The Enemy of My Enemy is often My Despicable Friend


Jon Rowe

Jon Rowe is a full Professor of Business at Mercer County Community College, where he teaches business, law, and legal issues relating to politics. Of course, his views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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102 Responses

  1. Avatar Joe Sal says:

    You ever notice ISIS would be alot less scary without new guns and new trucks? Also notice that they recently got new trucks and new guns re-supplied. Also note the hundreds of million of taxpayer dollars that funnel into the areas that those trucks and guns magically sprout out of the dirt.

    It may be just an observation from across the pond, but damn.Report

  2. Avatar notme says:


    You’ve clearly missed the last thread we had were some of the folks here told me that ISIS wasn’t really a threat despite the statements by the heads of the FBI and Homeland to the contrary.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Hmm. If it’s the conversations I’m thinking of, people (North, greginak, etc) were saying that ISIS didn’t constitute an existential threat to the US. I’m pretty sure they never said, as you implied up there, that ISIS wasn’t a threat simpliciter. (Hah! Latin!)Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Still is correct Notme. ISIS is not an existential threat to the US. They aren’t going to invade us with aircraft carriers they don’t have or launch air strikes with the planes they don’t have. They aren’t a threat to us. The security types see everything as a threat which is sort of their job. Could people affiliated with ISIS launch terrorist attacks in the ME. Yeah, but so could hundreds of groups and countries. Those attacks, while awful, aren’t a threat to the continued existence of the US.

      In the wider view there have been murderous bastards for approximately forever. Is ISIS worse, honestly….meh. The Saudi’s behead people. Soldiers have been raping and torturing forever. ISIS has the Internet to broadcast. It would be best if ISIS blinked out of existence, but there is no reason they need to be a major preoccupation for us.

      America is safer and more secure now then since before WW2. We have no peer competitors and the strongest of the near peers, China, wants to do business not war. Various and sundry MFr’s can launch terrorist attacks but mostly at countries near them. Sad and terrible but we also can’t eliminate every group that might wish us ill nor can they come remotely close to taking us down. Calm down. Fear is the mind killer.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        ” ISIS is not an existential threat to the US. ”

        Neither was Al Qaeda. I mean, all we had to do was not build tall buildings with lots of people in them, right?Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          Ahh i see the misunderstanding. The term existential threat usually means some thing that could lead to the elimination of the existence of something. I am an existential threat to my lunch because i will devour it, removing its current existence from the earth. AQ was not an existential threat to the US. They caused us serious pain but in no way did they have the capability to wipe us off the earth or cause the US to stop being an independent country.

          Just because a group can cause us pain doesn’t mean they have a hope in hell of destroying us. Without going World Police Domination Force we can’t get rid of every friggin group of nutjobs who hate us. We can aim to use strong defense measures to prevent harm to us and, offensively, take out the groups that are serious threats when the downside is low.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain says:

            Without going World Police Domination Force we can’t get rid of every friggin group of nutjobs who hate us.

            Politics and morality aside, the price tag to make a serious attempt at this is already out of reach. And will be farther and farther out of reach as time goes on.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              Oh yeah i agree. It’s impossible to guarantee safety by going after every threat. We can’t control the world nor can we, or should we, stop every bad actor.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain says:

            AQ was not an existential threat to the US.

            Physically, absolutely. There’s a part of me, though, that says they goaded us into doing a number on some of the core concepts about what the US is. Take my shoes off to board the plane. If I want to write a check to buy the new car and it’s larger than $X, there’s a multi-day hold on the transaction because I might be a terrorist. We’re debating, after they’d already started, whether the NSA ought to be able to record my every e-mail and who I called when on my cell phone — where “me” is every US citizen.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              We are more of threat to our freedom then anybody else. We can be attacked and wounded but unless we are occupied nobody can take our freedom. Some measures to guard against terrorism are warranted even if they are a PITA. Taking our shoes off is silly but i don’t see it as an infringement. The NSA, well that is a different. Torture…yeah different again.

              They tested us and in some ways we failed.Report

        • Avatar LWA says:

          No, all we had to do was remove our military bases from Saudia Arabia, where they don’t belong in the first place.

