Turkish invasion of northern syria: the cynical barbarity of the ruling class

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Turkish invasion of northern syria: the cynical barbarity of the ruling class
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The article draws out the main general points from the current situation, decomposition, continuing centrifugal tendencies, developments of imperialism and militarism and the specifics of the situation in the Middle East.


This assault of the "New Ottoman Empire" of Erdogan has come at the right time for him and the AKP given the problems they were encountering and the shift of Turkey towards Russia continues posing more problems for NATO. Russia has come out the "winner" here but the article shows that problems are already arising and the development of centrifugal tendencies from many levels will continue to plague this region. The other side of the Russian military and diplomatic advance is the historical weakening of the US in the region. It's true that the necessity for the US military to confront Chinese imperialism (an anti-Chinese rapprochement between the US and Russia does make sense) took its attention away from the Middle East but, as the article makes clear, it was also the weakness of the US to maintain itself as the world cop; a process that begins with the Obama administration. And for all the furore in Washington and beyond over the Kurds, it was always made crystal clear in State Department discussions and protocols, that the arrangement for US protection of the YPG was temporary and contingent. The sudden turn of the Kurds towards Assad (and Russia) for protection could have been facilitated by the open lines that some Kurdish elements have maintained over the last couple of years with the Assad regime. In any case it shows the fundamental imperialist nature of Kurdish nationalism and the impossibility of national liberation.


It was an expression of the weakness in the first place for the US to rely on the YPG to take the battle to Isis knowing that it would bring serious problems down the line with Turkey. There were other Kurdish paramilitaries that they could have used but the Kurdish Peshmerga were out given they had been unceremoniously chased out of Kirkuk, which they controlled for several years, by the Iraqi army, following a US plan in October 2917, in what was termed another "betrayal" by the latter. The unpredictability's of the Middle East are such, and it's almost been airbrushed out of history, that only a few years ago, despite the former not being part of the official "Coalition", the Iranian and US militaries worked together at very high levels in coordinated and very effective attacks on Isis. But, whatever the options, there was never going to be a "right way" for the USA to have even the minimum control over the region without putting many more troops on the ground and whatever the mental problems and gyrations of Trump, he does represent the interests of US imperialism here.  A year ago, after the condemnation of his Syria withdrawal plan, he said he would wait a year and that is what he has done. With its Saudi and Israeli allies, such as they are, the US will not stop its "activities" in the Middle East, albeit from a position of weakness and despite the demise of al-Baghdadi, Isis remains a potent force that thrives on instability.


The reminder of the "green light" as a tool of the diplomatic/military world is a useful one and so is the example given of the 1990 war in Iraq and the US "invitation" to invade Kuwait; another pivotal event with the US trying to cohere a crumbling western bloc and where Germany wouldn't even send its AWAC's planes. As the article says the "betrayal" of the Kurds, after being called to rise up against Saddam by the US and the "humanitarian" British Prime Minister, John Major, was a case of a "green light" being given to Saddam's intact Revolutionary Guards to wipe out the Kurds. There were some stories about how the US and Britain saved the Kurds from Saddam's fighter-jets, but the US edict from the commander-in-chief, "Storming" Norman Schwarzkopf, forbidding Saddam to use his fixed-wing aircraft, was a "green light" to use his deadly helicopter gunships against the mostly defenceless Kurds.


In Iraq and Lebanon the oppressed and working class have again expressed their indignation over the situation they find themselves in. There are weaknesses to this movement in that there has apparently been no expression of class discussion and organisation and there are dangers of it being sucked into some bourgeois campaign.  In Iraq the immediate danger is one of repression and many more have been killed and wounded than the official figures say. The sects and religious leaders may have lost their sway, a tendency that was already evident, but they are armed and dangerous. Yesterday students and schoolchildren joined the protests for the first time and in Baghdad were immediately attacked by the Iraqi army.


This piece effectively

This piece effectively describes many of the absurdities and contradictions of the current imeprialist situation in Syria and the surrounding region. However, the portrayal of Trump as some mindless ignoramus seems somewhat gratuitous. Moreover, it is contradicted by the main thrust of the analysis, which suggests that whatever the bluster, the missteps and backsliding, there is a method to the madness that is actually in continuity with the more erudite Obama administration's attempt at a strategic reset in the region.

The portrait of Trump "losing his mind," much fantasized by the liberal establishment media, seem contradicted by his ability so far to fend off what is literally an attempt by most of the established factions of the bourgeoisie to end his Presidency early by extra-electoral means. One shouldn't overstate this, Trump is obviously not a wordsmith; he exhibits little message dicipline, but this is only in keeping with the populist style. Still, he is no Dubya, who was an actual moron, a likable moron many wanted to share a beer with, but a moron nonetheless, whose Presdiency was executed by his neocon advisers. Trump on the other hand is attempting to govern against almost the entire foreign policy establishment, and unlike Obama whose attempt at a strategic reset in the ME was "deep sixed by the deep state," Trump so far cannot be entirely brought to heel. If Trump were such a moron however, how could he alone be allowed to "give the green light" to Turkey's invasion of Northern Syria? 

