Free Markets, Free People

Foreign Affairs

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Stray Voltage

Socialist Venezuela is dying:

The year 2015 was an annus horribilis in Venezuela with a 10 per cent decline in gross domestic product, following a 4 per cent fall in 2014. Inflation reached over 200 per cent. The fiscal deficit ballooned to 20 per cent of GDP, funded mainly by the printing press.

In the free market, the bolivar has lost 92 per cent of its value in the past 24 months, with the dollar costing 150 times the official rate: the largest exchange rate differential ever registered. Shortages and long queues in the shops have made daily life very difficult.

[…]

As bad as these numbers are, 2016 looks dramatically worse. Imports, which had already been compressed by 20 per cent in 2015 to $37bn, would have to fall by over 40 per cent, even if the country stopped servicing its debt.

Add to that the murder rate in Venezuela being the highest in the world (even with strict gun control) and you have a real “worker’s paradise” don’t you? I wonder if the Bernie bots are capable of learning anything from this? Yeah, no chance.

Speaking of Bernie and socialism, how about that red hot debate last night?  Laughed my keister off with this Hillary quote:

Hillary Clinton compensated for her complete lack of likability by falling back on playing the victim. She accused Bernie Sanders of ignoring feminism, black people and gay rights. She sputtered that, “Senator Sanders is the only one who would describe me, a woman running to be president, as exemplifying the establishment.” Somehow a fabulously wealthy woman who is backed by the entire Democratic political establishment isn’t the “establishment” because of her gender.

She had a tough time explaining her ties to Wall Street too, which I found hilarious.  If ever anyone defined “establishment” it would be Clinton.  And the irony of this supposedly “tough woman” playing the victim card shouldn’t be lost on anyone either.

Loved David Corn’s tweet.  He said his 14 year old daughter was watching the Democratic debate and remarked “it’s like watching my grandparents fight”.

Interesting:

Gallup’s analysis of political party affiliation at the state level in 2015 finds that 20 states are solidly Republican or leaning Republican, compared with 14 solidly Democratic or leaning Democratic states. The remaining 16 are competitive. This is the first time in Gallup’s eight years of tracking partisanship by state that there have been more Republican than Democratic states. It also marks a dramatic shift from 2008, when Democratic strength nationally was its greatest in recent decades.

It’s interesting because  I think it identifies a trend and a level of dissatisfaction with the current occupant of the White House.  And if true, I think it spells big trouble for the Democrats in a presidential election year.  And if the unlikable Hillary Clinton gets the nod for the Dems (a woman who has never polled over 45%), unless Trump GOP pick, the GOP wins.  If it ends up being Trump, then the GOP will again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Speaking of polls, is this indicative of reality or an outlier?

The Democratic race has dramatically tightened, according to a new Quinnipiac University national poll out Friday that shows Hillary Clinton with a razor-thin lead over Bernie Sanders.

Clinton leads Sanders 44 percent to 42 percent, well within the margin of error of the poll, which was conducted after the Iowa caucuses.

[…]

The picture of a neck-and-neck race is a huge change from Quinnipiac’s last national poll conducted Dec. 16-20 that showed Clinton with a massive lead over Sanders, 61 percent to 30 percent. It’s not clear yet whether other post-Iowa polls will also show Sanders surging ahead and catching up to Clinton.

Couple this with the fact that Bernie raised more campaign dough than Clinton in January and it should be setting off alarm bells in Clinton campaign headquarters.  And, in fact, it may explain a more combative Clinton last night.

On the special snowflake/SJW front, you know, those who unilaterally believe they get to decide what is or isn’t okay in today’s culture, it is now racist to wear a toe ring or bangle bracelet:

According to a piece in the totally logical social-justice blog “Everyday Feminism”, it is racist and offensive to wear toe rings or bangle bracelets in almost any situation.

Yep. According to the article’s author, Aarti Olivia, wearing these kinds of jewelry amounts to an appropriation of South Asian culture.  Olivia explains that in her culture, “it has been traditionally expected that married women wear bangles,” and that although that tradition is no longer “imposed upon women,” they do “wear them for religious or festive occasions.”

