Friday, November 27, 2015


"Isis itself shows no interest in this at present, other than to discuss ransoms for hostages, and any negotiation that even implicitly condoned its atrocities would be anathema to western public opinion. Perhaps, eventually, we shall come to this, if Isis decides that it needs a period of relatively peaceful consolidation, while on our side we come to see all-out war with Isis as counterproductive. Something like that happened in the early 1920s with the rise of Bolshevism, which at the time seemed to the western establishment every bit as terrifying and beyond the pale of civilisation as Isis does now".
Edward Mortimer, "Caliph country: the rise of Isis". The Financial Times. 4 September 2015, in
"Revolutions pose serious dangers only when they involve great powers, since only great powers have proved capable of spreading their revolutionary principles. ISIS will never come close to being a great power, and although it has attracted some sympathizers abroad, just as earlier revolutions did, its ideology is too parochial and its power too limited to spark similar takeovers outside Iraq and Syria. History also teaches that outside efforts to topple a revolutionary state often backfire, by strengthening hard-liners and providing additional opportunities for expansion. Today, U.S. efforts to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS, as the Obama administration has characterized U.S. policy, could enhance its prestige, reinforce its narrative of Western hostility to Islam, and bolster its claim to be Islam’s staunchest defender. A better response would rely on local actors to patiently contain the group, with the United States staying far in the background. This approach requires seeing ISIS for what it is: a small and underresourced revolutionary movement too weak to pose a significant security threat, except to the unfortunate people under its control".
Stephen Walt, "ISIS as Revolutionary State: New Twist on an Old Story". Foreign Affairs. (November/December 2015), in
There is of course an argument, nay a cogent and reasonable argument that 'containing' ISIS rather than destroying it. Stephen Walt and Edward Mortimer offer up two of the better arguments along these lines as can be seen above. What an impartial evaluation of their arguments unfortunately, highlight is the flaws in the reasoning rather than it's coherence. Specifically, the issue with endeavoring to 'contain' ISIS rather than destroying it is simply that this 'solution' ignores the immense threat to both the Near & Middle East as well as to Europe, that an ongoing statelet like ISIS will present both now and in the future. The fact of the matter is that if ISIS is allowed to survive, not necessarily to thrive, but merely to survive, the upshot will be that an immense degree of legitimacy will be given to it's extremist ideology and the policies flowing from the same. In addition to the fact that such a statelet will by definition attract an ongoing stream of volunteers, who will be trained to kill and then to be sent elsewhere in any number of other conflicts, which feature Muslim extremism around the world. The failure of Walt's and Mortimer's argument au fond is that they fail to realize that we are dealing not with a static actor, but with a highly dynamic one. In that sense, Walt is indeed correct: ISIS is not a state in the ordinary sense of the term and if the world of to-day were the very same as the world of 1921, then we would have reason to feel infinitely less concerned about the doings of a group of ignorant & murderous fanatics in a misbegotten and miserable place like provincial Syria. However, given the 'interconnectedness' of man's contemporary existence, we do not have the luxury of ignoring or even merely isolating ISIS. The only remedy is to destroy it completely. Which is not to say, as per Anthony Cordesman's argument that the defeat of ISIS will necessarily mean the defeat of 'terrorism' or better yet, 'Islamic terrorism', around the world, merely that what has emerged as the most dynamic and dangerous source of violent Muslim extremism in the world will have been destroyed 1. And that the lesson to be derived from the future fall of ISIS, will be that in to-day's world, with some geographical exceptions, no place on earth is safe from the establishment of an extremist state apparatus which emits terrorism and mayhem as a matter of policy. As the editor of the London Spectator, so accurately put it last week:
"Ever since 9/11 (sic), the aim has been to deny terrorists sanctuary. That, that after all is why the United States and Britain went into Afghanistan - troops were sent in only after the Taliban refused to hand over the al-Qaeda leadership and shut down the terrorist training camps....If we are really serious about defeating Islamist extremism, then we must - as a first step - be prepared to will the means to drive Islamic State out of both Syria and Iraq". 2
1. Anthony Cordesman, "Fighting Fear as Well as ISIS: Setting the Right Priorities". Center for Strategic and International Studies. 24 November 2015, in
2. James Forsyth, "Obama's failure is Putin's opportunity". The Spectator. 21 November 2015, p. 12.

Friday, November 20, 2015


"Ever since the late Samuel Huntington predicted that international politics would be dominated by a “clash of civilisations”, his theory, first outlined in 1993, has found some of its keenest adherents among militant Islamists. The terrorists who inflicted mass murder on Paris are part of a movement that sees Islam and the west as locked in inevitable mortal combat. Leading western politicians, by contrast, have almost always rejected Huntington’s analysis. Even former US President George W Bush said: “There is no clash of civilisations.” And everyday life in multicultural western nations, most of which have large Muslim minorities, offers a daily refutation of the idea that different faiths and cultures cannot live and work together.... In Europe, even before the Paris attacks, the migrant crisis had helped to fuel the rise of anti-Muslim parties and social movements. As Germany has opened its doors to refugees from the Middle East, violent attacks on migrant hostels have risen. In France, it is widely expected the far-right National Front will make significant gains in next month’s regional elections. Anti-Muslim rhetoric is also rising in the US and has become commonplace among Republican candidates for the presidential nomination. Ben Carson, who leads in many Republican polls, has said that no Muslim should be allowed to become US president; Donald Trump has said that he would deport any Syrian refugees admitted to the US. The confluence of these developments in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia is fuelling the idea of a clash of civilisations. Yet the reality is that the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds are intermingled across the globe. Multiculturalism is not a naive liberal aspiration — it is the reality of the modern world and it has to be made to work. The only alternative is more violence, death and grief".
