The Trump Doctrine and Syria: “I, And By Extension The US, Will Be Treated Fairly Or Else” Runs Into The Ambiguity Of A Wicked National Security Problem

The President appears to have decided that the US needs to leave Syria as soon as possible. This decision caught his national security and foreign policy team flatfooted. It really isn’t a change in US policy as I’m not sure anyone could actually articulate this administration’s policy in regard to Syria. When the President gave his campaign speech on foreign and national security policy in 2016, I wrote that he had articulated the Trump Doctrine, which is: “America will be treated fairly or else…”.

The President’s meandering remarks in his April 2016 speech touched on a number of his long standing national security and foreign policy beliefs: America’s allies are taking advantage of our treaty and other obligations in the national security space; America’s allies and peer competitors are ripping the US off through our trade agreements; the US should go it alone if it can’t renegotiate better deals; and only a President Trump could guarantee that the US would be treated fairly – or else. That only a President Trump could guarantee that the US would be treated fairly, whether in national security arrangements or global trade, was simply an extension of one of the major, if not the major theme of his campaign: Donald Trump would be treated fairly or else and only Donald Trump could guarantee that Americans, especially the forgotten men and women as he phrased it, would be treated fairly or else.

That the US will be treated fairly or else, and that only a President Trump could guarantee that happening became the central, unifying them of his national security and foreign policy approach was actually a stroke of strategic communication genius. A significant amount of the President’s initial strategic communication approach was through tying his primary opponents, the Republican National Committee, and the broadcast and cable news networks in knots about treating him fairly. This included trying to get Megyn Kelly removed from debate moderation after he felt she treated him badly, as well as actually dropping out of a GOP primary debate on Fox News and holding a competing charity event for veterans because he did not like that Fox wouldn’t comply with his demands. And if they failed to do so he’d deal with them harshly. Then candidate Trump threatened his fellow primary opponents and the RNC by making it clear that if he didn’t feel he was being treated fairly by them, then the or else would be his running as an independent candidate, thereby splitting the Republican vote for president, and handing the election to the then presumed Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton.

By making this the dominant theme of his national security and foreign policy approach, he was able to make a singular through line for his campaign – “I, Donald Trump, will be treated fairly or else by the GOP, the RNC, and the news media; only I, Donald Trump, can guarantee that you the forgotten men and women of America are treated fairly in regards to both domestic politics and foreign policy; and only I, Donald Trump, can guarantee that the US will be treated fairly or else there will be serious and severe repercussions for the GOP, the RNC, the news media, elected and appointed officials, and America’s allies, partners, and peer competitors”. Here was the simple through line to connect Make America Great Again both domestically and internationally by placing America first. It is also the essence of the real Trump Doctrine: President Trump and by extension the forgotten men and women of America, as well as America itself, will be treated fairly or else.

The President, and his preferences as enumerated in the Trump Doctrine, are now in conflict with the reality of the wicked problem that is the Syrian Civil War and the US led coalition fight against ISIS.

The Washington Post reports that:

Trump’s words, both in public and private, describe a view that wars should be brutal and swift, waged with overwhelming firepower and, in some cases, with little regard for civilian casualties. Victory over America’s enemies for the president is often a matter of bombing “the s— out of them,” as he said on the campaign trail.

For America’s generals, more than 17 years of combat have served as a lesson in the limits of overwhelming force to end wars fueled by sectarian feuds, unreliable allies and persistent government corruption. “Victory is sort [of] an elusive concept in that part of the world,” said Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, who led troops over five tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. “Anyone who goes in and tries to achieve a decisive victory is going to come away disappointed.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis echoed that point in late November when he outlined an expanded role for U.S. forces in preventing the return of the Islamic State or a group like it in Syria. “You need to do something about this mess now,” he told reporters. “Not just, you know, fight the military part of it and then say, ‘Good luck on the rest of it.’ ”

His remarks reflected a broader Pentagon consensus: In the absence of a clear outcome, winning for much of the U.S. military’s top brass has come to be synonymous with staying put. These days, senior officers talk about “infinite war.”

“It’s not losing,” explained Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes in a speech earlier this year. “It’s staying in the game and . . . pursuing your objectives.”

The Army recently rewrote its primary warfighting doctrine to account for the long stretch of fighting without victory since 9/11. “The win was too absolute,” said Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy of the old document. “We concluded winning is more of a continuum.”

LTG Lundy is the Commanding General of the US Army Combined Arms Center (CAC) at FT Leavenworth. As the CAC Commander he oversees doctrine for the US Army. Unfortunately US Army doctrine is pretty silent on what winning or victory means. So is joint doctrine. I spent all morning going through the DOD Dictionary, Joint Publication 3-0/Joint Operations, TRADOC Pamphlet (PAM) 525-3-6/The US Army Functional Concept for Movement and Maneuver, TRADOC Pamphlet (PAM) 525-3-1/The US Army Operational Concept: Win in a Complex World, and the 2015 National Military Strategy in an attempt to find a definition of win, winning, and/or victory. The only two documents that included a definition, or something close, where in the endnotes of PAM 525-3-1/The US Army Operational Concept: Win in a Complex World and in the body of the previous administration’s National Military Strategy.

PAM 525-3-1 defines win in endnote 2 as:

The dictionary defines “win” as: to be successful or victorious in (a contest or conflict). Winning in this concept is meeting the policy objectives of the Commander in Chief. It refers to more than simply defeating threat forces; it means meeting national goals and objectives that are unique for each operation. The joint commander must define success for each operation (or campaign) based upon the national goals and objectives, which may change, based on conditions during the operation

The 2015 National Military Strategy defines win as:

We are prepared to project power across all domains to stop aggression and win our Nation’s wars by decisively defeating adversaries.

