Pat Condell gets it right again.
“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe.” Albert Einstein
Pat Condell gets it right again.
As anyone who watches the news knows, our borders are totally open and our nation is being invaded by a horde of illegal immigrants. Of course, that is not all that is coming across the border. Korans, Urdu-to-English dictionaries, and other things have been found that demonstrate that our nation is also being invaded by Muslims, many of whom are undoubtedly terrorists. Also, just like our totally porous border allows drugs to come across, there is no reason to think that tools of terror like radioactive materials, surface-to-air missiles, and perhaps even nuclear weapons are being imported. There is no reason to allow this to continue. Of course, we know that the reason the Obama administration is not defending the border and blocking the passing of tens of thousands of illegal immigrants is because they know that most of these illegal immigrants will become undocumented democratic voters.
This is treason, and Obama should be impeached for this action, alone. But, given that neither party seems inclined to defend the Constitution and enforce our border, something else must be done. Why are these people coming here? Of course, we all hear the story that we need illegal Mexicans because they will do the work that Americans won’t do. Of course, the only reason Americans won’t do the work is because we give them welfare, food stamps, and almost unlimited unemployment so that they can stay home, eat Bon-Bons, and watch Oprah. If we stopped these ludicrous policies, then Americans would do the jobs that are currently done by illegal Mexicans. They would have no choice. Of course, many would get other jobs, but there would be no shortage of farm workers, etc. And, lets not forget, if we make these illegal immigrants citizens, then they, too, can stay home and collect welfare, food stamps, and other benefits. Why wouldn’t they?
But there are other issues. We are now hearing that many of the illegal immigrants are coming from Costa Rica, Honduras, and other Hell-holes in Central America. Why are they coming here? Well, many are undoubtedly coming here for the same reasons that Mexicans are coming here. But, many claim that they live in fear of their lives in their country of origin because of drug gangs. If that is so, then the solution is simple; get rid of the drug gangs and the whole illegal drug trade. Of course, it is the responsibility of the host countries to control the drug trade and gangs within their borders, but, just like in Mexico, that is not going to happen because the governments are too corrupt and the payoffs from the illegal drug trade are too attractive. So, we must legalize drugs in the United States. This would end most of these problems. And, it would also slash the number of people in jail in the United States. The United States has a higher percentage of its population in jail than any other supposedly civilized nation in the world. This statistic is second, only, in shame to the fact that we spend more money on education (a lot more) than any other nation and produce some of the stupidest students in the world.
Will legalizing drugs ruin some lives by turning some people into addicts who would not have become addicts if drugs remained illegal? Yes. But I suspect the number is far lower than the number of lives that are currently being ruined by dealing drugs and being arrested and thrown into jail where they can learn to be even more hardened criminals. Plus, once a person has been in jail as a felon, it is very difficult for them to get a decent job once they have done their time. Thus, they stay in the business of crime. And, most of the people who are in jail in the United States are there because of drug related crimes. Legalizing drugs will put the brakes on the gang situation in many countries and allow our country to seal its border. And, it will also have the benefit of preventing hundreds of thousands of citizens from having their lives ruined by stupid drug laws.
The current confrontation in Gaza began July 12 after three Israeli teenagers disappeared in the West Bank the month before. Israel announced the disappearance June 13, shortly thereafter placing blame on Hamas for the kidnappings. On June 14, Hamas fired three rockets into the Hof Ashkelon region. This was followed by Israeli attacks on Palestinians in the Jerusalem region. On July 8, the Israelis announced Operation Protective Edge and began calling up reservists. Hamas launched a longer-range rocket at Tel Aviv. Israel then increased its airstrikes against targets in Gaza.
At this point, it would appear that Israel has deployed sufficient force to be ready to conduct an incursion into Gaza. However, Israel has not done so yet. The conflict has consisted of airstrikes and some special operations forces raids by Israel and rocket launches by Hamas against targets in Israel.
From a purely military standpoint, the issue has been Hamas’s search for a deterrent to Israeli operations against Gaza. Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 and early 2009 disrupted Gaza deeply, and Hamas found itself without any options beyond attempts to impose high casualties on Israeli forces. But the size of the casualties in Cast Lead did not prove a deterrent.
Hamas augmented its short-range rocket arsenal with much longer-range rockets. The latest generation of rockets it has acquired can reach the population center of Israel: the triangle of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. However, these are rockets, not missiles. That means they have no guidance system, and their point of impact once launched is a matter of chance. Given these limits, Hamas hoped having a large number of rockets of different ranges would create the risk of substantial Israeli civilian casualties, and that that risk would deter Israel from action against Gaza.
The threat posed by the rockets was in fact substantial. According to senior Israeli Air Force officers quoted on the subject, Israel lacked intelligence on precisely where the rockets were stored and all the sites from which they might be launched. Gaza is honeycombed with a complex of tunnels, many quite deep. This limits intelligence. It also limits the ability of Israeli airborne munitions from penetrating to their storage area and destroying them.
The Israeli objective is to destroy Hamas’ rocket capacity. Israel ideally would like to do this from the air, but while some can be destroyed from the air, and from special operations, it appears the Israelis lack the ability to eliminate the threat. The only solution would be a large-scale assault on Gaza designed to occupy it such that a full-scale search for the weapons and their destruction on the ground would be possible.
Hamas has been firing rockets to convince the Israelis that they have enough to increase casualties in the triangle if they choose to. The Israelis must in fact assume that an assault on Gaza would in its earliest stages result in a massive barrage, especially since Hamas would be in a “use-it-or-lose-it” position. Hamas hopes this will deter an Israeli attack.
Thus far, Israel has restrained its attack beyond airstrikes. The extent to which the fear of massed rocketry was the constraining factor is not clear. Certainly, the Israelis are concerned that Hamas is better prepared for an attack than it was during Cast Lead, and that its ability to use anti-tank missiles against Israel’s Merkava tanks and improvised explosive devices against infantry has evolved. Moreover, the occupation of Gaza would be costly and complex. It would take perhaps weeks to search for rockets and in that time, Israeli casualties would mount. When the political consequences, particularly in Europe, of such an attack were added to this calculus, the ground component of Protective Edge was put off.
As mentioned, a major issue for the Israelis is the intelligence factor. It is said that Iran provided Hamas with these rockets via smuggling routes through Sudan. It is hard to imagine the route these weapons would take such that Israeli (and American) intelligence would not detect them on their thousand-plus mile transit, and that they would move into Gaza in spite of Israeli and Egyptian hostile watchfulness. Even if Iran didn’t provide the weapons, and someone else did, the same question would arise.
The failure of the Israelis to detect and interdict the movement of rockets or rocket parts has an immediate effect on the confidence with which senior Israeli commanders and political leaders calculate their course. Therefore, to this point, there has been a stalemate, with what we assume is a small fraction of Hamas’ rockets being fired, and limited operations against Gaza. The ground operation is being held in check for now.
While there have been a few public attempts to mediate between Hamas and Israel, most of these efforts have been lackluster, and the condemnations of violence and calls for peace have been more perfunctory than usual. Rather than leaving Egypt as the principle mediator, Turkey and Qatar have also weighed into the cease-fire discussion. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also reportedly contacted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, offering assistance in mediating a truce. Meanwhile, high-ranking diplomats from the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany discussed truce efforts on the sidelines of talks on Iran, and Israel’s government has began mulling a plan to offer development aid in exchange for a demilitarization of Gaza.
There is good reason for the slow pace of these cease-fire efforts, however. As evidenced by Hamas’ ability to replenish its rocket supply through routes traversing Sinai, Israel cannot rely exclusively on Egypt to uphold a cease-fire agreement — nor does it trust Qatar and Turkey to do so. Instead, Israel is attempting to place responsibility for cease-fire enforcement on its main external patron, the United States. Of equal importance, Hamas shares a deep distrust of the current regime in Egypt, given Hamas’ past links to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose brief reign in Egypt ended with a military coup. As these negotiations move slowly forward, Israel’s focus is on trying to degrade Hamas’ military capabilities enough to compensate for the weaknesses implicit in any cease-fire agreement. But tackling the problem primarily through the air has limits, and Israel’s questionable confidence in its own intelligence is what has prevented a ground incursion so far.
The problem for Israel in any cease-fire is that it would keep the current status quo in place. Hamas would retain its rockets, and might be able to attain more advanced models. Israel was not able to stop the influx of this load, so Israel can’t be confident that it can stop the next. A cease-fire is a victory for Hamas because they have retained their rocket force and have the potential to increase it. But for Israel, if it assumes that it cannot absorb the cost of rooting out all of the rockets (assuming that is possible) then a cease-fire brings it some political benefits without having to take too many risks.
