McMaster and Russia by Willy B


    I'm one of those folks, probably just one among many, here, who was a great admirer of H.R. McMaster. I've been following his public career since about 2006 and had always been impressed with his intellectual power and his blunt rejection of the Revolution In Military Affairs–concepts "that lead to the idea that you have perfect knowledge and can apply military power perfectly.'' I have been forced, over the past few days, however, to come to the conclusion that McMaster is a big part of the problem in the mad rush to war on Syria that erupted, last week, war that could lead to a direct military confrontation with Russia. His appearance on Fox News Sunday was an indication of that but there were indications of this potential well beforehand, while he was still at US Army Training and Doctrine Command.  His pre-occupation for the past two years, before he went to the White House, was, after all, how to reshape the Army for future war against Russia. There were two public discussions he was involved in April-May of 2016, the first in Chicago on April 12, at the Pritzker Military Museum and Library, and the second one at CSIS in Washington, DC on May 4, 2016, in which he laid out his view that Russia is little more than an aggressive power that uses, among other things, criminal gangs to further its offensive intentions against American power.  (I'm going to focus, here, on McMaster's public remarks. There's been a great deal of reporting on the machinations and feuds going on inside the National Security Council, but I will leave comment on that to those with better insight into such things).
    In the Pritzker discussion, McMaster was asked about deterrence by denial, what would this look like in Eastern Europe. In response, he said that there are three aspects to deterrence by denial. The first is the right kind of capabilities "that could counter Russian aggression, right, and those are our capabilities, I think, like what we're seeing as landbased long-range precision fires capabilities, a tiered air defense capability, an answer to their long-range massed fires, for example, that they've employed in Ukraine. I think it's a significant enough conventional deterrent so that you can also address really what Russia has been advertising as this doctrine of escalation domination where they boast about going to the use of tactical nuclear weapons. So certainly there's a nuclear qualitative deterrent to that capability." the second aspect is quantity. "I mean you have to be–you have to have forces in sufficient scale to demonstrate your ability to deny the enemy those objectives.," he said. Thirdly is "the will of the alliance [NATO]," keeping it strong and united. On this, he was full of praise for ex-NATO commander Gen. Philip Breedlove for doing "a tremendous, tremendous job." It will be recalled that Breedlove, for his anti-Russia war propaganda, was getting much of his "intelligence" from Philip Karber, the head of the Potomac Institute, which McMaster praised as a good open source on the Russia New Generation Warfare Study that McMaster was heading up at TraDoc at the time.

    In the CSIS event, McMaster described the "invasion" of Ukraine and the "annexation" of Crimea has having "punctuated" the end of the post-Cold War period, but that thase were not new developments "in terms of Russian aggression." He pointed to the Georgia war in 2008 and the cyber atttacks on the Baltic states as earlier indicators.  Despite these earlier signs, Mcmaster lamented that the US response was to continue draw down forces in Europe. "And what we're seeing now is we've awakened to, obviously, this threat from Russia, who is waging limited war for limited objectives – annexing Crimea, invading Ukraine – at zero cost, consolidating gains over that territory, and portraying the reaction by us and allies and partners as escalatory, that what is required to deter a strong nation that is waging limited war for limited objectives on battlegrounds involving weaker states – or what Thomas – Mackinder called at the end of the 18th, early 19th century the shatter zones on the Eurasian landmass – what is required is forward deterrence, to be able to ratchet up the cost at the frontier, and to take an approach to deterrence that is consistent with deterrence by denial, convincing your enemy that your enemy is unable to accomplish his objectives at a reasonable cost rather than sort of an offshore balancing approach and the threat of punitive action at long distance later, which we know obviously from – recent experience confirms that that is inadequate," he said.

    "Of course, this is a sophisticated strategy, what Russia is employing – and we're doing a study of this now with a number of partners – that combines, really, conventional forces as cover for unconventional action, but a much more sophisticated campaign involving the use of criminality and organized crime, and really operating effectively on this battleground of perception and information, and in particular part of a broader effort to sow doubt and conspiracy theories across our alliance," McMaster went on. "And this effort, I believe, is aimed really not at defensive objectives, but at offensive objectives – to collapse the post-World War II, certainly the post-Cold War, security, economic, and political order in Europe, and replace that order with something that is more sympathetic to Russian interests."

    McMaster presents all of this as if it's happening in a vacuum, as if the actions of the Anglo-American-led West had nothing to do with anything, particularly in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. McMaster, the PhD historian, should know much better than that.  The collapse of the post-World War II system could be happening for reasons that have nothing to do with Russia. Perhaps, like the Soviet Union in the 1980's, it's collapsing for reasons of its own internal contradictions, but this possibility is not even admitted into the discussion.  McMaster knows that the U.S. invaded Iraq on the basis of lies, but dismisses any discussion of that to focus on decisions, both good and bad, that were made afterwards. Yet the events that followed were totally shaped by that decision to invade. So, McMaster appears to have abandoned the intellectual rigor that characterized his book on the Vietnam War and much of his work afterwards. At first glance, it appears that he is instead drawing his outlook from the neo-cons, particularly about the alleged threat to American power, but I have to do much more work to develop this before I can say anything definitively.


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89 Responses to McMaster and Russia by Willy B

  1. A. Jones says:

    Long time reader, first time commenter on this outstanding blog.
    I had the occasion to hear McMaster speak publicly about a year ago or so at Newport, RI (NWC). To me, he came across as a very high energy salesman. If I recall correctly, much of his speech involved the need to add more and more resources and questioned as to why Americans might be tired of war. He essentially said that he himself wasn’t tired of it. This was also in front of an audience that was comprised not only of American military officers, but also of foreign officers from many different countries (and not just US allies either).
    Reading his bio, I note that he had tactical success early in his career. I wonder if there is a deeper problem here at the general officer/flag officer level: Officers who are very good at the tactical level, decent at the operational level, but not competent at the strategic level. I recognize that there are obviously other massive political factors at play as well.
    My two cents…

  2. b says:

    McMaster is a proteges of Petraeus. It is likely that Petraeus talks with Trump got him the job. Petreaus was in discussion as NSA but drew out when he learned that McMaster was probably in. (Better to stay in the shadows behind the man)

  3. turcopolier says:

    Petraeus is a convicted criminal. He is still serving probationary time. pl

  4. Alaric says:

    I doubt just one person is to blame for the 180 shift of trump’s policies. Enormous pressure is being placed on trump on all fronts and he has idiotically surrounded himself with neocons. Trump is probably doing what he does best, saving himself.
    On the other hand, I thought the guy at “Veterans Today” was sorta wacky. He kept claiming trump was Netanyahu’s poodle. Perhaps he was correct and trump just fooled us. Perhaps I and others were naive.

