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[by Lynn C. Rees]

If, right this second, you could push that tempting Easy Button over there and launch our top secret stash of ophthalmologist-seeking cruise missiles to kill every man, woman, child, and goat related by blood, association, or unlucky proximity to Boy Asad, it would have zero political impact on the war over Syria.

Beheading strikes have marginal persuasive value unless you can reliably find and kill uncooperatives who fail to become cooperatives. American military history from Arnold to Tecumseh to Santa Anna to Jeff Davis to Cochise to Geronimo to Aguinaldo to Villa to Sandino to Castro to Noriega to Saddam to Kaddafy to Bin Laden shows our ability to behead reliably is wildly unreliable. Even if we could reliably kill enemy leaders on demand, there’s no guarantee that killing will have favorable political effects. As Clemenceau may have observed and multitudes of al-Kyyda Number Threes can attest, “The graveyards are full of indispensable men” (many of them headless). This war already has one ready example of a beheading strike. Enduring political impact: zero.

There are suggestions that we conspicuously target Boy Azzad-themed buildings with “symbolic importance” as a way to shock and awe someone, anyone, into surrender. If a true demonstration of ability to hit ’em where you (supposedly) ain’t, the political impact can be profound. However conspicuous, blowing up Boy Azod’s presidential palace, his Old Man’s or Big Brother’s graves, or even his presidential goat’s presidential stable, when no one doubts you could blow up any empty building or tent or camel in the world at any time, will have zero political effect unless you conspicuously miss it. These days, accidental hits get more airplay (e.g. blowing up embassies (no, they haven’t forgotten)). Accidental hit or near miss, photogenic Madam Asod will stand next to it, in front of the cameras for YouTube, and mock you. Those are the risks you run when conspicuously targeting motionless monuments of massive masonry. And the mockery is deserved, especially if you’ve just spent the last twenty years boasting about how antiseptic and networky your precision guided munitions are.

Robert D. Kaplan wrote of Old Man Azodd’s takeover of Syria:

An Alawi ruling Syria is like an untouchable becoming maharajah in India or a Jew becoming tsar in Russia—an unprecedented development shocking to the majority population which had monopolized power for so many centuries.

If Boy Asadd and minions fell victim to those ophthalmologist seeking missiles twenty minutes from now, the Alahhwyytes would quickly stand up some other mustache in his place. As long as any Alawy keeps any kind of grip on their high end warfighting brass ring, they will brutally fight to defend it down to the last Syrian. The alternative, as already demonstrated, is, as Xenophon wrote of the Spartan helots, “they would gladly eat their masters raw”. The Allahwites realize this more than anyone: they used to be the helots.

Half measures like cruise missling camels and empty tents in fit of D.C. pique by D.C. clique will do nothing good. Half measures are worse than tragedy and far worse than a mistake: they will be low and contemptible farce. The only way to break Boy Assad and friends is to break the Syrian state. This involves a relentless and unyielding intention to attrit the Syrian army down to street thug level and kill any Syrians that disagree with American political goals.

Since neither this administration in particular (nor any post-WWI United States in general) has credibly shown that they can do that, it’s best that they hold back for now. If they’re determined to intervene, that intervention will be much easier politically if the massacres start on cue and if the massacres prove to be telegenically more shocking than what you get at the local matinee.

Waiting patiently like this is unlikely: the people ruling this country aren’t any better at starting a war properly than they are at anything else.

Farewell, a long farewell to Syria, my fair province. Thou art an infidel’s (enemy’s) now. Peace be with you, O Syria – what a beautiful land you will be for the enemy hands.

— attributed to Heraclius, c. AD 637

33 Responses to “Easy”

  1. morgab Says:

    Right on the money, Lynn. A friend of mine years ago described the folks running this country and their media lap-dogs as “Fifty dollar blow dries with two dollar minds.” I think the current administration’s minds are much lower than two dollars.

