-- Paul Simon --
There he goes again.
CNN furnished the headline for this post. No words better describe what happened in last week´s encounter of world leaders at the United Nations.
Putin once more outfoxed Washington. That means, he outfoxed America.
What, exactly, was the thunder Putin stole? CNN didn´t spell it out.
The issue at stake was the Syrian crisis in general, what to do about ISIS in particular. Let´s look briefly at the conflicting policies of Moscow and Washington.
Moscow´s policy is straight-forward. It seeks to support the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which requires defeating al-Assad opponents, among them ISIS. To the contrary, Washington seeks to defeat al-Assad as a means to defeat ISIS.
Beyond that point, American policy gets murky, milky ...
Washington has a plethora of unofficial-official spokesmen. Among them is mainstream reporter Peter Bergen at CNN. I can´t find anything he has said or done that challenged in any significant way, shape or form the White House, CIA or Pentagon.
Talk about ties that blind: if you Google search "Peter Bergen and The Rand Corporation," numerous articles will appear. Rand Corporation = CIA.
The latest D.C. establishment thinking is displayed in Bergen´s article, "How to Defeat ISIS: 10 ideas." To wit:
Have defectors tell their stories; amplify voices of ISIS opposition groups; amplify the work of former jihadists; support the work of anti-ISIS clerics; pressure social media companies; applaud the Turks; provide off ramps for young jihadists; educate Muslim parents; hammer home the message...
Softball, Dr. Feelgood, lite n´ lively effusions. I say that because ISIS will never be defeated by any of those means separately or collectively, but by bullets.
Bergen halfway refers to that truth in one of the ten ideas: keep up the military campaign against ISIS. Halfway, because keeping up a military campaign does not automatically lead to defeating an enemy, as the war in Vietnam showed.
Sorry, Bergen et al: persistence is not enough to beat ISIS.
What, then, is enough?
It is nowhere among the ten ideas offered by the CIA/Bergen/White House/American mass media/Pentagon. Those ideas are to the anti-ISIS fight what the saccharin sounds of Kenny G are to music.
* * *
We must join forces to...create a genuinely broad coalition
against terrorism. Similar to the anti-Hitler coalition,
it would unite a broad range of forces that are willing
to resolutely resist those who just like the Nazis
sow evil and hatred of mankind.
-- Vladimir Putin, Speech to the UN, September 28, 2015 --
A worldwide coalition against ISIS: that is the thunder Putin stole. That coalition is the way to beat ISIS.
Just as important as what Putin did, though, is how he did it.
Skilled politicians practice an economy of maneuvers. Each move they make serves more than one purpose. That skill is born of and honed by no game theory book or silly-priced consultant, but by experiencing weakness. Maneuvering by the powerless is limited, hence, each move must do double and triple duty.
Normally, the requisite weakness entails long-term hardship and colossal suffering that America has yet to experience. Russia learned how to economize political moves while under the yoke of the Mongols. The Golden Horde ruled and raped Russia for over 200 years.
Putin´s UN speech contained a vintage example of economy of maneuvers. Here is his remark that immediately preceded the proposal of an anti-Nazi coalition:
"In 1945, the countries that defeated Nazism joined their efforts to lay solid foundations for the postwar world order.
But I remind you that the key decisions on the principles guiding the cooperation among states, as well as on the establishment of the United Nations, were made in our country, in Yalta, at the meeting of the anti-Hitler coalition leaders."
(i) Putin lifted the idea of a broad anti-ISIS coalition out of the realm of abstraction. Had the equivalent anti-Nazi alliance never existed, the UN members would not be sitting right now in the room listening to his speech. No Dr. Feelgood pablum involved.
(ii) In 1945, Yalta Crimea was in the Soviet Union. By mentioning in one breath (i) the Yalta Conference and (ii) Yalta is in his world, Putin makes an inference: the proposal of a broad anti-ISIS coalition has a very real, historical underpinning in his country. He has come a long way in appropriating the proposal for himself.
I need to stress that, like the tyranny of The Golden Horde, World War II is crucial to Russian identity. I lived in Moscow in 1994. Unlike the U.S., when it comes to World War II for Russians it was not over when it was over. The past is definitely not past: in one form or another, you are reminded every day of what they call "The Great Patriotic War."
The reason is not hard to find. In WW II, the Soviet Union lost the most people, 25 million, versus 418,500 for the United States.
(iii) In 2014, Crimea was the scene of conflict between Russia and Ukraine. First, because Russia took back Crimea, Putin can now associate himself more directly with the Yalta Conference/anti-Nazi alliance. Second, he simultaneously replaced one issue -- the on-going Russia/Ukraine conflict -- with another -- a broad coalition to defeat ISIS. Third, his substitution of issues dulled the point of the present U.S.-led coalition against Russia for annexing Crimea. The latter coalition is summarily placed on the back burner.
The UN has its roots in Russia. Therefore, "You/the UN = me." The WW II anti-Nazi alliance = Yalta/Russia. The anti-Nazi alliance= anti-ISIS coalition = Russia. Anti-Russia = anti-UN. Anti-Russia = pro-ISIS.
