Saturday, December 29, 2018

Important Read: Trump Critics of Syria Withdrawal Fueled Rise of ISIS


‘There are now real reasons to fear that a Turkish advance will ignite a resurgence of ISIS. Turkey was not only a source of aid and oil sales to the jihadist group, it currently oversees a mercenary force of Salafi militiamen that includes droves of former Islamic State fighters.’

Trump Critics of Syria Withdrawal Fueled Rise of ISIS


Too many of those protesting the removal of U.S. forces are authors of the catastrophe that tore Syria to pieces, reports Max Blumenthal for Consortium News.

By Max Blumenthal
Special to Consortium News




President Donald Trump’s announcement of an imminent withdrawal of US troops from northeastern Syria summoned a predictable paroxysm of outrage from Washington’s foreign policy establishment. Former Secretary of State and self-described “hair icon” Hillary Clinton perfectly distilled the bipartisan freakout into a single tweet, accusing Trump of “isolationism” and “playing into Russia and Iran’s hands.”

Michelle Flournoy, the DC apparatchik who would have been Hillary’s Secretary of Defense, slammed the pull-out as “foreign policy malpractice,” while Hillary’s successor at the State Department, John Kerry, threw bits of red meat to the Russiagate-crazed Democratic base by branding Trump’s decision “a Christmas gift to Putin.” From the halls of Congress to the K Street corridors of Gulf-funded think tanks, a chorus of protest proclaimed that removing US troops from Syria would simultaneously abet Iran and bring ISIS back from the grave.

Yet few of those thundering condemnations of the president’s move seemed able to explain just why a few thousand U.S. troops had been deployed to the Syrian hinterlands in the first place. If the mission was to destroy ISIS, then why did ISIS rise in the first place? And why was the jihadist organization still festering right in the midst of the U.S. military occupation? 

Too many critics of withdrawal had played central roles in the Syrian crisis to answer these questions honestly. They had either served as media cheerleaders for intervention, or crafted the policies aimed at collapsing Syria’s government that fueled the rise of ISIS. The Syrian catastrophe was their legacy, and they were out to defend it at any cost.

Birthing ISIS From the Womb of Regime Change

During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Clinton, Kerry, and the rest of the Beltway blob lined up reflexively behind George W. Bush. The insurgency that followed the violent removal of Iraq’s Ba’athist government set the stage for the declaration of the first Islamic State by Abu Musab Zarqawi in 2006. Five years later, with near-total consent from Congress, Hillary enthusiastically presided over NATO’s assault on Libya, cackling with glee when she learned that the country’s longtime leader, Moammar Gaddafi, had been sodomized with a bayonet and shot to death by Islamist insurgents — “We came, we saw, he died!” 

It was not long before an Islamist Emirate was established in Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, while 31 flavors of jihadi militias festered in Tripoli and Benghazi.





Clinton and Kerry: Architects of chaos in Syria.

While still defending her vote on Iraq, Hillary made the case for arming the anti-Assad opposition in Syria. “In a conflict like this,” she said, “the hard men with the guns are going to be the more likely actors in any political transition than those on the outside just talking.”

In 2012, the CIA initiated a one billion dollar arm-and-equip operation to fund the so-called “moderate rebels” united under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). A classified Defense Intelligence Agency memo distributed across Obama administration channels in August of that year warned that jihadist forces emanating from Iraq aimed to exploit the security vacuum opened up by the US-backed proxy war to establish a “Salafist principality in eastern Syria” — an “Islamic State,” in the exact words of the memo.

Referring to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia’s Syrian affiliate by its name, Jabhat al-Nusra, before Western media ever had, the DIA emphasized the close ties the group had fostered with Syria’s “moderate rebels”: “AQI supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning, both ideologically and through the media. AQI declared its opposition to Assad’s regime from the beginning because it considered it a sectarian regime targeting Sunnis.”

The memo was authored under the watch of then-Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who was convicted this year of failing to register as a foreign agent of Turkey — an extremely ironic development considering Turkey’s role in fueling the Syrian insurgency. Predictably, the document was ignored across the board by the Obama administration. Meanwhile, heavy weapons were flowing out of the U.S. Incirlik air base in Turkey and into the hands of anyone who could grab them across the Syrian border.

As early as February 2013, a United Nations independent inquiry report concluded, “The FSA has remained a brand name only.” The UN further issued a damning assessment of the role of the United States, UK and their Gulf allies in fueling extremism across Syria. “The intervention of external sponsors has contributed to the radicalization of the insurgency as it has favoured Salafi armed groups such as the al-Nusra Front, and even encouraged mainstream insurgents to join them owing to their superior logistical and operational capabilities,” the report stated.

US Arms, ISIS Caliphate

How ISIS overran large swaths of territory in northeastern Syria and established its de facto capital Raqqa is scarcely understood, let alone discussed by Western media. That is partly because the real story is so inconvenient to the established narrative of the Syrian conflict, which blames Assad for every atrocity that has ever occurred in his country, and for some horrors that may not have ever taken place. Echoing the Bush administration’s discredited attempts to link Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda, some neoconservative pundits hatched a conspiracy theory that accused Assad of covertly orchestrating the rise of ISIS in order to curry support from the West. But the documented evidence firmly established the success of ISIS as a byproduct of the semi-covert American program to arm Assad’s supposedly moderate opposition.





Opposition activists fly the flag of the US-backed Free Syrian Army alongside the flag of ISIS in the center of Raqqa, December 2013. (Raqqa Media Center)

Back in March 2013, a coalition of Syrian rebel forces representing the CIA-backed FSA, the Turkish and Qatari proxy, Ahrar al-Sham, and the Al Qaeda affiliate, al-Nusra, overwhelmed the Syrian army in Raqqa. Opposition activists declared the city the “icon of the revolution” and celebrated in Raqqa’s town center, waving the tricolor flags of the FSA alongside the black banners of ISIS and al-Nusra, which set up its headquarters in the city’s town hall.

But disorder quickly spread throughout the city as its residents attempted to order their affairs through local councils. Meanwhile, the US-backed FSA had ceded the city to al-Nusra, taking the fight to the front lines against government forces further afield. The chaos stirred by the insurgents and their foreign backers had created the perfect petri dish for jihadism to fester.

A month after Raqqa was taken, the Iraqi zealot and ISIS commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi revealed that al-Nusra had been a Trojan horse for his organization, referring to its commander, Mohammed Jolani, as “our son.” Jolani, in turn, admitted that he had entered Syria from Iraq as a soldier of the Islamic State, declaring, “We accompanied the jihad in Iraq as military escorts from its beginning until our return [to Syria] after the Syrian revolution.”

