Through a Glass Darkly

One of the most reliably astute observers of the world is Victor Davis Hanson, one of those rare people known by their initials: VDH, nearly universally. But even he varies some in the quality of his observations, from excellent to outstanding. This may be as good as anything I’ve read from anyone, anywhere.

The Post-War Order Is Over

Empirically speaking, neo-Ottoman Turkey is a NATO ally in name only. By any standard of behavior — Ankara just withdrew its ambassador from the U.S. — Turkey is a de facto enemy of the United States. It supports radical Islamic movements, is increasingly hostile to U.S. allies such as Greece, the Kurds, and Israel, and opposes almost every foreign-policy initiative that Washington has adopted over the last decade. At some point, some child is going to scream that the emperor has no clothes: Just because Turkey says it is a NATO ally does not mean that it is, much less that it will be one in the future.

Instead, Turkey is analogous to Pakistan, a country whose occasional usefulness to the U.S. does not suggest that it is either an ally or even usually friendly.

And, perhaps, as a new sense of realism invades Washington, the actions of the US may begin to match that reality.

There is nothing much left of the old canard that only by appeasing China’s mercantilism can there be a new affluent Chinese middle class that will then inevitably adopt democracy and then will partner with the West and become a model global nation. China is by design a chronic international trade cheater. Trade violations have been its road to affluence. And it seeks to use its cash as leverage to re-create something like the old imperial Japanese Greater East Asia co-prosperity sphere. U.S. trade appeasement of Beijing over the last decades no more brought stability to Asia than did nodding to Tokyo in the 1930s.

There is also nothing sacred about the European Union. It certainly is not the blueprint for any continental-wide democratic civilization — any more than Bonaparte’s rigged “continental system” (to which the EU is on occasion strangely and favorably compared to by its proponents). The often-crude imposition of a democratic socialism, pacifism, and multiculturalism, under the auspices of anti-democratic elites, from the Atlantic to the Russian border, is spreading, not curbing, chaos. The EU utopian mindset has altered European demography, immigration policy, energy production, and defense. The result is that there are already four sorts of antithetical EUs: a renegade and departing United Kingdom, an estranged Eastern European bloc worried over open borders, an insolvent South bitter over front-line illegal immigration and fiscal austerity, and the old core of Western Europe (a euphemism now for German hegemony).

Interesting to watch the EU, isn’t it? The original conception was indeed a United States of Europe, consisting mostly of (The New) Germany and France, with England fully allied to the United States (not a vassal state by any means, a partner). If I understand what I read, that was Churchill’s conception. But!

As for Germany, it is no longer the “new” model West Germany of the post-war order, but a familiar old Germany that now pushes around its neighbors on matters of illegal immigration, financial bailouts, Brexit, Russian energy, and NATO contributions, much as it used to seek to expand Prussia and the Sudetenland. German unification now channels more the spirit of 1871 than of 1989. Call the new German attitude “Prussian postmodernism” — a sort of green and politically correct intimidation. Likewise, in terms of the treatment of German Jews, Germany seems more back in the pre-war than in the post-war world.

As far as the U.S., Germany has redefined its post-war relationship with the America on something like the following three assumptions: 1) Germany’ right to renege on its promise to spend 2 percent of its GDP on defense in order to meet its NATO promises is not negotiable; 2) its annual $65 billion surplus with the U.S. is not negotiable; 3) its world-record-busting account surplus of $280 billion is not negotiable. Corollaries to the above assumptions are Germany’s insistence that NATO in its traditional form is immutable and that the present “free” trade system is inviolable.

Soon, some naïf is going to reexamine German–American relations and exclaim “there is no there.”

I think some naif just did, and in his exclamation was the words, It is unfair for the United States to subsidize the welfare state of these Prussians, and so tariffs to export to the United States will increase until they are equitable.

And that’s important, the Germans need to export that steel, and be defended by the US (and British) Army far more than either country needs to import Mercedes. There is only one outcome for Europe, the only declining market in the world, in a trade war with the United States: They lose, probably badly.

The West Bank’s rich Arab patrons now fear Iran more than they do Israel. The next Middle East war will be between Israel and Iran, not the Palestinians and their Arab sponsors and Tel Aviv — and the Sunni Arab world will be rooting for Israel to defeat Islamic Iran.

