Birds of a feather and “The Polish Plan”

woodpecker post card -2
Back in 2006 my husband and I took a cross-country trip to New Mexico.  We were going to visit our son at an Air Force base there, where he was assigned, before he deployed to Iraq.   As evening approached we entered the state of Arkansas and decided to stop at a motel for the night.  We ended up at an exit, where the tourist gimmick appeared to be a bird, which was believed to have been extinct for 60 years, but allegedly was sighted on February 27, 2004.

I always like to ask the locals where the best places to eat are, rather than trust online searches or road signs.  So, after we got settled in our room, I went and chatted up the receptionist at the front desk and off we went in search of a local BBQ joint.  As we ate, I kept looking at the pictures of the ivory-billed woodpecker on the walls and I asked my husband if he knew what the big deal was about this woodpecker, which I had never heard of.  He didn’t know either.  Near the cash register were shelves filled with the usual tourist junk, much of it plastered with images of the “ivory-billed woodpecker”.

Yesterday, I commented several times on Senator Marco Rubio’s foreign policy piece, “Obama’s Pathetic Cave-in to Putin’s Power Play in Syria”.  Rubio offers a lot of Cold War sounding rhetoric and insists he will arm the Syrian moderate rebels.  I believe this “Syrian moderate” strategy was foolish from the very beginning  and a recipe to inadvertently place heavy weapons into the hands of ISIS, jihadists or Assad’s forces, because really do “moderates” win wars against committed, hardened fighters?  I doubt it and much to our embarrassment, we have armed “moderates” numerous times in Syria, only to have them walk away with our training and weapons and join ISIS.  Here’s part of one of the exchanges with an ardent supporter of arming “Syrian moderates”:

Lyretail susanholly

There were jihadi elements based primarily in eastern Syria in 2012, yes. But if you look at a map of Syria, most of the population centers run along the western edge well away from those early staging areas. That’s where the important action was happening. The infiltration of the jihadi elements into the mainstream opposition came about because western policy toward Syria left the outgunned opposition to Assad nowhere else to turn for support and no incentive not to work with whoever would back them. If you offer nothing, you get nothing. As to ISIS specifically, their strategy from the beginning was to snatch territory from whoever was the winner in local fights between the regime and the opposition. They were spoilers from their inception interested in controlling territory of their own, not cooperating with others against the regime. Conflating them with other actors in the conflict was and is a fallacy.

I read the article you link to. The reference to the fight against Assad becoming “jihadized” is a consequence of the early failure to support the original opponents of Assad enough to be effective on the ground, not a justification for the refusal to do so. That’s rich. We had a window of opportunity, and we let it close. It wasn’t al-Qaeda or al-Nusra that took to the streets by the thousands to protest Assad’s dictatorship. It was ordinary people. Ideally, we should have destroyed both Assad’s air force on the ground and the Al Qaeda training camps out in the eastern desert and mountains that became the source of the jihadi infiltration. Dithering has costs.

As things stand now, most of the original rebels are dead, were absorbed by Nusra and its affiliates, or fled the country. The best thing we can do now is to raise a new force from among these new refugees similar to what was done with Polish refugees in WWII. The half-hearted effort in Jordan has been a farce. Backing Assad as the “lesser of two evils,” however, only guarantees more war and more jihadism.

  • We had no vital US national interest in Syria – NONE. This misguided post 9/11 policy where we were going to remove safe havens for terrorists who attacked us, by regime change, if necessary, morphed into regime change to democratize the Arab world post Arab Spring. None of it has worked – NONE. Libya’s a gigantic safe haven for terrorists, Iraq too, Afghanistan will be back in Taliban hands, in Egypt we backed the Muslim Brotherhood, the granddaddy umbrella organization for Salafist radicals. You say “Dithering has costs.” Arming rebels in that neck of the woods has costs too. And there’s always unintended consequences when you throw more arms into the mix. We were gunrunning from Libya to Syria from the beginning. Of the rebels we armed I am not sure who is is “moderate” and who is “jihadist”, because the groups change sides and alliances frequently. Benghazi sound familiar – that’s what blowback looks like. Or how about the Seal Team 6 helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2011.

    “Moderates” will not win against hardened, Islamist fighters.

