Washington’s Machiavellian Game in Syria

By F. William Engdahl and cross-posted from New Eastern Outlook

mosul1One of my often-cited sayings is around 2,500 years old. It’s from the respected Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu in his small masterpiece, The Art of War. For centuries it’s been one of the most influential strategy writings not only in Asia, but also the Western world. It goes as follows:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In geopolitical analysis, when I examine a major political or economic development, it’s very important that I first look into myself, to feel if I’m blurring my analysis because of deep-felt personal wishes for a peaceful, more harmonious world, blurring the reality of a given nation or groups of nations. Similarly, if I take those malevolent patriarchs who dominate American and NATO policies today, I must be certain I know, not merely the surface of what an American President or Secretary of State might say on a given day. It can be a lie, a slick maneuver or it can be even honest. The work of any serious analyst is to sort out which it is, to go deeper, to “mine” the lode in order to see the real strategic implications.

Such is the case with finding out what is the real Washington policy—the economic and foreign policy today. For example, what is the real meaning and purpose behind the journey of the 92-year-old Henry Kissinger to Moscow to meet Vladimir Putin and others recently? What’s the real purpose of John Kerry when he appears to follow a policy more friendly towards Russia than, say, his Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland or Secretary of Defense Ash Carter?

Is it the voice of a significant faction within the foreign policy establishment that genuinely seeks a shift in Washington policy with Moscow from confrontation and war towards detente, diplomacy and a policy of peace and economic cooperation? What’s the real intent of the Roman Pope in wanting to come together with the Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the first such meeting between those two churches–east and west–since the Great Schism of 1054? Is that a positive step towards world peace or is it something ominous?

Washington: confusion or deception?

It’s a widespread notion, fostered by US and European mainstream and other media, even by media in Russia and China that Washington is in confused disarray, a Superpower or hegemon which has lost its bearings. Media analysts write of a policy clash or internal factional battle that renders any US action in destroying DAESH or ISIS in Syria and Iraq a ludicrous, bumbling joke.

From years of looking at US foreign policy, I’ve learned to bring a certain respect in to my assessment. The respect is not at all admiration but an appreciation that, after all, the world’s most powerful Superpower did not come to that position of power without extraordinary skills, cunning, a remarkable ability to lie convincingly, to deceive, to very precisely manipulate the weaknesses of their opponents.

That deception has been the hallmark of American foreign policy for the entire post-1945 period, as towards the Soviet Union of Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989, when Gorbachev trusted his American interlocutors who solemnly promised that the West would never advance NATO to the East. The deception is the hallmark of US economic policies since Bretton Woods in 1944 established the Dollar as supreme, and which destroyed any potential challenge to the domination of the US dollar as reserve currency—the most strategic of the American pillars of power aside from that of the US military.

Some years ago I was told by a former West Point officer that the cadets of West Point who go on to become America’s future colonels, generals and military strategists, are steeped in Sun Tzu as well as in Italian Renaissance diplomat Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince, which teaches “the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct.”

In international politics, it’s unwise to believe your enemy is stupid. It can be fatal. Mistakes, of course, they continuously make, only to re-program and correct or push on another front in their obsession with world power and control.

More useful is to assume they have a well-thought-through strategy behind a veil of Machiavellian lies and deception, rather than to assume stupidity as our operating premise. So, amid a most incredible array of contradictory indications out of Washington, what’s going on between the actors in the war against Syria and the entire Middle East today, in February 2016?

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