pplswar Profile picture
Jul 20, 2018 92 tweets 42 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
WANTED: A serious progressive approach to foreign policy. Dictator-lovers need not apply.
ALSO WANTED: Intellectuals who oppose bad faith arguments and don't resort to strawmen and deflections when they can't come up with remotely coherent arguments for their know-nothing FP positions.

Noah Berlatsky need not apply.
"Sometimes you have to pick the gun up to put the gun down." -- Malcolm X
Marx's approach to FP > "anti imperialist" approach to FP:

This is my basic starting point.

I guarantee you Noah Berlatsky has no idea that this was the exact situation facing Kobane in summer/fall 2014 which is why he constantly resorts to ridiculous historical analogies (Wilson! Franco!) to deflect concrete engagement of current FP questions.
Anti-interventionism is a fringe cult dogma with zero relevance to either real-world struggles or mass, progressive politics.

Do @ me. 😁
Barack Obama is the closest thing we will ever see to an "anti imperialist" / "non-interventionist" presidency and his policies re: Syria, Ukraine, Russia led to the 2016 Trump-Russia victory. It's an experience no one should want to repeat.
Short but hard-hitting critique of Obama's disastrous FP that every progressive should (but won't) co-sign. 💯
Noah Berlatsky justifying Western leftists shouting down anti-Assad Syrians because no one has the right to challenge the anti-intervention cult under any circumstances.

Why am I not surprised?
Obama on Syria was very unilateralist: Turkey and the Gulf states wanted the U.S. to either get rid of Assad or impose a NFZ. He called Hollande at the last second just before French jets took off to bomb Assad to tell him about the pivot to Congress.
Short thread on a progressive approach to stopping Turkey's attack on Afrin in early 2018 and how Obama's Syria policy made direct Turkish intervention into the Syrian war all but inevitable.
Good piece by @onesarahjones on the weakness -- actually absence -- of serious foreign policy ideas by progressives. Here are some of my ideas:
✅Re-enter the Paris Accord
✅Restore the Iran deal
✅Marshall Plan for Libya (EU has to contribute big time)
A progressive foreign policy must be internationalist and aimed at securing a high standard of living for the entire human race in conditions of peace and freedom. Genuinely progressive FP is morally sound, unlike Henry Kissinger realpolitik and its inverse, "anti imperialism."
US-Turkey relations is a case where progressives have to choose between different principles and priorities. Reversing their drift away from democracy can only happen if relations improve first.
Having a NATO member beginning to orbit 🇷🇺 while they attack elections across Europe is especially bad and dangerous. And it was completely avoidable! Better policy vs. Assad was the key here.
Obama was determined to never really hurt Assad so decided to build up PKK/YPG vs. ISIS instead of FSA or combo of both with Turkish support/acquiscence. This helped US enemies Assad+Iran win and pushed Turkey towards 🇷🇺.
Thread on where I agree and disagree with Bernie Sanders and the Western left on the war in 🇾🇪Yemen.
Looks like Trump is adopting a hostile posture towards Turkey, @ProgWarHawk + @FaisalRahimIV.

Buckle up.

