Syria: Going, going, gone?

Moew fun with the decline of US leadership.

It’s not clear how much longer the US will have discretion in what – if anything – to do about Syria.  While the Obama administration pesters Russia and China in the UN, Russia and China are shuttling diplomats around the Arab world, coming up with separate plans.  The Syria crisis has become as much about a contest for leadership between East and West as it is about the terrible death toll in Syria – and there is little time left for the West to act decisively.

Clearly divided global leaders

The confrontations in the UN have been emblematic of the Asian-Atlantic divide over Syria, but perhaps not as much as a less-publicized sequence of events.  In the hours after Russia and China vetoed the Western-sponsored UN resolution in February, Nicolas Sarkozy proposed the “Friends of Syria” vehicle for coordinating international action.  The US and Turkey quickly joined forces on the Friends of Syria effort, and a first meeting was scheduled for 24 February in Tunisia.

Russia and China both declined to participate.  And their non-participation has taken the form of competing efforts to put a plan together to resolve the Syrian crisis.  On 10 March, at a meeting in Cairo – shortly before this week’s UN confrontation with the US – Russia and the Arab League announced a set of agreed principles for ending the conflict.  One of those principles is that both sides – the Assad regime and the insurgents – must lay down their arms.  Russia will not buy into any proposal that has Assad’s forces observing a unilateral ceasefire.

The Arab League’s agreement on Russia’s “five principles” is a milestone in the effort to get some kind of coalescence around a way ahead.  Arab League agreement is not universal; it won’t surprise Middle East-watchers that Qatar – home of Muslim Brotherhood leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi and recent host of the anti-Israel “Jerusalem conference” – called last week for a military solution in Syria, with Arab troops in the lead.  But the Arab League agreement with Russia tends to highlight Qatar as an outlier in that regard.

It appears that Qatar is hoping to urge the West to intervene in Syria, in combination with military forces from Arab partners; i.e., replicate the action in Libya last year.  From a Muslim Brotherhood standpoint, wresting Libya from Qadhafi opened the country up to shariazation.  But the Arab League as a whole is publicly agreeing with Russia rather than backing Qatar’s play.  (And this in spite of Arab League participation in the Friends of Syria meeting in Tunisia.)

China chimed in a few hours ago with supportive comments about the Russia-Arab League agreement.  (Beijing has also gone Russia one better with a six-point plan.)  The Chinese had an envoy in Syria last week talking to both the Assad government and the insurgents in an effort to broker a ceasefire, and they are dispatching diplomats around the region to “explain China’s position” and affirm the need for a political solution.

Meanwhile, Turkey plans to host the second Friends of Syria meeting on 2 April.  (The dilatory schedule mimics the US/EU approach to Libya in 2011.)  Nothing much came out of the first one, and the second meeting is already haunted by the report – denied by Turkish authorities – that Sarkozy had not been invited to it because of the recent French resolution condemning the World War I-era slaughter of Armenians as a genocide.

The lack of momentum for Western-brokered proposals is a serious problem.  While it would be too much to say that the Russia-Arab League agreement has momentum at this point, it would also be too much to say that anything put forward by the West is a credible challenge to it.  The Arab League doesn’t have the unity to deal with Syria by itself, and has been looking for a strong horse to run with.  There is no guarantee at this point that the strong horse will be the US and EU.

Turkish press opined this weekend that the reelection of Vladimir Putin would induce a notable warming trend in Russian-Turkish relations.  Putin is a personal friend of President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan; this prediction is solid, although of course it will not eliminate all of the natural sources of friction between the two nations.  What it may well do, however, is change the dynamic in which Turkey has found it convenient to throw in with the US on the Syria problem.

If the US is not going to back decisive action in Syria, Turkey may quietly migrate to an accord with Russia on ending the conflict.  (If Ankara can present this as Russia migrating toward Turkey, so much the better for Erdogan.  But Moscow has the agreement in hand with the Arab League.)  What we may count on with both Turkey and Russia is a desire to wield the primary influence over the process of establishing a new government in Syria.  With the current US administration, the utility of the United States as a patron for this Turkish purpose may not be as great as that of Russia.

Syrian situation on the ground

Is the strategic situation changing inside Syria?  There are developments that suggest it is.  The Assad regime is mounting an assault today on the northern enclave in rebel hands.  Unconfirmed reports suggest that regime forces have recaptured Idlib, a key city held by the Free Syrian Army.