At this moment, we know for certain that Israel is bombing Gaza and has amassed a force sufficient to initiate ground operations but has not done so. Hamas has not fired a saturation attack, assuming it could, but has forced Israel to assume that such an attack is possible, and that its Iron Dome defensive system would be overwhelmed by the numbers. The next move is Israel’s. We can assume there are those in the Israeli command authority arguing that the Gaza rockets will be fired at some point, and must be eliminated now, and others arguing that without better intelligence the likelihood of casualties and of triggering a saturation launch is too high.
We have no idea who will win the argument, if there is one, but right now, Israel is holding.
“Gaza Situation Report is republished with permission of Stratfor.”
I wish someone from the United States government would come out and tell us why we are fighting in Afghanistan. I know, they keep telling us that they are trying to bring democracy to Afghanistan and rout out the Taliban. But, if they actually believe that, then they should be removed from office for incompetence and put on medication and locked in a padded room for their own protection. In Afghanistan, as in most Muslim countries, you are dealing with uneducated people who are living, essentially, in the 7th century and who revere an insane, epileptic, barbarian, misogynist, megalomaniac, pedophile named Mohammad and his sock puppet Allah. They are brain washed with Islam from the moment of birth and it is so ingrained in them that it is not going to go away in our lifetime, or for many generations to come. Thus, democracy is impossible, because it goes against the teachings of Islam. Look at how well our stay in Iraq turned out; it is now a Sharia state that is anything but democratic, and it is basically a client state of Iran. For the well over $1 trillion we wasted fighting there, not to mention the sacrifice of tens of thousands of killed and severely wounded soldiers, we don’t even get a discount on the oil!
I believe the real reason that we are in Afghanistan is geopolitical. We want control of that part of the world and the oil that may pass through it. But, if that is the real reason, why don’t the politicians just come out and say so? Of course, we know the answer. If it is all for oil, just like our presence in Iraq after taking out Sadam Hussein was, really, the American people will almost certainly object; perhaps violently. But, we know it is so that we can control that part of the world, rather than have it controlled by China or Russia. But, this is so stupid and unnecessary.
We don’t need their oil. We have plenty of energy in our own country between coal, nuclear, oil shale, natural gas, regular oil, hydro-electricity, wind, and solar. The problem is, we have allowed self-serving, ignorant blowhards like Al Gore and totally corrupt organizations like the United Nations to take over “science” and politicize it with the imaginary boogie man called man made global warming. The simple fact of the matter is that CO2 does not control the climate as we have been brainwashed to believe. Virtually all of the science that shows that is suppressed. We can see that by reading what little does manage to get published and by reading the Climategate e-mails that describe a very systematic suppression of all papers and scientific evidence that goes against the part line that AGW (anthropogenic global warming) is a clear and present danger to the world.
The world has not warmed in the last 14 or so years. In fact, there is strong evidence that we may be entering another “little ice age” like we saw back in the 18th and early 19th century. (We may wish that CO2 did cause major warming if that prediction is true.) We have been told of a catastrophic rise of sea level, but it is not occurring. We are told that there were more hurricanes in 2012 than any previous year, but we are not told that every little disturbance in the Atlantic Ocean is now being given a name and thus artificially inflating the number of hurricanes compared to the thousands of years before we had satellites. In most of those thousands of years, we would not have known about little disturbances in the Atlantic Ocean that did not make land fall, and thus would not have been considered as hurricanes.
It is time to bring the troops home and to stop lying to the American people, and indeed the world, about AGW. It does not exist. It is not a problem. We should not be pissing away 10′s of billions of dollars a year on it.
We have much more important things to worry about.
Well, I said it was coming a long time ago. The rulers of the world have been subjecting us to more and more humiliation and have been intruding more and more into our privacy in the name of “safety”. “We have a responsibility to save you from terrorists!!” Never mind the simple fact that government employees can’t even refer to the terrorists as “Muslims” or even “Islamists”. No, they just say that terrorists come in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds. In fact, the rulers keep saying that they are mostly worried about ‘domestic terrorists’ like gun owners, returning military personnel, people that believe in the constitution, libertarians, and people that want to be free from government intrusion in their lives! (Just like the founders of this once great nation were termed terrorists by the British government, people that believe in the freedom and greatness that once characterized America, and Americans in general, are now considered terrorists by the current rulers. And, Americans have been so dumbed-down by the failed
socialist, one world government indoctrination education system that they actually believe this propaganda.) In fact, many Americans have even swallowed the myth of man-made global warming, which is nothing more than another creation of the world rulers to destroy the middle class in the Western world and turn everyone in the world (but them) to vassals; serfs subservient to the world ruling elite. After all, the masses were told that man-made global warming was true. It must be! Their children were indoctrinated to believe that it is true. And anyone that does not agree with the state-sponsored lie is labeled a “resister” and must be shunned. (Some have even suggested executed, after getting Nuremberg-like trials, for man-made global warming deniers!)
Ben Franklin summarized the situation very well when he wrote “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” That was in the Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor on November 11, 1755. (1) http://franklinpapers.org/franklin/framedVolumes.jsp?vol=6&page=238a
The atrocity of 9-11 was too convenient. It provided the global rulers with the perfect excuse to institute a complete police state with everyone a criminal under constant, and illegal, surveillance until proven innocent. I am not suggesting that the rulers staged 9-11 as a false-flag event, but they were warned many times and ignored the warnings. Why? (For example, Able Danger warned of the threat, but those people were told to stand down. The US Embassy in Azerbaijan was told that al Qaeda was planning 9-11 in Iran, but that warning was deemed “not credible”. (2) We will probably never know just how involved, or uninvolved Iran was in the 9-11 attack, but it has been admitted by United States intelligence agencies, since 9-11, that Iran and al Qaeda did cooperate and co-exist in some operations and relationships.)
Many Americans have been deemed criminals, or suspected terrorists, with no way to know why or to correct the situation. Just look at all of the Americans, including some high government officials, that were put on “no-fly” lists. They were not only not terrorists, but they could not find out why they were on the list and could not be told how to get off the list! Whatever you may think about Edward Snowden, everyone in the previously civilized world owes him a debt of gratitude for exposing the extent and severity of the illegal surveillance being conducted by the United States government. Actually, I find it amusing that politicians like Angela Merkel pretend to be shocked that the NSA monitored her telephone calls! Hello?!? What did she think the NSA was doing?? The only reason for the existence of the NSA is to spy on foreigners; but not US citizens. (And, I’m sure the German equivalent of the NSA is at least trying to do the same to Obama’s communications; although probably not successfully.) But, the fact that the NSA is collecting information on all Americans should be a complete wake-up call to Americans.
But now, the security alarm has been raised again. Now, we are told, security must be stepped up at airports because “terrorists” may use bombs in laptops or even body cavities to blow up airplanes. Well, guess what, the only way to detect a bomb in the body is to perform an x-ray, or at least a digital cavity search! Forget about the “naked body scanners”; they will not detect explosives hidden up the anus, in the vagina, or surgically implanted in the body. And, trust me, I know since I helped to develop one of the “naked body scanners”, although not for the aviation security industry. And, the system that I helped to develop uses harmless microwaves; not potentially harmful x-rays as was the case for some airport “naked body scanners.” Furthermore, our system did not actually create an image; just data. (Anyone that claims that “naked body scanners” that use microwaves, as currently used at airports in the United States, are a health risk should be banned from owning a cellular phone because the exposure from the non-ionizing microwave energy from a cell phone over the course of a few hours, or a few seconds when in an actual call, is far more than the “exposure” from a microwave “naked body scanner” that uses the same non-ionizing microwave energy.)
So, we have the new terror threat. So, we are told that we must submit even more to moronic TSA screeners and put up with more and more security theatre. Never mind the point that far more people are killed every year in the United States from swimming pool accidents or bee stings than are killed by Muslims. And, the solution to Muslim terrorists is easy. Stop them from entering the country; stop them from flying. Problem solved. We know that while most Muslims are not terrorists, almost all terrorists are Muslims. So, just block them from travel into the United States. And, if you say that we cannot discriminate on the basis of religion; fine. Just stop people from predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States or flying on its airlines. That will accomplish the goal since once Islam becomes even a major minority in a country, the country rapidly becomes predominantly Muslim since non-Muslims can no longer bear living there under severe Muslim repression and intimidation. (I feel really sorry for the 1 Jew that supposedly still lived in Pakistan a few years ago. And, we see the wholesale slaughter of Christians that is happening today in many Muslim countries including Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. It is not paid attention to by the politically correct media, but it is happening.)
