Arming the Moderates

I think that this “Moderate Syrian Rebel Application Form” from The Borowitz Report says pretty much everything there is to say about the president’s plan to give a half billion dollars worth of weapons and training to “the moderate Syrian armed opposition”. Here’s a sample question:

If I were given a highly lethal automatic weapon by the United States, I would:
A) Only kill exactly the people that the United States wanted me to kill
B) Try to kill the right people, with the caveat that I have never used an automatic weapon before
C) Kill people only after submitting them to a rigorous vetting process
D) Immediately let the weapon fall into the wrong hands

Here’s Pat Lang’s take on the plan:

Why? Why? The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is one of the smaller and weaker elements in the galaxy of anti Syrian government forces. They have had their asses kicked by the SAG, al-Nusra and ISIS. They will continue to have their asses kicked. The SAG’ armed forces have become a much stronger force and the notion that the FSA will somehow be transformed into the winners of the Syrian jug f–k is amusing.

Bashar Assad wants to be taken in from the cold, just as Qathafi wanted the same thing.

From the time we relented about Qathafi until we chose to get rid of him, Qathafi was not a problem for the US. Why will we not listen to the Syrian government? pl

As I’ve asked in the past, what’s the American interest at stake here? Not the French interest or the Italian interest or what’s against the Russian interest but what supports whatever interests we have in Syria?

If ending the carnage is Syria is one of those interests, can anyone seriously contend the move will hasten that?

26 comments… add one

  • steve

    Yes, this is a dumb idea. I also find it unlikely that teh FSA is really the bunch of good guys they think they are. Stay out of it and let them kill each other.

    Steve

  • TastyBits

    I fought about this at OTB several years ago when the bad rebels were much smaller. People who play by the rules never understand how far a ruthless person will go to get what they want. I have never known any terrorists, but I assume they are worse than criminals. I have known quite a few criminals, and they are ruthless in varying degrees.

    Cheney is worried about a terrorist with a nuke, but he has forgotten that President Reagan facilitated al-Qaeda. Today’s good rebel is tomorrow’s terrorist with a nuke, but Cheney will not be jumping out of a building when his good rebels show up to thank the US.

  • jan

    “…. says pretty much everything there is to say about the president’s plan to give a half million dollars worth of weapons and training to “the moderate Syrian armed opposition”.

    The amount is $500 million, or a half a billion dollars being proposed. Maybe this might have been helpful a few years back. But, now the possibility of these weapons falling into the wrong hands is much higher. I see it as being a foolish move at this point in time.

  • CStanley

    What could go wrong?

  • Thanks. Yes. Typo

    Maybe this might have been helpful a few years back.

    I think that’s doubtful because I see no way that the “armed opposition” would have been able to out-spend the regime. The alternatives we have had in Syria have been for the regime to prevail quickly or for it to prevail slowly. The Russians have favored the regime’s prevailing quickly. We have favored it prevailing slowly. Prevailing slowly has had consequences and one of those consequences is the ascendancy of Islamist factions and, apparently, the destabilization of Iraq.

    I don’t entirely blame the administration for its policy. Practically no one (other than me) has suggested anything that would have had a better outcome.

  • jan

    “I don’t entirely blame the administration for its policy.”

    What policy?

    There has been none, except strong, empty words. Now, those words are asking for arms to be deployed too late to be useful in having a real possibility of effecting any positive change. Nothing this administration is saying makes sense to me. It basically has a political flavor meant to hide the ambivalence this president has shown from the get-go of his term in office.

  • TastyBits

    @Dave Schuler

    Practically no one (other than me) has suggested anything that would have had a better outcome.

    I did not go into details, but I hinted at it on some of the OTB threads. The problem was that my solution would have left the dictators in power. Thousands of civilians would have been killed, and depending upon when enacted, Russia would have gained a strategic foothold in the ME.

    At the time, it was the plan of a madman. Even now, few people would agree it would have been better.

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    The US trained Iraqi army folded when faced with these ruthless terrorists, but the good rebels are going engage and destroy them. The terrorists will kill/torture the good rebel, or they will kill/torture the good rebel’s family, neighbor, dog, cat, or anybody else to get the weapons they want.

    While Americans are shocked at the brutality of these guys, this is “business as usual” for them. This is nothing new. They were doing this “a few years back”.

