Former NATO Commander Argues against Syria Strike

To the embarrassment of sane Canadians everywhere, Canada’s Prime Minister Harper is one of a tiny minority of world leaders foolish enough to clamor for military intervention in Syria.

Douglas Macgregor, retired U.S. Army Colonel and director of NATO joint operations for the Kosovo air campaign, argues about why such intervention will probably make no positive impact and more likely make matters worse.


I gather you think it is not a good idea for any kind of a strike in Syria, so let’s begin there: why is that?

We have no compelling strategic interest that justifies the use of force inside Syria.

There are two wars going on right now in the region. One is the civil war in Syria, and that’s between the Sunni Islamists on one side, aligned with Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, funded by Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Turkey — and on the other side, a secular dictator whose protecting the various minority groups inside the country — Christians, Alawites, Shia — who most certainly will be annihilated if the Sunni Islamists expel him from office. We have no interest in, frankly speaking, any side being the victor, but we have spent the last 12 years killing the same people Mr Assad is currently fighting.

And then on a regional level, you have the larger war with Iran on one side, Saudi Arabia and Turkey on the other — the Sunni-Shia War.

What about responsibility to act though? We heard from the White House spokesperson earlier that the world has to act because, as he says, we know the administration in Syria has used chemical weapons more than one time. Is it not a case of having to go in a prevent further chemical attacks?

Well first of all, I don’t think you can, and in fact if you remove Mr Assad and his opponents win (who will benefit from any attacks that we launch) they will certainly gain control of the chemical weapon stocks and turn them against their enemies, which include Israel. So I don’t see how our intervention is somehow morally justified. These people could have just been slaughtered by machine guns and artillery fire. Indeed thousands and thousands of civilians, men, women and children, have died in this civil war since the beginning, so I find this an exercise in hypocrisy frankly.

It certainly sounds as if the US administration is at the ready for some kind of military intervention, so let’s talk about a “what if” scenario then. How would the US work with its allies in the region in that case?

First of all I don’t think we’ll have to work much with our so-called “allies” in the region. We will inform them of our intentions if we decide to launch these strikes, but most of these strikes will be launched from offshore, by naval platforms, various kinds of ships, and various aircraft that can launch cruise missiles without any violation of Syria’s airspace.

The Turks are no doubt very anxious to see the Sunni Islamists win in Syria, and also anxious to see them win in Egypt, will no doubt allow us to fly strikes from Turkish soil if we choose to do so. But these are very limited strikes, strikes designed to attack targets that we think are remote from civilian centers.

So how would they go about targeting? Especially if the goal is to prevent any further use of chemical weapons? That obviously comes with some huge challenges itself.

You’re not going to stop the use of chemical weapons in the future through strikes of the type that we are likely to launch. You would have to use frankly an enormous amoutn of explosive, ultimately even a low-yield nuclear warhead, in order to guarantee the destruction of chemical stocks, because you want to effectively burn them up and make them unusable in the future. We can’t really do that with the numbers of cruise missiles that we might launch. In fact if you are not careful you can make matters worse by causing chemicals to explode and be used accidentally. I think what we’ll do is focus on what we think are Mr Assad’s command and control nodes, his forces — things that we think we can identify with reasonable certainty  are not near civilian centers. We obviously do not want to cause the death of civilians.

As we know more than 100,000 people have lost their lives in this conflict. How tough would it be to avoid civilian casualties?

Well I think it would be very tough, and your point is well taken. We’re trying to tiptoe if you will through a minefield. And again, I don’t see any evidence that strikes will change the facts on the ground. Will they help the Sunni Islamists, allied with Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, backed by Turkey and Saudi Arabia? Probably. But will it be enough to bring down Mr Assad? That seems doubtful.

The larger problem is how does the rest of the world react? You mention people in London, Washington, and Paris who are a minority of people who think they should act as imperial policeman, essentially behaving as a large nanny-state in the world arena. Inside the United States there is virtually no support among the American people for this, and we don’t quite know how the Russians will react, or Iran. But we know one thing: If we launch these strikes, Mr Assad has no absolutely incentive to exercise any restraint. In fact the opposite is the case, we are likely to see much worse in the future.