Significantly, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also reported that the Syrian government is laying mines on the borders with Turkey and Lebanon, a measure designed to keep foreign forces out and curtail the rebels’ cross-border cooperation.  There is no reporting about the border with Iraq, but Iraq is the land route between Syria and Iran, which Assad will probably not want to imperil.  The borders with Turkey and Lebanon are the likely infiltration routes for foreign special forces and support to the Syrian rebels.

Yesterday, moreover, Russia dispatched two planeloads of humanitarian assistance to Syria.  Raise your hand if you think the two IL-76 cargo aircraft contained only “humanitarian” goods.  (OK, you with the hands up, go demine the Syrian border.)

The hour is late.  The fact that the US and EU have no momentum doesn’t mean no one has; with each passing day, it is more likely to mean the opposite.  If Assad is able to regain control of his territory, there will be no acceptable – no unifying – pretext for intervention.  The battle for this objective appears to have already started.  As between the dithering of the West and the cynical pragmatism of Russia and China, the latter seems to be looking pretty good to the Arab League.

The road not taken

What should the US have done by now?  Adopted a determined objective of our own – in my view, it could only have been removing Assad, preventing a takeover by Islamists, and brokering the establishment of a consensual, multi-party government – and pursued the objective pragmatically but in a principled manner.  It is very possible the objective could have been achieved without military action.

Regarding the pragmatism: Russia has a stake in Syria.  It doesn’t matter whether we think she should or not; she does.  Get over it; stop haranguing Russia pointlessly in public forums, and concentrate on herding Russia toward our objective.  If Syria is not taken over by Islamists, Russia wins.  So do we.  That should unite us in riding herd on the plans of the Erdogan government, as well as Iran’s and the Muslim Brotherhood’s.

In any case, Russia has always been the key to removing Assad without the need for military intervention, and in late January and February, Russia was even obliquely communicating a willingness to trade Assad for a new model.  The character of Syrian territory as a strategic factor for Russia – whether it is hostile or friendly – is of more importance to Moscow than Bashar al-Assad is.

A solution in which the Syrian people were empowered to operate more freely in a true multiparty government, under the aegis of multinational protection against both Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, would be the most desirable, achievable outcome.  It is not possible to broker this outcome while ignoring Russia, but it would be possible to broker it by including Russia.  There are enough competing interests, between the US, the Arab world, the EU, Russia, and Turkey, to leverage everyone into a favorable compromise.  The overriding principle should be that the Syrian people be relieved of Assad but not fall prey to Islamists – and that is a principle that the governments of most of the Arab League, as well as Europe and Russia, could unite around.

A key principle of the Reagan administration, that negotiating with the old Soviet Union on human rights was integral to global security, should underlie the US approach to Syria.  We need not hand Moscow a third-party revolution in Syria; we would do better to warn Russia that that’s what she’ll get if she doesn’t work with us – and then focus on the political conditions in Syria.  If we are watching over their liberalization, Russia may even retain a special relationship with Syria, but the guarantee of a more liberal political atmosphere will do what it always does: empower the liberalizers and foster transparency and truth.  Russia’s relationship with Syria should depend on adapting to that.

But only the US has the power to ensure that condition.  None of this would be easy.  I can think of few things less fun than dealing with Russia and Turkey on Syria.  But a program like this is feasible, or at least it has been, because there are so many competing interests to leverage.  US leadership is what is missing in all this – and it will not look like leadership to anyone else unless it contains an element of enforcement.  (The reason why Russia’s position is starting to look more like leadership to those in the region is precisely that it does.)  Everyone should be worried that if he doesn’t compromise and accept the basic features of the US position, he won’t be in on the solution.

That’s not the situation our leaders in Washington have created, however.  There is and has always been an alternative to either intervening militarily, against the strenuous objections of Russia and China, or leaving Assad to do whatever he’s going to do.  But crafting that alternative would require positive leadership from the United States.  (It would, for example, require changing our intelligence focus from generic – plaintive – questions about whether Assad will survive to what would happen if the US took specific actions.)

We would have to take a position, one beyond simply getting rid of Assad.  We would have to start knocking heads together to line up a coalition for it.  It seems absurd to have to explain that – but then, we did elect Obama in 2008.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.

30 thoughts on “Syria: Going, going, gone?”

  1. It’s not clear how much longer the US will have discretion in what – if anything – to do about Syria.


    we have as much right to do anything now as we previously did

    all that was lost to us was goading the UN into taking hand…..and that was lost because a great power chose to use its veto on behalf of a client.


    we have no option of unilateral military intervention that makes the slightest bit of sense in this case.

    our hope all along was that Turkey and the Saudis would take the lead….and that’s still our hope and best option.

