Syria minus the US equals regional power struggle

Nothing changes except American will.

One thing Barack Obama’s presidency has done is lay bare just how little the world has changed.  There has never been any such thing as a global “safe space” created by sunny international consensus, and there never will be.  There is power and safety, and there is weakness and peril.  If the US is using power to guard “safe spaces” – territory on which the people have choice and opportunity, unprejudiced by someone else’s use of power – then safe places exist.  If we are not guaranteeing them, they don’t.

We are not guaranteeing right now that Syria can operate in a safe space and make choices based on what her people want.  This is something we still have the power to do, although it would be harder to jump in now than it would have been 15 months ago.  It need not necessarily involve using the US military on Syrian soil, and would be better, in my view, if it didn’t.  Even if it did, however, an intervention with a partial military aspect is not beyond our power.

Such an intervention does require deciding what US interests are.  That is probably the biggest task the Obama administration has declined to complete.  It isn’t really possible to discern what Team Obama thinks our interests are; given our passivity as Iran and Russia dispatch weapons shipments to Syria, and our seeming encouragement of shipments to the rebels from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, what it looks like is that the Obama administration thinks a bloody civil war would be the best outcome.  Others may assume cynically that that’s an accurate read, but I don’t see it that way.  What I detect in operation is the terribly short-sighted ignorance of the 1960s radical, whose gift to mankind was rewriting history in 25 words or less.

American interests

What are US interests in Syria?  I would define them as follows (not ranked, merely numbered):

1.  Removal of the Assad regime – peacefully, to the extent possible – in favor of a new government with consensual, democratic features; understanding that Syria will not create an exact replica of either the US Constitution or a European-style parliamentary democracy.  The objective should be ensuring, as much as possible, tolerance of religious, political, and ethnic differences within a unified national polity.

2.  Separating Syria from Iran.  Syria’s new government should not be a client of Iran.  The current situation is not good for anyone else in the region, and it is certainly not good for Syria.  Representatives of the radical Iranian regime packing their bags, and leaving on the next plane out, is the desired consequence.

3.  Ensuring against an Islamist takeover of Syria.

4.  Guaranteeing that post-Assad Syria has independence from Russia and Turkey.  This doesn’t mean Syria won’t deal with Russia and Turkey; it means she will have options other than turning to them for her security.

5.  Containing, for the region, the consequences of regime-change in Syria; principally for Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and Iraq.  Under this heading, giving Hezbollah nowhere to run is one of the key objectives.  Rather than passively waiting for a realignment of regional terrorists, assist other governments – including Egypt’s – with keeping their territory inhospitable to Hezbollah.

6.  Protecting our general interests in the region, such as the maritime freedom and stability of the Eastern Mediterranean, the safety of the Suez Canal, the observance of the Israel-Egypt peace accord, the security of our NATO allies and Israel, and preventing the rise of a regional hegemon (e.g., Turkey or Russia) whose interests would be likely to run counter to ours.  The last should be done less by confronting the aspiring hegemons than by offering the option to everyone else in the region of independence from them.

No international power struggle is ever settled once and for all.  Most of the time, sound national-security policy is a matter of encouraging good and useful trends and discouraging the inevitable bad ones.  Fortunately, doing the former is an excellent method of making progress on the latter.

But what we see in Syria today is a pristine example of what happens when the US is not proactively and consciously engaged in these activities.  We may have military force deployed all over the lot, but without a positive focus on current problems, it is a rote activity.  Over time, it becomes dedicated, by default, to preserving whatever force structure and purpose we developed to address the last crisis.  That’s what is happening now, as Russia and Iran zero in on Syria – whose fate will dictate much of the geopolitical conditions of the future – while the US is preoccupied elsewhere.  Keeping escort ships, and perhaps an intelligence-collecting submarine, off the Syrian coast is not a method of influencing the outcome in Syria; it is only a method for detecting things done by others, and perhaps reacting in a very limited way.

What we will get instead

A sensible national-security posture would entail trying to influence developments in Syria.  In the absence of that posture on the part of the US, the region’s illiberal regimes will determine the outcome there.  None of them is pursuing an interest consonant with those of the United States.  Moreover, there is no such option as leaving Syria to her own devices.  Deciding against an active role in the Syrian problem means leaving Syria to Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and whatever non-state jihadists can get a toehold in the internal conflict.

Russia and Iran are arming Assad, because they want to retain their client-based position in the Eastern Med, with its aspect of a hinge-point between East and West.  Saudi Arabia and Qatar are arming the Syrian rebels, because they want to achieve a victory in Syria that both thwarts Iran and establishes them and their brand of state Islamism in the ascendant.  Turkey is helping them deliver the arms (see UK Independent link above), because if the choice is between bolstering a Saudi-led effort and an effort in which Iran and Russia are paired, Erdogan will choose the former.  No Saudi coalition can, under present conditions, challenge Erdogan’s regional vision for Turkey, but Russia and Iran can.

The civil war developing in Syria is not a war for the good of the Syrian people.  It’s a war for the influence of outsiders over Syria and the Eastern Med.  It’s not as simple as “Sunni Saudi Arabia and Turkey versus Shia Iran,” nor is it as simple as “Russia has a port in Syria.”  There are multiple factors at work, one of which for Russia is that Iran, radical as she is, is a client and a devil Russia has cards to play against, whereas Sunni Salafists are already a major security problem for Russia, and would only gain courage and momentum from participating in a victory in Syria.  Russia doesn’t want Turkey to be “the winner” in the Syrian outcome either, largely because such a victory would encourage Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman aspirations and empower his bid for leadership in geopolitical Islamism.

The Saudis, meanwhile, badly need a Saudi-sponsored victory to consolidate their stature with Muslims throughout the Middle East and South Asia.  Jihadists despise the Saudi regime, considering it sclerotic, corrupt, and sold out to the West.  Abdullah of Jordan has similar problems, but these monarchs and the Emir of Qatar would have an important and prestigious victory in kicking the non-Islamist Assad out of Syria, in favor of a regime in which their brand of Islamists could obtain central power.  (It is a serious question, of course, how well they could control follow-on developments.)

What we are seeing in Syria is the regional jockeying I predicted in 2009 in my blog series “The Next Phase of World War IV” (including parts two, three, and four).  Part of the ultimate objective is what I have called the “Race to Jerusalem”:  the competition among Islamist groups and governments to plant the flag of Islam in Jerusalem and claim justification for leading the caliphate.  Gaining strategic position around Israel is a key element of this competition, and Syria is one of the most important geographic redoubts.  Neither the armed states Iran or Saudi Arabia, nor the non-state jihadists among the Syrian rebels, will give Syria up without a fight.