    I think the problem is that you and your crew have spent too much time watching movies. You need to experience real bad guys. You should take a trip to Oakland or L.A. and get to know the local gang members. The terrorists are worse, and neither play by the rules.

    The reason why the Iraq invasion is important is not to place blame. (The WMD fiasco is a separate issue, and had they been found, it would not have changed the following results.) The reason is that other than the initial take-down nothing went right, and it did not go a little not right. It went almost totally wrong, and the same assumptions that lead to that disaster are still being made.

    On the left, government spending is always good, and if a little is good, a lot is better. To the left, a failure of government spending to achieve the goal is proof that there was not enough spending. To the right, the problem in Iraq was not enough military intervention, and like the left, there is no limit to the amount of military intervention the right is willing to spend.

  • michael reynolds

    Obama was right to stay out, and he’s wrong to get in now. I worry less about weapons falling into the wrong hands – hell the Iraqi Army will surrender whatever ISIS wants – and worry more about mission creep.

    I see this as a somewhat desperate move to avoid looking like we’re simply allying ourselves with Assad and Iran. Of course we are in effect allying ourselves with Assad and Iran (and Hezbollah) but our useless little freedom fighters let’s us pretend we still want Assad gone.

    We are now allied with Assad, Iran, Hezbollah, Israel (!), Turkey, the Kurds, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates against ISIS and Assad and Iran and Hezbollah, a contest in which Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are allowing money to flow to ISIS, and Turkey is either oppressing the Kurds or helping them, depending on whether it’s Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

    Meanwhile, Thad Cochran is a friend to African-Americans.

    So, clearly, we are in the End Times and Jesus will have to come down and sort this shit out.

  • The U. S. has been helping the “armed opposition” for some time. Keep in mind that non-lethal aid is fungible so the distinction is notional at best. It’s even been alleged that ISIS members have been trained by the U. S. although I don’t know how much credence to place on that. I think these various rebel groups are pretty fluid and somebody who’s fighting for FSA today may be fighting with ISIS tomorrow.

    Whether in Libya or Syria I think the decision is a much more binary one than American politicians would like to believe. You’re either aiding the regime or the opposition.

  • jan

    <“I think the problem is that you and your crew have spent too much time watching movies. “

    I really don’t think you know who my “crew” is, Tasty. As for offering any opinions about what to do or not to do in Iraq, the ME, who we are aligned with or not, it’s all become a smorgasbord of speculation from everyone — which includes you, too.

  • jan

    Larry Johnson of the No Quarter Blog writes in a blunt, brutal tone. Johnson’s take is usually from a military, strategic POV, and he doesn’t aim his fire towards one group, while holding it with another, as stupidity is a political behavior shared by both sides. In this piece he aims his perspective at literally the growth of terrorism in the last handful of years, and it’s the Obama Administration who is taking most of the heat in his analysis.

    At the zenith of its success, Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda consisted of around 400 “devotees.” These were the men who swore BAYAT to Bin Laden. Keep that number in mind and consider what has emerged while Barack Obama has been President–the monster that is ISIL or ISIS. ISIL is the acronym for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant or Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (aka ISIS). This group has at least 6000 fanatical adherents. What do I mean by fanatical? They murder other muslims who, in their judgment, do not mean their standard of purity and faithfulness. Quite subjective and very lethal.

    Apart for the numbers, they are the best funded terrorist group in the history of the world. They have looted between $500 million and one billion dollars. The last time the earth was shaken by a group like this was when Ghengis Khan swept thru Persia (now Iran) and Armenia in the 13th Centrury (around 1220 AD). One big difference–ISIL is an army of religious fanatics. Maybe this is a Muslim version of the First Crusade, which was a well-financed Army of fervent Christians who succeeded in capturing Jerusalem from the Muslims.

    But ISIL is far more dangerous than Ghengis Khan or the crusaders of Pope Urban.

    They have SAMs (surface to air missiles), anti-tank rockets, Anti-Aircraft batteries, tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery. More importantly and more worrisome–they know how to use these weapons. Fortunately, they do not have an air force. Their lack of air power imposes some limits on their ability to wreak mayhem.

    ISIL appears to be consolidating its forces and preparing a three-pronged assault on Baghdad. If they bring the AA, the SAMs and the artillery to bear they should be able to close the Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) and shell the infamous Green Zone–you know, the ostensible safe haven for US and foreign diplomats.