And I notice that in the last week, Russia is starting to tell Iran to pull back from the Israeli border, before Russia gets engulfed as well. Iran’s economy is essentially as bad as Venezuela’s, and sanctions haven’t even been reapplied yet. The Iranian truckers, taxi drivers, teachers and probably others are on strikes, the nationwide protest continues, and calls for a revolution have started.

Finally, we’re seeing the end of the old truism that the U.S. was either psychologically or economically so strong that it could easily take on the burdens of global leadership — taking trade hits for newly ascendant capitalist nations that ignored trade rules, subsidizing the Continental defense of an affluent Europe, rubber-stamping international institutions on the premise that they adhered to Western liberalism and tolerance, and opening its borders either to assuage guilt or to recalibrate a supposedly culpable demography.

Historic forces have made post-war thinking obsolete and thereby left many reactionary “experts” wedded to the past and in denial about the often-dangerous reality before their eyes. Worse is the autopilot railing for the nth time that Donald Trump threatens the post-war order, undermines NATO, is clueless about the EU, or ignores the sophisticated institutions that hold the world together.

About the only metaphor that works is that Trump threw a pebble at a global glass house. But that is not a morality tale about the power of pebbles, but rather about the easy shattering of cracked glass.

There’s quite a lot more at the link above, you should read it.

That is pretty much what I see as well. All is in flux as it hasn’t been since 1940, where it ends is hard to see, maybe impossible. But you know, I’m inclined to think that the American people, in electing Trump, have found the leader who sees a way to lead his people into the next epoch, whatever it brings, successfully.

If I’m right, it’s a good time to be a friend of America, if I’m wrong, there is likely a new dark age approaching. Yeah, its a time for Churchillian terms.

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Peace Means Not Wimping Out

From the Colonel, Kurt Schlichter:

Maybe Kim Il Whatever won’t denuclearize, but then again the roly-poly dictator has seemed to come around to our way of thinking. Maybe it’s the lingering awesomeness of Barack Obama that led him to acts of unprecedented good behavior. Maybe it’s just that he’s decided to be a nice guy. Or maybe it’s because, under Donald Trump, the United States stopped acting like a simpering wuss.

Wusses and wimps…why, those are playground words, unfit for a discussion of foreign relations and international diplomacy! Except that’s entirely wrong. Human nature plays out in the playgrounds – the lessons taught by run-ins with bullies and fisticuffs under the jungle gym are, in many ways, far more important than the hoary discourses about “realism” and “soft power” taught in the very best schools and think tanks.

If someone gets in your face, and you break their nose, they don’t get in your face anymore. You don’t need to go to Georgetown to learn that. In fact, going to Georgetown is more likely to make you unlearn what is the most important lesson of all.

He’s right of course, the world is more like an unsupervised playground than it is anything else. It’s a lesson most of us learned in elementary school, which is appropriate because it is elementary: If you let them, everybody will bully you. It’s a lesson I learned when my sixth-grade teacher got out the gloves, never again was I bullied – because I did not allow it. But:

Our bestest and brightest are often taught the DIME paradigm – that the components of national power are Diplomatic (talking and cajoling), Information (messaging and propaganda), Military (boom!) and Economic (writing a check). DIE is okay, but DIE is what you will do if you don’t have a powerful M.

But they didn’t put M third merely because putting it first would screw up the acronym. Our transnational elite does not want to acknowledge the indisputable fact that, at the end of the day, the guy who can kill you and is willing to do so is going to win. Power is an infantryman standing on a piece of ground owning it – and the ability to keep him there. Sure, terrorists can pull off a one-time strike, but they can’t hold ground. Just ask ISIS. You’ll need a medium though, because they tried to hold ground and they all died.

Oh, the elitists who used to control our foreign policy are not anti-war. They are just anti- any war that serves American interests. We can get into a fight in Libya, with all the attendant appalling consequences from Benghazi to the flood of refugees, but only because they know that doing so will do nothing to help our own country. That way, their collective conscience is clear. In their minds, the only good war is one where Americans die for nothing.

Donald Trump has his priorities straight. He has resurrected and embodied the Jacksonian model that fell out of fashion with the foreign policy establishment but not with the folks expected to pick up rifles and deploy. Andrew Jackson, who Democrats used to appreciate back when they represented the Normals who go fight our wars – their new preferred constituencies of fussy SJWs and virtue-signaling hipsters would never be caught dead in uniform – was not afraid of righteous conflict. Nor are most Americans. Remember the Alamo! Remember Pearl Harbor! Never forget 9/11! You SOBs might get one punch in, but then Americans are going to get up, brush off, and kill you all.

