Sitting Bullsh*t

Over the weekend a young man was caught on video committing the most horrific crime imaginable in contemporary America: being white, Republican and insufficiently deferential to a minority.


The usual Twitter mob formed, headed by blue checkmarks with enormous followings who called for the young man to be ostracised from society along with his family and friends (check out the entire timeline to see just how depraved this pile-on became). While the individual in the video might look like a smug git with a punchable face, it’s important to note that he did not engage in violence, nor abuse anybody. In fact, on any objective measure he doesn’t seem to be doing much wrong. But none of that matters, and the hatred and anger being directed at this teenager by Twitter’s finest rests on his merely being “disrespectful” to a protected class. The terms “white privilege” and “white supremacy” are being thrown around like confetti and, naturally, Trump is to blame.

However, several videos have since emerged (1, 2, 3) which shows the kids were doing little other than acting like kids do on a school trip when the Native American “elder” approached them, beating his drum. In other words, he got in their faces, not the other way around. Oh, and the kids were also being told they were on “stolen land” and should “go back to Europe“; presumably they were expected to meekly accept that and move on. One might also ask where the outrage was after this incident, or this one. The Washington Post quickly got hold of the Native American and uncritically published his side of the story, whereas the boys, who are pupils at a Catholic School, had no such ear lent to them. Nonetheless, one pupil’s account seems to match that of the video footage, and as I am writing this most of Twitter agrees the entire episode was a deliberate attempt to construct a narrative using misleading footage and generate a pile-on.

There are a couple of points to make here. The first is that since Trump’s election, race relations have collapsed to lower levels than even Obama managed, not because of bands of Nazis roaming the land lynching blacks but because there is now an entire industry devoted to labeling anyone and everyone a racist if they do so much as twitch an eyelash in opposition to aggressive minorities. It seems a lot of people, including an awful lot of whites, are hell-bent on starting a race war using a wholly imagined prevalence of white supremacy as an excuse. Ironically, these people claim to be opposed to the “normalising” of white supremacist thought, but here’s the thing: if you keep bandying that term around and accusing random people of being white supremacists for not grovelling before troublemaking minorities, at some point it is going to become normalised. Trump’s about as much a white supremacist as he is a Trappist monk, but progressives have decided everyone who supports him is a card-carrying racist. Well, keep that up and don’t be surprised if a candidate appears on the scene threatening to take minorities down a peg or two and a few million vote for him.  The ZMan often remarks that, sooner or later, whites are going to start voting along racial lines just as everyone else does; incidents like this are only going to bring that moment closer.

The second point is I can see a business opportunity in providing immediate support to those on the receiving end of a Twitter mob. These people need professional help in the form of legal advice, personal security, and PR on short notice in order to keep themselves safe and their lives intact. I’ve heard a few discussions on podcasts on what to do if a Twitter mob comes for you, and I’d not be surprised to find companies springing up actually offering this service before too long. Maybe one day you’ll be able to insure yourself against it; considering how many people fear it compared to how many it actually happens to, it might be a lucrative market.

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Untermensch

Yesterday I attended my weekly lecture on Global Economics, which is a subject I quite enjoy. Towards the end we were shown a truncated version of this excellent video on the plight of Briggs & Stratton workers whose factory in Missouri had been closed and production moved to China. It was hard not to feel sorry for these Americans, many of whom were over 50, who’d suddenly found their jobs yanked from beneath them with no alternative. The sight of them walking around a jobs fair in a daze was pitiful.

When the video finished I raised my paw in the air (as I am fond of doing) to point out that there was a large elephant wandering around the room that nobody’s noticed. Whereas it is true that low wages are the main driving force for relocating a factory to China, US policies have made manufacturing artificially high, namely the ever-increasing environmental legislation. I said that the only western leader who acknowledges that environmental regulations impose a cost on developed-world industries is Trump. Nobody else even mentions it, and for most politicians they are an unalloyed good with no downsides, and the more of them the better.

