Today, the Trump administration announced a brilliant, not-so-new plan to recruit a Sunni army to destroy ISIS in Syria (this is the original Wall Street Journal report). At least that’s the theory. In practice, this army will likely ensure Syria is broken into territorial spheres of influence, a strategy known to be favored by Israel.
There would be an Alawite-Shia canton on the west coast, with Sunni cantons in traditionally Sunni regions. The Golani Druze would serve in the southwest as a bulwark against infiltration into Israel. A collateral benefit to this plan is that it would arrest the increasing Iranian and Hezbollah military presence inside Syria.
Or would it? Assad and his allies (including Russia) are seasoned fighters after seven years of war against Sunni Islamists including affiliates of al Qaeda and ISIS. The force the U.S. is recruiting would consist of units of Arab armies from Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar (yes, you read that right!). These armies can’t even put down insurgencies within their own borders, let alone in foreign country hundreds of miles from home.
The not-so-new plan wasn’t devised in Washington. Nor is it new. It was, in fact, proposed to Pres. Obama several years ago by none other than the Saudis. They must’ve pitched it something like this: look, we Sunnis have been funding proxy Islamist groups in Syria for years. It hasn’t been working out. So why not take a load of your (Obama’s) shoulders. We’ll put together an army composed of our own national armies and make a proper war of it. Doing this will show our Shiite enemies that we mean business. And it will let America off the hook in terms of having to step in whenever Assad engages in especially obnoxious behavior like gassing his own citizens.
The plan didn’t go over too well. Obama, being the level-headed individual he was, said: Nuh-uh. Ain’t gonna work. We want no part of it. Trump, being the idiot he is, loves the idea. There you go.
Who would equip and train this new force? The U.S., of course. This is essentially the same strategy we pursued in Iraq and Afghanistan: we withdrew the majority of our troops after it turned into a stalemate, and paid for our local proxies to fight for themselves against their Taliban and ISIS foes. So how’s that working out?
Essentially, this would turn Syria into yet another Middle East quagmire sponsored by the U.S. treasury.
What would the Saudis get for doing us this large favor? Talk is, that we would make them a “major non-NATO member.” This would bring the Wahabi kingdom added cachet in associating with European states as a near-equal–a NATO wannabe. Crown Prince Mohammed ibn Salman can strut around Europe boasting of being admitted to the big boys’ club.
There is one small problem: Trump hasn’t bothered to ask the other NATO member states what they think about his idea. And Trump hasn’t exactly endeared himself to NATO. So why would they want to accord such status to a feudal state whose values have nothing in common with those of western Europe? Betcha Donald didn’t think of that before he cooked up this scheme.
Let’s go back in time to conceive of a historical equivalent. Imagine Richard the Lion-Heart decides something must be done about the Mohammedan heathens polluting the Christian holy places. So he sends his knights to fight on behalf of Christendom. When they arrive, they fight Saladin and his army to a standstill. But the pesky Muslims continue the fight and eventually they wear down Richard’s forces. He decides he wants to bring them home before his subjects become too restive.
So his trusted aide-de-camp suggests a brilliant alternative strategy: find local Muslim tribes in the region who hate Saladin, and pay them to fight on Richard’s behalf. Sounds like a great plan. What could go wrong?
This is in effect a reverse Crusades. We fight the Mohammedan heathen, but without paying any of the costs in the lives of our own. The Mohammedans fight it out amongst themselves. We come out smelling like a rose.
Who thought up this brilliant plan for Trump? None other than John Bolton. It’s fiendishly clever: he never had much use for Muslims anyway. So what could be better than having Muslims killing each other in droves? With us picking up the tab. Sounds like a good deal to me.