as a self-righteous, narcissistic super power that believes its exceptional status gives it the right to bomb and bully anyone it deems to be a ‘threat’ to its interests or moral values.
Putin’s subliminal message may well be: Look, we ended the Cold War; now, at long last, is it not time for America to undergo a national introspection of its own and end its state of perpetual war, before it further destabilizes even larger swathes of the world?
Perhaps we, as the owners of our government, should be asking ourselves questions like –
How did our country land itself in a state of perpetual war?
Is our President, a man who excited the world, including Syria,* with promises to change in America’s behaviour, the cause of the problem evoking Putin’s lecture? Or is Mr. Obama merely a front man presiding over a deeper, more profound set of domestic political distortions? Is he a protector of an increasingly dysfunctional, distinctly un-American status quo domestic political apparat that benefits the richest one percent at the expense of the masses?
How and why did the American people allow their elites and political representatives — Republicans and Democrats alike — to exploit 9-11 in an arbitrary way to place our nation on a grotesque moral pathway into a shameful state of mismatches between the (1) values we profess to uphold and others expect us to uphold, (2) those values we actually hold dear as demonstrated by our actions, and (3) the conditions in the world we have to contend with?
But most importantly, with respect to domestic politics of America’s state of perpetual war, Cui Bono?
*I was in Levantine, Syria in the summer of 2008, and the excitement on the street over Obama’s possible election and the promise it held for the Middle East was palpable and infectious.
Mr. Chairman, Senator Lugar, and Members of the Committee: I thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and the possible effects on Pakistan of our future policies there.
U.S. Involvement, Eighth Year or 30th Year?
The search for a successful outcome in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan requires an understanding of how we arrived at this critical point in our Afghan undertaking, as well as new thinking on how we might proceed. I have been involved in the region since the mid-1980s, when I was ordered to Pakistan by CIA director Bill Casey to manage America’s covert assistance to the Afghan resistance in their war against the occupation forces of the Soviet Union. I have remained active in Afghan and Pakistan matters in the intervening years, assisting in 2008, on the negotiations on legislation concerning Reconstruction Opportunity Zones in Pakistan and Afghanistan. More recently, I have been active in support of the United States Government’s efforts to stabilize Afghanistan through development and business stability operations.
As we discuss future policy options, we should bear in mind that America is not beginning its 9th year of involvement in Afghanistan; it is, rather, closing in on thirty years of intermittent association with a regional conflict that began with the Soviet Union’s 1979, invasion of Afghanistan. It is a history of three decades of action, neglect, and reaction that have had profound effects on American security and on Afghanistan, Pakistan and the other important players in the region.
KARL W. EIKENBERRY is William J. Perry Fellow in International Security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. He served as Commanding General of the Combined Forces Command–Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007 and as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2011.
Since 9/11, two consecutive U.S. administrations have labored mightily to help Afghanistan create a state inhospitable to terrorist organizations with transnational aspirations and capabilities. The goal has been clear enough, but its attainment has proved vexing. Officials have struggled to define the necessary attributes of a stable post-Taliban Afghan state and to agree on the best means for achieving them. This is not surprising. The U.S. intervention required improvisation in a distant, mountainous land with de jure, but not de facto, sovereignty; a traumatized and divided population; and staggering political, economic, and social problems. Achieving even minimal strategic objectives in such a context was never going to be quick, easy, or cheap.
Of the various strategies that the United States has employed in Afghanistan over the past dozen years, the 2009 troop surge was by far the most ambitious and expensive. Counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine was at the heart of the Afghan surge. Rediscovered by the U.S. military during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, counterinsurgency was updated and codified in 2006 in Field Manual 3-24, jointly published by the U.S. Army and the Marines. The revised
doctrine placed high confidence in the infallibility of military leadership at all levels of engagement (from privates to generals) with the indigenous population throughout the conflict zone. Military doctrine provides guidelines that inform how armed forces contribute to campaigns, operations, and battles. Contingent on context, military doctrine is
meant to be suggestive, not prescriptive.
Broadly stated, modern COIN doctrine stresses the need to protect civilian populations, eliminate insurgent leaders and infrastructure, and help establish a legitimate and accountable host-nation government able to deliver essential human services. Field Manual 3-24 also makes clear the extensive length and expense of COIN campaigns: “Insurgencies are protracted by nature. Thus, COIN operations always demand considerable expenditures of time and resources.”
Peace Operations in Africa: Lessons Learned Since 2000
Given that since 2000 there have been over 50 peace-centered operations conducted in 18 African countries, this brief asks a simple question — what key lessons have we learned from these missions? In answering the question, the brief hones in on seven particular lessons learned, including 1) peace operations must be part of an effective political strategy and not a substitute for one, 2) strategic coordination between a variety of actors is crucial to enhancing the effectiveness of operations, and 3) maintaining legitimacy in the eyes of the ‘relevant audiences’ is crucial.
Jailbreaks in Iraq. A surge in Syria. A growing presence in Lebanon. The terrorist group’s influence is on the rise, says Bruce Riedel.
TheDailyBeast.com, July 26, 2013
Two spectacular al Qaeda prison breaks in Iraq, freeing over 500 of its members in two separate prisons simultaneously this week, demonstrate the group is back with a vengeance. Al Qaeda’s Iraq branch is also the moving force behind the jihadist success in Syria. The resurgence of al Qaeda in Iraq has sobering implications for what is likely to follow the drawdown of NATO forces in Afghanistan for the al Qaeda mother ship in Pakistan.
Th e speed of change throughout the Middle East and North Africa since 2011 has demonstrated that a policy of Soviet-era containment manifested since the Cold War by support for repressive dictatorships that suppressed, rather than emancipated their populations, catalysed the appeal of Al-Qaeda. Instead, as the Arab Spring has shown, populations desire economic growth, employment and good governance in the place of the defi cient development outcomes, conflict and militancy that characterise life in so much of this region. As the recently released US National Strategy for Counterterrorism elucidates, a comprehensive approach to tackling Al-Qaeda must include “objectives such as promoting responsive governance and respect for the rights of citizens, which will reduce Al-Qaeda’s resonance and relevancy.”149
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