    I have noticed that the most ardent “arm them” crowd seem to be academics in think tanks with no military experience, while military strategists will raise concerns and discuss possible blowback and unintended consequences from arming foreign fighters. Frantic hunts for manpads ring any bells? How about the “Syrian moderate” last year, Jamal Maarouf, whom Foreign Policy wrote about as our last best hope? We trained and armed him and his band with TOW missiles – he immediately declared a truce with ISIS.

    So your best hope is:

    “As things stand now, most of the original rebels are dead, were absorbedby Nusra and its affiliates, or fled the country. The best thing we can do now is to raise a new force from among these new refugees similar to what was done with Polish refugees in WWII.”

    Yes, the fake Syrian passport business is booming, the Islamists are determined to dupe us any way they can and one wonders who is going to vet these “Syrian moderate” refugees to train into a force capable of defeating hardened Islamist fighters or Assad’s forces. This should go as well as training Afghan security forces – where they sell their US-issued gear at the bazaar, then come back and want more, then there was the endless drug-addiction problem among Afghan recruits. Training Iraqi security forces has worked great too. In Libya we sent in some General Hifter, because we left a gigantic safe haven for terrorists there, in addition to fueling a refugee crisis. It’s not like moving inanimate pieces on a chess board – there are many more than two sides in these fights, alliances and allegiance between factions are fluid, and all these sides get to think and make moves that run counter to your plan. So, now we’re being offered the Polish plan – I will not laugh.

The image above is from a post card I bought at that BBQ joint in 2006.   Our waitress, a very young woman, who looked to be still in her teens, cautiously answered my questions about this elusive “ivory-billed woodpecker”.   I asked her if she thinks the sightings of this woodpecker, long believed to be extinct, are true or a hoax.  She shrugged her shoulders and smiled.  She said she didn’t know for sure, but a lot of “experts” from back East believe it and came to search for that bird.

As I read Patrick Poole’s report at PJ Media today of another Syrian moderate we trained who took our weapons and joined ISIS, I thought our search for “Syrian moderates”, which began based largely on neoconservative think-tank “experts and a young Syria “expert” at the Institute for the Study of War/political director for the Syrian Emergency Task Force, Elizabeth O’Bagy seems much like the search for the ivory-billed woodpecker.

Today, GEN Petraeus  testified before Congress, I am presuming at the request of the likes of Senator John McCain, the neoconservative “Arm Syrian Moderates”, and to offer his insights into the fight against ISIS.  He thinks the US should establish safe zones in Syria, that will ostensibly encourage moderate Sunnis to fight against ISIS.  He stated:

“The central problem in Syria is that Sunni Arabs will not be willing partners against the Islamic State unless we commit to protect them and the broader Syrian population against all enemies, not just ISIS,” Petraeus said using an acronym for the militant group. “That means protecting them from the unrestricted warfare being waged against them by Bashar Assad, especially by his air force and its use of barrel bombs.”

He suggested that the U.S. tell Assad that if he continues to use barrel bombs, the U.S. will stop the Syrian air force from flying.

“We have that capability,” he said. “It would demonstrate that the United States is willing to stand against Assad and it would show the Syrian people that we can do what the Islamic State cannot — provide them with a measure of protection.”

At the same time, Petraeus warned against rushing to oust Assad without knowing who would fill the resulting political vacuum in the country.

Putin has moved Russian military personnel, equipment and fighters into Syria to bolster Assad.  Putin has had meetings with the regional leaders and even with Israel and ironed out an understanding about Russia’s aims to help the Syrian state, to avoid any misunderstanding about how the IDF forces will respond to Assad transferring arms to Hezbollah.  Yet. GEN Petraeus talks about creating some safe zone for imaginary Sunni moderates and he believes they will want to fight ISIS for us, when in truth, those Sunnis’ mortal enemy is really Assad, not ISIS (radical Salafists, who are Sunnis).  Nowhere in Petraeus’ statement is a recognition of Russia’s diplomatic effort and coordination with regional leaders and even Israel or an insistence that we must talk to Putin to avoid escalating this into a US vs. Russian conflict very quickly, if US and Russian planes are operating in tight air space over Syria.  Nope, it’s more magical-thinking that we’re going to create some viable proxy forces to fight ISIS for us.   He argued that the US should not allow Putin to push us into an alliance with Assad.  Instead he’s fine with the US supporting the Baghdad government, which relies heavily on Iranian backed militias to fight the Islamic State.  And we’re going to chug along rebuilding the Iraqi Army – again.  He did deliver the requisite catchphrase to be thrown around – this time, the clever,  Russian-themed one for the pundits to saber-rattle and fear-monger to sway public opinion for another regime change in the Mid-East.  He said:

“He called Syria a “geopolitical Chernobyl — spewing instability and extremism over the region and the rest of the world.””

