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Belmont Club

The Long Game

March 24th, 2013 - 7:17 pm

Liz Sly at the Washington Post says “Syria’s opposition coalition was on the verge of collapse Sunday after its president resigned and rebel fighters rejected its choice to head an interim government, leaving a U.S.-backed effort to forge a united front against President Bashar al-Assad in tatters.”

“The coalition is on verge of disintegrating,” he said. “It’s a big mess.”

The trigger for Khatib’s departure was the selection last week of Ghassan Hitto, a relatively unknown Syrian-born U.S. citizen, to head a proposed interim government. Khatib and his supporters had opposed the creation of an interim government at this time, as had the United States, whose diplomats argued against the move on the grounds that it created an unnecessarily divisive distraction from the goal of bringing down Assad’s regime, according to Syrian opposition members.

“I am personally sorry to see him go because I like him on a personal level,” Kerry told reporters on a trip to Baghdad on Sunday. Kerry is in Iraq asking Maliki to put a stop to arms shipments to Syria. The Wall Street Journal writes:

The strategic cost of President Obama’s election-driven total withdrawal from Iraq is now becoming clearer. On Sunday Secretary of State John Kerry was reduced to pleading with Iraqi officials to search Iranian flights that fly over Iraq on their way to arming Bashar Assad’s Syrian government.

With private entreaties doing no good, Mr. Kerry took his complaints public on Sunday on a visit to Baghdad, telling reporters that Iraq’s failure even to search Iran’s overflights leaves the American people “wondering how it is a partner.” Too bad Mr. Obama didn’t think about that in 2011 when he could have struck a deal to station 10,000 or so U.S. troops in Iraq for the long haul, which would have sealed the kind of partnership Mr. Kerry now wants.

Mr. Kerry’s predecessor, Hillary Clinton, thought she had secured a Baghdad pledge last year to search Iran’s flights, but U.S. officials say Iraq has searched only two of what have become almost daily trips to Damascus. Mr. Kerry implies that this is an Iraq betrayal, but with the U.S. seen as wanting to withdraw from the region and Iran able to stir up plenty of political trouble inside Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has little incentive to take a risk for U.S. interests.

On to Plan C, whatever that is.

One might think that the administration’s policy in the region was headed for disaster. But that is not the assessment of Mark Mardell of the BBC, who, reflecting on President Obama’s recent trip to the region wrote: “Obama plays a Long Game in the Middle East”.

Mr Obama has huge faith in the power of his own words. That is not said in simple mockery, but sometimes he seems to be happier as a prophet than as politician.

One of his favourite quotes, from civil rights legend Martin Luther King Jr, is: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The New York Times also gave President high marks for advancing the Palestinian Peace Process. “Obama was so effective in lobbying for peace that he has managed to raise expectations sky high that he’s actually going to do something about it,” said Martin S. Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel. “After all, if he really believes peace is possible, then as president of the United States he surely has to do something about it.”

They believe the President is good at what he does. But the unasked question is whether Obama is even addressing the right problem. It is the conventional wisdom among many pundits to assume that the Arab-Israeli conflict is at the heart of the unrest in the Middle East. Solve that and you cut the Gordian knot of war and peace in the region.

But others believe that the Middle East has endemic minority problem. The Shia fight Sunni in various combinations. And in between the Kurds, Druze, Maronites, Copts, Alawites and whatever else have you make their shifting alliances to survive. In this world the Jews are nothing special; simply another minority trying to survive in a tribal world.

If that view is correct, then solving the Palestinian conflict solves nothing. Even if Israel were to disappear into the sea tomorrow the conflict in Syria wouldn’t skip a beat.  Why should it?

To give them their due the CIA knows it. The LA Times reports that the agency has “stepped up secret contingency planning to protect the United States and its allies as the turmoil expands in Syria, including collecting intelligence on Islamic extremists for the first time for possible lethal drone strikes, according to current and former U.S. officials.” It is a sad commentary on human nature that the targeted assassination business looks to boom over the next decade. If Will Durant were alive today he might be moved to remark, “only the dead have seen the end of drones.”

Perhaps nothing in the region has changed in a millennium other than that you can read about “secret contingency planning” in the LA Times and the fact that the neighborhood is about to go nuclear. If Barack Obama is indeed a prophet, the setting is at least Biblical in scale.


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Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With C.I.A. Aid -- NY Times

The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows. It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.

As it evolved, the airlift correlated with shifts in the war within Syria, as rebels drove Syria’s army from territory by the middle of last year. And even as the Obama administration has publicly refused to give more than “nonlethal” aid to the rebels, the involvement of the C.I.A. in the arms shipments — albeit mostly in a consultative role, American officials say — has shown that the United States is more willing to help its Arab allies support the lethal side of the civil war.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/world/middleeast/arms-airlift-to-syrian-rebels-expands-with-cia-aid.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

So -- the Obama administration has been lying through its teeth. Why couldn't it have just told the truth? What was so hard about saying: we're gonna do Assad because we've decided to.