  2. morgan Says:

    Rough morning, misspelled my own first name.

  3. J. Scott Shipman Says:

    Hi morgan,
    Excellent analogy! The pols in Washington—of both parties—are beholden to Big Defense. As Madeline Albright queried General Powell those many years ago,

    “What’s the point of you saving this superb military for, Colin, if we can’t use it?”
    An extension of this line of “thought” coupled with modern leader’s (thing W Bush) eagerness to export “democracy” at the tip of a bayonet, and Obama’s affinity to “fairness” and Arab Spring (never mind the real outcome) continues. My guess is that if Obama were to ask the Congress for “permission” he’d get it after a bunch of posturing and pontificating on human rights, self-governance, etc. 
    Under the rubric of “patriotism” we, as a People, have come to accept the use of our military for misguided and foolhardy missions.

  4. morgan Says:

    J.Scott, I thought Albright was a fool back when she made that comment but I have to admit she’s a lesser fool than gigilo boy Kerry. Both are fools, nevertheless. That’s damning with faint praise, isn’t it?

  5. Madhu Says:

    I had a comment about the Saudis and Syria at SWJ that seems to have disappeared.
    A glitch in the system, I’m assuming.
    Basically, the post consisted of a bunch of links about the Saudis and their non-stop pressure on the DC Beltway crowd regarding Syria plus an excerpt from the Mattis Politico story about the Saudi Ambassador assassination “plot” — intelligence about which I am skeptical, I am afraid.
    But I am skeptical about a lot of intelligence these days.
    I wonder what caused the glitch and the disappearing comment?
    How anyone would think I have any negative feelings about GEN. Mattis given my borderline fangirl comments at the site. Is it creepy for someone my age to use “fangirl”? It is, isn’t it, but what other phrase works?
    At any rate, does anyone want to buy a condo?
    KALORAMA—The Washington phenomenon of being a small town with global connections has cropped up again in a condo in Kalorama. It used to be owned by Prince Bandar bin Sultan (former Saudi Ambassador) but his condo association bought it from him and now they are trying to sell it for $3.25M. Louis Freeh’s name gets mentioned somewhere in there too. [Washingtonian].
    If it wasn’t a glitch, do you think someone objected to all my comments about the Saudis and their ambassador,  Prince Bandar, Turki, and the rest?
    How anyone could think I would say negative things about GEN. Mattis. My point to include it was to say that I’m sure the military understands a military solution isn’t possible and that we are basically caught up in the dynamics of others. I don’t think he’s one of the Saudi lobby….
    Oh well, I’m sure it was just a glitch. But at this point, I am so paranoid about all these subjects that I feel the need to whine about it here. Sorry, zen. How you put up with me as a commenter, I’ll never know.
    By the way, does anyone find it interesting that the Saudi Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir was on the phone to Musharraf right away after 9-11? I found an old interview where he says that is just what he did. Interesting in light of Cheney’s Saudi-ficated ideas about the good old subcontinent, eh?
    Please, someone get what I am saying….it’s not conspiratorial, more along the ideas of dumb thinking.
    Despite all the turmoil and change, we are still overinvested in the region emotionally and psychologically because of the habits of the foreign policy class and CENTCOM-centric nature of our military, post Cold War.
    I totally stand by that, says this nobody from nowhere commenter! 

  6. Madhu Says:

    Oh wait, this is a Lynn C. Rees post, not Zen.
    Great post either way.
    Sorry if I hijacked the comments but you know that’s just what you want me to do around here. It would be so boring without my meltdowns around here, admit it! (Okay, maybe not! Or maybe so! Hey, gimme a break. The way in which ordinary Americans are manipulated makes a person crazy, okay? No wonder I morphed from that nice, sweet Madhu to the messy commenter you see before you. It’s a crazy nuthouse psychedelic maze of crazy directed at everyday Americans. And other peoples, poor things. Somehow humanitarianism is now equated with dropping bombs.) 

