Thursday, September 24, 2015

Told you so. II: The Syrian Burke Brigades

From a pretty prophetic piece of angry satire, February 2015, at My Catbird Seat. Bet the author didn't realize Obama agreed with her, but I did.
In other headlines, the jowl-woggling over the failure of the US program to train a "moderate" Syrian opposition army, and President Obama's defense that he never thought it would work and only set it up because of irrational pressure from
those who pressed him to attempt training Syrian rebels in the first place — a group that, in addition to congressional Republicans, happened to include former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.... Mr. Obama is arguing that he reluctantly went along with those who said it was the way to combat the Islamic State, but that he never wanted to do it and has now has been vindicated in his original judgment. The I-told-you-so argument, of course, assumes that the idea of training rebels itself was flawed and not that it was started too late and executed ineffectively, as critics maintain.
Sounds like the administration improvising flabby excuses for their own failures by blaming others, right? But if you were following along with the analysis here, you would have seen suggestions that Obama felt that way at least as early as last November, and very explicitly in January:
The most important thing to understand, though, is that the Syrian Militias of Moderation (or Hordes of Humility, maybe, or let's just call them the Burke Brigades) are not going to overthrow Assad and ISIS, or one of the two; militarily, they can do little more than strengthen whichever force they decide not to fight.

This is very well understood by the CIA Analysis division, too, as Mark Mazzetti reported in the Times last August:
An internal C.I.A. study..., one of several C.I.A. studies commissioned in 2012 and 2013 in the midst of the Obama administration’s protracted debate about whether to wade into the Syrian civil war, concluded that many past attempts by the agency to arm foreign forces covertly had a minimal impact on the long-term outcome of a conflict. They were even less effective, the report found, when the militias fought without any direct American support on the ground.
Only the brogressives seem to have noticed this, lining it up with their view that Obama's insane bloodlust (worse than Bush!) is making him back these killing programs even when his own spies advise him that it's not going to work, but they too fail to understand.

Obama himself can't say exactly what he has in mind, which would require insulting or putting off a lot of people on whose cooperation he depends, but he can repeat over and over again what I guess all the journalists think is a bromide slogan, but I think Obama really means, because it happens to be literally true: There is no military solution in Syria, the solution must be political.
It seems like a shame Obama should be unable to speak frankly about this, and a shame he felt he had to back such a losing proposition with a lot of cash and the danger of spreading around a lot of weapons (particularly to the Nusra Front which has "captured" or perhaps just absorbed a large number of the "trained" personnel), and a special shame that its failure had to be so spectacular, but it really is what the McCains and Clintons wanted.

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