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10 October 2015


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If the Russian-Syrian-Iranian(?) hammer blows keep falling on the disorganized forces of ISIS just how probable is it that they could push into Iraq for something more consequential in a conventional sense? Unless a miraculous change has occurred it doesn't look like the new model Iraqi army is much of an anvil to hammer anyone against. If that's the case isn't it likely that ISIS will make a move to the South (near Baghdad) with the forces they already have in place? (See the ISW Sitrep from August.) I wonder what Marcus's take is now? Not to mention the infiltration into Europe of true believers amongst all the free riders, ah "refugees". Those moves are unlikely to change the Russian Federations strategy but ours seems to be driven by the latest twitter post and politicians poll ratings. ISIS leadership certainly knows we have an election coming up. It's easier to defeat the US that way than it is on the battlefield.



I haven't asked you to leave. Lay off the melodrama. pl


"Right now this rot may end up pulling the US and Russia into a world war..."
At least animals have normal instincts towards their young, whereas the power-lusty psychopaths behave as if they would feed their progeny to fish in order to have a fatter catch. The degenerate US' puppeteers are just unable to figure out a picture where there will be nobody, and no means, left to clean the mess that a hot war would create around the globe.
Each presidential contender should be asked about hot war, to check their understanding of basic facts re both nuclear energy and geography.

Babak Makkinejad

I remind you that EU is also there with US; there is no light in between them in what you described - mot even nuance.


Thanks for the personal attack.
I thought the emoticons would
give the game away. Too many
craft beers on my end. What is
your excuse? Ten times the poster?
Your bitterness when not applicable
is revealing. I'll try to live up to your
standards from now on although I'm
afraid I will fall short every time.


The Syrian Air Force though reportedly has MIG-29s.

David Habakkuk


What I find surprising – after the fate of 'regime change' projects in Iraq, Libya, and Syria – is the apparently general confidence in the U.S. élite that toppling Putin will produce a situation which is preferable from the point of view of their own country's interests.

The scale of the delusions involved would be hilariously funny, if they were not so dangerous. At the start of the year, the 'New Yorker' featured a profile of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, entitled 'Remote Control, Can an exiled oligarch persuade Russia that Putin must go?'

(See http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/01/12/remote-control-2 .)

I can think of many fascinating speculative pieces one could write along these lines. 'Remote Control: Can Edward Snowden win a landslide as a write-in candidate for U.S. President?' 'Remote Control: Can Vladimir Putin appear by videolink at the annual conference of the British Tory Party and receive a standing ovation?'

(Although actually, judging by readers' comments on recent reports on Syria in Tory-leaning popular papers here, the latter scenario no longer seems completely unthinkable.

A hardly unrepresentative example from an overwhelming hostile response by readers of the 'Mail' – a good barometer of opinion in 'Middle England' – to Cameron's denunciations of Russia over Syria: 'Best stay out of it Mr Cameron and let someone who knows what they are doing get on with it.'

(See http://tinyurl.com/owvrpdh .)

I had thought that David Remnick, who edits the 'New Yorker', and spent four years as a correspondent in Moscow, was not a complete idiot. Apparently all he learnt in Moscow was to believe the nonsense that Russian 'liberals' characteristically talk.

More alarming is the fact that Strobe Talbott, now President of the Brookings Institution, and – I had thought – an experienced Russianist – seems completely incapable of grappling with the complexities of what has been happening in the post-Soviet space.

He ends the piece to which you linked by claiming that:

'By proclaiming ethnicity and religion as the basis for Russian statehood and aggression against its neighbors, Putin is inadvertently stoking the forces of secessionism in those parts of Russia that are historically and culturally Islamic.'

Actually, to say that Putin has proclaimed 'ethnicity and religion as a basis for Russian statehood' is complete claptrap.

On this, as on many other matters, I would recommend the discussions of the British Army Intelligence officer Paul Robinson, now teaching at Ottawa (a grave loss to my country!)

(See http://tinyurl.com/nsr2n7r .)

A key quotation from Putin in the piece:

'Given the multi-ethnic makeup of the Russian Federation, it is, as Nicolai Petro of the University of Rhode Island says, ''polycultural''.

'''Polyculturalism and polyethnicity are in our consciousness, our spirit, our historical DNA,'' Putin declared in 2013, castigating the West because its monolithic worldview led to ''a rejection…of the natural diversity of the world granted by God.'''

