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Syria Superthread [merged]

Kirkhill

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Sorry about eating up more bandwidth but this topic looked interesting and may be noteworthy

The Korean reference is covered in this thread

http://army.ca/forums/threads/19221.30.html


http://chrenkoff.blogspot.com/
Syrians, Syrians everywhere

Agence France Presse reports that a German newspaper Die Welt will report - based on "unnamed western security sources" - that Syria has tested chemical weapons on civilians in the war-torn Sudanese province of Darfur, resulting in dozens of deaths.


"Die Welt said the sources had indicated that the weapons tests were undertaken following a military exercise between Syria and Sudan. Syrian officers were reported to have met in May with Sudanese military leaders in a Khartoum suburb to discuss the possibility of improving cooperation between their armies.

"According to Die Welt, the Syrians had suggested close cooperation on developing chemical weapons, and it was proposed that the arms be tested on the rebel SPLA, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, in the south. But given that the rebels were involved in peace talks, the newspaper continued, the Sudanese government proposed testing the arms on people in Darfur."
Just lovely - if true (via the Best of the Web).

You might recall a few months ago in North Korea, when a giant explosion leveled the Ryongchon train station and much of the neighborhood, "Syrian technicians" were among the casualties.

Seems like, with Iraq knocked out, Syria is getting awfully keen to fill in the vacancy at the Axis of Evil.

I was trying to find a couple of other links that I have seen that referred specifically to the relationship of the Syrian government hiding Iraqi Baathists and equipping and training "recruits" for Iraq.

Anybody else got any links about Syrian activity?
 

Kirkhill

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http://sg.news.yahoo.com/040914/1/3n4ir.html

Here is the Agence France Presse / Die Welt article referred to above.
 

pbi

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They should be careful. The US warned them once already to behave themselves.

Cheers.
 

Kirkhill

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The AFP story was picked up by the Washington Times
http://washingtontimes.com/world/20040916-102058-3651r.htmThi


Curiously they mention that they have had other reports that they published

This is not the first report of chemical weapons use in Sudan.
    The Washington Times reported last month that Sudan's air force sprayed a village in the Darfur region with a powder that killed two persons and dozens of cattle.
    A Sudanese air force Antonov plane in May dropped several rectangular plastic sacks containing a white, flourlike powder on a wadi â ” a dry riverbed â ” in the lower part of the village, eyewitnesses told The Times.
    The Times report said a jet fighter on the same day dropped a bomb on the other side of the village that produced a poisonous smoke that affected about 50 villagers.

As to the western source of the reports, the US doesn't appear to be the origin (from the same article)

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher cast doubt on the newspaper report, saying he had no information on such an attack and that it would have been unlikely for an attack of this type to have taken place without the United States knowing about it.

Coupled with the silence of the US on the North Korean blast it makes me wonder if US intelligence's reputation has been so degraded that the US interests are better served these days by keeping quiet and let information get out by other means.

Another interesting observation from this article about the USMC operating in Chad, the Black African, as opposed to the Arab African, desert state adjacent to the Darfur region of Sudan, training and upgrading the Chad border guards.   http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0917/p06s01-woaf.html.   This is usually the stomping ground of the French Foreign Legion.

A year or so ago I remember reading an article about the USMC conducting joint training with the FFL in Djibouti, the tiny coastal country on the other side of Sudan.   Sudan appears to be bracketed, even if tenuously.

The article also mentions an uptick in US cooperation with other countries of the Sahel, like Nigeria.


Is this part of an emerging containment strategy?   Divide Dar-al-Islam and Isolate?


In Iraq the main players are Shiite Arabs, Shiite Persians, Sunni Arabs, Sunni Kurds and Socialists of all types.

Folks like Al-Zarqawi and Bin-Laden have been calling for a unified front against the West but as is becoming obvious to the west there is precious little trust amongst the communities, resulting in the current speculation about civil war.  