“In pop culture, you have probably seen the likes of Iggy Azalea and Selena Gomez wear them for music videos and performances,” Olivia writes. And that, she continues, is not okay.

I wonder if she knows that today’s music is mostly played on instruments invented by dead white guys from Western Europe.  So, using her logic, if she plays an instrument (violin, guitar, clarinet, saxophone, piano, etc.) is it “cultural appropriation”?  And if so, shouldn’t she stop right now and apologize?

Or does this nonsense only cut one way?

QOTD:

“If NASCAR embraced electric cars it could change the world…We could convert all of our racecars to electricity — right now — and show the public exactly what electrons can do,”

Yup, and the NASCAR track would be … a strangely quiet place during a race.  Kind of like Bill Nye’s brain.

Have a great weekend.

~McQ

 

 

 

 

SOTU: all about narrative … and fantasy

Another SOTU, another trip to Fantasy Land.  I saw it all summed up in one wag’s sentence: “Obama has put Joe Biden in charge of finding a cure for cancer.”

There were some blatant lies and some pure nonsense in the mix last night.  One that stood out to me was this:

I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air. Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker. The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It’s not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined. Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world.

No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that’s the path to ruin. Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead — they call us.

Surveys?  Really?  That’s his “source” of information.

I wonder if the surveys answered this question posed by David French.

Yet if America is the world’s most powerful nation, why are so many of our worst enemies far stronger and more dangerous than when Obama took office?

Probably not.  In fact, much like Hitler’s “paper divisions” weren’t worth the paper they appeared on, I’d guess these surveys are about as worthless.

Claudia Rosett does a yoeman’s job of setting the record straight:

Here’s the real State of the Union, which is inextricably linked to the increasingly alarming state of the world: It is open season on America.

Not that America is by any stretch a lone target. Terrorist slaughter has become a staple of the world news. On the same Tuesday that just saw American sailors seized by Iran, the news was filled earlier in the day with accounts of a terrorist bombing in the historic center of Istanbul (which the State Department at least labeled “terrorist,” as opposed to “workplace violence”). ISIS, al Qaeda, the Taliban and a host of their kindred organizations are bedeviling the civilized world.

And then there are the sovereign-state behemoths: an expansionist China and an aggressive Russia, pushing the boundaries and arming for war — as the U.S. guts its military and turns over its resources to a domestic bureaucracy that is busy regulating America’s old free markets and resulting economic muscle into fading memory.

Obama’s presidency began in 2009 with apologies for America, a “reset” with Russia, a bow in Cairo and an outstretched hand to Iran — promising that this would boost America’s standing and security, and pave the way to more peaceful world. After seven years of American retreat, appeasement, vanishing red lines, diplomatic farce and an implausible nuclear deal with Iran, the clear message to every opportunist on the planet is: grab what you can.

But, as this graphic illustrates, Mr. Obama resides down another road the rest of us can’t afford to live on.

narrative_versus_reality_article_1-12-16-1

It is, as usual, all about the narrative and before he ever stepped to the podium, we knew that.  We knew we’d hear the narrative even when it is so obviously fantasy.  Reality is and has been banished from this administration as being unfriendly if not down right hostile to the narrative.

Are we the most powerful nation on earth?  Yes, I think so … but that was so before Mr. Obama.  I see it as much less of a fact now.  The most powerful military in the world?  Yes, but again, in decline.  And I’m sorry, but there is no nation that I know of that is calling the US for help and certainly not to “lead”.  Not with this yahoo in the Oval Office.  In fact, as Rosett points out, two very powerful nations are pushing the envelope even as we speak and our answer, thus far has been the chirping of crickets.  China has decided to take over the South China sea and has established its first military base in Africa.  What have we done or said about that?  Nothing.

