Bayard 2016 — Your “I’m Not Them” Candidate

“America” is not a location. It is the unique ideal that government must answer to the people and not the other way around. Americans are not born. Rather, America itself is born anew with each generation that embraces that ideal and shoulders the responsibility for self-governance. Therefore, as a responsible American . . .

I’ll Do It. I’ll Run for President.

MyPhotos Piper Signing FIRELANDS at TFOB

Your Next Commander in Chief, Piper Bayard

I don’t know about you folks, but I’m pretty disappointed in the current presidential frontrunners.

 

Meme 2015 Clinton our lady of perpetual revision

vs.

Meme 2015 Trump like obamacare specifics

It’s always been my contention that if you’re going to complain about how someone does their job, then you’d better be ready to get off your duff and do it yourself. So I will. Yes. I’ll run for president.

Know up front that I refuse to affiliate with any political party. Ultimately, they are all more loyal to themselves than to the American people. The only party I will be a part of as your president is the Inaugural Ball. And since I am a dancer, I would be happy to provide the entertainment for that event in order to save you, the taxpayers, money.

 

MyPhotos 2014 Piper close up Bolder Boulder

Piper in Inaugural Ball attire.

 

As for my campaign, I am not asking for your money. I’m guessing in this economy, you need it. So how will I run? Social media. If Facebook and Twitter can make Betty White an icon among today’s teenagers, it can get me to the White House.

Also, as your president, I won’t spend your millions on my family vacations, and I will continue to shop the clearance sales at Eddie Bauer and Dillard’s. I won’t even take the silver and furniture from the White House with me when I leave. That’s been done.

 

Clinton china with calligraphy menu. Wikimedia commons, public domain.

Clinton china with calligraphy menu.
Wikimedia commons, public domain.

 

Along those lines, I will also not redecorate the White House with your money — unless I find some gaudy animal print lurking in an obscure corner. That will have to go.

The pillars of my platform are personal responsibility, rooting out of corruption, and a good smack upside the head for all whiners who won’t shut up and get busy making this world a better place.

So let’s get the touchy stuff out of the way, shall we?

My ethnicity:

One branch of my family ran another branch of my family down the Trail of Tears, and a third branch married them when they got to the end. That makes my ethnicity unhyphenated American. Check my census form. You’ll find it written there . . . Really.

My gender:

I was born female. I’m still female. I couldn’t care less how anyone else interprets or manages their privates. That’s why they’re called “privates.”

My religion:

Baseball. Baseball is a forward-looking religion with no dogma and lots of hope. We adherents know that, with the last swing of the bat at the end of the season, spring training is just around the corner. People of all faiths are welcome at baseball games as long as they behave and treat their neighbors with respect. If they don’t behave, they will be relocated near the bullpen to be used as targets for pitcher warmups.

 

Yankee Stadium, the Cathedral of my Order. Image by cdelo9032, wikimedia commons.

Yankee Stadium, the Cathedral of my Order.
Image by cdelo9032, wikimedia commons.

My past:

Yes. I have one. It is extensive and colorful. I learned a great deal because the person who is the same at 52 as they are at 22 has wasted 30 years. I’ve made exceptional use of my time. Keep in mind that great things grow in dirt and manure.

As an added bonus, I’m happy to provide you with any and all birth certificates, school records, and fake IDs.

And no, I’ve never kept a private server. But don’t worry. The NSA provides government personnel with cool high tech phones that not only come with effective encryption, but also with a feature that lets you switch back and forth between government and private business in mere seconds.

Snap.

My education:

Yes. I have one of those, too. It ranges from small towns to urban centers, and from the bread and cheese line to law school. In other words, I’ve got both papers and street cred. I’d say “I feel your pain,” but that one’s also been done.

My qualifications:

I am not for sale to banks. I do not borrow money from the Chinese to give to my enemies. My retirement plan is not a Ponzi scheme, and to the best of my knowledge, I have successfully prevented trespassers from living in my home. That puts me ahead of our collective government right there. And no. I have never been president of my local PTA. However, I do manage a successful kingdom on a virtual reality game.

My stand on abortion:

I fully support retroactive abortion for all jihadis and skumbag phone solicitors. However, I favor rehabilitation for any honest phone solicitors who are just trying to make a living like the rest of us.

My stand on gun control:

I am 100% in favor of controlling guns. Aim and make every shot count.

My Vice President:

To save on the Secret Service budget, I will continue the time honored tradition of choosing a vice president who virtually no one would want to see in the Oval Office.

Dick "Darth" Cheney

Dick “Darth” Cheney

 

Joe "The Mouth" Biden

Joe “The Mouth” Biden

 

Best “life insurance policies” any presidents ever had.

Cabinet Appointments:

I don’t give a rat’s touchas about anyone’s race, religion, species, etc. I only care if they are best qualified for the job. I will not sell out my country by pandering to special snowflake organizations and appointing their love children to positions of influence.

My writing partner, “Jay Holmes,” will be my Secretary of Defense. As a 40-year veteran field spook and senior member of the intelligence community, he has the experience and the moxie for the job. And he, like me, loves America more than he loves corporations, power, or money.

 

Image from Amazon, where you, too, can purchase Founding Father action.

Image from Amazon, where you, too, can purchase Founding Father action.

 

Since Holmes can’t be identified, I will stand up a cardboard cutout of George Washington at meetings. Never hurts to have a little Founding Father action in the government process. Holmes will still be in the room, but no one will know if he is the guy in the general’s chair or the guy serving the sandwiches.

Yes. Sandwiches. Refer back to my stand on expenses. They can be paninis, but no steak and lobster bisque at the taxpayers’ expense unless we are hosting foreign dignitaries.

And as for Congress . . .

While I am president, Congress shall make no law that excludes itself. “Leaders” who are not subject to the laws they make are not leaders, they are rulers. There is no place for rulers in America.

Any Representative or Senator who demonstrates behavioral issues stemming from ruler fantasies will be sent to the Slapping Medicine Man.

 

 

As your president, my first and only loyalty will be to you, my fellow Americans. I have no other mission or interest but to strengthen this country and her people. So let’s all come together and prove that America really is still a country by the people, and for the people, and that our presidency does not simply go to the highest bidder. Tweet, blog, Facebook . . . Hey. It happened for Betty White.