In today's National Post, an item from memri.com   suggests that Zarqawi at least is starting to exhibit a degree of frustration and seeing an "everybody's against me" situation.   "The war in Iraq is against a "tri-partite Satanic alliance of heresy and deceit" of Americans, Kurds and Shiites: "The first are the Americans who carry the banner of the cross; the second are the Kurds through their peshmerga forces, which are reinfoced by Jewish military cadres; the third are the Shiites, the Sunnis enemies, represented by the army of treachery.... the Party of Satan" The article appeared on the Editorials page.


So if I can summarize, the battle lines may be starting to become a little clearer.

On one side there are the Wahabist Arab Muslims engaged with the Iranian Mullahs and the Syrian Socialists actively cooperating with the North Koreans.   The Mullahs and the Wahabists are best served by Muslim unity against the West.

On the other side is everybody that has a historical grievance against the Arabs.   This includes Black Africans of the Sahel (sold by Arabs for slaves for millenia, the Americas were just a market that flourished for a while and dried up), the Spanish, the Austrians, the peoples of the Balkans recruited to be slave soldiers, the Hindus of India (who were so busy fighting Muslims that they let the British in to help in their wars), the people of the Steppes (the northern Alliance in Afghanistan), native peoples of Indonesia and the Phillipines (the Dhow culture of Sea Traders/Raiders that "converted" these lands is, I believe, predominately an Arab culture) and finally the Persians (the people the Iranian Mullahs claim to represent).

If all of these other Muslims can be directed toward the predominately Wahabist Sunnis then the "clash of civilizations" might be avoided.   This seems to be a likely and developing US strategy.

Zarqawi's outburst suggests that they might be having some success - Al Sadr may represent the "army of Treachery" and/or he just represents the limits of the Mullahs control.   They can't control al Sadr, let alone his followers, or Iraqi Shiites and are having difficulty at home.   They can influence but at this time the can't dominate.

There are an awful lot of fault lines there for the Great Satan to exploit.

A final thought, from a longterm strategic point of view, as opposed to a short-term presidential election point of view, instability in Iraq and Islam is not necessarily a bad thing.   It gives the west more freedom of action. It supplies a magnet for all the malcontents. It forces the malcontents to constantly watch their back.   It uses up the malcontents resources.   All of which means that the can't be spending as much time and effort on consolidating forces for major attacks on the west.

In short a very Cold War strategy, both sides try to generate domestic instability in their opponents camp and fight small engagements at long range, often covertly, often by proxy.

Mullahs = Kremlin,  Syrians = Cuba,  Al Qaeda and JI  = Red Brigades and RAF (German Red Army Faction)?

Which brings us back to mysterious explosions in North Korea.


Jeez, I think I have outdone myself today. ;)

Cheers.
 

Kirkhill

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http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0917/p08s03-comv.html

CS Monitor Editorial - Dancing with Damascus
 

Kirkhill

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If the Dancing With Damascus article describes Isolating Syrian Generals from Syrians at large, does this article http://washingtontimes.com/op-ed/20040916-085027-3843r.htm describe Isolating Extremist Wahabist Sunni Arab Muslims?
 

Bruce Monkhouse

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Very good article.
Kirkhill, it looks like your posting to yourself but thats not the case, I'm finding this very interesting but know very little of this region so myself and I'm sure others are just lurking. Thanks
 

devil39

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Kirkhill,

However unlike the Cold War and Kennan's grand strategy of "Containment", I don't think this current war is going to be merely about containment and meeting the enemy encroachment wherever its ugly head pops up around the world.  

This is going to be about selectively, over time, taking out regimes that do not follow any civilized and acceptable rule set.  

Check out Thomas Barnett's articles I have posted.   He most recently worked in the Sec Def's office on Tranformation.    His book "The Pentagon's New Map"   is a very interesting and seductive postulation of a new grand strategy for the US.   A good companion book would be Niall Ferguson's "Colossus- The Price of America's Empire".



