RANGER AGAINST WAR: Being John Kerry <

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Being John Kerry

  I've been very lonely in my isolated tower 
of indecipherable speech
 --Being John Malkovich (1999) 

Show me the Money! 
--Jerry McGuire (1996) 

The best is yet to come 
And babe won't it be fine 
The best is yet to come 
Come the day your mine 
--The Best is Yet to Come,
Frank Sinatra

[NOTE: Robert Fisk addresses this well in his 7 Mar 13 piece, Which Rebels Should We Support?]

It is hard for Ranger to formulate a clear understanding of the Syrian revolt and the rules for supporting or not supporting such events.

Why would the United States support any revolution?  Why did we rearrange the societies of Iraq and Afghanistan, and what was the result?

In Afghanistan, the Taliban is supported by Saudi Sunni sectarians. Initially, the U.S. invasion pitted the Northern Alliance (NA) against the Sunni alliance.  The NA were and are allied with the Iranian "bad guys". So who are the good guys in Afghanistan?  If the Afghan government and its forces are the good guys, then the definition of "good" and "bad" must be a fungible construct.

In Iraq we imposed a tyranny of democracy on a country which imposes a Shiite, American-backed majority -- one which marginalized the Sunnis. (As for the Kurds, not much can be said other than they are the Kurds.) The present government of Iraq is largely Shiite; Iran is a Shia power -- so who benefited from the Afghani and Iraq shake-ups?

The Syrian government is supported by the Hizbollah, associated with the Iranian Shiites.  So is our current policy in Syria simply a slap at Iran?  If so are we now allied with the Sunni forces that we once fought in Afghanistan and Iraq?

If Syria is overthrown, to whom will the power transfer?  A Syrian government defeat will be a Sunni victory, no?  If Syria falls, who will benefit?

Why does the U.S. support the anti-Sunnis in Afghanistan and Iraq, while supporting the Sunnis in Syria?  The entire Middle East - Southwest Asia gambit eludes Ranger; what is America hoping to gain by throwing in our chips with the Syrian opposition?

Jihadists in Libya and Syria got their combat experience fighting U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq.  They are the Islamic equivalent of the Lincoln Brigade of the War on Terror; they are mercenary insurrectionists. In Iraq and Afghanistan they were trying to protect the existing order; now, they are trying to overthrow the existing order.

Where do their loyalties lie and who pays them?  There are linkages to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Bahrain. Why do Americans arrogantly presume all rebels are looking for a freedom day like that of 1776?

Ranger is hoping someone of a higher pay grade can clarify his thinking here.

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Blogger FDChief said...

Well, I think the idea is that w're doing what Great Powers have always done; finding proxies and funding them.

My issue is that we have no real dog in this fight; neither one is likely to be a "good" proxy. Wait until one of the dogs is dead and then feed the winner. How fucking hard is that to figure out?

Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 6:25:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

Uhm, actually, the Taliban are a Pashtun phenomenon, not a Sunni phenomenon. The Pashtun are an ethnicity, not a religion, and one reason why Pakistan placates the Taliban is for fear that their western hinterlands, which are predominantly Pashtun, will revolt and attempt to join with their Pashtun brethren in Afghanistan into a Greater Pashtunistan. Note that the modern-day boundaries of Afghanistan and Pakistan were set by the Great Powers with no regard for ethicity of the peoples they were dividing up.

Regarding the Northern Alliance, they are primarily Turkik. Oddly enough, given the fact that their most fearsome leader was a thorn in the side of the Soviets, their biggest supporter before we came on the scene was the Russians, whose hatred of Muslim fundamentalists makes the Israelis look almost tolerant. The deal being that the Northern Alliance was NOT a bunch of Muslim fundamentalist nutcases like the Taliban, and the Russians preferred to have the Taliban fighting the Northern Alliance rather than exporting jihad to Chechnya once again.

The Iranians do support the *third* major ethnic group in Afghanistan, the Hazara, who are descended from 13th century Persian/Mongol conquerors. They also happen to be the only Shia in Afghanistan -- the Turkik peoples (Northern Alliance) and the Pashtun are both Sunni.

The reality is that none of these groups are really a very good proxy. The Pashtun are too dominated by the Taliban, which the Pakistani intelligence services built up in order to keep the Pashtun ignorant and not a threat to Pakistan (that whole Greater Pashtunistan problem, remember?). The Northern Alliance have a *lot* of former-Soviet-bloc influence and are too closely aligned with their brethren across the border in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan to be reliable proxies. The Hazara... well, the Iranians have their fingers too deep in that pie. Of the three major groupings, the Northern Alliance is the least offensive, but the Turkik minority is never going to be able to rule the Pashtun majority. Just won't work. Which means somehow coming to an accomodation with the Taliban... yeah, good luck with that, given the influence the neo-cons still have on U.S. foreign policy. Sigh.

