Small Wars Journal

Alhurra Interview: LTG H.R. McMaster on Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Kurdish Issue

Share this Post

Alhurra Interview: LTG H.R. McMaster on Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Kurdish Issue

Originally published by Alhurra ("The Free One") - A United States-based public Arabic-language satellite TV channel that broadcasts news and current affairs programming to audiences in the Middle East and North Africa.

Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster – 26th National Security Advisor

National Security Adviser Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster is a longtime Army officer who gained national attention for a book that criticized the military's leadership and strategy in the Vietnam War.

In 2005, he was recognized for leading one of the first successful counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq, and later became an adviser to General David Petraeus. In February 2017, the Army lieutenant general became President Donald Trump's national security adviser.

McMaster spoke this week with Alhurra, a U.S.-funded Arabic-language news network, discussing recent developments in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Qatar.

Question: Let's start from the recent developments; recently, the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on Iraqis to disband the Iran-backed militias. The Iraqi prime minister rejected that. Do you intend to pursue this matter and how?

McMaster: Well, we have to support the government of Iraq, we have to support Prime Minister [Haider al-] Abadi, who's done, I think, a tremendous job under very difficult conditions. But, as everybody knows, the Iranians have done a very good job, also, of infiltrating and subverting Iraqi state institutions and functions, as well as creating these militias that lay outside of the Iraqi government's control. And, I think, what they intend to do is use them opportunistically to advance Iranian interests. You see that in reaction to the Kurdish referendum, for example, and, so, what really needs to happen is all of the drivers of this terrible fitna, this terrible sectarian violence, have to be addressed and that has to be removing all causes of that kind of violence.

Q: How much of a role did Iran play in that Kurdish referendum?

McMaster: Well, the role that they placed is they took advantage of divisions within the Kurdish Regional Government, divisions within the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan after the death of Jalal Talabani, God rest his soul, and what they have done is tried to advance their interest at the expense of long-term security and stability in Iraq.

Q: How much of a role did Iran play in the takeover of Kirkuk?

McMaster: Well, Iran did play a role in the recent actions, in the recent wake of the Kurdish referendum. They played a role politically, dividing the Kurdish Regional Government, and dividing the party in Sulaymaniyah, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and to use those divisions to assert their own interests and so this is what is concerning. The United States is very committed to a unified, strong Iraq. We're also committed to a strong Kurdish region within a unified Iraq. So, what we're very concerned about is violence that could continue, that could place in jeopardy all these gains against Daesh [Islamic State] in recent months.

Q: Could the U.S. have done more to stop the referendum that was unilateral? And you objected to it.

McMaster: Well, the United States was very clear, that we thought that the referendum was not a good idea, especially coming at this time when the Iraqi people are just emerging from this horrible trauma of fighting against these horrible terrorists who were perpetuating this cycle of violence and causing so much human suffering. And, so, what was important is for Iraq to emerge from this conflict in a way that brings communities together, not divides Iraq's communities further.

Q: And is it still possible to contain the Iranian influence in Iraq at this stage?

McMaster: I think it's very possible to contain the Iranian influence. The United States thinks that Iraq should have a relationship with Iran. Iran is its neighbor. But what we want is an Iraq that is strong and what we see with Iran is applying what you might call a Hezbollah model to the Middle East. In which they want governments to be weak, they want governments to be dependent on Iran for support, but what do they do? They grow these militias that lay outside the government's control and threaten governments with those militias if those governments take action against Iranian interest. This is not in the interest of the Iraqi people. And, I think, what's been clear about what the United States wants for Iraq that is different from what others want for Iraq is the United States wants Iraq to be strong.

Q: And, basically, I want to ask about the dispute going on between Baghdad and Irbil. I mean what do you think should be the solution from your point of view, to continue the dispute between the central government and the KRG?

McMaster: What I think we have to do is help, as we have been, facilitating the dialogue between the Kurdish leaders and between Prime Minister Abadi and to focus on what is really in the interest of the Iraqi people. What is within the interest of the Kurds, with whom we have such a close relationship over so many years after, you know, the trauma of Saddam Hussein and how he victimized the Kurdish people, how the United States came forward after 1991 to protect the Kurdish region and allowed it to flourish. If anyone who's traveled in Sulaymaniyah and Irbil and Dahuk and walked on those streets. I mean these are beautiful cites that have enjoyed peace and security. And it's an example, I think, for what all of Iraq should achieve, is with peace and security comes prosperity, comes better lives for people's children and everybody wants that. So, I think, this dialogue should focus on what is best for the people of Iraq, what is best for our Kurdish friends, for whom we have so much affection as well as all Iraqi people.