But also, lets not forget about the 2500 or more surface-to-air missiles that we gave al Qaeda and other Muslim groups in Libya when we helped them overthrow and kill Gaddafi in Libya. While Gaddafi was obviously not a good guy, he had eliminated his nuclear program after he saw what we had done to Saddam Hussein. (In fact, he, like Mubarak in Egypt and Hussein in Iraq, was helping to keep a lid on al Qaeda and other “extremist” Muslims. Gadaffi’s biggest mistake was probably that he was trying to develop an African Union that would have challenged the dominance of the United States in its hegemony in the area, and especially the monopoly of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Challenging the dollar was, I think, the reason for his downfall.) But, with these thousands of SAMs, Muslims can bring down airlines whenever and wherever they want. They don’t need butt-bombs. Of course, since there is nothing the governments can do about SAMs (except to equip airlines with the same defenses that are used to equip Air Force 1 and most military airplanes), they use the boogie man of “terrorists” to force citizens into further humiliation when they want to travel), that threat is ignored.
And, as I write this, ISIS is about to attack and take over the al-Muthanna air base located just outside Baghdad. If they succeed in doing this, they will not only have the hundreds of modern, US made Humvees and APCs that they captured earlier, but 10 or 12 modern war planes. (As I’ve said other times, just how stupid are we to be arming Muslim nations like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and later Iraq?) So, my earlier predictions that weapons that we arm Muslims with will eventually be turned against us is actually happening in Iraq once we stupidly re-enter the fight. (What is not to like about the situation in Iraq and Syria where we have Muslims killing Muslims on a massive scale?)
So, when will civilized people say enough is enough? Will you allow TSA Cretans to perform a cavity examination on you? How about on your wife, girlfriend, or daughter. It is coming. If you object, I guess you are just a resister – an outlier that must be re-educated.
I, for one, am glad that I have a pilot’s license and don’t have to travel much. If I do have to start traveling, I will buy another plane and fly myself.
2) “Countdown To Crisis” by Kenneth Timmerman
It has just come to my attention that a professor at Princeton has issued a $10,000 challenge to anyone who can prove that man-made global warming is a hoax. Wow! This is exactly like the many challenges that have been issue by Christian Apologists to prove that Christianity is not true. Of course, you can’t prove a negative. You can’t prove that there was no Jesus or that there is no God, anymore than you can prove that there is no flying reindeer named Rudolph or that there was no founder of Islam named Mohammed and his sock puppet named Allah!
So sad. As time goes on, and more and more people come to the realization that man-made global warming is a total, and extremely expensive, fraud, you still have Al Gore acolytes that try to propagate the dreams of the religious. And, the most disturbing aspect of it is that these people are costing us hundreds of billions of dollars a year; dollars that could be used in much better ways.
By Reva Bhalla
Events in Iraq over the past week were perhaps best crystallized in a series of photos produced by the jihadist group the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Sensationally called The Destruction of Sykes-Picot, the pictures confirmed the group’s intent to upend nearly a century of history in the Middle East.
In a series of pictures set to a purring jihadist chant, the mouth of a bulldozer is shown bursting through an earthen berm forming Iraq’s northern border with Syria. Keffiyeh-wrapped rebels, drained by the hot sun, peer around the edges of the barrier to observe the results of their work. The breach they carved was just wide enough for the U.S.-made, Iraqi army-owned and now jihadist-purloined Humvees to pass through in single file. While a charter outlining an antiquated interpretation of Sharia was being disseminated in Mosul, #SykesPicotOver trended on jihadist Twitter feeds. From the point of view of Iraq’s jihadist celebrities, the 1916 borders drawn in secret by British and French imperialists represented by Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot to divide up Mesopotamia are not only irrelevant, they are destructible.
Today, the most ardent defenders of those colonial borders sit in Baghdad, Damascus, Ankara, Tehran and Riyadh while the Europeans and Americans, already fatigued by a decade of war in this part of the world, are desperately trying to sit this crisis out. The burden is on the regional players to prevent a jihadist mini-emirate from forming, and beneath that common purpose lies ample room for intrigue.
Turkey Searches for a Strategy
With the jihadist threat fanning out from Syria to Iraq, Turkey is struggling to insulate itself from the violence and to follow a strategic agenda in Iraqi Kurdistan. Turkey has forged an alliance with the Iraqi Kurdish leadership in a direct challenge to Baghdad’s authority. With the consent of Turkey’s energy minister and to the outrage of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, two tankers carrying a few million barrels of Kurdish crude left the Turkish port of Ceyhan in search of a buyer just as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant was ratcheting up its offensive. Upping the ante, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz announced June 16 that a third tanker would be loaded within the week. With al-Maliki now relying on Kurdish peshmerga support to fend off jihadists in the north, Ankara and Arbil have gained some leverage in their ongoing dispute with Baghdad over the distribution of energy revenue. But Turkey’s support for Iraqi Kurds also has limits.
Ankara had planned to use a tighter relationship with the Kurdistan Regional Government to exploit northern Iraq’s energy reserves and to manage Kurdish unrest within its own boundaries. However, Turkey never intended to underwrite Kurdish independence. And with Kirkuk now in Kurdish hands as a result of the jihadist surge, the largest oil field in northern Iraq stands ready to fuel Kurdish secessionist tendencies. Much to Turkey’s dismay, Kurdish militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the People’s Protection Units are already reinforcing peshmerga positions in northern Iraq. At the same time, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and its jihadist affiliates are holding 80 Turkish citizens hostage.
Turkey will thus enlarge its footprint in Mesopotamia, but not necessarily on its own terms. Some 1,500 to 2,000 Turkish forces have maintained a quiet presence in Iraqi Kurdistan. That force will likely expand now that Turkey has an array of threats to justify such a presence and a growing need to temper Kurdish ambitions. Iraq’s Kurdish leadership will be reminded of their deep distrust for Turkey but will also be overwhelmed by its own challenges, not least of which is Turkey’s main regional competitor, Iran.
Iran on the Defensive
Unnerved by Turkey’s increasingly assertive Kurdish policy and possibly in anticipation of the expanding jihadist threat sweeping Iraq’s Sunni belt, Iran over the past several months has been expanding its military presence along its northern border with Iraq. Tehran now finds itself in the uncomfortable position of having to reinforce its Shiite allies in Iraq militarily. Though Iran has perhaps the most sophisticated and extensive militant proxy network in the region to do the job, this strategy carries enormous risks.
Iran has spent recent years painstakingly trying to consolidate Shiite influence in Iraq under a central authority in Baghdad. Tehran was never wedded to al-Maliki in particular, but it did need to maintain a strong enough foothold in Baghdad to manage Iraq’s naturally fractious Shiite landscape. Employing Shiite militias enables Iran to reinforce the Iraqi army in a time of urgent need but risks undermining Iran’s long-term strategy to manage Iraq through a firm hand in Baghdad. The more empowered the militias and the weaker Baghdad becomes, the harder Iran will have to work to keep a lid on separatist moves in Iraq’s Shiite south.
The militants rampaging through Iraq’s core Sunni territories will embrace deeper Iranian involvement in the conflict. There is no better motivation for Arab Sunni fighters of various ideological stripes than a call to arms against their historical Persian foes and their Arab Shiite allies. An outpouring of sectarian blood feuds will also make it all the more difficult for Iraq’s Shiite government to recruit enough allies among Iraq’s Sunni population to fight against the jihadists. Indeed, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant would not have been able to mount its lightning surge across Iraq had it not been for the substantial support it has received from local Sunni tribes who in turn receive substantial support and guidance from sponsors in the Persian Gulf. Our attention thus turns to the Saudi royals sitting quietly in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia Stirs the Pot
This has not been a good year for the Saudis. A Persian-American rapprochement is a living nightmare for the Sunni kingdom, as is the prospect of the United States becoming more self-sufficient in energy production. Saudi Arabia has little means to directly sabotage U.S.-Iranian negotiations. In fact, as we anticipated, the Saudis have had to swallow a bitter pill and open up their own dialogue with Iran. But the Saudis are also not without options to make life more difficult for Iran, and if Riyadh is going to be forced into a negotiation with Tehran, it will try to enter talks on its own terms.