By August, Baghdadi completed his coup, announcing control over the city. According to the anti-Assad website,Syria Untold, the U.S.-backed FSA had “balked in the face of ISIS and avoided any military confrontation with it.” Many of its fighters quickly jumped ship to either the Islamic State or al-Nusra.

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“The [FSA] battalions are scared to become the weakest link, that they will be swallowed by ISIS,” a media activist named Ahmed al-Asmeh told the journalist Alison Meuse. “A number joined ISIS, and those who were with the people joined Jabhat al-Nusra.”

Backing “Territorial ISIS”

As the insurgency advanced towards Syria’s coast, leaving piles of corpses in its wake and propelling a refugee crisis of unprecedented proportions, the U.S. stepped up its arm-and-equip program. By 2015, the CIA was pouring anti-tank missiles into the ranks of Nourredine Al-Zinki, an extremist militia that eventually forged a coalition with bands of fanatics that made no attempt to disguise their ideology. Among the new opposition umbrella group was one outfit called, “The Bin Laden Front.”

Despite all its war on terror bluster, the U.S. was treating ISIS as an asset in its bid to topple Assad. Then Secretary of State Kerry copped to the strategy in a leaked private meeting with Syrian opposition activists in Sept. 2016: “We were watching,” Kerry revealed. “We saw that Daesh [ISIS] was growing in strength and we thought Assad was threatened. We thought, however, we could probably manage, you know, that Assad might negotiate and instead of negotiating, you got Assad, ah, you got Putin supporting him.”

When Russia directly intervened in Syria in 2015, the Obama administration’s most outspoken interventionists railed against its campaign to roll back the presence of Al Qaeda and its allies,comparing it to the Rwandan genocide. These same officials were curiously quiet, however, when Russia combined forces with the Syrian military to drive ISIS from the city of Palmyra, to save the home of the world’s most treasured antiquities from destruction.

At a March 24, 2016, press briefing, a reporter asked U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner, “Do you want to see the [Syrian] regime retake Palmyra, or would you prefer that it stays in Daesh’s [ISIS] hands?”

Toner strung together empty platitudes for a full minute.

“You’re not answering my question,” the reporter protested.

Toner emitted a nervous laugh and conceded, “I know I’m not.”

About a year later, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman openly called for the U.S. to use ISIS as a strategic tool, reiterating the cynical logic for the strategy that was already in place. “We could simply back off fighting territorial ISIS in Syria and make it entirely a problem for Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Assad,”

Friedman proposed. “After all, they’re the ones overextended in Syria, not us. Make them fight a two-front war—the moderate rebels on one side and ISIS on the other.”

Giving ISIS ‘Breathing Space’




Palmyra saved twice from ISIS. (Wikimedia Commons)

When the U.S. finally decided to make a move against ISIS in 2017, it was gripped with anxiety about the Syrian government restoring control over the oil-rich areas ISIS controlled across the northeast.

With help from Russia, and against opposition from the U.S., Syria had already liberated the city of Deir Ezzor from a years-long siege by the Islamic State. Fearing that ISIS-occupied Raqqa could be next to be returned to government hands, the U.S. unleashed a brutal bombing campaign while its allies in the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (a rebranded offshoot of the People’s Protection Units or YPG) assaulted the city by ground.

The U.S.-led campaign reduced much of Raqqa to rubble. In contrast to Aleppo, where rebuilding was underway and refugees were returning, Raqqa and outlying towns under U.S. control were cut off from basic government services and plunged into darkness.

The U.S. proceeded to occupy the city and its outlying areas, insisting that the Syrian government and its allies were too weak to prevent the resurgence of ISIS on their own. But almost as soon as U.S. boots hit the ground, ISIS began to gather strength. In fact, a report this August by the UN Security Council’s Sanctions Monitoring Team found that in areas under direct American control, ISIS had suddenly found “breathing space to prepare for the next phase of its evolution into a global covert network.”

This October, when Iran launched missile strikes against ISIS, nearly killing the ISIS emir, Baghdadi, the Pentagon complained that the missiles had struck only three kilometers from U.S. positions. The protest raised uncomfortable questions about what the top honchos of the Islamic State were doing in such close proximity to the American military, and why the U.S. was unwilling to do what Iran just had done and attack them. No answers from the Pentagon have arrived so far.

Target: Iran

With the appointment this August of James Jeffrey, a self-described “Never Trumper” from the pro-IsraelWashington Institute for Near East Policy, as Trump’s special representative for Syria engagement, it became clear that the mission to eradicate ISIS was of secondary importance. In testimony before Congress this December, Jeffreylaid out an agenda that focused heavily on what he called “Iran’s malign influence in the region,” “countering Iran in Syria,” and “remov[ing] all Iranian-commanded forces and proxy forces from the entirety of Syria.” In all, Jeffrey made 30 mentions of Iran, all of them hostile, while referring only 23 times to ISIS. It was clear he had regime change in Tehran on the brain.

Trump, for his part, had been mulling a removal of U.S. forces from northern Syria since at least last Spring, when he put forward a vision for an all-Arab military force funded by Saudi Arabia to replace them. But when Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was sawed apart inside his country’s embassy in Istanbul this October, Trump’s plan went to pieces as well. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan exploited the Khashoggi saga to perfection, helping to transform Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman from the darling of America’s elite into persona non grata in Washington. As a result, he arranged a front line position for Turkey in the wake of any U.S. withdrawal.

There are now real reasons to fear that a Turkish advance will ignite a resurgence of ISIS. Turkey was not only a source of aid and oil sales to the jihadist group, it currently oversees a mercenary force of Salafi militiamen that includes droves of former Islamic State fighters. If the Turkish onslaught proves destabilizing, Iran and its allied Shia militias could ramp up their deployment in Syria, which would trigger a harsh reaction from Israel and its Beltway cut-outs.

Then again, the Kurdish YPG is in high level negotiations with Damascus and may team up with the Syrian military to fill the void. From an anti-ISIS standpoint, this is clearly the best option. It is therefore the least popular one in Washington.

Whatever happens in Syria, those who presided over U.S. policy towards the country over the past seven years are in no position to criticize. They set the stage for the entire crisis, propelling the rise of ISIS in a bid to decapitate another insufficiently pliant state. And though they may never face the accountability they deserve, the impending withdrawal of American troops is a long overdue and richly satisfying rebuke.

