Thanks Mr. President
by Deacon Blues
Despite my critiques of Obama's foreign policy, on this Thanksgiving Day let us all be thankful that a Democratic president pursued economic policies over these last seven years that have yielded a strong American economy in 2015.
Imagine where we'd be right now with any of these GOP clowns in the White House. For that, I am thankful Mr. President, that you've been here to save us from the racism and extremism of a GOP Congress.
Negotiate a No Fly Zone Now
by Deacon Blues
For what it's worth, the downing of a Russian jet yesterday on the Syrian/Turkey border only reinforces the need for a negotiated no-fly zone over northern Syria.
Contrary to MSNBC's hosts and guests that are dismissive of any suggestion of no-fly zones and their alarm-raising over the possibility of Russian-made Syrian anti-aircraft systems shooting down NATO planes, no-fly zones can be negotiated instruments of military and diplomatic solutions. This seems to escape Lawrence O'Donnell and others at MSNBC, who reflexively go against anything Hillary Clinton suggests just as much as Republicans reflexively go against anything Barack Obama supports.
Yesterday's events only reinforce the need for a negotiated no-fly zone, regardless of the ditherings of Phyllis Bennis and O'Donnell about the failings of such an approach. Bennis for her part is quite adept at touting diplomacy over military action, yet her only solution in opposition to a no-fly zone is months of negotiations, while Putin continues to bomb Assad's opponents and ISIS continues to hold its safe havens.
NBC's own Richard Engel reported that Erdogan's government was looking for an opportunity to poke Russia in the eye over its targeting of anti-Assad forces inside northern Syria, and in an act of premeditation shot down the Russian aircraft after only several seconds of being in Turkish airspace. For months, Turkey has wanted the United States to put in place a no-fly zone as the precondition for Turkey's commitment against ISIS. But now that Erdogan has dangerously amped up the tensions, NATO cannot afford to continue allowing a rogue like him to drag the alliance into conflict with Putin. NATO must drag him and the rest of the alliance to the table with Putin and his Syrian lackeys to negotiate the terms of a no-fly zone so that a diplomatic track can commence and take hold.
As for Obama's critique yesterday that the Russians were partly responsible for what happened, this is an example of the pot calling the kettle black. Putin and Erdogan's actions in making a bad situation worse stem directly from Obama's walking away from his "red line" and the vacuum caused by his failed policies. The fact that a French president needs to fly around the world to cobble together a response to ISIS bespeaks the abandonment of leadership from a president of the United States.
Trump Lies, and the GOP Thrives
by Deacon Blues
The media is noticing that time is running out for the anti-Trump to emerge and save the GOP from him. The media is also noticing that no matter how many lies Trump tells, his poll numbers don't suffer.
Well guess what? The anti-Trump may very well be Ted Cruz, giving the GOP a nightmare scenario where their two main choices next spring come down to handing the nomination to either Trump or Cruz. This portends Goldwater 2.0, where the party is required to have one of them at the top of their ticket next November, and then watching their House and Senate incumbents sink or swim.
The GOP created a situation where its base thinks they are victims of brown people. The GOP wants its base to hate government, and to distrust everyone except its own fact-free right-wing media. And some of the people with the worst complex of these terrible behaviors are in the early part of the GOP primary and caucus schedule.
So don't be surprised if Trump or Cruz is leading next March, with the GOP panicking at the result. And don't be surprised when the party implodes from trying to deny them the nomination.
The Political Solution Against ISIS
by Deacon Blues
Hillary managed to let Jeb beat her to the punch today over sending ground troops to fight ISIS. It is a mistake she will live to regret, and her caution in distancing herself from Obama’s failed policy will cost her in the long run.
Placing ground troops into Syria cannot work unless it is part of a larger political solution that carries incentives for the major parties. Russia will not commit to really being part of the solution unless they can control Assad’s exit from Syria and maintain access to the Tartus naval base. Turkey will not shut its border to ISIS and commit to the solution unless they see a path leading to Assad’s exit, and until their NATO membership is threatened. You won’t be able to get Sunni states to commit to eliminating ISIS if it means preserving the status quo inside Iraq and Syria. So what to do?
With regards to Syria, we need to get Russia, Turkey, and Iran at the table to hammer out an Assad exit and transition within 18 months. This gives Russia the stake in the outcome they want which ensures their continued use of their naval base, and gives Turkey and the Sunni states what they want, all under UN supervision, eliminating any further Turkish backsliding. If Turkey still refuses to seal its border to ISIS, then its NATO membership should be suspended and the US should inform Erdogan that we now support full Kurdish statehood.