This caused some umming and ahing to the effect that we need to “do something” about the environment and that Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement is not the solution. This may be true and it may be not, but it’s beside the point. It is one thing to bicker about solutions, but quite another to deny the problem exists. So I asked why it was only Trump who was prepared to even acknowledge that environmental regulations heap costs on developed-world industries and contribute the very unemployment we’re getting weepy about in the video. I didn’t get an answer, but I knew it already.

Everyone in an MBA class in a business school in Geneva is by definition white collar and rich. Nobody who enters that building except the cleaners has their livelihood threatened by environmental regulations, and almost 100% are willing to vote for them. Everyone wants to live around clean air and water, and most middle and upper middle classes these days are engaged in a weird post-Christianity Earth-worship cult, sort of like pagans only with designer handbags, smartphones, and a penchant for air travel. They say they’re willing to pay more for things, but this is a luxury rich folk can afford especially when the cost comes in the form of slightly higher prices rather than permanent unemployment.

The more the urban-dwelling elites vote for policies which clobber everyone else, the worse the situation is going to get. One would have thought Trump’s election, Brexit, and the gilets jaunes movement would have woken them up, but it appears they live in a wholly separate world. I’ve said for a long time Trump was a warning shot across the bows of western civilisation, and that the world is lucky that it was him who stumbled on the unguarded palace gates and sat on the throne. Alas, those gates remain wide open. It used to be that politicians would bicker over problems and sell different solutions to the population. Nowadays, massive, elephant-in-the-room problems affecting millions of people are being utterly ignored by the ruling elites who busy themselves selling solutions to problems which are either trivial or don’t exist.

The reason populism is on the rise is because it has become a trivially easy route to power; you don’t even have to offer solutions, just pointing a finger at the problem is enough. And if that problem – immigration, unemployment, crime – affects you and your family, you’ll vote for someone who acknowledges the problem exists over someone who doesn’t, regardless of the feasibility of his or her solutions and with scant concern for his character and broader manifesto. People like to issue stern warnings about how Hitler rose to power by inventing a problem and convincing the masses he was the one to fix it. Many of the same people believe to avoid a repeat of history we must ignore real problems, and call anyone who draws attention to them Hitler.

This won’t end well.

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Red Queen Rising

Quite a number of people have made the point that American conservatives would do well to refrain from passing remarks on youthful congresswoman and 2028 Democrat presidential front runner Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The more they criticise her the more publicity she gets and the more people will think she’s got her opponents rattled. Indeed, even when conservatives say nothing the media, including the BBC, will invent stories of right-wing outrage.

The fact is AOC, as da yoof call her, does have appeal being young, daft, and attractive. The video of her dancing on the roof was rather charming, if you’re looking for entertainment rather than governance. Unfortunately, being entertaining and attractive is probably enough to propel her within arm’s length of the White House if the Republicans are the only thing standing in her way, and the more they talk about her the shorter that arm becomes.

Fortunately for them, her biggest battle will be with her own party. The current Democrats are a coalition of lunatics headed by the sort of ultra-privileged, wrinkly old white people they claim to despise. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer look as though they’re about raise an objection to a black family moving into their gated community, not cede power to an upstart Latina from Queens. AOC has certain things going for her in the Democrat party, namely being non-white and female, but those backing her for greatness may be getting ahead of themselves. Firstly, it is not certain that identity politics will deliver electoral success in future any more than it did in 2016. Secondly, is AOC’s Puerto Rican parentage enough to secure the whole Latino vote? Unlike Obama who really did manage to wrap up the black vote, I’m not sure Latinos and Hispanics all vote as a bloc. Perhaps more importantly are those standing in her way. Kamala Harris is both female and black, plus has more experience in politics. She is also ruthless and unprincipled, having ascended the ladder of Californian politics by sleeping with state assembly speaker Willie Brown, who was married and 30 years her senior. It’s unlikely she will stand aside and let AOC become the female, minority voice of the Democrat party especially if there is a presidential election up for grabs. It’s not too difficult to imagine who will capture the black vote in such a contest.

