Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Does anyone read history anymore?

During the Korean War, US forces found themselves fighting not only North Korean forces but the Chinese as well.  The Vietnam War had US forces fighting the North Vietnamese military armed with Soviet weapons.  We did the same thing providing the mujahedeen with Stinger missiles to defeat Mi-24 Hinds in Afghanistan.

This behind the scenes support rarely works out for sponsor.  China did not gain any leverage on the international scene for supporting North Korea.  The Soviet Union reaped no benefits from supporting Vietnam (other than perhaps a willingness to provide weapons to oppose the US).  The US support during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan only resulted in increasing resentment of Osama bin Laden against America.

The lessons of history notwithstanding, the US has been supporting rebel forces in Syria in the hopes that it will result in the overthrow of President Asad.  In two years since the beginning of the Arab spring, Asad has not only remained in power but almost thrives.  The Obama Administration seems to have forgotten that the US put Shah Pahlavi of Iran into power after the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 forced his father’s abdication.

Shah Pahlavi’s reign was viewed as being engineered by the CIA to allow US and British oil interests unimpeded access to Persian oil fields.  The resentment of the Shah and his secret police SAVAK resulted in the Tehran Embassy crisis.  The Shah was sent packing and the Ayatollah Khomeini took over.  The crisis led the US to support Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran.  Of course, when Hussein mistook US support as a green light to invade Kuwait, the US would then form a coalition to oust its former ally from Kuwait.  Relations between the US and Iran has been strained ever since.

Had the Obama Administration thought about this bit of history, they might realize that by supporting rebels in Syria only strengthens the relations between Damascus, Hezbollah and Iran.  In short, Asad is not getting weaker and may actually be getting stronger.  The Obama policy does nothing to dissuade Iran from pursuing its nuclear weapons program.

US forces fighting during Iraqi Freedom faced rebel forces in the north that were being supported via shipments from Syria.  Perhaps President Obama thought he could turn the tables on Asad but thus far, it has thus far been for naught.

Monday, May 20, 2013

More missiles, now Israel is the target?

After North Korea got back in the news for its missile tests, it should come as no surprise that Syria has followed suite;

"The Syrian army is deploying advanced surface-to-surface missiles aiming at Israel in the aftermath of the alleged Israeli strikes, The Sunday Times reports."  Haaretz

Later in the article, there is this little gem "Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that Syria would supply his organization with 'game-changing weapons' in response to recent air raids near Damascus attributed to Israel."

We already know Syria has chemical weapons (which they used on their own people), apparently now these game-changing weapons could be used against Israeli targets.  Israel has already struck once and this latest news isn't going to sit well with them.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Of warships and missiles

Sitting here on a muggy Sunday, I am reminded of a quaint saying that goes "If you don't like the weather in Cincinnati, just wait a few minutes."  Meaning the weather is quite fickle as we still had freezing temperatures just a few weeks ago and now it feels like the depth of summer.

I was reminded of this meteorological tidbit while reading some of today's news.  It seemed like the media could not figure out if it wanted to berate the White House for tapping into AP reporters files and phone calls or if it should focus on Angelina Jolie electing to have a double mastectomy.  All of which took the national focus off of the Benghazi hearings, Syria and North Korea.

North Korea was the most interesting as it looked very much like the US was headed for some type of shooting conflict.  Then just like the barometer in Cincinnati, things got quiet.  Kim Jueng Un is nothing if not a publicity hound so he had to get back into the news somehow.  He did this:

"North Korea fired three short-range missiles Saturday into the sea off the eastern coast of the Korean peninsula, stirring tensions that had appeared to ease in the wake of a recent series of threats directed at South Korea and the U.S."Wall Street Journal

Gotta love the latest Kim, when the focus shifts elsewhere pop-off a few missiles.  South Korea remains on high alert in the press anyway but reports from the average citizen is more blasé.  They just don't get what the big deal is and too be far, neither do most Americans.

President Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people which was the "red-line" President Obama warned against crossing.  The Obama Administration has since had three major scandals break putting the Oval Office into a siege mentality.  It was unlikely they could take military action without critics on both side of the political spectrum pushing further into the IRS, AP or Benghazi scandals.  At least that's what I thought until I read this;

"In a move considered aggressive by US and European officials, Russia has sent at least 12 warships to patrol waters near its naval base in Tartous, Syria. The deployment appears to be a warning to Israeli and Western officials against military intervention in Syria’s bloody civil war, which has now claimed the lives of over 80,000 people."  Times of Israel

Sending 12 warships is quite a statement and it will be interesting to see how the White House responds.  Secretary Kerry has been quite unsuccessful in bringing any change to the position of Syria or Russia.  The US military is still dealing with cuts due to sequestration.  Israel has already struck what they say were mobile missile launchers in Syria.  Perhaps Putin is upping the ante to provide further Israeli air strikes.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Russian Pacific Fleet Warships to Enter Mediterranean

I posed a question to my class the other day, "Why has President Obama not taken actions after reports of chemical weapons being used on the people of Syria?". Most tried to answer the question in political terms (i.e. liberal, Democrat unwilling to go to war). These same students did not realize Russia has a base in Syria and has steadfastly ruled against US involvement. Russia has already sent a warship and marines to Syria, now they are sending ships from their Pacific fleet. In the meantime, the Obama administration is distracted trying to spin the travesty better known as Benghazi. The only good news is that North Korea has ratcheted-down the rhetoric (for now).


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Israel Bombs Syria as the U.S. Weighs Its Own Options

Chemicals maybe get a lot of press and attention, but one of the clear things worrying us is advanced conventional weapons,” said one senior Israeli official

NY Times

While President Obama continues to redefine "red line", Israel has moved out unilaterally to prevent Hezbollah from moving advanced conventional weapons.  Israel previously bomber SA-17 surface-to-air missiles launchers last January.

The United States flew the majority of air missions over Libya to help rebels in their fight against Qaddafi.  Qaddafi used his military to try to squash the rebels but at least according to open source reports, he did not resort to chemical weapons.  Contrast that with the situation in Syria this week where reports are very strongly indicating the use of Sarin gas.  The US response?  “We don’t know how they were used, when they were used, who used them,” President Obama in a press conference.

Why the softening and lack of action?  Perhaps Russia;

Spooked perhaps by the specter of the Iraq war, the US says it now has to present hard evidence of chemical weapons use to the UN. Notably, it needs to persuade Russia that the Assad regime used deadly sarin gas against its own people.--CS Monitor

Latest estimates are 70,000 people have been killed in Syria.  Even if the question about chemical weapons can't be answered definitely, the number of casualties would certainly warrant more action by the United States.

No, I don't want a war but the Obama administration has talked a great game that it is unwillingly to back-up when the shit gets real.  We have the Benghazi attack where US Ambassador Stevens was killed and the US took no action (eerily reminiscent of the Tehran Embassy crisis in 1979).  The President's reluctance to commit is only going to embolden more groups to attack.