Thread on Corbyn's terrible response to Russia's use of chemical weapons on UK soil and what a proper progressive response would look like.
Essay makes decent points re: the regressive consequences of destroying the post-WW2 political order, but getting foreign money/lobbyists out of D.C. and pushing Germany to shakedown Deutschebank are hardly serious answers to current FP challenges.
US progressives are starting from scratch re: FP expertise. We have no money, no megadonors, and few elected offices to speak of. Only 1 of those 3 do we have any real shot at changing and that's where we start building cadre: Congressional staffs.
Because progressives lack serious FP think tanks to churn out policy papers and it will take time (decades) to build up Congressional staff experts, we have to co-opt existing experts for progressive ends. James Mattis or Jim Webb for example. pplswar.wordpress.com/2016/02/24/why…
The two major criteria progressives should use re: co-opting existing experts I think are 1) methodological/policy compatibility and 2) personal integrity. In other words, neocons, realpolitik sociopaths (Henry Kissinger), and people taking money from lobbyists need not apply.
One of the major shortcomings of the 2016 Sanders campaign was Syria + the war on ISIS. Don't think he said one word about PKK/YPG which was a yooj problem since they were the main U.S. ally in the Syrian theater of that fight.
As we noted earlier in this thread, PKK/YPG became Obama's preferred proxy vs. ISIS since only they would follow his admin's "fight ISIS, not Assad the main guy murdering+displacing millions of Syrians" policy which no regional ally really supported.
PKK/YPG face an uncertain future b/c neither Obama or Trump *outlined a political end-state for the Syrian anti-ISIS war.* The U.S. was indifferent to who won the battle to rule Syria so long as it wasn't ISIS, so Assad+Iran+Russia went all-in and won.
It's not fair to abandon PKK/YPG to Assad's tender mercies but it was even less fair to let Assad murder 500,000+ people, refuse to send Syrians gas masks, etc. The fair and right thing to do is contain Assad with safe zones covering the whole north.
But safe zones don't address what we, as progressives, think the political end-state to the counter-revolutionary war Assad launched in 2011 to destroy the Arab Spring ought to be. Ideally we want real democratic governance in the northern safe zones.
The political and moral complexity of real-world FP is a major reason progressives tend to avoid serious discussions of the topic. It involves painful, compromising choices and unsatisfying, problem-riddled outcomes even in best-case scenarios.
Good questions. My answers:
1. Until a second or third revolution overthrows Assad i.e. 20+ years or more. Unless his fascist regime voluntarily democratizes. [😄]
2. Not permanent, conditions-based. Covering Idlib to Raqqa to Hasakah to Deir Ezzor.
Not good questions. My answers:
1. Deterrence works. Assad has attacked U.S./YPG on occasion and U.S. response was overwhelming. He stopped.
2. Wipe out his already-meager capabilities.
My answers:
1. Yes.
2. Chapter 7 of the UN Charter stipulates that nations have the right of collective self-defense and Iraq requested U.S. military action vs ISIS. nytimes.com/2014/09/24/us/… un.org/press/en/2014/…
Some leftists are extremely mad online b/c I said internationalists should support NATO. Do they realize Corbyn's shadow def. minister pointed out that leftists helped found NATO and said that it reflects socialist values? 😄 newstatesman.com/politics/uk/20…
One thing the "don't bomb ISIS" people on the left never confronted is the fact that a majority of the Arab world -- including a majority of Iraqis and Syrian refugees -- supported the U.S.-led effort. Kinda important if you're an internationalist, no?
On Ukraine, I agree with this Ukrainian leftist comrade 100%.
-Arms for Kiev
-More sanctions for Russia. Maybe kicking them out of SWIFT is the way to go...
More agreement on defending Ukraine from Russian imperialism and colonization schemes.
If you think the U.S. military response to ISIS wasn't proportionate to the threat they posed (they plotted the Bataclan massacre from Raqqa), the onus is on you to outline what the correct response was. Otherwise there's no reason to take you seriously.
I asked Michael Youhana for what a proportionate U.S. military response to the threat of ISIS would be in his view and this was his answer.

I'm sure ISIS is shaking in their boots now.
Ukraine isn't the first instance where the U.S. sending this or that weapon system is used as a substitute for a serious and comprehensive set of policies. Ex: Arming Syrian rebels from 2014-2017 with no actual plan to end the war or even get a ceasefire.
If I had to characterize my progressive FP doctrine I guess I would call it "muscular internationalism." War is a last resort, but many/most U.S. military ops today fall well short of war. There's a force continuum and progressives shouldn't ignore it.
Thread on David Klion's progressive FP think tank, er I mean blog.
FP thread that began with correcting Ro Khanna who falsely claimed the US military was fighting in Ukraine then discussed Afghanistan and Yemen's complex wars.
If you're screaming about "NATO EXPANSION," learn the difference between Eastern European nations wanting to voluntarily join a defensive alliance and Eastern European nations getting invaded by their hostile, aggressive neighbor.
Bernie bro: U.S. troops fighting ISIS in 🇸🇾Syria = illegal! Corey Booker says so!