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and the author of books including best-selling Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, The Fifty One Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza, and the forthcoming The Management of Savagery, which will be published by Verso. He has also produced numerous print articles for an array of publications, many video reports and several documentaries including Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie and the newly released Killing Gaza. Blumenthal founded the GrayzoneProject.comin 2015 and serves as its editor.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

After Syria, Trump Should Clean Out His National Security Bureaucracy


Posted By Doug Bandow On December 27, 2018 @ 12:01 am


President Donald Trump has at last rediscovered his core foreign policy beliefs and ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. Right on cue, official Washington had a collective mental breakdown. Neocons committed to war, progressives targeting Trump, and centrists determined to dominate the world unleashed an orgy of shrieking and caterwauling. The horrifying collective scream, a la artist Edvard Munch, continued for days.
Trump’s decision should have surprised no one. As a candidate, he shocked the Republican Party establishment by criticizing George W. Bush’s disastrous decision to invade Iraq and urging a quick exit from Afghanistan. As president, he inflamed the bipartisan War Party’s fears by denouncing America’s costly alliances with wealthy industrialized states. And to almost everyone’s consternation, he said he wanted U.S. personnel out of Syria. Once the Islamic State was defeated, he explained, Americans should come home.
How shocking. How naïve. How outrageous.
The president’s own appointees, the “adult” foreign policy advisors he surrounded himself with, disagreed with him on almost all of this—not just micromanaging the Middle East, but subsidizing Europeans in NATO, underwriting South Korea, and negotiating with North Korea. His aides played him at every turn, adding allies, sending more men and materiel to defend foreign states, and expanding commitments in the Middle East.
Last spring, the president talked of leaving Syria “very soon.” But the American military stayed. Indeed, three months ago, National Security Advisor John Bolton announced an entirely new mission: “We’re not going to leave as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders and that includes Iranian proxies and militias.”
That was chutzpah on a breathtaking scale. It meant effectively that the U.S. was entitled to invade and dismember nations, back aggressive wars begun by others, and scatter bases and deployments around the world. Since Damascus and Tehran have no reason to stop cooperating—indeed, America’s presence makes outside support even more important for the Assad regime—Bolton was effectively planning a permanent presence, one that could bring American forces into contact with Russian, Syrian, and Turkish forces, as well as Iranians. As the Assad government consolidates its victory in the civil war, it inevitably will push into Kurdish territories in the north. That would have forced the small American garrison there to either yield ground or become a formal combatant in another Middle Eastern civil war.
The latter could have turned into a major confrontation. Damascus is backed by Russia and might be supported by Ankara, which would prefer to see the border controlled by Syrian than Kurdish forces. Moreover, the Kurds, under threat from Turkey, are not likely to divert forces to contain Iranians moving with the permission of the Damascus government. Better to cut a deal with Assad that minimizes the Turks than be Washington’s catspaw.
The Pentagon initially appeared reluctant to accept this new objective. At the time, Brigadier General Scott Benedict told the House Armed Services Committee: “In Syria, our role is to defeat ISIS. That’s it.” However, the State Department envoy on Syria, Jim Jeffrey, began adding Iran to his sales pitch. So did Brian Hook, State’s representative handling the undeclared diplomatic war on Iran, who said the goal was “to remove all forces under Iranian control from Syria.”
change_me
Apparently this direct insubordination came to a head in a phone call between President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “Why are you still there?” the latter asked Trump, who turned to Bolton. The national security advisor was on the call, but could offer no satisfactory explanation.
Perhaps at that moment, the president realized that only a direct order could enforce his policy. Otherwise his staffers would continue to pursue their militaristic ends. That determination apparently triggered the long-expected resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who deserves respect but was a charter member of the hawkish cabal around the president. He dissented from them only on ending the nuclear agreement with Iran.
Still in place is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who so far has proven to be a bit more malleable though still hostile to the president’s agenda. He is an inveterate hawk, including toward Tehran, which he insists must surrender to both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia as part of any negotiation. He’s adopted the anti-Iran agenda in Syria as his own. His department offered no new approach to Russia over Ukraine, instead steadily increasing sanctions, without effect, on Moscow. At least Pompeo attempted to pursue discussions with North Korea, though he was certainly reluctant about it.
Most dangerous is Bolton. He publicly advocated war with both Iran and North Korea before his appointment, and his strategy in Syria risked conflict with several nations. He’s demonstrated that he has no compunctions about defying the president, crafting policies that contradict the latter’s directives. Indeed, Bolton is well-positioned to undermine even obvious successes, such as the peaceful opening with North Korea.
Supporting appointments to State and the National Security Council have been equally problematic. Candidate Trump criticized the bipartisan War Party, thereby appealing to heartland patriots who wonder why their relatives, friends, and neighbors have been dying in endless wars that have begotten nothing but more wars. Yet President Trump has surrounded himself with neocons, inveterate hawks, and ivory tower warriors. With virtually no aides around him who believe in his policies or were even willing to implement them, he looked like a George Bush/Barack Obama retread. The only certainty, beyond his stream of dramatic tweets, appeared to be that Americans would continue dying in wars throughout his presidency.
However, Trump took charge when he insisted on holding the summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Now U.S. forces are set to come home from Syria, and it appears that he may reduce or even eliminate the garrison in Afghanistan, where Americans have been fighting for more than 17 years. Perhaps he also will reconsider U.S. support for the Saudis and Emiratis in Yemen.
Trump should use Secretary Mattis’s departure as an opportunity to refashion his national security team. Who is to succeed Mattis at the Pentagon? Deputy Secretary Patrick Shanahan appears to have the inside track. But former Navy secretary and senator Jim Webb deserves consideration. Or perhaps it’s time for a second round for former senator Chuck Hagel, who opposed the Gulf war and backed dialog with Iran. Defense needs someone willing to challenge the Pentagon’s thinking and practices. Best would be a civilian who won’t be captured by the bureaucracy, one who understands that he or she faces a tough fight against advocates of perpetual war.
Next to go should be Bolton. There are many potential replacements who believe in a more restrained role for America. One who has been mentioned as a potential national security advisor in the past is retired Army colonel and respected security analyst Douglas Macgregor.
Equally important, though somewhat less urgent, is finding a new secretary of state. Although Pompeo has not so ostentatiously undermined his boss, he appears to oppose every effort by the president to end a war, drop a security commitment, or ease a conflict. Pompeo’s enthusiasm for negotiation with Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin is clearly lagging. While the secretary might not engage in open sabotage, his determination to take a confrontational approach everywhere except when explicitly ordered to do otherwise badly undermines Trump’s policies.
Who to appoint? Perhaps Tennessee’s John Duncan, the last Republican congressman who opposed the Iraq war and who retired this year after decades of patriotic service. There are a handful of active legislators who could serve with distinction as well, though their departures would be a significant loss on Capitol Hill: Senator Rand Paul and Representatives Justin Amash and Walter Jones, for instance.
Once the top officials have been replaced, the process should continue downwards. Those appointed don’t need to be thoroughgoing Trumpists, of whom there are few. Rather, the president needs people generally supportive of his vision of a less embattled and entangled America: subordinates, not insubordinates. Then he will be less likely to find himself in embarrassing positions where his appointees create their own aggressive policies contrary to his expressed desires.
Trump has finally insisted on being Trump, but Syria must only be the start. He needs to fill his administration with allies, not adversaries. Only then will his “America First” policy actually put America first.
Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

What the ‘Neocon Chickenhawks’ Have Wrought


An outgoing congressman takes stock of years of American foreign policy disaster.


