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Michael J. Totten
The Friend of My Enemy Is My Enemy « Back to Story

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I had never heard of you before Michael and
happened to look up a city in Israel that I lived in for a few years after the 67 war Kiryat Shmona that was very close to the Syrian border and saw your article

I read about your experience and looked at your photos and it took me back to a very confusing time in my life when I went to Israel looking to find God and my faith only to be disillusioned further from my experiences there

I must say your photos are beautiful and graphic and brought back so many memories. Some were familiar sights like the bombing some not so familiar

I suppose time changes some landscapes but not ones memory of bloodshed and watching your friends blown to pieces from stepping on a

I personally think we need to stay out of Syria
it is not our battle and nothing will change from our involvement, nothing but get more American soldiers killed.

The bloodshed and hatred has been there for centuries and will continue whether we get involved or not

I almost died during my time there when an Arab pulled a knife on me in Jerusalem and I was lucky to escape with my life and make it back home to the states.

You are a wonderful writer and I support you need to travel far and wide to experience this world and share with others however, I can not support travel to communist countries

I know their cultures, landscape, lifestyles and thinking are so different from our own,
so I understand the fascination but I also know there is a very real danger in going there. A possible loss of life

You were meant to write, share and teach others. With all of the beautiful places
and people in this world I hope you loose
your desire to put yourself in danger it will
accomplish nothing and it is not the right path
for you.

Greece the first democracy collapsed because it DICTATED to its allies war policy and only wanted money and ARMS.

In USA even though the constitution said "all men are equal" women were discriminated for 140 years, and Negroes for longer, 190 years. The CCCP pointed out USA's failings to no avail! But today righteousness is the fundamentalist approach. When USA becomes a majority Spanish speaking country in a few years time, you idiot will be naked and say 'Death before Spanish rule!*

Australia was colonised by the British because overpopulation was rampant in UK and USA would not take its dredges. In 1900's USA took Europe’s "..... poor.... " Well today the Arabs are over populated. And no one wants them well not least other Arab states that’s why there is revolution. In Afghanistan the minority Hazari are prosecuted by the Pushtu majority.

I'll say again to City Journal readers in 20 years time when there are 2 billion Muslims they will find another enemy – infidels – just as USA will be having its own civil war - Wasps versus Hispanics! But the Muslims then will have new leaders promoted by the West to take over today's dictators. Their education will be in violent upheaval and the philosophy of Usama bin Laden and put into battle 200 million men willing to be martyrs because their religion promotes their death..

Well today's aid will kill off the West! Just like the 600's.

Study Libya's thanks to USA aid and how that revolution has migrated to all the African states nearby. Is that what USA policy wants -- world revoultion!

Learn from History or be History!

* Its all demography now.
Well, Obama has decided to intervene.

I confess I am not weary of wielding US power when there is a good reason to, but I am weary of losing soldiers due to ludicrous ROE's and seeing Al Queada continue and strengthen. I am weary that POTUS says everything is just fine but now we have to engage in another war, because he finally discovered a"red line" had been crossed somewhere. Hopefully the "i's" were all dotted on his briefing paper. I have no faith in Obama or his selections of commanders. If the Europeans want to get into it, let them.

"Soft power" is hilariously useless against radical Islam. It is soft for the incompetence of Obama and ideology of Samantha Power and fellow travelers. Hillary's fatuous endorsement of Assad as a "reformer" is an example of how without clue these people are.

With a different cadre, I would be more supportive. Assad is a bad man, and needs to be put down.

At best I figure intervention will delay the inevitable major, perhaps nuclear, shooting war that will come.

Obama may not have to deal with this outcome in the 2014 elections. I guess that is his primary calculation in his new discovery of a line.

I don't see any Arab country changing their tune about the US or Israel. The cheers will end soon enough and be replaced by more hate speech and violence.

