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Belmont Club

Never Answer the Phone

February 24th, 2013 - 4:41 pm

Long before Barack Obama made the phrase “a false choice” one of his empty cliches, Winston Churchill memorably illustrated what it meant. Referring to Chamberlain after he returned from meeting with Hitler in Munich, Churchill said: “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.”

A false choice is thinking there’s a difference. But not everyone is confused. President Karzai of Afghanistan has probably figured out whose side he has to come down on. Bill Roggio and Bill Ardolino report:

President Hamid Karzai has ordered the Ministry of Defense to eject all “US Special Forces” from the key eastern province of Wardak after accusing the American troops or their local Afghan security partners of committing war crimes. Karzai’s order is an ominous development for future US and NATO plans, which are expected to rely heavily on special operations forces to take on a greater role as the bulk of conventional forces are withdrawn from Afghanistan.

For him it’s no false choice. Just a choice that’s now easy to make. One commenter at the Long War Journal site wrote: “There are times when I wonder if Karzai is either actively trying to lose or hoping that his outspoken criticisms of American policy will allow him to escape Najibullah’s fate in the event of a Taliban victory.”

Walter Russell Mead notes that Barack Obama has managed to lose Syria despite holding all the aces. He did this by thinking he was making choices but really choosing to do nothing. Mead ends with a quote that comes from the Economist but which might have been penned by Churchill writing to Chamberlain: “As the Economist notes darkly, ‘Mr Obama wanted to avoid Syria, but Syria will come and get him.’”

President Obama had an opportunity to intervene in Syria before it spiralled so far out of control. Indeed, that was precisely what a number of his top military and political advisors urged the President to do: arm the moderate rebels and work with allies to boot out Assad.

Now, however, Syria is in a much more complex position. And America’s interests are threatened. The best-equipped and most determined fighters who have risen to become Assad’s most dangerous enemies are not America’s friends; moderate rebels are few and weak. Israel has been drawn unwillingly into the war, protecting itself by preventing Hezbollah from seizing powerful weapons.

Dang those false choices. They’re like controls on a play airplane. All the levers seem work and the lights blink, but underneath the control panel the levers are connected to nothing.

Thus the Syrian crisis growswith each passing effort by Obama to contain it. Those efforts are getting increasingly pathetic. Fox News reports that Secretary Kerry, fresh the triumph of getting the Russian Foreign Minister to return his call, is now working on a new project: convincing the Syrian rebel coalition to meet with him.

Secretary of State John Kerry winged his way across the Atlantic on the first leg of his first overseas trip as America’s top diplomat, his aides were scrambling on several continents to salvage one of the trip’s most critical and eagerly-awaited sessions. …

Over the weekend, however, the Syrian Opposition Council — the main umbrella group for the broad array of rebel politicians, clerics and soldiers, many of them Islamists with ties to al-Qaeda and other unsavory networks — announced it was boycotting the session with Kerry in Rome …The Syrians complained that the United States — which has blacklisted al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda-linked group that has emerged as one of the most effective combat brigades in the battle against Assad’s military — has not been even-handed enough in its treatment of the rebels.

Maybe the rebels, like Karzai, have figured out who the Strong Horse is and who the Wrong Horse has become.  So they make a real choice while the administration wrestles with the false ones.

Paul Berman at the New Republic has written perplexedly of the consequences of “leading from behind”. He notes that the “Arab Spring” has taken many twists and turns. It started with a liberal impetus, was captured by the Islamists and has turned against the Islamists in many parts of the region. It’s still evolving. And the administration is always backing the current trend but one.

The Arab Spring’s Phase Three has nonetheless arrived. Phase Three adds up to a series of mass protests and revolts and even wars against Islamists of every stripe—against the mainstream Islamists in Egypt, against the moderates in Tunisia, and against the radicals in Mali. The people want to topple the Islamists!—a significant number of people, anyway. Events have by-passed the experts. Islamism, even in its mainstream and moderate versions, turns out to be less democratic than advertised; and the demos, less Islamist….

The entire development ought to make us wonder about a couple of aspects of American policy. In the years after the Second World War, the United States constructed all kinds of international institutions to cope with the new circumstances, military and otherwise. But here we are nearly a dozen years after 9/11, and the level of military coordination among the anti-terrorist allies is such that, somehow or another, France felt it necessary to venture into Mali alone.