          Our military footprint is what makes us a target.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Emphasis on was. Al Queda’s window of opportunity for that kind of attack closed with a loud bang when UA Flight 93 slammed into the ground as its passengers mobbed the cockpit.Report

      • Avatar notme says:

        The fact remains that the heads of the FBI and Homeland say that ISIS is a threat. They are in a much better position to know than you. Do you have any evidence to indicate that they are wrong other than your opinion?Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          A threat to do what??? I stand by what i said. What are they a threat to do? Maybe, and fairly big maybe, is a terrorist attack. Is that a reason to send thousands, more like tens of thousands, of troops to a foreign land? No, they are a minor threat to us at most. They are a threat to stability and the lives of humans in their region. A tortured region that we have limited ability to affect other then by blowing stuff up.Report

          • Avatar notme says:

            I’m going to assume that the heads of FBI and Homeland mean that they are a threat to harm us directly or our various national security interests. Not all threats are the same or require the same response. The difference in threat level or severity of the threat doesn’t mean that a group isn’t a threat. I hope you will stop babbling about sending troops as no one has said anything like that.Report

            • Avatar Barry says:

              “I’m going to assume that the heads of FBI and Homeland mean that they are a threat to harm us directly or our various national security interests. ”

              I’m going to assume that they are lying about such things until proven to have told the truth.Report

          • Avatar LWA says:

            Do I have more to fear from an ISIS gunman, or a nutjob walking into a theater and killing me?

            More to fear from ISIS blowing up a bridge while I am on it, or a bridge collapsing due to poor maintenance?

            More to fear from ISIS releasing anthrax in the air, or dying from salmonella in poorly processed chicken?Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Do I have more to fear from an ISIS gunman, or a nutjob walking into a theater and killing me?

              One fear is the price of freedom, the other fear is the price of feardom.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              Ohhhh….i know i know….the answer is B to all those questions. The threat to people in the US from ISIS is less then driving in the crappy weather we are having today while texting and tossing back a martini.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Everything is a threat, your morning coffee is a threat, the cutlery in your drawer is a threat, your dog is a threat. Do we declare wars on these threats? No, because the threat they represent is small. What level of threat does ISIS present? To people in Syria and Iraq an enormously high threat, to people in neighboring states a moderate threat, to the US and Europe a very small* threat.

          But if you’ll give me a job paying a couple hundred thou a year to say that these minor threats are actually big scary threats I might find the imagination to inflate these minor threats into big scary threats just as the administrators and handmaidens of our security apparatuses do.

          *unless they happen to discover a loophole in the way some system works that can be exploited to cause larger damage as Al Queda did then they’re a momentary minor threat that quickly gets fixed down to a very small threat.Report

        • Avatar Patrick says:

          Cancer is a statistical threat.

          Automobile accidents are a statistical threat of a much lesser magnitude.

          Terrorism is a statistical threat of a much, much less magnitude.

          It’s practically statistically negligible. Does that mean that it’s *not* a threat? No. Does that mean it’s anywhere near an “existential” threat? No.

          When you say “the fact remains that the heads of the FBI and Homeland say that ISIS is a threat”… that’s missing an enormously large chunk of context. Here’s what they have said.

          “The threat that ISIL presents and poses to the United States is very different in kind, in type and degree than al Qaeda,” Comey said. “ISIL is not your parents al Qaeda. It’s a very different model. And by virtue of that model, it’s currently the threat we are worried about in the homeland most of all.”

          Also at the security forum was Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who said the imminent threat comes from the potential smaller-scale attacks within the United States, giving the recent shooting in Chattanooga as an example.

          “Abdulazeez was not on our radar and I wouldn’t consider Chattanooga a high risk area,” Johnson said.

          You know, the shooting in Chattanooga is certainly a tragedy. Five people were killed.

          You know how many Americans are killed in shootings in the average year by folks who aren’t associated with terrorism? About 3,400 times as many.

          This is worth spending $2.7 billion?


          • Avatar nevermoor says:

            Pollution is a threat. Global warming is a threat.

            Which is why the GOP is whole-hog into fighting those threats too. Or, you know, would be if they didn’t rely on oil money.Report

        • Avatar Barry says:

          “The fact remains that the heads of the FBI and Homeland say that ISIS is a threat. They are in a much better position to know than you. Do you have any evidence to indicate that they are wrong other than your opinion?”