  7. Lynn C. Rees Says:

    Hi Madhu,


    All is well. Comment away. I indulge clarity, however winding its travels prove.


    I indulge in my own windings in response, but I do so as a hypocrite: I promise no clarity.


    The Lenin of our revolution, Samuel Adams, mourned Boston, MA by the waters of Babylon in 1780:

    Our Government, I perceive, is organizd on the Basis of the new Constitution. I am affraid there is more Pomp & Parade than is consistent with those sober Republican Principles, upon which the Framers of it thought they had founded it. Why should this new Oera be introducd with Entertainments expensive & tending to dissipate the Minds of the People? Does it become us to lead the People to such publick Diversions as promote Superfluity of Dress & Ornament, when it is as much as they can bear to support the Expense of cloathing a naked Army? Will Vanity & Levity ever be the Stability of Government, either in States, in Cities, or what, let me hint to you is of the last Importance, in Families? Of what Kind are those Manners, by which, as we are truly informd in a late Speech, “not only the freedom but the very Existence of Republicks is greatly affected?” How fruitless is it, to recommend “the adapting the Laws in the most perfect Manner possible, to the Suppression of Idleness Dissipation & Extravagancy,” if such Recommendations are counteracted by the Example of Men of Religion, Influence & publick Station? I meant to consider this Subject in the View of the mere Citizen.


    Our Bradfords, Winslows & Winthrops would have revolted at the Idea of opening Scenes of Dissipation & Folly; knowing them to be inconsistent with their great Design, in transplanting themselves into what they called this “Outside of the World.” But I fear I shall say too much. I love the People of Boston. I once thought, that City would be the Christian Sparta. But Alas! Will men never be free! They will be free no longer than while they remain virtuous. Sidney tells us, there are times when People are not worth saving. Meaning, when they have lost their Virtue. I pray God, this may never be truly said of my beloved Town.


    As a reactionary millenarian Christian, descended from real Puritans™ (accept no cheap foreign imitations) and puritanical even by the standards of a people reputed to be puritanical, I find Brother Sam’s views more pleasing than most Americans. However, this country will never be an American Sparta, whether Christian or fashionably non-denominational.


    It would not be surprising if anyone passing through the CENTCOM cesspit ended up intertwined with its constituencies in ways even their most passionate fangirls would find troubling. I see all politicians, in uniform or out, as fallen critters. Power corrupts. Relative power corrupts absolutely.


    To be Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus and cross over the Tiber and plow under the heat of the sun rather than keeping the brass ring of power with its inconvenient sword of Damocles commitments is an attractive ideal. The pull of that ideal is real. It has soothed the ills of the republic before. And figures like Cincinnatus are not completely mythical. But, as Sallust had Jugurtha observe of Sparta 2.0 (i.e. Rome) c. 133 BC, Washington is “a city for sale and doomed to quick destruction, if it should find a buyer”.


    No country manufactures a large surplus of Cincinnati. Buyers are always shopping. All roads, holy or profane, lead down to Washington. Rising through the ranks (civilian or military) over decades, hob nobbing with super wealthy furners with no qualms about spending money on you freely, and, if you go along to stay along, prospects of post-career sinecures in some nice patronage spot, has timeless appeal. Americans are instinctive hustlers served up with layered dollops of pretense, as Walter A. McDougall has observed. Spartans they ain’t.


    Most American apparatchiks have more in common with foreign peers than other Americans. Running in such high circles, they quickly absorb their toxins, adding them to their already extravagant supply of native toxins. And they’re adept at intoxicating potential challengers: many, my folks included, voted for Ross Perot in 1992 because they thought he was an “outsider”. In truth, Perot was as pre-intoxicated as if he was a Bushes or Saud. My folks had an old book by Lowell Thomas in which he praises ibn Saud so garishly I was left wondering why ibn Saud hadn’t added him to his harem. He and BFF ibn Saud went all the way back to Larry of Araby days so he fell for ibn Saud even before ARAMCO discovered they could stick a straw in the ground and make money. Imagine how ibn Saud’s romantic charisma was enhanced by buckets of black lucre and you see part of the roots of Old Man and Baby Bush’s mancrush on Bandar bin Sultan Bush.


