“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why Obama and Putin are Both Wrong on Syria

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –
President Obama seemed awfully defensive in his speech at the United Nations on Monday. The reason is not far to seek. Russia’s Vladimir Putin has surprised Washington by volunteering to get militarily involved in Syria and by arguing that only by enlisting the Baath regime of Bashar al-Assad can Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) be defeated.
Obama is defensive because a) his own plans for confronting Daesh have largely failed, and b) because Putin’s plans for doing so are concrete and involve trying to prop up dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Putin is arguing for a unified push against Daesh by a wide range of countries, and for allying in this effort with the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. He says only such a unified response has a hope of prevailing. He points to Libya as an example of the chaos that occurs in the wake of Washington’s insistence on going around overthrowing governments.
So ironically the Russian Federation and its ex-Communist president is taking a conservative position here, of trying to prop up the status quo, which the US views itself as a radical democratizer a ala Thomas Paine.
Obama, I think, tried to get the Libya comparison out of the way by apologizing for the way NATO abandoned that country after the successful intervention of 2011. He said,
In such efforts the United States will always do our part. We will do so, mindful of the lessons of the past. Not just the lessons of Iraq but also the example of Libya, where he joined an international coalition under a U.N. mandate to prevent a slaughter. Even as we helped the Libyan people bring an end to the reign of a tyrant, our coalition could have and should have done more to fill a vacuum left behind. We are grateful to the United Nations for its efforts to forge a unity government. We will help any legitimate Libyan government as it works to bring the country together. But we also have to recognize that we must work more effectively in the future as an international community to build capacity for states that are in distress before they collapse.
Obama is trying to say that the original sin was not intervention or the overthrow of a dictator but the absolute neglect of Libya in the aftermath.
By analogy, he is saying that a joint effort to remove Bashar al-Assad could work out fine if all the participating countries join together in rebuilding the Syrian army and state in the aftermath.
Obama is a smart man but this plan is completely unworkable. Daesh in Syria would likely take advantage of the fall of the Baath to Western forces, who, staying in the skies above Syria, could no more take them on efficiently then than they can do now.
Obama offered to work with Russia against Daesh, which has allied with the Baath regime of Al-Assad, but said, that “there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the prewar status quo.” This statement is true in both international law and in everyday practice. Al-Assad is too tainted by mass murder to continue as president. And, the third or so of his population who have seceded from his rule are heavily armed and don’t want him coming back.
Obama indicted al-Assad:
Let’s remember how this started. Assad reacted to peaceful protests by escalating repression and killing that in turn created the environment for the current strife. And so Assad and his allies can’t simply pacify the broad majority of a population who have been brutalized by chemical weapons and indiscriminate bombing.
Confirming what many of us have long suspected, that Obama is a fan of the Realists in political Science, he added, “Yes, realism dictates that compromise will be required to end the fighting and stomp out ISIL. But realism also requires a managed transition away from Assad into a new leader and an inclusive government that recognizes there must be an end to the chaos so that the Syrian people can begin to rebuild.”
Obama blamed al-Assad for the rise of Daesh, omitting mention of American responsibility via the destruction of Iraq.
How hopeless the situation is in Syria is clear from the speech of Vladimir Putin
Putin complained that the problems in Syria come from US and its allies back so-called moderate rebels, who the moment they can run off to join Daesh: “And now, the ranks of radicals are being joined by the members of the so-called moderate Syrian opposition supported by the Western countries. First, they are armed and trained and then they defect to the so-called Islamic State.”
Putin then went in for some conspiracy thinking, blaming the US and the West for creating Daesh (they did not) to overthrow secular regimes (which they don’t want to do). “Besides, the Islamic State itself did not just come from nowhere. It was also initially forged as a tool against undesirable secular regimes.”
Putin’s own fears about the possible spread of Daesh to Russian provinces such as Chechniya is palpable: “Having established a foothold in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State has begun actively expanding to other regions. It is seeking dominance in the Islamic world. And not only there, and its plans go further than that. The situation is more than dangerous.”
Putin is alarmed in a way that Obama really never has been by Daesh. For the US security establishment, Daesh is bad but not near or all that big or all that urgent. The US approach to Daesh has seldom gone beyond aerial containment. Putin begs to differ.
The Russian president denounced the hypocrisy of denouncing terrorism but de facto supporting Salafi fighters in Syria.
Putin then got to his point:
“We think it is an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces, who are valiantly fighting terrorism face to face. We should finally acknowledge that no one but President Assad’s armed forces and Kurds (ph) militias are truly fighting the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations in Syria.”
But actually during the past two years long periods of time have passed in which the al-Assad regime seldom militarily engaged Daesh, leaving it to prey opportunistically on the other rebel groups. You couldn’t call that valiant.
So Obama wants al-Assad to stand down as a prerequisite for effective US action against Daesh in Syria (a few air sorties and even fewer air strikes are ineffectual). Putin thinks al-Assad is key to defeating Daesh and that everyone should ally with Damascus.
Putin is blind to the ways that al-Assad and his military brutality is prolonging the civil war. Backing his genocidal policies will just perpetuate that war. The Guardian says he showed more flexibility after his speech: “However, Putin showed more flexibility than he had in his general assembly speech, acknowledging that political reform in Damascus could be part of a solution, but indicated that Assad would be a willing participant in that change.”
Some sort of synthesis of the Putin and Obama plans is likely to emerge. Obama’s romance with drones and aerial bombardment blinds him to the poor progress the US has made against Daesh using those tools. His search for “moderate” forces to back seems also in Syria to be a pipe dream. If Putin ties himself too closely to the sinking ship of Bashar, he will go down with it.
As Obama said, though, Syria policy-making is the most complex problem the US has faced in over a decade.
Related video:


  1. Jihad Watch
    Exposing the role that Islamic jihad theology and ideology play in the modern global conflicts
    Bethlehem monastery torched by Islamic jihadists

    September 28, 2015 3:07 pm By Robert Spencer 16 Comments

    Why did the Muslims torch the monastery? Were the monks drawing cartoons of Muhammad? Did they “talk about extreme, militant Islamists” in a way that “undercut the positive achievements that…Catholics have attained in…inter-religious dialogue with devout Muslims”? Or were they targeted merely for the crime of being Christians, as jihadis will eventually target every Christian they can reach — even those who desperately appease the jihadis and cower in fear that one day they may arrive at their churches, torches or rifles in hand?

    St Charbel Monastery Bethlehem

    “Arson attack at Bethlehem’s St Charbel Monastery, probably the work of Islamic fundamentalists, says Maronite leader,” Asia News, September 28, 2015:

    Bethlehem (AsiaNews) – Sobhy Makhoul, the chancellor of the Maronite Patriarchate in Jerusalem, told AsiaNews that the fire that broke out over the weekend at St Charbel Maronite Monastery (pictured) in Bethlehem was deliberately set. “It was an act of arson, not a fire caused by an electrical problem, an act of sectarian vandalism by radical Muslims.”

    The fire caused no casualties or injuries because the building is currently unoccupied and under renovation, but the damage is evident and the local Christian community is now fearful of further violence.

    The arsonists “got inside a room that had a lot of stuff, including furniture,” said Sobhy Makhoul, because the building is undergoing restoration work. “The fire reached it and spread quickly throughout the structure.”

    Police sources said that Muslim extremist groups have been active in the area and the culprits are already knows and should “be soon apprehended.”

    For the chancellor of the Maronite Patriarchate, “The attack is sectarian in nature. It is anti-Christian, like many other incidents across the Middle East. Extremist groups operate in the area, including some Hamas cells. There are also some loose cannons that give vent to their ideology.”

    The St Charbel Maronite Convent is located in Wadi Maali, a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood in Bethlehem. The building includes several rooms and a small chapel for prayer. The fire started in the basement and then spread to other parts of the building.

    “Last month, the Palestinian Authority donated US$ 100,000 for some repairs to the convent,” Sobhy Makhoul said. “This was a gesture of gratitude towards the patriarch and a show of support for the institution’s restoration.”

    Now the Christian community is concerned, he added, but “we must go on. We belong to this land. Our existence comes with tense situations. We have to absorb what happens, not just endure it.”

    Of course, like in the case of the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha, on the Sea of ​​Galilee, it is necessary for the Palestinian Authority to “prosecute those responsible so that justice is done. Every form of extremism by Jews and Muslims must be stopped,” he said.

    Jews? Who torched your monastery again, Chancellor?

    “As a Church, we condemn such acts of violence,” the Maronite official said. “In this regard, a lot of work has to be done to change the way preaching is done in mosques because far too often they provoke people and foments hatred. Anti-Christian hatred and violence should stop.

    I just don't understand it.

    I have been told the West Bankers are such lovely people.


    Fair minded.

    Just wanting peace.

    Striving for cross cultural understanding.

    Totally against apartheid....

    ***(Most of the Christians have already left, forced out by fear, intimidation, arson and murder)***

    Can anyone explain this to me ?

    1. According to Deuce, Rat, Rufus and Quirk?

      It's all Israel's fault.


  2. It's a good practice to read Jihad Watch first thing in the morning. It gives one a sense of reality that carries through the day......