Partly because Nicolai Petro is clearly a devout Orthodox believer, the piece by him to which Professor Robinson links is, in my view, a very valuable source on the complex questions to do with the role of Orthodoxy in the contemporary Russian polity, and its relationship to other religions.

It would obviously unwise simply to take Putin's ideological professions at face value. But it is even more unwise either to assume they are simply cynical, or to caricature them in stupid and ignorant ways, as Talbott does.

A root cause of this, I suspect, is that when it comes to religion people like him are 'tone deaf'. At issue here is not the question of whether one believes or disbelieves – it is whether one is capable of some kind of empathetic understanding with what always has been, and remains, a fundamental aspect of human existence.



Babak Makkinejad

David Habakkuk:

Did David Cameron, Prime Minister of UK, really say:

"I prefer to have Al-Nusra running Syria than Assad".

Do you know?



Oh relax Francis and have a laugh. Its a joke.

Paveway Mk IV

LeaNder: 2WS is the Second Widow Syndrome. Philosophers at the Legion date it back to Viet Nam.

The Colonel's dig at the USAF is grounded in fact - most members are far removed from the lines in wartime and see little of the cost. You can remain blissfully ignorant in your youth of why we're anywhere doing what we're doing. I was. You don't have to question anything - just show up for your shift. The experience is different of course for the tiny percentage of airmen that actually engage in combat missions.

The Second Widow Syndrome is the messy part when your friends and relatives start coming back from wars in aluminum boxes and you have to bury them. Widows and mothers want closure and rarely get that from the military, themselves. They want to know that their husbands and sons sacrifice meant something because - despite everyone's assurances - it seems as irrational and meaningless to them as the war itself. Was it worth it?

If you are (or were previously) wearing a uniform, that makes you magically able to answer the question for them. Not in reality, of course. You have no better answer than anyone else. You're grieving the loss of your friend or relative and hardly have a quick answer for "Did his sacrifice mean anything?" It takes you by surprise and you blurt out the usual assurances that he (or perhaps she) were convinced they were doing the right thing and they would have thought the sacrifice was worth it... blah, blah, blah.

Then you have the rest of your days to think about that moment. Some think nothing of it and go on with life. For others, it sort of strips away your comfy blanket of stupidity and hypocrisy. You feel really bad about 'sort of' lying to them to console them. You understand the nobility of their sacrifice, but if they died in Viet Nam, Afghanistan or Iraq, you are forced to consider exactly what their death meant in context. That forces you to question the nature of your own service, patriotism, the U.S. government and everything else. You can't hide behind stupid any more.

Then a second friend/relative comes back in a box and you have to bury them. The second widow (or mother, son, daughter, etc.) is probably going to ask you the same thing. You dread the moment, but bumble though it better than the first time. For us overly-sensitive 2WS types, it has a profound effect on your soul. You're compelled to find some rational explanation for things. Either that or you just drink yourself to death.

Instead of studying Clausewitz or Jackson to understand war, we go off in our dark corners and find answers in the writings of people like Lobaczewski. Then we wring our hands for the rest of our lives trying to figure out how to fix the government and restore the constitution.

David Habakkuk

Babak Makkinejad,

If you have good reason to believe that Cameron what you suggest he may have said, you ought to be able to provide me with a link.

As I stated in an earlier discussion with 'Ulenspiegel', I very much object to people who make claims which, if they are true, ought to be supported by a link, without providing one. I consider it a waste of my time, and I am getting old.

For what it is worth, I would be somewhat surprised if Cameron had said anything of the kind. It would indicate that he was, at least, facing up to what the actual options are likely to be.

In my view, he has a 'marshmallow mind', like so much of the political 'élite' both in the United States and Britain, and cannot cut through the verbiage he and his like are used to produce, to focus on the uncomfortable choices we actually face.

If you can provide me with a link to what Cameron supposedly said, I would be most happy to try to provide a considered response.