Gideon Rachman, "Do Paris terror attacks highlight a clash of civilisations". The Financial Times. 17 November 2015, in
Europe has to choose. The murder of 129 people during six separate terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13 is forcing governments across Europe to consider how to deal with the so-called Islamic State. At stake is how to strike a balance between the open society and the defense of citizens. It will require steady nerves from all European governments not to bow to populist, Euroskeptic, and anti-Muslim movements that wish to batten down the hatches. This is precisely what the followers of the anti-Western Islamic State want.... Yes, it is the overriding duty of governments to protect their citizens. But if that means using fear, revenge, and weaker democratic accountability that would lead to witch hunts against refugees and Muslim communities, then the struggle against Islamic State, which wants to destroy what the West stands for, will be lost. Seventy years ago, Austrian-British philosopher Karl Popper wrote his monumental The Open Society and Its Enemies. It is a powerful analysis of the forces that abet totalitarianism and fascism. It is also a powerful defense of Western liberal democracies, which by their very nature are open. This is the crossroads Europe has reached: Will Europe bow to the enemy from within by disowning its open society, or will it defend what the West represents—values and institutions based on the tolerance and freedoms needed to keep European societies open? The West can prevail. European governments and the EU can take many measures to protect their citizens, borders, and critical infrastructure. There is scope for much greater sharing of intelligence. But because these terrorist cells are homegrown, these measures alone are not sufficient.
Judy Dempsey, "After the Paris Attacks: The Open Society and Its Enemies". Carnegie Europe. 16 November 2015, in
Vladimir Solov'ev. Man is descended from the ape, therefore, let us love one another.
When one reads the commentary by such paragons (normally speaking) of reasonable intelligence and wisdom (albeit of a somewhat bien-pensant variety) as Gideon Rachman and Judy Dempsey, one reads and re-reads the piece and scratches one's head. The massacre in Paris one week ago, occurred for a good number of reasons, and reasonable people can debate which one of those reasons are more rather than less important. With that caveat, it is hardly stands to reason, and it is in reality merely the type of thinking that Solov'ev was making fun of, to put forward the thesis that the most important thing to concern ourselves with in the aftermath of said horrific event is that we all need to be on the watch for the rise of the 'Populist Right' in Europe. The supposition being (I am endeavoring in this instance to try to put some logic in a very illogical train of thought but no matter...) I suppose is that if the Populist Right were to gain power in individual countries in Europe or concurrently, if existing Centre-Right political parties in Europe were to erroneously heed the mutterings of the Populist Right, then the current state of affairs in Europe as it relates to both immigration, anti-Muslim feelings and 'multiculturalism', et cetera would become worse! Of course that raises the question as to how Rachman & Dempsey would characterise the current state of affairs and who is responsible for it politically speaking. Obviously not the 'Populist Right', since the latter was not: a) in power; b) not in favor of the policies which almost all Western and Central European states have followed as per immigration and multi-culturalism in the past forty plus years. A long-time ago, Lord Keynes stated a truism (or what should be a truism) when he said: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" Apparently, neither Rachman or Dempsey are going to allow what occurred one week ago, to cause them or their fellow bien-pensant advocates of multi-culturalism to either change their minds or their approaches to the problems thrown-up by ISIS and uncontrollable immigration from the Third-World. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that the liberal, bourgeois, bien-pensant, post-enlightenment cosmopolitan approach to all of these issues has shown itself politically bankrupt. A new approach is both needed and required. I myself detest most of the adherents and the slogans of the Populist Right (as well as the Populist Left) in Europe and elsewhere. With that being said, they do have the best of the argument in stating openly that the methods and the policies of the past have not worked and will mostly likely not work in the future. And that a new course is needed. Ideally as urgently as possible. With the employment of brass tacks in both controlling (nay stopping - completely) immigration from the Third World to Europe; with the need to employ a something approaching an iron fist in policing the existing Muslim communities in Europe in such a fashion that full assimilation or deportation should be the alternatives. What do I say then when I am told that such policies will result in the further 'alienation' of the Muslim communities in Europe? Well, first such communities are in a good sense already 'alienated', with the results for all to see. Second, when one compares the results (not slogans or bien-pensant pieties, but results), existing bien-pensant policies results-wise are inferior to results in the more authoritarian regimes of Central Asia, or the policies employed by say Israel towards it own Arab-Muslim population, wherein in both instances a mailed fist is fully employed in treating the problems of Islamic Radicalism 1. In short, what Mr. Rachman and Miss Dempsey need to do is to re-think `a la Lord Keynes their approaches to the problem highlighted by last week's massacre in Paris. Before it is too late for all of us.
1. See the results wherein it is noted that in Tajikistan has a lower level of Muslim males joining ISIS in Syria than does either Britain (and one presumes Belgium and France). See: Edward J. Lemon, "Daesh and Tijikistan". The Royal United Services Institute. (October / November 2015), pp. 68-76.

