Thursday, September 5, 2013


Some random thoughts on Syria and related topics. 

Did you see Der Spiegel's report of the Trifecta -- a German listening ship off Syria reportedly picked up a conversation between a top Hizbullah guy, and someone at an Iranian Embassy, talking about how Bashar done it? Perfect or too perfect?

Meanwhile, these could be perilous times for Hizbullah. I wonder if, under cover of our attacks in Syria, we or somebody else will take a few swipes at the Big H. Without outside interference they will continue to dominate and distort life in Lebanon, while pressing an essentially sectarian, completely anti-American agenda (three things not to like). Somebody's money (us, Israel, Qatar, Saudi???) could surely buy a Sunni fighting force to do the dirty work. Of course, that would mean/has already meant "our side" arming Al Qaeda.

Obviously, these are also perilous times for Israel, but salutary, if the threat wakens Israelis to their reality -- they are isolated and surrounded. They gotta make peace, if it's not too late already, and they gotta stop screwing the Palestinians to get it.  President Shimon Peres knows this.  He told me as much 17 years ago.  It’s still true.  But things are getting worse, not better, for Israel.

I hope, pray and believe the American attack on Assad will not unleash some kind of Hizbullah/Syrian/Iranian/Al Qaeda attack on Israel.  But it could.  And among Israel’s many enemies there are both chemical and biological weapons, and munitions to carry them, not to mention tons of conventional missiles, rockets and bombs.  I think, right now, those enemies lack the co-ordination or the will to launch significant attacks on Israel.  But they get closer on both fronts every day, month and year.  Only peace can pre-empt these trend lines from reaching a disastrous conclusion.

I've always thought that Syria was supposed to be a more modern, urban and urbane culture than Iraq, with more of a national concept and a favorable balance between modernist/secular moderation and Islamist fanaticism. Recently, several reporters say, the Sunni nuts – Al Qaeda’s al-Nusra front and others, have the edge. This matters a lot. We can't achieve anything more than destruction without substantial inside support of the sort Iraq was never gonna provide.

If, over the past 2 years of warfare, our intelligence agencies have not identified that Syrian support and solidified it, our mission to turn the tide against Assad, while keeping the rest of the region stable, will fail.  The means, either that Assad will survive at great cost to our national dignity, or that Syria will wind up in the hands of our most fanatic enemies, or -- best case -- simply dominated by a different, hopefully less toxic version of the incumbent Nationalist dictator.

Or we can link to a sufficient fighting force and political leaders who will put Syria on a more civilized path, and our push at the tipping point will have been a masterstroke.  It’s a lot to hope for, and makes one wish we coulda (but never that we shoulda, or woulda) given this whole mess a pass. But, if Der Spiegel’s sources are right, a petulant, murderous rage by Bashar al-Assad has pushed us, and his region, to a very dangerous place.

In Afghanistan, (to finish an earlier thought) we have, despite mighty, costly, and sincere efforts, not accomplished much we believe will last. We have found and developed some steady allies who subscribe to the ideals behind our presence – a free economy, a functioning democracy, and a national concept based on religious and ethnic and tribal tolerance.  This, in spite of our many mistakes, including the reckless killing of civilians and recurrent signs of personal ignorance or disrespect for Afghan people and culture.   

But., the most those supporters can achieve, I fear, is a paralyzing, unchanging, balance of power between sometimes corrupt, sometimes progressive, modernizing urbanites, and radically retrograde, fundamentalist tribalists in the considerable countryside.

And what are in Putin's "plans" for after the Syria attack?

Yesterday's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearings offered yet another awkward airing of John Kerry's indiscreet, mindless babblings.  This from

"'With respect to Arab countries offering to bear costs and to assess, the answer is profoundly yes," Kerry said. "They have. That offer is on the table.  Some of them have said that if the United States is prepared to go do the whole thing the way we've done it previously in other places, they'll carry that cost," Kerry said. "That's how dedicated they are at this. That's not in the cards, and nobody's talking about it, but they're talking in serious ways about getting this done.'

"Kerry also gamely insisted that so many U.S. allies wanted to take part in a potential strike on Syria that the Pentagon couldn't find a role for all of them. That seems unlikely, since Turkey and France are to date the only major powers to publicly express a willingness to use military force against Assad. But Kerry may have an elastic definition of "participation." Albania, he said later in the hearing, was willing to provide political support for a strike. He didn't say anything about Albania being willing to do much else."
Not since the "glory days" of Leon Panetta's probably unintentionally hilarious "I'm now the Defense Secretary," tour have so many hi-ranking words ranked so low for logic and mental discipline.  Panetta was 75.  What's Kerry's excuse?

So much to worry about.


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