Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

Russia’s Ruble Problem is Temporary… And not Just THEIR Problem

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Russia’s been in something of a spot of bother lately. The decision by OPEC to continue elevated levels of oil production (in order to deliberately suppress oil prices, and drive higher production cost competitors out of the market), in addition to American sanctions, have caused the Russian ruble to plummet against the American dollar. Steps taken by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Central Bank of Russia to halt this decline have not been effective, causing Putin to call what’s happening a “catastrophe”.

These reduced oil prices of course have many benefits to the US, beyond schadenfreude at Russias predicament. Fuel prices are the lowest they’ve been in almost ten years; which has had a positive effect on consumer prices overall, travel, and holiday spending during retail’s heaviest season.

So with prices at the pump going lower, and Putin struggling, everything’s all good, right??

Not really.

Here are a few reasons why we should be concerned at what’s happening right now:

* There’s a lot of arm-twisting going on both inside and outside OPEC – What’s really happening, is Saudi Arabia is effectively in a staring contest with weaker members of OPEC, and no one has the strength to end the standoff. These low prices are harming oil producers everywhere. The price can only be so low, for so long, before there’s so much pressure (both internally, and from other oil producing nations); that the Saudis will cut production, and allow the price of oil to rise.

* We’re due for an energy market correction – As I said above, this action isn’t just hurting Russia. It’s hurting Venezuela, Mexico, Norway, and all other oil-exporting countries, and it’s not sustainable. Speculation, aggregate demand increases, and softening of the Saudi position, are likely to bring the price back up within a few months, which benefits Russia in the long term.

* Vladimir Putin’s support is, and will remain, solid – Breathless articles in the Western press about Putin’s “challenge” possibly leading to his downfall are vastly overblown at best. For one, Putin knows who his key allies are, and they – the oligarchs in Russia – will be taken care of first. Furthermore, he is virtually synonymous with the once again powerful Orthodox Church, and his domestic policies (which basically amount to keeping the buses running on time and eradicating homosexuals) are still extremely popular. If push comes to shove, the Russian people will stick with him; partly because he’s their best chance against the west (and more importantly, China), and partly because if they do protest, they stand a good chance of not making it home (Putin’s history is clear in this). It’s just as well, because…

* There are no legitimate alternatives to Putin – Simply put, Russia’s liberals (and in fact all political factions other than Putin, and those even more hardline) are broken; either irrelevant and ineffectual, or small, hardcore sects, that hold little appeal for a nation that still remembers bread lines. Financial transparency? Human rights? These are things which, in the mind of a hardened nation, don’t pay the bills; and in the opinion of many Russians, may not be desirable, as they would benefit currently disfavored people (such as gays, and those of religions other than Russian Orthodox).

* When you poke the bear… – Russia has shown that they will act with violence when it suits their desires; ask Georgia, Chechnya and the Ukraine about that… if they can pick their heads up long enough to speak. I’m not entirely sure we want to see the Russians become desperate, or feel truly threatened, economically or politically. At best, many lives may be lost or destroyed in small scale conflict, and the disruption of that inevitably comes with it. At worst we could see war with Russia and “the west” (under whatever pretext or theater in which it may begin); perhaps including support from China, splinter eastern Europeans, “enemy-of-my-enemy” Islamic groups; and governments around the world, who would have to pick a side in a war between the United States, and “anyone other than the United States”.

That’s a wild scenario, but not wild enough to be completely discounted.

In the end, I predict that Russia will ride this out, and wait for mutual interests in the oil industry to start wearing down the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. There could be some retaliation, leading some to guess at a second Cold War. However, ultimately, Russia doesn’t have sufficient economic clout to meaningfully damage the United States and its allies, without also causing greater damage to themselves.

Enjoy the gas prices (and laughing at Putin) for now, but understand that, most likely; prices (and the ruble) will swing back closer to their recent medians, by the end of February (March at the latest), with little or no long-term damage to Putin.

Christopher Bowen covered the video games industry for eight years before moving onto politics and general interest. He is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus, and has worked for Diehard GameFan, Daily Games News, TalkingAboutGames.com and has freelanced elsewhere. He is a “liberaltarian” – a liberal libertarian. A network engineer by trade, he lives in Derby CT.

