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5 NatSec Things - 10 Apr 2018

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Today's things: Syrian chem attack; Raqqa rebuilds; Trump's withdrawal symptoms; Ankara's apprehensio
 
April 10 · Issue #45 · View online
5 NatSec Things
Today’s things: Syrian chem attack; Raqqa rebuilds; Trump’s withdrawal symptoms; Ankara’s apprehensions; NG to border redux.

Quote of the Day
“He thinks that you win a war with some sort of sudden decisive violence, the enemy cries ‘uncle’ and then you have a big victory parade. That hasn’t been the way wars have worked for a long time. That’s kind of a cartoon idea of war.” – Stephen Biddle, adjunct senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump’s calls for withdrawal from Syria
1. A dead civilians thing
Trump: "Animal" Assad used chemical weapons on Syrian civilians
Never thought I’d be a Boris Johnson apologist
“Those responsible for the use of chemical weapons have lost all moral integrity and must be held to account.” – UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
Donald J. Trump
Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price...
9:00 AM - 8 Apr 2018
Donald J. Trump
....to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!
9:04 AM - 8 Apr 2018
You can’t spell “Animal” without “Assad”
In another non-surprising development in the war on its own people, dozens of people were reportedly killed in a chemical weapons attack aimed at the rebel held city of Douma.
The international community is understandably incensed, and president Trump gets to be that loud angry kid that no one wants to sit with on the bus who this one time might be on the side of the angels.
As I’m writing this, reports are coming in that there’s already a response in the air and headed toward Syria, most likely cruise missiles or strike aircraft targeting military bases in the country.
You can’t spell “big price” without “TLAM”
This has happened before, and the American response was to send in the cruise missiles. Which are a great way to show that you’re doing something, less great in terms of reducing Syria’s abilities to repeat the exercise. 
Hence, what happened this week, because there’s nothing the international community can do to deter Assad or his Russian backers from launching the awful against civilian populations. 
Until peace negotiations can get something inked, chemical weapons will continue to be an option for Assad’s regime.
What you gonna do?
Using chemical weapons on civilian populations is a clear sign that you’ve got no interest in playing well with the other kids in the pool. The fact that the Syrians have the weapons in the first place says something about their approach to war, which appears to be to win-at-all-costs, regardless of what that means to their standing in the international community.
What’s less understandable is why Russia continues to support Assad, until we remember that Putin continues to pride himself on doing whatever the hell he wants. 
I mean, he did get Trump elected, so, there’s not a lot he won’t do to flex Russian muscle overseas.
2. A rebuilding thing
Raqqa recovery going about as well as expected Raqqa recovery going about as well as expected
Sounds like a bad Nicholas Sparks novel
“What is our fault in all of this?” – Nahla Mustafa, Raqqa resident.
Maybe if they had a beach?
Even thought it’s been six months since the Islamic state had control of Raqqa, the city is still a wasteland, thanks to the slow pace of reconstruction efforts. Which are being hampered by things like the fact that there’s still a war on elsewhere and, oh yeah, landmines still littering the landscape. 
The city’s residents feel forgotten by the world, and since the international community’s gearing up to respond to Assad’s latest chemical attack, that’s not entirely true. 
Just feels true to the people of Raqqa.
What’s in it for US? Get it…because it’s like “us,” but…never mind
Besides the fact that the country is still insecure AF, the other problem facing Raqqa is how and when the international community plans to start rebuilding it and the other countries in Syria that are currently little more than bumpy parking lots.
Much of that is contingent on the ending of combat operations, establishment of a way forward with the existing government, and convincing that same government and its international partners to stop dropping chemicals on their own people.
And people like Trump are trying to find ways for other countries to foot the bill for putting Syria back together again. Which isn’t entirely unreasonable, but by ceding the lead on that to someone else, the Americans set the tone for the slow pace of recovery.
Once we’ve got this wall done, we’re on it
While the US is super happy with dumping billions more into defense spending in this year’s budget, the Trump administration does not seem to grasp the concept of spending commensurate dollars on things like reconstruction.
Some of that’s plain old racism, but some of it is the bitter lessons learned(ish) from American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. That latter country continues to make a giant sucking sounds as US aid dollars are flushed away with seemingly little return.
However, Syria isn’t capable of rebuilding itself. And the delay means the potential for a new insurgency, comprised of people tired of being tired. The kind of people more than happy to take up arms again if they feel like that would change anything. 
3. A withdrawal thing
Trump wants to pull out of Syria
Things he never said to Stormy Daniels
“I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home.” – Donald Trump, thinker
