Quagmire

Obama did not exactly say, “Putin, trust me, we Americans know what it means to get stuck in a quagmire, so take this warning to heart.” Nor, of course, did Putin take it that way. Pity.

President Obama noted publicly that “An attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire, and it won’t work.” Obama will quite probably be proven correct, but to understand the outrageous hypocrisy of the remark, simply remove the names by abstracting as follows:

An attempt by [a global power and a regional client] to prop up a [vicious regional dictator] and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire, and it won’t work.

There was, for you young readers who haven’t studied your history, once a guy named Leonid who discovered this for himself in Afghanistan. Too bad Leonid was too old to write a history, for we are all still suffering from the consequences two generations later, and it would have been considerate of him to have warned us against repeating his mistake. Now, to be fair, I suspect Obama has in fact read some history, judging from his path-breaking (we hoped) Cairo speech way back at the now long forgotten beginning of his White House years, but in the rush of trying to run the world, one overlooks even the most obvious of lessons, which leads to having to rush all the more to learn them all over again…which brings us to the hypocrisy of Obama’s pot calling Putin’s kettle “black.”

This very week, as Putin solidifies his military position in Syria and flattens Aleppo (wasn’t that once a city that supported Assad?), Obama, who has been vigorously arming Riyadh with the bombs it has been using the past couple years to flatten Yemen, actually opened fire against one side in the very long Yemeni civil war. Did any Houthi imagine that Obama would respond to a Houthi rocket attack on a highly threatening U.S. destroyer sneaking around off the Yemeni coast by apologizing for the havoc wrought across the world’s most abused society by U.S. bombs over the past two years? [Note: it remains unclear whether it actually was Houthis rather than some false flag element hoping to provoke a thoughtlessly violent American response.] Bad judgment by the Houthis it may have been, and yet, fighting for your political rights against the combined might of Western bombs and Western-supplied Saudi jets for two years and then watching a U.S. destroyer, armed to the teeth, sticking its nose where it did not belong (was it…no surely not…inside Yemeni waters???) must get frustrating. More to the point, to quote a certain U.S. politician, all this is going to get the short-tempered superpower that just moved from the background of the Western campaign to manipulate the Yemeni civil war into the limelight “stuck in a quagmire.”

Follow-Up:

Dear Donald, Dear Hillary, “If elected, will you continue the Obama policy of supporting the Saudi aerial war against one side in the Yemeni civil war?”

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Putin Falls Short

Putin now strides the world stage, having caught everyone’s attention. But what of fundamental significance did he actually deliver?

Moscow has, with its Syria campaign, demonstrated a degree of tactical competence embarrassing and worrisome to the plodding, divided, and ideologically-bound Washington. In six months, Putin has shown that he can go anywhere, take the battlefield initiative, and wreck havoc…and he did it so well (tactically) that he walked away calmly leaving behind a solid little imperialist military base. Americans should really not mind that the next time a wave of U.S. imperialism blows into town there will be an adversary around to calm the Potomac fever.

Strategically, however, the Russian performance leaves much to be desired. Indeed, aside from demonstrating that Putin has the professional competence to leave town in time to save his own tail (not, in itself, by any means a valueless skill), what Putin really did in Syria was little more than copying the neo-con disaster in Iraq. What the world needs, in stark contrast, is a better answer. The world now has two powers that are very good at smashing stuff, possibly better than just one, since the existence of a second player may serve to minimize hubris, but smashing stuff is precisely the addiction that got us into this mess in the first place and certainly is not going to get us out. Putin deserves no credit for simply repeating the imperialist mistakes of the past.

Putin also merits the world’s condemnation for choosing to support a local bully who deserves to be headed for a World Court trial. Whatever else one says about Bush and Cheney, at least they targetted a truly evil criminal, whereas Putin supported one. Saddam and Assad are prime examples of why the concept of state sovereignty (holding that states are above the law) needs to be modernized.

Putin has consolidated Russia’s global position somewhat, but he certainly has not made the world a better place: he has not resolved any conflicts. Does he have a solution to the Syrian refugee problem? Has he figured out a way to put a less criminal team into place to rule in Damascus? Does he have a plan for defeating the Islamic State and, more importantly, replacing it with something that can offer civilians acceptable governance? Putin has surprised the world several times now, at a tactical level, starting with his barbaric onslaught on the city of Grozny. Where is the leader who can surprise the world with a morally acceptable strategic vision?

The Magnes Zionist: Let Iran Go Nuclear, Ribono shel Olam

The Magnes Zionist: Let Iran Go Nuclear, Ribono shel Olam

This post by an Israeli and self-described Zionist cuts through the flood of propaganda, ignorance, and willful self-delusion on the subject of attacking Iran with a degree of clarity and moral vision almost unknown in U.S. commentary.


The author concludes:

The Jews I know seem to be divided between those who support sanctions and those who support military action. Maybe I hang out with the wrong crowd. I support neither. The drums of war have started again, and the madness should be stopped now. If either Israel (or its proxy, the US) attacks Iran, it will be difficult for any moral person to defend the right of such a rogue state to exist.



Have we reached the point where we can no longer safely avoid the conclusion that there exists a state so powerful and so vengeful and so lacking in self-control and so contemptuous of the rights of others that the defense of our own national security compels us to disarm that state? In short, can the U.S. any longer afford to permit the state of Israel to exist?