  2. Fuster has unkindly picked out several of your more “plaintiff” ramblings to illustrate the incogency of your logical processes – and, of course, the absolute irony of the gratuitous reference to the President in your final paragraph.

    He was however kind enough not to comment on your portentious opinion about “changing our intelligence focus”. I mean, how would you know what our intelligence focus is anyhow? I would imagine the administration is acting in accordance with its analysis of the information provided by those who actually have access to the relevant intelligence.

    Having rambled around positing this and that, and having contradicted yourself repeatedly, your best shot is that we should “start knocking heads together”. And then what? As usual, you are long on ‘knowing’ self-importance and short on specifics.

    I am intrigued on your ideas about Syrian self-determination. It’s seemingly ok if it produces the outcome you favour, but, if necessary, we should co-operate with the Ruskies in frustrating it. It’s notions like these that have seen our influence in the Arab world go down the flusheroo.

    But I think you are really hankering after the tried and tested cold war solution – the good ol’ proxy war. The Russians can supply their client regime and we can arm the insurgents, and the Syrians can then get on with destroying their country and society – which is probably quite an acceptable outcome for those whose actual concerns and interests lie a little to the south of Syria itself.

  3. Russian – Arab league agreement.

    Warming Russian – Turkish relations

    Putin personal friend of both Turkey’s Gul and Erdogan

    Russian influence with Assad

    Putin has the greatest leverage, he rather than the US will wield the most influence.

    If Assad falls, the Muslim Brotherhood are the most likely to emerge in control.

    The least likely outcome is a multi-party democratic government. No foundation to support the formation and survival of such a government, far too few supporters.

    1. Russia is firmly in opposition to the Arab League and to the Turks, Geoffrey.

      but you’re right about the utterly improbability of a democratic government immediately rising from the aftermath of long dictatorship and misrule…..

      we can only expect to see slow progress toward democracy in the Middle east and we’re gonna have to put up with some high levels of crud because we can’t continue to support the authoritarians forever

      1. The alternative to supporting ‘authoritarians’ is therefore theocratic governments, since that is the only realistic alternative.

        “Russia is firmly in opposition to the Arab League and to the Turks,”

        Firmly in opposition? How do you square that with these;

        “Russia and the Arab League announced a set of agreed principles for ending the conflict.”

        Turkish press thinks that, “reelection of Vladimir Putin would induce a notable warming trend in Russian-Turkish relations.”

        How ‘firm’ can the opposition be, given the above?

        Russia and the Arab league have reached agreement

        Putin’s personal friendship with Gul & Erdogan provide a path to reconciliation.

      2. There will be no progress toward democracy in the M.E.

        The radical Islamists have the momentum, drive, ruthlessness and fanaticism needed to sweep aside opposition. In this ‘dogfight’, they are the ‘dog’ with by far the most amount of ‘fight’ in them. But just as important is that the majority of the populace, throughout the region, either support or will not oppose the radicals leadership.

        The statistic that 84% of Egyptians support the death penalty for an apostate is a most telling one and, it applies to the entire region, which is why I harp upon it so much.

        Within 5-10 years we will face a loosely aligned nuclear armed Caliphate.

        1. quite right that the Islamists have spent decades opposing the empty authoritarianism of the regimes that have ruled over the area…….and what is coming is not to our liking or likely to be much improvement for the short term….

          but it’s better than hanging on to the rotting corpse of the fascist holdovers that are the present alternative to hereditary monarchs.

  4. As long as there’s an Obama administration, things will keep going downhill, foreign and domestic. The sooner it hits bottom, the better – it looks like the only way this country will change direction.

  5. WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration is leaving open the possibility of giving Moscow certain secret data on U.S. interceptor missiles due to help protect Europe from any Iranian missile strike.
    With VBO and certain other technical data, Moscow could more readily develop countermeasures and strategies to defeat the system and transfer the information to others, Ellison said.

    Carter-Clinton redux, sell out American technical advances for touchy-feely speech opportunities. Yay team.

  6. At least the excerable Assad regime isn’t using white-phosphoros munitions and the like against the civilian population. Yet.

    And one wonders, if he does, will the Russians be so callous as to use the threat of their veto to buy him time so he can mop up the insurgents?

  7. Again just some thoughts.
    Lest we forget, all this has much more to do with current and undeveloped oil and gas deposits (on and off shore Syria, Lebanon, and beyond), than human rights, self-determination and other related wishful thinking.

