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Thursday, December 10

SecDef Carter, please stop treating Syrians like monkeys in a zoo

RT somehow wrested 6 points from American defense secretary Ashton Carter's Tuesday testimony before a congressional committee on the weighty issues of "U.S. strategy to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and U.S. policy toward Iraq and Syria."

Alas I never got past Point 1, which registered so high on the twaddle scale that I had to retire to my chambers with a glass of sherry -- okay, three glasses -- and read Treasure Island until I regained my composure. Here is how RT put Point 1:
Wishing for (Arab) boots on the ground
Although Obama has repeatedly pointed out that the US “coalition” against IS terrorists consists of 65 countries, Carter admitted that the US is doing most of the work, while the others “must do more.”
With France, Britain and now Germany already bombing IS targets in Syria, it is unclear what more Washington could want from its European allies.
It is the Sunni Arab states in the region that “have a unique role,” Carter told the lawmakers. While the Saudis and their allies are preoccupied with fighting in Yemen at the moment, the US would really like them to send a ground expeditionary force into, say, Syria instead. If the Arabs were to assemble a force that could take the IS head on, “we would certainly welcome that,” Carter said.
RT was concerned with the question of just who was supposed to authorize this Sunni Arab expeditionary force. They have a point; in Yemen the Saudis have been hiring mercenaries that are either outright Islamic State or Al Qaeda members or have alliances with these factions   

But I was fixated on why Carter insisted on a Sunni force. Is Sunni fur glossier than say, Shiite fur? Or Christian fur? Do Sunnis have longer and stronger incisors?

Now listen to Pundita, Mr Carter. Syria does not have a sectarian problem. It has two major problems: one left over from the pan-Arab era in the Middle East that saw a brief unhappy political union between Syria and Egypt, and which gave the Muslim Brotherhood pretensions of grandeur.    

The other problem is a class one. Sophisticated, urbane Syrians -- granted, many of them Sunni -- are tired of Syrians from the country who in comparison are quite frankly bumpkins holding far too much power that they obtained under Bashar al-Assad's father.

I believe Bashar understands this problem very well. So all he has to do is figure a way to explain his understanding to the Mukhabarat without getting himself killed. But after all they've been through in recent years they might be in a more receptive mood to plain facts.  

In any case by attempting to apply the monkey business perennially favored by the British foreign office -- take a census and divide 'em up by sect -- the American government wouldn't only be trying to solve the wrong problems, it would be making the actual problems worse.

Your problem is that there's no way to break this news to Barack Obama because that's the Wise Man; he's read Edward Said and other Arab post-colonial intellectuals so he knows it all.  

The outcome of President Obama's profound wisdom is that lunatics like Joe Biden, Lindsey Graham and John McCain wrested defense policy from the Pentagon and set up their own foreign policy shop at the state department. So I would advise that for the duration of your tenure you focus on preventing nuclear war. Leave eradication of Islamic State in Syria to the Syrian Army and its allies.   

If there is time left you could always take a stab at dealing with Pakistan's deadly machinations in Afghanistan, which when last I checked is down for the count. Good luck there. 

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