Posts Tagged ‘Syrian Civil War’

Scott Adams on the Syrian gas attacks

April 7, 2017

[Correction 4/8/2017: Sarin, as peteybee of Spread an Idea pointed out, is a liquid, not a gas.]

Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon and a self-described expert on persuasion, thinks that the best way for President Trump to respond to fake news about Syrian gas attacks is by means of a fake response—

The reason the Assad government would bomb its own people with a nerve agent right now is obvious. Syrian President Assad – who has been fighting for his life for several years, and is only lately feeling safer – suddenly decided to commit suicide-by-Trump.

Scott Adams

Because the best way to make that happen is to commit a war crime against your own people in exactly the way that would force President Trump to respond or else suffer humiliation at the hands of the mainstream media.

And how about those pictures coming in about the tragedy.  Lots of visual imagery. Dead babies.

It is almost as if someone designed this “tragedy” to be camera-ready for President Trump’s consumption.  It pushed every one of his buttons.  Hard.  And right when things in Syria were heading in a positive direction.

  • Interesting timing.
  • Super-powerful visual persuasion designed for Trump in particular.
  • Suspiciously well-documented event for a place with no real press.
  • No motive for Assad to use gas to kill a few dozen people at the cost of his entire regime. It wouldn’t be a popular move with Putin either.
  • The type of attack no U.S. president can ignore and come away intact.
  • A setup that looks suspiciously similar to the false WMD stories that sparked the Iraq war.

I’m going to call bullshit on the gas attack.  It’s too “on-the-nose,” as Hollywood script-writers sometimes say, meaning a little too perfect to be natural.  This has the look of a manufactured event.

My guess is that President Trump knows this smells fishy, but he has to talk tough anyway.  However, keep in mind that he has made a brand out of not discussing military options.  He likes to keep people guessing.  He reminded us of that again yesterday, in case we forgot.

So how does a Master Persuader respond to a fake war crime?

He does it with a fake response, if he’s smart.

Source: Scott Adams’ Blog.

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Learning the lesson of Iraq (or not)

April 7, 2017

[Correction 4/8/2017: Sarin, as peteybee of Spread an Idea pointed out, is a liquid, not a gas.]

Back in 2003, I thought the U.S. invasion of Iraq might be a good idea.

I thought we Americans could atone for all the suffering we had caused the Iraqi people by the low-level war by the Clinton administration by overthrowing the evil tyrant Saddam—and, yes, he really was evil and a tyrant—and allowing the Iraqis to choose their own government.

The United States would then, so I thought, have a democratic ally in the Middle East whose people were genuinely pro-American, and would free ourselves from dependence on the Saudi monarchy.

The U.S. invasion made things worse, both from the standpoint of the Iraqi people and of us Americans.   Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed, hundreds of thousands became refugees.

Maybe there would have been a different result if the U.S. occupation authorities’ priorities had not been to get control of Iraqi oil and create money-making opportunities for American contractors.

We have to recognize that policy is going to be carried out by the government we’ve got, not the government we wish we had.

I think an invasion of Syria would have the same bad result as the invasion of Iraq.

I think a stepped-up bombing campaign in Syria would increase the suffering of the Syrian people, but would not punish the individuals responsible for the gas attacks—if such attacks occurred.

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The fruits of war in Syria

April 6, 2017

Source: Concern (2016)

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Is there hope for peace in Syria?

December 22, 2015

Hope for peace in Syria depends on two things:

  • the defeat of the so-called Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh), because those fanatics cannot live in peace with anyone else
  • renunciation of “regime change” as a U.S. goal in Syria, because you can’t negotiate a peace with someone while you are openly bent on his destruction.

peace-in-syria-262x300Secretary of State John Kerry has said some things that indicate the United States might be willing to work with Vladimir Putin for a negotiated peace.  I hope this is so.  U.S. policy under President Obama has been marked by a steady drift toward war, interrupted by sudden lurches toward peace, as with the Iranian sanctions negotiations.

Almost all the Democratic and Republican candidates are worse on this issue than the current administration.  Hillary Clinton is a war hawk.  Bernie Sanders says that the destruction of ISIS should take priority over removal of President Assad of Syria, but removal of Assad should remain as a long-term goal.

The Republican candidates are all over the map.  I regret having given Donald Trump and Ted Cruz credit for certain glimmers of sanity when in fact they have no coherent policy.   The one voice of sanity is Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who is a clear and principled opponent of regime change, but has little chance of winning the GOP nomination.

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In Syria, two wrongs don’t make a right

November 4, 2015

The fundamental fallacy which is committed by almost everyone is this: “A and B hate each other, therefore one is good and the other is bad.”    ==Bertrand Russell, 1956

Hospital emergency room staff in Douma, Syria, in August

Hospital emergency room staff in Douma, Syria, in August

I’ve written a good many posts on why I think it is a mistake for the U.S. government to arm terrorist rebels in Syria.  That doesn’t mean I should forget or ignore the crimes of Syria’s ruler, Bashar al-Assad.

