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02 September 2013


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Keane appears to have hypnotised himself into believing that more or less secular rebels would succeed to power. I don't believe that. p l


He is certainly correct about "... extremely simplistic understanding of world affairs,". Sadly I think he's correct about the impending bloodbath too.


In some sense, Keane is right: Russians will not be able to really contest US mano a mano with conventional arms for, at least, another generation. If the Russians had "serious enough" military capability now, we would not be so gung ho in our adventurism. Nuclear arms are a different matter...but everyone seems convinced that nuclear arms will never be a factor between great powers. Such blase conviction bothers me, but let's not get into that for the time being.

The trouble is, even if Russia may not be quite so militarily capable, can they be ignored with impunity? Even if they can't match US on completely even terms, can they make trouble, and if they do make trouble, can we afford to be so blase about "punishing" them for stepping out of line, confident that they will not be able to escalate to match us? This seems to be precisely the trap we might be headed into: we are willing to be reckless b/c Russians are weak. But precisely because we know Russians to be weak, we are liable to step over their "red line" recklessly, and if we do, really bad things might take place.



Yes, Russia is the elephant in the room.

The Sunni Jihadist rebellion is in retreat. Only an outside intervention will escalate the war. Removal of Assad can only occur if Hezbollah and Iran are taken down. A conventional air campaign will change nothing on the ground. This requires soldiers. August 1964 is being played out, all over again.

In the end, the USA cannot invade Iran. A drive on Tehran will cause WWIII with Russia (the same scenario that played out with North Vietnam) not to mention the five divisions of Abrams tanks needed. The US can only defeat Hezbollah and Syrian Shiites with a million boots on the ground and with help from the IDF. Even before a Syrian invasion American soldiers are protesting on social media against fighting alongside Sunni Jihadists who eat enemy livers. Will they mutiny again? Will Congress start the Draft? Where in Syria will American troops get bogged down in a quagmire of a Sunni Shiite Holy War? How long can Israel survive if forced to reoccupy Lebanon and seizes more of Syria?

This is all so crazy that it makes the Iraq invasion seem half way sane.


Keane (and the war hawks, to which I now include Obama) are being awful generous with other men’s lives.

r whitman

Can I assume that the point detectors outlined in Chapter 17 were used to develop the "signatures"?



IMO it is irrelevant that the US could win an air/sea action against Russia. what would happen after that? pl


We have been grappling with 2 questions.

1. What exactly happened as to the use of chemical arms, who is responsible?

2. What if anything should be done about it militarily?

As I have understood sound policy analysis, preferences as to actions (and outcomes) should not color the appraisal of intelligence.

It would ne nice to see someone who favors some sort of military action to acknowledge that the fixing of responsibility with certainty has not occurred.

It also would ne nice to see someone who opposes military action to affirm that there is a good probability that Assad's forces did use chemical arms.


The interview with Brzezinski is very good. A point that Pat has been making for some time - the "messianism" of our foreign policy "elites".

The question he raises in his first answer is rather interesting - why did BHO decide in 2011 that Assad had to go? What role did Petraeus play in influencing policy while assisting the Qataris & Saudis?

"I can’t engage either in psychoanalysis or any kind of historical revisionism. He obviously has a difficult problem on his hands, and there is a mysterious aspect to all of this. Just consider the timing. In late 2011 there are outbreaks in Syria produced by a drought and abetted by two well-known autocracies in the Middle East: Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He all of a sudden announces that Assad has to go—without, apparently, any real preparation for making that happen."

Note his choice of words "..there is a mysterious aspect to all of this."

Brzezinski believes this will escalate into a much larger regional war. How long before Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq get caught up in the hostilities? How long before US ground troops are introduced into the civil war?

What choices do Assad & Hizballah have when the first cruise missiles are launched? It would seem that if Assad is deposed it would be an existential threat for Hizballah.



I will acknowledge that there is a possibility that the Syrian Army did this, but IMO the case is not yet proven and I doubt thst it has been proven in more than a political sense to Congressional leadsership. pl

Babak Makkinejad

From the House of Commons:



Yes, that is an interesting question. Could it be our analysts are more afraid of what the Israelis may do if we don't bomb than what the Russians may do if we do bomb?


