In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on November 25, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Russian President Vladimir Putin is no admirer of President John F. Kennedy.

Yet he would no doubt agree with the spirit of the poem that Robert Frost intended to read at Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural.

Entitled “Dedication,” the poem went unread because the sunlight reflecting off snow blinded the elderly poet.  So Frost relied on memory to recite an earlier creation: “The Gift Outright.”

“Dedication,” however, was far more in keeping with the upcoming aggressive hubris of the Kennedy years:

It makes the prophet in us all presage
The glory of a next Augustan age
Of a power leading from its strength and pride,
Of young ambition eager to be tried,
Firm in our free beliefs without dismay
In any game the nations want to play.

On September 30, Putin embarked on a game of big-power politics. He started launching airstrikes against Syria.

The objective: To bolster the dictatorship of Russia’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is now caught up in civil war.

This began on March 15, 2011, triggered by protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of al-Assad.  More than 310,000 people have been killed in the fighting.

The Obama administration is worried about Russian intentions. And Republicans are furious, demanding that American military forces directly confront those of Russia.

Yet despite Right-wing fears about Russia, there is no reason for alarm–by Americans.

Putin’s intervention in Syria’s civil war offers three possible outcomes for the United States. And they’re all positive.

Putin with flag of Russia.jpg

Vladimir Putin

First, the Russians will kill thousands of America’s sworn enemies.

Russians are well-known for their disregard for human life. During their invasion of Germany in 1945, Russian soldiers literally nailed civilians to barn doors, squashed them under their tanks, and raped countless women of all ages.

In Syria, they will slaughter everyone who gets in their way. Thus, they will kill far more of America’s Islamic enemies than even our own military–hamstrung by do-gooder “rules of engagement”–could possibly eliminate.

Second, Russia will replace the United States as “The Great Satan” in the eyes of most Islamics.  

The Soviet Union waged a ruthless war against Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. Out of that war grew Al-Qaeda.  Millions of Islamics still hate Russians for their brutalities.

From 1999 to 2009, Russia fought a brutal war against Islamics in Chechnya. Chechens responded with terrorism across Russia.

Russia’s intervention in Syria will only harden its image as an enemy of Islam–even if it’s supporting one group of Islamics (the Assad regime) against others.

If Islamic terrorism starts raging throughout Russia, Putin may be forced to back down from his military moves against Syria and Ukraine.

Third, if Russian planes get shot down or Russian soldiers killed, Russia will suffer the casualties–not the United States.

The Soviet Union never fully recovered from its losses in Afghanistan–13,310 soldiers killed, 35,478 wounded.

If Russia starts taking heavy losses in Syria or at home through terrorism, this could lead to widespread unrest.  Even Vladimir Putin could find himself in danger of being replaced.

And for Russia, the chicken Kiev has already come home to roost.

On October 31, Airbus A321, a Russian airliner, broke up in mid-air, then crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board.

The plane was carrying holidaymakers from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg when it crashed into a mountainous area of central Sinai.

In Egypt, a militant group affiliated to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed that it had brought down the plane “in response to Russian airstrikes that killed hundreds of Muslims on Syrian land.”

On November 19, ISIS published an online photo of a soft drink can and two components–a detonator and a switch–that it claimed brought down the plane.

The crash has proved emotionally wrenching for Russians.

Flags across Russia flew at half-staff and Russian Orthodox priests conducted services to pray for the victims.

President Putin declared a nationwide day of mourning.  In St. Petersburg, home to most of the victims, authorities ordered the mourning to last for three days.

AQMI Flag.svg

 Flag of ISIS

And, on November 24, another such loss occurred: A Russian fighter was shot down on the Turkish-Syrian border by two Turkish F-16s.

Turkish officials claimed that it had violated Turkish airspace 10 times within a five-minute period.

This marked the first time in a half-century that a member of NATO–in this case, Turkey–has downed a Russian plane.

Vladimir Putin quickly called the shootdown a “stab in the back committed by accomplices of terrorists.”

And he warned: “The tragic event will have serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations.”

With the armed forces of so many Great Powers–France, Russia, Britain and America–now crowding into Syria, such an outcome was probably inevitable.

It was exactly that scenario–Great Powers going to war over conflicts involving their small-state allies/clients–that triggered World War I.

