The US since 9/11 has pursued a policy that seems clearly designed to establish the US as the world's hegemon in pursuit of a utopian future ultimately based on belief in "American Exceptionalism" and the Reaganesque vision of America as a "Shining City upon a Hill," the form and pattern for mankind's future. This vision is based on the beliefs that English Puritans brought to New England in the 17th Century and which were explicitly stated by them in the writings of such people as John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay colony. The economic determinist crowd can state their objections to this explanation by me in "comments" below.
Whether you may think that dollars or ideas have been the determinants of recent policy, the practice since 9/11 of campaigning for basic transformation of foreign countries and cultures has been an unmitigated disaster for the United States. In pursuit of these policies of revolutionary change in ancient societies we have spent trillions of US dollars. This was money we did not and do not have and which we borrowed from our future with the result that our posterity will have at least 20 trillion dollars in public debt with which to cope. I will not attempt to eulogize the brothers and sisters in arms of the soldiers here. Nothing could console us for their deaths and mutilations but a great necessity born of a true threat to national survival and that has not been present in these wars designed to create a brave new world.
And now the Trump Administration is building on the folly of GW Bush's first term infatuation with Cheney and the neocons, as well as BHO's reluctance to dump the whole mess (including his COIN decision in 2009). Considering the present president's obvious shortcomings in experience in running a large organization and his tendency to want to play his subordinates off against each other, it is understandable that a lot of the best and most experienced people do not want to work for him. As a result he is being advised by staffers who somehow appealed to Michael Flynn in his function as chief targeteer for JSOC and whom McMaster has not removed or perhaps not been able to remove.
A pervasive assumption among these young people is the notion that Russia is a "paper tiger" and inevitably an enemy. Some of you will have watched the four part Oliver Stone interview with Vladimir Putin. IMO Putin is not a "paper tiger." The belief that Putin is afraid of the United States and will back away from us to avoid a fight is, I think, badly flawed. There is a pernicious fever of Russophobia that is now wide spread among active and retired officers of the US armed forces. Many officers, however intelligent and well educated are extremely rigid in their thinking. This is a professional defect that was rewarded in the long process of competitive service leading to promotion. It was thought to indicate reliability and firmness of character. The Army's Russian studies graduate school at Germisch, Germany has, IMO, contributed to this Russophobia by inculcating an attitude of implacable hostility toward the USSR and now Russia. The officer graduates of that institution have imparted this attitude to many others in the US Army. Retired US Army officers are now heard on Foxnews saying that the Russians must be "pushed into submission." This is crazy. Russia is not a minor power. They spend a tenth of what we do on military forces but their missile silos and submarines are full of weapons.
In Syria, the Russian aerospace forces have maintained a constant liaison link to the US air operations staff at al-Odeid air base in Qatar. All Syrian and Russian air operations have been de-conflicted between the two sides. This has been the case in spite of severe provocation by US aircraft who have killed a lot of Syrian soldiers even after the US air operations involved have supposedly been coordinated with the Russian/Syrian side as to routes and targets.
US coalition activity is so aggressive in the Raqqa/Tabqa area of north Syria and in the SE around the al-tanf border crossing that it seems clear that the US intends to partition Syria on a de facto basis with the east being used as a base for a post IS campaign against the Syrian government.
This intention is evident to the regional players as well as the Russians, Arabs don't like foreign invaders, especially foreign invaders who seek to advance the policy positions of the Israelis. Do we not all know that Israel wishes to destroy the Syrian government in the process of constructing a cordon sanitaire around itself? The Iraqi PMU (both Shia and Sunni) are closing ranks with the Syrian government to resist such foreign projects. Iraqi PMU (mostly Sunni) occupy the al-waliid border crossing from Syria into Iraq just south of al-tanf. They are not there to assist whatever it is that the US is trying to do in SE Syria. Iraqi forces (including Shia PMU) have linked up with the Syrian Army SW of Mosul. Translation: The US is in the process of losing the acquiescence of the Iraqi government in its evident hostility toward the Syrian government.
IMO Mattis and McMaster need to get a grip on what is really at stake in Syria and Iraq and quickly rid themselves of the malicious little people in the NSC staff who are pushing forces around as though they are chess pieces. pl