By JOHN DUNCAN 
TheAmericanConservative.com
December 4, 2018


Members of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard transfer Capt. David A. Wisniewski’s casket to a caisson while HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters fly overhead during his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Aug. 23, 2010. Wisniewski died July 2, 2010, from injuries suffered during a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. (Credit: SSgt Gina Chiaverotti-Paige/Public Domain)

The 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice to end World War I has generated a lot of discussion and articles about the so-called “Great War.”

Most of the neocon chickenhawks who so eagerly led us into the disastrous war in Iraq seemingly want to be regarded as modern-day Winston Churchills.

They might be very surprised to read Scott Berg’s great biography of Woodrow Wilson, which quotes Churchill as saying: “America should have minded her own business and stayed out of the World War,” meaning World War I.

Churchill told William Griffin, editor of the New York Enquirer newspaper in August 1936: “If you hadn’t entered the war, the Allies would have made peace with Germany in the Spring of 1917. Had we made peace, then there would have been no collapse in Russia followed by Communism, no breakdown in Italy followed by Fascism, and Germany would not have…enthroned Nazism.”

It is amazing how often one war leads to or causes another one.

It is also amazing how cavalier those who have never fought in war can be about sending others to fight and even be killed or maimed.

It is a sad commentary on our recent history of unnecessary but seemingly permanent wars that the most anti-war president that we’ve had in the last 70 years has been Dwight D. Eisenhower, a career military man and leader in World War II.

Eisenhower’s most famous words came in his farewell address at the very end of his presidency when he warned against the excesses of the military-industrial complex.

I believe he would be shocked at just how far we have gone down the road he told us to avoid.

Less famous are the words from his first major speech as president when he spoke to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in April 1953.

In that address, he called peace the “issue which most urgently challenges and summons the wisdom and courage of our whole people.”

He added: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

President Donald Trump seems to have good instincts, having spoken out against the war in Iraq and said we should not be paying so much of other countries’ defense bills.

Just as importantly, in December 2016, five weeks after winning the election, he criticized the $400 billion F-35 program and said there would be a “lifetime restriction” on top military officials going to work for defense contractors, the famous revolving door at the Pentagon.

However, the president has thus far not brought home any significant number of troops. He’s also bragged about his big increases in defense spending.

Defense spending has more than doubled since 2000. I opposed most of President Barack Obama’s programs, but it is false to say he decimated the military when defense spending went up under both Presidents Bush and Obama.

By some estimates, we now spend almost $1 trillion a year on defense and defense-related programs. Additionally, Congress gave the Defense Department more than $200 billion in relief from the very ineffective budget caps that were in place from 2013 to 2017.

Now, of course, we are entering our 18th year of war in Afghanistan, are supporting the Saudi-led war in Yemen, and are operating 800 military bases around the world.

Our very determined but very foolish neocons, not embarrassed at all by the foreign policy blunder in Iraq, continue to demand sanctions and ever-tougher action against Iran.

Stephen Kinzer, longtime foreign correspondent for The New York Times, wrote that “violent intervention (by the CIA) in Iran seemed like a good idea in 1953, and for a time it appeared to have succeeded. Now however, it is clear that this intervention not only brought Iran decades of tragedy, but also set in motion forces that have gravely undermined American national security.”

He added that “the results were exactly the opposite of those for which American leaders had hoped.”

Those words could be applied to almost everything we have done in the Middle East over the last many years. Our unnecessary wars and other diplomatic initiatives there have caused much more harm than good and have created even more enemies for the U.S.

Too many members of Congress are afraid to vote against or even criticize defense spending for fear of being called unpatriotic. I hope more will begin to realize that our recent wars have been more about money and power than any real threat to this nation.

And I wish they would consider the words of columnist John T. Flynn, written in 1956, about what he called the “racket” of using government money to buy votes.

“In pursuit of this racket,” Flynn wrote, “the politicians are confronted by the problem of finding defensible activities on which to spend. There must be visible in the spending some utility to justify the heavy taxes. Of course, the oldest racket for spending the people’s money is the institution of militarism.”

We need more people to heed the dictates of the Bible, where it tells us in both the Old Testament and the New to “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14 and 1stPeter 3:11).


John “Jimmy” Duncan, a Republican, is the U.S. representative for Tennessee’s 2nd congressional district.

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/what-the-neocon-chickenhawks-have-wrought/

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Tucker Carlson 11/27/2018


How long will the U.S. remain in Afghanistan?

American Soldiers continue to die 17 years after Afghanistan War began

https://youtu.be/KBS1-6SiPWo


Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Case for Leaving Syria


With the military and various domestic programs facing budget cuts, the United States shouldn't be throwing more money at the Middle East.

by Douglas Macgregor



Professor Michael Howard, the eminent British historian, frequently stated, “Wars are not tactical exercises writ large… They are conflicts of societies, and they can be fully understood only if one understands the nature of the society fighting them.” The professor must have anticipated the Syrian Civil War.

In Syria, the civil war that killed as many as 400,000 people is over. Moscow’s ally in Damascus, President Bashar al-Assad, is the victor.

It’s true that the predominantly Sunni Arab opposition— virtually indistinguishable from a broad range of Sunni Islamist terrorist groups—to Assad clings to life inside Syria’s Idlib enclave , but its days are numbered. Thanks to an agreement reached between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Sunni jihadist forces will eventually leave the demilitarized zone, patrolled by Russian and Turkish forces.

Meanwhile, U.S. forces, together with forces from Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and Iranian-backed Shia Arab paramilitaries, have essentially erased Islamic State-controlled territory from the map. Clearly, an American military withdrawal from Syria would seem in order, right?

Unfortunately, President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy to Syria , Ambassador Jim Jeffrey, is already recasting the American military mission in Northeast Syria as both ensuring the enduring defeat of ISIS and as “ contesting more actively Iran’s activities particularly in Iraq, Syria and Yemen .” Jeffrey adds, “ This means we are not in a hurry to pull out .”