But Russia won’t sit by either and let one brand of Islamism assume control of Syria without a Russian say-so.  This stance has made Israel, Russia, and Greece allies of convenience, since the worst outcome from the perspective of any of them is a Sunni Islamist takeover of Syria, which would encourage terrorists and probably empower Erdogan.

Reality bites

None of this would be foreordained if the US took an active role in fostering the best future for Syria.  It is important for Americans to understand that the more we recuse ourselves from the conflict in Syria, the more its outcome is guaranteed to be determined by a foreign power at the expense of the Syrian people.  We have just about reached the stage at which what’s going on in Syria is not a “Syrian civil war,” but a proxy war between regional powers, whose objectives will frustrate, and in some cases even defeat outright, every single one of the US interests in the Syrian crisis.

Civil war; children and old people mowed down like animals; arms and paramilitary troops flooding into the country; ruthless power struggles between corrupt despots on third-party territory – this is your world, when American power isn’t being exercised.

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

Note for new commenters:  Welcome!  There is a one-time “approval” process that keeps down the spam.  There may be a delay in the posting if your first comment, but once you’re “approved,” you can join the fray at will.

75 thoughts on “Syria minus the US equals regional power struggle”

  1. —- A sensible national-security posture would entail trying to influence developments in Syria. In the absence of that posture on the part of the US, the region’s illiberal regimes will determine the outcome there. None of them is pursuing an interest consonant with those of the United States. Moreover, there is no such option as leaving Syria to her own devices. Deciding against an active role in the Syrian problem means leaving Syria to Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and whatever non-state jihadists can get a toehold in the internal conflict.——

    yes, that would be a sensible posture and a sensible person would assume that that is precisely what this administration id doing or any other administration would be doing.

    As long as you don’t define what you mean by “active role” and as long as you don’t suggest somewhat specific activities that you think would best aid in securing our interests, this is yet another in your series of “Obama’s wrong because he’s not doing what I want him to do and I’m not gonna say what I want him to do”.

  2. JE,

    I respectfully disagree. We have no interest in Syria at all – that we can do much about, anyway. We are powerless, and the fact remains that in Syria there are NO, ZERO, ZIP, NADDAH good guys. When two evil demons go to battering themselves bloody, the best policy is to contain the situation, and let the demons go at it.

    Please see NRO (for Steyn, McCarthy, Hanson, and Weigel only… the remainder are establishment pantywaists..) for Andrew C. McCarthy’s excellent analysis of the situation.

    If I were king… (humm sounds cool, but lots of evil folks wouldn’t like it much…)

    1. I would put 1 infantry brigade, and 1 Armored Cavalry Regiment in Israel. It might take a little negotiating but US troops on the Golan is a serious deterrent. I’d also rotate Air Reserve and Air National Guard units into and out of the Negev bases.

    2. I would shut down all access to Syria… land routes sea routes, no traffic at all… nothing. I’d destroy it’s airforce and sink whatever navy it thought it had… and leave it to rot.

    3. I would put two combat brigades and several air force bases in southern Iraq, and a division in Kurdistan, and call it Kurdistan, with a brigade from that division on the Syrian border.

    Then after I have a full flanking stranglehold on the area, I’d start destabilizing the Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran axis. I’d also sh!tcan the PLO – Israeli “peace” process… and allow Israel to annex the West Bank to begin mopping that up. Guarantees of citizenship and rights to Christians… etc. Begin shutting down the propaganda mill that has become the enabler of the anti-Israeli violence.

    Above all I would make sure that the commitment was in perpetuity. Meaning.. We don’t go home until this place is civilized, or no longer a problem (if you get my drift.)

    Again… there is nothing that we can do in Syria other than make a mess of a mess that suddenly we own, and will be unwilling to do anything about. Siding with the “rebels” means we support one evil faction, that puts us on the bad side of Tsar Pootie Poot. Supporting Assad means putting our weight behind an evil monster. Let another evil monster support that evil monster while his minions are fought by a third evil monster.

    We should support Israel, cordon off the area, and stay wary.


    1. ending the Assad regime decouples Syria from Iran does much to destabilize Hezbollah and then Iran. Hamas is already pressured by losing its base in Syria and is concerned about continued support from Iran.

      and if you were King, I’ve just the thing…..

    2. There are some good guys TMF. None of this was any of their doing. They are scared to death, some of them are already refugees from Iraq, and in the shadow of the Israeli/Sunni/Shia limelight , they have been totally forgotten by their coreligionists. They are the last remaining Christians of the Middle East..

      1. Sort of what I said… but the ME Christians have to get over their old hatreds of the Jews because the only thing that is going to keep them alive is a tight close alliance with Israel.

        Unfortunately too many Middle Eastern Christians (most my Catholic Brothers and Sisters) are hopelessly mired in dhimmitude. They are so enslaved by their Islamic masters that they are prone to Stockholm Syndrome.

        As to Assad and the Iranians… I don’t think the Iranians care much if Assad is in power or not. I don’t think that if he lost power that the the Iranians weren’t doing their own version of the old Dutch Treat.. and playing both ends to see what sort of weak puppet the can get uncoupled from Tsar Pootie Poot. The Iranians are behind both the rebels and Assad. Whoever wins, the Mullahs win.

        Christians in the Middle East have cut their own throats, and wrapped manacles around their own ankles.

        Every Advent we see the wood carvers come to support their dwindling numbers… I have a beautiful olive wood and silver Rosary that was a gift from my wife, we have two lovely olive wood crucifixes… and at some time in the future the sand in the Miraculous medal from the Holy Land… might be the the only free soil left from that part of the world.

        Unfortunately you cannot save who doesn’t want to be saved. Slavery ultimately requires of it the acquiescence of the slave.

        It breaks my heart, and wounds my soul, but there is little that we can do.