It’s nice to be considered the most powerful nation on earth with the most powerful military.  But it means nothing if that power isn’t used to advance the interests of your nation and its citizens or those of your allies.  That doesn’t mean war, it usually means deterrence – maintaining the peace or the status quo in some instances.  And it requires leadership, something we’ve been without for the last 7 plus years.  Its about drawing limits and enforcing them.  We have refused to do either these past 7 years.

The world knows that.  That’s why little pop-gun states like Iran feel they can pretty much do what they want without fear of all that power we have.  And that means we really don’t have any power at all.  That’s been proven any number of times over the years with red lines crossed and the obvious refusal to recognize or meaningfully engage ISIS.  At home the refusal to even say “radical Islam” has diminished the stature of this administration domestically as well.

We’re leaderless in a perilous world.  Yes, we’re powerful – potentially.  But without resolution and the threat of meaningful action that potential means absolutely nothing … except in the narrative.

~McQ

 

Stray Voltage

Another thing I decided during my holiday hiatus was to make “Stray Voltage” a regular Friday feature. Why? Well, it covers a number of subjects/issues and gives everybody a lot to talk about over the weekend.

Question: Why is it the SJWs insist there is a “rape culture” on campus, but are mostly silent about the real rape culture that is rearing its ugly head in Europe among Muslim “refugees”?

Mr. Obama at his recent townhall meeting:

Obama didn’t hold back when asked by CNN moderator Anderson Cooper about the notion that the federal government — and Obama in particular — wants to seize all firearms as a precursor to imposing martial law. He blamed that notion on the NRA and like-minded groups that convince its members that “somebody’s going to come grab your guns.”

I have only one thing to say to that Mr. Obama: “If you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance.”

Well here’s a surprise.  Another late night release, and more evidence that Hillary Clinton should be prosecuted:

The latest batch of emails released from Hillary Clinton’s personal account from her tenure as secretary of state includes 66 messages deemed classified at some level, the State Department said early Friday.

In one email, Clinton even seemed to coach a top adviser on how to send secure information outside secure channels.

All but one of the 66 messages have been labeled “confidential”, the lowest level of classification. The remaining email has been labeled as “secret.” The total number of classified emails found on Clinton’s personal server has risen to 1,340 with the latest release. Seven of those emails have been labeled “secret.”

Does the name Petraeus mean anything to you?  And in comparison his security breaches were minor.  Which makes you wonder what it is going to take to finally see Clinton prosecuted.  I also wonder if the Obama administration may be interested in keeping his executive actions in place after he leaves … enough so they’re willing to make a deal with the Democratic front runner?  I’m sure everyone would be shocked, shocked I tell you, if that was the case.

And while the president is crying and wailing about you folks owning too many guns, the beat goes on:

Two Palestinian men who were born in Iraq and came to the United States as refugees have been arrested in connection with terrorism investigations, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Imagine that.  Both men of fighting age, both refugees, both engaged in terroristic activities, but I’m the xenophobe (or racist or, well, pick your favorite pejorative)  if I say don’t import trouble in the form of refugee men from Islamic countries that support and foment terrorism?

Finally, Mr. Obama seems to think that if he repeats the same nonsense over and over again, it somehow becomes true.  To wit:

“But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency. It doesn’t happen in other advanced countries. It’s not even close. And as I’ve said before, somehow we’ve become numb to it and we start thinking that this is normal.” –President Obama, announcing his new executive orders on guns, January 7, 2016

This claim is simply not true.

This claim is simply not true.  Between January 2009 and December 2015, there are 11 European countries with a higher frequency of these mass public shootings than the US, and 10 European countries with a higher rate of deaths from these attacks.

But hey, this is for the low information citizen who only reads headlines and listens to sound bites (read the whole thing).  What’s that old saying?  A lie can travel around the world before the truth gets its shoes on?  Something like that.  That is why propaganda is so powerful.  And this, my friends, is nothing but propaganda … dutifully retransmitted by an willfully incurious media.

Have a great weekend.