Is this a new form of diplomatic mission creep? Are “ Never Trumpers ” like Robert Kagan and Eliot Abrams now guiding Trump foreign policy? It’s complicated.

In the Northeast corner of Syria, anti-Western Marxist Kurds remain committed to an independent, national homeland in Syria—a development that Ankara views as an existential threat to the Turkey. Since Syria’s U.S.-equipped Kurdish militia provides the backbone for Washington’s anti-ISIS ground force Washington keeps special forces troops in Syria to work with the Kurds, thereby placing 2,000 U.S. troops directly in the path of a potential Turkish Army offensive.

Israel is acutely sensitive to what happens in Syria. Until fifteen Russians were killed in an accident Moscow blames on Israel’s fighter jets , Russian acquiescence allowed Israelis to launch more than 200 air and missile strikes against Iranian military sites inside Syria. Israel wants the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria to remain and act as a shock absorber for Israel; obstructing the movement of people and arms from Iran to Iran’s ally Hezbollah in Lebanon and protecting Israel’s potential Kurdish ally from Turkish attack.

In sum, the Syrian civil war is over and the “ enemy of my enemy ” principle applies to all of the regional actors. There are no moderates among the Sunni Arab or Kurdish factions, Turkey is at most a paper ally, and Washington’s strategic partners—Israel and Saudi Arabia—have interests that do not necessarily align with President Trump’s stated goal of building regional stability .

The United States has no strategic interest in Syria that justifies a war with Russia, Iran or Turkey. A war with any of these states would destroy the prosperity that President Trump has worked tirelessly to create. Instead, it makes sense to withdraw U.S. forces. An American military withdrawal from Syria would eliminate the fragile strategic rationale for Russian-Turkish cooperation in Syria and severely obviate the few shared interests that tie Iran to Russia .

Moscow does not view its interest in Damascus in isolation from Israeli national security or the Islamist threat to Russia. Erdogan’s clandestine support for his Islamist allies is never far from Putin’s thoughts, and Putin knows that Tel Aviv has nothing to gain from hostility toward Moscow .

Given this strategic picture, Professor Michael Howard would advise President Trump to simply “get out” of Syria. Like most Americans, Howard would not be persuaded that further developments in Syria are, or plausibly could be, a serious threat to the United States, but congress is another matter.

Members of both parties need cash to fund their re-election campaigns and the liberal interventionist-neoconservative foreign policy machine is strictly bipartisan. The machine has cash, but it is fighting a losing battle.

Americans are not interested in war . In 1975, it was “No more Vietnams;” today, it’s “No more Iraqs, Libyas, Nigers, Somalias, Afghanistans” or any number of self-defeating interventions in dysfunctional societies and failed states.

Now, on the precipice of more cuts in defense spending with the survival of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid at stake, the misguided use of U.S. military power and the disaster it creates are not affordable. Politicians and their dependence on donors for reelection guarantee a slow death to the employment of U.S. military power as the global shock absorber, but it is dying.

Colonel (ret.) Douglas Macgregor, U.S. Army, is a decorated combat veteran, a PhD, and the author of five books. His latest is Margin of Victory , Naval Institute Press, 2016.

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/middle-east-watch/case-leaving-syria-36517

Friday, November 23, 2018

Europe's new regional defense


‘Macron’s disease’ and the cure of European burden sharing 

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Thursday, November 22, 2018



ANALYSIS/OPINION:
It’s official. Europe will soon have its own army and, presumably, its own regional defense. At least that is the stated goal of French President Emmanuel Macron. Mr. Macron is restating a position that German Chancellor Angela Merkel adopted some time ago that, “We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands.”

Mr. Macron and Ms. Merkel have a point. The time to Europeanize NATO is long overdue. After all, the European Union’s economy is more than five times as large as Russia’s.
Privately, NATO’s European military elites are unenthusiastic. They refer to the dangers of “Macron’s disease.” In the minds of European military elites, Mr. Macron and Ms. Merkel are engaged in a dangerous game of self-deception because NATO’s command, control, communications, computers and overhead intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems, (C4ISR), are entirely American.
Fortunately, there is a cure for Mr. Macron’s disease: President Trump should announce that, henceforth, the United States will no longer supply a U.S. Four Star to serve as Supreme Commander Europe (SACEUR). It is time to turn over responsibility for the command of European defense forces to a European Four Star selected by the NATO Council. Let NATO collectively acknowledge that the alliance is truly more European than American in the composition of its armed forces. In other words, unburden U.S. taxpayers from Europe’s defense, and let our prosperous European allies foot their own security bill.
This policy change will force Europeans to invest tens of billions of euros over the next decade to develop their own C4ISR and build a credible regional defense system. This approach will undoubtedly be supported by a U.S. military capability to surge as needed from a pool of forces (air, land and sea) that is predominantly in the Western Hemisphere, but Europeans must begin to defend themselves.
For 50 years, Washington has treated change beyond America’s borders — change in governments, borders, interests or trade relations that Washington did not initiate or propose — as something to be resisted. The outcome in the Washington Swamp is an unstated, but institutional national security strategy of being aggressive everywhere, all the time.
The result is the global distribution of U.S. military power from Norway to Japan buttressed by an endless list of highly improbable warfighting scenarios that are used to justify massive defense spending on an anachronistic military structure with its roots in WWII and the Cold War. This condition is undesirable, unaffordable and dangerous.
It is undesirable because the last 50 years of American military assistance have converted great nations that were once Washington’s most important military allies into military dependencies of the United States. NATO is decomposing, in part, because Berlin, Paris, Rome and London willingly consigned responsibility for their nations’ defense to Washington.
Most of Europe’s armed forces are boutique militaries designed for low intensity conflict or peace-keeping operations. The contemporary German army — America’s most potent and capable Cold War military partner on the European continent — is now effectively irrelevant.
This is not surprising. The original national interests and regional threats that gave NATO meaning and purpose are no longer shared across national lines. Germans do not share the East Europeans’ fear of Russia. Greeks fear Turkey — now a “paper ally only” inside NATO — as well as the soft invasion of Sunni Islamist Arabs, not Russia.
It is unaffordable because both political parties consistently refused to raise taxes to pay for America’s global defense mission. High on debt and seemingly intoxicated with military power, Washington’s interventionist, bipartisan foreign and defense policymakers (i.e. the Swamp) added debt-financed global military power to debt-financed consumption with the result that by 2023, the interest payment to service the national debt will likely exceed the size of the U.S. national defense budget.
Finally, 70 years after WWII, it is also self-evident that post-industrial warfare will not require the conversion of private sector manufacturing to federal control or the mobilization of millions of American citizens in uniform. The proliferation, range and lethality of precision-guided weapon systems linked to overhead ISR (ISR-STRIKE) demand a fundamental shift in U.S. national security strategy away from defending forward — garrisoning foreign territory — at enormous risk to U.S. Forces and unnecessary expense to the American people.
Mr. Trump accepts the burden of preserving the peace on the strategic level by maintaining the world’s most powerful military establishment, but Mr. Trump knows that Washington’s interest in good relations with European States must not relieve Europeans from the obligation to adequately defend their own countries. The president will not permit a weak ally to plunge the United States into a war that the American people need not fight.
In 1914, when the British intervened on the European Continent to support the French and the Russians against Germany and Austria-Hungary, the British were far too confident of their military superiority. They grossly underestimated their German opponent. By the war’s end in 1918, British national power was spent. Britain permanently lost its ability to shape the international system to its advantage. To paraphrase Arnold J. Toynbee, “The British Empire died from suicide, not from murder.”
President Trump’s demand that Europeans invest in their own defenses reflects his determination to avoid the mistake that London made; to make a repetition of 1914 impossible. Thus, if Mr. Trump declines to furnish another Four Star to command the NATO military alliance, President Macron and Chancellor Merkel should welcome the opportunity to end their dependence on Washington and shape their own destinies.
• Douglas Macgregor, a retired U.S. Army colonel, is a decorated combat veteran and the author of five books. His latest is “Margin of Victory” (Naval Institute Press, 2016).

