Russian jets + American boots = Neocon madness in Syria

Robert Bridge
Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist based in Moscow, Russia. His articles have been featured in many publications, including Russia in Global Affairs, The Moscow Times, Lew Rockwell and Global Research. Bridge is the author of the book on corporate power, “Midnight in the American Empire”, which was released in 2013. email:
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Is it just coincidence that shortly after Russia begins a successful bombing campaign against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) positions in Syria, US think-tanks suddenly called for American boots on the ground in the Arab Republic?

The US military has some of the world’s most advanced surveillance technology, capable of identifying suspected terrorists and eliminating them with state-of-the-art unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). So why do US neocons insist that the only way to beat Islamic State forces in Syria is to put boots on the ground?

Certainly not because the strategy has worked so effectively in the past. One possible explanation is that putting boots on the ground in Syria is an incredibly dangerous backdoor maneuver to foil Russia's air campaign against Islamic State.

Neocons on the warpath

Robert Kagan, senior analyst at the Brookings Institution and co-founder of the now-defunct Project for the New American Century, is now calling for boots on the ground in Syria, despite warnings from a veritable army of military brass, like retired four-star General David Petraeus, that such a plan is “not sustainable.”

But the warnings of Petraeus and others will be predictably ignored. After all, US officials never miss an opportunity of proving Winston Churchill’s adage that “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing… after they have exhausted all other possibilities.” So Kagan's unfathomably insane idea is now being endorsed by several hawkish Republicans, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio.

But considering some of the highly disturbing comments uttered of late by Hillary Clinton, a Democrat with a very real chance of becoming the next US president, it is clear one does not have to be a Republican to uphold nutty neocon doctrine.

Any guesses what country the young men and women will come from who will fill those boots and spill their blood? Yes, of course, the United States of America, which, thanks to ‘analysts’ like Kagan, is quickly moving from being the world’s “exceptional nation” to the world’s “expendable nation.”

In a recent essay, the analyst laid out his master disaster plan for both Syria and the United States.
“America will have to take the lead, provide the troops, supply the bulk of the air power and pull together those willing and able to join the effort…” crowed Kagan, who went on to emphasize the operation would require not only US air power “but ground troops numbering up to 30,000.”

Further on, he proposes “a further 10,000 to 20,000 U.S. troops — or 40,000 to 50,000 in total — to uproot [ISIS] from the haven it has created in Syria and to help local forces uproot it in Iraq.”

Amazing how easy it is to manipulate the lives of young men and women the greater their numbers become.

In another article (‘America's Dangerous Aversion to Conflict, Sept. 5, 2014), Kagan actually expressed disappointment that a majority of the American people “seem to have come close to concluding not only that war is horrible but also that it is ineffective in our modern, globalized world.”

Kagan, husband of Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, had no small part in exerting pressure – mostly through the lobbying efforts of PNAC - in advocating for the military invasion of Iraq (he got his wish in March 2003).

Disregarding the realities of the present, in which US allies are abandoning their foreign outposts at the edge of Empire, Kagan wants his audience to believe that NATO forces will happily fill the violent void after US troops create a mythical “safe zone” against Islamic State in Syria. Such a plan is guaranteed to be no more successful than the “safe zone” created against the Taliban in Afghanistan has been.

“Once the safe zone was established,” Kagan enthuses, “many of those [American] troops could be replaced by forces from Europe, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab states.” Similarly, many of the troops that had uprooted ISIS could be “replaced by NATO and other international forces to hold the territory and provide a safe zone for rebuilding the areas shattered by [ISIS’s] rule.”

Kagan has chosen a very interesting group of actors who would fill the smoking void left by America’s footprint in Syria: “Europe, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab states.” But wait, weren’t those the very same countries mentioned in a declassified US military document that showed they actually supported the rise of Islamic State?

“If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime…”

In other words, those governments supporting the Syrian opposition – Gulf States, Turkey and the West – were desirous to see a band of thugs like Islamic State rise up and challenge Syrian President Bashar Assad. Now, Kagan somehow thinks it is sound strategy to let the same countries that desired an Islamic Caliphate in Syria in the first place to do battle against them.

If recent history is any reliable guide, Kagan’s chosen countries – all of which are suspected of funneling money and supplies to ISIS - will most likely work to protect Islamic State forces on the ground in Syria. In fact, the very same complaint has been leveled against the US military regarding their operations in Iraq.

Ordinary Iraqis, as well as high-ranking officials have reached the conclusion that “the United States is supporting the Islamic State for a variety of pernicious reasons that have to do with asserting US control over Iraq, the wider Middle East and, perhaps, its oil,” The Washington Post reported.

Such widespread suspicions amongst Iraqis of American double-dealing were reinforced last month when the Iraqi military said US fighter jets hit its forces as they were fighting Islamic State militants near the strategic city of Fallujah, just 40 miles outside of Baghdad. The Iraqis, after calling for US aerial support as they engaged the enemy, found themselves under heavy bombardment by the US jets instead.

Iraqi soldiers said 25 soldiers were killed in the incident and up to 40 wounded.

Meanwhile, it did not escape Kagan’s attention that “the Syrian crisis has further bolstered Russia’s position,” which is really the crux of Kagan's essay.

What follows is a misrepresentation of Russia's actions packed into one telling sentence: “Although Europeans generally share Washington’s discomfort with Moscow’s support for Mr. Assad and Russia’s bombing of moderate Syrian rebels, in the wake of the Paris attacks, any plausible partner in the fight against Islamic State seems worth enlisting.”

As has already been well established by the above-mentioned declassified military document, the idea of “Syrian moderate rebels” is a myth foisted upon the public in an effort to unseat yet another regional leader, while Kagan’s proposal for working alongside Russia in the fight against Islamic State has already been soundly rejected by practically everyone in Washington – for reasons that make absolutely no military sense whatsoever.

Indeed, only those beyond the iron grip of the neocons – for example, billionaire Republican frontrunner Donald Trump – can actually express admiration for Putin’s actions in Syria without fear of having his campaign war funds halted.

Now please imagine the following Syrian scenario: Washington decides to take the neocon approach (and despite the painful lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya) and puts boots on the ground in Syria, ostensibly to fight against the very terrorist forces the Pentagon had previously designated as an effective and desirable tool to “isolate the Syrian regime.”

At the same time, Russian air strikes are continuing to pound Islamic State positions, proving - much to the apparent chagrin of Western leaders - the absolute futility of risking boots on the ground in the Arab Republic.


Unless neocons like Kagan want US troops to serve as some sort of human shields for ISIS fighters, there is no good reason to risk boots on the ground in Syria when the technology is available to get the job done.

It doesn’t take much imagination to foresee how Kagan’s warped strategy, which is winning over Republican converts in the Beltway, could quickly spiral out of control, turning what was once a regional civil war into a global conflagration.

Before the Syrian conflict really gets out of control (and before somebody with heavy debts to pay back to the military industrial complex enters the White House), Washington policy makers should realize the advantages of cooperating with Russia in the skies above Syria, instead of risking everything on the ground, exactly where the Russian bombs are falling.


Robert Bridge is the author of the book, Midnight in the American Empire, released in 2013.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.