Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Captain NumbNuts Has Done It This Time.

There's no room for doubt now that Donald Trump has no concept of the notion of "power vacuums."

Trump created a vacuum in Syria when he withdrew US forces under cover of darkness to clear the way for Turkey to slaughter America's former allies, the Syrian Kurds. He wanted out. He was getting out. Screw everybody and anybody else. It's the sort of addled, messianic thinking that we once associated with end-phase thugs like Robert Mugabe, just before they're shown the door.

Sometimes these power vacuums linger for a while, a few months at least, but eventually a new player, foreign or domestic, moves in to take over. This time it was just a matter of days.

Guess who's running Syria now? Full marks if you guessed Vlad Putin. Not only is Putin moving in to fill the Trump vacuum, he's putting Turkey's Erdogan on notice that Russian forces may respond if Turkey doesn't back off.
Russia said on Tuesday that its military units were patrolling territory in northern Syria vacated by the Americans following the withdrawal ordered by President Trump, underscoring the sudden loss of United States influence in the eight-year-old Syria war. 
The Americans had until Monday maintained two military bases in the area, and Russia’s announcement signaled that Moscow, the Syrian government’s most important ally, was moving to fill a security void left by the withdrawal of both the American military and its partners in their effort to destroy the Islamic State and its Syrian base.
Erdogan, meanwhile, is vowing to continue the attacks by Turkish forces on Kurdish strongholds in Syria. He speaks in terms of eliminating them. The Russians appear ready to prevent that. It could lead to military force used by the Russians against a NATO partner which might put an end to the Article 5 "mutual defence" provision that requires all NATO members to come to the defence if another is attacked. That doesn't really seem likely.

Meanwhile Trump, who greenlighted Erdogan's attacks on America's former Kurdish ally, is catching so much heat at home that he's now acting all indignant and threatening Ankara with punitive tariffs. Maybe the Gullibillies will eat that horse shit.


rumleyfips said...

Turkey is attacking Syrian territory. If they engage with Russian forces there is that a violation of Article 5 . I thought Article 5 applied only if a Nato member is attacked .

The Mound of Sound said...

Article 5 actually contemplates a member state being under attack. We went to Afghanistan under the pretext that the US was under attack by Afghanistan which it plainly was not. Article 5 has been so twisted as to have lost much of its meeting. That was worsened when Trump mused that the US might not feel bound by the provision if some insignificant NATO partner, Latvia for example, was attacked by Russia. That's the trouble with treaties and conventions. They're great while they're being honoured but lose meaning quickly when we begin chipping away at them.

thwap said...

1. "Russians" spent less than $100,000 on online ads during the 2016 US federal elections.

2. The Mueller Report stated that Putin's people had difficulty establishing contacts with the new Trump Administration. How extensive could the Kremlin's relation with Trump have been?

3. Russia was invited in by the legitimate government of Syria. Why is it sinister for Putin to warn Turkey off of incursions into Syrian territory?

None of this is to say that I like Trump, Putin, or Assad. I just find it deplorable that there's this knee-jerk response to all things Trump that ends up perpetuating the lie that US troops must remain wherever they happen to be because otherwise a "power vacuum" will be created; that Putin controls Trump and is trying to control the world [which is ridiculous on the face of it, given that Russia's GDP is smaller than Canada's]; and that the self-interested whining of Washington status-quo psychopaths constitutes a genuine "resistance" movement against Trump.

The Mound of Sound said...

Thwap I'm not delving into the merits of America's involvement in Syria. My point is that a blundering narcissist, Trump, makes decisions without regard to the implications, both immediate and in the longer term. He doesn't understand power vacuums or spheres of influence and that should be worrisome to us all in this period of major power re-alignments. Thucydides Trap.

Northern PoV said...

couldn't resist, sorry ;-)

a blast from the (recent) past

"By doing his Pontius Pilate act, Trump has actually given (Assad, Putin, who-else?) a heads up and (imo) messed with Turkey's aggressive plans.

Stay tuned."

thwap said...


Trump is a blundering narcissist. No question. But, again, from my standpoint this is all being spun as if permanent US military presences in the Middle East are a necessity. (You might not be saying this but the US corporate media sure seems to be doing so.)

But let's compare the sad results of Trump's actions with that of the deliberative, rational policies of the US (and NATO) in Libya. Or the impact on the Kurds of the calculated "Realpolitik" if Henry Kissinger. Can we really say that Trump's catastrophes are that much worse and bloodier than what passes for the "rational behaviour" that usually comes out of Washington?

And, for just a second, stop thinking about the paranoid fears about Putin (or any other non-USA world power) and look honestly at what he's actually doing. He defended the legitimate (albeit dictatorial and monstrous) government of Syria from an illegal foreign invasion and is now warning-off the racist, murderous Erdogan from invading Syria himself to kill the Kurds.

