Archives For: Syria

The Relentless Warmongers

Aug 29 2014 @ 7:13pm
by Dish Staff

Matt Steinglass sighs at the aimless hawkishness of American foreign policy elites when it comes to the Middle East:

William Kristol, as ever, manages to distill the rot down to its ludicrous essence: “What’s the harm of bombing them at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens? I don’t think there’s much in the way of unanticipated side effects that are going to be bad there. We could kill a lot of very bad guys!” No doubt the Americans could. Drop enough bombs and you are guaranteed to kill some very bad guys, and probably some good guys, as well as a lot of guys who, like most, fit somewhere in between. But simply bombing areas when the emerging powers prove bloodthirsty, and hoping that a better sort of power replaces them, isn’t very promising.

Conor Friedersdorf outlines the many questions interventionists aren’t bothering to ask, let alone answer:

After the decade-long, $6-trillion debacle in Iraq, you’d think Congress and pundits would be pressing the Obama administration for figures:

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“We Don’t Have A Strategy Yet”

Aug 29 2014 @ 12:45pm
by Dish Staff

That line from Obama’s address last night is garnering a lot of attention, especially from critics who say it encapsulates the core problem with his foreign policy in general and his approach to ISIS in particular. Ackerman reports on how US officials are interpreting the no-strategy strategy:

Some current and former administration officials, speaking on background, have expressed frustration with Obama for not yet forming a comprehensive approach to Isis, and especially for not attempting to take territory in eastern Syria away from the jihadi group. Others contend that the administration’s options are inherently limited if it seeks not to Americanize yet another Middle Eastern war. Still others have said they expect Obama’s military operations against Isis to eventually expand in scope, mission and geographic reach. Obama was initially reluctant about the Afghanistan surge, the Libya air war and the arming of Syrian rebels, only to eventually embrace all those options.

One reason for the lack of a strategy, Eli Lake And Josh Rogin report, may be that the cabinet can’t agree on one:

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by Dish Staff

Jay Newton-Small doubts an authorization would pass Congress in the run-up to midterm elections. For that reason, she argues, Obama probably won’t bother asking for one:

“Congress does not have the political will to approve a War Powers Resolution when the American people have very little appetite for war,” said Ron Bonjean, a former senior Republican congressional aide. “Getting the approval of Congress before the November elections to bomb ISIS targets in Iraq would likely require an attack on American soil or a very imminent threat of danger. Members of Congress want to secure their own re-elections and this type of vote could be the defining factor in several tight Senate races across the country.” …

The most likely path here is that Obama will continue to do what he’s been doing, and probably expand attacks into Syria, using the Article II justification. As the White House has argued, he’s protecting Americans in Erbil, the Kurdish capital in northern Iraq. By that measure, wherever America has an embassy, or citizens in peril, Presidents in the future will now have the precedent to engage in hostilities to protect them.

Damon Linker is dismayed, if not exactly surprised, that members of Congress are putting political considerations before Constitutional duty here:

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by Dish Staff

George Packer unpacks what the world lost in the murder of James Foley, and continues to lose as journalism in the Syria-Iraq war zone becomes ever more dangerous:

Among the many reasons to mourn Foley’s death is the loss of his reporting, and of reporting in general, from Syria. News of the civil war from Western media organizations has been dwindling as security has deteriorated, and it is now likely to dry up. Local Syrian reporters face an even greater threat. The Committee to Protect Journalists says that at least eighty journalists have been kidnapped since the start of the war and at least seventy have been killed, almost all of them Syrians, and almost all in 2012 and 2013. So far this year, the confirmed number of journalists killed is down to six, Foley being the most recent. (Solid information is increasingly difficult to get.) This cannot be because working conditions in Syria have improved. One likely explanation is that few reporters, and even fewer who reach Western audiences, are still covering the war. This would be disastrous under any circumstances, but it is especially calamitous now.

