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TWO TAKES ON THE SYRIA DECISION THAT DISAGREE WITH THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: (1) Security Studies Group: The Syria Decision.

As we warned at the time, the American position was much more exposed and much less tenable than was commonly understood. . . .

Just as allowing Iran to run wild hurts China much more than it hurts the United States, China is harmed by our allowing the Turks to provoke an insurgency that will bedevil the stability of the very region where China intends its massive investments. The wars that China’s own allies are starting are going to be the biggest tax on China’s growing power and influence, which means it will become China’s problem — and not America’s — to stop those wars. That means that China and Turkey, and not America, will end up paying the cost of Middle Eastern security. The danger they face is that they will overextend themselves, and provoke fights they cannot walk away from in the process. It may be a bigger burden than Erdogan or Xi imagine that they are taking on here.

It is unlikely that President Trump thinks so strategically or so ruthlessly. More likely he is simply convinced that these wars drain American blood and treasure in an unacceptable way, and he just intends to stop doing it whatever it costs.

(2) Trump’s Syria withdrawal bravely puts America First, the establishment last. “His decision will stop risking American lives and wasting taxpayer dollars on policing Middle East politics. This is long overdue, seeing as our security goals in Syria have already been accomplished. To recap, the U.S. military first intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2014. Our goal was to destroy the Islamic State Caliphate, as the terrorist group had built up territorial control of much of the conflict-ridden region. Mission accomplished.”

Well, I’m fine on reducing our commitments to the region. Trump’s diplomatic approach has the Arab world allied with Israel, and Saudi Arabia liberalizing internally. And thanks to fracking, the mideast isn’t that important to us anymore. On the other hand, the Kurds are good people, and I don’t like leaving them hanging, which is what this looks like to me. On that point, I’m in general agreement with Tom Rogan: “We relied upon the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and other Kurdish militias in order to substantially degrade ISIS. Yes, Western special operations played a crucial role in this effort. But the Kurds took the brunt of the casualties. And the Kurds kept fighting alongside us even after their northern heartlands had been retaken. Their tenacious courage saved American lives by denying ISIS the space and time to plot attacks against Western homelands.”

UPDATE: Two more: Walter Russell Mead: Trump’s Jacksonian Syria Withdrawal.

Explaining his decision to pull U.S. troops away from the Turkish-Syrian border at the cost of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, and open the way for Turkish forces to create what Ankara calls a “safety zone,” President Trump tweeted early Monday that “it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home.” . . .

Mr. Trump isn’t the first U.S. president to try to hold America back from a Middle East conflict. President Obama made a similar, and similarly hasty, decision in 2013 when he chose not to respond to Syria’s violation of his chemical weapons “red line” with a military strike. Many of the same people criticizing Mr. Trump today criticized Mr. Obama then, and the subsequent course of the Syrian war underlined both the humanitarian and the strategic case against Mr. Obama’s decision. Mr. Trump’s Syria decision may also prove to be a mistake, but it should give the establishment pause that two presidents as different as Messrs. Obama and Trump reached similar conclusions about the political risks in the Middle East.

The U.S. may be the most powerful actor in the region, but it can’t resolve the economic and social conflicts that destabilize the Middle East. As long as this is the case, those who want presidents to commit to long-term military engagements, however limited and however advantageous, must expect a skeptical hearing in the Oval Office.

Plus: Syria Could Be Turkey’s Vietnam. “Erdoğan may talk about a terror threat emanating from northern Syria, but he has yet to prove that one exists. Quite the contrary: Not only were Syrian Kurds the most effective indigenous fighting force against the Islamic State, there is also overwhelming evidence that Turkey cooperated, profited from, and at times coordinated with Syria’s Al Qaeda affiliates and the Islamic State. . . . Erdoğan may be cocky, but he could be falling into a trap. Turkey’s drones may give it a qualitative military edge in mountains and rural regions but may be of substantially less utility in the northern Syrian cities if limiting collateral damage is any concerns. The Kurds have extensive experience fighting on the ground. Meanwhile, recent political purges of the Turkish military make the Turkish Army a shell of its former self. With Kurdish insurgents voluntarily going into Syria at Turkey’s request as part of the previous peace agreement, Syrian Kurds simply have no place to go. A century ago, Turkish forces slaughtered the Armenians by marching them into the desert to their deaths; the Kurds refuse to be the sequel. Turkish invasion and ethnic cleansing—Turkey’s stated purpose is to settle a couple million Arabs in the region—will spark insurgency in northeastern Syria and across Turkey.”

