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Scott Ritter

The progressive civil war over Syria and Assad exposes an astonishing lack of intellectual curiosity by some on the American Left

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Truth and politics are often mutually exclusive concepts when dealing with the progressive American Left. This unfortunate fact is being driven home in spades in an ongoing spat between two lefty online personalities.

Anyone following Aaron Maté (149K followers on Twitter); The Young Turks (TYT, with 440K followers as an institution, and as many followers each tracking the activity of co-hosts Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian); the comedian Jimmy Dore (274K followers); or any number of other Twitter personalities whose online paths have crossed with any of the above; knows these left-leaning social media stars have been engaged in a vicious feud. Full disclosure, I have appeared on both Maté’s podcast, Pushback, as well as The Young Turks radio show. At issue is Syria and, more pointedly, the contention by both Uygur and Kasparian that Maté is shilling for President Bashar Assad.

The sheer drama and vitriol which has emerged as a result of this feud has been entertaining for those who get a kick out of leftwing internecine warfare. Maté’s use of Jimmy Dore’s popular online program The Jimmy Dore Show as a platform for promoting his arguments has torn the scab off old wounds created when Dore left The Young Turks and struck out on his own, appears to underpin at least some of Uygur and Kasparian’s anti-Maté invective. However, more interesting is the fact that, as Maté pointed out in a recent interview with The Hill, the progressive wing of the American Left has hit a brick wall over the issue of Syria. Criticism of Assad has run up against the lies used to sustain US military hegemony in the Middle East.
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Biden wants NATO to project the strength it doesn’t have

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Joe Biden travelled to Brussels riding the wave of his “America is back” mantra. Far from rebuilding the US-NATO relationship, he used NATO as a prop to help set the stage for his upcoming meeting with Vladimir Putin.

The United States is facing a perfect storm of crises of its own making. On the domestic front, the American democratic institution is collapsing under the weight of centuries of unresolved societal inequities that threaten to divide the country into two irreconcilable factions. In the Pacific, decades of geopolitical neglect fundamentally ceded the strategic advantage to a surging China, allowing the momentum of that country’s economic and military expansion to challenge and, in some areas, surpass what had previously been a region of uncontested American influence and control. In Europe, the post-9/11 focus on the Middle East and South Asia left a once dominant American military posture in ruins, and with it the influence 300,000 troops once forward-deployed on European soil used to bring. Lacking an American military spine, the NATO alliance withered into virtual irrelevance, unable to meaningfully project power or mount a credible defensive deterrence. 

This storm is still raging, and despite all the rhetoric and flexing being done by the administration of President Joe Biden, will continue to do so, unabated, for the foreseeable future. One of the root causes of this storm is the disconnect between policy and action on the part of the US over the course of the past 30-odd years. In 1991, the US had the world’s most powerful economy backed by the world’s most powerful military, sustained by the world’s most vibrant democracy.
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The pending collapse of the ‘rules-based international order’ is an existential threat to the United States

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For decades, America styled itself the “indispensable nation” that led the world & it’s now seeking to sustain that role by emphasizing a new Cold War-style battle against “authoritarianism.” But it's a dangerous fantasy.

It seems a week cannot go by without US Secretary of State Antony Blinken bringing up the specter of the “rules-based international order” as an excuse for meddling in the affairs of another state or region.

The most recent crisis revolves around allegations that China has dispatched a fleet of more than 200 ships, part of a so-called “maritime militia,” into waters of the South China Sea claimed by the Philippines. China says that these vessels are simply fishing boats seeking shelter from a storm. The Philippines has responded by dispatching military ships and aircraft to investigate. Enter Antony Blinken, stage right:

“The United States stands with our ally, the Philippines, in the face of the PRC's maritime militia amassing at WhitsunReef,” Blinken tweeted. “We will always stand by our allies and stand up for the rules-based international order.”

Blinken’s message came a mere 18 hours after he tweeted about his meeting in Brussels with NATO. “Our alliances were created to defend shared values,” he wrote. “Renewing our commitment requires reaffirming those values and the foundation of international relations we vow to protect: a free and open rules-based order.”
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Biden and Blinken’s unprovoked attacks on Russia and China backfire...because if you live in a glass house, don’t throw stones

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In attacking the moral character of Russia’s president and China’s human rights record, the Biden administration opened the door for a critical examination of America's own troubled history.