Normalizing Relations with Cuba is Long Overdue

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Today, the White House announced that they were looking to thaw relations with Cuba for the first time since President John F. Kennedy severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in January of 1961, which preceded the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion that following April. In their statement, the White House noted that fifty years of sanctions and other actions against Cuba have failed to achieve their stated means. This seems to be inarguable; ever since those severed ties, the relationship between the United States and Cuba has been highly antagonistic, with America using its financial and political clout to install strict financial sanctions against them, largely punishing them for adopting a communist government and aligning with the Soviet Union until the latter’s dissolution.

Under the terms laid out simultaneously by the White House and Cuban President Raul Castro, US residents could travel to Cuba for tourism, and Cuba would be allowed to accept United States credit cards. President Obama has also requested Secretary of State John Kerry to begin a review of Cuba’s standing on the list State Sponsor(s) of Terrorism, and some prisoners – most notably American Alan Gross – have been exchanged.

Of course, everything is not as cut and dried as Obama simply waiving his hands and saying “make it so”. For one, most Cuban sanctions are codified in American law, per Doug Mataconis. The number one opponent is going to be Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), whose views echo those of many Cuban exiles and their family members who refuse to deal with Cuba so long as the Castro brothers are in power. Combined with Congress’s total inability to get anything done of note, there is going to be resistance before relations can be formally normalized.1 Naturally, when diplomacy is on the table, there is also a contingent of Americans – the hawks – that are not satisfied unless we’re blowing someone up.

Frankly, it’s well past time for us to normalize relations with Cuba. We had better relations with Russia – the number one antagonist in the Cold War – for a time than we did with Cuba, and all because of… what? The Cuban Missile Crisis, which we instigated with the Bay of Pigs invasion? Punishment for dealing with the Soviet Union back in the early 60s? Some assassination attempts against Presidents, by a country that we invaded? That stupid picture of noted murderer and tyrant Che Guevara being printed on T-shirts and postcards? Actually, that might be a really good reason after all…

Don’t mistake this for altruism. The intention here is definitely to line the pockets of private industry as the mandate’s stated goals of increasing internet penetration and American tourism start to take seed. There’s also the view that ending the embargo will hurt Raul and Fidel Castro as people start to realize the magic of capitalism, a view that seems to be shared by Hillary Clinton. Lastly, our request for Cuba to improve their human rights record is pretty funny, contextually speaking. But even if it’s bad for Cuba’s leaders, opening up relations with Cuba is not only the best thing for Cuba’s people, it’s the best thing for America, as well. We not only get a fertile ground for business dealings – a problem only for hard-core communists and socialists – but we look much better to the United Nations, now that it’s not just us and Israel holding out.

Ultimately, the end of the embargo, and the surety of the overall improvement to both the Cuban economy and the quality of life of its people, will prove one key point: America, and capitalism, won the Cold War, and it was a rout. The Soviet Union’s been dead for over twenty years, replaced by a plutocracy. Cuba will fundamentally change after holding out for decades purely out of spite. And other countries such as China are communist in name only. If the Cold War was a fight between American capitalism and communism, it’s over, and it was a slaughter.

1 – I would not be surprised if a Republican controlled Congress put the brakes on this for at least two years so as not to give Obama credit.

Christopher Bowen covered the video games industry for eight years before moving onto politics and general interest. He is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus, and has worked for Diehard GameFan, Daily Games News, TalkingAboutGames.com and has freelanced elsewhere. He is a “liberaltarian” – a liberal libertarian. A network engineer by trade, he lives in Derby CT.

Will The GOP Congress Return To Bush-Era Foreign Policy Interventionism?

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With the election of the new Republican Congress in last week’s midterms, there are some questions about what policy directions the new Congress will try to take. Much of this is because the GOP didn’t really run on anything except “Obama sucks.”

The Republican Party has been debating foreign policy with less interventionist Republicans like Rand Paul clashing with more hawkish Republicans like John McCain.

This week, I asked the contributors whether or not the GOP will return to its Bush-era hawkish days or not?

Christopher Bowen:

In the big battle between the old-school Republicans and the new-style Tea Party types, the arguement in most circles has centred around economics; really, it’s centred around the Affordable Care Act. There have been other battles, but ground zero has been spending. It’s that focus on those larger battles that have enabled the latter group to enable sweeping social conservative legislation despite the fact that much of that legislation goes against their “liberty” strain of political thought.

It’s with that small sample size of history that I prognosticate what the future holds: if you are a liberty minded person who does not want perpetual war, the next two years are bad news.