Syria and Lebanon always make for useful proxy battlegrounds, though a Sunni rebellion has little chance of actually toppling the Iranian-backed regime in Damascus, and Lebanon is too fragmented for any one regional player to claim a decisive advantage. The contest has thus shifted back to Mesopotamia, where Iran cannot afford to see its Shiite gains slip and where Saudi Arabia — both the government and private citizens — has maintained strong ties with many of the Sunni tribes in Anbar and Mosul provinces that have facilitated the Sunni uprising. There is no love lost between the Saudis and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. In fact, the Saudis have branded it a terrorist organization and have even uncovered cells of the group on Saudi soil plotting against the kingdom.
But the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant is also not the only group participating in the current offensive. Former Baathist fighters from the Naqshabandiyya Way along with Jaish al-Mujahideen and Jaish Ansar al-Sunnah are also playing a substantial role in the fighting. Most of the Sunni militias and the growing number of Awakening Council (Sunni fighters recruited by the United States to battle al Qaeda in Iraq) defectors joining these militias coordinate directly with the Majlis Thuwar al Anbar (Anbar insurgents’ council), which in turn coordinates with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant on a selective basis. Saudi Arabia’s acting intelligence chief, Yousef bin Ali al Idrisis, is believed to be in direct communication with the Majlis Thuwar al Anbar, affording Riyadh the opportunity to influence the shape of the battlefield — and thereby to aggravate Iran in a highly sensitive spot.
As a bonus for Saudi Arabia, even as the Sunni uprising is largely confined to Iraq’s Sunni belt and thus unlikely to seriously upset Iraq’s production and exports from the Shiite south, the price of Brent crude has climbed to $113 a barrel for the first time this year. Saudi Arabia is not the only one that welcomes this bump in the price of oil; Russia is quite pleased with the outcome in Iraq as well.
Revisiting a Mysterious Meeting in Sochi
Just days before the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-led offensive in Iraq, a quiet meeting took place at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s vacation spot in Sochi on June 3. Putin invited Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal to see him and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who cut short an engagement in Moscow to get there on time. Details on the meeting are scarce. Our attempt to obtain information about the gathering from Russian and Saudi contacts resulted in scripted and strangely identical responses that claimed that Saudi Arabia and Russia were discussing a power-sharing resolution for Syria. The state-owned Saudi Press Agency then reported June 10 that Lavrov and al-Faisal had a follow-up phone conversation to discuss a Syrian settlement. Syria may well have been on the agenda, and Russia has an interest in protecting its influence in Damascus through a deal that keeps Syrian President Bashar al Assad in power, but we suspect there was more to these engagements.
Both Saudi Arabia and Russia share two key interests: undermining the U.S.-Iranian negotiating track and ensuring oil prices remain at a comfortable level, i.e., above $100 a barrel. There is little either can do to keep Iran and the United States from negotiating a settlement. In fact, the jihadist threat in Iraq creates another layer of cooperation between Iran and the United States. That said, Washington is now facing another major Middle Eastern maelstrom at the same time it has been anxiously trying to prove to itself and everyone else that the United States has bigger issues to deal with in other parts of the world, namely, in Russia’s backyard. Moreover, the United States and Turkey are not of one mind on how to manage Iraq at a time when Washington needs Ankara’s cooperation against Russia. If an Iraq-sized distraction buys Moscow time to manage its own periphery with limited U.S. interference, all the better for Putin. Meanwhile, if Saudi Arabia can weaken Iran and test U.S.-Iranian cooperation, it might well be worth the risk for Riyadh to try — at least for the time being.
A Lesson from History
Whether by mere coincidence, strategic design or a blend of the two, there are as many winners as there are losers in the Iraq game. Russia knows this game well. The United States, the heir to the Sykes-Picot map, will be forced to learn it fast.
When the French and British were colluding over the post-Ottoman map in 1916, czarist Russia quietly acquiesced as Paris and London divided up the territories. Just a year later, in 1917, the Soviets threw a strategic spanner into the Western agenda by publishing the Sykes-Picot agreement, planting the seeds for Arab insurrection and thus ensuring that Europe’s imperialist rule over the Middle East would be anything but easy. The U.S. administration recognizes the trap that has been laid. But more mindful of the region’s history this time around, Washington will likely leave it to the regional players to absorb most of the risk.
“The Intrigue Lying Behind Iraq's Jihadist Uprising is republished with permission of Stratfor.”
I am amazed at how CNN and other moronic “news” companies try to paint a potentially rosy picture for the fate of the passengers on MH370. Lets face it; they have been missing for 2 weeks. They are, unfortunately, dead. There are only two alternatives. In one case, the airplane was hijacked, probably by Muslims, and crashed for some reason. In the other case, there was a mechanical or other problem, such as fire, that caused a crash.
While it might be tempting to think that the airplane was commandeered and flown to an unknown landing strip, that scenario is almost impossible to believe at this point. While it is possible that it evaded the military radar of various countries in the area, which is probably not too hard to do, if it did land, why have we not heard the demands or seen what the ultimate purpose for the plane was? Since the hijackers would know that there would be a huge search underway for them, they would want to take their next step very quickly. Also, it would be exceptionally difficult to hide anything as large as a 777 for an extended period of time. Yes, there were over 600 airports large enough to support the operation of such a large plane within the fuel range of the plane, but most of them are large, busy commercial airports where hiding the operation of such a plane would be impossible. Of the remaining, few, airports that are not busy commercial hubs, it would be very hard to hide such a large aircraft from air, ground, and satellite searches. And, as for the 239 passengers, I doubt if the hijackers would be providing catering for such a large group for such a long time. If they were not killed in the air, perhaps from lack of oxygen, if the aircraft was really taken to 45000 feet and depressurized, they would have been killed as soon as the aircraft arrived at its destination. (If the aircraft was taken to 45000 feet and depressurized, depending on how long it spent at that altitude to be sure the passengers were dead, the crew might have had to have pressurization suits to avoid getting the bends themselves. Maybe it was taken over and the crew thought that they could just provide themselves with oxygen and not supply oxygen to the passengers, in which case the passengers would be dead in a while. But, they might not have realized that even though they had oxygen, the low pressure at 45000 could have caused them to get the bends if they stayed at that altitude too long and did not properly re-pressurize their environment. Maybe that reported dive to low altitude from 45000 feet was an attempt by the crew to avoid getting the bends, but perhaps it did not work.)
Anyway, while it is still remotely possible that the aircraft was diverted to some secret location to reappear to commit some act of terrorism, that is highly unlikely. It is far more likely, after 2 weeks, that something terrible happened to the plane and crew and it crashed; probably in the Indian Ocean. In either case, it must be assumed that the passengers are now dead. It would simply be too risky and prohibitively expensive to keep them alive for so long if the aircraft was successfully diverted. (What if one of them had a satellite phone? Even the act of that phone linking to the network would pinpoint the location of the plane.)
My guess is that something overtook the crew and a terrible accident happened. It’s time for CNN to find something else to talk about. No wonder the ratings for CNN are so abysmal.
You’ve got to love this video. It sums up, totally, the complete lack of understanding that the United States’ administration (both Obama and Bush) have of the situation in the Middle East and with Islam in general. With clueless clowns like Obama, Kerry, Rice, Clinton and others “running” things, it is no wonder we are in such a mess in the Middle East. It is this total lack of understanding that gave us such costly and moronic policies as supporting the terrorist organization known as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and why we wasted trillions (with a t) of dollars and thousands of lives trying to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan. Sorry, but democracy and Islam are mutually exclusive. I wish our rulers would learn that lesson, once and for all, and leave the Muslims to kill each other and let Israel take care of itself the way it needs to before they are wiped off the face of the earth by our new “friend”, Iran.
Lets face it, the only reason we are dealing with Iran is because we finally realize that they have nukes and will use them if we push them. We have war gamed going to war with them and found that we would loose most of the 5th fleet if we did. We should have taken them out 12 or 13 years ago, when we had the chance, especially given the fact that they were intimately involved in 911, facilitating the attack plans before 911 and sheltering both bin Laden and Zawahiri after 911 according to several open source accounts by people who know what is going on in the area such as Yossef Bodanski, among others. (In fact, while he was the first to report the sheltering of bin Laden and Zawahiri, a fact that was widely ridiculed by the administration and the lame-stream media, that fact was later confirmed by the US government.)
By George Friedman
Major shifts underway in the Chinese economy that Stratfor has forecast and discussed for years have now drawn the attention of the mainstream media. Many have asked when China would find itself in an economic crisis, to which we have answered that China has been there for awhile — something not widely recognized outside China, and particularly not in the United States. A crisis can exist before it is recognized. The admission that a crisis exists is a critical moment, because this is when most others start to change their behavior in reaction to the crisis. The question we had been asking was when the Chinese economic crisis would finally become an accepted fact, thus changing the global dynamic.
