Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Imperial errors cost US the Middle East...

Imperial errors cost US the Middle East...
By Dmitry Shlapentokh

The United States' invasion of Iraq in 2003 was an important event in post-Cold War history that is well-placed in the context of a series of other "preventive" wars, such as against Serbia (1999), Afghanistan (2001), and, lately, Libya.

All of them were conducted under various excuses, but their geopolitical underpinning was clear. On one hand, the West, especially the US, is increasingly pressed by the economic rise of Asia - mostly China.

On the other hand, the West, the US in particular, tried to take advantage of a military superiority emerging after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The attack against Iraq was designed not only to demonstrate the US's superior military power and disregard for international law and European allies, but also to provide the US with a hold over the strategic resources of oil and gas in the Middle East. The designs failed. Still, the US might yet turn this defeat, if not into victory, at least into some of advantage.

The US's major mistake in Iraq - in stark contrast to the United Kingdom during its colonial quest - is that it tried to engage in "regime change", where the entire state structure of the old regime was not superseded but destroyed. Later, the US tried to restore it, but the damage was irreversible.

Secondly, Washington, following the dictum that democracy should spread to any part of the world, launched what were the freest elections in Iraq's history. Both decisions were grave mistakes and led to disaster, at least from Washington's perspective.

The destruction of the state unleashed anarchy and a milieu where jihadis and other extremists could flourish. The election led to the Shi'ite majority - with its strong pro-Iranian sympathies - gaining power. Then the only force that would have been able to stabilize Iraq and prevent it from becoming Iran's proxy - US troops - left. .

Essentially, Washington should have stayed in Baghdad indefinitely as the British would have done in their heyday of empire.

Still, Washington had no resources to do this. To start with, the Department of Defense - a huge and inefficient cash cow - made the soldiers' upkeep unbearably expensive.

As a result, the cost of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq for a few years was the same amount of cash as had been for the arms race with the mighty "Evil Empire".

With an industrial base in the process of erosion and mounting debt and budget cuts, the hands of Washington were tied; and it would be naive to attribute the withdrawal from Iraq conducted recently to the naivete of President Barack Obama.

With the US's departure, a trend where Baghdad was drawing closer to Tehran has intensified, and Iraq supports the regime in Syria - Tehran's proxy.

At the same time, Sunni violence, with the possible participation of jihadis, has intensified. This also could be said to a lesser degree about the Kurds, who have not lost hope of building an independent state.

This process has provided an opportunity to Sunni jihadis, the enemy of not just Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government but also that of his masters in Tehran.

Moreover, they could well reinforce the Taliban movement in Afghanistan, who are the enemy not just of the US but also of Iran. It is not surprising that Iran has engaged in moves not just to prepare for a potential war with the US/Israel but also started maneuvers near its borders with Afghanistan.

The Kurdish problem could be helpful for Washington for it creates permanent pressure for Ankara and might at least slow Turkey's slide toward Iran.

The US's defeat in the Middle East still could bring some benefits for Washington and Brussels; and it would not be surprising if the West were already at work on this scheme. Still, other powers are working on schemes of their own; and the situation in the region - and globally - has become unstable and, therefore, fluid....

Monday, January 30, 2012

What is the GCC up to in Syria?

What is the GCC up to in Syria?
By Pepe Escobar

So the Arab League has a new draft United Nations Security Council resolution to "solve" the Syrian saga. [ 1]

World public opinion may be fooled into believing this is an altruistic Arab solution to an Arab problem. Not really.

First of all this is a draft resolution of NATO-GCC - that symbiosis between selected North Atlantic Treaty Organization members and selected petro-monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council. By now, after their "success" in blasting regime change into Libya, NATO-GCC should be well known as the axis between the European poodles of the Pentagon and the six monarchies that compose the GCC, also known as Gulf Counter-revolution Club.

This draft UN resolution goes one step beyond a so-called Arab League transition plan laid out over a week ago. Now the spin is of a "political road-map" that essentially means President Bashar Assad voluntarily stepping out, his vice president installed in power for a transition, the formation of a national unity government, and free and fair elections with international supervision.

According to the Foreign Minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, "The president will delegate his first vice president the full power to work with the national unity government to enable it to perform its task in the transitional period."

Sounds very civilized - except that it masquerades the real agenda of UN-imposed regime change. A quick look at the draft resolution also reveals a two-week deadline for Assad to get out of Dodge; if not, expect hell, "in consultation" with the Arab League.

"Arab" League is now a fiction; what’s really in charge is the Arab Gulf league, or GCC league; in practice, the House of Saud. Even aspiring regional superpower Qatar plays second fiddle. And everyone else, they are just extras.

So here we have the House of Saud and its Gulf minions detailing a road map for regime change followed by full Western parliamentary democracy, and places like the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait defending human rights in Arab lands. It's as if this whole thing was a joint plan concocted by dadaist Tristan Tzara and surrealist Andre Breton with a Monty Python twist.

Stuff your Somalia remix
Not surprisingly, the Syrian government rejected the drat resolution as a "blatant intervention in its internal affairs", according to the SANA news agency. The Syrian ambassador to the UN, Bashar Ja'afari, was even more graphic; "Syria will not be Libya; Syria will not be Iraq; Syria will not be Somalia; Syria will not be a failing state."

BRICS member Russia - which alongside China had already vetoed a previous Western-redacted resolution - has already buried this one. For starters, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov couldn't understand why the Arab League suspended its monitoring mission in Syria this past Saturday. Instead, Lavrov would "support an increased number of observers".

Russia - which in no time learned the lessons of the open-ended UN resolution on Libya - has its own draft resolution which, according to Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin, privileges a "Syrian-led political process", not "an Arab League-imposed outcome of a political process that has not yet taken place", or, worse yet, "regime change" a la Libya.

Russia - unlike the West - ascribes the now non-stop violence in Syria to both the Assad regime and the "rebels". Even the GCC League has somewhat admitted that there are shabbihah (armed goons) on both sides, those on the "rebel" side affiliated with the already discredited Free Syrian Army.

That tray of sweets is all mine
Even though there are no objective conditions whatsoever for a NATO bombing of Syria, the NATOGCC + Israel geopolitical axis will pursue its objectives relentlessly.

The objectives are vast; exercising total control over any Arab Spring-related transition (as in the case of Yemen); preventing any changes to the status quo (as in pre-emption in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco); outright repression (as in the case of Bahrain); and preferably getting their cake and eating it too (as in the case of Libya).

But Syria is infinitely more complex; because of the Iranian connection; because BRICS members Russia and China will block any regime change scheme; because there have been no significant cracks among the Syrian military; and because the Assad regime is expert in navigating the divisions between a Sunni majority and the Alawite minority.

So the GCC League was successful in Yemen - controlling the "transition" and even having the dictator Ali Abdulla Saleh sent to the United States. It has been relatively successful in Egypt; even though the head of the snake (Hosni Mubarak) was kicked out, the snake is very much alive and kicking (the military establishment), and to top it off, the new parliament boasts a huge Islamist majority (our heart goes out to the youngsters who actually started everything in Tahrir Square and are left with nothing).

Even the venerable stones in the Umayyad mosque in Damascus know that the Syrian National Council (conveniently exiled in NATO members Turkey and France) is being financed by the House of Saud and Qatar. So expect more GCC-financed weapons to continue raising hell in Syria - now even in some Damascus suburbs. No wonder the GCC League had to pull out its "monitors"; they would have to roundly denounce the very people they are arming.

Even the Playstation King of Jordan - who was the first Arab potentate on the record to want to topple Assad (no wonder Jordan was invited to be a GCC member) - has been forced to admit, "I don't see Syria going through many changes." King Abdullah at least had the good sense to observe, "It's a very complicated puzzle and there is no simple solution. If you can imagine Iraq being a simple solution ... and it's different in Libya, so it has everybody stumped and I don't think anybody has a clear answer on what to do about Syria."

By the way, there are pro-democracy protests in GCC-addicted Jordan virtually every day; but not a peep will be heard about it in Western corporate media. "Liberated" Libya totally disappeared from the Western triumphalist narrative - even as Amnesty International now has evidence of systematic torture in makeshift mini-gulags, and Medicines sans Frontiers (MSF) decided to leave Misrata for good after being asked by those formerly known as "rebels" to treat victims of torture, so they could be tortured again.

Which leads us to the ghastly equivalence between the "transitional councils" in both Libya and Syria. Their undisguised masters were - and are - NATOGCC. Russia may have its own agenda in Syria, but at least the Russians know hardcore violence is being served as much by the Assad regime as by the Syrian National Council and the Free Syria Army.