The President’s senior military and national security advisors don’t have much to work with in trying to help the President, or any president, define successful termination of hostilities, especially for the ambiguous low intensity, irregular, asymmetric, and unconventional wars that the US has been involved in over the past seventeen years or so. We’re not talking about an interstate war, with two or more state combatants fighting in identifiable uniforms, where victory is achieved when one side in the conflict has either been rendered incapable of continuing to fight or has made the decision that it cannot endure any more pain as a result of a continuation of hostilities. Whether the US and its allies ever participate in that type of war again is an interesting question that is discussed in military and civilian classrooms, as well as in other forums, but it is not the reality we are in and expect to be in any time soon.

This ambiguity regarding what successful combat operations, let alone victory, looks like in the early 21st Century Operating Environment (OE), and the US military’s acceptance of it, is running head first into the President’s preferences, specifically the Trump Doctrine. The President has made it clear he wants the US out as soon as we finish reducing ISIS’s physical foot print. And he wants the Saudis and the Gulf states to pay for reconstruction and reconciliation efforts in the US led Coalition liberated areas within Syria.

Unfortunately, ISIS’s actual center of gravity isn’t the amount of physical terrain it holds. Rather, it is its extreme theology and doctrine of tawheed – the radical unity of the Deity. The US, its coalition partners and allies, including the Syrian Kurdish militias we are training, equipping, and assisting in our by, with, and through strategy against ISIS, aren’t really fighting for terrain. Or to kill or capture as many ISIS fighters and officials and supporters as possible. What they are really fighting is ISIS’s theology and doctrine. This is the strategic target. Trying to decisively measure success in combatting the spread and acceptance of ideas is very, very difficult. As is killing them. It is very hard to stop the signal. This creates a very unpleasant reality: the inability to create actual strategic measures of effectiveness in the fight against ISIS, which is really the fight against ISIS’s doctrine.

Finally, simply taking our personnel and equipment and going home once the physical caliphate has been reduced is only going to help reset the conditions for either ISIS to make a comeback or for something new and likely equally dangerous to rise from its ashes. Defeating ISIS means defeating the conditions that led to its creation – the economic despair, the social inequality, the despotic rule of the Assads, the sectarian divisions – which can only be done through reconciliation and reconstruction. There isn’t a lot of room in here for the US to be treated well in exchange for doing this. It is largely thankless. It is not a mission to achieve decisive victory on the battlefield. These operations are much more similar to the Marshall Plan, which is how we secured the peace in Europe after World War II. It is a longer term, ambiguous mission to work by, with, and through our local partners to manage and mitigate significant social, political, economic, and religious problems and disputes in an attempt to prevent ISIS’s reemergence or the emergence of something even worse. Failure to do so will simply see the US and its Coalition allies and partners back in the Levant once again conducting kinetic operations as refugees stream out of a region that becomes more unstable leading to more loss of life on all sides. The US’s actions in Iraq from 2003 through 2011 helped to set the conditions for the rise of ISIS. Taking responsibility for that reality and working by, with, and through our local partners in Syria and Iraq to manage and mitigate it is a moral responsibility. It is not, however, a matter of being treated fairly or an opportunity for turning a profit.

Open thread.

137 replies
  1. 1
    Baud says:

    tl;dr But her emails!

  2. 2
    Uncle Omar says:

    So, the Trump Doctrine is the Wayne Morse Doctrine…Declare Victory and Go Home?

  3. 3
    GeoWHayduke says:

    Putin forgot to use hand lotion?

  4. 4
    Milo says:

    In the absence of a clear outcome, winning for much of the U.S. military’s top brass has come to be synonymous with staying put. These days, senior officers talk about “infinite war” …. a longer term, ambiguous mission to work by, with, and through our local partners to manage and mitigate significant social, political, economic, and religious problems and disputes in an attempt to prevent ISIS’s reemergence or the emergence of something even worse.

    [Unfair ellipses mine.]

    If it were anyone but Trump, I’d be all for it. But he’s got the gift. He could set fire to an asbestos convention.

  5. 5
    debbie says:

    It’s clear the real puppetmaster is Stephen Miller.

  6. 6
    lollipopguild says:

    “Kneel before Zod!”

  7. 7
    Yutsano says:

    Finally, simply taking our personnel and equipment and going home once the physical caliphate has been reduced is only going to help reset the conditions for either ISIS to make a comeback or for something new and likely equally dangerous to rise from its ashes.

    By extension, an independent Kurdistan stays fucked. Never mind that it’s the one region in Iraq that has its shit together.

  8. 8
    debbie says:

    @Yutsano:

    It is one of the great crimes of the Middle East that the US turned its back on the Kurds.

  9. 9
    burnspbesq says:

    Something we probably have to accept is that removing the Assad regime isn’t happening any time soon. That should be much easier for Trump, who loves nothing more than a genocidal despot, than it was for Obama.

  10. 10
    Mary G says:

    My theory is that Putin played all however many sides there are in Syria with the express intent of driving refugees into Europe with the goal of destabilizing it and creating the same bitter partisan divide we have here.

    Seems to be working well for him. Wonder what he’s really up to while we stare at the shiny object that is Twitler.

  11. 11
    debbie says:

    @burnspbesq:

    I spoke too soon. Another crime. I doubt the world will ever forgive us. What a week.

  12. 12
    TenguPhule says:

    Whether the US and its allies ever participate in that type of war again is an interesting question that is discussed in military and civilian classrooms, as well as in other forums, but it is not the reality we are in and expect to be in any time soon.

    Iran, North Korea.

  13. 13
    TenguPhule says:

    @Yutsano: Bring the Kurds to America, export and abandon registered Republicans in Iraq.

  14. 14
    Mary G says:

    @debbie: Yes, more than once and we are also ignoring the catastrophe that has been befalling the citizens of Yemen for the last three years.

  15. 15
    TenguPhule says:

    Failure to do so will simply see the US and its Coalition allies and partners back in the Levant once again conducting kinetic operations as refugees stream out of a region that becomes more unstable leading to more loss of life on all sides

    So failure it is then.

  16. 16
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mary G: That was part of the reason that Putin backed Assad.

  17. 17
    TenguPhule says:

    Taking responsibility for that reality and working by, with, and through our local partners in Syria and Iraq to manage and mitigate it is a moral responsibility. It is not, however, a matter of being treated fairly or an opportunity for turning a profit.

    I see the fatal flaw here.

  18. 18
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I am tired of all this winning by Moscow.

  19. 19
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TenguPhule: Neither of those will be traditional interstate wars. War with Iran will be irregular, asymmetric, and unconventional. There planning calls for this as they know they have no chance against us in a traditional interstate war. War against the DPRK will combine both traditional interstate war with irregular, asymmetric, and unconventional warfare.

  20. 20
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TenguPhule: Have some borscht. You’ll feel better.

  21. 21
    Corner Stone says:

    @debbie:

    It is one of the great crimes of the Middle East that the US turned its back on the Kurds.

    Which time? Or did you mean all of them?

  22. 22
    Corner Stone says:

    Trump is going to demand fairness or take his ball and go home. That means he’s just going to go home in this case. The summit between Iran, RUS and Turkey has told the world all we need to know – no USA and no Syria.

    ETA, Trump got “fairness” from a cowardly and feckless RNC, GOP and media. He’s against a few opponents with stiffer spines in this arena.

  23. 23
    Corner Stone says:

    J Kelly is just such a loathsome piece of shit. Stop fucking leaking about things you can’t make happen all by yourself.

  24. 24
  25. 25
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I also dislike beets.

  26. 26
    Brachiator says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Something we probably have to accept is that removing the Assad regime isn’t happening any time soon.

    There was a recent BBC news analysis which noted that Russia, Turkey and Iran are having meetings about the future of the region, and that Iran and Russia want Assad to stay in place. The US has no part in these discussions and US desires for the region are not given deep consideration.

    ETA: Trump himself seems barely aware that the Kurds even exist. Backing them doesn’t gain him anything. He thinks as much of them as he does about Puerto Ricans.

  27. 27
    Mike in NC says:

    If someday Sarah Huckabee Sanders mentions “the light at the end of the tunnel” at a press briefing on Syria, we’ll have absolutely no reason for concern. At all!

  28. 28
    Mike in NC says:

    @Brachiator: The Kurds would have to present Trump with a gold-plated golf cart to get his attention.

  29. 29
    El Caganer says:

    @Mary G: Ignoring it? We’ve been a pretty active participant in it.

  30. 30
    Corner Stone says:

    @Mike in NC: The good news is that the light at the end of the tunnel would be super bright, like a few thousand suns worth. Wait, did I say good? I meant the opposite of that.

  31. 31
    Brachiator says:

    From I, Claudius to I, Donald. A presidency marked by a festering sense of inferiority and resentment masquerading as bullying optimism. I would just modify one thing.

    “I, Donald Trump, will be treated fairly or else by the GOP, the RNC, and the news media; only I, Donald Trump, can guarantee that you the white men and women of America are treated fairly in regards to both domestic politics and foreign policy; and only I, Donald Trump, can guarantee that the US will be treated fairly or else there will be serious and severe repercussions for the GOP, the RNC, the news media, elected and appointed officials, and America’s allies, partners, and peer competitors”.

    This message is tremendously appealing to Trump supporters, and appealing enough to the Republican leadership that they will eagerly follow Trump even as he contemptuously disregards the GOP’s conservative ideology and supposed reverence for tradition and Christian morality. A reverence for free markets has been replaced by the Art of the Deal, and Christian morality is subject to an NDA.

  32. 32
    TenguPhule says:

    @Corner Stone:

    The good news is that the light at the end of the tunnel would be super bright, like a few thousand suns worth.

    And attached to the train rushing towards you.

  33. 33
    Waratah says:

    I have trouble thinking any of the policy’s are from Trump himself. He just parrots what they tell him. Please don’t ask me who they are. He refused to sanction the Russians until he had a change in employees, but I don’t think that they are the only people he listens to.

  34. 34
    Corner Stone says:

    @Waratah: Who are they?

  35. 35
    Baud says:

    @Corner Stone: Now you’ve done it.

  36. 36

    Adam, nice framing of the “Trump Doctrine” as involving what Trump thinks of as fairness to him. Of course the term is undefined. We may surmise some of its characteristics from his behaviors around what he calls fairness, like his believing it’s fair for him to get two scoops of ice cream and everyone else to get one. He also seems to define it in terms of money. When he complains that we’ve got nothing out of Syria, I get the sense that he’s talking about money.

    A strategic/tactical point I haven’t seen mentioned is his continuing complaint through the campaign that Obama was telegraphing his moves. But now he says we’ll be out of Syria by the fall. Sounds like a telegraph to me.

    I think this is all much more complicated than the poor boy imagined…

  37. 37
    Ruckus says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    I think this is all much more complicated than the poor boy imagined…

    Everything is much more complicated than the poor boy can imagine. Spoiled 4 yr old brats are like that.

  38. 38
    Corner Stone says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Telling the world that if the Saudis wanted us to stick around they could pay for it was a pretty brutal kick to the kneecaps.

  39. 39
    Another Scott says:

    Good summary, Adam.

    I have come to conclude that any sensible good intentions we may have in Syria (and elsewhere) are doomed unless all of her neighbors (and a significant fraction of the population inside Syria) are on-board (or at least not openly hostile). We’re not going to have 20-150 “warfighters” per thousand in Syria (18.4M ==> 370,000 – 2,760,000 “warfighters”).