Berman need not worry. Obama may swerve again with the alacrity of a drunk racing on a icy road.  Swerving is a feature because the Administration’s policy is constructed from talking points; from cafe gotchas.

Afghanistan was the “war of necessity” because it was not Iraq. The war in Afghanistan is over because Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive. The Arab Spring was good because CNN was covering it. Syria was good at first because CNN was covering it. Then it became bad when the Libyan consulate was overrun by a mob infuriated by a video produced in LA. Now Kerry is trying to get back in the good graces of the Syrian rebels — long after he has lost leverage to al-Qaeda, who seem to be in Mali reports of their demise notwithstanding.

Smart ad-hocracy.

Who knows but Obama may take the New Republic’s advice to re-engage in Syria. Yet if they do it will not be for any reasons of principle, but because the Berman’s article has made it into the new talking points. The Journo-list is peddling it. And the administration is entirely driven by fashion.  One minute they are warning the Chinese not to steal secrets, the next the justice department is quashing investigations into the Chinese theft of weapons technology from NASA.

The administration is so busy avoiding all kinds of “false choices” that it has completely forgotten what the original question was. They exist in a stream of consciousness ungoverned by strategy, without the awareness of long term interest or even of eventual consequences. It’s just long conversation that goes something like this.

‘What was at stake in Syria again? Oh yeah and about those Iranian nuclear weapons, they still there? Now what should I say about those North Korean warnings? Brennan where is that drone list! Is Hezbollah really getting chemical weapons? Tell Netanyahu I’ll be right back. Mali is so yesterday? Will a speech do? The Saharan region, where is that? Yes I remember now. And what did you say, we have to leave Afghanistan by when? Tell Kerry to call Karzai. What do you mean he’s not returning the call? Ship the men out, get Chris Matthews to jitter on camera. What do you mean we can’t ship out direct by the sea. I thought there was a port in Kabul? Why does nobody tell me these things? Well how much do we have to pay the Pakistanis. Blame it on Boehner. The convoys will pass near where Osama bin Laden was found?  800 yards from the Pakistani Military Academy? That close? They have a military academy? You learn something every day. Hey did you see what Paul Berman wrote? I’ll call you back later, I have a game with Tiger Woods.’

It’s tough when you’ve lost all long term memory.  And by the way, never answer the phone.

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All Comments   (43)
All Comments   (43)
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If Hamid Karzai wants to survive, he will lead from the front and share in the hardships of his troops. If Hamid Karzai wants to survive, he will get out the way of anti-Taliban elements with a vendetta against the Taliban. If Hamid Karzai wants to survive, he will create his own private militia, for the “National Army” is a house of cards just like ARVN.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm trying to see how this works.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
About the Iran-Iraq war, Henry Kissinger coldly said, "Too bad they can't both lose." By that standard, Obama seems to be doing pretty well.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I've been using BobNormal as a stage name/persona for about 25 years so it's pretty sucky that PJ would basically Eat my name, but I still get to read Walt, Subotai, Wretchard BFTP M Hoskins and many others, Marie!:) so I'll put up with it.
As to the OP, This is absolutely deliberate on Obummers part, you just can't be this incompetent can you?
Formerly Bobnormal
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I love this place.
It's like a combination train wreck, bar room brawl and a Socratic dialogue.
I usually spend an hour or two here, then trip over to the Huffington Post and bait the liberals for dessert.
It's a gas.
Like dropping firecrackers into ant beds.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I've got it;
A Socratic dialogue in the Club Car and a fight breaks out as the train jumps the trestle.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Regarding the French tire company, about to be closed: Funny how "defending their dignity" means working 3 hours while getting paid for 8 each day, plus 5 weeks paid vacation.

So if this is such a good deal, Why is the French government begging outsiders to run it? Why don't they run it themselves?

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
except that's mere lie, rooting from the old clichés for french bashing

http://www.slate.fr/story/68599/maurice-taylor-goodyear-montebourg-americains-francais

The French average week working hours are higher than in Germany (where 7 million workers are under Hartz IV program (2O hours/week paid €4OO per month)

Goldman &Sachs recommanded France to lower its workers wages by 30%, the funny thing is that this percentage corresponds to the DM/eeuro that is harming our enterprises

http://www.leparisien.fr/economie/goldman-sachs-conseille-a-la-france-de-baisser-les-salaires-de-30-30-01-2013-2525317.php

the Guy, Taylor had no intention to buy the enterprise, but to delocate the business to China, since each years more tires are imported from China for good reasons (even in the US)

http://www.perdre-la-raison.com/2013/02/goodyear-syndicats.html?spref=fb

(scroll down until the chart)

The French aren't begging anything, it's Titan that wanted to get the Goodyear enterprise since almost 5 years, but at its conditions. You don't understand GLOBALISATION, the Sharks try to buy enterprises to close them down so that their sharholders maintain their high benefits.