It should be noted that of all the things most Republicans hated about Obama, the one thing many agreed with was when he decided to take actions against Libya and the Islamic State. Likewise, many of the conservative lawmakers who have made token rejections of the cavalier way Obama has gone about implementing these wars said nothing about George W. Bush when he did largely the same thing, with some even cheering him on.

To put it simply, war is a divisive subject in both parties, with the far-left liberals also clashing with establishment Democrats.

In the end, war will be something that conservatives latch onto because it will create jobs – a huge selling point to a new, conservative Congress as they prepare for the 2016 election against the Democrat’s biggest hawk, Hillary Clinton – and increase patriotism, which is always a go-getter for the GOP. The dissenters will either be silenced or made irrelevant by feckless Democrats too scared of their own shadows to reject the war drums, and everything that brought us to Iraq the second time will continue to keep us there the third. Those who don’t want to go to war will be labeled anti-American, wanting to help the enemy by forfeiting American jobs. Meanwhile, existing fears about Muslims – largely based off of a few cartoon-like caricatures that would make Boris Badenov blush – will be stoked, as the scary man with the gun in the turban will continue to supplant the scary man with the gun in the ushanka, which long ago supplanted the scary man with the gun and the Tojo glasses as our Common Enemy Who Must Be Destroyed. We have always been at war with Islam, comrade.

“Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship(…) the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.” – Hermann Goering, Nuremberg Diaries

Chris Byrne:

Simple answer? No… except rhetorically… just as they have been for years.

What exact role does congress have in the use of the military other than funding it (or not), disapproving of it (or not), and bloviating about it? Or in foreign policy as a whole? It seems that their approval or disapproval are largely irrelevant at this point anyway… and have been for some time.

Ask me again in two years when the president is a Republican.

Doug Mataconis:

I would submit that the premise of the Roundtable is somewhat flawed, because there is no real evidence that the Republican Party in general, or Republicans at the House and Senate level specifically, have ever really retreated from the “Bush-era foreign policy.” Yes, there are some examples one can point to in both chambers of Congress who have spoken out against an interventionist foreign policy over the the past five years of the Obama Administration. Senator Rand Paul, and Members of Congress such as Justin Amash and Walter Jones come to mind most immediately in that regard, and of course Congressman Ron Paul continued to adhere to his non-interventionist rhetoric until he retired at the end of the 112th Congress. For the most part, though, the GOP Caucuses in both bodies as a whole, have taken the same positions on foreign policy issues that they have in the past.

What we have seen over these past five years isn’t so much evidence of the GOP reconsidering the interventionist foreign policy that defined it during the Bush years as opportunistic criticism of the Obama Administration for pursuing policies that were actually logical extensions of politics previously advocated by Republicans. In some cases, such as the 2011 intervention in Libya, that criticism took the form of opposition to the in retrospect limited U.S. involvement in the aid provided to rebels in Libya’s civil war. In others, such as the Obama Administration’s policies in Syria, Republicans have been downright schizophrenic. After spending two years criticizing the President for not doing enough to aid the anti-Assad rebels in Syria, Republicans on Capitol Hill went with the winds of public opinion, which was decidedly anti-war, and opposed President Obama when he was threatening to take action over the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. Now, in connection with actions against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Republicans seems to speaking out of both sides of their mouth; criticizing the Administration for acting at all while at the same time saying that he isn’t doing enough and, in the end, inviting a terrorist attack on the United States. Above it all, though, is the fact that the majority voice in the Republican Party remains one that supports interventionism, continues to think that the 2003 Iraq War as a good idea, considers the only acceptable foreign policy in the Middle East one that blindly supports Israel, and denounces any attempt to cut the defense budget as “retreat.”

There are, as I’ve said, some exceptions to this general rule, such as Rand Paul. Paul, however, remains a minority voice in his party on foreign policy and there are already indications that if he runs for President in 2016 he will be targeted by many forces inside the GOP based on his foreign policy views. We’ve already seen such attacks from the likes of John Bolton, Dick Cheney, Congressman Peter King, and conservative pundits such as Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post and pretty much everyone who writes at Commentary. One can hope that a Paul candidacy would lead to a real debate on these issues but it’s just as likely that Senator Paul’s efforts to raise these issues will end up being drown in a sea of denunciations of him as a “isolationist.”

So, no, the GOP won’t return to its interventionist ways. But that’s because it never really left that path.

Sarah Baker:

For three reasons, I am optimistic that we will not see a renewed focus on hawkish foreign interventions in the near future.