You see, Americans are happy to fight if they get a good answer to the perfectly reasonable question that the foreign policy elite hates: “Why is this particular war worth me or my kid’s life and a whole bunch of our money?”

That’s ground truth, as far as I can see. Normals have no problem at all putting our asses or even our kids on the line – for America, we.ve been doing it since 1776 at least. But not to march around between two factions taking hits from both and looking stupid. There’s nothing complicated about it. Give us a cause, and rules loose enough to let us find a way to win. There’s that dirty word – Win – again, and we will.

It won’t be pretty, wars are not fought by rules the Marquis of Queensberry would recognize. Things will be broken and people will die – experience says mostly the other guy’s people and things. Why? We are still who we always were, 400 years ago there were a couple of settlements clinging on the Atlantic coast, we’ve never looked back.

In the end, Kim Il Whatever is so tractable today for only one reason, around his starving kingdom (about half again larger than England (not Britain) is deployed enough naval power to control most of the oceans, backed by almost 30,000 troops, across the border. Think England, with their warrior tradition, would be nervous with that condition? Yeah, me too. It’s far more dire than they faced in 1940.

You and I know what the Chinese told him in Beijing the other week, don’t we? “You made this mess, now fix it.” The last time the Norks tried this on, in 1950, they ended up on the Yalu, and the Chinese that rescued them took 1 million (more or less) casualties including Mao’s son. Really think they Chinese are going to try it again when the US is ready to rock? They can’t, they have too much to lose now.

It’s all about not wimping out, those missiles that exploded in Syria just might give us peace in Korea – at least for a while. It won’t solve our China problems, but it’s a start.

Advancing Civilization

And so Friday night, the US, UK, and France struck Syria’s chemical war infrastructure. They degraded it, they did not destroy it. Nor did they intend to, they specifically left some targets because taking them out would have caused civilian casualties, admirable restraint in my view. It is a remarkably civilized thing to do, and a beacon to people brutalized by all sides in Syria’s civil war.

There is a lot of bleating from all over the place in the US and the UK about not consulting the legislatures. The Spectator is a fair example.

President Donald Trump has received applause from all the wrong places for his latest attack on Syria. The Bashar al-Assad regime is brutal, but the U.S. government should not police arbitrary rules of war or, even worse, get involved in someone else’s civil war. The president is being pushed into adopting Hillary Clinton’s policy.

The president began his television address on Syria with sharp criticism of “the evil and despicable attack” allegedly made by the Assad government, and evil and despicable it was. Yet there is less to the use of chemical weapons than the fevered international reaction suggests.

What is truly “evil and despicable” is war.

Is it? Or rather, is it always? Say the war for American Independence, Evil and Despicable? A war to end chattel slavery, Evil and Despicable? Or to end the Holocaust, Evil and Despicable?

Yeah, no. Not so much. Some wars are just, some are not. All generalities are false.

And in fact, if the PM and President had gone to the legislatures, there would have been endless speechifying and sometime in 2525, maybe, the strike would have been approved. If Congress and Parliament want to be partners in government, they’d best get their act together. Congress ranks about last in public trust, the media not much better.

It is a great and terrible responsibility to lead the west into war, no doubt about it. But this strike arguably makes that less likely. It shows a firm hand on the tiller, and lets everyone know that there are limits to what the west will tolerate, and what the result can be,

There is never an excuse for intentionally killing civilians. That is what just war theory tells us, it violates all parts of the theory. I grant that Syria’s dictator may not subscribe to this theory.

Well, so what? Things like just war theory are a major reason why western civilization has built the world, it is what we call ‘best practice’ and any attempt to subvert it should be resisted, and strongly.

This Trump, May, and Macron have done. Good on them.

So many, including the author of that Speccie piece, seem to have trouble contrsting the national equivalent of a shot across the bow, a warning that bad things will happen to you, if you persist in bad behavior, with committing to a ground war. Nobody in the west, I think, has any desire to do that, not Trump, not May, and not Macron. But the civilized world has rules that apply at all times, even in war. Gassing your own citizens, even if they are revolting, breaks them. Breaking rules has consequences. Those consequences include the loss of the assets you used. They can also include the destruction of your government, especially if you are a repeat offender.

