The Trouble With Optimism
Syria in the Rear-View Mirror

The fanciful belief that things can’t get any worse in the Syrian civil war is about to be tested.

Published on: February 16, 2018
Adam Garfinkle is editor of The American Interest. This essay was originally published by FPRI.
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  • Gary Hemminger

    Again, Garfinkle the elitist starts the program by telling us we are all idiots, rather than the reality that we all really don’t give a damn. So because most people really don’t give a damn, but want to pretend like they give a damn, our leaders try to make it into a good guy, bad guy play, because they know we really don’t give a damn, but our leaders need to pretend like they give a damn, because, well we are all supposed to pretend like we give a damn. Maybe this will escalate to where we do give a damn, but I doubt it.

    Garfinkle is the prince of telling us all we are all idiots and trying to make us care about what we really don’t care about. Good luck with that Garfinkle.

    • Micah718

      I give a damn in a sense that I support the Kurds and oppose/hate Iranians.
      My only interests in some poor Islamic shithole is how it affects Israeli/American position in the Middle East.

  • D4x

    American foreign policy regarding the Ottoman Empire has two stains. In the 1820’s the USA decided to
    side with the Porte against the Greeks, to preserve American commercial interests.
    In 1915-1919, then President Wilson went wobbly, and used US neutrality to avoid doing anything to stop the Young Turk genocides againstArmenians and Assyrian Christians. Ambassador Morgenthau resigned in 1916 to
    write the story ignored by Wilson, who then went on to betray the Kurds at Versailles in 1919,
    with only a promise for a future referendum on self-determination.
    Ataturk’ssubsequent ‘facts on the ground’ led to Lausanne 1923, and the map the world faces today.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/947f4c73a05c40e7285d13cc6ac136a5c01defbd7a7a9190c6a887f6867b99c7.jpg Full text of the May 11, 1918 letter: http://www.armenian-genocide.org/roosevelt.html from former President Theodore Roosevelt to Cleveland Hoadley Dodge, who was Woodrow Wilson’s advisor, and biggest financial donor, “who only appears to have asked for one favor. This
    was in 1917, when war with Germany seemed inevitable, he asked Wilson to do all in his power to keep the United States from declaring war on Turkey and Bulgaria.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleveland_Hoadley_Dodge

    […] Former missionary and educator James L. Barton and philanthropist Cleveland Hoadley Dodge led a group of prominent New Yorkers in forming the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief (ACASR). […] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_East_Foundation https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4e4fc2e5084db60382b2d313e6f8084c4bfeb6bf93160ada512d356b384296f5.jpg
    One hundred years later, America should not be having the same ideological battle.

    Garfinkle’s dilemma is he has grown lazy, incurious, relying on a brain too cloaked in an ideological
    frame to notice that there IS a “discernible American regional strategy”, certainly discernible since May, 2017.
    “unnecessarily roiled relations with Turkey” is the quote that would be funny if it were
    not so completely, irresponsibly, and deplorably wrong. Erdogan’s Ottoman Restoration plan is well
    documented. I am surprised that Garfinkle does not even bother to follow
    Abdullah Gozkert, the former editor of Daily Sabah, in exile one day before the
    post-coup thugs seized Daily Sabah, intending to arresting Gozkert.. WSJ’s
    Yaroslav Trofimov follows: https://twitter.com/abdbozkurt

    Garfinkle’s conclusions are the product of too many wrong facts. 1) Turkey weaponized the Syrian
    refugee flows to the EU, as blackmail/bullying. Only those in the grip of Russia! hysteria, like Garfinkle, would fail to see this.

    2) Turkey’s FSA engaged in Operation Olive Branch (OOB) military assault on Afrin District (canton)
    since Jan. 20, 2018, is NOT the same as the FSA still fighting Assad. Turkey’s
    FSA were militias transported out of Idlib, including Turkmen, Al-Nusra/al
    Qaeda affiliates, and still TBD not-Arab nationalities.

    3) Since Erdogan announced his intention to ‘return Afrin to it’s owners’ meaning some of those
    3.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, the world, except for Adam, knows OOB is
    a war crime, a violation of the Geneva Conventions, which France has publicly stated.

    4) Garfinkle reveals his lazy ignorance with “The Kurds have a much larger military presence and
    hence a firmer grasp over this area [Manbij] than they do over the area around Afrin.”
    Everyone else knows Afrin Canton is historically Kurdish, a significant Kurdish majority.
    The YPG are protecting their homes and families.

    5) Received wisdom in the USA is the easy line that Adam uses to describe Turkey’s OOB: “The purpose
    of the Turkish deployment is to prevent Kurdish-controlled cantons from linking
    up to form a contiguous zone of Kurdish control adjacent to the Turkish
    border.” Yes, that is one objective. The primary objective is to hurt
    Assad. Until Jan. 20, Afrin produced 25% of Syria’s GDP, had an agricultural
    surplus, and was a safe haven for perhaps 300,000 Syrians displaced by the
    civil war. Half of Aleppo’s industry, from soap to blue jeans, relocated to Afrin, untouched by the civil war.
    The Afrin River is a major tributary to the Orontes watershed, which, in addition
    to the Euphrates, has been a Turkish Water War against Syria for decades.

    Nothing was “impromptu” about the USA-led Operation Inherent Resolve’s plan since Trump
    because POTUS. The ten bases in NE Syria, leaked by the Turks? Well sited, including two which are just south of every Syrian dam on the Euphrates and Khabur Rivers, bases with serious infrastructure and lots of Apaches.

    No one but Turkey decided to launch OOB. No one, including Russia could talk Turkey out of what is an
    assault on Assad and a return to ‘Ottoman’ control, under the guise of an assault on the imagined PKK, tailored to
    satisfy NATO. Most observers think Russia/Assad caved in exchange for Turkey’s
    withdrawal from Idlib. Idlib was Turkey’s Astana de-escalation zone. Instead,
    since October, Turkey had been drone mapping Afrin and siting artillery in
    Idlib, pointed to Afrin, with test shelling since October, 2017. NO ONE knows
    how to get Turkey to behave, not for lack of trying for a year, by Russia, USA,
    France, other EU/NATO members, UN…all the Arabs, everyone except the American
    pundits still blinded by hatred and hysteria, many of whom get paid to write stuff like this.

    This begs the main question: Where does Garfinkle get his facts to support his analysis? “the city
    of Washington” [and Adam] may be “perplexed”, but the Assyrians who still live in alQosh, Iraq west to Mosul, across Mt.Sinjar, or Fish Khabur into Hasakah to Deir ezZour, and their diaspora, are definitely not perplexed about the Trump strategy and plan.

    Despite Sec Tillerson’s meetings in Ankara on Feb. 15, and Sec Mattis’ statements at the NATO meet on
    Feb 14, I still believe TeamTrump’s Syria policy is NOT going to repeat Wilson’s shameful betrayals.
    Why are so many American ‘experts’ so intent on preserving such a terrible legacy, solely
    because they can’t get over the fact that Trump won, that they intentionally deceive and distract, and abuse 5,700 words to do so?

  • FriendlyGoat

    It is “hard to be an optimistic liberal for very long”. Then again, as one gets older, one realizes that dying as a cynic is not a cool outcome.

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  • Ofer Imanuel

    I disagree with Mr. Garfinkle for moral and practical reasons. He essentially advocates deserting the Syrian Kurds to get rolled over by the Turks and the Assad forces.
    The Kurds fought on our behalf against ISIS (yes, I know it was their interest as well), and saved American lives. How disgusting is it to stick a knife in their back? Also, if we desert them, how will that impact other allies view us?

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