The U.S. should stay out of the Middle East as much as possible, but no easy way around it all…

August 14, 2016

I was waiting on my car to be repaired at the shop so I had a lot of time on my hands and so I began to read one humongous story in the on-line New York Times, the longest one they have ever written they say. It is called: “Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart”. I read quite awhile and was engrossed, but finally I succumbed to fatigue and almost fell asleep in my chair — but I will try to continue it. I think it is important.

What I think I will probably get out of it is a feeling more than ever that the United States should as much as possible let that world deal with its own problems, except that its problems have a way of becoming our problems, whether we like it or not. And we are often accused of helping create its problems — but all that is problematic in that we are the world super power and it is inevitable that we find ourselves involved to at least some degree. And today it is harder than ever to be isolationist in that we live in a world that is so interconnected and interdependent.

But, but I say, still we need to avoid getting bogged down in that world that we can perhaps never fully understand due to a culture there that is so different from ours.

Have not read the full article yet (just begun as I said) but I imagine the reason the so-called Arab Spring did not result in a magical transformation to Western-style democracy for the Middle East is that unlike, say the U.S., they did not have a historical movement toward democracy to support them. Western society began moving away from rule by divine right and by lords of fiefdoms and such centuries before the colonists revolted in the American revolution. When the colonists defied the British monarch they were not demanding some new rights, they were demanding “the rights of Englishmen”. Those rights to some extent were proclaimed hundreds of years previous in the Magna Carta (although British historians say Americans put more stock in that document than they do — but that is another subject). There is no long history of individual rights or self-government or movement beyond the tribe in the Arab world. But one day, perhaps, they will get sick and tired of being backward and will on their own, thankyou, decide to copy or borrow from our ways (maybe even improve upon them, who knows?). In fact, if we did not meddle in their affairs they might find it easier to do so.

Of our two leading candidates for president, Hillary Clinton may be the most likely to get us mired even more than we are in the Middle East — I’m not sure. But she talks tough. I think she both is more of a hawk and she finds it necessary as a woman to talk tough, tough as a man.

Women can be decisive in such matters. As I recall people darn near laughed when Margaret Thatcher dispatched the British fleet to the Falkland Islands. But under the leadership of the “Iron Lady” they dispatched the Argentines, who tried to snatch British territory inhabited by Britons.

Donald Trump: his position is indecipherable. He is both for staying out and bombing the hell out of them (in the Middle East). I think he likely does not have a clue. He would not be the first American president to not have a clue when it comes to use of the military. We have had a run of bad luck on that one.

In summary, I would just say that I think the policy of the U.S. in the Middle East should be to stay out when at all possible, but of course we have to protect our trade routes and economic interests. No easy way around all this for sure.

 

 


Syrian refugee crisis points to need to confront ISIS

September 13, 2015

The Syrian refugee crisis presents a conundrum.

On the one hand, human decency demands that the millions of refugees, men and women and little children, be accommodated. They are fleeing war, and terror from an enemy as savage as the world has ever known (not more if we look back into history but as bad).

On the other hand, at some point the people of the Middle East have to fight back against terrorism unless they just want to cede their homeland (and eventually much of the world) to the barbarians.

(One has to wonder if those men among the refugees of proper age and fitness for military service should not be asked to join in the fight against ISIS, but that is problematic.)

One could argue that the West in its dealings in the Middle East and its move for hegemony or complete control there over the last century is somewhat responsible for the chaos there now.

But we cannot go back in time. This is now and what do we do?

And that’s the problem. There just is not an easy or sure answer.

The Assad regime in Syria murdering its own people on a grand scale and the ISIS terrorists also engaged in murder not only of a people but a whole cultural history (destroying ancient artifacts), together beg for some force to come in and deal with them.

ISIS of course controls portions of Iraq, a nation we invested so heavily in with blood and treasure in a nation-building effort only to be kicked out of (that is our leadership let them kick us out).

Recent efforts (over the past decade that is) to bring peace and democratic government to the region have brought nothing but failure to the U.S. and the West.

I personally think the U.S. just does not have the resolve to win anymore. It may be because the public does not see a direct connection to its own well-being. We talk the game, but don’t really believe it in our hearts. But meanwhile we sacrifice blood of our military and trillions of dollars from our treasury – and all borrowed money (much of it owned to China).

But when ISIS really does take over we will see the error of our ways. But it may be too late by then.

ISIS is not going to stop in the Middle East.