Last week, the crisis was announced with a flourish. First, The New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-recipient Paul Krugman penned a piece titled “Hitting China’s Wall.” He wrote, “The signs are now unmistakable: China is in big trouble. We’re not talking about some minor setback along the way, but something more fundamental. The country’s whole way of doing business, the economic system that has driven three decades of incredible growth, has reached its limits. You could say that the Chinese model is about to hit its Great Wall, and the only question now is just how bad the crash will be.”
Later in the week, Ben Levisohn authored a column in Barron’s called “Smoke Signals from China.” He wrote, “In the classic disaster flick ‘The Towering Inferno’ partygoers ignored a fire in a storage room because they assumed it has been contained. Are investors making the same mistake with China?” He goes on to answer his question, saying, “Unlike three months ago, when investors were placing big bets that China’s policymakers would pump cash into the economy to spur growth, the markets seem to have accepted the fact that sluggish growth for the world’s second largest economy is its new normal.”
Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs — where in November 2001 Jim O’Neil coined the term BRICs and forecast that China might surpass the United States economically by 2028 — cut its forecast of Chinese growth to 7.4 percent.
The New York Times, Barron’s and Goldman Sachs are all both a seismograph of the conventional wisdom and the creators of the conventional wisdom. Therefore, when all three announce within a few weeks that China’s economic condition ranges from disappointing to verging on a crash, it transforms the way people think of China. Now the conversation is moving from forecasts of how quickly China will overtake the United States to considerations of what the consequences of a Chinese crash would be.
Suddenly finding Stratfor amid the conventional wisdom regarding China does feel odd, I must admit. Having first noted the underlying contradictions in China’s economic growth years ago, when most viewed China as the miracle Japan wasn’t, and having been scorned for not understanding the shift in global power underway, it is gratifying to now have a lot of company. Over the past couple of years, the ranks of the China doubters had grown. But the past few months have seen a sea change. We have gone from China the omnipotent, the belief that there was nothing the Chinese couldn’t work out, to the realization that China no longer works.
It has not been working for some time. One of the things masking China’s weakening has been Chinese statistics, which Krugman referred to as “even more fictional than most.” China is a vast country in territory and population. Gathering information on how it is doing would be a daunting task, even were China inclined to do so. Instead, China understands that in the West, there is an assumption that government statistics bear at least a limited relationship to truth. Beijing accordingly uses its numbers to shape perceptions inside and outside China of how it is doing. The Chinese release their annual gross domestic product numbers in the third week of January (and only revise them the following year). They can’t possibly know how they did that fast, and they don’t. But they do know what they want the world to believe about their growth, and the world has believed them — hence, the fantastic tales of economic growth.
China in fact has had an extraordinary period of growth. The last 30 years have been remarkable, marred only by the fact that the Chinese started at such a low point due to the policies of the Maoist period. Growth at first was relatively easy; it was hard for China to do worse. But make no mistake: China surged. Still, basing economic performance on consumption, Krugman notes that China is barely larger economically than Japan. Given the compounding effects of China’s guesses at GDP, we would guess it remains behind Japan, but how can you tell? We can say without a doubt that China’s economy has grown dramatically in the past 30 years but that it is no longer growing nearly as quickly as it once did.
China’s growth surge was built on a very unglamorous fact: Chinese wages were far below Western wages, and therefore the Chinese were able to produce a certain class of products at lower cost than possible in the West. The Chinese built businesses around this, and Western companies built factories in China to take advantage of the differential. Since Chinese workers were unable to purchase many of the products they produced given their wages, China built its growth on exports.
For this to continue, China had to maintain its wage differential indefinitely. But China had another essential policy: Beijing was terrified of unemployment and the social consequences that flow from it. This was a rational fear, but one that contradicted China’s main strength, its wage advantage. Because the Chinese feared unemployment, Chinese policy, manifested in bank lending policies, stressed preventing unemployment by keeping businesses going even when they were inefficient. China also used bank lending to build massive infrastructure and commercial and residential property. Over time, this policy created huge inefficiencies in the Chinese economy. Without recessions, inefficiencies develop. Growing the economy is possible, but not growing profitability. Eventually, the economy will be dragged down by its inefficiency.
As businesses become inefficient, production costs rise. And that leads to inflation. As money is lent to keep inefficient businesses going, inflation increases even more markedly. The increase in inefficiency is compounded by the growth of the money supply prompted by aggressive lending to keep the economy going. As this persisted over many years, the inefficiencies built into the Chinese economy have become staggering.
The second thing to bear in mind is the overwhelming poverty of China, where 900 million people have an annual per capita income around the same level as Guatemala, Georgia, Indonesia or Mongolia ($3,000-$3,500 a year), while around 500 million of those have an annual per capita income around the same level as India, Nicaragua, Ghana, Uzbekistan or Nigeria ($1,500-$1,700). China’s overall per capita GDP is around the same level as the Dominican Republic, Serbia, Thailand or Jamaica. Stimulating an economy where more than a billion people live in deep poverty is impossible. Economic stimulus makes sense when products can be sold to the public. But the vast majority of Chinese cannot afford the products produced in China, and therefore, stimulus will not increase consumption of those products. As important, stimulating demand so that inefficient factories can sell products is not only inflationary, it is suicidal. The task is to increase consumption, not to subsidize inefficiency.
The Chinese are thus in a trap. If they continue aggressive lending to failing businesses, they get inflation. That increases costs and makes the Chinese less competitive in exports, which are also falling due to the recession in Europe and weakness in the United States. Allowing businesses to fail brings unemployment, a massive social and political problem. The Chinese have zigzagged from cracking down on lending by regulating informal lending and raising interbank rates to loosening restrictions on lending by removing the floor on the benchmark lending rate and by increasing lending to small- and medium-sized businesses. Both policies are problematic.
The Chinese have maintained a strategy of depending on exports without taking into account the operation of the business cycle in the West, which means that periodic and substantial contractions of demand will occur. China’s industrial plant is geared to Western demand. When Western demand contracted, the result was the mess you see now.
The Chinese economy could perhaps be growing at 7.4 percent, but I doubt the number is anywhere near that. Some estimates place growth at closer to 5 percent. Regardless of growth, the ability to maintain profit margins is rarely considered. Producing and selling at or even below cost will boost GDP numbers but undermines the financial system. This happened to Japan in the early 1990s. And it is happening in China now.
The Chinese can prevent the kind of crash that struck East Asia in 1997. Their currency isn’t convertible, so there can’t be a run on it. They continue to have a command economy; they are still communist, after all. But they cannot avoid the consequences of their economic reality, and the longer they put off the day of reckoning, the harder it will become to recover from it. They have already postponed the reckoning far longer than they should have. They would postpone it further if they could by continuing to support failing businesses with loans. They can do that for a very long time — provided they are prepared to emulate the Soviet model’s demise. The Chinese don’t want that, but what they do want is a miraculous resolution to their problem. There are no solutions that don’t involve agony, so they put off the day of reckoning and slowly decline.
The Chinese are not going to completely collapse economically any more than the Japanese or South Koreans did. What will happen is that China will behave differently than before. With no choices that don’t frighten them, the Chinese will focus on containing the social and political fallout, both by trying to target benefits to politically sensitive groups and by using their excellent security apparatus to suppress and deter unrest. The Chinese economic performance will degrade, but crisis will be avoided and political interests protected. Since much of China never benefited from the boom, there is a massive force that has felt marginalized and victimized by coastal elites. That is not a bad foundation for the Communist Party to rely on.
The key is understanding that if China cannot solve its problems without unacceptable political consequences, it will try to stretch out the decline. Japan had a lost decade only in the minds of Western investors, who implicitly value aggregate GDP growth over other measures of success such as per capita GDP growth or full employment. China could very well face an extended period of intense inwardness and low economic performance. The past 30 years is a tough act to follow.
The obvious economic impact on the rest of the world will fall on the producers of industrial commodities such as iron ore. The extravagant expectations for Chinese growth will not be met, and therefore expectations for commodity prices won’t be met. Since the Chinese economic failure has been underway for quite awhile, the degradation in prices has already happened. Australia in particular has been badly hit by the Chinese situation, just as it was by the Japanese situation a generation ago.