Friday, March 8, 2013 at 3:03:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Bad tux,
As always thanks for writing.
I roger your transmission, but can you tie the Afgh thing to Irq and Libya/Egypt and Syria.
I'm really struggling to find a thread that binds our policy in that AO.
I'm unable to do so as it all seems so contradictory.

Friday, March 8, 2013 at 10:51:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

Ranger, I'm in the same boat as you on that last one. Our policy in that region appears to be bereft of any semblance of intellectual coherency. It's the kind of policy you get when you substitute emotional political slogans like "Freedom! Democracy!" in place of actual rigorous analysis of national interests in the region and application of that analysis to the situation on the ground.

Frankly, there are no national interests left to uphold in Afghanistan. All our presence does is inflame tensions with Pakistan (which, remember, created and funded the Taliban before we declared the Taliban persona non grata) and Iran (which, seeing our presence on their border and the seeming senselessness of that presence, thinks it's part of the prep for an invasion of Iran).

In short, even when you do know the full geopolitical picture, nothing we're doing over there makes sense.

Friday, March 8, 2013 at 11:23:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Deryle said...

Ranger, Chief, Tux, et al.

While in complete awe of your efforts to make any kinda sense of what our "Warrior Heroes" are doing in the Mid-East, I'm reminded of the old saw that goes something like: " "Insanity is repeating the same action expecting something different to occur"

Afraid all of us might be "old school" on this one.

I can't speak for anyone else, but from reading past comments here, It appears ya'll, operating from a (semi-unbiased) rational thought mode, are thinking that a war should be fought mainly for security and preservation reasons--the bad guys are coming to do harm?
Am in agreement.

Shit, how long has it been since the real security and existence of the US been seriously threatened by exterior forces? WWII?
And when was the last time the US wasn't fucking around some pissant locale propping up a tinhorn dictator for greasing easier access to local resources?
I can't remember it in my lifetime or find it on the google.

So dabbling here in the company of serious men, I have to yield to a higher power.
The Grandmaster Flash put it thusly:
"It's all about money; ain't a damn thing funny.
Gotta have a con in the land of milk and honey.
Don't push me,
I'm on the edge."

Since we all have the experience in common, I'll haul in one closer to the bone, the venerable General Smedley Butler, who, as all of you know, won two--count 'em--
two, Medals of Honor, giving him a little cred in the "He Ought to Know Dept.:
"War is a racket."

Blow expensive shit up, go get some more."

"Let 'em eat cake...or at least collateral cookies"
There it is,

Friday, March 8, 2013 at 12:54:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too have been wondering why we are mucking around in Syria. I was hoping someone here would have a good answer.

Shouldn't our elected representatives be giving us one as they hand out our money to these guys and, probably, sooner or later, our blood as well?

My understanding is that the Syrian Rebels are Islamic fundies with ties to a variety of jihadi org.s. They are exactly the same mentality - perhaps, in some cases, even the very same individuals, that we were fighting in Iraq.

I'm with chief. Let them kill each other off, then decide if whomever is left standing is worth supporting.


Friday, March 8, 2013 at 1:41:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks BadTux, for an excellent summary of the Afghan situation - though I would say the Durand Line was placed where it was precisely because of the ethnicity it divided - it was British SOP to draw border lines across tribal territories like this.

Last summer I was at a conference where T. X. Hammes, author of the very good book The Sling and the Stone, talked about how the first wave of insurgencies in teh 20th century was to rid the indigenes of the colonialists, then the second wave was to determine which tribe or ethnicity was going to rule within each former colonial territory, and now the next wave will be to erase and redraw those old colonial borders to make more sense (at least to the guys with the new pencils).

Very little in Afghanistan made any sense; perhaps the only thing to do is deal with the top dog in the kennel (right now it's Karzai, balancing on a big heap of contenders) and hope that there will continue to be a top dog.

I wonder how concerned they are with keeping the Chinese at this point, considering the large-but-hard-to-extract deposits of minerals and metals sitting under Afghanistan's mountains.

As for Syria, good god why go there at all? Hopefully whoever wins will be able to bring some kind of stability to the area again - but that probably involves even more ethnic/religious cleansing than has been going on for the last year, as Sunni and Shia/Alawite and Christian and Kurd get shoved around and out of the nest....

Friday, March 8, 2013 at 2:39:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Nikolay Levin said...