So are you saying that you think the best option for President Barack Obama right now is no option at all? That the world has to sit back and potentially see more images such as those we’ve seen coming out of Syria in the last week — hundreds of people, children, women, killed by chemical attacks?

London, Paris, and Washington are not the world , let’s get that straight. They don’t speak for the world — they speak for themselves. This is a small minority of people who think they are morally superior to everyone else. There is nothing nice about civil wars. The civil war in the United States was far worse than anything you’ve seen in Syria. Civil wars are “no quarter given” conflicts. There are no good guys in the civil war. There is a winner and a loser. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, you probably shouldn’t watch. But as far as our intervention is concerned, the only thing we can do is make matters worse and then ultimately look ridiculous at the other end of the strikes, when things get worse and we end up changing nothing.

You talk about the limited of capacity of airstrikes to have any effect on the chemical weapons. I wonder if the US does see a scenario where there is intervention, if there was boots on the ground — and the White House says “that’s not our plan” — but in your opinion would that be a better way to go to try and get at those chemical weapons and make sure they don’t get in the hands of anyone?

If you intervened in Syria, you’d have to use a lot of armor — tanks and armored fighting vehicles — to get into the country and execute the kind of mission you’re outlining. If you use boots on the ground, that is men with rifles, you’ll simply get large numbers of people killed and you won’t accomplish very much.

The real question is why would we do that to begin with? Where is the strategic interest on the part of the United States to do that? I don’t think there is one. The country in the region with an interest in what you’re describing is Israel, and the Israelis have been very prudent so far. They see no reason to intervene in this conflict for the reasons we’ve already covered. They understand if they embroil themselves in this they’ll be shot at from every side by everyone, as we would be. So I don’t see any good options and I think that’s why the president has said there will be no ground forces.

You touch on the effect on the region if there are strikes, and President Assad in Syria has warned that the entire Middle East would be affected. What kind of scenario would we be looking at then on the neighboring countries in the region?

We have to be careful of the hyperbole. Russia has said this would be a military catastrophe. No, I don’t think that’s accurate. Quite frankly the people who are most interested are those in the immediate vicinity: the Turks, Lebanon, Iraq. Their interests vary tremendously. They’re the ones with the greatest interests, they’re the ones dealing with refugees, Jordan as well. Israel has an interest. But beyond those countries, no one really cares what happens in Syria to be perfectly blunt. It just doesn’t affect the rest of the world. So I discount the regional war scenario. I think this is hyperbole designed to persuade everyone to stay away. I happen to agree that we should all stay away from it. But having said that, I don’t see a major regional war erupting as a result of all this.

 — Watch the interview at CBC — 


Carney vs. the British Pound

UK citizens are running out of time before Mark Carney takes over their central bank.

Carney got the Bank of England job because he was a friend of bank bailouts and has shown no reluctance when it comes to printing money.

Mike Amey, head of sterling bonds at PIMCO, believe that’s what Carney plans to do when he takes over the BoE. He predicts Carney will devalue the pound by as much as 15%. That’s because Britain is desperate, and central bankers don’t really have any solutions other than “MOAR PRINTING.”

I’m so glad Carney’s going to be gone, not that I expect Stephen Poloz to be any better. But we should feel bad for the citizens of the UK. The pound has already lost significant value in recent years.

— Read more at The Telegraph —



Did a Canadian Boxer Help the Boston Bomber Down the Road to Terrorism?

William Plotnikov. Remember him? He was a Russian-Canadian boxer from Toronto who converted to Islam, then went to fight with Islamic militias against the Russians. He was killed by security forces in Dagestan last year.

It appears that he may have been acquainted with Boston Bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was also an amateur boxer. Plotnikov gave Tsarnaev’s name to Russian agents when he was interrogated in 2010. They had communicated online, and it it highly plausible that the two had met at some point, perhaps when Tsarnaev had attended a boxing event in Toronto (where his aunt also lived).

