Description: In 1918, against better judgment and with few achievable goals, the US intervened militarily in the Russian Civil War in Siberia and Archangel. Almost immediately, everyone knew it was a disaster. Bill, Kelley, and Rachel examine it.
It’s reckless and irresponsible for the United States to launch missiles at a Russian air base in Syria, as we did today on President Trump’s orders. That’s really an understatement, too. And it’s ridiculous that former Secretary of State Clinton endorsed this plan publicly earlier today.
There are three realities, beyond the risks of attacking Russia, that have to be acknowledged regardless of the use of chemical weapons:
1) The US does not have the capacity to lead a successful regime change in Syria and it’s wildly foolish to “Just Do Something” with zero plan and zero capacity to execute it beyond the opening shot.
2) Chemical weapons are repugnant, but it is not a “proportional response” to risk a war on this scale, particularly considering that far more people have been killed already (and will be killed by escalation) by conventional arms, which are also horrible. Dead is dead, as Stephen Walt said.
3) This war would have been over years ago (with far fewer deaths or calamities and without the use of chemical weapons) if the United States (and allies) had not supplied dangerous and deadly major conventional weapons systems and light arms to extremist insurgents, many if not most of whom are not Syrian, thereby keeping the war going but with no one able to prevail definitively.
Getting involved further in the Syrian war than we already are, instead of pulling back and cutting off aid to the insurgents, can only increase the catastrophe.
Washington only compounds its culpability while simultaneously reducing the chances of finding a tolerable way out of the jam if it remains addicted to fanciful thinking.
And yet it remains wedded to a set of totally unrealistic propositions. This results in the creation of a make-believe world that bears no relation to reality.
Here are some of the biggest fictions that must be abandoned:
Jihadist Syrian frontrunners al-Nusra/al-Qaeda can be transmogrified into mere expressions of genuine Sunni grievances.
Nusra jihadists can be converted into the instrument for militarily crushing ISIS just because there is nobody else willing or able to a job America won’t take on.
Saudi Arabia and the Gulfies will give priority to defeating the various Salafist groups rather than to the removal the Alawite regime in Damascus.
ISIS’s financial lifeline can be cut without destroying the infrastructure of its oil trade and without getting Turkey to cease and desist its complicity in sustaining the oil trade.
The Russians can be “isolated” and denied a major role in determining Syria’s future by calling Putin dirty names and reciting the number of worthless partners in Obama’s ersatz coalition.
Phantom Syrian rebel armies devoted to tolerance and democracy – that don’t exist except in the escapist visions of Washington’s strategic non-thinkers – can be relied upon to win battlefield victories.
Establishing a no-fly buffer zone in northern Syria would do something other than satisfy Erdogan’s ambition to keep open his supply line to al-Nusra and his lucrative commercial dealings with ISIS.
Such a no-fly buffer zone would not contradict our purposes in Syria and would be tolerated by Russia.
It is within the power of the United States to shape the Middle East to its own specifications while contesting a legitimate place for Iran, Russia, Yemenese Houthis and anyone else who doesn’t hew the Saudi-Israeli-Erdogan line Washington has endorsed.
Ambassador [to Poland] Sergey Andreev of Russia on Friday described the Soviet Union’s 1939 invasion of Poland as an act of self-defense, not aggression.
Uh. In… in what way? That would require interwar Poland to have had threat capacity.
In an interview broadcast on the private TVN station, Mr. Andreev also said: “Polish policy led to the disaster in September 1939, because during the 1930s Poland repeatedly blocked the formation of a coalition against Hitler’s Germany. Poland was therefore partly responsible for the disaster which then took place.”
But… But the Soviet Union itself was in Hitler’s coalition in September 1939. So…how? What?
The Russian Ambassador to Poland’s version of 1939 history appears to be “Oops, the Soviet Union slipped in the tub and fell into Poland.” Or perhaps, at best, “We just had to invade Poland and all the Baltic states to create a bigger buffer zone between Hitler and the edge of the real Soviet Union.”
You know what? Never mind. This is too much nonsense to figure out.
Flag of Poland’s Home Army during World War II. (Credit: Bastianow – Wikimedia)
The people of this Bering Strait region still see themselves as one people and the border as an irritant. It was first drawn up in 1867 when America bought Alaska from a cash-strapped Tsarist Russia. But no-one took much notice then. Families lived on both islands and criss-crossed back and forth until 1948 when the border was suddenly closed. The Soviet military moved on to Big Diomede and the civilians were forcibly resettled on the Siberian mainland.
Over the years [since the Cold War ended], hopes continued that the more entwined relationship between the Russia and the West would loosen up the border. But they have been dashed by the Ukraine crisis and by Russia’s military build-up.
June 2001 NASA satellite image of the Bering Strait, where the U.S. state of Alaska (right) meets Russia’s Chukotka Autonomous Okrug (left).
A 2003 report from the Government Accountability Office found that most of Alaska’s 200-plus native villages are affected by erosion and flooding, and that four were in “imminent danger.” By 2009, the GAO said 31 villages were in imminent danger.
Maybe not as poorly as things in rebel-occupied Donbass war zones, but about as bad as peacetime can get. They very badly underestimated the level of economic integration between Crimea and Ukraine / the rest of Europe (and by extension the economic and fiscal catastrophe that awaited a walled-off version of the peninsula). Crimea is in a crunch with no end yet in sight, and Russia is stuck with a very expensive bill its population and budget officials have already begun indicating they’re ready to skip out on.
Whether or not an overwhelming majority actually favored Russian annexation at the time — we don’t know how far off the hasty / sketchy referendum was from the truth — it’s pretty clear now that many voters would have at least reconsidered their pro-Russian instincts had they had better access to a realistic assessment of their prospects … or, at the very least, the benefit of hindsight from today.
Nostalgic Soviet pensioners and Russian-friendly organized crime thugs were never really a good foundation for the future, it turns out.
Two fishing boats have been caught on presumed Russian submarines and nearly destroyed. The New York Times:
An 80-ton trawler that normally catches prawn in its nets, the Karen this time seemed to have ensnared a submarine. And, with the British Navy and NATO both denying involvement, suspicion has fallen on Russia, which since the conflict in Ukraine has been testing the response times of the alliance in the air and at sea. The episode, which nearly capsized the Karen, was the second of its kind in a month off the coast of Britain, and comes at a tense time in relations between London and Moscow.
Dick James, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Fish Producers Organization, said that the deep stretch of the Irish Sea where the Karen nearly capsized was so popular with submariners during the Cold War that it was nicknamed “submarine alley.”
At the time of the accident, the Karen was in international waters, halfway between the coast of Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.
Being dragged by one wire, the Karen was just seconds from sinking, he said, and his crew would not have had time to grab life jackets.