Q: You mentioned the Hezbollah model and I would want to ask you, how concerned are you about a bigger, a possible bigger threat now that you took some actions including the bounties that were announced by the Department of State or the recent sanctions on the Revolutionary Guard?

McMaster: I think what the most dangerous course of action to take is to not confront Hezbollah, to not confront these Iranian proxies who are propping up and the Assad regime, and helping that regime continue to murder its own people. To not confront Iran's support for Houthis in Yemen in a way that was perpetuating that civil war there. In a way that is not only creating even more suffering inside Yemen, but is also posing a threat in the region to Saudi Arabia in particular. And so, wherever you see problems, wherever you see communities pitted against each other and a destructive cycle of violence, you see the hand of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of Iran. And in Lebanon, this beautiful thriving now country, its security has been placed at risk by the continued Iranian support for Hezbollah and the provision of Hezbollah with weapons and other capabilities that threaten regional security.

Q: You and the vice president [Mike Pence] had harsh words, tough words, for Hezbollah at the anniversary of the bombing of the marine barracks in Beirut. How could you counter Hezbollah inside Lebanon when they are literally part of the government?

McMaster: Well, I think what really is necessary is to shine the light on Hezbollah. What are their actions? And what have been the consequences for the Lebanese people? So, we're commemorating yesterday the 34th anniversary of the mass murder attacks that killed U.S. marines and also killed French paratroopers and it killed soldiers who were there to bring peace, to end a very destructive civil war. But Hezbollah wanted to, as they always try to do, is to perpetuate conflict to allow them to portray themselves as patrons and protectors of an aggrieved community, the Shia community in Lebanon. So that consigned that bombing, that mass murder, consigned the Lebanese people to seven more years of deadly civil war. So, what is most important, not just for the United States but for all nations, is to confront the scourge of Hezbollah and to confront the scourge of the Iranians and the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] who sustain Hezbollah's operations.

Q: Would the sanctions be enough to sort of curb these activities of either Iran or its proxies, including Lebanon, in the region?

McMaster: Well, we hope so, right? Inshallah. We would love for sanctions and diplomacy to help convince the Iranian people. You know the president and the vice president recently have a very strong message to confront the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, to confront the Iranian dictatorship, but have very conciliatory words for the Iranian people. And, so, what we would hope for is that sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps would incentivize others to organize groups within Iranian society to do legitimate business and not to do business to enrich an organization whose main export is murder and brutality.

Q: On that point, I mean, on the IRGC, why did the president stop short of announcing or designating the IRGC terrorist organization as many people expected?

McMaster: It's really just a matter of internal U.S. law. So what the president did is he used the most effective tool that he had, under executive authority, so he could immediately designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps for terrorist activities and that gives him all the authority he needs to sanction individuals, to sanction entities associated with the IRGC, and one of the things we're really emphasizing now is working with allies and partners and like-minded countries to understand better who really are the beneficial owners of companies in Iran. And what we're finding is the beneficial owners are people who are looting their own country, who are taking money away from the Iranian people and then using that money for violent action across the whole Middle East. So, this is what we hope to work on now, is to be able to sanction that organization, entities within that organization that are connected to generating the funds that are used to create so much human suffering.

Q: Let's continue, and moving on to Syria and I would ask you, I mean what would be or what is the administration strategy post ISIS [Islamic State] in Syria or what the president called the next or the new phase?

McMaster: So, what is most important is to defeat ISIS, defeat Daesh, defeat these other takfirien groups such as Al-Nusra, to ensure that they no longer pose a threat to the Syrian people but also to really all civilized people, but to ensure that after the defeat of these groups that there can be enduring security and stability there. There has to be an effort to end this Syrian civil war and end the Syrian civil war in a way that gives all Syrians a say in their future government. And so how can it be that a government is in power who has been a party to this horrible, devastating war that has used chemical weapons against its own people? So, what really has to happen is not only the defeat of ISIS but an end to the civil war in Syria and also an end to the civil war in Syria that addresses other regional problems, as well. That reduces the nefarious, you know, the Iranian influence for example within Syria. And so, we're working very hard with our partners in the region and our allies broadly to connect what is happening on the ground in Syria to an enduring political settlement, this is as you know happening under the Geneva process with Ambassador Staffan de Mistura, who's a very fine man, and who has the interest of the Syrian people foremost in his mind and in his heart, and so all of us have to support the end of this humanitarian catastrophe.

