Belmont Club


Napoleon once ascribed his success to being able to see things as they were, and not as reflected in a fun house mirror. “The first qualification of a general-in-chief is to possess a cool head, so that things may appear to him in their true proportions and as they really are.”

In Washington’s eyes Gaza may be the biggest conflict the Middle East; but objectively it is the littlest. The numbers tell the story. Syrian president Bashar Assad went down on his knees at a mosque following what some have called the worst week in the Syrian civil war “amid reports of an unprecedented high death toll among his troops battling Islamic extremists.”

The military casualties came as fighting intensified in the past two weeks, with militants from the al-Qaida-breakaway Islamic State group seeking to eliminate opponents from all sides, dealing a series of setbacks for government forces and rival rebels alike … about 1,240 soldiers and other Assad loyalists have been killed in the past 10 days in northern Syria.

Other activists in Syria confirmed that past weeks have seen a record death toll. Syria’s three-year civil war has already killed more than 170,000 people, nearly a third of them civilians.

Nor should we forget Iraq was always a much bigger deal than Gaza and may be about to get worse. The Daily Beast’s Jamie Dettmer tells readers to get set for the coming Blitz of Baghdad. “Analysts at the U.S.-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War, who have been plotting the locations and types of attacks in the recent flurry of blasts buffeting the Iraqi capital, have noted a clear pattern developing. They say it suggests the Islamic State is building up to something big and is no longer just focused on consolidating its grip and developing governance in the lands it now controls.”

The institute’s analysts predict the caliphate may be readying for an onslaught, possibly timed for the end of the holy month of Ramadan on Monday or during the Eid holiday celebrations this week. The aim would not be to seize Iraq’s capital, which has a very large Shia population with every incentive to fight to the death against an organization that slaughters Shia prisoner en masse. The purpose of the Islamic State offensive would be to sow mayhem and to keep Iraq’s state apparatus from recovering from its stunning defeats in June, when it lost control of Mosul, the second-largest city in the country. …

There has been a burst of attacks by bombers wearing suicide vests and also car blasts “along avenues of approach to the capital and also within Baghdad proper,” the institute notes in an intelligence update.

Failed efforts to pull this off against US forces were discussed in an earlier post, the Siege of Baghdad.  But ISIS will probably have better luck against Maliki.

President Obama’s call on Israel to stop fighting in Gaza is going to look like a drunk pissing in a four alarm fire. Consider Libya. Remember Libya, the place Samantha Power wanted to protect?

Tripoli is literally ablaze. ” A huge fuel depot in Libya’s capital burned out of control on Monday, set ablaze in fighting between rival militias that has driven the country to chaos three years after the NATO-backed revolt that toppled Muammar Gaddafi … ignited by a missile strike that hit millions of liters of fuel.”

Two rival brigades of former rebels fighting for control of Tripoli International Airport have pounded each other’s positions with Grad rockets, artillery fire and cannons for two weeks, turning the south of the capital into a battlefield. …

Libya has appealed for international help to stop the country from becoming a failed state. Western partners fear chaos spilling across borders with arms smugglers and militants already profiting from the turmoil.

Nearly all the foreign embassies are already gone. The place is burning out — literally.  And that’s just for openers.

The fighting in the region is characterized by total war. ‘At least 160 children died digging tunnels for Hamas’. The fighters are making new ones to replace them. “Islamic State insurgents have opened an office in northern Syria where single women and widows can register to marry fighters from the radical al Qaeda offshoot, a monitoring group said on Monday.” To pay for the explosives and the tunnelling kids the militants are selling oil wherever they can lay their hands on it.

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council strongly condemned any sale of oil from Syria or Iraq by terrorist groups and reminded all countries that buying this illegally obtained oil violates U.N. sanctions.

With those oil billions ISIS can hire themselves some pretty good lobbyists on K Street. Where’s the outrage? Wrong question. Can I get paid too? Ah, now we’re talking. One commenter wrote asking why the UN never sued terrorist groups. I answered “because terrorist groups won’t pay”. And he replied “and they could not find them to sue, anyway.” True also.

Still, as Barry McGuire once put it, “the eastern world it is exploding”. One keeps waiting for the president and John Kerry to notice.  What they notice is Netanyahu if only for the reason that’s got an address.  You can sue Israel, demand that they uphold human rights. Try that with ISIS, Hamas or the Boko Haram.

The reason truces are out is because current operations in Gaza are part of a much larger canvas. The tunnels and rockets of Hamas have been part of a buildup that started as far back as 2008. Each tunnel costs upward of a million dollars and the missiles, including their smuggling into Gaza, cost a great deal more.  Hamas fighting to win. And so one might add are ISIS, Assad, the militias in Libya, al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Muslim Brotherhood. And they ain’t won yet.

These combatants are not going to stop just because the lugubrious John Kerry asks them to. Chances are that a lot news will come out of the Middle East in the coming weeks, and little of it will have anything to do with what Netanyahu decides.

In the White House things are viewed through the peculiar prism distorted by the incumbent’s view of himself.  He’s so big in his mind that it blots out the sun and he never sees the hit coming. When Bob Herbert in the New York Times claimed that “Mr. Obama is like a championship chess player, always several moves ahead of friend and foe alike,” Gary Kasparov merely replied “allow me to disagree”.  Recently Newsweek recently ran this cover:

Master of the Game?

Master of the Game?

Is he the Master of the Game? You be the judge.

Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II
The Holographic Universe
Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II (P.S.)
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