Streetwise Professor

November 2, 2019

Nobody Ever Went Broke Underestimating the Intelligence and Integrity of the American Political Class

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — cpirrong @ 5:50 pm

The conventional wisdom spouted by the political class in the US is almost always wrong, and often laughably so. The only question on any particular issue is the exact mixture of stupidity, ignorance, and manipulative malignity behind the conventional wisdom on that subject.

The political class’s narrative regarding the Kurds in Syria is a perfect example. According to this narrative, the Kurds are a veritable band of Gunga Dins, selflessly fighting alongside the United States in its war against ISIS. Hence, we owe them. We owe them so much, in fact, that we should risk conflict with Turkey and support their dream of an independent Kurdistan.

As I’ve argued several times, however, this is close to an inversion of reality. The Kurds were fighting ISIS out of necessity because ISIS wanted to destroy them, and American intervention on behalf of the Kurds saved them from mass slaughter, even though this was not a necessity for the US. This fascinating account of a raid in which a Delta Force soldier was killed provides a great illustration of just who was sacrificing for whom:

A number of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) sources with intimate knowledge of the operation spoke to SOFREP about that fateful night.  What they described is a story of leadership and bravery under fire.
Intelligence indicated that the prisoners were facing imminent execution after freshly dug mass graves were spotted in the compound’s perimeter.  Discovering this, the Kurds were adamant to go in even without American forces (the U.S. didn’t have a real stake in assaulting the compound). They thus took the mission lead. The plan that the Kurds came up with, however, was below average and would have resulted in a catastrophe if it hadn’t been for the tactful recommendations of their Delta partners.
The Unit agreed to accompany the Kurd assault force, and the 160
th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR) chipped in the air transport. But once on target, the Delta operators were supposed to stay back and let the Kurds breach and clear the target. The compound was surrounded by a wall. Behind the wall, there were a number of buildings. One of those buildings contained the hostages.
Once on target, the assault force was divided in to two parts: The Kurds took the lead and assaulted the compound while the Delta operators stayed behind and provided support. The Kurds breached the wall and flooded into the compound. Identifying the correct building, they ran toward it and breached it. At that moment, however, they began receiving accurate fire from the other structures, which were occupied by ISIS fighters. The Kurds began suffering casualties, and the attack lost momentum at the most critical point.
The Delta operators could see and hear everything from their vantage point. And they understood that if they didn’t do something then the Kurdish assault would turn in to a bloodbath.  The imposing figure of MSG Wheeler was in the front of the Delta group. He turned around, locked eyes with the nearest operator, and shouted: “On me!”
These were his last words.
The two shooters run through the wall, into the compound, and past the pinned down Kurds. MSG Wheeler led the way into the target building. As he stormed into the breach, a random bullet went through his throat. He died almost instantaneously. His fellow operator neutralized the enemy fighters in the room. The rest of the Delta shooters came in and cleared the rest of the building.
This would have been a disaster hadn’t Wheels been there,” said one Delta operator. [Emphasis added.]

And that is the reality of the Kurdish-American relationship. The Kurds needed to assault a compound to save Kurds. It wasn’t in the direct interest of the US to participate in the assault, but they did, selflessly assisting an ally. When the Kurds ran into a buzzsaw, a few brave American GIs ran into it with them, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, and saved dozens of Kurdish lives.

Who? Whom? Read that story, and you get an idea of how the political class in the US as the answers to those questions backwards.

Maybe the inversion is the result of mere ignorance or stupidity. But read this piece and one gets the sense that it’s more malign than that. The gravamen of the article is that elements within the State Department, the CIA, and the military had a far bigger agenda in Syria than defeating ISIS. These elements were actually scheming to affect the broader outcome of the Syrian war, presumably desiring to overthrow the Assad regime.

And replace it with what, pray tell? What has happened in the last 20 years that could lead any sentient being to conclude that the outcome would be any better in Syria than in Libya or Yemen or Iraq? (Maybe I should go back 30, and add Somalia to the list.) The probability of “success”?–close to zero. And what would “success” even look like? A failed state with warring factions like Libya or Yemen or Somalia? A state in the hands of Islamist fanatics? As horrible as Assad is, it is necessary to compare him to the real-world alternatives, which include exactly zero good outcomes. In the battle of the bads, Assad may well be the least bad. And the State Department, CIA and Pentagon types who claim otherwise have no record that they can point to to argue otherwise. Theirs is a sorry litany of failure.

Viewed from this perspective, the attention being lavished on the Kurds appears manipulative in the extreme, and the tears being shed for them of the crocodile variety. The permanent bureaucracy wants to use the Kurds as a pawn in their wider–and delusional–game. They wanted to use them in Syria to achieve their broader aims. They are using them now to attack a president who is thwarting their attempt to achieve these broader aims.

Trump has upset their game–although he continues to vacillate after making categorical declarations, meaning that he has not escaped the pull of the blob altogether–and hence the players need to turn on him. Turning the Kurds into betrayed selfless allies, rather than a people that survives in Syria by the grace of the United States (and its Sergeant Wheelers and JDAMs), is merely part of the scheme.

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  1. I recall reading a piece about Israeli intelligence strategies in the Middle East and Syria (can’t find it now), which had two key take-aways:

    One, that Israel monitors the activities of up to 500 different groups in the Middle East, many of them as small as one family or clan.

    Two, that it is the goal of Israeli intelligence to have all these disparate groupings constantly worried about each other so that they can never achieve a unity whereby they can turn on Israel.

    The US would do well to follow suit. Let them all stew, and step in whenever the balance of power is disturbed.

    Comment by I.M. Pembroke — November 3, 2019 @ 12:02 am

  2. “The US would do well to follow suit.” Probably the US is one of those 500.

    Comment by dearieme — November 3, 2019 @ 8:05 am

  3. Every time I hear of these jumped up self important bubble dwelling delusions of adequacy so called public servants self elected legitimized credentialed but uneducated self righteous self important mental midgets, I am forced to ponder the inadequacy of my thesaurus.I

    Comment by Sotos — November 3, 2019 @ 11:52 am

  4. @Sotos–I know what you mean re thesaurus, but that’s a great start!

    Comment by cpirrong — November 3, 2019 @ 10:09 pm

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