« Venality and the Surveillance Hawks (by CP) | Main | Open Thread - 3 January 2016 »

01 January 2016


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Why put in so much effort into implementing a "US foreign policy that was based on US self interest" in far away lands, instead of focusing here at home and try to stop the people who have hijacked our nation's political system?

Can someone who has lost control of his home help his neighbor manage his?


The suggestions you make, fit in the same policy recommendation / challenges that were identified by Prof. Cole: http://www.juancole.com/2016/01/top-7-middle-east-foreign-policy-challenges-in-2016.html

Of note discussion about conspiracies, points 6 and 7 are more palatable to me, when Prof. Cole mentions it, although it is still not 100%. Although you have been saying the same in the past, I had more hesitance to accept it. If you would have been an active official, then the resistance would have been even much greater, from my part.

When I make this statement, I do not intend to troll or insult you but rather come up with suggestions to guide this public policy by admitting my own prejudice.

All this PR stands or falls with support for the Wahhabis en the Ziocons though. One have the best of intentions but if they are seen to be in line with the latter two, one will achieve the exact opposite.


Why is this headlined "alternative foreign policy"?

It is the same meddling everywhere with no sense at all that is the current policy.

The Virginian

The Turks already procure Kurdish crude (and natural gas is an increasing interest). Of note is that buyers in Turkey, many linked to the ruling elite, buy certain amounts of Kurdish volumes at a discount (both overtly transported plus the unbooked volumes via truck) then sell at full market rates in Ceyhan (if exported) and possibly also to domestic utilities - then they pocket the difference. As such Ankara wants to keep the Kurds - through Barzani - alive and pumping, but more as a modern day wilaya or duchy of Ankara instead of an independent state. If the YPG, PUK (which has links to Iran) and Gorran could be subjugated by Barzani than maybe Ankara's calculation might change. Iran might be an issue given its influence in Baghdad plus Eastern Iraqi Kurdistan.

If folks in Baghdad were smart they would offer to Irbil independence, but not one that allows the Kurds to keep Kirkuk. That puts a buffer on the Turks, guarantees Kurdish infighting and likely ambitious efforts to keep disputed territories thus create new Arab Iraqi - Kurdish (Kirkuk is traditionally more linked to the PUK - of late some in local gov't in Kirkuk City have shown more interest in establishing Kirkuk province as a sub-region) animosity, and gives to Baghdad the 17% of the national budget (though not given in full for a few years now) to Irbil (Irbil can't pump enough at present to match that 17% - and has been suffering serious cash shortfalls and issues in paying its bureaucratic salaries). But I doubt the folks in Baghdad are smart...

William R. Cumming

BTH! Nice try! The quivers and sighs of a declining nation-state system means border realignments, more power blocks, and protectoratates de jure or de facto for the rest of the century. And IMO the use of religion to decide the world's affairs will gradually decline over the century.

But first a worldwide economic downturn will cause radical changes in world governance.


BTH I am sorry to say I am not very keen on your plans for US FP.
I know that my view is not going to fit well here at SST but I think this still smacks of far too much meddling in the affairs of others.
If we want to solve the IS problem then stay out of Syria altogether or better still agree terms with Assad and try and put together a truly international (not just West+friends) coalition with Russia, China, India and send in air and ground troops and help the Russians and SAA finish what they started. This would make it abundantly clear that mass murder by States, or would be States, in areas under their control is a red line that cannot be crossed with impunity.
Whose territory are the US going to assign to the Kurds? Turkish or just Syrian and Iraqi? And based on what mandate beyond the whim of the US government?
Why Sisi why not Morsi? At some point we need to find out if there can be such a thing as an Islamic democracy that can be stable and work with the international system. The horror at the thought, here at SST and more generally in the MSM bubble, never gave the MB a chance in Egypt to show its true colours nor do we know if the more extreme policies of the activist ideologues would have been moderated by the realities of governing. Had Europe, and the rest of the world, judged the US on this measure it would have read the PNAC manifesto seen its authors given positions of power in the US administration and immediately formed a unified military alliance for their protection against a US 1000 year Reich. An MB position that opened a southern escape route from Gaza might have bought some realism to the Israeli mess.
My principal problem is with anything that implies that the US has the right to impose their world view on the rest of the world. They have been attempting this for decades and are very, very bad at it. Please stop.

Bill Herschel

Does Victoria Nuland qualify as the U.S. moving into Ukraine?


Basically your new foreign policy recommendation is to continue on, with hubris and exceptionalism in a different façade, and think about nobody will notice. Fine, but IMO it wouldn’t work, for the sake of America and Americans soon we will have to recognize that 20th century ended 16 years ago. Better yet in the age of internet and iPhone we really should take it to the hearth the great Lincoln’ saying “you cannot fool all the people all the time”.


