Category Archives: Greater Syria

Props to Obama on Security

Barack Obama is doing a fine job securing our country, and our world.

He successfully ignored calls from right-wing hawks for a “defense stimulus.” Some thinkers associated wanted us to spend billions building weapons systems that are only of much use in attacking the People’s Liberation Army. Why we would want to start (or even accelerate) an arms race with our partner in economic recovery is strange, especially considering how the sole point of contention between the United States and the People’s Republic, the issue of Taiwan, is going away.

In America, striking signs of this are talk of a formal ‘truce’ between the KMT and the Communist Party, as well as the resumption of direct flights between Taiwan and the mainland, and even cooperation between the National Palace Museum (台北) and the Palace Museum (北京).

For me, the most striking example was this last summer, when the Chairman of the KMT visitied the Chairman of the Communist Party in Beijing. My grandfather-in-law, a former officer in KMT who followed his general in defecting to the Communist Party during the Civil War, express his surprise at the shocking meeting

“Impossible! How can the heads of the KMT and the Communists meet together?”

(The last such meeting between the KMT and the Communists was not as friendly.)

The best the rightwing netroots can come up with is spinning Secretary of State Clinton’s visit to China as a ‘diss’.

Obama also deserves props to recognizing the Middle East is changing, as well. Again standing up to the right netroots, Obama is waiving some sanctions against Syria in an attempt to build relations between our countries.

Obama has made serious misteps, form the new Buy American law to inexplicably stabbing General Zinni in the back. But so far, from appointing Clinton as SecState, Gates as SecDef, ignoring calls for a defense stimulus, and trying to warm relations with Syria, he’s getting the major decisiosn right.

Toward a New, Democratic Middle East

Barnett, T.P.M. (2006). Treating Iran as a logical swing asset. Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog. January 10, 2007. Available online: http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/2007/01/treating_iran_as_logical_swing.html.

Tom Barnett gets it!:

Great piece by Luttwak exploring how sometimes (in Iraq) we need to be pro-Shiia and not be afraid of making Sunni states nervous and sometimes (in Lebanon vis-a-vis Syria) we need to be pro-Sunni and not worry about making Shiia leaders (Syria, Iran) nervous.

Now, where Luttwak doesn’t go is where I’m dying to go: play Iran more as a scary balancer. The more we dialogue (none yet) with Iran on Iraq, the more we freak the Saudis and the easier it becomes to splinter Syria because we’re basically playing prisoner’s dilemma with both Damascus and Iran–as in, who’s gonna bite first because we’ll go harder on the other next.

I agree completely, and back in August I wrote that a Shia Iraq and a Sunni Syria are exactly what we need.

A Democratic Middle East

Keep the Big Bang moving. Support Democracy in the Middle East. Support a Shia Iraq, and a Sunni Syria.

Disconnecting Lebanon from Syria, Disconnecting Syria from the Syrians

Key US legislator says will block aid to Lebanon, by Adam Entous, Reuters, 27 August 2006, http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060827/ts_nm/mideast_usa_lebanon_dc (from Democratic Underground).

Islamic Revival in Syria Is Led by Women,” by Katherine Zoepf, New York Times, 29 August 2006, A1, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/29/world/middleeast/29syria.html.

Tom Lantos, a California Democrat who not only supports a McCain-Lieberman foreign policy but also married a first-cousin of Zsa-Zsa Gabor, pushes for the continued separation of Lebanon from Syria:

A key U.S. legislator said in Israel on Sunday he would block aid President George W. Bush promised Lebanon and free the funds only when Beirut agreed to the deployment of international troops on the border with Syria

The international community must use all our available means to stiffen Lebanon’s spine and to convince the government of Lebanon to have the new UNIFIL troops on the Syrian border in adequate numbers,” said Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives’ International Relations Committee.

Syria, showing the same stupidity that got her expelled from Lebanon in the first place, promises to play into her enemies’ hands

Syria has threatened to shut its border with Lebanon if U.N. troops deploy there. Israel says it will not lift a sea and air blockade of Lebanon unless a U.N. force helps ensure that no new weapons reach Hizbollah in the south.

