German / European Syria policy

The wannabe chancellor candidate of the conservatives in Germany is bungling in Syria policy with a proposal for military protection mission that almost nobody else in Europe appears to want.

The problem right now is that you cannot have a satisfactory Syria policy these days without either having very low expectations or a satisfactory Turkey policy.

There, that's the real issue:
What's the Turkey policy?

Turkey is NATO member, and it appears settled that it won't join the EU in this generation. Its autocratic government is dominated by a nationalist-pseudoreligious party and its undisputed leader.
Turkey clearly chose to have improved and more close relations with Russia, regardless of the incident about a shot down Russian aircraft. 
Turkey's geostrategic role is extremely important. It controls the Bosporus, is in striking distance of Crimea and Suez Canal, is neighbour with Syria, Iraq, Iran and Georgia. It has at least the potential to bridge between Orient and Occident, though not with the current president. The Turks dominated Arab countries for centuries in the Ottoman Empire, and there's a certain justified unease about their changed policies regarding especially Syria, but also northern Iraq.
Meanwhile, Turkey is a multi-ethnic country that oppresses the Kurdish minority, maybe because it cannot afford to accept the notion of not being a nation-state.

So what is the European Turkey policy? I understand the United States have a dysfunctional foreign policy right now that doesn't extend past personal interests and fixations of its president, but what's the European strategy?

(1) Do we try to keep Turkey in NATO at all costs, appeasing it regardless of aggressive actions and sporadic cuddling with Moscow?

(2) Do we try to at least keep Turkey from joining Russia's bloc? We should then neutralize them in NATO; there's no way to kick them out, but they need not be involved in secret affairs. 

(3) Do we try to push for a preferable political leadership in Turkey?

(5) Do we ignore Turkey and its actions?

We need to have and settle on a satisfactory Turkey policy before we can devise a satisfactory Syria policy. Else, we wouldn't know if to wield the power of the UNSC against Turkey, for example. Armed forces protecting the Syrian Northeast make sense only if they are meant to actually protect it, even against advancing Turkish forces of against advancing Turkish proxies supported by Turkish forces.

The current Syria policy appears to be short-sighted, incomplete, and many important actors do not appear to have thought enough about the Syria case.

About the German Minister of Defence: It was a folly that the proposal to send protection troops to NE Syria came from the Minister of Defence instead of from the minister of foreign affairs. A policy trial balloon about protection troops from the minister of foreign affairs with some dissent from the Minister of Defence would have damaged intra-NATO relations less. The military policy origin needlessly puts the military policy question (is Turkey really considered a NATO ally or a great power to be restrained) into the field of view more than if the minister of foreign affairs would have done it.
It's indeed a double folly, for the proposal isn't even national policy; the cabinet is divided about it.





A couple notes

For the first time ever, I noticed a major news outlet mentioning that Article 1 of the North Atlantic Treaty makes aggressions illegal. Hooray!
Now apply this insight beyond just Turkey.

Not-so-fun game: Try to come up with ways how the' president of the united states' a.k.a. "lying moron" could possibly serve Russian interests better than he already does.
- He drove oil prices up with Iran
- He drives wedges into NATO
- He seems to drive Turkey out of NATO into Russia's arms
- He utterly destroyed U.S. diplomatic capability - there's no ability for actual diplomatic agreements left. That's in part becuase of State Department disassembling, in part because he's not giving real guidance to diplomats (so all negotiations are a mess) and in part because he's proving his country to be utterly unreliable (up to signalling that ratified treaties are merely the starting point for a shakedown for a fictional better deal).
- He worked hard to get Russia sanctions lifted
- He gets an Ukrainian government into trouble
- He withheld arms deliveries to Ukraine
- Did nothing against the threat of election fraud

I think of myself as someone who has a lot of ideas, can improvise and find ways how to unhinge seemingly stable systems. I doubt I could have made up these pro-Russia moves in a week.
I would have insisted on backdoors in network and computer hardware and software to make Western computer networks more vulnerable to Russian attack - which incidentally is something the U.S. government (and politicians in the EU) did want, too.

I don't really share the criticism about the fake Syria withdrawal a.k.a. betrayal of the Kurds. The criticism is too much in opposition (and thus in favour of having troops deployed in Syria) as a matter of principle.
It could have been done in a competent way - there was enough time. The Kurds could have negotiated autonomy with Assad under favourable conditions using the possibility of a U.S. withdrawal as one of the bargaining chips instead of being forced to plea to Assad for help. The Turkish invasion (expansion of invasion) would rather not have happened if the Syrian border guard and army were on the border.