    Btw, current phase of Syrian “revolution” fairytale is essentially over. Since the West and the Russians will probably continue to attempt to gouge each others eyes out, I’d brace myself for Assad and Co’s (Iran, Hezbollah) regional counteroffensive instead.

    You can’t will them all. Chalk up Syria as a loss to add to Iran, Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan. Iraq , soon to be Afghanistan…..

  8. Maybe the Middle Eastern version of democracy is a little different than ours. Certainly the guys in charge can’t be too small of a minority or a larger faction would take over. Obviously, the military is, for the moment, the creature of the current overlords and seems to be made up of members of the population, rather than foreign mercenaries, They appear to be willing to wreak havoc on their playmates and neighbors. You might call it a civil war. Lincoln hung 38 Lakota men in 1862 before he decided to tear up the constitution and send over half a million American men and boys to an early grave. Yet his craggy visage adorns our $5 bill. Democracy, or whatever it is, seems to be in the eye of the beholder.

    1. On November 5, 1862 in Minnesota, 303 Santee Sioux were found guilty of the rape and murder of white settlers and were sentenced to hang. Of those 38 were hanged, the rest where pardoned by President Lincoln. Lincoln would not have been the one to order the hanging of those Sioux (responsibility of the local army commander) and he pardoned the rest as the result of a plea for clemency, so how exactly is he responsible?

      And using Lincoln as evidence that “democracy is in the eye of the beholder” is a powerful argument. Just out of curiosity, how exactly did Lincoln “tear up the constitution”?

      And since the south fired upon Fort Sumter first, I take it you advocate that Lincoln should have allowed the south to secede, so as to avoid the sending of “over half a million American men and boys to an early grave.” and, since the half million you cite includes the deaths of both sides, I take it you’re blaming Lincoln for both the war and all the deaths…

      How do you square those implied assertions with the fact that no reputable historian would agree with that view?

      In addition, had the south seceded, there’s a high probability that the US would have become balkanized and thus wouldn’t have had the wherewithal to stop either Hitler or Stalin…

  9. Many historians, reputable and otherwise, have found that Lincoln’s tenure as president featured more than a few incidents of unconstitutional behavior.

    “James G. Randall documented Lincoln’s assault on the Constitution in “Constitutional Problems Under Lincoln.” Lincoln unconstitutionally suspended the writ of habeas corpus and had the military arrest tens of thousands of Northern political opponents, including dozens of newspaper editors and owners. Some 300 newspapers were shut down and all telegraph communication was censored. Northern elections were rigged; Democratic voters were intimidated by federal soldiers; hundreds of New York City draft protesters were gunned down by federal troops; West Virginia was unconstitutionally carved out of Virginia; and the most outspoken member of the Democratic Party opposition, Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio, was deported. Duly elected members of the Maryland legislature were imprisoned, as was the mayor of Baltimore and Congressman Henry May. The border states were systematically disarmed in violation of the Second Amendment and private property was confiscated. Lincoln’s apologists say he had “to destroy the Constitution in order to save it.” See more here:

    “In addition, had the south seceded, there’s a high probability that the US would have become balkanized and thus wouldn’t have had the wherewithal to stop either Hitler or Stalin…”

    Sit and think about that statement for a minute. Consider its logic.

    1. OK, I’ve thought about it. Forgive my obtuseness, what’s wrong with the logic?

      Yes, there were incidents of unconstitutional behavior and arguably, they were in the main, necessary to the preservation of the union..

      Just look at the situation, faced by Lincoln, that you just described;
      Tens of thousands of Northern political opponents, including dozens of influential newspaper editors and owners. Newspapers being the only source of news and commentary. More than 300 newspapers were, effectively, in favor of the dissolution of the union.

      Large numbers of Democrat party voters prepared to vote into office a party ready to surrender the union to disbandment. (not much has changed, has it?)

      There’s virtually no doubt that the democratic party of that time would have disbanded the union and approved the secession of the south and southwest. That would have ended manifest destiny and with the mid-western and western states then having the choice of joining the south, north, or some other configuration. Texas would have almost certainly have formed its own nation. The mid-west and western states would have had little reason to align themselves with either the south or north. As the natural boundaries of the Rockies and Sierra Nevada mountains would have encouraged limited unions.

      Telegraph communication was viewed, correctly, as an alternative means of political communication. Communication by opponents of retaining the union.

      The most outspoken member of the Democratic Party opposition, Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio, was deported, as he was the main rallying point for opposition to the union.