There’s also the small matter of AOC’s politics. The Democrats are as keen to retain the status quo that has delivered them fabulous wealth as the most brutally capitalist Republicans. Despite millionaires like Pelosi and Warren talking about equality and fairness, they are paid-up members of the political establishment which has never quite got around to addressing these issues. But when AOC starts talking about whacking up taxes and clobbering the rich, she means it. This doesn’t just pose a threat to the personal fortunes of her Democrat colleagues, but to the fortunes of those who bankroll them as well. They will be under considerable pressure to ensure AOC’s swivel-eyed socialist ideas don’t get anywhere near the floor of Congress. But like Trump, much of AOC’s appeal derives from her representing the downtrodden and overturning the established order, and in moving to block her the entrenched Democrats are going to look like hypocrites or be exposed as pigs with their snouts in the trough.

In short, AOC is going to present a far bigger headache for establishment Democrats than she is Republicans in the coming years. With this in mind, and the fact powerful, minority women in the Democrat party will be looking to take her down a peg or two, the best thing the Republicans can do is to cede the floor, let her speak, and don’t interrupt:

Stuff like this will help them in the long run, provided they don’t respond.

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Corporate Punishment

About 18 months ago, some lonely voices on the dissident right in the US began warning of the worrying antics of large tech and financial organisations with respect to political wrongthinkers. The ZMan was particularly vociferous on this, citing the case of some obscure neo-Nazi website having its domain name yanked without any transparency or due process. Within months of that we saw alt-right figures being denied hosting and other web-based services such as Cloudflare, which prevents DOS attacks. These actions at the time appeared to be the result of Antifa mobs piling pressure on the service providers and finding sympathetic (or scared) managers within who would do their bidding. As usual, the traditional right did nothing except help the enemy by holding aloft their principles; I’ll come onto that in a minute.

Pretty quickly Antifa worked out they could get anyone from the alt-right booted from social media and their contracts with web service companies cancelled, and that’s precisely what they did. As I wrote here, I thought Antifa would overreach and put people in a position where they had little recourse but to violence:

Ordinary people suddenly found a handy source of income has been cut off simply because the tech giants were unable or unwilling to stand up to a gaggle of hard-left thugs. It’s only a matter of time before ordinary Americans find themselves denied access to the website or payment processing platform their livelihoods depend on, without ever knowing the reason why. If that happens, people will start throwing their support behind whichever outfit professes to be on their side and against the people responsible, regardless of how nasty and thuggish they are.

The ZMan took it one step further, and said these tactics were endorsed by the ruling classes, happy to allow Antifa mobs and social media companies to enforce the censorship they are forbidden by law from imposing directly. He was one of the earliest voices to warn that political censorship and punishment was being meted out via compliant social media giants and other corporations, and it appears he was absolutely right. Look how quickly we’ve gone from Antifa mobs getting Nazi websites shut down to this:

Facebook and PayPal accounts used to organise “yellow vest” protests that have seen MPs verbally abused in Westminster have been deleted.

Organiser James Goddard’s Facebook profile disappeared amid calls for police to prevent the group from “harassing” politicians, journalists and pro-EU protesters.

His PayPal account was disabled a short time later on Tuesday afternoon.

The reason this chap’s PayPal account has been deleted is because he upset Anne Soubry, and someone made a call to PayPal to tell them to inflict the standard punishment. If it were you or I being abused, or even knifed on a London street, nobody would be interested. But attack a member of the ruling class and suddenly services on which you depend are cancelled without warning. Where’s the transparency here? Where’s the due process? And where’s the consistency? When Nigel Farage was attacked by a mob in a pub, the media classes thought it highly amusing. Plod didn’t seem much interested either, simply because their masters don’t like Farage very much.

Now the conservative right have thus far defended the actions of the likes of PayPal and Facebook on the grounds private companies should have the right to do business with whomever they please. I have two problems with this: firstly, businesses don’t have a right to do business with whomever they please as whole rafts of anti-discrimination legislation attest. There’s not much point in defending a principle which hasn’t been upheld in these lands since flares were in fashion, unless as part of a philosophical discussion. Secondly, whereas it may be reasonable for a restaurateur to refuse service to someone who can eat next door, how does this work with PayPal? And where does it stop? Credit card providers, banks and insurance companies are already coming under pressure in the US to refuse service to those who own guns or wish to buy one. How long before Mastercard (who’s politics are evident) decides it’s going to cut people off without warning? Well, you just switch to Visa, right?