King Playstation at least got one thing right; no one has a clue on what to do about Syria. So it's Assad on one side against NATOGCC on the other, with average Syrians - covering a wide spectrum of opinion - squeezed in the middle. Rumors swirl about a possible plan C; a bazaar-style deal, over endless cups of green tea, between Assad and the House of Saud. That's unlikely; the GCC League wants the whole tray of sweets - and to eat them too.

Note 1. See here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

La Geopolitique de L'eau....

La Geopolitique de L'eau....

Le rapport de Glavany au Parlement Français :

The Strategic Importance of Iran for Russia and China....

CONFRONTATION BETWEEN MILITARY BLOCS: The Eurasian "Triple Alliance." The Strategic Importance of Iran for Russia and China....

by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Despite areas of difference and rivalries between Moscow and Tehran, ties between the two countries, based on common interests, have developed significantly.

Both Russia and Iran are both major energy exporters, they have deeply seated interests in the South Caucasus. They are both firmly opposed to NATO's missile shield, with a view to preventing the U.S. and E.U. from controlling the energy corridors around the Caspian Sea Basin.

Moscow and Tehran's bilateral ties are also part of a broader and overlapping alliance involving Armenia, Tajikistan, Belarus, Syria, and Venezuela. Yet, above all things, both republics are also two of Washington’s main geo-strategic targets.

The Eurasian Triple Alliance: The Strategic Importance of Iran for Russia and China

China, the Russian Federation, and Iran are widely considered to be allies and partners. Together the Russian Federation, the People's Republic of China, and the Islamic Republic of Iran form a strategic barrier directed against U.S. expansionism. The three countries form a "triple alliance," which constitutes the core of a Eurasian coalition directed against U.S. encroachment into Eurasia and its quest for global hegemony.

While China confronts U.S. encroachment in East Asia and the Pacific, Iran and Russia respectively confront the U.S. led coalition in Southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. All three countries are threatened in Central Asia and are wary of the U.S. and NATO military presence in Afghanistan.

Iran can be characterized as a geo-strategic pivot. The geo-political equation in Eurasia very much hinges on the structure of Iran's political alliances. Were Iran to become an ally of the United States, this would seriously hamper or even destabilize Russia and China. This also pertains to Iran's ethno-cultural, linguistic, economic, religious, and geo-political links to the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Moreover, were the structure of political alliances to shift in favour of the U.S., Iran could also become the greatest conduit for U.S. influence and expansion in the Caucasus and Central Asia. This has to do with the fact that Iran is the gateway to Russia's soft southern underbelly (or "Near Abroad") in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

In such a scenario, Russia as an energy corridor would be weakened as Washington would "unlock" Iran's potential as a primary energy corridor for the Caspian Sea Basin, implying de facto U.S. geopolitical control over Iranian pipeline routes. In this regard, part of Russia's success as an energy transit route has been due to U.S. efforts to weaken Iran by preventing energy from transiting through Iranian territory.

If Iran were to "change camps" and enter the U.S. sphere of influence, China's economy and national security would also be held hostage on two counts. Chinese energy security would be threatened directly because Iranian energy reserves would no longer be secure and would be subject to U.S. geo-political interests. Additionally, Central Asia could also re-orient its orbit should Washington open a direct and enforced conduit from the open seas via Iran.

Thus, both Russia and China want a strategic alliance with Iran as a means of screening them from the geo-political encroachment of the United States. “Fortress Eurasia” would be left exposed without Iran. This is why neither Russia nor China could ever accept a war against Iran. Should Washington transform Iran into a client then Russia and China would be under threat.

Misreading the Support of China and Russia for U.N. Security Council Sanctions

There is a major misreading of past Russian and Chinese support of U.N. sanctions against Iran. Even though Beijing and Moscow allowed U.N. Security Council sanctions to be passed against their Iranian ally, they did it for strategic reasons, namely with a view to keeping Iran out of Washington's orbit.

In reality, the United States would much rather co-opt Tehran as a satellite or junior partner than take the unnecessary risk and gamble of an all-out war with the Iranians. What Russian and Chinese support for past sanctions did was to allow for the development of a wider rift between Tehran and Washington. In this regard, realpolitik is at work. As American-Iranian tensions broaden, Iranian relations with Russia and China become closer and Iran becomes more and more entrenched in its relationship with Moscow and Beijing.

Russia and China, however, would never support crippling sanctions or any form of economic embargo that would threaten Iranian national security. This is why both China and Russia have refused to be coerced by Washington into joining its new 2012 unilateral sanctions. The Russians have also warned the European Union to stop being Washington's pawns, because they are hurting themselves by playing along with the schemes of the United States. In this regard Russia commented on the impractical and virtually unworkable E.U. plans for an oil embargo against Iran. Tehran has also made similar warnings and has dismissed the E.U. oil embargo as a psychological tactic that is bound to fail.

Left photo: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and President Dmitry A. Medvedev of Russia during a bilateral meeting in Dushabe, Tajikistan.
The bilateral Iranian-Russian meeting was held on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit on August 28, 2008.
Right photo: Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov together in Moscow discussing Russia’s step-by-step nuclear proposal.

Russo-Iranian Security Cooperation and Strategic Coordination

In August 2011, the head of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, Secretary-General Saaed (Said) Jalili, and the head of the National Security Council of the Russian Federation, Secretary Nikolai Platonovich Patrushev met in Tehran to discuss the Iranian nuclear energy program as well as bilateral cooperation. Russia wanted to help Iran rebuff the new wave of accusations by Washington directed against Iran. Soon after Patrushev and his Russian team arrived in Tehran, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, flew to Moscow.

Both Jalili and Patrushev met again in September 2011, but this time in Russia. Jalili went to Moscow first and then crossed the Urals to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg.

The Iran-Russia Yekaterinburg meeting took place on the sidelines of an international security summit. Moreover, at this venue, it was announced that the highest bodies of national security in Moscow and Tehran would henceforth coordinate by holding regular meetings. A protocol between the two countries was was signed at Yekaterinburg.

During this important gathering, both Jalili and Patrushev held meetings with their Chinese counterpart, Meng Jianzhu. As a result of these meetings, a similar process of bilateral consultation between the national security councils of Iran and China was established. Moreover, the parties also discussed the formation of a supranational security council within the Shanghai Cooperation Council to confront threats directed against Beijing, Tehran, Moscow and their Eurasian allies.

Also in September 2011, Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian envoy to NATO, announced that he would be visiting Tehran in the near future to discuss the NATO missile shield project, which both the Moscow and Tehran oppose.

Reports claiming that Russia, Iran, and China were planning on creating a joint missile shield started to surface. Rogozin, who had warned in August 2011 that Syria and Yemen would be attacked as "stepping stones" in the broader confrontation directed against Tehran, responded by publicly refuting the reports pertaining to the establishment of a joint Sino-Russo-Iranian missile shield project.

The following month, in October 2011, Russia and Iran announced that they would be expanding ties in all fields. Soon after, in November 2011, Iran and Russia signed a strategic cooperation and partnership agreement between their highest security bodies covering economics, politics, security, and intelligence. This was a long anticipated document on which both Russia and Iran had been working on. The agreement was signed in Moscow by the Deputy Secretary-General of the Supreme Security Council of Iran, Ali Bagheri (Baqeri), and the Under-Secretary of the National Security Council of Russia, Yevgeny Lukyanov.

In November 2011, the head of the Committee for International Affairs in the Russian Duma, Konstantin Kosachev, also announced that Russia must do everything it can to prevent an attack on neighbouring Iran. At the end of November 2011 it was announced that Dmitry Rogozin would definitely visit both Tehran and Beijing in 2012, together with a team of Russian officials to hold strategic discussions on collective strategies against common threats.

Left and right photos: Secretary-General Jalili and Secretary Patrushev in Tehran, Iran holding Iranian-Russian national security talks during August 2011.

Left photo: Deputy Secretary-General Ali Bagheri at a press conference in Moscow, Russia after signing a security pact with Russian officials.
Right photo: Konstantin Kosachev, the Chairperson of the Committee for International Affairs in the Russian Duma.

Russian National Security and Iranian National Security are Attached

On January 12, 2012, Nikolai Patrushev told Interfax he feared that a major war was imminent and that Tel Aviv was pushing the U.S. to attack Iran. He dismissed the claims that Iran was secretly manufacturing nuclear weapons and said that for years the world had continuously heard that Iran would have an atomic bomb by next week ad nauseum. His comments were followed by a dire warning from Dmitry Rogozin.