        1. You know little of the Middle East. What I’m about to post isn’t gonna score me any brownie points, but I like to be objective, Maybe the Jews have to get over their long standing hatreds of the Christians. At least the remaining Christians will be welcome in Europe. If push comes to shove, the Israelis are literally on their own. I say this with no malice. Even though I support the Israelis ( I believe it is in the American interest), Orthodox Jews do have a habit of spitting on Christian priests in the Holy City. And more than a few think they are playing the Evangelicals for suckers.You see I happen to believe Jews are human beings like the rest of us and are subject to the same imperfections. An alliance is exactly that, an alliance, not exchanging one master for another. Then again, it was the Catholic Crusade in 1204 that opportunistically sacked Christian Constantinople instead of fighting the infidel Turks, mortally wounding Eastern Christendom and insuring the spread of Islam in Eastern Europe. Only recently did your Church apologize (although in all fairness there were some Catholic Theologians that considered the crusader’s acts anathema) and return some of the looted Holy Relics to their rightful owner. So don’t blame the remaining Christians in the ME my friend. With friends like you who needs enemies?
          Your Catholic brothers are but one part of the Christian population, although in the state they (the Christians) are in , I draw no medieval distinctions between the sects. Since you do, I suggest you read a couple of history books instead of whatever wellhead of propaganda has brainwashed you.

          “They are so enslaved by their Islamic masters that they are prone to Stockholm syndrome”
          FYI some Christians sects in the ME, other than the Orthodox actually collaborated with the Muslims against the then Byzantine Empire due to doctrinal differences. Kinda like Sunni and Shia. You would have thought we would have learned our lesson by now, learned to stick together. Tsar Pootie Poot’s people believe in the same God you do.

          1. Know a bit more than you think… not an expert, but I have spent the better part of my academic life studying such things… before moving on to something that made money.

            1. I do not think of Israelis as some sort of saintly priesthood. The ultra-orthodox are as problematic to Jews as they are to everyone else. It’s the crippling nature of extreme orthodoxy. Christ warned about it and cautioned against it. Paul, on the other hand… But the ultra-orthodox are not the majority in Israel.

            2. Roman Catholicism of the Dark Ages to the dawn of the Renaissance was a much different movement than it is now. Frankly, the Crusades were not particularly holy, and though bloody quite necessary to defend Europe from a massive violent invasion.

            It is a study in using alternate motive to achieve a purpose primary but tangential from the activity. The Church as it was at the end of the first millennium and the beginning of the second, was the only international power capable of assembling a force to counter the spread of the Islamic armies and occupation. It wouldn’t be until 1492 before the Moors were ejected in the West, and almost 200 years passed before the Eastern border was stabilized in 1683 at Vienna.

            The west has been at war with rulers, warlords and despots hauling an Quranic imprimatur (how is that for a mixed metaphor?) for a very long time.

            3. The Roman Church had already split doctrinally from the Eastern Church and there was no love loss there. It was also a tool of the nobility in Europe the 18th century. Church was mixed with state throughout the history of post Roman Europe. More often than not the motives were those of the prince, Earl, Duke, or Lord than the Pope, Cardinal, or Bishop.

            Constantinople was sacked for political reasons (stupid in my estimation mostly just greed and existential hate) because the rulers of the old Eastern Empire were waining in the face of the onslaught of the Seljuk (first) and Ottoman (second and final) Turks.

            The churches didn’t get along, and neither did the political establishments. It was bound to happen. Too, bad it did during the same era the East was being overrun from a third party.

            So, no Israel isn’t saintly, and what our diplomats and military should be doing is helping them to isolate and contain their more crippling socio-religious issues while moving them toward the rational policy of becoming the protector of liberty in the ME.

            Like I said.. not easy stuff… we are paying for the end results of socio-religious movements that are more than 1500 years old.

            PS Whether I like what you say or not, it is always worth reading and considering. To cease learning new perspectives, is to die alone and unenlightened, in a box.

            1. “Whether I like what you say or not, it is always worth reading and considering. To cease learning new perspectives, is to die alone and unenlightened, in a box.”
              Thank you for you kind reply. I feel the same reading your posts. I deeply appreciate being able to exchange my views with you and the rest of the participants. Few places on the web maintain this quality of commentary among people that are not personally acquainted. My intentions are to state differing opinions in order to enrich and deepen the level of our dialogue. If I seem provocative at times I do not intentionally wish to offend, only to spur debate and broaden my own knowledge through the exchange of views that follows. That said I’m spent, I will be taking my leave for a few hours, Yesterday. was Armenian brandy night you see.

  3. My general axiom on US interest in the region in question..
    1. Do nothing that will jeopardize the flow of hydrocarbons from the Middle East/Caucasus/Central Asia unless your actions insure your control over them.

    On Syria
    Syria is Humpty Dumpty, If he falls…Everybody’s gonna get a piece.

    Optcon, your six points of American interest sound like “Mission Impossible”. If you remove Assad, you are going to get Sunni extremists. Well at least that ‘ll take care of your Iran connection and Hezbollah problem. That of course will leave you with a new set of problems along the lines of Turkish tanks on the Golan or Saudi F-15’s in Damascus, or both. Good for the anti- Iranians, bad for the pro-Israelis. I don’t even wanna think about Jordan, or the Iranians stirring up trouble in Iraq or Saudi Arabia in retaliation. Actually I couldn’t care less under other circumstances, but I gotta bad feeling that someone’s gonna muck this up.

    If for some inexplicable reason we insist on meddling, say good bye to both Syria and Lebanon in their current borders.
    I said it before and I’ll say it again, partition with population exchanges.
    Set up a Christian state (there will be PLENTY of displaced refugees to populate it if Assad goes) on the coast of Lebanon and Syria. Then the “West” will have two surrogate Crusader states/beacheads in the region (three if you include the Republic of Cyprus). Aid the Druze, Alawites and form their own states as well, they at least, will be grateful for awhile. Self determination and Nation building in all its glory.

    And God forbid we do something stupid like going after the Iranians without the Russians on board. You all do realize that our troops in Afghanistan are practicality stranded without adequate logistics. The Pakis aren’t playing ball with us right now on our lines of communication through their territory, One of our other two lines of communication goes through Russian territory and Russia’s got her finger on the jugular of the third through the South Caucasus/Central Asia.

    At least, redeploy the troops or secure the supply lines to Afghanistan BEFORE we open up another can of worms.

    Remember, “Never fight a land war in Asia”, unless of course, your first name is Alexander, your last name is Khan or you’re a Russian Czar.:)

  4. Barring any positive developments, expect one or two Russian fighter squadron deployments in Syria to deter the declaration of a Western no-fly zone.
    A couple of weeks ago I thought that neither side was gonna be dumb enough to let their proxies get out of hand. I’m not so sure anymore.