And probably part of the  problem in our military interventions is that the public assumes those in charge are taking care of things and will do what is necessary and no need for any sacrifice on its part — don’t bother us, handle it. And then when it all falls apart due to half measures and timidity on the part of our leadership everyone wonders what happened. But the leadership is afraid to suggest some sacrifice on the part of the public. Leaders don’t want to be thrown out of office.

In addition, some in the military have been looking too much toward their retirement or the next book or love affair and not the problem at hand.

(But those who do the actual fighting do sacrifice, along with their families.)

I was against the Iraq intervention or invasion both times. But I was mystified why we held back in Desert Storm and did not push on into Baghdad – I mean Saddam’s vaunted forces were surrendering to television cameramen.

So we wound up years later going back at much cost but got bogged down in a civil war that resulted from the ousting and eventual execution of the strongman. Yes, and I know, that is supposedly among the reasons or an excuse ex post facto for not going all the way the first time. But I don’t buy it.

I’m going off on a tangent here I know. But the problem is that since the Viet Nam fiasco we don’t fight wars to win.

We have to pick our battles for sure. But once we do, sending men and women into harm’s way and committing our citizen’s dollars to a cause in which we are afraid to win is a moral outrage.

That is not to say that every time we are involved in some type of conflict we have to throw everything in our arsenal at it. Situations differ, but we must at some point have resolve.

Oh, and I was against the Viet Nam War (and yet I served at the time in the army, albeit not in Viet Nam by fortunate chance), but like so many people I could not figure out why our leaders did not seem to be willing to commit the necessary resources and use the necessary tactics to win.

But back to today, to Syria and the fight against ISIS:

Perhaps we need to lean on our Saudi Arabian allies for help in putting together a stronger regional force to combat ISIS.

President Obama should have honored his own threat against the Assad regime for continuing to use gas and other weapons against its own people. He should have ordered attacks on the regime when he had the excuse fresh in mind, but he wobbled.

Putin of Russia and the Iranian regime support Assad, but they cannot be comfortable about ISIS.

With the new Iran nuclear agreement under which Iran should have many or most of its economic sanctions lifted, maybe the U.S. could have some leverage there (although the agreement is pretty weak and may not be of much help).

And as far as Putin of Russia goes – we just need to stand up to him. He’ll blink.

The U.S. has much invested in the region. We need to negotiate with the powerful players there (well not ISIS).

It is a complicated civil war in Syria, with forces we support fighting against the Assad regime but joined by terrorist forces who are also fighting the Assad regime. And both the U.S. and Iran see ISIS as an enemy but find themselves at odds with each other.

And just like the Soviet Union before it, Russia wants to have influence in the region and vies for it with the U.S.

All very complex.

But being the world’s super power carries responsibilities.

And first we need to be responsible to ourselves.


Iraq crisis is shades of Vietnam…

June 19, 2014

 

UPDATE: Since first posting this it has now been announced that the U.S. will be sending in 300 military advisors in the current Iraqi crisis, and it looks like it has been concluded by the Obama administration that the current Iraqi leader, Maliki, cannot be the person to head a new unity government.

Also, President Obama now has repeated that he has no intention of sending in combat troops (beyond the advisors). But President Lyndon Johnson vowed not to send in American boys to do what Vietnamese boys should be doing. And then he sent in a half million troops. We have already lost 4,500 of our own in the Iraq War and thousands more were gravely wounded. We had declared it over (for us). The pressure will be intense on Obama not to make it a lost cause.

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Shades of Vietnam, kind of. We have a corrupt and non-representative government in Iraq we have supported. Meanwhile, the enemy is at the gates, and we don’t want to send in ground troops but it looks like we will send in military advisors. And what comes next? Well of course the enemy will shoot back and we will then send in more troops. Unlike Vietnam we have already fought this war. We just did not finish it — oh, like Vietnam. Over simplistic analysis and not right on I know. But on enough I think. I’ll try to write more later.

…Well jus time to add this: now there are reports that some factions within the Iraqi government have asked U.S. support to oust their present leader Maliki. Hope this does not turn out to be like the time we backed the murder of the head of the South Vietnamese government, Diem. But on the other hand, Maliki needs to go. He seems to be the cause of the current crisis.

The United States should have not got into the mess of nation building but we did, we just did not stick with it. What to do now? Whatever we do, half measures will not work. We either need to write the whole thing off or on the other hand be prepared to do it right.

Geesh terrorists taking over a major oil supply. That is not good.