      It was critically important that the number of states seceding be limited to as few as possible. The Maryland legislature was a border state and might easily have voted for secession. Leading that opposition was the mayor of Baltimore and Congressman Henry May. Organized resistance with prominent leadership is much likelier to achieve its goals.

      The border states were heavily populated with large numbers of southern sympathizers, the border wars between pro-union and southern sympathizers demonstrated the problem of allowing those sympathizers to act as a guerrilla force operating behind the lines.

      In war, private property is frequently confiscated, as it’s a necessity.

      Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus was entirely constitutional.
      “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion, the public Safety may require it.” (my emphasis)

      Now one may, in principle, disagree as to its necessity but even if one disagrees, the government has the right to do it when it is deemed necessary, the only condition being that an active rebellion or invasion is occurring. That sole condition certainly applied.

      Lincoln faced the dissolution of the Union, a war with the southern states and, an active opposition to fighting a war to save the union.

      Had he refrained from any ‘unconstitutional’ actions, that northern opposition might well have defeated the union war efforts. Just as the anti-war movement was a significant factor in the abandonment for support in the Vietnam War. And more recently in the War on Terror.

      Strong internal disagreement may well have been what Lincoln was referring to when he stated that, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The North had to be united to defeat the south.

      1. ” That would have ended manifest destiny….”

        So? All of your “would haves” are conjectural and, of course are heavily smeared with 20-20 hindsight. The real point is that if it were advantageous for the states that seceded to remain in the union, it should have been possible for the northern states to point this out to them. Lincoln, and others, should have been able to convince the South that voluntarily settling their differences would be more favorable for them than armed conflict. Either they were unable to point this out to the soon-to-be rebels or if they made the best case they could, it still didn’t impress the southerners. Regardless, there was no moral justification for invading the south, killing their menfolk and wrecking their stuff because they didn’t want to be in the USA club anymore. Of course, Lincoln failed to bring up your argument, that the union needed to stick together so we could send a bunch of young guys to Europe eighty years into the future to save it from Hitler and Stalin. Must have slipped his mind, I guess.

        1. That’s a remarkably cynical avoidance of obvious circumstance and historical fact. It’s ludicrous to suggest that the south might have stayed in the union had Lincoln been more persuasive.

          The south claimed that their dispute centered upon states rights but in fact it was the economic engine of slavery upon which the dispute centered. The south wanted the slave states to be equal in number as the expansion into the west occurred. They wanted escaped slaves, considered highly valuable property, to be returned to their southern ‘owners’. They wanted the abolition societies, operating the northern railroads, to be curtailed.

          In a nutshell, the south demanded the conditions necessary to the continuance of slavery be maintained, throughout enough states as to maintain parity, regardless of how large the country grew.

          “there was no moral justification for invading the south, killing their menfolk and wrecking their stuff because they didn’t want to be in the USA club anymore.”

          Not so! There was every moral justification for war. The south sought to unilaterally secede through force, completely outside Constitutional channels. The states broke the law and sought to enforce that action through armed rebellion. That left Lincoln no choice but to put down the rebellion through armed conflict or accept the south’s unlawful action, which would be to condone breaking the law, thus making a mockery of rule by law, returning America to the rule of men.

          20/20 hindsight is perfect, thus my conjectures as to what would have happened had Lincoln not taken the ‘unconstitutional’ actions he did are more than merely plausible, they’re virtually certain.

          For you to imply that either Hitler or Stalin could have been stopped without the full power and might of a united America is so preposterous, that it cannot be taken seriously.

          1. You’re making a fool of yourself. “! There was every moral justification for war. The south sought to unilaterally secede through force, completely outside Constitutional channels.” The south, just like the north, was ostensibly composed of states with democratic republic governments. Doesn’t their democracy count as much as that of the north? Can’t the voters of the south make their own decisions, even though those decisions might be different than those of their northern neighbors? Was the American revolution a violation of British law?

            Interestingly enough, slavery, endemic over the earth for all of recorded previous history, has shrunk to a vice found in only the most backward parts of the globe, to wit the Arab/Muslim nexus. Brazil maintained slavery into the 1880s and somehow managed to prohibit the practice without civil war. It’s quite likely that the “curious institution” wouldn’t have lasted much longer here, either, Lincoln or no Lincoln, who, incidentally never expressed any opposition to slavery until secession became a possibility. The background of the War of Northern Aggression is complex. It’s aftermath is not. The Northern victory retarded the social and economic development of the South for over an hundred years and its effects are being felt to this day. US policies toward the defeated foes Germany and Japan were more magnanimous and humane than those imposed on the CSA.