"The Colonel's dig..." Listen to me, jackass. I do not make "digs." I am not a petulant child. Do you really want to be here? It is not your role as a commenter here to critique my writing style. I am not going to provide you with a platform for denigration of the sacrifice of soldiers. Soldiers serve because it is their duty to do so. It is the duty of creatures like you to elect governments that do not make stupid decisions. And, there are few here who are interested in your weepy, squishy, sentimental opinion about how people should FEEL about war and its cost. pl


Ok. One from the time vault.
You can be my Donald O'Conner
if I can be your Francis!

different clue

The Twisted Genius,

If a catastrophic defeat could be imposed on all of the Erdogist allies and mascots in Syria, would that embarrass, undermine and demoralize the Erdogists so thoroughly that a pro-Kemalist coalition could somehow re-seize power in Turkey? Would such a coalition turn Turkey back into the real ally which both we and the Kemalists would like to see it be? Could this be a good side-outcome of a catastrophic defeat for the rebel forces in Syria?

different clue

ex-PFC Chuck,

If Turkey re-Kemalized, it could be an important part of the club as in the past. If there is any hope of re-Kemalization, should we precipitately and irreversibly get Erdogist Turkey to leave in the meantime?

different clue

Paveway Mk IV,

How much, if any, of the land that Iraqi Kurds are taking from Arabs after clearout of ISIS is land which used to be Kurdish before the Hussein government drove Kurds off it and put Arabs on it? Some of it? Most of it?
None of it? If so, to what extent would Iraqi Kurds re-taking that land be "Israel-like" as against a genuine reclaiming of recently stolen land? Is that a fair question?

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

In the following link,


There is a comment by a christopher.c - one before the last when I checked a few minutes ago - with the quote that I posted.

I surmised, perhaps incorrectly, that the quote was from David Cameron,


the emoticons don't show up. there was just two outlines of a square


Putin has drawn one very important conclusion
from his reading of Russia’s long
history: the danger of repeated “times of
troubles” that have risked the collapse or
disintegration (raspad or razval) of the Russian
state. Putin is obsessed with unity and
avoiding the dangers of splintering and fracturing
in politics. Those sentiments appear
repeatedly in his pronouncements. The ruling
party is Edinnaya Rossiya, United Russia
(really “single” Russia or “the one Russia”).
Putin wants Russians and Russia to be the
same as he is, one strong personality with
multiple facets, not multiple personalities.
In his mind, there are no more famous
historical Russian conflicts between Slavophiles
and Westernizers, Whites and Reds,
Left and Right, liberals and fascists; no kgb
pitted against ordinary Russians, the perpetrators
against the victims of the purges and
the Gulag; no ethnic Russians clashing with
minorities. Everyone is in this together, and
everyone together must support the state,
Mother Russia.



Unfortunately POTUS seems to be opposed to further cooperation with the Russians along the lines you have correctly posed. I understand Obama is on 60 Minutes tonite and his body language, when asked about Putin's leadership, tells it all. This is a real opportunity to crush ISIS and the other jihadists (they are interchangeable parts of a single Saudi-backed jihadist apparatus, with the sole exception of some Syrian Army defectors in FSA who are working with the Kurds and stay away from Nusra as much as possible).

ex-PFC Chuck

This is disturbing; headline on the Daily Star: "RAF Tornados armed and dangerous: Tensions between Russia and UK escalate"


Col., I'd rather see Russia in Syria preventing what was about to become a massacre in eastern Syria and spending less time in the eastern Ukraine. Most likely Syrian/Russian forces will not be able to move too far east in Syria unless there is a major increase in force levels.

I'd also like to see how the Turkish elections unfold in November especially in light of recent events there. Regardless of the election there will be a major economic upheaval in Turkey this winter as its debts are refinanced against currency and economic weakness.

Given our own ham-handedness, the best US strategy is to help the Kurds where we can, assist the Iraqi government to at least hold its ground against IS and otherwise let the winter's attrition on all parties playout. Until that exhaustion sets in, I don't think the various parties are ready to negotiate and none are able to crush their foes in the near term.



I think you are quite wrong about the prospects for a Russian led offensive. Why are you so pessimistic? We have failed in the region. That does not mean that everyone will fail as we did. I have already said that the Russians should increase a commitment of ground "volunteers" if they are to have a real success. pl

different clue

David Habakkuk,

I think I remember Strobe Talbott as having been our Ambassador to Russia perhaps leading up to and certainly during the Yeltsin period. He was involved along with Pres. Clinton and those "shock-therapy privatization" economists known as the Harvard Gang in supporting and maintaining Yeltsin long enough to get the total privatization of valuable state assets achieved. He and Clinton and the others also sought the build-up of the Oligarchs.

Talbott is bitter at seeing his privatization/oligarchification goal for Russia somewhat delayed and derailed. His "prediction" of an end to the "Putin Empire" is purely a spite-inspired expression of his vision for what he wishes would happen to Russia.

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