On January 13, 2012, Rogozin, who had been appointed deputy prime minister, declared that any attempted military intervention against Iran would be a threat to Russia's national security. In other words, an attack on Tehran is an attack on Moscow. In 2007, Vladimir Putin essentially mentioned the same thing when he was in Tehran for a Caspian Sea summit, which resulted in George W. Bush Jr. warning that World War III could erupt over Iran. Rogozin's statement is merely a declaration of what has been the position of Russia all along: should Iran fall, Russia would be in danger.

Iran is a target of U.S. hostility not just for its vast energy reserves and natural resources, but because of major geo-strategic considerations that make it a strategic springboard against Russia and China. The roads to Moscow and Beijing also go through Tehran, just as the road to Tehran goes through Damascus, Baghdad, and Beirut. Nor does the U.S. want to merely control Iranian oil and natural gas for consumption or economic reasons. Washington wants to put a muzzle around China by controlling Chinese energy security and wants Iranian energy exports to be traded in U.S. dollars to insure the continued use of the U.S. dollar in international transactions.

Moreover, Iran has been making agreements with several trade partners, including China and India, whereby business transactions will not be conducted in euros or U.S. dollars. In January 2012, both Russia and Iran replaced the U.S. dollar with their national currencies, respectively the Russian rouble and the Iranian rial, in their bilateral trade. This was an economic and financial blow to the United States.

Left photo: Vladimir V. Putin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad holding talks in Tehran, Iran on the sidelines of a summit of Caspian Sea nations in October 2007.
Right photo: Dmitry O. Rogozin, the departing representative of Russia at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

Syria and the National Security Concerns of Iran and Russia

Russia and China with Iran are all staunchly supporting Syria. The diplomatic and economic siege against Syria is tied to the geo-political stakes to control Eurasia. The instability in Syria is tied to the objective of combating Iran and ultimately turning it into a U.S. partner against Russia and China.

The cancelled or delayed deployment of thousands of U.S. troops to Israel for "Austere Challenge 2012" was tied to ratcheting up the pressure against Syria. On the basis of a Voice of Russia report, segments of the Russian media erroneously reported that "Austere Challenge 2012" was going to be held in the Persian Gulf, which was mistakenly picked up by news outlets in other parts of the world. This helped highlight the Iranian link at the expense of the Syrian and Lebanese links. The deployment of U.S. troops was aimed predominately at Syria as a means of isolating and combating Iran. The "cancelled" or "delayed" Israeli-U.S. missile exercises most probably envisaged preparations for missile and rocket attacks not only from Iran, but also from Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Territories.

Aside from its naval ports in Syria, Russia does not want to see Syria used to re-route the energy corridors in the Caspian Basin and the Mediterranean Basin. If Syria were to fall, these routes would be re-synchronized to reflect a new geo-political reality. At the expense of Iran, energy from the Persian Gulf could also be re-routed to the Mediterranean through both Lebanon and Syria.

Left photo: Syrian Defence Minister Dawoud (David) Rajha visiting the docked Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in the Syrian port of Tartus on January 8, 2012.
Right photo: Syrian allies, Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, join President Bashar Al-Assad for a summit in Damascus, Syria on February 25, 2010.

Left photo: The Alvand, one of the two Iranian warships that visited the Syrian port of Lattakia during February 2011.
Right photo: Rear-Admirial Habibollah Sayyari holding a press conference on February 28, 2001 at the Iranian Embassy in Syria about the Iranian naval presence off Syria’s Mediterranean coast.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Japan's strategic outlook....

Japan's strategic outlook....
Rod Lyon
Australian Strategic Policy Institute
Image: Josh Liba / flickr

19 December 2011Japan will remain an introverted strategic player during the next decade, and for Australia, the challenge is how to partner with that inward-looking Japan.

Japan has endured a difficult couple of decades, but probably confronts another. With its economy stalled, its political system still evolving towards a genuine multiparty system, and its population ageing and shrinking, it confronts a daunting array of domestic challenges. The great East Asian earthquake of March has only added to its problems. The after-effects will be felt for years, not least in the continuing nuclear problems at Fukushima. Those challenges mean Japan will probably remain an introverted strategic player during the next decade or so. Arguments made by a range of commentators about five years ago, that Japan had entered a critical ‘turning point’ in its strategic policy, now seem less compelling.

For Australia, the challenge is how to partner with that inward-looking Japan over the next ten-to-fifteen years. The pace of change in Asian strategic settings is such that much may change during that period. And there aren’t many Japan-sized players in the regional system, so we have to work to ensure that the one we already have remains committed to shared objectives to the greatest extent possible. We need to ‘work with’ Japan, perhaps bringing more ourselves to the relationship to offset Japan’s period of hesitancy. But we might also need a ‘work around’ strategy—accepting that we need to do more with others to compensate for Japan’s strategic hesitancy. Australia wants an Asia with a range of engaged great powers—and Japan is an important part of that future Asia.’

Dr Rod Lyon, Director of ASPI’s Strategy and International Program, is the author of this report.

Image: Josh Liba / flickr

Japan has endured a difficult couple of decades, but probably confronts another. With its economy stalled, its political system still evolving towards a genuine multiparty system, and its population ageing and shrinking, it confronts a daunting array of domestic challenges. The great East Asian earthquake of March has only added to its problems. The after-effects will be felt for years, not least in the continuing nuclear problems at Fukushima. Those challenges mean Japan will probably remain an introverted strategic player during the next decade or so. Arguments made by a range of commentators about five years ago, that Japan had entered a critical ‘turning point’ in its strategic policy, now seem less compelling.

For Australia, the challenge is how to partner with that inward-looking Japan over the next ten-to-fifteen years. The pace of change in Asian strategic settings is such that much may change during that period. And there aren’t many Japan-sized players in the regional system, so we have to work to ensure that the one we already have remains committed to shared objectives to the greatest extent possible. We need to ‘work with’ Japan, perhaps bringing more ourselves to the relationship to offset Japan’s period of hesitancy. But we might also need a ‘work around’ strategy—accepting that we need to do more with others to compensate for Japan’s strategic hesitancy. Australia wants an Asia with a range of engaged great powers—and Japan is an important part of that future Asia.’

Dr Rod Lyon, Director of ASPI’s Strategy and International Program, is the author of this report.

Turkey confirms links between Israel, Syria and Kurdish rebels....

Turkey confirms links between Israel, Syria and Kurdish rebels....


Turkish intelligence agencies have authored a report detailing alleged Israeli assistance to Kurdish rebels, whose goal is to secede from Turkey and create an independent Kurdish homeland, according to a leading Turkish newspaper. The Ankara-based Zaman said the intelligence report was commissioned after Turkish forces detected Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) conducting reconnaissance missions over Turkey. The paper, which is tacitly affiliated with Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, said the UAVs were spotted flying over Turkey’s Adana and Hatay provinces, both of which are adjacent to Turkey’s border with Syria. As intelNews reported last August, Turkey’s main intelligence directorate, the MİT, is convinced that the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad has increased its clandestine support for the largest Kurdish secessionist group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), in an attempt to court Syria’s 500,000-strong Kurdish minority. According to the Zaman news report, airborne intelligence collected by Israeli Heron UAVs is shared with PKK guerrillas, who then use it to construct training bases in Syrian border regions. This explains, claims the paper, why most PKK training bases in Syria are located “in areas that are known to be weak spots for the Turkish military”. The report also claims that Turkish intelligence has verified that senior PKK military commander Kenan Yıldızbakan has visited Israel “several times” in recent months. Yildizbakan is believed to have commanded a brazen PKK assault on a Turkish naval base in İskenderun in 2010, which killed seven and wounded four members of the Turkish armed forces. Earlier this month, we reported that an Israeli drone flying over Turkey was nearly shot down by the Turkish Air Force. IntelNews also reported earlier this month on a news story from leading French newspaper Le Figaro, which claimed that officers of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad were recruiting and training Iranian dissidents in clandestine bases located in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region. The Paris-based daily cited a “security source in Baghdad”, who alleged that the Mossad was actively recruiting Iranian exiles in Kurdistan, for use in Israel’s clandestine war against the Iranian nuclear program....

East Asian energy dilemma over Iran....

East Asian energy dilemma over Iran....
By Yong Kwon

A few months before the outbreak of the Suez Crisis in 1956, Japanese economist Wakimura Yoshitaro pointed to the transport of Middle Eastern oil as a potential flashpoint for global conflict. His assessment appears obvious in retrospect, but his policy recommendation to deal with this serious threat to economic and political stability still remains relevant.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Wakimura and several other prominent economists argued that reliance on oil increased the risk of Japan being dragged into an unwanted war. Therefore, to ensure Japanese neutrality, the best policy for Tokyo would be to develop an independent and reliable source of energy. [1] At the time, people looked to nuclear energy.