Also Corey Booker: I didn't know 🇵🇸Palestine was literally on this sign I was holding. I thought it just said 🇲🇽Mexico. 🤨 I'm a FP pro, believe me! 🙄

Mini-thread on U.S. funding for 🇵🇸UNRWA.
Thought-provoking thread on an internationalist response to the challenge of global, regional, and bilateral trade agreements and pacts that avoids protectionist non-solutions (i.e. "Build It in Britain!").
U.S. disengagement+withdrawal from world affairs isn't leading to greater peace and security abroad but to more wars+destabilization. The Yemen war and Turkey's invasion of Syria are prime examples of regional powers rushing to fill a leadership vacuum.
Here is what a serious left-wing response to ISIS looks like:

✅Grounded in FACTS, not conspiracy theories
✅Addresses real-world problems
✅Morally sound
✅Pro-international law

Flagrantly illegal 🇨🇳Chinese aggression in the South China Sea -- their construction+militarization of artificial islands -- must be checked through multilateral diplomatic+kinetic efforts. Regional war between China and its neighbors must be avoided. businessinsider.com/keep-out-china…
Are you a newly elected 🌹socialist or progressive?

Do want to empower tyrants and oligarchs the world over and cause more destabilizing regional wars?

Well Phyllis Bennis has just the foreign policy package for you!
U.S. leftists seriously arguing American taxpayers have a *moral obligation* to finance the reconstruction of Assad's fascist regime.

Why bankroll a killing machine that murdered ~100,000 Syrians in prisons in just a few years?

A genuinely progressive foreign policy isn't based on the interests of one nation but on the interests of working and exploited peoples all (or at least many) nations.

The difficulty is that those interests sometimes conflict with one another.
David Sirota doesn't understand the difference between a nuclear-armed state 🇷🇺 with thousands of warheads pointed at the U.S. that shoots down civilian airliners


a corporation 🏦 that requires U.S. government 🏛 permission to operate.

Mini-thread on elected official and DSA member Lee Carter engaging in Infowars-style hysterics re: Syria.
#OTD in 2013, Bashar al-Assad unleashed chemical weapons and killed over 1,000 civilians. (#FF survivor @QZakarya.) This massacre occurred 365 days after Obama declared CW use a "red line" for the United States.

What followed is a case study in what NOT to do in foreign policy.
Obama cornered himself by issuing the red line publicly in the first place after private warnings re: CW no longer worked. Assad escalated from shooting protesters to shelling cities and then CW use as he gained confidence re: no U.S. intervention. theatlantic.com/international/…
Ben Rhodes' self-serving account of the Obama administration's response to Assad's increasing use of CW leaves out a crucial fact: U.S. aid to moderate anti-Assad rebels in 2013 was non-lethal i.e. MREs + band-aids. Not even joking. theatlantic.com/international/…
Obama's MREs+band-aids to rebels as means of stopping or deterring Assad's CW use quickly became a joke among the Assad's opponents.
While the anti-war "left" was screaming about a non-existent "regime change" war, and depicting Syrian rebels as well-armed Contras, the Obama administration was denying Syrian civilian requests for gas masks.

Obama enabled Assad's most heinous crimes.