Q: What is the United States doing sort of underground to support that solution, that political solution, what is the United State contributing to that dialogue?

McMaster: The most important thing is to ensure enduring security in areas in which ISIS is defeated, Daesh is defeated, and then to set conditions for mediation between communities to remove the driver of this violence and to ensure that people can return to those areas, reconstruction can begin. But, of course, we have a huge coalition to help with this once security is established in certain areas, like in the Euphrates River Valley and the northeastern part of Syria now, with the Syrian Democratic Forces making tremendous gains defeating Daesh in Raqqa. And so now, there's conditions for some reconstruction to begin, some stability to begin under the auspices of the global coalition. But, really, what must happen is a broader political solution because, really, it's hard to convince anybody to spend one dollar to help repair infrastructure for the Assad regime. So, there has to be an effort, I think, to move toward a broader political settlement.

Q: Generally, this is — this front in Syria, to what extent does it represent a critical battlefield or front for you to curb Iran's influence in the Middle East?

McMaster: Well, it's a really critical battlefront for the Syrian people. It's a critical battlefront for the Iraqi people. It's a critical battlefront for the people of the region, who've suffered so much. I mean, if you think about just the millions of people, I think 6.1 million refugees, 5 million more people displaced internally. All of those who have been murdered and wounded and victimized in horrible ways, I mean this is — this is a traumatized society. The most important thing that can happen is that peace be brought back, and security be brought back. It's very difficult to see how can there be an enduring peace if one side that has perpetuated and accelerated that violence is not — is not removed? And so, it's important for everyone in the region, in particular, to reduce ... the destructive influence of Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp, in particular.

Q: Of course. I mean, ISIS came right after al-Qaida, or al-Qaida was a real problem in the region, and how do you make sure another, you know, offshoot would not be generated in that region, and emerge after the fall of ISIS?

McMaster: Well, this is — this is the most important question, right? Is along with the reduction of Iran — Iran's malign activity. And so what has to happen is, the people, the people who had been the victims, they have to be empowered, with — with security and confidence in the security that they have. A legitimate security. They can generate some of that on their own, but they'll need support, you know, from others to be able to do that. But what's most important, as we all know, is to — is to break this cycle of violence by isolating — isolating these terrorists from the population. To not allow them any longer to portray themselves as patrons, as protectors, of mainly the Sunni Arab community. So, what is important is for that community to not feel any longer that it needs to depend on groups like this for their support, because they have a voice. They have a voice initially, locally, a political voice where they can — they can control their own future, their own destiny. But, ultimately, there has to be this broader political settlement that brings in all of Syria's communities, allows them to heal together, and to regenerate the kind of confidence that they need to live together in peace, and to pursue their interests through some form of a political system rather than through violence.

Q: About a political solution, I mean, do you see [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad playing any role in the political future of Syria at all?

McMaster: Well, when you — when you look at what is necessary to bring communities together, to end the cycle of violence, it is very difficult to imagine how Assad could be part of that. I mean, especially with the blood that's on his hands. And how he has had a hand in destroying his own country, and creating so much human suffering, using some of the most heinous weapons on Earth to commit mass murder against his own people. So what is, I think, necessary is to have the right leadership internationally, and then ultimately within Syria, that can — that can achieve the kind of accommodation, the kind of reconciliation that's necessary.

Q: I mean, quickly because I've — our time is running out, but I just want to ask you about the — the dispute between the GCC countries, the Gulf countries, and Qatar. I mean, did — is there any new initiative in the pipes that Tillerson — Secretary Tillerson took with him to the region? Are you — is there a new initiative to resolve that conflict?

McMaster: Well, the most important thing is for the — for the GCC to resolve this conflict in a way that makes good on the pledges from Riyadh from the president's very successful trip there, and his very productive meeting with the leaders of over 55 Muslim-majority nations. And, so, there is tremendous momentum coming out of that conference, and that momentum was based on those leaders' visions of how to defeat, how to defeat these terrorists that are victimizing so many across the world. And that vision was based on three things. Deny them any sort of safe haven [or] support bases; don't allow these terrorist organizations to control and victimize populations. The second was to cut off terrorist funding, funding to these organizations. And the third is to defeat their wicked ideology, this takfirien, you know, Qutbist ideology. And so, the leaders were committed to doing that. This is where we're seeing some — a lot of — progress in this area among the Gulf states, including with Qatar, but I think what everybody wants to see is what more can be done to fulfill that vision and restore unity within the GCC.

