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Saturday, June 18, 2016

On Dissent at State

I wasn't going to write about this, as I have a piece on something else underway. I, however, have been asked in the last couple of days for my view on the dissent channel message, signed by 51 FSOs, questioning components of Obama's policy in Syria. Having not seen the final version of the cable, I rely on the draft version in the media. Despite claims by Secretary Kerry, by the way, that he can't comment on the cable since it's classified, it's not--at least not the version in the press. I, nevertheless, find touching State leadership's sudden great concern for the preservation of classified materials.

Dissent messages at State are rare; even more so one signed by multiple persons. Set up some 45 years ago, the dissent channel serves as a way for State employees to express disagreement with policy while keeping the discussion within State. The regulations establishing this channel spend a lot of words assuring senders of dissent messages that they will not suffer reprisals. Few at State, however, believe that. At least some signatories of this message almost certainly will see their careers suffer. The State bureaucracy, under Democrats and Republicans, is thin-skinned, vindictive, and has a long memory. I know this from personal experience. The cult at State does not appreciate criticism or independent thought--and, again, that's regardless of whom occupies the White House. Dissent, therefore, even the tepid sort we see in the message under discussion, is not something an officer who has career aspirations undertakes casually. The people who signed this little missive, therefore, have a degree of bureaucratic courage that we must acknowledge.

As readers of this humble blog know, I have criticized the Obama misadministration's MidEast policy, including in Syria, for years. Peruse the archives and you will find many nasty pieces on that policy, along with, even if I say so myself, accurate predictions. I noted, for example, that all we were doing was to enhance the roles of Iran and Russia; strengthen ISIS and other terrorist crazies; endanger Israel; help Iran get nukes; help foment mass migration; worsen the humanitarian situation in the region; and severely degrade Western interests. Our policy has murky and shifting objectives, and, frankly, is a dangerous waste of resources. Other than that, it's fine . . . move along, nothing to see here.

I have stressed more than once that when dealing with Syria's Assad one should look at the Israelis. If anybody has a right and a reason to detest the Assad family dictatorship the Israelis do; they, despite having the ability to do so, have never sought to knock out the Assads. They know that in the Arab world the devil you know often times proves much less worse than the one you don't. Keep that in mind.

You, of course, can read the dissent message and reach your own conclusions. I find its prescriptions for action and its criticisms of Obama/Kerry to be muddled. It is a joint product, and it shows, and, therefore, lacks clarity and strength. Its main positive attribute, nevertheless, is that it recognizes something which progressives seem to ignore, or forget, to wit, the direct link, especially in the Middle East, between successful diplomacy and having a badass military at your beck-and-call. In the Middle East, and much of the rest of the world, the ability to inflict pain can guarantee a much better diplomatic result than just smooth talk, cocktail parties, and words on a piece of paper. Let's not forget, for example, how the Dayton Peace Accords were reached: F-16s are powerful convincers that agreeing to peace is the better option.

The message's key recommendation is that the United States use military power to contain and curtail the activities of the Assad regime. It recommends increased use of our air power and other "stand-off" capabilities to convince the Assad clan to stop bombing civilians, including the people we have trained, and cease its genocide. Fair enough. But, but, but is that the real problem in Syria for the US? Please note that the message does not openly call for regime change. It, however, has a key phrase, "military steps to stop the Assad regime’s relentless bombardment of the Syrian people may yield a number of second-order effects." Really? You mean such as knocking off Assad and having him replaced by what? Getting us into a shooting confrontation with the Russians and the Iranians? Getting us enmeshed in a weird civil war far from our shores and interests? I see no prescription for dealing with those "second-order effects." What's the plan? Libya, redux?

The message seems to call for more Obama/Kerry boosted by weak steroids. In other words, I see a call for an increase in ambiguous and restrained actions with no thought to the end game, and, certainly, no methodology for finding "moderates" who will fight both Assad and ISIS.

My prescription? I guess I should offer one if I criticize others for not.

o  Back the Israelis, of course, but also support the Kurds; help them establish their own homeland in territory that is now Syria and Iraq. They are the last major group in the Middle East without their own country. They deserve one. We can and should tell the Turks to get stuffed. Now, of course, the Kurds are Muslims, but even El Cid made alliances with Muslim princes to get rid of other Muslim princes.

o  We must continue to seek energy independence, so that the Middle East becomes increasingly less important to us.

o  Stop importing that war and terrorism to our shores via our currently insane politically correct immigration and refugee policies.

o  Smash ISIS to drive home to jihadis around the world, that Islamic war against the West leads only to their defeat (here, here).

