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08 April 2014


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This was President Bush's problem. If you don't like the answers the true experts are giving you, keep going down the line until you find ones who give you answers you do like.

The results: Americans' national debt has more than doubled since Mr. Bush took office. We now owe 100%+ of GDP.

Creating a new reality must be a constructive task based on clear perception of the current reality. It must not be a destructive task. "Those who know when to challenge and when not to challenge will triumph. ...Know not the other and know know not yourself: Every challenge is certain peril."


"As this article correctly observes, this argument is a replay of the interagency debate preceding US military intervention into the Balkans in the 1990’s. "

In retrospect, do you regard the Bosnian intervention as a mistake? What about its Kosovo successor?


The article states "The two generals have told Mr. Kerry they believe a military program to train and equip the Syrian rebels, and limited strikes to weaken Mr. Assad, could be effective,..."

I recommend we conduct all such training in Martha's Vineyard; that way Assad can't possibly interdict the effort. As an added bonus some of the 'rebels' may finally be able to knock some sense into Mr. Swiftboat by going showing their true colors i.e. when they go off the reservation and knock off a few of his neighbors.


John Kerry--

What an unmitigated fraud. Made his political bones as some sort of anti-war advocate, then shamelessly promotes military adventurism, without conscience or any sense of hypocrisy.

Chris Bolan

Toto: The intent was not an explicit criticism of either of these operations. My primary purpose was to highlight the fact that this is not a new debate in terms of civil-military relations. Moreover, even in relatively 'successful' operations such as SFOR, the costs are nearly always greater than anticipated. I recall that in making the case for SFOR, President Clinton pledged that US forces would only be there for one year.


The executive has taken too much authority from congress on declaring and waging wars or military engagements.
Congress urgently needs to rein that power back. The fact that congress has let the executive take so much power has resulted in congress not taking seriously their role in keeping the US (and the world) safe and secure.

One of the reason why the executive has stolen so much power may be because the President has too little power over so many other domestic issues. So the President has nothing else to do if he feels a need to "assert his authority". Congress might be wise to give the executive some extra authority over budgetary matters (ceding some of congress's own authority via an act): that would allow the executive to have something productive to do, rather than making war.

The war war war business is far more dangerous than people tend to suppose. Just because we have not had a real nuclear war doesn't mean the next one won't be! Too many in Congress now just act like clowns because they know that they have given up power and responsibility. If the US had 435 Congressmen and women who each felt a personal responsibility and authority in keeping the US safe, then this would a far more robust system than today's. For example, just a couple of people in the President's cabinet deciding to go monkeying around Russia's borderlands with no evident congressional or public oversight, let alone public knowledge is sheer madness: it's likely that a large majority of the 435 in Congress would never condone this strategy had they been asked their opinion knowing that this opinion would constrain the executive.

Let the people through their elected representatives decide: The US should not be an empire.


There should be such a thing as a blacklist for people who have royally screwed up, just to create a modicum of accountability.

They should be banned from public dispute and office for, depending on severity of the screwup, for 5, 10, 15 years or indefinitely, so that they have time to think things over, and perhaps repent if they are capable of that.

Mr. Lang's comments on Rubin on Mr. Bahelor's show were classy.

Much harsher things can be said about Rubin. Given Rubin's mindless cheerleading for Ahmend Chalabi, even when it was clear to everybody else but him and his buddies that the guy was working for the Iranians, that would probably qualify him for a 10 to 15 year gag.

In addition to his documented failings, I have a visceral dislike of Rubin. It has to do with the smile. It's the same thing that puts me off with Bill Kristol. They both reek of dishonesty. Wouldn't buy a used car from either of them.

Keane and Petraeus' laurels stem from them having sold the surge in order to put a positive spin on a lost war, and because 'losing Iraq' has bene an issue in the 2006 election. They are propagandists, not strategists, and for hire.

In effect the surge was the US doubling down instead of having to admid failure. Those responsible in gthe US were quite oblivious or indifferent to the fact that what the US did was to be the enforcers and enablers of Iraq's new Shia sectarian, and incidentally intensely pro-Iranian, regime.

Inevitably, the same guys then stante pede went on to lament Iran's influence in Iraq.

So in Syria, they promote intervention, inevitably in favour of Islamists?

