Speculations So Far: Anti-Russia/Syria, Anti-ISIS, Anti-Turkey, or Anti-US (casus belli sacrificial lambs)
“The Pentagon is sending F-15Cs—supposedly to fight the ISIS war. But the jets only have air-to-air weapons, and ISIS has no planes. Which means the real adversary is Russia.”
This is introductory abstract, the lengthier headline, from yesterday’s Daily Beast article on the latest US ramping up of its Syrian contingents. It represents another recent ‘rebound’ of US hardliners, and comes days after Obama announced what amounted to a complete reversal of long-standing earlier policy held by the ‘cautious’ duo, Obama and former Chair, Chiefs of Staff, Gen Martin Denmpsey, not to send US ground troops into Syria. So far only 50 Special Forces advisors are going; is this window-dressing to salve neo-cons anguish or the first wave of a dangerous escalation?
Here are some links: the first to the DB article which seems to be the most “fulsome” of official or quasi-official reports. Following is a Zerohedge summary article (Zerohedge, mostly an alternative ‘economics’ source typically is critical of US policy in every which way, but in no way can be considered basically pro-Russian or Assad). Finally, for balance, the story as presented by Sputnik, along with RT, one of the two most prominent of Russian news sources for English audiences.
A Defense Dept spokesperson, Laura Seal, said the air-to-air fighters were to “ensure the safety” of Turkey and other anti-ISIS fighters, but she reiterated upon questioning that ““I didn’t say it wasn’t about Russia.”
The Daily Beast considers this to be a hint as to the “true” reason.
The Daily Beast is a top channel for neo-con slanted information. Therefore, the bristly, antagonistic interpretation of the supposedly “anti-ISIS” action as in fact an “anti-Russian” action, no doubt reflects plenty of opinions among the neo-con-rich Obama administration (indeed, what administration for decades has not been an obamanation in that regard.) They are, by all appearances, on the rebound.
Hopefully, it will be little more than the “dead cat bounces” shown on a manipulated Wall Street. There “signs” do not match their usual references in the neo-liberal reality any more than they do in the neo-conservative political one. On Wall St a bear is signaled not by the current deep depressions in the labor participation rate, the Baltic Dry Index, and manufacturing productivity in the US, but on the other hand a bull is divined by “monetary stimulus”. How is this not like heroin addiction? The dealer does well. Equity bubbles are asset-stripping devices, when they are manipulated as now.
Likewise an on-again, off-again war may be used to asset strip a country, perhaps better than through simple takeover. So in Syria as in Iraq and Libya the Western powers have been accused of injecting chaos and removing national assets by theft (gold, antiquities, oil, weaponry, whole industrial parks…). This is no longer possible, at least to the same degree, once chaos becomes a legitimate order, even a puppet order, and would not be permitted within the terms of international legitimacy universally recognized for a “state.” If the neo-con conquest strategy number 1 is “order out of chaos”, the classic fascistic slogan invoked following a chaos-making false-flag event, then neo-con plan B just leaves it at “chaos.”
However, the updated neo-con plan has been pre-empted, at least in most areas, by the Russian-Syrian establishment of their own effective ‘no-fly’ zone over much of the country.
What is the US “really” up to? Now we can only speculate, basing our evaluation on the words and actions of global actors, and by trying to evaluate future actions by triangulating beyond present events and past experience.
No media voice knows what nefarious and misguided motives lie behind policy decisions such as these. This is not simply because the mass media is a controlled oligopoly, handed over to a half-dozen big corporations just like every other industry in this country. It is not just because these are “top secret” matters, but also because all “executive” decisions of this presidency of exceptional executive priviliege, are anyway, compromise decisions. Obama’s personal sway is limited by the information he holds, and by all appearances, he is somewhat out of the loop, which is not to say he has “no power” or is merely a puppet. Certainly, Obama is not a dictator, nor the true executive, but represents the fulcrum point where his adminstration balances the entrenched interests of the business, military, industrial, banking factions that the “Commander in Chief” is tasked to broker. By comparison, Erdogan, even lacking the nw ‘executive presidency’ constitution hw wants to push through the Turkish parliament, already wields immensely more power in his country than our executive does in ours (IMHO).
