THE RED FLAG WARNS TRUMP: ALL THE COOLIES ARE DEAD PART THREE

Ian Morris points-out that on the last page of Collapse, Jered Diamond suggested that there are two forces that might save the world from disaster: archaeologist (uncovering earlier societies' mistakes) and television (broadcasting findings).  I agree, but want to add a third savior, history.  Only historians can draw together the grand narrative of social development; only historians can explain the differences that divide humanity and how we can prevent them from destroying us.

PERILOUS POWER IN THE HANDS OF AN INVETERATE LIAR

The bombing of Syria was long-range planning by the US which has nothing to do with whether Bashar Assad remains Syria's duly elected president or not.  Noam Chomsky & Gilbert Achcar in Perilous Power: The Middle East And U.S. Foreign Policy--Dialogues On Terror, Democracy, War, And Justice (2007), discuss US-Israel's long-range plan for Syria's destruction.

SHALOM: There has been talk of the possibility of U.S. military action against Syria and Iran.  How do you assess U.S. policy toward Syria?

CHOMSKY:  The U.S. position with respect to Syria has always been highly opportunistic.  Take Syria and Lebanon.  The United States welcomed the Syrians into Lebanon in 1976, as did Israel, tacitly.  Because the Syrian task at the time was to massacre Palestinians, that was just fine, and there was no particular opposition to their being there.  In 1990, Bush Sr. was very favorable to the Syrians staying in Lebanon, because he wanted to bring Damascus into the anti-Iraq coalition.  Over the years, however, Washington has turned to a more natural stand.  Syria does not follow U.S. orders.  It's a little bit like Serbia was in the 1990s.  Strobe Talbot, who was high up in the Clinton administration, agreed that the main reasoning for the Kosovo war and the bombing of Serbia was, of course, not humanitarian, but that Serbia was the last outpost in Europe not accepting integration into the market system.  What he meant is, they're not following orders, and they’re not joining the neoliberal consensus.  And Syria's kind of like that.  It's a rotten tooth.  In most countries the leadership just bows to the United States.  Syria doesn't.  It's a horrible leadership and has done all kinds of terrible things, but that's not the reason Washington opposes it.

We can see how serious U.S. criticisms of Syria are, for its human rights violations, just by looking at the history.  There is a list of states that support terror, which means mostly states the U.S. doesn't like for some reason, and in 1994, Clinton offered to take Syria off the list of states supporting terror if they accepted the U.S.-Israeli proposals on the Golan Heights that Israel had seized in the 1967 war.  Syria wanted to get their territory back, so they didn't accept the deal, and so they stayed on the list of states supporting terror.  That tells you all you have to know.

In 2004, there came an opportunity to get rid of this rotten tooth, so together with France, U.S. officials rammed through a UN resolution to get Syrian troops out of Lebanon and now they are pressing hard to overthrow the Syrian regime--which is a good idea, but not for their reasons.  Their reasons are the same reasons they bombed Serbia: It was not obedient.

Will the United States do anything?  My feeling is that it's more likely to attack Syria than Iran, but I don't really think it is likely to attack either.  Syria, however, is more likely than Iran.  For one thing, Syria is much weaker.  Iran is dangerous to attack, Syria probably isn't.  Furthermore, I think Israel might like to do it, and they no doubt have the military force to do it easily; it wouldn't cost them much.  So that's a possibility, although I have a feeling it's kind of remote.

The Syrian regime is an awful regime.  The Syrians ought to have an opportunity to get rid of it, but outside forces are just going to make matters worse.  And the reasons why the United States is anti-Syrian are not attractive.  France too, as far as I can tell.

ACHCAR:  You're quite right.  When one considers the positions of the U.S. government, one should always put them in historical perspective in order to grasp their meaning.  And the question is, why did Washington suddenly become so concerned with the Syrian presence in Lebanon in 2004, and not before?

