Author Archive for patrickm

What now?

What do Marxists make of current developments in and around Syria?

Since direct Russian intervention in Syria was sprung on the world in 2015, sufficient events have unfolded to permit a general stock-take. There has been 15 months of very ‘strange times’ so where do the issues currently stand?

I presume a rethink of what I called the 1/2 theory – is self evidently required because Obama is departing his leadership role without any ability to claim success for his policies (even being publicly blamed by Kerry for being the real problem for why the US finds itself where it currently does) and short of a lucky bomber Assad will still be around!

Turkey has just declared that they are about to force the Kurds out of the (‘SDF’ Manbij pocket) http://syria.liveuamap.com/en/2016/24-december-pres-erdoan-says-al-bab-phase-about-to-be-completed

Pres. Erdoğan says Al Bab phase about to be completed in Syria, next step will be Manbij and then Raqqa. More than just send Kurds east of the Euphrates I think, because the Turks are also declaring that no new state will be permitted in northern Syria http://syria.liveuamap.com/en/2016/24-december-erdogan-no-ways-to-establish-any-new-states-in;  and that after Manbij they are going to Raqqah.

http://syria.liveuamap.com/en/2016/24-december-sdf-released-many-civilians-in-manbij-sdf-arrested,  is being reported.
http://syria.liveuamap.com/en/2016/24-december-erdogan-i-informed-the-us-russia-and-iran-that

The coming period will however see more than just the liberation of all territories in both Iraq and Syria controlled by Daesh. Complexity is being heaped upon more complexity and a wider war is still not unthinkable.

The September 2015 intervention required urgent analysis from those of us that have developed and argued consistently for our ‘draining the swamp theory’. It was analysed – and with very different conclusions drawn.

That period of flat out disagreement can now be summed up. Barry, Dave and Arthur thought that what was unfolding would end the regime and end the war. That theory collapsed in the face of what I have called the HIRISE Coalition of the Willing – Hezbollah, Iran, Russia, Iraq (shia militia), Syria (Assad +), Egypt – war making.  What next?  What do people now say is happening? Are there any sites where a serious and respectful discussion is taking place? Are there any Main Stream Media (MSM) articles that others want to draw attention to?

Just for starters; if the Turks are soon going to Raqqa how are they going to get there?  Literally what will be the route of the Turkish forces if they have come to blows with the SDF/Kurds in the Manbij pocket?  I hope the Kurds back out of this but it’s not very promising at this point.  I think the Turks are already facing a HIRISE red line west of the Euphrates. I hope the US can get a deal done at this late stage to bring them south east of the river.  But the Turks are serious about no ‘new state’ in the nth and everyone knows Assad can’t rule in peace so after Daesh territory is removed from the map over the next few months or if the fight breaks out with the Kurds after a few months more, what comes next?

A Path Out of the Middle East Collapse

We have been asked to put this up for critical discussion.  We are in no sense promoting a criminal like Kissinger.

 

With Russia in Syria, a geopolitical structure that lasted four decades is in shambles. The U.S. needs a new strategy and priorities.

By  Henry A. Kissinger  Oct. 16, 2015 7:18 p.m. ET

The debate about whether the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran regarding its nuclear program stabilized the Middle East’s strategic framework had barely begun when the region’s geopolitical framework collapsed. Russia’s unilateral military action in Syria is the latest symptom of the disintegration of the American role in stabilizing the Middle East order that emerged from the Arab-Israeli war of 1973.

In the aftermath of that conflict, Egypt abandoned its military ties with the Soviet Union and joined an American-backed negotiating process that produced peace treaties between Israel and Egypt, and Israel and Jordan, a United Nations-supervised disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria, which has been observed for over four decades (even by the parties of the Syrian civil war), and international support of Lebanon’s sovereign territorial integrity. Later, Saddam Hussein’s war to incorporate Kuwait into Iraq was defeated by an international coalition under U.S. leadership. American forces led the war against terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States were our allies in all these efforts. The Russian military presence disappeared from the region.

That geopolitical pattern is now in shambles. Four states in the region have ceased to function as sovereign. Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq have become targets for nonstate movements seeking to impose their rule. Over large swaths in Iraq and Syria, an ideologically radical religious army has declared itself the Islamic State (also called ISIS or ISIL) as an unrelenting foe of established world order. It seeks to replace the international system’s multiplicity of states with a caliphate, a single Islamic empire governed by Shariah law.

ISIS’ claim has given the millennium-old split between the Shiite and Sunni sects of Islam an apocalyptic dimension. The remaining Sunni states feel threatened by both the religious fervor of ISIS as well as by Shiite Iran, potentially the most powerful state in the region. Iran compounds its menace by presenting itself in a dual capacity. On one level, Iran acts as a legitimate Westphalian state conducting traditional diplomacy, even invoking the safeguards of the international system. At the same time, it organizes and guides nonstate actors seeking regional hegemony based on jihadist principles: Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria; Hamas in Gaza; the Houthis in Yemen.

Thus the Sunni Middle East risks engulfment by four concurrent sources: Shiite-governed Iran and its legacy of Persian imperialism; ideologically and religiously radical movements striving to overthrow prevalent political structures; conflicts within each state between ethnic and religious groups arbitrarily assembled after World War I into (now collapsing) states; and domestic pressures stemming from detrimental political, social and economic domestic policies.

The fate of Syria provides a vivid illustration: What started as a Sunni revolt against the Alawite (a Shiite offshoot) autocrat Bashar Assad fractured the state into its component religious and ethnic groups, with nonstate militias supporting each warring party, and outside powers pursuing their own strategic interests. Iran supports the Assad regime as the linchpin of an Iranian historic dominance stretching from Tehran to the Mediterranean. The Gulf States insist on the overthrow of Mr. Assad to thwart Shiite Iranian designs, which they fear more than Islamic State. They seek the defeat of ISIS while avoiding an Iranian victory. This ambivalence has been deepened by the nuclear deal, which in the Sunni Middle East is widely interpreted as tacit American acquiescence in Iranian hegemony.

These conflicting trends, compounded by America’s retreat from the region, have enabled Russia to engage in military operations deep in the Middle East, a deployment unprecedented in Russian history. Russia’s principal concern is that the Assad regime’s collapse could reproduce the chaos of Libya, bring ISIS into power in Damascus, and turn all of Syria into a haven for terrorist operations, reaching into Muslim regions inside Russia’s southern border in the Caucasus and elsewhere.

On the surface, Russia’s intervention serves Iran’s policy of sustaining the Shiite element in Syria. In a deeper sense, Russia’s purposes do not require the indefinite continuation of Mr. Assad’s rule. It is a classic balance-of-power maneuver to divert the Sunni Muslim terrorist threat from Russia’s southern border region. It is a geopolitical, not an ideological, challenge and should be dealt with on that level. Whatever the motivation, Russian forces in the region—and their participation in combat operations—produce a challenge that American Middle East policy has not encountered in at least four decades.

American policy has sought to straddle the motivations of all parties and is therefore on the verge of losing the ability to shape events. The U.S. is now opposed to, or at odds in some way or another with, all parties in the region: with Egypt on human rights; with Saudi Arabia over Yemen; with each of the Syrian parties over different objectives. The U.S. proclaims the determination to remove Mr. Assad but has been unwilling to generate effective leverage—political or military—to achieve that aim. Nor has the U.S. put forward an alternative political structure to replace Mr. Assad should his departure somehow be realized.

Russia, Iran, ISIS and various terrorist organizations have moved into this vacuum: Russia and Iran to sustain Mr. Assad; Tehran to foster imperial and jihadist designs. The Sunni states of the Persian Gulf, Jordan and Egypt, faced with the absence of an alternative political structure, favor the American objective but fear the consequence of turning Syria into another Libya.

American policy on Iran has moved to the center of its Middle East policy. The administration has insisted that it will take a stand against jihadist and imperialist designs by Iran and that it will deal sternly with violations of the nuclear agreement. But it seems also passionately committed to the quest for bringing about a reversal of the hostile, aggressive dimension of Iranian policy through historic evolution bolstered by negotiation.

The prevailing U.S. policy toward Iran is often compared by its advocates to the Nixon administration’s opening to China, which contributed, despite some domestic opposition, to the ultimate transformation of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The comparison is not apt. The opening to China in 1971 was based on the mutual recognition by both parties that the prevention of Russian hegemony in Eurasia was in their common interest. And 42 Soviet divisions lining the Sino-Soviet border reinforced that conviction. No comparable strategic agreement exists between Washington and Tehran. On the contrary, in the immediate aftermath of the nuclear accord, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the U.S. as the “Great Satan” and rejected negotiations with America about nonnuclear matters. Completing his geopolitical diagnosis, Mr. Khamenei also predicted that Israel would no longer exist in 25 years.

Forty-five years ago, the expectations of China and the U.S. were symmetrical. The expectations underlying the nuclear agreement with Iran are not. Tehran will gain its principal objectives at the beginning of the implementation of the accord. America’s benefits reside in a promise of Iranian conduct over a period of time. The opening to China was based on an immediate and observable adjustment in Chinese policy, not on an expectation of a fundamental change in China’s domestic system. The optimistic hypothesis on Iran postulates that Tehran’s revolutionary fervor will dissipate as its economic and cultural interactions with the outside world increase.

American policy runs the risk of feeding suspicion rather than abating it. Its challenge is that two rigid and apocalyptic blocs are confronting each other: a Sunni bloc consisting of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States; and the Shiite bloc comprising Iran, the Shiite sector of Iraq with Baghdad as its capital, the Shiite south of Lebanon under Hezbollah control facing Israel, and the Houthi portion of Yemen, completing the encirclement of the Sunni world. In these circumstances, the traditional adage that the enemy of your enemy can be treated as your friend no longer applies. For in the contemporary Middle East, it is likely that the enemy of your enemy remains your enemy.

A great deal depends on how the parties interpret recent events. Can the disillusionment of some of our Sunni allies be mitigated? How will Iran’s leaders interpret the nuclear accord once implemented—as a near-escape from potential disaster counseling a more moderate course, returning Iran to an international order? Or as a victory in which they have achieved their essential aims against the opposition of the U.N. Security Council, having ignored American threats and, hence, as an incentive to continue Tehran’s dual approach as both a legitimate state and a nonstate movement challenging the international order?

Two-power systems are prone to confrontation, as was demonstrated in Europe in the run-up to World War I. Even with traditional weapons technology, to sustain a balance of power between two rigid blocs requires an extraordinary ability to assess the real and potential balance of forces, to understand the accumulation of nuances that might affect this balance, and to act decisively to restore it whenever it deviates from equilibrium—qualities not heretofore demanded of an America sheltered behind two great oceans.

But the current crisis is taking place in a world of nontraditional nuclear and cyber technology. As competing regional powers strive for comparable threshold capacity, the nonproliferation regime in the Middle East may crumble. If nuclear weapons become established, a catastrophic outcome is nearly inevitable. A strategy of pre-emption is inherent in the nuclear technology. The U.S. must be determined to prevent such an outcome and apply the principle of nonproliferation to all nuclear aspirants in the region.