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Media Tries to Conscript Generals Into Their Anti-Trump War


David Ignatius is only the latest to wax hopeful about a civil-military crisis.

TheAmericanConservative.com 
November 21, 2018
By EDWARD D. CHANG 

U.S. Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Marine Corps General James Dunford in New Delhi, India  Sept. 6, 2018. (DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro) 
In their ongoing attempt to fan the Resistance, the media has been breathlessly speculating over whether top civilian and military leaders will openly defy President Donald Trump’s troop deployment to the U.S.-Mexican border.
Over the last several days, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford have been peppered with loaded questions about the border mission and even encouraged to challenge the president. Most recently, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who speaks straight from the belly of the foreign policy establishment, spent an entire column suggesting that Mattis was losing credibility for not taking a stand.
Ignatius apparently believes Mattis and Dunford should openly question Trump’s order to send 6,000 troops to the border to deal with the approaching caravan of Central American migrants. This is no light suggestion: it undermines the critical norms and principles concerning civilian control of the military.
The problem begins with Ignatius’s description of Mattis as “a stand-up guy—the sort of independent, experienced leader who can steady the nation in a time of division” (emphasis added). While intended to be a compliment, this remark exposes either ignorance or an attempt to mislead the public as to the role and responsibility of the secretary of defense.
“Mattis certainly possesses an ‘independent intellect,’” Giselle Donnelly, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told TAC. “But he’s very much a core component of the military’s chain of command, second only to the commander-in-chief.” Donnelly added that the secretary can function as a check on the president, but the position does not exist for the purpose of obstructing the commander-in-chief. Rather, Mattis is supposed to be the executor of policies formulated in the White House. If he cannot fulfill this function, the president is well within his right to relieve him of his duties.
Author and commentator Colonel Douglas Macgregor (Ret.) was blunter, saying, “[Mattis] in no way functions in an independent capacity.” He described the op-ed as just another episode in the ongoing political squabble between Trump and the “Resistance.” Both he and Donnelly said Ignatius had little basis for making a call for such drastic action. America is not approaching a “red line,” as Ignatius described it, where Trump is about to commit a tragic error requiring intervention.
If Mattis harbors any reservations about Trump’s decision making, he has a responsibility to duly advise, warn, and suggest alternate courses of action to his superior. In fact, if the accounts in journalist Bob Woodward’s recent exposé are accurate, it’s clear that Mattis has differed from the president before and is willing to express opposition to his boss (though the manner in which he did stirred controversy).
But ultimately, Trump and Mattis constitute a team, with Trump as team leader. As Mark Nevitt, Sharswood Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and former Navy JAG, explains, the chain-of-command “places the civilian president and defense secretary as partners in ensuring civilian control over the uniformed military. Trump and Mattis are the legal guarantors of civilian control within the executive branch, not Mattis and Dunford.” This means neither the media nor the public should expect the secretary and chairman to “save” the military from the commander-in-chief.  
Failure to enforce the president’s ultimate authority on military matters could also lead to the normalization of open disobedience, especially if it comes to be perceived as virtuous. “If the secretary disobeys the president once, it can easily happen again,” Donnelly warned, adding, “Ignatius is playing with fire.”
Equally reckless is the insistence by retired officers, including an anonymous four-star general cited by Ignatius, that General Dunford “needs to speak up.” The fact that this is coming from figures who once wore the uniform is worrisome, since it asks of Dunford, an active-duty, uniformed military officer, the unfathomable: open violation of a fundamental precept of military ethos.
As noted by James Joyner in The National Interest, any dissent or reservation needs to be aired in private. “[Dunford’s] public commentary,” writes Joyner, “ought to reflect the policy preferences of the elected decision-makers, not his own preferences nor those of the top brass.” That neither the secretary nor chairman can speak openly is the price of admission to the highest military ranks.
It’s become clear that the media is trying to sniff out any possible dissension among Trump’s generals. In an interview with the press over the weekend at the Halifax International Security Forum, Dunford was repeatedly asked for his opinion about the border situation. When a BBC reporter inquired whether the military would take a hit for engaging in the mission, Dunford replied that it would not. 
“We do have a very strong, nonpartisan, apolitical ethos in the U.S. military. And I view one of my more important responsibilities as the chairman as being the steward of that ethos,” he said.
Meanwhile, retired officers have stepped up their own attacks against the president, fueling the media speculation that the military is turning against the White House. Retired Admiral William H. McRaven has perhaps been the most outspoken, saying in a Washington Post op-ed that he would “consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.” Trump dismissed him as a “Hillary Clinton backer” in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. 
Donnelly believes the retired officers are allowing themselves to become caught up in the hyper-partisanship of the times, motivated by a belief they are doing the “right thing” in criticizing a controversial president. Macgregor, on the other hand, thinks they are being used by anti-Trump forces in the media and elsewhere to undermine the administration.
“The media isn’t above wrapping itself in the flag,” Macgregor added. “They will use the prestige afforded by those who’ve served in uniform as a means of injecting credibility into their struggle against Trump.” More troubling is the possibility that retired officers are doing the talking for those still serving inside the Pentagon. This suggests the discontent towards the commander-in-chief among the top brass is real.
Macgregor also sees Mattis and Dunford (but Mattis in particular) being built up by the media as the ideal “heroes” against the “villain” Trump. But he and Donnelly both view this as a losing game. While speaking out against Trump may damage the president politically, not only would the damage be temporary, Mattis and Dunford would pay the biggest price in the long run.
“They would lose all credibility,” said Donnelly. She cited the blowback John Allen, another retired Marine four-star general, received after his appearance at the Democratic National Convention during the 2016 election, as an example of what happens when a military officer is perceived as taking sides.
“Trump’s supporters would also likely rally around their president, even as their admiration of the military is greater relative to the general population,” Donnelly added. Her analysis is consistent with at least one study indicating that the public appears to recognize when military officers are conducting themselves in a partisan fashion.
Of course, if either Mattis or Dunford find it impossible to work under Trump, resigning in protest is always an option. Some have suggested Mattis in particular should do just that. But as Ignatius laments, this would only remove one or both of the so-called adults in the room. It would hardly address the core issue: Trump’s supposed inability to make the right decision.
And while vigilance is prudent, both Donnelly and Macgregor agree there is no reason to believe a civil-military crisis is brewing.
“There isn’t anything new about the media calling for military disobedience,” Donnelly relates. “Ignatius could’ve written the very same op-ed over a decade ago during the Bush administration. Each presidency has experienced friction with its military leadership, but it hasn’t resulted in a crisis.”
Edward Chang is a freelance defense, military, and foreign policy writer. His writing has appeared in The National Interest, Real Clear Defense, and War Is Boring.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Mr. President, who's really in charge of our defense?