    Arguments that W. was completely in the dark over things Middle East are unconvincing. The House of Bush and hangers-on have been intertwined with the House of Saud family and hangers-on for decades. W. knew something about retail Arabs, inasmuch as adopted bro Bandar was a representative retail Arab. The same is true of other tribes within our state apparat: they swim in the same incestuous tailings pond as tribes from foreign apparats like the Saudis, Kuwaitis, or Qataris, among others.


    Bush put suspect Saudis on a plane after 9/11 out of tribal loyalty. They helped Pakistani intelligence escape Afghanistan in 2001 out of the same loyalties. Conspiracies are all around, hidden, as is today’s fashion, in plain sight where the noise can cancel it out.


    You can’t let knowing this be paralyzing. Relatives of mine moved to rural Idaho compounds to escape Y2K, inauguration of light rail service for the greater Salt Lake metropolitan area, and the 2002 Winter Olympics. Two horsemen of the apocalypse, two digit storage and boondoggle sports, came and went. And nary a pale rider to be seen, unless you count cold people riding mass transit. Now, as they sit in their resilient bunker, frightened by signs of the times, inasmuch as they were pieces in the game, they have been removed from the board.


    They are right, after a fashion. The end will come. Hidden things will be revealed. The wicked will burn as stubble. But it will happen at a time and place that not even small-town wits can predict, even if they play the Apocalypse of John backwards on the summer solstice just outside Carson City, NV. Until then, due diligence, a special flavor of madness, is needed to fight dark powers in high places.

  8. T. Greer Says:

    That comment deserves to be its own post. 

  9. seydlitz89 Says:


    I was wondering when the Saudis would make their malignant entrance, can’t say I was disappointed.  

    Yes, it’s depressing even from a Clausewitzian strategic theory perspective . . .


  10. Nathaniel T. Lauterbach Says:

    You make the case for a republic.  As you said, all roads lead to Washington.  That’s a great deal of the problem.
    Having such an internationally-connected capital with an internationally connected elite causes problems–the biggest problem being not knowing which problems are really problems.  Grand Strategy becomes as malleable as it is meaningless.  Elites outright lie to the Little People (Has anything Obama said regarding the NSA been accurate?!).  They outright ignore constitutional obligations (budgetary, military, etc.)
    Having interests everywhere is paradoxical.  First–because if you’re interested in everything, you’re really interested in nothing.  And second, if Washington is interested in everything, then that really means that the only true and abiding interest of anybody is Washington.  True, I might be taking logic and rhetoric to some extremes here, but…
    …Change Washington to Paris, and you have the 4th Republic.  And that worked charmingly well until, oh, about the 1960s, when a wave of independence movements swept across the Middle East and North Africa.  Funny, that.  If Paris was unable to read the Arab street in the 1960s after decades of outright colonial governance, why should the likes of those in Washington be able to do the same?  Short answer:  They won’t, and can’t.
    I’m not sure I’m ready to be holed up with Lynn’s relatives.  I’m a military officer, which in Lynn’s world, means I’m a politician, which means I’m a “fallen critter.”  I make some minor decisions on a daily-weekly basis which actually impact things in the real world.  I understand that nothing is perfect, and that almost all decisions that are ultimately made are really just massive compromises.  I get that.  What I don’t understand, though, is how we got this lovely, massive empire put into place without the right people to govern it.  Who is Cincinattus?  Where is he to be found?  Once found, how would one persuade him to govern–because Lord Almighty knows that were he to see what’s going on, he would hole up in Idaho.  Having persuaded him that he is right to govern, how do we go about electing him?  Who would vote for that whack job?
    It’s depressing.  Kinda makes me think of the Law of Entropy.

  11. Madhu Says:

    @ Lynn,
    Tribal loyolties! Yes, that’s it, exactly. I kept searching and searching for something more complex but in the end, I settled on that human emotion. along with ideology, pride, the messiness of being human.
    @ T. Greer – yes, it should be it’s own post. Lynn wrote the most amazingly insightful and beautifully written comment. 
    I have so many different “intellectual” presents for this thread and for you all…. 

  12. Madhu Says:

    Brzezinski: I can’t engage either in psychoanalysis or any kind of historical revisionism. He obviously has a difficult problem on his hands, and there is a mysterious aspect to all of this. Just consider the timing. In late 2011 there are outbreaks in Syria produced by a drought and abetted by two well-known autocracies in the Middle East: Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He all of a sudden announces that Assad has to go—without, apparently, any real preparation for making that happen. Then in the spring of 2012, the election year here, the CIA under General Petraeus, according to The New York Times of March 24th of this year, a very revealing article, mounts a large-scale effort to assist the Qataris and the Saudis and link them somehow with the Turks in that effort. Was this a strategic position? Why did we all of a sudden decide that Syria had to be destabilized and its government overthrown? Had it ever been explained to the American people? Then in the latter part of 2012, especially after the elections, the tide of conflict turns somewhat against the rebels. And it becomes clear that not all of those rebels are all that “democratic.” And so the whole policy begins to be reconsidered. I think these things need to be clarified so that one can have a more insightful understanding of what exactly U.S. policy was aiming at. – Brzezinski on the Syria Crisis, The National Interest
    SPIEGEL: Saudi Arabia is on the list, too.
    Petraeus: The situation there has improved tremendously. Over the last four years they have done a superb job in their fight against al-Qaida. As you may recall, our embassy in Jedda (in Saudi Arabia) was overrun some four years ago and a number of foreign workers went home because of violence against them. Even the Interior Ministry in Riyadh was hit. Since then, the Saudis have employed a very intelligent and comprehensive approach to counter al-Qaida, including precise operations based on good intelligence, changes in their corrections facilities, superb strategic communications programs and a host of other initiatives — all of which, together, have helped Saudi Arabia achieve impressive results in their fight against extremists. – GEN. Petraeus in Der Spiegel (Sept. 29, 2008, English online edition)
    No, no, no, I’m not “blaming” any one person, it’s just that I too wonder what happened and what is happening. Because it’s a little crazy town and makes no sense on a larger strategic level or, really, on any level. Perhaps Pat Lang is correct when he highlights “American messianism” on his blog as a key feature of the Foreign Policy Class, all capital letters and everything. He probably is right, it fits right into the larger conversation we are having here, doesn’t it?
    At any rate, what would an ethnic like me know? One drinks chai and hires an anthropologist just to talk to the likes of me. Oh, wait. I’m American. No, one spins and spins information toward the likes of me, its the OTHER that requires chai….

  13. Madhu Says:

    Remember when Chandler on Friends had to go to Yemen just to get away from Janice?

    The official said that Petraeus carried several messages and “various items” of information from Obama to Saleh. No further details were available.
    The two men discussed the latest intelligence on al Qaeda in Yemen, the official said, adding that the number of attendees was very small on both sides.

    Obama aide John Brennan briefed the president on Petraeus’ trip to Yemen, after Brennan spoke with the general, the senior U.S. government official and a senior administration official said. – CNN article from  2010 

    Yes, I know it’s annoying without links but I am too impatient to wait for the spam filter, I want to see my comment displayed NOW!

  14. Madhu Says:

    Obviously, I messed up the highlighting, paras two through four should be highlighted or blockquoted or something.

  15. Madhu Says:

    “WASHINGTON, DC] — U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) met with Saudi Arabian Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir to discuss Syria and Iran.”