Too much of our public debate deals with tactical expedients. What we need is a strategic concept and to establish priorities on the following principles:

  • So long as ISIS survives and remains in control of a geographically defined territory, it will compound all Middle East tensions. Threatening all sides and projecting its goals beyond the region, it freezes existing positions or tempts outside efforts to achieve imperial jihadist designs. The destruction of ISIS is more urgent than the overthrow of Bashar Assad, who has already lost over half of the area he once controlled. Making sure that this territory does not become a permanent terrorist haven must have precedence. The current inconclusive U.S. military effort risks serving as a recruitment vehicle for ISIS as having stood up to American might.
  • The U.S. has already acquiesced in a Russian military role. Painful as this is to the architects of the 1973 system, attention in the Middle East must remain focused on essentials. And there exist compatible objectives. In a choice among strategies, it is preferable for ISIS-held territory to be reconquered either by moderate Sunni forces or outside powers than by Iranian jihadist or imperial forces. For Russia, limiting its military role to the anti-ISIS campaign may avoid a return to Cold War conditions with the U.S.
  • The reconquered territories should be restored to the local Sunni rule that existed there before the disintegration of both Iraqi and Syrian sovereignty. The sovereign states of the Arabian Peninsula, as well as Egypt and Jordan, should play a principal role in that evolution. After the resolution of its constitutional crisis, Turkey could contribute creatively to such a process.
  • As the terrorist region is being dismantled and brought under nonradical political control, the future of the Syrian state should be dealt with concurrently. A federal structure could then be built between the Alawite and Sunni portions. If the Alawite regions become part of a Syrian federal system, a context will exist for the role of Mr. Assad, which reduces the risks of genocide or chaos leading to terrorist triumph.
  • The U.S. role in such a Middle East would be to implement the military assurances in the traditional Sunni states that the administration promised during the debate on the Iranian nuclear agreement, and which its critics have demanded.
  • In this context, Iran’s role can be critical. The U.S. should be prepared for a dialogue with an Iran returning to its role as a Westphalian state within its established borders.

The U.S. must decide for itself the role it will play in the 21st century; the Middle East will be our most immediate—and perhaps most severe—test. At question is not the strength of American arms but rather American resolve in understanding and mastering a new world.

Mr. Kissinger served as national-security adviser and secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford.

http://www.wsj.com/article_email/a-path-out-of-the-middle-east-collapse-1445037513-lMyQjAxMTI1MjE2NzIxMDcwWj

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/wall-street-journal/us-needs-new-plan-for-middle-east/story-fnay3ubk-1227573426194

Syrian Links

Drop any links that you think may be useful for getting to grips with ‘Syrian issues’ in this thread.

Here is a sample .

 

 

 

End Baath 2

1    I would fully endorse the statements that ‘A GLOBALIZED WORLD WITH OPEN BORDERS CANNOT PEACEFULLY COEXIST WITH FASCISM!’ and that ’FASCISM MEANS WAR’.  So, as there are fascists like Putin all over the world currently in charge of large military formations and busy making war, the question arises; how do anti-fascists unite to fight back?  How do we intend to defeat the fascists? To the extent that western governments are still sitting on the fence; then like Libya the situation will get worse till they get off the fence and in this case end the Assad tyranny as they simultaneously deal with Daesh types.  It is a war of two fronts.

2    IMV ‘a devastating regional war spreading from Syria throughout the region with profound implications for Europe and the rest of the world’ is already underway and thus can’t be avoided. Diplomacy and military actions must now proceed together, but what are the diplomats tasks now?  What are the military tasks?  Who has real skin in the game?

3    I think the evidence is overwhelming that Obama and Putin really are strategic imbeciles but Putin is the fascist not Obama. Obama is just a treacherous liberal that could care less even about ruling class national interests when there is a big price to pay.  Dithering is as dithering does.

4    Turkey, Britain and France cannot directly act against Russian meddling in Syria. It is now quite apparent that the era of imperialism is so long gone for these powers that they are in essence reliant on the U.S. in leading them as a united COW, or better still as a part of a united NATO action. Even though ‘they have no real rapid deployment capability, and no strategic airlift or sealift capability capable of moving any militarily relevant force within any reasonable time frame’ they don’t really require it.  Turkey has the capacity to drive heavy columns straight down the roads to the sound of the guns. Britain and France could deploy strategically useful elements to Cyprus, and Turkey, and even Jordan. They could with a few days notice for some and weeks to months notice for others. The planners ought to have been planning on contingent intervention for some years then refined and adjusted several times over by now. This issue had already long ago got to the point of a vote in the British parliament over bombing in Syria. Now we have had reports of the British using killer drones recently despite the vote.  The vote would I think be different now.

5     It is perfectly true but irrelevant that ‘by simply closing the Mediterranean and hence Syria to hostile shipping, which they can still do quickly, they can remind Russia’s military that Russia is not, never has been and never will be a mediterranean power’  but they will not push against Putin in this manner and he is well aware that they would not because it would mean war if they did. Yet Putin really is an imbecile! Unfortunately so were the likes of Hitler; Tojo; and Mussolini; and there were people like Yamamoto telling them so, but they could not stop the madness unfolding. They will all stand back and shrug that it is NOT ‘their duty to dispose of him quickly’, but only to increase in measured ways what they are doing now, and what they have been doing is so far been little and late. They are useless!

6     Obama really is a strategic imbecile who has been up in Alaska preparing for the Global warming Paris event!  This refugee ‘flood’ is unfolding in the media every day and he is MIA. In 15 months he will been gone! And when it comes to war making he wants to be gone! So, it will be a year or more for everyone, most probably including the U.S. to mobilize a force capable of serious intervention in Syria.

7     Turkey has long advocated removing the Assad regime and has all along pointed out ‘that there is no other way to avoid millions of refugees continuing to pour out of Syria.’  Yet the ‘stable’ democratic Turkish government have got nowhere with Obama and the situation has got worse and themselves much less stable.  A war is resuming again in Turkey with not just the worst of the Kurdish nationalists but with all manner of anti- Turkish forces having an interest in seeing that it break out and bog the Turkish military down. Even the threat of it is beneficial to Assad and Putin.

8     The executive in both Britain and France is terribly conservative and are still only managing the refugees rather than dealing with the source of those refugees.  They are not even raising the alarm about Putin’s ridiculous intervention to establish and preserve in Syria something that resembles Israel. They can’t do that.

9     There could not be any Anglo ­French expeditionary force in 2015 or 16.  The ruling elites of both countries will manage the Syrian casualties but not take any of their own.  There is no effective system that exists after the Europeans deserted Bush and Obama deserted U.S. leadership. There is nothing other than ineffective thrashing about while the war goes on with those that are prepared to put boots on the ground. Enter the fascists led by Putin.

10     In the midst of all this the West’s own little fascist – Netanyahu – is provoking the Palestinians of East Jerusalem and is thus preparing public opinion to make more war on the Palestinians; even no doubt as he prepares to pull out of more of the West Bank and create yet another vast open air prison.

11     Putin has made it impossible to simply declare war on Assad. No one can now announce ‘a no fly zone and an intention to start enforcing it’ without dealing with Russian air assets. It is now a hot war where Russian helicopter gun ships must be shot down in numbers over an extended period. Russians fighting as Martians might have to be copied as tit for tat.  There was ‘European public opinion that would certainly swing behind a no fly zone and accelerate a rapid shift in US public opinion’ but they were not banking on war with Putin’s troops.

12     The ruling elites won’t act quickly enough so the war ‘will take much longer and will be a much bigger and bloodier regional war than if they act immediately while Obama still dithers.’

13     But just because FASCISM MEANS WAR progressives have to propose a fighting response to tyranny. So… All air defences close to the borders of Turkey and Jordan must be extended deeper into Syria. That is to say that what is sauce for Putin in Martian activity is sauce for everyone else in enforcing the shooting down of anything that is dropping barrel bombs on the Syrian people.  Trouble is that really does require boots on the ground and until they are put in Putin will continue to implement real war for the establishment of the fascist enclave.  Russians flying helicopters are going to be the direct enemy of anyone wanting the revolutionary transformation of the now contested part of Syria that Putin has determined to preserve as a predominantly Alawite and Baathist led enclave.

14     As for Germany; Merkel is not any sort of leader worth a cracker like say Mao and he most certainly did not permit uncontrolled sloshing about of peoples’.  The refugee issue is not resolved by open borders! It is childish to think that devil take the hindmost people are even 1st priority in a war where the people under attack are being barrel bombed for wanting to vote. Any form of NO FLY WAR NOW is the priority to stop the – Putin, Assad, Netanyahu style policies of driving refugees off their land!

15     Country shopping for economic benefit is all well and good for the lucky ones but it will not solve anything for the proletarian classes who will lose their doctors; engineers; and so forth with the get up and go initiative who do go off to the ‘good life’ in the developed West.  The West just can’t rob the undeveloped world of their best and brightest and then all the terribly progressive people feel so good about it!

16     No one can, for example, pretend that Abbott did not stop people drowning!  People were drowning. People are now drowning in the Mediterranean sea and no policy that yabbers on about open borders will be acceptable currently to the masses. That desirable distant policy relies on what Europe had to do to get its borders lifted.  The U.S. in the 19thC taking the huddled masses did not prevent the mass slaughter of the 20thC world wars.  When people are being driven in their millions out of THEIR land and cities THAT is the issue.

17     No rubble producing fascist enclave that generates mass deaths and refugees as policy can be permitted to keep going on with their policies!

18     Obama and Putin are engaged in what appears to me as complete imbecility because of their own logic that includes in Obama’s case outright ruthless neglect.  No ‘well executed misinformation campaign’ here just exactly the sort of disaster that we ought to expect from a collapsing international system.  The revanchist sees an opportunity and as his only tool is a hammer then it must be a nail.

19     The ‘US and Russia are NOT cooperating to assist the Assad regime to move out of Damascus and retreat to a coastal enclave’, and so ‘that could NOT still count as America still exhausting every other alternative before eventually doing the right thing.’, but Obama might grasp at this stupid straw.  It may look good to him now that [something like] it is happening anyway. Whatever he thinks I am sure Damascus can not be lost by Assad and any enclave held in the long term. So, I do not think that Putin and Assad have conceded Damascus in any sense at all, and I am sure Obama knows jack shit about what to be getting on with other than some climate change clap trap for Paris.  The f..ing ‘leader of the free world’ is MIA over the refugee flow.

20     Putin does not intend to ‘escort the Assad clan out of Syria’. He is joining the Iranians and making war. Of course if he was ‘providing temporary protection for the Alawi and other minority communities until international peacekeepers can arrive’, then of course ‘nothing should be said or done to prejudice that operation.’  But that is not what is happening because if it was he would not have sprung it on all of them.  He is putting the enemies of Assad between a Western anvil and his hammer and also bringing in his own anvil to smash Western supported FSA types on as and when he chooses.  He is fighting the Western supported FSA types from the start.

21     Without very big U.S. backing Europe and Turkey simply do not have the stomach to stop the war in Syria that is however now a “clear and certain danger” to their vital national interests.  They will continue to try and bumble along managing refugees and being humiliated by Putin bumbling around like a crazed loon with a hammer.  The only international system that was operating was one of U.S. superpower leadership and with Obama at the helm it is currently not functioning as well as on the way out strategically.  So the situation will get even worse!

22     Perhaps as Iyad El-Baghdadi @iyad_elbaghdadi says ‘The Syrian catastrophe was very preventable, if the world’s red line was “killing protesters” rather than “drowned refugee toddlers”.’,  but that is the past and the question for all now is what is to be done to stop Assad and his great and powerful gangster friend killing democratic revolutionaries into the future.

Gutter snipe all you want Geoffrey Robertson QC

Gutter snipe all you want Geoffrey Robertson QC but you are on our side now!!

Last night (20/10/2014) I saw this on the ABC Lateline program.

EMMA ALBERICI: You were against the 2003 Iraq invasion, but you support the fight against Islamic State. What’s the difference?

