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13 December 2015


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A Pols

I found this posting fascinating for its keen insights into the genesis, in the time of the Lebanese Civil War and the involvement of Syrian troops at that time, of current western Syria policy.. Thanks for pointing out to me something that, in hindsight, should have been, but wasn't, obvious to me..

alba etie

We must all keep the neocon foreign policy failures - to include neoliberals like Hof in mind as we vote in our next national election . We must stop the R2P 'ers from running our foreign policy moving forward . Full stop .



Wonder how Armitage is viewing the Turkey downing of the Russian SU24 and the subsequent Turkey-Russia erosion of their relationship, since he is on the American-Turkish Council.

What type of relationship did/does Hof have with the Israelis and their constant meddling/countermanding U.S. policy in the ME?

Chris Chuba

The primary argument for the 'Assad must go' crowd is that Assad is a recruiting tool for ISIS.
1. Regarding the foreign fighter in flow into Syria, this argument makes no logical sense on its face. Does this need further exploration?

2. This only leaves the possibility that native Syrian Sunni's will rally to ISIS as long as Assad (and his closest advisors) remain in power. Well, we captured lots of computers when we killed the ISIS finance minister about 15 mo's ago, was there any indication from there that this was the case? Is there any corroborating information that indicates that the ranks of ISIS fighters in Syria are being replenished by native Sunni Syrians or is this merely an unsubstantiated allegation?

From these references I see an outflow of Syrians from Sunni areas from ISIS areas towards govt areas.

So I would say that ISIS is being swelled by foreign fighters not by Syrian fighters so Assad is not the cause but I am making an argument, I'd be curious what others say.


As we are on the broader topic of our campaign against ISIL et al (Operation Eternal Folly), here is a question that somewhat has not been raised anywhere in the media - as far as I know.

It concerns ISIL's revolutionary use of social media. There is one measure that could be taken to throw a monkey wrench into the ISIL machinery. That is an all-out cyber assault on their web sites and related electronic communications nets. Skillful exploitation of social media is routinely cited as the innovative means by which ISIl has been able to advertise its brand, recruit followers and intimidate its components. Yet, the United States has the capabilities to hack into and to disrupt those communications - or so we have been told. The NSA has boasted for years of the wide array of sophisticated weapons in its arsenal for doing just that. Failure to use them is yet another mystery associated with our bumbling strategy. Perhaps, General Clapper and associates fear that demonstration of their electronic weaponry would inform their “preferred” enemy, i.e. China, against whom the NSA is preparing World War IV in cyber space. Any other explanations woul be welcomed.


A bit off-topic perhaps, but have the key people on this blog read this review?
"The Mystery of ISIS"

The author (who has kept anonymous) writes that we understand very little about ISIS. As an example, this quote:

"Nor have there been any more satisfying explanations of what draws the 20,000 foreign fighters who have joined the movement. At first, the large number who came from Britain were blamed on the British government having made insufficient effort to assimilate immigrant communities; then France’s were blamed on the government pushing too hard for assimilation. But in truth, these new foreign fighters seemed to sprout from every conceivable political or economic system. They came from very poor countries (Yemen and Afghanistan) and from the wealthiest countries in the world (Norway and Qatar). Analysts who have argued that foreign fighters are created by social exclusion, poverty, or inequality should acknowledge that they emerge as much from the social democracies of Scandinavia as from monarchies (a thousand from Morocco), military states (Egypt), authoritarian democracies (Turkey), and liberal democracies (Canada). It didn’t seem to matter whether a government had freed thousands of Islamists (Iraq), or locked them up (Egypt), whether it refused to allow an Islamist party to win an election (Algeria) or allowed an Islamist party to be elected. Tunisia, which had the most successful transition from the Arab Spring to an elected Islamist government, nevertheless produced more foreign fighters than any other country."