As far as Trump's comments about Normandy, Justin Trudeau, in a boon to his new minority government, will be glad to learn that Trump must consider Canada one of America's real allies, becuase it was there storming and dying on the beaches in June 1944, unlike the Kurds who were too insignificant and irrelevant to do much of anything in the middle of WWII, when the Western Anglo-Saxon democracies won the historic battle against totalitarianism. But as both Trump and this ICC article have pointed out, "The Kurds are no angels." They are, in fact, players in the imperialist game themselves, playing one power off agaisnt another. Many are "anarchists" or even "communists," hardly worth saving when America's main strategic interests and competitors lie elsewhere. My point: this comment wasn't as stupid as the Guardian or MSNBC thought it was. Trump is saying America has allies (UK, Canada) with which it shares deep historical bonds and which it will never foresake (minor trade disputes notwithstanding), but the Kurds were just tools in a failed policy.

As far as the new balance of power in the region, Russia emerging as a victor seems a stretch as it now has to become the policeman of the region. Putin is probably shitting bricks with the thought of what his victory will mean not only for Russia's interests, but for his own ass. Russia may have momentarily achieved its immediate goals of saving the Assad regime, but as a "status quo" power in the region, it is not quite right to say that Syria's territorial integrity has been entirely kept in tact. Turkish troops are now present on Syrian territory, and whatever the opportunistic rapprochment between Putin and Erdogan, the two powers do not have the same strategic goals. And this seems to be the point of Trump's strategy--let the second rate powers get bogged down in this mess, create a problem in the Russian-Turkish rapprochment (it wasn't long ago that Turkey shot down a Russian fighter plane) and direct resources elsewhere. But as the raid to kill Baghdadi was intended to show, the US is still the global super power, tales of its demise are grossly exaggerated, it can strike from anywhere whenever it wants. If the neocon strategy of pacifying entire regions of the world that do not want to be pacified was a costly illusion and mistake, under America First, the most powerful military in the world can still strike deep into enemy territory to achieve strategic goals with deadly precision, but with limited costs in treasure and lives.

As far as the divisions within the US ruling class, these are very real and predate Trump (i.e. the sabotage of Obama's strategic reset in the ME and with Russia), but Trump as a recalcitrant outsider has only accelerated them. These only further the appearance of chaos and disorder, which is the inevtiable outcome of this moment of political, demographic and economic transition in a state still burdened with the problem of securing some democratic legitimacy. But the idea of Trump as a "strongman" in the sense of Erdogan also seems exagerated. Part of the reason why Trump is insisting on this withdrawal (even if it is symbolic in some sense) right now is that there is an election next year--an election that every credible forecast has him losing badly. He has to be seen to keep his 2016 campaign promise to "end the wars," in at least some way or he will lose and possibly face prosecution and even jail from vengeful Demcorats third world style. Faced with this, he could care less about the rest of the political class right now. They can go fuck themselves. He will never make himself acceptable to them. The only thing that can save him right now are the voters. Trump won't care that his Syria withdrawal pisses off Republicans as much as Demcorats--he is relying on his base to keep them in line, hence the continuing rallies. And we say democracy is a myth? (Yes, I am being facetious there).  In any event, get ready for another possible strategic reset in about a year if a Democrat takes over. Will be interesting to see if Trump's policies were really the aberration from the necessary norm that the media and the establishment pols say they are, or if the pressures of continuity will make Elizabeth Warren adopt a slightly softer America Firstism?




The article correctly defines

The article correctly defines Trump as an expression of the growing decomposition of capitalism and, I'd add, an expression of the weakening of the US, not as a global superpower, but as a world cop and leader of a cohesive bloc. Trump has adapted very quickly to this situation and I don't think that the article is calling him a moron. I've worked with a lot of people with "learning difficulties" and I think that Trump's mental problems are more serious than that but being pyschotic or near-pyschotic has never been a bar to high office under capitalism but rather an asset, a leg-up through the system; it's something that's existed throughout capitalism but more so in its decomposition. Many senior elements of the military have criticised Trump in their difficulties to adjust to the new situation for US imperialism but it looks to me that he is generally well-regarded by the Pentagon in principle. The latest Ukraine relevations must be troubling for Trump though.


Both the article and jk point to the problems and contradictions that Russia is left with after "winning" this round of the Middle East contest. One such problem in Putin's turn to Erdogan is that the position of Iran becomes more problematic. For example, Turkey's take-up of previously YPG-controlled areas means that the shape of the "Iranian crescent" through Syria could be threatened or broken up. The YPG previously taxed the free movement of Iranian forces through their areas but it's unlikely that Turkey will do the same. And Iran is taking a bit of a hammering in the region with riots against its presence in Iraq and Hezbollah and Amal under great pressure in Lebanon - seized upon by competing imperialisms (US and Saudi, among others). There's been concern in Tehran for some time that a possible "betrayal" by Russia in in the offing.

This is probably besides the

This is probably besides the main point here, but I don't know if Trump is a psychopath or not. Is is a narcissist? Sure, but no more than Hillary Clinton, who continues to demonstrate her colors in media interview after interview, blaming everything and everyone under the sun for her 2016 loss, but herself. No doubt Trump will do the same if he is turned out of office, but Hillary's list of enemies reaches the level of delusional. Is Trump arrogant? Of course, but no more so than Obama, who has the hubris to go around the world intervening in other countries' elections, while his own political party pushes bizarre conspiracy theories about "foreign interference." Is Trump a brutal bully? Probably, but Amy Klobuchar literally throws binders at her interns. My point is the fascination with Trmup's personality, or his personality disorders, is not entirely rational. It is a function of a bourgeois media and political campaign and we, as communists, should look at through that lens and ask what is the goal of it?