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Correct. Well, in a sense there’s a link because if we had obeyed the law, we wouldn’t have overthrown the Baathist regime in 2003 in Iraq, which – and underneath that stone, once it was rolled over, crept all these horrific fighting groups and the latest one of them being ISIS. So it may well be that ISIS wouldn’t be with us if we’d obeyed the law, and let’s face it, there were only four who didn’t. There was George Bush, who wanted to kill the man who had – he thought had threatened his father. There was Tony Blair, who went in because he thought the British could restrain the Americans. There was that Spanish President whose name I forget. He reminded me of Manuel in Fawlty Towers. I think he’s now been made a member of News Corp board. And there was Johnny Howard, who perhaps didn’t look at the law or had forgotten it or never studied it when he became a solicitor. But it was a bad mistake to go in to overthrow Saddam Hussein and we are now left with ISIS and we have to deal with it. We have an obligation to deal with it, I think, because it is committing genocide. It is certainly committing war crimes and crimes against humanity and that engages international attention. There was no crime against humanity or genocide being committed by Saddam. He committed genocide in 1988 against the Kurds, but the world turned a blind eye to that. And so we have a duty, I think, to go in. I don’t think air strikes is going to solve of the problem. The problems are extremely deep and will take a lot of solving and we have problems in our own backyard with returning members of ISIS in Britain. They’ve adopted a view, initially, that they should keep them out, but that means …

EMMA ALBERICI: That’s a view that’s shared here too …

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Yes, I know.

EMMA ALBERICI: … in our government.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: But you can’t make people stateless. The answer I think is that you have to bring them back, arrest them and put them on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. We can do that. There are those crimes under the Crimes Act. And I think that view is gathering force in Britain.

EMMA ALBERICI: So you think it’s wrong to deny them – to cancel their passports, deny them re-entry to Australia?

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Well perhaps cancel their passports if they’re going, but when they come back, I think the answer is not to refuse them and leave them stateless because that’s – what we should do is prosecute them, send them to prison for a long time, or perhaps – the view in Britain is the Channel program. We’re developing programs with psychologists and imams and possibly returned jihadis to discourage young people from joining. And it may be that instead of getting a 25-year sentence for being an accomplice to war crimes in Syria, you will get a reduction if you’re prepared to help discourage other people from taking this primrose path. But it’s a problem that both countries are facing. I think the answer is to prosecute for the crimes that they’ve committed, for their accompliceship in these monstrous events and to punish them and hopefully the punishment will act as a deterrent itself.

EMMA ALBERICI: We have to leave it there. Many thanks for coming in, Geoffrey Robertson.

END
That dear reader is what the ABC puts to air and after all why not a great many people love him? All one has to do is listen to the disparaging personal attacks that pass unchallenged by the ABC reporters to realise how low it has sunk as a so-called independent news provider.

However, one can still say – thank you come in spinner as  another anti-war liberal has joined the ranks of the pro-war elements.  OMG we are currently so shamelessly broad in our ranks that we will even have this contemptible refugee from the old not in my name brigade. ROBERTSON may well rather be passing a sentence on the Spanish Prime Minister, George W Bush and Tony Blair as war criminals – but he will just have to content himself with a bit of gutter sniping instead! Little Johhny Howard indeed!

A review of The Wind That Shakes the Barley winner of Cannes film Festival 2006

 

Just one gem from the past to help Steve notice his present. 

Posted by  anita  in  2006-09-30

I just saw the Ken Loach film ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley’ and what a splendidly made and politically-correct piece of pseudo-left propaganda (in the worst sense of the word) it is.

My partner is Irish Australian and quite familiar with this period of Irish history, but his first question was why would someone make this film now?  The answer was not long in coming as it quickly became clear that this film was made to make a, none too subtle, point about British involvement in Iraq.  When I came out from the film I picked up a leaflet and the message was crystal clear; ‘Speaking at the Cannes film festival Loach said: We live in extraordinary times and that has made people political in a way they maybe weren’t in the previous four, five, six years.  The wars that we have seen, the occupations that we see throughout the world – people finally cannot turn away from that.  It’s very exciting to be able to deal with this in films, and not just be a complement to the popcorn.’

This ‘historical’ film was made in order to tell a story that would be unacceptable to tell in the first-person.  This film was not really made to explain and explore Irish history from 85 years ago; it was made to encourage people to think negatively about the present British involvement in liberating the peoples’ of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Loach would not of course use the word liberation; he would speak of an illegal war and imperialist occupation forces etc.  Yuk!

From start to finish (in the current context) it’s a shameless film where the filmmaker hides behind the Irish people’s legitimate national struggle, to effectively promote the causes of Baathism, tribalism and the likes of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as these scum hide behind phony nationalisms today; though once again Loach would as a matter of course deny that as well; he would assuredly tell all who’d listen that he is on the side of the Iraqi people no less.  He would be sure to hate Saddam and Al Qaeda and the Taliban but would have also proudly marched for peace when others were advocating war against them.  They would be in power today if it were up to Loach.

Loach and the rest of the pseudo-left ‘opinion leaders’ are leading little on the street, but they are in control of the vast bulk of the mass-media; they dominate cultural output throughout the western world.  This film would be awarded in any western film festival; so the west is overdue for a cultural revolution.

The Wind that shakes the Barley is about the harsh ‘reality’ of all ruling-class armies.  It was made to a formula, like shooting pseudo-leftist shibboleth fish in a barrel. Show innocent death; show brutality of imperialist rule; show arrogance of ruling-class types; show the noble resistance that was only brought into being by the occupation; show a resistance as both necessary and reluctantly brutal (yet clean compared to British); show that elections under occupation and threat are invalid and draw the conclusion that free and fair elections cannot be held under threat of the gun, and that therefore Iraq’s process and government is illegitimate!

In the end, having dragged the viewer through the realist muck of British imperial criminality in Ireland during a time where the British stood in the way of the democratic revolution, Loach had to crucially distort the relationship of the foreign troops to the democratic revolution and the issue of voting to make his big point.  IMV Loach’s position is on the spectrum of xenophobia and racism.  (That would have the unarmed peoples’ of Iraq liberate themselves from tyranny and not to shed the blood of other Mother’s son’s and daughter’s to secure an international solution).

The key question that he distorted (after all he was making this film when the triple election process was in full swing in Iraq) was; can there really be a free and fair vote in countries that have occupation troops on the streets that by his implication are making a threat to the population as clear as was the proposition put to Collins of ‘immediate and terrible war as an alternative to the Treaty’.  Loach stands with the ‘heroes’ that won’t sell out; won’t compromise and therefore go to their ‘noble’ death’s as delivered to them by the ‘collaborating’ majority, and sell-out leadership.  He implies that the current government of Iraq is comprised of sell-out collaborators.  Phleese.

I found myself fuming at this cynical and sick distortion of the issues involved in liberation, in the context of and to the basic level of the bourgeois democratic revolution in 2006 in Iraq and Afghanistan, let alone the Ireland of James Connolly’s generation.

The core questions raised in the Irish struggle for independence from Britain were not adequately highlighted by this film.  Specifically, did Michael Collins sell out by negotiating the Irish Free State?  What about the role of Eamonn DeValera?  ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley’ answers unambiguously, Yes the movement was sold out, and engenders the film with a cynicism and fatalism that leaves me cold.

These sentiments formed the main part of the final dialogue spoken by Damien O’Donovan a hypothetical Irish freedom fighter and main protagonist of the film, who declined to save his own life by refusing to convey intelligence to his brother (a Commander of the Free State Army) after his capture.

I found this part most disconcerting as there was the feeling that in the character Damien refusing to ‘sell out’ his ideals and being prepared to die for his ‘principles’ there was a direct comparison being made with current fascist insurgents and suicide bombers?

This film doesn’t do justice to any of the important matters raised by either the Irish struggle of so long ago, or the Iraqi conflict of today, and also has nothing particularly credible to say about the personal aspect of the brothers in arms either.  The film was littered with false oppositions (pragmatist v idealist; internationalist v nationalist; socialist v nationalist) simplifying the subject matter down to caricatures, rather than un-raveling the complexity of the revolutionary experience of Ireland for the viewer.

Rather than ‘raise discussion’ this film contributes to a dumbing down of the subject matter; even obfuscation of the issues is not too strong an expression.

By contrast, the film Michael Collins was about the same period and done as a Hollywood block-buster in 1996 (before 9/11 and the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq).  It too portrayed the British and their Irish collaborators as thugs and made clear that the Black and Tans were not there to help the Irish but to keep them down. But the treatment of the election process was very different and the empathy for the position of the negotiators of the Treaty was evident.

All in all, this highlights for me the need to adopt a dialectical approach to the world.  No truth can be found in establishing false dichotomies.  If Loach wanted to highlight how bad the war in Iraq is (it is after all fairly easy to portray death negatively) he ought to have just made a film about Iraq from a scared soldier’s perspective and exposed to the world how bad it is.

Ken Loach is apparently known for spurning the position of history from the great-man’s perspective, and specifically taking the position of ordinary people in his films. (As opposed to the film Michael Collins).  However, I think this was another real shortcoming with this film in that a real understanding by the audience continues to revolve around the main issues and players and the film really suffered for this one-sided approach. The dialectical approach tells us that light and dark are defined against each other, so too, ordinary people need leaders, and leaders cannot lead unless there are ordinary people willing to support them, anything else is pure fantasy and romanticisation and is not telling the complete story.

It’s just plain wrong to compare the struggle of Ireland’s freedom fighters with the current situation in Iraq and thereby engender corresponding sympathy for the so-called ‘freedom fighters’ currently bombing and disrupting the formation of a democratic Iraq.  The message of The Wind TSTB is if you kill people’s family and friends you’ve got to expect that there will be a reaction and that they will organize to kill you.  There is nothing debatable about this but this is not the real story because we all know that at times people and culture operate in a tooth for a tooth kind of avenge manner, but this is different to having the right political conditions present to unleash a real movement for national sovereignty as occurred in Ireland after the murder of the courageous leaders of the 1916 uprising.  (It was not so much that the people of Ireland necessarily supported the program of the rebels but that they reacted to the fact that many of the most prominent were all Court Martial-ed and shot)

Though Loach’s film makes it clear that the struggle for national rights was occurring alongside of the struggle for class rights it was again a superficial and opportunist handling of the question.  For instance, there is a scene where the courts of the Free State are hearing a case against a money-lender who is extracting extortionate levels of interest for a loan given to an old woman who is refusing to pay.

When the court finds against the money-lender ordering him to pay money to the old woman, a split amongst the people at the court develops and the members of the Army say “wait on”, we want him to give us money for guns…This part of the film could have been illuminating but was very superficial and the court decision was presented as extremely whimsical and showing that they were not really ‘fit’ to decide.

The brutality of this film had a stunning effect on the audience but it was a lecture from a coward.  In many ways it is this romanticisation of the idea of dying for one’s ‘principles’, Like a packet of Benson Hedges – where only the best will do – that renders the message of  The Wind that shakes the Barley as poisonous as smoking that packet of Benson and Hedges!

 

Posted by  owenss  at     2006-10-01Anita Im unsure from your Ken Loach movie review which side of the Irish Civil war you think progressive people should support. The side lead by Michael Collins or the side lead by Eammon De Valera?

 

Posted by     owenss  at     2006-10-01 02:57 AMAnita you claim that Loach and un named other anti war people have “….control of the vast bulk of the mass media…” poor old Ken produces a handful of art house movies and he controls the mass media?Yes now I see it The Wind that Shakes is the equivalent pro war Rupert Murdocks Fox News and Land and Freedom is the equivalent of the Sun newspaper or that film about a boy and a bird rivals Murdocks Australian newspaper holdings. Dont worry Im sure Barry is already preparing a piece to prove that Murdocks empire is minuscule.