First, even among people who originally supported the Iraq war, many now believe it was a mistake. Whether they say so publicly or not, deep down in their hawkish hearts, they understand that invasion led inevitably to being forced to choose between two unpalatable options: maintaining a heightened presence for years to come or allowing the place to descend into chaos.

The lessons for Syria could not be more obvious.

Second, we are broke. This country is trillions of dollars in debt. A significant portion of that debt reflects spending during the Bush years. This includes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with a combined price tag, by some estimates, as high as $6 trillion. Even the most hawkish of the hawks must see that we cannot continue to allow this sort of debt to burden our descendants for generations to come.

Third, the world has been fundamentally changed by the globalization of Internet news and the advent of social media. When people die in drone strikes, for example, we can watch interviews with their grieving survivors within days—or even hours—of the strike. For the first time in history, ordinary Americans can exchange messages in real time with ISIS fighters.

We cannot know all of the ways in which these interactions will change the world. But surely they will not make it easier for us to kill one another.

Matthew Souders:

I believe that a GOP-controlled legislature will take some actions internationally, particularly against ISIS, and that libertarians will scream bloody murder about it, but I believe it will be wrong to be so aggrieved. This notion that non-intervention is the savior of US foreign policy that lurks at the heart of the libertarian party is the reason that many Republicans have not become libertarian and the primary reason libertarians still do not field competitive candidates for office.

In the real world, the US is the only superpower with enough influence to have a positive impact on world security. In the real world, the relative success of the EU would be impossible without the US playing an active role internationally. In the real world, ISIS demands a response, lest it embolden every radical or crazy person to join the fight at home or abroad. But in the eyes of many in libertarian ranks, the US would be secure if only we didn’t get involved.

We just passed the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy cannot possibly be described as anything other than a roaring success on the merits – this, the most interventionist president we’ve ever had. Obviously, the same sort of aggression cannot work against a non-centralized power like Islamic Extremism the way it worked against the USSR. It requires a different set of answers and a different general posture. But to ask Congress – who have heard the American People demand action against ISIS – to take no action on the assumption that any action we take must only make matters worse is folly. And the price we will pay if we go down that road will be worse than the price we paid for ignoring Islamic Extremism in the 90s.

None of which is to say that I expect or desire a full-scale war in ISIS-held territory. I believe in the oldest of international doctrines – that we should speak softly, but carry a big stick. That our use of force should be commensurate to the need. That we should not be fooled into believing that it is possible to construct a freedom-loving nation out of people who have never known or expected freedom. But when the cries of people brutalized by a savage group of radicals bent on restoring the Islamic Caliphate go up, and America does not respond – then the world as we know it is surely in the gravest danger.

Stephen Littau:

I have to admit that when I cast my vote for Cory Gardner in order to fire Mark Udall (in hopes of making Harry Reid the Sen. Minority Leader), the notion that the GOP would be so stupid as to return to the Bush era foreign policy never really entered my mind. Sure, I know there are still a few hawks in the GOP who have never met a war (or are we calling them “kinetic actions” now?) they didn’t want to start but I thought that by now the majority had learned the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.

I’m holding out hope that the Senate, under new leadership, will have other priorities which passed through the House but never saw the light of day thanks to Reid. Priorities such as auditing the FED, passing a damned budget, passing the Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment Act (REDEEM Act), and the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act (FAIR Act) should at the very least have an up or down vote. There’s now simply no acceptable excuse for not getting this done.

This is why I decided, perhaps against my better judgement, to vote in favor of a GOP Senate Majority. I certainly didn’t vote in favor of the idea of more boots on the ground in the Middle East. Whose vision will the GOP lead congress follow, that of Rand Paul or that of John McCain? If its the latter, control of the legislative branch will be very short lived and deservedly so.

Kevin Boyd:

Put me down in the “don’t know” category. Sure more hawkish politicians in the GOP won big such as Tom Cotton and Jodi Ernst, but there has been a growing anti-war right as the bills from Iraq and Afghanistan have come due. Conservatives are asking was it worth it to pay so much to achieve so little.

I think we’ll see where the party is going on foreign policy, if a Republican is elected president. However, it appears that every presidential race will be settled in the Democratic primary from 2016 on as Democrats can already count on having 270 or close to 270 electoral votes before the first vote is cast.