Things have changed in the mideast, but when your decisions about Syria are compared to Obama’s, it’s not a good sign.

Plus, it’s a NATO thing.

I am speaking, of course, of president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is, increasingly, Turkey’s effective dictator. But it’s crucial to emphasize that these are Nato forces. This not only means they are supplied with state-of-the-art weaponry; it also means those weapons are being maintained by other Nato members.

Fighter jets, helicopter gunships, even Turkey’s German-supplied Panzer forces – they all degrade extremely quickly under combat conditions. The people who continually inspect, maintain, repair, replace, and provide them with spare parts tend to be contractors working for American, British, German or Italian firms. Their presence is critical because the Turkish military advantage over Northern Syria’s “People’s Defense Forces” (YPG) and “Women’s Defense Forces” (YPJ), those defenders of Kobane that Turkey has pledged to destroy, is entirely dependent on them.

That’s because, aside from its technological advantage, the Turkish army is a mess. Most of its best officers and even pilots have been in prison since the failed coup attempt in 2016, and it’s now being run by commanders chosen by political loyalty instead of competence. Rojava’s defenders, in contrast, are seasoned veterans.

Plus:

MICHAEL DORAN: The Theology Of Foreign Policy. “Historians have paid too little attention to the influence of the Jacksonian persuasion after the end of the Jacksonian era, which traditionally runs from 1828 to 1848. Following my colleague Walter Russell Mead, however, I argue that the Jacksonian persuasion has continued to influence American politics long after that date. It is still.”

Plus: “This mercurial attitude has bedeviled every president who has ever sent troops into battle. In moments marked by threats to the nation, the Jacksonian persuasion will provide the greatest reservoir of pro-interventionist sentiment imaginable. Its thirst for conflict, however, passes quickly. Once that thirst is slaked, the Jacksonian persuasion becomes a force for isolationism and, seemingly, even for pacifism. This fickleness is part of the larger paradox at the heart of the Jacksonian sensibility, namely its love-hate relationship with the federal government and chief executive. Both are vital to the survival of American liberty, which is a light unto the nations. The halo that surrounds liberty also encompasses, therefore, the military; it can widen, in certain circumstances, to encompass the presidency and the federal government as well. But the state itself is neither inherently sacred nor even good. Indeed, when federal power or executive action endangers liberty, Jacksonians can regard them as a pestilence. . . . Our latter-day Menckens have painted the religious face of Jacksonianism as mumbo jumbo, while depicting secular Jacksonians as bigots, ignoramuses, or worse. But the Progressive persuasion is every bit as religious and irrational as the Jacksonian persuasion. Its vision of history and of America’s place in it is no more scientifically verifiable than dispensational premillennialism’s belief in the Rapture. Indeed, the Progressive persuasion’s belief in the perfectibility of man defies all experience.”

NOW OUT: From Brian Kilmeade & Dan Yaegar, Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans: The Battle That Shaped America’s Destiny.

Plus, fresh Gold Box and Lightning Deals. There are new deals every hour!

IN THE MAIL: From Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger, Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans: The Battle That Shaped America’s Destiny.

Plus, fresh Gold Box and Lightning Deals.

