Playing Nuclear Chicken – or is it Russian Roulette?

“It was not immediately clear how close the U.S. military recon jet was flying near Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave between NATO allies Poland and Lithuania. This fall, Russia moved nuclear-capable ballistic missiles to Kaliningrad, putting some European capitals in strike range.” Armed Russian jet comes within 5 feet of US recon jet

“At the end, we lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war. We came that close to nuclear war at the end. Rational individuals — Kennedy was rational, Castro was rational, Khrushchev was rational — came that close to total destruction of their societies. And that danger exists today. The major lesson of the Cuban Missile Crisis is this: The indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will destroy nations.” –U.S. Vietnam “War” Defense Sec. Robert McNamara, The Fog of War

So, is it just “Nuclear Chicken” – or is it Russian Roulette?  Or maybe both?

And will M.A.D. still work after all these years?

Blowback: Paris Terror Suspects Recently Returned from Syria and Demonstrated Military Training


Briefly noted in the third paragraph of a USA Today report about the suspects in today’s Paris terror attack: “Both brothers returned from Syria this summer.”

What would French radical Islamists be doing in Syria around that time? Quite possibly getting training from the US and its allies to fight Assad. And as Ben Swann reports: “Analysts have said that this attack was carried out by men who had formal military training and was carried out by men who acted like a ‘special forces unit’.”

However, such training is by no means certain, for as Mitchell Prothero reports:

“Other evidence suggests they could be linked to a top French al Qaida operative, David Drugeon, who’s been the target at least twice of U.S. airstrikes in Syria over the last four months.”

Yet, even if they didn’t manage to get past U.S. “vetting,” and instead received training from al Qaida alone, the fact that the war they earned their spurs in was persisting at all was due to U.S. aid to the rebels.

This is the kind of blowback that is so quick to follow intervention that Scott Horton incisively terms it “backdraft.”

And once again, just as with Sony and North Korea, the implications concerning empire are getting lost in the hullabaloo over rogue groups allegedly seriously threatening freedom of speech.

Frankensteinian Hubris: Bush’s “Redirection” and the Rise of ISIS

Monster and maker meet again.

As the ISIS Sunni radicals, after proclaiming a new Caliphate, continue to conquer Iraqi towns, and the Al Nusra Front Sunni radicals proclaim a new Emirate in Syria, it is good to remember that the policy that led to this mess was initiated under the Bush Administration, with full cognizance of the possibility that it could result in severe terroristic and destabilizing blowback. It was in 2007 that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia launched what Seymour Hersh, who broke the story in The New Yorker, called “the Redirection.” Under this policy revolution, the U.S. and the Saudis (with Israel’s blessing and prodding) began trying to bolster Sunni radicals in an effort to “contain” the “Shiite resurgence” brought about by the U.S. empowerment of the Shiites in Iraq. It all started in Lebanon (emphasis added):

In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda. (…)

The new strategy “is a major shift in American policy—it’s a sea change,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. The Sunni states “were petrified of a Shiite resurgence, and there was growing resentment with our gambling on the moderate Shiites in Iraq,” he said. “We cannot reverse the Shiite gain in Iraq, but we can contain it.”

“It seems there has been a debate inside the government over what’s the biggest danger—Iran or Sunni radicals,” Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who has written widely on Shiites, Iran, and Iraq, told me. “The Saudis and some in the Administration have been arguing that the biggest threat is Iran and the Sunni radicals are the lesser enemies. This is a victory for the Saudi line.”

(As it turns out, as reported by Patrick Cockburn, not all of the Saudis embraced such a blowback-inviting policy, so it would be more accurate to call it a victory for the Prince Bandar bin Sultan line.) The fact that U.S. policymakers concluded that beleaguered Iran, with its long track record of not attacking a single country, is more of a danger than Sunni radicals, like the ones responsible for 9/11 and every other Al Qaeda attack, is an indication of just how little our overlords care about actually protecting us, as compared to pursuing regional power politics.

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Why is Kim Kagan Throwing Young Analyst Under the Bus?

Elizabeth O'Bagy
Elizabeth O’Bagy

By now, if you have been following the political minutiae of the Syria debate in Washington, you know that a young Syria analyst (who turned out to be a pro-opposition advocate) was fired yesterday from her job at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), which is run by neoconservative interventionist Kimberly Kagan, for ostensibly lying about having a PhD. There seems to be some confusion about whether Elizabeth O’Bagy, 26, and her newly-minted masters degree at Georgetown University had merely been a candidate for a doctoral degree, or was even registered in any Georgetown PhD program at all. On Sept. 9 she told Politico that she had submitted but not defended her dissertation, while she appears to have said the complete opposite in this Daily Caller piece on the same day. Bottom line: in her numerous media and think tank appearances, as well as a recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, and most importantly, on the ISW website, she was listed as Elizabeth O’Bagy PhD. In the Daily Caller interview she told the reporter, “you can call me doctor if you want.”

We care about this even a little because O’Bagy was recently cited by both Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. John McCain as a credible source of research on the opposition groups operating on the ground in Syria. O’Bagy’s line jibed well with theirs, that there were enough moderate rebels in Syria to work with the United States toward peace in Syria after U.S. air strikes degraded Assad’s own military capabilities (Read: regime change ). O’Bagy, who reportedly traveled extensively among rebel groups in Syria, was also a key orchestrator of McCain’s secret trip there. Her affiliation with the Syrian Emergency Task Force, an opaque pro-strike opposition group run by a guy who fronted a similar pro-strike group during the Libya debate, was never listed in her official bios, nor by the numerous media (FOX News, BBC, etc) she appeared on, nor even the ISW website. Her story began to unravel there.

Kimberly Kagan

What’s most interesting about her final fall, which splashed across the media webzines and Twitter universe yesterday, is that no one seems to wonder how Kagan did not know her primary spokesperson for Syria did not hold a full-fledged doctorate and why Kagan, by all accounts, is now throwing O’Bagy under the bus. Kagan, friend and hagiographer to David Petraeus, counselor to Stanley McChrystal, sister-in-law to Robert Kagan and wife of Frederick Kagan, pro-war hawk and author of the so-called “surge strategy” that convinced a failure-stunned George W. Bush to put 20,000 more troops in harms way in Iraq in 2007, should know better. She has a PhD, right? Simply put, her subsequent interviews with reporters after O’Bagy’s firing Wednesday reeks of something, and it rhymes with CAT.
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Obama Might Unwittingly Lead U.S. to a Decade of Peace

President Obama might have already achieved more for peace and stability in the Middle East than he is actually aware. The public debate on the Syrian Civil War and a possible U.S. strike on the Assad regime has shown that public opinion strongly favors non-interventionism to the neo-conservativism of recent history. More than a decade of warfare and U.S.-led interventions in the Middle East have illustrated that the use of U.S. military in troubled areas does not necessarily lead to stability and peace.

After a bloody decade-long occupation of multiple countries in the Middle East, the emergence of new terrorist groups, and the disaster in Benghazi, two lessons from the past ten years should be that we aren’t able to predict the unintended consequences of war and that “limited” military campaigns rarely actually come with limits.
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