Let's look at the history of this issue: First, the Syrian army entered Lebanon with a green light from the United States and from Israel, in 1976, at a time when the allies of them both, the Christian right-wing forces in Lebanon, were on the verge of defeat at the hands of an alliance of Palestinians forces and the Lebanese left.  (The latter was, more accurately speaking, a coalition of left-wing pretensions with his status as communal and feudal leader of the Druze sect and peasantry.)  This alliance of forces was clashing with the right-wing militias, and was at the point of inflicting a severe defeat on them, when Syria was given a green light to intervene and repress it.  The Syrian army engaged in very violent clashes against the Palestinian and Lebanese left forces for several months until a Saudi-sponsored agreement was reached, institutionalizing the Syrian military presence in Lebanon.  To be sure, when one says Saudi-sponsored, it also means U.S.-backed.  The agreement called for the Syrians along with other Arab forces to reestablish peace and law and order in Lebanon.  The honeymoon between Washington and the Syrian regime did not last long, however: In 1977, the right-wing Zionist Likud Party came to power in Israel, and shortly thereafter, Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat paid his historic visit to Israel, inaugurating a process that would lead ultimately to the Egyptian-Israel, inaugurating a process that would lead ultimately to the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement.   The Syrian regime felt ostracized, and tensions resumed between Damascus and Washington.  But at that point, there was no campaign at all for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, because Washington still considered the Syrian presence and control in Lebanon as a lesser evil compared with the likely resumption of Palestinian expansion in alliance with Lebanese left-wing and Muslim forces.

It was believed for a while that the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 had settled the problem, in that the bulk of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the PLO, was expelled from Lebanon, and an Israel-friendly president, first, and then a U.S.-friendly one were put in power.  The Israeli invasion reduced the Syrian military presence to a limited part of Lebanon, and the Israeli military presence was depicted, until it ended in 2000, as a direct counterweight to the Syrian one. So it served Israel in some way that the Syrians remained in Lebanon: The two foreign forces could be put on a par.  But the whole attempt at building a U.S.-controlled government in Lebanon collapsed in 1984 and, with it, the attempt at concluding a Lebanese-Israeli treaty.  There was an uprising in the Muslim-majority parts of the country, and the situation turned sour again, from the point of view of U.S. interests.  And again, a green light was given ti Syria to reestablish the kind of control over the situation that existed previously by deploying its troops to parts of Lebanon from which it had been driven out by the Israeli invasion, including the capital, Beirut.

This situation continued until Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, when Syria joined the U.S.-dominated coalition in the war against Iraq.  This is often forgotten now, but Syria under the dictatorship of Hafez al-Assad became one of those Arab allies in the 1991 gulf War about whom the United States boasted.  And the reason why suddenly in 2004, the United states--through UN Security Council Resolution 1559, cosponsored with France--became very much concerned with kicking Syria out of Lebanon was the fact that the Syrian regime did not join the second war against Iraq in 2003 and took, on the contrary, a hostile position toward that war, in both cases matching the position of its big brothers in Moscow.  In sharp contrast with what it did in 1990-91, Damascus this time not only did not join the U.S.-led coalition but, in vehemently denouncing the invasion of Iraq, went way beyond the semi-neural attitude that other Arab regimes took.  And that's why the United States decided to punish the Syrian government.  To that should be added the fact that the United States started using the Lebanese situation as a means to exert pressure on Syria to get Damascus to help U.S. forces control the Iraqi-Syrian border and prevent the infiltration of Arab fighters.

So basically, Washington's attitude is purely instrumental.  It doesn't stem from any real concern for the Lebanese population.

CHOMSKY:  Why is Franc involved?

ACHCAR:  That's a more complex issue, connected with French disappointment with Syria.  They have made some requests--including economic ones--that were not accepted by the Syrians.  Another factor was the very close--and, some would say, very profitable--relationship between French president Jacques Chirac and former Lebanese prime minister and multi-billionaire Rafic Hariri, who had broken with Damascus after many years of close collaboration and was assassinated on February 14, 2005.  And behind Hariri stood his patrons--the Saudi kingdom, of course, with whom France has a much greater interest than with Lebanon.  So Paris's attitude, too, was not out of any real concern for the Lebanese population.

Washington has used Lebanon and the Hariri assassination as a bargaining card to obtain specific behavior or collaboration from Damascus concerning Iraq, and also concerning one of Israel's chief concerns: the Lebanese Hezbollah, which the United States is demanding must disarm.  The truth of the matter is that it was not Washington's pressure that was decisive in getting troops out of Lebanon but, rather, the mass demonstrations and mass mobilization that followed the assassination of Hariri.  That's quite clear.  UN Security Council Resolution 1559 was adopted well before that and was just rejected by both the Lebanese and the Syrian governments.

I believe that the United States is not considering, to any significant degree, military action against Syria.  The incentive for an attack is very limited.  Nothing like the invasion of Iraq is possible against Syria in any event.  The United--States--bogged down as it is in the Iraqi quagmire--is simply unable to do anything of the kind presently.  That would be an act of sheer madness.  The pressure that they are maintaining on Damascus is in order to obtain what they want: collaboration on both Iraq and Hezbollah.

Nor do I think that Israel has an incentive for military action against Syria.  On the contrary.  There were actually worries expressed in Israel over U.S. action against the Syrian regime, essentially saying, calm it down, we're not interested in an overthrow of this regime, because we don't want to have an Iraq on our borders.  The Israelis prefer the Assad regime, which controls the situation.  They know pretty well that the Syrian-Israeli demarcation line is Israel's safest border.  They definitely want the Syrian government to stop supporting Hezbollah, of course, or to exert pressure on Hezbollah in order to get it to relinquish its arms, but they are not interested in toppling the Syrian government.  And the fact is that even less than in Iraq, Washington commands no minimally credible alternative to the Syrian regime.  In the case of Iraq, you had at least the whole coalition of the opposition organized by Chalabi.  Some of them not to the taste of Washington, but nevertheless the Bush administration could still buy into what Chalabi told them about his clout in Iraq.  But the U.S.-backed Syrian equivalent of Chalabi that you see in the U.S. media is even more nonentity in Syria than Chalabi was and is in Iraq.

CHOMSKY: What about this former Syrian official in Paris--is he appealing to anybody real?

ACHCAR:  You are right to point to that.  What Washington could have hoped for was a split within the Syrian regime.  And as a matter of fact, the regime has lost two prominent members: the former vice president, Abdul Halim Khaddam, now living as a defector in Paris, and the minister of interior and former commander of Syrian troops and intelligence in Lebanon, Ghazi Kanaan, who allegedly committed suicide.  Both of these people are known to have had close links with Hariri.  And close links with Hariri were always very profitable, whether for Chirac or whomever.  The United States and the Saudis might have banked on these people taking over from within, but the key guy "committed suicide," and the other is out of power and out of the country.  Unless there is a surprise that cannot be foreseen, at least from what I know, I believe that the United States has no serious alternative in Syria.  I think that Washington shares the Israeli concern that if Syria became a chaotic country, that would very much worsen the overall situation crated in Iraq.

PROPAGANDA AND WARFARE MADE EASY

Videos of children and adults were shown on the news of Syrians that had been "gassed" by the Syrian regime.  However, most Americans have forgotten the propaganda that led up to all the wars the U.S. led in the Middle East and in Serbia.  And that Flint Michigan also involves the poisoning by a government of its own people.  And that the enemy is always the Dark Other.

Norman Solomon in War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death (2005) declares that for practical reasons, top officials in Washington don't want to seem too far out of step with voters.  Looking toward military action overseas, the president initiates a siege of public opinion on the home front--a battleground where media spin is the main weapon, and support for war is the victory.  From the outset, the quest is for an image of virtual consensus behind the commander in chief.  A media campaign for hearts and minds at home means going all out to persuade us that the next war is as good as a war can be--necessary, justified, righteous, and worth any sorrows to be left in its wake.

A lot of Americans may be bothered by war reportage, but the day-to-day news is not awfully uncomfortable for most of us, even when U.S. military forces are directly involved.  Messages that underscore the normality of an ongoing war tend to blend with the customary media landscape.  Citing analysis by theorist Jacques Ellul, the writer Nancy Snow has emphasized that "propaganda is most effective when it is least noticeable."  A former cultural affairs specialist at the U.S. Information Agency, she comments: "In an open society, such as the United States, the hidden and integrated nature of the propaganda best convinces people that they are not being manipulated.

The most effective agenda-building for war is apt to seem like the logical unfolding of events at a time of crisis.  The dynamic is akin to an approach that the legendary advertising wizard David Ogilvy described several decades ago: "A good advertisement is on which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.  It should rivet the reader's attention on the product.  Instead of saying, 'What a cleaver advertisement,' the reader says, 'I never knew that before.  I must try this product.'  It is the professional duty of the advertising agent to conceal his artifice."  Ogilvy added: "When Aeschines spoke, they said, 'How well he speaks.'  But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, 'Let us march against Philip.'  I'm for Demosthenes."

A media-propelled march to war has many parallels with an advertising campaign.  And such campaigns are more constant than episodic.  From hard-sell messages to subtle product placement, plugs are unceasingly part of the media terrain; the process of generating acceptance is 24/7.

SYRIA--THIS IS ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS--OR RIGHT-WING HUSTLE

Solomon posits that a persuasive argument for going to war is often a clarion call for action on behalf of human rights.  The specter of continued political imprisonment, torture, and killings [of one's own people] may come to seem unacceptable--especially when we learn some of the details and remedy appears to be at hand.  If American leaders tell us that human-rights abuses and atrocities must cease, there may be acknowledgment that war will cause hardship, pain, and death--but at the end of the day, peace will come and freedom can flourish.  That's the pitch from the White House, anyway.  But behind the tableau of official principles are realities that rarely get onto the public stage.  Away from the media spotlight and unmentioned by policy promoters in Washington, some terrible human-rights violations get scant criticism--or even receive behind-the-scenes support--from the U.S. government.  Seen in narrow light, the president's posture for war is apt to appear noble; yet from a wider view, it is difficult to miss the hypocrisy and manipulation. Many governments engage in serious violations of human rights.  But the Pentagon only bombs a few of them.

High-minded rhetoric can be reassuring.  Yet when Washington gets down to policy, some torture is deplorable, some is ignoble, and some is fundable.  Generally, top U.S. officials are careful to downplay or bypass entirely the horrendous deeds of allies.

Inside the Beltway and in U.S. mass media, Kurdish peopled killed by Saddam Hussein's regime were of great human significance--but in contrast, viewed through the same media window, the Kurdish people killed across the border by the Turkish government  (a member of NATO) merited no appreciable concern.  You can search in vain for a record of Washington condemning its ally Turkey while, in the 1990s, Turks drove millions of Kurdish people from their homes [continue to treat them as enemies as they jointly fight ISIS], destroyed thousands of villages, killed many thousands of Kurds, and inflicted horrific torture.

To take another example:  The invasion of Iraq was praised for closing down Hussein's torture chambers.  Meanwhile, billions of dollars in aid continued to flow from Washington to the government in Cairo, still operating torture chambers for political prisoners.  One might think that an appropriate way to oppose torture would be to stop financing it.

During the first several years of the twenty-first century the disconnects between Washington's idealistic language and its actual actions became even more extreme.  Annual reports from human rights groups cataloged superpower hypocrisy run amok.  In 2003, amnesty International condemned the American and British governments for engaging in a "war on terror" that was actually emboldening many regimes to engage in horrible abuses of human rights.  Amnesty International's secretary-general, Irene Khan, said that "what would have been unacceptable on September 10, 2001, is now becoming almost the norm"--with Washington promoting "a new doctrine of human rights a la carte."  In 2004 the amnesty International annual report described the invasion of Iraq, and other actions taken under the rubric of the war on terrorism, as part of a U.S. global agenda "bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle."  Secretary-General Khan led off the report with a statement that stressed the damaging activities of the U.S. government: "Sacrificing human rights in the name of security at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad and using preemptive military forces where and when it chooses have neither increased security nor ensured liberty."

Soloman cautions that after Iraq, anyone would be ill advised to assume truthfulness of Pentagon pronouncements--or to trust that officials weren't cloaking essential facts with the simple strategy of withholding information.  As a Pentagon official remarked to a Newsday reporter at the time of the Gulf War, "We lie by not telling you things."

Our leaders never lie to us--unless you mean lying by omission, lying with statistics, lying via unsupported claims, or lying with purposeful obfuscation, misleading statements, and successions of little white lies.  Citizens make decisions based on information from presidents, pundits, and their colleagues in government and the news media.  Often these esteemed public figures claim to have special knowledge.  Our trust may be essential to their plans, but it is unwarranted.

Whether or not the exact phrase is used, "human rights" can often be found at the core of Washington's most common rationales for initiating and continuing wars--directly or indirectly.