  5. eakens says:

    If McMaster and co. keep this up, I’m betting Tillerson might tender his resignation.

  6. Stumpy says:

    […]to collapse the post-World War II, certainly the post-Cold War, security, economic, and political order in Europe, and replace that order with something that is more sympathetic to Russian interests.
    He’s, in other words, afraid Russia will take credit for the West collapsing just as the West took credit for the collapse of the Soviet Union.
    Criminal behavior with conventional force as cover. Has he not heard of the CIA?

  7. A. Jones says:

    PL, assuming this website is screened by you, would you be able to remove the first part of my comment above? I can be contacted separately via my email address. Thank you.

  8. Bill Herschel says:

    Trump is looking around for someone to make him look good. He can’t do it himself, because he has absolutely no personal resources except adjectives. He is Mr. Adjective, and the American public eats it up. Recall that GWB was fond of adjectives.
    When AHCA caved, he was desperate. He looked really bad, and needed someone to make him look good. I expect him on the deck of an aircraft carrier soon. The important thing is that he doesn’t have any beliefs… except looking good.
    No President has ever had hair like this guy, and no President has been as desperate to look good.
    Does he think about consequences? No. Does the U.S. stand a chance against Russia? No. World War III will be fought out by irreconcilable political groups in the U.S. It’s already happening. Think Freedom Caucus.

  9. robt willmann says:

    This Syria and Russia affair is starting to get surreal.
    Secretary of Defense James Mattis and U.S. Central Command Gen. Joseph Votel gave a press conference today. Mattis says that he personally reviewed the intelligence about Syria and that there is “no doubt that the Syrian regime is responsible for the decision to attack and for the attack itself”.–
    Well, then, if there is “no doubt” that there was a toxic gas attack and that Syria is responsible for it, the U.S. government should release all of the “intelligence” and evidence (if there is any), and scientific analysis, and exactly how the evidence was gathered and its chain of custody and its authenticity. Then we can check it and see if there is indeed, “no doubt”.
    Vladimir Putin makes a statement at the G7 meeting in Italy that he suspects there may be false flag attacks in Syria designed by the U.S. to try to lead to further military strikes–
    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks today after the G7 meeting and the language about Russia and Syria continues to be accusatory–

  10. John_Frank says:

    fyi – video of today’s press briefing by the Defense Secretary and Centcom Commander
    Suggest people take the time to watch the entire briefing.
    Irrespective of what anyone else in the Trump administration is saying either on or off, the Defense Secretary said among other things that the attack on April 4 was a Syrian operation. The US has no evidence that Russia or Iran were involved.
    The Defense Secretary explained that with the continued usage of chemical weapons on the Syrian battlefield, culminating in an attack involving sarin gas on April 4, which the Syrians had said they had given up, the US felt compelled to act. With the missile attack the message was stop using chemical weapons and do not do it again.
    The coalition military focus remains on destroying ISIS in Syria and then proceeding to stabilize the situation. The Pentagon clearly has no interest in getting further involved in the Syrian civil war, nor in forcibly removing Bashir al-Assad from power.
    During the briefing it was made clear that the US military continues to have good contacts with the Russian military. Also, the Defense Secretary said that he did not see the situation with Russia spiraling out of control as it was not in their interest to do so.
    I am paraphrasing what was said during the briefing. You are encouraged to watch the entire event for yourself.
    Today’s briefing should burst the balloon of those within and outside of the Trump administration seeking to push the US into a full fledged war in Syria, or a direct confrontation with Russia
    Turning to the subject at hand, Fiona Hill was recently hired by the White House, presumably on the recommendation and at the request of General McMaster, as deputy assistant to the President and senior director for European and Russian Affairs.
    Fiona Hill, Brookings scholar, to join National Security Council
    Reading through her biography it is obvious that she has a rather dim view of Mr. Putin and his administration.
    Brookings Institute is a major beneficiary of funding from the Emir of Qatar, who also supports the Muslim Brotherhood and a number of the more fanatical Sunni Salafist jihadist groups.
    At the request of National Security Advisor General McMaster, Dina Powell changed roles on March 15 and is now serving as deputy national security adviser for strategy.
    Prior to that she had been serving as the President’s senior counselor for economic initiatives.
    People can read her bio at this link
    The story is that Ms. Powell was initially recommended by Ivanka Trump and is connected to Hillary Clinton and the lobbying firm Teneo.

  11. Brunswick says:

    During the Campaign, Trump inferred that he wasn’t “non-interventionist”, that he was going to “take names” and “kick ass”, with illusions of “taking the oil”, and for things as trivial as the IRGC “dissing” the USN for rude gestures,
    He just wasn’t going to do the “R2P thing” or the “nation building” thing.

  12. BillWade says:

    The “sarin” part is awfully had to believe given the pics that were made available. I believe Ms Powell was Ivanka Trump’s advisor during the election campaign.

  13. aleksandar says:

    Nobody having attended courses about Nuclear, Chimical and Bacteriological weapons would agree that it was sarin gas.
    Sorry, it’s just BS.

  14. Thomas101st says:

    You’re joking right ? Princess Ivanka, the fashion queen, picked the “deputy national security advisor for strategy” ? My apologies to all those never-Trumpers out there.

  15. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    Willie, the comments by McMaster that you quote strongly suggest they were made by a person who had imbibed deeply of the neocon kool-ade and as you note is seemingly oblivious to Russian culture and history, both recent and going back centuries. About ten days ago the Russia-sympathetic blogger The Saker put up a post entitled “Searching for Russia” that did a good job of describing Putin’s relationship to and position in that history and I found it most informative and I recommend it highly.
    His post earlier today on the cruise missile strike and its portents for the future is also very worthwhile.