 

Posted by anita at 2006-10-01 10:00PMLoach and the rest of the pseudo-left ‘opinion leaders’ are leading little on the street, but they are in control of the vast bulk of the mass-media; they dominate cultural output throughout the western world.  This film would be awarded in any western film festival; so the west is overdue for a cultural revolution.

Steve, I’m not suggesting conspiracies or anything like it.   I was trying to explain how if this film’s so bad, it won such acclaim.  First I thought this could only happen in France (anti-British and anti-Iraq war); then I thought wait on this would have happened in Australia.  My point was about my own world; I do not have Fox for example, so mostly the media I’m exposed to is the Australian ABC.

There is no presenter on the ABC Radio or Television who is for the Iraq war as far as I can tell.  I would be happy to be proven incorrect but take ABC 891 radio from Adelaide; Peter Goers the evening commentator who interviewed Tariq Ali and referred to him as the ‘Sage of the Age’; but at least Peter Goers deliberately has a pro-war commentator once a week in his guest right-winger Andrew Bolt each Tuesday night.

Bolt regularly looks like an intellectual giant up against the pseudo-leftist Goers on these issues.  But other than that, there is, to use the colourful expression of Mark Latham, a Conga-line of suck holes, pushing anti-Iraq war sentiment from morning til night.

It is wall to wall.

On the morning program almost every one of their guests except actual members of the government are anti-Iraq war.  The best they have done outside of that (that I have noticed) is an interview of the dopey right-winger Greg Sheridan.

Like employs like and over a period each organization develops a corporate culture.  The ABC is notoriously biased – of course it is mostly exposed by the right-wing in this country who criticize the ABC as left-wing.  BAH. It is pseudo-left mush.  Take the line it runs from morning to night on global warming; organic food; water crisis; plastic bags; peak oil; they go on ceaselessly with this pseudo-leftist green dribble.

The ABC gardening program is Gardening Australia; where the one time British soldier and peace campaigner Peter Cundall has a grand old time filling people with his composted thinking.  They push imbeciles like Tim Flannery, Roy Slaven, and David Suzuki.  The National Press club put on Peter Garret and the ABC ran and then later re-ran the program; but when Bjorn Lomborg was at the club the ABC did not even screen it!  The best he got was a quick and hostile interview on Landline!

I know you will remember the lies that Maxine McKew spread about Iyad Allawi and then never revisited.

Nationally on the TV the ABC have a show called the Insiders, again the balance they achieve is with the right-wingers Bolt, and Piers Akerman alternating on the show.  The mix is greater than three to one!  David Marr ex-Media Watch; Ian Henschke Stateline almost froth with the anti-war/green line; on and on it goes (throw some names in yourself, you won’t find it hard).  Consider that great organic beef producer Philip Adams how much more of a constant anti-Iraq war campaigner can you get?  Not the slightest attempt to hide the campaigning.

I recall ABC Adelaide’s morning commentators once going so far as to say that there is a serious possibility that the war could be about nothing (thus a GW Bush mad whim).  They employ as their international expert Keith Suter (full on pudding-headed anti-Iraq war and anti-Bush campaigner).  One of his recent great ideas was that if he had been President, rather than invade (liberate) Iraq like that dumbo GWB, he would be clever and offer a reward for OBL of $$$500,000,000 and that would interest the Russian Mafia and the Kazaks to get interested in rounding him up –just like the old US policy of handing a billion to the Al Qaeda sorts and getting the Saudi government to cough in another billion- handing over the reward to another international criminal group.  They have learned nothing.  Nobody even rang up to laugh at them.

In the News there is the constant barrage of terminology that is sympathetic to the insurgents, though I admit that referring to Iraqi Jihadi’s as the ‘resistance’ is no longer so evident.

We’ve also had Triple J using the ‘Don’t want to be an American Idiot’ song as its signature advertising jingle.  (Now if they were singing ‘don’t want to be a Jew idiot’; or ‘don’t want to be a Japanese idiot’; Indonesian; Aboriginal; etc then it would be clear what the sentiments are about.  Yet Australian tax-payers have funded the production of material on the xenophobic/ racist spectrum because anti-Americanism is perfectly acceptable in polite company).

Listen to today’s ABC News.  Or the national program AM.  Or the world at noon. Bob Woodward’s  book ‘State of Denial’.  I am sure you can get it from the net as a Pod Cast.  ‘Opinion poll today shows 80% think the war in Iraq hasn’t done anything to reduce terrorism.  91% think …85% …’ (The Lowy institute poll.)   ‘Doctors start campaigning to end Australia’s involvement in Iraq.’

The people are getting their views from somewhere.  They are not engaged in independent research but parroting back what the politicians and culture workers are feeding them.  Howard and Blair and Bush have been pathetic at selling the revolutionary requirement for this war against most of the ‘left and right’ intelligentsia.  But cultural food like this is breeding political cynicism, and paralysis not action- they all got re-elected – as the ordinary masses are much more sensible than the more ‘committed’ activists to the fact that the Coalition can’t just cut and run etc.

Now I think that I have been a little sloppy; but in my defense I’d been working on this for a while and wanted to get it published… but it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between the old right and the pseudo-left.  They are saying the same poisonous things.  Bruce Springstein; Neil Young; The Dixie Chicks; they all believe the same stuff, while some think they are leftists and some think they are rightists.  They are all like Green Peace; nasty right wingers, it’s just that the pseudo-left uses some strange terms and methods for hiding from their bottom-line; terms that are utterly meaningless when combined with the policies that they push.  They can sing the Internationale all they like, but they want Australian troops withdrawn from Iraq and not involved at all in draining the swamp.

Loach’s film explicitly promotes the position currently being pushed by media internationally, namely that the war in Iraq is increasing the terrorist threat… there will be more Damien O’Donovan’s due to the ‘occupation’ of Iraq, you share this belief and subsequent rejection of the Iraqi government’s requests for assistance.

The American Peace movement currently relies upon celebrities as a draw card to Marches and rallies, and even this has not been successful in sustaining mass support against the war and moaning about how the people are just not getting it.  The anti-war movement do not want debate, they want one sided agitprop material, songs/films etc to change consciousness; they can’t stand up to in-depth analysis and rigorous effort; like yourself over the oil issue when you resort to a claim that oil was just a form of short- hand.  The real clear point is that the lastsuperpower could not do what the anti-war campaigners were claiming it was doing, and or would do.

As to your question about whom I support…Well I don’t feel well read enough about the period to put forward a hard position on it but since you asked my quite tentative and uninformed opinion based upon the films is that I am on Michael Collins’ side.  I was deeply moved when I first saw the Michael Collins film, and I am not sure if it is because Liam Neeson is OK by me whenever he is on screen (we are talking animal magnetism here-he is not a Hollywood Star for no reason) or whether Michael Collins was really such an engaging and brilliant leader in reality.  I take to heart Eamon deValera’s comments when he was the President of Ireland in 1966 (I got the spelling wrong last time) saying in effect that history would be kinder to Michael Collins than himself.

Speaking of being kinder I think you were really nasty to Barry commenting about how he is off attempting to back me up.  What a lot of nonsense.  As well, I was not commenting about anything else Ken Loach has directed but Wind.

The view that has been consistently put at lastsuperpower is held by a minuscule number of people around the world and it is not to be found on the ABC.  The closest we get is Hitchens served up from time to time.  Rather than continue to nit pick, while determinedly avoiding the main thrust of the articles on this site, you ought to try to write a larger piece trying to bring the bigger picture together as you have now come to understand things five years after 9/11: as an example the impending Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria and the establishment of a Palestinian State.  Israel just pulled all troops out of Lebanon, having been strung out to dry by being unimpeded by Rice and Bush.  Have they not thus demonstrated Israel’s limited military and political envelope, to the world?  Almost forty years after launching its 1967 war to grab Greater Israel, the war is coming to an end in defeat and the mass media and the pseudo-left just don’t get it.  Perhaps they are too busy applauding the re-making of Irish history.

 

Posted by  owenss  at  2006-10-02 04:09 AMAnita thank you for stating that in the Irish Civil war you would give your support to the side lead by Michael Collins.My next question is to Patrickm. Patrick do you support the side lead by Michael Collins?As to my offense to Barry. Guilty as charged. When Barry stated that the Iraqi resistance was minuscule I couldnt believe that he would defend that statement rather than just admit that he had overstated his case.Anita you invite me to make a serious contribution to this site and I wish I had both the time and the intellegence to do so. However it goes against the way I have become involved. I first contributed in response to Albert who stated that the Iraq project was going well.  I was further stimulated to contribute when people stated that the way forward in Iraq was to ramp up the killing of Iraqis who resisted. Again I couldn’t resist when contributors characterise the resistance in exactly the same terms used by the Whitehouse as I think this characterisation is a gross oversimplification.I was encouraged to contribute when Bill posted about resistance figures being paraded on Iraqi TV at the same time that a US soldier was let off after clearly murdering a wounded Iraqi who had already surrendered.

I uphold the Iraqi government as being just that. Having said that I look on them with the same contempt that I hold for Michael Collins who used Brittish weapons to kill Irish Republicans.

The Sunni arab population has the right to resist the oppression that they are experiencing. The Iraqi governments duty is to protect these people a duty I think they fail in the same way Collins failed the Irish. The rejection by the Iraqi government of peace proposals from numerous resistance groups is in my oppinion a tragic mistake.

 

Posted by  patrickm  at     2006-10-08 01:01 AMWhile a revolution unfolds in the Middle East, the pseudo-leftist web site ‘Socialist Worker online’ had this to conclude of its review of The Wind that Shakes the Barley.
But by the end of the film you can’t help being reminded of the British army in Iraq today, and Loach is the first to admit this.He said, “I think what happened in Ireland is such a classic story of a fight for independence, to establish a democratic mandate and to resist an occupying army.“Yet it was also a fight for a country with a new social structure.“The British army in Ireland during 1920-21 did what armies of occupation do the world over – adopt a racist attitude towards the people they are attacking and occupying.“They destroy people’s houses, engage in acts of brutality and generally oppress the people – and in Iraq that’s exactly what the British army is doing.“In spite of the suffering depicted, the fact still remains that the British marched out of Ireland. There is an element of hope in that.”Loach knows that British troops liberated Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in WW2 so why not show them?  But that would never do.  When trying to make his point about Iraq he had to skip WW2 and go back to British ruling class savagery in Ireland.  This film is only incidentally about the Irish.No liberation in Iraq folks; no elections; nothing to see but British brutality – move along and remember to chant no blood for oil, and later explain it away as a sort of metaphor when it turns out to make no sense whatever.
Anita thinks Michael Collins did the best he could; so did a majority of the Irish Parliament and so did a majority of the Irish people when the Treaty was put to a referendum.  The other side then brought on a fight and they lost that as well.  So there seems to be a pattern developing.

Steve ought to have a cover to cover read of Mao: losing is not a good idea.  The rejectionists were not sensible to fight and lose.  They ought to have not fought at all.  Mao often talks of avoiding fights unless you’re sure to win.  The blood was on their hands.  They had a way forward without slaughter and they chose blood instead.  History has yet to see the nationalist cause ‘victorious’ in all of Ireland, and I think interest is falling away in the context of being part of the reality of modern Europe; but history has, I think, recorded the civil-war in Michael Collins’ favor.

I can both appreciate the injustice of the Treaty and the decision of the negotiators to sign it and to trust to ongoing struggle to unfold further progress.  People both in the North and South were prepared to struggle for their rights, (in the long run they always are) and the civil-war in the Free State harmed that struggle.  History moves on and the Free State is ‘Gone with the Wind’.