        1. excellent because I’ll be pleased to win it.

          When I do, I expect you to forward my winnings to the opticon so that she can apply it toward reducing the niece’s debt burden and staving off a future in public housing.

          1. Just remember I said “barring any positive developments”. I refer you to Star Trek episode “Day of the Dove” S3E7 . Capt. Kirk to Kang , ‘I’ll beam you aboard the Enterprise, once there no tricks”. So don’t kvetch when you lose 🙂

            1. the mortgage on the house is paid off, and I ain’t missing any meals, so if you want to get giddy and raise the bet to 2 bucks, I promised not to get any grumpier should I lose (as if I COULD get much grumpier)

              1. It wouldn’t be sporting of me to decline. To be fair, you do know their are about 300 Russian Marines headed to Tartus.

                1. yup. I know and as soon as I read that a Russian fighter squadron is there, I’m paying the two bucks.

  5. Oh, my eyes! You used the word “proactively.”

    As long as we are torturing the language, I favor the propassive position.

    I can see no grounds for US intervention unless (1) we identify a side or faction that we are certain will be friendly to the US, and (2) we are reasonably certain that side can win.

    If we back a losing side, and it is found out (as it almost certainly will be with the current state of intelligence security) it will go bad both for them and for us.

    I suppose you could argue that it is helpful to keep the identifiable bad guys fighting each other for as long as possible, but nobody wants to admit to that sort of intervention.

  6. Dyer has (as usual) failed to present us with a single alternative strategy to consider. Presumably if she had one, she would have. Instead, all we get is an opportunity for a predictable rant against a Presidency she hates. We knew that already. If talk is cheap, this is bargain-basement stuff.

  7. The US has no strategic interest in getting involved in an internal war in a long-standing Soviet/Russian client. We have no horse running in this race. The only reason I can think of for getting involved is humanitarian. (A motive Dyer and her ilk have already scathingly dismissed in relation to Libya!). However, reports from independent observers strongly suggest that the balance of humanitarian consequences of a victory for the Assad regime on the one hand, and the insurgents on the other, is far from clear. There is no pressing US interest to protect, and several strategic downsides in getting more involved while we are still up to our tonsils in Afghanistan. Obama knows it. The Republicans know it, and, I suspect, Dyer knows it too.

  8. For those of us who predicted this, it is brutally relevant to the Syrian situation…

    Egypt is now a radical Islamic State. The Copts better find a way out of Egypt, fast because they are about to be wiped out. The Israelis are going to be on high alert, and the US had better figure out a way to neutralize all of those tanks and weapons systems (older but still potent) that the Egyptian Army possesses now.

    All of these “Rebel Movements” are nothing more than fronts for Radical Islamist take overs of various governments. Libya is next, I figure the MB will get a stranglehold on Tripoli soon enough.

    Bad times ahead.


      1. Indeed. It looks that even though the MB candidate has been duly elected president in a free election, the Mubarakists, who still control the courts and the army, have engineered a coup d’etat to retain real control of the country. I presume that this will provoke revolution mark II in due course. Hopefully, they’ll do the job properly next time. And even more hopefully, we’ll have the sense to keep out of it. The only thing our meddling is likely to achieve is to make it more likely a radical Islamic government will come to power rather than the rather benign faction which sponsored the elected president.
        Irrespective of who wins it’s likely that the days of collaborating with the Israelis in keeping Gaza locked down are numbered. A representative government is much less likely to allow itself to be bribed into maintaining an unpopular policy with money and military toys provided by the US tax-payer. But that’s Israel’s problem – not ours.

        1. your speculations are no more likely to be wise than those of anybody else.

          Why the Egyptian authorities, whomever they may turn out to be, would be willing to get involved with aiding Hamas and alienating the Israelis, the EU and the US and the Egyptian military (should those authorities not actually be the Egyptian military…is pretty unclear.

        2. There is one problem I can think of with Egypt that is wholly our concern and has nothing to do with Israel. The Suez canal must be in neutral hands, at the very least. I won’t go into the economic, military and geopolitical details.

          1. not necessarily in neutral hands, but administered to allow universal and equal access

            1. Why? The canal is entirely within Egyptian territory. US infrastructure and facilities aren’t in neutral hands, nor do we undertake to provide universal and equal access to anything we have.

                1. The applicable law is that it is entirely on Egyptian territory and they are entitled to bar passage to vessels which they consider not in their interests to allow through. I think we once pulled the plug on an unholy axis of the UK, France and Israel on this very point.

          2. The Suez is a major source of revenue for the Egyptians, so they are unlikely to block it – even to naval traffic. But as far as the oil supply from the Gulf is concerned it is irrelevant. Since the advent of VLCCs 30 or more years ago, all the west-bound oil-traffic goes around the Cape of Good Hope because the canal is too shallow.

            1. This issue is not solely about oil supply. Other goods transit the canal. As for your comment on naval military passage ( I assume), timing is as critical as theoretical access. An unfriendly Egyptian government that can manipulate the timing of passage (and priority), through the canal is as bad as one that will deny usage of the canal. A related example I refer you to is the denial of transit by coalition troops, by the Turkish govt., during the invasion of Iraq..

    1. There are some signs that a situation similar to 1967 is developing. But the generals know who pays their bills, so I’d give it another year till the MB takes over. Unless the economy totally tanks before then or someone deliberately lights the fuse.

      The real threat to Israelis isn’t the Egyptian Armed Forces (in the near term), just the additional pressure on their nerves from Sinai infiltrators. That in addition to the other regional developments could make them trigger happy. And the Muslim extremists have learned their lessons well, they won’t rush into a direct military confrontation with the Israelis. They will let demographics and psychological exhaustion work on Israeli society for awhile longer. They have the initiative.

      The Copts are in a fix. Hopefully someone will quietly tell the more “reasonable” elements of the MB to leave them alone, and maybe they’ll listen. The situation in Egypt (as concerns the Christians) is obviously not as far gone as Syria.

      IMHO Libya has and always will be a mess. As long as the oil keeps flowing it’s not a major concern.

  9. In Germany the US lead media blockade against relevant information from Syria starts to crumble. Yesterday there was an article in the respected newspaper “Die Welt”, titled “The rebels behave like criminals” (“Die Rebellen verhalten sich wie Kriminelle”).

    An English language teacher from Aleppo said this, when he introduced a friend who owns a factory for electronic parts to the German journalist Alfred Hackensberger.