More than half a century and a meltdown later, when confidence in nuclear power is at an all-time low and alternative sources of energy are still unready to be applied on an industrial scale, Washington's expansion of the diplomatic and economic offensive against Iran comes as an unpleasant reminder to East Asian nations of the cost of maintaining ties with the United States.

Furthermore, US President Barack Obama's imposition of US foreign policy interests in the Middle East will undoubtedly lead Seoul and Tokyo's attention to develop deeper political ties with Beijing, something Washington has been working to prevent since its strategic refocusing to the Asia-Pacific.

The Middle East has always been a contentious issue in Washington's relationship with Seoul and Tokyo. In particular, economically coercing Tehran is difficult for the two countries because a significant share of their petroleum imports come from Iran. This supply constitutes a vital lifeline to two economies deeply invested in shipping, transport, and heavy industry. The recent urging by the US to reduce or ban oil imports from Iran was met with negotiations from both governments to find alternative means of punishing the Islamic Republic while protecting their vital supply.

Since December of last year, the Japanese government has prohibited domestic businesses from working with Iranian banks and frozen the assets of several Iranian organizations. However, Japanese banks have been allowed to continue doing business with Iran's central bank, which settles the accounts for the oil trade.

South Korea has followed suit by forbidding new investments in Iranian oil and blacklisting Iranian firms, but not taking measures to reduce the supply of the much-valued energy source. Obviously the two governments do not intend to rupture their relationship with the United States. Both states recognize the vital role that Washington plays in regional security and commerce. Nonetheless, the sanctions on Iran remain a divisive policy because it forces both countries to choose between maintaining economic stability and establishing grounds for greater cooperation in security.

Some Israeli security experts have joined US officials in forwarding the view to Seoul that it would be in South Korea's best interest to join the tough sanctions as this would invariably put pressure on North Korea as well. [2] They added that Seoul should not worry about oil imports from Iran because other Gulf nations will increase their supply to supplement South Korea's needs.

While it is true that the ties between Iran and North Korea create greater impetus for South Korea to seek means to prevent Iranians from developing nuclear capabilities, the ongoing measures introduced by the United States have only brought on larger security problems while weapons technology transfers and sharing arrangements are likely continuing undeterred between Pyongyang and Tehran. [3]

Meanwhile, Seoul is seeking alternative sources of crude oil to satisfy its needs in case it has no other choice but to abide by US foreign policy in the Middle East. Likewise, Tokyo has yet to provide an official answer on reducing the import of oil from Iran and probably will not do so until it can secure alternative suppliers.

There appears to be confusion within the fledgling Yoshihiko Noda administration on how to approach the matter. When US Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner visited Japan earlier in January, Finance Minister Jun Azumi suggested that Japan will reduce its oil procurement from Iran.

However, Noda, who assumed office in September, has reversed the statement, clarifying that his government has not concluded on whether to follow Washington or not. Meanwhile, certain members of the Diet (parliament) in the opposition Liberal Democratic Party such as Taro Kono have supported Japan having a separate foreign policy from the United States when it comes to Iran. [4]

For the two countries, fears that the escalating crisis along the Straits of Hormuz will raise oil prices to backbreaking levels, regardless of their participation in the sanctions, remains prevalent as they attempt unsuccessfully to remain uninvolved as possible.

Enter China. On his state visit to Qatar, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao clearly noted Beijing's opposition to both Washington's sanctions and Iran's threat to close the Straits of Hormuz. China has proposed discussing the matter of Iran's nuclear developments at the United Nations with the five permanent members of the Security Council. This solution would be to the best interest of South Korea and Japan as well.

China's passive and pragmatic opposition to US policy on Iran reveals how Washington's aggressive policies in one part of the world could hurt its influence in East Asia. South Korea and Japan are already inextricably more closely tied to the Chinese economy than to the American one.

Even with the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership that is under development with Japan, it is hard to foresee the United States taking over China as the principal mover of the region's economic development. Therefore, when East Asian states are forced to undertake high risk issues that are practically non-essential to them, such as Iran's nuclear program, it only highlights the slowly diminishing importance of the United States.

By all means, Washington is still a critical player in the Asia-Pacific, both economically and militarily; however, it increasingly appears out-of-touch with the real concerns of its allies and lacking a long-term game plan for the region.

Obama should revisit the issue that Wakimura Yoshitaro saw as the key problem with the Middle Eastern oil supply. The late economist recognized that the only way stable commerce could continue in the region is if Western states negotiated with, rather than dictate to, oil producing nations, appreciating their aspirations and excising fears. These are not merely the words of a bygone economist, this is diplomacy 101.

1. Laura Hein. Reasonable Men, Powerful Words. Washington D.C: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2004.
2. Kirsty Taylor.
Israeli experts urge Korea to sanction Iranian oil imports. Korea Herald, January 19, 2012.
3. Joshua Pollack.
Ballistic Trajectory: The Evolution of North Korea's Ballistic Missile Market. The Nonproliferation Review, July 2011, Vol. 18 No. 2.
4. Event,
Reviving Japan: Can It Win the Asian Century? Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, January 4, 2012.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Soros Site Blends Kyrgyz News Item, CENTCOM Misinformation and Asia Times Misdirection In Obvious Psyop...

Soros Site Blends Kyrgyz News Item, CENTCOM Misinformation and Asia Times Misdirection In Obvious Psyop...

21 01 2012

[The following disinformation piece follows a 1, 2, 3 formula--first the facts, followed by the outright lies, finished with speculation about the original facts obscured by the lies. CentralAsiaOnline is a CENTCOM disinformation site. Any news derived from it is tainted and misleading. Turkey is an Imperial proxy. By crediting the Turkish military with building the NATO Special Forces Training Center at Batken, instead of correctly labeling it a NATO facility, it gives substance to the lie that Kyrgyzstan has the choice of a third direction, between Russia and the US.]

Turkey Promises To Boost Military Aid To Kyrgyzstan....As NATO, Russia Continue On Same Path To New World Order...


TAIWAN: 'At a time of swift growth, China isn't inclined to conflict'....

TAIWAN: 'At a time of swift growth, China isn't inclined to conflict'....

Since their stormy separation in 1949, Taiwan has resisted China's stated goal of taking over the small island state. Former member of Taiwan's National Assembly, professor Tang Shaocheng spoke with Rudroneel Ghosh about China's dramatic rise, Taiwan's recent presidential elections and why the new regime's policy of engagement seems to work:

How do Taiwanese view mainland China's rise?

Taiwanese view China with very mixed feelings. On the one hand, people fear China's rise could harm the status quo between the two sides, namely no unification, no indepen-dence and no use of force. Due to a lack of mutual trust, confidence-building measures are necessary to improve the situation. On the other hand, some Taiwanese judge the rise of China in a more positive way. They cite Beijing's insistence on unification through peaceful means. The 2008 global financial tsunami is still vivid in the memory of many Taiwanese. Taiwan's swift economic reco-very must be attributed to President Ma Ying-jeou's policy of reconciliation with mainland China while the US itself was the epicentre of the crisis - trade and financial injections from China, the influx of Chinese tourists and the procurement of Taiwanese commodities by Chinese provincial governments were vital to the recovery of Taiwan's economy.

Taiwan is an example of Chinese democracy - aren't there fears Beijing could stifle this through a tight economic embrace?

Taiwan's democracy is deep-rooted enough not to be rever-sed. Beijing can only win the hearts and minds of the Taiwanese people to reach its goal of unification. Even then, the Taiwanese would have the last say. We must also realise a chaotic Taiwan with constant unrest will not be an acceptable option for Beijing.

President Ma's re-election vindicated his pro-China economic policies. But is any form of unification between Taiwan and China realistically possible in the near future?

No. There is no such plan of unification - the time is not ripe. The two sides are now preparing for dialogue on a peace accord... without the precondition of a renunciation of violence, there will be no foundation for further negotiations. However, if severe external factors were to affect cross-strait relations, anything is possible. If another financial crisis affects both sides, why can't they work together to face the challenge? Germany was reunited in 1990 - but nobody expected that, even in 1989.

If President Ma had lost his re-election bid, how would cross-strait relations be affected?

This would have meant uncertainties because the opposition Democratic Progressive Party doesn't accept the 1992 Consensus, which is 'One China with different interpretations'. This is Beijing's prerequisite for bilateral negotiations, accepted by the ruling Kuomintang.