          Saddam’s nonexistent nerve gas drones, his ties with Al Qaida, his WMD programs, and ‘vast stockpiles’.Report

  3. Avatar Chris says:

    Regardless of who is more dangerous (ISIL or Assad), Assad is the one who has destabilized the region sufficiently to allow the existence and strength of ISIL and other militant groups. The best way to get rid of ISIL is to stabilize the region, which almost certainly means getting rid of Assad’s regime. So to the extent that ISIL is dangerous to national security (and they are, not because they themselves pose a threat, but because they and the other groups are creating the sort of chaos out of which larger scale conflicts come), Assad is also dangerous.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Which makes the freshly minted Iraq-Iran-Russia-Syria Oh Mighty ISIS Intelligence Sharing Deal all the more interesting.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Yeah, instability creates power vacuums, and larger wars start when countries with lots of guns try to fill them. See, e.g., the 30 Years War, the Russo-Polish War, the Second Norther War, the Napoleonic Wars, World War I, and lord knows how many of the wars in China and Mongolia over the last couple millennia. As many of those show, all of it takes is a small spark to create disastrously large conflicts.

        Russian warplanes and U.S. airplanes flying so close together on combat missions is, in this light, moderately frightening.Report

        • Avatar Joe Sal says:

          “Russian warplanes and U.S. airplanes flying so close together on combat missions”

          ha, what could go wrong there.Report

        • Bashar al-Assad, Saddam Hussein, and Hosni Mubarak are/were all despicable human beings. They were also far better guarantors of decent treatment for religious minorities than the regimes which did or might replace them. I don’t know how you square that circle. (Tito of Yugoslavia too.)Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            Like I said, no good outcome. Assad has to go, but how, when, and who replaces him? There’s probably no good answer. Eventually Syria will just be empty except for the people fighting, at the rate it’s losing citizens by death or emigration.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            As bad as those horrible dictatorships were, they didn’t create massive migrant crises.

            Now the question is whether the dictatorships were causing things to slowly get worse and worse and worse and they festered despite looking okay from across an ocean until they hit a tipping point…

            Or whether they had something sustainable enough.

            You watch a video like that and you wonder “what in the hell happened?”Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq says:

              If Egypt was an actual democracy rather than autocracy, the Muslim Brotherhood would at least have a large number of seats in the Egyptian legislature or might even by running the country.

              What we now call Political Islam always had at least a fair bit of support in Muslim-majority countries or regions. Many Muslim intellectuals responded to the crisis of the 19th century and the seeming inability of Muslim societies and countries to keep up with European ones as a call for a return to Muslim first principles. The first Iranian constitution of 1905 had a lot of theocratic elements in it like an Article that all laws passed by the Majles have to confirm to Sharia and an Assembly of Experts to make it so.

              What happened was that the secular elements were always weak and lost control. The theocratic elements were increasingly radicalized by internal and external events. That is what happened.Report

    • Avatar LWA says:

      Who would replace Assad, and how do we know they are any better?Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Who knows. I’m on record saying there is absolutely no good solution to the Syrian crisis. I’m just pointing out that, because of his role in creating and maintaining the instability that allows ISIL and others to operate and gain strength, he’s as dangerous as any of the other groups, or all of them combined really.

        I’m not advocating removing him from power by force.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      Chris: Assad is the one who has destabilized the region sufficiently to allow the existence and strength of ISIL and other militant groups. The best way to get rid of ISIL is to stabilize the region, which almost certainly means getting rid of Assad’s regime.

      This is the complete opposite of being correct.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Thank you, Putin.

        There were protests, Assad attacked them ruthlessly, causing the protesters to arm themselves, resulting in a years-long civil war. I’d blame him at least as much as the opposition, probably more.

        What’s more, there’s no post-civil world in which a regime that’s spent years bombing its population in huge swaths of the country is going to be able to lead a stable government, except through extremely brutal authoritarianism.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe says:

          Brutal authoritarianism is the family business of the Assads. it’s worked for them since Coke was teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony.

          Every regime cracked down on the Arab Spring with some violence. Tunisia said fish it, and had mostly peaceful regime change. Egypt cracked down, then stopped, and elections, had a coup, showing their military played the best long game of anyone. Libya had the same civil war as Syria did, but Obama and Clinton were willing the bomb the snot out of him, but not Assad. Saudis did a good job of suppressing Shi’a minorities in country and in their near abroad with minimum fuss and minimum press.