    The teacher’s friend said:

    “The rebels come to us and command the businessman to close their companies on Friday and Saturday with the intent to stage a strike.” Not obeying Businessman face consequences. “The factories of my neighbors were burnt by the FSA.”

    Syria: On the Right Side of History

    1. Welcome, antifo, and I appreciate your perspective. My apologies that your first comment was delayed. There is a one-time “approval” required for each commenter, which keeps down the spam. I am away from home at the moment and have not been able to respond quickly.

  10. Second US submarine USS Florida SSGN 728 docks Souda Bay, Crete. USS Annapolis SSN-760 on patrol in the EMED. Somebody must have read your post on a lack of US presence in the neighborhood optcon.

    1. What, exactly, is the purpose or use of a submarine in the eastern Mediterrenean? Or two of them? No one can know where they go, they’re underwater, after all. It’s not like they can intimidate anybody on land, since they’re pretty unlikely to be firing missiles on Damascus. Or are they there to prove to the Russians and Chinese that we’re still the techno-champs in the world armament game? Like they don’t already know that. Or are they meant to sink the invisible battle ships of a re-born Atlantis? Wouldn’t it be just as sensible, and a lot cheaper, to take an ad out in the Jerusalem Post telling all interested parties that we’re watching from our geo-synchronous satellites and will dispatch death drones if we see anything we don’t like?

      1. The point is we are playing for keeps and so is everybody else. A Turkish F-4 was shot down over the Med (Syrian coast) about a 2 hours ago.

  11. jgets — I’m not sure why your last comment went to moderation. The earlier one with the multiple hyperlinks was delayed because of the multiple links. In any case, sorry about that! I’m away from home helping while a family member has surgery, not getting to the computer very often.

    It looks like the Turkish F-4 was lost, but I don’t see anything that suggests it was shot down. I just saw that Erdogan says they have contact with the pilots. Don’t know if that’s correct — I’m sure the flight crew’s emergency beacons lit up, not sure if there could have been radio contact yet. At any rate, I certainly hope the crew make it. The F-4 may have gone down due to natural causes (top reason for in-flight failures is pilot error, even with experienced military pilots). We’ll have to see what the future reports tell us.

    1. It’s ok about the moderation, I probably deserve it. Take care of your folks. The F-4 was shot down.

      1. Looks like it was confirmed… and “apologies” offered… right…

        The situation is bound to deteriorate, and turn even more byzantine (Ironic isn’t it?).

        Turkey is only a paper ally, but their struggle over the potential New Caliphate with Iran is going to play like the darkest double game intrigues of Byzantium.

        The Turkish Persian “Pushme-pullyou” is ancient, destructive, and perpetually angry.

        Plus ca change, plus ca le meme chose.

        1. The only real “Byzantines” in the region are the Hellenes, everyone else is but a cheap imitation:)

    2. Syria confirms that it shot down the plane. statement in SANA

      Turkey also confirms the Syrian story.

  12. Indeed, jgets, I saw later in the day that both sides acknowledged the shoot-down. What I don’t see independent confirmation of is that the Turkish aircraft violated Syrian airspace.

    If it did, shooting it down is not the preferred response, but it IS within Syria’s national prerogative. Since Turkey was the violating party, it’s not a valid casus belli for Ankara. (Turkey can conduct a reprisal if she wants, but few nations would agree she has a “right” to.) Fortunately, most of these things end up NOT creating larger conflicts.

    Obviously, we have to monitor this closely, as Turkey is our NATO ally. I don’t think Syria (or Russia) is stupid enough to attack Turkish territory.

    I’m guessing, although I haven’t seen any specific reporting on this, that Turkey’s military aircraft have entered Syrian airspace before. e.g., in the last couple of months. Turkey has been active along the border. Whether or not that’s the case, it’s not really possible to interpret the shoot-down from a policy perspective. It may have been a trigger-happy battery commander, as much as it could have been a policy action directed from above. It’s not like Assad is firmly in command of a unified, loyal, and disciplined military that believes in him right now.

    1. There are numerous air space violations by all parties involved. Also, Assad has grounded his air force to prevent further defections, that could have played a role (I’m speculating) in relying on the SAM batteries. I’ve seen a couple of reports that there were a pair of Turkish RF-4E’s picked up by Cypriot radar. The second one got home with minor damage. The other RF-4E was downed about 1nm from the Syrian coast , well within Syria’s territorial waters. With certain reservations this seems like what happened.

      Now if this wasn’t some sort of accident, a couple of things have me scratching my head. They were going in fast and low evidently trying to evade Syrian radar. The modern Syrian SAM batteries, S-300PMU’s and BUK-M2’s, are manned by Russian technicians, the older SAM -5’s by Syrians. I’d like to know which type of battery fired. I’ve seen nothing reliable on that. It would answer a lot of questions.

      Being that they were on a coastal recon mission, I assume they were trying to get a better look at the new Russian ASM installations as well as the coastal SAM sites. You can’t work up to blockading ( I’m assuming an increase in the level of intervention) the Syrian coast unless they are neutralized. The Yahont is a nasty piece of machinery. It’s also odd that there wasn’t any mention Turkish F-16’s flying cover. The Turks don’t usually send their RF-4E’s unescorted. It wouldn’t have helped the RF-4 in any case.

      “I don’t think Syria (or Russia) is stupid enough to attack Turkish territory”
      I don’t know optcon, the Turks are taking an awful big risk being the conduit for the insurgency. Maybe not Russia or Syria directly but certainly the PKK or something similar.

      1. Update.30.June
        WSJ supports Syrian version of incident. It accepts AA guns were used, So no direct Russian involvement. While there is no mention of a second RF-4E in the article, AA fire would explain how it got away with minor damage

        1. The interesting thing here, assuming this is a valid representation of events and what we thought of them (not a given, with the current crop of US officials), is that we have come out and so categorically disputed Turkey’s version.

          I don’t think I like this. Turkey is a NATO ally. This kind of thing, if we believe something different happened, should be discussed amongst ourselves, and a public formula not embarrassing to Turkey produced. Even saying the F-4’s position was ambiguous would be preferred, I think — if it was necessary to make the point publicly at all.

