Short But Bittersweet—Learning from Vlad’s Way of War

Learning From Vladimir

Wall Street Journal


American strategists might learn a thing or two from Russia’s in-and-out Syrian war.

Bashar Assad and Vladimir Putin in Moscow Oct. 20, 2015.
Bashar Assad and Vladimir Putin in Moscow Oct. 20, 2015. Photo: Associated Press

Vladimir Putin’s splendid little war in Syria did not go off without a hitch. There was the set-to with Turkey; the downed Sukhoi jet. There was international condemnation for bombing civilian targets while sparing ISIS. There were personal frictions between Bashar Assad and Mr. Putin, which might explain the abruptness with which Mr. Putin announced Russia’s departure.

Yet it took Mr. Putin just six months to show the world that modest military inputs can decisively tilt the balance of power, and that not every Mideast intervention descends into quagmire. Too bad it was in the service of propping up two dictatorships—Russia’s as well as Syria’s.

Could the next U.S. president learn something from this case study in the use of power? Let’s stipulate that no future president is likely to order aircraft to drop unguided munitions on village marketplaces, as Mr. Putin did in Idlib and Aleppo. Gratuitous cruelty is not the American way of making war in the 21st century, whatever Donald Trump may think. Still, there are some lessons here for future interveners. Like:

1) Take a side. “A prince,” wrote Machiavelli, “is also respected when he is either a true friend or a downright enemy”—an approach, the Florentine added, that “will always be more advantageous than standing neutral.” In Syria, Mr. Putin took the side of the regime. In previous interventions in Ukraine and Georgia, he took the side of local Russian minorities.

That’s an improvement over the Obama Method, which is to take the side of “history” while casting feckless and irritating aspersions on everyone. It’s an improvement, too, over the Bush Method, which was to go to war for the sake of a concept, like democracy, and then cross fingers that it would find a competent local champion.

2) Use proxies. The point of proxies is to avoid doing all the fighting yourself. And to have someone who will be beholden to you after you leave. But a proxy is pointless if you aren’t willing to support him properly, whether out of moral squeamishness or indifference to the outcome of the war.

In the Balkan wars, we used the Croatian army as a proxy to help blunt Serb power in Bosnia. In Afghanistan we had a proxy in the Northern Alliance, which explains why the Taliban were deposed so swiftly. In Iraq, we made insufficient use of one proxy, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and disbanded what could have been the other, the standing Iraqi army. We had to do everything ourselves. If we’re not prepared to accept that our proxies may not perfectly represent our values, perhaps it’s best not to intervene at all.

3) Define a realistic objective. Mr. Obama’s constant assessment of Russia’s intervention in Syria was that it was destined to become a replay of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, with hundreds of thousands of ground troops taking ever-greater casualties from wily mujahedeen fighters.

Yet again, Mr. Obama didn’t know what he didn’t know. Mr. Putin couldn’t afford a long intervention in Syria. But he knew that a small but dynamic deployment of aircraft could destroy the Assad regime’s relatively weak moderate opposition, turning the Syrian war into a referendum—both domestically and internationally—between the regime and ISIS. Whose side are we on, now?

4) Remember the Earl Butz rule. It’s named after the former secretary of agriculture, who remarked, in reference to a papal edict regarding contraception, “You no play-a da game, you no make-a da rules.” One of the purposes of military intervention is to shape the diplomatic outcome, which is why Mr. Kerry is so strikingly irrelevant in negotiating an end to the Syrian war.

5) Preserve your options. Russia has withdrawn from Syria—except where it hasn’t. It will maintain an upgraded naval facility in the port of Tartus, along with an air base. Mr. Putin has made it clear he’s prepared to return forces to Syria at will, and the success of the operation means any return will have popular backing. That was an option the U.S. could have exercised in Iraq, or Libya, by maintaining a military presence sufficient to suppress insurgents, deter Iranians, and balance competing sectarian interests. We didn’t, and the results are well known.

So what should the U.S. do in Syria? Here’s a thought: Give up on a unitary Syrian state, which guarantees a zero-sum struggle for power instead of a division of territorial spoils. Support Kurdish autonomy in northern Syria, backed by a tripwire U.S. force to deter Turkish intervention, and an Alawite state around Latakia, backed by Russia, with the proviso that the Assads must go. Destroy ISIS and other Sunni jihadist groups by combining massive U.S. air power and a coalition of Saudi, Egyptian and Jordanian troops.

Problem fixed? Not quite. But it shrinks the Syrian tumor. The point of intervention isn’t to solve everything. And as Vladimir has reminded the world again, trying to solve everything solves nothing.


Pak Nabs RAW Spy In Balochistan

Afghan intelligence agency hosted Indian spy Yadav in Kabul

daily pakistan

by Khawaja Daud

ISLAMABAD (Web Desk) – Kulbhushan Yadav, the Indian Naval Commander who was working for spy agency RAW, has confessed to Pakistani security agencies that he was hosted in Kabul by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, National Directorate of Security.