China insists its ambi-tions are peaceful - but its actions can be aggressive. How should countries res-pond to emerging disputes?

According to the famous Chinese strategist Sun Tzu, the best strategy to win a war is to adopt non-war measures - win the hearts and minds of the opponents or make clear to them the serious consequences of confrontation. Such tactics are commonly used by Chinese authorities. But at a time of swift domestic growth, China isn't inclined to conflict with others.

Also, its rise has enabled Beijing to be much more influential in the international arena. Therefore, next to the realist approach - the use of power and interests - the liberal and social constructivist approaches through the use of trade, cooperation and culture are all relevant means to negotiate with China and settle disputes....

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Zioconned US policies can be best called: LOSE/LOSE

The Zioconned US policies can be best called: LOSE/LOSE


By Michael Brenner

Professor of International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh

American foreign policy over the past 11 years has demonstrated a perverse genius for placing the United States in lose/lose situations. Navigating without a strategic gyroscope, and with maladroit diplomacy, we repeatedly have painted ourselves into a corner from which there is no escape other than by taking risky and highly costly expedient actions. That's true of Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq (where Mr. Maliki rubs our noses in our failure by inflicting enhanced humiliation techniques on us weekly, Lebanon, Bahrain/Saudi Arabia, Palestine and - most dangerous of all - Iran. Two successive administrations have presumed to set unrealizable objectives and to reach them by fruitless methods by ignoring the fundamental givens of the situation.

One, Iran will never forego the option of developing a nuclear CAPABILITY that is crucial to their objective security needs. Two, therefore, sanctions and other means short of war will not work. Three, the undeclared 'war' by other means that we are conducting confirms the security imperative and solidifies a national consensus on the nuclear issue. Four, somehow neutralizing the potentially destabilizing effects of the Iranian nuclear program requires reaching a set of understandings and putting in place arrangements that satisfy the basic security interests of all parties in the Gulf region. Five, talks on the nuclear question that ignore the above are doomed to failure. Six, to paint the Islamic Republic as the epitome of evil and to pursue a veiled strategy of regime change makes serious negotiation impossible. Seven, consequently Washington's tiptoeing to the brink of conflict puts us in the position of either backing away and thereby losing face (and votes in November) or taking military action whose effects would be disastrous.

As American post-Cold War imperial ambitions flounder against the harsh realities of international life, it would be tragic of the curtain falls on a scene of catastrophic failure of our own making....


Welcome to the Fog of Conflict Analysis....

By Paul Sullivan

Professor of Economics, National Defense University

First let us look at the closing of the straits of Hormuz. Many in leadership here and there think it is possible, if for a limited time. It would also be considered an act of war by many of the Sunni states in the Gulf region which rely on the straits for exporting their oil, gas, and refined products, but also for imports of food, equipment and many of the necessities of life. Many of the states that rely a lot on their ports on the inside of the straits are already in a delicate food security balance, for example. This could complicate things quite a bit. Also, if a conflict does erupt many of the states on the inside of the Gulf use the Gulf as a source of saline water to desalinate. They have particularly fragile water security issues to deal with if the Gulf is polluted. Qatar and the UAE may have 2 or so days of water reserves if their desalinization plants are shut.

The odd thing about this threat from Iran is that if they do shut down the Straits they will be harming themselves severely for similar reasons to how they would harm the Sunni states. They would also be harming their ally, Iraq. Almost all of the outlets for oil from Iran are on the inside of the straits. All of its major oil and gas fields are on the inside of the straits. Its major export facilities of Kharg and Lavan islands are on the inside of the straits. All of their major import ports are on the inside of the straits, aside from some smaller ports on the outside that have not been fully developed yet. Iran needs lots of imports to keep its economy going. It most particularly needs refined products, chemicals and the like. It also imports a lot of agricultural products, machine parts, transport vehicles, etc. Some have asked me whether Iran could just let Iranian trade go through. Well, have you ever faced down a carrier group in a small space, and the straits are a pretty small space?

Most Saudi, Kuwaiti, Iraqi, Emirati, Qatari and other trade goes via the Straits of Hormuz. This is more than just oil. Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of LNG. Most of this LNG goes to Asia. India is one of their biggest customers. Japan, South Korea and China are also big or growing markets for them.

China gets about 11 percent of its oil from Iran, but gets nearly double that from Saudi Arabia. It also imports a lot of oil from Iraq, Oman, and Kuwait. It may be now turning more to the UAE. India also gets about 11 percent of its oil from Iran, but 18 percent from Saudi Arabia. It also imports oil from the UAE, Kuwait, etc. Japan relies on the Gulf region for about 77 percent of its oil. South Korea relies on the Gulf for about the same percentage. The EU gets about 15 percent of its oil from Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Italy and Spain, countries in some economic stress get about 13 percent of their oil from Iran. Greece gets even more from Iran: about 30 percent. Turkey gets about 50 percent of its oil from Iran. Sri Lanka gets 100 percent of its oil from Iran. South Africa gets about 25 percent from Iran. And all of these countries, outside of Sri Lanka, which rely on Iran for oil also rely on others from the inside of the straits for either oil, gas, refined products or all three in variably important ways. The US gets about 1.5 million barrels a day from inside the straits, mostly from Iraq and Saudi Arabia. This is not a large percentage of our 19-20 million barrel a day usage, but shutting it down quickly even for a short time would be an issue, and would have ripples in our markets and our supply systems.

My sense is that the Iranian threat is a bluff, but it has rattled some market analyses and some actual markets. Closing off the straits would strangle the economy of Iran. It would damage further its relations with the Sunni states. It would harm its relations with its major customers in Asia. It would be a cause of war and all of its implications, which are vast.

I cannot say whether there will be a war or not. Maybe something or someone will bring us back from the precipice. Maybe some sense will walk into the situation. But in times of great stress and increasing stress between countries the chances for mistakes to be made get higher than if there were some sort of effective dispute mechanism to reduce those tensions. There seems to be none between the US and Iran, or even between the Sunni states and Iran. EU-Iranian relations seem to be also getting more distant by the day.

It is not just the oil that could be a shock to the world systems if a war breaks out. Yes, there are about 15-17 million barrels of day going through the straits in mostly very few VLCC and ULCC tankers carrying 2 million barrels or so of oil each. There are smaller tankers and refinery tankers also, but the big ships could be a key to this crisis if it breaks out. One of these ships being diverted to Spain, for example, would mean a potentially huge shock to their economy unless other tankers and pipeline flows were moved about to take up the short fall in short order.

I could go into hundreds of oil market scenarios, but the bigger and simpler picture is this: if the straits are closed off for a considerable period, even a couple of weeks or so, oil prices will go through the roof for a while. However, the psychology of the oil markets may also have changed due to this and some nearly permanent risk premiums might be added to the prices of different types of oils.

Natural gas is increasingly becoming a part of the trade via the straits and any stoppage of LNG ships to Asia could disrupt LNG markets in Asia, but also beyond due to diversion of some shipments and price shocks.

Given that the world economy is fragile already any oil, gas, or other shocks could put many places back into deeper recessions or pushed some over the edged into new ones. The EU is especially vulnerable given its still unresolved debt issues. Japan is vulnerable due to its need for imported oil and gas from the region. China is vulnerable due to its energy imports from the region, but its also seemingly increasingly fragile economy. There is a housing bust in process and China needs to produce 12-14 million new jobs each year. If it does not then we have some real civil disturbance potential. India could also get hammered economically due to oil and gas shocks.

Any oil and gas shocks out of the Gulf could have serious repercussions worldwide, not just in the countries I mention.

Then there are the chances that the major oil facilities in the Gulf could be damaged in a conflict. Think Ab Qaiq, ABOT, and KABOT, Kharg and Lavan islands, oil and gas facilities in the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait and you start to get the picture.

The economic effects of an all-out, protracted war including the damaging of major oil and gas facilities in the Gulf would be an economic catastrophe in many ways. A less protracted, less damaging war, well, we might pro-rate the economic damages, but they could also be vast. And the psychology of the situations in oil and other markets could serious change. Think of effects on stock markets, food markets, transport, and just about everything else and you start to get it.

Are there economic, political, military, diplomatic and social nightmares on the way if many of the potential scenarios happen?


Oh, yes, that question about hitting the Iranian nuclear facilities. Ever heard of nuclear fallout and have that might affect areas near and far from the attacks? This could be a significant result of any attacks on the nuclear facilities. I find it odd that so many people here and in the EU are so worried about the safety and other risks of nuclear power, but seem quick to the pistol to want to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.