The always required civil rights struggle in the North broke out again in the context of the same struggle in the U.S. in the sixties.  It was part of a world wide movement.   This struggle is now fully flowering (with power sharing; police force reform; anti- discrimination legislation enacted producing the inevitable demographic results and so forth).  All in the context of ongoing British ruling class decline in any ability to project imperial power.  The context of our reflections on the Irish Treaty is from this era of globalization and the rise of the Europe project.  Peace has broken out, and the continuity IRA, are a bad joke.  They are history repeating itself as a farce.  I am in favor of the IRA having ‘sold out again’.

 

Posted by  owenss  at  2006-10-08 06:29 PMPatrick so you think that you should never fight unless you are sure you will win.Well the Easter uprising never stood a chance, so they should not have done it?The provisional IRA could never defeat the British army, so they should have done what?You are also very kind to Michael Collins. Churchill put it to Collins either you attack the rebels or we will. I still lack respect for any Irish nationalist who will kill Irishmen at the behest of the British government

Hitler’s Dunkirk Blunder

Lately it’s been all too common for me to come across people who can tie their own shoe laces and yet they tie up the political loose ends they have come across via the MSM and life in general into conspiracy theories such as 9/11 was an inside job; or the moon landings were faked.   I kid you not… the other day I had a person tell me they did not believe that an airliner slammed into the Pentagon on 9/11!

When we throw in the range of clear mental illnesses, and milder obsessions that affect large numbers of people, and then supercharge our access to people generally via the internet and then discuss war,  well… all I can say is you will soon be  shaking your head at the range of odd beliefs that people can and do generate.

So, to get us thinking more rationally about “grand strategy” issues d-bbc-image2 for our time I think it’s useful to look at actual historical events and the differing explanations for why things turned out as they did in the past.  As World War 2 is for most people the ‘unavoidable fight’ or ‘the good war’ and is rich with events which are worth reviewing and drawing lessons from, I’ll go there and my example is the Dunkirk evacuation (Operation Dynamo).    (click here to see this BBC animation of the fall of France and after reading this article you can play spot the quite blatant errors).

In raising this topic I don’t want to debate about the revolutionary value of working people uniting with the imperialists of Britain, France and the U.S. in WW2.  I take that as a settled issue that firmly establishes that united front type politics  may be a possible good policy position for western leftist to consider in this ‘the era of Imperialism’ in any specific war.  But I digress…

Dynamo was a fantastically successful operation cobbled together by the British Navy in an era when darkness provided great protection for those under air attack.  The British air-force had not yet won the Battle of Britain but its splendid efforts in protecting the retreat pointed (on reflection anyway) to that future success.   The protection of the air force and the channel dominance and world’s best practice capabilities of the Navy were however all matched by the continuous highly effective and professional and just as often heroic efforts of the fighting ‘gunners’ (both British and French) that go quite unsung as heroes by the general populace.  In conducting their systematic fighting retreat through the series of descending pockets as they were conceded from one defensive position to the next they were a formidable force.  Even when the retreat was shambolic in the eyes of the infantry or themselves or anyone not involved in firing the guns directly at the enemy those guns were well fed and coordinated and they never ran out of ammunition nor targets.

What unfolded from 10May – 4June was a huge defeat but never a complete rout and the 25 days that unfolded surprised more than just the Allies.  The German High Command who had never been in favour of the Manstein plan were perhaps the most surprised of all.

Dynamo was just a small part of the big picture, the long term significance of which was clearly missed when the short term ‘golden’ prize was what had escaped the Germans in WW1 and that was victory over France.  The great victory for all these WW1 soldiers -who were now in command- was that the battle of the Marne was not repeated and the trenches were not dug a second time.  When looking back from the 21st C one must recall that the commanders then were only too well aware that over two million men fought in the first Battle of the Marne and perhaps 500,000 were killed or wounded.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Battle_of_the_Marne  ‘French casualties totaled 250,000, 80,000 of them dead. Of note, the French poet Charles Péguy was killed while leading his platoon’s attack at the beginning of the battle. British casualties were 13,000, 1,700 of them dead. The Germans suffered 220,000 casualties. No future battle on the Western Front would average so many casualties per day.[11]’

The raw numbers for the retreat were – Dynamo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Dynamo 338,226 men (110,000 French and a ‘few’ thousand from Belgium ) cross the English channel over 9 days with only about 8,000 pulled out on the first day and 4,000 on the last!  The weather ‘gods’ favoured them and so luck also played its part.  (27th May)8,000;  (28)18,000;  (29) 47,000;   (30)60,000;  (31)61,000;  (1June)64,000 (2-last few thousand of the British)40,000;   (3)40,000;  (4June)4,000: till 3.40 am when Shikari was the last ship with French troops to leave.

At dawn German troops overcame the last of the fighting rear guard and reached the beach.   The very next day the Panzers that had already been reorganised and redeployed launched the attack across the Somme to ‘settle accounts’ with the French.  Once  more they  showed the effectiveness of what

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J.F.C._Fuller  and  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._H._Liddell_Hart

had first theorized  and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinz_Guderian had developed and just demonstrated.

Evacuating these troops was the great ‘deliverance’ as described by Churchill.  Those saved enabled the British to rapidly train many others and to eventually come back and fight another day.   The French however all went back to France over the next few weeks just in time for most to surrender!

Now we all know that the basic crisis had been that prior to the evacuation all these troops had become trapped by the Germans in a pocket with their back to the channel, but that pocket still had munitions and most other things they required to fight and were effectively fighting.  These supplies especially fuel (that they no longer required much of anyway) were shrinking.  But paradoxically the big pocket kept becoming a ‘tougher nut to crack’.  It required the troops to run out of stuff and that required a little time.  Because they were trapped without the ability to dominate their space and out-range their enemies they were obviously staring at eventual defeat and that was only days away but they were a formidable force till the inevitable exhaustion of the artillery and then the total defeat and surrender that loomed.

Blitzkrieg as a tactical method brought the trap about and Hitler had begun to grasp the method but he was far from the expert who were only one handful anyway.  But he did grasp that the Panzers were not to be used against hard points as this ‘pocket’ had become; rather the hard points were systematically avoided and left for the air force and artillery to attend to.  The precious panzer units were required to be preserved and deployed for the job that only they could do.  Thus on his orders these precious ‘few’ were transferred to launch an attack across the Somme and did so on 5th June.

The myth that Hitler by not allowing the Panzer units to be used in a manner opposed to the principles of the new and effective doctrine and actually allowing the British to escape the trap in order to prepare a political position of rapprochement is to miss the big picture altogether.  For Hitler his splendid air-force and the conventional artillery led forces of Army Group B could attend to those in the ‘trap’.  He required the fast moving Panzers to do to the rest of France what they had just done on this front; and they did just that!

Hitler had ordered  Panzer units; led by General Guderian to stop their advance, with the consequence being that despite heavy casualties as a result of mostly air and artillery attacks, this huge allied force was able to escape across the channel – even though they had to abandon their weapons and so forth.

Was this a blunder on Hitler’s part?  Yes!  But Hitler never took a strategic decision to allow the British to escape as part of a larger scheme to end all fighting with the British and come to sensible terms (which only in hindsight can be seen to have been an error because such a deal did not eventuate).  He was always keen on dealing with the British but that had nothing to do with letting any troops escape their trap.

It’s just that they were not as trapped as he thought and his splendid air-force was not as splendid as he thought and he was never very solid in his understanding of the capabilities of the British Navy.  He was a WW1 soldier and a couple of days was not the same for him as it was for that tiny number of cutting edge battle field German generals of WW2.

Occasionally we ought to remind ourselves of the boilerplate realities where any sensible analysis ought to assume that leaders have strategies, (which are very often not made clear in declaratory policy) and that they are fundamentally rational, however this does not rule out blundering and disruption due to unexpected events (obviously these things often happen together).  Both sides are trying to win the war, but the unfolding of events is not mechanical, surprises happen.  Sometimes errors are due to blundering. World War 2 began with the Phoney War in the west, which lasted from  September 1939 until the 9 April when the invasion of Norway began.  A month later on  May 10,  the Germans swept into Belgium and the Low Countries, and at the same time mounted a surprise attack into France via the Ardennes, from where they were able to move rapidly towards the English channel reached by 19May, essentially trapping the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in a pocket from which they could only escape via the Navy back across the channel.

This German attack west was a stunning victory for them and a crushing defeat for the Allies and the way it unfolded surprised both sides.  Paris fell to the Germans on June 10, and on June 17, France announced that it was ready to ask for an armistice (officially signed on June 22).

With the precedent of  WW1 as a template, the WW2 Battle of France especially considering the size and sophistication of the French armed forces, was over very quickly.  It’s difficult for many people lacking an interest in military issues to understand why, at what appears to them to be the last minute,  Hitler held back his precious armoured divisions from pushing on with an attack.  But they were NOT supposed to operate as siege artillery against concentrated enemy artillery.

It was after all those Panzer divisions that had produced the stunningly unexpected advance to the channel that had left the BEF cut off from the main French forces with their French allies who they were now deceiving and fighting under constant air and artillery attacks for their very existence.   Hitler did not ‘hold them back’ he exerted his authority and that held them back for a crucial 2 days when they could have prevented much more of the hard pocket from forming and this prevented the destruction of more troops when the battle was still fluid in the manner that suited exactly the panzer tactics (those 2 days were that important).

The final result of the various deployments of all the other armed forces was the preservation of 338,226 Allied troops, who could be used to train others and fight again later in the war.

It was also a huge morale boost for the British taking the edge off an utterly disastrous defeat as a start to the real war.

Back in 2006, there was some discussion of this on the old LastSuperpower forum.  Arthur argued that Hitler’s order to halt may have been based on strategic decisions – as Hitler still hoped to avoid all-out war with the British because his main target was the USSR.  He had hoped to avoid creating a situation in which the USSR and Britain would end up on the same side.

Patrick,  I am still inclined to think you overestimate the importance of the military difficulties and blunders and underestimate the importance of political considerations. Both British and French governments were led by the architects of Munich throughout the phoney war period and both still hoped to avoid a real war with Germany by reaching some compromise. Likewise Hitler wanted to avoid a real war with Britain and even directly ordered Guderian to halt the panzers 10km from Dunkirk to allow the British expeditionary force to escape after von Kleist had ignored a previous less emphatic order. This “blunder” and the corresponding “miracle” of Dunkirk would not have been a blunder at all if it had succeeded in avoiding real war with Britain.  On 5 February 1940 the Allied High Command offered 100,000 British and 20,000 French troops to Finland in support of its war with the Soviet Union. But Churchill “blundered” in stuffing the invasion of Norway (for which Chamberlain took the blame) and Stalin “blundered” in both rushing the invasion to achieve a breakthrough before the Allies could actually join the war, at a huge cost in “unnecessary” casualties, and then quickly accepting an armistice despite the Finnish army being on the verge of complete collapse.These blunders were remarkably serendipitous from the viewpoint of grand strategy in that they prevented a war between Britain and the Soviet Union and ensured the collapse of appeasement.The political evolution of the imperialist war into a war against fascism was no more inevitable than the specific military history. Both required strategic decisions which were intertwined and hard to follow even with the hindsight of the historical record since grand strategy issues like these are not necessarily recorded in historical documents or the knowledge of subordinates later writing their memoirs but only known with certainty in the minds of the top leadership who often don’t have any reason to reveal what they were thinking afterwards. (Stalin certainly never claimed to be trying to encourage the Germans to attack the Allies, so you certainly won’t find my view of it in any party documents!) Remember that in making political decisions Stalin had the benefit of extremely detailed intelligence on both Allied and German intentions whereas the converse did not apply. Obviously I can’t claim to have any proof of these undocumentable assertions, and I admit such speculation could easily be wrong. BTW we also differ about certain “serendipitous blunders” in the Iraq war like not using the Baathist armed forces as a construction brigade. I think that difference is also related to different estimations of the importance of political calculations.