A VIEW OF SYRIA WITHOUT THE WEST

Robert D. Kaplan in The Revenge Of Geography: what the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts And the Battle Against Fate (2012) posits that the Syria of recent decades has been a ghost of this great geographical and historical legacy.  And the Syrians are poignantly aware of it; for, as they know, the loss of Lebanon cut off much of Syria's outlet to the Mediterranean, from which its rich cultural depositories had breathed life.  Ever since France sundered Lebanon from Syria in 1920, the Syrians have been desperate to get it back.  That is why the total Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon that George W. Bush demanded in the wake of the February 2005 assassination of anti-Syrian Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri would have undermined the very political foundation of the minority Alawite regime in Damascus right then and there.  The Alawites, a heterodox Shiite sect, demographically spill over into both Syria and Lebanon.  An Alawite mini-state in northwestern Syria is not an impossibility following the collapse of the Alawite regime in Damascus.

In fact, following Iraq and Afghanistan, the next target of Sunni jihadists could be Syria itself: in the Syrian regime, headed through early 2012 by Bashar al-Assad, the jihadists have had an enemy that is "at once tyrannical, secular, and heretical."  This Alawite regime was close to Shiite Iran, and stands guilty of murdering tens of thousands of Sunni Islamists in the 1970s and 1980s.  Jihadists have deep logistical familiarity with Syria--sustaining the jihad in Iraq necessitated a whole network of safe houses inside Syria.  Truly, no one has a feel for what a post-authoritarian, post-Assad Syria will eventually turn out to be.  How deep is sectarianism?  It may not be deep at all, but once the killing starts, people revert to long-repressed sectarian identities.  It may also be that a post-Assad will do better than a post-Saddam Iraq, precisely because the tyranny in the former was much less severe than in the latter, making Syria a less damaged society.  Traveling from Saddam's Iraq to Assad's Syria, as I did on occasion was like coming up for liberal humanist air.  On the other hand, Yugoslavia was a more open society throughout the Cold War than its Balkan neighbors, and look at how ethnic and religious differences undid that society!  The minority Alawites have kept the peace in Syria; it would seem unlikely that Sunni jihadists could do the same.  They might be equally as brutal, but without the sophisticated knowledge of governance that the Alawites acquired during forty years in power.

Of course, it does not have to turn out that way at all.  For there is a sturdy geographical basis for peace and political rebirth in Syria.

THE OFFICE THAT SHELDON ADELSON BOUGHT

Matt Isaacs in Sheldon Adelson Goes All In (Mother Jones, March+April 2016) writes that Donald Trump, who swore off contributions from his fellow billionaires, sent Sheldon Adelson a glossy booklet of photographs from a gala where he accepted an award for boosting US-Israel relations.  "Sheldon," the candidate scrawled across the cover, "no one will be a bigger friend to Israel than me!"  (Adelson has promised to support whoever wins the nomination.)  Isaacs charges that Adelson has used his fortune to reshape right-wing politics in both America and Israel, establishing himself as a GOP king-maker in the post-Citizens United era.  In December [2016], he backed a secretive $140million purchase of the Review-Journal, putting Nevada's largest paper in the hands of its richest resident and a fixture of its biggest industry, and increasing his influence on Nevada's early presidential caucuses. 

During the previous presidential election, Adelson spent nearly $100 million directly (and reportedly another $50 million in $100 million directly (and reportedly another $50 million in undisclosed dark money) trying to thwart Barack Obama's reelection.  That included $20 million that he and his wife spent backing New Gingrich's primary run and, after Gingrich dropped out of the race, another $30 million on a super-PAC supporting Mitt Romney.  He gave another $23 million to American Crossroads, the super-PAC once led by Karl rove.  His dark money contributions reportedly buoyed conservative organizations such as the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity.

And Adelson has arguably greater political influence in Israel, where he founded the free daily Israel Hayom, reportedly spending tens of millions of dollars to bankroll it.  Now the country's most widely read publication, Hayom serves as the house organ for Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu, who rode to reelection after stoking fears that "Arab voters are heading to the polls in droves."  In 2016 Republican candidates, many of whom have made the pilgrimage to Las Vegas in what has become known as the "Adelson primary," know that the mogul's patronage depends on their positions and tone toward Israel.

A diminutive 82-year old with a lumpy face and a puff of thinning red hair, Adelson is the 13th-richest man in the United States, worth more than $20 billion, according to Forbes.  He joined the ranks of the super-rich following his 2001 investment in Macau, a once rundown seaport an hour's ferry ride from Hong Kong that in the last decade has overshadowed Vegas to become the world's gambling capital.  Adelson's casinos in Macau, a special administrative region of China, provide the majority of the revenue for his company, Las Vegas Sands.  But beneath Macau's glitz lurk organized crime, corruption, and a shadow banking system that has allegedly laundered billions of dollars for China's ruling elite.  In 2013, the chair of Nevada's powerful Gaming Control board told a federal commission that it was "common knowledge" that the lucrative VIP rooms in Macau casinos have "long been dominated by Asian organized crime."  That same year, a federal commission cited a study finding that more than $200 billion in "ill-gotten funds are channeled through Macau each year."