With regard to energizing the fight inside Iraq and Syria, the only way to get the Sunni tribes and the nearby Sunni states to take on ISIS is for the US to immediately support three federal states inside Iraq, whereby the Kurds get their state and unlimited American support and the Sunnis get their state and local control. Nothing will incent the Sunnis and nearby Sunni states more to take on ISIS than if they have real skin in the outcome. Right now, they are being asked to fight fellow Sunnis just to keep the status quo in place inside Syria, and the fiction of Iraq alive, a Shiite-run fiction at that. Give the Sunnis a stake in the outcome from eliminating ISIS, and give the Sunni states a buffer zone from Shiite and Iranian-controlled Baghdad, and watch things change.
As for domestic politics, Barack Obama is only committed to running out the clock in Syria and leaving the problem for his successor. As evidenced by the sudden swing in public opinion now firmly behind placing US ground troops back in the Middle East to go after ISIS, the longer Democratic candidates tether themselves to Obama's failed policy, the more likely it is Democrats lose the White House next year.
Update, Thursday: Hillary stated her approach today in a speech and Q&A at the Council on Foreign Relations:
Ultimately, however, the ground campaign in Iraq will only succeed if more Iraqi Sunnis join the fight. But that won’t happen so long as they do not feel they have a stake in their country or confidence in their own security and capacity to confront ISIS.
So the task of bringing Sunnis off the sidelines into this new fight will be considerably more difficult. But nonetheless, we need to lay the foundation for a second “Sunni awakening.” We need to put sustained pressure on the government in Baghdad to gets its political house in order, move forward with national reconciliation, and finally, stand up a national guard. Baghdad needs to accept, even embrace, arming Sunni and Kurdish forces in the war against ISIS. But if Baghdad won’t do that, the coalition should do so directly.
On the Syrian side, the big obstacle to getting more ground forces to engage ISIS beyond the Syrian Kurds, who are already deep in the fight is that the viable Sunni opposition groups remain understandably preoccupied with fighting Assad, who, let us remember, has killed many more Syrians than the terrorists have. But they are increasingly under threat from ISIS as well, so we need to move simultaneously toward a political solution to the civil war that paves the way for a new government with new leadership, and to encourage more Syrians to take on ISIS as well.
I fully understand her hesitancy to committing US ground forces to Syria and Iraq, because once we do that, neighboring states will wait until we do before they do anything, something Jeb and the rest of the GOP armchair generals can't comprehend. However, that doesn't mean we won't eventually need to do so.
Like Hillary, I'd like to believe that an expanded air war with reluctant allies, more Special Forces, arming the Sunnis and Kurds, and a No-Fly zone over northern Syria would get it done. With a political agreement first, it could work. At least she and I agree on those points.
by Deacon Blues
Americans have a right to be war-weary after eight years of Bush-Cheney, over four thousand dead and hundreds of thousands maimed, and $3 trillion in new debt from fighting wars of choice on a collective credit card. Yet as evidenced by the tragedy in Paris, which we now know was somewhat preventable if only the French intelligence services gave a damn, the threat to many nations from ISIS and Al Qaeda is real and can no longer be dismissed as "let the Sunnis deal with it."
Yes, Hillary riles up a pro-Bernie debate audience for the Iraq war vote, while O'Malley correctly says this is America's war. A media looking past substance for horse-race politics doesn't change the following facts:
1. Barack Obama and the White House staff controlled policy over Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, not Foggy Bottom.
2. Regardless, the GOP needs to keep tying Hillary to things she didn't control.
3. Hillary and others wanted a more aggressive policy towards Syria than the White House.
4. ISIS is coordinating attacks from Syria.
5. Half-measures like inserting 50-100 Special Forces inside Syria to coordinate air strikes and assist the Kurds won't slow ISIS.
6. Until the United States, and yes Russia agree on a no-fly zone and coordinated boots on the ground inside Syria to attack ISIS in their safe havens, nothing will change.
Yes, the area Arab Sunni nations need to be part of the campaign, but Hillary is wrong to say that others will have to do the fighting. Nothing effective against ISIS will happen until the American military is directly involved, and yes, that will mean 10-20,000 troops and air power. Sorry, that's the reality. Hillary might as well start admitting as much, and stop letting O'Malley and Bernie sound like the realists. By coming out for this approach now, Hillary will do three things:
1. Align herself with a growing body of Americans who are coming around to this regrettable reality;
2. Be the realistic adult among all electable candidates; and
3. Separate herself from Obama's decisions and outcomes, inoculating herself from GOP attacks.
The country will not trust these decisions to a nutcase who calls for turning Paris into Dodge City as the best remedy to avoid terrorist attacks. Nor will they trust a youngish GOP senator who didn't have the balls to vote for a Syria war resolution when he had the chance for leadership. But they will trust someone who takes a sober-eyed view of things as they are instead of how we wish they would be, and demonstrates the ability to learn from the past to deal with the here and now.