About the Author(s)



Sun, 11/05/2017 - 7:28am

In reply to by Bill C.

It could be argued that free markets are more of a threat to dictatorships than say a fair and open ballot. Your suggestion that once achieving power thru a General Election it would be in the elite's interests to then undermine the democratic process, in order to hold onto to power, is a valid point. Our ally becomes our enemy once democracy legitimizes their ascendancy to power- overnite.

I agree prosperity is much more difficult to reverse and as such is a better stalwart in protecting political freedom. Xi in China is very much grappling with the horns of this dilemma. In China the 500 million people lifted out of economic poverty in the last 30 years have developed political aspirations/expectations that were not so evident or keenly felt when they were poor and isolated. Xi realizes that the absolute rule he and his predecessors enjoyed - that has always bestowed enormous wealth and privilege on a small number of former party hacks and their off-spring, represents a clear and present danger to himself and the Chinese elite.

Like many tyrants he has chosen to protect his position by eliminating like-minded political rivals and fabricated an alien threat from abroad in the hope these actions will quell revolutionary energies within the Chinese masses. It is unlikely to succeed and the fact half the world's high-value real-estate is being bought up by illicit Chinese money - indicates to me that many Chinese still believe in the ancient Chinese belief of what awaits those rulers who lose 'Heaven's Mandate' to rule.

The Orwellian approach to governance within the region (with the notable exception of India) renders poor old miserable Afghanistan the most democratic country for a thousand miles! Sure from our perspective Afghan democracy might seem a contradiction in terms but if you look at the vast majority of Asian neighbors they are as impoverished as they are undemocratic.

Afghanistan with it's relatively free and fair(ish) election does not pose a threat to it's neighbors as long as it remains poor and unstable. If peace were to break out and prosperity flourished; its relative new-found democracy would set a dangerous precedent for the established order in Pak, Iran, the former Soviet 'stans, the GCC and probably China as well(they do share a border).

The threat posed by a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan - bolstered by the peace, prosperity and democracy already well established in India, represents one too many existential threats (in every sense)for the Pakistan and Iranian elite. Hence the reason there is so much apparently meaningless violence within border regions of Afghanistan.

I believe the recent overtures evidenced by Tillerson's recent visits to Af,Pak and India indicates the US Gov understands the threat peace and prosperity poses to the region's political tyrants and who those tyrants actually are.

Having said all that, IMHO it is important to understand that we are talking about a privileged few within these populations. An elite numbering tens of thousands (or a few million in China) does not validate the 'Clash of Civilizations' , 'Imposition of Western Culture' argument posed by some.

IMHO folks are too easily persuaded by the 'Fox News' approach, that relies heavily on emotive imagery to bolster hysterical analysis. The number of times I have witnessed news teams (not just Fox but every Network/Bureau) deliberately cultivating a spectacle that extends barely ten feet either side of the camera lens - its validity/currency evaporates completely even within that tiny footprint when said camera is turned off - has meant I stopped believing anything reported by all forms of the Media from distant countries a long, long, long time ago.


Bill C.

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 6:09pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Addendum/additional thought -- edited and modified from my original offering:

Or is my argument/strategy above fatally flawed; this, given that:

a. Only by "eliminating the competition" so-to-speak (preventing -- through "containment," for example -- the advance of our way of life, our way of governance, our values, etc.?) can

b. Our state and non-state actor opponents actually achieve/continue to achieve "personal enrichment?"


In a more "open" and "competitive" environment (such as that often found in various Western states and societies throughout the world?), the enemy folks in power -- who we are discussing here -- they would either (a) not have come to power in the first place and/or would (b) not have been able to remain in power for long.

This such information allowing us to understand how "containment," for example, of the West's foundational ideas and beliefs (this, via a "back-to-the-future" appeal to their own unique god, religion, culture, period of history, etc.?) is actually (a) a way of "eliminating the competition" and thus is (b) the only way that certain individuals and/or groups -- without excellent ideas and methods to offer their public themselves -- are able to (1) achieve and/or remain in power and, thus, are able to (2) achieve/continue to reap the rewards of "personal enrichment?"