Indeed, the Iranian regime needs desperately nuclear bombs, given all the threats against it by the Zioconned Western powers....but at what price?

The entire situation is fraught with cognitive dissonance, but what else is new?

Leadership and nuanced thinking is needed. Real strategic thinking is needed. The real and actual national security threats and opportunities of the US need to be considered very carefully and fully as this situation unfolds.

None of this is simple. Not much of it is really that clear.

Welcome to the fog of conflict analysis.....


And this is just the broad brush view of it.....

Obviously, the sanctions are intended to force Iran's hand.....an attempt to manipulate them into doing something, anything, that will justify an attack, be it from Israel or the U.S./NATO, in the court of world public opinion....as if that opinion really matters any longer. Iran has played it well up until this point. I don't think they will do anything stupid or rash....but as we saw in Vietnam (Maddox).....and with Iraq (Yellow Cake), ultimately it doesn't matter how well Iran plays it, The Babe has pointed to the right field wall and that's where the ball is going to end up....in the right field bleachers.

Think ahead twenty years....the year 2032. If Alzheimer's hasn't established its grip on you yet, if you are a betting man, would you bet that the Mullahs would still be in power in Iran? I wouldn't take that bet, because the odds are so slim to none, you're sure to lose your shirt. The only way to extricate the Mullahs is by outside physical force. Iran is incapable of another internal revolution that could possibly oust the Mullahs.

So, it's going to happen, it's just a matter when and how (the tactical analysis)....and the various ramifications it will have for the rest of the world, which is a source of interesting conjecture.

FYI, I don't condone any of the above, but that's my assessment. It's irrelevant how I feel about it...because they haven't asked and they never will....

Refusing battle, saving the World and USA from endless Blow-back....

Refusing battle, saving the World and USA from endless Blow-back....

[Excellent protest piece, rejecting the notion of "persistent warfare" (a.k.a. never-ending war), found in the unlikeliest of locations, the Armed Forces Journal. Considering the publication date of the article, April 2009, it is almost prescient, in its predictions of the disasters to befall the United States, NATO and the world, should Obama continue the disastrous "regime change" policies of Bush and Cheney.]

Refusing battle

Armed Forces Journal, April 2009

The alternative to persistent warfare....


“Sir, I am deeply concerned about Iraq. The task you have given me is becoming really impossible … if they (Sunni and Shiite) are not prepared to urge us to stay and to co-operate in every manner I would actually clear out. … At present we are paying eight millions a year for the privilege of living on an ungrateful volcano out of which we are in no circumstances to get anything worth having.”

Winston Churchill to British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Sept. 1, 1922

Despite the seriousness of the present economic crisis, the greatest danger to the future security of the U.S. is Washington’s inclination to impose political solutions with the use of American military power in many parts of the world where Washington’s solutions are unneeded and unsustainable. President Barack Obama must arrest this tendency by making pragmatic and methodical changes to the goals of American military strategy. The Bush legacy in foreign and defense policy presents Obama with a stark choice: Will we continue to pursue global hegemony with the use of military power to control and shape development inside other societies? Or will we use our military power to maintain our market-oriented English-speaking republic, a republic that upholds the rule of law, respects the cultures and traditions of people different from ourselves, and trades freely with all nations, but protects its sovereignty, its commerce, its vital strategic interests and its citizens? This essay argues for the latter approach; a strategy of conflict avoidance designed to make the U.S. more secure without making the rest of the world less so.

For Americans who’ve lived in a world with only one true military, political and economic center of gravity — the U.S. — changing how America behaves inside the international system is not an easy task. Since 1991, Americans have become so accustomed to the frequent use of American military power against very weak opponents they seem to have lost their fear of even the smallest conflict’s unintended consequences.

But the 21st century is no time for the leaders of the U.S. to make uninformed decisions regarding the use of force or to engage in desperate, end-game, roll-of-the-dice gambles. Recent events in the Caucasus involving Russia and Georgia may simply be a foretaste of what is likely to happen during the 21st century in much of Asia, Africa and Latin America, where the ancient practice of encouraging one ethnic group to dominate others as a means of securing foreign imperial power is breeding new conflicts. These conflicts are likely to resemble the Balkan Wars of the early 20th century, except that fights for regional power and influence will overlap with the competition for energy, water, food, mineral resources and the wealth they create. In nations such as Iran and Turkey, states with proud histories, huge populations under the age of 30 and appetites for more prominence in world affairs, the influx of wealth from the energy sector will also support much more potent militaries and, potentially, more aggressive foreign policies, too.

In this volatile setting, direct American military involvement in conflicts where the U.S. itself is not attacked and its national prosperity is not at risk should be avoided. Otherwise, American military involvement could cause 21st century conflicts to spin out of control and confront Americans with regional alliances designed to contain American military power; alliances that but for American military intervention would not exist. It is vital the U.S. not repeat the mistakes of the British Empire in 1914: overestimate its national power by involving itself in a self-defeating regional war it does not need to fight and precipitate its own economic and military decline.

Avoiding this outcome demands new goals for American military power and a strategic framework that routinely answers the questions of purpose, method and end-state; a strategy in which American military action is short, sharp, decisive and rare. Such a strategy involves knowing when to fight and when to refuse battle.


On June 24, 1863, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia — 74,000 strong — completed its crossing of the Potomac River and pushed northward into Pennsylvania toward Gettysburg. Six days later, when Robert E. Lee, the Confederate commander, arrived in front of Gettysburg, he discovered to his dismay that a much larger and better equipped Union Army — 115,000 strong — confronted him in strong defenses on the high ground above the town. As an officer of engineers, Lee knew what this development meant for his army; his troops would have to attack uphill while the Union troops poured rifle and artillery fire into them.

Fortunately for Lee, his opponent opted to immobilize itself in defensive positions. The Army of Northern Virginia was not yet decisively engaged. Lee still had options.

Lee could move his army away from Gettysburg, placing it between the Union Army and Washington, D.C., an action likely to draw the Union Army out of its strong defensive positions to attack and eliminate the danger Lee presented to Washington. Such a fight would occur on terms more favorable to Lee, increasing the likelihood of yet another Southern victory. A major Confederate victory on Northern territory would almost certainly have resulted in Lee’s occupation of Washington, D.C., and maybe even Southern independence.

Flush with their victory at Chancellorsville seven weeks earlier, Lee and his troops were spoiling for a fight, and they got the one they did not want or expect. After repeated charges and the loss of thousands of men, Lee retreated southward over the Potomac River without interference from the Union Army, but Lee lost a battle that cost the Confederacy the war.

Lee should have refused battle. Had he done so, he would have kept his army and its capabilities intact until he could achieve a position of advantage and with it more favorable conditions for the employment of his force.


When word reached Britain on Aug. 1, 1914, of Germany’s mobilization for war, Winston Churchill recorded that of the Cabinet “at least three-quarters of its members were determined not to be drawn into a European quarrel unless Great Britain was herself attacked, which was unlikely.” The members knew the English Channel and the massive Royal Navy made a German offensive against Britain not only unlikely, but impossible.

However, Edward Grey, the British foreign secretary, a man who spoke only English, seldom left England and was contemptuous of foreigners, reached a different conclusion. He believed moral obligations dictated British intervention to save its historic enemy, France, from defeat. While England’s drinking classes sang the jingoistic ballad made popular during the Boer War, “We’ve got the men, we’ve got the ships, we’ve got the money too,” Grey warned the House of Commons, “If France is beaten … and if Belgium fell under the same dominating influence, and then Holland and then Demark … the most awful responsibility is resting on the government in deciding what to do.”

The argument was specious. Germany’s war aims had nothing to do with Britain or the states mentioned. It did not matter. Grey’s emotional appeal to patriotism, and fear, worked.

When Field Marshal Herbert Kitchener, the newly appointed British minister of war, told the Cabinet its decision to go to war with Germany and Austria-Hungary meant the British Empire would have to maintain an army of millions, the war would last for at least three years and that it would be decided on the continent — not at sea — the Cabinet ministers were astonished. For reasons that seem baffling now, Britain’s political leaders, including Churchill, who was first lord of the Admiralty, believed a war with Germany would be short, and that the Royal Navy — not the British and French armies — would decide its outcome in a great sea battle with the German surface fleet. The possibility that Britain’s very small, professional army could not sustain a war with Germany and Austria for more than a few months, that Germany would decline to fight on Britain’s terms (at sea) and that the war on land would consume Britain’s national wealth, did not seem to occur to most of the Cabinet members until Kitchener made his presentation.