Independence has been on offer to KRG for quite a while, as Iraqis tell me. However, it is Barzani that has turned away from full independence, because he will lose the (currently theoretical) 17% of the Iraqi budget, which he can't do without, and the weaponry of the Iraqi army he gets. KRG is less viable as an independent state than it pretends. That's why the Kurdish economy is severely straitened, with quite dramatic failures, such as the failure to pay public salaries over many months.

The Iraqis really want them to go, as they'll have more oil revenues for themselves.


Thanks. I will read Dr. Cole's recommendations.


Its not current policy jug head.


This is not a foreign policy, it is a bunch of policy straws blowing in the wind. A real foreign policy would look at the direction the globe should move in, wrt stability, law, the environment (esp. climate change), trade, etc.

Then proposed specific policies should be measured against the overall goals to see how well it matches up with the desired big picture. If it isn't clear how it lines up, then it should not be pursued (it robs energy from other initiatives and is likely simply meddling)

Chris Chuba

This is one of those threads I can picture blowing up into a massive branch of different topics. For my post, I'd like to focus on the tactical question of Ukraine. Just today, I heard a General so-and-so on CNN state that Russian leaders thrive on creating chaos on Russia's borders to gain internal popularity and that there concerns about NATO expansion are just a big smoke screen. This would imply that Russia's intervention in Ukraine is meant to destabilize their govt, I've heard several other commentaries to that effect. BTH seems to think that Russia has some unwholesome designs in Ukraine that we should oppose; otherwise he would not have stated a need for the U.S. to make them 'pay a high price'.

I think that the premise here is about 180 degrees wrong. Why would Russia want Ukraine to be a failed state? An unstable, non-functioning Ukraine would be an abscess sore right on the Russian Federation's borders, a loss of a valuable trading partner, a threat to the well being of the remaining Russian population, and even a source of potential terrorism if anarchy ensues. Annexation of the entire country would be an extremely messy business and possibly bankrupt their entire country again. To create a failed state on your borders just for some short term political gain is like using dynamite to fix a clogged drain. I find this belief that we have in Russia's intentions totally ill founded yet it is basically the only one I see publicly stated in the MSM.

After writing this it borders on a rant which was not my intent but I'll ask my question in the following manner. Am I missing some obvious benefit to the view that Russia actually wants to make Ukraine a failed state, if not, then how can it be that so many in the U.S. hold to this view are there any well placed dissenters?


I would agree with you if the Iranians were cooperative and more importantly the Baghdad government were realistic. Unfortunately for all that isn't the case. So we must consider what is possible without cooperation.

I would suggest a confederation for Iraq and the Kurds that doesn't involve full independence which would keep the Turks at bay perhaps and let the Kurds keep Kirkuk and adjacent oil fields critical to its independence. In exchange the Kurds stop receiving subsidies from Baghdad which is about the way things are now anyway. The Kurds will fight for that oil field, everybody knows it as the Shia and the Sunni Arabs have all made advances and been rebuffed.

One could see a compromise being worked so that Sadr's band of Shia thugs got a pipeline feed from the Kirkuk oil fields south or at least trucking routes so that they had a paycheck and reason to keep Iran out of their patch for now.

Also one could see in a Sunni Anbar state, post IS, a reopening of the pipeline feed of crude from the same Kirkuk fields out to Beiji or nearby where a refinery complex could be reconstructed by the Chinese or with Qatari funding and refined petrochemical could be produced. Sunni Arabs in Iraq don't have many oil fields, but they do have people smart enough to run refineries. There is a chronic need for refined petrochemicals like gasoline in Iraq and Turkey. Sunni Arabs could do that, provided their political infrastructure was secure enough to support and attract investment. I suspect the Baathists know this and that was why early this year the Sunnis put so much stock in holding Beiji and even Saddam's nephew was killed in that effort.

The southern Iraqi Shia are going to continue pumping and shipping as fast as they can for the foreseeable future. God knows where the money is going as their military which is only 60,000 strong is driving around in second hand Humvees that look to be 2005 vintage.


Well we are certainly going to see a few economic events in 2016 I don't know about a colossal collapse. For one thing we know very weak commodity prices (not just oil but cement, metals, low skilled labor) all are going to be in play for the next year or so. That is going to trickle over to loss of income for most of the developing world and China. Throw onto it rising US fed interest rates that means an even stronger dollar and refinancing efforts in Turkey, Venezuela, South Africa, Nigeria and southern Europe will be extraordinarily expensive for locals. That will lead to political unrest and perhaps a resurgent labor movement. Watch China, S. Africa and Venezuela in particular.