  16. John_Frank says:

    With respect that is not what I wrote.
    The decision to hire Ms. Powell as deputy national security advisor for strategy was made by National Security Advisor General McMaster.

  17. BabelFish says:

    aleksander, it is Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare school. I attended one and agree with your observation.

  18. plantman says:

    If the Trump administration wants Assad gone, then maybe they’re considering a decapitation operation in Damascus.
    Is that possible or is it too far-fetched?

  19. John_Frank says:

    Fyi, two open source reports that people may wish to read:
    April 5 – Syria: Khan Sheikhoun Victims Show Symptoms Consistent with Exposure to Chemical Substances
    “A number of victims of the April 4 attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun were brought to the hospital, located about 60 miles to the north, near the Turkish border. Eight people who were examined by MSF staff displayed symptoms consistent with exposure to an agent such as sarin gas or similar compounds, including constricted pupils, muscle spasms and involuntary defecation.
    The MSF team provided drugs and antidotes to treat patients, and distributed protective clothing to medical staff in the hospital’s emergency room.
    MSF medical teams also visited other hospitals treating victims of the attack, and reported that they smelled of bleach, indicative of possible exposure to chlorine.
    These reports strongly suggest that victims of the attack on Khan Sheikhoun were exposed to at least two different chemical agents.”
    The second is one published on April 6:
    April 6 – Banned nerve agent sarin used in Syria chemical attack, Turkey says
    The Turkish statement said the sarin conclusion had been based on autopsies on three victims.
    The autopsies were performed on three victims of the attack who were taken to Turkey. It is unclear from the article when the individuals had passed, whether at the scene of the attack, or later.
    According to the published report:
    “The Turkish statement said the sarin conclusion had been based on autopsies on three victims performed at Turkey’s Adana Forensic Medicine Institution with the participation of representatives from the World Health Organization and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a group based in The Hague that monitors compliance with the global treaty that bans such munitions.”

  20. CJA says:

    Putin is in Syria to block the Qatar/Saudi gas pipeline that we’ve been supporting for a number of years – thus the real reason for destabilizing Assad just like was done in Libya. If it went through and began supplying Europe, Putin would lose significant income from the gas he currently supplies to Europe. Per “The Prize” everything we do in that part of the world has been and is about oil (the petrodollar)and is working to plan (PNAC).

  21. walrus says:

    I am starting to think President Trump thinks like a property developer. They have no concept of developing. long term beneficial relationships with their customers. Their time horizon is the completion of the development and sale, then it s on to the next project. There is no concept of “long term ‘ strategy.
    What is disturbing is that the will say and do anything to complete the deal but there is no follow through, reflection or re-engagement.
    Putins strategy at the moment is designed to frustrate Trump the man – he won’t meet him.
    The stakes for Putin are high, if he folds, Russia becomes a vassal state like Europe, Britain, Australia, Japan, etc. That ultimately means the imposition of U.S. corporate culture and that U.S. corporations will “invade” Russia like they have done everywhere else

  22. Willybilly says:

    Anything is possible if the price is right…. Assad is very heavily involved in security and Intel matters, much more than is actually known…. the easiest way is an assassination attempt…

  23. optimax says:

    Even if Assad did it, which I doubt, where is the humanity in killing thousands or tens-of-thousands to take him out. And then you create a vacuum for the jihadis to fill and create havoc.
    Trump said before taking office he would listen to the generals. Their solution to every problem is military. Have any of these gerals studied and absorbed humanities while in school? Has Trump ever read a book or taken courses in the humanities? We need people in charge with large world views you don’t get by focusing solely on their career choices.

  24. Peter AU says:

    Decapitate government, military, and destroy some critical military infrastructure with missile attack. Dazed/confused military would be quickly overrun. Turk forces backing up moderate terrorists in north?
    Perhaps a few Russians killed but Russian air and naval bases not targeted.
    Quite thinkable after reading Rand Corporation’s “Thinking The Unthinkable”

  25. BillWade says:

    this was printed on Jan 11th, I thought I heard her name bandied about during the campaign:
    “POLITICO reported last week that Powell has been informally advising Ivanka Trump on personnel and other issues for weeks. She is expected to provide a connection between the Trump White House — eyed with skepticism by many in the GOP establishment — and corporate America and Wall Street.”
    Source is “Politico”. I think she’s a Clintonista.

  26. James F says:

    You’re right. Even a stupid REMF like me knows this.

  27. mauisurfer says:

    you say:
    Russia won’t go to WWIII over Syria. Their defense doctrine is oriented around fighting wars up to a maximum of 1,000 miles from their borders.
    From Sevastopol to Aleppo is about 610 miles
    From Russian ground North of Caspian to Aleppo is about 750 miles

  28. Marko says:

    If this was a planned false-flag event , there could be two separate components of this attack. One in which chlorine was released during the bombing by Syrian jets of known rebel weapon stockpiles. The chlorine may have always been there or could have been placed there because of advance knowledge of the Syrian targets ( quite possible , if not likely , given the capabilities of anti-Assad state actors , including the U.S , Israel , etc. ).
    The second component is the generation of some sarin victims. This could have been done using captives , and would have required tiny quantities of sarin if performed efficiently. Alernatively , using larger quantities , one or a few rockets could have delivered the sarin to residential areas at the time of the bombing raid.
    This may seem like it’s beyond the capabilities of a bunch of head-choppers acting alone. It may well be , but I seriously doubt they acted alone.

  29. mauisurfer says:

    the idea of attacking Syrian military infrastructure was not something dreamed up at the last second by the Trump administration. Its author was General James Mattis when he was U.S. Commander in the Middle East in 2013 and was removed for promoting policies that contradicted President Obama’s desire to withdraw from war operations in the region, taking down the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now Mattis is the Secretary of Defense and the cruise missile attack on the Shayrat air force base comes from his playbook.
    I see Trump following Bush2’s path. Bush was very unpopular in the first 9 months of his presidency, with the press and even with many who had voted for him – and for good reason, he was incompetent and uninformed and not curious to learn anything – and he bragged that he was “the decider”, a concept that he probably learned at Harvard Business School where there are no texts at all. He quite explicitly said that he realized he could be a popular president if he could make war. So now Trump has absorbed this key to popularity with the people of USA.