A conflict between Russia and Turkey–a member of NATO–could easily trigger World War III.


In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on November 24, 2015 at 12:05 am

January 26, 2015, marked the 130th anniversary of the fall of Khartoum, the Sudanese city that sits on the banks of the White Nile and the Blue Nile.

The siege and fall of Khartoum is one of the truly epic stories of military history.

Khartoum in the 1800s

From March 18, 1884 to January 26, 1885, the charisma and military genius of one man–British General Charles George Gordon–held at bay an army of thousands of fanatical Islamics intent on slaughtering everyone in the city.

At stake were the lives of Khartoum’s 30,000 residents.

By comparison:The defenders of the Alamo–a far better-known battle, in 1836–numbered no more than 250.  And the siege of the San Antonio mission lasted only 13 days against an army of about 2,000 Mexicans.

The Alamo

Gordon’s story may seem antiquated.  But it bears close inspection as Republicans press the Obama Administration to commit ground forces to “freeing” Syria of its longtime dicator, “President” Bashar al Assad.

The neocons of the George W. Bush administration plunged the United States into an unprovoked war against Iraq in 2003.  After Baghdad quickly fell, Americans cheered, thinking the war was over and the troops would soon return home.

Suddenly, American soldiers found themselves waging a two-front war in the same country: Fighting an Iraqi insurgency to throw them out, while trying to suppress growing sectarian warfare between Sunnis and Shia Muslims.

And now, with Syria, Americans are being urged to plunge headfirst into a conflict they know nothing about–and in which they have absolutely no stake.

Consider the combatants:

On the one side, is the Ba’ath regime of Bashir al-Assad, supported by Russia, Iran, Hizbullah, and elements in the Iraqi government. Hizbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims, who form a minority of Islamics.

A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans.

Flag of Hizbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of that religion.

It is intolerent of non-Sunni Muslims and has instigated violence against them.  It denounces them as “takfirs”–heretics–and thus worthy of extermination.

Flag of Al-Qaeda

In short, it’s a Muslim-vs.-Muslim “holy war.”

It’s all very reminiscent of events in the 1966 epic film, “Khartoum,” starring Charlton Heston as British General Charles George Gordon.

Charlton Heston (left); Charles George Gordon (right)

In 1884, the British Government sends Gordon, a real-life hero of the Victorian era, to evacuate the Sudanese city of Khartoum.

Mohammed Achmed, a previously anonymous Sudanese, has proclaimed himself “The Madhi”  (The Expected One) and raised the cry of jihad.

Laurence Oliver (left); Mohammed Achmed (“The Madhi”)

The Madhi (played by Laurence Oliver) intends to drive all foreigners (of which the English are the largest group) out of Sudan, and exterminate all those Muslims who did not practice his “pure” version of Islam.

Movie poster for “Khartoum”

Gordon arrives in Khartoum to find he’s not fighting a rag-tag army of peasants.  Instead, the Madhi is a highly intelligent military strategist.

And Gordon, an evangelical Christian, also underestimates the Madhi’s religious fanaticism: “I seem to have suffered from the delusion that I had a monopoly on God.”

A surprised Gordon finds himself and 30,000 Sudanese trapped in Khartoum when the Madhi’s forces suddenly appear.  He sends off messengers and telegrams to the British Government, begging for a military relief force.

But the British Government wants nothing to do with the Sudan.  It had sent Gordon there as a sop to British public opion that “something” had to be done to quell the Madhist uprising.

The siege continues and tightens.

In Britain, the public hails Gordon as a Christian hero and demands that the Government send a relilef expedition to save him.

Prime Minister William Gladstone finally sends a token force–which arrives in Khartoum two days after the city has fallen to the Madhi’s forces.

Gordon, standing at the top of a staircase and coolly facing down his dervish enemies, is speared to death.

George W. Joy’s famous–and romanticized–painting of “The Death of Gordon”

(Actually, the best historical evidence indicates that Gordon fought to the last with pistol and sword before being overwhelmed by his dervish enemies.)

When the news reaches England, Britons mourn–and then demand vengeance for the death of their hero.

The Government, which had sought to wash its hands of the poor, militarily unimportant Sudan, suddenly has to send an army to avenge Gordon.

As the narrator of “Khartoum” intones at the close of the film:“For 15 years, the British paid the price with shame and war.”