The Chinese are, of course, keeping a great deal of money in U.S. government instruments and other markets. Contrary to fears, that money will not be withdrawn. The Chinese problem isn’t a lack of capital, and repatriating that money would simply increase inflation. Had the Chinese been able to put that money to good use, it would have never been invested in the United States in the first place. The outflow of money from China was a symptom of the disease: Lacking the structure to invest in China, the government and private funds went overseas. In so doing, Beijing sought to limit destabilization in China, while private Chinese funds looked for a haven against the storm that was already blowing.
Rather than the feared repatriation of funds, the United States will continue to be the target of major Chinese cash inflows. In a world where Europe is still reeling, only the United States is both secure and large enough to contain Chinese appetites for safety. Just as Japanese investment in the 1990s represented capital flight rather than a healthy investment appetite, so the behavior we have seen from Chinese investors in recent years is capital flight: money searching for secure havens regardless of return. This money has underpinned American markets; it is not going away, and in fact more is on the way.
The major shift in the international order will be the decline of China’s role in the region. China’s ability to project military power in Asia has been substantially overestimated. Its geography limits its ability to project power in Eurasia, an endeavor that would require logistics far beyond China’s capacity. Its naval capacity is still limited compared with the United States. The idea that it will compensate for internal economic problems by genuine (as opposed to rhetorical) military action is therefore unlikely. China has a genuine internal security problem that will suck the military, which remains a domestic security force, into actions of little value. In our view, the most important shift will be the re-emergence of Japan as the dominant economic and political power in East Asia in a slow process neither will really want.
China will continue to be a major power, and it will continue to matter a great deal economically. Being troubled is not the same as ceasing to exist. China will always exist. It will, however, no longer be the low-wage, high-growth center of the world. Like Japan before it, it will play a different role.
In the global system, there are always low-wage, high-growth countries because the advanced industrial powers’ consumers want to absorb goods at low wages. Becoming a supplier of those goods is a major opportunity for, and disruptor to, those countries. No one country can replace China, but China will be replaced. The next step in this process is identifying China’s successors.
“Recognizing the End of the Chinese Economic Miracle is republished with permission of Stratfor.”
As a pilot, I can well imagine how Asiana Flight 214 hit the sea wall rather than landing on the runway. Approaches over water are always dangerous, especially in visual conditions, because of how difficult it is to tell how high above the water you are. This is especially true when the water is extremely calm with no waves or other disturbances on the surface. Pictures from various news media clearly showed that the water was extremely calm when the crash happened.
Add to that the fact that the threshold of the actual runway was only displaced from the sea wall by about 640 feet. This means that under the conditions of a normal approach, which has a glide slope of about 3 degrees, the aircraft would only clear the sea wall by about 36 feet. This may sound like a lot, but it is not much when you are dealing with an aircraft as large as a 777. Add to this the fact that the water level appears to be about 12 to 20 feet below the level of the runway. This means that the aircraft, while on that normal 3 degree approach path, would need to be about 50 to 60 feet above the water. If the pilots got a bit lower than that, it is easy to see how they could have hit the sea wall on approach. In fact, I am surprised that this has not happened more often.
It is interesting to note that the runway threshold was moved about 300 feet further from the sea wall at some time in the last year. This can be ascertained by noting the appearance of the approach to runway 28L shown below. This was taken from Google Earth. The image was time stamped August 23, 2012. In this image, the runway threshold was only about 375 feet from the sea wall. In this case, a 3 degree approach slope would bring an aircraft over the sea wall edge at an altitude of only about 18 feet! Again, I am surprised that there have not been similar accidents on this runway in the past.
When you look at the next image, which includes the image of the crashed 777, you can clearly see that the runway threshold has been moved an additional 300 feet from the sea wall. Since the Google Earth image was time stamped August 2012, it is obvious that the threshold was moved within the last 11 months. You can also clearly see how the runway has been repainted to accommodate the threshold movement.
We know that the ILS (instrument landing system) was not in service at the time of the crash. Thus, the pilots would not have had a working glideslope. They would still have had the VASI (visual approach slope indicator) which is a ground-based directional light system that appears green to the pilot if the pilot is above the appropriate glide slope and red if the aircraft is below the glide slope. Thus, this would clearly have been telling the pilots that they were low. But, a VASI is more visible in darker conditions and this crash occurred in bright daylight, so the VASI may not have been as visible as it might otherwise have been. However, these were highly experienced pilots and they surely had working radar altimeters and other instruments that should have told them that they were too low. (Actually, so far I have only seen information on the captain. He reportedly had over 9000 hours. The co-pilot may have had far fewer hours. And, given the fact that the weather was so good, it is entirely possible that the co-pilot was actually flying the plane at the time of the accident so as to gain experience.)
Obviously, we won’t know what went wrong until the NTSB has had a chance to listen to the cockpit voice recorder and review the flight data. But, this certainly looks like a tragic case of pilot error. Also, the airport planners may want to think about moving the threshold even further from the sea wall, especially since this is one of the longest runways in the country, anyway, at a bit more than 11000 feet. I wonder why it took so long to move the threshold.
I’m sorry. My mind works in strange ways. Every time I see a picture of Edward Snowden, I can’t help but think of Austin Power (Mike Meyers) in Goldmember when he meets “the mole” and fixates on his mole and says “It’s great to mole you.”
Pat Condell gets it right about Islam. I’m offended by Islam, too.
By George Friedman
The civil war in Syria, one of the few lasting legacies of the Arab Spring, has been under way for more than two years. There has been substantial outside intervention in the war. The Iranians in particular, and the Russians to a lesser extent, have supported the Alawites under Bashar al Assad. The Saudis and some of the Gulf States have supported the Sunni insurgents in various ways. The Americans, Europeans and Israelis, however, have for the most part avoided involvement.
Last week the possibility of intervention increased. The Americans and Europeans have had no appetite for intervention after their experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. At the same time, they have not wanted to be in a position where intervention was simply ruled out. Therefore, they identified a redline that, if crossed, would force them to reconsider intervention: the use of chemical weapons.
There were two reasons for this particular boundary. The first was that the United States and European states have a systemic aversion to the possession and usage of weapons of mass destruction in other countries. They see this ultimately as a threat to them, particularly if such weapons are in the hands of non-state users. But there was a more particular reason in Syria. No one thought that al Assad was reckless enough to use chemical weapons because they felt that his entire strategy depended on avoiding U.S. and European intervention, and that therefore he would never cross the redline. This was comforting to the Americans and Europeans because it allowed them to appear decisive while avoiding the risk of having to do anything.
However, in recent weeks, first the United Kingdom and France and then Israel and the United States asserted that the al Assad regime had used chemical weapons. No one could point to an incidence of massive deaths in Syria, and the evidence of usage was vague enough that no one was required to act immediately.
In Iraq, it turned out there was not a nuclear program or the clandestine chemical and biological weapons programs that intelligence had indicated. Had there been, the U.S. invasion might have had more international support, but it is doubtful it would have had a better outcome. The United States would have still forced the Sunnis into a desperate position, the Iranians would have still supported Shiite militias and the Kurds would have still tried to use the chaos to build an autonomous Kurdish region. The conflict would have still been fought and its final outcome would not have looked very different from how it does now.
What the United States learned in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya is that it is relatively easy for a conventional force to destroy a government. It is much harder – if not impossible — to use the same force to impose a new type of government. The government that follows might be in some moral sense better than what preceded it — it is difficult to imagine a more vile regime than Saddam Hussein’s — but the regime that replaces it will first be called chaos, followed by another regime that survives to the extent that it holds the United States at arm’s length. Therefore, redline or not, few want to get involved in another intervention pivoting on weapons of mass destruction.
However, there are those who want to intervene for moral reasons. In Syria, there is the same moral issue that there was in Iraq. The existing regime is corrupt and vicious. It should not be forgotten that the al Assad regime conducted a massacre in the city of Hama in 1982 in which tens of thousands of Sunnis were killed for opposing the regime. The regime carried out constant violations of human rights and endless brutality. There was nothing new in this, and the world was able to act fairly indifferent to the events, since it was still possible to create media blackouts in those days. Syria’s patron, the Soviet Union, protected it, and challenging the Syrian regime would be a challenge to the Soviet Union. It was a fight that few wanted to wage because the risks were seen as too high.
The situation is different today. Syria’s major patron is Iran, which had (until its reversal in Syria) been moving toward a reshaping of the balance of power in the region. Thus, from the point of view of the American right, an intervention is morally required to confront evil regimes. There are those on the left who also want intervention. In the 1980s, the primary concern of the left was the threat of nuclear war, and they saw any intervention as destabilizing a precarious balance. That concern is gone, and advocacy for military intervention to protect human rights is a significant if not universal theme on the left.
