Monday, September 16, 2013

Russia's Interests
     As much of the world now sees the Syrian civil war through a lens focused on the diplomatic process to have Assad surrender control of his chemical weapons we should note one important fact: Assad's surrender of his chemical weapons may prolong the war as he and Russia may be seen by many as rational actors who caused US military action to be averted.  Russia's strategic national interests in Syria are arguably greater than those of the US on four counts.  First, Russia has a naval port in Syria giving it access to the Mediterranean Sea which would be lost if Assad falls.  Second, if Assad falls he is likely to be succeeded by a radical, unstable, Islamist state on Russia's doorstep which could destabilize parts of Western Russia with large Muslim populations.  Third, the likely successor government to Assad (radical and Islamist) might control the chemical weapons in question and direct them against nearby Russian targets.  Finally, the Assad government in Syria has a long-standing alliance with Russia just as the US does with Israel, Taiwan, and South Korea.  If Russia were to abandon Syria it harms their credibility and status as a nation..
     A longer look through the above referenced lens may indicate that the idea of American Exceptionalism is being confronted by a discomfiting reality.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ignoring Egypt
     The current American obsession with Syria, a country one-quarter the size of Egypt, might cause some to think that all is well in Egypt.  No doubt, the Syrian civil war is a mess and the use of chemical weapons is a concern.  As we focus on Syria we forget that Egypt is currently ruled by an illegitimate military regime as the result of a bloodless military coup that ousted the first democratically elected president of Egypt and then threw him in prison.  The illegitimate regime has also imprisoned thousands of Islamists, killed peaceful protesters (children among them), and closed opposition news outlets.  Nonetheless we continue to deny that a coup occurred, give the illegitimate government billions in financial aid while our debt climbs, and continue to count Egypt as our ally.
     Magical thinking is required to believe that the United States has a coherent foreign policy in the Middle East.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Few Thoughts
     Several thoughts occur to me as I watch the emotionally fueled political/diplomatic theatre to decide whether the United States should involve itself in the Syrian civil war.  Syria; a country where the US has no apparent vital national security interest.  Syria; a country that has taken no military action against the US.
1.  At the receiving end of "precision, surgical, limited shots across the bow", missiles look like acts of war.
2.  In Iraq and Afganistan the US has had difficulty finding the "exit ramps".  Now we have turned 180 degrees in that we are finding difficulty finding the "entrance ramp" to Syria which leads me to believe that finding the "exit ramp" there may be even more difficult.
3.  Pundits are saying that the American people are "war weary" despite the fact that less than one percent of the military age population has served in the military.  Some gave all.  Most gave nothing.
4.  Most analysts believe that even the most limited strike against Syria would cost at least one billion dollars.  At the same time we are cutting funding for school lunch programs and Head Start for disadvantaged American schoolchildren and ignoring a crumbling domestic infrastructure.  We are a nation with a sixteen trillion dollar debt.
5.  Winston Churchill, a man who knew a bit about war, wrote in 1950 that "War is mainly a catalogue of blunders".  Given the catalogue of strategic, political, and diplomatic blunders evident even before we enter this one, why would we believe that the prosecution and outcomes will be good?