Meanwhile, women less glamorous than Zsa-Zsa (and not of the liberal Muslims kind) do their bit to hasten their brothers and submit Damascus to the Koran


The Fate of the Baath Arab Socialist Party

At those meetings, participants say, they are tutored further in the faith and are even taught how to influence some of their well-connected fathers and husbands to accept a greater presence of Islam in public life.

These are the two faces of an Islamic revival for women in Syria, one that could add up to a potent challenge to this determinedly secular state. Though government officials vociferously deny it, Syria is becoming increasingly religious and its national identity is weakening. If Islam replaces that identity, it may undermine the unity of a society that is ruled by a Muslim religious minority, the Alawites, and includes many religious groups.

Syrian officials, who had front-row seats as Hezbollah dragged Lebanon into war, are painfully aware of the myriad ways that state authority can be undermined by increasingly powerful, and appealing, religious groups. Though Syria’s government supports Hezbollah, it has been taking steps to ensure that the phenomenon it helped to build in Lebanon does not come to haunt it at home.

For many years any kind of religious piety was viewed here with skepticism. But while men suspected of Islamist activity are frequently interrogated and jailed, subjecting women to such treatment would cause a public outcry that the government cannot risk. Women have taken advantage of their relatively greater freedom to form Islamic groups, becoming a deeply rooted and potentially subversive force to spread stricter and more conservative Islamic practices in their families and communities.

Mr. Abdul Salam explained that such secret Islamic prayer groups recruited women differently, depending on their social position. “They teach poor women how to humble themselves in front of their husbands and how to pray, but they’re teaching upper-class women how to influence politics,” he said.

(It is not surprising that radical Muslims are exploiting women in this way. Christians did the same thing to spread their ideology and conquer Rome. Women are not somehow opposed to religion. They are the vehicles for religion.)

Arab National-Secularism is in collapse. Since Sharon took power in 2000, and Bush took power in 2001, Lebanon and Iraq have been freed from the National-Secularist yoke. Now we see the Syrian National-Secularists increasingly isolated from their former-client and from their own people.

Like the Qaedists, the National-Secularists are losing. The dreams of our generational enemies in the Middle East are falling apart. Good.

A New Middle East, Part IV: Islam is the Answer

The day is won. Israel has succeeded in its generational struggle with Arab National-Secularism.

Yet now the medium-term interests of the United States and the Jewish State diverge. The United States, the world’s leader, desires a “rule-set reset” across the Middle East, replacing the divded and confused Arab regimes with something sustainable. Yet such division and confusion is precisely in Israel’s interests, because weak and disoriented enemies cannot threaten her. In particularly, the map of Israel’s near-abroad that America must strive for will naturally spook our allies in Jerusalem.


A Levant Worth Creating: Blue = Globalized States, Yellow = Traditional States, Purple = Muslim Brotherhood States

American actions not in Israel’s preferred direction occurred soon after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, and can be seen by comparing the recommendations of the seminal 1996 paper, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm

King Hussein may have ideas for Israel in bringing its Lebanon problem under control. The predominantly Shia population of southern Lebanon has been tied for centuries to the Shia leadership in Najf, Iraq rather than Iran. Were the Hashemites to control Iraq, they could use their influence over Najf to help Israel wean the south Lebanese Shia away from Hizballah, Iran, and Syria. Shia retain strong ties to the Hashemites: the Shia venerate foremost the Prophet’s family, the direct descendants of which — and in whose veins the blood of the Prophet flows — is King Hussein.

with what actually happened

  • Attempted implementation of an indigenous, secular, Shia government
  • Actual implementation of an indigenous, religious, Shia government

Israel desired a restored Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq to calm the Middle East, as soon as possible. The United States desired a Shia Iraq to explode the Middle East, as soon as possible.