Of course, France has no say in the a cheated trade, it's deregulated, and besides the EU rules forbid the state to buy back such enterprises whereas already foreign assets are implied
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Calculations by analysts at Morgan Stanley, published this week, put the fair value of the euro for Germany, if it were standing alone, at $1.53. For France, it is $1.23. The euro is significantly undervalued for the German economy and overvalued for the French."

http://articles.marketwatch.com/2013-02-09/commentary/37005660_1_internal-devaluation-euro-strength-french-government
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"formerly Walt" seems not to confuse our masters. How about just "formerly Eggplant"? Or "formerly Josh"?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It is interesting that someone swoop in and snatched up all the names of the regular commenters at Belmont Club.

Hint to Pjmedia: Track down the IP number of who that "someone" is. If it's just a random nobody then it's no big thing. However, if the IP number tracks to the New York Times then we've learned something interesting.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Good idea! Done!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
[I was previously known as "Eggplant"]
It's almost amusing watching the Fed and Wall Street criminals trying to prop up the DJIA past 14,000. You can almost smell the desperation. The Fed is currently printing money at a rate of $85 billion/month to keep this corpse of a economy alive. As the Fed hoses money onto the markets, George Soros types are pulling it off. It's like Al Capone versus Billy the Kid.

Who is going to win in the end? I know who is going to lose.... People like me.

Folks in the aerospace industry are running around in circles wondering what's going to happen after the sequester hits (happens on Friday). Since criminals run the political and economic system, it's an obvious assumption that an honest approach will not happen concerning the sequester. At one point I was assuming mass layoffs. However it occurs to me that there is no way the criminals would sanction mass layoffs because that one bump up the unemployment statistics (which are rigged anyway) and require payment of unemployment benefits. A "better" approach are furloughs where we are still employed but getting paid less. The unemployment statistics don't need to be doctored and the unemployment insurance funds gets tapped less.

They'll slowly bleed us white. In the beginning it will be one day out of two weeks that we do not work (10% pay cut). Then we're forced to take off every Friday (3 day weekends, hurray!) and it's a 20% pay cut. My line-in-the-sand is when they take away the medical benefits. It occurs to me that they could take away medical benefits in their usual foxy dishonest way through Obamacare.

Bend over and kiss your rear end goodbye. We can't even vote the bad guys out of office. The demagogues will always promise the sheep more free stuff. Who is paying for the free stuff? Right now, I am but in a year, I'll be unemployed, wearing a wooly outfit and going "baa".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
it's the same in EUrope

haven't you heard of Taylor diatribe against the french workers, who were defending their dignity, contrary to what Taylor said, they weren't the "lazy" stocks, just the trapped guis in Global bets

‘This unfurling of hatred targeted at the French Worker recalls, word for word, the diatribes of the pro-Nazi press in 1939’ Jean François Kahn, (I guess he knows of what he talks as a journalist and a Jew

http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2013/02/22/le-tweet-de-jean-francois-anti-france_n_2740818.html?utm_hp_ref=france

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I agree; I refuse to get a Farcebook account just to speed up the sign-in process. And I detest the new commenting format (word limits, reporting comments, etc.)-- it really has dumbed down the comments. Moreover, it does not appear as if "brave, brave Sir Aaron" has yet deigned to explain his high-handed revision of the site to us peasants.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I started with the new sign-in process yesterday. I do not like it. How do I edit comments after I post them? Also, I lost my name (Eggplant) which I had been using for years. I guess I should be flattered that someone liked my name so much that they nabbed it. Also like PA Cat, I refuse to get a Farcebook account.

By the way, your cat looks similar to my old Australian cat. My cat had a pure gray face (nose was not white) but did have a white bib like yours. He was a wonderful cat.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I agree; I refuse to get a Farcebook account just to speed up the sign-in process. And I detest the new commenting format (word limits, reporting comments, etc.)-- it really has dumbed down the comments. Moreover, it does not appear as if "brave, brave Sir Aaron" has yet deigned to explain his high-handed revision of the site to us peasants.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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