Time to remind ourselves why we went to the Middle East in the first place…

June 14, 2014

As the Sunni militants close in on the capital of  Iraq, this headline: Iraqi General Insists Baghdad is Safe From Insurgents — that’s from the New York Times (not the Times itself claiming that). Is Baghdad Bob back? The guy who made a fool out of himself saying the forces of Saddam Hussein were prevailing against the U.S. even as they were obviously crumbling. Now the tables seem to be turned and the government we reluctantly back is in danger of being ousted by Islamic terrorists. Reports differ. Some say there is an indication the government is beginning to hold its own — but up to now the security forces we trained have just thrown down their weapons and ran away.

 

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It might just be time that the United States stepped back and took another look at why it got involved in the Middle East in the first place.

I mean let’s be honest. We did not go in there to free people from ruthless dictators. We did not go in there with the specific or primary intent of making their lives better, although certainly we would want that.

We went in there originally to keep our oil supply chain open (the first Gulf War). Anything positive besides that, such as creating freer societies and more equal economic opportunity for all, were just side benefits.

I recall during the first Iraq War or maybe the second a young person I know (who I will not name) looked at me seriously when I made the remark while filling my gas tank of my car that this is what our soldiers were dying for. This young person questioned what I meant by that. The indoctrination via our own government/political propaganda plus the accepted narrative from the main stream media was that we were going in there to save people from the ruthless dictator Saddam Hussein and to keep Al Qaeda from bringing its war to America and other parts of the free world.

(9/11 played into this all, but certainly we did not wage all the wars to go after one man, Osama Bin Laden and a band of terrorists, and the first Gulf War was before 9/11 course, and 9/11 did not come out of Iraq, even though in reaction to it we went to war with Iraq — you know, how is this all going to be taught in history? It makes no sense.)

But oil is what is was always about. Well that and the ongoing and age-old struggle between Eastern and Western cultures, perhaps.

Make no mistake about it, there are elements in the societies of that part of the world who would rather more closely emulate what we have in the West, although they would likely want to do so while retaining much of their own culture.

Unfortunately religion and tribal rivalries seem to be the dividing factor in these societies. Its bad enough that Muslims often hate Christians or Jews or others who are not of their religion, but they can’t even get along with each other, being divided in various sects (and I admittedly don’t understand all of that, except they don’t get along). In Iraq the division between Sunni and Shia seems to cause the most strife (and that is a fact elsewhere too). When Saddam Hussein was in charge the Sunni minority controlled things. And now under the present leader, Nuri al-Maliki, the reverse is true. It seems to not have occurred to these people that religion should be kept out of government, just as it has not occurred to some in our own country, now that I think about it.

Of course those hungry for power exploit ignorance and do their best to maintain ignorance in order to set people against each other and in the meantime gather all the goodies from society themselves (the way of the world, really).

But back to why we are there.

It was primarily oil all the time.

Well as I understand it the United States is now energy independent. We are willing to put up with the possible ill effects of fracking and oil train wrecks and potential environmental problems caused by the proposed Keystone pipeline to be energy independent.

(A government report claims that the pipeline would cut down on the potential of oil train wrecks.)

So why are we fighting wars in the Middle East?

Yes, Islamic terrorists probably do pose a threat to the whole world, but they are going to have a hard time financing themselves without oil to hold us hostage over.

We can and must defend ourselves, but maybe getting sucked into no-win wars in the Middle East is not the answer.

And anyway, like I repeat like a stuck record, the only justified war can be one that is fought to win.

It’s shameful how we send people to die and people to be maimed for life in causes we can’t seem to get fully committed to.

If it is deemed we have to go back to Iraq, it better be to win. And what is winning? Winning is vanquishing the enemy and taking control of the area ourselves for a time and gradually turning it back to those who live there once they can learn to govern themselves.

If all that is not possible, well so be it. Forget it. We can now do without their precious oil.

If they are willing to kill each other over religion I’m sorry for that, just leave us out of it.

P.s.

I don’t minimize the threat of so-called Islamic terrorism on the whole world. The latest seems to be that a group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) now poses a more serious threat than Al Qaeda, the latter group now parting ways from it, supposedly because the former is too ruthless. But I think a strong and prosperous Western society not bogged down in costly no-win wars over oil will be better able to protect itself.

P.s. P.s.