As I wrote back in April 2011 (five-plus years ago!)
How long should we pretend that the problem is NOT Islam, when, in fact, it is, or at least the Islam that has gained currency in the modern world. We are at war with a totalitarianism as much as we were with Communism and Fascism. It's going to be a long, long war, one in which we have to inflict repeated defeats on the Islamists, be it in Chechnya, Gaza, Kashmir, Kabul, Baghdad, or in the streets and suites of America. In the end, we'll all be better off, including the Muslim world. Don't forget that the greatest victims of Islam are Muslims.
That is my dissent message.

20 comments:

  1. Nothing of substance to disagree with Diplomad Sir. Perhaps just to add, help Jordan secure its northern and eastern borders.

    The only thing I would say, as you've not included mention of it: "at this point" I don't want, oh to heck with it; I fear Obama doing anything other than status quo having to do with Syria.

    Libya was success enough.

    ***

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  2. Trouble is, to smash ISIS will require an American army in Iraq and Syria. Nobody, even most of those who recognize this reality, is willing to advocate that. No pol will bring this up, fearing immediate collapse of his political support. You can hardly blame them. One of my friends opposed the Iraq Campaign because he foresaw that the American people would get fed up and cease to support it. Alas, he was correct.

    Here is an outline plan.
    1. Send the 82nd Division to Kurdistan in Iraq to spearhead a drive against Mosul, supported by lots of air and all the EOD troops we can find.
    2. While that is going on, ship three more divisions to Iraq, plus supporting forces.
    3. Also beef up naval assets to warn Iran not to interfere or suffer the loss of everything that floats or is within easy strike range of the coast.
    4. Once Mosul is recaptured, send those three divisions into Syria to destroy ISIS in their original home base. The Kurds can be de facto independent and amalgamate with the Iraqi Kurds, and Sunnis can find refuge between Assad's Western Syria and the Kurdish territory on the east; a de facto partition that (hopefully) will eventually become de jure
    5. Leave one or preferably two divisions in Iraq to a) protect the Kurds, b) protect Iraq against Iran (assuming they want to be protected), c) rebuild our intelligence system that we had there in 2008, d) threaten any hostiles with immediate destruction by forces in place, e) serve as a base for SOF operations, f) this will enable us to put pressure on the Iraqi government if it does stupid and/or malevolent things, like dumping on the Sunnis again.

    If that arrangement had been in effect in 2008-2014 ISIS would have been, at most, a flash in the pan. That is the arrangement we ought to have made in 2008.

    There is a larger lesson here. Sadly, if there is to be any kind of halfway decent order in this world, we are going to have to make it, using all facets of power (not just military). Such an order is essential to our interests, because the alternative is either chaos or an order imposed by some other power, like China, that will be inimical to the US.

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    1. Mr. Lonie that would be something to take a look at (for starters anyway but, I don't think [enough] appreciation for what Turkey's been and is, up to, is being figured in.

      http://warontherocks.com/2016/06/fear-and-loathing-in-the-levant-turkey-changes-its-syria-policy-and-strategy/

      ***

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    2. That all sounds good but you need Putin to keep Turkey from getting all verklempt. That Ottoman, Erdogan,is in desperate need of a good a$$ kicking and Putin is just the guy for the job. His support for ISIS is evident when you look to see who bought the oil. And while we are at it- all those brand new ISIS trucks? It would take one phone call to find out where they came from and who paid for them. "Hello, Mitsubishi? Are you missing a boatload of trucks?"

      ~M.

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  3. Loathsome as the Assad regime is, the alternative to it is that unholy mix of ISIS, Qaida, and the plain old Muslim Brotherhood--those wonderful folks who brought us 9/11.

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  4. Just as if one is against Trump, one is for Hillary, so too, if one is against Assad one is for ISIS.

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    Replies
    1. I regret to say that I agree, Anonymous. I cannot share our host's admiration for Trump, but if the GOP has any chance at all in my deep indigo state of Maryland, I will hold my nose and vote for The Donald.

      Similarly, I smell a very big rat in fifty-odd senior diplomats wanting to attack the Syrian government. I suspect that it is cover for another attempt to woo Sunnite extremism in preparation for a 'President' Shrillay Shroooooooo's getting us into more Middle Eastern trouble.

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    2. Aaaah. Maryland. 'Splains everything I've wondered boud ju.

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  5. Could someone please explain what was the [il]logic behind Obummer/Hellery's re-establishing of diplomatic relations with Assad back in 2009/2010? Was this nothing more than Jarrett's bowing to the Shia wing of this Religion of Peace? The US media has swept this lunacy under the current political rug ...