    If we can’t unilaterally impose our wil – and it seems clear that we can’t – then we should stop spinning our wheels. Any “progress” will be transitory without a political settlement, and that political settlement depends on Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel. And, of course, Assad’s patron – Putin (and his secret contractor-run air supply route).

    It’s too easy for small groups to thwart (at least temporarily) the will of a modern army with relatively unsophisticated arms (AK-47s, IEDs, etc.).

    I’m all for trying to improve the lot of people around the world, and trying to end wars, and working to defeat monstrous groups like Daesh. But it needs to be done in a smart way. Simply throwing the US military into a conflict isn’t a solution. And Donnie’s bumper-sticker slogans are a horrible way to articulate US military and diplomatic policy, and it’s even worse to think that it’s a strategy….

    Thanks.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  40. 40

    Caught the end of the segment of the Snooze Hour discussion. Instead of David Brooks they Reihan Salam, to debate Shields. Mr Salam can give Mr. Brooks a run for his money in dishing out smooth lies in making excuses for T admin.

  41. 41
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TenguPhule: Fine, have some blintzes.

  42. 42
    efgoldman says:

    @Waratah:

    He just parrots what they tell him

    I’m still convinced that Weasel Face is unable to name or identity any Middle Eastern country or its leader on a map

  43. 43
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Thanks. I’ve seen reporting on MSNBC that he’s told the Saudi’s he wants them to pay the US $4 billion to stay in Syria.

    As for the telegraphing – it was covered in a different part of the WaPo article I linked to and excerpted from.

  44. 44
    danielx says:

    I am aware that this is not exactly a sharp insight, but Trump doesn’t have policies. He has impulses.

  45. 45
    efgoldman says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    he’s told the Saudi’s he wants them to pay the US $4 billion to stay in Syria.

    The Hessians of the 21st century

    How far we’ve come in 2++ centuries. George Washington’s ghost must be so proud.

  46. 46
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Another Scott: Summary Adams are the best types of both summaries and Adams.//

    As for throwing the military at the problem, that’s not what I’m suggesting. The vast majority of US personnel on the ground in Syria right now are Special Operations Forces. This is the appropriate approach, but the mix should change. As progress is made by our local allies, then we need to push Civil Affairs in, while moving the Special Forces out or into a new area. We also need teams made up of civilian technical experts that overlap with the Civil Affairs bubbas and bubbettes. At the same time we need to ramp up the PSYOPers to conduct the strategic fight, which is combatting the extremist doctrine. Stopping the signal may be impossible, but overwhelming it with a better signal is not.

  47. 47
    Ken says:

    “I, And By Extension The US, Will Be Treated Fairly Or Else”

    … we’ll run back home, and claim that it was always our plan, especially the part where the door hit us on the way out.

  48. 48
    TenguPhule says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Sounds like a telegraph to me.

    Telegram for Mr. Putin.

  49. 49
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    then we need to push Civil Affairs in

    With what State Department and Secretary of State?

  50. 50
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @efgoldman: It is what it is.

  51. 51
    Jay says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    “Among them, Syrian refugees became the largest refugee group in 2014 (3.9 million, 1.55 million more than the previous year), overtaking Afghan refugees (2.6 million), who had been the largest refugee group for three decades. Six of the ten largest countries of origin of refugees were African: Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Eritrea.[20][49]”

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_migrant_crisis

    Cause and Effect is off.

    Assad and Russia only started “winning”, in late 2015.

    The Syrian Refugee’s that flooded into Europe in 2014, had fled from Syria to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, in 2011, 2012 and 2013, when the FSA/ISIS/Al Nusra and other allied groups were “winning” and conquoring territory. Most of the refugee’s came from those territories.
    They managed in Refugee Camps abroad, to get the where with all to be smuggled to Europe.

    The 2015 wave, came out of Turkey, where they had fled when the FSA/ISIS/alNusra et al offensive conquored Ildib, 98% of Aleppo Goverates, and drove on to Palmyria in 2014.

    Why are most of these Syrian refugee’s fleeing from their liberators?

    Prior to 2014, Afghan’s were the #1 wave of refugee’s. Was it “our” dastardly plan to flood Europe with Afghan Refugee’s to promote civil unrest and create societal divides in Europe, before Putin?

    Not everything is binary. Like I have mentioned once before. My GP is a Syrian Refugee, and he did not flee Syria because of the Regime, or the War, but because he recognized who was leading many of the protests in 2011.

    There are now 5.5 million Syrian refugee’s in Syrian Government controlled areas, down from 7.2 million due to resettlement programs.

    Funny thing that, over 5 million Syrian refugee’s fleeing from “rebel liberated” zones to Europe, and roughly 7.2 million Syrian refugee’s fleeing from “rebel liberated” zones to Government held areas over the course of the war.

    Might cause some sweeping prejudicial opinions about the “rebels”.

  52. 52

    @Corner Stone: The US military as mercenaries.

  53. 53
    Brachiator says:

    @Another Scott:

    I have come to conclude that any sensible good intentions we may have in Syria (and elsewhere) are doomed unless all of her neighbors (and a significant fraction of the population inside Syria) are on-board (or at least not openly hostile).

    What the US or the other countries in the region want may not matter. Russia, Turkey and Iran have been having meetings to settle the fate of the region. The US was neither invited nor represented.

    Recently, France offered to mediate between Turkey and the Kurds (BBC News story). The world is getting used to the absence of a US role in the Middle East.

  54. 54
    TenguPhule says:

    @Jay:

    Was it “our” dastardly plan to flood Europe with Afghan Refugee’s to promote civil unrest and create societal divides in Europe, before Putin?

    Considering it was Cheney and Rumsfield’s plans, this can’t be ruled out.

  55. 55
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TenguPhule: Civil Affairs are Special Operations Forces. The Military Occupational Specialty Code is 38. The vast majority of them are in the US Army Reserves (about 85 to 90%). The US Navy and Marines also have a small cadre of Civil Affairs personnel. During and after WW II this type of mission was specifically Civil Affairs. It was called military support to government. Around the time of the Korean war it was dropped by the Army. We have been attempting to rebuild it since 2012 or so.