This making them immune to efforts by the U.S./the West -- designed to cause them to have to "choose" (see my comment above)?


A somewhat different tack:

If we consider that your thoughts below are correct, to wit: that we must look less to selfless patriotic and or religious reasons (for example, those related to "containment" of the U.S./the West) -- and more to selfish mercantile and personal enrichment reasons -- this, to better understand and explain why various actors in the Greater Middle East and elsewhere do what they do,

If this indeed is the case, then do we not go after these folks now specifically along such mercantile and personal enrichment lines? Herein, and by way of our efforts, forcing these such selfish personal enrichment-oriented and motivated folks to either:

a. Do our bidding (and, thereby, profit in some amazing way). Or

b. Disobey/disregard the U.S./the West's wants, needs and desires (and, thereby, become impoverished in some horrible way).

(The devil being in the details here as to how -- with rivals such as China and Russia able to step in and save them -- we can cause folks to become horribly impoverished; this, if they disobey/disregard the U.S./the West's wants, needs and desires.)

Ideally, the strategy and related methods, employed by the U.S/the West in this regard, also causing "motivated by personal enrichment only" subordinates/underlings, within these various realms, to also have to make a choice between "a" and "b" above?

This, providing that any and all such personal enrichment-oriented subordinates/underling might always be standing in the wings/always be at the very throat of any personal enrichment superior -- who waivers in his efforts to [1] make the U.S./the West happy and [2] make himself and his subordinates rich and powerful thereby?

(Such things as "targeted sanctions" -- against these such subordinates/underlings -- thus, to also be understood exactly in this such "forcing them to make such a choice between 'a' [obey the West = personal enrichment] and 'b' [disobey the West = horrible impoverishment]" manner?)

Bottom Line Question -- Based on the Above:

With such a approach, might we be able to "flush out" whether -- when push comes to shove -- these various superiors, and their various subordinates, actually are:

a. Religiously, patriotically and/or culturally motivated (i.e., are motivated more by a desire to "contain" the U.S./the West)? Or are, in stark contrast:

b. Motivated more by the the desire for personal enrichment? (Which, as per the strategy outlined above, can only now be achieved by making the U.S./the West happy/by complying with the U.S./the West's wants, needs and desires?)


Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:54pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Bluegrass in C,
Karl Marx was not born in Dushanbe, Xian,Hue or Kansas. He and his manifesto is the most Westernized ideology any non-European will ever encounter.

When Marx's ancestors were still running around in bear skins, festooned with bright colared body-paint - raping, pillaging and eating their near neighbors the folks along the Silk Roads had been trading marketable commodities Marx's ancestors would not encounter for thousands of years.

If you don't mind me saying so you greatly exaggerate the extent to which these ancient societies appreciate our Western magnificence.

Bill C.

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:36pm

In reply to by RantCorp


The rationale for advancing market-democracy throughout the world would seem to have less to do with (a) recognizing entrepreneuralship and more to do with, might we agree, (b) "opening up" the other states and societies of the world to Western ideas, to Western rules, to Western institutions and -- most importantly it would seem -- to Western values. In this regard, consider the following:


Never in human history have so many states spent as much money and energy trying to “promote democracy” in foreign lands as the United States and the European Union have spent since 2001. Never have so many conferences on the topic been held; never have so many NGOs held so many training sessions, commissioned so many papers and hired so many staffers. National leaders make speeches about it, newspapers write editorials about it, foundations commit large sums of money to it, and religious leaders unite with secular intellectuals to praise it. This all adds up to a deeply inspiring spectacle, or it would if democracy promotion were having much impact on the ground.

But the grim reality is that democracy is in retreat in much of the world. China and Russia are less free than they were a decade ago. The Arab Spring failed to bring liberal democracy almost without exception. In Africa, Central Asia, and Latin America it is easier today to find countries falling back from democratic reforms than countries striding forward to make new ones. Authoritarian populism in Turkey, “illiberal democracy” in Hungary, and the rise of radical parties in many member countries of the European Union testify to the weakening appeal of democratic values.

There are some who think that, given so many disappointing results, democracy promotion has no place in American policy. Self-described “realists” are eager to make this point and long for the day when American foreign policy will be liberated from the messy, ideological baggage that it currently carries. But that is an unrealistic aspiration. The promotion of values has always been an important part of American foreign policy. There have certainly been ups and downs in political fashion, but there simply are no long periods in American history during which values-promotion was not an integral part of the U.S. foreign policy template. Successful and politically sustainable American foreign policy must address the moral convictions and aspirations of the American people. The question isn’t whether we must carry this burden; the question is how we can carry it well.