It is an exact analogy of street crime, if you ignore it and do not punish it, you will have more of it, as Chicago and Baltimore, and yes, London can attest. If there is a price exacted you will have less. Friday night was part of the price. And yes, civilization also imposes costs on the civilized, often paid by our militaries. Well, life is hard.

That is what happened in Syria Friday night. It was an assertion of western civilization, over utter barbarity. As such we should applaud it.

The Use of Power

You remember last month we talked here about how a couple hundred Russian mercenaries got handled very roughly when they attacked a camp that contained American advisors. It seems we put on quite the air show for them beyond the artillery response. Everything from Apaches all the way to B-52s. Seems people noticed

From Business Insider via Warsclerotic comes the story.

Since the US-led effort against the Islamic State has reclaimed almost all of the terrorist group’s territory in Syria, 2,000 or so US forces remain in control of the country’s rich oil fields.

And though Russia, Syria’s government forces, and Iran’s militias all oppose that remaining US presence, there’s little they can do about it.

A small US presence in an eastern town called Deir Ezzor has maintained an iron grip on the oil fields and even repelled an advance of hundreds of pro-Syrian government forces— including some Russian nationals believed to be mercenaries — in a massive battle that became a lopsided win for the US.

Russia has advanced weapons systems in Syria, pro-Syrian government militias have capable Russian equipment, and Iran has about 70,000 troops in the country. On paper, these forces could defeat or oust the US and the Syrian rebels it backs, but in reality it would likely be a losing battle, according to an expert.

“They have the ability to hurt US soldiers — it’s possible,” Tony Badran, a Syria expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. But “if they do that,” he said, “they’ll absolutely be destroyed.”

In Badran’s view, even if Russia wanted a direct fight against the US military in Syria, something he and other experts seriously doubt, the forces aligned with Syria’s government don’t stand much of a chance.

The real saving grace is that nobody, not Russia, not Syria, not even Iran really wants to fight the US. That expert is correct, they could kill some American soldiers, and from what I’ve seen of Trump as Commander in Chief, they won’t like what happens next.

We talked about how America makes war, long ago, here. It’s a devastating combination when given enough latitude to fight the war, not make reporters and other such riff-raff happy. It looks like the President understands that.


Some of the British have their priorities straight. Also from Warsclerotic comes a report that a British woman was killed recently in Syria. She was Anna Campbell and she was a volunteer with the Kurds.

Anna Campbell, from Lewes, East Sussex, was volunteering with the US-backed Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) – the all-female affiliate army of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) – in the besieged city of Afrin when the convoy she was travelling in was struck by a Turkish missile on 16 March.

A very brave woman. I think Teresa May should be contemplating why that woman wasn’t in the British army, and maybe asking Turkey just what the hell they think they are doing rather than worrying full time about some Russian spy that got almost killed.


Stacy McCain makes the point very clearly, why the hell do we care what Europe does?

If you’re old enough to remember the debates that preceded the Iraq War, a key point was the posture of our so-called “allies” in Europe. Many liberals argued that if European countries didn’t support the U.S., we couldn’t go to war against Saddam Hussein. In effect, liberals wanted to give Europe a veto over U.S. foreign policy. Americans had to endure the humiliating spectacle of our leaders basically begging France to join the anti-Saddam coalition, only to be rebuffed in the end.

Without regard to the specific issue of Iraq, however, that debate called attention to the general uselessness of our so-called “allies.” How many armored divisions can France put in the field? How many brigades of combat infantry can Belgium or Portugal deploy? How many attack helicopters and fighter aircraft do Spain and Italy have? If you scrutinize Europe’s military preparedness, you realize that even if they had wanted to join the U.S.-led coalition in smashing Saddam, they didn’t have very much operational equipment and manpower to contribute to the effort.

Consider the current condition of the German military:

Germany has come up short once more in meeting its military obligations to NATO. Leaked readiness data indicates that a key component of the NATO rapid reaction force, which Germany is to supply in 2019, is nowhere near ready to perform duties German said it could handle. The German armored brigade that was promised for 2019 is not able to fulfill its duties. Only about 20 percent of the armored vehicles (Leopard 2 tanks and Marder infantry vehicles) are fit for service. German military aircraft continue to have the lowest readiness rates in NATO and Germany continues, as it has for over twenty year, to promise the situation would be fixed but it never is. When the Americans press Germany to meet its NATO obligations (which includes spending at least two percent of GDP on defense) there are promises but no performance.