Around and around we go. A myriad of identifications, inferences, innuendos, and associations was made in three short paragraphs. Every one of them works to Putin´s advantage.
If that is not an economy of moves, what is?
* * *
At the end of the day, why is the proposal of a broad anti-ISIS coalition thunderous?
To understand why Putin beat America to the punch, we need to look at the root of his presentation: the World War II anti-Nazi alliance.
Our post of September 12, 2014, "ISIS: Winston Churchill Speaks," presented Churchill´s way to beat ISIS:
"Churchill despised the Russian government as much as he despised Hitler. That moral equation made inevitable an ethical dilemma whenever -- and it was only a matter of time -- Hitler attacked Russia.
Here is Churchill´s take on things in a June 22, 1941 radio broadcast hours after Nazi troops invaded Russia:
¨The Nazi regime is indistinguishable from the worst features of Communism. It is devoid of all theme and principle except appetite and racial domination. It excels in all forms of human wickedness, in the efficiency of its cruelty and ferocious aggression. No one has been a more consistent opponent of Communism than I have for the last twenty-five years. I will unsay no words that I've spoken about it. But all this fades away before the spectacle which is now unfolding...
We have but one aim and one single irrevocable purpose. We are resolved to destroy Hitler and every vestige of the Nazi regime. From this nothing will turn us. Nothing. We will never parley; we will never negotiate with Hitler or any of his gang. We shall fight him by land; we shall fight him by sea; we shall fight him in the air, until, with God's help, we have rid the earth of his shadow and liberated its people from his yoke.
Any man or State who fights against Nazism will have our aid. Any man or State who marches with Hitler is our foe. This applies not only to organized States but to all representatives of that vile race of Quislings who make themselves the tools and agents of the Nazi regime against their fellow-countrymen and against the lands of their births. These Quislings, like the Nazi leaders themselves, if not disposed of by their fellow-countrymen, which would save trouble, will be delivered by us on the morrow of victory to the justice of the Allied tribunals. That is our policy and that is our declaration.´
Churchill´s solution is as obvious as it is overlooked by Obama. To wit:
Any man or state that fights ISIS is our friend. Yes, that includes Iran and Syria. To be sure, they do things I personally disapprove of; I am sure they would say the same thing about me (you, too, dear reader) -- but all this fades away before the spectacle which is now unfolding.
White House, CIA, SIS, State Department, Pentagon, Secret Service and war profiteers everywhere: sorry, but Churchill´s solution does not stop at Syria and Iran.
If Cuba and North Korea want to join in the fight against ISIS, welcome ... Ditto Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Russia Ukrainian rebels ... Russia? China? -- but of course. Everyone, anyone, everywhere is welcome who has something to contribute in the war against ISIS.
We have but one aim and one single irrevocable purpose. We are resolved to destroy ISIS-head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and every vestige of ISIS.
A Churchillian World Against ISIS would set an unparalleled precedent. World history would record that a lesson finally, really, actually had been learned from world history.
There is something else the World Against ISIS would do.
Everywhere you look, the New World Order is the Old World Disorder. A dead puppet show. By having all people and governments united against ISIS, long-suppressed, desperately-needed radical realignments of nations and groups would stir, take form.
Who knows where co-operating with others will lead? Certainly not Henry Kissinger who a few days ago pontificated that Iran ´was a bigger problem than ISIS.´ The dead hand of the dead puppet keeps playing.
FDR practiced Churchill´s all-inclusive policy. Among others, Ho Chi Minh, whom Kissinger fought tooth and nail (and lost), had been a steadfast American ally against the Japanese.
We give the last word not to Obama or Kissinger, not to Bush or the Carlyle Group or to any other person or entity which, as a result of arms profits or other financial interests, is preventing the formation of a Churchillian World Against ISIS. Instead, we give it to a genuine statesman:
Hitler and his Nazi gang have sown the wind.
Now let them reap the whirlwind.
-- Winston Churchill, December 30, 1941 -- "
Out subsequent post of September 25, 2014, "The Syrian Crisis: Churchill and Machiavelli Speak" developed the idea of a global alliance against ISIS. Next, our post of May 30, 2015, "How to Destroy ISIS in Two Weeks," spelled out the idea in specific, concrete terms:
"You, dear reader, surely think our headline "How To Destroy ISIS in Two Weeks" is at best an exaggeration. You are right. Nobody can destroy ISIS in two weeks -- with one exception: ISIS. No group lacks the power to defeat itself.
Here´s how to accomplish it:
The White House makes this announcement:
´U.S. to send 30,000 ground troops to Iraq and Syria.´
ISIS jumps for joy. 30,000? The proverbial drop in the bucket. Another slack-jawed error by Pentagon knuckle-draggers. We´ll hand all 30,000 soldiers their heads in a basket!
But wait ... there´s more in the announcement ...
The 30,000 U.S. soldiers will be accompanied by 30,000 soldiers from North Korea. 30,000 from South Korea, too.