Not quite: as we saw when three or four social media companies all banned Alex Jones within hours of one another, these actions are coordinated. If one company bans a wrongthinker, it’s almost certain their peers will follow suit. There are many restaurants in town, but only a few credit card companies. If they collectively decide to blacklist you, you’re screwed. Now the dimmer free-market fundamentalists will say “If you don’t like it, start your own service, market forces, innit?” Which again is a great topic for discussion in an Ayn Rand convention down the local pub, but the average person is not in a position to start their own bank. And where does this stop? There used to be a principle that utility companies such as electricity, phone, and water providers had to supply all customers regardless of who they were. Nowadays people are just as dependent on credit card, banking, and insurance services yet they appear to be allowed, thanks to a few lines of font 4 text in 18 pages of terms and conditions, to just immediately halt services without warning and without explanation. “Don’t like it?” say the free marketeers. “Well, start your own insurance company, then!” If the right can’t come up with a better response than this, they deserve the left’s foot on their necks for the foreseeable future.

Note what’s interesting in this latest incident is the ruling classes don’t even need the Antifa mob any more. No, all it took was 50 MPs writing to Plod and PayPal got the message loud and clear. The Antifa mobs were useful in terms of testing the water, seeing if these companies would knuckle under and do as they’re told, but now they’re surplus to requirements. Bear in mind all his has happened in less than two years, and try to imagine where we’ll be in another two. We’re rapidly heading into a situation where the ruling classes can effectively cut you off from services on which you depend as punishment for stepping out of line. People are making lots of noise about China’s social credit system, but at least the CPC is open about it. Our ruling classes are doing the same thing while claiming it’s nothing to do with them because we live in a free society. Free for whom, exactly?

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Diversity for thee

You hear a lot of this sentiment these days:

The country’s top judge says her colleagues must become more diverse in order to better represent the public.

Lady Hale addressed the issue as she marked the centenary of the act that enabled women to enter profession.

The first female president of the supreme court called for the judiciary to increase its diversity to avoid the risk of being seen as ‘from another planet’.

This would include greater balance in gender representation at Britain’s highest court and quicker promoting for ethnic minorities and those from less privileged backgrounds, the Guardian reports.

A couple of months back I was at a seminar in which several ageing men on the stage signaled their virtue to the audience by bemoaning the gender balance of the panel, which was around 7:3 in favour of men. About a year ago I listened to another bunch of ageing men on a stage, this time in the auditorium of an oil company, saying they need to do more to promote women into senior positions. My immediate thought was, if these people considered the matter so pressing, why don’t they resign and hand their position to a more deserving female? Similarly, if pasty-white Lady Hale believes Britain’s judiciary should become more ethnically diverse, what better way to kick-start the process by replacing her with a minority?

You can be sure that anyone who has wormed their way onto a panel at a seminar, climbed the greasy pole up to executive management in an oil company, or backstabbed their way to becoming Britain’s top judge has only one person’s career in mind: their own. At every step of their career they would have sandbagged and outmaneuvered anyone who represented competition, be they white, brown, yellow, male, or female. When they were middle managers somewhere eyeing their next promotion they weren’t harping on about the need for greater representation or increased diversity. No, they were promoting themselves. But now the top job is securely under their belt and retirement is on the horizon, they want other people to sacrifice their career ambitions on the altar of diversity politics. The correct response is to either ignore their self-serving virtue-signaling, or to draw attention to their hypocrisy and mock them mercilessly.

Next time you hear someone calling for increased diversity in their organisation, you should ask why they haven’t resigned yet.

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Tucker Carlson II

In June 2017 I posted a video of a speech by Fox News host Tucker Carlson given to the International Association of Fire Fighters. A few days ago he delivered a 15 minute monologue which is well worth your time.

