Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Forum: What Happens Next In Syria?

Every Monday, the WoW! community and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher's Forum, short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture, or daily living. This week's question: What Happens Next In Syria?

Don Surber: I posted my answer.

I told readers on Thursday, "My money is on a lot of rockets red glare while the Saudis quietly take care of business. You need them to go in because they can tell the difference between an actual Syrian rebel and an Islamic State terrorist. Obama never realized that.

"Besides, it is their land, not ours. Let them defend it. No American president wants to send in ground troops. Had we fought the Gulf War this way, that New World Order thing may have worked."

Now hindsight is 20/20 on the Gulf War. The Gulf states lacked quantity of troops necessary. But on the other hand, they would not allow Western soldiers enter Baghdad. What a mess.

27 years later, we provide the bombs, the Saudis provide the ground troops.

The Saudis have the bombs but couldn't bomb Syria without drawing return fire from Russia. That would have led to a war no one wants.

So we provided cover, and brought along Britain and France. With China siding with Russia, the five permanent members of the UN are split with three on the side of good, and two on the side of Assad.

Trump will bring the shock and awe, and maybe keep a few troops on the ground.

But the Gulf states are doing the heavy lifting, just as they are doing in Yemen where there is another proxy war between the Arabs and Iran.

The Syria strike is the Trump Doctrine at its best. We provide the backup to our friends involved in regional conflicts. Korea is another example. We are enabling South Korea to negotiate with the North directly, for the first time in 68 years.

Trump also severed our foreign policy to the human rights restriction that Jimmy Carter imposed.

Why not? Obama ignored it in Cuba and Iran.

Rob Miller: I pretty much explored this here.

Whether the recent gas attack on Douma was Assad's work or a false flag photo op by the rebels is irrelevant. This is simply the norm when it comes to war in this part of the world. Nor does it really have much to do with ISIS as far as I'm concerned. What is important is not allowing Iran to have a strategic bloc extending to Mediterranean and not allowing them to neutralize our allies...the Kurds and their Christian and Yazedi partners.

History shows us that a power that allows to be wiped out because it's inconvenient to get involved or more convenient to simply sell them out to appease a hostile power always suffers the consequences, and those consequences can be very significant.

We have 2,000 or so boots on the ground in Syria embedded with the Kurds and they serve a significant purpose of actually preventing an escalation as well as protecting our allies. Israeli PM Netanyahu has already told Putin that Israel will not allow a significant Iranian presence in Syria.That's a red line Israel will not allow to be crossed. And Putin not only understands it, he's likely quite willing tocontinue the status quo as long as Russia continues to have access to the warm water ports and there are no Russian casualties.

Putin and Netanyahu have a fairly good relationship, and Putin has been happy to look the other way when the Israelis (or who knows who?) bomb Syrian,Hezbollah or Iranian facilities to destroy weapons shipments or other strategic objectives as long as no Russians were killed. But if Iran becomes more insistent on establishing bases, missile launching sites or other military presence in Syria, the war will definitely escalate, and if Russia comes in as part of a proxy war, so will we. Putin understands that too.

Since Russia can't afford a war financially or logistically, it would suit both parties to simply settle for a stand off.

While Russia has promised 'consequences' for the recent missile strikes and has a small armada of ships headed towards Syria, rest assured that Putin won't risk war with the U.S. directly. Instead, the attempt at 'consequences' is almost certain to be made by Hezbollah or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, both of whom lack real air power. That pretty much determines that their efforts won't succeed, unless Russia intervenes...which it won't.

Syria itself has always been something of a failed state. It has a couple of trading cities in Aleppo and Damascus, but there's little or no trade happening now. Half of it is desert, and there's little else except some agricultural land and a couple of good ports on the Mediterranean. It doesn't even really matter if Assad stays in power or not. No one has really been able to make much of Syria...not the Seleucids, not the Mongols, not the Ottomans, and certainly not the French or the Arabs.Assad himself admits it will likely take $400 billion dollars to fix Syria's infrastructure and get its economy even close to functioning on the limited level it was before the war. The Russians certainly don't have it, Iran doesn't either and Syria has nothing like oil to interest the Chinese. The only thing Assad has to offer anyone is warm water ports, Putin's chief interest. And a closer striking point aiming at Israel, which is what the Ayatollahs want, along with a land link to their other Mideast colony, Lebanon.

Our best bet is to stay the course, keep a presence in Syria and continue to arm and train the Kurdish Persh Mergah.

Well, there it is!

Make sure to drop by every Monday for the WoW! Magazine Forum. And enjoy WoW! Magazine 24-7 with some of the best stuff written in the 'net. Take from me, you won't want to miss it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Getting Serious About Syria

The bleeding orifice known as Syria has once again erupted, due to a chemical weapons attack in Douma that took a number of civilian lives, or so it seems.I say this because media has become a weapon in modern warfare, the Sunni Syrian rebels are more than capable of rigging something up and as the self inspecting Iranians would tell you about the pictures and videos they send to the IAEA as 'compliance,' such things are very easy to stage.

