Friday, November 13, 2015

The Secret to Failure

The No-Fly Zone: “From the start, our goal has been first to contain, and we have contained them.” President Barack Obama

And from the start this was the goal in Syria as well, that is, to contain the conflict. At one point the administration really thought that it had succeeded in doing so. The result of this delusional approach: Syria’s “contained” conflict has somehow managed to: 1) facilitate the reemergence of an old regional empire (Iran) as well as a recently deceased one (Russia); 2) reinvigorate a dying terrorist organization (IS/Daesh) allowing it to regenerate and metastasize into a global threat (the very threat that Obama had declared contained hours before the Paris terrorist attacks); and 3) create a major refugee problem on a scale not seen since the end of WWII, which is currently threatening the stability of Europe!!!

It’s time we dispensed with this dangerous and deadly myth of “conflict containment.” We live in a hyper globalized world where the operations of death cults and their unity is more a matter of ethos than organizational structure, and where the requisite tactical and logistical knowhow is available literally at one’s fingertips. Containment in these circumstances is well-nigh impossible, and the only viable strategy for combatting this phenomenon is the adoption of a long-term plan that seeks to tackle the root causes involved: autocracy, corruption and underdevelopment.

There are also problems that need to be tackled within the confines of all existing democracies, including development of ghettoes, better integration and inclusion policies for migrants and combatting domestic racism. The Paris attackers are almost certainly young unemployed and angry children of Muslim immigrants living in the banlieues, the suburban low-income housing projects that sprang around Paris since the 1970s.

In the meantime, the Responsibility to Protect should be invoked and deployed as often as needed in order to prevent or halt ongoing mass slaughter. There should be no room in this world for people like Bashar al-Assad. Strong leadership by the U.S. and EU can convince the Russians, the Iranians and the Chinese of the need to move beyond reliance on such maniacal figures and regimes to secure their interests. The upcoming G-20 Summit should be used to tackle this thorny issue of linkage between the behavior of certain authoritarian regimes and the threat of global terrorism. But I hold little hope or delusions in this regard. None of the leaders involved seems to have the necessary moral fiber and vision to make a serious appeal in this regard.

But what is even more terrifying is the prospects of witnessing people like the leaders of Russia and China, and perhaps even India, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina, actually pushing for the reverse proposition: that is, for the necessity of relying on people like Assad in the fight against IS/Daesh and other death cults.

Bleaker still is the prospect for blaming refugees, and adopting even more stringent policies towards their integration, thus, creating even more problems for the future, and radicalizing people who are simply looking for the security and liberty that they could not find at home, and who would have preferred to find it there, if only the powers-that-be in this world chose to help rather than wring their hands.

On an even bleaker note, attacks like the one that took place in Paris, and mass slaughter like the one we continue to witness in Syria might just represent the tip of the iceberg of what is bound to come next as a result of our moral cowardice today. And the innocent will continue to suffer, while hatemongers thrive.


It’s significant to note here as well that the policy of containment comes only after an ill-considered policy of haphazard intervention failed. In Syria, it came after President Obama announced that Assad must go, then, doing nothing to make this outcome possible. In relation to IS/Daesh, it came a year after a policy to “degrade and ultimately destroy” IS seems to have failed, largely due to the Obama Administration’s unwillingness to devote the necessary human and material resources to see it through.

The point: failure is the destiny of those who are unable or unwilling to follow through on their promises and declarations, to make serious commitment to the cause they claimed to be championing, and to match their actions to their rhetoric, and vice versa. Obama set goals, drew red lines and made promises, then, he repeatedly failed to adopt the right actions needed to achieve, enforce and fulfill them. His is a failure to lead on a mass-scale.

In regard to the Paris Attacks, and barring the unlikely revelation that they were actually carried out by a non-Islamist group, there is an urgent need, now more than ever, for France to match its actions to rhetoric and show the necessary moral leadership in regard both to the Syria Conflict and the Refugee Crisis. Should the G-20 Summit and the upcoming Vienna meetings end without agreement on a plan for Syria that promises to rid us both of Assad and IS/Daesh, France should probably call on NATO to take charge of the situation and enforce its own plan in this regard, despite the inherent risks stemming mostly out of Russia’s presence along the Syrian coast.

I do not expect this course of action, but I advocate it while fully aware of the costs and risks involved. Waiting will decrease neither cost nor risk; on the contrary, it will only serve to increase them, exponentially.

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