You might not agree with all his points, but he raises topics which very much need discussing and which America’s ruling classes are happy to ignore. It speaks volumes that the biggest reaction to his speech comes not from liberals but so-called conservatives such as Ben Shapiro and outfits like National Review Online, who have done exceptionally well from the status quo and treat working-class Americans with as much contempt as any Democrat. Tucker Carlson is not working class and was born into considerable privilege, but the point is that he realises it, and understands that what works for him and his ilk is failing millions of others. It used to be that old-school right wingers came from privilege but understood the plight of the common man, hence the term noblesse oblige. Nowadays, most prominent conservatives are spoiled-brat grifters who went to Ivy League universities and have far more in common with their political opponents than those they claim to represent.

The problems in America are what Carlson describes, and then some. But possibly the biggest problem of all is that he’s the only one in Washington who wants to talk about them.

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Flags of their fathers

I wrote recently about Somali-born Ilhan Omar, who no sooner was elected to the US Congress when she declared the majority of Americans were a problem that she intends to solve. My closing remarks were:

I’m sure there are lots of very good, principled arguments for allowing Ilhan Omar to run for Congress and then denounce Americans as white supremacists, just as I am sure there are sound reasons for allowing known jihadists to roam free in European capitals. But the question is, can a society which tolerates this survive?

Yesterday another newly-elected congresswoman, Rashida Tlaib, was causing a stir because she’d said in relation to Donald Trump “we’re gonna impeach the motherf****r.” The media has been going giddy about Tlaib since the midterms, mainly because along with Omar they are the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Unlike Omar, Tlaib was actually born in the US to Palestinian parents, which is why her mother turned up to her election celebration bearing a foreign flag:

It is odd that so-called conservatives are more concerned about Tlaib speaking like a Eminem (they are both from Detroit) than a brand-new congresswoman wrapping herself in a Palestinian flag and boasting to impeach a sitting, duly-elected president for no apparent reason. And as if people were unsure of her intentions, she made them abundantly clear a little later:


Americans and European liberals will see Tlaib’s election to Congress as a triumph of democracy, an embodiment of the American dream. A lot of other people will wonder what sort of experiment the Americans are running here, and exactly how it will end. One thing is for sure, it’s hard to imagine this happening in societies which stick around for a while.

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One rule for thee…

Back in the early 2000s, Italy, Portugal, and Greece were being chastised and threatened with fines by the European Commission for breaking the Stability and Growth Pact, which aimed to limit the fiscal deficit of member states’ budget to 3% of GDP. Then something happened around 2001 which caused the French and Germans to blow their budgets and go on a borrowing spree, and all of a sudden the Stability and Growth Pact didn’t matter (see this chart for historical deficits). It became quite obvious that EU rules are only to be enforced against certain countries, and exceptions made when it came to France and Germany; those less charitable thought it quite obvious that the EU was run for the primary benefit of those two member states.

Fast forward 17 years and we had the European Commission refusing to approve Italy’s budget because it breaks the Stability and Growth Pact. Then a short time later French president Emmanuel Macron, with his back to the wall facing the might of the gilets jaunes, decided to throw an €8bn – €10bn bung at them in the hope of saving his presidency. France’s budget was already perilously close to the 3% limit, and this pushed it over the edge. So the European Commission is going to take action, right?

Heh:

The EU will accept a French budget deficit above the EU’s 3 percent ceiling in 2018 “as a one-time exception,” Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger said in an interview published Thursday.

Now there’s a surprise, eh? If you follow the link and translate from the German, you find out why:

President Macron has lost authority with his budget for 2019, which exceeds the deficit limit of three percent. But he remains a strong supporter of the European Union.

Of course. The rules don’t matter provided you are France or Germany and you are a strong supporter of the EU. What a wonderful club. I can’t think why Britain voted to leave.

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The sudden concern for the Kurds is mostly fake

As America woke up and got on Twitter yesterday, there was a lot of this sort of sentiment:


Some moron who subsequently blocked me asked how can Trump talk about loyalty after such “betrayal of the Kurds”. Even Noam Chomsky is writing articles supporting American military intervention overseas, which is the equivalent of a Liverpool fan saying he hopes for a smooth transition at Manchester United following the sacking of Jose Mourinho.