You will find my stand on the issues below. I now open the floor to your comments and questions. One at a time, please. No pushing or name calling in the comments, and don’t say anything you can’t say in front of your mother.

Piper for President —

Doesn’t Take Crap. Doesn’t Dish it Out.

My Stand on the Issues

Foreign Policy

For decades, America has been Simba the Lion masquerading as Pumbaa the Warthog in an effort to “win hearts and minds.” No one respects a lion pretending to be a warthog. America is the most powerful nation the world has ever known. We need to own our strength unapologetically and to behave with dignity and integrity. The hearts and minds will follow. America is a lion with claws, teeth, and courage. It is not a dancing, singing, farting warthog.

The Iran Deal

I swore off Bad Boyfriends before I was old enough to vote. I know what I’m looking at . . . “Ah, baby, come on. I didn’t mean anything with that ‘Death to America’ chant.”

Here’s the “Deal,” Iran. No country whose leaders conduct “Death to America” rallies gets a nuke. My “red line” will not be a dull pink smudge.

“The older I get, the more I like cruise missiles.” ~ Jay Holmes

ISIS

Refer to “Foreign Policy” paragraph above. As you have had your way upon the Kurds, Christians, Yazidis, and other, so will Holmes and his ilk have their way with you. While we can never obliterate you and your ilk from the face of the earth any more than we can obliterate human insanity from the collective psyche, we can certainly divest you of your territories and minimize you until even your mother doesn’t remember who you are. There will be no half measures. Holmes is coming for you, and Hell is coming with him.

 

Two Part Long Term Middle East Policy

Part One

Energy. Independence.

July 4 is Independence Day. It isn’t Independence As Long As It’s Convenient Day. As long as we need the Middle East, and oil in general, we will continue to pay for that dependence in blood and billions. We need to develop alternative energy sources to stand on our own two energy feet. Our blood and money must not continue being a life support system for an oil industry.

Part Two

There is huge gender disparity throughout the Middle East. The result is a bunch of rutting bucks who have to kill themselves to get laid by something approximating a woman.

Since the Middle East has a dearth of women and an overabundance of men, and Latin American countries have more women than men, I would recruit Latinas to relocate. They would have an excellent mellowing influence on those high strung revolutionaries, and they would foster some fantastic fusion restaurants. See How Latinas Can End Jihad.

Russia

Vlady, the KGB in your eyes had damn sure better spot the USA in mine.

Economy

Tax cuts and cookies for corporations that keep their jobs in America. No tax cuts or cookies for corporations that only keep their paperwork in America.

Immigration

America is our home. I will show the utmost hospitality to those who ring our bell and are willing to wipe the dirt off their feet before they enter.  Trespassers will not be welcomed with open arms and open wallets.

However, it shouldn’t be harder to get into the country legally than spending your life savings on a coyote who rapes you as a prelude to a Death March through a desert, only to find that the multi-billion dollar corporation that lured you with promises of a McMansion and a 40 hour work week is in reality your new master renting you a $1500/month trailer with a leaky roof and no plumbing next to the chicken factory where your slave labor will leave you with hands so damaged inside of three years that you’ll never hold another job. Legal entry should not be a Corruption Obstacle Course.

Bayard 2016 — Your “I’m Not Them” Candidate

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Bayard & Holmes Official Photo

Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney. Her writing partner, Jay Holmes, is an anonymous senior member of the intelligence community and a field veteran from the Cold War through the current Global War on Terror. Together, they are the bestselling authors of the international spy thriller, THE SPY BRIDE, to be re-released in fall, 2015.

THE SPY BRIDE Final Cover 3 inch

Keep in touch through updates at Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

 

Critical Threshold for US-Philippine Relations

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

On August 26, 2015, the Philippine government took a major step in Philippine foreign policy toward its closest ally, the US.

During an official visit to the Philippines, the commander of US Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris, met with Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. During that meeting, Secretary Gazmin requested US military assistance in resupplying Philippine military forces in the West Philippine Sea, or, as China calls it, the South China Sea.

Though largely ignored by most Western media outlets, that request is a signal event in US-Philippine relations.

Those of us who remember that the US military was unable to settle workable continued lease terms for two huge major US bases in the Philippines in 1992 might have to subdue an automatic “we told you so” response. Harris is a smart man, and he gave no such smug response. Instead, he politely listened and agreed to pass the request up the chain of command.

 

Spratly Islands with flags from the five contenders. Image by CIA, public domain.

Spratly Islands with flags from the five contenders.
Image by CIA, public domain.

 

The Spratly Islands, which lie between Viet Nam and the main Philippine islands, are germane to this request.

The islands are under conflicting claims between the Philippines, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Taiwan, China, and Brunei. Since the largest of the Spratlys, Taiping Island, is only 110 acres at best, depending on the tide, it is clear that the land in the Spratlys is not what is central to the competing claims. Even the fishing rights, oil, and natural gas deposits are not what really drive the claims.

The critical underlying issue is the effect that a successful territorial claim would have in defining the national boundaries of China and the other claimant nations, and how those boundaries would impact navigation through what has previously been considered international waters.

The Philippines’ request for military assistance from the US is, on the surface, simple enough. However, beneath the surface, there has been a lack of unity on several issues that have greatly impacted US-Philippine relations since the fortunate demise of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The standard view of the fall of Marcos and the rise of Corazon Aquino in 1986 holds that the Marcos regime ended, Aquino brought democracy, the new democracy evicted the US from Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Field Air Force Base, and everyone lived happily ever after. The reality was, and remains, somewhat more complex.

 

Clark Air Force Base in Philippines, 1989. Image by US Air Force, public domain.

Clark Air Force Base in Philippines, 1989.
Image by US Air Force, public domain.

 

Marcos died, but the Marcos regime did not quite die with him.

The pressure for the US to abandon its bases in the Philippines did not come from a populist groundswell of Filipino public opinion, as was assumed by most Western journalists. Many on the right assumed that the US would, and should, remain. Many working class Filipinos also had no desire to see the US gather up its cash and leave. In fact, according to Philippine research, 85% of the Philippine people viewed the US favorably then, and still do today. Principally, wealthy landowners and the senators that they owned drove the desire for the US to leave. They saw the US as having enabled the fall of Marcos and the eventual rise of Corazon Aquino, a land reformer, to the presidency in 1986.