Barnett links

http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/published/pentagonsnewmap.htm

http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/published/esquire2004.htm

http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/archives/000711.html



Norman Podhoretz on parallells between the Truman doctrine/Kennans Containment Strategy and the new "Bush Doctrine"

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/A11802017_1.pdf



Niall Ferguson:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2004/0406.wallace-wells.html


 

pbi

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Hi Devil. Good to see you on here. More stuff to read!!! Can't keep up as it is!!

Cheers
 

devil39

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pbi,

As you well know, one of the fringe benefits of a tour is that there is nothing else to do but work and catch up on your reading.
 

Kirkhill

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Hi devil39,

I was beginning to think I had spouted so much bafflegab as to be completely unintelligible.   Thanks for throwing me a lifeline. ;)

Also thanks for the references, I appreciate the recommendations, I was just about to pick up Barnett last week, guess I'll have to dig into my pockets now after all.

Just a point of clarification, I was making a case for Isolation as opposed to Containment, in the same sense that IIRC a shepherd works his flock to isolate a particular sheep.   An essentially random pass of the dogs through the flock, followed by a determination that the target in question is not in one group but is in the other.   The passes continue, reducing the size  of the mini-flock the target can hide in, until the target is isolated.   At that time the target can be dealt with.

You are right, the Cold War analogy is not exact, because as you say the end-game was essentially about Containment.   This was because neither side could afford the many and varied costs associated with concluding the match.   Eventually the game played out as a Stalemate with one side conceding because they could no longer afford to play.

I think the difference here is, that unlike the USSR/Warsaw Pact, which with the experience of centuries of empire building by the Russians, which had a large population with internal lines of communication, a degree of ideological cohesiveness and a massive resource and industrial base to exploit,   the modern Emirs of the Terrorists of the Salafis of the Wahabis of the Sunnis of the Muslims are a pretty disparate group.   Therefore they are ripe for picking off individually.  

The same goes for the failed states out there.   The leaders of those states by and large are out for personal gain.   They don't do alliances well, they can't trust anybody because they no nobody trusts them.   As well they are geographically isolated in countries that often they can't control themselves because the terrain is too harsh to allow ready communication.

So to summarize again, what I was thinking was I might be seeing a strategy for dealing with these people of Isolating them from untrustworthy allies and populations that endure them but don't actively support them except under coercion, setting them up for the direct application of pressure.

The pressure could come from coercion - put forces into the wild spaces in their backyards or cut off their revenues and access to western universities, from bribery - guarantee them contracts in return for good behaviour (eg a word of support, donations to the cause....) or direct action (remove them from power, benignly or otherwise).  

The methodology is not new, in fact the stated goals are not new as a review of Fergusson's Empire will show - improving the lot of the rest of the world in a search for lasting peace (make everybody happy and there will be no wars - unfortunately we have to wait for the second coming for that).   It's just the latest attempt.

It has as good a chance as succeeding as all the others have.    It will likely bring improving changes to someplaces for a generation or two,   someplaces longer, someplaces it will fail. Someplaces it will probably fail disastrously or be envied and there will be the seeds for the next change.

To me it seems as natural   a cycle as breathing.   Peace, Order and Good Governance - Challenge at the fringes from the disadvantaged and the envious - Empire - Overstretch - Disorder - Reorder - Peace, Order and Good Governance.

It is a cycle as old as forever.   Just because we keep repeating ourselves doesn't mean that it is a futile endeavour to keep trying to impose POGG.   Its just like weeding the garden or polishing boots.   The weeds grow back, the boots get dirty ..... pull the next batch of weeds, polish the boots again.
This time round its the Yanks turn to weed and polish.   Those that want them to succeed would be well advised to assist.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20040911/COTHAKUR11/TPComment

This article was in today's Globe and Mail, it is by Ramesh Thukra, an Indian, Rector at the Tokyo UN University.

I thought this paragraph was revealing.