~McQ

Another Obama administration foreign policy “triumph”

In another “foreign policy triumph” for the US, Afghanistan, a client nation of the US for over a decade, is apparently turning to an old patron:

Afghanistan, battered by worsening security, is reaching out to an old ally and patron—Russia—just as the Kremlin is seeking to reassert its position as a heavyweight on the world stage.

President Ashraf Ghani has asked Moscow for artillery, small arms and Mi-35 helicopter gunships for his country’s struggling military, Afghan and Russian officials say, after the U.S. and its allies pulled most of their troops from Afghanistan and reduced financial aid.

“Russia is seizing the opportunity,” a U.S. official said.

Certainly, there are plenty who are aware of the old saw, “the graveyard of empires” and will shrug this off as good riddance. Let Russia deal with it.

Of course the point is that Afghanistan is turning to Russia mainly because it doesn’t have any confidence in the US anymore. We all understand that Afghanistan is both tribal and corrupt. But that goes with the territory, literally and figuratively. Russia is unlikely to worry to much about that.

It also demonstrates on a micro level what we are seeing on a more macro level. With the decline of US influence in the area, Russia is taking the opportunity to assert its own. Whether you care one whit about Afghanistan, this is a disturbing trend. And, just as obvious, our “leaders” haven’t a clue on how to stop the trend. Obviously Afghanistan feels that their worsening security is inextricably linked to US decisions. The country appears to have no confidence in the US.

Unfortunately, that ‘no confidence’ vote didn’t originate in Afghanistan. It has been echoed by other countries in the region as well … to include Israel.

The foreign policy of this administration, that of Mr. Obama, Ms. Clinton and Mr. Kerry, have seen the withdrawal of the US in the area and a diminution its prestige and power.

Some may cheer this, but the bottom line is that such actions (or lack thereof) have made the region and the world a much more dangerous place than it was in 2008.

~McQ

Russia’s military not as bad as reported

Apparently not. Looking at the operations in Syria, the NYT says:

Taken together, the operations reflect what officials and analysts described as a little-noticed — and still incomplete — modernization that has been underway in Russia for several years, despite strains on the country’s budget. And that, as with Russia’s intervention in neighboring Ukraine, has raised alarms in the West.

In a report this month for the European Council on Foreign Relations, Gustav Gressel argued that Mr. Putin had overseen the most rapid transformation of the country’s armed forces since the 1930s. “Russia is now a military power that could overwhelm any of its neighbors, if they were isolated from Western support,” wrote Mr. Gressel, a former officer of the Austrian military.

Of course we’ve been advised, for years, that the Russian military was only a shadow of its former self under the USSR.  And while it certainly isn’t as potent as when Russia was the USSR, it is apparently vastly more potent than we’ve been led to believe.

Another factoid from the article:

Russia’s fighter jets are, for now at least, conducting nearly as many strikes in a typical day against rebel troops opposing the government of President Bashar al-Assad as the American-led coalition targeting the Islamic State has been carrying out each month this year.

The bottom line, of course, is we still have a much more powerful military – but we’re in the middle of cutting back on it both in manpower and spending.  And, of course, that sort of power is only important if your potential enemies know you’re willing to use it.  Russia is demonstrating that willingness.

Russia is also “field testing” its equipment and it is “blooding” its troops.

Not to mention rallying “allies” to the Russian cause.  China has sent forces to Syria.  And the latest?

On Wednesday, a U.S. official confirmed to Fox News that Cuban paramilitary and special forces units are on the ground in Syria, citing evidence from intelligence reports. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Cuban troops may have been training in Russia and may have arrived in Syria on Russian planes.

Isn’t normalization with Cuba wonderful? Isn’t that reset with Russia working out well?  It sure has been rewarding so far.

~McQ

The US in a “weak” position in Syria, notes Putin

Noting the obvious, Vladimir Putin pointed out that the US is in a very weak position concerning Syria:

Russian President Vladimir Putin continued a war of words with the U.S. over Syria, calling its policy weak and lacking in objectives as his air force carried out fresh bombing raids in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

“I don’t really understand how the U.S. can criticize Russia’s actions in Syria if they refuse to have direct dialogue,” Putin told reporters Thursday during a visit to Astana, Kazakhstan. “The basic weakness of the American position is that they don’t have an agenda, though we’re keeping the door open” for high-level discussions with Washington, he said.