    Full disclosure: from October 2012 through December 2013 I served as the Cultural Advisor (temporary assigned control) to the Civil Affairs Branch Chief. I’ve been working with Civil Affairs branch on this and other issues since 2010.

  56. 56
    TenguPhule says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    The US military as mercenaries.

    Hey now! Mercenaries get paid.

  57. 57
    Corner Stone says:

    Coding will save us all.

  58. 58
    El Caganer says:

    @efgoldman: But I’ll bet he can identify the country of Africa.

  59. 59
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Jay: Part of the issue with rebel liberated is who we’re applying the term rebel too. The reality is that Syria’s Civil War is not neat. Despite the misconceptions promoted by the news media and politicians and others, it isn’t Assad/Alawites fighting everyone else. Rather you have the Assads, their Alawite kin, the Druze, the Syrian Shia, the Syriac Christians, and a decent amount of Syrian Sunnis (because Assad or his dad empowered them thereby coopting them) versus other Syrian Sunnis, Syrian Kurds, and then you’ve got AQ offshoot Nusra Front and ISIS thrown in as additional complications. And no one fighting against the Syrian government/Assad can articulate, let alone agree on if they could articulate, who should replace him.

    As to the refugees, let me try this again. I am not saying that Putin caused the refugees. What I am saying is that Putin has leveraged their existence via the social media components of his active measures campaign on behalf of and with the neo-nationalist extremist parties and movements he’s supporting in the EU to turn their existence into campaign issues. As well as to weaponize their existence to further degrade the civil societies and civil spaces within the EU countries.

  60. 60
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @danielx: It is an accurate one.

  61. 61
  62. 62
    Washburn says:

    Anyone else surprised that Pruitt wasn’t fired at 4:55 this afternoon?

  63. 63
    efgoldman says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    The reality is that Syria’s Civil War is not neat.

    Understatement of the decade

  64. 64
    danielx says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Which truly bothers me. He could decide tomorrow he wants the 82nd Airborne dropped on Damascus to show everyone just who the boss is, and there is no one to say him nay.

  65. 65
    Corner Stone says:

    @schrodingers_cat: A future of depressing nobodies who are poor forever.

  66. 66
    Baud says:

    OT. WaPo

    A lawmaker from South Carolina pulled out his loaded pistol during a meeting with his constituents Friday to make a point about gun safety, according to advocacy group members who were present.

    Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) placed the gun on a table for “several minutes” while arguing that the presence of the weapon in the room made his constituents safer, according to volunteers for the South Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

  67. 67
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @danielx: Actually they just got back from Iraq. So they’re in no condition to jump on Damascus tomorrow.

  68. 68
    Corner Stone says:

    Tim Cook has the weirdest accent.

  69. 69
    Mike in NC says:

    @Washburn: Normal people get fired late on Friday afternoon, when half the other employees have already sneaked out for home. Trump is a stable genius who came up with firing your cabinet members at 9:00 on Monday morning in order for the media to not pay attention.

  70. 70
    danielx says:

    @Washburn:

    Nope.

    He likes Pruitt because he’s loyal, but in Trumpworld loyalty is strictly a one way street. Pruitt will last until Trump decides he has become a liability and/or is getting attention to which he, Trump, is rightly entitled. At which point Pruitt will become yet another victim of one of Trump’s favorite management techniques, such as they are: letting people swinging in the wind until they decide to cut themselves loose. Which in Pruitt’s case can’t happen a moment too soon. Then he can go back to being a better paid wholly owned subsidiary of the fossil fuels industry. Teapot Dome, anyone?

  71. 71
    Mike in NC says:

    @Adam L Silverman: When the notorious ‘Global War on Terror’ first kicked off, a number of Navy units spent an inordinate amount of time deployed. The response from the admiral in overall command was that people should just “suck it up”.

  72. 72
    germy says:

    Cole, Betty, Adam, Doug! Please report to your nearest Evaluation Center.

    🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨"The United States government… is about to compile a list of professional journalists and 'top media influencers,' which would seem to include bloggers and podcasters, and monitor what they're putting out to the public."https://t.co/8E4Of0jjiV— Maureen Shaw (@MaureenShaw) April 6, 2018

  73. 73
    danielx says:

    I don’t have permission to edit my own comment? What the fuck?

  74. 74
    Corner Stone says:

    @Mike in NC: Normal people get fired on Tuesday at 10:00 AM. That is best practice for all professional HR shops.

  75. 75
    gene108 says:

    It is not, however, a matter of being treated fairly or an opportunity for turning a profit.

    So we are doomed, until Jan 20, 2021.

    The damage Republicans have done to the international standing of this country maybe irreparable. Obama could sell his predecessor as a one off and fueled by anger over 9/11/01.

    But Obama’s successor is worse.

    Democrats can do all the repairs they want, but the world knows in 4 or 8 years they could be dealing with Republicans again, who would screw it all up.

  76. 76
    Corner Stone says:

    @danielx: I’m telling you, one good Time cover of Pruitt with a crown on his head and a title of something like, “King of the Swamp” and he’s toast.

  77. 77
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Brachiator:
    Angela Merkel did say last year that the West would have to start coping without America. When a post-Trump America finally comes back ready to do its part, you have to wonder how much of that part that had to be reassigned in its absence it will get back.

  78. 78
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @germy:

    1) If you think I’m a media influencer you need to seek professional help.
    2) I have a high level clearance. I am already subject to monitoring by the US government.
    3) I’ve provided support, both research/analytic and training, to DHS in the past. They know who I am, what I do/can do, and how to get a hold of me.
    4) It is unclear to me from the reporting if this will include American journalist and media influencers and/or foreign correspondents and/or media influencers residing in the US as well as those outside the US or only those outside the US. I fully expect the US intel community to monitor the latter.