Here is an account by Majed Aboali, a volunteer Syrian doctor, about the Syrian government’s systematic bombing of civilian populations, including hospitals.

Government airstrikes—barrel bombs, missiles, and vacuum explosives—are responsible for some 90 percent of the people killed over the summer.  On top of that comes the collective terror of the chemical attacks—chlorine barrels in 2015 and 2014, sarin in 2013.

What did the world do to stop the killing? It sent jets to bomb the Islamic State (ISIS or IS) but did nothing to stop the far greater killing of civilians by the Syrian government’s airstrikes. 

For my Syrian colleagues, IS pales as a problem next to Assad’s attacks on civilians. If the world would stop these attacks on civilians, we Syrians could stop the estimated 10 percent of the killings committed by IS.

The hospital in Douma has been targeted many times.  Somehow, they have avoided a direct hit.  But we do not know if they will survive the next attempt.  Which is why the world must act to stop the killing.

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The passing scene: Links & comments 10/24/2015

October 24, 2015

Anxious Hours in Pivotland: Where’s My Sailthrough? by Peter Lee for China Matters.

Neither South Korea nor Australia support the U.S.-Japanese opposition to Chinese efforts to claim islands in the South China Sea.  The Chinese Navy meanwhile made a point about freedom of the seas by sailing through Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.

Trey Gowdy Just Elected Hillary Clinton President by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Or at least greatly strengthened her bid for the Democratic nomination.  The Benghazi hearings made Republicans look like fools and showed Clinton as someone who is a match for them.

Are Canadian progressives showing Americans the way? by Miles Corak for Economics for public policy (via Economist’s View)

America’s Civilian Killings Are No Accident by Peter Van Buren for We Meant Well.

The bombing of the hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, had many precedents.

What Is life? by Matthew Francis for Mosaic.  (via Barry Ritholtz)

If humans encountered extraterrestrial life, would we know it when we saw it?

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The origins of the world refugee crisis

September 8, 2015

chartoftheday_3632_syria_is_the_worst_refugee_crisis_of_our_generation_n

Once a majority of the world’s refugees came from U.S.-occupied Afghanistan and Iraq.  Now these countries are overshadowed by refugees pouring out of Syria.

The top chart shows a history of refugee crises in the past generation.  Patrick Cockburn, writing in The Independent, noted that most of the world’s current refugees come from majority-Muslim or partly-Muslim countries, most of them in the grip of civil war, as indicated in the chart at the right.

refugees-map

Some people I know say that these conflicts are part of age-old hatreds that go back to the split between the Sunnis and the Shiites soon after the death of Mohammad.

But there have been many centuries in which the varied religious and ethnic communities lived together in peace.  They mostly did so under the Ottoman Empire.

Cockburn wrote that the conflicts grew out of the breakdown of Middle Eastern governments, which created a lawless environment in which terrorist movements such as the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL and Da’esh), Al Qaeda and their imitators could flourish.

He attributed this to the fact that these governments were organized around Western ideals such as nationalism and socialism, which failed to win the loyalty of the Muslim masses.  No Iraqi was willing to die in defense of the Iraqi government, although many Iraqis were willing to fight and die on behalf of their religious sect, their family or their local community.

I think there is truth in this, but he overlooks the role of the U.S. and other governments in breaking down the social order.

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Proxy war and the arming of Al Qaeda

September 27, 2013

The American people have no desire to send U.S. troops into more foreign wars, so the U.S. government is arming Syrian rebels to serve as our proxies for overthrowing the rule of Bashir al-Assad.   By channeling arms to the “moderate” rebel forces, the Obama administration hopes to prevent Assad from being replaced by radical Al Qaeda jihadists.

Forces in Syria as of March

Forces in Syria as of March

As Pepe Escobar wrote in his latest column for Asia Times, the problem with that is the troops aligned with Al Qaeda are the fiercest fighters, and they’re getting all the weapons and support they want from the Saudi Arabian government.   They also are working to overthrow the Shiite government of Anwar al-Maliki in Iraq.  A possible result of the Syrian rebellion is two new governments aligned with Al Qaeda—Syria and Iraq.

Such governments, unlike the Saddam, Qaddafi and Assad regimes, really might be a threat to Americans—not to the existence of the United States, but to us Americans as individuals.  This is another good reason for the U.S. government to make peace with Iran and form an alliance against Al Qaeda.

Another example of bad consequences of a proxy war is given by Ian Welsh (whose web log is the newest addition to my Blogs I Like links page).   He wrote about how the attack by Muslim terrorists on the Nairobi Mall in Kenya was blowback from a U.S.-inspired Kenyan invasion of Somalia.

