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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Fiddler Crab of DC

For John, BLUFWe need to spend more money on the soft side of power.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From Reporter Sydney J Freedberg, Jr, at Breaking Defense, we have The Fiddler Crab Effect:  State, AID, NSC Can’t Keep Up With DoD.  The article has been updated to reflect the comments of Michael Hayden at the Air Force Association's Annual Conference.
Frantic diplomacy seems to have forestalled US military action in Syria – for now.  But we stumbled into negotiations at the last minute, only after President Obama had threatened strikes and asked for a vote authorizing the use of force, when Secretary of State John Kerry made an off-the-cuff, off-message remark.

The confusion of the past week is just the latest example of an abiding problem, one that’s tripped America up not just in Syria but in Afghanistan and Iraq – and even, arguably, in cyberspace:  The strength and size of the Department of Defense, and the weakness of civilian agencies, drives policymakers towards using the armed forces to solve every problem.  It puts a heavy burden on the military that it’s generally eager to shake off, and it often militarizes US foreign policy.  But when all you have is a hammer and a couple of broken screwdrivers, everything looks like a nail.

Or you can use the analogy of a fiddler crab:  While the Defense Department and the civilian agencies are in theory co-equal arms of US policy, in reality one is way bigger and more powerful than the other

And, to complicate matters, the ever-controverseal Douglas J Feith has an OpEd in The Wall Street Journal that suggests that Syrian Bashar al Assad has cemented his position with the use of poison gas, since we will now keep him in office in order to secure the chemical weapons stocks in Syria, along with Russia and other UN nations.
This is what comes of focusing on what Mr. Obama legalistically calls the "international norms" barring chemical weapons use.  By choosing not to tackle the difficult strategic and humanitarian challenges posed by the Syrian civil war, the president is now rewarding the very offenses that he said he wanted to punish.  In the name of arms control, he is incentivizing the proliferation of chemical weapons.  In the name of international law, he is undermining respect for treaties. In the name of U.S. interests, he is emboldening America's enemies.

Bashar Assad must be blessing the sarin gas that killed all those men, women and children on Aug. 21.  If he did order that attack, it was a master stroke. The victims of chemical weapons shake in agony.  Assad, Vladimir Putin and Iran's Ali Khamanei shake with laughter.

But, then, the Honorable Mr Feith tends to be on the side of the war party.

Regards  —  Cliff


Jack Mitchell said...

No doubt, we don't know what we don't know.

But, we know we don't know Mr. Fieth's intent or motivations. That said, he has an ugly chickenhawk history with the Neocons.

Let Iran sort itself out, a bit more, before we move to our 'big stick hand.'

I'll suggest that Nina Davuluri may have an important role in all of this. As we are engulfed in proxies.

C R Krieger said...

Yes, but with Nina Davuluri you have the whole China-India thing, especially with China having lately several times penetrated the Line of Actual Control, raising the question of what "Actual" means.  Then there is the whole Scarborough Shoals thing and the Philippine 200 NM Economic Zone.

Is Douglas Feith the sort of Susan Rice/Sam Power of Administrations past?

Regards  —  Cliff