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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Ross Douthat, "Grand Illusion in Syria": Or Grand Illusion in Obama's White House?

Why can't America's message to ISIS be simple: "If you threaten me or murder my citizens in cold blood, I'm going to destroy you!" The mission should not entail building a risible coalition of antipathetic allies or creating a credible Arab army intended to go toe-to-toe with the Islamic State's monsters on the ground. Meanwhile, however, ISIS is hearing a different message: "If you threaten me or murder my citizens in cold blood, I am going to slowly round up some reluctant friends, but meanwhile, pardon me as I play another round of golf."

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Grand Illusion in Syria," Ross Douthat declares:

"Either the American military will have to intervene in force (including with substantial ground troops) or we’ll have to ally, in a very un-American display of machtpolitik, with Bashar al-Assad. Both options may have supporters within the Republican Party. Many hawks seem ready to send in ground forces, and John McCain has explicitly argued that we should be willing to go to war with both Assad and the Islamists at once. From Rand Paul, meanwhile, you hear what sounds like a version of the ally-with-Assad approach, albeit couched in somewhat ambiguous terms.

The White House would clearly prefer not to choose either path, either escalation. But its current approach seems likely to drift more in McCain’s direction, with a gradual ramping-up (today bombing, tomorrow special forces, the next day ... ?) in Syria that makes a clash with Assad and a multifront war steadily more plausible."

Rubbish! First, America already has friends on the ground willing to fight ISIS: some 30 million stateless Kurds, living in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. If the US was to assist the Kurds with coordinated air strikes, they would set the forces of ISIS reeling. On the other hand, this would be sure to displease Turkey, whose persecuted Kurdish minority (some 25 percent of Turkey's population) has long been seeking some measure of autonomy. In addition, the Turks apparently have a tacit agreement in place with ISIS, which enabled Ankara to obtain the release on Saturday of 49 Turkish hostages without a single beheading.

The White House is "likely to drift more in McCain's direction," or as Douthat describes it, toward "war with both Assad and the Islamists at once"? If so, why did John (Assad is "my dear friend") Kerry declare on Friday, "There is a role for nearly every country in the world to play, including Iran"? Think about it: This is the same Iran that has sent arms and Revolutionary Guard fighters to support Assad. This is the same Iran (together with Syria and Hezbollah) that was responsible for the bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured another 250. This is the same Iran that hangs homosexuals, stones to death women, and persecutes Kurds, Baha'is, Sunnis and Christians.

Iran is the partner that the Obama administration so desperately wants in its coalition? Unfortunately for Kerry, Iran's purportedly "moderate" president, Hassan Rouhani, has denounced the coalition as "ridiculous."

America's president still doesn't have a strategy to combat ISIS, and he appears willing to do anything, no matter how detached from reality or devoid of substance, to boost his approval ratings.

January 20, 2017 cannot come soon enough for Obama.


  1. European nations will always be reluctant to participate, as they have a greater fear of raising the ire of their own Muslim inhabitants than they do of the greater threat at a distance.

  2. The estimate of sudden Kurdish refugee wave of women, children, elderly from Syria to Turkey, with Kurdish fighters from Turkey to Syria is as high as 100,000, due to isis attacks in the Kurdish enclave inside "Syria", just after the 49 Turks were released.

    I recently re-read Fromkin's "Peace to End all Peace", starting in 1919 with the promise of Kurdish self-determination, which has been denied ever since Ataturk.

    I like to think the world will not betray the Kurds again.