(Hat-tip: Austin Bay at Instapundit.)

Can’t even keep an armored brigade working, so much for the vaunted German army, once rated the best army in the Warsaw Pact and in NATO. They have become the joke that Italy was in the twentieth century, simply a drain on their allies. Willing to fight to the last Briton (and American). There’s an army ISIS could probably take on, even in their current depleted state, particularly since undoubtedly their 5th (and probably 6th, 7th, and 8th) column is already in place.

I don’t think post-Brexit Britain has too much to worry about from the continent. You’ll notice that Stacy doesn’t mention Britain in that story, I’d bet his reason is the same as mine. Whatever the faults of the British government, and it has many, it is one of the two most reliable allies we have and has been for many years. Yes, the other is Israel. It is also the only other power that can reliably project power around the world, in much the same manner as we do.

I also think it is time to case the NATO standard, and ally ourselves who believe the same things we do and let the rest fend for themselves, we’ve rescued Europe three times in a hundred years and that is enough.

To Crush Your Enemies

You may have heard that our military had contact with Russian troops last weekend and that it was hostile. You also know that for at least a decade we have been fighting under very restrictive rules of engagement, which have pretty much precluded ever winning.

That appears to be changing.

From The Daily Caller.

“One squadron fucking lost 200 people … right away, another one lost 10 people … and I don’t know about the third squadron but it got torn up pretty badly, too … So three squadrons took a beating,” a man believed to be a Russian contract soldier said in the first of three audio recordings obtained from a source close to the Kremlin by Polygraph.info, a fact-checking website affiliated with Voice of America.

“They beat our asses like we were little pieces of shit,” the man said, Newsweek introduced.

A U.S.-led strike following a raid on a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) base where U.S. troops were stationed is believed to have killed hundreds of Russian military contractors fighting alongside pro-Syrian irregular forces. The U.S. forces hammered the attackers with heavy artillery and air strikes. (RELATED: The US Military Is Now Fighting Russian Mercenaries In Syria)

“They were all shelling the holy fuck out of it and our guys didn’t have anything besides the assault rifles … nothing at all, I’m not even talking about shoulder-fired SAMs or anything like that… they tore us to pieces, put us through hell,” the man in the recording revealed, calling the incident a “total fuckup, another humiliation.”

“We got our fucking asses beat rough. The Yankees made their point,” he said. “What were they hoping for, that the Yankees are just going to fuck off? … It’s bullshit. Some people can’t even be fucking ID’ed.”

“Nobody gives a fuck about us,” a man in the recording explained.

The Russians are downplaying it, of course, there is no benefit in admitting that some of their mercenaries, which is essentially what these troops sound like, got handled very roughly. Actually, they got handled in the traditional American manner. The joke from World War Two ends, “when the Americans open fire, everybody takes cover”. It’s a methodology that is a bit expensive in ordnance, it also saves American lives. We can afford a hell of a lot more artillery rounds than we can American lives, and you know, soon we won’t even need the artillery shells, cause no is going to be stupid enough to shoot at Americans. Why? They shoot back. When the answer to a 7.62 Russian round is a 155mm shell, people tend to get a bit gunshy.

And our enemies all talk to each other, you know that the Iranians noticed, as did Whoa Fat. The world is going to start settling down. A few more demonstrations may be needed, but the lessons just might be learned without to much damage to the world.

Seems like I remember Trump saying something about changing the Rules of Engagement and uttering a word that hasn’t been heard much in the American military since the Second World War, that word is Victory. In fact last weekend he used a different word about ISIS, that word was ‘obliterate’. Here’s where he said it.

Kind of reminds me of Admiral Halsey’s comment, “When this war is over, Japanese will be spoken only in Hell”.

And that is a very good thing if you believe in freedom.

One day in the pavilion at Karakorum he [Genghis Kahn] asked an officer of the Mongol guard what, in all the world, could bring the greatest happiness.

“The open steppe, a clear day, and a swift horse under you,” responded the officer after a little thought, “and a falcon on your wrist to start up hares.”

“Nay,” responded the Kahn, “to crush your enemies, to see them fall at your feet — to take their horses and goods and hear the lamentation of their women. That is best.”

 Harold Lamb, GENGHIS KAHN: THE EMPEROR OF ALL MEN, pages 106-107:

A Turkey of a Mess

Jed Babbin over at The American Spectator has written about Turkey, and how it is increasingly becoming a bad fit with the US, especially when contrasted with the Kurds, who with our help have taken the lead in destroying ISIS.