Values-promotion remains embedded in American foreign policy because American political culture is moral by origin and character or, as some would say, moralistic. Some believe this to be a singular product of the Puritan or early Protestant cultural foundations of American life. Our democratic politics at home rests on assumptions and beliefs about human nature, about how humans ought to behave toward one another, and about how institutions ought to relate to the citizens of a country. The political legitimacy of our domestic institutions rests on these values, and Americans constantly judge the performance of our politicians with reference to them.

By their nature, these beliefs cannot be limited simply to Americans. If one really believes that all people are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, it becomes very hard to believe that by “all people” we mean merely “all citizens of the United States of America.” There is a sense in which the legitimacy of American domestic institutions rests on a set of assumptions about what world society should be like, how all human beings should live. We could not escape this universalism even if we decided we wanted to. We cannot ignore the fundamental philosophical beliefs that shape our foreign policy without also giving up on things that make our domestic politics what they are. That has been true for more than two centuries and it is likely to remain true for a long time to come. ...


Note that my referenced article above recognizes, in its first paragraph, that:

a. The goal of the U.S./the West has been, and continues to be, to advance market-democracy (and the values, rules, etc., relating to same) throughout the world. And recognizes, in its second paragraph, that (seemingly in response to this)

b. Many states and societies of the world (or at least their current leadership) -- feeling threatened by same -- now seem to be moving in the exact opposite direction.

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:

Thus, much as it is unlikely that we could have explained the U.S./Western strategy of containment (of godless communism in the Old Cold War) -- and/or our logical use of "cultural differences" in this endeavor -- this, via some discussion of the practices of, shall we say, certain "bluegrass" populations (apologies in advance) --

Likewise, I suggest, one cannot explain much of the Rest of the World's (see the second paragraph of the referenced article above) similar and current strategy of containment of market-democracy today -- and these Rest of the World entities (includes today, much as in the Old Cold War, state and non-state actors) similar use of "cultural differences" now -- this, via some discussion of the practices of certain Talibs.

Containment of communism and/or of market-democracy (as the "why:" certain folks, understandably, feel gravely threatened) -- and the emphasizing of "cultural differences" (as the "how;" in support of these "containment" efforts); this, in stark contrast, does seem to address these matters.

And, in a way that, might we agree, "Deliverance" ("our" and/or "their" version) simply cannot?


Wed, 11/01/2017 - 12:56pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Bluegrass C,
The natives of the sub-continent are the most naturally entrepreneural folks I have ever encountered. The enthic Chinese come a a close second and the Middle East folks coming in third. Americans, Brits,Germans, Japanese etc. fill the minor placings in no particular order.

The notion that we are forcing a market economy down their throats (at the point of a gun or bomb)
defies the understanding I have gleaned from my personal experience. An experience shaped over several decades being amongst foreign natives, in numerous hostile/unwelcoming regions that I have had the mixed pleasure of haunting.

Furthermore despite the media's depiction of 500 million folks from the western Sahara to the Bay of Bengal screaming Allah Akbar all the day long, 365 days a year, I found that like Kansas; business comes way before everything and everyone else.

The Talibs are real ball-breakers when they feel the need to share the exalted nature of their religious,economic and political credentials.

They have no qualms thundering their non-negotiable demand for Sharia Law whilst standing before their own crop of heroin producing poppy, stoned off their heads, their PAK-supplied Weapons slung about and all this offered up as their favored male child-prostitutes scuttle about serving their audience tea and bread.

When it's pointed out that under Sharia Law their heroin growing and pederasty would oblige any self-respecting Muslim to drag them outside and immediately cut their heads off , they are normally completely dumbfounded at such a boorish absurdity and are at pains to point out your honor violation of their much-vaulted Pukhtonwali Code.

Furthermore they are keen to impress that such a violation of Islamic tradition (as they know it to be so) epitomizes Westernized corruption of the teachings of the Prophet and personifies why they seek martyrdom in Jihad for the Glory of God...
.....strangley enough their minnows and ruptured concubines most eagerly front, centre and stoned.

So unless you are advocating the US military actively promotes greater heroin growing as an economic foundation and more pederasty, misogyny and other Federal felony as a basis for social order, I can't see what you are so determined to argues actually exists on the ground anywhere we and our allies are fighting.