 

Corazon Aquino, 1986, at Andrews Air Force Base. Image by US Air Force, public domain.

Corazon Aquino, 1986, at Andrews Air Force Base.
Image by US Air Force, public domain.

 

One of the central themes in Corazon Aquino’s campaign was land reform, which was not a welcome concept to the wealthy plantation owners.

In 1972, her husband, Senator Benigno Aquino, was arrested and imprisoned on various charges after he spoke out against the Marcos regime. In 1980, after Benigno Aquino suffered a heart attack in prison, Imelda Marcos, likely in part due to US pressure, arranged for him and his family to travel to the US for medical treatment and asylum. The Marcos regime and the wealthy landowners that supported it hoped that they had seen the last of the troublesome Aquino family. They hadn’t.

In 1983, Marcos was hospitalized for a kidney transplant, and reformers sensed change in the wind. Aquino, well aware of the danger that awaited him, returned home to the Philippines, intending to battle the Marcos regime from prison by way of grass roots public support. He thought it would work. Unfortunately for Aquino, Marcos thought it would work, too.

When Aquino stepped off the plane, security forces ushered him toward a waiting van. He was shot in the back of the head, and he died before reaching the hospital. Marcos and his pals had allowed a hapless communist agent to slip past the massive security scheme, and he may or may not have fired the .357 magnum revolver that killed Aquino. He may have simply been placed in the right location to be framed for the murder. The communist agent was shot dead at the scene, too, so we can’t ask his opinion.

 

Statue of Benigno Aquino, Jr. in Conception, Tarlac. Image by Ramon F Valasquez, CC3 License, wikimedia commons.

Statue of Benigno Aquino, Jr.
in Conception, Tarlac.
Image by Ramon F Valasquez,
CC3 License, wikimedia commons.

 

The murder of Aquino backfired on the Marcos gang.

Benigno Aquino became a martyr for the people of the Philippines. Aquino’s funeral on August 31, 1983, started at 9:00 a.m. at Santo Domingo Church with the Cardinal Archbishop of Manila, Jaime Sin, conducting the mass. It ended at 9 p.m., when Aquino was buried at the Manila Memorial Park. More than two million people lined the streets during the procession, which was broadcast by the Catholic Church-controlled Radio Veritas. The state controlled media did not broadcast the funeral. Eventually, after Corazon Aquino became president in 1986, twenty-four members of the Philippine military were convicted for conspiring to murder Senator Benigno Aquino.

Most of the long-awaited fairytale democracy has yet to materialize in the Philippines, but democracy has survived, land reform did occur, and now here we are in 2015, fielding a request from the Philippine government for military assistance. And who occupies the office of president of the Philippines now? Benigno Aquino III, the son of the late Senator Benigno Aquino II.

 

Inauguration of Benigno Aquino, III in June, 2010. Image by Govt. of Philippines, public domain.

Inauguration of Benigno Aquino, III in June, 2010.
Image by Govt. of Philippines, public domain.

 

So, what does that request for US military assistance mean in real terms?

It means that in 2015, the Philippines live too close to China. It also means the Philippines has not yet fielded a credible military force to prevent Communist China from moving its border to within two hundred miles of its shores. At this point, even the pissed off ex-landowners are thinking that the US Navy, backed up by a US Air Force, operating from US funded non-US bases in the Philippines could make life easier in the South China/West Philippine Sea.

To state this simply and accurately, the country of the Philippines is requesting that the US play the role of the colonial protectorate in guarding Philippine transport through the Spratly Islands. The Philippines is asking the US to risk military confrontation with China on its behalf.

What’s in it for the US?

The primary advantage is keeping international maritime traffic open through the region. It is not in the US interest for China to expand its Exclusive Economic Zone and its border to the eastern edge of the Spratly Islands. Another advantage is that, if the US must ever resort to a conflict with China, the alliance with the Philippines has the potential to extend the US perimeter to the Spratlys, helping to keep the fight away from our shores.

And how will the US respond to the request?

Cautiously, and quietly . . . We have been waiting for that request for a few years now, and nobody in the Pentagon or the State Department was surprised by it. The preference thus far has been to encourage the Philippines to start building a credible Navy and Air Force. That might happen one day, but not soon enough.

Lots of plans have been announced, but five years into their planned grand naval expansion, the Philippines has yet to acquire a functioning frigate to send to the Spratlys. Their new fifty meter patrol craft are not going to scare the Chinese. I cannot read the mind of President Obama or his closest advisors, but I don’t imagine that the White House would be anxious to commit to another military escalation while heading into a campaign season. A slogan such as “More Wars for Your Enjoyment” isn’t going to win any elections.

My best guess is that the US will step up diplomatic efforts to encourage closer military ties between the Philippines and all its neighbors not named “China.”

In the meantime, China is now dealing with economic problems and complex domestic political intrigues, and it is not as rock-solidly prepared as it would like us to believe to escalate beyond harassment and intimidation in the Spratlys. China will take everything it can get by way of intimidation, but I don’t see it significantly escalating its aggression in the Spratly Islands in the near future.

 

The Four Freedoms

By Jay Holmes

Since World War Two, many have viewed the US as something of a “world police force.” The term has been used both as a compliment and a criticism, depending on the observer’s point of view.

World Police canstock

While modern Americans, their allies, and their critics are accustomed to a high level of international intervention by the US, it has not always been the norm for America to take a lead role in international affairs. Until 1941, isolationist policies were the standard for our government and were the extension of the sentiment of the majority of Americans.

In June of 1914, Germany declared war on France. In spite of the vital US interests that were being affected by that conflict, America did not declare war on Germany until April of 1917. Although the US Coast Guard and US Navy had engaged in combat against German U Boats since the beginning of the war, US ground forces were not heavily involved until October of 1917.