It has been reported that Tsarnaev traveled overseas to fight in Dagestan, but he fled back to the US immediately after Plotnikov’s death. Did Tsarnaev lose his nerve to be a front-line Jihadist after his buddy had been killed?

Even more scandalous is the possibility that Plotnikov and Tsarnaev may have received support and training from Georgian authorities. This is being investigated in Georgia now. The previous Georgian government, which had fought a war with Russia in 2008, was very interested in contesting Russian influence in Dagestan.

Justin Raimondo says: “The Georgian connection points to a classic case of ‘blowback.’ A covert operation conducted against the Russian government, originally, that got out of hand – and came back to bite the hand that fed it.” No joke. The Tsarnaev family received $100,000 in government welfare.  

— Read more about this at The Telegraph, Time, Daily Mail, and Izvestia — 

Carney is off to the Bank of England — Pray for England

Bank of Canada Governor and ex-Goldman bankster Mark Carney was selected to become the next Governor of the Bank of England. He will now be overseeing a central bank with nearly ten times the assets of the Bank of Canada. That is a big promotion in the world of central planners! Carney will now be able to create even larger disturbances in economic systems.

Truly, the worst rise to the top.

Good riddance, I say. Not that I expect him to be replaced with anyone much better. But there is always a chance.

I feel bad for England, though. They have no idea what they are getting themselves into (from Bloomberg):

Carney, who holds an economics degree from Harvard and a doctorate from Oxford University, swaps oversight of an economy which bounced back from the global recession without witnessing a single bank bailout for one which slipped back into recession in the second quarter and required multiple bank rescues.

Did you see what they did there?

Carney … swaps oversight of an economy which bounced back from the global recession without witnessing a single bank bailout for one which slipped back into recession in the second quarter and required multiple bank rescues.

Carney … swaps oversight of an economy which bounced back from the global recession without witnessing a single bank bailout … 

an economy which bounced back from the global recession without witnessing a single bank bailout …

without witnessing a single bank bailout

Excuse me? The banks that pushed for Carney to be their man in England have surely put the shucks on the rubes.

Of all the deleterious myths that persist about the Canadian financial system, none are more harmful or obnoxious than the bogus story that its banks never needed and/or never got a bailout.

Anyone who says this is simply lying or has no idea what they are talking about. Those are the only real possibilities. We have covered this at CMR previously, but let us quickly review.

The mainstream news doesn’t even try to deny it anymore. The Canadian banks got a bailout. Now they simply try to play down the significance of it. Even though it is was much bigger than anyone was led to believe.

So is this “no bailouts in Canada” proposition challenged by anyone in the UK? Carney is being sold on the pretense that there were no bailouts?   

(Side note: We could also mention that Canadian banks received assistance from emergency Federal Reserve lending facilities, which by itself is very interesting. We could also mention that rather material fact that Canadian banks are basically in a state of “perma-bailout” by virtue of the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation. The existence of the CDIC amplifies the level of risk banks are willing to engage in — it is classic “moral hazard.”)

So it would seem one is more likely to see bank bailouts with Carney, rather than less. That is precisely why the UK banking cartel wants Carney in this position.

Yet that is not the only reason citizens of the UK should worry.

Mark Carney is not only a believer in bailouts — he is a believer in Keynesianism and mercantilism. This means nothing more than this: he sees a connection between depreciating the currency and growing the economy. This he shares with nearly all central bankers (except, perhaps, those in Singapore): he regards a strong currency as harmful to “the nation”. Because when he talks about “the nation,” he is not talking about the consumers (i.e. everyone) who use their stronger currency to buy and invest in more goods. For men such as Carney, “the nation” instead refers to politically-connected export industries that are benefited by making it cheaper for foreigners to buy their stuff.

That being the case, Carney will tend to increase the money supply by adding assets to the central bank’s balance sheet whenever he thinks it’s a good idea. But this means prices must rise and debts will deepen. Britain already has big problems in these areas.

This should be the last thing someone in the UK should desire. The British pound has plummeted in value the last five years against stronger currencies like the yen. Here in Canada, it seems Carney’s manipulations have been obscured by strong demand for Canadian commodities, yet with the slowdown in Asia, Europe, and soon the US, I doubt this will persist. The Bank of Canada has been growing its balance sheet for nearly two years now, since offloading some of its emergency acquisitions during the financial crisis.