For one thing, people might have gotten the idea it was war. You know the activity that used to be authorized by Congress. Not leading from behind; not responsibility to protect; not kinetic military action but w.a.r.

But there ain't no more war in the Age of Aquarius. As per another NYT article the President is good at negotiation. He plays, says the BBC, the "long game". Nothing so crude as armed conflict exists any more. Except that it does.

The current world crisis is fundamentally a crisis of information. We are drowning in lies. If had the decency to tell the truth, even to ourselves, then we could prepare for consequences. But no. That would be too crude. We lie, especially to our friends. And to keep up appearances we make no preparations. We laugh everything off. What could go wrong?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In the Bible, 1000 years B.C.
There's a story of ancient history
'Bout a fella who was strong as he could be
'Til he met a cheatin' gal who brought him tragedy

Run Barack run, 'cause Hillary's on her way
Run Barack run, you ain't got time to stay
Run Barack run, on your mark you better start
I'd sooner trust Hezbollah than the gal from the State Depart
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (34)
All Comments   (34)
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I made the mistake of going over to ZeroHedge....there is a reported sourced out of Reuters that the Cypriot main bank had branch offices in countries like Latvia. It turns out those branches were not shut down, had no limits on withdrawals and it looks like the Russians have been using them to withdraw money during the shut down of the Cyprus banks. In other words the Russian money is gone and the deposits of the middle and small fry are going to get the haircut....to the bone.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

grrr
The USA is striving for stability except when dollar is devalued with printing press in an overdrive but there is an imperative to keep it as reserve currency everyone is going to fly to for safety.
............
It looks like the dollar on a long term scale is base building. On a short term scale the dollar has been rising for the last month or two.
http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/DXY:IND
(Besides the US oil production putting a floor under the dollar, congressional fiscal restraint and perhaps even the impending death of Obamacare--plus the relative insecurity of other currencies may be behind the dollar's base building.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Right. And "the relative insecurity of other currencies" could be easily enhanced by some chaos in the regions these "other currencies" are sensitive to.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

Blast From the Past
Many of the traditional disputes between organized nations which have simmered over the last 65 years are strangely quiet for the moment.
...........
I think you have hit it. The question is why? (imho the reason is that the same technolgy that brings us close --also makes next door neighbors a continent away. Even people waiting in line for a movie are on their iphones or galaxies talking to people next door, in the next state or the next county. Personal relative distances are all out of wack.) That's just my opinion. Could be something else. Like all the presuppositions of the last 40 years based on oil are being rejiggered because of fracking. Or it could be that the Japanese just figured out how to mine rare earths and methane hydrate from the sea. Or it could be that new technologies are making people interested in other things than war.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Many of the traditional disputes between organized nations which have simmered over the last 65 years are strangely quiet for the moment."

It's the lull before the storm. Repeat after me:

"Bernanke is printing money at a rate of $85 billion/month"

As long as Bernanke is printing money, all talk about a recovery or economic stability is MSM lies. The noise about fracking, etc. is simply part of the MSM's deceptive narrative.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
at a rate of $85 billion/month"

As long as Bernanke is printing money, all talk about a recovery or economic stability is MSM lies. The noise about fracking, etc. is simply part of the MSM's deceptive narrative.
..................
If this were true then gold should be spiking higher and the dollar should be falling lower. But that's not the case. Gold peaked two years ago and is trending lower.
http://www.kitco.com/charts/popup/au1825nyb.html
The dollar has been going roughly sideways since 2009
http://www.barchart.com/chart.php?sym=$DXY&t=BAR&size=M&v=0&g=1&p=WO&d=X&qb=1&style=technical&template=

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Charles42 said,
"f this were true then gold should be spiking higher and the dollar should be falling lower."

It is true, refer to:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-20/fed-keeps-85-billion-pace-of-bond-buying-as-job-market-improves.html

Welcome to the new reality.

The US$, Euro and Yen are engaged in a race to the bottom through currency debasement via money printing. Likewise, the price of gold is now fully manipulated through the purchase and short selling of paper gold ETF funds like GLD by the Fed and ECB. Since March 2009, market forces have been superseded by government central planning. If the Fed stopped Quantitative Easing (the $85 billion/month), then the stock markets would rapidly collapse. The world markets went into cardiac arrest in September 2008 and have been on a heart-lung machine since that time.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yes, you're right that the fed is printing money to the tune the $85 billion/month.