    This one is not the fault of George W. Bush. ISIL/ISIS is a direct result of the failed policies of Barack Obama in the Middle East. It is a direct consequence of Obama backing the Saudi and Turkish move to oust Syria’s Bashir Assad. The blood to be spilt in the coming weeks is on Obama’s hands. This disaster will make Jimmy Carter’s failure in Iran a distant memory.

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    Your crew is all the folks who spout the same delusions as you. You all want shows of force. You all dislike dictators, and you are all squeamish about doing what it takes to accomplish your goals.

    My opinion is to stay out and to let them kill each other. I have several plans, but none of them would be acceptable to most people. Since the Arab Spring began, I have explained to people why they were wrong, and they have refused to believe me. In the end, I have been right.

    This was the predictable result from how Egypt I, Libya, and Syria were handled, and yes, President Obama will have to answer for his role in those events.

    I was wrong about the Iraq invasion. I thought the WMD nonsense, democracy crap, and UN violations was cover to get permanent US bases into Iraq. I never dreamed that Cold Warriors Cheney and Rumsfeld would buy into such bullshit.

    I learned my lesson. This delusional nonsense is not an act. They actually believe this crap.

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    From your link:

    … It is a direct consequence of Obama backing the Saudi and Turkish move to oust Syria’s Bashir Assad. …

    I think Saudi Arabia and Turkey are directly responsible, but President Obama has certainly contributed to the Syrian mess.

    In Egypt, he should have supported the Egyptian military at least quietly and kept his mouth shut publicly.

    In Libya, he should have protected the US rat. Gaddafi rolled over after the Iraq invasion, and you protect your intelligence sources.

    When Syria began, the events in Egypt and Libya impacted how that would unfold, and President Obama contributed to the mess – “Assad has to go”, “red lines”. An additional factor was the Europeans screwing the Russians in Libya.

    His overall “let’s be friends” foreign policy is an abject failure. His drone war is really a terror campaign against the terrorists. Hence, collateral damage is a feature not a bug. You can be a terrorist, but your family, neighbors, dog, cat, and anybody else around you is a target also.

    I am not sure how much of the Bush anti-terror programs they have dismantled, but they were extensive and effective. The terrorists had to be right all the time. They banking transactions were especially dangerous, and the NYT leak was seriously damaging.

    The downside to a large organization is that there are multiple points of failure. Moving large sums of money, weapons, personnel, anything becomes a problem. It is a target. Eventually, there will also be internal politics that will weaken the structure.

  • michael reynolds

    Jan:

    I’m supposed to take seriously a man who writes:

    But ISIL is far more dangerous than Ghengis Khan or the crusaders of Pope Urban.

    You’re kidding, right? Have you ever even glanced at a history book? Genghis is believed to have killed millions, perhaps tens of millions, maybe even 40 million people. With swords. Picture that.

    ISIS is a guerrilla force surrounded entirely by enemies more than capable of crushing it without even calling on western conventional forces, let alone one of the many nuclear powers that could obliterate them in a flash of light.

    Perspective, please.

  • michael reynolds

    One other thing about TEN FOOT TALL ISIS: the really scary thing that’s been happening is not jihadi militias, but the franchising of terrorism. Home-grown, internet-taught guys have been killing more Americans than Al Qaeda and affiliates. Terrorists actually trying to hold a physical position are a whole lot more vulnerable to air power, and we have a lot of bombs – as do the Syrians and the Iranians.

    Not only is this not a Genghis, it’s not even a Castro. What superpower is going to spread its protective umbrella over ISIS?

  • Zachriel

    michael reynolds: I’m supposed to take seriously a man who writes

    We couldn’t get past that either; “The last time the earth was shaken by a group like this was when Ghengis Khan swept thru Persia (now Iran) and Armenia in the 13th Centrury (around 1220 AD).”

    France 1940, Austria 1683, Napoléon 1812, Manchuria 1931, Tenochtitlán 1521, etc.

  • michael reynolds

    Zachriel:

    I hadn’t even gotten to that aspect of it, but you’re right. Apparently it goes straight from Genghis to ISIS. Somewhere (one hopes roasting in hell) Hitler’s like, “Hey, what am I, chopped liver?”