  79. 79
    Amir Khalid says:

    @danielx:
    Think of it as WordPress saying, “Oh, yeah? Well, fuck you right back!” WP does that to all of us at some point.

  80. 80
    Baud says:

    @gene108: That was set in stone on election day. No point fretting about it.

  81. 81
    joel hanes says:

    If we’re using the military to fight against an idea, especially a religious idea,
    we’ve lost before we’ve begun.

  82. 82
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @danielx: What do you want fixed? Let me know and I’ll change it for you.

  83. 83
    Chyron HR says:

    @germy:

    “This is fine.” – Glenn Greenwald, probably

  84. 84
    Another Scott says:

    @Mike in NC: My (potentially faulty) memory of those early days after 9/11/2001, was thinking “how on Earth is W going to define ‘fighting terrorism’ in a way that doesn’t have us going to war against the IRA and any other two-bit group that is fighting against their government or our allies?” They came up with the “terrorists with global reach” formulation which sorta works, but since anyone can get on an airplane, it really doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    Plus, “terrorism” is a tactic, not an adversary.

    If they really wanted to create a sensible, limited, framework for fighting bin Laden, then they could have done much better. But it’s clear they didn’t want that – they wanted an open-ended military buildup, and freedom to have forever-war in the Middle East (and elsewhere).

    Obama was much, much better (of course), but even he got stuck in bad framing, insisting that we were going to defeat al Qaeda “and the Taliban” in Afghanistan. Including the Taliban in that framing meant that we were going to be there forever. I think he finally realized that in his last year or two, when finally he dropped that construction.

    Framing matters, but so does coherent and sensible objectives.

    tl;dr – the GWoT was never a “war”. It’s a grab-bag of military actions and incoherent puffed-up rhetoric. It was never envisioned to end – by design. It was never funded in a way to achieve its puffed-up rhetoric and the advocates didn’t care.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  85. 85
    Baud says:

    @Chyron HR: Nah, he’ll say it’s bad but it’s Obama’s fault.

  86. 86
    germy says:

    He’s finally realized:

    This is actual sociopathy: https://t.co/nLYRJ78Ney— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 6, 2018

  87. 87
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @germy: Bless his heart!

  88. 88
    danielx says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    I can hear it now: “I don’t care when they got back from where, I want them dropped! They’re supposed to go anywhere in the world on 24 hours notice, if they can’t do it what good are they? I’m not interested in excuses!”

    He doesn’t know from logistics, among many other things.

  89. 89
    JPL says:

    @danielx: It depends on what the fox says, and unfortunately I’m not teasing.

  90. 90
    Baud says:

    @germy:

    He’ll say that Hillary wouldn’t have waited. Just you see.

  91. 91
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @danielx: No argument here.

  92. 92
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷 says:

    @germy:
    That’s disgusting. What the fuck does killing the family too accomplish?

  93. 93
    jc says:

    Trumpster says: “wars should be brutal and swift.” The cruel reality is that wars have a nasty habit of not cooperating with genius plans, and they often annoyingly drag on – see the past 50 years of U.S. history.

  94. 94
    gene108 says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Angela Merkel did say last year that the West would have to start coping without America. When a post-Trump America finally comes back ready to do its part, you have to wonder how much of that part that had to be reassigned in its absence it will get back.

    The frustrating thing here is the people, who firmly believe the USA is the greatest , best country God ever gave Man on the face of the Earth are doing the most to undermine the position as a superpower.

    And they don’t understand or care about the damage they do, because bullying other countries is their idea of diplomacy.

    And they belittle those, who work cooperatively with other countries and thus improve our standing. Obama and Bill Clinton got a lot of shit from the Right about not throwing our military around Willy-nilly and doing whatever we damned well pleased.

    I remember around 1999 and 2000 getting the USA was a big fetish among Republicans, and that aversion to diplomacy runs deeper now.

  95. 95
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷 says:

    @gene108:
    I’ve been saying for a year now that Americans as a group have gotten too comfy and privlidged. They take our status as a superpower for granted because that’s all they’ve ever known. One day they’re going to wake up and realize they’re not the greatest country on Earth, that now we’re going to have to pay higher prices for goods than ever before. God help the rest of the world when that happens.

  96. 96
    lumpkin says:

    It’s simple: War ends when all parties recognize that they have nothing to gain by further hostilities.

  97. 97
    efgoldman says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷:

    They take our status as a superpower for granted because that’s all they’ve ever known. One day they’re going to wake up and realize they’re not the greatest country on Earth

    Ah, child. Vietnam was so far before your time….

  98. 98
  99. 99
    TenguPhule says:

    @lumpkin:

    War ends when all parties recognize that they have nothing to gain by further hostilities.

    So forever war we’re condemned to then.

  100. 100
    Baud says:

    Rachel saying the new sanctions are actually meaningful. Keep up the pressure.

  101. 101
    TenguPhule says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷:

    What the fuck does killing the family too accomplish?

    To terrorize.

    Like the mob.

  102. 102
  103. 103
    TenguPhule says:

    @Washburn:

    Anyone else surprised that Pruitt wasn’t fired at 4:55 this afternoon?

    No, I’m surprised Kelley wasn’t.

  104. 104
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    If you think I’m a media influencer you need to seek professional help.

    Sorry Adam, the lunatics took over the asylum.

  105. 105
    Mike in NC says:

    @TenguPhule: Didn’t Kelly toss off something about keeping the Chief of Staff job for a year, then move on? So he shouldn’t last beyond July.

  106. 106
    TenguPhule says:

    Administration officials said his apparent reprieve is largely attributable to the fact that he has pleased Trump by working tirelessly to eviscerate Obama-era regulations.