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    1. We have seen Obama and his consiglieri cozying up to Iran from the start. Assad's survival is a key interest of Iran. US recognition could help boost Syrian gov's prestige, and therefore the chance of it's pseudo-Shi'a minority continuing to rule. It was part of O's strategy of "appease Iran." O was planning from the start to make a renversment des alliances with Iran. Recognizing Syria, Iran's client state, was a piece of it. Makes perfect sense.

      Delete
  6. "be it in Chechnya ...": then stop fomenting trouble with Russia, stop driving Russia into China's orbit, and cultivate the bloody place. It may be run by a bunch of crooks, but they do seem to be much more intelligent crooks than your own.

    It's absurd: the "unequal treaties" and the shared border should make China and Russia natural antagonists; the moslem threat should make the US and Russia natural collaborators.

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    1. Dearieme: Both China and Russia face more serious threats from global Islamicism than we in the States do. I don't minimize the threat we Americans face and that we're the people the Ikhwan and its offshoots love to hate. I believe that Trump is far more awake to what the threats we face are than either Clinton or the O will ever be.

      BUT---

      Russia has a large and restive indigenous Muslim population with a huge historical grievance. That's what the northern Kavkaz and potentially the Volga Tatar realm are all about. We've seen Chechnya erupt. Even before the fall of the Soviet Union, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in his books on the Gulag, observed that the Chechens, even in their Kazakhstan exile, had somehow effectively "seceded" from the Soviet system even then.

      China has to deal with a simmering separatist movement in Muslim and Turkic Xinjiang, which its inhabitants call Sharki Turkistan, or Eastern Turkistan. Even back in 1992-94, when I was in Mainland China, it was a dangerous place where Han settlers were routinely murdered and even the PLA itself sometimes came under attack. Where I was in Guangzhou, there was a small Uyghur colony behind the train station where I bought bagels, pizza crust, and raisins, and found out that it was a "no go" zone for the police--a police department, mind you, that was still very much part of a totalitarian security apparatus.

      Even the Hui, Chinese-speaking Muslims who have always identified as part of the Chinese state--were restive. They rioted in 1994 in Qinghai, targeting Party and police while pointedly avoiding any issues with their hereditary ethnic Tibetan enemies or attacking Western teachers and "experts" who were, in fact, sub rosa Christian missionaries. While at that time China was having issues with all three Semitic religions, Islam was the one which got violent.

      Further, the USA isn't the only factor in Sino-Russian relations. The Chinese Communist Party knows that Reagan's telling the Soviets that we could piss in their back yard if we really wished to ended with the foundations of the Soviet Empire washed away. It hurt them very deeply that, shortly after their successful protection of their regime in 1989, that ordinary Chinese flooded the Romanian Embassy with congratulatory messages when Zhongnanhai's best friend, Nicolae Ceaucescu, was executed. They continue to blame us for their being unable to march into Taiwan and masssacre those who mistrust them. No, official China sees that the USA pulled a "fast one" on the inevitable march of history and won't forget it.

      As for Russia, it may be ex-Communist, and even I suspect that Vladimir Putin's reconciliation with the Eastern Orthodox Church is genuine. However, Russia feels the loss of its empire very keenly--and knows why Russia is now pared back to its heartland and Siberia. Add to this America's determination to bully Africa into accepting homosexual "marriage" (and some unhappy experiences with the adoption of Russian orphans by Western same-sex couples), how could America possibly avoid appearing both dangerous and disgusting to a neo-traditionalist and nationalist Russia?

      This is why I am not so surprised at a Sino-Russian rapprochement.

      I do, however, get your point about shared borders. It's one reason why a few years ago I wrote a few letters urging some sort of public recognition of the bicentennial of the Treaty of Ghent. If there's anything my brief and inglorious Foreign Service career taught me, is that we Americans take our northern border and peaceful Atlantic for granted--and we really shouldn't.

      Delete
  7. I think the whole State Dept. dustup is just a bunch of Clintonites trying to give Hillary some distance from Obama on foreign policy.

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    1. Yes James, Rush seems to read the Tea leaves as you have as well...

      Still, can't help but shout Amen to Dip's Strategic-Action plan and 2011 reprise!