Congress restart the draft? How would we pay for it were they to decide to do so? The tea partiers would have to be involved and that would make all their talk of concern for deficits to be nothng more than anti-Obama rubbish.



If you mean intelligence analysts, they don't offer opinions like that. They answer questions. pl


Keane is being coy about Russian capabilities to hurt us (and our European friends). They can directly hurt us by cutting off our overland supply route to Afghanistan, though that's becoming less relevant as we're nearing total withdrawl in 2014. But it will be a major PITA as well as a critical vulnerability if we have to fly things into Bagram, and ship things through Karachi. Second thing they can do is to curtail natural gas delivery to Western Europe. Sure, it hurts the Russian plutocracy's pocketbook, but if it's in their national interest, they will do it. And finally, they can make good their delivery of the S-300s to Iran that we've been badgering them about for years.

robt willmann

Sec. Def. Hagel just said it, around 3:30 p.m. CDT, that the removal of Bashar al-Assad is still the policy of the administration.


I have just heard one "respondent" to the issue I posed: Dominique de Villepin on the BBC. He believes that there is a high probability that the Assad government did use chemical arms. He opposes air strikes, however. They, in his opinion, would further inflame sectarian passions inside Syria; they would aggravate shi'ite/sunni hostility across the region: they would close off the possibility of reaching a modus vivendi with Iran, and they would militate against an approach to Russia to participate in a collective diplomatic effort aimed at a) a short-tem cease-fire in place; and b) a longer term settlement entailing all parties acceptance of some sort of internal quasi-partition.

He added that intervention on the side of rebels might have made sense a year and a half ago but not since given the rising influence of the salafists.

I'm not certain that I have it all since I was in a state of shock to see a 30 minute interview of an articulate, informed public figure by an intelligent, informed interviewer uninterrupted by a Carnival Line commercial or a promo advertising the appearance of Miley Cyrus on some celebrity talk show.


Yes,that's exactly what I meant by "really bad things." It may be that, if Russians attempt a limited (conventional) intervention, it can be readily beaten back. But it is for this precise reason, as I understand it, that Russians have been ratcheting up the modernization of their nuclear forces. Surely, no one thinks our silly "missile shield" would be able to counter Russian "response" if they decide to get "serious."


"He added that intervention on the side of rebels might have made sense a year and a half ago but not since given the rising influence of the salafists."

That's the problem, whatever you believe about the alleged attack, a strike undermines our interests in the region.


Interesting. Thanks.


And Kerry just said that they don't have the technical means to perform a proper investigation, whereas we do based on what we've presented, plus what we have in "classified form".

So a web browser is beyond their means.

He also said that this isn't war and we're not sending any military in, and not on senator jumped on him about that. In fact, if anything Kerry was showing a lot of disdain for even the most mild of questions.


I remember how all the "experts" thought Georgia was going to wipe the floor with Russia, and we saw how that turned out.

When was the last time the US fought a modern military? Do we still have our artillery and armor units performing infantry roles? How's our pivot to a 4G style of warfare going to affect us?

The US's military power seems based on two factors: drones and commando raids. Talking to friends in the PBI makes it seem like training budgets have been slashed and the days of as much ammo as you can shoot are at an end.

I think its easy for Keane to be blase about other people's lives, but that's the general corps for you nowadays.

Are we going to war to defend Saudia Arabia again if Russia bombs them? So many questions, so much jingoism.

robt willmann

Icing on the cake ....

Senator John McCain, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee having a hearing on whether to pass a law authorizing the U.S. military to launch an attack on Syria, is caught playing poker on his phone during the hearing--



The beaver

Mr Brenner

FWIW: de Villepin used to be (or may be still is) a very good friend of Mme O, Nahed Ojjeh whose husband was a Saudi arms dealer and she sister of Manaf Tlass, the Syrian General who defected last year via Turkey (IIRC) and daughter of the former Defense Minister of Hafez Al-Assad

Babak Makkinejad

We have passed the point of no return for Geneva II; the war will continue.

There are real problems of stability in Turkey with 10 to 20 million people being Alawites/Alevis.

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