Adding to the confusion, Iran sees ISIS as a threat and backs the current Iraqi government. I just read that Maliki might use the threat of Iran, our arch enemy, coming to his aid as a wedge to get U.S. help to save him. Oh what a tangled web…


Comparing JFK assasination to 9/11, and have our own security concerns turned us into a police state we’ve always fought against?

November 4, 2013

I’m not sure what has been the most momentous thing to happen in current events in my lifetime, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy or the 9/11 attack on the U.S.

With the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination coming up (Nov. 22) I was thinking of those two events. In my life, perhaps, the JFK assassination has had more significance. I was a freshman in high school. I paid attention to current events and read a weekly news magazine and watched Huntley-Brinkley and Walter Cronkite newscasts on TV. I knew that not everyone loved JFK even if the hype in popular culture seemed to indicate otherwise. Still, he and his family were something different and exciting for much of the public. The president was relatively young (in his 40s), when compared to the previous presidents, and I guess JFK and wife Jackie and children Caroline and John John were the first mediagenic first family. And JFK had that strange but fun-to-listen-to Boston/Irish accent where he pronounced Cuba as “cuber”, and in his press conferences, of which he held many, he would flash that magic, magnetic smile, often along with some expression of wry humor often via innuendo, which to any guy seemed cool and probably to any girl or woman, well, whatever…

But when it came to things like the Cuban Missile Crisis when the nation was actually concerned that it might end up in nuclear war at any second with the standoff between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, he presented himself as a steady reassuring hand as he soberly addressed the public. He just seemed to say the right thing.

They say he was not a top student at Harvard (I don’t know, maybe he kept up the “gentleman’s c”) but he was eloquent in speech and always seemed to make the well-reasoned and convincing case.

He was staunchly pro-civil rights but had to deal with the political realities of the times. It would take the older and much more seasoned congressional wheeler-dealer Lyndon Johnson, JFK’s vice president, to push the civil rights legislation through after he assumed the presidency, upon the assassination of JFK.

The assassination of JFK blew our whole world apart. While he had his detractors much of the nation seemed enthralled with him and his family. They were like royalty almost. And maybe that is what someone or ones were afraid of.

I’m not a conspiracy buff by any means. But I have to wonder if his assassination was not a CIA job. That theory has been posited before of course. I have a book by some woman who claims to have been a lover of Fidel Castro (I mean one of his lovers) and who claims that she was with the CIA and that they were mad about JFK’s abandoning the Anti-Castro forces in the ill-fated Bay of Pigs operation. I think her book is rather obscure and she may have well been just trying to make some money. You think? But still…

We know that Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin. We also know that he did not just pop up out of nowhere. The CIA and the FBI already knew about him and yet why did they not make sure where he was that fateful day in Dallas? Well, back then maybe we did not have that much capability in tracking people? (We had a hard time finding Osama Bin Laden is nearly plain sight.)

And what made me think of all of this is the recent and ongoing revelations as to how much our own government via the National Security Agency and other intelligence branches is spying on its own citizens — eavesdropping on phone calls, emails, and other world-wide web data. It is also spying on friendly foreign leaders and in the process the president himself (which he claims not to have known about — and that is bad either way). I mean what possible reason or justification is there to spy on our allies? And is not an agency dangerous if it is spying on the president? J. Edgar Hoover, the late director of the FBI, was infamous for blackmailing high officials with the dossiers he held on them.

And then to 9/11. In the first direct attack on U.S. soil since the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, a group of terrorists pulled off the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, hijacked four airliners, and ran one into the Pentagon. And the baffling thing is that our intelligence agencies had the names of these guys and I guess their descriptions on their watch list and yet they were allowed to board airliners. Okay probably too paranoid conspiracy-centric here, but did someone want this to happen? We know that forces behind the rather dim-witted former president George W. Bush were pushing for war in the Middle East and even published a paper that opined we needed a new Pearl Harbor to wake the electorate up — and along comes 9/11 with the numbers of dead very close, close to 3,000 in each.

The death of JFK put LBJ in office. I have no doubt that he had good intentions, but he was perplexed over what to do about the ongoing situation in Vietnam, threatened by an ongoing insurgency that would result in a communist takeover of South Vietnam. And it was simply understood at the time that we had to stop communism anywhere we could. While JFK was trying to keep from sending actual American combat troops there, while supporting the anti-communist side nonetheless — we only had military advisers in the theatre — LBJ eventually sent as many as a half million U.S. troops there, even though he knew from almost the start that the situation was hopeless. But ever since China was lost to the communists in 1949 during a Democratic administration, Democrats had to be on guard not to lose anything else. The fear of being weak in the face of the communist threat forced President Harry Truman to send troops to save South Korea (a highly unpopular move at the time).