      "o Back the Israelis, of course, but also support the Kurds; help them establish their own homeland in territory that is now Syria and Iraq. They are the last major group in the Middle East without their own country. They deserve one. We can and should tell the Turks to get stuffed. Now, of course, the Kurds are Muslims, but even El Cid made alliances with Muslim princes to get rid of other Muslim princes.

      o We must continue to seek energy independence, so that the Middle East becomes increasingly less important to us.

      o Stop importing that war and terrorism to our shores via our currently insane politically correct immigration and refugee policies.

      o Smash ISIS to drive home to jihadis around the world, that Islamic war against the West leads only to their defeat (here, here)." [and HEAR HEAR!]

      "As I wrote... (five-plus years ago!)

      How long should we pretend that the problem is NOT Islam, when, in fact, it is, or at least the Islam that has gained currency in the modern world. We are at war with a totalitarianism as much as we were with Communism and Fascism. It's going to be a long, long war, one in which we have to inflict repeated defeats on the Islamists, be it in Chechnya, Gaza, Kashmir, Kabul, Baghdad, or in the streets and suites of America. In the end, we'll all be better off, including the Muslim world. Don't forget that the greatest victims of Islam are Muslims.
      That is my dissent message."
      On Watch~~~
      "Let's Roll"

      Delete
  8. Thank you Mr. Mad, the first thing I wondered when reading about that letter was what the state-department-internal mechanism was, how often it was used, and what level of actual security there is around its promises of not affecting the careers of would-be antagonists. Figured there'd be no better place for the straight dope on that than here.

    Obama's foreign policy is a trainwreck, but the US public is the engineer/driver trying to disavow responsibility.

    We can't point the finger at Obama without pointing the finger at the US public at large. We (collectively) voted him into office, knowing that his only real experience was as 'a community organizer', knowing that he harbored views that in previous generations were extremely non-mainstream-left. We did all of this, and half of us (collectively) still can't even come to accept what's increasingly appearing to be an *objective* disaster, even if that same half of us talks less and less about Obama and hopes for foreign policy success in the Middle East and elsewhere. Indeed it appears that substituting hope & change for silence is the best the world's going to get from an entire movement whose face is just dripping with egg.

    "Arab Spring" anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

    I'm looking forward to a President who *doesn't* simply wipe his hands and walk away at the moment the 'lesser evil' side in a conflict disappoints. I don't know if Trump will be that person, but Hillary and Obama definitely are not. I have high hopes for such a President, but low hopes that we'll see such a President, because our decadent society is all about listening to empty platitudes and promises, the antithesis of building character.

    - reader #1482

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    1. In addition to, or instead of, blaming the US public, it was the press and gov't. officials who looked the other way over serious questions re Obummer's identity and lack of official records. College registration records sealed, iffy SSN, tampered Selective Service card, photoshopped BC...

      Not to mention, his fabricated bio still made him Constitutionally ineligible for POTUS. The Founders re-did Article Two for a reason -- and we see the consequences in the Halfarican's reign running the US aground at full speed.

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    2. "his fabricated bio still made him Constitutionally ineligible for POTUS." Why so? As far as anyone knows he was born to an American mother within the US. Much else about him is a mystery, I'll grant you, and his purported birth certificate is a pretty doubtful document, but I've yet to hear a plausible explanation of how he can fail to be an American citizen by virtue of his birth.

      There's not much point blaming O just because your founders and your Congresses have been slack in defining suitable procedures for handling such cases.

      Delete
  9. So these 51 dissenters want to get involved in a shooting war with Russians and Iranians? OK then. Let them and their families arm up and go to Syria. Good luck with that.

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    1. It's an absolutely terrible thing because due to Obama's waffling and lack of initiative, there's not even an option for that. There were two opportunities for Obama to make that decision: 1) when the conflict started, and 2) when his 'red line' was crossed. In either case, intervention would almost certainly not have escalated into a war with Russia. Now that the power gap was left for so long, and Russia stepped in to fill that gap, the US doesn't really have that choice without going head to head with Russia. Missed the boat, as Obama intended. My impression is that Obama's worst fear is that a capitalist economic system is exported to despotic countries. My guess is that he'd rather have the rest of the world wallowing in despair than for capitalism to allow them to thrive. He seems to be a 'marxism or bust' kind of guy.

      - reader #1482

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  10. Dear Mad .. why are so many people intent on aiming destruction at Syria? I can reason out that Assad can be ruthless, but who wouldn't be, trying to hang on to their power? Unless I'm wrong, the shooting started at the same time as Vogue's Asma al-Assad Profile. Seeing as Vogue is more or less an extension of the Clinton Machine .. what does that tell me?

    This is even less clear than most nation/state phuque ups. Help a brother out, Mad .. and oh, did I miss any review you did of Randall Bennett's "Taking Up The Sword"?

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