These, briefly, are the vastly complex contexts within which we must judge administration decisions such as that to send the dozen aerieal combat jets to Incirlik base, allegedly for attacks on ISIS positions in Syria. Still, it is important to speculate as to the long-range strategies and their rationales, so as to more quickly evaluate future actions. Let us roam over some possibilities:
First, let’s consider the scale of the action. The actual effectiveness of a dozen fighter jets and 50 SpecOps troops is not that great. Is it sheer internal game-op calculation on the part of the cautious wing of the Obama administration? Those 50 advisors might diminish neo-con critiques of the US failed Syria policy and might deflect a possible repeat of the slurry of insults and inanities Lindsay Graham hurled at General Dunford when told of our accomodationist policies towards Russia and Assad.
Or, perhaps McCain, Graham, and other Israel-first neo-cons, have won some real concessions from the “cautious conquerors” in the Obama camp. We may alter our assessment of the course of the war, but continue to assume this is an anti-Russian, anti-Assad move, not a genuine anti-ISIS move (going on a year and more of experience, that is).
Perhaps the US believes that the slow progress of the Russian-Syrian-Hezbollah-Iranian advance (in fact, amounting only to a few thousand active soldiers and a few dozen aircraft; also supplies and ammunition) means the US honestly harbors hopes to reverse the tide around Aleppo, or mess things up at al-Hasaka, or to defend Raqqa, or some of the other key ISIS concentrations. But at this level of support, it seems hard to believe the tide could seriously be turned all the way back, since ISIS and the Syrian Army have exchanged only a few high profile areas over the year before the Russian airstrikes began. They had basically come to a standoff due to limited supply lines and resources on all sides.
In short, even the most realistic hopes should be slim if you are committing only 50 men and a few air-to-air fighters in the (uninvited) anti-ISIS fight or in the “officially-hinted” anti-Russian fight. We may assume there is also a well-hidden uptick of covert operations and supply feeds to the US allies’ insurgent proxies in Syria, but these are limited by the very nature of their need for discretion. This is slightly less an issue in Turkey now that Erdogan has entirely clamped down on press freedom following elections which stink as much as those recently of Netanyahu, Cameron, or the originary “torn chad” precedent of our own engendering. This suggests the American buildup is mainly geared to keep the highly-profitable/expensive military operations going as long as they can drag a million bucks out of it.
It seems that “victory” is not sought with this tiny contingent (smaller even than Russia’s), but further destabilization. In this case, some slight increase, not a big one, in US actions, might be expected. Of course, both plans could be operative at once within the fractured appearance of US policy. These plans might also accommodate US policy-making madmen, too many to name, who would like to use ground troops as sitting-duck sacrificial victims, to set up them up as a casus belli. A historical question to be briefly pondered, “How many US wars were NOT started by a false-flag incident, or provocation, since, (to make it simple) 1875? Even Wikipedia has to cough up the truth on that one. This extreme option remains on the table in Syria as well, especially if the neo-cons are somewhat resurgent: they demonstrably care as little for US lives as they do for Syrians. (Israelis, one could argue thats another story. ISIS also seems to deeply value Israeli life and limb. How many Israeli jets have flown the same path as the doomed Russian liner?)
There is also but the dimmest light of possibility that reasonable minds in the administration have prevailed and these F-15s and the new SpecOps boots will be used in honest-to-god anti-ISIS measures. Perhaps, General Dunford and Obama see that the game has already been changed with Russian “facts on the ground” and facts in the air; that they should take the opportunity Russia has given the US for a dignified retreat. Retreat is necessary if total defeat is not to be invited.
In fact, Russia has already taken the Syria square in this chess game. Perhaps US military minds not warped by end-times end-games see that Putin has provided several strong defenses for his new commanding position. He moved his knight into place, not simply by knocking over the proxy pawns of NATO, who now will never make ISIS Queen (many apologies to the goddess; they abuse her good name like that of Islam a hundredfold more, so it seems to me) nor will they combine to take down Assad the King. Rather, Putin has set up his new military position with legal, institutional, and commonsensical defenses (castles) understood by much of the world. He did this long before he made the move, and it was obvious to all who peered in that direction (no US mass media, whatsoever). He did it methodically, possessing a fraction of the economic power of the West and, by conventional terms, a fraction of the military resources, but many multiples of the patience found typically among Western leaders. (ADHD?)