If a major war is to come, better sooner than later. The US weakens daily. If it comes in 2015 we will be just that more hollowed out, militarily and spiritually.
@ANITA. I liked your thoughtful list of points--thanks. Personally I don't know who to root for but I'm damned reluctant to continue arming folks in areas of turmoil. Mr. Totten seems one-sided. Disparate groups want Assad out; they may be at each others throats if they win. Also, other accounts I read don't agree Assad is merely supported by this Alawite minority; he has many other followers.
"... And the kicker in all this is that in just a few weeks a joint US-Jordanian “Eager Lion 2013” military exercise is due to begin and last two months. And with the arrival of the US force in Jordan NOT directly related to regular scheduled exercises but decided upon at an emergency May 31st meeting at the Pentagon…a meeting attended by top military brass and civilian Defense Department officials…officials including rebel insurgent terrorist sympathizer Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

"So with Jordan sharing a border with Syria and being the point of arrival for thousands upon thousands of Syrian refugees, just a few days ago a large American military force disembarked at the southern Jordanian port of Aqaba..a military force ready for deployment on Jordan’s Syrian border… a military force who came equipped with F-16 fighters and Patriot missiles.

"And that folks ain’t NO standard military exercise…that reeks of us on the verge of getting involved… deeply involved...."

anan --
Marc Brenman, is it possible that Russia is genuinely scared of Al Nusrah?
- - - - - - -

If Al Nusrah wins, the Al Qaeda branch of Islam gains control of a sovereign state.

Al-Q never had that in Afghanistan. In fact, bin Laden was arrested twice by the Kandahar Taliban with the aim of supporting America by carrying out a trial for the African embassy bombings. UBL had roughly zero chance for survival if America had cooperated. (There was no extradition treaty. The arrests and offers to try UBL were driven at revulsion that UBL had killed so many civilians.)

Give Syria to Al Q and all Hell will break loose. As with the Russian effort in Afghanistan, looks like we're more likely on the wrong side.
America's memory of Lebanon goes back directly to losing 241 killed at the Marine BLT barracks in 1983.

A total of 398 people were killed in four thermobaric truck bombings, starting with the embassy attack in April.

Yes, American policy is irrational.

Yes, "extreme caution" is the best that Mr. Totten can recommend with this article. Despite that he confuses the rebel Al-Qaeda connections with the Assead/Allawite regime. Such as Assad and Saddam Hussein competed with Al-Q supporting Palestinian extremists -- that's what the leading Sunni and Shi'ia religious figures have demanded for 55 years.

Can we conclude that there is no good course of action in Syria? Same as it has been for 20 years.
1. so the Syrians will hate us if we don't help them. But they don't hate the Russians, the Chinese, and the Iranians for supporting Assad. This reflects their own bigotry and anti american sentiment.
2. the US is hated because it says nice things and in fact does nice things like sacrifing its own to get rid of tyrants. We are not feared, so we are hated. Syrians dare not hate the Russians or the Chinese. Their naked self interest and ruthlessness commands reverence. this should be a lesson to the US about "democracy" and "helping people."
3. Assad has always been the US's enemy. Ironic that the Syrians used to love him for just that reason.
4. to blame the other is normal. Only in the west have we at all moved away from that concept. We take responsibility. That is good in some ways and also bad. Others never say this is my fault, how can I change myself, my people, my culture. I am perfect, they say. It is all the americans, the christians, the jews fault.
5. it is normal not to think in a way that we think is rational. Despite assad always hating us, they choose to think that he is our friend. this makes no sense from our viewpoint. It does, from theirs. We think there is a difference between our opinion and fact. that's how we got science. Most people don't.
6. never again should we have our young killed to get rid of tyrants and in vain efforts to bring democracy.
7. whatever we do they will hate us and blame us. it is the same whether we act or don't. as our first president said, don't mess with foreigners
Good piece. Now, what should we do if the current situation develops into a renewed occupation of Lebanon by (Hisbollah-) Assad?In 1958 Ike intervened in a somewhat related attempt
to engineer a takeover?
A great piece which clarifies the issues. Many thanks.
removing BAssad is not our job

look at Iraq, Afganistan, Lybia, Egypt

let them figure it out
I don't care about the Middle East nor what the crazy Moslems there think about the USA.

This is their junk to deal with, not America's.
In post-intervention Libya, the US cooperated with the February 17th Martyrs Brigade (an extremist, armed, Islamist group) and hired them to provide "security" for US-run facilities. We provided them with advanced arms. This same group turned on us and was complicit in the attacks that killed the US consul in Benghazi.

The post-war government we put into place in Iraq and spent hundreds of billions of dollars to protect and stabilize is now an ally of Iran and Syria and allows Iran to use their airspace and roads to transport materiel.

Now we're supposed to believe that arming an Al-Qaeda franchise (Al-Nusra) is in American interests?