  • jan

    “Your crew is all the folks who spout the same delusions as you. You all want shows of force. You all dislike dictators, and you are all squeamish about doing what it takes to accomplish your goals.”

    Your grouping, Tasty, of supposed traits arbitrarily attributed to an online dialogue is also delusional, IMO.

    For instance, in my own predilections:

    I was not into the Libyan invasion.

    The Arab Spring was always a dicey matter to become involved in, except for the tepid support this administration showed for the Muslim Brotherhood, which I thought was foolish.

    Iran’s Green Movement, was a missed opportunity, especially in the meek way Obama reacted towards it.

    There was certainly a moral justification to ousting Assad. However, any intervention had to be done early on, with definite goals and perimeters in place. Having only implemented harsh words and questionable red lines, we should have stayed out of their business.

    Iraq, IMO, should have retained a larger military contingency, as was strongly suggested by our military leaders/advisors there. Many say that a renegotiated SOFA, having immunity in place was entirely doable, if only this administration had put forth genuine efforts to do such. It did not. Lingering US oversight just might have provided a buffer zone for the rekindling of an even more malevolent terrorist group such as ISIS. Instead, the vacuum created by our complete departure invited Maliki to imprudently govern, giving every reason for extremism to return.

  • jan

    Michael,

    For a guy who uses rhetorical flair to an extreme, in making a passionate political point, I have to smile at your nit-picky criticism of someone else who applies the same sort of literary license in their own opinionated critique.

    Your ridicule of Johnson’s Genghis Khan comparison is a case in point. Most people know that such a reference has nothing to do with the proportion of bodies laid to waste, but rather the degree of inhumane behavior shown by someone or a group of people — similar to calling someone a “Mother Theresa,” in depicting the personification of a “saintly’ person.

    Furthermore, the perspective being used by Johnson is that ISIS is a replacement terrorist group, more deadly in it’s acquisition of weaponry and their sophisticated ability to use it, than what was there before. The usage of violence against their own people, as a means to terrorize them into submission, is also part and parcel of a ratcheted up kind of terrorism this country is unfamiliar with, and consequently at odds in dealing with — the nuclear option being one rarely on the table, let alone realistically employed. Just look at our own PC, wimpy “rules of engagement” that the military is supposed to abide by!

  • michael reynolds

    Jan:

    Many say that a renegotiated SOFA, having immunity in place was entirely doable, if only this administration had put forth genuine efforts to do such. It did not.

    Yes,many people lie, and the credulous believe them – so long as it fits their agenda.

    Your ridicule of Johnson’s Genghis Khan comparison is a case in point. Most people know that such a reference has nothing to do with the proportion of bodies laid to waste, but rather the degree of inhumane behavior shown by someone or a group of people — similar to calling someone a “Mother Theresa,” in depicting the personification of a “saintly’ person.

    That is not what your new favorite propagandist wrote, nor do I see any evidence that’s what he meant. That’s your apologia for him, now that he’s being called out by people who have at least a passing familiarity with history. “Far more dangerous” not far more cruel. Dangerous was his word.

    But what’s funny is that your apologia makes it worse, not better. If the point of comparison is cruelty, there are even more objections that could be raised. History is sadly replete with barbarians. If you are correct and what he means is that the world has not seen cruelty equal to ISIS since the days of Genghis, he’s a bigger idiot than ever. I could sit here all day listing monsters who filled the years from Genghis to the present, quite a few of them Americans, but really, everyone gets into the act.

    You honestly would do yourself a favor learning some history. It’s really much more fascinating than the pabulum they fed us in schools or the absurd lies spouted by the Fox News talking heads you cut and paste. A lot of interesting stuff happened. Really. Buy a few books, do some reading. It won’t hurt you.

  • michael reynolds

    Jan:

    In fact, here you go Jan, an example from Humboldt County, pretty close to where you and I both live. These were in effect our forefathers:

    Immigrant whites had settled in the area since the California Gold Rush, over the 10 years before the massacre. The Wiyot were a peaceful tribe that had never fought with white settlers and had no reason to expect an attack.