President Trump has promised 'a high price' for the attack, referred to Syria's dictator as 'that animal Assad,' (why slander animals?) and actually took the opportunity to cite Putin as responsible. I suppose that was just for domestic politics.

To date there was one very successful air raid on a Syrian regime airbase east of Homs which was crawling with Iranians. Putin reportedly says it was the work of the always effective Israeli air force, but my Lil' Birdies in Israel just gave a wry chuckle when I tried to confirm this. My guess is that it very well might have been, given the Iranian connection, but if it was, the IDF likely had other reasons rather than retaliating for the gas attack. One of them was probably to send a direct message to Iranian President Rouhani, who's been doing some chest pounding lately that Israel is not prepared to let them turn Syria into another Gaza or Lebanon.

Meanwhile, a second guided missile U.S. destroyer, the USS Porter has been sent to the Syrian coast to join the USS Donald Cook, a similar ship already there.

What happens next is anyone's guess.

Needless to say, the whole assortment of isolationist paleo cons, pro-Iran leftists and Israel haters in general are screaming bloody murder. They want us out of Syria yesterday. John Bolton being named National Security Advisor made them particularly insane.

But no matter matter what happened or didn't happen in Douma, pulling out of Syria would be a huge strategic error and a bad mistake. Here's why.

Syria was where ISIS got its start emerging from a group of 'moderate' Sunni rebels who were mostly al-Qaeda, its affiliates like al-Nusrah or other Islamists and salafists. Obama, along with his BFF Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Qatar armed, trained and financed these people, bypassing congress in the process.

As he was leaving, our now ex-president was careful to drop the mess into other hands, stating that it would take years to defeat ISIS and take back the territories they help in Syria and Iraq. President Trump said it could be done in a matter of months and did exactly that. Our allies in that effort were the Kurds. The Iraqi army that dropped their weapons and ran from ISIS before were mostly useful in mopping up afterwards.

When Obama was president, he gave the Kurds just enough ammo and supplies to barely hold their own. The Israelis, with long time close connections with the Kurds were able to supply some more. And When Donald Trump came in and put US air, naval and ground forces into the equation, the Kurdish Persh Merga played a key role in destroying ISIS on the ground and driving them out of their Iraqi and Syrian strongholds.

Their reward was to have the Shi'ite Iraqi government steal the oil rich city of Kirkuk, violating the original Iraqi federation agreement and making a Kurdish state even within the federation financially impossible. And for the Turks to attack them and seize Kurdish territory in Syria's northern border region.

Here's the present situation. The Turks have retreated after being 'urged to do so' by Iran's President Rouhani. The U.S. still has about 2,000 ground troops in Syria, mostly embedded with Kurdish forces, which also include Yazedi and Christians as well as civilians.

Aside from the certain bloodbath, if we leave we hand Iran a major victory, a land passage between their colony in Iraq and their colony in Lebanon. And we give them access to the Mediterranean. Also, we would give Iran yet another reason to consider the US an easy foe who is afraid of them.

Finally, it would mean that the Kurds, our true allies would be destroyed.

History gives us numerous examples of what happens to world powers who allow their allies to be neutralized and liquidated. Or even worse, co-opted to fighting on the other side.

Czechoslovakia in 1938 had a strong, well trained and well armed military, excellent border fortifications and protective terrain in the mountain passes and dense forests bordering Germany. They even had a major arms manufacturer in Skoda, comparable to Krup. Hitler could never have attacked the west successfully with that on his borders, because it would have meant a two front war, something he and the Germans dreaded and weren't ready for.

When Britain and France sold out the Czechs, not only did they ensure that Hitler would attack them when he was ready, but that Britain and France were so frightened of war that they would do anything to prevent it. And it also sent a message to Stalin, who had been talking earnestly to Britain and France about an alliance or mutual defense pact to keep the Germans at bay that a non-aggression pact with Hitler was a far better bet.

At the start of the Punic Wars, Carthage allowed its allies in Sicily to be destroyed simply because a war might cost two much money. Sicily's resources and manpower were denied to them, as were its ports, shipyards and its strategic position within easy sailing range of Carthage heading south and close to Rome heading Northeast. While the Carthaginians won (or tied, depending on how you see it) the first Punic War, they lost the others once Rome had a navy. Had they backed their Sicilian allies, Hannibal might have invaded from the south in easy distance to Rome instead of having to leave from Spain, travel the Alps and lose a portion of his men and war elephants in the process before he ever was able to fight in Italy.

There are numerous other examples.

But what about the Russians?

Putin's main interest in Syria is twofold. The main thing for him is the warm water ports at Tarshish and Latakia. Secondary is appeasing his Iranian allies. And when it comes to Iran, Putin's position is by necessity somewhat ambivalent. The U.S. pulling out of Syria is not really in Russia's best interest.

He understands that the Israelis will simply not allow Iran to put missile or air bases in Syria. If a hot war breaks out, Russian personnel will be caught in the middle of it, and if Russia intervenes and is involved in a proxy war on Iran's side, the U.S. will do the same with Israel, and Russia can't afford a war just now. Or really, to alienate Israel, with whom Russia still has relatively cordial relations.