Say he succeeds in this. Say he becomes more influential in Syria and (some of) its neighbours as a result. What are the real-word dangers of this? (As opposed to the bipartisan US-American policy of disruption and invasion and imperialism?)

The Mound of Sound said...

The question you pose, Thwap, is one that can't be answered yet.

The Islamic State forces were bad actors and needed repressing although the US ignored how they were raised, trained and funded.

To call Assad's government legitimate is akin to according the same legitimacy to Pik Botha's. White South Africa shared some similarities with Assad's Alawite Syria in that both ran roughshod over a brutally suppressed majority. We're quite selective on those questions depending on our political leaning. Putin is backing Assad against the Syrian Sunnis just as so many American administrations backed white rule in South Africa. Does that lend credibility to Putin? I don't see it although you appear to.

The West has been screwing up the MENA/South Asia region going back at least as far as Napoleon, always placing our own interests above all else. Russia is no different.

thwap said...

I've already stated that Assad's regime is dictatorial and monstrous. But it's also internationally recognized as Syria's government. Just like the House of Saud is recognized as the government in Saudi Arabia.
Just like Qaddafi was recognized before he was illegally toppled and the country fell to pieces under the watch of Obama and Hillary Clinton.

It's bedtime here in Ontario. Good night.

JasonS said...

Just like Qaddafi was recognized before he was illegally toppled and the country fell to pieces under the watch of Obama and Hillary Clinton.

So you do think America should get involved in foreign wars to overturn monstrous regimes ? Or Hillery and Obama have to run the world "properly" but Trump can abandon people they just asked to clean up the mess George Bush jr and Cheney started ? I thought i understood you up until the Obama, Hillery did it.

The Mound of Sound said...

Jason, "Trump can abandon people they just asked to clean up the mess GWB and Cheney started"? Huh?

In the wake of 9/11 I went against the current arguing that the al Qaeda attack, no matter how horrific, was a criminal matter, not a casus belli. I suspected the invasion of Afghanistan and toppling of the Taliban government was as much about TAPI, the trans-Afghanistan, Pakistan and India pipeline that Cheney, while head of Haliburton, had pursued, even bringing Taliban leaders to Sweetwater, Texas while lobbying the Clinton administration to lift sanctions.

Sometimes readers come up with notions about my views that are straight off the wall.

Northern PoV said...

thwap: Just like the House of Saud is recognized as the government in Saudi Arabia.


as our friend Jean Chretien said "show me the list"

Northern PoV said...

Turkey’s Syrian venture is rapidly turning sour from President Erdogan’s point of view. The Turkish advance into northeast Syria is moving slowly, but Turkey’s military options are becoming increasingly limited as the Syrian Army, backed by Russia, moves into Kurdish-held cities and towns that might have been targeted by Turkish forces.

It is unlikely that Mr Erdogan will risk taking on Syrian government troops, even if they are thin on the ground, if this involves quarrelling with Russia. In the seven days since he launched Operation Peace Spring, Turkey has become more diplomatically isolated than Ankara might have envisaged when President Trump appeared to greenlight its attack.

A week later after that implicit okay of Turkey’s offensive, Mr Trump is imposing economic sanctions on Ankara after a wild zig-zag in US policy – bizarre even by Trumpian standards.

Almost the entire world is condemning the Turkish invasion and, having achieved the objective of eliminating the Kurdish statelet of Rojava, Turkey will have great difficulty in making any more gains.

“Now that the Kurds and Damascus have come to an agreement, I do not think that Ankara will dare to open a new front against Assad forces,” writes the highly informed Turkish military commentator Metin Gurcan.

... Counterpunch

The Mound of Sound said...

There's no condoning Trump's blunder. It's not about the merits of greenlighting Erdogan's attack or abandoning the Kurds. It is all about further destabilizing an already volatile region.

Power vacuums are dangerous. Period. So are transitions in spheres of influence, hence the reference to Thucydides Trap.

America is wrestling to accept the end of the unipolar world, an advantage they blew. That's not coming back. It was a parting gift from the Soviets. China was still an overpopulated but largely agrarian state. Now Russia has risen from the Soviet ashes and China is the largest economy on the planet. America's hegemony is waning.

This is a difficult moment. History shows that two out of three of these transitions lead to war. Here we have what is still the most militarily powerful nation led by an impulsive lunatic. That's not very helpful - to anyone.

Across the Muslim world, leaders are turning away from the US. Washington is unpredictable and, worse, unreliable. Even the House of Saud is cozying up to Moscow, something that a few years ago would have been unimaginable.

Trump is definitely precipitating America's global decline and that's bound to sit poorly with its national security establishment, Congress and, of course, the Pentagon. They're spending money like mad whores but getting very little bang for the buck - diplomatically or militarily.

This is one of those moments when small blunders can trigger huge consequences. And that is the point of my post.