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: The Jacksonian Revolt:

Many Jacksonians came to believe that the American establishment was no longer reliably patriotic, with “patriotism” defined as an instinctive loyalty to the well-being and values of Jacksonian America. And they were not wholly wrong, by their lights. Many Americans with cosmopolitan sympathies see their main ethical imperative as working for the betterment of humanity in general. Jacksonians locate their moral community closer to home, in fellow citizens who share a common national bond. If the cosmopolitans see Jacksonians as backward and chauvinistic, Jacksonians return the favor by seeing the cosmopolitan elite as near treasonous—people who think it is morally questionable to put their own country, and its citizens, first.

Jacksonian distrust of elite patriotism has been increased by the country’s selective embrace of identity politics in recent decades. The contemporary American scene is filled with civic, political, and academic movements celebrating various ethnic, racial, gender, and religious identities. Elites have gradually welcomed demands for cultural recognition by African Americans, Hispanics, women, the lgbtq community, Native Americans, Muslim Americans. Yet the situation is more complex for most Jacksonians, who don’t see themselves as fitting neatly into any of those categories.

A hundred years ago, Randolph Bourne laid out a theory of identity politics in which minority groups were to develop ethnic pride while the majority Anglo-Saxon population did not. The Bourne identity approach worked, until people started crowing that the majority wasn’t a majority anymore and should hurry up and die out, and, well, then it stopped working.

SPENGLER LOOKS AT TED CRUZ’S FOREIGN POLICY:

What makes Cruz so hated is simply that he is smart enough to do without the Establishment. Cruz likes to compare himself to Reagan, whose autodicactic education in foreign policy gave him independence of judgment and confidence to pursue victory in the Cold War when the Establishment of his day thought it impossible. In many ways, Cruz will have a bigger problem if elected: for a decade prior to Reagan’s victory, the neo-conservatives (led by their “godfather” Irving Kristol) had trained cadre, ground out academic articles, and sparred over the big themes in the op-ed columns of the major media. Today the pickings are much slimmer. It’s not so much that the emperor has no clothes, but that the empire has no tailors.

Cruz, if elected, will have to do his own thinking, to an extent that no American president has had to do since Lincoln. He is intelligent enough and arrogant enough to do that, and he will owe no favors or patronage to the Establishment. He would be the cleverest man to occupy the oval office in a century and a half. He carries no baggage from the Bush administration, and will not invite the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol or Fox News’ Charles Krauthammer to draft an inaugural address, as did Bush in 2004. He won the Iowa caucuses by building the strongest grass-roots network in the country (he claims to have a campaign chairman in every county of the United States), which makes him independent of the party apparatus, such as it is.

Endearing, boyish, photogenic and eloquent, Marco Rubio is the candidate that Central Casting sent the Establishment from the studio pool. Rubio, a middling student at university and a Florida machine politician throughout his career, says his lines well but does not have an original thought about foreign policy. That is why the Establishment likes him. Cruz knows that the Establishment is naked, and is willing to say so. That’s why they don’t like him. They aren’t supposed to. They look at him the way a rice bowl looks at a hammer.

Cruz is not (as the Establishment punditeska suggests) a “Jacksonian” isolationist in the sense of Walter Russell Meade’s use of the term; rather, he is a John Quincy Adams realist in Angelo Codevilla‘s reading. Cruz feels no ideological compulsion to assert America’s world mastery. He is concerned about American security and American power. The Establishment came into being in America’s brief moment at the head of a unipolar world, and is imprinted with that notion the way ducklings are imprinted with the image of their mothers. The world has changed.

It certainly has.

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: The biggest story in America today is the roaring return of Andrew Jackson’s spirit into the political debate. “Jacksonian populism, the sense of honor-driven egalitarianism and fiery nationalism that drove American politics for many years, has never been hated and reviled as often as it is today, and many American academics and intellectuals (to say nothing of Hollywood icons) are close to demanding that Jacksonian sentiment be redefined as a hate crime.” Yeah, I wouldn’t recommend that.

DAVID ADESNIK: The Tea Party’s Surprisingly Hawkish Foreign Policy.