    Via Wapo.

    Pruitt is still considered useful to Trump.

  107. 107
    TenguPhule says:

    @Mike in NC: He did, now those same sources are saying he’s not sure he’s going to make a full year anymore.

  108. 108
    germy says:

    Want to see something scary? Type "stormy daniels" in your twitter search bar & then click the button for "latest" option. Guess someone didn't like me defending myself and/or doesn't want people being able search my news stories.— Stormy Daniels (@StormyDaniels) April 6, 2018

  109. 109
    germy says:

    WAR, n. A by-product of the arts of peace. The most menacing political condition is a period of international amity. The student of history who has not been taught to expect the unexpected may justly boast himself inaccessible to the light. “In time of peace prepare for war” has a deeper meaning than is commonly discerned; it means, not merely that all things earthly have an end— that change is the one immutable and eternal law— but that the soil of peace is thickly sown with the seeds of war and singularly suited to their germination and growth. It was when Kubla Khan had decreed his “stately pleasure dome”— when, that is to say, there were peace and fat feasting in Xanadu— that he

    heard from afar
    Ancestral voices prophesying war.

    One of the greatest of poets, Coleridge was one of the wisest of men, and it was not for nothing that he read us this parable. Let us have a little less of “hands across the sea,” and a little more of that elemental distrust that is the security of nations. War loves to come like a thief in the night; professions of eternal amity provide the night.
    – Ambrose Bierce

  110. 110
    Brachiator says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    When a post-Trump America finally comes back ready to do its part, you have to wonder how much of that part that had to be reassigned in its absence it will get back.

    I don’t know how often a great nation has given up its leadership role and regained it. It is sad to see how the US, under Trump and the UK, with BREXIT, have rejected almost everything which ever earned them respect and goodwill. The question for us is whether citizens will firmly renounce Trump, or whether we will have to continue to fight the Deplorables.

  111. 111
    Jay says:

    @Yutsano:

    There is no Independent Kurdistan, not in Iraq, not in Syria, not in Iran, way too many Kurdish factions who only hate everbody else more than they hate each others, too much Kurdish “overreach” and territorial greed, too much “Kurdish National Superiority” over their local neighbours.

  112. 112
    Joeg says:

    tRump doctrine:
    1: Be fair or we’ll leave
    2: We’ll take all your soil
    2a: It’s only fair!!!!!

  113. 113
    danielx says:

    @jc:

    The cruel reality is that wars have a nasty habit of not cooperating with genius plans, and they often annoyingly drag on – see the past 50 years of U.S. history.

    I’ve seen this movie before several times, and it always ends badly. It ends badly (or not at all) even when there is an ostensibly competent foreign policy team in charge. In this instance there is no team. There is no secretary of state, the national security advisor is next thing to a lunatic, the diplomatic corps no longer exists, the military is tired…

    And there’s an eight year old in charge, one of whose most outstanding character traits is a tendency to blow shit up just to see what happens, and who likes doing it just because he can. Consequences are not real to him; consequences happen to other people, not to Donald Trump, now or ever.

    As long as he personally is not touched, free and in possession of his personal fortune, bad things that happen to other people is not his fault, because it’s never his fault. Donald Trump does not make bad decisions, so other people bungled his intentions, right down to speaking of himself in the third person.

    Fucking Douglas MacArthur as played by Jim Carrey.

  114. 114
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Donald defines “fair” as “I win, you lose”.

    This is why Donald must be destroyed.

  115. 115
    El Caganer says:

    @germy: I think she’s going to be Trump’s next Sec’y of State.

  116. 116
    Jay says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Agree with both comment’s 100% with one one but,

    1) Recently read the 15,000 word “Inside the Tunnels of East Ghuta”, which tracks the history of East Ghuta before the war, ( rural farm area that became a low income residental area for Damascus in less than a decade), during the war, ( 97 different armed anti-regime groups with ever shifting primacy and vicious infighting, over black markets and the arms trade, plus collusion with elements of the regime for profit) and as it falls to the SAA.

    2) Prior to the Syrian Refugee crisis, 46% of the population growth in the EU, since the ’70’s, was legal immigration and citizenship. If you read the British media “searches” for Brexiteer’s, ( same as Trump Humper Hunts at the last diner in Real ‘Murika, don’t any of those people have jobs?), the tag line always comes down to “immigration”.

    Basically, once again, old White People scared of any shade other than pale white, and unable to economically compete, because they are stupid, lazy or inbred.

    Putin tapped into the people who have tapped into that.

  117. 117
    The Thin Black Duke says:

    @El Caganer: Naw. Trump doesn’t hire people smarter than him.

  118. 118
    NotMax says:

    @danielx

    Fucking Douglas MacArthur as played by Jim Carrey Bobcat Goldthwait.

  119. 119
    danielx says:

    @NotMax:

    Close enough.

  120. 120
    trnc says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Adam, nice framing of the “Trump Doctrine” as involving what Trump thinks of as fairness to him. Of course the term is undefined. We may surmise some of its characteristics from his behaviors around what he calls fairness, like his believing it’s fair for him to get two scoops of ice cream and everyone else to get one.

    The Trump Doctrine is basically Cleek’s Law applied specifically to Donald Trump – whatever makes Donald Trump look good today, regardless of what made him look good yesterday.

  121. 121
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Jay: I haven’t had a chance to read that yet.

    As for nativism and xenophobia, emphasizing it has worked reliably. Unfortunately it will continue to work until it doesn’t.

  122. 122
    Washburn says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Really?

    What’s the reasoning?