  16. Madhu Says:

    CHICAGO, April 12 /PRNewswire/ — April 27-29, Chicago will host the U.S.-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum, which seeks to highlight Saudi Arabia’s growing role in global financial and economic issues and the opportunities for greater economic collaboration between Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
    A delegation of approximately 200 Saudi government and business leaders, including ministers of petroleum, commerce and industry, finance and education, will travel to Chicago for the event.
    This first ever U.S.-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum will be a major platform for senior businesspeople, top U.S. and Saudi government officials and civic leaders to discuss not only the need for enhanced cooperation at the national level but also an opportunity for Chicago-based, Midwest and national companies to network with their Saudi counterparts to identify specific commercial and investment opportunities.
    Saudi Arabia is the Arab world’s largest economy and one of the fastest growing in the Middle East. As a member of the G20,Saudi Arabia is a working partner with the United States on critical global financial and economic issues. In addition, Saudi Arabia’s economy is rapidly expanding and diversifying.
    “Chicago has always been a world-renowned city, but today, our city is truly a key international gathering place,” said ChicagoMayor Richard M. Daley. “We are proud to host prominent leaders from Saudi Arabia and the U.S. to hold an unprecedented dialogue about how to best grow and strengthen this important international trade partnership.”

  17. Madhu Says:

    Indeed, U.S. and Western officials have repeatedly stated that a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is one of their gravest concerns about Iran acquiring the bomb. Saudi Arabia tops nearly everyone’s list of countries that are most likely to acquire a nuclear weapon should Iran do so.
    Saudi leaders have often tried to stoke these fears. Prince Turki, who’s a well-known personality in London and a card-carrying member of “This Town” owing to his previous stints as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UK to the U.S., has himself repeatedly threatened that Riyadh will pursue its own atomic weaponry should Tehran go nuclear.
    And Bob Gates has come out in favor of the credibility argument on Syria. 

  18. Madhu Says:

    The last excerpt from the diplomat was one of the links in my disappearing-by-glitch comment. 

  19. Grurray Says:

    Madhu,  very interesting link to that Arab business conference in Chicago. It was actually in 2010, but the (then) mayor’s brother and former WH Chief of Staff Bill Daley was hosting it. This was just after they sold all the Chicago parking meters to the Arabs. Middle Eastern private equity money was also probably at the root of some indictments this summer in City Hall.
    While Chicago political and economic deals are about spreading cash around locally, one wonders what and who were eventually being bought. Those things sometimes have a tendency to have meaning beyond the surface.

  20. Lynn C. Rees Says:

    Yes, I know it’s annoying without links but I am too impatient to wait for the spam filter, I want to see my comment displayed NOW!

    Careful Madhu. When you come face to face with the ZP comment filter, you come face to face with primal forces beyond human understanding. Trust me, once you’ve been through the looking glass and seen it from the other side, reality is never the same.

  21. Lynn C. Rees Says:

    A point to keep in mind: While Internet crank Mencius Moldbug is so crankish that he became a Jewish Nazi, this observation of his was astute:

    A man like Harry Dexter White did not see himself as a tool of the KGB. A man like Harry Dexter White saw the KGB as a tool of Harry Dexter White. The KGB could put him down in their files as a tool; I’m sure they did; and perhaps, in the end, they were right.

    I’d rework Moldbug thus, with an ecumenical equal opportunism that’d make him itch terribly:

    [An American] like _______ did not see [his or her self] as a tool of the [Saudis]. [An American] like _______ saw the [Saudis] as a tool of _______. The [Saudis] could put [him or her] down in their files as a tool; I’m sure they did; and perhaps, in the end, they were right.

    Hustling is a continuation of politics with the addition of other, usually dubious, means. The artful hustler succeeds not by getting someone to do something they don’t want to do. The artful hustler succeeds by getting someone to do something they really want to do. It’s a question of causation: which comes first, the Perleman or the Chalabi?