Two things: First, it’s not so much “hawkish” as Jacksonian, in Walter Russell Mead’s formulation. As Mead put it: “For the first Jacksonian rule of war is that wars must be fought with all available force. The use of limited force is deeply repugnant. Jacksonians see war as a switch that is either “on” or “off.” They do not like the idea of violence on a dimmer switch. Either the stakes are important enough to fight for—in which case you should fight with everything you have—or they are not, in which case you should mind your own business and stay home. . . . The second key concept in Jacksonian thought about war is that the strategic and tactical objective of American forces is to impose our will on the enemy with as few American casualties as possible. The Jacksonian code of military honor does not turn war into sport. It is a deadly and earnest business.”

Second, the Tea Party is about restricting the federal government to its constitutionally-defined roles. Defense of the nation is a constitutionally defined role.

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Guess Who Brought A Gun To The Treaty Fight?

Negotiations begin tomorrow for a UN treaty that would track global arms sales and shipments aimed at stopping the flow of weapons into conflict zones. The NRA’s lobbyists have been working overtime recently to oppose domestic gun control legislation, but they are preparing to open up an international front to oppose this treaty. Though the lobby expects the treaty to pass at the UN, they are prepared to kill it when it returns home for ratification.

American history is full of examples of internationally minded, humanistic types coming up with good ideas for treaties—which the US Senate never ratifies. The classic example was Wilson’s Treaty of Versailles which set up the League of Nations. This one may very well be heading down the same well-trod path. Treaties take the support of a 2/3 majority of the Senate to be ratified, and there are almost certainly 34 senators to be found who are ready to stand with the NRA against the UN.

To an administration, doing things like this can appear to make sense: pander to the idealists and the Wilsonians, and get international brownie points for trying to go along with the ‘global consensus’. But this one could be a real loser: the belief that the Obama administration is trying in some way to give the UN control over Americans’ right to bear arms will galvanize the Jacksonian vote in 2014 in a big way.

Obama’s smart diplomacy and deft touch at co-opting his domestic opponents will surely smooth over any difficulties.

BARRY RUBIN: Here’s How — As With This Israel-Hamas War — Western Elites Are Baffled by the Middle East. “Much of the Western elite no longer understands concepts which their predecessors took for granted during the last two centuries.”

Related: Walter Russell Mead: America, Israel, Gaza, the World. “As Israeli airstrikes and naval shells bombarded Gaza this weekend, the world asked the question that perennially frustrates, confuses and enrages so many people across the planet: Why aren’t the Americans hating on Israel more? . . . America is a big country with a lot of things going on, but the real force driving American support for Israeli actions in Gaza isn’t Islamophobia, Jewish conspiracies or foam-flecked religious nuts. It’s something much simpler: many though not all Americans look at war through a distinctive cultural lens. Readers of Special Providence know that I’ve written about four schools of American thinking about world affairs; from the perspective of the most widespread of them, the Jacksonians, what Israel is doing in Gaza makes perfect sense. Not only are many Jacksonians completely untroubled by Israel’s response to the rocket attacks in Gaza, many genuinely don’t understand why the rest of the world is so steamed about Israel—and so angry with the United States.”

In Bob Dylan’s phraseology, they’d rather see us paralyzed. And Israel dead.

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: New York Times Slimes Romney.

Here at Via Meadia, we have written extensively about how reports of impending American theocracy have been greatly exaggerated. Indeed, put into historical perspective, the religious forces acting upon American politics today are far gentler than those of generations past. But it appears that the New York Times remains unconvinced, as evidenced by a recent spate of alarmist editorials about the faith of Mitt Romney.

This is not about Governor Romney, and it is not about the faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). Via Meadia takes no view at this early stage about the merits or demerits of the various candidates, and our inveterate Anglicanism gets in the way of embracing the Mormon faith. But bigotry is something that needs to be fought in all its forms; unreasonable fears and prejudices based on religion will always be with us, but such fears belong in the gutter among the wackos, the haters and the tin-foil hat brigades on both the right and the left. When they rise from the sewers and the swamps into mainstream publications and can be casually uttered in polite company by distinguished professors, something is going very wrong, and people who believe in the American way need to speak up. . . .