          The important thing is to preserve the unity and integrity of our alliance. This public challenge to Turkey’s version of the event is jarring. It comes across as having an ulterior motive — why are we publicly disputing an ally’s statement? Is this intended to be a justification for rejecting any proposals for NATO action (i.e., in response to Turkey’s invocation of Article 4 of the Atlantic Treaty)? If so, that would be far, far better done through a statement of policy than through an embarrassing dismissal of Turkey’s complaint.

          Would we treat Greece this way? The Netherlands? The UK? I don’t know, maybe we would under this administration. I think it would be a bad idea for NATO to get embroiled in the Syria problem given the lack of leadership and vision in the alliance right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to cavalierly embarrass allies. The best way to retain influence with Turkey is to keep her solidly in the NATO alliance, satisfied with what she’s getting out of it. This doesn’t help.

          1. It’s odd actually, the Obama administration has close cooperation with the Turks.
            The best I can come up with is this (and it is Sun. so my brain isn’t at 100%). A couple of weeks ago I thought the major parties involved were trying to put together a comprehensive set of proposals that would address the main regional issues Syria, IranNukes, NATO transit thru Russia etc. (they still are, debacle in Geneva notwithstanding).

            1) Someone has indisputable proof the Turkish version is inaccurate and doesn’t wish to be put in the position of it coming out at an inopportune time.

            2)The Turks price for going along might have been a little too high.

            3) the Turks were told to specifically told to follow a certain course of action, they didn’t or won’t and this is a warning to them.

            4) Someone with asses to the information that wanted to damage the Turks leaked it without authorization.
            That’s what I think offhand.

            Other NATO allies don’t face the problems Turkey does (internal+external). The alliance wasn’t formed to defend against independent Middle Eastern threats or internal insurgencies . It’s having a hard time adjusting. And so are the Allies. No USSR to concentrate the mind anymore.

            I see your point about keeping Turkey in the alliance but bear in mind some facts. A full 20% of the senior officer core is behind bars. An insurgency that can quickly increase in intensity has been ongoing for over 30 years. Islam is becoming very entrenched. Anyway where will Turkey possibly go if She leaves NATO? There’s more but its Sunday

            Have a good Afternoon!

            1. PS

              make that access not asses. Anxiously looking forward to your Article on Geneva.

              1. 03.July
                The situation is worse than described by the following link.


                Edrdogan attempted to drive a wedge between Kurdish moderates and the PKK, It didn’t work.


                Very interesting piece on the Matryoska Doll that is Syria, and how it can affect the wider region in unforeseeable ways.


                Looks like everyone is gonna get a lot more than they bargained for with this unilateral regime change business.

  13. RE cm at June 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm:

    You have smelled the right rat here. Telling the world we have subs deployed in EASTMED is a cheap and rather silly attempt to impress (maybe intimidate, although it’s hard to imagine anyone is that silly) the local actors.

    You may remember that in 2010, the Obama administration announced that all four of the Navy’s new “SSGNs” — converted Ohio-class missile submarines outfitted with large numbers of Tomahawk cruise missiles — were deployed at the same time. Three of them then surfaced at the same time in the vicinity of SE Asia. Fatuous nonsense was written about how this was a daunting signal to China. I wrote about it here at the time:

    Disclosing the presence of submarines in EASTMED today is another attempt at “information” operations. If anyone takes it seriously, the only thing that will happen is that Russia will send more air defense missiles to Syria. Tomahawks are subsonic cruise missiles. Russia’s modern systems can shoot them down. That doesn’t mean none would get through if a barrage were launched, but it does mean the tactical threat is manageable. Cruise-missile-equipped submarines are not the intimidation factor the current administration seems to think for a modern nation. Try this on Tanzania.

  14. Easy to see how Naval intelligence has managed without you.

    The presence of submarines, whether armed with Tomahawks, Trident missiles, or paint-guns, are patently not there to “intimidate” the Russians. We have no intention under this or any other presidency of any hue of getting involved in a shooting war with the Russians over this dysfunctional Russian client. We are flying the flag in the Eastern Med to reassure and calm our own local clients. This we can hardly do by keeping our presence hidden.

    1. “We are flying the flag in the Eastern Med to reassure and calm our own local clients. This we can hardly do by keeping our presence hidden.”
      You realize this presupposes that the Navy’s political leadership is being taken seriously by our clients, and adversaries.
      “Obama risks not being able to command the respect of any player in the region. Even I, the loyal opposition, am taking him seriously only part-time.
      This is starting to remind me of the botched Clintonite job in the Balkans. But this time we ain’t dealing with Yeltsin.
      Even some of our closest regional vassals er, allies, are playing footsie with those clear blue Russian eyes…

      1. I suspect our Navy’s political leadership is being taken no more or less seriously by our clients and adversaries under this presidency than it would under any alternative – given that everyone knows that any sensible alternative administration would be doing exactly the same.
        You should note that Dyer has signally failed to posit even the outline of an alternative strategy on Syria. And, surprise surprise, neither has Romney or his handlers. Doubly significant, because unlike the President, neither of these has the responsibility of consequences for our nation and its interests, and could mouth-off their alternative strategy (if they had one) without the small problem of having to worry about the consequences.

  15. What you are essentially telling me is that the Nation’s foreign policy interest has taken a backseat to electoral expediency.

    I don’t think the Obama administration has a clear idea of what its foreign policy priorities are. Or at least this is the perception. Optcon has a point about US leadership. Obama is not being taken seriously, ergo the US is not taken seriously., “Responsibility of consequence” seems more like the hand wringing of somebody in over their head. He can deal with easy FP stuff alright, but on the crucial issues he seems indecisive, reticent, uncomfortable, insecure. I’m sorry to say, underqualified. There really is an element of amateurism. Our friends and adversaries sense this. Sometimes I get the feeling that Obama doesn’t grasp reality, or the type of adversaries he’s dealing with. His face the night of the Bin Laden strike wrote volumes. Conservatives have a point about on the job training.

    As for Romney, all he’s concerned about right now is attaining the Presidency, it’s his family’s political/business goal. He will say and do anything to achieve it. He has outlined his Syria alternative. “Russia is the #1 geopolitical threat to the US”. A hasty and foolish comment that shows he will flip flop badly on FP in addition to domestic issues. Heaven help us.

    Optcon has done a splendid job of bringing up the issues and hints at alternative strategies. That’s if the posts are read clearly, without prejudice and most importantly, between the lines. How we deal with rest is up to us.

