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Franklin C. Spinney

'Boss Tweet’s' Generals Already Run the Show

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Much has been written about our Twitterer-in-Chief and the tortured response to his presidency, particularly within the GOP.  As a recent example, Frank Bruni of the New York Times lamented the fate of Senator Lindsey Graham, who has now become one of Donald Trump’s biggest defenders on mainstream shows such as “Meet the Press”. Bruni, however, reminds us that during the presidential campaign of 2016, Graham described then candidate Trump as the “world’s biggest jackass”, even as he now praises POTUS, thereby personifying “his party’s spastic, incoherent, humiliating response to Trump across time and its fatally misguided surrender.”
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The Kurdish Genie - A Case of Complexity Papered Over by Arrogance and Ignorance

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One of the unintended consequences of the US invasions of Iraq in 1991 and 2003 -- and their aftermaths -- has been the unleashing of the Kurdish nationalist genie in the Middle East. Today, a de-facto Kurdish statelet exists in northeast Iraq, one is emerging in northern Syria, and, after a period of attempted reconciliation, the Kurdish-Turkish violence is metastasizing again throughout Turkey. Only the Kurdish region in northwestern Iran is quiet.

The Kurdish genie has its origin in the breakup of the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire, in the self-referencing ideas for self-determination in President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, and in the failure (see pgs. 5 & 6) of the Versailles Peace Conference (1919) to appreciate Kurdish national aspirations. The Versailles Conference made a mockery of Wilson’s ideas, particularly in the Middle East. In truth, the question of an independent Kurdish nation has been bottled up since the (1) Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916) proposed to carve up the Ottoman Empire in the interest of the European colonial powers, (2) Treaty of Sèvres (1920) tried to effect that division, and (3) the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) undid the proposed partition of Anatolia by establishing the borders of modern Turkey. 

Together, these event buried Kurdish national aspirations in southeast Turkey by incorporating that part of Kurdistan into the Turkish Republic and the League of Nations’ mandates of Syria and Iraq. The modern multi-ethnic states of Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, as well as Jordan, and Israel emerged from the confused detritus of the interaction of Wilson’s naive idealism [1] with the cynical machinations of the European colonial powers.
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The Disastrous Myth of Airpower Victory

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President Obama’s strategy to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS depends crucially on precision bombing by drones and airplanes. The heavy lifting on the ground is supposed to be accomplished by our "allies" in Iraq and the Syrian opposition, but as any reader of the news knows, these allies are, to put it charitably, unreliable and prone to panic and/or treachery. So, despite Obama’s rhetoric, our new war against ISIS will be an air power war.

The key ideas in Obama's bombing strategy will be the identification and killing of ISIS leadership targets and the disruption/destruction of coherent ISIS ground operations with precision weapons. That target identification task is likely to be done by small numbers of US forces working with our supposed allies. This plan is a prescription for disaster.

The seductive idea of victory through airpower alone is not a new one, and Obama has fallen for a modern improv of an old score — no doubt, in part, for domestic political reasons. The background music was conceived and advocated in the 1930s by a small group of officers in the Army Air Corps based in the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, near Montgomery, Alabama.
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How to Evolve an Exit Strategy From America’s Foreign Policy Shambles — The Polk Report

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In a nutshell, recent events in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, and Ukraine show there is no grand-strategic focus to America’s increasingly militarized foreign policy. A German officer in the old imperial army might say, ''kein Schwerpunkt''!

What we call foreign policy and grand strategy in the 21st Century — i.e., that ‘you are either with us or with the terrorists’* — has devolved into a self-righteous welter of bluster, threats, arms transfers, puny demonstrations (e.g., deployments of two or three B-2s), proxy wars, and bombing (especially, targeted liquidations with drones from a safe distance instead of a bullet in the back of the head), all aimed ad hoc in reaction to any crisis du jour. The pattern is more like a giant whack-a-mole game than a sensible grand strategy aimed at ending conflicts on favorable terms, while paying due regard to strengthening our bonds at home and with our allies, undermining the cohesion of our adversaries, and coping efficiently with the internal constraints limiting our actions.

Consider, please, the following: Last month President Obama announced we would extend our stay in Afghanistan — a war we have clearly lost — until the end of 2016. Last week, Mr. Obama, after months of procrastination, said he was considering sending weapons to the Syrian Sunni insurgents fighting President Assad. The most effective of these insurgents are the ISIS Jihadis who are fighting and defeating, as well as stealing or buying weapons from the other insurgents.
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