Which raises the question" Is dirty money spent by corrupt Chinese officials at Macau casinos flowing into our elections, at least indirectly?  "With Citizens United there's an awful lot of money sloshing around in our political process," said Carolyn Bartholomew, vice chairman of the bipartisan US-China Economic and Security Review commission, a congressional advisory body that produced a scathing report detailing Macau's vulnerability to money laundering by such officials.  "People have a right to know whose money that is, and that the proceeds being spent in the political process are not from illegal and illicit activities."

WHAT DID ADELSON MONEY BUY?

Sheldon Adelson American Zionist-Neocons has revived the Neocons when Stefan Halper & Jonathan Clarke in America Alone: The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order (2004) assured America that the Neoconservatives "have had their moment."  Halper and Clarke declared that sadly, their doctrine of uni-polarity has done great damage.  They leave a legacy in Middle East policy and the wider struggle against terrorism that, unchecked, could aggravate this damage many times over, not just on foreign policy but on how Americans relate one to another.  Their pessimistic notion that American ideals need to be delivered on the back of a cruise missile rather than be allowed to speak for themselves as Universalist aspirations has severely distorted American's relations with the rest of the world.  Happily, this detour is now coming to an end.  Work will be needed to put the cruise missiles back in their packing cases for use only in cases where they can add value to America's broad interests. Work will also be needed to revive America's moral authority, but it will be inspiring, worthwhile work of the sort that Americans have shown themselves capable for generations.  And there will be plenty of help from American's friends, who know that the world works best when they and America are in partnership.

World

Neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz On Syria Airstrikes

5:22

NPR's Lulu Garcia Navarro speaks with former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz about options for the United States in Syria following the chemical attacks and U.S. response last week.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

We're joined now in the studio by Paul Wolfowitz. He was deputy secretary of defense under George W. Bush, and he is currently a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Welcome, sir, the program.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Good morning, nice to be here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You wrote an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal calling on President Trump to back up his tough talk on Syria with action. How satisfied are you with the U.S. airstrikes he ordered?

WOLFOWITZ: I think it was impressive, some people might say surprisingly impressive. But it was - for a brand-new administration, it was - to put it all together that quickly and to do it that well, I think, is something to be very pleased as an American. It was limited and proportional, but nevertheless, it was strong and sent a very, very strong message. They did it without U.S. ground troops and with no U.S. military casualties, which is very important. But I think what also may be the most important thing in all of this is that when the U.S. acts decisively, it changes the way everybody thinks. Our enemies suddenly become more cautious or even think about how to cooperate. Our friends become stronger and more willing to support us. I think we saw that many years ago when George H.W. Bush declared that the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait would not stand. That sent a message to the whole Middle East that here was a president of the United States who was going to stand up and get something done.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you think this sends a message. But what should happen next, if anything, in your view?

WOLFOWITZ: Well, I'm sure they have many ideas. I don't think they need a lot of speculation from me. But what I would say is this, that because of the change in attitudes, which is really very striking, we have, not surprisingly, our European allies stepping up and praising us; our Asian allies, also. Even in Iraq, you have senior political leaders calling for Assad to resign. I think the Russians have started to back away from that ridiculous claim that they were supporting of the Syrians, that this was a rebel poison factory that was attacked.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So should Bashar al-Assad be removed from office, though? I mean, should this go further?

WOLFOWITZ: Look, we're in early stages. I think what we have are opportunities, opportunities particularly on the diplomatic front. People will do things now that they weren't ready to support before. And I think the goal should be something that ends this humanitarian disaster that is Syria that stems the refugee flow and that...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But what exactly, more military action or diplomacy?