"Nor was the surge in foreign fighters driven by some recent change in domestic politics or in Islam. Nothing fundamental had shifted in the background of culture or religious belief between 2012, when there were almost none of these foreign fighters in Iraq, and 2014, when there were 20,000. The only change is that there was suddenly a territory available to attract and house them. If the movement had not seized Raqqa and Mosul, many of these men might well have simply continued to live out their lives with varying degrees of strain—as Normandy dairy farmers or council employees in Cardiff. We are left again with tautology—ISIS exists because it can exist—they are there because they’re there."

Thanks in advance!


Who is running for president now that is not a neocon or an R2Per? As far as I can see it is only Trump. Trump?? We have no choices I am afraid.


A brilliant question.


MB, given their mandate I assume that at last a few people in the NSA are working on this. How large the effort is and successful they are is hard to know given secrecy issues.

There have been numerous articles in recent years emphasizing how hard is is for the NSA to hire talented hackers. Here is a recent one.

Inside the NSA’s hunt for hackers: The government is losing ground in the effort to hire critical cyber talent—but our most secretive agency isn’t doing too badly. http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2015/12/federal-government-cyber-security-technology-worker-recruiting-000330

In the meantime... ANONYMOUS is on the job...

Hacking Collective Anonymous Declares Total War On ISIS Following Paris Terror Attacks http://techcrunch.com/2015/11/16/hacking-collective-anonymous-declares-total-war-on-isis-following-paris-terror-attacks/

Anonymous VS. The Islamic State http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/11/13/anonymous-hackers-islamic-state-isis-chan-online-war/
For nearly a year, a war has been unfolding in strange corners of the Internet. But can a bunch of hackers really take on the world’s deadliest jihadi group?


Armitage is Chairman of the American-Turkish Council.

I'd say that provides some indication of is proclivities.


He writes a very public piece saying that if the President won't do as he suggests he will resign. That is, in fact, necessarily, a very public resignation.


An argument sometimes made (to not interdict enemy comms channels) is that "we have fully infiltrated their systems and are harvesting high quality Intel". Thus, degrading them to uselessness would thereby deny ourselves access to that intel. Collectors like to collect, operators like to operate. I suppose the question to those who manage both is, "do you just want to observe the action, or do you want to take action? What are the risks? What is our goal?

Charles Michael

IN these years
twice I was invited to Beyrouth, what ever the connections were.
twice I took my airplane ticket
twice fligh were canceled due to landing airport turmoil.

life is funny.

alba etie

It brings to mind all the money spent by the Israelis to derail the Iran Nuclear Pact . Hiring former Sen Mary Landrieau & many others to lobby her Senate colleagues could not have been cheap .. Perhaps we are starting to see a course correction in our overseas adventures as run by the neocons ..,

alba etie

An interesting question of who to support - I just sent more money to Senator Sanders . Meanwhile whoever is elected must face an organized and vocal voter base actively opposed to the neocon agenda . We shall see..


pl - thanks for sharing an excellent insiders view on all of this, specifically fred hof.. it's really a shame your post doesn't appear in the wapo instead of hofs! or perhaps they could sit side by side! but then, it wouldn't be the wapo, which like the nyt and wsj - are well known propaganda outlets.. thanks for this post and insight..

Doug Tunnell

Col. Lang,

Wasn't it the FP intelligentsia that encouraged Syria's occupation of Lebanon, principally the good Dr. Kissinger and Co. at State ? Hafez al Assad was considered a reliable treaty partner back then. Mubarak was a mere Vice-President. It took years before he showed his stripes as aspiring to President For Life status. Everyone knew Saddam was a tough guy, but as you well know that didn't stop both the U.S. and the French from backing him ( to the hilt, in the case of France) against Iran. "He's the kind of leader we can do business with" one U.S. diplomat told me in 1986. Maybe that mindset you describe was brewing undercover all the while, but it seems to me the pivot to promoting all out regime change in the region was a much more recent development. From all I hear Bashar is not the crafty, highly skilled leader that was Hafez.


