Monday, June 20, 2016

Hold Your Praise for the State Fifty

Don't get too worked up over the dissent channel at the Department of State which led to a call for American air strikes on Assad. They have made only a small journey on the road to reality. Indeed, I'm almost cynical enough to believe this whole thing is a charade managed by the Obama administration itself.

We didn't need more than 50 State Department staff to tell us the policy on Syria hasn't made the war any better. Early on--about 400,000 dead and ISIL ago--the administration famously said it didn't want to arm the still non-jihadi rebels because we didn't want to "further militarize" the conflict.

Obviously the unrest militarized into a full-blown civil war without us, and now we try to support non-jihadi rebels who fight Assad in the northwest and southwest and back anti-ISIL forces in the northeast.

Since then, we've tried to push Assad to negotiate his own departure. I assume at this point the administration would accept a faux deal that has Assad formally step down without requiring his clan and backers to lose actual power.

Such a deal would leave Russia with bases in the eastern Mediterranean and a reputation for backing allies in tough spots; would leave Iran with a client in Damascus providing overland access to their ally Hezbollah in Lebanon; and would end Hezbollah's bleeding out (over a thousand dead) in Syria while leaving them with Iran and Syria owing them big favors.

Europe could pretend to get an end to the Moslem "refugee" crisis that has sown chaos and dissent in Europe. I say "pretend" because while they like to call this a refugee crisis, since the vast majority of people arriving in Europe aren't Syrians fleeing war, the end of the war won't stop the flow of economic migrants.

We, of course, will get a lovely signing ceremony at some Austrian castle, or something.

Yet with Russian support, Assad is hanging on in the west without making any concessions real or pretend. In the east, ISIL is losing ground but the Kurds who provide the bulk of the anti-ISIL forces will never march west out of their ethnic homeland to take on Assad.

So the defeat of ISIL will strengthen Assad's hand so he will be able to turn on the remaining rebels in the northwest and southwest.

So while it is nice that the dissent channel records recognition that our policy is not getting rid of Assad, the dissent is just as delusional as the Obama administration:

The “dissent channel cable”, written by more than 50 officials at the US state department, calls for air strikes against the Syrian government to force it to negotiate a settlement to the conflict.

Note that the dissenters want America to strike Assad for the purpose of forcing it to negotiate a settlement of the conflict.

Assad's military has suffered 120,000 dead, I believe, with about 160,000 dead civilians; untold civilian and economic damage; and the loss of most of Syria's territory.

And still Assad fights on.

Yet the dissenters believe that American air strikes on Assad--which since fall 2015 when the Russians intervened on the ground risks direct American-Russian combat [UPDATE: Like this nonlethal aerial confrontation.]--would inflict enough additional pain on Assad to force Assad to negotiate an end to the conflict.

No word on whether the Fifty want "unbelievably small" strikes.

If I was enough of a cynic, I'd suggest that the dissent channel was used by the administration to float a means of pretending to force us to do something slightly different in order to get Assad to agree to something we've long wanted--a pretend peace deal that keeps Assad in power but "responsibly ends the war" with a decent enough interval before our defeat becomes obvious.

I don't really think this is an administration plant. The simpler explanation is that the dissenters want negotiations--as diplomats are prone to want from training, experience, and pay check--and truly believe that the small amount of additional pain or the symbolism from American strikes would provide the pressure.

But that won't work. Certainly not now with the Russians openly backing Assad. Who would believe that the Obama administration would escalate enough over Russian opposition to inflict enough pain on Assad to get him to buckle?

And remember, as the dissent cable makes clear, Assad would know that the air strikes are for the purpose of pushing negotiations and not for the purpose of defeating him. Assad would know right off the bat that he can survive the strikes because the plan requires him to survive in order to negotiate!

Regardless of the motives that would get Assad to the table, obviously Assad would pretend to go along with an American "peace" plan whatever the level of pain. As would the Iranians and Russians who would get their objectives secured while possibly getting a joint Nobel Peace Prize with that clown Kerry or whoever in the administration is honored for negotiating a victory for our enemies.

So don't cheer on the State Fifty. They're on the same road as President Obama and are merely arguing over what radio channel should be on during the journey.

UPDATE: Another author who doesn't think much of the dissent despite being unimpressed with the administration's strategy.