Monday, November 16, 2015


France launched air strikes against Isis targets in Syria on Sunday night, with jets bombing the Islamist terror group’s stronghold of Raqqa. The strikes came hours after France and the US pledged to step up the campaign against Isis in response to the chilling, co-ordinated terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 129 people and wounded more than 350. Speaking in Antalya at the G20 summit, Laurent Fabius, French foreign minister, said: “France has always said that because she has been threatened and attacked by [Isis] it would be normal that she react in the framework of self defence. It would be normal to take action. That’s what we did with the strikes on Raqqa, which is their headquarter. We cannot let [Isis] act without reacting.” The French defence ministry said 12 aircraft had taken part in raids on a command centre, munitions depot and training camp in Raqqa. The strikes were launched in co-ordination with US forces. The flurry of air strikes marks a significant escalation of French involvement in the conflict in Syria. It also follows an agreement on Sunday by the Pentagon to accelerate the process for sharing intelligence about potential Isis targets with the French military. The commitment to “intensify” action against the Islamic terrorist group in Syria came as France and Belgium launched a manhunt for a suspected eighth assailant, named as Salah Abdeslam, after an assault deemed “an act of war” by President François Hollande. Seven terrorists died on Friday night after six set off their explosives and another was shot by the police.
Alex Barker, George Parker & Barney Jopson, "Paris attacks: France in air strikes on Isis stronghold in Syria". The Financial Times. 15 November 2015, in
Paris is also a warning that the best counterterrorist efforts in the world cannot protect any country, particularly the open societies in the West, from every attack; and that no victory against any given movement can be decisive. The forces that have created violent Islamist extremist movements over the past decades - and that came home to Americans on September 11, 2001 - are simply too great for any lasting near-term victory in what some call the “war on terrorism.” Here, it is critical to keep ISIS in perspective. The Islamic extremism that drives ISIS is only one of the world’s sources of terrorism and insurgency by non-state actors, and ISIS is only one such movement. There are similar extremist groups in many countries with large Islamic populations. They include Al Qaeda Central in Pakistan, the Al Nusra Front in Syria, and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Saudi Arabia and Yemen – just to name a few. Many have gone far beyond terrorism in the classic sense, and have become insurgent movements seeking to take control of the state by force. ISIS, for example, is both the most successful and the most dangerous, because it has become an actual protostate in parts of both Iraq and Syria.... Europe, the United States, and countries without large Muslim populations are not the victim of some “clash of civilizations,” and certainly not one that can be solved by calling for tolerance or religious education. Every death and casualty matters, but France, the United States and other “outside” states are only minor targets that are the spillover of a massive clash to shape the future of Islamic civilization. Horrible as every pointless death from terrorism in the West is, it must be compared to violence within Islam that has killed hundred of thousands of Muslims in recent years, halted economic life and development in several countries, and produced millions of displaced persons and refugees. No one set of factors drives this struggle for the future of Islam, and it clearly interacts with serious ethnic and tribal conflicts and tensions, broad patterns of failed governance and corruption, crony capitalism and massive state barriers to development, failures to create a meaningful rule of law and honest policing, and endemic repression.
Anthony Cordesman, "Paris, ISIS, and the Long War Against Extremism". Center for Strategic and International Studies. 14 November 2015, in
The always intelligent insights offered by the American defense specialist, Anthony Cordesman puts paid to any one-dimensional analysis, much less solutions to Friday's massacre in Paris. Which is not to gainsay the fact that a lumpenproletariat of Muslim first, second and third generation of immigrants in many Western countries constitute and will constitute for many years to come the 'enemy within'. A constant danger to Western countries, Western and Christian civilization in short, requiring when necessary iron fist treatment (think of Israel's treatment of its own Arab population from 1949 to 1966) 1. But per se, that minority cannot be other than a secondary or tertiary threat to Western countries by themselves. Only in conjunction with a Near or Middle Eastern state (Afghanistan) or a proto-state such as ISIS can terrorism constitute a serious, first category threat to the West. Consequently, it is incumbent upon the Western powers to destroy the ISIS proto-state. Only by doing so can the danger posed by Muslim extremists both in the region and without be contained. Mark, not eliminated but merely 'contained', since as Cordesman cogently if pessimistically states, ISIS and its ideological confreres on the radical Islamist universe are outgrowth of the manifold mis-development which the Near & Middle East has been suffering from low these fifty to sixty years. And in fact, as Aron Lund pointed out only last week, militarily speaking ISIS appears to be on the backfoot 2. Suffering recently a series of military setbacks of one sort or another. And in fact the attacks may have been a contemporary equivalent of the V-2 rocket attacks that the soon to be defeated Nazi Germany unleashed on London in the Fall of 1944. With that being said, one cannot emphasize enough the need to destroy ISIS proto-state as quickly as is possible. Ideally of course without the employment of American and other Western ground troops. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be a plausible scenario. With the exception of a tie-up between Western air power and the Assad Regime and its allies of Russia, Persia and Hezbollah. Whether the Western powers could or would be willing to defy the animus of its local Sunni allies over such a mésalliance, is a very open question indeed. Therefore, the only quick and clean military scenario in the absence of local ground forces to do the job, would be the employment of Western, mainly American forces to destroy in a clean sweep the Islamic State. Pur et simple. There is in fact nothing else to say. Until then of course, it is not beyond the bounds of possibilities that the Islamic State will endeavor to unleash more havoc and mayhem on the various cities of the West.
