Beware Syrian War Drums

The Kelly Letter Excerpt
The following is from this year’s Note 44 of The Kelly Letter, which went out to subscribers this morning.

Keep your cynicism at full sensitivity as the Syrian war PR machine hits its stride. This letter flagged Syria as the military’s next war du jour earlier this year, a typical installment on which going something like the following from Note 32 sent June 23:

In the early 1970s, America tried to extricate itself from the then record-long and costly Vietnam war. Now, America is trying to extricate itself from the new record-long and costly Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The current effort is not going well, considering that a new potential war has already been found in Syria, where America is demonstrating its inability to learn from past mistakes by arming rebels that look to be every bit as undesirable as the regime they’re attempting to overthrow. In a fascinating twist on “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” the US is experimenting with “the enemy of my enemy will one day be my enemy, too, and fighting me with my own weapons because I’ve managed to piss off everybody.”

As an aside, can the Nobel Committee claw back Peace Prizes? If ever there was cause to do so, it would seem to be when the winner of one accepts the prize while ramping up wars he promised to ramp down, then schemes to arm anti-Bashar Assad rebels in Syria in time to keep the armaments flowing without interruption as full-blown fights in Iraq and Afghanistan finally exhaust excuses and public patience.

Last week produced the picture dreamed about for months by military contractors in Washington, an array of corpses wrapped in white sheets, victims of a chemical-weapon attack. “Surely,” the contractors reason, “American attention spans have long since forgotten that it was this kind of emotional manipulation that eventually pulled the country into a pointless and costly war with Iraq, right?” Too bad they’re probably right. You and I, however, must remember in order to retain our enlightened view of the real powers that move the world.

It was 25 years ago that Baathists under Saddam Hussein massacred civilians in the Iraqi Kurdistan town of Halabja. It was a chemical bomb attack that did it, killing 5,000 innocents immediately and 7,000 in the course of long-term illness. Photos of bodies in heaps appeared before the public, planting the seeds of “somebody has to do something” that would come in handy for US interventions against Hussein, the main one being the Iraq war, of course, begun 15 years after the chemical-weapon seeds paved a path that could be swept clean of time debris and re-presented as the need to invade a country that proved it will use weapons of mass destruction. End result: 5,000 Americans dead and a trillion dollars wasted.

Naturally then, current politicians have learned their lesson and are looking at the Syrian civil war through the detached calculation of national interest, right? Nah. The near missionary zeal to right every wrong in the world, regardless of cost, combined with the conveniently manipulated emotions of the Twitter crowd when confronted with dramatic images, added to the need for the military industrial complex (MIC) to keep outsized budgets from shrinking, means another war is in the works.

It’s gone so well in the aftermath of ousting Hussein from Iraq, Hosni Mubarak from Egypt, and Muammar Qaddafi from Libya, after all. It may prove sticky that Russia and Iran support Assad, but the only thing more profitable than a small war is a big one, so we should line up behind British Prime Minister David Cameron and President Barack Obama when they agree that the Assad regime’s chemical-weapon attack demands a “serious response.” Never mind that the Syrian civil war began 29 months ago and has already claimed more than 100,000 people, according to a United Nations estimate in June. It’s the last 355 killed by chemical weapons that matter, and of no consequence that Syria offers negligible national interest to the United States.

This all-too-common chapter in modern American history is why we’ve been slow to short PowerShares Aerospace and Defense (PPA $27) at more than $25. The year began with rumors of the sequester harming military contractor profits, hence our interest in shorting PPA, begun back when it traded at $21 and change in February. It reached our $25 target and still we waited. This is why. Somehow, the MIC always sniffs out a way to get more money.


Also In The Letter:

Emerging markets under pressure…

The QE taper and Treasury yields…

A Singaporean semiconductor equipment maker on the cheap…

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6 Comments

  1. Cookie's mum
    Posted August 26, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    So what’s the solution, Jason?

  2. Georgiana Shaylor
    Posted August 26, 2013 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    Two thoughts, not my own:

    “Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to do the bidding of the leaders. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.” — Herman Goering, 18 April 1946, Nuremberg

    What has occurred since that fateful day [9/11] amounts to nothing short of another Muslim civil war — a fitnah — which, like the contest to define Islam after the Prophet’s death, is tearing the Muslim community into opposing factions.

    . . . the fight for Islamic democracy in Iran is merely one front in a worldwide battle taking place in the Muslim world–a jihad, if you will–to strip the Traditional Ulama [clerical establishment] of their monopoly over the meaning and message of Islam and pave the way for the realization of the long-awaited and hard-fought Islamic Reformation. . . .

    This is an internal struggle [like the Christian Reformation] . . . .

    Like the reformations of the past, this will be a terrifying event, one that has already begun to engulf the world. However, out of the ashes of cataclysm a new chapter in the story of Islam will emerge. And while it remains to be seen who will write that chapter, even now across the Muslim world a new revelation is at hand, which, after centuries of stony sleep, has finally awoken and is slouching toward Medina to be born.

    — Reza Aslan, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam

    Aslan clarifies the intensely internal religious nature of what we may mistake for merely political upheaval. Goering speaks for the MIC, which the Nazis served in their turn. Once aware of its tricks, let us cease to serve it in ours. And let us not mistake a reformation for a mere civil war or riot.

    What has been the upshot of “the service economy” and the likes of NAFTA but to make the United States economy ever more dependent on the MIC and China, fronted by Wal-Mart and its brethren?

    We need a reformation of our own, a reformation of American dreams. We need to redefine success. We need to redefine the good life. We need to redefine “more.” When “Made in America” is the rule, not the exception; when the American worker, not the American CEO, is king of the world again; when houses get smaller and neighborhoods closer — because we will it so — we will not grudge the costs of citizenship because we will have stopped being wage slaves and become citizens again.

  3. Posted August 31, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Excellent article, Jason!

    As part of the MIC, I know all these wars are simply the means to transfer wealth from the taxpayers to the bank accounts of America’s 1% ruling class.

    Unfortunately, I think American workers are too dumbed-down to wake up, rise up and do anything to rid their society of the pigs who feed on their blood.

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