Monday, October 24, 2016

The Short-Selling of America Continues

Our NATO ally Turkey bombs our Kurdish allies on the ground in Syria; and our ally Oman looks the other way as Iran supplies their allies in Yemen who fight our Saudi ally and shoot at our ships. "Leading from behind" is no sort of leadership, after all.

Feel the smart diplomacy:

Turkish jets pounded a U.S.-backed group of Kurdish-led militia fighters in northern Syria with more than 20 air strikes overnight, highlighting the conflicting agendas of the two NATO allies in an increasingly complex battlefield.

The jets targeted positions of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in three villages northeast of the city of Aleppo which the SDF had captured from Islamic State, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said late on Wednesday.

And behold the nuance in action:

Iran has stepped up weapons transfers to the Houthis, the militia fighting the Saudi-backed government in Yemen, U.S., Western and Iranian officials tell Reuters, a development that threatens to prolong and intensify the 19-month-old war.

The increased pace of transfers in recent months, which officials said include missiles and small arms, could exacerbate a security headache for the United States, which last week struck Houthi targets with cruise missiles in retaliation for failed missile attacks on a U.S. Navy destroyer.

Much of the recent smuggling activity has been through Oman, which neighbors Yemen, including via overland routes that take advantage of porous borders between the two countries, the officials said.

These are both logical results of our policies that allow Russia and Iran to violently pursue their interests while sowing death and destruction in their wake.

Allies of ours who once would have followed us in resisting Russia and Iran now see that we won't lead them. No, we'd be happy to see them resist Russia and Iran while we do little more than sell them the weapons to do so.

But instead of being led from behind, our once-allies decide not to stick out their necks for our benefit where potent enemies could harm them while we are safely urging them on from behind.

Not that Turkey and Oman have turned against us. But they do see the need to cut deals with enemies as a little bit of insurance in case we can't be counted on to be an ally when the chips are down.

It's a funny thing. Allies threatened by foes with troops, ships, and planes value simple hardware-based signs of our alliance rather than nuanced "smart diplomacy" that downgrades simplistic things like troops, ships, and planes in favor of attempts to turn enemies into friends through concessions, and which dismisses the worries of our allies over the hostile intentions of the new friends we're trying to make.

Wars start this way. Just as Japan in 1941 saw all of our economic and military power yet discounted that power through the belief that our poor quality men and leadership nullified our physical strength, enemies now can tell themselves that our power is meaningless because we won't dare risk our comfortable lives to resist foes with the faith and confidence to take action against us.

Sure, after Japan hit us on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor based on that belief, we mobilized and drove back the Japanese, crushing their military and nuking two of their cities (while also sending combined forces across the Atlantic to smash German and Italian forces that had overrun important chunks of Western Europe).

But we had to send our military to fight and die to demonstrate that our people and leaders did not have values close to zero that virtually nullified our physical advantages.

So keep that in mind when you hear people say we remain the most powerful nation on earth (true on paper) and that no nation would be foolish enough to take us on (false in the real world).

UPDATE: More on Turkey's ambitions along their southern border that seems to be moving further south. Note that rather than being a mini-world war, I look at Syria as (broadly) more like another Spanish Civil War.

And I'll say again, when we decline to lead to achieve objectives we can live with, allies who would normally follow our lead become free to lead on their own--for their own objectives.

Oh, and I had noted Turkey's apparent intentions a little while ago. I do worry that Turkey and Russia could come to an agreement to expand both of their influence in the region at our expense.

UPDATE: Related.  Although I don't blame Duterte's antics (and I don't assume this will amount to anything in practice) on President Obama--other than the creation of a "safety in numbers" environment of once-loyal allies hedging their bets where Duterte feels more free to slap America around verbally.

UPDATE: And Russia continues to adjust their border at Georgia's expense:

Marked in places with barbed wire laid at night, in others by the sudden appearance of green signs declaring the start of a “state border” and elsewhere by the arrival of bulldozers, the reach of Russia keeps inching forward into Georgia with ever more ingenious markings of a frontier that only Russia and three other states recognize as real.

Yeah. The 1980s called. They want their Soviet Russian border back.