  30. Chemosabe says:

    These reports only tell us that there are victims of a chemical attack in Idlib province.
    Re Turkish autopsies: where did the bodies of these victims come from? There is a Western legal term called “the chain of custody”. How do we know these bodies actually came from the site of the attack? These autopsies were done in Turkey. Is Turkey a neutral party in this ongoing conflict? Is post coup Turkey a place where truth is valued above all else?
    Re MSF: once again, these statements do nothing to establish the perpetrators of the attack. There is very little hard or compelling evidence being offered. Statements by doctors and hospital staff in Jihadi controlled areas don’t count for much. And neither do soil, blood and urine samples collected by those who work alongside (for?) the Jihadis.

  31. Babak Makkinejad says:

    G-7 is behind him on Syria. He is not alone. Australian Government supports him too, without a doubt.

  32. Thomas101st says:

    So the decision was made by a military bimbo and not a fashion bimbo. My mistake.

  33. robt willmann says:

    Philip Giraldi says in an interview that sources on the ground in the Middle East assert that the narrative that Syria blasted the civilians with chemical weapons is a sham–
    Apparently military and intel people familiar with it are disturbed by the blatantly false official story being told, as it of course raises the risk of military conflict. This may be why the alleged “evidence” and analysis claimed by the U.S. has not been released to the public and is being kept secret.
    Despite the serious atmosphere in the air, the American sense of humor and parody still exists, and the power of ridicule is giving a good hit to the recent ham-handed tactics of United Airlines–

  34. John_Frank says:

    Trump: ‘We’re not going into Syria’
    ‘Amid complaints that his aides are saying different things about Syria and his policy is confusing, President Trump emphatically cleared the air.
    “We’re not going into Syria,” he told me yesterday in an exclusive interview. “Our policy is the same — it hasn’t changed. We’re not going into Syria.”
    The president, speaking by phone Tuesday, called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a “butcher” and a “barbarian” for using sarin gas on his own people, but said last week’s successful missile strike was not the start of a campaign to oust the dictator.
    “Our big mission is getting rid of ISIS,” Trump said. “That’s where it’s always been. But when you see kids choking to death, you watch their lungs burning out, we had to hit him and hit him hard.”
    He called the attack, which involved 59 cruise missiles fired from two Navy destroyers, “an act of humanity.”
    I asked if he, as a new president, found it difficult to make the final decision, knowing the stakes?
    “It’s very tough to give that final go-ahead when you know you’re talking about human life,” he said. “We went back and forth, and also back and forth about severity. We could have gone bigger in terms of targets and more of them, but we thought this would be the appropriate first shot.”
    Later, he added, “We hope he won’t do any more gassing.”
    The interview was scheduled to last 15 minutes, but ran nearly twice as long. Throughout, the president was gracious, energized and focused. He answered every question, and invited me to ask more as aides tried to get him to his next appointment. So I did.’
    People will want to read the entire report as Mr. Goodwin also quotes the President in response to questions on relations with Russia.
    Mr. Goodwin has published a number of posts dealing with other issues covered during the interview which people can find on the website.

  35. John_Frank says:

    As to the reported build up of forces along the Jordanian border with Syria, which some have pointed to as a precursor to an invasion, on Sunday, Centcom reported:
    Coalition, Vetted Syrian Opposition Forces Repel ISIS Attack
    “Coalition forces and partnered vetted Syrian opposition forces repelled an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria attack targeting a partnered military base in southern Syria yesterday, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.
    ISIS initiated the attack on the An Tanf garrison with a vehicle bomb and between 20 to 30 ISIS fighters followed with a ground assault and suicide vests, officials said.
    Coalition and partnered forces defended against the ISIS attack with direct fire before destroying enemy assault vehicles and the remaining fighters with multiple coalition airstrikes, officials said.
    In southern Syria, officials said, vetted Syrian opposition forces focus on conducting operations to clear ISIS from the Hamad Desert and have been instrumental in countering the ISIS threat in southern Syria and maintaining security along the Syria-Jordan border.”

  36. Chris Chuba says:

    McMaster / Mattis fit a pattern, they spend their career preparing to dissect countries like Iran and Russia which is their job and also develop a real animus towards those countries. Gen. Jack Keane’s veins pop when he talks about Russia.
    This article on the daily caller describes the Administration’s proof of Assad’s guilt
    It’s worse than you think, by that I mean the hastiness of the decision and lack of professionalism. We are approaching Caligula level of insanity.
    Some highlights …

    “intelligence gathered from social media accounts, open source videos, reporting, imagery, and geospatial intelligence showed that the chemical attack was a regime attack.”

    So our Intelligence is based on White Helmet video production and when you read the entire article, it’s obvious that they didn’t even do a good job of scrutinizing that. I hope this is ‘fake news’ but it rings true. There was absolutely no time for an actual Intelligence Assessment.
    It also makes claims that it was exclusively a Sarin and not a Chlorine or other chemical attack (who needs to examine all the bodies or get independent lab results) by looking at select portion of the videos and lab results released by Turkey. They make the claim that the rebels have absolutely no access to Sarin, therefore Assad has to be guilty. Here is a link from Southfront noting that 2 of Assad’s known chemical weapons facilities were never inspected because they are in Rebel controlled territory
    In any case, this ‘report’, if genuine is a joke and doesn’t look like it was vetted by professionals. Just once, I would like to see a big lie get exposed.