Also, it should be known that Carney likes to troll citizens whose currency he manages by blaming them for behavior that is strongly encouraged by his own central bank policies. What a jerk.

I am happy to see Carney go. While I am happy he no longer oversees the Canadian dollar, I am apprehensive about who his replacement will be. Most of all, I must also bemoan the lack of justice. Carney should be serving a prison sentence for counterfeiting, rather than getting $1 million a year to manipulate huge economies.

From Libya to Uganda! The battle for Africa’s resources.

The resource rush is on for Africa. China was ahead of the American Empire in Libya, and look what happened there (even though Obama was buddies with him two years ago).  China’s commercial deals with Libya are toast. The next imperialist target in Africa is clearly Uganda. Pepe Escobar writes:


That brings us to Uganda as a new land of opportunity. Ah, the sheer scale of humanitarian warmongering possibilities. For a semblance of success, the initial steps of Obama’s African surge would have to include a military base with a long runway attached, and a mini-Guantanamo to imprison the “terrorists”. If that sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is; think of the Pentagon’s Africom headquarters soon entertaining the possibility of time-traveling from Stuttgart, Germany, to somewhere in Uganda.
Any student of realpolitik knows the US doesn’t do “humanitarian” interventions per se. Africom’s surge parallels the real name of the game; precious minerals – and mining. Uganda – and nearby eastern Congo – happens to hold fabulous quantities of, among others, diamonds, gold, platinum, copper, cobalt, tin, phosphates, tantalite, magnetite, uranium, iron ore, gypsum, beryllium, bismuth, chromium, lead, lithium, niobium and nickel. Many among these are ultra-precious rare earth – of which China exercises a virtual monopoly.

The mineral rush in Africa is already one of the great resource wars of the 21st century. China is ahead, followed by companies from India, Australia, South Africa and Russia (which, for instance, has set up a fresh gold refinery in Kampala). The West is lagging behind. The name of the game for the US and the Europeans is to pull no punches to undermine China’s myriad commercial deals all across Africa.

Then there’s the inescapable Pipelineistan angle. Uganda may hold “several billion barrels of oil”, according to Heritage Oil’s Paul Atherton, part of a recent, largest-ever on-shore oil discovery in sub-Saharan Africa. That implies the construction of a $1.5 billion, 1,200 kilometer long pipeline to Kampala and the coast of Kenya. Then there’s another pipeline from “liberated” South Sudan. Washington wants to make sure that all this oil will be exclusively available for the US and Europe.


Goldman Sachs gets lucky on Libya

Goldman Sachs is getting a subpoena from the Manhattan DA about their role in the 2008 financial meltdown. That’s kind of a drag, I guess, but at least they don’t have to sell Gadaffi a piece of their firm.

Turns out Goldman invested $1.5 billion for Libya’s sovereign wealth fund back in 2008.

They lost 98% of that money.

To ameliorate this disaster with pissed off Libyan officials, Goldman offered to sell preferred shares in their firm.

But now that that Gadaffi is now on the “list of mini-Hitlers for Americans to fight”, Goldman can get out of that deal easily enough.

You kind of have to admire the sheer self-confidence of Goldman, offering to sell a stake in itself to Libya after losing so much of the country’s money. It’s like a used car dealer offering to let you loan money to the dealership after selling you a lemon.


China’s real estate bubble.

I am predicting that Asia will enter a recession in 2011.

Recessions are the necessary outcome of loose monetary policies that create bubbles. China has been inflating its economy at a rate of 20% or more per year for several years now.

Clear evidence of this is found in China’s real estate market. To really grasp the magnitude of this, I have embedded the video below. This is not a new video, but it is very worth watching. Sometimes seeing is believing.

The one thing you CAN say about China’s waste though… at least they are building STUFF. Whereas when you think about the pure waste created by America’s military which exists to blow things up and kill people, it doesn’t seem like such a bad misallocation in the end…

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