Of course, the administration had an answer:

“We’ve said that we’re not interested in doing that as long as Russia is not willing to make a constructive contribution to our counter-ISIL effort,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday, using an acronym for Islamic State. “Russia has their own agenda and it’s an agenda right now that they’re pursuing on their own.”

I suppose that’s so … but so does the US and it is apparent there really isn’t any desire for “dialogue” unless the US can have its way.  And it is a basic understanding in negotiations that the weaker party doesn’t have as many choices (if any) than the stronger party.  The US is certainly in the weaker position having ceded control of the Syrian conflict to Russia.  Also, don’t forget that the US withheld military aid to Iraq until Iraq made political changes it wanted to see happen.  What did Iraq do?  Well, it bought its fighter aircraft from Russia instead (likely with US money).

As for the possibility of talks.  Well, it seems that NATO partner Turkey has figured out a way to have them:

Russia and NATO member Turkey are establishing “lines of communication between our militaries in connection with events taking place in Syria” amid tensions over violations of Turkish airspace, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksey Meshkov told a conference in Moscow on Thursday, Interfax reported. Turkey and Russia can find consensus on Syria, Umit Yardim, the Turkish ambassador to Moscow, said at the same meeting.

Interesting and telling.

Foreign affairs, for this administration, is a disaster.  And they seem determined to make it worse instead of better.

~McQ

Bottom line in the Middle East

And it is fairly obvious from here:

Maybe Putin will save Assad, maybe he won’t. But people and governments in the Middle East will long remember that Obama’s definition of leadership meant abandoning our allies in Baghdad, showing the back of his hand to our friends in Jerusalem, cozying up to the liars and killers in Tehran, waging an effete air campaign against ISIS, and dithering while Syria descended into an almost unimaginable humanitarian crisis.

In the broader region, Obama’s leadership left Libya in ruins and wide open to ISIS penetration, alienated Egypt, decreased our leverage in Pakistan, and accomplished almost nothing in Afghanistan except to turn it into a safe haven for pederasts.

Obama’s disastrous failure to lead in the Middle East has helped to flood Europe with refugees and potential terrorists, encouraging the rise of Putin-like far-right parties throughout NATO and the EU. Meanwhile, Moscow appears set to flagrantly violate Obama’s New START agreement, building up its arsenal of deployed nuclear warheads above the impending caps. Our own arsenal continues to shrink, already well under the 2018 limits.

However, the president does see an opportunity coming soon to turn all this around, telling Kroft that “my definition of leadership would be leading on climate change, an international accord that potentially we’ll get in Paris.”

Obama fiddled with the thermostat while the world burned.

So I’m off the grid for a few days (enjoyably so) and find not much has changed.

And, given that, now we’re in the middle of “reaping the whirlwind”.

Meanwhile, the dope in the White House is all about fighting “climate change” which apparently doesn’t deal with whirlwinds.  His Secretary of State reminds us he’s “concerned” about the Russians and the Middle East, which, you know, is pretty proactive for this administration.

And our erstwhile or, perhaps “former” allies in the region?

They’re shopping for a new patron.

~McQ

Arrogance, ignorance, incompetence and narcissism all in one package … lucky us

And I bet you don’t even have to guess about whom I am talking:

David Petraeus testified last month to the Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. policy in the Middle East. Regarding Syria, the former general and CIA director urged a credible threat to destroy Bashar Assad’s air force if it continues to bomb its own people. He also recommended “the establishment of enclaves in Syria protected by coalition air power, where a moderate Sunni force could be supported and where additional forces could be trained, internally displaced persons could find refuge, and the Syrian opposition could organize.”