1. Amal Jamal. Arab Minority Nationalism in Israel. (2011).
2. Aron Lund, "Strategic Implications of Assad’s Victory at Kweiris". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 10 November 2015, in

Sunday, November 15, 2015


"Of the six chancellors who led West Germany between the end of the second world war and reunification with the east in 1990, none wore the mantle of statesmanship at home and abroad with more poise and more trenchant professionalism than Helmut Schmidt, who has died at the age of 96. When he succeeded Willy Brandt in 1974 as the country’s second Social Democrat chancellor, Schmidt — a former defence and finance minister — brought a wealth of experience to his office and quickly developed authority on the world stage. His leadership qualities, like his principles, were turned to the best advantage of his country and of Europe. Schmidt’s straight-talking, sometimes moralistic, political style was influenced by his conviction that his country had to draw the most stringent lessons from the catastrophe of the war. His view was that the shadow of Hitler and Auschwitz obliged Germany to promote European integration and international stability. Before, during and after his eight-year chancellorship, Schmidt devoted considerable energy to these precepts and, to a large degree, he succeeded in living up to them. By underpinning the Federal Republic’s relations with the US and the European Community, especially France, he extended the policies of the first chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, who wanted to anchor the country firmly in the western community. Schmidt also maintained, though in more cautious vein, Brandt’s Ostpolitik extending West Germany’s relations with the Soviet Union and eastern Europe. This twin-track policy of confirming Germany as a solid partner for neighbours in east and west helped pave the way for the breakthrough of unification achieved by his successor, the Christian Democrat Helmut Kohl. Together with Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, president of France between 1974 and 1981, Schmidt was the main political architect of the European Monetary System, launched in 1979. He saw this mechanism to limit currency movements as a central element in his effort to “bind” the Federal Republic to the west. Schmidt also used his leverage to bring Moscow and Washington to the negotiating table in 1981 on the issue of intermediate-range nuclear weaponry. It was Mr Kohl — a man regarded by his predecessor with contempt — who pushed through Schmidt’s unpopular policy of deploying US Pershing and cruise missiles. Yet without Schmidt’s initial firmness in identifying the threat to Nato from Soviet SS-20s, the superpowers’ 1987 agreement to dismantle medium-range nuclear weapons, a milestone in disarmament history, would not have been possible. Schmidt’s reputation as a Macher (man of action) was well entrenched. In office, he liked to describe himself as West Germany’s chief executive. In his appetite for detail and love of grand strategy, neither his four predecessors as chancellor nor (in particular) his successor could match him. He had few equals in his quick-tongued ability to sum up complex arguments and, in political debate, to rip his opponents’ to shreds".
David Marsh, Haig Simonian and Gordon Cramb, "Helmut Schmidt, German statesman, 1918-2015". The Financial Times. 10 November 2015, in
"History played a dirty trick on Helmut Schmidt. With his interest in architecture, music, and political economy, Schmidt was the most erudite of Germany's postwar leaders. In addition, he had that special quality marking the great leader of being able to grow with the challenge. But, to achieve greatness, a statesman must possess not only knowledge and character; he needs leo to be blessed with the opportunity for a heroic response. Schmidt had the intrinsic attributes, but history did not vouchsafe him the opportunity to fulfil ultimate tasks. Among his predecessors, Konrad Adenauer will be remembered for having brought a defeated Germany from unconditional surrender into full membership in the Western Alliance; Willy Brandt for reconciling it with the countries of the east; Helmut Kohl for bringing about German unification. Schmidt never had comparable opportunities. He conducted the affairs of his country with intelligence and skill, even flair. But it was not given him to repeat the drama of Brandt or to carry out the fulfilment of Kohl".
Henry A. Kissinger. Years of Renewal. (1999), p. 610.
"I talked about this with Helmut Schmidt who, in personality, was the exact opposite to his predecessor as Chancellor, Willy Brandt. Whereas Brandt retained a bear-like hold on the affections of the mass of the German people, Schmidt had won nationwide respect for his intellectual ability, courage and capacity for decision. He was also noted for his supreme self-confidence. This was felt acutely in Bonn where to the question 'What is the difference between God and Schmidt' the answer was, 'God knows everything, but Schmidt knows it better'".
Sir Nicholas Henderson. Mandarin: The Diaries of an Ambassador, 1969-1982. Quoting a despatch written circa August 1975.(1994). p. 144.
A 'safe pair of hands', that in a nutshell describes the Chancellorship of Helmut Schmidt. Not mind you the quality of the man himself. The Financial Times obituary was quite accurate in describing the former West German leader as being intellectually brilliant and not one to suffer fools gladly. As not only his successor as Chancellor, Helmut Kohl but both Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan learned to know quite well 1. Given the unsettled circumstances of his succession to the Chancellorship in 1974, after the forced resignation of his predecessor Willy Brandt, Schmidt represented both a necessary soupcon of continuity and at the very same time, a reassuring sense of competence and as the FT so accurately characterized it, 'professionalism'. The 'Chief Executive Officer' as Chancellor, more or less fits the bill. And given the semi-chaotic surface of West German, nay Western life in the period of his Chancellorship, it would be true to say that Schmidt was quite successful for the first five to six years of his chancellorship. Up to say the winter of 1979-1980, when the revival of the 'new' or 'second Cold War', in conjunction with the less than rosy economic situation in the Federal Republic (due of course to the inflation caused by the oil prices raise beginning in early 1979), Schmidt's domestic political position in his own SPD became difficult. The irony of the situation being that Schmidt who was probably along with Ludwig Erhard the two most experienced Chancellors in German history, were politically undermined and then ousted due to not being able to manage economic expectations and inter & intra party difficulties at the same time 2. Similarly, I would surmise and that it was the intellectual mediocrity Helmut Kohl and not Schmidt who would handle best the politics of German reunification. Why one may ask? Simply put: because the quickest and best means of German reunification depended upon an emotional and not an intellectual reading of the situation on the ground in the former DDR in November and December 1989. And it was history shows, Kohl and not Schmidt who was able intuitively to read correctly the popular will in the former DDR and how to transform that popular will into a diplomatic and political programme of action. In short, it was Kohl and not Schmidt who became the Hegelian 'man of the hour':
Great men have worked for their own satisfaction and not that of others. Whatever prudent designs and well-meant counsels they might have gotten from others would have been limited and inappropriate under the circumstances. For it is they who knew best and from whom the others eventually learned and with whom they agreed or, at least, complied. 3.