After the war ended, US President Woodrow Wilson stood out as a “naive” fool in the eyes of European governments because of his attempts at implementing his idealistic 14 Points Agenda for post war Europe. Wilson was largely ignored, and the US returned to its happy isolation. That isolation was accommodated by vast domestic reserves of natural resources and a false sense of safety created by the fact that the US was “protected” from the world’s worst troubled spots by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Seventy-two years ago, on January 6, 1941, a fundamental shift in the history of the US occurred when President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered one of his most important speeches to Congress. We remember that speech as the Four Freedoms Speech. It was a speech that had been nearly two decades in the making.

In 1940, President Roosevelt, his cabinet, and the US military watched with dread as European nations fell before Hitler and his growing NAZI war machine. Europe had failed to enforce some of the most critical terms of the Versailles peace accord, and Hitler had used that lack of enforcement to rebuild the German military. Roosevelt and many of the nation’s leaders in government and industry were less certain of the safety that the great oceans on her borders would afford her in an age of modern submarines, long-range aircraft, and aircraft carriers.

Roosevelt understood that Europe’s failure to enforce the Versailles treaty was a product of the allied nations’ collective memory of the misery and suffering of World War One and the idealistic hope for peace that had filled many sensible European minds in response to that war. Roosevelt knew that he needed to appeal to the idealistic, democratic instincts of the majority of Americans. He hoped to stir Americans from their comfortable isolationist slumber to prepare them to take an interventionist position on the war fermenting in Europe.

In his address to the 77th Congress and the nation, Roosevelt proposed that the greatest need of the moment was to deal with the growing crisis in Europe and Asia. Roosevelt told the nation that all her domestic problems had become intertwined with the great emergency that was playing out far from American shores.

In that address, Roosevelt insisted that people in all nations of the world shared Americans’ entitlement to four essential human freedoms: the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in his own way, the freedom from want, and the freedom from fear. While many in Congress and across the nation clung to their isolationist views, the speech was an effective, though quite late, wake up call to the people of the US.

Roosevelt and his supporters had long struggled to build a Navy and an Air Corps that could effectively defend the US from foreign attack. While they did not succeed in completely preparing the US military for the events of December 7, 1941, had they not struggled to get the funding for the military, the US would never have been able to prevail in the Pacific battles of Midway and Guadalcanal in 1942. America would have been even less successful in dealing with attacks on commerce by German submarine forces in the Atlantic.

The young pilots who entered the battle in 1942 and the new aircraft carriers and destroyers that were commissioned in that same year resulted from commitments to recruitment, training, and construction that had occurred long before Roosevelt delivered his “Four Freedoms” speech. However, that speech represented a national decision to support democracy against the fascist menace in Europe and the ruthless Japanese Imperial Dragon in the Far East.

Roosevelt’s widow, Eleanor Roosevelt, carried out some of his best work concerning his political ideals after his death and the end of World War Two. Eleanor Roosevelt represented the US in the effort to form the United Nations.  She frequently referred to the Four Freedoms in her fight to bring to life the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mrs. Roosevelt helped draft that declaration, and the UN adopted it in 1948.

In the sad and often shameful history of the UN, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights represents its finest moment, and is, in my view, the greatest monument to the best efforts of both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his remarkable First Lady. The United Nations has been used cynically by many members on many occasions, but on that occasion, the best hopes for mankind captured the moment, and against great political odds and to the dismay of many despots, the rights of man took precedence over “the right of might.”

Isolationist instincts remain strong in American opinion, and politicians ignore that at their own peril. But for better or worse, the US has not returned to the isolationist stance that it clung to prior to Pearl Harbor. While the Nazi’s are long gone, and the Japanese Imperial House was effectively neutralized after World War Two, the advent of ICBMs and dirty bombs, the rearmament of the 1300- year-old Islamic Jihad, and the world’s intense competition for resources and wealth seem to make an isolationist stance unlikely for the US or Western nations, but it would serve us well to remember the roots of that isolationist view of world policy.

Intervention is rarely cheap in lives or treasure. The pursuit of Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms is always noble, but it’s not always obtainable at a cost that is acceptable or sustainable by the pursuers. While considering the Four Freedoms for other corners of the earth, we should remember to ensure them for our own citizens.

Four Freedoms Monument image by Ebyabe, wikimedia commons

Four Freedoms Monument
image by Ebyabe, wikimedia commons

Syria–Mumbling, Frowning, and Arms Shipments

By Jay Holmes

When we last published an analysis of the war in Syria in April 2013, this was where things stood:

  • Various factions of Islamic fundamentalist-branded gangs had hijacked the conflict.
  • Russia had announced its continuing support for Assad.
  • Turkey’s own Islamic-brand despot Recep Tayyip Erdogan (a.k.a. Yippy) was criticizing the American interventionist approach to the Mideast circus while loudly demanding that the US immediately intervene in Syria to save Turkey from the chaos. Erdogan mumbled this nonsense while simultaneously explaining that Turkey’s archenemies, the “dastardly and disgusting Kurds,” were really always their good friends–good friends with oil to sell.
  • Iran was directing its always-adventurous Hezbolalalalala branch employees to strike against Syrian rebels while continuing the ongoing campaign of murder and mayhem in Lebanon.
  • The Iraqi government, though unable to govern in Iraq, was growing more helpful in assisting the Iranian-backed Shia factions in Syria.
  • Not to be outdone by the Iranian Mullahs, the Gulf petrol-sheiks were sending cash and arms to Syria to counter Iranian goals. The petrol-sheiks were not altogether certain to whom they should hand over the cash and weapons, but they didn’t let that delay their shipments.
photo by James Gordon wikimedia commons

photo by James Gordon
wikimedia commons

If this all sounds too complicated to fit into an Italian comic opera, remember that while it seems too absurd to be real from a distance, the view from the streets in Syria and the refugee camps is far less comical. The 1.25 million-person-sized elephant in the in the Mideast room—the refugees from Syria—are not enjoying their long vacations. If the Syrians that left Syria for Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan are less than thrilled with their lives, their countrymen at home have still less reason to celebrate. In Syria, rival factions frequently execute children for the crime of having been born in Syria.

With their eagerness to occasionally appear relevant, spokesmen for the international cash cow that we sentimentally refer to as the United Nations have since decided that they are certain at least 100,000 people have been killed in the war in Syria. They remain just as certain that they are uncertain what they should do about it, but if things continue at the current murderous pace, the UN might eventually escalate to having a spokesman demonstrate a “dark frown” to assembled journalists.