And the lives of so may young Americans (and the their loved ones) were forever changed by LBJ’s actions. I probably would not have gone into the Army if it were not for the Vietnam. In some kind of twisted logic I joined the Army, figuring I would be drafted soon enough anyway. The draft lottery had not been put into place at that time. But I was sent to Germany. But one of my brothers was grabbed by Uncle Sam and put into the Army and sent to Vietnam. Fortunately he did his tour and came home safe and sound. But such was not the case for nearly 60,000 American troops who died and thousands more who were gravely wounded. And besides that: all the lives torn apart. Wives who lost husbands and parents who lost children and so on.

(Even though I joined the Army I was not much of a soldier, but I am glad I served if for no other reason than I can say I served. I am proud that all the boys in my family served. My oldest brother served 20 years in the U.S. Navy.)

So, anyway, the 9/11 disaster was used as a pretext to get our nation into war in both Afghanistan and Iraq. We all know what that has wrought, nearly 7,000 dead Americans over a decade (thousands more wounded) with no discernible good to have come of it and trillions of dollars drained from our treasury. But of course we can’t afford to guarantee health care to our own citizens, the troubled Obamacare program notwithstanding, and have to cut back on aid to the poor, and we fail to invest in our infrastructure.

So, it is hard to choose as to which event was more momentous, the JFK assassination, or 9/11. There is no correct answer. It depends upon your age, really, and your own personal situation (you may have lost someone in the current wars).

And then again, with the result that intelligence agencies have been so emboldened to turn on the public they are supposed to protect, maybe 9/11 is the more momentous.

We are all so accustomed to giving out our Social Security number and our email address and we are so wired-in now with commercial interests knowing our personal tastes and information and every move, that we almost do not notice that we have become something close to a police state worthy of the old Soviet Union or East Germany or Hitler’s Germany. So far, no discernible ill effects, but overnight that all could change, the apparatus for the evil of control over all humans by a minority is already in place.

There is talk (or maybe it has already happened) of domestic use of drone aircraft by local law enforcement. We may not fear it as much when used elsewhere, but here?

We really need to pause and think about all of this.


If more of us knew the history of the Western Powers in the Middle East we’d be better off…

October 30, 2013

In less than two hours you can be brought up to date on the background of the Middle East therefore allowing you to have a much better understanding of why the place seems to be such a mess and why the Western powers, especially the U.S. these days, is so interested in it. Well you already knew the latter, oil. But why is the place such a mess and so hard to control or stabilize so the people who live there and the rest of the world who deals with it can live in peace and harmony?

What you do is watch a documentary: “Blood and Oil, the Middle East in World War I”. The running time is 1 hour 54 minutes. It was released in 2009 and was directed by Marty Callaghan (yeah I don’t know who he is either, but great job on the film).

If you just listen to some of the talking heads on current events/ political shows you probably know bits and pieces of the story or maybe not. But the thesis of the documentary is that all our troubles in the Middle East (sometimes referred to as the Near East) today are the result of Great Britain and France being interested in the resources there back in the time of World War I. For one thing, Great Britain had just switched its fuel for its naval vessels from coal to oil. When it realized that there was such an abundance of oil in the region, well it got highly interested. In addition, as part of the battle scene in World War I, Great Britain was at war with the Ottoman Empire, headquartered in modern-day Turkey, but including a large part of the Middle East. France was interested too. So the two nations entered into a secret agreement to divide up the Middle East after the war. As it turns out — I think I am correct in saying — Great Britain wound up with most of it, but France did get Syria and Lebanon at least. But as still is the case today, much of that region was/is controlled more by tribal interests than central governments. The only thing that seems to have kept people from going after each other’s throats is strong men leaders (dictators), often or always propped up by the Western powers.

Iraq, which has caused us (the U.S.) so much woe, was really an artificial nation state designed and created by Great Britain. The people are of different religions or at least of different sects of Islam (primarily) and even different ethnicities. Not part of the film, but you can see what happens when you topple the dictator. Complete chaos. And by the way, look what’s happening in Libya today: complete chaos, the country’s present so-called leader was even kidnapped briefly a few weeks ago. Today in the news, tribal interests are cutting off part of the oil supply, disrupting exports (thereby endangering the nation’s own economy and that of the rest of the world, due to dependence on oil). All this after the West supported insurgents in toppling the late crazy Muammar Gaddafi.