In short, the Hegelian thesis quoted above shows us clearly not only why Helmut Schmidt, while a statesman of the first-rank, cannot be considered a 'great man' in the world-historical sense `a la Furst von Bismarck, Konrad Adenauer and to a lesser extent Kohl; not merely pace Kissinger's statement that he was in office at the wrong time, but because even if he had been at the helm of West Germany in 1989, he most likely would have coped ineptly with the politics of the downfall of the DDR. Not despite, but because all of his manifold intellectual and other gifts.
1. See Marsh, op. cit. See also: George Walden, "Helmut Schmidt, 1918 – 2015: Germany’s man of balance". The Spectator. 2 February 1985. In See also the following from Sir Nicholas Henderson as per Schmidt's attitude towards American President Carter: 'Helmut Schmidt has never been n admirer of Carter and takes little trouble to conceal it'. Henderson, op. cit., p. 325.
2. By employing the phrase: 'in German history', I mean going back to the founding of the Kleindeutschland by Bismarck in 1871.
3. G. W. F. Hegel. Reason In History, a general introduction to the Philosophy of History.(1830).

Thursday, November 12, 2015


The recent Russian military buildup in Syria appears designed to protect Mr. Assad and to provide him and Moscow with leverage against the U.S. and its allies in any diplomatic talks on Syria’s future. Maddening though this may be, it reflects the reality of how diplomacy is conducted: not merely through talks and conferences but also by creating facts on the ground that set the stage for deliberations. While Russia’s presence constrains U.S. options in Syria, it does not vitiate them or render us impotent. Rather than being cowed by Vladimir Putin’s gambit, the U.S. and its allies should continue to insist that any diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict require Mr. Assad to step down and a representative government to succeed him. And we should reinforce this position with action. A good place to start would be the creation of “safe zones” in Syria that could offer a haven to refugees and places to work with the Syrian opposition. Maintaining such zones would require a significant Western contribution, including air support and perhaps limited personnel on the ground. But as the refugee crisis and ISIS-inspired terror attacks demonstrate, inaction has not spared the U.S. from the costs of Syria’s conflict. U.S. agreement and contribution to creating such zones in Syria should be tied to our regional allies agreeing to provide financial and military support–including in the form of ground forces able to help police the areas. Just as important, our allies must agree to refrain from supporting extremists and, instead, act jointly with the U.S. to channel support and aid to responsible elements of the Syrian opposition. Together, we should redouble efforts to stanch the flow of men, money, and materiel to Mr. Assad and ISIS, which prosper in perverse symbiosis with one another. Regrettably, the refugee crisis is likely the first of many reverberations of the breakdown of Syria and Iraq that we will have to cope with in the years to come. With earlier action, we probably could have prevented it. But it is not too late to reduce the magnitude of the crisis or to stem further fallout from these conflicts by acting more decisively to resolve them.
Elliott Abrams & Michael Singh, "The Key to Resolving Syria’s Refugee Crisis? Ending Its War." The Wall Street Journal. 23 September 2015, in
"So, why does the West keep supporting those rebels? For the West it’s not a fight about removing Assad rather than fighting Islamic State. JL: This is true, but many top US generals, like the Syrian opposition, continue to insist that Assad is the magnet drawing ISIS into Syria and thus must be destroyed first. This argument makes little sense. After all, when did Al-Qaeda pour into Iraq? Only after Saddam was deposed and the Americans ruled the country. I don’t think any of the US generals who now claim that Assad must be destroyed in order to defeat ISIS would also argue that America had to be destroyed in Iraq in order to rid it of al-Qaida. If fact the US is building up the Iranian supported Shiite regime in Iraq to destroy ISIS, whereas it is seeking to destroy the Iranian backed “Shiite” regime in Damascus in the name of destroying ISIS. The American policy in Iraq is to kill al-Qaida not to accommodate it. I think everyone can agree that Al-Qaeda spread in Iraq because the state was destroyed and insecurity prevailed. The same is true in Syria. When Assad pulled his army out of the East, al-Qaida and other forms of Islamic extremism spread. ISIS spreads where states fail. The U.S. does not use the same logic in Syria that it uses in Iraq. This is simply part of the political landscape in America. You need to understand that the U.S. has two different metrics – one for Iraq and one for Syria"....
"The US will not like what Russian is doing, but it will stand by without opposing Russia too much. We will see if the Syrian army has enough oomph, enough strength to do the things that it claims to be able to do, such as take Aleppo and Idlib. Right now, Russia is confident, the Syrian authorities are confident; they believe that they can win. But I think people in the U.S., the top brass, are thinking that Russia will fail. Obama explained that he believes Russia will be sucked into the Syrian swamp. Evidently Saudi and others are pumping in more TOWs and advanced weapons to ensure Russia does get sucked into a swamp. They will ensure that Assad doesn’t win; it should be easy. U.S. policy makers are betting that in a year’s time, or even less, Russia and Assad will come back to them on bended knee. We’ll see what happens. Of course, in that time, Syria is going to be further brutalized, and a lot more people will be killed".