    Jihad Watch
    Exposing the role that Islamic jihad theology and ideology play in the modern global conflicts
    Raymond Ibrahim: Obama Throws Christian Refugees to Lions

    September 28, 2015 7:28 am By Raymond Ibrahim 17 Comments

    The fate of those Iraqi Christians who had fled from the Islamic State only to be incarcerated in the United States has finally been decided by the Obama administration: they are to be thrown back to the lions, where they will likely be persecuted if not slaughtered like so many Iraqi Christians before them.

    obama-finger- (pic of Obama flipping the bird)

    Fifteen of the 27 Iraqi Christians that have been held at a detention center in Otay Mesa, California, for approximately six months, are set to be deported in the coming weeks. Some have already been deported and others are being charged with immigration fraud.

    Many of the Iraqi Christian community in San Diego—including U.S. citizen family members vouching for the refugees—had hopes that they would eventually be released. Mark Arabo, a spokesman for the Chaldean community, had argued that “They’ve escaped hell [IS]. Let’s allow them to reunite with their families.” One of the detained women had begged to see her ailing mother before she died. The mother died before they could reunite, and now the daughter is to be deported, possibly back to the hell of the Islamic State.

    Why are Christian minorities, who are the most to suffer from the chaos engulfing the Middle East, the least wanted in the United States?

    The answer is that the Obama administration defines refugees as people “persecuted by their government.” In other words, the only “real” refugees are those made so due to the actions of Bashar Assad. As for those who are being raped, slaughtered, and enslaved based on their religious identity by so-called “rebel” forces fighting Assad—including the Islamic State—their status as refugees is evidently considered dubious at best.

    As Abraham H. Miller argues in “No room in America for Christian refugees”: “What difference does it make which army imperils the lives of innocent Christians? Christians are still be[ing] slaughtered for being Christian, and their government is incapable of protecting them. Does some group have to come along—as Jewish groups did during the Holocaust—and sardonically guarantee that these are real human beings?”

    In fact, from the start of Western meddling in the Mideast in the context of the “Arab Spring,”Christians were demonized for being supportive of secular strongmen like Assad. In a June 4, 2012 article discussing the turmoil in Egypt and Syria, the Independent’s Robert Fisk scoffed at how the Egyptian presidential candidate “Ahmed Shafiq, the Mubarak loyalist, [and rival to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi] has the support of the Christian Copts, and Assad has the support of the Syrian Christians. The Christians support the dictators. Not much of a line, is it?”

    More than three years later, the Western-supported “Arab Spring” proved an abysmal failure and the same Christian minorities that Fisk took to task were, as expected, persecuted in ways unprecedented in the modern era.

    Even without defining refugees as people “persecuted by their government,” the Obama administration never seems to miss an opportunity to display its bias for Muslims against Christians. … Keep reading

  3. Syria is not a clusterfuck because of Israel in any way shape or form.

    Nor is it America's fault.

    The truth is simple.

    Assad is a Baathist.

    A islamic/arab nazi.

    All was ok for him (except some uprisings by the Moslem Brotherhood) when they all were collectively supporting the most vile palestinian terrorists on the planet. As long as Syria played the "kill the Jude" game all was fine.

    But then Assad jumped the shark and started to believe his own hype. (just like his fellow baathist Saddam did)

    There was turmoil.


    360,000 lay dead, 14 million homeless.

    And using useless arab logic the question is asked "who benefits"?

    The Jews…

    SO they MUST be to blame.

    no, it's not that easy….

    But it is true that Syrian slaughter of their own shows that Israel is in fact a humane, decent nation surrounded by savages.

    One can only understand that if the Syrians are capable of starving to death, barrel bomb their own markets, rape and torture their own kids? Well they would do far worse to any Jew or israeli they could get their hands on.

    Sammy Kuntar is a perfect example of Syrian/Hezbollah disgustingness.

    Syria, Iraq and other arab societies are imploding. As they should. Iran will be next.

    Sadly Obama has thrown a life line to dictators across the globe. From Cuba to Iran. Obama is helping them stay in power…

    But for all the Israel bashing and blaming?

    1.2 MILLION arab moslems are stilling living quite well in Israel as citizens.

    No mass exodus. No Revolution.

    Meanwhile Hamas executes it's kids.


    1. "1.2 MILLION arab moslems are stilling living quite well in Israel as citizens."

      Giving the lie to all that 'Israel is an apartheid state' bullshit which is a constant propaganda theme here.

      Those guilty of taking part in this slander are:


      'Apartheid' certainly exists in the moslem world though......I have even offered free one way airline tickets to Gaza so some of these folks can check it out.....

  4. I would have put an end to the aerial barrel bombing by putting up a no fly zone, but Quirk vetoed my idea and called me a war monger to boot.

