Who's on first in Syria
And the warmongers just can't wait to jump in.
Abbott: I'm telling you. Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know is on third--
Costello: You know the fellows' names?
Costello: Well, then who's playing first?
Costello: I mean the fellow's name on first base.
Costello: The fellow playin' first base.
Costello: The guy on first base.
Abbott: Who is on first.
Costello: Well, what are you askin' me for?
Abbott: I'm not asking you--I'm telling you. Who is on first.
(National Review) - The U.S. is giving a theoretically nice boost to whichever “moderate” rebels in Syria we feel deserve strong U.S. backing, the Wall Street Journal reports:
The U.S. has decided to provide pickup trucks equipped with mounted machine guns and radios for calling in U.S. airstrikes to some moderate Syrian rebels, seeking to replicate the success Kurdish forces, aided by American B-1B bombers, had over Islamic State last month.
The plan comes as the U.S. prepares to start training moderate rebels, who are waging a two-front fight against the extremists and Syrian regime forces. Defense officials said American trainers will be in place March 1 in Jordan, with a second site due to open soon after in Turkey.[…]
A team of four to six rebels will each be given a Toyota Hi-Lux pickup, outfitted with a machine gun, communications gear and Global Positioning System trackers enabling them to call in airstrikes. The fighters will also be given mortars, but the administration hasn’t decided to provide the teams with more sophisticated antitank weapons.
The Central Intelligence Agency began a covert program to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels in 2013, providing ammunition, small arms and antitank weapons to small groups of trusted fighters. While that program continues, it is widely viewed as having fallen well short of its aims.
So we’re going to give the rebels we trust authority to provide targets for American bombs and missiles — but won’t trust them with aiming their own anti-tank missiles, as we did over the past couple years. The argument there, I suppose, is that unlike the previous round of U.S.-supplied anti-tank missiles, the ability to call in air strikes can’t fall into ISIS’s hands. (Although the equipment they use to communicate with the U.S. could . . .) Fair enough, finding rebels you trust is tough.
But it’s probably a good bit tougher when you don’t actually want to find real ”rebels” at all. U.S. air strikes can’t be called in against the Assad government that Syria’s opposition forces, well, oppose.
There’s nothing surprising about this, since the U.S. doesn’t want to go to war with Assad, for a number of reasons.
But it goes to show how half-hearted our effort in Syria is and how unlikely it is to succeed. If you were a Syrian rebel, whether you hate ISIS and al-Nusrah Front or not, you likely put your life on the line in the first place to defeat Assad. Unless you get real help for that mission, why would you develop any loyalty to the U.S. at all, let alone enduring loyalty or affection? (The exception to this seems to be the Kurdish rebels, who are American-friendly and have air-strike authority but no U.S. weapons.)
This problem is compounded by the fact that even moderate rebels recognize that the most effective anti-Assad forces are the most ideologically extreme. In other words, the U.S. is taking your calls, but it’s also bombing some of your best allies.
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