Such a disagreement extends beyond the failing state of Iraq to Israel’s immediate neighborhood. With the internal remnants of Arab National-Secularism, the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Fatah patronage machine, in shambles, Israel’s best medium-term future was a globalized Lebanon and weak (and easily blackmailed) Egyptian and Syrian regimes. Yet America’s goal is continuing the 3/20 Revolution wish must include replacing the Arab National-Secularist governments of Egypt and Syria with the Muslim Brothers. The Global War on Terrorism requires replacing dysfunctional worldly rule with Islamic Law.

Sharia’s modernizing track record in the Middle East is positive, National-Secularism’s is negative. Don’t believe it? Compare the religiosity of Egyptians and Iranians. Compare the strength of Egypt and Iranians.

In a recent post, Tom Barnett wrote:

And yes, forcing us all to live together in connectedness (known today by the moniker of globalization) will force a tremendous amount of change on both those who welcome it (by all indications, the bulk of the populations throughout the Gap) and those who revile it (a small minority who will fight these changes to the very end, and yes, for them, the conflict will be “genocidal” in that they will not survive it).

In that conflict process, which I believe is both inevitable and good, it will be harder before it gets easier, but putting off the hard part only ensures greater conflict and death totals down the line, because if integration isn’t achieved, colonial mercantlist-style economic transaction patterns will predominate, as will local authoritarianism and failed states, and the death totals associated with those pathways will (as they do today) dwarf the death totals of integrating conflicts (and if you don’t believe that, then you are woefully ignorant of what’s happening every day in Africa right now).

The challenge before us is not one of deciding “yes” or “no” to this historical process. That train left the station a generation ago when the East decided to join the global economy.

The only question that remains is how we rise to this challenge. How we get smarter about how we wage both war and peace.

To pretend that the choice lies between war and peace is self-delusional, just like pretending we must choose between globalization-the-integration-process and globalization-the-disintegrating/reformatting-process. Life is simply not that binary.

Israel, being only a state, is too weak to influence systems and instead must play for time, merely surviving into her surroundings are magically improved. But America is a system-level power, and America has the power to change the nature of Israel’s surroundings.

It is by bringing 3/20 to Cairo and Damascus that we can truly prevent another 9/11. Redirect the violent feedback of the National-Secularists to the National-Secularists. Bring the rage of crooked Arab economies to crooked Arab states. Shrink the Gap by destroying-in-detail the National-Secularism that helped expand it.


A New Middle East, a tdaxp series
A New Middle East 1: Our Vanquished Enemies
A New Middle East 2: Iran
A New Middle East 3: Israel
A New Middle East 4: Islam is the Answer

A New Middle East, Part III: Israel

The question is which is preferable… 2000


Israel Surrounded by Arab National-Seularist Regimes

or now


Rollback of Arab National-Secularism

The first map, the world as it was before George Bush and Ariel Sharon, shows an Israel surrounded by Arab National-Secularist regimes: Yasser Arafat’s Fatah-led PLO in the east, and two states controlled by the Baath party, Lebanon and Syria. The situation gets even worse down south, as another Arab National-Secularist regime, Egypt, borders Israel on the Sinai. The only half-way normal neighbor Israel had was the tribalist Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Arab National-Secularism was one of the worst products of the twentieth century, the intellectual offshoot of German National-Socialism and an ideology may have done less harm if it ruled for a few bloody years (as the NSDAP did in Germany) whether than perverting generations of minds.

If Arab National-Secularism merely left lifeless, frozen states in its midst, fine. But National-Secularism has done worse than freezing the cultures of the states it takes over, but it begins destroying the culture. Arab National-Secularism, by taking away the traditional meaning of life while not replacing it with economic growth, leaves behind a murderous rage. In states like Egypt and Syria it has so-far been contained by massacres and political repression. In countries where it can break free, such as Iraq and Lebanon, the consequence is state failure and civil war.

Israel’s greatest enemy has been the National-Secularism and, because of its wise actions, Israel is in the final phases of destroying Arab National-Secularism as a political force.