How could the British leaders have been so misguided in their assumptions? The British interpreted the world that existed beyond Britain’s global imperial power structure in ways that flattered their self-image of limitless money and sea-based power.

Britain should have refused battle and sought strategic conditions more favorable to the effective use of Britain’s considerable, but still limited, military and economic resources. Instead, Britain joined a regional conflict, turning it into a world war; a war Britain, along with France and Russia would lose until the manpower and industrial might of the U.S. rescued them from defeat in 1918.

Britain’s human losses were staggering; one in 16 British men aged 15 to 50, or nearly 800,000, died. Paying for Britain’s victory in World War I led to a tenfold increase in Britain’s national debt. Paying the interest alone consumed half of British government spending by the mid-1920s.

Britain fought a war that cost the British people their national power, their standard of living, and, in less than 20 years, their empire. Had anyone in London’s leadership stopped to seriously examine what outcome (end-state) it was they wanted to achieve with military power (purpose) and what military capabilities (method) were at their disposal to do so, it is doubtful they would have reached the decisions they did.


The lesson is a straightforward one: When national military strategy fails to answer the questions of purpose, method and end-state, military power becomes an engine of destruction not just for its intended enemies, but for its supporting society and economy, too. Regardless of how great or how small the military commitment, if the price of victory is potentially excessive, then the use of force should be avoided. After all, the object in conflict and crisis is the same as in wrestling: to throw the opponent by weakening his foothold and upsetting his balance without risking self-exhaustion.

This strategy served President Franklin Roosevelt well during the years leading up to and including World War II. Roosevelt concluded it made no sense to challenge the German war machine on its own terms. That was a job Roosevelt left to Stalin. Instead, Roosevelt avoided German strength and moved his forces through North Africa and Italy waiting for the combined effect of massive Soviet offensives and Anglo-American bombing campaigns to weaken the Nazi grip on Europe to the point where France could be invaded. When American and allied forces stormed ashore at Normandy, the strategic outcome in Europe was effectively decided.

But even when conflict is forced upon the U.S., as it was in World War II or Korea in 1950, there are still opportunities to halt ongoing, inconclusive military operations before they consume America’s military, economic and political reserves of strength. This was Eisenhower’s rationale for ending the Korean conflict in 1953. Unfortunately, chief executives such as Eisenhower are rarer than hens’ teeth.

Before committing to military action, political and military leaders must always measure what they might gain by what they might lose. Even when wars are won and the victorious military achieves total military domination of its opponent — the case in Iraq and Afghanistan — the population of the “defeated” country may not submit to the victor’s demands, particularly if the victor insists on garrisoning his troops in the defeated population’s territory. If the foreign military presence provokes local hostility — and it usually does — the result will be more fighting, not stability. These are all good reasons for the U.S. to end conflicts on terms the defeated party can accept and disengage U.S. forces; even when the terms may not meet all of America’s security needs. What militates against this line of reasoning is the delusion of limitless national power and the unhealthy condition of national narcissism that thrives on it.

The Johnson administration’s decision to intervene with large-scale conventional forces in Vietnam rested on this delusion. Even worse, President Lyndon Johnson subscribed to the idea that whatever military action the American government initiated, it was inherently justified on moral grounds, even if, as in the case of Vietnam, the military action turned out badly for the U.S. Tragically, Johnson’s wish-based ideology made retreat from inflexible and irrational policy pronouncements impossible when they no longer made sense.

Wish-based ideology is dangerous because it imagines a world that does not really exist; the kind of world described in 1992 by the late Defense Secretary Les Aspin, where the U.S. armed forces are employed to “punish evil-doers,” or Ambassador Madeleine Albright’s idea that armed forces not engaged in fighting should export democracy-at-gunpoint. Not only has this ideological thinking and behavior since 1991 failed to create stability around the world, it has made the U.S. and its allies less secure. Understanding why means leaving the 20th century’s wars of ideology behind.

The U.S. and Europe spent most of the 20th century coping with the forces of nationalism and social change unleashed by the French Revolution and Karl Marx’s mock scientific theory of history as the systematic unfolding of a predictable, dialectical process.

The Bolsheviks, later called communists, tried to unite the two in an attempt to perfect human society through force of arms at home and abroad. Fascists were ideological opportunists who borrowed from the right and the left seeking to fuse society’s classes inside mass movements of radical nationalism.

The failed utopian projects resulting from both European ideologies turned the 20th century world into a battlefield littered with the ruins of great civilizations. Communism and fascism exalted territorial conquest and occupation; a form of total warfare that pushes violence to its utmost limits and rejects the deliberate employment of military means to achieve anything less than the opponent’s complete annihilation — what Stalin and Hitler called “victory.”

Such war aims are not limited to changing the opponent’s policy stance to create the basis for a new status quo all sides can support. The aim of total war is to replace the defeated government and its supporting society with ones subservient to the victor’s. It is the mentality that created the Warsaw Pact. This mind-set is dangerous and incongruous with the strategic interests of the American people and the realities of the 21st century. Political and military leaders who talk and think in these terms should be rejected. The disproportionate use of military force and the unlimited political aims it supports will not protect or safeguard American interests or the interests of our allies.

In the 21st century, the “total victory” construct as it equates to the establishment of Western-style governments and free-market economies subservient to the U.S. is counterproductive. In the Middle East, as well as in most of Africa, Latin America and Asia, “damage control,” not “total victory,” is the most realistic goal for U.S. national military strategy.


America’s experience since 2001 teaches the strategic lesson that in the 21st century, the use of American military power, even against Arab and Afghan opponents with no navies, no armies, no air forces and no air defenses, can have costly, unintended strategic consequences. Put in the language of tennis, the use of American military power since the early 1960s has resulted in a host of “unforced errors.” Far too often, national decision-making has been shaped primarily by the military capability to act, not by a rigorous application of the purpose/method/end-state strategic framework.

Decision-making of this kind explains why Operation Iraqi Freedom never had a coherent strategic design. The capability to remove Saddam Hussein was enough to justify action in the minds of American leaders who assumed that whatever happened after Baghdad fell to U.S. forces, American military and civilian contractor strength would muddle through and prevail. It’s also why U.S. forces were kept in Iraq long past the point when it was clear that the American military and contractor presence in Iraq was a needless drain on American military and economic resources.

The superficial thinking informed by a fanciful view of American history and international relations that gave birth to the occupation of Iraq is not a prescription for American prosperity and security in the 21st century. The recently annunciated military doctrine known as “persistent warfare” is a case in point.

Persistent warfare advocates the use of military power to change other peoples’ societies through American military occupation. It’s a dangerous reformulation of Thomas Jefferson’s advocacy for the bloody excesses of the French Revolution summed up in his slogan, “Until all men are free, no man is free.” Fortunately for the American people, President George Washington rejected Jefferson’s enthusiasm for an American alliance with Revolutionary France, an alliance that would have invited the destruction of the new U.S. “Twenty years’ peace, combined with our remote situation would enable us in a just cause to bid defiance to any power on earth,” Washington argued in 1796.

Washington understood the importance of making prudent choices in national military strategy at a time when the economic and political development of the United States was extremely fragile. Today, America’s economic woes along with the larger world’s unrelenting drive for prosperity creates the need for new choices in national military strategy. The most important choice Obama must make is to reject future, unnecessary, large-scale, overt military interventions in favor of conflict avoidance; a strategy of refusing battle that advances democratic principles through shared prosperity — not unwanted military occupation.


This strategy does not change America’s policy stance on Islamist terrorism. The exportation of Islamist terrorism against the U.S. and its allies must remain a permanent red line in U.S. national military strategy. Governments that knowingly harbor terrorist groups must reckon with the very high probability that they will be subject to attack. However, long-term, large-scale American military occupations, even to ostensibly train indigenous forces to be mirror images of ourselves, are unwise and should be avoided. Iranian interests gained prominence in Baghdad because Tehran’s agents of influence wear an indigenous face while America’s agents wear foreign uniforms and carry guns. And Iran will remain the dominant actor in Iraq so long as it maintains even the thinnest veil of concealment behind the façade of the Maliki government and its successors.

As a declaratory goal of U.S. military strategy, conflict avoidance is not merely a restatement of deterrence or a new affirmation of collective security. It is a policy stance that stems from a decent regard for the interests of others, regardless of how strange and obtuse these interests may seem to Americans. It is an explicit recognition by Washington that no one in Asia, Africa, the Middle East or Latin America wants American troops to police and govern their country, even if American troops are more capable, more honest and provide better security than their own soldiers and police. The question for Americans is how to translate the goal of conflict avoidance into operational strategy: What will the U.S. do if it is not compelled to fight?