    I would also have created safe enclaves for the various groups to the extent possible.........another dastardly war mongering maneuver according to Quirk.

    We are all waiting expectantly for word from Quirk concerning the new Syrian 'refugee' family he is accepting into his family home......

    Trey Gowdy for Speaker of the House !

    1. Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), a first-term member who identifies with the tea party movement, also endorsed Gowdy for majority leader in a statement released Tuesday morning, calling him someone who “is respected across the political spectrum and will help create clarity and focus for Republicans to lead the country into a better, brighter future.”

      “He is the kind of smart fighter our country needs and the American people deserve,” Love said in the statement. “With impressive communication skills, genuine compassion and the tenacity of a prosecutor, he will unite the party and the people around a truly American agenda.”


      Conservatives float Trey Gowdy as next House majority leader

    2. Of course the USA could have set up no fly zones in Syria and they could have set real red lines for assad and his weapons of mass destruction…


      But Rufus still cheers the American bombing runs against ISIS (never bothering to count civilians) and still gets pissed when ISIS is compared to Hamas..


  5. Quirk to Bob:

    "QuirkTue Sep 29, 10:48:00 AM EDT


    Why would anyone think you are kidding? It is your pattern.

    You are merely a light-weight WiO doppelganger. Like him you reject uncomfortable facts. While I suspect WiO knows the truth but rejects it preferring instead to rationalize and justify, I see you as merely continuing to wallow in your self-induced wave of blissful ignorance.

    You are the useful idiot, a demented and aged sheep, gamboling along in a fog of benighted nescience.

    You are an embarrassment."


    1. You are a moron, Ash.

      Everyone knows that.

      And Quirk's a moron too.

      Everyone knows that as well.

      The reason WiO and I seem to agree on many things is we both support Israel and are realists concerning Islam.

      Nothing more to it than that.

      Since Israel is the prime topic #1 here due to the monomania of Deuce we may seem to agree on many things.

      I have no idea if he supported the introduction of wolves into Idaho, for instance, and if he did I would argue vehemently with him.

      Ash, all you do is mumble idiotic memes.

  6. Middle East
    Want To Really Help Refugees?

    As Abbas speaks at the U.N. General Assembly, demand the Palestinians return the aid money they’ve mishandled for decades

    By Liel Leibovitz
    September 24, 2015

    Forget the pope: The only truly important dignitary visiting New York for the United Nations General Assembly this week is Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. That’s because Abbas, unlike most of his powerful peers, may actually hold the key to world peace.

    Don’t laugh. If the strong signals coming from the rais’ office are to be believed, Abbas is likely to take the stage next Wednesday and declare the Oslo Accords dead. This, to all but a handful of sentimentalists, nearly all of whom live in Tel Aviv, is a major opportunity. If Abbas truly believes the age of Oslo to be over, there’s a good argument to be made that he ought to give back every shekel his people have received in international aid for the past 21 years.

    If this strikes you as ridiculous or cruel, take a moment to revisit the financial records. That is, if you can find them: In 2013, the European Court of Auditors, an independent E.U. regulatory body set up to monitor the union’s income and spending, discovered that $2.64 billion of European aid investment in the West Bank and Gaza between 2008 and 2012 alone was squandered—lost to mismanagement and corruption. Look back further, to Oslo’s early, euphoric days, and you’ll discover many more billions you just can’t find.

    Where did all the money go? Recent leaked documents give two anecdotally instructive looks into the lifestyles of the Palestinian rich and famous, paid for by the kindness of strangers. In one instance, Majdi al-Khaldi, a close Abbas adviser, asked Bahrain’s foreign minister for $4 million to pay for the construction of a luxury gated community for top P.A. officials. This, al-Khaldi wrote, was necessary in order to resist nearby settlements, even though there were no settlements nearby. For Nazmi Muhanna, the general director of the Palestinian Crossing and Borders Authority, the political was personal: He syphoned off nearly $10,000 to send his daughter to a fancy private school in Jordan. Still, he was better than the former leader of Fatah in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan, who celebrated the nuptials of his son in Cairo earlier this summer with a modest party that cost $2 million, including an Oscar de la Renta gown inlaid with hundreds of jewels and pearls. Even if you take into account the economic hardships of a society struggling against foreign military presence in its midst, the P.A. has still received, to use a technical term for a moment, oodles of cash, several Marshall Plans’ worth, and has no schools, no roads, and no other forms of infrastructure to show for it. The cash spent on fancy homes and bejeweled designer dresses is now lost to us, but if we do our due diligence, it’s possible we’ll still find much of the foreign money piled, undisturbed, in Swiss bank accounts belonging to Abbas and company.