  37. John_Frank says:

    fyi Two reports from the State Department.
    The first being a blog entry posted after the meetings in Luca, Italy wrapped up:
    G7 Foreign Ministers Stand United to Face Pressing International Challenges
    The second being the transcript of a press availability that the Secretary of State had after the meetings concluded in Luca, Italy in which he read a statement and then answered some questions:
    April 11, 2017 – Remarks at a Press Availability
    People will want to read the entire transcript of the press availability.
    Between the Secretary of State, Defense Secretary and the President, the message is that the United States is not planning on invading Syria.
    Setting aside ISIS, as to the use of chemical weapons on the Syrian battle field, whether by the Syria Armed Forces, or by other forces, it seems the State Department is taking the position:
    With Turkey, Iran and Russia as guarantors of the current cease fire, and Russia as guarantor of Syria’s performance of its obligations as settled in 2013, the United States is looking to those parties to honor their obligations.
    As Turkey is the guarantor of the performance of the opposition under the cease fire, even though a number of opposition forces have yet to agree to the cease fire; while the designated terror organizations operating out of Idlib have refused, from a diplomatic perspective, will the US now look to Turkey for performance to stop battle field usage of chemical weapons by the opposition forces?
    Furthermore, if it turns out that the opposition forces in and around Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib have carried out a provocation or false flag operation as people are claiming, will the US look to Turkey for satisfaction?
    That does not address the six chemical weapons attacks carried out by the Syrian Armed Forces since August, 2016 as reported by, (four in 2016 and two in 2017), along with the three earlier attacks in 2014 and 2015 as determined by the UN OPCW joint investigative mechanism to have been carried out by the Syrian Armed Forces.
    P.S. I still think that the President needs to go before Congress and get a resolution authorizing future missile strikes and a separate authorization concerning ISIS, but that is a separate discussion.

  38. Phil Cattar says:

    ex-PFC Chuck…………….About two years ago the Blog Cluborlov had an article you might find interesting it’s title was “Peculiarities of Russian National Character”

  39. Adamski says:

    Is there any comparable time in history where the Leading world power has behaved so hypocritically and amorally?
    I mean, really, what is going on here?
    The US and muppets have tied themselves up into tight little knots with their campaign of lies and obfuscations.
    Who will/can trust US ever again?

  40. WarrenPeese says:

    The scare quotes around “invasion” and “annexation” in describing the invasion and annexation of the Crimean region of Ukraine is an objectively pro-Putin point of view.
    As for McMaster, that he is recognizing that Putin is not our friend does not connote the derogatory label of “neocon”. Putin is really not our friend.

  41. Ivan says:

    It turns out that it was Obama who stood athwart the neocon plans in Syria.

  42. John_Frank says:

    fyi Memo from VIPS – Trump Should Rethink Syria Escalation
    Not sure when that was posted, although it was tweeted out early this morning.
    Do not know whether the statement influenced the Trump administration or not.
    However, from the statement made by Secretary of State Tillerson Tuesday morning in Luca, Italy, along with the answers given; the video of the press conference with the Defense Secretary and head of Centcom Tuesday afternoon, along with the interview that the President gave to Michael Goodwin this afternoon and published Tuesday evening:
    1. Secretary of State Tillerson, Defense Secretary Mattis and the President have all stated there is no plan to invade Syria and the military mission remains to destroy ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
    2. During his press conference, Defense Secretary Mattis said that he had personally reviewed all of the intelligence. He rejected the notion of Russian involvement in the attack on April 4, saying that it was a Syrian operation. He further said he did not see events getting out of control with Russia. In response to questions, the listener was left to understand that the US military continues to have good contacts with the Russian military despite the hotline being shut down and that coalition air forces were not in any danger while carrying out missions against ISIS in Syria.
    3. While reiterating the US position concerning the attack on April 4, the President used the interview with Mr. Goodwin to make the case why Russia would want to join forces with the United States.
    Meanwhile as we all know, Secretary of State Tillerson is meeting with his counter part in Moscow later today.
    P.S. I have posted links to the press availability with Secretary Tillerson, along with the video of the press conference with Secretary Mattis and the article by Mr. Goodwin of his interview with the President earlier.

  43. Ante says:

    Willy B, Thank you for the article. While reading I was struck by the idea that so many borgists see Russia as Persia to the US’s Rome. It was the East Roman Empire’s constant fighting with various incarnations of Persia that left them both vulnerable to the Islamic conquests and then the Mongol and Turkic invasions. If they could have seen each other as partners, the entire course of history could be different.
    Russia should be America’s ally, and if not ally, then at least an amiably neutral relation. China’s economic dominance and the threat of the dollar no longer being the world’s reserve currency are a billion times more important to the long term health of the US than Russia’s attempts to preserve a secular state in Syria. But the men in charge can’t past the tips of their fucking noses.

  44. b says:

    That was tried in July 2012. Four highest ranking security officials were killed. Assad wasn’t there. The hoped for result wasn’t achieved. Syrian security and mil services continued as before.
    Only question is who did it: CIA or Mossad?

  45. Kunuri says:

    This is exactly how I explained what happened to a friend of mine the other day. Thank you for writing it, I am forwarding your comment to her.
    One thing I may add, I have no doubt that the actual Sarin that was used was manufactured within the Jihadiland from components provided from within Turkey. The only thing I can not explain is how the actual Sarin Gas attack was initiated almost exactly the same time as the attack. They must have been waiting, ambush style, somewhere nearby, with their victims exposed or someone within the Syrian regime may have tipped off the Jihadists and whoever was with them for the exact time of the attack of Syrian aircraft on the chlorine depot, which produced the explosion that we see in videos. Then the victims are either transported to the location, or the film cast and crew brought to the set.
    And as far as the film set that was the dead victims, it was staged. I know something about setting a scene, I am a Production Designer. If one of my art directors had staged a scene like that, I would have fired him. As far as the action scenes performed by the White Helmets, bad acting and choreography sometimes may produce more realistic frames than those performed by capable actors and SFX people. Those bad actors really get into it. One year during a reenactment of Turkish independence war, those costumed as Turkish soldiers, actually attacked and started to really beat up those costumed as vanquished Greek soldiers.

  46. Cee says:

    I’ve read that Putin doesn’t plan to meet with him on this trip.
    I don’t know why he would resign though because he’s now on the Regime Change Train too.

  47. Peter AU says:

    Latest of a constant stream emanating from the whitehouse over last 24 hrs
    President Trump on Tuesday said Russia is backing an “evil person” by supporting Syrian leader Bashar Assad.
    “Putin is backing a person that’s truly an evil person,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo set to air on Wednesday.
    “And I think it’s very bad for Russia. I think it’s very bad for mankind. It’s very bad for this world,” he said.
    Trump further argued that Assad’s use of chemical weapons on civilians makes the Syrian leader “an animal.”
    “But when you drop gas or bombs or barrel bombs — they have these massive barrels with dynamite and they drop them right in the middle of a group of people. And in all fairness, you see the same kids — no arms no legs, no face. This is an animal,” Trump said.
    What is the saying here? Shit is on good …
    Yeah. Getting too serious. Two weeks?