WOLFOWITZ: I just finished saying diplomatic action would be the - my first preference. The thing is now when you go to diplomacy, people know that you have something behind it. And if diplomacy doesn't work, there are other things that can happen. And I think that's important, and I think - look, personally, I believe that if you want to get peace in Syria, you can't leave Assad in power. On the other hand, you have to somehow reassure - I'm sure there are millions of Syrians who are afraid of what happens to them if Assad leaves, particularly some of the minorities. So it's going to be, going forward, a very, very complicated and difficult negotiation, but at least we've set a framework where something can happen. I would say in some ways it reminds me of 1995 in Bosnia. After three years of dithering by both U.S. administrations, President Clinton finally took military action that opened the door to a Dayton Agreement. You couldn't have said right after that military action what shape the agreement would take. That's diplomacy. It's unpredictable. But I think it doesn't happen without leverage, and we now have leverage.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, obviously, we have to bring up Iraq and the aftermath of the Iraq War, which was extremely chaotic. We're still feeling the effects now. If there is more military action, if Assad is removed from power, who would fill that vacuum? It's a very complicated situation in Syria right now.

WOLFOWITZ: Look, if you'd asked who was going to fill the vacuum in Bosnia 20 years ago, no one could have predicted it. I think it's something to be negotiated by Syrians, not put together by the U.S. proconsul. That's certainly not what we're after in Syria. And that vacuum in Syria is part of what created the revival of radical extremists in Iraq. And I think the Iraqis understand that. So that may explain why you have even Iraqi Shia leaders ready to support something different, hopefully recognizing that Iran is not their friend in all of this, that Iran has helped to destabilize Iraq by opening up Syria.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm curious - you said on this network about the Iraq War that we went into Iraq because we believed Saddam Hussein was dangerous, not because we believed we needed to go to war to install a democracy in Iraq. Applying that to Syria, is Assad, do you think, dangerous to American interests?

WOLFOWITZ: I do. I think anybody who uses chemical weapons against his own people is dangerous because he may use them against other people. And I think the example of violating not one, not two, but I think by now three different agreements on chemical weapons, if he gets away with that, that's a very, very bad message for the ugly dictator in North Korea, for example, and other people around the world who may think chemical weapons will give them an advantage.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, thanks so much for coming in.

WOLFOWITZ: Thank you.

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Countering Halper & Clarke's joyance is Jacob Heilbrunn in They Knew They Were Right: The Rise Of The Neocons (2008) when he declares that the professionalization of the neoconservative movement, which has been it undoing as both an intellectual and a moral force, means that it will remain an institutional one.  Whether it's the Foundation for Defense of Democracies or the National Endowment for Democracy, the Weekly Standard or the New York Sun, the neoconservatives are battle-hardened fighters who have created a permanent base for themselves.  They will not disappear.  An elite caste, they will simply regroup, deftly detaching themselves from George W. Bush.  Had Bush only followed the neoconservative prescription, they argue, Iraq could have been a success.  For others, the prospect of permanent warfare in the Middle East is a welcome one.  In this regard, the neoconservative vision has been not destroyed but fulfilled by the Iraq war.  The menace posed by Iran's nuclear ambitions offers a further rationale for neoconservative demands that the United States remain on a perpetual war-fighting basis in the Middle East.

None of the Democratic candidates uttered even a mild word of criticism of Israel.  This, too, must be counted as a neoconservative success.  Israel, formerly the whipping boy of the left has become sacrosanct, at least for any Democratic or Republican politician intent on seeking the highest office of the land.  Finally, another neoconservative success is that the movement has not been driven out of the Republican Party.  The lack of accountability is, in fact astonishing.  The neoconservatives, in creating the greatest foreign policy disaster since Vietnam, may also duplicate its political effects--for the Republican Party.  The Democratic coalition was shattered by the Vietnam War.  The GOP may experience the same fate over Iraq [now Syria 2017].  But so far, the neoconservatives have essentially gotten off scot-free. 

Deconfliction Likely To Come Up During Secretary Tillerson's Meeting With Russia

5:26

Former U.S. State Department Under Secretary Nicholas Burns explains the meaning of "deconfliction" and how it relates to the Syrian conflict.  http://www.npr.org/2017/04/09/523203725/deconfliction-likely-to-com...

Middle East

News Brief: U.S. Strategy On Assad Lacks Details, North Korea Aggression

10:19

April 10, 20175:07 AM ET

Views: 26

Comment by mary gravitt on April 11, 2017 at 12:30pm

When the Trump presidency shakes out, you know who will get the blame.  After the misery is will cause, perhaps the Neocons will not get off scot-free this time.

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