As I pointed out previously, during the Obama years Russia and Israel put together an actual hotline between the Kremlin and it's equivalent in Tel Aviv. The idea was to avoid conflicts and any casualties for Russian personnel. And part of it involved Russia agreeing to turn a blind eye to Israeli attacks on Hezbollah or Iranians or weapons shipments going to these parties as long as no Russians got killed. The agreement has worked well so far. Even though Putin claims the Israelis bombed that air base and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov called it “a very dangerous development” Putin hasn't done anything about it, nor would it serve him or Russia to do so.

Even less to Russia's liking, President Trump is not Obama and might just decide to fix America's Iran problem once and for all.

So given some access to the ports and actual negotiations with the president on settling the Syria question, Putin would likely be willing to cut a deal...given the alternatives.

As for Syria's ultimate destiny, I'm ambivalent as long as Iran is kept out of the picture, which is vital for U.S. interests. Just rebuilding its infrastructure after the war is going to take billions, which I see no reason for the American taxpayer to shell out...no nation building, please. If anything, Syria should become the new Kurdistan, at least a decent piece of it. They're owed at least that much, at least.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Forum: Trump Vs. Mexico...Who Wins?

Every Monday, the WoW! community and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher's Forum, short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture, or daily living. This week's question:Trump Vs. Mexico...Who Wins?

Don Surber: Never bet against Donald John Trump.

How many times must I tell people this?

The Trump Effect is real. Even Pope Francis knows this.

Mexico called off the caravan, and is fixing to sign off on a revamped NAFTA. Everybody wins.
By the way, Rocket Man will surrender to the Dotard in May. We de-nuked him while nobody was looking. But Kim Jong Un is smart. Well, smarter than Rosie O'Donnell and all those other losers who fought The Donald (and The Donald won). Kim gets to keep his life and maybe his regime.

Closing question: What if Trump is the anointed one?

Bookworm Room:I'm with Don -- Trump wins because Trump wins. While his early efforts in 2017 might have been a bit rocky, he was still learning the ropes about politics versus business. Trump, though, is a fast learner, and he's since been entirely successful in getting things done. I have no doubt that he's got an effective long-term plan here, both as to trade and border security.

Mind you, what I'm saying is not the result of blind faith, but of paying careful attention to events since the day Trump declared his candidacy. He's got such an excellent track record that, unless he stumbles seriously and repeatedly, I'm betting on him every time.

Rob Miller: Let's look at this logically. Mexico makes money mostly from the following items...agricultural products, oil, some NAFTA manufacturing at maqiadora factories on the border, tourism, drugs and reparations to Mexico from Mexicans living here, many of them illegally. The U.S. can do without their tomatoes, we no longer need oil from PeMex, the NAFTA manufacturing is heavily weighted in Mexico's favor and tourism is way down because the country itself has gotten so corrupt and dangerous. I say that with a twinge, remembering the wonderful times I had there back when, but it's simply how things are now.

That leaves drugs and reparations from expatriates here in America. Building a border wall cuts way back on both sources of income. Is it any wonder the Mexican government is so bent on continuing the status quo? And renegotiating NAFTA would not be in Mexico's interest either, since it has made Mexico the country we have the second biggest trade deficit with, after China. Even more to the point, stopping illegal migration to the U.S. means closing off a social safety valve that has allowed the corrupt Mexican government to avoid spending its money on helping its people for years.

There's no way Mexico wins this. China might buy its oil, but the price might not be to Mexico's liking. The world has a lot of oil right now, Iran, Burma and the Middle East are a lot closer and cheaper to import from, and desperate failed states like Venezuela would probably undercut them. If the NAFTA manufacturing goes bye bye and Trump does something like putting a 10-15% excise tax on reparations from the U.S., Mexico really will be in dire straits.

They would be far better off renegotiating NAFTA and making a real commitment to police their side of the border and not colluding in allowing illegal migrants to cross into the U.S.

Laura Rambeau Lee: In the battle between President Trump and Mexico, President Trump – and the American people who voted for him – will win. We have already seen this week the annual trek of illegals into America (this year a caravan of people from Honduras, the most violent country in the world) has been halted in Mexico because Trump threatened action against NAFTA. It’s about time our elected leaders make good on their campaign promises. The America people are waking up to the realization that our “trusted servants” only seek to gain and keep power. The left has found a new voting base and no longer needs to keep up the pretense of advocating for the underserved minorities. They’ve got their votes but it’s become apparent it is not enough as they’ve experienced significant losses in the elections since 2010, when the Tea Party organized in protest of Obamacare and the alarmingly progressive agenda of the Democrats. American citizens are beginning to realize the Democrat agenda has nothing to do with protecting them and everything to do with the destruction of our laws, culture and society in a desperate effort to advance progressive policies and fundamentally transform our country. President Trump will win because he has the support of the majority of the American people even if the media says otherwise.

Well, there it is!

Make sure to drop by every Monday for the WoW! Magazine Forum. And enjoy WoW! Magazine 24-7 with some of the best stuff written in the 'net. Take from me, you won't want to miss it.