I am less optimistic than the UN. I will offer my own estimate of 130,000 deaths, but my own personal dark frown will do no more to prevent the next child execution in Syria than the dark frown that the UN will eventually demonstrate. Don’t rush them. The fine art of “grave concern and dark frowns” as practiced at the UN is a slow and well-financed process. It all takes time. They’re still busy bringing peace and happiness to Korea.

Since the spring of 2011, the Obama administration and its partisan pals in Congress have stuck to strong rhetoric and menacing finger waving as a foreign policy response to the Syrian chaos. The White House loudly proclaimed that the use of chemical weapons by Syrian despot Assad’s forces would constitute the crossing of a “clear red line” and the US would not tolerate it. Naturally, opponents of Assad were listening and soon started claiming that Assad had used chemical weapons.

The rebels’ vague hope that Obama would follow up his grandiose statements with grandiose action was not fulfilled. The White House instead responded by explaining that we were not certain that chemical weapons had been used. That doubt was honest enough a year ago, but the current balance of evidence indicates that doubt is not well-founded now. Not everyone is convinced, but on June 14, the US government announced that it had confirmed that Assad’s forces had, indeed, used chemical weapons.

It now turns out that when President Obama said “clear red line,” he really meant something more like “crooked dull pink smudge.” This month, the Democrat-controlled US Senate helped out the President by declaring that the US should support the Syrian rebels by shipping arms to them. The White House agreed and announced that it decided to help arm the Syrian rebels. The Senate quickly followed up its strategy statement with guarantees that it had received (apparently invisible and very magical) assurances that any US arms shipments to Syria would not fall into the hands of any people that were likely to shoot at Americans or American allies.

The Senate and its pals in the White House have not disclosed the nature of these magical assurances of a clean and predictable indirect intervention. Perhaps these weapons will include some of the safety devices that anti-second amendment lobbyists often demand. Perhaps the weapons will have magic chips that will prevent them from functioning when people that like shooting Westerners or Israelis are holding them. Perhaps a sensor would determine the degree of Islamic jihadi fervor before allowing the weapon to fire or detonate. No one is sharing that information.

The White House has not said what weapons the US will deliver. Like the Senate, the White House also has not mentioned precisely how it will ensure that such weapons will remain in the hands of the Syrian rebels and out of the hands of al-Qaeda and the other various sectarian migrant jihadi workers that are currently harvesting this summer’s crop of Syrian mayhem. The White House’s announcement to arm the rebels seems to be the result of a need to “do something” while not having any actual policy goals to follow.

The vast majority of the American public responded with a yawn. This lack of interest is easy to understand. With the looming war in Egypt between jihadi factions and the rest of Egypt, the continuing river of cash and US blood flowing into Afghanistan, and the continued drift toward third world poverty status for so many unemployed and low wage earning Americans, it’s tough for the US public to get too excited about Syria. Idealism is a hobby most easily practiced when life is comfortable, and for many Americans right now, life is not comfortable.

Europe is currently busy doing next to nothing about its own dazzling array of economic disasters and immigrant issues. The crowds of deeper-thinking-than-thou devout and loyal Obama admirers in Europe have painted over their “Obama is our Savior” signs with “Hang the war criminal Obama” messages.

Their respective governments, particularly France and the UK, have followed a “whisper” diplomatic policy concerning Syria. They mumble vague statements about chemical weapons and rush to demonstrate frowns for the media before the UN can upstage them. When the cameras are turned, they look to the West and whisper, “Obama, hurry up and get involved in Syria so that we don’t have to.” Their speech writers have already written their denouncements of whatever action the US might decide to take. Just fill in the blanks when the time comes. The US will be blamed for “creating a humanitarian crisis in Syria.”

Europe Frowning on Flag

While it’s easy for me to criticize the US administration for its lack of a meaningful foreign policy, it’s a bit tougher to come up with an approach they might sell to a disgusted American public. One highly-respected foreign policy expert recently published a suggestion that the US concentrate on improving education in the Middle East as a long-term strategy for reducing violence and despair in the region. While in theory it sounds like a great idea, many Americans would hasten to point out that before we reduce the slaughter of children in the Middle East, we might want to do something about the slaughter of children in regions such as Chicago. Before we attempt to educate Middle Eastern children, we might wish to achieve a minimal standard of literacy in places like Detroit, east L.A., and the halls of our Congress. While it’s concerning that Obama and Congress continue to rely on a strategy of “slow drift” foreign policy, it would be even more disturbing for them to pursue a “leap now look later” policy toward Syria. The combination of over a decade of wildly expensive and ineffective US intervention in the Middle East and the declining standard of living for working class Americans has left US politicians with a tough audience concerning foreign policy.

The US and Europe are making small and “low noise” efforts to find and assist legitimate Syrian rebels, but for the moment, those efforts have proven inadequate. For the moment, Assad will not be trying to sneak away from Syria. He and his supporters have staked their lives and fortunes on defeating the rebels at all costs.

In my opinion, strategies for supporting the Syrian rebels without violating our own national interests are possible, but they are not clean and easy. Those strategies would require the White House and Congress to make clear choices and act decisively. It would require them to place foreign policy concerns above 2014 election concerns. The degree to which US politicians will do that will determine whether or not the US will be able to impact events in Syria. For now, expect more mumbling and frowning.

Syrian Sound and Fury–An Update on the Crisis

By Jay Holmes

Things have accelerated in Syria during the last six months—“things” such as the death rate and the refugee crisis, which have increased alarmingly. Putting a number on the death toll is not easy. The various rebel forces and the Syrian government may all at times exaggerate or fail to report deaths. However, it seems likely that approximately 100,000 people have been killed in the civil war in Syria. That is about fifteen times the number of deaths that we in the US have endured in Iraq and Afghanistan, combined.