I have a lot of sympathy for the Kurds. They seem less insane than anyone else fighting in Syria, more organised than anyone trying to manage territory in Iraq, and they are well-disposed towards America and their allies. They’ve been screwed over by the major powers on several occasions, suffered terribly at the hands of Saddam Hussein and ISIS, and been oppressed by the Turks. I would like to see their lot improved, and I will be deeply unhappy if the Turkish army move into Syria and start massacring them. If somehow they find themselves in possession of advanced anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry with which they can inflict heavy losses on their enemies, I’d not be too upset.

However, let’s get realistic here. The US was never in Syria on behalf of the Kurds. US forces on the ground may have formed informal alliances with Kurdish groups, but there was never a US policy of protecting Kurds in Syria, at least that I’m aware of. To begin with, what do people mean when they say America should not abandon “the Kurds”? Do they mean the Kurds in Syria fighting Assad and ISIS? The Kurds in Iraq, who run a peaceful, semi-autonomous region subordinate (in theory) to the government in Baghdad? The Kurds in Turkey? And with whom should the alliance be made? The PKK? The Peshmerga commanders?

I asked a few people on Twitter who the Kurdish leaders were, what were their names. Nobody knew. When people talk of Palestinians we know they fall under the leadership, however flawed, of the PA and Hamas. We know the names of the leaders and what their policies are, and these people regularly attend meetings with the large powers and mediators to discuss their aims. But who represents “the Kurds”? What do they want? If Trump is “betraying an ally” this suggests an alliance was formed and promises given. Okay, but when, and by whom, and with what authority? Did any Kurdish leader meet Trump or a member of his administration? Did they meet any of Obama’s? Nobody who is screaming “betrayal” can answer any of these questions: they want war to continue indefinitely in support of an alliance they can’t describe on behalf of people they know nothing about. If this is what passes for political wisdom in the US these days, it’s little wonder they’ve been neck-deep in unwinnable wars since I left university. Fighting a war used to be a serious undertaking, now it’s something advocated on a whim to spite one’s domestic political opponents.

If Americans want to fight a war on behalf of the Kurds, they need to first come up with a clear strategy. What are the objectives, and over what timelines? And on behalf of which Kurds are they fighting? If they attempted to draw up such a plan, they would see why they need to give the matter a wide berth. The Kurds are not some homogeneous bloc, they are fractured along several lines and were they somehow to get their own state it would likely be completely dysfunctional as the various groups squabble among each other. There’s also the small matter that the most capable Kurds are invariably socialist; I get the impression a lot of Americans don’t know that. If America were to support the Kurds in any meaningful sense it would entail severely distabilising the national government in Iraq, as well as taking on Turkey in a big way. I’m not saying these are necessarily bad things – I’d like to see Turkey booted from NATO and Erdogan put in his place – but they need to be part of an overall strategy which the political classes in Washington simply lack the competence to put together, let alone pull off. Hell, they can’t even agree to protect their own borders.

I’m sure there are US military commanders on the ground in Syria who feel they are betraying local Kurdish forces with whom they’ve built up strong relationships, but this does not make up for a lack of overall strategy. The Kurds might also note that in 2014 when ISIS was at its height and they were facing annihilation on the Turkish border during the Siege of Kobani, the US did and said nothing. What we’re seeing from the American chattering classes are crocodile tears; their concern for the Kurds is opportunism at its very worst.

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On Trump’s withdrawal from Syria

So Donald Trump has decided to pull US forces out of Syria, and people are upset. Some are opposed because they are neo-cons who think America should be fighting wars anywhere and everywhere to spread peace and democracy, while others don’t like it just because it’s Trump. This tweet is an interesting example of the reaction:


If the goal of the US military in Syria is to protect Israel, the Kurds, and Iraqi Christians this should have been stated before their deployment as part of a clear and transparent policy. This never happened. Instead, US troops turned up in unspecified numbers which the public gradually got to hear about as they took part in various actions. Certainly Congress was never consulted, as they are supposed to be (although that requirement is laughable these days). We were told various stories, one of which was that US forces were in Syria to support rebels opposed to Bashar al Assad, another was they were there to fight ISIS. But there was never a clear policy as to why they were there, nor any indication of what would constitute victory. As usual, US troops were in a foreign country for an unspecified purpose seemingly indefinitely. What should be upsetting people is there were US forces in Syria under these conditions to start with, not that Trump is pulling them out.