I am reminded of Adam Smith’s comment about how masterminds who think they can manipulate other people like pieces of a chessboard forget that the chessmen are playing their own games, which may be different from what the mastermind intended.

I think there are two good rules for the United States for intervening in foreign wars.

  1. Don’t arm our avowed enemies.
  2. Don’t attack people who are not our enemies.

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The best article I’ve read on the Syrian crisis

September 17, 2013

syria-ethnic-map-400x300

If you’re at all interested in the Syrian situation, you should read the article Syria: What Now? by William R. Polk, which is reproduced on James Fallows‘ web log in The Atlantic.

Here are the highlights of what I got out of the article.

  • Sarin has been only a minor factor in Syria’s civil war, accounting for 1 percent or less of casualties.  The reason Syria is stockpiling poison gas is to deter attack from other nations, especially Israel.  The government of Israel not only possesses nuclear weapons, but is believed to have a “robust” program of chemical and biological warfare manufacturing and training.
  • President Assad would never agree to dismantling of poison gas weapons without a Russian guarantee of protection against attack.  Any dismantling would have be under the supervision of Russian experts.  This would benefit the Syrian government because it would be a deterrent to attack by the United States.
  • Overthrow of the Assad government would lead to the balkanization of Syria into its various ethnic and religious groups and likely result in massacres of Syrian Christians and Alawite Muslims.  Such conflicts could spread to Lebanon and other neighboring countries.
  • The stability of Syria is a vital national interest to Russia, and not just for reasons of prestige.  One in six citizens of the Russian Federation is Muslim, and the Russian government has been fighting for years against rebels in the majority-Muslim province of Chechnya.  Overthrow of Assad could create a base for supplying the Chechen fighters.

I highly recommend reading the whole thing.

The case against a U.S. attack on Syria

September 3, 2013

President Obama wants Congress to approve a limited attack on Syria, as punishment for using nerve gas against civilians.  He promised he does not plan a full-scale invasion of Syria.  Here’s why I think Congress should not grant approval.

Bashar al-Assad

Bashar al-Assad

1.  An attack on Syria will not benefit the people of Syria nor will it benefit the people of the United States.

2.  We don’t know for sure whether President Bashar al-Assad of Syria did order nerve gas attacks on Syria.

3.  Assuming that he is guilty, a limited attack on Syria will result in dead Syrians and possibly some damage to the government’s military power, but it will not hurt President Assad personally.  An attack would likely strengthen his standing with the Syrian people and with Arab people generally.

4.  The rationale for the attack is to maintain the credibility of American power.  But an ineffective attack, which this is almost certain to be, will undermine credibility, and create a demand for further and more extensive action.  As in Vietnam, the U.S. government would be in the position of a gambler doubling his bets rather than cutting his losses.

5.  There are other ways to bring war criminals to justice than by bombing.  Assuming there is proof of Assad’s guilt, the U.S. could bring charges against Assad to an international court.  This would provide a basis, and a duty, for the international community to act.

6.  There are other ways to help poison gas victims than by bombing.   Our government could provide kits for sair gas treatment to whoever wants them.  The side that would be helped the most would be the side not using gas.

7.  Syria, unlike Iraq and Libya, has powerful allies, including Russia.  There is a danger that Russia will enter a U.S.-Syrian conflict, just as China entered the Korean War.   There is a danger of a wider conflict involving the United States, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Sunni Arab militants on the one hand, and Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Shiite Arab militants on the other hand.

8.  An attack on Syria, like the invasion of Iraq and the attack on Libya, provides one more incentive for the government of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and delivery system as a deterrent against attack.

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Post-Assad Syria: a haven for al Qaeda?

August 28, 2013

syria_civil_war_rebel_control_map_2013-08-22

Overthrowing the Assad regime could create a haven for al Qaeda, larger than the one that Osama bin Laden formerly had in Afghanistan.

The U.S. war on terror evolved in a bizarre way.   Back during the Bush administration, Congress authorized military action against al Qaeda and associated forces.  Osama bin Laden and his followers were Sunni Muslims.   Using that authorization as its legal basis, the U.S. government threatens attacks on governments that are enemies of al Qaeda—the Shiite Muslim government of Iran and the Shiite-friendly government of Syria.

The rebel forces that the U.S. government is supporting in Syria are led by supporters of al Qaeda—the same kinds of people the U.S. is waging drone warfare against in Pakistan and Yemen.  We’re told that, on the one hand, al Qaeda is such a threat that we Americans have to accept perpetual war and perpetual martial law, but now we’re being told that, on the other hand, it is okay to support al Qaeda to attain a geopolitical objective.

LINKS

How U.S. Strikes on Syria Help Al Qaeda by Barak Barfi for The Daily Beast.  The ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), the local al Qaeda affiliate, is the leading force among the rebels and will come out on top if Assad is overthrown.

Does Obama know he’s fighting on the same side as Al Qaeda? by Robert Fisk in The Independent.

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