    1. What YOU are telling me is that you don’t understand plain English. Read it again. In fact it says nothing of the sort of what you have insinuated. The national interest has determined the strategy. But, to be fair, I think Romney, (or any other president who would, I hope, also have the national interest to the fore) would be doing exactly the same as Obama.
      Dyer, on the other hand, has no need to observe any principle or interest other than her own prejudices – mouth without responsibility.

      1. What bothered you Paulite? The fact that I insinuated that professional politicians are primarily concerned with being elected or the fact that showing the flag is a pointless strategy to defend the national interest, if the CINC’s isn’t being taken seriously by his international interlocutors.

        I was bipartisan.

        As for Optcon, I was under the assumption this was her blog. So what your point? She can’t state her views unless she’s topside in force 10 winds?

        In hindsight I regret mentioning the subs at all.

        1. You brought up a good topic, jgets. I don’t regret your mentioning the subs at all.

  16. Actually, I have outlined the alternative strategy for Syria in a couple of previous posts. Paulite is just being Paulite.

    The best strategy would have involved taking a more active role from the first signs of the Arab Spring, but of course, that’s water under the bridge now. The main thing we should always have been doing is focusing on the key interest we have in common with Russia: preventing an Islamist takeover of Syria. That interest is important enough for the US and Russia to broker a departure of Assad in favor of a different government, one with as much liberality and religious tolerance as the US can manage to promote, but that may continue to have a special relationship with Russia.

    Such an outcome is by no means impossible, although it would have been much easier to foster it a year ago. It’s also a strategically useful and acceptable “model” for a world moving forward, and in particular, a competitor to the state-Islamism idea. We have yet to see how the latter will play out, as it’s early days in the nations where it has already won post-Arab Spring elections (Tunisia and Egypt). But there is no reason to suppose that state Islamism will go better in Tunisia or Egypt than it has in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, or Iran.

    Syria, which has NOT been steeped in Islamism for the last 40 years, is one of the best opportunities to foster an alternative. Syria has had more tolerance for her Christians than any of the surrounding Muslims nations except (so far) Turkey, and has been ruled by a basically secular, or at least non-Islamist, Baathist-Marxist coalition. The penetration of grassroots Islamism there is not what it is in Egypt, for example. On the other hand, Syria, like Egypt, has had dissidents with powerful non-Islamist political ideas — an alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood for rallying to a nationhood idea.

    Syria is a great strategic opportunity. Obama has made it harder to take leadership on Syria by declining to exert any leadership on the Arab Spring in general, but it could still be done. It could have been done more collegially with Russia last summer or fall; it would have to involve more threats now, and that’s unfortunate. But the prize of a more liberal Syria, relieved of Assad and his terror-sponsoring ways, decoupled from Iran, and friendly to the United States, is big enough to justify making the effort. It would be a tremendous thing, to demonstrate that a nation emerging from despotism need not repudiate Russia (or join her in a cynical alliance) — or succumb to a new Islamist despotism.

    Syria’s geographic significance to the security of the Eastern Med is obvious to anyone who looks critically at a map. Cultivating a better Syria is not a mere abstraction for US interests. It is central to the character and stability of the entire Middle East. So is Egypt, for that matter; so is Turkey. We have the means to influence both of them: we have common interests and common projects. We need not parade military power around as an ambiguous “signal”; they are already aware that we have a lot of power to put in the region. The question is what our bottom-line interests are — what we will defend or not allow — and Obama has not expressed that in any way.

    He should have said that the Israel-Egypt peace agreement remains a core US national interest, and adherence to it is fundamental to our current, quiescent posture on the region. He hasn’t. He should have said that the freedom and security of the Suez Canal are a US national interest, and we will defend it. He hasn’t. He should have said that the free, unimpeded use of the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean — including undersea resources — according to agreements lawfully concluded between parties, is a core US national interest, and we will promote and defend it as necessary. He hasn’t. He should have said that excluding the insurgent and terrorist influence of Iran in the Eastern Med is a core US national interest, and we will pursue it diligently. He hasn’t.

    All of these principles have fallen under threat, and when similar things happened, previous presidents stated the US position and our national interest, implying what we — with our undeniable military power — would defend or prevent. Some of them, like JFK and LBJ, capered around with random military activity purportedly sending “signals,” and that practice didn’t work out so well. But unlike Obama, they did take care to state what the US national interest was. So did every other president from Truman, with the Middle East-focused Truman Doctrine, to George W. Bush. Stating the US national interest is a way of deterring bad developments and encourgaing good ones — although of course it isn’t always enough. But it’s certainly better to deter what you can with statements of interest and intent than to simply remain silent and occasionally have some submarines surface.

    In the case of Syria, the first ones we should have talked to were the Russians — not making an appeal but proposing a course of action that they could participate in, and benefit from, or not. Obama would have had trouble establishing credibility in such a negotiation. But for a credible president, it was the action that would have had the best shot at solving the Syria problem favorably for the Syrians, without creating bigger ones for the region.

    1. Sadly the Russians haven’t so far agreed with your line of wishful thinking. Perhaps if you have found a way of forcing them to reorder their policies along the lines of how you would like their worldview to be you might share it with us.

      I’m all ears (as they say)

      1. p.s. Waffle, a volte-face on the Arab Spring, and wishful thinking is not an alternative policy. But this is just Dyer is just being Dyer………

        And why do you think that any president – Obama or anyone else – would be successful in an “appeal” to the Russians to act differently? No doubt if he had made such an “appeal” you and your ilk would have been the first to accuse him of going ‘cap in hand’ to the Russians.
        Syria is a Russian client (and they are welcome to her) and that’s the reality that is faced by this and any alternative President – That, and the fact that no good and clear US interest exists for any greater involvment in the Syrian mess. Ultimately, I believe that the Russians are going to aproach us rather than the other way around. Let ’em.
        I have no doubt that Romneycare would be doing just the same (except that he would vacillate first while he tried to guage which way the wind was blowing – just like he does with everything. But in Syria the wind is blowing very much in the President’s favour, and opinion sems to be supporting his judgment)

        1. Well, unless events of the past few days are just posturing, we should have a clearer idea as to what exactly the plan for Syria is soon.
          USS Eisenhower and French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle should be on station in the EMED by mid-July.
          There have been troop movements by Syria and Turkey to their mutual border.
          Saudi Arabia has mobilized its armed forces, Some squadrons have been moved to forward bases in the north. And it seems there is large (Saudi?) armoured force massed along the Jordanian and Iraqi borders.
          No word on any Russian or Iranian movements.