Doug Tunnel

I think that is right abut Syria's intervention in Lebanon. The country was disintegrating in sectarian/civil war. It must have seemed a good idea to encourage the AL to invite Syria in. As for Iraq we gave them a small amount of critical air target information and a very small amount of materiel, non of it lethal, The Warsaw Pact were by far their major suppliers and China was not far behind. the Chinese supplied both sides. Does our support of Iraq amount to all out support? I don't think so. Our support was always quite carefully crafted to allay the fears in the Gulf of an Iraqi defeat but the anti-Iraqis (ziocons) in the US government were always strong. pl



This is a most interesting post.

Fred Hof is a symbol of the new American government. He has a political agenda that no doubt he reverently believes in; but, it dove-tails into the agenda of the super-rich and war profiteers. At its very core, it is contrary to the best interests of the American people.

The basic problem is that America is at war from Somalia through Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to Ukraine. It is intent on destabilizing Russia then China. It is at war with Islam but cannot admit it. The US Army cannot be used to fight the wars because it is too small, worn out and the ruling corporate elite dare not mobilize the American people. Instead, the new world order is using what is handy; jihadists, neo-Nazis, mercenaries, robotics, Special Operators and the Air Force.

This is not a conspiracy but like minded selfish individuals who have swept “Duty, Honor and Country” into the trash bin of history.


I see two problems with that logic. If we are "harvesting high quality Intel," then we sure as heck haven't made much use of it. Two, disrupting their "soft power" campaign would seem to be far more important that getting clues as to their next tactical move somewhere or a list of Turkish drivers of oil tankers to be allowed through check points(see above).

Let's face, Washington is in such disarray that we can't get out of our own way.

Green Zone Café

Back in 1983, I spent a few weeks one nautical mile off the Corniche and Ras al Beirut, on a U.S. Navy combatant in support of the Marines there.

At night on bridge watch we'd watch the tracers going up and down the hills. The captain, a very smart guy, said "I don't know why we're here. If we fired into that city we'd have no idea what we were shooting at. This was before the Marine (and French) barracks bombing. We never fired anything but illumination rounds. In the day you could see how tore up the town was.

Didn't the Syrians put an end to all that fighting? I went to Beirut a couple of years ago. Some amazing boutiques.


The Hof piece is so trite, the tone so juvenile, logic so completely lacking, ignorance of facts so evident, that the thought of such a person serving as a senior White House adviser is a telling commentary on what goes on in that house of horrors. The Colonel paints him as a serious person, if someone with flawed judgment. Yet, as of now, all one sees is a B- student who rose far, far above his abilities. What happened? The answer could tell us something significant about the state of our public institutions.


I should have written: He (Hof) writes a very public piece saying that if the President won't do as he (Kerry) suggests, he (Kerry) will resign. That is, in fact, necessarily, a very public resignation.

Apologies for any confusion.



You sum him up well. I knew him too well to do that. pl


Sanders has said he will support the Syrian rebel-jihadis in overthrowing Assad. So, that's a quantum leap more neocon than Trump's position. It seems Trump's foreign policy will be based on tough-as-nails negotiating. But it is negotiating which is actively engaging. This sounds like a win-win business approach to international relations. This is radically different approach which have never been seen before. It is not an exaggeration to say this is a paradigm for future world peace and everyone winning. For 99% of people on this planet life should not be a zero sum game as it currently is. I truly believe Trump is one of the few individuals to ever run for political office who believes that every sincere and good human being deserves the opportunity to soar as high as he or she can. It's the nature of a consummate mega-entrepreneur like Trump. And as much of a egotistical, almost megalomaniacal, person Trump might be, he is perhaps the only human being on this planet who can pull of this radical reform of international relations and future peace. Most importantly, one of the very few who can withstand the extreme forces who do not want to see a non-zero sum international game and want some more equal to others while many others lose and suffer.

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