Language can explain, clarify, and elucidate, or it can obscure and hide. When people use it for the latter, always assume their motives are suspect. From Peter Ford at 21stcenturywire.com:
The prospect of US withdrawal from Syria has taken the use of doublespeak by frothing neocons and their liberal interventionist fellow travellers to a new level.
Here to help the confused observer is a glossary of some of the most frequently used key terms and their true meanings, along with guidance on usages deemed taboo in Western policy-making and media circles.
Entrenched. As in: ‘We have to stop Iran getting more entrenched in Syria’. Meaning: ‘Supportive’. Without Iran and Hizbollah helping Syria government forces ISIS and Al Qaida would be ruling the roost in Syria today. Do not say: ‘Israel is becoming more and more entrenched in the West Bank and Golan’.
Forward deployment. ‘US troops are in forward deployment in the Al Tanf enclave on the Syria – Iraq border’. Meaning: Occupation. The US troops have no mandate to be there, not even the approval of the US Congress.
Engagement. ‘Ambassador Jeffrey is the Secretary’s Envoy for Syria Engagement’. Meaning: Disengagement. Much to his chagrin, the archetypal hawk Jeffrey had his pledge to the effect that the US was in Syria for the duration unsaid by the president within hours of his uttering it. Since then he appears to have lost his tongue.
Vacuum. ‘The US will be leaving a vacuum when it pulls troops out’. Meaning: Restoration of law and order. Once the US stops blocking the way the Syrian government will return to the currently US-controlled territory and will keep ISIS down, as it is doing in the rest of Syria, and Turkey out.
Once upon a time militaries were supposed to win wars. From William J. Astore ate tomdispatch.com:
Overfunded, Overhyped, and Always Over There
One of the finest military memoirs of any generation is Defeat Into Victory, British Field Marshal Sir William Slim’s perceptive account of World War II’s torturous Burma campaign, which ended in a resounding victory over Japan. When America’s generals write their memoirs about their never-ending war on terror, they’d do well to choose a different title: Victory Into Defeat. That would certainly be more appropriate than those on already published accounts like Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez’s Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story (2008), or General Stanley McChrystal’s My Share of the Task (2013).
Think about it. America’s Afghan War began in 2001 with what was essentially a punitive raid against the Taliban, part of which was mythologized last year in 12 Strong, a Hollywood film with a cavalry charge that echoed the best of John Wayne. That victory, however, quickly turned first into quagmire and then, despite various “surges” and a seemingly endless series of U.S. commanders (17 so far), into a growing sense of inevitable defeat. Today, a resurgent Taliban exercises increasing influenceover the hearts, minds, and territory of the Afghan people. The Trump administration’s response so far has been a mini-surge of several thousand troops, an increase in air and drone strikes, and an attempt to suppressaccurate reports from the Pentagon’s special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction about America’s losing effort there.
Turn now to the invasion of Iraq: in May 2003, President George W. Bush cockily announced “Mission Accomplished” from the deck of an aircraft carrier, only to see victory in Baghdad degenerate into insurgency and a quagmire conflict that established conditions for the rise of the Islamic State. Gains in stability during a surge of U.S. forces orchestrated by General David Petraeus in 2007 and hailed in Washington as a fabulous success story proved fragile and reversible. An ignominious U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011 was followed in 2014 by the collapse of that country’s American-trained and armed military in the face of modest numbers of Islamic State militants. A recommitment of U.S. troops and air power brought Stalingrad-style devastation to cities like Mosul and Ramadi, largely reduced to rubble, while up to 1.3 million children were displaced from their homes. All in all, not exactly the face of victory.
Posted in Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Government, History, Imperialism, Military, Politics, War
Tagged Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, President Trump, Syria, US empire
The hawks want to keep the camel’s nose under the Syria tent indefinitely. You never know when you’re going to want to intervene or stage a regime change. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:
As the Pentagon appears to be moving forward on President Trump’s ordered troop draw down from Syria, administration hawks as well as foreign allies like Israel have one final card to play to hinder a total withdrawal. They argue that some 200 US troops in Syria’s southeast desert along the Iraqi border and its 55-kilometer “deconfliction zone” at al-Tanf are the last line of defense against Iranian expansion in Syria, and therefore must stay indefinitely.
Al Waleed border crossing, known in Syria as al-Tanf, is one of three official border crossings between Syria and Iraq. It’s long been blocked and controlled by US special forces and US-backed local militias.
Despite Trump’s pledge for a “full” and complete American exit, the Tanf base could remain Washington’s last remote outpostdisrupting the strategic Baghdad-Damascus highway and potential key “link” in the Tehran-to-Beirut so-called Shia land bridge. Foreign Policy magazine identifies this as but the latest obstacle to an actual complete withdrawal of US forces:
“Al-Tanf is a critical element in the effort to prevent Iran from establishing a ground line of communications from Iran through Iraq through Syria to southern Lebanon in support of Lebanese Hezbollah,” an unnamed senior US military source told the magazine.