Having troops in Syria is great power gaming nonsense in my opinion. So an actual (not fake) withdrawal would have been fine if done well. I suppose those senators who criticise it just want to continue the great power gaming nonsense. They don't care more about the Kurds than the lying moron does.

The mess was created for practically not gain (there are still U.S. troops in Syria, and expected to stay), at least concerning Western interests.
What now? The U.S. could abstain from protecting Turkey in the UNSC instead of doing childish pseudo-tough talk and embarrassing letters. The UK and France would probably not protect Turkey. Maybe Russia would, but keep in mind Syria would have to appeal to the UNSC to act against the invasion in the first place. Putin would have to choose whether to side with Turkey or Syria.

I didn't write as much as usual lately because I got distracted. Stuff happens.

Right wing extremism may have passed a zenith in several European countries at least for this generation. The right wing extremists in Germany suffer from several problems
- the Austrian right wing radicals' corruption scandal, which exposed the workings of right wing extremists
- it's becoming increasingly obvious that their primary party is more of an Eastern German protest party than anything else
- a court declared it legal and no libel to call one of their far-far-right members a "fascist", which clarified the matter
- their favourite target, chancellor Merkel, it slowly leaving the spotlight since she gave up party chairmanship
- the migration issue has ebbed
Personally, I wonder when and whether ever the nation will pay attention to far right wingers having no working answers to challenges and problems. They're mostly about fear and hate, only in few countries (Hungary, Poland) has the far right wing been smart enough to break from the mold and actually do something for the poor and the middle class.

I'm concerned that there's neither much of a movement for a ban on autonomous lethal drones nor a hurried development of countermeasures against them. This has a "1905" feeling of seeing horse cavalry divisions, but neither armoured motor vehicles nor anti-armoured vehicles guns in the army.



Strategy changes

Several of my blog posts were written under the (mentioned) assumption that we should have a division of labour in NATO / EU. The Baltic countries and Poland should focus on self-defence against a strategic surprise attack. Germany should be able to quickly deploy a decisive ground forces strength capable of stopping Russian ground forces, Turkey should be able to close the Bosporus even to submarines, Spain should be able to close Gibraltar Strait even to submarines and so on.

I hinted back in 2017 that such an alliance grand strategy of deterrence by frustrating even strategic surprise attack scenarios might need adjustments if the Turkey situation doesn't develop well.  Strategy changes may be necessary, and this may be a terrible issue given the inertia in the armed services.

A complete change of an air war strategy may take 30...40 years, for that appears to be the life cycle length of combat aircraft and air defences from introduction to disappearance. I doubt it will become much quicker unless there's a major war wearing down the inventory.

Even unspectacular changes of a national defence strategy such as reorganisation of the army (which should be possible in little more than a year including the re-training periods) often last 5+ years nowadays.

This slowness is what seemingly almost everyone has become used to, and has become accepted as normal, if not inevitable.
It's not. 
Remember, Germany built a continent-dominating military based on a 100,000 men army and 10,000 men navy in less than seven years. No computer programs were used, and we should get rid of them if computer programs were slowing down rather than accelerating things. Technology advanced, so we should be quicker, not slower. Whatever technological change made us slower should be dispensed with.

It's a rule of thumb to replace a strategy every about five years in a business. Few large businesses (such as concrete factories) can successfully operate without having and adapting a strategy. Likewise, we should expect strategy changes every five years on the national and collective defence levels. Any longer intervals are symptoms of failure by the executives involved.

An armed bureaucracy that expects to change strategy every about five years has to move to be able to change course every about five years. Such an adaptable armed bureaucracy could dare to react to its environment with more specialised adaptions than a sluggish armed bureaucracy that lives and preserves inertia and conservatism above every thing else. It's a bureaucracy's self-interest to preserve itself and to not change much, so the impetus towards adaptability has to come from the civilian leadership.

Political leadership may change as well, but ours in Germany exists in four-years legislative cycles, and this fits the five-year rule because we don't really hand over power in four-year intervals. Our governing coalitions last about 5...14 years.

We should be much more adaptable on the strategic level both as nations and as collective security organisations (alliances).