The documentary also either enlightens you or reminds you that all of World War I did not take place along the border of France and Germany, or on the high seas of the North Atlantic (as in “Sink the Bismarck”).

Actually, the U.S. role in the Middle East is barely mentioned because it is a background report that centers on the time frame of World War I and maybe a decade after.

But if you are not already up on all of this, I urge you to watch the film. It is not completely objective (I don’t know if such things ever are or could be), but I think it is accurate in its presentation of history (if not all its conclusions).

If more of my fellow citizens were up on such things I think the U.S. would have not become so bogged down in the Middle East. We might have been engaged, but we would have at least had a better idea of what we are trying to accomplish or what even could be accomplished.

I see the film may be available simply by clicking YouTube. I watched it on my Kindle (paying a nominal price).

P.s.

Well after writing all of the above, it occurred to me that I neglected to mention that Russia, the Soviet Union, and then again Russia (all the same thing in this context) has been highly interested and involved in the region too, having fought the Ottoman Empire in World War I and because of its historic desire for access to the Oceans in the area.

P.s. P.s.

Yes I realize France has had colonies in North Africa (sometimes these days referred to as the Middle East), but I was not trying to present a history or political or geography lesson myself, just a review of a documentary.

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CLARIFICATION: In my previous post I misidentified a military officer speaking to JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I should have written Air Force Gen. Curtiss LeMay, but instead wrote Gen. Maxwell Taylor (both were involved in all of this, but I was referring to a sound recording of LeMay).


Shock and awe did not prevent a ground war in Iraq, why would it in Syria?

September 11, 2013

Before I digest everything from President Obama’s speech on Syria last night and the reaction to it, I want to put this out:

Remember? We tried “shock and awe” at the beginning of the Iraq War and then it took us ten years with mucho boots on the ground and thousands of our people (and of course others) getting killed or gravely wounded to get out of there and in the end even though we helped set up a government or supported it, that government dismissed us — and I always have to add, we didn’t even get a lock on the oil , and I don’t care what anyone suggests, oil was our primary concern or reason for the whole thing.

Also I heard an interesting interview (and I did not get the name of the author) about a biography of Woodrow Wilson. He’s of course the president who served one term and then won a second on the slogan: “he kept us out of war”, and then upon taking his second term he got us into World War I on the principle (his) of “making the world safe for democracy”. And it was noted that Obama seems to be mirroring Wilson in this. Obama campaigned on ending wars of choice in the Middle East  and now he seems hell bent on getting us militarily involved in something in Syria in order to essentially make the world safe for democracy or at least safe from dictator who lobs chemical weapons at his people — there is not much democracy in the Middle East, save for Israel and the attempts at it elsewhere.

I came away from Obama’s speech last night thinking it would have been a good idea for him to have worked things out with congress behind the scenes before he committed himself and to have gotten his message out to the American people earlier. And if he saw it was not playing well, to have dropped the plan and moved on. It is a war of choice (I know he does not call it war but it is). Even the isolationists leading up to World War II shut up and went along after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. And 9/11, the 12th anniversary of which we are observing today, came at the right time for the interventionists who influenced George W. Bush (pardon me for being cynical). And isn’t it tragically ironic that on the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the U.S. we have a president ready to plunge us into yet another military action in the Middle East? So much for the apology tour he made at the beginning of his presidency.

We just are not directly threatened here. Of course that does not mean we don’t face some future threat from all of this. Yes, we should be working ever so discreetly, clandestinely perhaps, to shape things the way we need them.

Oh, and one more thing, the Russian plan to let Syria give up its chemical weapons is no doubt a stalling tactic, but if it defuses things for the moment or gets us out of a tough spot maybe that is good.

The threat of force by Obama most likely did move things along. But again, Obama should have gotten support first. Now he is in the uncomfortable position of saying: I’m going to attack you, if I can get permission.

But let us all hope and pray it all works out to the good.


(In reference to Syria crisis) The end of the Cold War has complicated things; why not just outlaw war?

September 3, 2013

So a missile or missiles have already been launched in the current Syria crisis — okay that was misleading. Actually a war game missile test was done by Israel, but in connection with the ongoing crisis. And this was done in conjunction with a team from the U.S. Pentagon, and of course you can read about that if you have not already in the news.

Somehow we (the U.S.) seem to be headed for another mess in the Middle East.