Washington’s initial justification for establishing the remote special operations outpost was to train local fighters to counter ISIS; however, not only has ISIS now been driven almost completely underground but Russia has accused US forces at al-Tanf of actually allowing ISIS terrorists to maintain a presence in the area in order to put pressure on Damascus.
Syria may not have to, and may not, sit still for Israel’s bombs any longer. From Elijah J. Magnier at ejmagnier.com:
Israel has attacked Syria many times during the last seven years of war imposed on Syria. It has run red-lights and broken taboos in order to provoke the “Axis of the Resistance” inside Syria, but has refrained from infuriating Hezbollah in Lebanon. Nevertheless, the most recent Israeli attack has pushed Syria and its allies beyond tolerable limits. Thus, President Assad prepared himself for a battle against Israel between the wars, knowing that such a battle could last weeks. But the president of Syria won’t be alone: Assad and Hezbollah’s Secretary general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah will both be running any future battle against any Israeli aggression when the decision to engage will be taken.
Most recently Israel bombed the Syrian army and destroyed the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) offices and bases in Syria without inflicting any human casualties. At the same time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put himself on the level of IRGC-Quds brigade General Qassem Soleimani, by challenging him on social media. In fact, Netanyahu fell right into the trap the Iranian general set for President Donald Trump.
Posted in Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Governments, History, Military, Politics, War
Tagged Bashar al-Assad, Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Israel, Russia, Syria
There are plenty of good reasons for the US to exit Syria immediately, and no good reasons to stay. From Jacob Hornberger at fff.org:
n December, President Trump announced that he was finally ordering an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Syria. Almost immediately, under pressure from the interventionist crowd, including the national-security branch of the U.S. government, Trump reversed course and announced that he intended to delay the pullout by another four months. Today, it’s not clear that he even intends to abide by that deadline.
Meanwhile, while Trump dawdled with the withdrawal, four more Americans were killed in a suicide-bombing attack carried out by ISIS in Syria. They included two U.S. soldiers, a former U.S. soldier serving as a contractor, and an interpreter. Three other Americans were wounded in the attack.
What did those Americans die for? Nothing. All four died for nothing.
They died for nothing because the U.S. government has no business being in Syria. It never has had any business being in Syria. Those 2,000 U.S. troops don’t belong in Syria. Those four Americans deserve to be alive today. So do all other Americans who are killed in Syria the longer that Trump delays the pullout of all U.S. troops from the country.
Interventionists, not surprisingly, are saying that the ISIS attack instead shows that Trump needs to keep U.S. troops in Syria. They’re saying that the attack shows that ISIS hasn’t really been “defeated,” as Trump claimed when he was justifying his original withdrawal order.
The dead cannot be betrayed. Exiting a pointless war does no dishonor to those who died in it, and prevents their living comrades from being killed. From Maj. Danny Sjursen at antiwar.com:
Recent attacks on the U.S. military in Syria should not, in themselves, determine national strategy. Unfortunately, hawks in Washington will use American deaths to justify perpetual war.
I’m just old enough to remember a time – before 9/11 – when the death of a US soldier in combat was an exceptionally rare thing. Indeed, its hard not to look back fondly on those days of relative peace. Since then, nearly 7000 Americans – and perhaps half a million local civilians – have been killed in the wars for the Greater Middle East. Most of our fallen troopers, and all of the indigenous victims, are essentially nameless, faceless, forgotten. Sure, Americans “thank” their veterans, and display diligent adulation rituals at weekly sporting events, but most military casualties receive only a passing reference on the nightly news. War is the new normal after all, a standard fact of modern American life that’s far less interesting – and less lucrative – than reporting on the latest soap-opera-drama in the White House.
That’s why the detailed media attention on the latest bombing in Syria, which killed four Americans, is so notable. And strange. So why the sudden interest in individual troop deaths after 17+ years of aimless war? The answer, as is so often the case these days, is simple: Donald Trump. Last week’s fatal attack, and another attempted bombing this Monday, happened to occur on the heels of the president’s controversial announcement of a total troop withdrawal from Syria. Make no mistake: that’s the only reason these tragic deaths happen to matter to the mainstream media outlets and a slew of suddenly interested congressmen.
Before the families of the fallen were even notified, and prior to the release of the service-members’ names, a cacophony of voices flooded the big three TV news outlets to express concern and shamelessly use these deaths to attack the president. Their argument: ISIS attack us so now we have to stay put in Syria. Hawkish legislators – Dems and Republicans alike – claimed to know exactly what the latest attacks portend. Their conclusion, which is always their conclusion, was simple: more war, perpetual military intervention. It seems nearly every Beltway insider, media talking head, semi-retired general, and hawkish congressman immediately came to the same conclusion – that ISIS isn’t defeated and only prolonged U.S. military occupation can get the job done.
Posted in Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Government, History, Imperialism, Military, Politics, War
Tagged ISIS, Neocons, President Trump, Syria, Syrian withdrawal