The recent Israel War in Lebanon did not succeed in destroying Hezbollah as a fighting force — it failed as a war in the context of war — but it succeeded in further rolling back the Arab National-Secularist block that has been Israel’s main enemy. The War in Lebanon succeeded as a War in the Context of Everything Else<. In the context of war, Isarel’s failure to disarm Hezbollah makes Hizbullah stronger. In the context of everything else, Israel’s failure to disarm Hezbollah weakens Syria (which was forced to stay out of the fight due to fear of Israeli retaliation and Muslim Brother reaction).

Lebanon is now even further away from Syria’s sphere of influence than before the Hezbollah War. All actors see yet another failure by an Arab National-Secularist government, and another success by a Shia Theocratic government.

Lebanon will now be contested between the country’s indigenous, globally-oriented, Catholic-Sunni majority, and a smaller but well armed Shia minority. It is important that whatever country leads the SysAdmin effort in that country, be if France, Italy, or someone else, that the Catholic-Sunni majority’s interests are favored. Yet it is a mistake to believe that just because Hezbollah won the war Israel must lose the peace. On the contrary, by further weakening its primary 4GW adversary, Israel is closer to “peace” than ever.


A New Middle East, a tdaxp series
A New Middle East 1: Our Vanquished Enemies
A New Middle East 2: Iran
A New Middle East 3: Israel
A New Middle East 4: Islam is the Answer

A New Middle East, Part II: Iran

First, a worse-case scenario:


Iran’s Maximal Objective

The above map shows the maximum extent of primary influence that is within Teheran’s grasp. The best way to explain this map is to compare it to the map of actual influence directly before the Iraq War


Iran’s Influence, 2003

Syria, while ruled by a national-secularist regime, is a client state of Iran when it comes to foreign policy. At the time of the Iraq War Lebanon was ruled as a colony by Syria, and so is also included. The origin of the Damascus-Tehran axis comes from both geopolitical necessity (Iraq was ruled by the territorially expansive Saddam Hussein) and natural sympathy (Syria, while mostly Sunni, is ruled by the quasi-Shia quasi-Muslim Alawite sect).

The Iraq War changed the region by throwing Iraq, a mostly Shia country, to Iran’s influence. Despite American attempts to contest Iraq, the natural sympathies of the Iraqi Shia combined with the violent nihilism of the country’s Sunni Arab population all but assure an orientation toward Tehran and Qom. A natural consequence of the liberation of Iraq is Shia assertiveness in East Arabia. East Arabia, the oil producing region of Saudi Arabia, is populated by Shia who suffer under the Riyadh-Wahhabi yoke. Iranian instigation of the local population, as seen in the recent “pro-Hezbollah” (actually, pro-Iran) rally, may blackmail the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia away form American influence and to a subject’s embrace of the Shia hegemon.

Yet, happily, merely be supporting the Bush doctrine for democracy we are able to address the honest aspiration of Shia while preventing such overpowering, regional country. As I already wrote, we should

Such a change would reorder the Middle East on democratic lines, allow Shia, religious Sunnis, tribal Sunnis, and global elements to live in a rational balance of power


A Democratic Middle East

Even the “Big Iran” scenario of the first map is a major improvement from the Arab National-Secularist sewer that existed before President Bush. But a democratic, rational Middle East still lays before us.


A New Middle East, a tdaxp series
A New Middle East 1: Our Vanquished Enemies
A New Middle East 2: Iran
A New Middle East 3: Israel
A New Middle East 4: Islam is the Answer

Israel as 4GW Victory Machine

The Israelis are expert at 4th Generation Wars. This style of war, which focuses on changing the mental orientation of opponents, is normally dangerous for state powers. France lost 4G Wars in Vietnam and Algeria, while the United States was previously set back in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia.