However, if you were right about the effect of world wide central bank easing --then say, a country/currency outside the system-- the russian ruble -- should be rising against the dollar. But once again that is not the case. For the last five years this currency has been tracking sideways.
http://www.advfn.com/p.php?pid=qkchart&symbol=FX^USDRUB

I don't disagree with you that fed money printing may be helping prop up the US stock market. However, I would also say that fracking has created an extra 50-100 trillion dollars worth oil US oil reserves that backstop the dollar. If you follow the oil story you'll know that one or two oil enormous oil fields--bigger than eagle ford and bakken combined-- that will come onstream here in the next 18 months. This stuff has real world consequences. Just as the OPEC oil embargoes of 1973 and 1979 had real world consequences.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The USA is striving for stability except when dollar is devalued with printing press in an overdrive but there is an imperative to keep it as reserve currency everyone is going to fly to for safety.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And some chaos in the ME, or even a small inconclusive war (between Iran and Turkey for local hegemony, for example) would serve this goal nicely.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So I'm reading that a Russian economic Pobah is saying that Russia won't play the gas card on Europe this next winter. It works on small markets but historically is counter productive on large ones because they have enough money to find alternative sources of energy. He further states that all Russia has to do is wait. Wait until Western Europe destroys it's currency and Russia can buy it, cheap. His prediction that the ruble will become the currency of Cyprus before it is all over and Russia will have oil fields and a port in the Med for just keeping their bank open on the Island.
It seems that various Russian movers and shakers are moving away from the conspiracy theory that Obama is deliberately making things worse in the world and that he really is a "geopolitical idiot."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I don't doubt that in the next couple of months the Eurozone is going to be in deep kimchee and on clearance sale. However, it crossed my mind that if Vladimir Vladimirovich intended to leave Western Europe cold and shivering next winter; denying it now would be in his best interest. Yes, large economies can afford to seek alternative energy sources; but not easily or cheaply in the short run under pressure of the local variants of Sciurus vulgaris freezing their collective nuts. And as noted, by next winter they may not be a large economy.

Subotai Bahadur
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Perhaps there is a real fear abroad that we are that close to a breakdown. Back when the US had a large design margin, the power blocs could play at chaos because they knew, deep down, that Uncle Sam would right the ship. That the Man could square the account.

But perhaps for the first time in 70 years they sense that nobody is home, like a child who senses that something is wrong. Dad's not answering the knock on the door.

And this makes them cautious. Perhaps daddy's only asleep. Or maybe he's on the phone on an important call. But there's a strange noise coming from inside, as if Dad were talking to himself and it's all too weird ...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Agree if your point is that Obama's real father is Frank Marshall Davis. And most of the democrat agenda is built on fantasy and lies.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The "system" is probably mortally wounded but has enormous inertia. It could stumble around like a decapitated zombie for another 20 years or implode suddenly a week from now. One can play Cassandra, telling the obvious truth but have people reply that you're a stopped watch, correct only twice a day and wrong the rest of the time. It's interesting that the mythical Cassandra, after witnessing the destruction of her homeland, was raped and enslaved.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
20 years? imho we're on the ground floor of several mountainous wealth creating technological revolutions that will create just enormous amounts of wealth. so if the point is that that the money is running out--I disagree.

However, the intrusion of premodern primitive civilization morals is another matter. This stuff spells the death of civilization in the long run. But the long run can be a very long time. If end times prophecies are correct, the really bad stuff won't happen before a significant chunk of the planet gets offworld. With the out migration starting after 2150 say.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You know, it just occurred to me that Obaam looks upon events like those in Libya and Syria in the same way he does a political campaign: make some statements and let public opinion sway the direction of events.

He is unable to recognize that "public opinion" in Syria consists of shooting at the other guys.

Or as, Han Solo would put it, "Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think Barack Obama forcing an apology to Turkey from Netanyahu is a turning point.

Turkey aligned itself with Israel in the first place because Israel was perceived to have a strong military, Israel relationship with the United States was excellent – and better than Greece's relationship with the United States, and Turkey wanted to have some of that Israeli strength rub off on Turkey. Netanyahu's forced apology destroys the very basis for any alliance between Israel and Turkey – it isolated both parties. If Barack Obama does not recognize this dynamic, he is very very stupid.

I don't blame Netanyahu. He did what he had to; all of the leverage in the relationship was in Obama's hands. Unfortunately, getting forced into making insincere apologies is the kind of behavior that has historically created the stereotype of “the cringing Jew”.

I don't blame Obama. That's just the way he is. In 2009, he sent Hillary Clinton to go begging to China to ask them to buy American treasuries – she was humiliated, and that was the point. In 2013, he sent John Kerry to go begging to Iraq to ask them to inspect Iranian air flights to Syria – he was humiliated, and that was the point. In 2013, he told Benjamin Netanyahu to apologize to Turkey over a so-called “peace flotilla” incident – he was humiliated, and that was the point. Those who want to be part of Obama's team will be ritually humiliated in public; the rule was probably the same when Barry lorded it over the Choom Gang. Think of it as Barack Obama's version of waterboarding. You can't get upset at Barack Obama any more than get upset at a pet boa constrictor when it kills its owner.