          With Syria, the Obama administration decided to play it passive aggressively, giving the FSA hope for change, but the FSA hit a wall due to not having the same support, specifically air support, as the anti-Gadaffi forces had. Into this stalemate came the forces of Al-Nusra/ISIS on one side, and Qods on the other side.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            I’m intrigued, do you think the Libya intervention was, on the whole, a good idea? I used to but I’m pretty unhappy with the outcome so far. I wobble back and forth on whether letting Gadaffi kill the lot of them would have been better.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe says:

              Not really. It violated the principles the Obama administration had ran on as a candidate as well as the way they ran things up to that point. It was done at the behest of European powers who thought they could bomb their way out of the refugee crisis that was happening at the time.

              Nobody’s crying that Gadaffi is gone (just like nobody’s crying that Saddam is gone). But it’s the same destabilization, and directly contributed to the destabilization of Syria by giving the FSA false hope of effective military support. Plus, since the Administration knew that the real political fallout from OIF was not the invasion, nor the occupation, but the dead bodies, (and just the American ones at that), they just walked away from it. Violating another principle of their whole of government approach to problems, and just dumped the problem on an underresourced wing of the State Department.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                It also torqued the Russians off something fierce. Though Libya didn’t turn into a Syria at least.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                When Gadaffi was in power Libya had a gov’t and was stable. Now after Obama helped break it, it has no gov’t and isn’t stable. Somehow liberals have conveniently missed all that.Report

              • Avatar LWA says:

                Wait wait wait.
                Gadaffi? Gen. Muammar Gadaffi?

                The murderous terrorist Hitler dictator who was the most evil existential threat America has ever faced?
                The guy who blew up a airliner full of Americans over Scotland?
                The guy whose agents shot Doc Brown while Marty McFly watched?
                Who was so Evil Reagan bombed Libya trying to kill him?

                Suddenly now conservatives have decided he wasn’t such a bad guy after all?

                At what point will conservatives decide that when Sadam Hussein was in power, at least Iraq was stable…Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                I didn’t ever say he wasn’t such a bad guy, did I? What is so funny about your last post is that you want to change the subject. You can’t admit that you beloved Obama did the same thing that you curse at Bush for. Atleast in Bush’s case we thought Saddam was a threat. I’m still trying to figure out Obam’s reason. Maybe you can give Obama a reason? Given that Obama did the same thing, why do liberals give him a pass?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Nobody’s crying that Gadaffi is gone (just like nobody’s crying that Saddam is gone).

                How do you say “nobody’s crying that the Americans are gone” in Arabic?Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                I don’t know, but I’m guessing it has a least a dozen transliterations into Latin script.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      What’s especially enraging is Assad very much helped create ISIS even more directly by both letting fundamentalists out of his jails and then focusing his attacks on the more moderate ISIS foes thus giving ISIS room and oomph to grow. The ISIS mess was deliberately engineered by that fisher because he knew we’d never ally with them.Report

  4. Avatar LWA says:

    Who among the groups listed poses a credible threat to America?Report

    • Avatar notme says:

      For liberals the answer is none of the above.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Instead of telling liberals what they think (a task for which you don’t exactly have the best track record), you could actually make a case and defend it yourself, you know.

        Which ones of these groups represent what sort of threat to America?

        And in what ways should we respond to those threats?Report

  5. Avatar LWA says:

    We tried to create a stable government in Afghanistan. We failed.
    We tried to create a stable government in Iraq. We failed.
    We keep looking for the right pawns and bishops to move into the right configuration so as to create the Mideast into what we wish it were.
    Not one of the nation’s or groups could mount any sort of credible threat to American citizens yet we keep having these discussions premised on the idea that tey are an existential threat.

    Complete disengagement isn’t desirable, but could we finally, at long last, dismiss the fantasy that this region is ours to mold?Report

  6. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Foreign policy has always been a tricky thing in representative democracy. It often requires dealing with leaders or countries that are rather illiberal in nature in order to pursue what is good for your country. This is the “he might be a son of a bitch but he is our son of a bitch” issue. Pursuing this line of foreign policy in pursuit of national interests can get very corrupting though as numerous incidents in American history show. America and other democracies often really betray their core values when following this line of foreign policy.