Besides, the rebels ARE being armed. Financial Times, Reuters and others have all published articles detailing the approx. $10 billion in NATO-standard weapon shipments that Qatar and Saudi Arabia have provided the rebels (which are mostly foreign fighters, globe-trotting professional Jihadis). Qatar even provides foreign fighters with a $55,000 a year stipend for their "service". The mainstream media in the US is mostly silent on this point, in order to avoid critiquing the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a strategic US and Israeli ally.

The fact that Syrian society is far more secular, liberal, and pluralistic than the GCC Islamist autocracies also goes unmentioned.

Who are these "pro-Western liberals" in Lebanon that you speak of, Michael? Are they aware of the fact that the Al-Assad regime protects significant Christian and Druze minority populations? Are they aware of the fact that the so-called "Free Syrian Army" and the Al-Nusra Front have displaced several tens of thousands of Syriac, Aramean, and Assyrian Christians from their population centers and instituted Sharia courts in rebel-held territory? What kind of "pro-Western liberals" support a fundamentalist Islamist group that kills minorities and advocates for political theocracy, while calling for the destruction of a secular, multi-ethnic, religiously pluralistic political regime?

Or is "pro-Western liberal" simply code for "amenable to Israeli interests", in the same way that Max Boot refers to Saudi Arabia (a country that publicly stones to death women who violate Sharia law) as a "moderate state" because they've de facto made peace with Israel and the US?
Dear Michael:

Now that you've mentioned Ronald Reagan, let's go back to 1982 during the last anti-Assad uprising in Syria. Reagan didn't even mutter a peep of criticism when Hafeez al-Assad's goons committed the Hama Massacre, murdering tens of thousands of Sunni Muslim Brotherhood members in the process...

Reagan made the cold-blooded decision to stick with the SECULAR DEVIL we knew through deafening silence after the Hama massacre. And lest you forget, father Assad was a vocal and loyal ally of Khomeini and Iran back then too...

Maybe it's due to the fact that despite their murderous crimes against humanity, the al-Assad clan and their Alawite bretheren are them most secular, modern ethnic group in Syria alongside the Christians and Druze, whom they have always protected. They have also given equal rights to women. This simple fact has probably not been lost on both Reagan AND Obama...
Samy Gemayel is an idiot. Assad protected Christians in Syria and by extension in Lebanon. If the Sunni Islamofascists win in Syria, the Christians in both will be slaughtered.
I submit that Al Qaida and its associates have more US blood on their hands than Assad and Hizbollah. Why does the author want the US to go to Syria on Al Qaida's behalf? To ignite another round of the lunatic wars of supposed "resistance" there targeting our troops, by our supposed "allies" no less? No thanks, our soldiers stay home, let Turkey, Qatar, and the KSA put their soldiers' lives on the line for a change. As for the Mt. Lebanon Maronites, I regret to say that they have never failed to back the wrong side, and this time is no different.
I don't have a lot of sympathy for these liberal forces inside Lebanon. They seem to be always asking us to get involved on their behalf, but I don't see them ever repaying the favor.

Israel intervened in the Lebanese civil war, essentially helping the Christians. Any appreciation for that these days?

When Hezbollah overruns Beirut - their own neighborhoods, they stand by and do nothing. Even now they are afraid to engage and many to even crticize Hezbollah.

They seem like a bad choice of ally. Very opportunistic and don't do much of their own fighting. Once they have what they need from us, I don't expect any appreciation. They will cut the next deal with whoever they view as being the next beneficial party to ally with.

Am I wrong Michael?
Farid Ghadry;

Take your complaints about ‘moral compasses’ to the Arabs themselves. It’s high time the Arabs helped their own instead of demanding that others take the bullets as well as the blame for stray rockets that kill women and children.

The US is broke - and tired of thankless people who offer us nothing but spite and contempt.
I don't agree with the general trend towards saying any intervention by the US in Syria will lead to disaster for us. If we know the players and cultivate both the leadership of groups friendly to our interests and their power within the country, we can achieve a result that is unquestionably good for the world.

As an example of this, we cultivated the Solidarity labor movement within Poland during the cold war. We worked very carefully behind the scenes to develop the power of the movement and its leader, Lech Walesa, within Poland to undermine the Soviet puppet regime. In the end, Poland was the crack that eventually broke the Soviet's Iron Curtain.