            1. NO, Charles, strong but principled disagreement with you doesn’t make me a fool. Making that accusation without cause demonstrates an inability upon your part to engage in argument without personalizing it. The unfounded action of personalizing indicates the weakness in logic and fact of your argument.

              Your argument essentially reduces to the emotional assertion that Lincoln did terrible things. Yes, he did and I have pointed out how your own statements demonstrate that, if he was to hold the union together, Lincoln had little choice.

              Had the south pursued constitutional channels in seeking secession and had they found the necessary congressional and/or support for calling a constitutional convention and then had the votes to secede (being the only legal way to secede), Lincoln himself admitted he would have had to honor any constitutional action regardless of his personal opinion.

              “Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.” Abraham Lincoln

              The embedded institution of slavery aside, the issue of democracy in the south isn’t in dispute. In fact, it’s irrelevant to the illegal unconstitutional action by the south to unilaterally, declare their secession from the union and then engage in armed rebellion. Attacking Fort Sumter was an act of war, the south emphatically declaring it was in armed rebellion against the union.

              “Was the the American revolution a violation of British law?”
              Of course it was, the American position however was that “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” entitled them to the “pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and that England’s oppression had illegally (by british law) and consistently (over a long train of abuses) deprived them of many of their rights as loyal subjects of the English crown and that the Crown had made known that relief from this oppression was certain to continue.

              The south did not make the argument that the north was oppressing them, but rather that their were irreconcilable differences. Then simply asserted that they had the right to secede whenever they unilaterally decided to exercise that ‘right’ and that they would engage in armed rebellion to enforce their view.

              It’s true that other nations abandoned their support for slavery peaceably but it was the south’s impatience and insistence that slavery continue that led to their action to engage in armed rebellion rather than seek peaceful, constitutional means to secede. The south as part of the union, faced a growing national movement to outlaw slavery and the eventual congressional passage of a law outlawing slavery. Rather than acquiesce to the possibility of that perfectly legal judgement by the country, they engaged in armed rebellion to form their own country.

              The aftermath of the war is regrettable but given Lincoln’s actions regarding that issue, your inability to even mention it is telling.

              “US policies toward the defeated foes Germany and Japan were more magnanimous and humane than those imposed on the CSA.”

              That’s somewhat accurate but leaves out the initiative and very hard work of the German’s and Japanese. On the other hand, there’s some truth to the cliche of the indolent southener. I grew up in the state of Florida and can personally testify to the mild ‘manyana’ attitude of the native southener’s culture.

              The carpetbaggers and lack of northern investment were a factor but obstacles are only a permanent barrier if we let them remain so.

  10. It’s starting to make sense.

    Putting together some , (not all), recent events.
    1) Israel put on hold for Iran strike. Gaza rockets and Israeli assassinations are both opportunistic and diversionary moves for respective public opinions. The big brothers of both have told them to restrain themselves.
    2) Assad looks like he’s put down the rebellion decisively, with the West backing down, and out. “It’s premature to arm the rebels” both DC and Paris have stated that now.
    3) The Obama-Cameron Public Relations show. Actually taking over Afghanistan exit strategy, recent Middle East developments, and oil, out of sight of the cameras.
    4) The resurrection of the proposal for US/RUSSIA cooperation on the use of the anti-missile radar in Azerbaijan. Some report on sharing antimissile technology. This I have yet to confirm
    5) The “we are a peace loving nation, please treat us as equal, we don’t want nukes” noises coming (very strongly) out of the mouths of Iranian doves..
    6) The Saudi’s and Qataris’ shutting up about arming the Syrian rebels.
    7) Deafening Turkish silence
    8) Increased gasoline prices and their impact on the upcoming US Presidential election.

    and the following

    9) Russia to offer US airbase for Afghan transit

    I can’t guarantee it. But, sounds like somebody either already has, or is trying awfully hard to cut a comprehensive deal. That’s the positive take. They cynical view is that if not handled responsibly, these events are a prelude to disaster of mega proportions

    1. It’s very much to the advantage of Obama’s reelection chances to have gas prices down, unemployment down and foreign events as quiescent as possible. In an election year, that would be the case with any President of course, the difference is that the long term geo-political consequences are of no importance whatsoever to the Obama administration. Unless, those long term consequences move this country closer to socialism and transnationalism, which are the primary political goals of this administration.

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