    A traditional answer to this problem is principled isolationism but isolationism is a lot easier to pursue when your a small, wealthy or at least well off country like Switzerland or Costa Rica rather than medium seized or large country like Australia, France, the United States, or India. When your big and want to interact with the rest of the world for at least the purposes of trade and money making, you need to take a stance at times so you don’t come across as completely opportunistic, cynical and . Even with small countries, isolationism can come off as very opportunistic at times. When isolationism is done wrong, an entire country could look like a hypocrite.Report

    • Avatar InMD says:

      I think we can worry about hypocritical isolationism when we stop involving ourselves in every conflict we can get away with. The pendulum has a long way to swing for that.Report

  7. Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

    The major problem I see with the “who do we support” question is this: The choice is usually between a government we don’t like and the guy in that country who has managed to amass the most guns and foot soldiers willing to use them. Now, it’s not a 100% guarantee that the type of guy who amasses a private army is going to be a bad guy, but I’d argue that it’s generally not a good sign.

    This is also the problem with our notion that if we topple governments we don’t like, the resulting chaos will eventually settle down into an unavoidable natural state of freedom and democracy. For that to actually happen, the guy who has amassed all of those weapons and foot soldiers has to decide that instead of being dictator for life and bathing in the blood of his enemies, he’ll just hang back and let the people run things and abide by their decisions. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s probably not a good thing to bet your whole foreign policy strategy on that outcome.Report

  8. Avatar notme says:

    Obama’s Call at U.N. to Fight ISIS With Ideas Is Largely Seen as Futile

    When the NYT says it, you really have to wonder. Maybe he should stick to yammering about climate change?

    • Avatar Francis says:

      Is there some legitimate principal of international law that states that only the US (and its allies of the moment) are allowed to engage in foreign airstrikes?

      So Assad invited in the Russians. Who cares? What business is it of ours? What possible grounds do we have to complain? I like Kevin Drum’s take: let the Russians spend blood and treasure in Syria if they so choose. They can incur the blowback.

      The obsession of modern conservatives in looking tough everywhere all the time is just nuts. We managed to survive the Cold War, during which time the Russians were far more aggressive than they are today, without every last conservative whining about our national weakness. Today, the US has about 5% of the global population and a declining share of global GDP, as other nations become wealthier. What ever happened to “walk softly”?

      What, precisely, should the US do in face of precedented act of Russian aggression within a civil war in a non-allied country? Start WWIII? Draw a red line in the sand that the Russians will ignore? Impose a blockade?Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        I’ve noticed that, by and large, the enthusiasm for military adventure wanes as you have more skin in the game. A number of my more conservative relatives have shifted from ‘gung-ho’ to ‘skeptical’ about such things as the number of their close kin in the military rose.

        Still, the general conservative impulse to place my favorite cousin in harm’s way so as to “look tough” wears remarkably thin, especially when it becomes obvious they have no goal, no exit criteria, and nothing beyond DROP ALL THE BOMBS UNTIL A THOUSAND ROSES BLOOM.

        If you’re gonna ask people to give their life for their country, is it too much to ask that you give them a freaking solid reason? They’re people, with families. They don’t respawn back at the base like a d*mn video game.Report

        • Avatar notme says:

          No one expect you is babbling about military adventures. There are plenty of other ways to make life more difficult for the Russians obama wanted to. Sadly we wouldn’t be dealing with this issue but for Obama’s poor handling of this mess since the start. He could have actually been a leader and not allowed Putin to frame this conflict as ISIS v. Assad. And just for the record, I’m a Reservist so I have skin in the game, namely my own.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 says:

            Pull the other one, it has bells on. We know exactly what you mean, and it ain’t “diplomacy”.

            Admittedly, that’s doing you the credit of assuming you’re not so stupid that you fall into the ‘Green Lantern’ school of foreign policy. And assuming you’re serious, and not a troll or walking advertisment for cleek’s law.

            I know, big assumptions.Report

            • Avatar notme says:

              Sorry, you are trying so hard to be so clever that I can’t tell what you are trying to sayingReport

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Let me dumb it down for you:

                You want to “do something” buy you won’t specify what. You want to “project strength” but you won’t say how. You want to “support allies” but you can’t point to “who”.

                I’ve seen that before. It’s always someone with a war boner, wanting to invade, bomb, or blow-up someone just so they can be seen to “do something”.