Yet the Israelis are the exception. With a patience often associated with non-state actors, the Jewish State destroyed the nationalist-secularist Palestine Liberation Organization. Exploiting internal divisions among the Palestinian population originally seen during the First Intifada in 1987, Jerusalem began increasing the moral, mental, and physical isolation of the PLO. The first major attack was the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993, a controversial move to delegitimize the PLO by removing its reason for being. Low intensity war (with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat repeatedly maneuvered into the role of the senseless aggressor) waged for more than a decade, with Israel ever working to isolate the PLO from its tools for power.


David’s Patient Nation

Israeli Victory came on January 25, 2006, when Hamas (a spin-off of the technocratic-fundamentalist Muslim Brothers) trounced the PLO’s main political party, Al-Fatah, in free Palestinian elections.

It appears that Israel is using a similar strategy to build victory in Lebanon. Israel recognizes that isolation leads to defeat, so she attempts to maximize her connectivity while minimizing the connectivity of her enemy, Hezbollah. In particular, Israel is attempting to maximize Hezbollah’s physical disconnectivity. Israel’s airstrikes against roads and bridges that lead to Syria are widely recognized, but attacks on infrastructure by themselves could not do much. There is no “systempunkt” — the mythical list of physical infrastructure targets that can permanently destroy an enemy — so Israel instead focuses on changing the long-term correlation of forces.

Behind the scene diplomacy by Israel and her lobbies forced the military expulsion of Syria from Lebanon. Indeed, Dawlat Israil is turning the security situation of Lebanon on its head, from a Hezbollah-friendly state in the Syrian orbit to a country that faces a French anti-Hezbollah invasion. That prospect was viewed by some as impossible when it was first floated last year, but momentum is building.

In summary, Israel is destroying Hezbollah just like she destroyed the PLO: patiently. Israel is excelling at dual-use attacks, not just degrading Hezbollah’s firepower in the short-term but changing the facts on the ground that allow Hezbollah to thrive in the long-term.

Bravo Israel!

Gap Debating Society v. Core State

OIC is concerned over the UNSC failure to halt Israeli aggression on Lebanon,” Syrian Arab News Agency, 3 August 2006, http://www.sana.org/eng/22/2006/08/03/54464.htm (from Democratic Underground).

Some at that toothless talking club, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, has (predictably) joined the anti-Israeli chorus:

Participants at the emergency meeting of the executive committee of the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference vehemently condemned the constant Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Palestine.

The conferees, in a final statement Thursday, held Israel the full responsible for the loss of innocent lives particularly in Qana’s second massacre that claimed lives of some 60 innocent persons mostly children and women.

” The OIC is deeply concerned over failure of the UN Security Council to take necessary measures to impose a cease-fire in Lebanon and end the Israeli brutal onslaughts on Lebanon,” the statement said.

” The U.N. Security Council is demanded to undertake its responsibility without any further delay by deciding on and enforcing an immediate and unconditional comprehensive cease-fire in Lebanon,” the participants underlined.

On Palestine, the Islamic states’ leaders demanded of the Israeli complete and unconditioned pull out of the occupied Palestinian territories including western Jerusalem, underscoring necessity of setting up the independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Why predictably? Because the OIC is a defining part of the Gap. We should expect nothing less in this fight of the Core in the Gap — this Core intervention in a Gap civil war.

Israel is a New-Core State Fighting in the Gap

As the anyone-but-Israel crowd (I’m looking at you, Adam, Eddie, and John) heats up its demonization of the Dawlat Israil, some context is needed. Particularly, an understand of the levels of power. These are essentially the levels of anlaysis that were devised by Waltz in his book Man, the State, and War, and since elucidated elsewhere.

In general, a power on one level can meaningful effect those on lower levels, win or lose “fairly” against those on the same level, and very weakly influence the level above.

To understand the Israel-Hizbullah conflict, we must understand where the actors are:

Knowing this, most criticisms are blown away (they were already hot air).