As far as I can make out, Professor Bloom is more elitist misanthrope than bigot; his hatred and loathing for Mormonism is part of a broader and deeper disgust with almost everything that the common people think or do in the contemporary United States. The essay drips with condescension and disdain; he hates and fears the Mormons not because they are different from most of their fellow citizens but because they are like them. . . . I say nothing about the motives of Professor Bloom or the New York Times. But so far as I know, neither has ever expressed any concern over the stout Mormon faith of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

I have a comment and a question. Comment: The New York Times would never spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about a Muslim candidate’s religion in this fashion. Question: When George Romney ran in 1968, was the New York Times fretting about his Mormonism?

UPDATE: Reader John Ward emails: “I don’t recall the NYT having a fit when Mo Udall was running for the Democrat nomination for president.” I guess only Republican Mormons are scary.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader John Burke writes:

I worked in Udall’s New York Presidential campaign in 1975-1976 (after my earlier choice, Birch Bayh, dropped out). Trust me when I say that no one among New York Democrats ever said, boo, about Udall being a Mormon, even though a host of candidates were competing furiously for support within the party (Udall, Bayh, Fred Harris, Scoop Jackson, Jimmy Carter). All these candidates were grilled closely and frequently about where they had stood on the war, where they stood on amnesty for draft resisters, what they had done to block Nixon’s Supreme Court nominations, and dozens of other then-current issues. This questioning took place in living rooms and Democratic clubs with small groups. I was deeply involved in all of this from mid-1975 when Bayh began to line up NY support. I must say that I don’t even recall being aware of Udall’s being a Mormon, although it is a long time ago. I certainly would recall if anyone had made an issue of it (I remember clearly the shades of differences the candidates had on other matters).

Sad to see the NYT becoming so much more bigoted than it was a generation ago.

INSTAVISION: Is Obama Flexing His Jeffersonian Muscle? I talk with Walter Russell Mead about Jimm Carter, Barack Obama, Jacksonian foreign policy, and the future.

instavisionmead011310

ANDREW SULLIVAN is calling Zell Miller a “Dixiecrat.” Actually, given that the Dixiecrats were a movement that briefly took place within the Democratic Party back in 1948, when Miller was 16, that seems rather misplaced. And if Miller’s history is so bad, why did Bill Clinton choose him as his keynoter in 1992?

But I think the answer to this formulation appears as a question, when you search “Zell Miller Dixiecrat” on Google.

UPDATE: Some readers, who seem to think that I was being “coy” in my earlier discussion of Miller’s speech want to know what I thought about it. I was most struck — as I said in my post before, and as Virginia Postrel noted as well — by the unvarnished Jacksonianism of the speech. As Virginia says:

Zell Miller sure is pissed off at John Kerry–and at the entire post-Vietnam Democratic party. His speech was, as Glenn says, a pure expression of Jacksonian America, complete with unashamed accent (an accent that probably is like fingernails on a blackboard to lots of folks north of the Mason-Dixon line). . . . I’m guessing Miller’s been mad for a long time.

I suspect the style was a bit offputting to some people who aren’t familiar with (old-fashioned) southern politics, since you normally only see someone speak that way in the movies if he’s an Elmer Gantry style bad guy. In fact, it’s not that way: Many of the old-line Democratic heroes in Tennessee (none of whom were “Dixiecrats”) spoke that way. I’m too young to have seem anything but the tail end of that generation of politician: people like Ned Ray McWherter, Doug Henry, and John Jay Hooker. But they — especially John Jay — could give that kind of a stem-winder too, and it’s only bigotry or ignorance that associates that sort of speaking style with racism and nothing else. This was probably the last speech in that style we’ll ever see on the national political scene.

On the merits: It was hard-hitting. There’s a legitimate question (which Chris Matthews might have succeeded in raising if he had been less ham-handed and insulting) about how much you can tell from legislative votes, which often as not are structured to allow people to conceal or misrepresent their true leanings, and which are thus easily misrepresented by opponents. On the other hand, we’re told that people aren’t supposed to criticize Kerry’s Vietnam or post-Vietnam antiwar actions because doing that is a “smear,” so if you can’t talk about his Senate votes either, what’s left? His time as Lieutenant Governor? Kerry’s defenders seem a bit quick to call any kind of criticism unfair.