The experts in search of the ivory-billed woodpecker began their search for the elusive bird in the eastern woods of Arkansas, then spread out to search in 8 different states.  They did not find any.  Last night I believed that poster’s plan, which I facetiously referred  to as “The Polish Plan”,  was laughable, but today with the “geopolitical Chernobyl” hyperbole, it sounds like it just might be an expansion of the neoconservative experts’ new “Syrian moderate” plan – the search for “Syrian refugee moderates”.  One place they likely won’t find any is Poland, because the Poles were smart enough to say they are not Western Europe and they don’t want any terrorists….


Filed under Foreign Policy, General Interest, Islam, Military, Politics, Terrorism

4 responses to “Birds of a feather and “The Polish Plan”

  1. As an afterthought, I sure would like to ask GEN Petraeus, if Syria is such a dire “geopolitical Chernobyl”, making it sound like a US national interest, why does he advocate farming out the heavy-lifting to proxy forces and not use US might to deal with this problem head-on? His fear mongering rhetoric sounded like it had more teeth than his military strategy.

    Putin already has usurped US moral high-ground by acting like the adult in regards to Syria, while the US keeps recycling this failed arming proxies idea and resurrecting Cold War era rhetoric. To be a world leader – you need to lead – Obama prefers to avoid leading on foreign policy. His entire focus is domestic policy and his fundamental transformation. Ash Carter hadn’t talked to the Russian counterpart in 6 or 7 months – because we weren’t talking to them because of Ukraine and the Russians initiated this contact – which makes us look small and Putin look like a statesman. John McCain ranting like a lunatic about Russia will make us look even more ridiculous. Rubio’s plan he laid out at NR yesterday won’t work and it was the same neoconservative Syrian moderate nonsense.

    We need adults who realize that to lead, America must talk to other leaders first – that’s the only way to move forward. And since none of these people want to actually put their money where their mouth is and use American troops to defeat ISIS – we’re left with ridiculous arming “Syrian moderates” and retraining an Iraqi army again. It won’t work.

    • JK

      Maybe … just an idea mind … since NASA already has a contract with Russia’s Roscosmos to do the “heavy lifting” of getting US Astronauts to the ISS – President Obama, plea agreement-to-Misdemeanor-charges (ala *Snowden, Manning, *H. Clinton) convicted General Petraeus [Ret/with bennies] and Senators McCain and Rubio – with all the heft of Beltway DC – could ask Maj. Gen. Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., (USMC-Ret.) to “negotiate” a way out of this clusterfuck

      (Pardon my French).

      -And really, which is more injurious collaterally-speaking, a “barrel bomb” or a JDAM or, for that matter a Hellfire equipped Reaper and/or an SOF or an SAS Team comparatively speaking to whatever the f**k Russian (and far far inferior – or so we are told/sold) Su Whatever to an F/A18?-

      And whatever the hell a vetted moderate “Freedom Fighter” actually is?

      Gawd this is getting plumb ridiculous!

      * = Yet to be prosecuted.


      But Really LB? You don’t believe there’re humongous multitudinous hordes of actual Ivory-Billed-Woodpeckers flying everywhere an Arkansas tourist trap backwater swamp is?

      Oh woe is, as “The Good Book says” to the unbeliever.

      • Sorry for the delay with your comment posting JK, for some reason your comment ended up in the “moderation” file, requiring me to approve it, lol.

        I only bought a few post cards of the ivory-billed woodpecker, not the key-chain, t-shirts or the nice coffee mugs, I’ll have you know, rofl….

        I did buy an Arkansas magnet of course, but that was at the other side of the state…..

  2. Pingback: We still have The Constitution as our rule of law! | libertybelle diaries

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