In that old discussion,  I went on to express agreement with Arthur’s position:

Arthur is right that Hitler by effectively ordering the preservation of the British troops when the German Army was rushing to destroy or capture them was preparing a political position. But it only goes to show that Hitler was clueless as to what the British ruling- elite would agree to, having badly lost round one.

As a result of Hitler’s political blunder, 338,000 trained soldiers escaped enabling them to train many others and to fight another day. It would have been a genius move if the British had not been well… British. Once they were at war they were not going to cut their losses and stop the fight especially with Germany in the position to dominate the imperialist world. They would fight the maritime war they were well suited for and the U.S. would be their great ally and arsenal. The U.S. people were still overwhelmingly isolationist but the U.S. ruling-elite would never have permitted a successful invasion of Britain.

Hitler just ‘knew’ (from his own theories), that the British and Germans should be fighting side by side against the hated communists, and nothing else made much sense to him at this point, than that they would come to terms. He did not have a plan B, and so he cobbled it all together based on the stunning success of the German Army and the apparent confirmation of his idiotic theories of racial superiority. If the fighting had been harder perhaps he would not have become so deluded by the early victories.

Since then, I’ve thought more about this and have concluded that the more likely explanation is that it was a blunder, rather than an error which arose from strategic reasoning.  The destruction of the trapped troops was to be achieved more at the hands of the Luftwaffe and the artillery rather than risk more Panzers that were required to be readied for the rapid push into and right through France.

I think that at  the crucial moment Hitler panicked and became cautious. Heinz Guderian’s success had been  spectacular, but at the time Hitler ordered him to halt, he’d already twice disobeyed orders to slow down, and had unilaterally implemented a plan of his own which varied significantly from the plan authorised by the OKH (German High Command)  prior to the initial attack.

At the time Hitler told him to halt, Guderian’s supply lines were stretched and he was well ahead of the slower moving infantry tail (the greater part of it horse drawn).  Hitler would have been wondering whether his senior officers were correct in worrying that he was vulnerable to a  flank attack.  After all, how often had officers let down Corporals in WW1?

Hitler blinked and the politics involved were entirely internal. The retreating troops, not just the BEF had not run out of munitions or other supplies and were conducting a fighting retreat where their defensive perimeter was well directed and shortening.  Meanwhile the German lines were lengthening with exposed flanks while Guderian (Schneller Heinz) was rapidly implementing his, at this stage, highly disputed theories.

The politics behind what happened can be seen more clearly  if we look at the struggles which occurred within the German military in the months before the attack on France. Early in October 1939, the general view of the German military was that  it was probably only possible at that point  to occupy sufficient Dutch, Belgian and French territory to launch naval and air attacks on Britain and to protect the Ruhr area.  The first detailed plan of attack  (19 October 1939) was produced by Franz Halder, head of the OKH (Nazi Germany’s High Command of the Army). It envisaged  a long and difficult campaign launched via an unimaginative frontal attack from the middle of Belgium. Hitler didn’t like it, and a series of variations were produced by Halder, none of which were substantially different.

Eventually General von Runstead in conjunction with his chief of staff, Lt. General von Manstein developed  a substantially different proposal based on surprise and mobility. Their idea was to draw the allied forces into central Belgium by mounting an initial attack there while actually positioning the bulk of the German forces further east from where they would thrust through the difficult terrain in the Ardennes area, entering France at Sedan. This would enable them to  attack the Allies from behind. (i.e. from the south) Hopefully cutting them off.  The expectation was that the Allies would not bother to allocate much of their military strength in the Sedan area due to the fact that the Ardennes area was regarded as an unlikely entry point, due to the “impossibility” of the terrain there.

While developing this plan,  Manstein spoke informally with Heinz Guderian who was the commander of the XIXth Army Corps – an elite armoured tank formation.  Guderian  came up with a more radical (and risky) version of the plan.  He proposed that not only his tank unit , but the entire Panzerwaffe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzerwaffe) should enter France from Sedan and then move  to the west, towards the English channel, hopefully trapping the Allies. He proposed doing this without any pause to wait for the slower main body of the German infantry to catch up.  The idea was that this could lead to a very quick victory and avoid the level of (German) casualties typical of the annihilation battle which would result from the other plans. This was considered risky because rushing ahead of the infantry would create a vulnerable open flank of about 300 kilometres that the infantry tail would have to rush to form up into a defensive line every day while the advance proceeded.

Von Manstein put forward several variations on this plan, all much less radical than Guderian’s (and without mentioning his discussions with Guderian).  However, all of these plans were rejected by the OKH without ever reaching Hitler. Late in January 1940, Halder, who disliked Von Manstein,  arranged for him to be posted to Prussia.  This backfired on Halder because members of von Manstein’s staff managed to draw Hitler’s attention to it.  As a consequence Hitler invited Von Manstein to present his ideas to him personally.  Not long afterwards  he instructed Halder to produce a new plan incorporating a surprise attack through the Ardennes to Sedan.

This became known as the Manstein Plan. The Manstein plan did not however incorporate the idea that German armour  should advance quickly west without waiting for the infantry.  Most of the Generals saw this as far too risky. Instead the plan called for the armoured units (led by Guderian) to cross the river Meuse at Sedan, establish bridgeheads for the slower moving infantry,  and then to wait (several days) for it to catch up. As it turned out, the attack through the Ardennes  was remarkably successful.  The French troops allocated to the area were an inexperienced Reserve Division and panic and disorder broke out among them very quickly resulting in rapid retreat. At this point (May 12) Guderian disobeyed an order to restrict the bridgehead he’d established to 8km and to dig in there until he had more infantry support. Instead he continued  to extend  it west and south.

Although this theoretically could have been dangerous, the French continued to fall apart and retreat.  Similarly, Erwin Rommel disobeyed orders and advanced his Panzer division rapidly.  Both knew what they were doing. Again on May 16, Guderian and Rommel both disobeyed orders  and continued west.  Guderian advanced about 70 km from where he was supposed to have been and Rommel’s forces advanced 100 km.  Effectively Guderian was unilaterally implementing his own plan, on top of the official Manstein plan. As a consequence, on  May 17 Guderian was relieved of all duties by his superior (von Kleist), but Rundstedt refused to confirm the order, so Guderian stayed in charge.

At this point the Panzer Corps were considered by some of the senior officers to be in a vulnerable position and could if the French had launched a determined flank attack have been mauled and run up against supply problems.  However such an attack didn’t happen and the German infantry tail kept racing forwards as best they could and establishing the all important thin defensive line eventually reaching the Somme and then continually reinforcing all along it while simultaneously bringing up supplies for the units fighting their way forward through the various defense pockets that became established.   Panzer troops took the opportunity to rest regroup and repair equipment for two days and then continued on but always towards a more concentrated foe holding ridge lines with well supplied  artillery.

The French and BEF eventually coalesced into a pocket that reduced systematically through several retreats  and always over ground less favorable for Panzers.  By now the German High Command knew that victory was within reach and ordered a further advance with the direct aim of cutting of the Allies’ capacity to escape south but the unsuitability of the territory between the pockets and the advancing German Panzers and the concentration of artillery was going to cost tanks.   As we know the advance was successful and the Allies became trapped in a pocket around Dunkirk.

The original Manstein Plan

The original Manstein Plan

The ACTUAL course of German forces

The ACTUAL course of German forces

The order to pause was from the 23-26 and only applied to Army Group A’s armoured formations.  The period of the evacuation or Operation Dynamo was 27 May till 3.40 am 4th June. [date-evacuated]  (27)8,000 (28)18,000 (29)47,000 (30)60,000 (31)61,000 (1)64,000 (2)40,000 (3)40,000 (4)4,000.   The Dutch had surrendered on 14 May and on 28 May the Belgian army capitulated.  At the 29th May Cambrai meeting Hitler tells the commanders of his Army Groups that he has decided to ‘deploy the armoured forces immediately for a southward offensive to settle accounts with the French, attacking south on 5thMay.  1st June German artillery bombards the Dunkirk beaches, 2nd June Operation Dynamo completed for the BEF.

The final Dunkirk pocket was established on 31 May and held till 4 June at which point 2,000 guns, 60,000 vehicles, 600,000 tons of fuel and supplies and 76,000 tons of munitions were abandoned. The Germans began their attack south on 5 June so we can see that the Panzers had been reserved for and moved to that task. On May 25, the 1st Panzer division could have thrust forward again and forced the Allied forces in the Dunkirk area to surrender.  But Hitler had ordered it to halt the day before. I would put this down to a real concern on Hitler’s part that Guderian’s advance force was vulnerable to a devastating flank attack, combined with a need to assert himself as Fuhrer, in the face of Guderian’s repeated insubordination.

Liddel Heart was mostly responsible for the promotion of this ‘Hitler let them escape’ thinking along with and as a result of Guderian himself AFTER the war but the records of the actual period do not provide the evidence (rather to the contrary).

I think the following spells it out.   http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v02/v02p375_Lutton.html

I hope I get to write about Putin in the rear vision mirror but only the good die young so….

Thoughts on Ukrainian nationalism, Feb. 2014

by Patrick Muldowney

Over in Ukraine ‘Christmas gifts’ are being unwrapped and all sorts of stuff is coming out from under the shiny paper that everyone wraps things up in. Hard to tell the real value of the ‘gift’ even when out of the paper, but it’s virtually impossible while it’s still wrapped up in paper. What’s the value of a V8 ute to a 18yr old high school student compared to a 36yr old builder?

Christmas only comes once a year, but wise people acquire gifts all through the year and they are put away for that one special day. When the day approaches a tree is set aside and decorated in the current fashion. The hidden gifts are then wrapped up in that shiny paper and left under the tree for anyone to wonder about.

By Christmas Eve most of the gifts have arrived and the pile sits there overnight in unseen beauty. The mystery of the decorated packages is only solved in the frenzy of opening and sometimes not even then. ‘Have I got what I asked for?’ is the unspoken thought from the children.

The kids get to the task of unwrapping the gifts, even if a beloved grandmother that bought some of them during the year has been dead and buried for months. They unwrap what is there and then make of it as they will!

They may have received blank paper and paints. It may be a model; or a flag; or a history book written by somebody with an ‘interest in promoting human rights’; or even a book written by a person keen on free and fair elections for a proportionately representative parliament that are IMV the foundation of those human rights.  It maybe a Crucifix the old woman had thought a sacred object and when it’s unwrapped a discussion might start that leads all the young people into a more solid understanding that they just don’t share the old ideas.  On the other hand it might get put up on the mantle piece and everyone begin a fervent prayer just to get the old girl out of Purgatory.  Who knows what the naked apes of Ukraine are making of the 21st C.  What is evident is that they are divided over how the country ought to orient it’s form of capitalism.  I think the majority favor a western lean away from what many see as ‘the old foe’ and half of the remainder would want to get more distance between themselves and Putin types generally.

We all know from experience that just as people change so do the organisations that they set up. It’s only in Neverland where people don’t change.  Self evidently many Ukrainians understand (even better than Syrians) that Putin is their enemy and that any political leadership that draws their country closer to Putin is to be opposed and struggled against.

The Irish up against the English is the best example of how a national movement of the Ukrainians against the Russians ought to be thought about, right down to the massive loyalist presence in a concentrated part of the country. The National question is still being resolved in Ukraine and Georgia and right across that big slab of territory north of the Caucuses that Putin has been waging his ruthless city smashing wars in for years.