"The West falsely believes that it can separate the regime from the state. It argues that it can pursue regime-change while simultaneously preserving the state and its institutions. Washington believes it can avoid the chaos it sewed in Iraq. I don’t believe it can. It wasn’t only Bremer that criminalized the Baath Party and disbanded the army. The Shiite politicians he empowered insisted on it. In most Middle Eastern countries, the regimes, for better or worse, have transformed the states into reflections of themselves. They have cannibalized the state. They have crammed their loyalists into every nook and cranny of the national institutions. They had to in order to coup-proof their regimes. They justified it in the name of bringing stability. State institutions are not autonomous. Westerners believe that because their own state institutions are run by professional civil servants, Middle Eastern states are too. But they aren’t. Political appointees make up the entire edifice. They cannot simply be swapped out. Regime-change for an Arab country is not like administration change in a Western country. Destroying the regime means destroying the state. The price of regime-change is chaos. That is the situation in Syria today. It is the situation almost everywhere in the Middle East. Think of Saudi Arabia without the Saudi family. What would be left of the state? Were the Russians to place a Sunni on top of the regime, as the US and opposition insist it do, the Sunni leader would have to smash the state and fire tens of thousands of state employees just as was done in Iraq. He would have to assume that they were disloyal and would seek to overthrow him. He would also in all likelihood insist on putting his cousins and those loyal to him in power. This is what happened in Libya, Yemen, and Iraq. This is the Middle Eastern dilemma. This is one reason U.S. led regime-change has failed so miserably. The United States claims the Middle East needs democracy. But democracy has failed, at least democracy promoted by regime-change. Perhaps, this is why so many people in the world today look at Russia and think: “maybe they’re right? Maybe, the Middle East does need strongmen.”'
Joshua Landis, "Regime Change without State Collapse is Impossible in Syria. Landis interviewed by RT's Sophie & Co." Syria Comment. 9 November 2015, in
My acquaintance Professor Joshua Landis interview on Russian Television earlier this week, a small portion of which can be read above, is required viewing / reading for anyone who wishes to obtain an intelligent reading and discussion of what is occurring in the Syrian quagmire. Per contra to the wild and inaccurate statement by the Neo-Conservative ideologue, the egregious Elliott Abrams, the ouster of Assad Fils, would have a very detrimental effect on the remaining shards of stability in Syria. As Professor Landis clearly delineates in the case of Syria and as the example of Iraq in 2003-2004 clearly support, the ouster of Assad and his clique would have the end result of collapsing the remainder of the state apparatus in the country. With the very likely result in turn of an Afghanistan scenario circa 1992-1995 in Syria. With most of the remaining urban areas which are still standing (in particular Damascus) being destroyed as rival militias fight it out between each other. With millions more (perhaps Ten?) refugees crossing the borders of the country. And least anyone forget, the nadir of that cycle of violence in Afghanistan circa 1995, saw the beginnings of the triumph of the Taliban. And we all know I do hope what came of that pernicious event, no?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


"Russia edged closer on Monday night to identifying a bomb as the cause for the plane crash on November 1 as Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister, tweeted that the disaster “may have been the result of a terrorist attack”. The acknowledgment, which was carried on Mr Medvedev’s English-language Twitter account but not the Russian-language one, marks a subtle shift from Moscow’s earlier line that, while no possible cause could be excluded, now is not the time to rush to conclusions. The move comes after senior US lawmakers said on Sunday that the Washington intelligence community was increasingly in agreement with UK suggestions that a bomb had brought down the plane".
Kathrin Hille, "Russia edges towards bomb as cause of Sinai plane crash". The Financial Times. 9 November 2015, in
"Since the army overthrew Morsi in 2013, Sisi has consolidated the power of the military and has expanded the role of military intelligence, which traditionally focused on ensuring the army's loyalty but has taken on a more central role. There are some indications of power struggles within the security services. And there remain serious morale problems within the police – in August strikes and protests by policemen over low, late pay ended with protesting policemen teargassed by riot police. Low pay for the frontline security officials could open up possibilities of corruption; it certainly does in other sectors, including education. Repression has become more heavy-handed than in the 2000s, linked to escalating violence: in June the public prosecutor was assassinated in Cairo, while in August, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed a car bomb at the Italian consulate. In Sinai since 2013, authorities say militants have killed several hundred police, while they have killed some 200 jihadis. But there is little transparency about this. In September, the military accidentally killed 12 tourists, some of them from Mexico, in airstrikes in the Sinai. The Mexican government said they received the news from a private tour operator, not from the Egyptian authorities. A military official told the New York Times that anything involving tourists was the business of the interior ministry, and advised the reporter not to ask more questions. The repression may feed radicalization. Sisi argues his approach is necessary given the security threats Egypt faces. But the authorities have defined terrorism so widely that it includes the previous party of government, the Muslim Brotherhood, while the liberal youth activists who led the 2011 uprising are typically now incarcerated or in exile. Over a thousand people were shot in the streets in 2013. Since then the judiciary has sentenced hundreds more to death, including Morsi. There are tens of thousands of political prisoners, as well as reports of disappearances and deaths in custody. Former political prisoners say the whole spectrum of the Egyptian opposition is represented in prison, and that morale is highest among the jihadis, who hear of victories outside, while the liberals are dejected, largely forgotten by the Western governments who briefly championed their cause and then moved on. Closing down avenues for peaceful politics risks strengthening the proponents of violence. This argument has to be handled carefully: the earlier massacre of British tourists by an ISIS affiliate in Tunisia − which is going through a democratic transition and includes Islamists in the governing coalition − indicates there is no simple correlation between repression and radicalization. Egyptian society is polarized over who is most responsible for the violence. But defining the terrorist threat as widely as Egypt’s government now does − to include a movement that won a majority of the popular vote in the 2013 elections − makes it harder to fight"