Then, there's Turkey. Diplomatically speaking, Turkey is going from strength to strength. Erdogan is not mollified. He is reacting with contempt. Barack Obama is showing Erdogan that Turkey can get away with anything. On the one hand, Turkey is a NATO ally. On the other hand, Turkey refused basing rights to American troops in 2003 and has been actively undermining American foreign policy ever since. In effect, the United States is getting boxed into a situation where the US must help Turkey when Turkey wants help but Turkey is not obliged to reciprocate.

George W. Bush made a strategic blunder by recommending Turkey as an example to the rest of the Islamic world. Firstly, the genocide of Armenians is hardly something to celebrate. Ataturk's legacy of “ethnic cleansing” of Greeks is hardly something to celebrate either. Moreover, Ataturk's shift to Latin script left Turks with a tendency to see their own past and other Muslim states with rose colored glasses; Arabic script gained prestige while Court Ottoman become the preserve of esoteric scholarship. Prime Minister Erdogan – an Islamist – was forced into an awkward position of getting praised by George W. Bush for what he did not personally believe in while getting falsely accused of being a western puppet by al-Qaeda and its allies. This has given Erdogan every incentive to show Muslims that he can oppose the United States more effectively than al-Qaeda.

Yet, George W. Bush is a paragon of diplomatic virtue in comparison to Barack Obama. By going on an apology tour as soon as he got into office, Barack Obama undermined the one key element that any actor in the Middle East will seek in an ally – strength. They want to align themselves with a strong horse. Nobody but an idiot wants to align himself with a whimpering ass.

Unless Prime Minister Erdogan loses power in Turkey (which is highly unlikely), we may soon face a situation where there is a nasty rift between the United States and Turkey. That rift will probably extend to one between Turkey and both the rest of NATO and the European Union. That is precisely what Erdogan wants, given that his long term foreign policy is hard core Islamist.

I hope it doesn't come to a fighting war between the United States and Turkey; it would be a war that would hurt both sides. That said, it has been over one century coming. Much of the disrespect accorded to the United States in the Middle East comes from the legacy of Woodrow Wilson. Woodrow Wilson flinched from declaring war against the Ottoman Empire to stop the Ottoman genocide of Armenians – American missionaries cared more for keeping their large estates in Turkey than helping fellow Armenian Christians from getting massacred – those same Armenians who had been taught ideas of liberty from those very same American missionaries.

Too many liberals – to this day – regard Woodrow Wilson as a hero. He was anything but.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Sherif Ali, so long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people, greedy, barbarous, and cruel"

T.E. Lawrence had it right.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
@ Stumbley and W's "But others believe that the Middle East has endemic minority problem. The Shia fight Sunni in various combinations. And in between the Kurds, Druze, Maronites, Copts, Alawites and whatever else have you make their shifting alliances to survive"
During my first trip to MENA (mid '70's) I heard, from a local:

Islam united against the infidel
And when the infidel is quiet, Islamic nation against Islamic nation,
And when the nations are quiet, Islamic village against Islamic village,
And when the villages are quiet, Islamic brother against Islamic brother.

Islam is the problem.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Is Islam the product of Arab tribal culture? Is the culture the product of Islam? Is there a racist aspect?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The biggest disease in Saudi Arabia is genetic because of the inbreeding. The reason for that is that--in order to be a first class muslim you really have to be arab--as well as speak arabic.

This was part of the reason that Jesus was killed by the pharisees; he ascribed that the essential culture of israel was transmitted through the language and not through genetics.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
IMHO a little of both. Islam is 7th century Arab banditry "raised" to the status of a religion; the fact that it's a religion has kept Arabs frozen in time for centuries.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Aren't we devolving out of necessity into a new realpolitik, with the players as factions rather than states? If we keep the big target (regime change in Iran) as the final goal, most of this other stuff is less important. Chemical weapons and MANPADs are probably spilling over anyhow, but they take maintenance and some level of expertise. That advanced capability is Iran's main export.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Its all about aspirations. To our glorious leaders like Obama the Magnificent reality flows from how you want it to be and the consensus of the Wise. All you need to do is to get the proper signatures on a piece of paper. By manipulating a symbol reality will be forced into falling into alignment.

Do you want a world that runs on green energy or a faster than light starship drive? Order it to be done. Let the lesser minds figure out the details because such things are too trivial for the great ones to bother with.

Do you want to defang North Korea or end conflict in the Middle East? Signing treaties will do the trick. Its just as effective as sticking pins in a little wax doll to kill your enemies. Just ask any shaman. It works every time.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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