Last night I was perusing the offerings of books about Syria on my Kindle. But although I tried some samples, I did not purchase one yet. They seem to be too general for the immediate situation or one seemed interesting but almost too inside baseball (technical). But I probably will get one or more. I really would like to understand things better about all of this.

But if you have not read this blog before you can scroll down or click the “war” category at the right and see what I have already written. I mean I do have some thoughts on all of this.

What we seem to have in Syria and other places in the Middle East are fabricated nation states dating back a hundred years and more as the result of Western European colonialism. People of different tribal allegiances and religions and sects within religions have been jumbled together and the only way the peace was ever kept was back in the old days by the governing colonial powers and then later by strong man dictators backed by their ruthless security forces and/or military.

During the Cold War the U.S. (and its Western allies and former colonial powers) vied with the Soviet Union for influence or control over the region. And the region is important for trade and world transport (the Suez Canal, for instance,  is vital) and of course OIL. And don’t forget, Western (and Eastern) arms manufacturers have to love the region because it has so much fighting. It is a major market. And also it is the home of the world’s major religions (and doesn’t that seem ironic).

There is no more Soviet Union, but what is now called Russia is an ally of the Syrian government. For one thing, Russia has its only naval base on the Mediterranean in Syria. I recall my sixth grade teacher telling us that the Russians have always coveted a “warm water” port on the Mediterranean. The Russians also supply (sell) arms to the Syrians.

In many ways things were way simpler when back during the Cold War the U.S. and Soviet Union as the two “super powers” divided influence over the world between them. Now everyone wants to get into the act, that is every religious sect and tribe and so on.

And of course you wouldn’t be reading this if you did not already know that the present crisis is over the use of outlawed chemical weapons by the current Syrian regime against its own people.

U.S. President Barack Obama previously threatened that the U.S. would retaliate if it did that (again) and now he seems stuck on making good on the threat.

This occurs to me: If we can internationally outlaw chemical (and biological) weapons why not outlaw war itself?


So let the Palestinians have their own state already….

September 16, 2011

How can it be that there is not already an independent Palestinian state? The U.S. administration and Israel are all in a dither because the leader of Palestine is going to the UN General Assembly next week to demand Palestine be recognized as an independent nation.

From my knowledge of the history of this whole thing (recent history), which began about the time I was born, 62 years ago, neither side, Israel nor the Palestinians, have a lock on all that is good and right. Furthermore, Arab powers in the area, and even the Persians of Iran, have capitalized on the suffering of the Palestinians, but have not been of much help to them.

But the indisputable fact is that the Palestinians had their territory taken over in order to create the modern state of Israel. That state was created for the Jews by the Western powers, most notably the U.S. and Britain, to atone for all the suffering of the of Jews, who had long been persecuted in Europe and finally had lost millions of their own in Hitler’s Holocaust — they were shot or gassed to death and their bodies burned in giant ovens and maybe sometimes they were not killed before being thrown into the inferno.

So a new/old homeland for the Jews was created in the old biblical place where God’s “chosen people” once abided.

At the time previous to the creation of the modern state of Israel the British were in charge there, the area being  part of what was left of the old British Empire, upon which the sun never set.

There is disagreement as to how much legal claim the displaced Palestinians had over the land, they not being incorporated into a recognized state, and there are even claims by the Jews that the Palestinians were not chased off but rather left of their own accord — not wanting to share space with Jews. This is my admittedly limited understanding of the whole situation, but I think there are elements of truth from all who try to give an account of what happened, but their own prejudices and true motives get in the way of complete truth here.

But history is history. This is today. And there is no reason why what I believe are a relatively homogeneous group of people, the Palestinians, should not have complete autonomy.

While the Palestinians, as a group through the years, are guilty of grave acts of terrorism against the Jews, the Jews themselves engaged in terrorism, mainly against the British, in their original efforts at statehood. In addition, the Jews continue to build and maintain new settlements encroaching on what is considered Palestinian territory.

While the Palestinians have a responsibility to be peaceful neighbors and refrain from making war on Israel, Israel has to responsibility to quit denying freedom to so many inhabitants of the land who are not Jewish.

The United States has tried to be responsible through the years and be responsive to the needs of the Jewish people, who have historically been oppressed.

The U.S. has also responded through the years in various crises, such as Arab invasions, due not only to a sense of right but the power of the ultra-strong Jewish lobby and a strong voting block of U.S. Jews.