    The killings followed two years of open aggression by the whites against the residents of Indian Island, numerous editorials in the local newspapers, and the formation of volunteer militia groups.[2] On the night of 26 February 1860, a small group of white men crossed Humboldt Bay and to avoid drawing attention from nearby Eureka residents, some of whom may not have condoned the killings, carried out the attack primarily with hatchets, clubs and knives. Contrary to a commonly held view, guns were also used to kill Indians, because some Eureka residents reported hearing shots that night, but knowledge of the attack was not widespread at the time.[3] News accounts report only the shooting of adult men.

    Based upon Wiyot Tribe estimates, 80 to 250 Wiyot men, women, and children were murdered. Because most of the adult able-bodied men were away gathering supplies as part of continuing preparation for the World Renewal Ceremony, nearly all the Wiyot men murdered are believed to have been older men, which is one reason why the Wiyot were largely defenseless. It is untrue to say the Wiyot were killed with ease because they were “exhausted from the annual celebration.” The celebration usually lasted seven to 10 days, and the men traditionally left at night for the supplies while the elders, women and children slept. That is why most victims were children, women and older men.

    Arcata’s local newspaper, the Northern Californian, described the scene as follows:

    “Blood stood in pools on all sides; the walls of the huts were stained and the grass colored red. Lying around were dead bodies of both sexes and all ages from the old man to the infant at the breast. Some had their heads split in twain by axes, others beaten into jelly with clubs, others pierced or cut to pieces with bowie knives. Some struck down as they mired; others had almost reached the water when overtaken and butchered.”[3]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1860_Wiyot_Massacre

    And if you tell me that’s an outlier, I’ll show you the next 50 examples.

    There has been a whole lot of cruelty since Genghis. Ask the Indians, the Armenians, the Jews, the Gypsies, blacks, pretty much every minority nation in the former USSR, pretty much every religious group anywhere at one point or another. Shall we talk Catholics and Protestants? How about Japanese and Chinese? Or Koreans and Japanese? Or Americans and Filipinos? Or Spaniards and anyone south of the Rio Grande? Or those fun-loving Aztecs? Or, or, or. It’s a very big list.

    None of which does anything to diminish the evil of this particular bunch of scum in Iraq and Syria, but if you think this is something unusual, like I said: history.

  • jan

    History is sadly replete with barbarians.

    Who ever said it wasn’t Michael?

    Current day opinions, though, are written in short hand, not in volumes of historical, lengthy accounts. Consequently, a blog analysis of today’s events often times cuts to one graphic sound bite, in succinctly describing a particularly vicious type of violence, skipping the tedious comparisons of everything going on before in the annuals of mankind. In fact, the statement “man’s inhumanity to man” is a solemn reference to the universal kind of cruelty that has taken place throughout time — spanning the caveman era to now. However, you lecturing me on:

    “the pabulum they fed us in schools or the absurd lies spouted by the Fox News talking heads you cut and paste. A lot of interesting stuff happened. Really. Buy a few books, do some reading. It won’t hurt you.”

    is kind of a spastic rebuke, indicating a need to get off your self-assembled high horse, as the altitude is deoxygenating your arguments.

  • michael reynolds

    Who ever said it wasn’t Michael?

    Your source, according to you. That’s who. Good lord, at least keep track of your own positions. I made fun of your supposed expert for what he actually said and meant. You then defended him by inventing an alternate explanation which was that he was referring to barbarity when he said ISIS was “far more dangerous than Genghis.”

    Do you recall any of that? Maybe you could read your own comments up-thread and refresh your memory.

  • michael reynolds

    Seriously: read a book. Or just go to Wikipedia and start following history threads. Get some of the picture at least. No one is asking you to go get an advanced degree, but it is really useful to have some perspective. Then, when you get your hourly Fox News brainwashing you can actually question what you hear. Shocking idea, I know.

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    You are known by the company you keep. If you provide links from sources that support various military adventures, I will assume you also support those same ventures. If you do not, you will need to provide original thoughts and ideas. If you cannot, you must agree with them.

    History has shown what happens when dissidents are encouraged to overthrow their government. Ask the Hungarians and Iraqis. Oh wait, they are dead. In Libya, the rebels would have been squashed without outside intervention, and in Syria, outside intervention is still not able to overcome Assad.

    Anybody who really believes that the Iranian Green movement was going to be able to overthrow the Iranian Mullahs is delusional, and it is difficult to take anything they say seriously. This is not ancient history. This real-time. You can turn on the TV and see it.

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