By retired Col. Douglas Macgregor, opinion contributor
November 06, 2018 - 05:00 PM EST


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Throughout the 1930s, the nation’s senior military leaders recoiled at the thought of fighting another costly war in Europe. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s policies toward Germany and Japan worried them. Senior military leaders, Army generals in particular, privately argued for hemispheric defense; the defense of America’s land borders and its coastal waters.

Today, President Trump confronts FDR’s strategic dilemma in reverse. Suppressing Arab and Afghan insurgents — opponents without armies, air forces, air defenses or navies — for 17 years has led the nation’s senior military leaders to order air strikes, patrols, raids and special action missions from the secure comfort of plush headquarters.

Virtually, no one in the senior ranks has the experience to prepare him or her for war with the Russian or Chinese armed forces, let alone defending Southern border with Mexico from the lawlessness and violence sweeping into America. Moreover, both tasks involve significant change. Change in any form is something senior military leader always dislike.

Retired Gen. Colin Powell — the former secretary of State who knew there were no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, but told the U.N. the WMD was there anyway — said, "I see no threat requiring this kind of deployment." And one of Powell’s successors, Retired Gen. Martin Dempsey — an architect of the Iraqi Army that melted away in front of ISIS — said the border security mission was a "wasteful deployment of over-stretched Soldiers and Marines."

Make no mistake, when retired Army four stars attack the president in the Washington Post, it’s no accident. They are speaking on behalf of their disgruntled four-star colleagues in the Pentagon.

Yet, where were these generals when the Bush administration’s deeply flawed and morally bankrupt policies produced strategic disaster in Afghanistan and Iraq? Clearly, the willingness of these and other senior military leaders to stand up to their political masters when fundamentally wrong courses of action were ordered was noticeably lacking. Whether one agreed with the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 or not, the truth is that that the blame for the subsequent cruelty, corruption and incompetence during the occupation of Iraq lies as much with the generals as it does with the policymakers in the Bush and Obama administrations.

Policies determine focus, but execution — effective implementation of policy — is what creates success or failure in action. Execution is the responsibility of senior military leaders.

In his landmark book, “A Bright Shining Lie” Neil Sheehan wrote, “20 years after the end of WW II, the dominant characteristics of the senior leadership of the American Armed Forces had become professional arrogance, lack of imagination and moral and intellectual insensitivity.” According to Sheehan, were the personality traits that more than any other single factor, led otherwise intelligent officers to behave stupidly in Vietnam.

How chief executives deal with the aforementioned traits in uniform is instructive. Many end up like big-league baseball teams trying to find the right manager. Some, like LBJ and “Dubya” just work with the generals they have. Others like Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt demanded better generals and found them.

In 1899, after Spain surrendered the Philippines, President McKinley decided Americans had a Christian duty to occupy the Philippines. By 1902, McKinley was dead and Philippine resistance to American occupation had resulted in the death of at least 200,000 Filipinos and 6,000 American Soldiers. Teddy Roosevelt, the new president, was desperate to end the war.

When secret information concerning the mistreatment of the Philippine civilian population appeared in the Washington Post and in the hands of senior Senators in the Democratic Party, Teddy Roosevelt was sure that Lt. Gen. Nelson Miles, Commander of the U.S. Army was the source. Miles was violently opposed to Teddy Roosevelt’s reform plans for the U.S. Army. When he testified on the Hill against his reform plans, Miles said he would rather resign than submit to the “despotism from the White House.”

Teddy Roosevelt also knew that Miles harbored presidential ambitions, but he was less concerned with Miles’ political aspirations than with Miles’ unprofessional conduct. In a public showdown that surprised everyone in Washington, Teddy Roosevelt told Miles, “I will have no criticism of my Administration from you, or any other officer in the Army. Your conduct is worthy of censure, sir.”

Miles retired and sought the Democratic nomination for president — he lost. Congress enacted Teddy Roosevelt’s Army reforms and in 1906, he appointed a brigadier general named James Franklin Bell as the U.S. Army’s first chief of staff. The Army changed. Bell was the first officer in 45 years to lead the Army who had not fought in the Civil War.

Mr. President, the lesson of history is clear. If the senior military leaders don’t believe in the assigned border mission, don’t force them to do it. Do what Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt did: replace them with new officers who will do the job. Like Gen. Miles, the departing senior military leaders can always run for office, or look for jobs with the next Democratic administration.

Retired U.S. Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor, Ph.D., was a combat veteran and the author of five books. His latest is Margin of Victory.
 https://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/415220-mr-president-whos-really-in-charge-of-our-defense

Why were active-duty forces picked over Guard to defend the border? Capabilities, Pentagon says


By: Tara Copp
Soldiers from the 97th Military Police Brigade, and 41st Engineering Company, Fort Riley, Kan., work alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Nov. 2, 2018, at the Hidalgo, Texas, port of entry, applying 300 meters of concertina wire along the Mexico border in support of Operation Faithful Patriot. (Senor Airman Alexandra Minor/Air Force)

The Pentagon faced questions Monday as to why it selected thousands of active-duty forces to deploy to the border instead of sending additional National Guard.