The most important thing to remember about the Israel-Hezbollah War is this: Israel is a State, not the System, not an Alliance of major powers, but a state. Because most of the blogosphere’s criticism is directed against the Jewish State, I will spend this post on the implications of the Levels of Power on it. (Bloggers apparently have a more nuanced or sympathetic inclination toward Hezbollah).

Israel is not The System. She does not have the power to change rulesets in regions, and this means that she is unable to choose which rulesets she fights under. Israel cannot shrink the Gap to fight the war she wants, and cannot shrink the Gap to make problems go away.

The world-system provided over by the United States is composed of the Core and the Gap, The Core of the “developed world” and the Gap of the “developing world,” with finer grades running from the Old Core of North America, Europe, and Japan to the Non-Integrating Gap of the African and Islamic worlds. The system is pleasant for New Core states and unpleasant for Gap states. The greatest project of our time, which is sometimes called “Shrinking the Gap,” current means pulling up the Seam to the New Core and not letting it fall back to the Gap.

Intervention within the old Core is relatively easy (the Katrina “debacle” did not lead to a single loyalty militia or terrorist-group attack, though much smaller things routinely do so throughout the Gap). However, intervention in the Gap opens eyes to the sadness of that world. It doesn’t create the sadness — life was bad in Somalia before the Rangers walked Mogadishu, and life was bad in Rwanda before UN peacekeepers fired on refugees.

Many of the attacks on the Democratic State come from a belief that Jews should spill blood and treasure to move Hizbollah’s territory up to the New Core. The absurdity and futility of a State spending its resources to change the Systemic nature of another is clear: it violates a simple understand of the levels of power, but functionally equivalent states are common in the anti-Israeli press. As Eddie of Life from the FDNF says

There is no honor in bad intelligence taking lives over and over again in a short period, no honor in killing children and blaming it on the other guy. You shouldn’t have bombed the shelter then. Send some troops, if you have the courage (which is increasingly in question among Israel’s political leadership), and take Hezbollah out.

This is in an atmosphere where Hizbullah hides among the human population. Must one then respond to Hizbullah’s use of human shields with surrender, as apparently any action that could lead Hizbullah to kill civilians?. That belief, which attempts to export New Core-level rules of hostage rescue to the Gap, is insane.

Changing local rulesets through force is extremely hard. The United States failed doing in so Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia, yet here bloggers advocate a State knowingly apply an inappropriate rule-set — New Core hostage rescue tactics — to an inappropriate theatre– the Gap.. The same level of moral sophistication would demand Core-level rulesets of triage for hospital-shacks in the Savannah, or Old Core-level minimum wages in the New Core, for that mater. The alternative, we are told, is lack of “courage.”

Attempting the impossible is not courageous. It is suicide. That’s why newspapers don’t talk about courageous attempts by teen-agers to live with lacerated wrists. They talk about suicides.

Pundits who demand that Israel apply inappropriate rulesets to a fight in the Gap do not understand resilience. Pundits who demand that a single state try to change System-level rulesets do not understand resilience. They desire an unresilient Israel, which applies inappropriate rulesets in an inappropriate theatre.

An Israel that used hostage-rescue techniques in Lebanon would be fighting the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. But Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, his government, and his Israeli Defense Forces are wiser than that. They are wisely applying the right rulesets in the right fight. That’s why they are winning.

Hezbollah v. the Lebanese Nation, Hezbollah v. the United Nations

Hezbollah v. the Lebanese Nation, Hezbollah v. the United Nations

In a recent post, Mark described the violence Hezbollah intentionally inflicts on the Lebanese people

As Hezbollah is a semi-4GW organization, it obeys no recognized rules of warfare yet escapes much in the way of blame, and intentionally seeks maximum civilian casualties among Lebanese Shiites from Israeli retaliation, there are certain political realities that cannot be ignored:

Yet the common people of Lebanon are not the only victim’s of rejectionist violence in Lebanon’s Civil War. The Party of God is also targeting United Nations missions:


Sites of Terrorist Attacks

The geographically-aware Catholicgauze has blogged on the War in Lebanon before.