Bill C.

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 2:41pm

In reply to by RantCorp


If we look at the big picture -- much as you do by looking beyond the Greater Middle East and at those other states and societies that give the U.S./the West problems -- then might we consider a somewhat different "why" and "how" perspective; other than the (seemingly disconnected/ somewhat less-connected?) "why" and "how" perspective that you and I offer above?

This somewhat different, possible better-connected "why" and "how" perspective recognizing both:

a. "Our" goal of advancing market-democracy throughout the world and

b. "Their" goal of preventing this from happening?

(The advance of market-democracy gravely threatening the leaders -- and/or the ruling coalitions/families/sects, etc. -- of the nations, etc., that you note in your comment immediately above? This such threat, accordingly, giving us a more accurate "why" reason for these such leaders actions? The "how" angle, to wit: making exceptional use of the "native," generally non-Western, god, religion, culture, history, ideology, etc., thus, to be understood more along these such "containment of market-democracy -- and the threat posed by same to me and mine" -- lines?)

Thus, from this seemingly better-connected "why" (containment) and "how" (use of cultural differences -- much as we did in the Old Cold War and versus expansionist communism back then) point of view to see, for example, why our own Army Special Forces community might now be giving greater consideration to S.P. Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" thesis?


Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations examined the nature and course of conflicts among nations. His main thesis was that the wars of princes and ideologies were in the past and that new conflict would be between civilizations. Huntington named eight such civilizations including Western, Islamic, Confucian, and Japanese civilizations. With the book’s publication in 1993, readers could view the Iran-Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm, and the ongoing conflict in Israel and easily envision Huntington’s description of the conflict between Western and Islamic civilizations. What was less obvious was the growing rift between the successor state to the Soviet Union -- the rump state now called the Russian Federation -- and the West. Moscow was emerging as the leader, champion, and oftentimes tyrant of the Slavic Orthodox civilization.

END QUOTE (See Page 6.)

(Thus, one of the original strings -- of the old banjo -- asking again to be reasonably considered.)


Mon, 10/30/2017 - 4:02am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C,
I was wondering if you were really a Malware handle sent to drive everyone crazy - but you've got a second string back on your banjo so I'm glad to be proven mistaken - I think,hope... pray?

The big difference that (if you don't mind me saying) you fail to give more weight to is that no-one in the West goes into politcs or the military to enrich themselves.

Whereas in Russia, Iran,Pakistan, the GCC, China, Nigeria etc. that is the overwhelming reason folks seek political,military and religious power.

Certainly Boeing,Northup Grumman,General Dynamics and the usual suspects share as much moral bankruptcy as the above mentioned , but they don't run the country nor its institutions and do not hold sway over the ballot box - as much as their nefarious intent would desire it to be otherwise.

Literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of US Gov personnel - civilian and military - are positioned to ensure it remains so. In Russia, China, Iran , Pakistan etc. those same stalwarts of democratic representation are put against a wall and shot.

If you don't mind me saying so, the difference is the important argument you hitherto fail to give enough weight to with your admirable doggedness - but a banjo has at least four strings, so who knows.


Bill C.

Sun, 10/29/2017 - 4:39pm

In reply to by RantCorp

From RantCorp above:

"McMaster is the first political figure I have ever heard who has identified that the primary purpose of the Iranian clergy is to enrich themselves. ... Seriously, the God angle for the Mad Mullahs is as wide of the mark of the why as is the why for the MIC suits haunting the Beltway."

But if the answer to the "why" question -- throughout much of the world and for all time -- is "to protect and enrich oneself" then, re: the role of religion, god, culture, ideology, etc., what about seeings these matters more through the lens of "how" this is going to be accomplished?

Is this (the question of "how" an individual, group, ruling coalition and/or nation is going to protect and enrich themselves) where we might come to better understand the role of "god," "religion," "culture," "ideology," etc.?

First, a contemporary example re: the United States:


... America has always been about its principles. Its history has been the record of its struggle to realize these principles at home and to advance them abroad. ...

Political democracy and free markets were at the core of the rules-based international order that America and Europe created in the aftermath of World War II. And every war that America has fought since that time has been fought in the name of advancing the cause of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

America has never accepted the idea that it had to choose between its democratic principles and its interests. This is a false choice. Advancing freedom and democracy in the world also advances American interests. For a world that reflects these principles, is more likely to be a world in which America -- and Americans -- can thrive and prosper.