There is no doubt that when (not if) Assad has been killed, by US bombs or by Jihadis, they will unblinklingly bemoan the great and malign influence of Jihadis in Syria, and call for more intense US intevention.

Because more of the same always works.
Because failure is just a narrative insufficiently spun.
Because the world is a marvel - it begins anew every morning!


You're right. I remember Clinton saying the same thing. I remember my reaction as well. "He's lying."

As for equipping, here's a link to a blog post that has links to sources claiming the "rebels" have the TOW AT system.



You have a good idea. They should be banned for a number of years, considering how much damage they have done.

I remember the first time I saw Bill Kristol. I took an instant dislike to him, sensing there was something oily about him. Today, I know why. I find Rubin equally repulsive.


The discussion may be similar to the run up to the Serbian bombing, but the circumstances aren't at all similar. Syria has a civil war, begun by disaffected portions of society displeased with the government. They misjudged and overreached, and are now being ground down by a cruel government. Serbian politicians undertook the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, and conducted genocidal war and atrocities on civilian populations. Relatively brief and limited bombing led directly to the end of the Balkan war, and codified the the dissolution of Yugoslavia, without displacing the Serbian government. The US has declared a mission of ousting Assad and his government, apparently before any other concerns for Syria. Where Petraeus fits into this calculus escapes me. The 'Surge' worked because the Anbar Sunnis got tired of the foreign jihadis, and the Muqtada told his boys to stay home. Kerry may have to carry water for Obama, but his approach to Syria seems very flat footed. What Obama thinks he can gain or accomplish in Syria also escapes me. There is no national goal or objective that has been articulated, and the human rights concerns are unlikely to be improved if the rebels win - only the victims will change.

steve g


Agree on Kristol. Has anyone noticed
the trade on the Sunday talk shows.
Kristol from Fox to ABC and Will to
Fox from ABC. One smirk for George
the condescending. Who got the worse
of the deal, besides the viewer, or
was it a wash.

nick b

Plenty of just regular folks live on Martha's Vineyard, but John Kerry doesn't. His place is on Nantucket. Send the rebels there instead.

MV did have a naval air station during WW2. It's currently used as the island's airport. The history of its use during the war decorates the walls of the terminal. Pretty cool to see. I go there every other year or so to fish.



nick b,

Thanks for pointing out my error. Nantucket would certainly do. Think of the jobs that will be created......

Did that air station have PBY's? When I first moved to Key West as a kid there was still a PBY or two to be found, though all the naval air had by then moved to Boca Chica, a few miles north.

Charles I

"limited strikes" is that like being sorta pregnant or in a nation as opposed to a state of war?

To what end again?


This would work if there were a system of balances in place wherein Congresspeople would assume personal risk for poor outcomes, and if our best and brightest had more processing capacity so from the outside they'd look like they had more common sense than a clam. Unfortunately, most Congresspeople do not have time to do their own independent research and form their own opinions, so they farm this out to aides and analysts. The aides, I understand, are largely bought & paid for by AIPAC, sometimes given for free(?); this results in a subtle filtering of information/viewpoints/attention that makes its way up to the first level.

The result is a debacle like Senate Resolution S.R.65, giving the keys to the Pentagon to Israel, backing it with all the money it needs, and promising to invade Iran just as soon as Israel does so "in self defense". Read it yourself; read between the lines. This was passed almost unanimously.

So I was grateful to have the Executive branch leading the armed forces, as someone had to be the adult in the room.

The people of Congress vote the way they do because spending someone else's money carries no pain if you screw up. Because sending someone else's children into battle is an Oops, Oh Well. It is Someone Else's Problem.

There is also the "standing ovation" problem--if your neighbors are all standing up and clapping, perhaps they know something you don't--better stand up and clap too.

As a result, Congress acts like a herd of buffalo stampeding over a cliff. Rabid and frothing to trample the evil-doers into the turf. Easily spooked by fire. Easily directed to their own doom.

So I am glad there are two decision-making branches in opposition. Perhaps if we only declared war if the Supreme Court also had to decide, and it was trilaterally unanimous?

For more information on how the lack of free time and lack of accountability overwhelmingly govern political decisions, read Dr. Bueno_de_Mesquita's excellent works such as "The Predictioneer's Game" and "The Dictator's Handbook: Why bad behavior is almost always good politics".