The difference between right-wing and left-wing interventionists is the illusions they harbor. In spite of experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, right-wing interventionists continue to believe that the United States and Europe have the power not only to depose regimes but also to pacify the affected countries and create Western-style democracies. The left believes that there is such a thing as a neutral intervention — one in which the United States and Europe intervene to end a particular evil, and with that evil gone, the country will now freely select a Western-style constitutional democracy. Where the right-wing interventionists cannot absorb the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq, the left-wing interventionists cannot absorb the lessons of Libya.
Everyone loved the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. What was not to like? The Evil Empire was collapsing for the right; respect for human rights was universally embraced for the left. But Eastern Europe was occupied by Josef Stalin in 1945 following domination and occupation by Adolf Hitler. Eastern Europeans had never truly embraced either, and for the most part loathed both. The collapse freed them to be what they by nature were. What was lurking under the surface had always been there, suppressed but still the native political culture and aspiration.
That is not what was under the surface in Afghanistan or Iraq. These countries were not Europe and did not want to be. One of the reasons that Hussein was despised was that he was secular — that he violated fundamental norms of Islam both in his personal life and in the way he governed the country. There were many who benefited from his regime and supported him, but if you lopped off the regime, what was left was a Muslim country wanting to return to its political culture, much as Eastern Europe returned to its.
In Syria, there are two main factions fighting. The al Assad regime is Alawite, a heterodox offshoot of Shi’ism. But its more important characteristic is that it is a secular regime, not guided by either liberal democracy or Islam but with withering roots in secular Arab Socialism. Lop it off and what is left is not another secular movement, this time liberal and democratic, but the underlying Muslim forces that had been suppressed but never eradicated. A New York Times article this week pointed out that there are no organized secular forces in areas held by the Sunni insurgents. The religious forces are in control. In Syria, secularism belonged to the Baath Party and the Alawites, and it was brutal. But get rid of it, and you do not get liberal democracy.
This is what many observers missed in the Arab Spring. They thought that under the surface of the oppressive Hosni Mubarak regime, which was secular and brutal, was a secular liberal democratic force. Such a force was present in Egypt, more than in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, but still did not represent the clear alternative to Mubarak. The alternative — not as clearly as elsewhere, but still the alternative — was the Muslim Brotherhood, and no secular alternative was viable without the Egyptian army.
There are tremendous military challenges to dealing with Syria. Immaculate interventions will not work. A surgical strike on chemical facilities is a nice idea, but the intelligence on locations is never perfect, Syria has an air defense system that cannot be destroyed without substantial civilian casualties, and blowing up buildings containing chemical weapons could release the chemicals before they burn. Sending troops deep into Syria would not be a matter of making a few trips by helicopter. The country is an armed camp, and destroying or seizing stockpiles of chemical weapons is complicated and requires manpower. To destroy the stockpiles, you must first secure ports, airports and roads to get to them, and then you have to defend the roads, of which there are many.
Eradicating chemical weapons from Syria — assuming that they are all in al Assad’s territory — would require occupying that territory, and the precise outlines of that territory change from day to day. It is also likely, given the dynamism of a civil war, that some chemical weapons would fall into the hands of the Sunni insurgents. There are no airstrikes or surgical raids by special operations troops that would solve the problem. Like Iraq, the United States would have to occupy the country.
If al Assad and the leadership are removed, his followers — a substantial minority — will continue to resist, much as the Sunnis did in Iraq. They have gained much from the al Assad regime and, in their minds, they face disaster if the Sunnis win. The Sunnis have much brutality to repay. On the Sunni side, there may be a secular liberal democratic group, but if so it is poorly organized and control is in the hands of Islamists and other more radical Islamists, some with ties to al Qaeda. The civil war will continue unless the United States intervenes on behalf of the Islamists, uses its power to crush the Alawites and hands power to the Islamists. A variant of this happened in Iraq when the United States sought to crush the Sunnis but did not want to give power to the Shia. The result was that everyone turned on the Americans.
That will be the result of a neutral intervention or an intervention designed to create a constitutional democracy. Those who intervene will find themselves trapped between the reality of Syria and the assorted fantasies that occasionally drive U.S. and European foreign policy. No great harm will come in any strategic sense. The United States and Europe have huge populations and enormous wealth. They can, in that sense, afford such interventions. But the United States cannot afford continual defeats as a result of intervening in countries of marginal national interest, where it sets for itself irrational political goals for the war. In some sense, power has to do with perception, and not learning from mistakes undermines power.
Many things are beyond the military power of the United States. Creating constitutional democracies by invasion is one of those things. There will be those who say intervention is to stop the bloodshed, not to impose Western values. Others will say intervention that does not impose Western values is pointless. Both miss the point. You cannot stop a civil war by adding another faction to the war unless that faction brings overwhelming power to bear. The United States has a great deal of power, but not overwhelming power, and overwhelming power’s use means overwhelming casualties. And you cannot transform the political culture of a country from the outside unless you are prepared to devastate it as was done with Germany and Japan.
The United States, with its European allies, does not have the force needed to end Syria’s bloodshed. If it tried, it would merely be held responsible for the bloodshed without achieving any strategic goal. There are places to go to war, but they should be few and of supreme importance. The bloodshed in Syria is not more important to the United States than it is to the Syrians.
“Redlines and the Problems of Intervention in Syria is republished with permission of Stratfor.”
By now we all know that Obama beat Romney in the presidential election. And, Republicans are asking themselves why. Well, the reasons are simple, with the most glaring problem being the insane religiosity of the Republican platform. This is America, so anyone is free to believe any stupid thing they want to believe–as long as they don’t force that insane belief on other citizens. Republicans don’t seem to realize that issues about birth control and abortion are none of their business. Those issues are between a woman and her doctor. Period. It gets even worse when you have idiots like Judge Andrew Napolitano stating that it should be illegal for a woman to get an abortion even in the case of incest or rape! (In fact, I stated in an article in August how such beliefs could cost the Republicans the election, and I was correct.) And, lets not forget other prominent Republicans making comments to the effect that “real rapes” can’t result in pregnancy! No wonder women (and men) have abandoned the Republican party in droves! With these misogynistic policies, they remind me of the Taliban and al Qaeda.
I don’t know the exact number of women (and men) that have abandoned the Republican party because of its extreme religiosity, but it is a very considerable number. Personally, I switched to the Libertarian party partially because their official platform states that abortion and birth control are between a woman and her doctor, but also because they are the only party that has the only economic platform that has any hope of ever getting this country back on its feet: no personal income tax, reduced corporate income taxes, and slashing the size of the government by at least 50%. (Personally, I don’t think 50% is enough of a cut, since that would only take us back to around 2000 levels, and nobody can state with a straight face that the government was not big enough in 2000. I say we need to go back to 1950s or 1960s levels, which would probably be a cut of more like 80% to 90%.)
While the Republican party outwardly states that it wants to improve the lives of poor people, and bring them out of poverty, their policies on birth control and abortion are one of the main causes of poverty, since children are expensive and if you are essentially forced to have more children than you can afford by government policy, you may be forced into poverty. And, there are few things that are more predictive of both poverty and a lack of proper education than an unwed teenage mom, many of whom are from staunchly Republican (and/or Catholic) backgrounds where both birth control and abortion are forbidden.
This is the 21st century. We know that religion is based on myths, lies, legends, and fears of death that date back many thousands of years. We need to wake up and realize that there is almost certainly no god and stop acting as if some magic, all-knowing, all-seeing bearded being must be appeased for some “sin” that happened thousands of years ago. And, by the way, there is noting in the Bible about birth control or abortion. And, if there is a god, she is the biggest abortionist in the world because of all of the miscarriages that she causes.
A word to rioting Muslims. (I know, that is redundant.)
Well said, Pat, I could not agree with you more.
It is becoming obvious that we must add the term “going Muslim” to the lexicon, just like “going postal” was added a couple of decades ago. It is also time that our government, the liberals, and the media admit that Islam is inherently violent, and thus steps must be taken to limit it. Unlike Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, or whatever other mainstream religion you want to mention, Islam is not just a religion. It is an ideology. It is a way of life. It is a legal system. It is wrong, and it is evil.