Well in terms of explaining things, I'm a boot and a POG boot at that.

But if I'm a boot, this guys a flag officer.

Thats his take on Yugoslavia and Iraq/Afghanistan respectively (before it even started). Solid. Careful with the latter as the final part is a loop of the second to last part. Since the U.S. is fighting or trying to fight both types of conflicts at the same time right now its especially pertinent.

As for brtrain. Bingo. "Saudia Arabia of Lithium" anybody?

Link text

Friday, March 8, 2013 at 8:50:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Chief and DP,
DP- i don't agree that the 2nd ww was a just war OR that our security was threatened. Why not give the Japs a sphere of influence?
If the Germans couldn't cross the English channel then how in the hell would they cross the big pond?
Chief, If ww 2 was a valid exercise then why didn't we do as you suggested?
Wait it out and then kick ass on the victor! IMO WE DID NOT WIN that one.
So why did we fight it?
Same question that i have today.

Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 12:19:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Welcome to the dialogue.

Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 12:20:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

Ranger, the two biggest mistakes that the Japanese and Germans made during WW2 was a) Japan bombing Pearl Harbor (and the Philippines), and b) Germany declaring war upon the United States. Without that, there would have been no war, regardless of how war-mongering the FDR administration was, because the majority of the American people wanted nothing to do with war.

FDR certainly antagonized the Japanese with policies designed to punish them with sanctions and such, and antagonized the Germans by sending U.S. destroyers to escort cargo ships bound for Britain which in turn sank some German U-boats (which also sank at least one U.S. destroyer), but none of that amounted to war, it at most amounted to piracy on the high seas and dealing with said piracy (note that the U.S. destroyers turned around at Iceland, they didn't go near the coast of Britain, where it was legal under international law for German submarines to sink anything that approached under the declared blockade). As for Germany *formally* declaring war on the US, it was just senseless -- sure, they were allies on paper, but the reason the Soviets were able to drive the Germans back at Stalingrad after their Western armies had been decimated was that Japan didn't return the favor and declare war on the USSR, which led Stalin to make the gamble of moving the entire Eastern army over the Trans-Siberia Railroad running trains 24/7 over a month, leaving their border with Japan utterly undefended, in order to have the army needed to drive the by-then tired German army back.

But once those two declarations of war were made by Japan and Germany, what else are you going to do, except fight the declared wars until they are finished? Yes, FDR would have loved to be able to make unilateral war like modern Presidents but he couldn't, and didn't. That, in the end, is the big difference between WW2 and the War On A Tactic.

Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 12:52:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Here's a Ranger comment.
Just b/c the Germans declared war DOESN'T MEAN that we are/were required to fight them.
As for the Nippon empire- we pushed them pretty hard. Cornered rats will attack even if it's a bear cornering them.
I find it quite a joke that we whipped Jap ass and then protect them like little babies incapable of defense. We fought Korean war as a defense of Japan.
I admire your strategic over views.
All well said.

Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 1:12:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

Uhm, someone declaring war on you is sorta hard to ignore. Just sayin' ;).

The Japanese decided to go preemptive on us because they figured FDR was going to manufacture a pretext for a declaration of war sooner or later, and the Philippines are right astride the shipping line they needed to move Indonesian oil to Japan once they declared war on the UK (which had taken over administration of Indonesia when the Netherlands fell to Germany). They didn't understand that the Republican caucus of Congress, plus a fair number of the Democratic caucus of Congress, were quite against the U.S. going to war, and furthermore even FDR wasn't that interested in going to war against Japan, he was all hot to fight Germany. The goal of FDR's Japan policy was to placate his liberal caucus that was upset about Japanese atrocities against Chinese civilians, not to fight a war against Japan. Military juntas are sorta funny that way, the part about not understanding how democracy works I mean. But in any event, war against Japan likely would not have happened without the Japanese attack because there simply was no appetite for war against Japan among either the people or Congress or the President himself.

I still don't know why Germany declared war. The German government didn't even have a press conference or anything, they just wired a statement to major news agencies and published it in their government proceedings. It was like an afterthought or something. It was an afterthought that cost them dearly, because it gave FDR the excuse for the war he really *did* want -- the war against Germany.

Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 2:15:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Come on. Give me a break.
What if we just ignored the war> What would Hitler do? Open a frontal assault on Maine?
A nation can refuse to get sucked into a war,but as you noted=WE (POTUS)wanted a Europe war.
Well we got it and we're still not disengaged.

Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 4:44:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

Ranger, you apparently aren't aware of the large amount of U.S. coastal shipping that Hitler's U-boats sunk within weeks of the declaration of war. Even back then the U.S. was reliant upon imports for some critical goods such as rubber (this being before synthetic rubber) and silk (needed for things like parachutes, this being before synthetic nylons). You can't just ignore someone sinking your ships in today's modern interconnected world, or even in 1941's interconnected world. No nation was an island even then -- ships bringing imports in and shipping exports out were a critical requirement of a modern economy even then. The convoy system reduced the losses, but what eventually ended the U-boat war was the invasion of France and the capture of the U-boat pens.

Furthermore, Hitler's declaration of war cut off the very lucrative trade with Europe that had enriched a number of men like, say, Prescott Bush. Those men would look the other way at Hitler's atrocities. But when he hit their pocketbook, well.

There was no appetite for war among the American people on December 7, 1941, and a lot of criticism of actions of FDR that were viewed as provocative and likely to lead to war. It is extremely unlikely that FDR would have been able to coax the American people into war if Japan and Germany hadn't declared war first. That's why I call that declaration of war by Japan and Germany the two stupidest acts of leadership in modern time.

Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 10:56:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Badtux and brtrain:

Thank you for so ably filling in the historical gaps.

Lisa wishes to weigh in here as being steadfastly opposed to Ranger's p.o.v. as voiced here:

Just b/c the Germans declared war DOESN'T MEAN that we are/were required to fight them.

I challenge him:

"Have you found in your personal life that it is possible to mediate and/or effectively walk away from an attack?

Is mediation your chosen method of attack resolution?

Are nations allowed to ignore their charters, which compel a national defense in the case of declared State attack?"

Inquiring minds want to know ...

Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 11:07:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Nikolay Levin said...

My last comment didn't post but since I'm not in the mood to recover it, I'll give a summary a last shot.

My view of World War II is not as interesting as everyone elses. IMHO, the evidence points to a consensus that the town wasn't big enough for the handful of major imperialist powers at the time. So, the war was all about settling who was going to be top dog, with an emphasis on knocking out the Soviet Union.

With a few exceptions kind of unlike World War I.

Funcitons of Fascism- Dr. Micheal Parenti

Real Causes of World II-Dr. Micheal Parenti

Real Causes of World War II-Dr. Micheal Parenti

Yes, I'm referencing that crazy Italian guy again. But I challenge anyone to discredit his reasoning. Its as fascinating as it is horrifying.

Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 3:08:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Bad tux,
Is your historical memory in chrono order.
I'm aware of the sub opns off our coast , but wasn't that after the declaration of war.? When did the Atlantic blackout start?
If we were truly nuetral would the uboats roam our shores for US targets? Then like now you can't have it both ways.
Isn't history full of examples of defensive warfare?.
I accept your viewpoint, but the question arises -why did the US in ww1 and 2 even want to get involved in colonial squabbles?
How did we get a dog in the fight, and for what benefit.?
Quit being a lazy commie and rewrite your comments. Is this why communism doesn't work?

Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 10:52:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Nikolay Levin said...

You're right of course. Communists can indeed be lazy. So I'll offer an anarchist.

Arthur Silber can be vulgar and sometimes too cynical but this NYU-educated lawyer turned "sovereign citizen" wrote the great essay series Dominion of The World. It explains quite a lot about the empire-building business this country unfortunately embarked upon since at least the turn of the nineteenth century(barring any Manifest Destiny beforehand of course). Since the dictatorial Wilson Administration though, the powers that be have made world domination ideological, all-encompassing. When people refer to the "Neo-Conservative" school of thought they forget that its rather the Post-Wilsonian. This man, who jailed Socialist and Conservative alike in his almost zealous interventionalist campaign was the foundation of our ruling classes vision abroad and since. Infact, his tyrannical laws are still used today. The essays are numerous and he throws a lot of books at you but it all does come together.

Of course it can be material too. 1:08:08 to 1:11:16 of this clip is the pertinent words of Senator Tom Watson who saw it like it was even back then.

But Deryle "wins the internets" as the kids say. Major General Smedley Butler knew it all because he spent blood, sweat and tears to make it all. His accomplished career was put to an unceremonious end when he criticized Mussolini. President Hoover demanded that he apologize, when he resisted he was passed over for a shoe-in for Marine Commandant. A much greener and inexperienced general was put in his place. Having connected everything that he ever experienced since that point he published War is a Racket which should be read in full.

A pertinent quote is, "I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents."

There it is.

Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 4:50:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


You have redeemed Communists everywhere -- you have a sense of humor ("there it is"):)

Thanks for sharing the breadth of your knowledge with us, and Deryle does win the internets on this one.

Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 5:22:00 PM GMT-5  

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