[L]ast week, President Trump had what must have been a tense telephone conversation with Turkish President Erdogan. Erdogan’s forces are attacking Kurdish forces allied with America in the Afrin region of Syria. Erdogan has said his forces would pursue the Kurdish militias into Manbij, where U.S. forces are operating with the Kurds against the remnants of ISIS and Syrian forces.

That conversation led nowhere. Neither is Erdogan stopping the attacks against our Kurdish allies nor is Trump declaring them off-limits and promising to defend them. The fact that Trump isn’t ordering our forces to defend the Kurds is a confession of failure. It’s the result of thinking stalemated by the fact that one of our so-called allies — Turkey — has chosen to be at war with a real ally, the Kurds.

The Kurds are one of the many ancient peoples indigenous to the Middle East. About thirty million of them are spread over parts of northern Iraq, southern Turkey, Syria, Armenia, and Iran. A Kurdish autonomous zone of Iraq is rich with oil. But there is no nation of Kurdistan.

When Woodrow Wilson and the other victorious leaders of the allies that won World War One sat in Paris in 1919, carving up old empires and creating new nations, their announced goal was to create nations around self-governing peoples. One treaty created a Kurdish state and another signed shortly afterward dissolved it.

Since then U.S. relations with the Kurds have been an on again, off again affair. We supported Kurdish attempts to overthrow the Baathist regime of Iraq in the 1970s, withdrew support for most of the 1980s, but brokered a peace agreement between Kurdish factions in 1998.

The Kurds have suffered before and since. Typical was the March 1988 attack on the Kurdish city of Halabja by Saddam Hussein’s forces, using artillery and chemical weapons, that killed at least five thousand. We imposed a no-fly zone over Iraqi Kurdistan in 1991, enforced by U.S. and British aircraft.

When Turkey denied passage for U.S. troops entering Iraq in 2003, the Kurds tried to help. They have been an ally ever since.

Kurdish forces — usually characterized as militias but with far more skill, organization, and effectiveness — have been at the forefront of our fight against ISIS for over ten years.

Turkey has always feared and resented the Kurdish population on its southern border. It fears their drive for independence which, if effective, could carve out a large portion of southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq to create an independent Kurdistan.

None of what he wrote is, as far as I can see either untrue or unfair. It may be incomplete though. There is no rule that the US has to decide everything overtly, or that it should. Caroline Glick at Warsclerotic takes the same facts, and get to a somewhat different destination.

Last Saturday, Erdogan sent his forces over Turkey’s southern border to invade the Afrin region of Syria. The U.S.-allied Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have controlled the area, northwest of Aleppo, since 2012.

There are no U.S. forces in Afrin. But the area is predominantly populated by non-Arab minorities, including Yazidis, Armenians, and Kurds — all of whom are pro-American.

The Turks say their objective in “Operation Olive Branch” is to seize a 20-mile wide buffer zone on the Syrian side of their border. That includes the town of Manbij, located 60 miles east of Afrin, also controlled by the YPG.

Unlike Afrin, there are many U.S. forces in that city. A contingent of U.S. Special Forces charged with training YPG forces are stationed there. On Tuesday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu threatened those forces. “Terrorists in Manbij are constantly firing provocation shots,” he said, according to Reuters. “If the United States doesn’t stop this, we will stop this.”

Cavusoglu added, “The future of our relations depends on the steps the United States will take next.”

The Turks’ pretext for the Afrin operation is as anti-American as it is anti-Kurdish.

On January 14, Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition in Baghdad said that the U.S. is training a Kurdish border patrol force in Syria that will eventually number some 30,000 troops. On January 17, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. has no timetable for removing its forces from Syria.

In response, Erdogan vowed to “drown” the border protection force “before it is even born.”

Erdogan then threatened the U.S.

“This is what we have to say to all our allies: Don’t get in between us and terrorist organizations, or we will not be responsible for the unwanted consequences.”

The Trump administration’s immediate response to Turkey’s aggression against its Kurdish allies was deferential, to say the least.

Tillerson disavowed Dillon’s statement, saying the plan to train a border force was never approved.

“That entire situation has been misportrayed, misdescribed. Some people misspoke. We are not creating a border security force at all,” he said

A senior White House official told the New York Times that senior White House and National Security Council officials had never seriously considered the 30,000-man border force.