But Barack Obama does not agree. At his Friday press conference, the president described such views as “mumbo-jumbo,” “half-baked ideas,” “as-if” solutions, a willful effort to “downplay the challenges involved in the situation.” He says the critics have no answers to the questions of “what exactly would you do and how would you fund it and how would you sustain it.”

America’s greatest living general might as well have been testifying to his shower drain for all the difference his views are going to make in this administration.

Exactly right – because, you know, ‘smartest man in the room’ and don’t you forget it.  Anyone who champions actual, practical and doable solutions is, well, “downplaying the challenges” of the situation.

Really?  Seems to me that Petraeus addressed them specifically and offered solutions.

One problem.  They would actually mean Obama would have to get off his duff and actually DO something.

Instead:

It’s not enough for him to stake and defend his positions. He wants you to know that he thinks deeper, sees further, knows better, operates from a purer motive. His preferred method for dealing with disagreement is denigration. If Republicans want a tougher line in Syria, they’re warmongers. If Hillary Clinton thinks a no-fly zone is a good idea, she’s playing politics: “There is obviously a difference,” the president tut-tutted about his former secretary of state’s position, “between running for president and being president.”

You can interpret that jab as a sign Mr. Obama is urging Joe Biden to run. It’s also a reminder that Mr. Obama believes his Syria policy—the one that did nothing as 250,000 people were murdered; the one that did nothing as his own red lines were crossed; the one that allowed ISIS to flourish; the one that has created the greatest refugee crisis of the 21st century; the one currently being exploited by Russia and Iran for geopolitical advantage—is a success.

No kidding.  And the arrogant look he has for those who disagree is simply the bomb.  He, and I don’t know how else to describe this, ignorantly and arrogantly thinks he’s doing the right thing and actually succeeding.  Either that or he is indeed the smartest man in the room only when the room is empty of everyone else.

For instance, the Petraeus recommendations are not only good, they’re backed by experience and a good outcome:

As for what a serious Syria policy might look like, the U.S. proved it was capable of creating safe havens and enforcing no-fly zones in 1991 with Operation Provide Comfort, which stopped Saddam Hussein from massacring Kurds in northern Iraq the way he had butchered Shiites in southern Iraq.

Remember that?

And what has President Dither done?  Well, certainly nothing that could be conceivably considered a coherent policy by anyone but a sycophant. In fact, unless you consider doing nothing a “policy”, well, he’s done nothing.

But he knows best, because “there’s a difference” between “running for President and being President.”

In terms of this Presidency, I fail to see the difference.

~McQ

Chess and Tick Tack Toe

It’s been said, a lot recently, that on the world scene Vladimir Putin understands he’s playing chess, and Barack Obama thinks he’s playing checkers.

We should be so lucky.

Our feckless back bench leader isn’t even playing a game that was based on the same board as the one Putin is playing on.    In chess and checkers at least some of the fundamental principles carry over and there is some strategy involved beyond tick tack toe where you can always play the game to a draw.

Back in 2013 when President Present was drawing his first red lines and threatening Bashar Assad in Syria with a fate similar to the one he so expertly delivered to Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, the Russians let him talk until he’d used his vaunted powers of speechifying long enough and then stepped in, saved their Assad from being dragged out of a spider hole and shot, and embarrassed President “Red Line” and Secretary of State “Unbelievably Small” by delivering a fait accompli in ‘securing’ the Syrian chemical weapon stockpiles on behalf of their client.

At the time the usual plethora of sycophants declared that Obama had masterfully gotten everything he wanted, stopped Assad, neutralized the chemical weapons and should possibly consider selecting wall space for his next Nobel Prize owing to his brilliance in implementing effective credible foreign policy.

Forward to current day.

President Obama mid-week demonstrated yet again that he is totally out of his depth, and actually far worse than that, demonstrated the people he’s surrounded himself with for advice, are as lackluster and simple as he is.   They might be fine when figuring out how to smear an opponent out of an election in the United States, but on the world stage they probably shouldn’t be allowed to touch the brooms used to clean up the set once the curtain has come down, the lights come up and the actors head to the “after” party.