In responses to reporters, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Rob Manning said when the Department of Homeland Security made the request for military support, it specifically sought forces to assist with planning; engineering support to construct barriers; aviation support to transport Customs and Border Patrol personnel; medical teams; command and control capabilities and the ability to construct temporary housing for Customs and Border Patrol personnel.

Those are active-duty capabilities; but they are also the purview of the National Guard. Approximately 4,800 troops have been deployed with 5,200 expected to be in place by the end of the day.

Of those 4,800, 2,600 are in Texas and 1,100 each are in Arizona and California. Between 750 to 1,000 of those forces are Marines from Camp Pendleton. Several Pendleton units are being combined to form an engineering Marine Air Ground Task Force that will stay in California, a DoD official said on the condition of anonymity.

Manning initially said the administration specified the use of active-duty forces, but the press office quickly clarified that DHS had only requested the capabilities, and DoD made the decision to use Title 10 forces over the Guard.

“We determined that the units that were selected to fulfill this mission were the right units with the right capabilities that we could rapidly deploy in position in order to assist DHS,” Manning said.

If National Guard forces had been selected, state governors would have had to approve their deployment. Earlier this year when Trump requested military support at the border, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis authorized that up to 4,000 personnel could fulfill the request. Governors sent only about 2,100 forces total, and several governors refused.


 A U.S. airmen of 355 Civil Engineer Squadron secure the frame of a tent at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Nov. 4, 2018. Various military branches are deployed as support to local Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in support of Operation Faithful Patriot. (Spc. Keion Jackson/Army)


The Pentagon still could not provide any data on the costs of the deployment but said that DoD’s comptroller was working on those figures.

Manning also emphasized that U.S. forces will not be patrolling the border, will not be interacting with migrants crossing the border, and the only forces who are armed will be military police or other security forces — who are there to provide force protection for their fellow soldiers, not protect CBP as they patrol. Military police or security forces will also secure entry points of DoD facilities along the border.

“There is no plan for DOD personnel to interact with migrants or protesters,” Manning said. “We are absolutely in support of [Customs and Border Patrol].”

Despite the stand-off role, troops are deploying with body armor.

“They are in the uniform that the commander determined was appropriate for that mission,” Manning said.

 https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2018/11/05/why-were-active-duty-forces-picked-over-guard-to-defend-the-border-capabilities-pentagon-says/

Monday, November 5, 2018

President Trump's Russian conundrum


By Douglas Macgregor - - Sunday, November 4, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), signed in 1987 by President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, seems to have surprised Russia President Vladimir Putin. However, it should not have come as a shock.

Moscow began violating the INF Treaty at least 10 years ago. Much like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the INF was on life support during most of President Obama’s term in office. President Trump simply pulled the plug.

On the other hand, Mr. Putin’s response to Mr. Trump’s actions included a statement that deserves more attention than it has received: Russia would only employ its nuclear weapons in response to an incoming missile attack. In other words, like China, Mr. Putin is declaring a “No First Use” Doctrine for Russian nuclear weapons.

To the casual Western observer, Mr. Putin’s posture is confusing. In one breath, Moscow threatens Washington’s European allies with grave consequences if they host a new class of U.S. nuclear weapons designed to counter Russia’s capabilities, and in the next breath Mr. Putin denies that Moscow will ever be the first to use a nuclear weapon. What’s going on?

The answer is complex. Unfortunately, Washington’s current relations with Moscow are weighed down by the burden of history.

During the 1930s and World War II, FDR believed that he and Stalin could solve any problem on a “man-to-man” basis. “Of one thing I am sure,” said FDR, “Stalin is not an imperialist.” Stalin “played” FDR. Fortunately, when the war ended with half of Europe and Asia under Stalin’s boot, George Kennan’s long-standing warnings about the Soviet threat finally found a receptive audience in President Truman.

Mr. Truman accepted Mr. Kennan’s argument that Moscow’s power depended on a siege mentality inside Russian society that necessitated an enemy perpetually “lowering beyond the walls.” But Stalin’s ostensible support for North Korea’s attack on South Korea set destructive forces in motion that would not expire until 1989.

With this point in mind, Steven Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian Studies at Princeton University, sought to dismantle the Cold War perception of contemporary Russia by “humanizing” Russia’s president. Mr. Cohen said, “Putin is not the ever-‘aggressive Kremlin autocrat’ so often portrayed in U.S. mainstream media. A moderate by nature (in the Russian context), he governs by balancing powerful conflicting groups and interests.”

Mr. Cohen has a point. Mr. Putin is not the mass murderer Joseph Stalin was and Russia is no longer a major superpower. In 2016, the size of the Russian economy was roughly 85 percent that of the South Korean economy. Put another way, 49 million Koreans in the Republic of Korea (ROK) dramatically out-performed 140 million Russians.

Thanks to this year’s modest rise in oil and gas prices, Russia’s single commodity economy looks a bit more robust, but in terms of per capita GDP, Russia still comes in at 68th in the world — whereas the ROK is roughly 22nd. However, today’s Japanese economy is actually more than three times the size of the ROK’s economy. Given Russia’s difficult history with Japan, Japan’s economic superpower status must raise new fears in Moscow.

Following a successful October meeting between President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, it was announced that China’s bilateral relationship with Japan is back on the right track and showing positive momentum. In a joint press conference held after the talks, Mr. Abe said, “We confirmed the principle of being cooperative partners and not becoming threats to each other.” This must trouble Moscow.

The shared fear of mutually assured destruction induces Moscow to refrain from the use of nuclear weapons, but this limitation does not equate to fundamental change in Moscow’s view of itself and the surrounding world.

Though Washington dislikes and genuinely fears the concentration of Russian political, economic and military power, Washington has no choice but to deal with Moscow’s bipolar tendencies; to seek acceptance one day, then, engage in risky international behavior on the next. Keep in mind, Mr. Putin says he is ready for an improvement in U.S.-Russian ties “at any moment.”

Yet, relations with Russia now are no more about Mr. Trump’s personal rapport with Mr. Putin than were FDR’s relations with Stalin. International relations are about interests. To paraphrase George Kennan, when Mr. Trump meets with Mr. Putin in Paris on Nov. 11, his approach must be that of a long-term, patient — but firm — commitment to identify and build on the interests that Washington and Moscow share, but to scrupulously avoid the trap that ensnared FDR.

• Douglas Macgregor, a retired U.S. Army colonel, is a decorated combat veteran and the author of five books. His latest is “Margin of Victory” (Naval Institute Press, 2016).

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/nov/4/president-trumps-russian-conundrum/