These statements are consistent with the U.S.’s general practice for the past 15 years, as Erdogan has gradually transformed Turkey from a Westernized democracy and a core member of NATO into an Islamist tyranny whose values and goals have brought it into alliance with U.S. foes Iran and Russia and into cahoots with Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and ISIS. The U.S. has met ever more extreme behavior from Ankara with a combination of denial and obsequiousness.

For example, the U.S. never sanctioned Turkey for its support for Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The U.S. didn’t penalize Turkey for its effective sponsorship of ISIS. For years, the Turks permitted ISIS to use their territory as its logistical base. ISIS’s foreign recruits entered Syria through Turkey. Its terrorists received medical care in Turkey. Turkey was the main purchaser of oil from ISIS- controlled territory and there were repeated allegations that ISIS was receiving arms from Turkey.

And the U.S. turned a blind eye.

True, and nobody likes to admit that an ally no longer is, let alone that it may have become an enemy. Sometimes it’s not worth the embarrassment to say anything.

But the read-out of their conversation also reflected the distinct possibility that the Trump administration is implementing a sophisticated strategy for contending with Erdogan’s Turkey and its open and growing hostility to the US and its allies.

{I would bet on that possibility. – LS}

To understand that strategy it is first imperative to understand the present state of Turkey’s military.

While it is true that Turkey’s military is second only to the U.S. in size among NATO allies, the state of the Turkish military is atrocious. As former Pentagon official Michael Rubin from the American Enterprise Institute wrote this week in the Washington Examiner, Erdogan has gutted his armed forces in the wake of the failed military coup against his regime in July 2016.

Forty percent of Turkey’s senior officer corps has been purged. A quarter of Turkish pilots are in prison. Turkey has twice as many F-16s as trained pilots.

Turkey’s performance in combat in Syria has been abysmal, from the very earliest stages of the war. Rubin noted that in 2012 Syrian forces downed a Turkish F-4, and Kurds have downed Turkish helicopters.

Syria has been a prime killing ground for Turkish tanks. Kurds, ISIS and Syrian regime forces have all destroyed Turkish tanks. The Kurds have nabbed Turkish intelligence officers. Turkey’s power projection capabilities are weak.

None of this has escaped the Pentagon’s notice.

Last summer, as the U.S. launched its campaign to oust ISIS from its self-declared capital in Raqqa, Erdogan told the Americans that he would deploy his forces to fight alongside U.S. forces in Raqqa if the U.S. agreed to ditch the Kurdish YPG. The U.S. refused. Washington opted to side with the Kurds.

According to a report in the Washington Examiner, the Pentagon has a low opinion of Turkish capabilities. Turkish troops lack “the training, logistics and weaponry to successfully launch the siege of a fortified and well-defended city.”

On the other hand, the Pentagon assessed that the YPG were up to the task of assaulting and destroying ISIS forces in Raqqa. And as the battle of Raqqa demonstrated, they were right.

Rubin wrote that the Kurds in Afrin may well defeat the Turks.

So far, the Turks initial push has been unsuccessful.

While the U.S. has consistently treated Erdogan with respect, it has also sought to diminish U.S. dependence on Turkey.

Consider the issue of the NATO airbase at Incirlik, Turkey.

The Turks view Incirlik as their insurance policy. NATO air operations in Syria are coordinated from Incirlik. Most of the anti-ISIS coalition warplanes are based there. So long as NATO is dependent on Incirlik, so the thinking goes, Turkey can behave as abominably as it wishes.

So it was that following the failed coup in July 2016, Erdogan shut down Incirlik and paralyzed the coalition campaign against ISIS.

Erdogan failed to realize that his actions forced NATO allies to reconsider Turkey’s role in the alliance.

The U.S. responded to Erdogan’s move against Incirlik by expanding its air operations in Romania. And last summer, Germany’s Die Welt reported that the German military had identified eight alternatives to Incirlik, including three sites each in Kuwait and Jordan and two in Cyprus.

So while the stated policy of the U.S. towards Turkey is to continue to treat Turkey as an ally, the unstated U.S. policy is to bypass Turkey and render it irrelevant militarily while diminishing its capacity to harm either the U.S. or its allies.

I think that is a reasonable read of the situation, and if it is deliberate policy, well, good on the administration. We’ve enough open enemies to not need to make more, even ineffectual ones, and so merely sidelining one of them strikes me as good thing.

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