Let’s agree to disagree, so long as you agree with me
Even though Trump’s made it clear on more than a couple of occasions that he wants to get out of Syria, and soon, his generals are telling him to slow his roll a little bit. And that’s just because they’re worried that he’ll have a heart attack.
Because if they can get him to put down that Egg McMuffin long enough and mute Fox News for a second, they’d be able to explain to the Toddler-In-Chief that just because he wants a thing to be true doesn’t make it so. No matter how many people he fires.
What’s hard to get one’s head around is that withdrawal from Syria isn’t something that’s going to play to his base. Sure, they want him to end expensive wars like Afghanistan, but they’re cool with those so long as there aren’t American dead coming through Dover.
When do we start the moat?
If Trump were as concerned about the United States as his rhetoric around Syria would want us to believe, he wouldn’t be starting a trade war with China. Which has responded by handing out tariffs that are going to affect Trump’s based in the flyover states the most. 
I know, that’s a dismissive assessment of middle America, but when’s the last time anyone wanted to stay in Kansas? That’s a place you leave, not a place you go. I digress.
It’s another in a long line of “America first” initiatives that feel more like “America alone,” which is where the country’s headed under its current “leadership.”
Two generals enter, one president leaves
This will probably hinge on how John “I Am The Angriest Walrus” Bolton, Trump’s new national security adviser feels about Syria. Or not. Since Trump’s shown a remarkable propensity for not listening to the adults in the room.
That’s right, in a room with Trump, John “Let’s Bomb Everyone” Bolton is the adult. 
We live in interesting times.
4. A sovereignty thing
Turkish spy agency pulls page from US playbook, kidnaps people
When you say illegal, what do you mean, exactly?
“We have never engaged in any illegal act in our struggle against (Gulen’s movement). The event in Kosovo took place … within the framework of an agreement on the return of criminals.” – Turkish presidential spox Ibrahim Kalin on how they didn’t kidnap anyone
We learned it from watching you
You may remember back in 2016 some folks in Turkey tried a coup. 250 dead Turks later, and they officially wrote it off as a failure. And, because the ones who weren’t part of that 250 didn’t want to make it 251, they left the country.
President Erdogan is not known for his restraint, so now he’s sent his National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to 18 countries with invitations for 80 Turkish citizens to come back to Ankara have a chat. Maybe over coffee.
And by chat I mean interrogation, and by coffee I mean prison. Which I’m sure in Turkey is a wonderland of delight and joy. 
Did we learn nothing from The Wire?
Omar taught us all one thing: if you come at the king, you best not miss. Works on HBO’s version of the streets of Baltimore, works when it comes to trying and topple a president. A president with an intelligence agency and some airplanes.
Once again, any moral high ground the US would like to hold is compromised by American actions after 9/11, when anyone suspected of being part of anything to do with any part of the hijackings found themselves having a lot of chats over coffee.
And by chat I mean interrogation, and by interrogation I mean torture.
International boundaries are overrated
Its own sordid history along similar lines aside, the US isn’t likely to condemn what Ankara’s doing, since the Americans are still trying to walk gently around Turkey, given how vital a partner it is in the region.
The larger problem is that these aren’t hardened insurgents: Erdogan’s NIA is rounding up doctors and teachers, who made the mistake of backing the wrong horse. And now the winning horse is getting ready to run them all down.
5. A rerun thing
How'd it go last time? Bush, Obama also sent troops to border
Sounds halfway sane when he says it
“For decades, the United States has not been in complete control of its borders. As a result, many who want to work in our economy have been able to sneak across our border, and millions have stayed.” – George Bush, 2006
All of this has happened before
There’s a lot of press out there right now about the planned deployment of some 4,000 National Guard soldiers to the US southern border with Mexico. In all the handwringing and high fiving, it would be easy to forget that several presidents before Trump have ordered similar deployments. 
What sets this article apart is breaking down some of the costs associated with prior operations, as well as any challenges the military had in carrying them out.
We’re doing it again
In both previous operations, costs were questioned in terms of how effective they were, and in the 2006 operation under Bush, all parties agreed that short timeline for deployment hampered initial effectiveness. So the rush to judgment that Trump’s throwing down has been done before. 
It’ll work this time
I admit to being conflicted about increased security on the border. On the one hand, I’d like everyone who wants to come here to have a shot at life in the United States. On the other hand, it would be pretty great if they’d do it legally.
So let’s just look at this from Mexico’s perspective: the president that wanted your country to build a better wall is now mobilizing troops along the border because he thinks your country can’t handle the flow of undocumented migrants into the United States.
Not a great way to treat a regional partner.
My shenanigans elsewhere
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