Bashar Al-Assadimage by Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom / ABr, Wikimedia Commons

Bashar Al-Assad
image by Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom / ABr, Wikimedia Commons

In 2011, the conflict was reasonably described as a struggle between the Assad regime and his Shia backers versus anyone else in Syria. The Syrians are a diverse population with a high percentage of post-secondary educated adults. If the Syrians, themselves, had remained the only folks in Syria who were fighting with or against the Assad regime, they might have formed a passable coalition with which to depose and replace Assad by now.

There has always been a core of Islamic radicals in Syria. However, more educated and sophisticated Syrians who are less amenable to primitive agendas such as Islamic fundamentalism or anti-Zionist crusades marginalized the radicals over time. Syrians increasingly wanted something more out of life than anti-Western slogans and a feeble economy.

That’s where Assad’s trouble started. The majority of protesters in January 2011 were not protesting for or against Shia, Sunnis, or other Syrian groups. They simply wanted Assad gone. Having watched news footage of the cruise missile assault and modest air campaign put on by NATO in Libya, they were understandably hopeful that the West would jump on an opportunity to depose an old nemesis like Assad. After all, what Middle East revolutionary or Western observer’s heart didn’t warm by the sight of angry Libyans cornering Gadhafi?

Unfortunately for the people of Syria, the West had strong reasons to avoid investing missiles and men in a Syrian conflict. For one thing, the US and the UK were disentangling themselves from the morass that had festered in Iraq, and both are still involved in propping up the unlovable Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. Obama was not willing to invest any significant men or material in Syria while still busy in Afghanistan and wondering how Korea and Iran might soon eat up resources. And all of this was occurring with borrowed money from China. The UK was not about to commit to an operation in Syria or any place more distant than the Channel if the US wasn’t taking the lead in cash and dead troops.

A second major factor in Western reluctance to escalate military aid to the Syrian rebels was the simple fact that we have not quite been able to distinguish who they are. Their identity seems to change on a weekly basis.

The nature of the conflict in Syria has shifted dramatically during the last year. Iran does not want Assad gone. Assad is Iran’s submissive and obedient girlfriend that lives next door to Israel and Lebanon. The relationship between Iran and Assad (any Assad) has always been simple. Assad does what Iran tells him to regarding foreign policy. In return, Iran helps prop up Syria against its Sunni neighbors in Saudi Arabia, its Zionist enemies in Israel, and anyone who might get difficult with them in Lebanon. Previously, Iran helped prop up Syria against the anti-Shia Iraqi regime. That particular Iraqi despot was deposed and has now been replaced by a newer, cleaner, more wonderful Shia despot. That change in Iraq has allowed Iran to more easily ship weapons and people to Syria.

However, a resolution of events in Syria would bring the West one step closer to military action in Iran. Because of this, the Iranians, while pledging their everlasting love and ammunition supplies to Assad, hedge their bets by trying their best to co-opt Shia Jihadi types in Syria.

Unfortunately for Iran, and everyone else on the planet, the Iranians are not the only Islamic radical nut jobs acting out their agenda in Syria. With Iraq now in the “Shia camp,” the Wahhabi-influenced Sunni Saudis and their Gulf State allies have more reason than ever to oppose any Shia influence in Syria. To that end, they are backing a variety of Sunni groups in Syria against the Assad regime. Unfortunately, the Saudis and their gulf pals have never exercised much discretion in choosing anti-Shia friends. Al Qaeda, a group of gangsters who pose as “devout Sunni Islamics,” is now easily obtaining cash and weapons for fighting in Syria.

With refugees streaming into their country every day, the Turks have serious angst over the situation at their southern border. The Obama administration recently hailed Turkish president Tayyip Erdoğan, as a new pan-Mideast leader, a lion amongst hyenas, who holds equal footing with top Western leaders. But Erdoğan tripped in the shower. He’s now back to hyena status and has gone from criticizing the US for interventionist policies in the Middle East to begging the US to please, please, please, with sugar on top, do something about Assad.

With so many fish to fry elsewhere, and not very fresh fish at that, and no clear sense of precisely who we would be helping, the White House does not want to escalate US involvement in Syria.

If we observe Western media reports on Syria, the theme of the show is thus: Assad in his convincing performance as a bastardly dictator is losing ground to a rebel coalition led by a Syrian-American citizen named Ghassan Hitto. The show on the ground in Syria is less entertaining and far more complex. While Hitto may have significant support from many Syrians, he does not control the various Jihadi groups ranging from Al Qaeda to the Iraqi and Iranian Shias that are fighting there. If tomorrow Assad were to commit his first kind act to Syria by shooting himself, with or without assistance, it is not apparent that Hitto would be in any position to govern Syria.

The view of the play from Assad’s bedroom balcony is slightly simpler. He sees a lot of different groups fighting against his government forces. He sees many of them committing the sorts of atrocities that he expects his troops to commit, not the other guys. Assad sees an eleven-year-old child from a Sunni faction beheading a Shia man. Assad sees a world beyond Syria that would love for him to drop dead as soon as possible. He might now and then click on a YouTube video showing his old pal, Kaddafi’s, final minutes. What he can’t see is a happy ending if he gives in. Assad crossed the Rubicon while asleep in the back of the boat. He woke up one morning and found himself standing on the wrong shore. What this all means is that Assad and his backers are desperate to maintain the struggle. For him and his well-armed pals, backing down now means stepping backward into a grave.

Some news sources are claiming that an Iranian agent has already assisted Assad to that grave. However, no verification has been forthcoming, and the stories can be traced to a single source, so I can neither confirm nor deny Assad’s reputed death. Meanwhile, various fascinating sub plots are playing out in Lebanon and on the Israeli border as the war continues. Those are a tale for another day.

Today, though, for once, the people of Syria and the West find themselves standing on the same side of a critical question, hoping for the same answers. The question is no longer when or how Assad will move on to the great harem in the sky, but rather, how will Syrians wrestle control of their own country from the hands of the many well-armed hyenas that tear at the body of a dying nation? American cruise missiles and Marines can’t answer that question.

Turkey–Giving America the Bird

By Jay Holmes

As we looked at last Wednesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit to Turkey highlights the tensions between our two countries. (See Turkey–America’s Special Frenemy) In the long history of our “frenemy” relationship, the Kurds represent an interesting point of conflict. In fact, it’s played out like an Italian opera, minus the great singing. I’ll give you the short version.