Jane Kinninmont, "Metrojet Incident Spotlights Egypt’s Security Struggles". The Royal Institute of International Affairs. 9 November 2015, in
The terrorist outrage that occurred over the skies of the Egypt's Sinai Peninsula demonstrate anew that the particular course undertaken by Egypt's current military regime leave a lot to be desired. It is not merely that the regime is indiscriminately brutal, what appears to worse, indeed much worse is that it is also not particular competent in its allegedly core goal of providing Egypt with increased security. As the breakdown of order in early to mid-2011 has not, in the case of the Sinai Peninsula been rectified as of yet. Hence the ability of extreme Islamic militants to attack, sometimes indiscriminately but successfully, military and police stations in the area. Indeed it is almost a case that in x-percentage of the peninsula ordinary 'law and order' have completely disappeared. Accordingly, the breach of security which made the bombing of the Russian jet liner successful is part and parcel of this near breakdown. Unless and until the Egyptian authorities are able to remedy the current state of affairs, by greatly improving both its ordinary security on the ground and its intelligence as to the goings on of the Islamic militants, look for a Algeria scenario with its tens if not hundreds of thousands of people killed. Given this alternative, I for one would hope that the regime in Cairo would reconsider its policies towards the more moderate elements of the opposition. Both religious and secular. Before it is too late. As I foresaw back in early July 2013, prior to the overthrow of the Morsi Government:
"The fact is that however stupid and narrow-minded is the [Muslim] Brotherhood, it does represent a considerable element in Egypt's political landscape. A policy of overthrow by the military, especially one as politically maladroit as Egypts is only at the very best a short-term solution. The Algerian example of the late 1980's gives us a good idea as to what may occur if the Brotherhood is simply ousted from power". 1
1. "EGYPT: ONCE AGAIN ON THE BRINK?" Diplomat of the Future. 1 July 2013, in

Friday, November 06, 2015


"Brexit would mean a lot more foreign policy for Britain to cope with, a lot closer to home. Or, more accurately, for England to cope with – one of the most bankably predictable consequences of Brexit would be an early Scottish vote for independence within the EU, rather than continuing as part of a withdrawn UK. Sorting out the implications of “abroad” beginning for both countries along the line of the Cheviot Hills – especially in the context of the urge to “restore control of national borders” – would be anything but easy. At least violence is not likely to ensue – unlike in Northern Ireland. Any attempt to impose a fully controlled border between the UK and the Republic would not only be futile, as the years of terrorism demonstrated, but would also undermine the foundation upon which the Good Friday peace process is built, namely greater cross-border cooperation in the context of shared EU membership. Brexit would also mean that the generous EU funding that has oiled the settlement would dry up. So Brexit would further jeopardise the already-shaky power-sharing structure in Belfast, and significantly increase the risk of a return to sectarian violence in the North. The cooperation between London and Dublin to bring peace to Northern Ireland is only one example of how shared EU membership has replaced the often-contentious bilateral relations between member states with the interaction of partners. Such interaction is not always free of friction, and is often competitive. But it is always informed by the need to settle problems through negotiation and compromise, with a bias towards cooperative outcomes. If Britain chooses to terminate that relationship with the other 27 EU members – to make itself a “foreign country” – what incentive will Spain have to moderate its campaign to recover Gibraltar? Or France to continue to allow the British (in what might reasonably be viewed as a violation of sovereignty) to operate their border controls on French soil? Trade: size matters The attraction of “unshackling from the corpse” lies in lies in the perception that the UK needs to reorient its trade away from the low-growth EU towards booming emerging economies. But that is what the whole of Europe wants, too – the skies over Beijing are black with the planes of visiting European leaders and business delegations. The real point to consider is whether this reorientation will work better for the UK as part of the EU, or as a lone wolf. Globalisation has universalised trade. It has also, counterintuitively, balkanised the global trading regime. As emerging economic powers have become readier to challenge the old, Western-dominated system, the World Trade Organization is increasingly deadlocked – resulting in a global race to substitute a cat’s cradle of bilateral, regional, and plurilateral arrangements.... The temptation to hunker down behind the Channel is nothing new. It took Churchill’s leadership to induce us to resist it in 1939, and that moment has been the single most important element in our national identity since. The accompanying tendency to nostalgia, and sense of British exceptionalism, has not always been constructive. But with it has gone a belief that “British values”, whatever exactly they may be, do not sit easily with an “I’m alright, Jack” isolationism. The Ins will be right to argue that in the twenty-first century those values, as much as economic self interest, require us to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to a leadership role within the EU".
Nick Witney "Brexit to Nowhere: the Foreign Policy Consequences of 'out'". European Council on Foreign Relations. 5 November 2015, in
"One of the central arguments of the campaign for the UK to leave the EU is that it will liberate the country to strike out and forge a global trading presence on its own. Once the dead hand of EU protectionism is lifted from the country of David Ricardo and Adam Smith, so the argument goes, the UK can sign trade deals around the world, notably with the US and the rising economies of Asia. This glorious vision of a free-trading future hit a snag this week when Michael Froman, the US trade representative, dismissed the notion that Washington would be eager to sign an Anglospheric bilateral deal. Mr Froman said that the UK would have a bigger voice in trade talks as part of the EU than on its own; and that if it left the bloc it would subject to the same US tariffs as the likes of China and India".