Another major problem with consulting retired generals, again, is that they have no skin in the game. No people under their command to whom they bear responsibility and must take care of their lives; no career to lose; no personal danger, nothing to lose if they screw up. It's the difference between consultants and entrepreneurs. The chicken contributes eggs, but the pig is all in. Although consultants can perhaps speak truth to power more readily, this is counterbalanced by the tendency to pick and hire consultants who are going to tell you what you already want to hear.

Much better to have an effective Red Team who pokes holes in your rainbow dreams. Not nearly as much fun-- There will be much rain on your parades, but the nation will survive better in the end.

nick b


AFAIK, it was only Avengers, Douglas Dauntlesses, Corsairs and Hellcats. Among other things, they practiced bombing Norman Island, which I believe is still off limits to this day because of unexploded ordinance. There are a lot of cool pics in the Airport, and some in the Island Museum. I think the Naval Airmen who served there had a funny name for it, like the MV Rod and Gun Club, or something like that.

Chris Bolan

Of course military strikes could be limited in terms of duration and/or scope, e.g., restricted to a particular target set such as WMD facilities, Command and Control, air defense sites, airfields, armored formations, etc. The problem as CJCS Dempsey has said in public forums is that such strikes are an act of war and the course of war, retaliation, escalation, etc., is inherently unpredictable. Once the US is committed there will be inevitable pressure to 'win', however victory is defined.

The question always becomes 'what next' if the initial limited strikes either don't achieve the proclaimed objective or the targeted states manages an effective retaliation? I agree with you that in the case of Syria, no one has defined a strategic objective for military operations that is reasonable or attainable at an acceptable cost. The US military will be left 'holding the bag' for imposing order and stability, preventing sectarian bloodshed & retaliation, and restoring a functioning state in the aftermath of any military operation -- witness Iraq and Afghanistan.

Alba Etie

What has totally changed in the debate regarding use of force in These United States is that We the People have said no more military adventures overseas - full stop. That is why the Congress did vote yea on the Syrian AUMF . That is also why Senator Rand Paul could very well be a credible candidate for President 2016 - We would have had massive civil disobedience in the streets had we bombed Assad . Unless and until CONUS is directly attacked we will not be bombing anyone . And after the disaster& prevarication of the Bushcheney Iraq occupation I even have hope that we would not go to War against the wrong country if we were directly attacked like on 911.

Alba Etie

Red Team - JSC Dempsey & Secretary of Defense Hagel ,,IMO .

Chris Bolan

I think you are overestimating the potential for genuine public rage or 'massive civil disobedience' in the event of even unpopular military action. We have had an all volunteer military for decades now and the public no longer has 'skin in the game'.


"What has totally changed in the debate regarding use of force in These United States is that We the People have said no more military adventures overseas - full stop ..."

IMO that is incomplete without the appendix "... for now".

For now, there is resistance towards such adventures. But if the Ukraine crisis shows anything, then that We the People can still succesfully be wipped into a hostile mood over a story they barely understand.

I.e. the current apparent US revulsion towards adventures is probably not permanent.

That is because the creed that motivates US policymakers to intervene - American Exceptionalism, with all the false cponclusions and assumptions that come with it - is as popular as ever.

Chris Bolan

Yes, this in combination with ignorance of things 'foreign' is a recipe for ill-advised military adventures. See this poll indicating that the less Americans know about Ukraine, the more likely they are to support US intervention.


Medicine Man

I think the Ukraine imbroglio had a few special factors, the primary one being a residual distrust of Russia amongst the US populace. In the absence of better information that old antipathy takes the fore.

Alba Etie

Chris Bolan
First editing my above comments - did not vote yea on AUMF -Second I am not any particular learned expert as many here at SST are , nor have I served in the military ever. But I do have a one man & a van passenger service here in Central Texas , and will see three or four hundred people a week as my customers tooling around different venues . And in the weeks preceding the Syrian AUMF no vote - all of those customers were vehemently talking about not starting another war in the Middle East . Even though our armed forces are all volunteer - we all know some individual and their family that have been adversely affected by our ten to thirteen years active engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan - not to mention those that make little news re Somalia or the Philippines. I will say again that if the Elites send our service members off again to die in another major military engagement based on prevarications you will see large and sustained protest in the streets of our Country against that engagement. I really do believe that the Iraq debacle inoculated We the People from any more military misadventures - We shall see.

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