Next, an example from the Old Cold War:


"The United States and the Soviet Union face each other not only as two great powers which in the traditional ways compete for advantage. They also face each other as the fountainheads of two hostile and incompatible ideologies, systems of government and ways of life, each trying to expand the reach of its respective political values and institutions and to prevent the expansion of the other. Thus the cold war has not only been a conflict between two world powers but also a contest between two secular religions. And like the religious wars of the seventeenth century, the war between communism and democracy does not respect national boundaries. It finds enemies and allies in all countries, opposing the one and supporting the other regardless of the niceties of international law. Here is the dynamic force which has led the two superpowers to intervene all over the globe, sometimes surreptitiously, sometimes openly, sometimes with the accepted methods of diplomatic pressure and propaganda, sometimes with the frowned-upon instruments of covert subversion and open force."


(From Hans Morgenthau's 1967 "To Intervene or Not to Intervene."…)

Thus, whether we are talking about the Thirty Years War, the Old Cold War and/or the various and sundry "religious" conflicts of today, is not advancing one's religion, one's ethnicity, one's way of life and government and one's foundational ideas and ideology, etc. (and/or one's unique variation thereof) -- and preventing the advance of ones opponents' such attributes -- a (or indeed "the?") generally understood "how" manner in which:

a. Those whose primary purpose is to "protect and enrich themselves,"

b. Commonly go about attempting to achieve their such objectives?

(As my examples above illustrate?)


Sun, 10/29/2017 - 9:32am

McMaster is the first political figure I have ever heard who has identified that the primary purpose of the Iranian clergy is to enrich themselves.

It has always been so - especially since the revolution that overthrew the Shah. .

Until more of our leadership stop reacting to the supernatural smoke that these folks blow up the rear-end of what seems to be 90 % of Western civilization, we aren't going make progress.

The fact that the mad-mullahs have always been considered as mercantile as the HoS by the entire Muslim world only adds to my sense of dumbfoundness to our obsessive willingness to embrace the 'clash of civilizations' , 'End of Days' , 'global Jihad' human fantasy mickey-mouse bullshit.

If 'fear,honor, interest ' is too much of an intellectual conundrum then just think Honeywell, Boeing, Northup Grumman,, Rand Corporation etc., and ask yourself - are those suits are in it for the glory of God?

Seriously, the God angle for the Mad Mullahs is as wide of the mark of the why as is the why for the MIC suits haunting the Beltway.

Strangely enough Trump,with his New York hustler background, would dig exactly what McMaster is laying down in this piece.

How the world turns - Trump has the drop on the Mad Mullahs and furthermore they would respect him for that.

Ya gotta laugh.


American leadership has been blind to the influence of Iran since 2003.
I very much respect, and admire General McMaster's but American policy has consistently been bluffed by Iran. Whether it was a failure to recognize Al- Sadr's antipathy toward America, in part because the US had reason to believe Shiite's being the most victimized by Hussein and the Sunnis would be our natural allies. That was pure self-deception.
Iran's influence continued to become more overt into the Obama presidency whereas before it had been much more subtle and fell under the secular interpretations ascribed to anthropological and cultural myth. Even as Maliki made all the concessions for a renewal of our agreement to keep troops in Iraq, North Eastern Sheikhs were being supplied by Iran with advanced IEDs inflicting the most battle damage on our troops and accounting for the greatest loss of American lives.
President Obama assumed an even more helpless position than America took during Vietnam in naming the aggression of an invasive state and incapable by ideology of mounting a secret war such as took place in Laos to circumvent the North's aggression.
Today our government remains circumspect of offending the Iranian beast.
LTG Flynn's position naming Iran as America's greater enemy in the 21st century has never been addressed nether denied or confirmed by the current administration. It is this waffling that is the greater danger.
While Iran has a green light to satisfy its ambition of establishing a land bridge to the Med no thought has been given to how this may effect greater evils and that the "Iranian Revolution" is the hard codification of Islamist theocratic zeal to rule the earth, from its land bridge it can continue to incite Jihad throughout Africa, which is facing a catastrophic population explosion in the next 50 years.
The fact is Senators Obama and Biden despised Maliki and their disfavor of his Shiite nationalist approach to Iraq was subverted by what is now an Iraqi government looking to Tehran for guidance. We haven't lost yet, but we certainly are not winning the fight against Islamic extremism by ignoring all threats other than Sunni extremists, where we at least have some support in Sunni ruled Islamist states.