Leader, "Brexit and the delusions of new free-trade deals". The Financial Times. 30 October 2015, in
The two above referenced recent items: an in depth analysis by Mr. Witney for the European Council on Foreign Relations and the last week's leader in the Financial Times, underline how dubious is the entire set of arguments made by those individuals who are arguing for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Which is not to say that British membership in that organization is hardly a bed of roses for anyone on either side of the Channel. But as a practical matter, Great Britain of to-day is hardily in a position to stand on its own feet outside of the European Union. A significant amount of inward investment into the UK is based upon the premise that the UK is and will be a member of the European Union. As soon as that fact changes, then a good amount of the inward investment stream will rather quickly dry-up. Similarly, it is foolhardy in the extreme to anticipate that once the UK votes to exit the European Union, that the latter will be greatly interested in negotiating trade and investment pacts which will make UK's life outside of the EU comfortable. Once again: this is not to gainsay that there are good arguments against UK membership in the EU. Merely that these arguments are of an emotional and or historical nature. Such arguments by definition do not take into account either geopolitical or economic facts. Not to mention the likely political turbulence caused to the UK internally. With a good likelihood of another referendum on Scottish independence. In short if the UK wishes to jump off into economic and political wilderness and irrelevance then nothing could do that better than voting to leave the European Union.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015


"Washington is sending special operations forces to Syria, in a policy shift that marks the first deployment of US forces in the war-torn country. President Barack Obama agreed to send a small force — no more than 50 troops — to northern Syria to bolster rebel forces who are fighting both Isis and the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. The US troops will help co-ordinate fighters on the ground in northern Syria to counter the jihadis. The White House stressed that the forces would not serve in a combat role. But even a limited training role represents a policy change for Mr Obama who has repeatedly said the US would not put boots on the ground in Syria. It also marks a change in the strategy to combat Isis and raises the stakes between Washington and Moscow in their attempts to influence the outcome of the war. Rebel groups in northern Syria have borne the brunt of Moscow’s bombing campaign, aimed at shoring up the Assad government."
FT Reporters, "US to put special forces on the ground in Syria". The Financial Times. 30 October 2015, in
The earlier episodes are reassuring when contemplating ISIS today. They show that revolutions pose serious dangers only when they involve great powers, since only great powers have proved capable of spreading their revolutionary principles. ISIS will never come close to being a great power, and although it has attracted some sympathizers abroad, just as earlier revolutions did, its ideology is too parochial and its power too limited to spark similar takeovers outside Iraq and Syria.
2. Stephen Walt, "ISIS as Revolutionary State". Foreign Affairs. (November / December 2015), in
"Nothing more clearly exposes Washington’s lack of strategic thinking than the US slide into Syria. Until last week President Barack Obama was adamant no American boots would set foot on Syrian soil. Now he has opened a crack in the door with the deployment of 50 US special forces. It is unlikely to stop there. Mr Obama has repeatedly been blindsided by the actions of others in Syria, most notably Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president. Reactive crisis management is a recipe for mission creep. Unless Mr Obama can seize the initiative, the US may be sucked into a war it cannot win. There is no substitute for a strategy. Until now, Mr Obama’s Syria policy has been driven by a lawyer’s mindset, taking each turn of events on a case-by-case basis. The problem with lawyers is that they sometimes miss the big picture. Two years ago Mr Obama set a red line on Syria’s use of chemical weapons that he failed to enforce after it was breached. The impact of his prevarication continues to influence the actions of others from Moscow to Riyadh. Mr Obama’s bluff was called and he wobbled. It is hard to overstate how much damage that did to America’s reputation."
1. Edward Luce, "Obama’s mission creep in Syria". The Financial Times. 2nd November 2015, in
While I do not agree with the Financial Times Washington correspondent Edward Luce very often the present is one case in which I do so. As he cogently notes in a piece in the FT yesterday, a very bad combination of incoherence and 'mission-creep' seems to be the modus operandi of the American Administration policies in Syria. If indeed the mot 'policies' is the word that one may employ to describe such. Which is not to gainsay the idea that it is (I believe) an imperative to defeat the radical Islamists of ISIS before it is given time to establish itself and further radiate its hated policies. The question merely is what is the very best means of achieving this objective? I for one would say that at the very least, the Americans and their allies both in and out of the Near & Middle East, should drop, definitively and immediately the goal of ousting the Assad Regime. Which is not to say that anyone has any love or admiration for Assad Fils and his clique as such. Merely that given what we know of the currents of this region, especially in the past few years, the fall of the Assad Regime is hardly guaranteed to resolve or even to help to resolve the manifold dilemmas facing the poor people of Syria. With the exception of the Kurds, none of the opposition who are in any way or manner effective can be said to be either non-sectarian or even vaguely pro-Western. Most are Sunni fanatics, little better au fond than ISIS itself. What the American Administration needs to do, with or without any tie-up with Moskva or its Persian allies, is to ascertain: does it wish to defeat ISIS or not? Does it wish to oust Assad, et. al., or not. Currently, the American Administration seems to wish to accomplish both goals, without however any means of doing so. Per contra to Stephen Walt's thesis, I adhere to the idea that ISIS is a mortal danger to the West and its allies in the region. By no stretch of the imagination can Assad Fils and company be said to be in the same class. Not by a long-shot. Accordingly, the American Administration needs to focus on destroying ISIS. If this does not require the employment of American ground forces: splendid. If it does, then let us then employ them in a massive, swift and sharp attack. What seems to be the description of a failed strategy is to tip a toe of forces into this conflict and then when nothing occurs, dip another toe. That is the Vietnam-like 'mission creep' revidivus that is best avoided at all costs.