So we may never know that answer.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Here’s A Crowdfunding Idea, A Volunteer Brigade To Fight ISIS

Crowdfunding through sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe has made everything from business startups to trips a reality for many that otherwise would not have been. The beauty of crowdfunding campaigns is that it provides a way for people to leverage their social media networks and real life friends to collect and pool together small contributions into a large sum of money for a purpose. Crowdfunding also builds grassroots support for projects, big and small.

If crowdfunding can be used to launch a business or a documentary, can it be used to recruit and fund an all volunteer brigade to fight ISIS? Best-selling sci-fi author and U.S. Army veteran John Ringo seems to think so. On Friday, he posted a status update on his Facebook wall that he was considering such a concept:

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As Ringo points out, members of Dutch and German biker gangs are fighting alongside Kurdish forces in Syria against the jihadist scourge that is ISIS. A couple of Americans have already volunteered to fight alongside the YPG, the Syrian Kurdish militia. However, there’s nothing on the scale that Ringo* is envisioning. Ringo is envisioning something like a non-Communist version of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade of American volunteers who fought for the Communist-aligned Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s.

As for the legal issues, the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq has warned against volunteers joining the Syrian Kurds due to the YPG’s ties to the PKK, which is a Turkish Kurd political party on the terrorist lists of both the United States and the European Union. The U.S. State Department advises that serving in a foreign military is not grounds for loss of citizenship on its own. However, if that foreign military is facing combat against U.S. forces, that could be grounds for loss of citizenship.  A possible grey area is that U.S. law appears to state that serving as a commissioned officer or non-commissioned officer in a foreign military could be grounds for loss of U.S. citizenship. It’s important to note that I could not find any attempts at prosecuting members and commanders of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade or attempting to strip them of citizenship for their role in the Spanish Civil War.

Similiar legal issues were raised over the summer when Americans who served in the Israeli Defense Forces were killed in Gaza. Americans have had a history in serving in the Israeli Defense Forces and other foreign military units such as the French Foreign Legion.

So legally, serving with the Iraqi Kurds shouldn’t be a problem. However, serving with the Syrian Kurds could be legally problematic, given their ties to the PKK. However, the PKK itself is fighting alongside the Iraqi Kurds and the U.S. is arming other Kurdish organizations designated as terrorist organizations to fight ISIS. My guess is, the U.S. would turn a blind eye to Americans fighting ISIS, regardless of what units they’re with.

As for the crowdfunding idea itself, I like it. This could be a way for Americans who are frustrated with the current U.S. policy towards ISIS to step up and do more. They can give money to help American (and likely other foreign volunteers) equip themselves to fight an evil enemy. This unit can be recruited from social media. An example of this is the Donbass Battalion, which is a Ukrainian militia unit fighting against pro-Russian and Russian forces in the Donbass War in Eastern Ukraine. As its commander admits on this Vice News documentary, they recruited on Facebook and relying on donated weapons, uniforms, and provisions.

This is part of a trend of decentralization in warfare that’s going to become more common. As the enemies of freedom are often stateless, the forces of liberty need to decentralize and use the funding mechanisms of peace to respond accordingly. As has been shown in Ukraine, the enemies of liberty and freedom are still often powerful states, so a decentralized means of warfare is often a necessity.

As everything else has become decentralized and crowd-driven, why should warfare be any different?

*Ringo isn’t the only one with this idea. One friend of mine, who has military experience as well, is working on a similiar project as well.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Operation Inherent Resolve Inherently Hard to Nail Down

Operation Inherent Resolve is the new name for the 2014 U.S.-led intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. From military aid, advisors and humanitarian efforts, the operation has evolved into airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. also has troops on the ground, to serve as “military advisers,” to protect key infrastructure and U.S. installations, and to coordinate humanitarian interventions.

Though the “resolve” is allegedly “inherent,” President Obama maintains these troops will not engage in combat. What is not inherently apparent is whether the operation is constitutional, how its goals will be achieved, or how things are going thus far.

CONSTITUTIONALITY

Congress has not declared war. Air strikes commenced on August 8, 2014. The Commander-in-Chief’s sixty-day grace period under the War Powers Resolution—itself of questionable constitutionality—thus expired in early October.

Or maybe Congress has authorized the operation.

The White House claims that the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force and/or the 2002 AUMF provide sufficient Congressional approval. The former authorized the use of force against anyone who aided in the September 11, 2001, attacks (whoever or wherever they might be). The latter authorized force against “Iraq” (whatever that is).