In a more than adequate display that he has no knowledge of world history. he declared Russia was going to find itself “in a quagmire” in Syria.   This is a favorite of the liberal left, and harkens back to the swamp we experienced in South Vietnam between 1961 and 1973.  They like the quagmire thing because the Vietnam era was when a good many of the liberal left bravely earned their credentials on college campuses making the quagmire worse while avoiding experiencing it what their blue collar brethren in the jungles of South East Asia.

They also like to point out that the Russians, wearing their spiffy Soviet Union outfits, experienced a similar quagmire in Afghanistan during the Reagan era.   Really that only puts the Russians in company with damn near every major power that carried arms to the foot of the Hindu Kush since before Julius Caesar observed Gaul was divided into three parts.  Afghanistan has always been, and I think always will be, nothing but a meat grinder for “conquering” armies.

But there’s an added wrinkle to that particular quagmire that bears a remarkable similarity to our experience in Vietnam.

In Vietnam we were fighting the indigenous forces of the Viet Cong and the Army of North Vietnam, officially, and the Peoples Republic of China and the Soviet Union unofficially.   In Afghanistan the Soviets were officially fighting the tribes of Afghanistan (who adopted internecine fighting as a hobby several millennia ago and have never found any other hobby since) and, unofficially, the forces of the ‘west’ lead primarily by the United States.

So the boggy water, marsh grass and alligators for both quagmires was being greatly supplemented by outside forces in Vietnam and Afghanistan.    That’s called a proxy war. It’s been done for ages, and it’s the fundamental ingredient of a quagmire.  President Precious has decided that talking will eventually solve the wars in the Middle East, singularly unable to observe historically the only time there is NOT war in the Middle East is when some ruthless bastards show up and ruthlessly enforce some version of peace on the locals.   While he’s sure that Syria is going to be a Russian quagmire, because that appeals to progressive schadenfreude,  he hasn’t pointed out who’s going to supply the continuous outside source of bog water and alligators this time to make it one.

But he does understand the concept of a proxy war, or someone said it to him so he could repeat it in context because his next demonstration of cluelessness was for him to declare that Syria was not a superpower chess board contest.

Of course that is exactly what this is.

If you aren’t already alarmed at his failure to grasp the obvious it might be a good time for you to start, and invite your friends and neighbors because it’s going to make for, as the apocryphal curse says “interesting times.”

Syria is not going to be a quagmire for Russia, and Bashar Assad, or his son or brother(s) are going to be in charge when the chemical clouded explosive debris laden dust has settled over Damascus.

The Russians had no hesitation in using any kind of fiendish device they could invent to squash the Afghan tribes on behalf of their clients and they will have no hesitation in doing so in Syria because no one is going to stop them.  No proxy war you see.

Bashar Assad isn’t too particular about who he has to destroy, or whose villages, and families he has to destroy, to restore his control of Syria.  Neither are the Russians.

Syrian refugees (actually refugees from all over the Ummah) are pouring into Europe creating various crisis situations to keep the EU more than busy, and at each others throats over who will provide meals and housing and who will pay the bills.

The Russians have allied themselves with the upcoming hegemon, Iran, in the Persian Gulf, using President Red Line and Secretary of State Unbelievably Small to create a treaty that will probably result in Iran being a nuclear power within the next 2 years.

The Russians have – acquired the Crimea in a blatant territorial grab that easily rivals Hitler occupying the Sudetenland,  provided aid and comfort to a “rebellion” that shot down a commercial air liner killing hundreds of passengers in the Ukraine and stepped up their aggressive behaviors in border breaching and response testing that easily rival their former behaviors as the Soviet Union.

The Russians and the Chinese are participating in large scale cooperative military ‘exercises’ – for any progressive squishy liberals,  that does not mean the Chinese are now teaching the Russians Tai Chi.