  123. 123
    Bill Arnold says:

    Open thread item:
    Trump Staffers Are Freaking Out Even More Than Usual Right Now (Jonathan Chait)

    3. Trump’s advisers, despairing of their inability to educate the president, have taken to using television as the preferred vehicle for their tutelage. The Washington Post reports that Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News program is the show of choice for this purpose. “Aides sometimes plot to have guests make points on Fox that they have been unable to get the president to agree to in person. ‘He will listen more when it is on TV,’ a senior administration official said.” Pirro duty is considered important enough that “officials rotate going on Pirro’s show because they know Trump will be watching — and partially to prevent him from calling in himself.”

    Bold mine.

  124. 124
    Jager says:

    @Adam L Silverman: What you’re saying Adam is Putin blew the dust off those old Stalin plans/strategies/tactics and did minor updates for the 21st Century.

  125. 125
    Corner Stone says:

    @Washburn: Terminate on Tuesdays—Quickly and Humanely
    :Tuesday, not Friday, is the best day to terminate someone, HR professionals in a LinkedIn discussion agreed. That way, if the discharged worker has any questions about the termination, such as questions about COBRA, someone is in the office the next few days to answer.

    “Monday gives HR and the terminated employee’s manager time to ensure all paperwork and communication is ready,” said Michael Godfrey, global human resources leader for HR consulting firm Organizational Alchemy in Seattle. “Once the termination is complete, you have the remainder of the week to help the terminated employee’s team and/or larger organization through the transition.”

    Meg Caddick, HR director with records management firm Iron Mountain Inc. in Washington, D.C., said that Tuesday “seems to be a preferred day of the week,” and recommended offering outplacement support, which “can provide the employee with the momentum to move forward and not fixate on a previous role.”

  126. 126
    jc says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Trump thinks “ethical” means getting away with it.

  127. 127
    Jay says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    There was a recent Independent expedition to the Wilds of Surrey, searching for the wild and elusive Brexiteer, which yup, came down in the end to almost everybody they met, came down to “immigration”,

    On the streets of Surrey, they interviewed a girl of Jamacian descent, a Stayer, and as they were interviewing her, a guy across the street yelled at her, “go the fuck back to where you came from!”

    Immediately she yelled back,

    “Shut the fuck up, you old git. Me Mom was British, Me Da was British, me Grandma was British, me Grandad was British, I was born just up the Block! Where the fuck did you come from, Nazi Germany after the war, you fucking Racist!”

  128. 128
    Bill Arnold says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷:

    That’s disgusting. What the fuck does killing the family too accomplish?

    To scare others. It’s an informal and sloppy and déclassé philistine sketch of a caricature of a formal punishment like Nine familial exterminations, also lacking any due process controls:

    …the most serious punishment for a capital offense in Ancient China. A collective punishment typically associated with offenses such as treason, the punishment involved the execution of all relatives of an individual, which were categorized into nine groups. The occurrence of this punishment was somewhat rare, with relatively few sentences recorded throughout history.

    I’ll leave the psychiatric diagnosis to practitioners.
    North Korea is known to do something similar with treason cases, so guessing that Trump might be a little envious. Or more likely this is a right-wing staple that I’m thankfully ignorant of.

  129. 129
    Brachiator says:

    @Jay:

    Immediately she yelled back,

    “Shut the fuck up, you old git. Me Mom was British, Me Da was British, me Grandma was British, me Grandad was British, I was born just up the Block! Where the fuck did you come from, Nazi Germany after the war, you fucking Racist!”

    I just love this response. The lack of self-awareness of the BREXIT supporters is astounding. They are anti-immigration and their freaking royal family is German.

  130. 130
    Jay says:

    @Brachiator:

    The Royal Family, on the QT, because of “propriety”, are pro-EU membership.

  131. 131
    Mike in NC says:

    @Bill Arnold: Trump’s lizard brain most of all enjoys revenge and public humiliation. Maybe something Roy Cohn taught him. Also check out the video with Mitt Romney on that infamous lunch date.

  132. 132
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Jager: Yep.

  133. 133
  134. 134
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Corner Stone:

    “can provide the employee with the momentum to move forward and not fixate on a previous role.”

    This is the polite way of saying “can prevent the employee from coming back the next day with an AK 47 and two duffel bags full of spare ammunition”.

  135. 135
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Jay: She’s a keeper!

  136. 136
    Corner Stone says:

    @Adam L Silverman: The person doesn’t know what to say to friends or family over a weekend where everyone usually “gathers”. Although, tbh, most HR people are soulless lifesuckers who couldn’t give a shit less about the people being terminated. They just act like “being there to answer technical questions” makes destroying their lives better somehow.
    Just as a reminder to everyone – HR works for the company, not you.

  137. 137
    feckless says:

    Just end the wars and bring our troops home. Period.

    Europe, Saudi Arabia and Turkey can take care of their own neighborhood, much more effectively than we can.

    Yes W and his ilk effed up the middle east, but to act like Saudi and the Euro et al didnt profit massively from this shitshow is beyond naive. Pouring blood and treasure into the sands of mesopotamia will Not put humpty back together again.

    If we can’t afford healthcare, hell School books, I don’t see how we have any right to be fighting an overseas war for no discernable goal. How about we fix the social safety net here, before we completely reform Syrian society?

    Note that at one point the US embassy in Iraq only had SEVEN fluent arabic speakers… so no I don’t believe we can create a Syria that doesn’t foster ISIS, anymore than we have been successful in creating an America that doesn’t foster the NRA. Me and mine are much more likely to be affected by right wing domestic terrorism HERE than by a pickup truck full of maniacs on the other side of the world.

    Bombing Syria with care packages of food and medicine and information? -Absolutely. Human Rights propaganda targeted at Wahabi states? -count me in. Massive funding for Refugees? -raise my taxes gladly. Regional conference on disarmament? -All for it. BUT throwing trillions of tax dollar$ at Eric Prince, the other US & Euro war profiteers and South African mercenaries won’t change anything.

    I also think we should be getting out of Germany and Okinawa after 70 YEARS of tax funded occupation there too.

    PEACE.

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