          1. USS Ike is indeed headed for the Med and should arrive there by the 30th, given normal transit times from the US East coast. The Navy has been unusually ambiguous in its public statements about Ike’s deployment, but I don’t know that that means Ike will remain in the Med, rather than heading for the Persian Gulf/Arabian Sea.

            Of the two carrier groups in the Gulf region, USS Abraham Lincoln’s has been deployed since December, and won’t be there much longer. Abe is going to the yards in Virginia. USS Enterprise has about a month left on-station. I predict Obama will keep the robust carrier presence in the Gulf rather than splitting it with a full-time presence in the Med, and that will mean Ike heading for the Gulf.

            That said, both Abe and Ent will be going to the East coast at the end of deployment, so both will pass through the Med, tired but combat-ready. Based on the patterns since Obama took office, the Navy will probably have a spotty but recurring presence in East Med this summer, featuring all three of the carrier groups passing through. The FS DeGaulle presence will be more constant, although I expect DeGaulle to roam around participating in exercises and undertaking goodwill activities, rather than sitting on a tether off the Syrian coast.

            De Gaulle’s battle group has been in work-ups since the end of May and will conduct exercises with the Ike strike group next week.

            Meanwhile, the only source I can find for the report about Saudi troops massing in Jordan and Iraq is DEBKA. I give DEBKA a wide berth, because they too often just make stuff up. Arab media have occasionally reported that the troops of Jordan and Iraq (and of course Lebanon) have been put on alert because of the potential for spillover from Syria, and there has been widespread reporting that the Saudis are funneling weapons to Syria through Jordan, as well as Turkey.

            But the Saudis themselves are pretty allergic to putting their ground troops in the kind of military combat they would encounter in Syria, especially in a lead role. Plinking Houthis in Yemen, and deploying tanks against unarmed civilians in Bahrain, is more their speed. The Saudi strategy is to provide air cover and logistic support for other Arab nations’ troops. The Saudi army isn’t very big, and with the ongoing instability to the south and east of the kingdom — and now the succession in question — the Saudis aren’t going to deploy major combat formations for a lead role in a VERY risky, far-flung enterprise. That’s my take, anyway. They’ll send weapons and money.

            1. You point about Debka is well taken. I wasn’t relying only on them and I’m not completely satisfied with the validity on the (Saudi?) information as per their land deployments.. BTW, I agree with your view of them. It would be a surprise if this was their coming out party. There were some joint air exercises between the UAE and Turkey in the EMED a couple of weeks ago and there was the precedent of the Qatari Air Force over Libya. This could be a precursor to heightened Saudi involvement.
              There are a couple of other things that tell me it could still go either way on Syria, but I don’t want to go in to it right now. it would not be appropriate. It’ll show in a couple of days anyway.

    2. I like your position very much.

      In Syria a secular political system is under attack by fighters lead by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Here is an excerpt from an interview with MB’s General Chairman Muhammad Badi’ Moussa, aired on egyptian Al-Hekma TV on March 14, 2012:

      Interviewer: Is it permissible to kill ‘Alawites – their women and their children – in retaliation for their actions?

      Muhammad Badi’ Moussa: Yes, my brother. We have issued a communiqué to the ‘Alawites, in which we gave them a strong warning, which may be the last. Our brothers in the Free Syrian Army sent queries to scholars in exile, asking whether they were allowed to raid ‘Alawite villages, like the Zahra, Eqrima, and Nuzha suburbs of Homs. […]

      The U.S. should not support these bloodthirsty FSA-bandits. Instead it should joins those, who fight against the political Islam. The Obama administration should offer military advisers to Syria to help with fighting terrorism. Obama could also offer civil advisers to Syria to help with further improving the democracy in Syria.

      If that were Obama’s position, there were no problems at all with the Russians.

    1. Thanks for the update, antifo. Although I agree with McCarthy on a number of things, I perceive in him and some others on my side of the political aisle an outdated kind of thinking about the Middle East and its issues. Over the last few years, the Western “right” hasn’t been a whole lot smarter about distinctions and concerns in the Middle East than the Western “left,” at least in my view.

      Sadly, a number of online commenters feel free to express themselves in terms of hoping that foreigners will all just kill each other. I see that at the blogs and forums of every kind of people across the world, but I think I hate it the most when I see Americans doing it.

      1. McCarthy is no surely conservative. He is a liberal in a conservative’s cloth. See how McCarthy’s argues in his article:

        Whatever the reason, the always thrumming but rarely spoken truth of Middle Eastern politics is shouting loud and clear in Syria: Islamic factions abhor the United States even more than they despise each other. When we get involved, they set aside their internecine hatreds and unite against us. When we have enough wit to stay out, however, they set upon each other with a savagery that shocks the West but is, in their culture, quotidian.

        When I read such statements I’d even call him a facist. It is an absolute no-go to claim that killing each other “is, in their culture, quotidian”! McCarthy should better shut his mouth, instead of publicly showing his ignorance and promoting heinous politics of mass murder.

        Here you find the reaction of a Syrian woman who lifes in Germany on the yesterday’s bombing of the TV station in Damascus:

        Syria should remain silent and simply die

        This crime was committed by allies of Hillary Clinton and the European Union who had imposed sanctions on that TV station.

  17. Antifo, I agree with you that McCarthy’s statement here is profoundly wrong:

    “Islamic factions abhor the United States even more than they despise each other. When we get involved, they set aside their internecine hatreds and unite against us. When we have enough wit to stay out, however, they set upon each other with a savagery that shocks the West but is, in their culture, quotidian.”

    Whether they were engaged in political Islamism or not, there have been Islamic nations and political groups for a long time, and the US has had close relationships with a number of them. Savagery is not “quotidian in ‘their’ culture”; it happens in war, as it does everywhere, and it is a specialty of terrorists, but to call it a “cultural” manifestation is to paint with a brush far too wide, even unconscionably so. It is a manifestation of extremism.

    “Fascist” is not the term I would use to characterize McCarthy’s statement, as that has a particular political meaning, and merely smearing or misjudging other cultures isn’t evidence of it. But I must agree that the statement’s wrongheadedness is callous and dangerous. It comes across as an incipient justification for dealing with the Islamic world without compunction or any real attempt to make distinctions, and deal with people on a human level. I’m sorry to see McCarthy saying things like this. I wonder if he has ever visited a Middle Eastern or other Muslim nation.

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