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Syria and the Brinkmanship Presidency – 1

April 14, 2018

Damascus. 1981. The flag is still flying.

(Note: this past evening a combined U.S., UK. French missile attack on Syria took place, ratcheting up the danger of unleashing a regional conflict with the spectre of nuclear war lurking in the shadows. From the earliest reports coming in this is what we know: On the early morning of April 14, 2018 a combined air and sea attack from U.S., UK, France. 103 missiles was launched against targets in Syria. Initial reports state that  71 of these missiles were intercepted by 30-year-old Russian-made, but Syrian controlled and manned anti-aircraft missiles. Neither Russia nor Iran took the bait and struck back militarily, giving Washington and its allies (UK, France) a pretext to raise the military ante. Am still concerned about Israeli-Saudi.

As noted in social media: hours after the strike, people are dancing in the streets of Damascus: “This is the 1st time in history where a capital, Damascus, is hit by foreign power and people celebrate it in the street few hours later, challenging the attackers and expressing their solidarity with the government by dancing in the street: boosted today.”

Outside of the narrow confines of  U.S., UK and French ruling circles and their pliant media, it will provoke global, well deserved outrage. )

As noted in social media: hours after the strike, people are dancing in the streets of Damascus: “This is the 1st time in history where a capital, Damascus, is hit by foreign power and people celebrate it in the street few hours later, challenging the attackers and expressing their solidarity with the government by dancing in the street: boosted today.”

1. In Washington Diplomacy is Dead; Today it’s all about brinkmanship

Diplomacy, so to speak, has taken a back seat in U.S. foreign policy for sometime. Today it’s much more about brinkmanship, threatening war, including nuclear war, seeing if the other side (North Korea, Syria) will blink first and then exacting concessions, otherwise known as blackmail, from friends and adversaries alike. It is also, as in the case of Syria, a way to cover what has been a seven year military failure to overthrow the Assad government and partition the country. With the State Department increasingly gutted and led by jackasses appointed  with the expressed goal of undermining or destroying its diplomatic role, it’s the Defense Dept., ie., the military has become the main agent of U.S.foreign policy. 

The ritual, potentially deadly, has a pattern to it: threaten war in an increasingly vulgar and juvenile war of words in a sequence resembling an exchange of “pre-duel” insults in a Western shootout with Trump playing John Wayne. (which one was more stupid, less articulate?). More difficult to strike North Korea, it has nuclear weapons, easier to strike Syria, ravaged by war and with no nukes.

The pattern: threaten war as the Trumpty-Dumpty Administration did with North Korea last fall, heightening not just regional but global fears. Among other things, on a more profound level, Washington was testing China, knowing that there are genuine tensions between China and N. Korea. In such a crisis, the question emerges: how far will China go to defend its annoying ally? Can the pressure Washington is exerting create a split between the two. Washington is always trying to play divide and conquer, whether it’s in the Middle East or East Asia. In the case of Syria, similarly, the idea is to bait Iran and Russia to respond directly to a U.S.-led attack, providing the pretext to turn on either of them militarily.

Then weigh the consequences and see how many concessions bringing the world to the edge of world war can yield. But Trumpty Dumpty – not even a minor league player when it comes to foreign policy – found himself outmaneuvered from the outset by the Chinese. I wonder if Trump has a slogan on his desk that says something like: “Donny boy – don’t mess with the Chinese. Remember they are smarter and stronger than you; find a weaker opponent to bully.” And they are powerful and if there is one thing about bullies  – they only mess with nations that are weaker, not stronger or as strong. And so where it came to attacking North Korea, Trump was essentially forced to back down and he did, in search for weaker adversaries.

In the North Korean-Chinese case, given that the North Koreans have nuclear weapons and long-range missile systems,  Washington “wisely” (perhaps a poorly chosen word) – or at least “correctly” – understood that attacking North Korea would provoke a strong Chinese response, military, economic or both, to say nothing about how South Korea would respond. At a certain moment the Trump Administration understood it was not the China-North Korean alliance that would fracture but the U.S.-South Korean one that was on the verge of fracture. And so Washington found a pretext to back down (the Olympics) and the tense situation in East Asia cooled some, at least temporarily, and with it the war danger there, that most definitely included the threat of nuclear confrontation.

2. Some geo-political considerations about placing Syria in U.S. military cross-hairs.

But the brinkmanship continues, it’s only the target that changes from North Korea to …da da, da da…Syria. Would not have been all that hard to predict given the propensities of the prez himself and his stable of foreign policy Islamophobic wackos, Pompeo and Bolton, that the Middle East would be the next in line. Attacking Syria has several goals, none of which has any strategic value whatsoever in terms of changing the regional balance of power that has resulted from the U.S. defeat (yep that is the word) in Syria. If the brinkmanship towards N. Korea was a way to test a Chinese response, attacking Syria is meant to provoke Iran and Russia to respond militarily.

To date, to their credit, neither has taken the bait to their credit.

On another level the plan was – and there is a plan, referred to as the Doha Protocol – to partition Syria using proxies like ISIS, al Nusra and the like. It utterly failed. To strike Syria is a way of punishing it for not capitulating pure and simple. It “gives confidence” to U.S. main regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia to be more aggressive towards Iran and Syria.

There are, as usual, domestic considerations to any U.S. military actions – united the country behind the current maniac leader at a time when Trumpty-Dumpty’s polls are sagging and ne needs something to boost Republican chances for the mid-term elections this year. He might also fear the momentum towards impeachment, knowing that the Dems will probably support any strike against Syria, as they will.



Syria and the Brinkmanship Presidency – 2

Syria and the Brinkmanship Presidency – 3

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill Conklin permalink
    April 14, 2018 8:09 am

    Good morning Rob and thanks for such a great analysis of the happenings of last night. I understand it better now. This situation appears to me to be like a game of chess with a bunch of children (USA) who have dangerous toys, challenging several chess masters who have to use brain power instead of explosive power to win the game. It is time for the American Hegemon to take his toys out of the Middle East, and that includes the Israeli Toy Box, voluntarily, before he loses the game.

    The facts appear to be:

    1. Someone might have used chemical weapons.
    2. That someone might have ben Assad (A stupid decision if he did he because he already won the war.)
    3. There has been no discussion with the world community to figure out what to do about the problem if it really exists.
    4. The missile launch is against both US Law and International Law.
    5. The president and his generals should be punished for war crimes along with all the leaders of Israel.

    So here we are this morning. There is a Gold King on the chessboard with two rooks and a Russian Queen and there is a Silver King on the opposing side with four pawns an American bishop and a British Knight.

    Any bets on what will happen next?


  1. Syria and the Brinkmanship Presidency – 2 – The Mayaguez Phenomenon | View from the Left Bank: Rob Prince's Blog
  2. Syria and the Brinkmanship Presidency – 3 – 131 Missiles to Destroy the Evidence | View from the Left Bank: Rob Prince's Blog

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