Iraq oppressed the Kurds, even striking them with chemical weapons. Some of those Iraqi chemical weapons that many Westerners claim were all a figment of Bush’s imagination were manufactured by Iraqis in Republican Guards-controlled areas in the Iraqi Kurdish homeland. Saddam hated the Kurds so we liked them. Americans—the kind that also don’t officially exist—made friends with the Kurds. “Friends” as in the sort of friends who go shooting with you and agree to shoot at the same people you are shooting at. Good friends.

Our good friends, the Iraqi Kurds image from US Navy

Our good friends, the Iraqi Kurds
image from US Navy

The Turks didn’t like that much, but they understood the “shooting at Saddam’s pals and destroying his chemical weapons” part of the equation. What the Turks did not want was an autonomous Kurdish state in the post-Saddam Iraq.

At that time, a Kurdish group known as the PKK had been carrying out terrorist strikes against the Turkish government and Turkey did not want those attacks to continue or increase. The PKK assured the US that such attacks would cease, and the US generously passed on those assurances to Turkey. Those assurances were roughly as solid as assurances by Hamas that they won’t attack Israel any more. Ah, well. The best operas do include some comedy.

When it came time for the US to invade Iraq and depose Saddam, Turkey reversed itself at the last minute and refused to allow US troops, welcomed to Turkey as part of the pending invasion, to launch any attacks from Turkey. That decision left the US-led coalition without almost half of the forces that they had intended to use in the invasion. A back stabbing by Erdogan that some politicians in the US seemed to quickly forget.

Thanks to a vast superiority in equipment, quality of troops, and military leadership, the coalition still performed very well against Saddam’s forces and defeated his regime. Unfortunately, it took longer and cost more coalition lives than it would have had the coalition been able to use all of its assembled forces.

Then, something interesting happened. Turkey looked at the rising cost of oil and realized that there are sizeable untapped reserves underneath those quaint Kurdish mud hut villages. Turkey then did what Western oil companies and governments had already done. They started salivating over the idea of Kurdish oil flowing into the West via Turkey. In the Turkish version of the fantasy, less of that Kurdish oil flows out of Turkey into Europe, but what’s a few billion barrels of petroleum between old friends? The petroleum worked its old black magic and Turks and Kurds started getting along.

The US’s primary concern in Iraq was the survival of a central government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Importantly, during Maliki’s tenure, Iraq has doubled its oil exports. The West understands Maliki is a less than ideal leader. From the Saudi king’s point of view, Maliki is an “Iranian agent.” Unfortunately, most of the idealists in Iraq were long dead when Maliki came to power, and in a nation full of intolerable political candidates, he was tolerable from the point of view of the present and previous US administrations.

As part of the reconstruction of Iraq, the Iraqi Interim Government responded to coalition pressure and gave Kurds semi-autonomous status in the north. The Turkish government was dead set against it at the time. Then, Turkey followed the example of US and Western oil companies and negotiated oil deals with the Kurds. Unfortunately for the Iraqi government in Baghdad, Turkey did not include them in their wheeling and dealing with the Kurds.

This presents a problem or two for the US. The obvious problem is that the Iraqi national government is being badly undermined. If the Baghdad government collapses, its replacement may be much worse. The second possible issue is that the US government may, for many rea$ons, have its own strong feelings about precisely who should be scarfing up that Kurdish oil. From the Kurdish point of view, it’s great to have multiple suitors.

Springtime always makes for a great setting in any opera. Ah, yes. The Arab Spring. Is that freedom that I smell in Syria? Some of the Syrians think so. But not all Syrians agree on what “freedom” should look like or who should be in charge of it.

In the political vision shared by Erdogan and Obama, the US would support Turkey in helping Syrians to oust Assad from Syria. The US would maintain the smallest possible visible profile in the conflict, and Erdogan would provide the locals leadership in helping the Syrians to form a united democratic front in Syria. Assad would depart as a passenger in a plane or in a box on a truck, and all would be well. That vision has not become reality.

What was to be a momentous coming of age for Erdogan and Turkey has become an embarrassment. Erdogan sponsored purges of Turkey’s military and intelligence leaders, and now he is handicapped by that. His military and intelligence services still have well trained troops, but their leadership was badly damaged. Some of the very people who could help subtly bring to bear Turkish influence in Syria are rotting away in Turkish prisons for imaginary crimes.

Turkey now houses thousands of Syrian refugees, and they can’t be sure how many of them are terrorists that might soon turn on Turkey. Erdogan’s attempts at rallying the various Syrian factions to cooperation and victory have been a complete failure. That helps explain his cliché anti-Israeli act at the recent Arab summit. He plays to a tough audience at Arab summits and they were not impressed this week. Just as Erdogan gained a position of eminence among the Middle Eastern Islamic nations, his stardom is quickly fading.

In yet one more political irony, Erdogan is now quietly begging the US to “take a more active role in bringing about change in Syria.” The same man that back-stabbed the US lead coalition because he supposedly could not bring himself to attack another Islamic nation now desperately wants the US to send its military to clean up the problem in his front yard. If you laughed as you read that, don’t feel bad. It’s okay. If you can’t laugh a bit when you consider foreign affairs you should avoid foreign affairs altogether or you might find yourself suicidal or in need of medication.

Erdogan’s quiet but desperate whispers to John Kerry were likely answered with charming and not very reassuring platitudes. I can just imagine Kerry smiling as he told Erdogan, “You have our full confidence. You know we’ll do everything we can to help you.” The entire time, Kerry had to be wondering what in the world the US could do to turn Syria into a happy and peaceful place without committing the US to yet another unpopular war.

As a NATO member, the US has sent Patriot air-defense missiles to protect the Turkish border, but it seems unlikely to me that the White House would be willing to get any more involved than that in Syria. After all, we are still busy building the world’s best disguised “democracy” in Afghanistan, listening to that ridiculous toad in North Korea threaten us with nuclear annihilation, and contemplating a possible war with Iran.

In less than four years, we will have a new administration in the White House. Erdogan might manage to stay in power beyond that in spite of growing opposition from many of his once staunch friends. Two things that won’t change by then are the geography or the West’s need for oil. Turkey remains the best route to the West for Central Asian oil. Our overriding need for oil combined with the fact that Turkey is in a rough neighborhood and needs friends means the Turkish-American Opera will be playing more acts for a long time to come. Turn up the music. It might drown out the rhetoric.