They came to deliver us from local tyrants and stayed to rule as foreign despots. In the name of enlightenment, they defiled our lands, plundered our resources and expanded their empires. Some, like the rapacious Belgians in Congo, left only ruin, devastation and chaos whose dark shadows continue to blight. Others, like the British in India, left behind ideas, ideals and structures of good governance and the infrastructure of development alongside memories of national humiliation.

While most lefties tend to see Imperialism in "Belgian" terms, many conservatives, myself amongst them tend to see it in "British" terms.   What I found most interesting was the line
the British in India, left behind ideas, ideals and structures of good governance and the infrastructure of development alongside memories of national humiliation
.

Why the humiliation?   Because it can undermine a man, or woman, to be helped - to realize that they were not capable of getting the job done themselves, especially when it involves strangers from far away places.

No end in sight, but it has to be done, keep polishing........

Gawd that's depressing.



 

Kirkhill

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By the way devil, just read Wells'review of Ferguson.

Suffice to say, I am a fan of Ferguson and find Wells' characterizations somewhat hyperbolic.   Empire requiring slaughter, rape, pillage and general doses of nastiness.... if that were true then the Belgian empire would have outlasted the Brits and their "liberal" empire.

POGG requires effort.   Empire is the application of POGG over an ever increasing geographic territory, and then large amounts of maintenance.   Eventually the Empire runs out of funds, bodies or interest and it collapses.   And apparently precious little thanks.....

On the other hand

I feel that Revolutions, which are the overthrow of the established order and the ultimate demise of POGG going wrong, are products not of the masses but of the people in the board room aspiring to the top chair.  

Strangely when the Brits went into Basra many of the locals called them "Uncle" (in some cases it may have been true rather than an honorific) because, despite the various rebellions many of the underclasses had fonder memories of the Brits than their subsequent indigent rulers.   I have heard similar sentiments expressed by former "colonials" currently residing in Canada.   In fact for some the ultimate problem they had with the Brits was not that they "invaded", but that they left.

Wells doesn't quite see things that way.

Having said all of the above, I think that Empire as a concept is a neutral concept.   In execution it can be positive, benign or disastrous, but it always takes work.   And as everybody knows, work is tiring and often unrewarding and unappreciated.

If one man's terrorist is another man's freedom-fighter, one man's Empire is another man's Government.
 

devil39

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Kirkhill,

I would agree that Empire should be viewed as a neutral concept with the potential to be positive or negative.   Ferguson argues that the US should admit their "Empire" and concentrate on executing it as a positive force.   He argues that in order for America to be a positive force they will have to stay the course where they intervene.   Japan, Germany, Puerto Rico and Hawaii are positive examples where the US has stayed the course.   Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua and the Phillippines are examples of the US attention deficit disorder towards Empire and the consequent inability of those countries to prosper, or at least to achieve their full potential.

Ferguson argues that the US suffers from 3 deficits that have to date limited its success as an empire in comparison to the British empire.

1.   Economic deficit.   The US has become the worlds biggest debtor since 1985

2.   Manpower deficit.   The US military is chronically short of troops and civil administrators to stay the course with its current commitments, let alone taking on new ones.  

3.   Attention deficit.   He feels this is the most difficult to overcome and as we discuss it now the US is in danger of prematurely halting the reconstruction   of Iraq and Afghanistan.

I would think that the US should be able to continue to intervene internationally when required, provided the long term benefits of intervention are realized through the long term commitment toward regeneration.  


 

Kirkhill

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Ferguson argues that the US suffers from 3 deficits that have to date limited its success as an empire in comparison to the British empire.

1.  Economic deficit.  The US has become the worlds biggest debtor since 1985

2.  Manpower deficit.  The US military is chronically short of troops and civil administrators to stay the course with its current commitments, let alone taking on new ones. 

3.  Attention deficit.  He feels this is the most difficult to overcome and as we discuss it now the US is in danger of prematurely halting the reconstruction  of Iraq and Afghanistan.

I would think that the US should be able to continue to intervene internationally when required, provided the long term benefits of intervention are realized through the long term commitment toward regeneration. 


devil39, sorry it took so long to get back to this topic - been giving it some thought (just as well you can't smell smoke on these things).