But it is time now for the U.S. to sit back and let the Palestinians declare their own state, making it plain that the U.S. still supports the defense of Israel.

There is no guarantee of peace and harmony is all of this, but to do otherwise after all this time is a guarantee of continued strife.


(Sharia law for Libya?) Obama may have another Middle East victory: Bin Laden down and now Gaddafi

August 23, 2011

LATEST UPDATE (8-25-11):

At the the opera they say it ain’t over till the fat lady sings. In libya,  it can’t even begin to be over till Gaddafi crawls out of his hole or until he is pulled out. His loyalits are still resisting and he’s still issuing statements, according to reports, even though his command center/residence was taken over.

And one wonders if this will all devolve into a civil war.

UPDATE:

8-24-11

Over the last 12 hours or so the story/rumor that is circulating concerning the apparent Libya rebel victory over Gaddafi, who served as a tyrant for more than four decades, is that a draft of a new “democratic” constitution is circulating and that it calls for the imposition of  Sharia law.

I have to admit I know next to nothing about Sharia law, except basically I understand it is an Islamic religious code. Well if a nation is going to have an official religion, it seems logical it might well adopt that religion’s code.

I could no more deal with the imposition of Sharia law here in the United States than I could deal with the imposition of some Christian code of conduct based on the Old or even New Testament of the Holy Bible.

In the U.S., religious freedom, which includes the prohibition of a state-sponsored religion (and I would add, freedom from religion), is a fundamental part of our democracy. It would seem impossible to achieve anything close to our basic freedoms with the imposition of a religious law, even though much of our law is derived from religious moral codes of the past.

And that story or rumor about a pending imposition of Sharia law in Libya is just that, a story or rumor.

But again, my limited understanding is that there are various forms of Sharia law and that different people, that is different Muslims, interpret it differently.

Now that I think about it, Iraq, which we liberated and nation-built with so much cost in blood and treasure, now uses Sharia law. And so does our oil-rich “friend ” Saudi Arabia.

(From what little I do understand of Sharia it is not fun to be a woman where it is practiced, unless you like having no rights.)

While we have to hope that something good comes out of the Libya rebel cause, such as a Western-style democracy, I’m not sure it should make a lot of difference to any of us here in the Good Old USA. We have our democracy and a nice country — we need to take care of ourselves and let Libyans decide what they want to do.

And by the way, does it bother you as it does me when I see all those ignorant people shooting automatic weapons into the air in “celebratory fire”? BBC (a much better source of news than any of our outlets) did a little story on the dangers and the many deaths that idiot behavior causes.

Are those people really ready to take care of things for themselves?

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My previous post from 8-23-11 follows:

Maybe there is hope that the Libya thing won’t turn into an Iraqi/Afghanistan/Vietnam quagmire after all — we don’t know yet.

Unlike the Republicans, I freely admit or concede our President Obama is looking pretty clever right now. I was critical of his move and method on Libya, thinking that although we (the U.S.) went in there, by air power, under the cover of NATO, we would be left holding the bag and it would all turn into a messy civil war, as is or was the case in Iraq and/or a seemingly unwinnable fiasco as in Afghanistan.

I was right in that it takes ground troops — air alone would not likely topple Gaddafi — but the troops were indigenous rebels, the way it should be I would think.

As of this writing, Gaddafi has not been captured yet, but reports are that fighting is intense around his palace or compound, I guess they call it (I thought he lived in a tent), and smoke can be seen coming from his residence.

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UPDATE: Now at mid morning my time on the West Coast reports are that rebels have taken over his compound and have found some of his officially-stamped papers. No reports of Gaddafi’s capture yet. If he’s like Saddam Hussein, I’d day call Rotorooter.

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It’s almost laughable how the Republican candidates have to say they are happy Gaddafi is out or almost out but refuse to give Obama any credit.

I don’t even buy that it could have come quicker with more U.S. help — I mean maybe it could have, but I have to admit Obama was wise not to make this an American war. He also knew that he could not afford to get into still another ground war.

Of course no one knows what will happen now. It could still turn into complete chaos.

But for now, with the Obama-ordered killing of Osama Bin Laden by U.S. special operations and elite forces and now apparently the downfall of Gaddafi, I’d say Obama is looking pretty good.

But the economy here at home and the question of whether the Republicans can field an acceptable candidate, palatable to the bulk of American voters, will likely decide whether Obama gets a second term.

P.s.

I wonder what Assad in Syria is thinking about now.