  48. eakens says:

    The US needs a place to replace Incirlik with. Energy pipelines are the chaser.

  49. confusedponderer says:

    “Bush 2 was very unpopular in the first 9 months of his presidency … he was incompetent and uninformed and not curious to learn anything – and he bragged that he was “the decider”
    Ah. That’s probably all true if put a bit too light. IMO you really should have gotten more complete to do Bush 2 the justice for what he said and did. He deserves that.
    I propose to give honour to those who act honourably, and to give disgrace and mockery to those who truly deserve it.
    Here are two marvellous bits that Bush 2 said:
    (*) Bush 2 said on November 17, 2002 in an interview this:
    ‘I’m the commander — see, I don’t need to explain — I do not need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.’
    Indeed, cruise missiles speak for themselves …
    (*) Bush 2, speaking at the Pentagon, on 19.8.2004:
    ‘Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.’
    Ah, ‘neither do you’?
    Judging by success, Bush 2 has been doing just a heckuva job.

  50. Yeah, Right says:

    “Is there any comparable time in history where the Leading world power has behaved so hypocritically and amorally?”
    I believe the phrase you need to look up is “perfidious albion”.
    Ain’t nothing the Americans can teach the good ol’ Foreign Office.

  51. Peter AU says:

    “The only thing I can not explain is how the actual Sarin Gas attack was initiated almost exactly the same time as the attack.”
    Is there any video/photos of the victims at or near the site where the small crater is shown in the road? That is allegedly the place were the chemical munition hit.
    All I have seen is video of people that look like they have been gassed in a quarry.

  52. Marko says:

    Tweets like this one suggests the rebels had some advance knowledge :
    I think the rebels may have known with some detail about what targets the Syrian jets would bomb and when. The U.S. would have received information about this because of the deconflict agreement they had with Russia , and then could have alerted the rebels. Also , any number of the anti-Assad states’ intel agencies might have also picked up transmissions , etc., and then passed the info to the rebels. It’s important to consider the possibility that high-powered state assets were involved in this – it was a big operation that they all wanted to succeed.

  53. LeaNder says:

    Not only the two rebel controlled premises that surface a lot lately, but (from the top of my head) what about the Syrian Army deserters, the Free Syrian Army. Who were they, where were they stationed, what were their jobs? … Concerning some of the scenarios above. How many double, triple, quadruple agents or servants to whoever’s interest are around?
    Beyond that, a nugget for b, could it be that reality politics dictate that Assad has to go, since some German firms were involved in a little help creating the Syrian program to start with? Now that the issue gets hotter and hotter? Better handle it with a little distraction for the multitude of us? Looks like it anyway, or did I stumble across fake news, not quite concentrated yesterday?
    Hope? … Change? Making America Great Again? … we’ll see.

  54. Harry says:

    “Also, the Defense Secretary said that he did not see the situation with Russia spiraling out of control as it was not in their interest to do so.”
    I wonder in whose interests was the first or second world War?

  55. Degringolade says:

    Please don’t forget the Byzantine empire

  56. Babak Makkinejad says:


  57. Interesting post and thread IMO!
    We all have blind spots and are captive to some degree with our personal experience.
    Here is another take that may well be defective but I put forth! Most of these ideas are not new to my posting on this blog.
    1. Few U.S. Flag Ranks are actually expert on nuclear weapon effects and targeting. Perhaps the best open source writing ever was by Retired 4-star Lee Butler and his analysis of defects in the SIOP.
    2. Nuclear weapons are NOT military weapons. To use a nuke is to become a pariah nation IMO.
    3. The leading user in actual warfare of chemical weapons is the U.S. [Agent orange?]
    4. I have had many American friends whose background was the Christian/Arab world of the Middle East. {Are not most of the Lebanese in this country Christian?].
    5. If we had trained 50K Americans in Arab, Farsi, Court Persian, Urdu, Turku
    and other languages after 9/11 what would have been the impact?
    6. Is not the activities of Russia since 1991 proof that that nation is inextricably tied to the WEST not Asia?
    7. Who controls the Russian economy and for what purposes?
    8. Many have argued for a long time that the U.S. State department was under the control of Big Oil? Was it and is it?
    9. What will be the lasting impacts of the Trump Presidential win? IMO no evidence the Swamp will be drained!
    10. The Law of In-Intended Consequences has long rule Washington D.C. power circles will it continue to do so? Reminder THE POWER ELIT [1955] STILL OF VALUE IMO!

  58. One review from Amazon of the POWER ELITE:
    What is strikingly apparent even though this book was published in 1956, is that many of the factual bases of it and its observations are seen today, in 2006. And, the current power-structure will continue to operate this way. It is increasing, and will continue to do so. This is where democracies often lead.
    There are a few thousand people in the United States that control almost all aspects of society. These few thousand individuals, hold leadership posts in the political, military, and economic spheres. An extremely high percentage of these individuals were educated in the same schools, come from upper-class families, belong to the same public clubs, and often the same secret societies. The members of this ruling group hold the same interests and values. And this group, self-selects the majority of its members. This is why there won’t be change in the values and course of direction of the United States. One of the biggest myths of American society is that the middle class has influence on which direction and course, our society takes. The American middle class does not have interests or values in common with the Power Elites that control and run US society.
    Because of these differences, who benefits?
    The shift from the land-owning elites to the Oligarchic Corporate Rich began in earnest after the American Civil War.
    Today, the foundations of the “3 tiers of control” that form the current oligarchic power structure of the United States has been long in the making, be it by intentional design, convenience, and/or by coincidence. (The first is the most intentional and influential.)
    First, applying a concept of 1956 into to the present year of 2006: The power nuance and enmeshment of and within, the political, military, and economic world. There are thousands of examples. Here are a contemporary few:
    Colin Powell, occupying the upper echelon of the military world. Achieving the post of Joint-Chiefs of staff, retiring from the military world and moving directly into the political world, as Secretary of State. Not born into the club, but by his work, intellect, and skills, selected into the club, as Cheney.
    Dick Cheney went from political (Congress, advisor, Sec. of Defense) to the Corporate (Halliburton CEO) and then back to the political (Vice President) echelon.
    It was Charles Wilson, the President of GM that famously said, “What’s good for the country is good for General Motors, and vice versa,” He later became the Secretary of Department of Defense.
    MEDIA and the MASSES:
    Intriguing yet disturbing is the author’s description of what he defines as the “Masses.” The Masses (population) receive their information and form opinions by what the Elites of society present to them through the conglomerate media. Instead of forming their own opinions, the Masses believe, and regurgitate what the conglomerate media run by the Elites, feed them. The Masses are merely spectators of which about 50% vote occasionally. They don’t even make decisions.
    The Iraq war is an example of “Mass thinking,” and one can see it in American media, as well as from ordinary Americans that copy-cat and parrot the media’s slogans about the recent petro-dollar oil bourse campaign. Independent thought does not exist for the masses. The Iraq campaign was started and controlled by unelected bureaucrats.
    Speeches and writings by General Douglas McArthur and Dwight D. Eisenhower decades ago, echo the sentiments in this book in an eery way.
    The Power Elite in the US isn’t necessarily different from other contemporary societies today, and throughout history. But by being aware of it, people can choose to live for themselves and form their own opinions, even though they cannot change society’s course.