Al Qaeda sorts thrive in the swamp that Putin is maintaining. Putin has not changed course and is not part of the solution to the national questions; or the struggle for democracy; nor women’s rights; or gay rights; and so on. His nonsense is a blockage to the swamp draining that extends right up into the Ukraine and beyond that. East European development is way behind Norway and the rest of the exemplar Scandinavian countries – even if the Norwegians have to deal with rightwing terrorists.

Putin keeps Assad’s air power going and democrats want to see that it gets smashed to bits.

Because the strategic grand plan is to fight oppression by uniting the many to defeat the few, we look to the current demands of the Ukrainians as Steve directed our attention with respect to the Sunni demands in Iraq.

Whatever the past role of Ukrainian nationalism way back at the time Stalin was coping with his problems, the current struggle is a no-brainer because the Ukrainian people are against Putin’s Russia.  I guess that the largest block of Ukrainian people want their government to resign and they want new elections to form a new government to lead their country away from Russia and towards greater connections with western Europe.  If they got that outcome it won’t solve all their problems anymore than the problems are solved in Ireland, Spain or Greece and I suppose that is obvious to them as they can see for themselves how bad things are in those Euro countries; but at least they will be that much further away from the system that Putin is running!

As with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt there are more than just a few “very conservative” democrats in the Ukrainian context, and just as there are Salafi parties that are more reactionary (and less democratic) in Egypt there are the equivalent in this part of the swamp.

As Arthur said re Egypt;

‘Anyone democratic is inherently less reactionary and conservative than the various “progressive” parties of the secular opposition who actually want to go BACKWARDS towards the Mubarak era.  So emphasizing the conservative or reactionary character of the brotherhood is likely to give a misleading impression to people who are unaware of how bad the opposition to the brotherhood is.’
END

My view is that issues that blow up this big ought to have been brought before the people in Referenda. The situation is well beyond that now and new elections are now how the issues of the Ukraine can be resolved. There is that, or a reasonably quick descent into the civil war scenario.   I think the police and the army would ‘quickly’ shatter and the country then divide along the two ethnic lines.  The Russian dominated regions – absent Putin meddling – would after a few months or whatever time it takes would lose out to the Ukrainian nationalist forces but Putin would/will meddle.  Eventually we could then see Putin’s tanks cross the border in the manner that he did with Georgia a couple of years back.

It is a little different to Georgia, but the resolution of the national question is at the heart of the issue and these are both historically ‘Promethean’ movement inspired countries.

Anyway the new Pinochet in Egypt has more support I’d bet than does the current friend of Putin running the show in Ukraine, where I’m sure ‘it isn’t just the disgusting liberals and “left” that have faith in the army’ [but like Egypt] ‘if a Syrian situation can be avoided (as has been successful in Tunisia) then it is well worth trying to avoid it.’

Nations do want liberation and Putin works against them. Countries do want independence and Putin won’t let them have it, and as far as I can see the peoples’ do want a revolutionary change in the way they are governed by the knuckle-dragging-ruling-classes, and their increasingly inbred ruling-elites. Oh and Putin backs the Assad sorts!

Supporting the fight for democracy I have endorsed the COW liberation of Iraq. I don’t pretend there is a fight for socialism in regions threatened by Putin, but there is a struggle for national liberation and democracy. I have no trouble working out where to stand. As in the Syrian case there are unsavory sorts all over the place, but that was the way it was with the struggle for national liberation in Vietnam, and in Ireland as well for that matter.

Rules of Engagement

rules

 

More Rules of Engagement here

Posted by keza at 2007-10-10

The purpose of this forum is as a place for serious, high-level discussion about what it means to be progressive and left-wing in the 21st century.

I used the adjective “high-level” purposely.

We expect contributors to make a serious attempt to engage with the issues raised in the thread they are participating in. There are many forums on the internet in which serious debate/rational argument is not the norm and almost anything goes.

Here we have an expectation that people will actually attempt to argue their position by using both logic and evidence (as well as by making a real attempt to express themselves clearly).

Certain things are unacceptable:

(1) Jumping into a thread and just asserting a viewpoint with no attempt to argue for it.

Posting a supporting link from somewhere else on the internet is not an argument. It is fine to post links but when doing so we generally expect them to be accompanied by a clear and thoughtful comment about the relevance and importance of the link to the topic at hand.

(2) Posting comments which are at best tangentially related to the topic of the thread you are posting in.

These sorts of comments are not only distracting but also disruptive to the integrity of the thread. Generally they are an attempt to change the subject rather than respond to a good argument posted previously.

(3) Repeating the same thing over and over while ignoring counter arguments.

This is a form of trying to win by shouting. We expect people to read (and respond to) what others have to say and also to take the time to read any links to relevant material which form part of these posts.

(4) Distorting what an opponent has said in order to attack it (the straw man fallacy)

Recently Steve Owens was complaining because I deleted a post of his which consisted of just a single sentence and a link.

This was Steve’s ‘response” to the 5 thoughtful and detailed posts which had constituted the thread up until then. The link did not have any obvious connection to these earlier posts and Steve made no attempt to explain why he thought it made some sort of contribution to the discussion.

He says that he just wanted to post “interesting news about Iraq” , that perhaps we need a special thread devoted to interesting news snippets about Iraq, and also that my motive for deleting his post may have been because I “wouldn’t want links to news items that showed either gross mismanagement by the forces of occupation or the spread of cholera or for that matter mercenaries firing into crowds.”

I’ll paste in what Bill had Barry had to say in response to all this:

Bill wrote:

(quoting Steve…) “I can understand why people dedicated to the prosecution of the war wouldn’t want links to news items that showed either gross mismanagement by the forces of occupation or the spread of cholera or for that matter mercenaries firing into crowds. All these things are developments in Iraq this is a thread about developments in Iraq go ahead Keza delete this. Orwell always said you would”

This gratuitous and deliberately misleading insult needs to be deleted / edited out of  Steve’s post (along with this reply)

It’s always better to provide an explanatory comment / meaningful explanation with a link. That is a request to lift your standard of discussion and not evidence of our lack of willingness to discuss. In general this is what supporters of this site do when providing links.  If you are too lazy to do that then the message will be deleted / moved to junk

The real issue here is that some people treat LS as a site where they “sniff and piss” rather than a place to have real debate.

Steve, why don’t you  repost to meet these guidelines (ie. add in your links again to your comment and take out your nonsense) and then see if is deleted then, before complaining about our “Orwellian” behaviour.

Ending Baathism in Syria requires a major war

Ending Baathism in Syria requires a major war.

Syria has a population of 22million that is massively divided along religious and ethnic lines (10% Kurds). It has a Baathist tyranny better supported among that population than was Gadaffi who had considerable support and so a big war is in the very early stages of developing. The tyranny is very well armed and trained, and has ‘undegraded’ command and control, with massive numbers of police thugs, spies, and so forth. So, this will take some time and will involve Turkey for sure. Turkey is being quite open about being the regional power that will act if it must, and the Kurdish issue and PKK is clearly central to this.

Syria also has had a national conscription system that now leaves a great legacy of trained men who are now willing and partly able to take on the lawful tyranny in a civil war. Both sides have just observed what happened over 9mths in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt etc., in this year of continuous spring. So soldiers who are thinking about mutiny will be encouraged as the situation develops and the core forces of repression will be somewhat shaken by the visions they have just been witness to.

Fortunately for the masses of people in revolt, the Islamic cultural reality of Friday prayers and mass gatherings throughout the country to mobilize around, and the egged on or ‘shame’ factor of not being left behind when others have been brave and fought and grabbed their freedom ought not be underestimated. Confidence really ought to be up on the side of the revolution and down a bit at least among the tyranny despite its large support and vast quantities of military assets. Large scale mutiny is the most hopeful start to the next stage of ridding Syria of Baathists, but from at least the Turkish side, I can’t see how this fight can be left alone to develop as a ‘pure’ civil war for very much longer.

As I see this the Syrian army becomes muscle bound very quickly in most of the larger cities that have had the big demonstrations against Assad, and is quickly exhausted in the smaller towns especially near all the borders, and no doubt along the Euphrates river and Nth. East of that line. They are effectively an army of occupation and can obviously be spread too thin trying to hold everything so they currently are running around trying to appear to be everywhere. But spying and the in and out arresting duties of the secret police and so forth is the only way this regime can even continue to exist in huge parts of the country.

The young fighting men can and will be pissed off and fight back, as well as leave and cross the border into Turkey as we have seen in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. They will be greeted by the soldiers that have deserted and already there as a determined rebellious armed force planning for either a long war, or rapid growth if the situation changes. This force will in the face of almost weekly reports of mass slaughter start to mount reply attacks deliberately to gain greater recognition and further stimulate recruitment. They are not refugees but a fighting force already trained and intent on overthrowing the people that they have fled from and who are still systematically killing their friends and family members, so they will find ways to fight right now and that keeps some of this fighting near the Turkish border.

The Turks are already permitting the establishment of an insurgent force and the Syrian tyranny can’t hit across the border as the Turks would respond immediately and massively. Turkey will remain the most important country able to impose the military action (similar to the NATO effort in Libya) and no other country has the stomach for this IMV. Turkey’s leadership has a vital interest identified and seems determined to advance its democratic reform program within Turkey that requires dealing with Kurdish liberation issues, and simultaneously with the current PKK that has been and still are hosted in all the neighbours.

Turkey has no territorial ambitions but regularly has crossed its borders and beat up on the PKK and is still doing so right now so it looks like the perfect storm for a war to develop.

The Syrian tyranny is continuing to systematically murder the Syrian people and can’t stop this brutality. They can’t undo the way they rule with terror police as the core to their control across a vast part of the country. They can only now exist by holding guns over the people of very many towns and villages and cities of Syria. The Syrian army is now an army of occupation that fears intervention from the far larger Turkey. The army has too much to do and is rotting so it has no prospect of stopping the small fights and the constant flight that the activities of the secret police etc., ensure will continue. Eventually it will be unable to patrol near the border for fear of hit and run, then hit and advance attacks that will be mounted near population centres. They will not be able to use air power against the freedom fighters.

No doubt if war breaks out the western international community would turn a blind eye and hope for the end of the Assad regime as one aspect of the outcomes that in some cases would happen in days of a mass Turkish incursion. The Turkish armed forces would not have to liberate large Syrian population centers, all they have to do is prevent the Syrian forces from surrounding and suppressing the people they are currently intimidating near the Turkish border and then allowing the rebel force that they currently protect in Turkish territory to return and be protected in very much larger form in Syrian territory. They would then hand over all the arms required by the new Syrian regime that they recognize and try to continue to take steps back over time as the Syrian civil war is fought. Seems straight forward but wars don’t work to plan, let alone time-tables, and other sides usually have a bit to say. What we have here in abundance is other sides.

But though I feel sure that a large war is coming and how it gets going won’t matter much this is too complex for me to get a handle on. What follows from the current suppression of the Syrian masses by the Baathists is that a war of liberation must breakout if democracy is part of the demands that are thrown on the table. These demands are on the table and Turkey must comply with the international body that approves of the end of the war. The UN determines when the end is and the new government is given the UN seat. Given that 3,000 are already dead and lots more are disappeared the war is going in one sense already.

Once Turkey gets involved then the NFZ and or destruction of the Syrian air forces in a big war comes up and NATO naval forces would also get drawn in with blockade work and U.S. spy assets etc.. The Syrian army would be rapidly isolated in large areas of Syria and then systematically destroyed if it lacks air power. If this war were to eventuate Turkey is bound to follow through and cut up the army that is spread too thin trying to hold down large population centres. That will end the period of secret police activities and see heavy arms rapidly distributed to the population that is more than willing to put them to use. That is I suppose the ideal first stage for putting a stop to the way the Baathists run Syria.