Perhaps, a once illustrious tradition of US strategic leadership has not withered entirely. If it is the case that US operatives intend to preserve whatever remains of their dignity, but take the ‘easy way out’ then they will try to maintain the illusion that they have been making a genuine effort against ISIS but supplementing it now, with a half-genuine effort. To create a proper past for this narrative, it seems likely that the new military reinforcements would be used to hit those ISIS units where Daddy John McCain’s pictures are still pinned to the tent wall over the Made in USA sign, not to mention knock off some of those red-bearded ISIS commanders with US Army tattoos on their biceps.
If so, if the US is reluctantly cutting its losses and getting on the right side of the ISIS wars, what would be the fall-back position for a US in a partial retreat? Perhaps the one unambiguous aspect to US strategy is also one of its most surprising slaps in the face to a close and important “ally,” Turkey. That is the US decided resurgence of support for the Syrian Kurds, especially the YPG, the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Unit that guards the cantons of the Rojava Republic, but which are unlikely to want to extend their operations into Arabistan, except, perhaps as a formally-constituted joint assault on Raqqa. My view is that they should demand Russia participate too; the Kurds have been courted and shat upon many times by the US, and have longer memories than Americans. But it is unlikely they wield this kind of leverage. Valiant and inspiring as this army has been, they vitally need US air support, as the Siege of Kobane showed.
Does the US hope to carve out an ally in a Syrian Kurdistan, as has been the case with the Barzani regime in Erbil, long under US sway? Barzani’s nepotistic rule is supported by its close US ally. Iraqi Kurdistan hosts a lion’s share of the US bases in Iraq, and it also has close ties to Israel. Its off-the-records oil sales keep Israel fueled and Baghdad angry. In many ways, US cultivation of Kurdish friendship, much espoused in the US press from left and right, is the least ambiguous component of the most recent US activity, but has always been mitigated with the US’s greater concerns for its Turkish alliance. Still, what turn they expect that to take is not clear.
For now, the US seems intent to shore up its anti-ISIS alliance with the YPG, with arms shipments, perhaps now with these advisors, engaging in joint operations. The US has genuinely and somewhat effectively cooperated with the Kurds in the past. But if this is a fall-back position, then it must guard its rear, for US complicity with the YPG, which Turkey considers but a Syrian version of the PKK, angers Ankara greatly. Could it be that the US F-15s are meant to guard against Turkish F-15s, parked across the base at Incirlik?
It remains to be seen what facts-in-the-air may come. Already, the US has partaken in anti-ISIS activity at a better clip than it did before the Russian intervention. But, here too, and par for the course, there’s also a negative side of the ledger during the same period,: The US also has dropped arms haphazardly in the desert near ISIS at al-Hasaka, they have repeatedly bombed the Aleppo power and sewage plant – in a cholera season — and they have wiped out an Iraqi Army battalion, killing 22, in an incident deemed, sadly for the umpteenth time, “friendly fire.”
Such contradictory actions have several possible explanations, but only more facts in the air will give light to which way matters are resolving amongst ranking policy makers in Obama’s administration, and amongst the coalition partners of the “ambivalent alliance.”
The wider gamut of possible explanations must consider at least the possibility that actions have been taken by generals in the field contrary to presidential orders, traitorous action, to be sure. The crowd favorite ought to be, of course, still the strongest horse in the race, the old Obama-era favorite of “caution” in the interests of perpetual destabilization, perpetual playing of both sides, presumably in order to beef up Defense budgets and mil-ind contracts. A hydra must feed all its heads. This remains the most likely possibility, the option that Occam’s razor might suggest, the one that requires least ideological maneuvering at the top, that which reduces the actions to tactical adjusting of long-held strategies, though what it needs is a strategic revaluation of facts on the ground.
All Obama’s other actions make plain his allegiance to this updated, modernized and ‘quickened’ version of the asset-stripping strategies first perfected by Bush and Clinton bosses of the US empire. Interpreting conservatively, granting a general continuity with previous strategies, adjusted tactically to Russian’s new Syrian reality, we might best surmise the slight military uptick is a “corporatist” half-to-non-solution to a still deeply unresolved set of geo-political problems that upset the whole lot of them greatly. They have not yet addressed these problems adequately in part because, there is a divide on some level between the military and the industrial sides of the complex, the latter siding with their “investors”, the banks that funnel the funny money created ex nihilo by the Fed. Among the former, the military, there are more likely many who side sincerely with the US population but have been constrained by a deeply corrupt takeover at the top.