He also laments how thoroughly the chattering class has politicized the crisis:

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Ally With Assad? Ctd

Aug 27 2014 @ 1:25pm
by Dish Staff

Fred Hof points out that an American air campaign against ISIS in Syria would serve Bashar al-Assad’s material and propaganda interests whether or not we officially declare a partnership with him. He worries that we are walking into a trap:

How to avoid the ambush? Demonstrate real hostility toward Assad, whose removal for the sake of neutralizing ISIS is even more justified than the ouster of Iraq’s Nouri Al Maliki. If, in the course of U.S. anti-ISIS air operations over Syria, regime air defense radars lock onto U.S. aircraft, the relevant air defense site or sites should be engaged decisively. Robust and timely aid for Syrian nationalist rebels fighting both the regime and ISIS is a must. Relevant security assistance for a Syrian National Coalition trying to set up an alternate governing structure in non-Assad, non-ISIS Syria is mandatory. Building an all-Syrian national stabilization force in Turkey and Jordan for eventual anti-regime and anti-ISIS peace-enforcement is essential. American leadership in creating mechanisms that can one day bring Bashar Al Assad and his principal enforcers to trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity is vital. These are the steps that can put the lie to Assad’s libel.

Larison has another idea: don’t start the war at all:

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Let Someone Else Defeat ISIS

Aug 27 2014 @ 12:45pm
by Jonah Shepp

Doug Bandow wants us to stand back and let regional actors take care of the Islamic State, which threatens them much more directly than it threatens us:

Rather than turn ISIL into a military priority and take America into war against the group, Washington should organize an Islamic coalition against the Islamic State. Even Gen. Dempsey called for a regional effort to “squeeze ISIS from multiple directions,” but that actually requires Washington to do less militarily. ISIL’s rise has set in motion the very forces necessary for its defeat. Rather than hinder creation of a coalition by taking charge militarily, Washington should encourage it by stepping back. The U.S. already has gone to war twice in Iraq. There’s no reason to believe that the third time will be the charm.

And indeed, that seems to be (NYT) what the administration is trying to do, although Syria is not on its list of potential coalition members:

As Mr. Obama considered new strikes, the White House began its diplomatic campaign to enlist allies and neighbors in the region to increase their support for Syria’s moderate opposition and, in some cases, to provide support for possible American military operations. The countries likely to be enlisted include Australia, Britain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, officials said.

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Mission-Creeping Toward Syria

Aug 26 2014 @ 12:44pm
by Dish Staff

Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria, in what looks like a first step toward some kind of military engagement there:

On Monday evening defense officials said the reconnaissance flights had already started, and told the New York Times that they include both manned and unmanned aircraft. President Obama has yet to approve any military action in Syria, but White House officials said he wouldn’t notify Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if he was — though the country’s foreign minister warned that “any strike which is not coordinated with the government will be considered as aggression.” …

There’s no way that destroying the terrorist group won’t benefit Assad’s forces (and humanity in general), but the U.S. is trying to find a strategy that aids the moderate Syrian rebels more. The Pentagon is said to be working on options that would target ISIS near the Iraqi border, rather than deeper in Syria. The U.S. is also considering increasing its support for the moderate rebels. Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is “looking at a train-and-equip program for the Free Syrian Army.”

Aaron David Miller believes the Syria air campaign is coming, and lists a number of reasons why it’s a bad idea. For one thing, he says airstrikes simply won’t do what we want them to do:

To have a chance of hitting the right targets with any consistency, those 500-pound American bombs require local allies on the ground to provide forward spotters and good intelligence. Airstrikes, as we saw in the open desert of Libya during the 2011 intervention, are better suited against militaries concentrating and moving in open areas than against local militias that have taken root. Take [for] instance Raqaa, the headquarters of the Islamic State’s caliphate. There’s no way an air assault in that urbanized and populated environment would work.

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Will The ISIS War Come To A Vote?