                Let me dumb it down further: You know in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, how the bumbling Minister Fudge throws the innocent Hagrid into prison so he can tell his voters he ‘did something’ about the problem? You’re taking the role of the bumbling Minister Fudge. (Hint: He’s not a role model!).Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                I’ll dumb it down for you. In bumbling along for so long Obama has frittered away options that he used to have and now is left with very few if any. Remember Obama’s threat to use force against the Assad regime if they used chemical weapons and how he ran like a scared kitten when it came time to make good? That is why he is left with nothing but yammering at the UN about ideas fighting ISIS. Maybe yammering will do something? There are economic sanctions against the Russians as well as use of force against ISIS and the Assad regime, however those are now more complicated now that the Russians are there.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I think you’ve mischaracterized the dynamic, notme. Russia always presented complications for US and Western military action in Syria. As people on this site keep saying, there’s no good solution – hence no good choice of action – for dealing with that mess. Course, by “good” in this context I mean “doesn’t make things worse”. That’s how I see it anyway.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                In the theoretical sense, Russia was always a complication for US military action b/c of their history with the Syrians, however with the introduction of Russian military forces that “complication” is much greater than it used to be.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Yes. I agree with that, but I don’t think that’s a good way to describe the situation. It’s not that the number of options available to the West has been reduced, it’s that there are additional reasons for not acting on those (already rejected) options.

                I think TFrog said it best upthread: it’s one thing to complain that Obama isn’t making things all better in Syria, but it’s another thing to clearly state the specific actions Obama could have, and should have, taken to achieve that end. Something as simple as your suggestion that Obama should have backed the moderates, for example – a suggestion that just seems trivially obvious, morally correct, simple enough in practice – would be viewed by Syria, Russia, ISIS, Guam, Chile, Jamaica and the Netherlands as the US trying to overthrow the Assad regime.

                If you have a beef with the way things are going there, maybe we should focus on why the UN isn’t more involved in this. “Peacekeepers” and all that. Seems to me the US and the West are hamstrung, at least wrt the types of actions you seem to think are warranted, for very legitimate and serious political reasons.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Actually the latest developments demonstrate that “supporting the moderates” was in itself an utter fools errand and we’re fortunate that no major effort was mustered up to attempt such a mass support program. Obama’s largely kept us out of Syria and that’d some damn good work however much the conservatives may kvetch. Now the Russians are jumping in it seems, well: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” That’s from a Frenchman but it’s still good advice.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                Was it a fool’s errand or we just did a halfhearted job? Kind of like the “help” Obama’s given the Ukrainian gov’t in their fight. Also, Napoleon was Corsican not French.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Ah, yes. We’re to the Green Lantern theory. It’s all about a failure of will.

                If only Obama had big brass ones, why then the world would bend to him and he’d hold success in his hands!

                Frankly, you’re missing only the grudging admiration for Putin’s manly manliness and powerful demeanor from going full Green Lantern.

                Nuance, details, complexity, plans — they are for wimpy losers! Real men of stern visage and determination shape reality!

                You know, like how Dubya did.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                It was a failure of will when obama made his red line speech and then ran like a scared kitten once he had to make good on it.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                And by “run like a scared kitten” you mean got the Syrians to turn over their chemical weapons which were then removed from the country and then destroyed? Yeah it sure sucks that Obama just removed those from Syria, things would be so much better if there were chemical weapons in the mix now.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                Are you really so naive that you believe they turned over their entire stockpile of chemical goodies? The Syrians have a history of lying and cheating but you’ll believe them now? Besides, I’m not sure what that has to do with Obama retreating from his red line talk.Report

              • Avatar LWA says:

                Y’know, someday a conservative will make a movie about the Triumph Of The Will, then you’ll see how wrong you were.Report

              • Avatar Dave says:


                We’re to the Green Lantern theory.

                I thought all we needed to do was the Care Bear Stare. Meh, this is so 2007.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Just because it’s old doesn’t make it wrong. Look I get the conservative angle: Obama had a perfect opportunity to emesh the US in another horrific morally awful land war in Asia, spend a trillion dollars, throw his party’s foreign policy reputation on a bonfire and let the GOP oppose him on common sense and fiscal conservatism grounds and he refused to do it. Conservatives will never forgive him for that.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                To someone with arch English sensibilities like I was raised with they’re all Frenchmen and Boney is Frenchist of em all.