  59. Fred says:

    You mean CJCS told him the truth and he knew he couldn’t get congressional approval for a war based on the first false-flag attack?

  60. Fred says:

    The other question is what will prevent anyone from trying at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

  61. ISL says:

    Marko, very good point. That could explain why Russia decided not to deconflict anymore.

  62. Freudenschade says:

    Who are the neocons with whom he has surrounded himself? When you’re hunting the white whale of the borg, every wave that hits the hull of the SS Committee of Correspondence somehow turns into a neocon.

  63. pmr9 says:

    Kunuri and Peter AU
    As you note, there are no images of the victims being rescued in their homes, or near the attack site. Work is still going on, at the ACloserLookOnSyria wiki and elsewhere, to try to arrange the videos by time and place and to identify continuity errors. Early findings suggest that the videos showing bodies being hosed down in the quarry / cave complex were recorded before 4 April. but this is not yet definite. There is also evidence of victim recycling: same victims in different locations, as there was in Ghouta.
    Kunuri: if you have video production skills, your expertise in analysing the videos would be most welcome. Playlists have been prepared.

  64. Mikey says:

    Worth reading this article from 2012 before the propaganda war became established. Has public opinion there changed? Not in my estimation. It has likely increased.
    Most Syrians back President Assad, but you’d never know from western media
    And from 2014: Syrian election shows depth of popular support for Assad, even among Sunni majority

  65. Brunswick says:

    Why would any external player try?
    Bush43 did more damage to the US, militarially, politically and economically, than any US Foreign Enemy, since the War of 1812.
    Trump45’s gonna make the wounds from Bush43 look trivial.

  66. sid_finster says:

    I suspect that, even if it gives up Syria, Russia is merely playing for time.
    Russian people know history well, and they know that, no matter what he said, Hitler would never be satisfied with “just” the Rhine or “just” the Sudetenland.
    FWIW, the Germans also justified their annexations with lurid tales of atrocities that nobody, not even they, believed.

  67. sid_finster says:

    “Has Trump ever read a book?”
    Fixed that for you.

  68. sid_finster says:

    But supplying Saudis with banned cluster munitions is just peachy.

  69. fanto says:

    Chinese state TV the CGTN is laying out the FOUR changes in the US politics within last 2 weeks, it was on Tian Wei show “World Insight”. Unfortunately I am unable to find the link to that show. It seems to me that China is viewing USG as quite unstable and that is why President Xi made a phone call to Pres. Trump earlier today. I look at the whole world mess as quite similar in some ways to the years 1938-39 with diplomats scurrying around.

  70. Thomas says:

    “Is there any comparable time in history where the Leading world power has behaved so hypocritically and amorally?”
    Napoleon’s France. By 1810 Tzar Alexander realized there was no useful way of dealing with him so he slow walked political action as he prepared for war. Caulaincourt tried to talk sense to Napoleon about taking on Russia, but could do no good in changing his mind. Though in fairness to Napoleon, he understood that if one major country broke his yoke others would follow.
    This is why the current elite consensus that Russia will back down will be proven oh so effin’ wrong.

  71. trinlae says:

    Press conference Tillerson – Lavarov:
    1:55 pm EST – 12 April 2017

  72. Fred says:

    “Who will/can trust US ever again?”
    11,000,000+ people here illegally.

  73. John_Frank says:

    fyi Declassified U.S. Report on Chemical Weapons Attack
    The White House released a declassified four-page report that details United States intelligence on the chemical weapons attack, asserting that the Syrian and Russian governments have sought to confuse the world community about the assault through disinformation and “false narratives.”
    (The headline and link is from the New York Times)
    People can read the document in a PDF at this link:
    Related background briefing:
    Background Press Briefing on Syria, 4/11/2017

  74. Jackrabbit says:

    Was it McMaster (military historian) that choose to launch 59 missiles?
    Cold War Messaging Yields Insight Into US-Russian Conflict

  75. Google translate gives a slightly different translation of the archived version:-
    “Tomorrow, a media campaign will be launched to cover the intensity of the air raids on the countryside of Hama and the use of chlorine against civilians.”
    ie “Chlorine” instead of “CW”, if the translation is accurate.

  76. Babak Makkinejad says:

    c’mon man, they are all narcissists – otherwise they would not have run for political office.