30,000 from India. 30,000 from Pakistan.
30,000 from China. 30,000 from Vietnam.
30,000 from Russia. 30,000 from Ukraine.
30,000 from Germany. 30,000 from France.
30,000 from Cuba.
30,000 from the United Kingdom. 30,000 from Argentina.
30,000 from Saudi Arabia. 30,000 from Iran.
30,000 from Algeria. 30,000 from Brazil.
30,000 from South Africa. 30,000 from Turkey.
30,000 from Indonesia. 30,000 from Syria.
30,000 from Venezuela 30,000 from Egypt.
30,000 from Canada. 30,000 from Angola.
Any and all countries are invited to join the IAAI -- International Alliance Against ISIS. Food, uniforms, medical aid, fuel, transportation: each member contributes what it can to what is needed.
That type of international alliance is as straightforward as it is well-known. The best part of it is, unlike what Washington is doing today, it will work ...
Continuing our IAAI scenario:
Preparations are made for the biggest D-Day in world history. Logistics are worked out; assignments are given. War exercises and simulations begin.
IAAI soldiers start to pack. Their transport by land, sea, and air is arranged.
The threat to ISIS posed by the world community is not a threat; it is a prediction ...
The secret inner essence of ISIS is that of any militia or secret society: it is mostly a state of mind. Looking out for Number 1, ISIS folds up its tent. Two weeks maximum.
Anybody who doubts that outcome does not understand the men running ISIS. They are middle class rebels. They hear a clarion call:
The whole world is coming with seven league boots; it´s over.
Enantiodromia occurs. ISIS bravado and fanaticism turn on a dime and metamorphose into their opposites. ISIS leaders vanish into the night. Without them, the lumpenrproletariat gangstas who are ISIS foot soldiers are hopelessly lost. Mind-wobbling panic surges, takes control. It is their turn to cut and run for their lives.
Sound impossible? It is."
Our post went on to discuss why an IAAI will not be formed under prevailing circumstances:
"The oligarchy sitting atop The Old World Disorder will not let the IAAI happen. The mega-rich are the sole sector of the great big dysfunctional world family which is benefiting from things as they are. No change allowed.
As for what the oligarchy wants, click here for this month´s report of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Its central conclusion:
´The gap between rich and poor keeps widening. Growth, if any, has disproportionally benefited higher income groups while lower income households have been left behind. This long-run increase in income inequality not only raises social and political concerns, but also economic ones. It tends to drag down GDP growth, due to the rising distance of the lower 40% from the rest of society. Lower income people have been prevented from realising their human capital potential, which is bad for the economy as a whole.´
One of the OECD authors elaborated:
´It's not just income that we're seeing being very concentrated - you look at wealth and you find that the bottom 40% of the population in rich countries have only 3% of household wealth whereas the top 10% have over half of household wealth.´ ...
Heads we win; tails you lose: that is the oligarchy´s favorite game. Maybe it´s time for the IAAI to form and get rid of the coin -- to stay awhile and take on other projects."
Above and beyond the iron grip of the oligarchy, there are other reasons for cautioning against undue optimism regarding the creation of the IAAI.
(i) Putin said he favors the creation of an anti-ISIS coalition similar to the anti-Nazi one formed in World War II. It remains to be seen how he defines two words: coalition (versus alliance) and similar.
Our one and only qualifier is Churchill´s. Any man or State who fights against ISIS will have our aid. Any man or State who marches with ISIS is our foe. In other words, the IAAI would be all-inclusive. Period.
(ii) As of today, Putin´s proposal is only a proposal. Words.
* * *
I anticipate two observations by readers.
(i) No doubt there will be allegations that Putin "stole" the idea of a broad anti-ISIS coalition from us.
True, this blog receives many visitors from Russia. However, while everything is possible, not everything is probable.
I disagree with the allegation for three reasons:
(i) First and foremost, it is impossible to steal something that is a gift. We will say it again: what is offered here is for everyone. No nation is favorably seeded; no politician or party is given a bye. The United States, Russia, China, Brazil, Romania, South Africa, Afghanistan, Indonesia, England, Iraq, Japan, France, Australia: we receive visitors from around the world. To anyone who takes the IAAI concept and runs with it, we give them our full support.
(ii) As we stressed above, the modern-day formulation of an inclusive world alliance belongs not to us but to Winston Churchill. With the IAAI, we adapted Churchill´s idea to existing realities.
(iii) As we also showed above, there are historical reasons to believe that Russia would have a sensitivity and inclination toward a broad World War II-style, anti-ISIS coalition.
Finally, as for Obama having his thunder stolen:
For over a year, Obama had as much access to our IAAI proposal as everyone else. The United States, India, Russia, China, France, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia: the whole world working together. With an afternoon of telephone calls and the stroke of a pen, Obama could have set it in motion. Instead, he sat on his hands.
Last night, while watching videos of Russian jets bomb targets in Syria, Churchillian words came to mind:
He sowed the wind; now let him reap the whirlwind.