And this week Russia announced, in a signal to all those former Soviet satellites and their European ‘friends’, that they’re increasing the size of their armed forces by roughly 20%.  Why they need to do that isn’t clear to people who don’t think we’re playing superpower chess, but the move won’t be lost on the Eastern Europeans.

Ah, but all this ruthlessness will surely lead to “War Crimes!”  you say.   Sure.  Russia on behalf of Syria deliberately bombs villages earlier this week (after we sorta threatened we’d take away their iPhone or something) and five days later the world mumbles it ‘may’ be a war crime – the US tags a hospital in Afghanistan by accident yesterday and within 12 hours the world is screaming for a war crimes tribunal.

You can bet the UN will be sure and let the world know that the US won’t be allowed to behave like that and President Precious will send someone to apologize while Russia and Syria continue killing at will and cleaning up ‘the quagmire’.

That’s superpower chess on display.

They have tested the steel of Barack Obama, and have discovered it’s suitable for lining the bottom of your oven or making hats to keep out alien thought control beams.

There used to be someone sitting on the other side of the chess board from Russia or China, who understood that as nasty a job as it is, someone has to counter their moves in superpower chess.

Now we have a collection of people playing Tick Tack Toe while Putin moves any pieces he wants, any way he wants, on an unopposed chess board.

Pact with Iraq, Syria, Russia and Iran announced prior to UN talks with Putin

If ever there was proof of Russia’s intentions in the Middle East, it can be seen in a just announced 4 nation pact there:

Iraq joined Russia, Iran and Syria in a new agreement to strengthen cooperation against extremist group Islamic State, extending the Kremlin’s reach in the Middle East as it rivals Washington for influence.

[…]

Iraq’s Defense Ministry said Sunday that the country had signed an intelligence and security cooperation pact with Russia, Iran and Syria, pledging to cooperate in collecting information about Islamic State. The deal effectively formalizes years of military collaboration among the four nations, which have intermittently been allies since the 1980s.

Wonderful.  And who, pray, is on the outside looking in and surprised by the pact?

U.S. officials appeared to be taken by surprise by the announcement of the four-nation security pact and said they were still struggling to understand Mr. Putin’s long-term strategy for the region. Mr. Kerry, they said, kept open the possibility that the White House and Kremlin could coordinate, if not cooperate, in fighting Islamic State.

“We’re just at the beginning of trying to understand what the Russians’ intentions are in Syria, in Iraq, and to try to see if there are mutually beneficial ways forward here,” said a senior U.S. official who attended the Kerry-Lavrov meeting. “We’ve got a long way to go in that conversation.”

“Just in the beginning of trying to understand”?  Translation: “we’ve been caught flat-footed and hadn’t a clue that high-level talks between Russia and Iraq were happening”.  While Kerry may feel they have a “long way to go in that conversation,” Russia has obviously moved beyond the talking stage and is in the “taking action” stage.  The intent seems to be obvious to everyone but our State Department.

ISIS is the catalyst, or at least the excuse, for this alliance.  And most experts agree ISIS is mostly a result of the poor Iraq policy followed by the US after the Obama administration took over.  What Iraq is signaling here is no confidence in the US and with the pact, seems satisfied to let the US remain outside, looking in.  Why?  Well, take for example the fact that Russia sold fighter aircraft to Iraq last year to boost its ability to fight ISIS.  Where was the US?  It had delayed a promised shipment over political considerations.  Iraq is now negotiating with Moscow to buy more advanced weaponry.

Additionally, the Obama administration and the Russians and Iranians are at cross-purposes when it comes to Syria.  Both Russia and Iran have been very clear they support the Assad regime and hope to strengthen it.  The Obama administration has repeatedly said that Assad has to go.

What basis there are for talks between Russia and the US (at the UN this week) remain a mystery.  But what is very clear with the announcement of this pact just prior to those talks is the US enters them with an incredibly weak hand.  It has very little to use for leverage to get its way.  But one thing that can be determined for sure –  this administration’s past actions, or lack thereof, have put the US in this weak and unenviable diplomatic position.

Outfoxed again.  How “surprising”.

~McQ

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