Security forces arrested the Indian spy from Balochistan province on Thursday. His arrest was confirmed by Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti, who said Yadav was working for Research and Analysis Wing and was in contact with Baloch separatists and other militant organisations.

Related: Pakistani forces arrest Indian Naval officer spying inside Balochistan

The Indian spy also confessed that a senior officer of Afghan intelligence agency had arranged his meeting with Baloch separatist Dr Allah Nazar.

Yadav, who has been taken to Islamabad for interrogation, also admitted his involvement in terrorist activities in Karachi and Balochistan.

Pakistan has repeatedly alleged that Indian spy agencies have been providing support to militants in Balochistan and other sectarian extremists.

In the past Pakistan had provided proof of Indian support of terrorism to the Indian authorities in a high-level meeting at Sharm-el-Shaikh, and also provided proof of the same at the United Nations more recently.

Pakistan Vows To Eliminate Terrorism, Doesn’t Consider Afghan Taliban “Terrorists”

Pakistan has resolved to wipe out terror from its soil: Nawaz Sharif

times of india

Noting that Pakistan is faced with “unprecedented” threat of terrorism and extremism, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday asserted that these “evils” will be defeated and “completely wiped out from our soil”.


NEW DELHI: Noting that Pakistan is faced with “unprecedented” threat of terrorism and extremism, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday asserted that these “evils” will be defeated and “completely wiped out from our soil”.

In a written message on the occasion of 76th Pakistan Day being observed here, Sharif also said that the country has resolved to ensure freedom, equality and social justice for all its citizens.

“Today, we are confronted with unprecedented threats and challenges in the form of extremism and terrorism, but we are resolved to defeat these evils. The menace of terrorism and extremism will be completely wiped out from our soil,” Sharif said.

He said his government has taken “landmark” initiatives to safeguard minorities in Pakistan and empower women.

“Our endeavours are aimed at mainstreaming the marginalised segments of our society as we believe that each and every Pakistani is an equal citizen of the land,” he said.

The celebrations held at Pakistan high commission here were attended by its high commissioner to India Abdul Basit, his deputy Ubaid-Ur-Rehman Nizamani and others.
A reception will also be held at the high commission this evening which is expected to be attended by Indian guests, members of the diplomatic corps here and Pakistan women’s cricket team, a high commission statement said.

Obama Tries To Whitewash US War Crimes In Argentina’s CIA Operation Condor

Obama Tells Argentina to Forget US-backed Bloodbath


When U.S. President Barack Obama spoke in Argentina on Tuesday, it seemed like an opportune, if not essential, moment to acknowledge the U.S. role in the bloodbath that occurred 40 years ago.

IN DEPTH: 40 Years Since Argentina’s Dictatorship and the Fight for Justice

In 1976 the U.S.-backed coup that overthrew Isabel Peron, would be the starting point of years of violence in which 30,000 Argentines were disappeared and countless others murdered and tortured under Operation Condor.

Throughout the communist-cleansing program condoned and funded by the U.S., with Henry Kissinger as Secretary of State, innumerable atrocities were committed by the military, including the practice of giving the children of the deceased and disappeared to more favorable families.

Campaign groups, like the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, still fight for justice and look for their stolen grandchildren.

But on the eve of this sensitive and commemorative day, when Argentines remember their lost ones, Obama did not apologize for the misery dished out by the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s. Instead, the U.S. president was dismissive during a joint press conference with Argentine President Mauricio Macri.

IN DEPTH: Obama Visits Argentina

“I don’t want to go through every action carried out by the U.S. in Latin America over the last 100 years. I suspect everybody here already knows,” President Obama stated in response to a question about the role of U.S. foreign policy during the Argentine dictatorship-era. He referred to the U.S. policy of backing regimes that tortured, murdered and disappeared tens of thousands as “counterproductive.”

Obama continued that he believed the U.S. administration had improved over the years due to engaging in “self-criticism.”

“There is no shortage of self-criticism in the United States. Certainly no shortage of criticism of its President or its government or its foreign policy,” he told reporters.

But, after the comment branded “insufficient” by Argentine Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Obama essentially told Argentina that the U.S. had learned from and washed its hands of its destructive history.

ANALYSIS: Obama Showed His “True Neoliberal Face” in Argentina

“And we have learned some of the lessons that we may not have fully learned at an earlier time. And I think our experiences with a country like Argentina helped us to develop that more mature and, ultimately, I think, more successful approach to foreign policy,” he said.

Just as the leader of the world’s most powerful country failed to acknowledge or apologize for the suffering caused by the illegal blockade on Cuba on his recent visit, Obama did not ask the Argentine people for forgiveness for the grief his country caused them. As a spokesperson for the U.S., on the eve of Argentina’s most painful day, there was an expectation that he would speak up.

WATCH: Obama Visits Casa Rosada