Turkey — America’s Special Frenemy

By Jay Holmes

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit to Turkey has momentarily brought US-Turkish relations to the forefront of US foreign affairs news. Days before Kerry’s visit, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan turned up the tension in US-Turkish relations by announcing that Zionism is a “crime against humanity.”

President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, image in public domain

President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, image in public domain

Many folks in the West had to wonder precisely how much of a “friend” US President Obama’s “special friend” Erdogan is and precisely who Erdogan’s friends might be. I didn’t include Israel in the list of those who wondered about Erdogan. Most Israelis long ago gave up wondering and decided they could always count on Erdogan to play that easy Anti-Israel card whenever it suited him. He has never disappointed them on that score.

The day before Kerry’s arrival, the Turkish government arrested yet another eleven journalists for daring to question the Erdogan regime. As near as I can tell, Turkey now has more journalists in prison than Communist China does. Of course, that’s a tricky comparison because China enjoys an advantage in dealing with journalist prison populations. China executes them. To their credit, the Turks generally avoid executing imprisoned journalists so they’re bound to accumulate a higher total of jailed journalists as long as they continue to suppress free speech.

Kerry issued a carefully muted disapproval of Erdogan’s words. I can’t fault Kerry for not speaking out more directly because he was in the middle of a diplomatic mission to Turkey—a NATO ally—and he was carrying a sizeable agenda of urgent issues. Beyond that, it’s not Kerry’s job to act on his own opinions. It’s his job to execute whatever foreign policy the US president dictates. Given that Obama has spent the last four years cultivating a “special close friendship” with Erdogan, and given the number of urgent issues shared by the US and Turkey, Obama is not likely to cut his losses with Erdogan too quickly.

In spite of the professional opinions of State Department employees and the US Ambassador to Turkey, President Obama was certain that, with a little influence from the US and the West, he could count on Erdogan to act as a moderate Islamic Democratic leader. The President has consistently held up Turkey as a leader of reform in the Middle East.

Given the turmoil in the Middle East, our addiction to petroleum, and the previous half a century of fairly good relations with Turkey, it’s understandable that the Obama crew might engage in a bit of wild optimism in dealing with Turkey. The White House publicly defined Turkey as a natural economic, ideological, and political gateway between the West and the Middle East. A country that’s supposed to be like leaving East L.A. via Disneyland and finding yourself on a quiet beach in Malibu without any drive-by shootings along the way.

That history of cooperation between the US and Turkey has to be placed in the context of the Cold War. Although Turkey tried to establish a close working relationship with the USSR after World War One, it quickly realized that it was on Stalin’s lunch menu and started looking to the West for friends. By the end of World War Two, the US and Turkey were working overtime to build a strong friendship based on Turkish geography and US cash.

The history of US-Turkish relations since World War Two is a complex one, filled with constant friction and held together by the overriding concern about Soviet aggression. That glue of Soviet aggression is no longer present, and like a passionate young couple, common ground and mutual understanding must be defined for the US and Turkey for the relationship to attain any lasting mutual benefit. The Obama administration sees common ground, but does Turkey see the same thing?

Both the US and Turkey openly agree that Turkey can be that peaceful gateway between the West and the Middle East. Turkey maintains diplomatic and economic ties to Iran and has consistently, and apparently faithfully, done a good job of acting as a diplomatic conduit for Iran and the US. Given that Turkey and its growing economy purchase oil from Iran, it’s no small matter for them to take on that role as a diplomatic third between Iran and the US. Erdogan sees himself as a top tier world leader, and his diplomatic position between Iran and the US gives him credibility both in the Mid-east and the West.

Many analysts point to the current civil war in Syria as a turning point in US-Turkish relations. It’s certainly an important event. In fact, if you live next door to Syria, as the Turks do, and artillery rounds and rockets are finding their way to your side of the border, which they are, then it’s critically important and urgently requires a solution.

More realistically, the strain in US-Turkish relations is at least in part caused by long standing issues. The first sticking point revolves around the fact that about one and a half million Armenians live in the US, and they remember the genocide carried out against Armenians by the Ottoman Empire after World War One. Please don’t hate Armenians just because of those silly Kardashian people. Most Americans of Armenian descent are lovely folks. They and the other millions of Armenian diaspora around the world want Turkey to admit that the genocide occurred. It’s quite clear to everyone except successive Turkish governments that it did occur. That has caused friction between the US and Turkish governments.

Another long-standing conflict between Turkey and the US has been Israel. While Turkey has not generally counted itself among the “death to the Jews” Middle Eastern crowd, it has been sympathetic toward Palestinians and cozy with Hamas. At the same time, the US categorizes Hamas as a terrorist group. Given that Hamas has spent most of its cash and effort over time on terrorist activities, the US is not likely to change its stance.

Then, there are those other, not so well-treated folks who call themselves Kurds. I happen to like the Kurdish people but in international terms, I’m in a minority. Some adventurous Americans, as well as a few nosey Brits, had very cordial dealings with the Kurds back when a nasty old creep by the name of Saddam Hussein was running Iraq.

Parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran were the Kurdish homeland for a period. The Kurds want those parts back. Turkey, Iran, and Syria have no intention of giving that land back any more than the US, Canada, or any other New World nation intends to return this half of the globe to the Native Americans. Note to Argentine President Kirchner: If the Brits gift you the Falklands, you’ll have to find some Native Americans to give it to.

During the Iraq War and the early stages of the subsequent “rebuilding” of Iraq, the vast differences in the US and Turkish view of the Kurds appeared to be a long term problem in US-Turkish relations. Most observers assumed that the PKK attacks on Turkish soil, which the PKK considers to be their rightful home, would remain the defining issue for Turkey in its policies toward Iraq. Problems are not always what they seem to be on the surface. As it turned out, there was a deeper underlying issue that would eventually shape a new Turkish outlook on Iraq. In our next article, we will examine that issue and the other emerging issues that have intervened in the simple view of US-Turkish relations that the present and recent US administrations have tried to implement.