Of the three deficits I was trying to figure out which one I thought was most important, economic, manpower or attention.  I couldn't.  They are all intertwined. 

No money. Can't afford to hire Americans to fight overseas. Americans die the sacrifice makes people want to get out of there - Attention deficit essentially - reward not worth the sacrifice.

Then it occured to me that maybe the two of us Ferguson and myself, can't speak for you, are seeing it wrong.  Maybe we are looking at a Public Empire rather than a Private Empire.

The British Empire that I most commonly associate with is the Late Victorian, Edwardian Empire that finally died out in the 1960's - characterized by military looking civil servants, the District Commissioner Wallah in shorts, knee-socks, solar topee and Sam Browne belt. An employee of the state running a department in a vast Crown Corporation.  Supplying Peace Order and Good Government and filling the coffers of Her Majesty's Government.

But if the Americans have an Empire, and I stipulate they do, their Empire doesn't look anything like the British Empire.  No government chappies in pith helmets lounging at Raffles.  But if they don't have the government chap, what is his counterpart?  I think the counterpart is the Harvard educated consultant with an MBA.

I think that the American Empire is a Private, for Profit Corporation rather than a Crown Corporation.  If it has a British analogy it is the British Empire before the Sepoy Mutiny in India in 1857.  That was when the Reformers, with the best interests of the natives at heart, took over the Empire from the various private corporations that were running it.

If we look at Iraq in that sense what do we see.

Suppose the following:

Step one - spend as few american dollars on manpower as possible, hire local soldiers and police with Americans as Stiffeners and Trainers (think East India Company, Skinners Horse, Gurkhas and the Indian Army).  So far a very British solution.

Step two, and this is the American solution, rather than sending out civil servants on the US government payroll, send out consultants to be paid by the Iraqis.  This has the added benefit of not just reducing the draw on American coffers but actually swelling them as Iraqis pay Americans.  Making headway on deficit number one, the economic deficit.

Step three - encourage Americans to do business in Iraq. 

Now some will argue that the security climate in Iraq doesn't allow for investment.  If you are thinking in terms of investment bankers and Wall Street you would be right.  But there is another kind of American - the kind that Sheila Copps sees in her nightmares.  The kind I had a lot of experience with in the fishing industry in Alaska.

These essentially are the cowboys and the gamblers.  People that will take any risk if there is a prospect of a dollar at the bottom.  Risk being capsized on an iced-up crabber in the Bering in return for $100,000 paychech for 4 weeks of hard work and sleepless nights? No problem.  Risk being shot or blown up for a similar paycheque driving truck, putting up cell towers, repairing oil wells, running construction companies?  They are queueing up.  The prospect of low taxes, few lawmen, no speed limits, SUVs and your own personal sidearm do not constitute deterrents.

They may not be John Kerry's, or Jacques Chirac's, cup of tea but they represent a well known side of America.  And when the go they take with them Hollywood and Britney Spears, Coca Cola and Budweiser, Levis and Nikes,  and they also take with them an awful lot more egalitarian view of the world than the locals have, even if a good chunk of them could be fairly described by the PC set as racists and chauvinists.

So looking at the three deficits again, starting with the bottom first,

Solve the attention deficit by getting their attention - show them how they can make a dollar

Solve the manpower problem by keeping the government out of it , privatize commercial enterprises and nationalize security

Solve the economic deficit by decreasing government expenditures and increasing revenues by selling what you know best, for the Americans that is "knowledge".


The American Empire got this far on the backs of Coca-Cola and Hollywood, perhaps they, Morgan-Stanley and Blackwater can take them on from here.