Of course, back then we had Reagan. Now we're stuck with Big O.
For the US to be wary of wars is understandable, but for the US to ask others to be weary on its behalf is downright insane. The Lebanese have suffered much from the deranged Assad, and now the Syrians even more. When the world recognizes a psychopath genocidal maniac, the world has a humanitarian responsibility to stop him. How could few thousands Islamists be dangerous than hundreds of thousands of Shabeeha, Basijis, IRGC, Hezbollah, and on and on..? After Assad, taking care of al-Nusra would amount to pressing the Arab rulers to starve them from the money and the weapons they enjoy today. Mission accomplished, go back home or else. For heaven's sake, has America lost its moral compass or are we being steered into the jaws of another scandal?
David Christian’s comment below went straight to the heart of the matter and succinctly refutes the naive conclusion this author reached. Why must America constantly attempt to control every dispute among or within foreign nations? We meddle where we shouldn’t and rush into armed intervention whenever our earnest politicians need their egos stroked by the heads of foreign governments and UN diplomats. Is it too much to ask for a single decade of absolute peace and watching events from the sidelines? Any nation foolish enough to go toe to toe with America’s military in conventional warfare would be an obvious exception to this minding our own business foreign policy – but historically America has proven ill equipped to manage a “no nukes allowed”, high American body count “peacekeeping action” destined to never achieve a lasting resolution within any Middle Eastern faction fight.

America’s Boomer Generation has a dog in this fight as well – wouldn’t you prefer our young men and women engaged in launching their careers and helping to fund your future Social Security payments? Body bags being offloaded from American military transports won’t serve an aging America increasingly dependent on its scarce young folks now entering their working years.

Our media twerps – er, types – constantly urge America to meddle in foreign conflicts and within 5 minutes after we’ve initiated armed intervention they immediately dub our efforts a “hopeless quagmire”. The vaunted “Arab Spring” ended with murdered American government employees serving at a foreign embassy – our media’s glorious prediction of a bright new Middle Eastern era had a very short shelf life indeed. We twice invaded Iraq solely for their oil resources and to profit Haliburton according to past accusations within the New York Times. But, today, it’s us who experience record high prices at the gas pump while China recently acquired a major economic stake within the Iraqi oil fields.

Journeying to the Middle East doesn’t a foreign policy expert make. If our journalists want to write about constant violence, describe hopeless, demoralized citizens and photograph buildings pock marked with bullets, then jump on a plane and visit Detroit. Because if Washington is unable to intervene in saving Detroit, what could possibly convince us we can rescue Syria?
Is it in America's best interests to see Assad removed only to be replaced with an Islamist government similar to Egypt? Because I'm sure that's what's holding things up here. Besides, our current government is inept when it comes to foreign policy in general and especially so with that that idiot Kerry as SoS. Iran would love nothing else than to topple Assad and replace him with a Hezbollah regime.
"Blaming Libyans for Al Qaeda murdering Libyans is like blaming Americans for Al Qaeda murdering Americans on 9/11/2001."

anan, of course there are Americans who do exactly that. Thus proving that there are devoted conspiracy theorists everywhere.
The Truman Show June 05, 2013 at 1:20 AM
"Let's help the Russians when the Germans are winning and the Germans when the Russians are winning. So each may kill off as many as possible of the other." -- Harry Truman in U.S. Senate on June 5, 1941
Funny how obvious it is to all, yet how few can admit to the Plan of God to chastise us, as any good father would do to bring his children under control. Wasn't it God's angel who said to Agar about her son and his offspring to be wild men? Here:
16:6. And Abram made answer, and said to her: Behold thy handmaid is in thy own hand, use her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai afflicted her, she ran away.

16:7. And the angel of the Lord having found her, by a fountain of water in the wilderness, which is in the way to Sur in the desert,

16:8. He said to her: Agar, handmaid of Sarai, whence comest thou? and whither goest thou? And she answered: I flee from the face of Sarai, my mistress.

16:9. And the angel of the Lord said to her: Return to thy mistress, and humble thyself under her hand.

16:10. And again he said: I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, and it shall not be numbered for multitude.

16:11. And again: Behold, said he, thou art with child, and thou shalt bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Ismael, because the Lord hath heard thy affliction.

16:12. He shall be a wild man: his hand will be against all men, and all men’s hands against him: and he shall pitch his tents over against all his brethren.

16:13. And she called the name of the Lord that spoke unto her: Thou the God who hast seen me. For she said: Verily, here have I seen the hinder parts of him that seeth me.

