Yesterday, the USA committed what is – essentially – an act of war against the legitimate government of Syria. The official position is that, due to a breakdown in communication (or possibly bad intelligence), the US Air Force – with Australian support – bombed SAA men and vehicles resulting in the deaths of at least 60 Syrian soldiers.
The Russian’s are, understandably, incensed. Accusing the Americans of “assisting ISIS” and describing it as an “intentional provocation”, all of which ties into a speech Putin gave yesterday, in which he questioned American commitment to the deal.
But why did this attack happen? Assuming it wasn’t just straight incompetence, which is always a possibility when dealing with an American military far more concerned with being expensive than efficient, what was the motivation? Why has the Obama administration worked for weeks to get this deal together, only for the USAF to bomb Syrian soldiers days into the ceasefire? Why has Kerry spent hours carefully negotiating with Sergei Lavrov, only for Samantha Power to immediately launch into abusive and hysterical language the moment any even minor conflict occurs?
The only logical position to take is that, for some reason, some parts of the American political or military establishment are trying to scupper the ceasefire before it can take hold. To smother peace in its cradle.
This is just the latest in a long line of evidence that suggests, tempting and easy as it is to see American power as monolithic, there are factions at work within the heart of the Empire. It has been suggested, many times, that any cracks in Washington run along party political or institutional lines. Democrats vs. Republicans. The FBI vs. the CIA. It has been mooted that Edward Snowden is a CIA agent out to discredit the NSA. I doubt any breaks run along such neatly defined borders. But we can say there are at least two different groups, with different agendas, ideologies and even realities. For now we shall call them the Realists, and the Lunatics.
The Realists are largely Old School diplomats, or veterans of the Cold War. Think Henry Kissinger, who loudly and publicly decried the US’s approach in Ukraine, and even attacked the government’s motives in the news (Kissinger has been a proponent of increased Russian-American cooperation since heading the Track II program). Think Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was one of the few voices of reason on Syria during Obama’s “red line” nonsense. John Kerry, likewise, obviously comes from this same school. Not decent or moral people by any means, but diplomats and pragmatists. Disdaining violence and chaos, not out of empathy, but as waste of time and resources that reflects badly on their skill as politicians. They deal in realpolitik, and can be counted on to always serve their own best interest and at least having some semblance of a notion of veridical reality.
The Lunatics are comparatively new on this stage, spiritual successors to the old-guard Neo-cons, they have been weened on stories of American exceptionalism and see themselves as morally, intellectually and emotionally superior. They believe they can simply create reality through their words, and cannot be shaken from this belief no matter how much the world refuses to shape itself around their certitudes. Look at Samantha Power. Or Victoria Nuland. Or Robert Kagan. They are dangerous because, no matter what, they believe in the moral rectitude of their actions. They cannot see their actions from an outside perspective, or appreciate the position of their supposed “adversary”. They are dangerous because they refuse to deal with the real world. They are black and white creatures in a grey universe.
Watch the following video.
This is the perfect example of what we are talking about, here we have an emotional, irrational ideologue arguing with a pragmatic psychopath. A Lunatic versus a Realist. When Carl Bernstein, yes the Carl Bernstein, argues that “we should morally isolate Russia”, he is confronted with a pragmatist asking him “How?”. It’s a question he never tries to answer.
Interestingly, in this video you hear the first references to “isolating” Russia – a theme that was heavily used by pundits all across the MSM just a couple of years later, during the Ukraine crisis. Ukraine was obviously a neocon plan to try and weaken Russia, in response to Russia’s checking of their war in Syria, and was equally obviously never going to work. Again, when Brzezinski asks how they intend to “isolate” Russia from China or the rest of their partners and allies, he receives no answer based in any kind of reality.
The plan to “isolate” Russia (both morally and strategically) failed…but this has never been acknowledged. Instead, pundits politicians and their proxies, both above and below the line, in the press have simply declared Russia to be “isolated” and “a pariah state”. Regardless of the conflict with reality.
This goes hand-in-hand with Karl Rove’s famous claim that, as an Empire, when America acts it “creates reality”. There are people within the corridors of American power who genuinely believe that this is literally true. That they can shape the world alone, with no checks or balances or compromises. That they have the controls of the game, and everyone is just an NPC awaiting their input. They don’t see that they can push Russia into starting WWIII, because they don’t credit that anyone can take any action without their say-so. It is why so many of their plans fall apart. It is why Syria and Ukraine are in chaos.
Once you factor in that there are different teams pushing for different agendas in Washington, the world begins to make more sense. That’s why the US is currently supporting the Kurds, the Turks and ISIS in Syria..despite the fact they are all (notionally) in conflict with each other. It’s why they go to all the trouble of breaking Ukraine into pieces, but then stop short of arming their Nazi proxies. It’s why Obama can be instructed to lay down a “red line”, but told to stand-down when Assad crosses that line.
American foreign policy is a speeding car with two people fighting over the steering wheel, shooting off in a direction neither intends. The combat between these factions plays out across different battlefields. You can see it through the “leaks” that materialise that discredit and expose one another. Through deals that are made and then broken, and lines that then crossed with no consequences. Through the splintering, confused narratives that surround who is to blame – and why – for terrorist attacks (see the Boston bombing). And, of course, through Presidential elections.
Hillary Clinton is the war party candidate – she has made that clear. Whether that is through actual idealist commitment to “the cause”, or just compulsive and destructive self-interest is unclear, and frankly irrelevant. She is the new face of lunatic neo-con foreign policy. It’s highly likely that her Secretary of State will be Victoria Nuland, perhaps the craziest of the crazies, and her campaign has made it clear they will “tougher” on Syria, and maybe even attack Iran.
These are insane positions. Aside from the very real threat of global incineration, America were unable to win a war in either Iraq or Afghanistan – the idea that same military would be able to take on Iran, and win, is laughable.
That is, in part, why this Presidential election has been so fractious and unpredictable. This isn’t like 2000 or 2008, when all the insiders were on the same page and the election was a formality. This time there is genuine indecision.
On the one hand you have Clinton, a decades-old Washington insider, with enough money and clout (and probably blackmail material) that she can launch herself into the race without the total approval of the intelligence and political infrastructure. Then on the other side Donald Trump, an unknown, a wild-card. Possibly he never intended or expected to be able to win, but then found is campaign being fueled by Washington insiders who dread the possibility of a Clinton-run America.
The leaks and polls and scandals bouncing back-and-forth across the surface betray the roiling movement beneath. No-one is exactly sure who “their guy” is. No one knows, definitively, which candidate will be easiest to control and the least dangerous.
And so we come full circle, to America’s bombing of the Syrian Arab Army, and the scuppering of the ceasefire.
The Realists have been working, frantically, to get an agreement done in Syria. John Kerry, one of the most prominent realists, is desperate to get a deal done soon. Why? Because there’s an election in November, and that faces us with the very real possibility of a psychotic (and possibly brain-damaged) Hillary Clinton taking over the White House with a team of crazy idealogues at her back. Obama et al know that if they leave Clinton even the tiniest sliver of a possibility of starting a war in Syria…she will take it. They need to stabilise the situation before she comes to power.
Likewise, Hillary’s backers from the Lunatic side realise how much harder it will be to start their war, if there have been any clear signs that negotiations might work. They need to undermine any ceasefire, and preferably before the election so that all the blame can be pinned on the previous administration.
The car is weaving all over road.
ADDENDUM: Echoing the questions posed by this article, Russia’s UN Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, asked in his speech at the UN: “Who is in charge in Washington? Is it the Pentagon or the White House?”