President Joe Biden has defined his administration with the mantra of “America is back,” hinting at a return to what he and his supporters believe to be the halcyon days of President Barack Obama’s two-term tenure as president, as well as a sharp departure from the policies and practices of the man who usurped Hillary Clinton’s bite at the presidential apple, Donald Trump. 

In an effort to “build back better,” as Biden is wont to exclaim, his administration has embraced an ambitious agenda that aggressively seeks to both promote and install America as the world’s indispensable nation. And yet, in the span of less than 24 hours, the president and his primary foreign policy advisor, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, managed to undermine the very policies they sought to promote through a combination of narcissistic posturing and plain diplomatic incompetence.

By labeling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “soulless killer,” Biden put US-Russian relations in their worst posture since the Cold War. And Blinken, during the Biden administration’s initial meeting between the US and China, managed to unleash the ire and rage of Beijing by forgoing any pretense at diplomatic norms and aggressively calling out China on a host of issues which touched upon its sovereignty.
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Biden’s tough-guy flexing at ‘soulless killer’ Putin would be funny if the consequences weren’t so serious

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Joe Biden’s effort to label Vladimir Putin as a “soulless killer” is the latest in a series of fact-free allegations that define US-Russian relations today. The real aim is to make Biden look like the strong leader he isn’t.

Former President Donald Trump was fond of bragging about how tough he was when it came to Russia. “There’s never been a president as tough on Russia as I have been,” Trump crowed in 2018. He wasn’t wrong—according to Daniel Vajdich, a senior analyst with the Atlantic Council, the Trump administration was “much tougher on Russia than any in the post-Cold War era.” Despite the tough reality of his Russian policy, however, Trump was not opposed to bettering relations, publicly proclaiming that “it would be great if we could get along with Russia.”

As for his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump has noted that “I like Putin, he likes me.” Indeed, Marina Gross, the State Department interpreter who worked on many of the calls between Trump and Putin, has reportedly said that “listening to their conversations often felt like eavesdropping on two friends chatting in a bar.” Indeed, Trump famously bristled at Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, who said of the Russian president, “Putin’s a killer.” Trump responded, “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”

President Biden has made it clear that he plans to deal with Russia in a far more aggressive manner than his predecessor. Moreover, there would be no more talk about “friendship” or “getting along.” In a recent interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Biden was given a bite from the same apple O’Reilly had offered Trump. “So, you know Vladimir Putin,” Stephanopoulos asked. “You think he’s a killer?” Without a moment’s hesitation, Biden responded, “Mmm-hmm, I do.”
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Ten years on, the US still promotes failed regime-change policy in Syria

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The US has only one objective in Syria—regime change. The fact that it has been unable to achieve this after ten years of trying does not appear to deter the Biden administration from embracing failure.

Back in 2001, former General Wesley Clark described a memorandum issued by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld which outlined a plan, as General Clark described it, on “how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.”

Twenty years later, the world bears witness to the detritus of that vision. The US invaded Iraq, a seminal moment which saw a nation which espouses adherence to the so-called “rules-based world order” violate every rule in pursuit of the God-like power to dictate by force of arms the life and death of not only nations, but the millions of people who comprise the human element of what to the architects of these policies are merely lines on a map. Libya, Somalia, and Sudan have all become failed states because of US-led interventions. And, after ten years of incessant fighting, Syria serves as the front line of an ongoing US plan to take down that nation, together with Lebanon and Iran.

It was not supposed to be this hard. While Donald Rumsfeld and his band of merry warmongers avoided the temptation to follow-up the relatively easy defeat of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq by continuing to push into Syria, the Bush administration continued its regime-change fantasy by forming the “Iran Syria Policy and Operations Group” (ISOG), an interagency organization co-chaired by Liz Cheney (daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney) and Elliott Abrams (of Iran-Contra infamy) dedicated to toppling the governments of both nations.
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