Declaring CW to be a red line in 2012 was in practice a green light for Assad to use everything in his arsenal that wasn't a banned weapon. Obama implicitly sanctioned mass murder on an industrial scale so long as Assad used tanks, artillery, missiles, and roaming death squads.
Because Obama ignored the conflict altogether in public messaging for years, when Assad brazenly murdered 1,000+ civilians #OTD in 2013 there was 0 public support for enforcing the red line. His spinmasters' brief PR blitz failed to even dent opposition. theatlantic.com/international/…
Public opposition to enforcing Obama's red line is largely Obama's fault. Since then, public opinion has gone from a majority opposing ousting Assad to a slim majority in favor of "regime change." Near-daily news coverage of Syria was the missing link.
Instead of a swift and vicious strike on Assad, his palaces, and his military apparatus to deter further CW use, Obama decided to hand the task of disarming Assad of his WMD to Mr. Honest, Mr. Straight-Shooter, Mr. Never-Lies Putin to resolve.
A few years ago Obama was widely hailed by beltway elites for his genius CW deal. "Syria disarmed, not a shot fired! Hurrah!" 100% bullshit. Assad kept tons of CW with Putin's help and kept killing. Nobody hails Obama's tremendous spectacular deal anymore. theguardian.com/world/2018/apr…
Obama's criminally idiotic Syria policy and self-inflicted red line debacle was a -- perhaps even THE -- major inflection point in the slow but steady destruction of the post-WW2 rules-based order. Think about the consequences of his terrible decisions... politico.com/magazine/story…
What did Putin learn from Obama's red line debacle in 2013? That Obama had no red lines he was prepared to actually enforce. He grew bolder and bolder:

✅In 2014 Putin invaded Ukraine.
✅In 2015 he started bombing Syria.
✅In 2016 he helped elect Trump.
What did Assad learn from Obama's red line debacle in 2013?

✅That you can use chemical weapons and get away with it.
✅That you can lie to OPCW about destroying your stockpile and get away with it.
✅That nobody is going to stop you from killing hundreds of thousands of people.
What did ISIS learn from Obama's refusal to act on Syria?

✅That the way was clear to establish a terrorist "caliphate."
✅That the U.S. would do nothing when they seized Mosul in summer of 2014.
✅That -- like Assad -- they could rape and kill with impunity.
What did America's allies learn from Obama's refusal to act on Syria?

✅That America is unreliable.
✅That they are better off acting unilaterally on the world stage.

So Saudi Arabia started bombing Yemen in 2015 and Turkey invaded Syria in 2016.
In 2011-2013 nobody could have foreseen the rise of ISIS, Trump, and global Putinism that would result from Obama's catastrophic foreign policy decisions starting in Syria, but many people at the time warned that what happened in Syria would not stay in Syria.

They were right.
What made Obama's wretched Syria policy even worse was his admin's insistence on endlessly repeating "Asssd must go" as a talking point while refusing to employ any ways and means to make that happen. telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/0…
Like Obama's fake red line, "Assad must go" telegraphed weakness and indecision, confused allies (both states and Western-friendly moderate rebels), and ultimately emboldened Assad, Iran, and Putin who correctly judged Obama to be an empty suit issuing empty threats.
Plenty of progressive FP lessons from Obama's multitude of failures on Syria. A short list:
✅Don't issue red lines you aren't prepared to enforce.
✅Non-intervention can be worse than intervention.
✅Everything you don't do also sets precedents.
✅Fascists only respond to force.
Critiquing U.S. Syria policy and offering credible progressive alternatives isn't easy because Assad's killing spree stretched across 3 presidential terms (Obama's first + second term and now Trump's first). As the years dragged on, the situation continually became more complex.
Syria became so complex that U.S. allies ended up fighting each other on the battlefield:

- Iraqi Shia PMU militias vs. CIA-backed anti-Assad rebels
- CIA-backed anti-Assad rebels vs. DoD-backed YPG/PKK
- NATO member Turkey + Turkey-backed rebels vs. DoD-backed YPG/PKK
Syria became so complex over the years that it became necessary to make diagrams like this to keep track of who was fighting who.
Me (left) vs. Ben Rhodes (right) on U.S. Syria policy...
🇺🇸Trump administration -- 🇸🇾🇷🇺🇮🇷Assad reconquering Idlib is unacceptable.

🇺🇸Trump administration -- 🇸🇾🇷🇺🇮🇷Assad reconquering Idlib is totally acceptable, just not with chemical weapons.

These two statements are ~16 minutes apart.

If the U.S. backed up Turkey and declared Idlib a safe/no-fly zone, this would be a relatively cheap and easy way to:
✅Repair the strained relationship with Turkey
✅Curb aggression by Iran, Russia, and Assad
✅Most importantly, save thousands of lives.
Excellent piece by @WonkVJ on what a serious progressive foreign policy must do:
✅Treat national security as the grave responsibility that it is.
✅Outline positive vision of world order + US role.
✅Show how principles will shape choices, priorities.
One place where I think Jackson really errs is conflating New Deal liberal internationalism circa ~1945 w/ neoliberalism which arose three decades+ later pushing union-busting, privatization, and deregulation to undo Keynesianism.

Pinochet was a neolib. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neolibera…
Jackson's contention that progressives agree with neoliberalism [actually post-WW2 liberal internationalism] appears to be based on @dhnexon's liberalism x-y chart since that's hyperlinked. Many leftists will dismiss Jackson's piece just b/c of that. lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2018/09/mappin…
Jackson is right that some on the left won't acknowledge the progressive aspects of capitalism (internationalism, world culture, a global division of labor) but these people are what Marx called reactionaries. Capitalist development creates the means to abolish poverty, want.
Jackson is also right that progressives do not spell out what programs, weapons, initiatives exactly they want to cut and what to keep and what the national security implications of those choices are. The Progressive Caucus budget is a perfect example. cpc-grijalva.house.gov/uploads/CPC%20…
Jackon raises a bunch of questions progressives generally don't want to answer -- much easier to chant 'against war!' and wave signs -- than get into specifics. Shrinking the military can also be done if allies increase the size of their militaries, which means better diplomacy.
Ridding the globe of nuclear weapons is definitely a progressive goal but unilateral disarmament is a stupid idea that has been killed again and again in the UK Labour Party (by the unions, mainly). Even the 2nd International saw multilateral arms reduction as the way to go.
Defending and strengthening the crumbling post-WW2 rules-based international order ought to be the centerpiece of every progressive FP discussion now that it's under sustained attacked by right-wing oligarch-gangsters like Putin.
Why defend the post-WW2 international order? Because the real-world alternative in 2018 and beyond isn't democratic socialist governments in 192+ countries all getting along singing kumbaya, it's law of the jungle like the pre-WW2 era, Saudi Arabia bombing hospitals Yemen, etc.
The U.S. should've never backed the 2013 coup against Morsi in Egypt or violated U.S. law by continuing arm sales to Sisi who killed+jailed thousands of activists. Instead the U.S. should've parked the 5th fleet near the Suez to threaten SCAF not to launch a coup.
Haven't seen a ton of good progressive ideas re: Silicon Valley social media monopolies, but maybe if Facebook collaborates w/ China's regime to persecute dissidents, they will face U.S. sanctions. You can't export certain technologies to Iran so why the double-standard w/ China?
Last point I think @WonkVJ is absolutely right on is there is a massive ideological opening for progressives right now on FP -- Obama, a liberal, failed to defend the liberal order and conservatives are enabling Trump to grind the rubble into dust. politico.com/magazine/story…

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More from @pplswar

Jul 1, 2018
Tulsi Gabbard is so progressive she skipped #FamiliesBelongTogetherMarch. Is it because she knew Hawaii progressives might start asking her hard questions, like why won't she debate @SherryForHawaii? Or if she wants to #AbolishICE?
Tulsi Gabbard is so progressive even her buddies at Fox News are criticizing her for refusing to debate her progressive challenger @SherryForHawaii! 🤣foxnews.com/politics/2018/…
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🇷🇺Kremlin influence over the Western left is vast, growing, + largely uncontested due a combination of paid shills + useful idiots who dominate the left media ecosystem. Shills include Ed Schulz, Thom Hartmann, Lee Camp, Naomi Klein... (thread)
... Chris Hedges, Max Blumenthal, Rania Khalek, Dan Cohen, Abby Martin, and a slew of minor D-list left celebs who are readily welcomed as "experts" by larger non-Russian platforms such as Democracy Now, The Nation, Huffingtonpost, The Intercept, The Young Turks, Verso Books, etc
RT and its Kremlin assets create a lot of the content and messaging that ends up being echoed by the likes of Jimmy Dore (TYT) and other ostensibly progressive fringe/conspiracy theorist types, "Sane Progressive" (a YouTuber).
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