A final, technical point should be made about the hardware, though I am no military expert. When Russia sent commensurate Su-30 fighters with air-to-air capabilities only, the US and allies pointed out with alarm that ISIS has no jets. (Taking a Xmas list, Johnny? You did get the Stinger request?) Recall, this was Daily Beast’s principle point when it interpreted the F-15s as an anti-Russian move. What few have pointed out is that the old F15s, if memory serves me, are not much of a match for the Russian Su-30s, their counterpart. God forbid the newest massively expensive and endlessly revamped F-35 boondoggle ever should go into combat with them.
As it stands now, 1.5 trillion dollars on, the F-35 would be easily taken out by the older model US jets, and if the plane is hit and the pilot tries to bail, the ejection mechanism will break his neck. Good ol’ US design. Little shows like the F-35 how little what Eisenhower actually wrote up as the “congressional-military-industrial complex” cares about the US soldier and how much they care about profits, but this should have been obvious during the Vietnam-era controversies about the constantly jamming M-16 rifle given US troops. Still there are some differences of interests as there must be in a cartel arrangement. There is a division of labor, costs, materials, etc. There is a pecking order and a humping order. But more deeply, there is another difference between the business community and the military community, taken as a whole.
For the military, there is the fact that a lot of people bought into the Pearl Harboristic propaganda of 9/11 (I did, for many years.) They thought that by joining the US military they were making a difference for good in the world. It has always been that way, people have joined for such reasons in every generation, no matter how dumbed down we get by video games. And not all of these people reach a promotional “ceiling,” perhaps because a few are needed near the top, nor are all good eggs weeded out by the corporatist traitors from the critical ranks of our political representatives (for whoever sends US troops willingly into harm’s way to benefit Carlyle and Bechtel and Exxon plainly commits high treason.)
The industrial side of the military-industrial complex has no concern whatsoever for US soldiers, who are naive, patriotic, and deceived into death traps, while we need not waste the breath to ask about the financial sector, the great banking Houses of Chase, Morgan, and King of Kings, the Shah of Shah, the Khaqan of Khaqans, GoldMan that Sucks Assets.
Unfortunately, the same must be said about many top military officials, who, to their immense shame, go on to finish their careers as highly-paid consultants at these corrupt firms, whose markets are not restricted to national borders, and whose interests are purely bottom-line. This is why a nation’s military, here and everywhere, ought to be defensive in intent only. Offense is very rarely the best defense; it is usually the best way to make your neighbors pissed. Cooperation is usually the best defense. Bullies consider themselves victims with good reason; they fuel a self-fulfilling mechanism of reciprocal persecution.
The inability to understand this is astonishing; it seems to reflect some kind of fundamental disconnect, and yet the policies of the US and Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Great Britain and France, have relied on fear porn and pernicious false “othering” for decades and centuries, rather than upon realistic reports. To what degree, who and how many believe their own propaganda we may soon determine.
Whatever the case, the aerial activity over Syria and the wider region is getting dangerously crowded. Debkafiles, the Israeli info-disinfo military outfit, elaborated on sketchy reports elsewhere (mostly in Israeli news I think) that in the last week Israel has carried out two bombing raids, 70 km apart, on Syrian and Hezbollah positions and supply lines along the border. Debka propounded a somewhat preposterous interpretation (let’s hope) that this was to demonstrate that Israel had the capacity to penetrate the vaunted Russian electronic surveillance and jamming mechanisms that has set the US to alarm on several occasions. According to Debkafiles, Israel is still top dog in that area, and just made a demonstration of its force. On the other hand, Israel, like every US ally, has made its own strategic, and special arrangements with Russia. By the same token, it seems the scale was small, though significant. Russia rarely responds immediately. It may not respond at all, if Israel, and the US, do not further ramp up tensions with the new genuine anti-ISIS alliance. Putin understands the Masters of the Universe need to quiet the more rabid component of their military dogs, and their domestic audiences, before fanning them back to sleep with a large-screen Kardashian butt. But its gonna take more than 50 soldiers, a dozen outdated planes, and a partial pick-up of Israeli attacks on the borders, to change the present game. Putin is not dumb enough to go chasing pawns.