Trump is quite correct here:

Firstly, Trump is right that ISIS – being a shadow of what they were a few years back – are mainly a local problem in a military sense. I have few doubts Russia can handle any threat posed by ISIS to Assad’s government. One of the points many people don’t like to acknowledge is Russia made short work of the various rebel groups, mainly because they didn’t pussyfoot around with how they went about it. They’ll do the same with ISIS.

Secondly, America has no strategic interest in Syria whatsoever. People talk all sorts of nonsense about surrendering the Middle East to Russia, often in the same breath they condemn Trump for being too close to the Saudi Crown Prince. It also overlooks the rather large US military base in Qatar and the strategic alliances they have with the UAE, Kuwait, and Bahrain. So what if Russia establishes itself in Syria? Assad has always been aligned with Russia, and I can’t for the life of me think why Russia is so invested in the place other than for some vague notion of prestige and as a handy place to test and sell weapons systems.

Now consider this tweet:


Who cares if Iran and Russia “claim a victory”? Over whom? The US is withdrawing from the battlefield because the Commander in Chief doesn’t know why they’re there or what constitutes victory. Who are they supposed to fight in the coming years? Russians?  I’ve seen some pretty daft justifications for keeping an army deployed overseas in perpetuity, but doing so in order to deny others from claiming a non-existent victory surpasses all others.

What is also laughable is the idea that Russia, Iran, and Turkey are in a grand alliance whose nefarious plans were only thwarted by the presence of US forces. One thing is certain, and that is neither Russia or Turkey are going to allow Iran to do whatever it likes in Syria. I wrote before about how Israel has little to fear from Russia, who might play a useful role in keeping Iranian ambitions in check. And if Israel can’t handle Iranian forces fighting in Syria because 2,000 US soldiers stationed nowhere near their borders have been withdrawn, they have serious problems indeed. Rather than a coordinated effort between Russia, Iran, and Turkey to threaten US interests – whatever they may be – and Israeli security, I expect we’ll see non-stop squabbling, scheming and backstabbing with the occasional military engagement thrown in for fun. I have little doubt that Turkey will seize the opportunity to flatten the Kurds, and personally I’d have been happier if Trump had been a lot tougher with Erdogan on several issues. But with the best will in the world, any attempt to support an independent Kurdish state will end in disaster; I see no reason why the US shouldn’t give them weaponry to make the Turks think twice, though.

Finally, Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria seems to have come at the price of James Mattis, the US Secretary of Defence. In his resignation letter to Trump he said:

My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.

Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.

Meaning, he disagrees with Trump on how he sees the role of the US military in future. A lot of people are saying this is a body-blow for Trump, and losing a man like Mattis is a big loss for any organisation, but I’m not so sure. Mattis is one hell of a soldier and probably knows everything there is too know about winning wars, but it is not his job – nor his expertise – to determine the political direction in which US forces are applied now or in future. As I understand it, his job is to advise the president on military possibilities and, once strategic political decisions have been made, to make the military decisions necessary to achieve the desired outcomes. In other words, Mattis might be quite happy for the US to stay deployed in Syria forever and “advance an international order” but that’s irrelevant to his duties.  His job is to win battles in Syria, not decide whether the US is involved there and for how long.

So while it is quite right for Mattis to resign at the end of his tenure if he is unconvinced by Trump’s political approach, one must remember that Trump ran on a platform of not using US military power to “advance an international order”. Indeed, that seems to be a policy many Americans, and an awful lot of foreigners, really wish America would abandon. Unless, it seems, it’s Trump making the decision, in which case bombing people is good again.

UPDATE

See this from the BBC:

The Trump administration is planning to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan, US media say.

Reports, citing unnamed officials, say about 7,000 troops – roughly half the remaining US military presence in the country – could go home within months.

Analysts have warned that a withdrawal could have a “devastating” impact and offer Taliban militants a propaganda victory.

Better stay for another 17 years then, eh? I remember when the likes of the BBC were against American military adventurism.

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