The conflict in Afrin may have been my most requested topic ever. I’m glad that folks have forced me to at Syria again. I was dreading it a bit, though, because the subject is super depressing. The war is both horrific and infantile, where some players are desperately hanging on, and others are just idly running around destroying things and destroying people.
The United States would be the prime example of the latter. We’re barely aware of what we’re doing, and what has happened. We are constantly told that Syria somehow means that US leadership is waning, or that other actors are “winning” the war. Believing this requires complete ignorance of the real power dynamics here. The US is much more powerful than any other belligerent, and by any objective analysis my government is the only entity that has “won” anything here. If Syria was a board game, Washington, DC would be the winner. But Syria isn’t a board game. It’s a country that has been destroyed. It may take decades, but there will be consequences. This video lays out the whole depressing state of affairs in Syria today, and yes, it also deals with Afrin.
Video Transcript after the jump…
Hey there. So this past week the Turkish military commenced operations against the YPG in Afrin, in the Northwest of Syria. My audience really wants me to weigh in, so I’ve been looking at Syria again after a while. And I’ve come to a really grim conclusion. I think the US government has won the war in Syria. For the next couple minutes I’m going to throw out ethics, morals and common sense, and talk very simply about Washington DC’s goals in Syria, and how thoroughly they have been achieved. Don’t worry we’ll get back to morals and ethics at the end.
So Syria’s president Bashar Assad is still in charge of more territory than anybody else in Syria. This is supposedly a big failure for the US. But in truth, Washington, DC’s goal was never a better form of government, or the welfare of the Syrian people. It was always about sticking it to Syria, one of very few countries that has ever had the courage to stand up to the United States and our ally Israel. And it was also about sticking it to Syria’s allies in Russia and Iran.
The Chaotic nightmare that the Syrian people have suffered over the past 7 years has served these purposes very well. In the US we have a massive victimization complex, and we believe everybody’s winning in Syria except for us. Let’s take a look at some of these winners.
Bashar Assad, the President of Syria, used to be in firm control of his entire country. The news over the past year has been all about how he’s “winning” but what is he winning exactly? Between 2012 and 2017, Turkey, the United States and a bunch of Gulf countries spent billions to take half his country away from him. Assad has taken a lot of it back, but his country has been destroyed, and the folks who destroyed it are going to make sure he doesn’t get any humanitarian money to rebuild it. He’s an international Pariah, and the absolute best case for his retirement is a cold apartment in Moscow.
Iran is supposedly another big winner. This is absurd. After the space for Sunni Jihadists that the US and Turkey opened up went a little further than intended, and almost overthrew Iraq, Iran had a lot to lose. For a minute there it looked like it might take Syria, Iraq, and then come gunning for Iran. The Iranian regime had to spend billions of dollars it didn’t have fighting ISIS. We learned last month what the Iranian people think of that. The US public had a bit of brief ISIS panic before the Ebola panic pushed it out of the headlines back in 2014. Iran has been fighting for its life for the past 3 and a half years. Washington, DC experts want us to believe that Iran is now about to take over the whole region. That’s Ridiculous. Iran has now barely crawled back to the regional position it was in in 2011, Except now there are US bases in Iraq and Syria, and the Iranian public is just about done with foreign adventuring.
Russia isn’t quite as screwed as Iran is, but they are trapped in a quagmire too. How many times has Russia declared victory and announced their withdrawal from Syria now? It’s got to be at least three times. Putin desperately wants this war to be over. Unfortunately, the prestige of his kleptocratic regime is deeply wrapped up in Syria continuing to look like a success, so he’s stuck with this ulcer, more than two years into what he had hoped would be a brief engagement.
And now Turkey. Sigh Turkey. I don’t know what the hell it was, Ottoman dreams, or just the urge to be a good NATO ally for the United States, but Turkey took a lead role in the “Get Assad” project from the get-go. They have gotten burned hard.
The Turks were on board with the “Get Assad” project, but less so with the “Get the people we were using to Get Assad” project. Because all that left was the Kurds. The prime US partners in Syria are referred to by a range of acronyms that mean subtly different things, but Turkey just sees one acronym. The PKK is designated a terrorist organization by both the US and Turkey, and it’s been trying to dismember Turkey for decades. Nobody really disputes that the PKK is closely connected to the US’s Kurdish allies. Turkey is understandably really not cool with sharing a border with a bunch of folks who just might want to erase that border. The US doesn’t really care. So in August 2016, Turkey invaded Syria to keep these two Kurdish pockets from joining up.
Which brings us to Afrin. The Turks really want to deal with this larger pocket here, but they can’t. The US has a large presence here now. Turkey’s president Erdogan has talked about going into Manbij in the big pocket. This has gotten the standard “World War III starts tomorrow!!!” folks super excited, but that’s not going to happen. The US has liberally sprinkled Manbij’s defenses with US special forces. In this conflict women and children die every day, but US soldiers are untouchable. Turkey didn’t like the consequences when it shot down a Russian plane back in 2015, killing a US soldier would be infinitely worse. Tensions are high, and a mistake could happen, but I highly doubt it would lead to anything serious. As far as what happens in Afrin? I legitimately don’t know. My guess is that this will work out best for Assad. It’s already had everybody looking the other way as he bit a big chunk out of the Idlib “de-confliction” zone. Turkey and its mostly worthless Syrian rebel allies will probably get bogged down, and then the Syrian government will take over in a face saving agreement that allows Turkey to claim they wiped out a PKK pocket. That’s just my guess, I could be completely wrong about that.
What strikes me about all this, is just how much the Syrian conflict means to everybody else involved, and how little it means to the United States. Now that ISIS is done with, the US public has lost interest, and the US government can follow what it sees as its strategic interests. This Afrin move by Turkey plays right into Washington, DC’s hands. We’ve got 2,000 or so US soldiers setting up permanent shop in Syria right now. The great problem with Iraq, from Washington, DC’s perspective was always that it had a government that didn’t want us there. Fox News loves to blame Obama for leaving Iraq in 2011, but it was Iraq’s government that kicked us out. Erdogan is solving that problem for the US government right now. If Turkey manages to take out these Kurds in Afrin, these Kurds will want the US to stay forever.
So in a very short term, burn it all down sort of way, the US has won the war in Syria. All its enemies, and one of its allies, have been over-extended, beat up, and trapped in a chaotic nightmare that’s not ending any time soon. The US now has a military base smack dab in the middle of the Middle East, and hosts that desperately want them to stay.The US is the only player in Syria’s conflict that is in better shape than it was in 2011. So yaaaay?
Let’s take it back to the realm of morals, ethics and common sense. This US victory has been a catastrophe for Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran and it will eventually hurt the US too. I would argue, some would disagree, but I would argue that this scorched Earth approach might have been appropriate during the Cold War. The Cold War has been over for 26 years. Washington, DC’s experts desperately want to convince you that Putin or Assad, or Iran’s Mullahs are the new Hitler. That’s insane, Hitler’s been in the ground for 73 years, but it’s the only history anybody in Washington, DC knows. I’ve got a couple videos on why that’s so crazy. My government desperately wants to convince us that there’s a real danger here, because if there isn’t, then it’s actually Washington, DC that’s the real danger. I’m afraid that what we’ve done to Syria is going to be a model for the US government going forward. It might take few decades, but the world will start to get very sick of this. Washington, DC won in Syria. The United States certainly didn’t.
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