There is a blunt lesson for Americans to learn from this episode–and from the 1966 movie, “Khartoum” itself.

Americans have been fighting in the Middle East since 2001–first in Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda, and then in Iraq, to pursue George W. Bush’s vendetta against Saddam Hussein.

The United States faces a crumbling infastructure, record high unemployment and trillions of dollars in debt.

It’s time for Americans to clean up their own house before worrying about the messes in other nations–especially those wholly alien to American values.


In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 23, 2015 at 12:04 am

Americans had a good reason to welcome the coming of 2014: Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah had gone to war–with each other.

Al-Qaeda terrorists–now taking aim at Hezbollah terrorists

This is an event the United States could not have predicted or instigated.  But it is definitely one in which Americans can take hope.

In Part One, two of those reasons for this were outlined.  Here are the remaining eight:

Third, the United States is still fighting a brutal war in Afghanistan.

Following the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., the Taliban was ousted in Afghanistan by American and Afghan forces in 2001.

The initial goal of this war was to quickly destroy Al Qaeda–especially its leader, Osama Bin Laden–and its Taliban protectors.

But, over time, Washington policy-makers embarked on a “nation-building” effort.  And U.S. forces wound up occupying the country for the next ten years.

This increasingly brought them into conflict with primitive, xenophobic Afghans, whose mindset remains that of the sixth century.

The United States originally intended to withdraw all but a small embassy-based force of 1,000 troops by the end of 2016.

But as the Taliban re-emerged as a threat, President Barack Obama announced he would maintain 9,800 troops there for most of 2016.  About 5,500 troops will still be in Afghanistan by 2017.

Fourth, intervening in Syria could produce similar unintended consequences for American forces–and make the United States a target for more Islamic terrorism.

Fifth, since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism. Among the terrorist groups it supports are Hezbollah and Hamas.

For many years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–“Carlos the Jackal” 

Sixth, according to U.S. defense reports, Syria has weapons of mass destruction–and the ballistic missiles to deliver them.

Syria has an active chemical weapons program, including significant reserves of the deadly nerve agent sarin.

The recent destruction of much of Syria’s WMD stockpile–at the demand of President Barack Obama–doesn’t erase its ability to create more.  And this is likely to re-occur as soon as the United States becomes preoccupied with other concerns.

Seventh, the United States had no part in creating the Assad regime.

Thus, Americans have no moral obligation to support those Syrians trying to overthrow it.

Moreover, Syria has never been an American ally–and has, in fact, directed terrorism against American forces stationed in Beirut, Lebanon.

On October 23, 1983, Syrian suicide bombers drove trucks into two buildings housing American and French military forces.  Total killed: 299.

In short, the United States owes Syria nothing.

Eighth, China and Russia are fully supporting the Assad dictatorship–and the brutalities it commits against its own citizens.

This reflects badly on them–not the United States.  America should focus world outrage against these longtime brutal dictatorships for propping up another one.

Ninth, the United States could find itself in a shooting war with Russia and/or China.

The Russians sent two warships to Syria in 2013 in response to President Obama’s threat to “punish” Assad for using chemical weapons against insurgents.

What happens if American and Russian warships start trading salvos?  Or if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders an attack on Israel, in return for America’s attack on Russia’s ally, Syria?

U.S. warship firing Tomahawk Cruise missile

It was exactly that scenario–Great Powers going to war over conflicts between their small-state allies–that triggered World War l.

Tenth, while Islamic nations like Syria and Egypt wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources–and incentive–to launch attacks against the United States.

Every dead Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda member makes the United States that much safer.  Every dead supporter of Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda makes the United States that much safer.

The peoples of the Middle East have long memories for those who commit brutalities against them.  In their veins, the cult of the blood feud runs deep.

When Al-Qaeda blows up civilians in Beirut, it’s certain that their relatives will urge Hezbollah to take brutal revenge.  And it’s equally certain that Hezbollah will do so.

Similarly, when Hezbollah does, those who support Al-Qaeda will demand even more brutal reprisals against Hezbollah.

No American could instill such hatred in Al-Qaeda for Hezbollah–or vice versa.  This is entirely a war of religious and sectarian hatred.

This conflict could easily become the Islamic equivalent of “the Hundred Years’ War” that raged from 1337 to 1453 between England and France.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing off each other.  Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.


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