Oh by the way getting back onto the track of this thread, it seems while the Syrians are still talking a good game for there domestic population, there seems to be a move to start back-pedalling:

http://washingtontimes.com/commentary/20040923-084644-8505r.htm
 

devil39

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Kirkhill,

With respect to the private/economic empire, it has been argued and likely is a fact of life.   In the long run, I don't believe that there is the strength of character and/or incentive to make the contracted consultant stay the course when absolutely required.   Nor the promise to support him militarily when absolutely required.   This is a feasible course of action however, and may in the long run lead to a more institutional type of empire in a more acceptable, gradual nature.

From a military perspective, it will be harder and harder each year to recreate the imperial force that commanded respect in the height of the British Empire.   That kind of discipline cannot be imposed upon less willing subjects in this day and age.   Todays "stiffeners" must come with PGMs, Javelins and the "Deus ex machina" that only the US Military can provide.   This is possible, and the early campaign in Afghanistan provided a very good example of how money and modern munitions could motivate the friendlies and dissuade the bad guys.   This will only go so far however as the operation in Tora Bora has been suggested to prove.

The British Empire was primarily and initially about commerce, the real management came afterward as a sense of duty and responsibility.

Robert D. Kaplan's "The Man Who Would Be Khan", and "Supremacy By Stealth" are good depictions of where the US might find its bureaucrats, governors and managers, perhaps todays equivalents of the colonial administrator.   Kaplan suggests that it is the US Miliitary that will provide this class of committed, well educated and multi-talented individuals.   Individuals who accept deployment as a cost of doing business and are satisfied with promotion, an elevated social status externally, and the equivalent of the OBE to hang from their black tie at the end of their days.



 

PPCLI Guy

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Ferguson argues that the US suffers from 3 deficits that have to date limited its success as an empire in comparison to the British empire.

1.  Economic deficit.  The US has become the worlds biggest debtor since 1985

2.  Manpower deficit.  The US military is chronically short of troops and civil administrators to stay the course with its current commitments, let alone taking on new ones. 

3.  Attention deficit.  He feels this is the most difficult to overcome and as we discuss it now the US is in danger of prematurely halting the reconstruction  of Iraq and Afghanistan.


And of course the neoliberal would add a moral deficit.
 

devil39

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PPCLI Guy said:
Ferguson argues that the US suffers from 3 deficits that have to date limited its success as an empire in comparison to the British empire.

1.   Economic deficit.   The US has become the worlds biggest debtor since 1985

2.   Manpower deficit.   The US military is chronically short of troops and civil administrators to stay the course with its current commitments, let alone taking on new ones.  

3.   Attention deficit.   He feels this is the most difficult to overcome and as we discuss it now the US is in danger of prematurely halting the reconstruction   of Iraq and Afghanistan.


And of course the neoliberal would add a moral deficit.

Of course.  

But you and I have frequently agreed to disagree on most subjects of this nature.

The US moral deficit is considerably less prevalent in my opinion than that of most, if not all, nations in history who have wielded the sort of power that the US currently is capable of.   I believe that history will confirm this eventually, perhaps long after you or I are capable of lucid comment (you will succumb before me, therefore I should likely have the last word!).   :   )
 

PPCLI Guy

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devil39 said:
Of course.  

But you and I have frequently agreed to disagree on most subjects of this nature.

I think that I would actually be dissapointed if we ever did agree.

The US moral deficit is considerably less prevalent in my opinion than that of most, if not all, nations in history who have wielded the sort of power that the US currently is capable of.   I believe that history will confirm this eventually, perhaps long after you or I are capable of lucid comment (you will succumb before me, therefore I should likely have the last word!).   :   )

Fair enough.   My observation was more Caligula-esque than Bush-esque.   I was drawing a parallel, rather than siding with the neo-liberals.

As to our respective capacities for lucid comment - of course I will succumb before you.   I have been lucid for many more years than you...including most of the last 15. :)
 

Acorn

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So, I have to ask: does the existence of "neo-conservatives" require the creation of "neo-liberals?"

Acorn
 

Acorn

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And to bring things back to Syria:

My take is that the vast majority of current commentators on Syria haven't a clue. But maybe my opinion is clouded by many years of physical experience in the region.

Acorn
 
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