Tag Archives: France

France in Syria: Still Not Here to Save the World

Folks have been really excited about France getting into war-mode on Syria after the Paris attacks. People were even momentarily excited about Turkey’s decision to shoot down a Russian plane the other day. Now Paris and Moscow are maybe working together on hitting ISIS? While the Washington is doing the same thing?!?

Man, its like a giant peace party!

Wait… um… what? No. War is not the same thing as peace. Let’s be careful to remember that. Let’s also be careful to remember that “peace”, taken without any qualifications, is a meaningless, impossible, and downright harmful goal.

Some folks are very hopeful that France’s involvement in the Syrian conflict signals a Great Change in The Way Things Work. They hope that Paris will somehow “bring Moscow into the fold” because “now Paris understands terrorism”. Other even hope that now Paris will bring NATO together under a single purpose (other than simply being an anti-Russian alliance). Lovely hopes, but not really the way things are going to work out.

I don’t mean that Paris doesn’t understand terrorism, they totally understand it — to the point that Paris is expert at both resisting it and employing it where it makes sense. They understand it so well that they know that uniting NATO “against terrorism” would make about as much sense as uniting NATO against Middle Eastern kidnapping.

I’m not saying the French are evil, mind you, I am saying they are savvy. They get the way the game works. They have been on the ball, racking up a string of strategic victories in Africa over the last decade. They’ve re-established their “middle empire” (the “middle” being between Washington and Moscow) while Washington has been too preoccupied with chasing brown guys to notice. This indicates that while they know how to play terrorism for votes in domestic politics (they are too smart to care much about what outsiders think of them) they also know that making “terrorism” the target of a major military operation is totally ridiculous.

Terrorism is a tactic not an identity. You can’t target terrorism any more than you can target long-hand division or yoga. Terrorism is the “civil disruption” phase that a political movement goes through whenever a legitimate political course of action is not available. Consider the evolution of the PLO or Hezbollah. Unless you are over 40, you likely won’t even remember that those are the groups that were arch-terrorists before. Now they are political parties. Yasser Arafat, the PLO’s Dr. Evil himself, received a Nobel Peace Prize (not that the Peace Prize means anything). Hezbollah is a fantastically profitable global franchise operation now, only partially focused (by some measures) on imposing a political outcome in Lebanon (their purpose for existing is the subject of eternally flexible rhetoric — which means the real purpose for Hezbollah’s existence is simply the survival of Hezbollah at this point).

But what about this cooperation thing? France getting into Syria must require some coordination with Russia and the US, right? And NATO? Turkey is in NATO, the US is in NATO, France is (again, that is) in NATO… so what gives?

Coordination will be necessary to prevent more “friendly” (?) fire incidents, but its more the kind of coordination that seeks to prevent midair collisions as polits jockey for superior position against one other while they run their sorties against ground targets. Remember, Turkey just shot down a Russian plane — anyone in the sky above Syria right now is considering everything else in the sky and absolutely everyone on the ground to be a threat. Sounds weird? Well, it is. But that’s reality for you. You couldn’t make up a plot for a book more convoluted than the way the real world works.

France’s goals are still France’s goals. They are not American goals. Sure, a lot of Americans and French and non-French Europeans see things the same way for the moment — but that’s a common view held of mutually held anger at a third party than anything else. The immigration wave and xenophobia that is going to increasingly fuel will continue to drive a common view over the short term (not in the least because the nightmares fueled by fear of rampant Middle Eastern and African immigration are not without foundation, particularly when coupled with domestic population decline).

France’s goal is to maintain its middle empire and use it to force Berlin into a subordinate relationship with Paris. This goal has held steady since the creation of the Euro, and France has demonstrated an amazing amount of fortitude and clarity of direction in the realization of that goal — even more amazing considering the contentious nature of their electoral politics since the Soviet collapse. Germany being in NATO with France, being home to the ECB, being “friends” with France, etc. doesn’t really matter — the reason France and Germany have been enemies so long is still based on geography, and that still forces France and Germany to regard one another in terms of capacity instead of intent. France has the upper hand in military terms, and will the economy likely to crash the only lever Germany has (dependent entirely on imported energy) is likely to disappear, or fall under the indirect control of Paris anyway if France can create an energy alternative for Germany that isn’t Russian gas (which is why France worked to isolate Germany even more from practical alternatives by destroying Libya and demonstrating their practical ability to dominate North Africa (ENI’s gas fields) and the Mediterranean).

Russia’s goals are still Russia’s goals. Well, in Russia’s case it is even more clear that Russia’s goals are actually Moscow’s goals. That is also not going to change, and despite a lot of poorly disguised epicaricacy on behalf of Western powers, Russia’s financial problems based on dropping energy prices are actually more likely to make Russia turn into a deliberately confrontational, economically detached player than a compliant ally of the West. Russia is looking out for what its own survival in what it necessarily views a dark and dangerous world. The West world will soon find itself with even fewer levers to control Russia for the forseeable future.

So France “bringing Russia into the fold”? France “getting NATO on the same page” to lead a charge against dastardly terrorist types? Nope. That’s just as naive as hoping that Russia was either sincere about squashing ISIS or helping Assad (either goal would at least speed a non-ISIS resolution to the Syrian conflict — and life under Assad wasn’t nearly as screwed up as life in a civil war…). Syria is, for the moment, a useful problem for France. That doesn’t mean that French politicians won’t accidentally start believing their own rhetoric (the way the Americans did after the invasion of Iraq was over… whoops!), but unlike 2001, the world today is full of threats that are obviously more important than chasing brown guys. In view of the Cold War II / WWIII type issues at stake right now, if the Europeans get serious about “solving” terrorism they are much more likely to resort to historically typical European solutions such as mass deportation at spear-point, mass military impressment, mass concentration, or mass execution than believing that an air campaign is going to make anything change (well, maybe carpet bombing would have some effect…).

