‘Boots on the ground’: Saigon on the Euphrates, on steroids

Vietnam was just a warm-up.

Brain trust. (Image: AP, Pablo Martinez Monsivais via nola.com)
Brain trust. (Image: AP, Pablo Martinez Monsivais via nola.com)

Regular correspondents of this space may have wondered why I haven’t been writing more recently about the events in Iraq and Syria.  (Or Afghanistan, for that matter.)

The short answer is: because it’s too depressing to watch the Obama administration repeating every mistake of Kennedy and Johnson in Vietnam, but from a posture of greater weakness, greater foolishness, and – bonus! – apparent hatred for the United States.

Who wants to write about that?

We’ve reached the point at which there is nothing positive or hopeful to say.  I think most readers realize that, even if they can’t fully articulate what the problems seem to be.  Obama is quite literally doing nothing right, in his political-military approach to these hot spots of the Middle East.  There’s nothing in his policy to work with. Continue reading “‘Boots on the ground’: Saigon on the Euphrates, on steroids”

Lose the ‘quagmire’ theme; Russia can’t fall into one in Syria

Interesting times.

Putin confers with his senior military officials. (Image: Kremlin/RIA Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin via Newsweek)
Putin confers with his senior military officials. (Image: Kremlin/RIA Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin via Newsweek)

We’re going to keep this one (relatively) short.  I’ve written about Russia’s goals in Syria elsewhere (see here as well).

A Bloomberg article from Monday commendably recognizes that Russia’s goals in Syria are “far broader” than the official goal of fighting Salafi terrorists.  The authors fall short of “getting” what the Russian involvement there is about, but they’re on the right track.

The problem is that they, like almost everyone else, are still framing the situation in the terms of a U.S.-style expeditionary intervention.  This leads the authors to say something like this: Continue reading “Lose the ‘quagmire’ theme; Russia can’t fall into one in Syria”

The future of our time: Rewriting ‘Westphalianism’

Interesting times: the new definition.

Past master. (Image via Outside the Beltway)
Past master. (Image via Outside the Beltway)

Reading Henry Kissinger’s typically well-considered and intelligent article for the Wall Street Journal this weekend (“A Path out of the Middle East Collapse”), I had a growing sense that it isn’t so much a prescription for the future as a description of the past.

The sense began with the first paragraph, in which Kissinger defines the scope of what’s collapsing, and dates it only to 1973, when the U.S. moved to stabilize the Middle East during the Yom Kippur War.

But far more than recent U.S. policy on the Middle East is collapsing today.  What we’re seeing is more like the collapse of “Rome” itself:  the organization of Western power as a Europe-centric territorial phenomenon, setting unbreachable boundaries north, south, and west of a restless and perennially “unorganizable” Middle East. Continue reading “The future of our time: Rewriting ‘Westphalianism’”

The real headline: Russians buy air space with cruise missile demo, as U.S. forces retreat

Cruise missile as geopolitical forcing mechanism.

Russian Caspian fleet frigate launches a long-range land attack cruise missile on 7 Oct. (Image: Russian MOD/YouTube)
Russian Caspian fleet frigate launches a long-range land attack cruise missile on 7 Oct. (Image: Russian MOD/YouTube)

The Pentagon released information Thursday that some of the cruise missiles launched by Russian warships into Syria the day before (Wednesday, 7 October) had crashed in Iran, instead of making it to their targets.  The missiles were launched from the Caspian Sea, between Iran and southern Russia.

The global audience was apt to note the point that four of the 26 missiles launched by Russia crashed.  But the more important point is that Russia launched the missiles in the first place.

The question is why.  The answer is not darkly nefarious (not particularly, anyway), but it’s not obvious from the standpoint of tactical military operations either. Continue reading “The real headline: Russians buy air space with cruise missile demo, as U.S. forces retreat”

U.S. sends strongly-worded ‘Media Note’ on Russian military actions in Syria

Interesting times.

Obama smirkNow we’re finally deploying the big guns.

We’ve had six weeks of fruitless palaver as Russia built up a military force in Syria, and 48 hours of misdirection and excuse-making from the White House, as Russia put the military force to work bombing non-ISIS targets – some of them linked to U.S.-backed rebels.

When was the joke going to end, and the American response start?  Even some Obama supporters were starting to get nervous. Continue reading “U.S. sends strongly-worded ‘Media Note’ on Russian military actions in Syria”