Every time someone points out that Mohammad (if he ever actually existed) was an insane, epileptic, barbarian, misogynist, megalomaniac, pedophile, or refers to his sock-puppet Allah in any way that they find offensive, they “go Muslim”, which is to say that they riot, burn, destroy, pillage, and kill! We all remember when they rioted over a few cartoons. How juvenile! How barbaric! But, the problem is that our government, while mildly chastising the rampaging Muslims, has been severely criticizing the people who drew the pictures, burned a Koran, or made a really bad movie! (If you have not seen it, it is like a really bad high school production.) When people do stupid things, or have an ideology that is every bit as dangerous, fascist, and totalitarian as Nazism, we need to criticize it and strive to limit the spread of that ideology. One way to do that is through satire and humor. If we act like we respect the ideology or Mohammad, that is no different from when Nevil Chamberlain appeased Hitler; and we all know how that ended.
There is an uncanny irony here that many have noticed. The position of the Muslim community in the face of all provocations seems to be: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn’t, we will kill you. Of course, the truth is often more nuanced, but this is about as nuanced as it ever gets: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn’t, we peaceful Muslims cannot be held responsible for what our less peaceful brothers and sisters do. When they burn your embassies or kidnap and slaughter your journalists, know that we will hold you primarily responsible and will spend the bulk of our energies criticizing you for “racism” and “Islamophobia.”
It is time we started treating the Islamic ideology as the hateful, destructive, misogynist, totalitarian ideology that it is, and stop calling it a religion. Yes, it has a religious element, and I guess that was Hitler’s mistake. If he had quit the Catholic church (which never condemned him or Nazism, by the way) and created his own religion that was integral to Nazism, perhaps we’d all be speaking German now.
Today, (9/11, of all days), the spoiled Muslim brats in Egypt stormed our embassy in Cairo and tore down our flag and burned it. They then went further and demanded that WE apologize to them about supposedly insulting their insane, epileptic, barbarian, misogynist, megalomaniac, pedophile hero Mohammad and his sock puppet Allah! I say enough is enough! We should never, ever apologize to them for anything, and we should insist that they leave the 7th century behind and move into the 21st century. If they refuse to do this, then we should absolutely cut off ALL financial and other aid to their country. That goes especially for military aid.
Since the Islamists took over in Egypt (and Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, and soon, Syria), they have become Islamist Sharia states, just like I predicted would happen, not democracies. Democracy and Islam are mutually exclusive. Since the fall of Mubarak, we have seen Christians in those nations severely persecuted and killed and their churches destroyed. We have seen how the 1979 peace treaty has been broken by the fact that Egypt has poured troops and war machines into the Sinai peninsula, and given control of that area over to al Qaeda and other similar organizations. We have even heard proposals that the great pyramids be destroyed, just as the Buddhist temples were destroyed by the Taliban a few years ago.
Egypt, like most Muslim nations that don’t have oil, is an economic basket case. They have virtually no industry and no way to support themselves except through handouts (basically jizzya) from the civilized world and tourism. Of course, now that they are embracing Sharia and re-establishing the Caliphate (which I also predicted a long time ago), no non-Muslim person in their right mind from the civilized world will want to go to Egypt on vacation. Thus, without aid from the civilized world, the nation will perish. Hopefully, Islam will perish along with it. The Islamists have an expression: “Islam is the solution”. Actually, as they will finally find out if we refuse to give in to their temper tantrums and cut off all aid, “Islam is the problem”.
First, a disclaimer. I am not a Democrat. I never was and I never will be. I used to be a Republican, but the Party’s insane stand on abortion, its takeover by the religious right, its refusal to slash the size of government and to even discuss eliminating income taxes, have driven me to the Libertarian Party. Sure, the Republicans talk about reducing the size of government, but it exploded under George W. Bush, and while they talk about keeping the immoral income taxes “lower” than the Democrats, they never discuss completely eliminating it. Slashing the size of government and eliminating the income tax are the only two things that the government can do, at this point, to put this country (maybe) back onto a route to recovery. Otherwise, it is doomed.
That being said, Judge Napolitano recently wrote an article in the Washington Times titled “NAPOLITANO: Akin absurdity aside, rape never justifies abortion”. In it, he correctly stated that Akin has a “clearly erroneous understanding of the human female anatomy.” He went on:
In a now infamous statement, in which he used the bizarre and unheard-of phrase “legitimate rape,” the congressman gave the impression that some rapes of women are not mentally or seriously resisted. This is an antediluvian and misogynistic myth for which there is no basis in fact and which has been soundly and justly condemned.
Mr. Akinalso stated that the female anatomy can resist unwanted impregnation. This, too, is absurd, offensive and incorrect.
So far, so good. Napolitano got it correct with these statements. But then, he goes into the usual misogynistic and paternal type of statements that have been driving women and men like me away from the Republican Party for decades. In fact, I personally believe that the real core belief of today’s Republican Party is that women must be forced to have children that they don’t want and maybe can’t afford, and that we need to establish some sort of Christian theocracy. All that talk about less government and lower taxes is just that; talk. The idea that a woman who was raped, or the victim of incest, has to carry that unwanted child to birth is not only absurd and cruel, but it is what might be expected in a paternal society. After all, the father does not have to carry the child for 9 months, go through the pains of birth, and then figure out how the baby is going to be cared for. It is not the father’s life that may be destroyed by having to give up a promising career or drop out of school to raise the child. It is not the father’s life that is put at risk by the act of childbirth. (Sure, Napolitano admits that abortion is ok if a woman’s life is at risk, but sometimes it is the birth, itself, that results in the death of the mother. Furthermore, there is often no way to accurately predict that a particular childbirth will result in the death of the mother, and abortion at that time would be a full-term abortion, or what the Republicans revel in calling a “partial birth abortion”).
I don’t think many people approve of late-term, or full-term, abortions. I certainly don’t. At some point, you are dealing with a human being; that is, a sentient, fully formed, thinking, reasoning being that can survive outside of the womb without extreme medical intervention. And I don’t think that women should use abortion as their primary means of birth control. But to say that a woman who has been raped, or the victim of incest, cannot use a morning-after pill or get an abortion when she finds that she is pregnant after missing her first period, is barbaric. It is as insane as the (again Republican) ban on stem cell research using a few cells in a petrie dish that would be thrown out otherwise. In fact, since men cannot get pregnant, I would say that abortion is none of their business; period. It is up to a woman, or a woman and her doctor. And, if you want to bring religion into the matter (which is the only “rational” way that you can argue against early-term abortion), then God is the biggest abortionist of all time, since a miscarriage is, basically, an abortion. And yet, I don’t see Republicans shaking their fists at the sky and screaming “DAMN YOU GOD” when every miscarriage occurs, any more than I see Tim Tebow shouting “DAMN YOU GOD” every time one of his plays go bad. I guess God is beyond reproach; only his good deeds get recognized. (I’m sure that many individuals, women and what Akin might call their “wanted” partners, DO damn God when a miscarriage occurs, and I fully understand that, but I am talking about the Republican Party here, not individuals who want a child.)
Many Republicans even oppose federally funded birth control for women! Talk about paternalism and misogyny! I’m not sure what their stand is on federally funded Viagra, but that would be an interesting thing to look up if I had the time. Of course, I can see them being against both federally funded birth control for women and Viagra if they were for smaller government and more personal responsibility, thus eliminating most federal health care (and other) funding. But that is not the issue that they harp on. In fact, the Republicans don’t even limit their concern to federally funded programs. Their objection to insurance paying for birth control often extends to private health insurance plans where they have no business poking their heads. In fact, if Republicans really wanted to reduce the cost of health care, they should be anxious to pay for birth control, since birth control, when properly used, usually results in no pregnancy. Pregnancy, and especially the raising of the child after birth, is monumentally more expensive than birth control.
To add to the lunacy of his article, Napolitano then goes on to posit that the reason our economy is so bad is because of abortion! He gets it right when he blames Roosevelt and LBJ for the welfare state that is crushing this country. (And he should have added Woodrow Wilson who forced the personal income tax and the Federal Reserve on us.) But, to say that we would be better off with many more people is absurd. Especially since many of the people that would be born if abortion was not available would be born to poor, often single, poorly educated people who can barely afford to get by themselves, let alone properly raise a child, or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 or more children. We constantly hear how illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans (which they are). What do you think would happen with many of these babies born to mothers who did not want them and could not afford them? True, they would not be illegal, but they would still be taking jobs from a job market that is rapidly shrinking due to outsourcing, bad economic policies, the devastating decline in the quality of America’s educational system, and high taxes. If having lots of poor, unwanted, uneducated people could make a country rich and prosperous, many African nations would have thriving economies that would be the envy of the world.