France is a lot more likely to play Syria partly to drive a wedge between Russia and NATO (particularly Germany and Turkey), partly to demonstrate to Russia that France is willing to deal (and has something worth dealing), partly to show Washington where the red lines are (without spoiling the relationship with AFRICOM), and partly for the domestic electoral lulz. Killing ISIS guys is always good press and all it costs (right now) is printing more money and a general disregard for collateral damage (which is, ironically, why the Americans are always going to be utterly ineffective — they are absolutely afraid to hurt anyone, and religious bad guys are very good at hiding in plain sight, right behind rows of school children). Aside from this there is a vast array of geopolitical opportunities open in Syria right now, because of how the Syrian play augments the Russian play in Armenia (to pressure Turkey and keep Georgia as an effective vassal). Syria has become an interesting stage upon which Cold War II politics is playing out — this act of it, anyway.

East Europe: Why Historical Fears of War are Well Founded

I received an email full of anti-Obama sentiment the other day. It was an indirect re-hashing of a commonly echoed sentiment most concisely summed up as

The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money.

The above sentiment has been variously attributed to Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Fraser Tyler, Alexis de Toqueville and P.J. O’Rourke. I have no clue which one is correct, but that each has fascinating and well thought out things to say is evident if you read some of the things on each of their quote pages.

That the message (pasted below) came from a Czech says a lot.

Czech, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, the Baltics…, East Europe that lies on the line between the North Sea and the Black Sea — these are the places that always see the worst of trans-European war. This is such a significant and well defined trend in history that there is a name for the place: The Intermarum.

A few years ago Czech, Hungary and Poland broke with European defense policy (a worthless concept unless an American general or President is doing the talking) and formed their own for-real military alliance called the Visegard Group. While European NATO members argue about who is going to pay for what during a projected training exercise the East Europeans are sending their tiny military forces out to the training range on their own. So the Intermarum has now organized itself into a tiny military alliance that isn’t about building bigger and nicer offices for itself in Belgium every year on American tax money. Compared to the last seven decades of abject military complacency and external domination this is quite a break from the status quo.

When France or Germany invades Russia or Russia invades anywhere in Europe, they march through Poland and Czech and have to deploy mountain troops to Slovakia, Czech and Hungary and at least fight a blocking action in Romania. These countries have no direct input on the reasons France or Germany and Russia might be at war, but they are the battlegrounds where the blood is actually spilt and fighting is heaviest. This is, of course, devastating since the combined might of two modern armies always clashes right there in Eastern Europe. The speedbumps always see the worst wear.

Americans forget this because we think of WWII as a fight that happened in France, Italy and Germany because that’s the part we took part in for less than a year. This generation of Americans is only aware of WWII as far as it has watched Saving Private RyanInglorious Bastards, and  Band of Brothers. Ask a random person to show you on a map where Normandy is or what “the Ardennes” means and you’ll see how far from reality most people’s cinema-driven imaginings are from reality. Asking them “why did America invade Europe in WWII” is even more comical/sad.

East Europe was pulverized in 1938 and remained a impact zone (literally — as in bullets, shells and bombs impacting it) for seven more years until 1945, at which point the Russian reaction to German invasion was a counter-invasion of Germany, which meant invading back across East Europe on its way to Germany. East Europe got screwed.  Twice. The place was completely devastated and much of it actually flattened.

After all that East Europe didn’t get straightened out for 60 more years because the Soviets needed East Europe as a buffer zone against the American military in Europe. They didn’t have any need to improve the area, of course, they just needed to hold it for use as a surrogate battlefield in the event of WWIII, because battlegrounds are horrible places and they would much prefer the horrors occur there than in Russia itself.

Considering how geography forces those historical realities on the Intermarum countries it is easy to see why the Euroskeptic, anti-collectivist, pro-American Constitutionalism part of Europe happens to be East Europe. They are very worried about an EU collapse and fragmentation which becomes more likely every day. This isn’t because they care whether the EU member states continue to tell sweet lies of hope and harmony to each other or not, but because European socialism has at this point so rotted out the EU financial position that its has had concrete effects on what is available in the market. That means the market across all of Europe is so unhealthy that it has started to affect things we normally don’t think as being part of economics.

There is a fuzzy line between a need for a market correction and a need for a war to (re)establish natural property assertion by violence (land, commodities, rights, people) to recover from an imbalanced market that has severed itself from reality through rhetoric — a trend which has its roots in government interference in the market to begin with. Violence is the only way to settle property and control issues between parties once financial devices and/or the assent of parties to accept what another party asserts is true have failed. It doesn’t matter whether “party” refers to a person, a clan, an organization or a state; when the market is interfered with it gets sick, eventually that disease infects the state and law fails, and then the only law is what is enforceable through direct action. That is a part of what has driven war from time immemorial.

There really isn’t any separation between politics, economics and war from a geopolitical perspective and the East Europeans are worried that the American system, which has enabled the European system to exist for the last two generations, is on its way toward a type of dysfunction which will require the Americans to withdraw their concrete forms of attention from European affairs due to lack of resources and/or political bandwidth. We would withhold our attention and resources the same way the vascular system withholds blood from the extremities when threatened or ill.

An American decline, the definite separation of French and German interest from the made-up concept of “the European interest” and the resurgence of Russia is alarming to the Czechs and especially the Poles for reasons that people not familiar with history, geopolitics and the logistics of war do not understand.

The original message (unattributed other than “from someone in the Czech Republic”):

The danger to America is not Barack Obama but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails America . Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The Republic can survive a Barack Obama, who is, after all, merely a fool. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools such as those who made him their president.