I'm pretty sure Erdogan is aware of this near term problem for Turkey and he appears to be trying to solve it by cutting sweat heart deals with Qatar's royal family and banks.

Russia for all the tough talk and amazingly tough people cannot afford to reinvest in their oil infrastructure unless prices are around $95-115/bbl. So whatever short term sustainment they can maintain will soon show up as decreases in field efficiencies, increased labor costs, yet Putin will have to pump full out to compensate which means a glut will continue and likely Russia will have to moderate its Ukrainian policies to keep the Europeans on their Russian oil IV drip.

Babak Makkinejad


The best policy for US is to cut and run.

That would also be best for all these Middle Easterners in which case they no longer have US as the linchpin of their deranged policies; with Uncle Sam they would not have dared to do what they do - they know US is eventually there to bail them out.

Babak Makkinejad

You asked: "Why would Russia want Ukraine to be a failed state?"

Because then she would be unsuitable for incorporation into NATO. And furthermore, the erosion of Ukraine independence will facilitate its incorporation into the Russian block. This will be over the coming decades.

Ukraine was part of Russia for 300 years - Russians are not going to give that position up - in my opinion.


Good points- and we have to understand what Ukraine means to Russia. Kiev was the heart of the Russian national idea in ancient times- and Ukraine was/is seen as part of greater Russia. The Ukraine of today was split among several kingdoms and empires in the past- the Russian and Habsburg Empires, as well as Poland. But the Russians continue to see Ukraine, esp the eastern part, as a close neighbor- the very name of Ukraine comes from the word for the "edge",as on the edge of the Empire. Add to that the Russian angst and anger at the perceived betrayal of promises of not moving NATO eastward after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and one can understand the Russians' concern. Moving NATO into Ukraine is a red line to them- we might not like it, but we have to understand their point of view. To them, the Baltics joining NATO was bad enough, but Ukraine is the breaking point.

 Ishmael Zechariah

1-Why do you insist on keeping the tayyip in power in Turkey, and legitimizing his "family" and their depredations?
i-Do you think that this buffon is the "best" Turkey can offer?
ii-Do you think it is wise to allow kleptocrats to keep their ill-gotten gains?
2-Why do you ignore KSA?
i-How do you think the Yemen gambit will end?
ii-How do you think the current regime in KSA will continue?
3-How do you ensure that your solutions will be carried out and maintained?
i-Will you commit the full might of the US armed forces to enforce this?
ii-If so, will you suit up and go yourself, or send your son?
4-Do you think Russians will agree to this deal? How do you entice them?
I agree with "b". This is a modification of the existing "Clean Break" policies realigned with current realities(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Clean_Break:_A_New_Strategy_for_Securing_the_Realm ).
Ishmael Zechariah


In reply to bth 02 January 2016 at 11:18 AM

You want to meddle, meddle, meddle, throw your weight around, continue doing the same failed and lethally dangerous cr*p as before, and when b points that out you immediately resort to name calling.

How very impressive.


Let's say that I basically agree with you. But is this an issue that must be resolved today by Russia and NATO? Wouldn't the entire matter be easily deferred for a few decades while other pressing matters are resolved?

Why might Russia consider a more moderate relationship with Ukraine? Well for one thing they stole Crimea back and that's the money play for the oligarchs and Putin. Eastern Ukraine is a destroyed battle zone with little sign of quick victory by any party. Russia has very high inflation because it cannot buy Ukrainian agriculture and Ukraine can't pay Russia for natural gas it consumes without corollary economic trade. The issue of Ukraine, Russia and Nato could probably be resolved over a few glasses of vodka if the US and Russia coordinated a little bit in points south - Afghanistan, Turkey, Syria, Chechnya, Georgia and so on.


I agree with you. Russia does not want a failed Ukraine. Putin wanted Crimea and as much as he could get out of Ukraine without a fight. So the cost of moving west in tanks had to go up and it did. That cost is very high for all concerned.

Now I'm just saying that we have a lot of common ground with the Russians. We don't like Nazis for one thing. We also don't like Islamic terrorism for another. And for the most part we can find lots of economic common ground if we want it.

Perhaps Putin and Trump can make deals that Putin and Obama could not.


It is good to talk about stability and law and trade and whether we should use Styrofoam versus paper cups. Heck in an adjacent town plastic water bottles are banned.

But then you have IS, an absolute sworn enemy of the US, conducting genocidal acts in a region of strategic importance to us. They are not going away and they will hurt us whether we choose to fight them or not.

What if foreign policy has become one of comparative short term trade-offs with many imperfect options rather than a rational goals based plan as you rightly point out?


Victoria Nuland will not survive the next administration's change no matter who is elected.



BTH's son died in Iraq in the US Army. pl

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad