Obama Losing Game of Chicken in Kobani

    Obama appears to be losing another game of chicken. (The last was with the GOP in 2013 over budget control act of 2011 which mandated cuts to the Pentagon.) Obama and his top advisors still seem to be, in too many instances, sucker bait for scoundrels, be they in the GOP or foreign heads of state. The 'chicken' aspect of this situation is all too clear.

    It is much more serious then budget cuts. The question is who, if anyone, is going to act to save the Kurds of Kobani from the murderers of ISIS. ISIS is attacking the major Kurdish city of Kobani right on the Turkish/Syrian border, and with a population of over 150,000 potential victims.

    The Turkish Parliament approved the use of Turkish forces to enter Syria last week, many thought President Erdogran of Turkey would move to save Kobani. He hasn't. Erdogran is not only not helping the Kurds, he is not allowing them to get more supplies of small arms, ammunition, reinforcements or anything else as they hunker down in Kobani for a fight to the death.Erdogran has demands on the US and is waiting it out. Will he chicken out when and if Kurdish civilians are killed in the streets? Will Obama bend to Erdogran's demands to bomb Assad forces, expanding the US air war?

    Meanwhile thousands of Kurds have rioted and demonstrated across Turkey and 14 have died protesting Erdogran's refusal to do anything to help the Kurds fighting to save Kobani.

    Hordes of news persons and photographers, and scores of motionless Turkish tanks, sit on the Turkish side of the border, across a thin wire fence from the Syrian Kurdish town waiting for this to end.

    ISIS has been seen stepped up US bombing over the last couple of days, but it still is closing in with heavy weapons stolen from the US supplies Iraqi Army. ISIS membes have been seen on the streets of the city. If they get in and take control, it may mean another massacre.  The Kurds are desperate and determined to the point that a Kurd female suicide bombed ISIS fighters near Kobani a few days ago, killing a number of them in a tactic ISIS often uses.

    NYT reports:

    ...While Turkish troops watched the fighting in Kobani through a chicken-wire fence, Turkey’s President Erdogan, said that the town was about to fall and Kurdish fighters warned of an impending blood bath if they were not reinforced — fears the United States shares.

    But Mr. Erdogan said Tuesday that Turkey would not get more deeply involved in the conflict with the Islamic State unless the United States agreed to give greater support to rebels trying to unseat the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. That has deepened tensions with President Obama, who would like Turkey to take stronger action against the Islamic State and to leave the fight against Mr. Assad out of it.

    The Turks are in effect holding the lives of Kurds, who they hate, hostage in an attempt to force the US to bomb the forces of Syria's Assad, who the Turks also hate. The Obama administration thought the Turks, who have a military manpower pool of almost twice the entire population of Syria, would roll the tanks (see below) in to avert a massacre which would be broadcast around the world. They haven't done so yet. Don't hold your breath on it.

    Of course, with the military forces Erdogran and Turkey can field (population 75 million, 5000 tanks and NATO member), Turkey could topple Assad alone with its own army, but apparently prefers others, like the USA, to do it.

    Erdogran is implying he isn't afraid to sacrifice a city of Kurds in an attempt to extort action from the US.

    Turkish tanks a stones throw from Kobani

    Turkish President Erdogran is the same Muslim leader who claimed Israel was committing "systemic genocide" in the recent conflict in Gaza. And one of his favorite political ploys is to send 'relief flotillas' to Gaza. He could care less about risks of genocide as his forces watch from Turkish soil. President Erdogran, the world is watching.



    Seems to me another reason why we never should have involved ourselves in this game of conflicted loyalties and motivations.

    Only a great geopolitical genius, such as our Sunday afternoon TV fixture John McCain, could have sorted this all out and outwitted these Byzantine tribal, ethnic and religious feuds and pitfalls. I would say Sarah Palin could handle it, but you can't see Istanbul from any part of Alaska.

    OK, I'm definitely no expert on Turkey or the Kurds, but what makes you think Erdogan is playing chicken? I'd wager on him really just not caring too much what happens to the Kurds (as you suggest). From what I know, they've been a thorn in his side within Turkey, so other than international (and some internal, but possibly a small percentage) opinion (and just being a decent human being), what makes you think he cares what happens to the Kurds? It's not really chicken if Erdogan doesn't care about the outcome.

    What makes you think I think Erdogran cares about the Kurds? I said the Turks hate the Kurds. Erdogran is Head Turk. Of course, 20% of the Turkish population is Kurdish, and they are already rioting across Turkey because Erdogran is setting up Kobani for a massacre by not letting reinforcements or ammunition to go in.

    The Kurds are the chicken, Erdogran could save them by rolling those tanks, or at least opening the border for Kurdish reinforcements.

    His own Turkish Parliament OK'd sending forces across the border.

    Due to typically cynical political calculations Erdogran is saying he will move the chicken off the road only if Obama goes after Assad and institutes a no fly zone over Syria and bombs Assad.

    Trouble is for Erdogran, Turkey is a NATO member. NATO is supposed to stand for something, including preventing genocide on their borders, aka Bosnia/Serbia/Kosovo.

    Apparently the Obama administration thought that Turkey would not allow its international image to be destroyed by letting a genocidal slaughter occur across a fence while its tanks sit there doing nothing. We have yet to see if that is true, and if the chicken gets run over.

    Yes, I tried to acknowledge that you'd already pointed this out. (And I see now that I did that poorly — what I wrote could be construed in the opposite sense of how I intended it.)

    My point is, how do you "win" a game of chicken when the other person isn't playing chicken? I.e., when he's perfectly happy for the mayhem to happen?

    Of course Erdogran is happy to see Kurds killed, ISIS is Erdogran's Dream Team.

    ISIS is fighting Assad, which Erdogran is too corrupt to do himself with his huge military, and ISIS kills Kurds in genocidal fashion.

    His administration is making up excuses daily why they can't do anything, these have not included 'he is happy Kurds are dying' because he is playing chicken with his own reputation as 'leader' despot of a NATO nation.

    Hmm. Given the current state of his reputation, I don't think there's much risk there. That's why I think the "game of chicken" is a poor analogy. That said, the fact that he's even paying lip service to the idea of helping the Kurds suggests that I might be underestimating how much he cares about international opinion of him.

    All despots care about international opinion of themselves. I think the 'game of chicken' these guys play is all too appropriate, as I said the GOP Congress does it all the time with the budget. Turks do it with genocide. Be well.

    Obama appears to be losing another game of chicken.

    But how do you 'win' a game of chicken? Go over the edge? And who pays the price of losing? Not any of the 'deciders' in the U.S. except possibly in short term domestic political terms. In a poker analogy every bluff will be called if the caller is doing so with someone else's money. If others cover all losses whether they are the result of a stupid gamble or not, but the caller and/or better gets some reward every time his play pays off then we can expect a wild and crazy game to erupt. Smart poker, a game of skill, will not be any part of the game.

     An article by John Pilger doesn't apply directly to your blog but I think in essence it does. Part information/fact/history and part opinion, I think ity is worth consideration when deciding what action or inaction we should take both in the short and the long run. "First do no harm" comes to mind as my pipe-dream.


    Why does Pilger put scare quotes around the word "rebels" when talking of the Syrian rebels? He talks about a "horrific dismemberment" of Syria, but Assad's attempt to hold Syria together has been horrific in its consequences. And if Pilger is opposed to imperial politics, why does he suggest we form an alliance with Assad? That would be a bit of cynical statecraft worthy of Nixon and Kissinger.

    Why does Pilger put scare quotes around the word "rebels" when talking of the Syrian rebels? 

    Here’s how The Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.) explains the legitimate use of scare quotes:

    “Quotation marks are often used to alert readers that a term is used in a nonstandard (or slang), ironic, or other special sense. Nicknamed scare quotes, they imply ‘This is not my term’ or ‘This is not how the term is usually applied.’

    Maybe that is why. I can’t be sure though.

    He talks about a "horrific dismemberment" of Syria, but Assad's attempt to hold Syria together has been horrific in its consequences.

    So why did Assad have to attempt to hold his country together in the first place? There is little doubt that many Syrians wished to change their government. They demonstrated and demanded change. It was the happening thing. Color revolutions all around and they seemed, for a time, to be going well for most countries involved. Assad, according to reports, reacted with brutal measures. History suggests that he would have been successful and the demonstrations would never have escalated to the point of civil war unless an overwhelming percentage of the population was on the other side as finally became the case in Iran and which resulted there in the overthrow of the Shah with little violence. What we also know is that neighboring countries with varying motives as well as some located thousands of miles away poured money, weapons, and manpower into support of Assad’s opponents. They also used financial and diplomatic pressure. In spite of these outside influences he has been able to hang on. I have to believe that the only explanation for that success is that he has a great deal of internal support among Syrians or else he would have been defeated by now. But the fighting goes on.

    So, the dictator willing to be brutal to remain in power was challenged with the support of outsiders.[Stupid support? Misguided? misapplied? Counter-productive? Murderous? Unworkable?]  Instead of x amount of brutality the country has experienced, and continues to experience, many, many, times x brutality. It takes many a coat of ideologically driven rhetoric nad propaganda to paint that as an arc of success  which supports continuance.   

    And , If  Pilger is opposed to imperial politics why does he suggest we form an alliance with Assad?

     I don’t think there can be any doubt that Pilger IS opposed to imperial politics. Changing those politics enough to allow an protective alliance that would tamp down the massive amounts of killing, infrastructure destruction, and displacement of millions might be far from a perfect solution but it would certainly be better than what is happening now or what more stand-off bombing and support of one antagonistic group one day and another the next will produce for the future. I give Pilger the benefit of doubt and assume he has good intentions.

    Nixon and Kissinger enacted policies that killed millions and Kissinger defends those policies to this day and not from a jail cell. A policy that would attempt to diminish ongoing killing rather than one intended to produce our favored outcome regardless the human cost can hardly be compared in terms of cynicism.





    Pilger is frankly like a broken record with his recitation of the same old history, Kissinger, Vietnam, etc over and over and over, in almost every article he writes.

    If reciting this stuff was going to change anything Mr. Surge John McCain (the 'we could have won in Vietnam) would not be on TV every Sunday, and he would've faded from the scene in the 1980's..

    Sometime Pilger might drop the history lessons and go into 'current events' of why Republican idiots with which Congress is replete, keep getting elected and re-elected over and over with BS about closing the border, which they had 8 years to do under GWB, or 'personhood' for fetuses.

    Our history of foreign entanglements is the broken record. Maybe Pilger believes a corollary of the Nazi propaganda genius' working hypothesis that if a big truth is told enough times that people will believe it. The truth he refers to over and over goes back, like you say, to Kissinger, Vietnam, etc, and that means it goes back 45 years or so. Do you think it better to remember history as accurately as possible and note where policies tried over and over have led us or should we start every new foreign engagement as if it were our first? If Pilger's history lesson was put forth in contrast to McCain's on the same outlets it might make some difference. Meanwhile, current events are bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iraq, and Syria, and Yemen, and Afghanistan, and, Pakistan, and ...   I think Pilger addresses that fairly often.

    Sorry, but I don't see how supporting Assad would mean less death and suffering.

    I'm not one of those "if you broke it, you've got to fix it" types.  So even though the Cheney/Bush administration clearly created a favorable environment for the evolution of ISIL (I won't call it ISIS since ISIS is a goddess of peace and love), that doesn't mean we necessarily have to take it down.  Mostly because the law of unintended consequences and our history in the middle east says more American involvement probably means totalitarianism, destabilization, death, and impoverishment for Arabs.  That said if an identifiable group of people is poised to annihilate another group of people and we can save the second group, we have a moral duty to do so.  The problem here is I'm not sure how we can save the Kurds of Kobane.  Make the Turks intervene?  Do we have the power to do so?  Is it worth trying to topple Bashar Al-Assad?  Send in our own ground troops?  Wouldn't that possibly cause more harm than good?  There sure don't seem to be any obvious answers.

    One final point.  I have great respect for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.  I have no idea what he recommends.  But my guess is the President would be well-served to heed his advice.

    Apropros of nothing, Kurds Kobane is my new stage name.

    Hagel is amongst the deaf ,dumb and blind US/NATO leaders who can't see the obvious, that ISIS is supported and backed by Turkey, it's their proxy force fighting Assad. Assad has Hezbollah, Turkey has ISIS.

    No surprise they won't let us use their air base, or get 'more invovled'. Incredible. Are Hagel et al really that dumb or just won't admit it to the press that Turkey, a NATO member is backing an organization that massacres people by the hundreds and beheads westerners?

    From your link:

    U.S. leaders have been urging Turkey to get more involved in the battle against the Islamic extremists who have stormed across Iraq and Syria and taken control of large amounts of territory near Turkey's border.

    Hal, to fix the "Law of Unintended Consequences", if I stick my hand under a running lawnmower, it's either awful ignorance or worse stupidity or unbelievable willful self-mutilation. I can't fathom an administration & supporters that ignored recent Soviet history in Afghanistan to make even worse mistakes there and in Iraq. Nor the following Administration supporting Libyan & Syrian rebels in some bizarrely naïve expectation that democracy would bloom out of chaos from the barrel of a gun & not be co-opted by fanatics - am I the only one who recalls Khomeini's takeover & disappointments/bloodshed that followed?

    I'm an admirer of Zbigniew Brzezenski for sucking the Russians into the briar patch, and the small irritation that Osama bin Laden was in no way dampened the benefits of destroying the $300 billion a year Soviet army & its deathgrip on East Europe and elsewhere. Even there, the "unintended consequences" of OBL that happened roughly 2 decades later on a small scale were simply magnified horrendously by our own incompetence or willful mismanagement.

    We can't keep chalking up to honest mistake what's obviously dishonest self-destructiveness, whatever those perverse unstated goals are. If the President launches attacks with some silly claim that ISIL is critical to American security, we're halfway into the briarpatch ourselves. Once we've embraced deluded reasoning, our military-industrial-media complex will gladly take over - more money in taking down a civilization than in building one up, as Rhett Butler noted.

    NY Times' Editorial Board: "Mr. Erdogan's Dangerous Game", my underlining:


    Mr. Erdogan’s behavior is hardly worthy of a NATO ally [....]

    He has also complicated his standing at home.His hesitation in helping the Syrian Kurds has enraged Turkey’s Kurdish minority, which staged protests against the Turkish government on Wednesday that reportedly led to the deaths of 21 people. [....]

    The Americans have been trying hard to resolve differences with Mr. Erdogan in recent days, but these large gaps are deeply threatening to the 50-plus-nation coalition that the United States has assembled. One has to wonder why such a profound dispute was not worked out before Mr. Obama took action in Syria.

    Because he always puts the cart before the horse.

    He did the same thing with Obama care.

    Erdogran's Plan, it's becoming clear ISIS is a Sunni Proxy force for Turkey: as Shiite Hezbollah is for Assad:

    1. ISIS, keep the border open for their reinforcement/supply- pluses: they kill Kurds and Assad forces. (Keep the border closed for resupply/reinforcement for Kurds in Kobani so they all die and can't kill too many precious ISIS fighters)

    2. USA/NATO - no fly zone, buffer, infidel boots on the ground if necessary, let ISIS lead to finish off Assad.

    3. Erdogran works back room deals with Sunni forces to rule Syria, and expel any remaining infidel forces (US), Erdogran gets puppet regime in Damascus.

    4. Turkish Army, 2nd largest in NATO after US, business as usual, repress local populace.

    4. Caliphate!!!  based in...............Turkey!

    I note Briebart is using the Game of Chicken comparison, which first appeared ON DAG 2 days ago!

    If that's his plan, then Turkey is in for some serious troubles with NATO ... part of NATO membership is if your homeland is attacked, NATO will come to your rescue. So if he's stirring up the pot on purpose to destablise the area then he's putting NATO between a rock and a hard place ... as well as Turkey's wish to become an EU member.

    NATO better realize it and soon. Of course Turkey is not being attacked by ISIS because Turkey is ISIS prime backer, ISIS is their proxy army.

    There hasn't been one shot exchanged between ISIS and Turkey, although ISIS now cotrols most of the Syrian/Iraq - Turkey border.

    US media, including NPR, are still repeating the BS that 'Turkey hates ISIS but.....yadayadayada". They don't hate ISIS Erdogran loves it, his own Sunni proxy army....... Assad of course has his and Iran's Hezbollah, a Lebanon base Shiite proxy army now fighting ISIS in Syria along side of Assad forces. Erdogran wants the US to be ISIS air force against Assad.

    That's why Turkey won't let ammunition through to the Kurds in Kobani, Erdogran wants the elimination of Kurdish forces, and Assad, so Turkey is dominant across the region, ISIS is doing both.

    " ... The enemy of my enemy is my friend ... "


    So long as Turkey can play both sides against the middle ... the old Ottoman Empire re-emerging, eh ??? Iraq and Syria use to be part of the Empire and I have pictures of an old Ottoman mud fort in Nairyah, Saudia Arabia near the Kuwait border.


    What's interesting is how does NATO see this??? They're sending missile batteries to eastern Turkey so NATO troops may come under fire. If it's a ruse by Turkey to reclaim parts of their old Ottoman Empire that might get Europeans up in arms against Turkey.

    Driving to lunch one day in the UK we were talking about an accident the night before .A car drove into the monument  in the center of town.Someone remarked : " I had the macabre thought that the War Memorial may have caused as many deaths as it commemorates".

    Which led me to think about driving in the south of France and the monument in every village with the long list of names of those who died in 1914-1918.But almost certainly the opening of that war was greeted with enthusiasm: church bells ringing.Taxis volunteering to drive soldiers to the Marne.Wars are popular on the first day. Or even if not actually popular per se, at least more than they will be on the last day. I think you can take that as a given.

    As with all those other wars, even here in Dagblog the discussion seems to drift away from the momentous question of whether we should war with Isis. Or Assad.Or whomever is the chosen target of the week.

    And on to the ever popular complaint that Obama's tactics aren't right.Yawn. A pretty safe statement since nobody's tactics are ever perfect.

    My guess, or maybe hope, is that Obama has gotten ahold of the simple idea that whatever transpires within Syria, Iraq or any other dusty expanse of god forsaken desert no  American troops should put their boots on the ground.

    And that no means no.

    If he sticks to that he's got my support. 

    Agree 100%.

    I agree, The folks in the region want peace like so many people, but they want American boys should die to make sure they have it.

    The populace crying save us, then when you do, they immediately want us to leave.

    Karzai is an example of ungratefulness. As long as he could use our boys he was fine, the moment we expected something from him, we were the devil. As though we were so stupid to be allowed as dupes and he so smart, for taking advantage of our stupidity. 

    Apparently Obama has figured it out and is asking; what is in it for us, to make such a sacrifice of American lives? 

    I agree - if we just wipe out different factions of Muslims, it doesn't matter if we get it all wrong and the chaos turns into a calamity - at least we've avoided suffering our own casualties.

    That's something the Brits learned at Gallipoli - if they sent lots of Aussie troops rushing into futile suicidal attacks against entrenched Turkish cliff positions, then they avoided their own casualties - nothing to answer for back home.

    So yeah, really doesn't matter about the boring tactics issue - as long as Obama gets a photo op with the troops and a butterball turkey in November and we don't engage in a landwar in Asia, it can go to hell in a handbasket like Libya and it really doesn't matter. The important thing is to keep up an insincere posture of sincere intervention, and then stick it where someone's sun doesn't shine, doesn't matter whose.

    I love these wars where we don't have to commit to any particular outcome or success. Reminds me of fishing with M-80s.

    This may sound callous, but it sounds like you need to refresh your memory with some wisdom from Gertrude Bell ... the British lady who was responsible for the creation of the Iraqi state with the Sunni minority holding all the political power leaving both Shiite's and Kurds on their knees.


    If it weren't ISIS, it would be some other terrorist group advancing to fill the political void created by Bu$h ... who didn't have a clue he was upsetting a delicate balancing act created at the end of WWI to keep that part of the Middle East stable. And now that's it's been removed, all hell is breaking loose, which was foreseen if care wasn't taken to place specific characters in unique positions to keep the chaos in check.

    Keep in mind too, the Kurds are only successful ... IF ... the US as boots on the ground in their area. Once the US departed, they're on their own to sink or swim ... and no Arab country will toss them a life preserver no matter what. If ISIS takes them out, it's a regional eyesore removed and then the land grab starts for the oil fields.

    15-20+ million Kurds wouldn't still be alive today if they needed anyone's 'boots on the ground' because they have never had it. They also reject 'boots on the ground' from either the US or anyone else, they just want weapons to defend themselves (and autonomy, who can blame them).

    It's the Republicans, the Pentagon and the incompetent corrupt government in Baghdad that want US boots on the ground.

    And we will get just that if Americans put more Republicans back in charge of 'keeping us safe'.

    That's where it gets tricky.


    By arming the Kurds, those the US is seeking for Allies against ISIS would be fighting two foes ... ISIS and the Kurds.


    "Kurdistan" only came into being because of Bu$h and Republican negligence. Gertrude Bell could have easily given them land of their own back in 1919/20 when they were carving up the Ottoman Empire, but  she knew if they had done so, chaos would rule the region instead of peace.


    There were reasons why the Kurds where not given land and by taking that area in northwestern Iraq made matters worst, not better. Besides, if they'd prefer arms instead of boots on the grounds, that says they know they don't have a legit claim to the land and can only keep it by armed force ... just what we don't need in the region another faction war over territory and religion.

    Kurds are asking for arms to defend themselves. They have a right to the land under their feet.

    If we had left all the tanks and the heavy artillery to the Kurds and not Maliki's 'Army', ISIS would not have it all now, as Kurds don't run like the Shiite Iraq Army we armed and trained for 10 years at the cost of tens of billions.

    From the looks of it, Iraq would be better off run by the Kurds, they are secular by nature, and do not want their region to be run by Iran, Turkey, Syria or the toothless idiots the Republicans put in power in Baghdad.

    There were reasons why the Kurds where not given land and by taking that area in northwestern Iraq made matters worst, not better. Besides, if they'd prefer arms instead of boots on the grounds, that says they know they don't have a legit claim to the land and can only keep it by armed force ... just what we don't need in the region another faction war over territory and religion.

    Boots on the ground (if they were on offer) would not provide "legitimacy" by itself. What it would take is for enough of the neighborhood to receive more than they give up. A deal would have to be made.

    It is true that the "delicate" balance of power that was established after WW1 was brought to an end by the Second Iraq War. That balance, however, was not all that delicate. From King Faisal through the history of the Baath regimes in Iraq and Syria it has been the story of centralized power ruling through force and terror. Turkey was carrying out ethnic cleansing at the beginning of their emergence as a modern state and continued the good work after getting a wink and a nod from the international community for it through the Treaty of Lausanne. The chaos has been there all a long, stored in a vacuum bottle.

    In space, no one can hear you scream.

    Now the area that used to be controlled by overlapping spheres of influence of various strongmen is the playground of an organized gang directed by cogent and seasoned soldiers. So the strategy taken by the neighbors and the international community to keep everybody as weak as possible in that region has backfired. Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Iraq, and Turkey are all fighting proxy wars that feed the negativity that ISIL is supported by.

    We have voices in U.S. policy like Gelb and Briebart  saying that maybe supporting Assad wouldn't be bad thing right now. I would rather see U.S. policy work toward negotiating the existence of Kurdistan than play footsie with one of the causes of that negative space.

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