Friday, July 21, 2017

Trump, Russia, and Syria

Putin and Trump at a recent meeting in Europe
It seems that Trump is going to reverse the U.S. policy of supporting the so called Free Syrian Army. The Washington Post Reports: 
President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad. 
This was the strategy of the Obama Administration whose goals were to both destroy ISIS and oust Assad. While oustig Assad was is a worthy goal, I never had any confidence in it.

First, those rebels were a very small group with little chance of succeeding in a fight against both ISIS and Assad. 

Second Perhaps more importantly – looking at Iraq – it was clearly a mistake to  oust Saddam Hussein and replace it with a democratic government. That hornet’s nest should have been left alone, despite the fact that Hussein was an enemy of Israel, a butcher and mass murderer of his own people. 

While it’s hard to justify leaving someone like that in power, there is little doubt that ISIS would never have had any success in trying to overthrow him and take over. They took over relatively easily once he was overthrown by America military might and replaced with Iraq’s version of a democracy. 

When the ‘Arab Spring’ eventually migrated to Syria, all hell broke loose. Assad was not going to give up power so easily. And that has caused a civil was lasting over 6 years so far – with no end in sight. That created an opportunity for ISIS to move in and take over. Which they did in some very key cities like Raqqa. They are still there.

Assad is not very different from Hussein. He too is an enemy of Israel, a butcher, and mass murderer of his own people. There is no honor in supporting him. And yet, I feel nostalgia for the time when there was relative peace and prosperity in that country under his rule. There were no refugees fleeing the country then. Unless they were critical of the Assad regime, most Syrians were able to lead their lives in peace, prosperity, and relative freedom. This does not justify supporting him. But it may argue against trying to topple him as a secondary goal in conjunction with toppling ISIS. 

This seems to be the thinking of Russia’s Putin. He has openly supported Assad as the legitimate government of Syria. As such he opposed the rebel army from the start. Russia was there to fight them as much as they were to fight ISIS. Which was of course at odds with American policy under Obama. This understandably increased friction between Russia and the US.

In an ironic reversal of roles, Democrats vilifying Russia more than Republicans are these days. So the President siding with Russia is characterized as almost treasonous. (Funny how they used to want to 'reset' the relationship with them under Obama. Now they are painting Russia (the USSR at the time) the way Reagan did during the cold war as ‘the evil empire’!) Republicans on the other hand seem rather subdued about the whole matter. Along comes Trump and stops rebel support. Seeming to now side with Putin.  

There is not a question in my mind that Democrats will spin every move Trump makes into an impeachable offense and will spin everything Trump says into something nefarious or even treasonous. 

All one has to do is look at Democrat and camera hog, Adam Schiff to see that. To him, Trump is guilty until proven innocent (although he pretends it’s the reverse). To Democrats it is obvious that Trump colluded with ‘the evil empire’ to sway the election his way. They are constantly saying that all the evidence point to that, even as they admit that nothing is proven yet. 

As someone who voted against Trump and sill thinks he is an embarrassment to the country and wishes he would resign, I still try to be objective about this. In my view, nothing happened along those lines. Trump and company did nothing impeachable. I do believe that there were Russian hackers that tried to influence the election, and that Putin approved of it. But I do not believe he necessarily ordered it. He found out it was being done and thought it was great. 

I also believe that all those meeting with Russian officials by Trump’s people were not a planned attempt to collude with them in order to illegally defeat his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Surely they can’t be blamed for trying to get dirt on his opponent from any source they could. ‘Politics’ is dirty! That’s how the game of politics is played these days. So if a Russian official comes along and offers you some dirt, why would you ignore it? Would Clinton have turned down dirt on Trump if it was offered by anyone - no matter the source?! (Not that she needed any help. Trump did a good job of providing her with dirt all by himself. But it didn't help her and is beside the point anyway).

(Democrats keep insisting (or at least hoping) that evidence will be discovered that will result in impeachment and then removal from office.  Evidence that Trump and company were trying to throw the election.  But I don’t think it is going to happen. I believe that the investigation led by former FBI director Robert Mueller is going to find exactly nothing that is even near impeachable.) 

Now Democrats have yet another piece of evidence that Trump is colluding with the Russians. By cutting off US aid to the pro democrat rebels in Syria they accuse the President of colluding with the Russians again by signing off on Putin’s support of Assad. If you are blinded by Trump hatred, that is exactly how you will see things. Especially after that undisclosed second meeting between Trump and Putin that was not originally reported.

But as I indicated, I don’t think stopping US aid to a group that has no chance of winning a war against ISIS or Assad is such a bad move. If the priority is ISIS, there is no gain by diverting funds and attention to deposing Assad.

The truth is that Syria is such a mess, it’s hard to know what the right course of action is. It is so complicated that no matter where you turn,  there are positives and negatives for the US and Israel. 

Let us look at priorities.  ISIS is number 1. They have to be destroyed. Although they will still be able to create havoc in the world by inspiring naive young people to join them in their fight against evil (or whatever they're selling  to gain followers to their cause). Iran is Israel's biggest threat, and yet they are on the same side against ISIS. Assad is a butcher, but he too is on the side of fighting ISIS.

As noted the rebels army is not much of an army. They may be democrats (small d) but they are small in number. Not sure they could win even with our support. And even if they did, they will surely be overwhelmed by the Jihadists that are  sure to follow which is what happened in Iraq. Meanwhile they are on the same side as ISIS with respect to overthrowing Assad.

As noted, Assad is a dictator and butcher. But if he is put back in power, Syria could return to some semblance of tranquility. Which is what they had before the current revolution. Remember, there were no refugees from Syria before that. Even Israel was relatively safe from attack by them based on decades of experience under Bashar and his father, Hafez.

I don't like the idea of rewarding a butcher like Assad by giving him back his country. But from where I stand, it is the least of all evils.

Truth is that I am far from an expert on any of these issues. I’m just thinking out loud.