One can have some fun—and score some purely political points—arguing that, if the same authorization applies, then those “wars” were not successfully completed. Or if they were successfully completed, and this is a new and different conflict, then POTUS needs to go back to Congress.

THE STRATEGY

In late August, Obama stated “we don’t have a strategy yet” and that his administration was working to “cobble together” a coalition to come up with one. That same month, the Pentagon suggested that airstrikes alone “are unlikely to affect ISIL’s overall capabilities,” have “a very temporary effect” and have neither “effectively contained” nor “br[oken] the momentum of the threat.”

It is now mid-October. Has the strategy been any more clearly defined?

While the U.S.’s involvement “is going to be a long term project,” the President nevertheless concedes that “[t]here is no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.” Instead, the U.S. encourages the formation of an inclusive Iraqi government, which would in turn make Iraqi forces stronger and more cohesive in their efforts to defend themselves.

Wait.

We already did that once, didn’t we?

This effort will be complicated by the fact that, as the Times reported back in July, classified assessments of the Iraqi military find it to be “compromised” by extremists, making it too dangerous for US troops to work with them against ISIL.

That complication illustrates one of the overarching problems with the “war” on “terror” from the outset: We cannot tell who the enemy is and we cannot know when it has surrendered. How do we tell which people in Iraq and Syria are ISIL and which are ISIL’s victims? What would the “defeat” of ISIS look like? How do we know when it has happened? Does everyone who supports ISIL have to be dead? Do its leaders sign surrender documents?

Until we define the answers to these questions, our actions against ISIL will either be ineffective or never-ending—or both.

HOW IT’S GOING SO FAR

If it remains unclear exactly how the US will know when it has defeated ISIL or how long that might take, it is even murkier how it is going so far.

With $2 billion in assets and substantial support from Sunni Muslims around the world, ISIL’s ranks are swelling and it is drawing recruits from foreign countries everywhere. As ISIL continues to behead captives in retaliation for western interference in its endeavors, the fault lines of shifting alliances are as treacherous as ever.

In Syria, ISIL is fighting President Bashar al-Asad, who the U.S. agrees “must go.” The U.S. is trying to help Syrian “moderates” fight against both Present Bashar al-Assad and ISIL and other “non-moderate” rebels.

After Susan Rice claimed Turkey had agreed to let coalition forces use Turkish bases to assist the moderate Syrians rebels, Turkey repudiated any such agreement. Instead of helping in the fight against ISIL, Turkey has bombed a faction of Kurds called the PKK. The PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by both Turkey and the U.S. But the PKK—along with other Kurds—is currently trying to defeat ISIL militants near Kobani, which the U.S. (and presumably Turkey) also wants to do.

U.S. ally Saudi Arabia officially condemns and opposes ISIL. It is one of the coalition members. But Saudi Arabia supports Sunni Salafism, which is the philosophy also followed by ISIL.

The U.S. and Iran do not get along, because the U.S. considers Iran a terrorist state and opposes its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. But Iran is helping support the Iraqi government against ISIL. In exchange, it wants concessions on its nuclear aspirations and a reprieve of sanctions. Fighting ISIL would help the U.S. and moderate Iraqis. It would also help Iran’s friend, Bashar al-Assad, who the U.S. says “must go.” At the same time in Yemen, Iran is supporting the Houthis, who are moderate Shiites and thus enemies of ISIL. This will anger U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, who is helping in the fight against ISIL in Iraq but who also supports Sunni Salifism, which is the philosophy of ISIL.

Clear as mud?

If not, you may have some sympathy for Rear Admiral James Kirby as he tries to answer a question about how things are going in Operation Inherent Resolve. “Military action is not going to be decisive in and of itself,” Rear Admiral Kirby explains. There are “areas where we are having success,” but it is a “mixed picture.” It is “gonna take a long time” and the U.S. will be “in this … for a matter of years.”

Whatever else may be said about the author of this meme that has been making the rounds on social media, the situation can aptly be summed up as follows:

So some of our friends support our enemies and some of our enemies are our friends, and some of our enemies are fighting against our other enemies, whom we want to lose, but we don’t want our enemies who are fighting our enemies to win.

[And i]f the people we want to defeat are defeated, they might be replaced by people we like even less.

 

Miss me yet?

Sarah Baker is a libertarian, attorney and writer. She lives in Montana with her daughter and a house full of pets.
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