The Baathists can now enter population centers unopposed, but provided the opposition run around and avoid much fighting they can’t stay and comfortably regain control everywhere at once. Neither can they do what the Russians have done in Grozny because that will bring on the required intervention. If they can’t use heavy weapons and can’t avoid continuous small arms skirmishing then they will over time be driven from the bigger cities that are in revolt. The soldiers cant stay in their tanks and can’t avoid snipers and so the insurgents will be able to organise and grow. IMV Turkey wants to intervene and will intervene if the Baathists use air power, or they start to use the heavy weapons.

Without air power the Syrian army eventually won’t be able to enter some of the larger cities without being defeated because the supply of anti-tank weapons etc., will flood in from Turkey with the blessing of the whole world. Then the civil war will unfold and finally ought to draw in the U.S. from the Mediterranean. NATO ought to be redeploying from the Libyan theatre now. There will be much work for the A10′s.

I can’t see a ‘cheaper’ way of ending the Syrian Baathist tyranny as they are far too strong at the moment, just like the Libyan tyranny was before they were seen to be about to defeat the rebels in Benghazi and the intervention was launched. That was when I hoped for Egyptian intervention. It would have sped the liberation that has now come to Libya even without that intervention and with all the costs to the libyan people.

9/11, ten years on: how the arab spring is rebirthing a genuine left

Old Yobbo said:

‘Come to think of it, yes, the situation isn’t that different from Saddam’s Iraq, just on a more compressed time-frame. Which, if anything, makes me a bit more disposed towards the US invasion of Iraq (Christ, I never thought I would ever think that) …..’
http://larvatusprodeo.net/2011/03/12/libya-the-left-and-the-no-fly-zone-debate/#comment-267941

September 11th 2011 ought to focus left-wing minds on what has become of the internationalist left, that ten years ago stood gob-smacked with everyone else, as humanity watched the unimaginable horror of those attacks.

Naturally all the old categories of leftists are still around and plenty of the recognized leaders too, but via the twists and turns of the intervening years those that started as self declared leftists and internationalists have reached a destination that is, as is usual for all political journeys, places that none of us really set out for. The numbers have dramatically changed after all that experience and it’s worth looking at the how, the why and the what of it.

Early in 2011 a small number of leftists joined in the call for the U.S. and the rest to impose a No Fly Zone (NFZ) on the Libyan tyranny, with the clear understanding that this meant starting with bombing. Most of these leftists then went quiet when it was blindingly obvious that NATO was not imposing a NFZ on the basis of any doctrine of the responsibility to protect, (R2P) but rather acting as the artillery (that conquers) for the Libyan revolutionaries who would occupy. This is a huge leap forward from a decade ago. These leftists in their silence were advocating war. They were only hiding behind R2P, and the pseudo-left didn’t hesitate to point this out. Those that went silent as the war was fought and won wanted more than just the democratic revolutionaries protected against their heavily armed tyrannical opponent. They wanted results. They wanted victory for the rebels across the entire country.

The previous decade ending at 9/11 was one of obvious collapse for the left and that requires no discussion here. But IMV a significant genuine left is now capable of arising from the fresh shoots now emerging from this last decade.

Going back to late 2002 we said that the US had altered their policy by 180 degrees from supporting dictatorship in the Mjddle East to supporting democracy in the Middle East.

The following six sub-periods provide some structure as to how peoples thinking has changed over those past 10years:

2001-2003: 9/11 atrocity; US invades Afghanistan; Iraq invasion / liberation.
This represented a disaster for the realists who wanted to maintain stability in the Middle East. This was the end of business as usual. The invasion and liberation of Iraq from the fascist minority Sunni based Baathists was an indirect but strategically vital response to the 9/11 attack. This response surprised Al Quaeda.

2003- 2005: US policy has good and bad features but three elections demonstrate their policy of supporting democracy

2005- 2007: The going gets tough.

2007- 2009: Bush initiates The Surge. Iraq proceeds to a normal election cycle

2009- 2010: Elections result in a delayed formation of an Iraqi Proportional Representation government

2011: The glorious Arab Spring breaks out

Incidentally, I also think that nothing potent remains of the former completely dominant political thinking of the U.S. ruling establishment from 2001. Realist policies of maintaining the status quo of autocracies are effectively dead in 2011, and for those that carry on as the zombies of that defeated school of thinking there is essentially nowhere in the ME to deploy their policy prescriptions. Anyway only governments do things and oppositions of all descriptions are free to talk and offer opinions that like assholes are common to all but no future U.S. government can revert to the old policies.

Support for the ending of the Libyan tyranny was widespread across the spectrum of what is known as the left but opposition to any ‘imperialist’ intervention was also almost exclusively to be found in this milieu as well, so a great debate was had this year and the pseudo-left was one issue that received great ventilation. Those who are stuck in the old ‘hard left’ paradigm that imperialism is the main enemy actually stand for all things conservative when it comes to ridding the ME of tyranny. They have been wonderfully exposed as useless dogmatists throughout this year of the Arab Spring and once more on the wrong side of a fire fight with the tyrants. Who is the main enemy then? All those who oppose the democratic revolution in the autocratic regimes.

The forces that had been involved in the anti-war movement in relation to the looming war in Iraq back in 2002 essentially divided in the lead-up to the war that is now concluding in Libya. My view is that at least 2 out of 3 and possibly 3 out of 4 supported action over Libya or went silent and took no stand or are now on reflection glad it happened. This group wanted western governments to do something to save the imperiled democratic revolution rather than allow Gaddafi to crush it with his superior firepower. I guess the figure for Iraq was more like 5%

But the action in the lead-up period was framed in a manner that sounded very different to just taking sides in a civil war. The reality was taking sides in a civil war. The reality was unity with western bourgeois governments who could supply the effective ‘artillery’.

Concerning the western imposition of a NFZ and other measures under the rubric of an international responsibility to protect civilians (R2P), before the actual war was launched, Guy Rundle said:

“All that matters is whether the request comes from legitimate leadership, is strategically viable, and can be limited in scope. Those conditions appear to have been met.”

What a joke. The rebels were being defeated by the tyranny until they united with various western governments and war was declared on the tyranny! There was never only a NFZ and R2P civilians ‘limited scope’ and the appearance of one was created as a deliberate lie to conceal the war fighting scope of the intervention.  Guy Rundle was happy to be lied to.

The Libyan tyranny has now been all but ended with the two last towns hopefully surrendering to the rebels this very weekend. The Rebel leadership is clearly going to hold the elections that it has sought and promised

Well, those same factors have been met in the case of ending the Iraq tyranny! The Coalition Of the Willing (COW) is going home and leaving behind a democratically elected government. Eight years is all it took to smash the reactionary heart of the ME and set the region wide revolution running.

UN Declares War on Gaddafi

The UN Security Council has approved a “no fly zone” over Libya and more importantly authorizing “all necessary measure” (ie. direct attacks against Gaddafi’s forces) to protect civilians, by a vote of 10 in favour with 5 abstentions (Brazil, China, Germany, India, Russian Federation). The resolution excludes “a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory”

NB. This morning France stated that the resolution did not rule out an invasion by foreign troops. An invasion is not the same as an occupation. (20/3/2011 10:57 pm clarification by BK: This was heard on the radio in the early hours but I have been unable to confirm it through googling. It is true however that the resolution does allow for attacks on Gaddafi’s ground troops and that operations by foot soldiers are also not specifically ruled out)

The UN delegates referred repeatedly to the Arab League’s call for a no fly zone.

Speaking before the vote, Alain Juppe, Minister for Foreign Affairs of France, said the world was experiencing “a wave of great revolutions that would change the course of history”, as people throughout North Africa and the Middle East were calling for “a breath of fresh air”, for freedom of expression and democracy.  Such calls for democratic transition had echoed thro­ugh Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco.  Everyone had witnessed the events with great hope and he believed “this new Arab springtime is good news for all”.  The changes required the international community not to “give lessons”, but to help the people of those countries build a new future.

FOREIGN INTERVENTION PROGRESSIVE and ESSENTIAL

Libya is a largely urban country with 85% of pe­ople living in its two large and about twenty smaller cities and towns. The democratic rebels have control of the eastern towns and the second largest city Benghazi as well as substantially unarmed but very widespread support in the west. They currently have, compared to the undemocratic Gaddafi forces, a reasonably small, badly organized and poorly trained army with virtually no ‘airforce’ and only tiny naval forces that exist under the protection of western navies.

Without foreign intervention Gaddafi can’t be dealt with in anything like a timely manner. He would win in the short term. His army will however be routed once his air power, tanks and armoured vehicles are denied to him.

Gaddafi has already lost Libya. He can only hold Tripoli and the highway east only so far (he can’t for example ever again send his forces to the Egyptian border) and he can not hold that territory that he does indefinitely. Eventually, he won’t be able to hold the outlying eastern end and a more or less rapid withdrawal west will unfold. Everyone interested in this would already have read up on the WW2 forward and backward fighting. Gaddafi understands this perfectly well.

Continue reading ‘UN Declares War on Gaddafi’

Zombies march on Gaza

A few day’s ago, Arthur posted the following comment in the old Marwan Barghouti thread.  I’m reposting it here, followed by my own thoughts about current events in Gaza.

Arthur’s comment:

This topic seems a good reminder about the hazards of prediction in commenting on the latest Israeli outrage.

Not having been following events recently, let alone expected the latest, its difficult to be confident in analysing what’s going on.

But for what it’s worth, the parallels with both the previous murderous assault on Lebanon and Nixon’s Christmas bombing of Hanoi, again strike me as eerie.

As was obvious at the time, though hardly noticed, the main point of killing a thousand or so Lebanese was to establish a clear understanding among all but the looniest sections of Israeli opinion, of the fact that it’s pointless, that the old policies have failed and they will have to back off generally.

Continue reading ‘Zombies march on Gaza’

Marwan Barghouti: 25th August!

Marwan Barghouti  It appears that Abbas has ‘won’ the release of the first group of ‘important’ prisoners/hostages (150 or more). We can now predict that in a few weeks time Hamas will get another 300-400 released (less prominent hostages) in exchange for the Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, or some such arangement.

Continue reading ‘Marwan Barghouti: 25th August!’

Zimbabwe reflections

A recent debate at Larvatus Prodeo brought to mind the exposure of Lemingist sects in The Life of Brian: “What did the Romans ever do for us?” The enlarging mirror at LP took the form of a well mannered pseudo-leftist, articulately holding to a consistently reactionary position with regard to Zimbabwe. Basically this fellow (John Tracey) supports Mugabe. The LP bloggers took him to task. But did they actually see their own features in that mirror?

‘No Mark, the developed nations standard of living is obscene and the root cause of African poverty.’ Oh dear.

When John Tracey didn’t stun people into silence he often forced them into distorting his position because much of what he bases his views on is what they themselves have argued for on LP. ( ie support for ‘small is beautiful’ right-wing green policies such as Perma-culture, rather than modern industrialized farming; defence of reactionary sovereignty rather than a developing internationalism; promoting ‘cultural exceptional-ism’ rather than being unequivocally in favour of universal human rights)

But on the issue of Zimbabwe, the regular bloggers at LP cannot stoop so low as to abandon the people of Zimbabwe and their struggle for democracy (nothing more than bourgeois democracy). In the crystallized situation that we see in Zimbabwe, LP regulars have chosen the correct side. They want the tyranny there to be brought to an end.Theoretically, John Tracey must also oppose tyranny, however his blinkered incapacity to see any progressive features in the bourgeois revolution that is required at this time and place puts him objectively on the side of a tyrant. Continue reading ‘Zimbabwe reflections’