  77. Kunuri says:

    Sorry, I can’t do it, cant bear to see those dead people and children over and over to give you a proper analysis. But I can tell you that several videos I have seen were put together by someone who really knows how to edit, what to include, what to leave out, how to cut and switch, and how to maintain momentum for maximum emotional response. Just the fact that it had been edited so effectively, in such a short time indicates that there is a purpose and preparation for it. It is suspicious for the fact that it is not raw war footage. Think of the videos from the Halabja Kurds footage we have all seen.
    And also I am confused as to the location of where actually people have died, the quarry? Or the town itself, since some videos show people lying dead in natural, almost sleeplike poses, rather than the agonized shapes of dead people lying down, as victims of gravity as well as what caused them to die. Too tidy in their body poses. Grouped too evenly, too much in a pattern. Too well spaced out, even intentional random spacing can not escape revealing patterns. That is what I see. Think of the photos of the St. Valentines Day massacre photos. Everything was messy and random, not clean. When a group of people die at the same time, no matter how sudden, one sees true randomness and variety of gestures.
    Macabre subject, did not want to get into it, but I do not believe Assad did it. The whole thing reminds me of the propaganda movies people are watching in “1984”.

  78. John_Frank says:

    fyi Russia vetoes West’s Syria resolution at UN Security Council
    Unfortunate. Russia demands a fair and independent investigation and then vetoes a proposed resolution.
    Despite this, one hopes that the two sides will continue to work towards finding common ground and come forward with a resolution that both sides can live with.
    Also from RT
    White House claims on Syria chemical attack ‘obviously false’ – MIT professor
    The report is by Professor Theodore Postol, who also challenged the Obama administration claims in 2013 is linked in the RT report.
    Asessment of White House April 17, 2017 Intelligence Report of April 11, 2017 Page 1 of 14 Pages
    April 11, 2017
    A Quick Turnaround Assessment of the White House Intelligence Report Issued on April 11, 2017 About the Nerve Agent Attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria.
    Theodore A. Postol Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Dear Larry:
    I am responding to your distribution of what I understand is a White House statement claiming intelligence findings about the nerve agent attack on April 4, 2017 in Khan Shaykhun, Syria.
    My understanding from your note is that this White House intelligence summary was released to you sometime on April 11, 2017.
    I have reviewed the document carefully, and I believe it can be shown, without doubt, that the document does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the US government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria at roughly 6 to 7 a.m. on April 4, 2017.
    In fact, a main piece of evidence that is cited in the document points to an attack that was executed by individuals on the ground, not from an aircraft, on the morning of April 4.
    This conclusion is based on an assumption made by the White House when it cited the source of the sarin release and the photographs of that source.
    My own assessment, is that the source was very likely tampered with or staged, so no serious conclusion could be made from the photographs cited by the White House.
    However, if one assumes, as does the White House, that the source of the sarin was from this location and that the location was not tampered with, the most plausible conclusion is that the sarin was dispensed by an improvised dispersal device made from a 122 mm section of rocket tube filled with sarin and capped on both sides.
    The only undisputable facts stated in the White House report is the claim that a chemical attack using nerve agent occurred in Khan Shaykhun, Syria on that morning. Although the White House statement repeats this point in many places within its report, the report contains absolutely no evidence that this attack was the result of a munition being dropped from an aircraft. In fact, the report contains absolutely no evidence that would indicate who was the perpetrator of this atrocity.”
    People can also read the full report at the following link, as uploaded by RT America.
    This arguably helps those calling for an independent investigation by the UN – OPCW “with teeth” should either side fail to comply with the investigators access demands.

  79. Nancy K says:

    Obama didn’t have to try to look good, he did. His speech was also eloquent. My four year old grandson has a better vocabulary than Trump. To imply he looks good because beautiful women married him says as much about them as him.

  80. novicius says:

    John, I’m starting to get a big dose of Buyer’s Remorse. Thanks for your input.

  81. Marko says:

    Yes , I recall seeing some discussion of that on twitter. It seems there was a change at some point from chlorine to CW in the English tweets that was being viewed suspiciously by many , as if there might have been a sudden change in plans.

  82. Fred says:

    And external player tried on 9-11. That plane hit the Pentagon.

  83. The Syrian poison gas attack is also discussed on ZDF. (From comment from “Troy Ounce” on ZH.)
    Also significant that it’s on a German mainstream TV station. Ties in with David Habbakkuk’s summary earlier in SST and also mentions the Turkish assistance to the Jihadis.

  84. Fred says:

    I note that the Pritzker’s were big backers of Obama throughout his career. Penny Pritzker, who is at least as rich as Trump, served as Commerce Secretary; not that the left complained of any potential financial gains to her that could result from government policy under Obama.
    After reading your piece I was struck by just where McMaster did not turn his attention: South. To reference the McMaster quotes you provide: “the will of the …. “ How about the will of US Citizens towards acceptance of the traditional social order in the US?
    “the US response was to continue draw down forces in Europe. “And what we’re seeing now is we’ve awakened to, obviously, this threat from Russia,”
    Instead of looking Eastward across the Litani or the Berezina to Damascus and Moscow the warrior sage could look South of the Rio Bravo. We weakened the border and a result “we’ve awakened to, obviously, the threat from unrestrained immigration of people who do not or will not assimilate.
    “but a much more sophisticated campaign involving the use of criminality and organized crime, and really operating effectively on this battleground of perception and information, and in particular part of a broader effort to sow doubt and conspiracy theories across our alliance…”
    Sophisticated campaign involving criminality and organized crime? That sounds like Mexico.
    “…to collapse the post-World War II, certainly the post-Cold War, security, economic, and political order in, and replace that order with something that is more sympathetic to Russian interests.”
    to collapse the, security, economic, and political order in the USA, and replace that order with something that is more sympathetic to Utopian Left’s interests. That has been why the border is weakened and executive power strengthened. The Utopian left lost the last election, now they are in “resistance” to the constitutional order. Nothing like another foreign war to further discredit the federal government structure. Didn’t the Bolsheviks perfect this in early 1920s?

  85. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The Bolsheviks actually had a positive program of Nation Building that they put into practice.
    They truly upgraded the Muzik and the Ra’iyat (among Muslims) and built upon the state structures of the Russian Empire.

  86. LondonBob says:
    So Eli Lake once again confirms a scoop of Mike Cernovich’s, although he says McMaster wants to send 50,000 troops to Syria and Iraq. Looks like McMaster has been over promoted and distinctly lacks the foreign policy outlook of his boss.

  87. Mikey says:

    Trump said no, another chem attack forthcoming.

  88. Fred says:

    They built some fine infrastructure in the gulag archipelago too.

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