                It was a fools’ errand, and thank God(ess?) Obama did a half hearted gesture at it or who knows what kind of gear the Syrian n’er do wells would have gotten their hands on. At least in the 80’s conservatives were ashamed of selling arms to Islamic fundamentalists, how they’re loudly proclaiming we should be giving them away for free.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                In bumbling along for so long Obama has frittered away options that he used to have and now is left with very few if any.

                What options were those, specifically?. I’m looking for something of the form, “Obama should have X, which would have caused Y. He can’t do that now because Z, and this represents an important missed opportunity.”

                I’m seeing some of the worst Monday morning quarterbacking ever on this. The criticisms amount to, “If I had had the ball, we would have beaten those other guys.”

                I’m asking this because to me, this whole situation seems like a “sit back and see how it works out” type of mess. I don’t think there’s much we can do or could have done to produce a better stable outcome, so we might as well let it settle into some sort of equilibrium before deciding whether there’s something we can do to improve it. Perhaps when there’s a multi-sided war with a bunch of our enemies fighting each other, just letting them fight it out make sense. Sometimes, nothing really is the best thing to do.

                If others want to stick their hands into the running machine to try to fix it while we stand by, let them. Just like I can’t see us making things much better, I also can’t see the Russians making things much worse.Report

          • Avatar LWA says:

            A leader to achieve, what goal, exactly?

            Destroy Assad?
            Then what happens? How is America better off?

            Make life difficult for Putin?
            Then what happens? How is America better off?

            Thats the idiocy here, that after we bomb/strafe/make life difficult for someone, then [something something argle bargle] all kinds of wonderful things will happen.

            What do conservatives want to achieve in Syria? Can anyone state it in clear declarative sentences?Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              I’d say the conservative policy agenda in Syria is about 90% Cleek’s Law, and the other half is to Stop The Fear.Report

            • Avatar notme says:

              A leader to achieve, what goal, exactly?

              Organize and support the moderate opposition to Assad and keep the Russians out. Failure on both accounts.

              Destroy Assad?
              This may come as a shock to you but he isn’t our friend and had been a long time terrorist supporter.

              Make life difficult for Putin?

              Sure, why should we let Putin have a free hand in Syria to do what he wants without paying some price?

              No one except you is yammering about wonderful things happening? This is the real world not a liberal fairy land.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                And again, what moderate opposition?
                Assad is fighting ISIS. It isn’t possible to try to topple both Assad and ISIS at the same time. If Assad goes down then who takes over…likely some sob’s like ISIS or some such. Who can replace Assad? Of course he is bad MF’r, no news there. The region is filled with maniacs, but we can’t take out the two most powerful at the same time and we certainly can’t replace Assad with whoever we could think of to replace him.

                Russia has been a patron of Syria for a long time, nothing new there. If getting rid of ISIS is our main goal then a stronger Assad/Syria supports that goal. If getting rid of Assad is our main goal then ISIS will likely benefit and we are left with the huge question of who replaces Assad. Those are our choices. None of them are good.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                No, you’re not getting it greg. The policy goals are to destroy or atleast neutralize ISIS and topple Assad without this whole mess blowing up in our faces, which is why Obama just isn’t the right man for the job. He’s not up to the task. Someone else, tho? Absolutely. Some other person could definitely make it happen.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Well yeah…a leader with the Eye of the Tiger would get results that would eliminate the two strongest parties fighting each other while installing a nice trustworthy dude and keep out the sponsor of one of the warring parties. With no muss or fuss. True dat.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                The type of leader, say, who the tiger not only eyes, but lets ride naked on its back.

                THAT type of leader.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Yes a virile bear of man who has been on the front lines of serious intelligence ops so he knows how things work.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                And again, what moderate opposition?

                This, 1000x. Who are these people who, if they just had some weapons from us, would take care of both ISIS and Assad and make everything work out?

                More to the point, how is this “arming the moderates” different from every other time we’ve done it and had it totally blow up in our faces? How many of the weapons ISIS is using right now were originally given to “moderates” who were going to fix everything for us? Our “arm the moderates” script seems to go like this:

                “Who are those guys?”