    Hard to say. As the ancients taught long ago:

    Just like every cowboy sings a sad, sad song
    Every rose has its thorn

  22. Madhu Says:

    I thought someone did change up the comments? It’s easier to post links. Thanks, btw.
    @Grurray: Thanks for the correction in the year. I should do a better job formatting but I’m usually in such a hurry commenting, it’s either put up a bad comment or don’t comment at all. And I forgot about the parking meters! Zen had a link to a book about Mike Royko here a while back. Makes me nostalgic for his sort of newspaper writing, he had a finger on the pulse of the way things work.
    From the Guardian:
    General Petraeus, President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Yemeni military agreed to increase the tempo of cooperation and training at a meeting in Sana’a in August 2009. Petraeus also facilitated the provision toYemen‘s military of 25 M-113 armored personnel vehicles from Jordan.
    The general then sent the head of the US military‘s special operations command centre to Sana’a to discuss their counter-terror cooperation in detail and he advised on training opportunities with US allies in the region, the cables reveal. 
    The Syria thing isn’t “new”, its been a long time coming, I think. Look at the State Departments efforts from 2005 or so onward. 

  23. Madhu Says:

    Once again, from the Guardian. Our move in the region toward Syria isn’t new:
    General Petraeus, President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Yemeni military agreed to increase the tempo of cooperation and training at a meeting in Sana’a in August 2009. Petraeus also facilitated the provision to Yemen‘s military of 25 M-113 armored personnel vehicles from Jordan.The general then sent the head of the US military‘s special operations command centre to Sana’a to discuss their counter-terror cooperation in detail and he advised on training opportunities with US allies in the region, the cables reveal. .http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/mar/18/general-petraeus-training-yemeni-forces 

  24. Madhu Says:

    “In April 2010, the US State Department sent a rap group named Chen Lo and The Liberation Family to perform in Damascus, Syria.
    Following Chen Lo’s performance, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton was asked by CBS News about US diplomacy’s recent embrace of hip hop. “Hip hop is America,” she said, noting that rap and other musical forms could help “rebuild the image” of the United States. “You know it may be a little bit hopeful, because I can’t point to a change in Syrian policy because Chen Lo and the Liberation Family showed up. But I think we have to use every tool at our disposal.” 

    The State Department began using hiphop as a tool in the mid-2000s, when, in the wake of Abu Ghraib and the resurgence of the Taliban, Karen Hughes, then undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, launched an initiative called Rhythm Road. The programme was modelled on the jazz diplomacy initiative of the Cold War era, except that in the “War on Terror”, hip hop would play the central role of countering “poor perceptions” of the US.”
    They are so confused as a collective, the FP apparatus. Confused, contradictory, I don’t honestly think they know quite what to do, how to assess American interests, or how to bring about positive results for the nation. A babel. A towering babel, easily hijacked by emotion and events. 

  25. Grurray Says:

    “The Syria thing isn’t “new”, its been a long time coming, I think. Look at the State Departments efforts from 2005 or so onward. ”
    There had been a lot of talk about attacking Syria over WMD during the initial days of the Iraq War.

  26. madhu Says:

    Those are interesting links, Grurray.
    I posted the following elsewhere (SWJ) in comments: 
    That Putin op-ed is one of the most extraordinary pieces I have ever read in its timing, its rhetoric, its appeals to the skepticism of the American people on the WH’s case on Syria – including the inept presentation of intelligence information to the public.
    Especially after Iraq, information has to be presented in a rock solid way which has simply not been done. It’s been amateurish and this allows a case to be made against the Syrian rebels on the matter of CW by others, and, emotionally, however accurate or inaccurate, it has traction. Many American commentators thought the intelligence information or its presentation were unimportant. The op-ed shows why such poor handling has consequences.
    This piece too is correct, IMO:

    They were told in late 1992 that the U.S. incursion into Somalia was for the benign purpose of merely feeding starving people. A year later that adventure ended in a disaster for America and a major embarrassment for President Bill Clinton, who had expanded the Somalia mission. The American people were told they had to invade Iraq because it had weapons of mass destruction and serious ties to Al Qaeda. Neither was true. They were told that the Iraqi people would embrace some form of Western-style democracy once Saddam Hussein was out of the way. Didn’t happen. They were told that Hosni Mubarak’s departure in Egypt would lead to the emergence of democratic institutions there. They got, first, an Islamist government through election, then another military coup of the kind that has characterized that country and region for decades. They were told the Libyan people would be better off without Muammar el-Qaddafi, and the result was societal chaos, with Qaddafi’s weapons streaming into the hands of Islamist radicals (and being used against U.S. diplomatic personnel). They were told to embrace “globalization,” and it led to the worst economic dislocation since the Great Depression.
    In other words, the country’s elites—of both political parties and across the political spectrum—have been wrong on just about everything they have done since the end of the Cold War. And the voters, as a collective, aren’t stupid. They know that these fiascos have been the products of particular philosophical concepts that have emerged since the beginning of America’s “unipolar moment” around 1990.
    They may not understand these philosophical concepts in all their complexities and nuances, but they know the Republican neoconservatives and the Democratic humanitarians have been driving the agenda.

    – Robert Merry, National Interest.
    And Andrew Bacevich has made similar points.
    Our posture in the Mid East, its high profile, and our forever alliance with the Saudi axis (which is partly emotional and personal to our Cafe Milano foreign policy class, civilian and military) is hurting us.
    The US cannot make the necessary adjustments because of it. Well, the American people are in the process of making the mental adjustment. The mandarins and their counterparts in the military world are the ones having the trouble. 

    Not in the comment I posted, an article on Cafe Milano in the New Republic reviews it as a restaurant instead of a DC power spot and its sort of hilarious. Search for it, it’s hilarious and, well, makes you a little sick thinking about the phenom…. 

  27. madhu Says:

    That op ed is right up your oligarchy ally, Zen.

  28. madhu Says:


  29. madhu Says:

    Cafe Milano:


  30. Grurray Says:

    That Putin op-ed is one of the most extraordinary pieces I have ever read in its timing, its rhetoric, its appeals to the skepticism of the American people

    ” And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”
    This was a masterful rhetorical stroke. Concentrating the force of his message at our most sensitive spot currently. The transition period we’ve found ourselves in lately – from Pax Americana to Imperial Crisis all in the span of a few years – has gotten everyone disoriented and divided. He’s seeking to jab a wedge into the widening chasm.

  31. Grurray Says:

    In other words, the country’s elites—of both political parties and across the political spectrum—have been wrong on just about everything they have done since the end of the Cold War.
    The record has been pretty spotty no doubt.
    One thing I think we did get right is Kurdistan. We’ve got a solid, stable western oriented ally with a lot of oil blocking the path between Russia and Persia. 

  32. Madhu Says:

    Grurray – yeah, you’re right. Not everything done has been terrible and there are some benefits to globalization, it’s not all terrible.
    On the Kurds, I don’t know but a commenter at another blog I read and comment on (SWJ) made similar points, although it was more activist than I like, as in doing some kind of proxy stuff behind the scenes to help carve out more Kurd areas? Anyway, I might have misunderstood but I am wary of this kind of meddling, always. It’s not the Cold War and the positive effects of our meddling are outweighed by the negative effects.
    I am very grumpy on this subject 🙂 

  33. Madhu Says:

    Plus, somehow, innocent people are always deleted out from our FP meddling equations. First, Do No Harm sounds good to me but it is anathema to the professional meddlers (not that the commenter was necessarily one of those). But some, jeez. They mistake their desire for money, glory, borderline FP messianism for humanitarianism.

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