Conflict avoidance would appear to require action on several levels. First, conflict avoidance requires that America continue to maintain the military power to make a direct assault on U.S. and allied security interests unthinkable and then pursue peaceful relations with the peoples of the world, so the danger of war involving the world’s great military powers is reduced and contained. America already has a surplus of military power for this stated purpose. American nuclear power is overwhelming, and any state or subnational group that contemplates the use of nuclear weapons against the U.S. or its allies understands that nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in general have “return addresses” on them with ominous consequences for the user. American conventional military power is no less impressive when it is employed within an integrated, joint framework that exploits capabilities across service lines.

What America lacks is an efficient and effective organization of military power for the optimum use of increasingly constrained resources. More specifically, the 1947 National Security Act reached block obsolescence years ago.

Second, conflict avoidance balances the need to make the U.S. secure against the danger of making the rest of the world less so. Instead of defining events around the world as tests of American military strength and national resolve, and rather than dissipating American military resources in remote places to pass these alleged tests, the U.S. should define its role in the world without feeling compelled to demonstrate its military power. Otherwise, the U.S. runs the risk that other states, not the U.S., will dictate America’s strategic agenda.

Though as privately pro-British as his cousin President Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt had no intention of declaring war against Germany on behalf of another state, including Britain. He would not make President Woodrow Wilson’s mistake and commit millions of Americans to an ideological crusade that promised no tangible strategic benefit to the American people. Put more bluntly, Roosevelt would not commit political suicide for Churchill.

From 1939 to 1942, Roosevelt resisted Churchill’s considerable powers of persuasion, providing only the assistance Britain needed to survive and nothing more. When Hitler turned on the Soviet Union, Hitler’s closest ally until June 1941, Roosevelt reasoned he could afford the time to build up American strength while the Nazis and communists exhausted themselves in an ideological war of mutual destruction.

Even after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt declared war only on Japan. Roosevelt had no intention of declaring war on Germany if it could be avoided. It was Hitler who — in an essentially romantic gesture of solidarity with Japan unanimously opposed by the German General Staff — declared war on the U.S.


In the Caucasus, a region where political structures are closer in character to the Mafia organizations of Al Capone than Jeffersonian democracy, it makes no sense for the U.S. and its European allies to extend security guarantees. Russia’s security interests in many of the states that border it are legitimately paramount. American interests in these regions shrink to insignificance next to Russia’s.

Whereas Russia’s proximity to Georgia and Ukraine ensures Russia’s ability to effectively and efficiently apply military power, the U.S. and its allies are no more able to guarantee Georgian or Ukrainian security than Britain could guarantee Poland’s security against Nazi and Soviet military intervention in 1939. In eastern Ukraine beyond the Dnieper River and the Crimea, where the population is unambiguously Russian in language, culture and ethnicity, it would be folly to think that a guarantee of NATO military assistance would be interpreted as anything but a threat.

Third, when the U.S. confronts crises and conflicts, American armed forces should be committed on terms that favor the U.S. where the use of military power can achieve tangible strategic gains for the nation. As Churchill argued in 1909: “It would be very foolish to lose England in safeguarding Egypt. If we win the big battle in the decisive theater, we can put everything else straight afterwards. If we lose it, there will not be any afterwards.”

American military interventions have routinely violated this line of reasoning. In Vietnam, American military assistance failed for many reasons, chiefly because the Saigon government was thoroughly corrupt and indifferent to the security of its own people. All the military might at America’s disposal, whether the North Vietnamese military enjoyed sanctuaries in neighboring states or not, was never enough to rescue the incompetent South Vietnamese government from its eventual conquest by North Vietnamese communists.

America’s decision to garrison Iraq after its initial goals of removing Saddam and eliminating WMD were achieved added little, if anything, of strategic value to American security, but the presence of so many conventional American forces did present America’s enemies in the Muslim world with an opportunity they would have otherwise missed: the chance to directly attack U.S. forces, damage American military prestige and exhaust American economic resources while strengthening their own. By the beginning of 2008, the most serious unanticipated outcome of this exposure was a monthly bill of $12 billion to maintain U.S. forces in support of a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad that was and is effectively tied to Iran.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military has become a co-belligerent for the various factions and peoples — Kurds, Turks, Iranians, Saudi, Sunni or Shiite Arabs — struggling for power inside Iraq. These realities explain why the Bush administration was reluctant to remove large numbers of troops from Iraq. The current status quo is not merely fragile, it will not survive the withdrawal of U.S. military power.


In consideration of what to do next about Afghanistan’s rapidly deteriorating situation, current discussions in Washington are dominated by people who advocate increasing force levels and plunging these forces into Pakistan’s tribal areas. Yet a more sober analysis suggests the real problem with Afghanistan resides in Kabul, another corrupt and ineffective government unworthy of American military support.

The key questions missing from discussions in Washington about Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 include: Where is the legitimate government that asked for help from the U.S. in defeating the internal armed challenge to the government’s monopoly of control over the means of violence and political power? Legitimacy is not exclusively a function of elections. Legitimacy is also defined by a government’s competence to win and hold power in ways that benefit American and allied interests.

Where are the organized indigenous forces defending the legitimate government that must conduct the operations? While U.S.-provided training, equipment and advisers can significantly improve a partner state’s capabilities, there must already be an indigenous force to equip, indigenous fighters to train and a senior leadership echelon to advise. And the costs of long-term U.S. military assistance should be realistically assessed. Had any of these questions been raised and accurately addressed within the purpose/method/end-state framework, it is doubtful American military action would have followed the course it did after Sept. 11.

Treating conflict avoidance as a declared strategic goal should give pause to those in Washington who think counterinsurgency is something American military forces should seek to conduct. For outside powers intervening in other peoples’ countries as we have done in Iraq and Afghanistan, so-called counterinsurgency has not been the success story presented to the American people. Making cash payments to buy cooperation from insurgent groups to conceal a failed policy of occupation is a temporary expedient to reduce U.S. casualties, not a permanent solution for stability.

Lord Salisbury, one of Britain’s greatest prime ministers, told his colleagues in the House of Commons “the commonest error in politics is sticking to the carcass of dead policies.” Salisbury’s words should resonate strongly with Americans today. America’s scientific-industrial base and the military power it supports give American policies and interests global influence, but the deliberate use of American military power to bring democracy to others in the world under conditions that never favored its success has actually weakened, not strengthened, American influence and economic power.

It is crucial that choices among competing resource allocations in defense be illuminated by a much clearer perception of their likely strategic impact. Strategy and geopolitics always trump ideology, and military action is not merely a feature of geopolitics and statecraft, it’s the employment of it.

The choices the new president makes among various military missions will ultimately decide what national military strategy America’s military executes. Of the many missions he must consider, open-ended missions to install democracy at gunpoint inside failed or backward societies along with unrealistic security guarantees to states and peoples of marginal strategic interest to the U.S. are missions America’s military establishment cannot and should not be asked to perform.

Today, America’s share of the total world gross national product is roughly 32 percent, substantially less than its 49 percent share of 40 years ago. Yet the U.S., like the British Empire 100 years ago, continues to lead the world in the creation of wealth, technology and military power. And, thanks to American naval and aerospace supremacy, America retains the strategic advantage of striking when and where its government dictates, much as Britain did before World War I.

But like Britain’s resources in 1914, American resources today are not unlimited. Years of easy tactical military victories over weak and incapable nation-state opponents in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq have created the illusion of limitless American military power. This illusion assisted the Bush administration and its generals in frustrating demands from Congress for accountability; allowing politicians and generals to define failure as success and to spend money without any enduring strategic framework relating military power to attainable strategic goals.

The result is an unnecessarily large defense budget of more than $700 billion and military thinking that seeks to reinvigorate the economically disastrous policies of territorial imperialism. Unchecked, the combination of these misguided policies will increase the likelihood the U.S. follows the path of Britain’s decline in the 20th century. Though Britain was not defeated militarily in World War I, it squandered its blood and treasure on a self-defeating war with Germany in 1914 along with a host of imperial experiments in the aftermath of World War I, all of which were political, military and economic disasters for the British people. A strategy of refusing battle that routinely answers the questions of purpose, method and end-state in the conduct of military operations is the best way for the U.S. to avoid following in the footsteps of the British Empire into ruin. AFJ

COL. DOUGLAS MacGREGOR (Ret.) is a retired Army colonel. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect those of the Defense Department or the U.S. government....