Given the chaotic discord amongst the Muslims which is causing so much upheaval in the Middle East, what's so hard to admit that God was correct?
richard mitchell June 04, 2013 at 7:34 PM
you forgot about overthrow of Egypt government under Obama/Clinton..As bad as Assad is..there has not been open warfare with Israel nor oppression of Christian Copts...heard stories of burning of churches and killing of Copts under Morsi of Egypt and rebels in syria...
Marc Brenman, is it possible that Russia is genuinely scared of Al Nusrah?

What do you think can and should be done abuot Al Nusrah?
David Christian June 04, 2013 at 5:30 PM
Facing the reality of Islam isn't easy. Where is the evidence that Assad's absence will accomplish anything worthwhile?
This is a bizarre analysis, and far too simplistic. There are many factions in Syria, and many players outside the country. The US is just one. It's ethnocentric to think that somehow the US has to play the major role in all these disputes. An entirely different interpretation of the US position is a Kissingeresque one-- fie on all their houses. The US has no natural allies in the region, except Israel and, historically and militarily, Turkey, and, to a more limited extent, Jordan. All stand to gain if the various forces inside Syria, as well as Hezbollah and Iran, exhaust themselves and use up their munitions. Russia is the real amoral external troublemaker, and the US does indeed have a fraught relationship with it.
"jay hoenemeyer June 04, 2013 at 1:32 PM
As a Great American Diplomat once said " What difference does it make now "."

Isn't the answer obvious?

MJT, who is a bigger threat, Assad or Al Nusrah?

The peace conference is a good idea. It could isolate Al Nusrah. And it could isolate Assad from Russia if Assad does not cooperate during the peace conference.

Are Russia's fears of Al Nusrah valid?
"Look at Libya. It is worse off from an American perspective with Qaddafi gone. Fact."

Kenny, 100% wrong. Libya is one of the most anti Al Qaeda and pro American countries in the middle east. Libya wants to be America's friend far more than America wants to be Libya's friend.

Sure Al Qaeda still mass murders Libyans and all of Libya's friends. In large part because Libyans fight with Al Qaeda. Is that the fault of the Libyan people? Or is that the fault of Al Qaeda?

Blaming Libyans for Al Qaeda murdering Libyans is like blaming Americans for Al Qaeda murdering Americans on 9/11/2001.

"Extreme caution is called for in Syria, but that hardly changes the fact that it is in America’s national interest to see Assad removed."

What about this is wrong?

Syria has infinite possible outcomes. Some worse and some better. America is one of many great global powers and has limited influence. But America can influence the outcome on the margins (as do Iran, Hezbollah, Turkey, Russia, Iraq, GCC, Jordan, Pakistan, Europe and others.)

What is wrong with working with other countries to reduce the probability of bad outcomes and increase the probability of good outcomes. Again, at the margins?
"Extreme caution is called for in Syria, but that hardly changes the fact that it is in America’s national interest to see Assad removed."

Not so. It all depends who/what replaces him.

Look at Libya. It is worse off from an American perspective with Qaddafi gone. Fact.

As for your 'liberal' friends in the Middle East, clue them in that it is not America's responsibility to settle murderous disputes between Muslims.
The time when a reasonable outcome could have been had has passed. Now, whatever we do, things will work out badly.

If Obama had simply kept quiet, that would have been bad. But to speak up, threaten Assad about what would happen if Assad used chemical weapons, and have his bluff called?

Who, any more, will be all that fearful of resorting to nerve gas? Who will hesitate when the US threatens action?
are they ? what nerve. are they willing to guarantee his replacement be openly pro western and support Israel ?what is in it for us ? Nothing one fears but another useless exercise in what will be called some form of imperialism generating increasing anti american sentiment in region not clearly understood by the idiots in our state dept. We are not able to control all the forces at play here and guide them to an outcome which will benefit all parties and result in increased freedom in society. These people are liars, egypt, libya ! we are being worked and there is no possible benefit to us to see Assad removed. Putin has more sense about these matters. As Ed Luttwak wrote years ago "give war a chance".
Heart breaks and fear for ancient Christian communities overwhelms I suggest open borders for those wishing to immigrate let the barbarian spend themselves.
As a Great American Diplomat once said " What difference does it make now ". Or as they used to ask , back when America was a World Power, " Who lost (China) / Egypt / Turkey / Syria . Thank heavens for the Bakken Field and the Alberta Tar Sands .