Aug 26 2014 @ 8:30am
by Dish Staff

If Obama wants to secure the public’s backing for the fight against ISIS, Jack Goldsmith recommends that he bring it to Congress for a vote:

The President must eventually educate the nation about why the United States is going to be deploying significant treasure and possibly some blood in Iraq and probably Syria to defeat IS. As noted above, the case in theory is not hard to make. But a mere speech from the Oval Office will not do the trick if the President wants the nation to understand the stakes and risks, and wants to get the American People truly behind the effort. Only an extended and informed and serious national debate can do that, and such a debate can only occur if the President asks for Congress’s support.

Will Inboden also believes it’s time for a new, ISIS-specific Congressional authorization for the use of force:

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It’s 2003 Again

Aug 25 2014 @ 1:39pm
by Jonah Shepp

What else can one possibly take away from this Noah Rothman exegesis of Peggy Noonan’s and Charles Krauthammer’s cases for expanding the new Iraq war to Syria? Here’s the crux of the argument:

The mission Krauthammer describes does not appear to require a significant American ground force, though it would be one which would only be effective in Iraq. The Islamic State’s stronghold in Syria will require an entirely different strategy, one far more robust and which may require putting American service personnel in harm’s way. But rolling back the Islamic State in Iraq is an acceptable short-term goal, and the American people should be informed that this is the mission in which their military is presently engaged. Those opposed to going to war to rid the world of ISIS worry that achieving that objective will require more commitment than most are willing to admit. And it is possible that the American national interests at stake in this region, while appreciable, are not threatened to the degree that would merit a return of tens of thousands of American troops to Iraq. At least, not yet.

These are worthwhile debates to have, and Americans need to have an honest discussion about this threat. It is a discussion that must be led by their president. It seems, however, that some conservatives are beginning to observe that those who object to a military solution to the Islamic State threat rest their argument on the claim that it heralds a new occupation of Iraq. This is a straw man argument. The vast majority of Americans of every political stripe do not want to reoccupy that country, and this is not on the table. Destroying ISIS, however, is.

Right, because we all remember what happened the last time right-wing hawks sold the American public on a war that they alleged would have no long-term consequences. After the past decade, I suppose I shouldn’t be all that surprised that the cheerleaders for this new war are demanding that their opponents make a probative case against intervention, while the neo-neocons’ contention that a light-touch war with no “significant” ground force is presented as obviously true. (By the by, how many soldiers constitute “significant”? 1,000? 10,000? 100,000? No one wants to say…) For more of the same, see Elliott Abrams here. Brian Fishman wishes advocates of an all-out, two-front war on ISIS would stop bullshitting the public already about what that would entail:

No one has offered a plausible strategy to defeat ISIL that does not include a major U.S. commitment on the ground and the renewal of functional governance on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border. And no one will, because none exists.

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Ally With Assad?

Aug 25 2014 @ 11:01am
by Dish Staff

Hassan Hassan argues that we shouldn’t, because he hasn’t really been fighting ISIS in the first place:

One might argue that Assad’s strategy was a cynical game and that once he is assured of his survival, he would be well-positioned to fight the group. But even that argument ignores basic dynamics: If Assad genuinely wants to fight ISIS today, he is as capable of doing that as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was when ISIS took over three Iraq provinces. ISIS controls large swathes in rebel-held Syria, areas that have been outside the regime’s control for one to three years. How could the Assad regime fight against ISIS in Raqqa or Deir Ezzor, for example? Would the local population fight side by side with the regime? That is extremely unlikely, given that people have condemned reports that the United States intends to strike against ISIS in Syria while ignoring the regime’s atrocities for more than three years.

A more prudent approach is to look at the rise of ISIS as a long-term menace that can only be addressed through a ground-up pushback. The opposition forces are not only possible partners, they’re essential in the fight against ISIS. After all, they’re the ones who have been fighting ISIS since last summer, and drove it out of Idlib, Deir Ezzor and most of Aleppo and around Damascus. It cost them dearly: more than 7,000 people were killed. Fighting ISIS should be part of a broader political and military process that includes both the regime and the opposition, but not Assad.

Max Abrahms sees the situation differently:

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