                “They’re the Islamic Front for the Destruction of the Western Infidels. They’re fighting the same guy we don’t like.”

                “Sounds legit. Let’s give them some weapons and duffel bags full of cash. What could possibly go wrong?”

                Either that or we try to put together some ragtag fighting force of people who are only partially committed and hope that they won’t panic and hand over all of the hardware we gave them as soon as some determined opposition shows up. The problem with moderates is that moderation isn’t typically something people hold the line and fight to the death over.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                You are so right, there arent any good options, so we should do nothing at all. Obamas doing that already, wringing his hands and talking about ideas defeating isis while everone laughs at him.Report

              • Avatar Joe Sal says:

                meh, maybe Russia took the bait and got involved in a nasty conflict that will drain its resources for a decade. ISIS may have just been bait.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                We shall see what happens but i doubt any of it will be good for the US or our allies.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                The crazy part is, all of the people laughing know exactly what to do and they’re just not telling us. If only they’d share their secret plans, we could all get out of this mess. But they don’t share their secret plans. They just describe the outcomes they’d like to see, like Russia having a hard time or moderates taking care of Assad and ushering in a new era of peace and prosperity. It’s like getting a straight answer from the Underpants Gnomes.

                We all know that Reagan would have just flopped his 18 inch penis onto the negotiating table and everybody would have fallen in line, but he’s gone and we just have to deal with that.Report

              • Avatar Francis says:

                Again with this conservative compulsion that everyone be terrified of the US all the time. I’d rather be mocked by tyrants than spill useless blood and treasure in Iraq / Iran / Syria / Libya / Lebanon (for the history buffs).

                Setting foreign policy by worrying about the emotional states of our enemies is childish and stupid. (Wasn’t it Nixon who thought that he could scare the Vietnamese into a favorable peace deal by being perceived as being crazy?) Governance by the Heckler’s Veto has the only effect of giving control of our policy to our enemies. Grownups set policy by setting and working towards achieving important strategic goals.

                Being the world’s bully appears to be the principal strategic goal of most of the major candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination. Paying for the strategy remains not discussed. Also not discussed is what possible benefit the US would obtain by following such a course.

                For example, if the next president is a Republican, he or she will “tear up” the Iran deal. But how they will persuade our allies, plus Russia and China to do the same is a big secret. More bullying, I presume.

                We keep going down that path and we will find that the rest of the world will be perfectly happy to do trade deals around us, and London would be thrilled to replace New York as the center of the financial world.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                If we have no good options then doing little might just be the best action. Neither Syria or ISIS is vital to us. Assad has been a russian client and bastard for years and that doesn’t look likely to change. So that is wash. ISIS are bastards if they are the ones to lose then that is just fine.

                If we don’t’ have good moves in places that aren’t crucial to our national interest why should we do much. Since our options are bad we are likly to get bad results.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                ‘Doing little’


                According to Mother Jones, the US has spent nearly 3 billion dollars so far. That’s a lot of ergonomic chairs.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                The good news is some of that has been ineffectively wasted trying to train an army of good guys to fight. So ..yeah us…high fives all around. Most of the money goes to bombs and fuel for planes which may be having some effect in holding back ISIS. Given the range of options some bombing is on the low end of scale of action. I’m sure the R’s would offer you several models of escalation including a wide variety of boots on the ground. Throwing some bombs around to harm ISIS at the behest of either Kurdish or Iraqi clients if not that bad an idea. Puts very few of our guys in harms way and can slow down some real bastards.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                It’s a lot more than I’d prefer but a lot less than the alternatives that O’s opponents hinted they wanted. Sadly it’s also a lot less than Hillary lobbied for; hopefully by the time she’s in office the Russians will have demonstrated how much of a horror show Syria is and not even she will want to dip our feet into it.Report

      • Avatar LWA says:

        We managed to survive the Cold War, during which time the Russians were far more aggressive than they are today, without every last conservative whining about our national weakness.

        Well, yes, we survived, but not without incessant whining about a bomber gap, missile gap, precious bodily fluids gap, all from every last conservative of both parties.Report

  9. Avatar LWA says:

    Troublesome Frog:
    We all know that Reagan would have just flopped his 18 inch penis onto the negotiating table and everybody would have fallen in line…

    Somewhere Rich Lowry just had starbursts.Report