The upside of being a Senator running for President is that you get easy access to the national media, and to national money. The downside is that you have to explain your votes. You have to take the bitter with the sweet, and Kerry’s already taken the sweet. This was pretty bitter, but it’s part of the deal.

How well did it work for the Republicans? Beats me, but this may be an indication. And Luntz’s swing-voter focus group liked it more than I expected last night, because it did seem a bit harsh to me. (But I’m often wrong about these things). There are a lot of Jacksonians out there. Best line, from the item linked above:

Emerging theme of the Democratic response to the Republican convention speeches:

Schwarzenegger is not a Republican
McCain is not a Republican
Zell Miller is not a Democrat

Heh. I’m not particularly a fan of Jackson (partly because of my Cherokee ancestry, but more because of, well, who he was). But, you know, the Democrats are supposed to be the party of Jackson. Zell Miller delivered that, but what he really seems upset about is the absence of Wendell Willkies.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Read James Lileks’ take, too. There are a lot of Jacksonians out there, even in Minnesota.

MORE: A reader asks for an explanation of “Jacksonian.” Guess I shouldn’t have taken that for granted. Here’s an interview with Walter Russell Mead, who coined the term as part of an explanation of four traditions of American foreign policy. Short summary: “[The idea is]: “Don’t bother with people abroad, unless they bother you. But if they attack you, then do everything you can. . . . When somebody attacks the hive, you come swarming out of the hive and you sting them to death. And Jacksonians, when it comes to war, don’t believe in limited wars. They don’t believe, particularly, in the laws of war. War is about fighting, killing, and winning with as few casualties as possible on your side. But you don’t worry about casualties on the other side. That’s their problem. They shouldn’t have started the war if they didn’t want casualties.”

A much more sophisticated discussion can be found in Mead’s book, Special Providence. It’s also worth looking at David Hackett Fischer’s book Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America — which meshes rather interestingly with the 4 styles of foreign relations that Mead identifies.

STILL MORE: Dead Parrots has the Kerry response. No word on whether he voted for this stuff before he voted against it, but presumably that will all come out.

TOM HOLSINGER WRITES THAT A LOT OF CRITICS OF THE WAR JUST DON’T GET IT. Holsinger is a big proponent of Walter Russell Mead’s “Jacksonian” analysis of America at war.

I DO NOT APPROVE OF FISTICUFFS, but I find it hard to fully disapprove of this.

UPDATE: Reader Trent Telenko writes:

You missed the real point.

We just saw a Hollywood director — as “Blue Zone” as you can get – play a violent, honor impugned, Jacksonian, at the cost of his movie’s distribution in the British film market. He did this when an “idiotarian” British distributor said Americans deserved the 9/11 attacks just as much as the Israelis deserve children-suicide attacks from the Palestinians while within arms reach.

It is time for you to begin a “Jacksonian Watch” because this will not be the last time this happens.

Walter Russell Mead’s book “Strange Provenance” goes on at great lengths about the “Jacksonian tradition” in American foreign policy as he describes it and three other “foreign policy schools.”

I prefer the term “cultural meme” because Americans are a mixture of all four of Mead’s schools. The ‘Jacksonian traits’ of Mead were also touched on in two recent American social histories. The first is by Gary Gerstle, “The American Crucible,” and second is by David Kennedy, “Freedom From Fear.”

Mead points out in his book that the Jacksonian traits surface most strongly when America is at war.

Trent Telenko also suggests that political correctness in the media makes actual violence along these lines more likely: “Those who make the rhetorical defense of western culture impossible, make the violent defense of it by Americans inevitable.” His comments along these lines are interesting, but too long to excerpt here. I agree, though, that the setting and participants make this brawl particularly noteworthy.